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newsclips -- Newsclips for January 10, 2012

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 13:18:10
California Air Resources Board News Clips for January 10, 2012. 

This is a service of the California Air Resources Board’s Office
of Communications.  You may need to sign in or register with
individual websites to view some of the following news articles.


Calif. metals recycling company faces new charges from EPA. San
Jose, Calif. --     A San Francisco Bay Area metals recycling
company that drew widespread attention - and a fine - for a fire
that sent a huge plume of black, acrid smoke into the air over
Silicon Valley five years ago is facing new pollution charges
from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA said
Monday that it has issued a notice of violation to Sims Metal
Management, located at the Port of Redwood City, for polluting
San Francisco Bay with lead, mercury, PCBs, copper and zinc.

Stronger Valley air pollution alerts to be issued. In the midst
of the nation's worst soot problem this season, air authorities
are issuing stronger warnings when pollution is at a much lower
level than before -- a new protective measure. The San Joaquin
Valley has been caught in a seven-week dry spell that shows no
sign of relief. The lack of cleansing storms has allowed a haze
of tiny debris to build up and violate the federal health
standard for 37 consecutive days. Posted.

Valley kids head back to school amidst dirty air. FRESNO, Calif.
-- Consistently poor air quality is prompting local schools to
take extra precautions for children playing outdoors. Monday was
the first day back to school from winter break for kids here in
Visalia, and already students aren't being allowed to spend long
periods of time outside. Every Visalia Unified School had an
orange flag hanging outside, warning students and teachers that
the air quality is unhealthy.  Posted.

New CO2 Sucker Could Help Clear the Air. Researchers in
California have produced a cheap plastic capable of removing
large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air. Down the
road, the new material could enable the development of
large-scale batteries and even form the basis of "artificial
trees" that lower atmospheric concentrations of CO2 in an effort
to stave off catastrophic climate change. Posted.


Governor Brown Sees $500 Million Cap-and-Trade Fees for
California Budget. California (STOCA1) Governor Jerry Brown plans
to use half of the revenue from the nation’s first state- run
cap-and-trade air-pollution program to help ease a $9.2 billion
deficit in the most populous U.S. state. Brown estimates the
state will take in about $1 billion in the year beginning July 1
under the landmark legislation, which allows industry to buy and
sell carbon credits to reduce greenhouse gases. Posted.

Climate Talks Should Fix CO2 Price, Not Cap, Neuroscientist Says.
United Nations climate envoys should set a carbon price rather
than fix a global cap on greenhouse- gas emissions, cutting the
complexity of international negotiations, said a neuroscientist.
Developing nations may accept a global harmonized carbon price as
long as they receive the money from setting that amount as well
as a portion of funds raised by developed nations that have
mostly caused climate change, said David Silverstein, a
neuroscientist with an interest in climate negotiations. Posted.

Governments Get EU Warning on Delays in Carbon Allocation Plans.
The European Union urged 17 member states that failed to submit
on time their plans on allocating free carbon permits to
companies to explain the reasons for delay within 10 weeks or
risk infringement proceedings. Only 10 out of 27 EU member states
have so far notified their so-called national implementation
measures for the period from 2013 to 2020 to the EU, the European
Commission said on its website. Posted.

Town faces challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by
2020. Seems there's a plan for just about everything these days,
so it should come as no surprise that Los Gatos must develop a
"sustainability plan" by September. In effect, a sustainability
plan is a blueprint for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and
it's mandated by state law. The idea is that by 2020, greenhouse
gas emissions in California will be rolled back to 1990 levels.

