Climate and Energy News Roundup 5/19/2017

President Donald Trump’s threat to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement united envoys from much of the rest of the world gathered in Bonn, Germany, making them unusually cooperative in reaching a deal.  Meanwhile, Republican governors Philip Scott of Vermont and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts urged U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry to ensure the United States does not withdraw from the agreement.  However, at the Arctic Council meeting in Fairbanks, AK, last minute changes to the intergovernmental declaration requested by the U.S. weakened it, according to a document obtained by Inside Climate News.  President Trump is planning to nominate a non-scientist to the top scientific position at the Department of Agriculture.  The Trump administration is seeking to indefinitely postpone a decision on litigation over the Clean Power Plan (CPP), but a coalition of environmental groups, states supporting the CPP, clean energy groups, and sympathetic utilities filed separate briefs on Monday asking the court to issue a ruling in the lawsuit.  In spite of the positions of the Trump administration, don’t despair; National Geographic has provided six reasons why climate progress will continue.

On Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe directed the Department of Environmental Quality to begin assembling regulations to reduce carbon emissions from Virginia power plants.  On Wednesday, Ted Halstead, head of the Climate Leadership Council and champion of the “Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends”, released a video of a TED talk that he taped in April.  The Carbon Tax Center has provided an edited transcript of the talk along with a link to the video.  Perhaps the time is getting ripe for a carbon tax, at least at the state level, as legislators in at least five states have introduced proposals that would place a price on carbon in the form of a tax or fee.

Climate

In a report published Thursday in the journal Earth’s Future, scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany stated that a proposal to mitigate climate change by planting fast-growing trees and plants that can be burned for electricity, with the carbon they release being captured and stored, is not “realistic and feasible.”

Justine Gillis of The New York Times accompanied a Columbia University team of scientists on an aerial expedition to Antarctica late last year and has written a three part series about why the expedition went.  The graphics and video are very interesting, but did not work in Chrome for me, although they did in Microsoft Edge.  I did not try other browsers.  Theory predicts that Earth’s poles should warm faster than the global average as CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere increase.  Observations show that this is true for the Arctic, but not for the Antarctic.  There are several possible reasons for this, but new research, published in the journal Earth Systems Dynamics, suggests that an important one is the higher elevation of Antarctica.  Robert McSweeney of Carbon Brief summarized the new research and explained how it fits with other possible explanations.  Finally, a new paper in the journal Current Biology documented an increase in moss growth in Antarctica, demonstrating that the impacts of global warming there are not limited to ice melt.

New research published in the journal Scientific Reports warns that just a small amount of sea level rise can double the risk of coastal flooding from large waves and storm surge.  The most at-risk areas are in the low latitudes, where tidal ranges are smaller, making sea level rise proportionally more significant.

Trees are very good at removing CO2 from the atmosphere; the problem lies in their death and decay, which sends the CO2 back to the atmosphere.  But, what if one could harvest the wood (sustainably) and use it in a way that tied up its carbon for a long time?  According to Canada’s Wood Innovation and Design Centre, there is; use it in wooden skyscrapers, substituting wood for carbon-intensive concrete and steel.  Speaking of trees, a study, published in Science Advances on Wednesday, has found that about three-quarters of tree species common to eastern American forests have shifted their population centers west since 1980. More than half of the species studied also moved northward during the same period.  The reasons for the westward movement are unclear.

In the report released on Tuesday, scientists from UC Davis and CalTrout, a conservation group, warned that nearly half of California’s types of native salmon, steelhead, and trout will go extinct within 50 years unless environmental trends, including climate change, are reversed.  Meanwhile, on the other coast, Ted Williams wrote at Yale Environment 360 about Delaware Bay, which provides a case study in how warming oceans, more severe storms, and sea-level rise are impacting estuaries around the world.

Scientists have only recently discovered that coral reefs around the Chagos Archipelago, a collection of around 60 small islands in the Indian Ocean, have undergone significant bleaching and death, similar to what occurred on the Great Barrier Reef of Australia in 2016.  Concerning the latter, a new study published in Nature Climate Change has found that there is an 87% chance that sea surface temperatures as high as those recorded in 2016 could occur around the reef in any given year in a 2°C warmer world.

Two recent studies, one in the journal Economics of Disasters and Climate Change and the other in the journal Environmental Research Letters, have both concluded that climate change will have major negative impacts on the yields of staple grain crops between now and the end of the century.  In a study published Monday in the journal Scientific Reports, scientists found that climate change and associated season creep are throwing off the migratory patterns of songbirds and possibly jeopardizing their survival.  Nine species are having a particularly difficult time adapting to the new circumstances.

Both NASA and NOAA have reported that April 2017 was the second hottest April on record.  In addition, NOAA has reported that the year-to-date ranks as the 2nd-warmest January through April period, behind the same time period last year.

Energy

Even though lithium-ion batteries are the current mainstay for applications from cell phones to electric vehicles, they have drawbacks, such as the flammability of the electrolyte and the sourcing of lithium.  Consequently, there is great interest in an alternative.  Now, scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory have discovered a way around a major problem associated with zinc-based batteries, which have several advantages over lithium-ion batteries, potentially clearing the way for their commercialization.  On the subject of batteries, Tesla and Vermont utility Green Mountain Power are offering home backup batteries for a very low monthly cost because the utility will receive grid benefits through use of Tesla’s GridLogic software.

India’s cabinet approved plans on Wednesday to build 10 nuclear reactors with a combined electrical generating capacity of 7,000 MW.  This is in addition to an installed nuclear capacity of 6,780 MW and another 6,700 MW under construction for completion by 2021-22.  This is occurring in spite of the apparent decline of nuclear energy in the West.  With a few caveats, utility owner Southern Co. agreed to take the lead from bankrupt Westinghouse Electric Co. on building two nuclear reactors at its Vogtle power plant in Georgia as soon as next month.

According to Energy Department budget documents obtained by Axios, the department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which funds research on advanced vehicles and other aspects of clean energy, would face a roughly 70% cut in 2018, while the Fossil Energy Research and Development program, which conducts research on carbon capture and storage, would face a 55% cut.  However, on Thursday six Republican senators, four of whom are appropriators, sent President Trump a letter stating in part: “We urge you to continue to invest in the Department of Energy’s research and development programs in fiscal year 2018.”  In spite of efforts by the Trump administration to reduce initiatives on renewable energy, it will almost certainly fail to bring jobs back to coal country or dramatically boost coal production, according to a report released by the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Are they finally coming?  Neal Boudette of The New York Times examined fuel cell cars and the filling stations required to keep them going.  One thing he didn’t mention, however, is the source of the hydrogen, which may not necessarily be green.  Speaking of disruptive technologies, Stanford economist Tony Seba forecast that the entire market for land transport will switch to electrification within eight years.  While this may not happen as early as he predicted in the West, it may come closer to happening in China and India.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency provided seed grant funding for 12 large-scale solar energy farms and all 12 have now leveraged that funding to become fully financed.  In addition, they have received all regulatory and grid connection approvals required for them to move forward with construction.  When completed, the 12 solar farms will provide enough electricity to power 150,000 homes.  On the topic of renewable energy, China and India have surpassed the U.S. to become the two most attractive countries for renewable energy investment.  Furthermore, they are set to beat their pledges to the Paris Climate Agreement, according to an updated analysis of their climate policies.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 5/12/2017

On Wednesday, the Senate voted down the Congressional Review Act resolution to eliminate the Obama administration rule on methane emissions from public lands.  Three Republicans joined every Democrat to preserve the rule.  However, after the vote Kate MacGregor, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals, said that the rule is one the department “will suspend, revise or rescind.”  On Wednesday evening, at a meeting of Arctic nations in Alaska, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed an agreement recognizing the Paris Climate Agreement, but said President Trump was not rushing to decide whether to leave or weaken U.S. commitments to it.  Rather, he will wait until after the G7 meeting in late May to announce whether the U.S. will pull out of it.  The Chinese have indicated that there will be repercussions if the U.S. pulls out but Joseph Curtin, a member of the Irish Government’s Climate Change Advisory Council, thinks that “It may be better for the US to leave now, and re-join when it is ready to behave like a responsible global citizen.”  President Trump has nominated two people to be commissioners at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  One is Sen. Mitch McConnell’s energy adviser and the other is a Pennsylvania utility commissioner.  “A Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change,” is no longer accessible from the EPA website, according to the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative.  In her article about it, Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post, provided a link to it at an archival website.

On several occasions, I have linked to articles mentioning the need for employing “negative emissions” technologies to hold global warming below 1.5°C, and perhaps even 2°C.  Writing at Yale Climate Connections, Daniel Grossman examined the pros and cons associated with proposed technologies.  While adaptation and mitigation have been the focus of past climate change talks, “loss and damage” will be a major focus of this year’s talks in Bonn.  Carbon Brief explained what that term means and how it may be addressed.  Politics intruded on climate science in Australia. The scientists fought back, led by John Church, a leading world expert on sea level rise.  A cautionary tale for the U.S.?

