Energy and Global Warming News for August 20th: Renewables account for 18% of EU’s power; Offshore wind power approved in New Jersey; Swiss Re warns Caribbean storm damage costs may rise 50% with global warming; 5 races to watch this fall

Europe’s Brisk Energy Transition

Europe’s evolution toward a heavier reliance on renewable energy is nicely documented in a report released this week by Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency. The study, “Statistical Aspects of the Energy Economy in 2009,” provides a wealth of interesting detail without a lot of editorializing.

From 2008 to 2009 alone, the use of renewable energy in the European Union increased 8.3 percent. As I’ve reported as part of our continuing series, “Beyond Fossil Fuels,” some countries have made particularly great strides in this arena. Portugal now gets nearly 45 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, up from 17 percent five years ago.

The Eurostat report found that the production of energy from hard coal and natural gas showed an “important decrease” (9.2 and 10.1 percent, respectively). To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the European Union is also aggressively pushing its members to cut back on their use of coal. Consumption of coal dropped 16.3 percent in 2009.

Renewable energy now accounts for 18.4 percent of energy production in the European Union, just behind natural gas, which provides 19.3 percent.

Gov. Chris Christie sign offshore wind power bill

PAULSBORO “” A new wind may be blowing in electricity for New Jersey but there are concerns it may bring a chill to ratepayers.

Gov. Chris Christie today signed an act that aims to facilitate offshore wind power for use in the state.

The measure offers financial aid and tax credits to attract private companies to participate in developing wind farms in the ocean. But this effort may also involve significant expense to be passed on to power consumers.

The Offshore Wind Economic Development Act was signed by Christie at a former BP Oil Company facility in Gloucester County, where a port that once held tanks of fuel oil will become New Jersey’s launching point for an ambitious renewable energy program.

Caribbean Storm Damage Costs May Rise 50% With Global Warming

Climate change may add 50 percent to the storm damage costs incurred by some Caribbean nations over the next two decades, said Swiss Reinsurance Co., the world’s second-largest re-insurer.

Wind, storm surges and inland flooding already cost some Caribbean nations up to 6 percent of their economic output each year, the Zurich-based company said today in a statement on its website. Global warming could add costs amounting to another 1 to 3 percent of output by 2030, it said.

Insurers are being hit with more claims as damages from natural catastrophes rise. Costs to clean up after storms and other natural disasters reached a record $180 billion in 2005, of which insurers covered about half, according to Munich Re, the biggest re-insurer.

“As a global re-insurer. we are already exposed to the effects of climate change,” said David Bresch, Swiss Re’s head of sustainability. “Projected climate patterns are likely to heighten the risks.”

Climate on the Campaign Trail: 5 Races to Watch

From cap-and-trade vs. “cap-and-tax” to bickering over the science behind global warming, climate and energy issues are a common theme in this year’s midterm election campaigns. Many lawmakers are being forced to defend their votes for the House’s cap-and-trade bill last summer, while gubernatorial candidates are being quizzed on whether they’d team with other states to reduce emissions.

Here’s a preview of five races in which environmental issues are playing a leading role:

1. California Governor. California is the state to watch from a climate and environmental perspective, with a Senate contest, ballot initiative, and House races all hitting on related issues. The governor’s race, however, is the locus of the madness. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate, is butting heads with Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown over California’s landmark climate legislation.

In 2006, the state passed AB 32, a law that, among other things, establishes a cap-and-trade market in California starting in 2012. An oil-industry-backed proposition to suspend the law made its way onto this year’s ballot, threatening to undo the most aggressive climate law in the country. Brown opposes the proposition, and Whitman recently said she was leaning toward voting against it as well. She has vowed, however, to suspend the AB 32 cap-and-trade law for a year her first day in office. By proxy, she would also suspend California’s participation in the Western Climate Initiative’s regional carbon trading system, which is scheduled to begin in 2012.

AB 32 has well-organized support from environmental groups, Silicon Valley, and current Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “We’re going to fight like crazy to make sure AB 32 is implemented,” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, director of the National Resources Defense Council Action Fund. “We think it’s a no-brainer. We’ve known about that one for quite a long time, so we’re quite organized.” On the other side, though, is an industry campaign with bottomless pockets.

