California climate initiative may impact Ontario & Quebec

As a result of agreements between the three jurisdictions that have already been entered into, a new climate initiative announced today by California Governor Jerry Brown is likely to have an impact on Ontario and Quebec climate initiatives, especially as integrated cap and trade programs have to operate under broadly similar frameworks. While lacking in details, the Governor’s Executive Order certainly raises the bar for North American climate programs. Among the aspects of the Executive Order:

A new interim statewide greenhouse gas emission reduction target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 is established.

  • All state agencies with jurisdiction over sources of greenhouse gas emissions shall implement measures, pursuant to statutory authority, to achieve reductions of greenhouse gas emissions to meet the 2030 target.
  • The California Natural Resources Agency shall update every three years the state’s climate adaptation strategy and ensure that its provisions are fully implemented.
  • The adaptation strategy shall:
    • identify vulnerabilities to climate change by sector and regions, including, at a minimum, the following sectors: water, energy, transportation, public health, agriculture, emergency services, forestry, biodiversity and habitat, and ocean and coastal resources.
    • outline primary risks to residents, property, communities and natural systems from these vulnerabilities, and identify priority actions needed to reduce these risks.
  • Each sector lead will be responsible to:
    • Prepare an implementation plan by September 2015 to outline the actions that will be taken as identified in Safeguarding California, and
    • Report back to the California Natural Resources Agency by June 2016 on actions taken.
  • State agencies shall take climate change into account in their planning and investment decisions, and employ full life-cycle cost accounting to evaluate and compare infrastructure investments and alternatives.
  • Priority should be given to actions that both build climate preparedness and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,
  • Where possible, flexible and adaptive approaches should be taken to prepare for uncertain climate impacts.
  • Actions should protect the state’s most vulnerable populations.
  • Natural infrastructure solutions should be prioritized.
  • The state’s Five-Year Infrastructure Plan will take current and future climate change impacts into account in all infrastructure projects.
  • The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research will establish a technical, advisory group to help state agencies incorporate climate change impacts into planning and investment decisions.
  • The state will continue its rigorous climate change research program focused on understanding the impacts of climate change and how best to prepare and adapt to such impacts.

Until some other announcement takes top spot on the California Governor’s webpage  the Executive Order and an accompanying press release can be found at

Green Roads

Most GallonDaily readers are probably at least somewhat familiar with the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system for buildings but what about green roads? A US organization has risen to the challenge and has developed and is implementing an environmental rating system for road construction. Now the Greenroads Foundation is beginning to roll out certifications for road construction projects that meet its standard,

The South Fraser Perimeter Road in British Columbia is the first major project outside of the United States to achieve Greenroads Certification. The 38 kilometre road project with a mostly asphalt surface includes several wildlife crossings, preservation and restoration activities, and a variety of stormwater management facilities along its length.

In Tacoma, Washington, the Wapato Lake Drive project included replacement of an existing roadway with permeable pavement, allowing for better drainage than traditional stormwater management and an opportunity for groundwater recharge. Many sustainable street improvements were included to create a more environmentally friendly pedestrian link to Wapato Lake Park. The project included non-invasive and native planting, LED lighting with non-light polluting fixtures, as well as runoff flow control and runoff quality treatment.

In Bellingham, Washington, the Meador-Kansas-Ellis Trail Project provided an important connection for bicycle and pedestrian access to a recreational area. One of the most innovative strategies used on this project was the recycling of 400 old toilets, which were used as aggregate in the sidewalk concrete.  This new concrete mix has been named “Poticrete.” [That is not GallonDaily’s moniker but we do love it!]

Somewhat like LEED for buildings, Greenroads scores a project on a wide range of criteria falling under the headings of:

  • Project Requirements
  • Environment & Water
  • Access & Equity
  • Construction Activities
  • Materials & Resources
  • Pavement Technologies
  • Custom Credit

Points are awarded within each category and an overall rating of bronze, silver or gold is awarded based on the total score.

The manual, rating system, completed and in progress projects, and everything else you might need to know about Greenroads can be found at


New report applies broad definition of e-waste that potentially targets appliance manufacturers

A new report from the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability defines e-waste as all items of electrical and electronic equipment and its parts that have been discarded by its owner as waste without the intent of reuse”. This definition includes anything that uses electricity, not just the computing and communications technology that has traditionally been considered to be e-waste. Among the studies findings:

