Last month, I attended the Vail Global Energy Forum in Colorado. Billed as a “mini-Davos” of energy (studiously ignoring the Aspen crowd a few hours down the highway), that moniker may have felt aspirational when the conference launched three years ago. But, this year it paid off: momentum for frank dialogue and global innovation is building on the slopes of the Vail Valley.
Here’s my take on how the clean air of the mountains cuts through the hot air of energy debates to illuminate practical, actionable ideas.
Three big ideas drove the conference:
- North American energy independence
Mexico, the United States, and Canada could, together, innovate their way to an energy marketplace that weakens dependence on overseas imports, scales up clean energy solutions, and charts a path to low-carbon prosperity. At times, the discussion was framed by the rise of unconventional oil and gas exploration (yes, “fracking”), collaboration around pipelines (yes, “Keystone”), and whether these could disrupt traditional geopolitical frames. Read More
Also posted in Air Quality, California, Cap and Trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Methane, Natural Gas, New York, Utility Business Models
Long familiar in major urban areas, smog – what we experts call “ground-level ozone” pollution – is quickly becoming a serious problem in the rural mountain west, thanks to rapid expansion in oil and gas development. Smog can cause serious health impacts like aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis, heart attacks, and even premature death. In areas like the Upper Green River Basin in Wyoming, smog levels have sometimes rivaled those in Los Angeles.
Now, the Environmental Protection Agency and several western states are putting the pieces in place to fix this problem: EPA through proposed revisions to the health-based ozone standard that will better protect people from pollution, and states like Wyoming and Colorado through strong policies that are helping to reduce the sources of ozone pollution in the oil and gas industry.
In official public comments filed this week with EPA, EDF and a broad coalition of western environmental and conservation groups supported a more protective ozone standard and pointed out the importance of this issue to the intermountain west–where most of the country’s oil and gas production from federal lands occurs.
As the year draws to a close, I’m grateful for three climate breakthroughs from 2014 that give me hope that we can still turn the corner toward a stable climate before it's too late.
And I’m thankful to my colleagues at Environmental Defense Fund who crunched the numbers and determined how we can actually see global greenhouse emissions peak, level off, and begin to decline in the next five years.
EDF can’t do it alone – it will take concerted action by allies and stakeholders around the world – and it won’t be easy. But we can do it.
We know we can do this, because it’s happening already: Read More
By: Tom Murray, Vice President, Corporate Partnerships Program
Last week, financial community leaders took a big step into the intersection of business and policy on the urgent need to curb methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. A group of investors managing more than $300 billion in market assets sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration and the White House, calling for the federal government to regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. The letter urged covering new and existing oil and gas sites, including upstream and midstream sources, citing that strong methane policy can reduce business risk and create long-term value for investors and the economy.
Spearheaded by Trillium Asset Management, the cosigners of the letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy included New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, who oversees the $160 billion New York City Pension Funds, and a diverse set of firms and institutional investors. They spelled out in no uncertain terms that they regard methane as a serious climate and business problem – exposing the public and businesses alike to the growing costs of climate change associated with floods, storms, droughts, and other severe weather. Read More
A coal train rolls through a town in West Virginia, which produces more coal than any other state except for Wyoming.
Nobody was surprised to hear political foes of President Obama and leaders from several coal-dependent states blast EPA’s proposal to limit carbon pollution from America’s power plants.
The Clean Power Plan, released June 2, represents a big change in the way America will generate and use energy in the coming decades. We understand: Big changes are scary.
So it’s interesting to ponder which political leaders in states dependent on coal-fired power will, in the end, seize this historic opportunity.
Who will use the flexible policy tools offered in the Clean Power Plan to diversify their energy economies and unleash innovation to help their states grow? Who will show political courage? 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