Lead Stories

Merkel’s Green Push Sinks German Coal Profits: Energy
Marek Strzelecki and Julia Mengewein – Bloomberg
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s campaign to limit climate change with an energy system based on renewable sources is cutting into profits of companies that still provide 57 percent of the power that keeps Europe’s biggest economy humming.
The continent’s fivefold increase in solar and wind power in the past decade flooded electricity grids, displacing fossil fuels so fast that coal- and gas-dependent utility RWE AG lost money in 2013 for the first time since 1949.

China-U.S. Fault Lines Open Up at UN Climate Treaty Talks
Alex Morales and Mathew Carr – Bloomberg
Fault lines are opening up between developing countries led by China and India and richer nations including the U.S. in talks in Bonn over a new climate treaty.
China and India are in the 26-nation Like-Minded Developing Countries bloc that argues they shouldn’t have to bear the same legal responsibility for tackling climate change as developed economies. The U.S. and European Union say a new deal springing from United Nations talks must end the divide, in place since 1992, as already agreed in Durban, South Africa, in 2011.

EU ruled out 2030 offsets due to carbon market drought
The EU had little choice in proposing not to outsource more of its emission cuts abroad to meet a proposed 40% reduction in greenhouse gas output by 2030 because the slow pace of global talks to develop new carbon markets gave it nothing to buy, a senior EU official said.

Emails Link Duke Energy and North Carolina
Michael Wines – The New York Times
Environmental regulators in North Carolina consulted Duke Energy last year before seeking to exclude citizen activists from talks to settle charges that the utility’s coal ash ponds had polluted the state’s groundwater, newly released email exchanges among the regulators indicated on Thursday.

30 Senators stay up for climate change – a turning point for US policy?
The Guardian
On the night of March 10th to the morning of March 11th, 30 US Senators stayed up all night speaking about climate change for 15 hours. The Up4Climate event was the first hosted by the Senate Climate Action Task Force. A video of the full session can be viewed courtesy of C-SPAN2, and is also searchable by speaker and keyword.

Teslas in California Help Bring Dirty Rain to China
Elisabeth Behrmann – Bloomberg
The link is graphite, a vital component in batteries used in Tesla’s Model S, Toyota’s plug-in Prius and other electric cars, as well as in electronic gadgets including iPhones. It’s mostly mined and processed in China where graphite pollution has fouled air and water, damaged crops and raised health concerns. Now, in response, Chinese authorities are closing dozens of graphite mines and processors in a bid for cleaner air even as global demand for the commodity is surging.

FirstCarbon Solutions and CDP Announce Expanded Global Partnership to Include S&P 500 and FTSE 350
Press Release
FirstCarbon Solutions (FCS), a pioneer in environmental and sustainability business solutions, and CDP today announced an expanded global scoring partnership, designating FCS as CDP’s global sustainability business process outsourcing (BPO) partner under a three-year agreement.


“Estimating the Costs and Benefits of Regulations: Lessons Learned”
Richard D. Morgenstern, Ph.D. Resources for the Future (RFF)
March 14, 2014
12:00 Noon, PDT (WEBCAST) Byron Sher Auditorium, 2nd Floor, Cal/EPA Building 1001 I Street, Sacramento, California

Navigating the American Carbon World (NACW) 2014
March 26-28, 2014
San Francisco, California

GLOBE 2014
13th Biennial Conference and Trade Fair on Business and Sustainability
March 26-28, 2014
Vancouver, British Columbia

Solar Summit
Greentech Media’s flagship annual solar conference that focuses on global market trends, relevant technologies and project finance. With sessions on everything from Latin American market dynamics to BOS innovations, Solar Summit attracts high-level decision makers from all areas of the industry.
April 14-16, 2014
Phoenix, Arizona

Minnesota’s Marquee Solar Event
The Midwest Solar Expo is bringing together solar leaders from across the Midwest to advance dialogue on key issues, provide insight on the latest industry trends and best practices, and serve as a nexus between the solar industry and the public.
May 16, 2014
Minneapolis, Minnesota


Trade Concern Limits Rich-Nation Effort to Cut Carbon
Mathew Carr and Alex Morales – Bloomberg
The U.S. will struggle to endorse a climate treaty that hurts trade while Brazil and India want richer countries to take the lead in limiting environmental change as global warming talks in Bonn enter their final day.

‘Cost of Carbon’ Doesn’t Include Some Climate Risks
Andrew Childers – Bloomberg
The federal government’s revised social cost of carbon figure is too low to adequately capture several social and economic harms posed by climate change, environmental groups said in a report released March 13.

