Gotta Pay the Coal Toll


    Gotta Pay the Coal Toll

    What’s Going On

    A form of pollution tax aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a carbon tax makes fossil fuels more expensive and encourages reduced consumption and more innovation around energy efficient solutions. Many countries, like the UK, Ireland, Australia, and Sweden, have successfully implemented such a tax already — several forms of a carbon tax have been drafted by US lawmakers but none have been passed as federal law. This week, Republican Representative Carlos Curbelo proposed a resolution that would tax carbon dioxide emissions (at $24 a ton starting in 2020) and repeal excise taxes on gas and diesel. Columbia University found that Curbelo’s proposal would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 27-32% by 2025 and 30-40% by 2030, increasing federal revenue by $57 billion. The bill has little chance of passing in the Republican controlled Congress, but it represents progress on this front, as six Republicans in Congress now support a carbon tax, compared to zero two years ago.

    Why You Should Care

    Researchers from the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum project found that a carbon tax would be effective at reducing carbon pollution and would not slow economic growth (as many opposers argue). More research shows that a carbon tax could be effective at addressing both climate change and poverty, especially in low and middle income countries.

    Making Fossil Fuels Go Extinct

    What’s Going On

    Safe, clean nuclear power may be a piece of the puzzle in building an energy system without fossil fuels. At this point nuclear power provides 20% of US electricity while contributing no greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere, making it the largest source of clean power in the country. Renewables like solar and wind alone will have a hard time keeping up with rising demand, and nuclear energy is the obvious choice to fill the gaps. Although nuclear is currently too expensive to compete with oil and gas, many startups have sprouted up centered around solving the inherent risks (i.e. radioactive wastes, meltdowns, high cost, and weapons proliferation). The nonprofit Energy Innovation Reform Project estimates that these startups could compete with natural gas power plants and serve as a useful alternative to fossil fuels. If nuclear energy is to play a role in combating climate change, these startups will have to scale up incredibly fast — in addition to more funding, regulations will have to become more friendly to innovation, and utility companies will need more incentives to buy low-carbon power.

    Nuclear Power

    Why You Should Care

    Wind and solar power are incredibly popular clean energy sources, but we can’t achieve total independence from fossil fuel generated electricity without nuclear power as a significant part of the solution.

    Side Note

    An increasing number of college students are gravitating towards nuclear engineering and see it as a way to fight climate change.

    Finding Nemo…

    What’s Going On?

    The world’s most diverse tropical ecosystems - tropical forests, coral reefs, lakes and rivers, and savannas - cover just 40% of the planet but contain over three-quarters of all species and 90% of the world’s bird population. Scientists warn that a failure to act quickly will increase the risk of irrevocable species loss in the most diverse regions of the world, due to overfishing, logging, and droughts or heat waves linked to climate change. Coral reefs are vital to marine life and one of the most biodiverse habitats in existence, but few can still be classified as “wilderness” (a region minimally impacted by human activity). Only 13% of the world’s oceans remain unaffected by human activity — much of the impact is caused by fishing, but human activity on land (i.e. runoff of fertilizers used in farming, chemicals from industrial production, and plastic pollution) has a huge effect as well.

    Why You Should Care

    The declining health of tropical ecosystems threatens millions across the planet. Coral reefs provide marine resources and coastal protection for 200 million people and the tropical forests and savannas together store 40% of the carbon in the terrestrial biosphere.


    If you’ve been following the fate of vaquita lately, the critically endangered porpoise had a big win on Thursday. Judge Gary S. Katzmann ordered the Trump administration to ban all imports of fish from any Mexican commercial fishery that uses gillnets within the vaquita’s habitat. With as few as 15 in the wild, the vaquita are facing extinction due to gillnet fishing in the Gulf of California.

    Weekly Scraps

    2017 was a deadly year for environmental activists.

    In case you wanted to make an eco-conscious final exit.

    Here’s a list of good environmental reads for the summer.

    How one New Yorker is making money off of reporting idling vehicles to the city.

    Where is the clean label trend heading?

    The EPA signs off on exempting farmers from reporting emissions.

    Take action! Tell the EPA to protect us from chemical and industrial disasters.

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