Wash. state carbon emissions dropping slightly

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By PHUONG LE, Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) – Greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state dropped by about 4.6 percent between 2010 and 2011, led by reductions in emissions from the electricity sector, a new state report shows.

The latest data shows that about 91.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide or its equivalent was released in 2011, compared to about 96.1 million metric tons the year before.

Emissions are on a downward trend, but still about 4 percent higher than in 1990.

The report comes as Gov. Jay Inslee is proposing sweeping policies to combat climate change, including a cap-and-trade program that would charge large industrial polluters for each metric ton of emissions they release.

Republican lawmakers say the cap-and-trade program would raise gas prices and hurt businesses and consumers. They say the state is already a low-carbon producing state because of its extensive hydropower, and that there are other, cheaper ways to reduce carbon pollution.

The state’s emissions have fluctuated each year, but overall have decreased since 2007, according to the inventory, which the Department of Ecology posted on its website last week. The agency is required to complete the report every two years.

The decline between 2007 and 2011 is due to actions the state has taken to reduce emissions, including requiring major utilities get a portion of their energy from renewable sources, said Hedia Adelsman, special assistant to Ecology Director Maia Bellon.

She noted that the state’s carbon emissions have grown from 1990 levels, when the state released about 88.4 million metric tons of carbon.

A state law requires Washington to reduce overall emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, make a 25 percent cut in 1990 levels by 2035, and make greater reductions by 2050.

“We still need to take action. We are making a lot of progress but there’s still work to do,” Adelsman said. “We need comprehensive policies to make sure we not only get to 2020 but 2035.”

Some leading Republicans have challenged that statute, calling them “non-binding goals.”

According to the report, yearly fluctuation is due in large part to changes in the state’s production of hydroelectricity.

A drought in 2010, for example, led to lower hydropower output that year, requiring utilities to buy more coal and natural gas power that release more carbon emissions than hydropower. In 2010, hydropower was running 60 percent, compared to about 73 percent in 2011.

Transportation made up the largest chunk of emissions with about 46 percent of the state’s emission, or roughly 42 million metric tons in 2011. On a per person basis, the state produces slightly less emission from on-road gasoline than the national average.

Leonardo DiCaprio at the UN: ‘Climate change is not hysteria – it’s a fact’

‘The time to answer the greatest challenge of our existence on this planet is now. You can make history or be vilified by it’

 

Leonardo DiCaprio speaks at the opening of the United Nations

Leonardo DiCaprio speaks at the opening of the United Nations

 

Source: The Guardian

 

Thank you, Mr Secretary General, your excellencies, ladies and gentleman, and distinguished guests. I’m honored to be here today, I stand before you not as an expert but as a concerned citizen, one of the 400,000 people who marched in the streets of New York on Sunday, and the billions of others around the world who want to solve our climate crisis.

As an actor I pretend for a living. I play fictitious characters often solving fictitious problems.

I believe humankind has looked at climate change in that same way: as if it were a fiction, happening to someone else’s planet, as if pretending that climate change wasn’t real would somehow make it go away.

But I think we know better than that. Every week, we’re seeing new and undeniable climate events, evidence that accelerated climate change is here now. We know that droughts are intensifying, our oceans are warming and acidifying, with methane plumes rising up from beneath the ocean floor. We are seeing extreme weather events, increased temperatures, and the West Antarctic and Greenland ice-sheets melting at unprecedented rates, decades ahead of scientific projections.

None of this is rhetoric, and none of it is hysteria. It is fact. The scientific community knows it, Industry and governments know it, even the United States military knows it. The chief of the US navy’s Pacific command, admiral Samuel Locklear, recently said that climate change is our single greatest security threat.

My Friends, this body – perhaps more than any other gathering in human history – now faces that difficult task. You can make history … or be vilified by it.

To be clear, this is not about just telling people to change their light bulbs or to buy a hybrid car. This disaster has grown BEYOND the choices that individuals make. This is now about our industries, and governments around the world taking decisive, large-scale action.

I am not a scientist, but I don’t need to be. Because the world’s scientific community has spoken, and they have given us our prognosis, if we do not act together, we will surely perish.

Now is our moment for action.

We need to put a pricetag on carbon emissions, and eliminate government subsidies for coal, gas, and oil companies. We need to end the free ride that industrial polluters have been given in the name of a free-market economy, they don’t deserve our tax dollars, they deserve our scrutiny. For the economy itself will die if our ecosystems collapse.

