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Climate news this week: renewable energy credits, Scotland's tides, California fights greenhouse emissions--10/3


Climate news this week: renewable energy credits, Scotland's tides, California fights greenhouse emissions--10/3

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The controversial financial bailout bill finally passed this week and was signed by President Bush on Friday. The bill contained provisions that spell good news for renewable energy:

Renewable energy businesses are breathing a sigh of relief today as the extension of the production and investment tax credits that benefit their industries were approved by Congress as part of the $700 billion bail-out package for the financial industry.

The House of Representatives passed Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, this afternoon by a vote of 263 to 171, and less than two hours later, President George W. Bush signed it into law. The Senate passed it on Wednesday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said that she is "pleased that the bill includes an extension of tax cuts for clean renewable energy that will create and save half a million good-paying paying jobs in America immediately."

"This was a part of our energy bill last year; it did not survive the Senate. It now has become a part of this legislation. And it is paid for. We fought hard to include these critical tax cuts ... because they are central to job creation," Pelosi said.

The tax credit package will extend the renewable energy production tax credit for one year and the investment tax credit for eight years. The extensions will be partly paid for by a change in the tax code for the oil and gas industry.

Others, on the other hand, perpetuate our government's deeply misguided pro-coal policies:

The renewable-energy tax incentives tucked into the financial bailout package passed by the House on Friday include billions of dollars in breaks for old-fashioned fossil-fuel processes such as liquefying coal and squeezing petroleum out of sand and rock.

These "dirty fuels" are making a tentative comeback among policymakers. Such ventures are aimed at "unconventional" deposits once deemed too expensive or technologically difficult to tap. Backers of the tax breaks believe the substantial incentives might boost these technologies and spur invention of new ones.

"We feel good about the outcome here, in terms of the government supporting our requirements," said Larry Winter, vice president of Oil Shale Producing Exploration Co., which operates an experimental project in Utah's Uintah Basin. "As we start to expand our project, we will be looking to build our own refinery. That requires a very large capital investment that requires long-term paybacks. Without government support, they are potentially a nonstarter."

Critics of the measures note that the breaks run counter to the carbon-reduction message Congress intended when it vowed to bankroll clean, renewable technology. And a substantial portion of the tax breaks go to energy companies already flush with record oil profits.

"This is deeply offensive that they would attach this massive lobby goodie bag to a bill," said Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen, a Washington-based public interest organization.

The states continue to make up for the lack of meaningful federal legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions. This time, it's the Golden State leading the way:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation Tuesday that attempts to ease greenhouse gas emissions by giving priority to transportation projects that limit commutes and curb urban sprawl.

Supporters said the legislation is needed to help implement a 2006 law that requires California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

The bill requires the state Air Resources Board to set regional targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks and directs regional planning agencies to develop land-use strategies to meet those targets.

Cities and counties will not have to implement those plans, but they could lose transportation funding if they don't.

"This bill is designed to have new growth be much more transit-friendly and have housing be closer to employment centers," said William Craven, an aide to bill author Sen. Darrell Steinberg. "So (transportation) projects that help to reduce commutes and sprawl are the ones that float to the top and get funded."

Scotland is about to place itself on the cutting edge of renewable energy generation by harnessing the power of the tides:

SCOTLAND has taken a major step towards leading the way in marine renewable energy with the announcement that the world's first tidal farms could be built within three years.

Two tidal projects, each with up to 20 turbines, could be installed on the seabed in the Pentland Firth and the Sound of Islay. A third is planned off the North Antrim coast in Northern Ireland. The aim is that all the underwater turbines would be constructed in Scotland, kickstarting the renewables industry in this country.

ScottishPower Renewables will apply for planning permission for the three tidal projects next summer. If permission is granted, they would be the first commercial underwater tidal turbine farms built anywhere in the world.

. . . . .

Scotland, which aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, has the best tidal resources in Europe and it has been calculated that at least a third of Scotland's energy demand could be met by tidal renewables.

The tidal farm sites would have a combined output of 60 megawatts, enough to power 40,000 homes in Scotland and Northern Ireland. If planning approval is granted, ScottishPower Renewables says the projects could be operational by 2011.

Finally, in a heartwarming note: A 16-year old high-school student for New Jersey shows us the meaning of acting locally to fight global warming:

Matthew Erickson admits he didn't know much about global warming until he saw Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" last year.

As the film showed how the Arctic ice sheets could melt and polar bears become extinct within his lifetime, the proverbial light bulb in Erickson's head went on.

Make that a compact fluorescent bulb.

In an effort to do his own part in helping the environment, Erickson, along with several friends, is giving away 60,000 compact fluorescent bulbs to senior citizens and needy families, as well as educating people about their energy-saving benefits.

"It's a huge problem to tackle, but somebody has to start, even if it's a small step," said Erickson, 16, who helped form the group HelpLightNJ with his friend John Cad dock. Both are students at Mater Dei High School in Middletown Township.

Inspired by the film, Erickson and Caddock decided to focus on compact fluorescent bulbs, or CFLs, because they are energy-efficient and using them is an easy thing to do for the environment.

Compared with incandescent bulbs, which last 750 hours, CFLs can burn for 10,000 hours, and they consume much less energy, Erickson said. That means less pollution emitted by power plants and savings for the consumer.

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