Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cool Planet Launches Biochar Product for Commercial Trials

Cool Planet Energy Systems, the pioneering biofuel/biochar startup, has officially launched its patented Cool Terra biochar product for use in commercial agricultural trials.  Field trials have already been conducted in California, and the company now intends to undertake a wider set of commercial trials in anticipation of a full market release sometime next year.  Cool Planet envisions a nationwide network of local pyrolysis stations utilizing cellulosic biomass to produce carbon-negative gasoline and biochar soil amendments.  The Cool Terra rollout was announced at the 2013 North American Biochar Symposium held earlier this month in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

London Protocol Adopts Amendments to Regulate All Marine Geoengineering

Last Friday, parties to the London Convention/London Protocol (LC/LP) on ocean dumping formally adopted amendments which would establish a new "positive list" of marine geoengineering techniques that could be permitted under the Protocol, subject to a test of scientific legitimacy using tailored "Assessment Frameworks."  The amendments are a slightly modified version of a proposal originally put forward by Australia, Nigeria, and South Korea in May (see New London Protocol Proposal to Regulate Marine Geoengineering, 5/18).  Like that earlier proposal, the amendments as adopted include only ocean fertilization on the initial positive list, with provision for the addition of other marine geoengineering methods.

The amendments represent an expansion of scope for the LC/LP beyond its current sole focus on ocean fertilization to possibly encompass other techniques such as enhanced weathering or microbubbles.  Furthermore, as amendments rather than resolutions (the official status of all previous ocean fertilization provisions), these new rules, if they enter into force, would be legally binding on consenting parties rather than strictly voluntary.  The amendments will enter into force 60 days after two-thirds of the Contracting Parties deliver an "instrument of acceptance."  The amendments were adopted at the 35th meeting of the LC and the 8th meeting of the LP, held jointly in London.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

First Evidence Indicates Minimal Political Fallout from EPA CCS Standard

Two weeks after the EPA released a proposed emissions performance standard that would require CCS for all new coal-fired power plants (see EPA Releases Revised Performance Standard Requiring CCS, 9/23), initial evidence suggests that the political fallout for Democrats is minimal.  The new standard and the supposed "war on coal" being waged by the Obama Administration have become a flashpoint in the Virginia governor's race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Clinton confidante, and Republican Ken Cuccinelli, the state's Attorney General.  Southwest Virginia is coal country, leading McAuliffe to evade questions about the standard in the days following EPA's announcement.  When he finally expressed support, Cuccinelli went on the attack and accused McAuliffe of hostility toward Virginia's coal industry.

A new poll of 1,150 likely voters commissioned by Politico shows that the issue has failed to catch fire among the state electorate.  In response to the question, "Do you support or oppose new Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, regulations on coal-fired power plants aimed at curtailing climate change?," 45% of respondents expressed support, 33% were opposed, and 22% were unsure.  Predictably, support was high among Democrats (67%) and low among Republicans (21%), while independents were 44% in favor, 36% opposed, and 19% unsure.  These results are largely mirrored in overall voter preferences, with 44% of respondents supporting McAuliffe, 35% supporting Cuccinelli, and 12% supporting Libertarian Robert Sarvis (in a hypothetical two-man match-up 52% of respondents prefer McAuliffe compared to 42% for Cuccinelli).  Cuccinelli is demonstrably suffering from voter dissatisfaction with the Republican-led shutdown of the federal government, which affects Virginia disproportionately given the state's high number of government employees and large federal presence.