• New Obama Admin Carbon Regs and the Bigger Picture

    March 29,2012, 12:41 PM

    by Jim Ball

    On Wednesday the Obama Administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed carbon pollution standards for new power plants.

    The U.S. needs to be doing much more than it currently is to overcome global warming and protect the poor from its impacts. The Obama Administration's regulation is an important step along this road, given that this is the first time carbon from power plants will be regulated.

    The Obama Administration was required to act because of the failure of Congress to do so. Comprehensive climate legislation with a market-based approach to pricing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide is still the better option. But until Congress acts, the Obama Administration must keep our country moving forward on overcoming climate change.

    The next regulatory step will be to require existing coal-burning plants to reduce their carbon pollution. We hope that before such regulations need to be issued Congress will pass comprehensive climate legislation that not only puts a price on carbon, but also helps to fund long-term climate-friendly R&D, has specially designed programs to incentivize climate-friendly activities in forestry and agriculture, and creates and funds comprehensive adaptation programs for both the U.S. and poor countries.

    Before such legislation can be passed, President Obama himself must explain to the country that overcoming climate change is vital for our nation's health and well-being. He must let the country know that it will be a top priority if he is honored with a second term. Defending this particular regulation of new power plants provides him the perfect opportunity to do so.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Major Report Says We Are Almost Out of Time to Overcome Global Warming

    November 17,2011, 15:14 PM

    by Jim Ball

    The International Energy Agency (IEA), which advises the G20 on energy matters, recently released their annual report on energy consumption and their forecast for where things are heading over the next 25 years -- including the possibility of overcoming global warming.

    In their World Energy Outlook 2011 the IEA projects that energy demand will grow 40% by 2035. To meet this demand, the world will need to spend about $1.5 trillion. What we spend it on will determine whether we overcome global warming or not.

    Below is my summary of the IEA's findings. (I encourage you to check out their materials and a video of their press conference here.)

    We Are Currently Headed in the Wrong Direction

    • Even in a slow economy, CO2 emissions in 2010 had a dramatic increase of 5.3% to an all-time high of 30.4 gigatons.
    • Energy efficiency, the foundation upon which overcoming global warming will be built, has declined worldwide for the second year in a row.
    • In 2010, subsidies for fossil fuels worldwide equaled $409 billion, compared to only $66 billion for renewables. Without further reform, fossil subsidies will reach $660 billion by 2020. Finally, fossil subsidies benefit primarily the well-off of a country: currently only 8% goes to the poorest 20%.

    The Emerging Economies Outstrip Developed Economies in Energy Consumption and Emissions

    • By 2035 global energy use increases by 33%, with China and India accounting for 50% of this growth.
    • By 2020, most cars are sold outside developed countries. Passenger vehicles double to 1.7 billion by 2035.
    • China becomes the largest oil importer by 2020.
    • In the last decade coal supplied nearly half of the increase in global energy use, with emerging economies accounting for most of this.
    • After 2020 India will surpass China as the biggest coal importer.

    We Are Almost Out of Time

    • 80% of our emissions budget is already "locked in" due to existing energy-related infrastructure, and we are on track to lock in the remaining 20% by 2017.
    • If significant action is delayed until 2015, "around 45% of the global fossil-fuel capacity installed by then would have to be retired early or refurbished by 2035."
    • If action is delayed until 2017, all energy-consuming capitol stock will have to produce no global warming pollution if we are to have a chance at overcoming global warming. In other words, all buildings, vehicles, power plants, etc, must be zero carbon/GHGs in order not to exceed 2 degrees Celsius of preindustrial or 450ppm.

    The Longer We Wait the More Expensive Reducing Emissions Becomes

    • After 2020 it will cost us $4.30 to achieve the same emissions reductions as a $1 invested today.

    As the above findings show, we are almost out of time to overcome global warming. The Risen LORD is leading the way, but not enough of us are following.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President of EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Important Op-Eds on Climate Change by Former Congressman Bob Inglis

    October 05,2011, 19:01 PM


    We wanted to make sure you were aware of two important op-eds recently published by our friend and former Member of the House of Representatives, Congressman Bob Inglis, Republican from South Carolina.

