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Earth Day is the perfect time to celebrate the positive steps that some states are taking to preserve the environment. This year, the theme for Earth Day is “A Billion Acts of Green.” The idea highlights the fact that many small acts can make a significant difference to the environment.

Last year, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed the environmental issues facing the each state. In observance of Earth Day, the rankings have been updated to reflect the most recent data.

24/7 Wall St. examined energy consumption, pollution problems and state energy policies. The most recent information, issued in 2009 and 2010, was used for all states. Thousands of data points were collected to determine the most and least “green” states.

Below are the ten greenest states in the 24/7 Wall St. ranking, based on environmental problems and how effectively these problems are addressed.

10. Colorado

Population: 5,024,748 (22nd)
GDP: $252.6 Billion (19th)
Toxic Waste: 41,532 Tons (19th)
Carbon Footprint: 98.1 Million Metric Tons (27th)
Alternative Energy: 10.0% (14th)

Colorado benefits in ranking from above-average pollution scores, scoring sixth best for birth-defect inducing toxins and carcinogenic chemicals released into waterways. Colorado also ranks 12th in particle pollution. The “Centennial State” has very good policy scores, ranking seventh for energy saving targets, according to ACEEE’s assesment. More than 6% of Colorado’s total energy output is from alternative resources, the eighth best rating in the country.

9. Oregon

Population: 3,825,657 (27th)
GDP: $165.6 Billion (26th)
Toxic Waste: 61,876 Tons (23rd)
Carbon Footprint: 43.5 Million Metric Tons (10th)
Alternative Energy: 63.4% (3rd)

Oregon ranks in the middle third for all of our pollution metrics, including 29th in EPA toxic waste violations and 33rd in toxic exposure, according to the RSEI index. On the other hand, Oregon does exceptionally well both in policy and alternative energy. In the Pew Center on Global Climate Change’s list of state energy-saving programs, Oregon has the second-most, behind only California. The state also produces the second-most hydroelectric energy, and the eighth most non-hydroelectric alternative energy, mostly from state wind farms.

8. Idaho

Population: 1,545,801 (39th)
GDP: $54 Billion (42nd)
Toxic Waste: 4,808 Tons (9th)
Carbon Footprint: 16.2 Million Metric Tons (4th)
Alternative Energy: 84.5% (1st)

Idaho generates the greatest relative amount of renewable energy in the country, with 84.5% of all energy coming from alternative sources. “The Gem State” also ranks fifth for producing geothermal energy thanks to its unique terrain, and sixth for conventional hydroelectric power, thanks to the Snake River Plain and the state’s smaller rivers. Furthermore, the state has the fourth lowest rate of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion. This is largely the result of the state’s extensive use of renewable energy.

7. Montana

Population: 974,989 (44th)
GDP: $35 Billion (48th)
Toxic Waste: 37,758 Tons (17th)
Carbon Footprint: 37.7 Million Metric Tons (9th)
Alternative Energy: 36.5% (6th)

Montana is unofficially nicknamed “Big Sky Country.” It is understandable that residents would be proud of their air, as it is tied for the lowest rate of ozone particulates in the nation, according to the American Lung Association. The state also ranks well in many other categories. It ranks seventh for total energy used, however this is largely the result of the state’s relatively low population density, the third lowest in the country.

6. South Dakota

Population: 812,383 (46th)
GDP: $38.3 Billion (46th)
Toxic Waste: 1,214 Tons (2nd)
Carbon Footprint: 13.7 Million Metric Tons (3rd)
Alternative Energy: 44.3% (5th)

South Dakota has the fifth-lowest population in the country and, along with that, its pollution is relatively low. The home of Mount Rushmore has only had 14 EPA violations since 2000, far and away the fewest in the nation. It also generated roughly 1,200 tons of hazardous waste last year, which is the second-lowest amount in the country, behind only Hawaii. South Dakota only produced 13.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the third-lowest in the country. South Dakota is above average – but not stellar – in terms of public policy, but it does rank fourth in the state utility alternative energy savings with a target of 10% by 2015.

5. Hawaii

Population: 1,295,178 (42nd)
GDP: $66.4 Billion (38th)
Toxic Waste: 987 Tons (1st)
Carbon Footprint: 24.1 Million Metric Tons (8th)
Alternative Energy: 7.6% (19th)

Since nearly 25% of Hawaii’s gross state product comes from tourism, the state is quite concerned about the environment. Hawaii produces the least amount of toxic waste and received the highest score for two air quality measurements: the EPA’s Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators toxic exposure rank and the American Lung Association’s ozone pollution index. The state also ranks sixth in energy saving programs and policies.

