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Climate Change

[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.]

EPA: US greenhouse gases dropped 3.4% in 2012 from 2011; down 10% from 2005 levels

April 16, 2014

US greenhouse gas emissions by gas. Source: EPA. Click to enlarge.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its 19th annual report of overall US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, showing a 3.4% decrease in 2012 from 2011. The Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, which is submitted annually to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, presents a national-level overview of annual greenhouse gas emissions since 1990.

Total emissions of the six main greenhouse gases in 2012 were equivalent to 6,526 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. These gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. According to the report, GHG emissions in 2012 showed a 10% drop below 2005 levels, and were only slightly above the emissions in 1994 (6,520 million metric tons).

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World Bank/ICCT report provides guidance to reducing black carbon emissions from diesels in developing countries

April 14, 2014

Historical Trends in Black Carbon Emissions from Surface Transportation (teragrams of black carbon per year). Source: Minjares et al. Click to enlarge.

The World Bank has published a report, undertaken by a team from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), intended to inform efforts to control black carbon emissions from diesel-based transportation in developing countries. The report proposes approaches for integrating black carbon emission reduction considerations in cost-benefit assessment and applies an analytic framework to four simulated projects to illustrate the associated opportunities and challenges at a project level.

The transportation sector accounted for approximately 19% of global black carbon emissions in the year 2000, according to the report. Road transportation accounted for 9% of global black carbon, with diesel engines responsible for nearly 99% of those emissions. In the near term, black carbon emissions from mobile engines are projected to decline as a consequence of policies implemented in the US, Canada, Europe, and Japan. However, black carbon emissions are projected to increase in the next decade as vehicle activity increases, particularly in East and South Asia.

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IPCC: GHG emissions accelerating despite mitigation efforts; major institutional and technological change required to keep the heat down

April 13, 2014

Decomposition of the decadal change in total global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion by four driving factors; population, income (GDP) per capita, energy intensity of GDP and carbon intensity of energy. WG III Summary for Policymakers. Click to enlarge.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a policymaker’s summary of Working Group III’s (WG III) latest report showing that despite a growing number of climate change mitigation policies, annual anthropogenic GHG emissions grew on average by 1.0 giga tonne carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2eq) (2.2%) per year from 2000 to 2010 compared to 0.4 GtCO2eq (1.3%) per year from 1970 to 2000. Total anthropogenic GHG emissions were the highest in human history from 2000 to 2010 and reached 49 (±4.5) GtCO2eq/yr in 2010. The global economic crisis 2007/2008 only temporarily reduced emissions.

The increase in anthropogenic emissions comes directly from energy supply (47%); industry (30%); transport (11%); and buildings (3%) sectors, the WG reported with medium confidence. Globally, economic and population growth continue to be the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.

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Joint Research Centre review concludes no serious risk in use of R1234yf MAC refrigerant under normal and foreseeable conditions

March 07, 2014

A scientific review of research regarding the safety aspects of the use of refrigerant R1234yf in Mobile Air Conditioning (MAC) systems, published by the European Commission, concludes that there is no evidence of a serious risk in the use of this refrigerant in MAC systems under normal and foreseeable conditions of use.

The review, carried out by Europe’s Joint Research Centre, provided an in-depth analysis of testing and a subsequent report on the refrigerant’s safety by KBA (Kraftfahrt Bundesamt, the German authority responsible for market surveillance and product safety for road vehicles) in order to ascertain whether the results stemming from the tests were well founded and supported by a rigorous and scientific methodology.

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Chevy buying carbon credits from US colleges; new formula helps fund campus energy-efficient projects

February 12, 2014

Chevrolet is investing in clean energy efficiency initiatives of US colleges and universities through its voluntary carbon-reduction initiative. The funding opportunity is open to all US universities and colleges; a campus determines whether its performance in reducing carbon emissions will qualify based on new methodologies that Chevrolet developed through the Verified Carbon Standard.

