The moral imperative should dictate all for Earth Day and all the rest

I know, I know, Earth Day is a month away. But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start thinking about making preparations for when it arrives.

So, what is this about, really?

Day to day I both learn about and see – both with and without the aid of vision correction (read: “eyeglasses”) – struggle, strife, challenge, setback. That said, perhaps it’s the eternal optimist in me that, through it all, I see hope. When it comes to the earth and its being in the shape it’s in, hope is good to hold onto. So far, so good?

So, I look within, at my own life’s experiences. Some good, others bad: most, probably neither.

Then there’s the hype. And, I gotta tell you, some real doozies here.

There’s that ongoing one about California falling into the sea. Do you see what I mean? Then there was the Y2K scare. Y2K came and went and hardly any repercussions. And, if there was any fallout it was the stir it caused. And, what that would have been about more than anything else was Y2K-subscriber fear, all erased of course as soon as the “date-o-meter,” so to speak, actually flipped over to year 2000. In other words, the transition proved uneventful, us coming through it completely unscathed. But this is exactly the type of force disturbance that unfounded hype can cause.

Now, this isn’t to say there weren’t any close calls. On the contrary. History is proof of that. All one need do is think of the dinosaurs and how they became extinct. Even as devastating an event as the dinosaur demise was, life somehow, some way was perpetuated. It’s quite amazing when you think about it.

Hype is something some see with global warming. With others, they go farther, calling it a hoax. Meanwhile, based on what I understand, 97 percent of the scientific community, beg to differ. And, about such, there is intense debate. “Is it happening?” “Has human activity contributed?” “If its effects go unchecked, will there be massive population die-offs?” These are very real concerns and legitimate they are, whether one subscribes to the global warming/climate change notion or not.

But, whether one does or doesn’t, what is absolutely irrefutable is the presence of pollution in air. It’s undeniable. Undeniable, irrefutable though air pollution is, the concern over such, is it significant enough to move the world’s people to organize in an effort to rid the air of such? Though I’m seeing some evidence, it is not yet across the board.

U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson

Explaining this might be an overarching the-economy-versus-the-environment mind-set. At this juncture, I take a moment to look back in history and reflect on Earth Day’s beginning – April 22, 1970, and to take time to remember Earth Day’s founder, a U.S. Senator, in this case Senator Gaylord Nelson, who was once quoted as saying: “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.”

And, what does this mean? To me, it means if we don’t have or at least take care of the environment in the world in which we inhabit, there won’t be an economy, plain and simple. Words that could not ring truer.

Yet, the fight, struggle, conflict, battle of note, even after all this time, concerning ending or ridding the pollution that has fouled and discolored much of our air, has also negatively affected people’s lives as well as livelihoods in some cases. This, here, is reason enough for me to do my part, as little as this may be, to make air that I and others around me breathe more healthy.

All of which brings me to the main point of this post and that is: we should each and every one of us do what is necessary to ensure humanity’s perpetuation, “failure,” to quote a line in Apollo 13, “is not an option.” Where life is concerned, there is no room for error; it’s imperative we get this right.

So, with that, how will you be observing Earth Day 2017? And, since one obviously good question deserves another, why limit giving the air, land and water a break for one 24-hour period only, eh?

President’s auto-jobs-over-environment move a no-win for air

Based on a request to review current domestic vehicle-emissions standards – a change that, if advanced, would likely soon take effect – apparently, for motor vehicles traversing America’s roadways in the not-so-far-off future, air, as well as vehicle fuel economy could suffer.

Puzzling it is why most of the motoring public is not standing tall in opposition against so-called “proposed” emissions-standards and improved engine-performance rollbacks.

As for me, after I learned of such a move, this one as counterintuitive as they come, my thinking was something along the lines of this country going back to the days when air pollution from transportation was a major, major cause of concern. What I’m talking about is mid-1940s pollution in L.A. Hopefully, you can understand why it is I would feel that way. Maybe you are thinking the same.

As it were, you would probably be interested in knowing that, according to one source, here in the United States, in 2016 a total 17.5-or-so-million new vehicles were purchased. And you can bet your bottom dollar – and you’d probably be correct – that but a small fraction of those sales would be vehicles fitting the description of no- and near-zero-emissions cars and trucks. In my book, that’d be a bet I would make.

Now, as to the auto-jobs-versus-the-environment argument, well, from where I sit, that’s just a bunch of baloney. No reason whatsoever why it can’t be a “the-economy-plus-the-environment” tack. California is living proof of that. It’s a fact.

And, in the transportation arena, it is no different. The reality is that if incentivization of more eco-friendly vehicles kicked into high gear and there was greater market penetration with the aim of promoting said vehicles, I mean really promoting such, I have every confidence sales of eco-friendly cars and trucks would be much more brisk.

A rollback in vehicle-engine-performance capability, regarding direct and ancillary employment opportunity, how many jobs will just this very move bring? Who has the figures? I’m curious.

Know this: California along with possibly several other states, I believe, stand ready to fight this.

Meanwhile, I’m looking at one particular automaker’s new car brochure. Regarding a hybrid for-instance, specified for around-town driving is 49 miles per gallon (mpg). Under highway driving conditions, 47 mpg. Combined, or average: 48 mpg, with the disclosure that the rating is as that determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, if I did in fact, interpret correctly what it was I read.

So, contested is the notion that any or all of Detroit’s “Big Three” can meet the 2025 mileage rating criteria of an average 54.5 mpg as per pronouncement issued by former President Obama, is that what this is about? That the time allotted isn’t sufficient? That the money it will cost automakers is too much? Seriously?! Are you kidding me?!

I am fast reminded of American automakers and how in order to prevent from going under – you remember that time, some required bailout. I seem to also recall there being this pledge to markedly improve engine performance/fuel-efficiency ratings as a condition of their being rescued. Is this not what was communicated? Then again, I could be wrong. I have to remember in terms of my ability to recall learned information like I once could, that ability ain’t what it once was.

