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Coal’s death spiral, in 3 charts

The latest reports suggest that coal has the equivalent of black-lung disease: the condition is chronic, and the long-term prognosis is dire.

Power companies plan to shutter more than 10 big coal plants in 2018, extinguishing a major portion of coal burning in the United States (see the map below). According to projections released by the Energy Information Administration this week, coal-fired plants will produce less than 30 percent of the electricity Americans use this year. Back in 2000, coal provided more than half of our electricity. Cheap natural gas has knocked coal out of competition.

2018 will be a bad year to be a gray dot.

EIA

This year is expected be a big one for coal-plant retirements but, as you can see below, so was 2015, and 2012, and, well, much of the past decade.

Pretty much all the plants shutting down are fossil-fuel plants.EIA

“Coal in the U.S. might not be dead, but it is in a death spiral,” said Alex Gilbert, of the energy research firm SparkLibrary. “Coal’s demise is inevitable, but it can still emit significant greenhouse gas and other emissions on its way out. The main policy question now is whether the death spiral should be a decade long or decades long.”

What pushed coal power into the death spiral? In a word, fracking. A crackdown on toxic pollution and the rise of wind and solar power, too. If you look at this map of plants scheduled to open this year, it’s all renewables and gas.

Look at all those renewables… and gas plants.EIA

Gilbert said coal companies also played a supporting role in the dirty fuel’s demise. “Coal’s decline is mainly due to market competition with natural gas with regulations playing a secondary role,” he said. “Fundamentally, however, coal is dying because the industry decided to fight changing times. Instead of innovating into a 21st-century compatible energy source, they played politics.”

So, what does all this mean for greenhouse-gas emissions? Well, even if we stop burning coal, it wouldn’t be enough to solve our emissions problems. And as we squeeze carbon out of our electrical system, carbon emissions from cars, industry, and heating are all going up. That’s consistent with a long term trend.

“Between 2005 and 2016, almost 80 percent of the reduction in energy-related CO2 emissions in the U.S. came from the electric power sector,” wrote Trevor Houser and Peter Marsters of the Rhodium Group, a company which analyzes energy trends. To get greenhouse-gas emissions down, other sectors have to play a larger role.

Rhodium Group

This year, people are expected to drive more, and a growing economy will cause industry to ramp up. All told, the United States is likely to pump out more greenhouse gases this year, according to the new data from the EIA.

“After declining by 1.0 percent in 2017, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are forecast to increase by 1.7 percent in 2018,” the EIA wrote.

It looks like our biggest problem is no longer coal. It’s cars.

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Coal’s death spiral, in 3 charts

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France just joined the movement to ban fossil-fueled cars.

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France just joined the movement to ban fossil-fueled cars.

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Trump Railed Against China While Abandoning Paris. His Views Are Wildly Outdated.

Mother Jones

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President Donald Trump announced Wednesday afternoon that the US will abandon the historic Paris climate agreement—promising to “begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States.”

In doing so, Trump characteristically railed against China—labeling it an economic foe and arguing it got the best end of the deal. “They can do whatever they want in 13 years, not us,” he said of China’s emissions plans. Casting the deal as an erosion of US sovereignty, Trump added that “the rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris agreement. They went wild. They were so happy. For the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage.”

But here’s the reality: In the Paris agreement, China, for the first time, set a date at which it expects its climate emissions will “peak,” or finally begin to taper downward: around 2030. That goal came about after the US and China finally brokered a landmark bilateral climate deal in 2014 to work together. China has always argued it’s unfair for developed countries—who have already enjoyed the economic growth that comes with spewing carbon into the atmosphere—to curtail the growth of developing countries like China. So getting China to agree to “peaking” emissions was a major diplomatic break-through that turned out to be the secret sauce the world needed to come together in Paris.

The president’s view of China is outdated. Here’s what Trump left out:

China is already ahead of schedule. As we reported in March 2016, Chinese emissions may have actually peaked in 2014, and if those emissions didn’t peak in 2014, researchers say, they definitely will by 2025, years ahead of China’s official 2030 goal. Chinese coal consumption dropped 3.7 percent in 2015, marking two years in a row that coal use in the country declined. That meant 2015 was the first year in 15 years that carbon emissions dropped in China, according to the World Resources Institute.

