Wednesday, August 29, 2018

New block chain renewable energy pilot to power 500,000 homes in Germany/RNN

Renewables continue their unprecedented growth.

Swytch, a block chain-based clean energy incentive, and the Germany-based Energy2market (e2m) have announced a pilot program which includes roughly 3.5Gw of solar, wind, hydro and biogas energy capacity in Germany, which is enough to power over 500,000 homes. As part of the large-scale pilot, Swytch is testing its first versions of the data flow, blockchain, dashboard, estimators, token allocation models and other key parts of the platform.

Swytch is a block chain-based platform that tracks and verifies the impact of sustainability efforts and actions on the worldwide level of C02 emissions. Swytch leverages smart meter and blockchain technology to reward the companies and people who reduce carbon emissions the most. At the core of the Swytch solution is an open-source 

“Oracle” that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to determine how much carbon is being displaced and therefore how many Swytch tokens to award. As a result, producers of renewable energy create Swytch tokens by generating solar, wind, and other forms of renewable energy. e2m perceives Swytch’s approach to tokenized incentives in the energy market as particularly attractive to the larger energy producers and traders it serves

. This partnership will allow e2m to gain insight into alternatives to existing incentive programs and leverage blockchain, which has security and immutability, making it an ideal technology to help reshape an industry that relies on timely and accurate data. Additionally, e2m believes that Swytch, as a global incentive program and data source, has the ability to empower governments, cities, corporations and individuals to take a more active role in accelerating the adoption of renewable supply and sustainability programs. A partnership with Swytch will create a competitive advantage as buyers and sellers of energy gain access to higher quality data in addition to an incentive that will be effective across geographic barriers.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

CCNY Study Shows Plastic Waste Can Be Converted Into Energy And Fuels/RNN

How do we better produce and manager plastics?  Here's a potential improvement.

Plastic waste is flooding our landfills and leaking into the oceans, with potentially disastrous effects. In fact, the World Economic Forum predicts that if current production and waste management trends continue, by 2050 there could be more plastic than fishes in the ocean.
Why is this happening when there are processes and technologies that can effectively recycle, convert to valuable products and extract the imbedded energy from these waste plastics? According to Science Advances, as of 2015, of the 6,300 million tons of plastic waste generated in the United States, only 9 percent has been recycled, 12 percent has been incinerated, with the vast majority – 79 percent – accumulating in landfills or the natural environment.
The Earth Engineering Center (EEC|CCNY) at the Grove School of Engineering of the City College of New York is on a mission to transform plastic waste to energy and fuels.
A recent EEC study titled “The Effects of Non-recycled Plastic (NRP) on Gasification: A Quantitative Assessment,” shows that what we’re disposing of is actually a resource we can use. The study, by Marco J. Castaldi, Professor of chemical engineering Director of Earth System Science and Environmental Engineering and Director of the EEC|CCNY and Demetra Tsiamis Associate Director of the EEC|CCNY, explores how adding NRPs to a chemical recycling technology called gasification – which transforms waste materials into fuels – adds value.
Adding NRPs to the gasification process helps reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while significantly reducing the amount of waste byproduct to landfill – by up to 76 percent.
In the study, published by the American Chemistry Council, the effects of increasing the percentage of non-recycled plastics (NRPs) are measured at Enerkem, a Montreal-based energy company, in collaboration with the City of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada.
“This study demonstrates that because carbon and hydrogen rich plastics have high energy content, there is tremendous potential to use technologies like gasification to convert these materials into fuels, chemicals, and other products. We were fortunate to engage a couple of students and engineers from our team enabling them to learn about this novel process,” said Castaldi.
Tsiamis added: “Plastics have an end of life use that will be turning waste into energy, which is something we all need and use.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

All-Electric Ships on the Horizon as Rolls Adds Battery Business/ICONS

More good news on the maritime front as we continue to wean ourselves off of fossil fuel, and embrace better technology.

Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc has begun offering its own battery-powered ship engines in a move that signals the gathering momentum behind a push toward hybrid and ultimately all-electric vessels.
While maritime demand for lithium-ion batteries is focused on providing top-up power for traditional diesel and gas-turbine ships, the technology could propel fully electric craft over a limited range, according to Rolls, which previously sourced such equipment from third-party providers. Branded SAVe Energy, the new system will be delivered from the group’s marine arm in Bergen, Norway.
In hybrid mode the batteries will kick in to provide additional propulsion on vessels spanning ferries to trawlers when a conventional engine is operating at peak thrust, London-based Rolls said. They can also power “hotel” functions of energy-hungry cruise ships, such as lighting and kitchens, and in all-electric mode will slash emissions in sensitive seas such as the Arctic Ocean. Business

Friday, August 17, 2018

Voyage to the Sun/RNN

We reported on this recently on the radio side as well.

Space exploration brings incredible advancements to our world of science, engineering and, ultimately, commerce.  