A Fight for the Future of San Diego.  When you ask the people of
San Diego what they want in a transportation system, the answer
is usually balance. In a 2009 survey [PDF] by the nonpartisan
Public Policy Institute of California, 75 percent of San Diego
residents thought the region should complement its existing
highway system by expanding the transit network and implementing
programs like congestion pricing. Posted. 
Carbon dioxide super-scrubber? Potential good news in global
warming fight.  Using cheap, readily available materials, a team
of chemists has developed a new compound for drawing carbon
dioxide out of the atmosphere.  The compound holds the potential
to drive down the cost of capturing carbon, although it's too
early to say by how much, the scientists say.  The results "add
to the list of possible materials that can absorb CO2 from the
air, and it potentially could be quite a good one," says Klaus
Lackner, who heads the department of earth and environmental
engineering at Columbia University in New York and was not part
of the team formulating the material.  Posted. 


VTA changes could make commuting easier.  The Santa Clara Valley
Transportation Authority will begin implementing a few changes
this month to make commuting in 2012 a smoother process. Various
VTA bus routes will experience schedule and frequency changes to
improve efficiency and schedule reliability.  VTA bus service
will see minor schedule changes made to lines 57 and 58 to
improve schedule reliability. Both lines end at West Valley
College in Saratoga.  Posted. 


A Fine for Not Using a Biofuel That Doesn’t Exist. Washington —
When the companies that supply motor fuel close the books on
2011, they will pay about $6.8 million in penalties to the
Treasury because they failed to mix a special type of biofuel
into their gasoline and diesel as required by law. But there was
none to be had. Outside a handful of laboratories and workshops,
the ingredient, cellulosic biofuel, does not exist. In 2012, the
oil companies expect to pay even higher penalties for failing to
blend in the fuel, which is made from wood chips or the inedible
parts of plants like corncobs. Posted.

Ethanol refiners raise corn use 280%. Number of the day. 280
percent. That's how much ethanol refiners have increased their
consumption of corn since 2005. The fuel additive took more than
40 percent of the total U.S. crop last year, pushing up corn
prices and topping the amount used as animal feed, according to
the Agriculture Department. Cattle and chicken producers cut back
their output as profits margins narrowed, though the pressure may
ease in coming years after a tax credit for ethanol producers
expired on Dec. 31. Posted.


Wanted or Not: Alternative-Fuel Cars Flood Auto Show. Detroit —
In the race to claim ever-higher fuel-economy numbers and keep up
with government regulations, automakers are rolling out hybrids
and electric cars aplenty at this week’s Detroit auto show. If
only buyers were arriving as fast as the cars. Hybrid sales waned
as gasoline prices ebbed in 2011, declining to 2.2 percent of the
market from 2.4 percent a year earlier, according to the research
firm LMC Automotive. Posted.

Toyota shows off new smaller, lighter and cheaper version of the
Prius.  Toyota on Tuesday unveiled the Prius c, a new smaller and
more affordable version of its popular hybrid, aimed at young,
city-dwelling buyers.  The c, which stands for city, is set to go
on sale in March and will be smaller, lighter and more nimble
than previous versions. The subcompact hatchback also will also
be priced under $19,000, more than $4,000 less than the starting
price of the current version of the traditional Prius. 

GM likely to recapture global auto sales lead. Detroit -- General
Motors Co. is on track to retake the title of world's top-selling
automaker, riding strong sales in the U.S. and China to beat
Volkswagen and Toyota. GM, which lost the crown to Toyota in 2008
after holding it for more than seven decades, won't release
global sales numbers until later this month, but it's on pace to
finish 2011 at around 9 million cars and trucks, at least 800,000
more than its German and Japanese rivals. Posted.

High-speed rail sticks to Antelope Valley route. After months of
second thoughts, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has
decided it was right the first time: The best northbound path
from Los Angeles passes through Palmdale, not over the Grapevine.
The authority, which chose a zig-zag route via Palmdale in 2005,
ordered a second look at the Grapevine route last May after
getting sticker shock over the $15 billion cost estimate for
building the train from Los Angeles to Bakersfield via Palmdale.


Areva Says Banks Trim Loans for Offshore Wind Farms on Crisis.
Areva SA, which is bidding with other companies to build five
offshore wind farms in France needing 10 billion euros ($12.8
billion) of investment, said banks are lending less because of
the financial crisis. “Where we used to have 15 banks around the
table,” Areva now has to invite about 40 banks “to convince
everyone to bring a share to the financing,” Philippe Kavafyan,
vice president of Areva Wind France, said in an interview at the
company’s headquarters in Paris today. Posted.

