Category Archives: Climate

The cheapest way to cut climate pollution? Energy efficiency

This blog post was co-authored by Kate Zerrenner, an EDF project manager and expert on energy efficiency and climate change.

On June 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made a historic announcement that will change how we make, move and use electricity for generations to come.

For the first time in history, the government proposed limits on the amount of carbon pollution American fossil-fueled power plants are allowed to spew into the atmosphere.

There are two clear winners to comply with the plan while maintaining commitment to electric reliability and affordability: energy efficiency and demand response.

We’re already seeing pushback from some of our nation’s big polluter states, such as West Virginia and Texas. But the truth is that while the proposed limits on carbon are strong, they’re also flexible.

In fact, the EPA has laid out a whole menu of options in its Clean Power Plan – from power plant upgrades, to switching from coal to natural gas and adopting more renewable energy resources. States can choose from these and other strategies as they develop their own plans to meet the new standards. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Smart Grid | 1 Response, comments now closed

These women won't let the clean energy revolution pass their city by

WIPThis is the third in a series of posts about leading women in the power, environmental science, advocacy, policy, and business sectors. Each entry stands on its own, and you can view the first post here.

For many communities across the country that remain overburdened with pollution, the promise of clean energy and livable cities is far from fulfilled. From Los Angeles to Atlanta, people aspire to live in clean, vibrant environments where their children can grow up healthy and safe.Women often play a unique role in grassroots organizing, and they gain followers by connecting people’s aspiration for a more thriving community with the vision for a low-carbon, sustainable economy. I recently met two such activists who possess the passion, charisma, and savvy needed to make sure that their communities are not left out of the clean energy revolution. They work tirelessly to bring the benefits and opportunities of this rapidly growing economy to the places where they live.
Working for environmental justice in Los Angeles

A section of a Keep Pacoima Beautiful mural that pictures solar cells behind a bright light bulb that doubles as the sun

Veronica Padilla, executive director of Pacoima Beautiful, has dedicated her career to the nexus between urban planning and environmental justice in the industrial suburbs of Los Angeles’s Northeast San Fernando Valley, one of the most polluted regions of the state.

Veronica’s journey as an advocate for her community began with a move across town to study at University of California-Los Angeles, where she quickly observed a significant decline in “graffiti and allergies.”

Through her studies and own personal experience, Veronica began to identify just how disproportionately her community was affected by pollution because of how industrial facilities had been sited – near homes and schools. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency | Comments closed

EPA Hands Over the Keys with Clean Power Plan, California Already on Cruise Control

rp_dWalker.jpgEPA’s Clean Power Plan, proposed today, is a roadmap for cutting dangerous pollution from power plants, and as with any map, there are many roads to follow. For this journey, states are in the driver’s seat and can steer themselves in the direction most beneficial to their people and to the state’s economy, as long as they show EPA they are staying on the map and ultimately reaching the final destination.

As usual, California got off to a head start, explored the territory, blazed a lot of new trails, and left a number of clues on how states can transition to a lower carbon future, and California’s successes are one proven, potential model for other states to follow. The state’s legacy of clean energy and energy efficiency progress is a big reason the White House and EPA could roll out the most significant national climate change action in U.S. history.

Way back in the mid-1970s, when Governor Jerry Brown did his first tour of duty, California pioneered what remains one of the most effective tools for cutting pollution and saving money:  energy efficiency. The state’s efficiency standards, largely aimed at buildings and appliances, have saved Californians $74 billion and avoided the construction of more than 30 power plants. All those energy savings have translated into California residential electricity bills that are 25% lower than the national average.  What’s more, California produces twice as much economic output per kilowatt hour of electricity usage as the national average.

While energy efficiency has done yeoman’s work pulling costs down, reducing the need for dirty energy, and supercharging the state’s clean energy economy, California has also brought bold approaches to cleaning up its power supply. The California Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires 33% of all electricity sold in California to come from renewable sources by 2020, the most aggressive of the 29 states with RPS measures on the books. Read More »

Also posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, General, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32 | 1 Response, comments now closed

Latest Auction Results Show that California’s Cap-and Trade is in Full Swing

KHK pictureThere are certain key fundamentals of swinging a bat that must be mastered before you can hit a home run; proper posture, a strong stance, and good contact with the ball. The last essential step is the follow-through.

In fact, success in nearly everything relies on putting an idea or solution in motion, and then following through to make sure it achieves the goals that it set out to achieve. The same can be said for building a successful cap-and-trade program.