To develop the new methodologies, Chevrolet worked with an advisory team led by the Climate Neutral Business Network with support from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, the US Green Building Council and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

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Calif. ARB releases GHG scoping plan update; more ZEVs, “LEV IV”, MD and HD regulations; ZEV for trucks; more LCFS

February 11, 2014

The California Air Resources Board released the draft proposed first update to the AB 32 Scoping Plan, which guides development and implementation of California’s greenhouse gas emission reduction programs. The Air Resources Board is required to update the Scoping Plan every five years.

Among the actions proposed or considered in the transportation sector include aggressive implementation of the light-duty Zero Emission Vehicle standard; LEV IV emissions regulations for the light-duty fleet post-2025 (GHG reductions of about 5% per year); Phase 2 GHG regulations for medium and heavy-duty (MD and HD) vehicles; a possible ZEV regulation for trucks; more stringent carbon reduction targets for the Low Carbon Fuel Standard; and others.

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Analysis finds air-quality justification for CNG vehicle conversion in developing cities, despite negative climate impact

December 03, 2013

Impact pathway approach for modeling policy interventions in (a) air quality and (b) climate impacts. Credit: ACS, Zia and Tanzila. Click to enlarge.

An analysis by a team in Bangladesh found large air quality and associated health benefits accruing to the residents of Dhaka (the capital of Bangladesh) as a result of the rapid conversion of the motor vehicle fleet to CNG. Around 2,045 avoided premature deaths in greater Dhaka can be attributed to air quality improvements from the CNG conversion policy in 2010, resulting in a saving of around US$400 million, they found.

However, CNG conversion was apparently detrimental from a climate change perspective, as CH4 emissions increased. (There is some uncertainty over the impact of ultrafine particulates.) As the greenhouse gas impacts (costs or benefits) are much smaller than the health benefits, the conversion of petroleum vehicles to CNG can be justified on the basis of local air pollution benefits alone, they concluded. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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Berkeley Lab modeling study finds California will not meet 2050 GHG targets without additional policy measures

November 05, 2013

Comparison of GHG emissions by study scenario, along with historical and “straight-line” connections between 2020 and 2050 policy targets. 85 MtCO2/yr (red square) is the 2050 target. Greenblatt 2013. Click to enlarge.

California will attain its 2020 statewide greenhouse gas reduction targets, according to a new modeling study by Jeffery Greenblatt at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

However, while all of the three scenarios developed for the study achieved the 2020 target, none were able to achieve the 2050 GHG target of 85 MtCO2/yr, instead yielding emissions ranging from 188 to 444 MtCO2/yr. Therefore, Greenblatt concluded, additional policies will need to be developed for California to meet this stringent future target.

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U-Mich researcher’s first-principles analysis challenges conventional carbon accounting for biofuels; implications for climate policy

September 24, 2013

System boundaries (red line) schematic for liquid fuel carbon balance. For biofuels, because biogenic carbon is automatically credited within a product lifecycle, the boundary effectively excludes vehicle end-use CO2 emissions. DeCicco 2013. Click to enlarge.

In a paper that could have a significant impact on climate policies for transportation fuels, Dr. John M. DeCicco of the Energy Institute at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor presents a rigorous first-principles analysis that undermines the common “biofuels recycle carbon” argument.

Published in the journal Climactic Change, the open access paper shows that while the carbon mitigation challenge for liquid fuels has been seen—incorrectly—as a fuel synthesis and substitution problem, it is in reality a net carbon uptake problem. Accordingly, DeCicco concludes, strategies should move away from a downstream focus on replacing fuel products to an upstream focus on achieving additional CO2 uptake through the most cost-effective and least damaging means possible. “All parties with an interest in the issue are advised to rethink their priorities accordingly,” he finishes.

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EPA proposes CO2 emission standards for new fossil fuel-fired power plants

September 20, 2013

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed Clean Air Act standards to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants (electric utility generating units, EGUs). For purposes of this rule, fossil fuel-fired EGUs include utility boilers, IGCC units and certain natural gas-fired stationary combustion turbine EGUs that generate electricity for sale and are larger than 25 megawatts (MW). In addition, EPA said it is working with state, tribal, and local governments, industry and labor leaders, non-profits, and others to establish CO2 standards for existing power plants.

