11 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for October 1st: Gulf waters contain carcinogens linked to oil spills; Clean energy could power rural India
University researchers said on Thursday they recently found alarming levels of cancer-causing toxins in an area of the Gulf of Mexico affected by BP’s oil spill, raising the specter of long-lasting health concerns.
Oregon State University (OSU) researchers found sharply heightened levels of chemicals including carcinogens in the waters off the coast of Louisiana in August, the last sampling date, even after BP successfully capped its runaway Gulf well in mid-July.
Near Grand Isle, Louisiana, the team discovered that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) — which include carcinogens and chemicals that pose various risks to human health — remained at levels 40 times higher than before the area was affected by the oil spill. The compounds may enter the food chain through organisms like plankton or fish, a researcher said.
“In a natural environment a 40-fold increase is huge,” said Oregon State toxicologist Kim Anderson, who led the research. “We don’t usually see that at other contamination sites.” The PAH chemicals, which are often linked to oil spills, are most concentrated in the area near the Louisiana Coast, but levels have also jumped 2 to 3 fold in other spill-affected areas off Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, Anderson said.
Demand for clean energy products is rising among India’s rural communities, according to the Power to the People analysis released today by Centre for Development Finance at the Institute for Financial Management and Research (CDF-IFMR) and the World Resources Institute(WRI). The study focuses on the energy needs of India’s rural poor, or those living at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) in rural areas, which make up more than 114 million households and nearly 60 percent of India’s total population. The analysis finds that companies supplying clean energy products-including solar lanterns and energy efficient cooking stoves-to the rural BoP market, have seen annual gross revenue grow by an average of 36 percent per year since 2004.
“Clean energy firms in India can capture the market that serves the BoP by providing environmentally and user-friendly energy solutions that will reduce health problems through lower air pollution, and lower fuel costs, while generating additional public benefits, such as lower greenhouse gas emissions,” said Kirsty Jenkinson, director of the Markets and Enterprise Program at WRI. “This report will help investors recognize the tremendous market opportunities in this nascent, but fast-growing sector.”
To estimate the current state of India’s clean energy market and potential for growth, CDF-IFMR and WRI conducted field research among rural BoP consumers in 26 small towns and villages in India and across four other countries. The teams also collected financial data from 15 Indian companies across four sectors-small decentralized renewable electricity producers, home-scale solar electricity providers, solar- powered lantern manufacturers, and energy-efficient cooking stove producers.
According to the report, the Indian BoP is currently spending $4.8 billion per year on energy, mainly for fuels that are harmful to the environment and hazardous to personal health as well as for services that are unreliable. Installed at the community level, small hydro and biomass gasification can supply energy to a local area without depending on the grid. At the individual level, solar lanterns and energy-efficient cook stoves can replace dirty fuel sources such as kerosene lamps and cooking stoves fired by wood or dung. The transition to clean energy sources among India’s rural poor offers significant growth potential for investors while also promising to provide tangible environmental, health and lifestyle benefits to the rural BoP in India.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently published two reports which offer valuable recommendations toward cutting energy consumption by as much as 50 percent in large offices and hospitals. Technical Support Document: Strategies for 50% Energy Savings in Large Office Buildings reports that a 50 percent energy savings can be achieved in both low-rise and high-rise office buildings in an extensive range of U.S. climates. Research was performed in 16 cities that represented different climate zones, such as hot and humid, hot and dry, marine, cold and humid, and cold and dry.
In order to reach the 50 percent energy-savings target, researchers simply reduced lighting power density in office spaces and utilized occupancy sensors throughout infrequently occupied spaces; installed high-efficiency boilers, chillers, air distribution units, and service water heating equipment; and reduced plug loads by purchasing high-efficiency electronic equipment which shut off when not in use. Large Hospital 50% Energy Savings: Technical Support Document reports the technical research conducted and the resulting design instructions that will help large hospitals reap energy savings of at least 50 percent above the standard.
As with large office buildings, the report found that 50 percent energy savings can be achieved in large hospitals spanning all eight U.S. climate zones. Energy savings range from 50.6% to 61.3%, with the smallest savings in humid climates and extremely cold climates.
Financing is under way and connection is planned before the year-end to qualify for Italy’s current 20-year feed-in tariff. juwi Energie Rinnovabili, a subsidiary of juwi Holdings, and the thin-film module manufacturer First Solar are also participating in the project.
“This transaction continues to demonstrate banks’ appetite for lending to solar projects sponsored by equity providers with a relevant track record,” said Jamie Richards, solar fund manager, Foresight.
Debt financing for the wind farm came from a division of the Intesa Sanpaolo Group and the transaction involved Foresight‘s Rome and London offices. “This transaction continues to demonstrate banks’ appetite for lending to solar projects sponsored by equity providers with a relevant track record,” said Jamie Richards, who manages Foresight’s solar funds.
“Our PV specialist local teams in Rome and Madrid are now also applying their experience to the UK PV market where Foresight is currently finalising project funding packages.” Foresight’s European Solar Fund invests in Italy and Spain, where it claims to have completed transactions for more than 30MW in operating and construction stage assets.
Just last year experts at the International Energy Agency proposed a target for China’s carbon emissions to peak in 2020 before declining if the world were to be saved from devastating climate change. Too late now. Figures from energy firm BP showed earlier this year that Chinese emissions will steamroll through the Paris-based IEA’s 2020 peak target next year, nearly a decade early, with no sign of slowing down.
China, which hosts U.N. climate talks next week for the first time, is promoting what it calls ambitious plans to boost energy efficiency and curb emissions. But its supercharged growth means even with rapid efficiency gains it cancels out other global efforts to combat climate change. China already emits a quarter of the world’s CO2, the main gas contributing to global warming, making it the world’s top emitter ahead of the United States. Its emissions have more than doubled since 2000.
Higher emissions from China and other big emerging economies, plus the failure of rich countries to slash emissions, could pump greenhouse gases to levels which scientists say augur a dangerous rise in average global temperatures by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F).
The IEA’s suggested target for China of 8.4 billion tonnes of CO2 per year by 2020, which would then fall, is in line with most other research for a safe peak, said Michel den Elzen at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. But the latest figures released by BP and den Elzen’s agency in June show China will hit that figure in a matter of months, rather than over the next decade.
The federal government is adopting a drilling safety rule and a workplace safety rule, imposing stricter requirements on offshore drilling operators, the Interior Department announced Thursday.
Energy industry officials said that they would review the regulations but that federal officials can now lift the ban on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico without fearing the consequences. “In light of these new regulations, we strongly encourage the Obama administration to lift its economically devastating moratorium and move forward with responsible deep-water exploration in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Bruce Vincent, chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.
Environmentalists countered that even strict rules wouldn’t make offshore drilling acceptable in all areas of the United States. “The next critical step in making our oceans and beaches safer from drilling is to declare all new areas off limits for drilling,” said Michael Gravitz, oceans advocate for Environment America. “The safest drilling of new places like the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, eastern Gulf of Mexico or the Arctic is no drilling at all.”
The drilling safety rule – which takes effect immediately – dictates specific procedures aimed at preventing a blowout, including cementing and casing practices and the appropriate use of drilling fluids. It also increases oversight of mechanisms – such as the blowout preventer – that would shut off the flow of oil and gas in an accident, and it requires operators to secure independent and expert reviews of well design, construction and flow-intervention mechanisms.