Category Archives: resource use

Energy Policy Now: The Future of the EPA and Clean Power

Featuring Gina McCarthy, former EPA Administrator

October 7th, 2017

This week the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy honored former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy with its annual Carnot Prize in celebration of her contributions to environmental policy and to securing a sustainable energy future during her tenure with the EPA.  While visiting the Center McCarthy sat down with the Energy Policy Now podcast to discuss the direction of the EPA under current Administrator Scott Pruitt, likely legal challenges to Pruitt’s effort to roll back the Clean Power Plan, and the larger issue of climate denial in Washington.

The Energy Policy Now podcast, now in its second season, offers insights from Penn experts, industry and policy leaders on the energy industry and its relationship to environment and society. 

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Energy Policy Now Podcast: Where Coal Mining Brings Environmental Benefits

September 19, 2017

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Can tightly regulated coal mining help undo decades worth of environmental damage caused by the coal industry?  A Pennsylvania DEP official, and a mining executive, discuss efforts to remediate water and land in the state’s Anthracite coal region.

Pennsylvania’s economy has long been tied to its coal industry.  In the 19th century the state’s pioneering coal companies fueled America’s industrial revolution, and thousands of mining sites opened over the decades that followed.  Yet, over a century later, many of Pennsylvania’s coal mines have closed as the resource’s primacy has waned.

John Stefanko, Deputy Secretary for the Office of Active and Abandoned Mine Operations at Pennsylvania’s DEP, and Greg Driscoll, Chief Executive of Blaschak Coal Company, look at the environmental damage that remains after mines have been abandoned, and on cooperation between today’s coal industry, and regulators, to clean up some of that damage.  The focus is on the Anthracite coal industry of Northeastern Pennsylvania, where the remains of a once large coal industry attempts to find profits, while bearing costs for cleaning up the damage of past decades.

John Stefanko is Deputy Secretary for the Office of Active and Abandoned Mine Operations at Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection. 

Greg Driscoll is President and Chief Executive Officer of Blaschak Coal company in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania.

The Energy Policy Now podcast, now in its second season, offers insights from Penn experts on the energy industry and its relationship to environment and society.

Simple Solution, Big Impact: #UsedCups

Submitted by IGEL Corporate Advisory Board Member Rubicon Global

Rubicon

As Earth Day approaches on April 22, multinational corporations, governments, nonprofits and NGOs – as well as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals – continue working fast and furiously to tackle monumental challenges. It’s clear we must establish a more circular economy for the long term well-being of not only the plant, but also business and even society as a whole.

There are big challenges ahead, and in many ways Earth Day serves as a reminder of this. But what can one individual, one organization, even one country do to make a dent in these monumental challenges? At Rubicon, we’ve learned that in order to really make a difference we need to start by doing something manageable and specific. For us, it’s keeping waste out of landfills.

Did you know reuse and recycling is currently the top action society can do today to simultaneously improve the environment, the economy, sustainable manufacturing and to prevent waste from going into oceans?

We know that Americans throw away 25 billion Styrofoam coffee cups and 58 billion paper cups annually. These cups are not recycled, most are not recyclable, and yet we keep using them over and over because many aren’t aware of the environmental impact.

What if this year in honor of Earth Day we keep it simple and simply remember to save #UsedCups?

Think about what you drink out of every day, at home, at work and on the go. Do you opt for the reusable coffee mug or a single-use disposable cup? If you must choose single-use, do you recycle or compost it afterward? These are questions very few people think about on a daily basis, but if people did, they could have a profound positive impact on the environment.

So help us change this bad habit that we’ve developed as a society. We invite you to join us in raising awareness about cup-use and get others to do the same this Earth Day.

Post about your beautiful reusable cups on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with #UsedCups between now and April 19th and be entered to win two 3-day passes to Sweetwater 420 Fest in Atlanta or an Apple Watch Series 2.

Every reusable beverage container counts. Reusable water bottles, ceramic coffee mugs, perhaps even a sippy cup. Every cup reused or recycled is one less cup in the landfill, so go ahead, show us your #UsedCups!

 

Learn more about the #UsedCups campaign, and follow Rubicon on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Newest Knowledge@Wharton Report, Sponsored by Dow, Explores the Circular Economy

Dow Circular Economy Report Banner

The Circular Economy: From Concept to Business Reality

In an ideal world, everything manufactured by people would automatically be either re-purposed or reduced to its component parts and recycled for other uses, thus presenting a sustainable, closed loop that wasted no resources. But it’s not a perfect world, and the usual destination for our unwanted goods — especially in the U.S. — is the landfill. Can we turn that situation around?

