Selected tags: climate change

Critical Decision Expected Tomorrow in Colorado on Clean Air Rule

Day 4 of the ongoing hearings on a groundbreaking proposal to reduce air and climate pollution from oil and gas operations in Colorado saw Team EDF pushing back on claims opposition groups have made to try to weaken the proposal.

Leading companies Noble, Anadarko, Encana and DCP also put on strong cases, using their own operational data to show the proposal is cost effective. They should be lauded for their leadership, as should local governments and conservation groups that brought strong analytics to the hearings.

If the proposal is adopted without being weakened, it will eliminate more than 90,000 tons of smog-forming VOCs annually (the same amount produced by all the cars and trucks in Colorado) and more than 100,000 tons of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas.

Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, Climate, Colorado, General, Methane, Natural Gas| Also tagged , , , , , | 3 Responses, comments now closed

Arguments Heat Up in Colorado Air Rulemaking, But the Facts Remain

Yesterday, we covered the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) taking public testimony from citizens who traveled from around the state to speak in support of a groundbreaking proposal that would slash emissions of smog-forming pollutants and greenhouse gases coming from oil and gas activities.

Formal proceedings kicked off today – and will likely run through the weekend – with various parties presenting their opening cases. EDF went early in the day, providing strong evidence that the proposed rule is cost-effective and urgently needed to combat local air quality problems and climate change. We also highlighted some glaring flaws  in the methodology industry opponents cooked up to show inflated costs for the rules.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), the Colorado Petroleum Association (CPA) and the DGS group are throwing everything they can at the rule to try to gut it.  But they’re in a shrinking minority on the wrong side of history.

Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, Climate, Colorado, General, Methane, Natural Gas| Also tagged , , , , | Comments closed

LASER: Turning the climate threat into a story of opportunity for Los Angeles

This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices Blog.

I’m an L.A. guy, so I like to think about things in epic story lines. And with today's launch of EDF and UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation new “LASER” maps (Los Angeles Solar & Efficiency Report), I think we’ve got a real blockbuster on our hands.

The LASER story opens with a team of top scientists warning us of an imminent threat – climate change – that will cause widespread disruption and human suffering if left unmitigated.

Utilizing the groundbreaking work of Dr. Alex Hall and the UCLA Institute for the Environment and Sustainability, the LASER maps illustrate what climate change is going to look like in the Los Angeles region in just a few decades.

By mid-century, the region will experience a tripling in the number of extreme heat days in the downtown and urban core, and a quadrupling in the number of extreme heat days in the valleys and at high elevations.

The plot thickens as we get a clearer sense of the communities that are most at risk – those already dealing with bad air quality, lack of adequate green space and tree canopy, poor access to public transit, and other challenges like high unemployment levels, poverty and public health hazards.

This is the part of the story where we could give up in the face of seemingly impossible odds…but that’s not how we roll in Los Angeles.

The LASER maps also introduce a powerful narrative about how we can fight back by  mitigating the carbon pollution driving climate change, building community resiliency through investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy, and seizing opportunities for economic growth that reduce vulnerability.

Utilizing sophisticated GIS mapping tools and other data, LASER shows the tremendous environmental and economic potential for rooftop solar in Los Angeles County:

  • Nearly 29,000 local jobs in solar panel installation could be created if merely 5% of the rooftop solar energy generating potential in LA County was realized.
  • If LA rooftops were able to capture that 5% of solar capacity they would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.25 million tons, equivalent to taking 250,000 cars off the road annually.
Another LASER plot line involves energy efficiency, one of the cheapest ways to reduce carbon pollution and lower utility bills at the same time. The LASER maps show that:
  • Nearly 1.5 million buildings in LA County were built before energy efficiency codes went into effect, which means…
  • 80% of all buildings in LA County have elevated potential for cost-saving, energy efficiency investments.

If this were actually a Hollywood blockbuster, we would probably cut to a final, climactic showdown and a dramatic rescue from impending doom. But unlike Hollywood, there is no pre-written ending to the climate crisis.

To mitigate the worst effects of climate change, and prepare vulnerable communities for the climate impacts already on their way, we need serious investment and deployment of clean energy and low-carbon infrastructure – particularly in those communities that will be hit the hardest.

LASER provides tools that can help elected officials and advocates pinpoint the communities that are most vulnerable to climate change, identify the region’s clean energy investment potential, and then develop policies and funding mechanism to unleash it. EDF is here to help in that effort, and look forward to supporting our friends and allies in Los Angeles who are working to make the clean energy potential profiled in LASER a real-life success story.

In the end, LASER tells a tale of threat and opportunity in Los Angeles. Now it’s time to get to work to make sure this epic has a positive ending.

Posted in California, Climate| Also tagged , | Comments closed

Methane: a Key to Dealing With Carbon Pollution?

