Tag Archives: Hot topics in energy

Energy in 2050: Chapel Hill’s Predictions

Question: In 2050, what fuel do you think the US will mostly be using for energy?

Emily

Emily

Nuclear. Because coal and fossil fuel energy resources are unsustainable and I think science can catch up to make nuclear energy safe for the mass population.”

 


RichardRichard

Probably fossil fuels. Probably. I don’t think there’s enough time to switch over. I don’t think people are willing to buy different cars or electric cars, they want their big trucks and other vehicles.”

 


EbonyEbony

I would hope that we would move towards more sustainable energy resources, but…considering the results of the 2015 goals set by the United Nations, almost ten years ago, considering how those goals are largely unmet now…I feel like we’ll still be on fossil fuels and dependent upon them for the future.”


JeremyJeremy

In 2050 I would say it’s going to be a combination of multiple energy sources, combination of wind, solar, hydroelectric—I don’t think we do enough of hydroelectric—fossil fuels, probably. Honestly, some things you’re not gonna be able to get away from. But definitely more of renewables.”


SamanthaSamantha

I’d say probably not fossil fuels. That certainly doesn’t seem feasible in thirty-five years, or at least not wise… It seems like there’s a lot of progress, especially in biological resources and like waste products with current processes and paper mills and things like that, so maybe there’s a chance to come up with creative solutions that involve potentially renewable resources… A lot of people talk about wind power, but I’m thinking it’s going to be more subtle.”


LukeLuke

I would certainly hope it would be wind or solar or hydroelectric something like that, at that point, but I feel like we’ll still be winding down fossil fuels. Hopefully we’ll be at the tail end of it. But I’m not sure which renewable energy source at that point, so I’ll say natural gas or fossil fuels at this point. As kind of a safe guess. But hopefully I’m wrong.”


Vincent Vincent

“I hope it’ll be clean and renewable. I think it will be a mix of clean and still fossil fuels, I don’t know which ones. Natural gas might be on the increase.”

 

 


StephanieStephanie

I guess solar energy would probably be used much more than it’s used now and I feel like we’ll have the technology to be able to use it in more areas in our lives.”

 

 


 

ReggieReggie

Probably the sun. Solar power. It’s gonna be easier to absorb and there’s going to be less problems because everything’s going solar now. At 2050, probably cars going to be solar. Gonna have a big panel on there and it’s gonna be driving by then. It’s a good thing because it’s good for the environment.”


2016-01-26 12.29.36Blake

“I’ve got no clue. I guess I’ll say solar power or something, why not. I guess we’re sort of moving in that direction [renewables]. By 2050, with all the new technology that will come out over the years, it seems like it’s sort of heading that way.”

 

Is the electric car going to recharge the transportation industry?

As countries become more preoccupied with lowering carbon emissions, electric cars have surged in popularity. Various limitations have historically hindered the movement from dominating the market. However, recent developments in battery life and charging stations are making this alternative more viable.

Judging by the Nissan LEAF, debatably the best affordable electric car, technology must still develop. The 2016 LEAF has a range of 107 miles, and takes 5 hours to charge. These numbers are simply not very appealing to the average American.

However, exciting new technologies are developing for electric cars, like inductive charging. This charges a battery without actual contact, just close proximity.

Batteries themselves are also getting reengineered. Researchers are developing lithium air batteries, which would make driving cheaper and extend driving range. The technology fits current energy levels into a battery the size of a gas tank.

There are many different directions currently being pursued to extend battery life besides lithium air. For example, carbon nanotubes, lithium silicon, and copper nanowire cathode lithium are all potential solutions. These processes are complex and still unsuccessful, but could vastly improve the electric car market.

But, there are some who doubt these improvements are attainable in the near future. Although there are many different ideas, no one has actually made a significantly improved battery.

Luckily, since carbon emissions have become such a heated topic, there are plenty of researchers. Tesla is developing a new car that has a baseline of 200 miles. It costs only $35,000, much cheaper than former models and accessible to more Americans.

As electric cars increase in popularity, charging space begins to become a problem. Many areas with charging stations already have fewer chargers than cars that need energy. This problem is only going to worsen as more people begin to eschew gasoline.

Two potential solutions are drastically shortening charging times or enabling charging while driving. One company thinks it can shorten charging time to around 15 minutes. This would help lower crowding because people could wait to charge, then park somewhere else.