California gets new consumer affair chief.  Denise Brown, 60, of
Fair Oaks, has been appointed director of the California
Department of Consumer Affairs by Gov. Jerry Brown.  Ms. Brown
was an advisor to the executive officer and staff of the
California Air Resources Board from 2009 to 2011.  Earlier, she
served in the Department of Consumer Affairs in multiple
positions from 1977 to 2009, including chief deputy director. 

Solar lamps replace toxic kerosene in poorest countries. When the
sun goes down over large swathes of the developing world, the 1.3
billion people currently living without access to an electricity
connection are plunged into darkness. According to figures from
the International Energy Agency, at least 20% of the planet's
inhabitants are still without the simple luxury of a
light-switch. From the shantytowns of Sub-Saharan Africa to the
sprawling slums of the Indian sub-continent, night-time brings
with it a noxious ritual of candles, gas lamps and open fires.

China's Fake Carbon Tax. Beijing wants to take the moral high
ground and stick the West with the bill. Beijing was widely
blamed for derailing the 2009 Copenhagen summit and its chances
of producing an agreement on climate change. But suddenly last
week, state media announced that the Ministry of Finance could
soon approve a carbon tax on China's biggest energy consumers
before the end of the current Five-Year Plan (2011-2015). Posted.

Council District 15: Wilmington and the air that it breathes.
Sometimes you can smell Wilmington before you see it. It might be
the scent of the wells, tucked in between houses and neighborhood
streets, pumping the last drops of oil from the giant Wilmington
oil field, the third-largest petroleum field in the contiguous
United States; it might be the odor of one of the refineries --
either the massive Valero oil plant, turning heavy crude into jet
fuel and gasoline, …Posted.

Editorial: Warm weather rules! Not where smog pools. Yes, it's
hard to gripe much about weather that allows you to wear shorts
in January – a fashion statement that many in California have
recently embraced. For people who like mild weather, the numerous
dry and sunny days of late have been a blessing, but the lack of
wind and rain comes with some downsides. A big one is dirty air,
which is a particular health threat for children and people with
asthma and other respiratory diseases. Posted.

Our dirty winter air: Natural factors count. After researching
the past month's newspapers, I found that we have not been able
to burn our fireplaces since Dec. 16. The air pollution board
claims that the bad air in the San Joaquin Valley is the result
of wood burning. How do they account for the fluctuation of air
quality from a low of 102 on the air index to a high of 162 when
no wood burning has been allowed? This could not have been caused
by wood burning. Posted.

Fast tracking of major projects worries bullet train critics.
Since the recession began, the state Legislature has put some
big-ticket construction projects on the environmental fast track
in the name of creating jobs. At the behest of then-Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger, lawmakers agreed in 2009 to exempt 10
multimillion-dollar highway construction projects from
environmental review. Last year, they gave a similar
environmental green light to a proposed $800 million, 75,000-seat
professional football stadium in Los Angeles. Posted.

Just call me a skeptic regarding climate change. Occasionally, I
check American mainstream newspapers for stories on climate
change. I sometimes find reports from those who have more dire
predictions about the devastating consequences of global warming.
Most politicians seem to be on board with this concept. They and
their administrative agencies keep giving us more and more
environmental regulations. Unfortunately, this is costing average
folks plenty. Posted.

Dodging a gas hike. Judge blocks state's low-carbon fuel mandate.
In a victory for consumers and fuel producers over an
unreasonable dictate by California regulators, the low-carbon
mandate of the state's Global Warming Solutions Act has been put
on hold by a federal judge. With challenges pending to similar
laws in other states, a Supreme Court showdown on the issue is in
the offing, and until then we are hopeful these Draconian,
economy-stifling restrictions can be held at bay. Posted.

