Climate 411

Eleven facts about clean vehicles to counter gas guzzling lobbyists

The average American household spends about $175 a month on gasoline. That means billions of dollars to oil companies, refiners, and others — and a huge incentive for them to block policies that move America to clean, zero-emissions electric vehicles.

We’re already seeing a coordinated push to stop our leaders from boosting American clean cars, trucks and buses — even though these policies will create jobs and a more just and equitable economy, clean the air, and are popular with the public.

EDF experts have assembled these facts to counter the lobbyists who want to make sure Americans keep paying at the pump.

1. Moving to clean electric vehicles will help America win the race for good jobs today and tomorrow. 

The question isn’t electric vehicles versus gas-powered vehicles — the global industry is already moving to EVs, and spending at least $257 billion this decade to make the switch. The issue is whether American workers will get these jobs. We can build these vehicles in places like Hamtramck, MI and Spartanburg, SC or have them shipped to us from Hamburg and Shanghai. Switching to zero-emissions electric trucks, buses, and cars will create jobs today and help us compete with Europe and China in this rapidly expanding market. Read More »

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight / Comments are closed

Why Electric Utilities Must Engage in Climate Resilience Planning

(This post was co-authored by EDF’s Sarah Ladin and Romany Webb of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School)

As the owners and operators of immense infrastructure, electric utilities are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Many electric utilities are already struggling to respond to higher temperatures, changing rain patterns, more intense storms, and other climate impacts. Those impacts impair the operation of electric generation, transmission, and distribution infrastructure. The situation will only worsen in coming decades, which makes it imperative that electric utilities act now to identify future climate impacts and develop tools and processes to manage them.

This type of planning is not just good practice, however. In our new report, Climate Risk in the Electricity Sector: Legal Obligations to Advance Climate Resilience Planning by Electric Utilities, we show that it is also legally required under state public utility law and tort law.

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Also posted in News, Partners for Change / Comments are closed

How public benefits programs can help protect fossil fuel workers and communities in transition

This third report in a joint research series by Environmental Defense Fund and Resources for the Future examines public benefits programs designed to protect individual and community economic security and health as the U.S. transitions to a clean economy. Jake Higdon of EDF and Molly Robertson of RFF co-authored the report described in this blog post. All views expressed here are EDF’s.

Coal miner in Jenkins, Kentucky.

Coal miner in Jenkins, Kentucky.

In hundreds of communities around the U.S., coal miners are paying a tragic price for the extended time they spent breathing in coal dust underground: They suffer from Black Lung Disease, which robs patients of their ability to breathe without assistance. Tragically, there is no cure — only treatments that ease the symptoms.

Harvey Hess of southwest Virginia is one of those retired miners. He began working in coal mines on his 17th birthday and continued working in them for 37 years. Now, like many with Black Lung Disease, he receives disability benefits from a federal trust fund. These crucial funds allow Harvey and others to afford essential medical support, like the oxygen tank he relies on to breathe 24/7.

However, Black Lung Disease is not the only chronic issue facing coal workers and coal communities, and it is also not the only instance where public benefits can help support workers’ health and financial security. Besides Black Lung Disease benefits, the U.S. government has also stepped in to support union pensions and health care as coal companies dodge their promises to employees through bankruptcy hearings. And the spillover effects from the decline in production of coal and other fossil fuels can leave millions of Americans in fossil fuel regions — beyond just the energy workers themselves — in need of immediate assistance to soften the economic downturn, maintain economic stability and preserve community health.

The role of public benefits programs

Policies that distribute resources to support general wellness, buffer communities from economic shock, and ensure individuals’ ability to meet their basic needs are sometimes referred to as “public benefits.” For example, they provide retirees with pensions, displaced and disabled workers with financial relief, and low-income families with health care and nutritional assistance.

