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by: PETER MACDIARMID, Protesters in London take surfboards to Trafalgar Square in December to highlight climate change. In Portland, activists recently spoofed carbon offsets, which are meant to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases.

Protesters dub April 1 'Fossil Fools Day'

Armed with a bouquet of heart-shaped balloons, a handful of sidewalk activists offered Portland downtowners a chance to redeem themselves of the sin of infidelity on April 1.

The so-called 'Greenwash Guerrillas' were pretending to represent a business called 'Cheat Neutral' that allows the unfaithful to offset their straying by paying others to remain monogamous.

The prank took place down the street from the Climate Trust, a Portland nonprofit that sells carbon offsets. Offsets are investments in projects ranging from tree-planting to renewable energy paid for by individuals or businesses wishing to counterbalance their carbon emissions.

Businesses that invest enough to offset their entire carbon output often claim to be 'carbon neutral.' As offsets catch on in the consumer market, they are being offered alongside purchases that cause emissions.

For example, many airlines now offer travelers the option of purchasing offsets as a way to mitigate the emissions generated by their flight.

But some criticize the concept of offsets as difficult to measure or prove. Furthermore, critics say, offsets perpetuate the notion that greenhouse gas generators can simply buy credits rather than reduce emissions.

U.S. blocks idea to fund cleaner energy globally

In the United Nations meeting on climate change earlier this month, the U.S. rejected a suggestion from China that industrialized nations help fund cleaner energy in developing countries.

The meeting, which took place in Bangkok, Thailand, coincided with new studies showing that emissions are increasing faster than expected while energy efficiency actually is decreasing. Energy is a primary source of greenhouse gas emissions, since most of it comes from oil and coal.

At the same time, developing countries such as India and China are pursuing rapid growth. China proposed that since industrialized countries have based their successful economies on the use of fossil fuels, perhaps they should offer a subsidy - 0.5 percent of their gross domestic product - to invest in cleaner energy technologies.

Harland Watson, the U.S.'s senior climate negotiator, rejected the proposal.

The latest report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, says that the climate is changing faster than it had expected.

In 1997, 174 countries signed on to the Kyoto Protocol, which was the first international attempt to address global warming. The panel insists that quick, steep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are essential to curbing what scientists contend could amount to environmental catastrophe.

Countries that signed on to the Kyoto Protocol are using market-based approaches like cap-and-trade to tackle carbon emissions. The U.S. remains the only industrialized country that has not signed the treaty.

Court ruling may affect local LNG plans

A battle over a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in New Jersey has been settled by the Supreme Court in a decision that could have implications on proposed LNG projects in Oregon.

In a case decided March 31, the court voted 6-2 to grant the state of Delaware the right to block a project proposed by the petroleum giant BP.

The terminal was to be built across the river from Delaware in New Jersey. But since Delaware technically owns most of the river bottom, on which part of the terminal pier would be constructed, the Supreme Court granted Delaware the authority to deny the project.

Three LNG terminals are under consideration in Oregon, two of which could be built on the Columbia River.

So far, the state of Washington has expressed concerns about LNG in general but has not gone so far as to block a particular project.

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski has become increasingly outspoken about concerns with bringing LNG to the state, and recently sent letters to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission demanding deeper consideration of the projects, including safety issues, the question of demand in the state, environmental impact of both terminals and pipelines, and total greenhouse gas emissions associated with the cooling, shipping and rewarming of the gas before it's funneled into pipelines.

Western states aimto reduce emissions

Oregon is preparing to crack down on greenhouse gas emissions through two separate initiatives: a regional cap-and-trade program and mandatory reporting for greenhouse gas emissions. Proposals for both are circulating.

The cap-and-trade program is being developed by the Western Climate Initiative, an intergovernmental group that Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski helped form. Seven states and two Canadian provinces have joined the initiative, which requires its members to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The idea behind cap-and-trade is that emitters would be forced to comply with a gradually lowering cap in one of three ways: by reducing emissions, by trading credits in a carbon market or by purchasing offsets, such as investing in renewable energy, to counterbalance emissions.

The draft proposal specifies businesses and industries that would be required to participate in cap-and-trade as well as how credits would be dispersed and managed, and the role of offsets.

One massive loophole: So far, the transportation sector, which accounts for 34 percent of the state's greenhouse gas emissions, is off the hook.

A final design is expected to be presented to the state and provincial legislatures next year.

To read the draft and submit comments, go to www.westernclimateinitiative.org

Oregon to impose new rules on emitters

State regulators are busy figuring out how to get businesses to report their greenhouse gas emissions.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has spent the last several months developing rules that lay out which emissions would qualify, including carbon dioxide, methane, hydrofluorocarbons and other gases. All emissions would be reported to and verified by the DEQ.

The proposal also lays out who would be required to report: all stationery emitters who now have air permits from the agency as well as landfills, wastewater treatment plants, electricity and natural gas utilities.

As with the regional cap-and-trade proposal, the draft reporting rules do not include the transportation sector.

To read DEQ's reporting rules and submit comments, go to www.deq.state.or.us/aq/climate/rulemaking.htm

- Toby Van Fleet

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