Net Zero | Sustainability | Renewable Energy

GCT Featured Articles

COP21 – good news for the planet
By Daniel 2021/02
Offshore wind farms in the United States | Block Island leads the way
By Daniel 2020/11
Kamuthi Solar Project; and the largest solar PV farms in India, China, and other countries
By Daniel 2020/02
Austin, Texas: a sustainable city
By Daniel 2020/02
Europe’s greenest city district
By Daniel 2020/01

SUSTAINABLE CITIES |

[Note: this essay was written when Donald Trump was still POTUS. Now Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are in the White House. Democrats are in charge of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The United States has rejoined the international community focused on climate action.

First and foremost, this means fully participating in the Paris Climate Accord. Biden has taken the additional step of pledging that the US achieves net zero emissions (carbon neutrality) by 2050. The US government is also investing substantially in clean energy infrastructure. This green investment includes: clean energy job development and investment in many other significant sustainable climate, energy, environmental, and economic US sectors.]



♥WHAT MAKES A CITY SUSTAINABLE♥



Sustainability is the most important topic facing humanity today. Embracing sustainability means embracing our future, whereas ignoring it means accepting the status quo. In order to develop a sustainable world, human behavior must change so that people exist more sustainably with the planet. Society must become more eco-conscious faster than the climate is changing.

Society must embrace sustainability in order to positively change the dynamics of human-climate interactions in the world. People should be compelled to create a symbiotic relationship between mankind and nature on the planet. On a micro level, individual behavior should become more eco-conscious.

Paris Climate Accord

On a macro level, governments must develop sustainable strategies in order for significant sustainable changes to gain momentum throughout the world. Governments must adopt and implement public policies so that entire countries lower their carbon footprint. This is part of the process of meeting nationally determined contributions as per the UNFCCC COP21 Paris Climate Accord.

Paris Climate AccordIn order to effectively act on climate now, all countries globally must try and pursue targets outlined in the COP21 Paris Climate Accord. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), reflecting the international scientific consensus on the issue, has set a goal to keep global warming well below 2° Celsius (3.6° Fahrenheit) by mid-century. The IPCC now recommends pursuing an even lower warming cap of 1.5°C (2.7°F) (that’s limiting global temperature rise to no more than 1.5°C above average pre-industrial levels).

However, there are obstacles in the path of creating a sustainable world. These obstacles include entrenched interests of fossil fuel companies, and societies dependent on fossil fuels.

As long as exploiting nature for resources continues to remain profitable, people that want to protect the environment will have to continue to describe in detail the necessity of ecological conservation. Those in favor of a sustainable world must keep reminding society and politicians of the many benefits of maintaining natural resources to sustain planetary health.

Message of The Lorax | 

The LoraxIt’s easier for urban populations to stay with the status quo of relying on fossil fuels, rather than to change their lifestyles and adopt environmentally-friendly practices. There are many necessary strategies to protect the global environment and urban environments; and simultaneously ensure future growth on the planet is sustainable.

In the Dr. Seuss book The Lorax, the cryptic word “unless...“ implies a metaphor for the need to employ ecologically-friendly practices. It's reasonable to extend the metaphor to encapsulate the need for environmental sustainability on a global basis. The Lorax can be interpreted as a message for society to make a concerted effort to avoid the worst consequences of pollution and anthropogenic climate change.

In The Lorax, the protagonists plant a seed to regrow Truffula Trees, as a solution to the devastation caused by human over-development and exploitation of natural resources. The population on planet earth certainly should plant trees in order to significantly create reforestation. In this essay, we will cover a whole host of other advisable sustainability practices for the planet; especially focused on urban environments.


Please also see:

Sustainability Transformation for Cities

and

SUSTAINABILITY PRIORITIES for the United States


Politics of the Energy Transition

The intuitive, commonsense approach of environmental and urban sustainability movements hasn’t completely taken hold in most US cities. This is primarily because the fossil fuel industry has worked hard to make sure that fossil fuels, fossil fuel infrastructure, and fossil fuel investors, remain firmly entrenched in the American economy. After all, fossil fuel interests have essentially been running the US economy for 1½ centuries in American city life [1].

Political Power Of US Big Oil & Gas

[Note: many references to American politics throughout this essay are from 2017, as this was written when Trump was still president. However, the general theme of Big Oil's power over US politics holds true to the present day.] As an example of the firm grip US Big Oil & Gas has on American politics, the current [current = as of the end of 2017] EPA administration is doing very little to actually protect the environment.

It’s more than just that the administration minimizes the threat of anthropogenic climate change. It's that the EPA, the Trump administration, and many Congressional Republicans, have been rolling back environmental regulations. Fossil fuel companies are now allowed to literally dump pollution and toxins in America’s waters and air. [2] These polluting practices save Big Oil, Gas, and Coal money from fossil fuel companies not having to abide by regulations, but it is horrible for the environment.

