Cleaning Up Our Waters, Spending, and Energy Use Hot Pubs
Toxic Oil Dispersants: This month Toxipedia Consultants and Earthjustice released “The Chaos of Clean-Up: Analysis of Potential Health and Environmental Impacts of Chemicals in Dispersant Products.” The study responds to public concern over the safety of chemicals poured into the Gulf of Mexico to disperse oil after the Deepwater Horizon spill. According to the report, the dispersants lacked consistent toxicity testing, testing for non-acute impacts, and full information on their ingredients prior to their use to combat the spill. The research done on the dispersants found that of their 57 ingredients, 5 chemicals are associated with cancer, 33 with skin irritations, while 8 are suspected to be toxic to aquatic organisms and 5 are suspected to have moderate acute toxicity to fish.
Green Scissors: A Green Scissors 2011 report released this month suggests cuts in environmentally harmful government subsidies that could potentially save taxpayers over $380 billion over the next five years. The report, released by Friends of the Earth, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Public Citizen, and the Heartland Institute, targets spending in the areas of energy, agriculture, transportation, and land and water. Subsidies given to the oil and gas industry are specifically cited as unnecessary. According to the report, “Peabody Energy, the largest private sector coal company, earned record-breaking profits in 2008 and has already posted $461.3 million in profits in 2011, up 36 percent from the first six months of 2010. Consol Energy recorded near-record income of $540 million in 2009, and this year, first quarter profits nearly doubled from 2010 to reach $192 million.”
Clean Energy for the World’s Poor: Earlier this summer, ActionAid International, along with Oil Change International and the Vasudha Foundation in India released “Access to Energy for the Poor: The Clean Energy Option.” The report focuses on the dual benefit of increasing the world’s poorest population’s access to energy services and promoting clean energy sources for both development and the environment. The research highlights international, national, and local initiatives to increase access to clean energy services. It also stresses the role that multilateral development banks could play in funding the transition to a more sustainable energy future. Recommendations for the World Bank made in the report include focusing its energy lending on increasing energy access to the poor through “clean, decentralized energy sources,” clarifying its criteria for “’energy access,’ focusing on the world’s poorest,” and stopping lending for fossil fuels with the exception of “extreme cases where there is clearly no other viable option for increasing energy access to the poor.” The report found that currently only 9 percent of the World Bank Group’s energy portfolio in FY 2009 and 2010 targeted increasing energy access for the world’s poorest populations.
Improving Water Use: The Nature Conservancy, partnered with PepsiCo, released a report, “Striving for Positive Water Impact” this month discussing the launch of five “Positive Water Impact pilot projects focused on understanding the watershed conditions and restoration opportunities for a group of diverse manufacturing plants in different parts of the world.” The research behind the projects worked to identify sub-watersheds for restoration, possible steps for improving water conditions, and the costs and benefits associated with these activities. The report highlights mitigation efforts underway in each of the pilot sites, located in the US, UK, China, India, and Mexico; efforts that include irrigation system upgrades, wastewater re-use, rainfall retention, rainwater harvesting, and rehabilitation of “defunct water infrastructure in local villages.”
The Western Energy Grid: On August 24, 2011, with support from the Western Clean Energy Advocates (WCEA), the Western Grid Group (WGG) released “Western Grid: 2050: Contrasting Futures, Contrasting Fortunes.” Based on the fact that over $200 billion will be invested in the western electricity sector by 2030, the report considers two opposing routes the electricity grid’s development course could follow through the year 2050, comparing their economic, environmental, security, and public health impacts. The first trajectory, a “Business As-Usual” approach, focuses discretionary investment on “retrofitting, repowering and adding coal generation and on meeting any incremental needs with new gas-fired generation” while the second, a “Clean Energy Vision,” focuses this investment on implementing renewable energy technologies. In comparing the two paths, the report finds that the Clean Energy Vision emits significantly less carbon dioxide and relative to 2010 water use, reduces “water use for electricity generation by 50 percent.”
Coal Capacity at Risk: On August 26, 2011, PJM Interconnection, the main regional transmission organization covering 13 states and the District issued “Coal Capacity at Risk for Retirement in PJM: Potential Impacts of the Finalized EPA Cross State Air Pollution Rule and Proposed National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants.” The report focuses on PJM’s estimated impacts of these regulations on the amount of coal-fired generating capacity that may be eliminated. Even with the projection that “as much as 20,000 MW of coal-fired capacity are at risk for retirement in PJM, with as much as 4,400 MW of that capacity located in the Mid-Atlantic region,” there remain announced commitments to replace a portion of that capacity, the potential for new entry from Demand Resources, and unthreatened resource adequacy. The PJM report’s estimates challenge claims by several coal plant operators and some members of Congress that electric system reliability is threatened by coal plant retirements that could occur as a result of EPA’s new pollution rules.
New Yorker’s Feelings on Fracking: On August 11 Quinnipiac University released the findings of a statewide New York poll evaluating public opinion on drilling in the Marcellus Shale. The results indicate that, by a 47 – 42 percent margin, New York voters support the economic benefits of drilling for natural gas in the Shale more than they fear the possible environmental impacts of the fracking. The independent poll also found that respondents believe 75 – 17 percent that “natural gas drilling will create jobs…with strong support among all groups and in all regions of the state.” Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute says the poll shows New Yorkers want to “drill for the jobs…even though they’re worried about the environmental effects of hydro-fracking.” Results show voters believe 52 – 15 percent that the process will damage the environment, while 33 percent are undecided.
Coloradans Blame Oil Companies for Gas Prices: An August 2011 poll conducted by Keating research and commissioned by the Checks and Balances Project found a large majority of Colorado residents in favor of a reduction in oil price speculation and market manipulation to lower gas prices. The survey, conducting through live telephone polling between May 24-26, 2011, found 77 percent of Colorado voters believe that “reducing oil consumption through efficiency would be an effective way to reduce prices.” The results of the poll were released to the public just as the Americans for Prosperity “Running on Empty” tour, which has been promoting increased oil drilling, began its stops in Colorado. Based on 603 interviews with Colorado voters, the survey found seven out of ten respondents “favor diversification of the sources of energy by creating a national renewable electricity standard that requires 20 percent of electricity” to come from renewable sources.
Cooling Climate Concern: This month Nielsen released the results of its “2011 Global Online Environment and Sustainability Survey” which compiled Internet responses of more than 25,000 people in 51 countries. The updated findings, when compared to the results from 2007 and 2009, found that while 69 percent of respondents say they are concerned about climate change, up from 66 percent in 2009, concern for other environmental issues is of higher and increasing priority. The area of concern growing the fastest among 73 percent of global online consumers is on the “use of pesticides, packaging waste and water shortages, with reported concern increasing 16, 14, and 13 percentage points, respectively.” The results also saw the United States concern about climate change drop 14 percentage points from 2007 to 2011, with less than half (48%) of Americans reporting that they are concerned about the issue.