09 February 2013

Goodnight Irene

Zero Energy Construction is going off the air.

I am moving on to some more technical and less political blogging.

Thank you to those folks that have followed this blog.

Goodnight!

31 January 2013

Fossil Fuels’ Hidden Cost Is in Billions, Study Says


Reposted from the Washington Post

By MATTHEW L. WALD


WASHINGTON — Burning fossil fuels costs the United States about $120 billion a year in health costs, mostly because of thousands of premature deaths from air pollution, the National Academy of Sciences reported in a study issued Monday.

The damages are caused almost equally by coal and oil, according to the study, which was ordered by Congress. The study set out to measure the costs not incorporated into the price of a kilowatt-hour or a gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel.

The estimates by the academy do not include damages from global warming, which has been linked to the gases produced by burning fossil fuels. The authors said the extent of such damage, and the timing, were too uncertain to estimate.

Nor did the study measure damage from burning oil for trains, ships and planes. And it did not include the environmental damage from coal mining or the pollution of rivers with chemicals that were filtered from coal plant smokestacks to keep the air clean.

“The largest portion of this is excess mortality — increased human deaths as a result of criteria air pollutants emitted by power plants and vehicles,” said Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, who led the study committee.

Nearly 20,000 people die prematurely each year from such causes, according to the study’s authors, who valued each life at $6 million based on the dollar in 2000. Those pollutants include small soot particles, which cause lung damage; nitrogen oxides, which contribute to smog; and sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain.

The study lends support to arguments that society should pay extra for energy from sources like the wind and the sun, because their indirect costs are extremely small. But it also found that renewable motor fuel, in the form of ethanol from corn, was slightly worse than gasoline in its environmental impact.

Coal burning was the biggest single source of such external costs . The damages averaged 3.2 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared with 0.16 cents for gas. But the variation among coal plants was enormous.

The worst plants, generally the oldest and burning coal with the highest sulfur content, were 3.6 times worse than the average, with a cost of nearly 12 cents per kilowatt-hour (which is more than the average retail price of that amount of electricity).

The best plants carried a cost of less than a quarter of a penny. Natural gas plants also showed a large variation, but both the best and the worst costs were far smaller than for coal.

Such variation suggests that existing technology could be applied to make the electric system a lot cleaner, experts said. One of the study’s authors, Maureen L. Cropper, an economist at the University of Maryland, said the findings should be used not to raise the price of electricity based on an average of indirect costs but to measure the cost of cleanup on a plant-by-plant basis.

The study did not measure damage from pollution-control devices. “If you’re taking the output of a scrubber and dumping it in the Monongahela River, that’s not in our study, Professor Cropper said.

The study found that operating nuclear plants did not impose significant environmental costs, although uranium mining and processing did. But 95 percent of uranium mining takes place in other countries, the study said. Canada and Australia together account for 44 percent of world production.

The committee did not put a dollar value on the risk of a nuclear accident that would produce environmental damage. It also noted the uncertainty of the cost of long-term disposal of high-level wastes.

The committee said environmental damage from gasoline and diesel fuel cost 1.2 cents to 1.7 cents per mile. A co-author of the study, Daniel S. Greenbaum, president of the Health Effects Institute, said that would come to 23 cents to 38 cents per gallon. Still, Mr. Greenbaum said, “we were hesitant to make that a central part of our findings,” because pollution also results from manufacturing cars.

The study did not calculate the military cost of protecting fuel imports.

As for wind energy, the study said it killed birds but not enough to seriously affect populations. A possible exception was raptors, birds of prey that ordinarily eat species whose numbers are being reduced by spinning turbine blades.

The study was not kind to ethanol. A mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent unleaded gasoline, or E85, showed slightly higher damages to environment and health than ordinary gasoline, because of the energy required to raise the corn and make ethanol from it.

Electric vehicles and vehicles using synthetic diesel fuel, also ranked poorly. The electric vehicles might do better if emissions of heat-trapping gases had been factored in, because they have lower carbon dioxide emissions per mile than gasoline-powered cars. But the cars running on artificial diesel would look slightly worse in that analysis, the study said.

30 January 2013

Colorado A Solar Leader


Reposted

Colorado has gained a place at the forefront of the drive to power the US on clean, renewable energy. The revolutionary movement is still in its infancy, however, and the state’s solar energy industry participants are looking to add to the momentum.

The Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA) on Jan. 16 announced that it will present the outline of its plan to pave “The Path to a Million Solar Roofs” at the Solar Power Colorado conference and trade show at The Westin in Westminister, outside Denver, Feb. 5-6.
Coloradans are reaping the benefits of collaborative pro solar, wind, clean tech policies, plans and actions that span government, commerce and industry, academia, and civil society.

Solar and wind energy installations almost doubled between 2007 and 2011, and Colorado’s become a renewable energy and clean tech hub for manufacturers and participants all along the value chain. That’s driven green job creation, and boosted tax revenues, not to mention near and long-term health and environmental benefits from reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and impacts of energy resource development.

