[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]
U Chicago, MIT study suggests ongoing use of fossil fuels absent new carbon taxes
February 24, 2016
A paper by a team from the University of Chicago and MIT suggests that technology-driven cost reductions in fossil fuels will lead to the continued use of fossil fuels—oil, gas, and coal—unless governments pass new taxes on carbon emissions. Their analysis is published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.
While renewable energy has made promising gains in just the last few years—the cost of solar dropped by about two-thirds from 2009 to 2014—new drilling and extraction techniques have made fossil fuels cheaper and markedly increased the amount of oil and gas available. In the US alone, oil reserves have expanded 59% between 2000 and 2014, and natural gas reserves have expanded 94% in the same time.
Study finds high concentration of CO2 protects sorghum against drought and improves seeds
December 01, 2015
A study by researchers at the University of São Paulo’s Bioscience Institute (IB-USP) in Brazil, with colleagues at the Ohio State University, has found that the rising atmospheric concentration of CO2 is beneficial for the physiology of sorghum, an economically and nutritionally important crop grown worldwide. An open-access paper on their work is published in the journal Plant Physiology.
The ability of sorghum to benefit from rising CO2 levels is due to a peculiarity of photosynthesis in the family of C4 grasses, which include sugarcane and maize as well as sorghum.
Aramco opens R&D center in Detroit area; fuels research with focus on novel fuels/engines systems for reduced CO2
November 14, 2015
The Aramco Research Center-Detroit was inaugurated as one of three US-based research and development (R&D) centers aimed at expanding the global research capabilities of Saudi Aramco, the leading global integrated energy and chemicals company. The new facility, located in Novi, Mich., and owned and operated by US subsidiary Aramco Services Company, further strengthens the company’s global fuels research program.
Aramco’s fuels technology program is focused on reducing the overall environmental impact, cost and complexity of both current and future fuel-engine systems. With a global refining presence, Aramco brings a perspective into how fuels can be designed and matched to engines for higher performance and lower emissions. A planned outcome of Aramco’s research is to generate vehicle and fleet demonstrations to showcase the benefits of novel fuel/engine systems.
Report finds road transportation sector in Canada likely to fall far short of 2050 GHG emissions reduction target
November 12, 2015
A new Conference Board of Canada report finds that Canada is unlikely to achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. Even when taking into account reduced distances traveled per vehicle, improvements in fuel efficiency, and greater market penetration of alternative technology vehicles, Canada falls short of the 80-by-50 target.
Despite voluntary and regulatory initiatives that have improved the emissions efficiency of passenger and freight transportation, emissions from road transportation are increasing due to growing number of cars on the road and Canadians’ changing preference for light trucks. Canada’s road transport emissions were 40% higher in 2013 than in 1990. Between 1990 and 2013, transportation emissions accounted for nearly half of the growth of Canada’s total emissions levels, with road transport accounting for the largest share of transportation emissions.
US rejects Keystone XL pipeline, citing combatting climate change as critical factor; Kerry: arguments pro and con “overstated”
November 06, 2015
On Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry issued his determination that “the national interest of the United States would be best served by denying TransCanada a presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. President Obama agrees with this determination and the eight federal agencies consulted under Executive Order 13337 have accepted it.”
The determination by the State Department brings to an end the much delayed, deferred and debated permit process that would have allowed TransCanada to built the fourth phase of its Keystone pipeline system to bring more oil sands crude from Canada to refineries in the US. In response, TransCanada announced it would review all of its options, including filing a new application to receive a Presidential Permit for a cross-border crude oil pipeline from Canada to the United States.
VW uncovers irregularities in type-approval CO2 levels affecting about 800K vehicles as part of diesel investigation
November 03, 2015
The Volkswagen Group announced today that during the course of its internal investigation into the diesel emission cheating issue, it uncovered “irregularities” when determining type-approval CO2 levels. Based on present knowledge, around 800,000 vehicles from the Volkswagen Group could be affected, the company said.
Under the ongoing review of all processes and workflows in connection with diesel engines, Volkswagen investigators established that the CO2 levels—and thus the fuel consumption figures—for some models were set too low during the CO2 certification process. The majority of the vehicles concerned have diesel engines.
Honda launches new “Green Path” initiatives for manufacturing and operations; new $210M paint line at Marysville with new 4C2B process
September 25, 2015
Honda has announced several initiatives under its new “Green Path” approach to reducing the total life-cycle environmental impact of its products and operations in North America. Among these is a $210-million investment in a new, more environmentally responsible auto-body painting facility and innovative paint process at its Marysville, Ohio auto plant (MAP), the largest of Honda’s eight auto plants in North America. MAP produces the Honda Accord Sedan and Coupe along with the Acura TLX and ILX for customers in more than 100 countries.
