Author Archives: Sharyn Stein

How the President Can Address Climate Change Right Now

When Foreign Policy magazine decided to run a series on “10 problems Obama could solve right now,” they turned to EDF’s Gernot Wagner.

His contribution: a list of ways the President can address climate change — without Congressional approval.

Gernot acknowledges that:

“President Obama isn’t going to halt the rise of the oceans in his second term.”

But he outlines steps the President can take right now.

At the top of his list:

 “The president can start by setting an example in his own house, quite literally. Based on Executive Order 13514, signed in October 2009, Obama established a 28 percent emissions-reduction goal for the federal government by 2020. While working toward this goal, the administration should take the opportunity to implement a tried-and-true market approach: Follow the lead of some big corporations like Microsoft and make each part of the government financially accountable for its greenhouse gas emissions by putting a price on carbon dioxide — at least the roughly $20 per ton established by the federal government's own interagency working group as the single best value. That would allow the government to meet its overall target the most cost-effective way possible”.

Other key ideas:

  • Use existing legal authority under the tried-and-true Clean Air Act to cut power plant pollution, both from new and existing sources.
  • Build on the success of strengthening greenhouse gas and fuel-economy standards for cars and extend them to heavy and medium-duty vehicles, ranging from 18-wheelers to commercial delivery trucks.
  • Get methane leakage under control. Natural gas can have half the climate impact of coal, with the emphasis on “can.” Methane leakage could actually make it worse, and President Obama has the power to ensure that’s not the case.

Read more in Foreign Policy's article.

Posted in News, Policy | 1 Response, comments now closed

The Costs Of Particulate Matter To American Health

This blog post was written by Dr. Bonnie New, former Director of Health Professionals for Clean Air.

Physicians treating patients with respiratory symptoms look for underlying causes or aggravators, and that includes exposure to air pollution.

If that pollution involves particulate matter – also known as soot – their concerns intensify, because of its well-known negative health impacts.

Many studies demonstrate associations between short- and long-term exposures to fine particle air pollution (PM2.5) and cardiopulmonary disease and mortality.

PM2.5 exposure is also associated with:

  • endocrine and reproductive dysfunction, including pre-term and low birth-weight babies;
  • increases in lung cancer;
  • increases in the development of vascular disease; and
  • increases in diabetes mortality.

In addition to aggravating existing asthma and other lung diseases, PM2.5 has been linked to retarded lung growth and reduced lung function in children, and even with de novo (newly occurring) development of respiratory problems in infants and children. Research also shows that reductions in PM2.5 are associated with reductions in adverse health effects and improved life expectancy.

It’s important to state here that currently, there is no identified level of PM2.5 that is known to not make people sick.

The groups most susceptible to adverse health effects from PM2.5 are infants, children, teens, the elderly, and those with existing lung and cardiovascular problems. Taken together, this represents almost half of the U.S. population.

Impacts to the Economy

When we see the large impacts of pollution on health, it’s impossible not to notice the financial impacts as well.

The economic impact of preventable illness and death related to soot pollution in the U.S. is staggering, estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars every year. The functional impact on the lives of those affected and their families is also dramatic.

As doctors, we deal with not only the challenges of diagnosis and treatment, but with the sadness, frustration and pain of people who can not live normal lives and children who can not enjoy just being kids.

It raises anger in physicians to hear from those opposing health-based air quality regulations on the basis that such regulations would be “too costly”. It’s not like the costs are avoided if regulations are not put into place. The costs are simply shifted to our patients, and to the health care system. The costs are paid for in lives impaired and lives lost, in kids who can’t run and play, in increasing hospitalizations and people missing work and school because they’re sick.

Shifting costs like this from polluters to the general public makes for healthy business profits, but sick and unhappy people. As patient advocates, doctors have good reason to be angry. The public, those current and future patients and families, do too.

Posted in Health | Comments closed

EDF's Business-Friendly Suggestions for Fighting Climate Change

We’ve been hearing the same question a lot lately – what should President Obama do in his second term to fight climate change?  

In today’s online Harvard Business Review, EDF’s Eric Pooley has some thoughts on that subject. He's laid out a five-point plan to help us address climate change.

Those points range:

[F]rom no-brainer ideas almost everyone can agree on to ambitious items that would require Congressional action

And they all have one thing in common – they are business friendly.

As Eric puts it: 

It is worth remembering that strong business support helped secure passage of the House climate bill in 2009, and though that effort failed in the Senate, no serious legislation can move without the backing of men and women in the engine room of the American economy. To be politically viable, climate solutions must be economically sustainable.

Here’s the (very) short version of Eric’s plan:

  • Feed the conversation
  • Reduce climate accelerants
  • Start a clean energy race
  • Use the Clean Air Act
  • Put a price on carbon

If you’d like to read the whole plan, you can find it here: A Business-Friendly Climate Agenda for Obama's Second Term

Posted in Climate Change Legislation, Economics, Extreme Weather, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy | Comments closed

Our Newest Clean Air Ally – Actress Julianne Moore

Those of us following the debate over clean air regulations are used to hearing frequent comments from key players – power plant executives, politicians, environmentalists, doctors.

