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Climate change threatening what might be world’s most ubiquitous addictive drug

December 28th, 2017 · No Comments

This guest post is from Pakalolo.

While not thrilled with ‘your luxury is at risk’ climate change discussions ( from skiing to wine to …_, the reality of threats to such luxuries can … or might be able to break through to get (some) people’s attention and, perhaps, (support for) action to reduce climate impacts.) In this case, the title caught my attention — coffee is my one ‘addiction’, with withdrawal symptoms emergent when I don’t have that morning coffee (or that second cup …).

This year will rank as one of the planet’s top five warmest years on record according to new data  from NOAA and NASA.

NASA concludes that 2017 will be the 2nd warmest year on record behind 2016 which in turn removed 2015 from the top spot. Meanwhile, NOAA predicts 2017 will be the 3rd warmest year on record.

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Playthings lead to substance? Incremental to real change? What does a “solar train” really mean?

December 22nd, 2017 · Comments Off on Playthings lead to substance? Incremental to real change? What does a “solar train” really mean?

Electrification of rail, a global phenomena (with, sigh, a major exception in the US/Canadian market), has significant positive impacts:

  • Improved rail capacity
    • with no other change, roughly 15% improvement in capacity due increased efficiency in braking/acceleration
  • Interesting options for improving grid reliability, connections, etc …
    • rail right of way as viable for power lines
  • Reduced costs
    • moving via electricity
  • Increased safety
    • including due to reduced oil movements
  • Reduced pollution
    • both local and globally
    • moving from diesel to electric locomotives (or overhead power lines)
  • Solar panels provide electricity to run coach systems

With the plunging cost of solar power, an increasing ‘buzz’ over the past few years has been various ‘solar train’-related stories. India has been a space of dramatic change over just a few years — with decisions to move from diesel to electric trains soon followed by decisions to invest in solar (including at train stations) to moves to incorporate solar power into the trains themselves.  Serious progress that has accelerated with improving technologies, dramatic price cuts, and clear-thinking analysis supporting decision-making processes.  Along the way, however, some breathlessly headlined stories suggesting total change when, in fact, it was more ‘simply’ an incredible step along the way.

For example, from India came stories headlined like Endgaget’s India’s first solar-powered train makes its debut. As something in the range of >95% of people never read more

Solar on coaches will displace diesel fuel

than the headline (or the tweet or …), easy to understand why people would think “wow, India Rail is moving people with solar”.  Before ‘debunking’, to make clear, the real story from India is a pretty good one that shouldn’t be dismissed but it isn’t accurately reflected by the headline. A more accurate headline from Quartz India is rolling out trains with solar-powered coaches that’ll save thousands of litres of diesel. “Solar-assisted coaches” — each coach has 16 300 watt panels (total peak capacity of 4.8kilowatts) to take up the hotel load: “for powering internal lights, fans and other electrical systems of the coach”

This is the first instance involving the installation of a solar rooftop system in a diesel-run passenger train with a battery backup. The system is capable of developing up to 20 kilowatt-hour (kWh) per day throughout the year

Those solar panels are displacing electricity that, otherwise, “from a diesel-driven generator“. Thus, the solar panels are absolutely reducing diesel-fuel use to move passengers — but certainly not eliminating it and, well, really acting at the margins.

From Australia, however, comes news of an actual fully solar-powered train which made its maiden voyage earlier this month.  This is a tourist (and local transit) project, ‘combining the new technology of solar power and a heritage train’.  Using bus technology, the solar panels on the train — on a sunny day — provide enough power for five or round-trips on this three-mile track.  In this case, Inhabitat accurately headlined: The world’s first 100% solar-powered train launches in Australia.  The system has 6.5kw of panels, a 77 kwh battery, and regenerative braking. Reportedly, it requires just 4 kwh for each leg.  Clearly, not everywhere is Australia with Australian sun.

Electrification of rail is real — with real benefits. And, increasingly, this is being married with the solar revolution. In India, we have a clear example of incremental moves toward this marriage with serious green-eye shade calculations showing the the cost-benefit relationship.  In Australia, we have a demonstration project (a tourist ‘plaything’ it might be termed) that shows, at least in some circumstances, transit can be handled primarily with its own panels.  In coming years, we should see an acceleration marrying these paths supporting an every cleaner transportation system globally.

