Urban Air Initiative Launches Public Campaign

Urban Air Initiative has launched a public awareness campaign with the first phase the launch of a new website. The consumer-focused site draws attention to the problem of toxic compounds in gas with a call to action for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate some of the most harmful components in fuel.

fixourfuelAccording to Urban Air Initiative President David VanderGriend, “There’s a problem with the air we’re all breathing and it stems from what’s in our gasoline. It’s something that’s too small to see, but too big to ignore.”

The new website is fixourfuel.com and explains why the country needs to clean up gasoline and protect public health through lowered emissions from vehicles said VanderGriend.

“The website takes a story-like approach to make a complicated subject easier to understand. “Right now, toxic compounds called aromatics are added to gasoline to provide octane boost,” added VanderGriend. However that boost is hurting your health. Aromatics, such as benzene, come out of the tailpipe as invisible, odorless ultrafine particles (UFP’s). These UFP’s have been linked to ailments from lung cancer and stroke, to birth defects and developmental disorders in children.”

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to remove these harmful aromatics from gasoline, but not enough is being done. According to Urban Air Initiative officials, there are cleaner and cheaper options available, such as mid-level blends of ethanol. Increased use of these mid-level blends will reduce toxic aromatics and UFP’s.

Enviro Groups React to Prez Obama’s Climate Speech

“Yes this is hard, but there should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate. We recognize our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part,” said U.S. President Barack Obama during the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit that is taking place this week in New York.

During his speech he pledged to put forth a proposal to continue combating climate change beyond 2020 as well as committed to addressing the serious and growing impacts of climate change that the poorest and most vulnerable around the world are already facing. In addition, he took responsibility for America’s role in climate change.

“As I sat in the audience today, I heard President Obama demonstrate the kind of climate leadership the world needs. He made it clear the U.S. is serious about fighting climate change through major cuts to our carbon pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRCD) after the speech. “He promised to help communities around the world become more resilient and speed their development of clean energy. And he challenged other nations to step up their climate actions by promising a commitment to our own. This was a message of hope — hope that together we can head off the worst damages from climate change and leave our children a healthier world.”

Jennifer Morgan, director, Climate and Energy Programs for the World Resources Institute welcomed the President Obama’s clear focus and personal commitment. “I am encouraged by President Obama’s promise to put forth an ambitious post-2020 climate commitment early next year. Strong signals that the United States is decarbonizing its economy will set the stage for a successful outcome at the climate negotiations next year. As growing evidence shows, investing in a low-carbon economy creates jobs, reduces air pollution and improves people’s lives. The United States now must build on the importance progress made in recent years.”

It has been five years since the last climate summit in Copenhagen and the next summit will take place next year in Paris. Obama noted that scientists have learned a great deal more about climate change in the past few years and that they will continue to learn more. He also stressed that climate change is happening and action will mean survival.

“As the President made clear, we don’t have the luxury to act as though climate change isn’t happening,” continued Morgan. “For the most vulnerable communities, taking action now is a matter of survival. The good news is that we have the technology and techniques in hand to both shift to the low carbon economy and build resilience to climate impacts. President Obama’s announcement today is a key step in putting those tools to use. Better and more information about climate impacts is one of our most powerful tools to combat climate change. The President has signaled his commitment to ensure everyone around the world has access to the data they need to anticipate and protect themselves from the consequences of global warming.”
Continue reading

New Study: E15 Would Reduce Smog

According to a new study conducted by Life Cycle Associates, using E15 ethanol blends rather than regular gas will reduce cancer-causing pollutants and smog in Chicago’s air. The research examined and aggregated a wide range of research to assess changes in the emissions from E15 taChicago E15 logoilpipe and evaporative emissions, compared to regular gasoline. The following factors were considered for the study: ethanol blend composition; vehicle tailpipe emissions; storage and fueling with ethanol blends; changes in evaporative and exhaust emissions; human health impacts; ozone potential; and life cycle greenhouse gas emissions.

To determine how much E15 reduces the risk of cancer, the study looked at several cancer-causing pollutants found in vehicle exhaust and found that using E15 shows a projected reduction in cancer risk because the ethanol in E15 displaces carcinogens like benzene and 1,3 butadiene.

“The most significant changes from a change … to E15 include a reduction in cancer risk from vehicle exhaust and evaporative emissions, a reduction in the potential to form ozone or photochemical smog, and a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” the study reported.

The study found:

  • The renewable fuel in E15 displaces cancer causing emissions from gasoline, resulting in a net decrease in cancer risk of 6.6% compared to regular gas.
  • The smog forming potential from E15 is lower than in regular gas.
  • Using E15 gasoline with 15 percent ethanol results in a 1.5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to regular gasoline which contains 10% ethanol.

