Friday, November 16, 2007

Coal Creates Legacy for China’s Past, Future

From: Julia Tier, Worldwatch Institute


Acid rain and air pollution, mainly from the burning of coal, have contributed to the degradation of more than 80 percent of China’s 33 designated World Heritage sites, according to the Associated Press. Across the nation, particulates from smokestacks have stained historic structures and statues black, including the 17-meter Leshan Giant Buddha, a sandstone landmark that has stood in Sichuan Province since the 7th century.

But China’s rising energy demand isn’t just leaving its mark on the country’s heritage. Every 30 seconds, an infant with birth defects is born in China, according to Jiang Fan, deputy head of the country’s National Population and Family Planning Commission. The rate of birth defects nationwide has soared 40 percent in the past five years, from 105 defects per 10,000 births in 2001 to nearly 146 in 2006. The problem now affects nearly 1 in 10 Chinese families, the Commission stated in a recent report.

Birth defect rates are highest in the northern province of Shanxi, an area that is also home to some of China’s richest coal resources. “The incidence of birth defects is related to environmental pollution,” An Huanxiao, director of Shanxi’s provincial family planning agency, told Xinhua News. “The survey’s statistics show that birth defects in Shanxi’s eight large coal-mining regions are far above the national average.”

Currently, as much as 70 percent of China’s primary energy comes from coal, compared with less than 25 percent in the United States and Japan, according to the Worldwatch Institute, which just released a new report, Powering China’s Development: The Role of Renewable Energy. Coal is used to satisfy a wide range of domestic energy needs, including electric power and heating, and is the source of 80 percent of China’s electricity, the report notes. Coal also provides energy security to the nation, which has many decades of reserves, and is less expensive than other energy sources, write authors Eric Martinot and Li Junfeng.

At the same time, China is pursuing a wide range of new energy options, including energy efficiency measures and the use of renewable resources like wind and solar power. China is likely to meet and even exceed targets to obtain 15 percent of its energy and 20 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020, Worldwatch reports.

Climate witnesses demand climate solutions

From: WWF

Climate witnesses demand climate solutions


Valencia, Spain – Real problems for real people caused by climate change demand real solutions, says the latest research from WWF, as it presents a new tool for concerned citizens to register and verify their observations of global warming.

The WWF initiative documents the experiences of people who are witnessing the impacts of climate change on their local environment and lifestyles.

"Around the world, people are witnessing the impacts of climate change and what they see is consistent with many of the findings of the IPCC’s latest global climate report," says Hans Verolme, Director of WWF's Global Climate Change Programme.

The testimony of these “Climate Witnesses” is reviewed by a member of the programme’s Science Advisory Panel to establish if the impacts reported are consistent with known trends, and if these stories can be placed in the context of climate change. Over 100 leading climate scientists from around the world have so far joined the panel.

“Climate change is still viewed by some as an abstract and distant threat,” Verolme adds.

“The Climate Witness Programme shows that it’s something that’s happening now and affecting the lives of people around the globe.”

Eye witness accounts

According to the IPCC, there have been eight mass bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef since 1979, triggered by unusually high sea surface temperatures.

“Aside from my concern about the impacts on the health of the reef, my thoughts turned to the impacts that coral bleaching may have on my business and community,” says John Rumney, a dive business owner in Australia.

“I have lost about 10 per cent of my dive sites in the past four years and I know what’s happened in the Caribbean and the Maldives. If that happens here, what will we show the guests?”

Climate research indicates that there will be higher temperatures and more precipitation, particularly in winter, in northern Norway. Icing, but also deeper snow cover, in mid-winter will probably cause problems for such activities as reindeer herding.

“The snow gets icy from the rain so that the reindeer cannot get through down to the food which they depend on to survive in the winter,” says reindeer herder Olav Mathis from Eira, Norway.

“I have three sons. One of them will hopefully keep to the family tradition of reindeer herding. But it is no longer a good life. It is an insecure future.”

By collecting these stories WWF wants to increase the awareness of people around the world that changes are already happening in many places. The global conservation organization also wants to impress upon decision-makers and the public the need for urgent and serious action to stop climate change.

Pump pain heats up pressure for new energy law

From: Chris Baltimore -Reuters


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pressure for the U.S. Congress to pass new legislation to increase vehicle fuel efficiency and hike renewable fuel use is mounting as a surge in oil prices sends consumer fuel costs toward fresh records.

Democrats have been pushing for an energy policy rewrite since they took majority control of Congress this year.

But progress has been stymied by auto industry states on fuel efficiency standards and by oil producing states on energy industry taxes.

Experts say members of Congress may now get an earful as they return home for the Thanksgiving holiday next week to voters facing forecasts that average U.S. gasoline prices will hit new records above $3.20 a gallon.

"The pressure that is mounting on Congress is tremendous," said Tim Greeff, deputy legislative director for the League of Conservation Voters. "With oil prices where they are, they are going to hear about it from constituents."

Concerns about supplies ahead of the Northern Hemisphere winter helped push oil prices up more than 40 percent since mid-August to near $100 a barrel.

The run-up means consumers in the world's biggest economy -- already on shaky footing from the growing subprime credit crisis -- will likely face another rise in fuel costs, with home heating oil prices hitting a record $3.21 a gallon on Thursday.

Democratic congressional leaders, who want to pass the legislation by the end of the year, say the issue is taking on greater urgency as the economic impact of U.S. oil dependence adds to environmental concerns.

"For all the reasons that relate to our environment and global warming, well that's one thing," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters. "Now this is a pocketbook issue as well."


Though plans were fluid, Democratic leaders were likely to try to pass identical energy bills in the House of Representatives and Senate to avoid the bruising House-Senate bargaining process that has kept talks frozen so far.

The bill was likely to include a tax package that could divert billions of dollars of incentives away from major oil and gas companies toward renewable energy sources, said Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

The shape and size of the tax package was still fluid. Analysts said it was closer in size to a $16 billion package passed by the House in August than a $32 billion tax bill Senate Democrats dropped from their bill in June.

The Senate energy bill is also seeking to increase the fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks by 10 miles per gallon to 35 mpg by 2020, in what would be the first substantive increase in 30 years.

Critics charge the bill could prove a drag on the U.S. economy. According to a study commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute from CRA International, the plans could cause a net loss of $1 trillion to U.S. economic output and reduce U.S. crude oil production by more than 6 percent by 2015.

"With $100 a barrel oil and gasoline prices going through the roof, you would expect that the leadership of Congress would be trying to do something to help bring down those prices at the pump," said Sen. Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican.

Bangladesh cyclone kills more than 600

Randeep Ramesh in Delhi
Friday November 16, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

Relief workers today struggled to reach devastated parts of Bangladesh after a powerful cyclone ripped through the country, leaving a trail of destruction that claimed more than 600 lives.

Cyclone Sidr hit the country's south-west coast yesterday after racing up the Bay of Bengal at a speed of 150mph. The winds triggered a five metre (15ft) high tidal wave that washed away three coastal towns.

The government's disaster agency put the confirmed number of dead at 606, but there were fears the death toll would rise considerably.

United News of Bangladesh - which has reporters deployed across the devastated region - said its own count in each affected district took the toll to 1,100.

More than 600,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes to escape the winds and driving rain.

The fury of the cyclone levelled villages, destroyed crops and sent telephone poles whirling into the sky across a dozen districts abutting the sea.

