Thursday, September 29, 2016

How Feasible are Electric-Powered Cars for Widespread Use?

Potential for widespread electrification of personal vehicle travel in the United States (Abstract, Zachary A. Needell, James McNerney, Michael T. Chang & Jessika E. Trancik, Nature Energy, Aug. 15, 2016)

Also discussed here: Today's electric vehicles can make a dent in climate change: Electric vehicles can meet drivers' needs enough to replace 90 percent of vehicles now on the road (Science Daily, Aug. 15, 2016)

And here: Low-carbon infrastructure strategies for cities (Abstract, C. A. Kennedy, N. Ibrahim & D. Hoornweg, Nature climate change, Mar.16,2014)

Today we review research into the feasibility of widespread use of e-cars for urban transportation. Results indicate that 87% of current needs can easily be met by today’s electric vehicle technology, noting the obstacles that are holding back their full acceptance can or will be overcome. The need to charge batteries can be done overnight or during the day in parking facilities. The relative short driving range can be overcome for driving long distances by utilizing alternatives such as car-sharing with conventional vehicles or by purchasing a second car for those needs. Converting 90% of today’s vehicles to electric power would reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the USA by 30% - or more if power came from utilities with lower carbon fuel use.


Key Quotes:

“the energy requirements of 87% of vehicle-days could be met by an existing, affordable electric vehicle. This percentage is markedly similar across diverse cities, even when per capita gasoline consumption differs significantly.”

Car sharing or other means to serve this small number of high-energy days could play an important role in the electrification and decarbonization of transportation”

Electrification of infrastructure technologies is effective for cities where the carbon intensity of the grid is lower than ~600  tCO2e GWh−1; whereas transportation strategies will differ between low urban density (<~6,000 persons km−2) and high urban density (>~6,000 persons km−2) cities.”

 "The adoption potential of electric vehicles is remarkably similar across cities, from dense urban areas like New York, to sprawling cities like Houston. This goes against the view that electric vehicles -- at least affordable ones, which have limited range -- only really work in dense urban centers,"

"Roughly 90 percent of the personal vehicles on the road daily could be replaced by a low-cost electric vehicle available on the market today, even if the cars can only charge overnight…this would lead to an approximately 30 percent reduction in emissions from transportation. Deeper emissions cuts would be realized if power plants decarbonize over time."

“For days on which energy consumption is higher, such as for vacations, or days when an intensive need for heating or cooling would sharply curb the EV's distance range, driving needs could be met by using a different car (in a two-car home), or by renting, or using a car-sharing service.”

Monday, September 26, 2016

Which Countries Have the the Most and Least Sustainable Cities?

A Global Perspective on the Sustainable Performance of Urbanization (16 page pdf, Liyin Shen, Chenyang Shuai, Liudan Jiao, Yongtao Tan and Xiangnan Song, Sustainability, Aug. 11, 2016)

Today we review a comparison of 111 countries, according to how well they perform in urban sustainability, made up of indices of environmental, economic and social sustainability. The best overall performers are developed countries in Western Europe, the worst in Africa and Asia. It is notable that although Sweden is not the top performer in any one of the three indices, it is the best overall, signaling how well that country balances the three aspects.


Key Quotes:  

" Urbanization has been identified as one of the most important strategies for development in the 21st century… According to the World Bank, ..the ratio of urban populations at a global level has already exceeded 50% in 2007 and this will continue to rise in the coming decades”

 “Sustainable urbanization can be defined as “urbanization practice that complies with sustainable development principles that combines environmental, social, and economic sustainability”

“the selected countries are ranked according to their overall performance in implementing sustainable urbanization, with the top five performers being Sweden, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, and Demark, and the five worst countries being Mozambique, Nigeria, Togo, Yemen, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

“in the environmental dimension, the top five performers are Norway, Sweden, Romania, Denmark, and Germany, and the worst five are Nigeria, Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, India, and Syria.” “when the economic dimension is considered, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and Norway are the best five, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Yemen Namibia, and Tajikistan are the five poorest.”

