“Election Results Make U.S. Congress Action on Climate Change Even Less Likely” – National Geographic, 5 November 2014

A Republican-held Congress could spell bigger trouble for President Obama’s push for new climate policy. Republican Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell has long been an opponent of Obama’s climate efforts, namely because McConnell represents a state where a majority of its jobs begin and end with coal. McConnell has sullied Obama’s efforts to curb climate change by dubbing new climate policy a “war on coal.” A quarter of Kentucky’s counties continue to mine coal. Coal is a low-cost source of energy, which, according to McConnell, powers 90 percent of the state’s electricity.

Republicans argue two points when it comes to climate change: one, that scientists are wrong in their contention that humans are largely to blame for climate change; and two, jobs are more important than the effects of climate change. Moreover, some Senate Democrats haven’t backed Obama’s policy; the resistance from both parties has caused Obama to employ executive action to introduce new emissions regulations for power plants. The EPA has announced those regulations, which instruct states to create their own plans for restraining power plants emissions.

According to the Obama Administration’s 2014 National Climate Assessment, humans have had a large influence on the changing climate, and power plants are the “single-largest concentrated source of emissions, accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions.” Two-thirds of the US’s electricity comes from fossil fuels, and 39 percent of that comes from coal-burning power plants.

In addition to the Obama Administration, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has also cautioned that permanent effects could result from climate change, including surface warming, polar ice cap melting, sea levels rising, and severe heat waves.

McConnell’s plan is to stall any new climate legislation in the Senate, whether it’s new restrictions on limiting the impacts of climate change, or regulations devised by Obama. McConnell has also assured that he will not hesitate to cut the EPA’s budget.

Almost all of the McConnell’s more than twenty fellow Republicans who are looking to run for the White House in 2016 — Senator Rand Paul (KY), Rep. Paul Ryan (WI), Senator Marc Rubio (FL), Senator Ted Cruz (TX), and Governor Rick Perry (TX) just to name a few — all doubt scientists’ findings that climate change is a result of human action. Conversely, Hillary Clinton’s beliefs fall more in line with Obama, which is to be expected.

According to the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of Americans believe that the Earth has warmed during the last few decades; 40 percent of those polled believe that it’s human caused. The question of jobs remains a huge issue in Kentucky and across the US. Republicans — who traditionally favor less government involvement — rely on the fear that increased governmental regulation means a drop in job growth.

Of course, McConnell’s coined phraseology ‘war on coal’ carries weight with his constituents. Last year, coal production dropped in eastern Kentucky, seeing its lowest production output since 1962. McConnell associates the fall in Kentucky’s coal production to the US’s explosion in natural gas generation, as well as less costly mining in states like Wyoming. Kentuckians and McConnell are currently concentrating on job loss and growth, and not on how to protect the environment from its own inhabitants.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

November 5, 2014

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“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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“US Coal Exports Aiding Global GHG Emissions” – Environmental Leader, 29 July 2014

Though the US is moving away from coal and towards natural gas — and despite Obama’s dedication to curbing coal-fired power plants’ emissions and bettering fuel economies — the US still exports coal to other areas in the world, and these exports aren’t likely to cease. In continuing to export coal, the US is transferring its potential greenhouse gas emissions to other countries.

Many of the US’s exports are being transported to countries with lenient regulations on emissions, countries that make no effort to lessen the effects of climate change. Almost nine percent of global coal exports are produced by the US.

The US continues to turn a blind eye to the potential for increasing the world’s GHG emissions because of business, jobs, and money that domestic coal supplies; if the US doesn’t provide the coal, then surely another country would step up and take our place.

The biggest emitter of GHG, China is working towards lowering the country’s coal use. However, Germany is undergoing a coal-revival and importing coal from the US. Germany’s carbon dioxide emissions grew by 1.2 percent in 2013. Worldwide coal use grew more quickly than all other fossil fuels in 2013, by three percent.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

July 31, 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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