BioCycle November 2011, Vol. 52, No. 11, p. 6
Call For Papers – Biocycle 2012 West Coast Conference
The 26th Annual BioCycle West Coast Conference, April 16-19, 2012 in Portland, Oregon is accepting abstracts for presentations. The 2012 West Coast Conference theme, Community Sustainability In The 21st Century, encompasses the full spectrum of BioCycle’s editorial coverage – from composting and compost utilization to anaerobic digestion and biogas markets, to zero waste strategies and starting and operating successful projects and companies to divert and manage organic waste streams. Cutting edge research and analysis – especially as it relates to transforming communities and their infrastructure to sustainable systems – will be highlighted.
To view suggested topics and submit an abstract, go to www.biocyclewestcoast.com. Abstracts should be 250 words or less. The deadline for submission is December 30, 2011.
Cities Hold Keys To Sustainability
“When you work in local government, you either picked up the trash or you didn’t – you either plowed the street or you didn’t,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told a packed ballroom during the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) Symposium on Sustainable Buildings hosted by his city in October. “Eighty percent of people live in cities,” he said. “We are incubators of innovation, because we need to get things done.”
Nutter, recently elected to a second term, shared how he had vowed to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the country when he delivered his first inaugural address in January 2008. “Only we didn’t have a plan,” he quipped to a group of community leaders that included the former mayors of Toronto and Nashville. The following year the mayor’s office unveiled Greenworks Philadelphia, a comprehensive guiding document for meeting that challenge. Nutter said the real goal all along has been to lead by example and to challenge and remind other municipalities that they hold the keys to meaningful change. “Sustainability is not a fad, this is where we are,” he said. “It is a growth strategy, it is a jobs strategy and it’s also the right strategy.”
Fielding a question about how local politics might influence national priorities, Nutter cited Philadelphia’s ambitious Green City Clean Waters program to meet the storm water management requirements of the federal Clean Water Act through the installation of green infrastructure. Already approved by state environmental regulators and awaiting a rubber stamp from the EPA, Nutter said the approach “could revolutionize” the ways municipalities manage storm water. It would also save the cash-strapped city more than $18 billion.
Australia Passes Carbon Tax
As this issue of BioCycle went to press, Australia’s senate had just approved a controversial measure that will require the country’s top 500 polluting companies to pay a tax on their carbon emissions. The Clean Energy Act was heavily backed by Prime Minister Julia Gillard but had received a great deal of public opposition, with detractors saying it would cost jobs and lead to a higher cost of living in an already plagued economy. The bill marginally passed the lower house in October by a 74 to 72 vote. The senate vote was 36 to 32. Industries expected to feel the tax most include airlines, mining, steel mills and conventional fossil-fuel based energy, which many who criticized the bill said would pass the cost onto customers. Supporters counter that the tax will bolster investment and production in renewables while slashing the countries reliance on fossil fuels.
“Today we made history,” Gillard said at a press conference following the vote. “After all those years of debate and division, our nation has got the job done.” The Australian government has placed a high price on carbon emissions, $23.80 a metric ton as compared to European Union programs where the price is between $8.70 and $12.60 a metric ton.
Job Potential In A Recycling Economy
A new report prepared by the Tellus Institute with Sound Resource Management for a consortium of labor and environmental groups, is to be officially released on November 15, America Recycles Day. The study assesses the impacts of implementing a bold national recycling and composting strategy in the U.S. over the next two decades. “Specifically, we explore the impact on jobs and environmental pollutants if the U.S. were to achieve a 75 percent national waste diversion rate by 2030,” states the Executive Summary. Both municipal solid waste and construction and demolition debris were included in the analysis, which compared two waste management scenarios — a “Base Case” characterized as a continuation of current practices and trends over the next 20 years and a “Green Economy Scenario,” based on reaching the 75 percent goal by 2030.
Using the Green Economy scenario, a total of 2.3 million jobs would be created, twice as many as the Base Case scenario and about 2.7 times as many jobs as exist in 2008. “There would be a significant number of additional indirect jobs associated with suppliers to this growing sector, and additional induced jobs from the increased spending by new workers,” says the report summary. Following the 75 percent by 2030 path also would result in a reduction of almost 515 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from diversion activities, close to double the base case. An article based on this report will be published in an upcoming issue of BioCycle.
San Francisco Leads In Climate Change Solutions
The city of San Francisco released its latest waste diversion/recycling rate — 78 percent, up from 77 percent in the previous year. It also reported that greenhouse gas emissions are nearly 12 percent below 1990 levels and have exceeded emission reduction goals set by both the United Nations and California, the mayor’s office announced in October. “I thank former Mayor Gavin Newsom for beginning our city’s innovative and aggressive climate change policies that have boosted our local economy and advanced our city’s environmental goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mayor Edwin Lee. “San Francisco is leading the way toward a future of green jobs and a growing green economy built on renewable energy for a cleaner and healthier environment.”
