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Congress tries to thwart EU action on airline emissions

U.S. airlines don’t want to play by EU rules, and Congress has their back.

Bill would allow U.S. airlines to disobey duly passed carbon cap regulations

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Congress didn’t accomplish much the past few months, but in one of its last acts before recessing for the upcoming campaign season, the U.S. Senate did manage to throw a monkey wrench into European Union plans to try and cap greenhouse gas emissions from passenger jets.

That’s symbolic for a Congress that has been focused primarily on obstruction for the past two years, and shows how U.S. politicians are out of touch with the global move to try and tackle global warming. That’s probably why the bill was was passed under cover of the night — at 2 a.m. Saturday, to be exact, when nobody was looking. Continue reading

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Climate: Airline carbon politics heating up again

American airlines could be banned from participating in a carbon reduction program under a new law passed by the Senate commerce committee.

Senate committee passes bill that could block U.S. airlines from joining an EU carbon-reduction plan

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — While much of the world is trying to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from the commercial air travel, U.S. politicians seen intent on trying to stymy progress in the airline sector.

The Senate Commerce Committee this week passed a bill (S.1956) that would give the U.S. secretary of transportation authority to ban U.S. airlines from participating in the European Union’s Emissions Trading System if he thinks it serves the public interest. The bill does not ban  U.S. airlines from participating in the EU system.

“Passage of this disappointing and short-sighted bill today seems only to decrease the odds of action at the international level by calling into question the status of the one lever that actually moved the International Civil Air Organizationto have serious discussions after 15 years of inaction – the EU Emissions Trading System,” said Annie Petsonk, international counsel for Environmental Defense Fund.

“This bill now ups the pressure on the Obama administration to produce a solution at ICAO. We are happy to see the text at least encouraged international negotiations at ICAO, which we believe hold the key to a global agreement to reduce aviation emissions.

“Legislation that blocks American companies from obeying the laws of the countries in which they do business is almost unprecedented in U.S. history, showing up most recently when Congress barred American firms from suborning apartheid in South Africa,” Petsonk said. “How disconcerting that airlines, which are spending significant funds touting their environmental friendliness, are acting as though an anti-pollution law is as grievous as a massive human rights violation.”

Travel: Back in the Eurozone …

An Intercity Express train speeds into the Frankfurt International Airport terminal.

Demise of EU may be over-stated

By Bob Berwyn

LINZ, AUSTRIA — While parts of the Eurozone have been feeling some serious pain the past few months, a quick stroll through a central shopping district in this Austrian city straddling the Danube suggests that the demise of the European Union has been greatly exaggerated by the U.S. media.

There’s no denying that Spain and Greece have teetered close to edge of economic ruin. And it’s probably not hard to imagine that an economic web spun from cloth as broad and disparate as the EU might fray at its edges from time to time. But for this summer, at least, the free trade zone and ambitious currency union still seem to be working, with goods from all over the region in evidence along the sidewalks and in the storefronts.

Politicians may be bickering over a rescue plan, and there is, for sure, some grumbling about the cost of bailouts, but in a quick conversation with a tech guy at a computer shop here, I learned that many people are still convinced that the European Union will prevail, albeit with a few stumbling blocks along the way.

To this point, nobody has suggested anything better, as the fringe nationalism espoused on the margins of the political scene doesn’t seem to be gaining much traction. It just doesn’t feel like anyone wants to go down the path of re-nationalization, at least not yet. Things would probably have to get a lot worse before that becomes a realistic option.

Oceans: EU may phase out deep-sea trawling

A deep sea fish documented my NOAA researchers during a series of exploratory dives. Click on the image to visit NOAA’s ‘voyage to inner space’ website.

Proposal would end the most harmful form of deep-water commercial fishing

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —Commercial deep sea fishing is one of those activities where the old saying, “out of sight, out of mind” holds true, as hundreds of trawlers drag nets across the seafloor to capture edible species, in the process doing immeasurable harm to untold other species.

But in recent years, biologists have been able to start assessing the damage, finding that deep-sea bottom trawling is the most direct and widespread threat to fragile deep-sea ecosystems. These ecosystems harbor a diversity of life — much of it as yet unidentified — that may rival the biodiversity found in the Amazon rainforest.

The science is starting to trickle through to the policy level, at least in Europe, where the European Commission last week proposed phasing out destructive bottom trawling and bottom gillnetting among deep sea fishing fleets in the Northeast Atlantic. Continue reading

Global CO2 emissions hit new high in 2011

Global carbon dioxide emissions at new high in 2011.

Pace of greenhouse gas buildup increases

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Global carbon dioxide emissions hit an all-time record high of 34 billion tons in 2011, with the biggest jump coming in China, where per capita emissions are now at European levels of about 7.2 tons per person. Overall, Chinese CO2 emissions increased by 9 percent.

That puts China within the range of 6 to 19 tons of per capita emission, similar to rates in most major industrialized countries.

European Union CO2 emissions dropped by 3 percent in 2011, to 7.5 ton per capita.

The United States remain one of the largest emitters, at about 17.3 tons per capita, despite a decline due to the recession in 2008-2009, high oil prices and increased use of natural gas. Continue reading

Battle over EU’s carbon cap for airlines heats up

Airline carbon emissions will be discussed at a meeting in Moscow next week.

NGO’s urge U.S. government not to cave to industry pressure

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The political war over the European Union’s carbon cap-and-trade plan for airlines is set to continue next week in Moscow at an international trade conference.

U.S. airlines unhappy with the plan have been pressuring lawmakers and the Obama administration to reject the plan, even though its been found consistent with international law by the European Supreme Court. Continue reading

Food: Europe and U.S. reach organic trade deal

U.S. organic products can now be more easily sold in the European Union. PHOTO COURTESY USDA.

Agreement could boost $50 billion organic industry with increased trade in both regions

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — In a huge move for organic producers and consumers, the U.S. and the European Union said this week that organic products certified in Europe or in the United States may be sold as organic in either region.

The formal agreement was signed Feb. 15 in Nuremberg, Germany. The partnership was touted as establishing a strong foundation from which to promote organic agriculture and benefiting the growing organic industry to support jobs and businesses on a global scale. Continue reading

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