greenhouse gas emissions


New Tool Maps California’s Biggest Greenhouse Gas Emitters

Interactive map pinpoints the polluters next door

In this Google Earth view, the height of the "balloon" location markers indicates the volume of greenhouse gas emissions.

Wondering where all the petroleum refineries are located in California? Curious about which industries in your area emit the most greenhouse gases? Or which counties have the most big industrial polluters, and which don’t have any at all?

A new interactive map from the California Air Resources Board taps the versatility of Google Earth software to transform eye-glazing spreadsheet data into a visual, if wonky, feast.

The map shows the locations and greenhouse gas emissions of about 625 facilities — the largest industrial greenhouse gas emitters in the state. The graphical tool can filter by type of facility (cement plant, refinery, electricity generation), by county or air district. You can use the satellite view to see a facility’s physical footprint, then switch over to Google Earth to see how its carbon footprint stacks up against other emitters. The EPA released a similar map earlier this year, but without all the Google Earth bells and whistles. Continue reading

How Green is Your EV?

A new study and map reveal that it depends on where your juice is coming from

The author's EV gets "tanked up."

Just because an electric vehicle (EV) lacks a tail pipe, it doesn’t mean it’s always cleaner than other fuel efficient cars. According to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, where you live may determine how clean your electric car is.

The new report, called “State of Charge,” looks at the entire life cycle of EV emissions that includes energy inputs from start to finish, not just during drive time. In other words, what kind of emissions do EVs create from charging on an electric grid and how does the cost of that charging compare to filling up a gasoline-powered vehicle? Continue reading

Feds Likely to Catch Up to California on Fuel Economy Standards

The EPA is pushing new nationwide fuel economy standards that would bring the nation up to California’s strict standards.

Consumer groups say the EPA's proposed fuel economy standard will mean you'll pay less at the pump.

At a public hearing in San Francisco today a diverse group of stakeholders lined up to support the EPA’s proposal to increase the fuel efficiency standard for cars and light trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon. As we’ve reported here, the rule would affect models between 2017 and 2025 and will likely be adopted by the end of the summer.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) worked closely with the EPA to develop the standard and testified that if the rule can be finalized as proposed, California will be willing to accept the national standard. CARB has been taking heat for this collaboration from Orange County Congressional Representative Darrell Issa, who has accused the state of meddling in national regulatory affairs.

Continue reading

State Joins Suit against San Diego Regional Transportation Plan

Critics say long-term, San Diego’s plan will add greenhouse gas emissions, not reduce them

Critics say that San Diego's regional transportation plan focuses too much on freeways.

The spotlight is on San Diego to lead the way on regional transportation planning that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. But critics say that the regional planning agency’s proposal is anything but a model for sustainable planning.

San Diego’s regional planning agency, SANDAG, is the first to develop a plan since California passed a law requiring that regions try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through land use and transit planning. The law, SB 375, went into effect in 2010, and falls under the Air Resources Board’s Sustainable Communities program. The ARB approved SANDAG’s plan when it was submitted in November of 2011, saying it would meet short-term greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020-2035. Continue reading

Follow the Carbon: Find the Biggest Greenhouse Gas Emitters Near You

An interactive map with fresh data and more selective features

Detail from EPA's interactive map of greenhouse gas emitters.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has just made tracking greenhouse gases a lot easier. The agency has produced its own map of major GHG producers, with fresh data and customizable features.

Two years ago, when we produced our map of California emitters for Climate Watch, we had to cobble it together with raw data from the state Air Resources Board emissions inventory, numbers that were relatively hard to find and infrequently updated. The EPA’s new map allows you to select your state, zoom into specific regions and view emissions by type and volume. Continue reading

Huge Transformation Required to Meet California Climate Goals

A new study suggests one word: Electrification

A new study suggests that massive electrification will be required to meet California's 2050 goal for greenhouse has reductions.

Chances are you’ve at least heard about California’s legal requirement to wind back greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. But the state has a longer-term goal to knock another 80% off that by 2050. Is that even possible?

A new study suggests that it is — but not without a wholesale transformation from an “oil economy” to an “electric economy.”

The study, a collaboration of economists and energy forecasters at several institutions, including Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, three fundamental resets will be required to make that goal: Continue reading

Shrugs Over High Court Decision

Immediate impact of greenhouse gas ruling on California seems minimal

The states' lawsuit was aimed originally at coal-fired power plants.