    Bob is one of the most important leaders in the Republican Party on the need for our country to play our part in overcoming global warming -- something we believe the Risen LORD is leading the way on.

    The first op-ed was published on September 25 in USA Today. And the second came out on Oct. 2 on the Bloomberg News site. We provide excerpts below. While we don't agree with Congressman Inglis on everything, we do agree there needs to be a market-based approach that puts a price on carbon.


    USA Today

    "How the GOP Should Engage Climate Science"

    by Bob Inglis

    "Texas Gov. Rick Perry's recent assertion that the science of climate change has been politicized is almost certainly true. Environmental groups (the kind that always gave me F's on my congressional report cards for voting against bills such as cap-and-trade) decided a while back to run this play on the left side of the political field. But perhaps the strongest proof of Perry's assertion is what we conservatives are doing now ...

    Perry asserts, and many conservatives believe, that the flow of grants have produced a corresponding flow of studies indicating human causes of climate change. Skepticism is warranted, but it's relieved by an observation: Scientists become famous by disproving the consensus, not by parroting it. You don't get a theory named for yourself by writing papers that say, "Yeah, like he said." You become famous (and, for the pure of heart, you advance science) by breaking through with new understandings.

    In the zeal of our disproof, many conservatives have latched on to the outliers to create the appearance of uncertainty where little uncertainty exists. Accordingly, only 15% of the public knows that 97% of climate scientistshave concluded that the planet is rapidly warming as a result of human activity ...

    Many conservatives believe that, even if climate change is caused by human activity, the costs of correction outweigh the benefits. What does that calculation say about our objectivity, our commitment to accountability and our belief in free markets?

    Conservatives say that free enterprise, not government mandates, can deliver innovation. But we've been waiting since 1973 to be freed from foreign oil. Maybe that's because all the costs aren't "in" on petroleum " the national security risk, the costs of protecting the supply lines out of the Middle East, the cost of the pollution from tailpipes and the cost of tax subsidies for petroleum. If those costs were paid at the pump and not out of sight, we'd be aware of our need, and America's entrepreneurs would meet our need with new fuels.

    But markets can't respond when some fuels escape accountability. If the coal industry, for instance, were held accountable for all of coal's costs " including health effects " we'd build emission-free nuclear power plants instead of coal-fired plants. Electricity rates would rise because we'd be paying all of coal's cost at the meter, but health insurance premiums would fall. In such an all-costs-in scenario, the profit motive would drive innovation just as it drove innovation with the Internet and the PC " without clumsy government mandates.

    Conservatives can restore our objectivity by acknowledging that Americans are already paying all the hidden costs of energy. We can prove our commitment to accountability by properly attaching all costs to all fuels. We can prove our belief in free markets by eliminating all subsidies and letting the free enterprise system sort out winners and losers among competing fuels.

    Or, more cynically, we can attempt to disprove science, protect the fossilized and deprive America of a muscular, free enterprise, no-growth-of-government alternative to cap and trade."


    Bloomberg Businessweek

    "Conservative Means Standing With Science on Climate"

    by Bob Inglis

    "Normally, the country can count on conservatives to deal in facts. We base policies on science, not sentiment, we insist on people being accountable for their actions, and we maintain that markets, not mandates, are the path to prosperity.

    When it comes to energy and climate, these are not normal times.

    We're following sentiment, not science, we're turning a blind eye to accountability, and we're failing to use the power of markets.

    The National Academy of Sciences says, "Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks." Several recent studies have found that 95 percent of climate scientists are convinced that the planet is rapidly warming as a result of human activity. But a George Mason University-Yale University poll in May found that only 13 percent of the public realizes that scientists have come to that conclusion.

    You would expect conservatives to stand with 95 percent of the scientific community and to grow the 13 percent into a working majority ...

    Courage fails us when it comes to energy and climate. Fearing our economic circumstances, we've decided to channel the fear rather than to confront it. Some conservatives even allege that the scientific conclusion about climate change is affected by the flow of grant money -- a conflict of interest that we overlook when taking the drug Lipitor, even though the tests proving its efficacy were financed by its maker, Pfizer. Conservatives seem to think that climate change is for elitists, enviros and Democrats, not hard-working, God-fearing Republicans ... the thinking seems to go, it's just not "our" issue. And because we're already at war on a number of other fronts, surely posterity will forgive us if we offer the fearful a scapegoat rather than a solution on this one. Meanwhile, our friends (or are they our masters?) say "Attaboy!" on talk TV and radio ...

