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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“A Climate Accord Based on Global Peer Pressure” – New York Times, 14 December 2014

Last month, almost 200 nations gathered in Lima, Peru to agree on a global pact to reduce fossil fuel emissions, one of the primary causes of climate change. The deal — called the Lima Accord — shows huge progress in global effort to fight the effects of climate change: it’s the first time that these nations will make a unilateral effort to curb the use of oil, gas, and coal.

However, the Lima Accord is not lawfully mandatory. If it were legally binding, then the nearly 200 nations wouldn’t have agreed to the deal — not even the US. Instead, the hope is that global peer pressure will be the impetus to move the accord forward. At this point, every nation has agreed to place limits on its carbon emissions.

According to the accord, each nation will have to introduce carbon-cutting domestic legislation by either March or June. Laws will delineate how each country will curb emissions after 2020. These proposals are known to the UN as “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions,” which will be included in an upcoming climate deal in Paris in 2015.

But because the Lima Accord has no requirements, countries could conceive of feeble plans that wouldn’t drastically combat the effects of climate change. Countries also have the choice of not even offering a plan — and if they don’t submit a plan, there are no fines or retribution.

Again, the accord relies on peer pressure and a method called “name-and-shame.” Each countries’ plan will be posted to the UN’s site as public information. If the countries’ plans are made public and some are found to be weak in comparison, then the shame of such a weakness will hopefully push that country to strengthen its plan.

The biggest worry comes with the top three polluters: the US, China, and India. While President Obama has tried to make climate change a vital element of his second term, his legacy really depends on what happens after his term is over. He has vowed to reduce emissions by at least 28 percent by 2025, which can be attained if tailpipe and power plant emissions regulations are passed. Unfortunately, most Republican White House contenders are staunch opponents of Obama’s climate change policies and likely don’t care about global urgencies.

China has been pushed to seek methods of reducing emissions due to discord among its citizens, as citizens disapproved of China’s worsening air quality. The country has now eclipsed the US as the number one polluter — President Xi Jinping has promised that China’s emissions will spike in 2030 and then fall. In order to ensure that target, the country is enacting a national cap-and-trade structure where polluters will have to purchase greenhouse gas emissions.

Because curbing emissions can be costly, it is a difficult burden for developing nations. India Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cast aside any efforts towards reversing climate change, instead focusing on economic growth and poverty, which could mean building new coal power plants. However, India’s Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has stated that the country will offer a plan in June.

Other countries that climate change policy observers are following are Russia and Australia. Russian President Vladimir V. Putin doesn’t believe that humans cause climate change, and Australia has phased out its Department of Climate Change, and also revoked a carbon tax.

While we have a majority of the countries on board with the deal, there are a few important strays that will determine whether or not the Lima Accord is indeed productive.

(From New York Times)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

December 15, 2014

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“Partnership seeks technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants” – The Lane Report, 21 July 2014

Kentucky is currently building its first carbon capture pilot unit at Kentucky Utilities Company’s E.W. Brown Generating Station in Harrodsburg. The $19.5 million project has been funded by national, state, and educational entities to help Kentucky’s lifeblood, coal, from becoming severely undercut by limits in carbon emissions.

Obama’s Climate Action Plan has introduced steep cuts in existing power plants’ emissions levels — Kentucky’s answer to new climate policy is to further explore carbon capture technology. The aim of the “catch and release” pilot system is to show how carbon capture technology can be advantageous to existing power plants, determine ways to improve the system, and analyze the practicality of producing carbon capture systems on a large scale. The system will be ready for testing in the fall; testing will end mid-2016.

Though pricey, the hope behind the carbon capture technology is that it will generate affordable, cleaner energy that will retain Kentucky’s coal industry. Coal has always been a cheap and abundant source of energy in the state, but the federal government’s changing regulations on how to improve the US’s environmental issues is altering coal’s role in Kentucky. Coal-supporters see Obama’s newly proposed climate policy as a “war on coal,” and this is Kentucky’s fight to preserve the state’s leading industry.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

August 1, 2014

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Underground Recovery, LLC Granted Patent for Innovative Process that Generates Electricity from Coal and Other Fossil Fuels without Carbon Emissions

Fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas have been, are, and will remain some of the most abundant energy sources in the world, especially in the US. Despite the benefits of fossil fuel recovery — such as underground coal mining and combustion, and oil and natural gas drilling — and above-ground combustion for power plants, both historically present a threat to the environment and produce undesirable carbon dioxide emissions, greenhouse gas, and ash.

Coal is integral to many of the US’s state economies and is an industry these states can’t afford to lose. Coal is particularly plentiful in Kentucky; as of 2012, coal generates 41% of the world’s electricity, and in 2013, coal generated 93% of all Kentucky’s electricity. Kentucky is the third largest producer of coal in the US, and one of the largest exporters of coal to Asian markets.

Many projects in various stages of commercialization are under way to either process the above-ground released carbon dioxide or sequester underground carbon dioxide, all adding to the cost and environmental impact of generating additional electricity. However, the Lexington-based research and development company Underground Recovery, LLC has a reasonable solution for retrieving underground fossil fuels.

Since 2011, Underground Recovery has been devoted to environmentally friendly and cost effective recovery of energy and metals from underground resources. The company was granted a US patent in July for its innovative coal combustion process, which can eliminate atmospheric release of carbon dioxide emissions and ash. This new process may be a tremendous boon to coal industries in Kentucky and throughout the world, as it provides an economically feasible alternative to the current process of coal, oil, and natural gas mining, followed by above ground combustion and power generation with subsequent under- and above-ground carbon sequestration.

As a high-risk project, if viable, a successful implementation of this process, especially when coupled with hydraulic fracturing, can be ”game changing “ by lowering costs of energy environmental development, increasing fossil fuel reserves, and minimizing the negative environmental impacts of the atmospheric release of GHG, like CO2 and ash.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das

July 28, 2014

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