  • the global quantity of e-waste generation in 2014 was around 41.8 million tonnes.
  • this is comprised of 1.0 Mt of lamps, 6.3 Mt of screens, 3.0 Mt of small IT (such as mobile phones, pocket calculators, personal computers, printers, etc.), 12.8 Mt of small equipment (such as vacuum cleaners, microwaves, toasters, electric shavers, video cameras, etc.), 11.8 Mt of large equipment (such as washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, electric stoves, photovoltaic panels, etc.) and 7.0 Mt of cooling and freezing equipment (temperature exchange equipment).
  • according to the report, in Canada in 2014, 725 kilotonnes of e-waste, or just over 20 kilograms per person, were generated while only 122 kilotonnes, or 17%, or just over 3kg per person, found their way to officially reported take back systems.
  • common hazardous materials found in e-waste are: heavy metals (such as mercury, lead, cadmium etc.) and chemicals such as CFCs and various flame retardants. In addition to hazardous materials, e-waste also contains many valuable materials (such as iron, copper, aluminium and plastics) and precious metals (like gold, silver, platinum and palladium) that can be recycled. In fact, up to 60 elements from the periodic table can be found in complex electronics, and many of them are recoverable, though it is not always economic to do so presently.
  • from the resource perspective, e-waste is a potential “urban mine” that could provide a great amount of secondary resources for remanufacture, refurbishment and recycling. For example, the gold content from e-waste in 2014 is roughly 300 tonnes, which represents 11 per cent of the global gold production from mines in 2013 (2770 tonnes).

GallonDaily suggests that studies such as this are likely to increase the pressure that governments feel to implement extended producer responsibility programs for all categories of broadly defined e-waste. Some manufacturers of appliances have already implemented such initiatives and some appliances are already sent to metal recyclers but in many areas of North America it is still relatively difficult to find such recyclers and many places that accept various types of e-waste are still only accepting electronic waste and not the broader category of electrical waste.

The UN university report, The Global E-waste Monitor 2014: Quantities, flows and resources is available through a link at

Our consumption of rubber is leading to Asian deforestation

GallonDaily has written about how demand for palm oil is leading to tropical deforestation but now researchers from the University of East Anglia and the University of Sheffield are pointing out that increasing demand for natural rubber, primarily for tires, is contributing to major loss of Asian forests. Among their key findings:

  • more than 2 million hectares of industrial-scale and smallholder monoculture rubber plantations have been established during the last decade, primarily in mainland Southeast Asia and Southwest China.
  • between 4.3 and 8.5 million hectares of additional rubber plantations will likely be required to meet projected demand for natural rubber by 2024, threatening significant areas of Asian forest, including many protected areas.
  • some of the problem arises from potential displacement of rubber from existing plantations by more profitable oil palm.
  • conversion of forests or swidden (temporary) agriculture to monoculture rubber negatively impacts bird, bat and invertebrate biodiversity.
  • work is urgently needed to ensure rigorous biodiversity and social standards via the development of a sustainability initiative.

An abstract and the full 9 page article can be found in the journal Conservation Letters: A journal of the Society for Conservation Biology at

Only a little for the environment in the 2015 Canadian Government Budget

The 2015 Canadian Budget contains very little for those who believe that there is a need for additional spending on the environment. The following are environmental commitments, initiatives, and spending described in the 2015 Federal Government budget:

  • We [the government] will only proceed with natural resource projects that are safe for Canadians and safe for our environment.
  • $34 million over five years, starting in 2015-16, for consultations related to projects assessed under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
  • Economic Action Plan 2015 includes investments to enhance marine transportation safety in the Arctic as well as to strengthen environmental protection, spill prevention and response measures in Canadian waters.
  • $80 million over five years, starting in 2015-16, to the National Energy Board for safety and environmental protection and greater engagement with Canadians.
  • $72.3 million in 2015–16, on a cash basis, to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited to maintain safe and reliable operations at the Chalk River Laboratories.
  • $30.8 million over five years, starting in 2015-16, for measures to enhance the safety of marine transportation.
  • Legislation to re-establish a moratorium on oil and gas activities in Georges Bank, Nova Scotia.
  • Support the transformation of the forest sector by providing $86 million over two years, starting in 2016-17, to extend the Forest Innovation Program and the Expanding Market Opportunities Program.
  • $75 million over three years, starting in 2015-16, [for continuing] the implementation of the Species at Risk Act.
  • Providing $2.0 million in 2015-16 to the Pacific Salmon Foundation to support the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project.
  • Extending the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Program by providing $10 million per year for three years, starting in 2016-17.
  • Dedicating $34 million over five years, starting in 2015-16, to continue to support meteorological and navigational warning services in the Arctic.
  • Renewing the Chemicals Management Plan, with $491.8 million over five years, starting in 2016-17.
  • Renewing support for the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan with $99.6 million over four years ($1.35 billion on a cash basis), starting in 2016-17.
  • $15 million per year to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, of which $10 million per year is directed to collaborations between companies and researchers from universities and colleges under the new consolidated suite of similar business innovation programs. This new funding will target research areas such as natural resources and energy, advanced manufacturing, and environment and agriculture.
  • The Government intends to ensure that the costs associated with undertaking environmental studies and community consultations that are required in order to obtain an exploration permit will be eligible for Canadian Exploration Expense treatment.

