Ever wonder how large facilities in your state are doing regarding greenhouse gas emissions?  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began collecting greenhouse gas emissions data in 2010 under the congressionally mandated Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reporting Program.  In February 2013, the EPA's program released its second year (2011) of emissions data, which provides public access to emissions data by sector, by greenhouse gas, and by geographic region such as county or state.

The 2011 data includes information from facilities in 41 source categories that emit large quantities of greenhouse gasses.  New this year is data collected from 12 additional source categories, including petroleum and natural gas systems and coal mines.

Highlights of findings from the 2011 data include:

  • Power plants represent approximately one-third (33 percent) of total U.S. GHG emissions, making them the largest stationary source of GHGs in the country
    • 2011 emissions from power plants were roughly 4.6 percent below 2010 emissions, demonstrating an ongoing increase in power generation from natural gas and renewable energy sources
    • Refineries represented the third-largest source of GHG emissions, which increased by a half of a percent over 2010 data
    • Overall emissions reported from the 29 sources tracked in both years were 3 percent lower in 2011 than in 2010

Transparency is critical to a better environment and the key to conquering climate change.  If companies, communities and individuals take a look at how large facilities are doing in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and compare the latest data to national averages, perhaps we can find ways to cut these emissions and begin to curb global warming.  Being better informed is also good for the businesses as they may identify opportunities to conserve energy and thereby save money.

Check out how individual large facilities in your state, county, and even zip code perform.  Access this data through the Facility Level Information on Green House gases Tool (FLIGHT), which is a web-based data publication tool, or dig deeper through the EPA’s online database Envirofacts that allows information searches via zip code.

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According to a recently released report by the World Wildlife Fund, 58 of the United States’ Fortune 100 companies set goals in 2012 to either reduce greenhouse gas emissions or use more renewable energy in their operations.  However, oil and gas companies are lagging far behind in this movement.  Eight of 11 domestic energy companies on the Fortune 100 have not set internal energy goals.

This is in direct contrast to 68 of the planet’s 100 largest companies who recognize the impact of global warming and are making investments in greenhouse gas reductions and renewable energy goals.  Sadly, energy companies represent the lowest participation rate of any industry worldwide.  The few exceptions are Hess and Chevron who have both set renewable energy and greenhouse gas targets, and ExxonMobil who set a greenhouse gas target. 

Why have three quarters of the nation's industrial companies voluntarily set some sort of environmental target?  There are a variety of potential reasons including: policy pressures, public relations or perhaps even the forward thinking that sees renewable energy’s potential to someday be less expensive than, or at least competitive with, oil and gas.

And why haven’t most oil and gas companies voluntarily set environmental targets?  It may be because the very products they put on the market directly contribute to climate change.  There is also a lack of urgency to act; little pressure comes from investors or policies.  An example of a type of policy that was successful in the past is the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA's Toxic Release Inventory, which worked by making large companies publically accountable for which potentially toxic chemicals they use and where they are released.  Then the information is posted on the EPA’s website for anyone to see.

The planet would really benefit from a similar policy focusing on oil and gas company emissions, or better yet, a broader climate change policy such as a national carbon tax or cap-and-trade program.  There are other options that could pave the way towards a cleaner energy future.  The federal government could require that a certain percentage of electricity come from renewable sources and offer further tax incentives for wind and solar production.  Many companies are setting their own internal goals, but for others such as the majority of the oil and gas industry, they’re not going to do anything about increasing efficiency and reducing their carbon footprints until someone makes them.

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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.

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We can do a lot as individuals to combat global warming.  But it is undeniable that governments can do more since they harness the power of the collective.  The Obama administration’s strategy is to control global warming emissions through regulation.  This week a huge victory was given to both the administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by the federal appeals court in the District of Columbia.  The decision was unanimous in upholding the agency’s landmark rulings to control greenhouse gases.

The issue seems like a “no brainer” that the EPA should regulate greenhouse gases.  However, dozens of lawsuits from industry groups and 14 states challenged four rules that aim to limit greenhouse gases.  The biggest rule is the EPA’s 2009 “endangerment finding” and the foundation on which the other three rules rest.  The EPA contended, and was vindicated in this ruling, that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions constitute a danger to public health and therefore could be regulated under the Clean Air Act.  The three-judge panel acknowledged and gave credence to climate change as a real and legitimate threat to public health and safety.  So now climate change deniers have less of a leg to stand on; the EPA based its case on sound science and careful research which stood up to a rigorous judicial review and emerged victorious.

The ruling cleared the way for the EPA to proceed with clean car standards and restrictive permits on power plants and other major industrial polluters.  Perhaps now power plants will put increased effort into developing cost-effective and reliable methods to capture carbon emissions, or at least offset them.  If not, the future will certainly be in renewable energy sources now that there are stricter limitations on greenhouse gas emissions.

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June has traditionally been the most popular month for weddings.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s National Vital Statistics Report for 2009, the latest data available on marriages, June is tied with July and closely followed by August, then September, and then October in order of most to least popular months for weddings.  This means wedding season is just getting underway. 

Travel, whether by air or car, generates large amounts of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, and for most weddings is the biggest contributor to its carbon footprint.  Carbonfund.org offers a helpful and easy-to-use emissions calculator to determine the level of carbon dioxide your wedding events will emit into the air.

It’s simple and affordable to have a carbon neutral wedding.  If you don’t know the exact numbers try a preset amount.  For example, the 15-ton preset option may be right for you if you have more than 100 guests and many of them are flying.  The 50-ton option can be used for larger weddings of over 200 guests, many of whom are flying, or destination weddings, which involve a lot of travel.

As you prepare for the beginning of a new life together, it is important to share this special time with friends and family.  Your wedding is a celebration of the future, and you can make it a celebration for our planet's future as well!

Go to http://www.carbonfund.org/weddings to learn more about how you can offset the global warming emissions impact of your special day.

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