    Normally, conservatives are also people who believe in accountability. We start with proposition that humans are responsible moral actors, and we believe that behavior has consequences. So why don't we hold power plants accountable for their emissions?

    According to a study by Abt Associates in 2004, small particulates from coal-fired plants cause 23,600 premature deaths in the U.S. annually, 21,850 hospital admissions, 26,000 emergency room visits for asthma, 38,200 heart attacks that are not fatal, and 3,186,000 lost work days.

    Because conservatives know that there's no such thing as a free lunch, we know that we're paying for those deaths and illnesses. We pay for them through government programs for the poor and elderly, and when the costs of the uninsured are shifted onto the insured. We pay all right, but just not at the electric meter.

    We pay the full cost of petroleum in hidden ways, too. We pay to protect the supply lines coming out of the Middle East through the blood of the country's best and though the treasure that comes from our taxes or, worse, from deficit financing. We pay in the risk to our national security. We pay the cost of lung impairments when the small-particulate pollution comes from tailpipes just like we pay when the small particulates come from power plants. We just don't pay at the pump.

    What if we attached all of the costs -- especially the hidden costs -- to all fuels? What if we believed in accountability? What if we believed in the power of free markets?

    If we did, the price of gasoline and coal-fired electricity would rise significantly, but hidden costs paid in hidden ways would decline commensurately. If we simultaneously eliminated all subsidies, we'd unleash real competition among all fuels. Markets would powerfully deliver solutions. New power turbines would come to market that remove the sulfur and the mercury from coal before combustion, burning only the hydrogen. Emission-free nuclear power plants would be built. Electric cars would rapidly penetrate the market -- not because of clumsy government mandates or incentives, but because sharp entrepreneurs would be selling useful products to willing customers awakened by accountable pricing.

    The solution to our energy and climate challenge can be found in the conservative concept of accountability and in a well-functioning free-enterprise system. We conservatives just need to believe that."

  • Truth-telling Down Under

    May 24,2011, 11:13 AM

    by Jim Ball

    In the final chapter of my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD, I write:

    "It is this decade, 2010-2020, a small sliver in time, which looms the largest in this great challenge to overcome global warming. What we do -- or fail to do -- will determine in large measure what global warming will do to the world in this century and beyond. Will our failure lead to a cascade of irreversible tipping points that result in a world unrecognizable to us? Or will we use our freedom to expand freedom around the world?" [p. 435]

    And ...

    "Many of us have been plodding along in chronological time on this great challenge, and have not awakened to the fact that we are now in kairos time when it comes to climate change. As used in the New Testament, the word kairos means a right or opportune moment usually associated with decisive action bringing about deliverance or salvation. If not acted upon, such moments can pass us by. We are in the kairos climate moment because there is still time to overcome global warming. There is still time for us to be spared from many of its potential devastating consequences, for the poor to be delivered from even more destructive impacts, for less of God's other creatures to become extinct and be robbed of God's blessing of life. If you are still operating in chronological time when it comes to overcoming global warming, it's time to wake up. Simply put: our kairos moment on global warming has arrived, and it won't last forever" [p. 436].

    Now comes an excellent report from the Australian Climate Commission that echoes this same message. I've copied and pasted in below the summary or "Key Messages" document of the larger report, which is titled simply, The Critical Decade. (Find the full report here.)


    Australian Climate Commission Report Summary


    Over many decades thousands of scientists have painted an unambiguous picture: the global climate is changing and humanity is almost surely the primary cause. The risks have never been clearer and the case for action has never been more urgent. Our Earth's surface is warming rapidly and we can already see social, economic and environmental impacts in Australia. Failing to take sufficient action today entails potentially huge risks to our economy, society and way of life into the future. This is the critical decade for action.

    The following points highlight the key messages arising from the report The Critical Decade:

    1. There is no doubt that the climate is changing. The evidence is overwhelming and clear.

    •  The atmosphere is warming, the ocean is warming, ice is being lost from glaciers and ice caps and sea levels are rising. The biological world is changing in response to a warming world.
    •  Global surface temperature is rising fast; the last decade was the hottest on record.

