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Other states' exemptions

Illinois, North Carolina, Texas, Rhode Island and Indiana have exempted drivers burning kitchen grease from paying such a tax. In North Carolina, the move came at the behest of a state senator who motors around in a small car powered by soybean oil. The legislator said it wasn't paying the taxes that bothered him so much as the hours required to do the paperwork.

Terry Tamminen, an adviser to Schwarzenegger on energy and environmental policy, acknowledged that California has been slow to adapt.

"When you go through a period of change, there is always a clunkiness to the bureaucracy," he said.

But he said the state should not overlook the value of alternative-fuel pioneers.

"Our mentality is to look for the next silver bullet" to replace petroleum, Tamminen said by telephone while driving a car fueled by compressed natural gas. "But there is no silver bullet, only buckshot. We are going to need every one of these silver buckshots to be developed as best it can."

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/05/09/BAB210J7BF.DTL

This article appeared on page B - 6 of the San Francisco Chronicle

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/05/09/BAB210J7BF.DTL&type=printable

Gas-tax holiday debate warns of fights to come

By Michael Shellenberger,Ted Nordhaus

Ssn Francisco Chronicle

Friday, May 9, 2008

Media elites and environmentalists are howling over Hillary Rodham Clinton's and John McCain's call to suspend the gasoline tax. While the gas tax "holiday" is certainly a crass pander to working-class swing voters who are more concerned about rising energy prices than global warming, it is also a powerful warning to groups that hope to deal with climate change by increasing the cost of electricity.


Next month, the Senate will take up legislation that would regulate greenhouse-gas emissions and increase the price of electricity from fossil fuels. Coal and oil companies are already gearing up to run a multimillion dollar ad campaign aimed at stoking public fears of higher energy prices.

Nevertheless, environmental leaders and Senate Democrats are plowing ahead, ignoring the fact that they have sailed these treacherous waters before. In 1993, President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore proposed a new tax on energy. While they succeeded in persuading House Democrats to vote for it, Senate Democrats balked, and the measure failed. Many House Democrats who voted for the measure lost re-election in 1994, and several pointed to the energy tax as one of the main reasons.

This time is different, environmental leaders insist. The public is more concerned about global warming than ever before, and the regulations they are proposing aren't technically a tax, even if they will end up raising electricity prices. Such overconfidence has been the death of green efforts in the past.

Anticipating opposition of the "Harry and Louise" ad campaign variety, Senate leaders are expected to dilute the global-warming cap with loopholes and safety valves that prevent the price of carbon dioxide pollution - and thus the price of electricity - from rising very high. And while this may be good politics, the result will be legislation that has little impact on greenhouse-gas emissions.

Democratic and environmental leaders insist that the global warming cap-and-trade pollution law will be as effective as the 1990 Clean Air Act on acid rain, which capped sulfur dioxide emissions and allowed companies to buy and sell reductions in emissions to each other. But whereas the past cap-and-trade law required coal companies to install inexpensive scrubbers to smokestacks, or purchase low-sulfur coal from Wyoming and New Mexico, overcoming global warming requires a whole new energy infrastructure - such as new transmission lines to bring wind power from the Dakotas and solar power from the Southwest to big cities - as well as new, expensive technologies, from solar and wind, to coal plants that capture and store their emissions.


This is already playing out in Europe. The European Union has set a fairly high price for polluting carbon dioxide - about $38 per ton of carbon dioxide - but it is still cheaper for European energy companies to build new coal plants and purchase offsets, which is why Europe is today on a coal-building boom, despite the cost it has imposed on polluters. While estimates vary, few expect U.S. climate legislation to result in a carbon dioxide price above $30 per ton for the foreseeable future.

There is a better way. Truly dealing with global warming not just in the United States but also in China, which passed the United States in emissions last year, requires making clean energy as cheap as possible, as quickly as possible. The good news is that doing so is far more popular politically than increasing the cost of electricity at a time when public anxiety over the economy is rising. Voters overwhelmingly support this objective, and Gallup found last year that 65 percent of voters support spending at least $30 billion a year to do it.

If the environmental movement is to finally translate its rhetoric into reality, it will need to shift its focus from making dirty energy expensive to making clean energy cheap.

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, authors of "Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility" are co-founders of the Breakthrough Institute.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/05/09/EDPJ10JB1L.DTL

This article appeared on page B - 11 of the San Francisco Chronicle

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/05/09/EDPJ10JB1L.DTL&type=printable

Is global warming to blame for Burma cyclone


By Michael Casey, AP Environmental Writer

USA Today


Thursday 8 May 2008


BANGKOK, Thailand — It was Asia's answer to Hurricane Katrina. Packing winds upwards of 120 mph, Cyclone Nargis became one of Asia's deadliest storms by hitting land at one of the lowest points in Myanmar and setting off a storm surge that reached 25 miles inland.