[See link to NDRC in footnotes below, and Appendix item #3. Also see the multiple bills listed in Representative Warren Davidson's environmental record of voting as compiled by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) in Appendix item #1. The bills listed by the LCV, as passed by the House of Representatives mostly in 2017, are indicative of the majority of GOP public policy decision-makers in the U.S.]

The Benefits of Sustainability & Clean, Low Carbon Energy

It is imperative to keep reminding the American people of the benefits of sustainability. Throughout this article, we detail the benefits of clean energy technologies, and sustainable practices, to individual lives, communities; as well as the overwhelming benefits of sustainability to society as a whole.

This includes the economic benefits of sustainability and clean energy. Vigorous public pressure will create the necessary political change and the leverage, in the form of public will, to create a true public-private partnership to advance environmental (and economic) sustainability in the US. Those in favor of creating sustainable cities must therefore keep up the pressure.

This essay will detail sustainability strategies for urban environments. These sustainable pathways will help to create a fully sustainable environment where cities and nature thrive in harmony. Such strategies, these sustainable pathways, include:

It is important to recognize the advantages of renewable energy over fossil fuel sources of energy; the efficiency of clean and sustainable energy versus fossil fuels. There are many advantages of energy efficient, sustainable technologies over conventional technologies  Examples of beneficial modern, sustainable technologies include electric vehicles, and LED lights, vs. cars with combustion engines, and incandescent lights. The benefits of modern sustainable technologies are detailed below in this essay. Additionally, renewable energy is now cheaper and more efficient than fossil fuels, making renewables the clearly better choice. But, it wasn't always this way.

Sustainable (and unsustainable) development in US history 

American cities developed and expanded substantially during the Industrial Revolution. The majority of American cities depended on fossil fuels for urban expansion. Cities developed their fossil fuel production capabilities and fossil fuel infrastructure rapidly (one might even say, hastily) during the turn of the 20th century.

American cities also dedicated many municipal resources to fossil fuel products during the Industrial Revolution and afterward, during the late 19th century and the 20th century [3]. Even now, in the 21st century, it is difficult for cities to extricate themselves from the investment that has been put into the fossil fuel industry and the culture of mass production and mass consumption.

Mass production and consumption in the American market and the mass production of cars, led to urban over-development. In the early 20th century, the national focus on the rapid development of infrastructure for automobiles (freeways, highways, gas stations, parking lots/ garages). In the post-Great Depression era in America, there was an increase in the development of wholly unsustainable urban environments [4]. The boom in production in this period meant that commercial parking lots, gas stations, and freeways replaced green spaces and pedestrian/ bicycle-friendly markets.

The promise of 21st century Sustainability

The promise of a better return on investment for investing in sustainability (i.e. renewable energy, energy efficiency products and services, etc…) should be enough for most municipalities to update their investment strategies to modern, sustainable options. There should be incentives to encourage cities to abandon fossil fuel dependency that was established throughout the US by the end of the Industrial Revolution.

When coal was less expensive than solar, there was at least the (faulty) economic argument that coal benefits the economy (in the short run). Not long ago, it could be argued that solar is too expensive. Now that there is cost parity between coal and solar, that is an inaccurate argument.

Solar benefits the economy and the environment; and is more cost-effective and more efficient than coal. Solar doesn’t have the negative externalities that coal does: factors that add to the true cost of exploiting this finite natural resource. Coal does not benefit the economy in the long run, once all of the negative externalities of coal use are considered.

However, coal still benefits those prior (and current) generations of investors in coal energy, and the politicians/ companies who support them. The same set of facts just described for coal also apply to oil and gas production, development, and consumption; as well as fossil fuel infrastructure and petrochemicals.

Wind power, and other renewable energy sources, may be considered logical substitutes for solar energy when considering these facts, as well. According to a recent poll, developing renewable energy in the United States is more important than fossil fuels to Americans.[5]


Pew poll: support for renewable energy among Americans



Benefits of Carbon Markets

One sustainable solution to incentivize renewable energy and discourage fossil fuels, is a carbon tax. Emission trading systems (ETS) are another effective way to establish carbon markets. Another is the principle of mitigating negative externalities (such as the damage to the environment and public health caused by fossil fuels), and having the relative costs of pollution paid for, is the purpose of carbon markets.

Another primary purpose of establishing carbon markets is to lower greenhouse gas emissions produced in the burning of fossil fuels (by discouraging unmitigated fossil fuel use and encouraging energy efficiency). Another is to encourage development and deployment of energy efficiency technologies used with fossil fuels. Who bears the ultimate burden of the tax is a hypothetical question that has a couple of answers.

Unless a carbon tax is specifically aimed at consumers, businesses that produce and distribute fossil fuels should at least consider bearing the brunt of the tax. However, in practice, individuals ultimately end up paying more. Consumers pay more for gas and on the utility bill, among other fossil fuel related goods and services, from companies that haven't already fully embraced renewable energy.


