Tag Archives: greenhouse gas

energy star - recycling symbol

Banner Estrella Medical Center Recognized As An Energy Star Facility By EPA

Banner Estrella Medical Center is the first and only hospital in Maricopa County to be labeled an Energy Star certified building by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Currently, only four hospitals in Arizona and 150 hospitals nationwide have the EPA-certified Energy Star label. Energy Star certified buildings use an average of 35 percent less energy and are responsible for 35 percent less carbon dioxide emissions than typical buildings. Fifteen types of commercial buildings can earn the Energy Star certification, including office buildings, K-12 schools and retail stores.

“We are excited to see that the dedication of our Facilities Department, and our relationship with our utility company, Salt River Project (SRP), has resulted in this honor from the federal government,” said Deb Krmpotic, Chief Executive Officer of Banner Estrella.

The hospital’s Facilities Department worked with SRP over a 12-month period to track key metrics in Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager™, such as energy intensity and costs, water use and carbon emissions, to reach the required benchmarks for the Energy Star label. The benchmarks take into account the number of staffed beds and workers and the types of services offered at the hospital to compare it with like facilities. Commercial buildings that earn the EPA’s Energy Star label must perform in the top 25 percent of similar buildings nationwide and must be independently verified by a licensed professional engineer or a registered architect.

One of the major contributing factors to achieving this recognition was the energy savings the hospital realized as a result of its participation in the SRP Retrocommissioning Solutions program. This program enhances existing systems through a tuneup, rather than relying on major equipment replacement. SRP collaborated with Banner Estrella’s Facilities Department to evaluate the chiller plant, HVAC fans, air handlers and reheat components and get them back to running in tiptop shape. As a result of the findings, the hospital saved more than $100,000 in energy costs the first year.

“Banner Estrella is a leader in the health care industry when it comes to energy efficiency. We look forward to many more successful projects with Banner Estrella, as well as other Banner Health facilities, in the future. It’s wonderful to see the hospital recognized on a national level,” said Debbie Kimberly, Director of Customer Programs & Marketing at SRP.

Launched in 1992 by the EPA, Energy Star is a market-based partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency. This year marks Energy Star’s 20th anniversary. Over the past 20 years, with help from Energy Star, American families and businesses have saved about $230 billion on utility bills and prevented more than 1.7 billion metric tons of carbon pollution. Today, the Energy Star label can be found on more than 60 kinds of products and more than 1.3 million new homes.

For more information on the EPA’s Energy Star Program, visit Energy Star’s website at energystar.gov.

Algae Industry

Could The Algae Industry Become Arizona’s No. 1 Industry?

Arizona would benefit from a strong new industry that provided more revenue than housing or hospitality, more fascination than sports, more food than agribusiness currently produces and more energy than has been produced in the history of the state. It would be nice too if the industry aligned with the current focus on biosciences. The industry should also employ engineers and scientists and other high salary professionals.

Arizona needs a new industry with a strong competitive advantage and a business model that is sustainable. Sustainability requires a green industry that is minimally consumptive―requiring little land, water or other resources. A sustainable industry should provide more energy than it consumes and provide a positive ecological footprint.
The business model should strengthen with growth and demonstrate a vitality and versatility to support a variety of niches. The industry should also integrate with the high technology associated with Arizona’s $600 million investment in genomics, medical information systems and biosciences.

The new algae industry might be called the “Green Gold Rush.” The analogy has validity because the attraction to gold mining is finding a free resource at one’s feet. Similarly, algae production takes nearly free resources: sunshine, waste water and desert and creates high value foods, fuels, nutraceuticals and medicines.

Declining industries

Arizona’s economy flourished for decades with the 4C’s: cattle, citrus, cotton and copper. More recently, electronics and semiconductors were added to the economy mix. However, resource constraints and global competition have taken a toll and key Arizona industries have been diminishing in employment, revenues and prospects.

Arizona’s migration from historical industries to new industries has occurred for a variety of reasons. Water availability, land and costs limit agribusiness. Heavy irrigation requirements, often three acre-feet, 36 inches, per crop, drive up costs. Many farmers must also pay for the energy to pump water from surface sources or most often from underground aquifers. Aquifer levels are declining requiring bigger pipes and stronger pumps. Heavy irrigation also imparts salts to the soil which reduces crop vitality.

