Energy and Global Warming News for July 12: Run cars on green electricity, not natural gas; World on track for hottest year on record; New rules may cloud outlook for biomass

Run Cars on Green Electricity, Not Natural Gas

With the dramatic increase in oil prices earlier this year translating into higher prices at the gas pump in the United States, concerns over U.S. dependence on foreign oil are once again part of the national discussion on energy security. Combined with the growing understanding that carbon emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels are driving global climate change, the debate is now focused on how to restructure the U.S. transport system to solve these two problems. While the idea of running U.S. vehicles on natural gas has lately received a great deal of attention, powering our cars with green electricity is a more sensible option on all fronts “” national security, efficiency, climate stabilization and economics.

Having a fleet of natural gas-powered vehicles (NGVs) would simply replace U.S. dependence on foreign oil with a dependence on natural gas, another fossil fuel. The United States has scarcely 3 percent of the world’s proved natural gas reserves, yet even without the increased demand that would result from an NGV fleet, the country already consumes nearly a quarter of the world’s natural gas. At current rates of consumption, U.S. proved reserves would only meet national demand for another nine years….

A better investment is one that supports a fleet of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), such as the Chevy Volt slated for sale in 2010, which can use the existing electric infrastructure. A study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that if all U.S. automobiles were PHEVs, the current U.S. infrastructure could provide power for more than 70 percent of the fleet. Battery charging would occur mostly at night, when demand for electricity is low. In the emerging energy economy “” an economy built on domestic wind, solar and geothermal energy sources “” the greening of the grid by replacing fossil fuel-based electrical generation will also be a greening of the transport system. Beyond the grid, distributed power systems “” solar cells on rooftops, for example “” could also be used to power PHEVs.

With today’s energy mix, PHEVs running on electricity from the grid are nearly three times more efficient than NGVs on a “well-to-wheel” basis””that is, when considering the full life cycle of the energy source, from fuel extraction to combustion to vehicle propulsion. This is because internal combustion engines, such as those used in natural gas vehicles and in today’s gas-powered automobile fleet, are incredibly inefficient. Only 20 percent or so of the energy in the fuel is used to move the vehicle. The other 80 percent is wasted as heat. Thus, choosing electric vehicles over NGVs can sharply reduce energy demand….

Burning natural gas in a new combined cycle power plant is three times as efficient as burning natural gas in a car. Even including electrical losses from transmission, distribution, and battery charging, running a car on electricity from a natural gas power plant is more than twice as efficient. Keeping natural gas in the electric sector to help power a fleet of PHEVs is therefore the logical choice. Wind-generated electricity should replace electricity from coal-fired power plants, the most polluting power source.

Under normal driving conditions, well-to-wheel carbon dioxide emissions for vehicles running on electricity from natural gas-fired power plants are one fourth as high as emissions from cars directly burning natural gas. Since a PHEV operating in electric-only mode has no tailpipe emissions, electrifying transport would move the majority of carbon emissions from millions of vehicles to centralized electricity-generating plants, greatly simplifying the task of controlling emissions. As fossil-based power generation is replaced with wind and solar power, cumulative carbon emissions from centralized power facilities will be greatly reduced.

New Rules May Cloud the Outlook for Biomass

An energy technology that has long been viewed as a clean and climate-friendly alternative to fossil fuels is facing tough new regulatory hurdles that could ultimately hamper its ability to compete with renewable power sources like wind and solar.

Dozens of biomass power plants, which typically burn plant or tree matter to generate electricity, are already in operation in a variety of states, like California, Michigan and Maine. In most cases, those plants have qualified for some form of renewable energy tax incentives or other benefits, as states used them to diversify their power portfolios.

But a long-simmering debate in Massachusetts questioning the environmental benefits of biomass has culminated in new rules that will limit what sorts of projects will qualify for renewable energy incentives there. If other states “” or even Congress, which is writing energy legislation of its own “” follow suit, it could have wide implications for biomass developers, as well as for states trying to meet renewable energy production targets.

World on Track for Warmest Year on Record, U.S. Scientist Says

The current year may become the warmest on record, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist.

Temperature trends across the U.S. and around the world have been among the warmest on record, said David Easterling, a climatologist with NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina.

