The energy that powers the world comes mostly from coal, gas, and oil, and that’s led us to CO2 levels over 390 parts per billion now, and climate change. We can think of climate change as a design question: where do we want to end up? Impact studies tell us what will happen to the planet as we warm up—it's basically a litany of horrors. At a 1.5 degree increase, we'll lose 10 percent of species. At 2 degrees, we'll lose 90 percent of coral reefs. At 3 degrees, 1 to 4 billion people will face water shortages, leading to war across the planet. We need to each understand the basic math behind energy and climate change so we can reach the right solutions. We need a massive shift to renewable energy, and we also need changes in our everyday lives. One first step is understanding your own carbon footprint.
Via Lauren Moss
In an amazing sustainability quadruple play, researchers at the University of Colorado Denver are working on a fuel cell that can desalinate water, treat wastewater and generate electricity in a single process, while producing hydrogen gas that is re-used to make the treatment process run efficiently. What’s amazing about it is that the operation is run by microscopic living organisms that exist all around us and even inside of us, otherwise known as microbes – yes, microbes
Electric Car's insight:
The New Super-Duper Desalinating Microbial Fuel Cell
The Colorado researchers have stepped up the microbial fuel cell – wastewater connection to include a desalination capability, and that’s where it gets interesting. They were stumped for a while on how to get the whole operation to run efficiently, until they investigated the potential for storing the hydrogen waste gas from the process. Building on research conducted at Penn State University, the team produced a study demonstrating that the process results in enough hydrogen to run the desalination component. Not only that, it creates excess hydrogen that can be put to other uses.
The U.S. Navy and Microbial Fuel Cells
The Office of Naval Research is behind the Colorado study, which should come as no surprise. For obvious reasons, the U.S. Navy has a long term interest in developing high efficiency desalination processes, and now it foresees a future in which entire ships are powered by microbial fuel cells which can scavenge energy on-the-go from seawater. Bio-based fuel cells and batteries are also of great interest to other branches of the armed services, so it’s a safe bet that microbial fuel cells will cross over into mainstream civilian use…especially if the incoming Congress continues funding for new energy research.
Predicting cheap oil for the long term is impossible due to the fact that as oil wells age it becomes more expensive to extract the crude. A depression or new technology may help.
Electric Car's insight:
Here's the short version of why forecasts of low long-term oil and natural gas prices are almost certainly wrong: It costs more than that to get the stuff out of the ground. Only two things could actually lead to low long-term prices: 1) Somebody could invent and deploy some genuinely brand new technology that makes it really cheap once again to get oil and gas out of the ground or 2) we could have a deep and grinding deflationary depression that brings demand for oil and natural gas down so much that prices collapse.
Here's why: The full cost of producing new oil for the 50 largest publicly traded oil companies in the world is $92 a barrel according to Bernstein Research.
The same logic applies to natural gas. The bulk of new U.S. supplies are coming from so-called shale gas deposits. Looking at the actual data, petroleum consultants Art Berman and Lynn Pittinger found that industry claims of profitability of shale gas production at $4 per thousand cubic feet were based on excluding important costs such as land acquisition.
Once all the costs are figured in, Berman and Pittinger found that costs for gas wells drilled in the Fayetteville Shale, the Haynesville Shale, and the Barnett Shale were $8.31, $8.68 and $8.75, respectively.
If land acquisition is excluded and only drilling, completion and other variable costs are included, the cost falls to $5.06, $5.63, and $6.80, respectively. Even these lower costs are still far above what some forecasts say will be the long-term U.S. price of natural gas.
But, natural gas drillers will not drill wells indefinitely that lose money
Basically, the OIl guys and Gas guys are losing their shirts.
Faced with scarce oil supplies and polluted cities, Beijing has ordered its booming auto industry to make a great leap forward in technology.
Electric Car's insight:
If you want to get a sense of just how car-crazy China is today, visit Chengdu, a booming city of 5.3 million in the southwestern part of the country. On a crisp Saturday recently, tens of thousands of eager new auto buffs have swarmed the opening of the Chengdu auto show. The would-be buyers pack into eight airplane-hangar-size structures filled with hundreds of sparkling new models being shown off by young Chinese women in cowboy hats and purple hot pants dancing to techno music.
China has just launched an Apollo moon shot of sorts: The government recently decreed that 5 million electric cars will be traveling the nation's roads by 2020 -- up from basically none today. According to banking giant HSBC, that will equate to 35% of the global electric-vehicle market.
