Author Archives: The Center for Investigative Reporting

The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) is an award-winning nonprofit newsroom based in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more than three decades, CIR has relentlessly pursued and revealed injustices that otherwise would remain hidden from the public. CIR stories have received numerous journalism awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton, George Polk Award, Emmy Award, Investigative Reporters and Editors Award and the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Its reports have sparked state and federal hearings and legislation, public-interest lawsuits and changes in corporate policies. For more information, visit cironline.org.

International Agency Issues Dire Warning

Gretchen Weber

Navajo Generating Station, near Page, AZ

By Susanne Rust

Just as the federal government released its annual index of greenhouse gases, showing a steady increase over the past 21 years, the International Energy Agency warned that we are on the path to 11-degree warming if we don’t curb emissions now.

“Delaying action is a false economy: For every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would be needed to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions,” the authors of the energy agency report wrote in their 2011 World Energy Outlook.
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Drought Gone, Less Support for California’s Water Bond?

Roguephotonic/Flickr

By Lance Williams, California Watch

Post Peak Pass is a granite notch on the remote southern boundary of Yosemite National Park, altitude 10,700 feet.

On Saturday, its north face was partly covered with a 100-yard-long patch of crusted snow – a reminder of just how emphatically California’s three-year drought was broken by the wild winter of 2010-11.

Although California’s high peaks still are capped with last year’s snowpack and its reservoirs are brimming with runoff [PDF], voters will be asked next year to approve an $11.1 billion state water bond measure that was crafted in response to the crippling drought.

But with the drought a fading memory and the state’s finances in disarray, many believe the pricey package of dam-building and water conservation infrastructure has an even slimmer chance of passage today than in 2010, when then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yanked it off the ballot and slated it instead for November 2012. Continue reading

Free Cap-and-Trade System Beats Carbon Tax, Study Finds

By Susanne Rust

As governments try to figure out the best way to get carbon polluters to invest in and produce cleaner energy, two scenarios continue to come forward: cap and trade vs. carbon tax.

A new study from UC Merced and the University of New South Wales in Australia suggests that a free and uninhibited cap-and-trade system is the best way to go. The authors argue such a system will “trigger adoption of clean technologies at a considerably lower level of carbon prices” as compared with a tax system.

In addition, the study concludes that the higher risk and volatility of an unhindered market “are likely to induce suppliers to take early action to hedge against carbon risks.”

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Out On a Limb

PG&E green program helps preserve forests already saved by state taxpayers

By Susanne Rust
California Watch

California’s largest utility company promises its customers green salvation through its ClimateSmart program.

For every bit of energy a PG&E ratepayer uses – turning on a vacuum cleaner, powering up a computer or heating up an oven – a little part of a tree or forest is saved to erase the carbon sins of the customer. The voluntary program costs ratepayers an average of $60 a year.

But the company isn’t telling its customers one crucial fact: Those forests were purchased years ago by a Virginia-based conservation group that used nearly $50 million in loans and grants from California taxpayers. That group, The Conservation Fund, then sold PG&E carbon credits on the land it had already purchased for preservation and selective logging.

Thousands of PG&E customers are effectively paying twice for the same Mendocino County forests. Continue reading