4. Nevada

Population: 2,643,085 (35th)
GDP: $126.5 Billion (31st)
Toxic Waste: 11,143 Tons (10th)
Carbon Footprint: 41.6 Million Metric Tons (12th)
Alternative Energy: 9.4% (16th)

Nevada has the lowest level of water pollution in the country because the generally arid state has very little fresh water to dump toxins into. The “Silver State” scores well in alternative energy production, with the second-highest production of solar photovoltaic and geothermal energy. Despite its low pollution levels and alternative energy scores, the state is only above average in policy initiatives.

3. New Hampshire

Population: 1,324,575 (40th)
GDP: $59.4 Billion (41st)
Toxic Waste: 4,538 Tons (8th)
Carbon Footprint: 19 Million Metric Tons (6th)
Alternative Energy: 12.3% (11th)

New Hampshire has extremely low pollution. The state has the fourth lowest level of harmful particle pollution in the country, according to the American Lung Association, and ranks fifth best with regards to toxic exposure, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators model. New Hampshire has the fourth lowest level of developmental toxins released into its waterways, the fifth lowest level of releases of reproductive toxins and the fifth lowest level of cancer-causing chemicals released.

2. Maine

Population: 1,318,301 (41st)
GDP: $51.2 Billion (43rd)
Toxic Waste: 3,687 Tons (6th)
Carbon Footprint: 19.9 Million Metric Tons (7th)
Alternative Energy: 49.8% (4th)

Almost half of the electricity generated by Maine comes from renewable sources. The state has the largest percentage of its total energy produced coming from non-hydroelectric renewable sources, a total of 23.7%. Since the state has the highest percentage of timberland in the country, it is not surprising that a large portion of its energy comes from wood and wood waste.

1. Vermont

Population: 621,760 (49th)
GDP: $25.4 Billion (50th)
Toxic Waste: 1,536 Tons (3rd)
Carbon Footprint: 6.4 Million Metric Tons (1st)
Alternative Energy: 28.1% (7th)

Vermont has the second smallest population and the lowest GDP in the country. As a result, it produces less pollution than most states. The state releases the fewest carcinogenic toxins and has the smallest carbon footprint in the country. Vermont’s success as a green state isn’t limited to pollution, however: the “Green Mountain State” ranks in the top 15 in 20 out of 28 ranked categories. Vermont has a number of policies to promote efficiency, alternative energy, and reduce pollution, and so far it has succeeded better than any other state.

Original Article  >>

While Earth Day was an important time to highlight issues surrounding our environment, pollution impacts our world on every single day of the year.

Last year, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed the environmental issues facing each state. In observance of Earth Day, the rankings were updated to reflect the most recent data.

24/7 Wall St. examined energy consumption, pollution problems and state energy policies. The most recent information, issued in 2009 and 2010, was used for all states. Thousands of data points were collected to determine the most and least “green” states.

Below are the ten least green states in the 24/7 Wall St. ranking, based on environmental problems and how effectively these problems are addressed.

10. Illinois

Population: 12,910,409 (5th)
GDP: $630.3 Billion (5th)
Toxic Waste: 1.04 Million Tons (43rd)
Carbon Footprint: 242 Million Metric Tons (45th)
Alternative Energy: 1.6% (47th)

Illinois uses the third greatest amount of energy out of all the states. Unfortunately, only 1.6% of this energy comes from renewable sources. This is the fourth worst percentage in the country. The state, with its heavy manufacturing industry, also received the fourth worst toxic exposure score by the EPA. The state does have the seventh highest score for solar energy policy, however.

9. Missouri

Population: 5,987,580 (18th)
GDP: $239.7 Billion (22nd)
Toxic Waste: 238 Thousand Tons (33rd)
Carbon Footprint: 140 Million Metric Tons (36th)
Alternative Energy: 2.5% (38th)

The nature of 24/7’s ranking is such that a state might redeem itself for a shortcoming in one category by exceeding in another. If the state doesn’t produce substantial alternative energy, it may be because its size doesn’t allow for much production, and this would be balanced to a certain extent by low pollution levels. Missouri is a perfect example of a state which falls flat in every statistical category. Out of 28 ranked metrics, the “Show Me State” breaks the upper 25 only five times, with 16th in air particle score being its highest ranking. The state ranks 37th in policy initiatives and 48th in non-hydroelectric alternative energy.

