Nuclear weapons capacity for the Saudis. What could go wrong?

House Oversight Committee:

Washington, D.C. (Feb. 19, 2019)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued an interim staff report
 after multiple whistleblowers came forward to warn about efforts inside the White House to rush the transfer of highly sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia in potential violation of the Atomic Energy Act and without review by Congress as required by law—efforts that may be ongoing to this day.  The report states:
“The whistleblowers who came forward have expressed significant concerns about the potential procedural and legal violations connected with rushing through a plan to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.  They have warned of conflicts of interest among top White House advisers that could implicate federal criminal statutes.  They have also warned about a working environment inside the White House marked by chaos, dysfunction, and backbiting.  And they have warned about political appointees ignoring directives from top ethics advisors at the White House who repeatedly and unsuccessfully ordered senior Trump Administration officials to halt their efforts.”
The report warns that that White House efforts to transfer sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia may be accelerating after meetings last week at the White House and ahead of a planned visit to Saudi Arabia by the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner:
“The Committee’s investigation is particularly critical because the Administration’s efforts to transfer sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia appear to be ongoing.  On February 12, 2019, the President met with nuclear power developers at the White House about sharing nuclear technology with countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia.  In addition, next week Mr. Kushner will be embarking on a tour of Middle Eastern capitals—including Riyadh—to discuss the economic portion of the Administration’s Middle East peace plan.”
The report highlights concerning events involving Saudi Arabia, including the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which was met with equivocation by President Trump and other top Administration officials, and the refusal by the White House to submit a report on Mr. Khashoggi’s killing that was requested on a bipartisan basis by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
The report indicates that there is now serious, bipartisan concern with the Trump Administration’s efforts to transfer sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.  For example, on October 31, 2018, Republican Senators Marco Rubio, Todd Young, Cory Gardner, Rand Paul, and Dean Heller sent a letter
 to President Trump urging him to “suspend talks related to a potential civil nuclear cooperation agreement between the United States and Saudi Arabia” due to “serious concerns about the transparency, accountability, and judgment of current decisionmakers in Saudi Arabia.”
The report describes new documents and communications
 between White House officials, including former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, former Deputy National Security Advisor K.T. McFarland, and former NSC Senior Director for Middle East and North African Affairs Derek Harvey, as well as with Thomas Barrack, President Trump’s personal friend of several decades and the Chairman of his Inaugural Committee, and Rick Gates, President Trump’s former Deputy Campaign Manager and Deputy Chairman of the Inaugural Committee who has now pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators.

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In advocating for your preferred energy future, bear in mind that we are all being targeted by a sophisticated campaign aimed at enflaming divisions among all sectors of Americans.
That is all.

Grist:

The U.S. is divided over coal: Coal plants and mines have been shuttering, with miners held up as the casualties of environmental regulation, despite the fact that it’s cheap natural gas and automation that’s been siphoning most coal jobs. Still, it’s an issue that captures the growing chasm between Americans, with one side holding up the economic loss in coal towns and the other desperate to ditch the fossil fuel in the face of dangerous climate change.
Trump used this friction as a campaigning technique, but according to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, so did the Russians.
About a third of Mueller’s long-awaited report, released on Thursday, has been redacted. But enough is left to determine that Russia tried to exploit America’s mixed feelings about coal in order to tip the election in Trump’s favor.
In the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, a Saint Petersburg-based group called the Internet Research Agency employed hundreds of people to post divisive messages and pro-Kremlin propaganda using American aliases on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Coal was one of many issues used by the Russian trolls to drive a wedge between American voters, the report says. The group was indicted by Mueller in 2018 for conspiring to influence the election. And a report by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee found that the trolls also posted about pipelines, fossil fuels, fracking, and climate change between 2015 and 2017.
But the Russians didn’t stick to social media alone. The Internet Research Agency also organized a number of 2016 pro-Trump events in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the report says. One of the rallies featured a “miners for Trump” poster: “How many PA workers lost their jobs due to Obama’s disruptive policies? Help Mr. Trump fix it.”

