Month: December 2013

DLA Energy Biofuel Feedstock Metrics Study

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Results and assessment framework developed by LMI in the performance of a Defense Logistics Agency Energy commissioned study to: establish a foundation for the ongoing assessment of emerging feedstocks and biofuel pathways; meet future military service demand for next-generation, drop-in operational biofuels; and contribute to the achievement of national security, energy, environmental, and mission sustainability goals.

Keeping it simple: Can EnergyPoints make environmental decisions easier?

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Massachusetts entrepreneur Ory Zik’s EnergyPoints software converts complex environmental impacts into a gallon-of-gasoline equivalent, and Fortune 500 companies already use it.

Note that U.S. EPA also has several greenhouse gas equivalencies calculators available at no charge.

How Plastic In The Ocean Is Contaminating Your Seafood

Read the full story at NPR.

We’ve long known that the fish we eat are exposed to toxic chemicals in the rivers, bays and oceans they inhabit. The substance that’s gotten the most attention — because it has shown up at disturbingly high levels in some fish — is .

But mercury is just one of a slew of synthetic and organic pollutants that fish can ingest and absorb into their tissue. Sometimes it’s because we’re dumping chemicals right into the ocean. But as a published recently in Nature, Scientific Reports helps illuminate, sometimes fish get chemicals from the plastic debris they ingest.

Climate Change: Federal Efforts Under Way to Assess Water Infrastructure Vulnerabilities and Address Adaptation Challenges

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The Department of Defense’s U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) have assessed water resource and infrastructure vulnerabilities and taken steps to develop guidance and strategies to adapt to the effects of climate change. Specifically, since 2009, the Corps has completed a high-level assessment of the vulnerabilities to climate change of various agency missions. The assessment found, for example, that the effects of increasing air temperatures on glaciers could negatively impact mission areas including navigation and flood damage reduction. The Corps has also conducted pilot studies to help identify adaptation guidance and strategies; it has completed 5 of the 15 pilot studies initiated and plans to start another study in 2013. Similarly, Reclamation has completed baseline assessments of the potential impacts of climate change on future water supplies for the major river basins where it owns and operates water management infrastructure. Reclamation, in collaboration with nonfederal entities, is now conducting more focused assessments, known as Basin Studies, through which Reclamation seeks to identify water supply vulnerabilities and project future climate change impacts on the performance of water infrastructure. According to agency officials, these studies will also help Reclamation develop adaptation strategies to address these impacts, such as operational or physical changes to existing water infrastructure or development of new facilities. Three Basin Studies have been completed, an additional 14 are under way, and 2 more are planned. Reclamation next plans to initiate feasibility studies for adaptation strategies identified in completed Basin Studies. Both agencies are incorporating what they have learned from their efforts into agency policies, planning, and guidance, according to agency officials.

In 2009, the Corps, Reclamation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), jointly published a study that identified several challenges that climate change poses for water resource managers, and the Corp and Reclamation are collaboratively addressing these challenges. Specifically, these agencies are

  • identifying the data and tools needed by water managers to address climate change, which will help guide federal research efforts;
  • obtaining needed climate data by collaborating with other agencies to help ensure that the data are collected, such as by sharing some costs associated with maintaining USGS’s stream flow measurement activities, which are valuable to Corps water planning and management;
  • integrating climate science into water resource management decision making through activities such as developing and communicating science to inform climate adaptation strategies; and
  • collaborating in the development of a climate change science training program for federal and nonfederal water resources managers.

The Corps and Reclamation have collaborated together and with others in a manner that is generally consistent with practices that GAO has identified as important to enhancing and sustaining collaboration among agencies. The Corps and Reclamation have made collaboration a key element of their policy and plans for adapting to the effects of climate change and have reinforced accountability for collaboration through agency performance management systems.

EPA Honors Winners of the 2013 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is recognizing landmark green chemistry technologies developed by industrial pioneers and leading scientists that are contributing to the use of chemicals and products that are safer for people’s health and the environment.

