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.

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.

Beyond the Plastic Bag: Sparking a Seachange for Reuse

Download the document.

While we know the greenest bag is the one a customer already owns, and the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag is advancing research and testing to increase instances of customers bringing their own bags, the focus of this report is specific to the testing of reusable bag systems undertaken in summer 2021. We share our learnings from conducting first-of-a-kind reusable bag pilots across select CVS Health, Target and Walmart stores, where customers could “borrow” a bag and use it multiple times before returning it at the same or a different brand’s store to be washed, redistributed and reused by other customers.

Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation

Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation (CMRA) integrates information from across the federal government to help people consider their local exposure to climate-related hazards. View climate-related hazards in real time and use information on past, present, and future conditions to understand exposure in your area in order to plan and build more resilient community infrastructure.

People working in community organizations or for local, Tribal, state, or Federal governments can use the site to help them develop equitable climate resilience plans to protect people, property, and infrastructure. The site also points users to Federal grant funds for climate resilience projects, including those available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Inside the energy transition to renewables

Download the document.

The U.S. energy sector is undergoing a fundamental transition to a cleaner and more distributed future. Increasingly favorable economics, corporate commitments, and state and federal actions, like the enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act, are all spurring the deployment of renewable energy resources.

Included in this trendline

  • What inflation – and the Inflation Reduction Act – mean for the clean energy sector
  • Wind, solar additions slowed in H1 but are expected to jump in next three years: FERC
  • Why the energy transition broke the U.S. interconnection system

Existing Building Decarbonization Code

Download the document.

The Existing Building Decarbonization Code is a new way for jurisdictions to reduce carbon emissions and meet Climate Action Plan and public health and equity goals. The need to address existing building stock is great, with 5.9 million existing commercial buildings in the U.S. comprising 97 billion square feet. New construction represents less than 2% of building activity in any given year, leaving a vast amount of outdated technologies in current building stock. NBI’s release of the Building Decarbonization Code provided the first off-the-shelf solution–as an overlay to the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC)–for jurisdictions to transform energy codes into decarbonization codes for new buildings. Expanding where that document left off, the Existing Building Decarbonization Code complements the original adding provisions specifically for existing buildings. The new model language covers both residential and commercial buildings including all-electric and mix-fuel energy use pathways.

Study: Methane emissions may be five times higher than previously thought

Read the full story from The Hill.

Global emissions of methane from existing gas infrastructure may be up to five times higher than had been believed, a new study has found.

Existing measures to burn off the powerful greenhouse gas — which is dozens of times more potent than carbon dioxide — allow far more to slip by than had been believed, according to the paper published on Thursday in Science.

Climate Change: Enhancing Federal Resilience

Download the document.

To reduce federal fiscal exposure to climate change, the federal government needs a cohesive, strategic approach, with strong leadership and the authority to manage risks.

The Big Picture

Between fiscal years 2015 and 2021, selected appropriations for disaster assistance totaled $315 billion. Disaster costs are projected to increase as certain extreme weather events like drought or extreme rainfall become more frequent and intense because of climate change, according to the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Limiting the Federal Government’s Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks has been on GAO’s High Risk List since 2013. This list identifies government operations that, among other things, need transformation to address effectiveness challenges. Managing climate change is on the list in part because of concerns about the increasing costs of disaster response and recovery efforts.

We identified five areas in which government-wide action is needed to reduce federal fiscal exposure to climate change. These areas include the federal government’s roles as:

  1. insurer of property and crops,
  2. provider of disaster aid,
  3. owner or operator of infrastructure,
  4. leader of a strategic plan to coordinate federal efforts, and
  5. provider of data and technical assistance to decision makers.

Federal fiscal exposure to climate change can be limited by enhancing climate resilience—that is, taking actions to reduce potential future losses by planning and preparing for potential climate hazards.

What GAO’s Work Shows

Congress and federal agencies can enhance climate resilience by pursuing opportunities related to the three guiding principles of GAO’s Disaster Resilience Framework—information, integration, and incentives.

Fig01_3
GAO’s Disaster Resilience Framework Principles

GAO has made numerous recommendations related to these principles. The examples highlighted below have not been addressed as of September 2022.

1. Information

Congress and federal agencies can help decision makers access climate information that is authoritative and understandable to identify current and future risks and the impact of risk-reduction strategies. A government-wide approach is needed to provide decision makers with the best available climate-related information.

We recommended:

The federal government also needs a comprehensive approach to improve the resilience of the facilities it owns and operates and the land it manages.

We recommended:

2. Integration

Congress and federal agencies can help decision makers integrate analysis and planning to take coordinated action to enhance climate resilience.

We recommended:

  • Developing a strategic plan—with clear priorities, roles, and responsibilities—to guide the nation’s efforts to adapt to climate change
  • Using information on potential economic effects from climate change to help identify significant climate risks and to craft appropriate federal responses

In some instances, congressional action is necessary to enable the federal government to invest in projects to enhance climate resilience and help communities prepare for climate change.

We also suggested that Congress consider:

Fig02_3
Federal infrastructure projects, like this system in New Orleans, help protect against coastal storms and flooding

3. Incentives

Congress and federal agencies can enhance federal climate resilience by making long-term, forward-looking risk-reduction investments more viable and attractive among competing priorities.

We suggested that Congress consider:

Challenges and Opportunities

The federal government faces increasing fiscal exposure from climate change, in part because of the complicated crosscutting nature of the issue. GAO’s work shows that opportunities exist for the federal government to develop an approach to manage climate change risks by building resilience into every federal program. In this regard, Congress has taken some actions, like creating programs for water, wastewater, transportation, and electric grid infrastructure resilience projects, in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

More from GAO’s Portfolio

For more information, contact J. Alfredo Gomez at (202) 512-3841 or GomezJ@gao.gov.

Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap

DOE’s Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap frames the emerging and transformative technology pathways needed to achieve net-zero GHG emissions in the industrial sector by 2050. It identifies four key pillars of industrial decarbonization:

  • energy efficiency;
  • industrial electrification;
  • low-carbon fuels, feedstocks, and energy sources (LCFFES); and
  • carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS).

Each represents a high-level element of an industrial decarbonization action plan, and a cohesive strategy will require all four pillars to be pursued in parallel. The report also covers decarbonization in five industry subsectors:

  • iron and steel
  • chemical manufacturing
  • food and beverage
  • petroleum refining
  • cement manufacturing

Nearly 1 in 10 US schools now using solar power

Read the full story at The Hill.

Thousands of schools across the U.S. are beginning to make the switch to solar power, generating significant cost savings and helping them meet their hefty energy needs, a new report has found.