How India’s Silicon Valley is using tech to tackle traffic

Bangalore is the world's most congested city, but car-sharing and scooter-hire apps could help cut traffic.

Bangalore is the world’s most congested city, but car-sharing and scooter-hire apps could help cut traffic.

London (CNN)Imagine being stuck in traffic for 243 hours, equivalent to just over 10 days. Rush hour commuters in Bangalore, a city in southern India, spent around that time in traffic last year.

The city has the worst congestion in the world, according to the 2019 TomTom Traffic Index, overtaking Mumbai, which held the title for the previous two years.
Bangalore’s rapid expansion as India’s tech capital is partly responsible. The number of cars on the roads has rocketed from 1.4 million in 2000 to more than 8 million in 2019.
But tech could also provide the solution, as startups have sprung up to break the gridlock.
Bangalore's scooter rental start-up Bounce is booming, recently valued at $500 million.

Take Bounce, a Bangalore-based scooter-hire company with a fleet of more than 17,000 electric and gasoline vehicles in its home city. Customers can rent a scooter via its app for as little as 14 rupees (19 cents) an hour.
Founded in 2014, Bounce now operates in more than 30 cities in India with both a docked and dockless model, where you can pick up or drop off the bike anywhere in the city. It claims more than 120,000 rides are taken on its scooters in Bangalore every day.
In January, the startup received a fresh $105 million in funding, taking its overall capital to more than $200 million, Varun Agni, its CTO and co-founder, tells CNN Business. This led to its latest public valuation of $500 million, he adds.
While the initial motivation behind Bounce was “democratizing the commute” and providing affordable access to mobility for all, one major byproduct has been a reduction in traffic, says Agni.
Four in 10 users start or end at a subway station, he says. “This has a massive impact on reducing traffic and congestion,” as it encourages people to use public transport rather than using a car for the whole trip, he adds.
It also has an impact on the environment, especially as the company introduces more electric scooters to its fleet; by the end of the year, at least half of its vehicles will be electric, says Agni.

Cutting cars and carbon emissions

Transportation is the biggest source of harmful emissions in Bangalore, according to air quality research group Urban Emissions Info.
Quick Ride, a carpooling company also founded in Bangalore, aims to create a sustainable commuting option while cutting the number of vehicles on the roads, reducing fuel consumption and minimizing CO2 emissions, the company tells CNN Business.
It estimates it has saved 90,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions since its founding in 2015, equivalent to that emitted by 19,000 passenger vehicles in one year.
Using its app, drivers connect with passengers on the same route and fill their empty car seats. Quick Ride’s system allows them to share the cost of the journey using fixed per-kilometer charges and it manages the payments through user accounts, removing the need for cash exchanges.
It operates in nine cities across India with a total of 3.5 million users, almost a third of which are based in Bangalore. The company says it has raised a total of $15.5 million in funding.
Heavy traffic in  Bangalore.

Companies including consulting firm Capgemini (CAPMF) have partnered with Quick Ride to encourage employees to carpool, as part of their corporate sustainability strategy.
More than 70% of employees signed up to Capgemini’s #CAReToShare campaign in 2019, and since the start of the program in 2017 they have clocked up more than 33 million kilometers in carpool journeys, the company says.
“This program was launched with the dual objective of making the daily commute for our employees more convenient, while trying to ease the pollution plaguing our cities,” Vijay Chandramohan, senior director of India’s corporate real estate services for Capgemini, tells CNN Business.
“Cities in India are growing at an exponential rate,” he says. “There is tremendous pressure on the city roads, leading to increasing traffic snarls and commute time resulting in frustration and loss of productivity.”
Lucky the city’s startups are on hand to help. SOURCE

 

‘Borderline insulting’: Indigenous group could launch unprecedented challenge if Ottawa rejects Frontier

‘From our perspective, no matter what decision is made, there needs to be consultation’: Fort McKay Metis Nation

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney: “I am sick and tired of politicians and environmental activists only listening to First Nations that are opposed to development.”Larry Wong/Postmedia

CALGARY — An Indigenous group that stands to benefit from Teck Resources Ltd.’s Frontier oilsands project, says it would launch a legal challenge against the federal government if it rejects the development.

“We do recognize that there are ways that we can go – and that’s one,” said Ron Quintal, president of the Fort McKay Metis Nation, about launching a legal challenge if the Frontier project is rejected. “We are prepared.”

Quintal says the government has yet to consult with his group.

The Fort McKay Metis are one of the 14 Indigenous groups that have signed benefits agreements with Teck; others include the Fort McKay First Nation and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

Ron Quintal is president of the Fort Chipewyan Metis Nation. Quintal says that band will sue Ottawa if it rejects the Frontier oilsands project. Cullen Bird/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Quintal said his group is sending Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson a letter this week outlining his community’s concerns as Ottawa’s end-of-February deadline for a decision on the Frontier oilsands project approaches.

