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Category Archive: Energy

  1. Environmental impact of electric vehicles in China? It depends on how they are charged

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    • researchers found that private electric vehicles in China can have a positive effect on CO2 reduction if owners can be incentivized to slowly charge vehicles during off-peak hours, allowing for more effective use of wind-generated power. Quickly charging vehicles in the higher energy “fast mode,” on the other hand, can be counterproductive.
    • Buses and taxis in China make a significant contribution to nitrous oxide emissions, a major precursor for air pollution—electrifying the bus and taxi fleet offers the most effective option for improving air quality.

    01 May 2018 Read full ScienceDaily article here

    Electric vehicles play a key role in China’s plan to improve air quality and reduce CO2 emissions but, with the majority of China’s electricity still coming from coal-fired power plants, many question just how effective this strategy will be. Now, researchers have found that how electric vehicles are charged — whether in the low-energy slow mode or high-energy fast mode — plays a significant role in the reduction of CO2 and the integration of wind energy….

    “Electrifying the public fleet and introducing incentives to charge personal electric vehicles at off-peak times would be the most effective strategy to reduce NOX and CO2 emissions in Beijing,” said McElroy. “This strategy could also be applied to cities across the world that have a significant source of electricity from coal.”

    Xinyu Chen, Hongcai Zhang, Zhiwei Xu, Chris P. Nielsen, Michael B. McElroy, Jiajun Lv. Impacts of fleet types and charging modes for electric vehicles on emissions under different penetrations of wind power. Nature Energy, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41560-018-0133-0

  2. US power sector carbon emissions intensity drops to lowest on record

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    • U.S. power plant emissions averaged 967 lb. CO2 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in 2017, which was down 3.1 percent from the prior year and down 26.8 percent from the annual value of 1,321 lb CO2 per MWh in 2005.

    April 4, 2018 College of Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University Read full ScienceDaily article here

    Researchers have announced the release of the 2018 Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index. The Index tracks the environmental performance of US power producers and compares current emissions to more than two decades of historical data collected nationwide. This release marks the one-year anniversary of the Index, developed as a new metric to track power sector carbon emissions performance trends.

    ….The latest data revealed the following findings: U.S. power plant emissions averaged 967 lb. CO2 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in 2017, which was down 3.1 percent from the prior year and down 26.8 percent from the annual value of 1,321 lb CO2 per MWh in 2005. The result for 2016 was initially reported as 1,001 lb/MWh, but was later revised downward to 998 lb/MWh.

  3. Norway is building some of the world’s first battery-powered ferries. Will they lead the way in cutting maritime pollution?

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    • Norway wants two-thirds of all boats carrying both passengers and cars along its jagged and windy Atlantic coastline to be electrified by 2030

    Mikael Holter and Jeremy Hodges, Bloomberg 
    …While progress in electrifying the world’s excessively polluting shipping fleets is miles behind advances in automobiles, Europe is making initial strides as Paris Climate Accord goals to cut carbon dioxide emissions loom large. Dozens of battery-powered boats that can move through inland waterways in Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands are about to make their first voyages, including some able to run fully automatically without a crew.Nowhere is this push more prevalent than Norway, a country where almost all electricity produced is hydropower, the state oil company is expanding into offshore wind farming and people drive more electric cars, per capita, than any country in the world. Next up, Norway wants two-thirds of all boats carrying both passengers and cars along its jagged and windy Atlantic coastline to be electrified by 2030. 

    Without big changes, the International Council on Clean Transportation warns sea transport could be responsible for 17 percent of CO2 emissions by 2050, up from 2-3 per cent now. But shipping was omitted from the Paris deal and battery technologies haven’t evolved enough for long ocean voyages, according to the International Maritime Organization, which is set to reveal in April an initial set of guidelines for cutting greenhouse gases….

  4. Fracking tied to reduced songbird nesting success

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    February 14, 2018 American Ornithological Society Publications Office Read full ScienceDaily coverage here

    The central Appalachian region is experiencing the country’s most rapid growth in shale gas development, or ‘fracking,’ but we’ve known almost nothing about how this is affecting the region’s songbird populations — until now. A new study demonstrates that the nesting success of the Louisiana waterthrush — a habitat specialist that nests along forested streams, where the potential for habitat degradation is high — is declining at sites impacted by shale gas development in northwestern West Virginia…

    Mack W. Frantz, Petra B. . Wood, James Sheehan, Gregory George. Demographic response of Louisiana Waterthrush, a stream obligate songbird of conservation concern, to shale gas development. The Condor, 2018; 120 (2): 265 DOI: 10.1650/CONDOR-17-130.1

  5. Negative Emissions: Direct air capture (DAC), water electrolysis and fuels synthesis on an industrial scale– can it work?

