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Climate change is a topic that has been receiving constant attention in the news and by experts for over a decade. We wanted to explore the general public’s opinion about climate change and what they knew and felt about it. We decided to go out and ask people in DC and the surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia in order to get a more diverse perspective on climate change.
These are the questions we asked anyone who was willing to answer our questions: Does climate change exist? Is climate change caused by human impact? On a scale from one to five, how much does climate change impact your life on a day to day basis? Can you give an example of how climate change affects you? Do you personally do anything to mitigate the effects of climate change? Do you or any of your neighbors have solar panels? Why do you think solar panels are not more popular in your area?
The interviews are a project of the Ecologic Institute summer interns 2015: Christina Ennis, Pauline Feldman and Andrew Staffelbach. Christina Ennis is a student at Virginia Tech majoring in International Studies. She was most surprised by how responses changed depending on where the interviewee was from. Participants from California, Utah, and Nevada felt much more negatively affected by climate change and more willing to take action. Andrew Staffelbach is a graduate student from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University at Bloomington. He was surprised by how informed the citizens were on the subject of climate change. Many knew specific details about how climate change impacts them and what they could do to individually change their behavior to reduce their impact on climate change. Pauline Feldman is a student at Cornell University.
In the video above, you can see the many differing responses we received and the local public’s real opinion regarding the impacts of climate change. Please send us your feedback in the comment window below.
On June 10, 2015, the EPA released its proposal for the 2015 and 2016 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) biofuel volume requirements. The proposal reduces the Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO), which would permit gasoline and diesel blends to include a lower volume of renewable fuels than currently mandated. According to Kendall Septon, writing for the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Blog, the EPA “cited market constraints in accommodating increasing volumes of ethanol, along with limits on the availability of non-ethanol renewable fuels.”
Although the EPA claims that “the 2015 and 2016 proposed standards… are expected to lead to substantial growth over time in the production and use of higher-level ethanol blends and other qualifying renewable fuels,” it seems that if the EPA desires a larger supply of cellulosic biofuels and greater distribution infrastructure, then it should promote more investment in biofuels – not less. Not only does the RVO reduction seem like an illogical way to advance biofuel technology, but it is also likely to have a negative impact on biofuel industry stakeholders.
For example, “the grain farming community in Indiana and the Midwest is very concerned about the EPA’s plans to reduce its RVOs under the Renewable Fuel Standard, and they see it as an attack on the market,” explained Kyle Cline, a National Government Relations Public Policy Advisor at the Indiana Farm Bureau.
The RFS was established in 2005 and expanded in 2007 “to reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and US dependence on oil imports by establishing increasing quantities of renewable fuels that must be blended into transportation fuels” (Stock). Iowa State University Professor Bruce Babcock describes the RFS as “a tax on gasoline and a subsidy to biofuels.” These subsidies and taxes manifest in Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs), which are RFS compliance permits.
According to Cline, farmers in Indiana view the RFS in a very positive light. In creating demand for biofuels, the RFS transformed the market for corn and other foodstock. The Indiana Farm Bureau has taken the position that they “don’t want to reduce the RFS at all from the 2007 levels,” Cline explained. “We want to see cellulosic biofuels make it to the finish line,” said Cline, but a reduction would “signal to investors not to invest in biofuels.” This lack of investment would, in turn, damage the market for corn ethanol and other first generation biofuels as well as stunt the production and development of advanced and cellulosic biofuels.
“Farmers primarily support ethanol because they realize the financial benefits,” said Cline. Unlike some other renewable energy sources, biofuel production does not have a significant effect on employment. “Farms in the Midwest are really not that labor intensive. [The draw of biofuels is] more of a business proposition. Even if you are not selling directly to the ethanol plant, you are still benefiting because of overall higher demand.” Cline pointed to the influx of college graduates in towns with a growing ethanol industry and the positive implications of such a change as an example.
From a land-use standpoint, “the farmers typically use minimal tillage methods, and they maintain normal annual crop rotations because they know they need healthy soil in long run,” Cline said. In Indiana, the farmers generally rotate corn and beans, and they often raise livestock as well.
A major draw for biofuels is the ability to “grow local, use local. Farmers fill-up with the same fuel they help produce. And profits stay local instead of going aboard or into the pockets of big oil companies.” Similarly, biofuel – as a renewable energy source – can offer more energy security than oil can, and, Cline contends, “we need to reduce our dependence on imports from volatile nations.”
Cline, Kyle. Personal interview. 8 July 2015.
Septon, Kendall. “EPA Proposes New Volume Requirements for Renewable Fuel Standard.” Clean Cities Blog. U.S. Department of Energy, 11 June 2015. Web. 10 July 2015. <http://www.eereblogs.energy.gov/cleancities/post/2015/06/11/epa_rfs_requirements.aspx>.
Stock, James. The Renewable Fuel Standard: A Path Forward. New York: Columbia Univ., 2015. Print.
“Renewable Fuel Standard Program: Standards for 2014, 2015, and 2016 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2017.” Federal Register. National Archives and Records Administration, 10 June 2015. Web. 10 July 2015. <https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/06/10/2015-13956/ renewable-fuel-standard-program-standards-for-2014-2015-and-2016-and-biomass-based-diesel-volume-for?utm_campaign=subscription+mailing+list&utm_medium=email&utm_source=federalregister.gov>.
Located at the southern tip of Israel’s Negev desert, the Eilat Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative has turned the arid desert region into a hub for the creation of renewable off-grid energy technologies and sustainable development. Eilat Eilot is a non-profit, owned collectively, or by kibbutzim, in Eilat and Hevel Eilot and based in Kibbutz Ketura. Environmentalists Dorit Banet and Noam Ilan founded the Eilat Eilot Initiative in 2007 (2011 officially). Banet, who serves as CEO, explains that, as entrepreneurs, she and Ilan work day-to-day on the development of the “technology, infrastructure, regulations, awareness, and new financial models that, together, can create a new reality.”
Off-grid technologies function independently from “municipal infrastructure such as the electrical power grid, water, and sanitation systems and other utility services.” A pioneer in the creation and promotion of off-grid technologies, Eilat Eilot built Israel’s first off-grid demonstration village. The purpose of the Off Grid Hub is “to open a new market and field of interest,” says Banet. Taking advantage of the desert sun, Eilat Eilot relies primarily on solar technologies. Eilat Eilot’s Off Grid Hub serves as a model for companies working to develop “products and technologies that will provide energy, water and agriculture needs to populations that [are] out of reach of national water and energy grids.”
One of Eilat Eilot’s major challenges has been to make its technologies sufficiently affordable. Banet hopes that in the coming years Eilat Eilot will improve the cost and advance the capabilities of its products as well as create “a platform for young, bright people to innovate new technologies.” To achieve the latter, Eilat Eilot hosts an annual conference and competition called Sustainergy™ that invites youth from around the world to present their own research on and solutions for unsolved environmental problems.
Eilat Eilot’s goal of sustainable development relates not only to the environment but also to job creation. Before the Eilat Eilot project came to the region, employment for locals was almost exclusively related to agriculture and tourism. “We are trying to create a new field of jobs and source of income in Israel’s periphery,” Banet says. “We see the field of renewable and sustainable energy as a catalyst for regional development.” Eilat Eilot exemplifies the way in which increased investment in renewable energy leads to labor market expansion.
Sources: Banet, Dorit. Personal interview. 3 July 2015.
“Welcome to Eilat Eilot.” Eilat Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 July 2015. <http://www.renewable-energy-eilat.org/>.