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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Energy & Environment

Buying Into Solar Power, No Roof Access Needed.

By

Photo

A Clean Energy Collective solar panel array in Denver. Such arrangements are drawing renters and apartment owners who prefer clean energy.
Credit Kevin Moloney for The New York Times

Like many consumers, David Polstein had already done much to reduce energy use in his large Victorian home in Newton, Mass. He replaced his appliances with energy-efficient models, installed better heating and put in new insulation. But he was unable to get a solar system to reduce his utility bill, he said, because his roof is too small and shady to make it worthwhile.

Now, that could be changing. Mr. Polstein is considering joining a so-called community solar garden that is under development in his part of the state, one of many similar new arrangements now available in Massachusetts. Through the approach — largely pioneered in Colorado and spreading across the country — customers buy into a solar array constructed elsewhere and receive credit on their electricity bills for the power their panels produce.

For developers, such shared or community solar arrays create a new market from the estimated 85 percent of residential customers who can neither own nor lease systems because their roofs are physically unsuitable for solar or because they do not control them — like renters and people living in large apartment buildings. And for those customers, it offers a way into the solar boom, whether they seek to contribute to the spread of clean energy or to reap the potential cost savings.

“I pretty much realize that if I’m going to do this sort of thing,” Mr. Polstein, a violin maker, said, “this is the only way I’m going to be able to do it.”

Massachusetts passed its law enabling community renewable energy projects in 2008 and saw at least one town solar garden begin operating in Brewster in 2012. Now, Clean Energy Collective, a leading developer, is building systems that are due to start producing power in Massachusetts by the end of this month. The company has teamed with Next Step Living of Boston, a home energy-efficiency company, which is selling the product to consumers across Massachusetts.

Several other places, including California, Minnesota and Washington, D.C., have laws to establish their programs, while others have proposals at some stage of drafting. In New York, for instance, a bill is working its way through the State Legislature.

“There’s no ability to really put solar on your roof when you live in an apartment — you just don’t own the roof,” said Amy Paulin, an assemblywoman representing Westchester.

Ms. Paulin, who is chairwoman of the Energy Committee, co-sponsored the bill after learning of the concept from advocates including Vote Solar, a group that promotes solar energy. Encouraging the development of modest solar installations throughout the state would also put less stress on the transmission and distribution grid, she said.

The shared approach has its roots in rural electric cooperatives, said Elaine Ulrich of the Department of Energy’s SunShot program, but has only begun to take off in recent years, and still accounts for a tiny fraction of solar production. There are at least 52 projects in at least 17 states, and at least 10 states are encouraging their development through policy and programs, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the main trade group.

It is among the profusion of financing mechanisms meant to encourage the development of solar energy, from residential leasing programs to crowdfunding.

The combination of plummeting prices for solar equipment and installation and generous federal and state incentives has widened their appeal. The Energy Department is encouraging their spread, publishing a guide to best practices in 2010, and is weighing proposals to award $15 million in grants to help design community projects.

In general, a developer builds a solar farm that can range from a few dozen panels on a rooftop to thousands sitting on more than 100 acres, and sells the electrical output of a set number of panels to each customer, depending on how much of their power use they want or can afford to offset. Customers then receive a credit for that power, often at a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour, that is then deducted from the energy portion of their electric bills.

Costs typically run $500 to $1,400 for a panel, said Paul Spencer, president of Clean Energy Collective, adding that customers benefit from the fact that the arrays can be situated in optimal locations to maximize energy production. But those costs can run higher in some markets, and customers must generally live within certain geographic or utility service boundaries.

The details vary from state to state, and can be complicated by how utilities charge customers. In Colorado, for instance, Xcel Energy customers continue to pay the standard nonenergy fees, but can buy enough solar shares to offset 120 percent of their load.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of zero bills,” said Brendan Miller, a civil engineer who said he paid about $10,000 for 11 panels to cover most of his electricity needs in his Denver condominium.

Interested in solar energy since high school, Mr. Miller had purchased a system for his previous home in Arizona and said the community solar arrangement was much simpler because he did not have to navigate the tax credits or installation himself.

“It was more of a financial transaction than a contractor-construction transaction,” he said.

In New York, the proposed system would allow customers to offset no more than 100 percent of their electric use and would limit their initial ownership period to five years for residential consumers and 10 years for businesses, with an option for renewal.

For customers, the systems offer flexibility, proponents say, because their interest in the panels is transferable so they can take the output with them if they move or turn it over to someone else. The community solar garden differs from another common way consumers can remotely buy green energy — energy service companies — because people like Mr. Miller buy into the array itself.

Still, they can carry high upfront costs depending on the size. For Mr. Polstein’s roughly 3,000-square-foot house in Newton, for instance, it would cost about $41,000 — after anticipated rebates and incentives — to buy 32 panels in the coming Massachusetts array. He likes the idea of contributing to the growth of solar, but worries that he may end up, as an early adopter, paying more than he should.

“It may not be the smartest investment if you’re only doing it from the point of view of money,” he said. “But if you factor in the idea that you’re trying to make a change in how the energy you use is produced and the effect it has on the world, then you can sort of rationalize it a little better even if five years from now you could do the same thing and it would cost a little less.”

A version of this article appears in print on June 20, 2014, on page B1 of the New York edition.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 8th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

SundayReview | by Op-Ed Columnist for The New York Times – Thomas Friedman.

 

Obama on Obama on Climate

 

 

 

WHEN it comes to dealing with the world’s climate and energy challenges -

I have a simple rule: change America, change the world.

If America raises its clean energy standards, not only will others follow — others who have hid behind our inaction — we’ll also stimulate our industry to invent more of the clean air, clean power and energy efficiency systems, and move them down the cost curve faster, so U.S. companies will be leaders in this next great global industry and American consumers will be the first to benefit. That is why the new Environmental Protection Agency rules President Obama proposed last week to curb carbon emissions from power plants are so pivotal. You can’t make power systems greener without making them smarter — smarter materials, software or design. One new ruling will not change the world — and we have to be careful that this one doesn’t replace our addiction to coal with an addiction to natural gas alone. But coming at a time when clean energy technologies are becoming more competitive, and when awareness of climate change is becoming more pervasive, this E.P.A. ruling should give a real boost to clean power and efficiency innovation and make our country more resilient, healthy, secure — and respected.

Photo

Climate change “is going to be one of the most significant long-term challenges” the nation faces, said Mr. Obama.    Credit Video Still Frame Image from, Years of Living Dangerously – Showtime

 

Several weeks ago, as he was drawing up these new emission rules, I interviewed President Obama in the White House library about climate and energy. Following are highlights. (The interview is also featured in the final episode of Showtime’s climate series, “Years of Living Dangerouslyairing on Monday - that is tomorrow.)

For starters, Obama is aware that we can’t just keep burning oil, coal and gas until they run out. As the International Energy Agency warned, “no more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050” — unless carbon capture and storage technology is widely deployed — otherwise we’ll bust through the limit of a 2 degree Celsius rise in average temperature that climate scientists believe will unleash truly disruptive ice melt, sea level rise and weather extremes. The rest has to stay in the ground, and we need to steadily find cleaner alternatives and more energy efficiency.
I asked Obama if he agreed with that analysis.

“Science is science,” he said. “And there is no doubt that if we burned all the fossil fuel that’s in the ground right now that the planet’s going to get too hot and the consequences could be dire.”

So we can’t burn it all?

“We’re not going to be able to burn it all. Over the course of the next several decades, we’re going to have to build a ramp from how we currently use energy to where we need to use energy. And we’re not going to suddenly turn off a switch and suddenly we’re no longer using fossil fuels, but we have to use this time wisely, so that you have a tapering off of fossil fuels replaced by clean energy sources that are not releasing carbon. … But I very much believe in keeping that 2 [degree] Celsius target as a goal.”

If that is so, your environmental supporters wonder why you keep touting how much we’re still exploring for oil, coal and natural gas?

“We have got to meet folks where they are,” said Obama. “We’ve gone through, obviously, in the last five years, a tough economic crisis. … I don’t always lead with the climate change issue because if you right now are worried about whether you’ve got a job or if you can pay the bills, the first thing you want to hear is how do I meet the immediate problem? One of the hardest things in politics is getting a democracy to deal with something now where the payoff is long term or the price of inaction is decades away. What we’ve tried to do is continually find ways in which we can make progress, recognizing that we’re not immediately going to get people to abandon the old gas-guzzler” [because] “they can’t afford an electric car.”

Every morning you get a security briefing from the intelligence community on global threats; do you now also get the same on environmental threats?

“I do,” said Obama. Science adviser “John Holdren typically makes presentations when there are new findings,” and his reports show that environmental stresses are now impacting both foreign and domestic policy. For instance, wildfires are now “consuming a larger and larger portion of the Department of Interior budget. And if we continue to fund fighting fires the same way we’ve done in the past, all the money for everything else — for conservation, for maintenance of forests — all that money gets used up.”

But the area he’s just as worried about, said Obama, “is how climate change could end up having profound national security implications in poorer countries.

We’re obviously concerned about drought in California or hurricanes and floods along our coastlines and the possibility of more powerful storms or more severe droughts. All of those things are bread-and-butter issues that touch on American families. But when you start seeing how these shifts can displace people — entire countries can be finding themselves unable to feed themselves and the potential incidence of conflict that arises out of that — that gets your attention.

There’s a reason why the quadrennial defense review — [which] the secretary of defense and the Joints Chiefs of Staff work on — identified climate change as one of our most significant national security problems. It’s not just the actual disasters that might arise, it is the accumulating stresses that are placed on a lot of different countries and the possibility of war, conflict, refugees, displacement that arise from a changing climate.”

Syria couldn’t manage a four-year drought when it had a government, and that drought helped fuel the uprising there, because the government did nothing for the people. Imagine what will happen if they have another prolonged drought and they’ve destroyed half their country?

“Which gives you a sense of what happens in a lot of these countries that are just barely hanging on,” said Obama. “They don’t have a lot of margin for error, and that has national security implications. When people are hungry, when people are displaced, when there are a lot of young people, particularly young men, who are drifting without prospects for the future, the fertility of the soil for terrorism ends up being significant. And it can have an impact on us.”

What is the one thing you would still like to see us do to address climate change? Said Obama: put a price on carbon.

The way we’ve solved previous problems, like acid rain, he noted, “was that we said: ‘We’re going to charge you if you’re releasing this stuff into the atmosphere, but we’re going to let you figure out — with the marketplace and with the technology’ ” how best to mitigate it. But “you can’t keep dumping it out in the atmosphere and making everybody else pay for it. So if there’s one thing I would like to see, it’d be for us to be able to price the cost of carbon emissions. … We’ve obviously seen resistance from the Republican side of the aisle on that.  And out of fairness, there’s some Democrats who’ve been concerned about it as well, because regionally they’re very reliant on heavy industry and old-power plants. … I still believe, though, that the more we can show the price of inaction — that billions and potentially trillions of dollars are going to be lost because we do not do something about it — ultimately leads us to be able to say, ‘Let’s go ahead and help the marketplace discourage this kind of activity.’ ”

Where does natural gas fit in?

After all, it can be a blessing and a curse. Natural gas emits only half the carbon dioxide of coal when burned, but if methane leaks when oil companies extract it from the ground in a sloppy manner — methane is far more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide — it can wipe out all the advantages of natural gas over coal.

Natural gas, the president said, “is a useful bridge” to span “where we are right now and where we hope to be — where we’ve got entirely clean energy economies based around the world.” Environmentalists, he added, “are right, though, to be concerned if it’s done badly, then you end up having methane gas emitted. And we know how to do it properly. But right now what we’ve got to do is make sure that there are industry standards that everybody is observing.” That doesn’t “necessarily mean that it has to be a national law,” he said. “You could have a series of states working together — and, hopefully, industry working together — to make sure that the extraction of natural gas is done safely.”

Do you ever want to just go off on the climate deniers in Congress?

“Yeah, absolutely,” the president said with a laugh. “Look, it’s frustrating when the science is in front of us. … We can argue about how. But let’s not argue about what’s going on.

The science is compelling. … The baseline fact of climate change is not something we can afford to deny. And if you profess leadership in this country at this moment in our history, then you’ve got to recognize this is going to be one of the most significant long-term challenges, if not the most significant long-term challenge, that this country faces and that the planet faces. The good news is that the public may get out ahead of some of their politicians” ——  as people start to see the cost of cleaning up for hurricanes like Sandy or the drought in California —— and when “those start multiplying, then people start thinking, ‘You know what? We’re going to reward politicians who talk to us honestly and seriously about this problem.’

 

The president added: “The person who I consider to be the greatest president of all time, Abraham Lincoln, was pretty consistent in saying, ‘With public opinion there’s nothing I cannot do, and without public opinion there’s nothing I can get done,’ and so part of my job over these next two and a half years and beyond is trying to shift public opinion. And the way to shift public opinion is to really focus in on the fact that if we do nothing our kids are going to be worse off.”

The trick, I argued, is to find that fine line between making people feel the problem is urgent, but not insoluble so they just say: If the end is nigh, let’s party.

“The most important thing is to guard against cynicism,” responded the president. “I want to make sure that everybody who’s been watching this program or listening to this interview doesn’t start concluding that, well, we’re all doomed, there’s nothing we can do about it. There’s a lot we can do about it. It’s not going to happen as fast or as smoothly or as elegantly as we like, but, if we are persistent, we will make progress.”

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Some Comments:

Occupy Government – Abraham Lincoln didn’t know climate change, but if he had, he would have done a might more than recent successors and their legislatures. …

Dave Scott

As president of the Sierra Club board, I applaud President Obama for EPA’s proposed power plant pollution rules, a significant step towards…

RevWayne

The President has presented powerful reasons for us to respond to global change. The consequences for America cannot be ignored. …

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 2nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 ADVISORYInformation as of 29 May 2014
UN Secretary-General convenes leaders of government, business and civil society to mobilize investment and action for sustainable energy for all.
Forum to advance on-the-ground solutions; launch UN Decade with focus on energy for women and children’s health; contribute to post-2015 development agenda.
—————————
Website:  The latest Forum programme, speakers and other resources will be posted and updated   at www.se4all.org.
—————————-
WHAT:
The first annual SUSTAINABLE ENERGY FOR ALL FORUM (4-6 June) will assess results thus far from the billions of dollars in commitments made at Rio+20 towards targets on energy access, efficiency and renewables, and mobilize further action. The Forum will launch the UN Decade on Sustainable Energy for All with a two-year focus on energy for women and children’s health, build momentum on solutions ahead of the September Climate Summit and contribute to shaping the direction of energy policy for the crucial decades to come.
WHO:    
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his Special Representative Kandeh Yumkella will be joined by several Heads of State, over 20 Ministers of energy, development and other relevant portfolios, heads of UN System agencies, development banks and other international organizations, CEOs of private sector partners and leaders from broader civil society, including from the research, innovation and investment communities, as well as women’s and youth groups active on energy issues.WHEN and HOW:4 June – Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships Day.  To review progress and advance sustainable energy solutions, in areas ranging from renewable energy – both on and off grid – to modern cooking fuels and cookstoves and energy-efficient buildings, appliances and transportation.
4 June – Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships Day.  To review progress and advance sustainable energy solutions, in areas ranging from renewable energy – both on and off grid – to modern cooking fuels and cookstoves and energy-efficient buildings, appliances and transportation. [THIS IS A LATE ADDITION of today]

5 June – Global Leaders Dialogue.  Global launch of the UN Decade on Sustainable Energy for All 2014-2024. High-level presentations and dialogues to catalyze action on finance and investment, universal energy access, energy efficiency and renewable energy.6 June – Ministerial Dialogue on the role of energy in the post-2015 development agenda.WHERE:   
United Nations Headquarters, New York.

BACKGROUND:
The UN Secretary-General launched the Sustainable Energy for All initiative in 2011, with three global targets:

a) to ensure universal access to modern energy services,

(b) double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and

(c) double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, all by 2030.