Hours before the rise of the very star it will study, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launched from Florida Sunday to begin its journey to the Sun, where it will undertake a landmark mission. The spacecraft will transmit its first science observations in December, beginning a revolution in our understanding of the star that makes life on Earth possible.
Roughly the size of a small car, the spacecraft lifted off at 3:31 a.m. EDT on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. At 5:33 a.m., the mission operations manager reported that the spacecraft was healthy and operating normally.
The mission’s findings will help researchers improve their forecasts of space weather events, which have the potential to damage satellites and harm astronauts on orbit, disrupt radio communications and, at their most severe, overwhelm power grids.
“This mission truly marks humanity’s first visit to a star that will have implications not just here on Earth, but how we better understand our universe,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “We’ve accomplished something that decades ago, lived solely in the realm of science fiction.”
During the first week of its journey, the spacecraft will deploy its high-gain antenna and magnetometer boom. It also will perform the first of a two-part deployment of its electric field antennas. Instrument testing will begin in early September and last approximately four weeks, after which Parker Solar Probe can begin science operations.
“Today’s launch was the culmination of six decades of scientific study and millions of hours of effort,” said project manager Andy Driesman, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. “Now, Parker Solar Probe is operating normally and on its way to begin a seven-year mission of extreme science.”
Over the next two months, Parker Solar Probe will fly towards Venus, performing its first Venus gravity assist in early October — a maneuver a bit like a handbrake turn — that whips the spacecraft around the planet, using Venus’s gravity to trim the spacecraft’s orbit tighter around the Sun. This first flyby will place Parker Solar Probe in position in early November to fly as close as 15 million miles from the Sun — within the blazing solar atmosphere, known as the corona — closer than anything made by humanity has ever gone before.
Throughout its seven-year mission, Parker Solar Probe will make six more Venus flybys and 24 total passes by the Sun, journeying steadily closer to the Sun until it makes its closest approach at 3.8 million miles. At this point, the probe will be moving at roughly 430,000 miles per hour, setting the record for the fastest-moving object made by humanity.
Parker Solar Probe will set its sights on the corona to solve long-standing, foundational mysteries of our Sun. What is the secret of the scorching corona, which is more than 300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface, thousands of miles below? What drives the supersonic solar wind — the constant stream of solar material that blows through the entire solar system? And finally, what accelerates solar energetic particles, which can reach speeds up to more than half the speed of light as they rocket away from the Sun?
Scientists have sought these answers for more than 60 years, but the investigation requires sending a probe right through the unrelenting heat of the corona. Today, this is finally possible with cutting-edge thermal engineering advances that can protect the mission on its daring journey.
“Exploring the Sun’s corona with a spacecraft has been one of the hardest challenges for space exploration,” said Nicola Fox, project scientist at APL. “We’re finally going to be able to answer questions about the corona and solar wind raised by Gene Parker in 1958 — using a spacecraft that bears his name — and I can’t wait to find out what discoveries we make. The science will be remarkable.”
Parker Solar Probe carries four instrument suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and capture images of the solar wind. The University of California, Berkeley, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Princeton University in New Jersey lead these investigations.
Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA’s Living with a Star program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. The Living with a Star program is managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. APL designed and built, and operates the spacecraft.
The mission is named for Eugene Parker, the physicist who first theorized the existence of the solar wind in 1958. It’s the first NASA mission to be named for a living researcher.
A plaque dedicating the mission to Parker was attached to the spacecraft in May. It includes a quote from the renowned physicist — “Let’s see what lies ahead.” It also holds a memory card containing more than 1.1 million names submitted by the public to travel with the spacecraft to the Sun.
For more information on Parker Solar Probe, go to:

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Thanks to climate change and wetter weather, forest soils are absorbing less methane

Thanks to climate change and wetter weather, forest soils are absorbing less methane

Trend could explain, in part, rising atmospheric levels of this potent greenhouse gas
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

IMAGE: Groffman and his field team have been measuring nutrient uptake and gas exchange in Baltimore area forests for nearly 20 years.
Credit: Dan Dillon
(Millbrook, NY) Farming, energy production, and landfills produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Forests can remove methane from the atmosphere through the activity of soil bacteria. But increasing precipitation - a symptom of climate change - is making it harder for forest soils to trap greenhouse gases, creating a feedback loop that exacerbates global warming.

So reports a new study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which concludes that forest soils have been overestimated as methane sinks by upwards of 50% worldwide. Few studies have quantified this process using long-term data.

Study coauthor Peter Groffman, a Senior Research Fellow at Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and a professor at the City University of New York Advanced Science Research Center at the Graduate Center, explains, "We were interested in how methane uptake by forest soils was influenced by environmental change. Do things like soil temperature, nitrogen, or rainfall impact forest soil's ability to act as a methane sink? And how does this play out over time?"

The Takeaway
Data on forest soil methane uptake was collected from two very different US National Science Foundation funded Long-Term Ecological Research sites. Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest is located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, while the Baltimore Ecosystem Study encompasses Baltimore County, Maryland. Monitoring was conducted for 14 and 18 years, respectively.

