greenhouse gas emissions

Recognizing EPA’s Extraordinary Team of Public Servants

By Bob Perciasepe, Acting Administrator

This week is Public Service Recognition week, and as acting administrator at EPA, I wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge the extraordinary public servants I work alongside every day. Public service is a high calling. I know how keenly aware my colleagues are of the service they provide every day to our country. They are answering the call to duty and heeding the words of President Kennedy, “Ask what you can do for your country.”

Thanks to the hard work of the men and women who serve at EPA, the Agency has helped cut pollution and improve health benefits at a record level, while delivering more assistance and making more investments to help businesses and state and local governments meet health standards. In the 43 years since the EPA opened its doors, the American population has grown by more than 50 percent. During the same time frame, we have cut harmful air pollution by more than half. And as our country’s air, water and land have become cleaner, we have also seen our national gross domestic product (GDP) grow more than 200 percent since 1970.

We’ve developed and supported the most efficient and effective environmental enforcement programs in our history. We’ve advanced our science and our approaches to testing chemicals – and met challenges like Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Sandy and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill by helping to keep those regions clean and the people there safe and healthy. We’ve expanded our partnerships with local communities and tribal nations, and consequently, we’ve been able to target our resources more effectively to address the most pressing environmental problems they face. And we’ve doubled down on our own commitment to sustainability by dramatically cutting the Agency’s overall energy use, reducing our water use, and slashing greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 80 percent. That’s the equivalent of taking 21,700 cars off the road or planting more than 2.7 million trees.

EPA employees have also found innovative and unprecedented ways to address the complex environmental challenges – and tight budgets – Americans face today. For example, in 2011, EPA announced a new water technology innovation cluster in Cincinnati, a public/private partnership to develop and commercialize technologies to solve water quality challenges, encourage sustainable economic development and create jobs. Last year EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance announced the public release of an online mapping tool called NEPAssist to help make federal agencies conduct environmental reviews and project planning more efficiently and more effectively. And just recently EPA launched the Green Button on our Home Energy Yardstick. Now American homeowners can measure – and improve – their home’s energy efficiency using this free online energy-assessment tool.

This is exciting work, and you don’t have to take my word for it: Last week the Partnership for Public Service ranked EPA as third in innovation among large federal agencies, according to a survey they conducted of federal employees. In the many ways they contribute to EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment, my colleagues are remarkable public servants. I’m proud to work with them, and this week, to celebrate them.

About the author: Bob Perciasepe is Acting Administrator of the U.S. EPA.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Evaluating Technologies for Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

To celebrate Earth Day and the Agency’s effort to expand the conversation on climate change, we are highlighting EPA climate change research with Science Matters articles this week.

Breaking Through? Evaluating Technologies for Greenhouse Gas Mitigation
EPA modelers develop innovative methods to assess low-carbon technologies.

Much of the energy we use to power our homes, cars, and industries is also the main source of greenhouse gases (GHG) responsible for global climate change. It follows then, that limiting emissions from the combustion of these energy sources could contribute toward a stable, sustainable environmental future.

Developing new “game changing” technologies and energy sources will be important to mitigate GHG emissions cost-effectively. But how can today’s decision makers identify technologies with true transformational potential for reducing global climate change over the long term?

EPA scientists and engineers are helping answer just that question. They are using sophisticated computer models to support decision makers by comparing potential mitigation technologies in terms of cost, environmental performance, economic impact, and more.

In one such effort, the results of which were recently presented in the journal Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy, EPA physical scientist Dan Loughlin and his research colleagues used an innovative modeling approach tapping the MARKet ALlocation (MARKAL) model to demonstrate a “breakthrough analysis” that researchers can use to identify technologies that can make a true difference in reducing GHG emissions.

MARKAL was created in the late 1970s by Brookhaven National Laboratory scientists to help partner researchers and others wade through the complex and far reaching differences and tradeoffs involved in making decisions and policies related to energy use. Over the next several decades, the model was improved and reworked to support new functionality, and to take advantage of increasing computational power. It is now one of several models that EPA’s own climate change researchers use.

“Breakthrough” in this case refers to a technology that can limit GHG emissions significantly and cost-effectively over the long haul, explains Loughlin. “We developed a methodology to examine the breakthrough potential of energy-related technologies, taking into account the complexities of the entire energy system.”

The researchers focused on MARKAL because of its comprehensive coverage of the energy system, from the importation, production, or manufacture of a particular energy source, right through its distribution and end use by a whole variety of interacting sectors.

“For example, using MARKAL we might ask ‘What would happen if the cost of solar photovoltaic technology goes down to 20 cents per kilowatt hour? Would it penetrate the market and yield significant reductions in GHG? Using MARKAL this way allows us to incorporate important multi-sectoral interactions in our analysis that would not be possible with less powerful tools,” says EPA engineer William Yelverton, who contributed to the breakthrough technology approach.