What that means is that China, which last year rocketed past the U.S. as the world's largest market for new-auto sales, is also determined to become its most innovative. As part of the country's 12th five-year plan (2011--2015), Beijing has pledged that it will do whatever it takes to help the Chinese car industry take the lead in electric vehicles (See: China vs. the U.S. in electric vehicles). (Its long-term plan also calls for building bullet trains, subways, and electric buses to alleviate traffic congestion.)
"The Chinese are trailing in the development of internal-combustion engines," says Bill Russo, a senior adviser at Booz & Co. in Beijing who covers the car industry. "They figure, Why not leapfrog that technology and become a dominant global purveyor of battery-powered vehicles?"
A new survey of experts shows solar power will become much cheaper through 2025, while expanding greatly, but for these trends to continue for the long term will require a commitment to funding research. Prices for solar modules—the part of solar panels that produce electricity—will continue to fall, in line with the long-term trend since 1980, according to a survey of experts by Near Zero, a nonprofit energy research organization. To get a sense of what future prices for solar power are likely to be, as well as other challenges and bottlenecks that the industry faces, Near Zero conducted a formal, quantitative survey from leaders in the industry, universities, and national labs, as a means of formally collecting expert judgments on a topic. By aggregating forecasts made independently by a variety of experts, these results reflect the collective wisdom of the group about how the solar power industry is most likely to develop, and also help to characterize the range of uncertainty about the future...
Via Lauren Moss
In turn, climate change stands as a stress test for insurance, the world’s largest industry, with U.S. $4.6 trillion in revenues, 7% of the global economy.
Insurers must also tackle risks emerging from society’s responses to climate change, including how structures are built and energy is produced.
This article describes industry trends, activities, and promising avenues for future effort.
Insurers are now supporting climate research, developing climate-responsive products and services, raising awareness of climate change, reducing in-house emissions, quantifying and disclosing climate risks, incorporating climate change into investment decisions, and engaging in public policy.
Members of the industry have taken a lead role in raising public awareness of global warming, supporting climate research, and mounting efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making their own operations more energy efficient, and through their investments in managing a $25 trillion portfolio, he said.
This website aims to explain what the German Energy Transition is, how it works, and what challenges lay ahead. It is intended to provide facts and explain the politics and policies to an international audience.
Electric Car's insight:
Already, it is clear that intermittent solar and wind power will eventually cut deeply into baseload power.
Germans have been aware that baseload power is incompatible with intermittent renewables for years.
To pay for such reserve generating capacity, the power market will need to be redesigned, however, which is why Germany is now increasingly talking about a capacity market and a strategic power reserve.
In particular, there is talk about the need for baseload power, which fluctuating wind turbines and solar panels cannot provide.
To the surprise of many foreign onlookers, Germans realize that baseload power demand will soon be a thing of the past.
Now, power consumption remains unchanged and still peaks at above 70 megawatts on certain days, but solar and wind push back conventional power production into the lower 40s – roughly the level of baseload power that big power corporations are set up to cover.
If the German PV market continued to grow at the level of those two years, the country could have more than 150 percent of peak demand in the summer, when demand peaks at between 60 and 70 gigawatts during the week and as little as 50 gigawatts of the weekend.
Clearly, Germany will need a fleet of very flexible, dispatchable power generators that can ramp up every day from around ten gigawatts to 50 gigawatts or more within just a few hours.
The country does not have this much flexible generating capacity at present, and all current plans for new power plants are now in question given the new market conditions of lower wholesale prices.
The human population of the Earth today is analogous to the passengers on the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic. Due to a combination of arrogance and hubris it was considered ‘too big to fail’; and where have we heard that before?…
Firstly, the big machine of the Titanic is like the huge system that is modern civilisation today. The Titanic had huge momentum and could not quickly turn away from disaster [even if the wheel was turned the right way].
Secondly, it carried First, Second and Third Class passengers, which are analogous to citizens of Developed, Emerging, and Less Developed economies; wherein the poorest will be the worst affected by climate change [only 25% of Third Class passengers survived - compared with 60% of First Class].
Thirdly, we can now see the iceberg [i.e. anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD)] very clearly but, even so, we cannot turn away from it because of the political momentum of our fossil fuel based systems.
There are too many people making money out of the system the way the system works right now. Those people are in control and until they relinquish control and/or turn the wheel [the right way] we are not going to avoid hitting the iceberg…
When we hit it, the rich will still maintain their access to land, food and water; whereas the poorest will lose it…
This story [of the Titanic] will always fascinate people because it is such a perfect analogy for our current predicament.
