Waze Carpool’s move into San Francisco is just the latest volley as Google and Uber encroach on each other’s territory.
The most highly-engineered but underutilized machine on the planet is likely sitting in your garage. Anand Shah of the Albright-Stonebridge group in Washington D.C., says most passenger cars are only used for about an hour each day. SHAH: “For the […] The post Vehicle ownership may become passé appeared first on Yale Climate Connections.
The Amazon rainforest`s importance to the climate cannot quench China`s thirst for minerals and grain and its encroaching development, threatening the forests and the atmosphere. SÃO PAULO, 29 August, 2016 – China’s fast-rising population and its burgeoning economy make steep demands on natural resources, so steep that Beijing is searching constantly for supplies from overseas. And it wants to obtain them, naturally, as cheaply as it can. Now in prospect is China’s trans-Amazon railway – a 3,300 mile-long (5,000 km) artery to link the soya-growing areas and iron ore mines of Brazil to the southern Peruvian port of Ilo, providing a cheaper, shorter route than the Panama Canal. Feasibility studies on three different trajectories were carried out by the China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group (CREEC). The route preferred by the Chinese, because it is cheaper and avoids the complex engineering work needed to traverse the Andes, would instead pass through heavily forested areas in the Amazon, home to many indigenous groups in both Brazil and Peru. Miguel Scarcello, a geographer, from the NGO SOS Amazônia, (Portuguese only) says this route for the railway will also cross the headwaters of many rivers. Both Brazilian and Peruvian environmental protection agencies have criticised those who chose the route for showing little concern for its impacts. The Peruvian ministries of culture and the environment said that native communities must be consulted. Responsibility declined But CREEC representatives told a Brazilian senate subcommittee that the responsibility for conducting studies on the environmental viability of the railway lay with Brazil and Peru. A study carried out by Brazil’s state-run rail operator, VALEC (Portuguese only), concluded that, besides impacting sensitive ecosystems, the railway would also require the construction of an entire town in the heart of the Amazon to house all the workers it employed. It would also have to cope with tracks of two different widths – the 1.6m gauge used in Brazil, and the standard gauge, 1.4m, in Peru. China’s trans-Amazon railway was given the go-ahead in May 2015, when Chinese premier Li Keqiang signed a memorandum of understanding with his two South American colleagues – Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, who has just been impeached, and Peruvian president Ollanta Humala, who is no longer in office – to proceed with feasibility studies. The 3,300 km Brazilian stretch of the line begins on the Atlantic coast in the newly built port of Açu and runs due west, through the grain heartland of Mato Grosso state, then through the Amazonian states of Rondonia and Acre, to the Peruvian border, and then a further 1,700 km to the Pacific at Puerto Ilo. In Brazil the line would join other planned railways like the Centre-West Integration Railway, FICO, which will bring grain from neighbouring states. Some of the environmental licences necessary for the building of the railways have yet to be granted, although a bill to speed up the normally lengthy process is now before congress. CREEC wants work on the ambitious US$10bn trans-Amazon railway to begin in 2017, with completion set for 2025. Saving on shipping China is keen to build the railway because it would reduce by U$30 a tonne the cost of importing grain and minerals via the Panama Canal. Once operational, the line would be expected to carry a third of Brazil`s soya exports to China, some 35 million tonnes annually. But for Brazil and Peru, two of the nine countries in which the Amazon rainforest lies, the environmental cost of a railway literally bisecting the Amazon region would be huge. Already about 20% of Brazil`s share of the forest (it is the country with the largest part) has been cleared for roads, cattle or grain. Between 2000 and 2010 the total Amazon region lost an area the size of the UK, about 240,000 sq. km. In 2005 and 2010 there were serious droughts. The dry season is growing longer, the rainy season shorter. Scientists believe deforestation is contributing by sending more CO2 into the atmosphere, adding to climate change, which in turn contributes to the droughts. Some even believe that the Amazon rainforest is approaching a tipping point. Decision appealed The Chinese onslaught on the Amazon is not confined to the railway. They have signed a deal with Ecuador to explore for oil in its part of Amazonia. And they are part of a consortium seeking to build a giant dam on the Tapajos river in Brazil. This project was recently suspended by a federal court because it would invade an indigenous area, but it is still on the drawing board. Although it has been suspended it has not been cancelled, and the consortium is appealing against the court’s decision. Concerns for its devastating social and environmental impacts may not be enough to stop the railway, because both the Brazilian and Peruvian governments seem keener to do business with China than they are to protect their indigenous communities and the so-called lungs of the world, the Amazon rainforest. What could however prevent the line from becoming a reality is the possibility of an alternative, faster route, which is now taking shape. The BR163 highway, not yet fully paved, runs due north from Mato Grosso to connect with the new river port of Mirititiba on the Tapajos river, near the town of Itaituba. From there barges will take grain and minerals downriver to the terminal port at Santarem, located at the junction of the Tapajos with the Amazon, and then downstream to the Atlantic. Using the river system would cause much less environmental damage than a railway, although the BR163, which will feed the ports, has already caused considerable deforestation. – Climate News Network The post China’s trans-Amazon railway stokes forest fears appeared first on Climate News Network.