8. Kentucky

Population: 4,314,113 (26th)
GDP: $156.5 Billion (28th)
Toxic Waste: 132 Thousand Tons (29th)
Carbon Footprint: 156 Million Metric Tons (39th)
Alternative Energy: 2.4% (Tied for 39th)

Kentucky performs poorly in most categories on this list. It ranks 43rd for releasing cancer-causing chemicals, 44th for releasing developmental toxins, and 41st for releasing reproductive toxins. The state also ranks 39th for CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.

7. Texas

Population: 24,782,302 (2nd)
GDP: $1.14 Trillion (2nd)
Toxic Waste: 13.4 Million Tons (50th)
Carbon Footprint: 184 Million Metric Tons (50th)
Alternative Energy: 4.6% (28th)

While Texas does well in some areas, such as producing the greatest amount of wind energy in the country, it performs poorly in several pollution categories. Much of this is due to the high rates of industry in the state. Texas ranks absolute last for CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, having produced over 670 million metric tons of CO2 in a single year. The second highest amount is produced by California, however that state produced just under 400 million metric tons, a significantly smaller amount. Among Texas’ other poor rankings are 50th for the EPA’s toxic exposure score, 47th for total toxic chemicals released into waterways, 46th for cancer-causing chemicals released, 45th for developmental toxins released, and 49th for reproductive toxins released. The state also produces the greatest amount of hazardous waste, generating 13,461,911 tons in one year. This is over three times the amount produced by the second worst-offending state, Georgia, which generates 4,024,468 tons.

6. Pennsylvania

Population: 12,604,767 (6th)
GDP: $554.3 Billion (6th)
Toxic Waste: 290 Thousand Tons (36th)
Carbon Footprint: 274 Million Metric Tons (48th)
Alternative Energy: 2.4% (Tied for 39th)

Unlike many of its northeastern neighbors, Pennsylvania ranks very poorly on our list. This, of course, is due in large part to the state’s expansive and polluting industry. The “Keystone State” ranks 48th in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, 49th for particulates in the air, and 49th for toxic exposure. The state’s pollution habits are, unfortunately, not very surprising, since it is well-known for its coal, steel, and natural gas industries.

5. New Jersey

Population: 8,707,739 (11th)
GDP: $482.9 Billion (7th)
Toxic Waste: 555 Thousand Tons (39th)
Carbon Footprint: 134 Million Metric Tons (34th)
Alternative Energy: 1.5% (48th)

The only reason most would be surprised about seeing New Jersey here in our ranking is that it isn’t dead last. The Garden State is not known for being green, a reputation that is based in truth. The state ranks 45th in air particle pollution and 46th in ozone pollution. New Jersey actually scores quite well in energy conservation and alternative energy policy, however these policies haven’t translated into results. As a percent of energy generated that is alternative, the state ranks third-to-last.

4. Louisiana

Population: 4,492,076 (25th)
GDP: $208.3 Billion (24th)
Toxic Waste: 3.8 Million Tons (48th)
Carbon Footprint: 194 Million Metric Tons (43rd)
Alternative Energy: 4.1% (30th)

Louisiana is another poor performer. It is 46th in energy-saving policies and programs and has the sixth-smallest alternative energy budget. The state rates horribly in water pollution, falling into the bottom five for releasing carcinogenic toxins, total water pollution, and chemicals which can cause birth defects. Louisiana also produces the third-most toxic waste each year – roughly 3.8 million tons.

3. West Virginia

Population: 1,819,777 (37th)
GDP: $63.3 Billion (39th)
Toxic Waste: 92 Thousand Tons (26th)
Carbon Footprint: 116 Million Metric Tons (32nd)
Alternative Energy: 1.8% (46th)

West Virginia stands out at the bottom of our list as having a surprisingly low level of energy consumption. Thirty-eight states use more energy each year than the “Mountain State,” including Iowa, which is in the top ten on our list. This fact makes West Virginia’s horrible performance much more impressive. Only twice does the state break the top 25 in any category, and it ranks in the bottom ten percent in many categories, including alternative energy, policy, air pollution, water pollution, and carbon footprint. The best thing state residents can lay claim to is generating three-quarters of a million megawatt hours of wind energy annually, the 19th best amount for this category.