Adding ethanol also displaces gasoline components with higher smog forming potential, resulting in a lower smog forming potential for E15 blends than regular gasoline, according to the paper. In addition, the study reviewed extensive research on E15’s influence on greenhouse gas emissions, finding a reduction of 1.5 percent in E15 gasoline compared to regular, E10 gasoline. However, E15 has had difficulty gaining traction in the marketplace due to infrastructure challenges.

Those discoveries have significant implications for Chicago, which suffers from poor air quality and increased risk from disease-causing pollutants, particularly on the South Side. This study shows how the availability of E15 gasoline could help to solve those problems.

The report was supported by the Department of Energy (DOE), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), California Air Resources Board (CARB), Coordinating Research Council, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of Illinois and several other institutions.

Sierra Magazine Releases 2014 Coolest Schools

The “Coolest Schools” in America rankings are out and the top school is University of California, Irvine. Compiled annually by Sierra Club, the rankings focus on America’s greenest colleges. The ranking universities displayed a deep and Dickinson College Studentsthorough commitment to protecting the environment, addressing climate issues, and encouraging environmental responsibility. More than 150 schools filled out an extensive survey created in a collaboration between Sierra and the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Using a customized scoring system, Sierra ranked the universities based on their commitment to upholding high environmental standards.

“For eight years Sierra magazine has encouraged America’s colleges and universities to fully embrace their unique and multifaceted role in tackling the climate crisis and protecting America’s air, water, public health, and beautiful places,” said Bob Sipchen, Sierra magazine’s editor in chief. “From innovative research and development to powering campuses with wind and solar, to educating students in the most advanced thinking on sustainability, colleges and universities are leaders and models for the rest of society. Sierra magazine congratulates those that made our annual ‘Coolest Schools’ list.”

Sierra magazine’s top 10 schools of 2014 are:

1. University of California, Irvine (Irvine, CA)
2. American University (Washington, DC)
3. Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA)
4. Loyola University Chicago (Chicago, IL)
5. Lewis and Clark College (Portland, OR)
6. Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
7. University of South Florida (Tampa, FL)
8. Green Mountain College (Poultney, VT)
9. University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)
10. Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)

This is UC Irvine’s fifth consecutive year as a top 10 finalist, but its first time as the winner, thanks in part to its three on-campus solar projects, a 19-megawatt turbine cogeneration plant, and energy-efficiency goals that are consistently exceeded. Other factors that helped those at the top of our list: American University has D.C.’s largest solar array; Dickinson runs an organic farm; Stanford is divesting from coal; and USF supplies a solar charging station for electric vehicles.

“The Cool Schools ranking is yet another indication of how deeply young people understand the benefits of clean energy and of how adept they are at turning awareness into action,” said Karissa Gerhke, director of the Sierra Student Coalition. “To capitalize on this power, the Sierra Student Coalition will join with students across the country this fall to launch the Campuses for Clean Energy campaign, a transformative movement that will demand 100 percent clean energy for campuses.

NRDC Report Guides Buying Sustainable Biofuels

A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) looks at how federal agencies and other large commercial customers can buy sustainably produced biofuels and avoid those linked to things such as defined by NRDC as major deforestation, destroyed wildlife habitat and fouled waterways.

NRDC Sustainable Biofuels Fact SheetThe report “Biofuel Sustainability Performance Guidelines,” was commissioned by NRDC and authored by LMI as was written in response to large fuel consumers begin to pivot toward more plant-based fuel options to boost their “green” credentials and sustainability efforts while reducing their use of fossil fuels. The report is intended to help guide fuel buyers such as federal, state and municipal bulk fuel procurement officers, contractors and suppliers, and corporate sustainability officers.

“Biofuels can be a clean alternative to dirty fossil fuels, but they’re not all created equal,” said Brian Siu, senior energy policy analyst at NRDC. “Some biofuels are produced in ways that endanger precious land, wildlife and the environment. As the U.S. government and large business expand their use of biofuels, they should ensure they come from sustainable sources, and relying on the best certification systems can help them make these smart choices.”

According to NRDC, many large fuel buyers are beginning to understand the risks of poorly sourced biofuels, but are unable to determine whether their biofuels are produced sustainably. Third-party certification systems can provide this service, but vary significantly in stringency and protectiveness. The non-profit said a sound certification system should check each stage for impacts on water quality, soil, biodiversity, air quality, land use, and waste. It also should check for the social impacts on economic issues, human rights, food security, and workforce safety.