Okay, so moving right along, come to think of it, speaking of memory recall, that one electric-car manufacturer, regarding one of its products, expected to be available (if I am not mistaken) come fall, having had advance orders placed well in advance as a matter of fact, speaks volumes. Does this not convey the message that these vehicles are in high demand? If it doesn’t, then I guess I’m not clear on what the concept of “in high demand” means.

I presume these vehicles will save their owners loads, they’ll be able to get 200 miles or more to the charge, they will be relatively fast-charging, and costs to maintain will be extremely reasonable, and they’ll probably turn more than a few heads as they roll off the miles. If the price of owning one comes down over time, then, all the better.

There is almost nothing that if we put our minds to it, we cannot do.

And, that goes for cleaning the air, too, first and foremost.

Article updated on Mar. 18, 2017 at 11:47 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time and again on Mar. 19, 2017 at 8:31 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

In U.S. in 2016, 3.2 trillion miles driven: Air, roads, feeling the heat

“New estimates released today by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) show that U.S. driving topped 3.2 trillion miles last year. It is the fifth straight year of increased mileage on public roads throughout the nation, and underscores the demands facing America’s roads and bridges, and reaffirms calls for greater investment in surface transportation infrastructure,” the U.S. Department of Transportation, FHWA in the Feb. 21, 2017 “3.2 Trillion Miles Driven On U.S. Roads In 2016: New Federal Data Show Drivers Set Historic New Record” press release announced.

The D.O.T. can sure say that again!

We just learned that, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers from its “2017 Infrastructure Report Card,” that America’s infrastructure overall, received a grade of D-plus. Roads didn’t even rate that well, earning just a grade of D.

The approximately 52 billion additional miles driven nationwide over that registered in 2015 (3.148 trillion miles driven – also a record) means more pressure is placed on the roadway network, presumably causing degradation at a rate that is even more accelerated. And, if more of the miles being logged are done so in internal-combustion-engine-powered motor vehicles, then this translates into a worsening quality of the air around thoroughfares.

Adds the FHWA: “The new data, published in FHWA’s latest ‘Traffic Volume Trends’ report – a monthly estimate of U.S. road travel – show that more than 263.6 billion miles were driven in December 2016 alone, which is a .5 percent increase over the previous December.”

And check out this eye-opening revelation. “At 33.9 billion VMT [vehicle miles traveled], California accounted for more miles driven in December 2016 than the combined 33.8 billion miles of 22 states – Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming – and Washington, D.C,” the FHWA emphasized.

Ongoing trend

That America is seeing a sustained increase in total VMT is nothing new. What is new, or, different, this time, is the amount of motored miles being logged: they are at levels never seen before. Just in case you don’t already know, the most recent upward trend began in 2012.1

But it is the statement that follows that really drives home the message of the importance of putting and keeping infrastructure in a state of good repair perhaps better than any other, and that is:

“Americans realize our infrastructure needs must be addressed with long-term solutions. While other nations significantly invest in their transportation infrastructure, America now ranks 28th in infrastructure investment and continues to fall behind our global competitors. While we continue to sit in traffic, one has to ask, is this really the best America can do?”

This astute observation was originally put forth by then American Public Transportation Association Chief Michael Melaniphy in the APTA’s “Statement by APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy On 2015 Urban Mobility Report” press release of Aug. 26, 2015.2

So, is this as good as it is going to get condition-wise regarding America’s varied infrastructure in general and that of transportation specifically?

I indeed hope not.

Melaniphy’s then very insightful quote in the release in question being what it was didn’t stop there. This was followed through on with another, this, too, quite apropos, even today, as evidenced in him adding: “We urge lawmakers to pass a long-term revenue source … that increases investment to support our nation’s transportation infrastructure. We must meet the demands of our population growth and our economic expansion. A mix of strategies including increased investment in public transportation is crucial to addressing our clogged and congested roadways.”

Well said.

For further information on matters regarding U.S. infrastructure condition, see: “Serious but stable: U.S. infrastructure condition: What it means for air” here: http://alankandel.scienceblog.com/2017/03/11/serious-but-stable-u-s-infrastructure-condition-what-it-means-for-air.

Notes

  1. “Unnecessary fuel waste + irrecoverable delay = a price too high to pay – 2,” representative link here: http://alankandel.scienceblog.com/2015/08/30/unnecessary-fuel-waste-irrecoverable-delay-a-price-too-high-to-pay-2
  2. American Public Transportation Association, “Statement by APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy On 2015 Urban Mobility Report,” Aug. 26, 2015 press release, representative link here: http://www.apta.com/mediacenter/pressreleases/2015/Pages/20150826_2015-Urban-Mobility-Report.aspx

Serious but stable: U.S. infrastructure condition: What it means for air

As with air quality, when it comes to infrastructure, condition matters.

So, right now, according to one measure – the one just out Mar. 9, 2017: the American Society of Civil Engineers’ “2017 Infrastructure Report Card,” condition-wise, overall, America’s infrastructure got a D+.

A serious situation: make no mistake.

Overhead view of Grand Coulee Dam with hydroelectric component on left

So, what is going on here? In the ASCE report, there are 16 infrastructure categories in all, and, among them: aviation; bridges; dams; inland waterways; ports; railways; roads; and transit. How much to bring all of it up to snuff? Not millions or billions, but trillions with a “t” … and an “r”.

And, where will the money come from to cover the cost? Via: taxation, private investment, public-private partnerships, grants, low-interest loans, just where, exactly?!

And, the focus: what should it be? Repair? Replace? Remove? Build new? Is it a case of all of the former?

If there is any consolation here at all it is that the state of infrastructure repair, overall, is unchanged from that reported upon by the ASCE in 2013. Then, as now, D+. But, this doesn’t mean no progress has been made. There has been some. Though not nearly enough if you want to get down to brass tacks.