The Hill:

Russian social media accounts focused on U.S. division over coal jobs as part of an effort to sway the 2016 presidential election, according to the newly released report from special counsel Robert Mueller.
The report cites a series of pro-Trump rallies organized by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian organization charged with interfering in the U.S. election, included one in Pennsylvania with a poster featuring a coal miner reading “bring back our jobs.”

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Wired:

ON JUNE 1, the Pilgrim nuclear plant in Massachusetts will shut down, a victim of rising costs and a technology that is struggling to remain economically viable in the United States. But the electricity generated by the aging nuclear station soon will be replaced by another carbon-free source: a fleet of 84 offshore wind turbines rising nearly 650 feet above the ocean’s surface.
The developers of the Vineyard Wind project say their turbines—anchored about 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard—will generate 800 megawatts of electricity once they start spinning sometime in 2022. That’s equivalent to the output of a large coal-fired power plant and more than Pilgrim’s 640 megawatts.
“Offshore wind has arrived,” says Erich Stephens, chief development officer for Vineyard Wind, a developer based in New Bedford, Massachusetts, that is backed by Danish and Spanish wind energy firms. He explains that the costs have fallen enough to make developers take it seriously. “Not only is wind power less expensive, but you can place the turbines in deeper water, and do it less expensively than before.”
Last week, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities awarded Vineyard Wind a 20-year contract to provide electricity at 8.9 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s about a third the cost of other renewables (such as Canadian hydropower), and it’s estimated that ratepayers will save $1.3 billion in energy costs over the life of the deal.


Can offshore wind pick up the slack from Pilgrim and other fading nukes? Its proponents think so, as long they can respond to concerns about potential harm to fisheries and marine life, as well as successfully connect to the existing power grid on land. Wind power is nothing new in the US, with 56,000 turbines in 41 states, Guam, and Puerto Rico producing a total of 96,433 MW nationwide. But wind farms located offshore, where wind blows stead and strong, unobstructed by buildings or mountains, have yet to start cranking.


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The kind of discussion we ought to be having sounds more like this.

A “market driven” Green New Deal, at least in Amory Lovins telling below, need not include the progressive wish list like job guarantees and medicare for all. It does include a Carbon Tax, which is its own political issue.

Above, Rob Meyer’s very smart take on why the Green New Deal suddenly got legs after last year’s election, and what the idea’s strengths and weaknesses are.

Amory Lovins and Rushad R Nanavatty in the New York Times:

Here’s how:
First, we should let competition and flexibility rule our electricity system. Abundant market data show that a renewably powered future would cost less than our current system. Electricity providers have gotten the memo, even if Washington hasn’t. To save their customers money, utilities in IndianaMichiganMinnesota, Colorado and Utahare phasing out old coal and nuclear plants and replacing them with wind and solar. Clean energy portfolios — including affordable battery storage and other flexible resources — are starting to displace natural gas in California and New York.
Concerns about round-the-clock availability of electricity from a highly renewable grid, a common fear, are mostly misplaced. The Department of Energy has assessed that renewables “that are commercially available today,” combined with a more flexible electric grid, can reliably supply up to 80 percent of our electricity in 2050 (and these technologies are advancing every year). Four European countries with modest or no hydropower get from 46 percent to 71 percent of their electricity from renewables, with grids more reliable than those in the United States. 
In America, Iowa and Texas are leading the way on wind. Over 35 percent of Iowa’s electricity is wind-generated. This has provided a second source of income to farmers whose lands host turbines and given Iowans among the lowest power prices in the nation. Over all, the estimated $476 billion needed to build a flexible grid that integrates renewables would yield $2 trillion in saved energy and reliabilitybenefits.
Second, correcting our biggest market failure by putting a price on carbon by taxing it would be “the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the necessary scale and speed,” according to a recent statement signed by more than 3,500 economists, including 27 Nobel laureates. Combining carbon pricing with border tax adjustments and rebates for citizens would ensure we didn’t export our emissions or hurt working-class Americans. Clearer price signals could drive cheaper and cleaner practices if we eliminated market barriers that are obstacles to efficiency and clean energy.

