Climate 411

A momentous week for trucks: Walmart unveils “Jetson” truck and President Obama announces next generation fuel efficiency standards

(This post originally appeared on EDF + Business)

What a great week it’s been for the future of trucks. Walmart unveiled a prototype, concept next generation tractor-trailer truck that they have affectionately dubbed “Jetson.” This morning, President Obama laid out a timeframe for action on developing the next generation truck efficiency standards – standards that will improve the fuel efficiency of American trucks, bolster energy security, cut carbon pollution, save money and support manufacturing innovation.

Innovation is critical to curb the growing climate pollution and fuel consumption from our nation’s freight trucks – which are projected to increase by 40 percent between now and 2040. But innovation is best supported by strong standards.  A well-designed efficiency program can speed the deployment of clean, energy-efficient technologies and the infrastructure to support their widespread use nationwide.

We have seen the success of this combination many times.  The trucking industry has delivered incredible innovation in meeting stringent standards for particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen, and the first phase of greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards. And through their own innovation, manufacturers are meeting these standards in advance of compliance deadlines, doing so for lower costs, and delivering substantial, real-world benefits.

The second phase of fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for trucks and trailers will build on this foundation of success. But they will also build on the innovation of companies like Walmart who are pushing the envelope. 

 The unveiling of Jetson, officially called Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience (“WAVE”) came during a live webcast of Walmart’s annual Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting on Monday.

At first glance the prototype truck is simply cool looking, and explains why it got the nickname Jetson.  But it is also incredibly fuel-efficient. The tractor is super aerodynamic – in order to achieve the dramatic aerodynamics, the driver sits in the middle of the cab and the engine is under the cab instead of in front of it.  The entire cab lifts up to give access to the powertrain.

The trailer also benefits from advanced aerodynamics. And it is built “almost exclusively from carbon fiber.” Because of this, the trailer weighs 4,000 pounds less than a standard trailer, which would enable it to legally carry more product. The front end is also convex – which enhances the aerodynamics and increases storage capacity.

The power system for the truck is a revolutionary combination of a microturbine; battery storage; electric motor.

While some of the technologies in the Jetson truck may not be street ready in the next few years, Walmart sees value in pushing itself and its vendor partners – Peterbuilt Trucks, Great Dane Trailers and Capstone Turbine – just a little bit farther. And their efforts demonstrate the potential to truly revolutionize our heavy trucks and trailers. Doing this well will require a combination of innovative technology and strong, well designed efficiency standards.

The cleaner freight trucks being made in America today show that when our nation works together we can achieve lasting progress for our economy and our environment – through innovation and common sense policies to advance and secure the transformative cleaner freight trucks of tomorrow.

Posted in News | 1 Response, comments now closed

We’re on the Road to Cleaner, More Fuel-Efficient Trucks

America started down the road toward cleaner, more fuel-efficient freight trucks today.

President Obama, joined by leading freight truck manufacturers and major fleet owners, announced plans to draft a second generation of fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for America’s heavy-duty trucks.

The new standards will build on the successful first round, which are yielding far-reaching benefits for America’s security, economy and environment.

As the President said in his 2014 State of the Union Address:

We’ve partnered with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars.  In the coming months, I'll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.

Opportunity

Climate pollution from our nation’s freight trucks is projected to increase by more than 130 million tons between now and 2040 – the largest increase in emissions from any single end-use, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Recent analyses, however, indicate that rigorous second generation fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for new freight trucks can cost-effectively reduce this climate pollution, improve our nation’s energy security, and save truckers money.

Consider this:

  • By 2025, strong second generation truck standards could reduce fuel consumption by up to 40 percent compared to 2010. That’s more than 800,000 barrels of oil savings per day beyond what’s achieved by current standards.
  • Most technologies needed to achieve this reduction have payback periods of three years or less.

Making our nation’s fleet of trucks more efficient is also good for consumers.

Improving efficiency means cutting the costs associated with transporting goods. That means companies can sell those goods for less, which in turn means that American families will save money.