Take railways, for example. With work done of, by and for this particular endeavor, it improved. This on account of expansions, extensions, equipment acquisitions, etc., paid for almost entirely with money the rail corporations supply themselves. There are some exceptions, however, this typically in shared usage arrangements whereby, say, a passenger train service operates on track owned by a private entity and whereby the former pays the latter for that use. Or, the reciprocal approach could be in effect. It’s a symbiotic relationship that, from all appearances, works well.

Though, this is not to say, all is hunky-dory. All is not.

Infrastructure advancement-wise, transit, in the figurative sense, apparently, not only has hit the brakes, but has shifted into reverse.

I turn now to the American Public Transportation Association for additional perspective on the matter.

In a prepared press statement, the APTA observed:

“The 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, released today [Mar. 9, 2017] by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), gave U.S. public transportation a D- grade, even as it acknowledged the growth of demand for public transit.

“‘With the lowest grade of all the infrastructure categories, public transportation is unfortunately the poster child for our country’s underinvestment in infrastructure. This low grade underlines the need for greater investment in public transportation,’ said Robert A. White, Acting President and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). ‘Transportation is the backbone of an economy and it is in our country’s best interest to make sure that public transportation projects are adequately funded.’”

The APTA adding: “The ASCE report noted that there is ‘a tension’ about the need for expansion to meet the increased demand for public transportation services and the need to properly maintain the transit system. It its 2015 Condition and Performance Report, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) noted that there is a $90 billion state of good repair needs that still has to be addressed.

“Pointing out that ‘a transit system’s condition closely correlates to ridership and financial strength,’ the ASCE report correctly stated how critical it is for a transit system to be kept current and well maintained. One of its recommendations was to ‘encourage additional investment at all levels of government and relevant areas that focus on reducing the backlog of rehabilitation needs.’”

So, what does all of this have to do with the condition or quality of the air?

Bottom line is that if infrastructure improves, so, too, does air quality.

How so?

Tampa Int’l. Airport people mover

Again, using transit as an example, improved infrastructure means better service and better service translates into greater reliance on such. And, if said reliance is greater, then less people are in motor vehicles and, by virtue of this, if fewer motor vehicles are taking up precious roadway space, not only does this mean that demand placed on roadway infrastructure is less, which, in turn results in less congestion, but there is less road surface and sub-grade damage caused. One thing leading to another, getting better is quality of the air as a result.

It’s both as simple and complicated as that!

Bottom image above: Copyright James G. Howes, 2009 (used with permission)

Grower adds dehydrating op to help expand product line, reduce waste

I am not averse to trying new foodstuffs, products, recipes. One thing I make a habit of doing, though, is paying close attention to product recipe ingredients. One product I tried recently fits the snack profile: This is definitely not “junk food.” Its main component: peas, fashioned into a tasty morsel; a “puff,” if you like. Crunchy: yet, airy. And, the best part?! It’s organically produced.

I bring this up because while this is another food item for munching, it could very well be that if not converted into this particular or similar form for purchase and consumption, such may have gone into the waste stream. Though, it’s hard to know for sure.

Which is the main point of this thread and, that is: keep, as much as possible, the food grown and made available, out of the refuse pile, therefore lessening the likelihood of it ending up in the landfill, part of that inevitably winding up becoming methane gas and released into the air.

In “Company launches effort to attack food waste,”1 Vegetable Growers News correspondent Kathy Gibbons opens the article by getting right to the point.

She observes, “Problem: A downturn in the economy helps shine a light on the need for diversification.

“Problem: Too much fresh produce gets left to rot in the fields where it’s grown.

“Solution: For The Woerner Companies, based in Alabama and operating farms there and in Florida, Louisiana, Colorado and Hawaii, start a fruit and vegetable drying processing arm.”

Gibbons cites Woerner Companies Chief Executive Officer and President George Woerner, who said, “‘We decided we were going to narrow in on what crops are in overabundance and where there’s a waste factor, and saw that there’s a stream of produce all over the Southeast that is being discarded.’”

Think ‘dehydration’

One arm of the company is the Bon Secour Valley Ingredients whose 40,000-square-foot plant is expected to be up and running in Foley, Alabama in December, according to Gibbons.

Mike Murphy, Bon Secour Valley Ingredients general manager adds that chicory, which Woerner grows, when processed into flour and switching it in and regular flour out for baking in certain cases, “makes for a healthier product. Chicory root contains inulin, said to provide multiple health benefits,” Gibbons explained.

And added: “They’ll also be dehydrating kale – all of the commodities sourced from their own farms, as well as others as needed and product is available.”

Murphy, providing further comment, remarks: “‘We have a carrot producer over in Georgia that processes carrots and is dumping over 150,000 pounds a day, a part of the carrot, which we can use to produce powders,’ Murphy said. ‘We see recovering these types of things and adding value to them as a way we can go to market and make money for our company.’”

At the operation, according to the Vegetable Growers News correspondent, a pair of dryers, by the way integral to process success, is what Bon Secour Valley Ingredients operates with. On the one hand, there is an “internal rotary drum dryer for dehydrating in bulk volume for small particulates and specific powder sizes, which can be used in baby foods, cereals, smoothie mixes and other recipes.” And on the other, there’s “a tray dryer that will be used for specialty cuts like disks or french fry slices.”

Gibbons brings to bear that for those growers who can, the potential exists for farms to get into the processing side, in essence, giving voice to Woerner, who then elaborates in his own words, that:

“There’s an opportunity to turn a waste stream into a higher-value product that could (turn out to) be even more high value than your number one product,’ he said. ‘Everywhere I go and talk fruits and vegetables, every one of them has a huge waste stream that is being lost.”