2. Indiana

Population: 6,423,113 (16th)
GDP: $262.6 Billion (16th)
Toxic Waste: 778 Thousand Tons (41st)
Carbon Footprint: 230 Million Metric Tons (44th)
Alternative Energy: 0.7% (Tied For Last)

Indiana’s main source of power production is coal. In fact, Indiana is home to the country’s largest coal power plant, the Gibson Generating Station. As a result, the state is tied with Ohio for having the lowest percent usage of renewable energy sources in the United States, with a mere 0.7%. Additionally, the state has some issues with pollution. It releases the greatest amount of toxic chemicals into waterways, releasing over 27 million pounds in one year. The second greatest amount, from Virgina, was significantly less at just over 18 million pounds.

1. Ohio

Population: 11,542,645 (7th)
GDP: $471.2 Billion (8th)
Toxic Waste: 1.3 Million Tons (45th)
Carbon Footprint: 267 Million Metric Tons (47th)
Alternative Energy: 0.7% (Tied for Last)

Ohio ranks fifth in energy consumption, and very little of this demand is met by alternative energy. Only 0.7% of the state’s energy comes from renewable sources, the worst rate in the country. The majority of the state’s energy comes from coal. Along with this tendency comes a long and poor record of pollution. The state ranks 47th for CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, 46th for toxic exposure, 47th for developmental toxins released, and 47th for reproductive toxins released. Additionally, the state ranks second worst, just behind Florida, for hazardous waste violations since 2000, as reported by the nonprofit group OMB Watch. Ohio may not rank dead last in an extreme number of subcategories, however its overall extremely poor showing causes it to be ranked as the least environmentally friendly state on our list.

Original Article  >>

Despite the fact that electric vehicles and plug-in electric vehicles make up a miniscule fraction of cars on the road today, government entities are already planning for the financial implications of a time when they reach critical mass.  At some point in the future, states will realize dwindling tax revenues from gasoline sales. And probably, the thinking is – better to get something in place now, while it affects only a few EV motorists, rather than meet the resistance of a possible majority in years to come.

The state of Oregon introduced a bill which passed the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee on April 4th, which proposes to charge drivers of electric vehicles and plug-in electric vehicles $0.0143 per mile, starting in 2014. It’s reasonable that drivers of EV’s are taxed to some extent – after all, they are road users too, and that infrastructure has to be paid for. But is the proposed new tax for EV drivers a good deal compared with taxes other motorists are paying?

Currently, Oregon’s motorists pay $0.30 per gallon to the state as well as an additional amount to individual cities of about, on average, $0.03 per gallon. To make the analysis fair, the $0.184 per gallon which goes to the federal government can be discounted, as the state of Oregon does not collect this.

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Scalise pushed an ammendment blocking federal funds for offshore energy plans in federal waters.

Some of the biggest energy and environmental policy votes in years are set for Friday – or Saturday – on the House floor.

Votes expected include amendments to the continuing resolution on: EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions; offshore oil and gas drilling permits; mountaintop mining removal; and expanding the use of ethanol in gasoline.

The headliner in the time agreement reached late Thursday night is an amendment from Texas Republicans Ted Poe, Joe Barton and John Carter to bolster the existing language in the bill that would handcuff EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases — Amendment 466: (page 66 of 220):

The Texas trio’s amendment appears to block funding for any EPA regulation of GHGs from stationary sources for the duration of the seven-month spending bill, while the existing language in the legislation bars such rules only if they are being regulated for their climate effects, according to a Clean Air Act attorney.

None of the Democratic measures that would strike the language in the spending bill that blocks federal funding for EPA’s climate greenhouse gas regulations were included.

There’s three big amendments on offshore drilling:

• Louisiana Republican Steve Scalise has one blocking federal funds “to further delay the approval” of offshore energy plans in federal waters, the latest volley in an escalating fight between federal regulators and oil-state lawmakers in both parties following last year’s BP spill.

• Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) will offer an amendment that blocks funding for any new leases being granted to companies that own ones that are not subject to royalty relief limits. Markey has long fought to address Interior’s Gulf leases from the late 1990s that mistakenly omitted market-based price limits for the granting of royalty relief, which is meant to suspend such payments when oil prices are high.

• Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) has one blocking federal funds for the rejecting of permits in federal Arctic coastal waters.

On ethanol, Republicans John Sullivan and Jeff Flake will get their chance to cut federal goodies for the ethanol industry. Sullivan’s amendment strips funding for implementation of EPA’s recent decisions to allow the use of E15 in passenger cars and trucks for model year 2001 and up.

Flake’s amendment would block funding for installing blender pumps at gas stations that would be used to carry ethanol-blended fuels.

