14 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for October 25th: Brazil plans a price on oil to accelerate climate efforts; Yemen’s capital will run out of water by 2025; Californias oldest trade organization opposes Prop. 23
Brazil expects to see its lowest rates of illegal deforestation since 1988 by the end of this year. Minister of Environment Izabella Teixeira said the government will reduce the annual chopping and burning of the Amazon rainforest to between 4,000 and 5,000 square kilometers. The figures will be announced in the run-up to this year’s U.N. climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico, this December.
The Amazon clearing is a far cry from the 24,000 square kilometers the so-called “lungs of the Earth” lost in the beginning of this decade. But, Teixeira said, it’s also not enough.
Last year, at climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, Brazil promised to reduce its carbon dioxide output 36 percent over the coming decade. Meeting that goal would bring Brazil — now the world’s seventh-largest emitter — back to its 1994 levels. This week, Teixeira said, President Luiz In¡cio Lula da Silva will sign Brazil’s sectoral strategy and investment plan to show how the country will meet that target. Also this week, Brazil will launch a long-planned climate change fund, bankrolled by a levy on oil production and exploration.
Together, these moves and others are part of a larger Brazilian strategy of assuming a new role in the U.N. climate talks: that of an emerging economic superpower intent on protecting smaller, developing countries while also proving to the United States and others that it will do its part to fight rising global emissions.
Water shortages in Yemen will squeeze agriculture to such an extent that 750,000 jobs could disappear and incomes could drop by a quarter within a decade, according to a report.
Poor water management and the enormous consumption of water for the farming of the popular stimulant khat are blamed for the predicted water shortages, which experts say could lead to the capital Sana’a running out of water by around 2025.
The report was produced by McKinsey&Company, an international management consulting firm, which was charged by the Yemeni government with identifying ten governmental priorities for the next decade. A preliminary draft of the report was released last month (24 September).
Yemen has no rivers, so the main sources of water are groundwater and rain. The study warns that almost 90 per cent of the country’s available freshwater is used for agriculture.
“Sana’a, the Yemeni capital, located 2,150 metres above sea level and 226 kilometres from the Red Sea shore, is facing depletion of its main groundwater basin,” said Mohamed Soltan, a hydrology expert who manages the city’s groundwater basins. “Sana’a will be the first city in the world to run out of water by 2025.”
The Independent Energy Producers Association is a leading non-profit California trade organization and the oldest of its kind in the state. Together, its members represent about one-third of California’s generating capacity, so when IEPA speaks, people listen. Yesterday IEPA Executive Director Jan Smutny-Jones spoke. He issued a statement declaring that “Proposition 23 will undo the remarkable progress green energy generators are making in California – and put thousands of clean energy workers out of work.” This is a pretty forceful declaration for a major business group, so let’s see what’s behind it.
IEPA was formed in 1982 and its mission is pretty straightforward, which among other things is to “ensure that California remains a healthy market for development in the independent energy industry.” The focus on forward development makes sense, given its membership. Though IEPA includes members that operate certain gas-fired facilities and co-generation plants, its main thrust is away from fossil fuels and into clean tech including biomass, geothermal, small hydro, solar, and wind. The passage of AB32, California’s landmark climate legislation, has helped to give IEPA’s mission a huge boost. Much of that would be undone by the passage of Proposition 23.
Smutny-Jones’s statement puts IEPA squarely at odds with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been pouring millions into attack ads across the country that are primarily directed against candidates who support clean energy legislation. In California, the Chamber has funded ads attacking the incumbent Senator, who is opposed to Proposition 23, and it has officially endorsed her challenger, who supports Proposition 23.
California is not an isolated case. A couple of other examples are Pennsylvania, where Joe Sestak is under attack, and Virginia, where Tom Perriello faces a challenger who favors oil drilling off the Virginia coast. In fact, when you look at Senate races across the country, IEPA has staked out a position that is the polar opposite of the entire slate of candidates put forth for Senate by a major U.S. political party: virtually all of them oppose clean energy legislation, and many have expressed doubt and downright denial over the science of climate change. In contrast, IEPA simply posts Governor Schwarzenegger’s statement affirming the power of regulated markets to reduce greenhouse gasses and “make California No. 1 in the fight against global warming.”
Leave it to larger-than-life Texas to lead the U.S. into a new energy future. While the state is most closely associated with oil, it has also been an early pioneer of wind power, and is beginning to embrace solar energy along with armloads of new green jobs. Now the San Antonio Water System has set the national bar high in the sewage-to-biogas field, by becoming the first water district to hook a biogas facility up to a commercial gas pipeline.
Methane gas, a powerful greenhouse gas, is a natural byproduct of the sewage treatment process. In conventional treatment plant operations, the general practice has been to simply burn it off. More recently, some treatment plants have installed equipment to capture the gas and use it as a power source, which significantly lowers the release of greenhouse emissions. One notable example is in Washington State, where new biogas equipment is being installed in combination with an efficiency overhaul, with the resulting savings enough to power about 210 homes annually.
Other large-scale facilities that manage animal waste are also installing biogas facilities. The advantages are many. Dairy farmers, for example, can use biogas equipment to lower utility costs, reduce waste disposal costs, and grow their business without running afoul of environmental protection regulations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has become a key mover of this trend through its AgStar biogas program. Biogas recovery at food processing plants can also help cut utility costs, and help large-scale processors avoid millions in fines due to improper waste disposal practices.
