Argonne Scientists Blast EWG Corn Ethanol GHG Report

A recent Environmental Work Group corn ethanol greenhouse gas report has caused lifecycle analysis experts and economist from Argonne National Laboratory and three universities to lash out and what they call “erroneous conclusions”.

The experts isEWG report Ethanols broken promisesued a scathing 13-page response to EWG’s May report titled “Ethanol’s Broken Promise.” EWG “confused parameters” and “misunderstood” previous modeling results, according to experts from Argonne, North Carolina State University, Purdue University and University of Illinois-Chicago. “…based on an analysis of the methodology EWG used and a comparison of their results to those in the literature, from models, and from other data sets, EWG appears to have overestimated the amount of land converted for corn farming between 2008 and 2012. Second, EWG used emission factors that appear too high.”

More specifically, the experts found the following problems—among many others—with EWG’s report:

  • “EWG confused parameters in GREET with those in an economic model, the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP).”
  • “EWG misunderstood EPA’s GHG emissions for years 2012 and 2017.”
  • “In their report, EWG picked the EPA 2012 GHG emissions for corn ethanol and applied them to the EPA-proposed reduced volume for corn ethanol in 2014 to make the erroneous conclusion that the proposal resulted in 3 million tonnes of CO2 reduction in 2014.”
  • “…the emission factors they applied are high compared to those in other reports and studies that take into account important variations in initial and final land states.”
  • The satellite data set used by EWG is “…explicitly not designed to be used for pixel-by-pixel or localized analyses.”
  • The land use change data used by EWG is “…based on data that is decades old, reflecting wetland conversion over a much longer time horizon.”
  • The report “…overestimated wetland conversion, especially for the conversion of wetlands to corn farms.” Wetlands and grasslands conversion estimates are “…too high when compared with estimates in other studies and data sources.”

The authors also point out that EWG is stuck in the past when it comes to lifecycle analysis. They write, “Since 2009, when EPA conducted corn ethanol LUC GHG modeling…, significant efforts have been made to improve economic models and soil carbon models to better estimate biofuel LUC GHG emissions. EPA and other federal agencies should consider updating RFS LUC modeling so that up-to-date LUC results can be used for biofuel policy making.”

EPA Officially Releases Clean Power Plan Proposal

In what could be an unprecedented move by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency has released a proposed plan to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels by 2030. The Clean Power Plan is the first proposed policy that would cut CO2 from existing power plants – the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. Possible solutions to cutting carbon include integrating renewable power to the grid from sources such as geothermal, solar, wind and bioenergy (biomass or pellets derived from waste).

According to the EPA, power plants account for nearly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Although there are current limits in place for the level of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution that power plants can emit, there are currently no national limits on carbon pollution levels.

EPA Gina McCarthy“Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan by proposing a Clean Power Plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from our largest source–power plants.”

“By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids. We don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment–our action will sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs,” added McCarthy.

Building upon trends already underway to reduce GHG emissions (including carbon) in other industry sectors including the transportation sector (cars, planes, etc.) as well as working along side states who have already put carbon policies in place for their utility sectors, the goal is to create a nationwide plan to cut pollution while make power plants more energy efficient. In addition, the plan fits within the steps laid out in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and his June 2013 Presidential Memorandum.

In 2009, the EPA determined that greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment. By 2030, The Clean Power Plan specifically calls for:

  • Cutting carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year;
  • Cutting particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
  • Avoiding up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and
  • Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.

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Forecast for Greater GHG Reduction from Ethanol

A new report forecasts global ethanol consumption will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions this year by over 106 million tons.

global-rfaThe Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA), in cooperation with (S&T)2 Consultants Inc., released their Global Green House Gas (GHG) Emissions Reduction Forecast for 2014 as the International Transport Forum Summit begins today in Germany.

The annual report shows the reduction in global GHG emissions from global ethanol production is increasing. This year’s figure reveals that 90.38 billion litres of global ethanol production and use in 2014 will reduce global GHG emissions by over 291,000 tonnes per day. Compared to 2013, this is an increase of over 7000 tonnes per day in GHG emission savings.

