I recently got a contact from a group of students at Florida International University, who had been activated by the recent King Tide event along the Florida coast to take a closer look at sea level and climate change.  Florida is one place in the United States where climate impacts are becoming increasingly an undeniable fact of life, and difficult for politicians to ignore. Current Governor Rick Scott has been singled out recently for his apparent backpedaling on the default climate denial of his base, and asserting that he can’t speak to climate, as he is “not a scientist”.

Above, in this week’s Florida gubernatorial debate, CNN’s Jake Tapper called on Governor Scott to clarify why climate advice from scientists would be different from, say, medical advice from doctors.

In addition, an increasingly vocal portion of the formerly reliably science-averse base, Tea Party activists, are calling for more access to renewable energy options, and more competition for utility monopolies.

Tampa Bay Times:

Debbie Dooley, co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party and national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, plans to push for more solar in the Sunshine State as she has in Georgia. Her ultimate goal is to challenge the monopoly control of Florida’s major utilities.

This month, the Georgia resident launched the group Conservatives for Energy Freedom, with the first chapter in Florida.

“The difference between Florida and Georgia is conservatives are leading the way to push for more solar and to allow freedom,” Dooley said. “In Florida, (conservatives) put up roadblocks.

“It’s appalling,” she said. “The Republicans should be leading the way for Florida in this. It’s violating free market principles.”

Florida’s investor-owned utilities have enjoyed what many see as a lock on Tallahassee’s Republican-dominated political world.

An uprising from within the Republican Party could alter the course of the state’s energy policy at a time when a growing number of grass roots groups have been stepping up their efforts — from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, to the Sierra Club with funding from billionaire Michael Bloomberg, to the NextGen Climate group that is politically attacking Gov. Rick Scott with funding from billionaire Tom Steyer. Steyer is supporting Charlie Crist in the governor’s race.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dana Nuccitelli has updated his graph showing how many times arctic sea ice has “recovered” in the last few decades, while continuing its long-term downward trend.

We can be sure climate deniers will continue to tell us about sea ice “recovery” even when we see open  water across the arctic some time in the next couple decades, if not sooner.

Dana Nuccitelli in the Guardian:

Natural factors play a role in the extent of the Arctic sea ice as well, especially changes in weather conditions on a year-to-year basis. For example, 2012 shattered the previous record low Arctic sea ice extent because on top of the human influences, the weather conditions were ripe for a dramatic decline that year. In 2013 and 2014, weather conditions were closer to normal, so they didn’t break the 2012 record. As a result, the usual suspects have declared that Arctic sea ice is now “expanded” compared to two years ago.

The flaw in that argument is illustrated in this animated graphic I created. (above)

We can also consider Arctic sea ice extent further back in time, over the past 145 years:

Average July through September Arctic sea ice extent 1870–2008 from the University of Illinois (Walsh & Chapman 2001 updated to 2008) and observational data from NSIDC for 2009–2014.

Or even the past 1,450 years:

 

Description:

A battery that can power the planet. A steel making process that can cleans the air by reducing CO2. In this second film in our Conversation with Tomorrow series visionary energy expert Professor Donald R. Sadoway looks at the future of energy and how his revolutionary ideas can create renewable, more sustainable energy for everyone, everywhere.

I’ve posted on this before, apparently the concept is now the foundation of a growing company, attracting serious investment.
More details on the implementation below: Read the rest of this entry »

More from utility expert Michael Osborne.

The utility of the future will view power resources, increasingly renewable, not as  “intermittent”, but as variable, and predictable.
Best example, sun is strongest during the part of day when electric usage is at its peak – therefore predictably able to shoulder large portions of “peaking” capacity, more cheaply than coal, nuclear, or, increasingly, even gas.

Likewise, onshore wind peaks at different times of day than near, or offshore. They compliment each other.

They are predictable. They come in waves.
hokusai

“So what’s a Republican, like me, doing at a wind farm?” asks GOP Colorado Senate candidate Cory Gardner in the ad above.
Damn good question, given the hostility to renewable energy that leading GOP funders and interest groups have been showing in recent years, and the current political campaign.

NYTimes:

In Senate races in the general election, the analysis found, energy and the environment are the third-most mentioned issue in political advertisements, behind health care and jobs.

The explosion of energy and environmental ads also suggests the prominent role that the issues could play in the 2016 presidential race, especially as megadonors — such as Thomas F. Steyer, a California billionaire and environmental activist on the left, and Charles G. and David H. Koch, billionaire brothers on the right — take sides. Leaders of major environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters said they had collectively spent record amounts of money in this election cycle.

“Candidates are using energy and environment as a sledgehammer to win a race,” said Elizabeth Wilner, the senior vice president for politics at Kantar Media/CMAG.

Groups representing the energy industry and environmental advocacy have typically been the lead players in presenting policy positions in ads, but this year the candidates themselves and party political committees are also taking on that role.
-
“What’s important about what’s going on right now is the extent to which the Democrats feel confident playing offense on environmental and energy issues, and the extent to which polling shows that they are scoring when they do that,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster.

What pollsters know, and what candidates are finding out, is that climate and energy issues work to move voters.  In Mr. Gardner’s home state of Colorado, renewable energy is popular, and concerns about climate and environment are high – leading Democratic interest groups to seek to tie Mr. Gardner’s record of climate denial to his stands on other social issues where he seems to be out of step with his constituency.

The election results will tell us something about how well these kinds of attacks, and responses, have worked – but the swing in voter attitudes on climate change is unlikely to stop, especially given the possibility that 2014 could be the hottest year ever in the NASA surface temperature record, and if a developing El Nino warming event in the Pacific plays out in coming months, 2015 could be hotter still.

 

Above, former Utility Executive Michael Osborne explains how Austin (Tx) Energy has begun thinking about the role of electric vehicles in the integrated smart grid of the future.  Austin Energy is one of the most forward leaning utilities in the nation, and Osborne recently helped negotiate the lowest price for solar electricity ever, under 5 cents/kwh.

Meanwhile, utilities across the country are beginning to come around on renewables in the face of an unstoppable revolution.

Reuters via Business Insider:

(Reuters) – For years, the utilities responsible for providing electricity to the nation have treated residential solar systems as a threat. Now, they want a piece of the action, and they are having to fight for the chance.

If utilities embrace home solar, their deep pockets and access to customers could transform what has been a fast-growing, but niche industry. Solar powers only half a million U.S. homes and businesses, according to solar market research firm GTM Research.

But utility-owned rooftop systems represent a change the solar installation companies who dominate the market don’t want, and whether the two sides can compromise may determine if residential solar truly goes mainstream.

In Arizona, the state’s largest utility has proposed putting solar panels on 3,000 customers’ homes, promising a $30 monthly break on their power bills. In New York, regulators are weighing allowing utilities to get into the solar leasing business to meet the state’s aggressive plan to incorporate more decentralized, renewable power onto the grid.

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