It was a sad day in 2010 when Congress failed to pass cap-and-trade legislation. However, a study by Dallas Burtraw, a senior fellow at Resources for the Future, released this month says that the failure had the unexpected consequence of helping to lower greenhouse gas emissions. There are two reasons why U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are likely to be lower by 2020: regulatory measures and market changes.
This is not to say that there is no need for cap-and-trade or a carbon tax. On the contrary, they are still necessary to achieve long-term cuts in emissions and to help establish worldwide support on the issue of climate change. The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) was an energy bill that would cap the amount of carbon dioxide power plants and manufacturers could emit, and set up a system to trade for carbon offsets.
When ACES failed in the Senate after receiving approval in the House of Representatives, a series of piecemeal measures were put into place. This hodgepodge of regulatory measures put the U.S. on track to meet a pledge set by President Obama of cutting climate change emissions by 17 percent by the end of this decade. The first of which this blog already covered is Groundbreaking Fuel Economy Standards. President Obama pushed for higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards with automakers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when ACES died in the Senate. Also, the president is pressing for higher emission standards on coal-fired power plants.
Further regulatory measures in the wake of national cap-and-trade’s demise include California and some Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states establishing their own cap-and-trade programs, and 29 states setting clean-energy requirements for utilities.
Market changes putting the U.S. on the path to lower carbon emissions by 2020 have been covered by this blog also. Low natural gas prices have been shifting the market away from dirtier coal as power plants' fuel of choice.
If ACES, also called the Waxman-Markey Bill, had passed the law would have barred the EPA from issuing carbon standards for power plants, refineries or factories. Furthermore, it may have very well headed off establishing the higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards. Lastly, under a national cap-and-trade program, any regional or state efforts would be offset by increased emissions elsewhere.
So the planet still needs further, faster and more wide ranging cuts in fossil-fuel use, but the U.S. is on the right path to curbing carbon emissions with the help of some regulatory measures and market changes.
Some businesses express reluctance when it comes to embracing the path to a cleaner energy future. They see nothing but dollar signs. However, a recent case study by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Climate Corps demonstrates that it is possible to get into a “virtuous cycle” of energy efficiency that pays dividends for both the company’s bottom line and the environment.
EDF Climate Corps is a great program that matches either specially-trained MBA (Masters in Business Administration) or MPA (Masters in Public Administration) students as summer fellows with companies, cities and universities interested in achieving energy efficiency to cut costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2008, the program’s fellows have built business cases for smart energy investments. The end results are lighting, computer equipment and heating and cooling system efficiencies that can cut 1.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity use and 27 million therms of natural gas annually, equivalent to the annual energy use of 100,000 homes; avoid over 1 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, equivalent to the annual emissions of 200,000 passenger vehicles; and save $1 billion in net operational costs over the project lifetimes.
The Virtuous Cycle of Organizational Energy Efficiency has five components: executive engagement; resource investment; people and tools; identification, implementation and measurement; and results and stories. According to EDF, the virtuous cycle is a model of change for energy efficiency across even extremely different organizations.
The business profiled in the case study is Diversey, which is a subsidy of Sealed Air. Diversey entered the virtuous cycle of energy efficiency by establishing a public commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from operations to eight percent below 2003 levels by 2013. This was also the initial component of the virtuous cycle, executive engagement.
Once Diversey’s leaders committed, policies from the top down required that energy efficiency projects produce a positive return on investment in a payback period of three years or less. This criterion allowed Diversey to invest $19 million, and yield $32 million in cash savings over the life of the program in order to reach their emissions reduction goals.
Because the goals and criteria were clearly articulated, Diversey’s ability to measure success was also positively impacted. In fact, Diversey’s environmental health and safety department received a 40 percent year-on-year budget increase, which is significant because all other divisions of the company at the time were undergoing a 50 percent budget cut. This was due to the capacity to produce data that demonstrated energy project performance. According to the report, plant managers were also engaged and incentivized to implement efficiency measures due to centralized capital budgeting.
This is all to say that there are easy and affordable ways for businesses to invest in a commitment to combat climate change that is both good for the company and the environment. Saving money is always in style; simply combine that goal with one of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and you’ll be maximizing the good you can do.
