Saturday, April 20, 2019

Why the Green New Deal won't work

Image result for green new deal  cost trillionThe public policy which makes no logical sense, and should definitely NOT be implemented, is the plan progressives in Congress have recently tried to advance- the Green New Deal (GND). Sustainable energy sources are both better for the environment and the economy. However, instead of relying on reasonable market mechanisms like carbon pricing, subsidies, and regulations, the GND picks "winners" and "losers" without letting the market have a say.

Mandating an immediate transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy will have a cost of at least $5 trillion in the next decade alone (a trillion dollars up-front cost and around 1/2 trillion dollars annually for at least the next decade), and devastate the US economy. On the other hand, the GND will potentially save the economy of the United States (eventually) trillions of dollars as well, most significantly by eliminating the "social cost of carbon", i.e. negative externalities of fossil fuel development, production, and consumption (such as the cost of greenhouse gas emissions and pollution to the environment and public health; costs only associated with fossil fuels, and not renewable energy, as renewables are environmentally-friendly). When you factor in the cost of negative externalities and the levelized cost of energy (LCOE), renewables are less expensive than fossil fuelsExamples of levelized costs of energy include: up-front capital costs/ costs of initial investment (which are much higher for renewable energy than fossil fuel energy), marginal cost of the fuel source (which is much higher for fossil fuels, and almost nothing for free, abundant sources of renewable energy like solar and wind energy, and very low cost for hydro, geothermal, and biomass), cost of maintenance for the power plant/ energy farm/ dam, etc…, cost of transporting the fuel (again, zero for most renewable energy), costs associated with transmitting/ distributing the energy, insurance costs for the energy producing facility, etc… For more information on LCOE and cost of negative externalities (of fossil fuels), please see "What makes a city sustainable".

However, the immediate cost of the GND is based on educated guesswork, as are numbers associated with savings to society from the GND. Of the projected cost/ savings numbers, it can be said with some degree of certainty how much specific fossil fuel infrastructure will cost to decommission, as well as the cost of other significant challenges in transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

In addition to the cost of the GND, tens of millions of Americans are dependent on fossil fuel intensive industries for jobs, especially in oil and gas and related industries. Not only the several million Americans (6.4 M in 2017) working in fossil fuel industries,  but those working in fossil fuel-intensive industries (such as non-electric auto manufacturing), would be adversely affected by such a dramatic shift in public policy regarding energy. That said, it must be noted that there is more employment potential in the renewable energy jobs sector than fossil fuels.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) estimates that over $1 trillion  in gas and oil infrastructure (total) will be added in the US by 2035; added to what is already over a trillion dollar investment in oil and gas in America, making oil and gas by far the largest economic contributor to the economy of the United States (currently), as well as the largest sector of existing good paying middle class jobs (currently), especially when industries related to oil like non-electric vehicle domestic auto manufacturing are thrown in.

Therefore, it is economically counter-intuitive to promote the GND, which would make the transition from fossil fuels to renewables immediate, targeting the oil and gas industries, upon which the economy of America depends. Instead, the United States can use the market mechanisms of carbon pricing, subsidies for renewables, and strict regulations for fossil fuel industries, to transition the economy of the United States from fossil fuels to renewables.

The ideal transition for energy production and consumption would be fossil fuels to renewable energy. The most practical solution for an efficient transition that does not disrupt the economy is fossil fuels to invest in renewable energy plus natural gas, and renewable efficiency. However, as noted previously, API forecasts over $1 trillion in infrastructure investments for oil and gas in the United States for the next 15+ years, thus it is prudent to include oil, as well as natural gas and renewable energy, in energy plans going forward. The GND would disrupt, and possibly replace, the market system, seeking to eliminate all fossil fuels immediately. Instead, market mechanisms should be used in order to effectively and efficiently transition energy and financial markets from those based on fossil fuels, to those based on renewable energy.

The term "fossil fuels" here in this article, when described as an essential part of the American economy at present, applies only to oil and gas, not to coal. Coal is an old, 19th and 20th century means of energy that carries mostly negative factors, such as a high amount of negative externalities, making coal generally more expensive than renewables, after the LCOE and negative externalities are accounted for. Unless coal companies choose to invest in carbon capture and sequestration and/ or integrated gas combined cycle technologies to make coal more efficient, and cleaner to the environment and health of the public/ miners, it is not worth maintaining or investing in coal plants. See "natural gas vs. coal", and "What Makes a City Sustainable" for more on negative externalities of coal, and why gas is a better choice.