According to GRFA, the 106.4 million ton GHG emissions reduction is equal to over 21 million cars being removed from the world’s roads in 2014, about 58,000 per day.

“We believe International Transport Forum Summit participants should call for an increase in ethanol production and use given the significant contribution ethanol is making to reducing global GHG emissions today,” said GRFA spokesman Bliss Baker. This year’s theme for the International Transport Forum Summit is “Transport for a Changing World”.

Another Day, Another Oil Spill

An oil pipeline ruptured in Los Angeles on LA Street yesterday and in response Americans United For Change said, “Like oil spills? You’ll love what happens after dismantling the Renewable Fuel Standard. 50,000 gallons of crude oil spilled out onto the streets and in some areas the crude oil was knee-high.

Photo: LA Times

Photo: LA Times

Jeremy Funk, spokesperson for pro renewable energy and pro Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) group Americans United for Change, said of the crude oil spill, “Whether you live in the Gulf Coast community, near a railroad in Lynchburg, VA, a farm in North Dakota, or in the middle of a major metropolis like Los Angeles, it seems nowhere in America is out of reach from the messes big oil leaves behind.”

“Headlines about oil industry spills and explosions and derailments have become a ‘dog bites man’ story,” Funk continued who stressed that the alarming rate of environmental disasters associated with oil should give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) serious pause before deciding whether or not to roll back the RFS. The EPA is expected to publish its final 2014 RFS rules around June 1 and there is concern they will move forward with lower renewable fuel gallons than what is called for in legislation.

“Consider that ethanol makes up 10% of the U.S. gasoline supply, and that for every gallon of ethanol produced domestically it means one less gallon sold of gasoline derived from dirty crude oil from unstable regions. That’s why the oil industry wants the EPA to help put out of business their safer, cleaner, cheaper renewable fuels competition. But if the EPA give big oil what they want and drastically cuts down the amount ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply, there’s no way to avoid a corresponding increase in demand for crude oil and an increase in the number of disasters related to transporting it.” Funk added, “So if you like oil spills — you’ll love what happens if the RFS is watered down.”

UCR Unveils Sustainable Grid Initiative

The University ofSIGI-graphic California, Riverside has launched its Sustainable Integrated Grid Initiative to research the integration of intermittent renewable energy including photovoltaic solar panels, energy storage including batteries, and all types of electric and hybrid electric vehicles. The project is the largest of its kind in the state.

“This project puts UC Riverside at the forefront of smart grid and electric vehicle research, providing a unique platform for engineers and utilities to identify and solve potential problems at scale,” said Matthew Barth, lead investigator of the initiative and the director of UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT). Continue reading

Students Hope to Get Solar Edge from Soy

Students at Appalachian State University (ASU) are hoping to get the edge during the Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 using soy-biobased products. The student team designed and built a “reimagined” solar-powered row house that is sailing to France to compete against 20 global teams. ASU, located in Boone, North DOEstudentsfastenersinwoodCarolina, is one of three schools chosen for the sister competition to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

“We congratulate these students on their innovation and leadership for sustainability,” said United Soybean Board Customer Focus Action Team Chair John Motter. “People around the world will learn from their example.”

The students worked around the clock to design and build the “Maison Reciprocity” house that they will also disassemble and ship to France from Norfolk, Virginia on May 16, 2014. Once in Versailles, students from ASU along with their partner school, Université d’Angers, will unite to reassemble and then compete in the house that offers multiple environmental attributes.

Soy-based, formaldehyde-free plywood as well as durable floor matting are important features of Maison Reciprocity. Students used 1,700 square feet of Columbia Forest Products’ PureBond® hardwood plywood made with its soy-based formaldehyde-free adhesive on DOEstudenttylerthepanelguyfloors, walls and stairs. The product won the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Presidential Green Chemistry Award. Formaldehyde is classified as a known human carcinogen.

