Lead in Grape Juice: FDA's Proposed Limit Won't Protect Children

By Tom Neltner

On March 12, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be leading the U.S. delegation in the Netherlands proposing that the Codex Alimentarius Commission adopt a maximum lead limit of 40 parts per billion (ppb) in grape juice. The current limit, set by Codex in the 1980s, is 50 ppb. While it's a small step in the right direction, FDA's proposal falls woefully short of adequately protecting children from lead.

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Murdo Morrison / Flickr

Groundbreaking ‘Airbnb for Butterflies’ Now Open for Business, Donations

The monarch butterfly has a new chance at recovery, thanks to an innovative program seeking to crowdsource funding and habitat for the beloved species at an unprecedented scale and pace.

"The Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange is a market-based solution for restoring and conserving high-quality monarch habitat on America's private working lands," said David Wolfe, director of conservation strategy and habitat markets at Environmental Defense Fund. "We like to call it an 'Airbnb for butterflies' because it's the only program of its kind that can open the vast untapped potential of large-scale farms and ranches to make habitat available for monarchs, fast."

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Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Methane Reporting Gap Widens in Oil and Gas Industry

As investors increasingly focus on the risk of climate change in their portfolios, a new report from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) shows some oil and gas companies are exposing themselves to scrutiny by failing to adequately disclose meaningful information on emissions of methane, the heat-trapping pollutant that is drawing increased attention from the public.

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Are Electric Vehicles Finally Taking Off? Here's What You Need to Now

By Jason Mathers

Electric vehicles (EVs) are poised to take off. We've just closed a year of record demand and investment. It's no longer a question of whether EVs—will arrive, it's how: How big of a role will EVs play, how soon and how clean will they be?

Popularizing EVs will depend on tackling key challenges. We're seeing progress on several fronts.

1. Bringing Down the Cost of Batteries

Battery packs account for a third of the upfront cost of full EVs. Driving these costs down expands the number of EV models that are price-competitive with conventional vehicles. There is tremendous progress here.

The price of lithium ion batteries dropped 73 percent between 2010 and 2016, according to research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Numerous analyses point to battery costs of $100 per kilowatt hour (kWh) as the mark where full EVs become as affordable as traditional cars. General Motors' battery costs are $145 per kWh, and the company expects that number to drop under $100 per kWh by 2021.

2. Ramping Up Automaker Investment for New, Improved Models

Automakers are bringing electric cars and trucks to market with ever-better batteries and driving range. Ford Motor Co.'s plan to double its investments in EVs to $11 billion is just the latest example.

Globally, automakers have announced investments of more than $90 billion in EVs. Automakers still need to reveal more about their plans, detailing specific models, timing of release and availability in various markets.

3. Making Charging Stations More Widely Available

People are more likely to invest in plug-in cars once they feel confident they'll always find a place to recharge their batteries away from home, and fast. In fact, the availability of public charging infrastructure is a leading factor in EV adoption.

While the vast majority of charging occurs at home, public charging stations enable EV drivers to take extended trips. They also facilitate EV ownership by households reliant on on-street parking.

A recent assessment found the need for 600,000 public "level 2" (240 volt) plugs and 27,500 fast-charging plugs nationwide by 2030. By mid-2017, there were 36,000 public level 2 plugs and 3,300 fast-charging plugs in the U.S. So, there is a long way to go on this front.

Growth will continue over the next year as states deploy funds from the Volkswagen diesel emissions settlement to support EV charging infrastructure. Beyond the settlement, California recently approved a utility effort to expand access to charging in the light, medium and heavy-duty sectors, with more long-term, broader projects pending. More states should follow California's lead.

The time it takes to recharge will need to be improved, too. Helpfully, efforts are underway to deploy a next generation of fast-charging stations capable of adding 250 miles in a 15-minute fuel stop.

4. Shifting to Clean Energy for Charging

To get the most out of EVs, we need more renewable energy on the electric grid and drivers who charge vehicles when the grid is its cleanest. States play a vital role.

For example, New York's Reforming the Energy Vision aims to decentralize the electric grid, while aligning utility earnings with public policy needs and marketplace innovations. The program focuses on making it easier—and financially attractive—for customers to help improve the electric system by opting for EVs, rooftop solar and other energy investments.

By encouraging customers to charge EVs at times when renewable energy is readily available and affordable, New York is ensuring that EVs will benefit the grid and the environment.

5. Strengthening and Extending Emission Standards

Well-designed emission standards are critical to scaling clean vehicle solutions, such as EVs. With the certainty of long-term standards in place, manufacturers invest. This dynamic can be seen across the globe, as policy measures from China to California are driving EV investments.

Unfortunately, we are at risk of impairing this critical tool in the U.S. At a time when we should be challenging ourselves to set a new round of protective standards, the Trump administration is reconsidering standards that were set long ago.

The automotive industry has been complicit in this effort, despite its previous embrace of the same standards. To avoid undercutting their own investments in the long-term success of EVs, it is critical that automakers work proactively to strengthen and extend vehicle emission standards.

We're at a Crossroads

Over the next decade EVs can become a major part of our fleet with benefits for our health, economy and environment. We can create a future that drives down global oil demand and cuts nearly 2 billion tons of climate pollution a year.

Technical innovation has opened up this path. We now must muster the conviction to take it.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Climate Information Purge Was Directed by Pruitt, EPA Emails Show​

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has obtained emails indicating U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt's personal involvement in efforts to remove information about climate change from EPA's website.

EDF obtained the emails from EPA in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. We have posted the files for easy public access.

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3 Reasons to Be Hopeful About Our P​lanet in 2018

By Elizabeth Sturcken

Feeling down about our planet in 2018? Don't!

There are many reasons to be hopeful around environmental action in the new year—and if the following developments don't make you feel better, I've prescribed some action steps at the end that are guaranteed to set you on a healthier, happier path.

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To reduce grid dependence, the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago installed 913 solar panels on the Abbott Oceanarium roof. Shedd Aquarium / YouTube

5 Steps to Make Your Business More Climate Resistant

By Elizabeth Sturcken

No business is immune to the devastating effects of climate change anymore, as we saw from the onslaught of extreme weather events in 2017. Disasters brought more than $300 billion in damages this year, a 60-percent increase over 2016, Swiss Re reported last week.

As every business leader has long known, storms, flooding, wildfires and other calamities all threaten to disrupt their operations and growth, and can even affect an entire supply chain.

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Five Things to Watch as Industry Tackles Methane in 2018

As we close out 2017, we are energized by successes in our work with oil and gas industry partners. And as we look forward to a new year and a fresh start, here are five things we'll be looking for as industry leaders step up methane action in 2018.

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5 Things to Know as China Launches the World’s Largest Carbon Market

By Diane Regas

China has announced the launch of a national emissions trading system that will become the world's largest and most consequential environmental program, fulfilling a commitment of President Xi Jinping and setting up China to meet or even exceed its commitment to the Paris climate agreement.

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