The severe summer heat makes some crops impractical to grow and others develop poisonous toxins such as aflatoxin due to the heat. Population growth has consumed the prime farmland in and around cities which has benefiting the housing industry but damaged agribusiness. As communities expand, outlying land becomes increasingly more expensive as speculators take options on development.

New farmland becomes increasingly expensive as infrastructure such as laser leveling, pipelines and irrigation systems must be put in place in remote locations. New farmland tends to be more costly yet less productive than already developed land. Consequently, agribusiness becomes a continually less attractive investment. Currently, business models show that even gifted new land may not be profitable for agriculture due to the increasing capital costs necessary to manage a farm.

Many of Arizona’s agricultural products that historically had high value have become commodities. Early or late season crops that were possible to grow only in Arizona due to early spring warmth and late fall sunshine gave growers a competitive advantage. Now, many fruits and vegetables are imported year-round.

Copper, electronics and semi-conductors have felt the impact of global competition and especially cheap foreign labor, Figure 1. While each industry will continue in Arizona, the scale will reduce along with revenues and employment.

Figure 1. Arizona’s Old and New Industries

Algae Industry

Unfortunately, some Arizona industries have not been sustainable because key resources were insufficient to sustain the industries. Arizona’s strategic resource is water.

Water strategy

Water availability and use hold the key to Arizona’s future. Failing sufficient clean water, Arizona cannot sustain its valuable tourism industry, industrial businesses or growing population. Only three sources of water are available:

1.    Surface water – from the seven reservoirs and the Colorado River water that flows through the CAP aqueduct
2.     Groundwater – from underground aquifers
3.    Reuse water – from wastewater treatment plants

Surface and groundwater are largely committed under contract to existing users. Therefore, a new industry must be water efficient and able to use wastewater or grey, partially purified water.

Algae have the capacity to become a critical part of Arizona’s water strategy as algae can thrive in most kinds of wastewater such as city sewer water, industrially polluted water with heavy metal such as mining or even saline water. In addition to growing in mucky water, algae can be used to clean wastewater for reuse by citizens, industry or agriculture.
Agriculture cannot use saline water because the salt kills land plants by blocking water absorption from the roots. Algae have no root structures and some strains simply absorb water pollutants. Those pollutants can be separated from the algae during processing. The clean water has value and the metals can be collected and resold for reuse in industry.
Algae are robust, water-based plants that grow at an extremely high rate, often doubling or tripling their biomass in a single day. They need only sunshine, warm temperatures, impure water and modest nutrients to flourish. Algae grow so fast in commercial production that biomass harvest occurs daily or even continuously. Once the green biomass is removed from the water, the water and remaining nutrients may be recycled in a continuous growing loop.

CO2 conversion

Algae grow biomass quickly in a wide variety of conditions. Plants use the sun’s energy through photosynthesis to convert sunlight into chemical energy. They convert inorganic substances such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur and other nutrients into organic matter such as green or blue-green biomass.

Algae feed on the greenhouse gas, CO2, and convert it to simple plant sugars and lots of O2, Figure 2. Water stores little dissolved CO2 naturally so cultivated algae need added CO2 for food. Photosynthesis takes in CO2, nutrients and water and produces the algae biomass with proteins, carbohydrates and lipids (oils). The process releases considerable oxygen to the atmosphere.

Figure 2. Algae Takes in CO2 and Produces O2

Algae Industry

Even though algae represent only 0.5% of total global biomass by weight, algae produce about 40% of the net global production of oxygen on earth – approximately equal to all the forests and fields combined.Algae, often called microscopic phytoplankton, grow in most bodies of water and provide the foundation for nearly all marine food chains. Subtract algae and phytoplankton from the water column and fish, shellfish and other aquatic creatures cannot survive.

The Arizona algae industry has extraordinary potential worth billions of dollars because with advanced technologies, algae can produce a wide variety of high-value foods, medicines, nutraceuticals and biofuels as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Algae Products and Use

Algae Industry

The lipids can be removed and made into biofuels such as jet fuel, JP-8. The remaining starches and proteins can be made into a limitless variety of human and animal foods and other coproducts. Since there are over 30,000 known algae strains and probably several million in nature the product and coproduct possibilities for this biomass are nearly limitless.

The harvested algae are extremely malleable in the sense that they can be stored in the same form as corn, wheat, rice or soy products. These include protein-rich milk, soft mash of any size, shape or texture, tortilla, cracker or flour. They can be made into texturized vegetable protein with added fiber or extruded to make additives for meats that improve moisture retention and increase protein while lowering fats.

