Air Quality

Planting Trees Could Cut Emissions As Much As Quitting Oil

18 Oct 2017   Air Quality

Planting more forests and managing land use better could be the biggest natural climate solution, because nature could deliver more than 30 percent of the emissions reduction needed to curb dangerous levels of global warming—equal to the world completely stopping the burning of oil, according to a new study . The study suggests that better management of the nature’s resources could be much more important and could have a bigger impact on fighting climate change than previously thought. Natural climate solutions could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 11.3 billion tons annually by 2030—equivalent to halting the burning of oil—and delivering 37 percent of the needed emissions reduction to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, found the study, led by scientists from The Nature Conservancy and 15 other institutions. “The results of the study indicate that the three largest options for increasing the number and size of trees (reforestation, […]

Opportunity or disaster? Traders see choppy waters due to shipping sulfur cap

14 Oct 2017   Air Quality

The world’s top trading houses, among the most nimble entities in oil, say even they aren’t sure how to stay a step ahead of a coming cut in shipping fuel sulfur. The new rules come into force in just over two years, and threaten to upend markets from heating fuel to crude oil. But uncertainty around them casts a shadow over how smoothly the transition can go; industry experts say investments in refining, tank storage or vessel upgrades need to happen now in order to be ready in time. “I don’t know if it’s going to provide opportunity or disaster at the moment, to be honest,” Vitol boss Ian Taylor told the Reuters Global Commodity Summit. […]

China targets pollution on eve of Xi Jinping’s second term

12 Oct 2017   Air Quality, China

A wave of environmental inspections in China has led to the closure of tens of thousands of businesses producing commodities from industrial chemicals to cement and rubber, pushing up prices and disrupting some global supply chains. The inspections highlight the ruling Communist party’s willingness to sacrifice some economic growth for what it calls a “war” on the country’s chronic air, water and land pollution. The crackdown comes ahead of this month’s political congress that will install President Xi Jinping as party chief for a second five-year term. Mr Xi has struggled to improve the government’s record on pollution in his first term — Greenpeace estimates that a third of Chinese cities saw worsened air pollution this spring compared with the previous year. Critics blame Beijing’s continued focus on meeting economic growth targets, the low status of environmental officials tasked with enforcing rules, and insignificant fines that fail to discourage polluters. However, a spate of environmental inspections launched in August across 31 provinces and regions were carried out by central government officials — including from the party’s feared anti-graft commission — which means negligent officials can lose their jobs or face jail sentences. Penalties imposed on polluters have also been toughened. “It used to be just fines, but now it is suspensions or shutting down production. That has a much greater impact because to the manufacturer it is life or death,” said prominent Chinese environmentalist Ma Jun. “It’s the first time I feel companies are becoming motivated to take a greener path.” More than 7,000 factories have been closed — at least temporarily — in Sichuan province, according to local media. The city of Zibo in Shandong province alone has seen 5,000 chemical companies closed this year, according to Rubber and Plastics News, an industry journal.

Did This Startup Solve The Carbon Capture Challenge?

When the Mississippi Public Service Commission earlier this year asked Southern Co. to pull the plug on its plan to turn the Kemper power plant into a clean-coal, carbon-capturing facility, the prospects of carbon capture and storage becoming a mainstream approach in power generation became a little bit gloomier. Luckily, Southern Co. is by far not the only one working on CCS. One startup in Texas is forging ahead, preparing for the first tests of its gas-fired, 50MW power plant that runs on natural gas and captures all the carbon dioxide the generation cycle produces to use it in that very cycle. In a story about the Net Power project, MIT Technology Review’s senior energy editor James Temple explains that the startup basically replaces the water that ordinary natural gas plants use to heat up to steam and power the turbines with carbon dioxide. Net Power’s generator uses supercritical […]

Texas chemical plant to burn containers at risk of explosion: officials

4 Sep 2017   Air Quality

FILE PHOTO: The flooded plant of French chemical maker Arkema SA, which produces organic peroxides, is seen after fires were reported at the facilty after Tropical Storm Harvey passed in Crosby, Texas, U.S. August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif/File Photo HOUSTON (Reuters) – The operators of a Crosby, Texas, chemical factory that ran out of electricity needed to keep flammable material refrigerated will burn the remaining trailers holding the substance, officials said on Sunday. Arkema SA, the French chemicals company that runs the plant, and Harris County fire officials decided to burn the 6 remaining trailers of organic peroxides, each storing about 500,000 pounds of the materials as a “proactive measure.” Three trailers already caught fire and burned. The 46-year-old plant lost power after becoming flooded by Tropical Storm Harvey. Staff tending to the materials, which are extremely flammable if not kept at low temperatures, loaded containers of the chemicals […]

