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INSANE tornado vortex evolution captured by Dominator Drone from Andover, KS last night. Sadly, this tornado caused immense damage along a narrow path through the east side of Andover.

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My first question is, is this real?

In speaking to Chris Gloninger of KCCI – Des Moines for my most recent Yale Climate Connections video, he related several anecdotes on the experience of moving from Massachusetts to Iowa, including this one, noting the difference in electric rates between a primarily fossil fuel powered state, and a primarily wind powered state.

Below, the most recent graph from international consulting firm Lazard, which is considered the gold standard for electric generation prices, shows renewables as the most cost effective sources of new generation.

The war in Ukraine will only spike fossil prices even higher.

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Below, impacts on Indian grain harvest.

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I spoke to Nebraska State Climatologist Martha Shulski PhD earlier in the year, and asked her a question I figured she’s have some knowledge of – Climate and Thunderstorms.

Tonight, threatening conditions are gathering over the plains.

Washington Post:

A challenging and high-stakes severe weather forecast is evolving over the central United States for Friday, with the potential for dangerous storms to strike major urban centers including Dallas, Oklahoma City and Wichita. How widespread the storms become is a major question mark for forecasters, but they could be severe where they do occur, with destructive straight-line winds, softball-size hail and potentially strong tornadoes.

The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center has declared a level 3 or 4 out of 5 risk of severe storms over a large area of the Central Great Plains.

“[S]ignificant tornadoes, destructive wind gusts, and very large hail are possible” with the storms in southeast Nebraska and far northeast Kansas, the Center wrote.

Friday’s storms kick off a multiday severe-weather episode over central parts of the Lower 48. Another round of severe thunderstorms with an attendant tornado threat will target the Great Plains next week.

Dr. Shulski mentions the December 2021 Derecho, which was the subject of my Yale Climate Connections video that month, below.

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Above, Palisades Nuclear Plan, on the shore of Lake Michigan in South Haven, MI, has become an unplanned repository for nuclear waste, stored in casks in spitting distance from 20 percent of the world’s unfrozen fresh water.

That’s bad.

It’s also a large producer of inexpensive, carbon free power in the state.

That’s good.

It’s scheduled to shut down at the end of May.

That’s bad.
The Biden administration is trying to throw it a lifeline, but there are challenges.

EnergyWire:

The Biden administration’s $6 billion effort to keep struggling nuclear plants operating is facing a barrier in Michigan and California.

A top energy executive yesterday confirmed that one of the first plants poised to qualify for financial support under the Energy Department’s newly unveiled lifeline — Michigan’s Palisades plant — remains on schedule to close May 31, throwing the Midwestern state’s climate goals into question.

Leo Denault, CEO of Entergy Corp., owner of the Palisades plant, told security analysts yesterday that a buyer who succeeded in acquiring the generator would also bear refueling costs and other expenses.

“We will work with any qualified party,” he said. But he added, “I do want to be very clear. Entergy is exiting the merchant nuclear business. The plant will have to stop operating in May. We’ll be out of fuel.”

His comments echoed those of Patrick Dillon, executive vice president of the Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, who told E&E News that “we’re in the 24th hour, we needed a decision yesterday.”

About 160 members of the union currently work at the Palisades facility. “I’m not going to say it’s high on the likelihood scale from our perspective” that the plant will continue operating beyond May, he added.

Dillon said he hoped Palisades would stay open, but workers there have been preparing the 800-megawatt facility for closure for months. “I think it’s a stretch to think that a purchaser is going to come in at this late date and continue the operation of the plant,” he said.

The comments came after the administration launched a program last week offering grants for struggling nuclear reactors. (Energywire, April 20).

The last-minute attempt to retain the plants reflects the importance of the 93 existing U.S. nuclear reactors to President Joe Biden’s plans to decarbonize the power sector by 2035. Because nuclear power doesn’t produce carbon emissions, there are concerns that reactor closures would inevitably lead to more fossil fuel generation.

In the program’s first phase, grants are restricted to plants that had publicly announced they would close down prior to Sept 30, 2026, a threshold met by just three plants, including Palisades and two other reactors at the Diablo Canyon site between San Jose, Calif., and Los Angeles (Energywire, April 20).

Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the Diablo Canyon owner, has also said the DOE offer does not change its intention to close the California facility. Diablo Canyon’s reactors 1 and 2 have planned closing dates of November 2024 and August 2025, respectively.