 

At the Rio+20 Conference in 2012, businesses, investors and others committed billions of dollars towards these objectives. Currently, 1.3 billion people worldwide lack access to electricity, and 2.6 billion use traditional fuels for cooking and heating, causing the premature deaths of 4.3 million people each year, mostly women and children, from the effects of indoor smoke.

 

Press Briefings

3 June, 11:00 11:30am – Launch of Renewables 2014 Global Status Report, with Christine Lins, Executive Secretary, REN21.  Providing a comprehensive overview of renewable energy markets, industry, investment and policy developments worldwide, the report, produced annually since 2005, has become the most frequently referenced publication on renewable energy business and policy. Produced collaboratively with regional research and UN system partners, and input from over 500 contributors and reviewers.
Contact: Laura Williamson, laura.williamson@ren21.net, tel +33-1-44375099; Jim Sniffen, UNEP, sniffenj@un.org, tel 212-963-8094, www.ren21.net. Press briefing room S-237.

4 June, 11:00 –11:30am – Prospects for energy access & launch of Poor People’s Energy Outlook report.  With Simon Trace, CEO, and Aaron Leopold, Global Energy Advocate, Practical Action; and Susan McDade, Country Team Leader, SE4ALL. Launch of Poor People’s Energy Outlook report and framework for scaling up action to end energy poverty, followed by review of country-level action towards universal access to modern energy services.
Contact:  Nick Milton, nick.milton@practicalaction.org.uk, mob: +44 (0) 7880 622059; Pragati Pascale, p.pascale@se4all.org, mob (917) 744-2114. Press briefing room S-237.

5 June, 12:30 – 1:00pm – Sustainable Energy for All: Achieving Results and Shaping the Future.
With Kandeh Yumkella, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and CEO of SE4ALL;
Naoko Ishii, CEO of the Global Environment Facility; Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development (tbc).
Contact: Anthony Kamara, a.kamara@se4all.org, Pragati Pascale, p.pascale@se4all.org, tel (917) 744-2114. Press briefing room S-237.

 
5 June, 1:00 1:30pm – Launch of REmap 2030: A Renewable Energy Roadmap. With Adnan Amin, Director-General, Director General of Abu Dhabi based International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), others.
How to reach the target of doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix by 2030. 
Contact: Tim Hurst, THurst@irena.org, tel +971 2 417 9966, Press briefing room S-237.

 

Other Key Events
The most up-to-date full listing of events and speakers can be found at: www.se4all.org
.

4 June –  Multi-stakeholder Partnerships Day – featuring on-the-ground work.

Over 40 events will showcase and assess innovative work and projects on energy access, efficiency and renewables, and provide a forum for civil society, business and other stakeholders to share their views. This program did not originate with the UN as such and there is no reason to expect the UN to take responsibility over what is said here.
A full programme with details of events, speakers and rooms, and a full list of media contacts, can be found at www.se4all.org. Below are a few highlights.

 
Modern Cooking Appliances and Fuels – Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (kkelleher@cleancookstoves.org, tel 202-864-5158)
Global Gas Flaring Reduction Initiative – Partners include Statoil and the World Bank (Chris Neale, cneal1@worldbank.org, tel 202-473-2049)
Mini-Grids – Partners include UK DFID (Steven Hunt, S-Hunt@dfid.gov.uk)
Sustainable Bio-energy – Partners include Novozymes ( Frederik Bjørndal, tfbh@novozymes.com, mobile +44 (0) 7976 138 265)

Civil society and business events — media contacts:
Practical Action, nick.milton@practicalaction.org.uk, Mob: +44 (0) 7880 622059
World Energy Council, Monique Tsang, tsang@worldenergy.org, tel (+44) 20 314 0616
Student Energy, Sean Collins, scollins@studentenergy.org
Energia, Sheila Oparaocha, s.oparaocha@ETCNL.NL
Energy Access Practitioners Network, Mahalakshmi Mahadevan,              mmahadevan@unfoundation.org, tel (202) 864-5159

5 June – Global Leadership Dialogue on Sustainable Energy for All
(in Trusteeship Council unless otherwise stated)
THIS SEEMS TO BE THE HIGH POWER DAY OF THE MEETINGS!

10:00am — Global Launch of the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All 2014-2024.  Including statements by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; General Assembly President John Ashe; World Bank President Jim Yong Kim (by video); President of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson.

10:25-10:45 am – Inventing and Investing in a Sustainable Future
Statements by Andris Piebalgs, EU Commissioner for Development; Helen Clark, Administrator, UNDP; Luis Alberto Moreno, President, Inter-American Development Bank; Sir Suma Chakrabarti, President, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

10:45-11:25 am – Sustainable Energy for All: Achieving Results and Shaping the Future
SE4ALL achievements to date: Kandeh Yumkella, SRSG, and Chad Holliday, Bank of America,
Co-chairs of Executive Committee. SE4ALL high-level Advisory Board members outline opportunities and solutions on energy finance, access, efficiency and renewables.

11:35 am – 12:45 pm — Global Leaders Panels
I. Catalyzing Large-Scale Financing and Investment for SE4ALL
(moderator: Rachel Kyte, World Bank).
Lightning round kick starter with Purna Saggurti, Chairman, Global Corporate & Investment Banking, Bank of America. Followed by dialogue with high-level representatives from China, Mozambique, Nicaragua, United States; Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Brazil Development Bank; Citigroup; Eni SpA; European Investment Bank; Global Environment Facility; Morgan Stanley; United Nations; World Energy Council; others.

(Trusteeship)

II. Energy Linkages (moderator: Laura Trevelyan, BBC America).
Lightning round kick starter conversation with Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women, and Kathy Calvin, UN Foundation.  Followed by dialogue with high-level representatives of Barbados; Burundi; Greenland, Holy See, Madagascar, Sierra Leone; Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves; Itapu Binacional Brasil; Practical Action; We Care Solar; World Energy Council; others. (Conference Room 1)

1:10 – 2:20 pm – World Environment Day special event on Small Island Developing States and clean energy.
With John Ashe, President of the UN General Assembly; Lord Ma’fu, Minister, Tonga; Ravinesh Nand, Fiji Department of Energy; Venkat Ramana Putti, World Bank; Sheila Watson, FIA Foundation; others. Contact: sniffenj@un.org, tel 212-963-8094.
(Trusteeship)

2:40 – 3:20 pm – Energy, Women, Children and Health
Global campaign announcement with Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development, United Kingdom (by video); Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the UN; followed by UN Leadership Panel, with senior officials from UNDP, UNFPA, WHO, Norway, others. (Trusteeship)

3:45-4:55 pm – Global Leaders Panels (cont.)
III. Doubling the Share of Renewables in the Global Energy Mix
(moderator: Matthew Bishop, The Economist).
Lightning round kick starter with Jose Manuel Entrecanales, CEO, Acciona, and Francesco Starace, CEO, Enel SpA. Followed by dialogue with high-level representatives from Brazil, China, Ecuador, New Zealand, Tonga, United Kingdom; First Solar; Global Wind Energy Council; International Solar Energy Society; IRENA; Moroccan Solar Power Agency; REN21; SkyPower; others. (Trusteeship)

IV. Ensuring Universal Access to Modern Energy Services
(moderator: Elizabeth Thompson, Senior Advisor, SE4ALL).
Lightning round kick starter with Kandeh Yumkella, SRSG and CEO of SE4ALL; Mohammed Wakil, Minister of State for Power, Nigeria; and James E. Rogers, Retired Chairman, Duke Energy. Dialogue with high-level representatives of Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Myanmar, Norway, Pakistan, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia; African Development Bank; Alliance for Rural Electrification; Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Energia; Eskom; EuropeAid, EC; Global Electricity Initiative; Islamic Development Bank; Royal Dutch Shell; Self-Employed Women’s Association; others (Conference Room 1).

 
5:00 – 6:10pm – Global Leaders Panels (cont.)
V. Doubling the Global Rate of Improvement in Energy Efficiency
(moderator: Chad Holliday, Bank of America). Lightning round kick starter with Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School, Zayed Future Energy Prize 2014 Global High School Finalist. Followed by dialogue with high-level representatives of Japan, Ireland, Peru, Romania, Slovakia; ABB North America; Union for the Mediterranean; AFG Consultores; Business Council for Sustainable Energy; EBRD; IKEA; Industrial Promotion Services; Kenya Assoc. of Manufacturers; Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership; Statoil; UN Foundation; WWF China; others (Trusteeship).

VI. Catalyzing Bottom-Up Financing and Investment for SE4ALL (moderator: Boason Omofaye, Bloomberg TV Africa) Lightning round kick starter with Harish Hande, Managing Director, SELCO India.  Followed by dialogue with high-level representatives of Nepal, Senegal, Tanzania; Arc Finance; Deutsche Bank; Global LPG Partnerships; KITE; Rockefeller Foundation; Self-Employed Women’s Association; UN OHRLLS; WWF USA; others (Conference Room 1).

6 June — High-level Ministerial Dialogue: Energy in the post-2015 Development Agenda

9:00 am – 12:40 pm. Including remarks by Heads of State and Ministers, CEOs and leaders of civil society organizations and international organizations. (ECOSOC Chamber)

12:40 – 1:00 pm. Closing Plenary: Mobilizing All Stakeholders Towards SE4ALL with UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson (tbc); Jose Angel Gurria, Secretary-General, OECD (tbc); Fred Krupp, President Environmental Defense Fund; Kandeh Yumkella, SE4ALL. (ECOSOC Chamber)

 

——————————Media Accreditation                    
Media representatives who wish to be accredited to cover the Forum on-site at UN Head-quarters should submit a request and required documentation to the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit.  Full guidelines as well as accreditation forms are available at www.un.org/en/media/accreditation/request.shtml. For questions regarding accreditation, e-mail malu@un.org or phone (212) 963-6934.
——————————————–Media Resources
Press conferences.  An updated schedule of press events and briefings will be available the night before in the daily Media Alert at www.un.org/en/media/accreditation/alert.shtmlWebsite. The latest Forum programme, speakers and other resources will be posted and updated at www.se4all.org.Digital and Social Media. The Forum will be live-tweeted using #SE4ALLForum. In addition, +Social Good (plussocialgood.org), a digital platform run by the UN Foundation and UNDP, will feature original interviews and content for digital media, using #socialgood
(contact: jsullivan@unfoundation.org, njanati@unfoundation.org, boaz.paldi@undp.org).IISD Reporting Services will provide daily bulletins and digital coverage as well as a summary report of the Forum, including photographs. Coverage of the Forum will be available online at www.iisd.ca from 4 June 2014 and will be sent out on social media using @IISDRS.Multimedia.  Selected photographs of the Forum will be available from UN Photo online, along with other multimedia materials, at www.unmultimedia.org.  Additional photos and high-resolution files can be obtained by contacting the UN Photo Library at photolibr@un.org.Webcast.  Most of the Forum will be webcast, live and on-demand, at webtv.un.org, including all events in the larger conference rooms and all press briefings.

Broadcast. UNTV will cover the Forum live in HD, 4-6 June, schedule at www.un.org/en/media/accreditation/untv.shtml, information tel. 212 963-7650.
TV packages will be available to broadcasters through unmultimedia.org/tv/unifeed/ Broadcast quality video files can be requested from video-library@un.org.

Media Contacts
Pragati Pascale, p.pascale@se4all.org, tel +1 917-587-8549
Anthony Kamara, a.kamara@se4all.org, tel (+43-699) 1458-3402
Wynne Boelt, boelt@un.org, tel +1 212-963-8264
Ornesha Reagan, o.reagan@se4all.org, tel +1 347-651-9521
Media contacts for SE4ALL partners can be found at se4all.org

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FURTHER NOTES FROM www.Sustainabilitank.info – A MEDIA ACCREDITED THROUGHOUT THE WORLD BUT WITH A PAST OF FIGHTING THE UN FOR THE RIGHT TO BE RECOGNIZED AS MEDIA RATHER THEN AS AN NGO (which it never became one) – THIS WITHIN THE WALLED COMPOUND OF THE UN HEADQUARTERS.

 WE THUS WISH TO WARN INTERESTED ENVIRONMENTALLY ORIENTED MEDIA, AND TRUE SUSTAINABILITY ORIENTED MEDIA, THAT EVEN WHEN THE UN IS HOME TO FORCES OF PROGRESS – THERE ARE WITHIN IT MUCH MORE FORCES OF DARKNESS.

THE UN MEDIA OFFICE THAT USED TO BE RUN BY THOSE FORCES OF DARKNESS WOULD SIMPLY NOT ALLOW THOSE INTERESTED IN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT TO ENTER THE ROOM WHERE PRESS CONFERENCES WERE ORGANIZED FOR THE MEDIA  – SO ONLY THOSE BELONGING TO GENERAL MEDIA AND NOT INTERESTED COULD PARTICIPATE – BUT OBVIOUSLY DID NOT. THAT IS HOW THE UN MANAGED TO KEEP AS TOP SECRET EVERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION THAT MIGHT HAVE HURT THE FORCES OF OIL.

WE SUGGEST THUS – THAT LIKE IN VIENNA, WHERE THE HEAD OFFICE OF  SE4ALL IS LOCATED IN THE ANDROMEDA OFFICE OUTSIDE THE WALLED-IN VIENNA UN COMPOUND, THE NEW YORK MEETING COULD REACH MORE OF THE GLOBAL MEDIA IF IT WERE HELD ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE UN, RATHER THEN INSIDE. IT IS HARD FOR US TO SEE THAT EVEN THOUGH THIS MEETING IS VERY IMPORTANT TO THE UN SECRETARY GENERAL’S AGENDA, THERE WILL NOT BE INTERFERENCE WITH THE DISSEMINATION OF INFORMATION BY FACTORS WITHIN THE UN STAFF. WE WOULD HAVE PREFERRED AT LEAST THAT THE SE4ALL ORGANIZATION ALSO ADVERTIZES AT LEAST SOME MEETINGS WITH THE MOST IMPORTANT WITNESSES ON MATTERS OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT  ARE MADE AVAILABLE AT THE CHURCH CENTER OR AT ONE OF THE MISSIONS – THE LIKES OF BHUTAN, FINLAND, GERMANY, OR JAPAN WHICH HAPPEN TO BE RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE UN IN NEW YORK CITY.

IT WOULD BE A PITY TO SEE ANOTHER IMPORTANT UN INSTITUTION TO TURN INTO A YEARLY  BOMBASTIC TALK FEST AT THE UN BUT AT THE SAME TIME INSULATED FROM HAVING ANY POSITIVE EFFECT ON PLANET EARTH’S HUMANS’ FUTURE.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 1st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

AMAZING – I just spent two days at the yearly meetings of the Austrian Economic Association that this year dealt with: ECONOMICS OF INEQUALITY and had as key-note speaker Sir Tony Atkinson f Oxford U., and now I find in my incoming e-mail an article from Bill Moyers talking to Professor Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia U. who is President of the International Economic Association and cooperates with Sir Atkinson, something that nails the same topic down in excellent journalistic terms. Yes – clearly – we are doing everything wrong when it comes to build an economy – Why?

The Vienna meeting was held on the new campus of the Business University – WirtschafysUniversitaet Wien – in a building funded by the Austrian oil Company OEMV that is just in the news for the ill-advised South Stream Pipeline that is being planned to bypass The Ukraine when bringing to the EU Russian Gas – and was just shut down by the EU Commissioner for Energy who clearly does not want responsibility for this politically most miserable attempt by an oil company and a EU Member State to make money from fossil fuels and undermine a European Effort to go instead for Renewable Energy.

Professor Joe Stiglitz unmasks here this self-righteousness of the rich that think the World is their oyster and they have a Constitutional right to rob and legally cheat. The implications are immense and reach into globalization and efforts to enlarge the scope of international piracy using multinational trade agreements to undo healthy laws in countries that somehow managed to pass such laws.

 

Joseph E. Stiglitz: Let’s Stop Subsidizing Tax Dodgers.

 

By Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company

 

31 May 2014
 readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…

 

  new report by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz for the Roosevelt Institute suggests that paying our fair share of taxes and cracking down on corporate tax dodgers could be a cure for inequality and a faltering economy.

