Another round of speculation about Chevron?

Read the full story at The Regulatory Review.

After the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, administrative law experts again asked the perennial question: Is Chevron deference dead? Although we may not have a definitive answer for some time, the upcoming Supreme Court term promises more fodder for the discussion.

Consider Sackett v. EPA, scheduled for argument on October 3. In Sackett, the Court is asked to clarify when wetlands are “waters of the United States” for the purposes of Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has asserted jurisdiction over a portion of the Sacketts’ land that is separated from a lake on the surface but is connected to the lake below the surface.

The Sacketts ask the Court to adopt a version of a test used by a plurality of the Court in its 2006 Rapanos v. United States decision. As the Sacketts describe Rapanos, wetlands are within the jurisdiction of the CWA only when they have a continuous surface connection to other regulated waters.

The United States seeks an alternative, broader test proposed in Justice Kennedy’s Rapanos concurrence. In this view, wetlands adjacent to regulated waters can themselves be regulated even without a surface connection to regulated waters, provided they have a “significant nexus” to them.

How to keep your jack-o’-lantern from turning into moldy, maggoty mush before Halloween

The pumpkin on the right has a fungal disease known as black rot. Matt Kasson, CC BY-SA

by Matt Kasson, West Virginia University

For many Americans, pumpkins mean that fall is here. In anticipation, coffee shops, restaurants and grocery stores start their pumpkin flavor promotions in late August, a month before autumn officially begins. And shoppers start buying fresh decorative winter produce, such as pumpkins and turban squash, in the hot, sultry days of late summer.

But these fruits – yes, botanically, pumpkins and squash are fruits – don’t last forever. And they may not even make it to Halloween if you buy and carve them too early.

As a plant pathologist, gardener and self-described pumpkin fanatic, I have both boldly succeeded and miserably failed at growing, properly carving and keeping these iconic winter squash in their prime through the end of October. Here are some tips that can help your epic carving outlast the Day of the Dead.

Carved pumpkin with its face caving in, crusted with brown and black patches
This jack-o’-lantern carved from a pumpkin with a preexisting fungal disease, southern blight, is showing symptoms of soft rot, especially around the nose and eye. The round ball-like structures forming inside the eye socket are fungus. Matt Kasson, CC BY-SA

Pick a healthy pumpkin and transport it carefully

This may seem obvious, but shop for a pumpkin in the same way that you shop the produce aisle. Whether you plan to carve them or not, choose pumpkins that are not damaged, dented or diseased. Is the stem loose? Is there a clear break in the rind? Are there any water-soaked spots on the exterior?

Post-harvest diseases – those that occur after the pumpkin is removed from the vine – can happen anywhere between the field where they were grown and your front step. A bruise or crack will allow opportunistic fungi, bacteria, water molds and small insects to invade and colonize your pumpkins. Keeping the rind defect-free and stem intact ensures your prized pumpkin a longer shelf life.

The trip home also matters. Most of us transport pets, kids, muddy hiking boots and food in our cars, which makes our vehicles giant petri dishes harboring common environmental molds and bacteria. Some of those microbes could colonize your unsuspecting pumpkins.

Secure your pumpkins en route to your house so they don’t suffer bruising or stem breakage. My family often uses seat belts to protect ours. Once home, don’t carry your pumpkin by the stem, which can lead to breakage, especially if it is big and heavy.

Keep them clean and dry

Pumpkins spend most of their lives in fields, developing on top of soil that teems with fungi, bacteria, water molds and soil-dwelling animals like nematodes, insects and mites. Removing these organisms, and any eggs they may have affixed to your pumpkin’s rind, will help preserve it.

To get rid of them, wipe down your pumpkins, preferably with a bleach wipe or two. This is especially important if you plan to carve them: Piercing the dirty rind with a sharp tool will introduce these eager visitors deeper into the heart of your pumpkin. Be sure to use clean tools as well. Microbes can reside and multiply on small amounts of pumpkin debris stuck in the teeth of dirty carving knives.

