Category Archives: Climate

The Link Between Water and Energy in California – And Why It Matters

KHK pictureTomorrow is World Water Day and this year’s theme is the “energy-water nexus,” the critical, interdependent relationship between water and energy. The generation and delivery of almost all types of energy requires water and, conversely, treating and transporting clean water requires energy. In fact, water-related activities, such as treatment and distribution, account for almost 20 percent of California’s total electricity use. A disruption in access to one of these precious resources can have a detrimental effect on access to the other, creating a vicious cycle that unsettles our way of life.

The Challenges

Unfortunately, California is learning the hard way about the inextricable link between water and energy. The Golden State is having major water shortage problems and despite some much needed rain a few weeks ago, the state still remains in a severe drought. In fact, this past winter in California was one of the driest on record.

The drought has had perceptible effects on California’s energy production, substantially decreasing hydroelectricity levels, compared to 2011. Due to the decrease in hydroelectricity in the state, which usually makes up about 10% of California’s fuel mix, the state has been forced to increasingly rely on dirty, unsustainable fossil fuels, and energy costs have increased. Energy generation from traditional forms of power, such as natural gas, nuclear power, and coal, are not without their own water demands as well. Read More »

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Spring Cultivates Rice Offsets

rp_robert-200x300.jpgThe arrival of Spring can’t come soon enough for some, though it came early for the California offset market.  Three significant events will spur the development of carbon offsets from rice cultivation.  First, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) launched a rulemaking to adopt a compliance offset protocol for rice cultivation projects.  The American Carbon Registry (ACR) also approved a rice protocol for the Mid-South (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas).

And at EDF we announced the listing of the first California rice offset project with ACR.

As a part of ARB’s rulemaking, they released a discussion draft of a compliance offset protocol.  This protocol contained three different activities that growers can take to reduce the generation of methane associated with rice cultivation – dry seeding, early drainage, and alternate wetting and drying of fields.  All of these practices have been developed using the latest science and have been shown to reduce methane generation without impacting yield.  Methane is the second largest anthropogenic source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for 9% of all U.S. GHG emissions from human activities.  Methane is also important because it is more than 20 times more potent a GHG than carbon dioxide.  At the meeting, the ARB stated that they intend to propose the protocol for consideration at the September 2014 Board meeting. Read More »

Also posted in Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Offsets, Sustainable Agriculture | Tagged , , | Comments closed

A Sustainable Urban Forest Takes Root in Santa Monica

ca_innov_series_icon_283x204EDF’s Innovators series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goal of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technology and ideas.

Across the globe, trees in urban centers provide more than just curb appeal – they improve the quality of life and provide critical services like better air quality, reduced climate pollution, decreased urban heat and lengthened roadway life. These benefits amount to significant economic value– the USDA estimates that the 3.8 billion trees in U.S. urban forests represent a green infrastructure investment valued at $2.4 trillion.

According to Tree City USA and the Arbor Day Foundation, there are more than 3,400 communities, home to over 135 million Americans, which have community forest programs. Chances are, if you live in a major city, there is an urban forest program caring for the trees in your community.

Who: Public Landscape Division, Public Works Department, City of Santa Monica, California.

What: Santa Monica has planted over 1,000 trees and is piloting an advanced urban forest tree inventory and maintenance work order enterprise system. Their new software covers tree selection, planting and monitoring and enables Santa Monica to account for carbon sequestered in public trees.

Where: Santa Monica, California

Why: Santa Monica can improve its overall Urban Forest management while contributing to a healthier, climate smart city.

Unfortunately, maintaining the quality and cost-effectiveness of urban forest programs has remained a challenge for many towns and cities, as budgets and personnel are often stretched thin.  As a result, according to a 2013 report by the USDA, many of California’s municipal forest programs need improvement, and in fact, some are failing.

