May 6, 2013
If wind turbines were as “bad” for you as windbaggers in the US would like you to believe, there should be a lot of body bags piling up in places like Germany, Denmark, and, well, Iowa – places that have large penetration by wind generated electricity. Or at least, one would think, there’d be an increased incidence in the headaches-to leukemia-to-herpes complex of symptoms that the looney right has identified as part of “wind turbine syndrome”. But of course, there is not.
The answer of course, is, that Germany does not have the highly funded, focused and professional anti-wind disinformation machine that has been launched here in the US.
We know who they are, we have their memos and strategy.
A network of ultra-conservative groups is ramping up an offensive on multiple fronts to turn the American public against wind farms and Barack Obama‘s energy agenda.
A number of rightwing organisations, including Americans for Prosperity, which is funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, are attacking Obama for his support for solar and wind power. The American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), which also has financial links to the Kochs, has drafted bills to overturn state laws promoting wind energy.
Now a confidential strategy memo seen by the Guardian advises using “subversion” to build a national movement of wind farm protesters.
The strategy proposal was prepared by a fellow of the American Tradition Institute (ATI) – although the thinktank has formally disavowed the project.
The proposal was discussed at a meeting of self-styled ‘wind warriors’ from across the country in Washington DC last February.
Among the action items included in the memo:
In 1989 as the most credible warnings ever published about climate change became global news, and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions began to be seriously discussed, General Motors was one of several large, mostly American companies to join something called the Global Climate Coalition - basically one of the world’s first large scale platforms for climate science denial.
The Global Climate Coalition (1989–2002) was a group of mainly United States businesses opposing immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The group formed in response to several reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). A major scientific report on the severity of global warming by the IPCC in 2001 led to large-scale membership loss. Since 2002 the GCC has been defunct, or in its own words, “deactivated”.
For more than a decade the Global Climate Coalition, a group representing industries with profits tied to fossil fuels, led an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign against the idea that emissions of heat-trapping gases could lead to global warming.
“The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,” the coalition said in a scientific “backgrounder” provided to lawmakers and journalists through the early 1990s, adding that “scientists differ” on the issue.
But a document filed in a federal lawsuit demonstrates that even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted.
“The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied,” the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the coalition in 1995.
The group distributed the disinforming backgrounder until the late 90s, when new versions of the document “included language that conformed to the scientific advisory committee’s conclusion.”
By that time the group was in dissarray, and losing some of its most important members, including GM. Wiki says,
“From 1997 a number of prominent members left. Partly in response to a public relation move to acknowledge global warming and attempt to reduce their carbon emissions (see Business action on climate change). Dupont and British Petroleum left in 1997, Shell Oil (US) in 1998, Ford in 1999, and DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, and Texaco in 2000.
How times change.
May 1, 2013
I’ve reported on the recent moves by the Republican dominated House Science Committee to let politicians, not scientists decide on fertile areas of study.
Now we have, for comparison, President Obama’s position on science and its importance.
April 29, 2013 – President Barack Obama reiterated his strong support for science and technology to members of the National Academy of Sciences at its 150th annual meeting. Science, technology, engineering, and medicine are critical to the nation’s prosperity, Obama said, noting that investments made today are bound to pay off for many years to come.
Above, a 3 minute clip of the 20 minute speech, which touches on the importance, from the beginning, of good science to National Security, which was first recognized by Abraham Lincoln during the darkest days of the Civil War. The clip is a nice little history lesson, and ends with a pretty good laugh line, that ironically pegs the current resurgence of the old confederacy and its influence on the modern Republican party.
Compare this to the “Science is Lies from the Pit of Hell” speech by GOP Rep.Paul Broun, a member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
Full Obama speech below.
April 30, 2013
The reinforcement of the “Republicans are against science” meme continues.
How’s that rebranding coming?
About an hour into the session, Anderson walked up to a whiteboard and took out a magic marker. “I’m going to write down a word, and you guys free-associate with whatever comes to mind,” she said. The first word she wrote was “Democrat.”
“Young people,” one woman called out.
“Liberal,” another said. Followed by: “Diverse.” “Bill Clinton.”“Change.”“Open-minded.”“Spending.”“Handouts.”“Green.”“More science-based.”
When Anderson then wrote “Republican,” the outburst was immediate and vehement: “Corporate greed.”“Old.”“Middle-aged white men.” “Rich.” “Religious.” “Conservative.” “Hypocritical.” “Military retirees.” “Narrow-minded.” “Rigid.” “Not progressive.” “Polarizing.” “Stuck in their ways.” “Farmers.”