National public benefits are often referred to as the social safety net because they serve as the first line of defense in times of crisis. The current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of expanded social safety net programs, like unemployment insurance, in insulating families and communities from the most severe economic shocks. However, compared to peer nations, the U.S. spends a relatively small percentage of its GDP on social safety net programs for workers and has virtually no safety net for local governments, which often experience fiscal crises during economic downturns, rendering them unable to provide essential services — often at a time when more people need them.

As we explore in other reports in this series, fossil fuel communities are likely to need targeted federal policies in economic development, workforce development, infrastructure, environmental remediation, and more as the U.S. transitions to a clean economy. Although it is clear that broad public benefits cannot ensure fairness for workers and communities alone, they can play a complementary role to these more targeted approaches. 

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Also posted in Jobs / Read 1 Response

Analysis: North Carolina can curb emissions and reduce costs through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

As North Carolina Governor Cooper considers policies to reach the state’s climate goals, analysis from EDF and M.J. Bradley & Associates shows that joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) can help get the job done. RGGI would significantly reduce climate-warming pollution in North Carolina by capping and reducing power sector carbon emissions.

The analysis underscores that North Carolina will not reach its emission reduction targets under a business-as-usual scenario, though a strong cap on emissions can deliver the reductions necessary while driving investment in zero emitting resources. We also found that RGGI can help North Carolina reduce emissions while lowering overall system costs, reducing the state’s reliance on fossil fuels, and improving public health through reduced air pollution.

EDF and M.J. Bradley & Associates modeled the potential impacts of placing a cap on power sector emissions that declines at a rate consistent with the cap trajectory adopted by the 10 other states participating in the regional program. This analysis looked at several different scenarios, which evaluated a range of fuel prices and different options regarding whether surrounding states capped power sector emissions and found substantial benefits from participation in RGGI. The analysis was completed prior to availability of data related to potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on carbon emissions, electricity demand, and economic recovery, though COVID-19 considerations are addressed below.

By modeling a range of fuel price and policy scenarios, we can draw useful insights about expected trends in emissions, electricity generation sources, and power sector costs based on a number of different factors. Energy models, like the one used in this analysis, are not crystal balls that predict exactly what emissions or costs will be in the future, but they provide useful insights about the directional impacts of climate policies compared to a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario with no carbon limit.

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Also posted in Cities and states, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Read 1 Response

Creating a cleaner and more affordable power sector in North Carolina

For more than a year, dozens of advocates and stakeholders – including the electric utilities – have been working together on North Carolina’s Clean Energy Plan development process, which calls for creating a 21st century energy system that is clean, affordable, reliable and equitable. As discussions have progressed in ongoing working groups to explore policy pathways for climate action and systemic utility regulatory reform of North Carolina’s power sector, we recently learned that over the past several months, the major electric utilities across the southeast have been engaged in a separate dialogue on a proposal to create an automated market for trading among the utilities.

We must not let these conversations distract from real opportunities to achieve Governor Cooper’s ultimate goal of moving North Carolina to a clean energy future. The electric power sector is the largest source of climate-warming pollution in North Carolina, making up 35% of the state’s emissions. Gov Cooper has committed the state to doing its part to address pollution from this sector, and both the state and Duke Energy have set goals to achieve net zero carbon emission from the power sector by 2050.

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Also posted in Cities and states / Comments are closed

Four reasons why investing in clean energy is essential for rebuilding the economy

Working upon wind turbine, over 80 meters of high in a wind farm.

As federal lawmakers continue to debate different approaches for jump-starting our economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, they must also consider how the investments we make today can be designed to avoid the worst environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change in the long run. Amid much disagreement, one promising area of investment continues to stand out: clean energy.

A big investment in clean energy, clean transportation, energy efficiency deployment and R&D can generate substantial returns on job growth and emissions reductions. Boosting these areas now can be a critical step toward building a 100% clean economy over the next 30 years, a science-based goal that calls for allowing no more climate pollution produced than can be removed from the atmosphere across all sectors of the economy.

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Also posted in Green Jobs, Jobs / Comments are closed