Welcome end to ethanol subsidy. Sometimes inactivity can be quite
productive. Such is the case with Congress' failure to renew the
45-cent-per-gallon subsidy on ethanol or the 54-cent-per-gallon
tariff on imported ethanol on the eve of the Iowa caucus. The
subsidy cost taxpayers as much as $6 billion a year, enriching
agribusinesses that used their crops to inefficiently produce
ethanol, which then is mixed with gasoline. Posted.
Watch Out Cows -- The Siberian Shelf Makes a Lot of Methane, Too.
Over the last couple weeks, the climate blogosphere has been
lighting up over a recent report that enormous plumes of methane
are bubbling to the surface off the coast of eastern Siberia in
Russia. (Original article in the Independent online.) So, what
does this mean? It's a lot of methane, to be sure. The discovery
was first made in 2010 and estimated at over 7 million tons
(roughly equivalent to the methane emissions from the rest of the
whole ocean). Posted.

Climate change is happening but it's out of man's control. Yes,
global warming/climate change is a fact, but the letter writer
from Boca Raton, on Dec. 18, does not seem to understand that the
science concerning humans being primarily responsible is far from
settled. The writer states that global warming/climate change has
been happening for 30 to 100 years, which understates the time
frame by about 20,000 years. Starting at the peak of the last Ice
Age, which was about 20,000 years ago... Posted.

Fear and polluting on the campaign trail: Clean energy needs to
hit back.  I've been writing for years about how renewable energy
is "an issue we can all rally around" that shouldn't involve
partisan politics.  In an ideal world that would hold true. But
after seeing the relentless campaign waged by a
small-but-powerful group of belligerents determined to
marginalize the industry, my opinion changed in 2011.  Posted. 

The Year That Winter Forgot: Is It Climate Change?  As I got off
the plane in the Vermont town of Burlington on Sunday, I felt
something new: cold. It wasn't that cold — high temperatures in
Burlington were hovering around the freezing mark, a little
warmer than average for this city of eager ski bums. But after
more than a month of unusually mild weather in New York City —
where Januarys can sometimes be nothing short of brutal — it was
almost a treat to feel a hazy hint of winter.  Posted. 


Coda Electric Car Will Have Two Range Options. Electric-car maker
Coda Automotive said its new Coda sedan will give buyers the
choice of two battery packs — one that gives the car a range up
to 150 miles and another with a range of up to 125 miles. The
company  made the announcement at the North American
International Auto Show, where it displayed a group of the new
cars.  The new, less-expensive battery lowers the car’s price to
less than $30,000 if you include a $7,500 tax credit. Posted.

Are electric cars really a disappointment? Lately, much of the
press coverage of electric cars has implied that the technology
has been a huge letdown. See, for instance, USA Today’s story:
“Are electric cars losing their spark?” The angst mostly centers
around sales: In 2011, the first year they were available, the
Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt sold just 17,345 units in the
United States — slightly below expectations. Placed in
perspective, though, those weak sales don’t look all that
apocalyptic. Posted.

Biomass and Electricity, Part 2.  On Monday, I wrote about a new
way to use landfill gas to make electricity from a renewable
source.  Another pathway for converting gas to electricity is
fuel cells, which produce electricity with no byproducts except
distilled water and a little bit of waste heat. But their carbon
footprint depends on where they get their own fuel, hydrogen. 
One common source is natural gas, which is made up mostly of
methane, a molecule with four hydrogen atoms and one carbon atom.

Biomass and Electricity, Part One. Burning natural gas releases
less heat-trapping carbon dioxide then burning coal does because
it has only about half as much carbon per unit of energy. But it
can exacerbate global warming if it escapes unburned into the
atmosphere as methane; in a century, a methane molecule will trap
as much heat as 21 carbon dioxide molecules would.  The easy
solution is simply to burn the methane. But some sources emit
methane at concentrations too low to burn. What then? Posted.