    2. We are already seeing the social, economic and environmental impacts of a changing climate.

    •  With less than 1 degree of warming globally the impacts are already being felt in Australia.
    • In the last 50 years the number of record hot days in Australia has more than doubled. This has increased the risk of heatwaves and associated deaths, as well as extreme bush fire weather in South Eastern and South Western Australia.
    • Sea level has risen by 20 cm globally since the late 1800s, impacting many coastal communities. Another 20 cm increase by 2050, which is likely at current projections, would more than double the risk of coastal flooding.
    • The Great Barrier Reef has suffered from nine bleaching events in the past 31 years. This iconic natural ecosystem, and the economy that depends upon it, face serious risks from climate change.

    3. Human activities -- the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation -- are triggering the changes we are witnessing in the global climate.

    • A very large body of observations, experiments, analyses, and physical theory points to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere - with carbon dioxide being the most important - as the primary cause of the observed warming.
    • Increasing carbon dioxide emissions are primarily produced by the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, as well as deforestation.
    • Natural factors, like changes in the Earth's orbit or solar activity, cannot explain the world-wide warming trend.

    4. This is the critical decade. Decisions we make from now to 2020 will determine the severity of climate change our children and grandchildren experience.

    • Without strong and rapid action there is a significant risk that climate change will undermine our society's prosperity, health, stability and way of life.
    • To minimise this risk, we must decarbonise our economy and move to clean energy sources by 2050. That means carbon emissions must peak within the next few years and then strongly decline.
    • The longer we wait to start reducing carbon emissions, the more difficult and costly those reductions become.
    • This decade is critical. Unless effective action is taken, the global climate may be so irreversibly altered we will struggle to maintain our present way of life. The choices we make this decade will shape the long-term climate future for our children and grandchildren.


    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN's Executive Vice President for Policy and Climate Change and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • EPA's Ability to Help Overcome Global Warming Affirmed by Senate

    April 06,2011, 15:08 PM

    by Jim Ball

    GOOD NEWS: Four separate efforts to strip, delay, or modify the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) authority to regulate greenhouse gases and have our country move forward in overcoming global warming were defeated late this afternoon in the Senate.

    50 Senators voted to uphold the EPA's authority, meaning that the opponents of action to protect the poor and vulnerable from global warming thankfully were not even able to muster a simple majority. (Sixty votes were needed on this vote to pass.)

    Unfortunately, 50 Senators also voted to strip EPA's authority, including the following: Pryor (D-AR), Snowe (R-ME), Manchin (D-WV), Graham (R-SC), Landrieu (D-LA), Kirk (R-IL), Nelson (D-NE), and Lugar (R-IN).

    On the Democratic side, it's especially disappointing to see Senators Pryor and Landrieu vote against EPA's ability to overcome global warming.

    A key Democrat who voted for delay (the Rockefeller Amendment) but not to strip EPA's authority (the McConnell/Inhofe Amendment) was Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who is up for reelection in a state that just elected Roy Blunt, a conservative Republican, as Missouri's other Senator. That probably explains why she threaded the needle in this fashion. I would hope that if her vote were the deciding one she would not have voted for delay.

    On the Republican side, Senators Graham, Snowe, and Lugar have all been leaders on efforts to overcome global warming, but sadly were on the wrong side of this vote. Snowe and Lugar are both up for reelection.

    The 50 votes to affirm the EPA should help to stiffen the spine of the Obama Administration and Majority Leader Reid in their budget struggles with the House Republicans, as perhaps a greater threat to the EPA's authority could lie in the anti-environmental riders passed by the House to defund the EPA's regulation of global warming pollution. As I write, the fate of the EPA's authority still hangs in the balance in the budget negotiations, which are currently in stalemate and could lead to a government shut-down.

    Thus, it is vital for President Obama and Majority Leader Reid to hang tough and resist these anti-environmental riders.

    While ultimately we won these votes, it also shows how much work we have left to do to create the support necessary to have our elected officials do the right thing. Having more evangelical Christians who are actively engaged in the fight to overcome global warming will go a long way to creating such support. We must play our part and live up to the gift of our citizenship and the Lordship of Christ who is leading the way in overcoming global warming.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President for Policy and Climate Change at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Natural Gas - Part of the Solution?