EPA: Artless Dodging on ‘Carbon Pollution’ Rule
Marlo Lewis – Global Warming.org
Yesterday, the House Science Energy and Environment Subcommittees held a joint hearing on the “Science of Capture and Storage: Understanding EPA’s Carbon Rules.” EPA Air Office Acting Administrator Janet McCabe was the sole witness on the second panel. Her testimony begins about one hour and 54 minutes (1:54) into the archived Webcast. McCabe comes across as non-ideological, but in the lengthy Q&A, her responses were terse, usually uninformative, and often evasive.

Economists back carbon pricing as effective tool against climate change
Lisa Cox – The Sydney Morning Herald
Three of Australia’s senior economists have backed carbon pricing as the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions.
One, former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser, also said the Abbott government was working in the short-term interests of business and not the long-term interests of the public in its policies on climate change.

Can fully-linked cooperation help reduce carbon footprints?
Martin Chilcott – The Guardian
While official policy-makers and intergovernmental bodies struggle to establish the agreements and frameworks that could, in a few bold strokes, free us from our carbon dependency, a revolution by 10,000 cuts is already taking effect in the private sector.

Tony Abbott not telling the full story on Alcoa and the carbon tax
Following Alcoa’s February 18 announcement of the closure of its Point Henry aluminium smelter, Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the media that although it wasn’t the only factor for Alcoa, it showed the carbon tax was “doing its job”.
Mr Abbott made the point again during Question Time. “Scrapping the carbon tax will give industries like aluminium a fighting chance, not just to survive, but to flourish,” he said…
…But Alcoa told Fact Check: “The carbon pricing mechanism was not a factor in Alcoa’s decision to close the Point Henry smelter.”

“Utah’s Carbon Bomb”: State Plots Massive Tar Sands & Oil Shale Projects Despite Climate Concerns
Democracy Now
While the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline and the Alberta tar sands has galvanized the environmental movement, far less attention has been paid to a related story here in the West. The state of Utah has begun making preparations for its own major tar sands and oil shale extraction projects. According to one U.S. government report, land in the region could hold up to three trillion barrels of oil — that’s more recoverable oil than has been used so far in human history. Critics say Utah is sitting on a tar sands carbon bomb.
***JB:  They claim there is three trillion (yes…trillion) barrels of oil there (more than has been mined in all of history so far).  If so that is astonishing.

Tokyo cuts CO₂ emissions but hoards credits
Maya Kaneko – The Japan Times
About four years after Asia’s first mandatory greenhouse gas emissions-reduction scheme was launched by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, businesses in the capital have succeeded in drastically cutting carbon dioxide emissions without depending on emissions credit trading.

Natural Gas/Coal

CME Lowers Margin Requirements for Natural-Gas Futures
Nicole Friedman – Dow Jones (via NASDAQ)
Exchange operator CME Group Inc. ( CME ) lowered the amount of collateral required to trade the benchmark natural-gas futures contract on Thursday, as daily moves in the market quieted down from wild price swings seen earlier in the year.
CME, which owns the New York Mercantile Exchange, said natural-gas margins for the front-month contract will be reduced by 25%, effective at the close of trading on March 14, in a notice emailed Thursday.

Natural gas stays in spotlight
Erik Tatje – Futures Magazine
Natural Gas continues to steal the spotlight as price action continues to validate technical levels on the chart. The most significnat technical pivot heading into today’s session appears the be around 4335. After a relatively weak showing throughout the day yesterday, price did to find a bit of support around the 4380 and 4335 pivots on the chart.  Ideally, price should stay contained below the 3400 level and continue to probe lower.

Natural Gas No Fit for GE’s Ecomagination
Carol Pierson Holding – Huffington Post
Remember back in 2005 when General Electric (GE) launched its Ecomagination initiative? Its purpose, as the liberal news site Grist put it at the time, was “to ramp up development of clean technologies and lighten the company’s Goliath-like environmental footprint.” A noble effort indeed.

Coal Could Soon Be Portfolio Fuel
Tom Essaye – Forbes
One of the potential beneficiaries of this huge multi-month rally in natural gas prices may be a sector that’s been largely left for dead, and that sector is coal.

CSX Optimistic About Domestic Coal Business, Power Plant Closures May Affect Demand
CSX Corporation, a leading freight railroad in the eastern U.S., is optimistic about its domestic coal business for 2014. This follows a long period of declining volumes. Domestic coal business for the entire freight railroad industry has been declining for two reasons. Firstly, because of the competition from natural gas and secondly because of the inventory overhang.