A recent report by the Consumer Federation of America found:

  • Net savings of $250 to consumers, rising to $400 per household in 2035 as fuel prices and transportation services increase.

Solutions

Cost-effective, made-in-America solutions are available to help achieve these important environmental, economic and energy security benefits.

Rigorous second-generation clean trucks standards can help deploy these made-in-America technologies.

Strong standards are also critical to spur investment and innovation leading to the next generation of clean truck solutions.

For instance:

Just yesterday, Walmart unveiled “Jetson,”a prototype tractor-trailer powered by a revolutionary combination of a microturbine, battery storage, and electric motor, with advanced aerodynamics and a carbon-fiber trailer.

Broad-Based Support

These common sense solutions have resulted in broad support.

Many of the same companies that stood with the President today also collaborated on the first generation clean trucks standards.

Among those supporting the President today included the nation’s major manufacturers and fleets such as Conway, Cummins, Eaton, Wabash National, Waste Management and the American Trucking Association.

Proven Success

These second generation clean truck standards build on a foundation of success — including first and second generation clean cars standards and first generation clean trucks standards.

Manufacturers are meeting these standards in advance of compliance deadlines, doing so for lower costs, and delivering substantial, real-world benefits.

For example, here are some compelling achievements by passenger cars and trucks as a result of efficiency standards:

  • Since October 2007, per driver greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. have dropped by 20 percent, according to the University of Michigan’s Eco-Driving Index.
  • EPA estimates that between model years 2004 and 2012, average carbon dioxide emissions from cars decreased by 18 percent, and fuel economy increased by 22 percent.
  • 28 percent of projected model year 2013 vehicle production already meets the model year 2016 carbon dioxide emissions targets, and about 5 percent of projected 2013 production could meet the 2025 carbon dioxide emissions targets, according to EPA’s fuel economy trends report.

The cleaner cars and freight trucks being made in America today show that when our nation works together we can achieve lasting progress for our economy and our environment.

Environmental Defense Fund stands ready today to work with President Obama, freight truck and trailer manufacturers, and fleet owners on common sense policies to advance and secure the transformative cleaner freight trucks of tomorrow.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy | 1 Response, comments now closed

Arctic Melting – a Business Opportunity, but Also a Dangerous Climate Risk

The Obama Administration recently released a plan to cope with a warming Arctic.

Climate change has increased warming in that region at a striking rate, and it has extended the ice melting season by about two weeks per decade.

As a result, the Arctic–which was inaccessible to commercial shipping as recently as 2008–saw 71 vessels cross last year.

Speedy Arctic development, however, is an indisputably risky business.

The Threat

Over the past three decades, warmer temperatures have caused Arctic sea ice to lose half of its area and three quarters of its volume.

Even with a slight increase in ice this winter, the Arctic’s sea ice last December was still the fourth lowest on record.

In the summer of 2012 alone, sea ice shrunk by 350,000 square miles compared to the previous summer. That’s an area the size of Venezuela.

Permafrost, defined as frozen soil, sediment, or rock that has remained at or below zero degrees Celsius for at least two years, comprises about 25 percent of the land in the Northern Hemisphere.Along with record ice melt, all of the permafrost-monitoring sites in northern Alaska have experienced record high temperatures in the past few years.

According to estimates, the carbon dioxide and methane stored in the Northern Hemisphere’s permafrost is equivalent to more than double the carbon concentration currently in the atmosphere.

The Northern Hemisphere’s shallow (zero to three meters deep) permafrost is the part most susceptible to melting, and that part alone contains carbon dioxide and methane equivalent to more than 400 ppm of atmospheric carbon dioxide – or, the amount currently in the entire atmosphere. (That’s according to “Report from International Permafrost Association: Carbon Pools in Permafrost Regions” by Kuhry, Peter, Chien-Lu Ping, Edward A. G. Schuur, Charles Tarnocai, and Sergey Zimov.)

