Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cut vs. Herbicide For High Power Line Vegetation Management

The Center believes manual and mechanical cutting of trees and other vegetation underneath high power line rights of way (ROW) are superior to herbicide use because cutting creates green jobs. Moreover, although we have a deep appreciation for the effectiveness of a combined cut and herbicide regimen, the fewer amounts of chemicals used in nature, the better. A panel of 23 experts from the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) is crafting a best management practice (BMP) for integrated vegetation managment (IVM) to servce as a field guide for front-line supervision, as well as an aid for managers to help facilitate planning.

Managers have a variety of control methods from which to choose, including manual, mechanical, herbicide and tree-growth regulators, biological and cultural options. Manual methods employ workers with hand-carried tools, including chain saws, handsaws, pruning shears and other devices to control incompatible vegetation. The advantage of manual techniques is that they are selective and can be used where others may not be. However, manual techniques can be inefficient and expensive compared to other methods. Mechanical controls are done with machines. Although mechanical control methods are efficient and cost effective — particularly for clearing dense vegetation during initial establishment or reclaiming neglected or overgrown ROW — they can be nonselective and disturb sensitive sites.

Many utilities believe tree-growth regulators and herbicides are essential for effective vegetation management. Tree-growth regulators are designed to reduce growth rates by interfering with natural plant processes. They can be helpful by reducing the growth rates of some fast-growing species where removals are prohibited or impractical. Herbicides control plants by interfering with specific botanical biochemical pathways. Herbicide use can control individual plants that are prone to resprout or sucker after removal. When trees that resprout or sucker are removed without herbicide treatment, dense thickets develop, impeding access, swelling workloads, increasing costs, blocking lines of site and deteriorating wildlife habitat. Treating suckering plants allows early successional, compatible species to dominate the ROW and out-compete incompatible species, ultimately reducing work. (Transmission & Distribution World, July 2007)

Friday, March 6, 2009

$1 Billion Resurrects FutureGen Project in Mattoon, Illinois

The stimulus package inclueded $1 billion for "fossil energy research and development," which is really an earmark for the FutureGen project--clean coal project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The project was abruptly killed lin 2008 by the Bush administration. The FutureGen plant will be a commercial-size power plant in Mattoon, Illinois, a town of 17,000 people. It would produce 275 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 150,000 homes. Mattoon has the right geology with a natural sandstone formation underneath that could serve as an ideal trap to keep carbon dioxide emissions stored underground.

Instead of releasing the resulting carbon dioxide emissions into the air as pollution, the plant would pump them into deep geologic formations thousands of feet below Earth's surface. The project's goal is to test and develop affordable technology, on a commercial scale, that can remove 90 percent of emissions produced by coal plants. The plant would be built with a group of private coal and utility companies known as the FutureGen Alliance. The FutureGen plant is expected to create jobs as many as 11,000 workers. The alliance must compete for the stimulus funds. (Wash Post)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Report Shows Solid Foundation for Emerging Carbon Market

A report issued today by the ten Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) shows that the competitive process is working as intended in the secondary market for carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances. The report concludes that there is no evidence of anticompetitive conduct amongst participants, such as electric utility companies, commodity brokers, and financial speculators.

The "Report on the Secondary Market for RGGI CO2 Allowances," which addresses the period from August 2008 to January 2009, was prepared by Potomac Economics, RGGI, Inc.'s independent market monitor. Potomac's other key findings include:

• Although trading volumes remain light compared to the number of allowances sold in auctions, the average volume of allowance futures trading grew from 155,000 allowances per day in September 2008 to 330,000 per day in January 2009.

• Despite continued fluctuations in market price, overall market volatility has declined over the period of study.

• A substantial number of firms (at least 25) have participated in the trading of standard futures and options contracts on public exchanges, which is a positive sign for the competitiveness of the secondary market at this early stage. Potomac's conclusions were based on the analysis of data reported to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Chicago Climate Futures Exchange and other data.The complete Report on the Secondary Market for RGGI CO2 Allowances. Contact: Emilee Pierce - 212-417-3179


About the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

The 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states participating in RGGI have designed the first market-based, mandatory cap-and-trade program in the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The states have committed to cap and then reduce the amount of CO2 that power plants in their region are allowed to emit, limiting the region's total contribution to atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. Under the RGGI process, the 10 participating states will stabilize power sector CO2 emissions at the capped level through 2014. The cap will then be reduced by 2.5 percent in each of the four years 2015 through 2018, for a total reduction of 10 percent.

The 10 states participating in RGGI are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. RGGI, Inc. was created in September 2007 to provide technical and administrative services to the states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. RGGI, Inc. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

EPA Seeks Comment on U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory

EPA is seeking public comment on the annual Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2007 draft report. This report will be open for public comment for 30 days after the Federal Register notice is published. The draft report shows that overall emissions during 2007 increased by 1.4 percent from the previous year. This trend was due primarily to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions associated with fuel and electricity consumption.

The total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were about 7,125 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent. Overall, emissions have grown by 17.1 percent from 1990 to 2007. The inventory tracks annual greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2007 at the national level. The gases covered by this inventory include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.

The inventory also calculates carbon dioxide emissions that are removed from the atmosphere by “sinks,” e.g., through the uptake of carbon by forests, vegetation, and soils. This annual report is prepared by EPA in collaboration with experts from multiple federal agencies. After responding to public comments, the U.S. government will submit the final inventory report to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The report will fulfill the annual requirement of the UNFCCC international treaty, ratified by the United States in 1992, which sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change. Information on the draft report and how to submit public comments. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Contact: Roxanne Smith, 202-564-4355.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Duke Energy CEO Seeks Free Allowances & We Agree

Duke Energy Corporation CEO James Rogers, left, believes President Obama's auction component in the proposed cap-and-trade program will significantly increase electricity bills. Although Rogers supports the cap-and-trade program, which would set a mandatory limit on global warming pollution and let companies trade emissions allowances on an open market, he opposes an auction of the allowances. He is right. We believe the allowances should be allocated free to utilities to prevent the automatic and immediate increase in utility bills. The Center recommends that President Obama should use the successful example of the Acid Rain Program, which reduced sulfur dioxide emissions in a cap-and-trade program that did not significantly increase electricity prices.

Although Rogers supports an auction of as many as 20 percent of the trading permits, with the revenue going toward research and development of low-carbon technologies, we believe that the ceiling for auctioning permits should be no higher than 5 percent. It is half that percentage in the Acid Rain Program. (