Even if you are not carving your pumpkin, wiping it down isn’t a bad idea, since it may have small bruises or cracks that are easy to overlook.

Professional pumpkin carver James Hall demonstrates 13 increasingly difficult levels of pumpkin carving.

Hollow pumpkins out thoroughly, but don’t overdo it

Much of the work of carving a pumpkin involves separating the fibrous strands and seeds inside it from the harder pulp that makes up the pumpkin’s walls. As you scoop out the pumpkin’s innards, thoroughly inspect the inside walls for soft rotten patches or dark tissues, which may have been colonized pre- or post-harvest by bacteria, fungi or water molds. Diseased pumpkins sometimes produce an off-putting smell, so use your nose as well.

If you find these issues as you carve, you may want to try carving another pumpkin. You can also paint your pumpkins instead of carving them, which averts the need to peer inside.

Two butternut squash halves, one healthy, the other distended and turning grey with watery pulp
As soft rot advances in diseased squash, the water-soaked appearance expands and eventually pulp becomes watery like cooked pumpkin pie. Matt Kasson, CC BY-SA

Some online tutorials and YouTube videos recommend thinning out pumpkins’ walls to better allow candle or LED light to pass through. But if you make the walls too thin, your jack-o’-lantern’s fangs will become inward-curving skin tabs as the pulp desiccates and deforms. A toothless jack-o’-lantern scares no one.

Another advantage of maintaining thicker walls is that it enables you to try a 3D carving. This involves shaping the pumpkin’s surface as you would carve a piece of wood, without breaking through the shell, and can produce dramatic results.

Some people soak their carved pumpkins in diluted bleach or vinegar water after completing them. But this technique is a double-edged sword: Adding more free moisture to your masterpiece invites windblown mold spores and rain-splashed bacteria to colonize it. However, applying a light coating of petroleum jelly or vegetable oil to all the exposed parts can extend the shelf life of your sculpted squash.

Protect your creation

A freshly carved pumpkin with green dots in the mouth cuts
Filamentous fungi like Penicillium are common in many environments, and can even colonize a freshly bleached jack-o’-lantern like the one shown here. Notice the tiny green colonies inside the carved mouth and on the back wall of the pumpkin. Matt Kasson, CC BY-SA

October is a wet month with frequent rains in many parts of the U.S. Rain falling on your jack-o’-lantern will invite every mold in the neighborhood to take up residency in or on it. For this reason, I recommend keeping your pumpkins on a covered porch or displaying them from indoors in a window.

It’s OK if some mold forms inside it, as not all fungi cause soft rots – diseases that produce wet spots that spread, become mushy and turn black. If a pumpkin does become overly moldy on the inside walls, move it outdoors to avoid producing a lot of spores in your home.

When your pumpkin does start to mold and collapse, don’t throw it in a landfill. Put it out for your neighborhood deer or atop your compost pile. Or find a spot in your yard where you can watch it degrade over time, until it turns back to soil in time for next year’s pumpkin patch.

Matt Kasson, Associate Professor of Mycology and Plant Pathology, West Virginia University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

People of color are as interested in buying electric cars as white consumers – the biggest obstacle is access to charging

More EV charging hookups in public locations like garages and parking lots would prompt more drivers of color to buy EVs. Extreme Media via Getty Images

by Andrea Marpillero-Colomina, The New School

A nationally representative survey of 8,027 Americans shows that across all racial demographics, overall interest in purchasing electric vehicles is high. Among those surveyed, 33% of white respondents, 38% of Black respondents, 43% of Latinos and 52% of Asian Americans say they would “definitely” or “seriously consider” purchasing or leasing an EV as their next vehicle.

The survey was conducted by Consumer Reports, with input from the nonprofit advocacy groups GreenLatinos, the Union of Concerned Scientists and EVNoire and administered between Jan. 27 and Feb. 18, 2022, by NORC at the University of Chicago, an objective, nonpartisan research organization.

Electric vehicles are critical for reducing transportation emissions, but communities of color currently adopt this key technology at lower rates than white drivers. This survey, for which I was an adviser, helps to shed light on some of the reasons for this disparity.

