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LIMA — Imagine a world devoid of polar bears in the wild, the Arctic habitat home to the creatures melted away. The image isn't one out of some fantastical science fiction novel or the product of a Hollywood blockbuster.It might just be a matter of time until it is reality.For nature enthusiasts and polar bear mascots alike, it's a sad prospect.“Obviously, the polar bear is important, it's our mascot here at Ohio Northern, but there aren't going to be polar bears in the wild if things continue. I don't think we're going to be able to do anything fast enough about climate change to make a difference,” said Terry Keiser, professor of biology and chairman of the biological and allied health sciences. “Imagine a day when the only place you'll be able to see a polar bear is in a zoo. Some of those things, we've already missed the boat. Some of those things are already going to happen.”The problem, according to experts, is climate change. One of the prime culprits: the rise in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Some of the gases — carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide — occur naturally in the environment, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Others — chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons — result mostly from industrial activities.The issue has brought environmental and industrial professionals together. The U.S. EPA initiated a program in 2009, the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, designed to track emissions from large producers of greenhouse gases. In January, the EPA published facility-level data on greenhouse gas emissions nationwide. Companies reported data from 2010. Facilities with emissions greater than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent were required to report while other companies volunteered data.“This publicly available data enriches and empowers all of us who want to identify opportunities for reducing greenhouse gases. The data can be used by communities to identify nearby sources of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation. “It can be used by facilities to compare their emissions to similar operations to see where there may be cost-effective opportunities for reductions. It can be used by businesses to track their own emissions over time.”Tracking emissionsThe impact of the greenhouse gases, in particular the human impact on climate change and rising levels of greenhouse gases, has long been a matter of debate.“Climate change is a natural process,” Keiser said. “But we are influencing that climate change by speeding it up.”The EPA has been tracking greenhouse gas emissions for the better part of two decades. A report issued last week by the agency shows overall emissions in 2010 increased by 3.2 percent from the previous year.According to the EPA, the increase in emissions was in part attributed to greater energy consumption with an expanding economy. Increased demand for electricity for air conditioning because of a hot summer also contributed, officials said.In the past 20 years, the level of greenhouse gas emissions has risen more than 10 percent, the EPA report said.“It's like thinking of the atmosphere, of the natural ozone layer, as a blanket around the planet. The more of these greenhouse gases that get produced and released into the atmosphere is equivalent to putting on more and more blankets around the planet,” Keiser said. “As we have more and more people in the world, even if the levels everyone produced stayed the same, the overall effect would be greater amounts of these gases.”McCarthy acknowledged that part of the design of the EPA's Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program is to provide the data so policymakers in this country and around the world can make decisions to reduce the amount of gases produced. The EPA effort is the U.S. effort as part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is working to affect change on a global scale.“Our hope is that people outside EPA, outside the federal government, will use this data as a powerful resource for better decision-making and in the end use the data in ways that we here at EPA haven't even contemplated,” McCarthy said. “What we can bank on is that better information will always lead to a better informed public, which will lead to better environmental protection.”Data from the EPA's January report shows 17 facilities across the nine-county region surrounding Lima reported 2010 greenhouse gas emissions. The output ranges from a high of more than 1.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent produced by the Husky Energy Lima Refinery to more than 22,000 metric tons produced by Veyance Technologies, the former Goodyear plant, in St. Marys.Overall in the Lima region, the 17 businesses accounted for more than 2.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Statewide, 246 businesses reported greenhouse gas emissions totaling more than 156 million metric tons.Greenhouse gases and industryRepresentatives from industry acknowledge the business community has a responsibility to customers and communities to stay on top of the greenhouse gas issue.