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    • Bill Gates and others aim to clean up the planet by stripping CO2 from the air and use it to produce carbon-neutral fuel. But can it work on an industrial scale?

    • Carbon Engineering (CE) and Greyrock have begun directly synthesising a mixture of petrol and diesel, using only CO2 captured from the air and hydrogen split from water with clean electricity – a process they call Air to Fuels (A2F).
    • The challenge is daunting. Worldwide manmade emissions must be brought to “net zero” no later than 2090, says the UN’s climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). ….To avoid runaway climate change, emissions must then become “net negative”, with more carbon being removed than emitted.
    • By the middle of the century, many of the models assume as much removal of CO2 from the atmosphere by negative emission technologies as is absorbed naturally today by all of the world’s oceans and plants combined. They are not an insurance policy; they are a high-risk gamble with tomorrow’s generations, particularly those living in poor and climatically vulnerable communities, set to pay the price if our high-stakes bet fails to deliver as promised.”

    by John Vidal Feb 4 2018 read full Guardian UK article here

    ….The idea is grandiose yet simple: decarbonise the global economy by extracting global-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) straight from the air, using arrays of giant fans and patented chemical whizzery; and then use the gas to make clean, carbon-neutral synthetic diesel and petrol to drive the world’s ships, planes and trucks.

    The hope is that the combination of direct air capture (DAC), water electrolysis and fuels synthesis used to produce liquid hydrocarbon fuels can be made to work at a global scale, for little more than it costs to extract and sell fossil fuel today. This would revolutionise the world’s transport industry, which emits nearly one-third of total climate-changing emissions. It would be the equivalent of mechanising photosynthesis.

    The individual technologies may not be new, but their combination at an industrial scale would be groundbreaking. Carbon Engineering, the company set up in 2009 by leading geoengineer Keith, with money from Gates and Murray, has constructed a prototype plant, installed large fans, and has been extracting around one tonne of pure CO2 every day for a year. At present it is released back into the air.

    But Carbon Engineering (CE) has just passed another milestone. Working with California energy company Greyrock, it has now begun directly synthesising a mixture of petrol and diesel, using only CO2 captured from the air and hydrogen split from water with clean electricity – a process they call Air to Fuels (A2F).

    “A2F is a potentially game-changing technology, which if successfully scaled up will allow us to harness cheap, intermittent renewable electricity to drive synthesis of liquid fuels that are compatible with modern infrastructure and engines,” says Geoff Holmes of CE. “This offers an alternative to biofuels and a complement to electric vehicles in the effort to displace fossil fuels from transportation.”

    Synthetic fuels have been made from CO2 and H2 before, on a small scale. “But,” Holmes adds, “we think our pilot plant is the first instance of Air to Fuels where all the equipment has large-scale industrial precedent, and thus gives real indication of commercial performance and viability, and leads directly to scale-up and deployment.”…

    ….4,500 miles away, in a large blue shed on a small industrial estate in the South Yorkshire coalfield outside Sheffield, the UK Carbon Capture and Storage Research Centre (UKCCSRC) is experimenting with other ways to produce negative emissions.

    ….It is researching different fuels, temperatures, solvents and heating speeds to best capture the CO2 for the next generation of CCS plants, and is capturing 50 tonnes of CO2 a year. And because Britain is phasing out coal power stations, the focus is on achieving negative emissions by removing and storing CO2 emitted from biomass plants, which burn pulverised wood. As the wood has already absorbed carbon while it grows, it is more or less carbon-neutral when burned. If linked to a carbon capture plant, it theoretically removes carbon from the atmosphere. Known as Beccs (bioenergy with carbon capture and storage), this negative emissions technology is seen as vital if the UK is to meet its long-term climate target of an 80% cut in emissions at 1990 levels by 2050…

    “Direct air capture is no substitute for using conventional CCS,” says Gibbins. “Cutting emissions from existing sources at the scale of millions of tonnes a year, to stop the CO2 getting into the air in the first place, is the first priority.

    “The best use for all negative emission technologies is to offset emissions that are happening now – paid for by the emitters, or by the fossil fuel suppliers. We need to get to net zero emissions before the sustainable CO2 emissions are used up. This is estimated at around 1,000bn tonnes, or around 20-30 years of global emissions based on current trends,” he says. “Having to go to net negative emissions is obviously unfair and might well prove an unfeasible burden for a future global society already burdened by climate change.”…

    …the challenge is daunting. Worldwide manmade emissions must be brought to “net zero” no later than 2090, says the UN’s climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). That means balancing the amount of carbon released by humans with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset, or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference.

