February 21, 2013

Minneapolis latest to require energy disclosure

As a way to incentivise landlords to compete for lower operational costs, Minneapolis is the latest US city - and the first in the Midwest - to adopt an energy benchmarking and disclosure rule for commercial buildings.

Private commercial buildings larger than 50,000 square feet in Minneapolis must report energy and water use annually beginning in 2015. The policy - already adopted in Austin, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. - is meant to bolster market forces, rather than requiring building design mandates, and motivate owners and tenants to invest in energy efficiency improvements.

The city of Minneapolis and other public offices will lead by example and begin publicly disclosing energy and water use in buildings larger than 25,000 square feet starting this year. [Business Green]

Bloomberg bans Stryofoam

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to ban the use of Styrofoam across New York.

According to the mayor's office, an estimated 20,000 tons of Styrofoam enter the city's waste stream each year and because it is almost impossible to recycle, the vast majority ends up in landfill.

Moreover, it is estimated to add $20 a ton to the cost of recycling as the Styrofoam has to be removed from other plastic waste streams before they can be recycled. [Business Green]

Super majority agree with Obama on climate change

Roughly two-thirds of the American people support President Obama taking significant action on climate change, according to two polls released the day after Obama's State of the Union address.

A poll for the League of Conservation voters showed that 65 percent of Americans want Obama to take "significant steps" to address climate change, including 89 percent of Democrats, 62 percent of Independents, and 38 percent of Republicans.

A second poll, conducted for the Natural Resources Defense Council, found that 65 percent of Americans see climate change as a serious problem and that 62 percent agreed with Obama's call for action. [Yale 360]

Nuclear Waste leaking at Hanford

A tank that holds radioactive liquid at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the nation's most contaminated nuclear site, is leaking, Gov. Jay Inslee said. The news raises concerns about the site's other storage tanks, which hold millions of gallons of a highly radioactive stew left from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons. The federal Department of Energy said that liquid levels were falling in one of 177 underground tanks between 150 and 300 gallons a year. 

Update 2-22-2013: Now Gov. Inslee reports that 6 tanks are leaking nuclear waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. [NY Times]

A plant being built to treat the waste is billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule. [NY Times]

Our best chance - Investing in Resilience

After experiencing four 100 year storms in the last 18 months - is it time to start making decisions about our buildings and infrastructure that deviate from our historical practices and assumptions? Should we update our stormwater design standards that are currently based on storm data from 1958? Are there better and more cost effective ways to update our stormwater system than just assuming we need bigger pipes? 
I would propose that the answer to all of these questions is - Yes! 
Lexington will consider at Town Meeting this spring whether it is time to begin taking action in response to climate change.  Town Meeting will be asked to vote if it is time to begin incorporating the effects of climate into our decisions and planning process, and whether we'll ask our Town to develop a climate action plan to identify resilient ways we can adapt to the impacts we are already experiencing and cost effective ways to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Please contact your Town Meeting Members - especially those who are running for office this spring - and ask them to vote Yes on Warrant Article 33. 

Here are some thoughts on this subject from the Boston Globe Opinion page. 
"The best chance of success in minimizing the effects of sea level rise and increasing storm frequency and intensity [emphasis added] will collectively involve industry, government, and individual citizens making challenging decisions that are likely to deviate from historical practices and assumptions." 
"One strategy... is to invest in resilience. This means acknowledging that flooding will occur, but making sure that after the storm recedes, our buildings can be pumped dry, and that we can recover with only minimal damage. This will require new building codes and some significant costs, although not the massive public investment required for large infrastructure." - Dan Schrag and Richard Murray
Richard W. Murray is professor of earth and environment at Boston University and a selectman in Scituate. Daniel P. Schrag is a professor of geology and director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment. 

The New Abolitionists

This is a very powerful article that discusses climate change in moral terms.

There is a lot of local flavor in the article, including Ed Markey's emergency meeting after Hurricane Sandy in the Arlington Town Hall, to great thinkers like Thoreau, and a challenge from a young man who went to jail for 2 years because of his beliefs on climate change.

