The American South Will Bear the Worst of Climate Change’s Costs

From: The Atlantic and by ROBINSON MEYERJUN 29, 2017

Climate change will aggravate economic inequality in the United States, essentially transferring wealth from poor counties in the Southeast and the Midwest to well-off communities in the Northeast and on the coasts, according to the most detailed economic assessment of the phenomenon ever conducted.

A Texas State Park police officer walks on the cracked and drought-wracked lakebed of O.C. Fisher Lake, in San Angelos, Texas. Tony Gutierrez / AP

The study, published Thursday in Science, simulates the costs of global warming in excruciating detail, modeling every day of weather in every U.S. county during the 21st century. It finds enormous disparities in how rising temperatures will affect American communities: Texas, Florida, and the Deep South will bleed income in the broiling heat, while some chillier northern states gain moderate benefits.

“We are really sure the South is going to get hammered,” says Solomon Hsiang, one of the authors of the paper and a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. “The South is really, really negatively affected by climate change, much more so than the North. That wasn’t something we were expecting going in.”

For the entire story from The Atlantic

Analysis Group report: No evidence that changing power mix endangers electric system reliability

Washington, D.C. — A new report by Analysis Group answers questions asked two months ago by Energy Secretary Rick Perry about the reliability and market rules of the U.S. electric power grid.

Analysis Group finds it is market forces – primarily low-cost natural gas and flat demand for electricity – that are causing some coal and nuclear power plants to retire, and not state and federal policies supporting renewable energy development. The report finds that the changing electricity resource mix poses no threat to reliability of the nation’s power system.

Perry launched a 60-day review of “critical issues” on the grid on April 14. National business groups Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) and American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) commissioned Analysis Group to answer independently the questions Perry raised. The Analysis Group report has now been submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy to inform its review.

“Recently, some have raised concerns that current electric market conditions may be undermining the financial viability of certain conventional power plant technologies (like existing coal and nuclear units) and thus jeopardizing electric system reliability. In addition, some point to federal and state policies supporting renewable energy as a primary cause of such impacts,” states the Analysis Group report. “The evidence does not support this view.”

Recently, some have raised concerns that current electric market conditions may be undermining the financial viability of certain conventional power plant technologies (like existing coal and nuclear units) and thus jeopardizing electric system reliability. In addition, some point to federal and state policies supporting renewable energy as a primary cause of such impacts,” states the Analysis Group report. “The evidence does not support this view.” width=Recently, some have raised concerns that current electric market conditions may be undermining the financial viability of certain conventional power plant technologies (like existing coal and nuclear units) and thus jeopardizing electric system reliability. In addition, some point to federal and state policies supporting renewable energy as a primary cause of such impacts,” states the Analysis Group report. “The evidence does not support this view.solar helps the gridRecently, some have raised concerns that current electric market conditions may be undermining the financial viability of certain conventional power plant technologies (like existing coal and nuclear units) and thus jeopardizing electric system reliability. In addition, some point to federal and state policies supporting renewable energy as a primary cause of such impacts,” states the Analysis Group report. “The evidence does not support this view.
“The transformation now under way in the electric power system is driven primarily by market forces,” said Susan Tierney, senior advisor, Analysis Group, and one of the authors of the report, along with Analysis Group Principal Paul Hibbard.

Low natural gas prices, technology changes, and flat demand for electricity have been putting financial pressure on and leading to the retirement of older, less economic power plants

This is a natural consequence of market competition. The result is a more diverse set of energy resources on the grid that is being capably managed in a way that provides reliable electric power.”

Key findings of the Analysis Group report:

Market forces: Fundamental market forces – flat demand for electricity, low natural gas prices since the mid-2000s and the addition of significant amounts of highly efficient new gas-fired resources since 2000 – are primarily responsible for altering the profitability of many older, merchant generating assets in the parts of the country with organized wholesale competitive markets. These market fundamentals are producing savings for consumers. 

Lesser factors: Factors such as rapid growth in deployment of advanced energy technologies, and state policies supporting such technologies also contribute to reducing the profitability of less economic assets, but such factors are secondary to market fundamentals in causing financial pressure on merchant plants without long-term power contracts.

Aging resources: The retirement of aging resources is a natural element of efficient and competitive market forces, and where markets are performing well, these retirements mainly represent the efficient exit of uncompetitive assets.

Reliability benefits: Many advanced energy technologies can and do provide reliability benefits by increasing the diversity of the system and by providing important reliability services to the grid. The addition of newer, technologically advanced, and more efficient natural gas and renewable technologies is rendering the power systems in this country more, rather than less, diverse. 