“If the warming around the world continues the way it has so far this year, we are likely to have 2010 be the warmest on record,” Easterling said during a conference call on climate change hosted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The combined land and ocean temperatures around the world were 1.22 degrees warmer than the 20th-century average, according to NOAA records. Since 1975, global temperatures have been rising and since 1960 the number of heat waves has been increasing, Easterling said on the call.

Much of the U.S. Northeast has been gripped by a heat wave that broke temperature records in New York, Washington and Baltimore and brought 100 degrees or more to Newark four days in a row.

Oil Industry, Green Groups Launch Dueling Ad Campaigns

A new ad war erupted today pitting groups that support climate legislation against the oil industry.

Clean Energy Works, a coalition of about 60 groups, launched an ad campaign that seeks to tar the oil industry with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The effort comes two days after the start of a new ad blitz from the oil industry trade group American Petroleum Institute (API), which is funding spots that protest the possible loss of sector tax benefits.

The new ad from Clean Energy Works tags the petroleum industry as “Big Oil.” The TV spot shows pictures of more than $4-per-gallon gas prices, former BP PLC CEO Tony Hayward, and the burning Deepwater Horizon oil rig before it sank in the Gulf. The spots advocate passage of “clean energy” legislation.

“What’s next from the big oil companies?” the television ad from green groups asks. “A multimillion-dollar smear campaign to stop clean energy legislation from passing in the U.S. Senate.”

Described by the group as costing “six figures,” it will run nationally on cable networks CNN and MSNBC.

Grow Green Jobs

Not enough jobs and too much heat; sagging payrolls and global warming.

Why not address both problems with a major public program to directly put people to work saving energy?

Plenty of green-job advocates have offered practical details, including my University of Massachusetts colleague, Robert Pollin. Yet no one in Congress or the White House seems willing to plant this garden.

I’m trying to figure out why green job-creation proposals have gotten stuck in the mud. Maybe environmentalists as a group are viewed with suspicion because they make us all feel guilty. Certainly, we’ve seen a conservative backlash against promotion of green jobs, linked to skepticism about the threat of  global warming.

Sometimes political differences generate interesting debate “” as in an exchange published in The Economist  between Van Jones and Andrew Morriss. But partisan bickering also discourages public engagement.

Clear Waters, Cloudy Future For California Wetlands

Oil continues to cloud Gulf Coast waters, but on the other side of the country, scientists are studying a body of water with the opposite problem. San Francisco Bay is becoming clearer. And clearer water is not always good news.

Underneath the dock on Alcatraz Island, U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist David Schoellhamer is collecting samples. “What we’re measuring here is suspended sediment,” he says. He holds up a bottle of cloudy water that he just collected. “Think of it as the microscopic rocks that are floating in the water.”

For Schoellhamer, the bottle holds important clues to the bay’s history. About 10 years ago, he noticed something strange in these samples: The bay’s water was becoming clearer, after more than a century of murkiness.

“Back in the 1800s … during the Gold Rush, the gold miners used essentially fire hoses and water cannons to literally wash down mountainsides to extract the gold from the sediment,” Schoellhamer explains.

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.

The events added force to a tough public debate in Pennsylvania and New York and across northern Appalachia about how the environmental impacts of gas drilling balance against the economic benefits of gas and the role it could play in helping electric utilities transition to cleaner fuels.

Prince of Wales opens new front in global warming fight

The Prince of Wales, who warned last year that there were “less than 100 months” to save the planet from irreversible damage due to climate change, is stepping up his own efforts.

The heir to the throne has launched a global project to prevent ecological disaster, the International Sustainability Unit, for which he has ambitious plans.

“This is the most important cause that His Royal Highness has ever taken on,” says one of Prince Charles’s friends. “He hopes that the unit will make a real difference on the global stage. He knows that it’s a controversial issue, but considers it of such importance that he is prepared to take risks.”

A spokesman for the Prince says the organisation will work with national governments and global bodies such as the World Bank to promote “sustainable” development. “The ISU will continue the Prince’s rainforest work while also engaging with other urgent issues, in particular the marine environment (and especially over-fishing), sustainable agriculture and preserving ecosystem services,” says the spokesman.

“The unit aims to address the depletion of the world’s natural capital by helping to create a consensus as to the best ways to enhance long-term food, water and energy security.”