Permafrost in the Arctic. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)–the world’s foremost authority on climate change–expects the Northern Hemisphere’s permafrost to melt 20 to 35 percent by 2050.

Quick math with very conservative assumptions tells us this: if not curtailed, carbon emissions from the Northern Hemisphere’s permafrost melting will bring the atmospheric carbon concentration beyond 450 ppm, the number the IPCC deems the threshold beyond which the world can expect extreme shifts in weather patterns, ecology, and geology.

While the lasting effect of permafrost thaw on atmospheric carbon concentrations is uncertain, it is safe to say that the scale of the risk is potentially enormous and expensive into the trillions of dollars.

According to Maplecroft’s 2013 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, 67 countries with an “estimated combined GDP of $44 trillion will come under increasing threat from the physical impacts of more frequent and extreme climate-related events.”

The World Bank (2010) estimates annual climate change adaptation costs for the years 2010 to 2050 to be $70 to $100 billion for the developing world alone.

Unmitigated permafrost melting promises to hasten temperature increases and greatly exacerbate these costs.

The Business Interest

While methane from permafrost melt rises like a thick, invisible smoke stack, some members of the business world are focused on the economic potential of an increasingly iceless–and thus accessible–Arctic frontier.

The foremost reason for the Arctic’s economic promise is its massive oil and gas deposits.

According to Foreign Affairs:

The Arctic’s oil and gas fields account for 10.5 percent of global oil production and 25.5 percent of global gas production. And those numbers could jump soon. Initial estimates suggest that the Arctic may be home to an estimated 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered conventional oil and gas deposits, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Recent investments of many billions of dollars from oil giants–including Shell, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Statoil, Gazprom, and Rosneft–shows the excitement in the industry regarding the future revenues from these formerly ice-restricted resources.

An ice-free Arctic also creates shorter shipping routes.

For the first time ever, the Northern Sea Route, which passes through the Arctic to connect Europe to Eurasia, is open to commercial shipping, with over 70 vessels sailing through in 2013.

The Arctic also harbors valuable deposits of zinc, nickel, palladium, diamonds, platinum, cobalt, tungsten, uranium, and other minerals. And above ground, forestry, fishing, and many other industries promise to benefit from Arctic development.

 A Dangerous Cycle

As melting ice unlocks the Arctic, it threatens to push temperatures to tipping points. It also unleashes economic activity that may spark positive feedback loops, bringing more and more Arctic melting – and thus more carbon dioxide and methane released from permafrost.

Additionally, as a warming climate allows snow and ice to thaw, tundra species are being replaced with evergreen trees, which absorb more sunlight. (Snow is white, so it absords less of the sun's heat than the darker evergreens.) That means that more tree cover will, counter-intuitively, further increase warming and thawing trends in the Arctic.

Other factors such as direct carbon loss through combustion and increasing fires could also further increase this cycle.

While the science regarding permafrost melt’s climate implications remains uncertain, the risk is so enormous that turning a blind eye while developing the Arctic frontier is tremendously irresponsible.

The ensuing hastening of permafrost’s melt could lead to global economic costs that drastically exceed the benefits from Arctic development.

Posted in Arctic & Antarctic, News, Science | 3 Responses, comments now closed

Powerful Testimonies at EPA Hearing on Carbon Pollution Standards for Power Plants

If you were busy watching the Winter Olympics, you may have missed another important–if slightly smaller–event that happened last Thursday:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a hearing in Washington, D.C. on the proposed carbon pollution standards for new power plants.

U.S. power plants are one of the largest sources of carbon pollution in the world. Carbon pollution is the main reason for climate change.

EPA’s proposed standards will set the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from new fossil fuel power plants.

I had the privilege of testifying on behalf of EDF and its 750,000 members.

It was uplifting to hear testimony from so many diverse groups in support of these historic proposed standards.

Among those testifying were:

  • U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island
  • Moms Clean Air Force, on behalf of hundreds of thousands of moms across America
  • Public health groups
  • Environmental justice groups
  • Veterans and national security groups
  • Groups representing clean energy companies
  • Latino groups
  • Faith groups

and many more …

But climate change is an issue that threatens communities and families across America.

