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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On February 22, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced its comprehensive strategy to decarbonize transportation by 30-85 percent by 2050. A strategy based on research and engineering, it aims to enable industry stakeholders, government bodies, communities, and early adopters to meet their climate goals. In a nutshell, the strategy takes a whole-system approach to pair the best technology with the right application. Chris Gearhart, NREL’s Center for Integrated Mobility Sciences Director, stated that NREL envisions “a mobility system fueled with clean, renewable energy, delivered directly by vehicle electrification, or indirectly by low-carbon, energy dense fuels and renewable hydrogen for those sectors, like marine and aviation, that are harder to electrify.” Johney Green, Associate Laboratory Director for NREL’s Mechanical and Thermal Engineering Sciences, expanded: “The spectrum of technological, social, and environmental shifts happening today requires a novel research agenda.” Keeping long-term trends in mind, NREL’s vision entails a multi-pronged strategy that provides scientific building blocks for advancing research and development (R&D) priorities such as:

  • Accelerating vehicle technology innovations;
     
  • Increasing transport efficiency;
     
  • Maximizing the use of renewable electrons through time; and
     
  • Integrating transportation with building, the grid, and renewables to realize system-wide benefits.
     

 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On December 19, 2020, the Government of Canada’s Department of the Environment published a proposed rule titled Clean Fuel Regulations. The proposed rule addresses Canada’s concerns in achieving its net-zero emissions by 2050 under the Paris Agreement. In an effort to reduce the largest sources of greenhouse gases (GHG), the Clean Fuel Regulations would require liquid fossil fuel primary suppliers to reduce the carbon intensity (CI) of the liquid fossil fuels they produce in and import into Canada from 2016 CI levels by 2.4 g of CO2/megajoule (MJ) in 2022, increasing to 12 g of CO2/MJ in 2030. The proposed rule would also establish a credit market whereby the annual CI reduction requirement could be met via three main categories of credit-creating actions:

  • Actions that reduce the CI of the fossil fuel throughout its life cycle;
  • Supplying low-carbon fuels; and
  • Specified end-use fuel switching in transportation.

The Clean Fuels Regulations would also retain the minimum volumetric requirements of at least five percent low CI fuel content in gasoline and two percent low CI fuel content in diesel fuel and light fuel oil that are currently set out in the federal Renewable Fuels Regulation (RFR). The RFR would be repealed, and parties that are not primary fossil fuel suppliers would be able to participate in the credit market as voluntary credit creators by completing certain actions. Further details are available here.


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

Researchers at Swansea University’s Energy Safety Research Institute have developed a new method that produces spheres that have strong capacity for carbon capture and work at a large scale. Described as “[a] fast, green and one-step method for producing porous carbon spheres, which are a vital component for carbon capture technology and for new ways of storing renewable energy,” the method was developed by a research team that adapted an existing method known as chemical vapor deposition (CVD). This adapted method involves the use of heat to apply a coating to a material using pyromellitic acid as both carbon and oxygen source. Research scientists involved in the development of this new method report that the new approach brings certain advantages over existing methods of producing carbon spheres, including:

  • It is alkali-free;
  • It does not need a catalyst to trigger the shaping of the spheres;
  • It uses cheap and safe feedstock that is readily available on the market;
  • There is no need for solvents to purify the material; and
  • It is a rapid and safe procedure.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On January 29, 2020, Congressman Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) and other House Democrats unveiled a five-year, $760 billion investment framework to repair and upgrade the U.S. infrastructure to create jobs while reducing carbon pollution, improving safety, and supporting economic activity. Called the “Moving Forward Framework for the People,” the plan includes measures to increase climate resiliency and put the United States on a path toward zero carbon pollution from transportation. The House Democratic proposal outlines a number of major investments, which include repairs and upgrades to surface transportation, rail and transit systems, airports, ports and harbors, wastewater and drinking water infrastructure, brownfields, and broadband. According to Congressman Tonko’s press release, the proposed infrastructure framework would:

