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Category Archive: Energy

  1. If You Fix This, You Fix a Big Piece of the Climate Puzzle

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    Fixing air-conditioning is, let’s face it, not the most exciting solution to climate change. Perhaps for the same reason that remodeling a kitchen is more enticing than replacing a water heater, devising greener refrigerant chemicals will never make headlines like solar installations or electric cars do. You just can’t take a great selfie with the inside of an air-conditioner.

    ….fixing how we cool ourselves may also help fix the climate. New research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California indicates that adding improved efficiency in refrigeration and phasing out fluorinated gases used for cooling, as mandated by international agreement, could eliminate a full degree Celsius of warming by 2100. Given that the “business as usual” trajectory leads to 4 to 5 degrees Celsius of warming, that is shaving off a pretty big slice….

    …Scientists, activists and business leaders are meeting in Bangkok this week to discuss how to finance the phasing out of HFCs. Many there said they were confident the amendment would survive….

    Efficiency doesn’t require a global treaty. It does, however, call for new regulatory policies on manufacturing standards and labeling.  It matters, researchers say, because cooling has a direct relationship with the building of coal-fired power plants to meet peak demand. If more air-conditioners are humming in more homes and offices, then more capacity will be required to meet the demand. So 1.6 billion new air-conditioners by 2050 means thousands of new power plants will have to come on line to support them.

    The Lawrence Berkeley study argues that even a 30 percent improvement in efficiency could avoid the peak load equivalent of about 1,500 power plants by 2030….


  2. Renewable energy policy and public support

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    • public support for renewable energy is very strong
    • whether it’s Democrat or Republican talking about climate change, no matter how we frame it, if we talk about climate change it doesn’t move people….the term has become synonymous with partisanship
    • ensuring that renewable energy policies actually reduce air pollution, increase jobs and get Republican support, and communicating all that to the public, we would find majority support — even from some of the most coal-dominated states.

    July 3 2017  see full ScienceDaily article here

    ….The good news from the results of their repeated survey experiment: Public support for renewable energy in the U.S. is very strong. According to their baseline figures, the vast majority of people in the country support renewable energy portfolios in their states, in which a certain amount of the states’ electricity comes from a renewable source…

    …As Americans favor cheap electricity, the greatest factor would be cost. Even a $2 increase in monthly electric bills would likely cause support for renewable energy to drop by 13 percent, shifting 13 states away from renewable energy policy. A $10 increase would likely result in the majority of states taking an opposing view, the researchers found.

    Meanwhile, substantial job creation would be enough to flip opponents of renewable energy into supporters — and the more jobs, the better…

    …”People tend to forget that when we talk about renewable energy it has benefits for air pollution, and so when you remind people of that it’s likely to increase their support because reducing air pollution is a local benefit,” said Stokes. And the key, according to the researchers, is the local benefit, because people don’t connect to broad concepts such as climate change on a personal level, often viewing it as a global and future phenomenon.

    We’ve found that climate change is not an effective frame to gauge people’s opinion about renewable energy,” she said, “so whether it’s Democrat or Republican talking about climate change, no matter how we frame it, if we talk about climate change it doesn’t move people.” The term has become synonymous with partisanship, Stokes said, and less about the actual issue at hand….

    …”So the idea is that by ensuring that these policies actually reduce air pollution, increase jobs and get Republican support, and communicating all that to the public, we would find majority support — even from some of the most coal-dominated states — for these policies,” Stokes said. “That’s pretty impressive.”

    Leah C. Stokes, Christopher Warshaw. Renewable energy policy design and framing influence public support in the United States. Nature Energy, 2017; 2: 17107 DOI: 10.1038/nenergy.2017.107

  3. Can the U.S. Grid Work With 100% Renewables? There’s a Scientific Fight Brewing

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    By Peter Fairley Posted IEEE

    A battle royale between competing visions for the future of energy blew open today on the pages of a venerable science journal. The conflict pits 21 climate and power system experts against Stanford University civil and environmental engineer Mark Jacobson and his vision of a world fuelled 100 percent by renewable solar, wind, and hydroelectric energy. The criticism of his “wind, water and sun” solution and an unapologetic rebuttal from Jacobson and three Stanford colleagues appear today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)….

    ….Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science. Caldeira’s press release broadcasting their critique argues that removing carbon dioxide from the U.S. power supply is a massive job demanding the biggest tool box possible: “When you call a plumber to fix a leak, you want her to arrive with a full toolbox and not leave most of her tools at home,” says Caldeira.

    The same document then abandons this technology-agnostic tone to call out nuclear energy and carbon capture as technologies that “solving the climate problem will depend on.” And Caldeira has appealed for deploying a new generation of nuclear reactors which he and other nuclear boosters such as former NASA scientist Jim Hansen say are needed because renewables “cannot scale up fast enough.”

    They could be right. Then again, expert sources they cite, such as the International Energy Agency, have consistently underestimated renewable energy growth. And identical scale-up critiques have also been well argued against nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage (CCS)….

  4. Electric Vehicles cleaner than ever- new numbers in from Union of Concerned Scientists

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    • For over 70 percent of Americans, driving an EV results in fewer emissions than even a 50 MPG gasoline vehicle.
    • Nearly half of the EVs sold to date have gone to California, where the average EV produces global warming emissions equal to a 95 MPG gasoline car

    , senior engineer, Clean Vehicles | May 31, 2017  See UCS article here

    ….overall global warming emissions from using an EV is significantly lower for most of the US. Several regions of the country showed significant decreases in emissions, as compared to our first EV emissions assessment.

    When compared to our initial report on EV global warming emissions, the changes are impressive. That report used 2009 power plant data (the most current available in 2012) and placed only 9 of 26 regions in the ‘best’ category. Now 19 regions are in the best category with only 2 in ‘good’ regions…..

    …Based on where EVs have been bought to-date, the average EV in the US now produces emissions equivalent to a hypothetical gasoline car achieving 73 MPG….

    Nearly half of the EVs sold to date have gone to California, where the average EV produces global warming emissions equal to a 95 MPG gasoline car. The next 5 states for EV sales (Georgia, Washington, New York, Florida, and Texas) account for 20 percent of US EV sales and are regions that have emissions ratings of 50 MPG or better….Manufacturing emissions are important, but much less of a factor than fuel emissions.

  5. Sorry, Tesla owners, but your electric car isn’t as green as you think it is

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    ….Important factors in determining carbon emissions include the weight of the vehicle, driving habits, and the source of the electricity that charges your car. Likewise, it can be a much greener choice to keep the perfectly functional car you have, rather than go out and buy a new one.

    “If you are a relatively low-mileage person, you should stick with your gas-powered car,” Mike Berners-Lee, a leading expert in measuring the amount of greenhouse gases released by the products we buy, told Salon. “When the time comes to buy a new car, you should buy a nice, small electric car, and you should still keep the mileage down. You should still try to find other forms of transport when you can, and you should share transportation as much as you can.

    One of the reasons why buying a new car is a problem is the vehicle’s so-called embodied carbon, meaning all of the energy that was used to build the car from scratch — including the extraction and processing of raw materials, and shipping parts and vehicles across oceans in filthy bunker-fuel burning cargo ships. Every time you roll off the dealer’s lot in a new set of wheels — electrified or not — your personal carbon footprint grows immensely….

    …However, Reichmuth is quick to point out that while an electric car is modestly more polluting to manufacture, it more than makes up for the difference over the life of the vehicle. A study Reichmuth co-authored and released in 2015 shows that by the time a mid-size electric car hits 135,000 miles, it will have produced half of the emissions of a comparable gasoline-powered sedan….


  6. Largest US off-shore wind farms approved in Maryland

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    Electricity generation could begin offshore at Ocean City by 2020; researchers studying impacts on wildlife

    By Scott Dance, The Baltimore Sun  May 11, 2017

    Maryland waters could be home to some of the nation’s first — and by far its largest — offshore wind farms after the state Public Service Commission on Thursday approved ratepayer subsidies to support a pair of projects off the coast of Ocean City….The decision could dot the Ocean City horizon with wind turbines as soon as 2020 — and add $1 to monthly residential electricity bills once the windmills start spinning. …

    …“If built, these wind farms will be truly pioneering facilities, leading Maryland and the nation toward a 21st century economy that combats climate change and creates jobs in droves at the same time,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network….

    …The developers are required to build the turbines as far from shore as possible — up to 17 miles for the U.S. Wind farm and 24 miles for the Skipjack turbines. U.S. Wind officials have said that on a clear day, their turbines would appear to a person on the beach as about the size of a thumbnail at arms length…

    Researchers are still studying the potential impacts such projects could have on wildlife, tracking migration patterns of birds such as red-throated loons to see how much they intersect with potential wind farm sites. Jennifer Mihills, of the Mid-Atlantic office of the National Wildlife Federation, said she thinks the projects “can be sited, constructed and operated in a manner that is protective of our coastal and marine wildlife.”…

  7. We would need 1.7 Earths to make our consumption sustainable

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    We would need 1.7 Earths to make our consumption sustainable by Dennis Lu, Washington Post, May 4, 2017

    …The United States is one of the world’s biggest consumers, and U.S. policies can have global environmental effects. As of 2013, the world’s population would need 1.7 Earths to support its demands on renewable natural resources, according Global Footprint Network, a nonprofit organization that calculates human demands on the planet’s ecosystems.