“from the perspective of social sustainability, Singapore, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and Japan are the best five, while the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Angola, Togo, and Mozambique are the worst five”

“the best performers in terms of overall sustainable urbanization during the surveyed period are Sweden, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark. The best performers are mainly developed countries in Europe. Other good performers include Brazil, Romania, and Thailand. Poor performers are mainly distributed in Africa and Asia.”

 “there is a negative correlation between urbanization rate and sustainable performance when urbanization is at the initial stage, and a positive correlation when urbanization is at the acceleration stage.”

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Does Air Pollution Affect Productivity?

The Effect of Pollution on Worker Productivity: Evidence from Call-Center Workers in China (Abstract, Tom Chang, Joshua Graff Zivin, Tal Gross, Matthew Neidell, NBER Working Paper No. 22328, Jun. 2016)

Also discussed here: The effect of pollution on worker productivity: Evidence from call-centre workers in China (Tom Chang, Tal Gross, Joshua Graff Zivin, Matthew Neidell, VOX- CEPR’s Policy Portal, Jul. 15, 016)

And here:Pollution is bad for your health, but is it also making you less productive? (Tal Gross, Tom Chang, Joshua Graff Zivin, Matthew Neidell, World Economic Forum, Jul. 25, 2016)

Today we review research that looks at how the productivity of call workers in China was affected by higher levels of pollution. Results indicate that a 10% increase in the Air Pollution Index (API) was associated with a 0.3% drop in calls handled each day. Translated to China’s office workers as a whole, a 10% improvement in air pollution equates to $2.2 Billion/year in productivity. Or, to put it in a big city North American context (Los Angeles), were the 90 days that pollution levels exceeded EPA standards eliminated, the productivity for that city alone would be $378 greater. As the authors comment in terms of broader implications, pollution restrictions, aimed at an improved environment, are sometimes seen as a negative, unfair “tax” by businesses. This paper shows that it could help rather than hinder their bottom line.


Key Quotes:

“this is the first study to demonstrate that the negative impacts of pollution on productivity extend beyond physically demanding tasks to indoor, white-collar work.”

 “the number of calls workers handled each day went down as the air pollution index (API), which is driven by particulate matter pollution in this setting, increased (see Figure 1). On average, a 10% increase in API was associated with a 0.3% drop in the number of calls handled each day. Given the range of pollution in our setting, this result suggests that workers are 6% more productive on low-pollution days than high-pollution days.”

“even a modest 10-unit reduction in national API levels would increase the monetised value of office worker productivity in China by $2.2 billion per year.”

“when the API exceeds the US Environmental Protection Agency standard of 100… In 2014, Los Angeles experienced 90 such days.. our results imply that the service-sector productivity in Los Angeles would have been $374 million larger had pollution levels met regulatory standards on those days." 

we tested whether pollution led to workers staying home or showing up to work late. That did not appear to be the case – on heavily polluted days, we saw fewer calls but similar hours worked.”

“It also helps to recast political discussions of environmental regulation as simply a tax on the business community – instead, reducing pollution may improve the financial bottom line.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Exposure to Traffic-Related Air Pollution (TRAP) by Children up to 15 Years Old

Long-term air pollution exposure and lung function in 15 year-old adolescents living in an urban and rural area in Germany: The GINIplus and LISAplus cohorts (Abstract, Elaine Fuertes, Johannes Bracher , Claudia Flexeder , Iana Markevych , Claudia Klümper, Barbara Hoffmann , Ursula Krämer, Andrea von Berg , Carl-Peter Bauer , Sibylle Koletzko , Dietrich Berdel, Joachim Heinrich, Holger Schulz, International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, Mar. 2015)

Today we review research that tries to answer the question of whether exposure to traffic-related air pollution by children has both a short term and long term effect on their lung development. Results indicate that while no link was found between long term exposure on lung development, that those who had asthma did show a link with long term exposure to NO2. It was also observed that the impact of short term exposure may be reversible later in their lives.

Key Quotes:

“There is a need to analyze the recently available lung function data to determine (1) whether the relative importance of early versus current TRAP [Traffic-Related Air Pollution] exposure can be clarified, (2) whether TRAP-induced persistent long-term changes in lung development (up to 15 years of age) exist and (3) what role asthma may play in this relationship."  