In an essay by Gail Tverberg, who writes the Our Finite World blog. On her About page, Gail describes herself as… “an actuary interested in finite world issues – oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change.”
In 1992, the World got together and agreed to start trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
We failed. Since 2002, global emissions have accelerated.
For decades, people have dismissed the idea that oil production might peak soon as foolish nonsense. It is not dismissed as such today.
Today, Peak Oil is a reality; one that is driving global economic stagnation.
Echoing the points made by Dr Samuel Alexander of the Simplicity Institute, Gail highlights the Perfect Storm of problems arising from the urgent need to decarbonise our economies; and the fact that many of the things we need to do to achieve that ultimate goal will require fossil fuel to be used.
Echoing the points made by Garrett Hardin in his 1968 ‘ Tragedy of the Commons’ paper, Gail highlights the essential need for a global solution, globally implemented (because otherwise those who do not implement the solution will gain an economic advantage over those that do).
Inspired by a recent Wall Street Journal article, Sustainable America has created the following infographic to show how food is wasted and lost around the world, and what can be done about it.
Food waste and food security are serious problems, but there are current solutions and ways you can help. Read on to learn more, and stay tuned for our next blog post, which will delve deeper into some of the points made by Lappe and Nierenberg in the Wall Street Journal piece.
NASA scientists say 2012 was the ninth warmest of any year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures.
Electric Car's insight:
"The U.S. temperatures in the summer of 2012 are an example of a new trend of outlying seasonal extremes that are warmer than the hottest seasonal temperatures of the mid-20th century," GISS director James E. Hansen said. "The climate dice are now loaded. Some seasons still will be cooler than the long-term average, but the perceptive person should notice that the frequency of unusually warm extremes is increasing. It is the extremes that have the most impact on people and other life on the planet."
The temperature analysis produced at GISS is compiled from weather data from more than 1,000 meteorological stations around the world, satellite observations of sea-surface temperature, and Antarctic research station measurements. A publicly available computer program is used to calculate the difference between surface temperature in a given month and the average temperature for the same place during 1951 to 1980. This three-decade period functions as a baseline for the analysis. The last year that experienced cooler temperatures than the 1951 to 1980 average was 1976.
The electric car is finally about to move from idea to reality. Currently there are barely more than 2,000 on the road in the world's two largest car markets (China and the U.S.) combined. But that number is about to soar.
Electric Car's insight:
The electric car is finally about to move from idea to reality. Currently there are barely more than 2,000 on the road in the world's two largest car markets (China and the U.S.) combined.
But that number is about to soar.
Beijing has demanded that its fast-growing auto industry put at least 5 million all-electric cars on the road by 2020. Will the U.S. keep up?
There are more benefits to driving a solar charged vehicle than meets the eye.
As technology for these vehicles improve, so will their travel distance and accessibility, as charging stations are becoming more common, with locations at airports, malls, and even college campuses.
Electric vehicles are good for the environment, and recent studies have shown they also play a role in our health.
This infographic outlines their benefits, compares emissions from the different types of charging stations, maps locations across the US, and summarizes the positive impact electric vehincles have on the economy, environment and our health.
Built secretly, Tesla and SolarCity have revealed the first six Superchargers, which will allow the Model S and other electric cars that have the hardware fitted to drive long distances with ultra fast charging, 100% free through California, Nevada and Arizona.
Tesla Motors and Elon Musk, CEO, have delivered an audacious preemptive strike on BigOil and Fossil Fuel dealers:
Tesla has grabbed the moral environmental high ground with the ambition to have these Solar Powered SuperChargers installed throughout the U.S.A. and then in 2013 - Asia and Europe
The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters – and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown.
Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting.
The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.
The NRA is planning to hold a major news conference in the Washington, DC area on Friday, December 21.
Details will be released to the media at the appropriate time.
The “My Sandy Hook Family Fund" has been established by local Sandy Hook, CT parents and friends dedicated to providing immediate and continuing support for the 26 families of those who lost children and loved ones in the Sandy Hook School tragedy.
Electric Car's insight:
We are the parents of the children who survived. We are the classmates, friends, and the little league coaches. Sandy Hook is where we live -- it is our proud community. We ask the world to join us not only in our grief but also in our burning need take some of the burdens off these families in their time of incredible pain. To bear their cross in some small way. We intend to use donations to pay for immediate needs, including funeral services, as well as ongoing living expenses such as food, mortgages payments, daycare, insurances and fuel until they are back on solid ground.
