Thursday, October 31, 2013

   Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013

Boston to Order Builders to Adapt to Climate Change

Credit: Shutterstock
Boston city officials proposed new zoning rules Tuesday that would require developers of large new buildings in Boston to submit plans to deal with flooding, heat waves, and other potential complications of climate change as sea levels and temperatures are projected to rise.

The rules, which will be presented to the Boston Redevelopment Authority board next month, are among a number of steps city officials said they have taken since Hurricane Sandy last year demonstrated the dangers posed by a changing climate and increasingly potent storms along the East Coast.

Boston to Order Builders to Adapt to Climate Change

Markey Legislation Tackles Climate Change, Clean Energy

Get document in pdf.
Sen. Ed Markey introduced legislation Thursday that sets a target of generating 25 percent of the nation’s energy from renewable sources while reducing energy waste by 15 percent by 2025.

The second renewable energy bill introduced in the Senate this week, Sen. Markey’s legislation also follows the science by including strong carbon accounting measures for biomass resources and other important provisions aimed at improving bio-energy supplies.

Franz Matzner, associate director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, commented:
Coupled with President Obama’s climate change initiative, this legislation can takes us one step closer to meeting the moral obligation we have to our children to cut pollution, tackle climate change and develop more sources of clean, renewable energy – and the jobs that come with it.”
Markey Legislation Tackles Climate Change, Clean Energy

After Sandy: Why Rebuilding the Coast Is Doomed to Failure

Houses along the New Jersey shore were badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. (Credit: Jeffrey Bruno)
One year after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the U.S. East Coast, the government is spending billions to replenish beaches that will only be swallowed again by rising seas and future storms.  It’s time to develop coastal policies that take into account new climate realities.
----
By Rob Young, Professor of Coastal Geology at Western Carolina University and Director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines

After Sandy: Why Rebuilding the Coast Is Doomed to Failure

Slowdown Seen in Rising Global CO2 Emissions

Credit: www.pbl.nl/en .  Click to enlarge.
Carbon dioxide emissions increased in 2012 by less than half the average of the past decade, indicating a step toward a “permanent slowdown” in rising CO2 emissions, according to a report released Thursday. Emissions rose by 1.4 percent in 2012, down from a 2.9 percent average increase over the last ten years.

The drop was partially due to a shift away from fossil fuels, spurred by new developments like the rise of shale gas in the United States and renewable energy use globally.  Slower economic growth in places like China and greater energy efficiency also accounted for the drop, according to the report.

The U.S., China, and the European Union remain the largest contributors to emissions, accounting for 55% of the global figure.  Emissions growth in China, the world’s largest contributer, was down to 3% from a 10% average over the past decade.  In the U.S., emissions were down overall 4%.

Slowdown Seen in Rising Global CO2 Emissions

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

   Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013

Fear Is Rising in Oil Industry that Tax Breaks Would Be Axed in Reform Bill

Top oil and gas industry executives testify during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on 'Oil and Gas Tax Incentives and Rising Energy Prices' on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 12, 2011. Seated (l.-r.) are Chevron CEO and Chairman John Watson, Shell Oil US President Marvin Odum, BP America Inc. President and Chairman H. Lamar McKay, ConocoPhillips CEO and Chairman James Mulva and Exxon Mobil CEO and Chairman Rex Tillerson. (Credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters) Click to enlarge.
Oil and natural gas lobbyists have spent more than a year urging lawmakers to maintain targeted tax breaks for extracting and transporting their products, but there are signs of a growing fear within the industry that impending legislation to overhaul the tax code for the first time in a generation would eliminate most of those incentives in order to lower the top-line rate paid by all companies.

Fear Is Rising in Oil Industry that Tax Breaks Would Be Axed in Reform Bill

Bad News for Storm-Battered Europe: There’s More Extreme Weather on the Horizon

Engineers look at the damage to a crane working on redevelopment at the Cabinet Office in Whitehall, near Downing Street in London, that was brought down by high winds, Monday, October 28, 2013. Weather forecasters say it is one of the worst storms to hit Britain in years. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant) Click to enlarge.
Europe began this week bracing itself against one of the most powerful storms in years.  Gusts of 99 m.p.h. trailed across parts of southern Britain before heading toward mainland northwestern Europe, causing havoc in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark.  At least 13 people have been reported dead and hundreds of thousands have been left without power or stranded on planes, trains and ferries.

The bad news for Europe as it begins the cleanup operation and assesses the financial cost of the damage (Britain’s Great Storm of 1987, which left 18 dead and felled 15 million trees, caused $3.5 billion in damage in today’s terms) is that there’s likely more extreme weather to come.  A new report on extreme-weather events by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and the European national science academies suggests that “some of the extreme weather phenomena associated with climate change are increasing in frequency and intensity within Europe.”  They also say that “human activity has been the cause of more profound and rapid change” for the earth’s climate.

Bad News for Storm-Battered Europe: There’s More Extreme Weather on the Horizon

Sandy Struck a Year Ago, but Some Federal Moves Could Make Climate Risks Worse

Riding the waves in Hoboken, N.J., on Oct. 31, 2012. (Credit: May Young / Flickr)
The federal government is still encouraging people to settle in hazardous areas a year after Superstorm Sandy damaged the East Coast, according to insurers and other groups that believe U.S. policies are exacerbating the impacts of climate change.

