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Really, really, REALLY great news (#solar #wind, #pv #WarOnCoal in PRC, …)

May 27th, 2017 · No Comments

This guest post from Martin Smith provides a taste (and, truly, just a taste)  of the things happening around the world, related to clean energy and reducing fossil foolish dependences. If Team Trump would get their minds out of promoting 19th century energy, leveraging knowledge of 20th century energy, and turn to 21st century realities — they could put in place policies that would leverage the amazing solar, wind, efficiency, etc advances to truly #MAGA (economically and in terms of world standing).

This may sound a wee bit melodramatic but something just happened that changes everything. The discovery of fire, the wheel, electricity and fossil fuels, combined with our self-destructive nature, actually doomed mankind and the earth to extinction. In the past few years we pushed our atmosphere beyond a sustainable level of CO2 (400ppm). Our planet is hanging on by a thread.

But something truly amazing just happened.

In January 2017, China announced the cancellation of 104 new coal-fired power plants, which would have produced about the same amount of coal electricity currently produced in the United States.


China Cancels 104 Coal Plants

India just announced on Monday May 22, that it has canceled 14 gigawatts of coal-fired plants, about the same as the amount currently produced in the U.K.

India Cancels Coal Power Stations as Solar Prices Hit Record Low

These are world changing, historic developments and it’s not because China and India have a new found respect for the environment. It’s because the cost of utility-scale solar energy fell below the cost of coal for the first time in 2016, and it’s still falling.

Solar Was the Cheapest Source of Electricity in 2016

And then, this happened. Tucson Electric just signed a record power purchase agreement to buy solar power at under 3 cents per kilowatt hour ($30 per megawatt hour). This cut U.S. solar prices in half, well below any other available source. The average U.S. residential price for electricity is nearly 13 cents per kWh, and the average commercial price is 10.5 cents per kWh.

Arizona utility signs record deal, cutting US solar power prices in half

Millions of activists have been pushing hard for decades, but could barely slow the growth of coal. But now the ground has shifted. Even large investment firms like Goldman Sachs are pushing investors into clean energy. This is opening up capital markets and helping proven green technology scale up.

So the world is saved but only if enough of us pitch in to help push us over the top. To survive, we have to reduce our atmospheric CO2 to about 350 ppm. We are at a significant and positive tipping point. We no longer have to appeal to people’s better angels and hope they grow a conscience. We just have to let more people know what is happening and get more people to help. Everyone likes great news! Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell your family. We can do this!

2016 was first year wind and solar came in lower than coal and natural gas

The cost of wind and solar has dropped dramatically over the past seven years

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→ No CommentsTags: coal · Energy · solar · wind power

.@BretStephensNYT is upset w/@HillaryClinton: “I voted for her and she says …”

May 26th, 2017 · No Comments

Cue the world’s smallest violin for climate science denier/confuser Bret Stephens.

Hillary Clinton is emerging into more public engagement. There was her strong speech at Wellesley earlier today (full video after the fold).  And, here is an engrossing New York magazine article Hillary Clinton Is Furious. And Resigned. And Funny. And Worried. Much of that article focuses on ‘why’, just why is misogynist Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

Part of the reason … media both-siderism giving credibility to the incredible (the incredibly insane, damaging, etc … #AlternativeFacts) along with having ‘right-wing advocacy press’.  As per Clinton,

The press, she believes, didn’t make it any easier. “Look, we have an advocacy press on the right that has done a really good job for the last 25 years,” she says. “They have a mission. They use the rights given to them under the First Amendment to advocate a set of policies that are in their interests, their commercial, corporate, religious interests. Because the advocacy media occupies the right, and the center needs to be focused on providing as accurate information as possible. Not both-sides-ism and not false equivalency.”

False equivalency … as per giving equal weight to a peer-reviewed climate scientist and an industry-paid science-denialist lobbyist so that ‘both sides’ get equal time.