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Above, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez invites us to visualize the future we’d like to see.

Below, ham handed attempt to embarrass Ms. Cortez goes hilariously offtrack.

Here there be spoilers.

WBUR:


I came to “Game of Thrones” late in the game. Feeling lame about the hundreds of pop culture references flying over my head — “Winter is coming?” Huh? — I gifted my husband the “GoT” boxed set for his birthday, and we spent a year catching up with the dragons and giants of Westeros.
The eighth and final season of “Game of Thrones” starts Sunday. But my moment of realization — when “GoT” morphed from entertainment to existentialism — came in Season 7, episode 7.
About halfway through the episode, hero Jon Snow tries to convince warring factions to join forces against a common enemy: an army of zombies assembling in the north. But the various leaders don’t believe the zombies exist, and the discussion deteriorates into sniping and name-calling.
Snow steps between the two groups and announces, impatiently:

“The same thing is coming for all of us: a general you can’t negotiate with, an army that doesn’t leave corpses behind on the battlefield.”
To prove the point, Snow’s strongman unchains a wooden box and releases its contents: a screaming, rag-clad zombie who runs full-tilt, hissing and jittering, toward the enemy queen.
Jon Snow kills the zombie with a shard of obsidian, and turns to the queen: “There is only one war that matters. The great war. And it is here.”
I hit the pause button and turned to my husband: “This is all about climate change.”

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Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems:

Over the past two years, the dual use of land for the harvesting of solar electricity and agriculture has been tested in the joint project “Agrophotovoltaics – Resource Efficient Land Use (APV-RESOLA).” On one-third of a hectare arable land near Lake Constance in Germany, photovoltaic modules with a total power output of 194 kilowatt are installed on a five meter high structure. The results from 2017 showed a land use efficiency of 160 percent, as confirmed by the project consortium under the direction of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE. The performance of the agrophotovoltaic system in the very hot summer of 2018 greatly exceeded this value. The partial shading underneath the photovoltaic modules improved the agricultural yield, and the sun-rich summer increased the solar electricity production.
In 2018, the farmers of Heggelbach, a Demeter farm community, successfully brought in their second annual harvest from the agrophotovoltaic system. Four types of crops were grown: winter wheat, potatoes, clover and celery. In 2018, the yields from three of the four crops grown under the agrophotovoltaic system were greater than the reference yield. The crop yields for celery profited the most by the system, with a gain of 12 percent compared to the reference. Winter wheat produced a gain of plus 3 percent and clover a minus of 8 percent. “Based on the 2018 potato yield, the land use efficiency rose to 186 percent per hectare with the agrophotovoltaic system,” says Stephan Schindele of Fraunhofer ISE.

Aside from the portfolio development, crop yield and quality, scientists of the University of Hohenheim collected data on the climatic conditions underneath the APV system and also from the neighboring reference field. The solar irradiation underneath the APV system was about 30 percent less than the reference field. In addition to the amount of solar irradiation, the APV system affects the distribution of precipitation and the soil temperature. In spring and summer, the soil temperature under the APV system was less than on the reference field; the air temperature was identical. In the hot, dry summer of 2018, the soil moisture in the wheat crop was higher than the reference field, while in the winter months, it was less, as for the other crops. “We can assume that the shade under the semi-transparent solar modules enabled the plants to better endure the hot and dry conditions of 2018,” says the agricultural scientist Andrea Ehmann. “This result shows the potential for APV in arid regions, but also the necessity to carry out further trials in other climate regions and with other types of crops,” adds her colleague Axel Weselek.

Cleantechnica:

For many people, solar power is seen as a threat to farming communities. That’s because they believe farmers must  choose between raising crops or livestock and installing solar panels on their land. The Fraunhofer Institute has been conducting experiments in what it calls agrophotovoltaics for two years near Lake Constance, Germany. In the first year, it found the combination of solar and agriculture made the land 160% more productive than if it had been devoted exclusively to one or the other.


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