Sunday, November 15th, 2009
For years now, many members of Congress have insisted that cutting carbon emissions was difficult, if not impossible. It is not. During the two years since 2007, carbon emissions have dropped 9 percent. While part of this drop is from the recession, part of it is also from efficiency gains and from replacing coal with natural gas, wind, solar, and geothermal energy.
The United States has ended a century of rising carbon emissions and has now entered a new energy era, one of declining emissions. Peak carbon is now history. What had appeared to be hopelessly difficult is happening at amazing speed.
For a country where oil and coal use have been growing for more than a century, the fall since 2007 is startling. In 2008, oil use dropped 5 percent, coal 1 percent, and carbon emissions by 3 percent. Estimates for 2009, based on U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) data for the first nine months, show oil use down by another 5 percent. Coal is set to fall by 10 percent. Carbon emissions from burning all fossil fuels dropped 9 percent over the two years.
Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
Global emissions of carbon dioxide will drop 3 percent in 2009, including a 5.9 percent decrease in the United States, as a result of the economic recession, according to energy forecasts.
A decrease in industrial activity accounts for three-quarters of the global emissions decline, the International Energy Agency reported at United Nations climate talks in Bangkok. The rest of the decline is the result of nations switching to renewable energy sources and nuclear power.
In the U.S., coal demand will likely drop 9 percent this year as electricity demand slips and more states switch to natural gas in the face of stiffer government oversight of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Economic recovery would likely reverse the trend, and the agency predicts a 1.1 percent increase in CO2 emissions in 2010.
Thursday, October 1st, 2009
Article appearing courtesy of Yale Environment 360.
The Obama administration has announced it will use its regulatory powers to limit CO2 emissions from 14,000 major sources, a move that puts pressure on Congress to pass a climate bill and signals to other nations the U.S.’s willingness to slow global warming.
Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (at left), said her agency would begin regulating CO2 as a pollutant at coal-burning power plants, refineries, and big industrial complexes, which account for 70 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
The EPA will initially use its authority to force these emitters to employ “best available technology” to implement energy-efficiency measures and reduce emissions, but eventually the agency could place emissions caps on these facilities.
“We are not going to continue with business as usual,” Jackson said. “We have the tools and the technology to move forward today, and we are using them.”
Sunday, September 27th, 2009
The United States has entered a new energy era, ending a century of rising carbon emissions. As the U.S. delegation prepares for the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December, it does so from a surprisingly strong position, one based on a dramatic 9 percent drop in U.S. carbon emissions over the past two years and the promise of further huge reductions.
Prominent among these carbon-cutting initiatives are stronger automobile fuel-economy standards, appliance efficiency standards, and the potential to heat, cool and light buildings with carbon-free sources of electricity.
On the supply side are efforts supporting the development of U.S. wind, solar and geothermal energy resources.
Tuesday, September 1st, 2009
NPR’s Morning Edition recently aired this story, a variation on a theme that I have written about in the past on CleanTechies and in scholarly work: green backlash against renewable power. The Morning Edition piece focused on the land use implications of renewables, noting that it takes a lot more land to generate a terawatt of solar, wind or biofueled electricity than of coal or natural gas power.
True enough. But, for me, it all comes down to the threshold question: do you believe the worst-case climate scenarios? If your answer is yes, and you have the courage of those convictions, then you realize — as I have — that we have no choice, and no time to dawdle. People who answer that question affirmatively know that the paradigm shifts in energy production and consumption that are necessary if we are to have any chance of righting our climatological ship will face knee-jerk opposition and demagoguery from opponents (s, e.g., the spring time bloodbath over the Waxman-Markey bill). A movement that remains — however gallingly — on such tenuous footing cannot afford to endure the additional obstacle of in-fighting over policy nuances. To twist a familiar and over-used metaphor:
Tuesday, August 25th, 2009
Anyone watching the health care debate spread from Capitol Hill conference rooms to town halls nationwide knows that everyone agrees we need health care reform. The disagreement comes in determining what kind. Comprehensive tort reform fits under the heading and so would the implementation of a single-payer system, but the two solutions could not be much farther apart on the political spectrum. An apt analogy – as the summer vacation season comes to a close – may be the good old fashioned American road trip: the whole family knows the destination, but getting there is the tough part.
Tuesday, August 4th, 2009
Update: This article has been modified since its initial publication. Please note that the report mentioned in this article is not a United Nations publication. More information about the authors and the report can be found here.
A major report issued by the United Nations Millennium Project has just been released. It finds that half the world appears vulnerable to social instability and violence due to increasing and potentially prolonged unemployment from the recession as well as several longer-term issues: decreasing water, food, and energy supplies per person; the cumulative effects of climate change; and increasing migrations due to political, environmental, and economic conditions. It also finds some good in the global financial crisis, which may be helping humanity to move from its often selfish, self-centered adolescence to a more globally responsible adulthood.
After 13 years of the Millennium Project’s global futures research, it is increasingly clear that the world has the resources to address its challenges. Coherence and direction has been lacking. But recent meetings of the U.S. and China, as well as of NATO and Russia, and the birth of the G-20 plus the continued work of the G-8 promise to improve global strategic collaboration. It remains to be seen if this spirit of cooperation can continue and if decisions will be made on the scale necessary to really address the global challenges discussed in this report.
Tuesday, July 7th, 2009
Transitioning away from coal-production towards cleaner forms of energy is a major concern shared by environment-conscious governments and citizens all over the world. Communities across the globe are suffering from coal-based pollution, and clean energy sources need to be developed – and implemented – to provide for a sustainable future. What are the obstacles in building a clean energy future, and how do we transition away from sources of energy that are harmful to nature and health? The United Nations COP15 Climate Change Conference taking place in Copenhagen this year will address climate change issues like these.
While only government representatives can participate in the Climate Change Conference, you might have the opportunity to be part of this event. Focus the Nation, a US non-profit organization, is offering young climate leaders with fellowships that allow them to present their ideas to the international communities participating in the Climate Treaty negotiations. If you are between 18-29 years old and live in a coal-producing or coal-consuming community, you can participate in “Coal and the Road to Copenhagen: The Focus Roots Fellowships.” What you need to do is come up with an innovative, creative idea to accelerate your community past coal.
Monday, July 6th, 2009
Texas is a major battlefield in the fight between high speed rail advocates and opponents. The lone star state is the home base for many of the forces that are against the development of passenger rail in the United States. The “big three” opponents of high speed rail are all located in Texas and have been successful in preventing better passenger train construction for decades. This group consists of:
1. Texas is firmly a “red state” that is home to many members of the Republican Party political elite. This includes the family of Bush 43 (now retired into a private residence in a Dallas suburb), Rick Perry (state governor who made headlines promoting the idea of succession from the Union) and two Republican senators – John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison. Republicans have proven themselves, by their legislative record and public statements, to be against passenger rail investment.
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009
In a sign of the growing importance of renewable sources of energy, global investment in wind power, solar power, and other alternative forms of energy last year exceeded investments in coal, oil, and carbon-based energy for the first time.