Methane Reduction Plan Could Seriously Harm Canadian Oil & Gas

20 Jun 2017   Air Quality, Canada

The old saying goes, “ The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. And so it goes for the myriad of new regulations, taxes and restrictions forced upon the oil industry to attempt to make it something it is not, which is a zero-carbon and environmentally benign source of hydrocarbon fuel. Carbon taxes. Corporate taxes. Emission caps. The premise is the upstream oil and gas industry is so shamelessly profitable that governments and regulators can pile on more rules and costs that somehow this industry can accommodate, absorb and survive. And still provide fuel, taxes and jobs. The newest elephant in the room the industry has not yet had to deal with is the commitment made by the governments of Canada, Alberta and U.S. to reduce methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent by 2025 with the major culprit being the usual suspect; the oil and gas industry. […]

BTrump administration to delay another Obama-era methane rule

15 Jun 2017   Air Quality, Climate

The Trump administration will postpone industry compliance with an Obama-era rule limiting methane emissions from oil and gas wells on federal lands. An effort by congressional Republicans to repeal the methane rule failed in the Senate by one vote on May 10. The methane rule, which was finalized in November by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, was challenged in court by several states and oil and gas industry groups. Related: Find more content about Trump’s administration in our news and analysis feature. In a notice to be published Thursday in the Federal Register, the BLM said certain portions of the rule will be postponed until the legal challenges are resolved. “While the BLM believes the [methane rule] was properly promulgated, the petitioners have raised serious questions concerning the validity of certain provisions of the rule,” the agency said in its notice. “Given this legal uncertainty, operators should […]

States Tell EPA They’ll Fight Should U.S. Relax Vehicle Emissions Rules

10 Jun 2017   Air Quality, USA

More than a dozen state attorneys general wrote to the head of the Environmental Protection Agency vowing a legal fight to block regulators from easing vehicle-emissions standards, the latest broadside in a battle over the Trump administration’s move to reopen a review of the regulations. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and 12 other attorneys general sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt late Thursday, threatening to take the agency to court should U.S. officials relax the standards when the…

Global Shipping Fleet Braces for Chaos of $60 Billion Fuel Shock

Little more than 2 1/2 years from now, the global fleet of merchant ships will have to reduce drastically how much sulfur their engines belch into the atmosphere. While that will do good things — like diminishing the threat of acid rain and helping asthma sufferers — there’s a $60 billion sting in the tail. That’s how much more seaborne vessels may be forced to spend each year on higher-quality fuel to comply with new emission rules that start in 2020, consultant Wood Mackenzie Ltd. estimates. For an industry that hauls everything from oil to steel to coal, higher operating costs will compound the financial strain on cash-strapped ship owners, whose vessels earn an average of 70 percent less than they did just before the 2008-09 recession. The consequences may reach beyond the 90,000-ship merchant fleet, which handles about 90 percent of global trade. Possible confusion over which carriers […]

California Upholds Auto Emissions Standards, Setting Up Face-Off With Trump

25 Mar 2017   Air Quality

California’s clean-air agency voted on Friday to push ahead with stricter emissions standards for cars and trucks, setting up a potential legal battle with the Trump administration over the state’s plan to reduce planet-warming gases. The vote, by the California Air Resources Board, is the boldest indication yet of California’s plan to stand up to President Trump’s agenda. Leading politicians in the state, from the governor down to many mayors, have promised to lead the resistance to Mr. Trump’s policies. Mr. Trump, backing industry over environmental concerns, said easing emissions rules would help stimulate auto manufacturing. He vowed last week to loosen the regulations. Automakers are aggressively pursuing those changes after years of supporting stricter standards. But California can write its own standards because of a longstanding waiver granted under the Clean Air Act , giving the state — the country’s biggest auto market — major sway over the […]

WHO attributes more than 1 in 4 deaths annually of children under 5 years to unhealthy environment

6 Mar 2017   Air Quality

In 2015, 5.9 million children under age five died. The major causes of child deaths globally are pneumonia, prematurity, intrapartum-related complications, neonatal sepsis, congenital anomalies, diarrhea, injuries and malaria. Most of these diseases and conditions are at least partially caused by the environment, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports . WHO estimated in 2012 that 26% of childhood deaths and 25% of the total disease burden in children under five could be prevented through the reduction of environmental risks such as air pollution, unsafe water, sanitation and inadequate hygiene or chemicals. Children are especially vulnerable to environmental threats due to their developing organs and immune systems, smaller bodies and airways. Harmful exposures can start as early as in utero. Furthermore, breastfeeding can be an important source of exposure to certain chemicals in infants; this should, however, not discourage breastfeeding which carries numerous positive health and developmental effects. Proportionate to […]

EPA Withdraws Obama-Era Requirement for Companies to Provide Methane Data

The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it is withdrawing an Obama-era request that oil and natural gas companies provide information on methane emissions at their operations. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the withdrawal is effective immediately, adding he wants to assess the need for the information the agency has…

Automakers Call on E.P.A. Chief to Ease Fuel-Efficiency Standards

24 Feb 2017   Air Quality

President Trump has vowed to roll back regulations on business, and automakers are wasting no time in pushing his administration to make good on the promise. Two lobbying groups representing auto manufacturers have written letters urging the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency , Scott Pruitt, to reverse a decision last month by the Obama administration to move forward with tougher fuel-economy standards that carmakers are supposed to meet by 2025.