The silence is deafening since the US Supreme Court ruled this week that states can’t take utilities to court over greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on their own.

NPR’s reporting of the decision calls it “the court’s most important environmental ruling in years.”

But here in California, I’m seeing mainly tepid reaction from officials — and without the usual cavalcade of releases from industry and environmental groups, applauding or condemning. In response to an email inquiry I made after the ruling came out, Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, replied that the ruling:

“…re-affirms that EPA has the authority and responsibility to regulate greenhouse gas pollution in order to protect the public health and welfare from the urgent threat of climate change. The careful, deliberate approaches developed under the Clean Air Act – including California’s Clean Cars rule – provide a more reasonable and feasible alternative to the uncertainty of court-imposed limits on carbon pollution.”

California was one of six states involved in the case, which dates back to 2004. But that was before the EPA had taken definitive steps to assert its own regulation of greenhouse gases (a role upheld by the Supreme Court in 2007).

Air Board spokesman Stanley Young explained that California’s participation in the suit was “an effort by California to get some kind of national action on the climate front. Now that EPA is fully engaged, that kind of judicial action is no longer necessary.”

Just how “fully engaged” the Environmental Protection Agency is remains a matter of some debate. The federal agency recently postponed release of a draft rule on GHG emissions from power plants.

The full decision is available as a PDF download from the Supreme Court website.

What Shade of Green is Your Ride?

New Car Labels Emphasize Emissions and Savings

Coming to a showroom near you: a new fuel economy sticker for an electric vehicle. (Photo: Lauren Sommer)

Buy a gas guzzler and you might discover a new form of “sticker shock.”

Cars and trucks sitting on dealership lots will soon have a new fuel economy sticker in the window. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency released newly-designed labels that emphasize environmental performance for conventional and electric cars.

The label might seem familiar to California drivers. In 2008, the state released its own environmental impact sticker for new cars. It rates a car’s smog and greenhouse gas emissions on a scale of one to ten.

The new national label follows California’s lead and incorporates the same rating system. But for the first time, it will also display the annual fuel cost for a vehicle, comparing it to an average vehicle over five years. Continue reading

Feds to States on Global Warming Suit: Back Off

Navajo Generation Station. The place of coal in California's energy diet is shrinking, but that's not necessarily true for the rest of the country. (Photo: Alex E. Proimos via Flickr)

Bit by bit, the US Environmental Protection Agency is moving to limit the gases that scientists say cause global warming. Over five years, the agency is limiting auto emissions and is also requiring new industrial plants to use improved pollution controls

Sooooo, US Justice Department lawyers argue, California, seven other states, New York City and three land trusts should not be suing major utilities, demanding that they reduce global warming emissions.

In papers filed with the US Supreme court this week, Justice Department lawyers argue the authority to curb emissions that cause climate change belongs to the Environmental Protection Agency and to Congress. Continue reading

GHG Targets: Compared to What?

cooling-tower-small.jpgSetting targets for greenhouse gas reductions has turned into a house of mirrors. It’s hard to know what anyone means when they talk about an “80% reduction” in emissions. Reader Steve Bloom raised this point in response to my January 15 post. It’s an important one.

Most of California’s targets are based on 1990 levels (also 80% by 2050). On the other hand, The USCAP plan announced last month by a national coalition of business & environmental groups, also aims for an 80% reduction by 2050–but from 2005 levels. That 15 years between 1990 and 2005 is hardly trivial. Much of the explosive development in China and India occurred during this time, as U.S. emissions were also rising.

The number that will matter the most is the one that comes out in the federal legislation, which is still being drafted. In his video address to the Governor’s Climate Summit in November, President (then-elect) Obama appeared to be using California’s aggressive goal as a benchmark when he promised to “set us on a course to reduce emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020, and reduce them an additional 80% by 2050.”

We’re hearing more voices saying that California’s 2020 target (about 15% from today’s level) is unobtainable, Stanford researcher Steve Schneider being a recent example (see Gretchen Weber’s post from 1/30). As a practical matter, this would mean cutting California’s per capita carbon footprint from 14 tons per year, down to about ten.

Lately more people seem to be looking toward the 2050 target of an 80% reduction. But for national policy, the question is still sort of hanging out there: 80% of what? It’s one that will have to be answered soon, as congressional leaders press to have a climate bill ready by Memorial Day.

Photo by Reed Galin