After more than a century of linear thinking about the path products take from cradle to grave, excitement is growing among environmentalists and business leaders about the revolutionary potential of the circular economy — which fights waste by aiming to extract the maximum value from commercial goods. The recent Wharton conference on the subject, co-sponsored by Dow and Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL), brought together pioneers from industry, academia, and non-profit organizations. This report extends the discussion begun at the conference by looking more in depth at the issue.

Turning Waste Streams into Value Streams

Recycling waste salvages just a tiny fraction of a product’s original value. Far more productive uses can be found through re-manufacturing, cascading materials through several lifecycles, and developing new business models that move us away from the concept of ownership all together.

Designing for the Circular Economy

Innovative companies are exploring strategies that address end-of-life issues upfront — when a product is being designed. Some are looking to extend the life of products through old-fashioned durable construction, modern modular design, and futuristic repair-before-failure. Others are developing new materials and new types of products tailored to the circular economy.

The Producer Pays

Germany enacted the first countrywide extended producer responsibility (EPR) law in 1991, and much of Europe (and Asia) followed, but there is no national EPR law in the United States. EPR’s profile is rising,  though, even in this country. The concept has gained a foothold at the state and local levels, and some companies are taking voluntary steps in the direction of EPR.

 

Download the entire report here.

Kleinman Cetner’s Energy Now Podcast – The Many Fronts of Trump’s Environmental Deregulation Effort

Submitted by Andy Stone, Communications Manager, Kleinman Center for Energy Policy

President Trump is moving forward with his campaign pledge to roll back environmental protections, most notably with his late March executive order instructing EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to withdraw the Clean Power Plan.  In the latest episode of the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy’s podcast series, Energy Policy Now, Penn law professor Cary Coglianese takes a look at the multiple legal and political tools the Trump administration is using to reduce protections, including executive orders, defunding of agencies with environmental oversight, and use of the previously obscure Congressional Review Act.   Coglianese lays out the challenges each strategy will face, and the potential for regulations to be rolled back or to endure.

 

Closely tied to the issue of climate change is the economic outlook of the electric utility industry, which is increasingly tasked with the role of enabling the transition to clean power, yet will face lower electricity demand as a result.  In a second new episode, former Pennsylvania Consumer Advocate Sonny Popowsky takes a look at the challenge that distributed energy presents to electric utilities’ profitability.  Popowsky, who is an advisory board member of the Kleinman Center, also explores the costs to consumers that could result from efforts to balance the growth of rooftop solar, energy efficiency and related technologies with the need to maintain a power grid that equitably serves all.

Energy Policy Now Podcast – Carbon Reduction Strategies

Submitted by Andy Stone, Communications Manager, Kleinman Center for Energy Policy

Two strategies stand out in the effort to reduce carbon emissions on an economy-wide scale. Carbon Cap and Trade, and Carbon Taxation, have been implemented with varying degrees of success in recent years, while taking very different approaches to reducing emissions.

The latest episode of the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy’s Energy Policy Now podcast takes a look at the mechanisms by which these strategies seek to reduce emissions, and the political and economic considerations that may make one or the other a best fit for a particular nation or region.

The episode features James Hines, Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Michigan, and an editorial adviser to the Kleinman Center.

Collaboration, Innovation and Sharing: Turning Circular Supply Chain Vision into Reality

By Todd Hoff, VP Marketing and Customer Solutions, CHEP North America

When many of us were young, our parents taught us to share because it is polite and a nice thing to do. Today, as the world faces significant population growth and the environmental challenges that follow, the concept of sharing is a key building block in the long-term strategy to build a better world.

Experts say that the global population is expected to grow from 7.5 billion today to nearly 10 billion by 2050, adding more than two billion consumers to the global economy that will need access to safe, affordable and nutritious food and personal care products.

For decades, the fast-moving consumer goods industry has kept pace with growing population and consumer demands thanks to the development of innovative agricultural, manufacturing and supply chain practices. In recent years, academics, industry leaders, economic and sustainability thought leaders and efficiency experts have been collaborating to develop equally innovative plans for successfully meeting the challenges of the future.

That is where the concept of sharing comes in. Moving beyond the concept of reduce, reuse and recycle, stakeholders in the global economy have developed a vision of a Circular Economy, powered by a Circular Supply Chain that produces zero waste and zero carbon emissions. The fundamental building block of a Circular Supply Chain is shared and reusable assets.

