Day: May 24, 2012

Fund for Environmental Journalism: 2012 Request for Proposals

Thanks to generous support of the Fund for Environmental Journalism (FEJ) by the Cornelius King Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, and many individuals, the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) is able to offer a third year of mini-grant opportunities for reporting projects and entrepreneurial journalism ventures related to the environment. In 2012 the deadlines for proposals will be July 15th and November 15th. Decisions are announced approximately 60 days after the deadline. Winning projects receive grants of $350 to $3,500.
These are challenging times for professional journalists and for communities that need and deserve great coverage of environmental issues. In response to these challenges, SEJ launched the Fund for Environmental Journalism in 2010 and began awarding small grants to both staff and freelance journalists, to cover costs of travel, lab testing, graphics development, website costs, and other budget items without which journalists might have been unable to produce and distribute specific timely stories about important environmental issues. Over the past two years, SEJ provided essential support for 31 projects in various media.

To learn more about the FEJ awards program, including applicant eligibility and submission guidelines, or to see information and links about past awards, please go to the Fund for Environmental Journalism web page.

Infogr.am: Another Web-based Tool For Creating Beautiful Infographics

Read the full story at 10,000 Words.

Last week we told you about easel.ly for creating beautiful infographics in your browser, but we had a few gripes — it didn’t let you manipulate data or change color schemes, two things that are vital to custom infographics. Infogr.am, also a tool in beta,  lets you do both of those things and more —  perfect for a journalist, blogger or social media editor on a deadline.

Invasive species threatening historic Michigan shipwrecks

Read the full story at Great Lakes Echo.

Thousands of shipwrecks lie at the bottom of Michigan waters. These cultural treasures attract thousands of visitors to the state, but changing conditions in the Great Lakes threaten their preservation.

 

Feds tap IBM for building energy-efficiency project

Read the full story from SmartPlanet.

The U.S. General Services Administration moved this week to put IBM in charge of its smarter building projects… If things go right, it could save more than $15 million annually — working toward the GSA’s goal of reducing energy usage across federal buildings at least 30 percent by 2015.

How stiffer pavement could save millions of barrels of oil

Read the full story at SmartPlanet.

A recent study conducted by civil engineers at MIT found that using stiffer pavements on U.S. roads could cut vehicle fuel consumption by as much as three percent. That savings could add up to 273 million barrels of crude a year.

Stiffer roads also would reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 46.5 million metric tons, according to the study released in a recent peer-reviewed report. There’s no shortage of road studies. This is the first to use mathematical modeling rather than roadway experiments to evaluate the effect pavement deflection has on fuel consumption across the entire U.S. road network, MIT said in a release.

Air NZ wins energy efficiency award

Read the full story from the New Zealand Herald.

Air New Zealand, which has saved more than $500 million since 2005 through an energy-efficiency drive, was rewarded for its efforts at an event in Auckland last night.

The national carrier took out the supreme award at the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) Awards.

The authority, set up to promote energy efficiency, said the airline was avoiding 142,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year, a figure that dwarfed all the other award entries combined.

Energy Bill favours Big Six, nuclear and gas, ignores energy efficiency

Read the full story from Energy & Environmental Management.

Commentators have been quick to condemn the draft Energy Bill, published today, which still contains many uncertainties.

Joss Garman, senior energy campaigner for Greenpeace, slammed the Bill for failing to do anything about energy efficiency, “the fastest and the cheapest way to bring down both bills and emissions,” and said it will make it “harder to invest” in renewable energy, particularly for small generators.

Audit: Schools not getting enough from energy efficiency

Read the full story at Sustainable Schools Oregon.

The Oregon Secretary of State’s office released an audit Monday that found that Oregon school districts could have garnered $40 million more in utility bill savings by spending money more effectively on energy efficiency measures.

The audit, available here, analyzed 6,859 measures identified in school energy audits spread across 111 Oregon school districts between 2002 and 2010. It examined how schools were spending energy surcharge funds, a 3 percent charge on electricity bills established by the Oregon Legislature in 1999 to fund energy conservation programs.

Deloitte: As Economy Rebounds, Energy Users Stick to Diet

Read the full story from Deloitte.

A new era of energy frugality is taking hold in the United States – even as the economy slowly recovers – according to a survey from the Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions.

Businesses are forging the way by targeting average reductions in energy consumption of nearly 25 percent over a three- to four-year period. Consumers are also doubling down on efficiency – 83 percent report that they took extra steps to reduce their electric bill over the past year and 93 percent say they will use the same amount of electricity or less in the future.

