Tuesday, January 30, 2007

'Renaissance of agriculture' begins

Comment: On first blush, this appears to be a good step toward sustainability. I just hope they have done all they can to reduce their energy demand. Perhaps they can install a large PV array down the road and/or look into a Geo Thermal system.

Maine Today
Jerry Harkavy
January 30, 2007

MADISON - The temperature Monday hovered around 10 degrees, and snow covered the ground. But inside one of the nation's largest greenhouses, workers wore T-shirts as Gov. John Baldacci sampled the first vine-ripened tomatoes grown at Backyard Farms.

"These are beautiful," said Baldacci of the bright-red tomatoes grown in 70- to 75-degree warmth. Taking a bite, the former restaurateur pronounced the fruit "sweet and delicious."

Backyard Farms is betting that its $25 million venture will find a receptive market among shoppers craving summer-quality tomatoes in a region that has long relied on produce shipped from 1,000 miles away.

The glass-covered greenhouse on a former dairy farm covers 25 acres and stretches nearly as far as the eye can see. At more than 1 million square feet, it's roughly the size of six Wal-Mart Supercenters or more than 20 football fields.

With a capacity of 240,000 plants growing up to 10 feet tall, the greenhouse is projected to yield 1 million tomatoes a week. That adds up to 7.7 tons a year.

Backyard Farms, based in Lexington, Mass., envisions three or four additional greenhouses that would turn out other hydroponic produce, including cucumbers, peppers, eggplant and herbs. If this comes to pass, the current work force of 65 could expand to as many as 250 workers.

"We want to make Madison, Maine, the produce capital of New England," said Paul Sellew, president and CEO of Backyard Farms.
On Monday, however, the focus was strictly on tomatoes, dubbed "Backyard Beauties." The first shipment was dispatched Monday to Hannaford supermarkets, which has been looking forward to the Backyard Beauties to supplement winter tomatoes it gets from Holland, Israel, Mexico and Canada. The Maine tomatoes will be priced competitively, said Caren Epstein, a spokeswoman for the chain.

Sellew, whose family runs a large wholesale nursery in Connecticut, teamed up with Dutch-born Arie Vandergiessen, a leading greenhouse grower, and Wayne Davis, a former executive with Fidelity Investments, to develop the project.

While it may seem odd to build a greenhouse in a place that gets snow and subzero temperatures, Sellew said northern regions such as Quebec and Scandinavia are where many greenhouses are found.
"It's much easier to heat a greenhouse than it is to cool a greenhouse," Sellew said.

Madison was chosen because its electric rates are among the lowest in the region. Madison Electric Works, municipally owned, prices its power below that of other utilities.

The greenhouse is a major user of electricity to power its 11,000 specialized 1,000-watt lights. They are controlled by computer to emit enough light to mimic what the sun would provide under ideal conditions for photosynthesis.

The greenhouse uses state-of-the-art technology and environmentally friendly processes that use biological controls and beneficial insects in place of chemical pesticides.

Inside the greenhouse there are plenty of bees buzzing around to pollinate the tomatoes. The greenhouse uses rainwater, not groundwater, to grow the produce.

Madison's other attraction was the availability of 330 acres of flat, open terrain, some of it owned by retired dairy farmer Erik Walter, who appears dressed in overalls and a cap in promotional materials and on the side of the company's truck.

Both Walter and Sellew are happy that the greenhouse assures that the land won't be lost to farming.

"This represents a renaissance of New England agriculture," Sellew said.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Town blows hot and cold on wind farm

Glenn Adams
Sunday, January 28, 2007

MARS HILL ‹ There's no mistaking how Dawn and Rod Mahan feel about the 28 windmills that have sprouted along the spine of Mars Hill Mountain, which looms over this northern Maine town near their white farmhouse. "Honk if you hate the windmills," says a big hand-painted sign on their front lawn.

But along the town's main street, Dave Caldwell offers a different perspective as he gazes out the window of his auto repair shop toward the mountain, where some of the windmills are turning. "I think they're absolutely beautiful. I can't wait 'til they all go at the same time."

It seems few in this town of about 1,500 people can agree on UPC Wind Management's newly completed $85 million project, which makes the unassuming potato-growing and truck-brokerage community home to New England's largest wind farm.

But there's one thing everybody can agree on: The place sure looks different.

Long before a visitor arrives at Mars Hill, the towers become visible along what used to be just another mountain. The total height from the ground to the tip of the blade is 389 feet. Each tower has three blades, which spin in winds whipping west to east toward Canada, just a few miles away.

More than half the turbines were commissioned as of last week, while some final tinkering and testing were being done. UPC expects all of the towers to be generating power for the grid by the end of January, and a formal commissioning ceremony is planned in February, the Newton, Mass., company said.

Now Mars Hill residents are trying to get used to their new, ever-visible ­ some say spectacular - neighbors. Town Manager Raymond Mersereau said some people tell him it's not half as bad as they expected, while others say it's worse. Most have registered no opinion, he said.

Mersereau acknowledges there's still a lot of skepticism, but he thinks that will fade quickly later this year when their property tax bills drop 20 percent thanks to the $500,000 a year in local taxes UPC will pay in each of the next 20 years.

Mersereau also sees the windmills as an eco-tourism attraction that will draw schoolchildren and others who are curious about the project. The added tourism, he said, will generate new businesses while complementing the Big Rock ski area that operates on the mountain.

On a bone-numbing, 15-below-zero morning, with the pre-dawn sky still inky, the subject of the new windmills came up at Al's Diner, where workers swap gibes and chew over local issues while having coffee and breakfast.

Arthur London guessed three-quarters of the townspeople support the wind farm.

"I don't see anything wrong with them," London said. "It's just like anything new. After it's out there for a while, it's part of the landscape."

But Sam Mahan, Rod's father, isn't sure the windmills are so popular. "If they took a poll, they'd be in for a surprise," he said.

Another early bird at Al's said he was tired of looking at the same old mountain every day and welcomes the windmills. Another chimed in, "Let 'em spin."

At full capacity, the 42-megawatt wind farm will provide the power needs for 45,000 average Maine homes. Even at 35 percent, Mars Hill will crank out enough power for at least 22,000 homes, the developers say.

The windmills, dotted along a stretch of more than four miles, represent a smaller scope than projects elsewhere. The nation's largest wind farm, Horse Hollow in western Texas, has 291 windmills spread over 47,000 acres and generates 735 megawatts.

Still, the Mars Hill project puts Maine among the 20 states where utility-scale wind farms were installed last year, helping to make wind the second-largest source of new power generation in the country, said Randall Swisher, executive director of the American Wind Power Association.

As Mars Hill goes on line, two other major projects are proposed in Maine, both in its western mountains.

Maine Mountain Power LLC's proposal to erect 30 turbines producing 90 megawatts on Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountain, near the Sugarloaf USA ski resort, was dealt a major setback Wednesday when the state's wilderness zoning board told its staff to prepare a document calling for the project's rejection.

The Land Use Regulation Commission has begun reviewing TransCanada Corp.'s application to build a 44-turbine wind farm, capable of producing 132 megawatts, along nearly 14 miles of ridge line on Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range.

As wind speeds and direction are monitored, the windmills are wired to pivot individually toward the breezes. Each blade can be feathered to get the most efficient push from the wind, said Dave Cowan, UPC's vice president for environmental affairs. They also are programmed to shut down in sustained high wind.

They may be smart, but they're ugly, critics say.

Standing next to double glass doors in her house that open to a panorama of snow-covered fields, woodlands and the mountain, Dawn Mahan pointed to vertical blinds.

"I put these up as soon as they put the windmills up," she said. "Mars Hill is known for one thing - the mountain - and now they've gone and ruined it."

Electricity generated by the windmills will be transmitted to Canada because Mars Hill is connected to New Brunswick's power grid. Some of that power ultimately will be resold by the Canadian buyers for use in Maine.

Baldacci reiterates support for wind power

Glenn Adams
Monday, January 29, 2007

AUGUSTA - Despite last week's ruling by state officials that could lead to final rejection of the proposed Redington wind power project in western Maine, Gov. John Baldacci said he remains committed to that form of renewable energy.

The governor did not question last Wednesday's 6-1 vote by the Land Use Regulation Commission, saying that LURC "is an independent, citizen board" that must scrutinize each project in a balanced and measured way.

"They are responsible for evaluating projects like this one. Just because I support an expansion of wind energy does not exempt the project from the review process. These things have to be done in a reasonable way," the governor told The Associated Press.

Maine Mountain Power, meanwhile, remained undecided Sunday on what its next step will be following the wilderness zoning board's ruling against its $130 million project, which called for 30 wind turbines on Redington and Black Nubble mountains, spokesman Dennis Bailey said.

Bailey, noting that the project is not technically dead, said Maine Mountain's backers still are considering options that range from withdrawing their application to trying to persuade more LURC board members to change their minds.

Last week, the commission voted to ask its staff, which had recommended approval, to submit a document outlining reasons to finally turn down the project. The action is seen as a procedural step toward rejection.

"We're still mulling which way to go," Bailey said Sunday. "There are options; there's room to move."

Bailey said Maine Mountain Power, a partnership between Endless Energy of Yarmouth and Edison Mission Group of California, has been encouraged by the reaction of some elected officials, individuals and newspaper editorials to the Redington rejection.

A Maine Sunday Telegram editorial labeled the LURC decision "a shock and a disappointment." In a reference to the state's legislatively endorsed goal of increasing its renewable energy resources by 10 percent by 2017, the newspaper said the Redington project "would have been a credible step toward that goal."

The day after LURC voted, the Lewiston Sun Journal said the action "is a clear statement that Maine lacks the vision, and political will, to change its energy habits." The same editorial also said LURC's decision does not bode well for another major wind-power proposal in western Maine.