California has long served as a bellwether for climate action, so the outcome of this election will have a significant symbolic impact on legislation at both the state and federal levels.

2. Massachusetts Governor. Ten states currently participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s (RGGI) cap-and-trade system for power plants, the Northeast’s verison of the Western Climate Initiative. In 2005, then-Gov. Mitt Romney pulled Massachusetts out at the last moment, but when current Gov. Deval Patrick assumed office in 2008, he revived the state’s participation.

Energy Dept. ponies up $120M more for building energy efficiency

The U.S. Department of Energy announced today that it has earmarked $120 million to be divided among about 120 organizations working to weatherize buildings for greater energy efficiency. The grant money will be distributed under the banner of its Weatherization Assistance Program, which has already retrofitted thousands of homes across the country.

Like all of the DOE’s funding initiatives, this drive toward more innovative weatherization methods is expected to create thousands of jobs for construction workers, plumbers, electricians, contractors and manufacturers in local communities, while also shaving power use and greenhouse gas emissions.

The departments launched the Weatherization Assistance Program “” designed not only to renovate homes, but also to develop new technologies and relevant financial models “” last year and is already impacting up to 25,000 homes a month. In June alone, the program helped weatherize upwards of 31,600 homes.

Weatherization is one of the most effective, yet least publicized, ways that average homeowners can save energy and cut down their monthly bills. It’s also incredibly easy for people to understand and accomplish. The typical suburban home can be helped immensely by the simple addition of insulation, reinforcement of windows, caulking, or replacement of major power-sucking appliances “” particularly heating and air conditioning systems.

Swiss to host ministers’ meeting on climate finance

GENEVA “” Ministers will meet in Switzerland next month to discuss crucial financing to curb the impact of global warming, ahead of the UN climate conference in Cancun, Swiss authorities said on Thursday.

About 45 countries are due to attend the informal ministerial conference on September 2 to 3, including Brazil, China, South Africa and the United States, said Franz Perrez, head of international affairs at the Federal Environment Office.

Several ministers have so far confirmed their presence in Geneva, including from Britain, Germany, Singapore, while the United States is sending its special climate envoy, he told AFP.

Key long-term financing issues include a new fund for the environment, ways to bring the private sector into financing, coordinating funding and finding new sources of finance.

Farmers oppose EPA’s proposed dust regulation

American farmers have been ridiculing a proposal by U.S. regulators to reduce the amount of dust floating in rural air.

“If there’s ever been rural America, that’s what rural America is,” said Nebraska hog farmer Danny Kluthe. “You know? It’s dirt out here, and with dirt you’ve got dust.”

The Environmental Protection Agency is looking to tighten standards for the amount of harmful particles in the air, facing opposition from U.S. farming groups who call it an unrealistic attempt to regulate dust.

The EPA is reviewing its air quality standards to comply with the Clean Air Act that prescribes reevaluation every five years. The agency’s scientific panel proposes either retaining or halving the current standard for coarse particles, commonly containing dust, ash and chemical pollutants–particles 10 microns or smaller in diameter, about one-tenth of human hair.

France Launches ‚¬1.35 Billion Clean Energy Program

The program is called “demonstrateurs energies renouvelables et chimie verte,” which in English would mean “renewable energy and green chemistry demonstration.” It will include ‚¬450 million ($577 million) in subsidies and another ‚¬900 million ($1.15 billion) in low-interest loans for “cutting-edge technology projects.”

The emerging, cutting-edge technologies it would be supporting projects in solar energy, marine energy, geothermal energy, carbon capture and storage, and advanced biofuel.

This is quite a surprise, to me at least, since France has traditionally put so much of its “clean energy” money into nuclear energy and, to some extent, wind energy.

About ‚¬190 million ($244 million) is supposed to be invested by the end of the year, and then ‚¬290 million ($372 million) every year afterwards until 2014.