Sandy Struck a Year Ago, but Some Federal Moves Could Make Climate Risks Worse

   Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

U.S. Lays Out Strict Limits on Coal Funding Abroad

A bucket-truck picks up coal at Chotia mine in India. (Credit: Rama Lakshmi/The Washington Post)
The United States said Tuesday it plans to use its leverage within global development banks to limit financing for coal-fired power plants abroad, part of Washington's international strategy to combat climate change.

U.S. Lays Out Strict Limits on Coal Funding Abroad

Five Ways the Sandy Recovery Is Far from Over

Residents start to clean up after Superstorm Sandy in Brooklyn, NY. (Credit: Shutterstock)
One year ago today, Superstorm Sandy barreled into the East Coast of the U.S. and left an unprecedented swath of destruction in its wake.  While much has been done to rebuild from the extreme event, a large part of the recovery effort remains unfinished.

Here are a few of the ways the states impacted by the storm continue to struggle in their effort to return to life as it once was and brace for the likelihood of future storms.

  1. People can’t get home.
  2. The recovery hasn’t happened everywhere.
  3. Transportation will be hamstrung for years.
  4. Hospitals need to be safeguarded.
  5. Businesses are fighting to stay afloat.
Five Ways the Sandy Recovery Is Far from Over

California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia Agree to Cooperate on Reducing Carbon Pollution

53 million people living in what would be the world’s fifth-largest economy will now be participating in a “far-reaching strategic alignment to combat climate change and promote clean energy.” Click to enlarge.
The signatories agreed to “where appropriate and feasible, link programs to create consistency and predictability” to account for and reduce carbon pollution across the four jurisdictions.  With an eye toward a global agreement in 2015, these heads of state saw commitments to reduce their own carbon emissions as a signal to national and sub-national governments that such an agreement was essential.

California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia Agree to Cooperate on Reducing Carbon Pollution

Monday, October 28, 2013

   Monday, Oct. 28, 2013

Underground Heat from Cities Could Help Power Them, Study Says

Where does the heat in the underground of large cities come from? Researchers analyzed various factors. (Graphics: AGW/KIT)
The heat generated by urban areas and their buildings, factories, sewers, and transportation systems could be used to power those cities, according to a new study by German and Swiss researchers.  Thermal energy produced by the so-called "urban heat island effect" warms shallow aquifers lying below cities, and geothermal and groundwater heat pumps could tap into those warm reservoirs to heat and cool buildings, the scientists say.

Underground Heat from Cities Could Help Power Them, Study Says

New Method Could Provide Heat Wave Early Warnings

A blocking pattern in the jet stream set up conditions for a historic U.S. heat wave in March 2012. (Credit: NOAA) Click to enlarge.
Heat waves pose major health and economic problems in the U.S. and around the world.  In 2012 a heat wave baked the U.S., shattering temperature records, causing 82 deaths, and withering crops across the country.  Improved forecasts with longer lead times could be an asset to emergency managers, farmers, and others who suffer the worst impacts from heat waves.  New research holds some promise of being able to predict them up to 20 days in advance across the U.S. by monitoring weather patterns.

New Method Could Provide Heat Wave Early Warnings

Sunday, October 27, 2013

   Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013

Nearly 300 Oil Spills Went Unreported in North Dakota in Less Than Two Years

In this Oct. 11, 2013 file photo, cleanup continues at the site of an oil pipeline leak and spill north of Tioga, N.D. North Dakota, the nation's No. 2 oil producer behind Texas, recorded nearly 300 oil pipeline spills in less than two years, state documents show. None of them were reported to the public. According to records obtained by The Associated Press, the pipeline spills, many of them small, are among some 750 "oil field incidents" that have occurred since January 2012 without public notification. (AP Photo/Kevin Cederstrom, File)  Click to enlarge.
Nearly 300 oil spills and 750 “oil field incidents” have occurred in North Dakota, the nation's No. 2 oil producer behind Texas, since January 2012, and none were reported to the public, according to a report released Friday by the Associated Press.

The investigation was spurred by a pipeline that spewed over 20,000 barrels of crude oil into a North Dakota wheat field earlier this month and went unreported for 11 days until it was discovered by a farmer harvesting his wheat.

Nearly 300 Oil Spills Went Unreported in North Dakota in Less Than Two Years

CO2 Emissions Are Down, but They Have Much Further to Go

Keep the champagne corked for now. (Credit: Shutterstock)
Last week, environmentalists got a rare bit of good news:  U.S. CO2 emissions dropped 3.8 percent in 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  That brings emissions to their lowest level since 1994, and represents the fifth drop in seven years.  And unlike some previous years, the drop was not the silver lining to a shrinking economy: The economy grew by 2.8 percent in 2012.

But before you get too comfortable, it’s worth looking at those numbers in the context of what we need to achieve to avert catastrophic climate change. There are three reasons to stay worried, and vigilant:

  1. CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas.
  2. The U.S. has to keep up this performance year after year, and it will get harder as emissions go down.
  3. The whole world has to do the same.

CO2 Emissions Are Down, but They Have Much Further to Go

Can Oil Companies Thrive in Warming World?

Credit: Ceres. Click to enlarge.
Will ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy and the world’s 43 other largest fossil fuel companies be able to thrive in a business climate heavily affected by global warming?

That’s a question a coalition of investors, led by the sustainable business advocacy group Ceres, is asking those companies, demanding to know if they can be viable if markets or government-imposed mandates prevent them from burning all of their proven carbon reserves.

Can Oil Companies Thrive in Warming World?

California's First-in-Nation Energy Storage Mandate

West Coast Wattage: A 2-megawatt, 14 megawatt-hour battery facility in Vacaville, Calif. could help California meet a new storage mandate. (Credit: PG&E)
California has adopted the United States' first energy storage mandate, requiring the state's three major power companies to have 1325 MW of electricity storage capacity in place by the end of 2020, and 200 MW by the end of next year.  The new rule issued by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will be key to implementation of the state's ambitious renewable portfolio rules, which calls for 33 percent of delivered electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020 and virtually guarantees that California, along with Germany, will remain in the world vanguard of those aggressively building out wind and solar.

California's First-in-Nation Energy Storage Mandate

The Coming Plague

Rich benthic fauna and associated reef fish, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia, which is expected to be one of the first places in the world to see prolonged, record-breaking heatwaves. (Credit: Keoki Stender, Marinelifephotography.com) Click to enlarge.
A climate plague affecting every living thing will likely start in 2020 in southern Indonesia, scientists warned in the journal Nature.  A few years later the plague will have spread throughout the world’s tropical regions.

By mid-century no place on the planet will be unaffected, said the authors of the landmark study.

Amongst the biggest impacts the coming ‘climate plague’ will have is on food production, said Camilo Mora, an ecologist at University of Hawai‘i in Honolulu and lead author.

“In a globalised world, what happens in tropics won’t stay in the tropics,” he said.
____

This report provides a powerful metaphor and a different emphasis than an October 16 post here on this study.

The Coming Plague

Saturday, October 26, 2013

   Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013

Major Pension Funds Push Fossil Fuel Companies to Address How They’ll Deal with Climate Change

Credit: AP/Jeff Chiu
Leaders of some of the largest pension funds in the U.S. are calling on fossil fuel companies to detail how they will manage the switch to cleaner energy, worried that the companies won’t be as profitable in the future as the world shifts away from oil and coal and towards clean energy.


Major Pension Funds Push Fossil Fuel Companies to Address How They’ll Deal with Climate Change

Shell: Oil Is Not the Future of Transportation

Credit: www.shell.com. Click to enlarge.
Earlier this year, Shell released its most recent future energy scenario report, New Lens Scenarios.  One of the big highlights was that one of the scenarios (Oceans) projected that solar energy would become the largest source of energy by 2070.  However, another big projection that someone recently picked out of the report is that the world of passenger vehicles could be nearly oil-free by 2070.

Shell: Oil Is Not the Future of Transportation

New Study Suggests Your Typical City Office Building Wastes Lots of Energy

Credit: The Tower Companies
If a study done in Washington D.C. is any indication, there’s a tremendous amount of low-hanging fruit out there in terms of energy efficient gains for America’s office buildings.

New Study Suggests Your Typical City Office Building Wastes Lots of Energy

Friday, October 25, 2013

   Friday, Oct. 25, 2013

One Year After Sandy, N.J. Towns Accelerate Dune Building

Dune building underway at Sea Bright, N.J. (Credit: Evan Lehmann)  Click to enlarge.
Harvey Cedars (population 344), a beach town perched on New Jersey's chain of barrier islands, managed to duck a head-on blow from Superstorm Sandy.  Local officials credit a dune built about five years ago for blocking the storm surge that Sandy sent smashing into the ribbon-thin island.

That dune is now at the center of a major shift that could strengthen local officials against oceanfront homeowners who refuse to surrender strips of their beach property to the federal government for a much more ambitious program of dune construction.

One Year After Sandy, N.J. Towns Accelerate Dune Building, Despite Holdouts

U.S. Offers $162 Million for Sandy-Struck Atlantic Coast

People walk past a beach club destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in Sea Bright, New Jersey, October 31, 2012. (Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson) Click to enlarge.
Five days before the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy's strike on the U.S. Northeast, the Interior Department announced $162 million in funding for research and restoration projects to help protect the Atlantic Coast from future storms.

U.S. Offers $162 Million for Sandy-Struck Atlantic Coast

New Report Shows Wildfire Smoke Poses Health Risk to Millions of Americans Many Miles from the Blazes

Smoke from the Station fire visible over the Hollywood Hills. (Credit: Sam Humphries / flickr) Click to enlarge.
Wildfires will get worse with climate change, not only endangering those near the blazes, but also threatening the health of millions of Americans from wildfire smoke that can drift hundreds of miles, according to a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

New Report Shows Wildfire Smoke Poses Health Risk to Millions of Americans Many Miles from the Blazes

To Expand Offshore Power, Japan Builds Floating Windmills

An offshore wind turbine off the coast of Fukushima. The project's turbines, and even the substation and electrical transformer equipment, float on giant platforms anchored to the seabed. (Credit: Yoshikazu Tsuno/Agence France-Presse - Getty Images) Click to enlarge.
The goal of this offshore project is to generate over 1 gigawatt of electricity from 140 wind turbines by 2020. That is equivalent to the power generated by a nuclear reactor.

The project’s backers say that offshore windmills could be a breakthrough for this energy-poor nation. They would enable Japan to use a resource it possesses in abundance: its coastline, which is longer than that of the United States.  With an exclusive economic zone — an area up to 200 miles from its shores where Japan has first dibs on any resources — that ranks it among the world’s top 10 largest maritime countries, Japan has millions of square miles to position windmills.

To Expand Offshore Power, Japan Builds Floating Windmills

Thursday, October 24, 2013

   Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013

UCS Applauds Multi-State Effort to Develop More Robust Market for Electric Vehicles

AP Photo: Al Goldis
Eight states announced a joint plan today to put 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on America’s roads by 2025.

The agreement—signed by the states of California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont—will support zero-emission vehicle policies in those states by providing incentives for electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles modeled on the successful efforts by California.

UCS Applauds Multi-State Effort to Develop More Robust Market for Electric Vehicles

Unprecedented Warmth in Arctic: Last 100 Years May Be Warmest in 120,000 Years

The retreat of the sea ice has been faster than predicted: Arctic September sea-ice extent from observations (thick orange line) together with the mean value (solid grey line) from 13 IPCC AR4 climate models and the variance (dotted black line) of models runs. (Credit: European Environment Agency) Click to enlarge.
Average summer temperatures in the Eastern Canadian Arctic during the last 100 years are higher now than during any century in the past 44,000 years and perhaps as long ago as 120,000 years, says a new study.

Unprecedented Warmth in Arctic: Last 100 Years May Be Warmest in 120,000 Years

EPA Annual Greenhouse Gas Report Shows Emissions From Power Plants Declined 10% From 2010

The Handley power plant in Fort Worth, TX. (Credit: Kent Chapline, KTVT/KTXA)
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its third year of greenhouse gas data detailing greenhouse gas emissions and trends. Data for 2012 show that in the two years since reporting began, emissions from power plants have decreased 10%.  This is due to a switch from coal to natural gas for electricity generation and a slight decrease in electricity production. 

Fossil-fuel fired power plants remain the largest source of US greenhouse gas emissions. With just less than 1,600 facilities emitting more than 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, these plants account for roughly 40% of total anthropogenic CO2 emissions in the US.

EPA Annual Greenhouse Gas Report Shows Emissions From Power Plants Declined 10% From 2010

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

   Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013

Flame-Shaping Electric Fields Could Make Power Plants Cleaner

Flame shaper: A nearly invisible flame is rendered far brighter and larger using electric fields. (Credit: www.technologyreview.com)
The pollution-reducing technology of a Seattle company called ClearSign Combustion could help power plants burn less fuel and make more money.

ClearSign has developed a technique that it says could nearly eliminate key pollutants from power plants and refineries and make such installations much more efficient.  The technique involves electric fields to control the combustion of fuel by manipulating the shape and brightness of flames.

Flame-Shaping Electric Fields Could Make Power Plants Cleaner

China’s Response to Air Pollution Poses Threat to Water

China’s proposed SNG plants, most of them located in arid and semi-arid regions in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, together will consume a total of 500 to 700 million cubic meters of freshwater annually at full operating capacity. That’s almost 20 percent of the region’s total industrial water use in 2011. - Click to enlarge.
While the Air Pollution Control Action Plan has ambitious goals—cutting air particulates and coal consumption—it may create unintended problems for China’s water supply.

The Plan aims to reduce particulate matter in the North China Plain by 25 percent and reduce coal’s share of the national energy mix to 65 percent by 2017.  One of the plan’s key recommendations is to replace coal with cleaner natural gas, including synthetic natural gas (SNG) converted from coal. Converting coal to natural gas, however, is an extremely water-intensive process.  One cubic meter of SNG requires 6 to 10 liters (1.58-2.6 gallons) of freshwater to produce.  So in an attempt to control urban air pollution in the east, China might jeopardize its water supplies elsewhere.

China’s Response to Air Pollution Poses Threat to Water

Pipeline Expert: Over 90% Probability of Canada's Line 9 Rupture with Tar Sands Dilbit

Line 9 passes through some of the most densely populated areas of Canada. The pipeline crosses every waterway flowing south to Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. Line 9 is located within five kilometers of Lake Ontario. Click to enlarge.
“I do not make the statement ‘high risk for a rupture’ lightly or often.  There are serious problems with Line 9 that need to be addressed,” Richard Kuprewicz, a pipeline safety expert with over forty years of experience in the energy sector, said in an interview with DeSmog Canada.

Hundreds rallied in Toronto on the weekend to voice their opposition to Enbridge’s plans to ship Alberta tar sands bitumen from Sarnia to Montreal through the 37-year-old Line 9 pipeline.

Kuprewicz also expressed concerns about transporting diluted bitumen through Line 9, saying it will increase the growth rates of cracks on the pipeline.  Line 9 lies in the most populated part of Canada and crosses the St. Lawrence River and major waterways flowing into Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.  A Line 9 spill could pollute the drinking water of millions of Canadians.



Pipeline Expert: Over 90% Probability of Canada's Line 9 Rupture with Tar Sands Dilbit

   Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Avoiding the Power Grid

Eric Wadsman (Credit: www.technologyreview.com)
A cheaper fuel cell could provide affordable power for microgrids.  The technology could eventually become a practical and affordable way to ease strain on the increasingly stressed electricity grid; anywhere there’s cheap natural gas, we could also have constant and cheap electricity.

That would make it possible to do away with the diesel generators that are now widely used for backup power and as a key component of microgrids in places like Malaysia and cellular base stations in rural areas around the world.  Solid-oxide fuel cells—which can run on diesel fuel or gasoline, not just natural gas—use much less fuel per watt than diesel generators of similar size.

Avoiding the Power Grid

Americans Consumed Less Energy in 2012, and Pumped Out Less Carbon Dioxide to Do It

Source: U. S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, September 2013, Table 12.1  Click to enlarge.
On Monday the Energy Information Administration released a report showing that the carbon dioxide pollution we emit as we use energy dropped 3.8 percent in 2012.  These emissions dropped from a high of 6,023 million metric tons in 2007 through a gradual drop to 5,280 million metric tons in 2012.  2011's levels were at 5,498 million metric tons, meaning last year the country pumped out 218 million fewer metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Americans Consumed Less Energy in 2012, & Pumped Out Less Carbon Dioxide to Do It

Al Gore: Divest Now from ‘Sub-Prime’ Coal and Oil Companies Before ‘Carbon Bubble’ Bursts

Credit: www.24hoursofreality.org
As Gore puts it:
There are $7 trillion worth carbon assets on the books of multinational energy companies…. The valuation of those companies and their assets is now based on the assumption that all of those carbon assets are going to be sold and burned. And they are not.  The global scientific community has just reaffirmed that no more than one-third can ever possibly be burned without destroying the future.
He likened the “absurd overvaluation” of the stock prices of fossil fuel companies to that of subprime mortgages before the economic crash.  He added:
This carbon bubble is going to burst…. People can make short-term profits by playing the psychology of the markets.  But if you’re a long-term investor and you do not take into account the stranded-assets potential for carbon-based equities and debt instruments, in my view you’re making a mistake.
Al Gore: Divest Now from ‘Sub-Prime’ Coal and Oil Companies Before ‘Carbon Bubble’ Bursts

Monday, October 21, 2013

   Monday, Oct. 21, 2013

How Fast and How Far Will Sea Levels Rise?

North Miami, Fla., is one of the cities on the U.S. East Coast with sea level rise well above the global average. (Credit: Getty Images)
In its latest report, released on September 27, the IPCC finally could and did put a number on ice flow from the poles.  The result was an estimate of sea level rise of 28 to 98 centimeters (a maximum of more than three feet) by 2100 — more than 50 percent higher than the 2007 projections.  "We have our arms around the problem well enough to say there’s a limit to how crazy things are going to get," says Ted Scambos, head scientist at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center.

How Fast and How Far Will Sea Levels Rise?

Tiny Sea Creatures Are Heading for Extinction, and Could Take Local Fisheries With Them

Calanoid copepods are a plankton species that are a vital food source for fish larvae and therefore important for all commercial fisheries. (Credit: Paul Jones, Deakin University)
A species of cold water plankton in the North Atlantic that is a vital food source for fish such as cod and hake is in decline as the oceans warm.  This will put pressure on the fisheries that rely on abundant supplies of these fish.

Tiny Sea Creatures Are Heading for Extinction, and Could Take Local Fisheries With Them

Koch Brothers Could Make $100 Billion if Keystone XL Pipeline Approved

Click to expand.
A new study released Sunday concludes that Koch Industries and its subsidiaries stand to make as much as $100 billion in profits if the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is granted a presidential permit from U.S. President Barack Obama.

The report, titled Billionaires' Carbon Bomb, produced by the think tank International Forum on Globalization, finds that David and Charles Koch and their privately owned company, Koch Industries, own more than 2 million acres of land in Northern Alberta, the source of the tar sands bitumen that would be pumped to the United States via the Keystone XL pipeline.


 Koch Brothers Could Make $100 Billion if Keystone XL Pipeline Approved

Sunday, October 20, 2013

   Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013

Would Limiting Carbon Emissions Destroy the Economy?

Credit: AP Photo / Bob Leverone
The perennial response when lawmakers try to clean up the environment, cut pollution, or reduce greenhouse gas emissions:  you can do it, but only if you’re prepared to wreck the economy.

People or the environment.  Jobs or the planet.  That is the tradeoff.

There’s just one problem:  the historical record provides scant evidence this tradeoff exists.  America entered the environmental regulation businesses in earnest in 1970, with the creation of the EPA and the passage of major legislation like the Clean Air Act.  Since then, a reliable pattern has emerged:  new regulations are proposed, warnings of crushing costs and job losses ensue, and then — if the regulation survives — little of the prophesied destruction comes to pass.

Would Limiting Carbon Emissions Destroy the Economy?

Decades On, OPEC Embargo Still Influences Challenging Energy Debates

Credit: http://www.secureenergy.org Click to enlarge.
Forty years after the 1973 oil embargo crippled the U.S. economy, today's domestic oil production and abundance of natural gas from shale deposits are nudging the legacy of energy shortage further into the recesses of memory.  But even as the surge of U.S. oil and gas production and the technology behind it tell a new energy story, the conversation around natural gas, as much as oil, remains heavily influenced by the events of 40 years ago.

Decades On, OPEC Embargo Still Influences Challenging Energy Debates

Can China’s Air Pollution Action Plan Slow Down New Coal Power Development?

Credit: Power plant in the mountains outside Urumqi, Xinjiang, China. (Credit: Remko Tanis)
Last month, China’s State Council announced a new action plan to combat air pollution, which included a prohibition of new coal-fired power plants in the three most important metropolitan areas around Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou (known as the “key-three city clusters”).  This followed a previous announcement of a $275 billion investment by the central government in improving air quality.  The action plan aims to tackle the increasingly severe air pollution problem in China, which is largely caused by its massive consumption of coal.

In addition to banning new coal-fired plants in the key three city clusters, the plan included ambitious targets to reduce particulates.  These pollutants are major health concerns, and are prevalent throughout much of China.

But while the plan sounds like progress, will it actually slow down China’s new coal construction?  A bit of analysis suggests that it may take more action to really curb China’s appetite for coal.

Can China’s Air Pollution Action Plan Slow Down New Coal Power Development?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

   Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013

Vastly Improved Solar Cells Possible with Use of New Heat-Resistant Materials

This cross-section micrographs of a tungsten thermal emitter used in the experiment. The top image shows how unprotected tungsten degrades after heating to 1200 degrees Celsius. The bottom image demonstrates how the ceramic-coated tungsten retained structural integrity after being subjected to 1400 C heat for an hour. (Image Credit: Kevin Arpin)
Significant improvements to the efficiency of solar cells could be possible in the near-future thanks to the recent development of a new heat-resistant thermal emitter by researchers at Stanford University.

The new heat-resistant thermal emitter was created as a means of converting the higher-energy portion of light into lower energy waves which can then be absorbed by the solar cells and converted into electricity, along with the lower energy portions that most solar cells convert.  Technologies such as this — more broadly known as thermophotovoltaics — have been around for quite some time, but have, until now, possessed a number of important limitations that this new device seems to overcome.


Vastly Improved Solar Cells Possible with Use of New Heat-Resistant Materials

Oily Gunk Found on Louisiana Shore Surges Three Years After BP Spill

Credit: http://www.cnn.com
The amount of oil found on Louisiana's coast has surged this year, three years after BP's Macondo spill in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, the state's Coastal Protection & Restoration Authority said.

Some 3.01 million pounds of "oily material" were cleaned up on Louisiana's coast from March to August this year, up from 119,894 pounds in the same period last year, according to a report on the state Department of Natural Resources website.

Oily Gunk Found on Louisiana Shore Surges Three Years After BP Spill

Same-State Regulators and Lawmakers Approach Existing Power Rules from Opposite Angles

Coal-fired plant Coal burned in the boiler heats water to produce steam. The steam spins the turbine, which drives the generator. (Credit: en.wikipedia.org / Tennessee Valley Authority) Click to enlarge.
Coal-state champions in Congress have expressed grave concerns about how U.S. EPA's forthcoming carbon emissions rule for today's power plants might affect their home-state utilities.

It is unclear what kind of rule EPA might ultimately propose for existing power plants or whether it will have the kind of ramifications coal-state representatives envision.  The agency is in an information-gathering phase before the rule-making process begins, and both the president and EPA have pledged to consult states and utilities throughout.

What is clear is that the statute itself gives states substantial latitude to decide how EPA's emissions-reduction guidelines will be met.  States must submit their implementation plans to EPA for approval, but state air regulators and public utility commissioners say EPA is already reaching out to them about what kinds of emissions-control options might be available that will not drive up costs or jeopardize reliability.

Same-State Regulators and Lawmakers Approach Existing Power Rules from Opposite Angles

More Water Stress than Meets the Eye

In nearly 1 in 10 U.S. watersheds, water use exceeds the natural water supply. Water stress worsens as colors trend from green to yellow to orange to red. (Credit: Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Western Water Assessment)
A team led by researchers at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado in Boulder examined 2,103 watersheds across the United States and found that in 193 of them – nearly 1 in 10 – water use has surpassed the natural water supply.

These basins are classified as “water stressed,” and the researchers find that as climate change unfolds, this water predicament will worsen.

More Water Stress than Meets the Eye

Friday, October 18, 2013

   Friday, Oct. 18, 2013

Major Study Projects No Long-Term Climate Benefit from Shale Gas Revolution

More abundant, cheaper shale gas (dark blue) has little impact on annual growth in U.S. CO2 emissions through 2050 compared to low shale gas case (light blue). This is true for multiple energy-economy models. Deep cuts in CO2 require a rising carbon price (green). (Credit: Energy Modeling Forum, Stanford University) Click to enlarge.
Most claims that shale gas will significantly reduce US carbon emissions in the future are based on little more than hand-waving and wishful thinking.  That’s because those claims assume natural gas is replacing coal only, rather than replacing some combination of coal, renewables, nuclear power, and energy efficiency — which is obviously what will happen in the real world.