This Coal Giant is Fighting Back
Reuben Brewer – The Motley Fool
Environmentalists would have you believe that coal is a bad fuel option. While there’s no doubt that coal is a dirty fuel, Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU  ) isn’t ready to see its business pushed aside and is fighting back. Even if you don’t agree with this coal giant’s take, you should consider its side of the argument.

Dirty coal rush taints Illinois’ clean energy campaign
Jeff Biggers – Al Jazeera
On March 7, with the fanfare of an election campaign event, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and environmental organizations hailed 91 communities in the Prairie State that now purchase 100 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources.
Quinn said. “This new study confirms that people around the world can look to Illinois as an example of what can be done with renewable energy.” “Renewable energy benefits everyone, from energy customers to Illinois farmers to anyone who breathes our air,”
This sounds great — and it certainly recognizes grassroots efforts by local communities.
Unfortunately, it’s only half true. 

Natural-gas breakthrough could lead to cheaper fuel
Marcia Heroux Pounds – Sun Sentinel
A discovery in South Florida could lead to wider use of clean-burning fuels.
Scientist Roy Periana, who heads the Scripps Energy Materials Center in Jupiter, has devised a more efficient method of converting the major components of natural gas into useable fuels. The discovery, announced Thursday, could open the door to cheaper, more abundant fuel with lower emissions, Scripps said.

New York Is Turning Its Leftovers Into Natural Gas, With the Help of Hungry Bacteria
Mary Beth Griggs  – Smithsonian.com
In Brooklyn, huge tanks filled with bacteria wait for the first food scraps to start arriving. These “digester eggs” are here to solve an eternal conundrum: what to do with the scraps of food left behind during cooking or rejected on the plate? When food waste goes to landfills, it takes up space and produces climate-disrupting greenhouse gas. But New York City is adopting a new idea: make gas out of food waste on purpose, and use it to fuel the city.

NC Democrats to push bill to move all coal ash
GARY D. ROBERTSON, Associated Press (via SFGate)
Democrats at the North Carolina legislature rolled out a nine-point proposal Thursday to dispose of and monitor coal ash now sitting in pits throughout the state, saying Duke Energy and state officials have waited too long to address their environmental risk.

After North Carolina spill, coal ash ponds face extinction
Elizabeth Dilts – Reuters
Power producers’ coal ash disposal ponds like the one that leaked toxic sludge into a North Carolina river in February may soon become a thing of the past.
After six years of deliberation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in May will decide on changes to the Clean Water Act that would direct power companies to remove dangerous impurities, including carcinogens, from coal ash wastewater before releasing it into rivers that supply drinking water.


DP&L may sell power plants, quit retail business
Olivia Barrow – Dayton Business Journal
Dayton Power & Light could sell off all of its Ohio power generation facilities by 2017, its parent company AES announced in its latest earnings call.
The Dayton-based company, owned by AES in Arlington, Va., is looking into two options for abiding by state regulations that it must separate its power generation from its transmission and distribution business by May 2017.

Brazil Boosts Utility Drought Relief With $5 Billion
Mario Sergio Lima and Carla Simoes – Bloomberg
Brazil unveiled a 12 billion-real ($5.1 billion) aid package yesterday for utilities to cope with record-high spot prices as dry weather crimps hydroelectric output.

Iowa Senate panel OKs boost for solar energy tax credits
Solar energy would get a big boost in Iowa if a bill passed Thursday in a Senate committee becomes law. The bill, approved by the Ways and Means Committee, would increase the annual cap for solar tax credits to $4.5 million from $1.5 million.

Electric-Grid Attack Fuels Sniper-Versus-Hacker Debate
Brian Wingfield – Bloomberg
U.S. energy regulators’ efforts to harden the power grid against snipers and terrorists are fueling a debate over whether they’re diverting resources from other threats, like cyber attacks.

Agency: Duke plant consumed more energy than it produced
Dan Human – IBJ
A state consumer protection agency wants a deeper look into Duke Energy Indiana’s new power plant in Edwardsport, which the agency says consumed more energy than it produced late last year.
The Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor is trying to put the brakes on Duke’s request for $1.5 million related to Edwardsport expenses that would be covered by customers, according to a Friday filing with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, a separate state agency that rules on rate cases.


Congress clears bill to ease flood insurance hikes
Associated Press (via The Wall Street Journal)
Less than two years after passing major legislation aimed at reforming the government’s much-criticized flood insurance program, Congress on Thursday sent President Barack Obama a bill to scale back many of the resulting big flood insurance premium increases faced by hundreds of thousands of homeowners. The measure would also allow below-market insurance rates to be passed on to people buying homes with taxpayer-subsidized policies.

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