Posted by VicPlough on May 15, 2013 in Environment
SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON |
SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Billionaire environmentalist Elon Musk has quit a Silicon Valley advocacy group formed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg after the group funded ads for senators touting their support for an oil pipeline and oil drilling in Alaska.
Musk leads one of the world’s best known “green” companies, electric carmaker Tesla. A Tesla spokeswoman told Reuters on Friday that the South African-born entrepreneur preferred not to elaborate on his reasons for leaving FWD.us.
Zuckerberg announced the formation of FWD.us last month, saying it was focused on bipartisan policies to bring about comprehensive immigration reform and improvements in the U.S. education system.
Fwd.us bankrolled three television ads on behalf of senators who have been playing a key role in the immigration debate.
The ads were focused not on immigration but rather on the senator’s general positions, including one’s support for the Keystone XL pipeline, which has created a backlash among some progressive groups. Backers say the pipeline project would boost North American energy security and provide thousands of construction jobs. Opponents argue that it would lead to higher releases of greenhouse gases.
The spots quickly drew the ire of liberal and environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and MoveOn.org, who earlier this week pledged to pull ads from Facebook for two weeks.
The Fwd.us website removed Musk’s name on Friday after a Reuters inquiry. It was unclear how much Musk, who also chairs solar-energy company Solar City, had donated.
David Sacks, founder of business networking site Yammer and a former colleague of Musk’s at payment service PayPal, also dropped off the list of the FWD.us backers on Friday. FWD.us spokeswoman Kate Hansen earlier confirmed that a second funder had withdrawn support but declined to elaborate. Sacks did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We recognize that not everyone will always agree with or be pleased by our strategy – and we’re grateful for the continued support of our dedicated founders and major contributors,” FWD.us spokeswoman Hansen said in a statement.
“FWD.us remains totally committed to supporting a bipartisan policy agenda that will boost the knowledge economy, including comprehensive immigration reform.”
A Facebook spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A DIFFERENT APPROACH
FWD.us boasts an impressive list of backers, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, though it operates as a special type of non-profit group that does not have to disclose its donors. Run by Zuckerberg’s old Harvard roommate, Joe Green, FWD.us’s political operation is managed by a group of Washington insiders with leadership roles in both Republican and Democratic organizations.
It joins other technology groups and alliances lobbying Congress for more H-1B visas for high-skilled workers and easier hiring of foreign math, science and engineering experts.
Rather than directly representing the companies its backers are involved with, FWD.us is funded by individuals who have personally attached themselves – and their cash – to the cause. Zuckerberg has become the group’s public face, among more than three dozen big-name supporters.
Politically, Zuckerberg has carved out bipartisan credentials, visiting the White House and hosting a town hall for President Barack Obama but also staging a fundraiser for Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey who some see as a 2016 Presidential hopeful.
The latest controversy was sparked by ads for Republican Senators Marco Rubio from Florida and Lindsey Graham from South Carolina as well as Alaskan Democrat Mark Begich. FWD.us helped fund two separate entities to run the ads.
Rather than focusing on raising public awareness over immigration reform and its benefits for the technology sector, the FWD.us ads promote lawmakers who the groups thinks will be key players on the issue.
In doing so, the ads highlight a number of positions held by the senators, including supporting the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in Graham’s case, and drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Preserve in Begich’s.
The ads could help inoculate the lawmakers against challenges from within their parties as a result of their stand on immigration reform. Graham and Begich are up for re-election in 2014.
Fwd.us co-founder Jim Breyer, a venture capitalist at Accel Partners, defended the group’s efforts.
“Our advertising decisions are being made by a very smart team of political operatives who know that passing major reform will require some different and innovative tactics,” Breyer said in an emailed statement.
For the most part, donors have stayed out of the nitty gritty of how FWD.us operates.
“It’s a really gnarly, gnarly thing having to deal with Washington,” venture investor and Fwd.us co-founder Chamath Palihapitiya said at a conference last month. “I’m glad that other people other than me are dealing with it who have the patience and the resolve to figure it out.”