That’s why it was especially touching to hear the personal stories of how climate change impacts people, including one woman from Virginia who testified about raising a daughter with asthma, about the financial impacts of the disease–and about how the costs of pollution are not borne by the emitters, but by the public–and by families like hers.

Carbon pollution is a problem that we can fix.

Consider these facts:

  • Clean energy continues to grow, and it is clear that America can generate affordable, clean electricity.
  • Wind generation increased by more than 40 percent in the United States between 2011 and October of 2013.
  • In April of 2013, the United States had a record month for wind power with generation of more than 17,000 gigawatt hours.
  • In 2012, rooftop solar panels cost approximately one percent of what they did 35 years ago.
  • Since 2008, as the cost of a solar module dropped from $3.80 per watt to 80 cents per watt, solar deployment has jumped by about 10 times.
  • U.S. solar jobs grew 20 percent last year. The industry now supports more than 140,000 jobs.
  • Renewable energy is expected to account for 28 percent of the growth in electricity generation from 2012 to 2040.

At the hearing, some opponents of EPA’s common-sense standards testified, representing groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the American Coal Council.

They repeated claims we have heard time and again about clean air standards costing too much or technology not being available.

We have heard similar claims in the past—claims that were subsequently disproved—about scrubbers and mercury controls.

EPA has found that carbon pollution controls, like carbon capture and storage, are adequately demonstrated for new coal-fired power plants—and that finding is based on an extensive body of technical information.

It is clear from the more than four million people who have weighed in with EPA in support of these standards that many Americans are ready for a clean energy future, and believe it is imperative that we address the largest source of carbon pollution in our country.

You can help the fight to limit the carbon pollution from power plants by urging EPA to adopt strong standards. You can submit comments to EPA through our EDF website.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy | Comments closed

Reality check: Society pays for carbon pollution and that's no benefit

This open letter, co-authored by Jeremy Proville and first published on EDF Voices, was written in response to a New York Times article citing Dr. Roger Bezdek’s report on “The Social Costs of Carbon? No, The Social Benefits of Carbon.”

Dear Dr. Bezdek,

After seeing so many peer-reviewed studies documenting the costs of carbon pollution, it’s refreshing to encounter some out-of-the-box thinking to the contrary. You had us with your assertion that: “Even the most conservative estimates peg the social benefit of carbon-based fuels as 50 times greater than its supposed social cost.” We almost quit our jobs and joined the coal lobby. Who wouldn’t want to work so selflessly for the greater good?

Then we looked at the rest of your report. Your central argument seems to be: Cheap fuels emit carbon; cheap fuels are good; so, by the transitive property of Huh?!, carbon is good. Pithy arguments are fine, but circular ones aren’t.

First off, cheap fuels are good. Or more precisely, cheap and efficient energy services are good. (Energy efficiency, of course, is good, too. Inefficiency clearly isn’t.) Cheap energy services have done wonders for the United States and the world, and they are still doing so. No one here is anti-energy; we are against ruining our planet while we are at it.

The high cost of cheap energy

Yes, the sadly still dominant fuels—by far not all—emit carbon pollution. Coal emits the most. Which is why the cost to society is so staggering. Forget carbon for a moment. Mercury poisoning from U.S. power plants alone causes everything from heart attacks to asthma to inhibiting cognitive development in children. The latter alone is responsible for estimated costs of $1.3 billion per year by knocking off IQ points in kids. All told, coal costs America $330 to 500 billion per year.

Put differently, every ton of coal—like every barrel of oil—causes more in external damages than it adds value to GDP. The costs faced by those deciding how much fossil fuel to burn are much lower than the costs faced by society.

None of that means we shouldn’t burn any coal or oil. It simply means those who profit from producing these fuels shouldn’t get a free ride on the taxpayer. Conservative estimates indicate that carbon pollution costs society about $40 per ton. And yes, that’s a cost.

