U.S. EPA and German Authorities Accuse Tesla of Violating Environmental Rules

Via Flickr

Maxwell Bernstein | April 28, 2021

In separate allegations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and German authorities accused electric car maker Tesla of violating environmental rules according to CNBC.

The EPA accused Tesla of failing to comply with federal emissions standards for hazardous air pollutions, specifically, from the “surface coating” of their vehicles. Tesla’s car plant in Fremont, CA has a history of fires, improper cleaning, and maintenance. Tesla worked on improving their paint facilities in 2020.  

German authorities fined Tesla 12 million euros (roughly $14.5 million) for failing to make public notifications to fulfill their obligation to receive old batteries from customers. By law in Germany, electric car makers are required to take back batteries and dispose of them in an environmentally sustainable manner. Tesla wrote in a filing, “This is primarily relating to administrative requirements, but Tesla has continued to take back battery packs.”

Eastern Iowans Plant Trees for Earth Day

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Maxwell Bernstein | April 23, 2021

Eastern Iowans celebrated Earth Day yesterday with tree planting projects – an important task after trees were damaged in the August derecho according to KCRG. Organizations such as GreenState Credit Union, Trees Forever, Big Grove Brewery, Quality Care and Landscapes, and the City of Iowa City gave more than a thousand seedlings and planted oak trees at Big Grove Brewery.

Over 100 volunteers in Tipton Iowa planted 50 trees around the Tipton Public Library. According to the Tipton Public Works Director Steve Nash, the derecho damaged at least 100 public trees. The Marion-based non-profit Trees Forever is running a tree adoption program in Linn County that is open from now until April 30

Increases in Coal Usage are Contributing to Higher CO2 Emissions

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Maxwell Bernstein | April 21, 2021

Increases in coal usage across Asia and the US are contributing to the second largest annual rise in CO2 emissions, according to The Guardian. The last largest leap in CO2 emissions occurred 10 years ago after the financial crisis. Coal is the most carbon-intense fossil fuel and is more expensive than renewable energy.

“Demand for all fossil fuels is set to grow significantly in 2021,” The International Energy Agency said in their 2021 Global Energy Review. “Coal demand alone is projected to increase by 60% more than all renewables combined, underpinning a rise in emissions of almost 5%, or 1 500 Mt. This expected increase would reverse 80% of the drop in 2020, with emissions ending up just 1.2% (or 400 Mt) below 2019 emissions levels.”

Scientists warn that emissions need to be cut by 45% this decade to reduce global heating by 2.7F.

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Calls American Rivers Endangered Rivers Report “Propaganda”

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Maxwell Bernstein | April 16, 2021

In a recording of Iowa PBS’s “Iowa Press” Mike Naig, the Iowa Agriculture Secretary, labeled the American Rivers choice for placing the Racoon River on the Endangered Rivers List as “propaganda,” according to Iowa Capital Dispatch.

“That so-called report was a bit of propaganda, I think,” Naig said. “It was obviously a Washington D.C.-based advocacy organization. They can go out and say what they want to, but what they talked about related to Iowa is not based in fact.”

In an interview with the Iowa Capital Dispatch, Des Moines Water Works CEO Ted Corrigan said that the designation for the Raccoon River should not have come as a surprise. “It is clear, given the ammonia, phosphorus, and thousands of pounds of nitrogen that flow past our treatment plant, that adding any more nutrients to our watershed without addressing the water quality issues is going to lead to catastrophe,” Ted Corrigan said. 

American Rivers Places Iowa Rivers on Endangered Rivers List

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Maxwell Bernstein | April 14, 2021

American Rivers, a D.C. environmental advocacy nonprofit, ranked the Racoon River ninth on their Most Endangered Rivers list, according to the Des Moines Register. The Racoon River runs from northwest Iowa to Des Moines and provides drinking water for 500,000 Des Moines metro residents. The river was placed on this list due to about 750 animal feeding operations in the watershed that contribute to animal manure runoff.

Second on the list is the Missouri River, which runs along Iowa’s western border. The Missouri River is on the list due to poor management, which raises the risk of extreme flooding for communities and residents that live next to the river.

Despite Iowa lawmakers investing $282 million in water quality initiatives over 12 years, researchers from the University of Iowa found that nitrogen levels from Iowa continued increasing over the past two decades.

Fewer Americans Prioritize the Environment Over Economic Growth

Via Gallup

Maxwell Bernstein | April 9, 2021

A poll from Gallup found that half of Americans prioritize the environment over economic growth, a number that has decreased from the two-thirds of Americans that took prioritized the environment two years ago. Around 42% of Americans believe that strengthening the U.S. economy should be the greatest priority. 

