“Obama vows drastic emissions cut, gets little back from China in new deal” – KCA News Info, 12 November 2014

Earlier this month, President Obama revealed that the US and China have been in secret talks about a climate accord between the two nations.

According to the agreement, the US’s new goal is to curb greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 26 percent and a maximum of 28 percent in the next 11 years. Obama’s new goal is now significantly higher; previously, he vowed that the US would reduce emissions by 17 percent by 2020.

General Secretary Xi Jinping has set a much more open-ended goal for China: that the country’s emissions will climax by 2030, or conceivably earlier. Jinping also agreed that China will decrease its dependency on fossil fuels and seek out alternative energy sources. The number of coal-fired power plants has recently increased in China, which has vastly been contributing to China’s emissions. China releases 30 percent of the world’s emissions.

While the incoming Republican majority-held Congress will greatly dislike the new legislation — many view the plan as impossible and a detriment to jobs — environmentalists and many Democrats are supporting Obama’s decision. Obama’s plan, which will be the US’s offering at the 2015 Paris worldwide treaty, shows how assertive Obama is willing to be in the climate debate, using his legislation both as a tool to lessen the impact of climate change and push other nations to also provide ambitious goals for decreasing the effects of climate change.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

November 12, 2014

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“Americans by 2 to 1 Would Pay More to Curb Climate Change” – Bloomberg, 10 June 2014

One of the arguments against Obama’s Climate Action Plan and the EPA‘s Clean Power Plan proposal is that the added cost of clean energy will weigh heavily on the US’s middle class. However, it seems that Americans are prepared to pay more for energy. Obama and the EPA are currently working together to pass new rules that would reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2030, with a focus on coal-fired power plants.

As reported by the Bloomberg National Poll, 62 percent of Americans are willing to pay more for curbing carbon emissions. Forty-six percent of Republicans are also ready to pay more, as well as 82 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents.

There remains a margin of Democrats who aren’t in favor of new carbon emission rules, particularly Democratic Senate candidates who represent coal states like West Virginia and Kentucky. But support is mainly divided on party lines: according to the same Bloomberg poll, 70 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents would endorse candidates who are in favor of new climate policy—only 28 percent of Republicans would advocate for such policy.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

June 16, 2014

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“White House touts energy policies as rules loom” – Associated Press, 30 May 2014

With continued backlash, President Obama is still trying to sell the US on his new energy policy and attempting to showcase the regulations as economically advantageous through job creation, cleaner energy sources, and protection of the US against foreign turmoil. In a 42-page report to be released on Thursday, the White House contends that the US’s natural gas boon is both economically and environmentally beneficial.

The report’s purpose is to counteract the disapproval of the EPA‘s new regulations on coal-fired power plants, which many expect will inflate electricity costs, thwart job growth, and impede economic prosperity. Conservatives and their allies believe that reducing emissions won’t actually aid the environment, and only become a hinderance to the economy.

The White House reports argues that increased domestic energy production, wind and solar power, and decreased dependency on oil have largely bolstered the security of US energy and the economy, and speak directly to the impacts of climate change by reducing carbon emissions.

The US’s upswing in natural gas safeguards the economy, and everyone’s pockets, if oil-producing countries undergo turmoil and cause oil prices to skyrocket. If we continue to produce energy sources domestically, then the US reaps the benefits—that means more money and more jobs.

Regardless, the US is still the number one consumer and importer of oil. The advent of natural gas hasn’t been embraced by everyone—the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock presents some unease with many environmental groups. The decline in oil consumption started in 2006, though that fall is ascribed to the recession. At the same time, natural gas consumption has increased by 18% since 2005.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

May 30, 2014

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“Coal: The fuel of the future, unfortunately” – The Economist, 19 April 2014

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The Economist

While natural gas has been waging a war on coal, coal will likely persist as a serious player in the energy market. Coal is inexpensive, plentiful, and easy to mine, ship, and burn. It is a cheap energy source for developing countries, and a great way for these countries to become rich.

Still, the issue remains that coal is not a clean energy source. Mining, transporting, storing and burning coal is a dirty job; underground mining can cause health issues for miners. Transporting coal has negative environmental impacts; opencast mining, a surface mining technique, destroys topsoil and devours water supplies. Coal is the biggest single source of pollution in the world, expending one-third of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.

The US is experiencing a large shift away from coal and towards natural gas. Many big US coal companies, like American Electric Power and Duke Energy, are closing coal-fired plants. Yet, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that coal will still be producing 22% of the US’s energy by 2040. Coal currently produces 26% of the US’s energy. China, the world’s biggest pollutant, is trying to restrict its coal consumption, but developing countries like Africa and India are picking up where China has left off. In Germany, coal is the cheapest it’s ever been. Japan, too, has recently authorized a new energy plan that has solidified coal’s role as the country’s main energy source.

Besides these boons for coal, international coal companies should still be worried for two reasons: one, that governments will place restrictions on coal; and two, the global oversupply of coal, which has pushed prices down and caused some coal companies to lose profits.

Still, coal remains a worthy adversary to oil and gas. Coal mining doesn’t necessitate expensive equipment, like drills, platforms and pipes, and when prices drop, companies can stop manufacturing and wait until prices pick back up.

Technological advances for producing clean coal—pulverizing coal, separating the gas from coal, scrubbing emissions and capturing carbon dioxide—look promising, though the methods are costly. A $5.2 billion clean-coal plant is being built in Mississippi, which was entirely funded by taxpayers. This will be the most expensive power plant ever completed, so we can probably safely assume that clean-coal plants won’t be the norm any time soon.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 20, 2014

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