RFA Disputes EPA’s Inclusion of Biogenic Carbon Emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering equating biogenic carbon emissions with fossil fuel emissions under the Tailoring Rule, which requires the accounting and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2). Biogenic carbon emissions are those that are naturally created during the combustion and decay of woody biomass and up until now, have always been considered carbon neutral by the EPA. As such, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is disputing this clause in the rule.

In a letter to the EPA, RFA wrote, “While RFA generally supports a national policy to address climate change, we believe biogenic emissions must be exempt from GHG accounting schemes and regulatory frameworks. Specifically, inclusion of biogenic GHG emissions in determinations of applicability of the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (“PSD”) or Title V Permitting Programs is not scientifically justified, runs afoul of accepted national and international GHG accounting methods, and is contrary to public policies enacted to encourage development of a robust renewable fuels industry in the United States.”

According the the RFA, it is “indisputable that CO2 emissions resulting from the combustion, fermentation, and decay of biomass, are by nature, carbon neutral in that those emissions are naturally offset when the biomass removes an equivalent amount of CO2 from the atmosphere via photosynthesis during growth.”

Therefore, RFA is calling for the EPA to reconfirm that the carbon neutrality convention for accounting of biogenic GHG emissions is both scientifically justified and appropriate for regulatory contexts. Continue reading

Book Review – No Impact Man

So you’re a bit frustrated with the state of the climate and pretty concerned with our fossil fuel use. So what do you do? You become the No Impact Man. Colin Beavan, a writer from New York who was struggling with how to deal with climate change, decided that he, along with his wife, two year old daughter and dog, would spend a year trying to have no negative impact on the climate. This experience, which he blogged about every day, led to the book, “No Impact Man The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet.”

Beavan was extreme. No “throw away” products made from trees, rarely any motorized transportation including elevators (did I mention he lives in NY?), all locally grown food within 250 miles and no meat, no buying of new things (but they could purchase used items), and if that weren’t enough, no electricity for three months! So what did he learn? We should be able to keep the things that improve our lives, yet not at the expense of the environment. And yes, he says, this can be done.

As an energy writer there was one chapter that I felt was extremely compelling and that was when he and his family turned out the electricity. Yep – no electricity for three months with the exception of a solar panel he used to power his laptop. In this chapter, Beavan talks about the true cost of fossil fuel use – something that many are trying to get consumers to understand, including me.

He writes, “The fact of the matter is that fossil fuels are not less costly than renewable energy. Fossil fuels cost us and our planet much more to use. The problem is that the true costs of the use of coal and oil are not immediately apparent in the price.” Continue reading

Book Review – Climate of Extremes

I have a question for you. Is the debate over global warming over? The next logical question is: Should it be over?

According to authors Patrick J. Michaels and Robert C. Balling Jr., human-induced climate change is indeed real, but this will not necessarily lead to an environmental apocalypse. This is the premise of their book, A Climate of Extremes. They write, “The data lead us to conclude that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is indeed real, but relatively modest. We’re not arguing against AGW, but rather against DAGW (dangerous anthropogenic global warming).”

A Climate of Extremes is about data – the data that proves (or disproves) the existence of global warming and the potential effects that it could have. The authors spend the majority of the book debunking the science that leads us to believe that the polar bears will go extinct, the icebergs are melting and those on the coasts will endure catastrophic damage, and that hurricanes, floods and fires are somehow tied to climate change. Well folks, there is no data to back up these far-fetched claims argue the authors.

The entire time I was reading the book, this famous quote kept running through my mind, lies, damned lies and statistics, a sentiment used to describe the power of numbers. The authors featured a lot of content that has been used by famous global warming advocates, such as Al Gore to prove the danger we face if we don’t curb greenhouse gas emissions, is taken out of context. In other words, the data is fiddled and faddled with to meet a person’s particular needs.

We all know this happens and it is good that people continue to “out” the bad science. However, the biggest irony I found in the book was when they discussed the pervasive bias inherent in global warming research. Shortly thereafter, they offer up why corn-ethanol will cause, rather than curb global warming, and they point to Timothy Searchinger’s original paper  – a paper which has not only been criticized by the scientific community but also new research has been presented. My point: maybe the authors should take some of their own advice.

While I am a proponent of offering up various scientific viewpoints, it should never be taken at face value and neither should the data presented in A Climate of Extremes. It is in everyone’s best interest to delve into the issue, farther than what is presented in a few books.

Going Green Can Save You Green

Last week, I wrote a story regarding President Obama’s executive order for the federal government to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 28 percent by 2020. One goal of this program is to get other companies to follow suit, but many companies don’t know where to start. Enter the Hondo Green Assessment Tool (HGAT). To learn more about how companies can become more sustainable, I spoke with the Hondo Group’s CEO Lynn Balinas.

