July 22, 2014
Amory Lovins in Forbes:
Michael Liebreich, chairman of Bloomberg New EnergyFinance’s advisory board, points out that the U.S. fracking revolution and the consequent 2004–13 rise in domestic oil output displaced oil imports equivalent to 10 percent of domestic consumption—while two little-noticed demand-side trends, less driving and more-efficient vehicles, saved 18percent, nearly twice as much. Drilling advocates somehow forgot to mention that their impressive achievements were almost lapped by demand-side shifts. Those saved barrels were nearly invisible because we can’t see energy we don’t use or buy.
Similarly, co2scorecard.org showed that in 2012, lower U.S. electric intensity—using less electricity to produce a dollar of real GDP—displaced nearly twice as much domestically burned coal as expanded natural gas use did. In that year, weather-adjusted electric intensity fell by an unprecedented 3.4 percent, saving 145 TWh (billion kilowatt-hours). In other words, saved electricity was six times the same year’s 24-TWh rise in non-hydro renewable generation.
Moreover, natural gas additions didn’t deliver some key benefits claimed for them. Price-driven switching of electric generation from coal to gas accounted for only about a tenth of the 2006–11 drop in U.S. carbon emissions. Moreover, much displaced coal was dumped into foreign markets, offsetting 173 percent of domestic carbon savings with overseas emissions. Separately, gas power’s “collateral damage”—displacement of carbon-free generation—plus a conservative estimate of gas leakage meant that U.S. coal-to-gas switching hasnot yet reduced U.S. carbon emissions at all.
These examples reveal a yawning gap in our understanding and discussion of energy, due to gross inequality not in achievements but in microphones. With all due respect to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the Alliance to Save Energy, energy savings lack an amplifier powerful enough to make their important signals audible over the supply-side hype, so efficiency continues to be underestimated or ignored. This omission in turn makes governments and firms misallocate even more financial, physical, and political capital to costlier, slower, and less effective supply expansions. Reduced energy intensity could well be fueling about three times as much recent global economic growth as increased supply, but the supply industries own more like 99 percent of the message.
Germany leads the World in energy efficiency, according to the 2014 scorecard released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) today. Sixteen nations were studied. Six of the top 10 were from Europe. Canada was the only North American nation to make the cut, placing 9th.
July 22, 2014
In closing my presentation at NetRoots last thursday, I summed up a number of simple things folks could do to fight climate change – one of the most important being, to vote for gosh sake. I had spotted Congressional candidate Nancy Skinner in the back of the room and asked her to stand.
Fortunately, and this is the cool thing about NetRoots, a writer for Climate Progress, Katie Valentine, was in the room and taking notes.
DETROIT, MICHIGAN — Congressional candidate Nancy Skinner is taking a novel approach when it comes to the issue of climate change: she’s running on it.
Skinner, a Democratic candidate for Michigan’s 11th district, is making climate change a central part of her campaign, hoping her focus on an issue that so many other politicians have shirked or denied will make her stand out in the race, whose primary election is August 5. She told ThinkProgress that taking action to address climate change is particularly pertinent in Michigan, due to the state’s history in and capacity for manufacturing.
The state could be a hub for the production of renewable energy, she said, and could help slow a warming trend that threatens crop reductions, heat waves, longer periods of drought and decreased health of the Great Lakes in the Michigan and the rest of the Midwest.
July 22, 2014
John Oliver is being recognized as one of the UK’s most valuable exports.
July 21, 2014
“WTF” was a pretty typical reaction to video of a newly discovered physical feature on Siberia’s Yamal peninsula last week.
A lot of speculation about the crater-like formation has been around the possibility of methane gas release from thawing permafrost.
The video above is the first close-up I’ve seen. Russian speakers weigh in.
The crater on the Yamal Peninsula was caused by aliens, a meteorite, a stray missile, or an explosive gas cocktail released due to global warming, according to various theories in recent days.
Images of the remarkable phenomenon have gone round the world since The Siberian Times highlighted helicopter images of the giant hole earlier this week.
The first expedition to the scene – the scientists have just returned – took these epic pictures of the hole, including the darkening pattern on the inner rim.
Now they are using Russian satellite pictures to fix the moment when it suddenly formed.
They found the crater – around up to 70 metres deep – has an icy lake at its bottom, and water is cascading down its eroding permafrost walls.
It is not as wide as aerial estimates which suggested between 50 and 100 metres.
