Archive for September 19th, 2009

GreenShows Street Fashion: Environmental Activists Summer Rayne Oakes and Olivia Zaleski’s Style (Video)
Environmental Journalist Olivia Zaleski at Green Fashion Week. Credit Emma Grady

We hit the green carpet opening night at GreenShows — the premiere eco-friendly, ethically sound, and fair-trade fashion event during New York Fashion Week — and spoke with model activist Summer Rayne Oakes and environmental journalist <a href=”… Read the full story on TreeHugger
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U.S. biodiesel industry drowing in surplus?
American biodiesel producers are shifting gears after losing 80 percent of their customer base due to the EU trade ban.

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Nasdaq scolds DayStar, BioFuel

Nasdaq scolds DayStar, BioFuel
Publicly traded cleantech companies receive 180-day warning to get stock price above $1 or face delisting.

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The API on Cap and Trade

The API on Cap and Trade
Yesterday the American Petroleum Institute conducted a blogger’s conference call to talk about various energy issues that they are focused on. I used to regularly attend these calls, but things have been quite busy and it has been a while since I participated. But I thought it would be worthwhile to check in and find out which issues they are currently occupied with. I asked one question on cap and trade during the call (see below).

The API listed three key areas that they are focused on. These are the Waxman-Markey climate bill, which they think will cost jobs (particularly in the energy industry), domestic access to petroleum resources, and taxation of the oil and gas industry. Participating from the API were:



Jack Gerard, President and CEO, API
John Felmy, Chief Economist, API
Doug Morris, API
Kyle Isakower, API

The bloggers on the call included:

The audio and transcript can be found here. In his opening statement, Jack Gerard happened to mention recent testimony of Alan Krueger, Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy and Chief Economist of the US Treasury, in which he justified higher taxes on the oil industry by suggesting that current tax policies have led to overproduction by the industry. That is simply astonishing. Yes, it must be overproduction that has caused our oil imports to increase year after year to the point that we import 60% of what we use. One wonders what the import level will reach once this domestic “overproduction” is reined in through punitive taxes. For a bit more on Krueger’s testimony, see:

Administration attempts to justify tax proposals surprise Gerard

Alan B. Krueger, assistant US Treasury secretary for economic policy, mentioned that the administration was looking at other industries’ tax breaks during a Sept. 10 hearing by the Senate Finance Committee’s Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure Subcommittee on the White House’s Fiscal 2010 oil and gas tax proposals.

When a subcommittee member, Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), asked him if the administration was currently singling out the oil and gas industry as it seeks tax incentive repeals, however, the US Department of the Treasury official replied, “That is correct.”

Gerard said he continues to be amazed by Obama administration statements that oil and gas tax incentives should be repealed to prevent overproduction of domestic resources. “The Treasury Department’s Green Book says there’s too much oil and gas production in the United States. We think that’s laughable. We think there needs to be some serious dialogue about what these proposals mean and about ways to get back to producing more oil and gas,” he said.

Also see Geoff Styles’ analysis of the issue:

Overproducing US Oil?

Back to the call, I get concerned about proposals in which the price tag is vaguely defined. I would much rather see a direct tax on gasoline in which the impact can be modeled, over a new system whose overall impact on prices is uncertain. The latter is a big economic risk to me. So I asked a question about cap and trade, with Geoff Styles following-up.

11:16 MS. VAN RYAN: Another question? Robert, I know that you sent one to me by e-mail. Would you like to pose that question yourself?

11:24 MR. RAPIER: Yeah, I’ll do that. Yeah, the question was, I understand the concern about the cap-and-trade legislation; I have similar concerns. I am wondering if you have an alternative proposal; if there is any kind of legislation for cap-and-trade that you could get behind that achieves the same goals?

11:46 MR. GERARD: We haven’t. There has not been a proposal out there yet, Robert, that we have gotten behind. We think now is the time for a reset. There was a lot of focus on this early on in the Waxman-Markey bill. There was a lot of effort gone into it and it just came out in the wrong place. So what we have been attempting to do over the past few months is to point out the significant flaws in that legislation with the hope and expectation that we can help educate policymakers and the public.

And what we found is that when you begin to educate, not only does it resonate but it is clearly understood. The House exercise was focused primarily on the utility area or consumers’ bills, industrial bills that we often think of that you get at home to pay for your heating, your cooling, et cetera. But it almost totally left out the fuels question. And that is why 44 percent of all the emissions – or I should say refineries – will be held responsible for 44 percent of all the emission and yet given only 2.25 percent of allowances to transition us to a carbon-constrained world. So the net effect of that is – and I am oversimplifying this now – is that you’ve shifted the cost onto those who use fuels.