To demonstrate how such an approach could be used to support greenhouse gas mitigation decisions, Loughlin, Yelverton, and their EPA colleague Rebecca Dodder focused on a breakthrough analysis of utility-scale solar photovoltaics (PV). Their calculations suggest, for instance, that an 80% drop in the price of photovoltaics would lower the cost of cutting carbon dioxide emissions in the United States in half by $270 billion—potentially making it a technology breakthrough.

The research team plans to use this approach to evaluate and compare the breakthrough potential of additional energy technologies. In their paper, they and their coauthors write:

 

Fortunately, as a society, we have shown a great ability to innovate. Technology breakthroughs have led to putting humans on the moon and to downsizing electronics so that the smart phones in our pockets are more powerful than the supercomputers of several decades ago. Similar breakthroughs in low- and zero-carbon energy technologies will be needed to meet GHG mitigation goals identified as being necessary by the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]. This need raises important questions, such as ‘What constitutes a breakthrough?’ and ‘Where would breakthroughs be achieved most readily and most cost effectively?

Together, EPA researchers Loughlin, Yelverton, Dodder and their partners are working to answer those questions, and help provide the science and tools needed to address global climate change.

Learn More

EPA Climate Change Research

EPA Climate Change Methods, Models, Tools, and Databases

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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The Story of “Less” Stuff

By Ellie M. Kanipe

A couple of weeks ago, I met the coolest person. Stephanie totally inspired me. She’s part of a movement called the “Small House Movement”, and is actually moving into a tiny house.  And, when I say tiny, I mean tiny.  Her house is 130 square feet.  She’s chosen to live simply and in doing so to live sustainably.

This totally inspires me for a ton of reasons, but one that stands out is that by choosing this life style, Stephanie is significantly lowering her carbon footprint. Approximately 42 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of the food we eat and the goods we use.  42 percent! (Learn more.)

At EPA, I work on sustainability – specifically looking at materials and how we can be more sustainable with the materials / stuff we use in our daily lives. The program I work on (Sustainable Materials Management Program) looks at what we use in our daily lives a little differently – to rethink the norm and instead look through a life cycle lens. In other words, when I think about the shirt I’m wearing today, I wonder where and how were all the materials to make this shirt extracted? Is the cotton organic, or is it made of recycled materials?  Where and how was the shirt manufactured, and how and how far was it transported to get to the store where I bought it? The problem is that we don’t think about our stuff’s lives before they come into our life.  Imagine dating a person without sharing life experiences before you met?  That’s what we do with the stuff we use daily!

While we might not feel like we’re able to lower our own carbon footprint by joining Stephanie in the small house movement, we can all rethink how we view our stuff, and take actions to simplify our lives. We can know where our stuff comes from, and in knowing make smart choices about what we choose to have in our lives. We can reuse, repair, and share. We can buy durable goods. We can stop wasting food, recycle and compost. We can use EPA’s iWARM widget. We can reflect on what we really need in our lives to be happy and act on it.

Stephanie inspires me. She reminds me that often less is more.

About the author: Ellie M Kanipe works in EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. In her spare time, she helps people to simplify their lives by teaching yoga.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Earth Day with the Home Team

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Dave Deegan

Happy Earth Day!

The first Earth Day was held in 1970. It was organized as a series of “teach-ins” to hold conversations about the serious environmental challenges of the day. Here at EPA, celebrating Earth Day on April 22 sometimes feels like the biggest holiday of the year.

Today, our celebration will be especially memorable as several dozen EPA employees will volunteer their evening hours to be the recycling “Green Team” at Fenway Park.

Since 2008, I’ve been one of dozens of EPA employees from our local Boston office who have occasionally volunteered to help with the Red Sox’ recycling efforts. And the results are impressive – this goes way beyond the novelty of being at a game from a different vantage point. For example, in 2012 alone, the Red Sox averaged recycling approximately 3.4 tons of plastic and other items, and donated or composted 1.4 tons of food waste – at each game. That’s a lot of material being kept away from landfills, especially when you consider that there are 81 home games per season.

But wait. Isn’t climate change the biggest environmental issue? How does recycling relate to that? Building, moving and using the products and food we rely on in our daily lives – and then managing the waste left behind – requires a lot of energy.  This energy mostly comes from burning fossil fuels, which are the largest global source of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.

Recycling everyday objects, such as paper, bottles, and magazines saves energy and helps to slow climate change. The materials that you recycle are used to create the products you buy. This means less virgin material need to be mined or harvested, processed, manufactured, and transported—all of which consume energy.

To make tonight’s game even more green, the Red Sox this year are actually undertaking a carbon-neutral game in addition to promoting recycling of all plastic bottles, cups and containers.

