Thursday, January 22, 2009

Now the Story Can Begin to be Told...

From Joseph Romm in Grist:

On Friday January 16, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program actually released four major Synthesis and Assessment reports. You may remember the last report the CCSP released -- U.S. Geological Survey stunner: Sea-level rise in 2100 will likely "substantially exceed" IPCC projections, SW faces "permanent drying" by 2050. I was told by scientists knowledgeable about the CCSP process that all of the major impact reports were slowed down in the review process to make sure they came out after the election.

So what are the reports the Bushies have tried to bury? From the CCSP website:

Final Report of Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.1 (Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-Level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region) is posted online. See also press release from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and EPA web-page. (posted 16 Jan 2009)

Final Report of Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.2 (Thresholds of Climate Change in Ecosystems) is posted. See also press release from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). (posted 16 Jan 2009)

Final Report of Synthesis and Assessment Product 2.3 (Aerosol properties and their impacts on climate) is posted online. See also press release from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). (posted 16 Jan 2009)

Final Report of Synthesis and Assessment Product 1.2 (Past Climate Variability and Change in the Arctic and at High Latitudes) is posted. See also press release from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). (posted 16 Jan 2009)

These are all substantive and comprehensive studies, almost on a par with the IPCC's Fourth Assessment.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Northeast Greenhouse Gas Allowance Auction

The second auction of allowances for greenhouse gas emissions held by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was a robust auction that yielded $106.5 million for use by the 10 RGGI states, according to Potomac Economics, an independent market monitor. The auction was held on December 17, and while some feared that the economic situation would depress the prices for the emission allowances, in reality the prices went up, selling at a clearing price of $3.38 per allowance. That's about 10% higher than the clearing price of $3.07 per allowance that was reached in the first auction, which was held in late September 2008. RGGI (pronounced "Reggie") is the first market-based, mandatory cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Ten northeastern and mid-Atlantic states are participating in the program, including Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. See the RGGI press release (PDF 146 KB) and Web site. Download Adobe Reader.

RGGI helps reduce the region's greenhouse gas emissions in two ways: first, the steady reduction of the emissions cap will eventually force electric generators to find ways to cut their emissions, primarily through energy efficiency or renewable energy. As the cap decreases, the rising cost of the allowances will effectively add an increasing carbon price to traditional fossil-energy combustion, improving the cost competitiveness of cleaner alternatives. But the auction also yields a new source of revenue for the participating states. Massachusetts, for instance, gained $14.8 million from the latest auction, the bulk of which was directed toward utility energy efficiency programs, heating system upgrades for the homes of families earning low incomes, and a new "green communities" effort. The funds are also supporting a new $5 million training program for energy auditors, insulation installers, and other energy efficiency technicians, creating skilled labor needed for the "green collar" opportunities that are generated by the concerted effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. See the press release from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

The RGGI states certainly seem to think the process works, as they have already embarked on a new effort to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle fuels. Governor Patrick announced on January 5 that the 10 RGGI states are teaming up with Pennsylvania to create a regional Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which will be a market-based, technologically neutral policy to address the carbon content of fuels. The standard will require reductions in the average lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions per unit of useful energy, and it should promote a gradual shift to advanced biofuels and to cars powered with electricity. See the governor's press release.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

After the Ball is Over...

An auld song from the grandparents has been kickin' round my head today:

After the ball is over
After the break of morn
After the dancers' leaving
After the stars are gone
Many a heart is aching
If you could read them all
Many the hopes that have vanished
After the ball

Well, I guess you had to hear it in 3/4 time...