Study links PM2.5 pollution with millions of preterm births globally

20 Feb 2017   Air Quality

A new study, led by a team from The Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) at the University of York, has found that in 2010, about 2.7 million preterm births globally—or 18% of all pre-term births—were associated with outdoor exposure to fine particulate matter (PM 2.5 ).The open-access study is published in the journal Environment International. There are many known risk factors for preterm birth—from the mother’s age, to illness, to poverty and other social factors. Recent research has suggested that exposure to air pollution could also be a risk factor. The researchers combined national, population-weighted, annual average ambient PM 2.5 concentration, preterm birth rate and number of livebirths to calculate the number of PM 2.5 -associated preterm births in 2010 for 183 countries. Uncertainty was quantified using Monte-Carlo simulations, and analyses were undertaken […]

A Push for Diesel Leaves London Gasping Amid Record Pollution

Every winter, as if on cue, the coughing begins. As soon as the weather turns cold, Tara Carey, an international aid worker living in London, ritually places cough syrup on her bedside table because she knows her sleep will be punctuated by hacking coughs. She also coughs at work. And she coughs while cycling to her office, on a road so toxic that for a brief period last month the air pollution there was greater than in infamously smoggy Beijing.

VW close to $4.3bn US criminal settlement over emissions scandal

11 Jan 2017   Air Quality

Volkswagen said on Tuesday it was in advanced talks to pay $4.3bn in penalties and plead guilty to criminal charges to settle with the US Department of Justice over the German carmaker’s diesel emissions scandal. The company would also be subject to supervision by an independent monitor for the next three years. VW said that the settlement could result in the company’s financial obligations stemming from the scandal exceeding its “current provisions”. In October it said it had set aside more than €18.2bn. The final agreement is subject to approval by VW’s management and supervisory board, which are expected to do so late on Tuesday or Wednesday. VW, which admitted in September 2015 to installing software in its diesel cars to cheat emissions tests, is eager to resolve potential criminal charges before the DoJ political appointees overseeing the settlement talks depart with the Obama administration. A criminal settlement in the US would be a milestone in VW’s efforts to draw a line under the affair, in which up to 11m of the company’s diesel cars worldwide were fitted with software designed to understate harmful emissions of nitrogen oxides in official tests.

Texas $1 billion carbon project to curb emissions, up oil recovery

10 Jan 2017   Air Quality, Climate

NRG Energy Inc and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp said on Tuesday they had begun operations at a $1.04 billion carbon capture facility at a Texas coal-fired power plant and were using the emissions to extract crude from a nearby oilfield. The facility, the largest of its kind in the world, is the latest in efforts by the power industry to curb carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as pressure mounts from regulators, investors and consumers to stem climate change. The carbon capture facility could become a model for CO2 collection at existing power plants in China and India, analysts said. By pumping the […]

China’s war on smog sends shivers across commodities sector

26 Dec 2016   Air Quality, China

China’s crackdown on exhaust-spewing factories that shut or slashed output this week at sites including steel mills, textile and cement factories and coal-fired power plants will ripple across major bulk commodity markets into 2017. City and regional governments shut thousands of plants in China’s industrial heartland, from Hebei province that surrounds Beijing to Shandong southeast of the capital, to combat smog that blanketed the country’s north for five days this week. Many plants reopened on Thursday as winds cleared the polluted air. But closures on this scale could put the brakes on China’s better-than-expected output of major commodities, hurt demand for raw materials, like iron ore and coal, clog global supply chains and get business for the world’s second-largest economy off to a subdued start in 2017. “It does present a downside risk to commodity […]

Amid smoggy days in London, growing calls to clean up Europe’s toxic air

It’s Christmastime on Oxford Street. Brilliant displays of white lights rain from above. Decked-out shoppers dash from one gaudy sale to the next. And Johnny Conquest breathes in poison. “The air is horrible. The taxis stop right here, and when they take off, boom, you can taste it,” says the 67-year-old as the heavenly smell of the caramel peanuts he hawks from a humble street stall mingles with the sickly stench of diesel. “I’m on the worst corner in London.” In at least one important respect, it may be the worst in the world. London has come a long way since the days when its infamous coal-fired pollution shrouded Sherlock in a permanent haze or struck at least 4,000 residents dead in less than a week. But the city’s overreliance on diesel-powered vehicles […]

