carbon footprint

Acting on Climate

How many more “Hottest Year on Earth” will we have before we take the warnings to heart and make some significant moves? Your guess is as good as mine now that the Supreme Court has blocked the Obama Administration’s efforts to regulate coal plant emissions and be a leader in Paris climate agreement policies.
The U.S., as the world’s second largest contributor to CO2 emissions, should and is expected to lead the efforts in climate change mitigation. Now that this is temporarily (hopefully not permanently, but you never know how this election will turn out) off the table, other countries may likely assume that the U.S. is not committed to protecting our planet and will postpone their efforts to reduce energy consumption and emissions as well.
Most cities in the world experienced higher than normal temperatures. The first half of 2015 alone saw some of the strangest weather events and while a “lag time” must be allowed for all relevant factors to be considered, long-term data suggests a strong link between climate change and these events. There is far too much evidence to keep ignoring these signs and doing nothing.
If you’re as frustrated with the inaction of governments and larger agencies, you may be wondering what you can do to make a difference.
So, how can you help? The good news is there are lots of ways:
Minimize your carbon footprint. You can do a bunch of different things to meet this requirement from leading a low carbon lifestyle to limiting your reliance on fossil fuels. Here are a few: use public transportation whenever possible; change to more efficient light bulbs throughout your home; unplug electric devices and appliances when not in use and turn off lights when leaving a room; insulate your home; set your thermostat to 68°F in the winter and 78°F in the summer; eat locally produced and grown foods; minimize water consumption; recycle and reuse.
Offset your carbon footprint. Offset what you can’t reduce. You can plant trees, but donating to agencies that improve forest management and protect standing forests is good, too. You can calculate your footprint as well.
Hopefully the EPA will soon be able to do its job and regulate emissions. While the agency’s powers are limited, however, we can and should help!!
What are you doing to fight climate change?

Statewide LG EE Best Practices: Weekly Update

Here are your wEEkly updates:
  1. Request for Resources: Achieving Energy Efficiency through Behavior Change
    CivicSpark fellows are looking for resources, case studies, activities, and ideas for achieving energy efficiency through behaviour change at municipalities, businesses, and by residents. If you have any resources, ideas, or examples, please send them to
  2. 1/22 Workshop: What's Next for the RENs?
    The purpose of this workshop will be to discuss and compare the two recent EM&V study reports completed on the Regional Energy Network (REN) pilots and to consider how the studies should inform appropriate next steps for the RENs. Senior staff from study consultant firms Itron and Opinion Dynamics with contributing firm Apex will comprise a panel of experts to inform the discussion and field Q&A. Energy Division's EM&V advisor Katherine Johnson will also be present on the panel. More information on the Energy Calendar.
  3. The Funding Wizard on is back online!
    The Funding Wizard is a searchable database of grants, rebates and incentives to help you pay for sustainable projects, all in one place! The Funding Wizard combs the Internet for funding opportunities in categories such as energy, air quality and climate change, transportation, urban development, waste management, water, and more.
  4. RFP: Santa Barbara County CCA Feasibility Study
    Santa Barbara County is inviting proposals for professional consulting services to develop a technical feasibility study on Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) for the central coast region, including participating in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo Counties. The full Request for Proposals (RFP), including submittal instructions are posted online. Proposals must be submitted by 11:59pm on Monday, January 25, 2016.
  5. NYC Carbon Challenge: Handbook for Universities and Hospitals
    This reference manual highlights some of the best practices for reducing building-based energy use and GHG emissions from the universities and hospitals participating in the NYC Carbon Challenge.
  6. New "light recycling" incandescent bulbs could outperform energy-efficient LEDs
    MIT researchers are working to change the way in which incandescent bulbs work to give the industry an additional option for energy-efficient lighting. The research centers on the fact that about 95% of the energy used to heat the filament to the point that it emits visible light is wasted - the goal is to capture that energy and enable the bulb to in essence power itself.
  7. Calendar of Energy-Related Events
    Please forward events to so that they can be added to the calendar.

And that is all for this week!

