As the West warms, a drier Colorado River system could see as much as a one-in-two chance of fully depleting all of its reservoir storage by mid-century assuming current management practices continue on course, according to a new University of Colorado at Boulder study.
The study, in press in the American Geophysical Union journal, Water Resources Research, looked at the effects of a range of reductions in Colorado River stream flow on future reservoir levels and the implications of different management strategies. Roughly 30 million people depend on the Colorado River — which hosts more than a dozen dams along its 1,450 journey from Colorado’s Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California — for drinking and irrigation water.
The Colorado River system is presently enduring its 10th year in a drought that began in 2000, said lead study author Balaji Rajagopalan, a CU-Boulder associate professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering. Fortunately, the river system entered the drought with the reservoirs at approximately 95 percent of capacity. The reservoir system is presently at 59 percent of capacity….
See also “Australia today offers horrific glimpse of U.S. Southwest post-2040” and “NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe.” Photo above is of Lake Powell in Utah.
Nissan Motor Co., aiming to be the top seller of electric vehicles in the U.S., is hedging its bets.
Nissan will use a $1.6 billion U.S. loan to retool a Tennessee factory so battery-powered cars can be made on the same line that currently produces hybrids and other models to keep from wasting capacity. Electric-vehicle assembly will be phased in “to avoid under-utilizing the plant while the market is developing,” said Senior Vice President Andy Palmer.
Carmakers are readying electric vehicles in response to higher oil prices, demand for more fuel-efficiency and concerns over climate change tied to carbon exhaust. Even with U.S. aid to build and buy them, the higher cost and shorter driving range of electric vehicles may hold the total market to less than the 150,000 vehicles Nissan will be able to build at the factory.
A decision by France’s energy regulator that seems to defy both logic and Europe’s green consciousness has set off a political storm here.
At the center is a tiny company that seeks to save consumers money.
Two weeks ago, the French Energy Regulatory Commission, the C.R.E., decided that Voltalis, a company that installs electricity management devices in homes and businesses and then manages their use, would have to, in effect, pay power producers for the power that it saves.
There’s growing momentum for amending the Montreal Protocol, the landmark treaty credited with rescuing the earth’s ozone layer, for use in a global battle against climate change.
Widely regarded as the most successful environmental treaty of all time, the Montreal Protocol is credited with eliminating 97 percent of gases used in refrigerant and cooling systems that were eating away at the atmospheric layer that protects life from harmful ultraviolet radiation.
Now, some officials are confident the treaty can be employed to fight climate change, as well, by reducing the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The move is controversial, as HFCs do not harm ozone and are widely used as a safer substitute for chlorofluorcarbons (CFCs), with the protocol mentioning HFCs as an attractive alternative coolant.
“Smart grid” faces significant barriers to expansion, despite growing interest in the technology, the Energy Department said in a report released yesterday.
The study found low penetration for most smart-grid components but saw potential for growth as more cash for technology development and deployment becomes available.
As connection requirements for distributed generation resources become more standardized and cost-effective, “the area is experiencing high growth,” the report says. But some distributed generation resources, including electric vehicles and demand-response initiatives, are only at a “nascent phase of development,” it notes.
Two new sister lines of rice are defying rice’s reputation as a thirsty crop as they demonstrate their improved productivity in drought-prone regions of India and the Philippines.
Rice Today‘s July-September 2009 edition features the development of drought-tolerant rice and other research the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its collaborators are doing to curb the devastating effects of drought.
With some degree of water shortages predicted to affect 15-20 million hectares of irrigated rice within 25 years, smart crop management and even genetically modified rice may also play a role in helping farmers cope with the crisis.
The army is beginning to measure its carbon footprint, as part of a broader emphasis on the costs of climate change.
An environmental, health and safety management system called Enviance, piloted at Fort Carson, is being rolled out to 11 more Army facilities around the country, including Fort Hood and Fort Benning, to help track their carbon “bootprint.”
The Army has well over 100 installations in the United States.
Tad Davis, the Army’s deputy assistant secretary for environment, safety and occupational health, said it is expanding its focus to climate change issues beyond its traditional energy security.
Climate Loopholes [op-ed]
The House’s approval of the Waxman-Markey climate change bill earlier this month was a remarkable political achievement and an important beginning to the task of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But in all the last-minute wheeling and dealing, the House bill acquired two big loopholes that the Senate must close.
Grants introduced in President Barack Obama’s economic recovery package were aimed at spurring investments in renewable energy, but the program’s structure threatens to hobble it from the start by restricting private equity participation in any government-backed projects.
Under the terms of the program announced July 9, any tax-exempt investors — including many endowments, pension funds and family trusts — would not qualify for grants. Even if a tax-exempt entity holds just a 0.1 percent interest in the renewable energy project four tiers up the ownership structure, the entire project is disqualified, according to the rules published on the U.S. Treasury Department Web site and several attorneys and industry members.
China and other developing nations must help “pay” for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said on Monday, backing off a recent statement that put a greater burden on the United States.
As the United States and other developed countries make costly commitments to address climate change, “developing countries like China must do the same,” Locke told members of the Manufacturing Council, a private sector advisory group.
“They’ve got to step up. They’ve got to pay for the cost of complying with global climate change. They’ve got to invest in energy efficiency and conservation, but also very definitive steps in reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Locke said.
The potential market for second-generation liquid biofuels has gained growing public and investor attention lately, including a lengthy feature on “grassoline” in the latest issue of Scientific American.
But the less glamorous pellet industry has grown in large part because of surging demand from Europe.
The United States is fashioning its own climate legislation and renewable energy policy, which would, among other things, compel utilities to turn to renewable energy sources for a growing portion (6 percent in 2012, rising to 20 percent by 2020) of the electricity they sell.
“¦could Congressional legislators push utilities even further by requiring them to co-fire a mandated proportion of biomass pellets in coal plants “” in effect, establishing a renewable solid-fuel standard to mirror biofuel content rules for gasoline?
Biofuels can be produced in large quantities and have multiple benefits, but only if they come from feedstocks produced with low life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions, as well as minimal competition with food production. This consensus emerges in a new journal article by researchers from the University of Minnesota, Princeton, MIT and the University of California, Berkeley.
“The world needs to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, but recent findings have thrown the emerging biofuels industry into a quandary. We met to seek solutions,” said the U of M’s David Tilman, a noted ecologist and lead author of the paper. “We found that the next generation of biofuels can be highly beneficial if produced properly.”
Building a railway across the unstable soil of the Tibetan Plateau was an improbable endeavor from the start, but an army of Chinese government engineers did it anyway.
Now, with the frozen soil disturbed by the process of laying down the rail and a warming climate on the plateau, some scientists question whether the $4-billion rail line will survive as is or require major reconstruction.
Three years after the railway opened in 2006, international research shows that the Tibetan territories are among the fastest warming, and fastest melting, on the planet. The research into the fate of glaciers and the permafrost soils””done by the United Nations, China’s scientific agencies, and several independent scientists””is not focused on the railway. But the work raises concerns that the warming ground could lead to a buckling of the railway.
Future water supplies from the High Plains aquifer could be in jeopardy if large amounts of water are pumped out of it and if farmers continue using chemicals on land above the vast underground reservoir, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a report.
While the aquifer’s water quality is good, there will have to be “some substantial changes” in how the aquifer is used “if we want to extend the life of it,” said Jason Gurdak, lead author of the study.
“¦ The aquifer is the most heavily used groundwater resource in the United States, supplying water to Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming. Most of the water is used for irrigation, but about 2 million people also depend on it for drinking water.