The proposed rulemaking establishes separate standards for natural gas and coal plants. The proposed limits for natural gas units are based on the performance of modern natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) units. New large (>850 mmBtu/h) natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, while new small (≤850mmBtu/h) natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour.

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UT Austin team and partners report on extensive measurements of methane emissions during natural gas production

September 17, 2013

Estimated inventories of methane emissions from the natural gas production sector, excluding processing and transmission. The findings of the new study are represented in the yellow bar at right, and are similar overall to EPA’s latest inventory. The relative contributions of different production components differ, however. Source: UT Austin. Click to enlarge.

A new study from The University of Texas at Austin, published as an open access paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports on extensive measurements of methane emissions—including the first measurements for methane emissions taken directly at the well pad—during completion operations for hydraulically fractured wells (“fracked”).

Broadly, the study found that completion emissions are significantly lower than previously estimated; emissions from pneumatic controllers and equipment leaks are higher than EPA national emission projections; and estimates of total emissions (957 Gg ± 200 Gg) are similar to the most recent EPA national inventory of methane emissions from natural gas production (~1200 Gg). The 957 Gg in emissions for completion flowbacks, pneumatics and equipment leaks, coupled with EPA national inventory estimates for other categories, leads to an estimated 2,300 Gg of methane emissions from natural gas production (0.42% of gross gas production).

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DOE and Air Force issue RFI on Mil-Spec jet fuel production using coal-to-liquid technologies

September 05, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) in partnership with the US Air Force has issued a request for information (RFI)—DE-FOA-0000981—on research & development aimed at greenhouse gas emissions reductions and cost competitiveness of Mil-Spec jet fuel production using coal-to-liquid (CTL) fuel technologies.

The DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), on behalf of the US Air Force, intends to issue a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) in 2013 that would solicit for the most promising research and development projects on advanced concepts for and/or unit operations within a CTL fuels plant; the areas of interest may be developed based in part on the responses to the RFI. The DOE and US Air Force anticipate the need for projects of no less than $3 million and that would have duration of not more than 3 years.

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World Bank to focus on reducing short-lived climate pollutants; transport projects

September 04, 2013

Aggregation of SLCP project activities into typologies. Click to enlarge.

A new report prepared by the World Bank at the request of the G8 identifies ways that the World Bank can do more through its projects to reduce the emission of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs): black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and fluorinated gases known as HFCs.

The review, “Integration of Short-Lived Climate Pollutants in World Bank Activities,” highlights ways the Bank’s investments are already reducing SLCPs and shows where potential exists for even greater reduction. It discusses a wide range of SLCP-reducing activities, including:

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JBEI researchers engineer bacterium to produce diesel-range biofuel using CO2 as sole carbon source

July 26, 2013

A team of researchers with the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has engineered the bacterium Ralstonia eutropha—a microbe now used to produce biodegradable plastic—for the production of fatty acid-derived, diesel-range methyl ketones. A paper on their work is published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

R. eutropha is a chemolithoautotroph (an organism that obtains its nutrition through the oxidation of non-organic compounds or other chemical processes) that can grow with organic substrates or H2 and CO2 under aerobic conditions. Under conditions of nutrient imbalance, R. eutropha produces “copious” amounts of polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB). Its ability to utilize CO2 as a sole carbon source renders it an interesting new candidate host for the production of renewable liquid transportation fuels, the team noted in their paper.

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EIA: world energy consumption to grow 56% 2010-2040, CO2 up 46%; use of liquid fuels in transportation up 38%

July 25, 2013

World energy consumption by fuel type, 2010-2040. Source: IEO2013. Click to enlarge.