China is far surpassing the US on investment to create clean energy jobs. In February, China announced that it would spent $361 billion over the next couple of years to create 13 million green jobs, according to the country’s National Energy Administration.

China is winning on clean energy technology. In 2016, a Chinese firm topped a global ranking for wind energy production for the first time, beating America’s General Electric. China leads the world in solar energy production—and has done so for some time. (Go inside one of the world’s biggest solar manufacturing plants with me, here.)

This year China is slated to launch the world’s biggest national carbon trading marketstitching together seven pilot carbon trading markets which have been up and running since 2013.

China overtook the US as the world’s biggest market for electric vehicles in 2015—and has a big plans for expansion. “We are convinced China will become the leading market for electro-mobility,” said Volkswagen brand chief Herbert Diess at a recent Shanghai car show.

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Trump Railed Against China While Abandoning Paris. His Views Are Wildly Outdated.

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We just hit 410 ppm of CO2. Welcome to a whole new world.

That’s as much as Germany’s yearly emissions.

It’s hardly the first example of a business charging ahead on climate change mitigation while governments dither. Pretty much every giant corporation has made a commitment to reduce its emissions: food titan Unilever, everything maker General Electric, and IKEA (where you get your OMLOPPs), and on and on.

But what Walmart does matters. The company is such a behemoth that its policy changes trigger transformation around the globe. Walmart is the 10th largest economic entity in the world, after Canada, so this effort, dubbed “Project Gigaton,” is akin to every Canadian signing on to a strict sustainability plan.

Most of Walmart’s environmental footprint comes from other businesses extracting raw materials to manufacture Walmart’s products. So it will be pushing its suppliers to clean up their act, aiming to slash a gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain.

The Environmental Defense Fund has been working with Walmart to cut its emissions for years, and so there’s a track record here. In 2010, Walmart pledged to cut 28 million metric tons (like removing 6 million cars from the road), then surpassed that goal in five years. Now, they’re aiming to meet a goal 35 times larger, by 2030.

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We just hit 410 ppm of CO2. Welcome to a whole new world.

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Walmart just pledged to eliminate a billion tons of greenhouse gas.

That’s as much as Germany’s yearly emissions.

It’s hardly the first example of a business charging ahead on climate change mitigation while governments dither. Pretty much every giant corporation has made a commitment to reduce its emissions: food titan Unilever, everything maker General Electric, and IKEA (where you get your OMLOPPs), and on and on.

But what Walmart does matters. The company is such a behemoth that its policy changes trigger transformation around the globe. Walmart is the 10th largest economic entity in the world, after Canada, so this effort, dubbed “Project Gigaton,” is akin to every Canadian signing on to a strict sustainability plan.

Most of Walmart’s environmental footprint comes from other businesses extracting raw materials to manufacture Walmart’s products. So it will be pushing its suppliers to clean up their act, aiming to slash a gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain.

The Environmental Defense Fund has been working with Walmart to cut its emissions for years, and so there’s a track record here. In 2010, Walmart pledged to cut 28 million metric tons (like removing 6 million cars from the road), then surpassed that goal in five years. Now, they’re aiming to meet a goal 35 times larger, by 2030.

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Walmart just pledged to eliminate a billion tons of greenhouse gas.

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Gigantic icebergs have come to Canada, and the internet is losing its mind.

That’s as much as Germany’s yearly emissions.

It’s hardly the first example of a business charging ahead on climate change mitigation while governments dither. Pretty much every giant corporation has made a commitment to reduce its emissions: food titan Unilever, everything maker General Electric, and IKEA (where you get your OMLOPPs), and on and on.

But what Walmart does matters. The company is such a behemoth that its policy changes trigger transformation around the globe. Walmart is the 10th largest economic entity in the world, after Canada, so this effort, dubbed “Project Gigaton,” is akin to every Canadian signing on to a strict sustainability plan.

Most of Walmart’s environmental footprint comes from other businesses extracting raw materials to manufacture Walmart’s products. So it will be pushing its suppliers to clean up their act, aiming to slash a gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain.

The Environmental Defense Fund has been working with Walmart to cut its emissions for years, and so there’s a track record here. In 2010, Walmart pledged to cut 28 million metric tons (like removing 6 million cars from the road), then surpassed that goal in five years. Now, they’re aiming to meet a goal 35 times larger, by 2030.