This week on Moyers & Company, Stiglitz tells Bill that Apple, Google, GE and a host of other Fortune 500 companies are creating what amounts to “an unlimited IRA for corporations.” The result? Vast amounts of lost revenue for our treasury and the exporting of much-needed jobs to other countries.

“I think we can use our tax system to create a better society, to be an expression of our true values.” Stiglitz says. “But if people don’t think that their tax system is fair, they’re not going to want to contribute. It’s going to be difficult to get them to pay. And, unfortunately, right now, our tax system is neither fair nor efficient.”

 

BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Our democracy is now probably better described as one dollar, one vote than one person, one vote. We have a tax system that reflects not the interest of the middle. We have a tax system that reflects the interest of the one percent.

 

TRANSCRIPT:

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Avoiding taxes has become a hallmark of America’s business icons; Apple, Google, GE, and many more of the Fortune 500. The nation’s largest corporations are sitting on more than $2 trillion in cash while revenue from corporate income taxes have plummeted from just below 40 percent in 1943 to just below 10 percent in 2012. Government and big business have colluded to create what’s tantamount to an “unlimited IRA” for corporations.

That’s not my term, although I wish I had thought of it, because it explains so much about what’s gone wrong in a country where some 20 million workers who would like a full-time job still can’t get one. Yet the upper one percent of the population takes home a staggering 22.5 percent of America’s income while their effective federal income tax rate has dropped.

No, the phrase was coined by Joseph Stiglitz, a man eminently worth quoting, a Nobel Prize winner and one of the world’s most influential economists.

Currently he’s president of the International Economic Association. Former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Bill Clinton, and the author of best-selling books that have shaped worldwide debates on globalization, income inequality, and the role of government in the financial marketplace. Now he’s written one of his shortest but most important works: this white paper, published by the Roosevelt Institute where Joseph Stiglitz is a senior fellow. It’s a mere 27 pages, but in clear and cogent prose, backed up by facts and figures, it lays out a plan that not only would reform our taxes but create jobs and strengthen the economy. I’ve asked him here to tell us about it. Welcome.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Nice to be here.

 

BILL MOYERS: You argue that elimination of corporate welfare, or at least its reduction, should be at the center of tax reform. Why?

 JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, let me put it in a broader context. Our country needs, faces a lot of challenges. We, as you mentioned, 20 million Americans would like a full-time job and can’t get one. We have growing inequality. We have environmental problems that threaten the future of our planet. I think we can use our tax system to create a better society, to be an expression of our true values. But if people don’t think that their tax system is fair, they’re not going to want to contribute. It’s going to be difficult to get them to pay. And, unfortunately, right now, our tax system is neither fair nor efficient. Look at the tax rate paid by that one percent. It’s much lower than the tax rate paid by somebody whose income is lower who works hard for a living, as a percentage of their income.

You know, Warren Buffet put it very -  why should he pay a lower tax rate on his reported income than his secretary? And the interesting thing that he didn’t emphasize was most of his income is in the form of unrealized capital gains.

 

BILL MOYERS: Unrealized capital gains are not taxed as long as the owner keeps them, right, doesn’t get rid of them?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: That’s right. And what’s even worse, if you’re a corporation and you even realize the capital gains but you’re abroad, you don’t bring the money back home, there’s still no taxes.

As long as they don’t bring the money back here, it accumulates, it grows and grows and grows, and they get wealthier. But it’s even worse than that. Because it means that they have an incentive to keep their money abroad.

And what does that mean? They have an incentive to create jobs abroad. And with our trade agreements, they can take the goods that are produced abroad with this tax-free money, bring it back in the United States, basically making it unfair competition with the goods produced by Americans.

 

BILL MOYERS: Yeah. There are several startling statements in your report. This is one of them: “our current tax system encourages multinationals to invest abroad.” And create jobs abroad, as you just said. And yet, these are people who defend their practices by saying, we are the job creators, we’re the job producers. And yet, you say they have an incentive to send jobs abroad.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: The whole discussion of who are the job creators, I think, has been misplaced. You know, what really creates jobs is demand–

 

BILL MOYERS: I spend my money to buy things.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Exactly. Americans of all income groups are entrepreneurial. You got people across our income distribution who, when there’s a demand, respond to that demand. But if there’s no demand, there won’t be jobs. Now, the problem is that the people in the one percent have so much money that they can’t spend it all. The people at the bottom are spending all of their income and hardly getting by. In fact, a very large fraction of those in the bottom 80 percent are spending more than their income. And it’s part of the instability of our economy. So, the point is this inequality contribute, to which our tax system contributes actually weakens our demand.

And that’s one of the main messages of my report, which is if we had a more progressive tax system, we could get a more efficient economy. Because there would be more jobs being created.

 

BILL MOYERS: So, these 20 million people I referred to, and you referred to in your report, who are looking for full-time work but can’t find it, if they had that work, they’d be spending their money. They’re not going to send it to the Cayman Islands, right.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Exactly. And they’re going to be paying taxes. Because they don’t have the opportunities for tax avoidance that the people who have the Cayman Islands and can use these unlimited IRAs and other ways of tax avoidance. You know, they don’t keep the money in the Cayman Islands because the sunshine makes the money grow better. They put their money there because the lack of sunshine, the way of tax avoidance–

 

BILL MOYERS: Dark money, money in the shadows, money now going into our political process, as you know so well, to reinforce this tax code.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: That’s right. Reinforce the tax code, which has led America to be the country with the highest level of inequality of any of the advanced countries.

 

BILL MOYERS: Give us a working definition for the laity of corporate welfare.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, this was an idea that I began talking about when I was serving as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers–

 BILL MOYERS: Twenty years ago.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: –twenty years ago. And everybody was talking about how much money you were giving to the poor people. It wasn’t, if you actually looked at the amount of money, it wasn’t that much. But we said, well, you’re also giving away a lot of money to rich corporations, directly and indirectly. Most of the indirect way is through the tax system. So, for instance, if you give special tax provisions for oil companies, so they don’t pay the full share of taxes that they ought to be paying, that’s a welfare benefit.

Lots of other provisions in our, hidden in our tax code basically help one industry or another, that can’t be justified in any economic terms. And, so, that’s where we coined the term “corporate welfare.” It’s caught on. And because it says it’s a subsidy, but not a subsidy, help going to a poor person, which is where welfare ought to be going, but going to the richest Americans, going to our rich corporations.

 

BILL MOYERS: So, we have a tax code that encourages people to– encourages companies to send their profits abroad, to send jobs abroad, and to reward owners of their company whose money may not come back to the United States?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: It doesn’t make any sense, you might say. And the fact it doesn’t, you know, one of the reasons I wrote the paper was, you know, there’s a lot discussion going on about we have a budget of deficit. And we have to slash this, and slash that, and cut back education, and cut back research, things that will make our economy stronger, cut back infrastructure.

 And I think that’s counterproductive. It’s weakening our economy. But the point I make in this paper is it would be easy for us to raise the requisite revenue. This is not a problem. This is not as if it’s going to oppress our economy. We could actually raise the money and make our economy stronger. For instance, we’re talking about the taxation of capital. If we just tax capital in the same way we tax ordinary Americans, people who work for a job, who pay taxes we pay on wages.

If we eliminate the special provisions of capital gains, if we eliminated the special provisions for dividends we could get, over the next ten years, over, you know, approximately $2 trillion. And those are numbers according to the CBO. And so, we’re talking about lots of money.

 

BILL MOYERS: The figures make sense to me. But the politics doesn’t. Because these are the people, once again, who dominate our system with their contributions to the politicians who then have no interest in changing a system that rewards their donors.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: We have this vicious cycle where economic inequality gets translated into political inequality. It gets translated into rules of the game that lead to more economic inequality, and which allow that economic inequality to get translated into evermore political inequality. So, my view, you know, the only way we’re going to break into this viscous cycle is if people come to understand that there is an alternative system out here.

That there is an alternative way of raising taxes, that we are not really faced with a budget crisis. It’s a manmade crisis. You know, when we had the government shutdown, we realized that that was a political crisis. That wasn’t an economic crisis. And the same thing about our budget crisis, you know. It’s not that we couldn’t raise the revenues in a way which actually could make our economy stronger. We can.

If we just had a fair tax system, to tax capital at the same rate that we tax ordinary individuals, if we just made those people in that upper 1 percent pay their fair share of the taxes they got 22.5 percent of the income, well, let’s make sure that they pay a commensurate part of our income tax, if we had taxes that would be designed to improve our environment.

 

BILL MOYERS: You mean by taxing pollution?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Taxing pollution.

BILL MOYERS: Carbon emissions.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: A general principle that we’ve known for a long time, a lot better to tax bad things than good things. Rather than tax people who work, let’s shift some of that burden into things that are bad, like pollution.

BILL MOYERS: You make it sound so easy. And I’m still hung up on your saying, you know, it would be easy to do these things. And yet, if they were easy, why haven’t we done them?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, that’s the politics. The fact is that we have a political process that I won’t say is broken, but is certainly not functioning the way we think a democracy is supposed to function, you know. In democracy, supposed to be one person, one vote. And there’s a well-developed theory about what does that imply for the outcome of a political process?

We talk about it, called the median voter. It should reflect the middle, you know. Some people want more spending. Some people want less spending. Some people, you know, so the nature of democracy is compromise. And it’s supposed to be compromise sort of in the middle. But that’s not we have today in the United States. We have a tax system that reflects not the interest of the middle. We have a tax system that reflects the interest of the one percent.

 

BILL MOYERS: Let me cite some examples of the biggest tax dodgers. These come from the organization, Americans for Tax Fairness. Citigroup had $42.6 billion in profits offshore in 2012 on which it paid no U.S. taxes. Exxon Mobil had $43 billion in profits offshore in 2012 on which it paid no U.S. taxes. General Electric made $88 billion from 2002 to 2012 and paid just 2.4 percent in taxes for a tax subsidy of $29 billion, I could go on. Pfizer, Honeywell, Verizon, FedEx, Apple. What goes through your mind when you hear these figures?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, so, many things go through my mind. But, you know, one of the things is how unfair this is, and how angry Americans ought to be about this. I also think of the ethics of the question. If I were a CEO, take of a company like Apple, use the ingenuity of America, based on the internet. Internet was created, in large measure, by government–

 BILL MOYERS: Right.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: –by government spending. They’re willing to take but not to give back. So, there’s really a whole set of problems that concern it, ethics, equity, fairness, resource allocations. What they don’t seem to understand is our society can’t function if these large corporations don’t make their fair share of contributions.

 

BILL MOYERS: Aren’t they likely to say, though, in response, well we do this because the law permits it. This is what the system incentivizes.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well the law does permit it. They use their lobbyists to make sure that the law gives them the scope to avoid taxes. So, this argument, oh, we’re only doing what the law allows, is disingenuous. The fact is they created, their lobbyists, their lobbying helped create this law that allows them to escape taxes, pushing the burden of taxation on ordinary Americans.

 

BILL MOYERS: So, that’s the big impact on people, right. They– somebody has to make up the difference between–

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Somebody has to make up the difference. I mean, we can’t survive as a society without roads, infrastructure, education, police, firemen. Somebody’s going to have to pay these costs.

 

BILL MOYERS: Summarizing what you say in here about your proposal, raise the corporate tax rate, but provide generous tax credits for corporations that invest in the U.S. and create jobs here. Eliminate the loopholes that distort the economy, increase taxes on corporations, the profits of which are associated with externalities such as pollution, reduce the bias toward leverage by making dividend payments tax deductible, but imposing a withholding tax. I mean, these seem so common-sensical that a journalist can understand them. But they don’t get into the debate.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Yeah, well, I hope this paper will help move that along. You notice when you were listing them that these are very much based on incentives. As I said–

 

BILL MOYERS: Your plan is based on incentives?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: On incentives that we’ve created a tax system that has an incentive to move jobs abroad. And what I want to do is create a tax system that has incentives to create jobs. And if you tell a corporation, look it, if you don’t create jobs, you’re taking out of our system, you’re not putting anything back, you’re going to pay a high tax.

But if you put back into our system by investing, then you can get your tax rate down. That seems to me, common sense, particularly in a time like today, when 20 million Americans need a job. When we have so much inequality and this unemployment is contributing to that inequality.

You know, in this, the first three years of the so-called recovery, between 2009 and 2012, 95 percent of all the gains went to the upper 1 percent. So, the American workers are not participating. And the reason they’re not participating is there’s just not enough job creation here at home. And, so, this is a way of trying to incentivize all these corporations who are sitting on all this money abroad to start using some of their huge resources, some of all those benefits that we’ve given them, for the benefit of the American people.

 

BILL MOYERS: You move in circles where you come into contact with the CEOs of these companies, many of whom are deficit hawks, you know. They keep, they’re on committees. They keep testifying in Washington. They call for deficit reduction. What do they say when you make this argument to them face to face, as you’re making it to me?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Most of them are not economists. And most of them are concerned with their corporation’s own bottom line and with their own salary. So, we’ve created a corporate system in the United States where the CEOs’ pay is related to the shareholder value. The shareholder value is related to how little taxes they pay. Because if they get the taxes down, profits look high and people will pay more for their shares.

So, when they’re making an argument for, let’s lower the corporate income tax, let’s lower taxes that I have to pay, let’s expand corporate loopholes, they don’t use those words. But what they’re really saying is, pay me more, because if I succeed in getting Congress to do that, my pay goes up, not because I’ve worked harder.

I haven’t invented something new. I haven’t made my customers happier. I made my company more valuable by succeeding in getting provisions that allow my company to avoid taxes. And then, my shareholder value goes up, and my salary goes up.

 

BILL MOYERS: My conversation with Joseph Stiglitz will continue next week. {and we promise here to post the follow-up as well – The SustainabiliTank.info editor}

 

As if to prove a point, the U.S. House of Representatives, functioning these days as a legislative bordello for corporate America, is moving to extend and make permanent six separate tax cuts for big business. The whole package would come at a cost of $310 billion, virtually wiping out all the deficit reduction from last year. One of those tax credits, for research and development, already has been approved, at a cost over the next ten years of $156 billion. That’s 15 times as much as it would cost to extend unemployment benefits.

 

Did House Republicans offer to renew help for people out of work? Nope. They’re deficit hawks, and they said there’s no money to pay for it. Of course they could just ask their corporate friends to give the tax breaks back. But that would be asking too much, especially on the eve of the fall Congressional elections when secret or dark money from you-know-who will flow into you-know-whose campaigns like….well, like champagne on the company jet.

 

Yet another reminder that you need not impose fraud on people by stealth if you can succeed by law.

 

Next week, more on politics, taxes, and inequality with Joseph Stiglitz.

 

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: We already have a tax system that has contributed to making America the most unequal society of the advanced countries. That doesn’t have to be. We can have a tax system that can help create a fairer society— only ask the people at the top to pay their fair share.

 

BILL MOYERS: At our website, BillMoyers.com, we’ll link you to Joe Stiglitz’s white paper for the Roosevelt Institute. You’ll also find a list there of ten corporate tax dodgers whose names and brands we bet you’ll recognize.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

A Solar-backed Currency for the Refugees of Western Sahara.

By Mel Chin | Creative Time | April 30, 2014

 www.policyinnovations.org/ideas/i…

View of Smara, one of the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2011.

What the world needs now is the first Bank of the Sun.

The HSBC ads at Newark International Airport could not have been more appropriate for my trek to the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. As I ambled through the jet bridge with my carry-on, color-coordinated images of demure North African women met my eyes, accompanied by some facts assembled by the bank—”0.3% of Saharan solar energy could power Europe”—and a self-aggrandizing but, for me, prescient message: “Do you see a world of potential? We do.”

It was the fall of 2011, and I was on a string of flights from North Carolina to Algeria to participate in an ARTifariti convening of international artists presenting human rights–related projects at the Algerian camps and in Western Sahara. During previous gatherings, a New York–based art critic had presented a slide show to international artists and Sahrawi refugees, sharing pieces by activist artists and filmmakers such as Ai Weiwei and Spike Lee. The get-togethers offered a forum to consider artists who might do a project in the camps.