Heavy smog disrupts traffic in north China

20 Dec 2016   Air Quality, China

Air pollution worsened on Monday in many parts of northern China, with poor visibility disrupting air and ground traffic. Tianjin airport said that from 8:30 p.m. Sunday to 10 a.m. Monday they suspended service, leaving 131 flights canceled and 75 delayed. Meanwhile, all expressways in the northern municipality of Tianjin were closed. Local authorities in Tianjin increased public transport capacity by 15 percent to accommodate passengers, as cars have been ordered to run on alternate days for five days until midnight Wednesday. Beijing also increased its public transport and implemented the same odd-even number plate rule. Beijing municipal environmental protection bureau has introduced a spate of pollution reduction measures, including the vehicle restriction, to help cut PM2.5 pollutant emission by over 20 percent. In Shandong, over 100 toll gates on four expressways were closed and some flights in the provincial capital airport were delayed […]

Heavy smog disrupts traffic in north China

19 Dec 2016   Air Quality, China

Air pollution worsened on Monday in many parts of northern China, with poor visibility disrupting air and ground traffic. Tianjin airport said that from 8:30 p.m. Sunday to 10 a.m. Monday they suspended service, leaving 131 flights canceled and 75 delayed. Meanwhile, all expressways in the northern municipality of Tianjin were closed. Local authorities in Tianjin increased public transport capacity by 15 percent to accommodate passengers, as cars have been ordered to run on alternate days for five days until midnight Wednesday. Beijing also increased its public transport and implemented the same odd-even number plate rule. Beijing municipal environmental protection bureau has introduced a spate of pollution reduction measures, including the vehicle restriction, to help cut PM2.5 pollutant emission by over 20 percent. In Shandong, over 100 toll gates on four expressways were closed and some flights in the provincial capital airport were delayed […]

Under pollution alert, Beijing orders 1,200 factories to shut or cut output

19 Dec 2016   Air Quality, China

Beijing’s city government has ordered 1,200 factories near the Chinese capital, including an oil refinery run by state oil major Sinopec and a Cofco food plant, to either shut or cut output following its highest possible air pollution warning. Environmental authorities issued a red alert that started on Friday night and will run until Wednesday after warning of a smog build-up across China’s north. That will mean curbs on traffic and construction work and advisories for schools, hospitals and businesses. The municipal government said in a statement Sinopec’s 10 million tonne-per-year Yanshan refinery, a Shougang Group steel product plant and a Cofco factory that makes instant noodles and crackers were among 500 companies it had ordered to limit output. It also listed 700 companies that must suspend operations altogether. Red alerts are issued when […]

California ARB releases discussion draft of plan to cut GHG by 40% by 2030

3 Dec 2016   Air Quality, USA

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) released its initial draft plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030—the most ambitious target in North America. The 2030 Target Scoping Plan Discussion Draft builds on the state’s efforts to reach its more immediate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and outlines the most effective ways to reach the new 2030 goal, including continuing California’s Cap-and-Trade program. In his January 2015 inaugural address, California Governor Jerry Brown identified five key climate change strategy “pillars,” which recognize that several major areas of the California economy will need to reduce their emissions to meet California’s ambitious climate change goals. These five pillars are: Reducing today’s petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50%; Increasing electricity derived […]

Two Children, One Rich, One Poor, Gasping for Air in Delhi’s Smog

24 Nov 2016   Air Quality, India

In the dense smog that engulfed India ’s capital early this month, a baby named Vaishnavi gasped through the night. Inside the concrete room that her father and mother rent for $20 a month, they took turns staying up, laying a hand on her rib cage, feeling it move up and down. Her coughing fits became so violent that she vomited, milk mixed with ropes of sputum. Three times they thought she would not survive until morning. Twenty miles away, inside an elegant, high-ceilinged house in an elite neighborhood, a 4-year-old boy named Mehtab was also struggling to fill his lungs with air. His mother, heavily pregnant, sat beside him, administering corticosteroids through a nebulizer mask once an hour. But once an hour wasn’t enough. Mehtab’s father fought waves of panic as they waited for the sun to rise. The boy looked, to him, like a […]

Study finds pollution emitted near equator has biggest impact on global ozone

10 Nov 2016   Air Quality

 Since the 1980s, air pollution has increased worldwide, but it has increased at a much faster pace in regions close to the equator. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Colorado, Boulder and their colleagues have now shown that this changing global emissions map is creating more total tropospheric ozone worldwide compared to the amount of pollution being emitted, signaling an effect that could be difficult to reign in without strategic policy planning. In the study, published in Nature Geoscience , the team used a global chemical transport model to simulate changes in tropospheric ozone concentrations from 1980 to 2010, and to separate the influences of changes in the spatial distribution of global anthropogenic emissions of short-lived pollutants, the magnitude of these […]

Smog Chokes Delhi, Leaving Residents ‘Cowering by Our Air Purifiers’

9 Nov 2016   Air Quality, Coal, India

For days, many in Delhi have been living as if under siege, trying to keep the dirty air away from their children and older parents. But it is not easy: Open a window or a door, and the haze enters the room within seconds. Outside, the sky is white, the sun a white circle so pale that you can barely make it out. The smog is acrid, eye-stinging and throat-burning, and so thick that it is being blamed for a 70-vehicle pileup north of the city. If in past years Delhi’s roughly 20 million residents shrugged off wintertime pollution as fog, over the past week they viewed it as a crisis. Schools have been ordered closed for three days — an unprecedented measure, but not a reassuring one because experts say the concentration of pollutants inside Indian homes is typically not much lower than outside. Levels […]