Patterns observed at these locations were compared to global forest soil methane uptake data recorded from 1988-2015. Results were clear: methane absorption by upland forest soils is declining globally, especially in regions where precipitation is increasing.
"These findings suggest that global budgets for atmospheric methane - which are used to inform policy around methane-producing activities - are overestimating the role that forest soils play in trapping gas," Groffman cautions. "Declining methane uptake by forest soils should be factored into these models to avoid exacerbating climate warming, as methane in the atmosphere may rise more quickly and reach higher levels than current models predict."

Shrinking methane sinks, in the country and the city
At the Baltimore Ecosystem Study site, researchers monitored forests at four urban and four comparatively rural sites from 1998-2016. At Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, soil methane uptake was measured at eight forested sites from 2002-2015. These measurements comprise the longest-running record of methane uptake by forest soils.
Over an 18-year period, methane uptake by urban forests in Baltimore declined by 62%; methane uptake by rural forests declined by 53%. At Hubbard Brook, over a 14-year period, methane uptake by forest soils fell by 74-89%.
During this timespan, average temperature and atmospheric methane concentrations increased while nitrogen deposition decreased. These three factors should have caused an increase in forest soil methane uptake.

Scaling up: A global perspective
The authors analyzed 317 peer-reviewed journal articles on soil methane uptake in the world's forests published between 1987 and 2015. These records were used to estimate mean methane uptake in forests in 30° latitude bands across the globe - with the goal of examining changes in precipitation and methane uptake in the context of latitudes.
During the timeframe of the analysis, methane uptake by forest soils dropped by 77%. Declines were most acute in forests located between 0-60°N latitude, where precipitation has steadily increased as a result of climate change.

Methanotrophs matter
Why is methane uptake in forest soils reduced when soils are wetter? The answer lies in soil bacteria. Well-drained upland forest soils are home to methane-consuming bacteria called methanotrophs. These bacteria need access to methane in the atmosphere to survive. When soils are wet, diffusion of atmospheric methane into the soil is inhibited, reducing bacterial uptake.

Accounting for wetter soils
Precipitation is projected to continue to increase due to climate change, further reducing forest soils' capacity to mitigate rising atmospheric methane emissions.

Lead author Xiangyin Ni of Sichuan Agricultural University notes, "Long-term changes in precipitation and forest soil methane uptake should be factored into models being used to inform policy decisions around methane-producing activities - to ensure that we're using the most accurate tools available to account for methane sources and sinks."

Steve Hamburg, Chief Scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, explains, "It is increasingly clear that reducing human-caused methane emissions is essential to reducing the risk of climate change. Towards that end, we need a better understanding of the global methane budget and the causes of the increases in atmospheric concentrations. Understanding that the global forest soil sink is weakening is a potentially important piece of the puzzle."

"This study shows large, long-term declines in the ability of soil to absorb methane," says Doug Levey, a director of the National Science Foundation's Long-Term Ecological Research program, which funded the research. "That can explain why the amount of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, has been increasing in the atmosphere. The results uncover an important link among the soil, the atmosphere, and climate."

Groffman concludes, "We can't rely on natural processes to solve our greenhouse gas problems. Just as trees and oceans may not always be able to absorb carbon dioxide, forest soils may not always be able to take up methane and keep it out of the atmosphere. Long-term data are critical for showing how the capacity and function of Earth's ecosystems are changing - and how we might best respond through management actions."

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Temperatures are rising. But we're not prepared for global warming./Earth Day Network

Good update from our friends at Earth Day Network, and a chance for you to support their work:

It's hot, and temperatures are still rising. But we're not prepared for global warming.
A new report in the New York Times shows just how widespread and intense the impact of global warming is right now, and how unprepared people are for the future.
In the US, May through July ranked as the hottest ever, according to NOAA, almost 5 percent above average. Sea levels continue their upward trajectory rising about 3 inches, higher than levels in 1993.
2018 Tokyo heat wave
In California, the largest wildfires in state history are burning right now. 
Harvests of staples like wheat and corn are drying up all over the world.
Up to 100 heat-related deaths in Japan this summer show just how deadly extreme heat can be. 
In the US, a study last month in the journal PLOS Medicine projected a fivefold rise in heat deaths by 2080. 
And the poorer a country is, the worse the heat impacts are. In the Philippines, for example, researchers forecast 12 times more deaths.
"It's not a wake-up call anymore," Cynthia Rosenzweig, who runs the climate impacts group at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said of global warming and its human toll. "It's now absolutely happening to millions of people around the world."
Yes, we've got the Paris climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the world's biggest polluters are not meeting their reduction targets and what's worse, the United States has pulled out of the accord - the only country in the world to do so.
Still, scientists tell us that with effort, technology and human persistence, warming can be slowed enough to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. Some national and local governments are taking action and showing how it's done.
"In an effort to avert heat-related deaths, officials are promising to plant more trees in Melbourne, Australia, and covering roofs with reflective white paint in Ahmedabad, India. Agronomists are trying to develop seeds that have a better shot at surviving heat and drought. Switzerland hopes to prevent railway tracks from buckling under extreme heat by painting the rails white," reports the New York Times.
Join with Earth Day Network to educate, mobilize and demand global action on to stop global warming. Donate to our climate change campaign.
Thank you for being part of the solution.
The Earth Day Network Team

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Project Green Schools and UgMO Partner to Inspire Water Conservation and Innovation Through Education/RNN

Is there any greater issue than our use and preservation of water?  Any more valuable resource to protect?