HGAT is an internet based tool for small to mid-sized companies that can measure a company’s carbon footprint, manage its carbon footprint and maintain carbon footprint goals, explained Balinas. The tool measures five categories: water, energy, transportation, materials and waste. Ultimately the tool helps companies become not only more sustainable but more profitable as well.

“People usually first think, it’s about the environment, it’s about global warming. That’s part of it,” said Balinas. “But it’s good governance and it’s actually profitable for organizations.”

A few years ago, people perceived that going green meant going broke. That is actually not the case. Going green will actually help you make more green. For example, if all small to mid-sized businesses turned off their computers and printers at night (unplug the electronics) nearly $2.1 billion could be saved annually.

Here is how it works. After 35 days of metrics based on the five categories outlined above, the HGAT will tell a company how to reduce the carbon footprint and give suggestions that a company can choose to integrate. Ultimately, the tools that are put into place will help a company manage its program and save money.

Companies can implement the program alone or partner with other small to mid-sized companies. Balinas said that the average cost to a company with less than 50 employees is around $50 per month but the return is much greater.

Listen to my interview with Lynn below to learn more about HGAT.

Obama to Slash Gov’t GHGs by 28%

For those of you who still have President Obama’s State of the Union speech in your mind, then you may remember his call for the government to slash greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). He has followed through. Less than a week after the pronouncement, Obama has issued an Executive Order 13514 on Federal Sustainability for the federal government to slash GHG emissions 28 percent by 2020.

According to the White House, the federal government, which includes all of our armed forces, is the largest energy user in the U.S. The 28% reduction would decrease annual electricity use by 1.5% saving between $8 – $11 billion in energy costs through 2020. Just in 2008, the federal government racked up a $24.5 billion energy bill.

“As the largest energy consumer in the United States, we have a responsibility to American citizens to reduce our energy use and become more efficient,” said Obama as quoted in an article in Recharge. “Our goal is to lower costs, reduce pollution, and shift Federal energy expenses away from oil and towards local, clean energy.”

This goal will require the government to shift to clean energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal, which will support job growth and technology development in the clean tech sector – another major goal of the administration. This move also signals Obama’s commitment to passing a comprehensive climate change package, which is currently stalled in the Senate.

In the meantime, departments will be required to develop sustainability plans that will include current GHG emission estimates and to ensure follow-through, achievement reports will be published online for the public to view and submit reponses.

World Biofuels Reduced Global GHGs 123.5M Tons

grfa_logo_bgA new study shows that world biofuels production in 2009 has reduced GHG emissions by 123.5 million tons. The figure represents an average reduction of 57 percent compared to the emissions that would have occurred from the production and use of equal quantities of petroleum fuels. The report was prepared by (S&T)² Consultants Inc.

Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance who commissioned the report noted, “This landmark report proves yet again that biofuels production and use is already playing a vital, yet too often overlooked, role in reducing harmful GHG emissions around the globe. In light of the ongoing United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, today’s report is evidence that biofuels are and must continue to be on the front line of the Climate Change fight.”

The report also discovered that worldwide biofuels produced in 2009 is displacing 1.15 million barrels of crude oil per day, which creates around 215 million tonnes of GHG emissions annually. In addition, worldwide production of approximately 19 billion gallons reduces GHG emissions by 87.6 million tons.

Forecasted global production of biodiesel of approximately 4 billion gallons will reduce GHG emissions by 35.9 million tons. When you combine the worldwide production numbers of both ethanol and biodiesel, the fuels are estimated to reduced GHG emissions by 123.5 million tons.

The study utilized a “life cycle assessment” (LCA) approach to estimate global GHG emissions reduction achieved through the production and use of biofuels from “cradle-to-grave”, including the acquisition of raw materials, manufacture, transport, use, maintenance and final disposal. You can download the full report here.

EPA Determines CO2, Other GHGs Endanger Society

coal_fired_power_plantSome of the biggest news to come out of Copenhagen yesterday was the ruling from the Environmental Protection Agency that greenhouse gas emissions are now considered “an endangerment” to society. This ruling now gives the EPA the authority, under the Clean Air Act, to regulate greenhouse gases. This decision could lead to stricter vehicle, manufacturing and power plant emissions – including ethanol and biodiesel plants.

The timing was no coincidence as President Obama is looking to improve America’s bargaining hand during the two week Climate Change Conference where leaders from nearly 200 countries are attempting to create a global climate policy plan.

