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Earth Policy Institute;
For years now, many members of Congress have insisted that cutting carbon emissions was difficult, if not impossible. It is not. During the two years since 2007, carbon emissions have dropped 9 percent. While part of this drop is from the recession, part of it is also from efficiency gains and from replacing coal with natural gas, wind, solar, and geothermal energy.
The United States has ended a century of rising carbon emissions and has now entered a new energy era, one of declining emissions. Peak carbon is now history. What had appeared to be hopelessly difficult is happening at amazing speed.
For a country where oil and coal use have been growing for more than a century, the fall since 2007 is startling. In 2008, oil use dropped 5 percent, coal 1 percent, and carbon emissions by 3 percent. Estimates for 2009, based on U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) data for the first nine months, show oil use down by another 5 percent. Coal is set to fall by 10 percent. Carbon emissions from burning all fossil fuels dropped 9 percent over the two years.
Beyond the cuts already made, there are further massive reductions in the policy pipeline. Prominent among them are stronger automobile fuel-economy standards, higher appliance efficiency standards, and financial incentives supporting the large-scale development of wind, solar, and geothermal energy. (See data at www.earthpolicy.org.)
Efforts to reduce fossil fuel use are under way at every level of government -- national, state, and city -- as well as in corporations, utilities, and universities. And millions of climate-conscious, cost-cutting Americans are altering their lifestyles to reduce energy use.
For its part, the federal government -- the largest U.S. energy consumer, with some 500,000 buildings and 600,000 vehicles -- announced in early October 2009 that it is setting its own carbon-cutting goals. These include reducing vehicle fleet fuel use 30 percent by 2020, recycling at least 50 percent of waste by 2015, and buying environmentally responsible products.
Electricity use is falling partly because of gains in efficiency. The potential for further cuts is evident in the wide variation in energy efficiency among states. The Rocky Mountain Institute calculates that if the 40 least-efficient states were to reach the electrical efficiency of the 10 most-efficient ones, national electricity use would be reduced by one third. This would allow the equivalent of 62 percent of the country's 617 coal-fired power plants to be closed.
Actions are being taken to realize this potential. For several years DOE failed to write the regulations needed to implement appliance efficiency legislation that Congress had already passed. Within days of taking office, President Obama instructed the agency to write the regulations needed to realize these potentially vast efficiency gains as soon as possible.
The energy efficiency revolution that is now under way will transform everything from lighting to transportation. With lighting, for example, shifting from incandescent bulbs to the newer light-emitting diodes (LEDs), combined with motion sensors to turn lights off in unoccupied spaces, can cut electricity use by more than 90 percent. Los Angeles, for example, is replacing its 140,000 street lights with LEDs -- and cutting electricity and maintenance costs by $10 million per year.
The carbon-cutting movement is gaining momentum on many fronts. In July, the Sierra Club -- coordinator of the national anti-coal campaign -- announced the hundredth cancellation of a proposed plant since 2001. This battle is leading to a de facto moratorium on new coal plants. Despite the coal industry's $45-million annual budget to promote "clean coal," utilities are giving up on coal and starting to close plants. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), with 11 coal plants (average age 47 years) and a court order to install over $1 billion worth of pollution controls, is considering closing its plant near Rogersville, Tennessee, along with the six oldest units out of eight in its Stevenson, Alabama, plant.
TVA is not alone. Altogether, some 22 coal-fired power plants in 12 states are being replaced by wind farms, natural gas plants, wood chip plants, or efficiency gains. Many more are likely to close as public pressure to clean up the air and to cut carbon emissions intensifies. Shifting from coal to natural gas cuts carbon emissions by roughly half. Shifting to wind, solar, and geothermal energy drops them to zero.
State governments are getting behind renewables big time. Thirty-four states have adopted renewable portfolio standards to produce a larger share of their electricity from renewable sources over the next decade or so. Among the more populous states, the renewable standard is 24 percent in New York, 25 percent in Illinois, and 33 percent in California.
While coal plants are closing, wind farms are multiplying. In 2008, a total of 102 wind farms came online, providing more than 8,400 megawatts of generating capacity. Forty-nine wind farms were completed in the first half of 2009 and 57 more are under construction. More important, some 300,000 megawatts of wind projects (think 300 coal plants) are awaiting access to the grid.
U.S. solar cell installations are growing at 40 percent a year. With new incentives, this rapid growth in rooftop installations on homes, shopping malls, and factories should continue. In addition, some 15 large solar thermal power plants that use mirrors to concentrate sunlight and generate electricity are planned in California, Arizona, and Nevada. A new heat-storage technology that enables the plants to continue generating power for up to six hours past sundown helps explain this boom.