“These panels not only provide an attractive finish, but the fact that they are formaldehyde free is an important attribute that will help our entry compete in the ambient air quality portion of the competition,” said Mark Bridges, a graduate student at ASU and the communications manager for the project. “The floor mat, basically a 30-feet-long runner, will protect the floors from the large amount of foot traffic that the home will experience during its weeks of open houses,” Bridges says.

EcoPath™ and the USB provided the mat backed with EnviroCel™, which uses soy as well as recycled plastics. The mats are widely used at the Pentagon and other major facilities with very heavy foot traffic.

RFS at Odds with National Climate Assessment

In a letter to President Obama sent today, leaders of America’s renewable fuel industry are urging the Administration to rethink its proposal to weaken the bipartisan Renewable Fuel Standard – a proposal that is at odds with the National Climate Assessment the White House released earlier this week.

Carbon_dioxideThe letter is signed by Abengoa Bioenergy, the Advanced Ethanol Council, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, DuPont, DSM, Growth Energy, the National Corn Growers Association, Novozymes, the Renewable Fuels Association, and POET.

The companies and organizations write that the Administration’s proposal to reduce the amount of renewable fuel in gasoline and diesel would “make us more oil dependent, effectively gut the bipartisan Renewable Fuel Standard, strand billions of dollars in private investment, and send emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants sharply higher.”

The letter notes that the impact of the Administration’s proposal would increase carbon pollution by an estimated 28.2 million metric tons in 2014 alone – which is equivalent to building 7 new coal fired power plants or cancelling every wind farm project currently under construction in the United States.

“The question comes down to whether we want to rely more on foreign oil, or more on clean, renewable American made biofuels,” said the authors of the letter. “We urge you to reconsider the EPA proposal and the methodology for reducing the volumes — and allow the commonsense, bipartisan Renewable Fuel Standard to continue working as intended to create American jobs, promote American innovation, cut our reliance on foreign oil, and reduce harmful carbon pollution.”

The text of the letter follows. Continue reading

Deepwater Wind Unveils Right Whale Protection Agreement

An historic offshore wind energy announcement was made today that will help to protect the right whale while development occurs of an offshore wind farm known as the Deepwater ONE Offshore wind farm. The project is being developed off the coast of Rhode Island and North American Right WhaleMassachusetts coasts, an area where the endangered right whale is frequently seen. With less than 500 right whales believed to be alive, they are highly endangered and can become confused due to underwater sounds caused by noise from the vessels doing the pre-construction site activities. The noise also impacts the right whale’s ability to communicate.

A coalition of leading environmental and conservation organizations — Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and National Wildlife Federation (NWF) — and Deepwater Wind today announced an agreement to implement additional protections that will minimize potential impacts on North Atlantic right whales and other marine mammals from underwater noise and construction vessels during the developer’s site characterization and assessment activities.

“We take our responsibility to be a national leader in responsible offshore wind development very seriously, and ensuring marine mammals are protected is just one way we’re fulfilling our commitment,” said Jeffrey Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind during a press call this morning.

Deepwater Wind reached another similar agreement in the Mid-Atlantic Wind Energy areas (the area where the Cape Wind project is in development) and has committed to tailoring its business to protect marine animals in every area it develops a project.

Click here to listen to the media call:Historic Offshore Wind Right Whale Protection Agreement

Deepwater Wind in July 2013 acquired a 30-year lease to develop the Deepwater ONE project in the Rhode Island-Massachusetts Wind Energy Area, located in Rhode Island Sound, after winning the first-ever competitive lease auction for offshore wind energy development in America. The lease area covers approximately 256 square miles in the Atlantic Ocean, roughly 30 miles east of Montauk, N.Y. and roughly 17 miles south of Rhode Island, between Block Island, R.I., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

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Companies Need to Step Up Sustainability Efforts

According to a recent report, while there are pockets of sustainability leadership in the U.S. business community, much more needs to be done. The Ceres and Sustainalytics study found that most companies are merely taking small, incremental steps to address sustainability issues that could impact not only their bottom line, but also the economy and planet.