Mississippi Power Further Delays Kemper Plant; Cost Nears $7 Billion

5 Nov 2016   Air Quality, Coal

Mississippi Power Co. now says it won’t complete its Kemper County power plant until the end of the year, a delay of a month that pushes up the price tag by $25 million to nearly $7 billion. The company announced the delay Friday as its Atlanta-based parent Southern Co. filed quarterly stock disclosures, saying ratepayers wouldn’t have to pay the $25 million. The documents show that if the coal-fueled plant doesn’t start commercial operation by Dec. 31, Mississippi Power would have to repay $250 million of previously received tax benefits. Mississippi Power spokesman Jeff Shepard didn’t immediately respond to questions about the potential repayment. The plant and associated coal mine were originally supposed to cost $2.9 billion at most, and earliest estimates were lower. Stockholders have absorbed $2.6 billion in losses, while customers […]

Lung Association report highlights health and climate costs of petroleum-based transportation and the benefits of shifting to ZEVs

27 Oct 2016   Air Quality

A new report produced by the American Lung Association concludes that over-reliance on petroleum-based fuels for transportation costs the 10 ZEV states in the US (California and nine other states that have adopted the California Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program) an estimated $37 billion in health expenses and climate costs every year—with California costs alone hitting $15 billion. Of that $37 billion, health costs added up to $24 billion in 2015; the $24 billion represents the monetized sum of harmful emissions responsible for an estimated 220,000 work-loss days, more than 109,000 asthma exacerbations, hundreds of thousands of other respiratory impacts, and 2,580 premature deaths. The report, Clean Air Future: Health and Climate Benefits of Zero Emission Vehicles , was produced by the American Lung Association in California. Under this report’s “ZEV Future” scenario, 100% of the new car sales and approximately 65% of all cars on the road are […]

US energy: California’s cleaner dream

19 Oct 2016   Air Quality, Climate

Perched on a rocky coastal cliff in central California, surrounded by rolling hills and a nature reserve, the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant has been a lightning rod for controversy for decades.  In the 1970s, the site attracted protests from tens of thousands of hippies, whose rallies against nuclear power often included impromptu musical performances from the likes of Crosby, Stills & Nash. “That was a huge time,” recalls resident Rochelle Becker, who participated in the protests and later founded an anti-nuclear group. “I was one of the people who didn’t get arrested. There were a lot of my friends who did.” She helped on the legal team for protesters who were detained, and even brought a guitar into jail for the singerJackson Browne in 1981. The plant began operations four years later.

Now, the nuclear-free vision that Ms Becker and so many others fought for is being realised: Diablo Canyon, the last nuclear plant in California, is to be shut down. In June, Pacific Gas & Electric, the utility that owns the plant, said it would close within a decade and that most of the power it supplies replaced by renewable energy.  Yet there are doubts that closing the reactor will be a victory for the environment. Diablo Canyon is one of California’s largest sources of electricity generated without significant carbon dioxide emissions, providing 9 per cent of the state’s power. At a time when almost 200 countries have committed to action on global warming, giving up that capacity looks to many like a serious mistake. Other countries that have tried to go nuclear-free, most recently Germany, have faced increased fossil fuel use and rising emissions.

Shippers brace for new rules to cut deadly sulfur emissions

4 Oct 2016   Air Quality

A surfer takes advantage of large waves caused by hurricane Irina which is sitting some 200 nautical miles (370 km) off Durban, March 5, 2012. The global shipping industry is bracing for a key regulatory decision that could mark a milestone in reducing maritime pollution, but which could nearly double fuel costs in a sector already reeling from its worst downturn in decades. The shipping industry is by far the world’s biggest emitter of sulfur, with the SOx content in heavy fuel oil up to 3,500 times higher than the latest European diesel standards for vehicles. To combat such pollution, the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee will meet in London on Oct. 24-28 to decide whether to impose a global cap on SOx emissions from 2020 or 2025, which would see sulfur emissions fall from the current maximum of 3.5 percent of fuel content to 0.5 […]

Which Countries Produce The Most Carbon Emissions?