According to reports, many towns in the countryside - where homes are often shacks made of bamboo and tin - were blown away in the cyclone.

Power and telephone lines were cut across the country for most of yesterday, hampering relief operations.

"I cannot describe how devastating it was," Mollik Tariqur, a businessman in the south-western district of Bagerhat, one of the worst-hit areas, told the AFP news agency.

"It was like doomsday, the most frightening five hours of my life. I thought I would never see my family again. There is a trail of destruction everywhere. We can't even detect where our houses were - only a few are left and they do not have roofs."

Aid agencies struggled to get relief to the devastated areas, even though much of Sidr's strength had dissipated. Late last night, the country's meteorologists had downgraded the cyclone late last night to a tropical storm, its wind speed falling to 37mph.

Heather Blackwell, the head of Oxfam in Bangladesh, said the cyclone would hit poorest people hardest.

"Many people live on sandbanks in the river delta, which can be easily flooded by tidal surges," she said. "A cyclone this strong can wash away the sandbanks, forcing families to abandon their homes, livestock and crops".

Vince Edwards, the Bangladesh director of the Christian aid group World Vision, told Reuters debris from the storm had blocked roads and rivers, making it difficult to reach all the areas that had been hit.

"There has been lot of damage to houses made of mud and bamboo, and about 60% to 80% of trees [in affected parts] have been uprooted," he said.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told reporters 1,000 fishermen were missing.

The Bangladesh navy has launched a search and rescue operation, while helicopters have begun ferrying relief supplies to offshore islands, according to the defence ministry.

The UN World Food Programme has started to distribute 98 tonnes of high-energy biscuits to storm victims.

Bangladesh, a low-lying delta region, is used to floods and cyclones. Entire villagers had been moved to safety in preparation for Sidr.

It may have benefited from experience. Sidr was considered similar in strength to a 1991 storm that killed an estimated 130,000 people. Twenty years earlier, half a million people had died in a storm.

Last night, Bangladesh's main port, Chittagong - which handles 80% of external trade - reopened after two days. "We have [resumed] normal operations at the port as the storm crossed the coast overnight," a senior official told Reuters.

In the country's capital, Dhaka, Zia international airport reopened after 20 hours as the subsiding cyclone moved towards Assam, in India.

Bangladesh's enormous neighbour escaped the worst of the storm. Mortaza Hossain, a government minister in West Bengal, said just 100 mud houses in a forest close to Bangladesh had been damaged.

Around 100,000 villagers in coastal areas of West Bengal would return home after being evacuated to 69 temporary camps, he added.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Millions to evacuate as cyclone slams into Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) -- A powerful cyclone slammed into Bangladesh on Thursday night, tearing down flimsy houses, toppling trees and power poles, and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes in the low-lying nation.

Residents of Barisal, Bangladesh, shelter against the rain Thursday as Tropical Cyclone Sidr approaches.

Tropical Cyclone Sidr swept in from the Bay of Bengal packing winds of 149 mph (240 kilometers per hour), buffeting southwestern coastal areas within a 155-mile radius of its eye with heavy rain and storm surges predicted to reach 20 feet high.

Sidr's eye crossed the Khulna-Barisal coast near the Sundarbans mangrove forests around 9:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. ET), the Bangladesh Meteorological Department said. It was centered over the Baleshwar River in Barguna district.

In the coastal districts of Bagerhat, Barisal and Bhola, residents said the storm flattened thousands of flimsy straw and mud huts, and uprooted trees and electric poles.

"We sitting out the storm by candlelight," resident Bishnu Prashad said by phone from Bagerhat.

At least 620,000 people had moved into official shelters and 3.2 million people were expected to be evacuated in all, said Ali Imam Majumder, a senior government official in Dhaka. Video Watch rush to evacuate as Sidr approaches »

No casualties were immediately reported, but rescue teams were on standby, forest official Mozharul Islam said in Khulna.

Communications with remote forest areas and offshore islands were temporarily cut off.

"We have taken all precautions," Majumder said.

Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation, is prone to seasonal cyclones and floods that cause huge losses of life and property. The coastal area bordering eastern India is famous for the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans, a world heritage site that is home to rare Royal Bengal Tigers.

The Meteorological Department had put the country's three major maritime ports -- Chittagong, Mongla and Cox's Bazar -- on the highest level of alert.

Ferry service and flights were halted across the coastal region.

Ships were warned to return to shore. Volunteers helped evacuate villagers to cyclone shelters, built of concrete on raised pilings. Some took refuge in "mud forts" built along the coast to resist tidal surges.

Schools, mosques and other public buildings were also turned into makeshift shelters.

Many of the fishing boats in the region's coastal waters put down anchor at nearby shoals and islets that dot the South Asian country's shoreline.
The sea resort of Cox's Bazar was deserted after Wednesday's warning. Dozens of tourists were stranded in the offshore coral atoll of St. Martins as rough seas forced cruise boats and ships to stay ashore.

Court tosses new fuel standards for SUVs, trucks, cites threat of global warming

SF Chronicle

Matthew Yi, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau

(11-15) 12:23 PST Sacramento - --

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today tossed new federal fuel economy standards for some sport utility vehicles, minivans and light trucks, arguing that regulators failed to properly assess the risk of global warming and that the new rules didn't include larger SUVs and trucks.

The decision is a huge win for several environmental groups and 11 states that argued that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's new fuel economy standards, announced in March 2006, ignored the effects of carbon dioxide emissions.

Currently, those vehicles are required to achieve 22.2 mpg for 2007 models. The new standards would have boosted that requirement to 24.1 mpg by 2011.

But the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the federal appeals court a month after the new standards were revealed, arguing that a38 mpg benchmark can be readily achieved by 2015.

Since then, other environmental groups, including Sierra Club, and 11 states led by California have joined the petition asking the federal regulators to come up with a new standard that considers global warming impacts.

"The court decision is a rebuke to the Bush administration and its refusal to make meaningful steps to reduce global warming pollution from our automobiles," said Pat Gallagher, director of environmental law at Sierra Club. "The decision tells the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it can't monkey the numbers when it sets fuel economy standards by ignoring the cost of carbon emissions."

The court decision is the latest evidence of mounting pressure on the White House to address global warming.

Last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to force the federal agency to grant a waiver that would allow the Golden States to require automobile manufacturers to sell more fuel efficient vehicles starting next year.

E-mail Matthew Yi at

Ships' CO2 'twice that of planes'

By Matt McGrath
Environment reporter, BBC News

Tanker in Singapore
Some 90,000 ships ply the world's oceans
Global emissions of carbon dioxide from shipping are twice the level of aviation, one of the maritime industry's key bodies has said.

A report prepared by Intertanko, which represents the majority of the world's tanker operators, says emissions have risen sharply in the past six years.

Previous International Maritime Organisation estimates suggested levels were comparable with those of planes.

Some 90,000 ships from tankers to small freighters ply the world's oceans.

Clampdown considered

Intertanko says its figures are the most realistic estimation of the current levels of CO2 from ships.

Its estimate suggests that the world's shipping uses between 350 and 410 million tonnes of fuel each year, which equates to up to 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Intertanko says that growth in global trade coupled with ships burning more fuel to deliver freight faster has contributed significantly to the increase.

Dragos Routa, the technical director of Intertanko, told the BBC the figures were a work in progress but the levels of emissions had risen sharply.