And in the end, the refugees had chosen a Chinese Texan who had spearheaded Operation Paydirt’s Fundred Dollar Bill Project, an artwork that prompted Americans to draw their own versions of $100 bills (in order to raise awareness of and prevent childhood lead poisoning). Essentially they said, “Bring us the guy with the money.” So I packed my bags and left for the western lands of North Africa.

Mel Chin

Operation Paydirt’s Fundred Dollar Bill Project in St. Roch, New Orleans. CREDIT: Amanda Wiles, 2009.

At an unknown hour on a starless night, I arrived in the 27 February Camp—one of Algeria’s five Sahrawi refugee camps (named after the date in 1976 on which the Polisario Front declared the birth of the Sahrawi Democratic Arab Republic)—and was led to the home of our host, Abderrahman. As we entered his compound, the seasoned warrior, dressed in a blue darrâa, emerged from a UN tent, unfurled a carpet over the sand, ignited charcoal and began to prepare the customary tea for us. We attempted to translate from Hassaniya Arabic to Spanish to English over tea, getting a taste of enthusiastic nomad hospitality.

That night I heard firsthand the history of the Sahrawi people, who today are divided between Algerian refugee camps and a sliver of Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara that they call the “liberated territories.” For nearly four decades, warfare and political powers have trapped more than 150,000 Sahrawis in the camps and separated them from their family members in the liberated territories, which are bounded by the Moroccan wall to the west and Algeria’s border to the east.

When Morocco and Mauritania invaded Western Sahara in 1975 (Mauritania withdrew in 1979), they split up the land and seized the Sahrawis’ natural resources—water, rich fishing grounds and the world’s largest phosphate mine. Now, inhabiting either the arid, landlocked region of Western Sahara or the bare-bones camps of Algeria, the Sahrawi people depend entirely on international humanitarian aid for food, water and medicine. And while Western Sahara has none of the lead-poisoning problems of postindustrial America, its liberated territories have more landmines than any other place on the planet.

Mel Chin

In the tent of Abderrahman and his family. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2011.

In the morning I awoke from this harrowing chronicle in a land of sand and rock that was brutally burnished by the sun—and I can guarantee that there was no bank in sight. I soon learned why the Sahrawi people were so interested in the Fundred Dollar Bill project: they have no currency of their own and deal mostly with Algerian dinars. In response, we created a background template for their currency, printed thousands of blank bills and distributed them through the camps, announcing a design opportunity. After we curated their drawings, the Sahrawis would vote on the designs for what might become their first currency.

The denominations for the currency, called “sollars,” were 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. Children and teens drew the 5s and 10s; young adults, the 20s; and of course, the elders, the 100s. But the designs for the 50s would have two adult versions, one male and one female. The survivalist family culture that has emerged from the hostile desert climate has enforced a long-standing code of equality between the sexes. In a region where food is scarce and hot summer temperatures and freezing desert nights can kill, whoever survives the elements must be allowed equal rights in the tribe to barter and represent the family, regardless of religious dictates.

Mel Chin

The children’s school at the 27 February Camp. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2011.

While I was in the camps, I came to understand that the symbolic and therapeutic benefits of designing the first Sahrawi currency with the refugees were not worthy enough goals. The Sahrawi people need a real economy. And to make that happen, the fictional currency I helped the refugees design had to be backed by something real and exchangeable on international markets.

As I mulled over the problem under the blazing sun, I realized that the desert holds the potential to bring Sahrawis economic and political independence—and the leverage necessary to help us all combat climate change.

What the world needs now is the first Bank of the Sun. The first solar energy–backed currency in the world could bring the Sahrawi people an independent economy and offer a major breakthrough in an environmental quagmire. We would create a new model of banking and currency, free from the dominance of gold and oil, for first-world countries to follow.

And this model would be delivered by the Sahrawi people, who have been waiting for freedom and self-determination for 39 years! By achieving worldwide renown for freeing people from hydrocarbon dependency, the Sahrawi could then barter with the global community for another form of independence: their right to self-determination.

Mel Chin Bank of the Sun Western SaharaFreedom is the concept propelling my action with the Sahrawi people. The sun on this poster for the Bank of the Sun is composed of the Arabic word for “freedom,” repeated 38 times—once for every year the Sahrawis have waited for the right to self-determination (as of last year). CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2013.

I admit that it was a pretty far-out and grand idea, but I suppose I did see a world of potential in Saharan solar energy, just like the jetway HSBC ad said. I was thinking like a bank.

After getting back from the Tindouf camps, I found myself in Texas, accepting a national award for my efforts in public art and, most likely, boring everyone with crazy talk about a Bank of the Sun in landmine-laced Western Sahara. My friends were more concerned about my diminishing sense of self-preservation than about anything I said—especially after I told them that my trip to Tifariti had been interrupted by the armed kidnapping of three foreign-aid workers from a neighboring refugee camp. They didn’t even entertain my ideas with any questions about how the bank idea could be pulled off.

As with most such gatherings, there was not much left to do after the award ceremony but drink and dance. So, with friends in tow, we honky-tonked through San Antonio, taking over a bar by the River Walk and proceeding to do what had to be done. While taking a break from the floor, I noticed a man about my age sitting at a table with a beer, tapping his feet to the bluesy beat. I had my posse pull him onto the floor. He began to move in a calculated way, like an engineer. Intrigued, I joined him and the party on the floor.

Over the din, I shouted, “What do you do?”

He shouted back, “I’m an engineer.”

“Really?” I asked. “What kind?”

“A solar engineer.”

I challenged Texas style: “So, ever heard of Western Sahara?”

Matter-of-factly he replied, “Yes, we designed a power station for the refugee camps there.”

For me, a light flicked on, burning away the haze of booze and turning the blaring R&B into a background of sweet birds; the bodies in frantic motion seemed to stand still. I urged him off the dance floor. He told me, in an Australian accent, that he was Dr. Richard Corkish, head of photovoltaic engineering at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Not only that—his colleague had just been in the same refugee camps I had visited, advising on how to power a women’s clinic. It was a profound coincidence, to say the least. We closed the bar, and I left clutching Dr. Corkish’s business card.

For me, a light flicked on, burning away the haze of booze and turning the blaring R&B into a background of sweet birds.

Since our night on the floor, Dr. Corkish has been an adviser to the Bank of the Sun, which is on its way to becoming a reality. He has assigned students the project as part of his curriculum and counseled us on the design of a modular, pragmatic stand-alone solar power plant in Western Sahara, as well as a cost-effective method for transmitting power. Following Corkish’s methodologies, we could generate more than enough energy for Sahrawi needs, creating a surplus to sell to neighboring countries or even to Europe. By working in the Western Sahara to retool our approach to energy, we would prove that the most advanced methods of solar-power storage and delivery are feasible even in a place with no infrastructure. The most appropriate technology for us all could be built from the sand up.

In February 2013 I discussed the project with Ahmad Bukhari, the Polisario representative to the United Nations, and later with Mohamed Yeslem Beisat, the ambassador to the United States for the Western Saharan people. Skeptical at first, they have both become advisers and creative collaborators.

To make the first Bank of the Sun a reality, we have to find a place where electricity can be generated that is both safe from armed conflict and close enough to someone interested in buying energy. Bukhari suggested placing the stand-alone solar power plant not in the camps but in Mijek, a nomadic outpost in the liberated territories. Mijek continues to be the most likely site because the energy could be sold to Zouérat, a town in northern Mauritania where an iron ore mine needs more power than is available. The Mauritanian ambassador recently confirmed that the country would buy any energy offered. I have started to seek funds for a fact-finding trek, during which I will finally step on the sands of Western Sahara.

Mel Chin

The site and plans for the potential Bank of the Sun. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2013.

During my time in the Sahrawi refugee camps, I relearned a lesson I picked up in the flood-wracked and environmentally poisoned parts of New Orleans: you are not inspired by tragedy or human suffering—you are compelled.

My brilliant translator, a young man named Mohamed Sulaiman Labat, was born in the camps and has never traveled beyond his host country, Algeria, or the shameful wall of sand and explosives erected by Morocco in Western Sahara. Sulaiman is majestic in his capacity for optimism and his aptitude for imagining alternative futures based on ideas we discussed during my stay. On our last night together, he spoke with me about staring each night into the vast sky above the camps. He then asked, “No disrespect, but why is it so easy for an artist to see our need for justice when the rest of the world can’t?”

A question like that makes you think about what could be and about how our humanity is challenged if we don’t take action to amplify his question—and to force an answer.

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This piece from Creative Time Reports is republished without trying to track down permission. Climate Reports is made possible by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. This series is produced in conjunction with the 2013 Marfa Dialogues/NY organized by Ballroom Marfa, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and the Public Concern Foundation. We hope that the authors will not mind our trying to publicize their very sound dream for a mos reasonable future. The only question is if the world will be enlightened enough to see that the true realists are the dreamers of today.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Here’s what’s going on at the White House today.
The White House, Washington

DAILY SNAPSHOT
Friday, May 16, 2014

Featured
“The Faces of Nearly 3,000 Innocent Souls”Yesterday, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum opened its doors to the families of those who lost their lives in the 2001 attacks, as well as the first responders and recovery workers that helped save the lives of others that day.

“Here, at this memorial, this museum, we come together,” said President Obama. “We look into the faces of nearly 3,000 innocent souls — men and women and children of every race, every creed, and every corner of the world. … Here we tell their story, so that generations yet unborn will never forget.”

Read more of the President’s remarks at yesterday’s dedication.

Read more about the 9/11 museum dedication ceremony.

 

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the National September 11 Memorial & Museum dedication ceremony in New York, N.Y., May 15, 2014.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the National September 11 Memorial & Museum dedication ceremony in New York, N.Y., May 15, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

 

 

President Obama said that the site is now a “sacred place of healing and of hope.”

“Here, at this memorial, this museum, we come together.  We stand in the footprints of two mighty towers, graced by the rush of eternal waters.  We look into the faces of nearly 3,000 innocent souls — men and women and children of every race, every creed, and every corner of the world.  We can touch their names and hear their voices and glimpse the small items that speak to the beauty of their lives.  A wedding ring.  A dusty helmet.  A shining badge.

Here we tell their story, so that generations yet unborn will never forget.  Of coworkers who led others to safety.  Passengers who stormed a cockpit.  Our men and women in uniform who rushed into an inferno.  Our first responders who charged up those stairs.  A generation of servicemembers — our 9/11 Generation — who have served with honor in more than a decade of war.  A nation that stands tall and united and unafraid — because no act of terror can match the strength or the character of our country.  Like the great wall and bedrock that embrace us today, nothing can ever break us; nothing can change who we are as Americans.”

In his remarks, the President also told the story of Welles Crowther, a young man who gave his own life in order to save others:

“On that September morning, Alison Crowther lost her son Welles.  Months later, she was reading the newspaper — an article about those final minutes in the towers.  Survivors recounted how a young man wearing a red handkerchief had led them to safety.  And in that moment, Alison knew.  Ever since he was a boy, her son had always carried a red handkerchief.  Her son Welles was the man in the red bandana.

Welles was just 24 years old, with a broad smile and a bright future.  He worked in the South Tower, on the 104th floor. He had a big laugh, a joy of life, and dreams of seeing the world.  He worked in finance, but he had also been a volunteer firefighter.  And after the planes hit, he put on that bandana and spent his final moments saving others.

Three years ago this month, after our SEALs made sure that justice was done, I came to Ground Zero.  And among the families here that day was Alison Crowther.  And she told me about Welles and his fearless spirit, and she showed me a handkerchief like the one he wore that morning.

And today, as we saw on our tour, one of his red handkerchiefs is on display in this museum.  And from this day forward, all those who come here will have a chance to know the sacrifice of a young man who — like so many — gave his life so others might live.”

“Those we lost live on in us,” said the President. “In the families who love them still. In the friends who remember them always. And in a nation that will honor them, now and forever.”

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The President kept his words tight and dignified without mentioning the perpetrators, but we allow ourselves to be more outspoken and remind our readers that the Bin Ladens are products of our insistence on using their Saudi Arabia as a mere oil-source, and do not dare to talk of human rights or other such banalities as democracy. We also would never speak up against religious Islamic Arab racism as long as the Arab world just persists in harming their own. It is only when they step out of line and harm American or Israeli citizens that we wake up – but still continue to buy their oil and gas.

Now, while we mourn the civilized world’s victims “of all races and creeds” as per the 9/11 beast-made cataclysm – our papers talk of a “Black Bin Laden” by the name of Abubakar Shrkau, the boss of the Islamic Terror-group Boko Haram who has it out against the Christian Nigerians – killing them and abducting their daughters. This is no less then a “cleansing” operation in the Islamic World, and the results are clear in the Middle East and are now being extended to Africa – this along the “oil-road” – be it in Sudan or Nigeria.

When will the US and the EU finally realize that energy is not a synonym for oil?

If Climate Change, and now also the fate of the Ukraine are no eye openers – what will ever awaken a dormant US Congress or a dormant EU Parliament that can think only oil and gas?

On 9/11 2001, the day the UN General Assembly was to start their meetings, I was supposed to participate and being inducted at a ringing of the Peace Bell. Obviously, looking at the clouds of dust hovering over down-town, that were visible even at the 42 Street at the UN, the event was postponed by several days, and when held it was more like a wake not an inspiration. I, and everyone involved in this, will never forget or forgive. (PJ)

 

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And from today’s mail from The Council of Foreign Relations:

Crisis in Nigeria

Why One Nigerian Crisis Attracted Notoriety

John Campbell

Boko Haram’s kidnapping of schoolgirls in northern Nigeria has claimed more international attention than any other atrocity of the ongoing insurgency. A Boko Haram warlord’s video claiming responsibility for the kidnapping and threatening to, in effect, sell the girls into slavery appears to have fed the media storm, tying the tragedy to larger issues of human trafficking, child marriage, and girls’ education. Read more on Africa in Transition »

Beating Boko Haram

Isobel Coleman and Sigrid von Wendel

Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates to “secular education is a sin,” has been committing heinous attacks across Nigeria’s north for years, frequently targeting schools. To fight back, Abuja must double down on education even as it rethinks its counterterrorism strategy. Read more on ForeignAffairs.com »

Get Girls’ Education Out of the Crosshairs

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Education has long been in the crosshairs of extremists, but only recently came to light via Boko Haram’s kidnapping of nearly three hundred school girls. More than seventy million school-aged children do not attend elementary school. This statistic will need to change to ensure prosperity, stability, and security. Read the op-ed »

Will the “Civilized World” do anything if the present rage subsides? (PJ)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 7th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

Europe

 

Kiev Struggles to Break Russia’s Grip on Gas Flow.

 

 

Photo

A natural gas worker in Chaslovtsy, the largest transit point in Ukraine for Gazprom exports to the European Union. Credit Joseph Sywenkyj for The New York Times

 

CHASLOVTSY, Ukraine — As Ukraine tries to contain a pro-Russian insurgency convulsing its eastern region, a perhaps more significant struggle for the country hinges on what happens beneath the ground here in a placid woodland in the far west, on the border with Slovakia.

This is where about $20 billion worth of Russian natural gas flows each year through huge underground pipelines to enter Europe after a nearly 3,000-mile journey from Siberia. It is also, the pro-European government in Kiev believes, where Ukraine has a chance to finally break free from the grip of Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled energy behemoth.

In an effort to do this, Ukraine has for more than a year been pushing hard to start so-called reverse-flow deliveries of gas from Europe via Slovakia to Ukraine, thus blunting repeated Russian threats to turn off the gas tap.

An agreement signed last week between Slovak and Ukrainian pipeline operators opened the way for modest reverse-flow deliveries of gas from Europe, where prices are much lower than those demanded by Gazprom for its direct sales to Ukraine.

