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Sustainability Science
How might we keep the lights on, water flowing, and natural world vaguely intact? It starts with grabbing innovative ideas/examples to help kick down our limits and inspire a more sustainable world. We implement with rigorous science backed by hard data.
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Are electric cars greener than traditional gas-powered cars? Depends on where you live.

Are electric cars greener than traditional gas-powered cars? Depends on where you live. | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it

Nowhere do automakers sell more hybrid vehicles than California, with its unique combination of environmental consciousness, high gas prices and traffic-choked highways.

But new hybrid models will be in short supply at this week's Los Angeles Auto Show — one sign that the technology is still struggling to break out of its green-car niche, experts say.

PIRatE Lab's insight:

There is nothing new about this analyses, but it is an updating of older efforts with the most recent numbers out there.  It is true that using coal-fired power to juice your your car is problematic, but for most of the county (e.g. coastal areas) most of us would be better off switching to electric transportation systems.  Also, the best possible solution is to power our vehicles with locally-generated power, such as roof top or garage-top solar panels.  

 

The trick is getting this into everyone's hands in an easy, turn-key manner.  I think the tone of this piece misses that key point.  This is an evolving conversation and new technology.  It also needs to be one part of a broad spectrum of approaches to de-carbonizing our energy markets.  Falling back onto the old mantra of "it doesn't work everywhere all the time" is a bit ho-hum and overly simplistic.  Kind of the way some folks feel it is necessary to write an op-ed about their research to get increased attention for it.

 

For those interested in the actual study, you can find it here:

 

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~mansur/papers/GraffZivin_Kotchen_Mansur_MargEmit.pdf

 

There is also an interesting story, in a similar vein, from the LA Times about faltering gas-electric hybrid vehicles at this week's LA Auto show:

 

http://www.latimes.com/business/autos/la-fi-hy-la-auto-show-no-hybrids-20141121-story.html

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Waste coffee grounds set to fuel London with biodiesel and biomass pellets

Waste coffee grounds set to fuel London with biodiesel and biomass pellets | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
Bio-bean, a new London based company, is taking waste coffee grounds and turning them into biofuels. Tim Smedley reports

Via Acquisti & Sostenibilità not-for-profit
PIRatE Lab's insight:

I tried a coffee-ground based "wooden" log for the fireplace last year.  It burned quite nicely and cleanly.  And it smelled like a coffee shop.

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As Overseas Costs Rise, More U.S. Companies Are 'Reshoring'

As Overseas Costs Rise, More U.S. Companies Are 'Reshoring' | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
Low wages in places like China once attracted U.S. companies. But those wages are going up.
PIRatE Lab's insight:

A true price on carbon emissions would further this trend.

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Shipping company Hapag-Lloyd connects first ship to shore power

Shipping company Hapag-Lloyd connects first ship to shore power | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it

When most small boats are at a dock, they typically make an electrical connection to shore power, obtaining 120-VAC from the marina or dock facility. Some larger boats may connect to 240-VAC shore power. Big boats typically can't access electricity that would be needed and so run their own power generation plants when connected to a dock during loading or unloading for a day or two. They just continue to run on electrical power they generate themselves, running their often dirty, diesel engines in port.  These emissions are historically not well regulated by local emissions laws as they are considered an itinerant emitter.

PIRatE Lab's insight:

The North Star is one of the first of this new breed of "plugable" cargo ships which can plug into special sockets when in port and so depower the entirety of its onboard generators.

 

There is an interesting episode airing on the Smithsonian Channel’s Mighty Ships series about this ship, but I can't find a full episode.  I only was able to find a few snippets (like this one), none of which show the electrical coupling aspects.  If you can find it, only the first 10 minutes are worth the watch (the rest is a typcial fake reality drama when no drama actually exists thing).

