Tuesday, December 23, 2008

12 Reasons to be Thankful this Holiday Season

Despite the economic hard times, those who celebrate the growth of Green have much to be thankful for this Christmas season. The Twelve Days of Christmas end with Epiphany which commemorates the Wise Men (or Magi) who presented gifts to the Christ child. Although there are no partridges or pear trees, here are 12 reasons why environmentally conscious people should be hopeful this holiday season.

1. Increasing Home Energy Efficiency: Although far from where it could be, the drive toward energy efficiency continues. Energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are being used in more homes all around the world, underscoring the powerful importance of small gestures repeated millions of times.

2. ESA Protection: Although a lamentable illustration of the effects of climate change, the polar bear's listing as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) affords some protection. The polar bear is the first of countless species that will fall under ESA protection due to climate change. This affords yet another reason to get serious about reductions in America's CO2 emissions.

3. 'Hypermiling': Defined as the "attempt to maximize gas mileage by making fuel-conserving adjustments to one's car and one's driving techniques". The Oxford American Dictionary named "hypermiling" the 2008 word of the year. Hypermiling techniques include keeping tires perfectly inflated, killing engines at stoplights, turning off the air-conditioning and driving at a steady speed, with as little rapid acceleration or deceleration as possible.

4. Climate Change Skeptics are Left Out in the Cold: It is increasingly difficult to deny the reality of anthropocentric climate change. Discredited by bad science, those who refute climate change have less credibility than ever.

5. Cap-and-Trade: In the EU a cap-and-trade system is operating well and according to an MIT analysis, has had little or no negative impact on the overall EU economy. Even large cities like Tokyo are passing legislation that will require a cap-and-trade scheme for emissions. 2008 saw the introduction of the first national carbon cap-and-trade legislation to reach a full vote in the US Senate. Although it did not make it into law, it began a debate that is sure to continue as cap-and-trade has the support of the President-elect.

6. First CO2 Auctions: Putting a price on carbon pollution is crucial to CO2 reductions, one way to achieve this is through a cap-and-trade program which would auction CO2. This system puts the power of free markets to work for the environment. In September, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, (a pact of 10 northeastern states to cut carbon emissions) held their first carbon auction. In November Europe held its first auction of CO2 permits.

7. Addressing Deforestation: Tree loss accounts for at least 20% of global carbon emissions. As the world's third largest carbon emitter, Indonesia is regulating deforestation. With the help of California, Indonesian officials announced their government would set up a regulatory framework for carbon forestry programs. Earlier this month Brazil announced that it has set targets to reduce deforestation by 70 percent over the next decade.

8. Coal Moratorium: In the US coal is cheap, but it is also responsible for 30% of the country's carbon emissions. Coal currently supplies half of US' electricity. A November 13 ruling stipulates that the EPA has no grounds to refuse to regulate the CO2 emitted by new coal plants. That prohibited the EPA from certifying any new coal plants, effectively stopping further development of 100 new coal plants currently in the development pipeline. Poland is one of the most coal dependent nations on earth, it gets 90% of its electricity from coal. But it is reducing it's dependence on home-grown coal so that it can meet it's CO2 targets.

9. Fuel Efficient Vehicles: There is a radical shift well under way in the car culture of the world's biggest carbon emitter. The growing popularity of hybrids and smaller cars demonstrate that fuel efficiency is something Americans expect from their automobiles. Even before gas was $4 a gallon, sales of compact or subcompact cars were up and sales of traditional SUVs and full-size pickups were down. And for the first time, fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines surpassed six-cylinder models in popularity. “It’s easily the most dramatic segment shift I have witnessed in the market in my 31 years here,” said George Pipas, chief sales analyst for the Ford Motor Company. “The era of the truck-based large SUVs is over,” said Michael Jackson, chief executive of AutoNation, the nation’s largest auto retailer. "We continue to see that fuel efficiency will remain one of the top priorities for purchasing consumers," said Bob Carter, general manager of Toyota's U.S. division. “This shift appears to be a permanent situation,” said Jesse Toprak, chief industry analyst for the auto information Web site Edmunds.com. Whatever the fate of the big 3 US auto giants, the days of Detroit's gas guzzling behemoths are gone forever.

10. Lessons In the Management of 'Green' Initiatives: Events in the agricultural commodities market are ushering a better understanding of how we must manage Green initiatives. The bio-fuel bubble burst due to over investment and collapsing ethanol prices coincided with several studies refuting ethanol's Green status. Not only is American ethanol production of questionable Green value, the federal subsidies that encouraged farmers to grow corn, had unintended global consequences like driving food prices to record highs. The recent credit crisis serves to further illustrate the transnational character of our globalized economies.

11. Renewable Energy: The EU set targets for renewable energy generation at 40 percent by 2020. Earlier this month the US Congress passed renewable energy credits which extended the federal tax credit system that helped build the domestic solar and wind industries. These credits enable renewable energy to compete with cheap fossil fuels.

12. President-Elect Obama: The election of Barack Obama is part of an American epiphany that offers hope for all those who feel that environmental leadership must come from the worlds preeminent economic and industrial power. President-elect Obama embodies America's realization of the importance of Green. The Obama team has pledged to create Green collar jobs through alternative-energy investment and the implementation of a cap-and-trade system. The world has reason to rejoice over Obama's forward looking plans for environmental stewardship. Cynical chants of "drill baby drill" were drowned out by choruses of "yes we can." Green now has a champion in the most powerful office on earth.

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