Five years ago the CEO of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, claimed that news coverage of climate change in his media outlets would improve gradually. However, a recent study indicates that not only has that not happened, but that the preponderance of climate change information on Fox News primetime and in the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page is overwhelmingly misleading.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a science-policy nonprofit, analyzed six months of global warming discussions on Fox News primetime programs (February 2012 to July 2012) and one year of Wall Street Journal op-eds (August 2011 to July 2012). UCS found that climate science was inaccurately covered in 93 percent of Fox News primetime programs and 81 percent of Wall Street Journal editorials.
The analysis found denial that climate change is caused by humans, dismissals of climate science as a legitimate science, and derogatory comments about select scientists. The worst part is that this misleading coverage encourages scientific distrust and portrays climate change as a left-wing idea, rather than based on scientific facts.
How many people are misled about climate science by these media outlets? Well the number is in the multi-millions. In 2011, Fox News Channel (FNC) was the United States’ most popular cable news channel. During prime time, FNC reaches a median of 1.9 million people plus. The Wall Street Journal has over 2 million daily readers and the largest circulation among American newspapers.
There is nothing wrong with fully examining and debating the merits of policies aimed at addressing climate change. However, it is ludicrous and irresponsible to deny the overwhelming body of scientific evidence that climate change is man-made and happening right now.
The analysis shows that sadly these media groups continue to waste time and effort that could be put to better use in combating climate change. Readers of this blog already know that global warming is man-made and many are putting their energies toward what they can do about it by supporting organizations such as Carbonfund.org. These climate change leaders seek out quick and affordable ways for individuals and businesses to calculate and offset the carbon emissions they generate.
The science is clear. Invest in renewable energy sources and support reforestation projects because the time is now to build a clean energy future.
According to data recently uncovered from the Energy Information Agency, electricity coming from non-hydroelectric renewable sources (solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass) has doubled in the U.S. to almost 6 percent in a scant four years’ time.
It’s a bit surprising that this significant fact hasn’t been splashed all over the news. Businesses are portrayed as not believing clean energy is worth the investment, but that is simply not true for all. Some companies see the wisdom and fiscal prudence in planning for climate change. The press appears to focus more on manufacturing problems in the sector.
While it is true that the green manufacturing industry is experiencing some growing pains, take solar panel makers for example, it’s worth noting that the green industry is growing overall, and quickly too. China made enormous investments in solar, and they are the face of rising competition. They’ve brought down the price of panels by 65 percent in a mere 18 months. So this leads to fewer and bigger solar manufacturers, which is what happens in all mature industries. However, the explosion of growth in the solar industry comes from the businesses that sell, install, and maintain solar.
Perhaps renewable energy seems like small potatoes since it’s only a fraction of total electricity generation. But the magic is in the industry’s potential for exponential growth. If non-hydro renewables were to double three more times, they would provide nearly half of US electricity needs. That’s more than we get from coal or natural gas right now.
The renewable energy industry’s growth is not just limited to the U.S. either. Countries such as Portugal and Germany have transformed their power grids to generate 25 – 45 percent of their electricity needs from renewable sources.
The big question is if non-hydroelectric renewables can continue to double every four years? Well let’s start by taking a look at what kind of growth would be required to do so. Non-hydro renewables need 19 percent annual growth in order to double every four years. Some sectors grow that much or more. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the solar sector is growing 30 percent annually.
The bottom line is that the payback time for investing in renewable energy is getting faster every day. Wise homeowners, businesses, and governments are ahead of the curve because they see that the future is in renewable sources.
Global warming currently cuts into the planet’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 1.6 percent annually. This translates into $1.2 trillion, and the number is expected to double to 3.2 percent by the year 2030 if carbon dioxide emissions aren’t curbed.
According to the “Climate Vulnerability Monitor: A Guide to the Cold Calculus of a Hot Planet” report, the costs of inaction far outweigh the costs of taking on climate change. The report estimates reducing emissions at a cost of 0.5 percent GDP over the next 10 years.
And if money isn’t motivation enough, take a look at the almost 5 million deaths annually due to climate change. The report estimates it causes an average of 400,000 deaths each year, mainly from hunger and contagious diseases, plus an additional 4.5 million deaths annually from related global warming causes such as air pollution, dangerous occupations in the fossil fuel industry, and cancer.
