The Dernogalizer

November 30, 2010

Greenpeace Sues Dow, Sasol, Dezenhall for Corporate Spying, RICO

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matt Dernoga @ 3:05 am
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Looks like trouble!  See more information on the lawsuit here, and the Washington Post article here.  In case you like long reading, here’s Greenpeace’s complaint.

November 29, 2010

Column: Building a green campus

Congratulations to Sam Rivers for getting his Op-Ed published in the Diamondback.  Sam is a new member of the University of Maryland Student group UMD for Clean Energy, and he stepped right in by writing a column to the student newspaper about the need for the massive East Campus redevelopment project to be an ambitious green development.  Back when I was Campaign Director of the group as a senior last spring, we organized a successful event that put pressure on the university to stipulate in its RFP (request for proposal) that sustainable development was a top priority, and had to be one for any prospective developer.  Some  members of  the group met with The Cordish Companies'(the selected developer) development director and their design team last month to discuss students demands for a cutting edge green development, and listen to what the design team was planning.

UMD for Clean Energy at the Cordish Companies Headquarters

Now with the developer’s first public forum set for tomorrow, the group is looking to generate student and community support for rebuilding downtown College Park into a sustainable community that others can look to.  Below is Sam’s column discussing East Campus and this forum.

Guest column: Building a green campus

Last Monday, I attended my first UMD for Clean Energy meeting. The group’s purpose is to advocate for sustainability on and around the campus. As an environmental science and policy major, I had been wanting to check it out.

Discussion focused on East Campus, a proposed development to be built across Route 1 by the university in partnership with The Cordish Companies. To my surprise, I learned the development is not just one new dorm but an entire community spanning from Fraternity Row to Paint Branch Parkway — an area about six times the size of McKeldin Mall. This vast expanse will include student housing, restaurants and retail space. Furthermore, completing the project will require ripping out multiple existing buildings.

In 2009, this university unveiled a Climate Action Plan, a document that commits the university to carbon neutrality by 2050. East Campus will be included in the university’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory, and the East Campus buildings will last for decades. To have any hope of achieving the 2050 goal, the East Campus community must be built with sustainability in mind.

What would the university and The Cordish Companies have to do to build sustainably? To begin, East Campus should have walking and biking paths and must be connected to the rest of the campus by quick and reliable bus routes. There should be sufficient green space for rainwater to sink into the soil so that runoff does not pollute waterways.

Constructing rooftop gardens and building paths with water-permeable pavement could be important components of this more natural stormwater management system. Most importantly, buildings must be constructed with sustainable materials and be energy efficient. The university currently requires new buildings to earn a Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design Silver certification — the third highest ranking in a commonly accepted ranking system for green construction. But building to LEED Gold standards would affirm the university as a nationwide leader in sustainable development and move us one step closer to carbon neutrality.

The campus’s Climate Action Plan requires reducing waste and pushing the envelope on energy efficiency. But this will not happen without student involvement. So here’s where you come in: Tomorrow there will be a forum in Ritchie Coliseum from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., when the East Campus project will be put up for public commentary. The Coliseum is easily accessible by taking the Shuttle-UM Blue route bus or crossing Route 1 at The Dairy. The more people who  come to ask questions about this development’s environmental impact, the more seriously sustainability will factor into construction. You can also sign the petition for a greener East Campus at http://www.umdforcleanenergy.org. Maps of the proposed site, a flyer for the forum, East Campus’ history and more can be found at http://www.eastcampus.umd.edu.

Sam Rivers is a freshman environmental science and policy major. He can be reached at brivers at umd dot edu.

Give me a break Washington Post!

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 2:46 am
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Look at that Solar Plant Destroying the Environment!

