Category Archives: Energy

New Carbon Pollution Standards Will Protect Health, Drive Innovation

Source: The Guardian

(This post originally appeared on EDF Voices)

The Environmental Protection Agency announced the nation’s first-ever carbon pollution standards for new power plants this morning—a major victory in the fight against climate change. Right now, there are no limits at all on carbon pollution from power plants, the single largest source of this pollution in the United States.

These standards are a necessary, common sense step that will ensure cleaner power generation that helps protect our children from dangerous smog and our communities from extreme weather. They will also drive innovation, so that America can continue to lead the world in the race to develop cleaner, safer power technologies.

Anticipated direct health consequences of climate change include injury and death from extreme weather events and natural disasters, increase in climate-sensitive infectious disease, increases in air pollution-related illness, and more heat related, potentially fatal, illness. Within all of these categories, children have increased vulnerability compared with other groups.

Scientists warn that the buildup of greenhouse gases and the climate changes caused by it will create conditions, including warmer temperatures, which will increase the risk of unhealthful ambient ozone levels. Higher temperatures can enhance the conditions for ozone formation. Even with the steps that are in place to reduce ozone, evidence warns that changes in climate are likely to increase ozone levels in the future in large parts of the United States.

If physicians want evidence of climate change, they may well find it in their own offices. Patients are presenting with illnesses that once happened only in warmer areas. Chronic conditions are becoming aggravated by more frequent and extended heat waves. Allergy and asthma seasons are getting longer. . . . Rising air and water temperatures and rising ocean levels since the late 1960s have increased the severity of weather, including hurricanes and droughts, and the production of ground-level ozone. That means more asthma and respiratory illnesses, more heat stroke and exhaustion, and exacerbation of chronic conditions such as heart disease.

Cost-effective, low-carbon energy solutions are already helping spur the economy, create good jobs and reduce harmful pollution in red and blue states across the country. Industries are recognizing that these smart power solutions are not only good for people and the environment, but also very good for business.

Many major power companies have recognized the need to address carbon. When these standards were initially proposed, the CEO of PSEG, Ralph Izzo, said, “[t]he Agency’s action establishes a logical and modest standard for new electric power plants and provides the industry with much needed regulatory certainty. The EPA provides a framework for the industry to confront this problem in a cost effective manner.” And the CEO of American Electric Power, Nick Akins, said in June that the new Climate Action Plan can be carried out “without a major impact to customers or the economy.”

Wind topped all new power deployed in 2012, with especially strong growth in Kansas, Texas, Iowa, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota and Oklahoma.  So-called “microgrids”—local generation networks that can run independent of the grid—are unlocking on-site clean power that expands clean energy choices for communities and consumers. And new financing models are driving more efficient use of energy at scale, cutting pollution while saving businesses and families money.

We know we must act now.

The costs of climate inaction are hitting home across the country as extreme weather events batter our communities. From the recent heartbreaking severe floods in Colorado to last year’s devastation from Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast, from crippling drought to terrible wildfires in the West, extreme weather is here and made worse by rising temperatures. The two million Americans who supported the EPA’s initial proposal last year know that doing nothing about climate change is not free. We are paying costs now and will inflict even greater costs on our children and future generations if we do not begin taking aggressive action to reduce carbon emissions.

As Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said earlier this week, “every ton we emit you can check it off against our children and grandchildren.” The naysayers, as always, are out in force and will do everything they can to derail action on climate. Please join Americans across our nation and lend your voice of support during this crucial time. Together with health and environmental groups, businesses, parents and states – red and blue – we can work together to meet this challenge.

Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs, Policy | Comments closed

New IEA Report Sets a Road Map to a Cleaner Energy Future

Today, the International Energy Agency released a special report of its World Energy Outlook, entitled Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map. The report is notable not only for its substantive conclusions – but for what it signifies.

First, the substance:

The report starts by emphasizing that energy-related CO2 emissions are a crucial driver of global warming, that they are increasing rapidly, and that as a result the world is not on target to keep concentrations of greenhouse gases below the level that would provide even a fifty-percent probability of limiting the increase in average global temperatures to two degrees – a commonly cited benchmark to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.  Standard fare, perhaps – but noteworthy nonetheless coming from the world’s leading energy authority.

