EDF’s Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goals of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technologies and ideas.
The vast majority of Californians put ethanol in their car – it makes up about ten percent of every gallon we buy at the local filling station (not including diesel). This means that every year, drivers in the Golden State use about 1.5 billion gallons of this alternative fuel. Such widespread use of this fuel begs the question: What is ethanol’s environmental profile, and is everything being done to produce it as efficiently as possible?
Over the years, a great deal of effort has gone into answering the first part of the question, and the answer is: it depends on many factors. Water use, land use, and fertilizer use are all factors associated with growing ethanol feedstocks (typically corn) that can influence whether the fuel is an environmental winner. Aquifer depletion, unsustainable land clearing, and fertilizer run-off are just a few of the potential problems that can emerge when ethanol production is performed in a short-sighted manner. Similarly, feedstock type, biorefinery efficiency, and ethanol yield per ton also matter and can impact whether ethanol helps from a climate change standpoint. Cumulatively, each of these factors can influence the environmental profile of California’s third-most widely used fuel. Read More
This summer I had the unique opportunity to drive with members of the California state legislature through their districts in Los Angeles and the Central Valley. In addition to brown lawns, hazy air, and intense heat, we were reminded of California’s persistently high gas prices on filling station signs at nearly every major intersection.
Fuel hoses from a gas station. Source: Flickr/Boegh
As we drove through many neighborhoods struggling to pull themselves up economically, the need for solutions was clear. Since lower-income households pay the same amount per gallon as people in more affluent neighborhoods, low-income households tend to devote a greater percentage of their monthly income toward fuel purchases. Furthermore, since new and more efficient cars are usually more expensive, low-income households tend to drive older, less efficient vehicles that use more gas and release more pollution. So, while families across California are cutting back on things like watering their lawns, they are forced to spend a lot of these savings filling up their cars, while also breathing some of the most polluted air in the nation.
Fortunately, there is a solution at California’s fingertips that will tackle the issues of gas prices and pollution at the same time: transportation diversification. This simply means providing all Californians with choices on how to get where they need to go. These choices can take the form of alternatives to gas and diesel, alternatives to inefficient vehicles, and alternatives to cars all together. By providing these choices, consumers can pick what works for them – allowing the entire transportation system to better meet people’s unique needs and budgets. Read More
By Nkiruka Avila, EDF Climate Corps fellow
Energy efficiency is an essential part of climate change mitigation, which is my primary motivation for becoming an Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps fellow. My goal is to find energy and water savings at my host organization PerkinElmer in Santa Clara, California. PerkinElmer designs and manufactures medical imaging technology that tackles the world’s most critical health related challenges.
The facility I am working in this summer has a class 100 clean room (we call it “the Fab”) where 50×50 cm digital flat panel x-ray detectors are fabricated. Any impurity in the Fab could cause defects in the panels. PerkinElmer’s fabrication process is unique because each of the panels produced is kept as a whole unit and is not cut into smaller pieces. This makes it critical to produce flawless panels every time as a defect could ruin the whole panel.
Recently, I took a tour of the Fab with my supervisor, Joe Batdorf, and my EDF Engagement Manager, Serena Mau. The tour of the Fab was fascinating and revealed just how energy intensive the fabrication process is. I was impressed to see that several energy efficiency projects, headed by my supervisor, had already been implemented at the facility. Energy efficiency is not a foreign idea to PerkinElmer, and they have invested in several energy saving measures over the years. For example, PerkinElmer completed a reheat coil optimization project and replaced two inefficient boilers with efficient condensing boilers saving almost 70,000 therms of natural gas annually and eliminating over 300 tons of carbon emissions. Read More
By Tim O’Connor with Larissa Koehler and Jorge Madrid
EPA recently proposed a final pollution reduction rule for refineries that will help cut toxic air emissions and improve monitoring at the nation’s largest industrial facilities. This new rule is an important complement to the state level carbon and air pollution limits we have in California, and together will make our state cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous.
Source: flickr/Jason Holmberg, Richmond, CA
Any doctor will tell you that to fight the toughest diseases you often need a combination of treatment options. The clean air laws we have in California are an indispensable part of the cure for our air pollution problems. But to be fully effective, they need complementary policies from Washington.
Central to the challenge is the fact that large refineries are all too often found in disadvantaged communities – and release greenhouse gases, carcinogens, neurotoxins, and hazardous metals. Even though our state has been regulating refineries for decades, millions of Californians are still exposed to dirty, dangerous air. The puzzle of how to protect our communities is still missing pieces.
What is needed is direct federal attention to oil refineries. With an EPA standard that is based on the most up-to-date pollution control technology and a new health impact analysis, we can cut pollution and ensure the communities living next to refineries have healthier air and more information about what they're breathing. Read More
Also posted in Clean Energy
With billions of dollars in profits, oil companies can pay a lot of consultants to write a lot of really impressive-looking reports. But look past the fancy cover page and you will often find these documents are nothing more than spin. Case in point: the recent report from Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy (CARE) and the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA).
For those looking for the real facts about California’s world-leading climate change law, let us correct the record:
1. Californians spend LESS on energy than people in 45 states.
The CARE report uses the usual scare tactics about the price of energy. But the truth is that on average, Californians spend less on their energy bills than residents of 45 other states (see graph below) and almost $60 less than the national average per month. This is due to in-large-part to California’s energy efficiency measures, which have led Californians to use almost 45% less electricity per capita than the U.S. average.
Californians spends less on energy than residents of 45 other states. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)
2. California’s climate law will yield significant environmental AND economic benefits for its citizens.
Not only are the costs of AB 32 policies much smaller than the VICA/CARE report would lead you to believe, California’s climate policies actually yield significant economic and health benefits. Read More
It’s been an invigorating few days for anyone looking for meaningful action to combat climate change, and especially for those following California’s global leadership in those efforts.
As a delegate to Governor Jerry Brown’s Trade and Investment Mission to Mexico, I witnessed first-hand California and Mexico sign a Memorandum of Understanding and formally agree to work together on a range of actions to address climate change.
The agreement between Governor Brown and representatives of Mexico’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and Mexico’s National Forestry Commission lays out areas where California and Mexico agree to cooperate and coordinate efforts on addressing climate change, including:
- Pricing carbon pollution
- Increasing renewable energy use and development
- Addressing short-term climate pollutants
- Cleaning up the transportation sector
- Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation
A Joint Vision for Low-Carbon Prosperity
It makes perfect sense that Mexico is California’s latest climate change and clean energy ally. After all, the relationship between the two jurisdictions runs deep. Mexico is California’s largest trading partner, and our cultures and economic interests have undoubtedly been entwined throughout history. Both have much at stake with climate change, and this latest collaboration embraces a shared environmental vision which recognizes that a low-carbon future goes hand-in-hand with economic prosperity. Read More