Here is a chart illustrating some of the negative externalities of coal (in the Appalachian region, US):

chart of the negative externalities of coal

Full description and explanations of the negative externalities found in the chart found here:  https://skepticalscience.com



The cost of certain types of solar energy generation (utility scale, community solar) have already achieved cost parity with conventional coal, and are lower cost than coal production with carbon capture & storage (CCS).

The types of solar energy production that are on par or cheaper than coal with CCS are utility-scale solar, and community solar – the first of which provides energy to utilities, the second of which essentially acts as a microgrid, and replaces the utility. Energy production from wind is generally cheaper than all forms of coal across the board.


Note that we are looking at the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) production, which is a summation of all costs that go into the production of energy given a specific fuel source (see further explanation of the LCOE production below). The cost of producing energy with a renewable fuel vs. fossil fuels is dramatically lower when just the cost of producing electricity is considered (see chart from the US EIA and DOE below).

When the costs of the negative externalities associated with fossil fuel production are added back in, the relative cost of renewable energy sources vs. fossil fuels is lower still. What follows are a series of charts, quotes, and explanations of the levelized cost of America’s most significant energy sources>>

“Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) is often cited as a convenient summary measure of the overall competitiveness of different generating technologies. It represents the per-MWh cost (in discounted real dollars) of building and operating a generating plant over an assumed financial life and duty cycle. 4 Key inputs to calculating LCOE include capital costs, fuel costs, fixed and variable operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, financing costs, and an assumed utilization rate for each plant.” – quote from https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.pdf

The following LCOE chart is from 12/2016: https://cleantechnica.com/cost-of-solar-power-vs-cost-of-wind-power-coal-nuclear-natural-gas


levelized cost of energy chart

2017 – “Renewable energy is now the cheapest option, on average, for new electricity capacity around the world — in developed countries like the US as well as developing countries” – quote from https://cleantechnica.com/renewables-now-cheapest-renewable-energy-costs-low-too-high/

Here is a similar chart (from 2016) as the levelized cost chart above, but a different view, with the levelized cost of energy production for various fuel sources:


US unsubsidized LCOE

"...new wind power and/or solar power plants are typically cheaper than new coal, natural gas, or nuclear power plants — even without any governmental support for solar or wind. Not only are they typically cheaper — they’re much cheaper in many cases…” – quote from 2016: https://cleantechnica.com/cost-of-solar-power-vs-cost-of-wind-power-coal-nuclear-natural-gas/

The table below shows energy cost per KWh of a set of energy sources. “This table compares the US average electricity cost in dollars per kilowatt-hour for both non-renewable and alternative fuels in new power plants, based on US EIA statistics and analysis from Annual Energy Outlook 2017.” – from http://www.renewable-energysources.com

Power Plant Type Cost 
$/kW-hr
Coal $0.11-0.12
Natural Gas $0.053-0.11
Nuclear $0.096
Wind $0.044-0.20
Solar PV $0.058
Solar Thermal $0.184
Geothermal $0.05
Biomass $0.098
Hydro $0.064

>> This table is also adapted from US DOE Annual Energy Outlook 2017.

According to the EIA, “The levelized cost of energy generation from solar (and wind, and other renewable energy sources) will be much lower than coal within 5 years.” - from: https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.pdf

“About half the world’s power will be generated by wind and solar resources by 2050. Generation from coal will drop more than 70% from today’s levels. That’s according to research from energy analysts published June 19 in the “New Energy Outlook 2018” (NEO) from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). (AND) Electric vehicles (EVs) will account for about 9% of total power demand globally in 2050. Bloomberg reported that EVs will account for 55% of new vehicle sales worldwide by 2040.” – From:

https://www.oilandgas360.com/bloomberg-new-energy-finance-outlook-for-electricity-cheap-wind-solar-storage-will-change-everything-by-2050/



A carbon tax and/ or emission trading system is enacted to hasten the transition to low carbon intensive energy use. Putting a price on carbon is the most direct way to make a government effort to transition to low emission, clean energy, energy efficiency technologies.

Renewable energy, sustainable public transportation, energy efficiency products, services, and practices, and carbon capture and storage, become even greater alternatives for energy use, as fossil fuel use is essentially penalized, with the carbon tax. Switching to low-emission, higher energy efficient sustainable technologies like renewable energy, is rewarded in carbon markets. Less GHG emitted = lowering or avoiding the carbon price.

One benefit of a carbon tax is revenue generated for the public good. Another benefit includes providing incentives to reduce fossil fuel consumption and increase energy efficiency. Yet another benefit of establishing carbon markets, is the increased attractiveness of the cost of renewable energy. Carbon markets make renewable energy cost competitive with fossil fuels.