The average of 3.2 percent losses to global GDP disguises the plight of poorer, developing nations who are disproportionately affected. The estimate for these countries, such as Bangladesh, for example, is an average of 11 percent of GDP by 2030. This is not to say that major economies avoid the effects either. China alone is estimated to lose more than $1.2 trillion in less than 20 years. By 2030, the total economic losses for the United States, India, and China will reach $2.5 trillion. According to the report, these three nations also will suffer over 3 million deaths annually, or half of all deaths.
A report released in July by the European Commission Joint Research Centre and PBL, the Netherlands’ environmental assessment agency calculated that last year global carbon dioxide emissions reached their highest point ever at 34 billion metric tons.
It’s time to tackle climate change now to reverse this scary trend and save lives. The price tag for doing nothing is too high.
The desire for renewable energy world-wide is on the rise according to a pair of recently released studies commissioned by wind turbine manufacturer, Vestas. Eighty-five percent of global respondents want more renewable energy in the market, says the Global Consumer Wind Energy Study. And 49% of those surveyed would be willing to pay more for renewable energy. The survey also illuminated that 45% believe climate change is one of the big three challenges facing the globe.
The survey polled 24,000 respondents in 20 countries and also found that 62% would buy products from companies who use wind energy. Almost three quarters of consumers indicated they would feel more positive if companies used wind as its primary source of energy.
The second study examines what companies do voluntarily for renewable energy production. Bloomberg New Energy Finance writes the Corporate Renewable Energy Index, which found that global investments in renewable energy capacity are overtaking those of fossil fuels; $237 billion compared to $223 billion. Furthermore, companies are increasingly committing to renewable energy. They purchased 40% of renewable energy last year.
The trend of businesses planning for climate change is not news to readers of our blog. However, it is encouraging to see companies actually making investments in renewable energy. It only makes sense as it lowers their risk. So these studies point to both consumers and corporations demanding more renewable energy. Isn’t it time governments join the trend too? The scale goes from smaller to larger effects when consumers, businesses, and governments work together to lower global carbon emissions. We are looking forward to a clean energy future powered by renewable energy sources.
ANN ARBOR, Mich., BETHESDA, Md. & BARRIE, Ontario, Canada (September 18, 2012) - Carbonfund.org Foundation and NSF International are pleased to announce the renewal of LEI Electronics’ Eco Alkalines™ batteries into the CarbonFree® Product Certification Program. In addition to completing a carbon footprint, the batteries continue to meet and exceed some of the most important international standards such as PAS 2050 (carbon label standard) and ISO 14044 (life cycle assessment standard).
LEI’s Eco Alkalines™ batteries are entering their third year under the CarbonFree® Product Certification Program offered through NSF International’s Sustainability Division. CarbonFree® certified products are available in multiple countries and LEI reports increasing sales as the product continues to gain acceptance from consumers seeking a cleaner way to meet their battery needs. For example, retailers such as Best Buy, Costco, Grainger, Walmart, Amazon, The Home Depot and many others are recognizing the value of these batteries and offering them to their eco-conscious customers. Commercial customers also report using LEI’s Eco Alkalines™ batteries to assist in meeting their green goals.
LEI Electronics Eco Alkalines™ batteries may also contribute to earning LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credits. LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to provide building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operation and maintenance solutions. LEED is based on a credit system and points are allocated based on the potential environmental impacts and human benefits of each credit. Under the current LEED credit system, Eco Alkalines™ batteries may contribute to earning one prerequisite and one point under the LEED category of Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (EBOM) rating system.
Lionel Lalonde, Partner and Vice President of Sales at Eco Alkalines™, credits their steadily increasing sales to the growing consumer demand for sustainable products and the competitive market edge and product confidence associated with the CarbonFree® Product Certification Program. "Certification sets us apart from our competitors," says Lalonde. "We are currently the world's only disposable alkaline battery with this certification. We have found that certification has helped to increase our market share and create customer and brand loyalty among consumers who are seeking to purchase and use eco-friendly products."
