So it turns out those crazy socialists in Germany are doing a better job of beating bureaucratic red tape out of solar installations, while the US’s “free market” has an obstacle in that area.
Those states that address this issue and grease the skids for solar installers will gain a competitive advantage quickly, with no need for technological advances.

Renewables International:

In its report entitled REthinking Energy 2014 (PDF), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) produces a very useful set of overviews, essentially showing that renewable energy will continue to become less expensive up to 2020. For photovoltaics, the organization has produced a few especially interesting charts.

(top), we see that the price of turnkey PV is expected to drop by roughly another fifth from now until 2020 (though it would have been nice to have future years marked as estimates, such as “2015e”). The panels themselves will continue to become cheaper, as will “other,” which essentially signifies “soft costs.” As I explained two years ago, this cost item is a major factor when trying to explain the difference in PV prices from one country to another – but more on that later.
Another chart shows the difference that soft costs make. In a comparison of array prices in Germany and the US, it turns out that balance-of-system costs are easily twice as high in the US, while panel prices are nearly the same. This finding is in line with other previous reports.

Between 2008 and 2012, the price of sub-10-kilowatt (mainly residential) rooftop systems decreased 37 percent. However, over 80 percent of that cost decline is attributed to decreasing solar PV module costs. With module and other hardware prices expected to level off in the coming years (and in the near term, actually increase), further market growth will be highly dependent on additional reductions in the remaining “Balance of System” costs, otherwise known as “soft costs.”

Greg Laden’s Blog:

 The Arctic Sea is covered with ice during the winter, and some of it melts off every summer. Over recent years the amount of melt has been increasing. This is the time of year we may want to look at Arctic Sea ice because by late September it has reached its annual minimum and is starting to reform.

Looking at JUST surface area, which is one indicator of how warm the Arctic has become with Global Warming, we can see (above) that this years march of melting has been extreme, hugging the two standard deviation limit for all of the data from 1979 to 2010 (almost the present).

Here you can see that 2014 is distinctly different, with much more surface area loss, than the first ten years of this data set, from here.


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September 27, 2014

Heard this tune come across WCMU as I drove near Remus, MI, home of the newly-famous-to-outsiders Wheatland Music Festival.
Sometimes music is so good it touches your heart. Sometimes its so good all you can do is laugh.

Los Angeles Times:

Some of the water molecules in your drinking glass were created more than 4.5 billion years ago, according to new research.

That makes them older than the Earth, older than the solar system — even older than the sun itself.

In a study published Thursday in Science, researchers say the distinct chemical signature of the water on Earth and throughout the solar system could occur only if some of that water formed before the swirling disk of dust and gas gave birth to the planets, moons, comets and asteroids.

This primordial water makes up 30% to 50% of the water on Earth, the researchers estimate.

Scientific American:

The dense interstellar clouds of gas and dust where stars form contain abundant water, in the form of ice. When a star first lights up, it heats up the cloud around it and floods it with radiation, vaporizing the ice and breaking up some of the water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen.

Until now, researchers were unsure how much of the ‘old’ water would be spared in this process. If most of the original water molecules were broken up, water would have had to reform in the early Solar System. But the conditions that made this possible could be specific to the Solar System, in which case many stellar systems could be left dry, says Ilsedore Cleeves, an astrochemist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who led the new study.

But if some of the water could survive the star-forming process, and if the Solar System’s case is typical, it means that water “is available as a universal ingredient during planet formation”, she says.

To find out, Cleeves and her colleagues modelled the conditions soon after the Sun lit up. They calculated the amount of radiation that would have hit the Solar System, both from the young star and from outer space, and how far that radiation would have travelled through the cloud.

Those conditions determine how new water molecules form from hydrogen and oxygen, and in particular the odds that the molecules include deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen whose nucleus contains a neutron, in addition to the usual single proton. The model predicted an abundance of deuterium-containing water, also known as heavy water, that was lower than that in the Solar System’s water today.

But the interstellar clouds where Sun-like stars are currently forming — and thus, presumably, the material from which the Sun formed — have a higher proportion of heavy water compared to the current Solar System. This is because these clouds are subject to the continuous bombardment of cosmic rays, which tend to favour the inclusion of deuterium. Therefore, the authors concluded, the young Sun’s radiation was insufficient to account for the amount of heavy water seen in the Solar System today, and some must have existed before. They estimate that somewhere between 30% and 50% of the water in Earth’s oceans must be older than the Sun.

“If the disk can’t do it, that means we must have inherited some level of these very deuterium-enriched interstellar ices from the birth environment of the Sun,” says Cleeves. The study was published in Science on 25 September.

Donna Lisenby in Ecowatch:

I landed in China safely. Shortly after I arrived in Nanjing, we went sight seeing at a site with a coal plant, a coking plant and a cement factory all next door to each other and along the Yangtze River. The air and the water surrounding the site was not very pleasant.