The good news is that renewable energy is not only achievable but good economic policy. New research shows that by 2050 clean, renewable energy could supply 100% of the world’s energy needs using existing technologies, and it would create millions of jobs.

This is not a partisan debate; it is a human one. Clean air and water, and a livable climate are inalienable human rights. And solving this crisis is not a question of politics. It is our moral obligation – if, admittedly, a daunting one.

We only get one planet. Humankind must become accountable on a massive scale for the wanton destruction of our collective home. Protecting our future on this planet depends on the conscious evolution of our species.

This is the most urgent of times, and the most urgent of messages.

Honoured delegates, leaders of the world, I pretend for a living. But you do not. The people made their voices heard on Sunday around the world and the momentum will not stop. And now it’s YOUR turn, the time to answer the greatest challenge of our existence on this planet … is now.

I beg you to face it with courage. And honesty. Thank you.

Keystone XL will cause more pollution than originally estimated

By: Sara Palmer, Climate Connections

 

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The U.S. state department claimed that the Keystone XL pipeline would increase world carbon emissions by 30 million tons. However, a recent study released by scientists from the Stockholm Environment Institute shows that number could be off – way off. Seth Borenstein writes in an article published by the Portland Press Herald:

The researchers estimate that the proposed pipeline, which would carry oil from tar sands in western Canada to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, would increase world greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 121 million tons of carbon dioxide a year.,

The U.S. estimates didn’t take into account that the added oil from the pipeline would drop prices by about $3 a barrel, spurring consumption that would create more pollution, the researchers said.

Other scientists and organizations seem to be shrugging of this quadrupled number. The American Petroleum Institute (go figure) claimed that the study was pointless, because the pipeline itself would have nothing to do with the increase. Tar sands oil will reduce the price of oil per barrel, they claim, therefore increasing oil usage regardless of how it is transported. In his article, “Study: Keystone carbon pollution more than figured,” Borenstein interviews other scientists and academics all to happy to chime in their opinions:

  • Lower prices may be appealing at first, but there needs to be a balance between consumer happiness and environmental happiness, said Wesleyan University environmental economist Gary Yohe, who applauds the study’s findings.
  • A glass-half-empty perspective came from University of Sussex economist Richard Tol, who believes that 121 million is a “drop in the bucket” when compared to the 36 billion tons of carbon emissions released on 2013.
  • Ken Caldeira, Carnegie Institution of Washington, rode the fence, agreeing that 121 million tons is relatively small, but believes that we should be moving away from activities that boost carbon dioxide no matter the amount.
  • And, finally, independent energy economist Judith Dwarkin in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, blew off the study entirely, claiming that consumption of oil drives the price, not the other way around.

Whether millions or billions of carbon emissions, the Keystone XL pipeline will also damage a multitude of other environments. We need to see more studies that illustrate the whole impact of the pipeline and look at them as all interconnected, instead of relevant or irrelevant.

Regulators Discuss The Future Of Coal-Fired Power In The West

This image of the coal-fired plant in Colstrip, Mont., was made in the 1980s by Montana native David T. Hanson. It was part of an exhibit at Modern Museum of Art in New York. | credit: David T. Hanson |

This image of the coal-fired plant in Colstrip, Mont., was made in the 1980s by Montana native David T. Hanson. It was part of an exhibit at Modern Museum of Art in New York. | credit: David T. Hanson |

By Ashley Ahearn, KUOW

SEATTLE — The Obama administration’s new rules to cut carbon emissions fueled energy sector leaders’ conversations about the future of coal in the West during their gathering here this week.

The Western Conference of Public Service Commissioners on Wednesday wrapped up its conference — a gathering of the people who decide where the region’s power comes from and how to regulate it.

Now that the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing that states cut CO2 emissions from power plants by 30 percent over the next 16 years, regulators are turning their attention to coal. Does it have a future?

“The answer is a resounding yes, the question is how much?” said Travis Kavulla with the Montana Public Service Commission. He’s one of the guys calling the shots on what kind of power his state produces, and what it will cost consumers. Montana mines and burns a lot of coal. So, as you might imagine, Kavulla’s not too pleased with the EPA right now.

“The bottom line is that the EPA seems set on establishing state by state goals, based on particular building blocks, a particularly infantilizing term, I think,” he told the crowd.

The “building blocks” include boosting energy efficiency, getting more renewable energy on the grid and using less coal.

Puget Sound Energy, an investor-owned utility based in Bellevue, Washington, gets more than 15 percent of its power from Montana coal. PSE is under mounting pressure from voters and the state government to kick its coal habit, and the new EPA rules add to that pressure.