Comments Off on Playthings lead to substance? Incremental to real change? What does a “solar train” really mean?Tags: rail · solar · trains · transportation

Fossil Fools don’t pay taxes

December 21st, 2017 · Comments Off on Fossil Fools don’t pay taxes

The Republican Party just passed and is celebrating the GOP Tax Scam, with the obsequious genuflecting to Trump added even more insult to the injury that they have done to the nation. Amid the Tax Scam, the Republican Senators and Representatives tried to stuff in measures every which way to Sunday to gouge wage-earning Americans to put money into special interests and billionaire contributors. Within this were numerous deals providing special deals to fossil fuel interests.

When it comes to benefiting from tax cuts, those dirty industries needed special deals because they pretty much don’t pay any taxes relative to their incomes as is seen strikingly in this table from 538.

  • Coal firms essentially don’t pay Federal taxes.
  • Oil firms are under ten percent effective tax rate.

Pretty hard to take seriously fossil fools whining about oppressive taxation when, essentially, they aren’t paying taxes.

This is made explicit after the fold. Even looking solely at money-making companies, fossil fools don’t look so foolish when it comes to avoiding taxes.  With years of sneaking in this benefit and that exclusion, coal and oil firms pay a fraction of the taxes of other industries.

  • Aerospace/defense: 23%
  • Auto parts: 27%
  • Construction supplies: 30%
  • Food wholesalers: 34%
  • Machinery: 27%
  • etc …

The average, across all industries, is an effective tax rate of 26.22% for money-making companies.

What about fossil fuels?

  • Coal: 0.69%
  • Oil/Gas:
    • integrated: 8.01%
    • production/exploration: 7.08%
    • Distribution: 7.78%

No wonder they aren’t focused on tax cuts and are pleading for even more subsidies, special deals, and enabling more polluting. After all, how can you cut taxes when they barely pay them?

To show the absurdity, let’s stay sort of in the same extraction world,

  • Metals & mining: 33.52%

How about other traditional energy:

  • utilities: 30.09%

How about dirty energy’s clean competition?

  • Green & renewable energy: 26.42%

While clean energy firms, pretty much, are paying ‘what business pays’ in taxes, the dirty energy firms polluting the air our children breathe, the water they drink, and the future they will live in are barely paying any taxes at all. When you hear of fossil foolish subsidies, this fossil-foolishly low effective tax rate is a cogent example of their reality.

Now, even with their absurdly low tax rates, the OIl Giants win giantly (YUGELY) from the GOP tax scheme, perhaps even boosting earnings per share by five percent. There are gains from expensing (allowing, for five years, 100 percent deducted in year one rather than deduction schedules), reduced US implications of overseas earnings, etc, etc, etc … For decades, the legions of lawyers, accountants, and lobbyists have worked hard to assure that the oil, natural gas, and coal industries pay as low an effective tax rate as possible. With their claws in the Republican Party, they successfully snuck plenty of fossil-foolish provisions that will even further lower their contribution to the general treasury.

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Comments Off on Fossil Fools don’t pay taxesTags: Energy

Ryan’s lie …

December 20th, 2017 · Comments Off on Ryan’s lie …

Last evening, Paul Ryan told the world that

opening a small … area of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge …

is the most ambitious step we have taken in years to secure our energy future.

By any reasonable criteria, Paul Ryan lied.

First, let’s consider just what the ANWR opening might mean. A key Bush Administration energy official put it this way (in a discussion promoting opening of ANWR):

“You’re looking at production scenarios of hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day,”

In other words, in a number of years, opening up a wildlife refuge might (MIGHT — dependent on oil prices, actual discovered reserves, etc …) lead to producing a few percent of U.S. daily oil demand. A different examination suggests that it would take about 10 years to hit meaningful production and nearly 20 to reach in the ballpark of 800,000 barrels per day — roughly 4-5% of current US oil demand.  Let’s be clear, that 800,000 isn’t nothing — but does that truly represent, 20 years from now, a serious (‘ambitious’) step “to secure our energy future”?

Of course, putting aside that pesky little issue of opening up for environmental destruction a pretty wide swath of long protected land, there is the reality that increasingly energy analysts are discussing cannibalization of fossil fuel demand (coal being hit hardest now with ever-lowering cost solar/wind and storage, but oil soon to feel severe impacts from electrification of transportation) and projections that ‘high-cost’ oil production will be ‘stranded’ in a world with ever-diminishing oil demand. Considering opening ANWR and an over 10-year timeline to meaningful production (now, ANWR oil won’t be cheap, perhaps requiring sustained prices above $35 for profitability) with this sort of thoughtful forecasting, incorporating reasonable projections of innovations in the energy(-related) world, suggests a very high risk of stranded assets: high-cost Alaskan oil simply unable to compete with cheap oil from Saudi Arabia.