Baseload” an outdated term: Given the many attributes associated with a reliable electric system, the term “baseload resources” is an outdated term in today’s electric system which depends upon a wide variety of resources to provide essential reliability services and is seeing gas-fired resources and renewable capacity together providing both around-the-clock power and the flexibility to cycle and ramp as needed to meet and sustain bulk power system reliability objectives.

“The electricity system in the United States is stronger than it’s ever been,” said Graham Richard, CEO of AEE. “Thanks to innovation and smart policy, we have a more diverse fuel mix, a more reliable grid, and lower electricity costs. The Analysis Group report highlights how advanced energy technologies are helping to modernize the grid and how grid operators are well equipped to manage this market change. As DOE finalizes its report on reliability, we hope the Department will incorporate these key findings, which reflect the true state of the grid.”

Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, said, “Like DOE, we wholeheartedly agree that reliable and affordable electricity is essential. Analysis Group’s report finds that wind and other advanced energy resources, driven by markets and technological advances, are improving electric reliability and reducing costs. Past dependence on a few fuel sources has given way to a more diverse grid, which is more robust and resilient. We think this analysis will be useful for DOE’s study, and we look forward to working with state and federal policymakers to implement market-based policies that will provide consumers with even more reliable electricity at lower cost.”

BACKGROUND

In a memo dated April 14 to his chief of staff, Brian McCormack, Secretary Perry directed the Department of Energy to conduct a study that would “explore critical issues central to protecting the long-term reliability of the electric grid,” and to analyze “market-distorting effects of federal subsidies that boost one form of energy at the expense of others,” and to report back in 60 days. 

On April 28, business trade groups AEE, AWEA, and SEIA sent a joint letter to Sec. Perry asking that the DOE “initiate a public process,” and that the study “follow standard practice and be conducted in an open and transparent manner,” noting that it is “customary” for agencies developing reports that provide policy recommendations to allow public comment on a draft, prior to the report being finalized. No reply was received. A DOE spokeswoman told Axios on May 5: “The findings will be released to the public (including stakeholders) once the study is completed this summer. The Secretary looks forward to receiving input from all parties once that occurs.”

On May 16, AEE, AWEA, SEIA, and ACORE held a press briefing on documents each submitted to DOE to inform its study of the electric power system and reliability:

AEE: Changing the Power Grid for the Better – shows that today’s electric generation mix is more diverse than ever; low-priced gas is primarily driving the change in resources, followed by flat load growth and competition from renewables; ERCOT and PJM experience shows reliable grid management with high degree of variable renewables and even in extreme conditions.

ACORE: Energy Fact Check – The Impact of Renewables on Electricity Markets and Reliability – ACORE-produced report covering questions around baseload power and economic impact raised in Secretary Perry’s April 14, 2017 memorandum directing a study to explore critical issues central to protecting the long-term reliability of the electric grid.

AWEA: Renewable Energy Builds a More Reliable and Resilient Electricity Mix. Grid operators are already reliably integrating large amounts of wind energy, and their studies show they can go much higher. Integrating renewables on the power grid costs less than integrating baseload sources; modern power electronics enable renewables to provide reliability services as well as or better than conventional power plants; and renewables diversify the energy mix, improving economics and resiliency. Renewables are not the primary factor undermining baseload sources – as can be seen by maps of where each is predominately located, cheap natural gas is the primary factor. AWEA also submitted a literature review of over 30 existing research studies by federal agencies, regional grid operators, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), and others.

SEIA: Solar & Renewables Benefit Grid & The U.S. Economy – Solar and renewables provide significant advantages to the national grid in terms of reliability, fuel diversity and national security. This SEIA review highlights multiple studies showing that the existing grid can handle high penetrations of renewable energy to the benefit of ratepayers, grid system operators and system performance.

In their letter transmitting these materials to DOE, the groups concluded: “We believe that, taken together, these reports demonstrate that the U.S. electric power system is more diverse in its energy sources than ever before, and due to the flexible way these resources are now managed, becoming more reliable and resilient as a result.”

Sources: Advanced Energy Economy at American Wind Energy Association, June 20, 2017

Big Companies Step Up Efforts to Trim Environmental Risks in Supply Chains

Multinational corporations say they are increasingly taking on a regulatory role in their supply chains to improve performance on environment, health and safety (EHS) issues, especially in developing countries where government oversight can be weak.
Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

Bloomberg BNA — Multinational corporations say they are increasingly taking on a regulatory role in their supply chains to improve performance on environment, health and safety (EHS) issues, especially in developing countries where government oversight can be weak.