    But that will not be enough. To avoid runaway climate change, emissions must then become “net negative”, with more carbon being removed than emitted….

    …In a recent article in the journal Science, the two climate scientists said they were not opposed to research on negative emission technologies, but thought the world should proceed on the premise that they will not work at scale. Not to do so, they said, would be a “moral hazard par excellence”.

    Instead, governments are relying on these technologies to remove hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere. “It is breathtaking,” says Anderson. “By the middle of the century, many of the models assume as much removal of CO2 from the atmosphere by negative emission technologies as is absorbed naturally today by all of the world’s oceans and plants combined. They are not an insurance policy; they are a high-risk gamble with tomorrow’s generations, particularly those living in poor and climatically vulnerable communities, set to pay the price if our high-stakes bet fails to deliver as promised.”…

     

  6. Potential impact of fracking on streams, downstream recreation, drinking water

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    January 31, 2018  American Chemical Society read full ScienceDaily article here

    Concerns over hydraulic fracturing, an oil and gas extraction method that injects millions of gallons of freshwater and chemicals into shale, have largely focused on potential impacts on water quality. But, as scientists now report, ‘fracking’ operations could have impacts on water quantity because they are withdrawing these large amounts of water from nearby streams, which house aquatic ecosystems and are used by people for drinking and recreation.

    …..On average, more than 5 million gallons of freshwater is used to fracture one gas well in the U.S. That’s more than enough to fill seven Olympic-size swimming pools. Small streams are a major source of water for these operations. Some of these streams also provide drinking water for communities and homes for species with already declining populations. However, little is known about the amount of water that can be sustainably withdrawn from these sources....

    Sally Entrekin, Anne Trainor, James Saiers, Lauren Patterson, Kelly Maloney, Joseph Fargione, Joseph Kiesecker, Sharon Baruch-Mordo, Katherine Konschnik, Hannah Wiseman, Jean-Philippe Nicot, Joseph N. Ryan. Water Stress from High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Potentially Threatens Aquatic Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Arkansas, United States. Environmental Science & Technology, 2018; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b03304

  7. Switching to electric cars is key to fixing America’s ‘critically insufficient’ climate policies

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    • Nearly 60% of US carbon pollution comes from power and transportation, and power is already decarbonizing fast
    • To fulfill its responsibility for helping the world stay below the 2°C temperature guardrail, the transportation sector is America’s next clear big target
    • All major automakers recognize that the shift from fossil-fueled cars to EV is inevitable, and are investing accordingly

    In order to meet its share of the carbon pollution cuts needed to achieve the 2°C Paris international climate target, America’s policies are rated as “critically insufficient” by the Climate Action Tracker….

    Currently, transportation and power generation each account for about 30% of US greenhouse gas emissions, so those sectors represent the prime targets for pollution cuts.

    But the power sector is already rapidly decarbonizing because coal can’t compete in the marketplace. In some regions, new wind and solar with battery storage have already become cheaper than continuing to operate existing coal plants, and the International Renewable Energy Agency has concluded that by 2020, “all the renewable power generation technologies that are now in commercial use are expected to fall within the fossil fuel-fired cost range.”….

    ….Cost and battery range have been the two barriers to widespread EV adoption. However, both have rapidly improved over the past several years. In 1996, the GM EV1 was the first modern mass-produced EV. It had a range of approximately 100 miles (160 km) per charge at an estimated price of $34,000 ($50,000 in 2016 dollars), which amounts to $500 per mile of range. Tesla produced its first car – the Roadster – starting in 2008, with a range of 244 miles (393 km) at a price of around $100,000 ($410 per mile). Nissan first sold its electric Leaf in 2011 for $33,600 with an 84-mile (135 km) range ($400 per mile).

    All three companies have since dramatically improved their EV prices per mile of range. The 2018 Nissan Leaf sells for $30,000 with a 150-mile (240 km) range ($200 per mile). The Tesla Model 3 will sell for $35,000 with a 220-mile (354 km) range or $44,000 with a 310-mile (500 km) range ($140–160 per mile). The Chevy Bolt sells for $36,620 with a 238-mile (383 km) range ($154 per mile)….