“The Metro Denver region alone had about 1,500 companies and 18,000 workers in the cleantech sector in 2011, and achieved a 35% increase in direct employment growth since 2006,” according to one of three initial Clean Energy Economic Development Series reports on the success and benefits of renewable energy development in US states produced by the Environmental Defense Fund and Collaborative Economics.

COSEIA is looking to keep the renewable energy locomotive going with its Million Solar Roofs campaign and 2013 Solar Power Colorado conference.

“Solar energy is now a $100 billion global industry. As Colorado pioneers its path to a Million Solar Roofs, we’re excited to bring solar executives and utility leaders together to build partnerships for future growth,” executive director Neal Lurie was quoted in a COSEIA press release.

“We are excited to outline our Million Solar Roofs campaign at the conference and to enlist industry leaders to help us flesh out the details to refine the plan for reaching this ambitious goal.”

The goal of the campaign, COSEIA elaborates, is to “provide about 3 gigawatts (GW) of solar energy in Colorado by 2030 through a combination of photovoltaic (PV) electric systems and solar thermal heating and cooling systems.”

To do so, COSEIA members and partners aim to “boost public outreach, utility partnerships and public-private collaborations to encourage the growth of solar energy from small arrays on homes to large utility-scale projects, and from community solar gardens to industrial rooftop projects. To reach this goal, solar would supply nearly a fifth of our state’s energy needs.”

For more on COSEIA’s Milllion Solar Roofs campaign and its plans to get there, check out this blog post by The Denver Post’s Cathy Proctor.

Colorado Solar Industry Association Readies Launch of Millon Solar Roofs Campaign was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

29 January 2013

Congress Must Act Boldly on Global Warming: Sanders Cites Record U.S. Heat in 2012


January 9, 2013

BURLINGTON, Vt., Jan. 9 – Coming off the hottest year on record in the United States, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said today that he will introduce legislation to move aggressively to reverse global warming.
“The scientific data is clear that global warming is real and significantly caused by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels,” Sanders said.

“After the hottest year on record and extreme weather disturbances such as Hurricane Sandy, we must take strong action to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and move toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy,” Sanders added. “I intend to introduce legislation in the Senate to do just that.”
Sanders’ legislation will include a transparent fee on greenhouse gas emissions from the biggest polluters. It will call for an historic investment in efficiency, sustainable energy, advanced transportation infrastructure, and clean energy research and development. The measure also would end fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks.

The annual U.S. temperature last year was 55.32 degrees Fahrenheit, a full degree warmer than the old record set in 1998, the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., announced on Tuesday. Scientists say the temperature increases are happening faster than they expected and that the warming trend is a result of climate change caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

The problem is global. Record temperatures in Australia, for example, produced what the government called “catastrophic” fire conditions in the most populace part of the continent. The average temperature across Australia on Tuesday was the highest since statistics began being kept in 1911.

The United States in recent years has doubled electricity generation from wind and solar power sources and enacted fuel economy standards that will help our cars and trucks get to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. “But we are not doing nearly enough,” Sanders said. “That is why I will be introducing legislation that would deal realistically with the crisis in a way that is aggressive but achievable.”

28 January 2013

Microgrids: Providing safe harbor in a storm


Reposted Leia Guccione

As Hurricane-cum-Superstorm Sandy approached the Eastern Seaboard, millions of Americans living in New York and New Jersey spent the days before the storm stocking up on bread, water, batteries, and other critical supplies; many others sought safety by fleeing the area, seeking refuge with friends and relatives beyond the storm’s path.

The impacts of Sandy are now familiar to many: the electricity grid went down, leaving upwards of 8.5 million people without power. Yet, there were a handful of literal bright spots in the darkness. One man in New Jersey powered his home with his Toyota Prius hybrid and inverter-based power balancing controls, which ensured that the power from his car was at the right voltage and frequency for his house. At the Brevoort Tower in New York City, the story was much the same: the building kept its lights on—and its heat and hot water—with a natural gas combined heat and power generation system, inverter controls, and most importantly, an automatic transfer switch (aka smart switch) that allowed the building to seamlessly disconnect from and reconnect to the grid. In other words, both the New Jersey homeowner and the Brevoort became microgrids.

But in New Jersey, which ranks second only to California in total installed solar capacity, scores of residential and business customers with rooftop solar PV sat in the dark, even after Sandy’s clouds parted and the sunshine returned. Why? Based on its lower cost and simpler setup, most customers had installed grid-tied solar, and in accordance with current regulatory codes nationwide, such systems are required to have a control feature that automatically disables the inverter—the device that converts power generated by the PV panels into usable electricity for home appliances—in the event that the grid goes down.

The control device is intended to prevent unintentional islanding, a scenario where a device—such as rooftop solar PV panels—continues to feed electricity into the local grid, even when that grid should be without power. Preventing unintentional islanding is important for a number of reasons, foremost among them the safety of utility electricians working to repair faults in the grid and restore power to customers.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Imagine a scenario in which the grid goes down but customers with solar PV keep their lights on. It’s entirely possible with the use of a smart switch, much like that used by the Brevoort Tower, in order to achieve intentional islanding. When the grid goes down, the solar PV system switches from grid-tied to an independent mode, allowing it to continue generating electricity without feeding the local grid and endangering utility workers.