In the grants announcement, DOE said it would channel up to $1.2 billion a year through fiscal 2026, or $6 billion in all, to financially failing nuclear plants that met DOE conditions. The funds were provided in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

A spokesperson for DOE said yesterday they were unable to speak about the unique challenges and closure decisions facing various nuclear plants, nor could they provide a precise number of struggling plants potentially eligible for financial assistance.

“However, it’s very clear that there are multiple reactors facing significant financial pressures,” said the spokesperson. “Data show that closing nuclear power plants results in an increase in air pollutants and carbon emissions because this carbon-free generation is often replaced at least in part by fossil fuel plants.”

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It’s said that renewable energy is “intermittent”, while Nuclear energy is “24/7 baseload”, but engineers know that ALL generation types are intermittent, just at different times for different reasons.

Sky News:

Half of France’s nuclear power plants are currently out of action, energy supplier Electricité de France (EDF) has confirmed.

On Friday 28 of France’s 56 reactors were shut down due to routine maintenance or defects, forcing EDF to buy electricity from the European grid instead, at a time of soaring demand amid the gas crisis.

EDF stresses there are no safety issues and most are offline for routine checks, but critics have raised questions about nuclear’s reliability, and about Britain’s recent big bets on the energy source.

Why reactors have been shut down

Of particular concern are five reactors that were shut down after cracking caused by corrosion was identified in pipework last year, with tests under way to determine how serious the problem is.

EDF suspects corrosion at least six more plants, and will shut down three especially for testing, and test at least another three in routine maintenance periods.

The firm, which supplies all of France’s atomic energy, confirmed it was importing power from the European grid “to compensate the lack of production of our nuclear plants”.

Pressed on whether it was buying more gas, the power company said it was “impossible to qualify the source of energy production”.

“Of course it is a worry,” said Anne-Sophie Corbeau from the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.

“This energy has to be replaced by something else, which in many cases will be fossil fuels,” she told Sky News.

“Given the prices of electricity right now, this is very costly. For example, in December, we paid €1.4bn for our electricity imports, while usually we pay in the tens of millions.”

A ‘necessity, not a luxury’, says government

The UK has just put nuclear at the heart of its new energy security strategy, aiming to build eight new reactors to generate 25% of Britain’s electricity by 2050.

“The idea that nuclear reactors are always on is wrong,” said Tom Burke, chairman of think tank E3G and self-described “critic” of nuclear power policy. “We just don’t need [new nuclear plants]. They’re very expensive.”

A spokesperson for Britain’s energy department called nuclear power “a necessity, not a luxury” and the “only form of reliable, low carbon electricity generation which has been proven at scale”.

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There’s tension between home and business rooftop solar, and the utility scale fields going in across rural America.
Some folks seem to think all we need are solar panels on every roof – but the numbers show that’s not enough. Utility scale is vital, and has the lowest cost per Kw, but distributed rooftop and community solar can bring flexibility, resilience for homeowners and communities.
There’s a fight going on between Utilities, who say that solar owners are not paying their fair share for grid maintenance, and the solar install industry, who don’t want to see extra levies or taxes on solar roofs meant to defray Utility costs.

Above news story follows the controversy in California. In the other Sunshine State, Governor DeSantis of Florida just surprised everyone by vetoing a bill passed by the Florida Legislature, that would have cut the payments to solar owners selling power back to the grid.

EnergyWire:

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a bill yesterday targeting rooftop solar that was backed by the state’s largest electric company and a top political donor, in a move that shocked Florida’s political and energy landscape.

The move is a win for the solar industry and deals a blow to Florida Power & Light Co., which holds significant political sway in the Sunshine State. It also is a win for state Democrats, who largely opposed the bill and have had been unsuccessful in getting any meaningful clean energy legislation passed in Florida.

“This veto was necessary,” Florida state Sen. Lori Berman, a Democrat from Palm Beach County who vocally opposed the bill, said on Twitter. “For now, Floridians can continue to enjoy energy savings through rooftop solar. Their renewable energy consumption will help solve one of the greatest challenges of our time: climate change.”

The bill would have cut the amount of money rooftop solar users could receive for selling excess electricity back to the power grid. In a letter explaining his decision, DeSantis said that Florida doesn’t need to add to customers’ financial woes while the nation copes with increased costs for goods.