CarbonFree® certification also lends credibility to Eco Alkalines™, a relatively newer brand, in a marketplace of well-known battery products. "Although many products claim to be ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly,’ these terms are often used loosely or without a clear description of what that means. We wanted third-party verification from two trusted and recognizable organizations – Carbonfund.org and NSF International - so that consumers would understand and have faith in our green claims," added Lalonde.
Eric Carlson, President of Carbonfund.org Foundation, agrees, “Eco Alkalines™ batteries are an important solution to climate change, providing consumers a simple and affordable way to meet their daily needs while limiting their impact on our environment and supporting innovative carbon-reducing projects globally. Eco Alkalines™ is continuing its commitment to environmental protection and proof positive that what is good for the planet is also good business.”
“By maintaining its CarbonFree® certification through NSF International, LEI’s Eco Alkalines™ batteries continue to lead the disposable battery industry to a more sustainable future and provide businesses and consumers with a certified carbon neutral battery that will help them achieve their green building and sustainability goals,” said Tom Bruursema, General Manager of NSF Sustainability.
Manufactured with 0 percent mercury, lead, and cadmium, Eco Alkalines™ batteries set the standard for responsible disposable alkaline batteries. Eco Alkalines™ brand batteries have ZERO of these heavy metals while all other batteries carry at least one or more of these toxic elements. Eco Alkalines™ batteries use recycled materials where possible and contain 98 percent plus recyclable content. While they are considered landfill safe, recycling is still advised where available. Eco Alkalines™ also have a patented leak resistant seal, ensuring they will not leak into devices.
Visit Eco Alkalines™ at the annual Greenbuild Conference November 14-15 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, Calif. Or learn more by visiting: www.leiproducts.com/eco-alkalines.
About LEI: LEI was established as Logitech Electronics Inc. in 1988. LEI quickly grew to a flourishing import, wholesale, and distribution business with offices in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Shenzhen to support the growing North American business. In addition to the domestic business LEI provided private label products for KOSS Corporation, Sanyo Canada and in excess of 500 private label products for the former RadioShack Canada. Today LEI is an ISO 9001:2008 registered company. They specialize in brand development, global sourcing, web fulfillment, and distribution with an emphasis on eco-friendly products.
AboutCarbonfund.org Foundation: Carbonfund.org is a leading nonprofit climate solutions organization, making it easy and affordable for individuals, businesses and organizations to reduce their climate impact and hasten our transition to a low-carbon economy. Carbonfund.org supports innovative renewable energy, energy efficiency and forestry projects globally that reduce carbon emissions and help people. Carbonfund.org has worked with over 2,000 corporate and nonprofit partners. More at www.carbonfund.org.
About NSF International: NSF International is an independent organization that writes standards, tests and certifies products for the construction, food, water and consumer goods industries to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment (nsf.org). Founded in 1944, NSF is committed to protecting human health and safety worldwide. NSF is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Food and Water Safety and Indoor Environment.
NSF Sustainability draws upon this expertise in standards development, product assurance and certification, advisory services and quality management systems to help companies green their products, operations, systems and supply chains. Product assessments include testing and certification for sustainable products such as green chemicals and building products. Through its National Center for Sustainability Standards, NSF also develops sustainability standards for products such as carpet, flooring, and other commercial building materials.
Additional NSF services include Education and Training, safety audits for the food and water industries, nutritional/dietary supplement certification, organic certification provided by QAI (Quality Assurance International) and management systems registrations delivered through NSF International Strategic Registrations (NSF-ISR). NSF-ISR services include ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems registration, Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and Chain of Custody (COC) certifications.
A survey released this week showed increasing oversight by top executives in their climate change strategies. Ninety-two percent of respondents indicated their company's board or high-level executive had oversight over climate strategies, which is an increase of six percentage points from the 2011 survey.
The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) received responses from 338 of the S&P 500 firms indicating progress in carbon emissions reduction goals as well as disclosing these results. CDP offers a system for cities and companies to measure and share their environmental action.
Companies such as Microsoft Corp, United Parcel Service, Hess Corp, Pepco Holdings, and Sempra Energy Utilities are not waiting to address the risks from climate change to their overall business goals. Man-made or not, these companies won’t wait around to figure out who caused climate change. They’re taking steps now to lessen their financial risk.