Enter Santa Monica, California, a modest-sized city of 8 square miles and home to approximately 90,000 residents. Located just west of Los Angeles on the Pacific Ocean, Santa Monica is home to surfing, celebrity hide-aways, and perhaps some of the more forward-thinking environmental policies in the state. Read More »

Also posted in California Innovators Series, Cap and trade, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Offsets | 1 Response, comments now closed

Science and Economics Agree: The Time is Right for California to Get Serious About Methane Pollution

rp_Larissa-Koehler-200x300.jpgRecent numbers from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) show that methane (CH4) is about 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) in contributing to climate change over the first 20 years after it is released. Short-lived climate pollutants, like methane, are a large factor in determining how fast our climate will change over the next few decades.

These figures are particularly relevant in California where natural gas (which is about 99.9% methane) is used throughout the economy. For example, natural gas generates much of the state’s electricity through gas-fired power plants, is extensively used for home heating and cooking, and is increasingly being deployed as an alternative fuel for the state’s cars and trucks.

Yet, while California continues to operate and further build out a natural gas backbone in its energy economy, venting and leakage of uncombusted natural gas from pipes and machines can have an environmental impact. In fact, research shows that keeping methane leakage down to a minimum level is the only way to guarantee that the use of natural gas will provide immediate climate benefits, when switching from petroleum products. Read More »

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Historic Agreement Shows Not all Politics – or Climate Change – is Local

ShiraToday, Governor Jerry Brown added to an encouraging trend of historic agreements between California and global partners, this time striking a deal with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The agreement expands cooperation on issues important to both jurisdictions including alternative energy, water conservation, and agriculture. It also allows Israeli companies to access California’s Innovation Hubs in an effort to improve the Golden State's global economic competitiveness.

But perhaps most important were Brown’s comments on the need to collectively confront climate change, continuing a common theme reflected in his remarks last week  during a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing with Peru when he said, “…unlike our more conservative colleagues, people in other countries really take climate change more seriously and they want to work with California. So given some of the dysfunction in Washington, I’m going to increasingly work with other countries to sign climate change agreements.”

Brown’s remarks follow MoUs signed with Australia and China last year, and come at time when the Golden State is looking to expand its partnership on energy and climate with Mexico. Today’s agreement continues concerted efforts to find progress and growth opportunities anywhere California can – including outside our nation’s borders. Read More »

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California and Mexico: Valuable Teammates in the Fight against Climate Change

For nearly a decade, California’s landmark climate change law, AB 32, has been widely recognized for its efforts to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and build a low-carbon future.

While climate action in Washington, D.C. continues to be stymied, our neighbor to the south is a key player and emerging leader on the global climate stage and is willing and able to join California in the fight.

Mexico has been a leader in advancing UN global climate change talks and recently passed its own historic climate change law.

These actions have garnered much attention from the international community, including Governor Jerry Brown.

In fact, his administration has indicated it is reaching out to Mexico on climate change, and just this week we’ve learned that Mexico’s President, Enrique Peña Nieto, is planning a visit to the Golden State.

The opportunities here can’t be overstated. As Governor Brown pointed out in his 2014 State of the State Address, if we want to move the needle on cutting carbon pollution, California can’t do it alone.

The collaboration between California and Mexico could be a powerful force to move global action on climate change forward, while creating mutual benefits. And, the partnership is both a natural and practical one.  California and Mexico have deep cultural, political, and economic ties that bind their histories, and climate change represents an opportunity for leaders on both sides of the border to work together to shape our collective future.
Read More »

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Art and Sustainability: The Next Big Thing

"Today is about making our community more beautiful,” exclaimed State Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima), at a recent EDF-sponsored community art show and mural launch complete with live DJ’s, an interactive urban planning workshop, local artists, and youth activists.

I know what you might be thinking. “Say what? EDF and art?”

This is one of the new routes we’re taking in our commitment to “finding the ways that work.”

We looked to accomplish two things with this project: to help spark imagination and civic pride by bringing local artists and youth together to create a vision for a more sustainable city, and to make a concerted effort to meet the community where they are on the environmental issues they care about. The results were both inspiring and enlightening.