During the 18 years of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge program, EPA has received about 1500 nominations and presented awards to 93 technologies. Winning technologies over the lifetime of the program are responsible for reducing the use or generation of more than 826 million pounds of hazardous chemicals, saving 21 billion gallons of water, and eliminating 7.8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent releases to air.

“Today, EPA is recognizing groundbreaking scientific solutions to real-world environmental problems that improve the bottom line for America’s manufacturing sector. These revolutionary technologies have great potential to make consumer products from adhesives to paints safer for us to use, as well as safer and less costly to manufacture by reducing hazardous wastes, energy, and water wastes, “ said Jim Jones, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “EPA congratulates the 2013 winners and looks forward to continuing to work with them as their technologies are adopted in the marketplace.”

The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards are presented in five categories: academic, small business, greener synthetic pathways, greener reaction conditions and designing greener chemicals. The awardees will be honored at a ceremony in Washington, DC.

In the academic category, Professor Richard Wool, University of Delaware, Newark, Del. was recognized for creating several materials from less toxic and renewable biobased feedstocks such as vegetable oils, chicken feathers and flax that can be used as adhesives, composites, foams, and even circuit boards and as a leather substitute.

In the small business category, Faraday Technology Inc., Clayton, Ohio was recognized for developing a plating process that allows chrome coatings to be made from less toxic trivalent chrome. This reduces millions of pounds of hexavalent chromium without comprising performance for uses such as aircraft parts.

Winners in the “greener reaction conditions, designing greener chemicals, and greener synthetic pathways,” categories are:

  • Life Technologies, Austin, Texas — for developing a more efficient, much less wasteful way to manufacture the key chemicals used to perform genetic testing. The new process prevents about 1.5 million pounds of hazardous waste a year.
  • The Dow Chemical Company, Midland, Mich. — for improving TiO2-basedpaints. Dow’s EVOQUE™ technology usesa polymer coating that, when applied to TiO2, improves dispersion of the pigment, decreasing the amount of the chemical needed and allowing it to work better. This technology will significantly reduce energy usage, water consumption, NOx and SOx emissions, and algae bloom.
  • Cargill, Inc., Brookfield, Wis..— for developing a vegetable oil-based transformer fluid that is much less flammable, less toxic, provides superior performance compared to mineral oil-based fluids and has a lower carbon footprint.

EPA’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Program award winners have significantly reduced the hazards associated with designing, manufacturing, and using chemicals. An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute selected the 2013 winners from among scores of nominated technologies.

More information: http://www2.epa.gov/green-chemistry

Making the Business Case for Energy Efficiency: Case Studies of Supportive Utility Regulation

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Under traditional utility regulation and rate structures, utilities face financial disincentives for investing in customer energy efficiency programs. Unless these disincentives are addressed, utility investments in customer energy efficiency programs work against their shareholders’ interests. Regulators, utilities and stakeholders can overcome these barriers by implementing well-tested policy solutions to align regulation with energy efficiency. Decoupling revenues from energy sales addresses one of these major barriers, the “throughput incentive.” Providing shareholder incentives for investments in energy efficiency programs addresses the other major barrier. A number of states have these regulatory mechanisms in place, but they are not yet predominant among U.S. utilities.

Addressing these financial disincentives helps create a new business model for utilities. This report examines a set of six selected utilities that provide relatively large-scale customer energy efficiency programs in states with decoupling and/or shareholder incentives in place. The research focuses on (1) financial and program impacts, and (2) organizational and managerial impacts. Through interviews and analysis of program data, we found that supportive regulatory frameworks have been critical in elevating the role of energy efficiency within utility business models. Having such a framework in place, however, needs to be part of a comprehensive set of policies that support customer energy efficiency programs. Though analysis of utility financial data we found no evidence that energy efficiency programs have had negative effects on shareholder value. When coupled with supportive ratemaking practices, strong portfolios of customer energy efficiency programs do not appear to affect utility financial performance adversely.