Cleaner air for all

Air pollution in the U.S. disproportionately affects communities of color. To take just one statistic, Latino children are about three times more likely than non-Hispanic white children to live in a county where air pollution levels exceed federal air quality standards.

Transportation is a major source of harmful air pollutants, particularly nitrogen oxides. These compounds contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone and smog, which can cause or worsen many types of respiratory diseases.

Motor vehicles also emit soot and toxic compounds. Because of these pollutants, people who live near roadways are at elevated risk of ailments including heart disease, impaired lung development in children, preterm and low-birthweight infants, childhood leukemia and premature death.

Transportation is also the largest source of global warming emissions in the United States. Light-duty passenger cars and trucks contribute 58% of transportation’s greenhouse gas emissions. Weather-related events such as heat waves, air pollution and flooding can be exacerbated by climate change and disproportionately harm U.S. communities of color.

Climate change is taking a disproportionate toll on low-income and minority communities across the U.S.

Where can we plug in?

Ours was the first consumer-oriented survey to analyze barriers to EV adoption along racial demographic lines. The goal is to help policymakers and advocates better understand why Black and Latino consumers are buying fewer EVs than white consumers and what concerns explain this gap.

We found that charging EVs at home – the most affordable way to charge EVs today – is not an equally viable option for all communities, particularly those with higher proportions of renters or multifamily dwellings. People who own their homes can much more easily have EV charging equipment installed on the premises and use it to charge their cars safely and conveniently overnight.

In our survey, nearly 75% of white respondents owned their homes, compared with fewer than 50% of Black respondents and slightly over 50% of Latino respondents. Multi-unit dwellings, such as apartment buildings, often do not offer EV charging for residents. We found that increasing affordable, accessible and reliable public EV charging infrastructure in safe locations would address all of these groups’ biggest concerns about EV charging.

The survey findings also suggest that improving access to financing and incentives for both new and used EVs would help to accelerate EV adoption.

Getting the message out

Our results show that increasing access to EVs is a key way to educate communities about the benefits of driving them. But it’s not clear yet how to create education and engagement initiatives that focus on Black and Latino consumers and target their specific needs and concerns.

Finding better ways to include Black and Latino communities in the EV transition is important because it can help to address gaps and mitigate systemic barriers to adoption and achieve environmental justice.

Providing help and incentives for apartments and condominiums to install EV chargers will help reduce barriers to widespread EV adoption. Our survey showed that Black and Latino drivers are more likely to use public or on-street parking, so incentives to support the build-out of publicly accessible charging infrastructure are also critical.

Purchase incentives that are more accessible and target buyers at more income levels will bring EVs within reach for more people. For example, tax credits could be made refundable, allowing people without sufficient tax liability to still take advantage of the credit, or incentives could be made available at the point of sale.

We plan further research that can identify ways to overcome the barriers spotlighted in this survey and help create a just and clean transportation future for all.

Andrea Marpillero-Colomina, Adjunct Lecturer in Urban Studies, The New School

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Do Good Chicken reports 10 million pounds of food surplus saved from landfills in first six months of operation

Read the full story at Waste360.

Do Good Foods branch company Do Good Chicken is working to eliminate as much food waste as possible. The company recently released a figure pointing to high success rates, saying it has been responsible for diverting 10 million pounds of food waste.

PNNL advances science to convert plastics to fuels

Read the full story from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

At the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, scientists discovered a promising approach to make it easier to turn petroleum-based plastic waste into chemicals that can be used to produce new materials and fuels.

Simple process extracts valuable magnesium salt from seawater

Read the full story from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Magnesium has emerging sustainability-related applications, including in carbon capture, low-carbon cement, and potential next-generation batteries. These applications are bringing renewed attention to domestic magnesium production. Currently, magnesium is obtained in the United States through an energy-intensive process from salt lake brines, some of which are in danger due to droughts. The Department of Energy included magnesium on its recently released list of critical materials for domestic production.