Climate

Although the report was issued in March, it is worth noting again that the Medical Society Consortium has documented the ways in which climate change is already affecting our health, reminding us that it is not just something that will impact future generations.  In another example of the immediate impacts of climate change, at least 17 communities across the U.S. are being forced to relocate.

The West African Sahel is the arid belt of land stretching from the Atlantic to the Red Sea that separates the Sahara Desert from the African savanna.  According to a new paper in the journal Nature, climate change is upsetting rainfall patterns in the region, making catastrophic storms three times more frequent.

You are probably aware that glaciers are melting all over the world because of human-caused climate change.  What you may not be aware of are the many impacts that melting glaciers can have.  Renee Cho has summarized them for “State of the Planet” at the Earth Institute at Columbia University.  One place where glaciers have been melting is in Glacier National Park.  A study of its 37 ‘named’ glaciers and two others on U.S. Forest Service land found that only 26 should be classified as glaciers as the other 13 are now too small to count.  Even though I have linked to several articles about the glaciers in West Antarctica, I found the article about Thwaites Glacier by Jeff Goodell in Rolling Stone to be particularly interesting.

In the Alaskan tundra, permafrost is melting, leading to an increase in CO2 emissions due to microbial decomposition of stored organic matter.  A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science reported that the increase in CO2 emissions exceeds the uptake of CO2 associated with the greening of the tundra from warmer temperatures.

A new paper in Geophysical Research Letters has stated that observed declines in ocean oxygen content are “most likely due to the changes in ocean circulation and mixing associated with the heating of the near-surface waters and the melting of polar ice.”  In addition, the paper stated that “The impact of ocean deoxygenation may be profound.”  Another paper in the same journal investigated the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation, a cycle that lasts 10-30 years and affects how much heat is absorbed in the Pacific.  They found that it was in its “cool,” or negative, phase from 2000-2014, but started to switch to its positive or “warm” phase in 2014.  This suggests that Earth will experience accelerated warming for the next 10 to 20 years and could hit the 1.5°C threshold as early as 2025, although some scientists questioned the authors’ assumptions.

Climate justice issues are front and center in Atlantic City, NJ, where Climate Central has found that the impacts of coastal flooding are being borne primarily by low income and socially vulnerable populations.

Energy

Dutch officials have opened a 600 MW offshore wind farm, with 150 turbines 53 miles out in the North Sea.

The Maryland Public Service Commission has given the go-ahead for two off-shore wind projects.  U.S. Wind, a subsidiary of Italian energy and construction company Toto Holdings SpA, plans to build 62 turbines at least 14 miles off the coast of Ocean City, while Skipjack Offshore Wind LLC, a subsidiary of Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind Holdings LLC, plans to erect 15 turbines at least 20 miles off the coast.  On the subject of wind turbines, a Swedish study has found that each on-shore wind turbine kills 10-15 bats annually and has proposed a remedy.

India will install an estimated 8.8GW of solar energy in 2017 according to the consulting and market research firm Bridge to India.  Meanwhile, in India’s desert state of Rajasthan, power companies Phelan Energy and Avaada Power each offered to charge 4.2¢/kWh of electricity generated from a solar farm they hope to build at an energy park.  Last year’s previous record lowest bid was 6.9¢/kWh.  India’s largest thermal coal power generator currently charges around 5.1¢/kWh.

In March, President Trump signed an executive order directing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to amend or withdraw the coal leasing program moratorium instituted by the Obama administration.  On Tuesday, the attorneys general of California, New Mexico, New York and Washington filed a lawsuit over implementation of that order, saying it was done without environmental review.  Meanwhile, the coauthor of a Columbia University study on coal’s decline in the U.S. has said “It’s unlikely that those market factors that have reduced coal production over the last five years are going to change in a way that will lead to a recovery in coal production in the years ahead.”

Both China and India have adopted policies that encourage a rapid transition to electric vehicles and this will have a major impact on the long-term demand for gasoline in those countries.

Greenpeace estimates that every hour, China erects a new wind turbine and installs enough solar panels to cover a soccer field.  According to Beth Gardiner at National Geographic, there are three reasons for this: (1) China’s air pollution is terrible, (2) it fears the impacts of climate change, and (3) it wants to dominate the clean energy market.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has released a new report entitled Clean Energy Momentum, Ranking State Progress.  California is a clear winner, followed by Vermont.  Virginia, on the other hand, fell from 17th to 20th in installed solar capacity, although Governor Terry McAuliffe signed 11 new renewable energy bills into law.  Meanwhile, a report from GTM Research attempted to make sense of the chaotic residential solar market.  Speaking of energy use, a new study has found that U.S. residential energy use has begun to fall, primarily as a result of energy-efficient lighting.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 5/5/2017

In case you were unable to attend the People’s Climate March, you might be interested in reading this article about it.  Environmentalist Paul Hawken, has a new book entitled Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reduce Global Warming, in which he offers 100 reasons to hope.  KQED’s Devin Katayama spoke with Hawken about his book.  There was a new development this week in the children’s lawsuit against the federal government.  In March, the Trump administration requested that the federal district court in Oregon allow the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to review the trial order before the trial even takes place.  On Monday U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin recommended denial of that request.

The New York Times has a new Op-Ed columnist, Bret Stephens, late of The Wall Street JournalWikipedia describes him as being known for “his contrarian views on climate change.”  His first column, “Climate of Complete Certainty,” created quite a stir, including a reaction from a group of climate scientists, but generated a thoughtful response from Andrew Revkin, whose work Stephens mentioned, as well as from climate scientist Ken Caldeira.  They are worth reading.  Meanwhile, writing at Huffington Post, Kate Sheppard discussed the many conservative groups working against climate change.

On Friday of last week, President Trump won a court ruling making it easier for him to rescind the Clean Power Plan.  On the same day, Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Colette Honorable said she will leave the board when her term expires in June.  Currently, only two of the five board positions are filled.  President Trump is appointing Daniel Simmons to head the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.  Like several other new appointees, Simmons has questioned the very things his department is charged with doing.  An “unabashed nerd and unapologetic advocate for science and reason” will seek the nomination to challenge Lamar Smith (R, TX) for his seat in Congress.  Meanwhile, the EPA has taken down its climate change website, saying in a statement: “The process, which involves updating language to reflect the approach of new leadership, is intended to ensure that the public can use the website to understand the agency’s current efforts.”  On Monday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed a secretarial order for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to start formulating a new five-year plan for drilling rights sales in the Arctic Ocean, the mid- and south-Atlantic Coast, and the entire Gulf of Mexico.  On Tuesday, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, petitioned the EPA to reconsider the endangerment finding, which is the basis for the agency’s efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.  The bipartisan budget compromise reached by Congress over the weekend salvaged funding for both the EPA and clean energy research done by the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.  On Wednesday, twelve members of the House Climate Solutions Caucus introduced the Climate Solutions Commission Act.  Finally, a group of carbon tax supporters started running TV ads with the goal of swaying conservatives to the cause.

Climate

So, just what is the consensus within the scientific community on human-caused global warming?  Writing in The Guardian about a commentary in the Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society by Andy Skuce and coauthors, Dana Nuccitelli (one of the coauthors) argues “It’s most accurate to say that 97% of relevant peer-reviewed studies agree that humans are causing global warming, 99.9% of climate papers don’t reject that theory, and those who deny the overwhelming consensus are peddling misinformation.”

Two papers were published in scientific journals in the past two weeks dealing with trends in the global temperature record.  One, published in Environmental Research Letters, used statistical analysis to answer two questions: (1) whether the high temperatures of the last three years suggest that the rate of warming has increased and (2) whether the preceding years tell us that the rate has slowed.  They concluded that the answer to both questions was no.  Rather, warming has continued at a constant rate since the 1970’s with random, stationary, short-term variability superimposed upon it.  The other, published in Nature, investigated the existence of the so-called hiatus from 1998-2012.  Writing in The Guardian, Graham Readfearn summarized the findings thusly: “So what to make of it all?  The short version is that global warming didn’t stop, scientists knew global temperatures would wobble around and climate scientists aren’t always the best communicators.”

Weekend Edition Sunday had a piece on the Nenana Ice Classic in Alaska, which is a festival celebrating the breakup of the ice on the Tanana River at the town of Nenana.  If you guess the exact date and time of the breakup, you could win big bucks.  Well, this year the breakup occurred at noon on May 1 and you can see a graph of the breakup dates for the 101 years measurements have been made.  Speaking of ice in the north, The New York Times had an article about the impacts of melting sea ice on shipping lanes in the Arctic ocean.