Charging while driving would practically eliminate any wait to charge altogether. London has recently started testing traffic lanes that will add power to electric cars. This would also provide a traffic incentive for people to switch from gas to electric.

The issue of cost also needs to be solved for electric cars to be practical. Tesla has models at over $70,000, but hopes to release more affordable cars soon. Other brands like VW and Chevy already have more affordable cars, like the Chevy Volt.

While the electric car industry still faces many obstacles, progress is being made. Soon, technology should meet the public’s expectations and we will see an electric car takeover. Gasoline will finally be eliminated from our main transportation system.

Excess Oil: What it Really Means

There is a lot of oil in the world now. Brent crude oil serves as a global benchmark price, and it has gotten cheap. Prices have dropped 70% in the last 18 months, a barrel is now under $30. source link

This drop is bad for the global economy. European shares are down and Chinese stocks have dropped 20 percent from their December peak. A Thursday report showed $380 billion worth of global projects has been postponed by the oil industry. source link

Oil production is not showing signs of slowing down anytime soon. OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) decided not to change their oil production goal. The organization is made of the following countries: Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. source link

Although Venezuela, an OPEC member, has suffered greatly, the organization still won’t budge. Saudi Arabia is determined not to let the price drop of oil affect their country. It plans on cutting country-wide costs by 10% to offset the loss of cheap oil. source link

The Obama Administration’s Climate Change Policy has weakened the coal industry. The United States of America have stopped increasing oil production. The country promises to lessen the effect of closing coal mines. source link

Obama has announced his plan to go about this crucial step towards clean energy. He will help reinvest money in fossil fuel centered places. These investments will spur economic activity and train people to properly engage in it. source link

Congress passed a spending bill last month which included $10 million to support Appalachian economy development programs alone. President Obama requested that the 2017 fiscal year include $1 billion to advance retired coal communities. source link

Despite the impending global surplus of oil, Iran will soon be adding more. Predicted at half-a-million barrels a day, Iran will add to the global surplus. This has been made possible by the Nuclear Deal with Iran, and the lifted sanctions. source link

The timing of this global surplus is far from ideal. As modern global citizens, we are experiencing efforts to decrease energy consumption and environmental impact. Countries are turning more towards renewable energy sources, deeming excess oil useless. source lin

So much oil is being produced and we can’t use it all. Global demand is at an all-time low. Oil is plentiful and useless as it gets warehoused and loaded onto supertankers for storage at sea. source lin

This drop in demand is slightly countered as countries like China and India build reserves. source link

This global oil surplus has already been shown to wage war on the electric car again. Electric and hybrid vehicle sales are down, while SUV and pickup sales are up. People care more about money and cars than the environment. source link

Conspiracy theories are floating about, citing Saudi and American motive to hurt Russia and Iran. These theories lack evidence though. Neither country is in a position to focus on coordinating another country’s slow economic demise. source link

Hydroelectricity: The Carbon Black Sheep of Renewable Energy – Draft

Renewable energy is usually seen as radically new and pure harnessing of earth’s elemental forces. But one renewable energy has always stood apart in history, politics, and market share. Hydropower has millennia of history, longer than coal’s, though hydroelectricity did come after coal-powered electricity.

Hydroelectricity has been politically and financially separated from renewable technologies. In 1993, the World Energy Council’s alternate fuels only listed nuclear, biomass, and hydro energies. With biomass and nuclear energies losing popularity while others fight for footholds, hydroelectricity stands unique.

In the USA, though renewable energy is a politically colored, hydroelectricity is not. Jay Faison, conservative donor and businessman, says Pres. Obama could “change the clean energy debate.” How? With proposals Republicans see as more neutral, like hydroelectricity.

If you want an established, big business energy that’s not fossil fuel, hydroelectricity is it. It provides 16% of the world’s energy and is considered essential in many countries.

China, Brazil, Canada, Russia, and America have the greatest hydropower capacity, China highest of all. But it is also seen as a possible middle way to poorer countries’ development-versus-environment conundrum. World Bank Pres. Jim Yong Kim sees it as resolution to “the tension between economic development and…tam[ing] carbon use.”

However, the World Bank takes a risk putting this forward again after the 1990s failure. Sierra Club spokesman Justin Guay warns, “There needs to be a clear shift from large, centralized projects.” While centralized, symbolic dams may be just what countries want, the effects can be dire.