Pollution levels inside cars were found to be up to 40% higher while in traffic jams or at a red traffic light compared to free-flowing traffic conditions, new research indicates. The World Health Organization has placed outdoor air pollution among the top ten health risks faced by humans, linking with seven million premature deaths a year.
At least 98% of the cars used daily on US roads could be replaced by electric cars on a single charge, according to new research. The study, published in Nature Energy, show fears over electric car batteries running out, known as range anxiety, could be misplaced for all but the longest days of driving. Similarly, data from the UK government shows that more than 99% of car journeys are shorter than 100 miles. Carbon Brief runs through the study’s findings and what it means for electric car adoption. Driving model The new research compares the distribution of daily miles driven in different parts of the US with the range of existing electric cars. Information on distances comes from the US National Household Travel Survey. The paper modifies published electric vehicle range data to take account of two ways drivers can significantly increase a car’s energy use, thereby decreasing the miles that can be covered on a single charge. First, it matches journey data with hourly temperature records to account for air conditioning needs in warmer areas. Second, it includes driving behaviour using second-by-second GPS tracking. Battery size The researchers compare their driving model to the battery capacity of a 2013 Nissan Leaf, an electric car with a battery capacity of 24 kilowatt hours (kWh) and a published range of 70-80 miles. For longer battery life, Nissan recommends a maximum 80% discharge, or 19kWh. This energy is enough to drive the distance covered during 87% of daily travel in the US data, the paper says. More recent Leaf models already have a larger 30kWh battery. Similarly, the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf will have a 39kWh battery, compared to 24kWh for the current model. The 2017 Chevy Bolt will have a 60kWh battery, similar to that rumoured for the Tesla Model 3, and a 90kWh Tesla Model S is now on the market. These larger battery sizes will push the share of cars on the road that could be replaced with an electric model on a single charge from 87% to around 98% for the 60kWh Bolt and, perhaps, 99% for the 90kWh Tesla. Stubborn emissions The paper highlights the fact that long-distance journeys account for a small share of driving days, but a sizeable minority of miles driven, fuel use and emissions. These journeys will be the hardest to shift, along with their emissions, even as battery capacities increase. The 87% of US daily travel that could be driven in a 2013 Nissan Leaf only accounts for 60% of fuel use, with the longest journeys needing a disproportionate share. Similarly, newer electric cars could meet 98% of days’ driving needs, but would only displace 80% of car fuel demand. All the same, a shift to electric cars would be good news for transport CO2 targets, the paper suggests. Cars with the capacity of a 2013 Nissan Leaf drawing power, with current US electric grid emissions, could still cut US transport CO2 in 2025 by 29% below 2005 levels, it says. Jessika Trancik, associate professor of energy studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tells Carbon Brief that transport CO2 could fall 45% below 2005 levels with higher-capacity electric vehicles and around 60% if CO2 intensity of the electric grid falls 45% by 2025. Adoption rate The paper’s findings raise some intriguing questions. If existing electric car models can, on a single charge, already cover the distance driven on the vast majority of days in the US, then why is range anxiety still seen as a primary barrier to adoption? Or is range anxiety a myth? Range anxiety is still a real barrier, Trancik says, because consumers find it hard to predict how likely they are to exceed a car’s range and “Nobody wants to get stranded along the side of the road.” She tells Carbon Brief: “Drivers needs have to be met on all days, even that small number of very-high-energy days.” In a news and views article published with today’s research, Willett Kempton at the University of Delaware echoes this view: “The problem may be that when a car purchase is made, the customer wants to be able to make all of their trips [ever], not just 90%.” He tells Carbon Brief that range anxiety remains “perhaps the most important barrier” to electric car uptake. The need to drive long distances on rare occasions – for instance, for a holiday – may be enough to put customers off electric vehicles that would serve all their everyday driving needs. Kempton and Trancik both suggest shared long-distance cars could be part of the solution – for instance, through a commercial car-sharing scheme. Still, range should not be a barrier for a significant minority of drivers, Kempton says. Some 25% of US drivers never travelled more than 150 miles in a day across a whole year, he says, citing his own research from 2011. Though these drivers ought to offer plenty of scope to build a market for electric cars, none of the major car companies are targeting them, Kempton