“Coal Growing Its Share Of Global Energy Mix Despite World’s Greening Efforts” – IBTimes, 20 June 2014

Although natural gas has become the US’s go-to energy source, and both Europe and the US are bringing the proverbial hammer down on greenhouse gas emissions, coal is still in wide-use worldwide. China and India are the main culprits; since both countries are continuing to grow, they continue to use coal, since it’s one of the cheapest and most plentiful sources of energy. Together, the two countries are the reason coal consumption saw a three percent increase in 2013. Use of natural gas only rose in North America, while it fell everywhere else.

via IBTimes

via IBTimes

Though developed nations will continue to replace coal with renewable and cleaner energy sources, developing countries will continue to rely on coal, as coal will likely remain inexpensive and abundant.

While coal fulfilled 30.1 percent of the world’s energy needs in 2013, oil met 32.9 percent. The US invested a lot of time and money in fracking shale formations, which led to one of the biggest bouts of oil generation that we’ve seen.

But coal could still win the energy battle. In 2012, the International Energy Agency predicted that yearly worldwide consumption of coal would increase by 1.2 billion tons, making it the number one energy source in the world.

New climate policies by the US and Europe are bound to take a toll on the future of coal. Coal will become reliant on China, and even China is making an effort to decrease pollution and smog and use natural gas instead of coal.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

June 30, 2014

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Copyright 2013. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

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The “War Of Words On Coal” Continues

Yesterday, the EPA presented new rules for power plants emissions, called the Clean Power Plan proposal. These rules are a small part of Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which he is pursuing through executive action. The four building blocks of the EPA’s proposal are:

    • Cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels;
    • Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
    • Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days-providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and
    • Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.

(via EPA)

According to the EPA, carbon dioxide emissions from US power plants have decreased by 13 percent since 2005. While different states will be given different emissions quotas, 30 percent is the US’s nationwide goal. States have up to three years to draft plans to meet their goals. Initial compliance plans are due June 30, 2016, but some states will be allotted a one-year extension. States that form multi-state plans will be allotted a two-year extension. If a state decides not to formulate a plan, then the EPA will write one for the state.

The EPA will present a number of options that will help the states meet target goals, such as helping power plants to become more efficient and spending more on sources of renewable energy. Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Virginia, and West Virginia have already passed laws that permit their environmental agencies to create unique carbon-emission plans. Louisiana and Ohio are also following suit.

Conservatives have been battling Obama’s climate regulations for months. As the 2014 midterm elections loom right around the corner, conservatives and their industry allies will do anything they can to stir the political pot and anger voters. Voters in states like Kentucky and West Virginia are the determining factor in whether or not the Democrats retain the Senate majority. Many Democrats who are openly against the new rules represent coal-producing states, such as West Virginia Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall—96 percent of his state’s power comes from coal.

The coal industry contends that the new rules will have negative repercussions on the economy, including major damage to coal and manufacturing jobs, increased household electricity costs, and a rising number of brown-outs during extreme heat or cold. The US Chamber of Commerce—opponents of the new regulations—contend that the Clean Power Plan proposal will result in a loss of almost a quarter-million jobs through 2030, will force power plants across the US to shut down, and will inflict $50 billion in yearly costs.

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The US depends on coal for 40 percent of its electricity; however, 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions originate from electricity, and within that percentage, coal-fired power plants make up 80% of those emissions. Overall, coal-fired power plants expel 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

While conservatives, and some liberals, see the proposed regulations as an attack on the coal industry, Obama sees it as way to not only clean up our environment, but also as a way to avert a national health crisis. Current climate law is dictated by the decades-old Clean Air Act, which regulates pollutants like soot, mercury, lead, arsenic, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides, but not carbon pollution.

