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March 12, 2012


UK/US Space Weather Collaboration; $1 Billion Clean Vehicle Challenge; 2012 Energy Innovation Summit; Cal, Wisc, Okla Initiatives; Other U.S. Gov’t News


As many media outlets have begun reporting on an upswing in solar flares striking the Earth’s magnetic field possibly causing damage to global communications and electric grids, I begin this week by highlighting US/UK collaboration on space weather. You will also find highlights on a Senate bill that if passed would create a national clean energy standard, a $1 billion White House program to spur deployment of clean vehicles to local communities, and an Energy Department Electric Vehicle challenge.  There is a video of Energy Secretary Chu having a fireside chat with Bill Gates during the 2012 Energy Innovation Summit, and examples of new clean technology start-ups in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and California.  I finish with ozone pollution research, wildlife and wetland preservation efforts, U.S. collaboration with Mexico and the Caribbean on hurricane preparedness, and a new USAID/OXFAM partnership seeking to empower women on health issues.


U.S. and UK Collaborate on Space Weather.   U.S. and UK space weather collaboration remains strong following the February 2011 Memorandum of Agreement between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) and the UK Met Office.  Scientists are studying the leading edge of coronal mass ejections  monitored on NASA satellites.  Extreme flares can damage satellites and knockout radios and GPS for hours.  Follow up-to-the-minute data from NASA or watch a video of March 6 solar flare above.


Clean Energy Standard Proposed in Senate.  This week, answering the President’s call in the last two State-of-the-Union addresses, the Senate proposed legislation that would establish a Clean Energy Standard for America.   According to the White House, “this is an important step towards the President’s goal of doubling clean energy by 2035.”


$1 billion National Community Deployment Challenge Takes Off.  The White House announced the $1 billion “National Community Deployment Challenge” to spur deployment of clean, advanced vehicles and expand the advanced vehicle tax credit.   


EV-Everywhere Challenge Launched.  As part of President Obama’s All-of-the-Above Approach energy strategy, the Department of Energy (DOE) launched the EV-Everywhere challenge to promote new developments in electric cars.  Industry, universities, national laboratories and government partners will set technical goals for cutting costs for the batteries and electric drive train systems, reducing vehicle weights while maintaining safety, and increasing fast-charge rates.   


Energy Innovation Fireside Chat with Bill Gates.   At the 2012 Energy Innovation Summit, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates exchanged ideas about how small businesses and innovators can overcome the challenges that face many startups.  Former President Bill Clinton stressed the importance of government investment in research that will help move the world toward a cleaner and more secure energy future.  Hosting 100 other industry and congressional leaders, the Summit featured a Technology Showcase of more than 240 breakthrough energy developments from DOE grant awardees and other innovative companies.


Oklahoma State Takes Steps to Shift From Oil.   Setting a goal to reduce state greenhouse gases by 10 percent before 2015, Oklahoma City applied $1.28 million from its DOE Energy Efficiency & Conservation Block Grant to install a fast-fill Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling station at Oklahoma City’s main maintenance facility to reduce vehicle emissions and public fuel costs.  Oklahoma City Sustainability Office Director Jennifer Gooden touted, “This allows the city to purchase more CNG vehicles, which increases our efficiency by reducing our fuel costs.” 


Wisconsin:  New Solar Electric System Plant.  Wisconsin-based Helios USA opened a new solar panel manufacturing plant, funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, to build high-performance solar electric systems.  The plant has created 26 jobs since December 2011.


California:  Regenerative Braking on Skateboards.  Zboard, a new California start up, has designed and produced a weight-sensing electric skateboard that features a regenerative braking system.  It was a winner of the SXSW (South by Southwest) Pitch Contest , a part of the Startup America Partnership.


Eco Framework for Protecting the Alaskan Arctic.  Federal policymakers and scientists have begun charting an ecosystem-based management framework for the Alaska Arctic.  It will cover wildlife, land and water resources, and areas crucial to the subsistence and culture of local communities.   “The Arctic’s unique ecosystem calls for a landscape-scale approach to management that cuts across agencies, jurisdictions, and boundaries,” said Interior Deputy Secretary Hayes.


Asian Air Pollution Travels to U.S.  Research shows that “Asian pollution directly contributes to surface ozone pollution episodes in parts of the western United States,” said NOAA scientist Meiyun Lin.  The NOAA study shows that Asian emissions add up to 8-15 parts per billion of ozone to air, comprising up to 20 percent of the total.  Roughly half of the pollution episodes that exceeded the EPA health-based standard would not have occurred – the study reported – without the addition of Asian pollution.


Wildlife and Wetland Protection Partnership.  Together Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a $33 million partnership with farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to restore and protect wildlife habitats including seven at risk species and vulnerable game. This is part of Presidents Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.


Hurricane Preparedness Mission in Mexico and the Caribbean.  NOAA and the U.S. Air Force Reserves are hosting meetings in Mexico and the Caribbean to help residents prepare for hurricane season, which begins June 1.  Topics include hurricane preparedness and the “Hurricane Hunter,” an aircraft that collects information about hurricanes for scientists.


USAID and OXFAM To Help Women in Poverty.  In collaboration with OXFAM, USAID has launched a Policy on Gender Equality and Female Empowerment.  It creates a public private partnership to empower women who lack equal access to food, resources, and jobs.  The “Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index” is a new tool to measure where women are getting the support they need and where the U.S. needs to be doing more. 


Please check back later in the week for updates on ESTH news from the UK, and again next week for the latest updates on new ESTH highlights from the U.S.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mar 19 2012

    My name is Alice Antunes and I am the International Fellow representing Earth Day Network, the organizing group behind Earth Day (April 22nd) worldwide. I am responsible for working to coordinate Earth Day events in Europe.

    Here at Earth Day Network we are incredibly impressed with the environmental work your embassy has done in the past. Specifically, we were excited about your Earth Day activities in 2010 and about the events you are planning for this year’s Earth Day. I am contacting you to see if Earth Day Network can help you with ideas, organization as well as with promotion via our blog, our Facebook or Twitter accounts and through our website.

    I hope to hear from you soon. Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions or comments on how we can work together to create a successful Earth Day 2012.


    Alice Antunes

  2. Mar 20 2012

    Thank you for your comment, Alice. I will pass your request to our Public Affairs Section, which has the lead on the items you mentioned.


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