“Lung development follows a linear pattern with age and height in early adolescence, but becomes non-linear after the growth spurt, continuing until the end of puberty in males but being shorter in duration and almost finished following menarche in females … This non-linear growth relationship throughout adolescence may make it difficult to disentangle the effect of TRAP exposure on lung development during this age period, although clear effects on lung function growth between 10 and 18 years have been observed in the Children’s Health Study”

 “Air pollution exposure might have a reversible effect on lung function leading to retardation in lung development in younger, more vulnerable stages, but less so at older ages or after improvements in air quality.”

“We observed negative associations between long-term NO2 exposure and reduced lung function among asthmatics, which is in line with some previous studies “

“Stronger effects with short-term variations in air pollution could suggest short-term reversibility, whereas associations with long-term concentrations may cause structural changes, potentially leading to a lower lung function plateau phase in young adults and an increased rate of lung function decline during adulthood.”

“This study did not identify associations between early-life or current long-term TRAP exposure and lung function variables at the age of 15 years in the complete study population.”

“Among asthmatics, we found associations with current long-term air pollution exposures, especially NO2, and lung function.”

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Pathways for Carbon Free Energy for the World

100% Clean and Renewable Wind, Water, and Sunlight (WWS) All-Sector Energy Roadmaps for 139 Countries of the World (62 page pdf, Mark Z. Jacobson, Mark A. Delucchi, Zack A.F. Bauer, Savannah C. Goodman, William E. Chapman, Mary A. Cameron, Alphabetical: Cedric Bozonnat, Liat Chobadi, Jenny R. Erwin, Simone N. Fobi, Owen K. Goldstrom, Sophie H. Harrison, Ted M. Kwasnik, Jonathan Lo, Jingyi Liu, Chun J. Yi, Sean B. Morris, Kevin R. Moy, Patrick L. O’Neill, Stephanie Redfern, Robin Schucker, Mike A. Sontag, Jingfan Wang, Eric Weiner, Alex S. Yachanin, Stanford University, Apr. 24, 2016)

Also discussed here: Clean Energy Could Fuel Most Countries by 2050, Study Shows (Zahra Hirji, InsideClimate News, Niv. 27, 2015)

Today we review a draft report prepared for the 2015 UN Climate Conference in Paris that provides an analysis of the ways that renewable energy source could be applied in 139 countries to replace the carbon sources currently used. Currently, only 3.8% of the power capacity is installed to reach 100% clean energy worldwide. In Canada, as an example, a power load of 412.1 gigawatts is required by 2050 under a business as usual scenario . Under a clean energy scenario, however, the country would need only 240.2 gigawatts of power. Most of the energy would come from onshore and offshore wind (58%), utility-scale and rooftop solar (21%), hydropower (16.5 %) and a mix of other sources, including geothermal (2%) and wave energy. The avoided health costs would be $107.6B per year which represents 4% of GDP or 9,598 air pollution deaths avoided every year. The estimated total electricity, health and climate cost savings of this transition would amount to about $8,887 per Canadian per year (in 2013 dollars).


Key Quotes:

 “The main barriers to overhauling the global energy system "are social and political…They aren't technical or economic,"

“The paper, which will likely be submitted to scientific journals for publication next year, offers detailed roadmaps showing how most countries can make the switch to run entirely on clean energy across all sectors, from electricity to transportation to agriculture, as early as 2050.”

 “researchers determined how each country could meet its future energy demands using only renewable sources. Under this "wind, water and solar" scenario, every country's ideal renewable energy mix was calculated based on its existing energy infrastructure and available clean energy resources, such as sunlight and wind.”

“The price tag of greening the world's energy system is $100 trillion, or $2 million per megawatt, over the next 35 years.”