The French government is, reportedly, looking to get private investors to put in ‚¬2 billion ($2.56 billion) as well.

And, Bloomberg reports that beyond this clean energy investment program, the French government is looking to similar programs for green transport (a ‚¬1 billion or $1.28 billion program) and smart grid demonstrations (a ‚¬250 million or $320.5 million program).

Blackstone Invests $300 Million in One of India’s Leading Solar PV Companies

US private equity firm Blackstone has decided to invest $300 million in one of the leading solar PV companies in India, Moser Baer (Private) Limited.

Moser Baer (NSE: MOSERBAER) has a diversified portfolio ranging from manufacturing of computer peripherals to fabrications of solar panels. While their computer hardware business is very well established, the company is looking to expand its solar panel fabrication capabilities.

The solar fabrication firm of the company was established in 2007 when crystalline silicon and thin film solar cell manufacturing assembly lines were set up. Both the assembly lines are part of Moser Baer Photo Voltaic Limited which holds the record of fabricating the world’s largest thin film solar panel measuring 2.6 meters x 2.2 meters and having generation capacity of up to 390 watts.

The company has a thin film assembly line with an annual capacity of 40 MW. The company also has several manufacturing facilities around the country and exports solar panels to Germany, Italy in addition to setting up solar installations within the country.

Climate change basics III – environmental impacts and tipping points

The world’s climate is inherently dynamic and changeable. Past aeons have borne witness to a planet choked by intense volcanic activity, dried out in vast circumglobal deserts, heated to a point where polar oceans were as warm as subtropical seas, and frozen in successive ice ages that entombed northern Eurasia and America under miles of ice. These changes to the Earth’s environment imposed great stresses upon ecosystems and often led to mass extinctions of species. Life always went on, but the world was inevitably a very different place.

We, a single species, are now the agent of global change. We are undertaking an unplanned and unprecedented experiment in planetary engineering, which has the potential to unleash physical and biological transformations on a scale never before witnessed by civilization. Our actions are causing a massive loss and fragmentation of habitats (e.g., deforestation of the tropical rain forests), over-exploitation of species (e.g., collapse of major fisheries), and severe environmental degradation (e.g., pollution and excessive draw-down of rivers, lakes and groundwater). These patently unsustainable human impacts are operating worldwide, and accelerating. They foreshadow a grim future. And then, on top of all of this, there is the looming spectre of climate change.

31 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for August 20th: Renewables account for 18% of EU’s power; Offshore wind power approved in New Jersey; Swiss Re warns Caribbean storm damage costs may rise 50% with global warming; 5 races to watch this fall

  1. Leif says:

    Massive oil plume discovered below the Gulf surface. ~3000 feet deep and 22 miles long x 1.2 miles wide x 650 feet thick. Take that you fish!

  2. dbmetzger says:

    new research from Journal of Science

    Rising Temperatures Mean Falling Plant Productivity Overall
    An updated analysis based on NASA satellite data and published this week in the journal Science indicates that, as temperatures have continued to rise, the benefits to plants are now overwhelmed by longer and more frequent droughts.

  3. PSU Grad says:

    “As a global re-insurer. we are already exposed to the effects of climate change,” said David Bresch, Swiss Re’s head of sustainability. “Projected climate patterns are likely to heighten the risks.”

    There you go. That’s the difference between someone having to put his money where his mouth is, and someone else merely denying reality because some corporation or other interest group tells them to. This is hard core business sense, not some poseur pretending to care about the business world in general, while actually caring about one or two narrow industries.

  4. Bob Wallace says:

    “Renewable energy now accounts for 18.4 percent of energy production in the European Union, just behind natural gas, which provides 19.3 percent.”

    They built that capacity largely in five years, did they not? Would it be surprising to see them hit 50% in five more years?

    If Europe can do it, why can’t we?

  5. Sasparilla says:

    And not to miss it, the Northwest Passage has opened up for the year (with the Northeast Passage looks ready to open soon as well).

  6. mike roddy says:

    5 races to watch? I only counted 2.

