Electric vehicles can reduce the #Colorado’s emissions more than anything else #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Leaf, Berthoud Pass Summit, August 21, 2017.

From Vox (David Roberts):

The Colorado legislature has had an extraordinarily productive year so far, passing a stunning array of climate and clean energy bills covering everything from clean electricity to utilities, energy efficiency, and a just transition. The list is really pretty amazing…

It got me thinking: Just how big a role are EVs going to play in decarbonization? How should policymakers be prioritizing them relative to, say, renewable energy? Obviously, every state and country is going to need to do both eventually — fully electrify transportation and fully decarbonize electricity — but it would still be helpful to better understand their relative impacts.

Nerds to the rescue!

A new bit of research commissioned by Community Energy (a renewable energy project developer) casts light on this question. It models the carbon and financial impacts of large-scale vehicle electrification in Colorado and comes to two main conclusions.

First, electrifying vehicles would reduce carbon more than completely decarbonizing the state electricity sector, pushing state emissions down 42 percent from 2018 levels by 2040 — not enough to hit the targets on its own, but a huge chunk. Second, electrifying vehicles saves consumers money by reducing the cost of transportation almost $600 a year on average.

Rapid electrification is a win-win for Colorado, a driver of decarbonization and a transfer of wealth from oil companies to consumers — but only if charging is managed intelligently.

EVs bring carbon and consumer benefits

First, the headline: Electrifying EVs…reduces emissions a lot.

In the EV-grid scenario, electricity sector emissions fall 46 percent — the number is lower because about a third of the additional electricity demand from EVs is satisfied by natural gas — but overall state emissions drop 42 percent, more than two and a half times as much, representing 37 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s thanks to an 80 percent drop in transportation emissions…

As I said, that in itself is not enough to meet the state’s emissions target. The state will have to force some additional cleaning of the electricity sector (and deal with other sectors) to do that, as this year’s package of legislation reflects. (I asked Clack if Vibrant ran a scenario without any new natural gas. Yes, he said. “It was $1 billion per year more expensive [around 1¢/kWh, or 15.9 percent more] and decreased emissions by an additional 14.8 metric tons per year.”)

But the drop in transportation emissions in the EV-grid scenario is sufficient to reduce more overall emissions than the entire Colorado electricity sector produces. EVs are a vital piece of the decarbonization puzzle.

The effect of all the new EVs on electricity generation is pretty simple: There will be more of it…

As you can see, in the cleaner-grid scenario, lost coal generation is replaced by a mix of natural gas, wind, and solar. In the EV-grid scenario, it’s roughly the same mix, just a little more of each — the addition of EVs raises total electricity demand by about 20 percent.

Bonus result: “The increase in generation capacity increases employment in Colorado’s electricity sector by approximately 68 percent by 2040.”


And now, here are the fun parts.

Shifting from internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEV) to EVs would save Colorado consumers a whole boatload of money, for the simple reason that electricity is a cheaper fuel than gasoline. Here are the average savings for a Coloradan that switches from ICEV to EV between 2018 and 2040…

So the average Coloradan will save between $590 and $645 a year — nothing to sneeze at. “The total savings between 2018 and 2040 are estimated to be $16 billion,” Vibrant says, “which equates to a savings of almost $700 million per year.”

You might think, with all the new EV demand added to the grid, electricity rates would go up. In fact, relative to the cleaner-grid scenario, the EV-grid scenario has an extremely small impact on rates (0.7 percent difference at the extreme)…

EVs are a climate triple threat

What this modeling makes clear is that when it comes to clean energy policy, EVs are a triple threat for Colorado (and, obviously, for other states, though the impacts will vary with weather and electricity mix).

For the electricity sector, as long as their charging is properly managed, EVs can provide much-needed new tools to help manage the influx of renewable energy…

For the transportation sector, EVs can radically reduce carbon emissions and local pollution. (Yes, EVs reduce carbon emissions even in areas with lots of coal on the grid.)

And for consumers, EVs save money, not only because the fuel is cheaper (and getting cheaper all the time) but because EVs are much simpler machines, with fewer moving parts and much lower maintenance costs.

Especially in states with electricity sector emissions that are already low or falling, transportation is the next big place to look for emission reductions, and EVs are one of the few options that can reduce emissions at the necessary scale and speed. Colorado is right to encourage them.

Interview with Doug Kenney: Planning for a Drier Future in the #ColoradoRiver Basin — Public Policy Institute of #California #COriver #aridification

Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam, shows the effects of nearly two decades of drought. (Image: Bureau of Reclamation)

From the Public Policy Institute of California (Lori Pottinger):

The Colorado River has experienced decades of over-allocation of its waters, making it harder to address the added challenges that climate change is bringing. The recently adopted Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) was an important step toward addressing the basin’s chronic water shortages, but more work is needed to prepare for a hotter, drier future. We talked to Doug Kenney—director of the Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado and a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center research network―about managing the basin for long-term water sustainability. Kenney organized a conference in June that covered these issues in depth.