A road map toward a more secure future

The key finding of the report — what makes it required reading — is the analysis of what the IEA calls its “4-for-2˚C scenario.”

The IEA identifies a package of four policies that could keep the door open to 2 degrees through 2020 – at no net economic cost to any individual region or major country, and relying only on existing, widely available technologies:

  1. Specific energy efficiency measures in transport, buildings, and industry (1.5 GT savings in 2020/49% of the total package)
  2. Limiting construction and use of the least-efficient coal-fired power plants (640 MT/21%)
  3. Minimizing methane emissions from upstream oil and gas production (550 MTCO2e/18%)
  4. Accelerating the partial phaseout of fossil fuel subsidies (360 MT/12%)

The IEA estimates that these four measures would reduce energy-related GHG emissions by 3.1 GT CO2-eq in 2020, relative to IEA's "New Policies" reference scenario – corresponding to 80% of the reduction required to be on a 2-degree path.

Take a look at this chart, from IEA's report, that summarizes the policies:

(Source: World Energy Outlook Special Report, 2013)

Here's a second chart, also from IEA's report. This one makes the key point about no net economic costs:

(Source: World Energy Outlook Special Report, 2013)

Four policies, using widely available technologies, imposing no net economic cost on any individual region or major country, that put the world in the position to make the turn to climate safety.

That’s the headline.

The cost of delay

IEA's report also discusses the vulnerability of the energy sector to climate change, and emphasizes that delaying climate action will drive up the costs of meeting a 2 degree target later.  The report estimates that putting off action until 2020 would trim near-term investment by $1.5 trillion in the short run – but at the cost of requiring an additional $5 trillion to be spent in subsequent years.  In present-value terms, using a 5% discount rate, delay doubles the cost of action: from $1.2 trillion to $2.3 trillion.

This is an argument that we at EDF — and others — have been making for some time. But it is a crucial one nonetheless – and the IEA analysis gives some added analytical weight to the argument.

Not an oil shock, but a climate shock

These findings are especially welcome coming from IEA, a world-respected authority on energy markets and policy that was founded to facilitate international coordination among oil-consuming countries.  Indeed, the messenger may be nearly as important as the message.  What launched the IEA was the 1973-4 oil crisis.  Now, nearly forty years later, the IEA report makes clear that the real energy-related threat to economic prosperity is not an oil shock, but a climate shock.

Back to the big picture

To be sure, the four policies analyzed in this report won’t fully suffice to address climate change in the long run: indeed, much more ambition will be needed.

Under the “4-for-2˚C” scenario, the IEA estimates that world energy-related emissions will peak and start to decline before 2020 – but we’ll still need concerted action on a global scale to get greenhouse gas emissions onto a steepening downward trajectory.

Take a look at one more chart from IEA's report:

(Source: World Energy Outlook Special Report, 2013)

Acknowledging this point, IEA's report underscores the importance of continued innovation in low-carbon technologies in transport and power generation (including carbon capture and storage), and highlights the vital importance of a long-term carbon price.

Beyond the scope of the report, there’s much to be done outside the energy sector – in particular by curbing tropical deforestation, and promoting the spread of agricultural practices that can achieve the “triple win” of greater productivity, greater resilience to climate, and lower environmental impacts (including GHG emissions).  And all of these efforts must be carried out in tandem with the overarching challenge of promoting broad-based economic prosperity around the globe, as President Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank has repeatedly emphasized.

But the bottom line is that one of the most hopeful publications on climate change you’ll read this year has come from the International Energy Agency, of all places.  Here is a road map toward a cleaner, more secure future.  Now it’s up to us to take it.

Also posted in Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy | 1 Response, comments now closed

Growing Jobs, One Auto Supplier at a Time

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) jointly announced new clean car standards that will benefit America’s economy and our environment.

The standards mean that by 2025 new cars on U.S. roads will average an unprecedented 54.5 miles per gallon.

Those same clean cars will also reduce the levels of dangerous climate pollution from auto emissions.  

Businesses in the auto supply chain are applauding.  According to Fred Keller, Chairman and CEO of Cascade Engineering

The new fuel economy requirements are an example of good regulation developed in the right way. By working with both industry and environmental interests, regulators were able to come up with standards that provide the right incentives and get the right results without putting an undue burden on industry. What’s more, the resulting incentives are positive, as they will encourage manufacturers to develop lighter-weight vehicles and reduce demand for fossil fuels. I recognize it is not always easy to develop regulation in this way, but this should serve as a model for how to do it effectively in the future.

