E2 Round-up: Obama to tout 'HOMESTAR,' climate change kills the coffee buzz, climate scientist admits to 'very awful emails,' and more

Citing construction-sector unemployment nearing 25 percent and underutilized manufacturing capacity, the White House wants Congress to approve a rebate program that would cover various types of investments. The plan envisions 50 percent rebates up to $1,500 for upgrades such as insulation, duct sealing, and efficient windows and doors.

For more comprehensive home energy retrofits, consumers could receive $3,000 for overhauls designed to achieve energy savings of 20 percent – and even more cash for overhauls that meet higher targets.

White House officials say they realize that in the sour economy, consumers will have trouble finding the cash for the projects even with the incentives. They hope to work with state and local governments to help people finance the balance of the projects that aren’t covered by the rebates.

Moving on . . . this is pretty terrifying: The World Coffee Conference held over the weekend in Guatemala underscored major concerns that climate change is harming the industry.

“More coffee drinking coupled with climate change have reduced supplies of beans, producers said at an international conference over the weekend,” reports USA Today.

The story continues:

“‘There is already evidence of important changes,’ said Nestor Osorio, the head of the International Coffee Organization, which represents 77 countries that export or import beans. ‘In the last 25 years the temperature has risen half a degree in coffee producing countries, five times more than in the 25 years before.’ Warming temperatures have forced growers to seek higher, pricier land, where higher-quality beans are grown.” 

Fast Company posted a story on the same issue Friday, warning that climate-driven production declines will hit American consumers.

“All of this means that already-expensive coffee is about to get a whole lot pricier. And even though coffee companies like Starbucks and Peet's tout their commitments to sustainably-sourced products, temperatures are continuing to rise. So in addition to making sure that they use Fair Trade beans, coffee chains interested in self-preservation may also want to work towards preventing further climate change -- a process that Starbucks has already begun,” they note.

Phil Jones, the scientist at the heart of the furor over the infamous hacked climate science emails, was grilled before a parliamentary committee in the UK Monday. The Financial Times, Nature and other outlets reported on the session, in which Jones admitted to writing “some very awful emails.”

Reuters, meanwhile, is reporting on a study by researchers at Italy’s Genoa University who found that climate change will add to the woes of people that suffer from allergies.

“Sneezing, congestion, and runny noses from hay fever may be lasting longer because climate change may be extending pollen seasons,” the Reuters piece on the study states.

Elsewhere, the battle over the proposed Cape Wind project off the Massachusetts coast continues. The Associated Press and other outlets report that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is asking a panel called the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to weigh in. The developer of the embattled 130-turbine project slated for Nantucket Sound and two Native American tribes opposing it could not reach agreement.

Salazar plans to make a decision in April on the project, which has been on the drawing boards for a decade. Interior has jurisdiction because it would be built in federal waters. Salazar said he’ll take the preservation panel’s views into account.

“The time has come to bring the reviews and analysis of the Cape Wind Project to a conclusion,” Salazar said. “The parties, the public and the permit applicants deserve resolution and certainty.”

From wind to coal: Mother Jones reports that North Carolina-based utility Progress Energy last year quietly abandoned a coal industry lobbying group called the American Coalition for Clean Coal Elecricity.