Pruitt’s EPA Will Give Automakers What They Want: Fewer Emissions Rules

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Thanks (for trying), Obama.

The Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) is moving forward with plans to roll back the former president’s emissions standards for automobiles.

Back in 2010, the Obama administration altered the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, requiring automakers to meet a minimum fuel standard of 54.5 miles per gallon for vehicles by 2025.

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According to the E.P.A.’s own projections, passenger vehicles in model years 2012 through 2025 that meet these emissions standards would decrease the country’s oil consumption by 12 billion barrels, and its greenhouse gas emissions by 6 billion metric tons over the vehicles’ lifetimes.

But with a new administration in charge, it’s likely those goals won’t be met.

This week, an E.P.A. spokesperson confirmed that the agency’s head, Scott Pruitt, has sent the White House a draft of a 16-page plan to revisit those standards. Two sources familiar with the matter told The New York Times the plan could “substantially roll back the Obama-era standards.”

“The proposed rollback is going to be quite a significant number,” Myron Ebell, director of global warming and international environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told The Times. “It will be more than a couple [miles per gallon].”

Automakers have been eager to lower the CAFE standards, which they deem expensive and difficult to attain. And the president and his administration have seemed just as eager to acquiesce. “My administration will work tirelessly to eliminate the industry-killing regulations,” Trump told autoworkers during a speech in March 2017.

Now that Pruitt has delivered a plan, Trump’s one step closer to keeping that promise, and it has environmental experts concerned.

“This is certainly a big deal,” Robert Stavins, director of Harvard’s environmental economics program, told The Times. “The result will be more gas-guzzling vehicles on the road, greater total gasoline consumption, and a significant increase in carbon dioxide emissions.”

We should know the specifics of Pruitt’s plan for revising emissions standards later this year, according to The Times’s sources.

Whether the administration simply rolls back standards to those in place prior to the Obama administration or goes even further is unknown. Either way, our environment will surely suffer.

The post Pruitt’s EPA Will Give Automakers What They Want: Fewer Emissions Rules appeared first on Futurism.

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Today’s Delays in Addressing CO2 Emissions Could Influence Sea Levels for Centuries

In Deep Water

Each year, we pump more and more CO2 into the atmosphere. One of the primary goals of the Paris Agreement is to stop this increase in emissions, hitting a point at which they peak and then begin to decrease. Now, according to a new study published in Nature Communications, each five-year delay in hitting this turning point could translate into higher 2300 sea levels.

According to researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), if the Paris Agreement is put fully into practice, global sea levels will increase by between 0.7 and 1.2 meters (2.3 and 3.9 feet) by 2030. For every five-year delay in hitting peak CO2 emissions between 2020 and 2035, though, that figure will increase by approximately 20 centimeters (7.8 inches).

“Man-made climate change has already pre-programmed a certain amount of sea-level rise for the coming centuries, so for some, it might seem that our present actions might not make such a big difference – but our study illustrates how wrong this perception is,” said lead author Matthias Mengel in a PIK press release.

“The Paris Agreement calls for emissions to peak as soon as possible,” added co-author Carl-Friedrich Schleussner. “This might sound like a hollow phrase to some, but our results show that there are quantifiable consequences of delaying action.”

A Dire Situation

Future predictions based on current CO2 levels are bleak. By 2040, river flooding is expected to impact millions, and climate change is already threatening coastal communities around the globe. By 2100, those communities could see their shores drowned under an additional 10 centimeters (four inches) of water per decade.

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As Mengel noted in the press release, his team’s predictions for 2300 sea levels could be underestimated, too. “Even a sea-level rise of up to three meters [9.8 feet] until 2300 cannot be ruled out completely, as we are not yet fully certain how the Antarctic ice sheet will respond to global warming,” said Mengel.

The severity of the situation ultimately comes down to how quickly and efficiently we act to reduce further harm. Climate change is winning, but it hasn’t won. If we take action now, we still have a chance to protect our planet and all the living creatures on it.

The post Today’s Delays in Addressing CO2 Emissions Could Influence Sea Levels for Centuries appeared first on Futurism.