But the deal, brokered by the European Union and nudged along by the White House, fell so far short of what Ukraine had been lobbying for that it left a nagging question: Why has it been so difficult to prod tiny Slovakia, a European Union member, to get a technically simple and, for Ukraine and for the credibility of the 28-nation bloc, vitally important venture off the ground?

Some cite legal and technical obstacles, others politics and fear of crossing the Kremlin, but all agree that a major obstacle has been the power and reach of Gazprom, which serves as a potent tool for advancing Russia’s economic and geopolitical interests, and is ultimately beholden to President Vladimir V. Putin.

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Gazprom not only dominates the gas business across the former Soviet Union, but also enjoys considerable clout inside the European Union, which gets roughly a third of its gas imports from Russia and is itself vulnerable to Russian pressure.

Major Gas Lines

Uzhgorod and Chaslovtsy are the most West-Side dots in above map of The UKRAINE.

All the same, a fog of mystery surrounds the reluctance of Slovakia to open up its gas transit corridor — through which Russia pumps a large portion of its gas to Europe — for large reverse-flow deliveries to Ukraine.

Built during the Soviet era to link Siberian gas fields with European markets, Slovak pipelines, according to Ukrainian officials and experts, could move up to 30 billion cubic meters of gas from Europe to Ukraine a year — more than all the gas Ukraine is expected to import from Russia this year.

Instead, the majority state-owned Slovak company that runs the system, Eustream, has offered only a small, long-disused subsidiary pipeline that still needs engineering work before it can carry gas to Ukraine. Once the work is finished in October, Eustream will provide just a tenth of the gas Ukraine has been looking for from Europe. The company says that small amount can be increased sharply later.

Here in Chaslovtsy, in southwestern Ukraine, where technicians from Ukraine’s pipeline company, Ukrtransgaz, and Gazprom monitor the flow of Russian gas into Slovakia, the Ukrainian head of the facility, Vitaly Lukita, said he wondered if gas would ever flow the other way.

“We are all ready here, but I don’t know why the Slovaks are taking so long,” Mr. Lukita said. “Everyone has been talking about this for a very long time, but nothing has happened.”

Andriy Kobolev, the board chairman of Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state gas company, said he was particularly mystified by the recalcitrance of Eustream because in 2011 the company had put forward the idea of using spare capacity in its trunk pipelines for reverse-flow supplies to Ukraine.

He said the Slovaks had rejected this option in recent negotiations, citing secret contracts with Gazprom. He added that he did not know what the problem was exactly, because he had not been allowed to see the contracts.

Eustream executives declined repeated requests for interviews. Vahram Chuguryan, the company’s spokesman, declined to comment on the apparent change of heart or on whether it was related to an ownership shuffle in early 2013, when a group of wealthy Czech and Slovak businesspeople purchased a 49 percent stake in Eustream. At the time, Czech news media speculated that they were acting as a stalking horse for Gazprom.

Daniel Castvaj, a spokesman for Energeticky a Prumyslovy Holding, the company that made the purchase, denied Ukrainian assertions that Eustream has sought to limit reverse-flow deliveries to Ukraine, describing these as “not only untrue but nonsensical” since the pipeline operator, which makes its money off transit fees, has a strong commercial interest in boosting flows regardless of direction.

He said he was unaware of any 2011 offer by Eustream to use the trunk transit system to deliver gas to Ukraine, but added that such an option has always been technically and legally impossible “without the consent of Gazprom,” which has not been given.

European Union officials, frustrated by months of haggling and worried about possible legal problems raised by Gazprom’s contracts with Slovakia, hailed last week’s modest deal as offering at least an end to the logjam. José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, described it as a “breakthrough” but also called it a “first step,” signaling hope that Slovakia may, over time, allow more substantial reverse-flow deliveries to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s dependence on Gazprom to heat homes and power factories — it buys more than half its supplies from Russia — has not only left the country vulnerable to sudden price changes, which fluctuate depending on whether Moscow wants to punish or favor the authorities in Kiev, but has also helped fuel the rampant corruption that has addled successive Ukrainian governments.

When Gazprom raised the price of gas to Ukraine by 80 percent last month and threatened to cut off supplies if Kiev did not pay up, Ukraine’s interim prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, blasted Moscow for “aggression against Ukraine.”

“Apart from the Russian Army and guns, they decided to use one of the most efficient tools, which are political and economic pressure,” he said.

   Ukraine Crisis in Maps

By pushing to buy the bulk of its gas from Europe instead of from Gazprom and murky middlemen endorsed by Gazprom, Ukraine hopes to protect what it sees as a dangerously exposed flank from Russian attack.

The best-known of those middlemen, the Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash, was detained in Austria in April and has been fighting extradition to the United States.

“Imagine where you’d be today if you were able to tell Russia: Keep your gas,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. told Ukrainian legislators during a visit to Kiev last month. “It would be a very different world you’d be facing today.”

 

Nearly all the gas Washington and Brussels would like to get moving into Ukraine from Europe originally came from Russia, which pumps gas westward across Ukraine, into Slovakia and then on to customers in Germany and elsewhere. Once the gas is sold, however, Gazprom ceases to be its owner and loses its power to set the terms of its sale.

 

Russia is currently demanding $485 per thousand cubic meters for the gas Ukraine buys directly — instead of the price of $268 it offered the Ukrainian government under President Viktor F. Yanukovych before his ouster — while “Russian” gas sold via Europe, which should be more expensive because of additional transit fees, costs at least $100 per unit less.

Russia denies using gas as a political weapon and says all Ukraine needs to do to secure a stable supply at a reasonable price is pay its bills on time and clear its debts, which Gazprom said total $3.5 billion.

Ukraine has already started taking reverse-flow deliveries from Poland and Hungary. But the quantities, around 2 billion cubic meters last year, have been too small to make much of a difference. Only Slovakia has the pipeline capacity to change the balance of forces.

“We have been struggling for a long time to convince them to find a solution,” said Mr. Kobolev, the Ukrainian gas chief. “We have now identified the problem, which was obvious from the beginning — restrictions placed by Gazprom.”

Ukraine’s energy minister, Yuri Prodan, dismissed Gazprom’s legal and technical arguments as a red herring. “I think the problem is political. We don’t see any real objective obstacles to what we have been proposing,” he said.

Opposition politicians in Slovakia, noting that 51 percent of Eustream belongs to the Slovak state, attribute the pipeline company’s stand to the country’s prime minister, Robert Fico, a center-left leader who has sometimes seemed more in sync with Moscow’s views than those of the European Union.

“Fico thinks that it is necessary to be very nice and polite to Mr. Putin,” Mikulas Dzurinda, a former prime minister of Slovakia, said in a telephone interview. “This is the heritage of old communists in a new era: The big guys are still in Moscow,” he said.

At a news conference in April, Mr. Fico insisted that Slovakia was “really ready” to help assist reverse-flow deliveries to Ukraine. But he added, “We naturally protect our own interests” and will not risk punishment by Gazprom for moves that violate Slovakia’s own deals with the Russian energy giant.

Slovakia depends on Gazprom for around 60 percent of its gas supplies and worries that upsetting the Russian company would lead to higher prices for itself or even cuts in supplies.

Alexander Medvedev, the head of Gazprom’s export arm, said he had no problem in principle with reverse-flow supplies to Ukraine but said such arrangements “require the agreement of all parties involved,” including Gazprom.

“Normally, you can’t arrange a physical reverse flow without a new pipeline,” he added, indicating Gazprom’s opposition to the use of existing Slovak pipelines.

Watching over workers in Chaslovtsy as they laid new underground pipes, Ivan Shayuk, a Ukrainian engineer for Ukrtransgaz, shook his head when asked why the scheme was taking so long.

“What is the problem? The problem is simple — Putin,” he said.

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Hana de Goeij contributed reporting from Prague, and Alison Smale from Berlin.

A version of this article appears in print on May 5, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Kiev Struggles to Break Russia’s Grip on Gas Flow.

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comment from: orbit7er

Here is another piece of the farce being pushed by the plutocratic elite in denial of the realities of Peak Oil and Climate Change. To ship…

And you know – the comment is right – it is those that refuse to let Europe move away from the use of gas that keep watch the umbilical cord to Russia is not broken. This umbilical cord to an unpredictable Russia is the undoing of the EU, and EU member-States that stand up for to hang on this umbilical cord are the un-doers of Europe.
Strange, as it might seem, Austria may be one of these European States that like Slovakia take real interest in conserving the is. Our eyes opened up Sunday May 2nd thanks to two articles in the Austrian news-papers:

(a)  “A Pipeline that Splits Europe” by Veronika Eschbacher, in the venerable and historic Wiener Zeitung, and

(b)  “How Russia wants to Renew its Might via Gas” by Guenther Strobl in the respected Business pages of Der Standard

Both articles give the facts about the Austrian National Oil Company OEMV, that is in the process of planing with the Russian Gazprom to build a new pipeline – “The Southern Stream” – that will shoot directly under the Black Sea, from Russia’s Caucasus near Socchi, to Bulgaria’s port at Varna. Then from there go directly through Serbia and Hungar to Austria – the town of Baumgarten on the border with Slovakia. The achievement here is that this line does not touvh the Ukraine, Moldova, Poland or Rumania which are inclined to be most reluctant to stay under the Russian boot.

So where in this is the Austria of the very active young Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz who is laboring at finding an amicable solution in the conflict between The Ukraine and Russia?

Will an Austrian Government that listens to its own Oil Company be so influenced by it that it works against the better interests in Europe – that try to distance themselves from too close relationship with Russia and understand that Energy Independence in Europe means independence of imports of gas – specially if this gas originates in Russia – pipeline A or Pipeline B – there is no inherent difference in this?

The media has yet to explain this, and the politicians running in Austria for the European Parliament have yet to mention it.   Absolutely – not a single politician in Austria has yet had the courage to say that OEMV is not the source of Foreign policy or the guru of futurology and sustainability for Austria, the EU …  for Europe.

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May 5, 2014, at the Wirtschaftsmuseum (the Economy Museum) at Vogelsanggassee 36, 1050 Vienna, Austria, a panel chaired by Dr. Patrick Horvath, included the Editor of the Wiener Zeitung, Mr. Reinhard Goeweil and titled “EU-Elections 2014 – The Role of the Media” gave me the opportunity to raise the importance of the OEMV in Austrian Government policy and the fact that the media just does not point it out. Dr. Horvath, PhD in Social Studies of Communication, is Head of the Union of Scientists dealing with Economic Policy (WIWIPOL) and the panel included as well Mr. Wolfgang Greif (a last minute addition) – Head of the Europe Section at the Employees and the Employers involved in Company Boards and wrote the book on the subject fighting for the right of the Employees to get information about their Companies; Professor Fritz Hausjell of the Vienna University Faculty of Journalism; and Mr. Wolfgang Mitterlehner – Head of Communication at the Viennese Workers’ Union Central Office.

Professor Hausjell pointed out that the Wienner Zeitung is the best provider of information among the Austrian Media and this is something I argue as well, so it made it easier for me to formulate my question by starting with my own congratulation with the paper’s editor right there on the panel. In effect, founded in 1703 under the name “Vienna Diarium” the WZ is worldwide the oldest newspaper still in print(!) (it appears now 5 times a week with Friday and Sunday excluded and carries the official announcements of use in legal Austria); Mr. Goeweil is editor since 2009 and by background a writer on economics.

As excited as I was by the paper’s expose last weekend of the “Southern Stream” pipeline plans intended to keep the Russian gas flowing to Europe under conditions that exclude the Ukraine, Moldova, and Rumania, while using Russian friendly Serbia, and safeguarding the position of Slavic Slovakia – a multibillion project that might become active by 2017, but can kill all development of Renewable Energy in Europe right now, I realized that further involvement in the subject, even by a paper like WZ, will not come as long as even the good people of that paper take for granted the oil lobby arguments that there is not possible to replace the gas because there is not enough sun, wind, hydro-power etc. If nothing else, the Fossil and Nuclear lobbies have numbed the inquisitiveness of even the good media in the EU States, like they did in the US. Why not bring Jigar Shah over here and have him talk of CLIMATE WEALTH?  Why are not more active businesses that stand to flourish ? Are we the only ones to still say YES WE CAN?

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And Vienna is again the Center of Europe!

May 5-6, 2014 the Council of Europe is meeting in Vienna. 30 Foreign Ministers, including those of Russia and the Ukraine, are meeting here under the chairmanship of Mr. Thorbjorn Jagland, the second most popular politician of Norway and a person that has held all possible political positions in Norway and many in all of Europe who is trying to manage the States of all of Europe with the help of the resourceful Austrian Sebastian Kurz.

Norway is not part of the EU and is an outside gas supplier to the EU. Interesting that Mr. Kurz started his meetings on Sunday with meeting first the current Norwegian Foreign Minister – was this a line-up on gas policy? Is that what the New York Times had in mind when publishing their article? Is it all about lining up interests with Russia and Norway so gas continues to flow in those pipelines and The Ukraine pushed aside, isolated and neutralized?

We shall see and so far as Europe is concerned, we will keep a close eye on these developments because in them we see
a make or break not just for the Ukraine but even more important – for the European Energy Policy that some, like the Prime Ministers of Poland and Slovakia, think of as just a gas policy.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

TUESDAY APRIL 22, 2014 – that is TODAY – is EARTH DAY 2014.

Want a really good way to reduce your carbon footprint?
Make Mother Earth Really Happy this Earth Day!
Here’s a simple and effective action for you to take to celebrate Earth Day that will make you feel really good about your contribution to the planet all year long.

Switch to 100% wind energy!  It’s a breeze!
What powers your home? We are all concerned about climate change and environmental degradation, but chances are that your lights, refrigerator, AC unit etc. are running on dirty fossil fuels. If you are a typical NYC resident, at present only 2% of your electricity comes from renewable sources: the other 98% is from a mixture of oil, gas, coal, hydroelectric, and nuclear power.

But the good news is that you can contribute to the solution.  If you pay your own electricity bill, you have a choice in where your electricity comes from. And switching to 100% wind energy is as easy as filling out a form online or picking up the phone.

350NYC has started aNYC Windcampaign as part of our sustainability initiative and we have partnered with Ethical Electric to encourage New Yorkers to make the switch. As we talk to people about this, we hear some of the same questions so let’s try to answer a couple of those FAQs now.  Click on the Ethical Electric logo to learn more about how you can sign up to get 100% wind power through your regular electricity bill.

1.       Can I really make a difference by choosing my source of electricity?
As a consumer, you are vitally important in pushing power companies to use more renewable energy.  By switching to wind, you create a market demand and you also make an immediate difference to the environment.  The New York State Public Service Commission estimates –  “If just 10% of New York’s households choose Green Power for their electricity supply, it would prevent nearly 3 billion pounds of carbon dioxide, 10 million pounds of sulfur dioxide, and nearly 4 million pounds of nitrogen oxides from getting into our air each year.”

2.       Doesn’t it cost more?
At present, the cost per KWh for renewable energy is slightly higher than for dirty fuel. The industry estimates that the average NYC electric bill will be $8-10 a month higher with 100% wind.  So, what does that compare to in an average month? One subway ride a week, one glass of wine in a Manhattan wine bar, two Starbucks frappucinos.  It’s a quality of life decision to choose clean renewable energy – a decision for the quality of life on this planet in the future.

3.       How can I trust a new energy provider? What is Ethical Electric?
There are several reputable energy companies and you can research them online, as we did when we chose Ethical Electric to partner with.  Ethical Electric is a proudly progressive company, founded by former MoveOn organizer Tom Matzzie. Ethical Electric fights Keystone XL, opposes fracking, and donates a portion of its revenue to support progressive causes so you can feel good about your electricity supplier.

4.       Will I have to pay another bill?
Here in NYC, Con Edison or National Grid will remain the distributor for your electricity. When you switch to Ethical Electric, you will still receive the same service and a single, monthly utility bill. But instead of buying dirty energy from coal and fracking, you’ll be supporting 100% wind energy. That’s 100% better than an electric bill that’s paying for the dirty coal and toxic fracking that are fueling climate change.