There’s a recently posted article on the Washington Post about how $2 billion of the stimulus money the Obama Administration doled out avoided review under the National Environmental Policy Act, which basically means they avoided having to get a lengthy Environmental Impact Statement(EIS).  Now, if this money was given out to projects with a net negative impact on pollution and the environment, I would join in on the criticism, but give me a break!  Just looking at the examples the Washington Post uses makes it crystal clear to me why these projects received exemptions.  They list a smart-grid update, a wind farm project, a biofuel from algae project.  All are the kinds of projects we need to be investing in to reduce our impact on the environment.  We need a trillion more dollars for projects like these, and we need them fast not just because of jobs, but because the world needs to deploy a massive amount of clean energy technology in order to avoid catastrophic global warming.  The Obama Administration sums it up well…

“Administration officials say the exemptions were essential to accelerate more than $30 billion in stimulus-funded clean-energy projects through the Energy Department, which already have created 35,000 jobs. In the long run, they add, the exempted activities will boost energy efficiency and curb pollution.

It makes complete sense to me that there should be different environmental standards for a wind farm than a coal plant.

The other minor-story the Post reports on is that some of the companies doing these green projects and received these exemptions aren’t exactly saints in the environmental arena.  Now, if I were the guy in chance doling out grants for projects, I would choose a company with a clean record over one with a dirty one, but the unfortunate reality is that most of these companies  have dirty records.  Find me a green oil company that I can give an algae biofuel grant for.  There are none!  I should add that I ultimately want the dirty companies to start doing clean energy projects.  That’s what environmental activists rightfully spend a lot of time doing, protesting dirty investments by corporations while pressuring them to make clean ones.  So if Duke Energy has a history of building coal plants, and it decides it wants to build a wind farm, I’m not going to throw a fit!  Heck, I’ll tell them to build two.

What we don’t need is more hyped up negative stories to the public about how clean energy projects are dodging environmental regulations intended for dirty ones.

November 27, 2010

Looking for Climate Solutions in Cancun

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 10:45 pm
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The next round of international climate negotiations through the UN are going to begin soon in Cancun, Mexico.  It’s no secret last year’s summit in Copenhagen was a major disappointment to environmental groups and climate activists, and there aren’t very high expectations for Cancun to correct course.  However, we should obviously be looking to move forward wherever we can in the short-term while continuing to press for a long-term framework.  The NY Times has published an editorial with a couple of suggests for how this progress can take place.  I’m republishing parts below…

“But carbon dioxide is not the only kind of pollution that contributes to global warming. Other potent warming agents include three short-lived gases — methane, some hydrofluorocarbons and lower atmospheric ozone — and dark soot particles. The warming effect of these pollutants, which stay in the atmosphere for several days to about a decade, is already about 80 percent of the amount that carbon dioxide causes. The world could easily and quickly reduce these pollutants; the technology and regulatory systems needed to do so are already in place.

Take methane, for example, which is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in causing warming. It is emitted by coal mines, landfills, rice paddies and livestock. And because it is the main ingredient in natural gas, it leaks from many older natural-gas pipelines. With relatively minor changes — for example, replacing old gas pipelines, better managing the water used in rice cultivation (so that less of the rice rots) and collecting the methane emitted by landfills — it would be possible to lower methane emissions by 40 percent. Since saved methane is a valuable fuel, some of this effort could pay for itself.”

“Ozone, which is formed in the lower atmosphere from carbon monoxide, methane and other gases emitted by human activity, is a particularly hazardous component of urban smog. And every year it causes tens of billions of dollars in damage to crops worldwide. So pollution restrictions that reduce ozone levels, especially in the rapidly growing polluted cities of Asia, could both clear the air and slow warming.”

“Soot likewise offers an opportunity to marry local interests with the global good. A leading cause of respiratory diseases, soot is responsible for some 1.9 million deaths a year. It also melts ice and snow packs. Thus, sooty emissions from Asia, Europe and North America are helping to thin the Arctic ice. And soot from India, China and a few other countries threatens water supplies fed by the Himalayan-Tibetan glaciers.”