April 30, 2013
I recently noted that the Wall Street Journal now reports emerging solar energy technology is a “mortal threat” to utilities who do not change their way of doing business.
Wall Mart underlines the reality. Your biggest customers will soon be self generating. Adapt or die.
We are at the beginning of a utility death spiral for those that do not read the writing on the wall. As big customers begin to self generate and cut back on power purchases, more and more of the rate burden will fall on remaining, mostly smaller, customers. Rates will have to rise, pushing even more customers off the grid. Do the Math. Draw the curve.
This is a big deal.
To every environmentalist who ever bad-mouthed Walmart for its big-box blandness and gigantic impervious parking lots, here’s some news:
The retail behemoth is throwing its full economic muscle behind energy sustainability. Local utilities that don’t get on board with Walmart’s green energy programs could be left behind like an old, worn-out shopping center.
The company’s new energy policy, announced this week at its Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting, calls for Walmart to produce or procure 7 billion kilowatt-hours of renewable energy globally by the end of the decade, a 600 percent increase over 2010 levels.
At the same time, the retailer will make deep cuts to its energy consumption by shaving 20 percent from 2010 levels the amount of electricity required to power a square foot of a Walmart store or warehouse.
The new commitments put much sharper teeth into Walmart’s existing clean energy program, which calls for the retailer to become 100 percent powered by renewable energy by midcentury. But that goal was considered more aspirational than real, given the company’s expansive geographic footprint — 10,500 stores in 27 countries — and the complexity of electricity markets across the many regions and states where Walmart operates.
In a statement, Mike Duke, Walmart’s president and chief executive officer, made clear that the retailer was doubling down on its energy commitments and that it intends to make good on those promises much faster than originally anticipated.
“More than ever, we know that our goal to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy is the right goal and that marrying up renewables with energy efficiency is especially powerful,” Duke said. “The math adds up pretty quickly — when we use less energy, that’s less energy we have to buy, and that means less waste and more savings. These new commitments will make us a stronger business, and they’re great for our communities and the environment.”
April 30, 2013
Some hourly readings at Mauna Loa now above 400 ppm.
Carbon dioxide concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere are on the cusp of reaching 400 parts per million for the first time in 3 million years.
The daily CO2 level, measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, was 399.72 parts per million last Thursday, and a few hourly readings had risen to more than 400 parts per million.
”I wish it weren’t true but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400 ppm level without losing a beat,” said Ralph Keeling, a geologist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the US, which operates the Hawaiian observatory.
”At this pace we’ll hit 450 ppm within a few decades.”
The 450 ppm level is considered to be the point at which the world has a 50 per cent chance of avoiding dangerous climate change. Any higher and the odds of avoiding searing temperature rises of 4 or 5 degrees by the end of the century become prohibitively risky.
The rise in greenhouse gases corresponds with the extra amount of CO2 known to have been emitted by human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests. More greenhouse gases means more heat builds up at the Earth’s surface.
April 29, 2013
In perhaps his first major interview since leaving NASA, James Hansen demonstrated quiet passion, and a clear style that has not always been a hallmark of scientific communication on climate change.
Question for the fossil fuel industry: Is that a Neanderthal in your pocket?
April 27, 2013
“There’s no place on Earth that is changing faster–and no place where that change matters more–than Greenland.” So said 350.org founder Bill McKibben, in a 2012 Rolling Stone magazine interview. As Earth Week 2013 draws to a close, I want to draw your attention to a unique effort to learn more about why Greenland is melting so fast–a crowd-funded research project that anyone can contribute to, which aims to answer the “burning question”: How much does wildfire and industrial soot darken the ice, increasing melt? The Dark Snow Project, the first-ever Greenland expedition relying on crowd-source funding, hopes to raise $150,000 to mount a field research campaign to find out. The project is the brainchild of Dr. Jason Box, Professor at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), and one of the world’s leading experts on Greenland’s glaciers. He has set up a website called darksnowproject.org to help raise the funds for the field campaign, and has raised about half of the needed amount as of mid-April.
2012: Unprecedented melting in Greenland
Watching the weather events of 2012 over Greenland made all seasoned climate watchers a little queasy. The vast ice sheet on the island holds enough water to raise global sea levels by 7.36 meters (24.15 feet) were it all to melt, and the ice melt season of 2012 gave notice that an epic melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet may be underway. According to NOAA’s 2012 Arctic Report Card, the duration of melting at the surface of the ice sheet in summer 2012 was the longest since satellite observations began in 1979, and the total amount of summer melting was nearly double the previous record, set in 2010 (satellite records of melting go back to 1979.) A rare, near-ice sheet-wide surface melt event melted 97% of the surface of Greenland’s ice sheet on July 11 – 12. While a similar melt event at the summit occurred 1889, but the 1889 event has no basis in the instrumental record from coastal Greenland. It’s instead likely that 2012 was Greenland’s warmest summer in at least 863 years, since the medieval warm period (see http://www.meltfactor.org/blog/?p=677 and http://www.meltfactor.org/blog/?p=725).