GallonDaily was unable to find any mention of spending to address climate change or water quantity and quality issues in this Budget.

A full set of 2015 budget documents can be found at

The State of Sustainability 2015

Ethical Corporation, a UK-based global consultancy, publisher, and event organizer with a mission to help businesses around the globe do the right thing by their customers and the world, has just published a report on the “state of sustainability”. Among the findings of particular interest to GallonDaily:

  • Sustainability is of increasing importance to business strategy.
  • Corporate leaders around the world are increasingly persuaded by the case for sustainability.
  • Sustainability is already driving business revenues.
  • Sustainability is infiltrating all areas of business.
  • 68.9% of the global CEOs surveyed claim to be convinced of the value of sustainability.
  • 29% of “sustainability teams” report to the CEO, 21% to the head of sustainability, and 19% to the Board.
  • 46% pay an external organisation for advice/assistance with their sustainability strategy.
  • Only 21% of corporate respondents said their company is leveraging the potential of sustainability as fully as possible.
  • Only a third of respondents were able to say that they are measuring the return on investment of sustainability.

For much more information from the report, including a list of current sustainability priorities, obtain a free copy (registration required) from

Energy has the potential to be a leader in the new economy

There is a problem with the way many capital intensive and near monopoly goods, such as energy and water, are priced in our economy. The problem arises when society decides, or needs, to reduce consumption of these goods. Clearly this is happening now in the face of climate change and major regional drought. The problem, put simply, is that the ratio of fixed costs to variable costs is weighed heavily in favour of fixed costs so as demand goes down the supplier is faced with fixed costs being an even greater percentage of total costs, resulting, in a classical situation, in an increasing price for the commodity.

For example, the cost of the infrastructure required for supply of electricity is much greater than the costs of the water, fuel, renewable resources, or uranium required to generate the electricity. In some cases demand for electricity goes down by so much that generation and production equipment is idled before it has reached the end of its productive and/or economic life. This is the classic problem of “stranded assets”. The result is that ratepayers are forced to pay an increased price for less electricity, simply to continue paying off the debt that the electricity company took on to build the infrastructure in the first place.

This is pretty much a lose-lose situation for electricity companies and consumers. If society is to enthusiastically embrace conservation we are going to have to find ways to avoid having prices per unit of energy increase as demand decreases.

Energy service companies have developed a model that may well be appropriate for energy supply and local distribution companies. The model recognizes that they do not really care how many electrons (kilowatt-hours) they receive but simply want to receive the benefits, in the form of lighting, heating, motion, etc., that the electrons provide. Instead of paying for electricity, users are charged for the services provided. The services include the electricity, supply, maintenance, consumables and their replacement, and so on. Thus a consumer might contract for 900 lumens of light in a room. The ESCO would install the light, provide wiring and fittings as necessary, maintain the fixture, and replace the light bulb periodically. The same model would be even more relevant and effective when applied to large energy consuming appliances and equipment.

The environmental advantage is that if the ESCO could provide 900 lumens of light with lower electricity consumption there would be an economic incentive for them to do so, even if some additional capital cost, for example the cost of new lightbulbs, is necessary. Maybe the ESCO would even pass some of the savings on to the consumer. If the ESCO is also the utility providing the electricity then planning for demand would be easier and the need for capital investment could be more easily controlled and decisions to keep building more and more supply could be at least partially set aside in favour of more energy efficient solutions.

Imagine if the same approach existed for personal automobiles. You lease your car at a fixed price per year and per kilometre and the fixed price includes all fuel, maintenance, repairs, insurance, and consumables such as tires. You know exactly what you have to pay and, with few exceptions, that price is not going to go up. The leasing company, which may well be the manufacturer, has an incentive to keep your car well maintained so that its costs for fuel and future maintenance are minimized. The approach is not perfect but it does indicate a direction that needs to be taken if conservation and efficiency are to supercede increasing supply as the major drivers of the energy industry.

This is a GallonDaily original editorial. Comments are welcome and may be published at the discretion of the Editor.

Electric cars and auto fuel efficiency may create a government revenue challenge

An article in the current issue of Slate magazine highlights the economic changes that may be required as a result of the growing adoption of electric, hybrid, and more fuel efficient vehicles. Unfortunately some governments may even reverse some of their previous support for EVs rather than finding ways to properly address the problem. According to the article, the legislature of the state of Georgia has voted to scrap the existing $5,000 tax credit for electric vehicles and instead charge a $200 registration fee on such vehicles. Washington state already charges a $100 annual tax on electric cars and Virginia has a $64 tax on hybrids. The problem, at least in part, is not that these states want to penalize EV owners but that increasing adoption of EVs is harming state highway-related revenues.