Although EHS regulations are strong in some developing countries, including China, they can be difficult to enforce, as governments struggle to keep up with growth in manufacturing.

Multinational corporations have traditionally conducted facility audits to make sure their supply chains are complying with local regulations and their own supplier standards. But many facilities lack the technical skills and management expertise to meet those standards.

To fill the gap in local expertise, General Electric, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. are providing more training and education programs to help suppliers learn how to manage a range of EHS issues, from energy and water use to fire safety, company officials told Bloomberg BNA. They said the companies are also implementing new tools to track their suppliers’ performance.

‘Find It and Fix It.’

GE, which produces appliances, lighting, power systems and other products, has focused its supply chain auditing on countries where government enforcement is weak, according to Ann Condon, who leads efficiency, stewardship and product environmental compliance programs across GE’s global supply chain.

“A long time ago, we concluded that there were specific countries where suppliers’ performance was often not good,” including China, India and a few other countries, Condon told Bloomberg BNA.

China accounted for about 40 percent of GE’s supplier assessments in 2012 and 56 percent of “findings,” which occur when auditors note issues at a facility, such as a missing permit.

But the auditing program wasn’t generating long-term improvement in most suppliers, Condon said. So in 2011, GE added a requirement for suppliers to move from a “find-it-and-fix-it mode to more of a management-system mode,” she said.

Using a new key performance indicators (KPI) tool introduced in 2012, GE now compiles a scorecard for suppliers on how well they’re managing issues related to the environment, health, safety, labor rights, security and human rights.

For example, Condon said one of the key indicators is whether a facility has a well-trained environmental specialist. The supplier could receive a score from zero to five, depending on the environmental expert’s level of training.

There are also questions on water and energy use built into the KPI tool.

“Right now, we’re asking some fairly simple questions on that front,” such as whether suppliers know what their energy use is or whether they have an approach for measuring or reducing their energy use, Condon said.

GE doesn’t have enough data yet to show how well the KPI tool is working, but it has seen that suppliers who score better on their management systems tend to have fewer audit findings and less severe findings, which means GE can audit them less often, Condon said.

“It was kind of an ‘aha’ moment,” she said.

Collaborating on EHS Training

To help suppliers build these EHS management systems, GE has partnered with local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on training and education programs.

“GE is not alone in working with suppliers with significant environmental, health, social, human rights and security issues,” the company says on its website. “We long ago realized that these challenges, especially in some of the fastest-growing economies, were bigger than what one organization-even one as big as GE – could address alone.”

GE was one of several founding partners of the Environment, Health and Safety Academy launched in 2009 in China’s Guangdong Province, which is known as the “factory to the world.”

The academy is part of a public-private partnership led by the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC), based in Vermont.

The academy works with local universities and other organizations to provide training in essential skills for EHS management, including labor practices, and in sustainability leadership, through courses on greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency, water resources and related topics.

GE, Pfizer, Honeywell, Wal-Mart and other multinational companies have provided training materials for the academy, which teaches a combination of local regulatory requirements and international best practices.

“This really is an area where collaboration gives us a whole lot more,” Condon said.

Creating a ‘Cultural Shift.’

The academy seeks to improve policy implementation and strengthen its impact by significantly expanding the pool of qualified EHS managers in China, ISC President George Hamilton told Bloomberg BNA.

Before the academy was established, GE and other corporate partners involved in the academy wanted to get to the “root cause” of persistent problems appearing in factory audits, Hamilton said. They agreed that one of the major factors that defines success in a factory audit is “a factory manager that gets it,” he said.

So the academy focuses on preparing managers to prevent EHS issues from arising, rather than just reacting to them, which is often what happens after facility audits or assessments conducted by companies.

“People have to get on board to create a cultural shift within a factory towards more sustainable management of EHS factors,” Hamilton said. “It’s not the line workers or the owners, but the managers in between, because we think they’ll have the most ability to get the job done.”

Hundreds of global companies have sent their EHS managers and suppliers to be trained in ISC’s program in China.

More than 88 percent of those trained say they’ve made positive changes in their EHS practices, including improvements in wastewater treatment, energy efficiency and injury rates, and the establishment of a routine and transparent system for reporting EHS problems, ISC said.

Chinese regulators have also gotten involved as students or guest lecturers and through model audits, said Matthew DeGroot, ISC’s Asia program director.