Such flexible solar PV systems would typically work in conjunction with a bank of batteries to power critical loads in your home, such as the refrigerator and oven.

However, two hurdles stand in the way of greater adoption of this more flexible system, which offers a kind of safe harbor in a storm when the normally reliable grid goes down: 1) heightened cost, and 2) rigorous permitting which serves as a disincentive.

Grid-tied systems with the flexibility to become grid-independent are more complex, typically involving the addition of batteries for energy storage plus rewiring the home to establish a subpanel that carries the circuits for the house’s critical loads. This more complex system comes with a cost.

Consider, for example, the systems offered by the company Wholesale Solar. WS offers a traditional grid-tied solar PV system (2,000W capable of up to 271 kWh per month) for a little over $4,000. Meanwhile, they offer a grid-tied solar PV system, which switches to backup battery power in the event of a grid outage and uses the solar PV to charge the batteries in an "off-grid mode" (1,500W capable of up to 204 kWh per month) for close to $6,000, plus the cost of batteries, which adds at least another $2,000, depending on the size of the battery bank, double the hardware cost. Finally, if you’re a customer who already has traditional grid-tied solar PV installed on your home, WS offers a “conversion” kit that starts at around $7,000.

But in the wake of Sandy, Hurricane Irene, the derecho summer storm of 2012, and other threats to the grid, customers are increasingly reaching the conclusion that such added costs and complexity may be worth it. Plus, compared to diesel, propane, or natural gas stand-by generators—which can be similarly expensive, have associated fuel costs, and are both loud and dirty—the safe harbor offered by clean, quiet solar is looking more and more attractive.

For certain, the flexibility to take harbor in a hybrid system—one that includes solar PV, energy storage or generation, and smart switch technology that enables intentional islanding—is an exciting opportunity. But it’s not a case in favor of abandoning the grid entirely. This technology can and should provide value and resilience to utilities and their customers alike.

While utilities may fear that their customers will find intentional islands a paradise from which they never return, the reality is that most homeowners and businesses don’t want an intentional island, but rather a harbor where they can receive power from their utility when it is available and affordable, and the flexibility to temporarily leave the grid and generate power of their own when practical. With more hybrid systems installed in homes, businesses, neighborhoods, and campuses, microgrids can become our safe harbor for the next storm.

27 January 2013

The Foul Legacy of the Tar Sands: Lakes Turned Into Cancer Sites


The Foul Legacy of the Tar Sands: Lakes Turned Into Cancer Sites


Back in 2010, residents near the shores of Canada’s Lake Athabasca called on the government to commission an independent study about the impact of the tar sands development in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan on the environment. Lake Athabasca is located downstream from one of the major tar sands developments and residents, who had found more and more fish with deformities (including huge tumors), demanded that a system of environmental monitoring be put in place and an investigation be carried out.

On Monday, the study resulting from these concerns was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and the verdict is clear: tar sands are bad for our health and for the environment.

In the study, Canadian researchers found that, since the 1960s when the tar sands development was started, the level of pollutants — specifically, of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have been shown to adversely affect birds and aquatic organisms — has risen in six freshwater lakes. By examining sediment from five lakes within a 22-mile radius of the tar sands and one remote lake about 60 miles north, scientists found that PAH levels are now 2.5-23 times greater than than had been around 1960.

In the past decades, there has been a huge increase in developing the tar sands, as these are viewed as an increasingly important part of the world’s oil reserves at a time of rising energy prices and insatiable demand.

The tar sands in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan are the third largest reserve in the world and contain 97 percent of Canada’s reserves. Some speculate that Canada has been drawing heavily on the tar sands, and overlooking the environmental impact, as a way to “cushion the Canadian economy from shocks in global energy prices.”

Tar Sands Development Has Made Wildlife Ponds As Polluted As Urban Ones

The title of the study is “Legacy of a half century of Athabasca oil sands development recorded by lake ecosystems.” Based on the dirty evidence in once pristine lakes, that “legacy” is one we don’t want.

Indeed, the scientists’ long-term findings are all the more crucial as the tar sands industry has contended that pollution is “natural.” PAHs can be found in coal, crude oil, petroleum and in products made from fossil fuels, such as creosote and asphalt; they can also be released into the air when fossil fuels and organic matter are burned and are produced by volcanoes and forest fires.

But the researchers found, since 1978 (when large-scale production of tar sands got underway), that the levels of PAH deposits have been “steadily rising” from what they had been at for centuries. As the study simply states,

Because of the striking increase in PAHs, elevated primary production, and zooplankton changes, these oil sands lake ecosystems have entered new ecological states completely distinct from those of previous centuries.

“We’re not saying these are poisonous ponds. But it’s going to get worse. It’s not too late but the trend is not looking good,” as the study’s lead author, John P. Smol, a professor of biology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, said in the New York Times. The wildlife ponds have become as contaminated as those in urban areas, he also noted.

The results of the Canadian scientists’ study make it even more clear why we need to stop the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline which is to transport oil down through the western U.S. to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Who knows what damage the pipeline could do to so many lakes, ponds and other freshwater sources; to our flora and fauna, to us?

Read more

26 January 2013

WAKE UP!