"I'm a climate-justice activist. . . . We want a radically different world. We want a healthy, just world." But first, he said, "we need to get the fossil fuel industry out of the way. First we've got to overthrow the corporate power that is running our government." 

He understands what that requires. "It will involve confrontation and it will involve sacrifice."  [The Phoenix]

February 17, 2013

Interfaith Groups protest Keystone XL

As with anti-Keystone protests past, faith groups lent visible support; their banners, prayers, and chants joining the estimated 40,000 peaceful protestors calling on President Obama to show climate leadership in his new term by vetoing the Keystone XL pipeline.

Kevin Mason, a young man with The Catholic Worker hospitality house in DC, saw protesting the pipeline as a matter of justice and solidarity. "One person is hurt, we all are hurt," he said over chants of "That's not kosher!" from the assembled crowd. "Charity and resistance go hand in hand. There's a huge need to get back to the Genesis idea of stewardship and beloved community."

Faith groups have grown bolder in their pro-environment positions, and are gaining some momentum in joining and helping shape protests against fracking and tar sands removal. In the last year alone, several new groups and initiatives like Young Evangelicals for Climate Action and the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate have sprung up, major faith mobilizers like Sojourners have more publicly stepped in, and longstanding interfaith climate organizing networks like Interfaith Power and Light have redoubled their efforts.
"It's great to see this interfaith energy," said George Hoguet, a former Catholic now part of The Stillworkers, an engaged Buddhist community in Pittsburgh. "It's great — there needs to be more." [Climate Progress]

Keystone Protesters Pressure Obama

Keystone XL protesters pressure Obama on climate change promise

Thousands of protesters descended on Washington, DC on President's Day weekend demanding Barack Obama shut down the Keystone XL pipeline project to show he is serious about taking action on climate change.
Organisers said a crowd of 40,000+, carrying placards in the shape of bright red stop signs, gathered at the Washington monument on a bright but bitterly cold day for the march on the White House.
They said Obama's entire presidential legacy rests on the Keystone XL, which they framed as a critical test of Obama's environmental credentials and his sweeping promises to use the next four years to protect future generations from climate change.

February 11, 2013

Low Cost, Scalable Energy Storage for renewables

I'd encourage you to take a look at this idea for low cost, scalable energy storage. 

Here is a link to the video from Google's Solving for X series

Danielle Fong dropped out of middle school at age 12 - to enroll at Princeton where she graduated at age 17. Now at age 24, she is running a company that is funded by Vinod Khosla called LightSail Energy

LIghtSail Energy plans to lower the cost of energy storage so that the cost of Wind Power + Energy Storage is less than the cost of electricity generated by gas peaking power plants. 

Her company, LightSail Energy, is working on technology to create easier storage of energy created from renewable resources.

"We're tackling what some call the holy grail of green energy: how to economically and efficiently store energy such that intermittent renewables such as solar and wind can reliably and economically power our electrical grid," Fong tells MNN. 

To do that, Fong and her team hope to store energy using compressed air. On the conceptual level, that idea works but on the practical level, there are several obstacles.

The challenge
The overriding problem in using compressed air for energy storage is the high temperature produced during the compression and expansion process.

"Hotter air is at a higher pressure, and requires more energy to compress the same charge of air into a given volume," Fong explains. "When the air cools, the pressure diminishes and accessible energy is lost. This is the main inefficiency with previous attempts at air energy storage."

Fong's concept, and the process used at LightSail Energy, is to spray a fine mist of water during the compression or expansion process. The water captures the heat, keeps the temperature at a constant low level, and can be held in a water tank or routed into a building for usage.

The process is called regenerative air energy storage, or RAES for short, because it regenerates usable energy from the heat generated during compression. This bonus output nearly doubles the efficiency of compressed air storage to 70 percent in both directions — compression and expansion.

February 10, 2013

Nemo and Climate Change - More Extreme Storms

The two key ingredients for a big snow are just cold-enough temperatures and a lot of moisture. Combine the chilled air converging on the East with the massive moisture coming from the Gulf of Mexico region and you've got the "perfect setup for a big storm," said Kevin Trenberth, of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado.
As Trenberth explained, the ideal temperature for a blizzard is just below freezing -- just cold enough to crystalize water into snow. Below that, the atmosphere's ability to hold moisture to create those snowflakes drops by 4 percent for every one degree Fahrenheit fall in temperature.
"In the past, temperatures at this time of year would have been a lot below freezing," Trenberth said. In other words, it's been too cold to snow heavily. But that may become less of an obstacle for snow in the Northeast.
In addition to warming the air, climate change is adding moisture to it.
Sea surface temperatures are about two degrees Fahrenheit warmer than they were before 1980, raising the potential for a big snow by about 10 percent, according to Trenberth. And any individual storm, including this nor'easter, will pick up more moisture as it spins across a warmer ocean. What's more, as Mann explained, a warm ocean clashes with cold air masses from the Arctic. A bigger contrast in temperatures may mean a bigger storm, he said.
Michael Oppenheimer, a climate change expert at Princeton University, said global warming is increasing extreme storms. "Storms like this tend to be heavier than they used to be," he told HuffPost. "That's a fact."
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration records show that the Northeast saw a 74 percent increase in precipitation during the heaviest rain and snow events from 1958 to 2011.

Nemo - One for the history books

Nemo Saturday morning around 7 a.m. EST. The amazing structure of the storm resembles a hurricane with an eye structure. This feature was also seen with Sandy last October and the ‘Perfect Storm’ of October 28, 1991.
It is curious that most of Boston's top 10 greatest single snowstorms since records for such have been kept beginning in 1872 have occurred in relatively recent years.

It is a bit unsettling that two of the most significant storms in the past 300 years to strike the northeastern quadrant of the U.S. have occurred within just four months from one another. 

I think it safe to say that the storm of February 7-8, 1978 remains the strongest blizzard on record for eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. However, Nemo would appear to be a close 2nd.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Only eight storms have dropped more than 20 inches of snow on Boston since 1935, according to the National Weather Service. The all-time record is the 27.5 inches that fell Feb. 17-18, 2003. The Blizzard of '78 is second, with 27.1 inches.

Here are the top-10 snowstorms since 1935:

1. 27.5 inches - Feb. 17-18, 2003: This Presidents' Day Weekend storm set the record for the greatest snowfall in a 24-hour period, but its impact on metro Boston was nowhere near as bad as the Blizzard of '78. The snow was dry, it occurred on a weekend, forecasters gave plenty of warning, and most roads were cleared by the next day.

2. 27.1 inches - Feb. 6-7, 1978: The infamous Blizzard of '78 was exceptional for its severity and bad timing. To make matters worse, there had been another blizzard 17 days earlier that dumped close to 2 feet of snow on metro Boston. Most of that was still on the ground when the Feb. 6-7 storm hit.

3. 26.3 inches - Feb. 24-27, 1969: This killer storm was blamed for 94 deaths as forecasters greatly underestimated its duration. In Boston, it snowed for a record 101 consecutive hours. New York City fared even worse, and that city's poor snow-removal response nearly wrecked the political career of then-Mayor John Lindsay.

4. 25.4 inches - March 31-April 1, 1997: On March 30, temperatures in Boston were in the 60s. The next day the massive April Fool's Day blizzard hit, dumping nearly as much snow in two days as Boston had received all the rest of that winter.

5. 24.9 inches - Feb. 8-9, 2013: The Blizzard of 2013 hit New England with hurricane winds, destructive tides, and more than 30 inches in some places. Governor Deval Patrick took the unusual step of banning traffic from Massachusetts roads early in the storm to aid cleanup.

6. 22.5 inches - Jan. 22-23, 2005: The Blizzard of 2005 delivered a staggering blow to much of Eastern Massachusetts, dropping more than 3 feet of snow in some places on the North and South shores and whipping it into towering drifts with howling gusts that topped 80 miles per hour. It happened on a weekend, which helped minimize the impact on businesses and schools.

7. 21.4 inches - Jan. 20-21, 1978: The "other Blizzard of '78" hit two weeks before the famous storm of Feb. 6-7, and left huge drifts and snow piles that made the cleanup of the later blizzard nearly impossible.

8. 19.8 inches - March 3-5, 1960: This huge storm dumped more than 10 inches of snow on states from Virginia to Maine. Coastal New England, including Boston, was particularly hard hit. Road and rail traffic ground to a halt. Boston received 19.8 inches, a record at the time, but higher totals were registered elsewhere in the state, including 31.3 inches on Nantucket.

9. 19.4 inches - Feb. 16-17, 1958: The second of two huge storms in a month hit most of New England hard, and caused a then-record snowfall of 19.4 inches in Boston. Bitter cold and high winds for days afterwards slowed cleanup. All in all, the storm was blamed for 43 deaths and half a billion dollars in damage.

10. 18.7 inches - Feb. 8-10, 1994: This lengthy storm, centered along the Massachusetts coastline, dropped close to 19 inches of light snow, but it fell in bursts, making it relatively easy for public works departments to clean. Nonetheless, the Globe reported that weary residents, who were enduring one of the snowiest winters in Boston history, were lining up at local travel agencies.

Satellite view of Nemo

Here is a great image from space of Nemo at it's height - covering the country from Louisiana to Chicago to Florida to Maine.

Al Gore's Talk at Harvard

I attended Al Gore's talk at Harvard on Wednesday night and thought you might appreciate hearing some of his thoughts. 

Gore delivered the inaugural Paul R. Epstein Memorial Lecture in honor of the former Harvard Medical School instructor and authority on the links between climate change and human health. Paul had agreed to speak at an event we were organizing here in Lexington on the impacts of coal power on human health, but he had to cancel due to health reasons shortly before he passed away. 

Gore talked about how many people are not yet associating human health with climate change. Many of us may be aware that climate change is expanding the range of insects like mosquitos that bear diseases like Dengue Fever and West Nile Virus. But he said that many people are not aware that climate change is also expanding the range of micro-organisms themselves and as a result we are seeing an increase in many diseases. 

Gore compared the climate crisis to 19th-century cholera epidemics that have been traced to water sources that had been infected by dumping sewage into the streets. Society now treats the sky as an "open sewer," pumping carbon waste into the air much as it used to dump bodily waste into waterways, and with the same results. People are getting sick. 

"We're using the atmosphere as an open sewer. It's functionally insane. It traps heat," Gore said. "A lot of communities experience one in 100-year events, one in 1,000-year events … every few years."

85% of all the energy we use comes from fossil fuels. We dump 90 million tons of heat trapping CO2 into the atmosphere everyday. And we are trapping 400,000 Hiroshima bombs worth of heat in the atmosphere every day. 

We have 4% more water vapor in the atmosphere than we did 30 years ago, this results in bigger floods, bigger downpours and higher energy storms. 

We just saw 32" of rain in Queensland Australia over a 4 day period. 2012 was the hottest year on record for the US. We had $110 billion dollars of climate damage. Unprecedented wildfires, drought covering over 60% of the country, worst outbreak of West Nile Virus, half the polar ice cap disappeared, the jet stream affected and of course Superstorm Sandy. 

We need to think about the impact of these events. Congress wonders if we have enough money to help those who have been affected. What about the 20 million people who were displaced by flooding in Pakistan - an already unstable nuclear power? 

He said that even with all these events - there was not one question from the media about climate change in any of the presidential debates. "That is pathetic! The media is not playing a responsible role in our society." 

He was asked what he thought about mining the tar sands for oil. "Well junkies will shoot up between their toes after the veins in their arms and legs give out." 

When asked about the divestment movement - "If I were a student, I would support what you're doing," Gore told the students at Harvard. "But if I were a board member I would do what I did when we took up the Apartheid issue. This is an opportunity for learning and the raising of awareness, for the discussion of sustainable capitalism."

He said that our democracy had been hacked through the influence of money. That representatives now have to spend 5 hours a day begging for money to fund their re-election campaigns. It can't help but influence their behavior. 

He said capitalism needed to be reformed as it was causing wild disruptions in the economy. When we agreed to give mortgages to 7.5 million people who couldn't afford to pay them, it caused a global run on the banks because those subprime assets weren't valued properly. 

He said that the fossil fuel industry now has $23 trillion dollars worth of artificially priced subprime fossil fuel assets that the fossil fuel companies are telling their stockholders they intend to burn. He said - we can't, we just can't burn those assets if we want to have a livable climate. We need to begin to value those assets wisely. This is another bubble. 

He believes the value of those fossil fuel reserves will collapse over the long-term time frames that pension funds are managed for. 

Finally - we need to stop measuring our economic success in terms of GDP - because there are so many externalities it just doesn't measure. 

There are negative externalities like:

  Degradation of the natural environment

But there are positive externalities that aren't measured either - like: 
  Investment in Infrastructure

Finally he said one of the most destructive negative externalities is the distribution of income. 

He mentioned that Sam Walton started an amazing company - WalMart. But when Sam passed away - 6 members of his family inherited his money. Gore said that those 6 people now have more money than all of the bottom 100 million people in America combined. 

Massachusetts invests $2 Billion in energy efficiency

Massachusetts regulators approved the final details of the 2013-2015 utility plans last week that call for $2.01 billion in energy efficiency programs. The utilities expect the plans to save 3.7 million MWh of electricity, enough to power more than 500,000 households for one year, and deliver $8.9 billion in economic benefits.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) says that for every dollar utilities will invest in energy efficiency, ratepayers will receive over three dollars in energy savings. 
The DPU order goes into far greater detail – 180 pages worth – which you can find here.
"With this decision, Massachusetts has renewed its commitment to investing in energy efficiency, the cleanest, lowest cost energy resource available. Efficiency will deliver important economic and environmental dividends," said Jeremy McDiarmid, Massachusetts director for Environment Northeast, a key efficiency advocate in the region.

Replacing Indian Point with energy efficiency

Federal licenses for the Indian Point nuclear power plant expire in 2015. Con Edison plans to make up for some of the power supplied by Indian Point by implementing energy efficiency programs to reduce peak power demand by 100 mega watts. 

The utility envisions much of the 100 MW of peak demand reduction coming from large buildings through LED lighting, advanced energy control systems, steam air conditioning, advanced heating, ventilation and cooling, and energy storage systems.

MA company lowers energy bills 55% with LED lighting

Once thought to be too costly for commercial buildings, LED lighting is increasingly popping up in warehouses and commercial facilities as part of energy retrofit projects.

LED lighting lowers energy consumption 55% at Massachusetts company with upfront costs covered by Mass Save program.

Atlas Box received a number of incentives through Mass Save, including a finance program that covers 70 per cent of energy efficiency upgrade costs and an option to finance the remaining 30 per cent with no interest over the next two years.

First Fuel: Finding no-cost energy efficiency opportunities

FirstFuel, a Lexington-based energy analytics startup, released a report revealing that 51 per cent of all energy efficiency opportunities could be achieved through low and no-cost operational improvements. They calculated the savings over the entire US commercial building market as a $17bn opportunity for operational improvements.

More ambitious policies needed to cut emissions

World Resources Institute warns more ambitious policies are needed to cut emissions 17 per cent by 2020 [WRI Report]


U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are expected to rise unless additional policy actions are taken. This report identifies a suite of policies that the Administration can pursue that do not require new legislation by the U.S. Congress. If pursued with "go-getter" level ambition, those policies can reduce U.S. emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels in 2020.

Key Findings

  • Without new action by the U.S. Administration, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will increase over time. The United States will fail to make the deep emissions reductions needed in coming decades, and will not meet its international commitment to reduce GHG emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
  • The U.S. EPA should immediately pursue emissions reductions from existing power plants and natural gas systems using its authority under the Clean Air Act. These two sectors represent two of the top opportunities for substantial GHG reductions between now and 2035.
  • The U.S. Administration should pursue hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) reductions through both the Montreal Protocol process and under its independent Clean Air Act authority. Eliminating HFCs represents the biggest opportunity for GHG emissions reductions behind power plants.
  • U.S. states should complement federal actions to reduce emissions through state energy efficiency, renewables, transportation, and other actions. States can augment federal reductions.
  • New federal legislation will eventually be needed, because even go-getter action by federal and state governments will probably fail to achieve the more than 80 percent GHG emissions reductions necessary to fend off the most deleterious impacts of climate change.

Florida Nuclear Plant to be closed permanently

Duke Energy will permanently close its Crystal River Nuclear Plant, which has been shut since 2009 after botched repairs. The plant was shut when its concrete containment building cracked. A repair attempt in 2011 resulted in new cracks in other parts of the structure. 

Duke Energy said it could be 60 years before the site was fully decontaminated and dismantled and that they would seek to recoup from customers its $1.65 billion investment in the plant. 

February 5, 2013

Nissan installing 500 fast charge stations

Nissan plans to install "at least" 500 fast-charge points for electric cars across the US to help boost take-up of the vehicles.

The Japanese car maker along with partner NRG Energy said yesterday that the chargers would be fitted in major cities over the next 18 months and capable of recharging its LEAF model to 80 per cent capacity in less than half an hour.

Local Mom takes on Procter & Gamble - and Wins!

by Lori Popkewitz Alper
I started a petition over at Change.org demanding that Procter and Gamble (makers of Tide) strip a harmful cancer-causing chemical out of Tide Free and Gentle®.
The petition went viral.
Over 78,000 people signed, demanding that Procter and Gamble change the formulation of their Tide laundry detergent. After almost a year, Procter and Gamble realized they could no longer ignore our concerns.
Procter and Gamble agreed in a California court to reformulate its detergents to reduce levels of 1,4 dioxane by September of 2013!

Here is Lori's Appearance on ABC News Boston - http://youtu.be/8gSf2OxE1QM

Centrica pulls out of UK nuclear project over cost concerns

The Financial Times reported that Centrica would not exercise its option to take a 20 per cent stake in EDF's plans for two new reactors at Hinkley Point and Sizewell, amid concerns about the cost of the projects.

Centrica, owner of British Gas, has the option of taking a 20 per cent stake in four new reactors – two at Hinkley Point in Somerset and two at Sizewell in Suffolk – in a partnership with EDF, the French state-owned utility. These would be the first nuclear power plants to be built in the UK since 1995.

Centrica's 20 per cent share of the pre-development expenditure (£200m) will be written off as an exceptional cost in the Group's 2012 results.

A central factor in Centrica's expected decision is the financial risks associated with new nuclear. Company officials have pointed to Flamanville, an EDF reactor under construction in northern France, which is years behind schedule and billions over budget. EDF announced in December that the price tag for Flamanville had ballooned to €8.5bn, compared with an original budget of €3.3bn.

Fossil Fuel Subsidies - Public Enemy #1

The International Energy Agency (IEA)'s chief economist has urged governments around the world to end the $0.5 trillion of annual subsidies given to oil and gas production.
"On one hand these countries talk about renewable energy, efficiencies and climate change, and at the same time subsidises fossil fuel energy - [it] does not make sense," he said. "All the countries and governments of the world need to pay attention to this issue.
"In the presence of these fossil fuel subsidies... we have no chance whatsoever to meet these climate change targets and provide room for renewable energies to compete with coal, oil and gas as they are artificially cheap as a result of those subsidies."
Figures from the IEA show that global fossil fuel subsidies jumped to $523bn in 2011, which Birol said represented an incentive to emit carbon equivalent to $110 per tonne.
In contrast, the EU emissions trading system currently provides a disincentive to emit carbon of less than $10 per tonne.

US CO2 emissions fall 13% over 5 years

US carbon emissions have fallen 13 per cent over the past five years to reach their lowest levels since 1994, according to a new report published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance on behalf of industry group the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE).
A doubling of renewable energy capacity and increases in the use of natural gas have reduced reliance on coal and oil, while improving energy efficiency has seen demand for energy fall steeply.
Renewables represented the largest single source of new growth last year.
Costs are also falling: large solar power plants produced electricity at an average of 14 cents per kilowatt hour in 2012, compared to 31 cents/kWh three years beforehand.
In contrast, from 2007 to 2011 coal's share of the energy mix declined from 22.5 per cent to 18.1 per cent and oil fell to 36.7 per cent from 39.3 per cent.
Meanwhile, energy demand decreased by 6.4 per cent from 2007 to 2012 largely due to efficiency gains and despite economic growth.
The report notes energy efficiency is increasingly becoming a business priority, particularly among large power consumers such as manufacturers. US utility budgets for efficiency expenditures reached $7bn in 2011, while the energy intensity of commercial buildings has fallen by more than 40 per cent since 1980.
Emissions cuts also came in the transport sector, where sales of hybrids and plug-in vehicles reached 488,000 units in 2012.

Green Teams save Post Office $76 Million

The US Postal Service saved $52m last year by reducing its consumption of energy, water, and other resources, while generating nearly $24m in revenue through a range of recycling initiatives.
The financial gains included nearly $12m in vehicle fuel cost avoidance, more than $10m in facility energy savings, water savings worth just under $1m, and a decrease in supplies spending of almost $4m. In addition, recycling more than 253,000 tons of material helped the organisation save more than $25m in landfill fees.
The information was published late last week as part of an update on the Postal Service's progress against a range of 2015 sustainability targets, including goals to reduce energy use 30 per cent compared to 2003 levels, cut water consumption 10 per cent against a 2007 baseline, and recycle half of the solid waste produced by the organisation.

Wind Power - Largest Electricity Supplier in Spain

Over the last three months wind farms produced more electricity than any other power source in Spain. 

Wind generation for January 2013 totaled 6.214 terawatt-hours, representing 27.7% of Spain's total power output, according to Red Electrica's website. That puts it ahead of nuclear and coal-fired electricity, the figures show.

Wind has accounted for more power than any other energy source for the last three months, a first for any quarter, the wind association said. Renewable energy, including solar and hydro power, accounted for 44.1% of all electricity generated during the quarter. 

Renewable energy accounted for 33% of all electricity generated in Spain over the last 12 months. 

February 4, 2013

69 Feet of Sea Level Rise on the way

Glaciologist Jason Box makes this point in a Climate Desk interview with Chris Mooney, "Humans Have Already Set in Motion 69 Feet of Sea Level Rise" and lead author Kenneth Miller of Rutgers University said:
"The natural state of the Earth with present carbon dioxide levels is one with sea levels about 70 feet higher than now."
Here's what the Boston area would look like with 69 feet of sea level rise. Arlington center and Winchester center will be under water - almost all of Cambridge and Boston are submerged. We just don't know how long it will take for the waters to rise to this level. 

Hiking the Grand Canyon - from Google Street View

Google will now allow you to hike the Grand Canyon via Google Street View!   

I've been to the Grand Canyon three times in my life. This morning I was able to take a look at 5 parts of the park I've never seen - before breakfast. 

Many more amazing photos - click the link below to see them. 

Hurricane Sandy's $50 billion relief bill

President Obama signed the fifty billion dollar (yes, that's $50,000,000,000) Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill. The full text of the bill is available here 

The Relief Bill ties distribution of relief funds to commitments from the states to adopt the most up-to-date building codes. 

According to studies by the Multi-Hazard Mitigation Council, for every dollar invested in building code adoption and enforcement, four dollars are saved in recovery costs. 

BP agrees to pay $4B to settle criminal charges

A federal judge signed off on the British company's agreement to pay $4 billion in fines to resolve criminal charges in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. The company said it had already paid out more than $24 billion on various settlements and cleanup efforts.

The two top BP officers aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, were charged with manslaughter in connection with each of the men who died, and David Rainey, a former vice president, was charged with obstruction of Congress and making false statements for understating the rate at which oil was spilling from the well.  [NY Times]