Policy & Enforcement Briefing: GAO Slams DOE, Rare Earth Trade Case, EU Aviation, Farming & Forestry CO2

by | Mar 14, 2012

A Government Accountability Office report says that the Department of Energy responded slowly with documentation of its loan guarantee program, indicating an overall flaw in the DOE’s system of documenting and tracking loan guarantee applications. The report then questions the DOE’s ability to conduct timely oversight of federal investments in green-energy projects, The Hill said.

President Obama said that the U.S. would file a case in the World Trade Organization, along with the European Union and Japan, requesting talks with China over its export controls on rare-earth minerals. The request is the first formal step in a WTO legal case. China produces 95 percent of the world’s rare-earth minerals and has reduced exports as demand has risen within its borders, The Hill said.

Airbus and eight European airlines including Air France-KLM, Lufthansa and British Airways mounted pressure on the EU to find a compromise within its aviation emission laws, and avoid a trade conflict. The companies sent letter to the prime ministers of France, Germany, Spain and Britain to push for a global agreement to reducing emissions, the New York Times said.

The EU has called on European governments to include data on CO2 emissions from farming and forestry in their efforts to tackle climate change. The draft law on accounting rules does not yet include farming and forestry in its CO2 Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), the BBC said.

The White House has released a progress report on its energy agenda. The report says that the U.S. cut net oil imports by ten percent last year, well ahead of a goal of a 33 percent cut in a little over a decade; that American natural gas production reached an all-time high last year; and that the country has met the president’s goal of breaking ground on at least four commercial-scale cellulosic or advanced biorefineries, one year ahead of schedule.

At the World Water Forum, the European Commission said it was working on a new set of strategic points to define its policy towards water-related crisis prevention and preparedness, with particular attention to people and natural ecosystems and the balance between demand and supply. The strategy, “Blueprint to Safeguard Europe Water Resources” will be published in the fall.

The Navy defended its investment in biofuels through a $510 million alternative energy development project with the DOE and USDA at a field hearing held by a U.S. Senate Energy subcommittee. The Navy said that finding alternative fuels to power ships is critical to the development of new fleets. By 2016, the Navy wants obtain 8 million barrels of biofuel to power a strike group, the Associated Press reports.

The California Air Resources Board settled 33 cases of air quality violations by trucks and buses in the fourth quarter of 2011. Most fines, which totaled $226,950, were levied for failure to properly conduct and pass self-inspections aimed at measuring smoke emissions. Companies paying the highest fines were Dole Fresh Fruit, Hendrickson Trucking Inc., Dynalectric Los Angeles, United Food Group and Harrison Trucking, Inc., Fleet Owner writes.

Colorado’s State Implementation Plan for Regional Haze, a comprehensive package of pollutant emissions reduction strategies, has received preliminary approval from the EPA. By 2018, the plan is expected to cut more than 70,000 tons of pollutant reductions annually, including 35,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, the EPA said.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and its subcommittee on clean air and nuclear safety will hold a joint hearing Thursday entitled “Lessons from Fukushima One Year Later: NRC’s Implementation of Recommendations for Enhancing Nuclear Reactor Safety in the 21st Century.”

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