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December 23, 2011 / Mridul

US Congress tries to slow down transition to efficient bulbs as India strikes deal to buy 13 million of them

“This is an early Christmas present for all Americans. It restores the freedom, at least temporarily, for you to choose the light bulbs you want to illuminate your home,” Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said in a statement after the House voted Friday. (The Senate followed on Saturday.) Barton said the spending bill delays enforcement less than a year, but he would seek a permanent ban on the lighting rules.

Congress’ bill may slow switch to efficiency lighting bulbs

Never heard of a more stupid argument for not moving to an efficient technology – ‘freedom to choose which bulb they want to use’. Commentators would surely be running out of words to highlight the bizarre statements the Republicans have been giving. The article mentions that there are several energy efficient lighting systems available and while the initial cost is higher than incandescent bulbs they being significant financial and energy savings.

If economics of the bulbs is an issue, the administration should provide subsidised bulbs. They’ll surely get all they money back in vey short period of time which the electricity savings. The United States has very high per capita energy usage as well as per capita carbon emissions. These small steps would not only help mitigate these emissions but also bring economic benefits.

They must learn from India which has lower emissions, lower per capita emissions and energy use. India has launched massive nationwide effort to replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs. The government asks private companies like America’s CQuest to finance procurement of CFLs which will be sold to the people at about a sixth of the original price. The whole project would generate carbon credits and a part of the revenues would be given back to the private companies.

The US is way, way behind most developing countries in the willingness to act on issues like climate change, clean energy and energy efficiency.

December 22, 2011 / Mridul

United States scores low on climate action in 2011, 2012 likely to be worse

Coming into 2011, a big question was how far Congress would go (and how far the administration would go along) in slowing or stopping action by the EPA and other federal agencies. While the House repeatedly approved anti-environment and anti-climate measures, those efforts did not make it through the Senate. In a sign of strength, the administration has consistently signaled that President Obama would veto such measures if they ever got to his desk.

Another question was what would happen as a result of President Obama’s call in the State of the Union address for a clean energy standard that would set a goal of generating 80 percent of the country’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2035. While the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee issued a white paper for comment, no further action was taken. Senator Bingaman, the committee chairman, has indicated that he intends to introduce clean energy standard legislation in 2012.

A look back at US climate policy in 2011

The biggest achievement by the US policy makers on the climate change front in 2011 was the new set of fuel standards for the automobile sector. While these fuel standards seem almost nothing in front of the various measures announced by other developed as well as developing countries during the year, the failure of the Obama Administration in the environment front can be gauged from the fact that the President himself announced this minuscule step. They just didn’t have anything major to announce this year!

It’s shameful that the administration has failed so badly on the climate change front. The fact that this year’s climate change conference was the first where not a single member of the US Congress was present shows the seriousness of Washington towards the issue of climate change.

Sure, they are reeling under grave economic crisis but so it the EU. They have the strictest emission reduction targets in the world, the most ambitious renewable energy targets in the world and are already planning to increase them. They will include new industries into their emissions trading scheme, starting with the aviation sector in 2012.

It seems that the EU is capable of taking such steps even when faced with their own economic crisis because the issue of climate change is not politicised in Europe. Politicians in the US cannot even decide whether there is climate change or not, even after thousands upon thousands of reputed scientists have confirmed it.

2011 was not an election year, 2012 is. The action on climate change is likely to be absolutely nil.

June 18, 2010 / Mridul

Nuclear Energy as a Clean Energy? We Don’t Have ANY Technology to Treat Nuclear Wastes

Even low-level radioactive waste is a growing problem, with few licensed repositories to dispose of it. The problem dates from the early 1980s, when Congress said that the federal government would take care of high-level waste, like spent fuel from nuclear power plants, but that the states would have to find sites for low-level material, like the radiation sources used in cancer treatments and industrial X-rays, and filters used in nuclear plants.

In reality, both the federal and state efforts mostly failed. There is no national disposal spot for the spent fuel, and for 32 states, no place to send their low-level wastes. Around the country, the inventory of low-level wastes with no place to go is growing by about 10,000 cubic feet a year.

