Climate and Energy News Roundup 5/25/2018

This week’s Roundup was prepared by H. Bishop Dansby.

POLITICS and POLICY

This opinion piece, “Walk with us, Ryan Zinke, and see the folly in what you’ve done,” by a former park ranger, encourages Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to read the great American preservationist writers, such as Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Robert Marshall, Rachel Carson, E.O. Wilson, Carl Safina and Terry Tempest Williams.

An analysis shows that hitting the toughest climate target of keeping global warming below 1.5C will save world $30 trillion in damages, far more than the cost of cutting emissions. Only a handful of countries would be better off if the earth were allowed to warm more than 1.5C.

President Trump’s pick to head NASA, Jim Bridenstine, once doubtful, confirms he believes humans are the leading cause of climate change.

Bridenstine’s position on climate change presents a sharp departure from his previous stance as a former congressman from petro-state Oklahoma, and those of President Trump and high-ranking administration officials, such as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Rick “Oops” Perry may have stumbled upon the solution to going 100 percent renewable. Buried in his grid study is how electric cars and smart control systems will enable deep penetration of solar and wind energy.

Given the slow progress of Virginia in climate change and renewable energy policy, it is a pleasure to see that Central Virginia Electric Cooperative (CVEC), has commissioned its first two solar farms, which together form the largest solar project for a distribution cooperative in Virginia to date.

Policy can incentivize the transition off of fossil fuels. Six Chinese cities dominate global electric-vehicle sales because getting a license plate for a gasoline car in those cities can take years through a lottery, or cost more than $14,000 in a monthly auction, while an EV license is free and often can be obtained a lot faster.

CLIMATE SCIENCE

Plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. They break open the tough CO2 molecule and use the carbon to build their leaves and roots. In the process, they deposit carbon into the ground. For years people have excitedly discussed the possibility of stashing carbon in the soil while growing food. Now, for the first time, California is using cap-and-trade money to pay farmers to do it on a large scale. It’s called the California Healthy Soils Initiative.

For 400 months in a row, our planet has been unusually hot

In a report out Thursday, NOAA confirmed that April was the 400th consecutive month of warmer-than-average global temperatures. The probability that this happened by chance is near zero.

Carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere after the impact of the Chicxulub asteroid, which ended the era of dinosaurs some 65 million years ago, warmed the Earth’s climate for 100,000 years, a new study has revealed. The study, based on an analysis of fossil records, suggested that the Earth’s overall temperature increased by 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) over that time. And climate change skeptics call climate change activists alarmists?

Models that generate energy and emission pathways to limit warming to 1.5C have generally relied on large amounts of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to provide the required negative emissions. Many of the models deploy BECCS on a massive scale, allocating a land area up to five times the size of India to growing the biomass needed by 2100. This analysis suggests “natural climate solutions” can reduce the need for BECCS.

ENERGY

Casandras have harped that the Achilles Heel of renewable energy is the difficulty of integration of such variable sources into the electrical grid. (Is that a total of three Greek mythological references in one sentence?) More and more studies show not only is this feasible but can make the grid more resilient. According to data compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there are seven countries already at, or very near, 100 percent renewable power.

British Petroleum (BP) is investing in technology to charge electric vehicles (EVs) “in 5 Minutes,” saying, “We are committed to be the fuel provider of choice—no matter what car our customers drive.” A caveat, though, is that such rapid charging of batteries—as opposed to super-capacitors—is a ways into the future, if at all. Query whether this is more publicity than real interest in “fueling” EVs on the part of BP.

As Rick Perry has recently discovered, the energy stored in EVs’ batteries has the potential to help stabilize the grid. The UK is one of those taking a look at such vehicle-to-grid integration. If electric vehicles are left plugged into smart, two-way charging points when not in use, their batteries can feed power into the network at times of peak demand. Just 10 new Nissan LEAFs can store as much energy as a thousand homes typically consume in an hour.

 

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