Socializing the costs is not an option

As someone with a Ph.D. in economics, Dr. Bezdek, you surely understand the difference between private benefits and social costs. No one would be burning any coal if there weren’t benefits to doing so. However, the “social benefits” you ascribe to coal are anything but; in reality they are private, in the best sense of the word.

If you are the one burning coal, you benefit. If you are the one using electricity produced by burning coal, you benefit, too. To be clear, these are benefits. No one disputes that. It’s how markets work.

But markets also fail in a very important way. The bystanders who are breathing the polluted air are paying dearly. The costs, if you will, are socialized. Society—all of us—pays for them. That includes those who seemingly benefit from burning coal in the first place.

Your claim that what you call “social benefits” of coal dwarf the costs is wrong in theory and practice. In theory, because they are private benefits. As a matter of practice because these (private) benefits are very much included in the calculations that give us the social costs of coal. What you call out as the social benefits of coal use are already captured by these calculations. They are part of economic output.

Our indicators for GDP do a pretty good job capturing all these private benefits of economic activity. Where they fail is with the social costs. Hence the need to calculate the social cost of carbon pollution in the first place.

So far so bad. Then there’s this:

Plants need carbon dioxide to grow, just not too much of it

In your report, you also discuss what you call the benefits of increases in agricultural yields from the well-known carbon dioxide fertilization effect. It may surprise you to hear that the models used to calculate the cost of carbon include that effect. It turns out, they, too, in part base it on outdated science that ought to be updated.

But their science still isn’t as old as yours. For some reason, you only chose to include papers on the fertilization effect published between 1902 and 1997 (save one that is tangentially related).

For an updated perspective, try one of the most comprehensive economic analysis to date, pointing to large aggregate losses. Or try this Science article, casting serious doubt on any claims that carbon dioxide fertilization could offset the impacts on agricultural yields from climate change.

Farmers and ranchers already have a lot to endure from the effects of climate change. There’s no need to make it worse with false, outdated promises.

Coal lobby speaks, industry no longer listens

It’s for all these reasons that, to borrow the apt title to the otherwise excellent New York Times story that ran your quote: “Industry Awakens to Threat of Climate Change”. And it’s precisely why the U.S. government calculates the social cost of carbon pollution. Yes, sadly, it’s a cost, not a benefit.

To our readers: Want to get involved? The White House has issued a formal call for public comments on the way the cost of carbon figure is calculated, open throughFebruary 26. You can help by reminding our leaders in Washington that we need strong, science-based climate policies.

Posted in Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Science, Setting the Facts Straight | 1 Response, comments now closed

New Truck Efficiency Standards Are Great News for American Innovation

We've partnered with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the coming months, I'll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.

- 2014 State of the Union Address

First, here’s the bad news:

Climate pollution from America’s heavy trucks is projected to increase by more than 130 million tons between now and 2040. That’s expected to be the largest increase in emissions from any single source.

The average new heavy-duty diesel truck sold last year got slightly less than six miles per gallon.

Most of these trucks travel upwards of 120,000 miles and burn more than $80,000 worth of fuel per year.

This inefficiency has real costs for our economy. We import millions of barrels of oil to fuel heavy-duty trucks. Businesses, both small and large, spend billions on the fuel needed to move freight. You and I pay for this too, when we buy those products.

Now here’s the good news:

It doesn’t have to be this way. We have the tools today that we need to change this.

We have the technology to decrease freight truck emissions. We can cut 20 percent off our current trajectories by 2030, and go much further by 2040.

In fact, a recent analysis by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy found that it’s realistic to expect new trucks to achieve something approaching a 40 percent fuel consumption reduction, compared to 2010 trucks, within the next decade,

Well-designed federal standards can foster the innovation necessary to bring more efficient and lower emitting trucks to market. Manufacturers need to be confident in market demand in order to develop and launch efficiency improvements. Scaled production can drive down costs, further enhancing the payback truck fleets will experience through lower fuel bills.

