I realized a few months ago that I’d been talking to a sampling of the smartest engineers and energy experts on the planet, and that they all had something to say about the prospect for small nuclear reactors to be part of the climate solution. Nothing like nuclear to start a food fight at a climate science conference.

The thing is, there is a somewhat nuanced conversation to be had about nuclear. Most important thing to understand is that, no matter your position, the obstacles to new nuclear development are real and substantial.

Importantly, if the first small nukes come on line in the late 2020s, and then take a few years to prove themselves – with the price drops and accelerating buildout of wind, solar, and batteries – will there still be a place for them in the mix?

Biggest issue that no one brought up – proliferation of nuclear weapons.

BBC:

A new global survey illustrates the depth of anxiety many young people are feeling about climate change.

Nearly 60% of young people approached said they felt very worried or extremely worried. 

More than 45% of those questioned said feelings about the climate affected their daily lives.

Three-quarters of them said they thought the future was frightening. Over half (56%) say they think humanity is doomed.

Two-thirds reported feeling sad, afraid and anxious. Many felt fear, anger, despair, grief and shame – as well as hope. 

One 16-year-old said: “It’s different for young people – for us, the destruction of the planet is personal.”

The survey across 10 countries was led by Bath University in collaboration with five universities. It’s funded by the campaign and research group Avaaz. It claims to be the biggest of its kind, with responses from 10,000 people aged between 16 and 25. 

Many of those questioned perceive that they have no future, that humanity is doomed, and that governments are failing to respond adequately. 

Many feel betrayed, ignored and abandoned by politicians and adults.

The authors say the young are confused by governments’ failure to act. They say environmental fears are “profoundly affecting huge numbers of young people”.

Chronic stress over climate change, they maintain, is increasing the risk of mental and physical problems. And if severe weather events worsen, mental health impacts will follow.

The report says young people are especially affected by climate fears because they are developing psychologically, socially and physically.

The lead author, Caroline Hickman from Bath University, told BBC News: “This shows eco-anxiety is not just for environmental destruction alone, but inextricably linked to government inaction on climate change. The young feel abandoned and betrayed by governments.

“We’re not just measuring how they feel, but what they think. Four out of 10 are hesitant to have children.

“Governments need to listen to the science and not pathologise young people who feel anxious.” 

The authors of the report, to be published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health, say levels of anxiety appear to be greatest in nations where government climate policies are considered weakest. 

There was most concern in the global south. The most worried rich nation was Portugal, which has seen repeated wildfires.

Tom Burke from the think tank e3g told BBC News: “It’s rational for young people to be anxious. They’re not just reading about climate change in the media – they’re watching it unfold in front of their own eyes.”

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Texas Monthly:

What may be the state’s most unusual oil well sits wedged between a creek bottom and a field dotted with newly baled hay on the northern edge of South Texas brush country. Fresh paw prints reveal that a bobcat recently investigated the six-foot-tall wellhead before padding over to seven semitrailer-size yellow steel boxes, each of which can hold several thousand gallons of water. The industry calls these “frac tanks,” named for their role in the hydraulic fracturing of underground rock formations—a.k.a. “fracking”—that brought about the shale energy boom

The bobcat, or any casual visitor, could be forgiven for thinking this was some ordinary well. A small Railroad Commission–mandated sign at the turnoff of the Medina County road that leads to it, roughly forty miles west of San Antonio, displays the well’s name and its unique American Petroleum Institute identification number. The musky aroma of hydrocarbons emanates from a refurbished five-hundred-horsepower pump bought secondhand from the Canadian oil fields. 

“How you doing? Been busy?” asked Dustin Frazier one morning in August, sounding much like any other company man checking in with any other oil worker anywhere else in the state. A twenty-year veteran of oil fields, he has forearms inked with tattoos, and his shaved head was covered by a white Quidnet Energy hard hat.

“I’ve been runnin’ through my ass,” replied Jeff Fine, who wore a mud-and-oil-stained coverall and a red hard hat from his employer, Renegade Wireline Services. The American flags on the backs of his steel-toe work boots were so dirty that the red, white, and blue had dulled to three shades of brown. “I’ve been slick linin’. I’ve been perforatin’. Not getting home much.”

Putting to use the oil industry’s fracking know-how, Houston-based Quidnet is pumping water about 1,200 feet underground to split open the shale and other layers of rock that lie there. If all goes well, the force of the water compresses the rock surrounding it, which creates a gap of four centimeters into which water pools as a small reservoir. The well will then be closed, and the underground water will remain under the immense pressure of the weight of the earth—and of the pumps, frac tanks, bobcats, hay bales, and everything else above it. Later, Quidnet will open the well, releasing the pressure. The four-centimeter gap will narrow, forcing the water back up to the surface, where it will spin a turbine to generate electricity.