The Slate article states that hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars account for about 3% of car sales in the US. In addition, vehicle fuel efficiency has increased by 26% since 2007, resulting in a 4% drop in gasoline sales over the same period. From an environmental perspective that is great news, but from an economic perspective it is bad news not only for petroleum companies but also for governments, most of which derive significant revenues from gasoline taxes. The temptation to increase taxes on EVs to counteract falling gas tax revenue is just too great for many politicians.

Oregon is reportedly planning to pilot a road use tax system that is based on miles driven – a fully automated road toll system. The amount a driver pays would be based on the number of miles driven, regardless of the fuel used. The toll system would partially or wholly replace fuel taxes. A mileage-based road tax, perhaps also linked to vehicle weight, another important factor in wear and tear of roads, would seem to GallonDaily to be a much more fair system for raising funds for road construction and maintenance than a fuel tax. Available technology, already being used by some auto insurance companies to monitor driving habits and adjust insurance rates accordingly, could automate the tolling process at relatively low cost.

Such a scheme may be more fair and have greater environmental advantages than fuel taxes but it will still be a very tough sell to voters. It is a dialogue with which environmentally concerned organizations and voters should consider engaging.

The Slate magazine article referenced above, with a more in-depth approach than presented here, is available at

GallonDaily’s editor is a happy driver of a mostly electric vehicle for which he has received some Ontario government incentives.

Neonics: first bees, now monarchs

Researchers at South Dakota State University and the US Department of Agriculture Research Laboratory at Brookings, South Dakota, have published research results which indicate that a neonicotinoid pesticide could be acting as a stressor to monarch butterfly populations. The effects on monarch larvae were observed  at a pesticide concentration of one part per billion on milkweed, the sole food plant for monarch larvae, equivalent to the potential concentration of the neonic pesticide on milkweed plants growing in a field adjacent to a corn field in which neonic pesticides are being applied.

According to the researchers, neonics are now the most widely used agricultural pesticides in the world.

No doubt the manufacturers and users of neonic pesticides will go ballistic in their efforts to decry this research. GallonDaily suggests that they are now very much on the losing side of the battle and that, without a major change to the formulation of neonic pesticides, the products will sooner or later face restrictions and bans. After all, those who harm honey bees and monarch butterflies are unlikely to win friends among the environmentalist, school kid, and concerned consumer segments of the population.

Gallondaily has written about neonics before, and may do so again. The purpose of this article is to suggest that food retailers not seek to jump on the anti-neonic bandwagon, something that we expect will start sooner or later. The research reported briefly above makes it apparent that trying to sell food as free from neonics, or as from farms that are neonic free, may be an unwise strategy. Even organic food is likely to be contaminated with these extremely low levels of neonics if it is grown in proximity to farms that use neonics. People generally do not eat milkweed, though some parts of the plant, flower buds and young seed pods, are edible. There is no evidence to date that neonics at very low levels on food plants cause harm to human health, so claims that a food product is neonic free could cause problems with label claim regulators who may argue that any such claim is inherently misleading.

GallonDaily suspects that there are claims that can be made for human food products that are grown without use of neonics and that are therefore not contributing to the decline of honey bees and monarch butterflies but the wording of such claims will have to be developed carefully and with considerable assistance from experts in product  environmental claims. Regulators are often all too ready to pounce on claims that harm the big players in the agricultural sector.

The article Non-target effects of clothianidin on monarch butterflies can be found at The abstract is free; there is a fee, or journal subscription required, for the full article.

Large electricity companies are facing massive downsizing by ~2030

An analysis by researchers with the Rocky Mountain Institute, co-founded by well-known energy guru Amory Lovins, and Homer energy, a private sector spin-off from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, finds that electricity from solar photovoltaic systems will replace the majority of grid-provided electricity, likely by as soon as 2030. The impact on large suppliers of electricity and on distribution companies is likely to be enormous.

Among the findings in this 13 page report:

  • solar-plus-battery systems are rapidly becoming cost effective.
  • the grid’s contribution to electricity supply will shrink from 100% today for commercial customers to ~25% by around 2030 to less than 5% by 2050.
  • large kWh defection could undermine revenue for grid investment under the current rate structure and business models.
  • eliminating net metering only delays kWh loss; fixed charges don’t “fix” the problem

The researchers recommend that the electricity industry and its owners/regulators need to act quickly on three fronts:

  • evolved pricing and rate structures;
  • new business models; and
  • new regulatory models.

A brief summary and links to the executive summary and full report (free, but name and email address are required) are available at