Not really. That is why, on our main network site, we brought you this:

Project Green Schools and smart irrigation specialist UgMO announced a partnership to develop impactful water conservation curriculum for K-12 students. The partners begin curriculum development this month and will sponsor individual projects and the students implementing those initiatives. The goal of this support is to inspire the next generation of environmental leaders to innovate new ways of driving water conservation and sustainability.
Developer of a leading smart irrigation platform, UgMO is committed to significantly reducing water usage without sacrificing landscape health. In addition to collaborating with a number of government agencies, Project Green Schools partners with more than 6,300 schools and 500,000 students from over 43 U.S. states and 9 countries to facilitate the development of student leaders who have engaged in E-STEAM learning and projects and are pursuing higher education and jobs in the green workforce. This combination of expertise, mission and reach will support and sponsor student projects that research and recommend water conservation efforts to their schools.
“Smart Irrigation Month makes the perfect backdrop for a partnership that can have a lasting impact on how the next generation views its ability to protect one of our planet’s most important and diminishing resources,” said Brian Dalmass. “It’s an honor to partner with the amazing team at Project Green Schools who has already made incredible inroads in inspiring young people across the country to do their part to reduce environmental impact and costs. We look forward to helping to move this mission forward by leveraging our expertise, patented technology and unique, soil-based approach to water conservation.”
“Project Green Schools enthusiastically partners with UgMO as a way of putting innovative water reduction tools and solutions directly in our students’ hands,” said Robin Organ, executive director and founder of Project Green Schools. “Our goal is to help students develop the knowledge and skills required for entry to college and later employment focused on developing sustainable solutions. To do so they must be engaged at the intersection of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), energy, environment and public health. We believe our partnership with UgMO has the formula for success when it comes to developing the next generation of environmental leaders.”

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Ancient climate change may have dragged the wild horses away

Ancient climate change may have dragged the wild horses away

Maybe that's why none exist today.

Przewalski's horse
The endangered Przewalski's horse remains a creature of mystery.

It’s hard to imagine an ice age would be the ideal climate for horses, but almost 12,000 years ago, it was. Swathed in short shrubs and dry grass, the open tundra was a perfect place to gather, graze, and keep an eye out for predators. But when natural global warming turned up the thermostat on the Pleistocene period—or what some refer to as “the Last Ice Age”—the grasslands disappeared, and so did the wild horses.

At least that’s what new research suggests. Ludovic Orlando, a professor of molecular archaeology at the University of Copenhagen, helped create a database of more than 3,000 horse fossils spanning 44,000 years—one of the largest collections to date—and noticed a steep decline in wild horse populations across Eurasia once the Holocene period (the beginning of the warm weather we live in today) hit 11,700 years ago.

Orlando says it was likely the disintegration of habitats that led wild horses to a similar fate (although not so permanent) as fellow prairie animals like the woolly mammoth.

“The results show the consequences of climate change, and that habitat fragmentation and climate are very likely related,” says Orlando, author of the study published last week in the journal Science Advances.

At the beginning of the Holocene, an organic influx of warm weather sprouted dense forests blanketed with moss, which was ideal for some species, but threatened the survival of others. Animals had to adapt quickly, and scatter in search of food—all while avoiding being hunted to extinction by humans.

“What probably happened at end of the Pleistocene, is the global warming that occurred reduced population sizes a lot,” says Pete Heintzman, senior natural sciences researcher at the University of Tromsø, Norway. “It’s a period of some extremely severe climate change—changes of several degrees Celsius over a period of decades. It’s not too different from what’s anticipated to happen in the near future.”

This slow, natural period of global warmth—which along with hunting, wiped out creatures like the woolly mammoth and saber-toothed tiger—was devastating, but as Heintzman points out, it may be nothing compared to what creatures now have to face with human-driven climate change. If we keep up our rapid pace of carbon dioxide emissions (in the billions of tons each year), scientists predict we’ll soon hit a period of warming not seen in 14 million years.
A wild Spanish mustang
Mustang Sally (or Sam?).

This combination of hunting and global warming decimated horses in North America, but it was always thought some of the Eurasian wild horses that crossed the Bering Land Bridge connecting Alaska and Siberia millions of years previous had survived the onset of the Holocene. The sparse grasslands and new forests made vegetation hard to come by, leaving many animals to subsist in isolated clumps until domestic horses appeared. For decades, the critically endangered Przewalski’s horse was thought to be the last of Eurasia’s living wild, but other new research suggests they too come from a tamed timeline. And even that potential discovery—also made earlier this year by Orlando’s team—is now disputed by his most recent findings.

“The origins of modern, domestic horses is unlikely to be related to the 5,500-year-old Botai culture from Kazakhstan, which was most likely the smoking gun for their domestication center due to multiple bodies of evidence such as milking, harnessing, and corralling,” he says.

