I wrote not long ago about the developing trend in companies generating their own power. It’s not because their greenies, its because it makes them more green stuff.

This is a freight train gaining speed….

Wall Street Journal:

On a hill overlooking the Susquehanna River, two big wind turbines crank out electricity for Kroger Co.’s KR -0.57% Turkey Hill Dairy in rural Lancaster County, Pa., allowing it to save 25% on its power bill for the past two years.

Across the country, at a big food-distribution center Kroger also owns in Compton, Calif., a tank system installed this year uses bacteria to convert 150 tons a day of damaged produce, bread and other organic waste into a biogas that is burned on site to produce 20% of the electricity the facility uses.

These two projects, plus the electric output of solar panels at four Kroger grocery stores, and some energy-conservation efforts are saving the Cincinnati-based grocery chain $160 million a year on electricity, said Denis George, its energy manager. That is a lot of money that isn’t going into the pockets of utilities.

From big-box retailers to high-tech manufacturers, more companies across the country are producing their own power. Since 2006, the number of electricity-generation units at commercial and industrial sites has more than quadrupled to roughly 40,000 from about 10,000, according to federal statistics.
Experts say the trend is gaining momentum, spurred by falling prices for solar panels and natural gas, as well as a fear that power outages caused by major storms will become more common.

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More Green Tea, Mr Koch?

September 18, 2013

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Columbia County News-Times:

ATLANTA — An unlikely alliance of groups from opposite poles with the name Green Tea Coalition seeks to alter the state’s political calculus.

It consists of some conservatives, tea-party activists and Libertarians who joined environmental and self-appointed watchdog groups in a push for ethics reform and a solar mandate and in opposition to the transportation sales tax and the new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.

“The Green Tea Coalition strives to find common ground among members from across the political spectrum to educate and empower American consumers, advocate for common-sense energy policy, and unlock the full potential of America’s energy future,” it said in a recent press release.

Whether its members continue to find common concerns to rally around remains to be seen. At least for now, the coalition’s next target is Georgia Power.

It has scheduled a rally on the Capitol steps this week in support of what it terms a consumer’s bill of rights aimed at eroding the utility’s monopoly and trimming its profits on construction overages at the Plant Vogtle expansion.

Currently, the company’s rates are designed to earn it a profit of about 11.25 percent on its invested capital. That would include capital spent on adding two nuclear reactors to Vogtle beyond the budget approved by the Public Service Commission.

Rep. Jeff Chapman, R-Bruns-wick, is sponsoring legislation that limits the profit potential on the overage capital. His bill went nowhere in the last session of the General Assembly, but the coalition leaders hope their nudge will make the difference.

However, those participating in the coalition must contend with grumbling from their natural allies. For example, more environmental groups supported the transportation tax than opposed it, and more conservatives objected to the PSC imposing a solar mandate on Georgia Power than favored it.

The solar mandate created a dust-up between the Atlanta tea party and the local chapter of Americans for Prosperity. It reached the point where each was accusing the other in social media of being bought off.

Debbie Dooley, one of the founders of the Atlanta tea party, issued a statement in her own defense.

“Since I began to advocate for all forms of energy to be allowed to compete on the free market – including solar, I have had one or two people accuse me of becoming a liberal and being in bed with the ‘tree huggers,’” she wrote.

Her defense tossed a few barbs at her conservative critics by accusing them of being beholden to their corporate sponsors.

“These conservative groups advocate on many issues and have different agendas and interests and do really great things for the conservative cause, but when it comes down to issues important to their corporate benefactors, they have to toe the line, so to speak,” Dooley wrote.

whoah, SNAP!!

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GM Readies a Tesla Killer

September 18, 2013

It’s not a threat to the big three. Yet.

But clearly auto giant General Motors sees the revolutionary Tesla model S (see the amazing Tesla assembly line above) as something more than a boutique plaything for the wealthy.
That’s why they are now gearing up to compete in the world of all electric vehicles.

Wall Street Journal:

General Motors Co. is developing an electric car that can go 200 miles on a charge for around $30,000, officials at the largest U.S. auto maker said, offering a challenge to luxury electric-car startup Tesla Motors Inc.

Doug Parks, GM’s vice president of global product programs, disclosed the effort on Monday at GM’s battery laboratory and test facility in Warren, Mich., but didn’t say when the car would be available. He said while the technology is available now, the cost of the batteries remains too high to be able to pull off the feat today.