For more data from the survey, visit the Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions.

Air Emissions and Electricity Generation at U.S. Power Plants

Air Emissions and Electricity Generation at U.S. Power Plants.  GAO-12-545R, April 18.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-545R

What GAO Found

Older electricity generating units—those that began operating in or before 1978—provided 45 percent of electricity from fossil fuel units in 2010 but produced a disproportionate share of emissions, both in aggregate and per unit of electricity generated. Overall, in 2010 older units contributed 75 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions, 64 percent of nitrogen oxides emissions, and 54 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel units. For each unit of electricity generated, older units collectively emitted about 3.6 times as much sulfur dioxide, 2.1 times as much nitrogen oxides, and 1.3 times as much carbon dioxide as newer units. The difference in emissions between older units and their newer counterparts may be attributed to a number of factors. First, 93 percent of the electricity produced by older fossil fuel units in 2010 was generated by coal-fired units. Compared with natural gas units, coal-fired units produced over 90 times as much sulfur dioxide, twice as much carbon dioxide and over five times as much nitrogen oxides per unit of electricity, largely because coal contains more sulfur and carbon than natural gas. Second, fewer older units have installed emissions controls, which reduce emissions by limiting their formation or capturing them after they are formed. Among coal-fired units—which produce nearly all sulfur dioxide emissions from electric power generation—approximately 26 percent of older units used controls for sulfur dioxide, compared with 63 percent of newer units. Controls for nitrogen oxide emissions were more common among all types of fossil fuel units, but these controls vary widely in their effectiveness. Among older units, 14 percent had installed selective catalytic reduction (SCR) equipment, the type of control capable of reducing the greatest amount of nitrogen oxides emissions, compared with 33 percent of newer units. In addition, approximately 38 percent of older units did not have any controls for nitrogen oxides, compared with 6 percent of newer units. Third, lower emissions among newer units may be attributable in part to improvements in the efficiency with which newer units convert fuel into electricity. Nonetheless, older units remain an important part of the electricity generating sector, particularly in certain regions of the United States.

Why GAO Did This Study

This report responds in part to a Congressional request for information on electricity generation and emissions at U.S. electricity generating units and the implementation of NSR. Our objective is to provide information on how older fossil fuel electricity generating units compare with newer units in terms of their air emissions and electricity generation.

The United States depends on a variety of fuels to generate electricity, including fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil), nuclear power, and renewable sources. Power plants that burn fossil fuels provide about 70 percent of U.S. electricity, but they also produce substantial amounts of harmful air emissions. In particular, electricity generating units at fossil fuel power plants are among the largest emitters of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which have been linked to respiratory illnesses and acid rain, as well as of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. Of the three fossil fuels, coal is the most widely used fuel in the United States, providing about 45 percent of electricity in 2010, followed by natural gas, which provided about 24 percent. Coal plays a critical role in the reliability of the electricity grid, especially in certain geographic areas, but coal-fired units also generally emit more air pollution than units burning natural gas or oil.

Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establishes national ambient air quality standards for six pollutants that states are primarily responsible for attaining. States attain these standards, in part, by regulating emissions of these pollutants from certain stationary sources, such as electricity generating units. Numerous Clean Air Act requirements apply to electricity generating units, including New Source Review (NSR), a permitting process established in 1977. Under NSR, owners of generating units must obtain a preconstruction permit that establishes emission limits and requires the use of certain pollution control technologies. NSR applies to (1) generating units built after August 7, 1977, and (2) to existing generating units—regardless of the date built—that seek to undertake a “major modification,” a physical or operational change that would result in a significant net increase in emissions of a regulated pollutant. Units built before August 7, 1977, are not required to undergo NSR unless they undertake a major modification. For the purposes of this report, we refer to units that began operation in or before 1978—the first full year after NSR was established—as “older units” and those that began operating after 1978 as “newer units.”

In limiting NSR’s requirements to facilities built or undertaking major modifications after August 7, 1977, Congress allowed existing facilities to defer installation of pollution controls until they made a major modification, with the expectation that over time all facilities would either install such equipment or shut down, thereby lowering overall emissions. According to EPA data, 1,485 older units (43 percent of fossil fuel units) were still in operation in 2010. Some research suggests that many of these older units continue to operate without emissions controls, and in June 2002, we reported that older fossil fuel electricity generating units emitted air pollution at higher rates than newer units.

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