The following are a few sources that provide more information on carbon pricing:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/california-climate-change-cap-trade.html
  2. http://www.governing.com/gov-carbon-tax-states-washington-inslee.html
  3. https://www.technologyreview.com/surge-of-carbon-pricing-proposals-coming-in-the-new-year/


There is currently a worldwide search for the ideal method to create a sustainable planet – a solution for sustainability.  Any of the most prominent sustainable solutions (renewable energy, energy efficiency, carbon pricing, sustainable vehicles, and mass transportation, green building), when implemented worldwide, might help save the planet from the worst effects of anthropogenic climate change. All of them, done sparingly, might also work...or a few of them done moderately well, might also work. There are many solutions. This essay will endeavor to cover several solutions; as the United States must continue to develop sustainable cities.

Solar, wind, and other renewable energies, are each solutions in their own right. Sustainable mass transportation, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency (in cars, buses, trains, buildings, factories) are also sustainable solutions. A carbon tax, cap & trade programs, state and federal subsidies for clean energy, energy efficiency; as well as feed-in tariffs, tax incentives and manufacturer rebates for clean energy and energy efficiency goods and services, are yet more solutions. Let’s focus now on the biggest solution, renewable energy – which can be easily identified as ‘energy harvesting’.

The key phrase here is energy harvesting, as this is the term that defines a renewable energy source (solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, or biomass/ biofuel – the last of which is not even 100% clean, yet is still renewable). Humanity must develop renewables in order to be sustainable. Energy harvesting is significantly better for the environment, and the economy, than energy extraction and burning.

Harvesting wind and solar energy can be combined with batteries to create a truly continuous stream of renewable energy. The island of Tu'a in the Samoa islands is a perfect example of sustainability, running on Tesla batteries and Solar City solar panels [6].

The following is a quick summary flow chart of how a super energy efficient production/ storage system like the one that Tesla/ Solar City operates on the island T’au (also this model of energy generation can be used as an example for micro-grid operations in cities throughout the United States):

  • Solar (this could also hypothetically be wind/ or anaerobic digestion/ or biomass/ or another renewable energy source, like hydroelectricity, depending on the geographical location)>>> lithium ion batteries (or similar energy storage technologies)>>> then use the energy storage that has been harvested in batteries from renewable energy sources combined with live renewable energy generation>>> supply power for the island (or given geographical area that the microgrid in question operates), even at night with energy storage when renewable energy sources aren’t available (not including geothermal, which continues to generate power, even at night)

A sustainable transportation network (including sustainable mass transit, electric vehicles, infrastructure for sustainable transportation) is a significant part of developing the fully sustainable city. Over 80% of travel to work in the United States is currently done via car alone.[7] Meanwhile, less than 3% of car sales in America are electric vehicles or hybrids.[8]

Instead of the unsustainable practice of driving fossil fuel-based vehicles to work, the United States needs to focus on developing sustainable mass transit options (such as electric light rail, or electric or biofuel-based buses), and markets/ infrastructure for electric cars, or hybrids.  A good example of a nationwide electric car adoption is Norway, which already has about 1/3 of its population driving electric cars. (The Netherlands, Sweden and France are examples of countries with a much higher percentage of electric cars on the road than the U.S.).[9]

Besides EVs and hybrids, America also needs to develop sustainable mass transportation options such as light rail, commuter rail, sustainable buses running on electricity and biofuel, like the American city of Portland has already developed substantially on a city-wide basis. The following map illustrates Portland’s significant sustainable mass transit options. This map depicts Portland’s extensive light rail and commuter rail, but Portland also offers a clean energy electric bus service, also helping Portland to serve as an example of a thriving sustainable mass transit city for cities across the United States to emulate.[10]/[11]

Portland, Oregon public transit options



The ideal house in the ideal city would be a plus energy house (like those in Vauban, Germany), and the ideal buildings are passive design, or completely energy efficient.The ideal sustainable home generates its own energy, either via solar panel on the property, community solar, a geothermal heat pump and/ or works off of a sustainable micro-grid, like on the island T’au, All buildings and homes are LEED certified, following these basic guidelines for LEED buildings:

“The five critical areas of focus, as laid out by the USGBC, are “sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

Sustainable site development involves, whenever possible, the reuse of existing buildings and the preservation of the surrounding environment. The incorporation of earth shelters, roof gardens, and extensive planting throughout and around buildings is encouraged.

Water is conserved by a variety of means including the cleaning and recycling of gray (previously used) water and the installation of building-by-building catchments for rainwater. Water usage and supplies are monitored.

Energy efficiency can be increased in a variety of ways, for example, by orienting buildings to take full advantage of seasonal changes in the sun’s position and by the use of diversified and regionally appropriate energy sources, which may—depending on geographic location—include solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, water, or natural gas.

The most desirable materials are those that are recycled or renewable and those that require the least energy to manufacture. They ideally are locally sourced and free from harmful chemicals. They are made of nonpolluting raw ingredients and are durable and recyclable.