At this point, the effects of climate change on American communities are difficult to ignore. 2012 was officially the warmest year ever recorded in the US, with 362 all-time record highs (and zero record lows), and the second-most occurrences of extreme weather on record.
But a lack of federal leadership has left local governments on their own to plan climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. They’re where extreme weather is most acutely felt, the first line of defense in times of climate crisis, and tell the truest account of climate change’s impact on America.

These factors may seem like the perfect recipe for failure, but they’re leading cities and counties across the country to take innovative resiliency action to protect lives, strengthen infrastructure, and preserve local economies, according to ICLEI USA.

ICLEI is the leading network of local governments working to address climate and sustainability challenges. Representing more than 1,000 members worldwide, it’s finding that local impacts drive local action.

“2012 has been a wake-up call for local governments,” said Michael Schmitz, ICLEI USA executive director. “While it’s been easy for members of Congress to pretend like this isn’t happening, America’s city and county governments don’t have that luxury.”

A recent survey of 300 local governments laid out the reality of climate change in America: 74% perceived changes in the climate, and 59% are pursuing adaptation planning for hotter temperatures, more intense storms, and higher sea levels.

ICLEI has highlighted 20 communities across the continental US leading the charge and responding to extreme weather by planning for the future. Among the more notable examples:
  • Atlanta, GA – Experiencing hotter seasons that worsen urban heat island effects. Responding with a climate action plan, including cool roof/pavement standards and 10,000 new planted shade trees.
  • Chicago, IL – Experiencing extreme heat and flooding. Responding with the landmark Chicago Climate Action Plan and the most installed green roof square footage in America.
  • Eugene, OR – Experiencing major wildfires and ultra-dry conditions. Responding by increasing water conservation, reducing demand on hydroelectric power, and planting drought-resistant trees.
  • Miami Dade County, FL – Experiencing severe flooding, identified as the most vulnerable city in the world to sea level rise. Responding by addressing sea level rise and disaster response in urban planning, and investing millions in flood mitigation projects.
  • New York, NY – Experienced $19 billion in damage from Superstorm Sandy. Responding with a $2.4 billion green infrastructure plan, restoring barrier wetlands, and requiring a climate risk assessment for new developments. 
These communities are leading America’s climate change response, and their experiences are also being used to help even more local governments take action. ICLEI has published a series of guidelines and tools to empower elected officials to plan for climate adaptation and mitigation, while boosting renewables and energy efficiency.

Reports continue to predict delaying action to address climate change will only increase the local effects. “We need to build more resilient communities that can withstand the impacts of climate change,” continued Schmitz.

Thankfully, with ICLEI’s resources at hand and the experiences of other communities to guide a path forward, more and more local governments may soon be able to take their first steps toward a more sustainable future.

REPOSTED

24 January 2013

Mercury poisoning is a growing global menace we have to address


REPOSTED

Next week, diplomats from around the world will gather in Geneva to negotiate a treaty on global emissions of mercury – a lethal neurotoxin that includes, among an inventory of grim effects, brain damage and the loss of IQ points in unborn children, injuries to kidneys and heart, and results in tens of billions of dollars in healthcare costs every year in the US alone. The Geneva conference is the final of five meetings, with a treaty expected soon thereafter.

While global mercury emissions are on the rise, negotiators, unfortunately, appear to be leaning towards a treaty with soft measures unlikely to prevent continued catastrophic impacts from this deadly and debilitating poison. Ironically, signatories propose to ink their treaty in Minamata, Japan, a town that famously suffered widespread mercury poisoning.

Health experts first described mercury poisoning, then called "Minamata disease", in Minamata city, in Japan, in 1956. Mercury discharges from the Chisso chemical plant contaminated finfish and shellfish, devastating the community's human and animal population for decades. Many of the region's citizens died and tens of thousands of people suffered mercury-related illnesses.

A former Japanese prime minister proposed naming the treaty the "Minamata Convention" to inspire delegates to reach an agreement that would prevent future mercury poisoning. Sadly, the treaty does not require identification or remediation of contaminated sites, does not require polluters to pay for health damages or environmental clean-up, or provide for protection from similar disasters occurring anywhere in the world. In fact, the treaty is not expected to reduce global levels of mercury in fish and seafood at all.

Poisonous mercury raining down from coal-fired power plants has contaminated fish in every US state. Now, a new report from the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) in Maine and IPEN, a network of 700 public interest organizations in 116 countries, shows the devastating global impacts of mercury pollution from coal-burning power plants and other mercury sources. The IPEN-BRI Global Hotspots report finds that coal-fired power plants, artisanal small-scale gold mining, chlor-alkali plants, and other industrial sources contaminate humans and fish around the world with mercury levels that exceed health advisory levels.

Mercury levels in fish from sites in Japan and Uruguay were so high that no consumption is recommended, according to US EPA guidelines, and 95% of the human hair samples taken from individuals tested in Tokyo, Japan exceeded the US EPA reference dose. The report demonstrates the need for a treaty that effectively addresses mercury releases.