Sadly, Clinton (and others) don’t see the situation improving.

The impulse toward false equivalency is only getting worse, in her opinion. “The cable networks seem to me to be folding into a posture of, ‘Oh, we want to try to get some of those people on the right, so maybe we better be more, quote, evenhanded.’?”

This sparked a follow-on

When I mention MSNBC’s hiring of conservatives including George Will, and The New York Times’ new climate-change-skeptic opinion columnist, Bret Stephens, her brow furrows.

“Why … would … you … do … that?” she says. “Sixty-six million people voted for me, plus, you know, the crazy third-party people. So there’s a lot of people who would actually appreciate stronger arguments on behalf of the most existential challenges facing our country and the world, climate change being one of them! It’s clearly a commercial decision. But I don’t think it will work. I mean, they’re laughing on the right at these puny efforts to try to appease people on the right.”

Let’s take this in for a moment.

First, she’s right, who do they think they’re fooling? The NYTimes is begging people to provide them nice things to say about Trump and are hiring distorting columnists from the Wall Street Journal (Stephens). What do they think, all of a sudden Breitbart will suddenly start encouraging people to buy subscriptions? Clinton is right, “these puny efforts to appease” are being laughed at by the right while distressing those living in reality and concerned about real issues like climate change.

And, when it comes to reality, Hillary Clinton is (again) right — people want truthful engagement from outlets like the NYTimes and MSNBC.

People … would … appreciate stronger arguments on … the most existential challenges … climate change being one …

And, both George Will and Bret Stephens are columnists who have used their (pretty huge) soap boxes to promote confusion about climate science & the climate science consensus, to attack climate scientists and science, and to undermine efforts to make progress in addressing (mitigation and adaptation) climate change.

Hillary Clinton’s commentary evidently got under Bret Stephens’ skin:

Because Donald Trump was so egregiously bad that even right-wing pundits like Will and Stephens couldn’t stomach the situation, were #NeverTrump, evidently Stephens believes they are now beyond critique. Once they went #NeverTrump, reading Stephens’ implications, they evidently earned the right to be #NeverCriticized. Sorry Bret, the real world doesn’t work that way — no get out of jail card to play.

Let’s be clear, while there are a myriad of reasons for Donald Trump occupying the Oval Office even though Hillary Clinton received 3M more votes, not being sufficiently reverential to Never Trump Stephens isn’t one of them.

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→ No CommentsTags: Energy

Some thoughts re #LNG exports: environmental and financial risks/opportunities

May 26th, 2017 · No Comments

Since about the middle of the Obama Administration, with the Shale Revolution driving down natural gas prices, exporting of natural gas via liquid natural gas (LNG) facilities has been ‘hot and heavy’. The Russian seizure of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine along with use of gas as pressure on the Ukraine (and others around Europe) made international security an ever-stronger portion of the discLNG tankerussion.  Discussions of LNG exports, including those around the world advocating for significant U.S. LNG exports as insurance and balancing against Russia, seem to miss some significant issues.

After the fold, see some thoughts on this …

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→ No CommentsTags: analysis · natural gas

Deep Faith and Climate Change

May 26th, 2017 · No Comments

This guest post from AstroCook is from just before Donald Trump took over the Oval Office but that timing is fundamentally irrelevant to the core of the discussion: an example of the challenge of leaping divides to spark changed thinking on climate science (and climate-science denial) even in a ‘civil’ conversation. From it:

“Faith, action, and climate change …”

“God gave us brains and the ability to learn about the environment around us, and we’d only have ourselves to blame if we fail to use them to protect the only planet we can live on.”

This was essentially the end of the conversation, as it did not progress beyond FoF’s reply that God will decide when the world will end, not humans.

I tried pleading, “But God made all the scientists too .. and they are here to understand the warning signs, so why dismiss them? Maybe God is giving us the people we need to help save ourselves.”

No answers here about how to solve/resolve bringing such a divide in weltanschauung but an interesting perspective.