Climate change biggest restriction on China’s development -economist

With its own security in mind, China is pushing to curb greenhouse gases, setting up broad environmental as well as economic targets in its latest five-year state plan, a leading Chinese “green development” advocate said this week.

Fully 39 percent of the performance indicators for government officials in the new 2011-2015 plan should focus on “green” issues, up from 3 percent in the previous plan, said Hu Angang, an economics professor from Tsinghua University in Beijing, speaking at Chatham House in London.

That’s in part because Chinese officials, facing rising public unhappiness over some of the world’s worst pollution and an estimated $25 trillion cost to clean up environmental damage associated with the country’s rapid industrialisation, now see climate change, economic and security issues as inextricably linked, he said.

“Climate change is the biggest actor restricting China’s development,” Hu said

An interview with Yvo de Boer, the United Nations’ former climate-change chief

Until this month, Yvo de Boer served as executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body that oversees international climate negotiations. After supervising the Copenhagen climate talks last year, a process he has called frustrating, de Boer suddenly announced in February that he would be stepping down. After nearly four years on the U.N. job (he describes it as “three years and 11 months,” but who’s counting?), he just started work as an adviser on climate change and sustainability at KPMG International in London. The Washington Post’s national environmental reporter Juliet Eilperin spoke with de Boer last week about leaving the United Nations, why he never kept Al Gore out in the cold and how President Obama has his brain in the right place.

Opposition Builds to Canadian Pipeline for the World’s Dirtiest Oil

Yesterday marked the 80th day that oil has been hemorrhaging into the Gulf of Mexico from the site where BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and took the lives of 11 workers. If our country learns one lesson from this tragedy, I hope it’s this: that we can’t afford to maintain our profligate diet of dirty, dangerous oil, no matter how much greedy oil corporations scheme to keep us hooked.

One of the most devastating projects Big Oil has cooked up in North America, and arguably worldwide, is the exploitation of Canada’s tar sands for crude.

To access oil from the tar sands, giants like BP are clear-cutting massive swaths of forest, draining wetlands and hauling away tons of living matter and soil to mine a tarry substance that can be upgraded and refined into oil. Indigenous communities living downstream are being poisoned by toxins leaching from the sludge left behind. In Fort Chipewyan, one hundred of the town’s 1,200 residents have died from rare cancers and auto-immune diseases since 2000.

Tar sands oil is called the world’s dirtiest because its production dumps three times more climate-warming emissions into the atmosphere than conventional oil. It also spews higher levels of smog- and asthma-causing toxins into the air when refined.

Change coming slowly on climate law

Congress may or may not pass a serious climate bill this year, but one thing is certain: It won’t be business as usual.

While Republicans and polluting industries will celebrate, most know their victory will be fleeting and, with or without a bill, they’ll soon face a cascade of onerous and expensive new regulations that could fundamentally reshape the nation’s economic, environmental and legal landscape.

That’s because the Obama administration spent the past year setting up a series of rules and international frameworks on climate control that were intended to prod Congress into action, sync up with whatever legislation did pass and, as a last resort, kick in as a backstop, should Congress fail to act.

It looks increasingly like Plan C “” which even President Barack Obama has characterized as a worst-case option “” will prevail. And as those rules slide into place, look for the climate change battles to take plenty of dramatic twists and turns.

Senate Democrats face critical four weeks

Senate Democrats will be racing against the clock and calendar this week when they return to Washington for a four-week legislative sprint.

The majority party hopes to take up and pass a long-stalled package of unemployment insurance benefits this week, as well as the Wall Street reform conference report they’d hoped to finish before the recess. Democrats plan to map out specifics at their weekly lunch on Tuesday.

Few believe there will be enough time or will for major legislative battles after the Senate recesses for a monthlong break on Aug. 6, meaning some of the heaviest legislative lifting “” an energy bill, immigration reform, the START arms control treaty and campaign finance reform “” may get pushed into 2011.

“It is really going to be hard,” said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor and Senate analyst for The Cook Political Report. “Maybe they can move the ball down the field on some of these things, but actually getting it done and to the president’s desk? Occasionally there’s a surprise, and they’ll pull one of those all-nighters or two, but at the end of the day not much gets done.”

