The Rock Ethics Institute

Initiatives

Local Measures

Energy efficiency and emissions reduction is ultimately an issue of local implementation. The structure of local county and township governments can directly dictate the kinds of policies that would be most effective in a particular region, for example, in Pennsylvania it is difficult to implement a multi-township energy plan due to the political and decision-making autonomy of such districts. This sometimes makes it difficult to co-ordinate efforts over a region, such as with land-use management. Large institutions, such as Penn State, can also have a significant effect on regional emissions levels. All sectors of local economic production will need to be engaged in the effort to reduce the nation's overall emissions output.

Penn State GHG initiatives

Penn State's President Graham Spanier declared that by 2012 the University is targeted to emit 17.5% below 2005/06 baseline (which with growth works out to 29.5% total).  The baseline value is 620,000 MTCO2E.  If this target is reached by 2012, the University's emissions will be just under 1995 levels. This is to be implemented across all campuses. Penn State is also a leader in biofuels research. The Energy Institute in the College of Earth and Mineral Science has an extensive research program on biomass/biofuels and sustainable energy research. Altogether, Penn State is following through on both a commitment to reducing campus-wide emissions, and invests heavily into research on energy efficiency and technological alternatives for market use.

Campus Lights Out and other campus-wide energy saving initiatives
Penn State - Office of Physical Plant - Energy Program
Penn State - Energy Institute - Biomass/Biofuels Research
Penn State - Energy Institute - Sustainable Energy Research

Smart-growth initiatives (anti-sprawl measures) and transportation development

Land-use and real estate development patterns play a large role in the efficiency of a given region. Patterns of development can strongly effect the length of commutes, green space patterns (which effect local climate), modes and frequency of transportation and pedestrian access, alternative modes of commuting, incentives to take public transportation, carpooling options, land-use intensity, location of key facilities, etc. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania operates with a structure that provides for a great deal of local autonomy in development planning. As a result, the planning of regional measures can prove exceptionally difficult in the state. Nevertheless, a variety of initiatives are available, particularly in planning local smart-growth initiatives. "Smart growth" is a trend in regional planning that focuses on the efficiency of services and travel corridors. Transportation development includes improvements to public transport efficiency and services, to work to improve access to under served areas, to incentivize the use of public transportation in daily commuting, to improve fuel efficiency of transportation fleets, and to improve commuting alternatives such as biking lanes. Other initiatives, such as brownfields restoration can also improve emissions profiles and reduce the pressure of sprawl in overtaking existent farmlands and forested regions.

PA State Land Use Report
10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania - Smart Growth Planning and Development Initiative
Lancaster County Smart Growth Initiative
Smart Growth Online - PA Initiatives
Urban Land Institute

Energy Sector

Energy production touches most every aspect of economic production and social infrastructure. To meet necessary emissions cuts across the board, almost every aspect of energy production and consumption will need to be improved by being made more efficient and drawn from renewable sources. Renewable emissions-free energy, such as solar, wind, and hydro is still very limited, and cannot alone fulfill the U.S.'s vast energy needs. Other emissions free energy, such as nuclear, are viable but bring with it significant questions of risk and long-term acquisition and storage of nuclear materials. Besides technological innovation, the main drivers of industrial development are a nation's access to raw materials and access to energy. Both of these limit how quickly and how much a nation can develop. Energy sector growth is usually directly connected to the growth of a nation's GDP. Primarily, the question of greenhouse gas emissions is a question of energy.

Fuels

Discussion around biofuels, such as ethanol, have been appearing in the news with greater frequency. Governmental investments in alternatives to fossil fuel energy sources are increasing in the U.S. for the first time since 1984. The rush to both homebrew biodiesel and big agricultural corn demonstrate the small niche and big business opportunities presented by the national shift in focus to biofuels. Energy security issues, such as reducing dependence on foreign energy imports, also drive the increased attention on biofuels, though energy independence is not the same as energy reduction.  There is a great variation among biofuels in terms of overall effect on emissions reduction, i.e. some biofuels have the potential to reduce emissions in more effective and just ways than others. Choices about the future of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, will play the largest role in reducing emissions worldwide.

Penn State - Energy Institute - Biomass/Biofuels Research
DOE - Bioenergy
Wikipedia Biofuel page
Alternative Energy News - Biofuels
National Renewable Energy Lab - Biofuels
Report on global transportation sector and climate change

non-GHG intensive energy production

Reduction of emissions can come from changing fuel sources, and from non-fuel based energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, and hydro power generation. All three forms of non-fuel based energy production rely on a distributed form of power generation, as opposed to centralized power production (such as coal fired plants), and thus necessitate a different infrastructure (both technological and institutional) for power generation and distribution. Each form of non-fuel based energy production (wind, solar, geothermal, and hydro) is also geographically dependent. That is, you can only produce hydro-power where there is water, wind power where windmills can be well sited, and solar power where there is sufficient sunshine. As such, the production and distribution of non-fuel based energy is limited. However, the development of this sector of energy production has potential for tremendous improvements in efficiency, distribution, and storage. In 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a renewable energy bill that sets a target of 15% of energy production is from renewable sources by 2020.

Wikipedia Renewable Energy page
National Renewable Energy Lab
Energy Information Administration
Penn State - Energy Institute - Sustainable Energy Research
Alternative Energy News
Off-Grid - Life Unplugged