Energy and Global Warming News for August 10th: Floods and mudslides on three continents, as drought hits Africa; Solazyme raised $52M to scale up algae fuels; Portugal gives itself clean-energy makeover

Met Office: “The extremes of rainfall are getting heavier and are entirely consistent with climate change predictions.”

Floods and mudslides on three continents, as drought hits Africa

Regions across the world have been buffeted by extremes of weather, drought and floods. Sometimes an area is hit by one extreme, followed soon after by another, Niger being a case in point. In the case of floods in Pakistan, the Met Office says high pressure over Russia has forced the jet stream much further south than usual this year and this pattern has remained almost stationary over recent weeks. Therefore low pressure has been sitting over Pakistan longer than normal, intensifying the monsoon rains. “The extremes of rainfall are getting heavier and are entirely consistent with climate change predictions,” said Helen Chivers, a spokeswoman with the Met Office.

Solazyme raised $52M to scale up algae fuels

Solazyme Inc. said today it has raised another $52 million from investors to scale up production of transportation fuels, chemicals and other products from algae.

The San Francisco-based startup, which has developed an industrial-scale fermentation process to produce oil from algae, inked a research and development deal with Chevron Corp. in 2008. Late last year, the U.S. Department of Energy granted Solazyme more than $21.7 million to build an integrated biofuels refinery in Riverside, Pa., the company’s first.

Earlier this summer, Solazyme delivered 1,500 gallons of 100 percent algae-based jet fuel to the U.S. Navy for testing and certification, per a 2009 contract. The company claims that the renewable biofuel produces 85 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than traditional fossil fuels.

Braemar Energy Ventures and Morgan Stanley led Solazyme’s Series D financing round. Other investors included Lightspeed Venture Partners, the Roda Group, Harris & Harris Group Inc., VantagePoint Venture Partners and Zygote Ventures.

Pakistan Floods Hit 14 Million People as Heat Parches Russia, U.S. Midwest

Pakistan’s deadliest floods that affected 13.8 million people may sweep through southern areas, increasing damage to crops and infrastructure. Extreme heat and smoke from wildfires forced people to flee Moscow.

In China, the death toll from a landslide that buried villages in the country’s west rose to at least 337, with a further 1,148 missing. Temperatures in the central U.S. are forecast to climb back to the 100-degree Fahrenheit (37.7 Celsius) mark this week, and in many areas it will feel much hotter than that, according to the National Weather Service.

Floods in Pakistan have affected more people than those displaced in the 2005 Asian Tsunami and the deadly earthquakes in South Asia and Haiti combined, the United Nations said. The number of homes destroyed or seriously damaged is 290,000, it said. The U.N. will issue an appeal for several hundred million dollars of aid for Pakistan.

“The flood and the devastation caused a very huge human catastrophe,” Safder Hussain Mehkri, a vice chairman of the Rice Exporters’ Association of Pakistan, said by phone today. “We need to rebuild the lives of these people.”

The flooding is “Pakistan’s worst national disaster,” Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in a televised speech yesterday. On a tour of Sindh and Punjab, the country’s most populous provinces and its biggest agricultural zone, Gilani told reporters that the destruction of roads, bridges and towns has set Pakistan’s economic development back by years.

In Crackdown on Energy Use, China to Shut 2,000 Factories

Earlier this summer, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China promised to use an “iron hand” to improve his country’s energy efficiency, and a growing number of businesses are now discovering that it feels like a fist.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology quietly published a list late Sunday of 2,087 steel mills, cement works and other energy-intensive factories required to close by Sept. 30.

Energy analysts described it as a significant step toward the country’s energy-efficiency goals, but not enough by itself to achieve them. Over the years, provincial and municipal officials have sometimes tried to block Beijing’s attempts to close aging factories in their jurisdictions.

These officials have particularly sought to protect older steel mills and other heavy industrial operations that frequently have thousands of employees and have sometimes provided workers with housing, athletic facilities and other benefits since the 1950s or 1960s.

The Asian Floods””Signs of Climate Catastrophes to Come?

They haven’t gotten anywhere near the attention they deserve, but the floods that have struck much of Asia over the past couple of weeks may be the biggest humanitarian disaster in recent memory””bigger even than the earthquake that hit Haiti in January and the 2004 Asian tsunami. Both of those catastrophes killed far more, but the floods have affected 13 million people in Pakistan alone, and parts of India, China and North Korea have also suffered from the rains. The floods will destroy homes and business, wreck agriculture and destroy infrastructure, leave disease and disability in their wake. Flooding in China has already killed more than 1,100 people this year and caused tens of billions of dollars of damage. In shaky Pakistan, where the public has been enraged by the government’s typically fumbling response to the flood, it could even increase support for hard-line Islamic groups.