Orlando proposes Iberia (the tip of southwestern Europe encompassing Spain and Portugal) and Central Asia as potential ground zeroes for domesticated horses, but can’t yet say for certain. Ancient remains have helped paleontologists recently understand much about the wild horses that once roamed the earth, but the origin of horses living and breathing today remains an equine enigma.

Volkswagen Unveils Fully-Electric Super Sports Car/RNN

We continue to report on new products as we race towards a smarter world.

Volkswagen Motor Sport  is charging to the finish line of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb through the help of a new collaboration with ANSYS (NASDAQ: ANSS) to develop its first-ever, fully-electric race car — the Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak. With a goal of setting a new time record for electric cars, Volkswagen Motorsport is tapping into ANSYS’ Pervasive Engineering Simulation solutions to create a digital prototype of the battery system and optimize the electric propulsion system of the I.D. R Pikes Peak race car.
Behind the wheel of the 680-horsepower sports car prototype, Volkswagen Driver Romain Dumas (F) will attempt a new time record for electric cars at the 96th edition of the legendary Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Race.
The aerodynamics of the I.D. R Pikes Peak car was developed for extreme conditions and to meet the specific challenges of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The unique track is 19.99-kilometers long and features 156 turns — climbing from 2,862 meters above sea level at the starting line to 4,302 meters at the finish line.
High altitude results in about 35 percent lower air density, which creates different aerodynamic conditions than a racetrack on flat land. In addition to real-time data and instantaneous results, ANSYS solutions were used to simulate driving conditions that cannot be recreated in a traditional wind tunnel. With ANSYS solutions, Volkswagen engineers calculated the ideal balance of cooling airflow and aerodynamic loss and determined the best battery cooling strategy for optimal performance of the vehicle.
“Perfect energy management is a critical factor for beating the record in the electric car category at Pikes Peak,” said François-Xavier Demaison, technical director at Volkswagen Motorsport and I.D. R Pikes Peak project manager. “The first test drive at Pikes Peak was successful and demonstrated the accuracy of our simulations. Our team is confident in the vehicle’s performance and eager to set a new record in the category.”
“ANSYS is driving advancements in electrification and next-generation vehicles with multiphysics solutions and Pervasive Engineering Simulation,” said Shane Emswiler, Vice President and General Manager at ANSYS. “The Pikes Peak project demonstrates the importance of ANSYS simulation solutions as customers tackle new challenges and explore new frontiers in electric propulsion.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The EPA's twisted logic argues against environmentally friendly cars

This does seem to be a crude joke coming from the Trump team.  I can tell them, from personal experience, that owning a hybrid does not make me more dangerous on the road.  Incredible to us they'd even suggest such nonsense.

We can tell EPA, though, that driving a hybrid and EV does bring the joy of saving money on fuel, extended range, convenience of "filling up" at home by charging and having a car that gets powered by the sun--if you use renewables at home--and will soon be a back-up generator.

That is the true story of making the switch to environmentally friendly cars.

The EPA's twisted logic argues against environmentally friendly cars

A new proposal wants to cut fuel efficiency standards, and it's going after California to do it.
cars highway sun
Future fuel economy is at risk.

If you'd like to buy a more fuel-efficient car or pickup truck after 2020, think again. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency just proposed a joint rule that turns future improvements to gas mileage and tailpipe emissions into a pipe dream.

Under new regulations proposed Thursday, advances in fuel economy, or how far cars can run per gallon of gasoline consumed, that began during the Obama administration would plateau after 2020 and remain constant through 2026. That means that in two years time, car manufacturers will no longer need to innovate new technologies for cleaner, more efficient vehicles.

Congress requires the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to set fuel economy standards for each model year. The Environmental Protection Agency decides how much carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas formed during fuel combustion, can be emitted in the exhaust. The two standards are set at the same time because fuel consumption directly affects the amount of carbon dioxide emitted.

Between 2012 to 2016, the average fuel economy requirements for U.S. manufactured cars and light-duty trucks increased from 29.7 miles per gallon to 34.1 miles per gallon. Gains in fuel efficiency for passenger cars and trucks were supposed to reach an average of about 50 miles per gallon by model year 2025.

But the new rule proposes to freeze fuel economy standards for model year 2020 onwards at an average of 37 miles per gallon for cars and trucks. It also takes away California's right under the Clean Air Act to separately regulate tailpipe emissions for greenhouse gases.
In addition to forcing drivers to lose out on savings at the pump, the "EPA is missing the clear health benefits of having cleaner cars," says Paul Billings, vice president of public policy at the American Lung Association.

Twenty-seven percent of U.S. greenhouse gases come from the transportation sector, making it the second largest source of greenhouse gases after energy generation, according to the EPA.

"Today, we're seeing the enormous impacts of climate change," Billing says, citing increased extreme weather events in recent years from deadly wildfires to potent heat waves and powerful hurricanes. By keeping cars and trucks dependent on the fossil fuels that drive climate change, Billings says the EPA is "sticking their heads in the sand" and "driving us in the wrong direction."