“Credibility is especially important for the United States. It can already offer the world much of the technology and regulatory expertise that will be needed to reduce short-lived pollutants, particularly ozone and soot. Some American efforts are under way to share these technologies, including a program to help provide better cookstoves for people in developing countries. By making such programs more visible and demonstrating that they deliver tangible results, and by establishing a realistic plan for cutting its own emissions at home, the United States could show that it is serious about addressing climate change.”

November 24, 2010

Rep. Inglis attacks GOP on climate change

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 6:27 pm
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This video with Bob Inglis has been making the rounds over the last week for his excellent commentary on why the United States needs action on global warming and clean energy legislation, as well as some choice words for his Republican colleagues.  Since this video has come out, Inglis has given more interviews about the importance of global warming solutions.  Unfortunately, Inglis lost his Republician primary earlier this year, but he may be looking to fill a new role as a leading conservative voice on climate solutions, green jobs, and energy security.

This bold rhetoric from Inglis raises a larger question… how can the climate movement create space for conservative voices like Inglis who are excellent at speaking to the climate issue in a way that can resonate with a broader spectrum of the American public?  Given the structure of the US political system, climate solutions from the Federal government will require some Republican support for the foreseeable future.

November 22, 2010

Fossil Fuel Factual Fallacies: New York Times Called Out by Renowned Geoscientist

Filed under: energy — Matt Dernoga @ 12:25 am
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I received an excellent rebuttal in my e-mail today regarding a New York Times article about how plentiful fossil fuel energy supplies were in the future despite fears from a few years ago.  Reading the article and reading from a Geoscientist actually literary in the topic shows an incredible contrast between the lens the media reports about energy, and what reality actually is.

Fossil Fuel Factual Fallacies: New York Times Called Out by Renowned Geoscientist

Santa Rosa, CA (22. November 2010) Rarely is the public treated to such inaccurate, misleading and unhelpful journalism as in “There Will Be Fuel” <source: “http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/17/business/energy-environment/17FUEL.html?_r=1> by New York Times correspondent, Clifford Krauss (New York Times, November 17, 2010), even in this era of political spin and smoke and mirrors surrounding energy.

Let’s begin with the article’s concluding comment:

“When you add it up,” Mr. Morse noted, “you get something that very closely approximates energy independence.”

The facts of the matter are that no nation on earth is more dependent on imported oil than the U.S. Although consumption has declined somewhat, due to the Great Recession, imports accounted for more than 61 percent of U.S. oil consumption in 2009. Net 2009 U.S. imports of 11.5 million barrels per day exceeded China’s TOTAL OIL CONSUMPTION of 8.6 million barrels per day by 33 percent. Americans, with a population of 310 million, consumed 18.7 million barrels per day in 2009 compared to China, a country with 1.32 billion people, which consumed a mere 8.6 million barrels per day. This works out to 22 barrels of oil consumption per American in 2009 compared to 2.4 barrels per person in China.

Although American oil production increased slightly in 2009 from a recent low in 2008, it is down 36 percent from its all time peak in 1970. Meanwhile oil imports are up by 358 percent since 1965. The vaunted 100,000 barrel per day growth in shale oil production by 2013 in Krauss’ article, if it occurs, would amount to half a percent of current U.S. consumption.

The search for subsalt oil in deepwater locations in the Atlantic, deepwater exploration in the Gulf, and Arctic exploration, represent the last frontiers, as less hostile locales have already been thoroughly explored and exploited. Enough growth in deep water production in the Gulf of Mexico to offset declines in the onshore U.S. fields remains to be seen, given the fallout from BP’s Macondo blowout. The Santos Basin fields in the Atlantic off of Brazil may contain 40 billion barrels, and the mean estimate in the recent circum-Arctic study by the USGS was 90 billion barrels. Added together these equal perhaps four years of world consumption at current rates of 31 billion barrels per year – the catch being that this oil, if it exists, will take decades to produce.