“From our perspective, no matter what decision is made, there needs to be consultation,” he said, adding that it’s “borderline insulting” that the federal government would look to cancel the $20.6-billion project that would directly benefit his community, then look to provide an aid package to the province more generally. The president was referring to an unconfirmed news report that the federal government was going to reject the project but will offer Alberta a financial package as compensation.

“We’ve already had one major industry taken from us — that’s the fur trade,” Quintal said, adding, “We want to earn our way.”

The Fort McKay First Nation declined to comment on whether they would also launch a legal challenge if Ottawa rejects the project, but the group reiterated its support for the project.

“We believe, with necessary government action on cumulative effects, that Frontier can strike the right balance between environmental and Treaty rights protection and create economic opportunities for Fort McKay and its members,” Chief Mel Grandjamb said in a release.

If a legal challenge is launched, it would mark a new type of challenge launched by an Indigenous community arguing their rights have been infringed by a project being rejected.

“There’s no precedent for or against this type of claim. It’s untested ground,” said Dwight Newman, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan and the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Rights in Constitutional and International Law.

Newman said the Crown’s duty to consult normally arises when the government takes an action that would potentially infringe on an Indigenous group’s rights. For a group to argue that a rejection of a development requires consultation, he said, they would need to argue that rejection is also a violation of their rights.

He said it’s possible such an action could be successful, but there’s no relevant case law. “It’s just not really been tested in court,” Newman said.

The Alberta government, which has steadily increased pressure on Ottawa to approve the Frontier project, said it is willing to support a legal challenge.

Should the federal government substitute politics for the regulatory process, they will be betraying the 14 First Nations that have signed benefits agreements with Teck

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney

Last year, the Alberta government set up a $10-million litigation fund to support First Nations groups in favour of natural resource development. The fund was initially launched to help Indigenous groups opposed to Bill C-48, a federal law that banned oil tankers from the northern part of British Columbia’s coastline.

On Monday, Kenney also released a letter dated Feb. 5 to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling on the federal government to approve the Frontier project. In a handwritten post script, Kenney said, “We think it is essential that Canada has a regulatory process that is not substituted to politics.”

The letter’s release comes as Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, one of 14 Indigenous groups that have signed onto the project, have asked Ottawa to postpone its decision on the project.

In the letter, Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam asked the federal government to delay a decision on Frontier while it continues to consult with the Alberta government on the effects of the project. Adam said the Alberta government “has not yet taken the appropriate actions” to mitigate the effects of the project.

We are still talking with Alberta and remain hopeful that progress can be made from now until the end of February, when Cabinet makes its decision on project approval

Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam

Finance Minister Bill Morneau told reporters in Calgary on Monday that cabinet would “take a look at the letter” but added the federal government has yet to make a decision on the project.

“We have not yet come to that decision. It has not come to cabinet formally and for that reason, I don’t have anything to say about that project at this time,” Morneau said.

On Monday, Morneau also said the federal government would begin consulting with Indigenous groups on the potential to buy a stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which is now estimated to cost $12.6 billion.

Multiple Indigenous groups in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia have expressed their interest in buying stakes in the pipeline project that will carry 590,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to B.C.

Some analysts also expect major institutional investors are interested in purchasing a stake.

Stifel First Energy analyst Ian Gillies wrote in a Monday research said Toronto-based private equity group Brookfield Asset Management Inc. could be in the running.
“One potential dark horse could be Brookfield (who owns North River Midstream) because it recently completed a $20 billion capital raise and continues to have excellent access to capital markets,” Gillies wrote. “We would also expect various Indigenous groups to pursue acquiring the pipeline.” SOURCE

 

 

Rebuilding our partnership with nature

You may have heard the fable about “the boiling frog”. It’s a simple experiment in two steps: Take a frog and place it in a pot of hot water. The frog will react immediately and jump out of the pot. Take another frog, place it in a pot of lukewarm water. This will feel like a nice warm bath but, then put it on a hot stove and heat it very gradually. The water will reach boiling point but, unfortunately, the frog will not perceive the danger and it will be cooked alive.

As I woke up on that day, 31st of December 2019 at 4 am, in the small town of Ulladulla, a beautiful corner of New South Wales, Australia, I wondered if we had reached that point of no return, a tipping point. The sky was dark, the air smoky, and the flames bloody orange. What climate scientists had been predicting for years was becoming a reality.

That day marked the end of a fiery decade for the planet, and hopefully the start of a new era with the emergence of an ecological civilization. Can nature come back to life after so much destruction? Is there space for recovery, rebirth, regeneration in the aftermath of the large-scale inferno of mega-fires?

2020 is also the start of my 40th year of life on Earth. A time to look back and rethink the next steps. In my entire life, I had never experienced such a deep feeling of fear and emergency.