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→ No CommentsTags: guest post · religion and global warming · SciComm · Science Communication

Musings on “Energy Independence” …

May 23rd, 2017 · No Comments

The mistaken priority of “Energy Independence” is in vogue in no small part because of the recklessly dangerous and backwards-thinking Trump Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth. The EO does not directly define the term “energy independence” (the word “independence”, for example, is only in the title) but the implication is clear. In short, that EO seeks to maximize (private profits from) exploitation of U.S. fossil fuel resources while minimizing any barriers (such as protecting human health and the environment (whether streams, wildlife, land reclamation, or the atmosphere)) to that exploitation.

[update] From today:

that sparked this great reaction:

Recently, a journalist seeking to explore ‘just what is energy independence’ reached out for a conversation. After the fold are some musings as to ‘energy independence’, why it is simply a misleading term and rather absurd target, why energy resiliency/security/sustainability are likelier better terms, the power of efficiency, and how this EO really seems counter to any serious consideration or desire for energy independence and/or energy resiliency and/or energy security and/or energy sustainability.

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→ No CommentsTags: Energy · Trump

Team Trump directly censors climate science statement

May 22nd, 2017 · No Comments

The US Geological Service issued a press release last Friday on an article/study about the threats sea-level rise create for US coasts, In Next Decades, Frequency of Coastal Flooding Will Double Globally.

Global climate change drives sea-level rise, increasing the frequency of coastal flooding

Those words did not appear in the above-linked USGS press release — though they were in the press release’s draft.

“It’s a crime against the American people,” Neil Frazer, a geophysics professor at University of Hawaii at Manoa and one of the study’s co-authors, said of the line’s removal and of other efforts to limit scientific communication from federal agencies. “Because scientists have known for at least 50 years that anthropogenic climate change is a reality.”

He added: “The suppression of this information is a scandal.”

There are numerous stories of interest and concern here:

As to the last, I tweeted this last Thursday about the press release:

My tweet was after seeing this:

I then shared the material with a range of climate scientists and communicators alongs with people specifically focused on sea-level rise (SLR).

From rather well-known, extremely knowledgeable, PhD expert, strong (even strident) climate hawk, the note:

The release is not shy about talking about sea level rise and SLR projections. It’s certainly possible that USGS edited out a mention of climate change, but  it equally possible that it was just a incidental omission.

After all, the actual study directly comments on climate change in its first paragraph:

From a Director of a significant scientific institution, the note included (removing some potentially identifying information):

I don’t believe that there is any Trump influence on their writing and believe that they are all first rate scientists who are probably more focused on the immediate science of future sea-level rise rather than diving into climate change issues.

Neither of these people are anything close to Team Trump devotees.

Both are serious experts — in science and even in sea-level rise.

Both are well-aware of Bush Administration science censorship.

Both have expressed concerns about Trump’s lack of science knowledge and Team Trump’s anti-science passions/science denial.

Yet both were reticent, in private communication, to even suggest that they thought this was a situation of censorship.

They knew the ‘first-rate scientist’ authors and did not want, I suppose, to see the insidious hand of climate-denial censorship impacting those ‘first-rate scientists’.

Here is a situation where

  • those “first rate scientist” authors were (see that Post story) willing (anxious even) to talk publicly about the censorship.
    • Note that their jobs are likely not on the line and, within their professional environments, they might actually ‘gain’ due to speaking out publicly rather than risk ‘losing their jobs’/hurting their status.
  • the censorship was obvious simply through reading the piece —
    • just reading the press release made one wonder why ‘climate change’ wasn’t there in a sentence or two for context about SLR.
  • the censorship did not impact the actual substance —
    • that SLR is accelerating and will lead to more coastal flooding.

Not hard to imagine situations where:

  • People fear that they might lose their jobs and are reticent about speaking out;
  • The censorship is more insidious and hidden, harder to discern; and,
  • The censorship impacts the actual substance and conclusions, turning science into pseudo-science or actual science denial.