"When we saw the (storm) track, I said, 'Uh oh, this is not going to be good," said Mark Lander, a meteorology professor at the University of Guam. "It would create a big storm surge. It was like Katrina going into New Orleans."

Forecasters began tracking the cyclone April 28 as it first headed toward India. As projected, it took a sharp turn eastward, but didn't follow the typical cyclone track in that area leading to Bangladesh or Myanmar's mountainous northwest.

Instead, it swept into the low-lying Irrawaddy delta in central Myanmar. The result was the worst disaster ever in the impoverished country.

It was the first time such an intense storm hit the delta, said Jeff Masters, co-founder and director of meteorology at the San Francisco-based Weather Underground. He called it "one of those once-in-every-500-years kind of things."

"The easterly component of the path is unusual," Masters said. "It tracked right over the most vulnerable part of the country, where most of the people live."

When the storm made landfall early Saturday at the mouth of the Irrawaddy River, its battering winds pushed a wall of water as high as 12 feet some 25 miles inland, laying waste to villages and killing tens of thousands.

Most of the dead were in the delta, where farm families sleeping in flimsy shacks barely above sea level were swept to their deaths. Almost 95% of the houses and other buildings in seven townships were destroyed, Myanmar's government says. U.N. officials estimate 1.5 million people were left in severe straits.

"When you look at the satellite picture of before and after the storm the effects look eerily similar to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in how it inundated low-lying areas," said Ken Reeves, director of forecasting for AccuWeather.com.


The Irrawaddy delta "is huge and the interaction of water and land lying right at sea level allowed the tidal surge to deliver maximum penetration of sea water over land," Reeves said. "Storms like this do most of their killing through floods, with salt water being even more dangerous than fresh water."

The delta had lost most of its mangrove forests along the coast to shrimp farms and rice paddies over the past decade. That removed what scientists say is one of nature's best defenses against violent storms.

"If you look at the path of the (cyclone) that hit Myanmar, it hit exactly where it was going to do the most damage, and it's doing the most damage because much of the protective vegetation was cleared," said Jeff NcNeely, chief scientist for the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

"It's an expensive lesson, but it has been one taught repeatedly," he said. "You just wonder why governments don't get on this."

Some environmentalists suggested global warming may have played a role. Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that warming oceans could contribute to increasingly severe cyclones with stronger winds and heavier rains.

"While we can never pinpoint one disaster as the result of climate change, there is enough scientific evidence that climate change will lead to intensification of tropical cyclones," said Sunita Narain, director of the Indian environmental group Center for Science and Environment.

"Nargis is a sign of things to come," she said. "The victims of these cyclones are climate change victims and their plight should remind the rich world that it is doing too little to contain its greenhouse gas emissions."

Weather experts, however, are divided over whether global warming is a factor in catastrophic storms. At a January conference of the American Meteorological Society, some postulated warmer ocean temperatures may actually reduce the strength of cyclones and hurricanes.


Masters, at Weather Underground, said Wednesday that in the case of Nargis, the meteorological data in the Indian Ocean region "is too short and too poor in quality to make judgments about whether tropical cyclones have been affected by global warming."

Despite assertions by Myanmar's military government that it warned people about the storm, critics contend the junta didn't do enough to alert the delta and failed to organize any evacuations, saying that made the death toll worse.

"Villagers were totally unaware," said 38-year-old Khin Khin Myawe, interviewed in the hard-hit delta town of Labutta. "We knew the cyclone was coming but only because the wind was very strong. No local authorities ever came to us with information about how serious the storm was."

The India Meteorological Department, one of six regional warning centers set up by the World Meteorological Organization, began sending regular storm advisories April 27. The information appeared in Myanmar's state-run newspapers, radio and television 48 hours ahead of the storm.

But the international advisories said nothing about a storm surge. And Myanmar, unlike its neighbors Bangladesh and India, has no radar network to help predict the location and height of surges, the WMO said.

There also wasn't any coordinated effort on the part of the junta to move people out of low-lying areas, even though information was available about the expected time and location of landfall.

"How is it possible that there was such a great death toll in the 21st century when we have imagery from satellites in real time and there are specialized meteorology centers in all the regions?" said Olavo Rasquinho of the U.N. Typhoon Committee Secretariat.

