Today, the US EPA released the 2015 data under the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. The report details the sixth year of greenhouse gas pollution trends from large industrial sources.
Overall, reported emissions decreased by almost 5% percent from 2014, and 8.2 percent from 2011. The more than 8,000 large sector facilities contribute about half of the total Greenhouse Gas emissions annually.
On June 2, following an announcement by President Obama, the US EPA presented the Clean Power Plan, "a commonsense plan to cut carbon pollution from power plant" with the stated goal of maintaining "an affordable, reliable energy system" while reducing pollutants that are harmful to people as well as the environment."
Throughout the US, power plant emissions account for roughly one-third of greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, there are no national guidelines to limit carbon pollution levels, though the levels of other toxins, including arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particles, are restricted. In the US, CO2 emissions account for 82% of all green house gas emisions, according to data reported by the EPA from 1990-2012.
Although the mandate is set at the federal level, the guidelines give states the ability to establish their own internal goals and to design a program based on their specific needs and capabilities. These plans must be submitted to the EPA by June 2016. Each state's plan must have enforceable limits, and must include how the levels will be reported and monitored. There must also be a method for corrective actions for those who fall short. The EPA will require biannual reporting of the state's progress.
Once the plan is accepted, states have to reach interim goals by 2020 and have until 2030 to meet the final goal of a 30% decrease in carbon emissions from the levels reported in 2005. To put that in perspective, that is equal to the emissions from powering 65 million homes, roughly half of the homes in America.
In addition to the 30% reduction in carbon emissions, the Clean Power Plan will also result in the reduction of particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent. Consumers should also benefit from a roughly 8 percent decrease in their electric bills due to increased energy efficiency and reduced demand in the electricity system.
In a recent speech, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that climate change is one of the most serious issues facing our world today and that he considers it "the greatest challenge of our generation." Following his visit to China last week, Kerry focused back on the State of the Union address by U.S. President Barack Obama, stating climate change is an undeniable fact. China, the top producer of greenhouse gas emissions, and the US will share "information and policies so that we can help develop plans to deal with the U.N. climate change negotiation that takes place in Paris next year."
The condition of the air in China has long been a source of concern, brought to the forefront during the Olympic games in Beijing in 2008. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 65%-70% of China's energy sources comes from coal and China is second only to the United States as an energy producer. The Chinese government revised air quality standards which will progressively require cities to meet the restrictions by 2015. The standard includes 8-hour standards for ambient air monitoring of ozone (O3) and particulate matter (PM) 2.5, which are considered "fine" particulates that are the most harmful. As of 2013, two thirds of cities do not yet conform to the new standard. Studies by the WHO and others show that a million Chinese die every year due to the effects of interior and exterior air pollution.
In response to the lack of willingness of the Chinese government to share detailed information, the U.S. embassy in Beijing began posting air quality measurements gathered at the embassy in real time, both on its website and through a twitter account (@BeijingAir). Chinese officials had disputed the American data, however Chinese citizens and environmental groups continued to press for data to be gathered and shared. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy visited one of the most affected cities, Shanghai, back in December. China is looking for help as the heavy pollution threatens to turn away foreign investors. McCarthy discussed shale development and the use of natural gas to reduce pollutants.
It appears that the concern of the long term effects on not addressing pollution is beginning to instigate change. Just this month, Beijing has ordered 15,000 factories to begin providing data regarding their emissions to the public in real-time. Also, China's Cabinet announced $1.6 billion in incentives has been set aside for companies that are making strides to cut their emissions. At the same time, the official Xinhua News Agency said 300 polluting factories were slated to be shut down in Beijing during 2014.
Although these are excellent first steps, it will take international collaboration to clear the air because pollution wafts in from the surrounding regions.
Recently, the US EPA released their final proposal to update the new source performance standards (NSPS) for new woodstoves and heaters, and to add NSPS for the first time for pellet stoves, furnaces, hydronic heaters, and masonry heaters. The measures, if approved, would take effect in 2015. The report states, "Emissions from wood stoves occur near ground level in residential communities across the country, and setting these new requirements for cleaner stoves into the future will result in substantial reductions in exposure and improved public health."
Wood heaters release smoke which increases the levels of various pollutants into the air. These include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide and particles (soot), all of which cause serious health concerns. Those at greatest threat are children, the elderly and those with breathing conditions such as allergies, asthma, emphysema or other lung diseases.
The proposal states that the tighter regulation will mean heaters burn 80% cleaner than those on the market today. Consumers will see cost savings due to lower fuel consumption and in projected health cost savings. The total benefits are estimated to be $1.8 to $2.4 billion annually.The proposal is open for comment for 90 days and a public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 26, 2014. To read the proposal, visit the EPA's website.
While these regulations aim to improve air quality in the US, scientists in India are striving to improve the conditions in India. In 2012, India was ranked as having the worst air quality of the countries studied and in 2013 they ranked second to last. Outdoor air pollution led to approx. 165,000 deaths in 2008 (up from ~141,000 in 2004) while internal air pollution claimed ~500,000 in 2004 according to World Health Organization figures.
