earthfired

They’re counting on you burning out. Don’t – we need you.

Here’s help.

Daily Kos:

Today seems like the right time to do a thread I’ve been thinking about for a while on how to handle the seemingly never-ending deluge of depressing and disturbing news. My tips are based on my time as a CIA military analyst in which I dealt daily with disturbing content.

There are several risks to being overloaded with disturbing/negative content.

  • Complacency – becoming so used to the deluge that it all starts to seem normal.
  • Paralysis – that is, being so overwhelmed, you can’t figure out what to do/how to move forward.
  • Crisis perspective – you get trapped in the Breaking News cycle where everything seems like a potentially world-ending crisis to you.
  • Depression/PTSD – you don’t have to be on the frontline of a war have either/both. Disturbing content is absolutely a trigger.

There are also serious physical consequences to living a negative content overloaded life. I had a colleague who didn’t know he had stage 4 brain cancer because the symptoms were the same as our very stressful careers–exhaustion, random fevers, stress, and dizziness.

So, what do you do? First, I strongly urge you not to ignore the news/current events. Ignorance is one reason we have this society. It won’t make the problems go away & contributes nothing to their solving. Now that that’s established, here’s how to make it easier to handle:

1. TAKE ACTION. Volunteer for a food pantry, canvass for a political candidate, donate to a NGO, visit a sick friend. Seriously. Service of some kind in your community lets you be part of SOLUTIONS. You will see RESULTS when otherwise you’d feel helpless.

2. Conversely, for those who may take tip #1 to the extreme–know that you alone can’t save the world. Accept your limits. You aren’t a 7/11. You can’t always be open. At the end of every day when I reached my limit, I silently told myself, “I’ve done what I can today.”  (Note: Repeating that to myself did not stop me from feeling like I could have done more most days. But it was important to tell myself anyway because I am human. We are human. It’s good we *feel* things.)

3. RESEARCH BEFORE PANICKING. Easier said than done, but everything will seem like crisis/earth-ending if you don’t know what has/hasn’t happened before. If it has happened before, it’s can be hugely comforting to know how it was resolved and/or what might happen next. Read the rest of this entry »

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I really enjoyed interviewing Wind Developer Marty Lagina.
Marty came from an Oil and Gas background, he’s an engineer – but he has seen the opportunity in wind, and lately, solar development, around Michigan.

I asked him to address a common bugaboo that windbaggers bring up about renewable energy – the existence of subsidies.

My take is that just about every thing that we identify as part of modern America, starting with the Erie Canal in 1821, got a boost from a public/private partnership.

Below, Marty points out Wind’s key advantage over Natural Gas.

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cow440

Independent:

Feeding seaweed to cows could slash the amount of climate change-inducing methane emissions from their burps.

Preliminary research has indicated a small amount of marine algae added to cattle food can reduce methane emissions from cattle gut microbes by as much as 99 per cent.

Now, scientists in California are hoping to help farmers meet strict new emissions targets by performing the first ever tests of seaweed feed in live dairy cows.

While their early results are yet to be released, team leader Professor Ermias Kebreab at the University of California, Davis, said their initial experiments were “very surprising and promising”.

“Results are not final, but so far we are seeing substantial emission reductions,” he said.

“This could help California’s dairy farmers meet new methane-emission standards and sustainably produce the dairy products we need to feed the world.”

Cow digestion relies on millions of microbes in their guts processing and fermenting high-fibre foods.

This process allows the animals to survive on a diet of grass, but it also produces large quantities of methane – a gas responsible for around a quarter of man-made global warming.

Cattle constantly burp and emit the methane being produced in their stomachs. The gas can also be expelled from their rear ends and from manure, but to a lesser extent.

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I’ll be giving some presentations in coming weeks devoted entirely to newest developments in renewable energy.

While a lot of readers of this blog may be well briefed on where renewables are, it’s astounding how little this story has percolated down to the general population.

In particular, folks don’t understand that this is no longer a California thing – it’s the most economical path, or will be soon, across a broad swath of America and the world.

Below, major Michigan Utility planner discusses a recent shift in priorities – from fossil dependence, to a future of efficiency, a little wind, and a lot of solar energy. Read the rest of this entry »

I excerpted the video above from Facebook in this month’s Yale vid, in the post above.

It’s an example of a very large movement of tech companies into the renewable space – they need high quality electricity for expanding data centers. They want to go 100 percent renewable. They’re buying wind and solar power to fill the demand.

In addition, many are purchasing large battery storage systems to balance out the variable renewable energy.

There’s a next step, it turns out.

Scientific American:

The cutting edge in American efforts to green the power sector can be found in a shipping container sitting in the parking lot of a sprawling Microsoft Corp. data center in southern Virginia.

A team of engineers assembled here to conduct a series of tests to simulate the interaction between a data center and a grid operator. Their question: Can extensive battery systems installed at data centers like this one be used to help grid operators smooth out the small spikes and drops in electric demand that occur throughout the day?

It’s technical, tedious work, but the implications for the electric system are sweeping. If they succeed, power companies might not need to build new natural gas power plants. Directly powering data centers with the wind and sun becomes a real possibility. Microsoft engineers even talk about reimagining the way electricity is bought and sold.

“In the future, you don’t have a data center or a power plant. It’s something in the middle. A data plant, for example,” said Sean James, Microsoft director of energy research. “Where this thing isn’t just a load on the grid, it’s an asset on the grid. We’ve been doing a lot of calculations, working with partners to get it just right, but to see it actually going is a special moment for us.”