Groups other than the uber-optimists at CERA cited in the article have expressed concern <source: http://peakoiltaskforce.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/itpoes_deepwater-briefing-note_nov20101.pdf> about deepwater production by non-OPEC countries, which constitutes much of the future potential for new production, and about the implications <source: http://peakoiltaskforce.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/final-report-uk-itpoes_report_the-oil-crunch_feb20101.pdf> of peak oil production globally. There are many other credible recent reports on the implications of peak oil, which the author of this article willfully chose to ignore.

Notwithstanding the IEA’s recent projection of increases in world oil production to 99 million barrels per day by 2035, this represents a stunning decline in IEA estimates of future oil production, which as recently as 2005 were at 118 million barrels per day by 2030. A closer look at how the recent IEA oil production estimates are to be achieved reveals that all growth in its forecasts will be due to unconventional oil (including biofuels) and natural gas liquids, and that conventional crude production will remain on a plateau below 2006 production levels through 2035 (a highly optimistic assumption in my view).

With respect to shale gas production in the U.S., which the author hypes along with LNG, U.S. gas production in 2009 was still four percent below the 1973 gas production peak. The U.S. is still a net gas importer via pipeline from Canada and via LNG from many countries. Despite the hype of people like Aubrey McClendon, the CEO of shale gas producer Chesapeake, who was recently featured on 60 Minutes, and who testified <source: http://startelegram.typepad.com/barnett_shale/files/AKM_US_Congress_Testimony_FINAL.doc> before Congress that U.S. gas production could increase by 50 percent or more in the next decade, the realities of shale gas make this unlikely. Shale gas wells have very high decline rates, between 65 and 85 percent in the first year, are high tech and hence expensive, utilize large amounts of water, and have environmental costs that are now becoming evident. The EPA has begun an extensive investigation of the environmental issues surrounding “fracking,” upon which shale gas production depends.

In summary, oil and gas are finite resources that are being consumed at unprecedented and growing rates. Despite what Krauss’ article says, the U.S. is the worst offender and is highly vulnerable to future energy price and supply shocks. The growth trajectory of the already high consumption levels in the industrialized world and the rapid growth in consumption in the developing world is patently unsustainable. Articles such as this falsely promote complacency and thus are an extreme disservice to understanding the energy sustainability dilemma facing the World. The premise of this article that the U.S. is approaching “energy independence” could not be further from the truth.

J. David Hughes – Fellow, Post Carbon Institute

ABOUT DAVID HUGHES

David Hughes is a geoscientist who has studied the energy resources of Canada for nearly four decades, including 32 years with the Geological Survey of Canada as a scientist and research manager. He developed the National Coal Inventory to determine the availability and environmental constraints associated with Canada’s coal resources. As Team Leader for Unconventional Gas on the Canadian Gas Potential Committee, he coordinated the recent publication of a comprehensive assessment of Canada’s unconventional natural gas potential. Over the past decade, he has researched, published and lectured widely on global energy and sustainability issues in North America and internationally. He is a board member of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas – Canada and is a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute.

ABOUT POST CARBON INSTITUTE

Post Carbon Institute provides individuals, communities, businesses, and governments with the resources needed to understand and respond to the interrelated economic, energy, and environmental crises that define the 21st century. PCI envisions a world of resilient communities and re-localized economies that thrive within ecological bounds.

In addition to Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg, PCI Fellows include Bill McKibben, Majora Carter, Wes Jackson, David Orr and 24 others. Full list of PCI Fellows.

POST CARBON INSTITUTE

Tel: +1.707.823.8700 • Fax: +1.866.797.5820

http://www.postcarbon.org •   media@postcarbon.org

 

Weekly Mulch: What’s in Your Water? Nuclear Waste, Coal Slurries and Industrial Estrogen

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 12:18 am
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Here’s a re-post of the Weekly Mulch from the Media Consortium

Weekly Mulch: What’s in Your Water? Nuclear Waste, Coal Slurries and Industrial Estrogen

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

It won’t be long before the world has to confront its diminishing supply of clean water.