16 Sep 2016   Air Quality

China Leads the Planet in CO2 Emissions, but Persian Gulf States Lead on Per Capita Basis According to the World Bank’s current data, China was the leading emitter of carbon dioxide in 2011, outstripping the CO2 emitted by the U.S., India, and Russia combined. This should come as no surprise, as a country’s carbon emissions generally have a positive relationship to both its population and level of industrial activity. The opposite is seen on a per capita basis, where China and India have posted the lowest numbers. Small, energy intensive Persian Gulf emitters Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar have posted the highest levels per capita. The chart below shows total and per capita emissions of CO2 on a country basis, breaking total country emissions out by fuel of origin. It is the World Bank’s snapshot in 2011. (Click to enlarge) Source: World Bank Use of […]

Volkswagen faces fresh EU claims over emissions scandal

6 Sep 2016   Air Quality

Volkswagen faces claims that it broke consumer protection laws in 20 European countries by marketing cars at the centre of the “dieselgate” scandal as “green”.  Vera Jourova, the EU justice commissioner, is pushing national authorities to investigate if Volkswagen broke the law on their territory, and if so to take action against the company. She wrote to capitals earlier this summer requesting information on what they had done to probe VW’s actions.  She told the Financial Times the responses showed it is “likely” the German carmaker breached Europe’s “unfair commercial practices directive”, which prohibits misleading advertising claims, in many EU nations.  Whether the law was broken in a particular country could depend on factors such as the type of advertising strategy used by VW there or on exactly how EU law has been incorporated into national statute books, she said.

View full article at www.ft.com

Trump Unnerves Fracking Chiefs While Obama Admin Supports It

26 Aug 2016   Air Quality

 One would hardly expect an official from Obama’s administration, which has dedicated a lot of work to curbing the harmful effects of fracking on the environment and public health, to have anything positive to say about it, but Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has done just that. At a hearing in Seattle, he said that fracking has helped bring down CO2 emissions to their lowest in 24 years by enabling the displacement of coal with lower-emission natural gas. The secretary’s remarks come soon after the EPA published a study that claims fracking doesn’t pollute underground water, raising alarm among environmentalist groups and more notably, among EPA’s own science advisers, who lashed back at the authority with the argument that the researchers involved in the study did not have enough scientific evidence to support its claim. This study, by the way, is one of 75 , The Federalist points […]

Dark Clouds Loom for Oil as China Chases Blue Skies for G-20

23 Aug 2016   Air Quality, China

Factories asked to cut activity before G-20 meet in Hangzhou Activity curbs and last month’s flooding seen reducing demand China is throwing the world’s leaders a party, and oil bulls may be hit with the hangover. Authorities in the Asian nation have ordered hundreds of factories to curb activity ahead of the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou in early September, in a bid to ensure blue skies when the red carpet is rolled out. The curtailments, along with flooding earlier this summer, may cut petroleum demand in the world’s second-biggest oil consumer by 250,000 barrels a day in the third quarter, according to industry consultant Energy Aspects Ltd. The slowdown at facilities including refineries and petrochemical plants along the Yangtze River threatens to weaken Chinese oil imports that rose to record highs in the first half of the year, at some times exceeding even those of the U.S. […]

VW Facing Uphill Battle Outside the U.S. in Emissions Claims

23 Aug 2016   Air Quality

A Volkswagen outside a dealership in Seoul, South Korea, earlier this month. The auto maker… Governments, investors and car owners around the world are gaining ground in efforts to pressure Volkswagen AG VLKAY -0.38 % for settlements over its emissions-cheating scandal, aiming for terms similar to a $15 billion U.S. agreement. From Australia to South Korea to Ireland, governments and consumers are ratcheting up legal and regulatory demands in part because similar moves in the U.S. yielded a speedy shift to contrition from combativeness. In many of the countries where Volkswagen still faces legal action, it is arguing the defeat device on its diesel engines wasn’t illegal or the car emissions didn’t violate local rules, according to court records and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. If the efforts succeed, the costs to resolve the diesel scandal could rise well beyond the €18.4 billion ($20.5 billion) the company […]

Nissan revolution: could new petrol engine make diesel obsolete?

Japanese automaker Nissan Motor Co has come up with a new type of gasoline engine it says may make some of today’s advanced diesel engines obsolete. The new engine uses variable compression technology, which Nissan engineers say allows it at any given moment to choose an optimal compression ratio for combustion – a key factor in the trade-off between power and efficiency in all gasoline-fuelled engines. The technology gives the new engine the performance of turbo-charged gasoline engines while matching the power and fuel economy of today’s diesel and hybrid powertrains – a level of performance and efficiency the conventional gasoline engine has so far struggled to achieve. The potential breakthrough technology comes at a time when diesel engine technology has been tarnished by Volkswagen’s ( VOWG_p.DE ) emissions cheating scandal. The German […]

Stripper Well Producers to Face Failure if Methane Rule Allowed

5 Aug 2016   Air Quality

Smaller oil and gas producers could be at risk of failing if stripper wells are not exempted from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new methane rules, according to the National Stripper Well Association (NSWA). NSWA Chairwoman Darlene Wallace said in an Aug. 3 press statement that the EPA should be aware of, and held accountable for, the economic damage done to small producers by forced compliance with regulations that simply shouldn’t apply to stripper well producers. The original rule had a pure exemption for stripper wells, but the exemption was eliminated in the final rule, an NSWA spokesperson told Rigzone. Wallace said the EPA’s decision to eliminate the exemption was a significant, radical and unannounced change for most producers, who have been struggling to comply since then. A stripper well, for tax purposes, is any oil well whose maximum daily average oil production does not exceed 15 barrels […]