"Why would TransCanada continue its $270 million wind power project on 2,900 acres in Kibby Township, for example, given there is now serious doubt that LURC would approve it?" the opinion piece said.

The Alberta-based TransCanada earlier this month filed an application with LURC for its 132-megawatt, 44-turbine project. The company has said it would like to begin construction in late 2007.
A third major wind-power project in Maine has just been completed. The $85 million Mars Hill project, with 28 turbines, is going online and will generate 42 megawatts of power.

In his statement on LURC's action, Baldacci defended the governor-appointed LURC board and pointed to the Mars Hill project as evidence of his commitment to wind power.

"Wind energy is an important part of our efforts to reduce pollution and lessen the state's dependence on foreign oil," Baldacci said.
"I remain committed to increasing the amount of wind power generated in the state and will work with other projects, such as the one in Mars Hill, to make sure the industry expands. I support wind, the people I nominate to the board will support wind, but the projects have to be done in a responsible fashion."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Land-use board shows power in wind farm vote

Maine Today
January 25, 2007
John Richardson

The surprising rejection on Wednesday of a proposed wind farm near Rangeley sends one clear message to landowners with development plans for Maine's North Woods.
Members of Maine's Land Use Regulation Commission aren't afraid to make up their own minds about what activities are allowed by the strict rules that protect the 10 million acres of unorganized territory.

Neither widespread support for wind power nor a strong endorsement by LURC's own staff swayed the commissioners in this case. They effectively voted 6-1 against the Redington wind farm after citing concerns about its visual and environmental effects.
Overturning a staff recommendation is unusual, but doing it as strongly as commissioners did on Wednesday was stunning.

"They were very unhappy with" the staff's recommendation, said Catherine Carroll, the LURC director, who must now write a denial recommendation for the commissioners to approve formally at a future meeting. The bottom line is, as Carroll put it, "the commission has the last word."

But while commissioners showed they are no rubber stamp, the vote doesn't mean they're against wind energy or development in general, Carroll said.

The Redington project was the second wind farm proposed in the commission's jurisdiction. The first was approved in 1994 but was never built. The commission will soon see more.

Alberta-based TransCanada submitted an application this month to put 44 wind turbines on Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range.

The commission is expecting another application soon from a company that plans to put wind turbines in northern Aroostook County.

Maine's first large wind farm is starting to generate power in Mars Hill, but it was approved by the town and is not in the area regulated by LURC.

Gov. John Baldacci and other state leaders have encouraged wind power development in Maine, and the idea has broad environmental support as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels. The commissioners, who are appointed by the governor, focused their objections Wednesday on the specifics and location of the Redington project, which faced strong opposition particularly because of its location near the Appalachian Trail.

"I don't think there's any writing on the wall whatsoever here about the fate of the TransCanada project," Carroll said. "The outcome could be very different than the one today."

TransCanada officials were in the room to watch the vote, but a spokesperson said later that the company had no comment.
Northern Maine landowners with different kinds of development plans were put on notice Wednesday that a project that satisfies the LURC staff will not necessarily satisfy the commissioners.

"I guess I'm a little disappointed that the commission didn't follow the recommendation," said Jim Lehner, general manager of Plum Creek Timber Co. The company has applied to rezone land in the Moosehead Lake region to allow two resorts and 975 house lots. It is now making revisions after consulting with the LURC staff and other state agencies.

Lehner said he doesn't see parallels between the Redington wind farm and his company's plans.

"I don't think it's going to have a lot of bearing on what we're trying to do," he said. "What we're trying to do is prepare a plan the staff can accept."
And then, once again, the commission will have the last word.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

Wind energy hopes survive

Maine Today
February 25, 2007
Alan Crowell

Wednesday's rejection of a plan to erect wind turbines on two western mountains is a blow to developers of the project but not to the industry's future in Maine, say observers.

The Land Use Regulation Commission's rejection of the bid to put 30 turbines on Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountain does, however, underscore the challenges faced by wind power.

At a time when the greenhouse effect is a household phrase, wind power -- which can offer a secure source of electricity at a competitive and stable price without polluting the atmosphere -- is growing rapidly.

States such as California and Texas have well more than 2,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association, but New England has relatively little.

Maine has by far the most wind power potential of any of the New England states, according to the association, but it only has about 50 megawatts of commercial generating capacity, all from 28 turbines erected this year in Mars Hill.

Kurt Adams, chairman of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, said that with the New England power grid heavily dependent on power from fossil fuels, more wind energy would be good for Maine and the region.

But while the commission generally favors wind power for economic and environmental reasons, Adams said translating those benefits to reality will not be easy.

"Yesterday's decision reflects the challenge wind developers will have finding suitable sites," Adams said.

Lured by state and federal incentives, developers are planning projects that could create hundreds of megawatts of generating capacity in Maine, if they can find sites.

Ideally, a good site needs a steady wind and nearby transmission lines to move the power to consumers.

It was clear at Wednesday's meeting, however, that once developers find a site it may not be easy to overcome regulatory hurdles.

Still, even some who support wind power in general say the Redington project was rejected because it posed too many environmental effects.

Some of the biggest objections to the plan were its visibility in a largely undeveloped and wild area and the effect it might have on sensitive mountain ecology.

Commissioner Stephen Wight, the one commissioner who voted in favor of the project, argued that the commission should look at it "holistically."

He said commissioners should take into account not just effects on animals, such as the endangered northern bog lemming, but the project's ability to prevent pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Other commissioners said that the regulatory body is required to measure the application under the criteria spelled out in its comprehensive land use plan. That plan, last updated in 1997, provides little direction on wind power.

Catherine Carroll, director of the commission, said after Wednesday's meeting that the 2007 comprehensive plan will address wind.

Pete Didisheim, director of advocacy at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said he believed Wednesday's decision was just a "bump in the road" for wind power in the state. The council is in favor of wind energy, although it opposed erecting turbines on Redington Pond Range, home to several protected or endangered species and about a mile from the Appalachian Trail.

"I think we can develop between 1,000 and 1,400 megawatts of wind power by 2020," said Didisheim.

First, he said the public must come to grips with the fact that it is dependent on much dirtier forms of power that are harming both the environment and public health.

Once people understand the true costs of electricity from those sources, Didisheim said he believes wind power -- the fastest growing form of power in the world, he said -- is destined for success in Maine.

"There are economic benefits to communities that host wind power projects and there are also a growing number of businesses and institutional users that want to buy their electricity from wind," he said.

Raymond Mersereau, town manager of Mars Hill, said the construction of 28 turbines in his town by Evergreen Wind Power LLC offers real economic benefits.

Next year, he estimated, the project will lower his town's tax burden by about 20 percent. And he said the turbines were also a good fit in other ways.

"This is a wind farm and this is a farming community, and we are used to farming practices here," said Mersereau.

Land for the turbines is also being leased from local landowners, offering them a direct financial benefit.

But the project is not without effects, he said.

The turbines do make a soft "swoosh" noise when the blades pass by the towers. It is a soft noise, but still an issue, he said.

And he said some have opposed the towers, saying they would "junk up" one of the most prominent geological features in Aroostook County.

But for the town council of the farming community that has watched its population drop by 25 percent since the 1960s, Mersereau said the benefits outweighed the negatives.

He said the turbines should also mean more funding for the local school, and there is also hope they will fuel a small tourism boom.

"You have got to be willing to do some change," he said. "We loved the mountain the way it was, but you have to be willing to change with the times."

Alan Crowell -- 474-9534, Ext. 342


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Climate scientists feeling the heat

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Scientists long have issued the warnings: The modern world's appetite for cars, air conditioning and cheap, fossil-fuel energy spews billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, unnaturally warming the world.

Yet, it took the dramatic images of a hurricane overtaking New Orleans and searing heat last summer to finally trigger widespread public concern on the issue of global warming.

Climate scientists might be expected to bask in the spotlight after their decades of toil. The general public now cares about greenhouse gases, and with a new Democratic-led Congress, federal action on climate change may be at hand.

Problem is, global warming may not have caused Hurricane Katrina, and last summer's heat waves were equaled and, in many cases, surpassed by heat in the 1930s.

In their efforts to capture the public's attention, then, have climate scientists oversold global warming? It's probably not a majority view, but a few climate scientists are beginning to question whether some dire predictions push the science too far.

"Some of us are wondering if we have created a monster," says Kevin Vranes, a climate scientist at the University of Colorado.

Vranes, who is not considered a global warming skeptic by his peers, came to this conclusion after attending an American Geophysical Union meeting last month. Vranes says he detected "tension" among scientists, notably because projections of the future climate carry uncertainties — a point that hasn't been fully communicated to the public.

The science of climate change often is expressed publicly in unambiguous terms.

For example, last summer, Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, told the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce: "I think we understand the mechanisms of CO2 and climate better than we do of what causes lung cancer. ... In fact, it is fair to say that global warming may be the most carefully and fully studied scientific topic in human history."

Vranes says, "When I hear things like that, I go crazy."

Nearly all climate scientists believe the Earth is warming and that human activity, by increasing the level of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, has contributed significantly to the warming.

But within the broad consensus are myriad questions about the details. How much of the recent warming has been caused by humans? Is the upswing in Atlantic hurricane activity due to global warming or natural variability? Are Antarctica's ice sheets at risk for melting in the near future?

To the public and policymakers, these details matter. It's one thing to worry about summer temperatures becoming a few degrees warmer.

It's quite another if ice melting from Greenland and Antarctica raises the sea level by 3 feet in the next century, enough to cover much of Galveston Island at high tide.

