Energy and Global Warming News for July 9: Solar aircraft lands after 26-hour flight; American Power Act cuts deficit $19 Billion; Utilities shift to gas, renewables, efficiency after “mass cancellations of coal-fired plants”*

*Featured post below

Solar-powered aircraft lands after 26-hour flight

A giant glider-like aircraft has completed the first night flight propelled only by solar energy, organizers said on Thursday.

Solar Impulse, whose wingspan is the same as an Airbus A340, flew 26 hours and 9 minutes, powered only by solar energy stored during the day. It was also the longest and highest flight in the history of solar aviation, organisers said.

Bertrand Piccard, the Swiss president of the project, best known for completing the first round-the-world flight in a hot air balloon in 1999, said the success of the flight showed the potential of renewable energies and clean technology.

“We are on the verge of the perpetual flight,” he said.

Jubilant pilot Andre Borschberg told Reuters television: “It was unbelievable, success better than we expected. We almost thought to make it longer, but … we demonstrated what we wanted to demonstrate so they made me come back, so here I am.”

American Power Act cuts deficit  $19 Billion

In a preliminary look at the American Power Act””the climate legislation that has been put forward by Senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman””the CBO found that the bill would actually reduce the budget deficit by about $19 billion over the 2011 to 2020 period. The CBO estimates that auctions of carbon allowances under the bill””which requires companies to essentially pay for the right to emit carbon dixoide””would raise government revenue by about $751 billion, more than bill would hike government spending through incentives for nuclear power, tax credits for energy efficiency and research and technology for new energy.

Fred Krupp””the president of the Environmental Defense Fund and a fierce warrior for a carbon cap””told reporters last week that Kerry-Lieberman as it stands now is unlikely to ever reach a vote, and that green groups need to be open to a less ambitious bill, such as one that only caps emissions from power utilities. How much will that cost? The CBO hasn’t done an analysis””because there’s been no bill written””but on his blog Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations has written that a utility-only cap could have fewer sources of revenue because the carbon market itself would be much smaller than with an economy-wide cap. It’d be ironic if, in trying to craft a climate bill that is less ambitious and costs less, the Senate actually produces one that’s a greater drain on the budget. But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. It is the Senate, after all.

Raising the Bar on Biomass

A quick update on the struggles of the biomass power industry, which has long enjoyed a reputation for delivering renewable and low-carbon energy:

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, that reputation “” which has generated tax breaks and other incentives in a variety of states “” has come under increasing scrutiny.

Among other complaints, opponents of biomass power “” which, depending on the location, involves burning organic matter like plants and trees to generate electricity “” say the incentives would create a rapacious industry driven to gobble up forests that would have absorbed more carbon dioxide if they’d simply been left alone.

Massachusetts became locked in a fierce battle over the issue, prompting state officials to commission a comprehensive review of the science related to biomass. That study landed last month, and this week, energy regulators there said they were revamping the rules relating to biomass and renewable energy incentives.

In a letter released Wednesday, Ian A. Bowles, the state’s secretary for energy and environmental affairs, instructed the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to draft new regulations that would raise the bar for biomass projects angling to qualify for credits, including a requirement that they provide “significant near-term greenhouse gas dividends.”

Solar industry powers up slowly in Washington

Bruce Dean walked down his driveway, turned around and looked at the newly installed solar-power system resting on his roof, collecting rays from the seldom-seen Seattle sun.

“It has taken a while,” said Dean, a retiree living in Ballard with his wife, Kaylee.

He is the first customer in Seattle to install a system that qualifies for the highest incentive available from the state’s renewable-energy program “” five years after the program was created.

The incentives are to encourage steady solar-industry growth in the state, so the biggest payout goes to buyers of solar-power systems manufactured in Washington. But companies haven’t exactly leapt at the opportunity “” only two build solar-power components in the state.

Silicon Energy of Marysville became in May the first Washington firm to make both major components of a solar system: the solar module, whose familiar panels turn sunlight into electricity; and the inverter, which turns the panel’s direct current (DC) into standard, usable alternating current (AC).

U.S. to Test `Cutting-Edge’ Solar Energy at Former Nuclear Bomb Test Site

The U.S. Departments of Energy and the Interior have picked a former nuclear site in Nevada to be transformed into a zone for testing “cutting-edge” solar energy technologies.