While there are few accurate measures and even fewer restrictions on the amounts of carbon dioxide that ships can emit at present, governments in many parts of the world are considering a clampdown as part of their efforts to tackle global warming.

But Mr Routa argued that the much greater tonnage carried by each vessel, compared with aircraft, meant that shipping was still a much greener form of transporting freight around the globe.

Unravelling the sceptics

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Rubik's cube. Image: AP
Deciphering the positions of climate sceptics can be a puzzle
What do "climate sceptics" believe?

You might think that you know the answer, having heard, seen and read numerous counter-blasts aimed at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) over the course of this year, as the three components of its landmark climate assessment were published.

Despite having reported on climate change for more than a decade, I realised at the beginning of the year that I was not entirely sure.

On a sceptic's blog I would read "global warming isn't happening". Then I would read an op-ed saying "warming is happening but it's entirely natural". Later, someone would tell me "it is happening, it is caused by greenhouse gases, but the effect is so small it won't matter".

Either there was a genuine divergence in the views of the sceptical science community, I concluded, or their analyses were somehow getting scrambled in transmission through blogs, newsletters, and the mainstream media.

I hope it will scotch the view that sceptical scientists generally believe the Earth's surface is not getting warmer

What sceptics believe is an important question, because their voices are heard in governments, editors' offices, boardrooms, and - most importantly - the street.

Their arguments sway the political approaches of some important countries, notably the US, which in turn influence the global discussions on whether to do anything about rising CO2 levels.

So I decided I had better try to find out.

Into the ether

The best approach seemed to be the simplest - just ask them. But first I had to define who I meant by "them".

Rather than choosing a group of people myself, I decided to use a group which had already been compiled by sceptics' organisations.

In April 2006, a group of 61 self-styled "accredited experts in climate and related scientific disciplines" wrote an open letter to Canada's newly elected prime minister, Stephen Harper, asking his government to initiate hearings into the scientific foundations of the nation's climate change plan.

The letter, complete with a list of signatories, was published in Canada's Financial Post newspaper.

Many, though not all, of the signatories were indeed scientists active in fields relating to climate science. And the group was large enough to suggest I might receive a workable number of replies.

So I compiled a questionnaire about their views on climate change science, with a dose of politics thrown in, and mailed it out.

I cannot guarantee that all 61 received it; I was unable to obtain contact details for one person, and was less than certain that I had correct details for three of the others.

On the other hand, I was fairly sure that the questionnaire would be spread through the blogosphere and - what should we call it? - the emailosphere? - which turned out to be so.

Filling in

I went into this exercise not completely knowing what to expect; I guessed I would receive a wide variety of responses, and I was right.

Fourteen of the group filled in the questionnaire, in varying degrees of detail; another 11 replied without filling it in.

Of these, some sent links to articles explaining their position. Some replied with academic papers, for which I am grateful, especially to Doug Hoyt who mailed a number of references that I had not previously seen.

Some said this was a worthwhile exercise. Some, in circulated emails, said the opposite, in terms which were sometimes so frank that others of the group apologised on their behalf.

Down to details

London city scene

So to the results. Ten out of the 14 agreed that the Earth's surface temperature had risen over the last 50 years; three said it had not, with one equivocal response.

Nine agreed that atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide had risen over the last century, with two saying decidedly that levels had not risen. Eight said that human factors were principally driving the rise.

Twelve of the fourteen agreed that in principle, rising greenhouse gas concentrations should increase temperatures.

But eight cited the Sun as the principal factor behind the observed temperature increase.

And nine said the "urban heat island" effect - where progressive urbanisation around weather stations has increased the amount of heat generated locally - had affected the record of historical temperatures.

Eleven believed rising greenhouse gas concentrations would not result in "dangerous" climate change, and 12 said it would be unwise for the global community to restrain production of carbon dioxide and the other relevant gases, with several suggesting that such restraint would bring economic disruption.

Ice core.  Image: L. Augustin/LGGE

One of my more gracious respondents, Arthur Rorsch, suggested that rising CO2 might help "green" the world, with increases in food supply.

There was general disdain for the Kyoto Protocol, with respondents split roughly equally between saying it was the wrong approach to an important issue, and a meaningless exercise because there was no point in trying to curb emissions.

There was general agreement, too, that computer models which try to project the climate of the future are unreliable. Several respondents said the climate system was inherently unpredictable and therefore impossible to model in a computer.

The other questions produced sets of responses which I could not boil down into anything approaching a consensus view.

Warm agreement

I do not think that anyone would take this exercise as a comprehensive assessment of the views of climate sceptics, which is probably an impossible task.

They are a disparate community, and if you put any two together they would surely disagree on some aspect of the science - just as would any two researchers you picked out from any discipline.

NEC's Earth Simulator supercomputer (Image: NEC)

But I hope it provides a snapshot of where the scientific disagreements that sceptics have with the IPCC begin and end - for one thing, scotching the view (prevalent in my in-box) that sceptical scientists generally believe the Earth's surface is not really getting warmer.

The IPCC and many of the world's climate scientists would, of course, profoundly disagree with the conclusions evidenced by this small group, and I have linked to some articles which detail some of the science behind their disagreement.

This exercise would not be complete without discussing some of the non-scientific comments and responses to my mailout, which represent a window into the suspicion, indignation and politicisation surrounding climate science today.

That, though, is for later in the week.

NASA Sees Arctic Ocean Circulation Do an About-Face

rom: NASA - JPL


PASADENA, Calif. – A team of NASA and university scientists has detected an ongoing reversal in Arctic Ocean circulation triggered by atmospheric circulation changes that vary on decade-long time scales. The results suggest not all the large changes seen in Arctic climate in recent years are a result of long-term trends associated with global warming.

The team, led by James Morison of the University of Washington's Polar Science Center Applied Physics Laboratory, Seattle, used data from an Earth-observing satellite and from deep-sea pressure gauges to monitor Arctic Ocean circulation from 2002 to 2006. They measured changes in the weight of columns of Arctic Ocean water, from the surface to the ocean bottom. That weight is influenced by factors such as the height of the ocean's surface, and its salinity. A saltier ocean is heavier and circulates differently than one with less salt.

The very precise deep-sea gauges were developed with help from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the satellite is NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace). The team of scientists found a 10-millibar decrease in water pressure at the bottom of the ocean at the North Pole between 2002 and 2006, equal to removing the weight of 10 centimeters (four inches) of water from the ocean. The distribution and size of the decrease suggest that Arctic Ocean circulation changed from the counterclockwise pattern it exhibited in the 1990s to the clockwise pattern that was dominant prior to 1990.

Reporting in Geophysical Research Letters, the authors attribute the reversal to a weakened Arctic Oscillation, a major atmospheric circulation pattern in the northern hemisphere. The weakening reduced the salinity of the upper ocean near the North Pole, decreasing its weight and changing its circulation.

"Our study confirms many changes seen in upper Arctic Ocean circulation in the 1990s were mostly decadal in nature, rather than trends caused by global warming," said Morison.

"While some 1990s climate trends, such as declines in Arctic sea ice extent, have continued, these results suggest at least for the 'wet' part of the Arctic -- the Arctic Ocean -- circulation reverted to conditions like those prevalent before the 1990s," he added.