Other major amendments that will come up Friday:

• Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) blocking funds to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

• Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) blocking funds for implementation of new EPA water-quality guidelines for mountaintop mining that toughened the issuance of permits in six Appalachian states.

• Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) blocking legal funds used to enforce the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act as well as funding for an Interior Department climate change adaptation initiative.

Click here for the time agreement on the CR.

Original Article  >>

Additional Reading  >>

In his State of the Union address, President Obama laid out his vision for investing in innovative clean-energy technologies and doubling the share of electricity from clean-energy sources by 2035. Additionally, President Obama is proposing new efforts to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings across the country. Last year, commercial buildings consumed approximately 20 percent of all energy in the U.S. economy. President Obama’s Better Buildings Initiative will make commercial buildings 20 percent more energy-efficient over the next decade by catalyzing private-sector investment through a series of incentives to upgrade offices, stores, schools and other municipal buildings, universities, hospitals, and commercial buildings.

This initiative builds on investments through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) as well as the President’s proposed “HOMESTAR” legislation to encourage U.S. families to make energy saving upgrades in their homes.

Highlights include:

  • Achieve a 20-percent energy-efficiency improvement in U.S. commercial buildings by 2020 through cost-effective upgrades.
  • Reduce companies’ and business owners’ energy bills by about $40 billion per year by making buildings more energy efficient.
  • Save energy by reforming outdated incentives and challenging the private sector to act. President Obama is calling for an aggressive reform of existing tax and other incentives for commercial-building retrofits and proposing a new competitive grant program. In turn, he is asking corporate leaders to commit to making progress toward his energy goals.

A Plan for Better Buildings

President Obama’s budget will propose to make U.S. businesses more energy efficient through a series of new initiatives, such as:

  • New tax incentives for building efficiency. President Obama is asking Congress to redesign the current tax deduction for commercial-building upgrades, transforming the current deduction to a credit that is more generous and will encourage building owners and real-estate investment trusts (REITs) to retrofit their properties.
  • More financing opportunities for commercial retrofits. Access to financing is a barrier to increased retrofit investment in some market segments. To address these gaps, the U.S. Small Business Administration is encouraging existing lenders to take advantage of recently increased loan size limits to promote new energy-efficiency retrofit loans for small businesses. The budget also will propose a new pilot program through the U.S. Department of Energy to guarantee loans for energy-efficiency upgrades at hospitals, schools, and commercial buildings.
  • A “Race to Green” for state and municipal governments that streamline regulations and attract private investment for retrofit projects. Much of the authority to alter codes, regulations, and performance standards relating to commercial energy efficiency lies in the jurisdiction of states and localities. The budget will propose new competitive grants to states and/or local governments that streamline standards, encouraging upgrades and attracting private-sector investment.
  • The Better Buildings Challenge. President Obama is challenging chief executive officers and university presidents to make their organizations leaders in saving energy. Partners will commit to a series of actions to make their facilities more efficient. They then will become eligible for benefits, such as public recognition, technical assistance, and best-practices sharing through a network of peers.
  • Training the next generation of commercial-building technology workers. Using existing authorities, the Obama Administration is implementing a number of reforms, including improving transparency around energy-efficiency performance, launching a Building Construction Technology Extension Partnership modeled on the Manufacturing Extension Partnership at Commerce, and providing more workforce training in areas such as energy auditing and building operations.

Original Article  >>

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama announced a new clean energy program in Pennsylvania on Thursday, seeking to show he remains focused on jobs in a state that may be essential to his 2012 re-election prospects.

Obama outlined a plan in his State of the Union address last month to encourage clean energy technologies and to double by 2035 the U.S. share of electricity from clean energy sources such as wind, solar, nuclear and “clean” coal.

As part of that program, Obama announced a plan to improve energy efficiency in U.S. commercial buildings by offering businesses incentives to help pay for upgrades of offices, stores and other buildings, which he said consume 40 percent of the energy Americans use, and could save $40 billion a year.

“Making our buildings more energy efficient is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to save money, combat pollution and create jobs right here in the United States of America,” Obama told a jammed sports hall at the Pennsylvania State University.

“To get the private sector to lead by example, I’m also issuing a challenge to CEOs, to labor, to building owners, to hospitals, universities and others, to join us,” he said.

Former President Bill Clinton and General Electric Co Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt will lead this outreach to the private sector, a White House official said. Obama tapped Immelt last month as his top outside economic adviser to chair a presidential panel on jobs and competitiveness.