The research will take place on 25 square miles of land owned by the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, an area larger than the size of Manhattan, the Energy Department said today in a statement.

The area lies in the southwest corner of the Nevada Test Site, about 65 miles (104.6 kilometers) northwest of Las Vegas, where the U.S. military used to detonate atomic weapons. The Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration will oversee the project, according to the statement.

The DOE said it selected the Nevada site after evaluating 26 possible locations in terms of solar conditions, suitable terrain and other infrastructure needed for solar development.

Projects developed on public land “can significantly reduce the costs and environmental impacts of utility-scale solar power facilities and demonstrate the commercial viability of these facilities,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said today at a press conference announcing the plan.

Soybean Yields to Drop on Climate, Ozone, U.S. Researcher Says

Climate change and pollution may cut yields for soybeans and other crops by 2050 unless plants are adapted, the University of Illinois said, citing research.

Tests showed crops grown in open fields benefitted less than expected from higher levels of carbon dioxide in the air, the university said in a report published yesterday. The yield increase was only half of that assumed by the United Nations’ climate-change panel to predict world food supply in 2050, according to the report.

The world must grow 70 percent more food by 2050 to feed a rising population, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization says. One assumed positive aspect to climate change has been that higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will stimulate photosynthesis and boost yields, the researchers said.

“More research in these areas is critical,” Don Ort, professor of crop science at the University of Illinois, said in a statement. “How top-producing areas fare with climate change will be very important in determining global food security for the future.”

Hurricane Modeling Predicts Rough Waters in 2010

Sailors, be forewarned:  hurricane science is better than ever, and the prognosis is for rough seas.

Advances in understanding the planet’s ground, water, and atmospheric cycles have vastly improved the ability to forecast the potential for major storms, leading scientists to predict an extremely active hurricane season in 2010.  Combining knowledge of the conditions that spawn major storm–based on years of research and observations–with computer modeling, scientists are calling for a 2010 hurricane season so intense that it could approach the record set in 2005.

Some of the recent conditions, partly attributed to a changing climate, have led scientists to call for an increase in the intensity of future seasons for decades to come.

The forecasts, while gloomy, give those likely to be affected–from oil-spill responders currently working in the Gulf of Mexico to insurance companies aiming to protect the bottom line–better tools for preparing and managing the risks.

All indicators point to a 2010 hurricane season “at or beyond” record levels, reports Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., a research facility supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF).  To date, the 2005 season,  with 28 major storms, according to NOAA records, was the most active on record.

A City’s Motto: I Tap Water

New York City is so proud of its tap water that the Bloomberg administration has come up with a product line to trumpet its quality and promote it as an affordable and sustainable alternative to bottled water.

The merchandise, bearing an NYC Water logo, ranges from glasses ($5) to T-shirts ($23) and is available at CityStore, the city’s online shop for all things New York. There are also coasters, decanters and water bottles sold both online at and at Fishs Eddy, the New York-based purveyor of dinnerware, glassware and kitchen goods.

“Our high-quality drinking water not only quenches New Yorkers’ thirst, but is the not-so-secret ingredient in the bagels, pizza, and thousands of other dishes that people come from around the world to get,” the city’s environmental protection commissioner, Cas Holloway, said Thursday in a statement announcing the products.

The Environmental Protection Department, which introduced the line in a partnership with Fishs Eddy, oversees a daily supply of more than one billion gallons of water that serves more than nine million people, including eight million in New York City and a million residents of Ulster, Orange, Putnam and Westchester counties. The water, so clean that it does not require filtration, comes from a highly protected watershed upstate.

9 Stores Fined for Propping Doors Open

Nine stores in Manhattan and the Bronx have been hit with $200 fines for leaving their doors open on hot days in the hope that the escaping cool air will lure sweaty customers. They are the first fined as part of a new law passed in 2008.

Last year, only warnings were given out. So far this year, the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs has inspected 105 stores. Seventy were in compliance, 26 were issued warnings and nine that had been warned last year were hit with fines, said Kay Sarlin, a spokeswoman for the department.

Fines start at $200, and go up to $400 for any further infractions in an 18-month period. The legislation states that any business larger than 4,000 square feet or part of a chain with five or more stores in the city must keep doors closed when using an air-conditioning system.