Notes

  1. Kathy Gibbons, “Company launches effort to attack food waste,” Vegetable Growers News, March 2017, p. 9

Image at bottom: Stephen Ausmus, U.S.D.A. Agricultural Research Service

 

Lower emissions diesel loco to head to Pacific Harbor Line for testing

Railroading is continually being improved upon. You can see it in the physical plant (infrastructure – rails, ties, roadbed, structures, signals, overhead catenary where in use), the rolling stock and equipment (motive power, rail cars – freight, passenger, maintenance of right-of-way) and in operations.

To be clear, the basic operating premise has, over the years, seen extremely limited change: The platform today is nearly identical to what railroading’s forebears bore witness to when rails were first laid right down to the sleepers (ties) – granite (stone) or wood (we’re talking circa 1827 in America). Development, on the other hand, has been anything but sedentary; pace progress anything but snail-like.

One area of such development is in regard to diesel-electric locomotive-emissions-reduction work.

Locomotive (a “Trains Magazine Special Edition” – “No. 1-2007”) Editor Greg McDonnell perhaps summed it best. McDonnell writes: “At the dawn of the diesel age, the need to reduce or eliminate smoke from locomotives – particularly in urban areas – helped kick-start the revolution that would dieselize North American railroads within a few short decades. It’s no coincidence that Central Railroad of New Jersey 1000, the first commercially successful diesel-electric locomotive in America, went to work in the Bronx in 1925, the same year that New York City passed smoke abatement laws banning the operation of steam locomotives within the city limits.”1 McDonnell goes on in the same article to state that the standards applied regarding the then current diesel-electric locomotive-operating-performance realm were every bit as much in vogue (at that time) as they were more than eight decades earlier, kindling what he refers to as “a new revolution in locomotive technology.”

And, McDonnell would be right. And, it is the very same, 10 years later – in 2017.

Among those diesel-electric locomotive examples making headlines and grabbing attention and the spotlight (at least in the case about to be mentioned) is a “repower” for the Pacific Harbor Line in the, well, harbor, area serving the twin southern California ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

The locomotive model is the EMD24B.

So, Progress Rail in its “Progress Rail Completes Emissions Testing for EMD24B, Tier 4 Switch Locomotive,” Feb. 22, 2017 press release, reported: “Progress Rail, a Caterpillar company, today announced it has successfully completed initial emissions testing of its new, repower locomotive – the EMD24B – and has begun the process of certifying the locomotive per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s stringent Tier 4 emissions standards. The EMD24B locomotive will now start the California Air Resources Board’s 3,000-hour in-service verification testing, first with Pacific Harbor Line, Inc. (PHL).

“Rated at 2,000 horsepower, the EMD24B comes equipped with a CAT® 3512C HD engine and aftertreatment technologies proven to lower emissions. The EMD24B utilizes rebuilt EMD-[Electro-Motive Diesel]-style locomotive components, and has been constructed with a remanufactured underframe and cab from an existing EMD GP-40 locomotive. This pre-1973 locomotive core, which was originally developed based on ‘unregulated’ emissions standards, has been remanufactured to meet the latest emissions standards, aligning with Caterpillar and Progress Rail’s sustainability values.”

The company went on in the release to state: “Pacific Harbor Line, Inc. President Otis Cliatt II said, ‘PHL is pleased to once again partner with Progress Rail in our ongoing effort to achieve the lowest possible emissions within the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. We are eager to test the EMD24B locomotive, which employs the latest technology and represents a very important step toward meeting the stringent clean-air standards of the California Air Resources Board and the U.S. EPA. The EMD24B’s operation on PHL will offer a challenging range of speed, direction and tonnage associated with a busy terminal.’”

More (clean) power to Pacific Harbor Line, Inc. eh?

Notes

  1. Greg McDonnell, “Editor’s Notebook, The New Dawn,” Locomotive, “Trains Magazine Special Edition No. 1-2007,” 2007, p. 7

Image above: Progress Rail

In 2017, do as California is: Make air cleanup, job one – Part 3 (mobile sources 1/2)

Getting right to it, consider that over 300 billion miles of travel are driven on California roadways annually – one-tenth of what is driven nationally (as of late).

And that’s just driving. When you factor in all other modes – providing residents and visitors alike the means with which to move about whether by the second, minute, hour, day, week, month or year – it fast becomes apparent the impact all of this hustle, bustle and otherwise normal travel-related activity is having. On California air, meanwhile, all this mobility, motion, movement, collectively, exacts a heavy toll.

Now, if you remember from Part 2, even though not a country, California, nevertheless, is what it is – the 15th largest contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the world.

So, what does this mean in the global context? According to the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) via its “California Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory – 2016 Edition,” released in June 2016, as of 2014 (the latest year for which greenhouse-gas-emissions data is available), the state’s annual added GHG contribution to the world total: 441.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) which, if it hasn’t already become glaringly apparent, is more than most entire countries’ yearly air-released emissions and even some nations’ outputs combined.

But, it’s not just CO2 emissions alone we’re talking about here which, by the way, represents 84.3 percent of the total. Add in also other mobile and/or stationary sourced gases like methane (CH4) 9.0 percent, nitrous oxide (N2O) 2.8 percent and the high global-warming potential (High GWP) fluorinated gases of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) at 3.9 percent. And the portion coming from transportation, well, that accounts for 37 percent, singly, the largest share of the state’s total. Therefore, making an ambitious, concentrated and concerted effort to reduce emissions from not only this but other mobile-source sectors is paramount. Hence the basis for Part 3.

Brief historical perspective

An oft-repeated maxim is that Californians have a love affair with the automobile. This seemingly unshakeable attraction began in earnest circa 1920. By 1943, however, the first major episode of smog was evidenced in the southern California region, particularly in and around Los Angeles.

Subsequent to this serious efforts were launched, not only to identify the source or sources, but to mitigate this smog’s existence. One need only reference the ARB’s 18-minute video presentation “Clearing California Skies” to both be apprised of the smog’s cause and to become more enlightened with regard to the kind of mitigating action taken to help address, in the southland, a scourge that, prior to it easing some, would grow to become much more problematic and widespread, and the reason behind the region having the reputation it has as smog epicenter of the U.S.