On December 7, 2009, the Administrator signed two distinct findings regarding greenhouse gases under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act:

  • Endangerment Finding: The Administrator finds that the current and projected concentrations of the six key well-mixed greenhouse gases–carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)–in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.

  • Cause or Contribute Finding: The Administrator finds that the combined emissions of these well-mixed greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines contribute to the greenhouse gas pollution which threatens public health and welfare.

In addition to tightening emission standards, there are two other ways that have been discussed at length to regulate CO2 emissions, the gas that is in the most abundance. First is through a carbon tax and second through a cap and trade system.

Book Review – Our Choice

OurChoiceThis morning the Copenhagen Climate Conference kicked off. As I mentioned in earlier posts, the two big issues are the reduction of CO2 and the halting of deforestation. As I noted in other writings, there are Climate Alarmists and Climate Skeptics. Climate Alarmists, which Al Gore would be considered, believe that if we don’t curb global warming now, the earth will face unprecedented consequences. The climate skeptics, as Bjorn Lomborg would be considered, offer the view that the problem has been blown out of proportion or is focused on the wrong culprits. Actually there would be nothing more fun than a Lomborg/Gore debate.

On Friday, I presented a ‘skeptics’ view…today I will present an ‘alarmists’ view. For the third book review, I chose Al Gore’s, “Our Choice A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis.” Most people know that Gore helped to put the global warming debate on the map with his first book and movie, “An Inconvenient Truth.” These efforts led to a shared Oscar and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Gore will also be playing a major role in Copenhagen over the next two weeks.

Gore begins, “It is now abundantly clear that we have at our fingertips all of the tools we need to solve the climate crisis. The only missing ingredient is collective will.”

Throughout the book, Gore uses a combination of words, graphics and pictures to demonstrate the climate change debate, detail many of the solutions and offer policy recommendations. There is one area where I think Gore did a great job, and that is explaining what the six categories of global warming pollution are: carbon dioxide, methane, black carbon, sulfur hexaflouride, tetrafluoroethane, carbon monoxide, butane and nitrous oxide. To date, the biggest focus has been on carbon dioxide and Gore’s focus throughout the book is no different.

Along those same lines, Gore advocates that the most effective way to curb CO2 is through putting a price on carbon. He writes, “An effective plan for solving the climate crisis must include aggressive remedies for our erroneous reliance on deceptive market signals in carbon-based energy.” Continue reading

Book Review – Cool It

CoolItWhat is the greatest crisis in the history of civilization? Global warming. Well, at least according to the media’s portrayal. However, according to Bjorn Lomborg, the author of “Cool It, and the second review in my Copenhagen Climate Conference three views in seven days series, while global warming is an concern, it is not the most pressing worldwide issue.

Lomborg writes, “That humanity has caused a substantial rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels over the past centuries, thereby contributing to global warming, is beyond debate. What is debatable, however, is whether hysteria and headlong spending on extravagant CO2-cutting programs at an unprecedented price is the only possible response.”

He continues, “Such a course is especially debatable in a world where billions of people live in poverty, where millions die of curable diseases, and where these lives could be saved, societies strengthened, and environments improved at a fraction of the cost.”

Has the worldwide frenzy surrounding global warming caused us to lose our common sense? Continue reading

Rethinking Deforestation – A Copenhagen Challenge

Amazon_RainforestYesterday I wrote about one of the major challenges facing leaders who will be participating in the Copenhagen Climate Conference – global warming. Today, I’m addressing a second major issue facing the leaders – stopping deforestation. There is a misnomer that the main driver of deforestation is the increased production of biofuels. While there is a correlation between biofuels and deforestation, it is minor compared to the real driver – the trees are worth more cut down than they are standing. Let me explain.

Some of the poorest people in the world reside in the regions in and around the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. To survive, they cut down the trees and sell them. Although there have been attempts to ‘block’ this wood from international markets, these efforts have not been successful. Once the trees are cut down, cattle farmers move in and once the land has been over-grazed and the cattle move on, farmers often begin growing soybeans. Another point of interest is that sugarcane does not grow well in the Amazonian region; however, laws have been passed that prohibit the expansion of sugarcane production on native vegetation.

According to The Breakthrough Institute, “The main drivers of Amazonian deforestation are socio-economic. Yet decades of environmental policy have failed to take this basic truth into account.” If we’re going to keep the rainforest intact, then the people who live in the region will need to be given new opportunities to generate wealth that are worth more then selling the trees.

During the climate talks next week, leaders will be attempting to create policies that will address the urban poverty drivers of deforestation. I was in Brazil last week and in prepartion for the meetings, the Brazilian Climate Alliance has prepared a report with recommendations to reduce/climate deforestation. The proposed policies will be released during the conference and the world will be watching.