Concerns Spread Over Environmental Costs of Producing Shale Gas

Around suppertime on June 3 in Clearfield County, Pa., a geyser of natural gas and sludge began shooting out of a well called Punxsutawney Hunting Club 36. The toxic stew of gas, salt water, mud and chemicals went 75 feet into the air for 16 hours. Some of this mess seeped into a stream northeast of Pittsburgh.

Four days later, as authorities were cleaning up the debris in Pennsylvania, an explosion burned seven workers at a gas well on the site of an abandoned coal mine outside of Moundsville, W.Va., just southwest of Pittsburgh.

The back-to-back emergencies were like a five-alarm fire for John Hanger, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. For a brief moment, the cable news channels turned their attention away from the BP PLC oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico to the apparent trouble in the nation’s expanding onshore natural gas fields.

Coal with carbon capture Gets a Boost: DOE Dishes out $67M for Carbon Capture Research

This week it’s green for green: On Tuesday, we mentioned that the Department of Energy was giving out loans totaling $2 billion for two big solar panel projects. Now, the DOE has offered $67 million for research on carbon capture, in hopes of propelling nascent carbon capture and storage projects.

Carbon capture, as its name suggests, requires trapping carbon dioxide from fossil fuel-burners like coal power plants before it enters the air. It isn’t easy. For one, you have to figure out what to do with all the CO2 once you capture it. The first power plant to try out carbon sequestration has found that its neighbors aren’t keen on having CO2 pumped deep into the earth below their town.

Also, capturing the greenhouse gas requires energy, adding 80 percent to the cost of electricity for a new pulverized coal plant and around 35 percent for a high-tech coal gasification plant. The goal, the DOE says in the award announcement, is to reduce these costs to less than 30 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

The Obama-Pelosi Lame Duck Strategy

Democratic House members are so worried about the fall elections they’re leaving Washington on July 30, a full week earlier than normal””and they won’t return until mid-September. Members gulped when National Journal’s Charlie Cook, the Beltway’s leading political handicapper, predicted last month “the House is gone,” meaning a GOP takeover. He thinks Democrats will hold the Senate, but with a significantly reduced majority.

The rush to recess gives Democrats little time to pass any major laws. That’s why there have been signs in recent weeks that party leaders are planning an ambitious, lame-duck session to muscle through bills in December they don’t want to defend before November. Retiring or defeated members of Congress would then be able to vote for sweeping legislation without any fear of voter retaliation.

“I’ve got lots of things I want to do” in a lame duck, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D., W. Va.) told reporters in mid June. North Dakota’s Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, wants a lame-duck session to act on the recommendations of President Obama’s deficit commission, which is due to report on Dec. 1. “It could be a huge deal,” he told Roll Call last month. “We could get the country on a sound long-term fiscal path.” By which he undoubtedly means new taxes in exchange for extending some, but not all, of the Bush-era tax reductions that will expire at the end of the year.

Utilities are Shifting to Gas, Renewables and Efficiency

With or without a climate bill, electric utilities are shifting their investments to efficiency measures that cut long-term costs and integrate more natural gas and renewable energy into their power supplies, according to a new report.

“The business landscape for electric utilities is shifting quickly,” says a report authored by Navigant Consulting for Ceres, a Boston-based coalition of institutional investors and environmental groups. “In turn, the traditional operating paradigm of building large generation facilities to sell ever-increasing amounts of electricity is changing.”

The report and news release are here.

The report says drivers of this shifting paradigm include the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 80 percent by 2050 and policies in many states making it costly to build more fossil fuel-based electric generation.

The report says costs for renewable energy are coming down significantly, and regulatory policies now allow utilities to count large-scale energy efficiency as the lowest-cost energy resource. Further, utilities are adopting “smart grid” technology to help manage electricity use, and there is more interest in developing plug-in electric vehicles….

“Recent technological breakthroughs in extracting natural gas from shale and other ‘tight’ formations have led to a startling reassessment of the nation’s natural gas supplies, previously thought to be dwindling,” says the report. “Natural gas is positioned to play a growing role as a complement to variable renewable energy resources. In addition, natural gas can help optimize overall energy efficiency by integrating thermal and electric technologies and end-uses.”Coal, according to this report, faces an array of challenges. Most U.S. coal-fired power plants are at least 30 years old. New U.S. EPA regulations to cut emissions of haze and ozone-causing nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury and other pollutants are expected to push many of those old plants into retirement. Citing a March 2010 study by Bernstein Research, the report says the EPA regulations will likely force the retirement of about one-quarter of U.S. coal-burning generation by 2015.

