January Environmental News Update

Here are a few important events going on in the world of Green…

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), responsible for the increasingly well-known LEED green building and certification program, will host a Web-based tool called the Green Building Information Gateway (GBIG). It was unveiled at the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo held in San Francisco last November, and promises to “accelerate market transformation by providing greater transparency and understanding of the green dimensions of the built environment,” in the words of USGBC.

What that translates to is a slick and easily navigable Web interface that groups LEED certification projects by location (New York has 6,781 green building activities listed) and by type. It also breaks down the certification process into the credits earned (and not earned) on specific projects, and allows decision-makers to analyze green building trends as they look to lay the groundwork for their own eco-friendly construction ideas.

“The launch of GBIG represents years of research, information gathering and testing, and has been a true labor of love,” said Chris Pyke, vice president of research at USGBC. “Green building has gone from an era of firsts, to a global movement, connected by data.” It can be accessed at www.gbig.org.

California has taken the historic step of holding its first cap and trade auction to limit green house gas emissions from in-state industry. Dozens of large companies submitted bids for the 23 million credits available for 2013, allowing them to emit carbon dioxide while their money goes to a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

Though the idea is to limit emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, its unclear how all the money will be allocated, and some view the program as a bid to aid the state’s dire financial situation. Businesses will begin in January to operate under the cap and trade market, which officials reportedly hope will be responsible for decreasing California’s carbon dioxide emissions by 20% over the next eight years.

In what may come as a surprise to many, new data projections from the International Energy Agency show the United States overtaking Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest oil producer by 2017. This data, presented in the agency’s World Energy Outlook 2012, also have the United States surpassing Russia as the largest producer of natural gas within three years. The agency attributes this “energy renaissance” to the hydraulic “fracking” for natural gas and oil that has stirred up so much controversy in places like Pennsylvania and North Dakota, as well as deepwater oil production. The agency’s data show the United States, in terms of net imports and exports, becoming very nearly energy independent by 2035.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, January 2013 (online 12/11/12)