Getting (and keeping) with the program

There is no question California’s air-pollution mitigating action is getting results, so much so that, “Greenhouse gas emissions are approximately 35 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents (MMTCO2e) lower than in 2006, the year Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32, Chapter 488, Statutes of 2006) was enacted,” reports the ARB. “Numerous regulatory and incentive programs have been developed and implemented while the economy has continued to grow.”1 This groundbreaking legislation (AB 32 or the Global Warming Solutions Act), was indeed the spark behind the modern-day state GHG emissions-reduction movement getting rolling. However, if the effort is to have staying power and ultimately be resoundingly successful, stakeholders must be resolved to make a difference, this being especially true as it pertains to transportation.

There is much in the way of remediation that can and is being done to lower pollutants and emissions in air in California. Everything from implemented regulations and enacted legislation to schemes involving hybridizing and incentivizing as well as many other programs and strategies employed to make Golden State air both cleaner and healthier.

Among these are:

  • The Carl Moyer Air Quality Standards Attainment Program
  • Lower-Emission School Bus Program
  • Charge Ahead California Program
  • Light-duty-vehicle-emissions-reductions program
  • Proposition 1B Goods Movement Emission Reduction Program
  • On-Road Alternative Fuel Vehicle Program, South Coast

The list goes on.

So, let’s begin.

Transportation: Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles – incentivization (incentive programs)

Diesel particulate filter

Carl Moyer Program: The Carl Moyer Program was established in 1999 to offer monetary incentives to reduce NOx [oxides of nitrogen] emissions from diesel engines. Some of the strategies used to reduce NOx, such as replacing old diesel engines with new alternative-fuel engines, have also resulted in lower PM emissions. … The Program’s costs for reducing a ton of NOx have averaged less than $5,000 per ton, with the additional benefit of more than 320 tons-per-year of PM reductions.”2 Additionally, lawn and garden, locomotive and marine equipment, and on- and off-road vehicles can qualify. http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/moyer/moyer.htm

Lower-Emission School Bus Program: Since 2000, the state and local school districts have allocated more than $70 million to reduce emissions from older, high-polluting school buses. This funding has gone to buy new, cleaner buses and to install filters on existing diesel buses. Thus far, the funding has seen the purchase of about 400 new school buses. Meanwhile, about 40 more new buses are on order and will be delivered to school districts by 2005. The program also will ultimately see 3,000 or more existing buses retrofitted with filters to significantly reduce their emissions.”3 http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/schoolbus/schoolbus.htm

To be continued

So as to keep text to a reasonable length, information here is divided into two “Part 3” installments. Discussion will again resume in: “In 2017, do as California is: Make air cleanup, job one – Part 3 (mobile sources 2/2).” So, please be on the lookout for that.

In the meantime, more information can be had from the following sources and locations:

New Engine Standards: http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/onroadhd/onroadhd.htm

Low Sulfur Diesel Fuel: http://www.arb.ca.gov/fuels/diesel/diesel.htm

Waste Collection Trucks: http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/SWCV/SWCV.htm

Transit Agency Buses: http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/bus/bus.htm

School Bus Idling Restrictions: http://www.arb.ca.gov/toxics/sbidling/sbidling.htm

Transport Refrigeration Units: http://www.arb.ca.gov/diesel/tru.htm

Parts 1 and 2 can be read here and here.

Notes

  1. “Discussion Draft, 2030 Target Scoping Plan Update,” California Air Resources Board, Dec. 2, 2016, Executive Summary – JANUARY 2017, Preface, p. 7
  2. “Facts About California’s Accomplishments in Reducing Diesel Particulate Matter Emissions,” Incentive Programs Cleaner Air, California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, 2004, p. 4
  3. Ibid

Middle image aboveDana60Cummins

Lower image above: David Rees, U.S. EPA, catalogued and held by U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

In 2017, do as California is: Make air cleanup, job one – Part 2 (stationary sources)

“The science is clear: breathing polluted air increases the risk of debilitating and deadly diseases such as lung cancer, stroke, heart disease, and chronic bronchitis. Air pollution is now the world’s fourth-leading fatal health risk, causing one in ten deaths in 2013.”1

Air in California, America’s 31st state, is under repetitious attack via a hail of pollutants from many sources in many regions. In the area of greenhouse-gas-emissions (GHGs) contribution, meanwhile, according to the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB), California’s contribution worldwide is roughly two percent. Even though not a country, California as a state, nonetheless, is considered the world’s 15th largest emitter of GHGs.2

Expressed in million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent units (MMTCO2E) released into the atmosphere yearly, California’s annual GHG emissions output is approximately 441.5 MMTCO2E. Forward progress in this area in terms of GHGs reduction has been made. However, work must be ongoing. Further, a 2020 GHG-emissions-reduction goal of 427 MMTCO2E has been set. 3 “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory,” meanwhile, is one source where more information can be found.

A ‘model’ model

So, for the various stationary sources (e.g. energy and heat production; landfills; buildings; forests; and water delivery) of air pollution, what are some of the kinds of active programs within the stationary sources sector that the Golden State is currently participating in to reduce emissions?

Energy –

Energy efficiency programs: California Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, September 2008, a California Public Utilities Commission document. This plan seeks to reduce electricity and natural gas waste by maximizing the efficiency of such in ways that are cost-effective starting in year 2009 and extending to year 2020 and beyond. For water heating, there is the Solar Hot Water and Efficiency Act of 2007, a 10-year, $250 million incentive program with the goal of installing 200,000 solar hot water heating systems in state by 2017.4 And with respect to cogeneration (electricity and heat generation combined), there is the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) program.5

Renewables Portfolio Standard program: Within the electricity sector, generation is to increase to 33 percent from renewable sources by 2020. Renewables sources include: solar, wind, wave, flow (small hydroelectric), geothermal, anaerobic digestion and landfill gas.6 Investor-owned utilities (IOU) are required by mandate to abide by RPS dictate whereas publicly-owned utilities (POU), though not bound by the same requirement, are encouraged to follow suit.7

The Million Solar Roofs program: An initiative that is proof positive that further solidified is California’s commitment to GHG-reduction. In the crosshairs is a total of 3,000 megawatts of capacity installed by 2020.