Douglas Kenney. Photo credit: University of Colorado Boulder

PPIC: Talk about the basin’s over-allocation problem.

Doug Kenney: The current problem with the river’s water budget is in the lower basin. For much of this century, California, Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico have consistently pulled about 1.2 million acre-feet more water out of Lake Mead than enters it each year. That’s basically five years of water supply for Las Vegas. You can get away with that much overuse by drawing down reservoir storage—which is what we’ve been doing—but that’s not sustainable. So we need to accelerate efforts to scale back consumption. That’s what the DCP was designed to do—it’s mandated belt tightening.

In the upper basin states it’s a very different situation—water use in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming is currently at a stable and reasonable level. But future use is expected to increase, while natural inflows are declining as the region continues to warm from climate change. The upper basin states can legally develop more water supplies, but the reality is that water isn’t likely to be reliably available. There’s a disconnect between how much water the upper basin states were promised and how much actually exists.

PPIC: What is needed to achieve sustainable management in the basin?

DK: The primary emphasis has to be on using less water. Given that most water in the basin is used for agriculture, that sector has the greatest potential to save water. Paying farmers to fallow some fields is probably the most appealing option. However, there are legal, financial, and cultural issues to deal with.

In most of the west, efforts to incentivize agricultural demand management have been pretty primitive—with the exception of Southern California, which has had major success trimming farm water use in the Imperial and Palo Verde water districts. Those programs aren’t perfect, but they are happening at a sufficiently large scale to make a significant contribution to addressing the regional water budget problem. In most other places in the basin, these types of programs are much smaller, and there’s a lot of skepticism about scaling these efforts up. The politics are very delicate, as these mechanisms would reallocate water from farms to cities. But you can’t ignore the math or the economics. Some sort of agricultural demand management will have to be a core element of any sustainable water use plan in the basin. The challenge is to do it in a way that is fair and protects the socioeconomic fabric of rural areas.

PPIC: What’s next for the basin’s water planning?

DK: The next steps are big ones. The operation of Powell and Mead is governed by interim guidelines that expire after 2026. Some key arrangements between Mexico and the US also expire then. The states are required to begin negotiating new rules to replace the expiring arrangements no later than 2020. This figures to be a really complex and very politically difficult negotiation, so there’s real interest in setting up the right process to get it done. That’s where many of us are focused right now—identifying the process that gives the negotiations the best chance for success.

PPIC: The DCP didn’t address ecological and health problems at California’s troubled Salton Sea. What’s next for the sea?

DK: At this point it’s about figuring out how to pay for what everyone knows has to be done. I’m convinced we’ve reached a turning point on the Salton Sea. There’s momentum within and outside of California to find a solution. It was disappointing that the DCP didn’t address the issues, but it wasn’t due to a lack of concern or effort—essentially, folks ran out of time. But I hear a consistent message from every sector and state: we need a solution for the sea. There’s an old maxim in this basin: anything is possible if all seven states can agree to it. I’m hopeful that this can apply to the Salton Sea crisis.

Salton Sea shoreline screen shot of drone video June 11, 2016. Credit Palm Springs Desert Sun.

Should Rivers Have Same Legal Rights As Humans? A Growing Number Of Voices Say Yes — National Public Radio

Satellite imagery of a toxic algal bloom on Lake Erie in 2011. The image is gorgeous, but microcystis aeruginosa, the green algae pictured here, is toxic to mammals.
NASA Earth Observatory via Popular Science.

From National Public Radio (Ashley Westerman):

In early July, Bangladesh became the first country to grant all of its rivers the same legal status as humans. From now on, its rivers will be treated as living entities in a court of law. The landmark ruling by the Bangladeshi Supreme Court is meant to protect the world’s largest delta from further degradation from pollution, illegal dredging and human intrusion…

Following the ruling, anyone accused of harming the rivers can be taken to court by the new, government-appointed National River Conservation Commission. They may be tried and delivered a verdict as if they had harmed their own mother, Matin says.

“The river is now considered by law, by code, a living entity, so you’ll have to face the consequence by law if you do anything that kills the river,” [Mohammad Abdul Matin] says.

What is environmental personhood?

Bangladesh follows a handful of countries that have subscribed to an idea known as environmental personhood. It was first highlighted in essays by University of Southern California law professor Christopher D. Stone, collected into a 1974 book titled Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects. Stone argued that if an environmental entity is given “legal personality,” it cannot be owned and has the right to appear in court.

Traditionally, nature has been subject to a Western-conceived legal regime of property-based ownership, says Monti Aguirre with the environmental group International Rivers.