Processing can match the form of nearly any food such as peanuts, pesto or protein bars. Fortunately, years of food processing for land-based plants that have an unappealing natural taste such as soybeans make it easy to add flavors, textures (fibers) and aromas.
Algae are currently used in hundreds of products such as beer, gum, cosmetics, nutraceuticals and medicines. Newly discovered or genetically engineered strains hold potential for mass production of vaccines, vitamins and other high-value nutrients.

Arizona’s advantage

Arizona stands alone in competitive advantage for algae production. No other state offers the unique combination of sunshine, warm weather with few frosts and low-cost flat, non-cropland. Arizona even has numerous saline aquifers with water that cannot support agriculture. Compared with cattle as a protein source, for example, algae need less than 0.001 the land and water.

Iowa won the non-sustainable corn ethanol sweepstakes and Iowa benefits from all the subsidies for corn and ethanol refining. Government subsidies for ethanol in Iowa amount to $640 for each citizen due to the “Presidential Caucus Effect.” Every presidential campaign begins in Iowa and every candidate supports larger corn ethanol subsidies.

However, the industry is not sustainable because Sierra Club calculates that the 44 new Iowa ethanol refineries will crash Iowa’s freshwater aquifers. An average ethanol refinery uses the water equivalent of about 5,000 households. In addition, 326,000 acres in Western Iowa use irrigated corn for ethanol, further depleting their groundwater. Irrigated corn requires about three acre-feet of water which translates to about 3,000 gallons of water to produce each gallon of ethanol. Several cities in Iowa also have found their groundwater contaminated and undrinkable due to Nitrites from cornfield fertilizer run-off.

Many states can grow corn but only a few can grow algae productively without the prohibitive costs of controlled environment buildings. Algae can be grown anywhere but are far less productive in many climates as they stop growing on cloudy days. The biomass also grows more slowly with cooler temperatures. Sustainable commercially scaled cultivation requires the climate and terrain associated specifically with Arizona and parts of Southern California. Other locates in the U.S. south may build production systems that produce only in the summer similar to existing land crops.

Algae are sustainable because growth requires only a tiny fraction of the inputs – energy, water, land, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides required for land-based plants like corn, citrus, cotton or cattle. The industry is ecologically positive because algae can take flue gasses from coal-fired power plants and sequester the CO2; use the excess heat for growth while producing tons of O2. Algae can remediate the nitrogen and other pollution from agriculture in groundwater and wastewater. Algae production is ecologically positive because it has minimal input needs and no waste products are produced to leach into the soil or fill waste dumps.

Arizona State University also offers a competitive advantage in the knowledge workers needed for the algae industry with excellent engineering and business schools and the only Laboratory for Algae and Biotechnology in the U.S.

Growth

Algae grow high-value biomass at speeds 30 to 100 times faster than land plants for one reason: they do not waste energy on structures like trunks, roots and leaves. Land plants have to withstand all the forces of nature – wind, weather and predators. Algae are water plants that are supported by the water in situ, in which they grow. For algae, it’s like being in a womb; all support systems are local and focus on growth and development.

In nature, algae’s greatest strength acts as a weakness. Fast growth shades new and prior plants from sun light. The underlying plants are shaded or receive too little light for photosynthesis and die. Cultivated algae require constant mixing to enable all the cells sufficient access to light.

Another unusual strength works against algae in natural habitats. The high protein composition, often around 50% of the biomass, means the plant begins breaking down faster than shrimp – which for practical purposes means immediately. Cultivated algae harvest occurs daily but algae in natural settings begin to rot quickly and give off the associated gasses and fragrances.

Consequently, people tend to think of algae based on its natural settings where it often presents itself as smelly green slime. In contrast, cultivated algae give off rich O2 which smells similar to walking through a redwood forest (without the trees).

Algae are infamous for causing problems in public waterways and in personal pools, ponds, pots and aquariums. Algae’s tolerance for a wide range of growing conditions means it demonstrates its resilience and fast growth in any moist or wet area that gets sunlight. As a result, algae research has focused nearly 10:1 on trying to kill, control or remove the productive green biomass versus cultivation. As a consequence, our survey research indicates 98% of people view algae as a pest.

Biomass production

Cultivated algae grow quickly and display continuous growth in sunshine where the biomass may double or triple daily. Algae slow their growth on cloudy days and go into respiration at night.