says. There are now more than a million electric cars on the road worldwide, yet they still account for a tiny share of sales in the US and the UK. All this points to other factors slowing wider adoption. A prime contender is the upfront cost, even if lifetime ownership of an electric car is cheaper overall because of lower fuel bills. Despite rapid falls in battery prices and government grants in countries including the UK, an all-electric Volkswagen e-Golf remains more expensive than its combustion engine equivalent. While a Nissan Leaf costs less up front, the battery must be leased on top. Electric cars are expected to be cheapest across the board within a decade, according to analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which said 35% of new cars would be electric by 2040. Bloomberg news said this could cut oil demand and so cause the next oil price crash. Other analysts range from sceptical (underlying demand growth will outweigh oil displaced by electric cars) through to pessimistic (electric vehicles will do well to reach 10% of sales by 2050). Conclusion The rate of uptake of electric cars has major implications for oil demand and CO2 emissions. Transport emissions in many industrialised countries are holding steady or increasing, even as other parts of the economy decarbonise. In the UK, National Grid scenarios now see up to a quarter of cars on the road being electric by 2035, while the Committee on Climate Change says electric cars will need to make up 60% of new sales in 2030 if the UK is to stay on track with its climate goals. This new research shows current electric cars can cover most daily needs on a single charge. Newer models will be able to meet the vast majority of needs and could have a “huge effect” in terms of unlocking the electric car market, Willett tells Carbon Brief. The post Anxiety about electric cars misplaced, says study appeared first on Carbon Brief.
The aviation industry faces huge challenges if it is to meet its own self-imposed climate change targets, according to a new UN report. And even if it does meet all its targets, aviation will still have consumed 12% of the global carbon budget for 1.5C by 2050, Carbon Brief analysis shows. If it fails to reach this target, its share of this budget could rise to as much as 27%. The sector has an aspirational goal to cap its emissions at 2020 levels, so that any growth after this year is achieved in a “carbon neutral” way. This will not be easy. Airlines estimate that air travel will grow by an average of just under 5% per year up to 2034 — and the emissions from these extra air miles will be difficult to decarbonise. Technology improvements The International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO), the UN body for flying, has set out the difficulties of cutting emissions in a growing sector in its 2016 Environmental Report, which is released every three years. The UN report forecasts the greenhouse gas emissions of the aviation sector out to 2050, and looks at how they could be reduced. The following chart shows the extent to which improvements to the aviation sector itself could help to cut emissions. Aircraft CO2 emissions from International Aviation, 2005-2050. Updated to include alternative fuels life cycle emissions reductions. Dashed line represents effect on net CO2 emissions association with the 100% replacement of jet fuel with alternatives by 2050. 100% replacement of alternative jet fuel would requite a complete shifting in aviation from petroleum refining to biofuel production and a substantial expansion of the agricultural sector, both of which would require substantial policy support. Illustrative case would require high availability of bioenergy feedstocks, the production of which is significantly incentivised by price or other policy mechanisms. Source: ICAO 2016 Environmental Report Under a business-as-usual projection, where the aviation industry grows by 5% per year, but there are no major changes to technology or infrastructure, total emissions over the period 2015-2050 reach approximately 56bn tonnes of CO2 (area under dark blue line). Carbon Brief asked Dr Joeri Rogelj, one of the world’s leading experts on carbon budgets, to express this in terms of the internationally agreed climate targets adopted in Paris last year — to keep global temperature rise to “well below 2C”, with an additional aspirational target of 1.5C. His calculations suggest aviation emissions between 2015 to 2050 will consume 27% of the remaining carbon budget to have a decent chance of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5C above preindustrial levels. The share of the remaining budget for 2C is smaller, at 7%, but still significant. This gives a new perspective to the oft-repeated claim that aviation is responsible for 2% of global emissions — a claim repeated in the ICAO report and one the sector has been stressing since the early 1990s. While it is true that aviation may be a small slice of a large pie at the moment, as other sectors seek to reduce their emissions in line with the carbon budgets, aviation will come to occupy an increasingly large share, if it continues to grow. It’s worth noting that ICAO’s projections only go as far as 2050. Any