At CHEP, our business model is based on shared and reusable assets. We move consumer goods throughout the world on more than 300 million reusable pallets, containers and crates that are used over-and-over again by our customers. We are committed to the vision of a Circular Supply Chain and bringing it to life through ongoing collaboration with our customers, thought leaders and stakeholders around the globe.

On February 8th, CHEP partnered with the Wharton School’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania for a thought leadership event entitled,  Connecting the Dots: Sustainability Through a Circular Economy. CHEP teamed up with visionary stakeholders – a major packaging manufacturer; a multinational food, snack and beverage corporation; a grocery retailer and a leading consumer research company. They each discussed their sustainability efforts and collaboration in helping to turn the vision of a Circular Supply Chain into reality.

A recent study by McKinsey & Company shows that the consumer goods supply chain is fertile ground for both efficiency and sustainable savings presently and over the long-term. That is intriguing, because our focus at CHEP is collaborating with our customers to optimize and improve the sustainability of the supply chain.

Through our end-to-end supply chain solutions, we help our customers save money, become more efficient and more sustainable. For instance in the past 12 months, when it comes to sustainability, we have helped customers keep 1.4 million trees on the planet and eliminate 2.3 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere, equivalent to taking more than 485,000 passenger vehicles off US roads. We’ve also removed 1.3 million tonnes of waste from landfills, eliminated 3 million empty truck miles and avoided more than 3,000 tonnes of food from being damaged during transport.

In collaborating with our customers, CHEP and its parent company, Brambles, have been recognized by the leading Circular Economy foundation and a major grocery retailer as a key component of the Circular Supply Chain because of our shared and reusable business model.

We are excited about developing an efficient and sustainable global supply chain that benefits people and the planet for generations to come. We are equally proud to partner with our customers and leading stakeholders to achieve a Circular Economy and a Circular Supply Chain, through sharing our experiences at Connecting the Dots.

Visit www.chep.com for more information or follow us on Twitter @CHEPna and LinkedIn. Please also check out our YouTube channel.

The Gashora Clinic Water Project

By Ocek Eke, Director of Local and Global Service Learning Programs at Penn Engineering

Clean drinking water is a luxury that many people around the globe can not afford.  This fact is more pronounced in developing countries where water-borne diseases are widespread because water sources tend to be local streams and lakes that are often contaminated with pollution.

In 2012, the General Electric Foundation generously donated ten state-of-the-art water filtration systems to the government and people of Rwanda. One of these filters was installed in the village of  Gashora.

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Water filtration system donated to Gashora Health Clinic by GE Foundation

Penn Engineering in Gashora

Gashora is also the location of the Gashora Girls Academy for Science and Technology (GGAST).  This elite all-girl secondary school was established to encourage young Rwandan women to pursue careers in STEM subjects.

GGAST is a partner of Penn Engineering and through our Service Learning course.  We collaborate with the Academy on a several projects. This summer, we offered information communication technology training for students and faculty, and installed solar lights and solar powered water pumps to improve the quality of life of students, faculty, and staff.

At Penn Engineering, we approach our service learning programs with an emphasis on long and sustained relationships with our overseas partners. We believe that the communities in which we work should positively benefit by our presence.  To this end, we paid a visit to the Gashora Clinic medical team after being informed that they were in desperate need of water. The Director and staff lamented the challenges they face daily in curing illness, especially in children.

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The Gashora Health Clinic

Then the director took us to the back of the clinic and showed us the water filtration system that GE Foundation donated and installed four years ago. We learned that many of the patients in his clinic are being treated for water-related illnesses contracted by using contaminated water from the nearby Lake Rumira.

The Challenge

The unfortunate irony is that there is an abundance of equipment (i.e., filters and water tanks) yet a shortage of clean water. The filtration system was designed to rely on rain catchment and the local utility for water. However, rainfall in Gashora is sporadic at best and the local water utility service is unreliable.  When asked if a bore-hole or local well could supply water to the clinic, the director explained that the underground water is highly contaminated with lead and manganese, making it both unusable and cost-prohibitive to filter.

Next, we walked with the director to Lake Rumira, about 1.5 kilometers away from the clinic. There we saw children and women swimming and fetching water with yellow jerry-cans. The director explained that while there is water in the lake year-round, it is contaminated, too. The end result is a high rate of people afflicted with water-borne diseases due to a severe shortage of clean water at the Gashora Health Clinic.

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Lake Rumira, main source of drinking water for people in Gashora

I asked him a simple but complicated question, “What if Penn Engineering could bring the water from the lake to the clinic’s filtration system?” He smiled, and said that he would accept our offer if we were extending one. “Can you really do it?” he asked.  As engineers, we design and build solutions to real-world problems all the time. I was confident we could bring clean water to the Gashora Clinic.

