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Political Economy Research Institute;
The Toxic 100 index identifies the top U.S. air polluters among the world's largest corporations. The index relies on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Risk Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) project. The starting point for the RSEI is the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), which reports on releases of toxic chemicals at facilities across the United States. TRI data are widely cited in press stories on "top polluters," but they have limitations that the Toxic 100 addresses:
TRI data are reported simply in terms of total pounds of chemicals. The RSEI data factors in relative toxicities of TRI chemicals. Pound-for-pound, some chemicals are up to ten million times more hazardous than others.The RSEI data account for exposures and numbers of people impacted by the release of toxic chemicals based on modeling designed by the EPA.The PERI research team matches RSEI data, reported on a facility-by-facility basis, with information on corporate ownership of these facilities. PERI develops a picture of overall corporate performance that is essential to engaging corporate leaders in finding ways to reduce toxic pollution.
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
Earth Policy Institute;
In Chapter 7 of the recently released Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, Lester Brown lays out the Plan B goals for eradicating poverty and stabilizing population. Behind the scenes are a number of datasets and graphs that delve deeper into the trends discussed in the chapter. Here are some highlights from the Chapter 7 data.
World population has grown steadily over the past half century, increasing from 2.5 billion in 1950 to a projected 6.8 billion in 2009. The United Nations medium fertility level scenario projects that world population will grow to 9.2 billion in 2050. Their high projection takes the world to 10.5 billion in 2050. Under their low projection, which assumes rapid reductions in fertility rates, population peaks at just over 8 billion in 2042, then begins to decline.
These data highlights show that while there have been some successes in the fight to reduce poverty and improve quality of life around the world, many challenges remain, particularly in the face of continuing population growth. You can download our datasets at http://www.earthpolicy.org/index.php?/books/pb4/pb4_data to learn more about the Plan B proposals for eradicating poverty and stabilizing population -- goals that play an important role in the mobilization to save civilization.
American Human Development Project;
Our national conversation about race tends to take place in black and white, yet the greatest disparities in human well-being to be found in the U.S. are between Asian Americans in New Jersey and Native Americans in South Dakota. An entire century of human progress separates the worst-off from the best-off groups within the U.S., according to the latest update of the American Human Development (HD) Index.
What's new in this report?
American HD Index scores for racial and ethnic group in each state, using the most recent government data to create a composite measure of progress on health, education, and income indicators. Previous reports have presented scores for racial and ethnic groups for the entire country and within specific states. This is the first time that American HD Index scores have been computed for racial and ethnic groups in each state. Rankings by state, for each major racial and ethnic group, on the American HD Index. The index reveals that the starkest disparities in well-being fall not between blacks and whites, but between Native Americans and Asian Americans. Asian Americans as a group top the rankings, with Asian Americans in New Jersey coming in at number one. If current trends continue, it will take Native Americans in South Dakota an entire century to catch up with where New Jersey Asian Americans are now in terms of life expectancy, educational enrollment and attainment, and median earnings. Analysis of what's driving the differences in human development outcomes for different groups. Disaggregated data on life expectancy, educational enrollment, educational degree attainment, and median personal earnings, all from the latest official government releases. Although the numbers tell a sobering tale, this data can be the start of a conversation about where in the country different groups of Americans are thriving -- and where others are falling behind -- and why. A holistic approach using official statistics paints a picture of today and helps us monitor change for a better tomorrow; as such, the American HD Index can serve as a tool for action.
Alliance for Biking and Walking;
This spreadsheet contains data collected for Alliance's 2007 Benchmarking Report on bicycling and walking in the U.S. Tabs differentiate between data for the 50 states and the top 50 most-populous cities. Data collected here includes bicycling and walking modeshare, demographics, safety statistics, funding for bicycling and walking, policies at the state and local level, and more.
Earth Policy Institute;
The 107 million tons of grain that went to U.S. ethanol distilleries in 2009 was enough to feed 330 million people for one year at average world consumption levels. More than a quarter of the total U.S. grain crop was turned into ethanol to fuel cars last year. With 200 ethanol distilleries in the country set up to transform food into fuel, the amount of grain processed has tripled since 2004.
American Human Development Project;
Residents of 29 countries live longer lives, on average, than Americans -- while spending up to eight times less on their health. A new report by American Human Development Project ranks the 50 states and Washington, D.C. against 80 countries in the world on life expectancy at birth, infant death rates, and annual per person spending on health care. The results powerfully demonstrate how better care and reining in costs are not incompatible.
This report contains the most current teenage pregnancy, birth and abortion statistics available, with national estimates through 2006, and state-level estimates through 2005. The report includes tables showing annual national rates and numbers of teenage pregnancies, births and abortions through 2006; state-level rates of pregnancy, birth and abortion in 2005; and state-level numbers of teenage pregnancies, births, abortions and miscarriages, as well as population counts. The report concludes with a discussion of the methodology and sources used to obtain the estimates. Some Key Findings: In 2006, 750,000 women younger than 20 became pregnant. The pregnancy rate was 71.5 pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15 -- 19, and pregnancies occurred among about 7% of women in this age-group. The teenage birthrate in 2006 was 41.9 births per 1,000 women. This was 32% lower than the peak rate of 61.8, reached in 1991, but 4% higher than in 2005.Among black teens, the pregnancy rate declined by 45% (from 223.8 per 1,000 in 1990 to 122.7 in 2005), before increasing to 126.3 in 2006. Among Hispanic teens, the pregnancy rate decreased by 26% (from 169.7 per 1,000 in 1992 to 124.9 in 2005), before rising to 126.6 in 2006. Among non-Hispanic white teens, the pregnancy rate declined 50% (from 86.6 per 1,000 in 1990 to 43.3 per 1,000 in 2005), before increasing to 44.0 in 2006.
Center for Migration Studies of New York;
Undocumented immigration has been a significant political issue in recent years, and is likely to remain so throughout and beyond the presidential election year of 2016. One reason for the high and sustained level of interest in undocumented immigration is the widespread belief that the trend in the undocumented population is ever upward. This paper shows that this belief is mistaken and that, in fact, the undocumented population has been decreasing for more than a half a decade. Other findings of the paper that should inform the immigration debate are the growing naturalized citizen populations in almost every US state and the fact that, since 1980, the legally resident foreign-born population from Mexico has grown faster than the undocumented population from Mexico.
Earth Policy Institute;
Nuclear power generation in the United States is falling. After increasing rapidly since the 1970s, electricity generation at U.S. nuclear plants began to grow more slowly in the early 2000s. It then plateaued between 2007 and 2010 -- before falling more than 4 percent over the last two years. Projections for 2013 show a further 1 percent drop. With reactors retiring early and proposed projects being abandoned, U.S. nuclear power's days are numbered.
Earth Policy Institute;
Defying conventional wisdom about the limits of wind power, in 2012 both Iowa and South Dakota generated close to one quarter of their electricity from wind farms. Wind power accounted for at least 10 percent of electricity generation in seven other states. Across the United States, wind power continues to strengthen its case as a serious energy source.
Earth Policy Institute;
The United States is now home to 34 modern bike-sharing programs that allow riders to easily make short trips on two wheels without having to own a bicycle. With a number of new programs in the works and planned expansions of existing programs, the U.S. fleet is set to double again by the end of 2014, at which point nearly 37,000 publicly shared bicycles will roll the streets.