EDF has set out a blueprint for rigorous greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards. Through smart, well designed policies and American innovation, we can cut climate pollution and save fuel costs while strengthening our security and winning the race to deploy clean energy technologies in the global marketplace.

Many companies already have developed — and are bringing to market — the tools we need to meet a strong standard.

Examples include:

Eaton, a manufacturer of truck transmissions — they’ve launched a powertrain package that can improve fuel efficiency by up to six percent.

Cummins, Inc. and Peterbilt Motors Co., which build truck engines and manufacture trucks, respectively – they partnered last year to build a truck that uses 50 percent less fuel than typical long-haul tractors, according to an article in the Indianapolis Star. It averaged 9.9 miles a gallon in road tests. They did this through a suite of improvements; including capturing otherwise wasted thermal energy.

Smart Truck Systems, a supplier of aerodynamic products to the trucking industry – they have a product that can cut fuel consumption from tractor-trailer combination trucks by over 10 percent through advanced aerodynamics.

Also available to us:

To understand the positive economic potential of adopting strong truck fuel efficiency standards, we only need to look back to the start of this month.

On January 1st, our nation’s biggest trucks became subject – for the first time ever – to fuel efficiency standards. These standards cover trucks from large pick-ups to tractor-trailers. They will cut climate pollution by almost 300 million tons while saving truck operators $50 billion.

For combination tractor-trailer trucks, these standards will cut annual fuel costs by more than $18,000 at today’s prices. The fuel savings will pay back the increase in upfront costs in less than five months.

Companies that rely on trucking to move goods stand to benefit significantly too. These companies will see a decrease of around eleven cents in the total cost-per-mile to move freight. Across their supply chain, large freight shippers will save millions of dollars each year because of this rule.

These are real savings that businesses, big and small, are starting to see in their bottom line today.

These first generation standards were created with the broad support of the trucking industry and many other key stakeholders. Among the diverse groups that supported the standards were the American Trucking Association, Engine Manufacturers Association and the Truck Manufacturers Association, the United Auto Workers — and of course EDF.

But this is just the beginning.

With the right political and commercial will, we can build on the partnership created during the development of the current standards to find common ground on the next phase of truck efficiency rules.

We can do this in a way that enables American businesses to thrive, cuts the need for imported oil by hundreds of millions of barrels a year, and slashes climate pollution by more than 100 million tons a year.

That’s why it was great to hear President Obama’s call to action in the State of the Union Address about the next phase of truck standards. We already knew that we could do it – now it looks like we will.

(Click here to read more about this issue, including EDF's blueprint for rigorous greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards)

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

Super News in Crossing the Goal Line to Cleaner Cars and Healthier Air

This is a big week for major events, from State of the Union address last night to the Super Bowl this weekend.

But there’s one more milestone you might not have heard of yet — America is poised to make major progress in crossing the goal line to cleaner cars and cleaner gasoline.

The Tier 3 tailpipe and low sulfur gasoline standards are undergoing final review now at the White House.

Tier 3 standards will pave the way for a fleet of cleaner cars beginning in model year 2017 by reducing the emissions that contribute to dangerous soot and smog.

You can read more about what Tier 3 is and why it matters here.

Cars and light trucks are the second largest emitters of oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds in the U.S. Those are the primary pollutants that form ozone.

According to EPA, the Tier 3 standards as proposed would slash the level of those pollutants by 80 percent.

By 2030, the Tier 3 standards will prevent 2,400 deaths every year, prevent tens of thousands of cases of respiratory illnesses in children, and provide total health-related benefits worth up to $23 billion per year.

The proposed Tier 3 standards would also establish a 70 percent tighter standard for particulate matter.

Particulate matter, more commonly known as soot, is one of the most dangerous types of air pollution. It has been linked to asthma attacks, bronchitis, heart attacks and other types of heart and lung diseases.

We need your help ensuring these clean air protections for our communities and families cross the goal line.

The Tier 3 standards enjoy wide support from states, businesses, public health associations, environmental groups, environmental justice organizations, and auto manufacturers.