“We’ve had the same amount of water on our planet since the beginning of time, ” Susan Leal, co-author of Running Out of Water, told GritTV’s Laura Flanders. “We are on a collision course of a very finite supply and 7.6 billion people.”

What’s worse, private industries—and energy companies in particular—are using waterways as dumping grounds for hazardous substances. With the coal industry, it’s an old story; with the natural gas industry, it’s a practice that can be nipped in the bud.

In many cases, dumping pollutants into water is a government-sanctioned activity, although there are limits to how much contamination can be approved. But companies often overshoot their pollution allowances, and for some businesses, like a nuclear energy plant, even a little bit of contamination can be a problem.

Business as usual

Here’s one troubling scenario. At Grist, Sue Sturgis reports that “a river downstream of a privately-owned nuclear fuel processing plant in East Tennessee is contaminated with enriched uranium.” The concentrations are low, and the water affected is still potable. The issue, however, is that the plant was not supposed to be discharging any of this sort of uranium at all. One researcher explained that the study had “only scratched the surface of what’s out there and found widely dispersed enriched uranium in the environment.” In other words, the contamination could be more widespread than is now known.

Nuclear energy facilities must take particular care to keep the waste products of their work separate from the environment around them. But in some industries, like coal, polluting water supplies is routine practice.

The dirtiest energy

In West Virginia, more than 700 people are suing infamous coal company Massey Energy for defiling their tap water, Charles Corra reports at Change.org. In Mingo County, tap water comes out as “a smooth flow of black and orange liquid.” Country residents are arguing that the contamination is a result of water from coal slurries, a byproduct of mining that contains arsenic and other contaminants, leaking into the water table. Residents believe the slurries also cause health problems like learning disabilities and hormone imbalances, as Corra reports.

Newfangled notions

Even so-called “clean coal,” which would inject less carbon into the atmosphere, is worrisome when it comes to water. The carbon siphoned from clean coal doesn’t disappear; it’s sequestered under ground. For a new clean coal project in Linden, NJ, Change.org’s Austin Billings reports, that chamber would be 70 miles out to sea. As Billings writes:

The plant would be the first of its kind in the world, so it should come as no surprise that the proposal is a major cause for concern among New Jersey environmentalists, fishermen, and lawmakers. According to Dr. Heather Saffert of Clean Ocean America, “We don’t really have a good understanding of how the CO2 is going to react with other minerals… The PurGen project is based on one company’s models. What if they’re wrong?”

In this case, it wouldn’t only be human communities at risk (“Polluted Jersey Shore,” anyone?), but the ocean’s ecosystem.

Frack no!

Coal communities in West Virginia have been dealing with water pollution for decades. But a another source of energy extraction—hydrofracking for natural gas—has only just begun to threaten water supplies. Care2’s Jennifer Mueller points to a recent “60 Minutes” segment that explores the attendant issues: it’s a must-watch for anyone unfamiliar with what’s at stake.

Fortunately, some of the communities at risk have been working to head off the damage before it hits. In Pittsburgh this week, leaders banned hydrofracking within the city, according to Mari Margil and Ben Price in Yes! Magazine. They write:

As Councilman [Doug] Shields stated after the vote, “This ordinance recognizes and secures expanded civil rights for the people of Pittsburgh, and it prohibits activities which would violate those rights. It protects the authority of the people of Pittsburgh to pass this ordinance by undoing corporate privileges that place the rights of the people of Pittsburgh at the mercy of gas corporations.”

Environmentalists in other municipalities, in state government, and in Congress would do well to follow Pittsburgh’s lead.

Mutant fish

Of course, you can’t believe every tale of water contamination you hear. At RhRealityCheck, Kimberly Inez McGuire takes on the persistent myth that estrogen from birth control is making its way in large concentrations into the water supply and leading to mutations in fish.