Algae grow similar to other plants and grow faster with increasing sun or heat. Algae grow within the boundaries of the “law of the minimum.”

Algae Industry

Figure 4. Arizona State University Polytechnic Laboratory for Algae Research and Biotechnology, LARB

The plant grows quickly to the maximum it can until it hits a mineral, chemical, nutrient, light or temperature limitation. When the last of the limiting nutrient is absorbed, N for example, the plant stops growing until more of the minimum constraint becomes available.

The challenge for algae cultivation becomes insuring that sufficient nutrients are continuously available to the fast growing plant.

Algae differ widely in the levels of chemical, light and temperature parameters that limit their growth. For example, some algae flourish in low pH water (high acid) while others prefer high pH. Laboratory analysis can determine the concentrations of major nutrients and other growing parameters. Nutrient concentration ratios such as N/P can predict which algae strains should predominate under stable resource conditions.

Biomass composition varies by variety but may be 60:30, oil to foods, with about 10% waste. Therefore, it offers a solution to both fuel and food. The biomass is demoistured and stored in a convenient form such as a cake. The biomass does not require refrigeration and has a two-year self-life.

Algae are clean and healthy. The natural product has a hint of the fresh green smell of alfalfa and a soft organic taste. Several newly discovered varieties are odorless and tasteless and take on the smell and taste of the food they accompany.

Algae cultivation typically occurs in tanks or ponds, so no soil tilling, heavy equipment or pesticides and herbicides are required, although light tractors are common. Algae grow all over the Earth, so its range substantially exceeds corn. However, cultivated algae grow best in sunny, warm regions. Algae can grow where other crops cannot grow, such as deserts, mountains and rooftops.

Productivity

Algae do not have the cellulosic trunk, tassel, leaves, roots and cob – the structural overhead – necessary for land plants like corn to withstand the land environment. Algae invest their growth energy in creating oils and proteins with light carbohydrates for the cell walls. An algae strain with 60% oils produces over 55% net oils that can be made into liquid fuel like high-powered jet fuel or biodiesel.

Biodiesels are typically about 33% more energy producing per unit than gasoline. In contrast, corn produces 98% non-energy producing cellulosic biomass called stover and yields less than 2% energy biomass. Most of the plant is waste in an energy sense and the stalks are left in the field. The corn energy biomass can be converted into a low-powered fuel that has only 64% the energy per unit as gasoline.

Some power companies such as Arizona Public Service have turned their problem with CO2 emissions into an opportunity. The Redhawk 1,040 megawatt power plant recycles greenhouse gases into renewable biofuels and uses algae to capture the CO2 gas emissions. The power plant exhaust is routed through algae growing systems and can eliminate part of their CO2 emissions during the day. Power plants run 24/7, so this presents only a partial solution.

Some power plants also use waste heat from power generation in the growing systems that increase the velocity of biomass growth. The only company supplying these systems currently, Greenfuels Technologies, associated with MIT, claims that using algae-fed CO2 and warm water from the power plant could potentially create annual yields of 8,000 gallons of biodiesel plus about 8,000 gallons of ethanol per acre. These production levels may be theoretically possible but are well beyond any current operational systems.
However, some power plants are operating their biofactories at a profit on a stand-alone basis. Reducing emissions may earn the power plants CO2 emissions credits and tax credits.

Compared with corn, algae offer substantial productivity, ecologic and economic advantages as shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Algae Advantages Compared with Corn

Algae Industry

Challenges

Unfortunately, R&D on algae has taken a hiatus since 1995 when the U.S. Department of Energy decided to close down the Aquatic Species Project and algae research to focus on the politically expedient biofuel – corn ethanol. Since then, the majority government biofuels funding and subsidies has gone to support corn ethanol and ignored other renewable fuel sources.

The most pressing challenge lies in scaling up algae biofactories for continuous commercial production. Sparse R&D means the favored technologies have not been tested on a large scale. Fortunately, much of the necessary production knowledge comes from hydroponics and aquaculture where R&D has moved those technologies forward.
The challenges presented by algae production are nontrivial. Commercial biofactories producing the health food Spirulina currently operate in California, Hawaii, South Africa, Japan, India, Thailand and China where algae products are used for food. Focused R&D can have scaled algae production systems operating in Arizona within several years.

Algae industry: A new Arizona industry?