I had lived some intense challenges and risky situations: working as a humanitarian volunteer near the Afghan border in Tajikistan when I was 21; climbing difficult rocky peaks with my future husband; facing adversity when giving birth to our daughter, or crying out a mix of joy and pain on the finish line of the Jungfrau Marathon in freezing conditions. I had seen despair and poverty in the eyes of lonely women living in the forgotten suburbs of San Fabio de Alican in Chile, but, I had never seen anything like that. It felt like the apocalyptic end of the world.

It felt like the entire world was committing climate suicide, starting with Australia where people were either feeling too lethargic to get out of their comfortable sunbaths (including ourselves as holidaymakers), or feeling the heat of fires to the point that they had to take refuge on the beach.

Luckily on that day, some of our best friends who live in Canberra (and escaped the flames in Sydney), sent us a map of the expanding fire hazards advising us to leave as soon as possible.

In an effort to stay calm and rational, we packed our bags, put the sleepy kids in the car and left before sunrise. The weather forecast was predicting intense heat and strong winds, the perfect ingredients to heat up the stove on a stock of wood fuel perfectly prepared by three years of droughts. Three hours later the roads were closed in both directions, North and South, leaving the people of Ulladulla, in an isolated enclave, to shortages of food, water and fuel, power cuts, a lot of despair, and finally the unavoidable escape to the ocean.

“What were you doing there on New Year’s Eve?” you may ask. Being born and raised in France, I met my husband Matthew in Canada on an exchange programme between the University of British Columbia and Sciences Po, Paris. My sister-in-law, Aija, met her husband Danny, they got married in New South Wales, Australia and had three children. They are therefore cousins of our two children: Lucas and Leïla. Despite my reluctance to get on an aeroplane that would be emitting so much carbon (even if compensating by investing in reforestation projects), we decided to stick to our plans and hold our family reunion in Newcastle, Australia, as my mother-in-law was also joining us for the occasion.

In a way, our family is a pure product of globalization from the 2000s, the “happy decade” when everything was still possible. At that time, we could still change the world. Can we still do that today?

As I was watching the flames greedily absorb the beautiful Australian bush, I asked myself if this was real, and it was.

I had started studying and working on climate change about 20 years ago. At that time, I found the discovery challenging but also fascinating. In addition, there was no Greta Thunberg to tell the younger school students about the reality of climate science. My studies and work changed my perspective on humanitarian action, which I had been passionate about. It became clear that we could only achieve poverty reduction and sustainable development if addressing the root causes of natural disasters. Putting stitches on open wounds would not be enough. After witnessing the impacts of drought and soil erosion on agriculture and food systems in Tajikistan, I went back to studying the environment at the London School of Economics. I wanted to learn about how we could rebuild the bridge between development and the environment.

As I was advising the green Members of the European Parliament this brought me to my first UNFCCC COP in Montreal in 2005. One thing I remember clearly was visiting the ice-breaker with my friend Agnès Sinaï, a climate journalist and writer. We were given the opportunity, as COP delegates to observe the graphs which showed the evolution of the melting ice in the Arctic. At that time, we were convinced that the Kyoto Protocol was going to save us with a legally binding agreement and quantified emission targets for all industrialized countries.

Kyoto failed. Copenhagen failed. But then there was Paris, in “The City of Light”. The success of COP21 brought so much hope to the world, demonstrating the capacity of all nations to come together in a model of shared leadership and solidarity to tackle the “defining issue of our times”. Humanity and light in a time of horror and terror, as if millions of candles had been lit to brighten the sky for future generations.

I sometimes compare the Paris Agreement to a giant sailing boat, travelling towards the safe horizon of carbon neutrality by 2050, with all of us on board. The US President may have decided to jump ship, in a self-jeopardizing act of selfishness, but the boat is still there, going through episodes of storms and sun. Because there is no plan B for humanity. There is only plan A, also for all of the other living species on Earth which we have taken with us onboard this Noah’s Ark of Paris.

Today, in 2020, is the boat sailing fast enough to safely reach it’s destination, staying below 2 or even 1.5°C?

Global warming has been creating its own feedback loops. The oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic, reducing their capacity to absorb carbon. Forests are drier and burn more easily, particularly in Australia, Brazil, Canada, California and the Arctic. In Siberia, the permafrost is melting and releasing vast quantities of methane, another powerful greenhouse gas that will speed up global temperatures. In parallel, human beings have never been so numerous, on the planet, and so greedy in oil, gas and coal consumption. Global emissions keep increasing, reaching top-roof levels.

In Australia alone, as of January 2020, more than 5.5 million hectares have already been burnt and this is only the start of the summer; thousands of people have lost their homes; several firefighters and volunteers have been killed; one-third of the koala population has been decimated. An estimated one billion animals have lost their lives and at this scale, we can start talking about ecocide. The fires are also adding the equivalent of half of the total volume of greenhouse gases normally emitted by the country in a year, reducing its capacity to naturally absorb carbon in forests for next year and accelerating the 6th mass extinction crisis with the loss of critical endemic species and ecosystems.