Honda has established a voluntary goal to reduce its total GHG emissions—including customer use-phase—by 50% by the year 2050, compared to 2000 levels; this works out to a reduction of 90% per unit sales—a difficult task, noted Ryan Harty, a former Honda R&D engineer who now manages Honda’s new Environmental Business Development Office.
Crowdsourcing air pollution measurements: iSPEX-EU 2015
September 06, 2015
A collaboration led by researchers at Leiden University in The Netherlands has launched a Europe-wide citizen campaign—iSPEX-EU 2015—to use a smartphone add-on and app to measure atmospheric aerosols (tiny particles), resulting in a broad-based data set with high spatio-temporal resolution.
Atmospheric aerosols play an important but as-yet poorly understood role in climate and air quality, with significant impacts on the environment, health, and air traffic. Satellite-based aerosol monitoring is, despite its global coverage, limited in spatial and temporal resolution (with global coverage up to once a day with a ground resolution of a few kilometers only), and lacks sufficient information on aerosol particle characteristics. Therefore, the researchers say, a different strategy is needed to overcome these current limitations.
JRC: Increased use of renewables results in growing GHG emission savings in the EU; transport contribution only 5%
August 07, 2015
Greenhouse gasses (GHG) emission savings due to final renewable energy consumption in electricity; cooling/heating; and transport sectors rose at a compound annual growth rate of 8.8% from 2009 to 2012, confirming renewables’ potential in climate change mitigation, according to a new report by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s in-house science service. Nearly two thirds of the total savings came from renewable energy development in Germany, Sweden, France, Italy and Spain.
The report assesses data on the use of renewable energy, submitted by EU Member States every two years, as required by EU legislation on renewable energy. The report estimates that in 2012, when total GHG emissions reached the equivalent of 4546 Mt CO₂, the deployment of all renewables in the EU avoided the equivalent of 716 Mt CO₂ emissions. According to the report, the highest contribution by renewables in climate change mitigation in the EU in 2012 came from renewable electricity, which covered 64% of the savings, due to high penetration of wind and solar power, followed by renewable heating and cooling (31%) and renewable transport (5%).
EPA opens door to consider Carbon Capture and Utilization as part of new Clean Power Plan; algae industry locks on
August 04, 2015
EPA’s newly released voluminous final Clean Power Plan rule (earlier post) has established the first national standards to limit CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power plants (Electric Generating Units, EGUs), with a target of a 32% reduction against a 2005 baseline by 2030.
The plan calls for each US state to establish a plan to meet the targeted reductions. Within the text of the final CPP rules, EPA opened up the possibility of allowing “affected EGU (Electric Generating Units) to use qualifying CCU [Carbon Capture and Utilization] technologies to reduce CO2 emissions that are subject to an emission standard, or those that are counted when demonstrating achievement of the CO2 emission performance rates or a state rate-based or mass-based CO2 emission.”
EPA releases final Clean Power Plan; 32% reduction in CO2 from power plants by 2030
August 03, 2015
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the final Clean Power Plan (CPP). The rules establish the first national standards to limit CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power plants, with a target of a 32% reduction against a 2005 baseline by 2030. The 32% reduction target is 9% more aggressive than in the draft proposal of the CPP released in 2014. (Earlier post.)
The 2030 target is in alignment with the Administration’s earlier economy-wide emissions targets, including the goal of reducing emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Under the Clean Power Plan, by 2030, renewables will account for 28% of national capacity, up from 22% in the proposed rule.
Researchers engineer first low-methane-emission, high-starch rice; benefits for GHG control, food and bioenergy
July 30, 2015
Rice—the staple food for more than half of the world’s population—is one of the largest manmade sources of atmospheric methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Now, however, with the addition of a single gene from barley (SUSIBA2), a team of researchers in China, Sweden and the US has engineered a strain of rice—now named SUSIBA2—that can be cultivated to emit virtually no methane from its paddies during growth.
The new strain also delivers much more of the plant’s desired properties, such as starch for a richer food source and biomass for energy production. SUSIBA2 rice is the first high-starch, low-methane rice that could offer a significant and sustainable solution. A paper on the work is published in the journal Nature.
U Calgary study finds oil shale most energy intensive upgraded fuel followed by in-situ-produced bitumen from oil sands
July 10, 2015
A team at the University of Calgary (Canada) has compared the energy intensities and lifecycle GHG emissions of unconventional oils (oil sands and oil shale) alongside shale gas, coal, lignite, wood and conventional oil and gas. In a paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they report that lignite is the most GHG intensive primary fuel followed by oil shale. Oil shale is the most energy intensive fuel among upgraded primary fossil fuel options followed by in-situ-produced bitumen from oil sands.