Mass cancellations of coal-fired plants

The report also counts that 120 coal-fired power plant projects were canceled over the last decade because of environmental and financing issues. Another 50 plants face lawsuits from parties attempting to halt their construction or operation.

There also is mounting evidence that coal as a commodity will become more expensive, according to Navigant and Ceres. They note that a 2008 U.S. Geological Survey study of the Powder River Basin coal fields in Wyoming found that the economically recoverable reserves might be only 6 percent of previous estimates, “raising questions about the long-term price and availability of coal in other areas of the U.S.”

Tom King, president of National Grid USA, a major gas distributor and electric utility in New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, said coal will always be a part of the fuel mix in certain regions because of its abundance. But in an interview with ClimateWire, he emphasized that the priorities of electric utilities are changing. “Natural gas for the foreseeable future remains a reliable source,” he said. “The policy ought to be that we extract the gas.”

King’s support for using gas for power generation is notable. For years, industrial users of gas and local distribution companies such as National Grid discouraged talk about using more gas for electricity generation. The concern was that it would increase competition for natural gas and drive up the commodity price. Now, as King noted, there is broad awareness that expanding U.S. shale gas fields have dramatically increased the gas supply. One of the hottest gas basins, the Marcellus Shale, sits in his backyard in the Northeast….

An analyst at the energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie told delegates at the 2010 Energy Epicenter conference in Denver that U.S. natural gas prices will increase to a range of $6.50 to $7 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) as cost pressures intensify in the next five years. That’s around the place that many gas drillers say is needed to sustain production. Natural gas has hovered around $4/MMBtu for more than a year.

Those costs include competition for rigs, the cost of major oil services companies working with gas companies to produce shale gas, and a higher-cost economy. “The core, low-cost unconventional gas plays — Marcellus, Haynesville and Barnett — will continue to grow, but within a few years, as the pace of demand growth accelerates, more expensive shale and tight gas supplies will be required,” said Jen Snyder, the principal natural gas analyst for Wood Mackenzie. “Economywide inflationary pressures mean that, in nominal terms, prices could reach $8.50/MMBtu.”

She added that even in the absence of climate legislation that increases the cost of coal-fired generation, EPA and state regulations could lead to 45 gigawatts of coal-fired power generation being retired by 2020. That would stimulate about 5 billion cubic feet a day of gas demand.

29 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for July 9: Solar aircraft lands after 26-hour flight; American Power Act cuts deficit $19 Billion; Utilities shift to gas, renewables, efficiency after “mass cancellations of coal-fired plants”*

  1. Bill W says:

    I think it’s worth noting that you’ve got two stories from the NY Times, one touting increased use of natural gas to replace coal, and another pointing out rising environmental concerns with extracting that gas. We may win the fight against coal, only to have to start a similarly-difficult fight against fracking if gas use goes up as projected.

    Renewables, people! Of course, the existing utilities don’t like renewables much, because they’re harder to keep under centralized control (e.g., solar PV on every rooftop would be great, but it doesn’t lend itself to being controlled, and profited from, by the utility.

  2. Leif says:

    “Nine stores in Manhattan and the Bronx have been hit with $200 fines for leaving their doors open on hot days in the hope that the escaping cool air will lure sweaty customers.”

    In the interest of saving these stores money and still getting costumers. How about hanging a large indoor thermometer in the window.

  3. Seth Masia says:

    The Reuters story about the Solar Impulse flight is a little misleading. The flight was a record-setter for duration, but not for distance or altitude. Solar-powered altitude record is held by the AerVironmnent Helios at over 96,500 feet, and distance by the Solar Challenger with a Paris-to-Manston flight of 136 miles. Solar Impulse does have the altitude record for a human-carrying solar flight. For details:

  4. John Hirsch says:

    And in other news, the latest CO2 readings are in for June from Mauna Loa – another all time record year over year increase in CO2 2.61 higher than June 2009. Looks like the economic recovery really is taking hold and all the positive talk about emission reduction is only more hot air.
    Sorry to be negative, but tipping is coming sooner than we think!

  5. DavidCOG says:

    Bill W:

    > We may win the fight against coal, only to have to start a similarly-difficult fight against fracking if gas use goes up as projected.