On Earth Day, people often ask us how they can make a positive difference for a clean environment. Recycling is actually one of the best things we can all do in our daily lives. Just as Earth Day in 1970 led to creating major laws including the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, maybe the activities held on this year’s Earth Day will spur greater action on the biggest environmental challenge facing us today: climate change.

What will you do to make an Earth Day difference?

About the author: Dave Deegan works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. When he’s not at work, you might find him working in his yard or being outdoors in one of New England’s many special places.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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It’s ENERGY STAR Day!

By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

Today, EPA celebrates the first-ever ENERGY STAR Day in honor of the program’s 20th anniversary. It is a chance for EPA, our partners and everyday people to celebrate the amazing strides that we have made together in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by saving energy. If you made a change to become more energy efficient this year, today is your day to celebrate with EPA!

For those of us at ENERGY STAR, this day is the perfect opportunity to highlight what people across the country are doing to protect our climate. Over the past few years EPA has witnessed a growing grassroots movement toward energy efficiency, and in 2006 we launched the Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR campaign to help people in their energy saving journey. Six years later we are excited to see the amazing things that are being accomplished as people across the country commit to becoming more energy efficient.

This year’s campaign featured something for everyone interested in learning more about protecting the climate:

  • This year the ENERGY STAR Pledge reached a huge milestone. Over 3 million people have taken the pledge, committing to making simple lifestyle changes to help protect the environment from climate change.
  • Thousands of young people joined Team ENERGY STAR this year, committing to learning about energy-efficiency and teaching their friends and families how to save energy. Check out the Team ENERGY STAR success stories here!
  • ENERGY STAR’s industry partners held over 950 energy-efficiency educational events as part of the ENERGY STARs Across America event series. EPA hosted an online map that allowed people across the country to find events in their local area, in order to encourage their energy saving journey.

As EPA wraps up the campaign in the next couple of weeks, we are calling on people to tell the world what they have done to protect the climate. One easy way to do this is by joining our Twitter Party this afternoon! At 2 pm EDT EPA will be engaging the social media universe in a discussion on energy saving and we want you to share your story. Just follow the hashtag #TeamENERGYSTAR. EPA and its partners will be hosting ENERGY STAR Day events from Oct. 10th-24th, so follow us on Facebook and Twitter for up-to-date information on events that you can participate in.

Happy ENERGY STAR Day!

About the Author: Brittney Gordon works on the ENERGY STAR communications team. She has worked for EPA since 2010.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Summer Tips: Get That Car Ready Before You Hit The Road

By Lina Younes

Summer is my favorite time of year. Days are longer. There are more opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors with family and friends. As some of you may be planning a family road trip this summer, there is one thing that you should consider as part of your travel preparations. If you’re driving, make sure the car is ready to hit the road.

Proper car maintenance will make your car more fuel efficient, save you money and protect the environment by producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Keeping tires properly inflated is a simple step that can go a long way to improve fuel efficiency and enhance your safety on the road as well. By following the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule you’ll also reduce the overall wear and tear of the vehicle.

Do you want another useful tip to increase your gas mileage without any additional cost? No, you won’t find it in a store. Simply obey the speed limit! Avoid sudden stops and hard accelerations. Aggressive driving only wastes gas, increases emissions, and makes you waste money at the pump.

So, simple steps can go a long way to have a great summer this year. Do you have any special plans? We will love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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I Spy a Blue Label

By Una Song

This year my husband and I went on vacation to Boise, Idaho to visit his parents, and then to San Francisco to attend my husband’s boss’s retirement party. The last time I was in Boise was before I started with the ENERGY STAR program. At that time, while I recognized the ENERGY STAR label, I didn’t know that the program qualifies more than 60 product categories—from TVs to dishwashers to light bulbs. Now that I help the program promote ENERGY STAR qualified consumer electronics, I am always looking around at what products people have in their homes to see if they are ENERGY STAR qualified.

I was pleased to see that my in-laws recently replaced their kitchen appliances and washing machine with ENERGY STAR qualified models. I also noticed that their electronics were ENERGY STAR qualified– the TV in the kitchen, the computer in the den, even the digital-to-analog adapter in the bedroom all had the familiar blue label.

When we went to our hotel in San Francisco, I also looked around at the electronics. Again I was pleased that not only was the television qualified, but so was the DVD player. The one electronic that did not have the label was the MP3 docking station. Since the hotel was built in 2006, perhaps they purchased these docking stations before the program started covering them in 2010.

My in-laws and the hotel in San Francisco have both taken small but important steps that make a big difference in protecting the climate. These little steps add up: if every TV, DVD player, and home theater system purchased in the United States this year earned the ENERGY STAR, we would prevent more than 10 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to the emissions from about a million cars. We would also save more than $700 million in annual energy costs. So the next time you are in the market for a new electronic, consider ENERGY STAR in your purchase.

