by Matt Kasper
Energy efficient light bulbs continue to be a target of conservatives in Congress. This summer, multiple amendments were approved by House lawmakers trying to prohibit the government from enforcing federal light bulb standards. Republicans falsely claim those standards “ban” incandescent bulbs.
Now, conservative media outlets are seizing on another opportunity to rail on energy efficient bulbs, saying that compact fluorescents are capable of “frying your skin with UVA radiation.” National Public Radio also featured a story last week perpetuating the myth.
Where is this claim coming from? A recent study conducted by researchers at Stony Brook University concluded that the response from healthy skin cells to UV emitted from compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) is consistent with damage from ultraviolet radiation.
However, the report’s findings are not new – and there is no cause for alarm.
Experts already know CFLs emit UV radiation and agree that using CFLs are perfectly safe. The co-author of the study, Dr. Tatiana Mironova, even told Media Matters that “there is no link in scientific literature between CFL exposure and cancer.”
The energy efficient bulbs have been in use since the 1980s in schools, offices, hospitals, and residential houses. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration already has regulations in place for CFLs and explicitly states it is not concerned with the radiation levels from the bulbs.
In 2008, the Health Protection Agency of the United Kingdom found CFLs emit UV radiation, and to prevent any damage to skin cells one should use a lampshade, or the bare bulb should be positioned at least 1ft. away from the skin.
The Chief Executive of the Health Protection Agency, Justin McCracken said, “This is precautionary advice and people should not be thinking of removing these energy saving light bulbs from their homes.”
A European study published in 2008 titled “Light Sensitivity,” concluded similar results:
Within the context of the promotion of wide-spread use of energy saving lamps, such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and the possible phase-out of incandescent lamps, it has been claimed that the symptoms of several diseases may be aggravated in the presence of energy saving lamps. SCENIHR (Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks) did not find suitable direct scientific data on the relationship between energy saving lamps and the symptoms in patients with various conditions.
Energy efficient appliances, including CFLs, are an important tool for addressing climate change. The standards for CFLs were adopted by Congress in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and are about 75 percent more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs — while lasting 10 times longer.
The Energy Star program, designed by the EPA and DOE, helps consumers save on energy by choosing efficient products. According to the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, the products and standards will save consumers and businesses more than $1.1 trillion through 2035.
Matt Kasper is a special assistant for energy policy at the Center for American Progress.
by Jackie Weidman
Each year in the United States power plants expel 310 million pounds of toxic air pollution. Just 20 states are responsible 92 percent this pollution, the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) finds in their new report: “Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States.” Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania topped the charts, contributing over 35 percent of total U.S. emissions. (Click on the image to enlarge.)
At the same time, power plant pollution dropped 19 percent from 2009 to 2010. This decrease occurred because of two key factors: (1) many utilities switched from burning coal to natural gas and (2) several plants installed pollution controls in anticipation of new health protections from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
EPA estimates that each year these pollution reductions save up to $90 billion in health costs. They also prevent up to 540,000 missed work or sick days, and avoid tens of thousands of premature deaths, asthma cases, and hospital visits each year.
Toxic air pollution should continue to decline dramatically over the next several years due to EPA regulations. By 2015, EPA’s recently finalized Mercury and Air Toxics standards will reduce mercury pollution by 79 percent; and sulfur dioxide and acid gases by 63 and 95 percent, respectively.
However, Congress could delay progress as lawmakers do the bidding of Big Polluters and work to repeal these public health safeguards.
Both Senators from 8 of the “toxic 20” states – Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virgina – recently supported a resolution from Senator Inhofe (R-OK) to repeal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.
On the other hand, Senators from Michigan, Maryland, and Delaware stood up to protect public health and voted against repealing the rules. The remaining Senators from the top 20 toxic states are split.
“Children can’t choose whether to breathe, but Congress can choose whether the air they’re breathing is clean or dirty,” said Franz Matzner, NRDC associate director of Government Affairs.
Thanks to EPA regulations, millions of children and families are able to breathe easier. The Clean Air Act will continue to cut deadly pollution, saving tens of thousands of lives each year. But the coal industry isn’t giving up, and Senators will soon have to choose again whether they will stand for Big Polluters or stand with the health of the American people.
Jackie Weidman is a special assistant for energy policy at the Center for American Progress.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced on the 6th August that a £100M investment fund for small-scale renewable energy projects in the UK will be put in place.
The funding will be delivered through the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills UK Green Investments (UKGI) team. UKGI will provide the funds through two specialist managers, Equitix and SDCL, which will actively encourage foreign and internal investment in non-domestic energy infrastructure projects across the UK. The renewable energy projects that will be eligible for funding include combined heat and power installations and solar pv schemes to improve building energy efficiency.