Indoor environmental quality addresses the issues that influence how the individual feels in a space and involves such features as the sense of control over personal space, ventilation, temperature control, and the use of materials that do not emit toxic gases." [12]

The way waste is managed in the ideal sustainable city is by making use of all potential waste resources in developing a comprehensive waste-to-profit flow for the entire city, leading to a sustainable home, city, and country.[13] Household waste and farm waste, animal waste, and foresting waste, is all harvested to create natural gas.

All waste is directed to anaerobic digesters, the biomass plants convert a constant stream of power to gas. The remaining waste is put into a process of gasification. Food waste would be minimized by reusing food, regulating the way restaurants and grocery stores deal with food waste, similar to current grocery food/ waste practices in Paris.[14]

The center of the city could have a vertical forest, a walkable city center with sustainable mass transportation running through it, and would be powered by renewable or clean energy. The entire city would have electric, biofuel, even hydrogen (as well as fuel-efficient fossil fuel-based) mass transit instead of fossil fuel-based transportation and its infrastructure, such as freeways, gas stations and parking lots.

Energy efficient buildings, green spaces, a vertical forest, plazas with pedestrian and bike paths, replace fossil fuel related infrastructure once sustainable transit options are fully implemented and sustainable transit infrastructure is fully developed and deployed in the city.

Urban planning to build city centers with the fused grid structure- like Vauban Germany with a “connected grid" [15], use vertical, dense city centers (often with vertical forests), easy access to sustainable mass transportation, plenty of pedestrian walkways and bike paths, especially making it a priority to build these paths around green, open spaces.

Electric light rail lines connect dense urban city centers to suburbs. Buses run through the entire city on electricity, or at least a hybrid of electricity and biofuel/ biodiesel. Vauban, Germany is the ideal town making use of sustainable urban planning and illustrates the diametrical opposite of building city that increases urban sprawl. Fossil fuel-based cars are almost entirely absent in the town, as pedestrians and bikes are more common. In fact, a single parking spot in Vauban costs upwards of $20,000 annually.[16]

urban layout of Vauban, Germany
urban layout of Vauban, Germany

The major source of clean energy besides renewables for the ideal sustainable city, that is not a renewable energy source, will be fourth generation nuclear, as soon as it becomes available within the next 10 to 15 years.

Coal, gas, and oil will be phased out completely in most major cities within the next 50 years [17]. In addition to a federal and/or state carbon tax or emission trading system, all cities with a population of over 1 million people would have a flat rate congestion fee, for those who sill wish to drive cars in the city. The congestion fee would be modeled after the one in London.[18]

Just for emphasis, and to visualize this idea in a different way, here is a quick bullet point chart that re-emphasizes some vital benefits that an ideal sustainable city provides for the environment, the economy, the public health, and the general well-being and the financial well-being of the population:

  • For the environment:
    • Reducing environmental pollution, urban air, water, and land pollution; including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and thus helping to reduce the threat anthropogenic climate change poses to life on the planet.
  • Urban planning benefits, such as more green spaces, the walkable city (easier access to shopping and restaurants). Urban centers based around sustainable mass transportation options (biofuel and electric buses, streetcars, trolleys, trams). Cleaner city air and cleaner urban environment. Lower cost, greater quality and quantity of public transit options.
  • The lower cost and environmental benefits of renewables compared to fossil fuels.
  • The higher efficiency and quality of sustainable products such as electric vehicles, LED lights etc...

The most significant and/or influential/ popular trends in sustainability today are:

  1. Renewable energy, energy efficiency, green building
  2. Clean, green mass public transit
  3. Electric vehicles, hybrids versus internal combustion engines
  4. LEDs, CFLs versus incandescent lights

Other important topics (among many) relating to creating a sustainable city that are not necessarily covered here are:




*** LETTER TO REPRESENTATIVE WARREN DAVIDSON **

This first section is only addressed to the reader: I did not include the Representative’s voting record in the letter, because Representative Davidson does not need to see all of the data that reflects his anti-environmental voting record in the House of Representatives. I think he’s aware of his voting record.

There is also not much of a reason to mention anthropogenic climate change, because he doesn’t believe man-made climate change even exists. Appendix item #2 shows a partial list of votes which are an example of Representative Davidson’s 0% ranking as far as voting for environmental issues as per the League of Conservation Voters. This voting record reflects the voting of a majority of Republicans in Congress, as well as recent moves by the EPA, and other elements of the Trump Administration, to undermine or eliminate environmental regulations.

The assertions that Warren Davidson’s voting record is completely representative of the Trump Administration and EPA’s anti-environment agenda can be verified by visiting the LCV website, also included as a link in Appendix item #1.

House Representative Warren Davidson (OH-8), is a Republican member of Congress, and a member of the far-right conservative Republican “Freedom Caucus” in the House. I also have included a partial record of his voting on environmental issues in Appendix item #2, but not in the letter, as compiled by the League of Conservation Voters. He has a 0% rating as far as voting in favor of environmental issues as per the assessment of the LCV.