“Husky is a responsible corporate citizen and is committed to the continuous improvement of its environmental performance,” said Mel Duvall, a spokesman for Calgary, Canada-based Husky Energy. “We work to mitigate any impacts to air, water, land and habitat and strive to meet or exceed all regulatory requirements for environmental monitoring and reporting.”Duvall pointed to recent projects at the refinery designed to have a positive impact on the facility's carbon footprint. In fall 2009, the facility underwent a turnaround that included initiatives to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, increase flare gas recovery and improve energy conservation.A flare gas recovery project was completed at the refinery in December 2010. The project redirects gases that were once emitted back into the plant to be recycled as energy. Duvall said the effort has cut overall emissions by 30 percent.“Our internal environmental reporting system provides accountability in tracking emissions and Husky contributes emissions data to the Carbon Disclosure Project, the world's largest database of corporate climate change strategies and greenhouse gas emissions,” Duvall said. “As a responsible corporate citizen, Husky strives to implement actions and practices consistent with sound environmental management and conservation.”In the Lima region, Husky's more than 1.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent is 10 times greater than the second largest site — Linde Gas North America's Lima Plant 2, which had more than 139,000 metric tons in 2010. Linde also operates a second plant in Lima that ranked ninth in the region with more than 73,000 metric tons emitted.Vinita Abraham, a spokeswoman for New Jersey-based Linde North America, said the company is committed to reducing its carbon footprint.“Linde is committed to developing and adopting environmental solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainability for both ourselves and our customers,” Abraham said. “Our Lima plants comply with all applicable federal, state and local environmental regulations and are both certified under the American Chemistry Council's Responsible Care Program. Responsible Care is a globally recognized management system aimed at helping companies improve performance in areas such as safety, health, environment and security.”The company's two hydrogen plants and one carbon dioxide recovery plant in Lima help provide customers with clean fuel, chill food, carbonate drinks and make medicines, Abraham said.“The hydrogen we supply from our hydrogen plants helps our customers remove sulfur contamination from fuels and enable them to meet the EPA clean fuel requirements, produce fewer greenhouse gases and other tailpipe emissions,” she said. “Linde has invested a great deal of money in using the best control technologies for combustion such as [low nitrogen oxide] burners and employed some of the latest and most efficient technologies for efficient plant operation.“In Lima, Linde captures and purifies [carbon dioxide] emitted as a byproduct from an ammonia manufacturer. Linde uses advanced technologies to capture the plant's CO2 emissions, which would otherwise be vented straight into the atmosphere. Linde recovers, purifies and liquefies the CO2 and then ships it by tanker trunk to a variety of customers, who use it in applications such as food chilling and freezing, health care, pharmaceutical manufacturing and soft drink bottling and dispensing.”Patrick Barrett, corporate director for environmental health and safety at Veyance Technologies, said efforts in St. Marys and elsewhere in the company focus not only on what's directly emitted but also on indirect emissions. The company has adopted a smart-building approach that engages heating and cooling systems as well as lighting only when an area is actually being used. The company also changed its forklift fleet to more energy efficient models.“It stems back to our ownership group and their focus on responsible investment. That responsibility spans the company,” Barrett said. “Back when I got into this more than 20 years ago, this was a trendy type of thing. Now people's awareness is up tremendously. Government has a responsibility to drive for more efficient processes and equipment. If we could get everyone pulling in the same direction, God only knows what we could accomplish.”Joe Bianco, the safety, health and environment manager at the INEOS plant in Lima, said the company constantly monitors its emissions as well as looks for other ways to save energy.“If it's not in use, it's isolated,” Bianco said. “Office temperature compressors are turned off at night. We did that back in the late 1980s at the old offices. Our new offices will be the same way.”Other companies like Bunge North America, which has a plant in Delphos, and Cargill Inc., which operates a facility in Sidney, also have specific goals for reducing their carbon footprint. Bunge's plan calls for a 5 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per ton of output, a 10 percent reduction in water usage per ton of output and a 10 percent reduction in the total amount of material sent to landfills.Similarly, Cargill is looking for a 5 percent improvement in energy efficiency, a 5 percent improvement in greenhouse gas intensity, an increase in renewable energy use to 12.5 percent of the company's energy portfolio and a 5 percent improvement in freshwater efficiency.Keiser said if all businesses, industries and individuals looked for even small ways to reduce their carbon footprint, it would make a difference.“It would be significant. That footprint would definitely be reduced,” he said. “What can we do to minimize it? It comes down to the three R's: reduce, recycle, reuse. Reduce consumption, recycle what you can, and reuse what you can.”

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