Climate change is making the news for a number of reasons, including Showtime’s new series called “Years of Living Dangerously.” The rise in greenhouse gas emissions is responsible for climate change, and the majority of scientists agree that most of the increase is caused by human activity.
That said, there is a bit of good news when it comes to U.S. GHG emissions. The Los Angeles Times reports that greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. decreased by 3.4 percent from 2011 to 2012. The report is based on the EPA’s recently released inventory, which cites “multiple factors” for the decrease in emissions — including reduced emissions from electricity generation, fuel efficiency in vehicles, a decrease in the price of natural gas and reductions in miles traveled. Greenhouse gases in 2012, according to the inventory, were 10 percent below 2005 levels. Since 1990, U.S. emissions have increased at an average annual rate of 0.2 percent.
There are many criticisms leveled at Walmart, one of the world’s largest retailers. However, Walmart is fast becoming a leader in corporate sustainability. The retailer’s latest announcement is one good example. Walmart recently announced that it will buy LED ceiling lighting fixtures for new supercenters in the U.S., stores in Asia and Latin America, and Asda locations in the U.K. This is the company’s largest purchase of LED lighting.
LED fixtures will use 40 percent less energy and help the company reach its goal to reduce the kilowatt hours (kWh) per square foot of energy required to power its buildings by 20 percent globally by 2020. The installation of the LED ceiling fixtures will begin at Asda, Walmart’s stores in the U.K. A total of 200 new Walmart stores will install the LED fixtures over the next two years.
Sales floor lighting accounts for about 90 percent of the total lighting usage in each building. Switching to LED fixtures will reduce energy use by more than 5 percent per store in the U.S. alone and will save an expected 340,000 kWh per store. That equals $34,000 in savings per year in each store — or removing 327,360 metric tons of carbon emissions from the atmosphere. The LED fixtures are expected to save a total of 620 million kWh over the next 10 years.
For the fifth consecutive month, electricity prices in countries neighboring Germany have decreased, recently released Platts data reveals, due in large part to increased solar and wind generation in Germany.
The Platts Continental Power Index (CONT), described as a “demand-weighted base load average of day-ahead contracts assessed in Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands,” dropped steadily in early 2014. The index decreased to €35.06 (or about $48.50) per megawatt hour in March, an 18 percent drop from February. Overall, the index is down by more than 39 percent since peaking at €50.50/MWh in November of last year.
IKEA US announced its investment in a 98 megawatt wind farm in Hoopeston, Illinois. The wind farm, called Hoopeston Wind, is the largest single IKEA Group investment in renewable energy globally. The project is being built by Apex Clean Energy and expected to be in operation by 2015. IKEA Group will own Hoopeston Wind and Apex Clean Energy will manage its operations. Rob Olson, Chief Financial Officer of IKEA US made the announcement at an business executive briefing by companies who have signed the Climate Declaration, which calls on the government to take action on climate change, for members of the Congressional Bi-Cameral Task Force on Climate Change.
“We are committed to renewable energy and to running our business in a way that minimizes our carbon emissions, not only because of the environmental impact, but also because it makes good financial sense,” said Olson. “We invest in our own renewable energy sources so that we can control our exposure to fluctuating electricity costs and continue providing great value to our customers.
More than 70 global companies signed the Trillion Tonne Communiqué, coordinated by The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, to limit cumulative carbon emissions to 1 trillion metric tons. That’s the emissions threshold needed to avoid more than 2 degrees Celsius of warming, according to the new IPCC report. We are already halfway to that limit as cumulative carbon emissions are around 579 billion tons. The 1 trillion limit is expected to be reached in 2040. Companies that signed the Communiqué include major multinationals such as Acciona, Adidas, CalSTRS, EDF Energy, ING, Mars, Shell, TetraPak and Unilever. The signatories have a collective turnover of about $900 billion.
The Communiqué, the seventh in a series coordinated by the Corporate Leaders Group, calls for a “’rapid and focused response’ to the threat posed by rising global carbon emissions and the ‘disruptive climate impacts’ inevitably associated with them.” It specifically calls on governments to set a timeline for achieving net zero emissions before the end of the century, design a strategy to transform the energy system, and create a plan to manage reliance on fossil fuels, particularly coal.
