Planet

  1. Energy
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Planet
  4. Science

How it works

  • When microorganisms (e.g.bacteria) break down organic matter like manure and food waste anaerobically (without oxygen), biogas is released. Bio gas consists primarily of carbon dioxide and methane - one of the primary components of natural gas.
  • Farmers place animal manure, food waste and agricultural waste in an anaerobic digester with a pipe to extract the gas.
  • The solid byproduct is used as livestock bedding, soil amendments or in biodegradable planting pots, and the liquid byproduct is a nutrient-rich fertilizer.

Benefits of Biogas-based Energy

  1. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Biodigesters divert carbon dioxide and methane that would normally be released into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gas emissions from a dairy farm can be reduced by 35% when biogas-based electricity replaces grid-based electricity.
  2. Cost savings. On-site biodigesters help farmers save on electricity bills and fertilizer. A farmer told The Washington Post that he saved anywhere from $75,000 to $100,000 a year on electricity, heating, fertilizer, and animal bedding with a biodigester.
  3. Renewable. Biogas is generally considered renewable as it is produced by animal and plant waste and the source is not limited in quantity like coal or natural gas.

Bottom Line

  • Biogas generation is becoming increasingly popular. From 2000 to 2020, the number of operational anaerobic digesters in the United States has grown from 24 to 255.
  • Biogas is a popular mode of energy production in India and China, which have 4.54 million and 27 million biogas plants respectively.
  • As the world divests from fossil fuels, new and varied energy sources will be necessary to satisfy the energy needs of the world and biogas can help. Biogas just goes to show you that not all waste is useless. One cow’s waste is another man’s treasure.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Energy and Environment
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
  4. Thinking

The scoop Market research firm JD Power released a new index based on environmental, social and governance (ESG).

Key findings

  • Consumer awareness and engagement with utility climate initiatives are very low
  • Most concerned cities: NYC, LA and Portland are most concerned cities on climate change
  • Climate change skeptics: Wyoming and Alabama have the largest percentages of climate change skeptics
  • Business customers more engaged in sustainability than residential customers

Why it matters Sustainability has a communication and education problem. Companies in traditional industries like electricity need to adapt marketing initiatives to match 21st century tools, and communicate better with consumers.

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Climate Change
  2. Federal
  3. People
  4. Planet
  5. Politics and Policy

What to know Congress passed the Air Pollution Control Act (APCA) in 1955, which funded federal air pollution research but did not require or give power to the federal government to regulate air pollution.

The Clear Air Act of 1963 permitted the government to control air pollution in certain capacities. In 1999, several citizens, conservation, and environmental groups filed a petition for the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate air pollution under this act.

The EPA denied the petition, and Massachusetts and several other states filed a class action lawsuit against the EPA to fight for the American people’s right to live in safe environments with clear air.

After a lengthy debate over the ambiguity of the Clean Air Act’s language, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Massachusetts in a 5-4 decision.

Key Takeaways The EPA cannot decline to issue emission standards for motor vehicles based on policy considerations not specifically enumerated in the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Some of the progressive rules that resulted from this case, such as the Clean Car and Clean Truck Standards, were recently minimized by the Trump administration in the beginning stages of the pandemic.

Bottom line The government will continue its ableism (discrimination in favor of able-bodied people) without public pressure and scrutiny, so we must come together to vote and advocate for accelerated climate change action.

Dig deeper --> 3 min

  1. Climate Change
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Land
  4. Planet
  5. Science

What to know

  • Over 332 active fires are burning over 1.6 million hectares of land in Siberia
  • Parts of the Arctic Circle have been burning since July 2019
  • These wildfires originated from a combination of natural causes including temperatures reaching 30 ℃, wind, and dry thunderstorms
  • The cost-benefit ratio of saving these ecosystems indicates that Siberia should let the wildfires burn until rain comes because most of them are not directly endangering civilization
  • These fires are so humongous their smoke blew across the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea to reach Oregon, Alaska, and Canada

Key Takeaway

  • Wildfires are destroying valuable ecosystems in the Arctic Circle
  • High temperatures melted the permafrost early, releasing the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trapped underneath and contributing to climate change
  • Temperatures in the Arctic Circle reached record highs within the past six months, only exacerbating the fires
  • Human-caused climate change intensified these fires in a variety of ways
  • We must act on climate change before other extreme weather events begin to seriously affect a greater number of humans

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Better Markets
  2. Energy
  3. Energy and Environment
  4. Planet

The scoop The price of crude oil plummeted following the outbreak of the novel COVID-19. As 2020 began, Brent crude oil - the global oil benchmark - cost $64/barrel. By April 21st, 2020, the price had dropped to $17/barrel. What happened? 