Eliminating California’s right to develop independent tailpipe standards for cleaner cars further endangers public health, says Paul Miller, deputy director and chief scientist at the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, which represents air quality agencies in the Northeast.

California, with its terrible smog problem, has had the authority to set its vehicle emissions standards since the beginning of the Clean Air Act because its efforts to develop emissions control technology and emissions standards for cars predate the Clean Air Act.

Other states lack this authority, but they can adopt California’s standards to regulate pollutants in exhaust fumes outside of carbon dioxide. This includes nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, which react in the presence of sunlight to form ozone, or smog. Ozone inhalation can cause airway inflammation and reduced lung function, as well as worsen respiratory ailments like bronchitis emphysema and asthma. About two hundred counties in 22 states and the District of Columbia do not meet the most recent ozone standards, according to the EPA. This includes major cities like New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, and Phoenix, as well as most of California.

Revoking California's authority would be an unlawful and unprecedented attack on state's rights, which the EPA championed under former administrator Scott Pruitt, Miller says.

In its justification, the EPA argued that stricter restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions were "no longer appropriate and reasonable." The agency also reasoned that more fuel-efficient cars would encourage drivers to drive more, increasing the risk of car accidents. Higher sticker prices for cars with better mileage would also deter drivers from swapping their older, more dangerous cars for newer ones with better safety features, also increasing the risk of accidents.

“It's really a tortured logic to say that cars on the road will be less safe if they're more efficient,” Billings says. Consumer research shows that fuel economies have improved while new car prices have stayed about flat in the last 20 years. And though the number of cars on the road has been steadily increasing over time, the accident rate has been going down.

California attorney general Xavier Becerra tweeted that the state “will use every legal tool at its disposal to defend today's national standards and reaffirm the facts and science behind them." The Golden State is already leading a coalition of 17 states in a lawsuit to keep the original emission standards negotiated during the Obama administration.

Mayors from 407 cities also denounced the Trump administration's plan to weaken fuel economy standards and revoke California's right to regulate stronger greenhouse gas standards.

Even car manufacturers weren’t thrilled with the rollback, despite having lobbied for a review of the fuel economy standards set under Obama, which they complained was too strict. Since California and the 16 states that have or are in the process of adopting California’s stricter emissions standards make up about 40 percent of the new car market, car makers are keen to avoid a scenario where they’d have to manufacture two sets of fuel economies for the same model car. The Auto Alliance and Global Automakers issued a joint statement urging the federal government “to find a common sense solution that sets continued increases in vehicle efficiency standards while also meeting the needs of America’s drivers.”

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Climate Taxes and Food Insecurity/RNN

This is a great article.  Many of us have assumed, over the years, that a climate tax could, in fact, boost social and economic equity.  A valuable tool to move money from climate producers to those most impacted by degradation to our environment.

Yet this study suggest something much different.  Not such a happy ending.  See more at

New IIASA-led research has found that a single climate mitigation scheme applied to all sectors, such as a global carbon tax, could have a serious impact on agriculture and result in far more widespread hunger and food insecurity than the direct impacts of climate change. Smarter, inclusive policies are necessary instead.
This research, published in Nature Climate Change, is the first international study to compare across models the effects of climate change on agriculture with the costs and effects of mitigation policies, and look at subsequent effects on food security and the risk of hunger.
The researchers, led by Tomoko Hasegawa, a researcher at IIASA and Japan’s National Institute for Environment Studies (NIES), and Shinichiro Fujimori, a IIASA researcher and associate professor at Kyoto University, summarized outputs of eight global agricultural models to analyze various different scenarios to 2050. The scenarios covered different socioeconomic development pathways, including one in which the world pursues sustainability, and one in which the world follows current development trends, different levels of global warming, and whether or not climate mitigation policies were employed.
By 2050, the models suggest that climate change could be responsible for putting an extra 24 million people at risk of hunger on average, with some models suggesting up to 50 million extra could be at risk. However, if agriculture is included in very stringent climate mitigation schemes, such as a global carbon tax or a comprehensive emission trading system applying the same rules to all sectors of the economy, the increase in food prices would be such that 78 million more people would be at risk of hunger, with some models finding that up to 170 million more would be at risk.
Some areas are likely to be much more vulnerable than others, such as sub-Saharan Africa and India.
There is a growing consensus that agriculture, one of the world’s major greenhouse gas emitters, must do more to share the burden of carbon emissions reduction. The new research shows that without careful planning, the burden of mitigation policies is simply too great. All the models showed that deploying measures such as a carbon tax raises the cost of food production. This can be directly, through taxes on direct agricultural emissions, and taxes on emissions resulting from land use change, such as converting forest to expand agricultural land, and indirectly, through the increased demands for biofuel, which competes with food production for land.
The researchers stress that their results should not be used to argue against greenhouse gas emissions reduction efforts. Climate mitigation efforts are vital. Instead, the research shows the importance of “smart,” targeted policy design, particularly in agriculture. When designing climate mitigation policies, policymakers need to scrutinize other factors and development goals more closely, rather than focusing only on the goal of reducing emissions.
“The findings are important to help realize that agriculture should receive a very specific treatment when it comes to climate change policies,” says Hasegawa. “Carbon pricing schemes will not bring any viable options for developing countries where there are highly vulnerable populations. Mitigation in agriculture should instead be integrated with development policies.”
The researchers suggest, for example, schemes encouraging more productive and resilient agricultural systems. The developing world’s ruminant livestock herds produce three-quarters of the world’s ruminant greenhouse gases, but only half of its milk and beef. Using efficient techniques and technology from the developed world would then simultaneously reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote economic growth, reduce poverty (thereby improving health and living conditions), and improve food security. Another suggestion is complementary policies to counteract the impact of mitigation policies on vulnerable regions, for example, money raised from carbon taxes could be used for food aid programs in particularly hard-hit areas or countries.
“As agriculture is more and more directly associated with the discussion on global mitigation efforts, we hope the paper will show that differentiated solutions need to be found for this sector. As countries are all working at defining emission reduction pathways within the context of the Paris Agreement, it serves as a warning that other development objectives should be kept in mind to choose the right path towards sustainability,” says IIASA researcher and coauthor Hugo Valin.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Trump moves to ease Obama auto-mileage rules, California’s clout/Bloomberg