Making the switch is easy. Get 100% clean energy from Ethical Electric today.  If you click on this link, it will take you directly to our “partner page,” but if you decide to make the switch by phone, please be sure to tell the representative that 350NYC referred you – they will pay us a referral fee which helps us finance our campaigns.  That’s another thing you can feel good about!

Happy Earth Day and thank you from all of us at 350NYC
– – - and from Mother Earth!

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 21st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

CLIMATE CHANGE

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Summit

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will host on 23 September a Climate Summit to catalyze action on climate change prior to the UNFCCC Climate Change Conference in 2015. The emphasis will be bold pledges that can scale-up and deliver concrete action that will close the emissions gap and put the global community on track for an ambitious legal agreement through the UNFCCC process. 

Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) is working with the office to facilitate the contribution of the transport community to the Climate Summit.  It is currently expected that transport will be well represented in the Summit through possible commitments on electric mobility, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), public transport, railways, fuel economy and green freight.

SLoCaT will be represented in the Ascent meeting in Abu Dhabi that brings together ministers, as well as leaders from business, finance and civil society, to develop proposals for action and determine how their countries, businesses and organizations can increase their participation in initiatives that broaden and deepen partnerships, in order to deliver concrete action at the September Summit.

SLoCaT and UN-DESA together with the International Railway Association expect to be hosting a High Level Event on Transport and Climate Change in New York on 22 September to  showcase the transport commitments to the Climate Summit as well as the specific contribution of railways to sustainable transport.

SLoCaT contribution to ADP Technical Expert Meetings: Energy efficiency

In Warsaw, the ADP requested the UNFCCC secretariat to organize, under the guidance of the ADP Co-Chairs, technical expert meetings at each of the sessions of the ADP in 2014 to share policies, practices and technologies and address the necessary finance, technology and capacity building, with a special focus on actions with high mitigation potential.  SLoCaT was invited to contribute towards the March technical expert meeting that focused on opportunities for action on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Cornie Huizenga in his contribution highlighted 4 key messages on behalf of the SLoCaT Partnership and the Bridging the Gap initiative:

1. With 25% of Energy Related GHG emissions, Transport must become low carbon to realize 2 Degree Scenario

2. Transport and economic growth can, and must be decoupled

3. Technology and system-wide  improvements (e.g. fuel economy) needs to be combined with modal shift and behavioral change

4. This is an opportunity not a constraint – saves money; builds resilience and delivers more than climate benefits but needs to start now. NAMAs can help kick-start change

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Transport Day 2014

Following the success of Transport Day 2013, the SLoCaT Partnership and the Bridging the Gap initiative will be organizing in the context of COP 20, Transport Day 2014 on 7 December in Lima, Peru.  CAF Development Bank of Latin America, the Inter American Development Bank as well as FIA Foundation have indicated their support for this year’s Transport Day. If you are interested in contributing towards Transport Day 2014 please contact hallen@trl.co.uk and cornie.huizenga@slocatpartnership.org.

SPECIAL FOCUS: Road Safety Resolution

UN road safety debate hears call for post-2015 action

Global action to combat a growing worldwide epidemic road deaths and injuries must become part of the UN’s new priorities for global development, the UN General Assembly was told on 10 April as it passed a new Resolution to address the crisis.

Governments, including Brazil, Jamaica and Russia, urged inclusion of road safety in the post-2015 development goals due to be agreed next year. Speakers in the debate, including the US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, pledged support for the Decade of Action for Road Safety. The US co-sponsored the Resolution, which was introduced by Russia’s Deputy Interior Minister, Victor Kiryanov.

Governments at the UN have pledged to stabilise and reduce road deaths and injuries in a Decade of Action from 2011-2020, but progress is falling short. The issue must become part of the Post-2015 development goals so that millions of lives can be saved, the UN was told.

Speaking at the UN, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, Chair of the Commission for Global Road Safety, called for renewed action to save lives on the roads around the world. The Commission is funded by the FIA Foundation an independent UK charity providing philanthropic support to road safety efforts worldwide.

Lord Robertson who was representing the UK Government during the debate said: “This new Resolution recognises the Commission for Global Road Safety’s call for a target for reducing road deaths to become part of the new development goals. Such a global commitment is vital to save millions of lives around the world.”

He was joined by global road safety ambassador, actress Michelle Yeoh, who also addressed the UN General Assembly. She said: “We need new sources of funding to support road safety campaign. And we need new momentum in support of our shared objective for the Decade of Action, beginning with inclusion of road safety in the post-2015 goals.”

The new Resolution encourages Governments to consider road safety when negotiating the post-2015 development goals. The Commission is calling for a specific global target to reduce road fatalities by 50% to be included in the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). This would be consistent with the objectives of the Decade of Action for Road Safety.

The Commission is joining partners in the UN Road Safety Collaboration and SLoCAT to call on Governments at the UN to support the Post-2015 road safety SDG target. Click here for an advocacy pack.

Click here for further information on the UN Resolution A/68/L.40 ‘Improving Global Road Safety’.

Thanks to Avi Silverman, Director of Campaigns and Communications, Fia Foundation, for his contribution to this article.

UPDATE FROM SLoCaT PARTNERSHIP

The most exciting SLoCaT news is that we are now well underway with the transformation of the SLoCaT Secretariat into a formal legal entity.  We believe that this will enable us to serve the SLoCaT Partnership better and will help to strengthen the voice of sustainable, low carbon transport in global policies on sustainable development and climate change.  We are very much pleased with the positive response to the plans to make SLoCaT into a more sustainable entity. It is encouraging to see that new organizations are coming forward who are willing to support the work of SLoCaT.  More details on the changes in the structure of SLoCaT will be reported in the next newsletter. It is planned that the transformation of SLoCaT will be completed by June 2014.  

The first quarter of 2014 was a busy time for SLoCaT. We were able to make good progress with our advocacy to see sustainable transport fully integrated in the post-2015 development agenda.  Linked to that the work of SLoCaT on poverty and sustainable transport really kicked off in the first quarter of 2014 with as first highlight the special event on “Sustainable Transport and Just Cities” at the World Urban Forum in Medellin, Colombia.  

Transport was identified as a key sector in the recent 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. SLoCaT has intensified its work with the UNFCCC Secretariat to better communicate the mitigation potential of land transport. Contracts were signed for Transport Day 2014 in December 2014 in Lima, Peru.  We are working closely with the organizers of the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit to ensure that transport will be well represented at this critical event in September 2014.

We would also like to welcome Youth for Road Safety (YOURS) to SLoCaT Partnership as our newest member.  Please visit the member page of YOURS on the SLoCaT Website to learn more about their activities in road safety and sustainable transport.

SLoCaT’s effectiveness as a partnership is determined by the support its partners are willing to give to the organization.  I am confident that based on the interest shown by our members and others that SLoCaT has a strong future as an organization to effectively promote the interests of the sustainable transport community.

Cornie Huizenga, Secretary General, SLoCaT Partnership

RECENT PUBLICATIONS

IPCC’s recently published 5th Assessment Report confirms the importance and potential of mitigation action by the transport sector to reduce dangerous climate change. The Transport Section Mitigation Pathways of the Summary for Policy Maker can be found here. It is encouraging to see that there is increased alignment of the IPCC policy recommendations and the Avoid-Shift-Improve approach, promoted by SLoCaT to reduce GHG emissions from transport.  The detailed chapter (8) on transport, to which several SLoCaT members actively contributed contains a number of additional key messages:

  1. Reducing global transport greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be challenging since the continuing growth in passenger and freight activity could outweigh all mitigation measures unless transport emissions can be strongly decoupled from GDP growth
  2. High mitigation potential of transport by avoided journeys and modal shifts due to behavioral change, uptake of improved vehicle and engine performance technologies, low?carbon fuels, investments in related infrastructure, and changes in the built environment
  3. Both short? and long?term transport mitigation strategies are essential if deep GHG reduction ambitions are to be achieved
  4. Barriers to de-carbonizing transport for all modes differ across regions, but can be overcome partly by reducing the marginal mitigation costs
  5. There are regional differences in transport mitigation pathways with major opportunities to shape transport systems and infrastructure around low?carbon options, particularly in developing and emerging countries
  6. De-carbonizing of transport sector requires a range of strong and mutually?supportive policies

International Transport Forum 

Transport Outlook 2013: Funding Transport

The ITF Transport Outlook 2013 presents and discusses global scenarios concerning the development of transport volumes through 2050. The analysis highlights the impact of alternative economic growth scenarios on passenger and freight flows and the consequences of rapid urbanisation outside the OECD.

World Bank

Transport for health: the global burden of disease from motorized road transport 

World Bank’s Transport for Health  report summarizes the findings of a long and meticulous journey of data gathering and analysis to quantify the health losses from road deaths and injuries worldwide, as part of the path-finding Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study.

Reducing black carbon emissions from diesel vehicles: Impacts, control strategies, and cost-benefit analysis b

The most recent World Bank report Reducing black carbon emissions from diesel vehicles presents a summary of emissions control approaches from developed countries, which face a number of on-the-ground implementation challenges.

EMBARQ

CONNECT Karo 2014 Conference Looks at the Future for India’s Urban Transport

Government, transportation and planning leaders focused on finding practical ways to improve quality of life in India’s cities by improving mobility and accessibility in the second edition of CONNECTKaro, EMBARQ India’s annual conference on sustainable transportation. The conference was held in Bangalore, March 10 and 11, 2014 and opened by Madhav Pai, Director of EMBARQ India, saying that the challenge in India, with its burgeoning urban population “is to connect people to cities.” Over 250 people attended, and over 1,000 joined sessions on-line. More at EMBARQIndia.org.

New Low Emission Development Toolkit for City and Transport Planners
City leaders and planners weigh difficult decisions when choosing transport solutions, for example deciding between developing BRT or light rail, and finding the best way to measure greenhouse gas emissions. The new Transport Toolkit provides a new and very necessary resource to support these leaders as they shape our future cities. The toolkit – developed by the Low Emission Development Strategies Global Partnership (LEDS GP) Transport Working Group, led by EMBARQ in partnership with NREL and UNEP – provides a plethora of resources to plan for, implement, and monitor sustainable transport projects across the globe. More here and here.

European Cyclists’ Federation

ECF is building a global network of cyclists through World Cycling Alliance

World Cycling Alliance (WCA) is an initiative from European Cyclists’ Federation to build a global network of non-governmental organizations with a substantial interest in promoting cycling as the cleanest sustainable transport development. ECF will present the initiative for the WCA in Medellin, Colombia, at the World Urban Forum 7 (WUF7) of UN-Habitat, on Thursday, 10th of April 2014 at the Yellow Pavillion, Room 11. For more information about WCA, visit www.ecf.com/world-cycling-alliance or or get in touch with Marcio Deslandes at m.deslandes@ecf.com

Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation (iCET)

iCET to release 2013 China Environmentally Friendly Vehicle annual study results in June

China’s vehicle sales are the world’s highest for four consecutive years, accounting for about 60% of the national oil demand. Since 2007, iCET has been developing and updating a China-tailored passenger vehicle fuel-consumption and life-cycle emissions inventory tool promoted through annual reports and a free user-friendly website (www.greencarchina.org). These have been aimed at informing sustainable decision-making at all three pillars of China’s on-road private vehicle market: policy-makers, auto-makers and consumers. iCET’s 2013 green vehicle rating report (coming on Chinese Energy Conservation Week in June) will integrate “real-world” data provided by China’s Vehicle Emissions Control Center for taking China’s vehicle data disclosure one step forward.

Nordic Development Fund

NDF supports climate change adaptation in the transport sector

NDF has recently approved two new transport adaptation projects that will develop adaptive capacity and integration of climate change aspects into planning and design of road transport infrastructure. In Mozambique, NDF, together with the African Development Bank (AfDB), will support the National Road Administration, and other key stakeholders, with capacity-building and additional tools to manage climate impact threats to road development. The NDF support forms part of the Nacala Road Corridor III Project and aims to make resilient road development plans, improve construction methods, and ensure an active and sustainable road infrastructure asset management. Read more…

NDF is co-financing with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) a technical cooperation project to establish a Transport NAMA Support Facility in Asia

NDF is co-financing with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) a technical cooperation project to establish a Transport NAMA Support Facility with the aim of strengthening transport NAMA development in Asia. The EUR 500,000 support will build capacity in ADB and its developing member countries, and deliver tools that eventually will lead to development of at least two transport NAMAs in these countries. Read more…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 19th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Our Planet’s Future Is in the Hands of 58 People
 
By Roberto Savio*
 
ROME, April 19  2014 (IPS)   –   In case you missed it, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the third and final part of a report on Apr. 13 in which it says bluntly that we only have 15 years left to avoid exceeding the “safe” threshold of a 2°C increase in global temperatures, beyond which the consequences will be dramatic.
 
And only the most myopic are unaware of what these are – from an increase in sea level, through more frequent hurricanes and storms (increasingly in previously unaffected areas), to an adverse impact on food production.
 
Now, in a normal and participatory world, in which at least 83 percent of those living today will still be alive in 15 years, this report would have created a dramatic reaction. Instead, there has not been a single comment by any of the leaders of the 196 countries in which the planet’s 7.5 billion “consumers” reside.
It’s just been business as usual.
 
Anthropologists, who study human beings’ similarity to and divergence from other animals, concluded a long time ago that humans are not superior in every aspect. For instance, human beings are less adaptable than many animals to survive in, for example, earthquakes, hurricanes and any other type of natural disaster.
You can be sure that, by now, other animals would be showing signs of alertness and uneasiness.
 
The first part of the report, released in September 2013 in Stockholm, declared with a 95 percent or greater certainty that humans are the main cause of global warming, while the second part, released in Yokohama at the end of March, reported that “in recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans”.
 
The IPCC is made up of over 2,000 scientists, and this is the first time that it has come to firm and final conclusions since its creation in 1988 by the United Nations.
 
The main conclusion of the report is that to slow the race to a point of no return, global emissions must be cut by 40 to 70 percent by 2050, and that “only major institutional and technological changes will give a better than even chance” that global warming will not go beyond the safety threshold and that these must start at the latest in 15 years, and be completed in 35 years.
 
It is worth noting that roughly half of the world’s population is under the age of 30, and it is largely the young who will have to bear the enormous costs of fighting climate change.
 
The IPCC’s main recommendation is very simple: major economies should place a tax on carbon pollution, raising the cost of fossil fuels and thus pushing the market toward clean sources such as wind, solar or nuclear energy. It is here that “major institutional changes” are required.
 
Ten countries are responsible for 70 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas pollution, with the United States and China accounting for over 55 percent of that share. Both countries are taking serious steps to fight pollution.
 
U.S. President Barack Obama tried in vain to obtain Senate support, and has used his authority under the 1970 Clean Air Act to cut carbon pollution from vehicles and industrial plants and encourage clean technologies. 
But he cannot do anything more without backing from the Senate.
 
The all-powerful new president of China, Xi Jinping, has made the environment a priority, also because official sources put the number of deaths in China each year from pollution at five million.
 
But China needs coal for its growth, and Xi’s position is: “Why should we slow down our development when it was you rich countries that created the problem by achieving your growth?” And that gives rise to a vicious circle. The countries of the South want the rich countries to finance their costs for reducing pollution, and the countries of the North want them to stop polluting.
 
As a result, the report’s executive summary, which is intended for political leaders, has been stripped of
charts which could have been read as showing the need for the South to do more, while the rich countries
put pressure on avoiding any language that could have been interpreted as the need for them to assume any financial obligations.
 
This should {and we say rather that the word is should - ST.info editor} make it easier to reach an agreement at the next Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in Lima, where a new global agreement should be reached (remember the disaster at the climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009? {that we really did not call a disaster as thanks to President Obama – it was in Copenhagen that China came first time on board - ST.info editor }).
 
The key to any agreement is in the hands of the United States. The U.S. Congress has blocked any initiative on climate control, providing an easy escape for China, India and other polluters: why should we make commitments and sacrifices if the U.S. does not participate?
 
The problem is that the Republicans have made climate change denial one of their points of identity.
 
