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Utility Dive:

A March 5 cyberattack of U.S. wind and solar assets is back in the news, with fresh documents helping shed light not just on the extent, but also the simplicity of the first-of-its-kind intrusion. Cybersecurity experts say it reveals a utility sector not sufficiently vigilant, and failing to employ the most simple fixes.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) in September revealed details about the denial-of-service (DoS) attack, urging utilities to keep firewalls patched and up to date, but held back the name of the impacted entity. E&E News last week revealed, based on documents obtained through a public records request, the victim was sPower.

Owned by AES and AIMCo, sPower bills itself as the United States’ largest private owner of operating solar assets. Though there was no loss of generation, the March cyberattack impacted the company’s visibility into about 500 MW of wind and PV across California, Utah and Wyoming.

The attack is widely being called the “first” on renewable generators, though it is not clear the grid intrusion was entirely intentional. Attackers exploited a known vulnerability in an unpatched Cisco firewall, causing a series of reboots over 12 hours. But intruders did not press the attack further and E&Ereports it is unclear they understood the firewall was connected to the energy grid.

Security experts say the attack is a wake-up call for the electric sector and a sign that clear vulnerabilities remain.

“The news begs a bigger question about cybersecurity regulations for the energy industry,” Phil Neray, vice president of security firm CyberX, said in an email. “The manner in which it was carried out was very basic — exposing some essential weaknesses in the way energy companies currently patch and monitor their network devices.”

CyberX released a report last month that concluded utility networks and unmanaged devices are “soft targets for adversaries.” Many utilities use outdated operating systems and unencrypted passwords that leave them vulnerable, the firm found.

That means in some instances utilities are not even maintaining the most basic of protection: keeping systems up to date.

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sun

Bloomberg:

For decades, scientists have sought an affordable and effective way of capturing, storing, and releasing solar energy. Researchers in Sweden say they have a solution that would allow the power of the sun’s rays to be used across a range of consumer applications—heating everything from homes to vehicles.

Scientists at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg have figured out how to harness the energy and keep it in reserve so it can be released on demand in the form of heat—even decades after it was captured. The innovations include an energy-trapping molecule, a storage system that promises to outperform traditional batteries, at least when it comes to heating, and an energy-storing laminate coating that can be applied to windows and textiles. The breakthroughs, from a team led by researcher Kasper Moth-Poulsen, have garnered praise within the scientific community. Now comes the real test: whether Moth-Poulsen can get investors to back his technology and take it to market.

The system starts with a liquid molecule made up of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen. When hit by sunlight, the molecule draws in the sun’s energy and holds it until a catalyst triggers its release as heat. The researchers spent almost a decade and $2.5 million to create a specialized storage unit, which Moth-Poulsen, a 40-year-old professor in the department of chemistry and chemical engineering, says has the stability to outlast the 5-to 10-year life span of typical lithium-ion batteries on the market today.

The most advanced potential commercial use the team developed is a transparent coating that can be applied to home windows, a moving vehicle, or even clothing. The coating collects solar energy and releases heat, reducing electricity required for heating spaces and curbing carbon emissions. Moth-Poulsen is coating an entire building on campus to showcase the technology. The ideal use in the early going, he says, is in relatively small spaces. “This could be heating of electrical vehicles or in houses.”

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Los Angeles, November 2019

November 3, 2019

This is rather brilliant.

In case you missed it, “November 2019” is the purported setting of the original Bladerunner movie, which debuted in 1982.

Original opening below. Read the rest of this entry »

co2ranks

“Discrediting US Leadership” is another key Putin goal.

Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — For more than two years President Donald Trump has talked about pulling the United States out of the landmark Paris climate agreement . Starting Monday he finally can do something about it.

Even then, though, the withdrawal process takes a year and wouldn’t become official until at least the day after the 2020 presidential election.

In the Paris agreement, nearly 200 countries set their own national targets for reducing or controlling pollution of heat-trapping gases. It was negotiated in 2015 with lots of prodding by the United States and China and went into effect Nov. 4, 2016.