This, for us, is a sad day. There has been a lot of great technology born out of our need to drive to clean air standards.  Cars are lighter, obviously more efficient and now driven by many power sources using smart technology to control those sources.

At the same time CA has been a leader and an inspiration in building a new economy around sustainability.  Their success has been a testimony to man's innovation and determination.  Good government policies and incentives have helped lead us to this critical moment in time.  Do we really want to turn back?  Has protecting natural resources, and people's health, all of a sudden become less important?

Trump and his team are completely off-base and out of step with the incredible economic--never mind social and environmental--of building a brave and smart new world.

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION is proposing to suspend required increases in vehicle fuel economy after 2020 and unwind California’s authority to limit tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions in the state. / BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/DANIEL ACKER

NEW YORK – The Trump administration, taking aim at one of former President Barack Obama’s signature environmental achievements, is proposing to suspend required increases in vehicle fuel economy after 2020 and unwind California’s authority to limit tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions in the state.
The Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration jointly proposed on Thursday to cap fuel economy requirements at a fleet average of 37 miles per gallon starting in 2020. Under the Obama plan, the fleetwide fuel economy would have risen gradually to roughly 47 mpg by 2025.
They also propose to revoke California’s authority under the Clean Air Act to set rules more stringent than the federal ones limiting tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions as well as an electric-vehicle sales mandate.
Taken together, the proposal is an aggressive move to dismantle what some environmentalists have hailed as one of the most potent efforts anywhere in the world to combat climate change. Yet for President Donald Trump, who’s prioritized eliminating regulations, the auto rules represent a grand prize
“We think we can have a win-win, if we lock in at 2020 levels,” Bill Wehrum, the assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said in a call with reporters Thursday. “We’re not imposing undue costs on manufacturers. We’re not imposing undue costs on consumers who want affordable vehicles. And therefore we think as a result of these standards we will be able to have our cake and eat it too.”
Release of the proposal begins a 60-day period of public comment that is sure to attract a spirited response from California’s leaders who have vowed to defend their smog-fighting authority in court and from environmentalists who view the plan as a setback to efforts to curb climate change. Automakers, who had asked to be relieved of some of the mandates, have expressed misgivings about having to accommodate a patchwork of federal and state standards.
In a statement through their trade associations, automakers urged federal and California regulators to reach a consensus on the standards, saying the companies support higher mileage standards that can be met in a variety of ways.
“With today’s release of the administration’s proposals, it’s time for substantive negotiations to begin,” the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers said in a statement. “We urge California and the federal government to find a common sense solution that sets continued increases in vehicle efficiency standards while also meeting the needs of America’s drivers.”
Trump in March 2017 announced his administration would be reopening a review of the Obama automobile rules that he and some automakers said was unfairly cut short by Obama’s EPA. Before a crowd of autoworkers assembled at a decommissioned car factory, Trump said “we’re going to work on the CAFE standards so you can make cars in America again. We’re going to help the companies, and they’re going to help you.”
Thursday’s rulemaking proposal from the EPA and NHTSA also presents several other options for modifying the Obama targets, while recommending the proposed freeze starting in 2020, the most severe of the scenarios.
“The goal is to get it right — to create one national standard that is technologically feasible and economically practicable, while promoting energy conservation, furthering other environmental goals, and preserving consumer choice,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and EPA chief Andrew Wheeler said in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. “Our goal is to ensure that consumers have a variety of safe, fuel-efficient choices so they can decide for themselves which options suit them best.”
The current, Obama-era plan effectively subsidized “expensive electric vehicles at the expense of affordable traditional cars and trucks,” they said.
In a separate move to unwind California’s power to set the pace of auto emissions requirements, the proposal also asserts that a 1975 law prohibits states from setting their own greenhouse gas limits, a view two federal district judges have already rejected.
“Their analysis of the cost savings is based on weak if not faulty arguments,” said Dan Sperling, a member of the California Air Resources Board. “Consumers come out way ahead with the original regulations because they save money on gas.”
Asked where today’s proposals leave room for a dialogue which the administration says it wants with California, Sperling say, “the waiver issue is non-negotiable.”
California Governor Jerry Brown, in a statement, said “California will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible.”