Obama’s push for the United States to build a green economy is part of a global race to dominate what is seen as a potentially huge industry in solar, wind and other alternative energies that offer wealth and energy independence.

“OUT-INNOVATE AND OUT-EDUCATE”

With U.S. unemployment at 9.4 percent despite signs of economic recovery, Obama’s push for green energy jobs is an important part of his high-stakes effort to tackle joblessness — the problem most on the minds of voters, even as issues like the turmoil in Egypt dominate the headlines.

“If we want those jobs and businesses to thrive in the United States of America, we are going to have to out-innovate and out-educate and out-build the rest of the world,” he said.

Obama’s Better Buildings Initiative is meant to achieve a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2020, reduce companies’ and business owners’ energy bills by about $40 billion per year and save energy, the White House said.

“This initiative has the potential to really unlock a large amount of investment, some of which is sitting on the sidelines right now … and create jobs at a time when that has to be our central focus,” a senior Obama administration official said on Wednesday.

Administration officials would not detail the plan’s cost but said it would be paid for by ending tax subsidies for oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels. The proposal needs congressional approval and that might be a tough sell on Capitol Hill.

Obama took Pennsylvania with a margin of more than 10 percentage points over Republican challenger John McCain when he won the presidency in 2008. In 2010, the state’s voters backed Republicans for governor, a U.S. Senate seat and a majority of its seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Original Article  >>

Offshore drilling typically refers to the discovery and development of oil and gas resources which lie underwater. Most commonly, the term is used to describe oil extraction off the coasts of continents, though the term can also apply to drilling in lakes and inland seas. Offshore drilling presents environmental challenges, especially in the Arctic or close to the shore. Controversies include the ongoing US offshore drilling debate. The off shore moratorium in the US (as a result of the BP spill) ended in October 2010. The Obama administration has decided to allow 13 companies to resume deepwater drilling without additional environmental scrutiny. The decision comes after the administration said it would require strict reviews for new drilling in the Gulf. Others, such as the arctic Shell project, are still blocked by related concerns. The Department of the Interior apparently gave those companies the go-ahead because they were in the middle of previously approved projects when the Gulf spill occurred.

Around 1891, the first submerged oil wells were drilled from platforms built on piles in the fresh waters of the Grand Lake St. Marys in Ohio. Around 1896, the first submerged oil wells in salt water were drilled in the portion of the Summerland field extending under the Santa Barbara Channel in California. The wells were drilled from piers extending from land out into the channel.

There are risks in off shore drilling. No one can deny that. However, the drilling supplies numerous local jobs and adds to the available natural gas and oil supplies. Until there is no future need due to renewable sources being developed the world will need these products.

Assessing only the impact of halting deep water drilling, an internal July 2010 memo from Michael Bromwich, director of the bureau of Ocean Energy, to Salazar estimated that the six month moratorium impact would result in over 23,000 jobs lost.

The 13 companies allowed to resume drilling are: ATP Oil & Gas; BHP Billiton Petroleum; Chevron USA; Cobalt International Energy; ENI U.S. Operating Co. Inc.; Hess Corp.; Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas Corp.; Marathon Oil Co.; Murphy Exploration & Production-USA; Noble Energy Inc.; Shell Offshore; Statoil USA; and Walter Oil & Gas Corp.

Not all drilling has been resumed. Sometimes there is vehement local opposition even if the drilling permit has been approved. Alaska Native and conservation groups have succeeded in challenging clean air permits granted to Shell Oil to drill exploration wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

Numerous groups alleged that Shell’s permits granted by the Environmental Protection Agency would allow the company to emit tons of pollutants into the Arctic environment from a drill ship and support vessels.

The federal Environmental Appeals Board reviewed the permits and last week found that the EPA’s analysis of the impact of nitrogen dioxide emissions from the ships on Alaska Native communities was too limited and would have to be redone.

Original Article  >>

Additional Information  >>

London, UK – Each year the International Energy Agency (IEA) releases its World Energy Outlook (WEO), a 700+ page report on the global state of the energy industry. This year’s report indicates that stronger policy support will be necessary to meet global CO2 reduction targets.

In conducting research for the report, the IEA sets out three scenarios under which to explore the possible future of energy in the world.  The first scenario in WEO 2010 looks at what will happen should there be no new policies and essentially the world conducted its energy business as usual.  This is called the Current Policies Scenario and assumes no change in current energy policy as of mid-2010.

