Sustainability Reads: May 12- May 18

Amid Pipeline and Climate Debate, Energy-Efficiency Bill Is Derailed
On Monday a surprisingly bipartisan bill regarding energy efficiency was defeated, unfortunately largely because due to the game of politics. The bill, that was intended to encourage energy efficiency in buildings, was supported by members of both parties in both chambers of Congress and sponsored by Senators Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire.  But last week when the bill went to the floor, Republicans pushed for amendments that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused, including the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and blocking of President Obama’s efforts to issue climate change rules without congressional action. Scott Brown, a Republican Senate candidate, urged Republican leaders to vote “no” for a final vote on the bill and its amendments, forcing the bill to die.  It is said Scott Brown did so to prevent his Democratic counterpart, Shaheen, from having something to run on in November. The would-be bill included provisions to cut “homeowners’ energy use, utility bills and carbon footprints by making it easier for consumers to buy ‘smart metered’ water heaters and making it cheaper for manufacturers to build energy-efficient cooling and heating systems.”  By Coral Davenport, for the New York Times.

A Low Carbon Sustainable Development Pathways for LAC Countries
Latin American and Caribbean countries have the opportunity to meet increasing demands for energy the smart way -with renewable energy. Article highlights need, trends, and potential of solar, wind, and even geothermal in this region. Brazil, Chile, and Mexico are the natural leaders in implementing policies to support alternative energies, but many others are making efforts as well. A few LAC countries have adopted national level climate legislation (which even the U.S. hasn’t been able to do) and Mexico’s stock exchange last November launched the LAC region’s first carbon-offset credit exchange. Costa Rica also made commitment to becoming the first carbon-neutral society in the world. By Andrew Burger on Triple Pundit.

Valuing Nature in Business
Framework for a protocol to assist companies value natural capital. Natural capital is ‘the finite stock of natural assets (air, water, land, habitats) from which goods and services flow to benefit society and the economy. It is made up of ecosystems (providing renewable resources and services), and non-renewable deposits of fossil fuels and minerals.’ A pretty straightforward concept, but understanding companies impacts and dependencies in regards to natural capital and in economic terms to value this natural capital and incorporate into business decisions is tricky. The proposed protocol will assist companies similarly to the GHG Protocol for greenhouse gas emissions. Paper also provides great summary of the existing initiatives and resources for companies as well as governments to understand the real value of natural capital and leverage for better decision making. Multi-stakeholder project by Natural Capital Coalition.

The Red Hot Renewable That Could Incite A Green Power Revolution
Article outlines research in Iceland that found a new way to transform the heat generated by volcanic magma into electricity. Geothermal energy is mostly generated by heating water in underground geothermal reservoirs that then creates steam and turns an electricity-generating turbine. This emits less greenhouse gas emissions than “hydroelectric plants and less than solar photovoltaics over their complete life-cycle” and can contribute to reach climate change policy ambitions because geothermal is seen to be possibly as competitive as fossil fuels and less intermittent than other renewables. Many researchers are now attempting to generate geothermal power economically from “lower subterranean heat levels found around the planet.” Yet financing and the amount of water needed to generate geothermal energy are the two largest obstacles to further developing this energy on a larger scale. As geothermal continues to grow more quickly on the international level than in the US, it will be interesting to see how the US responds to take advantage of this energy that is sitting right under our feet. By Ari Phillips at Climate Progress.

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