America is in the midst of two booms: one in sensor technology and another in natural gas. Recent innovations—specifically advancements in drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies—have dramatically increased the nation’s access to reserves of natural gas. While this influx of new technology has altered the energy industry, the resulting large-scale development has brought with it some real environmental and climate risks. Now is the time for the same ingenuity that transformed America’s energy landscape to help identify solutions to reduce the impacts caused by increasing supplies of natural gas.
Just this last month, two innovator programs were announced – one led by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and another from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) – both are focused on developing new technologies capable of minimizing methane emissions from the natural gas supply chain. The programs are different but complementary and together signal there is momentum building to engage the best and brightest innovators to help address a consequential component of the climate issue. Read More
By: Liz Delaney, Senior Manager, EDF Climate Corps Operations
Reinhard Krause / Reuters
China is, in many ways, the epicenter of the world’s efforts to curb climate change. The rapidly growing nation’s need for energy is soaring – demand is expected to double by 2020 – and China has surpassed the United States to become the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.
So it makes total sense for the Environmental Defense Fund to expand its unique fellowship program, Climate Corps, to China this summer to help leading global brands there find energy efficiency and sustainability solutions that help them thrive. EDF is partnering with Apple, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Cummins and Legrand in China, initially placing six graduate students to work with the companies. Read More
When most of us think about military operations, we think of tanks rolling across a desert, large aircraft carriers on the ocean, or long lines of Humvees in convoys. These vehicles, and their missions, take a lot of energy and are part of the large category of “operational energy use.” In fact, 75% of all military energy use is operational.
This operational energy use has created a massive dependence on fossil fuels, resulting in some unintended consequences, which:
- Cause ships, planes and vehicles, like tanks, to cease operations during refueling. This takes time and keeps the vehicle from completing its mission. Fuel convoys are also prime targets for ambushes and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
- Bind the military to a volatile commodity with changing prices and an unstable future.
- Exacerbate climate change, an issue that U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently called a “threat multiplier.” According to Secretary Hagel, climate change will influence resource competition and “aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions.” These stressors will increase the frequency, scope, and duration of future conflicts and, by extension, U.S. military interventions around the globe. Read More
Source: Argonne National Library
The energy-water nexus has been gaining traction around the globe, including serving as the theme to this year’s World Water Day, and now we are finally seeing some movement on Capitol Hill.
In January, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) introduced S. 1971, the Nexus of Energy and Water for Sustainability Act of 2014, or NEWS Act of 2014. Foremost, the bill would establish an interagency coordination committee focused on the nexus between energy and water production, use, and efficiency. The NEWS Act of 2014 also proposes a cross-cutting budget mechanism to allow policymakers to see where funding is needed across various energy-water initiatives.
While the bill faces a particularly steep slope to passage (7% compared to an average overall 11% passage rate, according to GovTrack, a government transparency tracker), that it has been introduced at all is the first sign of a more comprehensive approach to the energy-water nexus at the highest levels. Read More
By: Megan Ceronsky, EDF attorney, and Peter Heisler, legal fellow
The newly-released Third National Climate Assessment has some eye-opening news about climate change.
The report confirms that if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced it is likely that American communities will experience:
- increased severity of dangerous smog and particulate pollution in many regions
- intensified precipitation events, hurricanes, and storm surges
- reduced precipitation and runoff in the arid West
- reduced crop yields and livestock productivity
- increases in fires, insect pests, and the prevalence of diseases transmitted by food, water, and insects
- increased risk of illness and death due to extreme heat
Source: Flickr/Eric Schmuttenmaer
Extreme weather imposes a high cost on our communities, our livelihoods, and our lives. The National Climatic Data Center reports that the United States experienced seven climate disasters that each caused more than a billion dollars of damage in 2013, including the devastating floods in Colorado and extreme droughts in western states.
These are precisely the type of impacts projected to affect American communities with increasing frequency and severity as climate-destabilizing emissions continue to accumulate in the atmosphere.
Fossil fuel-fired power plants are far and away the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, emitting more than two billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012 — equivalent to 40 percent of U.S. carbon pollution and nearly one-third of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Read More
"Green Power, not nuclear energy." Germany will fully transition off nuclear by 2022.