Also included in the appendix is a link to a full list from the LCV which illustrates his votes on environmental issues, on an issue by issue basis. This list illustrates the need for political change in the United States, in order to secure a more pro-environment agenda in Congress.

Included is a link to a letter from 11 Republican governors and State Attorneys General from Republican-majority states to (former) EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, trying to convince him to loosen environmental regulations. This letter to Representative Davidson states reasons for Representative Warren Davidson to oppose loosening of environmental regulations b the EPA. Policy changes that favor the environment that are needed in Congress, are also needed at the state and local level. This letter advocates environmental sustainability needs for the 8th district of the state of Ohio, as well as the entire United States.



Dear Representative Davidson,

The choice between economic issues and respect for the environment, ecological conservation, environmental sustainability certainly is valid.  However, WHAT IF economic sustainability and environmental sustainability were actual aligned. Say, for example, increased investment in renewable energy (like wind and solar) was proven to be more economically efficient and sustainable than equal amounts of investment in coal? (insert charts and text of coal vs. solar cost, ROI, and job growth) What if sustainable mass transportation and investment in electric vehicle infrastructure made BOTH economic and environmental sense, from both a purely money standpoint of return on investment (both short and long-term) and environmental sustainability (insert charts, graphs, and text of the benefits of electric cars, buses, light rail etc… vs. fossil fuel based transportation.

(To view this letter, which is from 11 state attorneys general and governors to (former) EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, please click this  link> https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2017-03/documents/letter_from_attorneys_general_and_governors.pdf

In this letter, which convinced the EPA to change federal guidelines on methane measurement to be loosened to the point where oil and gas companies are usually no longer required to make and report accurate measurements of methane leaks from their plants, service good or facilities.  It says “we hope…Obama climate regulations never see the light of day“. But let’s examine that.

These regulations are there to protect the environment and the public from harmful pollution. In the case of methane leaks, which have negative externalities. The negative externalities include problems with the public health, which are costly (for example, methane leaks create a significant amount of “volatile organic compounds that can…trigger asthma.") http://www.toledoblade.com/Ohio-s-proposed-regulations-seek-to-reduce-methane-leaks-nbsp.html)

The resulting harm to society in the form of health problems and increased cost of significant. Besides the societal damage caused by loosening methane regulations, there are other factors which help make a logical case to maintain regulations, such as concern for the environment or the public well-being in general. This methane regulation, that was, in fact, rolled back, is just a significant example of a costly deregulatory agenda, that only appears as a cost savings to the oil and gas companies involved.

There have been over 50 environmental regulations that carry similar significant cost to the public and the environment that have been rolled back since the EPA began their regulatory rollbacks. There are other environmental regulatory rollbacks that may appear to economically benefit fossil fuel companies or municipalities, and their investors and employees, but in fact carry offsetting costs to society (public health and the environment). These include: anti-dumping regulations for coal companies, sewage treatment pollution regulations, fracking regulations on public lands, as well as rollbacks of emission standards on cars (a deregulatory measure which is intended to save auto manufacturers, as well as consumers, money). All of these deregulations will save companies, and even consumers, money in the short-run, however these measures will be quickly offset by costs of damage to the environment and public health.

These deregulatory measures, designed to help fossil fuel companies, and their market, are undercut by the fact that consumers save money with energy efficiency regulation such as fuel mileage standards with vehicles, and there is a growing demand for, cars with high fuel efficiency.

From- https://www.consumerreports.org/fuel-economy-efficiency/survey-finds-consumers-want-better-gas-mileage-stricter-mpg-standards/ …"nearly 90% of respondents in a new Consumer Reports poll say that automakers should continue to improve fuel economy for all vehicles, and they overwhelmingly support stricter government-mandated mileage requirements."

There is ample evidence of increased public support for renewable energy, energy efficiency, mass transportation, and fuel emission standards in cars. This public consensus view can be extrapolated from these following recent surveys of public opinion by the Pew Research Center. (complete surveys found at- http://www.pewinternet.org/majorities-see-government-efforts-to-protect-the-environment-as-insufficient/)

Pew poll: American political support for renewables among the American public Pew poll: support for renewables among Americans

Pew poll: importance of climate change to Americans

Even without the substantial value of the decreased damage to public health or the damage to the environment, there is still a cost in terms of the negative externalities, such as pollution's effect on public health, that are associated with environmental rollbacks. If these rollbacks do not represent real savings to the American public, once the cost of negative externalities is factored in, and these rollbacks also run counter to public opinion (and the will of your constituents), then why are you still supporting these policies? Is it just to save fossil fuel companies the money and capital that it takes to maintain the regulations (and to save the end-consumer the added cost to products associated with production when operating with regulations)? Ask yourself if supporting these environmental rollbacks is worth the cost to your constituents’ public health, America’s (formerly) clean air, water, and land- just so fossil fuel companies can increase their profits?

