Anna Doty contributed to this post.
A quick look back at California’s 2014 legislative agenda, which closed in the early morning hours of August 30th, shows it certainly was one for the record books. California took up major efforts to cut climate pollution and portion out billions in new investments, modernize the electric grid, and take on other not-so-small issues such as phasing out plastic bags. This activity happened while California led the nation in a remarkable economic rebound, continued to deal with an epic drought, and combatted the worst air quality in the U.S.
Among the many environmental issues in the spotlight this year, climate change, air quality, clean energy, water, and waste lead the pack.
Implementing a climate protection framework worthy of acclaim
On climate, lawmakers turned a corner by affirming the state’s commitment to AB 32 and green-lighting a new era of pollution reducing investments from the state’s world-class cap-and-trade regulation. Keeping transportation fuels within cap and trade starting January 2015 remained a main focus, with lawmakers facing and rebuffing numerous attempts by regulated industries and other legislators to undermine and delay the state’s landmark program. Throughout the session, lawmakers remained strong, demonstrating a commitment to the state’s growing clean economy and the need to capture the huge savings in health and fuel costs AB 32 will provide. Read More
By: Sean Wright, EDF senior analyst, natural gas program, and James Frank, EDF graduate intern
Cleaner air, more American jobs: that’s a potential reality for the U.S. if it acts to curb emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas emitted from oil and gas systems around the country. It’s a significant opportunity, and it’s one California Congresswoman Linda Sánchez encountered first-hand when she toured a Cerritos manufacturing plant last week.
“I am convinced that we can reduce the risks from climate change with American-made products and create more jobs in California while we’re doing it,” the Congresswoman said during her visit.
The energy industry likes to argue that methane controls are expensive, unnecessary, and bad for business, but more and more evidence is surfacing that’s not the case. In actuality, limiting methane emissions from oil and gas operations represents a significant economic opportunity. The manufacturing plant, which produces sealing technologies that help control methane leaks, employs 44 people in California’s 38th district. As a subsidiary of the larger US energy services company John Crane, it is poised to grow even larger if the need for more methane mitigation technologies increases. Read More
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
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