From cyber-security to grid infrastructure to smart-grid to deployment of clean energy (solar and wind, primarily) to Defense Department focus on its energy security to other initiatives and investments, the United States has seen (in both the Bush and Obama Administrations) a wide range of more “ambitious step(s) … to secure our energy future.”

Let’s take just one example, one that Ryan voted for: the creation and operation of the Advance Research Projects Agency-Energy.  As the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation coined it, ARPA-E is a Versatile Catalyst for Energy Innovation. Across a wide range of energy domains (from better drilling equipment to hydrogen tanks to solar power to …), ARPAE has fostered an environment for innovation and through its strong work with its awardees moved forward numerous firms and technologies toward introduction into the commercial marketplace.  While still early in the game, at less than a decade old, ARPAE is having an impact to “secure our energy future” that will only accelerate with each passing year.

No, Speaker Ryan, opening up ANWR is neither an “ambitious step” nor does it help America and Americans “secure our energy future”.  To assert that it does is, simply put, a lie.

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Democratic Party candidates speaking climate

December 14th, 2017 · Comments Off on Democratic Party candidates speaking climate

For too long, such a high share of political candidates were (near) silent when it came to climate change that it was simpler to mention the few who ‘talked climate’ as, sadly, Climate Hawks were few and far between.

Seriously, this is changing.

    • In Virginia, quite a few of the new House of Delegates candidates — while focusing on local issues — were articulate and forceful when it came to environmental, clean energy, and climate change issues. In fact, 13 of the 15 winners taking seats from Republicans signed the pledge to take no contributions from fossil foolish interests. (Which, by the way, in Virginia primarily means saying no to the behemoth Dominion Energy, which is trying to buy its way to more fossil fuel infrastructure with two polluting and unnecessary fossil gas pipelines.)
    • In Alabama, unremarked by most, Doug Jones speaks thoughtfully re climate and clean energy issues which were one of the items on his campaign issues. This is, of course, in deep-Red Alabama where Jones sought to thread the needle to victory. He didn’t shy from talking about climate change and, as the sub-heading to that article puts it, “The lesson to Democrats: Don’t shy away from climate change.”
    • Tuesday night, as catching people celebrating sanity’s victory in Alabama, a Democrat targeted on retiring the fossil foolish Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, came up multiple times in my Twitter feed a la the below highlighting @IronStache.  Spent a few months to learn a bit about “Iron Stache”, actually Randy Bryce.

    From Randy’s issue page,

    Instead of committing our country to reversing Climate Change, investing in renewable energy, and protecting the environment, Speaker Ryan is standing in the way of progress, applauding as the US retreats from an international commitment to preserve our planet.

    • In my own #VA10, there is a gaggle of Democrats seeking the opportunity to put extremist Barbara Comstock out to pasture and almost all of them have something to say about climate. Dan Helmer, for example, is clearly a climate hawk — this is a central issue that drove him to quit his job to run full time.  His latest fundraising appeal: “A deadly peril” (see after fold for all of it) began “Climate change is a deadly threat to civilizations across our globe.” (See after the fold …) The odds look good that, come January 2019, Virginia’s 10th will have a real Representative in the House and one who puts climate issues as a critical, core issue for legislative action.

    E.g., while not quite everywhere I look, increasingly (above are examples, not an exhaustive list …) Democratic Party politicians are making climate change central to their statement of what matters and what they will work on if (when) elected.

    The Climate Hawks Vote PAC (which, by the way, just announced endorsement of Sean Casten (campaign website), who has long been someone I paid attention as a leading thinker/actor in combined heat and power, with how to take waste heat and create value from it) has a real problem: unlike in past election cycles, there are a plethora of good climate champions running for office. Scientists, engineers, veterans, concerned citizens who pay attention to what experts have concluded about climate science are all greatly concerned about climate change risks … and, whatever the ‘political chattering consultancy class’ might say, they are making clear that this is an issue that matters and an issue that they will focus on if (when) elected.  While many hoped/fought to make this the case a long time ago, that climate is becoming part of core messaging with so many candidates is a good harbinger of where policy making might go in a post-Trumpista/post climate-science GOP world.