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Gigantic icebergs have come to Canada, and the internet is losing its mind.

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Trump Wants to Decimate Superfund. Here’s Why That Is Such a Terrible Idea.

Mother Jones

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When the White House unveiled its proposed budget for the upcoming year, environmentalists were outraged by the numbers. The Environmental Protection Agency is facing a steep 31 percent budget cut, and included in this were massive cuts to Superfund, a 37-year-old EPA program that cleans up and restores heavily polluted areas across the country. The proposal calls for reducing funding for the Superfund program from over $1 billion to just $762 million.

Superfund was created through the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act in 1980 on the heels of the Love Canal disaster, when a massive landfill that was used as a municipal and chemical dumping ground caused countless environmental and health problems for an entire upstate New York community, including homes and a school. More than 1,700 sites have been added to the list since 1980, but as of 2013, only 370 had been cleaned up and removed from the list. The overwhelming majority continue to be in different stages of cleanup. One example is East Chicago, Indiana, which EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt plans to visit on April 19. The town, which is mostly low-income, Latino, and black, is home to a USS Lead Superfund site—the old lead facility has contaminated soil with lead and arsenic.

But the Trump budget proposal could impede this progress and leave millions of Americans living near dangerous pollutants. “These sites pose devastating threats to the health of millions of people, including children, who live nearby,” Nancy Loeb, the director of the Environmental Advocacy Center, wrote in an op-ed for The Hill.

The proposed cuts might not halt the cleanups entirely but would substantially slow them down. Superfund sites tend to be located near lower-income neighborhoods and minority communities. According to the EPA, approximately 53 million people live within three miles of a Superfund site and 46 percent of them belong to a minority race—15 percent are below the poverty level.

It’s not just funds for cleanup that are in danger; so are the Superfund enforcement funds, the resources the EPA uses to hold companies and entities accountable. The proposal calls for a cut of nearly $29 million. According to a National Association of Clean Air Agencies report, “Without EPA’s enforcement, companies could avoid reporting, or minimize the reported amount of toxic materials released to the environment.” Under the Superfund law, in 2005 the EPA was able to hold General Electric accountable for dumping PCBs, a toxic chemical used in the manufacturing of electrical devices, into the Hudson River in New York for 30 years.

There are Superfund sites in every single state, the District of Columbia, and US territories, with more than 100 designated areas in New Jersey alone. This state is home to the most sites in anywhere in the country, and local officials are bracing for the impact of Trump cuts.

Consider Camden County, where from the mid-1800s until 1977, the company that would later become Sherwin-Williams dumped chemicals into Hilliards creek and constructed improper storage facilities that also leaked contaminants. The creek flows for more than a mile into Kirkwood Lake, which has also become contaminated; the soil in residential neighborhoods has been polluted too. What was once an idyllic backdrop for homes is now a shallow, dirty, mosquito haven. There have not been any reported health issues associated with the site, but there is a fish advisory because the lake is polluted with lead and arsenic.

The Superfund site was added to the National Priorities List in 2008, after contamination was found at the former site of the plant, but movement on the cleanup has moved at a glacial pace. “Thanks to an uprising in the community, the EPA and Sherwin-Williams began some of the residential cleanup,” Jeff Nash a Camden County elected representative, tells Mother Jones. For years, community members called on the EPA to begin the cleanup at the site. In 2014, the EPA, Sherwin-Williams, and Camden County held talks about taking steps to begin the process. But by April 2015, no concrete action had been taken, and property owners living near Kirkwood Lake protested the delays outside of a Sherwin-Williams paint store. Six months later, the EPA announced it had finalized a plan to begin removing contaminated soil near dozens of residential properties. There is no plan for cleaning the lake yet.

“It’s also a property tax nightmare—you can’t sell your house because it’s on a Superfund site,” Nash continued. The property values of known contaminated areas tend to fall drastically. “There has finally been some movement” on cleaning up the site in the last couple of years, he says, but there are fears that the Trump budget could upend all the progress. “From a county perspective, we’re very worried about it.”

Despite the Trump budget numbers, EPA chief Scott Pruitt has voiced his support of the Superfund program. Last month, he told the U.S. Conference of Mayors, “Superfund is an area that is absolutely essential.”

