July - December 2010

No Climate Deal Yet on Last Day of U.N. Talks
10 December 2010 – New York Times -John M. Broder
The United Nations conference on climate change entered its final scheduled day on Friday with differences remaining on major issues, but with the prospect of a modest but successful outcome still alive.  Small groups of negotiators worked through the night on some of the thorniest issues, among them how to keep the frayed 1997 Kyoto Protocol from falling apart and how to ensure that countries are making progress toward their goals of reducing emissions that contribute to global warming.  Patricia Espinosa, the Mexican foreign secretary and the chairwoman of the talks, warned the delegates that they were running out of time. She said on Friday morning that the groups working on various issues before the conference had compiled a single text that would serve as the basis for the rest of the day’s negotiations.
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US needs critical boots in Energy research, Panel tells Obama
The New York Times -December 1st 2010 - John Collins Rudolf
This week, an advisory group of scientists and engineers issued a report to President Obama about the nation’s energy research status. The United States lay far behind other industrialized countries such as China, Japan or France in terms of energy research investment reports says. It needs to triple it from $5 billion to $16 billion and to institute a strategic review of national energy policy every four years.
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US halts plan to drill in Eastern Gulf
The New York Times -December 1st 2010 - John Broder, Clifford Krauss
The Obama administration announced a halt to offshore oil exploration and drilling into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, which comes on the heels of the administration’s pledge to work piece by piece on climate change. A moratorium of seven years has been declared for drilling in the gulf, as officials wait for more efficient safeguards and environmental regulations. Disappointed, the oil industry executives said it is a “mistake at a time of economic distress”, while the environmental advocates applauded the decision.
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Cancun climate conference should focus on oil
Energypub -December 2nd 2010 - Gal Luft
The expected UN climate conference opened in Cancun, Mexico this week, where there was wide-spread pessimism on the chances for reaching a new international agreement on GHG emissions.  If a deal is brokered, it must meet demands from developed and developing countries alike. Oil has a “virtual monopoly” on transportation and must be imported by many countries. Even though coal is perceived as the dirtiest source of energy, it is not the main source of emissions, and can be a source of economic prosperity for developing countries with coal reserves. If the discussions over GHG emissions are at an impasse because of the coal consumption in developing countries, negotiators should focus on oil. It is important that the Cancun conference delivers an agreement that would satisfy rich and poor nations to restore dialogue, trust, cooperation, and to move forward.
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Putin Chides E.U. Over Energy Policies
26 November 2010 - The New York Times
Despite making an impassioned plea early Friday for a free-trade zone with the European Union, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sharply changed his tone later in the day, scolding Brussels for creating energy policies which he claimed would limit global investment and prevent the state-owned Russian energy giant Gazprom from making inroads into the European market.  Mr. Putin on Friday called for an "organic synthesis of the two economies, the E.U. and Russia" while demanding a say in drafting future E.U. legislation. In an angry and sardonic speech to top German industry chiefs at a business summit in Berlin, Mr. Putin blasted the European Union, insisting that that Brussels consult Moscow over any planned energy legislation. The focus of Putin's outburst was the Third Energy Package, agreed upon by the European Union's 27 member states in 2009 to liberalize energy markets to foster competition.
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EU regions back Schwarzenegger initiative to save climate
19 November 2010 - Euractive
When neither the international institutions nor national governments take sufficient action to address global warming, regional actors must take a leadership role, said California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. This week, he called for regional governments to join the new “R20” initiative. Building on Californian experiences with the passage of AB 32, a law meant to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, the R20 is supposed to bring together regional leaders from around the world to share knowledge on global warming prevention and to promote energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean transport. The initiative is strongly backed by European regions which see the importance of local governments in this matter.
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Turkmenistan pledges gas for EU's Nabucco pipeline
19 November 2010- BBC
Turkmenistan has promised to supply natural gas for the Nabucco pipeline. Turkmenistan's Deputy Prime Minister Baymyrad Hojamuhamedov has assured Europe that it can provide up to 40 billion cubic meters of spare gas annually. Delays with the Nabucco pipeline project have been due to uncertainties about the supply of gas. Once completed it is hoped that the pipeline can provide up to 31 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe per year. Turkmenistan made its announcement at an international energy conference held in Ashgabat. Hojamuhamedov also stated that Turkmenistan was supported by its neighbors to build a pipeline under the Caspian Sea to link up with the Nabucco line.
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MEPs seal deal on crisis funds for clean energy but Commission’s 2020 energy plan fails to impress
12 November 2010 - Euractiv
This week, the Parliament agreed to lend €146 million from the European Energy Recovery Plan to promote energy efficiency, but  some are criticizing the move, arguing that the amount is too small and that some funds will eventually return to member states unused because of a lack of time for projects. The European Commission just published the European energy strategy for 2020, calling for €1 trillion of investments from both the industry and the consumers, which will likely raise energy bills. The new strategy gives priorities on five broad areas, including curbing energy consumption and improving external energy policy, but it has been criticized by many for not going far enough. Some MEPs have complained that the agenda doesn’t take any action on energy reduction and prioritizes the interests of energy companies. Organizations such as WWF, the European Renewable Energy Council, and others denounced a lack of timeline and of real innovative policies which could use the funds more efficiently.
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EU stresses forest protection measures
10 November - UPI