Models aren't infallible
Scientists have substantial evidence to support the view that humans are warming the planet — as carbon dioxide levels rise, glaciers melt and global temperatures rise. Yet, for predicting the future climate, scientists must rely upon sophisticated — but not perfect — computer models.

"The public generally underappreciates that climate models are not meant for reducing our uncertainty about future climate, which they really cannot, but rather they are for increasing our confidence that we understand the climate system in general," says Michael Bauer, a climate modeler at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in New York.

Gerald North, professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University, dismisses the notion of widespread tension among climate scientists on the course of the public debate. But he acknowledges that considerable uncertainty exists with key events such as the melting of Antarctica, which contains enough ice to raise sea levels by 200 feet.

"We honestly don't know that much about the big ice sheets," North says. "We don't have great equations that cover glacial movements. But let's say there's just a 10 percent chance of significant melting in the next century. That would be catastrophic, and it's worth protecting ourselves from that risk."

Much of the public debate, however, has dealt in absolutes. The poster for Al Gore's global warming movie, An Inconvenient Truth, depicts a hurricane blowing out of a smokestack. Katrina's devastation is a major theme in the film.

Judith Curry, an atmospheric scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has published several research papers arguing that a link between a warmer climate and hurricane activity exists, but she admits uncertainty remains.

Like North, Curry says she doubts there is undue tension among climate scientists but says Vranes could be sensing a scientific community reaction to some of the more alarmist claims in the public debate.

For years, Curry says, the public debate on climate change has been dominated by skeptics, such as Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and strong advocates such as NASA's James Hansen, who calls global warming a ticking "time bomb" and talks about the potential inundation of all global coastlines within a few centuries.

That may be changing, Curry says. As the public has become more aware of global warming, more scientists have been brought into the debate. These scientists are closer to Hansen's side, she says, but reflect a more moderate view.

"I think the rank-and-file are becoming more outspoken, and you're hearing a broader spectrum of ideas," Curry says.

Young and old tension
Other climate scientists, however, say there may be some tension as described by Vranes. One of them, Jeffrey Shaman, an assistant professor of atmospheric sciences at Oregon State University, says that unease exists primarily between younger researchers and older, more established scientists.

Shaman says some junior scientists may feel uncomfortable when they see older scientists making claims about the future climate, but he's not sure how widespread that sentiment may be. This kind of tension always has existed in academia, he adds, a system in which senior scientists hold some sway over the grants and research interests of graduate students and junior faculty members.

The question, he says, is whether it's any worse in climate science.

And if it is worse? Would junior scientists feel compelled to mute their findings, out of concern for their careers, if the research contradicts the climate change consensus?

"I can understand how a scientist without tenure can feel the community pressures," says environmental scientist Roger Pielke Jr., a colleague of Vranes' at the University of Colorado.

Pielke says he has felt pressure from his peers: A prominent scientist angrily accused him of being a skeptic, and a scientific journal editor asked him to "dampen" the message of a peer-reviewed paper to derail skeptics and business interests.

"The case for action on climate science, both for energy policy and adaptation, is overwhelming," Pielke says. "But if we oversell the science, our credibility is at stake."


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Follow the money in the climate change debate

Maine Today

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The United States "can and must" take prompt comprehensive action to reduce emissions of climate-changing pollution.

So sayeth an unusual and refreshing group of global warming converts -- 10 CEOs who lead some the country's biggest corporations, including Alcoa, General Electric, BP America, Caterpillar, Dupont and Duke Energy.

They're not talking voluntary action here, either, but a mandatory, cap-and-trade system with limits set by the federal government.

Monday's announcement by the newly formed U.S. Climate Action Partnership sets a politically inconvenient benchmark for President Bush on the eve of his sixth State of the Union address.

It also highlights that the focus of the climate change debate is shifting from politics to economics. And the money is leaving lawmakers in its wake.

Financial pressure is forcing major players in the energy industry to fundamentally rethink how they're doing business. Many see global warming regulations as inevitable and are trying to avoid the future costs and liabilities associated with facilities that emit high levels of carbon dioxide.

Plans for a host of coal plants across the west have either been scrapped or are dying on the vine. Some companies, like Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy, are switching their focus to coal gasification, which allows carbon to be sequestered from the waste stream.

San Diego-based Sempra Energy not only killed plans to build coal plants in Nevada and New Mexico that would have supplied 2,000 megawatts of energy, it decided to get out of the coal business altogether.

Sempra's decision was driven in part by one of two laws recently signed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The first sets up a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade system. The second, the one Sempra reacted to, prohibits any utility in the state from contracting for power with a plant that fails to meet state CO2 emission standards.

While the U.S. Climate Change Action Partnership's call may be startling in its candor, it represents a solid middle ground in the evolving argument over how to address climate change.

The United States now knows enough about climate change to justify action, the group said. And acting sooner rather than later will preserve valuable response options, provide greater certainty to industry and reduce the impacts of a changing climate on the economy.

The plan endorsed by the group calls for slowing the growth of carbon dioxide emissions over the next five years followed by cuts that reduce pollution levels by 10 to 30 percent from today's levels in the subsequent decade.

By contrast, President Bush is expected to call for a 20 percent reduction in gasoline usage over the next 10 years by sharply increasing the mix of renewable fuels like ethanol and by increasing economy standards for passenger cars.

That's a good start: Burning less fuel is the cheapest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, which accounts for about 33 percent of U.S. energy-related greenhouse gas pollution.
But it's not nearly enough.

Although the U.S. Climate Action Partnership also includes four environmental organizations, it's not like the greenies kidnapped the CEOs and brainwashed them in some incense-fogged ashram. The clear strains of enlightened self-interest can be heard in their call to action.

The CEOs said they were motivated in part by strong but unlinked state efforts that have been led, often enough, by Republicans. (California's cap-and-trade market follows the northeastern states' Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which was launched by Gov. George Pataki, R-N.Y.) A coordinated national plan would avert a quilt of potentially conflicting state regulations.

"That was a catalyst for us," Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens told the San Jose Mercury News. "It's not very efficient to have states doing different things. We need a national policy."

The CEOs also see a profitable upside to the changing energy paradigm. Like other challenges the country has faced, climate change will create opportunities for companies that are willing to adapt by becoming more efficient and investing in new technologies.

Innovation will lead to increased U.S. competitiveness, increased energy security and an improved balance of trade.

"We believe that a national mandatory policy on climate change will provide the basis for the United States to assert world leadership in environmental and energy technology innovation, a national characteristic for which the U.S. has no rival," their report says.

Who can argue with that?

Theo Stein is an editorial writer for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram and can be contacted at 791-6481 or: tstein@pressherald.com

Still warm, and still cool

Maine Today

January 23, 2007

KENNEBUNK - James McKenney was waiting for the question.

"This," he says, "is my fuel bill for the entire year."
The 87-year-old hands over a small yellow receipt for 164 gallons of kerosene that cost him $445 last summer. "That's it," McKenney says, his eyes twinkling.

Unpredictable oil prices and concern about global warming are fueling a lot more interest these days in super-efficient homes and alternative energy. But those ideas are nothing new to McKenney, whose solar-heated, energy-efficient home in Kennebunk made news 25 years ago. A newspaper headline at the time called it a "space-age saltbox."

"I think this is the first super-insulated home in Maine," he said. "I'd like people to know that if they want to save a tremendous amount of money over the years, it's super simple. There's nothing complex about it."

Indeed, McKenney's home appears to be a simple two-bedroom retirement cottage. Much of what makes the house different is hidden behind the walls, floors and ceiling.
The walls are 12 inches thick and contain 7 inches of fiberglass around a 2-inch vented air space, plus additional layers of Styrofoam and bead board. When he built the house in 1981, codes required that walls have an R-11 energy efficiency rating. "Our walls are R-45," he said.

Eighteen inches of fiberglass insulation cover the ceiling. The floor lies over an insulated 4-foot-high crawl space.

Although today's average houses are now more energy-efficient than they were then, McKenney's still easily qualifies as superinsulated.

Lots of other energy-efficient features blend right into the home's design, until McKenney points them out.

The large south-facing windows in the main living area, for example, let in enough sunlight to warm the home and heat up the slate floor and large brick hearth so they help keep the house warm at night.

The north side of the house has small windows and is partially sheltered from the cold wind by the attached garage. Even the mud room is more than it appears. "This is an old Maine trick. It's called an air-lock entry," he said. Having a door leading to the mud room and one leading outside reduces the infiltration of cold air when people go in and out.

Perhaps the most unusual feature of the home is a pool with 4,000 gallons of water -- in the basement crawl space. The pool acts as a heat sink, moderating temperatures in the house and acting like a central air conditioner during the summers.

McKenney's home sits on the family's farmland where he grew up. He served in the Navy in World War II and later built and repaired medical equipment in California. But his engineering know-how is self-taught.

"The total amount of my formal education was Kennebunk High School," he said. He graduated in 1939.

McKenney designed the house as a comfortable retirement home to share with his wife, who died in 1993. For the first 15 years, he heated the house with one cord of wood each winter and used solar panels on the roof to heat hot water. Now he uses kerosene for heat and has an electric water heater.

He guesses the home has saved about 850 gallons of oil each year, or as much as $50,000 in energy costs in the past 25 years. The house, garage and shed cost about $110,000 to build, he said.

But even if the house never saved a dollar, it's been "obscenely comfortable," he said. Even with his thermostat set at 74 degrees, the heater stays off all day, he said.

The idea of superinsulated homes was still new in 1980, and McKenney ran into a little trouble when he looked for carpenters willing to help build his house. "A lot of guys said it was going to rot," he said.

Moisture in an air-tight building was a problem he had thought of, too, so the house includes vapor barriers and a ventilation system that draws in outdoor air and warms it up in the crawl space. He also put in a full-house air filtration system that, for 25 years at least, has virtually eliminated dust.