Investments in these projects will be matched by private sector funding, with the UKGI expected to work alongside the Green Investment Bank when it is due to open later this year.
by Kate Gordon, via Huffington Post
A new statewide poll in California has mixed results for those of us dedicated to fighting climate change. While the good news is actually great news, the bad news is a call to action.
Let me start on the upbeat side, which recognizes the magnitude of the issue.
The Public Policy Institute of California’s 12th annual poll on “Californians and the Environment” found that a strong majority of Californians, 78 percent, thinks that the world’s temperature has probably increased over the last 100 years, versus 17 percent who said it probably hasn’t. Most respondents, 60 percent, said the effects of global warming have already begun, and even more, 71 percent, support the state law requiring emissions reductions. Their feelings are borne out by hard science, as we know from NASA scientist James Hansen’s recent op-ed, in which he definitively links the extreme weather of the past few years with climate change.
More of the encouraging results:
• Majorities favor policies requiring increased energy efficiency for residential buildings, commercial buildings and appliances (77 percent);
• requiring industrial plants, oil refineries, and commercial facilities to reduce emissions (82);
• encouraging local governments to change land use and transportation planning so people could drive less (77);
• requiring all automakers to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases even further in new cars (78);
• and requiring fuel providers to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels at least 10 percent by the end of the decade (79).
But now for the head-scratcher.
California actually already has a law in place to lower emissions: AB32, which aims to reduce carbon levels to their 1990 levels by 2020. But a major mechanism to achieve those goals, a cap and trade program, remains somewhat of a mystery to a majority of state residents. The poll found that 57 percent had never heard of it — despite the hundreds of news stories on the topic in 2012 alone.
As Californians learn more about AB32, it’s critically important that they get the right information.
Well-financed opposition groups are revving up a noisy campaign to block cap and trade from taking effect. Using untruths, half-truths and scare tactics, they’re charging that it amounts to a tax, that it would drive businesses out of California, that it would drive up energy costs for consumers.
Let me be clear: Not true. Not true. Not true.
A tax? No. Current state law allows the state to raise revenues from companies engaged in harmful activities. Polluting the air is harmful to public health, causing illness, deaths and higher health-care costs, a huge drain on the family budget and peace of mind. Putting a price on this harmful activity — much as we put a price on, say, tobacco — will more accurately account for the true costs of pollution on the state’s budget, and will raise an estimated $1 billion in new revenue for California.
Drive businesses away? No. In California’s program, a significant portion of the allowances — 90 percent in the first year — will be distributed free to utilities and the biggest carbon producers. This will ease the transition toward cleaner operations and give these industries plenty of incentive to remain in the state. If anything, the cap and trade program will bring more business and jobs to California. Look at the success of cap and trade in the northeast states under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI): through that program, they’ve added about 16,000 new jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy and seen billions of dollars in net economic benefits for the region overall.
Other revenues from carbon allowance auctions will be re-invested in California in the form of support for research and development, commercialization, manufacture and installation of renewable and efficient energy technologies.
Raise energy costs? No. Giving free allowances to utilities in the early years of the program means they won’t have to increase electricity rates. If we spend the revenue from the cap and trade program wisely, we might actually see a drop in energy costs.
The RGGI states are saving consumers $1.1 billion on electric bills and $174 million on natural gas and heating bills over the next decade because they invested cap and trade revenue in energy efficiency retrofits. Since the inception of RGGI, Massachusetts has generated $3 to $4 of savings for each $1 invested in energy efficiency.
Those dollars translate into more money in household budgets, which in turn allows those consumers to spend more on other goods and services, helping the overall economy of the region. And energy savings for industrial consumers leads to more efficient and competitive manufacturing and commercial operations — also a boon for the region.
Despite the clear benefits of policies to address climate change, the federal government and most states have continued to ignore the issue. Not California. AB 32 is the most ambitious program in the United States to combat the pernicious effects of global warming. But the program will only be successful if it is embraced by the California citizens who say they want action on climate change.
I see the PPIC poll as a call to action — especially for those of us with the luxury of working every day on policy issues we care about. We need to do a better job communicating with our allies communicate about those issues to our allies, policymakers, and the public, to change California’s perception of AB32.
California has always been an innovator when it comes to national problem solving, and the poll results suggest it’s time to take an aggressive stand against further damage to the atmosphere. The state’s approach to the solution, through AB 32, is based on science and economic realities that hold benefits for the environment and for the state economy.
The more that people understand that, and the more we can spread the word, the less anyone will be scared off by half-truths and fear.
Kate Gordon is Director of Advanced Energy and Sustainability at the Center for the Next Generation. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. This piece was originally published at the Huffington Post and was reprinted with permission from the author.