"Energy and Global Warming News for July 28: Wind drives growing battery use; Chevy Volt vs. Nissan Leaf"
The rapid growth of wind farms, whose output is hard to schedule reliably or even predict, has the nation’s electricity providers scrambling to develop energy storage to ensure stability and improve profits.
As the wind installations multiply, companies have found themselves dumping energy late at night, adjusting the blades so they do not catch the wind, because there is no demand for the power. And grid operators, accustomed to meeting demand by adjusting supplies, are now struggling to maintain stability as supplies fluctuate.
On the cutting edge of a potential solution is Hawaii, where state officials want 70 percent of energy needs to be met by renewable sources like the wind, sun or biomass by 2030. A major problem is that it is impossible for generators on the islands to export surpluses to neighboring companies or to import power when the wind towers are becalmed.
The X Prize Foundation launches a competition this week promising millions of dollars for winning ways to clean up crude oil from the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The nonprofit group will hold a press conference in Washington on Thursday to reveal details of an Oil Cleanup X Challenge inspired by the disaster.
It added that the competition is “designed to inspire entrepreneurs, engineers, and scientists worldwide to develop innovative, rapidly deployable, and highly efficient methods of capturing crude oil from the ocean surface.”
X Prize categories include mapping genomes, making an incredibly fuel efficient car, and exploring the moon’s surface with a robotic vehicle.
For three months, a massive slick threatened the shorelines of Louisiana and other southern US Gulf Coast states as BP tried everything from top hats to junk shots and giant domes to stanch the toxic sludge.
A cap stopped the flow on July 15 after between 2.8 and 4.5 million barrels (117.6 million and 189 million gallons) had gushed out. Only one quarter of that was collected by BP’s various collection and containment systems.
After more than three years of buzz and critics’ skepticism, General Motors on Tuesday finally put on sale the Chevrolet Volt – the company’s first plug-in hybrid electric car that many say represents GM’s future. The sticker price: $41,000.
That cost is higher than some had expected for a vehicle that can go 40 miles on all-electric battery power before an onboard gasoline engine kicks in as a “range extender” for 300 more miles.
Will consumers bite at a car that costs that much? Some assuredly will – at least initially: GM has legions of wannabe Chevy Volt owners in online and dealer waiting lists at almost any price. But what about a year or two from now, when competitors have electric cars on the road, too?
Renewable energy developers broke ground Tuesday for a major expansion of wind-power generation in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles.
The Alta Wind Energy Center is planned as the world’s largest wind project, with nearly 600 turbines capable of producing 1,550 megawatts of electricity when completed, with the potential to be doubled, according to developer Terra-Gen Power LLC of New York City.
The currently funded first five phases will produce 720 megawatts, according to a company statement.
Financing for the initial phases totaled $1.6 billion, the company said.
The project is being developed in a region already studded with turbines that use the energy of winds sweeping across the Tehachapi Mountains to produce electricity.
Crews were working Tuesday to contain and clean up more than 800,000 gallons of oil that poured into a creek and flowed into the Kalamazoo River in southern Michigan, coating wildlife. Battle Creek and Emmett Township authorities warned residents about the strong odor from the oil, which leaked Monday from a pipeline that carries about eight million gallons of oil a day from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario. The pipeline company, Enbridge Energy Partners, said the oil spilled into Talmadge Creek. As of Tuesday afternoon, oil was reported in about 16 miles of the Kalamazoo River downstream of the spill. Representative Mark Schauer, Democrat of Michigan, called the spill a “public health crisis,” and said he planned to hold hearings to examine the response. The spill’s cause is under investigation.
Van Jones, the former White House adviser for green jobs, says he can personally relate to Shirley Sherrod, the former USDA official who was forced to resign last week after her comments about overcoming racial prejudice were taken out of context. Both individuals resigned from the Obama administration amid strong political pressures. Host Michel Martin talks to Jones about the parallels he sees between his highly publicized resignation in 2009 and Sherrod’s, and what he’s learned since leaving the White House.
The resignation of the Obama administration’s “green jobs” czar, Van Jones, has caused an uproar within progressive circles.
Jones recently came under scrutiny after it was revealed that he signed a 2004 petition questioning whether the U.S. government allowed the Sept. 11 attacks to occur, and after remarks in which he used a derogatory word to describe Republicans.
Spanish daytime temperatures will rise by an average of between 3 and 6 degrees Celsius by 2100, and rainfall will tumble to 15-30 percent of recent levels, according to forecasts on Tuesday by the Met Office.
The Met Office said it produced the forecasts in order to plan for the impact of climate change.
“Madrid will be like (southern city) Seville, and Seville like Tucson. This is a report for action,” Met Office President Ricardo Garcia told journalists.
Climate Change Secretary Teresa Ribera added at a news conference that Spain, which already suffers from water shortages and is building desalination plants, was particularly vulnerable to climate change.
“To the extent that temperatures change, animals and other living things will have to grow in different places to today, and that will also lead to significant changes in economic activities,” she said.
In order to combat climate change and reduce its extensive dependence on imported fossil fuels, Spain has invested heavily in subsidizing renewable energy sources in recent years.
The U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change announced a “carbon calculator” that shows the country’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent in the six decades through 2050 is achievable.
The calculator is an online tool that allows power consumers to gauge how to achieve the necessary cuts by adjusting 34 measures of energy demand and supply, ranging from the temperature of people’s homes to nuclear power generation.
Each of the categories, 17 for demand and 17 for supply, has four scenarios. They range from one, where no attempt is made to fight climate change, to four, which the department describes as a “extreme upper effort.” The calculator shows that an 80 percent cut could be achieved by a mixture of twos (effort viewed as achievable) and threes (unlikely to happen without significant changes.)