So now let's get to work. The draft American Recovery and Reinvestment Act details. Here are areas that may touch on GSHP in one way or another:

Local Government Energy Efficiency Block Grants: $6.9 billion to help state and local governments make investments that make them more energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions.
Energy Efficiency Housing Retrofits: $2.5 billion for a new program to upgrade HUD sponsored low-income housing to increase energy efficiency, including new insulation, windows, and furnaces.
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Research: $2 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy research, development, demonstration, and deployment activities to foster energy independence, reduce carbon emissions, and cut utility bills.
Advanced Battery Loans and Grants: $2 billion for the Advanced Battery Loan Guarantee and Grants Program, to support U.S. manufacturers of advanced vehicle batteries and battery systems.
Energy Efficiency Grants and Loans for Institutions: $1.5 billion for energy sustainability and efficiency grants and loans to help school districts, institutes of higher education, local governments, and municipal utilities implement projects that will make them more energy efficient.
Home Weatherization: $6.2 billion to help low-income families reduce their energy costs by weatherizing their homes and make our country more energy efficient.
Department of Defense Research: $350 million for research into using renewable energy to power weapons systems and military bases.
Alternative Buses and Trucks: $400 million to help state and local governments purchase efficient alternative fuel vehicles to reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions.
Industrial Energy Efficiency: $500 million for energy efficient manufacturing demonstration projects.
Diesel Emissions Reduction: $300 million for grants and loans to state and local governments for projects that reduce diesel emissions, benefiting public health and reducing global warming.
Department of Energy: $400 million for the Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy to support high-risk, high- payoff research into energy sources and energy efficiency.

New York Times Editorial

A bit too much of the ol' "on the one hand..." caveat searching for dangers of a "drilling free-for-all," but otherwise right on the money. -Ed.

"The next administration should commit to developing this extraordinary resource."

January 14, 2009

Geothermal Future

To most people the word “geothermal” means hot springs and geysers — like parts of Iceland or Yellowstone National Park where water is heated by the presence of magma near the surface of the earth. But the earth’s heat lies below everywhere, and it offers a virtually untapped energy reserve of enormous potential with a very short list of drawbacks.

In 2006, a panel led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology surveyed the prospects for electricity production from enhanced geothermal systems. Its conclusions were conservative but very optimistic. The panel suggested that with modest federal support, geothermal power could play a critical role in America’s energy future, adding substantially to the nation’s store of renewable energy and more than making up for coal-burning power plants that would have to be retired.

Following up on the M.I.T. study and a separate survey of its own, the Bureau of Land Management issued a decision last month that would open up as many as 190 million acres to leases for geothermal exploration and development. These lands are mostly in the West, where hot rock lies closer to the surface than it generally does in the East.

There is a lot of research yet to be done about geothermal sources, new techniques for deep drilling and energy generation at the surface. But the basics are clear enough. Water is injected deep into the earth where it absorbs heat from the surrounding rock. As the fluid returns to the surface, that heat is used to generate electricity. The fluid is then re-injected. The system forms a closed loop. It creates almost no emissions and is entirely renewable. It also occupies a smaller surface area than either solar or wind power.

Read More

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Key Technologies for More Energy Efficient, Carbon Neutral Living

An Excerpt From Michael Hoexter's textbook-like Green Thoughts Blog

Part Four of His Summary for PolicyMakers Series

Listed below are some of the key technologies that will help us achieve energy independence and carbon neutrality more quickly.

1) Heat pumps: ground source, air source, hybrid and with bore hole thermal energy storage

2) Super-glass (low emissivity, selectively coated, insulated) and super-windows

3) High-R Insulation and structural insulated panels

4) Efficient Fluorescent and Efficient LED Lighting

5) Fiber-optic solar lighting and advanced skylights for daylighting

6) Intelligent building, lighting, and appliance controls

7) Light-colored and “cool-colored” building and paving materials (that reduce the heat island effect of the built environment and building heat loads)

8) Solar thermal water and space heating

9) Variable Frequency Drives (electronically adjusting pump and fan speeds to energy demand)

10) Weatherproofing and tighter building envelope standards (with testing)

11) Radiant heating (using water rather than air as the heat transfer medium in a building)

12) Induction cooktops, convection ovens and electric infrared grilling

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Strange Times Ahead

Something very funny going on here. Indications of things to come?