The US is only now starting to see progress in reducing mercury emissions. In America, citizen action forced EPA to adopt the first ever mercury and air toxics rule in 2012. This rule will prevent 90% of the mercury in coal burned at power plants from being emitted into the air. Experts estimate the rule will, among other things, prevent annually up to 6,000 heart attacks, 130,000 asthma attacks, 3,000 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 4,000-11,000 premature deaths.

Moreover, experts predict the rule will save $40-70bn in healthcare costs annually. Imagine the benefits if these reductions were implemented globally.

Coal barons and mining magnates are profiting from poisoning the rest of us. As coal consumption dwindles in the US, these companies are exporting their deadly product to the rest of world. A recent report from World Resources Institute (WRI) estimates that almost 1,200 additional coal-fired plants are planned for development around the world.

But the mercury treaty is likely to call simply for reductions on a per facility basis, rather than an overall reduction in mercury emissions to air and water. As a result, the treaty could legitimize increased mercury pollution as the number of coal-fired power plants increases globally. Moreover, there is no agreement that the treaty should even require existing facilities to apply the best available techniques to reduce mercury releases.

We need a mercury treaty that actually reduces global mercury pollution. A treaty that fails to include mandatory mercury reductions overall will dishonor the victims of Minamata disease and accelerate mercury poisoning across the globe.

Those of us who care about public health and clean water, must stand strong and shame the spineless diplomats in Geneva into crafting a treaty that truly prevents the devastating environmental and public health impacts of mercury.

23 January 2013

Sunny Mexico!


The scorching hot Sonora Desert in Northern Mexico isn’t exactly a hospitable place for human beings, but some consider it a goldmine. According to experts, a mere 25 square kilometers could provide enough solar energy to supply Mexico’s 114 million inhabitants with electricity.
Mexico is the perfect place to invest in solar energy; Global Horizontal Irradiation (GHI) averages approximately 5 kWh/m2/day. In fact, a June 2009 GTZ report indicated that 0,06% of Mexico’s national territory would be sufficient to generate the entire electricity consumption of the country.
Moreover, Mexico has an open economy, which has shown remarkable resilience despite a severe backlash from the international crisis in 2009. Growth amounted to 3,8% last year, with similar figures expected for 2013. Its geographical advantage as the United States’ nextdoor neighbor and its plethora of free trade agreements attract investors from across the globe.
To get those investors to turn their attention to solar is one of the main topics of SolarPlaza’s El Futuro Solar: Mexico conference, held in February in Mexico City. Such a boost in interest is certainly welcome, because for all its mouthwatering potential, Mexico’s potential is still largely untapped; in 2011 solar power only amounted to one per cent of the country’s energy matrix.
“We’re at the very beginning of formalizing the market”, explains Carlos Flores, CEO of Conermex, a Mexico City-based company specialized in renewable energy solutions. He will be one of the speakers at El Futuro Solar: Mexico. According to mr. Flores, there are still few incentives for investors in terms of subsidies or injection tariffs. “One of the problems is the cost of solar power for private users with high levels of consumption; the industrial sector pays much less.”
The administration of president Felipe Calderon, who left office in December, did make some headway in making the market more attractive.
April last year, congress approved a clean energy law that requires renewable energy generation to grow to 35% of total output by 2024. Moreover, through the prestigious National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) the government is attempting to establish the exact solar potential the country actually has.
So far, solar development has largely focused on small scale projects providing rural communities with off-grid electricity, but interest in larger projects is growing.
Mexico boasts a robust manufacturing industry, exporting a whopping 350 bilion USD worth of consumer goods per year. With the United States as its neighbor and fellow member of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the manufacturing of solar panels is one of the major investments possibilities in years to come.
Still, manufacturing for other countries is only one step. Mexico’s domestic market also needs to be developed, which is why mr. Flores feels El Futuro Solar: Mexico is an important event. “It’s important to tell the investors what’s going on, to give them precise information”, he says. “In the end, we expect the cost to generate solar power to go down, while conventional means will become more expensive. It’s a very attractive market to invest in.”
El Futuro Solar: Mexico will be held in Mexico City on February 28, as part of the International PV Trade Mission: Mexico. Carlos Flores will be joined by other speakers such as Gabriela da Rocha Oliviera (Head of Latin America Research and Analysis, Bloomberg New Energy Finance) and Robert Pfatischer (CEO of Meteocontrol)

22 January 2013

The Foul Legacy of the Tar Sands: Lakes Turned Into Cancer Sites


Original can be found here

The Foul Legacy of the Tar Sands: Lakes Turned Into Cancer Sites

Back in 2010, residents near the shores of Canada’s Lake Athabasca called on the government to commission an independent study about the impact of the tar sands development in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan on the environment. Lake Athabasca is located downstream from one of the major tar sands developments and residents, who had found more and more fish with deformities (including huge tumors), demanded that a system of environmental monitoring be put in place and an investigation be carried out.

On Monday, the study resulting from these concerns was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and the verdict is clear: tar sands are bad for our health and for the environment.

In the study, Canadian researchers found that, since the 1960s when the tar sands development was started, the level of pollutants — specifically, of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have been shown to adversely affect birds and aquatic organisms — has risen in six freshwater lakes. By examining sediment from five lakes within a 22-mile radius of the tar sands and one remote lake about 60 miles north, scientists found that PAH levels are now 2.5-23 times greater than than had been around 1960.