MORE

 

Japan Races to Build New Coal-Burning Power Plants, Despite the Climate Risks

Satsuki Kanno lives across the bay from a coal-burning power plant under construction in Yokosuka, Japan.

Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times

Just beyond the windows of Satsuki Kanno’s apartment overlooking Tokyo Bay, a behemoth from a bygone era will soon rise: a coal-burning power plant, part of a buildup of coal power that is unheard-of for an advanced economy.

It is one unintended consequence of the Fukushima nuclear disaster almost a decade ago, which forced Japan to all but close its nuclear power program. Japan now plans to build as many as 22 new coal-burning power plants — one of the dirtiest sources of electricity — at 17 different sites in the next five years, just at a time when the world needs to slash carbon dioxide emissions to fight global warming.

“Why coal, why now?” said Ms. Kanno, a homemaker in Yokosuka, the site for two of the coal-burning units that will be built just several hundred feet from her home. “It’s the worst possible thing they could build.”

Together the 22 power plants would emit almost as much carbon dioxide annually as all the passenger cars sold each year in the United States. The construction stands in contrast with Japan’s effort to portray this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo as one of the greenest ever.

The Yokosuka project has prompted unusual pushback in Japan, where environmental groups more typically focus their objections on nuclear power. But some local residents are suing the government over its approval of the new coal-burning plant in what supporters hope will jump-start opposition to coal in Japan.

The Japanese government, the plaintiffs say, rubber-stamped the project without a proper environmental assessment. The complaint is noteworthy because it argues that the plant will not only degrade local air quality, but will also endanger communities by contributing to climate change.

Carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is the major driver of global warming, because it traps the sun’s heat. Coal burning is one of the biggest single sources of carbon dioxide emissions

A heat wave, intensified by climate change, killed more than 1,000 people in Japan in 2018.  
Credit…Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press
Workers checking drains at Fukushima in January.
Credit…Pool photo by Kimimasa Mayama/EPA, via Shutterstock 

Japan is already experiencing severe effects from climate change. Scientists have said that a heat wave in 2018 that killed more than 1,000 people could not have happened without climate change. Because of heat concerns, the International Olympic Committee was compelled to move the Tokyo Olympics’ marathon events to a cooler city almost 700 miles north.

Japan has used the Olympics to underscore its transition to a more climate-resilient economy, showing off innovations like roads that reflect heat. Organizers have said electricity for the Games will come from renewable sources.

Coal investments threaten to undermine that message.

Under the Paris accord, Japan committed to rein in its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2030 compared to 2013 levels, a target that has been criticized for being “highly insufficient” by climate groups.

“Japan touts a low-emissions Olympics, but in the very same year, it will start operating five new coal-fired power plants that will emit many times more carbon dioxide than anything the Olympics can offset,” said Kimiko Hirata, international director at the Kiko Network, a group that advocates climate action.

Japan’s policy sets it apart from other developed economies. Britain, the birthplace of the industrial revolution, is set to phase out coal power by 2025, and France has said it will shut down its coal power plants even earlier, by 2022. In the United States, utilities are rapidly retiring coal power and no new plants are actively under development.

Work is under way on the Yokosuka plant, one of 22 new coal-burning facilities expected in the next five years.
Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times 

But Japan relies on coal for more than a third of its power generation needs. And while older coal plants will start retiring, eventually reducing overall coal dependency, the country still expects to meet more than a quarter of its electricity needs from coal in 2030.

“Japan is an anomaly among developed economies,” said Yukari Takamura, an expert in climate policy at the Institute for Future Initiatives at the University of Tokyo. “The era of coal is ending, but for Japan, it’s proving very difficult to give up an energy source that it has relied on for so long.”

Japan’s appetite for coal doesn’t solely come down to Fukushima. Coal consumption has been rising for decades, as the energy-poor country, which is reliant on imports for the bulk of its energy needs, raced to wean itself from foreign oil following the oil shocks of the 1970s.

Fukushima, though, presented another type of energy crisis, and more reason to keep investing in coal. And even as the economics of coal have started to crumble — research has shown that as soon as 2025 it could become more cost-effective for Japanese operators to invest in renewable energy, such as wind or solar, than to run coal plants — the government has stood by the belief that the country’s utilities must keep investing in fossil fuels to maintain a diversified mix of energy sources.

Together with natural gas and oil, fossil fuels account for about four-fifths of Japan’s electricity needs, while renewable sources of energy, led by hydropower, make up about 16 percent. Reliance on nuclear energy, which once provided up to a third of Japan’s power generation, plummeted to 3 percent in 2017.

The Japanese government’s policy of financing coal power in developing nations, alongside China and South Korea, has also come under scrutiny. The country is second only to China in the financing of coal plants overseas.

At the United Nations climate talks late last year in Madrid, attended by a sizable Japanese contingent, activists in yellow “Pikachu” outfits unfurled “No Coal” signs and chanted “Sayonara coal!”