"It was a new concept," said Wayne Berry, a local builder who was the first to agree to work on the project. "You hadn't done it before, and you had to think it through."

A lot of homeowners were looking for solutions to the energy crisis around 1980, Berry said, although he and McKenney could not find any existing superinsulated homes in Maine at the time. Then energy prices dropped again and Berry went back to more traditional houses.

In the past five years, however, specialized builders have seen a big jump in demand.
"I think there is more of an awareness that people have alternatives," said Noah Wentworth, who owns Evergreen Building Collaborative in Arundel and has focused on energy-efficient homes and renovations for about 12 years. "There's a lot more people building this way," he said.

Superinsulated homes tend to cost about 10 percent more than standard homes, but the increase in mortgage payments is covered by the reduced energy costs, Wentworth said.
And although McKenney got funny looks in 1980, homeowners get plenty of advice and encouragement today.

Home buyers can now get larger mortgages if they can show their home is energy-efficient. Builders can get a new $2,000 federal tax credit for homes that are certified to use 50 percent less energy than a standard home.

The owners of existing homes also can get state grants and low-interest loans to increase energy efficiency or install equipment to produce solar power.

Those programs are too new to show any trends, and no one tracks the number of energy-efficient homes in Maine.

Wes Riley, owner of Horizon Residential Energy Services in South Portland, certifies homes as energy-efficient under a federal program called Energy Star. And he's been busy lately.

"There are over 450 houses that I've certified in the last 12 months in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts," he said. "There are a growing number of builders who really want to build high-performance homes."

Unlike in the early 1980s, experts think the trend will keep going, and growing, this time.

"The technologies are simple and they're mature," said Danuta Drozdowicz of Fore Solutions of Portland, a "green building" consultant. "I think we're going to see more of it. It's too easy to do and the benefits are there."

McKenney agrees. "Most everybody realizes that the amount of oil that's left in the planet is finite," he said.

McKenney, who also drives a hybrid gas-electric car, is still thinking of new ideas. Now that he's pushing 90 and "entering the twilight years," McKenney said he's toying with the idea of putting new solar panels on the roof that could power his house and send surplus power onto the grid.

But he's also enjoying the comfort of his "space-age" home, and the fact that, after 25 years, he's on the cutting edge again. "I feel that I was right in the first place," he said.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at: jrichardson@pressherald.com

LURC vote on Redington wind farm expected tomorrow

Maine Today

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

AUGUSTA -- A seven-member citizen board will rule Wednesday on a wind power project that would be built on ridgelines that environmentalists say are rare habitat and home to threatened species.

The Land Use Regulation Commission will meet at 9:30 a.m. in Farmington to rule on the application by Maine Mountain Power LLC to rezone about 1,000 acres on Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountain to allow the construction of 30 turbines, each 400 feet high.

The meeting is scheduled to take place in the Olsen Student Center at the University of Maine at Farmington.

Environmentalists have strongly criticized a recommendation by the commission staff in favor of the $130 million project.

The commission usually follows the staff recommendation. The land use agency acts as the planning board for the unorganized territories, an area that makes up roughly half of Maine.

Jenn Burns, of Maine Audubon, said Thursday that the recommendation, on a project in a remote, relatively undeveloped area, sets a bad precedent.

"The bar it creates is so low that every future project would be able to walk right over it," she said.

Environmentalists say the recommendation essentially ignores the impact the project would have on threatened species, including the northern bog lemming and Bicknell's thrush, that live in the area.

Four conservation groups, Maine Audubon, Appalachian Mountain Club, Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, called the recommendation illegal at a press conference on Thursday, raising the possibility a decision in favor of the wind power project would be appealed.

Catherine Carroll, director of the commission, said the recommendation is based on the input of the applicant, intervenors, all those who took part in the public hearing process and the commission's own comprehensive plan, as well as other review criteria.

Carroll said while she understands that some are disappointed in the recommendation, that doesn't mean their input was ignored.

"The staff has gone through every piece of paper in the record," she said.

Nor does the recommendation mean that every wind power project will be approved.

"I think they have to all be reviewed on their own merits, period," said Carroll.

If it is approved Wednesday, the Redington project would be the biggest wind power project in Maine, but not for long.

Transcanada, a Canadian energy company, has filed an application with the commission to place 44 turbines on Kibby Mountain and the Kibby Range in Franklin County.

Alan Crowell -- 474-9534, Ext. 342


Monday, January 22, 2007

Redington wind-power project an environmental boost

Maine Today
David Wilby
January 21, 2007

The Jan. 7 column by Steve Clark ("Why transform wild Maine mountains into industrial sites?") criticizing the proposed wind farm on Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountain near Rangeley was misleading and off-target.

In an effort to dismiss the Land Use Regulation Commission's staff recommendation that this project be approved, Clark made a number of shortsighted claims and exaggerated predictions -- starting with the far-fetched description of wind turbines as "industrial-scale power production facilities."

Based on the many comments submitted to LURC, Clark is in the minority in viewing wind turbines lazily spinning along a mountain ridge as an offensive encroachment of industrial development. Many people at the LURC hearings described the sight of wind turbines as not only compatible with the natural surroundings and a fairly benign sight, but as an essential step if we are ever going to get serious about producing clean, renewable energy for Maine.

While Clark's efforts to protect the Maine woods are commendable, he fails to understand that the threat to them is not coming from developers of wind power, it's from the wind itself -- airborne pollution from oil-, coal- and gas-burning power plants that produce a near-constant haze around the very mountains he seeks to protect and contributes to global warming.

The Redington Wind Farm and other Maine wind projects seek to turn that wind into a force for change, utilizing our natural resources for clean, renewable power.

It's ironic too that Clark's column appeared on a weekend when temperatures in Maine reached 70 degrees -- in January! -- and during a period of tremendous upheaval in the oil-rich Middle East.

The connections between these events and the urgent need for renewable energy projects like the Redington Wind Farm demand a broader perspective than Clark's narrow focus on visual impact.

Fortunately, the LURC staff rejected Clark's arguments and has recommended approval of the project when the full commission meets this coming Wednesday. They understand that the significant benefits of the project far outweigh the potential negatives.

Those benefits include:

Preventing more than 700,000 pounds of pollution per day from existing power plants -- equivalent to taking 22,000 cars off the road;

Allowing Maine customers -- local towns, hospitals and schools -- to purchase the electricity produced at the facility in 10-year fixed-price contracts, providing a more stable energy supply than the power produced by traditional fossil fuel plants;

Saving the equivalent of 50,000 gallons of oil per day;

Reducing emissions that cause global warming; and

Producing enough power for 40,000 Maine homes.

Not only does Clark fail to acknowledge even grudgingly the significant environmental benefits of the Redington Wind Farm, he mischaracterizes the project's location, giving the impression that the wind farm will despoil an untouched area of the North Woods.

In fact, the Redington Wind Farm is located in Maine's working forest -- near existing roads, power lines, a biomass facility, and halfway between the Sugarloaf and Saddleback ski resorts. It is surrounded by actively managed timberlands and a U.S. Navy survival school. Locating the wind farm in this region actually minimizes environmental impacts.

Clark also fails to mention the economic benefits the project will bring to the Carrabassett Valley region.

The $150 million Redington Wind Farm project will contribute approximately $500,000 in annual taxes to the state and local economy.

It will create approximately 100 jobs during its year-long construction. These workers will stay in area hotels, dine in local restaurants and make a major contribution to the area's economy. After construction, there will be about 10 direct permanent jobs at the facility.

Clark's one-sided, negative view of the wind-power project was unconvincing to the LURC staff, just as it is to the majority of Maine people who have said repeatedly in public opinion polls that they favor the project by large margins.
But Clark is right about one thing: the commission's vote on Jan. 24 will have far-reaching consequences.

It will determine whether we as a state are willing to move toward a sensible energy policy based on clean, renewable power or maintain the status quo as a nation dependent on foreign supplies of fossil fuel that foul our environment.

It's the big picture -- not the narrow view -- that we all need to consider.

About the Author

David Wilby is executive director of Independent Energy Producers of Maine, a not-for-profit association of Maine's renewable power producers.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hallowell inn going from green to greener

AP News
Friday, January 19, 2007

HALLOWELL - A central Maine inn that has been drawing some power from its wind turbine has now installed what's believed to be Maine's largest solar electric hot water system, adding to its renewable energy storehouse.

Together, the wind turbine and solar panels are expected to provide one-third to one-half of the energy needs at the Maple Hill Farm Bed and Breakfast Inn and Conference Center, co-owner Scott Cowger said Thursday.

The 15-kilowatt solar system covers the roof of the 150-seat conference center.

The solar system was completed in December, but a formal ribbon-cutting was held Thursday.

The $166,000 system was designed and installed by Energyworks LLC of Liberty and Portland. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided a $41,500 grant and the state Public Utilities Commission provided a $35,000 low-interest loan.

Cowger said the PUC financing helps to speed up the payback period, which he estimates will be five years.

Maple Hill also was to receive a $3,000 check Thursday from the Maine Energy Investment Corp., which installed equipment to monitor the photovoltaic portion of the solar system that will be posted on the Internet.

PUC figures indicate that the Hallowell inn's solar power-hot water system is Maine's largest, Cowger said.

The combined 202-tube solar electric and hot water system is expected to reduce Maple Hill Farm's annual carbon dioxide emissions by more than 40,000 pounds.

Cowger, a former legislator who co-chaired the Natural Resources Committee, said he brings into his business "a strong personal commitment to minimizing our impact on the environment."

Maple Hill has been cited as a green-energy leader among Maine's lodging businesses and received the Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence.