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Daimler may have used software to cheat on US emissions tests

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Catching Up With the New E.U. Emissions Targets Will Cost Germany a Trillion Euros

Trouble Keeping Up

It was only last week that we reported on the European Union’s decision to raise its renewable energy targets from 27 percent to 35 percent. The adjusted targets will impact several member states, including Germany, which elected to backtrack on plans to reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2020. However, the country reportedly still intends to meet the goal of cutting 55 percent of emissions by 2030.

As reported by Reuters, the draft study — which was commissioned by the BDI German industry group and assembled by Boston Consulting and Prognos — states that Germany will have to spend more than 1 trillion euros ($ 1.2 trillion) to meet the low end of the EU’s target of reducing emissions by 80 to 95 percent by 2050.

While nothing to scoff at, as Sören Amelang at Clean Energy Wire wrote, several energy-intensive industry representatives are wary of the study’s information, as it essentially assumes these plans will go off without a hitch.

“The results assume that politicians only make right decisions from today,” said Kurt Bock, president of chemical industry association VCI and CEO of chemical giant BASF.

Despite the study’s optimism, it does question Germany’s ability to reach the higher end goals, which would push the already high price to around 2.3 trillion euros ($ 2.8 trillion) even with the expected price drop of renewable energy.

According to Clean Energy Wire, BDI President Kempf explained that reaching an 80 percent emissions reduction would already be a momentous task. 95 percent, then, would be all the more difficult to achieve.

“The political aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 compared to 1990 is ambitious,” said Kempf. “The aim of reducing them by 95 percent is overambitious.”

Positive Outlook

It may sound like Germany has done very little to curb gas emissions, but in 2017 the country set renewable energy records and built the world’s largest wind turbine. By 2021, it will have multiple hydrogen-powered trains in operation.

Not all the reactions to the study were negative: Germanwatch Policy Director Christoph Bals credited it as a realization that Germany’s energy industry is without “ambitious climate policy as a driver for innovation and modernization.” Bock also pointed out that the need for additional climate protection and goals presented a “huge business opportunity.”

Sabine Nallinger, head of Foundation 2° (a company that represents German CEOs who support measures to combat climate change) said BDI’s report reveals the 95 percent gas emissions goal would still be feasible without harming the economy — provided that other countries continue to stand by the Paris Climate Agreement.

“From the BDI study, we must not draw the conclusion that Germany only pursues the 80 percent target,” said Nallinger. “This would be a disservice to the German economy: German companies would not be tomorrow’s technology leaders.”

It’ll certainly be an uphill battle for Germany, but with global temperatures continuing to increase, its become more apparent that every country needs to do their part to offset the effects of global warming. We’re already due for extreme river floods by 2040 thanks to the emissions we’ve already generated. Now’s our chance to prevent further disasters.

The post Catching Up With the New E.U. Emissions Targets Will Cost Germany a Trillion Euros appeared first on Futurism.

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A Power Plant Joining the Grid in 2018 Burns Natural Gas with No Emissions

Trending Renewable

A welcome new energy trend has emerged in recent years: traditional fossil fuels appear to be on the way out, while renewable sources of energy are on the rise.

Popular opinion has shifted toward energy sources with a smaller carbon footprint, and renewable energy is becoming cheaper, more efficient, and more widespread. However, the transition away from fossil fuels is still far from complete. To help ease this transition period, one company has developed a way to burn a fossil fuel — natural gas — to generate electricity without producing any carbon emissions.

The company is NET Power, and their product is the Allam cycle.

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In a typical power plant, a fossil fuel such as coal is combusted with ambient air to create heat to boil water. The steam from that water then turns a turbine to produce electricity.

According to NET Power, this process is inefficient, with 30 to 40 percent of the system’s energy lost during the process. It’s also damaging to the environment, producing harmful nitrous oxides (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and, in some cases, spewing sulfur dioxides, mercury, and fine particulate matter into the air as well.

