Day: September 11, 2014

Global Shale Gas Development: Water Availability & Business Risks

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For many countries, shale gas could strengthen energy security while cutting emissions. However, drilling and hydraulic fracturing of shale resources requires lots of water for short periods—and shale resources are not always located where water is abundant.

Global Shale Gas Development: Water Availability & Business Risks analyzes water availability across all potentially commercial shale resources worldwide, and shares four recommendations to help governments, companies, and civil societies protect water security while minimizing risks.

Government Works: Federal Agency Actions on Energy Efficiency

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Federal agency actions on energy efficiency under existing legislative authority are saving consumers money, creating jobs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, and reducing oil use and imports. In this paper we examined four sets of recent and prospective agency actions on energy efficiency: appliance standards, vehicle standards, power plant emissions standards, and select housing policies.

We estimate that collectively these policies could save the American people $2.6 trillion (net present value of savings after needed investments for measures taken through 2040). They could cut cumulative carbon dioxide emissions by 34 billion metric tons, more than the total emissions from fossil fuels in this country over six years. They could reduce oil use by 3.4 million barrels a day in 2030, and 4.7 million barrels a day in 2040. And they could cut electricity demand in 2030 by one-fourth. Half of the energy savings are from policies that have not been issued yet.

To achieve them, agencies will need to use system-wide savings, considering the whole electric system for the carbon dioxide emissions standard for existing power plants, and the engine, tractor, and trailer for the fuel economy standard for heavy-duty trucks. Agencies also will need to end delays, setting long overdue standard for manufactured housing and criteria for new homes with federal loans, and lighting standards outside an appropriations rider. Without further legislation we still will not fully use efficiency to meet national goals, but these agency actions are strengthening the economy, the environment, and national security.

This deep dive into 10 years of LEED unearths surprises

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

The U.S. Green Building Council and Ember Strategies recently released the results of a deep dive study into the design energy efficiency of a decade of LEED buildings (PDF). Ten years of LEED data shows the evolution of the best in the architecture, engineering and construction industry — and a few industry quirks — as they strive for more efficient building designs.

Buildings are certified at varying levels in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standard — from basic Certified to Silver, Gold, and Platinum — based on the number of points they earn across the categories of green building, such as energy, water, indoor environment, location and materials. Having a LEED certification is one way commercial real estate owners prove their building is one of the best in the world as they work to attract tenants. This study looked at the New Construction rating system for building design and construction and specifically certain energy efficiency related credits.

Before digging in to the data, it is important to understand that a LEED rating system is born, grows and eventually dies and is replaced by a new rating system. This is unlike a building code or standard. The LEED rating system is tweaked in each version to raise the bar for achievement, of course, but also to try to fix credits that just aren’t working. If no one achieves a credit, there is no environmental benefit to having it. USGBC uses feedback from the market to improve the rating system over time.

The study was released at the ACEEE’s 2014 Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, the biennial gathering of building efficiency nerds in Pacific Grove, Calif.

More health symptoms reported near ‘fracking’ natural gas extraction

Read the full story from Yale University.

A Yale-led study has found a greater prevalence of health symptoms reported among residents living close to natural gas wells, including those drilled by hydraulic fracturing. The study appears online Sept. 10 in Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal of the National Institutes of Health.

3 reasons the world is moving beyond shareholder value

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

For the past 40 years, a one-dimensional belief has prevailed that the purpose of a corporation is to maximize shareholder value.  This belief, developed through the skillful advocacy of economists such as Milton Friedman and Michael Jensen at the University of Chicago in the 1970s, ultimately became the intellectual justification for Wall Street’s mantra that short-term share price serve as a primary lens for making investment decisions.

The belief in shareholder value continues to dominate Wall Street’s thinking and that of the broader investment community, including financial analysts, portfolio managers and individual investors. Yet, cracks are beginning to appear in the shareholder value edifice and are leading to a renewed examination of the factors that should shape investor decisions. Three factors are driving this re-assessment.

Greenhouse Gas Emission Estimates of U.S. Dietary Choices and Food Loss

Heller, M. C. and Keoleian, G. A. (2014), Greenhouse Gas Emission Estimates of U.S. Dietary Choices and Food Loss. Journal of Industrial Ecology. doi: 10.1111/jiec.12174

Abstract: Dietary behavioral choices have a strong effect on the environmental impact associated with the food system. Here, we consider the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with production of food that is lost at the retail and consumer level, as well as the potential effects on GHG emissions of a shift to dietary recommendations. Calculations are based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) food availability data set and literature meta-analysis of emission factors for various food types. Food losses contribute 1.4 kilograms (kg) carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-eq) capita−1day−1 (28%) to the overall carbon footprint of the average U.S. diet; in total, this is equivalent to the emissions of 33 million average passenger vehicles annually. Whereas beef accounts for only 4% of the retail food supply by weight, it represents 36% of the diet-related GHG emissions. An iso-caloric shift from the current average U.S. diet to USDA dietary recommendations could result in a 12% increase in diet-related GHG emissions, whereas a shift that includes a decrease in caloric intake, based on the needs of the population (assuming moderate activity), results in a small (1%) decrease in diet-related GHG emissions. These findings emphasize the need to consider environmental costs of food production in formulating recommended food patterns.