July 21, 2014
Science writer Mason Inman is crowd sourcing The Frack Lab, to help underwrite his reporting on Fracking and exotic fossil fuel production, such as this example.
Mason Inman in Scientific American:
Shale gas now accounts for half of all U.S. production, according to EIA statistics—a milestone that many studies expected wouldn’t be reached until the mid-2020s or later. “Assuming that technology will allow ever more shale gas production at low prices—and betting energy policy and the future energy security of the country on it—is risky business,” says geologist David Hughes, who retired from the Canadian Geological Survey and is now doing assessments of shale gas and oil for the nonprofit Post Carbon Institute, a California-based environmental think tank.
The EPA’s proposal for cutting power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions through 2030 is based partly on the expectation that natural gas will play a crucial role, especially during the next five to 10 years. The agency laid out various scenarios under which states might meet targets for cutting their emissions. Overall, all the scenarios foresee an increased reliance on natural gas; the EPA calls for switching over coal-fired power plants to burn natural gas and for more use of existing natural gas plants that are idle.
With the increased reliance on natural gas, the agency’s lower-emission scenarios foresee U.S. natural gas production continuing to rise, increasing nearly 15 percent by 2020. Meanwhile, natural gas prices would rise only about 50 cents over what they otherwise would be, to about $5.50 rather than $5 per thousand cubic feet.
At the same time, there is a hope that the U.S. will be able to export large amounts of natural gas. The EIA expects the nation to be a net importer for a few more years but then for net exports to soar through the 2020s, reaching about 10 percent of the nation’s production. “Certainly a couple of years back, before the Marcellus Shale added so much low-cost resource…we would have worried about the upward price pressure associated with adding that amount of new market in the gas space,” says Jen Snyder, a gas analyst with the research and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. Now, Snyder says, Wood Mackenzie’s outlook is that “the resource base can handle the added demand, even with proposed LNG [liquid natural gas] export facilities, even with planned gas-intensive industrial projects.”
July 21, 2014
Now in its third year, the drought in California grows worse with each month. 2013 was the driest calendar year in 119 years of records, and 2014 has not brought much relief, even as scientists and residents wait hopefully forEl Niño moisture. From stream gauges and reservoir levels to ground-based photos and satellite images, the landscape seems to grow browner and drier with each month.
In a weekly report issued on July 17 by the U.S. Drought Monitor, the entire state of California was classified as being in severe drought. The situation was declared extreme for 79 percent of the state’s land area and exceptional in 36 percent. For more information on drought classification levels, read this.
The pair of images above from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captures a wide view of the situation. The top image was acquired on June 25, 2014; the lower image shows the landscape on July 2, 2011, just as the latest dry period began. Turn on the image comparison tool to see the changes.
Near the Pacific coast, some mountain forests are holding on, but much of area around the Coast Range has browned considerably. The green farmlands visible in the state’s Central Valley in 2011 are much less robust in 2014, with some lands dried out and many fields left fallow for lack of water. Just north of Yosemite National Park, the land is not only brown from drought; it is also scarred from the Rim Fire and other blazes in 2013.
In the Sierra Nevada, the snow cover has decreased significantly, and what remains has a tan or gray tint from dust and soil. On April 1, 2014, California Department of Water Resources noted that snow-water content was just 32 percent of the historical average at a time when snow cover is usually at its yearly peak. By May 1, snow-water content was 18 percent of normal.
This browning of California has been underway for quite some time, with precipitation averaging just 67 percent of normal over the past three years. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor and the National Climatic Data Center,the July 2013 to June 2014 period has been the warmest on record for the state and the third driest since 1895. Precipitation in the current water year (which started October 1, 2013) is just 56 percent of normal, and since May through September are typically dry even in normal years, drought relief is not likely any time soon.
“Eleven of the past fifteen years have been drier than normal, with the past three years delivering about 45 percent of normal rain and snowpack in Southern California,” noted Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “This follows two of the wettest decades in California’s history—the 1980s and 1990s—when population more than doubled and the economy of the state exploded. So that makes this drought more punishing than those in the past.”
July 21, 2014
I’ve got a week to review and upgrade my video kit next week’s jump to Greenland, so I spent some welcome time outside over the weekend playing with video cameras and time lapse sequences.
Here are some raw results, which are pretty interesting in themselves, showing rolling clouds of moisture as my local corner of the upper midwest slipped out of a cool snap, and into a warm, humid regime normal for July.