The problem with plastic pollution doesn’t begin with how it’s managed at the end of a product or package’s life. It begins upstream: this cheap-to-produce material is cranked out rapidly in massive quantities, and largely for single-use applications. More than 40 percent of plastic is designed to be used once, most which ends up landfilled, incinerated, or in oceans afterward, by industry accounts.
As part of its effort to reduce air pollution and cut greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, California is pursuing aggressive policies to promote clean trucks. The state already requires that by 2035, all new cars and other light-duty vehicles sold in the state must be zero emission. Its powerful Air Resources Board has adopted rules requiring that most trucks be zero emission by 2035, and is now proposing that all trucks sold by 2040 must be zero emission. The Conversation asked a panel of transportation experts from the University of California, Davis what’s involved in such a rapid transition.
1. Why is California targeting medium- and heavy-duty trucks?
To a degree, yes. Some new models, mainly powered by batteries but some by hydrogen fuel cells, are available on the market, and more are being announced almost daily.
But the production volumes are still small, and there are many variations of truck models needed for very diverse applications, from delivering mail locally and plowing snow to hauling goods cross-country. Many of these needs cannot be met with currently offered zero-emission trucks.
The total cost of ownership for zero-emission trucks, which includes the purchase price, fuel costs and maintenance, is already competitive in some applications with conventional diesel trucks. One example is trucks used for local goods delivery by companies like Amazon, UPS and FedEx. This stage is also known as last-mile delivery – getting a product to a buyer’s door.
These trucks are typically driven less than 150 miles per day, so they don’t need large battery packs. Their lower energy costs and reduced maintenance needs often offset their higher purchase costs, so owners save money on them over time.
The market in California is already reacting to these policy signals and is developing quickly. In the past year, there has been a large increase in sales of last-mile electric delivery trucks, and companies have stepped up their pledges to procure such vehicles.
3. Is there enough charging infrastructure to support all these vehicles?
Providing near-zero-carbon electricity for EVs and hydrogen for fuel cells, and expanding charging and hydrogen refueling infrastructure, is just as important as getting zero-emission trucks on the roads.
Fleet owners will need to install chargers that can charge their battery-powered trucks overnight, or sometimes during the day. These stations may require so much power that utilities will need to install additional hardware to bring electricity from the grid to the stations to meet potentially high demands at certain times.
Fuel cell trucks will require hydrogen stations installed either at fleet depots or public locations. These will allow fast refueling without high instantaneous demands on the system. But producing the hydrogen will require electricity, which will put an additional burden on the electric system.
Presently there are few public or private charging or hydrogen stations for truck fleets in California. But the California Public Utility Commission has allowed utilities to charge their customers to install a significant number of stations throughout the state. And the U.S. Department of Energy recently allocated $8 billion for construction of hydrogen hubs – networks for producing, processing, storing and delivering clean hydrogen – across the country.
Despite these efforts, the rollout of charging and hydrogen infrastructure will likely slow the transition to zero-emission trucks, especially long-haul trucks.
4. Who would be affected by a diesel truck ban?
California’s rules will affect both truck manufacturers and truck users. The state’s Advanced Clean Trucks rule, adopted in 2020, requires the sale of increasing percentages of zero emission trucks starting in 2024. By 2035, 40% to 75% of all trucks, depending on the truck type, must be zero emission.
A new proposal scheduled for adoption in early 2023, the Advanced Clean Fleets rule, would require fleets with over 50 trucks to purchase an increasing number of zero-emission trucks over time, with the requirement that all truck sales and purchases be zero emission by 2040.
These two policies would work together. The Advanced Clean Trucks rule ensures that zero-emission trucks will become available to fleets, and the Advanced Clean Fleets rule would give truck manufacturers confidence that the zero-emission trucks they produce will find buyers.
These two rules are the most ambitious in the world in accelerating a transition to zero-emission trucks.
We expect that transitioning to zero-emission truck fleets will require strong policy support at least until the 2030s and perhaps longer. The transition should become self-sufficient in most cases as production scales up and fleets adapt their operations, resulting in lower costs. This could be soon, especially with medium-duty trucks.
Converting large long-haul trucks will be especially challenging because they need large amounts of onboard energy storage and benefit from rapid refueling. Fuel cell systems with hydrogen may make the most sense for many of these vehicles; fleets will ultimately decide which technologies are best for them.
The transition to zero-emission trucks will be disruptive for many fleets and businesses, and will require government support during the early years of the transition. Overall, though, we believe prospects are bright for zero-emission trucking, with enormous clean air and climate benefits, and eventually, cost savings for truck owners.