In the past decades, there has been a huge increase in developing the tar sands, as these are viewed as an increasingly important part of the world’s oil reserves at a time of rising energy prices and insatiable demand.

The tar sands in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan are the third largest reserve in the world and contain 97 percent of Canada’s reserves. Some speculate that Canada has been drawing heavily on the tar sands, and overlooking the environmental impact, as a way to “cushion the Canadian economy from shocks in global energy prices.”

Tar Sands Development Has Made Wildlife Ponds As Polluted As Urban Ones

The title of the study is “Legacy of a half century of Athabasca oil sands development recorded by lake ecosystems.” Based on the dirty evidence in once pristine lakes, that “legacy” is one we don’t want.

Indeed, the scientists’ long-term findings are all the more crucial as the tar sands industry has contended that pollution is “natural.” PAHs can be found in coal, crude oil, petroleum and in products made from fossil fuels, such as creosote and asphalt; they can also be released into the air when fossil fuels and organic matter are burned and are produced by volcanoes and forest fires.

But the researchers found, since 1978 (when large-scale production of tar sands got underway), that the levels of PAH deposits have been “steadily rising” from what they had been at for centuries. As the study simply states,

Because of the striking increase in PAHs, elevated primary production, and zooplankton changes, these oil sands lake ecosystems have entered new ecological states completely distinct from those of previous centuries.

“We’re not saying these are poisonous ponds. But it’s going to get worse. It’s not too late but the trend is not looking good,” as the study’s lead author, John P. Smol, a professor of biology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, said in the New York Times. The wildlife ponds have become as contaminated as those in urban areas, he also noted.

The results of the Canadian scientists’ study make it even more clear why we need to stop the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline which is to transport oil down through the western U.S. to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Who knows what damage the pipeline could do to so many lakes, ponds and other freshwater sources; to our flora and fauna, to us?

21 January 2013

New York Governor Announces $1 Billion Green Bank And $1.5 Billion Solar Program

By Stephen Lacey

New York City officials are thinking more about climate resiliency in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. But adaptation — making the city more resilient to intensifying extreme weather — is only one part of an effective strategy.

Mitigating climate change through clean energy and other carbon reduction efforts is just as important. And New York Governor Andrew Cuomo seems to understand that.

In his State of the State address yesterday, Cuomo outlined plans for a new billion-dollar  “green bank” to leverage private funds for deploying clean energy technologies, announced a 10-year expansion of the state’s solar program by increasing funds $150 million per year, and named a new cleantech czar to oversee the efforts. The cumulative impact could be a massive expansion of renewables and efficiency in New York.
Here’s what the Governor had to say about the Green Bank:


The NY Green Bank leverages private capital in a fashion that mitigates investment risk, catalyzes market activity and lowers borrowing costs, in turn bringing down the prices paid by consumers. Through the use of bonding, loans and various credit enhancements (e.g.,loan loss reserves and guarantees), a Green Bank is a fiscally practical option in a time of severe budget conditions. Many public credit and investment programs require only a small amount of government funds, even holding taxpayers harmless or acting asmoney makers. And along with these benefits, the long-term public and social benefits of a robust and clean economy are virtually incalculable.
And here’s the language on the solar program:

Last year Governor Cuomo created the NY-Sun solar jobs program to bolster the use of solar power in New York, while also protecting the ratepayer. The goal of NY-Sun is to install twice as much customer-sited solar photovoltaic capacity in 2012 as was added in 2011, and to quadruple the 2011 amount in 2013. The NY-Sun program is authorized through 2015. This year, Governor Cuomo proposes to extend the successful NY-Sun program, continuing through 2023 the existing annual funding levels established under the program. The extended solar jobs program will provide longer program certainty to solar developers than current programs, funded through 2015, and is expected to attract significant private investment in solar photovoltaic systems, enable the sustainable development of a robust solar power industry in New York, create well-paying skilled jobs, improve the reliability of the electric grid, and reduce air pollution.
Solar has the potential to play a huge role in New York’s climate-conscious building strategy. Consider this: Two-thirds of New York City’s buildings could feasibly host solar-electric systems — enough to meet half the city’s demand for peak power. And a lot of that could be developed today at a cost competitive with current electricity rates.

The solar industry has been working hard for many years to expand New York’s solar policies. And this latest announcement from Governor Cuomo shows it’s really starting to pay off.  But actually funding these programs is the real issue. The State of the State address is designed to outline priorities — not always outline a plan for implementation. It remains to be seen if the Governor can fully raise the amount of money needed to meet these goals. The appointment of Richard Kauffman, a former adviser to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, as energy czar will certainly help the process along.