It would not be a surprise if this sort of summer began occurring regularly, since the ice sheet reached its darkest value on record in 2012. The darkened surface was due to below average summer snow, soot particles from pollution and forest fires, and record melting. A darker ice sheet absorbs more solar energy, in a vicious cycle that raises temperatures, melts more ice, and further darkens the ice sheet. The amount of melting that was caused by soot from forest fires is important to know, since global warming is likely to increase the amount of forest fires in coming decades. However, the amount of forest fire soot landing on the Greenland Ice Sheet is almost completely unknown, which is why Dr. Box is determined to find out, via the Dark Snow Project.
April 26, 2013
One of my more popular “solutions” videos starting to come true.
Basic idea, electric cars provide stability and storage to a distributed electrical grid, paying the car owner for the very valuable service.
I put this out before the Chevy Volt and other electrics hit the road, but the idea is still the same. Now we’re taking baby steps to make that vision become reality.
Finally, payback for the plug-in.
A line of Mini Coopers, each attached to the regional power grid by a thick cable plugged in where a gasoline filler pipe used to be, no longer just draws energy. The power now flows two ways between the cars and the electric grid, as the cars inject and suck power in tiny jolts, and get paid for it.
This nascent form of electric carcommerce will be announced on Friday by the University of Delaware, the regional grid operator and an electric company. They have developed a system to collect payments for work (balancing supply and demand moment to moment) that is normally the domain of power plants.
The possibilities of using electric cars for other purposes are being realized around the globe. Electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet’s plug-in hybrid Volt, are generally not sold in the United States with two-way chargers that could feed back into the grid. But Nissan is offering a similar device in Japan that allows consumers to power their houses when the electric grid is down.
In the Delaware project, each car is equipped with some additional circuitry and a battery charger that operates in two directions. When the cars work with the grid, they earn about $5 a day, which comes to about $1,800 a year, according to Willett M. Kempton, a professor of electrical engineering and computing. He hopes that provides an incentive to make electric cars more attractive to consumers, and estimates that the added gadgetry would add about $400 to the cost of a car.
The frequency of electric current in the United States is supposed to be stable at 60 cycles a second, but if the supply from a wind farm or solar plant changes suddenly, or demand shifts, frequency gets out of whack.
The market that Professor Kempton is tapping into, known as frequency regulation, has become increasingly important as the mix of generators on the grid has changed.
If electric cars become more popular, proponents say that a network of thousands of plug-in cars could help stabilize the grid.
April 26, 2013
I posted part one of this very valuable discussion yesterday.
Yesterday I wrote that solar PV and other distributed-energy technologies pose a radical threat to U.S. power utilities and the centralized business model they’ve operated under for the last century. This is, I hasten to add, according to the utilities themselves.
So what should be done about it?
It’s complicated. On one hand, more distributed renewable energy is a good thing. It reduces carbon emissions, increases resilience, stimulates the growth of new industries with new jobs, and gives Americans a taste of energy democracy.
On the other hand, it just won’t do to have utilities view the spread of rooftop solar PV as an existential threat. Whatever you think of them, utilities still have tons of political power. If they want to slow the spread of distributed energy, they can. A lot.
So let’s look at their complaint. But one key thing to keep in mind as we do is that the utilities’ primary objective, the impetus behind the recent report from their trade group, Edison Electric Institute, is toprotect their business model and their profits. That’s what business groups do.
Which is fine. EEI’s concern is what it should be: how the industry and regulators can act quickly in the short term to protect utilities, to give them room to develop a long-term strategy for grappling with the rapid spread of distributed energy. However, it’s not clear why protecting utility shareholders ought to outrank other social goals. EEI’s recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt.
Here’s the problem, as EEI sees it: Utility customers are being subsidized in various ways to install solar panels — tax credits, state renewable energy standards, feed-in tariffs, net metering, what have you. Those are the explicit subsidies. But there’s also an implicit subsidy. As solar customers pay less to the utility, they contribute less to the maintenance of the electric grid and other utility “fixed” assets. The utility’s fixed costs (as opposed to the variable costs of fuel and electricity) must be recovered from the other ratepayers. “This type of lost revenue recovery drives up the prices of those non-participating customers,” EEI writes, “and creates the environment for ongoing loss of additional customers as the system cost is transferred to a smaller and smaller base of remaining customers.”