Carbon is typically considered enemy number one in the context of climate-altering pollution. There is good reason why. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from power plants is the leading source of U.S. greenhouse (GHG) emissions. Beyond our borders, the historic level of 400 parts per million of GHGs entering into our earth’s atmosphere was passed just five months ago – an indication of the rapid rise in human-produced emissions.

And while reducing carbon pollution is the primary goal of EDF’s climate agenda, so is minimizing methane emissions from natural gas development. That’s because methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, is a powerful GHG that can cause major climate damage in the short term. In fact, a recent analysis by many of the world's top experts on evolving climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), reports methane to be at least 84 times more potent than CO2 over the first two decades. On a 100-year timeframe, methane is at least 28 times more potent. These are noticeable changes in methane’s Global Warming Potential (GWP) from the IPCC's last assessment in 2007, with values raised from 72 to 84 and 25 to 28, roughly a 17 percent increase on a 20-year time horizon and a 12 percent increase on a 100-year basis.

IPCC’s fifth assessment (AR5) also quantitatively discusses two additional indirect effects that further increase, albeit modestly, methane's GWP. First, IPCC considers climate-carbon feedbacks and reports two sets of GWP values: one that accounts for the feedbacks and another that excludes them (they conclude that including this effect is "likely" to give a more accurate estimate of climate impacts from emissions of greenhouse gases like methane or CH4). The 20-year GWP for methane with feedbacks increases from 84 to 86, with the 100-year GWP up from 28 to 34. The explanation for this feedback is diminishing ability of oceans and soils to absorb carbon dioxide as the climate warms. As a result, as methane emissions warm the climate, more CO2 that would have historically been absorbed by the land and ocean remains in the atmosphere, causing additional warming. The second effect now quantified by the IPCC is the production of additional CO2 as CH4 is oxidized in the atmosphere, which adds another point or two to methane's GWP.

Read More »

Posted in Climate, Natural Gas| Also tagged , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

The Power of Networks to Drive Environmental Results

This commentary originally appeared on EDF’s Climate Corps blog.

The world’s top scientists reminded us last week that the case for action on climate change has never been more urgent.  And turning the corner on carbon emissions and avoiding the worst impacts of a warming world will require nothing less than a full-scale transformation of our energy system.  That is a huge political, technological and cultural challenge – one that no individual, organization or country can solve on its own.  It will take the leadership and collaboration of people across the world, pulling together toward a common goal.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has a staff of 400 – small in the global scheme. That is why we are experts at deploying powerful networks to get results. Our success with businesses – whether it’s improving the safety of products sold at Walmart, or saving water at AT&T – all rest on our ability to tap into the knowledge, connections, and influence of our partners.

One of our most successful networks: EDF Climate Corps.  Hundreds of organizations ranging from PepsiCo and Office Depot to the Chicago Public Schools and New York City Housing Authority have tapped EDF Climate Corps for energy strategies and solutions that cut costs and emissions.  And best of all, our hosts and fellows are now spreading these innovations through their own networks, creating a multiplier effect that expands our impact exponentially.

Read More »

Posted in Climate, EDF Climate Corps| Also tagged , | Comments closed

Texas Boasts Most Modern Power Grid In The Country

In an effort to gauge where America’s power grid stands, Washington D.C.-based group GridWise Alliance evaluated grid modernization in 41 states and the District of Columbia.  Texas and California tied for first place—standing far above the next runner up.

So what makes Texas’ grid so special?

Texas restructured its electricity market in 1999, introducing competition into the retail electric market.  The new competitive retail market gave most Texans a choice of electricity providers from dozens of companies, so these energy providers compete to offer the most advanced services.  For example, Texans can opt for 100% renewable electricity from Green Mountain Energy.

Additionally, in an effort to update Texas’ electric grid, the Public Utility Commission, Texas’ governing body for electricity, passed a resolution prompting “wires companies”(the firms that deliver energy from power plants to homes and businesses) to invest in millions of smart meters.  Smart meters can help eliminate huge waste in the energy system, reduce peak energy demand (rush hour on the electrical wires) and spur the adoption of clean, low-carbon energy resources, such as wind and solar power, by managing energy demand and generation more efficiently.

Read More »

Posted in Climate, Smart Grid, Texas| Also tagged , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Rural Communities Need Extra Support In Light Of Energy And Water Constraints

Source: Winning Communities

Around 20% of the US population lives in an area that is classified as “rural.” The US Census Bureau defines an urban area as a territory with a population of at least 50,000, or a cluster of 2,500 to 50,000 people. Rural is then defined as anything outside of that definition. Rural areas face particular challenges when it comes to energy and water use. For example, utilities are met with higher costs and often find it harder to implement new clean technologies to modernize their energy infrastructure because of the great distances between customers and an irregular patchwork of reliable resources. Besides, many system planners and thought leaders for innovative energy technologies live in urban or suburban areas and may find it harder to relate to the specific challenges of rural settings.

