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US urged to fight fuel demand with cost

THE International Energy Agency has called on the US to do more to curb energy use and fight global warming, saying pricing was the best way to curb demand.
The world’s biggest economy and energy consumer has made progress toward a more sustainable energy system but is lagging behind other industrialised countries and even developing countries such as China in some areas, the IEA said in a report.

“To address the multiple challenges that United States energy policy is facing, the price mechanism is the most important tool,” said the report “Energy Policies of IEA Countries – United States 2007 Review.”

“The government should use it, by abolishing fossil fuel subsidies and creating taxation or other pricing regimes that internalise environmental costs,” it said.
(16 February 2008)

Canada’s oil sands a massive disaster: green group

David Ljunggren, Reuters
Canada’s massive oil sands are “the most destructive project on earth” and the federal government must intervene to clean up the mess, a leading green group said on Friday.

Environmental Defence said excavation of the oil sands in the western province of Alberta — home to the richest petroleum deposits outside the Middle East — is producing vast amounts of greenhouse gases and poisoning local water supplies.

“This is Canada’s problem — our federal elected leaders need to clean it up or shut it down,” said Aaron Freeman of Environmental Defence.

The group called on the Conservative government to impose a firm cap on emissions from the oil sands and enforce regulations designed to prevent pollution.
(15 February 2008)
Related from AFP:
Environmentalists press Ottawa to clean up Alberta oil sands

Related from The Gazette (Canwest) Most destructive project on Earth: report>

Stelmach strikes back defending and explaining his oilsands decisions

Chuck Chiang, Edmonton Sun
‘They don’t really know the facts about Fort McMurray’
Alberta premier Ed Stelmach struck back Friday at criticism levied against his government’s environmental stance, saying critics are disconnected with the oilsands development situation in the province.

Stelmach, making a three-hour campaign stop in Fort McMurray, told reporters that a critical report just released by Environmental Defence, a Toronto-based environmental group, doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the oilsands.

“They don’t really know the facts about Fort McMurray,” Stelmach said. “The air quality here today is probably better than what you’ll find in Toronto.”

The Environmental Defence report called the oilsands the most destructive project on the planet, leading to acid rain and pollution near refineries geared towards processing the lucrative mineral.

Stelmach, however, noted the provincial government has tested water samples in 1,000 locations to ensure quality and safety of the resource for consumption, adding that there are plans for a three-province water study in conjunction with B.C. and Saskatchewan.
(15 February 2008)

E&E’s Fialka, Samuelsohn discuss absence of climate issue in primaries, talk domestic climate policy action
(Video and transcript)
Throughout primary season, many environmental groups have taken aim at the candidates and the mainstream media for not placing more of an emphasis on climate issues. Will this change as the general election nears and the nominees are announced? How do the presidential candidates differ in their positions on climate?

During today’s OnPoint, John Fialka, editor of E&E’s new publication ClimateWire, and Darren Samuelsohn, senior reporter for E&E Daily and Greenwire, give their take on the 2008 presidential primaries and expectations for the general election. Fialka and Samuelsohn also preview the upcoming debate on the Lieberman-Warner climate bill.
(19 February 2008)

Population Growth and the United States’ Depleting Resources…

Byron W. King, Energy and Oil
A story in USA Today reports that “The US population will soar to 438 million by 2050.” Most of the population growth will be driven by immigration and live births to immigrants. How depressing. And it ought to make you mad, so that you want to “do something” about it… like build a wall or something.

Really, why is it that the so-called “immigration debate” in the US is often tied up with terms of race and seldom tied into the discussion of depleting resources and declining infrastructure? If the immigration debate was framed in the latter terms of resource depletion and infrastructure, people would focus on the point that the nation is “full.” The irrefutable fact is that the US resource base is fast-depleting and the infrastructure system is overloaded. There is no more room at this inn. It’s time to hang out the equivalent of the “No Vacancy” sign for very some practical reasons.

The US is already a net food-importer, yet the nation willl now – according to the Pew Research study – grow its population from 300 million to 438 million within the next 43 years? In what soil will the food grow? How much food will be imported, and from where, and how will the nation pay for it? With the national credit card, that is now broken?

And while we are discussing eating, let’s wash it down. Water is in critical shortage in many regions of the US, so what will all of these “new” people drink?
(14 February 2008)
Another salvo in the renewed debate about population. At reader request, we’ve started a new category for Population.

Unfortunately population has a tendency to degenerate into a single-issue argument about immigration and birthrates on the one hand, with charges of racism on the other. There is much more to population than that. Any discussion should begin with the I = PAT formula. (Impact equals Population times Affluence times Technology). (In other words, it is not just population alone.)

Byron King is now associated with Energy and Capital. He has had many articles published in Energy Bulletin.

U.S. work force continues to move to green-collar jobs

Brian Skoloff, Associated Press
When 1,800 workers lost their jobs after a Maytag appliance factory and headquarters closed last year in the small town of Newton, Iowa, a wind-turbine-blade company saw opportunity – an available, skilled work force in the middle of one of America’s hardiest wind-energy-production regions.

TPI Composites is building a new plant there as the energy industry aims for a cleaner, more sustainable future. With proper incentives, thousands of “green-collar” jobs could be created, from ethanol production to wind turbines and solar panels, and all the maintenance and construction to support them, industry officials said.

TPI used to build boats, but switched to turbines in 2001 for the “major growth opportunity,” said Steve Lockard, CEO of the Phoenix-based company. The idea, he said, is to “transform the work force away from the Maytag-type jobs of the past into jobs that can withstand the test of time going forward.”

However, advocates and executives say training is key to making sure the industry has enough skilled workers to make it into a real economic engine and are pushing for more lucrative tax breaks, much like oil companies already receive, to make it profitable.

With the economy sputtering, even presidential candidates are getting on board. Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama both say they would funnel federal money into job-training programs for workers to become skilled in green industries, among other initiatives.

The Republican candidates, too, have plans they say will stimulate the clean-energy sector, but none has specifically addressed workforce training for sustainable-energy industries.
(17 February 2008)

America’s economy risks the mother of all meltdowns

Martin Wolf, Financial Times
… My favourite [bear] is Nouriel Roubini of New York University’s Stern School of Business, founder of RGE monitor.

Recently, Professor Roubini’s scenarios have been dire enough to make the flesh creep. But his thinking deserves to be taken seriously. He first predicted a US recession in July 2006*. At that time, his view was extremely controversial. It is so no longer. Now he states that there is “a rising probability of a ‘catastrophic’ financial and economic outcome”**. The characteristics of this scenario are, he argues: “A vicious circle where a deep recession makes the financial losses more severe and where, in turn, large and growing financial losses and a financial meltdown make the recession even more severe.”

Prof Roubini is even fonder of lists than I am. Here are his 12 – yes, 12 – steps to financial disaster.

Step one is the worst housing recession in US history. House prices will, he says, fall by 20 to 30 per cent from their peak, which would wipe out between $4,000bn and $6,000bn in household wealth. Ten million households will end up with negative equity and so with a huge incentive to put the house keys in the post and depart for greener fields. Many more home-builders will be bankrupted.
(19 February 2008)