Cascade Engineering has a growing automotive solutions group that focuses on acoustic insulators, chassis & powertrain components, and interior/exterior trim.  

Other companies are praising the new standards as well.

Nam Thai-Tang, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of ALTe, said this:

ALTe applauds any effort to drive towards greater fuel efficiency in the transportation industry. We are encouraged by the new standards and expect that they will help companies like ours that are developing advance hybrid powertrain technologies for America’s vehicles. 

ALTe manufactures electric vehicle powertrains which are used to increase fuel efficiency and lower emissions.

The new clean car standards follow closely after the first-ever national standards for passenger vehicles, which applied to vehicles in model years 2012 to 2016.

The Administration says that, in total, its national program to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will save consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reduce U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels.

A joint ACEEE-BlueGreen Alliance report found the standards also would create more than a half million jobs by 2030, including 50,000 jobs in auto manufacturing. (These projections are not surprising. Since the restructuring, auto companies have added 250,000 jobs.)

Fuel economy standards benefit American auto companies and the myriad of suppliers because they create certainty, establish the U.S. as leader in fuel efficiency, and provide incentives for innovation.

Unlike many other industries, the auto sector and its many suppliers can plan for the future knowing the regulatory playing field until 2025.

The new clean car standards stand as among the most progressive in the world, driving the U.S. to a leadership position in fuel-efficient vehicles and technologies–  and toward the opportunity to export everything from parts to final assembled vehicles. 

These rules reward innovation in every facet of auto technologies — from changes to traditional combustion engines such as new materials, electronics, engine re-design, and recirculation of exhaust gas to development of a new generation of electric vehicles, hybrid and fuel cell vehicles. 

Seifi Ghasemi is chairman and chief executive of Rockwood Holdings, the world’s largest producer of lithium and lithium compounds.

He responded to the announcement by noting that:

Rockwood believes that the US can be the world leader in a game-changing technological leap forward by making electric vehicles the cars of the future. 

Mr. Ghasemi further described how Rockwood is already expanding and adding jobs:

For the auto industry and battery makers to adopt this technology, they must have a secure and reliable supply of lithium compounds for advanced electric vehicles. To meet the need for these compounds, Rockwood recently invested more than $75 million in two expansion projects that expands the output of our Silver Peak, Nevada, and Kings Mountain, North Carolina, production facilities.  We expanded our Silver Peak site, which is the only US source of lithium raw materials, and we built and recently opened a state of the art battery grade lithium hydroxide manufacturing plant in Kings Mountain.  In addition, we completed a new Global Technical Center at Kings Mountain that will bring together engineers and scientists to perfect and commercialize advanced battery materials.  These investments provide several economic benefits, including the addition of more than 100 new manufacturing and research and development jobs.  These expansions also reinforce our long-term competitiveness in a vital, growing technology.

As the auto sector continues to demonstrate, strong environmental standards can work in concert with a vision for growth in industries across America.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs, News, Policy, What Others are Saying | 1 Response, comments now closed

Finally, A Good Record High! Car Fuel Efficiency in 2012

The summer driving season is in full swing and I’m sure many drivers are still recovering from the gas-price whiplash we’ve faced this year. 

The good news is that the U.S. has been making some really smart choices and significant strides recently to improve the fuel economy of cars and trucks. That helps Americans save money at the pump, reduces our country’s dependence on oil, and reduces harmful carbon pollution.

I retired my own clunker early this year after some disturbing sounds started emanating from its engine. I went shopping for a new car, and I was delighted to see that the new cars being sold are much more fuel efficient than when I bought my clunker.

I noticed that even fuel economy levels between model years of the same car are noticeably improved. That demonstrates that we are making continual, yearly improvement in fuel efficiency now.

So I wasn’t surprised to see this new analysis from Baum & Associates. It finds that the first half of 2012 set a record high in fuel efficiency for new vehicles.