The next decade will be critical in containing global warming to the limits the world has set itself, European researchers warn in the journal Nature Communications.  Furthermore, at least one of the targets stipulated in the Paris Climate Agreement may be unrealistic, according to a second team of European researchers, writing in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

The death toll caused by extreme rainfall and floods in the South and Midwest U.S. rose to 20, as the impacts of a major slow-moving storm that ravaged the region over the weekend continued to be felt.  In states from Oklahoma to Indiana, record-setting rainfall, tornadoes, and a late-season blizzard wreaked havoc on crops, roads, buildings, and infrastructure.  In addition, April was the 29th month in a row that record high temperatures exceeded record low temperatures in the U.S.

We have known for some time that the narrow strip of tidal marshes, seagrass beds, and mangroves along the edge of our oceans are very important.  Now a study published in Frontiers in Ecology in the Environment suggests that with proper management, these zones can be even more effective at storing carbon.  Unfortunately, another study, published in Global Change Biology, has found that coastal marine food webs could be in danger of collapse as a result of rising CO2 levels, which cause both warming and ocean acidification.

Energy

The Guardian published a three-part series on the Keystone XL pipeline route and the people living along it: Part I, Part II, Part III.

In the past I have linked to articles about problems associated with the new nuclear power plants under construction in Georgia and South Carolina and the associated bankruptcy of Westinghouse.  Reuters has an analysis of what went wrong.  Meanwhile, according to a new study by the Global Nexus Initiative, the U.S. is losing global influence to Russia and China by allowing its nuclear power industry to stagnate.

The U.S. wind industry installed 2,000 MW of capacity in the first quarter of 2017, making it the biggest first quarter since 2009.  In addition, there are 9,025 MW of wind projects under construction and an additional 11,952 MW in advanced development, all trying to take advantage of the federal production tax credit that is being phased down from 2017 through 2019.  On Monday, Block Island Power Company began receiving electricity from the U.S.’s first off-shore wind farm and shut down its diesel generators.  Nevertheless, the big question is whether off-shore wind can also be an important part of the energy mix for the coastal U.S.  On-shore wind, on the other hand is well established, to the point that Iowa’s largest utility is investing $3.6 billion in new wind turbines, with the goal of producing 100% of its electricity from renewable sources.

Ivy Main had a new blog post about Dominion Virginia Power’s updated Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), for which the press release promised thousands of MW of new solar power and a dramatically lower carbon footprint.  A close reading of the IRP led her to disagree with that assessment.  Appalachian Power also updated its IRP, calling for the addition of 500 MW of universal solar energy, and 1,350 MW of wind energy by 2031.  It also expects 123 MW of rooftop solar energy to come from customers in the next 15 years.

During FY2016/17, India added 6,990 MW of coal-based power capacity, while also adding 5,413 MW of wind energy capacity and 5,526 MW of solar power capacity.  At the end of FY2016/17, the share of renewable energy in India’s total installed capacity was 17.5%.  Also, China added 7,210 MW of solar PV in the first quarter of the year, roughly 70 MW more than in Q1 2016, according to figures from China’s National Energy Administration.

A report by Canada’s National Energy Board said that the country generated 66% of its electricity from renewable sources in 2015, with hydroelectric power accounting for roughly 60% of electricity supply.  And speaking of hydroelectric power, it is surging on the U.S. west coast because of record precipitation this winter.  This has caused California gas demand to drop 34%, which has driven gas prices down.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/21/2017

Although it is a couple of weeks old, I thought this article about the healing powers of nature was worth sharing with you.  I also just learned about the new book by Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope entitled Climate of Hope.  From the book’s website: “In Climate of Hope, Bloomberg and Pope offer an optimistic look at the challenge of climate change, the solutions they believe hold the greatest promise, and the practical steps that are necessary to achieve them.”  I just picked up a copy at a local bookstore and look forward to reading it.  Hannah Rothstein, a Berkeley-based artist, has reimagined some iconic National Park posters in 2050.  Warning, they’re not pretty.  If you have had a frustrating discussion with a climate change denier, you might be interested in this article about an AskReddit discussion that asked former climate deniers what changed their minds.  Take four minutes and watch this powerful video featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about science and science-denial.  The editor of the journal Nature Communications devoted this month’s editorial to the threat fake news poses to action on climate change.  Finally, Bloomberg has added a section called “Climate Changed.”

The main political news this week was the meeting that didn’t happen.  The group of Trump advisors that was going to meet to prepare a recommendation on whether the U.S. should stay in the Paris Climate Accord, didn’t.  The meeting hasn’t been rescheduled.  Nevertheless, other countries are quite interested in what we plan to doCarbon Brief interviewed Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, about the ramifications of the U.S. pulling out of the Paris Accord, among other things.  Energy Secretary Rick Perry directed his department to conduct a study of the U.S. electric grid, causing concern within the renewable energy industry.  Also, changes to the DOE website downplay the climate benefits of each form of technology and distance the agency from the idea that they might be used to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, instead emphasizing their economic advantages.  During the congressional recess Republican lawmakers have been receiving heat at town hall meetings over their positions on climate change.  A group of 11 Republican state attorneys general is protesting an investigation into whether Exxon Mobil Corp. violated consumer protection laws when selling fossil fuel products while failing to reveal information about the effects of burning them on the global climate.  Their argument is that the “debate” over whether carbon emissions cause climate change is not settled.

Climate

NOAA scientists have determined that the average global temperature in March was 56.8°F (13.8°C), second only to last year’s record, which was boosted by a strong El Niño.  This was the first time the Earth was more than 1°C (1.8°F) warmer than normal without an El Niño.  NASA scientists also concluded that March 2017 was the second hottest on record.  Meanwhile, the U.S. (lower 48) is in the middle of the warmest period ever recorded.  A new study published in Nature Communications examines changes in solar activity and CO2 levels over the past 420 million years. It found that unless we change, by mid-century we will be causing the fastest climate change in approximately 50 million years.

A pair of papers in the journal Nature provide a new understanding of how water moves across Antarctica’s ice sheets and shelves through a network of interconnected lakes and rivers.  The authors suggest that this transport could make ice shelves increasingly vulnerable to collapse as melt rates accelerate under future climate change.  On the other hand, in at least one instance, a drainage system appears to be stabilizing an ice shelf rather than weakening it.  The Arctic is melting as well.  Writing for Bloomberg, Eric Roston and Blacki Migliozzi are presenting a three-part series entitled “How a Melting Arctic Changes Everything.”  Part I, “The Bare Arctic” came out this week.

A new study by the Berlin thinktank Adelphi and commissioned by the German foreign office investigated the links between insurgency and terrorism in a warming world.  Their conclusion: climate change will fuel acts of terrorism and strengthen recruiting efforts by terrorist groups such as Islamic State and Boko Haram.  The New York Times Magazine published a new world map that overlays human turmoil with climate turmoil, illustrating the striking correlation between the two.  This is one of six articles in this “climate issue.”

A paper in the journal Nature Climate Change reported on a study of possible migration patterns in the U.S. in response to sea level rise by 2100.  Surprisingly, the study suggested that many migrants will move to inland locales in different states, not just in the state where they originally resided.  This suggests that inland states will also be impacted by sea level rise and should plan for it.

Between 2004 and 2012 deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell from 11,000 square miles per year to 1,700 square miles, causing many to think that the deforestation problem had been solved.  Unfortunately, deforestation has trended upwards since 2012, with a sharp 29% increase in the rate of clearing in 2016.  As explained by Philip Fearnside, a Brazilian ecologist who has worked in the Amazon for more than 30 years, the forces acting to cause deforestation are many and complex.

NOAA has a new interactive map that shows how planting zones have changed due to climate change.  Cassie Kelley at EcoWatch explained the map and presented a graphic showing how the zones have changed.  Generally, the zones have moved northward.  Growing zones have also changed in the Arctic, bringing woody shrubs to regions that haven’t had them.  As a consequence, beavers are also moving north, which is having a variety of effects on the ecosystem.

Energy

The small Danish island of Samsø, population 3750, has received a lot of attention because it became energy independent 10 years ago using a mixture of wind, solar, and biomass.  What is really interesting about this achievement is that it was attained by conservative farmers.

Writing at Think Progress, Mark Hand reviewed the role of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the idea that it could take actions that favor the climate.

In 2016, for the first time, more than 100,000 people in the United States were employed in some manner by the wind industry, according to an annual report released Wednesday by the American Wind Energy Association.  A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists that ranks states on their recent clean energy momentum finds leaders in states led by Republicans and Democrats alike.  Currently the largest offshore wind turbine has a generation capacity of 8MW, but projects slated for completion by 2025 will have turbines with capacities between 13 and 15 MW, allowing them to deliver electricity at market prices without subsidies.