Quidnet represents a new breed of Texas start-ups that are tapping into the gusher of funding now available to clean energy companies. Their payrolls are stocked with veterans of the oil and gas industry who are leveraging the drilling and geological expertise born of the fracking revolution—hinting at a promising area of job growth in Texas. They’re deploying many of the same techniques and technologies used in fracking. They’re drawing upon the same supply chain and services used in fracking. But please, they implore you, don’t call them frackers.

Fracking is a dirty word to a significant number of Americans, and several states have banned the practice. The process has been linked to pollution of groundwater, leaking of greenhouse gases, and triggering of earthquakes, although the industry has taken some steps to mitigate these problems. A recent national poll by ClimateNexus found 41 percent of respondents were either somewhat or strongly opposed to using fracking to increase oil and gas supplies, while 42 percent were in favor. It’s understandable that Quidnet and others want to avoid the divisive label as they hope to scale up operations nationwide.

While its process similarly injects water through wells to break deeply buried rocks, what Quidnet does isn’t truly fracking. The company isn’t in the petroleum-extraction business. It doesn’t want to take oil and gas out of the ground, nor does it employ any of the chemicals and slickening agents common to frack jobs.

The Medina County site may look and smell like an oil well, and it is permitted like one by the state. But it is instead a geologic battery, using what’s known as pumped-storage hydropower. When water behind a dam is released to run through turbines, it generates electricity, and Quidnet aims to do something similar with its reservoirs deep underground. During periods of electricity surpluses when prices and demand are relatively low, such as temperate nights with stiff breezes powering wind turbines, the pressurized water can be pumped into the ground and stored. It can be tapped for energy later—for example, during hot summer afternoons—when it’s needed and will fetch an attractive price.

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The NIMBY War on Green Energy

September 13, 2021

People move out into agriculturally zoned communities, and are surprised to find that they are surrounded by a bunch of farmers.
Moreover, they assume that the farmer’s job is not to grow food, steward the land, or even scratch out a living for their families – but rather, to shut up and act as groundskeepers, maintaining an unchanging backdrop for the newcomer’s imagined pastoral lifestyle.

It’s playing out all across the Midwest, and the fossil fuel industry knows it. And they know that for a minor pittance of organizational effort, they can delay the inevitable transition to clean energy. Every month they delay is billions of dollars in their coffers – so the math makes total sense.

Township meetings where new ordinances for solar and wind facilities are being hashed out have come to look much like those scenes you see of anti-maskers shouting nonsense at school boards. It’s the same template, the same social media tactics, and often as not, the same people.

Above, a profile of a well known anti-clean energy activist, recruited by the (well known to climate scientists) E&E Legal Foundation, a Washington “think tank” lobbying firm funded by fossil fuel interests.

E&E knows that they can recruit not just right wing culture warriors convinced that clean energy is some kind of communist plot, (like Obamacare..) but also, what I would call muddle headed lefties mislead by the overblown tabulations of grifters like Michael Moore.

Bloomberg:

There’s not a more important economic imperative for the U.S. than the transition to renewable energy. Ominously, anti-development forces — commonly known as NIMBYs — threaten to make this transition much harder. And much of that NIMBY energy is coming from the political left.

Consider the recent blockage of a solar power plant near Las Vegas. The Battle Born Solar Project, set on a rock formation called Mormon Mesa, would have been the nation’s largest. It would have provided a tenth of the state’s generating capacity, enough to power more than 800,000 homes. And since Nevada mostly uses power generated from natural gas, the project would have made a significant dent in greenhouse emissions.

But a coalition of environmental groups and tourism businesses calling themselves “Save Our Mesa” organized to successfully block the project. The businesses argued that the solar plant would hurt activities linked to all-terrain vehicles and skydiving. The environmentalists in the group claimed that it was about land conservation.

This is a pretty massive case of misplaced priorities. Land conservation is well and good, but climate change is bearing down on the U.S. Wildfires in California, heat domes in Portland, hurricanes in Louisiana and New York, droughts in the Great Plains, and flooding on the Mississippi show that nowhere is safe from the effects. It’s imperative that the country — and the world — switch to green energy sources as fast as possible.

In this context, scrapping the nation’s largest solar plant in the name of conservation — and of gas-powered ATVs — is an untenable position. Save Our Mesa reeks of pure, unadulterated NIMBYism. Nor does it seem specific to Mormon Mesa — on its website, the group criticizes solar panels in general, claiming that they lower humidity, create dust issues, etc.

This is sadly typical of a strain of so-called environmentalism that has turned on renewable energy projects. Some activists have been opposingwind turbines for years, claiming they scar the natural beauty of the countryside and kill birds. When the turbines are offshore, groups sometimes oppose them due to unknown but possibly deleterious effects on the ocean. Meanwhile, the Battle Born Solar Project is hardly the first to come under attack from environmentalists — for years, activist groups have opposed to building solar in the desert, in order to protect local animal and plant life.

The electric vehicle revolution, meanwhile, is facing its own sort of pushback from the political left. Warnings that child labor is sometimes employed in overseas cobalt mines have turned some against the technology of lithium-ion batteries.