This simply isn’t true. As McGuire explains, “The estrogen found in birth control pills, patches, and rings (known as EE2) is only one of thousands of synthetic estrogens that may be found in our water, and the contribution of EE2 to the total presence of estrogen in water is relatively small.” Where does the rest of the estrogen come from? Factory farms, industrial chemicals like BPA, and synthetic estrogen used in crop fertilizer. So, yes, the water is contaminated, but, no, your birth control is not to blame.

Greening the US

Stories like these, of environmental pollution by corporations, seem to come up again and again. They’re barely news anymore and so easy to ignore. But it’s more important than ever for environmentalists to fight back against these challenges and push for a green economy that minimizes pollution. The American Prospect‘s Monica Potts recently sat down with The Media Consortium to explain the roadblocks to a green economy. If green-minded people want to stop hearing tales like the ones above, these are the obstacles they’ll need to overcome. Watch the video:

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

November 17, 2010

PLASTIC STATE OF MIND – Parody with Purpose

Filed under: environment — Matt Dernoga @ 3:32 pm
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I have to say, definitely an A for creativity.  Check out this video on banning single use plastic bags.

New FHA PowerSaver Program to offer low-cost clean energy financing

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 1:15 am
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Ever since the PACE clean energy financing program was strangled by the lovely Fannie and Freddie, money originally slated to be loaned out by states, counties, and municipalities to residents was stopped, but it looks as though the federal government is trying to jump-start a new and similar program that avoids the problems of PACE, and still delivers results.  Lets hope the pilot-program goes well!  press release

HUD ANNOUNCES PILOT PROGRAM TO HELP HOMEOWNERS PAY FOR ENERGY IMPROVEMENTS TO THEIR HOMES
New FHA PowerSaver Program to offer low-cost financing to credit-worthy borrowers

WASHINGTON – Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan today announced a new pilot program that will offer credit-worthy borrowers low-cost loans to make energy-saving improvements to their homes. Backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), these new FHA PowerSaver loans will offer homeowners up to $25,000 to make energy-efficient improvements of their choice, including the installation of insulation, duct sealing, doors and windows, HVAC systems, water heaters, solar panels, and geothermal systems.

HUD and FHA developed PowerSaver as part of the Recovery Through Retrofit initiative launched in May 2009 by Vice President Biden’s Middle Class Task Force to develop federal actions that would expand green job opportunities in the United States and boost energy savings by improving home energy efficiency. The announcement is part of an 18-month-long interagency effort facilitated by White House Council on Environmental Quality with the Office of the Vice President, 11 departments and agencies and six White House offices.

Vice President Biden said, “The initiatives announced today are putting the Recovery Through Retrofitreport’s recommendations into action – giving American families the tools they need to invest in home energy upgrades. Together, these programs will grow the home retrofit industry and help middle class families save money and energy.”

“HUD and FHA are committed to lowering the cost and expanding the availability of affordable financing for home energy retrofits,” said Secretary Donovan. “PowerSaver will help more homeowners afford common sense, cost saving improvements to their homes, and will create jobs for contractors, installers and energy auditors across the country.”

More homeowners are interested in making their homes energy efficient, according to industry forecasts. Yet options are still limited for financing home energy improvements, especially for the many homeowners who are unable to take out a home equity loan or access an affordable consumer loan. HUD today published a notice seeking the participation of a limited number of mortgage lenders in the two-year pilot program slated to begin in early 2011.

“PowerSaver provides lenders with a new product option to serve a potentially growing market,” said David H. Stevens, FHA Commissioner. “We believe there are a number of lenders who will be interested in working with us to help save energy and money for homeowners, while creating jobs and cutting greenhouse gas emissions”

Lenders will be selected to participate in the PowerSaver pilot based on their capacity and commitment to provide affordable home energy improvement financing. Lenders will be required to serve communities that have already taken affirmative steps to expand home energy improvements. HUD will help lenders identify such markets – which exist in many suburban, rural and urban areas across the country.