  • Bring existing infrastructure into a state of good repair and enable the completion of critical projects through long-term, sustainable funding;
  • Set a path toward zero carbon pollution from the transportation sector, creating jobs, protecting our natural resources, promoting environmental justice, and increasing resiliency to climate change;
  • Ensure a transportation system that is green, affordable, reliable, and efficient and provide access to jobs;
  • Provide safe, clean, and affordable water and wastewater services;
  • Prioritize the safety of the traveling public;
  • Help combat climate change by creating well-paying jobs in clean energy, investing in energy efficiency, and reducing GHG pollution;
  • Expand broadband Internet access, including adoption for unserved and underserved rural, suburban, and urban communities;
  • Modernize 9-1-1 public safety networks;
  • Create family-wage jobs using the Davis-Bacon Act and other strong worker protections; and
  • Support U.S. industries, including steel and manufacturing, through strong Buy America protections.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 2, 2019, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced the approval, by the IATA 75th Annual General Meeting (AGM), of the United Nations’ (UN) International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) resolution, which calls governments to continue work on the implementation of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). The first global carbon pricing instrument for an industry sector, CORSIA will cap carbon dioxide emissions from international aviation at 2020 levels (carbon-neutral growth (CNG)). Between 2020 and 2035, CORSIA aims to mitigate over 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide generating at least $40 billion in finance for carbon reduction initiatives. AGM urged ICAO member states to take a number of measures:

  • Consider participation in CORSIA in the pilot phase;
     
  • Align domestic regulations on the monitoring, verification, and reporting of emissions with CORSIA’s standards, preventing market distortions through its requirements;
     
  • Implement CORSIA as the single global market-based mechanism for climate change mitigation; and
     
  • Avoid the implementation of overlapping/duplicate measures such as unilateral carbon taxes.

IATA’s Director General and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) stated: “CORSIA is a landmark accomplishment. It is a concrete, well-defined way forward to cap global emissions from international aviation. States must not compromise it with inconsistent implementation or by adding a patchwork of taxes on top of it. Its vital mission is to stop growth in net emissions from aviation.” AGM also discussed steps beyond CORSIA, setting the goal to cut net emissions by half of 2005 levels by 2050. Focused on a long-term strategy, IATA calls for investments in better efficiency measures such as sustainable aviation fuels, new aircrafts, and better procedures.


 

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 25, 2019, the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) held an event to provide an overview of their latest publication, a book titled Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States. Providing an overview of the book, a few of the authors were part of a panel discussion opened by William K. Reilly, former EPA Administrator under President George H. W. Bush. In his opening remarks, Mr. Reilly emphasized the potential existing with politics to change culture to achieve low-carbon emissions in the near future. Following Mr. Reilly, Commonwealth Professor of Environmental Law and Sustainability Director at Widener University, John C. Dernbach, started the panel discussion by providing an overview of the contents of the book. According to Professor Dernbach, deep decarbonization is defined as achieving at least 80 percent GHG emissions through deep cuts by 2050. The book therefore contains chapters on federal, state, and tribal legal tools that are available to decarbonize the U.S. In the book, the authors present twelve types of legal tools available; some that are regulatory tools, and some that are not. Types of legal tools include, research and development (R&D), market leveraging approaches, removal of incentives for fossil fuels, and infrastructure development, among others. During the event, other authors and co-authors spoke about specific chapters of the book, stating that they were almost certain that the legal tools available would create economic, social, and environmental security. Unfortunately, the event was interrupted by a fire alarm in the building. For further information, the book can be found for purchase here.

Tags: ELI, Carbon

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

Climate Transparency, a global partnership of international organizations to stimulate G20 climate action and empower zero carbon technologies through transparency, published in early November 2018 their annual “G20 Brown to Green -- The G20 Transition to A Low-Carbon Economy” report. The report summarizes carbon-reducing activities across all G20 countries, utilizing 80 indicators. In an assessment of the climate policy and efforts performance of each G20 country, the report identifies gaps and highlights the financial flow necessary for the renewable sector to succeed. The report demonstrates that the transition into low-emission has been particularly successful in Mexico and in France, while particularly lagging in Canada and Saudi Arabia.

Tags: Carbon

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 19, 2018, the bipartisan Carbon Utilization Act was introduced by Representatives Scott Peters (D-CA) and David Young (R-IA) to promote biogas and carbon capture utilization and sequestration (CCUS) technologies. Biogas is produced by converting organic waste material into CO2, methane, and other carbon products that then are captured by CCUS technologies to use as energy or fuel. The newly introduced bill incentivizes the use of innovative technologies for farmers, biotech businesses, research programs, and rural development programs.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 17, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy issued a $26 million funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for cost-shared research and development projects that support the DOE Carbon Capture Program’s goal of broad, cost-effective carbon capture deployment.  The Novel and Enabling Carbon Capture Transformational Technologies FOA consists of two areas of interest, specifically:

  • Development of novel transformational materials and processes; and
  • Enabling technologies to improve carbon capture systems.
DOE anticipates selecting up to 14 projects focused on demonstrating the potential to provide step-change reductions in both cost and energy penalties associated with implementing carbon capture and enabling technologies for the coal and natural gas power generation sector.  The projects will be managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).

 
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