As to the above interlocutors, on sharing The Washington Post confirmation of the censorship, one hasn’t (yet…) responded and the other got back to me with a simple:

You were right!

I really wish that I had been wrong.



UPDATE:  Is this ‘how’ the Post reporter found the key to getting the details?

So my husband came home this week pretty shaken up. And if any of you know Patrick, he is the most mellow guy ever. It takes a LOT to rile him.

To back up a second, let me just say (in case you don’t know), Patrick works for the US Geological Survey. In other words, he’s a federal employee.

Part of the year, Patrick drives an ATV along our California shorelines, taking data points of the sand. He and his team also drive jet skis in the surf zone in a grid-like pattern, taking more measurements of the sand below the water. He has a team of a dozen employees and is the research director of the Climate Impacts program.

So let’s get to what happened this week. A paper where Patrick wrote about his findings published. Nothing new there. He and his co-authors have been writing papers for over a decade, monitoring the shores so that we as a community can better protect the beaches and structures along the water (including airports, sanitation facilities, etc., etc.). But along the way, in his pursuit to monitor beach patterns, there’s been a distinct finding that sea level is rising and beaches are eroding–not a belief, but an actual fact he and other scientists from around the world can confirm through scores of data.

Keep in mind, Patrick’s been at the USGS for almost 14 years. Which means, he’s worked beneath the Bush, Obama, and now the Trump administrations. But here’s what’s different.

Never in the history of his career at the USGS has the government insisted on removing a phrase from a press release for one of his papers. Basically, the press release would NOT be released by the government with the phrase still in there.

What was the phrase you ask? Here’s the sentence:

“Global climate change drives sea-level rise, increasing the frequency of coastal flooding.”

The Department of the Interior removed the phrase “Climate change.” The first thing I though of was censorship. This administration doesn’t believe in climate change, so they removed the language from the press release. But that wasn’t the most disconcerting thing.

For every major paper Patrick’s authored or co-authored, he’s received dozens of phone interviews, and been interviewed on NPR and through local news stations to talk about the findings. Because this is important stuff, right? And reporters want to share with the community new findings so we can be more prepared as a community.

How many reporters called him after the government said they sent the press release to hundreds of reporters for the NATURE paper, one of the worlds biggest journals on the environment?


Not one.

I think that’s weird. And kinda scary.

→ No CommentsTags: Sea Level Rise · Trump Administration

Polluting Industry Front Group’s Press Release Fails to Mention Key Result From Poll

May 22nd, 2017 · 1 Comment

According to the topline data from a recent poll, 89% of the Virginian poll respondents support “Renewable energy projects, such as solar and wind power” … 69% strongly.  The press release from the (self-proclaimed, astroturf) Consumer Energy Alliance (“a front group for the energy industry that opposes political efforts to regulate carbon”) somehow failed to mention this figure, something truly reflecting “consumer energy” preferences and desires, but instead focused on highlighting lesser and weaker support for projects like Keystone XL and Virginia pipelines. As to the Atlantic Coast pipeline, the CEA asserts that “Fifty-four percent support the project in Virginia.”  (Note that a poll last fall found overwhelming opposition among Virginians to this pipeline.) In another inexplicable piece of absent information, CEA didn’t highlight that just 20% of those are ‘strongly support’ (a drop of 5 points since their previous “poll”).

While CEA’s breathless press release has some misleading elements, leverages (skews?) the polling to (in essence) threaten politicians (in essence, in likely misreading of the material from this somewhat skew poll: politicians watch out: voters will punish you for not supporting polluting energy projects (without, of course, the polling discussing pollution and having wording supporting the polluting energy projects (somewhat)), and is uncertain as to its overall validity, lots of interesting items throughout:

  • Yet another poll showing voters of all types STRONGLY support renewable energy projects.
  • Neither candidate for Governor in the Democratic Primary shows over 50% name recognition.
  • Dominion’s involvement doesn’t seem to change support for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline
  • Support for coal-fired electricity has significantly fallen since a 2015 poll, with a significant increase in opposition to coal-fired electricity (including a 9 percent jump in ‘strongly oppose’).

