Posts Tagged ‘emissions’

Grist: Why coal is (still) worse than fracking and cow burps

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Is fracking for natural gas good for the planet? To understand the pitched fight over this question, you first need to realize that for many years, we’ve been burning huge volumes of coal to get electricity — and coal produces a ton of carbon dioxide, the chief gas behind global warming. Natural gas, by contrast, produces half as much carbon dioxide when it burns, and thus, the fracking boom has been credited with a decline in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. So far so good, right?

Umm, maybe. Recently on our Inquiring Minds podcast, we heard from Anthony Ingraffea, a professor of engineering at Cornell University, who contends that it just isn’t that simple. Methane (the main component of natural gas) is also a hard-hitting greenhouse gas, if it somehow finds its way into the atmosphere. And Ingraffea argued that because of high leakage rates of methane from shale gas development, that’s exactly what’s happening. The trouble is that methane has a much greater “global warming potential” than carbon dioxide, meaning that it has a greater “radiative forcing” effect on the climate over a given time period (and especially over shorter time periods). In other words, according to Ingraffea, the CO2 savings from burning natural gas instead of coal is being canceled out by all the methane that leaks into the atmosphere when we’re extracting and transporting that gas. (Escaped methane from natural gas drilling complements other preexisting sources, such as the belching of cows.)

But not every scientist agrees with Ingraffea’s methane-centered argument. In particular, Raymond Pierrehumbert, a geoscientist at the University of Chicago, has prominently argued that carbon dioxide “is in a class by itself” among greenhouse warming pollutants, because unlike methane, its impacts occur over such a dramatic timescale that they are “essentially irreversible.”

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In Some States, Emissions Cuts Defy Skeptics

Friday, June 20th, 2014

The cries of protest have been fierce, warning that President Obama’s plan to cut greenhouse gases from power plants will bring soaring electricity bills and even plunge the nation into blackouts. By the time the administration is finished, one prominent critic said, “millions of Americans will be freezing in the dark.”

Yet cuts on the scale Mr. Obama is calling for — a 30 percent reduction in emissions from the nation’s electricity industry by 2030 — have already been accomplished in parts of the country.

At least 10 states cut their emissions by that amount or more between 2005 and 2012, and several other states were well on their way, almost two decades before Mr. Obama’s clock for the nation runs out.

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Supreme Court Reviews Move Against EPA Emissions Rules

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday will weigh efforts by President Barack Obama’s administration to regulate greenhouse gases, which industry groups and Republican-led states are labeling gross overreach.

Experts say even if the court sides with businesses, it would barely dent the administration’s efforts to tackle global warming.

But businesses worry they could face huge additional costs if the Environmental Protection Agency wins, as it could then order industrial sites to be designed and operated in specific ways that differ from current practices.

Frustrated by inaction in Congress, the EPA adopted regulations in 2010 to limit carbon emissions by stationary facilities, such as power plants, and by motor vehicles.

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Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to E.P.A. Rules on Gas Emissions

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a major case challenging Environmental Protection Agency regulations of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources like power plants. The justices declined to hear a variety of related attacks on the agency’s authority to address climate change.

The case is a sequel to Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, a 2007 decision that required the agency to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles if it found they endangered public health or welfare. Two years later, the agency made such a finding, saying that “elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere” pose a danger to “current and future generations.” It set limits on emissions both from new vehicles and from stationary sources like power plants.

States and industry groups challenged the regulations on several grounds. They said the agency’s conclusions about the dangers posed by greenhouse gases were not supported by adequate evidence, that the so-called tailpipe regulations were flawed and that the agency was not authorized to regulate emissions from stationary sources.

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An Important Step on Global Warming

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

On Friday, in a move that has already caused dismay in industry and among Congressional Republicans, the Obama administration proposed the first-ever federal limits on power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, which account for nearly 40 percent of the greenhouse gases America contributes to a gradually warming climate.

The move, the first in a suite of executive actions on climate change promised by President Obama in June, is a welcome sign of his determination to move ahead on his own authority and bypass a Congress whose interest in tackling global warming is virtually nil.

The proposed limits — which apply only to new power plants — will have no immediate effect on carbon emissions. But the long-term consequences for the way the nation produces energy will be significant.

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