While attending the CITES (Convention on Trade in Endangered Species) biodiversity summit in Nagoya, Japan, late last year, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said that we must foster development and reduce poverty, and at the same time preserve and improve the planet’s biodiversity and ecological resilience. He noted during a speech at the Cancun COP16 Climate Convention that “empty forests are greatly diminished.” He is completely right, but globally efforts to achieve ecologically sustainable development have been difficult and fraught with failure. Sadly, to some the issue is yet another complication to be ignored or avoided.
"Clean energy cooperation will be a key litmus test of the ability of China and the United States to build a partnership based on mutual needs and opportunities. The outcome is of long-lasting global economic, environmental and geopolitical importance.
While quiet cooperation does exist between the two countries in the form of decades of joint work on energy efficiency standards and through a new but under-funded US-China Clean Energy Research Center, far higher profile actions, however, point toward conflict.
First, 2009 ended with an unproductive US-China standoff at the Copenhagen Climate Summit.
Second was China's rapid scale-up of production and global sales of renewable energy technology - specifically solar panels, wind turbines and batteries for the burgeoning electric vehicle markets.
Third are the high-level tensions over Chinese dominance in the production of rare earth metals for advanced electronics.
During his State of the Union speech last evening, President Obama articulated two national goals that jumped out at me: 80% of electricity from "clean" energy by 2035 and one million electric vehicles "on the road" by 2015 (just five years from now).
An optimistic view was offered by Dan Kammen, on leave from UC Berkeley as green energy "Czar" at the World Bank:
"This goal, which sounded exceedingly optimistic only a few years ago, is now one that we can absolutely shoot for. In an electricity modeling effort that I have been doing, a modest price on carbon and smart growth policies consistently gets to 60% decarbonized (relative to the 1990 baseline, not the current level). This would put the country well on the way to the 80% 2035 target. A steady stream of innovation and progressive policy choices is needed, but it is entirely in the range of goals that could be pursued as we think about scale-ups of wind, solar, geothermal, and ocean energy, and then potentially the two most controversial ones of carbon capture and nuclear power (pending regional resource, political, and risk appetites)."
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The push to get more electric cars out on the road comes with a wrinkle. California's tiered rate system was put in place to discourage high energy use and make the state more green. The more electricity you use, the higher the rate.
A new Purdue University study says that means Californians will end up paying the highest costs for charging electric cars. The Purdue study shows a plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt for example, would increase a household's electrical usage by 60 percent.
Even accounting for charging at night at off-peak rates, the Purdue study says costs in California will still be higher than elsewhere because the state's rates are 35 percent higher than the national average.
UC Berkeley renewable energy expert Dan Kammen is currently writing the World Bank's energy strategy. He says the Purdue study is premature.
"California has been working through the governor's office and California Energy Commission, the PUC and Air Resources Board on a system to make the state ready for electric vehicles and that would involve special charging rates, special times, charging centers where you can bring in fleet vehicles or private vehicles to charge," Kammen said.
"California is working through important and innovative plans to make these vehicles the first choice for motorists whether private or fleets and take advantage of the fact that electricity is so low carbon," Kammen said.