Topics for further exploration:

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Wind, solar and other renewables offer considerably more employment potential than coal

Image result for chart energy jobs 2018

Coal provides middle-class Americans with less than 100,000 jobs. Wind/ solar/ renewable energy provides these same type of Americans with well over 500,000 jobs. This is true even in the middle of the country, the Plains states, the Midwest, and in the southern states. So, of course, Trump, the Trump administration, and Republicans in Congress will focus on increasing incentives for, and eliminating regulations for...the coal industry.

It is exactly this kind of backward thinking that has government eliminating regulations around the fossil fuel industry's habit of polluting the environment, as well as dismantling laws forbidding the fossil fuel industry from developing in national parks and the Arctic.

These harmful actions are a result of climate change denial, apathy concerning the environment, and the tremendous, ugly greed of Trump, and his goons in the White House, and Republicans in Congress. But these governmental policies are also a reflection of the republican voter-at-large who put these people in government.

It is time for both the United States government and the people in the public that vote these climate change denying, willfully ignorant, people into government positions, to open their eyes, and see facts for what they are: facts. The future of employment in the energy sector is obviously renewable energy, not fossil fuels. This article in Mother Jones sums it up perfectly:

Wind [and solar] farms—and the new jobs that come with them—have swept across the Midwest, where coal and traditional manufacturing gigs have vanished. (Despite what President Donald Trump will tell you, coal jobs started to disappear back in the 1980s, when the steel industry began to sink and utilities stopped building new coal-fired power plants.) 
In the "wind belt" between Texas and North Dakota, the price of wind energy is finally equal to and in some cases cheaper than that of fossil fuels. Thanks to investments in transmission lines, better computer controls, and more efficient turbines, the cost to US consumers fell two-thirds in just six years, according to the American Wind Energy Association. 
Still, not all windy states have a turbine-friendly climate. In Wyoming, for example, coal-loving legislators passed a tax on wind energy in 2010 and are also considering penalizing utilities for including renewables in their portfolios. 
The next few years will see a showdown between "rural Republicans who really want to get the economic boost [wind & solar, other renewables] offers to their district, versus Republican ideologues who don't like renewables because they like fossil fuels"—and whose campaign contributions depend on protecting them. 
So farmers—and voters —will have to fight for wind [and other renewables] which, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency,  offer the greatest potential for growth in US renewable power generation.
In his energy plan, Trump speaks of reviving the country's "hurting" coal industry and argues that sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America. 
We do—and those reserves could lead to hundreds of thousands of jobs in the coming years, and very few carbon emissions. And if Trump weren't so fixated on the sputtering coal industry, he might actually see them. (Article by Maddie Oatman - Maddie Oatman is a story editor at Mother Jones. Read more of her stories here, or catch her on MoJo's food politics podcast Bite.

The market for employment in many different sources of energy, in addition to wind and solar, in the renewable energy sector is impressive, as depicted in this chart from 2016:

Please see the Green City Times website on a set of public policy ideas to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions in order to address the problem of climate change.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Features of a plug-in hybrid car

Plug-in hybrids use roughly 30% to 60% less petroleum than conventional vehicle, and with the advanced drive designs in most cutting-edge hybrids, the fuel efficiency is up to 3x higher (or more). Especially in light of the historic COP21 conference in Paris, and the worldwide drive toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG's), hybrid cars are gaining global importance. Here are few things the driving public should know when deciding whether or not to buy a hybrid car:

The following quote is from auto.howstuffworks:

"In order to examine how plug-in hybrids' mileage compares to other cars, let's look at the plug-in hybrid cars currently on the market. One of the best examples is the Chevrolet Volt, which General Motors calls an "extended-range electric vehicle" but could also be described as a plug-in hybrid.
According to GM, the Volt gets 35 miles per gallon (14.9 kilometers per liter) in the city and 40 miles per gallon (17 kilometers per liter) on the highway. Those are decent fuel economy numbers, but they're not outstanding -- until you remember the Volt can drive up to 375 miles (603.5 kilometers) on electricity alone without using a drop of gas. For this reason, the EPA certifies the Volt's electric mode at 93 miles per gallon (39.5 kilometers per liter), or rather, equivalent miles per gallon [source: Chevrolet]. The all-electric Nissan Leaf has a rating of 99 miles per gallon (42.1 kilometers per liter). 
Because plug-in hybrids make such a strong use of their electric modes, it's tough to directly compare their gas mileage to that of other cars. The Volt's competitors, the hybrid Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, get 51 miles per gallon (21.7 kilometers per liter) city, 48 miles per gallon (20.4 kilometers per liter) highway and 40 miles per gallon (17 kilometers per liter) city, 43 miles per gallon (18.3 kilometers per liter) highway, respectively. "

The average reduction of the most environmentally harmful GHG's is 50% in hybrid cars vs. standard gasoline burning cars. Much of the public is well aware of how good the hybrid is for the environment, but are concerned about the safety of these cars. Autos with electric motors must adhere to guidelines detailed in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and typically require less maintenance than their gasoline-only-fueled counterparts. The batteries in the best-selling hybrid and electric cars, Tesla, the Chevy Volt, the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf, have historically failed in less than 0.01% of the cars. Also, the entire battery is recycled – when it does reach the end of its useful life, in the most advanced plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, as is the case with Tesla.
There are definitely a few other promising modes of sustainable transportation, but hybrid cars remain the best bet for the day-to-day needs of families that must continue to rely on cars as their primary means of transportation, and must commute over long distances, are not satisfied with local public transit options, or that have young children.   

Green City Times is a resource for urban planning, renewable energy, sustainable mass transportation, energy efficiency, green living and green building.
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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Permaculture, urban gardening, and urban agriculture


The simulation of natural ecosystems, both in agriculture and social design, has the potential to help reduce man’s carbon footprint on the earth. In working to maintain permanent agriculture and permanent culture similarly there is progress toward the sustainable goals created in many cities worldwide. Some fields of permaculture and urban gardening include Ecological Design, Ecological Engineering, Environmental Design, Integrated Water Resource Management and Sustainable Architecture. All of these professions work with nature rather than against; working toward the goal of sustaining both nature and society for future generations.
The depletion of the earth's resources due to the processes of mass production and consumption, inefficient waste management, and the destruction wrought on nature due to fossil fuel infrastructure development are reasons for the need of permaculture and urban gardening techniques in agriculture. The need to work with existing resources in order to save the environment, and people alike, is a goal that has many nations working toward carbon neutrality in agriculture, as well as eco-conscious techniques in agriculture to preserve biodiversity. Chemical fertilizers and other environmentally hazardous methods like pesticides, are the way of the past in agriculture. The future of gardening/ agriculture lies in sustainable methods like urban gardening (techniques that can easily be applied to larger scale agriculture/ farms).

Urban gardening

There are so many questions that may arise when there is the desire or need to plant a garden for a home or business, but limited space is available. The website Ecolife highlights the following major areas of focus in urban gardening:
  • "Container gardening: Common for people with small patios, yards, or balconies. Container gardening makes use of a variety of containers – buckets, old tires, raised beds, windowboxes, kiddie pools, barrels, shoes, and watering cans – for growing all manner of plants for food or beauty.
  • Indoor gardening: When no patios, decks, yards, or balconies are available, indoor gardening can also be an effective urban gardening method. Plants can be grown in containers similar to those in container gardening, as well as in indoor greenhouses or solariums (sunrooms).
  • Community gardening: This is a method of using outdoor public or private spaces to cultivate gardens for food or pleasure as a group and is a great choice for those with no yard or outdoor space.
  • Guerilla gardening: A more subversive form of urban gardening, guerilla gardening is a way of adding plants to public spaces that don’t technically belong to the gardener such as a vacant lot, median, beside a highway, or in little strips of dirt.
  • Greenroofs: Roofs designed with a growing medium for the purpose of cultivating plants are also a form of urban gardening and can be used to grow food, trees, and many other types of plants."

Please also see: "Green Building" on the Green City Times website