 

Sincerely,

Your constituent,

Daniel Braff

8420 Woodreed Dr.

West Chester OH 45069

*** end letter ***




These links below are positive, optimistic stories of  significant changes across the world, including in American cities, that proves that sustainability efforts are manifesting in substantial, hopeful changes.

"The City of London has announced that they will be sourcing 100% of their energy needs from renewable sources by October 2018">>

https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/the-city-of-london-will-be-powered-by-100-renewable-energy-starting-in-october/

"Mayor of London orders 68 double-decker electric buses to create largest fleet in Europe">>

https://www.energydigital.com/sustainability/mayor-london-orders-68-double-decker-electric-buses-create-largest-fleet-europe

"Costa Rica [will attempt to completely abandon fossil fuels and use 100% renewable energy by as soon as 2021], and Japan has [already] achieved nearly zero waste in select towns, and over 40% of Denmark’s citizens commute by bicycle to work">>

https://medium.com/costa-rica-becomes-the-first-nation-to-ban-fossil-fuels-a180691daae4

"13 cities that are starting to ban (fossil-fuel based) cars- Urban planners and policy makers around the world have started to brainstorm ways that cities can create more space for pedestrians and lower CO2 emissions">>

http://www.businessinsider.com/cities-going-car-free-ban

"Norway to 'completely ban petrol powered cars by 2025' ">>

https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/norway-to-ban-the-sale-of-all-fossil-fuel-based-cars-by-2025-and-replace-with-electric-vehicles-a7065616.html

"A new analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance says that 50% of the world’s energy will come from solar and wind by 2050">>

https://about.bnef.com/new-energy-outlook/

"More cities across Minnesota are turning to renewable sources of energy">>

http://m.startribune.com/more-cities-across-minnesota-are-turning-to-renewable-sources-of-energy/486363761/

"A Trump-supporting Texas town runs on 100% renewable energy">>

https://www.axios.com/a-trump-supporting-texas-town-runs-on-100-renewable-energy-ec9f4f19-d8d1-4d00-9b71-84c3f0fe7ec2.html

"Across the U.S. over 65 cities, more than five counties and one state, (Hawaii), have already adopted ambitious 100% clean energy goals">>

https://www.sierraclub.org/ready-for-100/commitments

 



Appendices:

 

Appendix #1

Congressman Warren Davidson’s 0% environmental voting record can be found with the LCV link below, and a partial list of his distinctly anti-environmental votes in Congress are partially listed here, via the LCV. Most of these anti-environmental bills passed the House of Representatives, with a majority of Republican House members voting for (or against, as the case might be) the measures. For specific information on each item listed below, and his full environmental voting record, please see the link below:

http://scorecard.lcv.org/moc/warren-davidson

(Also, by using the LCV site, you can easily see that Representative Davidson's anti-environmental voting record is typical of the majority of Republican members of Congress.)

Similarly, "Trump [Trump's administration, the current EPA, fossil fuel interests in positions of power] killed a rule, seven years in the making, to protect coal communities and ancient mountain streams. Scrapping the rule will free mining companies to keep polluting mountain waters, killing fish and wildlife and leaving the people who live there to pay the price.", quote from  https://www.nrdc.org/experts/rhea-suh/environment-under-attack-trump-addresses-congress (also listed in this link are several other major environmental rollbacks taking place in the United States due to actions by the current administration).

Appendix #2

Princeton’s “wedge” concept of achieving global sustainability (which is similar to the Green City Times model) is based on the following points:

"In order to avoid a doubling of atmospheric CO2, we need to rapidly deploy low-carbon energy technologies and/or enhance natural sinks

  • We already have an adequate portfolio of technologies to make large cuts in emissions
  • No one technology can do the whole job – a variety of strategies will need to be used to stay on a path that avoids a CO2 doubling"

Princeton’s complete “Sustainability Wedges” model, part of their "Carbon Mitigation Initiative" is found here: http://cmi.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/wedges/Wedges_slides_8.ppt

 

Green City Times' 10+ point guide to achieving global sustainability:

Here are 10+ ways to create a sustainable energy mix, and also environmental sustainability, for the planet as the world steps up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly. Hopefully, most coal will be under an IGCC or CCS system soon, and there is a significantly greater benefit to the environment of implementing renewable energy, sustainable technologies, and energy efficiency/ conservation measures and COMPLETELY transitioning from the use of fossil fuels. However, the use of natural gas, the clean energy technology (although not a renewable energy source) of nuclear energy generation, as well as coal (hopefully under IGCC or CSS systems, are all only gradually decreasing in use for production of energy for the planet (versus being outright discontinued). The ENTIRE PLANET must achieve these goals- (however, this is merely theoretical and aspirational, and this specific 10+ point goal has not been independently scientifically validated)

This is what the entire planet must achieve:

  • Mandatory - Cap & Trade (otherwise known as an Emissions Trading System - ETS), or Carbon Tax, or both ETS and Carbon Tax - these policies are fundamental for every country/ state that is serious about tackling climate change through clean energy programs, thus it is mandatory for most countries in Europe and Asia (and the U.S., Canada & Australia) to implement either a Carbon Tax or Carbon Cap and Trade
    • conservation efforts in most countries increase 200+%
    • end all tropical deforestation + reforestation of the size of the Amazon
    • most major world cities to reach > 50% recycling for all recyclable goods
    • industrial/ farm/ food waste used to generate energy through gasification, anaerobic digestion, other conversions of biomass to energy
  • at least 10 GW of energy produced by each of American, European, or Asian 4th generation nuclear reactors using thorium or spent uranium as a fuel source AND 10 GW energy from America, Europe, and Asia produced from light water, modular nuclear reactors (although nuclear energy is not a renewable energy source, it is a clean energy source, because it creates very little emissions to produce energy).

Appendix #3

The growth of global electric vehicle ownership:

growth of global electric vehicle ownership chart

International Energy Agency predicts the number of electric cars in circulation to reach 9 to 20 million by 2020 and between 40 and 70 million by 2025.”

from>>  https://www.statista.com/chart/9742/registrations-of-electric-cars-worldwide/

Appendix #4

Data that supports the cost efficiency of LEDs/ CFLs vs. incandescents

efficiency of light bulbs graphic

from> http://www.consumerenergysolutions.com/led-lighting/

Appendices 5-9

  • More data on, and a different way of visualizing, levelized costs of energy:

LCOE chart

from>>> https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/wind-and-solar-are-our-cheapest-electricity-generation-sources-now-what-do#gs.Re9g0kw

  • Chart showing the advantages of sustainable technology versus old technology of lightbulbs:

efficiency of light bulbs chart

from>>> https://www.poplarnetwork.com/news/led-vs-cfl-which-has-better-roi-energy-efficient-lighting-retrofit

  • Energy efficiency of electric cars, hybrids vs. fossil fuel vehicles

energy efficiency of cars chart

from>>> https://sites.suffolk.edu/sztamfatergarychen/2015/10/09/cars-efficiency/

  • The worldwide job market in renewable energy by location:

global renewable jobs map

  • Global renewable energy job market by type of renewable energy:

global renewable jobs chart

from>>> https://insideclimatenews.org/news/26052017/infographic-renewable-energy-jobs-worldwide-solar-wind-trump

 Appendix item #10

  • (writer’s editorial note regarding the ongoing United States’ federal, state and local anti-environmental political campaign): A line into serious environmental endangerment was crossed when the Trump administration, the EPA, Republicans in Congress, fossil fuel companies and local Republican fossil fuel politicians/ interests combined their efforts in 2017 to get the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines approved, the United States to withdraw from the UNFCCC Paris climate pact, and to orchestrate the unraveling of the EPA, to destroy regulations meant to protect the environment, and to eliminate Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The way to have environmental justice and social equity represented as a priority in American public policy is to vote the environmentally progressive candidates into office, and vote the negative influences out of power.

Appendix item #11

  • National and regional carbon pricing (carbon tax, ETS)- both existing and proposed carbon pricing initiatives around the world (including in the United States):

global carbon pricing map

from>>> https://www.equinor.com/en/magazine/carbon-pricing.html

footnotes:

[1] Douglas Rae, Urbanism and its End: Creative Destruction, (New Haven,Yale University Press), pg. 7

[2] https://www.nrdc.org/experts/rhea-suh/environment-under-attack-trump-addresses-congress

[3] Rae, pg. 7

[4] Rae, pg. 14

[5] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/03/29/trumps-rollback-of-obamas-environmental-legacy-is-all-kinds-of-unpopular/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.3d998601472b

[6] https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/02/tau-american-samoa-solar-power-microgrid-tesla-solarcity/

[7] https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2013/07/22/204550565/how-americans-get-to-work-in-2-graphs

[8] https://www.greencarreports.com/news/1108483_hybrid-market-share-peaked-in-2013-down-since-then

[9]https://evannex.com/blogs/news/here-comes-the-electric-vehicle-revolution

10/11 http://en.envirocitiesmag.com/articles/sustainable-transportation-for-sustainable-cities/electric-powered-public-transport-in-portland.php

/ https://ngtnews.com/portland-general-electrics-transportation-electrification-plan-moves-forward

[12] https://www.britannica.com/technology/LEED-standards

[13] Joan Fitzgerald, Emerald Cities, Oxford, University Press, 2010, pgs. 135-139

[14] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/10/france-vote-force-supermarkets-give-away-unsold-food-waste

[16] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/auto-ban-german-town-goes-car-free-1720021.html

[17] From the report- Bloomberg New Energy Outlook- https://about.bnef.com/new-energy-outlook/

[18] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/26/nyregion/congestion-pricing-new-york.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news