Dams are on the bank notes of countries like Mozambique, Kyrgyzstan, and Sri Lanka. The Amazon, Congo, and Mekong river basins are seen as rich frontiers for hydropower. In 2015, India did not outright reject any proposed hydroelectricity projects.

Unfortunately, federal governments can overlook damages both in greenhouse gases and to localities. For example, Colombia’s government has continued to support El Quimbo Dam’s operation despite environmental damage. It was shut down in December—now reopened provisionally—for failing to remove reservoir biomass.

Reservoir biomass is a source of the greenhouse gas methane just like livestock and landfills. Filling reservoirs inevitably destroys habitat, creating the biomass as well as damaging biodiversity and fisheries. Such environmental costs aren’t well studied, but people are asking, Is hydroelectricity even green energy?

Then there is the human impact, with locals getting displaced and leapfrogged by profits. Everything from fishing to living space can be affected. China’s Three Gorges Dam, the world’s most productive dam, spent $26 billion on environmental offset.

Then there is the question whether it’s sustainable. With climate change—which dams may boost—water flow will become rarer and more erratic. Bhutan, India, and other areas are concerned with reduced capacity.

It is possible that dams or dam systems could help manage freshwater. Generally, hydroelectricity is seen as a good backup system for other types of renewable energy. Or they could spread energy by storage support with pumped storage hydropower.

Hydroelectricity investing countries need to know, is hydroelectricity salvageable in the world to come? Yes, say International Rivers, if there is more research and dams are smaller and installed considerately. With humility and willingness to research, hydroelectricity may ripen green yet.

Algae: From Fish Food to Fuel?

 

You may have heard of the benefits of algae in beauty products or healthy snacks. Incidentally, the same algal properties that nourish fish and humans are also ideal for alternative fuels. Recent technological and design developments may mean that algal fuels are now ripe for production.

 

Biofuels: The Basics

Biofuels operate a bit like the feeding and metabolism of an animal. Plant cells are harvested and processed into a form that is usable by various engines. The fuel is then consumed and combusted to produce energy.

 

The choice of our energy source is like ordering a salad instead of French fries. Hopefully, biofuels will hopefully prove to be a healthier diet for our motorized world.

 

The goal with algae and other biofuel sources is to extract lipids (fats) that become biodiesel. Some algae also excrete substances that can be used as biofuel ingredients. The fuel can then be used in a regular diesel engine and blended with traditional fuels.

 

The case for algae production over other biofuel sources is strong, according to Exxon. Algae weighs in at a sizeable 2,000 gallons of fuel per acre of production. This dwarfs the 650 gallons from palm trees, 450 from sugar canes, and 250 from corn.

 

 

Smart Design

            Production

            In recent years, algae are increasingly being cultured in clear bags called “bioreactors”. The bags contain algae and various inputs used for growth- all warmed by the sun. Imagine a fully-seasoned, steam-in-bag microwavable meal (that also powers your truck).

This versatile design enables algae culturing facilities to emerge anywhere- from desert plateaus to lakes. Recent algal production also takes advantage of the natural characteristics of an area. A center in Mobile Bay, AL uses the bay water as both coolant and wave-powered mixer.

 

Processing

In earlier years, algal fuels were dismissed because of the cost-prohibitive expense of processing. However, new alternative methods using heat extraction may make this biofuel more profitable.

 

Using extreme heat, algal-sewage mixtures are cooked into sludge and then sent off for refining. Algae Systems of Alabama are credited as the pioneers of this new method.

 

Hydrothermal processing extracts biofuel ingredients out of algal proteins and carbohydrates as well as lipids. This means more of the algae is used for fuel production, which increases yield per unit. Algae Systems has bypassed the energy-intensive, expensive extraction and processing methods of the past.

 

Compatibility

 

The molecular structures of algal fuels are also highly similar to petroleum products. This means that these fuels need no special accommodations or adaptations for current infrastructure. Subsequently, algal fuels are more desirable than other biofuels that require technology modifications before use.

 

Waste Not

           

Algal producers have also capitalized on location to expand the usefulness and profits of algae. Production centers are being built next to existing fuel plants to take advantage of wastes.

 

Since algae take up CO2, companies are now coupling with existing natural gas processing plants. While the algae doesn’t remove the carbon permanently, it recycles it before it is discharged. In effect, two different types of fuel can be produced on the pollution of one.

 

Algae Systems of Alabama has applied this same idea to a sewage treatment facility. Algae filters the wastewater, which in turn acts as a fertilizer for the algae. It’s a win-win that also increases the profit margin for algal producers.