Please help us help our own neighbors beyond sharing their tears.
All net funds received will go directly to the families who lost children and immediate family members.
Crabs invading the Antarctic continental shelf could deal a crushing blow to a rare ecosystem.
Electric Car's insight:
Submersible pilots from the University of Ghent in Belgium find invading crustaceans at Antarctica's Palmer Deep in 2010.
MARIA STENZEL On a dim February evening, seven people crowded around a row of television monitors in a shack on the rear deck of the RV Nathaniel B. Palmer.
The research icebreaker was idling 30 kilometres off the coast of Antarctica with a cable as thick as an adult's wrist dangling over the stern.
At the end of that cable, on the continental shelf 1,400 metres down, a remote-operated vehicle (ROV) skimmed across the sea floor, surveying a barren, grey mudscape.
The eerie picture of desolation, piped back to the television monitors, was the precursor to an unwelcome discovery.
The ROV had visited 11 different sea-floor locations during this 57-day research cruise along the Antarctic Peninsula in 2010.
Each time, it had found plenty of life, mostly invertebrates: sea lilies waving in the currents; brittlestars with their skinny, sawtoothed arms; and sea pigs, a type of sea cucumber that lumbers along the sea floor on water-inflated legs.
But at this spot, they were all absent.
After 15 minutes, the reason became clear: a red-shelled crab, spidery and with a leg-span as wide as a chessboard, scuttled into view of the ROV's cameras.
It probed the mud methodically — right claw, left claw, right claw — looking for worms or shellfish.
Another crab soon appeared, followed by another and another.
The crowded shack erupted into chatter.
“They're natural invaders,” murmured Craig Smith, a marine ecologist from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
“They're coming in with the warmer water.”
Cold temperatures have kept crabs out of Antarctic seas for 30 million years.
But warm water from the ocean depths is now intruding onto the continental shelf, and seems to be changing the delicate ecological balance.
An analysis1 by Smith and his colleagues suggests that 1.5 million crabs already inhabit Palmer Deep, the sea-floor valley that the ROV was exploring that night (see 'A warming welcome').
And native organisms have few ways of defending themselves.
“There are no hard-shell-crushing predators in Antarctica,” says Smith. “When these come in they're going to wipe out a whole bunch of endemic species.”
Researchers are worried that rising crab populations and other effects of the warming waters could irrevocably change a sea-floor ecosystem that resembles no other on Earth.
Scientists are racing to document these effects, even as they continue to explore this little-understood region.
“This could have a really major reorganizing impact on these unique and endemic marine communities,” says Richard Aronson, a marine biologist at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, who was part of a team that found crabs on another part of Antarctica's continental shelf in December 2010 (ref.
“It's a fascinating thing,” he says.
“A little scary, because it's a very obvious footprint of climate change.”
Cut off by cold Aronson has worried about the fragility of life on the Antarctic shelf for more than a decade.
Students are demanding that university endowment funds rid themselves of coal, oil and gas stocks in hopes of bringing climate change onto the national political agenda.
— A group of Swarthmore College students is asking the school administration to take a seemingly simple step to combat pollution and climate change: sell off the endowment’s holdings in large fossil fuel companies.
In recent weeks, college students on dozens of campuses have demanded that university endowment funds rid themselves of coal, oil and gas stocks.
“In the near future, the political tide will turn and the public will demand action on climate change,” Stephen Mulkey, the Unity College president, wrote in a letter to other college administrators.
No school with an endowment exceeding $1 billion has agreed to divest itself of fossil fuel stocks.
“We always appreciate hearing from students about their viewpoints, but Harvard is not considering divesting from companies related to fossil fuels,” Kevin Galvin, a university spokesman, said by e-mail.
Mr. McKibben is touring the country by bus, speaking at sold-out halls and urging students to begin local divestment initiatives focusing on 200 energy companies.
Speaking recently to an audience at the University of Vermont, Mr. McKibben painted the fossil fuel industry as an enemy that must be defeated, arguing that it had used money and political influence to block climate action in Washington.
Eric Wohlschlegel, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, said that continued use of fossil fuels was essential for the country’s economy, but that energy companies were investing heavily in ways to emit less carbon dioxide.
In an interview, Mr. McKibben said he recognized that a rapid transition away from fossil fuels would be exceedingly difficult.
“They need more incentive to make the transition that they must know they need to make, from fossil fuel companies to energy companies,” Mr. McKibben said.