PowerSaver loans will be backed by the FHA – but with significant “skin in the game” from private lenders. FHA mortgage insurance will cover up to 90 percent of the loan amount in the event of default. Lenders will retain the remaining risk on each loan, incentivizing responsible underwriting and lending standards. FHA will provide streamlined insurance claims payment procedures onPowerSaver loans. In addition, lenders may be eligible for incentive grant payments from FHA to enhance benefits to borrowers, such as lowering interest rates.

“Home energy retrofits are good investments that save families money,” said Ginnie Mae President Ted Tozer. “As the financing arm of HUD, we are proud to support this important home-improvement segment of the housing market and look forward to working with lenders and FHA to develop appropriate secondary market options.”

PowerSaver has been carefully designed to meet a need in the marketplace for borrowers who have the ability and motivation to take on modest additional debt to realize the savings over time from a home energy improvement. PowerSaver loans are only available to borrowers with good credit, manageable overall debt and at least some equity in their home (maximum 100% combined loan to value).

To read the full text of FHA’s notice, visit HUD’s website.

 

 

November 15, 2010

Green leadership: A lesson for Loh

Filed under: University of Maryland — Matt Dernoga @ 10:58 am
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I have a column out today in the Diamondback containing suggested sustainability initiatives for the University of Maryland’s new President Wallace Loh to undertake.  Unfortunately space limitations shortened the column substantially, below is the extended version.  The link I provided above goes to the published version.

As a member of the University of Maryland’s environmental community, I’m excited to see what steps our new President Wallace Loh will take to build on the progress made under Dan Mote.  In some ways, Loh has much to live up to.  During Mote’s tenure, the university took unprecedented steps in sustainability all the way from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to setting green building standards to increasing our recycling rate.  At the same time, many students and faculty I know felt Mote was more concerned about promoting a green image, regardless of whether that meant taking bold leadership.  Sometimes it did, but other times it meant hypocrisy.  Here are five initiatives Loh can lead on to blaze a new path for the university this decade that’s far greener than the last:

Green East Campus: The nearly billion dollar East Campus redevelopment project now being undertaken by the Cordish Company is an opportunity to revitalize downtown College Park and lead the way on green development.  Since East Campus is in its early planning stages, now is the time to make clear publicly what the university expects from Cordish.  We can set a new standard for green development that goes beyond our current LEED Silver building standard, traps 100% of storm water runoff to protect the Chesapeake Bay, promotes local business, and isn’t car centric.  Getting there is going to require leadership from Loh.

Support the Purple Line for Real: The Purple Line alignment has been an area where the university administration has butted heads with everyone else in the state!  The university has given a myriad of reasons why they favor more expensive and less efficient alignments, and none hold up under a scrutiny.  End the hypocrisy and support mass transit by supporting the Purple Line alignment that’s in competition for federal funding.

Put Solar On It: Although the university has begun to install a little solar such as on the South Campus Dining Hall, we aren’t being as aggressive with it as we should.  One possibility is to enter into a long-term purchase power agreement with a solar company.  Another suggestion is to analyze the recently purchased Washington Post Plant where the university will be relocating facilities for East Campus.  That plant has a huge roof.

Less Plastic: Although we’re doing a better job of recycling it, there’s way too much plastic being given out at this university.  Given that students can drink tap water from the university’s filter stations, there’s no reason we should have bottled water for sale on this campus.  Another problem is unnecessary plastic bags given out by cashiers in the university’s stores.  Students should have to ask for the plastic bags, and they should come with a five cent fee.

More Local and Healthy Food: There is strong support on the campus for the university to provide healthier food options to that have less of an environmental footprint.  Some possibilities for action are providing more vegetarian options, using cage-free eggs, growing some food on campus, and setting ambitious targets for increasing the percentage of food which comes from within a day’s driving distance.

Loh has enthusiastic partners all over campus working on sustainability issues.  If he can match that enthusiasm, and lead with us, we’ll all be successful.

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