Green firms uniting to flex political muscle

Stonyfield Farm is slapping its familiar cow logo on more than just containers of yogurt these days. The New Hampshire-based organic food maker is one of more than 50 local companies to lend its corporate name to a political lobbying campaign aimed at persuading Congress to support climate and energy legislation on Capitol Hill.

The green-friendly businesses “” including many young tech companies not yet household names “” are the regional face of a multimillion dollar lobbying effort aimed at key senators across the country. Their effort is backed by some of the world’s most recognizable consumer brands and Fortune 500 companies, and guided by experienced political hands with deep connections to the Obama and Clinton administrations.

The TV, radio, and print campaign, bolstered by in-person jawboning of legislators, demonstrates the political reach of green-technology and alternative energy companies, which have progressed from the cluttered basements of inventors and entrepreneurs into an emerging political force seeking to apply pressure at the highest levels of government.

Obama urges increase in clean energy tax credits

Mixing policy and politics, President Barack Obama called on Congress Friday to expand a clean energy tax credit that could pay off in Nevada, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is struggling in his re-election campaign.

Obama told an audience at the University of Nevada that a $5 billion increase in clean energy manufacturing tax credits could generate nearly 40,000 jobs. Some of those could arrive in Nevada, where 14 percent unemployment threatens to undermine Reid’s argument that his position as majority leader pays dividends to his state.

“If an American company wants to create jobs and grow, we should be there to help them do it,” Obama said.

Reid, who is seeking a fifth term, has been pushing hard for investments in solar energy to capitalize on his home state’s scorching climate. He’s had some success attracting projects to the state, but he and other Democrats are battling uphill going into November’s critical midterms.

While Obama applauded both Democrats and Republicans for supporting his call for the expanded tax credits, he took a swipe at GOP lawmakers, saying similar bipartisan support has been absent from many of the other efforts he and Reid have promoted, from the massive health care overhaul to Wall Street reform.

We fiddle while Farm Belt copes with climate change

Legend has it that the Emperor Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Almost two millennia later, Congress keeps quarreling while the world keeps warming. Greenhouse gas emissions have grown by 70 percent from 1970 to 2004 and are projected to increase from 25 percent to 90 percent more by 2030. By the end of the century, global average temperatures are expected to increase by from 1.1 to 6.4 degrees Celsius. In the face of this, food production is at risk and actions are needed.

While the Beltway is still scoping out the science, the Farm Belt is coping with the consequences of climate change and soon will face yet larger changes. Temperature has increased by one degree Celsius so far with shifts observed in growing seasons, areas where crops are suitable, rainfall and pests, among many other effects. As temperatures climb further, U.S. farmers could experience longer growing seasons, altered rainfall and water availability, with less expected in the deep South, less snowfall, more crop growth as a result of atmospheric carbon dioxide, northward shifts in suitable crop areas, and increased incidence of droughts, pests and livestock heat stress. Drought losses since 1998 have cost Texas agriculture alone more than $3.6 billion.

Even if the Beltway enacts new climate management policies, the Farm Belt will still have to find new ways to adapt agricultural practices to altered climate conditions. Even if Congress passes cap-and-trade legislation and greenhouse gas emissions return to 2000 levels, temperature will continue to increase due to international emissions increases and momentum.

37 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for July 12: Run cars on green electricity, not natural gas; World on track for hottest year on record; New rules may cloud outlook for biomass

  1. Peter Mizla says:

    It may be getting hotter, and the torrential downpours are increasing- but is greater society listening? The arctic is melting…

    How long and far do climatic patterns need to shift before action is taken?

    We are on the precipice – what lies beyond is anyone’s guess. In the current economic and political environment nothing will be done.

    As we progress further into the decade I wonder what emotional and economic tipping points will be reached before the powers may be wake up. Day by Day…..

  2. Rick Covert says:

    Expect more of the cynical “drill baby drill” with qualifiers that “…we meant on land” or “…if the environmentalists would have allowed us to drill in shallow water [this wouldn’t have happened/we would have that oil well [blow out] leak capped by now.”

  3. paulm says:

    Great lake warms up….headed for record-setting high temperatures later this summer.

    “It’s going to mean a more pleasant year for tourism,” said Jay Austin, associate professor of physics at UMD who is studying lake temperature trends. “It is going to mean a warmer year everywhere on the lake.”