As governments and charities grapple with the extent of the floods, the question arises, as it does every time there is a major weather event like this one: was this disaster truly natural, or is it connected in some way to climate change? Now it’s important to remember that major floods have been happening in this part of the world since well before humans began worrying about the impacts of global warming. And the massive number of people affected by these floods””or for that matter, the sky-high death tolls of the Haiti quake and the Asian tsunami””have as much to do with the growing number of people living in high-risk areas like the coast, earthquake zones and flood plains as it does with the strength of a storm or a temblor. The Haiti quake killed as many as 300,000 people, but at a magnitude of 7.0, it was slightly weaker than the 1989 Bay Area temblor that killed 62 people””the difference was Haiti’s population density, poverty and complete lack of earthquake building codes.

Portugal Gives Itself a Clean-Energy Makeover

Five years ago, the leaders of this sun-scorched, wind-swept nation made a bet: To reduce Portugal’s dependence on imported fossil fuels, they embarked on an array of ambitious renewable energy projects “” primarily harnessing the country’s wind and hydropower, but also its sunlight and ocean waves.

Today, Lisbon’s trendy bars, Porto’s factories and the Algarve’s glamorous resorts are powered substantially by clean energy. Nearly 45 percent of the electricity in Portugal’s grid will come from renewable sources this year, up from 17 percent just five years ago.

Land-based wind power “” this year deemed “potentially competitive” with fossil fuels by the International Energy Agency in Paris “” has expanded sevenfold in that time. And Portugal expects in 2011 to become the first country to inaugurate a national network of charging stations for electric cars.

“I’ve seen all the smiles “” you know: It’s a good dream. It can’t compete. It’s too expensive,” said Prime Minister Jos© S³crates, recalling the way Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, mockingly offered to build him an electric Ferrari. Mr. S³crates added, “The experience of Portugal shows that it is possible to make these changes in a very short time.”

U.N. Chief Recommends Small Steps on Climate

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, said Monday that he doubted that member states would reach a new global climate change agreement in December at a conference in Mexico.

Mr. Ban, who was the head cheerleader for reaching a deal during the 2009 conference in Copenhagen, suggested that a better approach might consist of small steps in separate fields that built toward wider consensus rather than aiming for one sweeping pact.

“Climate change, I think, has been making progress, even though we have not reached such a point where we will have a globally agreed, comprehensive deal,” Mr. Ban said at a news conference.

Preliminary negotiations toward some manner of document, involving all 192 member states, ended last week stuck on familiar problems “” the working document doubling in size to 34 pages amid protracted wrangling over issues like commitments to cut emissions. There is one more round of talks, in China in October, before the December conference in Cancºn.

Mr. Ban said he thought there was progress on a limited number of issues, including deforestation, sharing of technology and financial payments to poorer nations from the developed world to help them overcome the effects of climate change.

Post-Copenhagen quest for global warming accord stuck in reverse

With 3-1/2 months left before a United Nations climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, the spade work ahead of the meeting seems to be turning up more boulders than a New England plow.

Last week, negotiators from 194 countries met in Bonn, Germany, and made little progress in any of six broad areas covered by a join-if-you-like plan that emerged from last December’s climate negotiations in Copenhagen.

Instead, it appears that the most significant progress on some issues will take place outside the UN process, where key countries are working to set up a “quick-start” adaptation fund for developing countries and approaches to increase efforts to combat deforestation.

Ironically, some specialists say, UN negotiations are becoming the venue for smaller sets of countries to work on these outside efforts.

If the size of the current UN negotiating text is any indication, the process to have been thrown into reverse – at least for now.

“The frustrating thing about the past week in Bonn is that the text doubled in size again,” says Andrew Deutz, senior policy advisor for UN affairs at the Nature Conservancy. “If you want to get an agreement on the text by Cancun, we should be narrowing, rather than expanding.”

44 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for August 10th: Floods and mudslides on three continents, as drought hits Africa; Solazyme raised $52M to scale up algae fuels; Portugal gives itself clean-energy makeover

  1. Prokaryotes says:

    The Daily Oil Spill

    Shipping lanes remain closed by India oil spill

  2. Prokaryotes says:

    As the world’s weather gets more radical, combating climate change seems further away than ever in U.S.