Here are a couple of key findings from the analysis on the first half of 2012:

  • The average fuel efficiency of new cars sold was 23.8 miles per gallon (mpg)
  • Since 2011 fuel, economy has improved by 1.1 mpg
  • That 1.1 mpg improvement happened while sales increased at a larger rate than the economy

The Baum & Associates report also shows that consumers also had more choices across all types of vehicles to get higher fuel economy in the first half of 2012. It looked at “popular nameplates” – cars that had sales of at least 30,000 annually. Take a look at this chart from the Baum and Associates report:

(Chart: Summer 2012 Fuel Economy Analysis, July 2012, Baum & Associates) 

This progress has been driven largely by new fuel economy standards for cars enacted by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2010.

Industry supported DOT and EPA’s efforts and got straight to work improving fuel economy to meet the model year 2012 to 2016 standards.  Those standards require a fleet-wide average fuel economy of 35.5 mpg by 2016.

Over the lifetime of these vehicles, these standards will:

  • Save American families $3,000 in fuel costs (model year 2016 vehicle)
  • Reduce oil consumption by 1.8 billion barrels
  • Reduce carbon pollution by 960 million metric tons

Even more exciting, new standards to improve average fleet-wide fuel efficiency of our cars to a whopping 54.5 mpg by 2025 are expected to be finalized this summer.

By 2025, the combined existing and anticipated new standards are estimated to:

  • Save American families more than $8,000 in fuel costs over the lifetime of a new vehicle
  • Reduce oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels a day
  • Reduce carbon pollution by more than 6 billion metric tons

American consumers are supporting better fuel efficiency in cars, mostly because of the substantial long-term savings on gas.

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) just did a new poll. They found that 88 percent of those surveyed said the U.S. should reduce oil consumption, and 86 percent said cutting consumer costs is an important reason why.

Dr. Mark Cooper of the CFA said:

Record spending on gasoline for American families, combined with consumer demand for better mileage and a broad political consensus over higher national standards, are driving faster improvements in fuel economy than at any time since the oil price shocks of the 1970s.

He added:

The 54.5 mpg by 2025 standard will be one of the most important consumer protection measures to be adopted in decades.

Of course, there are other vital reasons to increase fuel efficiency standards for our cars, besides the fact that we’ll save lots of money.

By 2025, oil savings from the combined fuel economy standards (for cars and trucks model years 2012 to 2025) will be substantially more than the amount of oil we imported each day last year from Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia combined.

Our cars account for about 40 percent of all U.S. oil consumption. They also account for nearly 20 percent of all U.S. carbon pollution. 

Although there is still much work to be done to reduce our dependence on oil and our dangerous carbon pollution emissions, the success so far of the car standards provides a testament to the innovative spirit of American industry. It’s proof that we can achieve our emission goals while fostering economic growth.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy | Comments closed

EPA's Historic Proposal to Limit Carbon Pollution from Power Plants

Today we are making history. 

Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first-ever nationwide emission standards to limit dangerous carbon pollution from new coal- and gas-burning power plants. 

Today we take the first critically important step towards addressing the climate-destabilizing pollution emitted by power plants. 

Today we take a vital step towards protecting Americans’ health and strengthening our economy.

With these standards and EPA's landmark clean car standards, we’re beginning to address the clear and present danger of carbon pollution from the two largest emission sources in our nation.

Power plants are responsible for 40 percent of the carbon pollution emitted in America. U.S. power plants are one of the largest sources of carbon pollution in the world. 

Power plants are responsible for 40% of carbon pollution emitted in the U.S.

We have the technology and the know-how to change this.

The carbon pollution emission standards proposed by EPA today would halve the carbon emissions from a new coal-fired power plant over its lifetime. 

These standards will help further the progress we are making towards a cleaner, more secure future for energy in America. We will use our nation's electricity resources more efficiently to cut energy costs for families and businesses, mobilize Made in the USA technologies and fuels for cleaner energy generation, and ensure that America will lead the global race to a clean energy economy.

States, communities and businesses across our nation are already leading the way:

  • 29 states have adopted policies to expand reliance on cost-effective clean energy resources.
  • States including Washington, Montana, Oregon, Minnesota, New York and California have adopted (or are now putting in place) limits on dangerous carbon pollution from fossil-fueled power plants.
  • A McKinsey & Company report found that we could meet our nation's growing electricity needs by using existing resources more wisely — and could cut energy costs for American families and businesses at the same time.
  • Innovative businesses like Solar City are creating new solutions and technologies to deliver cleaner, safer energy. Solar City, founded in 2006, is installing solar systems that lower utility bills with no upfront investment by the customer. Solar City has 20,000 projects in 14 states that are either completed or underway– including a one billion dollar project to put solar systems on military housing.
  • Hundreds of U.S. companies are capitalizing on new, multibillion-dollar market opportunities to make our electric grid as smart, flexible, and innovative as the internet — enabling a wholesale shirt to clean, community-based energy resources.

There are also fundamental shifts in the energy market that are driving a change in our electricity supply.

Much has been written about the structural market shift to natural gas, which has been enabled by new drilling technologies. Some have tried to deny this market shift and claim that EPA’s clean air protections are stopping new coal plants, but the truth is that basic economics — low natural gas prices— are driving these decisions.  But don't take our word for it. Check out these quotes.

  • Jim Rogers is the CEO of Duke Energy, which provides electricity to the Carolinas, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. He told the National Journal:

The new climate rule is in line with market forces anyway. We're not going to build any coal plants in any event. You’re going to choose to build gas plants every time, regardless of what the rule is.

  • Thomas Fanning, CEO of Southern Company, recently told investors on an earnings call on January 25, 2012:

Four years ago…we were about 70% of our energy from coal and about, I don’t know, 16% from nuclear, about 12% from gas and the balance from hydro.  In the fourth quarter – this was really surprising to me, maybe not surprising considering how cheap gas is now – our energy production was 40% coal, 39% gas. … Now moving forward, given where gas prices are, we will continue to see much more gas production.

Inexpensive natural gas is the biggest threat to coal. Nothing else even comes close.

The immense natural gas resources recently made commercially accessible in the United States must be developed responsibly if we are to protect our water and ecosystems, and prevent wasteful leakage that will undermine the carbon pollution advantages of natural gas.  But America can meet this urgent challenge.

We also know how to harness the power of the wind, the sun, and geothermal resources. By making the energy foundation of our economy cleaner and more diverse, we will improve our national security, improve public health, and protect our climate.  Today we took a big step down that road.

The stakes are high.

Climate impacts are already affecting American communities, and scientists tell us that the impacts will intensify as atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions rise.

The United States Global Change Research Program has determined that if carbon pollution emissions are not reduced, it is likely that American communities will experience increasingly severe impacts, including:

  • Rising levels of dangerous smog in cities — which will lead to an increased risk of respiratory infections, more asthma attacks, and more premature deaths
  • Increased risk of illness and death due to extreme heat
  • More intense hurricanes and storm surges
  • Increased frequency and severity of flooding
  • Increases in insect pests and in the prevalence of diseases transmitted by food, water and insects
  • Reduced precipitation and runoff in the arid West
  • Reduced crop yields and livestock productivity
  • More wildfires and increasingly frequent and severe droughts in some regions

I mentioned earlier that American states, communities and businesses are already taking steps to address these threats. Starting today, they don’t have to do it alone. With today’s announcement, our entire country will fight the widespread and varied threats we face from climate change.

I think EPA deserves a standing ovation for that.  

Please join me in supporting EPA’s efforts to protect our families, our communities, and our economy from these threats. 

The resistance to these standards by entrenched fossil fuel-dependent industries will likely be fierce, but together our voices can move these vitally important policies forward. 

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Policy | 1 Response, comments now closed

It’s Just Business (but FirstEnergy Blames Its Decisions on Clean Air Rules)

Twice in the last two weeks, FirstEnergy has announced it will shut down old coal-fired power plants – then tried to blame those business decisions on the clean air rules that protect us all from toxic pollution.

First, at the end of January, First Energy announced it would retire six coal-fired power plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

The company blamed those closures on new EPA regulations that will protect us from mercury, acid gases and other toxic air pollution – but FirstEnergy is going to retire the plants by September 1 of this year.

The compliance deadline for the new EPA rules isn’t for at least three years (2015 – with possible extensions to 2017). 

What’s more, FirstEnergy announced a decision to switch some of those six units from full-time to seasonal operation, and to temporarily mothball others, more than 16 months ago — before EPA even issued its proposal for the new rule.

Clearly, there’s more to the story than just EPA regulations.

Then, this week, First Energy announced it will close three more old coal plants in West Virginia. The company once again tried to pin the blame on EPA.

