Top 10 Most Interesting Energy and Environment Articles From October

by David L Roberts

Elevated radiation levels of US
Elevated radiation levels in the U.S.A.

Here’s my latest monthly report of the “Top 10” most compelling clean energy, climate, and environment-related news stories encountered last month. These articles may have an impact on your business, your life, and the world we live in. Or, at the very least, might surprise you about what’s going on.

Over a thousand articles were reviewed across various energy platforms and 40+ were found to be of particular interest, which were sent to my private reader list. This newsletter is available upon request. The 10 most interesting to me are shown here, with a startling #1 article at the end.

10. A report from three Bay Area companies paints a positive outlook for investment in cleantech, stating that cleantech accounts for 25% of all investment capital today. Now that cleantech expectations are more in line with capabilities, many large multinational companies are stepping in as investors, both for their own energy efficiency (carbon footprint) goals as well as venture capitalist–like goals.

9. Denmark is striving for 100% power generation from renewables by 2050, and it has been announced that it will receive a WWF Gift to the World award for this leadership. Other nations planning to be carbon neutral are Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland, Tuvalu, Bhutan, The Maldives and Costa Rica.

8. Navigant Research estimates the currently small global market for energy storage (today at $150 million) will rapidly expand to $10 billion by 2023 due to acceleration of wind and solar installs.

• California currently mandates 33% of utility power be derived from renewables and is now considering mandating energy storage as well. To address inherent intermittency, this evolving industry is seeing growing commercialization of many technologies including batteries (lithium-ion and sodium-sulphur), flywheel, molten salt, and pumped hydro storage.

7. Scientists from Potsdam Institute (PIK) forecast the planet is on path to increase global temperature 9 degrees F in a century through GHG emissions, creating a scenario of floods and droughts that would place 1 billion people at risk — 13% of the global population.

• The Asian Dev. Bank reports that, by 2035, Asia will increase its energy consumption by 67%, representing half the world’s energy demands — and half the world’s GHG emissions. The bank soberly estimates that coal will account for 83% of this growth and that CO2-emitting gasoline cars will remain dominant.

Here’s one view of global climate change in 25+ years, with predictions of more droughts, floods and impacts on over 1 billion people as a result of rising sea levels — with island nations, coastal cities, and tropical zones most vulnerable.

6. While a national cap-and-trade program has been illusive, the New Jersey legislature is considers rejoining the 9-state (eastern) regional carbon-trading program, RGGI. RGGI is the oldest such program in the US, but a similar program now exists in California, Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. The western regional carbon and GHG emissions trading program hopes of to expand to surrounding states at some point.

5. The Energy Information Administration reports that the US produced 3.8% less CO2 in 2012 (vs. 2011), continuing a recent downtrend of GHG emissions since 2007. Some of the main credits for the drop in emissions are considered to be a slowed down economy, power plants converting from coal to gas, increasing use of renewable energy, and an improvement in “energy intensity” — a macro energy efficiency measure of energy usage per unit of GDP.

• Notably, however, the switch from coal to gas, while reducing CO2, increases the (risk of) emissions of methane, which is 20 times more harmful than CO2.

4. A report from the UK predicts that advanced (drop-in) biofuels such as butanol will begin to play a large long-term role in reducing GHG emissions. Compared to hydrogen or electric vehicle formats, the benefit here is the fact that biofuels can be used in international combustion engines. Since internal combustion engines are expected to dominate for the foreseeable future, many argue that advanced biofuels are sorely needed.

CEFC is the first to make and distribute the advance biofuel biomethane, called Redeem, thru a network of 35 fueling stations in CA. It is made from methane from landfills (and other sources) and is available both compressed and in liquid form.

3. T. Boone Pickens and Waste Management are two notables committed to “renewable” natural gas that’s an alternative to fossil gas currently produced via tracking. Redeem is renewable since it’s a natural by-product of decomposing biodegradable materials (methane et al), such as that found in landfills.

Some communities are now capturing methane gas naturally produced in land fills (aka “garbage dumps”) and selling it to intermediaries to produce electricity.

2. China’s Harbin City (11 million) was closed down due to an excessive pollution index of 1000, which the WHO states is over 3 times the 300 index it considers “hazardous.” WHO considers an index of 20 to be “safe.”

The #1 Energy Story Of October

1. In case you’re wondering about the effects of Fukushima, here’s a frighteningly well documented report about doses of cesium 137, iodine 131, and strontium 90 that have already infected wildlife all along the west coast of North America, including my favorite — wild caught Pacific salmon. This may affect human health for generations.

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This article, Top 10 Most Interesting Energy & Environment Articles From October, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

David L Roberts is a marketing consultant to renewable energy startups.

The Power Of Rubbish: It’s Quite Good

by Nicholas Brown – Special to JBS News

Almost every time you eat, you dispose of rubbish consisting of either peels, fruit cores, crusts, ends, seeds, shells, etc. When you mow your lawn, you produce grass clippings. Wouldn’t it be nice to put all that to some use?

Using anaerobic digestion, these materials can be decomposed to produce useful substances, including (but not limited) to biogas, which contains methane, carbon dioxide, and other gases. Methane is a renewable, highly energy dense (55.5 MJ/kg, or 15.4 kWh/kg), and relatively clean fuel which can power various types of heaters and electricity generators.