    That demonstrates that we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, and that we need an urgent transition to renewables.

    Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I think climate change denial has had its day in the sun. The stolen email scandal that wasn’t has been exposed. They’ve shot their bolt and hit nothing. What else can they do?

    I think we’re now going to be moving to an equally vicious fight – the one over energy production. The lies, FUD and propaganda being spread about renewable energy is rampant around the net – along with equally dishonest pro-nuclear propaganda.

    Tool up! The fight moves to another field!

  6. Michael Tucker says:

    Yes the frequently touted solution to evil fossil fuel, biomass, is not necessarily green. The biomass category, considered a renewable energy source, includes corn ethanol, hydrogen gas, waste biological material and wood. In some places the wood would not come from waste wood from mills or deadwood from the forest floor. IT WILL COME FROM CUTTING DOWN FORESTS!

    Another wonderful ‘green renewable’ energy idea to put with corn ethanol. So, finally after all this time, our best thinking is to burn trees instead of coal or oil. Why didn’t we think of this sooner? Oh, wait, I just read a history book. NEVER MIND.

    These are only good ideas if you think the world has plenty of forests and plenty of extra food to simply burn for our pleasure.

    This is one of the reasons we are doomed to suffer the consequences of a warming planet. Several of the ‘ideas’ to get off coal and oil are not new cutting edge technological improvements; they are really ‘business as usual’. We are completely unable to implement a plan to reduce CO2 emissions and the number of new installations of TRULY GREEN RENEWABLE energy sources, solar and wind, are pathetically small when compared to our energy demand.

  7. Leif says:

    I recall reading some time ago that the fossil energy consumed each year took nature one million years to lay down.
    If that is in fact true, obviously biomass is not going to cut it. Wind and solar on the other hand….

  8. Steve Bloom says:

    This from the hurricane modeling story is big news:

    “Unfortunately, NCAR’s Holland pointed out, intense storm seasons may become increasingly typical of the future climate. While there remains considerable uncertainty over the long-term frequency of hurricanes, Holland indicated that there is a substantial and growing consensus among scientists that severe–Category 4 and 5–storms could increase by up to 100 percent in coming decades.”

    That’s quite a change from the “consensus” statement published in February.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Lake Superior surface water temperature running 20 degrees above normal, and on pace to break the record for warmest in recorded history.

    {sarcasm} I wonder if some underwater asphalt is interfering with this reading {/sarcasm}

  10. Wit'sEnd says:

    From the study cited above:

    “Ozone pollution has suppressed soybean yields in Indiana, Illinois and Iowa by 15 percent, the university said, citing research at its Soybean Free Air Concentration Enrichment facility, known as SoyFACE.
    ‘Significant Sensitivity’
    Using the same soybean cultivars in 2050 as those being planted now would cut yields by another 20 percent because of the expected rise in ozone levels by the middle of the century, according to Ort.
    “If pollution from Chicago blows out of the city into agricultural areas, it can interact with sunlight to produce ozone and cause plant yields to suffer,” Ort said. “We are applying for funding to examine corn’s sensitivity to ozone at SoyFACE, but historical analysis indicates a significant sensitivity and yield loss.”

    DUH. Imagine what the equivalent 15% suppressed yield in tree growth translated to after decades of cumulative exposure???

    Read this:

  11. Prokaryotes says:

    More rain for texas and mexico.

    Tropical Depression Two Along South Texas Coast
    The biggest lingering effect from the depression will be to prolong the devastating flooding that has been ongoing in southern Texas and northeast Mexico. Not including the rain that will fall due to the depression, over the past 7 days, the area near Houston has received over 10 inches of rain, while some inland areas of Texas has received over 4 inches of rain. The problem gets worse in the Mexican state of Coahuila near the Texas border has received upwards of 20 inches of rain in the past 7 days due to substantial moisture pouring into the area.

    This surging watershed has caused massive flooding throughout the region, with the area near Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico being the hardest hit. The flooding has caused the major border crossing between those two cities to be closed as the Rio Grande surged and threatened to top the crossing’s bridge. A contingent of Mexican officials, including the mayor of Piedras Negras, Coahuila, touring the flooding damage in an airplane crashed Wednesday, killing all six onboard. Evacuations on both sides of the border has forced tens of thousands of people out of their homes, while over 100,000 people were without water service. The flooding problem is extra dangerous because swollen dams had to release some of their water downstream into areas that towns that have already been swamped. It was even reported that one of these releases by the National Water Commission of Mexico was the largest emergency water release in the country.

