Conservation Update - August 2014

China Confronts its Coal Problem

“The Chinese government has indicated a strong desire—and made some specific proposals—to reduce its reliance on coal, a step that would be a welcome development for the Chinese people and the planet as a whole. But there is a lot we don’t know yet about Beijing’s strategy and whether it will be bold enough to have a meaningful effect on local air quality and climate change.” – NY Times Editorial Board


Commitment Accounting of CO2 Emissions

A new paper in Environmental Research Letters demonstrates the value to policymakers that calculating the full amount of emissions a power plant emits during its time of service has over tracking annual emissions of carbon dioxide, as is the typical current practice. The NY Times summarizes the paper’s argument and discusses the paper’s implications.


In this video, the Rocky Mountain Institute presents a case for why the conventional wisdom on baseload power is a myth. Lovins and the RMI demonstrate a way to “choreograph” multisource energy use that doesn’t require fossil fuel baseload plants or mass electrical storage. They argue that starting with a baseload of fossil fuels and nuclear is actual a much more costly way to ensure grid flexibility than taking a “renewables-first” approach.


Lake Erie Algae Bloom Crisis Is Putting Pressure on Ohio, Farm States to Tackle Agricultural Pollution Problems

The toxic algae bloom that led to the city of Toledo’s loss of drinking water is not just a local issue. In fact, “last year alone, 20 states reported nearly 150 separate toxic algal blooms in lakes, rivers and ponds,” including Nebraska. The algae is fed by phosphorus runoff from fertilized farms, cattle feedlots and leaky septic systems, dramatically impacting waterways across the nation. The problem is getting worse as use of “dissolved phosphorous fertilizers” increases and industrial scale ag production grows. Those working on the issue blame lack of state and local regulations on agricultural runoff as a leading obstacle to addressing the problem. Currently, “most state agencies tend to favor education- and research-oriented initiatives over more stringent measures, such as mandatory controls on agricultural runoff” and voluntary efforts.  


Nebraska Among the Dozen States to File Suit Against New Coal Rules

Twelve states filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration for its proposed rule designed to limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. The filing follows a suit brought six weeks ago by the country’s largest privately held coal mining company, Murray Energy Corp. The states that filed the suit include: Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming. These states argue that the EPA doesn’t have the authority to regulate existing coal-fired utilities under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.


Midterms Give Parties Chance for Sweeping Control of States

“At a time when Democrats and Republicans in control of statehouses are using their authority to push through ambitious policies that by contrast highlight the paralysis in Washington, the potential for further Republican gains has raised the possibility of deepening the policy divide between red and blue states. Republicans now control 59 of the 98 partisan legislative chambers, and have complete political control – both legislative houses and the governor’s mansion – in 23 states, while Democrats control 13. The total number of states ruled by a single political party, 36, is the highest in six decades.”