Based on future world energy demand projections, they estimate that if growth of unconventional heavy oil production continues unabated, the incremental GHG emissions that results from replacing conventional oil with heavy oil would amount to 4–21 Gt-CO2eq over four decades (2010 by 2050). Taking this further, they estimated that the warming associated with the use of heavy oil amounts to this level of emissions could lead to about 0.002−0.009 °C increase in earth surface temperature, based on mid-21st century carbon-climate response model estimates.
European automakers and fuel suppliers argue for diesel as they call on policy makers to accelerate fleet renewal
July 08, 2015
In an open letter to EU policy makers, leading representatives of the automotive and petroleum refining industry in Europe called on policy makers to help accelerate fleet renewal and the introduction of the cleanest vehicles and committed to keep pushing the technical boundaries in order to find ever better ways of combining the customer benefits of diesel—fuel economy and low CO2—with continuously reduced emissions.
The associations pointed out that political measures restricting the rollout of the new generation of diesel technology would undermine existing efforts to cut CO2 emissions.
Geely invests in Carbon Recycling Intl.; vehicles fueled by methanol from CO2, water and renewable energy
Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (Geely Group) will invest a total of US$45.5 million in Carbon Recycling International (CRI). The investment consists of an initial investment and additional purchases of CRI equity over a 3-year period. Geely Group will become a major shareholder of CRI and will gain representation on the company’s Board of Directors.
CRI, founded in 2006 in Reykjavik, Iceland, is developing technology to produce renewable methanol from clean energy and recycled CO2 emissions. Geely Group and CRI intend to collaborate on the deployment of renewable methanol fuel production technology in China and explore the development and deployment of 100% methanol-fueled vehicles in China, Iceland and other countries. The companies say they a vision for a larger role for methanol as a clean and sustainable fuel worldwide.
Study: even with high LDV electrification, low-carbon biofuels will be necessary to meet 80% GHG reduction target; “daunting” policy implications
July 03, 2015
A study by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Michigan State University colleague has concluded that even with a relatively high rate of electrification of the US light-duty fleet (40% of vehicle miles traveled and 26% by fuel), an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 relative to 1990 can only be achieved with significant quantities of low-carbon liquid fuel. The paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
For the study, the researchers benchmarked 27 scenarios against a 50% petroleum-reduction target and an 80% GHG-reduction target. They found that with high rates of electrification (40% of miles traveled) the petroleum-reduction benchmark could be satisfied, even with high travel demand growth. The same highly electrified scenarios, however, could not satisfy 80% GHG-reduction targets, even assuming 80% decarbonized electricity and no growth in travel demand.
4 more cities sign Global Clean Bus Declaration raising total to >40K ultra-low emission buses by 2020; London to trial BYD electric double-decker
June 30, 2015
Four additional cities—Amsterdam, Lima, Catalonia (Barcelona) and Rome—signed up to the Global Clean Bus Declaration at the 1st global Clean Bus Summit in London.
The Global Clean Bus Declaration, developed by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson in partnership with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, launched in Buenos Aires in March 2015 with 20 original signatories. Bus manufacturers including BYD, Volvo, Wright Bus, Optare, Mercedes, Evo Bus, and Alexander Dennis attended the London summit and committed to supporting cities in delivering fleets of new ultra-low emission buses. The World Bank and Green Investment Bank have also signed up to this commitment.
EPA takes first steps toward regulating commercial aviation GHGs with endangerment finding under CAA
June 11, 2015
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to find under section 231(a) of the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from commercial aircraft engines endanger the health and welfare of Americans by contributing to climate change. At the same time, the agency issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) that provides information on the process for setting international CO2 emissions standards for aircraft at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and describes and seeks input on the potential use of section 231 of the Clean Air Act to adopt a corresponding standard domestically.
The finding applies to GHG emissions from engines used in US subsonic jet aircraft with a maximum takeoff mass (MTOM) greater than 5,700 kilograms and in subsonic propeller driven (e.g., turboprop) aircraft with a MTOM greater than 8,618 kilograms. Examples of covered aircraft would include smaller jet aircraft such as the Cessna Citation CJ2+ and the Embraer E170, up to and including the largest jet aircraft: the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747. Other examples of covered aircraft would include larger turboprop aircraft, such as the ATR 72 and the Bombardier Q400. The actions do not apply to small piston-engine planes or to military aircraft.
Up close and personal with Volkswagen’s e-Golf carbon offset project: Garcia River Forest
June 08, 2015
|TCF, the manager of the Garcia River Forest Project, would like to enable its increasing number of redwood trees to reach the 1,000-year-old status of some of their neighbors, like this one. Click to enlarge.|
In 2014, Volkswagen of America announced that starting with the launch of the zero-tailpipe emissions battery-electric 2015 e-Golf (earlier post), it would invest in projects to offset the carbon emissions created from the e-Golf on a full lifecycle basis: production, distribution and up to approximately 36,000 miles (57,936 km) of driving.
