Climate and Conservation
Protecting and conserving our natural resources is a challenge of national importance. Being good stewards of our given resources means protecting the environment while also supporting responsible development of our Nation’s resources.
Since 2007, the U.S. has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by over 500 million metric tons. This effort has garnered international attention, yet there is still more to be done. Innovation and new technologies have paved the way for a cleaner future, even while other parts of the world produce ever greater shares of emissions.
Regulation is certainly warranted, but a focus on improving technology and techniques must remain a chief priority so we can achieve better, safer, cleaner outcomes in America and export that innovation to other parts of the world.
What’s the challenge?
The first challenge in understanding and combatting such a polarizing and complex topic as climate change is separating fact from fiction. This is harder than it seems, because on its own, data cannot prescribe policy or even inform the true nature of certain problems or solutions. All data must be interpreted, analyzed, and viewed through a framework, worldview, or set of assumptions. This is often then cast as a narrative. Critical, then, is understanding where positive descriptions end and normative judgments and policy prescriptions begin.
When we do get to policy, it is important have clearly defined goals. If the goal is to achieve lower carbon emissions, that can be done through reducing energy consumption, meeting demand with low-emissions or emissions free resources, or by improving technology, like energy storage, to better align energy production and consumption – or all of the above. This is where costs and benefits must also be central. Energy raises standards of living, lifts people out of poverty, allows the cultivation and transportation of food, goods, and resources, and warms or cools homes. Risking these things to lower global carbon emissions may be too costly for not enough practical benefit.
Finding those boundaries is essential for businesses, policymakers, and government bodies. Agreeing on the best course of action, however, remains a challenge. Adding to this is the problem that other nations produce greater emissions and have different policies and standards for enforcement.
What’s the solution?
There are many ways to approach climate and conservation challenges. These may be through economics, tax policy, innovation in the lab, or community efforts to plant trees and safeguard local wildlife. The two we focus on are innovation and resiliency.
There are virtually no problems that cannot be innovated around. When we wanted to put a man on the moon, we invented the math. Humans have incredible capacity to solve problems and imagine new possibilities.
Not long ago, the global climate challenge seemed insurmountable. Now, innovators are literally sucking carbon straight out of thin air. Power storage and batteries are improving and scaling at costs unheard of a decade ago – making wind and solar power more feasible. Scrubbers have taken the dirty air pollutants from coal out of the equation. These innovations tackle the global problem one element at a time.
We must have public policy and regulation that fosters innovation. That means encouraging innovators to try new things and bring them to the market, and not prescribing how they should go about different practices. We must limit new emissions and counteract the old ones through new technology that promotes higher standards of living and allows robust energy consumption.
We cannot control the climate, and while we should strive for cleaner, more efficient, and conservation-oriented solutions, threats to life and property are happening now. Whether storms are becoming more frequent, stronger, or remaining about the same, we know the damage that comes from a Category 5 hurricane or an F5 tornado.
Building infrastructure capable of withstanding any natural disaster or weather phenomenon – and avoiding blackouts when these instances occur – is every bit as impactful as efforts to mitigate future disasters through emissions reductions. Levees and flood management must be improved, undergrounding of utilities should be considered, and investments in a smarter grid are essential for living through the storms to come.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted new low sulfur fuel standards for cargo ships beginning in 2020. The rule requires ships to reduce the maximum sulfur content of their fuels to 0.5%, from the 3.5% standard currently in place. While on its face, the rule seems obscure and not relevant to day-to-day life, it could actually impact the cost of every product Americans buy and use…
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) unveiled joint proposed rule-making to revise tailpipe emission standards and average fuel economy standards for cars and light-duty trucks manufactured for model years 2021-2026. This announcement created a confrontation with California and raised questions about whether EPA has the authority to revoke California’s waiver…
In the two years, Texas experienced extensive flooding with estimates of more than 70 trillion gallons of rain hitting the state. This volume of rain equates to the entire state being covered in 16 inches of water. The flooding has led to loss of life and unprecedented damage to crops, private property, and public infrastructure. The nearly $10 billion in damaged property is a signifi- cant drag on the local economy and will likely have lasting devastating impacts on individuals and businesses within the state.
In 2014, there were a total of 4.1 billion Megawatt- hours (MWh) of electricity produced in the United States. This figure includes electricity produced from coal, petroleum, natural gas, nuclear hydroelectric, wind, solar, and geothermal and has remained relatively steady since 2005, with a low of 3.95 billion MWh in 2009 and a high of 4.16 billion MWh in 2007. How energy is produced, however, has changed dramatically over this time period…
Access to affordable, reliable energy is the cornerstone of a strong economy and first-world living standards. The U.S. electric grid has served as the backbone of the U.S. economy, expanding and evolving along the way. As new energy technologies continue to emerge and growing amounts of distributed energy resources (“DER”) come online, the grid will serve as a critical enabler of these technologies…
This paper examines the opportunities and challenges surrounding the creation of a common energy market within the European Union (EU). With particular attention to contemporary economics, current politics and European history, it will identify the frictions and missteps that have kept the internal market from being truly unified…
Developing policy to regulate foreign relations and trade is a culmination of factors which states rely on to create and maintain guidelines to ap- proach foreign nations. These set of standards consist of strategies aimed at maintaining the self-interest of the state to secure its national interests and to carry- out state goals within the realm of separate foreign agencies and the overall international domain…
As the immense tragedy in Australia continues apace, helpless onlookers are grappling for emotionally and intellectually satisfying explanations. How could such a conflagration begin, grow, and seemingly thwart all efforts to extinguish? As human lives are threatened, property burns, and animal losses rise to nearly incalculable tolls…
To many, the Tesla brand has become synonymous with sustainability, an unprecedented feat considering the automobile industry has often been deemed the antithesis of a ‘green’ enterprise. Even when disregarding Tesla’s SolarCity subsidiary and other sustainable ventures, Tesla has pioneered the production of innovative electric vehicles and has prevented over 3,552,300 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere…
Hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters can be truly devastating. Not only are precious lives lost, but property damage can decimate local communities and business activity. As concerns over climate change cause many to fear stronger or more frequent storms, one simple solution stands ready to protect lives, economic activity, and property.
Environmentalists and activists on the further reaches of the green movement occasionally go as far as to say ‘leave all fossil fuels in the ground.’ While a legitimate fear of climate change may make this view understandable, it is ultimately misguided. Modern life unequivocally requires fossil fuels, but that doesn’t mean we must be dependent on them for energy forever.