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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“California governor orders country’s most aggressive emission cut goals” – The Washington Post, 29 April 2015

California is currently undergoing an overly aggressive, record-breaking drought. In order to combat that drought, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) has not only put a cap on how much water residents can use, but is also placing a cap on emissions levels.

For California, the worsening effects of climate change have directly led to its water shortage. Greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants are the major culprit for the state’s remarkable drought. To combat the drought and any further climate change damage, Brown has issued a new executive order that has created new carbon emission goals for his state.

Brown’s aim is to curb emissions by 40 percent less than emissions levels in 1990, and to do so by 2030. Not even Arnold Schwarzenegger, who held the term before Brown, had such expectations for the state: Schwarzenegger’s aim was to cut emissions so that they were equal to 1990 levels, and to do so by 2020. Schwarzenegger then wanted to cut emissions an additional 20 percent by 2050. According to Brown, California is well on its way to fulfilling Schwarzenegger’s goal.

Brown is committing his last term in office to climate change. During his inaugural speech, he pledged that half of the state’s electricity will come from renewable energies over the course of 15 years. He also intends to halve petroleum use in vehicles on state roads.

The state is now required to integrate the effects of climate change into its infrastructure and financial planning. Moreover, state agencies are obligated to place caps on emissions for any supplies of emissions that they oversee.

In addition to the executive order, California has also signed an accord with Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia that aims at restricting carbon emissions in the regional area. Brown has signed similar agreements with countries like Mexico, China, Japan, Israel, and Peru. The Governor is hoping his work will make an impact at the upcoming UN climate change conference in Paris.

Previously, California tried to enact a program called “cap and trade,” where they required companies to pay for greenhouse gas emissions. However, the state’s Senators and Representatives — particularly the Democrats — fought back, alleging that the program would directly impact the poorest Californians. Hopefully Brown’s latest endeavor into mollifying the effects of climate change will pan out. California’s voice is very influential and proactive, particularly on a global scale.

(From The Washington Post)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 30, 2015

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“Norsk Hydro to acquire German aluminum recycler” – Recycling Today, 3 March 2015

Norwegian aluminum and renewable energy company Norsk Hydro is purchasing WMR Recycling GmbH, which, according to Hydro, means Hydro will be the leading entity in aluminum scrap sorting technology.

WMR utilizes x-ray transmission and other forward-thinking technology to sort scrap; the facility has the ability to sift through 36,000 metric tons of scrap annually. The aluminum scrap will also be used to provide material for Hydro’s other Europe-based recycling plants. Hydro will employ some of WMR’s technology to improve their Neuss, Germany-based used beverage can (UBC) plant so that it runs on a closed-loop recycling system.

Hydro recycled almost 1.1 million metric tons of aluminum in 2014, but now that number will surely climb. In 2013, Hydro was working with WMR to transfer some of its aluminum scrap supply to Hydro’s recycling facilities.

Hydro’s move will reflect Norway’s high appetite for a low carbon lifestyle, which will now be aided by an intensified recycling culture.

(From Recycling Today)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

March 4, 2015

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“Sun Powers a Peruvian Energy Shift” – Wall Street Journal, 9 December 2014

Peru President Ollanta Humala has introduced a rural electrification program in his country that embraces renewable energy sources, namely solar power. In Peru’s Cajamarca state, 3,900 homes have been given solar panels, which have drastically bettered these Peruvians’ day-to-day lives. President Humala’s goal is to grant panels to two million people across the Andean highlands and Amazon rain forest by 2018. Additionally, using renewables, like solar power, will reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

But the program is a bold effort; Peru’s landscape can be quite challenging. The rain forest, for instance, has high humidity and heat, which would effect the panels’ performance. Overall, many of the places will be difficult to get to, due to thick jungle and mountainous terrain.

The panels consist of 100-watt systems, an amount that only powers a few lights, a cellphone charger, radio, and TV. That might not be enough for the rural families, who each pay $3.40 a month for the system. Another issue is distrust — many remote communities are suspicious of both foreigners and new technology.

The US might also have a stake in President Humala’s program: if the program is successful, there could be room for US renewable energy companies to invest in Peru. Peru is a great contender for the technology, due to the enormous amount of sunshine it receives and its open-minded government. According to the US Commerce Department, Peru’s renewable energy market could grow to $13 billion by 2020, which encompasses $1.6 billion in solar power.

(From Wall Street Journal)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 17, 2015

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