GM’s move to raise the profile of its battery research efforts comes as Tesla is challenging the established auto industry’s claim to technology leadership with its $70,000 and up Model S. Mr. Parks’ comments came just a few days after Germany’sVolkswagen AG VOW.XE +1.21% said it intended to become the largest seller of electric vehicles by 2018.

Analysts and industry executives say Tesla, GM, VW and the current global electric vehicle sales leader, Nissan Motor Co., all face the same problem: current electric vehicle batteries are too expensive, and deliver too little usable driving range compared with vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.

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Bob Henson for the National Center for Atmospheric Research:

 Even after the rains finally abated on Friday, I found myself struck by how the waterlogged air in Boulder felt oddly, almost eerily tropical. This only put an exclamation point on the weirdness of the week and its events. Four days of rainfall across Colorado’s Front Range produced massive flooding that’s marooned thousands of people, inundated many key roads, and damaged countless homes and businesses.

Just how rare was this event? Was it a 100-year flood, or something bigger (or smaller)? As always, the answer depends on exactly what you’re looking at, and exactly where.

Rainfall: Off the Charts

There’s no doubt that the rains in and near my hometown were truly historic, as evidenced by data from Boulder’s official weather station.
Part of the NOAA cooperative observing program, this station has been located at the NIST/NOAA campus in south Boulder since 1990. Boulder’s weather history actually extends much further back, to 1893, including the catastrophic 1894 flood that devastated central Boulder (more on that one below).

Rainfall amounts for the seven days ending at noon MDT on Friday, September 13, ranged from 5 to 10-plus inches across large swaths of the Colorado Front Range, with similar amounts eastward into northwest Kansas. (Image courtesy NOAA/NWS.)

The weather station was moved several times over that 97-year period, and observations weren’t kept as rigorously as today, so there are some missing data—though it’s unlikely an event as titanic as this week’s would have gone unobserved.

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Images from Colorado Flooding

September 17, 2013

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A raging waterfall destroys a bridge along Highway 34 toward Estes Park, Colorado, as flooding devastates the Front Range and thousands were forced to evacuate, on September 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Colorado Heli-Ops, Dennis Pierce)

This post is just a pointer to a jaw dropping page of photos from the Front Range Flood of 2013.

Many more stunning images here at The Atlantic. Go look there. Come back here.

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A home and car are stranded after a flash flood in Coal Creek destroyed the bridge near Golden, Colorado, on September 12, 2013. (Reuters/Rick Wilking)

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Culverts and a boat are piled up after a flash flood in Coal Creek destroyed bridges near Golden, Colorado, on September 12, 2013. (Reuters/Rick Wilking)

While scientists will be taking their time to analyze the meaning and causes of the Colorado event, we know by this time that  in the pubic mind, huge weather anomalies have become synonymous with climate change. And maybe that’s correct.

In any case, its now entered the political conversation.

Transcript:

 We should be facing the reality of climate change. Look what happened in Colorado. I talked to Senator Bennet yesterday, he said the floods were “biblical.” In one part of Colorado, it rained 12 inches in two hours. I can’t imagine that.

Fires all over the West — climate change is here. I met with the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh. They don’t know what they’re going to do with the rise of the sea, which is taking place. That country has no place — no high ground. It’s that way all over the world. Marshall Islands — 1,000 islands make up the Marshall Islands. Fifty-five thousand people live there. These islands are being washed away with these new waves they’ve never seen before.

Climate change is here. We’re doing nothing about it. They’re spending all our time, the American taxpayer’s time, trying to repeal a law that’s been in effect for four years.

“Climate change is here,” Reid said. “We’re doing nothing about it.”

China’s Coming War on Coal

September 17, 2013

A primary denialist talking point is that any attempts by the US and Europe to address climate change are doomed to failure, because China and India will continue to build their economies on fossil fuels, and wipe out any gains that might be made.
But reality intrudes. Any idea that China can blindly follow US development models is faulty.

NYTimes:

BEIJING — Outdoor air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, nearly 40 percent of the global total, according to a new summary of data from a scientific study on leading causes of death worldwide.

Figured another way, the researchers said, China’s toll from pollution was the loss of 25 million healthy years of life from the population.

The data on which the analysis is based was first presented in the ambitious 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, which was published in December in The Lancet, a British medical journal. The authors decided to break out numbers for specific countries and present the findings at international conferences. The China statistics were offered at a forum in Beijing on Sunday.