A paper published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters shows how researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the University of Washington (UW) have found a simple way to isolate a pure magnesium salt, a feedstock for magnesium metal, from seawater. Their new method flows two solutions side-by-side in a long stream. Called the laminar coflow method, the process takes advantage of the fact that the flowing solutions create a constantly reacting boundary. Fresh solutions flow by, never allowing the system to reach a balance.

H&M Group wants all of its clothing to be made using recycled, sustainable components

Read the full story at Environment + Energy Leader.

The H&M Group is a multinational clothing company. The Swedish retailer is known for “fast fashion,” which is clothing that is made and sold cheaply. The company has shops in 75 locations worldwide with 4,702 stores, although they are marketed under different brands. The company positions itself as a leader in the area of sustainability. Its goal is to be carbon positive by 2040. In the nearer term, it wants to reduce its emissions by 56% by 2030, using 2019 as a baseline, and to make its clothing using sustainable components.

Toxic Fog: Known Unknowns

Download the document.

Planet Tracker’s Toxic Footprints report revealed the investors behind petrochemical toxicity in the US Gulf states of Louisiana and Texas. When assessing the petrochemicals and plastics industry, toxic emissions are often either ignored or forgotten by the financial markets. This follow-up research paper reveals the known unknowns of toxic releases, those issues hidden from the public’s and investors’ view and which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not permitted to reveal. We also highlight how the data could be made more user-friendly. Financial institutions should demand transparency for toxic emissions so that they can conduct a thorough risk assessment of their investments.

Surging sales of large gasoline pickups and SUVs are undermining carbon reductions from electric cars

Pickup trucks for sale at a Michigan dealership. John DeCicco, CC BY-ND

by John DeCicco, University of Michigan

Replacing petroleum fuels with electricity is crucial for curbing climate change because it cuts carbon dioxide emissions from transportation – the largest source of U.S. global warming emissions and a growing source worldwide. Even including the impacts of generating electricity to run them, electric vehicles provide clear environmental benefits.

Plug-in vehicles are making great progress, with their share of U.S. car and light truck sales jumping from 2% to 4% in 2020-2021 and projected to exceed 6% by the end of 2022. But sales of gas-guzzling pickups and SUVs are also surging. This other face of the market subverts electric cars’ carbon-cutting progress.

As a researcher who studies transportation and climate change, it’s clear to me that EVs provide large carbon reductions that will grow as the electric grid shifts to carbon-free energy. But fleetwide emissions, including vehicles of all types and ages, are what ultimately matters for the climate.

While the latest policy advances will speed the transition to EVs, actual emission reductions could be hastened by tightening greenhouse gas emissions standards, especially for the larger gasoline-powered personal trucks that dominate transportation’s carbon footprint. Because it takes 20 years to largely replace the on-road automobile fleet, gas vehicles bought today will still be driving and emitting carbon dioxide in 2040 and beyond.

California has adopted regulations that will phase out sales of new cars powered only by gasoline in the state by 2035, a shift that is expected to drive similar policies in other states.

Public policy progress

Plugging in rather than pumping gas reduces both global warming and smog-forming pollution. It avoids the ecological harm of petroleum production and reduces the economic and security risks of a world oil market coupled to totalitarian regimes such as those of Russia and in the Middle East.

On the good news front, automakers are offering ever more EV choices and promising all-electric fleets within 15 years or so. Two recent policy developments will help turn such promises into reality.

One is California’s recent update to its zero-emission vehicle program. The new regulations will require that by 2035, 100% of new light vehicles sold in California must be qualifying zero-emission vehicles, allowing for a limited number of plug-in hybrid vehicles. Other states that historically have adopted California’s emission standards may follow its lead, so cars running only on gasoline could ultimately be banned across 40% of the U.S. new car market.