The current attitudes match with the U.S. unemployment rate of 6%. Gallup found that when the unemployment rate is below 6%, the majority of Americans support the environment over economic growth, and the highest support occurred when the unemployment was at 5%. 

“While slightly more U.S. adults today prioritize the environment over economic growth, the 50% doing so is down from 60% in early 2020 (largely before the pandemic was declared) and 65% in 2019, and is the lowest recorded since 2015, when 46% held this view,” Gallup said. 

How Climate Change Impacts Iowa

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Maxwell Bernstein | April 7, 2021

Climate change will increase the damage from drought, flooding, air pollution, and toxic algae in the Midwest and also, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found that the number of storms causing $1 billion or more are increasing Peter Thorne, the head of the University of Iowa’s Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, said in an interview with the Iowa Capital Dispatch.  

As the climate changes, Iowans’ health will be affected. Iowans with hay fever will have their symptoms increase and pests such as the Lone star tick will become more common in Iowa, which can increase the spread of tick-borne diseases.

When disasters increase, the toll of climate change will be the greatest on children, older adults, communities of color, and low-income communities, according to the American Public Health Association. “We must focus more specifically on equity issues, and what it means to involve communities that have been historically marginalized in this planning process,” Sylvia Secchi, associate professor in the University of Iowa’s Department of Geographical and Sustainable Sciences said in an interview with the Iowa Capital Dispatch. 

PFAS Found near Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids

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Maxwell Bernstein | April 2, 2021

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been used in industry in the United States since the 1940s, and never break down, according to the EPA. Since they never break down, they accumulate in the body and in the environment.

According to the Iowa Capital Dispatch, these chemicals are found in, “airport firefighting foam, food packaging, carpet, dental floss, cookware, paints, cosmetics, cleaning products and waterproof clothing, and other products.”

Scientists from the University of Iowa have found PFAS in 20 rural wells near the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids and 14 wells south and east of the airport, according to the Iowa Capital Dispatch.

The health effects of PFAS include infant birth weights, effects on the immune system, cancer, and thyroid hormone disruption.

Increasing Temperatures will Affect Asthma and Seasonal Allergies

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Maxwell Bernstein | March 31, 2021

Asthma and seasonal allergies will become worse as temperatures increase from climate change according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. As temperatures warm, flowers and plants bloom earlier which increases the concentration of pollen and carbon dioxide. These higher concentrations of pollen exacerbate allergies and asthma.

Roughly 7.8% of Americans who are 18 and older have hay fever and 7.7% of adults have asthma. From 1995 to 2011, warmer temperatures have increased the U.S. pollen season from 11 to 27 days, a trend that will only increase the length and severity of seasonal allergies.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reported that asthma disproportionately affects Black, Hispanic, and native populations, who all have higher asthma rates, hospitalizations, and death. Social determinants and structural inequities such as systemic racism, segregation, discriminatory policies, socioeconomic status, education, neighborhoods and physical environments, employment, social support structures, and access to healthcare largely drive asthma disparities.

These car companies plan on producing electric-vehicles.

Image of Ford Mustang Mach-E Via Car and Driver

Maxwell Bernstein | March 26, 2021

As humans change the climate with the production of greenhouse gasses, car companies are shifting to electric vehicles to mitigate climate change disasters. According to the EPA, transportation accounts for about 28% of greenhouse gas emissions. Here are the car companies that plan on investing and working toward electric-vehicle production.

General Motors (GM): American company General Motors plans on having an all-electric lineup by 2035. Their plan for this all-electric lineup has begun with the release of two Chevy Bolt models and an all-electric GMC Hummer EV pickup truck, according to CNBC.

Ford: Ford said that their European cars will be fully electric or plug-in hybrid by mid-2026 and all-electric by 2030. Ford has plans to spend $22 billion in electrification through 2025, according to Reuters.    

Volvo: On Tuesday, the Chinese-owned automotive company said they will become a “fully electric car company” by 2030, with the complete removal of internal combustion engines, according to CNBC.

Tata Motors: Located in India, Tata motors who owns Jaguar and Land Rover will have Jaguar going all-electric from 2025 and Land Rover rolling out six electric vehicles over the next year.

Volkswagen: The German company Volkswagen plans on releasing 70 all-electric vehicles by 2030 and plans on investing around $42 billion in battery electric vehicles.

Kia: Located in South Korea, Kia will release 11 electric vehicles by 2026, and the all-electric Kia EV6 by the end of this month, according to Car and Driver.

As of March 18, 2021, shares for Ford Motor Co. were up 42%, GM was up 42%, and VW shares were up 46%. Investors are gaining confidence in these carmakers as they reinvent themselves as producers of electric-vehicles, according to the Wall Street Journal.