Supporters of the Trump administration approach say Congress gave California unique authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate local air pollution problems that contribute to smog. But greenhouse gas emissions are not a local problem, and California’s special powers shouldn’t extend to regulating them, they say.
“What we’re talking about here is something different: greenhouse gases, not the conventional pollutants that cause smog in Los Angeles,” said the EPA’s Wehrum.
California isn’t the only state vowing to fight the proposal. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey on Thursday said a coalition of 19 states and the District of Columbia would challenge the Trump administration’s plan. The group includes all states that have adopted California’s more stringent standards.
The comment period on the proposal released Thursday will begin once it is published in the Federal Register, and a final rule could be finalized by the end of 2018 or early next year.
“Weakening the nation’s clean car standards will not only cost Americans more at the pump,” said Gov. Gina M. Raimondo in a statement Thursday. “It will also hurt children and senior citizens and will hinder Rhode Island’s ability to meet our own emission reduction targets. Rhode Island has been a leader in addressing climate change and we have no intention of retreating.”
Raimondo added that Rhode Island, “will use every tool available to fight the Trump administration’s shortsighted changes and continue our momentum toward protecting public health, advancing our green economy, and becoming a more energy efficient and resilient state.”
“This proposal will substantially increase pollution and will cost the average American family hundreds of dollars a year extra for gas,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. “It’s a proposal that attacks the states’ right to protect people from dangerous pollution, one that no one – not the American public, not the states, not even most automakers – really wants, and one that’s being presented to the public under the false and easily discredited guise of improving public safety.”
Rhea Suh, head of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the Trump administration plan runs counter to what consumers want and the environment needs.
“The clean car standards are already saving our families billions at the pump, supporting nearly 300,000 American jobs, and cleaning up dangerous tailpipe pollution,” she said in an emailed statement. “We need to speed up that progress, not slide backward.”
In Thursday’s proposal, the Trump administration argues that its proposed freeze will have a “negligible’’ impact on air quality, and boost the earth’s temperature by 3/1000th of one degree Celsius by 2100. The administration also says that its preferred plan for fuel economy will reduce society-wide spending by $502 billion for vehicles built between 1975 and 2029.
Savings calculation
About a third of these projected savings, or $198 billion, are tied to the agencies’ assertion that, by slowing pace at which new vehicles get more expensive, they’ll allow people to replace older and less-safe cars more rapidly. The agencies say this accelerated fleet turnover will reduce the cost of accidents and avoid 12,700 traffic deaths in vehicles built through 2029. Not everyone’s convinced.
“This would be utterly unprecedented. Nobody in any regulatory agency has ever done a cost-benefit analysis anything like this,’’ said Nic Lutsey, an engineer at the International Council on Clean Transportation. “There’s no evidence that efficiency regulations have depressed sales and added fatalities as a result – in any market in the world.’’
Just over half of the administration’s projected cost savings, $253 billion, come from reducing the plan’s technology requirements. Part of this comes from a big increase in the projected cost of the Obama targets, and so, the expected savings from the Trump rollback.
The Trump administration estimates that Obama’s fuel economy rules would have pushed car prices higher by an average of about $2,700 per vehicle by 2025. This compares to an initial Obama forecast of $1,500 to $1,800. The new estimates are higher in part because the administration asserts that 44 percent of new vehicles will need to be expensive gas-electric hybrids to meet the targets. This compares to a 4 percent estimate by Obama, who expected high-compression engines and other improved gas-only technologies to make a bigger contribution.
Gas prices
The rest of the administration’s projected savings, or $52 billion, derive from the argument that, since higher costs will force consumers to drive less, they’ll avoid the cost of being stuck in traffic.
The administration acknowledged its actions would erase some economic benefits of the Obama plan. For example, consumers would save $133 billion less at the gas pump because engines won’t get more efficient. By driving less, they’ll forgo “mobility benefits’’ worth $61 billion.
Because such forgone benefits from the Obama plan need to be subtracted from the projected cost savings from today’s announcement, the administration estimates that the Trump rollback will reduce total societal spending on improved fuel economy by $176 billion through 2050.
The efficacy of the administration’s cost estimates will shape the plan’s public acceptance and its ability to withstand court challenges. California, 16 states and the District of Columbia have already filed a lawsuit that challenges the plan’s scientific underpinnings.
John M. DeCicco, research professor at the University of Michigan Energy Institute, said the rollback amounted to a “denial of basic science and a denial of American automakers’ engineering capabilities and ingenuity.”
“Michigan’s automakers have the technology and intellectual capital needed to meet ever-tighter MPG and GHG emission targets. The standards are designed with flexibility in mind, and have already adjusted to the shift back to SUVs and other light trucks,” DeCicco said.
Ryan Beene, John Lippert and Jennifer A. Dlouhy are reporters for Bloomberg News.