Alternative fuels gain favor & could gas up 600,000 jobs

The average fuel economy of the U.S. new-car fleet is increasing, and carbon dioxide emissions show incremental reductions.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report projects average "real world" CO2 emissions dropping to 391 grams per mile in 2011 and mileage creeping up to 22.8 miles per gallon for new cars. That compares with 394 grams per mile and 22.6 mpg for 2010.

Definitely baby steps. But change, as Sam Cooke sang so sweetly, is gonna come.

Wheels start turning

Too much is going on geopolitically, environmentally and technologically to ignore. Electric vehicles are no longer just a subject of a whodunit film. Models with various ranges and engine configurations are available for even middle-income buyers. And an alternative fuel -- natural gas -- may even cut into the diesel market, providing a viable option for long-haul truckers and a segment of the American population willing to search out fueling stations.

"We are making significant strides toward saving families money at the pump, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and cleaning up the air we breathe,” says Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s unfortunately named Office of Air and Radiation, in a statement accompanying the study: "Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 Through 2011."

And it's all coming from the private sector, in some cases with a little federal help.

Innovations arrive

Chevy and Chrysler plan new natural-gas trucks, joining Honda's Civic as the only production passenger vehicles that use the fuel exclusively. Odyne Systems LLC, which has been working with the U.S. Department of Energy, is developing sophisticated plug-in hybrid systems for medium and heavy duty trucks. And CleanFUEL USA and Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. have unveiled a propane option for the medium-duty commercial truck market.

It's as if the debate about climate change doesn't exist. The question is more of opportunity. Fuel costs raise the ire of Joe Consumer. Give him an alternative (or a beer) and he calms down. A six-pack costs about the same as a gallon of gas, depending on your taste in beer.

Look to the actuaries

California has asked about 300 insurance companies, representing a majority of the industry, for an assessment of how they account for climate change in risk management analysis. The response should be telling. This is no political debate, just a straight-up assessment from actuaries in the trenches.

How much money do they believe climate change will cost? Mark Hertsgaard of Yale Environment 360 says "the insurance initiative is but the latest example of California’s far-reaching policies to confront climate change." His report says the exercise likely will cause the insurance industry to do things differently.

Kind of a wake-up call.

Journalist Richard Schiffman in Huffington Post quotes Marsh & McLennan, one of the world's largest insurance brokers, calling climate change "one of the most significant emerging risks facing the world today." Schiffman says insurance giant AIG even established an Office of Environment and Climate Change to review and assess risk.

Traditional energy development

The problem has been recognized. Yet the symptoms that led us to this precipice continue. Exxon Mobil Corp. says it plans to spend about $150 billion over the next five years to find more oil and natural gas, and Associated Press reporter Chris Kahn quotes Exxon Chief Executive Rex Tillerson saying: "Unprecedented levels of investment are needed to meet the scale of the energy challenge."

Certainly, energy is important. But how it's developed, what is extracted and how nations choose to deal with fossil fuels are likely to become increasingly contentious.

Frank Stewart, a board member of the American Association of Blacks in Energy, says in a Huffington Post piece that state regulation plays an integral role in the new rush for underground resources. He says New York has spent about three years studying its natural gas development, addressing issues that that created controversy in places like Pennsylvania, where fracturing as a form of natural gas extraction drew serious criticism.

Stewart says New York's plan "includes a raft of new requirements for natural gas operators, from drinking water protection measures to disclosure of additives used in the hydraulic fracturing process." He says development of what the U.S. Energy Information Agency lists as a 100-year supply of natural gas is too important not to get it right.

For gas to sell as a successful alternative -- or as T. Boone Pickens calls it, "a bridge fuel" -- it must be safe.

Gas up 600,000 jobs

President Barack Obama has called for safe development of the nation's natural gas reserves. In his Blueprint for America -- issued about the time of the 2012 State of the Union -- he says shale gas development, according to independent estimates, will support more than 600,000 jobs.

Obama, speaking before United Parcel Service workers in Nevada, called the United States the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. He said tapping the nations reserves could "power our cars and our homes and our factories in a cleaner and cheaper way," writes Christi Parsons of the Los Angeles Times.