In 2012-2013, California’s cap-and-trade program celebrated a strong launch, during which companies were able to purchase emissions credits through five quarterly auctions and a well-established secondary market. This stretch brought the start of the first compliance period, the first auctions, and the issuance of the first California Air Resources Board-verified offset credits. In 2014, there may not be as many “firsts,” but executing a strong follow-through is as important as a good launch.

Today, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) published the results of the seventh cap-and-trade auction. All current vintage year allowances offered for sale by CARB were purchased, signaling continued confidence in the program. The complete sale of 2014 allowances also demonstrates that some of California’s worst polluters are paying for their emissions.

Bids for 7.8 million more 2014 vintage allowances were placed than could be filled, signifying a competitive current auction. The price for 2014 vintage allowances, which can be used for compliance from now on, was $11.50, which is 16 cents above the minimum floor price of $11.34. Read More »

Also posted in Cap and trade, Cap-and-trade auction, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32 | 3 Responses, comments now closed

Transportation fuel policies continue to benefit drivers and communities across California

rp_erica-morehouse-287x377-228x300.jpgCalifornia is implementing a suite of innovative transportation policies and there is ample evidence illustrating how drivers and communities across the state will benefit.

One critical piece of research is the First Update to the AB 32 Scoping Plan released by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) yesterday. The Board will vote on whether to approve the updated Plan next week. We've blogged here, here, and here about how the Plan recommends smart 2030 targets, positions California as a continuing leader on climate action, provides enhanced economic opportunity, and recommends new efforts to reduce short lived climate pollutants.

One of the most significant elements is the amount of money drivers will save because of the policies that CARB has so carefully planned for and implemented.  CARB's own analysis shows that existing policies will reduce fuel costs for drivers by over $400 per year by 2020 (from 2012 levels) and by just over $600 by 2030.

 

Source: First Update to the Climate Change Scoping Plan

Source: First Update to the Climate Change Scoping Plan

There is a growing body of work that supports and enhances CARB's finding that Californians will see overall benefits. Read More »

Also posted in Cap and trade, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Transportation | 3 Responses, comments now closed

Spreading Good News About the Compost Protocol

robertThere’s a growing excitement around spreading compost on rangelands to help fight climate change. Over the past four years we have learned that grazed rangelands are really good at pulling carbon out of the air and sequestering it in the soil below. And if you add compost just one time, you can capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for more than seven years. Plus, you’ll  increase  both the quality of the grasses and the ability of the soils to hold water. If we scaled this to just 5 % of California’s rangelands, we could capture approximately 28 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is about the same as the annual emissions from all the homes in California.

To measure the capture of CO2, we collaborated with Terra Global Capital to create a protocol to calculate the amount of CO2 and enable ranchers to generate carbon offsets which they can sell on the voluntary carbon market. Right now we’re  in the middle of a public comment period for this protocol –  Emissions Reductions from Compost Additions to Grazed Grasslands. After public comment is over the protocol will go through a peer review period, and then be approved and published by the American Carbon Registry.  A copy of the protocol and instructions for providing comments is available here.

This protocol quantifies the emission reductions from diverting organic materials from landfills and spreading it on rangeland to spur carbon capturing grass growth. Recent waste studies estimate that approximately 72% of the waste stream going to landfills is organic (6% wood, 7% textiles/leather, 13% yard debris, 12% food scraps, 34% paper). By accurately measuring how much we divert and sequester, we can also correctly reward landowners for their good work. With our partners, University of California at Berkeley and the Marin Carbon Project, we’ve already seen the beneficial impacts through pilot projects on rangeland in Marin, Sonoma, and Yuba counties. Read More »

Also posted in Offsets, Sustainable Agriculture | Tagged , | Comments closed

Two female scientists making a "material" difference in clean energy

WIPThis is the second in a series of posts about leading women in the power, environmental science, advocacy, policy, and business sectors. Each entry stands on its own, and you can view the first post here.

Today, women earn roughly half of the bachelor’s degrees in the earth and biological sciences, but only about 20 percent of the degrees in physics and engineering. And as women’s careers continue to develop—through higher degrees and into professional positions—these numbers start small and only get smaller. Despite the tremendous educational and professional gains women have made in the past 50 years, progress has been uneven, and many scientific and engineering fields remain overwhelmingly male-dominated. The so-called “leaky pipeline” is a real issue. However, highly accomplished women in science and engineering do exist, and they are making huge differences in the way we make and manage clean energy.