To learn more, here are three additional resources:

Tracking Progress

The Future is California – How the State is Charting a Path Forward on Clean Energy,” by Jayant Kairam of the Environmental Defense Fund at its Energy Exchange blog,

On the clean-air, clean-energy cutting edge: Practices, programs in Calif. getting results

Cap and Trade –

For those who do not know what cap and trade entails, on the “How Cap and Trade Works” page of the Web site of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the market mechanism is explained. What the EDF states, is: “Cap and trade is a powerful approach to reduce pollution in our atmosphere.”

From the same page it is further stressed, “The cap on greenhouse gas emissions is a limit backed by science. Companies pay penalties if they exceed the cap, which gets stricter over time.

“The trade part is a market for companies to buy and sell allowances that permit them to emit a certain amount. Trading gives companies a strong incentive to save money by cutting emissions.”8

The EDF also emphasized that since California’s cap and trade program became effective in 2013, as a result of this program going into effect, in the period of time since its launch until 2015, in that two-year timeframe, emissions dropped four percent.9

“Carbon Market California: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Golden State’s Cap-and-Trade Program – Year Two: 2014,” http://www.edf.org/sites/default/files/content/carbon-market-california-year_two.pdf an EDF study by Katherine Hsia-Kiung and Erica Morehouse, offers some additional insights.

A few excerpts:

As explained in the report’s Executive summary, “… [T]he end of 2014 officially marked the conclusion of ‘Compliance Period One,’ the first phase of the market program established by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).”10

Program progress (Chap. 2), “Cap-and-trade auction proceed investments” on p. 18, “California has held nine quarterly allowance auctions to date, raising a total of $969.1 million for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF). … Revenue collected from the auctions is either returned to electricity customers as a climate credit or reinvested in the economy through the GGRF.”11

“Earlier in 2014, the Legislature amended the 2013-2014 budget to include … $40 million for water efficiency projects, bringing the total amount of appropriated cap-and-trade funds to $902 million.”12

Then there is Figure 2-5 which depicts the $902 million GGRF-funds usage. There is $660 million for Sustainable Communities and Clean Transportation, $150 million for Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy, and $92 million for Natural Resources and Waste Diversion. (Source: California Air Resources Board).13

To learn more, visit: California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board’s “Cap-and-Trade Program” Web page here.

Green Buildings –

The key is to reduce GHG from buildings. “Commercial and residential buildings account for nearly 70 percent of California’s electricity end-use consumption and 55 percent of its natural gas end-use consumption. The residential and commercial sectors account for over 26 percent of California’s total greenhouse gas emissions,” the California Energy Commission (CEC) exclaimed.14 “Two significant steps toward increased building energy efficiency were taken since 2014. First, the 2013 revisions to the Building Energy Efficiency Standards became effective on July 1, 2014, and are being implemented statewide. Second, the Energy Commission adopted the 2016 revisions to the Building Energy Efficiency Standards on June 10, 2015, which include four major measures that move homes closer to the ZNE [Zero-Net-Energy] goals, including high-performance attics, high-performance walls, instantaneous water heaters, and high-efficacy lighting with controls throughout the home. The standards become effective on January 1, 2017.”15

To learn more about Building Energy Efficiency Standards, see: http://www.energy.ca.gov/title24

To learn more about LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified, building practices, visit the U.S. Green Building Council Web site here.

Agriculture –

“Agricultural burning is currently a significant source of air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley, responsible for more than ten tons per day of particulates and more than 15 tons per day of smog forming chemicals,” the SJVAPCD noted. (Reference: “Garbage disposal: Rubbish not just for burning and dumping anymore”).

This was at one time the case. And, as this relates to the implementation of open-field agricultural burn bans, the single biggest difference to air quality from the agricultural sector came in the form of California Senate Bill 705 with its passage in 2003.

From the article “Agricultural burn phase-out begins,” published in the July 2005 issue of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s “Valley Air News” publication, written is:

“SB 705 was enacted in 2003 and bans open [-field ag-waste] burning in three phases:

  • June 1, 2005: Field crops, most pruning and weed abatement;
  • June 1, 2007: Orchard Removals;
  • June 1, 2010: Pruning from crops harvested off the ground, vineyard removal and removal of diseased materials.”

Then there are facets like the application of such things as farmland conservation; replacement and upgrade programs for farming equipment, pumps and electricity generation and cold storage facilities; composting; and water and waste treatment (conversion of into energy, electricity and heat or steam) programs.

Above and beyond

There is so much being done at the individual, corporate and industrial levels to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in state, initiatives in Recycling and Waste (54 percent landfill-waste diversion rate through recyclable materials recovery,16 composting,17 landfill-methane capture,18 recyclables replacing virgin raw materials,19 in-vessel anaerobic digestion20), passed legislation in the forms of SB 375 (California Senate Bill 375 otherwise known as The Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008) and AB 32 (California Assembly Bill 32, also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) and others, have been covered in far greater detail on the pages of the Air Quality Matters blog.

Beyond these, not to be overlooked are:

Sustainable Forests –

Sustainable forest biomass for energy generation; preserve forest sequestration – reduce wildfire risk; avoid changes in land use to effect a reduction in carbon storage. Urban forest projects, meanwhile, have a dual benefit – carbon sequestration and shading to reduce the need for air conditioning.21

Water Conditioning, Delivery –

For water delivery and water conditioning, there is the application and use of more renewable sources of energy.22

Next10 Study –

“The Economic Impacts of California’s Major Climate Programs on the San Joaquin Valley.” From the press release: “1st comprehensive cost/benefit study of climate policies in San Joaquin Valley finds over $13 billion in economic benefits, mostly in renewable energy;” the study is available via Next10.