emissions after mid-century will further shrink the remaining carbon budget. Carbon dioxide is also not the only way aviation affects the climate. Aircraft emit other gases and aerosols that change the composition of the atmosphere. They also produce “contrails”, which affect the cloudiness of the sky and how much solar radiation reaches the surface of the Earth. The extent to which these extra factors amplify the CO2 effect is still poorly understood and not captured in ICAO’s estimates of aviation’s impact on the climate. With new studies emerging in recent years, the report says a new scientific assessment of aviation’s impact on the climate is now needed. The “state of the science” section of the report says: While CO2 is particularly understood, there are important uncertainties regarding some of the non-CO2 impacts and the underlying physical processes which require further investigation…Our understanding and confidence in aviation climate forcings would be enhanced by a new international scientific assessment. Even the most optimistic scenario cannot hope to reverse the growth in CO2 from aeroplanes, ICAO’s data suggests. Dramatic improvements in aircraft technology (light blue shading) in addition to air traffic management and infrastructure (yellow shading) will only succeed in making the steep upwards curve of aviation emissions slightly less steep. Assuming all these potential improvements materialise, total emissions from aviation by 2050 drop to approximately 41bn tonnes of CO2. Rogelj calculates that this means the industry’s share of the remaining carbon budget for 1.5C would fall to 20%. This means that there would still be a shortfall of 1,039 million tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2) in 2050 between what is technologically feasible and what is required for aviation to hit its emissions goal of pinning emissions at 2020 levels. But even this self-imposed goal doesn’t go far enough, says Rogelj: On the one hand, it is encouraging to see that the sector is thinking about ways to significantly limit its CO2 emissions. On the other hand, it is worrying to see no mention whatsoever of the idea that also in this sector net-zero CO2 emissions need to be achieved for stabilising climate change. Biofuels So how can this gap be filled? The scenario outlined above assumes that each kilogram of jet fuel burned generates 3.16kg of CO2. But this can be reduced by adding biofuels into the mix, the report claims. It looks at how much can feasibly be added, and how far this takes growth of the aviation industry to “carbon neutrality” after 2020, assuming that technology and other emissions-saving measures have already advanced to the most optimistic levels. It does this for both the short term and the long term — 2020 and 2050. Its 2020 scenario for the volume of biofuel available depends upon the production plans of producers and states. Its 2050 projections are more speculative. They look at constraints to biofuel use, including various environmental and socio-economic factors, how much biomass could actually be produced, and how much fuel can be extracted from this. Their calculations also take into account the fact that making biofuel is not a carbon-neutral process, and include all the emissions released during its production. The graph below suggests that biofuels can, at a pinch, ensure that emissions do not exceed 2020 levels, and could potentially enable them to dip slightly below. CO2 emissions trends from International Aviation, 2005 to 2050. Dashed line in technology contribution sliver represents the “Low Aircraft Technology Scenario”. Note: results were modelled for 2005, 2006, 2010, 2020, 2025, 2030, and 2040, and then extrapolated to 2050. *Actual carbon neutral line is within this range. Source: ICAO 2016 Environmental Report However, there are important caveats to ICAO’s analysis. First, only the most optimistic end of the range of potential emissions reductions due to biofuels takes aviation into the realm of carbon neutral growth after 2020. This is in addition to already optimistic scenarios for technology improvements between now and 2050. This implies that over the next three decades, both technological advancements and biofuel production have to go as well as they possibly can in order for aviation to reach its goals through these measures alone. Even in this most optimistic vision, where technology and biofuel production advance enough to allow the aviation industry to meet its self-imposed target, the industry would still consume 12% of the remaining budget for 1.5C by the middle of the century. Rogelj says: It is clear that low-carbon aviation is still in its infancy. But even the ultimate aspiration of the sector (carbon-neutral growth) is off the mark and out of tune with what is required to stabilise the climate system. The upper end of the range indicates that conventional jet fuel is 100% replaced by biofuels. This itself has significant implications for policy and other areas that are hoping to reduce their emissions by switching to biofuels. The report notes that “100% replacement of alternative jet fuel [biofuel] would require a complete shift in aviation from petroleum refining to biofuel production and a