The 10-kilowatt wind turbine was installed in 2003.

Critics say state flouted law in wind farm support

Portland Press Herald
Friday, January 19, 2007

FALMOUTH - Environmental groups that are fighting a proposed $150 million wind farm in Maine's western mountains said Thursday that a state agency's endorsement of the plan violates the law and its own zoning rules.

The groups said the recommendation of the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission staff dismissed or ignored evidence presented by opponents. They also said the recommendation violates standards for development in the land use plan for Maine's unorganized territories.

The state agency's director called those criticisms nonsense.
The staff recommendation will play a role on Wednesday when the seven-member commission meets to make a decision on Maine Mountain Power's plans for the Redington wind farm.

The 90-megawatt project would put 30 turbines on the ridge of the Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountain, between Carrabasset Valley and Rangeley.

The Redington project would be the largest wind farm in New England. It has been among the most controversial because of its location in a cluster of 4,000-foot mountain peaks near the Appalachian Trail.
If approved, the project could help clear the way for other, even larger, wind power proposals in Maine.

Environmentalists have been divided on the plan, with some supporting it as a way to reduce the use of fossil fuels that contribute to global warming.

Maine Audubon, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Appalachian Trail Club and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy repeated their opposition to the plan on Thursday at a news conference at the Gilsland Farm Audubon Center, saying the risks to the sensitive sub-alpine ecosystem and valuable recreation area outweigh the benefits.

They also hinted strongly that approval by the commission could lead to a court appeal based on what the critics called legal flaws in the staff review.

"The LURC staff recommendation fails to address the most important questions raised by this development," said Jenn Burns, staff attorney for Maine Audubon.

The recommendation is so one-sided in favor of the developer, she said, that it would set a standard that any development proposal "can walk right over."

Catherine Carroll, the commission's director, said the Attorney General's Office reviewed the recommendation she gave commissioners and found it legally sound. Opposing arguments are summarized in the document, but most of the recommendation focuses on arguments for approval because the staff agreed that the plan meets its rezoning standards, she said.

"I do believe the petitioner has met the burden of proof that this project, if done right, will not create an undue adverse impact," she said.

The agency's commissioners can reject or accept the staff recommendations, and Carroll said she expects an extensive discussion before any vote is taken Wednesday. The meeting will start at 9:30 a.m. at the University of Maine at Farmington. Carroll said she expects a legal challenge of the final decision, whether it is approved or rejected.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Energy Time

NY Times
January 16, 2007

Al Hubbard, the economic adviser who’s coordinating the administration’s energy strategy, recently promised that President Bush would produce “headlines above the fold that will knock your socks off in terms of our commitment to energy independence.” Every president since Richard Nixon has talked this way, while every year the country slides further into dependency. Mr. Bush’s overpromising has included a forecast that we would all be buying hydrogen-fueled cars in 20 years and his pledge a year ago to rid the country of its addiction to oil.

Still, we must hope that Mr. Bush is serious this time, because we simply cannot continue to hold our national security and the health of the planet hostage to our appetite for fossil fuels.

America’s closest allies, and increasingly its governors, know this. Last week, the European Union — shaken by Russia’s threatened shutdown of oil passing through Belarus — announced a menu of initiatives aimed at reducing Europe’s dependence on unreliable suppliers while cutting greenhouse gas emissions with cleaner fuels and new technologies.

Here at home, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered his regulators in California to require fuel oil companies and refiners to start reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases. The order is expected to help jump-start the production of biofuels and, over time, hydrogen for fuel cell cars. It follows an earlier California directive requiring more fuel-efficient vehicles, and represents an important element in the state’s broad plan to cut global-warming emissions from all sources by 25 percent by 2020.

For its part, Congress is churning out energy bills. But this is a recipe for paralysis unless it observes a few basic guideposts.

¶The last thing America needs is another multi-year debate leading to yet another giant bill that offers something for everyone without really changing the way this country produces and uses energy. Senators Harry Reid and Jeff Bingaman have produced the outlines of a bill that could become the template for more specific action. It sets two basic goals: reducing the country’s dependency on oil and reducing the risks of global warming. And it focuses on a handful of remedies, including more efficient automobiles, the rapid development of alternative fuels and cleaner ways of producing power.

¶Partisanship and posturing must be resisted. Right now, House Democrats are fixated on eliminating unnecessary tax breaks and closing loopholes that favor the oil and gas industry. Fair enough, but that’s not an energy policy. The House has been notoriously unenlightened on energy issues, and Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, has some heavy educating to do to make her colleagues full partners in this essential national enterprise.

¶Doing things right will take serious money. In recent days, for instance, Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana and Senators Barack Obama of Illinois and Jim Bunning of Kentucky — any politician, that is, with coal to sell — have jumped aboard the coal-to-gasoline bandwagon as the answer to dependence on foreign oil.

The world has lots of coal, which can indeed be converted to gasoline. But the process releases enormous amounts of carbon, far more than refining oil into gasoline does. Unless we are willing to invest in technologies that can sequester carbon emissions and keep them out of the atmosphere, turning to coal could be a disaster for global warming.

So far, nobody — not the coal industry, Congress or the White House — has displayed much interest in making these investments, just as nobody except for a few states like New York and some plucky private investors has shown much interest in the investments necessary to produce biofuels on a commercial scale. Without them, we’re just talking a good game, which is all Mr. Bush did last year.

When Being Green Raises the Heat

NY Times
January 16, 2007


Stanford, Calif.

CARBON DIOXIDE is heating up the Earth. Ice caps are melting, ocean levels are rising, hurricanes are intensifying, tropical diseases are spreading and the threat of droughts, floods and famines looms large. Can planting a tree help stop all this from happening?

To some, it’s a no-brainer: We add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every time we use energy from coal, oil or gas; but each tree can remove more than a ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over its lifetime. Based on this logic, it might seem a good idea to go out and plant a tree to slow global heating.

And if you don’t have the time, projects have sprung up throughout the world claiming to help cool the earth, ready to accept your money and plant a tree in your name. The computer company Dell will now donate $2 from every laptop sale to planting trees in an effort to offset the carbon dioxide emissions that result from powering their computers. For a 2 percent to 4 percent surcharge on bills, Pacific Gas and Electric will offer to offset its customers’ carbon emissions by helping to preserve California’s carbon-storing forests.

While preserving and restoring forests is unquestionably good for the natural environment, new scientific studies are concluding that preservation and restoration of forests outside the tropics will do little or nothing to help slow climate change. And some projects intended to slow the heating of the planet may be accelerating it instead.

Trees don’t just absorb carbon dioxide — they soak up the sun’s heating rays, too. Forests tend to be darker than farms and pastures and therefore tend to absorb more sunlight. This has a warming influence that appears to cancel, on average, the cooling influence of the forest’s carbon storage. This effect is most pronounced in snowy areas — snow on bare ground reflects far more sunlight back to space than does a snowed-in forest — so forests in areas with seasonal snow cover can be strongly warming.

In contrast, tropical forests appear to be doubly valuable to the earth’s climate system. Not only do they store copious amounts of carbon, the roots of tropical trees reach down deep, drawing up water that they evaporate through their leaves. In the atmosphere, this water may form clouds that reflect sunlight back to space, helping to cool the earth.

These findings have important policy implications. It has been suggested that agreements to limit climate change should consider carbon stored in forests. If so, they would need to consider the direct climate effects of forests so as to avoid perverse incentives to plant warming forests in places like the United States, Canada, Europe and the former Soviet Union. However, tropical forests, which are generally found in developing countries, may be due a double climate credit — one for their carbon storage and another for their cooling clouds.

What does this mean for local reforestation efforts? Consider Pacific Gas and Electric’s surcharge plan. While the carbon soaked up by California’s forests reduces atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations everywhere, cooling Crete, Cancún and Calcutta, the sunlight they absorb warms the state and the surrounding region. So, it might even cool us if we were to cut down those dark forests. Lumber interests might look gleefully upon the prospect.

Clear-cutting mountains to slow climate change is, of course, nuts. The broadest goal is neither to slow the growth of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere nor to slow climate change, but rather to preserve the irreplaceable natural balance that sustains life as we know it on this planet. We want to avoid climate change so that we might pass these diverse natural riches on to future generations. In this light, preserving and restoring forests is a valuable activity, regardless of its impact on climate — we need more trees, not fewer.

But the notion that we can save the planet just by planting trees is a dangerous illusion. To preserve our environment, we must drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and this will require a major transformation of our energy system. A primary goal for the next half-century should be to transform our energy system to one based on clean, safe and environmentally acceptable energy sources like wind, solar and perhaps nuclear. This means solving the real problems involved with storing and distributing power, providing energy for transportation, and using nuclear plants.

We cannot afford to indulge ourselves with well-intentioned activities that do little to solve the underlying problem. Instead, we must demand that our political leaders do more to revolutionize our energy system and preserve our environmental inheritance for future generations.

And then we can plant a tree.

Ken Caldeira is a scientist at the Carnegie Institution’s department of global ecology.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Wind farm approval sought

AP Wire

Monday, January 15, 2007

KIBBY TOWNSHIP - A Canadian-based energy company has filed its application with state regulators seeking a zoning change and development permit for 2,900 acres in western Maine to build a $270 million wind farm.

TransCanada Corp., based in Calgary, Alberta, is proposing to erect 44 wind turbines on 13.7 miles of ridge line on Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range in Kibby and Skinner townships in northern Franklin County, near the Canadian border.

The project also would include power collection lines, access roads and an electric transmission line to connect power generated by the turbines to the existing power transmission grid about 25 miles away.

The wind farm would be capable of providing about 132 megawatts of wind-generated electricity to customers in Maine and New England, according to TransCanada.