Mattress recycling –

To learn more about Blue Marble Materials (mattress recycling program), visit: https://www.bluemarblematerials.com

To read “In 2017, do as California is: Make air cleanup, job one – Part 1,” go here.

Meanwhile, Part 3 to highlight emissions reduction from the mobile-sources sector.

Notes

  1. World Bank and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. 2016. The Cost of Air Pollution: Strengthening the Economic Case for Action. Washington, DC: World Bank. License: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 3.0 IGO http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/781521473177013155/pdf/108141-REVISED-Cost-of-PollutionWebCORRECTEDfile.pdf
  2. “Climate Change Scoping Plan: a framework for change,” (prepared by the California Air Resources Board for the State of California), Introduction: A Framework for Change, “C. California’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the 2020 Target,” Dec. 2008, p. 11
  3. Ibid, p. 12
  4. Ibid, Recommended Actions, “C. Emissions Reduction Measures, 3. Energy Efficiency, (Solar Water Heating),” p. 43
  5. Ibid, Recommended Actions, “C. Emissions Reduction Measures, 3. Energy Efficiency, (Combined Heat and Power),” pp. 43-44
  6. Ibid, Recommended Actions, “C. Emissions Reduction Measures, 4. Renewables Portfolio Standard,” p. 44
  7. Ibid, p. 45
  8. Copyright © 2017 Environmental Defense Fund. Used by permission. “How Cap and Trade Works: The system reduces emissions by setting a limit on pollution and creating a market,” Environmental Defense Fund, https://www.edf.org/climate/how-cap-and-trade-works
  9. Ibid, “Cap and trade is lowering emissions globally”
  10. Copyright © 2017 Environmental Defense Fund. Used by permission. “Carbon Market California: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Golden State’s Cap-and-Trade Program – Year Two: 2014,” an EDF study by Katherine Hsia-Kiung and Erica Morehouse, Executive summary, p. 2 http://www.edf.org/sites/default/files/content/carbon-market-california-year_two.pdf
  11. Ibid, “Cap-and-trade auction proceed investments,” Chap. 2 Program progress, p. 18
  12. Ibid, p. 20
  13. Ibid, “Figure 2-5 Greenhouse gas reduction fund,” p. 21
  14. “California Energy Commission – Tracking Progress,” Advancing Energy Efficiency of Existing Buildings, “Energy Efficiency,” p. 3, http://www.energy.ca.gov/renewables/tracking_progress/documents/energy_efficiency.pdf
  15. Ibid, Zero-Net-Energy Goal for New Buildings, “Energy Efficiency,” p. 5, http://www.energy.ca.gov/renewables/tracking_progress/documents/energy_efficiency.pdf
  16. “Climate Change Scoping Plan: a framework for change,” (prepared by the California Air Resources Board for the State of California), Recommended Actions “C. Emissions Reduction Measures, 15. Recycling and Waste,” Dec. 2008, p. 62
  17. Ibid, Recommended Actions “C. Emissions Reduction Measures, 15. Recycling and Waste,” p. 62
  18. Ibid, Recommended Actions “C. Emissions Reduction Measures, 15. Recycling and Waste, (Reduction in Landfill Methane),” p. 62
  19. Ibid, Recommended Actions “C. Emissions Reduction Measures, 15. Recycling and Waste, (High Recycling / Zero Waste),” pp. 62-63
  20. Ibid, Recommended Actions “C. Emissions Reduction Measures, 15. Recycling and Waste, (High Recycling / Zero Waste),” pp. 62
  21. Ibid, Recommended Actions “C. Emissions Reduction Measures, 16. Sustainable Forests,” pp. 64-65
  22. Ibid, Recommended Actions “C. Emissions Reduction Measures, 17. Water,” pp. 65-66

Top image above: U.S. Department of Energy

Second image from top: Ashley Felton

Third image from top: Courtesy of Lynne Biddinger, San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce

Article updated on Feb. 22, 2017 at 10:09 a.m. Pacific Standard Time

Air fare extraordinaire: From apathy to zealousness and then some

A week ago one television news broadcast (the one I was watching, of course) had a news item pointing out America’s best city in which to live. Before the answer was revealed, I could only think of one place – Denver. I was close: Denver dropped to the number two spot. That means that last year, Denver was tops. So, which place is second-to-none? Austin, Texas if I’m not mistaken.

If it is the central-Texas city that now heads the list (at least according to one poll), how did the mile-high city get overtaken? What did Austin do to pull ahead? I’m curious. Alternatively, I could ask why Denver slipped a notch.

I would imagine one ranking criteria would be air quality. If so, what this tells me is that air quality in both metro regions is, at minimum, somewhat good if not just plain good.

Now you know in late April, the American Lung Association comes out with its annual “State of the Air” report. If this year is no exception, what I would expect to learn at that time via the lung association report is that Austin and Denver rank right up there among the nation’s cities with cleaner air.

So, it begs the question: What will be the association’s top pick as America’s cleanest-air city? I can’t wait! Will it be Portland, Oregon; San Francisco, California; Fort Myers, Florida; Santa Fe, New Mexico, just where, exactly?

Another question I would ask is: For those considering relocating, what percentage takes air quality into consideration when choosing a place to relocate to? Again, I’m curious.

And, I’m thinking of yet another question still: For all those places that rank poorly in the lung association’s “State of the Air” report, what if any action is taken to try to change that status once the situation is learned? Are the metros notoriously known for having poor air quality loath, either out of a lack of caring or concern, to do much at all about it?

There is another name for this – it’s called apathy.