But the three plants in question were built between 1943 and 1960. They were built while Presidents Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower were in office. The oldest was built while we were still fighting World War II.

The plants are not closing just because of clean air regulations. They’re closing because they’re aging and inefficient, and because they are facing competition from natural gas.

Many factors contribute to the new utility investment cycle. They include:

  • Age – 59% of America’s coal fired power plants are over 40 years old, with many over 60 years old.

According to former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell:

In 1970, the [Clean Air Act] required that new sources meet tight emissions standards. At that time, it was assumed that electrical utility units had an average lifetime of 30 years.

  • Competition from Natural Gas – with increasing natural gas supplies and lower prices, the market is shifting to more efficient combined cycle natural gas generators over old, inefficient coal plants.

One industry analyst told the Wall Street Journal:

Inexpensive natural gas is the biggest threat to coal. Nothing else even comes close.

  • Low utilization –the older units are often small, inefficient, and operated only part-time. From a business perspective, it is not cost effective to keep paying the fixed costs needed to maintain them for limited operation. Energy efficiency and demand response programs are far more efficient ways of meeting these energy needs.

In its press release announcing the closings of the three West Virginia plants, First Energy itself points out:

[T]hese plants served mostly as peaking facilities, generating, on average, less than 1 percent of the electricity produced by FirstEnergy over the past three years.

  • Health and the Environment – it is not surprising that these old, inefficient power plants are also disproportionately higher emitters of pollutants, and often have not had modern pollution control equipment installed.

We have information and graphics to illustrate this issue on our new fact sheet.

Business decisions in the utility sector are complex. Don’t let plant owners use our health protections as a scapegoat for their choice to retire old coal-fired power plants.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Economics, News | Comments closed

Broad Support for Cleaner Cars — Except from Some in Congress

At a Congressional hearing last week, some members of Congress sought to undermine historic fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards that will save Americans money at the gas pump, help break our addiction to foreign oil, strengthen our economy, and reduce harmful pollution.   

 The shrill attacks on those historic standards were in sharp contrast to the broad support for cleaner cars, including support from the U.S. auto industry.

Automobile manufacturers have intervened to support the standards in the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.  In recent filings in federal court, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers have characterized these standards as:

valid, mandated by law, and non-controversial

(That's from a D.C. Circuit Court filing from September 30, 2011 — Brief for Intervenors Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Association of Global Automakers, Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA, Docket Number 10-1092

The State of Texas and its allies, along with an industry group representing coal mining interests, have sought to topple the landmark clean car standards.  The automakers — those directly regulated by the new standards –have forcefully countered that, if legal challenges are successful in overturning EPA’s clean car standards, it "would result in tremendous hardship to their companies" and that the associated costs would be “substantial."

(Those two quotes above are both from court documents: the first is from the same brief I already cited, and the second is from a November 1, 2010 filing with the same D.C. Circuit Court: Intervenor Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers' and Association of International Automobile Manufacturers' Opposition to Motions for Stay, Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA, Docket Number 10-1092).

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) standards govern greenhouse gas emissions, and not just fuel economy. That means EPA’s measures will create business opportunities throughout the vehicle supply chain.

Honeywell, a leading global manufacturer of air condition systems, filed an amicus brief in support of EPA’s standards, noting that :

technologies for reducing the United States’ carbon footprint have the potential to create the kind of ‘green jobs’ that are a priority for America in the 21st century

(That's another quote from a D.C. Circuit court filing, this time from September 8,2011: Amicus Brief of Honeywell International, Inc., Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA, Docket Number 10-1092). 

Honeywell recognized the possibility that innovative technologies spurred by these emission standards have the potential to spread throughout the global economy, creating business opportunities for companies at the forefront of this technological innovation.  The automobile industry developed the catalytic converter in response to clean air measures, and, through commonsense regulations like these vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards, the United States can remain at the forefront of technological innovation in the global automotive market.   

These benefits are echoed by members of the small business community — eventual purchasers of the new, more fuel efficient vehicles. 

In a press release, Small Business Majority founder and CEO John Arensmeyer emphasized the importance of strong emissions standards, stating that:

 [s]mall businesses understand that to survive in this tough economy they need to innovate, and that strong fuel efficiency standards will assist them in doing so by helping them save money in their own business and creating new market opportunities

In fact, in a recent survey, small business owners overwhelmingly supported stronger fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, with 87 percent stating that it was critical for the U.S. to take action now to increase fuel efficiency.