If approved, construction would begin later this year, with some turbines in operation by the end of 2008 and the project completed in 2009.

The company filed its application last week with the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission. Commission staffers will go through the application before a public hearing on the project is held, said Catherine Carroll, the agency's director.

The company said it expects the project would create up to 250 jobs during construction and 10 to 12 permanent jobs once it is operational.

The commission's staff has recommended approval of a proposal by Maine Mountain Power LLC to rezone about 1,000 acres near the Sugarloaf/USA ski resort to erect 30 turbines.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Stevens' bill boosts fuel efficiency

Associated Press

Alaska U.S. Senator Ted Stevens has introduced legislation to increase fuel efficiency standards to "40 miles per gallon by 2017, if not sooner." He says, "The savings achieved by increasing fuel economy standards for the entire U.S. passenger vehicle fleet is essential if we are to become independent of foreign oil."

While this may sound like a proposal from environmental groups or even some Democrats, the bill from the Alaska Republican doesn't mandate specific increases in vehicle efficiency. Rather, he would direct the administration to develop the standards under a number of conditions.

The new rules would have to pass a cost-benefit test. The government also would have to consider the effects of fuel standards on safety and emissions.

The bill also would block the government from requiring a manufacturer to achieve an overall percentage increase in the efficiency of their vehicles. That responds for concerns long expressed by automakers.

Temperatures Rising

Eugene Register-Guard
January 13, 2007


Hot enough for you, Mr. President?

Your administration's own National Climatic Data Center reported Tuesday that last year was the warmest in the continental United States of the past 112 years - and that 2006 capped a nine-year warming streak "unprecedented in the historical record."

You might have noticed the cherry trees and azaleas in bloom along the Potomac River on New Year's Day. Government scientists say that's at least partly the result of the long-term effects of accumulating greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

By the way, some of those scientists over at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration must have chewed off their muzzles. They're not only acknowledging the reality of global warming - they're warning that the rate at which temperatures are rising is speeding up and that they could lead to widespread melting of the polar ice caps, producing higher sea levels and more extreme droughts and storms.

In case you drifted off during your morning briefing, you might be interested to know that NOAA scientists have found that the northern hemisphere temperatures have not been this high for more than a thousand years. The rate of temperature increase has been far greater in the past three decades than at any time since the government began charting national temperature data.

You don't seem to get it, Mr. President. Or if you do get it, you're stubbornly refusing to seriously address the most urgent environmental issue of our time - an extraordinary failure of leadership.

NASA scientists say the Arctic Ocean has lost a fifth of its sea ice since the 1970s, an area twice the size of your beloved Texas. Last month, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorn designated polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. They're starving and drowning as their habitat literally melts beneath them. But like his boss, Kempthorn refuses to acknowledge that industrial emissions are causing temperatures to rise in polar regions.

While you may not admit the climate is changing, you have to admit that politics are changing. The "thumpin' " your party took last fall has put the Democrats in charge of Congress. Sen. James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who has insisted for years that climate change is a "hoax," is out as chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He's been replaced by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., whose goal is to impose the nation's first mandatory limits on carbon dioxide emissions. In the House, Democrats are preparing to redirect federal funding and tax breaks that now go to oil companies toward the production of renewable and alternative energies.

Even Republicans are getting in on the act. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., has joined with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to propose dramatic increases in efficiency standards for cars and light trucks. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is pushing a bill to establish a mandatory cap-and-trade system to restrict emissions. Guess they took you seriously when you promised last year to break the nation's "addiction" to foreign oil.

Out West, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is busy putting global warming burrs under your saddle. This week he proposed requiring oil companies to reduce fuel carbon content in his state. Last year he signed legislation to reduce emissions from refineries, power plants and factories to 1990 levels by 2020.

Temperatures are rising - and so is the pressure on you to pull your head out of the sand and lead the fight against global warming.

Hot enough for you, Mr. President?

Rising Carbon Emissions Call for Bold Action on Climate Change

Gulf Times/Qatar
January 14, 2007

LONDON -- Bold action on climate change requires a massive shift towards low carbon energy by 2050 and the next decade is critical as emissions and temperatures rise.

People pump the heat-trapping greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as a by-product of burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil for heat, light and transport.

A now widely accepted link between such carbon emissions and global warming has stirred the search for new sources of energy – especially given the energy-hungry growth of China and India.

"The next 10 years are very, very crucial," says Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency (IEA), adviser to 26 industrialised nations.

"Only in China between now and 2015 the capacity they will build in the power sector will be equal to the existing capacity in the EU (European Union)-25," he said.

Without a change in policy nine-tenths of this new Chinese capacity would come from burning coal, the highest carbon-emitting fossil fuel, Birol says.

Acting decisively against climate change means building by 2050 a global low or zero carbon energy infrastructure as big as the world’s capacity now, estimates Chris Mottershead, energy and environment adviser to oil firm BP.

Such a global shift can only happen through private investment and could mean big commercial gains for some, while laggard businesses face the threat of higher carbon taxes and other penalties on emissions.

"(We want to) make sure we own our fair share of that new business sector," said Mottershead.

Italy’s biggest utility Enel last month said it would invest more than 4bn euros ($5.29bn) in low-carbon energy and efficiency measures from 2007-2011.

But underlining the scale of the challenge, the world has pumped more carbon into the atmosphere in the past 10 years than in two centuries from 1750-1950, new estimates by the US Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre show.

The 10 warmest years worldwide in the past 150 years were all since 1994, says the World Meteorological Organisation.

In addition to new energy demand in China, power plants in Europe and North America now need replacing – having started life in the post-Second World War economic boom – raising the stakes on present energy choices.

Two timelines to curb carbon emissions are emerging – immediate effort to improve energy efficiency at the national level, followed over the next decade by a search for alternative energy sources and a global climate change agreement.

Improving energy efficiency is seen as the easier first step because it actually saves money, and chimes with security concerns to curb dependence on energy imports.

"The cleanest power plant is the one you don’t need to build," said Birol.

But long-term action means cutting the cost of major climate change fixes like burying greenhouse gases underground, and of low carbon energy sources like biofuels, renewables and nuclear.

For example, marine tide and wave energy could supply a fifth of Britain’s power needs by 2050, but also needs to be a fifth of its present cost to be economic, says Michael Rea, head of strategy at the Carbon Trust, which leads Britain’s drive to a low-carbon economy.

Some scientists, green groups and leaders, including the EU, see more dangerous effects of climate change kicking in above a 2 degrees centigrade global average temperature rise.

Annual global greenhouse gas emissions must be half 1990 levels by 2050 to have a likely chance of staying within that limit, reckons Malte Meinshausen, climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Before helping fund such a dramatic energy shift big business wants to see evidence of world leaders’ commitment to tackling climate change, to be sure it is money well spent.

But after more than a decade of talks the only global policy is the Kyoto Protocol, widely seen as a tiny first step.

On the positive side, consumer power is seen emerging.

"All of us can do very little against the scale of the problem if we don’t enrol broader society, and that’s clearly starting to change over the past 18 months," said Mottershead. – Reuters

Agency Affirms Human Influence on Climate

NY Times
January 10, 2007


President Bush has said it.

A lot of government scientists have said it.

But until yesterday, it appeared that no news release on annual climate trends out of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under the Bush White House had said unequivocally that a buildup of greenhouse gases was helping warm the climate.

The statement came in a release that said 2006 was the warmest year for the 48 contiguous states since regular temperature records began in 1895. It surpassed the previous champion, 1998, a year heated up by a powerful episode of the periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean by El Niño. Last year, another El Niño developed, but this time a long-term warming trend from human activities was said to be involved as well.

“A contributing factor to the unusually warm temperatures throughout 2006 also is the long-term warming trend, which has been linked to increases in greenhouse gases,” the release said, emphasizing that the relative contributions of El Niño and the human influence were not known.

A link between greenhouse gases and climate change was also made in a December news conference by Dirk Kempthorne, the secretary of the interior, as that agency proposed listing polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Still, the climate agency’s shift in language came as a surprise to several public affairs officials there. They said they had become accustomed in recent years to having any mention of a link between climate trends and human activities played down or trimmed when drafts of documents went to the Commerce Department and the White House for approval.

James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the release reflected longstanding views within the administration.

“It’s helpful for them to describe what is a question in many people’s minds — what is the human factor, what is the El Niño factor,” Mr. Connaughton said of the NOAA release. “From our perspective, what was in the press release was a direct reflection of what the president and folks in his administration have been saying for some time.”

Mr. Bush has made two speeches on climate. He first expressly accepted that humans were contributing to global warming in a news conference in Denmark in July 2005 on the way to an economic summit in Scotland, saying, “Listen, I recognize that the surface of the Earth is warmer and that an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is contributing to the problem.”

But the government’s scientific bureaucracy, where public affairs officials and scientists as recently as last year complained that findings pointing to climate dangers were being suppressed, has taken time to catch up.

“There’s been some sensitivity to the fact that some people have complained that NOAA and other parts of the government haven’t been as open as they would like them to have been on this,” said Jay Lawrimore, a climatologist at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., where the temperature trends are compiled. “Now NOAA is making an effort to be clearer on some of the influences.”

Mr. Lawrimore said there was no way to account for the trends, be they the melting of Arctic sea ice or the warming of winters, without including an influence from heat-trapping gases.

“Year after year as we continue to see warmer temperatures,” he said, “there are more and more converts convinced that it’s not just natural variability and not just something that’s going to return back to temperatures we saw 40 or 50 years ago — that in fact we are doing something to the climate.”

Carbon Neutral: Raising the Ante on Eco-Tourism

NY Times
December 10, 2006


SUDDENLY it’s not enough to be green. Now truly eco-conscious travelers are also carbon neutral.