  4. Bob Wallace says:

    Range Rover just announced their Liberty, a EV 4WD SUV. And a very expensive one. (But that’s not the news.)

    Range Rover is claiming a 300,000 mile/13 year battery life expectancy.

    Three hundred thousand miles.

    They are also offering ‘no plug-in’ charging via induction plates. And talking about a one to three charge time for a 200 mile range EV.

    200 mile range. Three hours or less to charge without having to plug in. Batteries lasting the life of the vehicle.

    It’s the batteries stupid….×4-to-go-into-production.html

  5. Lou Grinzo says:

    On NG vehicles, I couldn’t agree more strongly with the view that they’re a very bad idea. My main objection is a simple cost/benefit calculation: If you convert a large portion of the US rolling stock of vehicles to run on NG (either through replacement or in-place conversions), it will cost a lot and take years, and it will buy us only a 25% reduction in automotive emissions.

    PHEVs and EVs have a vastly better future, for a reason no one seems want to talk about (and it’s not peak oil or peak NG): If you look at the level of CO2 emissions reductions the US has to make if we have any hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change, then we will dramatically clean up our electricity generation, even if not one person in the entire country is plugging in a car. But people will be plugging in cars, which means those PH/EVs on the road will automatically become cleaner vehicles with no change at all required at the consumer level. NG fueled vehicles will continue to emit 75% of the CO2 we get from gasoline powered vehicles, regardless of what we do with our electricity supply.

  6. catman306 says:

    “Whether you call it biomass or simply chopping down trees, it’s still deforestation,” said Franz A. Matzner, climate legislative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, which supports the sensible use of biomass power. “Burning trees for energy is an age-old practice that we know can cause some pretty bad effects if we don’t get our heads around doing it the right way.”

    The ‘right way’ involves coppicing, cutting the branches and trunk off of certain species of trees to make firewood and/or charcoal. Chinaberry lends itself well to this use. Copious amounts of wood mass can be quickly grown in this way on limited acreage. Coppicing has been practiced for thousands of years.

  7. Ryan T says:

    The only way I can see natural gas vehicles being viable is if estimates of safely-recoverable supplies were so large that it could both help displace coal, and serve the transit sector without excess price pressure. And even then, coupled with hybrid technology. At this point the options seem limited for those wanting more than a short-range city car at reasonable cost. So if nat gas could displace some gasoline, and reduce greenhouse gases somewhat in the process, then I could understand it’s appeal as a potential bridge fuel.

  8. Pete Dunkelberg says:

    “If the warming around the world continues the way it has so far this year, we are likely to have 2010 be the warmest on record,” Easterling said ….”

    Misleading out of context. El Niño is done, La Niña is coming. 2010 may become the warmest year by a slight margin though.

  9. David Fox says:

    Here’s an interesting article from Salon, interviewing Peter Ward, author of The Flooded Earth:

  10. J.A. Turner says:

    For passenger cars, plug-in hybrids and full battery electric makes great sense, but it will be a long time before big rigs, industrial equipment, trains, and ships will be able to run on batteries. There’s still room for fuels like bio-gas and bio-diesel, provided they’re made in a carbon-neutral process that doesn’t take food away from people. It’s hard to see how we could afford to replace all the diesel-fueled engines and diesel-delivery infrastructure. That’s another reason why natural gas isn’t going to win a big share of the transportation fuel market. As better forms of bio-diesel come onto the market, there won’t be any great incentive to switch to natural gas for transportation.

  11. Prokaryotes says:

    “Run Cars on Green Electricity, Not Natural Gas”

    Exactly. The scariest development currently is the plans of the fossil industries to replace oil/coal with methane/natural gas.

    Natural gas is often described as the cleanest fossil fuel, producing less carbon dioxide per joule delivered than either coal or oil.[19], and far fewer pollutants than other fossil fuels. However, in absolute terms, it does contribute substantially to global carbon emissions, and this contribution is projected to grow. According to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (Working Group III Report, chapter 4), in 2004, natural gas produced about 5.3 billion tons a year of CO2 emissions, while coal and oil produced 10.6 and 10.2 billion tons respectively (figure 4.4). According to an updated version of the SRES B2 emissions scenario, however, by the year 2030, natural gas would be the source of 11 billion tons a year, with coal and oil now 8.4 and 17.2 billion respectively[30] (Total global emissions for 2004 were estimated at over 27,200 million tons).