A target of the activists’ wrath has been Japan’s new environment minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, a charismatic son of a former prime minister who is seen as a possible future candidate for prime minister himself. But Mr. Koizumi has fallen short of his predecessor, Yoshiaki Harada, who had declared that the Environment Ministry would not approve the construction of any more new large coal-fired power plants, but lasted less than a year as minister.

Protesters in Pikachu suits criticized Japan’s shift to coal at the United Nations climate meetings in Madrid in December.
Credit…Susana Vera/Reuters
Shinjiro Koizumi, Japan’s new environmental minister, has spoken only generally about eventually moving away from coal.
Credit…Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press 

Mr. Koizumi has shied away from such explicit promises in favor of more general assurances that Japan will eventually roll back coal use. “While we can’t declare an exit from coal straight away,” Mr. Koizumi said at a briefing in Tokyo last month, the nation “had made it clear that it will move steadily toward making renewables its main source of energy.”

The Yokosuka project has special significance for Mr. Koizumi, who hails from the port city, an industrial hub and the site of an American naval base. The coal units are planned at the site of an oil-powered power station, operated by Tokyo Electric Power, that shuttered in 2009, to the relief of local residents.

But that shutdown proved to be short-lived.

Just two years later, the Fukushima disaster struck, when an earthquake and tsunami badly damaged a seaside nuclear facility also owned by Tokyo Electric. The resulting meltdown sent the utility racing to start up two of the eight Yokosuka oil-powered units as an emergency measure. They were finally shut down only in 2017.

What Tokyo Electric proposed next — the two new coal-powered units — has left many in the community bewildered. To make matters worse, Tokyo Electric declared that the units did not need a full environmental review, because they were being built on the same site as the oil-burning facilities.

The central government agreed. The residents’ lawsuit challenges that decision.

Some new coal projects have faced hiccups. Last year, a consortium of energy companies canceled plans for two coal-burning plants, saying they were no longer economical. Meanwhile, Japan has said it will invest in carbon capture and storage technology to clean up emissions from coal generation, but that technology is not yet commercially available.

Coal’s fate in Japan may reside with the country’s Ministry of Trade, which pulls considerable weight in Tokyo’s halls of power. In a response to questions about the coal-plant construction, the ministry said it had issued guidance to the nation’s operators to wind down their least-efficient coal plants and to aim for carbon-emissions reductions overall. But the decision on whether to go ahead with plans rested with the operators, it said.

“The most responsible policy,” the ministry said, “is to forge a concrete path that allows for both energy security, and a battle against climate change.”

Tetsuya Komatsubara, a fisherman in Yokosuka and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the plant. Regarding rising temperatures, he said, “It’s time to do something about that.”
Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times 

Local residents say the ministry’s position falls short. Tetsuya Komatsubara, 77, has operated a pair of small fishing boats out of Yokosuka for six decades, diving for giant clams, once abundant in waters off Tokyo.

Scientists have registered a rise in the temperature of waters off Tokyo of more than 1 degree Celsius over the past decade, which is wreaking havoc with fish stocks there.

Mr. Komatsubara can feel the rise in water temperatures on his skin, he said, and was worried the new plants would be another blow to a fishing business already on the decline. “They say temperatures are rising. We’ve known that for a long time,” Mr. Komatsubara said. “It’s time to do something about that.” SOURCE

U.S. Electric Bus Demand Outpaces Production as Cities Add to Their Fleets

Cities are still working through early challenges, but they see health and climate benefits ahead. In Chicago, two buses save the city $24,000 a year in fuel costs.

BYD electric bus factory in Lancaster, California. Credit: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

China’s BYD electric bus company has a factory in Lancaster, California. While the vast majority of the world’s electric buses are in China, the U.S. numbers are growing. Credit: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

In the coastal city of Gulfport, Mississippi, the state’s first fully-electric bus will soon be cruising through the city’s downtown streets.

The same goes for Portland, Maine—it just received a grant to buy that state’s first two e-buses, which are set to roll out in 2021. And Wichita expects to have Kansas’ first operating electric bus picking up passengers as early as this month after receiving a federal grant.

As cities and states across the country set ambitious mid-century climate change goals for the first time and as prices for lithium-ion batteries plummet, a growing number of transit agencies are stepping up efforts to replace dirtier diesel buses with electric ones.

Nearly every state has a transit agency that now owns—or will soon own—at least one electric bus, according to a recent report from CALSTART, a clean transportation advocacy group.

Demand for e-buses is outpacing manufacturers’ ability to supply them, resulting in hundreds of backlogged orders in the United States, said Fred Silver, vice president of CALSTART.  “Almost every state now has a program. So that is unique—it’s gone beyond interest in just a few states.”

The U.S. numbers are still small compared to the hundreds of thousands of electric buses in China, but they’re growing. There are about 650 e-buses on U.S. roads today, but that’s more than double the 300 that the clean energy research group BloombergNEF counted last year. And under current pledges by states, cities and urban transit agencies, at least a third of the nation’s nearly 70,000 public transit buses will be all-electric by 2045, according to a separate report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG).