As the academic breeding ground of Einstein, Freud, and many other internationally-known scholars, it should come as no surprise that Germany is at the forefront of modernizing an industry as complex as energy. Over the last two decades, Germany has been revamping its electricity sector with the ambitious goal of powering its economy almost entirely on renewable energy by 2050. And last Sunday, the country broke a new record by acquiring nearly 75 percent of its total energy demand from renewable sources (mostly wind and solar). Even the European Union’s recent announcement that it will begin divesting in renewable energy by 2017 hasn’t shaken Germany’s ambition to forge ahead in its quest to phase out fossil fuels.
Energiewende (the German term for ‘energy transition’) is by far the most aggressive clean energy effort among the G20 and could be as beneficial for other countries as it is for Germany. The German Institute for International and Security Affairs argues, “If the [German] energy transition succeeds, it will serve as an international model… The allure of the German energy transition represents an important foreign policy resource, of which full use should be made.”
At the moment, Energiewende is the closest thing the world has to a renewables-integration pilot on a national scale. If successful, this blueprint will expedite the broad scale integration of technologies that will be necessary to wean the world off fossil fuels and combat climate change. Read More
Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
There’s been plenty of attention paid to the recent release of the Third National Climate Assessment report – and appropriately so. The lead paragraph of New York Times reporter Justin Gillis’ story put it rather bluntly:
“The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects.”
Even for those of us that have been urging U.S. action on climate, the assessment was pretty stark and the message was clear: the time to act came a long time ago. We need to get busy catching up.
But the optimist in me was excited about a chapter in the report that hasn’t yet gotten much attention. Chapter 4 focuses on Energy Supply and Use, and though the energy challenges caused by climate change are formidable, the U.S. is very well positioned to meet them if our leaders will get behind some practical solutions. There are five key takeaways in the Energy chapter: Read More
By: Mandy Warner, Climate & Air Policy Specialist
Image by Arnold Paul, cropped by Gralo
This is a fact that always stuns people:
There are currently no national limits whatsoever on carbon pollution from U.S. power plants, the single largest source of this pollution in the country.
But last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposal that could change that fact for future power plants.
EPA’s proposal would set America’s first-ever national carbon pollution standards for future power plants – a major victory in the fight against climate change.
The Carbon Pollution Standards for New Power Plants are an absolutely necessary, common sense step toward limiting the pollution emitted through our country’s power generation. These standards will help protect our children from harmful smog, curb respiratory problems, and shield 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 and infrastructure. Read More
It has happened again. Another scientific study finds methane emissions from oil and gas production are higher than previously thought, reinforcing the urgent need to reduce emissions of this powerful climate pollutant. The latest study, accepted today to be published in American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, measured methane concentrations in the air over Colorado’s largest oil and gas producing region on two days during early 2012 and adds to our understanding of the environmental impact of oil and gas development.
The study—led by scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at UC-Boulder—suggests between 2.6 and 5.6 percent of gas produced in the Denver Julesburg basin escapes into the air. That’s nearly three times the amount estimated using data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. The study also found emissions of smog-forming VOC emissions to be twice as high as estimated based on state data and emissions of benzene, a known carcinogen, to be seven times higher than current state estimates.
Resiliency+ is a new blog series, which highlights the ways in which different clean energy resources and technologies can play an important part in increasing energy resiliency in New Jersey and around the country. Check back every two weeks, or sign up to receive Energy Exchange blog posts via email.
Renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, provides clean and sustainable power to our electricity grid. But it also offers other benefits beyond environmentally-friendly electricity. Renewable energy can increase energy resiliency by keeping the lights on, including at critical facilities in the wake of a natural disaster. That’s why it has the potential to play a particularly pivotal role in New Jersey, which is vulnerable to vicious storms such as Superstorm Sandy.
Renewable energy, unlike other forms of energy, is less vulnerable to sustained disruption. Other, more traditional forms of energy, such as fossil fuels, require an input (coal, oil and gas, etc.) that needs to be shipped, often via pipeline, to create electricity, leaving them vulnerable to a natural disaster that might interrupt transport. On the other hand, renewable energy has the ability to generate stable, on-site power from sources such as solar and wind when it operates from a microgrid. A microgrid can generate power both connected to and independently from the main, centralized grid. They can vary in size, providing power to several city blocks or to an individual home, but microgrids have the unique potential to “island” from the main electricity system. This is important during and/or in the wake of a natural disaster like Superstorm Sandy because this autonomous electricity system is able to power local buildings regardless of whether or not the main electric grid is down. Read More