BC Bioenergy Network, which works with organizations keen to pilot and demonstrate new technologies, has proudly announced that Harvest Power has officially switched on a plant which generates this biogas using grass clippings and kitchen waste from Metro Vancouver. It is called The Energy Garden. It is located in Richmond, BC, and is now North America’s largest anaerobic digestion plant.

The Energy
Soil and mulch loading ramp at The Energy Garden. Image Credit: Harvest Power.

Annually, it can convert up to 40,000 tonnes of apple cores, pizza crusts, and grass clippings into useful products, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 10,255 tonnes.

This plant generates enough electricity to power 900 homes per year, plus, it provides hundreds of thousands of tonnes of soil for farms and gardens. To put the cherry on top, it burns the methane that would otherwise have been released into the atmosphere if the garbage went to landfills. Methane’s greenhouse effect is 20 times greater than that of carbon dioxide!

Could a power plant be any more resourceful than that? Maybe, but this is hard to beat.

The Energy Garden was recently added to KMPG’s list of 100 leading global industrial projects.

About the Author

Nicholas Brown has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, geography, and much more. My website is: Kompulsa.

CO2 or Methane: Who do you Love?

by John Brian Shannon

Greenhouse gas is a catch-all term used to describe a class of gases — either naturally-occurring or man-made (anthropogenic) which have a detrimental effect on the Earth’s atmosphere. It is no longer in academic dispute that any upset to the natural atmospheric equilibrium can wreak havoc on the climate of the entire planet.

As more of these gases are added to the planet’s atmosphere they allow more of the Sun’s rays to penetrate into the air mass which surrounds our planet, instead of bouncing harmlessly back into space. Scientists refer to this process as ‘solar forcing’ whereby more heat is added to the Earth each year than can be removed by natural systems. When more heat is allowed in, more of the polar ice caps melt each summer. It’s a simple equation.

It is likely that later this century there will be no northern ice cap. The other ice cap covers the continent Antarctica which is nearly the size of the United States, and is permanently covered in ice. The ice cap in Antarctica is dissipating at an increasing rate and that is no longer in academic dispute either. Both effectively function as the air-conditioning system for planet Earth and trillions of dollars are at stake for the world farming community.

Heat and drought are the deadly enemies of food crops and both excessive heat and drought are on the increase as more solar forcing is added to Earth’s climate equation. Scientists say that in the best-case scenario — with modern technology and farming practices, that up to a 2 degree worldwide average temperature increase can be accommodated with the only disruptions being in the number of food-producer bankruptcies and higher food costs for consumers. According to scientists, it is beyond our present-day ability to compensate for any worldwide temperature increase of more than 2 degrees.

Here is a staggering number to keep in mind, it costs farmers, ag corporations, consumers and governments one-trillion-dollars per year, for each one degree of worldwide temperature increase – costs which are already starting to be passed on to consumers and taxpayers.

So, who do you love: CO2 or methane? There is no doubt all greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, but some are worse than others — which is why a significant and growing movement is afoot these days to enhance and enlarge the Montreal Protocol an international agreement which limits ozone-depleting gases — to include selected greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide.

Which makes some amount of sense, as methane causes 72 times more global warming per tonne than CO2. Nitrous oxide causes 289 times more global warming per tonne than CO2. Others are exponentially worse, such as sulfur hexafluoride which contributes 16,300 times it’s weight to our atmospheric problems. Get used to hearing the term CO2-equivalent we will be hearing a lot about that in the coming months.

The worldwide tonnage of these pollutants are much lower than the billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere each year, but at those ratios even a few million tons can do a lot of lasting damage. Also, some of these emissions can stay in the atmosphere for up to 50,000 years eating ozone the entire time.

Atmospheric lifetime and GWP relative to CO2 at different time horizon for various greenhouse gases.

Gas name

Chemical
formula

  Lifetime
(years)

Global warming potential (GWP) for given time horizon

20-yr

100-yr

500-yr

Carbon dioxide

CO2

See above

1

1

1

Methane

CH4

12

72

25

7.6

Nitrous oxide

N2O

114

289

298

153

CFC-12

CCl2F2

100

11,000

10,900

5,200

HCFC-22

CHClF2

12

5,160

1,810

549

Tetrafluoromethane

CF4

50,000

5,210

7,390

11,200

Hexafluoroethane

C2F6

10,000

8,630

12,200

18,200

Sulfur hexafluoride

SF6

3,200

16,300

22,800

32,600

Nitrogen trifluoride

NF3

740

12,300

17,200

20,700

This chart is courtesy of Wikipedia, to view it full size, click here.

More CO2 is produced by our civilization than any other gas and it is prudent to limit CO2 emissions wherever possible — and to use carbon capture and storage to mitigate anthropogenic CO2 production. But it is beginning to look like all of the other greenhouse gases are the real story — and the ones most easily reduced.

At one-trillion-dollars per one-degree-of-global-warming, it is already costing consumers and taxpayers a huge amount of money. If our civilization spent just ten percent of that mitigating all of the other greenhouse gases besides CO2, we might be starting to show our planet and each other some respect.

And then, we would then know the answer to the question; Who do you Love?

JOHN BRIAN SHANNON

To follow John Brian Shannon on social media – place a check-mark beside your choice of Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn: FullyFollowMe/johnbrianshannon