A report from the European Commission, prepared by the German research group Öko-Institut e.V., has found that mechanisms that allow countries to offset emissions by purchasing credits linked to green-energy projects in another country via an international market are unlikely to actually reduce emissions and should be phased out.  Jerry Taylor of the Niskanen Center, a former climate change denier who is now a strong advocate for a carbon tax as a way to reduce emissions, countered anti-tax arguments in a blog post on Thursday.

Southern California Edison has installed a unique system that uses gas turbines in combination with 10MW lithium-ion battery storage units to cover peak loads during summer evenings when solar production is shutting down but electricity demand is up.  The hybrid system reduces greenhouse emissions and cooling water use.  Nevertheless, in the long-term, gas-fired power plants will either have to capture and store their carbon emissions, or they will have to be shut down.  In an earlier Roundup I linked to an article about the partnership between researchers at Colorado State University and Google Street View to map pervasive natural-gas leaks.  Well, this article provides more details about their joint venture.

If you are like me, you may have wondered how we (the U.S.) could have invented solar panels and yet now only have a 2% market share of global solar panel sales.  Well, a new paper in Science Advances studied that question and has some answers that might surprise you, such as financialization of our economy.

Four of the five states with the most net zero energy schools underway in 2016 were in the South — despite low power rates and few policy incentives.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/14/2017

I thought some of you might be interested in this site for climate change podcasts.

On the political front, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been facing increasing criticism from the right for his refusal to challenge EPA’s endangerment finding, which provides the legal basis for all climate change regulations.  Meanwhile, at a Pennsylvania coal mine on Thursday, Pruitt spoke as part of a new public relations campaign, gathering together the Trump administration’s EPA priorities into an effort called “Back 2 Basics,” which does things like reconsider the rule limiting the discharge of heavy metals in wastewater from coal-fired power plants.  Elsewhere on Thursday, Pruitt said the Paris Climate Agreement “…is something we need to exit in my opinion.”  On Monday, G7 energy ministers failed to agree on a statement supporting the Paris climate accord after the US delegation said it was reviewing its position.  On Tuesday, China, Brazil, India and South Africa urged industrialized countries to honor financial commitments made in Paris in 2015 to help developing countries fight against global climate change.  Younger Republicans increasingly say they believe climate change is a human-caused problem and that Americans have a responsibility to act on it, according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation review of college Republican clubs across the U.S.

Climate

Carbon Brief has updated its data dashboard, summarizing key indicators on our climate, atmosphere, oceans, and cryosphere.  NOAA now has its Climate Explorer online.  It is a collaborative effort of several agencies and lets you look at both historical data and projections for two future emission scenarios for locations all over the U.S.  Unfortunately, the Trump administration has signaled a desire to eliminate funding for the NASA satellites that provide the type of data used to construct those images.  Henry Fountain discussed the concerns of climate scientists about such cuts.

A new study published in Nature Climate Change compared the amount of permafrost likely to be lost with 1.5°C warming to that likely lost with 2°C warming and found that the difference was an area equivalent to that of Mexico.  Although not quantified, the release of larger amounts of CO2 and methane would also result from the greater warming.  Meanwhile, a freezer malfunction at the University of Alberta in Edmonton caused ice cores from across the Canadian Arctic to melt, destroying them and the scientific information they contained.  Although this article about the impacts of climate change on Glacier National Park is over a week old, I thought the story it told is well worth its inclusion this week.

Using helicopter borne instruments, scientists have been able to measure the depth and configuration of the ice in the Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland.  Their findings show that the glacier extends farther below sea level than previously realized and that the depth increases the farther inland the glacier extends, forming a grounding with a “retrograde” slope.  This means that the glacier is susceptible to melting from warm sea water against its face and that the area exposed increases the more the glacier melts and retreats, leading to accelerating melting over time.  Another large Greenland glacier, the Petermann, has apparently developed a new crack in its floating ice shelf that could contribute to a future break, releasing a large ice island like those released in 2010 and 2012.  Mashable compiled a group of stunning photos from the Arctic and paired them with an interesting essay by Andrew Freedman about the fate of Arctic ice.

Most research on melting glaciers in Antarctica has been carried out in the western part of the continent, which contains only about 10% of the ice.  Now researchers are learning more about eastern Antarctica, thanks to better airborne sensors and a successful cruise along parts of the coastline.  Writing in Nature, Jane Qiu has summarized the surprising, and disturbing, new findings by the scientists.

Although the reason is not well understood, liana vines are proliferating in the world’s tropical rainforests and are having a negative impact on the storage of carbon by the trees.  Because climate models do not account for this effect, they may be overestimating the amount of carbon storage that will occur in the future.

Scientists just completed a 5,000 mile aircraft survey of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in which they found that 900 miles of its 1,400 mile length experienced severe bleaching at some point during the past two years.  Having two years of back-to-back bleaching greatly raises the possibility that the affected sections will die.  The 2017 bleaching occurred in the absence of an El Niño event, raising questions about the ability of the reef to recover.

Energy

A new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, has found that to keep global warming below 1.5°C the world economy would need to achieve net zero carbon emissions before 2040.  Net zero means that any CO2 emissions would be removed from the atmosphere, either through natural systems or carbon capture and storage (CCS).  To put the difficulty of achieving that into perspective, you might want to check out the World Resources Institute’s latest release of its CAIT Climate Data Explorer.

The Petra Nova CCS project at a coal fired power plant in Texas is now capturing 90% of the CO2 released from its combustion.  Meanwhile, the Illinois Industrial Carbon Capture Project, operated by ethanol giant Archer Daniels Midland, has launched.  It couples CCS technology with biochemical ethanol production, thereby removing CO2 from the atmosphere, making it an early application of BECCS.  Carbon capture technology is also being applied by NET Power, only they are applying it to a unique gas turbine design.  Brad Plumer at Vox has analyzed the possible future of CCS during the Trump administration.

You may recall that in an earlier Roundup I linked to an article about President Trump announcing that his administration would reevaluate EPA’s CAFE standards for light trucks and cars.  Associated with that is the question of whether California will continue to be granted a waiver to issue its own standards.  Writing at Yale Climate Connections, Bruce Lieberman provided the history of the California standards and the state’s willingness to fight to retain them.  On Tuesday, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers stated that it hoped to reach a deal with California and the Trump administration on the standards.  On another front in California, a state appeals court upheld the California Air Resources Board’s cap-and-trade program for controlling CO2 emissions.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk stated via Twitter on Thursday that the company will unveil a concept version of an electric semi-truck in September.  In addition, a Tesla pickup is also in the works and will be unveiled in 18 to 24 months.  But, the big question is still whether the cars and trucks of the future will be powered by batteries or by fuel cells.  If this new development in battery technology turns out to really be the breakthrough that it appears to be, then batteries may beat out fuel cells for cars.  It will also have a major impact on the energy storage field.

Although we tend to hear less about the shift from coal to renewable energy in India than in China, a significant shift has been occurring.  This piece by Keith Schneider chronicles the cancellation of plans for Ultra Mega Power Projects.  An example of circumstances driving the shift is the recent winning bid to build a 250 MW solar PV facility, which set a new record low for India at the equivalent of 5¢/kWh.  It should be noted, however, that China effectively controls the global solar panel market, and this can cause cascading effects on solar employment all over the world.

If you have ever wondered why the Southeast U.S. has so few wind farms, then this essay by Lyndsey Gilpin at Inside Climate News is for you.  Speaking of wind farms, Texas is the top state for wind energy jobs.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said energy-related CO2 emissions in 2016 from petroleum and natural gas increased 1.1% and 0.9%, respectively, while coal-related emissions decreased 8.6%, leading to an overall 1.7% decline in energy-related CO2 emissions.

On Tuesday, Advanced Microgrid Solutions announced it is working with Walmart to install behind-the-meter batteries at 27 stores in Southern California to balance on-site energy production and use, and to provide flexibility to utilities.  Speaking of batteries for energy storage, their size and weight combine to make it logical to build them near the facilities where they will be used.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/7/2017

In a bit of good news, the U.S. House Climate Solutions Caucus has increased its membership by 10, bringing the total to 34, evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.  Nevertheless, many in the House view those colleagues with skepticism.  Still, there are some Republicans who doubt President Trump’s climate policies, as do three quarters of the public.  In a real “in-your-face” move, the Bureau of Land Management changed the banner on its home page from backpackers looking at the sunset in the mountains to a huge coal seam.  In the courts, environmental groups, led by the Environmental Defense Fund, and 17 Democratic states are fighting the Trump administration’s request that a federal appeals court put on hold its case regarding the Clean Power Plan.  Meanwhile, Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, continued to attack climate scientists, saying Wednesday that people raising red flags about climate change have ulterior motives beyond wanting to protect the environment: “It is all posturing for their own purposes, including a desire to control people’s lives or get another government grant or an academic promotion.”  In a Yale Environment 360 interview, climate scientist Kevin Trenberth talks about why scientists need to continue to speak out.  Finally, if you like out-of-the-box prognostications, you may be interested in Brad Plumer’s ideas on the climate surprises that might be in store during Trump’s presidency.