Bangladesh has a storm protection system that includes warning sirens, evacuation routes and sturdy towers to shelter people, measures that were credited with limiting the death toll from last year's Cyclone Sidr to 3,100.


Atiq A. Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies and a disaster specialist, said Myanmar's death toll would have been lower if it had such a system.

"Taking some action to move people from affected areas would have dramatically helped reduce the numbers of causalities. Absolutely," Rahman said.

But junta officials and some weather experts said evacuating a large area with millions of residents would have been nearly impossible, given the poor roads, the distance to some villages and the likely refusal of some families to leave.

"Even if they warned them, they can't go anywhere. Or they are afraid to go anywhere because they are afraid of losing their property," said Lander, the University of Guam professor. "It is debatable how much of a mass exodus you could have had."

Contributing: Associated Press writer Lily Hindy contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

http://www.usatoday.com/weather/climate/2008-05-08-cyclone-global-warming_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip

Planes fly more, emit less greenhouse gas


By Thomas Frank

USA TODAY

Friday 8 May 2008


WASHINGTON — The U.S. aviation industry has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 13% since 2000, even as the amount of flying has reached record levels, government data show.

The decline was among the steepest of any sector measured by the Environmental Protection Agency and came as total U.S. emissions of gases that warm the Earth remained level between 2000 and 2006. Greenhouse gases from cars and trucks rose 6% in that period, according to an EPA report issued in April.


Aviation has faced pressure to improve efficiency as fuel prices began soaring in 2003. More recently, elected officials and environmentalists have called for stricter controls on aircraft emissions, particularly carbon dioxide, the most prominent greenhouse gas.

Airlines cut fuel consumption from a record 20.4 billion gallons in 2000 to 19.6 billion in 2006, Department of Transportation figures show. In that period, theirplanes flew 18% more miles on domestic and international routes. That marks the first extended period in which airlines have cut fuel use while flying more miles, DOT data show.

"The airlines have historically done a much better job than the auto companies at increasing efficiency," said Deron Lovaas, a transit expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "They feel fuel prices much more than your average consumer feels changes in fuel costs at the pump."

Airlines have taken many steps to curb fuel use, such as adding navigation equipment so planes can fly more direct routes, modifying wings to improve aerodynamics and shaving weight from jets by installing lighter seats. Older jets are being replaced with newer, more fuel-efficient models.

Plane efficiency — the amount of fuel consumed per mile flown — improved by 23% from 2000 to 2006, DOT figures show. Automobile efficiency increased by 2% from 2000 to 2006. Commercial planes account for 2% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Industry officials warn that aviation's improvement may be hard to continue. "There's so little left you can do other than renewing the fleet or flying less," said John Heimlich, chief economist of the Air Transport Association.

Alice Thomas of Earthjustice, a California environmental group, said with U.S. air travel expected to nearly double by 2025, aviation emissions will grow.

Earthjustice and other groups petitioned the EPA in December to regulate planes' greenhouse gases, saying, "Voluntary measures alone will not be sufficient."


Airlines oppose the effort, calling it costly. "We'd love to be able to buy new planes," Heimlich said. "Don't make it harder for us."

http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/environment/2008-05-08-airlines-pollution-greenhouse-gas_N.htm

Oil Lobby Reaches Out to Citizens Peeved at the Pump

By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 9, 2008; D01

Faced with a national outcry over the high price of gasoline and soaring profits for energy companies, the oil and gas industry is waging an unusually pricey campaign to burnish its image.

The American Petroleum Institute, the industry's main lobby, has embarked on a multiyear, multimedia, multimillion-dollar campaign, which includes advertising in the nation's largest newspapers, news conferences in many state capitals and trips for bloggers out to drilling platforms at sea.

The intended audience is elected officials and the public, with an emphasis on the latter. The industry is trying to convince voters -- who, in turn, will make the case to their members of Congress -- that rising energy prices are not the producers' fault and that government efforts to punish the industry, especially with higher taxes, would only make pricing problems worse.

"We decided that if we didn't do something to help people understand the basics of our industry, we'd be on the losing end as far as the eye could see," said Red Cavaney, the institute's president.

Despite the efforts, Democratic congressional leaders this week again proposed an energy plan that would strip oil companies of billions of dollars of tax breaks and impose a tax on windfall profits. Also, the Democratic presidential candidates routinely pronounce "big oil" as if it were a one-word epithet, said former Oklahoma senator Don Nickles, an energy lobbyist.