Songbirds as a Casualty of Warming. As the United States
experiences a snow shortage, researchers have released a study
showing that declining snowfall in the mountainous regions of
Arizona are causing a cascading series of effects that are
proving devastating to songbirds . In recent years, scientists
have become increasingly intent on understanding how the warming
of the earth will affect wildlife populations. A lot of attention
has been paid to how climate change has spawned deadly mismatches
between animal and plant life cycles. Posted.

Dianne Feinstein urges moving high-speed rail to CalTrans.
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein this week added her voice to the
chorus of those who want the California Department of
Transportation to take over the state's increasingly
controversial high-speed rail project. In a letter to Gov. Jerry
Brown made public Tuesday, Feinstein declared that "deploying the
expertise and resources of CalTrans towards this effort over the
next six months" could help turn the project around. Posted.

The Whip Snaps at High Speed Rail... and More. For the man whose
Central Valley hometown is supposed to be an anchor point in the
first construction phase of high speed rail, Rep. Kevin McCarthy
seems intent on doing everything he can do block the project. And
given McCarthy is the third highest ranking member of the GOP
congressional leadership, he may be able to do a lot. Posted.

Cruise ships massively pollute our oceans and air. According to a
petition being circulated on the activist site Care2.com, the
world's ocean liners and cruise ships contribute massively to
pollution of not only our air but also our seas. The petition,
"Tell Cruise Ships to Stop Spewing Filth Into Our Pristine
Oceans!," asserts that "the 15 largest cruise ships produce as
much air pollution as the world's 760 million cars" and that they
"also generate tremendous waste": Posted.

EPA's Tough New Air Pollution Rules And The Value of Life And
Breath. It might surprise many Americans to learn that, until
just a couple of weeks ago, there were no federal standards
requiring operators of the nation's roughly 600 coal- and
oil-fired power plants to limit the amount of mercury, arsenic
other toxic pollutants that they discharge into the air. Posted.

Blue Skies for 2012: Cutting Air Pollution and Strengthening
Information Transparency in China. Power plant emissions and air
quality standards targeting some of the most harmful impacts of
coal are coming under greater scrutiny starting this year in
China. As of January 1, new thermal power plants have tougher
restrictions on soot, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxides (92%
of the current fleet is coal-fired). Mercury will be controlled
starting in 2015. Small particulate matter and ozone standards
will take effect nationwide in 2016; …Posted.

An energy-saving socket concept that's not for the easily
startled.  The PumPing Tap is a spring-loaded electrical socket
that physically ejects plugs belonging to appliances and
electronics that are not being used but still drawing small
amounts of energy in standby mode.  Although I’m not sure if this
will ever pan out beyond the conceptual stage — and I certainly
wouldn’t recommend it to those who are easily startled or have
seen “Paranormal Activity” and its sequels too many times Posted.

Concerned Scientists Get Real Happy over EPA Standards on
Mercury.   From the nice people at the Union of Concerned
Scientists : Great news! Last month, the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) finalized the first-ever national standards to limit
the amount of mercury and other toxic pollutants that power
plants can spew into the environment.  Toxic air pollutants from
power plants—mercury, lead, arsenic, and others—are linked to
health problems such as cancer, heart disease, neurological
damage, birth defects, asthma attacks, and even premature death. 

Honda to offer two-motor plug-in hybrid system on 2013 Accord. 
Honda’s 2013 Accord, the 9th generation of the model, which is
due to go on sale this fall, will feature three all-new
powertrains, including the first US application of both a
2.4-liter direct-injected engine and two-motor plug-in hybrid
system (earlier post) from Honda’s suite of next-generation Earth
Dreams powertrain technologies. (Earlier post.) Posted. 

New catalytic process for producing renewable diesel from
microalgae oils.  A team from the Technische Universität München
led by Dr. Johannes Lercher, who is also Director of the
Institute for Integrated Catalysis at the Pacific Northwest
National Laboratory, has introduced a new catalytic process that
allows the effective conversion of diesel-range alkanes from
microalgae oils under mild conditions. A paper on the work
appears in the journal Angewandte Chemie.  Posted. 

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