Future of Oil

  • The volatility and steep decline in oil prices may lead some producers to shut down operations. Shale oil extraction pioneer Chesapeake Energy recently declared bankruptcy. Many oil giants are delaying expansion projects.
  • Investors are now less inclined to invest in oil & gas --  lower prices = greater risk, less profit. Energy was the worst performing sector in the S&P 500 index for four out of the last six years.

Environmental impact Climate awareness already poses a threat to Big Oil. With this economic crisis, investors might turn to renewable energy. Renewables are more price stable, cheap, and cost-competitive, even during low prices of oil.

Bottom Line It’s impossible to predict the future. Big Oil will certainly survive the pandemic, but its century-long domination of energy may soon end. One thing’s for sure -- clean technology has a strong outlook, and can certainly give oil and gas companies a run for their money. Not only from its greenness, but also in its economics.

Dig deeper → 6 min

  1. Animals
  2. Climate Change
  3. Energy and Environment
  4. Planet
  5. Science
  6. Water

The scoop Whales accumulate carbon throughout their lifetime and die with it on the ocean floor. So they save around 33 tons of carbon from the atmosphere each.

Why it matters Today, whales number approximately 1.3 million, and conservation efforts to return them to their 4-5 million pre-whaling population could significantly reduce the greenhouse effect by lowering atmospheric carbon dioxide. However, they are constantly at threat of being hunted.

Big picture Recovering the global whale population to even half its original size is no easy feat, but we must do all in our power to multiply whale species’ populations in all of Earth’s oceans. Regardless of whether a high-tech carbon sequestration tool becomes widely available, harnessing the carbon-capturing power of these beautiful creatures will always positively enhance our atmosphere and marine ecosystems.

Dig deeper --> 3 min read

  1. Animals
  2. Better Brands
  3. Better Business
  4. Business
  5. Profit

The scoop John Tyson, Chairman of Tyson Foods, sent out a dire message about the global food chain supply breaking as millions of chickens, cattle and pigs face euthanasia due to widespread closures of slaughter houses. 

Where it stands

  • Meat processing plants across America face closure due to the pandemic. 
  • Processing plants use the ’just in time’ inventory system.
    • Animals have limited processing time, after which they get too big and loses their monetary value for companies such as Tyson.
  • It is difficult for meat processors to pivot between varying amounts of demand, exposing its shortcomings as a reliable form of food production. 

What are the main concerns?

  • Most meat processing plants operate in counties in America worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • Thousands of animals and workers in these poorly-sanitised plants remain in close proximity to one other. 
  • The chances of infections spreading are incredibly high in the plants, with over 5,000 meat workers and 1,500 workers contracting the virus since April. 
  • Meat processing systems lack a vital aspect of sustainability: resilience. 

Zoom out Farmers have discarded millions of pounds of edible food due to the virus and warn of increased food security concerns. Almost 30-40% of food is wasted in America, equivalent to an estimated value of $162 billion every year. 

Bottom Line Our food systems need to focus on resilience plans moving forward, making them more adaptable and decentralised to effectively deal with external disturbances such as a pandemic.

Dig deeper → 5 min

  1. Energy and Environment
  2. People
  3. Planet
  4. Politics and Policy
  5. Water

Big picture Did you know that 44 nations could disappear under the sea within your lifetime? Pacific Islanders face a desperate need for climate action.

What to know Back in 2017, I had the privilege to attend as a student observer at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) International Conference of the Parties (COP 23) in Bonn, Germany.

The most striking presentation involved a group of representatives of the SIDS (small island developing states). The Pacific Climate Warriors spoke about the urgency of their daily and ever-present struggle against climate change.

A 2008 UN report found that the response of island nations to climate change is largely project-based, ad hoc, and heavily dependent on external resources. Australia and New Zealand have contributed financial support to adaptation efforts.

Bottom line For Pacific Islanders, climate action is more than just a school project, it is an existential threat.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Earth Week
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Planet

Below, we finish Earth Week ranking the top 10 most important environmental moments since 1970. Let us know what you think!

#10: Three Mile Island (1979)

As we discussed earlier this week, Three Mile Island marked an inflection point in the global use of nuclear power. Without a vivid reminder of the grave risks of nuclear power, perhaps our fossil fuel addiction would have been weaned far earlier. Nonetheless, as cheap and renewable energy prevails, it’s quite plausible to imagine a cleaner grid in the not-too-distant future.

#9: Kyoto Protocol (1997)

As we wrote on Tuesday, Kyoto was the first first international treaty aimed at controlling and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Nonetheless, it highlighted boiling tensions regarding the division of responsibility between developed and developing nations, a question that to this day inhibits global cooperation on climate change.

#8: James Hansen (1988)

image of old building on american banknote
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Academics and other observers mark Hansen’s 1988 testimony as a tipping point in climate science and broad-based understanding of climate change, particularly within governmental bodies like the US Congress.… Read the rest

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