Energy and Global Warming News for June 19th: CO2 currently at highest level in 2.1 million years, Summer ‘dead zone’ could be largest on record, Are Macbooks the worlds greenest family of notebooks?

The news today is of special interest to me because I’m about to buy a MacBook….

CO2 currently at highest level in 2.1 million years

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are higher than any point in the last 2.1 million years, report researchers writing in the journal Science.

Analyzing the shells of single-celled plankton buried under the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa, B¤rbel H¶nisch, a geochemist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and her colleagues dtermined that peak CO2 levels over the last 2.1 million years averaged only 280 parts per million. By comparison current CO2 levels stand at 385 parts per million, or 38% higher than the long-term peak.

Are ‘Green’ MacBook Ads Misleading?

As my colleague Joe Hutsko has previously written, consumers want, but remain skeptical about, eco-electronics.

Turns out they’re not alone.

Electronics manufacturer Dell recently took its competitor, Apple, to task for advertising that its Macbook line is “the world’s greenest family of notebooks””¦

The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus “” the advertising industry’s self-governing body whose job it is to review truthfulness and accuracy in marketing claims “” was brought in to determine the veracity of Apple’s assertions….

After hearing both sides, N.A.D. concluded that consumers “could reasonably take away the message that a ‘family’ of notebooks is a line of products and not all the products produced by a manufacturer.”

The N.A.D. therefore recommended that Apple modify its “world’s greenest family of notebooks” claim, “to make clearer that the basis of comparison is between all MacBooks to all notebooks made by a given competitor.” It also suggested that Apple “avoid the reference to ‘world’s greenest’ “” given the potential for overstatement.”

Apple’s spokesperson Steve Dowling said his company was pleased with the ruling.

“The N.A.D.’s ruling is a clear victory for Apple. The case challenged our claim to the ‘world’s greenest family of notebooks’ and N.A.D. has confirmed that MacBooks are in fact the world’s greenest notebook computers when compared to other manufacturers’ product lines as a whole,” Mr. Dowling wrote in an e-mail message.

Mr. Dowling also added that every Apple notebook meets the new Energy Star 5.0 specification out of the box and is made using mercury-free LED backlit displays and PVC-free components, seemingly as further proof of the company’s commitment to green efficiency.

Summer ‘dead zone’ could be largest on record — NOAA

The Gulf of Mexico’s oxygen-depleted “dead zone” could be one of the largest on record this year, a federal scientific team said today.

Seasonal oxygen levels could drop too low to support aquatic life in an area the size of New Jersey, according to the team supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Scientists forecast the dead zone at between 7,350 and 8,456 square miles, with a strong chance of it growing larger, given the recent flooding of the Mississippi River. The largest dead zone on record was 8,484 square miles in 2002.

Plant-based jet fuel as good or better than petroleum — report

Plant-based jet fuels performed as well or better than petroleum-based fuel in tests conducted by a coalition of airlines and aircraft manufacturers.

Fuel blends from sustainable crops of jatropha, algae and camelina were used in ground and flight tests that showed biofuels were more efficient than typical jet fuels, according to the coalition’s report, which was released today.

All tested fuel blends, the report says, met or exceeded technical parameters for commercial flights, including freezing point, flash point, fuel density and viscosity. The biofuels had no adverse effect on aircraft engines.

NERC plans grid-security initiative

The North American Electric Reliability Corp. is planning a pilot initiative to determine whether Chinese spies have infiltrated the computer systems that run the electric grid.

The industry regulatory group is discussing the plan with a defense contractor to search through the grid for possible security breaches, according to people familiar with the initiative.

At the same time, NERC is launching a separate plan to test power companies’ ability to thwart cyber attacks. The power industry has turned its focus to computer-system security in response to increased public and congressional scrutiny.

Oberstar, Mica plan $500B, 6-year reauthorization

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee wants $500 billion over the next six years for the nation’s roads, transit and high-speed rail, according to a blueprint of the bill that committee leadership hopes to pass before the current highway authorization expires at the end of September.

Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) was scheduled to outline the proposal this morning at a press conference, but the release was postponed until 2 p.m. today to accommodate a series of House votes.

But a copy of the 17-page proposal shows that Oberstar and ranking member John Mica (R-Fla.) are calling for a $337 billion investment in highway construction, $100 billion for public transit and $50 billion for President Obama’s vision of a nationwide high-speed rail system. The remaining $13 billion is for a variety of smaller initiatives.

Duke to build ‘clean energy park’ in Ohio

Duke Energy said today that it plans build a multibillion dollar “clean energy park” that could eventually house a nuclear plant at the federal government’s uranium enrichment facility in Piketon, Ohio, about 80 miles east of Cincinnati.

Duke is part of the Southern Ohio Clean Energy Park Alliance, which includes French nuclear giant Areva, Baltimore-based UniStar Nuclear Energy and USEC Inc., which manages the 3,700-acre government site. The consortium has not finalized its site or design details, but estimates that the plant would create 1,400 to 1,800 initial jobs and potentially 400 to 700 permanent jobs (Mike Boyer, Cincinnati Enquirer, June 18)

A Move to Put the Union Label on Solar Power Plants

When a company called Ausra filed plans for a big solar power plant in California, it was deluged with demands from a union group that it study the effect on creatures like the short-nosed kangaroo rat and the ferruginous hawk.

By contrast, when a competitor, BrightSource Energy, filed plans for an even bigger solar plant that would affect the imperiled desert tortoise, the same union group, California Unions for Reliable Energy, raised no complaint. Instead, it urged regulators to approve the project as quickly as possible.

One big difference between the projects? Ausra had rejected demands that it use only union workers to build its solar farm, while BrightSource pledged to hire labor-friendly contractors.

Britain releases new climate change report

Britain’s soggy summers will become warmer and drier, and London could experience scorching heat waves by late this century, a government-backed report on climate change said Thursday.

The study outlines three scenarios for climate change, based on high, medium and low global levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

The report said the medium emissions scenario, to which the world is currently closest, would see summer temperatures in Britain rise by about 4 C (7.2 F) by 2080.

How aerosols mask climate change

A Norwegian scientist says he has shown how much aerosols influence climate.

Aerosol particles scatter and reflect the Sun’s rays – an effect that “masks” global warming.

This study aimed to bring together models and observations of this “direct aerosol effect”, to accurately estimate the magnitude of this cooling.

Reporting in the journal Science, climate scientist Gunnar Myhre has found that the effect is weaker than previous studies have estimated.

Water supplies at risk from fires in dead forests

Water supplies for 33 million people could be endangered if millions of acres of beetle-ravaged forests in the Rocky Mountains catch fire, a U.S. Forest Service official said Tuesday.

Rick Cables, the chief forester for the Rocky Mountain region, told a House panel that the headwaters of the Colorado River, an important water source for residents of 13 states, are in the middle of 2.5 million acres of dead or dying forests in Colorado and southern Wyoming. Severe fires, fueled by these trees, could damage or destroy reservoirs, pipes and other infrastructure that supply water to millions of people in the Rocky Mountain region.

Moreover, wildfires can “literally bake the soil,” leaving behind a water-repellent surface that sheds rain and leads to severe erosion and debris, he said. The loss of so many trees also will reduce shade in the region, which in turn could reduce water supplies in the hot, dry summer months and accelerate snowmelt in the spring, he said.

27 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for June 19th: CO2 currently at highest level in 2.1 million years, Summer ‘dead zone’ could be largest on record, Are Macbooks the worlds greenest family of notebooks?

  1. Bullwinkle says:

    Apple will also recycle your old computer and monitor, even if it’s a PC, for free.

    If Apple can get called for their claims, what of ‘Clean Coal’…

  2. dhogaza says:

    Bullwinkle, to clarify, that’s when you buy a new apple laptop (it’s a good program, but some might interpret your comment to mean anyone can walk into an apple store and dump an old PC to be recycled for free).

    “The New MacBooks. The world’s greenest family of notebooks” to be too broad, and argued that “common industry usage of ‘family’ refers to a particular model or group of models and not the entire notebook line.”

    That is to say, consumers would understand that the claim for “greenness” applied to all MacBooks — including older models that aren’t necessarily manufactured with sustainability in mind.

    There are two dictionary definitions of “new” that are incompatible with Dell’s claim that one might mistake “new” for “older”:

    New: Being the later or latest in a sequence: a new edition.

    New: In the most recent form, period, or development.

  3. paulm says:

    Wonder what the definition of credible is in the below…

    Path To Climate Solution: Reduce Emissions

    The report by the M.I.T. concludes that the United States cannot meet its targets for stabilizing greenhouse gases unless it finds a way to economically capture carbon dioxide emissions coming from existing coal-burning power plants.