 

“Green” Expanding

In addition to providing pollutant-cycling services, algal fuels generate alternative energy credits for traditional fuel companies. Exxon Mobile, has already invested $600 million in algal fuels. While criticized as an empty gesture, this may also mark a step in the right direction.

Algal fuels and biofuels in general are investments that require foresight. They require time and further cultivation before they can become truly established and competitive. However, these initial investments may bring more and pave the way for greener, cleaner energy.

 

Sources:

 

A New Test For Energy and Biofuel, Aug. 16 2009, New York Times

 

Exxon to Invest Millions to Make Fuel from Algae, July 13 2009, New York Times

 

Seeing Purpose and Profit in Algae, Aug. 18 2014, New York Times

 

Another Path to Biofuels, Nov. 23 2012, New York Times

 

Exploring Algae as Fuel, July 26 2010, New York Times

 

Algae as Fuel of the Future Faces Great Expectations, Sept. 17 2009, New York Times

 

Canada Produces Strain of Algae for Fuel, Sept. 29 2010, New York Times

 

German Building uses Algae for Heating and Cooling, April 25 2013, New York Times

 

Biofuels- the Green Blog, March 1 2013, New York Times

 

Study Examines Costs and Benefits of Algae, Jan. 25 2010, New York Times

 

Algae Emerges as a Potential Fuel Source, Dec. 2 2007, New York Times

 

Energy Deregulation in North Carolina

Energy Deregulation in North Carolina

 

Today in the United States, sixteen states have deregulated electricity and twenty-two have deregulated natural gas. This map by Quantum Gas shows deregulation by state. As states continue to vote to enact or repeal deregulation, it remains a controversial issue nationwide.

 

Why was energy regulated in the first place?

In a regulated electricity market, only the utility can sell electricity directly to the consumer. Consumers who want to buy electricity can only buy from the local utility. There is no competitive pricing because a regulatory body sets the electricity rates.

Energy regulation began soon after electricity and gas started becoming available to consumers. The necessary infrastructure to create and transport energy was not well formed yet. Lots of companies building small pieces of infrastructure meant that electricity service was spotty and unreliable.

The government granted utilities monopolies in their areas in response to these coverage issues. The catch? The utilities were legally obligated to provide energy to all consumers at all times.

Now that the transmission infrastructure exists, some states are voting to deregulate their electricity markets.

 

What is a deregulated electricity market?

In a deregulated electricity market, approved providers can sell energy to consumers. These approved providers are called Retail Electricity Providers, or REPs. Consumers can choose from which REP they buy electricity.

There is no set price for electricity, so in theory a deregulated system functions as a free market. Deregulation allows competition between energy suppliers, but keeps the utility’s transmission and delivery infrastructure. Though the local utility does not have guaranteed returns, it is still responsible for maintaining that infrastructure.

 

What’s going on with deregulation in North Carolina?

North Carolina has not deregulated electricity or gas and deregulation in the immediate future seems unlikely. The North Carolina legislature has not been receptive to recent proposals to allow non-utility companies to sell energy.

Last year the legislature voted down House Bill 245, the Energy Freedom Act. The bill would have allowed companies to install solar panels on homes and sell the electricity directly to the residents.

North Carolina has debt from building expensive nuclear plants, which could prove problematic for deregulation legislation. Michael Walden, an NC State researcher, says that debt would make electricity rates initially rise under deregulation.

Walden also predicts that energy prices would later fall by 15 to 20%. However, paying off the debt in a free market would put Duke Energy at a disadvantage. Debt issues aside, existing monopolies like Duke are likely to use their political power to keep the regulated system and their monopolies.

 

So which one is better for me?

Ah, this is where it gets tricky. Proponents of deregulation maintain that the resulting competition will drive down prices. They also argue that deregulation will pave the way for increased renewable energy use.

Those against deregulation cite a lack of responsibility for long-term energy projects. Since no company is legally accountable for providing electricity, they are likely to operate with short-term gains in mind. Additionally, companies want to make the most profit possible and may focus on more lucrative big electricity users.

So your opinion might depend on how well you think the free market works for smaller energy consumers. Competition could potentially bring your electricity prices down and increase use of renewables. But with no responsibility for providing energy, companies could also focus on the more profitable large customers instead of average consumers.