They have mocked and denied climate change and attacked Democrats who support carbon taxing as waging a war on coal. The American energy industry financially supports the Republican Party and it is considered political suicide to talk about climate change.
 
The last time a carbon tax was proposed in 2009, after a positive vote by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, the Republican-dominated Senate shot it down.
 
And in the 2010 elections, a number of politicians who voted for the carbon tax lost their seats, contributing to the Republican takeover of the House. The hope now for those who want a change is to wait for the 2016 elections, and hope that the new president will be able to change the situation – which is a good example of why the ancient Greeks said that Hope is the last Goddess.
 
And this brings us to a very simple reality. The U.S. Senate is made up of 100 members, and this means that you need 51 votes to kill any bill for a fossil fuels tax. In China, the situation is different, but decisions are taken, in the best of hypotheses, not by the president alone, but by the seven-member Standing Committee of the Central Committee, which holds the real power in the Communist Party.
 
In other words, the future of our planet is decided by 58 persons. With the current global population standing at close to 7.7 billion people, so much for a democratic world!
*Roberto Savio, founder and  president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 28th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Atlantic Chapter NYC Group Banner 3

*Full house for February’s Sustainability Event. A standing-room only crowd enthusiastically engaged in a presentation by Ron Gonen,  NYC Deputy Commissioner for Recycling.

Gonen stressed that it is possible for NYC to divert all but 18% of waste from landfills. He explained both the economic and environmental benefits of intensive recycling, and the planning for future residential and commercial composting.  To get composting in your building or neighborhood, ask your city councilmember to contact the Sanitation Dept (hrogers@dsny.nyc.gov). Other presenters included: Brooklyn College Professor Brett Branco, who stressed sustainable use of phosphorous, a finite resource for agriculture; Elizabeth Balkan, a senior policy advisor to Mayor de Blasio, who talked about how the new city law requiring commercial food waste recycling will be rolled out; and Vandra Thorburn, who established Vokashi, a unique composting service using the Japanese method of fermenting organic matter and returning it to the earth.  There was much enthusiastic discussion.

 

Maryland rally
Chesapeake Climate Action Network

 

*On the Bus to Baltimore. On February 20th, about 30 activists, including a number of Sierra Club members, got on a bus at 7:00 in NYC, picking up another 10-15 at two New Jersey stops, to join a rally against an LNG export facility in Cove Point,  Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay.  Dominion Resources which built an import facility there, wants to break its agreement to set aside wetlands and build an export facility on those wetlands. The demonstration was spirited and the speakers, including Sierra Club’s Josh Tulkin, were inspiring. The Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr. (see picture) made a strong case to the environmental justice aspect of this issue, see picture right. For more pictures, see here.

 

 

Fossil Fuel Divestment NYC
Divestment Forum Panelists

 

*Fossil Fuel Stock Divestment is a movement that is quickly gathering steam on campuses across the country.  While still principally on campuses, it is moving into city and state governments. Six speakers at a February 26th “Divestment Open House” at the Ethical Culture Society  discussed the divestment movement from a variety of perspectives. Sierra Club’s Lisa DiCaprio (far left in photo), spoke about how successful divestment efforts might shift the way investors view the value of fossil fuel investments, making them less attractive. The presentations were followed by a lively Q&A session with the audience.

 

 


Check out recent posts on our Blog:
A Letter from Minisink, talks about a community’s resistance to the intrusion of a gas compressor station and proposals for a gas power station in their community;  NYC Parks Under Siege, reports about efforts to block the granting  of permission for restaurants to locate in parks; and Promises and Pitfalls in the 2014 NYS Energy Plan raises questions about the State’s newly released energy plan.   And don’t forget to check our calendar for events of interest to environmentalists in and around New York City.

 


If you are interested in volunteering to work on the NYC Group’s online and digital communications, please email Gary Nickerson at    gary@gwntec.com.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

First He Ran the Obama Seder. Now Eric Lesser is Running for Office.

Former White House aide launches campaign for Massachusetts State Senate

The White House Seder in April 2009. Lesser is fifth from President Obama’s right. (White House / Pete Souza)

Back in April 2008, Eric Lesser began what would become a White House tradition when he helped organize a seder for staffers on the Obama campaign trail. “We were feeling a little down because we realized it wouldn’t be possible to get home for Passover,” the 28-year-old recalled. “So we set up our makeshift seder in this windowless basement in the Sheraton in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and when we were down there getting ready to begin, all of a sudden Senator Obama popped his head in and said, ‘Is this where the seder is?’ and asked, ‘Can I join?’ It was actually a little funny, because we were planning to have a bit of a briefer version, but he was very interested in it, and so we went through almost the entire haggadah, which is much more than I had ever done with my own family.”

The seder became a yearly tradition for the Obama family, and Lesser would go on to serve as a special assistant to David Axelrod and later director of strategic planning for the Council of Economic Advisers. He was profiled–along with his weekly shabbat dinners with other young Obama administration staffers–in the New York Times, and then moved on to Harvard for law school, where he’d previously attended college. And just this week, he launched his own political career by announcing his candidacy for State Senate in Massachusetts.

Lesser casts his campaign as a community-building exercise, rather than a particularly partisan affair. “My family wasn’t very political per se, but was very community-oriented,” he explained. “I was very active in my synagogue in Springfield, MA., Sinai Temple. I was active in my synagogue youth group, which was a branch of NFTY. And that was one of my early paths into community work,” he said. One of Lesser’s first political acts was to work with his local community to successfully fight budget cuts for his high school in 2002. “I’m a proud Democrat, but I don’t particularly care if an idea comes from a Democrat, from a Republican, or from none of the above. My focus is on good ideas,” he said. “We didn’t even know what party the community members and the volunteers were, and we didn’t care. What we cared about was that we fought for a good idea.”

Both of Lesser’s parents worked their way through college in New York–his father as a taxi driver–and became professionals in Holyoke, MA. Lesser’s goal is “to give more families that kind of opportunity”–to enable others to live the success story of his own family’s rise into the middle class. At the moment, however, he is still in listening mode. He intends to release “a variety of new innovative policy proposals.” Until then, he’s demurring on hot button issues like the role of charter schools, which has split progressives across the country, and pitted his former boss President Obama against liberal leaders like New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. “My goal now is to listen to people, and to make sure I’m hearing from all people in the district, regardless of party or position.”

In the end, Lesser’s hope for his political career is simple. “My background in Judaism is there’s no greater work than tikkun olam, and that’s always been a very strong part of my identity and my motivating force,” he said. “The idea is that you work in some small way to try to leave things a little better off than how you found them.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 19th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Politics

 

Obama Orders New Efficiency for Big Trucks.

 

 

President Obama announced the development of tough new fuel standards for heavy-duty trucks while in Maryland on Tuesday. Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — President Obama on Tuesday ordered the development of tough new fuel standards for the nation’s fleet of heavy-duty trucks as part of what aides say will be an increasingly muscular and unilateral campaign to tackle climate change through the use of the president’s executive power.

The new regulations, to be drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department by March 2015 and completed a year later so they are in place before Mr. Obama leaves office, are the latest in a series of actions intended to cut back on greenhouse gases without the sort of comprehensive legislation the president failed to push through Congress in his first term.

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The limits on greenhouse gas pollution from trucks would combine with previous rules requiring passenger cars and light trucks to burn fuel more efficiently and pending rules to limit the carbon emissions of power plants. Cumulatively, experts said the à la carte approach should enable Mr. Obama to meet his target of cutting carbon pollution in the United States by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. But they said he would still be far short of his goal of an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

Michael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency

Obama Delivers Remarks on Economy:

The president spoke at the Safeway Distribution Center in Maryland about efforts to bolster the economy and announced plans for new fuel economy standards for trucks.

 

“Improving gas mileage for these trucks is going to drive down our oil imports even further,” Mr. Obama said at a Safeway grocery distribution center here, flanked by a Peterbilt truck and Safeway and Coca-Cola cabs. “That reduces carbon pollution even more, cuts down on businesses’ fuel costs, which should pay off in lower prices for consumers. So it’s not just a win-win, it’s a win-win-win. We got three wins.”

Not everyone sees it that way. United States car and truck manufacturers have lobbied heavily against aggressive increases in federal fuel economy standards, saying that they could increase vehicle prices and diminish safety. More broadly, Republicans have said that the president should not single-handedly impose what they consider onerous requirements on vast swaths of the energy economy when Congress has opted against its own intervention.

The announcement was part of the President’s vow in his State of the Union address last month to advance his agenda “with or without Congress.” But while most of the actions taken since then have been relatively modest, like ordering a study of job training programs, one area where Mr. Obama both has the power to take more sweeping action and seems intent on using it is the environment.

In the case of carbon pollution, Mr. Obama has the legal authority under the 1970 Clean Air Act, which requires the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate any substance designated as a pollutant that harms or endangers human health. In 2009, the E.P.A. determined that carbon dioxide, emitted in large quantities from tailpipes and smokestacks, meets that definition.

While Mr. Obama effectively gave up on comprehensive climate legislation after it stalled in the Senate in his first term, aides said he saw climate change as an area where he could still shape his legacy. He recruited John D. Podesta, a former White House chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, to join his team as counselor in part to direct a more aggressive approach to the issue.

The administration has recently sought to elevate the issue. Two weeks ago officials announced creation of seven regional “climate hubs” to help farmers adapt to the impact of climate change, like drought and increased pests. Last week in California’s parched Central Valley, Mr. Obama announced a $1 billion “climate resiliency” fund for affected communities. Last weekend while in Jakarta, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Indonesia to sign a major climate treaty and directed American diplomatic missions to make climate change a top priority.

These accompany more assertive actions the administration is taking to reshape the American energy sector. In August the E.P.A. issued rules requiring automakers to double average fleet economy standards for passenger cars to 50.4 miles per gallon by 2025, which the administration said would cut carbon pollution from vehicles in half.

In September the E.P.A. proposed new rules cutting carbon pollution from future coal-fired power plants, a move that has effectively frozen construction of new coal plants. Mr. Obama has directed the E.P.A. to produce by June a draft regulation targeting existing coal plants, a deeply controversial move that could shutter hundreds of facilities.

“They have to do the actions at home to show the rest of the international community that they’re doing the actions they need the rest of the world to do,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, a Washington research organization.

But environmental advocates warn that the E.P.A. rules will be effective only if they withstand legal and legislative efforts to undo them, which is why they want Mr. Obama to be more energetic about selling them to the public. “If you make a push purely on the executive action front and you don’t back it up with measures to bolster public support, a lot of this can crumble under a new administration,” said Michael Levi, a climate change expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Specialists like Mr. Levi also note that no matter what the United States does on its own, it may not matter if Washington fails to persuade other nations, like China and India, to commit to similar actions, which is Mr. Kerry’s assignment.

In his speech here Tuesday, Mr. Obama said that heavy-duty trucks represent just 4 percent of all vehicles on American highways but generate 20 percent of the carbon pollution produced by the transportation sector.

Environmentalists applauded Mr. Obama’s move. Michelle Robinson, director of the clean vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said improving fuel efficiency of heavy-duty trucks could reduce oil consumption by as much as one million barrels a day in 2035, more than the capacity of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

A coalition of shippers that stand to benefit from lower fuel costs, including FedEx, Wabash National Corporation and Waste Management Inc., welcomed the president’s action and released its own suggestions to shape the administration’s new regulations.

“This collaborative approach will result in realistic, achievable goals and an effective regulatory framework to improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Douglas W. Stotlar, president of Con-way Inc., the nation’s third-largest freight company and a member of the coalition.

The American Trucking Association took a more cautious view, saying that it had worked with the administration on previous rules. “As we begin this new round of standards, A.T.A. hopes the administration will set forth a path that is both based on the best science and research available and economically achievable,” said Bill Graves, the association’s chief executive.

Mr. Obama pointed to what he called an emerging consensus. “If rivals like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola or U.P.S. and FedEx or AT&T and Verizon, if they can join together on this, then maybe Democrats and Republicans can do the same,” he said.

 

Peter Baker reported from Upper Marlboro, Md., and Coral Davenport from Washington.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 18th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

 
Tom Steyer at the office of NextGen Climate Action, his political organization, in San Francisco. Jason Henry for The New York Times

 

A billionaire retired investor is forging plans to spend as much as $100 million during the 2014 election, seeking to pressure federal and state officials to enact climate change measures through a hard-edge campaign of attack ads against governors and lawmakers.

The donor, Tom Steyer, a Democrat who founded one of the world’s most successful hedge funds, burst onto the national political scene during last year’s elections, when he spent $11 million to help elect Terry McAuliffe governor of Virginia and millions more intervening in a Democratic congressional primary in Massachusetts. Now he is rallying other deep-pocketed donors, seeking to build a war chest that would make his political organization, NextGen Climate Action, among the largest outside groups in the country, similar in scale to the conservative political network overseen by Charles and David Koch.

===================================

 

 

In early February, Mr. Steyer gathered two dozen of the country’s leading liberal donors and environmental philanthropists to his 1,800-acre ranch in Pescadero, Calif. — which raises prime grass-fed beef — to ask them to join his efforts. People involved in the discussions say Mr. Steyer is seeking to raise $50 million from other donors to match $50 million of his own.

The money would move through Mr. Steyer’s fast-growing, San Francisco-based political apparatus into select 2014 races. Targets include the governor’s race in Florida, where the incumbent, Rick Scott, a first-term Republican, has said he does not believe that science has established that climate change is man-made. Mr. Steyer’s group is also looking at the Senate race in Iowa, in the hope that a win for the Democratic candidate, Representative Bruce Braley, an outspoken proponent of measures to limit climate change, could help shape the 2016 presidential nominating contests.

Mr. Steyer also prospected for potential donors on a recent trip to New York City, where he met with aides to former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has made championing climate change a focus of his post-mayoral political life, but whose own “super PAC” has focused chiefly on gun control.

“Our feeling on 2014 is, we want to do things that are both substantively important and will have legs after that,” Mr. Steyer said in an interview. “We don’t want to go someplace, win and move on.”

Mr. Steyer, 56, accumulated more than $1.5 billion during his days at the hedge fund Farallon Capital Management, before he retired in 2012. Today, he is among the most visible of a new breed of wealthy donors on the left who call themselves “donor-doers,” taking a page from the Kochs, Mr. Bloomberg and others to build and run their own political organizations — outside the two parties and sometimes in tension with them.

But the newest wave of single-issue super PACs — including groups seeking greater regulation of guns and of campaign fund-raising — has drawn criticism even from those who share those priorities.

“A small number of the richest individuals in America are attempting to use their enormous wealth to purchase government decisions to advance their own personal interests,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a group that favors tighter limits on money in politics. “This is about as far away as we can get from ‘representative government.’ ”

Mr. Steyer poured tens of millions of dollars into a successful 2012 ballot initiative in California that eliminated a loophole in the state’s corporate income tax and dedicated some of the resulting revenue to clean-energy projects. He also has helped finance opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, appearing in a series of self-funded 90-second ads seeking to stop the project.

Those efforts cemented his partnership with Chris Lehane, a California-based Democratic strategist, and heralded the emergence of NextGen Climate, now a 20-person operation encompassing a super PAC, a research organization and a political advocacy nonprofit. The group employs polling, research and social media to find climate-sensitive voters and spends millions of dollars in television advertising to try to persuade them.

It already is among the biggest environmental pressure groups in the country: For example, the League of Conservation Voters, considered the most election-oriented of such groups, reported spending about $15 million on campaign ads in 2012. And while Mr. Steyer has been critical of Democrats who waver on climate issues, he has aimed most of his firepower so far at Republicans.

The new fund-raising push seeks to tap into the booming fortunes of Silicon Valley, where many donors rank climate change as their top political issue. It also signals a shift within the environmental movement, as donors — frustrated that neither Democratic nor Republican officials are willing to prioritize climate change measures — shift their money from philanthropy and education into campaign vehicles designed to win elections.