    In addition, natural gas itself is a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide when released into the atmosphere, although natural gas is released in much smaller quantities. Natural gas is mainly composed of methane, which has a radiative forcing twenty times greater than carbon dioxide. Based on such composition, a ton of methane in the atmosphere traps in as much radiation as 20 tons of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide still receives the lion’s share of attention over greenhouse gases because it is released in much larger amounts. Still, it is inevitable when natural gas is used on a large scale that some of it will leak into the atmosphere. Current estimates by the EPA place global emissions of methane at 3 trillion cubic feet annually, or 3.2% of global production. Direct emissions of methane represented 14.3% of all global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in 2004.

  12. C. Vink says:

    Rate of Arctic sea ice melt heats up
    By Randy Boswell, Canwest News Service, July 12, 2010

    Glacier Loses Ice Chunk Equal to One-Eighth of Manhattan
    CBS News, July 11, 2010

  13. Prokaryotes says:

    Yangtze dike set for blasting as flood precaution

  14. Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Rate of Arctic sea ice melt slows down. It is not June anymore. It’s July. Check the daily melt here.

  15. C. Vink says:

    #16 Peter Dunkelberg:

    This is acknowledged in the article (first link in comment #13):

    ‘Last week, for the first time since early May, the trend line for 2010’s rapid ice melt leveled out just enough to intersect with the 2007 trend line on NSIDC’s daily satellite graphing of total Arctic ice extent.’

    But you’re right: I’d better not have pointed out this article, it contains no news since JR’s last post on the subject.


  16. Prokaryotes says:

    Russia Urges Siesta Regime for Workers Amid Record Heat Wave

    Temperatures have broken July records in dozens of cities in European Russia, including Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod and Samara. Moscow on July 15-16 may break the all-time record of 36.8 degrees Celsius (98.2 Farenheit) set in August 1920, Tatiana Pozdnyakova, chief specialist at the Moscow Meteorological Service, said by phone.

    The government has declared a state of emergency in 16 grain-producing regions as the worst drought in at least a decade damages crops and livelihoods. Russia, which is vying with Canada to rank as the largest wheat exporter after the U.S., expects this year’s grain harvest to decline at least 12 percent to 85 million metric tons.

  17. Prokaryotes says:

    Europe is continuing to swelter under a heatwave which has sent temperatures soaring.

    The punishing heat with temperatures as high as 40C (104F) has sparked a series of health warnings across the Northern region.

    In Germany dozens of passengers on three trains had to be removed and some hospitalised after temperatures reached 50C (122F) after the air conditioning broke down during the weekend.

    Violent thunderstorms have been triggered over France, Germany and the Low Countries with large hail, squally winds and risk of flash flooding in places.

    In Switzerland, recent heavy storms created by the sweltering heat have caused flash flooding and mudslides.

    Meanwhile, temperatures across south-eastern England, Western Europe and Scandinavia have now eased back to near normal.

    However, temperatures further south and east remain high with the chance of severe thunderstorms breaking out during this week.

  18. Prokaryotes says:

    Research carried out at Newcastle University has found that coriander and turmeric – spices traditionally used to flavour curries – can reduce the amount of methane produced by bacteria in a sheep’s stomach by up to 40pc.

    Working a bit like an antibiotic, the spices were found to kill the methane-producing ‘bad’ bacteria in the animal’s gut while allowing the ‘good’ bacteria to flourish.

  19. Prokaryotes says:

    Can fermenting microbes save us from climate change?

    German scientists showed how to insert genes to make C. ljungdahlii make butanol instead of ethanol.

    “The synthesis capabilities of C. ljungdahlii from CO and CO2 are not limited to biofuels, but can be expanded to virtually every compound for which biological pathways exist or will be newly constructed,” the researchers write in the June 28 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in which they unveil the genome. “This unique biotechnological approach will reduce dependency on crude oil, will fulfill industrial needs and, by doing so, could contribute to reducing the atmospheric greenhouse effect.”