    April 06,2011, 12:22 PM

    by Jim Ball

    Former Senator Tim Wirth and former Rep. Alice Madden recently had an interesting op-ed published in The Denver Post arguing that natural gas is an important part of (1) overcoming global warming and (2) helping to secure energy independence. However, given public concerns about the environmental impact of new techniques like hydrofracking, Wirth and Madden urge that the industry itself come up with a code of conduct to help ensure extraction is done in a creation-friendly manner, and then get that codified into law.

    Here are some excerpts:

    "The sudden abundance of low-cost natural gas from deep underground shale formations is a gift that can increase U.S. energy production, improve our energy security, allow the shutdown of our oldest, dirtiest coal-fired power plants, and thus reduce the air pollution that threatens both the health of millions of Americans and the global climate.

    Yet land owners and environmental advocates in the Northeast are understandably concerned about the arrival of a major extraction industry and its talk about hydraulic fracturing, the Marcellus shale, and other specialized terms associated with the drilling boom. Precious landscapes and pristine water sources are threatened by trucks and drilling pads and ponds filled with contaminated, even radioactive wastewater.

    The industry protests that it goes the extra mile to protect the environment ...

    How is anyone to know the truth?

    There's actually a simple, tried- and-true answer to that: get independent experts to monitor the industry's practices and ensure that what it says is true. States can set strong standards for gas production and enforce them vigilantly, supported by fees on producers.

    The top gas producers have nothing to fear. The industry's best practices are protective of the water, land and air. Instead of trying to suggest that the public concerns are not real, or are trivial and can be ignored, industry leaders should come together around a recommended code of conduct (e.g., on water disposal, chemical disclosure, well integrity, and operational footprint) and then work closely with regulatory authorities to make sure everyone follows the code. It's the bad actors that will get penalized, and that's in the interest of the industry as well as the public.

    The natural gas industry has spent many millions of dollars over the years establishing its product as a clean fuel, and not without reason " natural gas burns much cleaner than coal in power plants or oil in transportation. But all that advertising will go up in smoke if the industry resists regulation and lets its worst performers define the fuel ...

    We are at an energy crossroads today, and if the natural gas industry seizes the opportunities that are so clearly in front of it, it will help determine our nation's energy future for decades to come.

    Gas can be a game-changer, nationally and globally " but in the United States the industry is poised on a knife-edge of public acceptance that could affect its license to operate for years to come. To be recognized as the clean alternative in power generation and transportation, and to reap the benefits of public policies that would reward such a fuel, the industry must choose the right path " one that is palpably in its own self-interest, in the interest of our national security and in the interest of our environmental future."

    An interesting proposition.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • President Obama's Blueprint for Creating a Clean Energy Future

    March 31,2011, 16:30 PM
    President Obama delivering a major address on energy at Georgetown University, March 30, 2011. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)
    President Obama delivering a major address on energy at Georgetown University, March 30, 2011. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

    by Jim Ball

    There are many things to like about President Obama's speech at Georgetown University yesterday on creating a clean energy future, some things to go along with, some things we have concerns over, and one important issue that went unmentioned -- whether the President is going to stand by the EPA's authority to regulate global warming pollution in the current budget battles.

    Let's start with the positive.

    First, the President painted a realistic picture of our situation:

    "But when you look at the long-term trends, there are going to be more ups in gas prices than downs in gas prices. And that's because you've got countries like India and China that are growing at a rapid clip, and as 2 billion more people start consuming more goods -- they want cars just like we've got cars; they want to use energy to make their lives a little easier just like we've got -- it is absolutely certain that demand will go up a lot faster than supply. It's just a fact.

    So here's the bottom line: There are no quick fixes. Anybody who tells you otherwise isn't telling you the truth. And we will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we finally get serious about a long-term policy for a secure, affordable energy future.

    We're going to have to think long term "

    There are no quick fixes, and we need to think long term. Right.

    Second, the President, while recognizing the reality of our situation and some of the costs of inaction, was very bullish, very committed to creating a clean energy future:

    "We're already paying a price for our inaction. Every time we fill up at the pump, every time we lose a job or a business to countries that are investing more than we do in clean energy, when it comes to our air, our water, and the climate change that threatens the planet that you will inherit -- we're already paying a price. These are costs that we are already bearing. And if we do nothing, the price will only go up.