The US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) International Energy Outlook 2013 (IEO2013) projects that world energy consumption will grow by 56% between 2010 and 2040, from 524 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) to 820 quadrillion Btu. Most of this growth will come from non-OECD (non-Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, where demand is driven by strong population and economic growth; energy intensity improvements moderate this trend

Renewable energy and nuclear power are the world’s fastest-growing energy sources, each increasing 2.5% per year, according to the biennial report. However, fossil fuels continue to supply nearly 80% of world energy use through 2040. Natural gas is the fastest-growing fossil fuel, as global supplies of tight gas, shale gas, and coalbed methane increase. Given current policies and regulations limiting fossil fuel use, worldwide energy-related CO2 emissions rise from about 31 billion metric tons in 2010 to 36 billion metric tons in 2020 and then to 45 billion metric tons in 2040, a 46% increase over the 30-year span.

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Researchers propose harvesting CO2 mixing energy to generate electricity

July 23, 2013

Principle of the energy harvesting method: dissolved CO2 dissociates in protons and bicarbonate ions, which diffuse into different electrodes due to the ion-selectivity of the membranes placed in front. The resulting membrane potential leads to the spontaneous generation of current. Credit: ACS, Hamelers et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers in The Netherlands are proposing a new method for harvesting electricity from CO2 emissions. In a paper in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) newly launched journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, they describe an approach to harvesting the mixing energy from combining the CO2 in combustion gases with air in contact with an aqueous electrolyte.

Mixing the CO2 with air represents a source of energy with a total annual worldwide capacity of 1570 TWh, the researchers calculated—about 400 times the annual output of the Hoover Dam (approx. 4.2 GWh). To harvest the mixing energy from CO2 containing gas emissions, they propose using pairs of porous electrodes, one selective for anions and the other selective to cations.

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SAE releases technical white paper on two new low-GWP refrigerants; alternates to R-1234yf

The SAE International MAC (mobile air conditioning) Refrigerant Blend Cooperative Research Program (MRB CRP), comprising a group of leading global vehicle OEMs plus Tier One suppliers, is assessing the operating, technical and safety performance of two low-GWP (global warming potential) blended refrigerants (AC5 and AC6) developed by Mexichem, and based upon R-1234zeE.

The European MAC Directive requires the use of alternative refrigerants with GWP of less than 150 to replace R-134a. The first globally agreed candidate alternative fluid, the hydrofluoro-olefin (HFO) R-1234yf, is now entering production and use after an extensive cooperative research program (CRP-1234) administered by the SAE International and involving global car OEMs and chemical suppliers. (It has also generated some controversy, as Daimler has balked at using it, based on the company’s own testing of flammability. SAE CRP-1234 has re-evaluated the fluid multiple times, and still supports its use.)

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CEPS task force report identifies tightening emissions standards as key policy to hit EU 60% reduction in transport GHG; full life-cycle emissions optimal metric

July 01, 2013

The report from a task force assembled by the CEPS (Centre for European Policy Studies), a Brussels-based think tank, on European transport policy has concluded that the EU’s goal of a 60% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction in the transport sector in 2050 compared to 1990 levels is possible, but at a cost.

Achieving the goal will require a comprehensive policy strategy that needs to be both “credible and adequate”, the report found. Credibility requires beginning to implement policies now—i.e. measures such as standards, taxation or infrastructure development—consistent with the long-term objective. Adequacy requires the measures, in their entirety, to have the potential to meet the target while neither undermining the internal market for transport nor its affordability.

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Study finds climate impact of long distance trip can vary by factor of 10 depending upon mode, efficiency and occupancy

June 27, 2013

GWP100 weighted specific climate impact (g CO2-eq per pkm) as a function of vehicle occupancy. Bold parts of curves indicate typical occupancy ranges. The envelope around the medium aircraft indicates one standard deviation uncertainty; otherwise uncertainties are indicated by selected bars at medium occupancy. Insert: Zoom in for bus, trains, and cars. Credit: ACS, Borken-Kleefeld et al. Click to enlarge.

A team from Austria and Norway has found that the climate impact from a long-distance trip (500–1,000 km, or 310–621 miles) can easily vary by a factor of 10 per passenger depending on mode choice, vehicle efficiency, and occupancy. Among the findings of the study, published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, is that a car’s fuel efficiency and occupancy are central to whether the impact from a trip is as high as from air travel or as low as from train travel.