So far, California leads the pack, with more than 200 e-buses in service and several hundred more in backlogged orders. Only five states—Arkansas, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia—have no transit agencies planning to operate electric buses or hydrogen fuel cell buses, another type of zero-emission vehicles.

Swapping diesel for electric buses isn’t as simple as pressing the starter button, though, and local transportation agencies are still feeling their way through the challenges. The upfront costs are still higher for electric buses than diesel; cities have to build out charging infrastructure to support them; and, in some cities, electricity rates have cut into the savings.

But urban leaders also see long-term benefits in fuel savings and for human health and the climate.

The transportation sector has become the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, responsible for nearly 30 percent of total emissions across the country, according to Environmental Protection Agency data. Heavy-duty vehicles, which include passenger buses, garbage trucks and delivery trucks, account for about a quarter of the global warming emissions from vehicles. And the latest climate science makes clear that emissions from all automotive tailpipes must fall to zero by around mid-century to have a shot at avoiding catastrophic climate change. MORE

 

TAKE ACTION! Burning more gas is not what our climate needs

Enbridge Gas wants to build a pipeline through one of Hamilton’s most important natural areas in order to feed a huge increase in the use of Ontario’s gas-fired power plants and to supply the U.S. Northeast with fracked gas.

Building a four-foot wide pipeline through an ecologically sensitive wetland to allow greater use of polluting gas plants is a bad idea that needs to be stopped in its tracks. Using Ontario to supply fracked gas to U.S. States because other U.S. States will not allow such a pipeline to be built through their territories is an equally bad idea.

Instead of setting the stage for a 400-600% increase in gas-plant use – and resulting greenhouse gas emissions – Enbridge should help its customers save money by expanding its highly cost-effective conservation programs.

On average, Enbridge’s 2019 energy efficiency programs will reduce its customers’ energy bills by $4.72 for every dollar spent by the utility. Its most cost-effective programs in the commercial sector are forecast to reduce bills by $16.43 for every dollar spent. And every cubic metre of gas not burned thanks to these efficiency programs represents greenhouse gases kept out of our atmosphere.

Meanwhile, Enbridge is projecting that building its pipeline will actually increase gas rates in Ontario by $120 million.

While Enbridge thinks the way to deal with the closure of the old and unsafe Pickering Nuclear station and the shutdown of other aging reactors is to burn more gas, the better solution is to increase our use of renewable energy, including importing low-cost water power from Quebec. And continuing to improve efficiency in the electricity sector remains the lowest costway to keep our lights on and will help green energy go further in meeting our energy needs.

We don’t need Enbridge’s climate damaging pipeline. Please sign our petition opposing Enbridge’s destructive pipeline plan

And please pass this onto your friends.

Thank you.

Angela Bischoff, Director

Tire-Derived Fuels Making Inroads in Canada

Image result for tire burning cement

Cement maker Lafarge gets approval to burn old tires instead of coal. The approval allows about 20 tonnes of tires day to be burned as fuel for Lafarge’s cement plant in Brookfield, N.S.

Following some recent key milestones for the tire-derived fuels industries, it appears that TDF is now positioned for significant growth across Canada in the coming years. It hasn’t been easy in light of long-standing environmental concerns and pressures for circular economy solutions for end-of-life tires but TDF may well be poised to gain ready acceptance as part of Canada’s resource recovery strategy.

Nova Scotia Legal Challenge Unsuccessful

The watershed moment for TDF in Canada arguably came in 2018. The Province of Nova Scotia first approved TDF as a supplemental energy source for a cement plant facility in Brookfield, Nova Scotia in 2017 on a 12-month pilot project basis.

In so doing, the ministry relied, in part, on a detailed environment study conducted for the proponent by Dalhousie University which compared the greenhouse gas emissions from TDF-supplemented fuels favourably against existing the coal sources. The report was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada, giving it further clout.

Local residents challenged the ministry’s approval on environmental and procedural grounds – both of which were rejected in a March 2018 decision. This allowed the proponent to commission the pilot project by August 2019, with a daily consumption rate of 20 metric tonnes of whole tires.

Brookfield Emissions Results Likely Critical to Industry Aspirations

The last hurdle to a full scale commercial TDF-fuel additive kiln at Brookfield will, of course, be the resulting emissions, concerns about which have long-plagued the industry. Both the proponent and an independent group from Dalhousie will be collecting and reporting on a wide range of emissions data to the ministry, with a first planned public release of certain emissions information set for early in 2020.

It is difficult to overstate the importance that these results will have on the TDF industry across Canada. There remains substantial opposition to TDF-usage in any application, including cement, and a failure to meet the emissions conditions for the pilot project approval will likely mean a further moratorium on project development, further placing the TDF industry behind other resource recovery technologies and processes.