Complications…

In order to move forward, we learned that we had to get the permission of the district’s village elders before we could carry out a project of this magnitude. In essence we would have to dig a trench from Lake Rumira to the clinic. There were a series of steps that were necessary that required time and patience:

  • The Deputy Mayor instructed us to put our proposal in writing and bring back to him. While he supported the idea, he cautioned that we might run into problems getting permission from land owners whose lands would be impacted by the trench for the water pipes.
  • We wrote and submitted the proposal to the Deputy Mayor, and he promised to take it to the District Mayor.
  • The Deputy Mayor informed us that the District Mayor was excited about the project and would talk to the elders of Gashora village to give the permission to dig the trench.
  • The elders deliberated with the the District Mayor and Clinic Director.

Ultimately, Penn Engineering was granted the permission to dig the 1½ km trench, and to proceed with the project.

Next Steps

Our goal is to pump water from Lake Rumira using a solar powered water pump installed at a secure location on the lakeshore.  A solar powered pump frees the community from reliance on the local power grid and contributes to long-term sustainability. The water will be rock-filtered to remove silt and debris before it is pumped into a waiting tank where gravity will draw small particles to the tank bottom. At this point, the water will be pumped through the GE filtration system that will remove chemical contaminants and purify the water.  The clean water will then be transferred to the clinic’s tank and the kiosk tank for villagers’ use.

One of the most appealing aspects of this project is that together, we are building capacity with our local partners for long-term sustainability. Gashorans will learn to maintain the equipment, and operate the pump. Penn faculty and students will assist in education and implementation. We have also partnered with Health Builders International, a nonprofit organization based in Kigali to assist us in monitoring the quality of the lake water over time.

At present, most of the trench for the water pipes has been dug and we are poised to complete the project when our service-learning course returns to Gashora in May 2017.

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The Trench from Lake Rumira to Gashora Health Clinic, Rwanda

Help Us Bring Clean Water to Gashora

There is one critical piece missing to the project: The pipes.  Penn Engineering student leader, Erica Higa, has set up a GoFundMe site to help raise $40,000 to cover the cost of the pipes.

The people of Gashora desperately need this project completed. Penn students have benefited intellectually and culturally from the enriched experience of performing service in a foreign country. Penn Engineering is committed to finishing this project and we invite you to join us in bringing clean water to the people of Gashora. Please go to our gofundme site, any financial assistance you can give to us is greatly appreciated: https://www.gofundme.com/WaterForGashora

Applying Circular Economy Principles to Agriculture

By Neelam Ferrari

If you are reading this article, it is likely that you are aware of the benefits of reducing food waste and utilizing resources efficiently, towards feeding a growing global population.  When it comes to agriculture, this is even more important as farmers need to be aware of costs around water, fertilizer, labor and other items.  Once a plant is harvested, much of that plant is not needed for its primary purpose, which is consumption.  For example, take a look at corn.  A corn plant on the typical US farm grows anywhere between 6 and 12 feet high, and the roots can add another 6 feet.  Also consider that on a typical corn plant there are only 1-2 ears of corn per stalk.  So for two ears to be harvested, there is a lot of extra biomass that goes along with it, which is not edible.  Instead of discarding this excess material as waste, it makes good environmental sense and good business sense to find some value for this material.  This is a great opportunity for the circular economy (CE).

The World Economic Forum recently wrote an article stating that farmers produce more than enough food for the global population, so people really should not go hungry.  This is a perfect justification for CE applications, which blend technology with business in an attempt to use everything in an industrial process.  Moreover, the waste of one industry can be the fuel for another, so that all of the component fit together like a puzzle.  Connecting these pieces of this puzzle can be a challenge, but as technological advances in fields like biotechnology and material science become more widespread, more industries are learning of the benefits.  So in the example above, does the remaining biomass from a corn stalk have no value?  It is probably the opposite.  Even though the stalk can not be eaten, it does have value as it can be burned for fuel, or ground and reused as an organic fertilizer.  Also, there is still nutritional value, so the remaining biomass can be blended into feedstock for other livestock.  By reusing the stalk, growers can also sell to other industries, instead of just discarding or burning as trash.