REI, the $2 billion national outdoor retailer, is committed to renewable energy. The company has 26 locations with solar power systems in eight states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Georgia). The locations with solar rooftop power systems include retail stores and a distribution center in Bedford, Penn. REI began installing solar panels on certain stores in 2008 after Davis, Calif.-based Blue Oak Energy conducted a three-year feasibility survey that found solar rooftop panels can provide 10 to 100 percent of a store’s electricity.
Sharon Im-Lee, energy manager at REI, Seattle, told Interiors & Sources that stores with high energy costs were a good fit for solar, including those located in California, which has higher energy rates. “Here in Seattle, our electricity costs are only 5 to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour; in California, we’re seeing upwards of 17 to 20 cents per kilowatt-hour, so what you’re offsetting is dramatically more in California,” said Im-Lee.
The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a proposed rule this week to clarify which waterways are protected under the Clean Water Act.
Two Supreme Court decisions, one in 2001 and the other in 2006, made determining which waterways are protected under the CWA confusing and complex. The proposed rule doesn’t expand waterways protected under the CWA, but only clarifies which ones are protected. Or as EPA head Gina McCarthy stated in an op-ed piece for the Huffington Post, “Our proposed rule will not add to or expand the scope of waters historically protected under the Clean Water Act.”
About 60 percent of the stream miles in the U.S. only flow seasonally or after rain, and about 117 million people, one in three Americans, get drinking water from public systems that rely in part on those streams. The proposed rule would clarify that under the CWA most seasonal and rain-dependent streams are protected. It would also clarify that wetlands near rivers and streams are protected. Other waterways whose connections with downstream water are uncertain will be evaluated to determine whether the connection is significant. In addition, the proposed rule preserves the CWA exemptions and exclusions for agriculture.
The five members of the Carson City Council in California voted unanimously to put a 45-day ban on new oil and gas drilling. During that time, the city council will consider enacting a one-year ban. Occidental Petroleum would like to develop 200 wells in the Carson City area, located in Los Angeles County. Occidental reportedly said back in 2012, when it first proposed drilling the wells, that it plans to use hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking. However, the company now says it no longer plans to use fracking.
The council is not taking the word of Occidental Petroleum. As one councilman, Albert Robles, told Reuters, ”There are too many questions, too many unknowns and too many possible bad consequences that could result from the city engaging in this activity.” Robles added, “These questions significantly outweigh any possible benefit to the residents of Carson.”
One day soon the Caribbean island of Barbados will have part of its electricity needs supplied by a waste-to-energy plant.
Cahill Energy, based in Guernsey, announced the signing of an agreement with the government of Barbados on March 15 to build and operate a waste-to-energy plant. The company plans to invest up to $240 million in the plant which will be built in Vaucluse, St. Thomas. The plant is predicted to create up to 350 jobs, plus stimulate economic growth on the island and save the government of Barbados several hundred million dollars during the 30-year contract, according to estimates from Cahill Energy.
The waste-to-energy plant will use plasma gasification to transform up to 650 tons of solid waste a day into renewable energy. It will save all of that waste from ending up in a landfill and provide a domestic power source for Barbados which will reduce the country’s reliance on imported fossil fuel. It is expected to provide up to 25 percent of Barbados’ total energy needs and reduce energy cost. Westinghouse Plasma Corp., owned by AlterNRG, will supply the plasma gasification technology.
The House of Representatives will vote this week on a bill that would require public participation before a president designates a national park. The proposed bill, H.R. 1459, strips presidents of the power given to them under the American Antiques Act of 1906 to designate a national park.
Specifically, the bill seeks to classify national park declarations under the Antiquities Act as a major federal action and would would require the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to be applied. To meet NEPA requirements, federal agencies must prepare a detailed statement called an environmental impact statement (EIS).
The bill would also limit national park declarations to one per state during a president’s four-year term in office, unless otherwise approved by Congress.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) who criticized President Barack Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act earlier this month to expand the Coastal California National Monument to include the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands. Bishop characterized Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act as “disappointing to say the least.” He added that it “is also purely political and undermines sincere efforts to reach consensus on questions of conservation.” Bishop described H.R. 1459 as being “about transparency and fairness.”