An EU official said on Tuesday that deforestation is an issue that the international community will be able to come to a consensus on at the climate conference in Mexico. In conjunction with the statement, an environment commission in the European Parliament published a proposal on new ways to reduce deforestation. EU lawmakers are considering creating financial incentives for countries to cut back on their deforestation, an issue that severely affects climate change. The proposal by the EP calls for a credit market where countries could benefit depending on the amount of deforestation avoided.
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EU states express doubts over carbon offset ban
4 November 2010 - Euractiv
The European Commission unveiled a plan to impose new regulations on carbon emission offsets, which would raise carbon prices in order to meet The Kyoto Protocol’s emissions targets.  With the same concerns, the European Expert Group on Future Transport Fuels recently  published a draft report about the EU’s long-term strategy on to  decarbonise the transport sector. The Expert Group predicted that the main substitutes of fossil fuels would be electricity (batteries and hydrogen fuel cells) or biofuels. But the report was careful to point out that due to the different efficiencies of each biofuel, the length of the transport, the requirements and technology in each country, and the investments and infrastructures needed, there will not be “one single fuel”. That is why a long-term fuel strategy is necessary.  The final European Commission White Paper on Transport is expected in December.
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Op-Ed: New energy outfoxes old in California
3 November 2010 - The New York Times
On Tuesday, Californians voted to against a Proposition that would end AB 32, which is California’s global warming law. Major oil companies spent $10.6 million to finance Proposition 23, which was rejected by a margin of 60-40.  Californian venture capitalists and hedge funds managers, many of whom look to green technology to boost the Californian economy in the coming years, $31.2 million to finance a campaign to counter Proposition 23.  AB 32 aims to reduce greenhouse gases by 80% by the year 2050, though promoting renewable energy and green technology.
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Obama to face new foes in Global Warming Fight
The New York Times - November 3rd 2010 - John M. Broder
Even with the shift of majority inside the Congress, President Obama clearly said on Wednesday that climate change and the nation’s dependency on imported oil are pressing national issues. Obama said he would change his approach to addressing these issues by adopting smaller policies that would be supported by the Republicans. Conversely, more Republicans are expressing skepticism over climate change, and serving to ramp up partisan opposition to a federal global warming legislation. They see cap-and-trade and EPA regulations as “job-killing energy taxes” and seek to block EPA’s power and authority. Nonetheless, President Obama stated that he now looks to California, where AB 32 promotes green technology in cars and buildings, and also serves to create jobs.
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US and Europe Urged to join forces on rare earth metals as China resumes shipments
26, 28 October 2010 The New York Times -  - Judy Dempsey, Keith Bradsher
Since last week, China has cut exports of rare earth minerals to the US and Europe, halting shipments to Japan in mid-September. In response, the United States and Europe joined with industry leaders to issue a statement saying that finding new sources of rare earth minerals would become a priority. During the embargo, Chinese officials made it clear that to maintain access to rare earths minerals, foreign companies should invest in China.  Many foreign corporations were hesitant to begin operations in China for fear violation of intellectual property rights. As China lifts the embargo, however, world leaders are questioning the political motivations of such an action. Weather the embargo was rooted in recent territoriality disputes with Japan or recent WTO investigation of the Chinese green technology subsidies, Germany made it clear that rare earth materials should be at the top of the G-20 agenda in France next month.
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Anti-nuclear protests in Berlin target Merkel
Sign On San Diego - October 28th 2010 - David Rising
While polls suggest Greens are rising in the German political game, Greenpeace hang a massive banner in front of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU), German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s leading party, saying “CDU: Politics for nuclear power companies”. The active environmental group is protesting against Merkel’s plan to extend operation of 17 German nuclear power plants. Chancellor Merkel explained that  wind and solar power need to be further developed but would not be enough to supply Germany by 2021 and that nuclear power is cheaper than renewable energy and cleaner than coal. Oppositions parties, including the Greens and the Social Democrats, cite environmental catastrophes such as the explosion of the Soviet nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, and accuse Merkel of making decisions with an eye towards nuclear power companies. The proposal was acknowledged by the Parliament but still have to be approved by the upper house.
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EU rules let Iran import, export oil, gas
28th October 2010 - The Washington Post - Thomas Erdbrink, Genn Kessier
This week, the EU adopted new tough restrictions on the sale of oil and gas equipment and technology to Iran. The US is pleased with this new set of regulations, even though it allows export and import of oil and gas to the Islamic republic. “We don’t want any negative effect on the Iranian population or to deprive them of energy” explained a European official. Lastly, the State Department came to an agreement with the major European oil companies that as long as they limit their activity in Iran, the US would not impose sanctions. The European Union has complained about US interference and its abuse of extraterritoriality in its businesses practices.
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Germany to raise alarm over China Rare Earth restrictions at G-20
21 October 2010-The New York Times -  - Judy Dempsey
As the the G-20 meetings approach, Germany has denounced the European Union's lack of response toward China’s trade behavior. China dominates the mining of rare earth and minerals, and constitutes a near monopoly on essential natural resources. Rare earth minerals are increasingly used for high-tech products and in green technology, including electric cars. China has developed very competitive techniques for mining and exploiting these resources and has recently been using its dominance in the market as a political tool.  China has cut exports toward Japan in relation to a territory issues, and has recently lowered rare earth exports to the US and Europe since the US disputed Chinese subsidies on green industry at the WTO. Germany claimed that this a global challenge that has to be discussed at the G-20 and the G-8 since it impacts international trade and larger issues of technology development.
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EU cuts deal on using crisi funds for energy efficiency