“As of 2014, only 3.8 percent of the power capacity needed for 100 percent clean energy worldwide had been installed. Norway, Paraguay and Iceland lead the transition because they have successfully tapped their vast hydropower or geothermal resources.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Kidney Disease and Air Pollution

Long-Term Exposure to Air Pollution and Increased Risk of Membranous Nephropathy in China (Abstract, Xin Xu, Guobao Wang, Nan Chen, Tao Lu*, Sheng Nie*, Gang Xu, Ping Zhang§, Yang Luo, Yongping Wang*, Xiaobin Wang, Joel Schwartz**, Jian Geng††‡‡ and Fan Fan Hou, Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, Jun. 30, 2016)

Also discussed here: Air pollution linked to increased rates of kidney disease - Regions in China with high levels of fine particulate air pollution have elevated rates of membranous nephropathy (Science Daily, Jun. 30, 2016)

Today we review research on the impact of particulate matter (average annual PM2.5 in the range 6 to 114 μg/m3) on the risk of developing membranous nephropathy (MN), an immune disorder of the kidneys that can lead to kidney failure. Results showed that MN increased 13% over in the eleven year period.  
Key Quotes:  

During the study period, 3-year average PM2.5 exposure varied among the 282 cities, ranging from 6 to 114 μg/m3 (mean, 52.6 μg/m3). Each 10 μg/m3 increase in PM2.5 concentration associated with 14% higher odds for MN[membranous nephropathy]”

 “On average, the likelihood of developing membranous nephropathy, an immune disorder of the kidneys that can lead to kidney failure, increased 13% annually over the 11-year study period, whereas the proportions of other major kidney conditions remained stable. Regions with high levels of fine particulate air pollution had the highest rates of membranous nephropathy.”

"Our primary finding is that the frequency of membranous nephropathy has doubled over the last decade in China. We show that the increase corresponds closely with the regional distribution of particulate air pollution,"

Thursday, September 8, 2016

How Can Self-Driving Cars Improve Mobility in Cities?

English: Disruptive Technology Graph
English: Disruptive Technology Graph (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
NACTO Policy Statement on Automated Vehicles (4 page pdf, National Association of City Transportation Officials, Jun. 22, 2016)

Also discussed here: NACTO Releases Policy Recommendations for the Future of Automated Vehicles - New disruptive technology has the potential to remake city streets, and policies must directly address their expected widespread impact on safety, mobility, and land use (Press Release, National Association of City Transportation Officials, Jun. 23, 2016)

Today we review a policy statement by an association made up of municipal transportation planners from 40 major cities in the USA that transforming cities constrained by congestion and old vehicle technology to future ones where automated cars improve mobility and safety by all modes of transportation, not just for cars but even that could be much better. Automated cars offer a way to dramatically increase the capacity of (and lower the capital and maintenance costs) city roads and highways as well as making them safer for pedestrians and cyclists by imposing a speed limit of 25 mph. They will also offer more space in cities for homes and businesses by virtually eliminating the need for on and off street parking – a function that today covers as much as 40% of urban areas in the form of parking lots and driveways

Key Quotes:

 “New technology has the capacity to reduce the footprint of vehicular travel, moving more people in new forms of medium and low density transit, while creating space for safe and inviting walking and cycling infrastructure.”  

  • “Plan for fully automated vehicles, not half-measures: …[half measures] have been shown to encourage unsafe driving behavior, with drivers reading more, texting more, and generally being inattentive while the vehicle is in motion.”
  • “Rethink our streets and expressways: … technology will dramatically increase our current expressways’ capacity, making some currently planned expressway expansions potential ‘white elephants’ “.
  • “Ensure safe operation on city streets, including limiting automated vehicles to a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour: “
  • “Create data-sharing requirements for automated vehicles: …Requiring the sharing of high-quality, standardized data from automated vehicles would allow for cities to take a more data-driven approach to transportation.”
  • “Change planning models to incorporate the expected disruptive impact of this technology: “
Autonomous vehicles offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset our streets and address the fundamental issues of traffic safety, congestion, and mobility as our cities grow ever larger.”[ Janette Sadik-Khan, Transportation Principal at Bloomberg Associates and NACTO Chair.]

 “Shared, automated vehicle technology can remove that expense and physical burden, and enable cities to redirect their limited resources away from storing cars and toward affordable housing, high quality transit, and active transportation.”