Energy and Global Warming News for December 18

NASA and Google team up to track GHG emissions by satellite; Is ocean acidification the ‘evil twin’ of human-caused climate change; Flat-earther Inhofe gets blown off by Denmark delegates

NASA, Google offer more precise emissions tracking

The question is a potential deal-killer: If nations ever agree to slash greenhouse gas emissions, how will the world know if they live up to their pledges?

The answer is in space, experts say “” both outer space and cyberspace.

NASA, the wonder agency of the 1960s, and Google, the go-to company of the early 21st century, are trying to give the world the ability to monitor both the carbon dioxide pollution and the levels of forest destruction that contribute to global warming.

For NASA, this is both an opportunity and an embarrassment. NASA had a science satellite, Orbiting Carbon Observatory, that as a side benefit would be able to see where carbon dioxide was being spewed. But a February launch of the $280 million satellite failed, sending the satellite into the cold Antarctic waters.

Acid oceans: the ‘evil twin’ of climate change

Far from Copenhagen’s turbulent climate talks, the sea lions, harbor seals and sea otters reposing along the shoreline and kelp forests of this protected marine area stand to gain from any global deal to cut greenhouse gases.

These foragers of the sanctuary’s frigid waters, flipping in and out of sight of California’s coastal kayakers, may not seem like obvious beneficiaries of a climate treaty crafted in the Danish capital. But reducing carbon emissions worldwide also would help mend a lesser-known environmental problem: ocean acidification.

“We’re having a change in water chemistry, so 20 years from now the system we’re looking at could be affected dramatically but we’re not really sure how. So we see a train wreck coming,” said Andrew DeVogelaere, the sanctuary’s research director, while out kayaking this fall with a reporter in the cold waters.

Nothing in the treaty negotiations specifically addresses the effects of carbon absorption in the oceans on marine life, which studies show is damaging key creatures’ hard shells or skeletons.

For more, see “The Sounds of Science: Lubchenco gives a demonstration of the science of ocean acidification“).

Air Force agrees to solar power project near base in Nevada

A collision between the Air Force and a solar power company has been averted.

The Air Force has dropped its objections to a $750 million solar power project near Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada after the company agreed to move the project about a mile and a half from its proposed location.

Nellis commanders had asserted earlier that a concentrated solar power project — featuring a vast field of mirrors that would direct sunlight to a 600-foot “power tower” and store the heat in a molten-salt facility — might interfere with training and radar. The company, SolarReserve, which had already moved the location once, pressed for permission to build on two square miles near the base in the Nevada desert, where the sun shines brightly virtually all year.

Ahmadinejad: Green Proponent or Greenwashing Politician?

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tells Copenhagen that Iran, a fossil fuel giant, wants to dive into renewable energy and stitch cooperative links with other developing nations to develop non-fossil fuel energy.

He wants solar, wind and other renewable energy to become part of the energy fabric in the Persian nation.

A Greenpeace bystander listening to his speech sniffed that it was nothing more than “greenwashing,” the disparaging idea “” usually aimed at U.S. and European energy companies “” of one basically peddling environmentally friendly technology simply for good PR.

Senate bill would extend Treasury grant program (sub’s required)

Two Senate Democrats introduced legislation yesterday that would extend a program allowing qualified renewable energy projects to exchange tax credits for Treasury Department grants.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Jeff Merkley of Oregon are proposing the extension of grants of up to 30 percent of project costs for wind, solar, biomass and some other types of projects until 2012 and a program expansion to include public electric utilities. The recession rendered traditional tax credits useless because large banks and other investors had no profits and thus no need for tax credits.

The grant program has been hailed by the wind and solar industry for reigniting project construction (Greenwire, Oct. 14).

Mich. lawmakers approve $220M for makers of next-gen vehicles
(sub’s required)

The Michigan Legislature has approved $220 million in tax credits for businesses developing battery packs, aimed at helping companies such as Ford, General Motors and Dow Chemical to create components used in hybrid and electric vehicles.

Republican state Sen. Jason Allen said the credits would create more than 2,000 jobs in Michigan while positioning the state to gain from the expected rise in demand for energy-efficient vehicles.

“The next generation of battery vehicles will be assembled in Michigan,” he said.

In exchange for the tax breaks, Ford agreed to move production of battery packs to southeastern Michigan from a plant in Mexico (Karen Bouffard, Detroit News, Dec. 18). — GN

Jim Inhofe gets cool reception in Denmark

Sen. Jim Inhofe flew across the Atlantic and “” on little sleep “” braved the snow, the cold and the dark to deliver his skeptical message at the international climate conference.