“There are some people I like and am friends with in the Senate, and if not for Tom’s effort I would probably write a check to support them,” said Wendy Abrams, a Chicago-based philanthropist and donor who raised money for President Obama’s re-election campaign. “But the party is afraid to fight the fight, because they’re afraid to lose more conservative Democratic votes.”

This month, NextGen asked supporters to pick one congressional candidate, from five running this year, for the group to target in its next ads. Four of the five candidates were Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. But the fifth was a vulnerable Democratic incumbent, Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, who has close ties to the oil and gas industries and has been an outspoken supporter of the Keystone pipeline.

It is unclear how aggressively his group will move against other Senate Democrats: Asked whether Democratic control of the Senate was necessary to advance his climate agenda, Mr. Steyer said, “As long as we have this partisan divide on energy and climate, it’s got to be important.”

But he is also seeking to upend the partisan split that has come to infuse the climate debate. In their advertising and research, Mr. Steyer and his aides have sought to craft appeals that would reach beyond affluent white liberals on the coasts. Ads in California were tailored to Hispanic voters by emphasizing the negative health impacts of power plant emissions. In the Virginia governor’s race, NextGen sought to show that a Democrat could win with a message emphasizing “green” job creation over one emphasizing threats to the state’s coal industry.

David Topper, a New York private equity investor who attended the meeting at Mr. Steyer’s ranch, said: “You need to be agnostic as to party. If I find someone who has the right position on climate change, do I care if he owns six guns? Not at all.”

Unlike some on the left, Mr. Steyer has embraced the political toolbox that was opened to wealthy donors and other interests in the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which made it easier for businesses, unions and rich individuals to pour unlimited money into elections.

“We have a democratic system, there are parts we would want to reform or change, and Citizens United is prominent in that,” Mr. Steyer said. “But we’ve accepted the world as it is.”

Mr. Steyer said there was no fixed budget for his group and declined to confirm his fund-raising target.

“Is it going to take $100 million? I have no idea,” he said, before suggesting that might be a lowball number. “I think that would be a really cheap price to answer the generational challenge of the world.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 18th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Yingli And SolarAid Light Up African School

 

 

by Energy Matters of February 7, 2014

Yingli - SolarAid
Yingli Green Energy and SolarAid joined forces to help Mayukwayukwa High School in Kaoma, Zambia harness the power of the sun.
  
Donated by Yingli Solar and its partners through SolarAid, the system is large enough to meet the lighting requirements of the 600 student school; plus provides cell phone charging for the entire community.
   
“The solar lighting lengthens learning hours, improves education quality and reduces dependence on expensive and toxic kerosene lamps,” said Richard Turner, Chief Fundraiser at SolarAid.
  
The new high school is located in one of Africa’s oldest refugee camps – the Mayukwayukwa Settlement – and was constructed under a UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) program.
  
Less than 10% of rural sub-Saharan Africans have access to electricity and families can spend up to a quarter of their income on kerosene for lighting. Kerosene lamps are carbon intensive and are also known to cause respiratory disease in households where they are heavily used. Africans spend billions a year on kerosene and while the fossil fuel may provide light, it also reinforces poverty.
   
“Bringing clean safe light to communities in Africa helps create brighter and better futures for students and families currently living without electricity,” said Liansheng Miao, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Yingli Green Energy; the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels.
  
SolarAid has set a goal of ridding the continent of kerosene lamps by 2020 and replacing them with clean power sources; improving the health, education and wealth of Africa’s 110 million households currently living without access to electricity.
  
SolarAid’s focus is the distribution of solar lights that cost as little as $10, pay for themselves after 12 weeks and last for five years.
  
“Quality, compact solar lights increase people’s income by an average of 20% per month,” states the SolarAid web site.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 17th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From:

 

Fossil Free NYC Open House
Fossil Free NYC: A Divestment Open House
Wednesday, February 26th, 7- 9pm
New York Society for Ethical Culture
2 West 64th St, NY, NY
(Near Columbus Circle & Lincoln Center)


(** Rain/snow date is 2/27 – hope we don’t need it!)

——–

We are excited that our long-awaited Fossil Free NYC Open House will take place in just over a week.  We are building a movement to shift investment away from the big fossil fuel companies and we need your voice and your action to make this a truly effective campaign. Please RSVP to let us know you plan to join us and help us spread the word.

RSVP to the Open House and learn more about the Fossil Free NYC divestment campaign on the 350NYC website.  Please share this email and our Facebook invitation to the event with your friends.

On February 26th, join 350NYC and partners for an Open House  to launch a fossil fuel divestment campaign in New York City. One by one, cities around the world are making the commitment to divest from fossil fuels and we want New York City to be a leader in this effort.  Come learn what this important movement means for our communities, get the latest news on what’s happening with the city campaign, and how you and your organization can help create a Fossil Free NYC. Join with us to become part of the solution for a sustainable future for all.

If it’s wrong for coal, oil and gas companies to wreck the climate, then it’s wrong for NYC to profit from that wreckage.

You can take action right now to send a message and influence our elected leaders.
Sign the divestment petition to Comptroller Scott Stringer and learn about the Fossil Free NYC Campaign

Event is free and open to the public. RSVP encouraged but not required.
Hosted by New York Society for Ethical Culture.
Co-sponsored by Responsible Endowments Coalition, GreenFaith, and the NYC Grassroots Alliance

 “It is clear that cities and local governments – whose citizens will bear the brunt of impacts from the climate crisis – should refuse to financially benefit from fossil fuels and should seriously consider the future volatility of those assets. We shouldn’t be funding our retirement by investing in companies whose operations ensure we won’t have a safe planet to retire on.” -Mayor’s Innovation Project

 

 

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

They had a meeting on February 10th and want you to watch he video. They just do not want to know that we have a Global Warming phenomenon that does not allow us to continue gorging on oil and gas. All what the gluttons of CATO want to see is how the US can now export oil and gas and they make a lot of money by doing so – the hell with the World is what they mean to say.

Boom to Bust? How Export Restrictions Imperil America’s Oil and Gas Bonanza

Policy Forum
February 10, 2014 11:30AM
Hayek Auditorium
Featuring James Bacchus, Former WTO Appellate Body Jurist and Former U.S. Congressman; Scott Lincicome, Cato Institute Adjunct Scholar and International Trade Attorney; and Mark Perry, Professor of Economics, University of Michigan–Flint, and American Enterprise Institute Scholar; moderated by Daniel Ikenson, Director, Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, Cato Institute.

A once-in-a-generation supply shock is transforming global energy markets, lowering crude oil and natural gas prices, and quickly making the United States the world’s largest producer of oil and gas. But energy politics threatens to short-circuit this American economic boom. Of immediate concern are federal regulations — in particular, discretionary export-licensing systems for natural gas and crude oil — that were implemented during the 1970s, an era of energy scarcity. By restricting exports and subjecting approvals to the whims of politicians, the current licensing systems distort energy prices and deter investment and employment in these promising sectors of the U.S. economy. They also irritate global trading partners, likely violate U.S. trade treaty obligations, and undermine other U.S. policy objectives. Ernest Moniz, President Obama’s energy secretary, recently stated that these export restrictions are deserving of “some new analysis and examination in the context of… an energy world that is no longer like the 1970s.” Please join us at the Cato Institute for our examination of these issues.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 15th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Green Prophet Headlines – BrightSource’s Ivanpah, the world’s largest solar thermal project, is live

Link to Green Prophet

BrightSource’s Ivanpah, the world’s largest solar thermal project, is live

Posted: 14 Feb 2014

BrightSource, Ivanpah, California, Mojave Desert, US Solar Projects, clean tech, concentrating solar energy, ISEGS, world's largest solar thermal plant, PG&E, NRG Solar, Google, Southern California Edison, renewable energy,

It has been a long, controversial and expensive road for BrightSource Energy, but their 392 megawatt concentrating solar plant is now finally delivering renewable energy to the California grid and it is the largest plant of its kind in the world.

Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System (ISEGS), which is comprised of 350,000 garage door-sized mirrors that reflect sunlight onto boilers atop 40 foot towers, is jointly owned by NRG Solar, Google and BrightSource Energy
a company that started out at Luz International in Israel.

BrightSource, Ivanpah, California, Mojave Desert, US Solar Projects, clean tech, concentrating solar energy, ISEGS, world's largest solar thermal plant, PG&E, NRG Solar, Google, Southern California Edison, renewable energy,

In addition to offsetting roughly 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year, the massive solar facility located roughly 50 miles northwest of Needles, California, will deliver solar power to roughly 140,000 homes via California utility companies PG&E and Southern California Edison.

Despite this enormous boost for solar energy, BrightSource Energy has taken a lot of heat from environmentalists and social activists for their five square mile solar project in the Mojave desert.

BrightSource, Ivanpah, California, Mojave Desert, US Solar Projects, clean tech, concentrating solar energy, ISEGS, world's largest solar thermal plant, PG&E, NRG Solar, Google, Southern California Edison, renewable energy,

It took months to resolve the issue of relocating desert tortoises that call the desert home, to make way for thousands of concentrating mirrors, and Native Americans complained that the project destroys sites that are sacred to them.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the towers, which reach temperatures of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, have scorched an astonishing number of birds.

The paper also notes that the energy produced at Ivanpah will cost four times as much as natural gas and boasts a smaller generation capacity to land ratio than conventional plants. In other words, CSP projects like ISEGS require more land than fossil fuel plants.

BrightSource, Ivanpah, California, Mojave Desert, US Solar Projects, clean tech, concentrating solar energy, ISEGS, world's largest solar thermal plant, PG&E, NRG Solar, Google, Southern California Edison, renewable energy,

Despite these downsides, the $2.2 billion plant will produce one third of all solar thermal energy in the United States, and potentially pave the way for similar projects to take flight as well.

:: WSJ

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Lockheed Martin Signs Contract with Victorian Wave Partners to Develop Wave Energy Project.

Published on February 12, 2014

To advance the availability of alternative energy solutions, Lockheed Martin announced today that it has signed a contract with Victorian Wave Partners Ltd. to begin developing the world’s largest wave energy project announced to date. This is a significant step toward making ocean energy commercially available.

Wave power uses special buoys that use the rising and falling of ocean waves to generate electricity. (PRNewsFoto/Lockheed Martin)

The 62.5-megawatt peak power wave energy generation project will be built off the coast of Victoria, Australia, using the PowerBuoy® wave energy converter technology of Ocean Power Technologies (OPT). The project is scheduled to be built up in three stages, with the first stage producing approximately 2.5-megawatt peak power. Once completed, the project is expected to produce enough energy to meet the needs of 10,000 homes. As this project also contributes to Australia’s goal of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020, it has received significant grant support from ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency).

Wave power devices extract energy from the surface motion of ocean waves. Unlike wind and solar sources, energy from ocean waves is very predictable and can generate electricity for more hours in the year than wind and solar. In addition, wave power devices are typically quieter and much less visually obtrusive as compared to wind turbines, which typically run more than 130 feet in height. In contrast, a PowerBuoy is only 30 feet in height above the waterline and is barely visible, as it is typically three miles offshore.

“We are applying our design and system integration expertise to commercialize promising, emerging alternative energy technologies, including ocean power,” said Tim Fuhr, director of ocean energy for Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training business. “This project extends our established relationship with OPT and Australian industry and enables us to demonstrate a clean, efficient energy source for Australia and the world.”

In this project, Lockheed Martin will provide overall project management, assist with the design for manufacturing of the PowerBuoy technology, lead the production of selected PowerBuoy components and perform system integration of the wave energy converters.

“We are pleased to be working with Lockheed Martin in connection with this exciting project in Australia,” said Charles F. Dunleavy, chief executive officer of OPT. “Development of this project draws on core strengths of both our companies and represents an important undertaking for commercialization of the PowerBuoy technology.”

Victorian Wave Partners Ltd. is an Australian special purpose company owned by Ocean Power Technologies Australasia Pty Ltd. OPT is a leader in wave energy technology development. The company’s PowerBuoy wave generation technology uses a “smart,” ocean-going buoy to convert wave energy into low-cost, clean electricity. The buoy moves up and down with the rising and falling of waves. This mechanical energy drives an electrical generator, which transmits power to shore via an underwater cable. The system is electrically tuned on a wave-by-wave basis to maximize the amount of electricity produced.

Lockheed Martin takes a comprehensive approach to solving global energy and climate challenges, delivering solutions in the areas of energy efficiency, smart energy management, alternative power generation and climate monitoring. The company brings high-level capabilities in complex systems integration, project management, information technology, cyber security, and advanced manufacturing techniques to help address these challenges. Today, Lockheed Martin is partnering with customers and investing talent in clean, secure, and smart energy – enabling global security, a strong economic future, and climate protection for future generations.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs about 115,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation’s net sales for 2013 were $45.4 billion.

For additional information, visit our website: www.lockheedmartin.com/naturalenergy

Source: www.lockheedmartin.com/

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 11th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Science presents a new verdict:

Camels Had No Business in Genesis.

 
The annual camel race in the desert of Wadi Rum, Jordan, in 2007. Radiocarbon dating was used to pinpoint the earliest known domesticated camels in Israel to the 10th century B.C.— decades after the kingdom of David, according to the Bible.     Salah Malkawi/Getty Images

There are too many camels in the Bible, out of time and out of place.

Camels probably had little or no role in the lives of such early Jewish patriarchs as Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, who lived in the first half of the second millennium B.C., and yet stories about them mention these domesticated pack animals more than 20 times. Genesis 24, for example, tells of Abraham’s servant going by camel on a mission to find a wife for Isaac.

These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history. These camel stories “do not encapsulate memories from the second millennium,” said Noam Mizrahi, an Israeli biblical scholar, “but should be viewed as back-projections from a much later period.”

Dr. Mizrahi likened the practice to a historical account of medieval events that veers off to a description of “how people in the Middle Ages used semitrailers in order to transport goods from one European kingdom to another.”

For two archaeologists at Tel Aviv University, the anachronisms were motivation to dig for camel bones at an ancient copper smelting camp in the Aravah Valley in Israel and in Wadi Finan in Jordan. They sought evidence of when domesticated camels were first introduced into the land of Israel and the surrounding region.

The archaeologists, Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen, used radiocarbon dating to pinpoint the earliest known domesticated camels in Israel to the last third of the 10th century B.C. — centuries after the patriarchs lived and decades after the kingdom of David, according to the Bible. Some bones in deeper sediments, they said, probably belonged to wild camels that people hunted for their meat. Dr. Sapir-Hen could identify a domesticated animal by signs in leg bones that it had carried heavy loads.

The findings were published recently in the journal Tel Aviv and in a news release from Tel Aviv University. The archaeologists said that the origin of the domesticated camel was probably in the Arabian Peninsula, which borders the Aravah Valley. Egyptians exploited the copper resources there and probably had a hand in introducing the camels. Earlier, people in the region relied on mules and donkeys as their beasts of burden.

“The introduction of the camel to our region was a very important economic and social development,” Dr. Ben-Yosef said in a telephone interview. “The camel enabled long-distance trade for the first time, all the way to India, and perfume trade with Arabia. It’s unlikely that mules and donkeys could have traversed the distance from one desert oasis to the next.”

Dr. Mizrahi, a professor of Hebrew culture studies at Tel Aviv University who was not directly involved in the research, said that by the seventh century B.C. camels had become widely employed in trade and travel in Israel and through the Middle East, from Africa as far as India. The camel’s influence on biblical research was profound, if confusing, for that happened to be the time that the patriarchal stories were committed to writing and eventually canonized as part of the Hebrew Bible.

“One should be careful not to rush to the conclusion that the new archaeological findings automatically deny any historical value from the biblical stories,” Dr. Mizrahi said in an email. “Rather, they established that these traditions were indeed reformulated in relatively late periods after camels had been integrated into the Near Eastern economic system. But this does not mean that these very traditions cannot capture other details that have an older historical background.”

Moreover, for anyone who grew up with Sunday school images of the Three Wise Men from the East arriving astride camels at the manger in Bethlehem, whatever uncertainties there may be of that story, at least one thing is clear: By then the camel in the service of human life was no longer an anachronism.

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