And that is why you see the farm bureau, you see the truckers, you see small business and others. When they began to see through the dust of the activity in the House, they say, well, what happened is we are looking at our utility bills and the Congress made an effort to transition us over time to a carbon-constrained world and they tried to provide some mitigating factors – in this case, allowances – to do that, but on the fuel side, we got totally forgotten. So anybody who drives a pickup truck, a car, rides the bus, the train, flies on an airplane is going to have an almost immediate impact as a result of Waxman-Markey.

And so in educating on that front, I believe we now have their attention that we have got to look at that question. And we internally, and as an industry, are developing further thoughts and ideas, if you will, as to how best address the fuel question and how it fits into the broader framework of a carbon-constrained world.

14:13 MR. STYLES: Jack, this is Geoff Styles. Could I follow up on that?

14:16 MR. GERARD: Please.

14:17 MR. STYLES: Because I certainly share your concern about the disproportionate way that Waxman-Markey doles out the free emissions allowances. In conversations with some of the folks who have been supporting the bill, I get a sense that there is a belief out there that, to some extent, maybe to a significant extent, they feel that the costs that would be imposed on the refining sector would somehow be absorbed by the refining sector and not actually passed on to consumers. Has API done anything looking at, you know, to what degree, any degree, of cost absorption by the refining sector as opposed to simply shifting the market pricing points, and in effect, pushing it on to consumers would take place?

15:11 MR. GERARD: Let me answer that generally. And I will turn to our chief economist, John Felmy, afterwards to see if he can add anything to it. My simple response would be unless you can repeal the laws of economics and supply and demand, that is the only conditions under which that thought would work because it just doesn’t make any sense.

What we are talking about here is significant costs. We are not talking about nuances around the edge. And just as I mentioned earlier, some of our analysis shows you would drive gasoline over $4 a gallon in the current environment. And so, you know, potential job loss of 2 million jobs. We are not talking a penny or two here. We are talking about quarters and dollars.

And how they could come to that conclusion might give them some political cover in trying to justify what they have asked for in the bill. But I don’t see how it makes any economic sense and frankly, it is unrealistic. Now, let me turn to an economist to give you a real answer. How is that?

16:14 JOHN FELMY: Well, if I could just add, I mean, that is absolutely right. There are two key factors. First of all, the emissions that the refiners themselves produce – they are competing on a world scale with international refiners. And we had commissioned EnSys to take a look at that. And it clearly showed that it would be a severe and negative implication for refining capacity in the U.S. because of an inability to be able to compete.

But more importantly on the consumption side and a sense of being responsible for the emissions from the tailpipes of your users, I think it is helpful to look at the current refining situation right now. In the second quarter of this year, almost every refiner lost money. And in the fourth quarter of last year, basically, there was a complete inability to pass along any cost changes.

And so with that kind of market conditions, primarily driven by international competition with a lot of, for example, gasoline on world markets from places like Europe and so on, I fail to understand how there is that ability to be able, from an economic sense, to have that happen. Analytically, you have got a weak gasoline market. You have got a lot of supply on world markets. And that competitive aspect, by most analysts, is expected to remain.

17:33 MR. STYLES: So in effect then, John, what you are saying, I think, is what I concluded a long time ago, which is if refineries are expected to absorb this, they will absorb it by going out of business.

17:44 MR. FELMY: Exactly. If you are already losing money and you raise your costs and you have no ability to address that, the margins already were low when they were positive, and when they are negative, there is nothing to give away.

17:58 MR. STYLES: Thank you.

18:00 MR. FELMY: And with, you know – we have got three broad classes of refiners in this country. You have got the big ones, which are about 50 percent; you have got about 25 percent, which are the big independent ones that are not integrated; and then a lot of very small refiners that would really take a beating in that environment.


Following that exchange, I got a bit distracted with juggling cats and never had a chance to ask another. But if you are interested in the rest of the discussion, you can access the transcript and audio at the link.

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DOE Finalizes $5.9 Billion Loan for Ford Motor Company

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has closed on its loan offer of $5.9 billion to Ford Motor Company to transform factories across Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio to produce more fuel efficient models. (Earlier post.)

The loan is part of the Department’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program, which supports the development of advanced vehicle technologies. The loan for Ford Motor Company is the first to be finalized since the program was appropriated in the fall of 2008.

On 23 June, DOE issued a conditional loan commitment to Ford to finance up to 80% of qualified expenditures to improve the efficiency of light vehicles by using technologies that improve internal combustion engines and transmissions, reduce vehicle weight, reduce vehicle drag with more aerodynamic designs, and improve vehicle efficiency through the development of hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles. The loan proceeds will enable Ford to raise the fuel efficiency of more than a dozen popular models, representing close to two million new vehicles annually, and save more than 200 million gallons of gas a year.

The Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program is focusing on helping domestic manufacturers apply the best available technologies to improve the efficiency of the vehicles they produce. In June of this year, the Department of Energy announced conditional loan offers to Ford Motor Company, Tesla Motors, and Nissan Motors for a total of $8 billion. The program was appropriated $7.5 billion by Congress to support up to $25 billion in loans to companies making cars and components in US factories that increase fuel economy at least 25 percent above 2005 fuel economy levels. The Department plans to make additional loans under this program over the next several months to large and small auto manufacturers and parts suppliers up and down the production chain.

Applications for the loan program have included vehicles running on electricity, biofuels, and advanced combustion engines, and were submitted by both car and component makers, US automakers, US manufacturing subsidiaries of non-US-based companies, major US auto parts suppliers, and innovative startups. The intense technical and financial review process is focused not on choosing a single technology over others, but is aimed at promoting multiple approaches for achieving a fuel efficient economy, according to DOE.

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A Better Economic Model? Revisiting Mondragón (+ Video)

Financial crisis and recession woes got you thinking that there might be a better way to do business?  Check out this inspiring case study of Mondragón in the Basque Country.  This co-op has pulled itself from a post-war environment and gone on to prosper by introducing some very unique programs and policies.  The BBC Documentary below, while slightly dated, introduces the concepts quite effectively.  More general information on the history and background of Mondragón can be found here, here, and here.  What might be possible elsewhere in the world if we used similar principles?



More cool stuff on …

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Bird-Friendly coffee event at Cornell

Bird-Friendly coffee event at Cornell
If you are in the Ithaca, NY area, please consider visiting Cornell Lab of Ornithology for these two great events. Tomorrow, a coffee-tasting expo will feature eco-certified coffees, and on Monday evening there will be a talk about the science…

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Portland Eco-Districts, OLED Lighting, Efficiency First, + Sustainable Paths

Week in Review

Congratulations to Ben and Aaron for each winning a copy of the Earth DVD in our recent contest.  Also, follow @jetsongreen on Twitter for more news, links, and commentary.

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Harvested to make Ecstasy, Cambodia’s trees are Felled One by One

dance floor PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — The pulse of dance-club music plays like a jungle beat, as thumping bass notes flirt with flashing lights, liquor and ecstasy of the pharmaceutical kind.

Miles and miles away, a little-known multi-billion dollar battle is playing out in the remote wilderness of Cambodia, linking the club scene to the jungle in a more nefarious way.

Clandestine factories deep in the Cardamom Mountains of western Cambodia are producing safrole oil — also known as sassafras oil — the main ingredient in the party drug Ecstasy.

The recreational drug produces a euphoria its users say is so good even yawning is …

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Greener Jobs Roundup 9/17/09

Greener Jobs Roundup 9/17/09


The Federal Reserve Chairman pretty much declared the recession over, but he also said there be some tough times to come in the job market.  That is, if we have nothing to say about it.  We’re building up a green job board, and you’re invited to check it out.  Here are a few of the jobs listed in the last week:

Also, follow @greenerjobs on Twitter for more green job listings.

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Renew Your Backsplash with Recycled Glass Tiles
Looking to add a dazzling, yet functional, new backsplash to your ordinary kitchen or bathroom?  One eco-friendly option is to use recycled glass tiles since discarded glass takes hundreds, if not thousands of years, to decompose.  Tiled surfaces are durable, long-lasting and easy-to-clean, plus they work well indoors and out.  They’re perfect not only for [...]

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Tiffany & Co., Summer Rayne Oakes, and Rainforest Action Network Start the Fight to get Fashion out of the Forests (Video)
RAN’s Lafcadio Cortesi and model Summer Rayne Oakes at the GreenShows at New York Fashion Week. Credit Emma Grady

The opening night of the GreenShows — the place to be for greenies during New York Fashion Week — provided a platform for Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Tiffany & Co., and model and activist Summer Rayne Oakes to promote action against deforestation — primarily driven … Read the full story on TreeHugger
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When Farming Goes Corporate

When Farming Goes Corporate
photo: J. Novak

At TreeHugger, genetically modified organisms (GMO) have long provided reason for concern. Large monocultures, which are typical of GMO, can be riddled with pests. As a result, monocultures are often dressed with a toxic cocktail of pesticides so that they can survive the onslaught. In addition, monocultures can deplete the nutrients in soil and lead to erosion. But the problems with GMO go way beyond freakishly round, tasteless tomatoes. According to New York Times columnist Verlyn Klinkenborg, GMO “rep… Read the full story on TreeHugger
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Cleaning Up the Olive Oil Business in Syria
olive groves iznik turkey photo
Olive groves near ?znik, Turkey.

Groves of olive trees, cultivated for more than 7,000 years, help define the Mediterranean landscape, but mass production of olive oil in the region is contributing to environmental pollution, according to a recent report from Syria, the world’s fifth largest producer of olive oil….
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