It’s likely that climate change will impact rural communities in different ways than it will urban areas, due to a number of factors including the types of common occupations, poverty levels and demography. Of particular concern is the “climate gap”, which refers to the lower economic and physical adaptability of rural communities.  It will vary based on region, but research indicates that rural communities in the Southeast and Southwest could face particularly dire circumstances due to changes in electricity prices and water scarcity.

Read More »

Posted in Climate, Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus, Utility Business Models| Also tagged , , , | Comments closed

How Smarter, More Flexible Energy Can Help Communities Weather Future Storms

Last week, the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force released a Rebuilding Strategy, which aims to rebuild communities affected by Hurricane Sandy in ways that are “better able to withstand future storms and other risks posed by climate change.”  From an energy perspective, the main goal of these recommendations is to make the electrical grid smarter and more flexible.  This effort would minimize power outages and fuel shortages in the event of similar emergency situations in the future.

The Task Force is led by President Obama and chaired by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan.  The recommendations put forth in the report were developed with Governor Cuomo, Governor Christie, and a number of federal agencies and officials from across New York and New Jersey, representing an unusual opportunity to make changes that will help communities weather future crises.

This key idea – smarter, flexible energy – is central to resilience, safety and quick recovery in a storm, as well as reducing the harmful pollution linked to climate change in the first place.  This has been a key theme of EDF’s efforts to help the Northeast region respond to Sandy.

When the power grid went down on most of New York City following Hurricane Sandy, a number of buildings were able to keep their lights on thanks to existing microgrids and on-site, renewable energy sources.  The Task Force report lays out a path forward for taking these isolated success stories to scale and making these clean technologies available to everyone.

Read More »

Posted in Climate, Investor Confidence Project, New York, On-bill repayment, Smart Grid| Also tagged , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

America’s Aging Energy Infrastructure Needs An Overhaul

No one likes being told “I told you so.”  But since DOE released its report last week, I’ve been tempted.

The report warns that the existing American energy infrastructure is highly vulnerable to climate change.  That increasing temperatures will stress the U.S. water system and enhance the likelihood of drought. That because conventional power plants require huge volumes of water to operate, lower water availability will mean less reliable power.  And that the changing climate will prompt more extreme and frequent storms, increasing energy demand due to extreme temperature changes and threatening our aging and already stressed electric grid with potential blackouts.

In essence, the affirms the many the calls-to-action that EDF and many other groups have been leading for years and the lessons we learned from Superstorm Sandy made painfully real and salient:  Our existing energy technologies and policies were designed for a 20th century climate.  To weather the extremes of a 21st century climate, we need to a 21st century energy system – one  that promotes energy efficiency, enables widespread adoption of homegrown, renewable sources of power and allows people to control their own energy use and reduce their electricity costs.

I have been very encouraged by President Obama’s recent movement on climate change, and the DOE report provides research backing the urgency of his Climate Action Plan.  Hopefully, this recent movement will translate into real national momentum, as our national approach to energy truly needs an overhaul. Read More »

Posted in Climate, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Also tagged , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

President Obama’s Plan To Accelerate The Transition To A Clean Energy Economy

Source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Today President Obama took an important step toward meeting the promise of his inaugural address to “respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”  The headline, of course, is the commitment to take serious action to address the most significant challenge our generation faces – climate change. And, with it, the extreme weather and public health burdens that are already making life harder for vulnerable regions and people nationwide, and that stand to become so much worse as the root cause remains unaddressed.

In his Climate Action Plan announced at Georgetown University, the President laid out his vision for putting in place common sense policies that will cut harmful carbon pollution while driving innovation, cutting energy waste and energy bills, creating jobs and protecting public health. 

Most Americans would be shocked to know that there are no current limits on carbon pollution from power plants. By setting the first standards in history for carbon pollution from power plants in the United States – which produce 2 billion tons of this pollution each year, or about 40% of the nation’s total – the President will help modernize our power system, ensuring that our electricity is reliable, affordable, healthy and clean.  And we can do this in a way that can give industry the flexibility it needs to make cost-effective investments in clean energy technologies.

A modern, intelligent, interactive electricity system will help minimize problems that arise from extreme weather events and other disruptions and maximize renewables, efficiency and consumer choice.  Since the President took office, our country has seen the beginnings of a revolution in the energy sector – technological innovations have put us on track to energy independence and clean, homegrown energy resources constitute a growing share of electric generation capacity.  Reducing wasted energy and using more clean energy offer enormous potential for our health, economy and climate, including:

-          Little to no harmful pollution = improved public health

-          An unlimited, homegrown energy supply = less reliance on foreign oil

-          Economic development = more jobs

-          Stable energy prices = lower electric bills and improved economic stability  

-          A more reliable, resilient energy system = less costly, scary blackouts

-          A global leadership position in the multi-trillion dollar clean energy economy = reclaimed pride and competitiveness for America’s manufacturers

Read More »

Posted in Climate, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Washington, DC| Also tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed