May 30, 2012

Nuclear and solar energy thoughts

German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity – equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity – through the midday hours of Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank has said. [Guardian]
The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world's leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed….
Germany has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets about four percent of its overall annual electricity needs from the sun alone. It aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020.

The GAO says that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should consider requiring nuclear power plants to analyze their vulnerability to natural hazards -

Energy News

Solar power generation world record set in Germany last week | Solar produced more power than 20 nuclear power plants

FedEx Delivers On Green Goals With Electric Trucks - Rolls out 53 electric vans in San Francisco

Radioactive Bluefin Tuna Found Off California Coast: Contaminated by Fukushima Nuclear Plant

May 21, 2012

US Navy commits to 50% renewable energy by 2025!

"What if we hadn't started using computers because they were more expensive than typewriters?"
Secretary of the Navy Mabus announced that the Navy has made a commitment to get 50% of its energy from renewable sources, like biofuels, solar and wind, by 2025. 
Mabus pointed out that the Navy has always led in pioneering new sources of fuel, whether it was from moving from sail to coal in the 1850s, to oil in the 20th century, and nuclear energy in the 1950s. "Every time, there were doubters and naysayers," he said forcefully."Every time. And every single time, they were wrong and they will be wrong again this time."
Mabus vigorously countered the argument that renewable energy is more expensive. "Well of course it is! Every new technology is more expensive. What if we hadn't started using computers because they were more expensive than typewriters? What if we hadn't started using cell phones because they were more expensive than land lines? Where would we be?"

Hurricane Irene, Repair Cafes, & Suing over climate change

Alec Loorz turns 18 at the end of this month. While finishing high school and playing Ultimate Frisbee on weekends, he's also suing the federal government in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. over climate change. [Atlantic]

Amsterdam Tries to Change Culture With 'Repair Cafes' -

Hurricane Irene, which first made landfall in North Carolina on August 27, and went on to cause devastating flooding in several Northeastern states, is now ranked as the costliest Category One storm to strike the U.S. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Irene caused $15.8 billion in damage, much of it due to inland flooding. [Climate Central]

With a simple statement on Facebook, State Farm Insurance became the latest company to withdraw its support from the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based think-tank which claims a "realist" position questioning that humans are responsible for climate change. [LA Times]

Nuclear Power Cost Increases - FL & GA

When Progress Energy announced their plans to build 2 nuclear reactors in Florida in 2009, the initial cost estimate was $14 billion. At the time, they expected to put the first reactor in service in 2016. 

Progress Energy has now announced that the cost estimate for building the 2 nuclear reactors has risen to between $19 billion and $24 billion. They now expect to put the first reactor in service in 2024 with the 2nd reactor going into service about 18 months later. 

The 2 reactors will produce 2.2 GW of power, which works out to about $10.85 / watt if the costs rise to the $24 billion cost estimate provided by the company. 

Progress Energy is planning to charge its customers a $5.09 nuclear cost recovery fee for every 1,000 kWh of electricity they buy. This is up from the $2.86 nuclear cost recovery fee they are currently charging. So ratepayers get to pay $5 a month for the next 12 years for nuclear energy they won't receive for at least another 12 years. That means ratepayers using 1,000 kWh per month will have paid over $800 to Progress Energy for these plants by the time they go into service. 

In a somewhat related situation, Progress Energy also announced in October of 2009 that they had shut down their Crystal River nuclear plant because they had found cracks in the containment wall. Progress Energy does not expect to be able to repair and restart that plant until 2014

The financial risk associated with these plants is passed on to the rate payers. 

Georgia Power says new reactors will be cheaper, but electricity will be delayed -

A Higher Price Tag for a Nuclear Project -

Delays increase reactor costs - but lower financing costs more than make up the difference. 
Delays and construction problems increase costs $900M, but financing costs go down by $2B. 

Overall costs are $1B lower than expected 4 years ago. 

Living on a planet with a fever

April 2012 global land temperatures were the 2nd warmest on record, and the Northern Hemisphere land surface temperature was 1.74°C (3.13°F) above the 20th century average, marking the warmest April since records began in 1880. 

The CBS Evening News  had one of their best segments ever on manmade global warming.  The piece is headlined on their website, "Assessing the risk of climate change" with this description:

The past 12 months were the hottest on record, and forecasters are predicting high temperatures across the U.S. this summer. Science and environment contributor M. Sanjayan explains the risk of climate change.

Extreme Storms double in last 50 years

Over the last five decades, the types of deluges that washed out towns in Iowa, forced the Army Corps of Engineers to intentionally blow up levees to save Cairo, Illinois, and sent the Missouri River over its banks for hundreds of miles, have been increasing, according to analysis by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Big storms, leading to big floods, are occurring with increasing frequency in the Midwest, with incidences of the most severe downpours doubling over the last half century. The report's lead author, Stephen Saunders, explained that "a threshold may have been crossed":
"Global studies already show that human-caused climate change is driving more extreme precipitation, and now we've documented how great the increase has been in the Midwest and linked the extreme storms to flooding in the region.

Energy News

Why are U.S. taxpayers subsidizing coal mining, so coal companies can ship US coal to China? -

A Million People tell EPA to Adopt Proposed Carbon Pollution Rule - Make your voice heard too! Click here.  -

Vermont becomes first state to ban gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing - The Washington Post

Iowa View: Oil billionaires wrong about clean energy - Editorial DesMoines Register -

Why Coal Leasing Should Be The Center Of The Climate Fight -

Gregory Jaczko to Resign as N.R.C. Chairman After Stormy Tenure -

May 7, 2012

Nobel Peace Prize winner arrested for blocking coal trains

About a dozen protesters, including one of Canada's leading energy-environment economists, were arrested Saturday after setting up a blockade on train tracks in White Rock, B.C., aimed at stopping U.S. coal trains from reaching local ports.
Mark Jaccard, a professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was arrested along with several others late Saturday evening following a day-long protest in the 15000 block of Marine Drive.
"Thirteen protesters were arrested without incident and were respectful of the police and the process that was ... a result of their actions," said RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen.
The protesters, 12 men and one woman, were each served with a $115-ticket for trespassing under the Railway Safety Act. All were subsequently released from police custody.
In a written statement released before the protest, Jaccard said he was prepared to be arrested.
"Putting myself in a situation where I may be accused of civil disobedience is not something I have ever done before," he said.
"But the current willingness of especially our federal government to brazenly take actions that ensure we cannot meet scientifically and economically sound greenhouse gas reduction targets for Canada and the planet leaves me with no alternative."

'Irreversible climate change'

Demonstrators spent much of the day camped out on train tracks at the White Rock pier in order to stop Burlington Northern Santa Fe trains from delivering U.S. coal to the Deltaport.
Jaccard said he and the other protesters hope to stop the actions they claim cause climate change, which includes coal mining.
"The window of opportunity for avoiding a high risk of runaway, irreversible climate change is closing quickly," he said.
"Within this decade we will either have steered away from disaster, or have locked ourselves onto a dangerous course. Our governments continue to ignore the warnings of scientists and push forward with policies that will accelerate the burning of fossil fuels.
"Private interests — coal, rail, oil, pipeline companies and the rest — continue to push their profit driven agenda, heedless of the impact on the rest of us."
Jaccard went on to call government's response to climate change concerns "entirely inadequate."
"I now ask myself how our children, when they look back decades from now, will have expected us to have acted today," he said.
"When I think about that, I conclude that every sensible and sincere person, who cares about this planet and can see through lies and delusion motivated by money, should be doing what I and others are now prepared to do."

Report from

Yesterday we prevented 5 BNSF coal trains from entering BC to unload coal at Westshore Terminals. We physically stopped a 6th train on the tracks at White Rock BC at 6 pm, at which point 14 good citizens were arrested for violating a court order not to interfere  with BNSF operations. 

 Here's what was involved: 14 people willing to risk arrest to stand up for what they believe in. The support of prominent people like Bill McKibben, James Hansen and Mark Jaccard, who were ready to speak up in advance and say this is the right thing to do. A stoked-up group of supporters who, through their actions, helped set a tone for the day that was peaceful, creative and hopeful, but also focused and determined. A network of people in Washington State keeping us abreast of train movements. One Twitter account.

That's all it took to stop Warren Buffett in his tracks for a full day -- a very important day for him personally. We were all overwhelmed by how beautifully everything unfolded. It all seemed a bit unreal at days end -- but that may have been because of the sunburn, dehydration and overall exhaustion.  Still, on a sunny Sunday morning, anything seems possible.

We were never worried about our physical safety because everything was planned out carefully and announced in advance. Our interactions with the police were incredible – respectful, candid and ongoing throughout the day. The White Rock detachment of the RCMP worked hard all day in the interest of public safety while also acknowledging our right to peacefully stand up for what we believe in. It was a good day to be a Canadian citizen.

That 100 car coal train we stopped in White Rock did reach the port eventually, but it did so under the watchful eye of hundreds of onlookers and media crews. Warren Buffett's arrangement to ship dirty Wyoming coal to Jimmy Pattison's port -- the biggest exporter of global warming pollution in North America -- is firmly in the public eye. We've started to connect the dots between coal exports and climate change.  This is just the beginning.

Thank you everyone who took part!

Heartland equates climate change believers with serial killers

Heartland Institute Billboard in Chicago
WOW: a climate denial 'think' tank is comparing us to mass murders. Fight back - Bill McKibben

The Heartland Institute launched one of the most offensive billboard campaigns in U.S. history. The Chicago-based anti-science think tank is comparing all those who accept climate science — and the journalists who report on it accurately — to Charles Manson, the Unabomber, and Osama Bin Laden. 

The Heartland Institute says that the people who believe in global warming are no different than serial killers. I know it's hard to believe, but they've actually put up billboards with Charles Manson and the Unabomber to promote their climate-denial campaign. According to Heartland's own documents, corporations like Microsoft, State Farm, Comcast, GlaxoSmithKline, Farmer's Insurance, Time Warner, Verizon, and Eli Lilly are supporting the Heartland Institute, an organization that is spreading misinformation about climate change.

[Update: State Farm pulled their support for Heartland today.]

Heartland is a multi-million dollar institution that is behind much of the efforts to cast doubt on climate change in this country. General Motors recently ceased their support of Heartland because of its extreme positions, but other major corporations have refused to budge.  

Please join the Forecast the Facts campaign in telling public corporations to cut their funding to Heartland immediately! Thanks!

All of Japan's nuclear plants shut down

Ikata Wind Farm near the
Ikata Nuclear Plant
Japan was without electricity from nuclear power for the first time in four decades when the reactor at Tomari nuclear plant on the northern island of Hokkaido went offline for mandatory routine maintenance.

After last year's March 11 earthquake and tsunami set off meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, no reactor halted for checkups has been restarted amid public worries about the safety of nuclear technology.

Desperate to avert possible power shortages this summer, the government has tried to convince the public to allow some of the reactors to be restarted. It has conducted simulated stress tests to show whether reactors can withstand the sort of immense earthquake and tsunami that knocked out the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

However, the public has not accepted the tests, which were conducted largely behind closed doors. A number of critics have demanded more sweeping changes, like the creation of a more independent nuclear regulatory agency.

Cozy ties between officials in the Trade Ministry, which both regulates and promotes nuclear power, and plant operators are widely seen as having left the Fukushima plant without adequate defenses against natural disaster. This distrust fed criticism that the authorities failed to protect the public after the accident, and instead tried to cover up the full dangers.

Protecting Large Trees

NY Times has a very interesting article about the importance of protecting the older trees. 

"...big trees (those with a diameter greater than three feet at chest height) account for only 1 percent of trees but store half of the area's biomass, according to a study published this week in PLoS ONE.

It's important to respect your elders, children are reminded. It seems that this goes for trees, too."

May 4, 2012

Solar Gaining Momentum with Churches

Solar Gaining Momentum Among Churches 

This article talks about St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Walnut Creek, CA installing solar panels. 

In an interesting coincidence - St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Brookline, MA has just finished installing solar panels on their roof as well! 

Too Hot not to notice?

Bill McKibben: Too Hot Not To Notice? 

The Williams River was so languid and lovely last Saturday morning that it was almost impossible to imagine the violence with which it must have been running on August 28, 2011. And yet the evidence was all around: sand piled high on its banks, trees still scattered as if by a giant's fist, and most obvious of all, a utilitarian temporary bridge where for 140 years a graceful covered bridge had spanned the water.
The YouTube video of that bridge crashing into the raging river was Vermont's iconic image from its worst disaster in memory, the record flooding that followed Hurricane Irene's rampage through the state in August 2011.  It claimed dozens of lives, as it cut more than a billion-dollar swath of destruction across the eastern United States.
I watched it on TV in Washington just after emerging from jail, having been arrested at the White House during mass protests of the Keystone XL pipeline.  Since Vermont's my home, it took the theoretical — the ever more turbulent, erratic, and dangerous weather that the tar sands pipeline from Canada would help ensure — and made it all too concrete. It shook me bad.
And I'm not the only one.
Read the rest here.... 

The Last Mountain

The fight for the last great mountain in America's Appalachian heartland pits the mining giant that wants to explode it to extract the coal within, against the community fighting to preserve the mountain and build a wind farm on its ridges instead. THE LAST MOUNTAIN highlights a battle for the future of energy that affects us all.

May 3, 2012

Why fighting coal export terminals matters

Why Fighting Coal Export Terminals Matters | Grist

This is an interesting article discussing the coal exports and provides important background information behind the coal train protest planned for this weekend. 

May 2, 2012

Pipeline Oversight Lacking

Report Finds Pipeline Oversight Wanting - from NYTimes 

A report issued on Monday by the National Wildlife Federation asserts that federal laws regulating oil pipelines are inadequate in several crucial areas and that local regulations do not provide sufficient protection against safety and environmental risks.
The report complains that none of the eight states in the Great Lakes region requires pipeline companies to devise their own response plans in case of a spill to supplement federal requirements already in place.
The environmental group's research was prompted by a rupture of an Enbridge Energy pipeline accident near Marshall, Mich., in July 2010 that dumped more than 840,000 gallons of oil and led to the closing of a 39-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River.
Nearly two years after the accident, Calhoun County health officials announced this month that a three-mile portion of the river would reopen. The Environmental Protection Agency has said that additional segments may reopen later this year.
In addition to the accident in Michigan, an oil spill last July in the Yellowstone River in Montana prompted lawmakers and safety advocates to call for more stringent inspections of pipelines, as did a natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif., in 2010 that killed eight people.
A New York Times examination of federal reports and pipeline data last year showed that the federal pipeline agency had a chronic shortage of inspectors and left a great deal of regulatory control in the hands of pipeline operators themselves.

NYC updates zoning for energy efficiency

New York City has updated its zoning regulations to make it easier for buildings to insulate exterior walls, install solar panels and put gardens on rooftops. Solar panels are now allowed on flat roofs anywhere below the parapet regardless of building height. On sloping roofs, the panels could be mounted flat.

Obama starting to talk about climate change

Here is a YouTube clip with the president talking about climate change on Jimmy Kimmel – He starts talking about energy 2:00 minutes into the video, "We need to ensure that we are investing in the clean energy sources of the future, solar, wind, bio…" and then "…that's good for the planet, it helps us deal with climate change, its good for our economy…"

"Part of the challenge over these past three years has been that people's number-one priority is finding a job and paying the mortgage and dealing with high gas prices. In that environment, it's been easy for the other side to pour millions of dollars into a campaign to debunk climate-change science. I suspect that over the next six months, this is going to be a debate that will become part of the campaign, and I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we're going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way. That there's a way to do it that is entirely compatible with strong economic growth and job creation – that taking steps, for example, to retrofit buildings all across America with existing technologies will reduce our power usage by 15 or 20 percent. That's an achievable goal, and we should be getting started now."

Religious Youth Tell Obama - Climate Change Matters

Religious Youth To Obama: Creation Care Is A Swing Vote Issue 

This week, students from four Christian colleges went to the White House for a briefing with officials from the EPA and the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives. Their message: Climate change and clean air is a driver of their votes.
At the gathering, students joined young environmental advocates, NGOs, and faith leaders in unveiling a giant quilted topographic map of the United States, sewn together from recycled clothes donated from around the country. Many also donned shirts emblazoned with the slogan "Green the Golden Rule."
"You can't remove the topsoil or destroy the watershed and love your neighbor. It doesn't compute," said Tyler Amy, coordinator of Renewal, a youth-minded sustainability-focused group that brought students together for the day of advocacy.
"If [Congress] is not listening to the EPA, maybe they'll listen to us," said Amy. "That's the beauty of our democracy. Young people can make a difference."
Officials agreed. "We all care about stewardship," said Drew Elons, Director of Outreach and Public Relations for the EPA. "Destructive environmental practices cause massive public health concerns, and health affects education and the economy – for many of us, these things translate into moral issues."
Students unfurl a giant, quilted topographic map.

But some students also had tough questions for the government. Tess Beckwith, a senior at Eastern College in Philadelphia, pointedly asked the National Manager of EnergySTAR whether the White House itself met qualifications to be EnergySTAR certified, to which he had no answer. "I just want change to be genuine," said Beckwith later. "If we're going to fix things we have to start at home, and [the White House] is a major building in the US."
The question reflected the sincerity of the group gathered, which collectively voiced support for the EPA and the need to make climate change a campaign issue in 2012.