“Given that the United States is experiencing its worst inflation in 40 years and that consumers have seen steep increases in the price of gas and groceries, as well as escalating bills, the state of Florida should not contribute to the financial crunch that our citizens are experiencing,” he wrote.

It is highly unusual for a Republican governor to veto a bill from a GOP-controlled Legislature, much less one that was the brainchild of the utility known as FPL, owned by Florida-based renewable energy giant NextEra Energy Inc.

The measure was the latest salvo between Florida’s politically powerful electric companies and renewable energy supporters, who have been at odds for years over customer-owned solar. A December story from the Miami Herald written in partnership with Floodlight revealed correspondence between FPL’s lobbyist and the bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Jennifer Bradley, as well as political donations from FPL and its parent company.

Debates over what’s known as net metering have played out all over the country, especially as more customers look to separate themselves from the power grid or use more renewable energy. To support its case, FPL tapped a utility industry argument known as cost shifting, saying that customers who don’t have rooftop solar end up subsidizing those who do.

FPL argued the current system creates an unfair economic advantage for rooftop solar users, who typically have more disposable income. It also penalizes low-income customers, those who rent or ones who live in multiunit buildings because they are unable to install solar on their roofs, the utility said.

FPL remains committed to “finding a more equitable net metering solution for all Floridians,” the company said in a statement emailed to E&E News.

“At FPL we are always working to deliver clean, reliable energy while keeping customer bills affordable,” the utility said. “FPL is leading the nation’s largest solar expansion and we will continue to advance solar that is cost-effective for all our customers.”

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Familiar story.

Technology invented in America almost fully taken over by China.
Above, a 1956 snapshot of a dazzling technological prospect. Director Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life) understood the possibilities and importance in the Bell Telephone Hour production. Capra also understood from doing this series the prospects of global warming and climate change – so significant that at the end of this clip, the actors relate the failing to harness the sun will mean “the end of the machine age”.
Today’s war in Ukraine is bringing home vividly the dangers of dependence on foreign producers for critical energy resources – and should be ringing alarms in global capitols as China steadily locks up the key feedstock for solar panels, as well as a host of other electronic devices.

National security, as well as a concerns about Chinese trade and labor practices, need to be factored in to our energy transition – but there also has to be a recognition that new domestic manufacturing plants will take years to build up, and the need to ramp up carbon free energy is critical right now.

Solar Power World:

German-based polysilicon producer Wacker Chemie has fallen to fourth place in the list of the world’s top polysilicon firms, which means the Top 3 producers are now all in China. Tongwei, GCL Technology (previously GCL-Poly Energy) and Daqo New Energy now lead the rankings, published by Bernreuter Research.

Tongwei surpassed Wacker in 2020, and GCL moved into second place in 2021. Each of these two Chinese companies exceeded an annual output of 100,000 metric tons (MT) for the first time in 2021, and each will reach a production capacity of 370,000 MT after massive expansion by 2023.

“Wacker will take a similar course as former market leader Hemlock Semiconductor did a decade ago,” said Johannes Bernreuter, head of Bernreuter Research. “The company is increasingly focusing on expanding its leading position in the electronic-grade polysilicon market for semiconductors; at the same time, it is abandoning more and more market share in the rapidly growing solar-grade sector.”

With Wacker shifting focus away from solar, the company will be overtaken by two more Chinese manufacturers, Xinte Energy and East Hope, within the next year. This will mean the world’s Top 5 solar-grade polysilicon producers will be from China in 2023.

When U.S.-based Hemlock Semiconductor lost its top position in 2012, China had a share of just 30% in global polysilicon production. By 2021, this share had already risen to 76%, and to even more than 80% in the solar-grade sector. Since a gigantic expansion wave is currently underway in China, the country’s share in the global polysilicon output will grow even further: to more than 90%. In wafer, solar cell and module production, the Chinese industry has already reached such or still higher market shares.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has opened the eyes for what it means to be economically dependent on a dictatorial regime. Western governments should not make the same mistake with China,” Bernreuter said. “It is high time to establish non-Chinese solar supply chains. China has demonstrated what the ingredients of success are: low electricity rates for power-hungry polysilicon and ingot production, loan guarantees for private investment, cost-efficient equipment manufacturing and strategic foresight.”