The Arctic Oscillation was fairly stable until about 1970, but then varied on more or less decadal time scales, with signs of an underlying upward trend, until the late 1990s, when it again stabilized. During its strong counterclockwise phase in the 1990s, the Arctic environment changed markedly, with the upper Arctic Ocean undergoing major changes that persisted into this century. Many scientists viewed the changes as evidence of an ongoing climate shift, raising concerns about the effects of global warming on the Arctic.

Morison said data gathered by Grace and the bottom pressure gauges since publication of the paper earlier this year highlight how short-lived the ocean circulation changes can be. The newer data indicate the bottom pressure has increased back toward its 2002 level. "The winter of 2006-2007 was another high Arctic Oscillation year and summer sea ice extent reached a new minimum," he said. "It is too early to say, but it looks as though the Arctic Ocean is ready to start swinging back to the counterclockwise circulation pattern of the 1990s again."

Morison cautioned that while the recent decadal-scale changes in the circulation of the Arctic Ocean may not appear to be directly tied to global warming, most climate models predict the Arctic Oscillation will become even more strongly counterclockwise in the future. "The events of the 1990s may well be a preview of how the Arctic will respond over longer periods of time in a warming world," he said.

Grace monitors tiny month-to-month changes in Earth's gravity field caused primarily by the movement of water in Earth's land, ocean, ice and atmosphere reservoirs. As such it can infer changes in the weight of columns of ocean water. In contrast, the pressure gauges installed on the sea floor in 2005-2006 directly measured water pressure at the bottom of the ocean. Gauge data were remotely recovered during the first year of the study.

"The close agreement between the North Pole pressure gauges and Grace data demonstrates Grace's potential for tracking world ocean circulation," said study co-author John Wahr of the University of Colorado, Boulder.

"Satellite altimeters, such as NASA's Jason, are ideal for studying ocean circulation but can't be used at Earth's poles due to ice cover," said study co-author Ron Kwok of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Our results show Grace can be a powerful tool for tracking changes in the distribution of mass in the Arctic Ocean, as well as its circulation."

Grace is a partnership between NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The University of Texas Center for Space Research, Austin, has overall mission responsibility. JPL developed the twin satellites. DLR provided the launch, and GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Germany, operates Grace. For more on Grace: .

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Other media contacts for this study include: Peter West, National Science Foundation, Arlington, Va., 703-292-7761, ; and Jim Scott, University of Colorado, 303-492-3114, .

Researchers Name the World's Dirtiest Power Plants, Introduce Website

by Haider Rizvi

NEW YORK - A new study by an independent think tank names and shames the power companies responsible for high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States and abroad.1115 03

Releasing its findings Wednesday, the Washington, DC-based Center for Global Development (CDG) said that electricity generation is responsible for one quarter of the world's total CO2 emissions - the main cause of global warming - and U.S. power plants account for fully 25 percent of the emissions generated by the power sector worldwide.

A dozen power plants in the United States were singled out as the "worst" CO2 emitters; six of which are located in just three states - Georgia, Texas, and Indiana. All 12 are coal-fired plants.

Based on the first-ever inventory of the world's 50,000 power stations, the Center's research shows that in the United States the biggest CO2 emitter is Southern Co., which annually releases 172 million tons into the atmosphere.

The second largest polluter is American Electric Power Company Inc., followed by Duke Energy Corporation and AES Corporation. The Center has listed all the other names on its new Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA) Web site.

"CARMA makes information about power-related CO2 emissions transparent to people throughout the world," said Dr. David Wheeler, a senior researcher at the Center and leader of the team that compiled the data on power stations.

Wheeler hopes that investors, insurers, lenders, and environmental experts will use the CARMA data to encourage power companies to turn to renewable and clean energy sources, such as wind and solar.

"It is unique, one of a kind - a world standard," said CGD president Nancy Birdsall of CARMA. "Never before has this kind of information been made available on a global scale. Not only it is likely to catalyze action to cut emissions now, it also strengthens the knowledge base for monitoring any future market-based agreement."

Birdsall may be right, as the Center's early research is already being used by environmental communities and lenders in the power sectors in large developing nations, such as Indonesia and China.

CARMA reveals that, on a per capita basis, Australia has become the world's number one carbon emitter in the power sector, although, in overall terms, the United States still remains the largest polluter.

The list of emitters shows that, on average, each individual in the United States is responsible for no less than 9 tons of emissions per year, whereas the average Australian's emissions amount to about 11 tons in the same span of time.

According to the CARMA database, populous developing nations have far lower per capita emissions than the richest countries. For example, the average Chinese citizen produces just 2 tons of CO2 emissions from power generation annually, and Indians emit only half a ton per person per year.

In terms of total CO2 output, however, China is the only country to approach the 2.8 billion tons of CO2 produced annually by the U.S. power sector.

Following China (2.7 billion tons) on the list are Russia (661 million tons); India (583 million tons); Japan (400 million tons); Germany (356 million tons); Australia (226 million tons); South Africa (222 million tons); the UK (212 million tons); and South Korea (185 million tons).

Though the United States and Australia are, in their respective categories, the world's largest emitters of CO2, both countries remain reluctant to join any international pact to agree on definite cuts in emissions. Neither has signed nor seems willing to endorse the 1997 Kyoto treaty, which is due to expire in 2012.

That, despite the fact that there is no longer any serious doubt among climate scientists that greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are altering the Earth's climate.

In fact, now there is also broad consensus that controlling emissions will require so-called "carbon pricing," a market-based system whereby carbon polluters are charged a fee and those who help clean carbon from the atmosphere reap economic benefits.

CGD's Wheeler said he wants to see the world community set up an institution to collect, verify, and publicly disclose information about emissions from all significant global carbon sources.

In his view, this would help implement a market-based system to regulate emissions from every source worldwide. "This would help reduce carbon emissions by focusing stakeholder pressure on major emitters and providing reputational rewards for clean producers."

© 2007 One World

OPEC Must Tackle Climate Change: U.N. Official


RIYADH (Reuters) - OPEC oil exporters must take climate change seriously at a summit meeting this week, ahead of a key meeting to tackle global warming in Bali next month. a leading U.N. climate change official said on Thursday.

"I encourage OPEC to contribute to climate change abatement and to play an important role in history to drive forward sound solutions to a global problem," Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, told an OPEC forum in the Saudi capital.

"They should continue to take climate change seriously," he said of OPEC heads of state, due to meet in Riyadh on Saturday and Sunday. "International action on climate change is a war against emissions, not a war against oil."

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries includes many of the world's top oil producers, whose economies are booming as world energy prices soar to record levels.

De Boer said December's U.N. climate change conference in Bali, where negotiations on a new international climate change regime are to be launched, will be a make-or-break point for international efforts to stop the planet heating up.

"If things go wrong in Bali then we really are in deep trouble. If you get a wake-up call from science now and don't act on it then that means you are in trouble," he said, describing climate change as the most complicated issue facing the international community.

"There are strong signals that countries are willing to advance negotiations in Bali and come to a negotiating agenda."

But the U.N. climate chief said a solution must not cripple the developing world economies and that nuclear energy would be key to handling the problem.

"I really feel we have to accept economic growth and the desire to eradicate poverty as a reality," he said.

"I have not seen a credible scenario to reverse climate change that doesn't involve nuclear," he said, citing the future energy needs of China and India, which each have populations of over one billion.

(Reporting by Andrew Hammond)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Volcanoes could have caused dinosaur deaths

Growing body of evidence suggests extinction came from climate change

New research suggests that volcanoes that erupted between 63 million to 67 million years ago may have contributed to a mass dinosaur extinction.