Texas’ biggest single solution to providing enough water for its soaring population in the coming decades is using more surface water, including about two dozen new large reservoirs. But climate change has made damming rivers a riskier bet.
This publication from North Carolina State University Extension is a simplified tool that can quickly guide farm managers, handlers, workers, and family farmers in safe handling of pesticides to stay in compliance with the Worker Protection Standard. For more detailed information, see EPA’s How to Comply manual.
Climate change is unleashing “far-reaching and worsening” calamities in every region of the United States, and the economic and human toll will only increase unless humans move faster to slow the planet’s warming, according to a sprawling new federal report released Monday.
More than 70% of the world’s largest corporations have made net-zero targets, but concrete long-term strategies and Scope 3 emissions remain a hindrance as businesses work toward international carbon neutrality, a report from EcoAct finds.
EcoAct’s12th analysis of corporate climate reporting performance says that that early action for carbon reduction is necessary to reach sustainability targets, and such work also can be a commercial advantage for large corporations. The report states that clear strategies are meaningless without verifiable emissions reductions.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 103 completed a solar and energy storage project at IBEW’s headquarters in Dorchester, MA. The project will provide IBEW with annual savings on energy costs and supplemental power in the event of a local power outage and is an example of how the Massachusetts solar developer community and organized labor can transition to a clean and resilient electric grid. IBEW partnered with Nexamp for the project.
Playing with my children on a beach on Hatteras Island, a barrier island off the coast of North Carolina, I struck up a conversation with a man walking his dog. We were standing next to a turtle nest, which the National Park Service had roped off with a sign stating that the spot was federally protected.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly when the baby sea turtles will come out?” I mused. He smiled and said “Well, we’re working on that.”
That conversation generated a partnership to develop TurtleSense, a novel, inexpensive way to monitor turtle nest activity remotely. In a newly published study, we describe how it works.
Humans can best protect sea turtle hatchlings as they make their way from the beach to the sea if they know precisely when the baby turtles will appear. But predicting emergence has been difficult. We found that by placing a simple sensor disguised as a turtle egg in the nest, we could detect activity in the nest that indicated when the baby turtles would emerge from the sand and swarm toward the water.
All six species of sea turtles found in the U.S. are protected under the Endangered Species Act, so beach communities are required to ensure that baby turtles receive proper protection – including on their journey to the water.
Scientists typically guess at emergence dates based on the amount of time that has passed since the nest was laid. If the nest is in a populated area, volunteers may monitor it from dusk until midnight during the window when the hatchlings might emerge. But this can be as long as two weeks, which requires a lot of volunteer hours.
What tells hatchlings to emerge?
We tested the TurtleSense monitor during the 2013 to 2018 nesting seasons on North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which is near the northernmost point where loggerhead sea turtles lay their eggs on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. Our work was coordinated with state and federal agencies.
Hatteras beaches receive heavy recreational use, including off-road vehicles at certain spots, and fishermen also use the beaches. Beach closures to protect turtle nests have led to conflict over balancing competing interests. Our goal was to find a way to protect turtles while still permitting other valid uses of the beach.
To monitor the eggs, we used an accelerometer – a device that measures vibrations in a system and how quickly they are changing. The accelerometer was connected to a microprocessor on a very small circuit board, which, in turn, was embedded in a plastic ball the size of a turtle egg – about as big as a pingpong ball.
We buried the monitor in 74 turtle nests on the mornings after the nests were laid, beneath the top 10 eggs. A cable connected the sensor to a small communication tower a dozen feet (four meters) from the nests. The tower transmitted motion data to cellphone towers, enabling researchers to remotely monitor activity in the nests.
Since baby turtles hatch beneath the sand, scientists believe they may use temperature cues to time their emergence at night, when it is safer for them to scurry to the sea. However, our research indicates that vibrations or motion may play an important role in sea turtle sibling communication and the timing of emergence, even if we don’t completely understand how it happens.
Sea turtles may synchronize nest activity in a manner that’s comparable to corn popping in boiling oil. When popcorn kernels are evenly heated, they all start to pop at about the same time, but not completely simultaneously. Similarly, in a sea turtle nest, when the temperature is right and motion activity ceases, we believe this final quieting down could signal to the baby turtles that all their siblings have hatched and it is time to leave the nest.
Scientists have documented other species using sibling vibrational cues to coordinate hatching activity, including tree frogs and land turtles. But it is harder to detect this sort of potential communication in buried sea turtle eggs.