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Attorney General Keith Ellison sues Brio Solar execs and lenders, alleging high-pressure, deceptive sales tactics that led Minnesotans to pay too much more for solar panels.

KARE – Minneapolis:

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is taking aim at four solar-panel sales companies he alleges used fraudulent practices that resulted in tens of thousands of dollars for Minnesota homeowners.

The announcement from his office Tuesday says Ellison filed a lawsuit in Hennepin County District Court against the Utah-based companies, lenders and company executives for “engaging in deceptive and fraudulent practices,” involving marketing and selling residential solar panel systems. Ellison asserts the practices cost affected homeowners between $20,000 to over $55,000. 

Ellison called the alleged conduct “shameful,” and said it “hurt both Minnesota families and legitimate companies in the solar industry.”

“Holding bad actors like these accountable helps every legitimate solar-panel company and every homeowner that wants to save money, improve their home, and do right by the environment,” the statement read.

With the lawsuit, Ellison is pursuing restitution for the affected homeowners, in addition to civil penalties and the state’s costs. Ellison is also demanding the defendants admit to violating state laws. 

Further, the lawsuit asks that all customers be able to cancel their contracts with the companies involved.

The investigation and subsequent lawsuit stem from multiple complaints and sworn statements by consumers to both the attorney general’s office and the Better Business Bureau. Ellison’s office claims the companies misrepresented costs, used deceiving marketing tactics, and in some cases, installed solar panels that did not always work.

The companies, lenders and individuals involved in the lawsuit include: Brio Energy LLC (d/b/a Pure Solar Energy and Clean Energy Educators); Bello Solar Energy (f/k/a Total Solar Solutions and Brio Solar Energy LLC); Avolta Power, Inc. (Brio changed its name to Bello, then Avolta as its sales practices came under scrutiny around the country); and Sunny Solar Utah LLC (d/b/a Sunny Renewable Energy); company executives Jared Fager, Michael Kaelin, and Alan Whitaker; and lenders Goodleap LLC (f/k/a Loanpal LLC); Sunlight Financial, LLC; and Corning Credit Union Services Company, LLC.

In part, Ellison’s announcement read:

I’m suing these companies because they’ve taken advantage of Minnesotans’ good intentions to save some money for their families and create a cleaner environment for everyone. They deceived consumers into believing that they were partnering with utility companies when they weren’t. They tricked homeowners who thought they were signing up for more information into signing binding contracts. They exaggerated how much money consumers would save on their utility bills than was likely or possible. They told consumers they were automatically eligible for tax credits when they weren’t. When consumers tried to get out of these contracts, the companies threatened them with lawsuits and exorbitant termination fees. And when consumers went through with installation, these companies often did a poor job and didn’t deliver on their promises.    

Show me a racist, and I’ll show you a science denier.
Just sayin’.

Documented:

Alex Epstein is a self-styled “philosopher and energy expert” closely affiliated with the fossil fuel industry. The author of “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” and the upcoming “Fossil Future” (to be released May 24th), Epstein uses his platform to attack climate science and those concerned with impacts of climate change. He advocates using “energy poverty” as a talking point in favor of fossil fuels, and accuses environmentalists of racismCoal and oil corporations have increasingly taken up Epstein’s messaging in recent years. 

However, a series of articles Epstein authored in college as publisher of the Duke Review reveal that Epstein considered non-Western cultures, specifically African cultures, “inferior,” and homeless people “worse than useless.” Epstein also wrote multiple articles advocating for the cancellation of Martin Luther King Jr holiday. Last week, after being asked for comment on his writings by the Washington Post, Epstein defended his past work, saying “I do think western culture is overall superior.”

The writings, obtained by Documented and featured in a recent Washington Post article, raise new questions about the authenticity of Epstein’s concern for “energy poverty,” which he often bolsters with references to African nations. These new revelations also raise questions about the degree to which Epstein’s views on western culture’s supremacy undergird the fossil fuel industry’s instrumentalization of poverty as a talking point.

Locke, Aristotle, and Newton have had no equivalents in Africa or Asia, and the advancements in those areas have been almost exclusively due to Western influence. To see the results, just compare New York to Chad. No benefit can be gained by focusing an education on anti-reason cultures, their only academic merit lies in contrasting them to Western civilization as models of inferiority.
ALEX EPSTEIN, “CURRICULUM 2000,” DUKE REVIEW, MARCH 1999

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