Category Archives: Climate

Texas Grid Regulator Cites Very Little Burden in Complying with EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Source: Armin Kübelbeck, Wikimedia Commons

Well, it didn’t take long before the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) released, at the request of Texas’ very political Public Utilities Commission, another report about the impacts of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) rules designed to protect public health.

This time ERCOT, which manages 90 percent of Texas’ electric grid, looked at the impact of seven EPA clean air safeguards on the electric grid, including the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), the Mercury Air Toxics Standard (MATS), the Regional Haze program (all of which go back before the Obama administration), the proposed Clean Power Plan, which would set the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, and others. What was surprising to learn, though, is that after power companies in the state start complying with EPA’s other clean air protections, the proposed Clean Power Plan poses a minimal incremental impact to the power grid. We would only have to cut 200 megawatts of coal-fired generation, which equates to less than one coal-fired power plant. Read More »

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National Program Aims to Expand Minority Participation in Energy Sector

EDF Climate Corps fellow Olivia Moreno uncovers ways to increase energy efficiency at University of Texas at El Paso.

EDF Climate Corps fellow Olivia Moreno uncovers ways to increase energy efficiency at University of Texas at El Paso.

It's no secret that minorities are underrepresented in the energy field.

In the United States, Hispanics, African Americans, and American Indians make up 24 percent of the overall workforce, yet only account for nine percent of the country’s science and engineering workforce.

An initiative called Minorities in Energy (MIE) aims to change those numbers. It is creating a sustainable model that identifies diverse stakeholders to address challenges and opportunities for underrepresented communities in the growing energy economy, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, and climate change.

Launched a year ago by the U.S. Department of Energy, MIE has built an impressive list of ambassadors and partnerships. Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz puts it this way:

"We can only be successful in achieving our energy goals if we are inclusive of America's diverse communities." Read More »

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Illinois Legislators Pledge Support for EPA’s Proposed Carbon Regulations

illinois legislatorsWhile the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sorts through the more than 1.6 million comments received on its proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP), one group is stepping out to pledge its support of the landmark proposal. 53 Illinois legislators recently signed a letter urging the EPA to finalize the plan, which will set limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants for the first time ever.

Power plants currently account for nearly 40 percent of the nation’s carbon pollution and Illinois’s proposed target would result in a 33 percent reduction in the state’s carbon output by 2030. Fortunately, due to impressive state efforts to invest in clean energy over the past few years, Illinois is well-positioned to meet the challenge.

CPP is an economic opportunity

The Illinois legislators argue the CPP will help the state “achieve even greater cuts in our emissions, health benefits for all our citizens, and will spur further growth in our state’s economy.” The CPP will further the state’s transition to a clean energy economy by attracting investment in innovation, creating more jobs, and keeping electricity prices affordable. Read More »

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Can Birds and Wind Energy Co-exist?

By: Stacy Small-Lorenz, Conservation Scientist, and Jim Marston, Vice President, US Climate and Energy

farm-62260_1280Climate change will have major impacts on birds and their habitats, according to a recent report from the National Audubon Society. Scientists project climate change will drastically alter and shrink habitats in the U.S. for many bird species. These findings add to mounting evidence that natural systems are at serious risk for climate change impacts, which we must act swiftly to mitigate.

One solution is to adopt more clean, renewable energy. Utilities have been investing in large-scale wind energy farms at an impressive rate, resulting in 127 million tons of avoided carbon dioxide a year in the U.S. – the equivalent of taking 20 million cars off the road.

But a tricky challenge persists in the effort to make our energy system more sustainable overall: large, utility-scale wind energy developments have been known to kill bats and birds and risk fragmenting sensitive habitats. And while wind turbines kill far fewer songbirds than building collisions or cats, raptors and bats are still at risk for turbine collisions. Read More »

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So, how do we Make Sustainability… Sustainable?

alternative-21761_640Last week the New York Times reported that, for the first time in history, clean energy resources like solar and wind are becoming cost competitive with conventional coal in some markets. This paradigm shift, where clean energy is beginning to compete head-to-head with traditional energy sources, calls for a change in perspective.

This ‘change in perspective’ is a movement toward what I would describe as “sustainable sustainability” – in which “sustainable” means the ability to stand the test of time, and “sustainability” refers to an environmentally responsible approach to making, moving, and using energy. In other words, we must find a way to ensure clean energy resources remain competitive in the marketplace and become ‘business as usual’ resources in the overall energy mix. The International Energy Agency (IEA) does a great job of explaining the need for this shift:

In the classical approach, variable renewables are added to an existing system without considering all available options for adapting it as a whole. This approach misses the point. Integration is not simply about adding wind and solar on top of ‘business as usual’. We need to transform the system as a whole to do this cost-effectively.”

Read More »

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What We Can’t See Can Hurt Us: New Study Provides Insights to Find, Fix Oil and Gas Pollution

natgasworkerHow do you detect a colorless, odorless gas? It’s an important question especially when that invisible gas is as damaging as what comprises oil and gas pollution. We are talking about hazardous air pollutants (benzene), ozone precursors (volatile organic compounds), and greenhouse gases like methane – a gas that is more than 80 times more damaging than carbon dioxide to the climate in the short term.

Widely available tools like infrared cameras and hand-held hydrocarbon detectors are very effective at detecting leaks from oil and gas equipment, but new technologies and new science are always welcome.

That’s what makes a new paper in the journal Environmental Science and Technology exciting. Led by experts from EPA’s Office of Research and Development, and co-authored by EDF’s David Lyon, this study uses a new technique to identify and measure methane emissions at oil and gas facilities.

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