    There is no credible pathway towards stringent greenhouse gas stabilization targets without CO2 emission reductions from existing coal power plants,” says the report. Members of Congress, where a bill to limit U.S. greenhouse gas emissions could come up for a House vote as early as next week, were being briefed on the MIT report.

  4. paulm says:

    Solutions are coming ….

    Denmark to power electric cars by wind in vehicle-to-grid experiment
    The project will use electric car batteries to store excess energy and feed electricity back into the grid when the weather is calm

  5. “Oberstar and ranking member John Mica (R-Fla.) are calling for a $337 billion investment in highway construction, $100 billion for public transit and $50 billion for President Obama’s vision of a nationwide high-speed rail system. The remaining $13 billion is for a variety of smaller initiatives.”

    Most of the highway funding is for maintaining existing highways, and that figure is bound to be large because we have built so many highways in the past. The real issue, looking toward the future, is how much of the funding is for building increased highway capacity and how much for building increased transit capacity, and I have not been able to get an answer to that question.

    LaHood has suggested delaying this renewal for 18 months, and Oberstar is pushing for doing the renewal on schedule. Though I am not sure, I suspect we would get a better bill if the renewal were delayed. Most people pushing for quick renewal think of this as a jobs bill, and they would be as happy with more highways as with more transit.

  6. Steve H says:

    My guess is that the Al unibody of the Macbook was machined from a piece of about 2 lbs, meaning an additional energy use in production of about 30 KWH. Good luck on comparing this to anything else out there. I’d really like to see a benchmarked, real-word measure of energy demand for computers that has to be displayed to purchasers, as well as the energy required in production.

    But I like to dream.

  7. Chris Winter says:


    I would have worded it this way (or similar):

    “There is no credible pathway towards stringent greenhouse gas stabilization targets in time to stave off the worst effects of warming without CO2 emission reductions from existing coal power plants,” says the report.

  8. dhogaza says:

    My guess is that the Al unibody of the Macbook was machined from a piece of about 2 lbs, meaning an additional energy use in production of about 30 KWH.

    Are you computing this for aluminum from bauxite, or recycled?

    The machine waste is recycled of course, and the aluminum shell itself is easily recycled, unlike the plastic case of a typical laptop.

  9. Bullwinkle says:

    To further clarify, it doesn’t need to be a laptop. iMac, Mac Pro or Apple Display purchase will qualify as well.

    They will also recycle any iPod or any brand of mobile phone for free w/o any purchase requirement.

  10. PaulK says:

    The MIT study is the scientific basis for the $8 billion the administration is spending on FuturGen in Mattoon, Illinois.

  11. Lennart van der Linde says:

    “Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are higher than any point in the last 2.1 million years, report researchers writing in the journal Science.”

    The recent Synthesis Report of the March Copenhagen Climate Congress even says (p.10):
    “The CO2-concentration in the atmosphere has not been substantially higher than it is now for at least the last 20 million years of the Earth’s history.”


    The time to act is now.

  12. Doug says:

    You can’t believe what the FS says about forests because they make money from logging, so they see every natural process that kills trees as a threat to their profits and they perceive every threat to the forest as an opportunity to log. “If your only tool is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.” Part of the very complex truth is that fire hazard decreases after beetles kill the forest because they leave the trees standing and the needles are not on the trees so the density of fuels in the canopy is reduced. The large tree trunks that the Forest Service wants to remove are not a fire hazard because almost all of the fire hazard is from fuels smaller than 3 inches in diameter.

  13. Lou Grinzo says:

    If I may–I posted a couple of short pieces recently looking at the sudden jump in atmospheric levels of CO2 and methane, according to the latest NOAA observations. This is particularly worrisome, as we don’t yet know (as best I can tell) where the higher levels of these gases are coming from. Permafrost melt leaps to mind, but if these numbers are the start of a major trend because of Arctic warming (especially with the sun spot cycle about to heat things up even more), we’re in very big trouble.

    The methane posting is linked from the one on CO2: CO2 checkpoint

  14. paulm says:

    …>More bad AGW news:

    I think most of us here had already realized that this is the probable outcome.

    The amount of extreme events we are seeing already means 2C rise is going to be, well, I would say unmanageable to say it mildly.