  3. Bill Waterhouse says:

    Long LA Times story today on Moscow heat and fires has no mention of climate change.

  4. Prokaryotes says:

    The crack in the roof of the world: ‘Yes, global warming is real – and deeply worrying’–deeply-worrying.html

  5. Prokaryotes says:

    Call to ban corn-based ethanol production
    China’s biggest non-state oil enterprise urged the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) to impose a ban on using corn to produce ethanol fuel.

    Zhao Youshan, chairman of the Oil Flow Commission of the China General Chamber of Commerce, told the Beijing Times that they have submitted a letter to the NDRC in an attempt to ban corn-based ethanol production, because it has pushed up corn prices at home and turned China into a corn-importing country in the first half of this year from previously a corn-exporting country.

  6. dbmetzger says:

    Extreme weather news clips

    Russia, one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, has been hit hard by the hottest summer on record. The heat wave has caused severe droughts and wildfires, destroyed one-fifth of the wheat crop, and threatens to destroy more.

    337 Dead, 1100 Missing in China Flooding
    At least 337 are dead, and rescuers are digging through mud and wreckage in northwestern China looking for 1100 people missing after a series of flash floods and landslides.

  7. Prokaryotes says:

    Map of fire situation in Russia
    Half of the country, most of its populated part, is on fire. Some pics and videos are quite apocalyptic in nature. Authorities are proving next to useless

  8. Prokaryotes says:

    Look all the Co2 up in the air.

  9. Peter Mizla says:

    Interesting News

    Brown clouds’ from Russia fires could hit Arctic
    Environmental experts fear impact on climate if soot settles on sea ice

    Smoke from forest fires smothering Moscow is adding to health problems from “brown clouds” from Asia to the Amazon, and Russian soot may stoke global warming by hastening a thaw of Arctic ice, environmental experts say.

  10. Prokaryotes says:

    Pakistan news – maybe some of the 40 million pakistani not directly affected find the time to read the internets.

    Pakistan floods, Russia heat match climate trends\10\story_10-8-2010_pg1_9

  11. Prokaryotes says:

    Dirty Energy Money is an interactive tool that tracks the flow of oil, gas, and coal money in U.S. Congress. Find out which energy companies are pumping their dirty money into politics and which politicians are receiving it.

  12. Prokaryotes says:

    World’s first grid-scale flywheel energy plant to go online soon

    Beacon Power’s system will uses fast-rotating rims made of a carbon-fibre composite material to store excess and renewably generated grid energy as kinetic energy that can be tapped when demand rises or power from wind or solar sources is unavailable. The rims spin on magnetic bearings in a vacuum to minimise energy loss from friction.

  13. Prokaryotes says:

    Portugal Gives Itself a Clean-Energy Makeover
    Nearly 45 percent of the electricity in Portugal’s grid will come from renewable sources this year, up from 17 percent just five years ago.

  14. Prokaryotes says:

    Group: Alternatives Could Significantly Reduce Oil Need in Germany

  15. Anonymous says:

    Pakistan floods shows threat from warmer world-scientists

  16. Prokaryotes says:

    Climate change ‘will increase heart deaths’
    A study in the British Medical Journal found that each 1C temperature drop on a single day in the UK is linked to 200 extra heart attacks.

    Heatwaves, meanwhile, increase heart deaths from other causes, as shown by the events in Paris during summer 2003.

    Over 11,000 people died in France’s heatwave in the first half of August of that year when temperatures rose to over 40C. Many of these were sudden cardiac deaths related to heart conditions other than heart attack.

  17. Prokaryotes says:

    Money ‘wasted on useless products’
    Consumers could save up to £400 by ignoring far-fetched claims about products that do not work, a watchdog has said.

    Which? magazine has released a list of 10 “money-wasting products you don’t need” after tests found they failed to live up to the claims on the packaging.

    Among the blacklisted cleaning products, gadgets and potions are tumble dryer balls, cleaners designed specifically for the kitchen or bathroom, and fuel additives.

  18. Prokaryotes says:

    Temperatures at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport hit 37°C (99°F) today, the 28th day in row that temperatures have exceeded 30°C (86°F) in Moscow. The average high temperature for August 10 is 21°C (69°F). Moscow’s high temperature have averaged 15°C (27°F) above average for the first ten days of August–a truly extraordinary anomaly.