What he found when he got here: a few aides and a single reporter.

“I think he’s going to be a little disappointed,” one of his aides remarked.

Inhofe was at least impatient.

The ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hoped to spread two messages in Copenhagen: Global warming is a hoax, and there’s no way the Senate is going to pass a cap-and-trade bill.

But it was early morning when he arrived at the Bella Center, and the halls were still half-deserted. He walked quickly, brushing off an aide who suggested that he slow down and take a breath.

“I don’t want to breathe “” I want to get something done,” he said.

NATIONAL LABS: Sandia portfolio grows with water power projects (sub’s required)

Sandia National Laboratories will expand its renewable energy research capabilities in the next three years as part of a collaborative effort on water power.

Sandia — best known for its work on nuclear weapons — is the lead research group for studies of marine and hydrokinetic energy and for environmental assessments and mitigation methods for those technologies.

The lab said today that the water research awards will help create the Wind and Water Power Technologies Group.

“Water power technologies contribute to the diversification of our nation’s energy mix” by generating energy close to population centers, said Jose Zayas, the wind and water group’s manager. “Water power technologies could leverage an indigenous resource in parts of the country where other technologies may not be viable.”

FACTBOX: Obama’s achievements on climate change

Shortly after winning the November 2008 election, he reiterated that promise and cheered the world with signs the United States would negotiate seriously on an international pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

So what has Obama achieved since taking office in January? A law to cut U.S. emissions has not passed, but other initiatives to tackle climate change are in place.

Here is a list of some of the things the Obama administration has and hasn’t achieved:


Not achieved: a law. Obama’s wish to push climate legislation through Congress by the end of this year and in time for the Copenhagen climate talks was stymied by the long debate over healthcare reform. Lawmakers are now focusing on 2010 for the climate and energy legislation, which has passed the House of Representatives but must still clear the Senate.


The White House has highlighted the following accomplishments since Obama’s inauguration.


– $80 billion of investment in “clean” energy through the $787 billion stimulus package

– new fuel economy standards for cars and trucks

– more stringent energy efficiency standards for appliances such as microwaves and light bulbs

– an emissions inventory rule in which the United States will catalog greenhouse gas emissions from large emission sources


– relaunching the Major Economies Forum, or MEF, to facilitate discussion on climate change between developing and developed nations and promote clean energy

– securing an agreement for all G20 countries to phase out their fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term

– bilateral partnerships on energy and climate with China, India, Mexico and Canada

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Peter Cooney)

14 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for December 18

  1. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    RE: Ocean Acidification. How could this not have been a rallying point for the past few years? The science is MUCH simpler than global warming, and points to the same policy actions. Its a no brainer to promote this.

    From NRDC.

  2. glen says:

    Things would have been much easier if the OCO(Orbiting Carbon Observatory) made it to orbit in February of this year.

    All is not lost…

    There is some good data coming from the AIRS(Atmospheric Infrared Sounder) satellite. The AIRS program is providing information on GHGs which is beyond the satellite’s original purpose.

    From the AGU 2009 and posted on website by Harvey Leifert:

    “On Tuesday, AGU attendees heard about an instrument aboard a NASA satellite that has opened a new window into climate change observations, well beyond its original purpose. In NASA’s inspired acronymal lexicon, the instrument is called AIRS, for Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, and it orbits the Earth aboard the Aqua satellite. AIRS was designed to improve weather forecasting, and it has done that, scientists say, but it has also done much more, monitoring greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

    In a well-attended press conference prior to their formal session, researchers told reporters that AIRS, containing no moving parts, has proved remarkably robust, measuring carbon dioxide, ozone, water vapor, and carbon monoxide in the mid-troposphere, five to 12 km above Earth’s surface, with far greater precision than anticipated prior to launch in 2002.

    In particular, said Moustafa Chahine of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “AIRS provides the highest accuracy and yield of any global carbon dioxide data set available to the scientific community.” Seven years of these data were made available to researchers worldwide in conjunction with the AGU meeting. NASA said it was the first ever release of daily CO2 data based solely on observations.