substantial expansion of the agriculture sector, both of which would require substantial policy support”. This would be expensive. The report estimates that complete replacement by 2050 would require around 170 new large biorefineries to be built every year from 2020 to 2050, at a cost of $15bn to $60bn per year. But this relies on progress happening straight away and in a linear fashion. If progress is initially slow, and then picks up after 2035, then 328 large biorefineries would have to be built each year from then on, at an approximate cost of $29bn to $115bn per year. It also emphasises the other difficulties of this achievement, including the fact that it would limit the amount of bioenergy available for other uses. The report says: Achieving this level of emissions reduction would also require the realization of the highest assumed increases in agricultural productivity, highest availability of land for feedstock cultivation, highest residue removal rates, highest conversion efficiency improvements, largest reductions in the GHG emissions of utilities, as well as a strong market or policy emphasis on bioenergy in general, and alternative aviation fuel in particular. This implies that a large share of the globally available bioenergy resource would be devoted to producing aviation fuel, as opposed to other uses. The scaling up of biomass is already a controversial topic, due to concerns over land grabs and food security, for instance. The new idea of using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to absorb carbon dioxide from the air to bring about “negative emissions” could place further pressure on the world’s available biomass resources. The report also adds that carbon-neutral growth purely through the use of alternative fuels is unlikely to occur by 2021, as their production would need a period in which to be ramped up before they reach the levels required. Market-based mechanisms The report acknowledges that technological progress and biofuels are unlikely to deliver the scale of improvements necessary. To bolster aviation’s chances of hitting its carbon-neutral growth target, the sector also hopes to agree on a market-based measure that would see them paying to offset their emissions. The industry would need to offset between 443m and 596m tonnes of CO2 in 2035, and this only includes international flights, which currently account for only 65% of aviation emissions. This would cost between $5.3bn and $23.9bn in 2035, depending on the assumed carbon price. The higher figure would diminish total revenues from international aviation by only 1.4% in 2035. A separate paper, released today by the Campaign for Better Transport, suggests that the best way to reduce aviation emissions is simply to curtail growth, and that this could be done by adding a surcharge linked to the flight’s total emissions. Leo Murray, co-author of the report, told Carbon Brief: The ICAO biofuels scenarios are clearly fanciful at best, while the proposed market-based mechanism is so weak as to bear almost no relationship to a 2C target, let alone 1.5C…Fundamentally, what all these industry-led analyses refuse to acknowledge or countenance is the very evident truth that the only reliable means by which to control aviation emissions is to manage — ie curtail — demand growth. That’s the point of our frequent flyer levy proposal; it’s an equitable method of doing that. It is worth noting that only 5% of the world’s population have ever travelled in an aeroplane, according to transport campaigners Atmosfair. The ICAO Council is expected to make a recommendation for how a market-based scheme could work in October, during the body’s 39th Assembly, which countries can then decide whether to adopt. This decision will come to represent the official level of ambition of the aviation sector when it comes to climate change, since its emissions were not covered in the UN Paris Agreement. However, there have recently been reports that the aviation deal agreed could initially be voluntary for certain countries. *Projections of international aviation emissions based on graphs from ICAO Environmental report 2016. Carbon Brief has requested the underlying data from ICAO, but has yet to receive this. Main image: Aircraft fuselage. Photo: Flightlevel80/E+/Getty Images. The post Analysis: Aviation could consume a quarter of 1.5C carbon budget by 2050 appeared first on Carbon Brief.
More than 200,000 crashes involved debris on US roadways over the past four years, a new report announces. About two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of items falling from a vehicle due to improper maintenance and unsecured loads.
Amazon doesn’t reveal much, but a little sleuthing suggests that drones may be central to the online retailer’s long-term strategy.
The project would be the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country, and could greatly increase the number of oil trains that travel through Oregon and Washington. The post Washington Attorney General Calls For Denial Of Massive Oil-By-Rail Project appeared first on ThinkProgress.
After a derailment in June, Washington and Oregon residents and politicians are questioning whether transporting crude by rail could ever be safe.