“We work with a lot of regulators all the time, and they’re very appreciative of the program because the capacity for enforcement is weak,” DeGroot told Bloomberg BNA. “Some of these industries in China haven’t even been around for more than 20 years at the most, so regulators are often catching up to where industry already is.”

Sustainable Working Conditions
Since the 2009 establishment of the academy in Guangdong, the ISC has launched similar academies in Jiangsu, China, as well as in Bangladesh and most recently in India.

Wal-Mart was a founding partner of the Bangladesh academy, which will focus on fire safety and building safety training in the wake of the catastrophic Dhaka garment factory collapse in April 2013, which killed more than 1,100 workers. The company is collaborating with ISC on curriculum development and encouraging its suppliers to participate in the program.

“Our objective is to train factory management and workers, so that improvements in working conditions are sustainable,” a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart told Bloomberg BNA in an email.

“This applies for environmental, social, and safety factors.”

Safety is one of several factors Wal-Mart considers as part of its ethical supply chain strategy.

The company has also made supply chain sustainability a priority through a partnership with a nonprofit coalition called the Sustainability Consortium.

The consortium, led by the University of Arkansas and Arizona State University, is providing research for a Sustainability Index that Wal-Mart uses to track the environmental impacts of products suppliers make.

“Engaging the supply chain is critical,” Jack Sinclair, executive vice president of food for Wal-Mart U.S., said Jan. 29 at an event organized by the National Council on Science and the Environment. “We can’t do this alone. We even have to engage with our competitors.”

The index scores suppliers based on the sustainability of their products. The scores then feed into decisions on which products are purchased from suppliers for retail sale in Wal-Mart stores.

Since its launch in 2009, the Sustainability Index has been rolled out across 700 product categories and to 5,000 suppliers, according to Sinclair. It is currently used only by buyers in the U.S., but Wal-Mart plans to expand the index to stores in South Africa, Chile, Mexico and China.

The company has committed to buying 70 percent of goods sold in Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club locations in the U.S. from global suppliers who use the index by the end of 2017.

Based on data gathered through the index, Wal-Mart has been working with suppliers, nonprofits, industry experts and government to address “hot spots” across its supply chain.

Sinclair said these hot spots are “areas that, when addressed, could have an exponential impact.”

Filling Regulatory Vacuum
One such hot spot is greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer used in farming.

Fertilizer use accounts for almost half of Wal-Mart’s supply chain emissions, said Elizabeth Sturcken, who leads the Environmental Defense Fund’s partnership with Wal-Mart on green supply chains.

“It’s surprising, but not so surprising when you think that Wal-Mart is the biggest food supplier in the U.S.,” Sturcken told Bloomberg BNA.

Sinclair said the majority of fertilizer is lost due to runoff or leaching.

Wal-Mart and EDF are working with farmers in 18 U.S. states, as well as Central America and South America, to optimize fertilizer usage, which saves money for farmers while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water quality impacts.

“This is an area where there’s been no regulatory action, where Wal-Mart in effect becomes a new standard in saying that they want fertilizer optimized,” Sturcken said.

She said Wal-Mart has also filled a “vacuum” in U.S. regulation for chemical-intensive products. The company is asking suppliers to move away from about 10 chemicals of concern and transition toward greener alternatives in home and personal care products.

“When Wal-Mart acts in a big way across multiple product categories,” like fertilizer or chemicals, “it is really taking a leadership role and becoming a de facto regulatory entity in a lot of ways,” Sturcken said.

Encouraging Supplier ‘Ownership.’
Hewlett-Packard, which sells imaging and printing systems, computing systems and information technology services worldwide, recently adopted a similar scorecard system for measuring suppliers’ social and environmental responsibility (SER).

HP has been working with its suppliers on SER issues for more than a decade. The company assesses social and environmental risks in its supply chain based on location, procurement category, company information and external stakeholder reports, including a pollution database run by the nonprofit Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs in China.

HP’s supply chain program has traditionally focused on audits, but that approach “has not necessarily encouraged a sense of ownership by suppliers of SER performance,” HP said in a report on its approach to supply chain responsibility.

In 2013, the company began trying to encourage more ownership of SER issues by requiring suppliers to schedule and pay for third-party audits and remediation efforts on a regular basis. HP also introduced a five-tier SER rating system that draws on the results of those audits and other SER performance indicators.

Suppliers that receive higher scores on the SER scorecard will receive more business from HP, while poor ratings could results in a reduction of business.

Supply Chain Emissions Goal
Greenhouse gas emissions, which are one of the environmental indicators considered in the scorecard, have been identified by HP as one of five persistent SER issues in the supply chain that require extra attention and investment.