Obama's goals include proposing new incentives for medium- and heavy-duty trucks that run on natural gas or other alternative fuels. He's also engaged the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, known simply as ARPA-E, to work with the country’s "brightest scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to find ways to harness our abundant supplies of domestic natural gas to lessen our dependence of foreign oil for vehicles."

Innovate an old fuel source

Quite a bit is riding on the ability of American entrepreneurs to come up with solutions. And at least at the moment, encouragement is preferred by government over heavy-handed regulation. It's up to consumers to buy into the change.

Certainly natural gas will start looking good when truckers see it as a viable alternative. It costs about half as much as diesel.

At the Green Truck Summit in Indianapolis where Energy Secretary Steven Chu gave the keynote address, trends, efficiencies and alternative technologies received red-carpet treatment. CleanFUEL USA, a supplier of propane autogas delivery and engine systems, used the event as an opportunity to unveil its new liquid propane-injected engine technology developed with Frieghtliner. And some of the top experts in the country headed up a seminar about the future and potential of so-called gaseous fuels in the trucking industry.

Prognosis? It's excellent.

Building better trucks

And Obama, speaking at a Daimler truck plant in Mount Holly, N.C. where natural gas vehicles are built, lauded workers for their contributions to clean energy. "You're building better trucks," he said. "These trucks can save $15,000 a year."

Obama also said the United States must pursue a diversified approach to energy, explaining that a country that has 2 percent of the world's oil reserves but uses 20 percent of its supply must use less to lessen its dependence on foreign sources. He also announced an “all of the above” approach to assist adoption of alternative fuel technologies, reports Jeff Cobb of

The all-of-the-above proposal would commit $3.7 billion to clean energy tax credits another billion to a National Community Deployment Challenge effort "to spur deployment of clean, advanced vehicles in communities around the country, and an 'EV Everywhere' plan," Cobb says.

Propane and propane accessories

Propane will be another clean fuel to watch. Credit must be given to Hank Hill for his participation in its media exposure. The cartoon character from "King of the Hill" always mentions his job in "propane and propane accessories."

According to, propane is the third most widely used transportation fuel behind gasoline and diesel, and there are more than 52,000 autogas refueling stations and 17 million propane-powered vehicles worldwide.

Christopher Demorro of shed some light on the move by U.S. auto manufacturers to diversify into gaseous fuels. In a piece about GM and Chrysler's latest forays, he writes that Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks will come with Vortec V8 "that will switch between gasoline and CNG seamlessly."

Demorro says the trucks come with a 17-gallon carbon fiber-wrapped CNG tank that, with the standard gas tank, offers more than 650 miles of range. "Horsepower and towing capacity is not reduced in any way," he says. Chrysler's Ram pickup has similar statistics but shorter range.

VW invests big in green

Meanwhile, reports that Volkswagen plans to invest $52 billion in "fundamental ecological restructuring." The goal, the automaker claims, is to drop average CO2 emissions from its new vehicles to 192 grams per mile. Existing is 216.8 grams CO2/mile. That's far better than the U.S. national average but quite a hurdle for a company targeted by Greenpeace over its alleged lobbying against deeper cuts to European Union emissions targets, says.

Obama's measures also include assisting development of an automobile battery that costs half as much as current automotive batteries and enables cars to have a 300-mile range. He also is promoting a measure to build electricity fueling stations to support electric cars and alternative-fueled trucks.

Positive news keeps coming on the electrical car front, despite Chevy's recent move to temporarily halt assembly of its Volt because of flagging demand.

Beast in the East

While this vehicle may never see our shores, Tata Motors' tiny Megapixel may have influence well beyond its home in India. Mike Hanlon of says the car "uses four in-wheel 10 kilowatt motors and a 325 cubic centimeter single-cylinder petrol range-extending engine that generates 22 kW while charging the lithium ion phosphate battery." Range is 559 miles overall and 54 miles electric-only.
Definitely interesting. Hanlon writes, "As a global car concept, this is both the company's evolving idea of the ideal city car for global urban environments."

And India, which has a billion people and growing economy, will be a driver of innovation likely encouraging more of it on this side of the global pond.

Overall, sustainability is gaining favor, especially in the corporate world. When cost-savings are at stake, surprisingly quick decisions can be made.