Concerns over open space, protected species and child labor are legitimate, and companies who deploy green energy technologies should minimize these downsides. But using these issues as an excuse to scuttle the transition to green energy only exacerbates the problems they’re concerned about. Climate change has the potential to devastate the natural habitats of animals and plants all over the world. And it will impoverish countries to the point where child labor becomes commonplace again. The harms from climate change are vastly more terrifying than the objections of even the most earnest NIMBY leftist.

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EViation takes Flight

September 13, 2021

85 percent of all flights are short haul.

Please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened.

Prepare for disruption.

Times of Israel:

Two years after unveiling, to much fanfare, a prototype for the first known all-electric airplane at the Paris Air Show in 2019, Israeli-American company Eviation Aircraft is preparing for the plane’s first test flight to usher in a “new age of aviation,” according to founder and CEO Omer Bar-Yohay.

The test flight for the aircraft, dubbed the Alice, was expected “before the end of the year” with the plane — now in its fifth iteration — in final assembly at Eviation headquarters in Arlington, Washington, just north of Seattle.

Bar-Yohay told The Times of Israel in a Zoom-facilitated interview from Arlington this month that the company was “excited” for the flight, which puts the Alice on a path toward approval by regulators and then, hopefully, service entry in 2024. “We are making three more planes for a total of four aircraft to accelerate certification over the next few years,” he said.

The Alice was originally conceived as a small, nine-passenger, fully electric commuter aircraft manned by a single pilot that would make regional trips as accessible as a train ride, but at a lower cost and with better service, according to the company. With a payload of 2,500 pounds (1.1 tons) and a range of 440 nautical miles (815 kilometers), the Alice would be available for passengers to book a ride by app for popular short-haul routes — say, San Jose to San Diego, London to Prague, and Paris to Toulouse. It’s a potential experience Bar-Yohay has coined an “Uber in the sky.”

The aircraft’s lithium-ion battery would require 30 minutes or less to charge per flight hour, Eviation says, as its mission is to make electric, zero-emission aviation a “competitive, sustainable answer to on-demand mobility.”

Bar-Yohay calls it a “new age of aviation” where “we are seeing a convergence of factors.”

“We have a product that is sustainable [the Alice is made of lightweight, composite materials], it is economically sustainable, as it is cheap to operate and maintain, and it is socially sustainable — this is a mode of transportation people want to use,” said Bar-Yohay.

Electric engines and battery technologies are driving a “third age of aviation” where “we have a maturity of elements and advanced materials, the social will, and the financial capabilities,” said Bar-Yohay.

Eviation snagged its first client, Massachusetts-based regional airline Cape Air, in 2019 just as it unveiled its Alice prototype. Cape Air, which operates 95 fleets in some two dozen cities throughout the US and the Caribbean, placed an order for Alice aircraft in “the double digits,” Bar-Yohay said at the time, at a price tag of $4 million per plane. The company then announced that two well-known but not-yet-disclosed American companies had also placed orders for the Alice, which now topped 150.

A few months later, Singapore-based conglomerate Clermont Group announced that it had bought a 70 percent stake in Eviation for an undisclosed amount, acquiring the company and injecting fresh capital into its operations. Clermont Group also owns electric motor manufacturer MagniX, which provides Eviation with two Magni650 electric motors for the Alice.

Eviation has attracted its fair share of attention in recent years, nabbing a spot on TIME magazine’s list of 100 “best inventions” two years ago (alongside eight other Israeli-founded companies), and winning a “World-Changing Ideas” Award in 2018 by US business magazine Fast Company.

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Short twitter thread lead Katharine Hayhoe to re-up one of her classic Global Weirding videos – explaining the crosslinks between emotional defensiveness and science denial.

Raw Story:

As President Joe Biden and health professionals urge Americans to get vaccinated and wear masks, one chiropractor in Pennsylvania is signing exemption forms for anyone seeking to evade public health measures.

Chiropractor John Dorobish of Cherry Tree Chiropractic in Uniontown was interviewed by WTAE-TV about the state’s new mask mandates for schools.

Dorobish had been signing exemptions for vaccine mandates and is now expanding to sign exemptions for masks.

“This mask mandate is just absolutely absurd. It’s insane. And, as far as I’m concerned, it’s straight from the pit of hell,” Dorobish said.

Talking Points Memo:

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) tore into scientists as tools of the devil in a speech at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet last month.

“All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell,” Broun said. “And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”

According to Broun, the scientific plot was primarily concerned with hiding the true age of the Earth. Broun serves on the House Science Committee, which came under scrutiny recently after another one of its Republican members, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), suggested that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses against pregnancy.

“You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth,” he said. “I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.”

Broun — a physician, with an M.D. and a B.S. in chemistry — is generally considered to be among the most conservative members of Congress, if not the most. He drew national attention in 2010 for saying he did not know if President Obama was an American citizen.

Below, Rep. Broun on the “climate change hoax”.

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