  15. Pat Richards says:

    Gee, I would have loved to read the whole article on the new research that proves CO2 is at the highest level in the last 2.1 million years, but someone forgot to include the link in the post. Here it is:

  16. Michael says:

    In order to reduce one’s carbon footprint it’s better not to use any computers at all.

    The CO2 they produce is actually killing us RIGHT NOW.

    And Joe’s considering buying a NEW ONE?!?! I cannot grasp the hypocrisy!

  17. Andy says:

    Doug, I spent several years with the FS and the money they make from logging is very little and it goes back into the forests by supporting many of the recreational opportunities that we all use. It’s not like anyone is getting rich off FS logging. I’ve been part of the fire crews in the Rockies and you’ve obviously never seen how beetle killed trees ignite. The majority of fires in the area start from lightning strikes, not the fuels on the forest floor. They are quickly carried down and throughout the forest via embers carried on the wind. Beetle killed trees burn VERY hot and fast and do leave the forest floor coated with a near resin like finish that allows water to runoff quickly…hence the numerous flash floods after fires. Erosion is a HUGE problem for years afterwards and requires millions in efforts to offset it. Check out effects of fires in the South Platte Ranger District such as the Hayman Fire or the Yellowstone fire etc.

  18. hapa says:

    for the jet fuel testing, the blend was 50/50.

    direct link to boeing report summary:

    DARPA was involved. as a citizen of a country that ambitiously plans ahead for large “invasions of choice,” let me say that our military’s operational interest in energy independence is disturbing. it’s not far from there to talking about the militarization of dwindling north american fresh water to ensure “wartime” crop supply.

    the mission needs scaling down.

    also the study doesn’t answer the main question of interest to civilian aviation, which is cost per mile, at scale.

  19. paulm says:

    Could this really happen?

    Carbon capture plans threaten shutdown of all UK coal-fired power stations
    Radical proposals to require existing plants, including Drax, to fit the technology would force their closure, government admits

    Ed Miliband, the energy secretary, is proposing to extend his plans to force companies to fit carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) onto new coal plants – as revealed by the Guardian – to cover a dozen existing coal plants.

    The consultation published by his Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) conceded that if this happened “we could expect them to close”.

  20. paulm says:

    Greenpeace UK, urged the government to make all existing coal plants fit CCS: “If we fail to act, Drax will remain one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide in the world for decades,” he said. “The government’s own advisors on climate change have stated that all emissions from coal must cease by the early 2020s.

    “That’s all coal, not just new coal,

  21. hapa says:

    hmm. “main question of interest” is wrong. definitely the main question is whether blended fuel would work. the second question, outside the scope of the study, is whether reducing the petroleum component maintains the current business model. obviously not. without subsidies or creative/risky financing, cheap flying is a goner.

    for the US it might be cheaper and more effective to subsidize lower-carbon air travel than to build fast passenger trains everywhere, assuming the fuel supply is practical. or to subsidize planes in a mix of modes. probably have to go corridor-by-corridor. the problem with that is the distance from airports to train stations makes intermodal transfers inconvenient by rich world standards.

    yes, air travel is economically helpful and important. the world isn’t “flat” but making a living is definitely now geographically dispersed — is that what i mean — i’m trying to say that there’s no such thing as a pure local economy, at modern city scale, and if only the rich and powerful can afford to move around freely, guess what happens to income inequality.

    i don’t see enough greens talking about how to maintain mobility and fairness. you can correct it with subsidies, with better telecom, with revenue sharing and better economic development policy, things like that, but it still seems like gluing people in place or “slowing most people down” is a recipe for economic disaster because it increases rigidity and inequality. see: michigan.

    put another way, “if you can’t go where the money is…”

  22. David B. Benson says:

    Michael — Do a study comparing CO2 impact of computers + internet versus paper + postal service.

  23. “If Apple can get called for their claims, ”
    There used to be a law against false advertising. Does it still exist? If it does, why are the electric utilities and coal industry not being prosecuted for their advertisements against H.R. 2454?

    Could “The Gulf of Mexico’s oxygen-depleted “dead zone” ” be taken over by those anaerobic sulfur bacteria that make H2S gas? Recall that H2S is a poisonous gas.

  24. David B. Benson says:

    Asteroid Miner — Regarding your last question, I don’t think so. Comparee the differences between the Gulf of Mexico and the Black Sea.

    But check the corresponding zone of the coast of Namibia.