Climate Capsule: Sowing Seeds for Cleaner, Smarter Technologies

Happy June Capsule readers!

Things are heating up here in DC, and for once I really do mean the heat.  Yesterday’s 94 degrees tied the record 1991 high at Dulles and the rest of the week isn’t looking any different.

Keep it cool, and thanks for reading.


This week’s stories:

  1. Highlight of the Week: Cleaning Up Cars
  2. Quote: Rep Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
  3. Economic Story of the Week: Smart Grid, Smart Benefits
  4. Editorial of the Week: The Long Hot Forecast
  5. Garden for Climate Change
  6. Deficit deal must kill oil industry tax breaks
  7. Happening this Week

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Highlight of the Week

Cleaning Up Cars

The Obama administration took two big steps this week toward making our nation’s vehicles cleaner.

Chevy Volt, via igloowhite/Flickr

On Wednesday, the Obama administration unveiled improved vehicle fuel efficiency labels. The new labels include expanded fuel efficiency information, cost savings, and vehicle pollution data.

Fuel efficiency labels are a critical tool for drivers as they look to make smart economic and environmental choices,” said Zoe Lipman, the National Wildlife Federation’s senior manager for transportation and global warming solutions. “Strong fuel efficiency standards can cut America’s oil dependence, support our economic recovery, and safeguard our natural resources.”

The Obama administration also announced the federal government will purchase 116 plug-in electric vehicles, including 101 Chevrolet Volts, and install charging stations in five cities. It’s part of a plan to have the federal government purchasing only alternative fuel passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks by 2015.

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Rohrabacher (G. Skidmore Flickr)

“Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rain forests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases?”

Rep Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) asked climate change specialist Todd Stern. Forestry experts were dumbfounded, as forests currently absorb roughly a third of all man-made carbon pollution.

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Economic Story of the Week

Smart Grid, Smart Benefits

via World Economic Forum/Flickr

According to a new study by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), smart grid technology investments from U.S. utilities of between $338 and $476 billion over the next 20 years could deliver $1.3 to $2 trillion in benefits over the same period. Grid technology would provide benefits such as power reliability, integration of solar rooftop arrays and plug-in vehicles, reductions in electricity demand and stronger cybersecurity.

One of the major consumer benefits, according to the study, could be a reduction in their energy consumption. Smart grid technologies can improve efficiency and also ease a transition to cleaner energy generation, both of which could also lower overall carbon pollution in years to come.

More on this story: Climatewire

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Editorial of the Week

The Long Hot Forecast

(New York Times)

Chicago's Cool Globes via John LeGear/Flickr

With much of the rest of the nation stuck in climate-change denial or passive fretfulness, Chicago has been planning, moving, doing — adapting streets and buildings to the coming reality of snowier winters, wetter springs and hotter summers. Other cities should pay attention.

City planners examined a century’s worth of weather records and found the long-term trends grim. Using thermal radar, they are pinpointing the hottest areas and finding ways to cool them: removing impermeable blacktop that traps water and heat, building rooftop gardens, planting southern varieties of trees and adding air-conditioning to classrooms. The city hopes that these investments will save money. They will surely save lives. (More…)

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Garden for Climate Change

via NWF

The Royal Horticultural Society conducted a scientific review that has found gardens can play a role in mitigating the effect of climate change. According to the scientists, planting certain vegetation can mitigate the impacts of extreme heat and cold by stabilizing urban temperatures and providing shade and insulation, soak up excess rainwater to prevent flooding, and create habitats for birds, mammals and bugs that increase local biodiversity.

Dr. Tijana Blanusa, lead author of the review, warns that it is important to be aware of the indirect carbon emissions that can result from gardening, such as the use of power tools and the transport of horticultural goods. But she also advises that using plants with multiple uses can increase your benefits, for example, trees take up water, capture pollution, offer shade that can lower energy consumption and provide habitat.

Throughout May, gardeners across the US celebrated National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife Month by cleaning up their gardens, making them wildlife friendly, planting vegetables, and becoming official Certified Wildlife Habitats. For every newly certified habitat in May, NWF is planting a tree. But just because May is over, it’s not too late to get certified. And now you can garden for climate change!

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Deficit Deal Must Kill Oil Industry Tax Breaks

Twenty Senate Democrats are putting pressure on the White House to guarantee that any deficit-reduction deal eliminates billions of dollars in tax breaks for major oil companies. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) led a group in sending a letter on their position to Vice President Biden, who is leading talks on the deficit-cutting deal.

“The American people are demanding to know why they are forced to hand over taxpayer dollars to help oil executives enrich themselves when they’re already paying $4.00 for a gallon of gasoline,” states the letter. “That is why a majority of the Senate has embraced cutting oil subsidies as a way to lower the deficit, and it is also why we believe it must be part of any agreement you reach to raise the debt ceiling and lower the deficit.”

More on this story: The Hill, E&E News

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Happening this Week

Wednesday, June 1

Markup of regulatory review and EPA permitting bills, Energy and Commerce, 4:00 PM, 2123 Rayburn

Tar Sands Virtual Town Hall, featuring award-winning journalist and author Andrew Nikiforuk, 8-8:30PM, (877) 229-8493; passcode 15949, contact for more info.

Thursday, June 2

Markup continues of regulatory reform and EPA permitting bills, Energy and Commerce
9:00 AM, 2123 Rayburn

Hearing on Gulf Coast recovery, Oversight and Government Reform, 9:30 AM, 2154 Rayburn
Markup of energy and water appropriations bill, Appropriations, 10:00 AM, 2362-B Rayburn

Hearing on Alaskan oil and gas resources, infrastructure and access, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, 10:00 AM, 1334 Longworth House Office Building

Friday, June 3

Hearing: H.R. 909, A Roadmap for America’s Energy Future, Energy & Power, 9AM, 2322 Rayburn House Office Building

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