    AIRS researchers have learned over the past seven years that CO2 does not mix well in the troposphere, but is what Chahine called “lumpy,” concentrated more in some places than in others, driven by the jet stream. AIRS has tracked the dispersion of CO2 from Indonesian forest fires, which accounts for a staggering 20% of global anthropogenic CO2. Where does it go? Along with the northern hemisphere’s other CO2 emissions, much of it winds up over the southern hemisphere, according to AIRS measurements, as reported here.

    AIRS tracks carbon monoxide, also. The Station fire, which devastated over 40,000 hectares of forest and destroyed scores of homes north of Los Angeles a few months ago, produced strong concentrations of CO over the south central US and over the Great Lakes. Globally, though, CO was most concentrated over central Africa and the Indian Ocean, reported JPL’s Tom Pagano.

    Another member of the AIRS team, Andrew Dessler of Texas A&M University, reported on the unique view the instrument is providing of water vapor distribution in the atmosphere, and in particular the feedback of water vapor that he says amplifies warming due to CO2. He warned that warming of a few degrees Celsius is “essentially guaranteed” over the next century, unless there exists a “presently unknown offsetting feedback (e.g., clouds).”

    Dessler took issue with a statement, attributed to Lowell Wood, in the recently published book, Superfreakonomics, that current climate models “do not know how to handle water vapor and various types of clouds….I hope we’ll have good numbers on water vapor by 2020 or thereabouts.” Dessler told reporters that AIRS, using the infrared spectrum, sees right through clouds and is providing accurate water vapor data today. Current models do a good job of simulating the water vapor feedback effect, he said.

    As with so many sessions here, it was encouraging to know that AIRS scientists are getting so much good data, but somewhat depressing to learn the messages sent down from their instrument.”

  3. sailrick says:

    I’m not sure if Obamma should get any credit for it, but I noticed that immediately after his recent visit to China, China announced that they would spend an additional $450 billion subsidizing renewable energy over the next 5 years.

  4. Joe, I know that you like to allow only civil discussion here. I will try. But we need to be clear that Inhofe more than just a hyperactive crank.

    Senator Inhofe continues to inflict real damage to the future of all humans on the planet. He is beyond delusional, and now secures his place in history as a villain (and such a difficult and limited history that we may be able to secure). The tragedy is that we support his right to express his dangerous ignorance and poor judgment. He is far beyond partisanship – this is not merely a Joe McCarthy-like fear of communism, or anti-tax, or favoring one religion or another; he has worked to prevent the rescue response, he has stopped the fire brigade, and he poisons knowledge itself. I cannot think of any acts more treasonous, anti-civilization and directly harming millions, billions of people. He is a reminder that our imperfect government allows an anti-science representative a seat of power that works to harm us all. I choke on the political correctness that tolerates his actions.

    And if you are going to report on his actions, then I think we should be open about it. Thanks for reporting on him, and for allowing my words.

  5. BobSmith says:

    Bah, ‘evil twin to global warming’ that might imply that global warming is the ‘good twin’.

  6. From Peru says:

    RE: IRAN.
    I believe that Admadineyad is likely not a “greenwasher” because he had tried for years to reduce Iran’s Carbon footprint,SUBSTITUTING FOSSIL FUEL POWER WITH WIND AND NUCLEAR POWER.

    He knows that Tehran is one of the most polluted cities in the world, and specially knows that Iran’s Oil resesrves are shrinking rapidly(Iran oil production had, as the US, peaked a long ago).

    Then the decision of the government is to diversificate the power sources, and the chosen ones were WIND and NUCLEAR.

    It’s really a shame that the western countries are trying to stop Iran nuclear program. There are UN inspectors that are already controlling the Uranium enrichment facilities, and there is no sign of any process that could produce the 90% enriched U-235 needed for a nuclear bomb.

    So fearing a possible nuclear attack from Iran is something very stupid.

  7. From Peru says:

    Instead the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, is really an hypocrite greenwasher.

    He had attacked the Capitalist System, and called for a Socialist Revolution, quoting Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg and even Jesus Christ.

    What he doesn’t mention is that his regime depends on the exportation of Oil to the US to sustain Venezuela economy. If he really want to fight Global Warming, he should stop immediately selling Venezuelan Oil to the US (and that will never happen, because his regime depends on the money received from the US by Oil exports).

  8. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    Right Bob,

    We prefer to call it “the OTHER carbon problem”.

  9. C. Vink says:

    Amazon Losing “Flying Rivers,” Ability to Curb Warming
    National Geographic, December 18 – The Amazon’s “flying rivers” – humid air currents that deliver water to the vast rain forest – may be ebbing, which could have dire consequences for the region’s ability to help curb global warming, an expert said this week at the Copenhagen climate conference.