    So at moments like these, sacrificing these investments in research and development, in supporting clean energy technologies, that would weaken our energy economy and make us more dependent on oil. That's not a game plan to win the future. That's a vision to keep us mired in the past. I will not accept that outcome for the United States of America. We are not going to do that."

    Third, the President offered some positive goals and policies for both moving our country towards energy independence and a clean energy future, announcing the release of his Administration's Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future.

    President Obama at a Chevy Volt factory.
    President Obama at a Chevy Volt factory.

    A major goal is to reduce oil imports by one third by 2025, primarily achieved by: (1) additional improvements in fuel economy; (2) putting 1 million advanced technology vehicles on the road by 2015, including electric vehicles; (3) continuing advances in biofuels, and: (4) increasing the use of natural gas in vehicles.

    As the President said:

    "Just last week, our Air Force -- our own Air Force -- used an advanced biofuel blend to fly a Raptor 22 -- an F-22 Raptor faster than the speed of sound. Think about that. I mean, if an F-22 Raptor can fly at the speed of -- faster than the speed of sound on biomass, then I know the old beater that you've got, that you're driving around in -- (laughter) -- can probably do so, too. There's no reason why we can't have our cars do the same."

    Energy independence and a clean energy future have a common technological bridge: the electric vehicle. Again, the President:

    "Now, one other thing about electric cars -- and you don't need to talk to Chu [Energy Secretary Chu] about this -- it turns out electric cars run on electricity. (Laughter.) And so even if we reduce our oil dependency, and we're producing all these great electric cars, we're going to have to have a plan to change the way we generate electricity in America so that it's cleaner and safer and healthier. We know that ushering in a clean energy economy has the potential of creating untold numbers of new jobs and new businesses right here in the United States. But we're going to have to think about how do we produce electricity more efficiently."

    Here at EEN we've also been emphasizing this connection via electric vehicles between energy independence and clean electricity. And so I was very glad to see the President making the same connection.

    The President went on to once again call for a Clean Energy Standard with an ambitious but achievable goal of having 80% of our electricity be produced by clean sources (including hydro, nukes, natural gas, and clean coal) by 2035. This was something he devoted a good deal of attention to in the State of the Union, and we were glad to see the President emphasize it again.

    So those were some of the good things about the President's speech and the Administration's Blueprint.

    There were also some things we could go along with as part of a long-term strategy on creating a clean energy future: (1) utilizing more natural gas as a transitional power source while we ramp up efficiency and renewables, and (2) continued reliance on nuclear power, as long as it is safe and we more adequately deal with the waste.

    But here is where our concerns lie as well. Natural gas has already been serving as a transitional power source for creating electricity. And while it is better than coal in that burning it produces lower levels of nitrogen oxides (major contributor to smog), hardly any particulates (soot), and no mercury (a very damaging neuro-toxin to the unborn and young children), it still produces global warming pollution (about half as much as coal). So from a global warming perspective, it is better to have renewables and efficiency be the primary places we make our investment in the electricity sector.

    Recently there has been a push to also use natural gas in vehicles instead of gasoline produced from oil (i.e. the stuff we all put in our tanks). This additional potential use of natural gas is aided by the ability to extract heretofore untapped domestic natural gas reserves via new technologies like horizontal drilling and a controversial technique called hydrofracking.

    While the President in his speech and the Administration's Blueprint talk of having this done in a safe and creation-friendly manner, serious concerns have been raised about water pollution in relation to hydrofracking, including in a recent series of articles in the New York Times. And, frankly, our concerns are not assuaged by what the Administration's Blueprint proposes --studying the issue, "leading by example," calls for the industry to disclose the chemicals being used. None of this is sufficient, frankly. Industry needs to be required to make sure such extraction methods like hydrofracking are safe and creation-friendly. Unfortunately, the 2005 Energy Policy Act amended the Safe Drinking Water Act to explicitly exclude procedures like hydrofracking from the regulatory authority of the EPA. This needs to be changed.

