EPA Makes Plans to Curb Plane Emissions

The Obama Administration has initiated talks on restricting the aerospace industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, stating that it might take some time before exact regulations take effect.

According to the EPA, like the automobile industry and power plants, airplanes also negatively impact human health; thus, restrictions are necessary. Creating the regulations will take some time — nothing will be enacted while Obama is in office, and will be the next president’s responsibility.

The EPA is waiting for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is tasked with creating international aviation regulations, to develop worldwide carbon emission rules. The deadline is February 2016; ICAO members are obligated to enact international regulations approved by the agency. The EPA is collaborating with multiple international agencies, like the ICAO, to create aerospace regulations.

Environmentalists would like the EPA to issue their rules before February 2016 because they worry that the ICAO — an agency that works with both the EPA and airline industry — will be biased and present lenient restrictions. Environmental groups want the US to lead the way.

Per the Flying Clean campaign, flights in and out of the US constitute almost one-third of the world’s airplane emissions; airline emissions will likely double by the end of 2020 if nothing is done soon.

Of course, Republicans have their issues with Obama cutting airplane emissions, specifying that airfare prices will skyrocket and hurt domestic air travel. Airline companies agree, explaining that they have already done so much to curb emissions, including using fuel alternatives, enhancing aerodynamics, and using lighter inflight materials. As reported by the International Air Transport Association, decreasing an airplane’s weight by 5.5 pounds is equivalent to a one-ton cut in yearly carbon emissions.

But the aviation industry continues to grow: more and more people are flying each year. Although air flights only comprise 2 percent of worldwide emissions, it’s projected that by 2020, international flights can reach 70 percent above 2005 numbers, regardless of whether fuel efficiency is advanced by an annual 2 percent.

To combat this, in the past, the EU tried to enact the Emissions Trading System, which was subsequently banned by the US, China, and other countries. With the support of both Democrats and Republicans, Obama even passed the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011, which banned American airlines from partaking in the EU’s system.

Airlines have pledged to limit their emissions by 2 percent every year until 2020, when emission growth will cap. The ultimate goal is for the aerospace industry’s emissions to be at half 2005′s numbers by 2050.

At this point, using newly-made airplanes that have better fuel economies are our best bet. Boeing has introduced its new 787 Dreamliner and Airbus has introduced the A350, both of which are more fuel efficient but not in wide use just yet.

(From New York Times)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

June 16, 2015

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“US New Auto Sales: Ford F-Series Pickup Truck Deliveries Drop; Ford Explorer Soars” – International Business Times, 3 March 2015

This past December, Ford rolled out its aluminum-body F-150 truck, the first of its kind for the company, but it seems like the new truck is just not cutting it: sales dipped for the car manufacturer’s F-Series truck line this February, and has put the company squarely behind its competitors.

Typically, the F-150 has the highest selling rate in the US; however, this February, overall sales dropped by two percent. Ford believes sales will continue to grow by 8 percent this year to 1.29 million units, compared to February 2014.

The Ford Transit light commercial vehicle and the Transit Connect compact panel van gave Ford trucks a four percent boost, even though the F-series line dropped by 1.2 percent. The Explorer full-sized crossover also gave the company’s stats a little nudge— the crossover jumped by 32 percent to sell 17,027 units.

It’s a shame that Ford’s F-150 isn’t selling as well as we’d hoped, since the company went through the entire process of shifting from a steel to aluminum body, which required new equipment and manufacturing processes. Obama has made this move a requirement for the automobile industry, mandating that manufacturers double new-car average fuel economy by 2025.

(From International Business Times)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

March 4, 2015

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“4 Ways Election Results Could Intensify U.S. Energy Battles” – National Geographic, 5 November 2014

After November’s midterm elections and the newly elected Republican majority in the both houses of Congress, President Obama might have a difficult time moving forward with his climate policy agenda. Now there’s a chance that Republicans will obstruct the EPA‘s funding so that it won’t be able to enact its proposed regulations of curbing power plants emissions. Meanwhile, we might get closer to authorizing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and repealing our 1970s crude oil export ban. Only a few days before the elections, the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change issued another report with grave warnings about the effects of climate change.

