Energy & Environment

Biomass residues are a valuable sustainable energy source

A report on greenhouse gas emissions earlier this week by the International Energy Agency will have policymakers once again discussing sustainable energy options.  Reasons for this renewed interest range from energy security to protection of our natural resources.  Paper and wood products manufacturers have long known the benefits of using biomass residues to produce energy and, in optimizing its use, have reduced greenhouse gas emissions 10.5 percent since 2005, with a goal to reach 15 percent by 2020.


A climate victory waiting for presidents Obama and Xi

How should President Obama and President Xi approach the pressing problem of climate change when they meet this week for talks at Rancho Mirage?  They must start by recognizing that climate protection is a topic that goes far beyond the environment, to implicate and imperil national security, food security, economic growth and job creation, as well as trade and intellectual property protection.
Cooperation on clean energy development and deployment is the foundation, and efforts are already underway on this front between the US and China.  The climate cannot be protected without success here.  Expanding the use of natural gas in place of dirty coal will be part of this strategy, including hydraulic fracturing to expand gas supplies.  The US is in the lead with the necessary technology and know-how on fracking, as well as with efforts to ensure protection for the environment.  Plugging gas leaks in the full cycle from extraction to transmission to end-use should be a priority, as even a small leak rate of the methane from unburned natural gas makes the climate footprint of gas as bad as the coal it replaces.


America still needs coal

If Reps. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Scott Peters (D-Calif.) really believe that we are headed for more extreme weather, they should be boosting America’s most affordable and reliable energy sources to cope with these hazards. After all, more electricity would be needed to handle greater demands for air conditioning and heating. More power would be required to irrigate lands, build dikes, strengthen public infrastructure and relocate populations living on flood plains or at risk from tornadoes and hurricanes.
Yet, in discussing their solutions to these dangers, Tonko, Connolly and Peters promote wind and solar power, the least reliable and most expensive options available. They should be supporting an expansion of the most reliable and cheapest energy sources such as coal, from which comes about half of America’s electricity.


Making the case for chocolate fuel

You may have noticed a conspicuous shortage of smiling faces at neighborhood gas stations. And that is no surprise — after all, the price of gas leaves consumers with very little to smile about.

But what serious alternatives are there for gasoline-powered automobiles? President Obama spoke grandly about putting one million electric cars on the road by 2015, but American consumers have overwhelmingly shown no interest in sharing this vision. Vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells have also captured the imagination of politicians and the media, but not drivers.

There is also a strident minority that believes compressed natural-gas vehicles represent the future. But it is certainly not representative of the present, with only one car model (the $26,300 Honda Civic GX) and a mere 600 natural-gas fueling stations available in the U.S. today. Again, there is no evidence that this will ever become more than a fringe pursuit.

If Washington wants to spend billions on an alternative fuel source, there is one solution available that deserves serious consideration: chocolate. No, we’re not talking about Snickers or Reese’s Pieces, but the excess waste product that is generated by chocolate factories. Rather than dump the waste chocolate into the trash, this inedible mess can be pumped into fuel tanks.


Keep the LNG export permits coming

It would have been hard to imagine just a few years ago that we’d need to debate whether to export our energy. But the North American energy landscape is changing rapidly, and companies have now requested nearly 20 permits from the federal government to export natural gas. Despite opposition from some on Capitol Hill, environmentalists and petrochemical firms, the Obama administration seems to have decided in favor of exports, announcing recently that it was approving a second permit to export overseas, nearly two years after approving the first, and signaling more may be coming. They made the right call, and should continue to approve natural gas exports on both economic and geopolitical grounds.


Don’t let another hurricane season blow by without climate action

As hurricane season begins and vulnerable coastal communities brace for high winds and storm surges, Congress needs to ask itself: What can we be doing to better protect and manage existing and new development along our coastlines?

How can we minimize the destruction of life and property suffered by so many in hurricanes like Katrina, Rita, Irene, and Sandy?


Proposed fracking rules put nation’s drinking water at risk

In a move its predecessor would be proud of, the Obama administration has bowed to industry pressure and proposed rules on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” on public lands that put the nation’s water supply at risk of contamination with cancer-causing chemicals.


President Obama’s energy legacy

Many presidents’ legacies are summed up in a word or a phrase. President George W. Bush will be remembered for 9/11 and the nation’s response; President Clinton for balancing the budget; President Nixon for Watergate; President Franklin Roosevelt for the New Deal and leading us to victory in World War II; and Teddy Roosevelt for his commitment to national parks.

How will President Obama be remembered?


Protect our waters, secure our future

Central America continues to mature as a region through geopolitical partnerships such as the Central American Integration System, or SICA. But much of that progress is now at risk due in large part to increasingly linked illegal activities occurring throughout the region’s waters and ports. 

We are referring to illegal fishing and its associated crimes, which include drug smuggling, human trafficking and total disregard for our natural environment. Increasingly, the lines separating illegal activities on the water are blurring as transnational criminal organizations use illegal fishing operations to hide in plain sight, flout the law, and violate Central American sovereignty.


Leveling the road for natural gas vehicles can give drivers a break from summer gas price hikes

Every Memorial Day, as sure as barbeques and baseball games, Americans can count on the familiar tradition of watching gasoline prices rise. The Energy Information Agency summer cost forecast estimates that gasoline prices this summer will average $3.63 per gallon.

While this price is down from last summer’s average of $3.69 per gallon, it still burdens the average driver. AAA predicted that Memorial Day weekend average gasoline prices will top the 2012 $3.64 level and even the 2011 $3.79 price. This follows AAA’s April survey showing that two-thirds of Americans say gasoline prices strain their budgets at $3.64, and half of Americans say gasoline is too high at $3.40.