Posted on December 30, 2008
2008: Environment, Climate Change Compete for Attention, Dollars
PND - 2008: Environment, Climate Change Compete With Economy for Attention, Dollars
Thanks in part to rising gas prices, extreme weather events, and the emergence of new approaches and funding partners, the year opened with broad consensus about the need to protect the environment and slow global warming. But as financial markets and the economy weakened throughout the summer and fall — and energy policy was supplanted by the economy as an issue in the presidential race — environmental and clean energy advocates struggled to keep a "green" agenda in the news.
Environmentalists were energized in January when Google.org, the philanthropic arm of the Internet search giant, announced a $10 million grant through its Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal initiative — one of two climate-related initiatives it had announced previously — to eSolar, a Pasadena startup, to develop a cost-effective utility-scale solar power plant. Google followed that in the summer with an announcement of the initial grants awarded through its RechargeIT initiative, which works to accelerate the adoption of hybrid plug-in electric vehicles, and of $10.7 million in grants to three organizations working to advance Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) technology, which uses steam produced by circulating water through fractures in subterranean rock layers to produce electricity in a conventional turbine.
But the organization made its biggest splash in October when it announced a $4.4 trillion plan to wean the United States off fossil fuels by 2030. Clean Energy 2030, as the plan is known, calls for a 38 percent cut in the amount of oil used for vehicle fuels; raising the automobile fuel efficiency standard from 31 mpg to 45 mpg; increasing the use of plug-in hybrids and electric cars; improving electrical energy efficiency; and replacing all power generation plants that use coal and oil and half of those that use natural gas with wind, solar, and geothermal sources of power. "Right now we have a real opportunity to transform our economy from one running on fossil fuels to one largely based on clean energy," said Jeffery Greenblatt, climate and energy technology manager for Google.org. "Technologies and know-how to accomplish this are either available today or are under development."
Indeed, the Santa Monica-based X Prize Foundation announced in March that it had partnered with Cleveland-based Progressive Insurance to launch the Progressive Automotive X Prize competition, through which a total of $10 million will be awarded to teams that successfully design, build, and bring to market a hundred-miles-per-gallon energy-equivalent vehicle. In July, Princeton University announced a $100 million gift from alumnus Gerhard R. Andlinger to accelerate research on effective and sustainable solutions to environmental problems and energy production. And, signaling Americans' growing interest in eco-philanthropy, a few weeks later GlobalGiving, the online platform that connects donors to grassroots projects in the developing world, introduced a new section of its site featuring hand-picked projects designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while helping poor people in the developing world increase their incomes.
The highest-profile environmental initiative of the year, however, was associated with former vice president Al Gore. Gore, whose participation in the film An Inconvenient Truth in 2007 helped to generate tremendous public awareness of the challenges presented by global warming, was in the news again in April when the Alliance for Climate Protection, which he chairs, launched a $300 million public advocacy campaign to mobilize Americans to push for aggressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. "We can solve the climate crisis, but it will require a major shift in public opinion and engagement," said Gore. "The technologies exist, but our elected leaders don't yet have the political will to take the bold actions required. When politicians hear the American people calling loud and clear for change, they'll listen."
Clinton Climate Initiative Partners With Arkansas to Reduce Energy Consumption, Emissions (12/27/08)
National Audubon Society Announces First TogetherGreen Grants (10/27/08)
MacArthur Foundation Commits $50 Million to Conserve Biodiversity Hotspots (10/8/08)
Google.org Announces $4.4 Trillion Clean Energy Plan (10/3/08)
Aid Agencies Launch Carbon-Offset Program to Benefit Poor Communities in Developing World (9/3/08)
Google.org Awards $10.7 Million to Advance Geothermal Energy Technology (8/20/08)
Google.org Awards $5.5 Million for Development of Plug-in Electric Vehicles (7/29/08)
GlobalGiving Launches 'Green' Site (7/28/08)
Princeton Receives $100 Million Gift for Energy and Environment Research (7/02/08)
MacArthur Foundation Pledges $12 Million to Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (6/3/08)
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Awards $1.5 Million for Climate Change Policy Analysis (5/30/08)
2008 Goldman Environmental Prize Winners Announced (4/15/08)
Alliance for Climate Protection Launches $300 Million Campaign to Solve Climate Crisis (4/02/08)
Toyota Launches $20 Million Conservation Program With National Audubon Society (3/31/08)
X Prize Foundation Partners With Progressive Insurance to Develop Super-Efficient Cars (3/21/08)
Mitchell Foundation Creates $6 Million Energy and Climate Change Program (2/13/08)
Google.org Announces Initiatives to Combat Climate Change, Poverty, Emerging Threats (1/18/08)