Here are some of their comments:

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers said:

 Sulfur inhibits the catalytic converter’s ability to reduce vehicle emissions, so lower sulfur at the pump means fewer exhaust emissions in the air. And because lower sulfur reduces emissions from all vehicles, the proposed sulfur reductions would achieve Day One benefits, immediately reducing emissions from every gasoline-powered vehicle on our roads, no matter how old.

Labor groups such as the United Auto Workers have also weighed in with their strong support:

Upon full implementation, the proposed rule will reduce the amount of sulfur in our gasoline by two-thirds. This is one of the most cost-effective ways for us to get cleaner and healthier air while strengthening our domestic auto sector and creating thousands of new jobs.

A broad coalition of health organizations – including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Thoracic Society, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Trust for America’s Health, Healthcare Without Harm, and the National Association of City and County Health Officials – had this to say:

These standards are urgently needed and will help protect the health of millions of Americans who continue to breathe unsafe air … Abundant scientific evidence exists on the health effects of ozone, particulate matter and other pollutants from tailpipe exhaust. Tier 3 standards will be effective tools to reduce such pollution and improve air quality.

National Association of Clean Air Agencies said:

The emission reductions that would result from the Tier 3 program proposed by EPA will benefit the citizens in every state and locality across the country… State and local air pollution agencies are relying on EPA to adopt the Tier 3 rule.

Please join the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are lending their strong support to ensure these clean car standards cross the goal line and deliver super health benefits for our nation.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Health, News, Policy | Comments closed

Some Records Are Not Meant to Be Broken

(This post originally appeared on EDF's blog California Dream 2.0)

By Tim O’Connor and Katie Hsia-Kiung, with Ilissa Ocko

Source: Drought Monitor

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.

California’s capital, Sacramento, for example, experienced its driest year since they began measuring rainfall in 1878.  Conditions are so dry that some cities in California’s Central Valley are 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. New York City, Philadelphia, and Atlantic City also broke previous high temperature records this past December – which has now been followed by extreme cold and snow storms. On the international level, 2013 was tied for the fourth warmest year on record.

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. The continued rise in record-breaking events is just what has been predicted by scientists and is statistically too significant to ignore. And while it is difficult to attribute individual weather events to climate change, scientists are developing techniques to determine a connection. To date, certain heat waves, droughts, and flooding events have been linked to human-caused climate change, and scientists are planning to investigate the California drought as well.

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.

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, we’ll move toward a future with a lot fewer records being broken, letting communities – and statisticians everywhere – live a little better.

Posted in News | Comments closed

The Silver Bullet Of Climate Change Policy

(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

By Bob Litterman and Gernot Wagner

Whenever the conversation turns to climate change, someone is sure to opine that there’s no silver bullet. The issue is simply too complex to have one solution. When you focus on all the changes that need to occur to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally it seems like a multifaceted approach is the only way forward.

Most of the world’s vexing problems share that feature. Mideast peace, nuclear non-proliferation, Eurozone stability, and plenty of other national security problems have no single right plan of attack. Some past plans might have brought us tantalizingly close to a seeming solution, but then reality started interfering once again, reconfirming the complexity of it all.

Climate change must surely be in that category. No single country, no single technology, no single approach can seemingly solve this one for us once and for all. Picking a single technology will almost inevitably end in some form of disappointment. Bureaucrats, the saying goes, ought not to try to pick winners. Leave that to venture capitalists for whom failure is a way of life. For every Apple and Facebook, there are dozens who never make it out of the garage. And clean technology doesn’t yet even have a single Apple and Facebook as the standout approach revolutionizing the field.

Source: NYU

It turns out, though, that how you frame the issue is crucial. If you think like an engineer there are dozens of challenges. If you think like an economist, there is one. It’s guiding the ‘invisible hand’. How can you create the appropriate incentive to decrease the pollution that’s causing climate change? For that, the government need not be in the business of picking winners at all. What it should—and can—do is identify the loser that’s been clear for decades: greenhouse gas pollution. And the solution is equally clear: create incentives to reduce emissions by pricing it. If we make this one change, most other actions that are needed will follow.

