“UBC recycling rate stands at 66.7 percent” – Recycling Today, 30 September 2014

Together, the Aluminum Association, the Can Manufacturers Institute, and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries have reported that 2013′s used aluminum beverage can recycling rate hit 66.7 percent. This marks the third year in a row that the US recycling rate has surpassed 65 percent.

According to the Aluminum Association, the US’s Used Beverage Cans (UBC) recycling rate from the previous decade only averaged 54 percent. The Aluminum Association notes that the UBC recycling rate has grown in the last decade because US recyclers have been importing used cans from Canada, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia, amongst other countries. Due to the US’s closed-loop recycling process, the imported UBCs bolster the US’s recycling stream.

In 2012, the amount of imported cans declined; however, in the same year, US consumers recycled more cans, so the numbers balanced out.

Aluminum Association — Sustainability Facts
Can Manufacturers Institute — Beverage Can Facts

Can Manufacturers Institute — Recycling & Sustainability
Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries — White Papers, Reports, and Analysis

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

October 6, 2014

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“Climate change isn’t for the birds” – Politico, 8 September 2014

In addition to affecting food supplies and increasing the likelihood of natural disasters, climate change is drastically impacting wildlife, especially our birds.

Earlier this month, the National Audubon Society published a study, which concluded that half of North America’s bird species will be endangered, and could go extinct, at the century’s end, due to the effects of climate change.

The bald eagle and Baltimore oriole are at a huge risk for endangerment, and Louisiana, Utah, Vermont, Nevada, Idaho, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Washington DC’s state birds are as well. The Audubon’s report comes after a draft of the UN’s climate change report was disclosed, which cautioned about the effects of climate change on people and ecosystems.

President Obama and the EPA are doing everything they can to stop climate change in its tracks, including introducing the Climate Action Plan and the Clean Power Plan Proposal, which are aimed at curbing power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions. Of course, there is pushback from Republicans, conservatives, and coal states, like Colorado, Kentucky, and Michigan where politicians contend that new climate regulations will deplete jobs and increase consumer’s expenses on energy.

For the report, the Audubon studied species prevalent to the US and Canada. Of the 588 species the Audubon chose, the Audubon found that by 2080, 314 of them will be in danger of extremely diminished populations because they will be without over half of their livable geographic range. The lives of these birds are indelibly linked to their physical environment.

Moreover, renewable energy — wind and solar power — also has a lasting impact on birds. Many conservatives and conservationists are calling this, “Obama’s war on birds.”

According to a report published last year by the journal Biological Conservation, around 140,000 to 328,000 birds are killed yearly through contact with wind turbines. In 2013, the Interior Department granted 30-year permits to wind farms that allowed for accidentally killing or injuring bald and golden eagles. There have also been reports of a California-based solar power plant that causes birds to catch on fire while flying.

Conservatives are using the repercussions of renewable energy on birds as more political fodder against Obama and his climate policy. Perhaps this is rightfully so, as Obama hasn’t specifically incorporated flora, fauna, and their ecosystems into his climate policy. At the same time, however, if conservative policymakers — any policymakers, at that — are concerned about the birds, then they should make efforts to integrate climate change into conservation planning. It works both ways.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

September 10, 2014

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“Study: Keystone pollution higher” – Politico, 10 August 2014

According to a report from the Stockholm Environment Institute, the Keystone XL pipeline — the 1,700-mile pipeline that would send 800,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Canada sand formations to Texas refineries — could potentially emit four times as much pollution as initially determined by the State Department.

Estimates made by the US federal government didn’t consider that transporting extra oil through the new pipeline can potentially cause prices to fall by almost $3 per barrel. More oil means more consumption, and more consumption means more pollution. Yet, organizations like the American Petroleum Institute (API) view the study as trivial, as the oil will be produced and transported either way; if it wasn’t being shipped through the pipeline, then it would be shipped using the railroad, which could also increase emission levels.

The report projects that the pipeline can raise greenhouse gas emissions by about 121 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. The State Department noted that the pipeline would, at the most, only increase CO2 emissions by 30 million tons this year.

Earlier this year, President Obama was still undecided about approving the pipeline; and his administration’s approval has been extended until after the midterm US elections. Obama has been making an effort to reduce the US’s GHG emissions — the report indicates that the pipeline’s emissions could undercut the government’s new policies to curb pollution.

Many scientists from outside the study claim that the extra 121 million tons produced by the pipeline is insignificant compared to the 36 billion tons that we globally emitted in 2013. Still, approving the pipeline could weaken Obama’s new climate policy, which takes a firm stance on the effects of climate change.

See also:
Keystone pipeline: Obama’s unpleasant options
Pipeline Fight Lifts Environmental Movement

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

August 12, 2014

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“Keystone pipeline: Obama’s unpleasant options” – Politico, 31 January 2014

It is still unknown whether Obama will approve the Keystone XL pipeline, but after the State Department’s January report on Keystone XL, it is safe to say that Obama will eventually authorize it. It is also safe to say that Obama’s choice will anger his liberal base—the pipeline involves an oil extraction process that expends more greenhouse gas emissions than any other means of production. Moreover, there is a big chance that the pipeline could break.

But advocation efforts by pipeline builder TransCanada—backed by the American Petroleum Institute—and conservatives are relentless, the former promoting the jobs the pipeline will creates, and the latter blaming Obama for US unemployment rates and high gas prices. There is no promise that the pipeline would help with either issue, or that these groups’ lobbying efforts are doing anything to sway Obama.

It’s easy to see why Obama is taking his time. If he outright rejects the proposal, he could face major backlash from the GOP for the remainder of his term. In order to take that extra anti-Obama talking point out of the conservatives’ arsenal, and to dodge any kind of disagreement with Canada, some moderate Senate Democrats are voicing their approval of the pipeline. This might not be a redeeming factor for Obama—the Senate Democrats’ approval or his own—when it comes to the GOP’s views on his energy and climate policies, namely the Climate Action Plan.

Ultimately, the choice is up to Obama; the Keystone Pipeline falls under Obama’s purview, as an executive order. While he gave a nod to natural gas and climate-altering policies during his SOTU speech, Obama didn’t comment on the pipeline. Stalling a decision has proved to be in Obama’s favor—the constant bickering between the GOP and environmentalists will allow the administration to follow up on other climate policy plans without the watchful eye of the public.

A little wait may be good, but we should not prolong the decision. All the major elements of this project—cost, jobs, environmental and strategic—are sensitive issues. It is time to approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to bring the world’s third largest oil supply to US from friendly NAFTA country Canada, with whom we share the globe’s largest land border. Let us stop sending petrodollars to Middle East and Venezuela, but rather share the wealth within our own continent.

See also:
Pipeline Fight Lifts Environmental Movement

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

February 18, 2014

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