 The benefits to covered business are, of course, just a portion of the environmental and economic benefits associated with EPA’s clean vehicle rule:

  • More fuel efficient vehicles will save consumers money.  American families will save more than $3,000 on fuel costs over the lifetime of a model year 2016 vehicle, and, for families financing a vehicle, the savings will be immediate. 
  • The standards are projected to cut gasoline consumption by 75 billion gallons
  • The standards are also projected to cut harmful global warming pollution by over 20 percent, avoiding 960 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent

As a result of these myriad benefits, EPA’s vehicle standards have strong support from a diverse coalition, including auto manufacturers, states, environmental organizations, and veterans organizations.  Members of the veterans’ organization Operation Free testified at public hearings across the country about the vital importance of EPA’s clean vehicle rules in breaking our addiction to foreign oil. 

Despite these significant benefits and the strong, broad-based support for vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards, some in Congress are attempting to topple these common-sense rules on the theory that doing so would ease burdensome regulation.  Ironically, overturning these regulations would have precisely the opposite effect – constraining business innovation, burdening cash-strapped consumers, and harming the environment. That’s a result that would benefit no one.


Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy | Comments closed

Let’s Clear the Air: EPA Pollution Standards Will Create New Jobs While Protecting Public Health

Opponents of the Clean Air Act have been yelling that this law’s life-saving health protections are “job killers.”

Just for a moment, let’s ignore the fact that these regulations improve public health and safety and save our lives. It is untrue that these regulations kill jobs.

In fact, just two small parts of the Clean Air Act — EPA’s Cross-state Air Pollution and Mercury and Air Toxics rules — would together create nearly 1.5 million jobs over the next five years driven by new investments.

EPA’s new air pollution standards would limit sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and other unhealthy pollutants that are in the air we breathe. Meeting the new standards, and lowering our air pollution levels, will result in investments in new pollution control equipment and power plants. It will also result in jobs for skilled professionals to do the work of installing and operating that equipment. That means jobs for electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, boilermakers, millwrights, iron workers and engineers – among others.

Among the economic beneficiaries would be the American companies that make pollution control equipment like scrubbers, dry sorbent injectors, and selective catalytic reducers. Take a look at this map:

Pollution Abatement Materials Companies


Click to view full-size map

The map is  by no means comprehensive, but it shows some of the companies in the eastern half of the U.S. that are poised to benefit under EPA’s rules.

A Case Study in Job Creation from Installing Pollution Control Equipment

Alstom Power’s James Yann testified before the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Clean Air and Jobs in March of this year.

He described some of the jobs created from just one example of a pollution control technology – a wet flue gas desulfurization “scrubber” that is commonly used to remove sulfur and other air pollutants.

Dependent on the number of scrubbers ultimately installed, Alstom estimates that these clean air regulations will create a total of more than 150,000 jobs over the next five to six years of compliance work. That’s just for direct jobs. In addition, tens of thousands of additional jobs would be created along the supply chain.

Here’s more details to show how it works: 

  • Scrubbers consist of a large number of components including pumps, electrical equipment and wiring, controls, and emission monitors (among many others). Almost all of this equipment can be procured from sources in the United States.
  • Erecting a typical scrubber requires more than 2,000 tons of fabricated steel delivered to the site. This steel represents more than 40,000 man-hours of production.
  • Assembly of the scrubber requires the most man power and a wide variety of trade crafts, typically lasting up to 30 months and employing an average of 700 craft people during that period.
  • In total, a typical wet flue gas desulfurization project will provide the equivalent of about 775 full time jobs over the life of the installation project, not including jobs provided for all the equipment suppliers and delivery services involved in delivering materials and equipment to the site.
  • Scrubber systems require ongoing supplies to operate including ammonia, lime, limestone and activated carbon. Companies making these supplies will need to create additional jobs to meet the increased demand as a result of EPA’s clean air rules.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Economics, Jobs | 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.

Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News | Comments closed

There They Go Again, Part Two: Mercury Controls on Power Plants

"And they said it couldn't be done …"

When it comes to cleaning up pollution, never underestimate the power of innovation.

Five years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) faced a court deadline to regulate mercury pollution from power plants. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that harms brain development in fetuses and growing children. But some in the utility industry argued that the technology was not available to achieve rigorous pollution reductions.