France will seek bids for offshore wind farms by the end of the year to raise renewable energy production and catch up with its neighbors in building sea-based turbines, a government official said.
France will designate 5 to 10 offshore areas that have been evaluated for their “environmental compatibility,” Pierre- Franck Chevet, an official at the Environment and Energy Ministry, said in Paris yesterday.
The country, which doesn’t have any offshore wind parks, is seeking to emulate neighbors such as the U.K. in sea-based wind energy, considered more reliable and less intrusive on local communities than onshore turbines. GDF Suez SA, owner of the French natural-gas network, is planning a 1.8 billion-euro ($2.3 billion) windpark offshore northern France, which is being publically assessed for its environmental impact.
China, the world’s largest polluter, said the number of environmental accidents rose 98 percent in the first six months of the year, as demand for energy and minerals lead to poisoned rivers and oil spills.
“Fast economic development is leading to increasing conflicts with the capacity of the environment to absorb” demands, the environmental protection ministry said in a faxed statement in response to Bloomberg questions.
An acid leak at Zijin Mining Group Co.’s copper and gold mine this month poisoned enough fish in the Ting River to feed 72,000 for a year, and Dalian’s beaches and port were closed by an oil spill at the nation’s largest crude terminal. The accidents underscore the toll from two decades of growth averaging 10.1 percent that made China the third-largest economy.
Plans for a massive expansion of clean energy in California are being jeopardized by federal foot-dragging, according to state officials who say that more than 20 nearly shovel-ready solar and wind projects are being held up by the U.S. Department of Energy. Seven major solar-mirror projects “” enough to provide power to 3 million Southern California homes “” along with plans for at least a dozen wind-turbine and solar-panel complexes have been cleared or almost cleared by state authorities and the U.S. Department of Interior. The projects are valued at as much as $30 billion, according to estimates by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office. But the Department of Energy’s laborious procedures to guarantee loans threaten to stymie construction financing for many of the projects, and builders could lose out on more than $10 billion in federal stimulus funding if they can’t start digging by the end of the year.
A coalition of seven western states and three Canadian provinces on Tuesday offered its most detailed strategy yet for controlling greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change, saying they hope it will stand as a model for national systems in the United States and Canada. At the core of the Western Climate Initiative is a cap-and-trade system that would go into effect in January 2012, gradually ramping down emissions levels. The system, which gives financial incentives to reduce carbon emissions, would start with power plants, then extend to large industrial producers and transportation.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and five other big city mayors are asking Congress to give them a lift in a long-running fight over turning traditional yellow-cab taxis into green, fuel-efficient vehicles.
Mr. Bloomberg and the mayors of Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington are trying to add a so-called “green taxi” law to Senate legislation aimed at cleaning up the BP oil spill.
Cutting the federal budget by axing environmentally harmful subsidies and taxpayer-funded programs sounds great, right? The Green Scissors 2010 report has identified more than $200 billion in government subsidy programs that are wasteful from a financial and an environmental perspective. The Green Scissors Campaign, which is led by several organizations including Friends of the Earth, Taxpayers for Common Sense, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, is focused on generating bipartisan support for cutting federally funded programs that are harmful to the environment.
This year’s report focuses on programs in four key areas: energy, agriculture and biofuels, infrastructure, and public lands. Energy, especially clean energy, is getting attention from the president as the Obama administration is helping push our country towards a green economy. The energy section of the Green Scissors 2010 report targets three main energy industries: oil and gas, coal, and nuclear.
The Senate energy bill unveiled Tuesday contains several provisions to bolster the fledgling market for electric cars that Nissan Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and several other companies are developing.
The electric car plan is based on bipartisan legislation sponsored by Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). The broader bill “” which also contains oil-spill response measures “” is slated for debate on the Senate floor ahead of the August recess.
Inclusion of the vehicle provisions follows a campaign by electric car advocates, who call the technology a promising way to curb oil imports by allowing drivers to charge up rather than fill up at the gas station.
Thomas Steyer, a San Francisco hedge fund manager and a big backer of Democratic candidates, will donate $5 million to a group opposing the ballot measure to roll back California’s landmark climate change law.
Steyer, founder of Farallon Capital Management LLC, has joined George Shultz, former U.S. secretary of the state, as co-chairman of the No on 23 committee, giving the group’s leadership a bipartisan mix.
California’s greenhouse gas reduction law, or AB 32, aims to cut emissions to 1990 levels statewide by 2020.
Backed by Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp. of Texas, Proposition 23 seeks to suspend AB 32 until the statewide unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters.
With Steyer’s donation, the No on 23 committee has raised more than $7 million. Proponents of a rollback collected more than $3 million.
“Proposition 23 really boils down to one thing,” Steyer said in a news release. “Do we want California to continue moving forward as a leader in a clean energy economy, including continuing to create new jobs, new economic development and new investment, or do we want to allow two Texas-based oil companies “¦ to take our state backward and see the clean energy jobs, business and investment in our state go offshore to (a) place like China?”
The country’s energy policy – particularly on climate change – poses a “serious threat” to economic and national security, a new report finds, but one group says that threat can be turned into an opportunity.
The report, released Tuesday by the nonprofit research firm CNA, says the predicted effects of climate change “have the potential to disrupt our way of life” and “create sustained natural and humanitarian disasters on a scale far beyond those we see today.” That, in turn, will likely foster political instability both at home and abroad.
The result, the report argues: The country cannot afford business as usual when it comes to energy.
“The United States government should take bold and aggressive action to support clean energy technology innovation and significantly decrease the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels,” it says.