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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
Los Angeles County Children's Planning Council;
Based on focus groups with youth and youth workers, identifies best practices and opportunities to engage youth in community-building. Includes recommendations to improve social services and prevention, support and development, and participation.
UCLA Center for Health Policy Research;
Analyzes the insurance status of women ages 18-64 in 2007 and variations by age group, race/ethnicity, family income, family structure, education, and county. Highlights how the lack of coverage compounds the financial difficulties of low-income women.
UCLA Center for Health Policy Research;
Summarizes findings from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) on trends in the state's uninsured rate, the underlying factors, and projected trends. Points to flaws in the eligibility rules for public coverage and outlines policy implications.
Social Policy Research Associates;
The Community Leadership Project (CLP) is a collaborative effort between the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to build the capacity of small, community-based organizations (community grantees) serving lowincome people and communities of color in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Coast, and the San Joaquin Valley regions of California. Now in its second phase, CLP 2.0 is specifically investing in increasing the sustainability of nearly 60 community-based organizations by focusing on common outcomes in three areas: resilient leadership, adaptive capacity, and financial stability. CLP 2.0 is characterized by integrated and intensive support for community grantees in the form of multi-year general operating support, selfdirected capacity building, coaching and mentoring, and a structured menu of leadership development and technical assistance options. These supports and opportunities are provided through partnerships with five regranting intermediaries and five technical assistance (TA)/leadership intermediaries.
Social Policy Research Associates;
Social Policy Research Associates (SPR), the contracted evaluator for CLP, began work partway through the first phase of CLP and has continued its role for CLP 2.0. SPR's overall goals for the evaluation are to: (1) inform improvements in CLP 2.0 implementation; (2) share lessons with the philanthropic field on effective capacity-building strategies for small organizations working in low-income communities and communities of color; and (3) assess the impact of CLP 2.0 on community grantees. This report focuses specifically on the launching of CLP 2.0 and on community grantees' characteristics and capacity levels at baseline.
Movement Strategy Center;
What Works is a guide to best practices and movement-building lessons learned from the surge of efforts to improve life conditions and health outcomes for boys and men of color in California. The report lifts up effective on-the-ground efforts to place the practices in a broader context in a way that can be applicable not only to work in California, but across the nation.
Heartland Alliance National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity;
This resource is a case study on Larkin Street, a program that includes housing and medical care along with education, employment, and career services via their Larkin Street Academy. Larkin Street Academy "meets youth where they are" by offering a range of employment services including YouthForce, a job readiness class, the Institute for Hire Learning (IHL), and Wire Up.
California Permanency for Youth Project;
This report presents findings and recommendations from the Emancipated Youth Connections Project, a model program designed to seek and sustain permanent lifelong connections for older youth who have already emancipated from foster care without a permanent connection to a caring adult. See "Part 3: Project Results" for project evaluation.
James Irvine Foundation, The;
During the first phase of the California Votes Initiative, spanning elections from June 2006 to March 2007, participating community-based organizations personally contacted over 82,000 low-propensity voters, through strategies such as door-to-door outreach and phone calls, plus reached an additional 100,000 voters through less direct methods, such as voter forums and messages to congregations. This outreach inspired many to participate in the electoral process for the first time. The initiative evaluation team worked with the community organizations to imbed field experiments into their outreach efforts, comparing turnout among those targeted for contact and those assigned to control groups. This resulted in strong empirical support for a series of best practices that were detailed in a September 2007 report.1 A second phase of the initiative has continued this path-breaking research with further field experiments in the February and June 2008 elections, with more planned for November 2008. This report briefly reviews the results from the first phase of the initiative, adds findings from February 2008 and June 2008 as available,2 and outlines the follow-up studies planned for November 2008. Many findings from the first phase were confirmed, and the two rounds of experiments conducted so far this year provide valuable refinements to the list of best practices established in that earlier report. 1 Michelson, Melissa R., Lisa Garcia Bedolla and Donald P. Green. 2007. "New Experiments in Minority Voter Mobilization: A Report on the California Votes Initiative" (San Francisco, CA: The James Irvine Foundation). Available at www.irvine.org. 2 In many counties, particularly large ones such as Los Angeles, voting information is not released until several months after an election.
Revelations this summer about Enron Energy Services' byzantine electricity-trading practices have fueled charges that merchant power producers and traders artificially engineered the California electricity crisis of 2000-01. A careful examination of the suspect trading practices, however, reveals that there's less to those charges than meets the eye.
The trading strategies in question all involved the pursuit of arbitrage opportunities, which arise when price discrepancies exist for a commodity in different locations or time periods. Exploiting arbitrage opportunities generally enhances economic efficiency by ensuring that electricity is reallocated where it is needed most. While some of the arbitrage opportunities were artificially manufactured by the companies themselves (in ways that may or may not have violated the law), most of them arose as a natural consequence of the market structure imposed by the California political system.
In any case, it's unclear whether the trading strategies in question actually served to increase prices on balance. Even economists who are convinced that they did contribute to the increase in electricity prices attribute only about 5 percent of the alleged overcharges to the strategies at issue. Most of the price spike of 2000-01 is explained by drought, increased natural gas prices, the escalating cost of nitrogen oxide emissions credits, increases in consumer demand stemming from a hot summer and then a cold winter, and retail price controls that prevented market signals from disciplining producers or consumers. The price collapse in the summer of 2001 stemmed from a reversal of those conditions, not the imposition of federal price controls or the elimination of the trading practices in question.
National Council on Crime and Delinquency;
California was once a leader in innovative corrections legislation and programming. However, over the last 20 years, a number of factors have left the state with a huge and dysfunctional criminal justice system in dire need of reform. This publication addresses the many issues that contribute to the need for major reforms in the California corrections system and the first strategic steps toward achieving those reforms.