Tag Archives: epa

Recycling creates a million jobs

If you send trash directly to a landfill not much happens, but if you recycle it a series of business touch the trash and that creates jobs. Here is a report from a few years ago that shows recycling creates 25 jobs, while sending trash to the landfill only creates one job (per ton of trash). A huge economic impact and one that highlights my favorite green idea - the double impact.

I’ve always believed the key to our green future is to find ways to improve lives as we go green. It can’t just be about sacrifices and volunteering, it also needs to help people. And that is usually the way it works, it just sometimes takes a little extra time to think things through.

The recycling report, from the Institute for Local Self Reliance, also gathered data for specific items, and it’s impressive: 85 jobs for clothes recycling, 93 jobs for plastic, and 296 for computers.

Which makes recycling a valuable sector of the economy employing hundreds of thousands of people. A report from the EPA says there are “56,000 establishments that employ more than 1.1 million people, generate an annual payroll of nearly $37 billion, and gross over $236 billion in annual revenues.”

Now that is a double impact – jobs, GDP, and businesses for greening the planet.

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Obama vs Romney – on climate change, renewable energy, and the EPA

In every election the presidential candidates are forced to make a bold statement, one way or the other, on the environment. And since this blog is focused on sustainability their positions are an important topic. Here are three of them – climate change, renewable energy, and the EPA – from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

I apologize for the strong Democratic Party bias in this piece, but the Republican Party has yet to embrace sustainability. There are glimpses of it from Mitt Romney, but he is backing away from many of those. And honestly, we need the Republican Party to adopt sustainable ideas to make real progress in this country.

 

Climate Change

Barack Obama

  • Supports international efforts to forge a climate change agreement.
  • Enacted regulations to double the fuel efficiency of vehicles by 2025.
  • Directed the federal government to reduce emissions from its buildings and vehicles by 28 percent by 2020.

Mitt Romney

  • Wary of international climate negotiations.
  • Opposes Obama’s new fuel efficiency standards as extreme.
  • Believes climate change is happening but not due to human efforts.

 

Renewable Energy

Barack Obama

  • Invested billions in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
  • Set ambitious clean energy goals, vowing that 80 percent will come from renewable sources by 2035.
  • Supported legislation, now set to expire, that extends production tax credits to the wind industry.

Mitt Romney

  • Opposes extending the tax credit for the wind industry and has vowed to end federal subsidies for renewable energy projects.
  • Supports nuclear, coal, oil, and gas in equal amounts to solar and wind.
  • As governor of Massachusetts, supported renewable energy authorizing the investment of $24 million.

 

EPA

Barack Obama

  • Empowered the EPA to draft stricter CO2 emissions standards for power plants.
  • Supports proposed EPA regulations limiting emissions of mercury and other toxics from power plants.
  • Supports continued federal regulation of oil and gas drilling on federal lands.

Mitt Romney

  • Opposes EPA regulating carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Says the states, not the federal government, should exercise control over oil and gas drilling on onshore federal lands.
  • Has called for fewer regulations on the nuclear power industry to help revive it.

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The EPA is screwing up the discussion on global warming

The EPA is reporting the wrong information on global warming and I want them to get it right. The information they publish becomes the gold standard and is reported in the media, covered on TV, and published all across the web. It reaches the eyes and ears of a majority of Americans, and so why are they screwing it up?

The first problem is in using economic terms over plain language. The average person has a hard time understanding the meaning of ‘by economic sector’ or ‘end user emissions’. And nowhere in their mission statement does it say they should be communicating like college professors:

The mission of EPA is to protect human health and the environment.

Neither does it say they should communicate clearly, but that’s covered in the Plain Writing Act of 2010.

Another problem they face is choosing what data to report. Again, they seem to be focusing on macroeconomic data sets instead of what will help the average person. Here is the data set spread out across 20 pages on the EPA website and reported many thousand times over in the press:

 

Emissions by Economic Sector

  • Electricity generation – 34%
  • Transportation – 27%
  • Industry – 21%
  • Agriculture – 7%
  • Commercial & Residential – 11%

 

Very helpful for the big picture and if you’re writing policy, but worthy of ignoring by the common person. What are they supposed to do about electricity, buy a wind turbine? For transportation, go out and buy a new car? What does industry even mean?

For those steeped in the economics of global warming this makes total sense. Our energy is slowly moving towards renewables, cars are becoming electric, homes and business can similarly electrify, and that would make 61-90% of our emissions from electricity. Yes, it is vital we pick up renewables.

