In Part I of this two-part series, we considered California’s 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, or AB 32, which calls for a statewide greenhouse gas emissions cap for 2020, based on 1990 emissions. Its implementation is afoot. However, regulators are getting resistance from some industry groups who claim it will be too costly.
But many companies are making strides toward changing their business models not just to accommodate the pending legislation but also to pioneer better business practices. They’re also doing so to attract investments: The Carbon Disclosure Project maintains the largest corporate greenhouse gas emissions database in the world, compiled through information requests that it issues companies on behalf of potential investors. When it first started issuing these requests, in 2003, 500 companies responded. Last year that number was 3,700. Meanwhile, the pool of investors grew from 35 to 475.
In recent months we’ve seen examples of how large companies making seemingly small changes can have a major impact. Coca Cola reduced the thickness of its beverage can, for example. By late fall, the company had placed 6.5 billion of the new, lighter cans on shop shelves throughout the EU, and a report found that the new can would cut emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 78,000 tons per year as raw materials and energy used in their manufacture and transport are reduced, reported GreenBiz.com.
Many utilities, including the Pacific Gas & Electric in Northern California are reducing their own carbon emissions and those of their customers, through programs such as ClimateSmart. In this program, PG&E calculates the amount needed to make the greenhouse gas emissions associated with a business’ energy use “neutral” and will add this tax-deductible amount to their monthly energy bill. All payments for the program go to fund new greenhouse gas emission reduction projects in California, such as projects that capture methane gas from dairy farms and landfills and those that conserve and restore California’s forests.
And there is no shortage of technology companies that want to help companies reduce their carbon demands. One area where demand is strong is in energy management systems, which combine networks of sensors linked to heating, cooling and lighting systems throughout buildings with software that collects usage and temperature data from the sensors and uses business rules to control the systems in order to optimize overall energy usage. These systems will play an important part of the burgeoning smart grid, and are already saving companies money through reduced utility bills.
Cogeneration systems are also promising, because they allow heat or other byproducts of manufacturing systems to be captured and used to generate more energy that is fed back into the system.
While many utilities are looking at carbon sequestration as a means of cutting emissions – Emerging Energy Research says there are nearly 120 such projects are underway globally – a Santa Barbara firm called Carbon Sciences says it has a better alternative. It is developing, and is soon to demonstrate, a technology that collects carbon dioxide and uses a biocatalytic process to convert it into hydrocarbon material that can then be built into various types of fuels.
Outside of carbon-burning utilities and manufacturing, transportation emissions account for a major percentage of greenhouse gas emissions – in fact in California they represent 39 percent of emissions. And while alternative fuels and engines are finally garnering a critical amount of attention and study, the fact remains that a total overhaul of the incumbent fossil fuel-based vehicle landscape won’t happen quickly – if it happens at all.
Given that, simple solutions to improve vehicle efficiency are vital – especially for commercial trucking. That’s why fleet managers are embracing new approaches to engine idling in places such as overnight truck stops. And why the Trailer Tail, an add-on for tractor-trailers to reduce drag made by ATDynamics makes so much sense.