An algae industry would employ primarily high-technology knowledge workers because the business models substitute advanced technologies for labor, similar to wind turbines or solar collectors. Research in progress at ASU Polytechnic is examining ways to combine solar collectors and algae production. Quite possibly, the same land footprint could support wind turbines in the right location.

Early entrants to the algae industry will employ numerous engineers and scientists to solve the fascinating technical challenges for large scale production. For example, algae production business models often include labs for selecting productive strains and monitoring strain vitality and quality in the growing systems. Fortunately, Arizona is blessed with many capable technical brains who are no longer employed in electronics and semiconductors.

The algae industry is unlikely to match the 12,000 jobs created in the existing Arizona bioscience industry. Algae production will use relatively few high-tech managers orchestrating largely automated growing and harvesting systems. Food, fuel and coproduct manufacture and refining will employ a substantial number of people. Salaries will probably be around the current bioscience levels, averaging about $50,000.

The revenue generated from an algae industry could exceed the other bioscience niches. It is too early to predict which algae products will produce the most revenue but several appear very promising, including:

Liquefied energy – biodiesel, jet fuel, ethanol or methanol
Foods – high protein replacement for grains such as wheat, corn and soybeans
Health foods – Spirulina, vitamins, special nutrients
Medicines – nutraceuticals, vaccines and high-value medicines

The algae industry business models are very attractive because with relatively modest investments, high value products are possible that can be sold for substantial profits. However, Arizona has seen failed attempts before at building industries around new crops such as guayule, a weed that can be made into a rubber product, and jojoba, a bean than produces oil. Similarly, early attempts at new growing systems such as hydroponics never lived up to their hype.

Algae businesses will have to prove their ability to scale-up to commercial production levels and also show they can sustain high production to take advantage of Arizona’s 360 days of sunshine. The initial cultivated algae production systems will need to be a public and private partnerships to share the risks associated with early R&D.

The combination of biofuels, foods, nutraceuticals and medicines all delivered from a renewable resource that is ecologically positive means Arizona can look forward to a strong new industry. Some may call this the green gold rush because the products and coproducts offer such high value.

The path to build this exciting and high value industry begins with a first step: focused R&D on sustainable scaled algae production systems.

Mark R. Edwards has taught food marketing and entrepreneurship in the Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness at Arizona State University Polytechnic for more than 30 years. This article is derived from his recent book “Biowar I: Why Battles over Food and Fuel Lead to World Hunger.” Biowar I algae as a case study to illustrate the foolish waste associated with the corn ethanol industry.
Energy Saving Air Conditioning

Green News Roundup – Green Renovation, Energy Saving Air Conditioning & More

Welcome to our weekly green news roundup. This week we’ve gathered stories about video conferencing, green renovation, energy saving air conditioning and local sustainability-related events taking place throughout the Valley.

Please feel free to send along any interesting stories you’d like to see featured in the roundup by e-mailing me at kasia@azbigmedia.com. Also visit AZ Green Scene for informative articles on sustainability endeavors in the Valley and state. Read the latest article here.

Energy Saving A/C Conquers All Climates
As Phoenix rolls into its hottest time of the year, residents are all dreading the energy bill. Keeping cool requires non-stop air conditioning, and that doesn’t come cheap! Or does it? The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has invented a new air conditioning process that has the potential of using 50 to 90 (yes 90!) percent less energy than today’s best units. The process uses membranes, evaporative cooling and liquid desiccants in a way that has never been done before. But alas Phoenix, we’ll still have to wait for our cheaper A/C as the system is best for dry climates that don’t get too hot or humid for example Denver. It doesn’t work well for climates such as ours or very humid climates like Miami. Still, it’s encouraging to know that alternatives are in the works and hopefully ours will come out in the near future!

Sealing Deals in Virtual Space
Video conferencing is a term we’ve all heard before. However, as technology has progressed so has this innovative conferencing method. Cisco-AT&T Telepresence is one of the latest incarnations of this exciting new technology. The New York Times Green blog covered this topic, noting the significant benefits limiting airline travel for conferences can have on the environment. Not only does this help the environment, it also helps businesses save money. London-based Carbon Disclosure Project examined “how greater reliance on teleconferencing might affect business costs and emissions,” also encouraging companies to collect data about greenhouse gas emissions hoping they will take steps to reduce them.