21 October 2010-Euractiv

The European Parliament voted a 6% increase in budget, yet negotiators only freed €116 million from uncommitted funds from the European Energy Recovery Plan. These funds will finance energy efficiency and renewable projects, but some said that more can be raised: “any money above to what is now being made available for renewables and energy efficiency projects would most likely be returned to member states’ empty coffers is the midst of austerity measures” explained Green MEP Claude Thumes. Even Great Britain, which claimed to be the “greenest government ever”, disappointed NGOs like Greenpeance and green businesses. With huge spending cut in welfare, councils and police, the Department for Energy and Climate Change had cut 5% of its budget. The £1 billion investment in a Green Bank and Carbon Capture and Storage and of £200 million in wind power is not enough according to Greenpeace, who explained the need of an “independent and properly financed” bank if Britain wants to work toward a greener economy.

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EU to leave decision on CO2 cuts until next year

Euractiv - October 14th 2010

European environment ministers are meeting in Luxembourg today to formulate the EU’s strategy for the next UN climate conference in Cancun. After the failure of the Tianjin meeting to address GHG emissions, they are still seeking to increase the European target for cutting carbon emissions from 20% below 1990 levels to 30% by 2020. But even within Europe, there is no consensus on this topic since Central and Eastern countries want to wait for similar commitments from other nations while the UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands are ready to raise EU goals. The BusinessEurope organization warns that moving to 30% without an international climate agreement would be counterproductive because it would harm their competitiveness. But Connie Hedegaard, the EU Climate Action Commissioner, argues that remaining at 20% fails to provide an adequate incentive to invest in low-carbon innovation. Although the Cancun meeting will held at the end of the year, the the European Commission will only complete its 2050 low-carbon roadmap next year. In the meantime, the EU is prepared to conclude a “parallel legal agreement covering all major economies.”
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EU to tighten rules for offshore drilling