The company is also starting to place a stronger emphasis on improving environmental performance in other areas, including reducing waste and water use in its supply chain.

In September, HP became the first company in the IT industry to set an emissions reduction goal for its supply chain.

By 2020, HP’s goal is to drive a 20 percent reduction in first-tier manufacturing and product transportation-related GHG emissions intensity among suppliers, compared with 2010. HP calculates intensity by dividing suppliers’ emissions by HP’s annual revenue.

Since the goal was announced, HP has been educating its suppliers about the goal and the company’s expectations for how to reach it, starting with China and Southeast Asia, according to Zoe McMahon, HP’s director of global social and environmental responsibility.

“An important thing about the goal from our perspective is it’s not something we’re putting out there and letting our suppliers abide by,” McMahon told Bloomberg BNA.

Suppliers also need to understand what good emissions management looks like, she said.

HP has laid out a series of first steps for helping suppliers meet the emissions goal, including an expansion of its energy efficiency program for manufacturers. HP works with the groups Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to develop energy efficiency programs at supplier factories in Asia.

The company will also develop new efficiency programs for product transportation and suggest emissions reductions projects for suppliers that have especially GHG-intensive operations, such as LCD panel manufacturers.

Driving Industry Alignment
HP’s supply chain emissions reduction goal does not include supplier- or country-specific targets, but the goal was set to be consistent with the emissions reduction target included in China’s most recent five-year plan, McMahon said.

“It’s about complementing the regulatory regime” in countries like China that have targets, or being a bit more aggressive in countries that don’t have targets, she said.

While local regulations for greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts have a role to play in supplier oversight, McMahon said harmonized approaches from industry can have more impact.

“What’s interesting about environmental standards is that, unlike labor standards, where you have often contested but at least internationally agreed upon standards, you don’t have internationally agreed upon environmental limits or standards,” McMahon said. For environmental impacts, there’s a range of policies around the world and a range of enforcement, she said.

“What’s more helpful for us as a company is to work with what we consider best practice,” she said.

HP is currently working with other businesses in the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) to develop an industry standard for reporting on suppliers’ greenhouse gas emissions.

McMahon said she hopes to drive more industry alignment on the issue because many of HP’s suppliers are common to other electronic or IT companies.

“We’re not just influencing our suppliers,” she said. “We’re influencing the whole ecosystem of supplier.”

Source: Bloomberg Sustainability

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Green Living Guy TV Segment on Sustainable Food

When it comes to food we really don’t talk about “Life cycle assessments”. Yet they can bring better farming techniques and animal awareness to farmers and those who regularly work with the meat industry. Collaborating with farmers and adjusting the way that they are paid will end up bringing much larger improvements into the food handling industry itself, starting at the source.

Below is my segment with NYC Media on Sustainable Food. We touch a lot of the things listed about the life cycle assessment and other things too!

I really also suggest to check out the Union Square Farmers Market! The most amazing food you’ve ever tasted  For real!

IMG_0628

Hope you enjoy the segment and also I gave an infographic on the other ways to make food more sustainable (besides composing which we talk about in the video below!).

IMG_0629

Ways to Green the Food Supply Chain

With energy efficiency on everyone’s mind in the last few years, experts are looking into ways to make the general food chain more ecologically conscious as well Converting farm waste into energy is one of the most efficient ways to reduce our carbon footprint, while earning additional income as well. It was reported that the process of converting waste into energy or farm fuel can end up generating as much as twenty eight billion dollars in 2016. This is a significant increase from eighteen billion dollars in 2012.

Additionally, advancements made in logistic technology can make it much easier to transport food while reducing the environmental impact of such operations. Refrigerated boxcars can hold upwards of four truckloads, while reducing all of the harmful emissions that the same number of trucks would end up producing. These railways will be able to move all across the country while utilizing green technology. 

Life cycle assessments can bring better farming techniques and animal awareness to farmers and those who regularly work with the meat industry. Collaborating with farmers and adjusting the way that they are paid will end up bringing much larger improvements into the food handling industry itself, starting at the source.

There are numerous ways that suppliers can make their practices greener as well. Major corporations can work with scorecards to see their carbon emissions and adjust them in order for their practices to become greener and healthier for the planet.

To learn more about the many ways we can create a more sustainable and eco-friendly food supply chain, checkout this infographic below created by Marylhurst University’s Online MBA in Sustainable Business program.

Green_MBA_Ways to Green the Food Supply Chain

Marylhurst University Online