    In fact, this could result in fuels that actually consume as much or more CO2 than they release back into the atmosphere (as long as the hydrogen isn’t produced by cracking natural gas or a similar CO2-intensive method).

  20. Prokaryotes says:

    Oregon State University entomologist looks to uncover what’s killing honeybees

  21. Prokaryotes says:

    World’s First Hybrid Coal-Solar Power Plant Goes Online in Colorado

  22. Prokaryotes says:

    * Rising river temperatures threaten nuclear generation
    * Good hydro, wind generation could offset outages

  23. Prokaryotes says:

    Deadly storm cuts power across northern Philippines

    President Benigno Aquino criticised meteorologists for failing to suggest Manila would be so hard-hit.

  24. Prokaryotes says:

    GE unveils Yves Behar-designed electric vehicle charger

  25. Prokaryotes says:

    The Russian Grain Union, an industry lobby, said the country was seeing the worst drought in 130 years. It had already shrivelled grains on 9 million hectares, roughly one fifth of the total area sown to this year’s harvest.

    The Kommersant business daily, citing estimates by agribusiness companies, said on Tuesday that combined losses of Russia’s agricultural industry could total $1 billion this year.

    There is also a danger of peat bog fires in the forests around Moscow, said Roshydromet’s Lukyanov. In the past, Moscow’s huge residential districts have suffered from suffocating smoke and low visibility during such fires.

    In Germany, a forest fire south of Berlin ignited stray munitions at a former Soviet military base, causing small explosions and preventing firefighters from getting close to the flames, a spokesman for the state of Brandenburg said.

    Three people were killed after powerful storms swept across northwest Germany on Monday evening after a heatwave. German farmers face big crop shortfalls from the heat, a spokesman for the German Farmer’s Association said, with the grain harvest set to fall 10 to 20 percent below average this year and wheat prices up 16 percent from early June. More hot weather is predicted at the end of the week.

  26. Prokaryotes says:

    China’s wars, rebellions driven by climate

  27. Prokaryotes says:

    Meanwhile, it emerged that Abu Dhabi is still considering whether to invest in BP. “We are still thinking about it,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan told Bloomberg News. “We are looking across the board. We have been partners with BP for years.”

    The developments come as 18 oil and gas companies, including BP, prepare to defend their offshore drilling in Europe at high-level meetings in Brussels today.

    Günther Oettinger, the European Union energy commissioner, last week called for a ban on new deep water projects in the North Sea and other oil-rich areas until the triggers of BP’s accident are definitely known.

    Any strict ban from Europe could signal an end to North Sea oil explorers drilling west of the Shetland Islands. Oil and gas companies will argue at the meeting that these projects are not nearly so deep and ambitious as BP’s wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

  28. Prokaryotes says:

    Government Imposes New Deepwater Offshore Drilling Moratorium

    The Obama administration on Monday issued a new moratorium on deepwater offshore oil drilling until November 30 [2010] to ensure oil companies implement stricter safety measures following the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

    “More than 80 days into the BP oil spill, a pause on deepwater drilling is essential and appropriate to protect communities, coasts, and wildlife from the risks that deepwater drilling currently pose,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in a statement. “I am basing my decision on evidence that grows every day of the industry’s inability in the deepwater to contain a catastrophic blowout, respond to an oil spill, and to operate safely.”

  29. Prokaryotes says:

    20th Century One of Driest in Nine Centuries for Northwest Africa

  30. Prokaryotes says:

    Hawaii is already seeing effects of global warming

    Temperatures at Hawaii’s higher elevations are rising faster than the global average, said Deanna Spooner, coordinator of the Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative.

    “It’s getting hotter here faster than anywhere else in the world up in the upper elevations,” Spooner said at the Honolulu meeting of the federal Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force.

    Rainfall levels, meanwhile, are falling. “Our freshwater resources are shrinking,” she said.

  31. Prokaryotes says:

    Supermarket refrigerators are highly toxic to the environment

  32. Prokaryotes says:

    June SSTs in the tropical Atlantic set a new record
    Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) in the Atlantic’s Main Development Region for hurricanes had their warmest June on record

  33. Prokaryotes says:

    Google climate map offers a glimpse of a 4C world

    Interactive tool layering climate data over Google Earth maps shows the impact of an average global temperature rise of 4C