June 29, 2013
Here is a very cool way of thinking about the footprint of what we buy from the Seattle Climate Action Plan.
The folks over at Solar Power Rocks have gone through the solar policies of all 50 US states in order to rank them all.
Go ahead and give yourself a big ole' pat on the proverbial back Massachusetts, you're tops in the nation for solar power! With an overall score of approximately 4.4 out of 5 possible suns (the other stars are great, but it's ours that provides all the clean renewable energy), Massachusetts narrowly edges out Maryland and New York as the friendliest state in the nation for investing in a residential solar power system.
For a quick glance at the results, here's a colorful infographic from Solar Power Rocks
The city of Palo Alto (CA) has set a goal of 100% carbon-free power for its municipal utility. To achieve this goal, they are going solar in a big way…and with some mindblowing results.
The utility just signed 80 MW worth of contracts with 3 solar plants (40 MW, 20 MW, and 20 MW) at a great price: 6.9 cents/kWh over a 30 year term. Try building a new nuke or coal plant at that price.
The total output of these 3 solar plants are enough to serve about 18% of the city's load, well over the 65,000 residential customers in the city.
When these contracts come online, the city will be powered by 48% renewable energy by 2017. Quite a bit higher than the current state requirement of 33% by 2020.
And the cost impact? 1/11th of a penny per kWh. That's right. When the city approves renewable energy contracts they calculate the difference between the levelized cost of the renewable resource and the levelized cost of a comparable amount of non-renewable market power for the same period (doing their best to estimate the all-in delivered cost for both products, adjusting for time-of-delivery, transmission costs, capacity value, etc.) They use that difference to determine the net impact of the contract on the City's average retail rates. So far, they calculate the total rate impact of all of their renewables contracts to be in the range of 0.11 cents/kWh.
The plants are to be built on distressed agricultural land in Fresno, Stanislaus, and Los Angeles counties. To better ensure project viability, developers put up $30 – $35/kW in development assurance.
One more time, so it sinks in: Palo Alto is buying 80 MW of solar at 6.9cents/kWh, on track to reach 48% renewables by 2017, and all at a cost-premium over non-renewable market rates of a de minimis 0.11 cents/kWh. Truly remarkable.
These guys are early contender for utility solar champion of the decade.
|Northern Alberta pipeline was only five years old before massive 2.5 million gallon toxic spill.|
The substance is the inky black colour of oil, and the treetops are brown. Across a broad expanse of northern Alberta muskeg, the landscape is dead. It has been poisoned by a huge spill of 9.5 million litres of toxic waste from an oil and gas operation in northern Alberta, the third major leak in a region whose residents are now questioning whether enough is being done to maintain aging energy infrastructure.
"Every plant and tree died" in the area touched by the spill, said James Ahnassay, chief of the Dene Tha First Nation, whose members run traplines in an area that has seen oil and gas development since the 1950s.
Neither Apache nor Alberta initially disclosed the spill, which was only made public after someone reported it to a TV station late last week. Bob Curran, a spokesman for the ERCB, defended the late release of information, saying it took 10 days to determine the size of the spill. "The second we knew the volumes, we put out a news release," he said. Asked how it could take so long to determine the severity of a large spill, he said Wednesday: "We didn't know it was over 42 hectares. We found that out last night." [Globe and Mail]
June 17, 2013
Sea level is rising and at an alarming pace - especially along the east coast. [UCS]
The US Justice Department filed a joint lawsuit with Arkansas against oil producer Exxon Mobil over the pipeline spill in March of thousands of barrels of heavy Canadian tar sands oil in a suburban neighborhood.
The 95,000 barrels per day Pegasus line has been shut since spilling the oil in Mayflower, Arkansas, where cleanup operations continue and residents are still forced to evacuate their homes. [Reuters]
Mayor Bloomberg calls food waste “New York City’s final recycling frontier.” The Bloomberg administration is rolling out an ambitious plan to begin collecting food scraps across the city, according to Caswell F. Holloway IV, a deputy mayor.
Anticipating sharp growth in food recycling, the administration will seek proposals within the next 12 months for a company to build a plant in the New York region to process residents' food waste into biogas, which would be used to generate electricity.
