On the Road to Better Data

Source: Bulk Transporter

This blog post was written by Jason Mathers, Senior Manager of EDF’s Corporate Partnerships Program.

The International Energy Agency weighed in last week as bullish on the future of natural gas as a transportation fuel.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the IEA “expects natural gas use in road and maritime transportation to rise to 98 billion cubic meters by 2018, covering around 10 percent of incremental energy needs in the transport sector.”

Three factors are behind this increase in the use of natural gas for transportation, according to Maria van der Hoeven, the IEA's executive director. These are the fuel’s “abundant supplies as well as concerns about oil dependency and air pollution." The cost factor is particularly a driver for commercial fleet operators where current fuel prices have become more favorable for natural gas over diesel.

In the U.S., all new trucks fueled by diesel or natural gas must meet the same standards for emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. Natural gas engines for medium- and heavy-duty trucks have surpassed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s stringent standards for particulate matter emissions by as much as 80 percent and for nitrogen oxides by up to 35 percent. Cummins Westport, the leading producer of natural gas engines, is investigating the feasibility of reducing NOx emissions from its spark-ignited natural gas engines to levels significantly below the current federal emissions standard.

Natural gas trucks have the potential to deliver tangible greenhouse gas emissions benefits over their petroleum-based counterparts. This certainty that natural gas vehicles are able to consistently deliver on their potential climate benefits in part depends on minimizing methane leaks caused by vehicle operations, refueling and maintenance. Read more

"Heck Yes"– Millennials Respond to the President’s Call

The environmental community is abuzz with reactions to President Obama’s wide-ranging Climate Action PlanHis speech introducing the plan Tuesday sparked immediate conversations about the Keystone XL Pipeline, the coal industry, the transportation sector and half a dozen other hot button environmental issues.

For me, his speech hit home in the first minute. Addressing the crowd at Georgetown University, he said he wanted to speak directly to my generation “because the decisions we make now and in the years ahead will have a profound impact on the world that all of you inherit.”

Confident, connected and open to change (says Pew), we Millennials are 95 million strong. We elected and then re-elected Obama looking for precisely this type of bold action on issues we feel passionately about.

“Someday our children and our children’s children will look us in the eye and ask did we do all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safer, more sustainable world. I want to be able to say yes we did. Don’t you want that?” he asked.

My answer to the President is, heck yes, and my peers are with me.

As we speak, 116 of the nation’s brightest and best Millennials are proving their willingness to do this through participation in EDF Climate Corps. EDF Climate Corps fellows hail from the nation’s top graduate schools and could spend their summer internships working wherever they want. But year-after-year, many of the nation’s most capable MBA and MPP students choose to roll up their sleeves to tackle the energy challenge for some of America’s most influential public and private sector organizations.

Since 2008, EDF Climate Corps has hand-selected, trained and embedded 400 energy efficiency superstars in hundreds of corporations and public sector organizations around the U.S. These young people have found $1.2 billion in energy savings at participating organizations like Google, GM, PepsiCo and Verizon, and they’re graduating with job offers for positions like Director of Sustainability and Energy Manager.

The President reminded us that we can choose to fear the future, but Americans have always taken the path to shape the future. That’s just what EDF Climate Corps is doing – building the next generation of business leaders with the skills we need to shift our nation toward a cleaner, more prosperous future.

He was smart to call us to action. We Millennials are outspoken and online. He knows that. He told us to tell our classmates, our colleagues, our parents and our friends what’s at stake – to remind them “there’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth.” That’s what EDF Climate Corps fellows are doing every day in these organizations, in their schools and right here on the EDF Climate Corps Blog.

How do you plan to answer the President’s call to help spread the word?

Let's Build a 21st Century Transportation Sector

By Jason Mathers l Bio l Published: June 26, 2013

President Barack Obama addressed the nation today on his environmental priorities, and I have to say, hearing the President of the United States speak so passionately about the issues that I spend my days trying to solve makes me want to wake up and come to work all over again.

In “The President’s Climate Action Plan,” Mr. Obama promises standards that not only will improve our existing transportation sector, but will also help build a better solution for tomorrow. His plan for “Building a 21st Century Transportation Sector” includes a commitment to partnering with industry and stakeholders to develop fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles.

As the President noted, heavy-duty vehicles are currently the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions within the transportation sector. More concerning still, emissions from these trucks are projected to grow faster than any other end-use source of greenhouse pollution.

So, how do we change this?  We need radically more efficient trucks, and we need companies to step up and make commitments to reduce emissions.

Trucks are expected to account for over 80 percent of the projected increase in freight greenhouse gas emissions. Successful efforts to not only slow the growth in freight emissions – but actually reduce emissions from today’s levels, must start with improved trucks first and foremost.

There is a lot than can be done to today’s trucks too to make them more efficient. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Super Truck program challenged our nation’s truck makers to develop test trucks that achieve a 50% improvement in efficiency and we are starting to see the fruits of this labor.  Cummins and Peterbilt, for example, recently revealed a truck for the DOE Supertruck program that "averaged 9.9 miles a gallon in road tests last fall," impressive results seeing as the current average is only around 6 miles per gallon. These gains were made by improved engine technology as well as better trailer aerodynamics and lighter weight materials that reduce the energy needed to keep the truck in motion on the highway.