20 January 2013

Australian Heat Wave Is Literally Off The Color Scale Read more at http://cleantechnica.com/2013/01/09/australian-heat-wave-is-literally-off-the-colour-scale/#0BLoayxGzCBUoUKJ.99



Australia’s new temperature gradient in use on extremely hot day. (Image Credit: Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology)

Weather maps, of course, indicate the temperature of different areas using color gradients. Areas that are hotter are red; and as they get even hotter. The blue areas indicate cooler temperatures.
Due to the fact that there are so many temperature differences even on very small areas of maps, color gradients are a neat way to show those differences — it’s not very useful to simply print temperature readings in text form on every mm of a map to show temperature gradients that are a fraction of a degree.
It has gotten so hot in Australia this week that extra colors has actually been added to the country’s temperature maps — dark purple and magenta. The new color is for 51 to 54 degrees Celsius. Previously, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology used the color black for the hottest temperatures on the map, which went as high as 50 degrees. The extreme heat, of course, has broken temperature records in the country.

Australian Wildfires

The heat wave has fueled fires in 5 of 6 Australian states, including at least 90 wildfires in New South Wales in Southeastern Australia, as well as the island of Tasmania.
With reduced rainfall and plants losing water, plants are withering and drying out, making them more combustible.
Lightning can strike and ignite one little patch of dry plants, and it can spread as far as the dry fields of plants extend.
This is why wildfires can last days, and become so enormous.
This is only one of multiple unusual phenomena which signify that the global climate is indeed warming. Climate change is real, and these stories of temperature record increases should help the few remaining deniers to realize this.

Main Sources: Reuters and Think Progress

19 January 2013

Global Warming's Terrifying New Math


By Bill McKibben
July 19, 2012 9:35 AM ET


If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven't convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the "largest temperature departure from average of any season on record." The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet's history.

Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world's nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn't even attend. It was "a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago," the British journalist George Monbiot wrote; no one paid it much attention, footsteps echoing through the halls "once thronged by multitudes." Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I've spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we're losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.

For the Rest Click here

18 January 2013

Everything you need to know about negotiating with the GOP in one paragraph


“Today’s Republican Party thinks the key problem America faces is out-of-control entitlement spending. But cutting entitlement spending is unpopular and the GOP’s coalition relies heavily on seniors. And so they don’t want to propose entitlement cuts. If possible, they’d even like to attack President Obama for proposing entitlement cuts. But they also want to see entitlements cut and will refuse to solve the fiscal cliff or raise the debt ceiling unless there are entitlement cuts.”

17 January 2013

Endless Wars

16 January 2013

15 January 2013

Makes sense to me!

14 January 2013

NRA Logic

13 January 2013

Repube Iying Liars


From Jobsanger



The Republicans in Congress are still whining over spending by the federal government. What they won't tell you though is that President Obama has increased spending less than the last eight presidents did (and four of those eight presidents were Republicans). George W. Bush increased spending 5.5 times as much as President Obama has, and even the Republican idol (Ronald Reagan) increased spending 4.9 times as much as President Obama.

It seems the Republicans are not really against increasing government spending, unless it is being done under a Democratic administration. They don't mind at all when it is done by a Republican president. And the increase in spending under President Obama is a direct result of the incompetence of George W. Bush, who threw the nation into recession -- which made it necessary to spend more on unemployment payments, poverty programs, and Food Stamps.

But the real truth is that the small increase in spending under President Obama is not the real problem. The real problem is the cut in revenues made in the Bush administration. When Bush took office, President Clinton had wiped out the deficit (actually creating a surplus) and was starting to pay down the national debt. But Bush, in addition to increasing government spending, made huge cuts in revenues (taxes) -- mainly for the rich and corporations. Now the rich and corporations, both of which are making more money than ever, are paying less taxes than at any time since the Great Depression -- and this has caused the deficit to grow in spite of government cut-backs.

If we are really serious about cutting the deficit, then the government needs to get more revenues. The top tax rates on the rich must be raised at least to what they were in the Clinton administration. In addition, subsidies for corporations (which are no longer needed) should be eliminated. We don't need cuts to the meager payments to keep the poor and the elderly out of a dismal poverty. We just need the rich and the corporations to once again pay their fair share of taxes in this nation (which has given them so much).

Our current deficit is not a spending problem. It is a revenue problem.

12 January 2013

11 January 2013

Guns vs Voteing

10 January 2013

Repubes Suck!

09 January 2013

Christian Taliban




Reposted from Jobsanger

The religious right in this country is still trumpeting the idea that evolution is nothing more than a theory, and has yet to be proven to be true. That is an outrageous lie. Despite what fundamentalists want us to believe, evolution is a fact, not a theory. And that fact has been accepted in the scientific community for quite a while now. Evolution has been proven to have taken place for all living things, and if it is true of all other animals, then why would we think it has nothing to do with humans? Like it or not humans are scientifically an animal -- an animal with a higher functioning brain than other animals (thanks to evolution), but an animal nonetheless.

But far too many states in the United States have decided that religion must be taught in our schools instead of established scientific fact, or that some science should be ignored if it cannot be replaced by religion. The map above shows the states that teach or refuse to teach evolution. Note that only a handful of states bother to teach the whole scientific truth (those states in green). A passel of others, those in yellow, are listed as "satisfactory". But don't let that word "satisfactory" fool you, since some of those states (like Texas and Montana) don't mention human evolution at all, and others mar their teaching on evolution with "creationist jargon". Personally, I don't think that's "satisfactory" at all.