Last week, Volkswagen provided a close-up look at one of the projects in which it is investing: the Garcia River Conservation-Based Forest Management Project, located in Mendocino County, California. This project, to which Volkswagen contributes along with companies such as UPS, repairs and preserves a ~24,000-acre native redwood forest, increasing carbon sequestration and storage, while also helping to restore the natural wildlife habitat. Emission reductions produced by the project are verified by an approved third party and registered with the Climate Action Reserve (Project ID CAR102).
Canada targets cutting GHGs 30% below 2005 levels by 2030; new regulations for oil and gas, power, petrochemicals
May 15, 2015
Canada Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced that Canada plans to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Canada formally submitted its target, referred to as an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Canada will continue to take cooperative action with its continental trading partners, particularly the United States, in integrated sectors of the economy, including energy and transportation.
Minister Aglukkaq also announced the Government’s intention to develop new regulatory measures under its sector-by-sector approach that would build on actions already taken on two of Canada’s largest sector sources of GHG emissions: transportation and electricity. The new regulations include:
California ARB posts discussion document for developing Advanced Clean Transit (ACT) regulation
May 09, 2015
The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has posted a discussion document for upcoming workshops on the development of the Advanced Clean Transit (ACT) regulation.
The proposed Advanced Clean Transit regulation will consider strategies to achieve additional criteria pollutant emissions reductions from transit fleets and to accelerate purchases of zero emission buses as part of an overall strategy to transform all heavy duty vehicles to zero emission or near zero emission vehicles to meet air quality and efficiency improvement goals. ARB staff Staff is evaluating four potential broad elements to the Advanced Clean Transit regulation:
California Governor orders more stringent GHG reduction target for the state: 40% below 1990 levels by 2030
April 30, 2015
California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued an executive order (B-30-15) to establish a California greenhouse gas reduction target of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030—the most aggressive GHG reduction target enacted by any government in North America to reduce GHG emissions over the next decade and a half.
Under the order, all state agencies with jurisdiction over sources of greenhouse gas emissions will need to implement measures, pursuant to statutory authority, to achieve reductions of greenhouse gas emissions to meet the 2030 and 2050 greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets. The California Air Resources Board (ARB) will also update the Climate Change Scoping Plan to express the 2030 target in terms of million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
EPA: US greenhouse gases up 2% in 2013; increased coal consumption, cool winter
April 16, 2015
|US GHG emissions by sector, 1990-2013. Source: EPA. Click to enlarge.|
Total US greenhouse emissions were 6,673 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2013, an increase of 2% (127.9 MMT CO2 Eq.) over the prior year, according to the EPA’s newly published Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990–2013. Total US emissions have increased by 5.9% from 1990 to 2013.
The increase from 2012 to 2013 was due to an increase in the carbon intensity of fuels consumed to generate electricity due to an increase in coal consumption, with decreased natural gas consumption, according to the report. Additionally, relatively cool winter conditions led to an increase in fuels for the residential and commercial sectors for heating. The transportation sector was the second largest sector source, at 27%. Transportation emissions increased as a result of a small increase in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and fuel use across on-road transportation modes.
Georgia Tech study projects potential mixed impacts of climate change policies on air quality
April 08, 2015
Results of a study by a team from Georgia Tech and their colleagues at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management show that national CO2emissions reductions strategies will play an important role in impacting air quality over the US. The results also show that CO2 emission reduction policies can have mixed positive and negative impacts on air quality. A paper on the study is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
In the study, the researchers assessed the impact of four potential climate mitigation policies—two climate tax scenarios (CT1 and CT2); a combined transportation and energy scenario (TE); a biomass energy (BE) scenario; plus a reference case—on air quality in the US in 2050 using a chemical transport model (CTM) to simulate air pollutant concentrations and applying recent climate downscaling and emissions modeling advancements.
Europe moves forward on the Energy Union; transport key element
February 26, 2015
The European Commission has adopted the European Energy Union package—a framework strategy for a resilient energy union with a forward-looking climate change policy. As a next step, the Commission will present it to the EU institutions. The European Council will discuss the Energy Union at its meeting in March 2015.
According to the EC, the European Energy Union is intended to bring about a fundamental transition in Europe’s energy system towards an economy that is no longer driven by fossil fuels and where energy security is based on solidarity and trust; where energy flows freely, without any barriers, in a truly integrated EU-wide energy system; where strong, competitive companies develop innovative products and technologies with the help of European research and innovation, and where citizens play a stronger role in the energy system, using technology to reduce their bills, and vulnerable consumers are not left behind.