Climate Compass Blog
February is dragging on for an extra day this year, delaying my favorite spring ritual: the opening day of baseball season. The extra day of eager contemplation has me combining a seasonal love of baseball with my year-round affection for electric vehicles (EVs). Bear with me here.
Baseball is an intensely data-driven sport. Whereas most sports are still using relatively simple stats like basketball’s “double double,” where a player reaches double digits in two statistical categories, baseball analysts predict teams’ expected wins by calculating Pythagorean scoring averages. Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane fielded a winning team by using data to find players’ overlooked value, inspiring a famous book and cunningly selling Brad Pitt as a reasonable look-alike in the process.
Baseball shows the importance of data availability and statistical inferences in decision-making. Similarly, access to the best statistics may help transportation managers determine the best strategies to promote adoption of EVs, a market-ready transportation alternative that can reduce harmful emissions that contribute to climate change. The difficulty has been that data resources have been scattered, often difficult to locate and even more difficult to compile into a usable form. This is where a new data tool may be able to offer meaningful insights into EV markets.
What are you doing for Leap Day?
According to folklore, it’s a good day for a woman to propose marriage. But if you’re not looking for that kind of commitment, you can instead commit to make a positive impact in the world during your extra 24 hours this year.
Here are seven things you can do to commit to a better planet Earth this Leap Day:
1. Plan an environmental outing with friends or co-workers. This might mean cleaning up a local stream or helping a local school build a live-and-learn greenhouse or garden. C2ES staffers planted wildflowers at a local park last year and are working on a new outing. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers some other great environmental project ideas.
2. Host an environmental film screening. Educate yourself and friends by watching and discussing an environmental film or TV series like “Chasing Ice,” “Planet Earth,” or “The Symphony of Soil.” For more suggestions, visit this eco film list.
3. Take steps to save energy. Lowering your personal footprint begins by taking stock of how you use energy at home, at work and on the go. With better understanding, you can take action and live more sustainably while saving energy, money and the environment. Use our carbon calculator to find your footprint and complete pledges to improve it.
|Downtown Charlotte, an example of a city collaborating with the business community to become more sustainable.|
City leaders have been envisioning more livable cities, with low-impact workplaces, efficient neighborhoods, thriving ecosystems, resilient electricity grids, and more. Today, many are ready to begin turning their vision of a sustainable community into a reality.
In the face of ever-present budget constraints, one strategy is collaborating with the business community. Cities are no stranger to partnerships, for example, on large development projects. But in the sustainability realm, partnerships are focusing more on improving coordination among key stakeholders.
A prime example is unfolding in Charlotte, North Carolina, a financial and energy hub of the South. In Charlotte, like many other cities, local public and private leaders have been working to improve the sustainability of their organizations, but have struggled to overcome challenges such as how to engage individuals and track and measure success.
Through a series of conversations between the CEOs of Duke Energy and Cisco, the Mayor of Charlotte, and the head of Charlotte Center City Partners, a local nonprofit, local leaders realized they shared a common vision and common challenges. The idea for a new nonprofit, Envision Charlotte, was born. It was launched in 2010 with public and private leaders on its board, and the first goal was to help Charlotte’s commercial buildings become the most efficient in the country. A super-efficient urban core would give the city a competitive economic advantage, demonstrate its commitment to sustainability, and promote civic pride.
A number of states, cities, and power companies plan to press forward with clean energy efforts despite this week’s Supreme Court stay of the Clean Power Plan.
That’s because the future of carbon regulation is not “if” but “how and when,” and it is too big a question not to continue a thoughtful conversation among thoughtful people.
States to explore options
Officials in states including California, Colorado, Minnesota, Virginia, and Washington have said the court’s temporary stay won’t stop them from continuing to explore implementation options, which include leveraging the power of market forces to reduce emissions. Even states suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been having these conversations, and most will continue to.
For instance, Montana Department of Environmental Quality energy bureau chief Laura Andersen told ClimateWire, "The market forces at play in the region are quite significant and will not go away just because the Clean Power Plan has a stay on it.”
Al Minier, chairman of the Wyoming Public Service Commission, said the stay could give regulators more time to develop strategies that are best for the state.
The Supreme Court’s stay of the Clean Power Plan may slow, but certainly does not stop, progress toward a cleaner power system in the United States.
There’s no telling how the legal challenges to the Clean Power Plan, which were always expected, will ultimately play out. But here are a few important points to keep in mind:
The Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases is settled. The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that EPA has authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases. It affirmed that ruling 8-0 in 2011 when it rejected nuisance suits against greenhouse gas emitters, ruling that “the Clean Air Act and the EPA actions it authorizes displace any federal common law right to seek abatement of carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants.”
What’s at issue is whether the particular way EPA has chosen to exercise that authority in regulating carbon emissions from power plants is appropriate. Because there was little precedent to work from, EPA had to chart the direction, and did so with a very careful eye to the legal defensibility of its approach.
The Clean Power Plan has already generated tremendous learning about the practicalities of decarbonizing our power sector. In crafting the rule, EPA engaged extensively with states, utilities and others (and was widely praised for doing so). The adoption of the rule last summer has triggered similar state-level conversations across the country. Even states that are suing to overturn the rule have been actively considering how to implement it.
As a result, we all know a lot more today about the challenges of cutting carbon and the smartest strategies for doing it cost-effectively. That knowledge will be of tremendous value going forward, with or without the Clean Power Plan.