NASA Data Shows Toxic Air Threat Choking Indian Subcontinent

9 Jul 2016   Air Quality, India

Geography, climate worsen haze across the Indo-Gangetic plain Cities such as New Delhi being left to battle to clean air The mega-city of New Delhi has tried everything from banning diesel guzzling SUVs to taking about half the city’s cars off the streets in a fight against air pollution. Officials may yet have to do much, much more, based on National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellite research. The research depicts how much sunlight is blocked by airborne particles, providing a proxy for levels of pollution. The data show parts of the Indo-Gangetic plain — stretching across northern India from eastern Pakistan on one side to Bangladesh on the other — suffer some of the planet’s worst haze in October through January after monsoon rains end in September. Close all those tabs. Open this email. Get Bloomberg’s daily newsletter. Politics The latest political news, analysis, charts, and dispatches from the […]

Study Links 6.5 Million Deaths Each Year to Air Pollution

28 Jun 2016   Air Quality

A sobering report released on Monday by the International Energy Agency says air pollution has become a major public health crisis leading to around 6.5 million deaths each year, with “many of its root causes and cures” found in the energy industry.  The air pollution study is the first for the agency, an energy security group based in Paris, which is expanding its mission under its executive director, Fatih Birol.  The agency, whose 29 members are wealthy, industrialized countries, was founded in response to the Arab oil embargo in 1973 to coordinate international responses to energy issues. It is perhaps best known for its monthly oil market reports that are eagerly awaited by traders.

Mr. Birol, an economist, argues that pressing concerns aboutclimate change and the emergence of countries like China and India as major energy consumers and polluters mean that the agency needs to shift its strategy.  “To stay relevant,” he said in an interview on Friday, we “need to work much closer with new emerging energy economies.” Mr. Birol has been working to build bridges with China in particular, which energy experts say is crucial to the success of global efforts to reduce emissions.

Volkswagen’s U.S. emissions settlement nearly $10.3 billion: source

24 Jun 2016   Air Quality, Germany

Volkswagen AG’s ( VOWG_p.DE ) diesel emissions settlement with U.S. regulators is valued at nearly $10.3 billion, a source briefed on the agreement said on Thursday. The settlement includes offers to buyback nearly 500,000 polluting U.S. vehicles and set aside billions for green energy projects and a program to offset excess diesel pollution. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing court-imposed gag rules, told Reuters the average compensation to owners was around $5,000. The settlement is currently valued at nearly $10.287 billion, the source added, saying final numbers could change before a Tuesday court deadline. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editiing by Tom Brown)

Radioactive Ranchers? Elements Found Downwind of Intensive Fracking

14 Jun 2016   Air Quality, Canada

At first, Nielle and Howard Hawkwood, who have ranched in Alberta’s foothills for 40 years, couldn’t believe the ”in-your-face industrialization” that accompanied the horizontal drilling and fracking of tight oil wells around Cochrane, Alberta. It began in 2009 when the so-called Cardium oil boom abruptly dotted the rolling landscape with scores of well pads, oil batteries, and new access roads. The companies were drilling lateral wells, which turn 90 degrees and travel for kilometres underground, extending under people’s barns and homes. (Tight oil costs more to extract and produces lower quantities of oil.) As industry fracked these deep, far-reaching wells with millions of gallons of water, toxic chemicals, and sand under high pressure and then burned off unwanted raw gas, the Hawkwoods and many of their neighbours began complaining about noxious emissions and earth tremors. Some officials with the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) initially responded to general complaints in […]

Colorado touts leadership in methane rules

Federal rules on emissions tied to the oil and gas industry follows an example set by state regulators in shale-rich Colorado, the state’s governor said. The federal government released new efforts to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, which the Environmental Protection Agency said should help with efforts to cut emissions from the sector by 45 percent of their 2012 levels by 2025. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said the EPA measure follows an example set by a state air quality commission that made Colorado the first in the country to regulate its own methane emissions. “In the most important respects, Colorado’s rules appear to be equivalent, if not more […]

Justice Department to VW: Don’t Release Results of Pollution Probe

20 Apr 2016   Air Quality, USA

The Justice Department has told Volkswagen AG VLKAY 3.21 % to refrain from publicly releasing results of an independent investigation into cheating on diesel-emissions tests to keep confidential names and events key to the U.S. government’s probes. The Justice Department has asked Volkswagen to refrain from the releasing the results of an… The request to keep investigative details under wraps could complicate the car maker’s efforts to provide answers to shareholders, dealers and car buyers. The Justice Department has told lawyers for the firm that making any interim findings public would hamstring efforts to pursue potential criminal charges and a multibillion-dollar fine, according to people familiar with the matter. As recently as last month, Volkswagen had promised to make public details of an investigation being conducted on the company’s behalf by the law firm Jones Day. The investigation is still ongoing and not yet nearing completion, said people familiar […]

