The electric power sector is the largest industrial source of toxic air pollution in the United States. Thanks to new standards by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), toxic pollution from power plants will decline dramatically over the next several years. In fact, some companies have already begun reducing emissions in anticipation of the new standards.
In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.
Isn’t that great news?
I think we need some uplifting climate change news with all the “doom and gloom” stories out there. Let’s keep it going.
The United States has cut its CO2 output more than any other country in recent years, with our output dropping since 2007. We are now close to 1990 levels and may be able to fit in with the Kyoto Protocols.
Of the fossil fuels, natural gas releases the least amount of air pollution and CO2. It is a homegrown source which improves our energy independence and stability, as well as keeping our money at home.
Coal has gone from producing half our energy to only one-third.
** Fracking for natural gas – it is unknown how destructive this new, hugely popular process is.
Among the many great points he makes, include how every industry will need to participate and public opinion is the most important factor, as well as:
Fifteen professional stadiums or arenas have achieved LEED certification for green building design and operations, and 17 have installed on-site solar arrays. Millions of pounds of carbon emissions have been avoided, and millions of pounds of paper products have been shifted toward recycled content or not used at professional sports sites. Recycling and composting programs have been developed or are planned at virtually all professional stadiums and arenas.
The official position of planet Earth at the moment is that we can’t raise the temperature more than two degrees Celsius.
Some context: So far, we’ve raised the average temperature of the planet just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. (A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere over the oceans is a shocking five percent wetter, loading the dice for devastating floods.)
Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees.
We’re not getting any free lunch from the world’s economies, either. With only a single year’s lull in 2009 at the height of the financial crisis, we’ve continued to pour record amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, year after year. In late May, the International Energy Agency published its latest figures – CO2 emissions last year rose to 31.6 gigatons, up 3.2 percent from the year before.
America had a warm winter and converted more coal-fired power plants to natural gas, so its emissions fell slightly
China kept booming, so its carbon output (which recently surpassed the U.S.) rose 9.3 percent
Japanese shut down their fleet of nukes post-Fukushima, so their emissions edged up 2.4 percent.
Beginning in fiscal year 2013 (which starts this July 1), Microsoft will be carbon neutral across all our direct operations including data centers, software development labs, air travel, and office buildings. We recognize that we are not the first company to commit to carbon neutrality, but we are hopeful that our decision will encourage other companies large and small to look at what they can do to address this important issue.
In addition to our commitment to carbon neutrality, the part I’m most excited about is our plan to infuse carbon awareness into every part of our business around the world. To achieve this goal, we have created an accountability model which will make every Microsoft business unit responsible for the carbon they generate – creating incentives for greater efficiency, increased purchases of renewable energy, better data collection and reporting, and an overall reduction of our environmental impact.
To put this into action, we’re creating a new, internal carbon fee within Microsoft, which will place a price on carbon. The price will be based on market pricing for renewable energy and carbon offsets, and will be applied to our operations in over 100 countries. The goal is to make our business divisions responsible for the cost of offsetting their own carbon emissions.
Governor Brown joined with the California Public Utilities Commission today to announce a $120 million dollar settlement with NRG Energy Inc. that will fund the construction of a statewide network of charging stations for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), including at least 200 public fast-charging stations and another 10,000 plug-in units at 1,000 locations across the state. The settlement stems from California’s energy crisis.
The network of charging stations funded by the settlement will be installed in the San Francisco Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley, the Los Angeles Basin and San Diego County.
“Through the settlement, EVs will become a viable transportation option for many Californians who do not have the option to have a charging station at their residence.”
The Executive Order issued today by the Governor sets the following targets:
By 2015, all major cities in California will have adequate infrastructure and be “zero-emission vehicle ready”;
By 2020, adequate infrastructure to support 1 million zero-emission vehicles in California;
By 2025, there will be 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road in California; and
By 2050, virtually all personal transportation in the State will be based on zero-emission vehicles.