More efficient tractor trailer trucks are simply good business too.  Consider that these trucks typically travel in excess of 120,000 miles a year and burn fuel at a rate of 6 miles-per-gallon.  So, for each superefficient new truck, companies will save around $40,000 a year in fuel costs. When scaled over the entire economy, these types of efforts can result in tens-of-billions per year in fuel savings. Some of these savings, of course, will be passed along to us as consumers.

Vocational, or work trucks, also have lot of interesting opportunities to improve efficiency.  EDF and FedEx demonstrated that hybrid trucks can do the job in many vocational applications while reducing emissions by 40%. Alternative power units are increasingly available in this space, which helps to reduce jobsite idling. Electric vehicles are even making inroads in lighter-delivery operations.

More robust fuel economy standards that push the established fuel-savings technologies we have today, such as hybrid work trucks and aerodynamic trailers, will be good for business and good for society.

Of course, even the most technologically advanced truck needs to be used smartly. Companies need to lead in this area. Every time a company mandates a fully loaded truck, we will see fewer trucks on the road. Using more carbon efficient modes of transportation is critical too.  Transportation by rail emits six times less carbon per ton mile than trucks.

Ultimately, there will still be a lot of trucks on the road and we need for them to be as efficient as possible. That’s why we’ve developed the EDF 5 Principles for Greener Freight. Simple operational improvements, such as moving more goods per truck and better planning and routing can make a significant difference to a company’s freight emissions.

We have the technology to build radically more efficient trucks today. We also have the know-how to use them much more productively. And now, we have a plan from The Chief. Let’s make it happen.

 

3 Vital Takeaways for Business from the New 3% Solution Report

Hat's off to the World Wildlife Fund and CDP for an important new study, released this week, about the potential to drive significant financial benefits, higher return on investment, and increased capital expenditure by pursuing a goal to reduce carbon emissions by 3% annually across the U.S. corporate sector.

The new report shines a spotlight on the value of challenging the private sector to address climate change and boost the bottom line, rather than seeing them as opposing goals.

In my new role as Vice President, Corporate Partnerships, our division that works with leading companies, I encounter countless examples of the power of strategic environmental management to create business value. That’s why the findings of the 3% solution study resonate with me.  Here are three key takeaways:

1. Companies that set aggressive carbon reduction targets trigger a cascade of positive results, including large emissions reductions, high financial returns, innovation, and a greater level of engagement. EDF has seen this with many of our corporate partners.

  • Walmart set a very public emission reduction commitment of 20 million metric tons by 2015, a goal that has cascaded through the entire supply chain and throughout the organization.
  • EDF helped FedEx achieve an ambitious fleet efficiency improvement goal of 20% by 2020 by launching a fleet of street-ready hybrid trucks. This move catalyzed an industry revolution of new hybrid vehicles now used by some of the biggest brands in the country.
  • AT&T set a public Energy Policy signed by the CEO and supported throughout the organization; one key result was $86 million in annualized savings from 8,700 projects implemented in 2010 and 2011.

In all three cases, our corporate partners achieved significant emission reductions, but also saw returns in the form of bottom-line savings, organizational buy-in and engagement, and new technological innovations..

2. Energy management is a strategic, profitable endeavor. The study reports that 4 out of 5 companies surveyed saw "higher returns on investments aimed specifically at reducing carbon emissions than on their overall portfolios." This finding supports a fundamental rethink of energy management from a way to shave operating costs at the margins to a strategic priority, on an equal footing with any other investment decision the company makes.

  • EDF sees this repeatedly through our work with EDF Climate Corps. Companies willing to make a small summer investment in our trained graduate students have seen, on average, $1 million in energy savings.
  • One of our EDF Climate Corps alumni went on to work at adidas, setting up the company's “greenENERGY fund.”  This investment fund is forecast to deliver a 36% return on investment after 7 months; this is in addition to reducing carbon use by 1,401 metric tons.

3. Companies need to take a systemic approach to cutting carbon emissions. We couldn't agree more. The report's Carbon Productivity Portfolio shares much with EDF's multi-part approach.

 

In the coming months, we’ll be taking a deeper dive into how we are challenging our corporate partners to adopt a systematic approach to energy and environmental management.

In the meantime, we welcome your views on the 3% Solution as well!

Malk Report highlights increasing influence of Institutional Investor on ESG in Private Equity

When Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) started its partnership with KKR five years ago, it would have been hard to anticipate the dramatic findings from Malk Sustainability Partners' report “ESG in Private Equity – 2013,” released Monday.

The private equity sector has rapidly shifted to understand the business imperative of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) management, with many different firms now making a public commitment to delivering measurable results.

What’s driving this trend?  The report suggests a few factors that we’ve also been seeing in the industry recently:

1)      A dramatic increase in the level of interest and leadership of a small but influential group of limited partners (LPs).  Fifty eight percent of the LPs surveyed said that they had increased their commitment.

2)      Since LP expectations are now cited as the largest driver for general partner (GP) action, increased LP focus likely is the primary force leading 74 percent of GPs surveyed to boost their commitment to ESG in the past 12 months.

3)      As is evidenced by the 14 different professionals quoted in the study, responsibility for ESG management is spreading to include several different job functions and operational areas, beyond the traditional domains of investor relations and general counsel.

Perhaps even more exciting is the indication from several of the participants that this interest from LPs is only growing stronger. While cost savings, revenue growth and reputation all are excellent drivers for increased ESG activity, hearing from a growing number of your clients about the importance of ESG management builds a sense of urgency that can drive even stronger results.

Overall, the report highlights a growing ecosystem within the sector that is driving firms to act now to deliver stronger environmental, social and financial results.