Ontario Permits Waste Rubber Fuel Source in 2019

The battleground over TDF is far from new in Ontario. In 2011, a group of community interests, including none other than Gord Downie, successfully opposed the use of TDF at a cement production facility in Bath, Ontario. The proponent subsequently revised its alternate fuel sourcing plans to include two low carbon fuel categories (LCFs), which have since been subject to emissions testing for a number of years.

Of these categories, “LCF 3” includes:

“Non-recyclable rubber, rubber recycling by-products (including polyester/nylon fibre from tire recycling facilities) and non-recyclable plastics.”

An amended environmental approval was granted to the proponent in August 2019 to augment the alternative feedstock to include the principal LCF 3 materials, thereby allowing rubber waste material (with its superb BTU values) to be included with lower carbon and less energy-rich materials, including various biomass sources. A graduated approach, which does not preclude moving to TDF as the market conditions evolve.

TDF Established Practice Elsewhere

It is also worth noting that the current disputes over TDF come against a backdrop of established TDF usage in heavy industry elsewhere, including in the cement industries of the United States and Europe.

Further, the provinces of Quebec and British Columbia have long permitted TDF in cement production facilities, though none has been approved recently (in the circular economy era). Finally, there are other materials whose fuel usage is also contentious, such as roofing shingles, telephone poles, used oils and plastics, which have also been approved for cement production in Canada. TDF does not, in fact, have a unique environmental legacy.

TDF may remain a lightning rod for industries such as cement production, but recent developments suggest that rapid expansion of TDF usage may be near, particularly following a successful pilot project. It may also be that the coming regulated circular economy regimes across Canada will, ironically, contribute to TDF growth with privatized and non-prescriptive EPR obligations that may allow producers to economically benefit from TDF resource recovery.

Coal power becoming ‘uninsurable’ as firms refuse cover

US insurers join retreat from European insurers meaning coal projects cannot be built or operated


Smoke and vapour rising from the cooling towers and chimneys of the lignite-fired Jänschwalde power plant in eastern Germany. Photograph: Christophe Gateau/dpa/AFP via Getty Images

The number of insurers withdrawing cover for coal projects more than doubled this year and for the first time US companies have taken action, leaving Lloyd’s of London and Asian insurers as the “last resort” for fossil fuels, according to a new report.

The report, which rates the world’s 35 biggest insurers on their actions on fossil fuels, declares that coal – the biggest single contributor to climate change – “is on the way to becoming uninsurable” as most coal projects cannot be financed, built or operated without insurance.

Ten firms moved to restrict the insurance cover they offer to companies that build or operate coal power plants in 2019, taking the global total to 17, said the Unfriend Coal campaign, which includes 13 environmental groups such as Greenpeace, Client Earth and Urgewald, a German NGO. The report will be launched at an insurance and climate risk conference in London on Monday, as the UN climate summit gets underway in Madrid.

The first insurers to exit coal policies were all European, but since March, two US insurers – Chubb and Axis Capital – and the Australian firms QBE and Suncorp have pledged to stop or restrict insurance for coal projects.

At least 35 insurers with combined assets of $8.9tn, equivalent to 37% of the insurance industry’s global assets, have begun pulling out of coal investments. A year ago, 19 insurers holding more than $6tn in assets were divesting from fossil fuels.

Peter Bosshard, one of the Unfriend Coal campaign co-ordinators, said: “We hope within two to three years it will be so difficult to obtain insurance that most coal projects won’t be able to go forward.

“We’ve seen the acceleration [in firms pulling out of coal] for a good reason – people are freaking out.”

As global temperatures climb, hurricanes, wildfires and floods have become more frequent and severe, resulting in higher claims bills for insurers.

Lloyd’s, the world’s biggest insurance market, is the only major European firm which continues to insure new coal projects. SOURCE

 

LNG vs climate. Five charts show the burden on British Columbians

Image result for national observer: LNG vs climate. Five charts show the burden on British Columbians
LNG tanker. File photo from Royal Dutch Shell

British Columbia continues to approve major LNG projects but can the resulting climate pollution fit inside the province’s climate targets?

The provincial government says the LNG projects will be compatible with legislated climate targets — but the more LNG pollution, the faster the rest of B.C. will need to cut back.

To understand how much new LNG climate pollution could be coming, and what that means for British Columbians, I’ve created a visual survey of the data.

B.C. climate challenge before LNG

To start with, let’s look at the climate challenge B.C. faces before adding any LNG climate pollution to the mix.

My first chart below shows B.C.’s current emissions as a dark blue bar. It’s divided into the major sectors of the economy.

Chart of BC current climate pollution and climate targets for 2030, 2040 and 2050

You can see that the four biggest emitting sectors are roughly equal in size, at 10 to 11 million tonnes of climate pollution each (MtCO2e):

    • transporting people
    • transporting freight
    • natural gas industry
    • other industry

The chart also shows B.C.’s legislated climate targets for 2030, 2040 and 2050.

