Energy & Environment

Which State is the Most Energy Efficient?

Eco Watch: “How does your state stack up when it comes to energy efficiency? The nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has just issued its eighth annual State Energy Efficiency Scoreboard, which assesses states based on policies that encourage energy savings, efficiency investments and jobs in the clean energy sector. So you can look it up.”

“The winner for the third straight year is Massachusetts.”

“North Dakota was dead last for the second year at 51. Also lagging in energy efficiency are Indiana and Kansas (tied at 40), South Carolina and Nebraska (tied at 42), Louisiana and Missouri (tied at 44), West Virginia (46), Alaska and Mississippi (tied at 47), South Dakota (49) and Wyoming (50).”


Climate Change Concerns Fuel South Florida Secession Proposal

The National Journal reports that the city of South Miami — prompted by climate change concerns — passed earlier this month a resolution to separate southern from northern Florida.

“South Florida is largely urban and leans left, he says, whereas the north—where the capital, Tallahassee, is located—is mostly rural and much more conservative.”

“The recent acceleration of climate change is what drove [South Miami vice mayor Walter Harris], who put forward the resolution for independence earlier this month, to action.”

“Economic and political divisions ‘would be reason enough’ to split, says Harris, ‘but now you add the reality of global warming.’ The rising sea level is of particular concern. Where the northern part of the state is on average 120 feet above sea level, much of the southern portion averages 15 feet above sea level, the resolution reads.”

“Harris says Tallahassee won’t do what needs to be done to address these problems. ‘We need to be able to deal with this situation with a government that recognizes that we’re not North Florida,’ he says.”

2014 Gearing Up to Hottest Year on Record

The Hill: “May, June, August and now September have broken global temperature records, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said, putting 2014 well on track to become the warmest year since record keeping began 135 years ago.”

“And altogether, from January to September, 2014 is tying 1998 and 2010 for the warmest years in recorded history, according to the data.”

“‘Every month to date in 2014 has been among its four warmest on record, with May, June, August, and September all record warm,’ NOAA’s report states, excluding only February.”

January–September Global Land and Ocean plot

Chart from NOAA

Republican Reaction to Gas Prices are as Volatile as the Prices

Danny Vinik: “Remember in early 2012, when gas prices were approaching $4 per gallon? Republicans were eager to blame President Obama for consumers having to pay more at the pump.”

“Those comments never made any sense, because Obama has very little control over gas prices, which are determined by global supply and demand … The president isn’t entirely powerless to affect prices, since he can approve drilling permits and pipelines to increase the supply of oil. But his influence is still limited. Even after the recent explosion in U.S. oil production, the country still produces just 10 percent of global crude.”

Now that gas prices have fallen, Republican praise is absent. And, Vinik states, rightly so.

“The president doesn’t deserve credit for lower gas prices, just as he didn’t deserve blame back in 2012.”


2014 Wind Installations Surpass 2013 Capacity

Bloomberg: “The U.S. added 419 megawatts of wind-power capacity in the third quarter, as installations in the first nine months surpassed all of last year, the American Wind Energy Association said.”

“Nineteen projects have added 1,254 megawatts this year, up from 1,088 megawatts in 2013 … The rate of growth in wind development has slowed in recent years as a federal credit has been allowed to repeatedly lapse by lawmakers. The tax was renewed by Congress last year and has expired again.”

“More than 20 percent of the nation’s existing 62,300 megawatts are in Texas, which had the largest rate of installations during the third quarter.”

An Increase in U.S. Air Pollution

Eco Watch: “Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration released today show that U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose 2.5 percent in 2013, from 5,267 million metric tons in 2012 to 5,396 million metric tons in 2013. This increase comes after two years of declining emissions.”

EIA cites two major reasons emissions rose in 2013:

  • Colder weather, which increased the demand for oil and natural gas to heat homes and drove an increase in residential sector emissions (nearly half of the total emissions increase in 2013).
  • More coal-fired electricity generation. Higher natural gas prices in 2013 resulted in a small shift back from natural gas to coal-fired generation.


Environmental Issues Are a Hot Topic This Election Season

New York Times: “Ads mentioning energy, climate change and the environment — over 125,000 spots and climbing on the Senate side — have surged to record levels during the 2014 midterm election cycle, reflecting the priorities of some of the nation’s wealthiest donors, with Democrats now pouring millions into campaigns to match Republicans, according to an analysis by Kantar Media/CMAG, which tracks political advertising.”

“In Senate races in the general election, the analysis found, energy and the environment are the third-most mentioned issue in political advertisements, behind health care and jobs.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 3.48.53 PM

Study Shows Natural Gas Won’t Slow Global Warming

Associated Press: A “new international study says an expansion of natural gas use by 2050 would also keep other energy-producing technologies like wind, solar and nuclear, from being used more. And those technologies are even better than natural gas for avoiding global warming.”

“Computer simulations show that emissions of heat-trapping gases to make electricity would not decline worldwide and could possibly go up, says the study, released Wednesday by the journal Nature.”

“Two computer models even found that when considering other factors like methane leaks, cheaper natural gas could lead to more trapping of heat by greenhouse gases.”

“The new results show it’s important to have a climate policy to go with cheap natural gas, said experts who weren’t part of the research.”