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Comments Off on Democratic Party candidates speaking climateTags: climate change · climate hawk · Climate Hawks · political symbols · politics · VA10

#Climate activists occupy @HouseGOP offices re #TaxBill

December 4th, 2017 · Comments Off on #Climate activists occupy @HouseGOP offices re #TaxBill

The GOP Tax Plan (or “Deficit Augmentation to Enrich Super Rich (DATES Rich) Act) is horrid on so many grounds — from devastating graduate education, to massively increasing economic inequality, to setting the path for destruction of Social Security and Medicare, to … well, the list of horrors would take many pages of scribbling on the margins (as the bill was written). Amid the horror — worsening even further climate devastation and climate risks through additional subsidies to fossil fuels, opening up the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling, to …

With this in mind — recognizing both the reality of the challenge and the additional devastation that the #GOPTaxScam would cause the climate — the activist Sunrise Movement (which has done some great actions, such as during the climate talks in Germany) put together a team and are occupying House offices this morning.

The following is from the office of Congressman Curbelo.

Who is Sunrise targeting this morning? GOP members who

  • are members of the Climate Solutions Caucus
  • voted for the Tax Bill on the first round and, especially,
  • sign a letter to the Senate calling on protection of ANWR from drilling.

BREAKING: Young people demand House Republicans vote against #GOPTaxScam for the 1% and fossil fuel billionaires.

Call your representative: 877-796-1948

Sign the petition to Republicans who say they care about climate change but might vote for this




Comments Off on #Climate activists occupy @HouseGOP offices re #TaxBillTags: Energy

Light at Night: a sign of …

November 28th, 2017 · Comments Off on Light at Night: a sign of …

Across energy presentations, versions the following might just be the most common image.

Light at Nights

The globe at night: what does bright really mean?

Variations of this image and discussion have been around for decades.  This post, while reflecting long-time thinking, was sparked from presentations (such as slide 2) at the excellent Green Growth Knowledge Platform annual conference with much top-notch economic analysis of climate, sustainability, and clean energy/water challenges and opportunities (along with more valuable networking opportunities/interactions).

Bright areas, in short, show higher density + higher economic strength (developed) communities.  Brightest areas include Western Europe, Japan, and the East Coast of the United States.

Dark areas are low density and/or low-income economies. Sub-Saharan Africa (notably not South Africa) and

“The World At Night” provides a surrogate to discuss economic development (and, conversely, lack of development).  The take-away one is expected to take: dark is bad and we need as much of the world as bright as possible.

There is substantive truth here: the bright areas have electricity, have clean waters supplies, economic and job opportunities, health care infrastructures, higher educational achievement, greater stability, higher life expectancy, and a plethora of other ‘life is better’ measures. (Even if the climate change (and other pollution) impacts are lower in the dark space … which is is used by those fighting climate action as a (false flag) argument against climate mitigation efforts.)

The basic message which we are expected to understand on seeing the image:

  • Bright is good.
  • Dark requires development to become bright.

There is another way of looking at this image.  Very simple, human generated lumens reaching space is waste — no one flips the light switch with the desire to have Martians see them light up their bedroom.  While, again, there is truth that ‘light’ represents developed areas, there is also a reality that the light represents a significant opportunity: how can humanity become more efficient in lighting to cut wasted energy lighting the heavens.





Earth at Night, North America [hd video]

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A clear-eyed look at Gov. McAuliffe’s climate record …

November 28th, 2017 · Comments Off on A clear-eyed look at Gov. McAuliffe’s climate record …

Recently, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has been making some news when it comes to climate change.

  • When climate-science denier Donald Trump declared his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, Gov. McAuliffe stepped up to declare that Virginia would act to address climate change at the state level.
  • Following an executive order earlier this year to examine what it would take for Virginia to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the report came back with a path to join RGGI via Executive action, which Governor McAuliffe has initiated.
  • Various press appearances and other statements highlighting advances in Virginia clean energy (e.g., deployed solar and the prospects for a two-turbine offshore wind demonstration project).

McAuliffe’s actions, like those noted above, merit praise for moving the ball forward in Virginia in the facing of mounting climate risks on the one hand and, on the other hand, improving clean-energy and energy efficiency economics.