Our first launch event, in Fresno, CA, featured local muralist Mauro Carrera and local nonprofit partner organizations Valley LEAP, Arte Americas, and Fresno Building Healthy Communities.

The vivid imagery of the Fresno mural was spectacular: an 8’ x 16’ mobile fresco honoring the agricultural heritage of California’s Central Valley and its hardworking migrant workers, while integrating and embracing a new vision of more clean energy, fresh water, bike access, clean air, and green space.

The mural will be rotated throughout the year around several local community organizations and used for future youth conferences and monthly art walks in downtown Fresno.

The next day we moved the party to Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, partnering with Pacoima Beautiful and local artist Kristy Sandoval for a 15’ x 30’ mural painted outside the city’s Community Center, which houses numerous non-profit youth organizations. This project featured a call to “keep Pacoima beautiful,” and a bold vision to capture some of the vast solar potential in sunny San Fernando Valley (a recent EDF study found that capturing just 5% of the rooftop solar power in the area could create thousands of jobs and reduce carbon emissions by over 200,000 metric tons per year).

The mural will expand in the future along the Community Center’s outdoor wall to include images calling to mind water conservation and urban greening, and will occupy an anchor spot on the regular Pacoima mural walking tour.

So why sustainability through art?

EDF’s Keith Gaby nailed it last month with a blog that set a refreshing tone for the environmental movement:

The reality is that environmentalists often have a difficult time reaching the people with whom we most need to build trust in order to accomplish our goals: Americans who don't feel a natural kinship with the traditional environmental movement. We need to accept that other people's priorities — economic or cultural — are valid and important.

Effective environmental policy needs to recognize and prioritize the local and regional needs of communities; part of doing this means communicating policies and values that meet folks where they live, literally. Public art (such as murals) is a special way to facilitate a conversation that anyone can access, a conversation that comes from the community, for the community.

In the weeks and months leading up to the mural launches, EDF staff and partners participated in local workshops with community members to discuss climate change, clean energy, and resiliency. Our partners led the conversation and the artists took in feedback about the collective vision, incorporating it into each mural’s design. The end result was something enduring and beautiful, a bold vision for a sustainable future and a rousing call to action to help us get there.

Stay tuned to EDF to learn more about the official mural launch parties – including two mini “web-isodes” – and more of our ideas on how we plan to jump on the “next big thing” in sustainability.

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Does the future of the Amazon rainforest lie in California?

(This post first appeared on EDF Voices)

By Derek Walker and Steve Schwartzman.

Over the past year, California’s new carbon market has held five auctions, generating $530 million for projects that reduce climate pollution in the state. This is just the start, however, as we believe the program has potential to achieve substantial environmental benefits half a world away in the Amazon rainforest.

We are working with community partners, scientific and business leaders, and California policy makers to craft a rule that permits credits from REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) to be used in California’s carbon market, rewarding indigenous and forest-dwelling communities with incentives for ecosystem protection.

From left to right: Lubenay, Juan Carlos Jintiach, Derek Walker and Megaron Txucarramae (a leader of Brazil’s indigenous Kayapo tribe).

Using California’s new carbon market to reward rainforest protection would be a powerful signal to Brazil, Mexico, and other tropical countries—and to the world—that leaving forests standing is more profitable than cutting them down.

With the right rules in place, California could create an international gold standard for REDD credits that could be adopted by emerging carbon markets in China, Mexico and beyond.

The right technology

There’s a misperception about how hard it is to measure whether forests are being destroyed or protected. Current technology makes it possible, right now. Satellite and airplane-based sensors are already capable of recording what’s going on with high accuracy. This technology enables us to measure emissions reductions across whole states or countries, the best way to ensure that the reductions are real.