With only one passenger in a car, corresponding to 20−25% occupancy, the climate impact is at the level of an average air trip, whereas a car with three or more passengers, 60% occupancy or more, it is at the low level of average trains or coaches. A notable exception is for the small diesel car; with two passengers ( i.e., 50% occupancy), the specific climate impact is lower than for an average train or bus trip.

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Obama climate plan calls for new fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles post-2018; cleaner fuels and investment in advanced fossil energy

June 25, 2013

Among the transportation-related elements of US President Barack Obama’s new climate action plan, which he is outlining today in a speech at Georgetown University, is the development of new fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles post-2018. In 2011, the Obama Administration finalized the first fuel economy standards for Model Year 2014-2018 for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, buses, and vans. (Earlier post.)

The plan as outlined also calls for further work on advanced biofuels, advanced batteries and fuel cell technologies in every transportation mode. In coming months, the plan notes, the Department of Transportation will work with other agencies to further explore strategies for integrating alternative fuel vessels into the US flag fleet.

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Siemens presents three-point plan for implementing cost-efficient energy transition in Germany

June 15, 2013

Siemens suggests abandoning a fixed target for renewable energies and concentrating on the CO2 reduction goal. Relying on a higher share of efficient, low-emission combined cycle power plants and wind energy could save €150 billion (US$200 billion) by 2030 while attaining the same CO2 targets, Siemens says. Source: Siemens. Click to enlarge.

Germany has embarked on a large-scale Energiewende (energy transition)—a policy-driven shift away from nuclear and fossil energy to a renewable energy economy. Following the Fukushima disaster in 2011, the Federal government oversaw the immediate closure of eight nuclear plants, with the rest of the stations to be shut down by 2022. The government also is maintaining its target of cutting GHG emissions by 40% by 2020 (compared with 1990 levels) and by 80% by 2050.

However, the financial cost of the shift is causing concern. In May, the International Energy Agency released a review of German energy policies that commended the country for its commitment to developing a low-carbon energy system over the long term, but emphasized that further policy measures are necessary if the Energiewende is to maintain a balance between sustainability, affordability and competitiveness. “The fact that German electricity prices are among the highest in Europe, despite relatively low wholesale prices, must serve as a warning signal,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven as she presented the report, Energy Policies of IEA Countries – Germany 2013 Review.

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Study finds that California clean diesel programs have slashed black carbon, a powerful short-term contributor to global warming

June 14, 2013

California’s air quality programs have forced a reduction in black carbon despite a significant increase in diesel fuel consumption. Click to enlarge.

In California, reductions in emissions of black carbon since the late 1980s—mostly from diesel engines as a result of air quality programs—have resulted in a measurable reduction of concentrations of global warming pollutants in the atmosphere, according to a study examining the impact of black carbon on California’s climate.

The study’s results support a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests it is possible relatively quickly to slow the pace of climate change regionally by reducing emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, like black carbon.

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CCST report: an integral role for next-gen biofuels in meeting California GHG targets requires advanced biofuels and demand reduction

June 11, 2013

Next-generation biofuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions of transportation to meet California’s target greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal, but deep replacement of fossil fuels through implementation of low-carbon lignocellulosic ethanol and advanced biomass derived hydrocarbons (drop-in biofuels) and reduction in demand is required, according to a new report from the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST).

The study, “California Energy Future: the Potential for Biofuels,” co-authored by Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) scientists Heather Youngs and Chris Somerville, is the seventh and final report in its California’s Energy Future (CEF) project. The CEF project seeks ways the State could meet the mandated reductions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, exploring possible energy strategies for California through in-depth examinations of different technology scenarios.

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CMU study finds driving conditions have “substantial” impact on benefits of electrified vehicles; policy implications

June 10, 2013

NHTS-Averaged Annual GHG Emissions per vehicle type by drive cycle. (Base Case). Source: Karabasoglu and Michalek. Click to enlarge.