Nicolle Rager / National Science Foundation

By Charles Q. Choi

Instead of being driven to extinction by death from above, dinosaurs might have ultimately been doomed by death from below in the form of monumental volcanic eruptions.

The suggestion is based on new research that is part of a growing body of evidence indicating a space rock alone did not wipe out the giant reptiles.

The Age of Dinosaurs ended roughly 65 million years ago with the K-T or Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event, which killed off all dinosaurs save those that became birds, as well as roughly half of all species on the planet, including pterosaurs. The prime suspect in this ancient murder mystery is an asteroid or comet impact, which left a vast crater at Chicxulub on the coast of Mexico.

Another leading culprit is a series of colossal volcanic eruptions that occurred between 63 million to 67 million years ago. These created the gigantic Deccan Traps lava beds in India, whose original extent may have covered as much as 580,000 square miles (1.5 million square kilometers), or more than twice the area of Texas.

Arguments over which disaster killed the dinosaurs often revolve around when each happened and whether extinctions followed. Previous work had only narrowed the timing of the Deccan eruptions to within 300,000 to 500,000 years of the extinction event.

Now research suggests the mass extinction happened at or just after the biggest phase of the Deccan eruptions, which spewed 80 percent of the lava found at the Deccan Traps.

"It's the first time we can directly link the main phase of the Deccan Traps to the mass extinction," said Princeton University paleontologist Gerta Keller.

Clues in other life forms
Keller and colleagues focused on marine fossils excavated at quarries at Rajahmundry, India, near the Bay of Bengal, about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) southeast of the center of the Deccan Traps near Mumbai. Specifically, they looked at the remains of microscopic shell-forming organisms known as foraminifera.

"Before the mass extinction, most of the foraminifera species were comparatively large, very flamboyant, very specialized, very ornate, with many chambers," Keller explained. These foraminifera were roughly 200 to 350 microns large, or a fifth to a third of a millimeter long.

These showy foraminifera were very specialized for particular ecological niches.

"When the environment changed, as it did around K-T, that prompted their extinction," she added. "The foraminifera that followed were extremely tiny, one-twentieth the size of the species before, with absolutely no ornamentation, just a few chambers." As such, these puny foraminifera serve as very distinct tags of when the K-T extinction event started.

The researchers found these simple foraminifera seem to have popped up right after the main phase of the Deccan volcanism. This in turn hints these eruptions came immediately before the mass extinction, and might have caused it.

Double trouble
Both an impact from space and volcanic eruptions would have injected vast clouds of dust and other emissions into the sky, dramatically altering global climate and triggering die-offs. Keller's collaborator, volcanologist Vincent Courtillot at the Institute of Geophysics in Paris, noted upcoming work from her collaborators suggests the Deccan eruptions could have quickly released 10 times more climate-altering emissions than the nearly simultaneous Chicxulub impact.

Keller stressed these findings do not deny that an impact occurred around the K-T boundary, and noted that one or possibly several impacts may have had a hand in the mass extinction. "The dinosaurs might have faced an unfortunate coincidence of a one-two punch—of Deccan volcanism and then a hit from space," she explained. "We just show the Deccan eruptions might have had a significant impact — no pun intended."

Although paleontologist Kirk Johnson at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science called these new findings "significant," he noted a great deal of evidence connected a single massive impact with the K-T extinction event. He suggested that advances in radioisotope dating could now hone down when the Deccan eruptions occurred to within 30,000 to 65,000 years. "That could help put to bed some of the disputes regarding the issue," he said.

Keller and her collaborator Thierry Adatte at the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland detailed their findings Oct. 31 at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver.
© 2007 All rights reserved.