    The second proposal we could go along with if our concerns are met has to do with nuclear power. As news accounts highlighted, the President stuck with nuclear power even after the terrible events in Japan. The political reality is this: any major efforts like a Clean Energy Standard are going to have to include nuclear. And yet safety and storage of waste remain chronic problems that still have no adequate solutions. Such solutions need to be found for nukes to continue to be a part of our energy mix. The bright side is that nukes produce no air or global warming pollution. Those are huge pluses.

    Finally, a huge concern for us is what the President didn't say. While he very briefly mentioned concerns about global warming in relation to creating a clean energy future, he didn't say anything about defending the EPA's authority to regulate global warming pollution.

    As I type this, there are major threats to the EPA's authority in Congress. Several votes in the Senate have been hanging over our heads starting last week and through this week and now look like they will occur next week. Right now none are likely to reach 60 votes and be able to move forward. But we still need to keep up the pressure and drive down the votes for inaction and demonstrate support for action.

    Where we especially need the President to stand tall is in the current budget negotiations with the Republicans in the House. Their budget has a rider that prevents the EPA from spending money to enforce its regulations on global warming pollution. However, there are news reports from anonymous sources saying the Administration may be ready to throw the EPA's authority under the bus to achieve a budget deal.

    This would be a terrible outcome. It would reflect very poorly on the President's leadership on global warming. We certainly hope the President will stand by his strong and repeated assertions that global warming must be overcome and defend the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Right now, and for the forseeable future, at the federal level the EPA is the only game in town.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Overcoming Global Warming and Poverty in Nepal Via Clean Energy

    March 31,2011, 08:52 AM

    by Jim Ball

    In my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD, I tell many positive stories of how global warming can be overcome. Here's one such story of overcoming both global warming and poverty by creating a clean energy future in Nepal (p. 382):

    Significant investments in small, household-based biogas power plants for the rural poor have occurred in Nepal, a country of 27 million where 80% of the population lives in rural areas with no electricity, relying on wood for cooking and heating. Over 200,000 such mini-power plants have been installed, providing energy to over a million people. Three-fourths of the leftover by-product (called "bio-slurry") is being used as an organic fertilizer, and 65% of these systems have the household toilet connected, helping to solve sanitation issues.

    These households have also saved approximately three hours of work a day by avoiding the need to collect firewood, and reducing time spent both cooking and cleaning off the black carbon from their pots and pans and inside their homes. These biogas systems cost about $350, with the government covering a third of the price and microcredit helping the poor pay their up-front cost.

    Before her family bought a biogas mini-power plant, one mother named Khinu Darai from the southern village of Badrahani had to walk three miles every day to collect firewood. As she put it, "Biogas is a blessing for my family. These days I don't have to go into the jungle to collect wood." She added, "It is clean and safe, and we are healthier now as we are not breathing in smoke all the time."

    Because of the avoided emissions from reducing deforestation, some of the biogas projects in Nepal have received carbon credits equivalent to over $600,000 annually through an international program called the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which the government is using to help pay for the program.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President of EEN and author of the award-winning Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger Gives Rip-Roaring Clean Energy Speech

    March 01,2011, 15:02 PM

    by Jim Ball

    Today former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger gave a rousing, entertaining speech to the Department of Energy's ARPA-E team that focuses on cutting edge clean energy R&D (click here to listen). And given the fact that House Republicans have profoundly cut their funding in the budget they just passed, they could use some bucking-up. (Click here for a great NYTimes article on ARPA-E.)

    The former Governor was quite impressive and persuasive in making the case that there is a great deal of political common ground to be found in creating a clean energy future. And I certainly hope he will continue to help create that common ground. Thankfully, he concluded by quoting one of his lines from The Terminator movie: "I'll be back."

    We need leaders like Gov. Schwarzenegger to help create common ground, especially at the federal level.

    Here were some of the excellent points he made:

    • We need a new vision to insipre people of a clean energy future, or a "green economy" as he put it.
    • He stated that this green/clean economy is "the largest source of growth in California," with growth that is "10 times higher than any other sector."
    • One third of clean tech investment capital is flowing into California because of their global warming policies.
    • CA is 40% more energy efficient than the rest of the country. If the rest of the country was as efficient, households would save on average $560. And CO2 would be reduced by 16 percent.
    • If the rest of the country adopted CA's 33% renewables requirement for electricity production, we would see a 24% reduction on CO2.
    • And if the country implemented fuel economy standards like CA it would save consumers on average $1,300 per year and reduce CO2 10 percent.
    • Just the building efficiency and renewables requirements would create a 50% CO2 reduction and shutter 3/4s of the coal plants.
    • We need to also talk about the health benefits from cleaning up the air, given that 100,000 die each year from polluted air.