The report also examines what would happen should all G20 countries enact policies to support commitments and plans that they have announced publicly, including the national pledges to reduce greenhouse- gas emissions and plans to phase out fossil-energy subsidies even where the measures to implement these commitments have yet to be identified or announced.  This is the New Policies Scenario and is the central scenario of this year’s Outlook. “We have taken governments at their word, in assuming that they will actually implement the policies and measures, albeit in a cautious manner, to ensure that the goals they have set are met” said IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka.

Finally, the report authors also set out a scenario they call the 450 Scenario, which sets out an energy pathway consistent with the 2°C goal through limitation of the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to around 450 parts per million of CO2 equivalent (ppm CO2-eq).

New Policies Scenario

If governments around the world actually do what they say they will do, world primary energy demand increases by 36% between 2008 and 2035, or 1.2% per year on average.  This means that the policies they will implement actually make a tangible difference to energy trends: demand grew by 2% per year over the previous 27-year period.

In the New Policies Scenario, non-OECD countries account for 93% of the projected increase in world primary energy demand. China – which IEA preliminary data suggests overtook the United States in 2009 to become the world’s largest energy user despite its low per capita energy use – contributes 36% to the projected growth in global energy use. “It is hard to overstate the growing importance of China in global energy. How the country responds to the threats to global energy security and climate posed by rising fossil-fuel use will have far-reaching consequences for the rest of the world,” said Tanaka.

In the New Policies Scenario, government intervention in support of renewables increases from $57 billion in 2009 to $205 billion (in 2009 dollars) by 2035. The share of modern renewable energy sources, including sustainable hydro, wind, solar, geothermal, modern biomass and marine energy, in global primary energy use triples between 2008 and 2035 and their combined share in total energy demand increases from 7% to 14%.

The energy trends set out in the New Policies Scenario imply that national commitments to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, while expected to have some impact, are collectively inadequate to meet the Copenhagen Accord’s overall goal of holding the global temperature increase to below 2°C. Rising demand for fossil fuels, mostly from non-OECD nations would continue to drive up energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions through to 2035, making it all but impossible to achieve the 2°C goal, as the required reductions in emissions after 2020 would be too steep, according to the IEA.

The New Policy Scenario trends are in line with stabilizing the concentration of greenhouse gases at over 650 parts per million (ppm) of CO2-equivalent (eq), resulting in a likely temperature rise of more than 3.5°C in the long term.

450 Scenario

In order to have a reasonable chance of achieving the Copenhagen goal, the concentration of greenhouse gases would probably need to be stabilized at a level no higher than 450 ppm CO2-eq. The 450 Scenario describes how the energy sector could evolve were this objective to be achieved.

To get to a level of 450 ppm CO2 there will need to be a more rapid implementation of the removal of fossil-fuel subsidies agreed by the G-20 than assumed in the New Policies Scenario. This action would bring about a much faster transformation of the global energy system and a correspondingly faster slowdown in global CO2 emissions, according to the IEA.

For example, in this aggressive scenario oil demand would peak just before 2020 at 88 million barrels per day (mb/d), only 4 mb/d above current levels, and declines to 81 mb/d in 2035. Coal demand would peak before 2020. Demand for gas would also reache a peak before the end of the 2020s. Renewables and nuclear would double their current combined share to 38% in 2035.

However the IEA recognizes that this ambitious goal will most likely never be met. “A lack of ambition in the Copenhagen Accord pledges has increased our estimated cost of reaching the 2°C goal by $1 trillion and undoubtedly made it less likely that the goal will actually be achieved,” said the report authors.

“The message here is clear. We must act now to ensure that climate commitments are interpreted in the strongest way possible and that much stronger commitments are adopted and taken up after 2020, if not before. Otherwise, the 2°C goal could be out of reach for good,” said Tanaka.

In analysis that builds on the IEA’s ongoing work for the G-20, WEO-2010 reveals that fossil-fuel subsidies amounted to $312 billion in 2009 and that money would be better spent on climate change mitigation strategies said IEA. “Getting the prices right, by eliminating fossil-fuel subsidies, is the single most effective measure to cut energy demand in countries where they persist, while bringing other immediate economic benefits,” said Tanaka.