I had the opportunity to sit down with two awe-inspiring female scientists who truly define “cutting edge” when it comes to the critical technologies we need to transition away from dirty fossil fuels. Dr. Stacey Bent, Professor of Engineering at Stanford University, and Dr. Angela Belcher, Professor of Biological Engineering at MIT, are both exploring the frontier of materials science, a critical area of study leading to advancements in renewable energy and energy storage. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy | Comments closed

Why Latinos are disproportionately affected by asthma …and what we can do

rp_DSC_0012-Version-3-200x30011.jpgPara leer en Español haga clic aquí

This post was co-authored by Rachel Shaffer  and Declan Kingland, National Health Programs Coordinator for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

Today in the United States, Latinos are three times more likely to die from asthma than other racial or ethnic groups. Latino children are 40 percent more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino whites, and nearly 1 in 10 Latino children under the age of 18 suffer from this chronic respiratory illness. Addressing the dangerous indoor and outdoor air pollution that is linked to asthma is critical for the health of Latino communities – and for all Americans.

Socioeconomics

Latinos are one of the poorest demographics in the United States, with roughly 1 in 4 Latinos living under the poverty level. Many Latinos also face challenges due to limited English-language proficiency, and in some cases, low levels of education. These issues can lead Latinos, particularly new immigrants, to low-paying jobs, often in the fields of agriculture, construction, and service.

Too often, these jobs expose workers to serious respiratory hazards from both indoor and outdoor air pollution, yet they frequently provide no healthcare benefits. For example, the toxic chemical formaldehyde, which is linked to asthma, can be found in glues, insulation, and wood products to which construction workers are disproportionately exposed. Asthma-related toxics can also be found in paints, cleaning products, carpets, and foam cushions. Read More »

Also posted in Engaging Latinos | Comments closed

Por qué los latinos son afectados de manera desproporcionada por el asma… y qué podemos hacer al respecto

rp_DSC_0012-Version-3-200x3001.jpgTo read this post in English, click here

Este blog fue escrito con coautores Rachel Shaffer de EDF y Declan Kingland, el Coordinador Nacional para programas de salud de la Liga de Ciudadanos Latinoamericanos Unidos (League of United Latin American Citizens, LULAC).

Hoy en día en los Estados Unidos, los latinos son el triple de propensos a morir de asma que otros grupos raciales o étnicos. Los niños latinos son 40% más proclives a morir de asma que los blancos no latinos y casi 1 de cada 10 niños latinos menores de 18 sufre de esta enfermedad respiratoria crónica.

Abordar la peligrosa contaminación del aire interior y exterior asociada con el asma es de importancia fundamental para la salud de las comunidades latinas – y para todos estadounidenses.

 

Socioeconomía

Los latinos son uno de los grupos poblacionales más pobres en los Estados Unidos, con casi 1 de cada 4 latinos por debajo del nivel de pobreza. Muchos latinos también enfrentan desafíos dado el escaso dominio del idioma inglés y, en algunos casos, los bajos niveles de educación. Estos problemas pueden conducir a los latinos, en especial a los inmigrantes nuevos, a empleos de salarios bajos, por lo general en las áreas de agricultura, construcción y servicios.

Dichos empleos suelen exponer a los trabajadores a serios peligros para la respiración tanto a causa de la contaminación del aire interior como exterior, incluso con frecuencia no brindan ningún beneficio de atención de la salud. Por ejemplo, la sustancia química tóxica formaldehído, que se asocia al asma, se puede encontrar en pegamentos, aislantes y productos de madera a los cuales los trabajadores de la construcción se exponen de manera desproporcionada. También se pueden hallar tóxicos relacionados con el asma en pinturas, productos de limpieza, alfombras y cojines de gomaespuma. Read More »

Also posted in Engaging Latinos | 2 Responses, comments now closed

Earth Day 2014: Time for Latino Leadership on Climate Change

Jorge-MadridToday is Earth Day, and the tens of millions of U.S. Latinos who breathe in the country’s dirtiest air, and often live in communities threatened by climate change, have reason to reflect and act!

2012 was the hottest year on record for the continental U.S., and 2013 was tied for the fourth hottest globally. When extreme weather like heat waves and super storms, which are projected to increase with climate change, hit the country’s crops, agricultural workers are devastated, poor people of color are disproportionately displaced from their homes, and those living with the worst air quality are even more at-risk for respiratory and heart related death (leading to some 7,000 additional fatalities each year).

And there’s more bad news regarding climate change. Take a look at these extreme heat projections in the West and Southwest U.S. for 2030. Or, check out sea-level rise projections in places like Miami and New York City for 2050, along with the corresponding threats for supercharged storms.

Notice something? Read More »

Also posted in Engaging Latinos, Jobs | Comments closed