  12. Bob Wallace says:

    Does anyone have any objective data on the problems of natural gas extraction?

    Are problems common or are people looking at a small percentage of problem wells and making it sound like a large problem?

    (We seem to have set back the progress of enhanced/hot rock geothermal by over-emphasizing problems encountered at a poorly placed installation.)

  13. Bob Wallace says:

    Michael #6 –

    There are a number of different fuel sources for biofuel, as you note.

    It would not be in our best interest to use some possible fuel sources such as diverting food crops to fuel or using good agricultural land to grow biofuel.

    But not all potential biofuels fall into the “bad idea” category.

    Recently it has been discovered that switchgrass can grow in salty soil and will tolerate irrigation with salty water. Not only can switchgrass provide a fuel source but it also improves the land on which it is grown and it sequesters a considerable amount of carbon in its root system.

    Not only would the harvested top of switchgrass replace fossil fuel, growing it would simultaneously re-sequester some of the carbon which we have extracted in the last 150 years.

    We’ve got something like 15 million acres of land in the US which is unusable for food production. We could grow biofuels on that land as a replacement for coal. We’ve already converted some existing coal-electricity plants to biomass. Sure makes sense to me to convert more.

  14. Wit'sEnd says:

    Bob Wallace,

    Since my first comment is in moderation purgatory (okay, it’s Friday night so let JR have a break!) I want to respond to the biofuel item.

    I am not against biofuels per se. But since there seems to be virtually NO research into the effects of their emissions on human and vegetative health, I think that should be thoroughly researched before any large scale plans are made to produce and use them – and still should be retroactively investigated for ethanol use.

    The story linked to in this post –
    indicates that soy yields are down 15% because of exposure to ozone – and there’s nothing so far to say that the ozone from biofuels wouldn’t be even WORSE for crop production.

    We ignore the impacts of ozone on our plants at trees at out peril.

    Driving and flying and burning lights all night long and eating large proportions of meat might be appealing to consumers, but food is more important. If we have to have mandatory rationing of fuel, we will survive. Without food, we will not.

  15. Michael Tucker says:

    Bob Wallace,

    I am not opposed to some biofuels. As you mention switchgrass may eventually, one day, be a good source of carbon rich material to convert to fuel. As I mentioned I am opposed to burning food or forests to generate electricity or to power 20th century internal combustion engines or for diesel. Another problem with corn ethanol is the nitrogen pollution that it creates and the tremendous amount of water necessary to grow and convert it to ethanol. Another matter most are unwilling to address is the gasoline and diesel necessary to farm, harvest and transport it to the biofuel processing plant.

  16. Prokaryotes says:

    Bob Wallace, 12# “Does anyone have any objective data on the problems of natural gas extraction?”

    I believe it is reasonable to assume that deposits (that’s include depleted) become more unstable from uptake in seismic activities (ice melt, flooding, hurricane pressure, soil feedback).

    And here in particular natural gas extraction problems.

  17. Prokaryotes says:

    US to feel more heat, more often in coming years: study

    WASHINGTON — Targets set by policy makers to slow global warming are too soft to prevent more heatwaves and extreme temperatures in the United States within a few years, with grim consequences for human health and farming, a study warned this week.

  18. Prokaryotes says:

    “Soybean Yields to Drop on Climate, Ozone, U.S. Researcher Says”

    Research from the University of Georgia suggests that the genetic changes may have affected the soybean metabolism, causing stalks to grow brittle and split in extreme heat. A study at the University of Arkansas found some biotech beans fared badly in drought, perhaps because the Roundup spray damaged the soil bacteria that help soy plants draw in nutrients.

    Perhaps most troubling, USDA soil scientist Robert Kremer found in a four-year study that spraying Roundup over biotech beans seemed to touch off wild proliferation of fungi in the soil. Some fungi are fatal to soybeans. But Kremer says it’s not short-term crop damage that concerns him. It’s long-term shifts in soil ecology if Roundup is sprayed season after season on our most fertile fields.

  19. Prokaryotes says:

    After flood, disease & hunger plague North India

    CHANDIGARH: After the first monsoon showers, which cut off northern India from the rest of the country for almost two days, it’s now the turn of hunger and diseases with violence breaking out in parts of Haryana.