  19. Prokaryotes says:

    Russia fires cause “brown cloud,” may hit Arctic

    Smoke from forest fires smothering Moscow adds to health problems of “brown clouds” from Asia to the Amazon and Russian soot may stoke global warming by hastening a thaw of Arctic ice, environmental experts say.

    Positive Feedbacks …

  20. Prokaryotes says:

    Forest and peat bog fires are burning over 1,740 sq kms (672 sq miles), the Russian Emergencies Ministry said. By contrast, official Brazilian data show the Amazon rainforest lost 1,810 sq kms in almost a year to June 2010. Radioactive isotopes include strontium 90 and cesium 137. Other industrial pollutants such as PCBs could also be freed.

  21. Prokaryotes says:

    Millions face 25% cut in pensions as inflation rules for final salary schemes are changed

    After all the dirty Oil and Coal pension funds seem to fail.

  22. Prokaryotes says:

    Take climate change off the back burner — and do it now

    Worldwide, 2010 is shaping up to be the hottest year on record. All this is in line with what scientists have been telling us since at least the 1980s: Our carbon emissions are changing the climate of our planet and making our weather more extreme, both hot and cold, with more intense weather events, like local flooding and storms. In 20 years, a summer like the one we are having now in the Northeast will be the new normal, and the record-breaking ones will be hotter still.

    Meanwhile, Senate Democrats have dropped plans to try to pass a bill that will put a cap on carbon emissions. They didn’t even put the plan to a vote, because they know they don’t have the 60 votes they need. So it doesn’t look like the U.S. is going to be doing anything serious, anytime soon, to stop our contribution to accelerating climate change. And if we don’t get serious, we can hardly expect the other big emitters, like China and India, to stop their own rapid emissions growth. Their per capita emissions are only a small fraction of ours, and we are much wealthier than they are, so we could cut our emissions with less hardship than they could.

    Americans know that actions have consequences, but they may not realize just how irrevocable the consequences of continuing to emit increasing quantities of greenhouse gases from our coal-fired power stations, our gas-guzzling cars and our vast herds of cattle will be. All the carbon will stay up in the atmosphere for centuries, and in a few decades, feeling uncomfortably hot in summer will be the least of our problems. Rising sea levels and more intense storms will bring Katrina-like floods to New York City. More erratic rain will make the Southwest more arid and cause intense wildfires on a scale we can only imagine. The Midwest could see droughts that destroy crops on the scale that Russia has experienced.

  23. Prokaryotes says:

    Floods, fires, landslides called evidence of warming

    Warmest year on record linked to buildup of greenhouse gases: UN

    The simultaneous catastrophes of flooding in Pakistan, wildfires in Russia and landslides in China are evidence that global warming predictions are correct, climate change experts say, cautioning it is impossible to blame mankind for single severe weather events.

    This year is on track to be the warmest since reliable temperature records began in the mid-19th century, beating 1998, mainly due to a buildup of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels, according to the UN’s World Meteorological Organization.

  24. Prokaryotes says:

    The Problem With Climate Scientists

    Politicians are used to smoothing over nuance in order to push key policy priorities. Scientists, by their very nature, are bound by the data they collect. While the data certainly shows that the climate is changing, it can often be difficult to communicate that information effectively.

    Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), picking up on this idea, asked the witnesses to be more aggressive in advocating for climate change policy, comparing climate change to an asteroid heading toward Earth.

  25. Prokaryotes says:

    Methane Prompts Massey Mine Evacuation
    Elevated levels of methane forced federal and state mine safety officials to evacuate the Massey Energy Co. coal mine Tuesday during their investigation of the April explosion that killed 29 miners.


  26. Prokaryotes says:

    Political fights over clean coal get dirty and expensive

  27. Prokaryotes says:

    Big Coal Wants To Mine Away Dark History at 1920s Labor Battle Site

    Have you ever heard of the Battle of Blair Mountain? Neither had I, despite its being the largest armed conflict on American soil since the Civil War and the largest labor confrontation ever.

    Well the Appalachian coal industry wants to keep it that way, as the Los Angeles Times reports. In fact, not only does the coal industry not want you to know about this particularly dark piece of its history, it wants to rub salt into the wound by blasting away the historic battlegrounds to…wait for it… mine for more coal.

  28. Prokaryotes says:

    And McKinley supports the idea of mountaintop removal mining.

    “I don’t know of a better way to get coal out of the ground,” he said. “If we could find a better way than taking off the mountaintops – then let’s look at it.”