Valley Partnership Presents “Green Renovation for Progress & Profit”
Learn how to apply the green renovation and operation strategies of Arizona landmark, El Chorro Lodge, to your business.  The tagline of this breakfast, which will be held on Friday, June 25, at 7 a.m., is “A case study on solar strategies fueled in part by sticky buns!”  Come educate yourself on how to efficiently use green power in your business while chowing down on El Chorro’s famous sticky buns.  To register for this event visit www.valleypartnership.org.

New Meritage Green Home Concept Gets Kid-Friendly
Turn your kids into junior sheriffs working for fictional Sheriff M. Green who takes wasted energy from Wally Wasteful and gives it back to the community.  On Saturday, June 26 at 10 a.m., Meritage Homes will literally unveil its green home concept in Meritage Home’s Lyon’s Gate in Gilbert.  The work on this green home concept has been kept under a secretive green drape and will finally be revealed.  Contact Mary Garrett at (602) 432-2010 or mary@mgpublicrelations.com for more information on how to take part in this green unveiling.

Clean Up After Your Pet the Green Way
Ever wanted to clean up after your dog in a more environmentally-friendly way?  Well PoopBags, Inc. is here to help.  PoopBags, a pet waste disposal product, is made with renewable resources like corn.  This American-made product is 100 percent biodegradable, shelf-stable and will decompose at the rate of an apple after usage.  PoopBags, Inc. is trying to make the world a better place for generations to come.  If you’d like to order PoopBags, visit www.poopbags.com.

EarthFest Night is Back!
Valley Forward’s Annual EarthFest Educators Night is back for the sixth time.  Arizona kindergarten through 12th grade teachers have the chance to win $5,000 to put toward environmental programs in their classroom, school or community.  Free resources on environmental education and how to create a greener school will also be available to attendees.  EarthFest Educators Night combines education and entertainment in innovative programming that uses Arizona’s unique desert character.  To learn more about this free event, held Thursday, Sept. 16 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Phoenix Zoo, visit www.valleyforward.org.

Green Economy

Green News Roundup – Building A Green Economy, Solar Power & More

Welcome to our weekly green news roundup. This week we’ve gathered stories about the benefits of making your home energy efficient, building a green economy and solar in Arizona.

Feel free to send along any stories you’d like by e-mailing me at kasia@azbigmedia.com Also visit AZ Green Scene for informative articles on sustainability endeavors in the Valley and state.


Best of Green 2010: Business and Politics

Find out who the best political ambassador is, the best politics Web site, the best non-profit partnership and so much more, all with a “green” twist.

Building a Green Economy
This New York Times Magazine essay addresses how to cut greenhouse gas emissions without further injuring our economy. Along with a synopsis of climate change economics, the author dives into controversial aspects of the issue and sorts it all out so we don’t have to.

Arizona to world: Do we have solar!
The LA Times spotlighted Arizona’s efforts to draw solar companies to the Grand Canyon State. Greater Phoenix Economic Council president and CEO Barry Broome is quoted in the article, emphasizing the state’s commitment to a sustainable economy.

Motivating People to make homes energy efficient
In this piece from the Washington Post, the author makes the case for energy efficient homes and looks at why homeowners don’t implement more measures. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration data, in the U.S. buildings are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global warming. However, making your home more energy-efficient reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Uncertainties of Climate Change

Valley Forward Hosts Panel On Uncertainties Of Climate Change

On March 24, Valley Forward hosted a luncheon for its members at the Sheraton Downtown Phoenix. But this wasn’t an ordinary luncheon. It featured a panel discussing a topic that relates to us all: the uncertainties of climate change.

The panel — moderated by Grady Gammage, Jr., of Gammage & Burnham — was made up of four panelists:

David Modeer, general manager of the Central Arizona Project
Henry Darwin, deputy director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
Gary Yaquinto, president of the Arizona Investment Council,
and Warren Meyer, proprietor of The Climate Change Skeptic

Each panelist brought their own unique view to the discussion and opened the eyes of the attendees by revealing all aspects of climate change. The differing opinions of the panelists proved to be the perfect recipe for a lively debate. Warren Meyer, who runs the Web site climate-skeptic.com staunchly defended his opinion that though he doesn’t deny that the world is warming, he has a different take on it than most. He talked about a second theory that he later described on his Web site:
“This second theory is that the climate is dominated by strong positive feedbacks that multiply the warming from CO2 manyfold, and increase a modest one degree Celsius of warming from man’s CO2 to catastrophic levels of five or even 10 degrees,” Meyer writes.

