Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster’s (R-PA) recent draft highway/infrastructure proposal would make fundamental changes to the US Highway Trust Fund – the primary means by which the US funds the interstate and federal highway systems and the Fund that returns big $$ to the states.  It’s an interesting proposal for many reasons.  One, it raises taxes.  Two, it adds new taxes, on electric cars, for example, and even bicycles.  Third, it indexes those taxes to inflation.  Perhaps just as interesting is that the Committee’s website has become something of a real-time link because it includes comments from taxpayers – ok, mostly well-organized trade groups – on Shuster’s ideas.  The anti-taxers are – automatically, of course – against it.  Their comments, though, don’t reference the fact that with the kind of changes Shuster proposes the US general fund would save about $100 billion, tax money that would not have to go to the Trust Fund to pay mostly for highways.
*   The report from the University of Hawaii “Production of methane and ethylene from plastic in the environment” raises fascinating questions about greenhouse gas emissions.  The report, in the journal PLOS One, by Sarah-Jeanne Royer, Sara Ferron, Samuel Wilson, and David Karl, presents research showing “that the most commonly used plastics produce two greenhouse gases, methane, and ethylene when exposed to ambient solar radiation. Polyethylene, which is the most produced and discarded synthetic polymer globally, is the most prolific emitter of both gases.”  The article notes that polymer manufacturing has accelerated, from 2×106 metric tonnes (Mt) per year in 1950 to 381×106 Mt per year in 2015, and is expected to double in the next 20 years (emphasis added).  The authors write that “Our results show that plastics represent a heretofore unrecognized source of climate-relevant trace gases that are expected to increase as more plastic is produced and accumulated in the environment.”  Probably the end of discussion on this topic, huh?
*  U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) wants comments on national-level test facilities for offshore wind-specific research and development. DOE’s Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) is seeking information on facilities that can conduct unique offshore wind research and development (R&D), information on upgrades needed to existing facilities or new facilities to keep the U.S. “at the cutting edge of offshore wind R&D, and what specific tests and analyses could be carried out at existing, upgraded, or new facilities in order to advance the U.S. offshore wind industry.”  Comments are due by September 14.

Tom Ewing
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