But every once in a while, we get a truly original point of view. 

Like today – in this animated video from actress Julianne Moore.

Moore taped the video for Moms Clean Air Force (MCAF), a nonpartisan group of moms (and dads, and grandparents, and others) who want cleaner and healthier air for their kids.  

Moore is a well-known actress, children’s book author, and activist for a variety of children’s causes. She narrates the new video with the help of the cartoon-character stars of her Freckleface Strawberry books.

In a blog post on the MCAF website, Moore writes:

Sometimes being a good mom means being an active citizen. That’s why I joined Moms Clean Air Force. Moms are banding together. We are making our voices stronger. We are fighting for our children. Together, we are telling politicians to protect our right to clean air.

Moms Clean Air Force was launched last summer and now has almost 50,000 members. (EDF has worked with them from the beginning).

Since the launch, MCAF has gotten other celebrities – including Blythe Danner, Laila Ali, and Jessica Capshaw – to join. Danner and actresses Maya Rudolph and Christina Applegate have also taped video for the group.

Posted in Clean Air Act, News, Partners for Change | Comments closed

Support for EPA from Doctors and Scientists

You've probably seen a lot of nasty attacks against EPA in media report lately. You are not alone.

As EDF's Susanne Brooks writes in our Market Forces blog:

Given that EPA is in the midst of finalizing some of the most critical regulation protecting American human health from poisonous air pollution, one might think that a simple 'thank you' might be in order. Instead, EPA is facing unfounded attacks from several angles.

Susanne's blog post cites some "egregious" examples of people who refuse to believe that air pollution is bad for your health – including one newspaper columnist who recently demanded that EPA “show him the bodies” of air pollution victims.

Susanne then compiles a list of responses from leaders in the scientific community. Those responses provide powerful evidence to support EPA's efforts to protect our air.

The most compelling statement may be from Lynn Goldman, Dean and Professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services and a member of EDF's Board of Trustees. Susanne writes:

She refers to the family members who can actually point to the bodies of loved ones who 'dropped dead from a heart attack after breathing too much air on a Code Red day.'

Read more in Susanne's full post, Thank You EPA.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Health | Comments closed

Focus on Congress, Not EPA Delays

Should EPA delay its air pollution rules?

That's the question posted for National Journal's Expert Bloggers today. Among the industry and environmental thought leaders who posted comments was EDF's own Fred Krupp. He pointed out that EPA delays are not the real problem:

EPA should move swiftly to put science-based human health protections in place for mercury, arsenic, acid gases and deadly particulates. But the bigger threat is that Congress might try to delay vital Clean Air Act protections for its own – decidedly non-scientific – reasons.

Fred cites a long list of health, environmental and economic benefits of the Clean Air Act, and then says:

Yet Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) has announced that he will introduce legislation to delay EPA’s proposed Air Toxics Rule — even before EPA finishes the public notice and comment effort that’s currently underway, and in spite of the fact that the power plant Air Toxics Rule has been 21 years in the making … Congress should intervene if EPA is going too slowly and lives are being put at risk. But Congress should never delay vital health protections – not when we have time-tested bipartisan solutions that will save lives and strengthen our economy.

You can read Fred's full response, and the other expert opinions, on National Journal's Energy & Environment blog.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Policy | Comments closed

CFL's: Get the Whole Story

A recent news article has revived some of the same old questions about compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL's). So EDF's Elena Craft has summed up the issue on our sister blog, Texas Energy Exchange.

After compiling the most frequestly asked questions, and their answers, Elena concludes:      

Are CFLs the perfect energy solution? No, but they are a big step in the right direction. 

For a wealth of information about energy-saving light bulbs, be sure to read the whole post.

Posted in Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News | Comments closed

Countdown to Better Consumer Labeling for New Cars

(Just posted on our sister blog Way2Go by Kathryn Phillips)

Car Lot

Photo by Alex92287

The 60-day countdown for submitting your vote online about the best car label design has officially begun. Today the federal register published the official notice inviting comment on the government’s proposed changes to the information labels posted on new cars. The agency has also scheduled two public hearings to collect opinions about the labels—in Chicago on October 14 and in Los Angeles on October 21.

As we reported about three weeks ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has offered up two new designs to replace the old fuel economy label. The new designs reflect the most significant change in the 30 years since automakers began attaching the information labels to new cars.

Both of the proposed designs still have fuel economy information. But they both also have something new: details about how much greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollution will be generated by the auto or light truck on which the sticker is affixed. For the first time ever, consumers living all over the country will be able to easily, while on the car lot shopping, compare the environmental impact of vehicles. It makes shopping greener simpler.