Meanwhile, tthe other panelists added their input into the discussion. Gary Yaquinto talked about the potential economic effects of controlling greenhouse gases while Henry Darwin focused on the position of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

The luncheon was a great success in shedding some light on this topic and giving the public some insight into the effects on Arizona.

www.valleyforward.org
www.climate-skeptic.com
www.cap-az.com
www.azdeq.gov/
www.arizonaic.org
www.gblaw.com/

Earth and climate change

Arizona Businesses Brace For Greenhouse Gas Regulations Under Western Climate Initiative

As the Arizona Legislature convenes, a Democratic governor heads to Washington, and a Republican governor takes the reins, state businesses find themselves deeply concerned about what will happen to Arizona’s environmental policy and the consequences associated with these unprecedented and troubled economic times.

Many legislators want Secretary of State Jan Brewer, who soon will take over the governor’s office, to rescind executive orders entered by outgoing Gov. Janet Napolitano. Rumors also abound about efforts to eliminate the Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). Meanwhile, the regulated community is left wondering what will be next for such large-scale regulatory efforts as the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), which was largely championed by Napolitano and ADEQ Director Steve Owens.

The WCI is a collaboration among seven U.S. governors and four Canadian premiers that Napolitano and others created to reduce greenhouse gases in the region using a market-based, cap-and-trade system. The member jurisdictions include: Arizona, California, New Mexico, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington, as well as the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. Together, these seven states and four provinces represent more than 20 percent of the U.S. economy and 70 percent of Canada’s. Thirteen other U.S. and Mexican states and Canadian provinces have joined as observers.

Arizona entered the WCI in February 2007, following reports indicating that Arizona’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were increasing. There were also predictions that by 2020, the state’s GHG emissions would increase by nearly 150 percent over the 1990 levels if Arizona neglected to reduce them. Arizona has played a vital role in the WCI since its beginning, with Owens serving as co-chair during the time the initial policy was developed. The first major accomplishment occurred with Owens at the helm, when the WCI released its design recommendations for the Regional Cap-and-Trade Program in late September.

Political changes and the design itself indicate that the WCI likely will affect Arizona regardless of whether the state stays in or exits the WCI. For example, as applied to electricity, the regulations will apply to the first jurisdictional deliverer (FJD). For sources within WCI jurisdictions, the FJD is the generator. For power generated outside the WCI jurisdictions (including federal and tribal lands) for consumption within a WCI partner jurisdiction, the FJD is the first entity that delivers that electricity, over which the consuming WCI partner jurisdiction has regulatory authority. Thus, if Arizona remains in the WCI, regulations will apply to generators of electricity; if Arizona leaves the WCI, any business or entity that seeks to deliver electricity to any jurisdiction that is a member will be subject to the regulations. In addition to electricity generators and suppliers, the WCI will regulate other sources of emissions such as industrial, residential and commercial sources, as well as industrial fuel combustion at facilities and transportation fuel combustion.

Details still must be developed, but the initial emission threshold triggering regulatory compliance is estimated to be 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents annually. The design was tailored to specifically allow the scope of the cap-and-trade program to expand over time to add new sources to the system, raise or lower the cap as necessary, and to integrate it into other programs.

This may be critical sooner rather than later, as many expect a federal program from President Barack Obama’s administration. Certainly with 20 percent of the U.S. economy regulated under WCI, in a region with critical energy supplies and high levels of emissions, the WCI is poised to become amodel. Additionally, calling this the Western Climate Initiative is a misnomer since Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec are included, extending the WCI boundaries to the Atlantic. In fact, the WCI covers the largest geographical area of any regional initiative. Moreover, with Napolitano in the Obama cabinet, Owens is predicted to land a federal regulatory role, and the WCI publicly states that it plans to promote and influence federal GHG emission reduction programs consistent with its design principles.

For now, Brewer is taking a cautious approach, noting that she currently plans to remain involved to get information and see what can be done in Arizona, but that given the economy, she is not yet ready to take a position on the planned cap-and-trade program. If Arizona remains in the WCI, mandatory reporting will begin with measurement and monitoring this time next year. The start date for cap-and-trade is Jan. 1, 2012. Regardless of whether Arizona is in or out of the WCI, a new regulatory regime now appears imminent and the only real questions moving forward seem to be how to influence outstanding issues and prepare for compliance and increased costs.