The right partners

We need to help pull together the best policy experts, scientists, and environmental organizations to help California government officials write model rules for REDD that can create a race-to-the-top for forest protection around the world. We need to show that trailblazing states – like Acre in Brazil and Chiapas in Mexico – are ready to be partners with California and can deliver the rigorous level of enforcement and program implementation that California requires.

The right time

There’s real urgency to linking California’s carbon market with REDD. Even though Brazil, home to the world’s largest tracts of tropical forests, has cut deforestation by about 75% from its 1996-2005 levels and consequently become the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, that progress is fragile. Over the past year, agribusiness has been pushing back hard against law enforcement and the creation of protected reserves, and deforestation increased nearly 30%. If we want Brazil to continue reducing its deforestation towards zero, we must provide economic incentives to protect the Amazon, and California can be an important catalyst in doing that.

Also posted in Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Offsets | 1 Response, comments now closed

Community Fuels: Changing the Face – and Impact – of the Fuel Industry

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.

If one were to look around the room at a biodiesel or petroleum industry conference, they would quickly realize that the majority of attendees are male.  This is something that hasn’t escaped the notice of Lisa Mortenson, CEO of Community Fuels, who jokes that her gender makes her stick out at such events. Unique as it is that Community Fuels has a female leader, this is just one way that the company is changing the face of the alternative fuel industry.

Community Fuels is helping to make biodiesel a viable solution in California, by combining exciting research, quality production, and strong business practices. Biodiesel, a renewable alternative to traditional diesel, is made from raw materials (feedstocks) such as vegetable oils and animal fats, rather than fossil fuels. By virtue of its lower emissions profile when compared to standard diesel, biodiesel is helping California achieve its AB 32 and Low Carbon Fuel Standard greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals – and, in turn, the biodiesel industry is benefitting from those policies. “Groundbreaking California policies like AB 32 and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard drive Community Fuels’ growth,” says Mortenson. “Without strong policy support, companies like Community Fuels wouldn’t have the confidence to develop and build new businesses to displace a portion of fossil fuels with clean, renewable fuels like biodiesel.”

Who: Community Fuels, founded in 2005 and in production since 2008, has 25 full-time employees.

What: Community Fuels produces some of the highest quality and innovative biomass-based diesel fuels available. Their plant is operating at 10 million gallons per year of biomass-based diesel fuel with further expansion underway. Fuel is sold in bulk to the petroleum industry for blending with traditional diesel.

Where: Community Fuels operates a bio-refinery, laboratory and clean fuel terminal at the Port of Stockton, California.

Why: Community Fuels is dedicated to producing high-quality biodiesel for blending that lowers harmful GHG emissions, grows the state’s economy, and reduces dependence on foreign oil.

Long before Governor Brown’s plea for Californians to reduce their gasoline consumption, the founders of Community Fuels recognized the damaging pollution caused by traditional fuel and that biodiesel was an efficient alternative fuel that had the potential to scale and greatly reduce harmful emissions. The founders looked not only at California’s strong policies as a reason to open up shop within the State, but also at public sentiment — where they saw growing support of renewable, clean fuel. Mortenson is one of the co-founders and has served as CEO since the company was formed in 2005.

Community Fuels is the first, and currently only, producer in the nation to earn both BQ-9000 producer and laboratory certifications – industry-recognized third party accreditations of quality control procedures for fuel production and analytical laboratory capabilities.  This has contributed to Community Fuels’ reputation for quality and integrity, which has assisted the company in selling the majority of its biodiesel in bulk to petroleum companies and refiners who demand high quality products suitable for commercial-scale distribution and use.

Lisa-please work

Lisa Mortenson, CEO of Community Fuels

The petroleum companies typically blend the fuel with petroleum diesel, using 5% or less biodiesel. Mortenson believes that this low-percentage blend is attractive to petroleum companies and consumers because it requires no change to existing infrastructure – the marketability of this end product, according to Mortenson, “results in a large sale volume,  substantial amounts of displaced foreign oil and wide-scale greenhouse gas emissions reductions”.  The combination of these attributes means the biodiesel produced by Community Fuels spurs indirect job growth (by increasing the need for workers across the supply chain), helps to grow California’s economy, and goes a long way towards shaping a cleaner environment.