The largest single source of these pollutants is the traditional cooking stoves, known as chullas. One can find a chulla, which burns wood, remains of crops or dung, in more than 100 million Indian households. A high level of smoke is generated due to poor fuel consumption. The stoves use a great deal of fuel and the required cook times are long. Since the cooking is done in the home, the poor indoor air quality effects women and children, who spend more time in the home, the most. Scientists compared daily use of the traditional chulla to smoking 40 cigarettes a day.
In addition, the environmental impact is high due both to the high consumption of wood as a fuel and the output of toxic smoke.
Development of a move efficient stove aims to help. These stoves, sold under the name Annapurna. In Hinduism, Annapurna is the goddess of food and cooking, and in Sanskrit, the name Anna means “food” and purna means “filled completely.”
The Annapurna stoves have better combustion, require less fuel and cook more quickly, all leading to reduced pollution. These stoves can run on electricity or can be set up to use a solar charged battery. The efficiency of the stove comes from the addition of a small fan that draws air into the combustion chamber. The manufacturer had the stove tested by accredited laboratories and saw a 50% decrease in fuel needs, a 70% decrease in smoke and a 50% decrease in cooking time. Small changes such as this will make a large impact in the effort to improve air quality throughout India.
To see a news story about this technology, check out this video from The Time of India.
The Environmental Protection Agency of the United States (US EPA) recently released a series of 30 sec and 1 minute public service videos on climate change. The videos discuss small changes people can make to their daily lives that have an impact on emissions. Citizens are encouraged to reduce the amount of energy they use to both cut their own utility costs and protect their health. The cumultive effect of these small changes to the economy and environment are stressed. The series was developed in support of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, released in June. In his plan, the President stressed the importance of reducing carbon pollution while simultaneously prepareing for the impacts of changes to the climate.
What do you think? Do you give thought to how your actions may impact the climate? What things do you do at work and home to minimize your carbon "footprint."
On June 30, 2013, the US Environmental Protection Agency released a revision to the Air Emissions Reporting Rule (AERR). The rule states the goal of the revisions is to "reduce reporting burden for state, local and tribal agencies, improve consistency and clarity with other rules, and better reflect current inventory technologies and practices."
The AERR was first published in 2008 as a replacement to the previous Consolidated Emissions Reporting Rule (CERR), which was published in 2002. Both regulations were created to improve the ability of the EPA to gather emissions data on a national level. The data is used to create a national inventory of air pollutant emissions. You can see this data in use and search for the conditions in your area at the EPA's MY Environment.
The improved AERR aims to grant states more flexibility on how to collect and report this emissions data. These increased permissions give the state programs the ability to operate more efficiently. To find out more visit the EPA's AERR page.
A recent article on the quality of the air in China began with this frighening statistic: Outdoor air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, nearly 40 percent of the global total. Brought into the headlines during the Beijing Olympics, the poor quality of the air in China is nothing new.
Last week, the EPA announced an extension of the public comment period for "Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program: Proposed Amendments and Confidentiality Determinations for Subpart I." The initial deadline for comment was December 17, 2012 and has been extended to January 16, 2013. In their announcement, the EPA stated that the reason for the extended comment period is the inclusion of two additional pieces of information. First, the summarization of a conference call the EPA held with the Semiconductor Industry Association in late October. The second is the EPA response to questions raised during that call about the calculation of Tier 2A emissions factors.
In brief, the amendment proposes changes to some of the calculation methods being utilized, provides some clarification of terms/definitions and adjusts the requirements for reporting. The amendments affect all manufacturers of electronics including semiconductors, LEDs, MEMS, LCDs and photovoltaic cells. The full proposal can be viewed here, and you can add your comments to the public record.
The EPA also has a fact sheet, which summarizes the proposal and can be viewed on the EPA site.
Here in CT, we are entering the months where unhealthy air quality emerges with the heat levels this summer. The American Lung Association has released an new advertising campaign featuring TV, online and billboard ads announcing the new State of the Air® smartphone application. The app, available for iPhone and Android, allows users to view EPA collected data on the air quality at their current location or at any other location of choice. Read this post to learn more about this data. The app is being praises as a user-friendly resource for people for low air quality affects most profoundly, those living with lung disease (such as asthma, people with heart disease or diabetes and the elderly and children.
ALA of the Northeast President and CEO, Jeff Seyler, was quoted to say, “We are excited to be able to provide this innovative tool so those with lung disease, and without, can effectively monitor their local air quality and limit their exposure to dangerous levels of pollution.”
The State of the Air app provides both the current and next-day air quality forecasts. Users can set alerts to notify them when the local air quality fails to a code orange, which is unhealthy for sensitive groups. Along with the quality information, the app provides tips on what activities are to be avoided depending on the current conditions.
The television and online messages are aimed at young people. They feature Alvin Grimes, an air collector, who collects air samples in glass jars. The promos tie into the ALA tagline "What are your lungs collecting?" "Alvin" has his own, twitter account and facebook page where he shares tips and information on air and air pollution. The TV spots can be viewed on his youtube page (one example below).