The new biogas system was installed in partnership with Ameresco, Inc. at the Dos Rios Water Recycling Center. Biogas captured at the facility is sold commercially through a nearby gas pipeline for an estimated $200,000 annually, which will help manage the cost of the treatment facilities. Biogas is just one-third of the Dos Rios “trifecta” as Ameresco calls it. Another component is biosolids, which just as in agricultural operations can be used as fertilizer. Third is the high quality water that comes out of modern sewage treatment plants, which in the case of Dos Rios is good enough to use for irrigating San Antonio’s famous Riverwalk as well as recreation facilities, parks and commercial properties.
Interested in re-roofing your house? Or building a home and wondering what roofing system to go with? Check this out”¦ Swedish company SolTech Energy has developed some cool-looking, award-winning solar glass roofing tiles. These are not active solar tiles but they are a passive solar roofing option.
The glass tiles can be installed using traditional roof tile installation methods, and the tiles have a longer life than conventional concrete or clay roofing tiles.
How does the solar glass roofing system work? Preston Koerner of Jetson Green reports: “air below the glass tile is heated by the sun and redirected for use by the central heating system. The system works with air-based and water-based heating systems, including, for example, a ground source heat pump, air heat pump, pellet boiler, oil boiler, or electric boiler.” The system is available commercially in Sweden and Spain and SolTech Energy intends to bring it to the U.S. in 2011.
The roof system is especially helpful in snowy climates since snow easily slides down the glassy tiles. The system won the Hottest New Materials 2010 award from the North Building Fair (aka Nordbygg).
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez signed agreements with Portugal on Sunday for the development of renewable energy projects which he expects will one day replace his country’s dominant oil industry. Portugal, which has no oil or coal, has in recent times pioneered developments in wind and solar power.
“This type of energy is the future,” Chavez said during a visit to a Portuguese factory making equipment for wind power generators. “We have to start getting ready for the post-oil era,” he said in televised remarks during a daylong visit to northern Portugal.
Chavez said Venezuela aims to develop wind energy projects at four sites in the country. Details of the green energy agreement were not immediately available. He also said his government plans to increase oil sales to Portugal, though he did not say how much more crude would be shipped. The president, whose country’s top oil client is still the United States in spite of political tensions, noted that Venezuela has been diversifying its market.
Chavez also signed a deal with a Portuguese company for the purchase of 1.5 million low-cost laptops. Venezuela already has bought 850,000 of the Portuguese-built computers designed for young schoolchildren. Venezuelan and Portuguese officials signed agreements pledging to deepen trade and cooperation in areas including agriculture and public housing.
Some 15 Mediterranean countries, including Israel and the Palestinian Authority, agreed Friday to work together to combat the effects of climate change that threaten the region. The countries signed a declaration at a climate change conference near Athens in Greece which called for “contributing to the emergence of low carbon, resource efficient and climate resilient economies.”
“Climate change threatens our way of life as people of the Mediterranean,” said Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who initiated the conference attended by his counterparts from Turkey, Libya, Malta, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority and environment ministers from some 15 countries.
The Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative also aimed “at developing common Mediterranean positions on climate change demonstrating leadership and strong commitment to action in the international arena,” a text of the declaration in English said. The agreement among the Mediterranean nations to address the problem of global warming, despite political conflicts between some of them, was hailed by some as a diplomatic breakthrough.
The Mediterranean initiative comes about a month before the United Nations conference on climate change which will be held in late November in Cancun, Mexico.
Scores of new hydropower projects are in some stage of development throughout North America as efforts to limit carbon emissions push utilities to seek more renewable power. The number of applications to build new hydropower projects in North America is on the rise amid pressure to reduce carbon emissions through the increased use of renewable resources for power production.
Many of these new projects venture far beyond the traditional concept of hydropower production from man-made reservoirs. Developers are pursuing projects that extract power from ocean waves, river currents, irrigation canals, and water pipelines. Other new projects target existing dams originally built for flood control and navigation.
Industry experts say the potential to make low-cost power from water has barely been tapped. Of the existing dams in the U.S., only 3 percent, or around 2,400, are equipped to produce electricity. The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates another 30,000 MW of hydropower capacity, including 17,000 MW at existing dams, could be developed in the U.S.
A study commissioned by the National Hydropower Association (NHA) shows a greater potential for new development. The technical potential for hydropower capacity in the U.S. is 400,000 MW, four times greater than the nation’s existing capacity of 100,000 MW, the study by Navigant Consulting shows. If the potential for new capacity is met, about 1.4 million jobs could be created by 2025, the study indicates.
The science behind New York design firm Atelier DNA’s “windstalks” is simple kinetic energy; the same energy found in a field of swaying prairie grass. Like many of the Land Art Generator exhibits, Atelier takes it cue directly from Nature to deliver resource-economical and highly effective but visually intriguing forms of energy and energy conservation.
Windstalk specifications call for 1,203 highly flexible carbon fiber poles 180 feet high and one foot in diameter at the base tapering to 2 inches at the top. The poles are filled with piezoelectric ceramic discs alternating with electrodes connected by cables along the length of each pole – one cable for positive-pole electrodes, another for negative-polarity electrodes. When the wind blows, the flexing of the poles compresses the discs, generating a charge which flows through the electrodes. Light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, at the top of each pole glow brighter or dimmer depending on the amount of energy being generated, or go entirely dark when the wind isn’t blowing.
Windstalk has also successfully evaded the more common complaints surrounding traditional wind turbines, namely, that they are noisy, emit annoying vibrations that affect humans, cows and other animals, and kill birds. In addition, designers have managed to incorporate energy storage that mimics hydropower.
Sponsored by Masdar City, an emerging, clean technology zone located outside Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, or UAE, the competition awarded Atelier’s offering, simply named Windstalk, second prize. Masdar City, which aims to be the world’s first carbon neutral and self-sufficient city via clean energy technologies like wind and solar, is being built by the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Mubadala Development Company.