 

References:

  • “Deregulation,” Just Energy, 2015
  • “How Electric Choice Works,” AEP Energy, 2016
  • “How Energy Deregulation Works,” American Power and Gas, 2016
  • “Electricity Regulation Doesn’t Work in the Real World,” The Arizona Republic, 2013
  • “Game-Changing Energy Freedom Bill,” NC Warn, 2015
  • “Deregulation Ahead for NC Power Companies?” WRAL News, 1999.
  • “Top 10 Things You Should Know About Energy Deregulation in the United States,” Electric Choice, 2015
  • “AEP, Sierra Club Back Profit-Plan Guarantee,” The Columbus Dispatch, 2016
  • “In Texas Power Market, Flighty Customers Pose Challenge,” The Dallas Morning News, 2015
  • “Electric Shadyland: How Power Companies Rip You Off,” Mother Jones, 2014
  • “Electric Restructuring,” Customers First! Coaltion, 2016

 

New Innovations are Changing the Energy Conversation

The prospect of grid defection is likely making utility companies shake in their boots. Defection is the idea that energy consumers rely less on the traditional grid system. Shifting away from the grid won’t be immediate but some think it to be imminent.

Alternative energy technologies are getting cheaper, but they are not ready to replace the grid. Renewable energy storage is still inefficient and expensive. The variability of alternative energy, like wind and solar, make storage a high priority.

Effective and affordable storage technology may not be here yet, but it’s getting close. Tesla made waves in the renewable energy sector last year when they introduced the Powerwall. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the goal is to transform the world’s energy infrastructure.

It may be too early for Tesla to talk about such large scale changes. But, the world should be paying attention to the company’s latest innovations.

The wall unit powers a house after being charged by the grid or solar panels. The idea is to avoid peak electricity rates by charging at night. People who have solar panels can aim to be grid-free with the batteries.

The Powerwall technology has been popular among larger companies, but homeowners are not rejoicing yet. Tesla and other companies developing batteries will have to continue innovating to overcome some issues.

Tesla’s Powerwall alone costs around $3000, and then there is the cost of installation. The battery would help your energy bill but not eliminate it. The average American will not invest in something that takes years to pay itself back.

Buying a Powerwall makes the most sense if you already have solar panels. Storing free energy is the desired effect – not just cheaper energy. Low-income households will have to wait awhile to see any benefit from this technology.

The Powerwall is more of an electricity backup right now – an expensive luxury. A typical American household uses 31 kWh a day. A Powerwall can only hold 7 kWh at one time, enough for a few appliances.

Batteries that are hitting the market now are not perfect, but people are paying attention. An Australian power company just installed the nation’s first Powerwall for a 12-month study. The company hopes to show the potential benefits of integrating batteries into the grid system.

Utility companies should be considering adapting to a changing energy infrastructure, not fighting it. Advancements in solar technology and energy storage give hope to a greener future. Whether or not the grid will be part of that future is still uncertain.

Tesla Powerwall Battery Product. May 1, 2015. CNN.com.

Why Tesla’s Announcment Could be such a Big Deal. May 1, 2015. Washington Post.

 

 

Natural Gas Leaks Across the US

Natural Gas Leaks Across the U.S.

What is a Natural Gas Leak?

A natural gas leak occurs when natural gas escapes from a natural gas storage facility. Methane, the main component of natural gas, spews out of these facilities into the atmosphere1. Methane is not only dangerous to the environment but also to living organisms2.

Natural gas is stored in facilities around the country to provide us with energy. Natural gas is quickly becoming an extremely prominent source of energy in the US. Natural Gas can also escpae into the atmosphere through natural sources9.

 

Why Are Natural Gas Leaks So Dangerous?

Methane can cause short-term health effects to humans, including, dizziness, headaches and vomiting3. Although no long-term effects have been observed, the short-term effects can be severe. Residents in areas of a gas leak often must be displaced1.

Methane has also been rumored to affect domestic animals, causing nosebleeds and shortness of breath. Residents in areas with gas leaks have observed animals falling ill and even dying4. However, little scientifically is known on what effect methane has on domestic animals.

The main concern of methane is the long-term effect this gas has on the environment. Methane, a greenhouse gas, is an extremely significant contributor to climate change5. Scientists estimate that methane warms the earth at 84 times the rate of carbon dioxide6.

 

Where in the U.S. Are These Leaks Happening?

The most recent Natural Gas leak has occurred in Porter Ranch, California7. The leak, caused by Southern California Gas Company, has been occurring since October 23rd 8. The California governor has declared a state of emergency, and 2,200 households have been displaced9.