Joining RGGI, in particular, creates real opportunity for Virginia. As a relatively polluting state compared to the existing RGGI pool, Virginia could:

  • Potentially draw in financial resources from other states to accelerate energy efficiency and clean energy across the Commonwealth.
  • See improved economic competitiveness with a cleaner, more efficient, and more reliable energy sector, along with increased attractiveness to clean energy/climate-leading businesses and people.

In sum – thank you Governor McAuliffe for taking steps that should see Virginia become an RGGI member under Governor Ralph Northam.

Of course, a healthy relationship is also an honest one, and an honest, clear-eyed assessment of Terry McAuliffe’s climate change record is, unfortunately, far from rosy.

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Comments Off on A clear-eyed look at Gov. McAuliffe’s climate record …Tags: climate change · climate hawk · virginia

Energy Bookshelf: the potato famine has a myriad of lessons for our 21st century (climate) challenges

November 27th, 2017 · Comments Off on Energy Bookshelf: the potato famine has a myriad of lessons for our 21st century (climate) challenges

We sometimes talk about the end of nature or treats to nature.

But nature, though it includes trembling subtleties, can be a son of a bitch. [p 238]

Humanity’s history is inextricably that of mankind’s relationship to the natural world and exploitation of nature for nourishment. And, with the explosion of human population over the past several hundred years, that relationship has both grown more complex in many ways and more remote from people (in developed nations) as fewer and fewer people are involved in agriculture.

Rob Dunn‘s Never Out of Season provides a compelling window on that complex relationship, with a powerful call for enhanced support for those who study plants (and threats to plants/agriculture) to help assure humanity’s ability to feed itself in the decades and centuries to come.  Critical issues include:

  • How a focus on maximizing productivity has fostered monocultures that create increased risk of catastrophic collapse.
  • That seed, disease, and insect ‘banks’ are critical to reducing risks of catastrophic collapse and maintaining tools to deal with a changing world —
    • from parasites attacking monocultures to human-driven climate change creating radically different growing environment.
    • Basic investments — from human capital to physical infrastructure to basic science — in these ‘banks’ are inadequate and, in fact, dwindling.
  • That, in fact, humanity needs expanded efforts:
    • from focus on an ecosystem (rather than stove-piped) understanding of (potential) crops (e.g., the plants, soils, insects, parasites, propagation, and other elements rather than simply the plant isolated in a greenhouse)
    • to building on/expanding the best of US land grant college relationships with agricultural extension agents in to a global (rather localized) set of relationships
    • to developing programs and tools to engage ever greater portions of humanity in collaborative efforts (such as Plant to better understand and share knowledge about agricultural (eco)systems.

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UK and US both going back to 19th century? UK to past pollution levels, US to past polluting technologies

November 26th, 2017 · Comments Off on UK and US both going back to 19th century? UK to past pollution levels, US to past polluting technologies

A rather stunning thing passed by earlier this year: the United Kingdom’s 2016 emissions were back to 19th century levels. The key reason: a massive (52 percent) decline in coal use.

the most dramatic change in 2016 came from coal emissions, which fell by 50% compared to a year earlier to around 37 million tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2). A decade earlier, in 2006, UK coal emissions stood at 137MtCO2.

The 2016 record low coal use levels followed 2015’s record low coal use followed 2014’s record coal use. Coal is now 75% below 2006 levels and 1/12the peak 1956 usage level. There is no one (except perhaps coal-promoters in the Trump White House) who have any expectation of a turn-around in this path forward as the United Kingdom accelerates its move beyond coal.

The United Kingdom soon will fall to half its peak (1970) emission levels primarily because of coal’s decline. Coal is being drven from the market by:

  • Cheap natural gas
  • Renewables
  • Energy efficiency
  • Closure of a steel plant

Even with all these, the key driver that will maintain the accelerated pace is the United Kingdom’s imposition of a reasonable (even if below actual externalities/social cost of carbon) price imposed on carbon that “doubled in 2015 to £18 per tonne of CO2.”

A simple economic reality globally … coal is not coming back.

Sadly, the Trump Administration is governed by #alternativefacts dystopian ideology, rather than reality, and conceives of a coal renaissance.  Thus, while the United Kingdom drives down emissions by moving @BeyondCoal, #PollutingPruitt, Rick Perry, and the rest of the fossil-foolish GOP seek to hurt the U.S. by reviving a less efficient and more polluting 19th century coal economy.

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