Yet another reminder why the large-scale use of nuclear energy should not be a part of the new energy policies of governments around the world. We do not posses any technology that could neutralize or treat the harmful, toxic and radiation-emitting nuclear wastes. Dumping them after dilution or any other technique so that it meets the standards for storage in any given place which is ready to take this toxic waste for burial is not at all a solution.

The truth is that we do not have a solution to the problem of nuclear waste management. And that is only one of the problems related to nuclear power plants.

Security of such installations has become one of the major concerns in the recent past with fears of terrorists getting access to nuclear materials from poorly guarded nuclear power plants. Then comes the problem related to its use of non-peaceful purposes. Iran and North Korea are already too hard to handle for the world, it is not hard to imagine what would happen if there is a nuclear power race in the Middle East as many countries including Saudi Arabia and UAE. Keeping a tab on the activities of so many countries is not any easy job and add to that the strategic and geopolitical tussles.

Even in terms of resource availability going nuclear is not a wise option. Several countries including India and the United States could feel te pinch of short supply in the short to medium term. Additionally, with only about two dozen supplier countries the rest of the countries will be completely dependent on them for fuel. As is the case with OPEC. So nuclear energy hardly contributes to the concept of energy independence rather it seems to continue the status quo, that is, energy resources monopoly.

And finally the constant danger of spill and leakage. We have seen that even the developed countries have witnessed nuclear accidents and there have been several reports from various countries about irresponsible behavior on the part of the utilities to check safe discharge of contaminated process water.

We cannot wait for another nuclear disaster to occur, be it a geopolitical or an environmental disaster. It is better that we continue to look for cleaner and safer modes of energy generation which provide long-term solution to the problem of rising energy demand.

via NYTimes.com.

January 13, 2010 / Mridul

EU Trade Chief Speaks Against Carbon Tax

“In terms of border adjustments, I’m against it,” De Gucht told lawmakers in response to a question during a European parliamentary confirmation hearing in Brussels.

“I don’t see that as the right approach — it’s one that will lead to lots of practical problems.

“We’ve seen it in the past. The big risk is that it will also lead to an escalating trade war on a global level.

Although the concerns voiced by Mr. De Gucht are legitimate he failed to propose alternative for carbon tax. Just as we have seen trade wars and diplomatic storms over trade taxes, we have also seen the failure of carbon offsetting mechanisms which have now actually become a business rather than a tool for mitigating impacts of carbon emissions.

Clean Development Mechanism and other region and international mechanisms like it are complicated and their effectiveness to prevent industries from emitting carbon dioxide has been widely questioned. Carbon tax, on the other hand, seems fairly simple in approach. A former high ranking official at Shell once said that if we want to check the carbon emissions growth we need to put a price on the carbon dioxide.

There were concerns over trade issues when the United States talked of an international carbon tax however, carbon tax seems to be the simplest possible tool to make the industry reduce its carbon emissions worldwide.

Posted via web from Random Views

November 29, 2009 / Mridul

And Out of Nowhere, India Proposes 25% Emission Reduction Target for 2030

Only days after assuring the parliament that the government stands firm on the issue of opposing carbon emission targets, the Indian Environment and Forest Minister Mr. Jairam Ramesh announced in Beijing that his government could propose a target of reducing carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2030.

India’s move came after almost all advanced developing countries announced emission reduction targets, subject to foreign aid. China, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil and South Africa have already announced plans to reduce their carbon outputs by using monetary help from developed countries. India has only announced a highly ambitious solar energy plan which aims to install a solar power capacity of 20,000  MW by 2030, up from current 6 MW.

India is the latest developing country to join the bandwagon to announce emission targets. For years the developing countries had been highly determined in opposing any kind of emission cuts, voluntary or mandatory. But once China broke ranks and signaled at adopting voluntary sectoral emission reductions, following talks with the United States, all other developing countries followed suit with some announcing emission cuts even higher than those proposed by the developed countries.