Obama Administration Defends Limit to Power Plant Carbon Emissions

29 Mar 2016   Air Quality

The Obama administration on Monday offered a comprehensive legal defense of its signature climate-change regulation limiting carbon emissions from power plants, telling an appeals court that the rule is well within the bounds of its authority. The Environmental Protection Agency, writing in a 175-page brief submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, said the regulation was critical to addressing what it said was the most important environmental challenge facing the U.S. The Clean Air Act provides the agency “well-established authority to abate threats to public health and welfare by limiting the amount of air pollution that power plants pump into the atmosphere,” the EPA said. The agency said its opponents “seek to thwart any federal limitation” of power plant emissions of heat trapping gases, “or at least limit […]

Six months into ‘Dieselgate’ scandal, gloom deepens in VW’s hometown

19 Mar 2016   Air Quality, Germany

When Martin Winterkorn dropped by to order some new glasses in the Volkswagen company town of Wolfsburg, he was “visibly dejected”, according to his optician. But the visit wasn’t last September, when Winterkorn had just quit as the German carmaker’s chief, it was this week. Six months into the “Dieselgate” affair surrounding VW, the mood in Wolfsburg – where almost half the population works at its giant car factory or in related businesses – is as gloomy as Winterkorn’s, and shows little sign of recovering. Volkswagen ( VOWG_p.DE ) remains mired in the scandal over its rigging of U.S. exhaust emissions tests, facing a barrage of lawsuits and grappling with a stalled German vehicle recall. With workers fearing for their jobs and the dive in VW’s fortunes hitting Wolfsburg’s municipal finances, few […]

U.S. to Target Existing Oil, Gas Wells in Effort to Cut Methane Emissions

11 Mar 2016   Air Quality, Climate

The Obama administration is expected to announce its first step toward regulating methane emissions from hundreds of thousands of oil and natural gas wells across the U.S., a move likely to face pushback from an industry battered by cheap oil and to be cheered by environmentalists. The administration is planning to make the announcement Thursday alongside similar actions by Canada, whose new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, will be visiting the White House for the first time in office, according to people…

U.S. to Target Existing Oil, Gas Wells in Effort to Cut Methane Emissions

10 Mar 2016   Air Quality

The Obama administration is expected to announce its first step toward regulating methane emissions from hundreds of thousands of oil and natural gas wells across the U.S., a move likely to face pushback from an industry battered by cheap oil and to be cheered by environmentalists. The administration is planning to make the announcement Thursday alongside similar actions by Canada, whose new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, will be visiting the White House for the first time in office, according to people…

Some Japanese Diesel Cars’ On-Road Emissions Higher Than in Lab Tests

4 Mar 2016   Air Quality, Japan

Japanese authorities said they found on-road emissions were much higher than in laboratory tests of certain diesel-powered vehicles made by Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. sold in Japan. Two Toyota vehicles and a Nissan vehicle tested on roads emitted up to 10 times the amount of nitrogen oxides, or NOx, than the standard they needed to meet in laboratory tests, while a Mitsubishi vehicle emitted up to five times the amount of NOx it needed to meet in a laboratory test, Japan’s transport ministry said in documents released earlier this week. The Japanese transport ministry tested six types of diesel vehicles. No illegal software was found in any of the tested cars and the auto makers haven’t violated any regulations, officials said. Diesel vehicles sold in Japan are currently subject to only laboratory tests for emissions, but the government is considering adding on-road testing. […]

As Air Worsens, New Delhi Turns to Masks. The Flashier the Better.

2 Mar 2016   Air Quality, India

It isn’t just sweaters the kindergartners are wearing as they pour out of their classrooms onto the lawns of the American Embassy School in India ’s capital city. They are also wearing face masks. The school does not require students to wear air filtration masks against the polluted air here, the worst in the world, in the estimation of the World Health Organization . But it has created what its director calls “a culture of acceptance” around wearing them. It helps that they come in wild prints, made by a San Francisco company, many in fabrics from this year’s spring and summer collections of a top Indian fashion designer, Manish Arora. The Tiger’s […]

Beijing to Raise Threshold on Red Alerts for Smog

23 Feb 2016   Air Quality, China

The first red alert over air pollution in the Chinese capital almost brought this city to a standstill in December, with schools shut, construction halted and driving restricted. Now, in a swift policy shift, Beijing plans to issue a red alert based on higher thresholds, despite government pledges to better address the toxic air. A red alert, the highest level of a four-tier warning system, will be issued if the daily average air quality index is forecast to exceed 500 for one day, 300 for two days or 200 for four days, Xinhua, the state news agency, reported on Sunday, quoting Beijing’s environmental agency. The new standards will take effect before the end of March, it said. The air quality index, used in many countries, is an aggregate measure of […]