(Reporting By Sarah McBride and Alina Selyukh; Editing by Ros Krasny, Mary Milliken and Claudia Parsons)
Posted by VicPlough on May 15, 2013 in Environment
LONDON (Reuters) – Rapeseed production is likely to fall in the European Union, top grower of the oilseed, from the 2015 harvest after the bloc voted to protect bees by banning three of the most widely used pesticides.
The EU has decided to restrict from December 1 the use of a class of pesticides known as that neonicotinoids, which have been linked to a plunge in the bee population.
Rapeseed is one of the crops most at risk because of the wide use of neonicotinoids as seed treatments and the fact that alternatives are less effective.
“We are facing the danger of substantial loss of rapeseed crop yields, but it is not possible to say precisely what,” said Manuela Specht, spokeswoman for German oilseeds industry association UFOP.
Specht said it was impossible to estimate the extent of losses as the level of insect infestation can vary from year to year, adding that some farmers may decide in several years that rapeseed is too risky and switch to another crop.
The European Union produced 19.3 million metric tons (21.28 million tons) of rapeseed out of the global total of 60.7 million metric tons, including the cultivated variety canola, in the 2012/13 season.
Entomologists said the flea beetle is among the pests most likely to pose a growing threat to EU rapeseed crops.
The small jumping beetle devours the leaves of rapeseed plants and has been known to cause severe damage to crops in both Europe and North America.
The threat posed can vary from year to year. Some of the worst outbreaks in the past have occurred after a hot summer as the beetles lay more eggs in warm weather.
“The major use of neonicotinoids in the UK affected by these changes will be oilseed rape seed treatments. There are currently no seed dressing alternatives to the three banned actives,” entomologists at crop consultants ADAS said.
The alternative would be to use foliar pyrethroid sprays to control flea beetles, ADAS said in an emailed comment.
“They (sprayed crop chemicals) don’t offer the same flexibility as seed treatments,” Jean-Charles Bocquet, director of French crop protection makers association UIPP.
“There are farmers who can’t apply them because it is raining or it is windy. In the autumn it rains a lot, so the tractor can’t always get into the field.”
Another threat is peach potato aphids, which spread the damaging Turnip yellows virus and can cause yield losses of up to 30 percent in rapeseed.
“Control of the peach potato aphid may be more difficult in view of the widespread resistance of this pest to insecticides, including pyrethroids,” ADAS said.
European Commission spokesman Roger Waite said the size of the economic damage was difficult to assess and had not been taken into account when the decision was taken.
He added that as a last measure, if no alternative pest control possibilities exist, the legislation provides for the possibility for member states to grant an emergency authorization for restricted use for the pesticides.
“In addition, the actual bans may push the industry to offer suitable alternative solutions,” he added.
Some EU countries have already taken some measures against neonicotinoids, including France which withdrew its license for a rapeseed treatment called Cruiser in late June 2012.
The banned neonicotinoids are produced mainly by Germany’s Bayer and Switzerland’s Syngenta, while rival firms such as Dow Chemical could benefit from increased sales of sprays.
(Additional reporting by Charlie Dunmore in Brussels, Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Gus Trompiz in Paris; editing by Jane Baird)
Posted by VicPlough on Apr 27, 2013 in Environment
<span class="articleLocation”>(Reuters) – Power company NRG Energy Inc said on Friday a technology it developed with the University of Delaware has sold power from electric vehicles to the power grid for the first time.
The University and NRG said in a statement that they began work on the so-called eV2g program in September 2011 to provide a two-way interface between electric vehicles and the power grid that enables vehicle owners to sell electricity back to the grid while they are charging their cars.
NRG said the project became an official participant in the PJM frequency regulation market on February 27. The system is still in development and not yet a commercial offering.
PJM operates the power grid for 60 million people in 13 U.S. Mid-Atlantic and Midwest states and the District of Columbia.
Frequency regulation is used to balance supply and demand on the grid second-by-second.
“This demonstrates that (electric vehicles) can provide both mobility and stationary power while helping make the grid more resilient and ultimately generating revenue for electric vehicle owners,” NRG Executive Vice President Denise Wilson, who leads the company’s emerging businesses, said in the statement.
Electric vehicles can act as energy storage, allowing power grid operators like PJM to balance the power provided by intermittent renewable resources such as wind and solar.