“It’s very easy for part of our country to be rejoicing after yesterday and say ‘There, we’re just going to shut it all down.’” Well, that’s not going to work,” said Kimberly Harris, president and CEO of Puget Sound Energy. “You cannot just shut down coal units and expect for the grid to continue to operate. And we have an obligation to serve.”

Harris says that transitioning off of coal is possible, but it will take time – and states will have to work together.

“Any type of a retirement has to be transitional because we have significant decisions to make and investment and planning to do as a region. This really needs to be a regional approach,” Harris emphasized.

Washington’s in good shape to meet the EPA requirements, pretty much just by phasing out its only coal plant, which operates in Centralia. But Montana is going to need help lowering its CO2 emissions and getting more renewables online.

But who will will pay for it?

“From an investor’s point of view, all of this looks like a giant investment opportunity,” said Mike Weinstein, an investment analyst with UBS Securities in New York.

Weinstein said investors will be looking to throw money at new technology to cut CO2 emissions at the smokestack or sequester those emissions underground.

Some other winners, according to Weinstein? Renewable energy, natural gas and maybe nuclear power.

He also stressed the role of energy efficiency in helping utilities meet the EPA requirements, and keep costs down.

Wash. Gov. Inslee Signs Executive Order On State Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions

Ashley Ahearn, KUOW

SHORELINE, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday signed an executive oder aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The order creates a task force and charges it with deciding how to tax and cap carbon emissions at the state level. The task force will present a plan to the state Legislature at the beginning of 2015.

The executive order also calls on state agencies to work on phasing out coal power, improving energy efficiency in buildings and exploring the impacts of a low carbon fuel standard – among other things

The first-term Democrat surrounded himself with symbols of the green-tech future he’d like to bring about: he signed the document at a table made out of a solar panel with electric cars parked nearby. Along with politicians, the event was witnessed by the next generation of automotive techs looking on at Shoreline Community College’s Automotive Training Center.

“Today I’m signing an executive order that will determine how we reduce carbon pollution in our state because our grandkids won’t care much for our preamble or our speeches,” Inslee said during the event. “They will care about what is true and what we did.”

Inslee stressed the need for buy-in from business leaders in developing the plan.

Ada Healey, a vice president with Vulcan Real Estate Group, will serve on the task force. She said the company’s chairman, billionaire Paul Allen, and CEO Jody Allen are behind the push to address climate change.

“It’s troubling to them, as well as all of us, that we’re still debating whether climate change is a real concern rather than pulling together and deciding what we’re going to do about it,” Healy said.

Instituting a tax or cap on carbon emissions will require the approval of the state Legislature. That’s been hard to get so far.

Last year Inslee convened the bipartisan Climate Legislative and Executive Work Group. It was supposed to pursue the same agenda as that set by the governor for his new task force. But Democrats and Republicans on the work group failed to reach an agreement.

Democratic members of the panel issued a report that recommended many of the same strategies the governor is now pursuing through executive order.

Republicans on the panel issued their own minority report. It recommended incentivizing more hydropower generation in Washington, embracing nuclear power and promoting research and development of new energy technologies. Throughout the CLEW process, the Republicans cautioned that strategies to reduce carbon emissions in Washington could drive up the cost of energy and hurt the state economically.

Olympia environmental attorney Jay Manning was the head of the Department of Ecology from 2005-09 and then served as chief of staff for former Gov. Chris Gregoire. He said Inslee’s experience as a state and federal representative means he knows it will be tough to get a carbon tax or cap through the state Legislature.

“I don’t think anybody thinks it’s going to be easy but that’s how the process works. So I applaud the gov for putting together this process and then there will be a lively debate, without a doubt in the 2015 session,” Manning said.

So far, Washington is not on track to meet emissions reductions goals set by the state Legislature back in 2008.

Inslee’s order calls on his budget office to conduct a feasibility study of a California-style low-carbon or “clean fuel” standard. This is a requirement that transportation fuels like gasoline be blended with lower-carbon ethanol. According to Inslee’s office, transportation accounts for 44-percent of Washington’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

In recent months, Washington Republicans and the oil and gas industry have sounded the alarm about a low-carbon fuel standard, warning it would drive up the cost of a gallon of gasoline. Oregon is currently in the process of writing its own rules for a similar standard.

Washington, with its abundant hydropower, is considered a low greenhouse gas emitting state. In 2010, total emissions were 96.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, according to the state’s consultant. Washington’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions is from gasoline burned by cars and trucks. Electricity from coal is the second largest source.