About the author: Una Song works for EPA’s ENERGY STAR program focused on consumer electronics marketing. In her free time she plays tennis and likes to try new restaurants.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Celebrating Energy Star: 20 Years of Partnership, Promise, and Progress

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

This entry previously posted on Huffington Post

Twenty years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had a bold vision. With the increasing use of electronics in American households and business — including the introduction of personal computers that would soon be in every home and office across the country — the agency saw a need to conserve energy and reduce air pollution to create a healthier climate for all Americans. They saw an opportunity to harness market forces that would encourage both consumers and companies to invest in cleaner, more innovative, more energy-efficient products in sectors across the economy. The result was the Energy Star program.

In the two decades that have passed since it began, Energy Star has become a household name. Its familiar blue label appears on televisions, dishwashers, computers and more — upwards of five billion products sold in the last two decades. We’ve also certified more than 1.3 million Energy Star houses and tens of thousands of buildings across the country. American families and businesses have saved a combined total of nearly $230 billion dollars on their utility bills with help from Energy Star, and prevented more than 1.7 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

The program’s partnership with leading companies from every sector of the economy is proof positive that we can strengthen our economy at the same time we protect our environment. Consumers know that Energy Star means savings on the power bill, and they drive the change — voting with their dollars to support companies that make products that meet and exceed Energy Star standards. After 20 years, our vast network of partners gives Americans a wide-array of innovative choices for saving energy and cutting costs every day.

Energy Star is one of our great success stories, and it will play a vital role in our future. The challenges we face in growing our economy, the threats to our health from air pollution, and the need for action to protect our planet from climate change all demand serious energy and environmental solutions. In a comprehensive energy strategy, improving efficiency is at the top of the list.

Twenty years in, we still have a bold vision, one in which the Energy Star program helps millions of people — in the U.S. and around the world — save money, protect their health and the environment, and strengthen an economy that’s built to last.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Ready For Your Science Fair Project?

By Shanshan Lin

This month, students across the country are busily preparing for their annual science fair projects. If you are a student still pondering ideas for your investigation, a teacher looking for classroom resources, or a parent interested in helping your child find the perfect science fair project, EPA has free resources and tools for you.

Interested in climate change? Use the Greenhouse Gas Data Publication Tool to investigate local sources of carbon pollution. Are you wondering about your home’s impact on the climate? Check out the Household Emissions Calculator to explore the impacts of taking various actions to reduce your family’s greenhouse gas emissions. Want to learn first-hand about the effects of climate change on the natural world? Take a look at the student scientist guide to learn how to observe the impacts of climate change in your backyard.

Concerned about air quality? The Air Pollution: What is the Solution website uses real time data to help you understand about the science behind the causes and effects of outdoor air pollution.

Looking for information on acid rain or how to use pH paper? Check out EPA’s guide on the causes and effects of acid rain on ecosystems. The “Learning about Acid Rain: A Teacher’s Guide for Grades 6 through 8” provides detailed instructions for nine science experiments related to acidity and acid rain, including how to measure the pH of different substances.

Want to learn more about ozone layer? Sign up to receive the free SunWise tool kit, with over 50 activities about stratospheric ozone, ultraviolet radiation and how to stay safe in the sun.

So, get creative and check out these resources and see where they take your science fair project!

About the author: Shanshan Lin is an intern for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation communications team. She is also a graduate student at George Washington University.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Energy Efficiency Goes Hollywood

By Jill Vohr

Who knew? Red carpet events in Hollywood don’t always use red carpets. On February 19th, the world-wide premiere of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax involved all the fabulous movie stars you would expect to see—but on an ORANGE carpet.  The same color as the Lorax.

I was lucky enough to be there to support EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson as she kicked off an exciting educational partnership between Universal Studios and EPA’s ENERGY STAR program.

Working closely with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Lorax and EPA are helping kids make the connection between energy use and trees and our planet. We’re encouraging them and their families to think about the environmental implications of the purchases they make and the products they use. For example, if every American home replaced just one bulb with one that has earned the ENERGY STAR, we would prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year – the equivalent of planting more than 850,000 acres of trees. Now that’s a whole lot of Truffulas!

Through the chaos of people waiting for the stars and shouts from kids jumping around a maze of Truffula Trees and devouring Lorax-themed confections, I couldn’t help but think about what it was really all about . Endearing, feisty characters like the Lorax are great because they help kids understand the power they have to make a difference. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

If you have a child who wants to learn how easy and fun it can be to save energy, sign them up for EPA’s Team ENERGY STAR. Become part of our team and help change the world!

About the author: Jill Vohr is the Director of Marketing for EPA’s ENERGY STAR labeling branch. In her free time she is an artist and a happy mom to her 5-year-old daughter.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.