Climate

Although it didn’t come out this week, I thought you might be interested in this article about Paul Hawken’s new book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming, which will be released April 18.  Also, Chicago Review of Books Senior Editor Amy Brady interviewed Kim Stanley Robinson, author of New York 2140, a new climate fiction book mentioned recently.  On the subject of the arts and climate change, another artist who works with climate themes has been profiled.  Check out this piece about Zoria Forman’s hauntingly beautiful drawings of ice.  Also, the Geological Society of America recently published a paper featuring the work of photographer James Balog, who has documented the retreat of glaciers around the world.  Finally, Justin Nobel had a touching essay at National Geographic on changes in the snowy region of Japan.

Two scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, MD have spent the last two years studying 114 years of environmental data around the Chesapeake Bay to document the impacts of climate change on the Bay.

Carbon Brief has updated its chart showing the times remaining before the carbon budgets for 1.5°C, 2.0°C, and 3.0°C are exhausted if we continue to emit at current rates.  The allowable budget to have a 66% chance of staying below 1.5°C will be exhausted in 4.1 years.  And speaking of CO2, a new paper in the journal Nature Communications reported on studies to determine its atmospheric concentration during the past 420 million years.  The authors found that until humans started burning fossil fuels with the start of the Industrial Revolution, CO2 concentrations had been fairly stable for the past 20 million years.  Now CO2 levels are higher, causing plant growth to accelerate.  Furthermore, 50 million years ago CO2 concentrations were much higher (600 ppm or more) and a new paper in Nature has reported that Antarctic temperatures were much warmer, allowing palm trees to grow there.

Have you been uncertain about how and why the “discount rate” influences the social cost of carbon, i.e., the costs associated with the release of a ton of CO2 to the atmosphere?  If so, then this piece from the New York Times by Michael Greenstone, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, may be helpful.  When it comes to the economics of the market place, a very important component is hedging against risk.  John Sutter of CNN, among others, has said that we must view climate change from the same perspective.

Three recent studies have examined climate change impacts on ecosystems and the creatures that live in them.  Taken together they suggest that most species on Earth are being impacted by climate change, some for the good, but some for the bad.  How it all turns out will depend largely on how we respond.

A new study, published this week in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, has found that flight turbulence during transatlantic flights could increase significantly under climate change.  Furthermore, fuel and maintenance costs for air carriers could increase.  The author of the paper explained its broader significance at Carbon Brief.

In most oceans of the world, water gets colder as you go deeper.  Historically, this has not been true in the Arctic Ocean, where denser, saltier water flowing north from the Atlantic Ocean tends to sink beneath the colder, less salty water covered by ice.  That is now changing, according to a new paper in Science, which found that the warmer Atlantic-originating water is rising and melting sea ice from the bottom.

Energy

David Roberts at Vox has attempted to answer two important questions about the goal of 100% renewable energy: Is it the right goal, and is it even possible.  Which, raises another question, is an electric or hybrid electric air craft possible or desirable.  Zunam Aero thinks the answer to both questions is yes.

U.S. renewable energy production grew 7% between 2015 and 2016, but electricity from coal decreased 18%, reaching its lowest level since 1978 according to the Energy Information Administration.  Globally, 139GW of renewable capacity was installed in 2016, an 8% increase over the previous year, according to a new report from the UN Environment Program and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The Washington Post had an interesting article in their Sunday edition about the solar energy projects in Chile’s Atacama Desert.  Chile hopes to become “A Solar Saudi Arabia”.  Across the Atlantic, in Africa, the demand for electricity is growing rapidly.  A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined the potential for wind and solar generation to meet that demand and found that it could do so, with proper siting and interconnectedness.  Meanwhile, the European Environment Agency issued a report stating that the use of renewable energy helped Europe reduce its CO2 emissions by about 10% in 2015.  In the U.S., however, some states are continuing to adopt policies to limit rooftop solar development; also see here and here.  It is interesting to note, though, that the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum is adding solar panels to its roof.

During the past three weeks, E&E News posted a series of articles about energy storage.  The articles were “Energy storage is America’s industry to lose”, “Is energy storage the next jobs creator?”, and “Where the energy storage industry is happening now.”  On the subject of storage, South Australia’s desire to build a 100MW energy storage system has generated a lot of interest, and not just from battery manufacturers.  Thermal storage is also being proposed.

I’ve recently linked to articles about the new wind energy lease off the shore of North Carolina.  One thing that the leasee must consider before starting construction of a windfarm is how the electricity generated will be transmitted to shore and to market.  Another point of interest concerns the number of jobs that would be associated with a strong offshore wind energy industry in the U.S.

One of the objections to the rule requiring companies to monitor for methane leaks at oil and gas facilities is that the equipment is expensive and labor-intensive.  Now, IBM scientists and engineers, working with researchers at Harvard and Princeton universities, have devised a miniature sensor chip that continuously monitors for methane.  Will this be the key that allows continuous, autonomous monitoring at reasonable cost?  A recent study of the environmental impacts of a tar sands oil pipeline found that the carbon emissions associated with tar sands oil are around 21% larger than the emissions associated with an average U.S. refinery mix.

The leaders of two large U.S. coal companies are urging the Trump administration not to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, arguing that their interests are better served by the U.S. having a place at the bargaining table.  In addition, a Reuters survey of 32 utilities indicates that the bulk of them have no plans to alter their multi-billion dollar, years-long shift away from coal, suggesting demand for the fuel will keep falling.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/31/2017

The big political news this week was President Trump’s executive order reversing the efforts of the Obama administration to fight climate change.  As might be imagined, this order was covered heavily in the news.  Science reprinted an article from E&E News outlining the main content of the order and Carbon Brief staff compiled a comprehensive summary of news around this actionVox reprinted the executive order annotated by Emily Hammond, a professor of energy, environmental, and administrative law at George Washington University.  Less than 24 hours after the order was signed, a coalition of environmental groups sued the Trump administration in Federal court over the order.  The White House announced that a decision on whether to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement will be made before the G7 Conference on May 26.  The Sierra Club and five other conservation groups filed a lawsuit on Thursday to undo President Trump’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.  On Wednesday, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing entitled “Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method,” which became a bit heated.  Two of the witnesses urged Congress to fund “red teams” to challenge the findings of the IPCC.  If you have a couple of hours to spend, you can watch the hearing here.  The Heartland Institute is sending a packet of “educational” material, including their booklet “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming,” to more than 200,000 K-12 science teachers in the U.S.  President Trump has cited a study by the Heritage Foundation that claims the costs of complying with the Paris Climate Agreement are too high and the benefits too low.  A review of the document by the World Resources Institute found that Heritage did not provide credible estimates of either costs or benefits of climate action.  At The New York Times, Coral Davenport compiled statements by officials in the Trump administration denying the established science of human-caused climate change.  On Friday, The Washington Post published more detailed information about the proposed cuts to EPA and the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Yale Environment 360 had two interesting articles this week.  Marc Gunther presented an overview of the “small yet growing number of Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians [who] are starting to push for action on climate.”  Several commentaries on President Trump’s executive order speculated that China would now become the world’s leader on addressing climate change.  While that may well occur, it is important to keep in mind China’s larger environmental impact.  William Laurance, who is a Distinguished Research Professor and Australian Laureate at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, wrote a piece expressing his opinion about that impact.

Climate

A new paper in Nature Climate Change examined the practice of “managed retreat” away from changing shore lines or flooding rivers as one form of adaptation to climate change.  In a special guest column at Carbon Brief, lead author Miyuki Hino summarized their findings.  CNN columnist John Sutter told the story of the people of Shifmaref, Alaska, who would like to move their village in response to the rapidly eroding coastline, but so far have been unable to.  Be sure to watch the short video that accompanies the article.

A review article by an international team of scientists in the journal Science examined the changing geographical distribution of plant and animal species in response to climate change and concluded that such changes affect “ecosystem functioning, human well-being, and the dynamics of climate change itself.”  This mass movement of species is the biggest since the peak of the last ice age, about 25,000 years ago, with land-based species moving poleward by an average of 10 miles per decade, and marine species by 43 miles per decade.

The Arctic continues to be unseasonably warm, with temperatures 5-7°F above “normal.”  This will cause large impacts on the sea ice, which is already experiencing thinning and early breakup.  In light of the record low sea ice extents reported last week, Carbon Brief interviewed three polar scientists and asked them to put those records in perspective.  According to a new study published Friday in the journal Nature Communications, ice caps and glaciers along the coast of Greenland passed a tipping point in 1997, and since then have been melting three times faster than before.