The terms of the deal say no country can withdraw in the first three years. So Monday is the first time the U.S. could actually start the withdrawal process, which begins with a letter to the United Nations. And it doesn’t become official for a year after that, which leads to the day after the election.

If someone other than Trump wins in 2020, the next president could get back in the deal in just 30 days and plan to cut carbon pollution, said Andrew Light, a former Obama State Department climate negotiator now at the nonprofit World Resources Institute.

Light and other experts say the withdrawal by the United States, the second biggest climate polluter and world’s largest economy, will hurt efforts to fight global warming.

“Global objectives can’t be met unless everybody does their part and the U.S. has to play the game,” said Appalachian State University environmental sciences professor Gregg Marland, who is part of a global effort to track carbon dioxide emissions. “We’re the second biggest player. What happens to the game if we take our ball and go home?”

Someone else, probably the biggest polluter China, will take over leadership in the global fight, said MIT economist Jake Jacoby, who co-founded the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

The penalty for the U.S. “is not in economic loss. The penalty is in shame, in discrediting U.S. leadership,” Jacoby said.

Asked what the U.S. plans next, State Department spokesman James Dewey on Friday emailed only this: “The U.S. position with respect to the Paris Agreement has not changed. The United States intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.”

 

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Above, Ken Cuccinelli this week, executing the anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration.

Mike Mann in the Washington Post – 2010:

As a scientist, I shouldn’t have a stake in the upcoming midterm elections, but unfortunately, it seems that I — and indeed all my fellow climate scientists — do.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has threatened that, if he becomes chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, he will launch what would be a hostile investigation of climate science. The focus would be on e-mails stolen from scientists at the University of East Anglia in Britain last fall that climate-change deniers have falsely claimed demonstrate wrongdoing by scientists, including me. Rep. James Sensenbrenner(R-Wis.) may do the same if he takes over a committee on climate change and energy security.

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My employer, Penn State University, exonerated me after a thorough investigation of my e-mails in the East Anglia archive. Five independent investigations in Britain and the United States, and a thorough recent review by the Environmental Protection Agency, also have cleared the scientists of accusations of impropriety.

Nonetheless, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is investigating my previous employer, the University of Virginia, based on the stolen e-mails. A judge rejected his initial subpoena, finding that Cuccinelli had failed to provide objective evidence of wrongdoing. Undeterred, Cuccinelli appealed the decision to the Virginia Supreme Courtand this week issued a new civil subpoena.

What could Issa, Sensenbrenner and Cuccinelli possibly think they might uncover now, a year after the e-mails were published?

The truth is that they don’t expect to uncover anything. Instead, they want to continue a 20-year assault on climate research, questioning basic science and promoting doubt where there is none.

Cuccinelli, in fact, rests his case largely on discredited claims that Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) made during hearings in 2005 at which he attacked me and my fellow researchers. Then-Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) had the courage and character to challenge Barton’s attacks. We need more political leaders like him today.

Washington Post (2012):

IF VIRGINIA Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) needs examples of official waste and abuse as he runs for governor, he could cite the harassment that he conducted against climate scientist Michael E. Mann, a costly episode of government overreach that is finally over.

This month, after nearly two years of legal proceedings, the Virginia Supreme Court halted the attorney general’s investigation of Mr. Mann, who used to teach at the University of Virginia. Twisting a law designed to root out embezzlement of state funds and the like, the attorney general had demanded oceans of documents — including Mr. Mann’s e-mail correspondence — from U-Va. But, along with some technical legal problems with his demand, Mr. Cuccinelli didn’t offer any reasonable suspicion that Mr. Mann had committed anything resembling fraud — even as the attorney general proposed violating scientists’ sacrosanct freedom to conduct research without political pressure. Multiple independent reviews of Mr. Mann’s record have found that the professor did little more than participate in the normal push-and-pull of scientific inquiry.