The next day, Hao, Qingwei and I spoke at a school and then later we gave a presentation to a group of people living in a gated multi-million dollar green development. Sixty percent of the property was wooded. It had forests, ponds and trails. The least expensive house was about 3 million dollars.

in China, only the very rich can afford to live in “green” developments. Clean water and slightly cleaner air is something you have to pay a lot of money to get. They are selling points and treated like amenities for marketing purposes. I felt like I was a character in a dystopian novel. I started my travels in the poisoned air, land and and water of the coal facilities—a horrifically ugly, toxic industrial wasteland. From there I went to a school where 6th graders were learning about environmental stewardship in a country that doesn’t do that very well—a little sea of hope for the future. And then to the rich green development where the elite have their own little 600 acre green reserve all to themselves.


The uniformed guards at the gates snapping to attention to salute all who enter and keep those out who can’t pay the price to have trees, clean air and water. Only it wasn’t a novel. It was just two days in my real life as a warrior for our only planet home.

As I sit here this morning at a desk in the office of our Qiantang River Waterkeeper, I find myself wishing I could speak Chinese so I could talk to the people who are not rich and who can’t afford access to a green enclave. I want to ask them whether this is the future they want for their children. Where the haves and the have nots are segregated into those who get trees, clean air and water, and those who are slowly and systemically poisoned.

The Language of Science Denial

September 27, 2014

Governor Bobbie Jindal, a possible presidential nominee, gives a demonstration of the current state of science denial in right wing America.
A nice example of what we can expect in the coming political season.

This event took place before last week’s gigantic climate demonstration in NYC – which may change the calculus for some politicians, in some states. We’ll see.
On display here, more of the “I don’t know, we’ll let the science boys decide” meme, with some additional wrinkles.  Some particularly ironic statements about the teaching of evolution from a self-described biology major.


In a bravura performance of the “I Know You Are but What Am I” suite today, Louisiana Gov. Bobby “Volcano Monitoring Is Dumb” Jindal attacked the Obama administration for being a big bunch of “science deniers” who don’t have the good sense to drill for oil everywhere and get all the oil and coal and burn it up quick quick for prosperity, and so we’re all going to die in the cold and the wolves will get us. We’re summarizing a little, there.

At a breakfast panel of potential 2016 Republican candidates sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, the exorcism enthusiast and creationism enabler explained:

The reality is, right now, we’ve got an administration — the Obama administration — that are science deniers when it comes to harnessing America’s energy resources and the potential to create good-paying jobs.

Jindal then went on to outline his own very special energy plan, which bears the Luntzian title “Organizing Around Abundance: Making America an Energy Superpower.” The completely unique plan, which is unlike any other and is Bobby Jindal’s alone, calls for building the Keystone XL pipeline, pursuing “responsible development of domestic energy resources,” and only working to address climate change if all other countries agree.

And if scientists and job creators disagree, why not split the difference and let scientists employed by the job creators make the final decision? That’s the kind of reasonable approach we can all get behind, where “we” is a subset of the petrochemical industry.

Some smartass troublemaker reporters kept trying to get Jindal to explain whether he accepts the scientific consensus on climate change, and so of course he went with the great “who knows?” stupid answer and said he believes that the climate is “always changing”:

“It’s not controversial to say human activity is contributing” to changes in climate, he said, but he said he would “leave it to scientists to decide how much, what that means…”

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Need a Mob? Rent a Mob.

September 27, 2014

Last week, 400,000 people showed up in  NYC to demonstrate their concern about fossil fuel development, and attendant climate change.

Well, hey, that’s not the whole story. Oil companies have their supporters, too.  In this case, a hearing on tracking drew a large number of anti-frack commenters, as well as a busload of supposedly “pro” attendees, and their creepy handler.

Ashville Citizen-Times:

 Homeless men unfamiliar with fracking were bused from Winston-Salem to a state hearing Friday on the controversial technique for extracting natural gas, an effort to bolster a pro-fracking turnout, according to an environmental group and a published report.

“They were clueless,” said Bettie “Betsy” Ashby, a member of the Jackson County Coalition Against Fracking. “At least two of them I met definitely came from a homeless shelter. One of them even apologized to me and said, ‘I didn’t know they were trying to do this to me.’ One said, ‘I did it for the…’ and then he rubbed his fingers together like ‘for the money.'”

Several of the men were wearing turquoise shirts or hats that said “Shale Yes” on the front and “Energy Creates Jobs” and “N.C. Energy” on the back.

The hearing about hydraulic fracturing took place at Western Carolina University and attracted about 600 people. Opposition to fracking was overwhelming in comments made during the four-hour hearing, hosted by the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission.
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Dark Snow Project on CBC

September 25, 2014

Posted today.

CBC interviewed Dr. Jason Box at a climate conclave in Bristol, UK, earlier this week. Guess a lot of heavyweights were there.

Look fast and you’ll see time lapse footage I shot on the Greenland Saddle in 2013. ( see post below)


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