A new paper in the journal Nature Scientific Reports links the persistent weather events that have been occurring recently to human-caused climate change.  The warming Arctic has altered the northern-hemisphere jet stream, making it more susceptible to stalling under certain temperature conditions, leading to persistent, extreme summer weather events such as the 2003 European heatwave, the Pakistan flood and Russian heatwave in 2010, the 2011 Texas drought, and the recent unprecedented drought in California.  The paper showed that the conditions needed to stall the jet stream position are significantly more likely because of global warming.

One consequence of Trump’s energy policy will be a delay in slowing and reversing the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere.  Therefore, attention is turning to geoengineering as a way to slow global warming even in the face of increasing CO2 concentrations.  This led to a series of articles on the subject in The Guardian.  First was a news article about experiments being planned by a team of scientists at Harvard.  It was then followed by a post by an independent journalist, which appears to be an opinion piece, to which the Harvard scientists responded.

Another technology that has been touted for its potential to sequester carbon in the soil is the application of biochar, which is a stable, non-decomposing form of charcoal.  Opinions about biochar appear to vary widely, with those in the industry touting it as a climate change solution, and others, not so sure.  Now DeSmog has released a six-part report, entitled “Biochar: Climate Change Solution or False Hope?”, that examines both the technology and the industry around it.

Energy

While most news organizations have been focused on the drama in Washington, DC, lots of things have been happening at the state level about renewable energy, both pro and con.  Inside Climate News prepared a summary of that activity.

Westinghouse Electric filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday, hit by billions of dollars of cost overruns at four nuclear reactors under construction in South Carolina and Georgia.  Chris Martin and Chris Cooper told the story of Westinghouse’s big gamble at Bloomberg while Brad Plumer at Vox asked if radical innovation could save the nuclear power industry.  Meanwhile, in Virginia, Dominion is moving forward with its plans to build a third reactor at North Anna.  In the UK, EDF has been given approval to begin construction on the Hinkley C nuclear power plant and in France, construction continues on ITER, or the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, for the study of nuclear fusion, the ultimate energy source.

In past Roundups I have linked to articles about President Trump’s decision to reopen the CAFE standards issue for light trucks and autos.  Amory Lovins, chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, took issue with this decisionThe New York Times had a good infographic showing the impact of a rollback of the CAFE standards, the Clean Power Plan, and other actions on meeting our Paris pledge.

The International Renewable Energy Agency has estimated that global renewable energy capacity exceeded 2,000GW for the first time in 2016.  Growth was 8.7% for the year, including 71GW of new solar energy, 51GW of wind capacity, 30GW of hydropower, 9GW of bioenergy, and just under 1GW of geothermal energy capacity.  Looking ahead, Sweden’s state-owned utility, Vattenfall, plans invest $1.94 billion in onshore and offshore wind power during 2017-2018.

A paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters provided the first comprehensive life-cycle analysis of how a global switch to low-carbon energy sources might impact both human and ecological health.  They found that low-carbon energy sources had less impact on both.  Somewhat surprisingly, they also found that biomass fuels have a large environmental impact, providing additional evidence in the controversy over that fuel.  On a related note, an analysis of DOE jobs data by the Sierra Club revealed that nationally, clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs by more than 2.5 to 1 in the U.S.

Ikea’s Midwest distribution center near Joliet, IL, will have the state’s largest rooftop solar array with almost 9,000 panels and a capacity of 2.91MW.  The output will be consumed on-site and is part of the company’s goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2020.  In spite of Ikea, Bloomberg Markets said that U.S. rooftop solar is facing consolidation as growth is slowing nationally.

Last month Avangrid Renewables won the right to erect a windfarm offshore of Kitty Hawk, NC.  However, as Elizabeth Ouzts recently wrote in Southeast Energy News, because of a number of factors, it could be 2025 before the facility is built.  Looking to a future with more renewables, mid-Atlantic grid operator PJM has conducted modeling studies to assess grid reliability with less coal and nuclear generation and more natural gas and wind power.  They found that grid reliability would not decline with up to 20% renewables.  Early in 2017, Utility Dive surveyed more than 600 electric utility professionals across the U.S. to compile their 4th annual State of the Electric Utility Survey. The results indicate that utilities expect to source more power from renewables, distributed resources, and natural gas in the coming years, with coal continuing to decline.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News 3/24/2017

The House Science Committee, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) will hold a hearing next week entitled “Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method.”  The Republican witnesses at the hearing will be Judith Curry, John Christy, and Roger Pielke Jr, whereas the lone Democratic witness will be Michael Mann.  Speaking at the Heartland Institute’s 12th annual International Conference on Climate Change, Smith said: “Next week we’re going to have a hearing on our favorite subject of climate change and also on the scientific method, which has been repeatedly ignored by the so-called self-professed climate scientists.” Also at the conference, speakers who had been on President Trump’s transition team emphasized the need to revoke the 2009 finding that CO2 endangers public health.  On Tuesday, a White House official said that the Trump administration is not considering a carbon tax, such as that proposed by the Climate Leadership Council six weeks ago.  However, the tax’s very proposal set off a fierce debate within the White House and has emboldened Republicans concerned about climate change.  One reason a carbon tax is not popular at the White House is that it doesn’t fit into the administrations “America First Energy Plan,” which aims to take advantage of domestic fossil fuel resources.  This week, Jeremy Proville and Jonathan Camuzeaux of the Environmental Defense Fund examined the claimed value of those resources.  Another aspect of the Trump energy plan is deregulation, yet Reuters reported that the major oil and gas companies have been telling shareholders that regulations have little impact on their business.  On Friday of last week, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney asserted that studying climate change is a “waste of your money.”  This Friday, the State Department signed and issued a presidential permit to construct the Keystone XL pipeline.

Perhaps the one good thing to come out of the anti-environmental stance of the Trump administration is that it has united the environmental movement in a major way.  For example, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said he has never seen so much collaboration and coordination among environmentalists.  A new study by Media Matters revealed that during 2016, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox spent a combined total of 50 minutes on climate change, “[a]nd none of them aired a single segment on the effect a Trump or Clinton presidency would have on the climate — until after the election.”  On the other hand, in response to the Trump administration’s anti-climate stance, both The Washington Post and The New York Times have increased their coverage of climate news.

Climate

The World Meteorological Organization issued its annual statement on the State of the Global Climate on Tuesday, noting that several records were broken, pushing the world into “truly uncharted territory.”  The trend of broken records has continued this year with sea ice experiencing the smallest winter maximum extent in the Arctic and the smallest summer minimum extent in the Antarctic.  On the subject of ice, Yale Climate Connections’ “This Is Not Cool” video for this month is about the impacts of soot and algal growth on the melting of ice in Greenland.

A paper in the journal Nature Geoscience links the drop in the level of groundwater in India to the impacts of climate change on monsoons.  This drop is having significant consequences to people in rural India.  To get an idea of just how severe the problem is for southern India, look at this rainfall map prepared by NOAA that shows the deviation from the long-term average.  India is the region on the left.  To translate, 1 inch = 25.4 mm, or 500 mm = almost 20 inches of rain that some regions have lost in just a six month period.

China’s State Oceanic Administration reported on Wednesday that average coastal sea levels in 2016 were up 1.5 inches compared to the previous year, and saw record-breaking highs in the months of April, September, November, and December.  Historically, since 1980, sea level along China’s coast has risen at an average rate of 1/8 inch per year, so last year’s increase was extraordinary.  Rising sea level is of increasing concern to coastal cities everywhere.  Here in the U.S., cities are taking different approaches, as documented in these articles about Atlantic City, Miami Beach, and New Orleans.

The Gulf of Mexico has been really warm this winter, as have the towns and cities around it.  Given the right conditions, this could cause a larger number of severe thunderstorms in the southern and central parts of the U.S. this spring.  Further south, an extremely warm Pacific Ocean off the western coast of South America is contributing to severe rainfall and flooding in Peru.

In a report released Wednesday, the Natural Resources Defense Council said that U.S. per capita beef consumption fell by 19% from 2005 to 2014, equivalent to removing 39 million cars from U.S. roads.  The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association disputed the findings.

Citing climate change as a factor contributing to the decline of the rusty patch bumblebee, the Department of Interior placed the bee on the Endangered Species List, the first bee so designated.

Energy

Take a break from all the heavy news about climate and energy and read about stained glass artist Sarah Hall who incorporates solar cells into her architectural creations.  Be sure to watch the video in full screen at the end.