Mr. Cuccinelli’s inspiration appears to have been the conspiracy theorizing that emerged from the so-called Climategate scandal, in which global-warming opponents stole scientists’ e-mails — including a few of Mr. Mann’s — and then misinterpreted them to justify their activism.

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Katharine Hayhoe in the New York Times:

I’m a climate scientist. I’m also an evangelical Christian.

And I’m Canadian, which is why it took me so long to realize the first two things were supposed to be entirely incompatible.

I grew up in a Christian family with a science-teacher dad who taught us that science is the study of God’s creation. If we truly believe that God created this amazing universe, bringing matter and energy to life out of a formless empty void of nothing, then how could studying his creation ever be in conflict with his written word?

I chose what to study precisely because of my faith, because climate change disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable, those already most at risk today. To me, caring about and acting on climate was a way to live out my calling to love others as we’ve been loved ourselves by God.

I realized, distantly, that there were people on both “sides” who fundamentally believed and were even dedicated to promoting the idea that faith and science were in conflict. But it wasn’t until after I’d moved to the United States for graduate school that it dawned on me, to my disbelief, that divisions within the science-faith arena, originally focused on questions of human origins and the age of the universe, were expanding to include climate change.

Now, this discrepancy is pointed out to me nearly every day: often by people with Bible verses in their social media profiles who accuse me of spreading Satan’s lies, or sometimes by others who share my concerns about climate change but wonder why I bother talking to “those people.” The attacks I receive come via email, Twitter, Facebook comments, phone calls and even handwritten letters.

I track them all, and I’ve noticed two common denominators in how most of the authors choose to identify themselves: first, as political conservatives, no matter what country they’re from; and second, in the United States, as conservative Christians, because the label “evangelical” has itself been co-opted as shorthand for a particular political ideology these days.

But I refuse to give it up, because I am a theological evangelical, one of those who can be simply defined as someone who takes the Bible seriously. This stands in stark contrast to today’s political evangelicals, whose statement of faith is written first by their politics and only a distant second by the Bible and who, if the two conflict, will prioritize their political ideology over theology.

I’m not a glutton for punishment and I don’t thrive on conflict. So why do I keep talking about climate change to people who are disengaged or doubtful? Because I believe that evangelicals who take the Bible seriously already care about climate change (although they might not realize it). Climate change will strike hard against the very people we’re told to care for and love, amplifying hunger and poverty, and increasing risks of resource scarcity that can exacerbate political instability, and even create or worsen refugee crises.

Then there’s pollution, biodiversity loss, habitat fragmentation, species extinction: climate change makes all those worse, too. In fact, if we truly believe we’ve been given responsibility for every living thing on this planet (including each other) as it says in Genesis 1, then it isn’t only a matter of caring about climate change: We should be at the front of the line demanding action.

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Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) may be most famous for opining that “Putin pays Trump…swear to God” (above)
Insists now he was kidding.

But on climate change, even one of the stupidest men in politics is bright enough to get that it looks bad if you continue to pretend that you don’t get it. Not that he wants to actually do anything about it.
Might piss off Putin.

Washington Examiner:

McCarthy issued one stark warning for his party. He said younger voters are worried about climate change and cautioned that Republicans were risking their viability in elections over the long term by ignoring this critical issue.

Most major Republican leaders have been reluctant to address climate change. Some Republicans have even referred to fears about the warming of the Earth as a hoax. But McCarthy said that voters in their late 20s are the largest demographic age group in the United States and said Republicans could permanently lose this voting bloc absent offering a climate change agenda.

“We need to have an open discussion about, what should the party look like 20 years from now, and we should be a little nervous,” McCarthy said. “We have to do something different than we’ve done.”

To that end, McCarthy said House Republicans are planning to introduce a series of bills addressing climate change. He said the legislation would seek to use conservative, free-market principles to protect the environment, rejecting Democratic proposals such as Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal.

“Let’s have that debate instead of everybody saying we’re just deniers,” McCarthy said.