    But we can't go along completely with his prescription for finding common ground, because it includes setting aside discussions about global warming. Because powerful people in his own political party won't see the light, his solution is to avoid the discussion.

    I agree that we must find common ground on creating a clean energy future, one that can deliver great benefits in terms of jobs and health. I provide numerous examples of how we can do so in my book.

    But overcoming global warming is not just about the causes or the pollution. It is also about the consequences or impacts, and what we need to do to prepare or adapt to them -- and how we need to help the poor in poor countries adapt. As Christians, that's just not something we can agree to disagree on. But with that important caveat aside, we're grateful for the Governor's words.

    The Governor concluded by saying to DOE's ARPA-E team of energy innovators that while he played action heros in movies, "You are the true people of action ... [working] to overthrow the old order and to transform the world."

    Hear, hear, and Amen to that.

    The Rev. Jim Ball is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Efficient Cookstoves Help the Poor -- and Tackle Global Warming

    February 24,2011, 05:10 AM

    by Jim Ball

    As I discuss in my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD (pp. 375-380), 2.5 billion people on the planet cook using simple but inefficient stoves. Amazing as it seems, such stoves are contributors to global warming, and therefore offer tremendous opportunities to both help the poor and overcome global warming simultaneously. The contribute in two basic ways: (1) through deforestation (if the fuel is wood) and (2) the release of black carbon (a form of soot), which is the second leading cause of global warming. As I say in the book,

    "Unlike greenhouse gases, black carbon and other pollutants associated with it can also have regional impacts affecting about 3 billion people, including 20%-50% more warming, the melting of snowpacks and glaciers in the Himalayan region, and regional drought" (p. 375).

    That melting in the Himalayan region is significant, as it is the fount for water for 40% of the world's population.

    Now comes word that a company I talk about in the book, Envirofit, has just announced a major cookstove project in Nigeria.

    According to a ClimateWire article by Lisa Friedman,

    Nigeria could become a testing ground for the world's most ambitious effort to provide affordable clean cookstoves that can also earn carbon credits and turn a profit.

    In a partnership announced today between the nonprofit cookstove maker Envirofit International, the Shell Foundation and the carbon finance company C-Quest Capital, officials laid out a plan to deliver 2 million improved cookstoves to Nigerian homes over the next seven years. The effort, C-Quest CEO Ken Newcombe said, is expected to eliminate 9 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

    "It's really only, in my view, in the last 18 months, realistically 12, that it's been possible for the private sector to take risks" on projects like clean cookstoves, Newcombe said.

    This is quite significant. In my book I argue that cookstoves projects at the scale needed will only be succussful if a business model rather than a charity mentality is the guiding force.

    According to the article, the reason this project is moving forward is

    because the United Nations' Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which enables polluting companies and countries to earn carbon credits in return for establishing clean energy projects in developing countries, recently published methodologies to support capturing the carbon emissions-saving values of cookstoves and also enabled the bundling together of individual cookstove projects into a larger program that can obtain CDM credits.

    This is terrific news for cookstove projects around the world, such as the project EEN supports by one of our network partner organizations, Plant With Purpose.

    The benefits of such efficient cookstoves are much more than their contributions to overcoming global warming. Indeed, such contributions are simply an added bonus. Here's how I summarized the benefits in my book:

    (1) use energy more efficiently;

    (2) reduce deforestation and its greenhouse gas emissions;

    (3) reduce or eliminate black carbon emissions;

    (4) improve human health;

    (5) reduce time spent collecting fuel and cooking, thereby providing women and girls more opportunities;

    (6) increase the family budget; and

    (7) provide local employment.

    I conclude by saying that one word can sum this all up: freedom. Efficient cookstoves are freedom stoves. So three cheers for Envirofit's new Nigeria project, and for the ability of other projects to get CDM carbon credits.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

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