Frustrated with the vagueness of the Paris Climate Agreement on how to keep global warming below 2°C, a group of European researchers has prepared a concrete pathway and published it in the journal Science.  Dubbed the “carbon law”, by analogy with “Moore’s law” for transistors, it calls for a halving of CO2 emissions from energy and industry each decade, and imposes a stiff carbon tax globally.  The lead author of the study told Brad Plumer of Vox, “It’s way more than adding solar or wind.  It’s rapid decarbonization, plus a revolution in food production, plus a sustainability revolution, plus a massive engineering scale-up [for carbon removal].”  The idea was presented to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in New York on Friday.  It is interesting that this week Martin Boucher and Philip Loring argued that climate change is not, fundamentally, a technological problem.  Rather, it requires “solutions that emphasize place-based, social and behavioral innovations.”  On a more practical level, the International Energy Agency and the International Renewable Energy Agency issued a new report that sets out the “essential elements” needed to transition the energy sector in a manner consistent with the Paris Agreement.  However, the two agencies weren’t in total agreement, causing them to issue separate press releases.

The lead article in the business section of the print edition of The Washington Post on Sunday was on U.S. coal in the age of Trump.  The conclusion was that the prospects for jobs are weak.  UK-based Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit examined coal usage in China and India.  Indeed, coal use is declining worldwide.  According to a report released by Coalswarm, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, from Jan. 2016 to Jan. 2017, the number of announced coal projects dropped from nearly 500,000 to fewer than 250,000 and the number of coal projects on hold jumped from 230,000 to more than 600,000.  Adding to the problems here at home, Moody’s Investor Services, has stated that some 56 GW of Midwest coal-fired generation are at risk because of lower-cost wind energy.

In the U.S., during the past seven years, the price of utility-scale solar has dropped 85%, fueling strong growth in the technology.  Writing on Yale Environment 360, Cheryl Katz provided an update on the status of large-scale solar technology.  An article in the journal Nature Energy revealed that Japanese scientists have developed a solar cell with the highest efficiency ever attained, although it is not yet ready for commercial application.  As further evidence for continued growth of solar in regions of the U.S. where sunlight is limited in winter, GE is developing more than 17MW in projects across six states in the northeastern U.S.

Energy efficiency mandates are under review in at least two states, Ohio and Kentucky.  It appears that regulators are concerned about declining income for energy companies and wonder why they should require them to invest in energy efficiency when energy demand is declining.  Meanwhile, at the federal level, the Trump administration plans to eliminate the Weatherization Assistance Program, a grant program in the Department of Energy that helps states improve the energy efficiency of the homes of low-income families.  The Energy Star program is also slated for elimination, but dozens of companies and organizations have come to its defense.  In spite of a negative attitude about energy efficiency in the new administration, two RMI authors argue that the federal government can significantly reduce its operating costs by focusing on the energy efficiency of its facilities.

A paper in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, described a collaborative effort among Colorado scientists, the Environmental Defense Fund, and Google’s Street View program to reveal leaks in urban natural gas pipelines, thereby helping utilities decrease methane leaks.

While the children’s lawsuit in the state of Oregon has gotten more press, another children’s lawsuit in Colorado just resulted in a victory for the children in that state’s Court of Appeals.  The ruling elevated protection of public health and the environment to “a condition that must be fulfilled” by the state before oil and gas drilling can be done.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/17/2017

Political news continues unabated.  The President unveiled his budget proposal for 2018.  Luckily, this is more of a philosophical statement than a concrete budget proposal because it is a disaster for science at all levels, as can be seen in this departmental-level summary.  Commentary can be found in the following for EPA, NOAA, NASA, and DOEThe Washington Post had a summary of all climate-related cuts while Climate Central analyzed the impacts on energy programs and Bloomberg Politics documented all of the independent agencies and programs that would be eliminated.  Finally, Science presented reactions from a number of sources.  As you read about the budget, remember that Congress controls the purse strings.  Last week I linked to an article about former staff of Senator James Inhofe joining Scott Pruitt’s staff at EPA.  This week, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis had more information about that in The Washington Post.  Meanwhile, according to Reuters, the Trump administration has been contacting U.S. energy companies to ask them about their views on the Paris Climate Accord.  In addition, President Trump vowed to reopen the review of the 2025 CAFE standards for autos and light trucks while meeting with auto executives in Detroit.  Earlier in the week, the auto industry filed suit against the EPA to overturn their final determination last year on the standards.  Nevertheless, the leaders of two dozen Fortune 500 companies and roughly 1,000 others signed a letter addressed to Trump and Congress stating that “Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk” and scientists pushed back hard against the statements by Scott Pruitt about climate change.

On Wednesday, 17 House Republicans introduced a resolution that acknowledges the negative impacts of climate change and calls on the House to work on solutions for mitigation and adaptation.  You can read the resolution here.

Climate

An important news article came out during the evening of March 9, but I missed it and didn’t include it last week.  Unfortunately, it is disturbing news; the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is undergoing another significant bleaching episode, which is unprecedented and could lead to widespread death of the coral.  As a consequence, a week-long survey of the entire reef is being done this week to better assess the extent of the current bleaching event.  Robert McSweeney at Carbon Brief has a good retrospective of the previous three bleaching events.  Also, this week the results of a study by an international team of scientists of prior bleaching was published in the journal Nature.  It concludes that the only way to save the reef is to stop global warming.  As if the coral bleaching wasn’t enough, Australia has also suffered from a massive die-off of mangrove forests, making their coastline more susceptible to erosion.

According to a new paper in the journal Science Advances, the extreme air pollution over Chinese cities is not just due to local emissions from their coal-fired power plants.  It is also due to climate change, which is causing Arctic sea ice to melt and snow falls to increase over Siberia, thereby altering winter weather patterns and making periods of stagnant air more common, trapping the air pollution.

Eleven national medical organizations have banded together to form the Medical Society Consortium on Climate Health to help accelerate the transition to a clean energy society.  Because doctors are seeing first-hand the impacts of climate change on people’s health, they thought it was important for them to speak out on the issue.  You can download their report here.  In addition to our physical health, climate change also impacts our mental health, as documented in this piece.

NOAA has announced that for the second year in a row, CO2 levels in the atmosphere have increased at a rate of 3 ppm/year, bringing the level to about 405 ppm.  The rate of increase is the highest ever recorded.  Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency announced that global energy-associated CO2 emissions were constant for the third year in a row.

One side effect of a more global economy is a greater role for aviation, from rapid transport of critical products to increased tourist travel.  Many passengers have been concerned about the carbon footprint of their air travel, causing them to buy offsets for the emitted CO2.  A bigger problem, however, lies in the other emissions, which can have an impact on climate change several times greater than that of CO2.  Jocelyn Timperley has provided an “explainer” about those emissions at Carbon Brief.  Meanwhile, a new paper in the journal Nature reports that during cruise conditions jet aircraft burning a 50:50 blend of traditional jet fuel and biofuel produced 50–70% fewer particles, which are part of the “other emissions” problem.

A new study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that between 30 and 50% of the decline in summer sea ice in the Arctic since 1979 may be due to natural processes, with the remainder (50 to 70%) due directly to human-caused global warming.  The natural process of most importance is the air circulation over the Arctic, which helps distribute the heat associated with increased greenhouse gases.

Energy

Another example of innovation in energy storage comes from Germany where the state of North-Rhine Westphalia will turn the Prosper-Haniel coal mine into a 200 MW pumped-storage hydroelectric facility when it closes in 2018.  They will build a water reservoir on the surface above the mine.  When wind turbines and solar farms cannot produce enough electricity to meet demand, water will flow from the reservoir down shafts to a depth of 3,300 ft where it will turn turbines to generate the needed power before flowing into old mine tunnels.  Then when the wind turbines and solar farms are producing more electricity than needed, the excess will be used to pump the water back to the surface.  Would this work in southwestern Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and other Appalachian states?  Speaking of energy storage, will Tesla solve South Australia’s energy crisis with 100 MW of batteries?

The American Wind Energy Association in partnership with Navigant Consulting has issued a report examining the impacts of wind energy on the U.S. economy.  At the end of 2016 the wind industry had an installed capacity of over 82,000 MW and is expected to install another 35,000 MW and drive $85 billion in economic activity over the next four years.  Avangrid Renewables, the Spanish energy conglomerate that was the developer and operator of the Amazon Wind Farm in North Carolina, has won the lease to build an off-shore wind farm 24 to 49 miles off the coast of North Carolina near Kitty Hawk.

The mayors of thirty cities jointly asked automakers for the cost and feasibility of providing 114,000 electric vehicles for a variety of applications from police cruisers to street sweepers.  The intent is to provide electric vehicle manufacturers with reliable demand in the face of Trump administration policies.  Meanwhile, a quiet battle is going on at the state level over incentives for buying an electric vehicle and China is considering decreasing its quotas for electric vehicles required of its domestic car manufacturers.