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At one time riding the rails was a delightful way to travel; quick and easy as well as a reasonable and profitable way to move goods. Something happened over the last 50 years. Some people objected to railroads as unsightly. They also became crowded and in many cases run down. A new report prepared by the Worldwatch Institute and the Apollo Alliance, Global Competitiveness in the Rail and Transit Industry, draws on lessons from dominant international rail manufacturing countries to conclude that greater investment in the U.S. rail industry could revive America’s former leadership in the world rail industry—and potentially create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Rail transport is the means of conveyance of passengers and goods by way of wheeled vehicles running on rail tracks. In contrast to road transport, where vehicles merely run on a prepared surface, rail vehicles are also directionally guided by the tracks they run on. Track usually consists of steel rails installed on ties and ballast, on which the rolling stock, usually fitted with metal wheels.

One of the earliest evidence of a railway was a 3.7 miles Diolkos wagonway, which transported boats across the Corinth isthmus in Greece during the 9th century BC. Trucks pushed by slaves ran in grooves in limestone, which provided the track element. The Diolkos ran for over 600 years.

Today, most rail transport in the United States is based in freight train shipments. The U.S. rail industry has experienced repeated convulsions due to changing U.S. economic needs and the rise of automobile, bus, and air transport. Despite the difficulties, U.S. railroads carried 427 billion ton-miles of cargo annually in 1930. This increased to 750 billion ton-miles by 1975 and doubled to 1.5 trillion ton-miles in 2005. In the 1950s, the U.S. and Europe moved roughly the same percentage of freight by rail; but, by 2000, the share of U.S. rail freight was 38% while in Europe only 8% of freight traveled by rail.

As early as the 1930s, automobile travel had begun to cut into the rail passenger market, somewhat reducing economies of scale, but it was the development of the Interstate Highway System and of commercial aviation in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as increasingly restrictive regulation, that dealt the most damaging blows to rail transportation, both passenger and freight. Soon, the only things keeping most passenger trains running were legal obligations. Meanwhile, companies who were interested in using railroads for profitable freight traffic were looking for ways to get out of those legal obligations, and it looked like intercity passenger rail service would soon become extinct in the United States beyond a few highly-populated corridors.

Case studies of four of the leading countries in intercity rail and urban transit—Germany, Spain, Japan, and China—illuminate a set of common principles that those countries have used to nurture and grow some of the largest, most successful railroad manufacturing companies in the world. Among them are:

Sustained, long-term national investment in rail and transit far and above the one-time injection of $8.3 billion provided by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In terms of investment in rail infrastructure, the United States currently lags far behind countries like Austria, the Netherlands, and Russia, and just ahead of Turkey.

Commitment to protecting and nurturing young industries until they have achieved the economies of scale necessary to compete globally. All of the countries in the report were served for decades by strong and competent national rail monopolies, which helped ensure robust demand for rail products and technologies.

A national vision that ensures that rail development will be linked with other forms of urban transit; use an integrated, uniform system of operations; provide extensive geographic coverage; and be well run. The report shows that systems that do this help produce a strong domestic market for rail transit, thus ensuring continued growth.

“Growing a strong rail transit industry demands large and sustained capital investment combined with national vision. Rail ridership in the U.S. is going up, but that demand alone won’t generate the private investment necessary to compete globally,” author Renner said. “The federal government needs to be committed to building a strong, national system with competitive prices, solid geographic reach, and reliable trains. If it does that, not only will people ride it, but the United States will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs as well as internationally competitive companies.”

The report contains a wealth of facts and statistics that show the U.S. position relative to other countries, as well as the potential for growth. Some are shown below.

– The global market for passenger and freight rail equipment, infrastructure, and related services was $169 billion in 2007 and is projected to grow to $214 billion by 2016.

– China invests far and above the most money in its rail network relative to its economy, spending $12.5 dollars for every $1,000 of GDP. In contrast, the United States spends $0.8 dollars per $1,000 of GDP.

– By 2015, the number of high-speed train sets in operation worldwide is expected to rise by 70 percent.

– European high-speed rail travel grew from 9.3 billion passenger miles in 1990 to 61 billion passenger miles in 2008.

– Measured in passenger miles, Spanish rail travel increased 55 percent between 1990 and 2008, far outstripping population growth.

– Spain will double the length of its high-speed rail network over the next three years, to 2,136 miles by 2012. Government plans call for an expansion to 6,200 miles of high-speed track by 2020.

– Germany’s rail transit and related construction and operations industries employ some 580,000 people.

– Total passenger miles for rail transit in Japan increased 29 percent between 1980 and 2007, while population expanded by just 9.1 percent.

In order to change US policies towards railroads must change. The benefits are improved efficiency, lower costs for delivered good, and, in some vase, reduced pollution

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