To figure out what the impact of shale gas is actually going to be, you need an energy-economy model.  And since the output of one model depends crucially on the specific assumptions it makes, the best approach would be to look at results of several models. And that is precisely what Stanford’s Energy Modeling Forum does in its new study, “Changing the Game? Emissions and Market Implications of New Natural Gas Supplies Report.”

Major Study Projects No Long-Term Climate Benefit from Shale Gas Revolution

Fracking Coming to Washington D.C.'s Drinking Water?

View of the Appalachians from the boulder-covered slopes of Duncan Knob, George Washington National Forest, Virginia. (Credit: Shutterstock)
Over the past several years, the battle over fracking has brought Congressional hearings, protests and huge industry money to Washington DC.  But in recent months the topic has taken on a new, more local turn in the nation's capital as oil and gas companies push to drill in a national forest near in the city's backyard and an unusual cast of charaters are lining up to oppose it.

The fight is over access to drill for shale gas in the George Washington National Forest and officials from the Environmental Protect Agency, Army Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service have come out in opposition, even though some of these same federal agencies have in other contexts helped to promote expanded shale gas drilling.

The forest is one of the East Coast’s most pristine ecosystems, home to some of its last old growth forests.  Horizontal drilling, key to shale gas extraction, has never before been permitted in the George Washington National Forest.

Fracking Coming to Washington D.C.'s Drinking Water?

The U.S. and the World Are Actually Making Big Strides in Energy Efficiency

Notes: TFC = total final consumption. The 11 countries are Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. (Credit: International Energy Agency) Click to enlarge.
Between 2005 and 2010, advances in energy efficiency saved eleven advanced western nations — including the U.S. — from burning $420 billion worth of oil.  And without those advances, the total energy consumption of those countries would have been 65 percent higher in 2010.

That’s the takeaway from new work by the International Energy Agency (IEA).  It’s the first instalment of what will be a regular report on energy efficiency by the group, and covers the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Australia, Japan, Italy, and several Nordic countries.

The U.S. and the World Are Actually Making Big Strides in Energy Efficiency

North Dakota Landowners Sue Fossil Fuel Companies Over Wasted Natural Gas

Credit: Shutterstock
Nearly 30 percent of natural gas drilled in North Dakota is intentionally burned off, or flared, resulting in an approximately $1 billion loss, and releasing greenhouse gases equivalent to nearly one million new cars on the road.  Now, some North Dakota landowners are fighting back.

Mineral owners from multiple states are suing ten oil and gas companies for millions of dollars in lost royalties for flared natural gas.  They claim companies are burning off more gas than is allowed by the North Dakota Industrial Commission, disposing of valuable resources mineral owners should be getting paid for.

Flaring is better than simply releasing the natural gas into the air, but it still has serious climate and air quality impacts.  In 2012, natural gas flaring in North Dakota alone emitted 4.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, and may release a variety of air pollutants, including benzene and formaldehyde, and over 60 more that have been detected downwind from flares.

North Dakota Landowners Sue Fossil Fuel Companies Over Wasted Natural Gas

Thursday, October 17, 2013

   Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013

Air Pollution Definitively Linked to Cancer

Jeffrey Energy Center coal-fired power plant near Emmett, Kansas. (Credit: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Outdoor air pollution has been definitively linked to cancer and is officially classified as a carcinogen, according to research released Thursday by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization.

Higher levels of air pollution have long been connected to an array of health problems, such as increased rates of asthma and heart disease, and millions of deaths annually around the world.  In making the case for the Obama administration’s new standards aimed at limiting the amount of carbon pollution emitted by coal-fired power plans, Environmental Protection Agency head Gina McCarthy noted that “the nation’s asthma rates have already doubled over the past 30 years.”

But the WHO’s link between air pollution and cancer is a significant revelation that underscores the urgency of reducing pollution levels worldwide.

Air Pollution Definitively Linked to Cancer

How a 75-Million-Gallon Plant in Italy Heralds the Rise of a More Efficient Kind of Biofuel

Credit: Beta Renewables
The world’s first plant able to produce cellulosic biofuel at commercial scale using enzymatic conversion recently opened in Crescentino, Italy. When it’s fully up and running, the plant is expected to deliver 75 million liters (just shy of 20 million gallons) of ethanol to the European market.

Admittedly, the “world’s first” title rests on narrow grounds.  The plant uses a particular process developed by its owner, Beta Renewables, that first breaks raw materials down into sugars using enzymes, and then converts those sugars into ethanol through fermentation by bacteria.