    Global Footprint Network measures human consumption relative to what the planet can regenerate with a measure called the ecological footprint. The footprint takes into account how much in biological resources, such as fishing grounds and forest land, are necessary to fulfill the consumption of a country and absorb its waste. This includes imports and excludes exports. The smaller a country’s footprint is, the better.

    …Therefore, a country has an ecological deficit if its ecological footprint is greater than its biocapacity and ecological reserve if its biocapacity is greater….Though there are many solutions, the fastest way for a country to reduce its ecological footprint, according to Global Footprint Network, is to switch to greener energy sources. Even though the United States has been decreasing its ecological footprint, its consumption rate is still far from completely sustainable.

  8. New model for improving batteries that last longer and are much smaller

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    Stanford scientist’s new approach may accelerate design of high-power batteries April 6, 2017 Stanford News

    In work published this week in Applied Physics Letters, the researchers describe a mathematical model for designing new materials for storing electricity. The model could be a huge benefit to chemists and materials scientists, who traditionally rely on trial and error to create new materials for batteries and capacitors. Advancing new materials for energy storage is an important step toward reducing carbon emissions in the transportation and electricity sectors.

    The potential here is that you could build batteries that last much longer and make them much smaller,” said study co-author Daniel Tartakovsky, a professor in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. …

    ….One of the primary obstacles to transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables is the ability to store energy for later use, such as during hours when the sun is not shining in the case of solar power. Demand for cheap, efficient storage has increased as more companies turn to renewable energy sources, which offer significant public health benefits.

    Tartakovsky hopes the new materials developed through this model will improve supercapacitors, a type of next-generation energy storage that could replace rechargeable batteries in high-tech devices like cellphones and electric vehicles. Supercapacitors combine the best of what is currently available for energy storage – batteries, which hold a lot of energy but charge slowly, and capacitors, which charge quickly but hold little energy. The materials must be able to withstand both high power and high energy to avoid breaking, exploding or catching fire.

    “Current batteries and other storage devices are a major bottleneck for transition to clean energy,” ….

  9. California among 33 states that reduced CO2 while growing its economy

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    December 8 2016 KPCC Emily Guerin

    A new report from the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program has found that 33 states and Washington D.C. have managed to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions while simultaneously growing their economies….Lead author Devashree Saha said her findings challenge assertions that efforts to fight global warming will necessarily hurt the economy

    …Decoupled just means any time states have de-linked their economic growth, measured in terms of real GDP, from carbon emissions. Basically your carbon emissions are decreasing and your GDP is increasing…

    Natural gas prices have been low enough to prompt many power plant operators to make the switch from coal, which is twice as carbon intensive as natural gas.

    That’s happening in many parts of the country, and it has been a very important driver in the ability of several states to decouple their emissions from their economic growth.

    Our research surprisingly found that nuclear has been playing a very important role in the ability of states to decouple and decarbonize their economy.  States like Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, they have all managed double-digit economic growth and double-digit reduction in CO2 emissions. A lot of that has to do with the role played by nuclear in these states. Georgia sources more than a quarter of its electricity from nuclear, Tennessee almost a third….

  10. America’s rapidly growing wind industry now employs more than 100,000 people

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    April 19 2017  Samantha Page

    More than 100,000 Americans now work in the wind industry, which is adding jobs much more rapidly than the economy as a whole
    according to new data released Wednesday.

    “We are hiring at a nine times faster rate than the average industry in the country,” Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), a trade group, said at a press conference for the release of the group’s Annual Market Report. Kiernan attributed the strong growth to wind’s increasing efficiency, decreasing costs, and reliability, but also to the extension of the production tax credit, a federal program that was extended at the end of 2015, offering what Kiernan called “clarity and certainty” to the wind market.

    Kiernan announced the findings in Minnesota, which has 20 factories for wind turbines and parts. Overall, the Midwest has driven a historic investment in wind energy: Kiernan noted that there has been $28 billion invested in wind in the upper Midwest, where 26 percent of the electricity comes from wind.

    The renewable energy sector as a whole is booming, with both wind and solar showing impressive gains over the past few years. From 2015 to 2016, solar nearly doubled the amount of capacity installed, and there are now more people working in renewable energy than in fossil fuels in nearly every state in the country….