A new analysis by Orkun Karabasoglu and Jeremy Michalek of the Carnegie Mellon Vehicle Electrification Group at Carnegie Mellon University found that driving conditions affect the economic and environmental benefits of electrified vehicles “substantially”.

As a result, they suggested, vehicle window stickers, fuel economy standards, and life cycle studies using average lab-test vehicle efficiency estimates are incomplete. Driver heterogeneity matters, they found, and efforts to encourage adoption of hybrid and plug-in vehicles will have greater impact if targeted to urban drivers vs. highway drivers. Further, electrified vehicles perform better on some drive cycles than others, so non-representative tests can bias consumer perception and regulation of alternative technologies. Their study is published in the journal Energy Policy.

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EPA, NSF, NOAA, Southern Company and EPRI contribute >$20M to fund SouthEast Atmosphere Study

June 06, 2013

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Southern Company, and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) are together contributing more than $20 million in research funding to support the SouthEast Atmosphere Study (SAS). EPA is also contributing staff scientists to work as part of this effort.

SAS involves dozens of other domestic and international research institutions, and is one of the largest North American air quality and climate studies in decades. It is a collaboration that brings together resources and facilities from NSF, NOAA, EPA, and EPRI.

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New open-source lifecycle analysis tool for oil production using field characteristics

May 25, 2013

Schematic chart showing included stages within OPGEE. El Houjeiri et al., Supplemental Information. Click to enlarge.

A team from Stanford University and the California Air Resources Board (ARB) has developed a new open-source lifecycle analysis (LCA) tool for modeling the greenhouse gas emissions of oil and gas production using characteristics of specific fields and associated production pathways. The team describes the Oil Production Greenhouse Gas Emissions Estimator (OPGEE) in a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Existing transportation fuel cycle emissions models are either broad—i.e., lacking process-level detail for any particular fuel pathway—and calculate nonspecific values of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from crude oil production, or are not available for public review and auditing, the authors note.

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EIA releases report on CO2 emissions by state; California led in 2010 with transportation-sector emissions

May 14, 2013

Energy-related CO2 emissions buy state, 2010. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has released a new report, State-Level Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2000-2010. The report shows a significant variation of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions across states on both an absolute and a per capita basis. Factors such as size, population density, available fuels, types of businesses, climate, all play a role in both total and per capita emissions, the EIA noted.

Topping the list for absolute emissions in 2010 was Texas (652.6 million tonnes CO2); California (369.8 mt CO2); and Pennsylvania (256.6 mt CO2). In terms of per capita emissions, the top emitter was Wyoming (118.5 tonnes of CO2 per person), followed by North Dakota (80.4 tonnes/person) and Alaska (54.6 tonnes/person). Examining 2010 energy-related CO2 emissions from the transportation sector, the report found California was the top transportation emitter (214.0 million tonnes CO2), followed by Texas (194.9 mt CO2) and Florida (107.0 mt CO2.

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Study finds large-scale ramp-up in biofuel crops could result in warming in some tropical regions, cooling in temperate and polar regions

May 08, 2013

Global land-use changes caused by a major ramp-up in biofuel crops—enough to meet about 10% of the world’s energy needs—could make some regions warmer, according to a new integrated modeling study by researchers from MIT and the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole.

Using an integrated assessment model that links an economic model with climate, terrestrial biogeochemistry, and biogeophysics models, the team examined the biogeochemical and biogeophysical effects of possible land use changes from an expanded global second-generation bioenergy program on surface temperatures over the first half of the 21st century.

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Euro Parliament Environment Committee approves 147 g CO2/km target for light commercial vehicles by 2020; caps van speed

May 07, 2013

Members of the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee approved a draft law setting out rules for achieving a 147 g CO2/km (235 g/mile) target for new light commercial vehicles by 2020, down from 203 g/km (325 g/mile) today—i.e., a 27.6% reduction. The vote was 53 to 4 with 1 abstention.

The committee also proposed indicative targets for post-2020 CO2 emissions in a range of 105 to 120 g/km (168 to 192 g/mile) from 2025. The committee also voted to limit electronically the top speed of vans to 120 km/h (75 mph).