The minister acknowledged that the government was under pressure after President Obama announced his proposal of provisional emission target of 17 percent reduction by 2020 and China’s announcement of 40-45 percent reduction in carbon intensity by 2020. Speaking to a leading English daily Mr. Ramesh said,

I don’t think we can sweep (aside) the fact that our peer group of nations like China, Indonesia, Brazil and South Africa have clearly put down voluntary, unilateral, non-legally binding and quantitative targets. It has implications for us. We have the numbers. We have done the homework. There is a lot of room for reducing energy and emissions intensity in India without jeopardizing 7-8 percent GDP growth. Whether, how and when we announce, has to be decided.

Mr. Ramesh had last month, in a ‘personal communication’ to the Prime Minister, had advised him to consider voluntary emission targets along with strict monitoring and reporting to United Nations. He advised the Prime Minister to officially move away from the G77 stance towards emission targets on order to gain a more powerful and influential strategic standing in the world which could eventually get India a place in the UN Security Council.

Although he had to clear the air after opposition parties condemned his personal views about the issue, it seems that the Prime Minister has listened to his advice and the world could see India announcing an emission target at or before Copenhagen climate talks starting December 7.

But where is the accountability and sincerity in these emission targets. A country which has been opposing emission targets arguing that its per capita emissions are among the lowest in the world, a country which has been arguing that poverty and climate change are connected and that any efforts to reduce emission could adversely affect its efforts to reduce poverty is now claiming that it can reduce it carbon output while sustaining and accelerating its economic growth.

Even the World Bank, in a report, supported India’s stand and said that it was right in opposing emission targets as it would undertake massive rural electrification drive in the next few decades which is expected to be centered around coal based energy.

There are serious questions about the basis of this emission target especially since the Indian government has changed its stance drastically in the last few months. Moreover, the minister made this announcement after meeting the Chinese Prime Minister while he had said no to emission targets in the Parliament only few days earlier.

While the Indian government has a National Action Plan aimed at improving energy efficiency, promoting renewable energy sources and increasing forest conservation it has consistently failed to address important issues relate to these plans like finances and implementation.

In the absence of important details like policy changes and financial inputs it is hard to imagine how the government would be able to achieve the set and proposed targets. That, in turn, raises the questions like whether India (and essentially all other developing countries) is announcing such targets only to dodge international pressure to accept their share of responsibility in the global effort to reduce carbon emissions.

How is that suddenly the Indian government realized that reducing carbon emissions will not have impact on country’s economic growth. How is that the government suddenly agreed to reduce carbon emissions and relinquished its argument of per capita emissions being low. The seriousness and legitimacy about these targets are under question as they are being proposed at this time with only two weeks to go for the Copenhagen climate summit.

The views presented in the above article are author’s personal views and do not represent those of TERI/TERI University where the author is currently pursuing a Master’s degree.

May 23, 2009 / Mridul

China Building Coal Stockpiles of 100 Million Tonnes, Calls For Greater Emission Cuts From Developed Nations

China is building four to six coal reserves each with capacity exceeding 20 million tonnes in order to address the problem of shortage of the fuel. Meanwhile, Chinese officials also called upon the leaders of developed nations to set ambitious carbon emission reduction goals.

China is the world’s largest coal producer and consumer but lately the demand has outpaced supply, a trend likely to continue into the next year. To address this gap in demand-supply China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has planned to build coal reserves in the the eastern province of Shandong which will be ready within three to five years. According to the officials of the NDRC, the stockpiles are meant for use with the province only and China has substantial coal supply on the national level.

Coal remains China’s primary source of energy and it is also exported to many neighboring countries as well. Easy and plentiful availability of coal is one of the major reasons behind China’s strong resistance to any kind of emission reduction targets. Instead, officials from the NDRC itself called upon the developed nations to commit to more ambitious emission targets closer to 25 to 40 percent by the year 2020 from 1990 levels.

Reports about shortage of coal reserves have been doing the rounds lately with some of them predicting a peak in coal supplies by 2025. India, too, has been facing shortage of coal. Read more…

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