The Ford F-150 has something that no other light-duty pickup truck has: LED headlamps. They use 63 percent less energy than the halogen bulbs used in other pickups and will last more than five times longer. The headlamps contain an innovative design that magnifies the light which means the road is more illuminated for drivers. Their design and manufacture also helps create jobs for one of Ford’s go-to lighting developers, OSRAM. More than 30 jobs were created at OSRAM’s Hillsboro, N.H. facility.
The LED headlamps give new meaning to the advertising slogan, “Built Ford Tough.” They use semiconductor chips to control the light, which makes them more durable, and that means they last longer. Ford lighting expert John Teodecki is convinced of the durability of the LED headlamps because he knows all the tests conducted on them. “We fire stones at this headlamp, expose it to extreme sun, soak it in saltwater, shoot rocks, rock salt and ice – this thing is very tough to crack,” said Teodecki.
In order to help educate the American people, the Obama administration just launched a new site, data.gov/climate, devoted to providing data and facts about climate change.
The site is designed to help people “find data related to climate change that can help inform and prepare America’s communities, businesses and citizens.” The initial phase contains data and resources about coastal flooding, sea level rise and their impacts. “Over time, you will be able to find additional data and tools relevant to other important climate-related impacts, including risks to human health, the food supply, and energy infrastructure,” the site states.
The site, launched with “leadership” from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA, was unveiled on Wednesday, March 19, when Obama administration officials met to talk about efforts by both the private sector and government to prepare for climate change impacts. A few weeks earlier, on March 4, Obama unveiled his 2015 budget request which asks for $1 billion for a resilience fund to mitigate against climate change impacts.
Cape Wind is an offshore wind energy project in Nantucket Sound which will consist of 130 wind turbines producing up to 420 megawatts of energy. The first of its kind in the U.S., it has been in development for more than 10 years.
A U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C. ruled against opponents of Cape Wind in four lawsuits that challenged the project’s permitting approval by the U.S. Department of Interior. The judge upheld the Department of the Interior’s review and approval of Cape Wind, a permitting process that took nearly 10 years. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound originally filed four legal challenges in 2010. William Koch, the billionaire oil man, is the group’s largest funder. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound previously filed 14 lawsuits against the project and all of them failed.
Opponents of the project had a list of legal claims which included environmental impacts. However, national and regional environmental groups support Cape Wind. The project was reviewed by 17 federal and state agencies, producing an administrative record of more than 400,000 pages. The nine-year approval process was “much longer than a traditional coal power plant, which typically gets approval in just two years,” according to the National Resources Defense Council. The project underwent two federal environmental reviews from the Department of Interior and Army Corps of Engineers, and both agencies approved the project. In addition, there were state and local environmental reviews and approvals.
Chipotle’s recent SEC filing caused quite a stir. Specifically, one of the risks stated in that filing caused a stir.
The company cited “changes associated with global climate change” as having a potential “significant impact on the price or availability of some of our ingredients.” Due to cost increases, Chipotle “may choose to temporarily suspend serving menu items, such as guacamole or one or more of our salsas.” However, Chipotle spokesperson, Chris Arnold downplays that specific example. “It’s routine financial disclosure,” Arnold told Think Progress. “Nothing more than that.”
Chipotle may or may not have to suspend serving such staples of its menu as guacamole and salsas. However, chances are great that climate change will have an effect on the fast food chain. The filing also mentioned that weather events “such as freezes or drought” could lead to temporary price increases on certain ingredients. The filing goes on to mention drought. “For instance, two years of drought conditions in parts of the U.S. have resulted in significant increases in beef prices during late 2013 and early 2014.”
The prevailing thinking is that conservative Republicans are against raising the minimum wage. However, that is not true for all conservative Republicans.
Certainly not for Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist who co-founded PayPal. Thiel recently said in an interview that he supports a California ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage by fellow conservative Ron Unz. The ballot initiative would raise California’s minimum wage to $12 an hour in 2016. Thiel told the San Francisco Chronicle that he’s against raising the minimum wage “in theory,” but in practice he thinks “the alternative to higher minimum wage is that people simply end up going on welfare.” He thinks that raising the minimum wage should be considered “seriously.”
Thiel is a billionaire who, although he identifies as a conservative Libertarian, has given much money to Republican causes. These include $1 million to Club for Growth, an anti-tax group that Politico describes as “tea party aligned,” and almost $4 million to Endorse Liberty PAC for Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign. Thiel even gave campaign contributions to Tea Party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in 2012, and Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.