  7. Prokaryotes says:

    Signs of climate change are obvious

    Global warming deniers are silent. The first six months of 2010 were the hottest in recorded history. They see that an island of ice four times the size of Manhattan and half as thick in height as the Empire State Building breaks off Greenland and say nothing. Since April, China has had record rains and flooding that had killed over 700 people and forced 8.1 million to relocate. Recent floods in Pakistan have killed over 1,000 people and displaced at least 2 million.

    Ten percent of Russia is burning. Hundreds of forest and peat bog fires have ignited amid the country’s most intense heat wave in 130 years. Russia has announced it is temporarily banning the export of grain after drought and fires devastated about a fifth of its grain crop.

  8. Prokaryotes says:

    Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Calls out Climate Change Skeptics

    Finally, for all you climate change skeptics out there, Mr. Qureshi has news for you.

    Climate change, with all its severity and unpredictability, has become a reality for 170 million Pakistanis. The present situation in Pakistan reconfirms our extreme vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change. It also complicates the reconstruction and rehabilitation scenario in Pakistan. Nature has made a graphic endorsement to strengthen the case for a fair and equitable outcome from the ongoing UNFCCC negotiations. Statement by H.E. Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Foreign Minister of Pakistan

  9. Prokaryotes says:

    Coral reefs threatened by climate change

    A dramatic rise in the surface temperature of Indonesian waters has devastated local coral populations, research shows.

    Ask a skeptic about coral decline – the rainforest of the ocean.

  10. paulm says:

    Unusually Warm Caribbean Sea Threatens Coral Reefs
    Aug 20, 2010; 10:57 AM ET
    A recent report indicated that very warm waters are believed to be responsible for the deaths of corals offshore of Indonesia. Corals in the Caribbean Sea are now in danger of suffering the same fate.

  11. paulm says:

    Chernobyl Waste to Invade Moscow?
    Aug 19, 2010; 5:00 AM ET
    Ecologist Alexei Yablokov says radioactive particles burnt out of vegetation by recent Russian wildfires may get windswept into populated areas. Host Katie Fehlinger reports.

  12. Steve O says:

    The DOE has been unable to distribute more than 90% of the stimulus money targeted to energy efficiency block grants. I certainly hope they can do a better job with this weatherization money.
    There has to be a better way to get these funds to make a real impact.

  13. Europe is doing pretty well in growing renewable energy, but just to be clear: it’s 18.4% of primary production in the EU, and that’s less than half of the consumption. So renewables provide 9.0% of the energy used.

    And @Bob Wallace: the past 5 years have shown a strong growth, but a lot of hydro and biomass was already around in 2005. So not all from the last 5 years.

  14. Mark Shapiro says:

    Sasparilla @ 5 says the Northeast Passage is almost open —

    Three guys in a trimaran are attempting a first ever circumnavigation of the Arctic Ocean in one summer in a sailboat. They are about 1/3 of the way, heading east along the Siberian coast, and past the last blockage.

    There is no ice blocking the rest of their trip. You can follow them here:

  15. sarah says:

    The American Chemical Society is soliciting feedback on their climate statement (, which is better than I expected from an industry-dominated organization. However it still contains statements like:
    “Coal-fueled and nuclear electrical power generation systems may also be part of CO2 reduction strategies if effective and economic means to sequester CO2 emissions from coal combustion or advanced coal processing are developed for the former and if fuel diversion, spent fuel disposal, and power plant security issues are resolved for the latter.”

    Submit your comments at: You don’t have to be a chemist or chemical engineer; there is an option to be an “Interested Friend of Chemistry”.

  16. Bob Wallace says:

    Sustainable2050 –

    Portugal now gets 45% of their power from renewables. Five years ago they were getting 17% from renewables, mostly hydro.

    “If Europe can do it, why can’t we?”

  17. Lore says:

    Quote: Bob Wallace

    “If Europe can do it, why can’t we?”

    We can’t or won’t, because we have a big oil industry planted at our feet in the United States which lobbies for BAU. Most of these EU countries lack sufficient domestic fossil fuel resources, giving them incentive to implement alternatives as fast as they can. Not everyone over there is as stone cold ignorant as some of our governing officials about the future of oil.