The profitable business of CO2 offsets

By Lisa Kassenaar

Nov. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Bill Townsend, a one-time Texas oilman, gazes
up at a dark-red smokestack jutting from the cracked clay of southern
Colorado and shakes his head. The chimney is connected to a small
plant that processes natural gas from the surrounding plains. About
25 percent of the gas is methane, which is separated out and sold to
Colorado Interstate Gas Co. Most of the rest is carbon dioxide,
which, on this August morning, climbs the stack and pours into the
cobalt-blue sky.
This plant, the brainchild of Townsend and his partner, Greg Spencer,
is ready to sell its CO2, a major cause of global warming. Yet $7
million in new equipment to ship the gas sits idle because oil
company BP Plc has yet to open part of a 400- mile (644-kilometer)
pipeline that will take it to West Texas.
There, Townsend and Spencer's plan is to bury the CO2 in aging oil
wells. ``All our money now is going up that pipe,'' Townsend says.
Townsend and Spencer, who met in a Utah Bible study group in 1985,
are wildcatters of the CO2 era. Like American oil prospectors of a
century ago, they comb the country for environmental projects that,
one day, may gush profit.
The two Christian capitalists say they've found their mission: They
help companies cut greenhouse gas emissions and then take a cut of
the profit. They've signed contracts with more than a dozen companies
giving them a share of earnings when captured emissions, mostly CO2,
sell in the fledgling U.S. carbon trading market.
Buying `Offsets'
In that market, greenhouse gases that have been diverted from the
atmosphere are packaged as pollution credits, known in the U.S. as
``offsets,'' and are bought or sold by the metric ton. Since 2001,
Townsend and Spencer's company, Salt Lake City- based Blue Source
LLC, has quietly amassed the largest collection of offsets in the
country, about 270 million metric tons.
They have projects in 45 states, including efforts to bury CO2 from
power plants, capture methane from rotting pig waste and mountains of
garbage and curb pollution from trucks by shifting cargo to railroads.
``There's a biblical mandate to care for the planet that we have
failed, as a culture and as followers of Christ, to do effectively,''
Spencer, 50, says. ``This opportunity is a privilege. The success is
a blessing.''
Offsets trade in the U.S. even though President George W. Bush in
2001 pulled the country out of the Kyoto Protocol, a climate
agreement that creates a cap-and-trade program to reduce global
carbon emissions. In cap and trade, governments allow polluting
companies a set level of annual emissions. Companies then may buy
offset credits -- representing tons of emissions that haven't gone
into the atmosphere -- to atone for any additional pollution.
Voluntary Market
U.S. companies, though not burdened by federally mandated caps, trade
pollution credits to meet their own environmental goals, according to
EcoSystem Marketplace, a Washington-based research group. The
voluntary market grew 200 percent in 2006 to about $91 million, the
group says. As public concern about climate change ramps up, the U.S.
Congress is considering 12 bills proposing a federally regulated
cap-and-trade system.
Blue Source, which both builds physical infrastructure to create
offsets and sells them to other companies, marks a new wave of U.S.
carbon entrepreneurship. The big money is already moving in:
Blackstone Group LP's advisory unit signed Blue Source as one of its
smallest clients in April 2006, the day after hearing Townsend and
Spencer's story.
``Bill and Greg are the real deal,'' says Erik Katz, senior managing
director at the New York-based firm. ``Blue Source is well positioned
to be a key architect in the development of the carbon highway. They
have been able to thread the needle between financial gain and social
First Reserve Buys In
Katz hooked up Blue Source with First Reserve Corp., the world's
biggest energy-focused private equity firm, which acquired 50 percent
of the company for an undisclosed sum in September 2006.
As part of the agreement, First Reserve will make up to $1 billion
available to Blue Source for new projects. Already, Tyson Foods Inc.,
the biggest U.S. meat and poultry processor, and trucker J.B. Hunt
Transport Services Inc. are on Blue Source's client list.
As of October, forward sales contracts were up 350 percent from a
year earlier, and profit for 2007 will be about $5 million, Spencer
says. ``We feel we have a lead on how this is going to be done,''
Townsend says. ``The carbon economy is going to happen on a grand
Nonprofit Registry
Blue Source's offsets exist as numbers on a computer screen, much
like money looks in a bank account. About 45 million metric tons are
on registries such as Washington-based Environmental Resources Trust
Inc., a nonprofit that lists credits from more than 20 sources,
including News Corp. and Nike Inc.
The rest are managed out of Blue Source's office in a Salt Lake City
business park with little more than a spreadsheet identifying offsets
by date and category: energy and power, transportation, agriculture.
Offset verification, which confirms that an activity avoided
pollution, is typically shown with an engineering report.
Customers who come to Blue Source usually sign up to buy groups of
credits over time, Spencer says, and Blue Source's supply agreements
guarantee that it will have new offsets flowing in until 2022. Buyers
include New York-based securities firm Cantor Fitzgerald LP and New
Orleans-based Entergy Corp., the second-biggest U.S. operator of
nuclear power plants.
One large financial services firm that phoned Blue Source in early
October wants to secure prices now for offsets to be delivered after
2012, Spencer says. Blue Source now usually sells its offsets for
$4-$6 a ton.
$30 Per Credit
That price could shoot up to $30 or more, in line with trading in
Europe's government-regulated market, if Washington caps U.S.
emissions, says Jon Anda, a former Morgan Stanley vice chairman who
heads the Environmental Markets Network for New York-based
Environmental Defense.
``It'll be like lighting a match to methane,'' says Anda, who, as a
banker, worked on Google Inc.'s initial public offering. ``The
dollars invested now will go to the moon.''
In Washington, more Republicans now recognize climate change as an
issue in the 2008 race for the White House, says Blythe Masters, head
of JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s global commodities group. She testified to
a Senate committee on the subject in July.
California and 11 Northeast states are discussing their own
cap-and-trade programs. Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy
Corp. and San Francisco-based PG&E Corp., two of the biggest U.S.
utilities, have said they want a plan too. ``The biggest emitters are
holding up business decisions waiting to see what the rules are going
to be,'' Anda, 50, says. ``They want something soon.''
For Blue Source, the gamble is huge. More than half of its banked
offsets stem from reducing CO2 in the air by burying it underground,
a storage system called geologic carbon sequestration. The process is
not currently a source of tradable offsets under the Kyoto Protocol.
In addition, Blue Source has been collecting credits for six years,
and buyers are more interested in pollution credits that represent
recent saved emissions, Townsend says. That's because verification
rules are constantly evolving. Also, creators of all manner of carbon
credits in the U.S. are at the mercy of lawmakers in Washington,
who'll decide what constitutes a tradable offset.
``If only half our offsets end up qualifying, it would be a
disappointment,'' Spencer says. ``But we're positioned to do well
unless offsets aren't allowed at all.''
A `Pre-compliance' Market
Investment banks, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Merrill
Lynch & Co., are already adding traders and designing securities to
sell in what they call the ``pre-compliance'' market, meaning trading
before regulations are passed. Credit Suisse, the second-biggest
Swiss bank, is so sure the global carbon market, now centered in
London, will include the U.S. that it located its main trading desk
in New York, says Paul Ezekiel, a managing director who runs the
carbon trading operation.
``People see the possibility of profit and of enormous risk,''
JPMorgan Chase's Masters says. She spends about 25 percent of her
time on building the firm's environment-related businesses. ``The
most dangerous position to be in is one of ignorance,'' she says.
Blue Source was once almost alone in the field. Now, competition is
moving in. Credit Suisse in June bought 10 percent of Dublin-based
Eco Securities Group Plc, which is working on more than 400 projects
around the world to create offsets. Some 20 of its staff are now
focused on the U.S., up from none a year ago, U.S. country director
Eron Bloomgarden says. In January, Morgan Stanley bought 38 percent
of Miami- based MGM International, which has offset projects in
China, Mexico and South America and is also accumulating credits in
the U.S.
Investing in Solar, Wind
Private equity firms, hedge funds and banks have billions of dollars
earmarked for energy projects that may generate tradable offset
credits. They're investing in solar and wind power, ethanol
production and plants that capture methane. In March, First Reserve
raised a $7.8 billion fund, of which about 10 percent will go to
alternative energy, says Glenn Payne, who oversees those deals for
the Greenwich, Connecticut-based company.
Payne helped negotiate First Reserve's Blue Source purchase, which
left Townsend, the chief executive officer, and Spencer, the
president, with 25 percent each. ``The green has George Washington on
it,'' Payne says. The timing looks even better than it did in 2006,
says Payne, an Australian who formerly worked at McKinsey & Co. ``We
thought something would shake free in Washington in the middle of the
next decade, but the discussion has started already.''
In Colorado, Blue Source is working with Manzano LLC, a gas
exploration company based in Roswell, New Mexico. Mike Hanagan, a
co-owner of Manzano, met Townsend at an oil industry conference in
Midland, Texas, in 2003, when he was designing his facility.
`A Big Picture Guy'
``Bill's a very big-picture kind of guy,'' Hanagan says. ``They kept
pushing that the big picture was greenhouse gas emissions credits.''
Hanagan was persuaded to spend an extra 30 percent on the plant,
which cost about $35 million. The additional $7 million bought a CO2
compressor and 16 miles of pipeline to funnel his CO2 into a network
that goes to Denver City, Texas. Hanagan's CO2 will be used by oil
companies to flush thick, sticky oil out of older wells, and then it
will remain underground. Blue Source consulted on the engineering and
lined up sales contracts for both the CO2 and the offsets.
On a midsummer Tuesday, Townsend and Spencer fly in and greet Hanagan
on the runway of a broken concrete airstrip outside La Veta,
Colorado, a town of 924 people. In the distance lie the Spanish
Peaks, landmarks of the Southwest that Native Americans call
Wahatoya, or ``breasts of the Earth.'' The three hop into a white
pickup truck and drive to Hanagan's plant, about three miles away.
Wasting CO2
Fourteen months after Hanagan's facility was finished, CO2 still
spills into the air. Manzano and Blue Source have been calling
everyone they know at BP to try to get the gas flowing. The
London-based oil company has been slow to respond. Says Spencer,
waving at the chimney, ``If you believe in the science of climate
change, it's hard to look at that and have it not make you sick.''
One day earlier, in 92-degree Fahrenheit (33-degree Celsius) heat,
Townsend and Spencer drive 20 minutes into a canyon north of their
Salt Lake City office for lunch on the balcony of the Silver Fork
