In the global race to secure private clean energy finance and investment, the U.S. reclaimed the top spot, after trailing China since 2009. Globally, investment grew to a record $263 billion in 2011, a 6.5 percent increase over the previous year, according to new research on clean energy financing in Group of Twenty (G-20) nations released by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The U.S. attracted $48 billion in clean energy investment, a 42 percent increase over 2010. This helped propel the addition of 6.7 gigawatts (GW) of wind and, for the first time, more than 1 GW of solar energy, enough to power 800,000 homes. Total U.S. installed renewable energy capacity at the end of 2011 was 93 GW, second to China. However, America will be hard-pressed to sustain last year’s success in the wake of now-expired Treasury grants and the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee programs. Also, the production tax credit concludes at the end of this year.
“In 2011, the global clean energy sector grew again, the U.S. reclaimed its lead as the top destination for private investment, and consumers reaped the rewards of significantly reduced prices for clean energy technologies, such as solar panels, which are now nearly 50 percent cheaper than a year ago,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s Clean Energy Program. “And yet, the yo-yo effect of U.S. clean energy policy hurts the ability of the United States to consistently compete and turn U.S.-led innovation into manufacturing, deployment and export opportunities. Creative, stable and transparent policies remain a critical signal to private investors.”
Among members of the G-20, the world’s leading economies, the U.S. continued to be the top destination for venture capital and private equity investments with $6 billion. Despite an overall decline in research and development (R&D), the U.S. accounted for 30 percent of total corporate R&D and 31 percent of government R&D investments. However, the country trailed in asset finance, small-scale distributed capacity and a variety of other indicators.
The combination of falling clean energy technology prices and growing investments accelerated installation of clean energy generating capacity by a record 83.5 GW in 2011, bringing the total to 565 GW globally. This was nearly 50 percent more than installed nuclear power capacity worldwide at the end of last year. Experts increasingly agree that solar and wind will become cost-competitive with conventional electric generating capacity this decade and therefore will be preferred investments in emerging economies.
G-20 investments in solar continued to rise in 2011, increasing 44 percent to $128 billion. Solar was the leading technology for clean energy investment for a second year. The gains offset a 15 percent decline in investments for both wind and energy efficiency in 2011, compared with the previous year. The cost
of solar modules slipped by almost 50 percent in 2011. The U.S. was the leading destination for solar investments.
“The clean energy sector received its trillionth dollar of private investment just before the end of 2011, demonstrating significant growth over the past eight years,” said Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Pew’s research partner. “Solar installations drove most of the activity last year as the falling price of photovoltaic modules, now 75 percent lower than three years ago, more than compensated for weakening clean energy support mechanisms in a number of parts of the world.”
China attracted $45.5 billion in clean energy investment, which spurred deployment of 20 GW of wind power, the most of any nation. Germany ranked third for the second year in a row among the G-20 members, with $30.6 billion and 7.4 GW of solar power installed. Italy attracted $28 billion and deployed a world record of nearly 8 GW of solar power. India drew more than $10 billion and had the world’s second-highest annual growth rate for clean energy investment.
Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? examines how nations are faring in the increasingly stiff competition for private investment among the world’s leading economies. Investments in G-20 countries accounted for more than 95 percent of the global total. Amounts are listed in U.S. dollars.
Read the entire report, including country profiles and interactive graphics by clicking here.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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