  18. Mossy says:

    # 6 Mike — Just click on the green headline — it will take you to the original article — voila — 5 races to watch are profiled! Sometimes you have to sign in, but for this one, you didn’t.

  19. Mandy says:

    Well, this is hard core business sense, not some poseur pretending to care about the business world in general

  20. Bob Wallace says:

    Lore – we can and we are. Our problem is that we are making the transition away from fossil fuels much to slowly.

    Some of that lack of speed is due to fossil fuel industry resistance. Some is due to climate change denier success in confusing the public. Some is due to our ongoing financial problems.

    BTW, oil plays a very insignificant role in electricity generation. Coal is the main dangerous player. Natural gas is number two. Petroleum is an insignificant input.

  21. Leland Palmer says:

    That’s great news about 18% of primary energy production in the E.U. coming from renewables.

    If only the U.S. would follow, instead of being locked in stasis by a Republican Party increasingly out of touch with reality.

  22. homunq says:

    Sarah@14: On a quick read of the draft ACS statement, the sentence you mentioned was the only real problem. ACS is not the place to fight the nuclear battle, the problem is the coal statement.

    The comment form asks for references to peer-reviewed studies to back up your comments. Do you know of a peer-reviewed study which clearly states that the probable lower bound on net-carbon-emitted-per-joule of commercial-scale coal-based electricity for the next (say) 20 years is still way, way higher than we need it to be? (I have no doubt that that’s true, I just need a study which says something along those lines.)

  23. Anonymous says:

    Man invents machine to convert plastic into oil

  24. Raul M. says:

    Open question on phase change materials.
    Does a 1/8″ of ice have the same insulative
    value as a foot of ice.
    If so, then a very thin layer of ice on the roof
    and walls could have great insulative value
    in very cold climates.

  25. Raul M. says:

    ok, using that the insulative value of water
    is only to cold side at 32 degrees.
    The inquiry would be what other easily manageable
    phase change materials have a insulative value
    at certain temperatures.Say to the cold side
    such as water or to the warm side. Two layers
    of different phase change materials could
    insulate from low temperatures and from warm

  26. Prokaryotes says:

    Climate change responsible for floods

    WASHINGTON: Senior government officials have joined scientists in blaming climate change for the devastating floods in Pakistan and other extreme weather events around the globe.

    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in an interview with Pakistan’s Dawn TV, said “there is a linkage” between the Pakistan floods and climate change.

    In his address to a special UN meeting on the floods last week, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also said that Pakistan’s flooding “reconfirms our extreme vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change”.

  27. Prokaryotes says:

    In 2007, a blue-ribbon panel of 11 retired three and four-star admirals and generals (no tree-hugging environmentalists!) worked with CAN (Centre for Naval Analyses) Corporation to produce a study, National Security & the Threat of Climate Change. This report warned the Bush administration that projected climate change posed a serious threat to America’s national security, acted as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world (read Pakistan), and would add to tensions even in stable regions.

    Can the responsible ‘polluters’ get their act together quickly to tackle the risk of ‘threat multiplication’?,-next-time-280

    So do people pretend they can somehow magically control CC? We run out of time here – even if we stop all emission today the temperature will keep climbing. We need to act now to reduce Co2!

  28. Prokaryotes says:

    Weather-related disasters: The new normal?
    Welcome to post-climate-change Iowa.

    In Iowa after climate change, torrential summer downpours are the usual, not the exception. The warm, soggy summer of 2010 in all likelihood is not an aberration. It is the new normal. Henceforth, more summers will be like 2010 than not. And, if climate change is just in its early stages, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

  29. Raul M. says:

    Now that I have found links to pcm wall-boards
    and design guidance for wall layering, I think
    that the wall-boards would serve comfort purposes
    even without much mechanical HAVAC installation.

  30. Mike says:

    Here is a warming impact you might not have thought about.

    Supercomputers Slow Down to Stay Cool in Summer Heat
    Chronicle of Higher Education