Republicans’ ‘Nutty’ Stand on Climate Change

Rebecca Leber questions why Mitch McConnell, who “often chides Obama for his lack of leadership” is now “willing to make an exception for climate change … McConnell said on Monday that he would rather the U.S. do less on climate change and let other countries take the lead.”

McConnell: “Well the president has been trying to take a leadership position, but of course nobody is interested in tying their hands behind their back and creating more problems for their people in pursuit of a goal they do not think we can achieve … My job is to look out for Kentucky’s coal miners.”

And Jonathan Chait contends that Paul Ryan is “a nut” for constantly dodging the question about the link between human activity and global warming.

“His ideological fantasies prevent him from accepting even basic scientific facts. He is, to be sure, a lucid nut, rather than a raving nut who accosts passersby on street corners. Ryan has spent his life imbibing the tenets of right-wing-movement thought, and he can apply the concepts he has learned to nearly any topic.”

“So while nuttery can be found on the left and right, it is not a bipartisan problem at the national level … If the Democrats let [Robert Kennedy Jr — a Democratic ‘nut’ –] write their party-policy manifesto, or gave him a spot on their presidential ticket, it would be very, very alarming. But Ryan is in a party where this sort of thing barely even attracts attention.”

Did Environmentalists Taint Obama Environmental Plan?

Jonathan Chait comments on recent Republican claims that the Obama administration’s climate agenda has been “improperly influenced by environmentalists.”

“The mere fact that it has become the subject of controversy exposes an import underlying fact about modern American politics. The Obama administration solicited feedback from industry as well as from environmental experts, and crafted a compromise plan designed to meet the administration’s emissions goals at the lowest possible cost while carrying out its legal mandate to regulate carbon.”

“It may not be a perfect plan, but it is surely a pluralistic one … In modern American politics, it describes policies within the Democratic Party, which draws support from business as well as labor, environmentalists, and consumer groups. The Republican Party’s economic coalition, by contrast, has a monolithic pro-business cast. Under the Bush administration, environmental policymaking was designed with input from business, especially the fossil fuel industry, with no significant input from environmentalists whatsoever.”

“Within the Republican Party, it has come to seem normal for environmental regulations to be crafted entirely along the lines demanded by business lobbyists. The existence of a significant lobbying role for environmentalists … seems to them scandalous.”

Pentagon: Climate Change Threatens National Security

Washington Post: “Drastic weather, rising seas and changing storm patterns could become ‘threat multipliers’ for the United States, vastly complicating security challenges faced by American forces, the Pentagon said in a new report on the impact of climate change released Monday.”

“The report, described as a ‘climate change adaptation roadmap,’ included a foreword from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in which he urged the nation’s military’s planners to grapple now with the implications of a warming planet, even as scientists are ‘converging toward consensus on future climate projections.’”

New York Times: “The Pentagon’s characterization of [climate change] as a present-day threat demanding immediate action represents a significant shift for the military, which has in the past focused on climate change as a future risk.”

Another New Temperature Record

The Hill: “Last month was the hottest September on record on the Earth’s surfaces, according to NASA.”

“September’s data, released Sunday, follows a summer of new record high temperatures for most months.”

“NASA’s data showed that Earth’s average temperature was 58.586 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1.386 degrees above the average for 1951 to 1980, which NASA uses as a benchmark.”

NASA Hottest September On Record Globally Pushes 2014 Closer To Hottest Year On Record ThinkProgress


Which State Wins the Award for Highest Carbon Emissions?

EcoWatch: “Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the 2013 figures for its Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, now in its fourth year. These figures show which states, as well as which industry sectors and which individual businesses, produce the most climate change-inducing greenhouse gas emissions. The undisputed winner—or loser, if you prefer—is Texas, with its well-established oil drilling industry and its rapidly growing fracked gas sector.”

“Texas far outpaced second-place finisher Indiana with more than double the amount of emissions. Texas produced more than 442 million metric tons of emissions; Indiana produced just under 260 million tons. Rounding out the top five were Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Ohio. On a per capital basis, Wyoming was the leader, with North Dakota and West Virginia not far behind. All three states have extensive fossil fuel extraction industries.”


Putting a Positive Spin on ‘Fracking’

Wall Street Journal: “In the PR battle over natural gas, the antidrilling ‘fracktivists’ have held the linguistic upper hand since ‘fracking’ carries negative connotations, and even sounds a bit obscene. But rather than avoiding the term, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group, has decided to embrace it.”

“A new ad campaign sponsored by the coalition seeks to rebrand the term … “Fracking is a good word,” says one actor in a commercial. A girl adds, ‘Fracking rocks.’”

“Since it is surely too late to erase “fracking” from the lexicon, could the new ad campaign work? Perhaps: just look at the Obama administration’s measured success in reclaiming ‘Obamacare.’ Consider it the rhetorical version of ‘If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.’”

Meanwhile, adding to fracking’s bad reputation, the Hill reports that “methane releases from energy production on federal lands have risen dramatically in recent years.”

“A report from the Center for American Progress estimated that venting and flaring … grew 135 percent between 2008 and 2013 on federal land.”

“CAP  found that venting and flaring are responsible for about 40 percent of total methane emissions throughout the natural gas production and refining process.

“The Interior Department is currently working on hydraulic fracturing rules for federal lands that will likely include venting and flaring rules.”