A key aspect of the technology, NRG said, is that it can aggregate power from multiple electric vehicles to create one larger power resource.
BMW, a unit of German car maker Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, provided the electric vehicles.
Milbank Manufacturing provided the charging stations.
NRG said the technology is expected to be used at first by managers of commercial electric vehicle fleets, providing revenue while the vehicles are parked, with individual electric vehicle owners to eventually follow.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)
Posted by VicPlough on Apr 25, 2013 in Environment
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. environment regulator on Monday said the State Department must take a harder look at climate and other impacts of the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil sands pipeline before the Obama administration issues a final decision on the project.
The Environmental Protection Agency rated the State Department’s 2,000-page March 1 draft review of the TransCanada Corp pipeline project as “insufficient,” in a letter to department officials as a public comment period ended on Monday.
The agency’s tough stance signals that unless the State Department addresses its concerns in a final review, it could create more hurdles for a $5.3 billion dollar project which has been pending for more than four years.
Backers say the project would boost North American energy security and provide thousands of construction jobs. Opponents argue that it would lead to higher releases of greenhouse gases.
The EPA said it was concerned about carbon emissions from the oil sands that are energy-intensive to produce, and about the safety of transporting Canadian crude via pipeline following a high profile spill in a Michigan river in 2010.
There was a reminder of the threat last month when an Exxon Mobil pipeline spilled thousands of barrels of Canadian crude in Arkansas, but the EPA letter did not mention that incident.
The agency was also concerned about the State Department’s conclusion that the climate would not be affected by approval of the line because rail would be a major transport alternative.
“This analysis should include further investigation of rail capacity and costs, recognizing the potential for much higher per barrel rail shipment costs,” the letter said.
The Obama administration is expected to make a final decision on the line late this year.
The EPA said the State Department should estimate the social cost of emissions from the pipeline including damage to agriculture, human health and property from climate change.
The request came despite an almost 20 percent reduction in the EPA’s estimate of how much carbon dioxide would be released from the oil sands crude carried by the pipeline over its 50-year life, to 935 million metric tons.
“We seem to have continued concern,” said a source at the EPA. “We’re pretty assiduously tracking the project.”
An interagency Obama administration group has put the social cost of carbon emissions at $5 to $65 dollars a ton. If the emissions of the oil sands are not reduced, that means emissions from the Keystone pipeline could cost between nearly $5 billion to more than $60 billion over 50 years.
The State Department will have to address the EPA concerns when it finalizes its review, which could take some time as it reviews more than 1 million public comments.
In a statement it said it had “always anticipated” the need to do further analysis on the basis of feedback to its draft review.
Once the final review is released, the EPA will have another three months to raise further objections if it is still not satisfied.
The State Department is in charge of determining whether Keystone should get a presidential permit because the pipeline would cross the national border. President Barack Obama is expected to weigh in on the decision.
NOT A REPUDIATION
An environmentalist said the EPA’s concerns should push Obama to oppose the project, even though the southern leg of the pipeline, which did not need State Department approval, is already 60 percent built.
“We still expect him to do the right thing and the EPA has given him yet another reason to reject Keystone XL,” said May Boeve, the head of environmental group 350.org.
TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said emissions should not be a factor in the decision because Canada’s oil sands would replace imports of heavy oil from Mexico and Venezuela.
In the more than four years that Washington has considered permitting TransCanada’s project, the EPA had raised concerns three times about State Department reviews of the project. And the concerns have led to delays.
But the EPA ratings have improved. In 2010 the agency gave the State Department’s first environmental review of the project the worst possible rating of “inadequate”.
An energy policy analyst said the environment agency’s comments on Monday were not likely to stop the approval process from moving forward.
“This is not a blessing by any means, but it’s not a repudiation, either,” said Kevin Book of ClearView Energy Partners.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Stephen Coates)
Posted by VicPlough on Mar 3, 2013 in Environment
Story By: Jeff Brady and Audie Cornish
The long-awaited BP trial opened Monday in New Orleans. The oil giant is in court to determine how much it should pay because of the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Audie Cornish talks to Jeff Brady.