Expect more natural gas and propane refueling stations along with electric car fast-charge docks at businesses around the country and maybe even some off  national highways.

Sustainia: a great place

Even former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has resurfaced, this time heading up the Sustania initiative, which essentially is a vision of what a sustainable world would look like and be like to live in. The group supporting the concept includes Microsoft, General Electric, Ikea, Cisco and other corporate heavyweights.

A directive from the group that caught my eye was to "sell dreams, not nightmares." In other words, focus on the positive, don't over sell and practice what you preach. It's not the end of the world. Yet.

Reduce your carbon footprint, just $940

Cruising through Twitter, I stumbled on a tweet from Mark Grossi, a former coworker at the Fresno Bee who has the environmental beat.

Grossi's tweet asked, "How big is your carbon footprint?" Intrigued, I clicked on the site. Nature Conservancy.

So far, so good. I took the bait, entered the information for a four-person household, three-bedroom home in California. The brief survey asked questions about heat and home efficiency, lighting, use of Energy Star appliances and measures taken to reduce hot water use.

Not the most illuminating. But, I guess, not bad.

The survey also asked for a list of our cars, how fuel efficient they were and how many miles driven in a year. Other questions included how often an air filter on the furnace/AC was replaced and how often tire pressure is monitored.

The final question boosted my family's footprint. We took the equivalent of six short flights in the past year. Peg and I went to Vegas, she and I to Bellingham, Wash. to visit our latest grandchild and she and Calvin, our oldest son, went to check out two colleges in Seattle.

And I plan to fly back after dumping him off at Seattle University this fall.

In total, and perhaps a little short, our footprint amounted to 47 tons of carbon dioxide a year. Not bad when compared with the U.S. average of 110 tons, but it's more than twice the world average of 22 tons for a family of four.

And we do pretty decently. I insulated my floor last winter. I've installed double-pane windows with coatings to reduce the sun's rays during hot summer days. I have all Energy Star appliances, and I just cleaned the dust from the fridge's cooling coils. They get nasty by the way.

My electric bill was $200 in June. Not great but I know people who would kill for one so low in our super-heated San Joaquin Valley.

And I'm always on the lookout for more things I can do. This encouraged me to click on the "Offset your carbon footprint" link.

I expected tips on insulating, driving less, riding bikes, maybe purchasing pieces of the Rain Forest.

What you get is a pitch: "Offset your footprint with The Nature Conservancy, you'll help protect land, plant trees and sequester carbon over the next 70 years. Your tax-deductible gift will make a difference for our lives, our environment and future generations."

Cost: $940.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. The Nature Conservancy is a worthy organization, deserving of donations.

But I envisioned a more mathematically precise calculation. I'll have to keep working on that.

How to reduce your office’s carbon footprint

By Kieron Casey

For many a green minded individual the time they spend at work and the time they spend at home could not be more different.

Whilst this can, of course, refer to the level of relaxation and comfort available it can also refer to their implementation of green practices and policies. At home many an eco-conscious individual will spend a far amount of time making sure all their waste is recycled in the proper fashion and that all unneeded electrical equipment is redeployed or given to a new home.

At work, however, many individuals find themselves in an environment where green measures take low priority. Recycling and sustainability are not often seen by business decision makers as high priority or a general mood of ambivalence surrounds this issue at the workplace. However, it is possible, with just a few small actions, to implement widespread changes.

Like most strategies the best area to begin trying to implement change is right at the top of this business in the hope good practices will become standards throughout the company and will trickle down.

Although management at companies are often busy and green issues may not be the number one item on their agenda it is certainly worth highlighting this area to them particularly if you can highlight ways in which green policy can save a company’s money.

A prime example is via the use of printers; many older printers take longer and use up more energy than their newer counterparts – replacing them with streamlined models can see an increase in productivity, better time management and a lower carbon emission.

Something as simple as switching all printers to utilizing both sides of paper as a default setting will similarly half waste paper which of course is as great for a person in a finance department to hear as it is for a green minded individual.