The term, which will be added to the New Oxford American Dictionary in 2007, describes a balance between polluting and enhancing the environment, especially in terms of harmful greenhouse gases. Its use is perhaps nowhere more prevalent than in the travel industry, where eco-tourism has been steadily gaining momentum over the years, and travelers — who are already booking eco-friendly lodging, renting hybrid cars and reusing the towels in their hotel rooms — are looking for ways to further reduce their impact on the environment.

For travelers, becoming carbon neutral involves calculating their “carbon footprint,” the approximate amount of carbon dioxide produced on flights, road trips or when they otherwise burn fossil fuels, and then buying “offsets” — donating money for projects that promise to produce energy without burning fossil fuels or otherwise reduce the production of greenhouse gases.

The reduction purchased is supposed to equal the amount of carbon dioxide the trip created, per passenger. The ultimate goal: a carbon neutral trip.

Increasingly, tour operators are buying carbon offsets to compensate for the amount of carbon dioxide produced on trips. REI Adventures announced a Carbon-Neutral Travel program in October. Beginning next year, the company will buy renewable energy credits from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to offset the carbon dioxide produced by each traveler’s flight and ground transportation. The credits, called Green Tags, will support solar, wind and other renewable energy projects.

Ecoventura, an adventure company in the Galápagos Islands, says it has “achieved CarbonNeutral status” on its Web site, www.ecoventura.com. Working with the CarbonNeutral Company, Ecoventura is trying to balance the CO2 created through its trips by donating to a portfolio of projects, including sustainable energy projects in Sri Lanka and India, and methane recovery in the United States, which captures leaking methane at a Pennsylvania coal mine.

Ski resorts from Vail, Colo., to Stratton, Vt., are getting into the act by buying renewable energy credits to offset their electricity consumption. The credits purchased by the ski resorts support the production of clean electricity generated by wind farms or other sustainable sources rather than fossil fuels like coal and gas.

It’s a way for eco-friendly travel companies to practice what they preach. Carbon offsets “address the inherent dilemma of our programs being all about sustainability, but also having students fly around the world,” said Daniel Greenberg, executive director of Living Routes, a study-abroad company that runs sustainability education programs in eco-villages around the world and started its own carbon offset program last year.

Individual travelers can get into the mix by going to one of several carbon-offset Web sites, like www.carbonoffsets.org or www.terrapass.com, and using an online “carbon calculator” to determine the approximate amount of carbon dioxide produced when they travel. Carbon offsets, usually anywhere from $5 to $30, depending on the length of the trip and the form of transportation, can be purchased through a growing number of travel companies.

Expedia and Travelocity both rolled out new programs this year that let travelers buy carbon offsets. Travelers who buy offsets through Expedia and its partner TerraPass, a Web-based for-profit company in Menlo Park, Calif., for a medium or long-haul flight get a “Carbon Balanced Flyer” luggage tag. The charge is $5.99 to offset about 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide — the amount emitted, per passenger, on a round-trip flight of up to 2,200 miles; $16.99 for a cross-country flight of up to 6,500 miles; and $29.99 for an international flight of up to 13,000 miles.

It is unclear how much impact these programs actually have on climate change — or whether they function mostly as a way for travelers to justify the amount of pollution they generate on trips. Still, many travelers see carbon offsetting as a way to help tackle global warming without having to give up that trip to the Bahamas.

Muzzling Those Pesky Scientists

NY Times Editorial
December 11, 2006

The Environmental Protection Agency disclosed last week that it had revised — stood on their head is more like it — procedures it has used for 25 years to set standards for air pollutants like soot and lead. The administration said the change will streamline decision making. Perhaps it will. It will also have the further effect of decreasing the role of science in policy making while increasing the influence of the agency’s political appointees.

This is disheartening, but not surprising. Whether the issue is birth control or global warming or clean air, this administration has already acquired a special place in regulatory history for the audacity with which it has manipulated or muzzled science (and in some cases individual scientists) that might discomfit its industrial allies or interfere with its political agenda.

The E.P.A. is required every five years to review scientific research and set new exposure levels for six pollutants identified as hazardous to human health. Normally, recommendations are first solicited from two groups of scientists: professional staff members inside the agency and independent outside scientists. Those recommendations are then sent to the department’s senior officers — nearly all political appointees — who shape departmental policy and then send it to the White House and Office of Management and Budget for clearance.

Under the new process, initial reviews will be done by staff scientists and political appointees, who together will produce a synopsis of “policy-relevant” science — which sounds ominously like science tailored to predetermined policy outcomes. The independent scientists, meanwhile, will be frozen out until the very end, when they will be allowed to comment on proposals that will have already generated considerable momentum.

The betting among environmental groups is that these new procedures will lead to weaker air quality standards more in keeping with industry objectives — indeed, the American Petroleum Institute is already claiming credit for some of the changes. The new procedures will also help spare the agency the sort of public embarrassment it suffered in October, when its final standards for soot turned out to be far weaker than those recommended earlier (and virtually unanimously) by its staff scientists and the outside consultants.

Under the new process, when the E.P.A. considers how it will set air pollution standards, the only debate it will have is with itself.

Wood Boilers Cut Heating Bills. The Rub? Secondhand Smoke.

NY Times
December 18, 2006


Their owners proudly proclaim that they reduce dependence on foreign oil — and save thousands of dollars on heating bills each year.

Neighbors say that they create smoke so thick that children cannot play outside, and that it seeps into homes, irritating eyes and throats and leaving a foul stench.

They have spawned a rash of lawsuits and local ordinances across the country. A report last year by the New York attorney general’s office found that they produce as much particle pollution in an hour as 45 cars or 2 heavy-duty diesel trucks.

The devices, outdoor wood-fired boilers, originally invented to heat farmhouses, are now a fast-growing alternative energy fad — and, depending on whom you ask, the latest suburban scourge. Scientists studying the boilers’ environmental fallout estimate their numbers have doubled in the last two years, to about 150,000 nationwide.

A growing body of research about the toxins spewed by the boilers — namely carcinogens and lung-clogging particulate matter — has prompted campaigns around the country to limit their use.

And next month, the Environmental Protection Agency expects to issue guidelines for states to follow in regulating the use of wood boilers. The industry, too, is working with the agency on new standards for boilers.

“These machines sound good when you buy them, but look at all the health problems you cause,” said Edward J. Nowak, who is suing his former neighbor in Chicopee, Mass., for creating a “public nuisance” by installing a boiler in his backyard.

“We taped our windows up with plastic, and we tried to be a nice neighbor, but it just got to the point where it was impossible,” said Mr. Nowak, who is retired. He said he had to move because of the constant smoke.

“People are calling up their state and federal officials in unprecedented numbers because they don’t know what to do,” said Philip R. S. Johnson, a senior scientist at the Northeast States for Coordinating Air Use Management, a nonprofit association of air quality agencies in New York, New Jersey and New England. “I am getting so many calls from people complaining about their children getting sick and the nuisance of the smell, and it’s just brutal to listen to their stories.”

Owners of the devices say the complaints are unfair. Peter Muller, a landscaper in Stony Point, N.Y., who bought his boiler three years ago, calls them “the greatest thing since sliced bread.”

“Every day you turn on the news they’re saying lower your dependence on foreign oil,” said Mr. Muller, who gets inexpensive wood through his business and estimates his savings at $400 to $600 a month in the peak heating season. “Now I have a renewable energy source, and people are complaining.”

Since 2001, at least 50 towns or counties in New York State have instituted laws regulating the boilers, including Suffolk County, which in November effectively banned them by prohibiting their operation within 1,000 feet of a home or school.

Vermont, in the 1990s, and Connecticut, two years ago, enacted strict regulations on where boilers can be used. Washington State banned them outright, and villages and health boards in Maine, Wisconsin, Michigan and Massachusetts are dealing with hundreds of complaints from people who say wood boilers are making their homes feel like campgrounds.

The boilers, which look like tool sheds topped by 12-foot smoke stacks, were originally designed for rural areas where open space — and wood — are plentiful. They generally cost about $5,000, and work by burning wood to heat water that is pumped through underground pipes to a home’s plumbing and heating systems.

The boilers are creating fierce disputes virtually everywhere they turn up.

Common complaints include lung inflammation, persistent coughing and trouble breathing, not to mention foul odors. Because the boilers operate under low-oxygen conditions and smolder constantly, they produce far more smoke than traditional indoor stoves — about a dozen times more, several studies have found. They also produce 4 to 12 times the amount of fine particles, which can easily move into the lungs and be absorbed into the bloodstream, causing heart and respiratory problems, according to researchers.

Joseph Tumidajewicz, another Chicopee resident, has a name for the boiler that a neighbor — not the same one as Mr. Nowak’s — installed 300 feet from his home: “the presence.”

“You step outside of the house sometimes and you can feel your face getting instantly dirty,” he said. “It’s unbearable.”

According to the New York attorney general, the burners produce particles that are 2.5 microns in diameter or less. A human hair measures 30 to 50 microns.

But because regulations governing them are scarce, towns that receive complaints often have no recourse other than to politely ask owners to shut them off.

Rarely does that work. Wary of responding to false alarms caused by an outdoor boiler on Pinehurst Road in Holyoke, Mass., the Fire Department sued the boiler’s owners in October, and won a cease-and-desist order. Now the city is moving toward banning boilers completely.

While boilers can save money for owners with access to cheap wood, they are far more expensive to operate in suburban areas like Long Island, where a cord of wood can cost $170. A boiler can require more than a dozen cords for the winter. That cost, says Jack Eddington, a Suffolk County legislator who introduced the law restricting the boilers, leads people to resort to burning garbage, old furniture and even Christmas trees — resulting in larger, smellier and potentially more toxic smoke.