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Trump Wants to Decimate Superfund. Here’s Why That Is Such a Terrible Idea.

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Nanotechnology just netted its first Nobel.

It all has to do with “molecular machines” — teeny devices made out of individual atoms — that mark the start of a wave of nano-innovation that could drastically change, well, a LOT. You want transparent solar panels? Tiny, super-efficient supercomputers? Cancer-killing robots that wander your bloodstream like assassin Ms. Frizzles? Nanotechnology could be the way.

The three winners — Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir James Frasier Stoddart, and Bernard L. Feringa — will split the $930,000 prize for their work, including building a “molecular motor,” a light-powered device powerful enough to rotate a glass tube 10,000 times its size.

“The molecular motor is at the same stage as the electric motor was in the 1830s, when scientists displayed various spinning cranks and wheels, unaware that they would lead to electric trains, washing machines, fans, and food processors,” the Nobel committee said in the press release announcing the prize.

Of course, nanomaterials come with some troubling potential side effects, from extra-sharp nanotubes that could act like asbestos in the lungs to teeny tiny pesticide nanodroplets that might never go away. But the Nobel committee, for one, is betting that these technologies, deployed correctly, have a whole lot of good to offer us.

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Nanotechnology just netted its first Nobel.

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October hurricanes aren’t supposed to be this scary.

It all has to do with “molecular machines” — teeny devices made out of individual atoms — that mark the start of a wave of nano-innovation that could drastically change, well, a LOT. You want transparent solar panels? Tiny, super-efficient supercomputers? Cancer-killing robots that wander your bloodstream like assassin Ms. Frizzles? Nanotechnology could be the way.

The three winners — Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir James Frasier Stoddart, and Bernard L. Feringa — will split the $930,000 prize for their work, including building a “molecular motor,” a light-powered device powerful enough to rotate a glass tube 10,000 times its size.

“The molecular motor is at the same stage as the electric motor was in the 1830s, when scientists displayed various spinning cranks and wheels, unaware that they would lead to electric trains, washing machines, fans, and food processors,” the Nobel committee said in the press release announcing the prize.

Of course, nanomaterials come with some troubling potential side effects, from extra-sharp nanotubes that could act like asbestos in the lungs to teeny tiny pesticide nanodroplets that might never go away. But the Nobel committee, for one, is betting that these technologies, deployed correctly, have a whole lot of good to offer us.

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October hurricanes aren’t supposed to be this scary.

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41 Insane Facts About Tesla Motors

It can sometimes feel like 21st century history is being written by a handful of entrepreneurs and their organizations: chances are that generations to come will talk of Elon Musk in the same way that we rememberHenry Ford, who famously said “The remains of the old must be decently laid away; the path of the new prepared. That is the different between revolution and progress”. Both are visionaries who have changed the way we think about vehicle manufacture and performance, and each has embraced the spirit of their time and applied it to their business and engineering strategies. But while Ford is by now an established historical figure, Musk is still living out his story.

The entrepreneursdual background in economics and physics, combined with a canny eye for the zeitgeist, has provided the right chemistry to cook up his $12.1 billion fortune. And while Paypal is long behind him and space tourism plays a big part in his future plans, Musks Tesla Motors concern remains very much in the present. The manufacturers first half-decade ended in failure, with thescrapping of their flagship Roadster vehicle but Musk and his organization have never lost faith in the inevitability of the dominance of electric cars. With a staff of 14,000 and a market value of $33.5 billion from which Musk draws a salary of just a dollar a year Teslas wedge of the industry has grown to reflect the vision of its iconic boss.

Of course, bubbles have burst before, and weve seen many a hubristic entrepreneur wade too deep into a river of their own hype; but like Ford before him, Musks success and his potential rests on his informed vision of not just how the world will look tomorrow or next year, but in ten, twenty, fifty years time. Teslas lithium-ion battery Gigafactory, for example, will be powered by 100% renewable energy remarkable, considering it will be the second largest building in the world. Such scale, vision and conscientiousness is why Tesla is a major, major company to keep an eye on and you can begin by checking out some of the startling facts and figures in this smart new infographic.

This post originally appeared on Jennings Motor Group.

Photo Credit: Herman Caroan/Flickr

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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41 Insane Facts About Tesla Motors

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