"This is going to be really transformative," Mr. Holloway said. "You want to get on a trajectory where you're not sending anything to landfills."
The residential program will initially work on a voluntary basis, but officials predict that within a few years, it will be mandatory.
Amazingly enough, the comments about this program in the NY Times are overwhelmingly positive. [NY Times]
June 14, 2013
The IEA issued a report today "Redrawing the Climate Energy Map" that outlines four policies that can address climate change at no net economic cost.
Governments have decided collectively that the world needs to limit the average global temperature increase to no more than 2° C and international negotiations are engaged to that end. Amid major international economic preoccupations, there are worrying signs that the issue of climate change has slipped down the policy agenda. This Special Report seeks to bring it right back on top by showing that the dilemma can be tackled at no net economic cost.
The world is not on track to meet the target agreed by governments to limit the long-term rise in the average global temperature to 2° Celsius (°C).
Despite positive developments in some countries͕ global energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 1.4% to reach 31.6 gigatonnes (Gt) in 2012 - a historic high.
We present our 4-for-2 °C scenario in which we propose the implementation of four policy measures that can help keep the door open to the 2 °C target through to 2020 at no net economic cost.
The four policies are:
- Adopting specific energy efficiency measures (49% of the emissions savings).
- Limiting the construction and use of the least-efficient coal-fired power plants (21%).
- Minimizing methane (CH4) emissions from upstream oil and gas production (18%).
- Accelerating the (partial) phase-out of subsidies to fossil-fuel consumption (12%).
Delaying stronger climate action to 2020 would come at a cost: $1.5 trillion in low-carbon investments are avoided before 2020, but $5 trillion in additional investments would be required thereafter to get back on track.
MidAmerican Energy has scrapped plans for Iowa's second nuclear plant and will refund $8.8 million ratepayers paid for a now-finished feasibility study, utility officials said Monday.
In other news, Exelon Corp. is scrapping expansion plans at nuclear plants in Illinois and Pennsylvania because of waning demand for electricity and competition with subsidized wind generators.
The utility has decided against building any major power plant. That's because there is no approved design for the modular nuclear plant it envisioned, and there are too many questions about limits on carbon emissions from a natural gas plant, the company said.
MidAmerican will focus on its plan to build up to 656 wind turbines in a $1.9 billion project across Iowa, which also will trim power bills by saving fuel costs.
|LaSalle Nuclear Plant|
|Tar Sands Oil Spill in Mayflower, AK|
Read the rest by clicking here -http://ecowatch.com/2013/arkansas-spill-red-flag-keystone-xl-pipeline/
The European Union reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 2.1 percent from 2011 to 2012. This takes place after a massive 4.1 percent decrease from 2010 to 2011.
As the official press release notes :
Eurostat estimates that from 2011 to 2012 CO2 emissions decreased in nearly all Member States, except Malta (+6.3%), the United Kingdom (+3.9%), Lithuania (+1.7%) and Germany (+0.9%).
The largest decreases were recorded in Belgium and Finland (both -11.8%), Sweden (-10.1%), Denmark (-9.4%), Cyprus (-8.5%), Bulgaria (-6.9%), Slovakia (-6.5%), the Czech Republic (-5.2%), Italy and Poland (both -5.1%).
Given how in 2010, greenhouse gas emissions were already 15.4 percent lower than in 1990 (source: Eurostat), the goal of slashing emissions by 20 percent from 1990 to 2020 is within reach.
June 4, 2013
|Photo Credit: Boston Globe|
This article claims that the concept of car ownership, a paradigm of the American lifestyle in the 20th Century, is on its way out.
Just as a generation decided it no longer needed a telephone that was hard-connected to a copper wire, an even larger group of people is starting to realize it doesn't really require a 4000-pound piece of steel in its driveway, used less than an hour a day, almost exclusively by one occupant, and propelled by a death-dealing fuel.
Mass transit, car sharing, ride sharing, and micro-rentals – all coordinated with mobile devices, combined with small urban commuter vehicles, bicycling, and even walking, are rapidly eroding our old concept of personal transportation.
Talking about grid reliability without talking about climate change is like talking about personal health without talking about smoking, diet or exercise.
Federal relief spending for climate related disasters cost taxpayers $1,200 per household over the last three years.