That’s what the European Union has done by capping carbon emissions from its energy sector, including large industrials, covering almost half of total carbon emissions. That’s what California is doing with over 80 percent of its total global warming emissions. It’s what China is experimenting with in seven city and regional trials, including in Beijing and Shanghai. All these systems put a price on greenhouse gas pollution.

On the other side of the ledger, there are still much larger incentives to consume fossil fuels in many other countries. The International Energy Agency estimates that global subsidies are well over $500 billion. These subsidies, which incentivize emissions, sadly dwarf the paltry incentives to reduce them. Free marketeers, small government advocates, and others who dislike distorting government subsidies should be appalled at the tax money poured into fossil fuels.

There’s one simple principle that’s been around in economics for so long that no economist worth his or her degree would question the conclusion: increase the price, watch the quantity demanded go down. It’s such a universal truism that economists call it the “Law of Demand.” Generations of graduate students have estimated the effects of price on demand for anything from the generic widget to demand for car miles driven. People may be irrational at times, but one thing that we know for sure is that they respond to incentives.

Everything we know from decades of the study of human behavior would lead us to believe that carbon pollution will go down as the price on emissions increases. The only interesting question is by how much.

The prescription then for anyone seriously concerned about climate change is simple: price carbon to the point where its now unpriced damages are incorporated into the price, and get out of the way. It’s simple. It works. It’s conservative to the core.

It’s also a silver bullet solution if there ever was one.

Bob Litterman is a Partner at Kepos Capital, LP. Gernot Wagner is a senior economist at the Environmental Defense Fund.

Posted in Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy | 1 Response, comments now closed

A Milestone in a Vitally Important Clean Air Act Case Before the Supreme Court

This week, we saw another milestone in a vitally important Supreme Court case about the Clean Air Act and our environment.

On Tuesday, EDF and a coalition of environmental groups joined with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and 15 states in filing briefs to defend EPA’s rules requiring new and rebuilt industrial sources to use cost-effective technology to limit climate pollution.

(The states are New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, plus the City of New York. You can read all the briefs here.)

In October, the Supreme Court denied review of EPA’s historic endangerment finding and clean cars standards, and granted review of a single question: whether EPA permissibly concluded that the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles triggered the application of the Clean Air Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V permitting programs to sources of greenhouse gases.

The permitting programs at issue – PSD and Title V – ensure that large new industrial sources use modern cost-effective solutions to mitigate climate pollution in the same way they have effectively addressed other pollutants under the nation’s clean air laws, and facilitate compliance with the entire range of Clean Air Act programs.

The Clean Air Act is clear that both programs apply to large sources emitting “any air pollutant,” and EPA’s regulations have required PSD and Title V permits for large sources of air pollutants subject to regulation for decades.

The petitioners in this case and those filing amicus briefs on their behalf, many of whom are tied to a $900 million effort to obstruct progress on climate and clean energy, want to upend these long-standing protections.

In the process, they present readings of the Clean Air Act that would exclude common-sense modern pollution controls for climate pollution — as well as hydrogen sulfide, sulfuric acid mist, and other air pollutants long regulated under our nation’s clean air laws.

The central theme in their arguments? Someday, EPA might apply these clean air protections to too many emissions sources.

So let’s take a look at greenhouse gas permitting over the last three years:

  • As of this writing, approximately 140 permits have been issued nationwide.
  • Permits cover industries ranging from iron and steel plants to cement plants to power plants.
  • Almost all states are handling their own greenhouse gas permitting.

Meanwhile, EPA is carefully considering next steps for greenhouse gas permitting requirements, including options for lowering the number of sources that might require permits in the future.

The next milestones in the case are coming up soon. Reply briefs are expected on February 15, and the Court will hear oral argument on Monday, February 24.

In the meantime, you can read more about the case here.

Posted in Clean Air Act, EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy | Comments closed
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