In addition to finding new uses for what was once ‘wasted’ can applying CE principles lead to new ways to grow crops so that waste is not generated in the first place?  This could be where we look more closely at the innovative work taking place at the MIT Media Lab’s OpenAG Initiative.  OpenAG has built a prototype food computer where the goal is to create specific climates that are compatible with commercial crops in order to optimize phenotypic characteristics.  For example, if growers wanted a particular type of tomato with a targeted color, taste, and texture, a “climate recipe” can be created and shared resulting in the desired tomato.  By optimizing food production in this manner we can also save water, energy, and money.  This will be a topic explored in future posts.

The CE holds tremendous promise for the agriculture sector and we really can now start to think seriously about making significant changes in the global food production system.

Practises that make sustainable development a reality

By Willem Adrianus de Bruijn

The only way to survive with more than seven billion consumers is that each and every one of them spends his money only on products that keep nature in perfect condition.

Consumers will do so the very moment that they are allowed to deduct from their taxable income the money they spend on such products. They will then be driven by self interests and financial interests, two powerful drives in the behaviour of mankind, to maintain ways of living that keep the integrity of Nature.  To safeguard this integrity will be the goal with which these consumers spend their money.

They will continue to demand goods and services that do not impair the environment until they live in harmony with nature.  Then they will not pay income taxes anymore.  The damages to the environment done by the ways of living of consumers will at that time have been reduced to zero.  The costs of these damages by our present ways of living are more than the amount of income taxes, which consumers pay.  When consumers do not harm nature more public funds will therefore be available.

Another way to remunerate the consumer for keeping nature sound is by reimbursing him with a percentage of the purchase price of the ecological products he buys.  This percentage could be an average of the income tax rates consumers pay.  This method can also be applied in countries where consumers do not pay income taxes.

Producers will have to satisfy the demand of these consumers by supplying the goods and services that sustain the good condition of nature.  The goal, which producers pursue will then be the same as the goal of the consumer, to maintain the integrity of nature.  This will be the sense of the development of the economy.

The sense of development is determined by the goal with which the consumer spends his money.  This is a new concept, which I have founded in the science of economy.

The only goal with which the consumer can spend his money in the present economy is, Consume more.  This goal is sustained by the macro economic practise of maintaining growth in development.  Growth in the development of the economy implies producing more, however production figures are incorporated in the statistics of the GNP’s only if that what is produced is also sold, thus consumed.  To maintain growth in development implies therefore that consumers consume always more.

It is not possible to continue consuming more of limited resources without inevitably depleting them.  Having consumed more of the limited resources of this planet since commerce began and particularly since the beginning of the industrial revolution has brought us to the limits of nature, where commerce is stagnating.  No growth is possible anymore, except in economies where the limits of nature have not yet been reached, as was the case in China.  The statistics about the economies in the industrialised and developed countries show that there is no more growth in the development of these economies.  Even the approximately 0% interest rates central banks maintain, like the FED and the ECB, cannot get the economies going again, let alone growing.

When producers and consumers pursue the goal of maintaining the integrity of Nature, the macro-economic practise to keep the economy going will become, to preserve this integrity in the development of the economy.

The prerequisite to remunerate the consumer for buying products that leave the environment unblemished is based on three new concepts.

As explained above, one is, the consumer determines the sense of development with the goal, which he pursues when he spends his money.

Another one is, the consumer has a professional responsibility in the operation of the economy, namely to maintain ways of living that safeguard the integrity of Nature.  It is indeed only the consumer who can ensure this integrity, because he can do it by adapting his ways of living until he lives in agreement with nature.

A third concept is, in order to achieve an optimum efficiency in the utilisation of resources, costs have to be managed at the source of the incomes, which they generate. This means that the people who earn the incomes should manage the costs with which they create them.  When consumers manage the costs of living the efficiency of utilising natural resources in their ways of living will eventually attain the best possible efficiency.  At that moment more than enough goods and services will be produced so that there is no more poverty because there will be enough for everybody.   Everyone can then enjoy compatible levels of well being.  People who share satisfaction live in peace.

This will happen when the consumer is paid for managing his costs of living in order to safeguard the integrity of Nature.  The sooner this is done, the quicker the ecological- and economic crises are solved, poverty is terminated and people will live in peace.

Not to remunerate the consumer for doing his job leaves him consuming more and thus further damaging the planet until it is destroyed.  The time left to do so seems to end in 2030, according to the Club of Rome.  It is less than half a generation away.

Considering the logic to reward the consumer for keeping the environment in impeccable state, the theory sustaining the need to pay the consumer is not one to be discussed but one to be applied.  Any activity should be undertaken to oblige lawmakers to legalise these payments.  Knowingly refusing to do so makes from these lawmakers criminals committing crimes against humanity.