There are places I suspect where residents believe it is the role of government to deal with the dirty-air problem plaguing their communities. Others, meanwhile, are convinced the bad air mucking up their views and lungs and what-not comes from sources from some upwind community and it is that city located upwind that must get its emissions under control, while still others subscribe to the notion that weather dictates all; in other words, leave it up to Mother Nature to solve all. I even once heard someone (on camera) exclaim that Fresno skies are blue (which, in this person’s view, is more often than not, apparently) so, why even fret. To him, at least, the whole matter seemed a non-issue. Seems absurd, if you ask me.

I have another way of describing that symptom. You heard right, symptom. It’s called not getting with the program.

The Guardian newspaper right now has published what seems is a series of articles bringing air pollution front and center, one columnist categorizing, describing polluted air and the number of people dying early on account of it – 6.5 million people worldwide – as a crisis – a world emergency, if you will.

Ten years ago this coming December, in my hometown, The Fresno Bee published a special feature titled: “Fighting For Air.” It was a truly comprehensive accounting of the situation besetting the San Joaquin Valley of California air pollution-wise. There was seemingly nothing having anything and everything to do with this that wasn’t included in the discourse. The feature was quite thorough, in other words.

From this, the one item that has stuck in my mind since then more than any other is the number of children in Fresno County who live their lives as asthmatics – the number is almost one in three, according to the Bee’s Barbara Anderson then, or roughly 75,000 out of 225,000 children. It’s no wonder the Bee columnist in the article where cited referred to Fresno County as the asthma capital of California.1 A sad-but-true reality.

A decade is a long time. I’m curious to know what’s changed, what hasn’t in that 10-year span. Is it time for a second “Fighting For Air – 10 years on” installment? Sure couldn’t hurt.

On the home front – Fresno – meanwhile, I suspect this winter this area air quality-wise will get a pretty clean bill of health thanks to abundant rain. The particulate matter season typically lasts from Nov. 1 to Feb. 28 in these here parts.

If it turns out to be good this one season, that’s not an excuse to become complacent. That is absolutely the wrong attitude to take because not every winter is going to be as wet as this one’s been. For those who have been keeping track, the southwest U.S. has suffered from at least five years of drought; a dry spell that’s been persistent.

Okay, so we got lucky and caught a break. How long this break will last is anyone’s guess. The better approach is to embrace technology, abide by the rules, regulations and just be good stewards of the land, water and air.

A textbook example of getting and staying with the program if ever there was one.

Notes

  1. “Fighting For Air,” Fresno is state’s asthma capital, The Fresno Bee, Dec. 16, 2007, p. 5

Image above: U.S. National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

On-the-move pollution more health-impacting than once thought, study reveals

There is much that is being learned about air pollution on the move. For example, the distances Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons or PAHs traveled, how they are affected while in flight and what their impact is on human health are all areas researchers explored in a recent collaborative study conducted by Oregon State University (OSU), the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Peking University.

In “Globe-trotting pollutants raise some cancer risks four times higher than predicted,” an Oregon State University news release, published Jan. 26, 2017, this is all detailed.

“A new way of looking at how pollutants ride through the atmosphere has quadrupled the estimate of global lung cancer risk from a pollutant caused by combustion, to a level that is now double the allowable limit recommended by the World Health Organization.

“The findings, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition online, showed that tiny floating particles can grow semi-solid around pollutants, allowing them to last longer and travel much farther than what previous global climate models predicted.

“Scientists said the new estimates more closely match actual measurements of the pollutants from more than 300 urban and rural settings.”

What’s disturbing is the danger these so-called “globe-trotting pollutants” present to human health.

The study’s lead author, Manish Shrivastava, a PNNL scientist wrote: “‘This work brings together theory, lab experiments and field observations to show how viscous organic aerosols can largely elevate global human exposure to toxic particles, by shielding them from chemical degradation in the atmosphere,’” as noted in the release.

From the burning of fossil fuels, consumption of biofuels and fires from forests, released are pollutants and in these certain chemicals, namely, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, several of which, as identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are known agents that cause cancer, information in the OSU release went on to point out.

“These tiny airborne particles form clouds, cause precipitation and reduce air quality, yet they are the most poorly understood aspect of the climate system.”

The PAHs react differently with different chemicals in different conditions. For example, “Recent experiments led by PNNL coauthor Alla Zelenyuk show that, depending on the conditions, the aerosol coatings can actually be quite viscous. If the atmosphere is cool and dry, the coating can become as viscous as tar, trapping PAHs and other chemicals. By preventing their movement, the viscous coating shields the PAHs from degradation.”

Moreover, researchers “using both old and new models,” looked at the extent of the protected pollutants’ journeys – across whole continents and oceans.

“Globally, the previous model predicted half a cancer death out of every 100,000 people, which is half the limit outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO) for PAH exposure. But using the new model, which showed that shielded PAHs actually travel great distances, the global risk was four times that, or two cancer deaths per 100,000 people, which exceeds WHO standards.”

Noted in the release also was the extent to which the WHO standards were exceeded which varied throughout different regions of the world. The extent, according to OSU, was greater in China and India and less in Western Europe and the U.S. In mid- and high-latitudes, meanwhile, compared to the tropics, shielding extent was much greater. “As the aerosols traversed the warm and humid tropics, ozone could get access to the PAH’s and oxidize them.”

As pointed out, uncertainty remains as to what this means to future environmental and human health risk assessments, Shrivastava going on to explain, “‘[w]e need to better understand how the shielding of PAHs varies with the complexity of aerosol composition, atmospheric chemical aging of aerosols, temperature and relative humidity. I was initially surprised to see so much oxidation over the tropics.’”

For more information see: “Tracking pollution: Research helps explain air-contaminant survival” here.

Article updated on Feb. 12, 2017 at 9:39 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

Notes

  1. Illustration originally credited to Oregon State University. Information has since been updated to reflect proper attribution.

Illustration credit: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory