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As we enter a new year, the world continues to be in the grips of dual crises. A stubborn economic downturn with widespread job losses combined with accelerating global warming threatening vulnerable communities. Many argue that dealing with climate change in the midst of an economic slump will hurt recovery efforts. The underlying reality, however, is quite the opposite. Not only can preparing for climate change offer opportunities for economic growth, it would be unwise to pursue one without the other.

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As the year winds down, it’s a good time to take stock of climate policy in the United States. Here’s a quick round up of what happened -- or didn’t happen -- in 2011.

The year began with big questions about what the Obama Administration and states would do to address climate change and clean energy, absent a comprehensive federal climate policy. This year’s record was decidedly mixed. Not as much happened as some would have liked, but it was in total better than many feared as the year began.

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This post was written with Sarah Lupberger, Project Coordinator with WRI's Electricity Governance Initiative.

A year and a half has passed since a political uprising rocked the central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan. The violent protests in April 2010 were in part a response to mismanagement of the energy sector and a loss of public trust in the government’s ability to provide essential services like electricity. These protests eventually grew into a revolution that ousted President Bakiyev.

Today, electricity sector reforms and engagement with civil society groups have begun to show signs of progress, according to WRI’s partners in the Electricity Governance Initiative (EGI).

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Electricity generation capacity adequacy and transmission and ancillary services reliability are difficult to quantify and forecast due to the inherently local scale of power flow modeling. However, the lack of reliability problems over decades of previous Clean Air Act regulation

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Next week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to finalize new rules to reduce mercury and other toxic air emissions that will affect dozens of antiquated power plants currently operating without pollution controls.

These rules have stirred debate in some circles as to whether retrofitting or retiring outdated plants will cause shortfalls in electricity capacity. How will new EPA mercury rules influence the electricity system? This post updates earlier assessments by taking a close look at recent studies on the reliability of the electricity grid to answer that question.

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The Midwest Industrial Energy Efficiency Summit was held on January 11, 2012, in Chicago, Illinois. It was cosponsored by: World Resources Institute, Midwestern Governors Association, Midwestern Energy Efficiency Alliance, and the Great Plains Institute.

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According to a new study by the Mexican Finance Group – 16 NGOs, including CEMDA, that work on environmental, budget, gender equity, and human rights issues – the funding currently allocated in Mexico’s budget for climate change mitigation and adaptation is insufficient for meeting the goals the country has established for 2012. The group, created in 2010, agrees that international finance is necessary to complement domestic investment in order to achieve Mexico’s emissions targets, but they affirm that first and foremost it is necessary improve the national budget allocation to begin the transition towards a low carbon development path.

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A new report finds that the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has had a positive economic impact on the region. According to the report by the Analysis Group, RGGI, a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program for large power plants in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, has injected $1.6 billion into the region’s economy, and created 16,000 jobs since the program launched in 2009.

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The Aqueduct project is an effort to measure and map water related risks being developed by the World Resources Institute with the support of an alliance founded by General Electric and Goldman Sachs. As part of this effort, the Aqueduct team convened its hydrological modeling partner ISciences and experts from The Coca-Cola Company to develop and analyze a set of maps for the Bonn2011 Nexus conference that illustrate the complex relationships between water, food, and energy worldwide (see below).

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In the United States, there is a heated debate about how much government should support renewable energy innovation. While you won’t find anyone who says they don’t value ‘innovation’, the U.S. federal investment in energy innovation across both fossil and renewable technology is still anemic, badly trailing China and only about one third of the amount recommended by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. That’s unfortunate, because there are compelling reasons to accelerate innovation in the energy sector, and specifically in renewable energy.

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The case of the solar company Solyndra has been getting widespread attention, but much of the current discussion misses the point. While some would like to portray the collapse of this company as the downfall of the U.S. solar industry, the larger picture tells a very different story.

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