“That means … an owner has the right to modify their features, their natural features, or to destroy them all at will,” Aguirre says.

The idea of environmental personhood turns that paradigm on its head by recognizing that nature has rights and that those rights should be enforced by a court of law. It’s a philosophical idea, says Aguirre, with indigenous communities leading the charge…

In 2008, Ecuador became the first country to enshrine the legal rights of nature in its constitution. Bolivia passed a similar law in 2011. Meanwhile, New Zealand in 2017 became the first country to grant a specific river legal rights, followed by the Indian state of Uttarakhand. This year, the city of Toledo, Ohio, passed what is known as the Lake Erie Bill of Rights to protect its shores, making it one of several U.S. communities to have passed legislation recognizing the rights of nature

In a 2018 study co-authored with Julia Talbot-Jones, O’Donnell shows that the onus of enforcement will fall on whoever is deemed the guardian of the waterway. And that can be anyone from a court-appointed body to the government itself — which may have chosen not to participate in environmentally friendly practices in the past — to nongovernmental organizations.

In Ecuador, says O’Donnell, the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature and others sued a construction company trying to build a road across the Vilcabamba River and initially won in court.

But when the construction company didn’t comply with the court’s ruling, “the NGO could not afford to run a second case,” says O’Donnell.

What’s more, the trans-boundary nature of rivers makes enforcement inherently difficult. This issue has come up in India, where the high court in Uttarakhand state in 2017 recognized the Ganges and Yamuna rivers as legal persons because of their “sacred and revered” status. The court named the state government as their guardians.

Soon after, the state government appealed to the Indian Supreme Court, arguing “that their responsibilities as guardians of the rivers were unclear because the rivers extended well beyond the border of Uttarakhand,” says O’Donnell…

he struggle to achieve this paradigm shift is also taking place on the shores of Lake Erie, in Toledo, Ohio. Earlier this year, the city passed an ordinance that would allow the its citizens to sue on behalf of the lake, arguing that it had gotten so polluted, there was no choice.

The ordinance’s constitutionality was immediately challenged by a farm in a federal lawsuit. The farm argued the ordinance made it vulnerable “to massive liability” when it fertilizes its fields “because it can never guarantee that all runoff will be prevented from entering the Lake Erie watershed.” Then the state of Ohio joined that lawsuit, arguing it — not the citizens of Toledo — has the “legal responsibility” for environmental regulatory programs.

“What’s interesting is the state of Ohio intervening on behalf of the polluter, not on behalf of the people who passed the law,” says Tish O’Dell, the Ohio community organizer for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

The lawsuit is ongoing, though O’Dell predicts the ordinance will ultimately be overturned.

“But what I would say to people is it doesn’t matter what happens in the courts in Toledo with this case, because the genie has been let out of the bottle. And as hard as they want to try to put it back in, the people shouldn’t let them,” O’Dell says. “I mean, we have to change our environmental protection in this country and across the world, because obviously what we’re doing isn’t working.”

@POTUS administration guts Endangered Species Act #TrumpShame

Greenbacks and Colorado River cutthroat via DNR

From CBS4 Denver (Shaun Boyd):

Multiple species — including Colorado’s state fish — could be impacted by changes to the Endangered Species Act. The Trump administration plans to unveil the new rules in detail later this week. They will, among other things, allow the government to put an economic cost on saving a species and limit the consideration of climate change on a species survival…

Hailey Hawkins with the Endangered Species Coalition agrees changes are needed, but she says the changes proposed by the Trump administration will make things worse.

“In the long run, if our species don’t receive full protections immediately, that’s going to create more backlog and more red tape down the road,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins is especially concerned that economics may be used to determine whether a species receives protection.

“Life is priceless. You can not put a price tag on a species. Extinction is forever. It’s something that will never ever go away and the price of that and the price to our heritage and our culture is too big to sacrifice,” she said.

There are numerous species of fish and wildlife in Colorado that have federal protection, including the Greenback Cutthroat Trout, Colorado’s state fish. While all of the species have state protections as well, Hawkins says the state lacks the resources to recover those species. The new rules also limit the consideration of climate change on a species survival by restricting potential impacts to the foreseeable future…

Gov. Jared Polis shared the following statement with CBS4 about the possible Endangered Species Act changes.

“This rollback of the landmark Endangered Species Act is just awful. The Endangered Species Act is a huge success and has successfully brought so many species back from the brink of extinction like the bald eagle and grizzly bear. 34 of the more than 1,400 species protected under the Endangered Species Act call Colorado home and are a critical piece of the natural beauty of this state. When species become extinct it disrupts previously healthy ecosystems which could, in turn, ruin the outdoor experience for anglers, hunters and Colorado’s thriving outdoor industry and economy. Colorado’s ecological diversity is part of our strength.”