Study lead Jeremey Alcorn, senior consultant with LMI, said of the report, “NRDC offered LMI an exciting opportunity to apply our practical analytical experience to analyze established and emerging biomaterial and biofuel sustainability certification standards, and we believe that this report will fill a critical need by informing bulk biofuel procurements and enabling a better understanding of the utility of different certification programs in achieving enhanced sustainability performance.”

To help stakeholders, NRDC’s report examined seven leading programs that certify biofuel production practices for sustainability. The Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials ranked best. RSB ranked best for helping to ensure economic, environmental and social sustainability of biofuels production practices in places such as the United States, Indonesia, South America and Asia.

Battery Bat Houses for Hydroelectric Projects

Bat Houses from scrap volt battery casesEagle Scout Matthew Netherland has developed a creative way to help bats who live near hydroelectric projects. Using discarded scrap Volt battery covers donated by GM, Netherland built 22 bat houses for Consumers Energy to install in their energy properties.

“This project connects a lot of environmental dots,” said Rich Castle, Consumers Energy’s natural resource manager for hydro generation. “Hydro dams generate clean electricity, and cars that run on electricity are a cleaner form of transportation. The battery covers from the electric-powered vehicles are being kept out of landfills, and by being utilized as bat homes they allow biodiversity to thrive along the river habitats that produce renewable energy.”

About 100 or more bats can live in each bat box, which includes five chambers. Netherland, a friend and two adult mentors helped build the bat boxes in about two months that will be installed by Consumers Energy.

“I’m thankful that GM had the perfect shell for the bat box plans, and that Consumers Energy has great locations to place the boxes,” said Netherland from Boy Scout Troop 185 from Clarkston, Michigan. “Both companies have been great to work with, very encouraging and generous.”

Emily McDonald, environmental engineer for GM who coordinated with Netherland on his project, added, “I’m so impressed by Matthew’s energy and dedication to this project. We’ve worked with renowned bat experts on our bat house design and are grateful that we can partner with others who share our passion for conservation and will help us make a lasting impact. The Volt covers are made with durable material and will result in wildlife nesting opportunities for a long time.”

CGI America Launches Feed-Out Program

The world is about to see the first market-based, fixed-price funding program for solar and renewable technologies through a Feed-Out Program. The program, the brain-child of the Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America) and Demeter Power Group, has a goal of helping modernize the nation’s power grid with distributed energy.

Clinton Global Initiative logo“The Feed-Out Program will bring together independent power producers and financiers to enable the lowest-cost, fixed-price offering for renewable energy,” said Michael Wallander, Demeter Power Group founder and president. “But unlike other similar ‘feed-in-tariff’ programs, the energy will be used on the customer-side of the meter.”

According to CGI, $1 trillion a year – a total of $36 trillion – is needed for investment in sustainable energy infrastructure to successfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2050. The Program will help tackle this challenge focusing primarily on funding for solar energy while also enabling cost-effective investment in energy storage, fuel cells and electrical vehicle car charging stations.

Yann Brandt, Demeter Co-Founder and EVP of Development noted, “What retail tenant or business owner would not want to save money on their energy bills while offering customers and employees the ability to shade their cars and power up with solar energy? We enable funding for solar-powered carports with electric vehicle charging stations at a net-negative cost to the customer.”

Demeter Power Group logoDemeter is contributing its finance mechanism – PACE3P – to help overcome credit-related challenges that have prevented scalable finance programs in the past. Demeter explained that PACE3P ties services fees to the buildings where the energy is used through a voluntary assessment on property tax bills.

Initially the Program will make financing available to commercial properties located in Northern California communities participating in the California FIRST property assessed clean energy (PACE) Program offered through the California Statewide Community Development Authority. Interested participants must register with Demeter to participate in the platform, which is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2015.

U.S. Mayors Expand Climate Protection Agreement

U.S. Mayors have signed a revised climate protection agreement that for the first time focuses on local actions to adapt cities to changing climate conditions. The agreement is also aims to build grassroots support for local conversation efforts. The action took place during the 82nd Annual U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) meeting where one area of focus was climate change and the role energy efficiency and renewable energy could play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon.

14307537950_ca123598fd_zThe Agreement also urges federal and state governments to enact bipartisan legislation, policies and programs to assist mayors in their efforts to lead the nation toward energy independence. Following the signing ceremony, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Environmental Protection Administrator Gina McCarthy congratulated the Conference on their work and engaged in an interactive discussion with mayors from the audience.