    Food Security Bangladesh in Great Peril from Climate Change
    IPS, December 18 – Unless the world comes to its aid, Bangladesh says the vulnerability of its agriculture sector to climate change could spell severe consequences for its millions of people, who stand to lose their main source of livelihood.
    Also see: ‘Climate change a “ticking time bomb” for food: UN expert’.

    New York plugs in first electric car solar charging station
    BusinessGreen, December 18 – Off grid charging station to allow New York firm to recharge electric car using solar power.

    Computer simulation strengthens link between climate change and release of subsea methane, December 17 – A first-of-its-kind computer simulation that mirrors real-world observations of methane bubbling up from a seabed in the Arctic Ocean provides further evidence that warming oceans may unleash vast quantities of methane trapped in hydrate deposits buried beneath the seafloor.

  10. Gail says:

    My interpretation would be that since global warming is obviously already evil, the evil twin ocean acidification is malevolent and diabolical. And you are right, Christopher Johnson, it should be at the top of the discussion. It’s easier to understand, the effects are already demonstrable, and enough people rely on life in the sea for food and employment that being informed of the problem would ring very loud alarm bills.

    That is my favorite video. Almost lost in the narration is the fact that most of the oxygen we breathe comes from life in the ocean. When the food chain collapses, and we have killed all the trees on the land with our toxic fuel emissions, what are we to breathe?

  11. mike roddy says:

    Good job, Sean, thanks.

    Inhofe should have come at night, when vodka and beer are flowing, so he could schmooze with fellow oil criminals from Russia and malevolent coal exporters from Australia.

    Delegates to Copenhagen danced around the coal power plant issue. If we’re serious about getting to even 2C, we need to not only stop building coal plants, but accelerate retirement of existing ones. This will mostly anger banks, who are stuck with long term coal plant loans. We can solve this problem by telling them that they deserve to go busted due to their bad judgment, and that more responsible competitors will grab their business. Leaders who speak in those terms should be the only ones who get elected.

    Money for the temporary utility bill increases would come from additional taxes on oil and wood products.

    Governments that object will be publicly humiliated for being corrupt tools of dirty and extractive industries.

    Problem solved.

  12. Wonhyo says:

    Richard Pauli (#4) says: “I cannot think of any acts more treasonous, anti-civilization and directly harming millions, billions of people [than Sen. Inhofe’s advocacy of climate science denialism]. He is a reminder that our imperfect government allows an anti-science representative a seat of power that works to harm us all. I choke on the political correctness that tolerates his actions.”

    I agree wholeheartedly with RP’s description of Sen. Inhofe. His actions (and that of his fellow climate science deniers in influential government positions) can be described simultaneously as homicide, suicide, genocide, and treason.

    The democratic controls that should prevent people like Inhofe from gaining a government seat have failed. The press, now owned and controlled by large corporations, gives climate science deniers a legitimacy they do not deserve. While deniers should have the freedom to express themselves, a truly free press would also ignore or ridicule deniers in media reporting. Without a truly free press, the people are misinformed. The falsely “balanced” nature of U.S. media reporting raises false doubts and confuses the real science in people’s minds.

    Under these conditions, it is easy for climate science denialism to stall the actions that will save life as we know it.

    Our contemporary civilization developed in CO2 concentrations of 180-300 ppm, thriving at 275 ppm for the last several thousand years. Common sense suggests 275 ppm should be the target and 300 ppm should be the upper limit. The official scientific recommendation is already compromised to 350 ppm. “Politically expedient” recommendations are further compromised to 450 ppm. By the nature of the political process, we can only expect further compromises from here, and that’s before we even take into account the inadequate time frame for action.

  13. mike roddy says:

    Pauli and Wonhyo,

    I agree that Inhofe is evil, but he’s pretty far down the food chain. He’s really just a useful idiot who acts as a foil for ignorant sectors of the public, and a lighting rod for people who understand climate science. His reward is seven figure “campaign contributions”.

    The real crimes, which are far more horrifying, are being committed every day by the oil, coal, and timber companies, and the banks who support them. They are working to protect and expand their markets, and know perfectly well that they are dooming us. Money in hand means more to them. I’ve got a piece coming out in a week at that explores this.

  14. I found your website about a month ago and check it several times a day. It is by far one of the funniest sites that I have come across. I just wanted to say thank you for the laughs and keep up the great work!