13 October 2010 - BBC News
The European Commission today proposed tightening deep-water drilling rules in the oil industry following the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in late April. It seeks to ensure that oil firms drilling in EU waters will be able to cover the potential costs of a spill by offering substantial proof, according to EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger. Although Europe maintains over 900 offshore oil wells, only Norway legally allows drilling to depths comparable with BP's ill-fated Deepwater Horizon facility, which allowed more than 4 million barrels of crude oil to pollute the sea. Oettinger also hopes to augment rules that make companies liable for costs if they drill up to 12 nautical miles from shore, extending the distance to 200 nautical miles. The European Commission also wants international experts to be able to inspect oil platforms, which are currently controlled by national authorities in Europe. Draft legislation on the new rules will be presented before EU Parliament in early 2011.
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A Climate Proposal Beyond Cap and Trade
12 October 2010 - The New York Times
Environmental economist Michael Greenstone explains in this article the benefits of the climate bill's failure in the US Congress. He argues that the bill would not have raised the cost of carbon by much, and so it would have failed to create an incentive for the industry to invest in clean energy and innovation. It also would have failed to address fast-growing emissions in China and India. The alternative lies in financing clean energy research, which finds supporters from both political sides. On Wednesday, the American Enterprise Institute and Brookings Institution will publish a joint proposal to increase federal spending on clean energy innovation from $4 billion to $25 billion a year. Greenstone argues that passing another cap-and-trade proposal to the Congress will take too long when something needs to be done now. State investment, especially through military research, has proven to be a reliable path to technological progress. The biggest disadvantage of this joint proposal is that it does not leverage the power of market.
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Will finance rules hurt energy industry?
12 October 2010 - The New York Times 
With Basel III, the Dodd-Franck Wall Street Reform and the Consumer Protection Act, the US and Europe are working to make the financial market and environment more stable and transparent. Although the rules have not been published yet, energy companies and their industrial and commercial consumers fear they will be hurt by this new set of regulations. Energy industry and its consumers widely use derivatives and hedging to guard against fluctuating commodity prices and to cover the risk on loans to major projects. But with these new rules, it seems that derivative and hedging trade will have to pass through clearinghouses, which would raise costs and divert funds away from investment in energy companies.
Another concern is that the Dodd-Franck regulation is too vague on some issues. 
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Tianjin climate talks sputter ahead of UN conference
11 October 2010 - The Washington Post - Juliet Eilperin
This past weekend, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Tianjin ended as everyone expected. The path to an international climate bill still remains unclear and the Tianjin negotiations stalled on a crucial point. Even though a strong commitment was made on forest preservation, financing for adaptation, and clean technology, little progress has been made on emissions reductions. Greenpeace blamed the United States for its “lack of leadership and political will,” stating that “fixating on issues of monitoring GHG emissions in China is merely an effort to divert attention from its own responsibility to reduce emissions and commit to a fair portion of climate financing.” Other environmental groups explained that even though diplomacy is failing, economic cooperation is moving forward. “Clean energy is happening all around us, but negotiators seem not to notice the economic, environmental and leadership opportunities that this reality will produce” said Jake Schmidt of the National Resources and Defense Council. 
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Hungary asks EU for help with toxic decontamination

8 October 2010 - Euractiv
One day after the environmental catastrophe in the Hungarian town of Ajka, the Hungarian government is requesting assistance from the European Union. Hungary is calling on the Civil Protection Mechanism, an organizational grouping of the 27 countries of the EU but also Croatia, Island, Liechtenstein and Norway, to assist with decontamination and the mitigation of environmental damage. “Hungary has been struck by an environmental catastrophe. Catastrophes such as this one do not stop at national borders and a European response is the most effective way of dealing with it. In this moment of need, I call EU member states to respond with generosity to the request of Hungary” said Kristalina Georgieva, the EU's crisis response commissioner.
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White House response to Gulf oil spill faulted
7 October 2010 - San Francisco Chronicle - Jennifer A. Dlouthy
Last Wednesday, the presidential commission investigating on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico published four reports blaming the Obama’s administration for not being completely transparent about its predictions. The reports criticizes the administration initial response, calling it “sluggish and flawed by “a sense of overoptimism.” “The federal government created the impression that it was either not fully competent to handle the spill or not fully candid with the American people about the scope of the problem.” The worst-case scenario of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico was first projected to be 5,000 barrels per day, which was then increased to 60,000 barrels. What is worrying is that solutions are implemented based on the worst possible scenario. The Administration denies any wrongdoing.
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Hungarian sludge nears Danube
7 October 2010 - New York Times - Elisabeth Rosethal
In Hungary, a wave of caustic red sludge transformed the face of several villages. Coming from a breach in one of the reservoir of the Hungarian Aluminum Production and Trade Company, the sludge drowned four people and sent more than 100 people with burns and lung irritations to hospitals. Covering sixteen square miles of field, the highly alkaline caustic substance also caused the death of many animals. Joe Hennon, the European Commission’s spokesman for environmental issues, expressed his concern about the spread of the mud and/or its elements in other European countries, affecting their environment. The sludge can indeed have long term environment effects. An investigation has started to determine how the spill occurred. In the meantime, the broken wall has been repaired and a cleanup has begun. Promises have been made to residents that their homes will be cleaned up, but nobody can yet say who is responsible.
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