NET Power’s plant is a bit different. It combusts natural gas with oxygen instead of ambient air, which is nearly 80 percent nitrogen. This allows the system to avoid the NOx emissions of traditional plants. The result of the combustion is nearly pure CO2.

This CO2 is heated until it reaches supercritical status, at which point it flows like a liquid but expands like a gas. This supercritical CO2 is then used to drive a turbine to produce electricity. After that, it’s cooled and de-pressurized back to a normal gas and returned to the front of the loop to keep the cycle going.

NET Power
NET Power’s prototype plant, under construction in Houston, Texas. Image Credit: NET Power

Using supercritical CO2 to run the turbine allows NET Power to avoid the energy loss that comes with converting water to steam. Any excess CO2 created by burning the natural gas can be stored underground or sold to the market. Others can use this CO2 for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), a process that involves blasting CO2 underground to free up oil reserves.

“Anybody who says keep [fossil fuels] in the ground is asking the wrong question,” NET Power CEO Bill Brown told NPR. “The question is, are we putting CO2 into the atmosphere? And if the answer is no, then that should be sufficient.”

NET Power has already built a smokestack-free prototype power plant in a small lot in the oil hub and carbon-dioxide-emitting hotspot of Houston. The plant is expected to begin running in 2018 and produce 50 MW of electricity, enough to power more than 40,000 homes. It will produce this emission-free electricity at a cost of 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is comparable to the cost of electricity from natural gas plants today.

If the prototype plant works the way NET Power thinks it will, the company plans to open a 300-megawatt power plant by 2021. That plant could produce emissions-free power for over 200,000 homes.

Carbon Capture, 2.0

Those who say we cannot solve climate change by a swap to renewables alone have long hoped for an alternative like NET Power’s. Rodney Allam, the engineer who pioneered the cycle, is himself a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“I’m not knocking renewables, but they can’t meet future power demands by themselves,” Allam told Science.

As the oft-repeated adage goes, wind and solar only work when the Sun is shining and the wind is blowing. That problem will be alleviated by better energy storage technology, but until that storage is available, natural gas could be a solid interim solution. It produces much less CO2 than coal and can be ramped up or down as renewable contributions fluctuate.

NET Power’s plant takes it one step further by cleaning up the carbon at no added cost. Still, with the cost of renewable energy rapidly falling, some may be hesitant to invest in a technology that relies on fossil fuels and is currently more expensive than the renewables themselves.

However, if NET Power’s prototype plant works as hoped when it fires up in 2018, its success could be enough to motivate the world to give the Allam cycle a shot.

The post A Power Plant Joining the Grid in 2018 Burns Natural Gas with No Emissions appeared first on Futurism.

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Scientists Warn That Fossil Fuel Emissions Will See Record Highs in 2017

Emissions are Increasing

Some sobering news was announced this week, preceding international climate negotiations in Germany. After three years of flat growth, global emissions are increasing again. This was discovered thanks to a series of reports from the Global Carbon Project, an organization, chaired by Stanford scientist Rob Jackson, that works to quantify emissions.

Despite this less-than-stellar news, Jackson stated in a press release, “This year’s result is discouraging, but I remain hopeful.” He continued, “In the U.S., cities, states, and companies have seized leadership on energy efficiency and low-carbon renewables that the federal government has abdicated.”

Jackson is correct. While U.S. national decisions on emissions and efforts to combat climate change are falling far short, with the country pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, states and cities are beginning to act independently. But, while many are hopeful that these grassroots efforts might keep the U.S. on track for now, this report details rising emissions on a global scale.

“Time is running out on our ability to keep warming well below 2º Celsius let alone 1.5º Celsius.”

This report is published in Nature Climate Change, Environmental Research Letters, and Earth System Science Data Discussions. The report shows that, in 2017, global emissions from all human activities will reach 41 trillion kg (41 billion metric tons), after a 2 percent (withing a range of 0.8 to 3 percent) rise in fossil fuel use.

“This is very disappointing,” said lead researcher Corinne Le Quéré, “time is running out on our ability to keep warming well below 2 ºC let alone 1.5 ºC.”