  20. Prokaryotes says:

    City Deals With Another 500-Year Flood

    She said the city was ready for a 100-year flood and maybe even more. But she thinks Thursday’s storm was a bigger deal that would be hard for anyone to prepare for.

    “We believe we’re looking at a 500-year storm,” Storey said. “You can’t design for these types of events.”

  21. Prokaryotes says:

    At least 27 die after torrential rain, flood wreck havoc in south China

  22. Bob Wallace says:

    Prokaryotes, thanks. But I probably didn’t make my question clear.

    I’m aware of the fracking problems with NG extraction, but I’m wondering about frequency data. Is this a 1 out of 1,000 well problem or a 999 out of 1,000 well problem?

    There is a large value in switching power plants from coal to NG as a transition away from all fossil fuels. NG plants can be built quickly and are very good backup for renewables. They can reduce CO2 and other problematic emission problems quickly and then later be phased out themselves as we develop adequate storage solutions.

    If the fracking problem is rare then NG might be a lesser evil than more gradually phasing out coal. If the fracking problem is more common then the overall gain from switching to NG might not be a net gain.

    (I assume the spillage problem is solvable by creating approved containment techniques. And making sure they are used. Regulation and enforcement.)

  23. Wit'sEnd says:

    Bob Wallace, if you haven’t seen it already you might be interested in the documentary Gas Land: which is running on HBO. There are also other ways to see it.

  24. johna says:

    Re: Bloomberg story: ‘U.S. to test “Cutting-Edge” Solar Energy at . . .

    Someone at the news agency edited/ left out an important aspect of the story.

    The site will be testing CSP (solar thermal) energy systems, not photovoltaics.

    Sent note to the reporter.

  25. Prokaryotes says:

    Bob Wallace “I assume the spillage problem is solvable by creating approved containment techniques. And making sure they are used. Regulation and enforcement.”

    I did not saw Gasland yet, but soon. Anyway the natural gas exploitation make use of chemicals which are in no way safe let alone controllable.
    Because the gasses escape through sediment cracks and who knows long term influence. And not forget that Methane is the principal component of Natural Gases.

    I for one would use algae farms where greenhouse gasses are released to make the process low/zero emission. At the same time clean energy technology should be setup to phase out/replace sources of greenhouse gases.

  26. Prokaryotes says:

    Before natural gas can be used as a fuel, it must undergo extensive processing to remove almost all materials other than methane. The by-products of that processing include ethane, propane, butanes, pentanes, and higher molecular weight hydrocarbons, elemental sulfur, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and sometimes helium and nitrogen.

    Natural gas is often informally referred to as simply gas, especially when compared to other energy sources such as oil or coal.

    When methane-rich gases are produced by the anaerobic decay of non-fossil organic matter (biomass), these are referred to as biogas (or natural biogas). Sources of biogas include swamps, marshes, and landfills (see landfill gas), as well as sewage sludge and manure[6] by way of anaerobic digesters, in addition to enteric fermentation particularly in cattle.

  27. Mark says:

    Prokaryotes says:
    July 9, 2010 at 5:50 pm
    More rain for texas and mexico”.

    I hadn’t even read about this.

    These types of disasters are now so commonplace that they pass without notice.

  28. Prokaryotes says:

    Mark, 27# “These types of disasters are now so commonplace that they pass without notice.”

    Yes. There is flooding in huge parts of the world but the media is not reporting on it or just very little. I guess this is to depressing to read/watch or the average developed human.

    Try searching for brazil flood, almost zero news. All you find till the 25th of june is that the brazilian president is not attending G20 or the World Cup.

  29. Mark says:

    “But Kremer says it’s not short-term crop damage that concerns him. It’s long-term shifts in soil ecology if Roundup is sprayed season after season on our most fertile fields.”

    because of industrial farming,
    soils are depleted just like everything else on the planet. I live in a farming community. /several Farmers have said to me, that the soil now, is just a mechanical device to hold up the plants.

    They have nitrogen dumped on them, to make them grow.

    Studies (one from Britain) have shown that today’s crops have substantially less nutritional components than those of fifty years ago.

    A drive west from South Dakota, through to Montana, Idaho, and further south, revealed that sand is being used to produce corn and hay, by irrigation. so you have circles of green, surrounded by desert.

    a very bizarre landscape.

    Before the “green revolution”