The October 23rd leak is the largest natural gas leak in California’s history10. Stopping the leak has proved to be tricky, and could take up to four months6. The leak is coming from a mile and a half underground, making it a tough fix8.

However, California residents aren’t the only ones who will feel the effects. The leak’s impact on global warming is comparable to driving 4.5 million cars a day5. Environmental scientists communicate that this leak will affect everyone across the globe as temperatures rise.

Without a solution, 110,000 pounds of methane will continue to leak into the atmosphere hourly9. The leak negates California’s ambitious pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions in coming years6. Estimates predict this leak has the same environmental effect as do six coal-fired plants daily5.

These leaks aren’t limited to California or even the United States. Leaks are prevalent all across the globe, some leaks more serious than others. A leak in Venezuela spewed 10 times the amount of methane as the California leak1.

To slow climate change, natural gas leaks around the world must be reduced.

 

  1. “Shocking study shows how much methane leaked globally”, January 18, 2016, The Weather Network
  2. “California Natural Gas Leak is Just One of Thousands Across the Country” January 18, 2016, PBS Newshour
  3. “California Governor Declares Emergency Over Porter Ranch Gas Leak” January 7, 2016, CNN
  4. “Natural Gas Leak Near Los Angeles May Be Sickening To Animals” January 18, San Jose Mercury News
  5. “This is How Much the California Gas Leak is Hurting The Planet”, January 14, 2016, Time Magazine
  6. “Dangerous Methane Leak Requires Emergency Measures”, January 7, 2016, Scientific American
  7. “Huge California Gas Leak Will Come to an End In February, Utility Says” January 19, 2016, Huffington Post
  8. “Stopping Natural Gas Leak Near Los Angeles is a Complex Fix” January 9, 2016, The ABC News
  9. “Thousands Sickened, Toxic Gas Leak Containment Plans Delayed” January 17, 2016, The Weather Network
  10. “California Residents Vent Frustrations over State’s Biggest Gas Leak” January 16, 2016, Yahoo News

Diesel Fuel: The Not So Safe Alternative

Carbon dioxide emissions have always taken most of the blame for climate change. Looking to reduce harmful emissions, politicians in the 1990’s turned towards diesel-fueled cars.4 Little did these leaders know that diesel engines would too produce dangerous health hazards.

The rise of these cars led to the rise of airborne nitrogen oxides and soot. These harmful pollutants negatively affect the lungs and respiratory system, as well as form smog. Children and the elderly are especially at risk for adverse health effects from the emissions.

Individual countries have taken unique strides to reduce the level of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. In the United States, regulations set an emission limit of 70 milligrams per mile. States can then take further action and adopt individualized programs that reduce NOx emissions.

The regulations in places like the New England states initially reduced the nitrogen oxide levels. Unfortunately, there was a surge in levels that were collected in a 2014 on-road test. The California Resource Board took the first steps in the investigation against diesel-fueled cars.3

This board found Volkswagen vehicles producing different emissions under tests than when on the road. Volkswagen admitted that their software detected the environment and reduced NOx emissions under testing. Eleven million vehicles on US roads are producing almost 40 times the legal NOX level.7

The EPA has estimated that around 500,000 vehicles have affected engines. This does not include the larger number of international vehicles that are illegally operating. Audi and Porshe diesel models were too most recently found using this method of cheating.3

Developments to decrease NOx emissions have been made, starting with this discovery. The EPA is forcing Volkswagen to recall seven of its models in the United States. A civil lawsuit has also been filed against Volkswagen by the Justice Department.6

It is hard to undo the harm that has been done. Investigations are occurring both nationally and globally to try and prevent further damage. The vehicle industry is looking to the European Commission for a more representative emissions test.4

Diesel sales have been declining, and took a steep drop after this scandal. Europe will likely make the largest impact when they force cars off the road. A step away from diesel would reduce the largest contributor to NOx pollution: road transportation.8

Alternative diesel cars are made with particulate filters, which offer reduced pollutant emissions.2 Others have catalytic converters which use ammonia to produce water and harmless nitrogen.9 Both developments are noteworthy but not the ultimate solution.

A risk to these improvements is the possible switch back to gasoline-powered cars. This alternative is by no means a better solution. The cleanest way of road transportation is the use of no fuel at all.