In terms of true skewing of the situation, the poll has multiple elements that I — as someone focused on energy issues — wished were true but simply don’t pass ‘the sniff test’. Here is the starkest example:

At least 80 percent of voters in each state say [energy] issues are very or somewhat important in their voting decisions.

Really? Really? Does anyone think that “energy”, in a governor’s election in Virginia, will influence the voting choices of 80 percent of the voters in any meaningful way?

Looking ahead, how important are energy issues in terms of how you will vote in the Gubernatorial election this year?  Are they very important, somewhat important, not very important, or not important at all in determining how you will vote?
The reported response: 31% “very important” and 52% “somewhat important”.  Color me skeptical (to the extreme)  Assuming absolute good will from an astroturf group seeking numbers to enable pressuring politicians, perhaps that “very important” and “somewhat important” response  rate is an artifice of asking the question after a series of questions on — surprise, surprise — energy issues. Not even necessary to call this push polling to see the questionable nature of that result.
In short, while there might be some ‘interesting’ material to take from this poll results, make sure to take those results/that ‘interesting’ material with a grain of salt (and the press release with many grains of salt).
NOTE: For another (overlapping) perspective, see Lowell Feld, Blue Virginia, Sorry, this is NOT a poll.


→ 1 CommentTags: Energy

Ranking: What does it mean to be #1 on climate

May 20th, 2017 · 3 Comments

Associated with a recent announcement about an Executive Order for the drafting of potential regulatory structure for a carbon-trading program to be put out for public comment and then consideration under Virginia’s next Governor, Governor Terry McAuliffe tweeted out that this would “keep VA #1 on climate issues”.

While that tweet generated some ridiculing from clean energy activists, McAuliffe’s tweeting assertion raising the question: What does it mean to be “#1 on climate issues”?

Smart Asset

Which States Lead on Renewable Energy Policy and Progress

How might we measure this? Here are some potential items:

  • Carbon Emissions per capita?
  • Energy use per capita?
  • Energy Efficiency? (home? business? car?)
  • ‘Climate-aware policies’?
  • Industrial pollution?
  • “Leading the charge on renewable energy”?
  • Or …

Thus, a quick search for ‘what measurements’ might exist to help illuminate the question of who is “#1 on climate issues”.  Essentially, across the board, Virginia is middle-of-the-pack (or toward the bottom) in results, , and policies to address climate change.


Table 1: Various Measures of States related to “Climate Issues”

Category Best Worst Virginia Source
Per Capita Energy Use New York Louisiana 30 EIA
CO2 Emissions Per Capita Washington, DC Texas 18 EIA
Energy Efficiency MA/CA (tied) North Dakoa 33 ACEEE
Energy Efficiency New York South Carolina 35 Wallet Hub
Home Energy Efficiency Utah Louisiana 36 Wallet Hub
Car Energy Efficiency New York North Dakota 31 Wallet Hub
Worst Industrial Pollution  Ohio 14 World Atlas
Toxic Chemical Releases Rhode Island Alaska 20 Scorecard
Renewable Energy Leaders Oregon Smart Asset
Clean Energy Momentum California Union of Concerned Scientists
Greenest States Vermont Wyoming 31 Wallet Hub
Environmental quality Vermont Montana 46 Wallet Hub
Eco-Friendly Behaviors Oregon Louisiana 39 Wallet Hub
Climate-Change Contributions Delaware Montana 15 Wallet Hub



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→ 3 CommentsTags: Energy

The Power of Refugee Camps going Clean Energy

May 19th, 2017 · No Comments

The UNHCR has announced that the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan is now 100% powered by solar energy. This is (putting aside, I guess, places that were ‘powered’ by burning wood …) “the first refugee camp powered by renewable energy.”