But that stymies any discussion about what individuals can do. Here is another data set left to gather dust, buried 200 pages deep in the EPA’s most important report:

 

Emissions by End User

  • Manufacturing – 30%
  • Homes – 18%
  • Business – 17%
  • Personal Cars – 17%
  • Farming – 8%
  • Freight Trucks – 6%
  • Airplanes – 2%

 

End user is an economic term for you bought it you own it. Meaning the person who drives the car is responsible for the emissions, not General Motors. From this perspective the story changes entirely. Transportation moves down into a tie for third most important. The three ahead of it – manufacturing, homes, business – all represent places where the average person has a significant impact.

Individuals could buy less or switch to recycled products, in simple ways, like buying recycled toilet paper. At home they could lower the thermostat or send less to the landfill. At work they could accept normal temperatures for the A/C and support any green company policies.

It is strange that this data, which places the responsibility on individuals and can easily encourage a change in behavior, is buried in favor of the economic report. It would seem like the EPA is purposely avoiding the issue of responsibility, or letting the economists control the marketing. Either way it’s unacceptable and screwing up the discussion on global warming.

Come on EPA get your head in the game!

 

 

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Good news – United States greenhouse gas emissions are declining (graph)

I hate the doom-and-gloom focus of global warming. For an issue that asks people to make big changes, there couldn’t be a worse message. And so I’m proud to present another piece good news:

  • As our economy grows we are lowering our emissions (blue lines)
  • As our population our emissions are remaining steady or decreasing (orange lines)

 

source: EPA

 

This makes it look like we are cleaning up our economy and our habits, and we are. Good news.

And, one piece of bad news. The declines aren’t strong enough to stop climate change. For that we need a much steeper decline. So keep up the great work and double your efforts!

Here are some ways to do so:

The facts about global warming, they tell their own story

Sometimes it helps to have the facts. They present their own story and make it easier for you to understand the problem.

Here are two sets of facts from the EPA’s 2012 Inventory on United States Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The first shows emissions by source:

  1. Energy – 87%
  2. Agriculture – 6.3%
  3. Industrial Process – 4.4%
  4. Waste (landfills) – 1.9%
  5. Solvents and other produces – 0.1%

 

Probably not what you expected. Our dominant method of creating energy is the problem. And that is through the use fossil fuels for electricity generation and transportation. To get global warming under control we need a massive shift in energy policy (i.e. clean energy).

That’s important but if you look at emissions by end user a different story emerges:

  1. Manufacturing – 30%
  2. Homes – 18%
  3. Personal Cars – 17%
  4. Business – 17%
  5. Farming – 8%
  6. Freight Trucks – 6%
  7. Airplanes – 2%

 

To understand this you need to keep in mind that it’s the person buying the product or driving the car that is ultimately responsible for the emission. That is what these numbers show and they are often overlooked. Which is sad because they convey what you can do, right now, to have an impact.

It is not about cars and electricity like most think. Although they still are important. Rather, it’s the stuff we buy (manufacturing) and our habits at home and at work that cover 2/3 of greenhouse gas emissions.

This is why I like the facts. They tell their own story. In this case, it’s that you – one person – can change your habits and have a huge impact on global warming.

 

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Map of coal and oil-fired power plants in the United States

In 2010, coal-fired power plants represented 45% of the electricity generated in the United States and oil a smaller amount, 1%. Combined together they are the dominant air polluters and facing tough new restrictions from the EPA.

Unfortunately, they have a few years to clean-up and that doesn’t help if you live in one of the toxic twenty states. Visit the previous link to see how your state compares, or scan this map to see if any of the polluting power plants are close to you.

 

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Air pollution – do you live in one of the ‘Toxic Twenty’ states?

Here are the states with the dirtiest air in America, from a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):

Residents of Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania are exposed to more toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants than in any other state.

 

Here is a graphic from Good covering the “toxic twenty”. See if your state is on the list:

 

 

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EPA gets tough, forces all power plants to slash air pollution

Woot! This is good news for all of us, from the NRDC’s report on Toxic Power:

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.

Compared to 2010 levels, the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics standard (MATS) will cut:

  • Mercury pollution from 34 tons to 7 tons, a 79 percent reduction.
  • Sulfur dioxide pollution from 5,140,000 tons in 2010 to 1,900,000 tons, a 63 percent reduction.
  • Hydrochloric acid from 106,000 tons to 5,500 tons, a 95 percent reduction.

 

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Electric vehicles get 70-80 miles per charge – Honda Fit leads with 82 miles/charge

Honda has leapfrogged its competitors in mileage range and EPA ratings for the upcoming Honda Fit electric vehicle.

The all-electric version of the popular Fit subcompact will be able to travel 82 miles on a single charge, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

That’s better than the Ford Focus electric (76 miles), the Nissan Leaf (73 miles) and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (62 miles).

The EPA rated the car at 118 mpg equivalent. The Mitsubishi is 112, the Focus, 105 and the Leaf, 99.

via L.A. Times – Money & Co

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