First Rex Tillerson, the head of Exxon, calls for a Carbon Tax to tackle global warming: "A carbon tax is also the most efficient means of reflecting the cost of carbon in all economic decisions – from investments made by companies to fuel their requirements, to the product choices made by consumers," Mr Tillerson said in a speech to the Woodrow Wilson Centre for International Scholars, a Washington think-tank. "As a businessman it is hard to speak favourably about any new tax. But a carbon tax strikes me as a more direct, a more transparent and a more effective approach."

Then Dick Cheney (who sponsored legislation as a Congressman that branded Nelson Mandela as a terrorist to this day) says he sees the inauguration of liberal Democrat Barack Obama as positive and remarkable and historic. "I have the same feeling that I think many Americans have, that it's really remarkable that -- what we're going to do here in a few days is swear in the first African American president of the United States. When I came to town in 1968, we'd had the Martin Luther King assassination, Bobby Kennedy assassination, riots in the cities, major, major disturbances, a lot of it racially motivated around the country.

"And in fact, things have changed so dramatically that we're now about to swear in Barack Obama as president of the United States. That's really a remarkable story and I think a record of tremendous success and progress for the United States."

And then we find out a possible explanation for this crazy talk: current lunar cycle will yield the the biggest and brightest moon of 2009, appearing about 14 percent bigger in our sky and 30 percent brighter than some other full moons during 2009, according to NASA.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Flat-screen TVs to face energy-efficiency rules in California

Starting in 2011, state regulators want retailers to sell only the most energy-efficient models of power hungry LCD and plasma sets. The industry opposes the new rules and warns of higher prices.

By Marc Lifsher
January 3, 2009
LA Times
That 52-inch, flat-screen television on the family room wall may have a terrific picture, but there's a big drawback: It's an energy hog.

State regulators are getting ready to curb the growing power gluttony of TV sets by drafting the nation's first rules requiring retailers to sell only the most energy-efficient models, starting in 2011.

The consumer electronics industry opposes the regulations, expected to pass in mid-2009, and claims that they could remove some TVs from store shelves and slightly boost sticker prices.

But the California Energy Commission is looking for ways to relieve the strain on the power grid. Officials say the standards, once fully in place, would reduce the state's annual energy needs by an amount equivalent to the power consumed by 86,400 homes.

During a peak viewing time when most sets are on, such as the Super Bowl, TVs in the state collectively suck up the equivalent of 40% of the power generated by the San Onofre nuclear power station running at full capacity. Televisions account for about 10% of the average Californian's monthly household electricity bill.

Continue Story

Coal Ash: Another Huge Hidden Cost

Hundreds of Coal Ash Dumps Lack Regulation

Three hundred acres were covered with toxic sludge in late December when a wall of a coal ash holding pond near Kingston in East Tennessee gave way.

Published: January 6, 2009
New York Times

The coal ash pond that ruptured and sent a billion gallons of toxic sludge across 300 acres of East Tennessee last month was only one of more than 1,300 similar dumps across the United States — most of them unregulated and unmonitored — that contain billions more gallons of fly ash and other byproducts of burning coal.

Like the one in Tennessee, most of these dumps, which reach up to 1,500 acres, contain heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury and selenium, which are considered by the Environmental Protection Agency to be a threat to water supplies and human health. Yet they are not subject to any federal regulation, which experts say could have prevented the spill, and there is little monitoring of their effects on the surrounding environment.

In fact, coal ash is used throughout the country for construction fill, mine reclamation and other “beneficial uses.” In 2007, according to a coal industry estimate, 50 tons of fly ash even went to agricultural uses, like improving soil’s ability to hold water, despite a 1999 E.P.A. warning about high levels of arsenic. The industry has promoted the reuse of coal combustion products because of the growing amount of them being produced each year — 131 million tons in 2007, up from less than 90 million tons in 1990.

Story Continued

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