Community Fuels is constantly researching new feedstocks including unusual materials such as meadow foam seed oil, and has partnered with other companies like Solazyme to process algae oil.  Mortenson reports that every feedstock it uses is carefully vetted to ensure quality, scalability to a wide market, and compliance with a range of regulatory and sustainability standards.  Community Fuels also commits to using feedstocks that are co-products of other industries such as soybeans, canola, animal fats, recycled oils, and the co-products from ethanol plants.

Pano 1It is clear that Community Fuels is dedicated to creating a cleaner environment and a healthier state economy.  A series of grants received from federal and state agencies are both recognition of Community Fuels’ valuable work and a way for the company to continue its contributions to California.  EDF looks forward to seeing Community Fuels further its efforts to expand, innovate, and lead the alternative fuel industry as part of California’s clean energy economy.

 

Please note that EDF has a standing corporate donation policy and we accept no funding from companies or organizations featured in this series.  Furthermore, the EDF California Innovators Series is in no way an official endorsement of the people or organizations featured, or their business models and practices. 

 

Also posted in California Innovators Series, Clean Energy, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Jobs | Comments closed

Some Records Are Not Meant to Be Broken

Source: Drought Monitor

By Tim O’Connor and Katie Hsia-Kiung

2013 was a record-breaking year in many respects. Peyton Manning broke the record for the most touchdowns and passing yards thrown in a single NFL season. At age 19, Ryan Campbell became the youngest person to circumnavigate the world, and at age 80, Yuichiro Miura was the oldest to climb Mount Everest.

While many of the records broken last year demonstrated remarkable human stamina, determination, and grit, there were other “accomplishments” that shouldn’t be received so warmly.

Sacramento, for example, experienced the driest year since they began measuring rainfall in 1878.  Conditions are so dry that some cities in the Central Valley are already imposing water rationing orders and more are expected to follow. According to the U.S. Drought Monitoring System, approximately 85% of the state is suffering from severe drought, and the snow pack is so meager in some places, there is simply no snow to measure.

Across California, temperatures on Christmas Day set new heat records, reaching 15 degrees above average in some areas.  These unseasonably high temperatures followed a record-breaking cold snap just a few weeks earlier, begging the question of whether Santa left sweaters or T-shirts under the tree.

These extreme weather records are not just unique to California. This past December, New York City, Philadelphia, and Atlantic City all broke previous high temperature records– which has now been followed by extreme cold and snow storms across the eastern half of the U.S.

One question on the minds of many is what is causing this extreme weather, and whether man-made climate change is the culprit.  The response lies in science. That is, while it is difficult to attribute individual weather events to climate change, the continued rise in record-breaking events is just what has been predicted and statistically too significant to ignore.

Ironically, unlike records from sports or other human feats, it takes drive and determination to avoid breaking climate change records. Scientific experts across the world agree that after over a century of increasing fossil fuel combustion, the planet is on a path towards more frequent extreme weather events, and we must cut climate pollution to stop this from happening.  This will require investment in low-carbon solutions like clean energy, clean fuels, and efficiency.

Similar to how taking steroids out of baseball brought the sport back to its rightful state, cutting climate pollution through efforts like California’s Global Warming Law, AB 32, will bring the atmosphere back towards greater stability.  Though the state can’t solve climate change alone, AB 32 is a huge step in the right direction, one which is leading other jurisdictions to take action.

Like home runs and touchdowns, droughts and snowstorms will always be a part of the environment we experience, we just don’t need any extra ones. As climate pollution is reduced, and with it the human caused impacts of climate change, we’ll see lot fewer records being broken every year, letting communities – and statisticians everywhere – live a little better.

Also posted in Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32 | Comments closed