The upcoming 2030 target requires cutting emissions to forty per cent below 2007 levels.

So far, B.C. has cut emissions just three per cent. To meet the 2030 target B.C. will need to start cutting emissions more than ten times faster — a 37 per cent cut in the next decade. That will be extremely challenging even without adding a lot of new LNG emissions to the pile.

Adding LNG emissions makes a hard job harder

Emissions from LNG projects will come on top of B.C.’s current sources. These LNG emissions will increase the size of cuts the rest of B.C. has to make.

British Columbians would have to make every passenger vehicle electric and shut off the gas lines to every home — just to offset the increase in climate pollution from the new LNG industry

“The math is simple: adding a massive new source of pollution means we need to do far more to cut carbon pollution from our homes, from buildings, from our cars and trucks, and from other industries as well.” says Clean Energy Canada’s executive director, Merran Smith.

How “massive” could it get? Let’s take a look at the potential emissions from the LNG projects already approved. After that we’ll look at two more LNG projects that are lining up for approval.

LNG approvals so far

B.C. has approved four major LNG projects in the last few years.

In late 2015, B.C. approved a first major LNG facility — the LNG Canada export terminal near Kitimat. When fully built out it will produce 26 million tonnes of LNG (26 MtLNG) per year. In 2018, the project owners gave it the thumbs up, and construction has begun.

Then in 2016, B.C. approved two major pipelines to feed fossil gas from B.C.’s interior to future LNG facilities on the north coast — Coastal Gas Link Pipeline and Pacific Trails Pipeline. Combined, these pipelines are designed to carry enough fossil gas to produce roughly 45 MtLNG per year.

Chart of BC LNG major projects by volume

The Coastal Gas Link pipeline will feed the LNG Canada facility and has the go ahead from its owners. Construction has begun. The Pacific Trails pipeline is linked to the proposed Kitimat LNG facility which still needs one last major permit from the provincial government to proceed.

In 2017, B.C. granted approval for a second major LNG facility — the huge Pacific Northwest LNG facility near Prince Rupert. It was designed to compress 20 MtLNG annually while emitting nearly 11 MtCO2 per year. As we saw above, that’s equal to the climate pollution from all of B.C.’s passenger cars, SUVs, trucks, trains and domestic flights. However, soon after gaining approval the proponents suspended the project. It still has valid environmental permits but would need to re-apply for its facility permit if the proponents decide to move forward. MORE

Montreal to charge more for parking for bigger vehicles

Montreal

But what is the best criterion?

The Plateau district of Montreal is incredibly dense, with over 11,000 people per square kilometre. The buildings, with their exterior stairs, are almost 100 percent efficient. But street parking is in short supply, and permits are required.

To help fight carbon emissions, the new Mayor of the borough, Luc Rabouin, wants to raise the parking permit price for cars with bigger engines. He tells the CBC: “The ecological transition is a priority. The residents of the Plateau want us to act now, while there is still time.”

It’s an interesting idea that is already being done in another Montreal district. In Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, a car with a 1.6 litre engine pays C$75, 2.2 litres pay C$90, and anything over 2.3 litres pays C$120. That seems low to me, but then I had a Subaru Outback with a four-banger that came in at 2.5; you could fit two of them in the 5.7 litres of a Ram 1500.

Of course, there is opposition that says “I think that this is just part of their anti-car ideology” or another tax. But the director of the environmental council likes the idea:

“[Montreal mayor Valérie Plante] and her team committed to very ambitious targets, with a 55 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050. If they want to get there, they have no choice but to attack parking.”

Angie Schmitt TweetTweet from Angie Schmitt/Screen capture

 

I learned about this via Angie Schmitt’s tweet, which, like the CBC headline, is not exactly accurate; they are using engine size, because it’s hard even to define an SUV anymore, given that most are actually crossovers on regular car chassis. I wonder if engine size is the best criterion. There is not a lot of parking in the Plateau, and I suspect size is a bigger issue.

vehicles over 6000 poundsVehicles over 6000 pounds/Screen capture

I think that weight is a better standard, since fuel consumption really is a function of it, and heavier cars are also bigger. Look at this list of vehicles that are over 6,000 pounds, used as a guide for calling it a work vehicle and getting a tax deduction; there are a lot of SUVs and pickups on it. They are BIG.

A very big pickup truckA very big pickup truck/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

 

I have long said that the governments should Make SUVs and light trucks as safe as cars or get them off the road, and that there should be a special licence class for them since they are so much deadlier than cars. But they also take up so much space. On my own street, there are three big pickups that take up way more space than the cars did. This is, perhaps, a better way to determine how much they pay for parking.

Whether it is taking up space, killing pedestrians, or emitting greenhouse gases and particulate matter, these big vehicles are a disaster. Tax the crap out of them, and charge parking by the square foot that they occupy.  SOURCE