U.S. rooftop solar installations increased 19% in 2016, which looks good until you consider that the average growth rate year-over-year from 2012 to 2015 was 63%.  Several factors were responsible for the decline, but the national solar association expects to see continued growth in both utility-scale and rooftop solar installations.  One driver of demand for both wind and solar is expected to be power purchase agreements with corporate users, according to Moody’s Investors Service.  On the subject of solar, a new study from the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative, called Consumer Driven Technologies, found that 80% of survey respondents were willing to forgo net metering provided the excess electricity they produced from their residential solar PV system went to their communities to provide clean energy for everyone.  Unfortunately, in India the promise of solar power has not been met as attempts at using distributed electricity in rural villages via solar panels and batteries have fallen prey to theft and equipment failure.

President Trump’s budget proposal includes funds to restart the licensing for Nevada’s Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, although Nevada lawmakers pledge fierce opposition to it.

A new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology examined methane leakage from gas-fired power plants and refineries.  It found that methane leakage was 2-120 times higher for power plants and 11-90 times higher for refineries than calculated from data provided by facility operators.

On several occasions, I have provided links to articles about the difficulty developers of electrical transmission lines are having acquiring right-of-way for their projects.  This is essentially stranding renewable energy generated in the west or Midwest, preventing it from getting to markets in the east, where it is needed.  Now a new proposal to rejuvenate and electrify rail lines in the U.S. has as one component the use of the rail corridors as routes for electrical transmission lines.  The entire proposal is called Solutionary Rail.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/10/2017

Each week, while putting the Roundup together, I try to include as much positive news as I can, even though there always seems to be far more negative news.  Please don’t let that get you down.  On Friday evening as I was reading The Book of Joy, which is Douglas Abrams’ account of an extended conversation between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, I came across this passage, and I offer it as a kind of antidote to the negative.  The Dalai Lama said “When bad things happen they become news… Then we can feel that there is not much hope for our future… All these things happen, but they are unusual, which is why they become news.”  He then talks about good things that happen and continues “But this is so common that none of it becomes news… When we look at the news, we must keep this more holistic view… We must have a sense of proportion and a wider perspective.  Then we will not feel despair when we see these sad things.”  You are also invited to the monthly meeting of the CAAV-sponsored Apocaloptimists on the last Tuesday of each month at the Harrisonburg Mennonite Church at 7:00 pm.

On Thursday morning, speaking on CNBC, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt made one of his strongest statements yet rejecting the science of human-caused climate change, a statement that is in direct opposition to information on EPA’s own website.  The Editorial Board of The Washington Post responded to Pruitt’s comments in a strong editorial and his office was deluged with phone calls.  He also questioned whether EPA has the authority to regulate CO2.  Speaking of Pruitt, last week I mentioned that he had named Ryan Jackson, a former staff member of Senator James Inhofe, as his chief of staff.  He has also named other Inhofe staff members to his staff.  Byron Brown, will serve as Jackson’s deputy.  Andrew Wheeler, is a finalist to be Pruitt’s deputy, but requires Senate confirmation.  You can go here for a list of proposed cuts to the EPA budget and to Inside Climate News for an analysis of their impacts.  Also, The Washington Post had an analysis of the impact of the proposed cuts to NOAA’s budget on coastal communities.  Since the election, activists have been archiving climate and other scientific data from government websites, but this has turned out to be a more difficult task than originally thought.  On the international scene, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports that the finance ministers of the G20 nations may scale back the funding pledges of their nations made under the Paris Climate Accord.

It has been said that the public only begins to understand a problem after the arts become involved.  Well, science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson has been doing his part to move that along.  First it was with his Science in the Capital trilogy, which brings the impacts of climate change to Washington, DC.  Now it is New York 2140, which takes place in New York City after sea level has risen 50 ft.  It will be out March 14.

Climate

The young people’s lawsuit against the federal government about climate change was back in the news this week.  The Trump Administration filed a motion to overturn a ruling by a federal judge in November that cleared the lawsuit for trial and filed a separate motion to delay trial preparation until that appeal is considered.  Meanwhile, in South Africa the government lost its first climate change lawsuit when the country’s highest court ruled against its plans to build a coal-fired power plant.

NOAA announced on Wednesday that February was the second warmest on record in the U.S., trailing only February 1954 by 0.2°F.  The average temperature was 41.5°F, over 7°F above normal.  East of the Rocky Mountains, it was the warmest February ever recorded.  A study by World Weather Attribution found that thanks to climate change, the warm February was at least three times more likely now than it was 120 years ago.  Furthermore, around 1900, this type of persistent heat was a 1-in-160 year event, whereas today it is a 1-in-12 year event.  The New York Times has some very interesting graphics.

An important new study was published in Science Advances on Friday documenting the heat uptake by the oceans using the extensive data from the Argo float program.  The results showed that the world’s oceans have taken up around 13% more heat than had been estimated previously.  They also showed that heat uptake was not uniform, with 59% being stored in the Atlantic and Southern Oceans, even though they make up less than 50% of the ocean area.

For some time now, a favorite meme among those not concerned about climate change is that it will be beneficial to humankind by increasing agricultural productivity.  Well, a 26-year study by the Australian national science organization CSIRO has challenged that claim.  Rather, the researchers found that while wheat growers made significant productivity gains over the study, they were off-set by the negative effects of climate change, so that yields stayed constant.  On a similar note, many have claimed that higher atmospheric CO2 levels will lead to more carbon storage due to greening of the planet.  That may well be true, if all other nutrients are supplied in excess, but a new study published in Nature Climate Change has found that in phosphorus-limited soils (which are common in the tropics and subtropics) forests will store around 10% less carbon than expected.

A new paper in the journal Nature Communications reports that by 2030, if CO2 emissions continue unabated, over half of the world’s ocean will be exposed to more than one source of stress, affecting everything from plants to whales.  By 2050, that figure rises to around 86% of the ocean.  This does not bode well for the large percent of Earth’s population that depends on the oceans for its protein.

In a news release on Tuesday, the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which tracks sea ice trends, warned that further losses of satellite capabilities may cause sea ice observations to be compromised until 2023.  A study in Nature Climate Change has found that a 2°C rise in global mean temperature would lead to a 39% risk that ice will disappear from the Arctic Ocean in summers, although it is almost certain to survive with just 1.5°C of warming.

Energy

This one is very intriguing, but as an environmental engineer who worked with microorganisms in a variety of municipal and industrial applications, I’d like to see a complete energy and carbon balance before I fully buy in.  Nevertheless, the idea of using bacteria, instead of cement with its high carbon footprint, to bind aggregate together into “concrete” bricks is a really interesting one.  Meanwhile, Swiss researchers have shown that ceramic materials can be made without heating by starting with nanoscale calcium carbonate powder and applying pressure.  Let’s hope they both pan out because their potential benefits are great.

In an article on Yale Climate Connections, Bruce Lieberman argues that no matter what President Trump does, the long-term outlook for employment in the coal industry looks bleak.  Market forces are just too strong in other directions.  Coal use in the UK dropped 52% in 2016 due to both market forces and a carbon tax, while CO2 emissions declined by 6%, according to a report published last Friday by Carbon Brief.

Tesla Inc. has completed a solar project on the island of Kauai in Hawaii that incorporates batteries so that the utility can sell solar power in the evening, as well as during the day.  This will displace 1.6 million gallons of diesel fuel per year that is currently used to power generators to provide power at night.  On the subject of solar, GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association announced that the U.S. solar market is expected to nearly triple in size over the next five years.  In addition, worldwide, 76 GW of solar power was installed in 2016, up from 50 GW in 2015.  Globally there is now 305GW of solar power capacity.

The costs of off-shore wind continue to drop in Europe, making it much more competitive in the energy market place.  According to Bloomberg, the price of building an offshore wind farm has fallen 46% in the last five years, and 22% last year alone.  That, plus the entry of Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil ASA, and other oil and gas giants, with their experience building structures at sea, into the business suggests that even the U.S. will see expanded off-shore wind development.

Alaskan villages are employing on-shore wind turbines connected to microgrids to supply their electricity at lower costs than the diesel generators they used to use.  The lessons learned could be helpful to remote villages everywhere.  Also, surprisingly, Georgetown, TX, in the heart of oil and gas country, is one of the first U.S. cities to be powered entirely by renewable energy.

All but 10% of Royal Dutch Shell’s oil-sands interests will be sold to Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.  Shell will continue to operate the Scotford upgrader, which converts heavy oil to lighter liquids for easier transport, and the Quest carbon capture and storage project.  Shell also announced that progress in cutting greenhouse gas emissions from its refineries and chemical plants will determine 10% of executives’ bonuses.  Meanwhile, Shell’s CEO has said that the oil and gas industry risks losing public support if progress is not made in the transition to cleaner energy.

In earlier Weekly Roundups I had linked to articles about auto executives asking the Trump Administration to roll back the 2025 fuel efficiency standards.  Now, 12 Senate Democrats have said that it is “critical” that the rules be left in place.  In addition, Jody Freeman, a professor at Harvard Law School and counselor to Former President Obama on energy and climate change in 2009-10, has provided background about the standards and laid out arguments for their retention.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.