EPA Finalizes Biofuel Mandate

On August 8, 2013, in Uncategorized, by timprofeta
The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

Editor’s Note: The Climate Post will take a break from circulation the next two weeks. We will return to our regular posting schedule August 29.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced final 2013 biofuel volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Issued Tuesday, the final rule lowers targets for biofuels production in 2014—requiring that 16.55 billion gallons of renewable fuels be blended into the U.S. fuel supply including 1.28 billion gallons from biomass-based diesel fuel and 2.75 billion gallons from advanced biofuels. These are the same quotas proposed by the EPA in February. The agency’s initial 14 million gallon cellulosic biofuel quota, however, was dropped to 6 million gallons.

Additional time was also given for refiners to meet 2013 volume quotas. The EPA now requires compliance by June 30, 2014—a four-month extension. When it comes to future quota limits, the EPA says it will utilize “flexibilities” in the law to reduce the amount of biofuel needed next year, when a “wall” is projected.

The Washington Post offers some backstory on why the targets—which were supposed to hit 16.55 billion gallons in 2013 and rise to 36 billion gallons in 2022—have been hard to reach.

Study: Sea Level Rise Threatens to Put Cities Underwater

A new study finds rising sea levels will threaten some 1,400 cities and towns in the United States by 2100 if global emissions continue to increase. Prior emissions have locked in 4 feet of future sea level rise, the study suggests, and 3.6 million Americans live in 316 municipalities already at risk, in places such as New Orleans, Fort Lauderdale and Atlantic City. Should global emissions continue to increase, the study states that the world may experience 23 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century, putting more than 1,000 cities and towns at risk.

“The current trend in carbon emissions likely implies the eventual crippling or loss of most coastal cities in the world,” said Benjamin Strauss, a study author and Climate Central scientist. “It’s like this invisible threat.”

Keystone XL Decision Could Experience Further Delays

Although President Barack Obama vowed to rule before 2014 on the Keystone XL pipeline—which would carry crude oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico—an upcoming trial could delay a final decision (subscription). The suit, set for trial in Nebraska Sept. 27, contends the Nebraska state legislature unconstitutionally gave Gov. Dave Heineman authority to approve the pipeline’s route. A win could force a more than 1,000-mile leg of the project to go through the siting process again.

Mother Jones reports that another pipeline project is quietly moving ahead. The 774-mile Eastern Gulf Crude Access Pipeline project would run from Illinois to Louisiana and is projected to carry oil quantities similar to those that could flow through the Keystone XL by 2015.

Warming Climate Linked to More Violent Behavior

When temperatures rise, so does aggression, according to a new study in the journal Science. The analysis looked at several dozen studies examining the relationship between climate and conflict in most regions of the world over the last 10,000 years. It revealed that even slight spikes in temperature have increased the risk of personal violence and social upheaval throughout history, a finding that could have critical implications for understanding the impact of climate change on future societies.

“Past climatic events have exerted significant influence on human conflict,” the study authors wrote (subscription). “If future populations respond similarly to past populations, then anthropogenic climate change has the potential to substantially increase conflict around the world, relative to a world without climate change.”

Some national security experts and scholars are skeptical of the conclusion, questioning whether the link to climate change is established and citing prior studies that suggest the opposite connection is true. Authors of the Science study have taken on some of these critiques.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

 

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

Following on last week’s State of the Union address that supported hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” in shale gas deposits, President Obama called the U.S. “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas” and unveiled a new proposal to provide tax breaks to boost the use of natural gas as a fuel for trucks.

But the market has a glut of natural gas due to widespread use of the drilling method, pushing prices to their lowest in a decade and deflating the shale gas rush, leading large producers to cut production to try to bring the price up.

The House of Representatives held a hearing on fracking to follow up on a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report that found fracturing fluids were the likely cause of contaminated groundwater in Pavilion, Wyo. At the hearing, a filmmaker who made the documentary “Gasland” was arrested for filming without a press credential—an action that Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said was unprecedented.

Meanwhile, the EPA began new tests of groundwater in Dimock, Pa., after becoming aware of data that suggests drinking water contamination near fracking sites.

In Europe, shale gas exploration would be covered by existing regulations on water contamination and use of chemicals, so there is no need for new regulations at this point, a European Commission report said.

Also, the International Energy Agency urged the G20 to put stringent rules on shale gas production, while also planning a workshop to consider ways of easing obstacles to shale gas production around the world, with the aim of producing a “Magna Carta” of rules to guide the industry for years to come.

Shale gas is off to a slow start in Europe, and is unlikely to challenge Russia’s dominance of the natural gas market there anytime soon, argues Foreign Policy‘s Steve LeVine. Exxon announced disappointing results from shale gas wells in Poland, and Bulgaria banned fracking, following the lead of France.

Battery Bankruptcy

In Obama’s State of the Union address last week Obama mentioned battery makers as an example of clean-tech. The next day Ener1—whose subsidiary, EnerDel, makes electric vehicle batteries and received $118 million in green stimulus grant money—filed for bankruptcy.

Some called this a repeat of Solyndra, the solar panel manufacturer that went bankrupt, and which Obama had touted as a model cleantech business.

However, many others shot back, pointing out that Ener1 is different in many ways. Ener1 will continue operating during bankruptcy proceedings, rather than shutting down as Solyndra did. Also, Ener1 received widespread support over the past several years, netting a deal with the United States Advanced Battery Consortium and a U.S. Department of Defense research grant, and enjoyed bipartisan support.

Overall, it has been a tough time for electric-car battery makers, with demand for electric vehicles lower than expected. But the future is bright for the sector, argued Bloomberg New Energy Finance, with goals to get a million electric cars on the road within the next several years in both China and the U.S.

Also, the California Air Resources Board mandated that by 2025, roughly one in seven cars sold in the state would have to be plug-in hybrid, electric, or fuel-cell vehicles—a standard that 10 other states may likewise adopt.

Biofuels’ Big Footprint

Some of the most popular biofuels—made from palm oil or soybeans—cause more global warming than regular fossil fuels, and nearly as much as tar sands, according to a European Commission (EC) evaluation of biofuels, which was leaked to Euractiv.

Under the European Union’s 2009 Renewable Energy Directive, for biofuels to count toward the goal of increasing renewable energy, the biofuels must have substantially less emissions than regular gasoline. The EC will use the data on emissions when issuing new legislative proposals on biofuels this spring.

Today’s biofuels have such large emissions in large part because tropical forests are often cleared to grow them—and a new study found that such forests store about 20 percent more carbon than previously thought.

Carbon Labels, Glaciers Disappear

British supermarket chain Tesco pledged in 2007 to label all its products with their carbon footprint, but the company announced it has given up the plan since it proved too difficult, requiring several months of work for each product, and because other companies didn’t follow their lead.

In Chile, a new reason for glacier retreat arose: a thief stole five tons of ice from the Jorge Montt glacier, which he planned to sell as designer ice cubes for cocktails.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.