Table Of Contents

    Many states along the Atlantic coast are beginning to embrace offshore wind energy development. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy via


    Energy Department: U.S. Carbon Footprint Projected to Remain Flat Through 2050

    The U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) 2018 Annual Energy Outlook projected that the country's carbon footprint would slightly increase from today's levels by 2050 and that the United States could potentially consume nearly all of the world’s remaining carbon budget by mid-century. Industrial carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are projected to increase by 0.6 percent annually, while commercial and residential emissions remain relatively stable. Natural gas is expected to be the largest source of electricity in the future, while wind and solar are projected to account for the greatest growth in generating capacity. The report's reference case is based on the assumption that current energy policies and laws remain the same, with additional assumptions based on economic developments, energy prices, and the emergence of new technologies. Thus, the projections reflect the Trump administration’s retreat from greenhouse gas mitigation policies over the past year. EIA's modeling approach has been criticized in the past for undercounting the future impact of renewable energy, electric vehicles, and other tools for decarbonization.

    For more information see:

    InsideClimate News, EIA


    Housing Crisis in Puerto Rico Leaves Many Worried for the Future

    In Puerto Rico, there are about 1.7 million people living in illegally constructed “informal” homes. After Hurricane Maria, many residents’ only option was rebuilding their makeshift homes to the same poor standard they were before, since the local government can’t afford to help them. Hurricane Maria damaged more than a third of the U.S. territory's occupied homes, while most of the victims lacked hazard or flood insurance. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will be supplying most of the federal aid for housing issues, but the $26 billion authorized by Congress is only a fraction of the $94 billion that Puerto Rico requested. FEMA has capped disaster aid for individuals at $33,300, though typically it has been providing even smaller grants under strict issuance guidelines. Many residents are taking these small grants and attempting to rebuild their makeshift homes, leaving themselves vulnerable to future storms. The Puerto Rican government has called for the construction of as many as 70,000 homes to address the crisis.

    For more information see:



    U.S. Virgin Island Residents Concerned about Long-Term Economic Recovery from Hurricanes

    More than four months have passed since Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the U.S. Virgin Islands. As its residents rebuild, many worry that the storms may have a lasting impact on the state of the middle class there. Roughly 18,500 homes and businesses have been damaged or destroyed by the storms, and although FEMA distributed more than $600 million in assistance services, many residents are still suffering from job loss, a lack of insurance, and the limits of what federal aid can actually achieve. Some retirees on the island invested heavily in their homes and have few options following the storm's destruction. Gov. Kenneth Mapp has requested $7.5 billion in funding to help rebuild hospitals, schools, ports, and the energy grid. Congress has yet to respond to the U.S. territory's request for aid, instead agreeing to deliver $900 million over three years to support the U.S. Virgin Islands' finances. Delegate Stacey Plaskett (D) has called for individualized aid packages for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

    For more information see:

    Washington Post


    Oil-Rich Saudi Arabia Turning to Renewable Energy

    Saudi Arabia is pushing ahead with renewable energy, aiming to diversify its energy mix and boost its economy. It has planned to invest up to $7 billion on seven solar energy plants and one wind farm by 2018, with the goal of generating 10 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2023. Saudi Arabia drafted ambitious renewable energy development plans several years ago, but did not begin to seriously prioritize wind and solar projects until 2016. Bids received for a planned solar farm in northern Saudi Arabia hit the lowest price ever recorded for such an auction. The cost of two to three cents per kilowatt-hour would allow the project to out-compete fossil fuel-generated electricity. Saudi Arabia is further motivated to transition away from fossil fuel use so that it can sell its oil and gas for profit, rather than local power generation. In June 2016, the country's power plants burned an average of 680,000 barrels of oil per day, which could have generated $47 million a day if it had been sold on the international market instead.

    For more information see:

    New York Times


    Definition of "Resiliency" at Center of Government Response to Climate Risks

    Nearly $90 billion in disaster relief for Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico was included in the two-year budget deal Congress passed and the President signed into law on February 9. The measure included language that would require post-disaster reconstruction to be resilient and lessen future risks. The provision has sparked a debate among policymakers, engineers, scientists, and urban planners about what it means to build resiliently. The law requires the director of FEMA to develop a definition for resilience within 18 months. Past government efforts may provide guidance for this endeavor, including the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, which would amend the Stafford Act to require resilient rebuilding. A recent study by the National Institute of Building Sciences estimated that for every dollar of federal investment in disaster mitigation, the country saves six dollars in future costs. Richard Wright, a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, said that new engineering standards must be developed for buildings to better withstand the severe weather events generated by climate change.

