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

Scotland restores its peatlands to keep carbon in the ground

Often overlooked as critical carbon sinks, peatlands store at least twice as much carbon as forests. After years of degredation, Scotland has increased its ambition in restoring these important areas.

Global Ideas Bogs in Scotland (SNH/Lorne Gill)

The burning Amazon rainforests, with their jaguars, monkeys and colourful birds, have grabbed global attention in a way the destruction of the world’s mossy peatlands never has.

Yet protecting the world’s peatlands, which store at least twice as much carbon as forests, is critical in the fight against climate change.

Peatlands, also known as bogs, are created when the remains of plants are submerged in waterlogged lands, turning them over time into peat with the plants’ carbon still stored inside. They cover around 3% of the world’s land and are found in 175 countries, mostly in northern Europe, North America and Southeast Asia.

Scotland has a particularly high coverage, with bogs amounting to 20% of it’s of land (roughly 1.7 million hectares) mainly in its lesser-populated north and western islands.

Decades of degradation

However the Scottish governmentestimates that roughly a third of the country’s total —  roughly 600,000 hectares —  have been degraded. Scotland’s peatlands, created mostly in areas left water-logged from the melting of Ice Age glaciers, lay untouched for thousands of years until farmers began to drain the land, building ditches so the water would run downhill into rivers.

While such ditches date back to Roman times in parts of Britain, their building intensified in Scotland in the 1950s with the advent of new machinery and government grants aimed at improving grazing.

Global Ideas Bogs in Scotland (SNH/Lorne Gill)Peatlands in Scotland cover roughly 20% of its land

Without the bogs’ acidic water there to preserve them, the dead plants in the peat start to degrade, releasing their carbon into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. The degradation is sped up by the sun and wind they are exposed to without their water coverage.

Restoration plans

To correct past mistakes, landowners are being offered grants by the Scottish government to block the drainage ditches their predecessors were encouraged to dig. A total of €16.3 million ($18 million) has been madeavailable this year. The hope is that 50,000 hectares will have been restored by the end of 2020, and 250,000 hectares by 2030.

The restoration happens in two ways according to Andrew McBride, who works for Scottish Natural Heritage, the government agency responsible for handing out grants. It can either involve a ditch being filled in with peat from nearby, or a wooden dam being built inside the ditch to slow down the loss of water and spread it across the bog.

When the ditches are blocked, rainwater increases the water level, erosion stops and within two years, plants such as moss return. Within five to fifteen years, the bogs are back to fully functioning, McBride said.

Speed is key

“We want to do things as quickly as possible,” he told DW, “because obviously there’s a climate emergency.”

McBride says that landowners are often keen for restoration on their property as the farming benefits of drainage were not as great as previously thought. It only really improved the land right next to the bog, he says, adding that the drainage of ditches cause its own problems. On large estates, wandering sheep often fall into the ditches and can’t get out.

Global Ideas Bogs in Scotland (SNH/Lorne Gill)Peatlands can store up to twice as much carbon as forests.

Scotland is also trying to restore bogs by cutting down trees. In the 1980s, the UK government introduced tax incentives encouraging landowners to drain bogs to plant trees. This was a double hit —  first drainage dried the land and then the trees sucked out even more of the moisture.

Although the trees absorbed carbon as they grew, that didn’t cancel out the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by the peatlands’ destruction.

Protests from conservationists eventually ended the tax incentives and now even the Scottish government agency Forestry and Land Scotland is aiming to transform2,500 hectares of forest back into peatland over five years.

The restoration happens in two ways according to Andrew McBride, who works for Scottish Natural Heritage, the government agency responsible for handing out grants. It can either involve a ditch being filled in with peat from nearby, or a wooden dam being built inside the ditch to slow down the loss of water and spread it across the bog.

When the ditches are blocked, rainwater increases the water level, erosion stops and within two years, plants such as moss return. Within five to fifteen years, the bogs are back to fully functioning, McBride said. MORE