Oglala Sioux vow to stop Keystone XL on the ground if Obama won’t say no

Chief Phil Lane Jr. (left) participates in the Vancouver signing of the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred From Tar Sands Projects. Photo courtesy of Phil Lane Jr.

Chief Phil Lane Jr. (left) participates in the Vancouver signing of the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred From Tar Sands Projects. Photo courtesy of Phil Lane Jr.

By Erin Flegg, Source: Vancouver Observer

In the latest in a series of announcements escalating resistance to oil and gas development in North America, the Oglala Sioux nation and its allies have committed to stopping the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline on their territory if Obama approves the project.

In response to the US State Department’s environmental report that says Keystone wouldn’t increase the country’s carbon emissions Oglala Sioux president Bryan Brewer, along with organizations carbon emissions, Owe Aku and Protect the Sacred, released a statement declaring they will stand with the Lakota people to block the pipeline. The statement, seen by many as a significant step toward approval, sparked solidarity action across the US on Monday.

Moccasins on the Ground is a grassroots direct action training organization, and trainer Debra White Plum of the Lakota Sioux nation said the group has been working toward this moment, giving nations the skills they need to defend their land, for years now.

The training is available to anyone who invites the group onto their land, and it consists of four days of training in areas such as knowing your rights, blockading and self-defence, first aid and social media. White Plume said a large part of the impetus for offering the training is the size of the territory at risk. Tribes can be several hundred kilometres away from each other, often making quick help hard to come by.

“This way a community can do whatever they need to do when threatened and they’ll have the skills right here, and that’s really important out here where we live,” she said. “We want this non-violent, direct way that everybody engaging in across the country to be successful,” she said. “But if it’s not and if the final door is closed, then that’s why we’re doing the training.”

The organization has toured the United States and has received requests for training from several nations in Canada. She said the political process has left the people with little choice.

“Every door has been closed through this process. Court decisions have been made that favoured the corporations and there are a few cases here and there where the landowners are still asserting their rights under American law.” But if the government can’t be counted on to uphold its own laws, she said, there’s nothing to stop them violating indigenous treaty rights.

“As red nations people we have seen the federal government violate treaties clear to this day.”

The violation of the treaties—in the case of Keystone it’s primarily the Fort Laramie Treaty between the American government and the Oglala Sioux—is the key reason Phil Lane says it’s unfair to call direct action by indigenous people civil disobedience.

“It is not civil disobedience. This is simply acting out of an aboriginal legal order to stand up for what is right. It is standing up for an ancient aboriginal legal order that has never been extinguished.”

Just as the US and Canada and any other sovereign nation has the right to enter into legally binding treaties, so do First Nations. When a treaty such as the one between the Sioux and the American government is broken by one of the parties bound by it, Lane said a third legal party is required to resolve the situation. Because the governments of the United States and Canada are handling the administration of the treaties they themselves have broken, Lane said it’s impossible to expect justice from them.

What direct action resistance against Keystone looks like will ultimately be up to the Obama administration.

“What’s going to happen if he chooses to give in to the oil companies and their allies is he’s going to empower the rising of indigenous people everywhere on Mother Earth,” he said. “This will be another final violation people aren’t ready to take.”

Ottawa-based Idle No More organizer Clayton Thomas-Muller added that it’s crucial to remember that opposition to Keystone XL was initiated and pushed forward by indigenous people. And what’s more, that much of the progress made has been thanks to the indigenous peoples who have demanded recognition of their rights, namely consultation.

In December of 2011 at the annual White House Tribal Leaders Summit, indigenous leaders, including former president of the Rosebud Sioux nation Rodney Bordeaux, presented President Obama with Mother Earth Accord, a document stating indigenous opposition to Keystone XL. The document was endorsed by numerous nations from both sides of the border, NGOs, landowners and the NDP party. Thomas-Muller said it’s the only such document that was delivered into Obama’s hands directly.

“It was only through native rights-based framework being used by indigenous organizations and networks that provide that unparalleled access to the state department and White House,” he said.

He traveled to New York City on Monday night to speak at one of more than 300 actions across 44 states this week. He read a statement written by Debra White Plume and spoke on behalf of Idle No More in Canada.

So many people have been preparing for this moment, he said, and are now coming together for a final push.

“Moving forward, we have a very short timeline. Within the next couple of months we will see a variety of very direct messages like the one we heard from Bryan Brewer of Oglala Sioux nation.”