Mr. Eddington said he knew of people who collected trash solely for their boilers. “Sometimes that would make the smell worse than the smoke,” he said. “It’s not a cost-saving measure if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use only seasoned wood — meaning no sap or anything that could give out a bad toxic emission. The only way you can save money with these things is if you burn anything and everything.”

Current federal clean air laws cover indoor wood-burning devices, but the Environmental Protection Agency said that after months of requests from several states, it is working on model guidelines that states can follow to regulate outdoor wood boilers, and that it expected to be done by January. Among the guidelines will be setback requirements on how far boilers must be from homes and schools and height requirements for stacks to release smoke above ingestion levels.

John Millett, an agency spokesman, said that it has also considered establishing emissions standards, but that states are unwilling to wait the year or more the federal regulatory process could take.

So the agency has been trying to encourage manufacturers to voluntarily produce boilers, by the spring, that create about 70 percent less particulate matter.

“The manufacturers are working with E.P.A. to come up with a set of codes and standards for these furnaces that make them burn more efficiently and completely,” said Leslie Wheeler, a spokeswoman for the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, an industry group in Virginia. “But that’s a process that takes a while because you’re talking about research and development and a bunch of other things.”

Too late for Mr. Nowak, the Chicopee man who not only sued his neighbor but also sold his house because of the boiler. The neighbor did not respond to requests for an interview.

He said he first sold the house for $222,000, but after the buyer learned there was constant smoke from the boiler nearby, he demanded his money back.

Mr. Nowak eventually found another buyer — after knocking $30,000 off the price. He is hoping, through the lawsuit, to reclaim that money.

Outsize Profits, and Questions, in Effort to Cut Warming Gases

NY Times
December 21, 2006


QUZHOU, China — Foreign businesses have embraced an obscure United Nations-backed program as a favored approach to limiting global warming. But the early efforts have revealed some hidden problems.

Under the program, businesses in wealthier nations of Europe and in Japan help pay to reduce pollution in poorer ones as a way of staying within government limits for emitting climate-changing gases like carbon dioxide, as part of the Kyoto Protocol.

Among their targets is a large rusting chemical factory here in southeastern China. Its emissions of just one waste gas contribute as much to global warming each year as the emissions from a million American cars, each driven 12,000 miles.

Cleaning up this factory will require an incinerator that costs $5 million — far less than the cost of cleaning up so many cars, or other sources of pollution in Europe and Japan.

Yet the foreign companies will pay roughly $500 million for the incinerator — 100 times what it cost. The high price is set in a European-based market in carbon dioxide emissions. Because the waste gas has a far more powerful effect on global warming than carbon dioxide emissions, the foreign businesses must pay a premium far beyond the cost of the actual cleanup.

The huge profits from that will be divided by the chemical factory’s owners, a Chinese government energy fund, and the consultants and bankers who put together the deal from a mansion in the wealthy Mayfair district of London.

Arrangements like this still make sense to the foreign companies financing them because they are a lot less expensive, despite the large profit for others, than cleaning up their own operations.

Such efforts are being watched in the United States as an alternative more politically attractive than imposing taxes on fossil fuels like coal and oil that emit global-warming gases when burned.

But critics of the fast-growing program, through which European and Japanese companies are paying roughly $3 billion for credits this year, complain that it mostly enriches a few bankers, consultants and factory owners.

With so much money flowing to a few particularly lucrative cleanup deals, the danger is that they will distract attention from the broader effort to curb global warming gases, and that the lure of quick profit will encourage short-term fixes at the expense of fundamental, long-run solutions, including developing renewable energy sources like solar power.

As word of deals like this has spread, everyone involved in the nascent business is searching for other such potential jackpots in developing countries.

As for more modest deals, like small wind farms, “if you don’t have a humongous margin, it’s not worth it,” said Pedro Moura Costa, chief operating officer of EcoSecurities, an emissions-trading company in Oxford, England.

The financing of the chemical factory’s incinerator here and other deals like it are now drawing unfavorable attention. Canada’s environment minister, Rona Ambrose, announced in October that her government would withdraw from the trading program.

“There is a lot of evidence now about the lack of accountability around these kinds of projects,” she said.

Another concern is that the program can have unintended results. The waste gas to be incinerated here is emitted during the production of a refrigerant that will soon be banned in the United States and other industrial nations because it depletes the ozone layer that protects the earth from ultraviolet rays.

Handsome payments to clean up the waste gas have helped chemical companies to expand existing factories that make the old refrigerant and even build new factories, said Michael Wara, a carbon-trading lawyer at Holland & Knight in San Francisco.

Moreover, air-conditioners using this Freon-like refrigerant are much less efficient users of electricity than newer models. The expansion of large middle classes in India and China has led to soaring sales of cheap, inefficient air-conditioners, along with the building of coal-fired plants to power them, further contributing to global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer.

The program is at the forefront of efforts to address the most intractable problem in climate change: how to limit soaring emissions from the largest developing countries. Sometime in 2009, China’s total emissions of carbon dioxide, the most important global warming gas, are expected to surpass those from the United States, according to the International Energy Agency.

While the challenge of addressing global warming is daunting, so are the consequences of inaction. Scientists warn that rising concentrations of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases could result in more severe storms, wide crop failures, the spread of tropical diseases and rising sea levels endangering some coastal cities.

Programs like the one the United Nations supports are increasingly common in Europe. In general, they allow companies to buy rights on the market to exceed their limits on global warming gases from other companies prepared to reduce emissions elsewhere at a lower cost. Many economists consider emissions-trading systems, which are driving participants to the cheapest cleanups with the biggest impact, as the most efficient way to address pollution.

But a study commissioned by the world organization has found that the profits are enormous in destroying trifluoromethane, or HFC-23, a very potent greenhouse gas that is produced at the factory here and several dozen other plants in developing countries. The study calculated that industrial nations could pay $800 million a year to buy credits, even though the cost of building and operating incinerators will be only $31 million a year.

The situation has set in motion a diplomatic struggle pitting China, the biggest beneficiary from payments, against advanced industrial nations, particularly in Europe. At a global climate conference in Nairobi, Kenya, in November, European delegates suggested that in the case of Freon factories now under construction in developing countries, any payments for the incineration of the waste gas should go only into an international fund to help factories retool for the production of more modern refrigerants that do not deplete the ozone layer.

But the Chinese government blocked the initiative, insisting that money for Chinese factories go into the government’s own clean energy fund. Negotiators ended up setting up a group to study the issue.

Even as hundreds of millions of dollars from the program are devoted to the refrigerant industry, countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which were originally envisioned as big beneficiaries of emissions trading, are receiving almost nothing. Just four nations — China, India, Brazil and South Korea — are collecting four-fifths of the payments under the program, with China alone collecting almost half.

Two-thirds of the payments are going to projects to eliminate HFC-23.

Those payments also illustrate conflicting goals under Kyoto and the Montreal Protocol, a 1987 agreement that requires the phasing out of ozone-depleting substances. The problem is that the trading program backed by the United Nations, known as the Clean Development Mechanism, is helping support an industry that another international organization is trying to phase out.

And while ozone depletion is a separate problem from global warming, some gases, like HFC-23, make both worse. The separate secretariats under the protocols have little legal authority to resolve this quandary.

“It’s tricky in that we don’t have a mechanism other than the Security Council, and who cares there about HFC’s?” said Janos Pasztor, the acting coordinator of the organization that oversees the program.

In the end, officials say, there should be more projects aimed at providing renewable energy and sustainable economic development for the world’s poorest people.

“If people only do HFC-23 projects, then they miss the whole idea,” Mr. Pasztor said.

Richard Rosenzweig, chief operating officer of Natsource, a company in Washington arranging emissions deals between poor and rich countries, said it was not fair to look only at incineration costs and compare them with the size of payments from industrial nations. The administrative costs of the program are high, he said, and at least disposal of the waste gas is taking place.

If the world tried to reduce emissions through an outright ban or regulation alone, as many environmentalists recommend, it might not happen at all, he said. The United Nations-favored program may have flaws, he added, but “it’s a pilot phase — this is a 100-year problem.”

Environmental groups say that governments in developing countries should either require factories to incinerate the waste gas as a cost of doing business, or receive aid from wealthier countries to cover the relatively modest cost of incinerators.

“Couldn’t we pay for the cost, or even twice the cost, of abatement and spend the rest of the money in better ways?” Mr. Wara asked.

DuPont produces HFC-23 as part of its output of Teflon, but has routinely burned the colorless, odorless waste gas without compensation for many years, even though it is not required by law to do so, a DuPont spokeswoman said.

The secretariat of the Clean Development Mechanism estimates that a ton of HFC-23 in the atmosphere has the same effect as 11,700 tons of carbon dioxide. James Cameron, the vice chairman of Climate Change Capital, which organized the chemical factory deal here, said there were considerable costs and risks in setting up plans that required elaborate certification by consultants, acceptance by developing-country governments and approval by a United Nations secretariat.

For small projects involving less than $250,000 worth of credits, fees for deal makers, consultants and lawyers can far exceed the cost of installing equipment to clean up emissions.

Even the Chinese government, the main seller of carbon credits and a defender of the program, is expressing some misgivings.

“We do not encourage more HFC projects,” a statement by Lu Xuedu, deputy director of the Office of Global Environment Affairs at the Ministry of Science and Technology, said. “We would prefer to have more energy efficiency and renewable-energy projects that could help alleviate poverty in the countryside.”

But for now, the projects involving industrial gases like HFC-23 are where most of the action is.

“You can do those quickly,” Mr. Rosenzweig of Natsource said, “and it’s worth the investment.”