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EPA says methane emissions from natural gas production have dropped 36% from 2007-2011

April 29, 2013

In its recently released Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990 – 2011 (earlier post), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that methane (CH4) emissions from the field production of natural gas have declined by 36% from 2007 to 2011 (from 83.1 to 53.4 Tg CO2 eq), after having increased by 43% from 1990 through 2006. Reasons the agency sited for this trend include factors such as increased voluntary reductions, as well as the effects of the recent global economic slowdown.

The finding may have an impact on future regulation of fracking for natural gas production, as opponents of the technology have pointed to higher rates of methane leak as being an argument against it.

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Euro Parliament committee approves new 95 g/km CO2 target for cars; super credits and a switch to WLTP

April 25, 2013

The environment committee of the European Parliament approved a draft law setting out a new CO2 target for cars of 95g CO2/km (153 g/mile) by 2020, down from 130 gCO2/km (209 g/mile) in 2015. The draft also sets indicative targets for post-2020 CO2 emissions in the range of 68-78 g/km (109-126 g/mile) from 2025.

These emission limits are the average maximum allowed for car makers registered in the EU. Makers producing fewer than 1,000 cars a year should be exempt from the legislation, said the MEPs. Car makers would therefore have to produce, in addition to older, heavier or polluting models, enough cleaner ones to achieve a balance of 95g en 2020, on pain of penalties.

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SAE CRP1234-4 analysis of R-1234yf nears completion; finding refrigerant safe and effective in automotive applications

April 23, 2013

The SAE International Cooperative Research Project (CRP1234-4) team, formed last year to perform an updated engineering safety analysis of the low global warming potential (GWP) R-1234yf refrigerant (earlier post), met during the SAE World Congress in Detroit. The team includes European, North American and Asian OEMs including Chrysler/Fiat, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, PSA, Renault and Toyota.

The SAE CRP has carefully evaluated the extensive testing conducted by its members. The fault tree analysis was subsequently updated with regard to actual collision scenarios and is now complete pending final review.

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IEA: carbon intensity of global energy supply has barely changed in last 20 years; “window of opportunity in transport”

April 18, 2013

The ESCII, along with projections for three scenarios. To meet 2DS targets, the index needs to decline by 5.7% by 2020, and 64% by 2050. Source: IEA. Click to enlarge.

In a fairly bleak assessment of global progress towards low-carbon energy, the International Energy Agency (IEA) concluded that, despite a few bright spots such as the rapid expansion of renewable technologies and the growth of hybrid and EV sales, the progress is far below that required to achieve a 2 °C pathway—i.e., to hold warming to 2 °C as outlined in the IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2012 (ETP) 2 °C Scenario (2DS). The assessment came in an annual report to the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM).

To illustrate this inertia, the report, Tracking Clean Energy Progress, introduced the Energy Sector Carbon Intensity Index (ESCII), which shows how much carbon dioxide is emitted, on average, to provide a given unit of energy. The global energy supply became 6% cleaner from 1971 to 1990,in response to the oil shocks of the 1970s. Since 1990, however, the ESCII (2010 = 100) has remained essentially static, changing by less than 1%. In 1990 the underlying carbon intensity of supply was 57.1 tCO2/TJ (2.39 tCO2/toe); in 2010 it was 56.7 tCO2/TJ (2.37 tCO2/toe).

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EPA annual US GHG inventory shows 1.6% drop in 2011 from previous year; transportation CO2 down 1.1%

April 16, 2013

Total US greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector in 2011. Click to enlarge.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its 18th annual report of overall US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions showing a 1.6% decrease in 2011 from the previous year. Recent trends can be attributed to multiple factors including reduced emissions from electricity generation, improvements in fuel efficiency in vehicles with reductions in miles traveled, and year-to-year changes in the prevailing weather, EPA said.

GHG emissions in 2011 showed a 6.9% drop below 2005 levels. Total emissions of the six main greenhouse gases in 2011 were equivalent to 6,702 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. These gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride.

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