Helping sugarcane growers reduce water waste

Read the full story from the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.

The Institute on the Environment’s mission is to discover solutions to Earth’s most pressing environmental challenges. Kate Brauman, lead scientist of the Global Water Initiative at IonE, is helping bring this mission to life. Her recent research looking at global irrigation patterns is now being used by Bonsucro, an organization working to use less water in the production of sugarcane around the world. IonE communications director Todd Reubold recently sat down with Brauman to hear the story.

Cities prepare for warm climate without saying so

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

With climate change still a political minefield across the nation despite the strong scientific consensus that it’s happening, some community leaders have hit upon a way of preparing for the potentially severe local consequences without triggering explosions of partisan warfare: Just change the subject.

Big cities and small towns are shoring up dams and dikes, using roof gardens to absorb rainwater or upgrading sewage treatment plans to prevent overflows. Others are planting urban forests, providing more shady relief from extreme heat. Extension agents are helping farmers deal with an onslaught of newly arrived crop pests.

But in many places, especially strongholds of conservative politics, they’re planning for the volatile weather linked to rising temperatures by speaking of “sustainability” or “resilience,” while avoiding no-win arguments with skeptics over whether the planet is warming or that human activity is responsible.


Free online courses available through, a free online education platform, aims to provide high-quality, massive open online education in collaboration with the member institutions and partners of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). Launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in August 2012, SDSN mobilizes scientific and technical expertise from academia, civil society, and the private sector in support of sustainable development problem solving at local, national, and global scales. currently offers three courses. Links and brief descriptions appear below.

  • The Age of Sustainable Development gives students an understanding of the key challenges and pathways to sustainable development – that is, economic development that is also socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable.
  • Climate Change Science and Negotiations is a two-semester course, with the first semester launching in fall 2014. During the first semester, you will learn about solutions to deeply decarbonize the global energy systems, and put the world on a 2°C pathway and how they can be applied in different national contexts, based on the results from the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP), a global initiative to show how countries can transition to a low carbon economy by 2050, and how the world can stay within the 2°C limit. The second semester of the course, which will open for registration in late fall 2014, will be a dynamic online climate change negotiation. The negotiation will be  modeled on the real negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which are scheduled to reach an agreement in Paris in December 2015, at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21). The outcomes of the second semester simulated negotiations will be presented to global leaders in advance of COP21.
  • Planetary Boundaries and Human Opportunities gives students an overview of a range of emerging concepts within sustainability science, like the Anthropocene, planetary boundaries, and resilience. These concepts are at the core of contemporary research and debate on global sustainability. They are key to frame and understand rapidly changing trends in global environmental change caused by humans, and to assess responses that aim at reversing global environmental change. They also help exploring pathways for ensuring safe and just human wellbeing for present and future generations.

National Library of Medicine (NLM) Resource Update: Household Products Database (HPD) now contains over 14,000 products

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) Household Products Database (HPD) now contains over 14,000 products. The latest update includes a new product category “commercial/institutional”. Product manufacturers of the more than 300 products in this category use various descriptions,  including professional grade, professional use, hospital grade and more.

Users can locate products using the new “commercial/institutional” link under “Browse by Category” on the HPD homepage or by entering the category/description terms (e.g. commercial, institutional, professional, hospital) as a Quick Search.

The Household Products Database links over 14,000 consumer brands to health effects from Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) provided by manufacturers and allows scientists and consumers to research products based on chemical ingredients. The database is designed to help answer the following typical questions:

  • What are the chemical ingredients and their percentage in specific brands?
  • Which products contain specific chemical ingredients?
  • Who manufactures a specific brand? How do I contact this manufacturer?
  • What are the acute and chronic effects of chemical ingredients in a specific brand?
  • What other information is available about chemicals in the toxicology-related databases of the National Library of Medicine?

Information in the Household Products Database is from a variety of publicly available sources including brand-specific labels and Material Safety Data Sheets when available from manufacturers and manufacturers’ web sites.

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