The EPA will permit comment on the Clean Power Plan proposal for 120 days after it is published in the Federal Register, and will also conduct public hearings in Denver, Atlanta, Washington DC, and Pittsburgh during the week of July 28. The EPA’s proposed rules won’t be finalized until next year.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

June 2, 2014

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“Climate panel: Time to act is now” – Politico, 31 March 2014

In March, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a new report that urged the world to come to a consensus on a new global climate agreement. The effects of climate change are worsening and will continue to endanger crop yields, the lives of poorer populations, low-lying lands, aggravate droughts and even provoke wars.

The US and the rest of the world must agree on a global climate agreement by the end of 2015, which would become enforced in 2020. For the agreement to have any impact, both the US and the world’s biggest polluters—such as India and China—must cooperate on the agreement’s terms.

The US, however, is still up in arms about its climate policy. To combat the climate skeptics, Obama has begun pushing his climate policy—like regulations on new power plants and limiting international coal use—through executive branch actions. Climate skeptics are fighting Obama’s executive orders in the House and the courts, justifying that the world isn’t actually warming and the US can’t enforce such harsh regulations when major polluters aren’t following suit.

The report details how the poor and other marginalized groups of people will bear the brunt of climate change impacts through employment, lowered crop yields and soaring food prices. There are also other risks, such as:

  • Agriculture: Wheat and corn have weathered the worst effects of climate change. Food accessibility and food prices could also be affected.
  • Global security: Low crop yields and high sea levels will lead to displacement, and will increase and cause new security worries.
  • Human health: Human health will worsen due to extreme heat waves, wildfires, bad nutrition and diseases spread through water and food.
  • Water: Water levels will plummet as greenhouse gases increase. Some areas will have lower sea levels and some, like low-lying areas and islands, will experience floodings.

A report on methods to counteract climate change will be published in April in Berlin. A final report with all the information will be released in Copenhagen in October.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 2, 2014

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“U.N. Climate Panel Endorses Ceiling on Global Emissions” – New York Times, 27 September 2013

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change met last Friday in Stockholm, Sweden to discuss the current state of global climate change. Presenting information from the UN’s assessment of climate science, the panel unanimously agreed, for the first time, on an upper limit for greenhouse gases (GHG), advocating for a specific emissions cap that the world must adhere to, before climactic changes become permanent.

The UN’s assessment affirmed the idea that our changing climate is caused by human activities, reinforcing the need for a global environmental policy. The panel noted that if nothing is done to reduce emissions, then we will exceed our emissions cap in just a few decades. Unfortunately, any recent action taken towards enacting a global environmental policy has been bogged down by political conflicts.

The report states, “Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes.”

The panel also supports a “carbon budget” for the world, or a limit on how much GHG — the main GHG is carbon dioxide — can be expelled into the atmosphere by industrial activities and deforestation. Scientists have found that if the planet’s temperature were to increase by more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, then we would begin to see the most detrimental effects of climate change; if we want to keep the planet’s temperature below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, then we cannot burn more than one trillion metric tons of carbon.

According to the UN’s report, more than a half-trillion tons of carbon have been burned since the start of the Industrial Revolution, and as energy consumption continues to increase, we will likely reach the trillionth ton around 2040. Over three trillion tons of carbon are still kept in the ground as fossil fuels.

Just this month, Obama passed an executive order, in conjunction with the EPA, which regulates the amount of carbon that US power companies can emit, making “carbon capture” technology a requirement. The panel recommended that the same technology should be done for other companies around the world, especially once we pass the trillion-ton mark.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meets every five to six years — the last time they met was in 2007. The 2013 report presents a 95-100 percent probability that climate change is human-caused; the 2007 report presented a 90-100 percent probability.

The new report accedes to the fact climate science is not a perfect science; we are still uncertain, for instance, of the progression of rising ocean levels, and of how much the planet will actually warm when a certain amount of emissions is released. The report also acknowledges the gradual decrease of warming that has happened over the last 15 years, reasoning that it is probably due to the natural variability of climate. Both are favorite points of climate doubters; and despite the climate doubters’ valid claims, the only way to lessen the effects of climate change is to place a global cap on emissions.

The societal risk and cost of inaction is unaffordable.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

September 30, 2013

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