    And with mountaintop removal, the contours can be restored – just as they are in strip mining, according to McKinley. He noted that a number of the sites have been redeveloped for other purposes. In southern West Virginia, one reclaimed property became the site for a prison.

  29. Prokaryotes says:

    Protests spew over Montana-Gulf pipeline plan

    Environmental groups and landowners, upset by last month’s oil spill in Michigan, are urging the Obama administration to deny a proposal for an oil pipeline that would go from the Montana-Canada border to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.

    Alberta-based TransCanada’s proposed 1,661-mile Keystone XL pipeline would link up with its existing 2,151-mile Keystone pipeline, which began operations in June, and go through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

    Opponents say last month’s spill underscored the dangers of the United States’ reliance on fossil fuels. A pipeline ruptured on July 25 and spilled nearly a million gallons of crude oil into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in southwestern Michigan

  30. Prokaryotes says:

    City Deep rocked by pipeline explosion
    An Egoli Gas pipeline exploded in City Deep along Vickers Road, south-east of Johannesburg, Gauteng paramedics said on Wednesday.

    “It exploded at around 10.30am last night (Tuesday),” Johannesburg Emergency Services spokesperson Percy Morokane said.

    “It appears that one of the connectors on the pipeline leaked which then led to the explosion.”

  31. Prokaryotes says:

    Enbridge’s Restart Plan Rejected
    … not nearly enough has been done to make sure the pipe is safe.

  32. Prokaryotes says:

    Fire rages, flow stops on bombed Turkish pipeline

  33. Prokaryotes says:

    Wyo. to Ore. pipeline draws criticism from Klamath, Lake counties

    Oil is visible – methane not. If a natural gas pipeline spills, it could mean it will not be noticed for a long time.

  34. fatalgae says:

    Algae is renewable, does not affect the food channel and consumes CO2. To learn more about the fast-track commercialization of the algae production industry you may waant to check out the National Algae Association.

  35. Prokaryotes says:

    The 1.05 billion tons of coal burned each year in the United States contain 109 tons of mercury, 7884 tons of arsenic, 1167 tons of beryllium, 750 tons of cadmium, 8810 tons of chromium, 9339 tons of nickel, and 2587 tons of selenium. On top of emitting 1.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year, coal-fired power plants in the United States also create 120 million tons of toxic waste. That means each of the nation’s 500 coal-fired power plants produces an average 240,000 tons of toxic waste each year. A power plant that operates for 40 years will leave behind 9.6 million tons of toxic waste. This coal combustion waste (CCW) constitutes the nation’s second largest waste stream after municipal solid waste.

  36. Prokaryotes says:

    Encana well continues to burn

    Flames continued to shoot out from an Encana Corp. natural gas well in northeastern British Columbia as emergency personnel struggled to remove equipment from the site and get to the centre of the blowout.

    The well derrick and other equipment is being removed from the well site, with work continuing removing the blowout preventer, leaving better access to the pipe leading into the formation, Encana said Tuesday.

  37. Prokaryotes says:

    Given Natural Gas’ Dangers, Worries About Pipeline Regulation and Oversight Abound
    Federal Agency with Oversight Over Pipelines Lacks Mandate to Inspect All Pipelines

  38. Prokaryotes says:

    Indiana Township says control of gas drilling ‘limited’

    Resident Elissa Weiss suggested that supervisors join state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, in urging a ban on natural-gas drilling on state forest lands and private property for one year while a commission considers the ramifications.

    Resident Ken Wolfe said he is worried about outside drilling companies, many of which are headquartered in Texas. “It seems like these drilling companies have carte blanche to do whatever they want, whenever they want,” he said.

    A ban of oil, gas and coal and replacement with CLEAN Stuff would be great, but think of all the firemen becoming jobless.

  39. Prokaryotes says:

    US Power Gen shuts NY Astoria 2 natgas unit

    A steam tank ruptured Tuesday
    morning at the Astoria oil/natural-gas fired power plant in
    Queens, New York, taking out of service the 175-megawatt Unit 2
    for an unknown amount of time, said the plant’s owner US Power
    Generating Co.

    Electricity traders guessed the unit, which is over 50
    years old, would never return to service.

  40. Prokaryotes says:

    Death toll climbs to 1,117 in China mudslides

    Extreme climate causes devastating mudslides in NW China: Vice Minister

  41. Prokaryotes says:

    Floods and mudslides on three continents, as drought hits Africa

    “The extremes of rainfall are getting heavier and are entirely consistent with climate change predictions”