Ceres Sustainability Report 2014Given the acceleration of environmental and social challenges globally – floods, droughts, and workplace tragedies – most U.S. corporations are not keeping pace with the level of change,” said Mindy Lubber, president of the sustainability advocacy group, Ceres. “Those that step up to the challenge will be best positioned to thrive in the rapidly changing, resource-constrained 21st century economy.”

The report assesses the sustainability performance of 613 of the largest publicly traded companies in the U.S. and covers nearly 80 percent of the total market capitalization of all public companies in the country. It tracks corporate performance against 20 key metrics essential for any sustainable corporation to follow, including governance, disclosure, greenhouse gas emissions reductions and labor standards. It identifies sustainability trends across eight key sectors, highlighting industry best practices and which companies are leading among their peers. It also provides aggregate data and online scorecards for companies on each performance area. Key findings include:

  • While many companies are taking action to reduce GHG emissions, few have set time-bound targets. More than two-thirds of the companies evaluated (438) have activities in place aimed at reducing GHG emissions, but only 35 percent (212) have established time-bound targets for reducing GHG emissions. In terms of renewable energy, 37 percent of companies have implemented a program, while only six percent have quantitative targets to increase renewable energy sourcing.
  • More companies are setting clear sustainability standards for suppliers. Fifty-eight percent of companies (353) have supplier codes of conduct that address human rights in supply chains, compared to 43 percent in 2012. However, only a third (205 companies) have some activities in place to engage suppliers on sustainability performance issues, up from 27 percent in 2012.
  • A growing number of companies are incorporating sustainability performance into executive compensation packages. Twenty-four percent of companies (147) link executive compensation to sustainability performance – up from 15 percent in 2012.

The metrics used in this report were first spelled out in the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability, which has been used by dozens of leading companies since 2010 to incorporate sustainability into their business planning and corporate accountability infrastructure.

“The findings of this report should inspire companies to examine their own progress and identify where they stand on the path to sustainability,” said Michael Jantzi, CEO and Founder of Sustainalytics. “This is about more than how companies stack up against their peers – it’s about how innovation is driving performance from the corporate boardroom throughout the entire supply chain.”

State of the World 2014

According to the State of the World 2014, citizens around the globe have been disappointed by lack of leadership from governing bodies. This has led to the sustainability movement being led by citizen groups, women’s organizations and grassroots movements around the world and these efforts are often in opposition to government and corporate agendas.

This year’s report, published by Worldwatch Institute, marks the organization’s 40th anniversary. The study looks at what governing for sustainability really means. Authors highlight the responsibility of political and economic actors to achieve sustainability measures. They also noted that to be effective, governance systems must be inclusive and participatory, allowing members to have a voice in the decision making process.

SOTW14cover-FinalFront-FIXED“Governments today cannot consistently control themselves because they are decimated by a plague of corruption that devours the public interest in virtually every political system,” said David Orr, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College and State of the World 2014 contributing author. “Effective government, in its various forms, will require an alert, informed, ecologically literate, thoughtful, and empathic citizenry.”

Authors also examine the potential for improving governance by analyzing a variety of trends, such as local and regional climate initiatives, energy democracy, and corporate responsibility. Several authors posit that sustainability depends on action in both the economic and political spheres; financial industries need to serve as public stewards again; unions can help ensure that the transition to sustainability is socially just; and citizens must take responsibility and empower themselves.

State of the World 2014 co-director Tom Prugh notes, “Ultimately, it seems to us, all governance begins with individuals in communities. Humans are no more isolated actors in politics than they are the independent molecules of mainstream economic theory.”

“Pressure to improve governance, at every level, can come only from awakened individuals, acting together, dedicated to making their communities sustainable places,” adds State of the World 2014 co-director Michael Renner. “From there, it may be possible to build communities in a way that affords every person on Earth a safe and fulfilling place to live, and offers future generations the same prospect.”