Lodge, a 60-year-old log hotel decorated with old snowshoes and
stuffed black bears.
Brisket and Cola
On the way, they point out sheer Rocky Mountain cliffs they've
climbed over the years with their adult children. At the table, they
both order beef brisket and Coca-Cola. Then they tell their tale.
They talk for three hours, sometimes finishing each other's sentences.
Townsend, 53, grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His father worked
for Ethyl Corp., a gasoline additives company, and read the Bible
every day, Townsend says. At 18, Townsend headed to Purdue University
in West Lafayette, Indiana, and earned bachelor's degrees in
microbiology and mechanical engineering. He met his future wife,
Andrea, at Purdue. All three of their children, now aged 29, 27 and
23, are also Purdue grads.
In 1978, Townsend joined Houston-based Conoco Inc. and rose to manage
the company's Gulf Coast crude oil and liquid products pipeline
systems. Seven years later, at age 31, he joined the senior
management of Petro Source Co., a crude-oil blending company with $70
million in annual sales, and moved his family to Salt Lake City.
Among his first tasks was building Petro Source's business in refined
oil products. He laughs now about an early project selling
grass-scented green asphalt to Rocky Mountain golf clubs.
CO2 Repository
As Petro Source added oil refining and transportation to its
repertoire over a dozen years, sales rose to more than $1 billion,
Townsend says. In 1995, he took on the company's CO2 division,
pushing to spend $17.6 million on an 82-mile pipeline to carry carbon
dioxide from four natural gas plants near Val Verde, Texas, to Denver
City, the main CO2 gathering center for the U.S. domestic oil
Townsend wasn't looking to create offsets when he initiated the Val
Verde project, he says, although he did consider the environmental
gain in reusing the CO2. His long experience in the petroleum
business had taught him that one of the few commercial uses of CO2,
the bete noire of climate change, was right in front of him. For
three decades, the biggest oil companies operating in Texas,
including Exxon Mobil Corp., had been tapping the ground and building
pipelines to gather CO2 from geologic formations.
Flushing Old Oil
They shoot the gas deep into aging wells, where it adheres to trapped
oil, lowers its viscosity and helps flush it out in a process called
enhanced oil recovery, or EOR. EOR could help recover 240 billion
barrels of U.S. oil left in the ground by conventional drilling,
according to the U.S. Energy Department. Kim Gerard, an oil industry
engineer, was working in Chicago when Townsend phoned in 1997 for
help with the Val Verde pipeline.
They had been colleagues at Conoco (now ConocoPhillips), where he was
a fast-rising star, she says. She quit her job and moved to Midland,
Texas, to work for him. ``In this industry, you have to make huge
leaps of faith,'' says Gerard, who talks with a Texas twang and wears
oversized belt buckles engraved with horses and bulls.
Midland, now at the center of the U.S. oil industry, was a sleepy
West Texas rail town until May 1923, when an oil gusher blew 70 miles
away. Midland turned out to be in the heart of the Permian Basin,
which contains 22 percent of U.S. oil reserves. Former President
George H.W. Bush worked in the oil business in Midland, and his son
George W., the current president, grew up there, as did his wife
Meeting in Midland
Gerard recalls a late night in a Midland hotel conference room in
December 1998 with Townsend and Steve Melzer, an oil industry CO2
consultant. They talked about how the Earth was heating up because of
carbon dioxide.
``At the time, there were companies that said climate change was
bull,'' Gerard says. ``We thought we could just capture this stuff
and actually make money off capturing it. It was one of those times
when you start discussing something and the juices start flowing, and
you reach a point where you go, 'This thing could become huge.' It
went on and on.''
The Val Verde pipeline was the U.S. oil industry's first system using
so-called anthropogenic, or man-made, carbon dioxide, for EOR. Buyers
were wary at first because the supply was potentially inconsistent,
Townsend says. His first sale was to Exxon at a 20 percent discount
to the market.
``We built out $13 million of the $17 million project before we had a
physical CO2 sale,'' he says. ``We were way out on a limb with the
investment and had absolutely no flow through the pipeline. It was a
very white-knuckle time.''
Cap and Trade
Concerned about revenue, Townsend took the project further. He knew
that the offset market was developing and had talked about it with
Carlton Bartels, a managing director at Cantor Fitzgerald's
environmental brokerage unit. The Kyoto Protocol was gathering
signatures, and Europe was working on developing a cap-and-trade
Townsend reckoned he could earn pollution credits because his
pipeline kept CO2 from flying into the atmosphere. At the time, no
standards or contracts existed for carbon capture and storage
offsets, he says.
After a year of meetings, Townsend and Bartels secured a deal to sell
1 million tons of offsets from Val Verde to Ontario Power Generation
Inc., a Canadian public utility. ``We were inventing as we went
along,'' Townsend says. ``It was exciting and scary.''
In November 2000, the two men announced their Ontario trades at a
United Nations conference on climate change in The Hague. Townsend
expected the crowd of environmentalists to cheer, he says. Instead,
hecklers were so noisy that some were escorted out.
`We Got Booed'
``We got booed,'' Townsend says. ``People were still thinking that
selling offsets was just about moving money around. Europe still
wasn't sold on carbon trading at that point.''
As Petro Source grew, Townsend became increasingly active in Salt
Lake City's Christian community. He and Spencer belong to the
Evangelical Free Church, which sees the Bible as the inspired, final
word of God. Their church connections forged their friendship.
They raised $2 million together for Salt Lake's Intermountain
Christian School, an elementary school attended by Spencer's two
sons. Townsend was chairman of Life@Work Companies, a group advising
Christians on bringing their faith into the workplace. Spencer served
as a legal and financial adviser to the board.
Townsend is now on the board of K2 The Church, a Salt Lake City-based
congregation founded in 2002 and named for the world's second-highest
mountain, in the Himalayas. K2 attracts outdoorsy congregants with a
rock-climbing wall, pool tables and a jeans-wearing pastor who
podcasts his sermons. Spencer belongs to the Mountain Life
Evangelical Church in Park City, Utah, the ski town 31 miles from
Salt Lake City that hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics' giant slalom
M&A Lawyer
Spencer moved to Utah from Colorado as a college student because he
loved skiing in the powdery snow, he says. At the University of Utah,
he earned a bachelor's degree in environmental science and a law
In 1983, he joined American Stores Co., a food and drug retailer; 10
years later, he joined its mergers and acquisitions team. In 1999, he
took part in selling American Stores to rival Albertsons Inc. in an
$8.7 billion deal. Then he was let go, along with other senior
Spencer doesn't call himself an environmentalist. ``You don't have to
be either an environmentalist or a capitalist now,'' he says.
``There's a new concept of sustainability.'' Americans should be able
to drive SUVs and use air conditioners, he says, if they are willing
to pay for it, including accounting for the pollution they create.
Christian Connection
While Townsend brought CO2 experience to Blue Source, Spencer brought
a relentless ability to network. Shortly after founding the company
in 2001, he called Steve Graves, an Arkansan who led Life@Work, to
help land a meeting at J.B. Hunt, a Lowell, Arkansas-based
transportation company with 12,000 truckers on American highways.
In the corner office of John Roberts, a J.B. Hunt division president,
Townsend and Spencer made their pitch: They would help reduce the
trucker's carbon emissions and then pay to verify and market offset
credits they created. When the offsets were sold, they would get a
percentage of the profit.
``John was curious,'' Spencer says. ``But he was also thinking, 'Why
are you in my office talking about a market that doesn't yet
exist?''' It took 18 months to sign a contract, Spencer says. J.B.
Hunt signed on partly because the risk to the company was so low, he
adds. ``They had nothing to lose,'' he says.
Road to Rail
Blue Source began looking at the company's use of trains, which emit
only a third the carbon of trucks. By shifting long- haul shipping to
rail, J.B. Hunt soon saw an environmental benefit, says Gary Whicker,
a senior vice president in charge of engineering. Blue Source also
came up with ideas for restructuring so-called empty-mile operations,
when trucks travel with no cargo, and for reducing the amount of time
drivers' trucks stand idling -- and spewing CO2 into the air.
Once a few emission-cutting ideas were put in place, J.B. Hunt's
extensive data collection system started showing big declines in
energy use, Whicker says. The company sold its first offset credits
in partnership with Blue Source in 2005 and is now earning about
$100,000 a year from credit sales.
``Is it a big moneymaker for J.B. Hunt?'' Whicker asks. ``No. But it
opened our eyes. They gave us a free education in the carbon world.''
J.B. Hunt's customers increasingly want details of its environmental
record. ``If Blue Source hadn't been here, we'd be clueless as to
what to do in this area,'' Whicker says.
Pig Waste
In 2001, Blue Source also picked up a client in northern Arkansas:
Springdale-based Tyson. The company had already started capping the
vast pools of waste from its beef, chicken and pork slaughterhouses
with plastic covers, says Kevin Igli, Tyson's chief environmental
The system steers methane gas from the waste to a central collection
area, where some is used to power Tyson plants and the rest is flared
off. Blue Source helped Tyson do an offset trade in 2004, Igli says,
and is now advising on new projects to capture methane.
By mid-2005, Townsend and Spencer were examining dozens of potential
carbon capture projects and rapidly building their offset portfolio.
They still had just four employees. They'd funded small jobs
themselves and otherwise sought project financing. They decided they
needed a backer. ``So we called Blackstone,'' Townsend says.
Once again, Spencer's contacts were critical. While negotiating
Albertsons' buyout of American Stores in 1998, he'd worked with Katz.
Spencer arranged a meeting in New York on a Monday to get some
friendly advice. By Tuesday afternoon, Blue Source was a client.
Eager Investors
In their initial meeting in early 2006, Katz told Townsend and
Spencer they could raise more money than the few hundred million they
anticipated, says Townsend, declining to offer more specific figures.
``There has been no shortage of interest,'' Katz says. The banker set
up about 10 meetings with potential investors, including First
With the private equity firm's backing, Townsend and Spencer have the
resources to provide both technical and financial help to people like
Mike Hanagan, who are willing to take a chance on the future market
for pollution offsets.
For his part, Hanagan finally has his project under way. In early
September, BP allowed him to open the valve that lets his CO2 gas
stream south. The project took longer than expected to be completed
safely, according to BP spokeswoman Sarah Howell.
For Townsend and Spencer, the connection means tons of new pollution
credits to sell to future customers -- and more fuel for their
mission to make money and save the planet.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lisa Kassenaar in New York at
Last Updated: November 7, 2007 00:06 EST

