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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General Motors Joins the War on Coal

Coal is slowly being ousted by natural gas and renewable energies as an energy source. Even General Motors has joined the fight by eradicating the use of coal from its plants, which will allow the automobile company to prosper in a number of ways, including getting a head start on Obama’s fuel economy mandates. GM and Ford have already moved to aluminum bodies and parts for their vehicles; swapping coal for environmentally friendly energy sources is just another step forward for GM.

What does this mean? GM no longer burns coal in its facilities, instead opting for renewable energies. The company has switched coal out for solar panels, wind power, capture landfill gas (a renewable energy), and steam that has been converted from municipal waste. The technology that GM uses to burn coal, called boilers, are no longer needed and have since been shut down. According to Slate, “General Motors is already 87 percent of the way toward its goal of using 125 megawatts of renewable energy generating capacity by 2020.”

Yet, the corporation still relies on coal: it buys power from electrical facilities that burn coal; only 12 percent of GM’s energy sources are derived from renewables. But we can’t fault the car giant for making investments and efforts toward employing better environmental practices and energy mixes. GM’s small changes will result in bigger leaps to better our environment.

(From Slate)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

May 7, 2015

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“Vatican Announces Major Summit On Climate Change” – ThinkProgress, 16 April 2015

Pope Francis has made climate change one of the cornerstones of his papacy, recently hosting a climate change summit at the Vatican, which he hopes will bridge the gap between climate change and religion.

The conference, called “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity. The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development,” was held on April 28 and featured prominent leaders, like the Director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Jeffrey Sachs, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who gave the opening speech.

Pope Francis hopes that his followers — and followers of other religions — will see the connection between their faith, environmental conservation, and the future of people. The pope’s upcoming encyclical, to be published in either June or July, will focus on the environment.

During Francis’ inauguration in 2013, he gave a moving speech that fixated on climate change, even calling abuse of the environment a sin. The following year, in 2014, he hosted a five-day conference that targeted sustainability, which brought microbiologists, economists, legal scholars, and various scientific experts to the Vatican to discuss our worsening climate.

April’s summit at the Vatican also hit close to home for Americans. As we all know, many conservatives and members of the GOP have rejected the concept of climate change and have found fault with Francis for being pro-green. Francis is slated to talk to Congress this coming September, and it’s certainly likely that he’ll bring up environmental conservation.

According to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, 56 percent, or 169 members, of our current Congress are skeptical of the science backing climate change. Moreover, thirty-five of those 169 members recognize themselves as Catholic. It will be compelling to see if these Congress members’ faith — and the pope’s influence — can sway any of the Congressmen and women.

However, in the final analysis, it is not religion but economic — supply, demand, availability, and prices — environmental, and societal pressures, and technology issues, such as cost and effectiveness, that will determine the final outcome. Having said that, Vatican’s proactive approach will sway public opinion, which could be very significant.

(From ThinkProgress)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 17, 2015

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“Making CO2 an Energy Asset” – Wall Street Journal, 16 July 2014

Though carbon dioxide has had a disastrous impact on our environment, the energy industry can actually use it for some good: inserting CO2 into oil fields actually boosts oil production.

Coal-burning power plants emit man-made CO2 into the air, and oil drillers typically find their CO2 underground caverns or industrial facilities. However, New York-based electricity manufacturer NRG Energy Inc. is aiming to do things a little differently. NRG’s new strategy is to trap CO2 emitted from one of its Houston coal-fired plants and siphon the CO2 to a nearby oil field. NRG and its Japanese partner JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp. will be given half the extra output. The project is hoped to be finished by 2016.

NRG, JX Nippon, and the US Energy Department are spearheading the Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project, with the aim to simultaneously decrease pollution from coal-burning plants while increasing oil output.

Yet, it’s an expensive process, and many utilities’ participation in carbon capture has been unfavorable. Atlanta-based Southern Co. is wrapping up on a Mississippi power plant that will transform coal into combustible gas while also ridding the gas of pollutants, like CO2. It’s costing the company $5.5 billion, the priciest coal plant in the US.

Another method where the industry has tried, and failed, is ridding flue gases of carbon after the coal has been used. Part of the process is selling the CO2, but carbon has never sold for enough to rationalize the effort and money used to strip the carbon in the first place. Adapting a coal-fired power plant to new technology is more expensive than building a new gas-fired power plant.

NRG’s project will be different, because instead of selling carbon, the project aims to make a profit from selling the supplementary oil. The CO2 that NRG will funnel into the oil field is predicted to increase oil generation by 10,000 barrels per day — from its current 500 barrels to 15,000 barrels.

When additional CO2 is introduced in underground oil reservoirs, the gas forces the remaining crude to rise to the surface. Overall, the DOE expects that oil production will expand to 360,000 barrels per day in 2020, and 580,000 in 2030.

A majority of the CO2 used to pump oil out of reservoirs originates from underground caverns and other natural formations, and industrial projects. A bulk of our man-made CO2 comes from the power industry, which uses a lot of coal since it’s a cheap source of power. The power industry is also our largest unused CO2 supplier; there might be a bright future for NRG’s project after all.

(From Wall Street Journal)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 23, 2015

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