USCM President Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said mayors have been leaders on climate protection, whether it’s cutting carbon emissions or preparing their communities for the effects of climate change. “In the 3.0 era, mayors are innovating, working with the best and the brightest, to lead on climate. Mayors are getting smart about sustainability. We’re moving from fossil fuels to alternative fuels, from waste to reuse. Mayors are using technology and innovation to do what we couldn’t do ten years ago. We’re boosting our economies and protecting our climate at the same time.”

The climate initiative was first launched 10 years ago in February of 2005 and at the time the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement was a landmark pledge by mayors from all across the country to take local action to reduce carbon emissions from city operation and by the community at large, consistent with the goals of the Kyoto Protocol. More than 1060 mayors signed the Agreement, mostly representing larger cities. Since then, USCM has been recognizing mayors for their successful efforts through its annual Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards.

USCM Energy independence and Climate Protection Task Force Co-Chair and Bridgeport, CT Mayor Bill Finch noted, “This is not a cause for mayors. This is a pragmatic problem that requires pragmatic solutions. Mayors across the country are investing in the future by tackling climate change head on. And, those who have signed onto the U.S. Conference of Mayors agreement have made more progress on beating back climate change in their cities than those who have not. Continue reading

Book Review: A Bird on Water Street

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to wake up, walk outside and there were no animals, livingA Bird on Water Street things others than humans and nothing was green but all brown? Well this is the world of Jack, growing up in a Southern Appalachian copper mining town. The environment is so bad that the air eats through a pair of pantyhose in a matter of minutes. “A Bird on Water Street” is a young adult (and adult) story about the environmental turn-around of Tennessee town, “Coppertown”.

Based on a true story, author Elizabeth O. Dulemba explores the relationship between the environmental devastation due to copper mining and how the efforts of one boy, Jake, can turn a city around and make a difference.

Bird on Water Street explores several key environment and advocacy issues including:

  • Issues around copper mining and the devastating effects it has on the local environment.
  • How taking small actions to better our surroundings can make a big difference.
  • The challenges that many young people face, including bullying, death, pregnancy, and drugs and how they can navigate the issues.
  • Why having a sense of community is so important, especially for the growth and development of the community’s youngest members.

It’s hard to imagine living in a world with a “dead” environment, wide-spread disease, death and other health issues, but through the voice of Jack, you not only imagine it, you are both sad for him, his friends and his town. And you can’t help but cheer for him when he begins to discover elements of the environment that he realizes he is missing and he takes small steps to make change: growing a garden and planting a tree. Eventually, the whole town, after a strike and the closing of the mine, bands together on reclamation efforts and a new town is “reborn”.

I enjoyed the book and the authenticity of the voices of Jack and his friends and families. For parents who are looking for ways to encourage their children to become an active player in environmental efforts or young adults looking for inspiration and ideas, this is a great book to begin that journey.

Using the Sun to Save Sea Turtles

Researchers in Panama are using the sun to save sea turtles. A new state-of-the-art clean solar energy system, installed and designed by FTL Global Solutions, is helping Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) protect Leatherback hatchlingsendangered turtles at its new research station on Soropta Beach, Panama. The rugged solar system provides electricity for lighting, security, water and cooking needs as STC biologists work throughout the night protecting endangered leatherback turtles and their hatchlings at one of the most important nesting beaches for this species in the Atlantic.

Soropta Beach, a remote black-sand beach on Panama’s Caribbean coast, is home to a large nesting colony of leatherback sea turtles. Unfortunately, for years Soropta’s leatherbacks and their nests have been illegally harvested by poachers who kill the turtles for their meat and raid nests to steal the eggs. STC’s conservation program is helping prevent poaching by protecting nests, monitoring nesting activity, and building support for turtle conservation with the local community. The work takes place out of a rustic station, where the lack of electricity made the work extremely challenging – until now.

“The new solar energy system installed by FTL New FTL Solar Energy Panels Global Solutions is making our conservation efforts more effective and safe,” said STC executive director David Godfrey.

STC’s conservation efforts began in 2013 when it acquired an old farm house and began upgrading it to FTL Solar Energy Panels at STCaccommodate a year-round turtle protection program. Part of the upgrades included LED lighting designed not to disorient the turtles. STC then hired and trained local community members to assist with the research and conservation work. However, without a year-round conservation presence at Soropta, poachers would move back in and threaten the survival of the turtles.

“Acquiring solar energy at a remote place like STC Staff at the Soropta Station Soropta Beach could not have been done without the expert advice and assistance of FTL,” added Godfrey. “Their team guided us through the process; helped deliver the system to our remote station and even sent an expert to install the system and train our staff in its use and maintenance.”

The FTL solar energy system now provides critical power needs to the station’s various buildings where staff members live, work and eat. Running water is now supplied to a restroom and shower facility, and the station compound and dock now have security lighting in place.