Another way in which printers can be made more environmentally suitable would be to check their cartridges; whilst some can be recycled others can not. Also it is worth noting that it takes the same raw materials to create a larger cartridge as it does a small one.

If it is possible to convince management of these measures perhaps try and suggest co-ordinating meetings to discuss environmental measures with other members of staff. Small suggestions such as a car pool scheme or cutting down on use of paper cups in favour of bringing water bottles to work can go a long way in cutting a carbon footprint substantially.

Also one of the many reasons a company may not be aware of the many ways it impacts upon the environment is due to an uncertainty; many businesses are not aware of how much they waste let alone how to improve their records.

One of the best ways to combat this is to put into practise a chart, similar to a financial one tracking a company’s fiscal losses and growths, which measures the companies green performances and their recycling strengths and weaknesses.

Once green practices are observed in such a fashion it is possible then for a company to see where they are going wrong, what areas need change and how plans can be set up to implement these.

Once a company has monitored what can and cannot be recycled, what constitutes waste that should be disposed of in the usual fashion and what should not, it can go about looking at ways to actually getting on with putting a proper recycling plan into action.

Based on a town’s local recycling habits and pick up times it is possible for a business to make plans around these. Yet, perhaps, the most important action a business can take is to ensure that appropriate waste bins are put in place; there should be appropriate and separate disposal units set up for plastic, glass, paper and other materials, which accumulate on a work premises. The bins should be clearly labelled and the staff should be made aware of which materials should be placed into which container.

Author Bio
Guest blogger Kieron Casey is a green minded, vegetarian, BA (Hons) Journalism graduate who lives in Bradford, United Kingdom and blogs regularly on subjects including IT equipment, the environment and green living. He is writing on behalf of Equanet.

Could Fuel Cells Power The Green Movement In California?

Fuel cells aren't new - electricity aboard the Gemini 5 spacecraft in 1965 came from one - but they aren't so space age anymore.

More businesses and local governments are relying on them to help reduce their carbon footprint, capitalize on renewable fuels and to generate power. At least four systems are in the San Joaquin Valley and, as this Los Angeles Times story notes, they are "popping up" throughout the state.

Bloom Energy, a young Bay area company, has received lots of press lately for its fuel cells. Coca Cola announced this year that it would test fuel Bloom Energy cells powered by biogas at an Odwalla plant in Dinuba, in Tulare County. The five cells could produce almost one-third of the plant's power, and cut its carbon footprint 35%.

Fuel cells also generate power at a 400,000-square-foot cold storage warehouse in Stockton; use methane gas created from a wastewater treatment facility to provide power to the Turlock Irrigation District; and use biogas as an onsite renewable energy source at a regional wastewater plant in Tulare.

The California Stationary Fuel Cell Collaborative, administered by the Air Resources Board, has information on more projects throughout the state.

It remains to be seen how popular fuel cells become - they can be the size of a vehicle and cost a bundle to install - but, if they work as intended, could make a substantial dent in an entity's carbon footprint and power bills.

The federal government has an ambitious agenda for fuel cell research, appropriating $74 million over three years. "The investments we're making today will help advance fuel cell technology in the United States," U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Wednesday. "This is part of a broad effort to create American jobs, reduce carbon pollution, and help ensure the U.S. stays competitive in the growing clean energy economy."

Fuel cells use the chemical energy of hydrogen or other fuels to cleanly and efficiently produce electricity or heat with minimal byproducts, primarily water. They can produce power in large stationary systems such as buildings or for vehicles such as commercial forklifts, buses and automobiles.

Lewis Nelson, public works director in Tulare, says fuel cells are well suited for wastewater treatment plants. They take biogas from anaerobic treatment of wastewater solids or animal manure and generate electricity. In 2010, Tulare is expected to save about $570,000 with the system.

"A treatment plant uses a lot of electricity, and can generally use all the electricity a fuel cell generates internally, saving the cost of purchasing electricity from a utility," Nelson says. "I think that biogas fuel cells are an excellent renewable electricity technology for wastewater treatment plants."

Tulare is currently installing its fourth fuel cell. The city's investment after a $4 million incentive was $3 million, which means it could recoup its costs within five years.

(Photo of Tulare fuel cell by