The Daily Grist: March 15

China "R" Us
China's Skyrocketing Energy Needs Threaten Environment

China's booming economy is
straining the country's energy resources to the breaking point. Last year its oil imports rose by a third, it became the world's largest steel importer (surpassing the U.S.), its domestic coal production rose by 100 million tons -- and still there were intermittent blackouts as electricity consumption jumped by 15 percent. With energy needs expected to more than double by 2020, the ruling Communist Party has plans to build more than 100 coal, hydroelectric, and nuclear power plants. While China has made conservation efforts -- fuel-efficiency standards more strict than those in the U.S., clean-energy projects -- most analysts expect environmental protection to fall victim to the country's ravenous energy needs. "The fundamental problem is that China is following the path of the United States, and probably the world cannot afford a second United States," said Zhang Jianyu of the Beijing office of Environmental Defense.

Stand-up Comity
Siuslaw National Forest in Oregon Is Model of Green Economics

Oregon's Siuslaw National Forest
has emerged as a model for the way timber companies, environmentalists, and local communities can cooperate to manage forests. It is one of the few national forests in the state exceeding U.S. Forest Service logging goals. It's also the site of substantial ecological restoration, with streams boasting seven times the levels of coho salmon as those in surrounding areas. Money from timber sales is being funneled back into communities hurt by the sharp decline in federal logging of the past two decades. Logging goals are met in the Siuslaw without any clearcutting or harvesting of old-growth trees; instead, the majority of timber comes from thinning previously planted, fast-growing plantations, opening them up to wildlife use. "It makes some people very nervous to see us talking with environmentalists and timber companies at the same time," said the Forest Service's Dan Karnes. "But when we have environmentalists saying, 'Don't hold up this work,' that's a huge strength. We'd be doing well to hold onto that."

Fed Up
Northeast Efforts to Reduce Greenhouse Gases Thwarted by Feds

Efforts by U.S. states in the northeast to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are falling short, in part due to unsympathetic federal policies. While they see plenty of room for more aggressive efforts, even the region's most vocal environmental critics acknowledge that northeastern states have taken unprecedented steps to reduce emissions. The biggest initiative has been establishing carbon-dioxide trading programs, which has turned out to be a torturously complex process. All of the region's efforts, however, are hampered by a federal government that refuses to raise fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles or set strict limits on CO2 emissions from power plants. Currently, the region is falling short of its goal to reduce emissions 12 percent by 2010; in fact, emissions are rising. Still, officials and enviros hope that the region's efforts can be a model that inspires broader change. "Showing a region this large can make reductions sends a critically important message out to the country and the world," said Cindy Luppi of Clean Water Action.

For more environmental news and humor go to Grist Magazine.

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