In 2005, EPA accepted those claims and issued a weak rule — one that was later thrown out by a federal appeals court.

EPA will take up the issue of the toxic pollution discharged from power plants soon — this coming March. Hopefully, they will keep in mind that industry pessimists who said it could not be done were wrong.  Fast-moving innovation is delivering cost-effective mercury reductions right now, while growing America's clean air technology industry. So this time around, EPA should not listen to the "sky is falling" claims — and should move ahead with rules that will protect Americans'  health. 

Here's more about the 2005 mercury rules:

Coal industry claims ACI technology isn't feasible

Coal-fired power plants are the largest human-made source of mercury emissions in the United States. In 2004 and 2005, EPA considered several means to reduce power plant mercury emissions. The protective solution to implement the Clean Air Act would have required each coal-fired power plant to reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent through Activated Carbon Injection (ACI), a control technology that had been used in the waste-to-energy industry for many years and was already being successfully used by coal-fired power plants by the early 2000s.

But some members of  the coal-fired utility industry claimed that ACI technology was many more years away from full-scale deployment, and projected that it would be 2018 before ACI could be feasibly installed at most power plants:

  • A spokesman for the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council urged EPA to use "realistic assumptions about the current state of mercury control technology." (Nesmith, Jeff, Rules on Mercury to Be Fine-Tuned, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 30, 2004, p. A6.)
  • An official with Indianapolis Power & Light Company stated "If we can get a man to the moon, I'm sure we can get to 90 percent [mercury reduction] over time, just not now." (Webber, Tammy, EPA Orders Industry to Cut Mercury by 70%, Indianapolis Star, March 16, 2005, p. A1.)
  • EPA's final rule mirrored industry claims:  "Although EPA is optimistic that such controls may be available for use on some scale prior to 2018, it does not believe that such controls can be installed and operated on a national scale before that date."

ACI technology proven feasible and cost-effective

Utility industry pessimists were wrong about the feasibility, scalability and cost of using ACI to reduce mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants. After EPA issued its weak rule (the one that was thrown out in court), many state and local governments stepped up to the plate and required power plants to protect public health from mercury pollution. Responding to the demand created by these state and local controls, companies have delivered cost-effective mercury control technology that is performing even better than hoped for.

As of June 2010, a large number of coal-fired power plants have ordered or installed mercury control technology – so many that, combined, they generate more than 62,000 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to serve more than 60 million American homes. Here's a list of all those plants. Overwhelmingly, they have chosen to install ACI technology — the same kind that Clean Air Act pessimists dismissed five short years ago as unrealistic and impractical.

The Government Accountability Office reports that ACI systems have become even more effective at removing mercury from flue gas as they have been deployed in the electric utility industry. The GAO says, "Data from power plants shows that these boilers have achieved, on average, reductions in mercury emissions of about 90 percent” — and that applies to a variety of coal types burned in different boiler configurations. The GAO also says that this magnitude of reduction can be expected from the boiler configurations used at nearly three-fourths of the coal-fired utility boilers in the U.S.

Costs and benefits of ACI technology

ACI technology has turned out to be an efficient and affordable pollution control, and the cost of capturing mercury from power plants has dropped dramatically.

According to the Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory, the 2008 cost to capture a pound of mercury was 1/6 the 1999 price. Advancements in the sorbents used to remove mercury have allowed ACI to be used for a wider range of coal qualities than was expected in 2005 (read more in this GAO report [PDF].) ACI systems now cost a fraction of other air pollution control devices.

"But there they go again …"

In spite of all the powerful evidence that mercury controls are available and highly cost-effective in protecting human health, some industry voices continue to argue against requiring them.

For instance, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — ignoring the facts — still claims that mercury control solutions are not available.

Some in the utility industry persuaded EPA to bet against mercury control innovation the last time around, and as a consequence, EPA set policies that recklessly failed to protect human health. But state action and a nimble U.S. clean air technology industry has proven, yet again, that America can innovate to deliver the pollution reductions we need to protect our health and the health of future generations.

Now we need EPA to carry out the law to ensure all Americans are protected by clean air standards addressing toxic mercury from power plants.

Also posted in Policy, Setting the Facts Straight | 1 Response, comments now closed
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