One method that Republicans can employ to hinder the Obama administration is with a joint congressional resolution of disapproval, which asks for a majority vote in favor of blocking proposed regulations. However, in order to advance their own bills, Republicans need 60 votes to stop filibusters by Senate Democrats, or a two-thirds majority to quash any of Obama’s vetoes.

Though those odds might seem unlikely, the Republicans can still play a huge hand in climate policy and the energy debate by:

  1. Further Opposing the EPA‘s Power Plant Regulations
    Previously, climate activist and Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer (CA) chaired the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works; however, now the position will transfer to Republican Senator James Inhofe (OK), a staunch climate denier and author of the 2012 book The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.That title itself says it all. Inhofe is staunchly again the idea that climate change is caused by human activity. So it’s reasonable to assume that his goal — along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — is to block funding for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, where the EPA’s goal is to reduce existing power plants’ emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

  2. Advancing the Keystone XL Pipeline
    Another one of McConnell’s targets is the Keystone XL Pipeline — he would do whatever possible to advance the project, including strategizing a plan that would make sure the legislation would end up on Obama’s desk. Obama would then have to either approve the pipeline or use his veto power.Obama is more likely to approve the pipeline if it has no impact on emissions; according to the State Department, Keystone will not increase emissions.
  3. Increasing Fossil Fuel Exports
    Republicans are now more motivated than ever to end the circa-1970s crude oil export ban that was authorized amid the Arab oil embargo. So far, the Department of Energy has already authorized a few projects that would allow the US to export natural gas, but Republicans would like to push more through.Many Republicans and those in the oil industry contend that exporting crude could push gas prices down even more. Environmentalists assert that repealing the ban might prompt the US to generate more oil, at the cost of the environment.
  4. Introducing a Bipartisan Energy Efficiency Bill
    Republican Senator Rob Portman (OH) and Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH) have created a bipartisan bill that advocates for energy efficiency in many spheres, including residential, commercial, and federal buildings. The bill tried to get through the Senate in 2014, but was unable to because of the debate around Keystone. The bill will have another go, but might very well be blocked by Republicans who don’t support implementing rules that require stronger efficiency guidelines for appliances.

(From National Geographic)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 26, 2015

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“Top Court to Weigh Pollution Standards” – Wall Street Journal, 26 November 2014

This past November, the US Supreme Court surveyed the case that presents the US’s first standards obligating power plants to curb mercury emissions and various air toxins, one of many major elements in President Obama’s newly introduced climate policy.

The case is being disputed by the utility industry and almost two dozen states, namely states where coal is a major player in their economies. The case will go to trial in the spring and the court will reach a decision in June 2015. Concurrently, Obama is is working on more regulations that will reduce existing power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions.

The EPA also introduced an amended national standard for ground-level ozone, or smog, in November; enforcement of renewed ozone standards rely on the mercury rule. The mercury rule was initially proposed in 2012 and will be enforced beginning in April 2015 for existing power plants, which obligates plants that are powered by coal and oil to eliminate most of their mercury emissions.

What falls on the Supreme Court is whether the EPA’s new regulations should acknowledge how much the regulations will cost utilities. This has been an ongoing complaint from utility and power companies, and many coal states, which assert that placing restrictions on power plants will drive up the cost of electricity. According to these companies and states, the EPA’s rules will increase utility industry costs by $9.6 billion per year.

The EPA argues that the public-health gains from reducing air pollutants surpass any additional costs to utilities: the public will benefit $37 billion to $90 billion per year, and avoid 11,000 deaths per year.

The result of this case can affect EPA regulations, such as the agency’s initiative to reduce carbon emissions from almost 600 fossil fuel-fired plants, which was supported by the Supreme Court in 2007. If the court doesn’t rule in favor of the EPA, the EPA might not have as much power — or be as ambitious — in the future.

This month, the EPA will distribute final emissions standards for new power plants; the agency will issue similar standards for existing power plants this summer. The mercury rule instructs coal utilities to use scrubbers, which will help lower emissions. Many facilities have been given an extra year to install scrubber technology.

(From Wall Street Journal)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 14, 2015

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