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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Titanium Sponge Plant to be Built in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia-based Royal Commission in Yanbu — an independent organization from the government — is currently building a factory to create titanium sponge. The current plant will undergo a technological upgrade, and will be outfitted with high-pressure oxidation equipment in order to generate titanium dioxide.

The plant is slated to finish and begin producing titanium sponge by 2017. It is anticipated that the output of the new plant and the retrofitted plant will be 15,600 metric tons of titanium sponge annually, and 120 thousand tons of titanium dioxide yearly.

Titanium sponge is a rock-life formation of titanium that is produced during the initial stage of titanium processing. It’s used across many industries, such as the aerospace, telephone, and jewelry industries.

Japanese company Toho is also getting a cut of the action: Toho will move forward with RCY and Saudi company Tasnee to create a project aimed at producing titanium sponge as well. Tasnee and Tasnee-owned company Cristal will each own 32.5 percent of the new Crystal Complex project, while Toho will own 35 perfect.

Saudi Arabia’s influence in oil wanes as natural gas has reached soaring heights in the US. It seems to counter their oil collapse, as Saudi Arabia is looking to widen its berth in the metals industry.

Just recently, Saudi Arabia commissioned the operation of world’s largest aluminum complex, from bauxite to finished products. Like aluminum, production of other light metals, like titanium and magnesium, are very energy intensive, a major cost factor. They have taken action in both aluminum and titanium. The next logical step for them will be delve in the production of magnesium.

Saudi Arabia already has a significant investment, presence, and operation in the chemical industry using oil-based feedstock.

China now is the major global producer of all the light metals: aluminum, titanium, and magnesium. The country uses very uneconomical energy inputs, using cheap and abundant energy resources. With this new venture, Saudi Arabia can challenge China in the production of world-hungry light metals.

(From Arab News)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 30, 2015

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“Chinese Shake Up Aluminum” – Wall Street Journal, 12 February 2015

In order to prevent Chinese aluminum from leaving the country, China’s government has imposed a 15% export tax on every ton of the metal that is bought by foreign buyers. However, Chinese aluminum manufacturers have found a way around the government’s tax, by producing semifinished products, or “semis.” While primary aluminum is usually shipped in blocks, semis are manufactured as door frames or hubcaps, which can then be liquefied and molded into other products. Because China’s need for aluminum at home is low — need for metals in the country’s infrastructure has decreased — Chinese manufacturers must sell abroad.

Chinese aluminum manufacturers actually profit from creating semifinished aluminum products: they get a 13% tax rebate on semis. It’s difficult to differentiate how much of China’s aluminum exports are semis; in December, the country’s overseas sales added up to 488,000 tons, a 136% surge from January 2014. China’s output also increased to combat rising prices.

The increase in aluminum exports from China is also reshaping the aluminum market: growth of Chinese exports in Asia has caused buyers’ urgent delivery premiums to decline. Because of the influx of Chinese aluminum, Malaysian and Australian aluminum manufacturers have redirected their aluminum exports to other regions Australia is one of the biggest exporters to Asia, but China is producing and exporting aluminum at a rapid rate. While countries like the US might benefit from China’s oversupply, China’s output is becoming a hindrance to aluminum premiums. It might take worldwide aluminum supplies a decade to recover from the flood of Chinese aluminum.

Will China ever play by fair market rules? We suppose not, as long as it doesn’t benefit them.

(From Wall Street Journal)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

February 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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