A 2010 data analysis shows that San Francisco’s citywide carbon footprint totaled 5.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2010. This compares with 6.2 million metric tons in 1990. The analysis, conducted by the San Francisco Department of the Environment (SFE), covered the three primary sources of carbon emissions: buildings, transportation and waste. SFE’s analysis showed that the city’s mandatory waste recycling and composting law resulted in 1.5 million tons of waste diverted in 2009. “Savvy cities get that protecting the environment is a business opportunity,” said Environmental Defense Fund Vice President David H. Festa. “San Francisco is capturing that opportunity and leading the way on climate change solutions.” Other contributing factors to San Francisco’s emissions reduction include local investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.
S&P 500 Bullish On Sustainability
According to a recent report published by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), while national and global climate change policy remains uncertain, most reporting Fortune 500 companies are acting to address climate change, in part to stay ahead of the competition. CDP’s report analyzed disclosures from 339 of the largest U.S. corporations to track trends for greenhouse gas emissions reduction activity. CDP collects data from companies on behalf of 551 signatory investor institutions, which together manage $71 trillion in assets worldwide. The report, released in September, found companies reporting climate change policies as an integral part of corporate business strategy increased from 35 percent of respondents in 2010 to 65 percent in 2011; 64 percent are now setting greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, up from 51 percent in 2010 and 32 percent in 2008.
Contrary to conventional wisdom that presumes long payback periods for emissions reduction and energy efficiency programs, respondents cite commercial benefits as significant. Over 60 percent of projects have a payback period of three years or less. The most common projects disclosed by corporations were improvements to energy efficiency in their facilities, business processes and transportation networks, supported both by capital investments and changes in employee behavior; 54 percent of companies now offer financial incentives to staff for managing climate change issues, up from 35 percent in 2010. “Energy costs represent a significant component of operational spending and we are seeing the management of carbon increasingly move into companies’ core business strategies, in order to reduce this overhead,” said CDP CEO Paul Simpson. “As rising energy demands compete for finite resources, the businesses that make the decisions today that perpetuate a low-carbon, high growth economy will be best placed to forge ahead of their slow moving peers.” Find the full report at: www.cdproject.net/en-US/Pages/SP500.aspx.
DOE Explains Algae Exclusion In Biomass Update
Unrest within the algae community was blooming following the release of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) 2011 update of the Billion Ton Study projecting biomass supply for the bioenergy and bioproducts industries. The reason for the unrest was that algae biomass was not considered. The report, an update of the Billion Ton Study undertaken by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the DOE in 2005, projects that that the U.S. will have between 1.1 billion and 1.6 billion tons of available and sustainable biomass — not including algae — by 2030.
In answer to a question on its “Bioenergy: Knowledge Discovery Framework” website (www.nationalalgaeassociation.com) as to why the study did not include estimates for algal biomass, DOE officials responded: “Algal biomass was not included in the 2011 U.S. Billion Ton Update because there was insufficient data to estimate and project the availability of algal feedstocks with any degree of accuracy. The Department of Energy (DOE) Biomass Program is funding an initial strategic national assessment of the resource potential of algae grown for biofuels, but more work is needed before there are enough credible public data to consider algal biomass to the same level of detail as terrestrial-based feedstocks in the U.S. Billion Ton Update.” Data will need to be evaluated under different daily and seasonal temperatures, solar resource regimes, as well as weather-related events.
The DOE officials noted that a recent study conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, sponsored by the DOE Biomass Program, indicates a U.S. potential of several billion gallons of additional renewable fuels from algae that can be produced on lands with poor soil quality using nonfresh water. “This resource assessment will serve as a foundation on which to conduct more thorough national assessments as more data become available.”
Earth Now Home To 7 Billion People
With the announcement that the global population was expected to surpass 7 billion people last month, environmental think tanks such as the Wilson Center and Worldwatch Institute used the milestone as a springboard to warn about increasingly taxed ecosystem services. “Demographic trends will significantly impact the planet’s resources and people’s security,” says Geoff Dabelko, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Environmental Change & Security Program. “Growing populations stress dwindling natural resource supplies while high levels of consumption in both developed countries and emerging economies drive up carbon emissions and deplete the planet’s resources,” he adds. “And neglected ‘youth bulges’ could bolster extremism in fragile states like Somalia and destabilize nascent democracies like Egypt.” Impacted resources and systems, he says, will include water, food production, forests and biodiversity.
The Worldwatch Institute prescribes a two-pronged approach to the problem of overpopulation. One is to empower women to make their own decisions about childbearing. The other is to consume fewer resources and waste less food. According to the United Nations, about 4.5 billion people have been added to the world’s population in just the past 60 years. “It is precisely because the human population is so large and is growing so fast that we must care how much we as individuals — and nations — are increasingly out of sync with environmental sustainability,” says Worldwatch President Robert Engelman. “The challenge becomes even more with each generation. Fortunately there are ways to practically and humanely both slow population growth and reduce the impacts associated with the growth that occurs.”