The two label options are not entirely equal, though. One option provides a bit more information about fuel costs and savings, and it includes a letter grade.

The grade has been drawing a lot of attention and there have been some confusing explanations in the press about how it works. So here are two important things to know about the letter grade:

  1. The grade reflects a vehicle’s standing on a scale set according to a combination of fuel economy and how much greenhouse gas emissions a vehicle spews. So basically, a car or light truck that gets a B grade produces fewer GHGs and gets better fuel economy than a car or light truck that gets a D grade.
  2. Every car and light truck has a fair shot at a good grade. When EPA compared its grading scale against the 2010 fleet (see page 36 of the proposed rule document), a lot of SUVs received B grades, and a lot received C grades. A lot of small cars received B grades and a lot received C grades. The difference was that the B vehicles, not matter the vehicle size, were engineered to get better fuel economy and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the C vehicles. The grade system helps highlight that the engineering exists to make vehicles less polluting—it’s just up to the automakers to do it.

EPA conducted a lot of market research, including focus groups with consumers. The consumers emphasized that they wanted a label that was simple and quick to understand. Hence, the letter grade on one of the proposed options. 

The auto industry and some pundits don’t like the letter grade. They say it's intrusive and unnecessary. I say that providing product information in a format that everyone can understand at a glance—and without needing bifocals—is a public service.

So go online now and  let EPA know which version you think makes most sense. And while you’re at it, let us know what you think about the labels, too.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy | Comments closed

Donlen, GreenDriver and EDF Commit to Reducing 20% of Fleet Emissions by 2016

(Posted earlier today on our sister blog, EDF Innovation Exchange)

Today, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) joins with Donlen, a leading fleet management company, and GreenDriver™ in a commitment towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the commercial fleet sector by 20% over the next five years. This pledge is being made at the annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting, attended by Gary Rappeport, Donlen CEO; and Fred Krupp, President, EDF. We invite others to join this effort too, including commercial fleets, fleet management companies and environmental organizations. Together, we can make a difference.

Stabilizing the Earth's climate is the critical environmental challenge of our time. Many effects of global warming are already being felt and will only grow worse with inaction. Vehicles in corporate fleets release 45 million metrics tons of emissions each year. Reducing the emissions from commercial fleet vehicles can be part of the solution to tackling this challenge.

Opportunities for reducing emissions are plentiful. Right-sizing vehicles to match the job at hand, reducing miles through improved routing, moving to more efficient models, adopting “fuel-smart” driving behaviors [PDF], cutting idling, and deploying advanced technology vehicles are a few of the tactics available. All of these offer significant payback on investment. A few require no upfront investment at all. Each of these tactics is delivering emissions reductions today.

Good emissions management is not unlike good business management. For any company to get the most out of these or other tactics, it needs a long-term vision and a strategic plan formulated for its unique needs and circumstances. Our joint commitment through the Clinton Global Initiative provides joining companies a vision: reduce emissions 20% between now and the end of 2016. Because it is performance-based, the commitment is agnostic on the pathway accompany uses to meet the goal. It remains incumbent on the company to undertake the planning process on how to meet the goal.

The goal is in reach for many companies already. Consider that 80 of the 300 companies with 1,000 or more vehicles have a publicly announced greenhouse gas emissions reduction target. Many companies have already achieved reductions of this magnitude in fleet emissions. The next five years will also see the availability of more efficient vehicles through increases CAFE standards, while electric and other advanced technology vehicles will become more widely available too. Together, the fleet industry can meet this challenge.

Of course, a few companies will face greater challenges given the specific requirements for their vehicles. We welcome these companies into the fold too. Every ton reduced matters.

During the past five years, the commercial fleet industry has created infrastructure to track emissions and developed a deep understanding of how to successfully deploy many emission reducing tactics. EDF believes that the industry is ready to take the next step and start to collectively act towards this aggressive, yet achievable emissions reduction goal.

We applaud Donlen and GreenDriver™ for taking a central role in coordinating this commitment. We look forward to working with both companies and the entire fleet industry to meet this challenge. Together, we can make a difference.

For information about how your company can join this effort, visit http://www.donlen.com/clinton-global-initiative.aspx.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, News | Comments closed

Green Jobs: California's Economic Bright Spot

One of the strongest arguments for passing a climate and clean energy bill is that it will boost the economy and create jobs.

Here's more evidence to support that claim: an updated map compiled by Environmental Defense Fund that shows more than 3,500 "green" businesses in California alone.  

EDF's Tim Connor wrote about the map on our California Dream 2.0 blog. He says:

Naysayers often claim that we should slow down our progress on clean energy and clean air because the overall economy is struggling.  The truth is that the green economy is a bright spot, generating jobs, investment and business growth.

This map may focus on California — but that statement applies to all of America.

Posted in Economics, Green Jobs, Jobs, News | Comments closed
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