Curbing CO2

Many hoped that these three years of little-to-no growth in emissions represented a peak — a positive sign that a decline would follow as a result of the efforts being made. But this is unfortunately not the case, as the Global Carbon Project has shown.

This disturbing message has reached policymakers and delegates who are attending the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 23) in Bonn this week. So, while it is upsetting news, it is ideal that all of these great minds are together and can start formulating a plan-of-action immediately. The Global Carbon Project report broke 2017’s cumulative global emissions down by country, which will be essential to policymakers looking to enact change.

Our Warming World: The Future of Climate Change [INFOGRAPHIC]
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In 2017, U.S. emissions are actually projected to decline 0.4 percent (-2.7 to +1.9 percent). However, this decrease is significantly smaller than the 1.2 percent per year decline that the country has averaged over the last decade. There are a variety of factors that could explain why emissions are increasing, including an unexpected jump in coal consumption. This may make sense in light of U.S. economic growth — in 2017 alone, the GDP was up about 2.2 percent.

It is clear that we are moving in the wrong direction as a planet. This wake-up call has shown that, while we’ve made some progress in curbing global emissions for three last years, the efforts we are making are simply not enough. Hopefully, policymakers, corporations, and individuals will all work to get on the same page and make a concerted effort to stop the increasing emissions.

The post Scientists Warn That Fossil Fuel Emissions Will See Record Highs in 2017 appeared first on Futurism.

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The World’s First Negative Emissions Power Plant is a Reality Thanks to Geoengineering

Negative Emissions

As climate change marches on, world leaders and scientists alike have considered the potential of geoengineering solutions to capture and store emissions. In fact, scientists recently concluded that we need to have “carbon-sucking” geoengineering tech in place by as early as 2030.

As reported by Quartz, it seems Iceland is ahead of that deadline, with the help of a 300-megawatt geothermal power plant that’s been built in Hellisheiði. The plant captures more carbon dioxide (CO2) than it produces, meaning it produces negative emissions. That said, it’s true that the plant only produces about one third of the carbon a traditional coal plant would — but more than what it emits is both captured and stored underground.

To accomplish this engineering marvel, a wall of fans sucks in air, filters out CO2, and injects the CO2 into water which is then pumped into the ground where it becomes rock. This process is simple and produces usable energy while eliminating emissions from the environment; truly a win-win. So why hasn’t this technology been immediately adopted and replicated in every state in every country in the world? The short answer is cost.

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The Cost of Energy

Currently, this process costs about $ 30 (USD) for every ton of carbon dioxide that is turned into rock, which is not particularly expensive. However, capturing the CO2 from the air would be significantly more cost-intensive. If the cost of pulling carbon dioxide could be whittled down to $ 100 per cycle, as its creators are aiming for, then the technology’s adoptability would be much improved.

The concept of capturing and storing carbon underground is nothing brand new: geoengineering solutions to climate change have been brewing and developing for years. However, the concrete completion of this plant proves not only that this process works as intended, but that the costs of producing energy in this manner aren’t completely out of reach. As the technology continues to advance and improve, they will hopefully continue to become more affordable, and in turn, more widely adopted.

If we continue to produce energy in the same manner, and at the same rate, as we currently are, climate change will only worsen. Its life-threatening repercussions will continue to become increasingly devastating — not to mention costly. While we shift from fossil fuels to renewable resources, it’s important to note that our emissions aren’t going anywhere.

Even if we were to eliminate our entire carbon footprint right now, we’d would still see years and years of energy usage left in our wake. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t do anything, as we’ve already jeopardized ourselves and the planet. Rather, it serves as a reminder that while we make changes regarding the types of energy we use, and how we use them, we can also invest in and support the elimination of existing emissions through emerging technology.

The post The World’s First Negative Emissions Power Plant is a Reality Thanks to Geoengineering appeared first on Futurism.

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First-ever ‘negative emissions’ power plant goes online

Unfortunately, it's no longer enough to cut CO2 emissions to avoid further global temperature increases. We need to remove some of the CO2 that's already there. Thankfully, that reversal is one step closer to becoming reality. Climeworks and Reykj…
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