For many years, U.S. geothermal energy was confined largely to the huge Geysers project north of San Francisco, with 850 megawatts of generating capacity. Now the United States, with 132 geothermal power plants under development, is experiencing a geothermal renaissance.
After their century-long love-affair with the car, Americans are turning to mass transit. There is hardly a U.S. city that is not either building new light rail, subways, or express bus lines or upgrading and expanding existing ones.
As motorists turn to public transit, and also to bicycles, the U.S. car fleet is shrinking. The estimated scrappage of 14 million cars in 2009 will exceed new sales of 10 million by 4 million, shrinking the fleet 2 percent in one year. This shrinkage will likely continue for a few years.
Oil use and imports are both declining. This will continue as the new fuel economy standards raise the fuel efficiency of new cars 42 percent and light trucks 25 percent by 2016. And since 42 percent of the diesel fuel burned in the rail freight sector is used to haul coal, falling coal use means falling diesel fuel use.
But the big gains in fuel efficiency will come with the shift to plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars. Not only are electric motors three times more efficient than gasoline engines, but they also enable cars to run on wind power at a gasoline-equivalent cost of 75-cents a gallon. Almost every major car maker will soon be selling plug-in hybrids, electric cars, or both.
In this new energy era carbon emissions are declining and they will likely continue to do so because of policies already on the books. We are headed in the right direction. We do not yet know how much we can cut carbon emissions because we are just beginning to make a serious effort. Whether we can move fast enough to avoid catastrophic climate change remains to be seen.
# # #
Lester R. Brown is President of the Earth Policy Institute and author of Plan B 4.0:
Mobilizing to Save Civilization
Data and additional resources at www.earthpolicy.org
Reah Janise Kauffman
Tel: (202) 496-9290 x12
E-mail: rji (at) earthpolicy.org
Tel: (202) 496-9290 x14
E-mail: jlarsen (at) earthpolicy.org
Earth Policy Institute
1350 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 403
Washington, DC 20036
Hand counts of significant numbers of ballots were conducted in Washington State and
Nevada after the 2004 General Election. Estimated costs of a 2% audit of federal contests
are based primarily on the costs of those recent, extensive hand counts.
Pew Center on Global Climate Change;
Examines the use of portfolio standards as a policy tool to promote renewable electricity generation in all states. Provides case studies from Texas, Massachusetts, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. Explores future policy development and implementation.
Fels Institute of Government at University of Pennsylvania;
This report is part of a series of 21 state and regional studies examining the rollout of the ACA. The national network -- with 36 states and 61 researchers -- is led by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public policy research arm of the State University of New York, the Brookings Institution, and the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.
Following passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Nevada became the only state with a Republican governor both to set up its own state exchange and to expand the state's Medicaid program. By all accounts, Governor Brian Sandoval's stance was pivotal. Sandoval chose to implement a law he personally opposed, with the aim of giving Nevada maximum autonomy in setting up and administering the new health insurance marketplaces. Sandoval's decision reflected in large part the circumstances of the state in the wake of a recession that hit Nevada particularly hard.
Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED);
The Assets & Opportunity Scorecard is a comprehensive look at Americans' financial security today and their opportunities to create a more prosperous future. It assesses the 50 states and the District of Columbia on 130 outcome and policy measures, which describe how well residents are faring and what states are doing to help them build and protect assets. The Scorecard enables states to benchmark their outcomes and policies against other states in five issue areas: Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Housing & Homeownership, Health Care, and Education.
Violence Policy Center;
Pennsylvania leads the nation in the rate of black homicide victimization according to a new analysis of unpublished Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) data released today by the Violence Policy Center (VPC). The study, "Black Homicide Victimization in the United States: An Analysis of 2004 Homicide Data", uses 2004 data -- the most recent data available from the FBI -- and is the first analysis to rank the 50 states according to their black homicide rates. The study found overwhelmingly that firearms, usually handguns, were the weapon of choice in the homicides.
The top 10 states with each state's corresponding black homicide victimization rates are: 1) Pennsylvania, 29.52 per 100,000; 2) Louisiana, 29.48 per 100,000; 3) Indiana, 29.30 per 100,000; 4) California, 28.95 per 100,000; 5) Missouri, 28.63 per 100,000; 6) Michigan, 28.27 per 100,000; 7) Maryland, 24.64 per 100,000; 8) Minnesota, 24.45 per 100,000; 9) Nevada, 23.67 per 100,000; and, 10) Arizona, 21.54 per 100,000.
The study warns that "the toll that homicide exacts on black teens and young adults in America, both male and female, is disproportionate, disturbing, and undeniable" and concludes, "As efforts are made to reduce America's black homicide victimization toll, the unique facilitating role of firearms cannot be ignored."