 

The Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach is moving full bore with adopting such requirements for long haul freighters/terminals amongst a host of approaches to minimize emissions (known as the Clean Air Action Plan) generally.  Lastly you might be interested in both a nice example of a Life Cycle Analysis for the goings on at the Port of Los Angeles and a guide for how entities can improve their emissions.

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Mythbusters answers which is greener, cars or motorcycles?

Mythbusters answers which is greener, cars or motorcycles? | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
Using portable emissions equipment, a wide sampling of cars and bikes from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s and with the help of Dr. Kent Johnson of UC
PIRatE Lab's insight:

In the midst of yet another holiday party, what to my wandering eyes should appear but an excellent episode of Mythbusters (absent reindeer).

 

Here they test whether motocycles or cars are better on the environment.  They test vehicles from the 80s, 90s, 2000s, and current models.  Long story short is that things have been improving over time and current lightweight motocycles perform pretty well in terms of MPG.  But when you factor in actual emissions (VOCx, unburned hydrocarbons, etc.), motorcycles perform much worse than a typical car.

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What's In It For U.S. To Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

What's In It For U.S. To Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions? | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
Top climate strategists see clear benefit to U.S. slashing CO2 emissions no matter what China does.
PIRatE Lab's insight:

This and the following story are great examples of "why should we even try?" when it comes to dealing with global impacts of global problems.  In this case, why should we even try with our California-based policies?

 

Several of my former colleagues are interviewed.  Make sure to pair this with the follow-on (see below) with correspondents in other polluting countries.

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EPA Gets A Win From Supreme Court On Global Warming Emissions — Mostly

The court's 7-2 decision gave the EPA the right to regulate greenhouse gases. But in a separate 5-4 vote, the justices curbed the agency's attempt to rework one section of the Clean Air Act.
PIRatE Lab's insight:

I suppose the best that can be said of this decision is that the anti-science/anti-climate-change-is-a-reality-crew couldn't sway even the conservative court that is the current U.S. Supreme Court.

 

It seems clear that (at least in a general sense) the notion of possibly partially limiting CO2 emissions is no longer a Sisyphean task.  I suppose that is progress.

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Industry in North Dakota to Cut Flared Natural Gas

Industry in North Dakota to Cut Flared Natural Gas | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
Facing criticism and legal trouble, companies working in the Bakken shale field said they would try to recapture more of the natural gas now burned as waste.
PIRatE Lab's insight:

A price on carbon would ensure that this pollution is at least generated for useful work/engines.

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United States Carbon Emissions: An Interactive Heat Map & New Research

United States Carbon Emissions: An Interactive Heat Map & New Research | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it

When it comes to carbon emissions, don’t blame big cities -- blame the suburbs, says a new study from the University of California, Berkeley. The study, released Monday, found that population-dense cities contribute less greenhouse-gas emissions per person than other areas of the United States. However, these cities’ suburbs are so damaging to the environment that they effectively wipe out any climate benefits. The study will be published in science journal Environmental Science & Technology.

 

Using dozens of variables, researchers found that greenhouse-gas emissions -- largely from cars, trucks and other vehicles -- in the suburbs account for about 50 percent of all household emissions in the nation, even though less than 50 percent of the population lives in these areas.


Via Lauren Moss
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What Beyoncé's album means for climate change

What Beyoncé's album means for climate change | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
The digital-first release has compromised CD sales.
PIRatE Lab's insight:

Wow! Beyonce and I (for this year's annual Christmas Mix) had the same idea this year: digital rather than a physical CD.

 

A small change perhaps, but this will nonethless be another incremental step forward.

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What Are Traffic Waves and Why Do They Happen So Much?

What Are Traffic Waves and Why Do They Happen So Much? | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
By Lewis Lehe and Matthew Green Who doesn't love sitting in traffic? Especially when there's no apparent reason for it: no crashes, no tolls, no flaming
PIRatE Lab's insight:

Why congested freeways are not that efficient and cause the freakish "eveybody stops, but there is no accident" situation that drives everyone insane.

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