    …American power generation is already rapidly decarbonizing. To fulfill its responsibility for helping the world stay below the 2°C temperature guardrail, the transportation sector is America’s next clear big target…..All major automakers recognize that the shift from fossil-fueled cars to EV is inevitable, and are investing accordingly.

    A price on carbon pollution would accelerate the transition. US gasoline prices remain low at around $2.50 per gallon, which leads to more Americans buying cars with low fuel efficiency. 97% of US car sales are still purely gasoline-powered. The transition to EVs is proceeding slowly, but it’s coming, and it will be a big part of any future American efforts to meet climate targets.

  8. Microwave appliance usage could be as bad for the environment as cars, suggests new research

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    • Microwave appliance usage emits 7.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year in the EU. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of 6.8 million cars.
    • Microwave appliance usage across the EU consumes an estimated 9.4 terawatts per hour (TWh) of electricity every year. This is equivalent to the annual electricity generated by three large gas power plants.

    January 17, 2018  University of Manchester read full ScienceDaily article here

    Microwave appliance usage across the EU alone emits as much carbon dioxide as nearly seven million cars, according to a new study by The University of Manchester.

    Researchers at the University have carried out the first ever comprehensive study of the environmental impacts of microwave appliances, considering their whole life cycle, from ‘cradle to grave’.

    The study found:

    • Microwave appliance usage emits 7.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year in the EU. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of 6.8 million cars.
    • Microwave appliance usage across the EU consumes an estimated 9.4 terawatts per hour (TWh) of electricity every year. This is equivalent to the annual electricity generated by three large gas power plants.
    • Efforts to reduce consumption should focus on improving consumer awareness and behaviour to use appliances more efficiently…

    Alejandro Gallego-Schmid, Joan Manuel F. Mendoza, Adisa Azapagic. Environmental assessment of microwaves and the effect of European energy efficiency and waste management legislation. Science of The Total Environment, 2018; 618: 487 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.11.064

  9. California’s water saving brings bonus effects- electricity savings and GHG reductions

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    • The decrease in water usage translated into a significant electricity saving of 1,830 gigawatt hours (GWh) resulting in GHG emissions saved of 524,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), the equivalent of taking 111,000 cars off the road for a year.
    • water conveyance and use accounts for 19 per cent of total electricity demand and 32 per cent of total non-power plant natural gas demand state-wide

    January 11, 2018 IOP Publishing read full ScienceDaily article here

    Water-saving measures in California have also led to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and electricity consumption in the state.

    Measures to cut water use by 25 per cent across California were implemented in 2015, following a four-year drought in the state that caused the fallowing of 542,000 acres of land, total economic costs of $2.74 billion, and the loss of approximately 21,000 jobs.

    The UC Davis researchers found that, while the 25 per cent target had not quite been reached over the one-year period — with 524,000 million gallons of water saved — the measures’ impact had positive knock-on effects for other environmental objectives.

    In California, the water and energy utility sectors are closely interdependent. The energy used by the conveyance systems that move water from the wetter North to the drier and more heavily populated South — combined with utility energy use for treatment and distribution, end-user water consumption for heating, and additional pumping and treatment — accounts for 19 per cent of total electricity demand and 32 per cent of total non-power plant natural gas demand state-wide….

    Edward S Spang, Andrew J Holguin, Frank J Loge. The estimated impact of California’s urban water conservation mandate on electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental Research Letters, 2018; 13 (1): 014016 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa9b89

  10. Developing nations are driving record growth in solar power

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    • solar’s exponential growth in recent years has been driven by national policies and a combination of photovoltaic module prices falling more than threefold

    Zeke Hausfather Nov 29 2017 Read full CarbonBrief article here

    Emerging markets now account for the majority of growth in solar power, according to new data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

    Led by China and India, these developing economies are behind dramatic recent growth in solar capacity, which expanded by 33% in 2016.

    China alone installed 27 gigawatts (GW), around 40% of the world’s new solar last year. Brazil, Chile, Jordan, Mexico and Pakistan all at least doubled their solar capacity in 2016. In total, solar accounted for 19% of all new generating capacity in the emerging markets tracked by BNEF.

    However, solar still only accounts for 5% of capacity and 1.3% of electricity generation globally. But its exponential growth in recent years has been driven by national policies and a combination of photovoltaic module prices falling more than threefold….

    Over the past decade, solar capacity has increased exponentially, driven by falling module prices and national commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or expand access to electricity.

    While Europe, the US and Japan led the way in early solar installations, over the past few years most growth has been driven by developing countries, with China in particular starting to dominate the solar sector….