Violence Policy Center;
The Violence Policy Center (VPC) today released "When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2004 Homicide Data". This annual report details national and state-by-state information on female homicides involving one female murder victim and one male offender. The VPC releases the study each year to coincide with Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. In 2004, according to the most recent data available from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's unpublished Supplementary Homicide Report, firearms were the most common weapon used by males to murder females (811 of 1,663 homicides or 49 percent). Of these, 72 percent (582 of 811) were committed with handguns. In cases where the victims knew their offenders, 62 percent of female homicide victims (966 of 1,563) were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers. Alaska ranks first in the nation in the rate of women killed by men. Ranked behind Alaska are: New Mexico, Wyoming, Louisiana, Nevada, South Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Tennessee (see chart below). Nationally, the rate of women killed by men in single victim/single offender instances was 1.29 per 100,000.
VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, "These numbers should serve as a wake-up call to the states with the highest rates of female homicide that more needs to be done to protect women."
Public Citizen's Congress Watch;
A wealthy New York developer coordinated an $8 million campaign to enact state ballot initiatives that would eviscerate state environmental safeguards in four Western states and threaten to bankrupt the state treasuries.
Organizations connected to Howie Rich have primarily funded the initiatives to allow individual landowners to claim compensation from state and local governments for any decrease in property value as a result of planning, environmental or other government protections. They will be on the ballot in four states on Election Day: Arizona (Proposition 207), California (Proposition 90), Idaho (Proposition 2) and Washington (Initiative 933).
Similar initiatives were bounced -- in full or in part -- from ballots in Oklahoma and Nevada because courts there found that the structure of the initiatives violated those states' requirements that ballot initiatives embrace only a single subject. In Montana, a court found that proponents engaged in massive fraud in the petition drive to win a spot on the ballot.
The campaigns falsely advertise the initiatives as necessary to prevent governments from condemning property owners' land, but they instead are intended to serve as cash cows for developers. If approved, they would leave governments with an unacceptable choice between rolling back decades of environmental protection rules -- such as those to combat sprawl, protect wetlands and preserve clean air and clean water -- or paying bounties to developers as compensation for restrictions on using their land however they please.
Violence Prevention Research Program - UC Davis;
Objective: To describe gun shows and assess the impact of increased regulation on characteristics linked to their importance as sources of guns used in crime.
Design: Cross-sectional, observational.
Subjects: Data were collected at a structured sample of 28 gun shows in California, which regulates these events and prohibits undocumented private party gun sales; and in Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Florida -- all leading sources of California's crime guns -- where these restrictions do not exist.
Main outcome measures: Size of shows, measured by numbers of gun vendors and people in attendance; number and nature of guns for sale by gun vendors; measures of private party gun sales and illegal surrogate ("straw") gun purchases.
Results: Shows in comparison states were larger, but the number of attendees per gun vendor was higher in California. None of these differences was statistically significant. Armed attendees were more common in other states (median 5.7%, interquartile range (IQR) 3.9 - 10.0%) than in California (median 1.1%, IQR 0.5 - 2.2%), p = 0.0007. Thirty percent of gun vendors both in California and elsewhere were identifiable as licensed firearm retailers. There were few differences in the types or numbers of guns offered for sale; vendors elsewhere were more likely to sell assault weapons (34.9% and 13.3%, respectively; p = 0.001). Straw purchases were more common in the comparison states (rate ratio 6.6 (95% CI 0.9 to 49.1), p = 0.06).
Conclusions: California's regulatory policies were associated with a decreased incidence of anonymous, undocumented gun sales and illegal straw purchases at gun shows. No significant adverse effects of these policies were observed.
Center for Responsible Lending;
The "Losing Ground" study is the first comprehensive, nationwide review of millions of subprime mortgages originated from 1998 through the third quarter of 2006. CRL finds that despite low interest rates and a favorable economic environment during the past several years, the subprime market has experienced high foreclosure rates, and we project that one out of five (19.4%) subprime loans issued during 2005-2006 will fail.
The report discusses a number of factors that drive subprime foreclosures-these include adjustable rate mortgages with steep built-in rate and payment increases, prepayment penalties, limited income documentation, and no escrow for taxes and insurance. We also determine that these features cause a higher risk of default regardless of the borrower's credit score.
Our study also finds that recent high appreciation in many areas has masked problems in the subprime market, and that the cooling housing market will cause failure rates to rise sharply in many major markets. California, Arizona, Nevada, and greater Washington DC will be especially hard hit. Also in this report, we project lifetime foreclosure rates for 2006-originated subprime loans in each MSA in the United States.
Institute for Higher Education Policy;
Based on interviews and state data, examines the economic, social, and institutional barriers to higher education and successful outcomes Nevadans face. Recommends strategies, including early intervention, targeted financial aid, and better coordination.