Still, the oil lobby thinks it has made significant progress with consumers and will make even more as it continues to spend heavily on public relations. Allied industry groups such as coal and natural gas are also increasing their efforts to curry favor with the public, hoping to improve citizens' sometimes poor opinion of them.

The campaign has stirred outrage among consumer groups. They complain that the industry is using its outlandish profits to make even more money, and that its advertisements use statistics selectively. "It's basically deceptive advertising that dulls the natural and proper reaction of the public," said Mark N. Cooper, research director of the Consumer Federation of America.

Oil company profits have soared lately, bolstered by record crude oil prices. This month, Exxon Mobil reported a first-quarter profit of $10.89 billion, up 17 percent from a year ago, which provoked new congressional complaints. Shell and BP also posted sharp quarterly profit increases. Gasoline prices, meanwhile, have risen to a national record of nearly $3.65 a gallon, and crude oil has hit a new peak of nearly $124 a barrel.

Cavaney will not disclose how much his institute is spending on its campaign, except to say that it is less than $100 million a year, which was roughly the size of the "Got Milk?" ad blitz that featured famous people with milk mustaches.

The price tag for issue-oriented campaigns that lobbies routinely sponsor is huge, said Bill Replogle, an advertising executive at Qorvis Communications.

"A typical issues ad-spend in D.C. might be $2 million to $3 million for a significant campaign," he said. "This dwarfs that, and many national ad buys."


The oil and gas industry has long been considered a powerhouse in Washington, thanks to its big spending inside the Beltway and quietly extensive ties to influential lawmakers from the oil patch. The industry is the third-largest campaign contributor among major industry groups and the fourth-largest buyer of lobbying services, according to the nonpartisan CQ MoneyLine.

The industry has lobbied Congress intensively in the past few years, institute officials said. But such insider connections were insufficient to hold back an anti-industry tide that rolled into the capital after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. Energy prices spiked then, prompting a spate of congressional hearings that focused on oil company profits and led to attempts to pass a windfall profits tax.

"That was a wake-up call," Cavaney said. His organization began to research public opinion about, and knowledge of, the industry and found it extremely low. In response, it began a national advertising and public relations drive that has become among the largest of its kind.

This has been especially visible to residents of big cities this year, with prominent ads appearing in major newspapers and commercials during public affairs television.

This week, for example, the institute bought full-page ads explaining what goes into the cost of gasoline (predominantly crude oil and taxes) in USA Today, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and seven other large newspapers.


But a lot of the oil lobby's outreach has been directed at smaller markets, where its press events have gotten prominent and positive coverage. State capitals have been a favorite venue for what the institute calls its "tech tour," an interactive exhibit, including video games, that highlights technological advances that allow companies to extract oil and gas cheaper -- and to burn it cleaner -- than in the recent past.

In March 2007, the tech tour exhibit spent time in Lansing, Mich., the state capital. A year later, it visited West Virginia's capital, Charleston. Local television stations aired prominently placed, upbeat 30-second news segments after each visit.

The lobby has started courting online journalists as well. In November, the institute said it invited bloggers to Shell's facilities in New Orleans and then took them to visit the offshore platform Brutus. The same month, the institute also brought bloggers to Chevron's offices in Houston and its Blind Faith platform under construction in Corpus Christi, Tex. There are more tours in the works.

Coal companies, and the users and transporters of the commodity, are also trying to improve coal's image with a $45 million-a-year campaign, and Oklahoma billionaire Aubrey K. McClendon is spending millions through a foundation to promote natural gas.

R. Skip Horvath, president of the Natural Gas Supply Association, said energy companies are reacting not just to higher prices and profits but to the three-year, $300 million "We" campaign launched in March by former vice president Al Gore urging a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. "The need to get information out there to explain how energy relates to the environment is key," Horvath said.


But Cavaney of API is not promising instant results. He said that his group's efforts have produced "a very different conversation" about energy, but that the job is not nearly finished.

"There's no expectation that the public will end up loving the oil and gas industry," he said.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/08/AR2008050803143_pf.html

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ROLAC MEDIA UPDATE

9 May 2008



OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS:


I English


1- Brazil - Brazil warns EU on green biofuel controls

2- Brazil - Sugarcane Alcohol Tarnished by U.S. Maize Ethanol

3- Brazil - Controversy over Indigenous Land and Biofuels

4- Chile - Volcano's impact seen hundreds of miles away

5- Costa Rica – Endangered parrots born in captivity reproduce in wild

6- Jamaica - T&T PM calls for region to unite on tourism

7- Regional - Food Summit Declares Regional Emergency

8- Regional - Energy Part of SouthAm Integration


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