Six of 8 bear species at risk of extinction: group

From: Alister Doyle -Reuters


OSLO (Reuters) - Six of the world's eight bear species are under threat of extinction after the addition on Monday of the sun bear, the world's smallest type of bear, to a "Red List" which says China's panda is most at risk.

The sun bear is threatened partly by poachers who sell its gall bladder bile in China as a traditional medicine, said the World Conservation Union which runs the list of threatened wildlife.

"Things are getting worse for all the bear species except the American black bear which is unquestionably increasing," said Simon Stuart, senior species adviser for the Union.

The addition of the sun bear to the authoritative Red List after a major review means the American black bear and the brown bear, found from Europe to Alaska, are the only two of eight species still considered robust.

The sun bear, found in Asia from Bangladesh to Borneo and weighing up to about 70 kg (150 lb), was rated "vulnerable" by experts at the Union, which comprises more than 80 governments, conservation groups and scientists.

The sun bear, named after a yellow crescent on its chest, had not previously been listed because of a lack of data. The Union said there were several thousand sun bears in the wild.

"We estimate that sun bears have declined by at least 30 percent over the past 30 years ... and continue to decline at this rate," said Ron Steinmetz, head of the Swiss-based Union's sun bear expert team.

Scientists did not change the level of threat to any other bear species. Deforestation, loss of habitat to roads and cities and poaching are among risks.

The Asiatic black bear, the sloth bear and the Andean bear were all reaffirmed as vulnerable after the reassessment of land-living bears. The polar, the only species not reassessed, is separately rated as vulnerable.


Pandas were reaffirmed as endangered, one step closer to extinction than vulnerable, despite China's protection efforts for the bamboo-eaters. There are an estimated 1,000-2,000 in the wild, fewer than any other bear species.

"Even though some people have claimed that panda populations are on the rise, we still consider them endangered because too much uncertainty exists to justify changing their status to vulnerable," David Garshelis, co-chair of the Union's bear specialist group, said in a statement.

"The fact that six of eight bear species are under threat is bad news for species that are generally resilient and hang on under human pressure," Stuart told Reuters. Many bears were unfussy eaters and could live in a wide range of habitats.

The brown bear, including grizzly bears, and the American black bear are listed as of "least concern," meaning populations are robust. There are more than 900,000 black bears -- more than twice as many as all other species of bears combined.

Disaster in Black Sea as storm sinks tanker

Guardian, UK

Map: Where the spill happened

A bird covered in fuel oil

A bird covered in fuel oil sits on the shore 7km from Russia's southern port of Kavkaz. Photograph: Pavel Shevtsov/Reuters

The Black Sea region suffered its worst environmental disaster in years after an oil tanker sank in stormy weather last night.

The bodies of five seamen have been recovered and up to 18 are still missing after the storm struck 10 ships in the Strait of Kerch, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

Crewmen aboard the Russian oil tanker, the Volganeft-139, were rescued. It split in two and spilled at least 1,300 tonnes of oil. The severe weather prevented emergency workers from collecting the oil, which authorities said was sinking to the seabed.

Another storm in the area is forecast, prompting a ban on tankers docking at the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk.

Birds covered in thick oil are being recovered on the shore.

The Ukrainian prime minister, Viktor Yanukovich, said the spill raised questions about maritime safety in the Kerch Strait.

"In the Bosphorus straits, it's not possible to use tankers without double hulls. How is the Kerch Strait different? It isn't," Reuters quoted him saying at a news conference.

Vladimir Chuprov, head of the energy department at Greenpeace, told the RIA Novosti news agency: "As a result of the oil spill into the sea, heavy elements of fuel oil will settle on the seabed and cause hydrocarbons to permeate the Sea of Azov. This will lead to a shortage of oxygen in the water, and the unique fauna will suffer greatly."

In total, 10 ships sank or ran aground in the storms, including a Russian freighter carrying metal near the port of Sevastopol. Two members of its 16-man crew drowned, and one was still missing.

Two barges loaded with fuel oil also ran aground in the area but did not leak.

Two of the freighters that sank were carrying around 6,500 tonnes of sulphur, the Russian emergency situations ministry said.

Oleg Mitvol, the head of Rosprirodnadzor, the state environmental safety watchdog, told the Russian television channel Vesti 24 that, although the sulphur did not present an environmental danger, the two freighters could leak fuel oil from their tanks, adding to the pollution.

However, Sergei Baranovsky, the president of the Green Cross environmental group, said sulphur could potentially be even more hazardous to the environment than the oil, Novosti reported.

Maxim Stepanenko, a regional prosecutor, told Vesti 24 that captains had been warned about the stormy conditions on Saturday.

He said the sunken oil tanker — designed during Soviet times to transport oil on rivers — had not been built to withstand a fierce storm.


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