In addition, the Inflation Reduction Act recently signed by President Biden includes new incentives for EVs and subsidies for domestic production of EVs, batteries and critical minerals. The new policy targets incentives in several ways, disqualifying high-income consumers, capping the price of qualifying vehicles, providing incentives for used EVs, and restricting the tax credits to EVs built in the U.S. and Canada. It complements the US$7.5 billion for building a national EV charging network authorized by the infrastructure bill that the Biden administration brokered in 2021.

The consumption conundrum

In spite of rapidly growing sales, however, EVs have not yet measurably cut carbon. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data indicates that the rate of carbon dioxide reduction from new vehicles has all but stalled, while vehicle mass and power have reached all-time highs.

Why? The surging popularity of low-fuel-economy pickups and SUVs. My analysis of the EPA data shows that through 2021, the higher emissions from market shifts to larger, more powerful vehicles swamp the potential carbon dioxide reductions from EVs by more than a factor of three.

Including the largest personal pickup trucks, which are omitted from the EPA’s public data, would further increase the gasoline vehicle emissions that overwhelm EV carbon reductions. Because vehicles remain on the road for so long, excessive emissions from popular but under-regulated pickups and SUVs will harm the climate for many years.

Complications of clean-car rules

A reason for this conundrum is that clean-car standards are averaged across the overall fleets of cars and light trucks that automakers sell. When a manufacturer increases its sales of EVs and other high-efficiency vehicles, it can sell a greater number of less fuel-efficient vehicles while still meeting regulatory requirements.

The standards are structured in several ways that further weaken their effectiveness. The targets an automaker has to meet get weaker if it makes its vehicles larger. Vehicles classified as light trucks – including four-wheel-drive and large SUVs, as well as vans and pickups – are held to weaker standards than those classified as cars.

What’s worse, a regulatory loophole allows the largest pickups to effectively evade meaningful carbon constraints. Such vehicles are classified as “work trucks” even though they are sold and priced as luxury personal vehicles. An ongoing horsepower war gives these massive “suburban cowboy” trucks capabilities far beyond those of the relatively spartan pickups once used by cost-conscious businesses.

Toward faster emission reductions

In spite of falling prices and rising sales, electric cars still face hurdles before they can fully sweep the market. The time it takes to charge an electric car may remain an inconvenience for many consumers. For example, commonly available Level 2 chargers take four to 10 hours to fully recharge an EV battery.

Buying an EV requires consumers to consider where and how quickly they want to charge their car.

Such obstacles make it unclear whether the car market can move as quickly to an all-electric future as some hope.

Emissions could be cut more quickly if regulators reform clean car standards to close the loopholes that allow excess emissions. California is taking a step in this direction by revising its methods for determining new fleet emission limits for gasoline vehicles. Also hopeful is the recent joint announcement by General Motors and the Environmental Defense Fund, which notes the need to address the large light trucks as part of new standards targeting a 60% reduction in fleetwide greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

As the world transitions to EVs, their size and energy use will matter, too. Massive EVs will require large batteries, and hence more critical minerals whose supplies are limited. They will demand more electricity that, even if renewable, is not fully free of environmental impacts. Sustainability will suffer if the roads are ruled more by the likes of Hummer EVs rather than Tesla Model 3s.

Policymakers and environmental organizations have mounted major promotional campaigns in support of EVs. But there are no similar efforts to encourage consumers to choose the most efficient vehicle that meets their needs. Significant numbers of Americans now believe that global warming is for real and of concern. Connecting such beliefs to everyday vehicle purchases is a missing link in clean-car strategy.

These sobering car market trends highlight the risk of letting visions of an all-electric future mask the need for better decisions today – by policymakers, consumers and automakers – to more quickly reduce emissions across the entire vehicle fleet.

This piece updates an article originally published on January 28, 2021.

John DeCicco, Research Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

3M expands decarbonization and renewable fuels R&D

Read the full story at Environment + Energy Leader.

3M is expanding research and development into emerging technologies focused on decarbonization and renewable fuels. Through cross-functional global teams, 3M Corporate Research and 3M Ventures, the company’s corporate venturing arm, 3M is investing in and developing materials for green hydrogen and low-carbon intensity energy separations.