Friday, July 23, 2010

Warp Speed Ahead! China’s New Economy and Implications for the Environment: Dr. Catherine Keske Reports From China

In 1994, the government owned virtually all of the cars in China. Latest figures show car ownership rates of approximately 10 people per 1,000.

Although this is far behind the U.S. car ownership rate of 700 per 1,000 people, should China reach similar levels, the number of cars in China would jump from approximately 1.3 million to 910 million! With a nation of 1.3 billion people, the environmental consequences would be tremendous. And this increase is well within the realm of possibility, considering that the ownership rate has increased at a rate of 25% per year during the past decade.

To put this into perspective, only 10% of the Chinese population experiences a similar lifestyle to the “typical” American. With its rapidly rising income and wealth, air pollution is only one potential environmental consequence as this nation ascends into the echelons of prosperity. And who are we, as citizens of one of the wealthiest nations in the world, to say that China is undeserving of a similar lifestyle?

From June 7 through June 22, I had the good fortune of visiting three large cities in China (Beijing, Shanghai, and Xiamen) to learn more about how China balances its economic growth with environmental and agricultural production targets. After delivering lectures at the China Agricultural University and attending several large conferences, I came away with the knowledge that China recognizes that environmental quality standards are important for long-term economic growth and prosperity in its nation.

However, right now, China is prioritizing economic growth and stability. At the top of this agenda is feeding 1.3 billion people, and ensuring that the nation can withstand worldwide shocks to the commodity markets. An example of the latter is the 2008 corn and energy price volatility that was created by the “perfect storm” of worldwide weather fluctuations, financial crisis, and an increased demand for biofuels. The result? Don’t look any time soon for China to implement rigorous environmental standards that rival those of Europe or the U.S.

This is a perfect example of an environmental Kuznet’s curve, in that environmental quality at first declines as a nation’s wealth increases. However, after a point, a nation’s environmental quality increases as the wealth of a nation increases. Furthermore, the case of China evokes intriguing questions about the extent to which wealthier nations are obligated to ensure that the citizens of the world enjoy a certain standard of living…not just for the sake of humanity, but for the sake of the environment.

-Catherine M.H. Keske, Ph.D.
Adjunct Professor, Sturm College of Law
Assistant Professor, Colorado State University

Thursday, July 22, 2010

LLM Alum Leslie Weise's Clean Energy Business, Cool Energy, Signs Deal With Xcel Energy to Test Heat and Power System Powered Entirely by Solar Energy

Colorado clean energy developer Cool Energy (CE) will work with Xcel Energy on CE's first pilot field installation of the SolarFlow System in a commercial building located in Boulder, Colorado.

Leise Weise, a 2006 LLM graduate of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy Graduate Program at the Sturm College of Law, is vice president of CE.

According to CE, the SolarFlow System is a combined heat and power (CHP) generation system sized for residential and small commercial buildings that uses solar energy as its only input "fuel." The system has several novel features, including energy storage and a control system that maximizes customer value by optimally apportioning the system's energy output between heat and electricity depending on the season and weather conditions.

Sam Weaver, CEO and president of CE said, "We are pleased to have Xcel Energy's interest in and support for the SolarFlow System pilot. "The system will not only provide substantial financial relief for homeowners, but also offset the need for utilities to add more generation facilities that are particularly costly during peak consumption periods."

Dennis Stephens, Xcel's director of smart grid investments, said, "Xcel Energy is pleased to be involved in the benefits evaluation of Cool Energy's innovative solar thermal system. The energy industry is particularly interested in the potential to provide dispatchable power on demand at times when energy consumption is high. Cool Energy is developing innovative solutions for the energy challenges our nation is facing, including new technologies for providing power with minimal environmental impact."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Three DU Law Professors Attend the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Meeting in Canada

The Sturm College of Law will be well represented at this week's 56th annual meeting of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute, organized by the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, meeting in Banff, Alberta, Canada, beginning tomorrow. Attending from the law school will be Fred Cheever, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Environmental Law, K.K. DuVivier, Energy and Mining Law Professor, and Jan Laitos, Natural Resources Law Professor.

The Sturm College of Law has a long and storied relationship with the Foundation, which is one of the world's preeminent organizations for considering issues related to minerals extraction, development, and management. In the late 1950s the law school was a founding member of the Foundation. Since then the law school has played a significant role in the Foundation including in recent years when Professors Cheever and Laitos have served as Trustees of the Foundation. Moreover, Professor Cheever currently chairs the Natural Resources Law Teachers Committee.

DU's strong relationship with the Foundation has been a key to the rich selection of courses and professors that students find at DU. For example, four speakers at this year's meeting in Banff have taught at the College of Law: Bob Bassett of Holland & Hart in Denver; James Cress of Holme Roberts & Owen in Denver; Florencia Heredia of HOLT Abogados in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and James Otto, an independent natural resources consultant in Boulder.

These relationships provide DU students a unique level of expertise and experience second to none among U.S. law schools. And to be sure, understanding and appreciating the complex relationships between environmental protection, on the one hand, and natural resources development, on the other hand, are more important today than ever before. A well-rounded environmental or natural resources professional must understand and take account of all of the key issues, and that is exactly what students find each and every day at DU.

To see a program summary for the 56th annual institute, please click here

Monday, July 19, 2010

Adjunct Professor of Sustainable Development Law Luke Danielson and Two Sturm College of Law Students Featured in News Story

Gunnison, Colorado, attorney Luke Danielson, an expert on sustainable natural resources development law, was featured recently in a news article in his hometown newspaper, the Gunnison Country Times.

In "Small Operation Strives for Big Impact," Mr. Danielson explained the genesis of the Sustainable Development Strategies Group (SDSG) that works on matters of sustainable development in the natural resources extraction industries (e.g., mining, oil and gas projects).

This summer, Mr. Danielson, who teaches three sustainable development and natural resources-related courses that are part of the "Sustainable Natural Resources Development Series" at the Sturm College of Law, has employed one DU master's of law graduate and one DU law student to work on a model mining development agreement in conjunction with the International Bar Association's Mining Committee. The DU graduate is Charles Afeku, an official in the Ghanaian Mining Ministry, who graduated with an LLM in Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy in May. The DU law student is Kristi Disney, who will graduate next year with her juris doctorate degree as well as her LLM degree.

As Mr. Danielson told the Gunnison Country Times:
"Ultimately, the successful natural resource project of the future is one that meets international expectations, clearly benefits the nation [where the work is taking place], and which is good for the communities around it. That's a tall order given the ways we've done things in the past, but that's where we plan to go."
The next course in the Sustainable Natural Resources Development Series will be held in Denver Aug. 9-13. The one week short-course will involve an intensive assessment of community expectations in the context of natural resources development projects. The course will include a wide range of guest speakers as well as lectures by adjunct professors Mr. Danielson and Cecilia Dalupan, assistant director of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation. The course is open to all DU law students, law students from other law schools, industry officials, and other graduate level students. For more information, please contact Lucy Daberkow at