FEMA estimates that every dollar spent on mitigation lowers damage costs by four dollars.
It is time to improve our grid reliability and transition to renewable energy.
Congressional Testimony by Daniel J. Weiss
World's fish are moving to cooler waters
|Blue Crab Credit: Paleo Spirit|
Fish and other sea life have been moving toward Earth's poles in search of cooler waters, part of a worldwide, decades-long migration documented for the first time by a study released Wednesday. The research, published in the journal Nature, provides more evidence of a rapidly warming planet and has broad repercussions for fish harvests around the globe.
University of British Columbia researchers found that significant numbers of 968 species of fish and invertebrates they examined moved to escape the warming waters of their original habitats. Previous studies had documented the same phenomenon in specific parts of the world's oceans. But the new study is the first to assess the migration worldwide and to look back as far as 1970, according to its authors.
The research is more confirmation that "global change is real and has been real for a long time," said Boris Worm, a professor of marine biology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, who was not part of the study. "It's not something in the distant future. It is well underway."
|EF5 Tornado as it reaches Moore, OK - Credit: wahoorob 80 at Flickr|
|Moore Tornado Aftermath - Creditwahoorob 80 at Flickr|
New York Times again calls on President Obama to take more aggressive action on climate change.
The news that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the most important global warming gas, have hit 400 parts per million for the first time in millions of years increases the pressure on President Obama to deliver on his pledges to limit this country's greenhouse gas emissions.
America cannot solve a global problem by itself. But as Mr. Obama rightly observed in his inaugural address, the United States, as both major polluter and world leader, has a deep obligation to help shield the international community from rising sea levels, floods, droughts and other devastating consequences of a warming planet. In his State of the Union speech, he promised to take executive action if Congress failed to pass climate legislation.
Which is just what he will have to do. The prospects for broad-based Congressional action putting a price on carbon emissions are nil. The House is run by people who care little for environmental issues generally, and Senate Republicans who once favored a pricing strategy, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have long since slunk away. Meanwhile, Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have spent the last two weeks trying to derail Mr. Obama's nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency — a moderate named Gina McCarthy. Ms. McCarthy has served two Republican governors (Mitt Romney was one) but is considered suspect by the right wing because she wants to control carbon pollution, which is driving global temperatures upward.
Hence the need for executive action. Yet we are now four months into Mr. Obama's second term, and there is no visible sign of a coherent strategy. One plausible reason is that Mr. Obama has been preoccupied with other issues and that his key players on climate have not been in place. But that excuse disappears if Ms. McCarthy can survive a threatened Senate filibuster; even if she does not, Mr. Obama has sufficient talent in the E.P.A. and the Energy Department and among his science advisers to get started.
As this page has noted, it is possible to adopt a robust climate strategy based largely on executive actions. The most important of these is to invoke the E.P.A.'s authority under the Clean Air Act to limit pollution from stationary industrial sources, chiefly the power plants that account for almost 40 percent of the country's carbon emissions. The agency is reworking a proposed rule to limit emissions from new power plants. A more complex but no less necessary task is to devise rules for existing power plants, which cannot be quickly shuttered without endangering the country's power supply, but which can be made more efficient or phased out over time.
Mr. Obama can also order the E.P.A. to curb the enormous leakage of methane, a potent global warming agent, from gas wells and the pipes that bring natural gas to consumers. This is critical if America's bountiful supplies of cheap natural gas are to become a cleaner bridge from coal to alternative energy sources like wind and solar power.
He can hasten the development of less-polluting alternatives to older-generation refrigerants and other chemicals. He can order the Energy Department to embark on a major program to improve the efficiency of appliances and commercial and residential buildings, which consume a huge chunk of the country's energy supply. And he can ramp up investment in basic research.
All of this will take time, which is why it is important to get started. The most important of Mr. Obama's first-term environmental initiatives — the historic fuel economy standards that will double the efficiency of America's cars and light trucks — took more than three years to complete between the time they were proposed and when they were finalized last August. New power plant standards can be expected to take at least as long.
Mr. Obama has a firm grasp of the climate issue, and no one doubts that he cares about it. But as is often the case with this president, the question is whether he will exhibit a sense of urgency to match his intellectual understanding.