We used TurtleSense data to develop a method for predicting when a nestful of baby turtles will attempt the trek to the ocean. Data from the monitor allowed us to detect hatching activity in the nests and to observe that turtles hatch in waves, quieting and then moving together, seemingly in sync.
Once hatching begins, we estimate hatchlings will emerge from the nest an average of 3.7 days later. Once hatching ends, we can revise this prediction date, narrowing the window. Turtles in deep nests will typically come out two nights after hatching is complete. Hatchlings in shallower nests may emerge one night after hatching ends.
The system can also detect infertile nests, which will show an absence of hatching activity. Knowing that a nest is infertile allows monitors to focus elsewhere.
Improving turtle protection
Seeing newly hatched sea turtles appear and trek toward the waves is inspiring. By making it possible to pinpoint baby turtle emergence dates, my colleagues and I hope that TurtleSense will enable more people to participate in observing them. The sensors also could help facilitate protective measures, such as monitoring nests and turning off lights near the water.
This research allowed us to glimpse previously unseen developmental events in the early lives of sea turtles, and raised interesting questions about how animals may process vibrations and potentially use them to communicate. Plans for constructing the sensors and communication towers are all open source and available online at the Nerds without Borders website.
Green infrastructure encompasses a variety of practices that use soil and vegetation including vegetated rooftops, roadside plantings, tree-lined streets with natural canopy cover, and absorbent gardens to capture, filter, and reduce stormwater. Manufactured materials such as porous pavement is another example of GI often used in sidewalks, parking lots and driveways to increase surface permeability. Porous pavement allows rainfall to seep through to underlying layers of soil that filter the surface water before becoming groundwater.
Creating more greenspace in urban areas not only adds natural beauty to the surrounding area but can also improve the health and well-being of its residents. The presence of parks, community gardens and other vegetation can create recreational spaces, revitalize ecosystems and boost the local economy – all of which are highly beneficial to people living within those urban areas. However, these services are not always distributed equitably and can result in or perpetuate environmental injustices in received benefits.
EPA actively supports the use of both constructed and natural GI as cost-effective alternatives to traditional stormwater infrastructure to help manage wet weather flows and conducts research to identify and quantify the effects of green infrastructure and urban greenspace.
As part of this effort, a team of EPA scientists led by Matt Hopton and Page Jordan focused on identifying benefits received from urban greenspace and supporting integration of these benefits into stormwater management planning. In 2019, Hopton and team began designing a framework to demonstrate a practical approach to help communities access benefits of greenspace while managing stormwater. This effort led to the team conducting a case study to test the framework and learn if those benefits could be used in underserved urban areas.
Geissler, C.H. and Maravelias, C.T. (2022). “Analysis of alternative bioenergy with carbon capture strategies: present and future.” Energy & Environmental Science 5, 2679-2689. https://doi.org/10.1039/D2EE00625A [open access]
Abstract: Biomass can be converted via fermentation, pyrolysis, gasification, or combustion to a variety of bioenergies, and each conversion technology generates streams with different flows and CO2 concentrations that can undergo carbon capture. We use system-wide optimization models to determine the conversion technologies and level of carbon capture that lead to the minimum breakeven cost of fuel for a range of capacities and sequestration credits. We investigate how the optimal systems depend on constraints, such as energetic biorefinery self-sufficiency; and parameters, such as biomass availability. Pyrolysis to gasoline/diesel with hydrogen purchase produces liquid fuel for the lowest cost when energy purchase is allowed, with flue gas capture incentivized at sequestration credits of $48–54 per Mg CO2. With increasing sequestration credits, gasification to gasoline/diesel with carbon capture becomes optimal. When all bioenergies are considered, the cost per forward motion of electricity and hydrogen is lower than for liquid fuels because of the higher efficiency of electric motors and hydrogen fuel cells. We find that while gasification to electricity results in the greatest greenhouse gas mitigation under the current energy production mix, gasification to hydrogen is expected to result in the greatest mitigation in the future as the energy production mix changes.
Broader context: Bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS) is expected to be pivotal in global warming mitigation. BECCS systems include conversion technologies such as fermentation to ethanol, pyrolysis to gasoline/diesel, gasification to gasoline, combustion to electricity, and gasification to electricity or hydrogen. However, it is not yet clear which of these different conversion technologies with integrated carbon capture has the greatest economic and CO2 mitigation potential. Accordingly, we determine the cost-optimal BECCS strategy under a wide range of scenarios and assumptions. Looking into the future, we present the expected mitigation potential of the most promising BECCS strategies through 2050.