“We have been rolling out the India- and China-specific numbers, as they speak more directly to national leaders than regional numbers,” said Robert O’Keefe, the vice president of the Health Effects Institute, a research organization that is helping to present the study. The organization is partly financed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the global motor vehicle industry.

What the researchers called “ambient particulate matter pollution” was the fourth-leading risk factor for deaths in China in 2010, behind dietary risks, high blood pressure and smoking. Air pollution ranked seventh on the worldwide list of risk factors, contributing to 3.2 million deaths in 2010.

By comparison with China, India, which also has densely populated cities grappling with similar levels of pollution, had 620,000 premature deaths in 2010 because of outdoor air pollution, the study found. That was deemed to be the sixth most common killer in South Asia.

A recent item on public radio’s  Marketplace report underlines the issue – in an interview with David Brancaccio, Shaun Rein, Managing Director of the China Market Research Group pointed out that pollution is currently THE biggest problem in the Chinese economy.

“…the biggest fear or frustration in life today is the pollution levels in China.  A lot of consumers are saying, “Who cares if I have a great job? Who cares if I can buy a Louis Vitton bag, if the air and water is killing my family?”

Pollution is the biggest problem facing that’s China’s government today, and they really need to do a better crackdown on it, otherwise they’re going to face serious social instability going forward.”

An open ended, unlimited plan for coal development in China is not only a health problem –   there are physical limits to what is possible, and one of the hardest and most critical is the availability of water.

Bloomberg:

At first glance, Daliuta in northern China appears to have a river running through it. A closer look reveals the stretch of water in the center is a pond, dammed at both ends. Beyond the barriers, the Wulanmulun’s bed is dry.

Daliuta in Shaanxi province sits on top of the world’s biggest underground coal mine, which requires millions of liters of water a day for extracting, washing and processing the fuel. The town is the epicenter of a looming collision between China’s increasingly scarce supplies of water and its plan to power economic growth with coal.

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Andrew Freedman for Climate Central:

On average, Boulder gets about 1.7 inches of rain during September, based on the 1981-2010 average. So far this month, Boulder has received 12.3 inches of rain. This smashes the record for the wettest month ever in Boulder, which was set in May 1995 when 9.59 inches of precipitation fell — and September isn’t even half over! Not only that, but the average yearly rainfall in Boulder is 20.68 inches. This means that Boulder picked up well over half its annual precipitation in just a couple of days.

This comes on the heels of a summer when Boulder experienced a moderate drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. This summer also featured the Colorado’s most destructive wildfire on record.


Colorado has a long and tragic history of flash flood events, most notably the Big Thomson Canyon Flood in 1976, which resulted in 139 deaths after a slow-moving thunderstorm dumped a foot of rain in just four and a half hours, causing a massive wall of water to blast through the canyon. According to the NWS forecast office in Denver/Boulder, the river stage at the North Fork of the Big Thompson river so far has exceeded the Big Thompson Flood of 1976 by more than 1 foot.

Extreme rainfall events have become more frequent across the U.S. during the past several decades in part due to manmade global warming. Increasing air and ocean temperatures mean that the air is generally carrying more water vapor than it used to, and this moisture can be tapped by storm systems to yield rain or snow extremes. Trends in extreme precipitation events vary by region, though, and in general the biggest increases have taken place in the Midwest and Northeast. However, most parts of the U.S. have seen an increase in extreme precipitation events, according to the draft National Climate Assessment report that was released this past January. The report goes on to note that in the future, “increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events are projected for most U.S. areas.”

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In Oz. A Living Building.

September 16, 2013

Watch the video above. It’s quick, 90 seconds.

Then ask yourself, “Is it possible the future could be cleaner, quieter, more prosperous, more expansive, more humane, and more fun, than the present?”

Below, also from the University of Queensland, the largest solar PV array in Australia.

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Colorado

September 16, 2013

A senior researcher familiar with the emerging science of weather extemes tells me by email:

“This is another example of a very amplified or wavy pattern in the jet stream causing unusual and slow-moving weather patterns…”

“Through the first half of September there has been a very strong northward bulge (or ridge) in the jet over western Canada that created the easterly flow south of the ridge that brought moist air from the Gulf of Mexico up the east side of the Rockies where it condensed into rain — lots of it in Boulder.”
 “I can’t say it’s connected to Arctic change,….”
“…but it’s another example of the kinds of wavy jet stream patterns that we expect to see happen more frequently in the future. Just amazing photos and videos coming out of this story!”