 

Bibliography

  1. Ranault Raid Exposes Foul Plan on Clean Diesel, January 18, 2016

Wichita Falls Times Record News (TX) (America’s News)

  1. A Look Back at 2015, December 29, 2015

Appeal-Democrat (Marysville – Yuba City, CA) (America’s News)

  1. How Volkswagen Got Away With Diesel Deception, January 5, 2016

The New York Times

  1. Volkswagen: The Scandal Explained, December 10, 2015

BBC News

  1. Pollution- VW Denied Deception for a Year, September 22, 2015

Houston Chronicle (TX) (America’s News)

  1. Volkwagen’s Nightmare is About to Get Worse: Here Come the Class Action Lawyers, September 22, 2015

BuzzFeed News

  1. How much Pollution did VW’s Emission Cheating Create?, October 9, 2015

The LA Times

  1. Emissions Scandl: How the Drive for Diesel Ran Out of Gas, September 30, 2015

The Guardian

  1. How the Newest Diesel Engines Emit Very Little Greenhouse Gas Nitrous Oxide, September 14, 2013

Targeted News Service (USA) (America’s News)

  1. CISD Bus Fleet makes the Grade for Clean Air- Environmental Firms Applaud District’s Efforts to Reduce Fumes from Engines, March 6, 2006

Houston Chronicle (TX) (America’s News)

Energy-Efficient Policies and Regulations

The boundaries of power of the United States government are constantly being pushed. As technology advances, it is becoming increasingly easier to use energy efficiently. The government has the power and is justified to promote energy efficiency.

There are multiple ways the government can “nudge” citizens in efficient directions. Experts believe internalizing energy costs, changing the tax structure, and informing the public could all help. The government is implementing some measures to increase energy efficiency despite opposition.

The Senate struck down an energy bill in 2014. It was meant to provide mandates that would improve building efficiency. If passed, it would have been the first major energy legislation since 2007.

President Obama responded to the bill’s failure by promoting the Better Buildings Challenge. This initiative commits participants to cutting energy usage by 20% by 2020. Companies such as Wal-Mart, General Mills, Volvo, and Wholefoods pledged to reach this goal.

Obama also pushed for eco-friendly legislation, an on-going battle that continues in the bipartisan government.

“President Obama is committed to taking responsible steps to address climate change, promote clean energy and energy efficiency, drive innovation, and ensure a cleaner, more stable environment for future generations,” the Obama Administration released in a press statement in August 2015. This press statement went on to outline what his steps entail.

His policies promote the implementation of energy-efficient technologies in low-income housing. They toughen mileage rules on cars and trucks. Energy-efficient standards for appliances were strengthened and new loans boosted green energy sources.

Most recently, the Obama administration halted new leases for coal mining on federal lands. The EPA has also released new regulation to stem carbon pollution from power plants.

These regulations have hit home in some states more than others.

Democrat presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have expressed their agreement with these policies.

Not everyone is as happy though. “The president’s policies have already ravaged coal country, destroying jobs and people’s way of life, and this will increase that suffering,” House Speaker Paul Ryan responded to the new coal policy.

Critics state that regulation and policy reform is not necessary. The cost of energy itself should provide incentive for choosing energy efficient options. However, many believe efficiency must be regulated because people won’t always make the smartest choice.

The Supreme Court will assess one of the Obama administration regulations for constitutionality. The regulation deals with electrical grid operators paying customers to reduce consumption at peak times. The judges will come out with their decision by June 2016.

 

 

Citations

Obama Steers Climate Battle “Upstream” With New Coal Policy

National Journal: Web Edition Articles (USA) – January 15, 2016

The Experts: How Should Governments Encourage Energy Conservation?

The Wall Street Journal- April 17, 2013 10:31 a.m. ET

FACT SHEET: President Obama Announces New Actions to Bring Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency to Households across the Country

The White House: Office of the Press Secretary – August 24, 2015

Energy Efficiency: Markets or Mandates?

September 1, 2014 – The Sallan Foundation

Obama push keeps energy efficiency moving

TODAY – May 14, 2014

Find Policies & Incentives by State

NC Clean Energy Technology Center

Who Are You Calling Irrational?

June 1, 2015 – U.S. News and World Report

Supreme Court to review U.S. electricity market efficiency rule

May 4, 2015 – Reuters

National Energy Policy

American Council for an Energy- Efficient Economy

Four reasons to be wary of energy-efficiency mandates

May 1, 2015 – Brookings