How a 75-Million-Gallon Plant in Italy Heralds the Rise of a More Efficient Kind of Biofuel

Without Plants, Earth Would Cook Under Billions of Tons of Additional Carbon

Researchers based at Princeton University found that Earth's terrestrial ecosystems have absorbed 186 billion to 192 billion tons of carbon since the mid-20th century, which has significantly contained the global temperature and levels of carbon in the atmosphere. The study is the first to specify the extent to which plants have prevented climate change since pre-industrial times. (Credit: © St├ęphane Bidouze / Fotolia)
Researchers found that Earth's terrestrial ecosystems have absorbed 186 billion to 192 billion tons of carbon since the mid-20th century, which has significantly contained the global temperature and levels of carbon in the atmosphere.

Without Plants, Earth Would Cook Under Billions of Tons of Additional Carbon

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

   Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013

Behind Russia vs. Greenpeace Furor, Unreported Oil Pollution of the Arctic

A resident helps clean up the Kolva River oil spill (Credit: Greenpeace)
Every year, according to Greenpeace, about 30 million barrels of oil products leak from wells and pipelines in Russia.  An estimated four million barrels of that, roughly the size of BP's Gulf of Mexico spill, flows straight into the Arctic Ocean through tributaries.

The precise impact of these spills on the fragile Arctic environment and its people is unknown, but is likely substantial, Greenpeace says.  For them the leaks—and the alleged lack of adequate means to deal with them—are an example of an inadequate safety culture in the country's oil industry.  And they're causing deep concern about Russia's aggressive push to start drilling for oil in open Arctic waters.

Behind Russia vs. Greenpeace Furor, Unreported Oil Pollution of the Arctic

Climate Change Will Hit Oceans Everywhere by 2100, with Massive Impacts on Societies-- Study

Vibrant coral reef. No corner of the world ocean will be untouched by climate change by 2100, according to a new study. (Credit: © vlad61_61 / Fotolia)
Professor Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii, Manoa, led a group of 28 scientists who used output from the latest generation of climate models to calculate changes in acidity, temperature, oxygen, and productivity for the world's oceans by 2100. They show that across the world's oceans, everything from food chains to fisheries will see influences of climate change.

The third part of the paper demonstrates just how many people will be affected by such changes to the ocean.  Under the business-as-usual scenario, more than 2 billion coastal people will see medium or high changes in ocean biogeochemistry in the coasts near them.  Nearly half those people -- 870 million -- come from low-income countries.

If emissions are curbed, the number of people living in areas with significant ocean changes drops to 1.4 billion, with 470 million from low-income countries seeing impacts.

World Ocean Systems Undermined by Climate Change by 2100

   Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Flaws in Environmental Defense Fund's Methane Study Draw Criticism from Scientists

Methane gas burning off at fracking site. Click to enlarge.
In mid-September, researchers from the University of Texas published a study that was hailed by a triumphant oil and gas industry as showing that methane leaks from fracking are minimal.  Major news outlets largely fed this excitement, proclaiming that the study showed EPA had dramatically overestimated methane leaks from the drilling boom.

But as the celebrations died down and more sober and rigorous analysis of the study has begun, scientists are finding that the University of Texas study has serious flaws.

The backers of the report cherry-picked the oil and gas wells included in the study, selecting smaller wells that had less capacity to leak and ones that used leak controls that are not currently used at many of the nation's wells.

Sam Parry of the Environmental Defense Fund, a backer of the study that was 90 percent funded by the oil and gas industry, said "What the study found was that when you use green completion technologies, you can mitigate the problem of methane leakage.  If you don't use these technologies, the problem is real and very serious."

Flaws in Environmental Defense Fund's Methane Study Draw Criticism from Scientists

Renewable Energy Patents Booming, Led by Solar and Wind

Time series for US energy patents published during the period 1974-2009 show rapid growth over the last decade, with the greatest increases in renewables patents. (Credit: MIT) Click to enlarge.
Patents for renewable energy technologies, led by innovations related to solar and wind, have risen drastically over the last decade, according to a new study from researchers at MIT and the Santa Fe Institute.  The research shows that while patents in fossil fuel technologies grew modestly, and nuclear technology remained flat, between 2004 and 2009 the number of patents issued annually for solar energy increased by 13 percent per year, while those for wind energy increased 19 percent per year on average.

The study attributes investment in R&D and market demand for helping spur such growth, which for solar and wind exceeded patent growth rates for semiconductor and digital communications technologies.

Renewable Energy Patents Booming, Led by Solar and Wind

After Sparking Outrage in Detroit, Koch Brothers’ Tar Sands Waste Now Piling Up in Chicago

Tom Shepherd, a neighborhood activist, worries about piles of petcoke building up along the Calumet River in Chicago. (Photo by Kari Lydersen / Midwest Energy News) Click to enlarge.
Petroleum coke, a byproduct of tar sands refining, is building up along Chicago’s Calumet River and alarming residents, reported Midwest Energy News.

Petroleum coke is a high-carbon, high-sulfur byproduct of Canadian tar sands that are shipped from Alberta to the U.S. to be refined and is rapidly becoming a cause for concern in Chicago. “It’s growing by leaps and bounds,” Southeast Environmental Task Force member Tom Shepherd, told Midwest Energy News. “It’s coming at a breathtaking rate.”

The pet coke is owned by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch whose operations drew similar outrage from residents and elected officials in Detroit earlier this year.

After Sparking Outrage in Detroit, Koch Brothers’ Tar Sands Waste Now Piling Up in Chicago