    For more information see:

    E&E News


    Atlantic Coast States Are Embracing Offshore Wind Over Oil

    Many state governments are resisting the Trump administration's call for expanded offshore oil drilling and pursuing wind energy instead. Massachusetts has set a goal of 1,600 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind by 2027, while New York is pursuing 2,400 MW by 2030. Newly elected New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) recently announced his state will aim for 3,500 MW of installed offshore wind capacity by 2030. The country's first offshore wind farm near Block Island, RI started generating electricity in 2016. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has already issued 13 wind energy leases off the Atlantic Coast. Although the Bureau's draft proposal for oil and gas leasing would have to "coordinate" with any future or current wind development, it's unclear if the two industries will ever clash over ocean plots. Regarding how the public may respond to these developments, Alison Bates of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst observed, "Certainly, communities differ in how they view these installations, but overall, people may be more supportive [of wind] if the choice is wind or oil and gas."

    For more information see:

    Scientific American

    Active Carbon Removal Remains a Vital, but Distant Technology

    Scientists have become increasingly concerned with how to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. The deployment of carbon removal technologies was actually included in the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report outlining greenhouse gas emission reduction scenarios. A new report by the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC), reviewed and endorsed by the national academies of more than 24 countries, found that limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius or less appears unlikely. The report argues that in order to achieve the 2 degree C emissions scenario, the new technologies must remove at least 11 billion tons of CO2 per year by 2050. The report found that none of the CO2 removal technologies are currently on track to scale up to the necessary levels. Methods that are accessible today, such as reforestation and storing carbon in agricultural soils, continue to be undercut by human activities and degradation.

    For more information see:



    Scientists Observe Ozone Depletion Over Populated Areas

    Actions taken through the Montreal Protocol were successful in restoring ozone in the upper stratosphere, but new research shows that non-polar regions, from Alaska to the tip of South America, are facing ozone depletion in the lower stratosphere. This puts the billions of people living in these regions at risk, as lower amounts of atmospheric ozone means less protection from intense cancer-causing UV rays. Potential causes include global warming and its strengthening of circulation currents that move ozone to the poles. “Very short lived substances,” or industrial chemicals that destroy ozone, are also being reconsidered after previously being dismissed as breaking down too quickly to incur any ozone damage. The specific chemical suspect is dichloromethane, used in paint stripper and aerosol sprays, whose levels have doubled in the past ten years. William Ball, of ETH Zurich University, said, “The finding of declining low-latitude ozone is surprising, since our current best atmospheric circulation models do not predict this effect. Very short-lived substances could be the missing factor in these models.”

    For more information see:



    Arctic Permafrost May Unleash Dangerous Amounts of Mercury

    On February 5, U.S. government scientists announced that in addition to containing vast amounts of carbon, Arctic permafrost has been harboring mercury since the last Ice Age, specifically 32 million gallons worth, which is "twice as much mercury as the rest of all soils, the atmosphere, and ocean combined." As global temperatures rise and permafrost thaws, mercury will be released into the world, affecting humans and the food supply. Normally, as plants die, they decompose and mercury is released back into the atmosphere at a steady rate. In the Arctic, however, the plants freeze without fully decomposing, trapping the mercury until it is warm enough for it to be released. Scientists predict that with current emission levels remaining constant throughout the 21st century, permafrost could shrink between 30 and 99 percent, freeing vast amounts of mercury. It is not yet clear where all this released mercury would go, but it would be damaging to humans and wildlife.

    For more information see:

    Washington Post


    Study: California's Farms Are a Major Source of Air Pollution

    A new study found that farmland in California is a major contributor to nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution. The source of the problem lies in the heavy use of fertilizers for growing fruits and vegetables in California’s Central Valley. The crops absorb around half of the fertilizer's nitrogen, allowing some of the leftovers to be digested by microbes in the soil. These microbes produce NOx that reacts with light and organic matter in the atmosphere to form ozone, which harms respiratory health. Researchers decided to focus on the Central Valley after noticing that five of the ten worst American cities for ozone pollution were located there. After accounting for other contributing factors, they found that 20-32 percent of California's NOx emissions originated from cropland, versus the 29-36 percent produced by on-road motor vehicles. The researchers ran their estimates for NOx emissions from the soil against projections from the California Air Resources Board for fossil fuel-derived NOx emissions and achieved similar results.

    For more information see:

    Scientific American



    EPA Enforcement Actions Have Declined Significantly Under Trump Administration

    Trump Reportedly Still Undecided on Kigali Amendment to Phase-Out HFCs

    Trump Administration Fails to Submit Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report to United Nations

    Federal Disaster Relief Contains Floodplain Construction Requirements Formerly Maligned by White House

    Flood-Prone Areas Contain 2,500 Industrial Sites Housing Toxic Chemicals


    Writers: Jieyi Lu, Joanne Zulinski, and Pietro Morabito
    Editor: Brian La Shier