We are falling behind the rest of the developed world in education in general, and in science in particular. And the idea that we can't teach the truth if it conflicts with religious myths is a prime reason for this. We have failed to adequately fund our schools, and now we don't want the truth taught. It's just sad when a nation is afraid of the truth, and it's a bad sign for that nation's future.

08 January 2013

Repube Lies


Reposted from Jobsanger

The Republicans are currently trying to float two lies about Social Security. The first is that the budget cannot be balanced, or the deficit reduced, with cutting Social Security benefits and raising the retirement age. That is not even remotely true, since Social Security is completely paid for out of FICA payroll deductions, and don't add as much as a single penny to the deficit or the national debt.

Even the most revered Republican president (at least for the right-wingers) knew this. Ronald Reagan was big on cutting the budget (in spite of the fact that he actually increased the deficit), but he was honest enough to admit that cutting Social Security benefits would do nothing to balance the budget, control the deficit, or lessen the national debt. In attacking Social Security in this way, modern right-wingers are ignoring the truth told by their own icon.

The other lie they tell is that Social Security is going bankrupt unless benefits are cut and the retirement age is raised. The truth is that Social Security can continue to pay full benefits for another 25 years, and even after that it could continue to pay benefits at a 78% level. It is NOT going broke! And it could be easily fixed. Raising or removing the cap on the amount of income subject to the FICA deduction would easily fix Social Security far into the future.

The truth is that the Republicans have never liked Social Security. They voted against it when it was proposed, and regularly vote to harm the program -- in spite of the fact that it has worked exactly as it was designed to work, and has lowered poverty among the elderly from more than 50% to less than 10%. They have even tried to privatize it and let their buddies on Wall Street get their greedy hands on it.

This makes me wonder -- why do congressional Republicans hate Social Security? Why does it offend them that the elderly are now protected from a life of poverty after retiring? Is it because they are rich themselves and simply don't care about other people? Is it to protect their rich buddies in corporate America and on Wall Street (who don't need Social Security) from having to pay the small FICA tax? Is it because they consider ideology to be more important than the lives of ordinary Americans? I must admit, I am mystified.

07 January 2013

DUH!

06 January 2013

05 January 2013

No Comment

04 January 2013

Fail, Fail, Fail


Okay, so let’s try a little exercise in fill-in-the-blank:

Laws outlawing _____ are useless because criminals will ignore them. Thus laws outlawing _____ will never prevent a crime and are of no use.

Let’s put the word ‘murder’ in the blank first:

Laws outlawing murder are useless because criminals will ignore them. Thus laws outlawing murder will never prevent a crime and are of no use.

Hmm…. by that logic, laws outlawing murder are useless because they didn’t stop Jeffrey Dahmer from murdering. Well, actually, given that Jeffrey Dahmer got sent to prison for life (and shanked — killed — while in prison), those laws darn well *did* stop Jeffrey Dahmer from killing. Without murder laws, we would have had to put Jeffrey Dahmer back on the streets — and he *would* have killed again.

Now, fill in the blank above with “semi-automatic weapons” and you have the position of Mr. Wayne LaPierre of the NRA. By his logic we should not outlaw semi-automatic weapons because such laws won’t prevent criminals from using semi-automatic weapons. Well, maybe not… but they would give prosecutors another way to put those criminals in jail when they got caught for that or other crimes, and criminals in jail are criminals who aren’t threatening me and mine.

You have a right to throw a punch. That right ends at the tip of my nose.

You have a right to free speech. That right ends at the moment you threaten danger me or mine with your speech (yes, Virginia, threatening speech *is* illegal).

You have a right to keep and bear arms. That right ends at the moment that your right endangers me or mine.

Unfortunately the NRA has banned research here in the USA on how to keep your guns from making my life less safe. Is it any wonder that people are now talking about outright bans on entire classes of guns? If gun fondlers weren’t so busy trying to make sure that nobody could take their metallic penile enhancements away from them that they outlawed objective research on the subject of how to keep your guns from threatening the lives of me and mine, there wouldn’t be this outcry calling for bans on entire classes of guns, there’d instead be scientific research on the subject of what’s needed to protect me and mine from your guns. But because gun fondlers are so busy stroking their metallic penile enhancements that they sneer at little things like, well, science and public safety… well. Seems to me gun fondlers are just getting what they deserve with all this ban talk.

You have a right to keep and bear arms… up until the time that it makes me and mine less safe. Period. End of story.

Reposted - Badtux the Reality-based Penguin

03 January 2013

Excellent news

02 January 2013

Carbon Taxes Make Ireland Even Greener


DUBLIN — Over the last three years, with its economy in tatters, Ireland embraced a novel strategy to help reduce its staggering deficit: charging households and businesses for the environmental damage they cause.

The government imposed taxes on most of the fossil fuels used by homes, offices, vehicles and farms, based on each fuel’s carbon dioxide emissions, a move that immediately drove up prices for oil, natural gas and kerosene. Household trash is weighed at the curb, and residents are billed for anything that is not being recycled.

The Irish now pay purchase taxes on new cars and yearly registration fees that rise steeply in proportion to the vehicle’s emissions.

for the rest of the article click here

01 January 2013

Happy New Year!