Casting an eye toward White House environmental policy

by Anne Giesecke
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Bakers and snack food manufacturers are moving to better integrated operations at an increasingly rapid rate. Sanitation and safety are significant variables in measuring productivity where production and engineering dominated. Long-term planning is becoming more critical.

The current environmental policy will drive costs up for many aspects of plant operations. The basic cost of electricity may be No. 1 and other areas include natural gas, refrigerants and vehicle fuels.

Climate change is the predominant driver of environmental policy at this time. The White House is setting goals and the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) is implementing rules to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, greenhouse gas (G.H.G.) and ozone depleting substances. Government support is growing for clean energy and renewable energy, energy not produced from the burning of fossil fuels, such as, oil, natural gas and coal.

The International Energy Agency explains that, “Renewable energy is derived from natural processes that are replenished constantly… Included in the definition is electricity and heat generated from solar, wind, ocean, hydropower, biomass, geothermal resources, and biofuels and hydrogen derived from renewable resources.”

There is also government support to make the United States as energy independent as possible.

The current government’s policies will result in higher costs for natural gas for food processing and for emergency generators, electricity, waste disposal, refrigerants and vehicle fuels. Government fees and taxes on emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels will be applied across oil, natural gas and coal so prices on natural gas, for example, will be forced to rise. Increased use of natural gas for the production of electricity will impact demand and price.

According to the E.P.A., gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are called greenhouse gases and include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases. Carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels, for example, natural gas in bake ovens, use of electricity from coal burning power plants and vehicle fuel.

Methane is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil. Methane emissions also result from livestock and other agricultural practices and by the decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills. Nitrous oxide is emitted during combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste.

Fluorinated gases such as hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride are synthetic, powerful greenhouse gases that are emitted from a variety of industrial processes, most familiarly for food producers as refrigerants. Fluorinated gases are sometimes used as substitutes for stratospheric ozone-depleting substances (e.g., chlorofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, and halons). These gases, also including many refrigerants, are typically emitted in smaller quantities, but because they are potent greenhouse gases, they are sometimes referred to as High Global Warming Potential gases.

E.P.A. regulations to control the production and use of these substances are driving the refrigerant of choice to ammonia.

Carbon dioxide emissions from coal fired power plants are a primary target for regulations that require expensive pollution controls. These actions will drive up costs for consumers who buy electricity from these plants. Regulations and corporate policies to increase the purchase of renewable energy also will drive up costs.

Vehicle efficiency standards are being made more stringent. The E.P.A.’s final standards extend the light-duty vehicle Greenhouse Gas National Program for model years 2017-2025 at 35.5 miles per gallon for the 2016 model year. Light–duty vehicles are identified by size stated as square feet. Most model year 2012-2016 vehicle footprints are between 40-55 square feet. Most model year 2012–2016 truck footprints are between 45-65 square feet.

E.P.A. Amendments to the Heavy-Duty Highway Greenhouse Gas Rule and Nonroad Provisions set standards and requirements for a variety of engines including heavy duty trucks and emergency generators.

The E.P.A. is also responsible for developing and implementing regulations to ensure that transportation fuel sold in the United States contains a minimum volume of renewable fuel. According to the E.P.A., the Renewable Fuel Standard (R.F.S.) regulations were developed in collaboration with refiners, renewable fuel producers, and many other stakeholders. The R.F.S. program lays the foundation for achieving significant reductions of G.H.G. emissions from the use of renewable fuels, for reducing imported petroleum, and for encouraging the development and expansion of the nation’s renewable fuels sector.

The White House Plan may be seen at www.whitehouse.gov/share/climate-action-plan.

Congress does not currently have the will to counter the goals of clean energy and energy independence. The Judiciary has been generally supportive of E.P.A. rules because the E.P.A. is considered the expert in technical environmental decisions.

Bakers and snack food manufacturers will need to balance the costs and operational efficiencies of better integrated departments and newer technology with the increasing costs of energy policy.

In the context of current environmental policies, long-term planning should consider the gradual introduction of solar powered equipment, more immediate conversion to ammonia refrigeration systems and as infrastructure becomes available, the purchase of natural gas vehicles.

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