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Coal Generation Dips to an All-Time Low in Texas

Data from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) indicates that coal generation in the state has dropped to record lows, slumping to just over 9 percent of generation in March. Coal generation in Texas — the second largest electricity market in the United States and the state with the highest coal consumption — has slumped from more than 30 per cent in 2014 despite a rapid increase in electricity demand. Texas power utilities consumed 50.7 million U.S. short tons (46 million tonnes) of coal in 2023, which accounted for 13 per cent of the U.S. total. The rapid growth of wind and solar generation is a significant driver in the decline in coal generation. There is currently 22,710 MW of solar capacity in ERCOT, with another 7168 MW slated to come online this year.

(Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis) — Bob Burton, 4/14/2024


In United States: a Coal Plant Closure Impacts Health of the Community

The closure of a large coal plant in the United States has been linked to a near-instant drop in heart attacks and strokes among local people.

Shenango Coke Works facility in Pittsburgh closed in January 2016 after incurring millions of dollars in government fines for air and water pollution.

Years of community pressure helped bring its long reign to an end — and locals were quickly rewarded in health gains, according to a new study by researchers at New York University (NYU) Grossman School of Medicine.

Our research provides compelling scientific evidence that the closure of this coal-processing coke plant significantly eliminated fossil fuel-related air pollution emissions that improved the air quality and cardiovascular health of residents,” says lead investigator Wuyue Yu.

State Impacts of Pennsylvania, April 3, 2024


Common Market Emissions Fall as Renewable Power Soars

Carbon dioxide emissions regulated under the European Union’s emissions trading system (ETS) fell by a record 15.5 percent in 2023 as renewable power output soared, the European Commission said on April 3.

Around 45 percent of the European Union’s output of greenhouse gases is regulated by the EU ETS, which is the 27-nation bloc’s flagship scheme to tackle global warming by charging for the right to emit carbon dioxide (CO2). Emissions from industry fell around 7 percent due to a combination of reduced output and energy efficiency gains.

Last year’s emissions under the EU’s Emission Trading System (ETS) show the most significant annual emissions reductions since the ETS was launched in 2005,” the EU Commission said in a statement. The largest fall was in the power sector, which saw a 24 percent drop in emissions compared with 2022 levels.

This decrease is due to a substantial increase in renewable electricity production (primarily wind and solar), at the expense of both coal and gas,” the commission said.

Reuter‘s Daily Briefing by Susanna Twidale, April 3, 2024


European Court Finds Human Rights Obligations   Require Action on Climate

The European Court of Human Rights has found that Switzerland failed to comply with its duties under the European Convention on Human Rights and violated Article 8, which provides citizens with the right to respect for private and family life and home. In a 16-1 ruling, the court found that Verein Klimaseniorinnen, an association of older Swiss women, had standing to bring the case against the Swiss government. The court found there are “critical gaps” in the government’s climate response, including the failure to put in place a carbon budget and limits on national greenhouse gas emissions. The court also found that Switzerland had failed to meet its past greenhouse gas emission reduction target. The Center for International Environmental Law said the ruling will influence climate litigation across Europe and internationally.

Guardian, (European Court of Human Rights, Center for International Environmental Law) —


The Dilemma of Plastic Wrap and Food Waste

Food is the most common material in landfills. The average American family of four spends $1,500 each year on food that ends up uneaten, mostly fruits and vegetables. And, it’s not just the wasted food that adds to climate change. The farming and transportation wasted to produce food that is discarded impacts the climate, too.

If it seems like plastic surrounds nearly every cucumber, apple and pepper in the produce aisle, it does. And the reason is plastic reduces waste by keeping food fresh through transport and home in your refrigerator. Preventing food waste and the carbon impact of plastic cucumbers multiplied by all the other plastic-coated veggie wrappers does not have to be mutually exclusive.

Here are a few ideas headed to the produce aisle:

  • Bags from trees. An Austrian company is using beechwood trees to make biodegradable cellulose net bags to hold produce. Other companies offer similar netting that decomposes within a few weeks. Burlap or cloth bags come in many sizes and are a reusable solution to single-use plastic in the produce aisle
  • Film from peels. Orange peels, shrimp shells and other natural waste are being turned into film that can be used like cellophane, or made into bags. An edible coating made from plant-based fatty acids is sprayed on cucumbers and other vegetables.
  • Clamshells from cardboard. Plastic clamshells are a $9.1 billion business in the United States, and the number of growers who use them is vast. Replacing them will be an enormous challenge, particularly for more fragile fruits and vegetables. Plenty of designers are trying. Driscoll’s has been working to develop paper containers for use in the United States and Canada. In the meantime, the company is using more recycled plastic in its clamshells in the United States.
  • Ice that feels like gelatin. Scientists at the University of California, Davis, have invented reusable jelly ice. It is lighter than ice and doesn’t melt, lasts for about a dozen uses and then can be thrown into the garden where it dissolves.
  • Boxes with atmosphere. Iceless broccoli shipping containers use a mix of gases that help preserve the vegetable instead of chilling it with ice, which is heavy to ship and can transmit pathogens when it melts.
  • Containers from plants. Rice-paddy straw left over after harvests, grasses, sugar cane stalks and even food waste are all being turned into trays and boxes that are either biodegradable or can be composted.

None of these methods are yet up to scale, but the fact that companies and innovators are working to reduce the scourge of plastic is heartening. No one believes we will go back to the days when we didn’t expect blueberries in December, but will consumers change their habits to save the planet? After all, we have all learned to bring our own bag to the supermarket.

New York Times, April 2, 2020 by Kim Severson — “Why is there so much plastic?”

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