Technology companies have led a corporate rush into renewables in recent years, pioneering long-term contracts with wind and solar projects that essentially offset the emissions associated with their electricity consumption (Greenwire, April 20). But many firms, no longer content with merely offsetting their emissions, are moving on to the challenge of directly powering their operations with the wind and sun.

The big increases in electricity consumption are part of the reason technology firms have embraced renewables. Wind and solar offer firms two primary benefits: They help companies meet their sustainability goals while providing a hedge against fuel prices. Wind and solar lack fuel costs, meaning they offer electricity buyers long-term price certainty.

Microsoft’s battery project in Boydton is illustrative of how technology companies are finding new ways to green the grid. Data centers like this one are equipped with extensive battery systems to back up your photos, videos and favorite web-based news outlets in the event the power goes out. But most of the time they sit around gathering dust.

The essential question for Microsoft is whether a data center’s batteries can still perform their backup function while also providing a service for the grid.

Read the rest of this entry »

Last night’s post got me thinking I should review just where we are with “Next generation Nuclear power”.

About where I thought.

Lots of ideas. 2030 time frame for working prototypes, which will need a decade or so to prove themselves.
I get it that small,  modular, safe reactors, if economic, would be a big help.
Still – two things.
Investors won’t believe you till you show them.

And tell me again how we can trust every tin-pot dictator with these? Just asking.

Grist:

There are reactors that burn nuclear waste. There are reactors designed to destroy isotopes that could be made into weapons. There are small reactors that could be built inexpensively in factories. So many ideas!

To former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, an advisor to Terrestrial, it feels as if something new is underway. “I have never seen this kind of innovation in the sector,” he said. “It’s really exciting.”

Other reactors, like Terrestrial’s molten-salt-cooled design, automatically cool down if they get too hot. Water flows through conventional reactors to keep them from overheating, but if something halts this flow — like the earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima — the water boils off, leaving nothing to stop a meltdown.

Unlike water, salt wouldn’t boil off, so even if operators switched off safety systems and walked away, the salts would keep cooling the system, Irish said. Salts heat up and expand, pushing uranium atoms apart and slowing down the reaction (the farther apart the uranium atoms, the less likely a flying neutron will split them apart, triggering the next link in the chain reaction).

“It’s like your pot on the stove when you are boiling pasta,” Irish said. No matter how hot your stove, your pasta will never get hotter than 212 degrees Fahrenheit unless the water boils off. Until it’s gone, the water is just circulating and dissipating heat. When you replace water with liquid salt, however, you have to get to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit before your coolant starts to evaporate.

This stuff can sound like science fiction — but it’s real. Russia has been producing electricity from an advanced reactor that burns up radioactive waste since 2016. China has built a “pebble bed” reactor that keeps radioactive elements locked inside softball-sized graphite spheres.

In 2015, to keep track of the startups and public-sector projects working on trying to provide low-carbon energy with safer, cheaper, and cleaner nuclear power, the centrist think tank, Third Way, started mapping all of the advanced nuke projects across the country. There were 48 dots on the first map, and now there are 75, spreading like a candy-colored case of measles.

“In terms of the number of projects, the number of people working on it, and the amount of private financing, there isn’t anything to compare it to unless you go back to the 1960s,” said Ryan Fitzpatrick who works on clean energy for Third Way.

Back then, just after Walt Disney released the film “Our Friend the Atom” promoting nuclear energy, when the futuristic notion of electricity “too cheap to meter” seemed plausible, electric utilities had plans to build hundreds of reactors across the United States.

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carbontax

Suggestion to US trading partners still in the Paris Agreement – If you’re going to have a trade war, well, could it be targeted on carbon emitters?

Inside Climate News:

As the Trump administration’s trade war heats up, a group of experts is proposing a new way to counter protectionism—and prod the United States back into climate action at the same time.

In a commentary in the journal Nature, the team of trade and climate policy experts called for a global punitive tax on imports based on their carbon footprint.

It’s an idea that was invented to address the problem of “free riders”—nations that refuse to join the global practice of putting a price on carbon, such as a tax or a cap-and-trade market mechanism. To avoid giving the free riders a competitive advantage in world trade, the carbon price would be collected on their products as an import tariff at the border.

The border tax would “level the emissions playing field by imposing the same economic burden on domestic and external manufacturers,” the team writes in the article, published online Monday.

Nature:

More and more countries are shielding domestic producers from foreign competition — a process known as protectionism. Since January, US President Donald Trump has slapped tariffs of up to 50% on many imports, including washing machines, solar cells, soya beans, steel and aluminium. Hopes that allied countries would be exempt were dashed after a tumultuous G7 meeting in June.

Economies affected have begun to respond in kind. China hit back with levies on US$34 billion worth of US goods. The European Union increased tariffs on jeans, motorbikes and bourbon imported from the United States. And Trump has since threatened to add tariffs on another $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. A trade war is unfolding.

Meanwhile, nations are reviewing the pledges they made to cut emissions as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Everyone knows that current pledges will not keep global warming below the ‘safe’ limit of 2 °C above preindustrial levels — even if all nations deliver on their promises. The question is how to strengthen actions so that emissions drop sharply once the Paris framework takes effect in 2020.

The Paris process has two main problems. First, the pledges are uneven. Countries that do little will benefit from hefty cuts made by others. In the ultimate free ride, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Agreement in 2020, leaving others to do more. Second, carbon emissions ‘leak’ across borders. A country can keep its budget low by buying carbon-intensive goods made elsewhere. Some regions, such as Western and Northern Europe, import a considerable share of high-emission goods, allowing them to emit less themselves (see ‘Carbon balance’).

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