Eighty-one percent of survey respondents identified physical risk from climate change, with 37 percent considering the risks "a real and present danger" – an increase of 10 percent from two years ago. Eighty-three percent of companies reported that climate change had been factored into corporate risk management strategies, which was only at 75 percent in 2011.
These results directly contrast with a distinct hesitation in the regulation of greenhouse gases by U.S. lawmakers. Congress’ opinions on climate change run the gamut from ambivalence to skepticism to even outright disbelief. Fortunately businesses that are beholden to their shareholders see the value in planning for climate change since it will certainly impact their bottom lines.
We’ve already examined and defined a carbon footprint, but have you ever heard of an ecological footprint? An ecological footprint compares human demands on nature with the Earth's ability to regenerate resources and provide services.
Ecological footprints are ever changing because of advances in technology and a three-year lag for the UN to collect and publish statistics. However, it is a standardized measure that begins by assessing the amount of biologically productive land and sea area necessary to supply the resources a human population uses. This is then contrasted with the planet’s ability to absorb associated waste and ecological capacity to regenerate. Think of it like how much of the Earth (or how many planet Earths) it would take to support humanity given an average lifestyle. In 2007, humanity's total ecological footprint was estimated at 1.5 planet Earths. This means humans are currently using ecological services 1.5 times quicker than Earth can renew them.
William Rees was the first academic to publish about an ecological footprint in 1992. He supervised the PhD dissertation of Mathis Wackernagel who outlined the concept and offered a calculation method. Rees penned the term ecological footprint in a more accessible manner than the original name of “appropriated carrying capacity” after a computer technician described Rees’ new computer as having a small footprint on the desk. Wackernagel and Rees published the book Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth in early 1996.
The implications are dire according to Rees who wrote in 2010, “…the average world citizen has an eco-footprint of about 2.7 global average hectares while there are only 2.1 global hectare of bioproductive land and water per capita on earth. This means that humanity has already overshot global biocapacity by 30% and now lives unsustainabily by depleting stocks of ‘natural capital’.”
We’re definitely overspending the planet’s resources. Just take a look at man-made global warming and climate change. We need to continue on the path to seeking a sustainable lifestyle, and do it on a global scale. All of us working together can reduce the amount of the earth’s resources that we consume. Start with yourself and get creative with how many ways you can save energy and recycle. What’s great about beginning with energy efficiency is that it can save you money too. Then there are cost effective ways to offset the rest such as by contributing to Carbonfund.org’s development of renewable energy technologies and carbon emissions reduction projects. The important thing is to get started right away.
In what is easily the best environmental action in a generation, this week, the Obama Administration announced new CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for cars and light trucks (think minivans and sport utility vehicles). By 2025, these vehicles will be required to average 54.5 miles per gallon (MPG).
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates CAFE standards and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency measures vehicle fuel efficiency. An agreement in support of acceptable standards was made between the government, automakers and their unions, and environmental organizations.
The stage for these historic fuel economy standards was set by an energy law enacted in 2007 under President George W. Bush. Additionally, the 2009 federal bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler were tied to better fuel efficiency.
Fuel-efficient cars and trucks were the U.S. auto industry’s saving grace. It makes good sense on multiple levels to continue these efforts. For one, 570,000 new jobs can be created by 2030. Not to mention saving consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reducing U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels. This also translates to strengthening national security by lessening the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
What about fighting man-made global warming? The new standards will cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks in half by 2025. This reduces emissions by 6 billion metric tons, which is more than the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the United States in 2010. We thank President Obama for his leadership on combating climate change, pollution prevention and national security.
Starting in 2017, the standards will be phased in over the course of eight years. New fuel-saving technology is projected to increase the cost of new car or light truck by $3,000 on average. This means consumers will pay a little more when they buy the vehicle, about $50 more a month over a five-year loan, but they’ll more than make up for it at the pump with expected gas savings per vehicle between $7,000 - $8,000. And that is good for the environment and our wallets.
Undeniably, the vehicle fuel-efficiency standards represent an unbeatable combination of protecting the environment and strengthening the economy. They’re also the nation's single largest effort to combat climate-altering greenhouse gases, but we can’t stop building our carbon-reduction portfolios now. Wonderful news like this should push us to continuing to find more ways to reduce our carbon footprint, as individuals and a nation. Now let’s go invest in some renewable energy projects!