Azraq refugee camp’s solar farm, Adeeb al Bassar, Jordan.

The 2-megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) plant will allow UNHCR to provide affordable and sustainable electricity to 20,000 Syrian refugees living in almost 5,000 shelters in Azraq camp, covering the energy needs of the two villages connected to the national grid. Each family can now connect a fridge, a TV, a fan, have light inside the shelter and charge their phones,

Prior to this installation, the Azraq camp had infrequent, unreliable, and often simply inadequate electricity from the (over)stressed Jordanian grid. This 2 mw solar far turns this equation around and could well mean a net exporting of electricity to the grid.

Paid for with an Ikea grant, the solar farm eliminates the UNHCR’s electricity costs and thus frees up resources for meeting other humanitarian needs.

And, as (okay, sadly, if …) the refugee camp is dismantled when it is no longer required, these solar panels can continue clean electrons into the Jordanian grid.

Lost, somewhat, in the celebration of this milestone (first 100% clean electricity refugee camp) is the real power of this and ability to act in the future:

  • Refugee camps are typically ‘off-grid’ or in high-stressed environments with very high cost and high-pollution electricity (such as from diesel generators).  Solar pv — which is dropping rapidly in price and increasingly cost competitive in straight out competition with fossil-fuel sources — can deliver electrons for a fraction of the cost of a diesel generator.
  • Like with the U.S. military in deployed operations, the straight dollar cost isn’t the only concern: one has to get oil to those diesel generators. Installing solar panels, by definition, reduces the amount of transportation required to support a refugee camp. And, in places with uncertain (or non-existent) security situations (think Somalia, Darfur, inside Syria, …), reducing that transportation doesn’t only save money but saves lives.
  • Solar pv is a natural with distributed grids — including those, like refugee camps, which can rapidly emerge and expand.

Now, one needs to be careful in calling this ‘green’, as it a truly ‘green’ refugee camp would be highly resource (energy and water) efficient, provide clean (including for example, low-VOC) housing that can be transitioned into long-term housing, have agricultural activities (from container gardening to developing permaculture in areas around the camp) to employ & feed the refugees, etc, etc …

The Azraq deployment is a good step forward and should be lauded as such.  However, solar pv should be standard kit, not press release material, for the UNHCR.

→ No CommentsTags: solar · UN

When it comes to boxed vs bottled water, choose the tap …

May 19th, 2017 · No Comments

Internet advertising … any who goes into those internet tubes encounters (far too much of) it.  Most of the time, it just slips past us though there are those items that jump to the attention. Yes, I — like 100s of millions of others — have bought things due to such advertising. (Wow, advertising works … ) But, that advertising is far from always welcome and, at times, is just counter-productive.

Here is a short post on just one of those ‘counter-productive’ moments. A banner ad on a site promoting how ‘Boxed Water is Better’ caught my attention.


Simple truth

Go with tap water.

Filter if you wish/must, but GO TAP!

That ad sent me to Boxed Water is Better with the promises for planting trees in exchange for online purchases and social media discussions/references. (Wonder whether this post will get two trees planted.) WOW! Isn’t that great, rather than those plastic bottles you can had ‘natural’ containers for your water. Wonder the web and isn’t hard to find stenographic-like posts touting the benefits of ‘boxed water’.

Let’s be more accurate in the description:

  • Boxed water is not nearly as bad as glass-bottled water and, in many (perhaps even most) circumstances, won’t be as bad as plastic-bottled water.
  • In extremely few circumstances (exceptions are horrid situations like Flint … with exceptions even to that) is real analysis likely to find that ‘boxed water is better than (decently filtered) tap water.

However, “Boxed Water is Not Nearly As Bad” isn’t that powerful an advertising slogan, able to carve into the >$100B/year bottled water market.

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→ No CommentsTags: advertising · water