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Energy and global warming news for January 1, 2011: Wind energys 2010 Top Ten — Building and Bust

By Joe Romm on January 1, 2011 at 7:34 am

"Energy and global warming news for January 1, 2011: Wind energys 2010 Top Ten — Building and Bust"

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Wind’s 2010 Top Ten:  Uncertainty is the word for 2010, but wind has many ways forward [by Herman K. Trabish of Greentech Media]

The biggest headlines for the U.S. wind industry in 2010 held promise and foreboding for 2011.

1. Triumphant 2009 U.S. growth turns dismal.

The wind industry’s 10 gigawatts of new installed capacity in 2009 fell off in 2010 as a year of policy uncertainty created by the failure of congressional action prompted angry words from Jeff Immelt, the CEO of leading U.S. wind turbine manufacturer GE. “The rest of the world is moving 10 times faster than we are,” he said. “We have to have an energy policy. This is just stupid, what we have today.”

By the end of the first half of 2010, slow U.S. development caused Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Industry Association (AWEA), to describe the situation as “dismal.”

Third quarter 2010 projections suggested the industry would finish the year with perhaps 5,000 megawatts of new capacity, about half its 2009 performance, half Europe’s performance and a third of what China will have built in 2010.

2. Offshore wind starts turning around.

Cape Wind, the utility-scale installation proposed for Massachusetts’ Nantucket Sound, won the backing of the Department of Interior after fighting and overcoming every kind of siting and environmental impact objection by opponents ranging from the Hyannis Port Kennedy family to Cape Cod Native American tribes.

The advancement of Cape Wind was a banner triumph in a series of offshore policy clarifications, announced development plans, exploration lease permits, PPA signings and studies showing the enormous economic opportunities of Atlantic Coast and Great Lakes wind. With Europe at nearly 2,500 megawatts of offshore capacity and China’s handful of operational megawatts expanding, it looks like the U.S. may finally have an operating installation by 2015.

3. Advances in transmission: the other good news.

In California, Southern California Edison completed and inaugurated a new 1,500-megawatt capacity line that will deliver wind-generated power to Los Angeles. In doing so, it kicked off a new building boom in the Tehachapi Mountains, one of the state’s windiest regions.

With an estimated 300 gigawatts of potential wind capacity across the U.S. awaiting wires to carry it, the California achievement led a series of advances in transmission building, planning, and policy clarification that will drive development of all renewables.

Google joined a consortium committed to building the Atlantic Offshore Connection, an offshore backbone line to carry 6,000 megawatts to load centers on the Eastern Seaboard.

Wind-rich states in the Midwest and West adopted the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) concept established in Texas to identify where wind and other renewable assets are located and to make certain there is adequate transmission for them.

At year’s end, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a cost allocation plan for new multi-state transmission that is expected to speed new development.

4. China.

Lost amid the news of 2009′s triumphant U.S. wind capacity growth was the fact that China, for the first time, took over world leadership in new capacity installation. China now has at least two manufacturing companies among the world’s top ten (Sinovel and Goldwind). It is installing both new domestic transmission and new domestic wind capacity at mind-boggling rates.

Both Sinovel and Goldwind are, controversially, also making deals in the U.S. and around the world as world installed capacity moves quickly toward 200 gigawatts, led by emerging markets like Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, and India.

International competition is becoming fierce, but U.S. companies like GE remain in the game, suggesting how effective they could be if, like Chinese and European companies, there was real policy support.

5. Manufacturing takes root.

2010 saw new wind turbine tower, blade and nacelle manufacturing facilities go into service in states like Colorado, Arkansas, Iowa, and Kansas, and announced plans for new facilities in many other states went ahead despite uncertainty. It was a hint of the rebirth in U.S. manufacturing the wind industry could lead in a favorable policy climate because of its preference for sourcing its huge components near where they will be used rather than transporting them.

Wind power’s potential to provide blue-collar work was the basis for a new alliance between the wind industry and the United Steelworkers union. The first thing the new alliance called for was a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) because that would give manufacturers and developers the long-term policy certainty they need to build.

6. Integration.

Early in 2010, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released studies of the U.S. transmission system’s capability to integrate increasing portions of variable renewable energy. The Western Wind and Solar Integration Study (WWSIS) and Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study (EWSIS) strongly verified that wind can supply 20 percent to 30 percent of the country’s electricity without any risk to reliability if system operators’ access to available balancing mechanisms is maximized.

7. Bigger turbines.

In 2010, the 2.5-megawatt turbine, with a nameplate capacity adequate to supply power for nearly 500 U.S. homes, became the industry standard. The 845-megawatt Caithness Shepherd’s Flat project, to be the world’s biggest onshore wind farm when it goes online in 2012, will use GE 2.5-megawatt machines.

China’s Goldwind, like GE, is still selling “last year’s model” 1.5-megawatt turbines widely but more and more developers are opting for Goldwind’s 2.5-megawatt nameplate capacity, especially in China.

In Europe, where getting more production out of a single erected turbine is increasingly urgent and manufacturers are turning their attention to the stronger winds offshore, turbines in the 3-megawatt class from companies like ENERCON and Siemens are selling. GE, Goldwind and others are pioneering 4-megawatt machines.

American Superconductor and Clipper Windpower are working on 10-megawatt machines and, this month, Spain’s Gamesa announced it would lead a consortium in the development of a 15-megawatt turbine it says will be tested by around 2015.

8. Coming attractions appear.

The direct drive transmission got more attention in 2010. Startup Boulder Wind Power, helmed by former NREL head wind engineer Sandy Butterfield, opened for business in Colorado, and China’s Goldwind, which has been developing direct drive for some years, entered the world market. Many say direct drive transmissions, with fewer moving parts and a lower-maintenance profile, will soon find a solid niche, and some have even speculated about a complete transition away from standard gearboxes.

LIDAR (laser-based) technology from Natural Power and SODAR (sonar-based) technology from Second Wind both became more common in 2010, sometimes replacing and sometimes complementing traditional anemometer towers, as the accurate measurement of a site’s wind became vital in financing decisions and system operators’ integration practices.

Floating deepwater turbines became a reality in 2010 as Norway’s Statoil put its experience with offshore oil platforms to work and the newly DOE-funded DeepCwind Consortium National Research Program at the University of Maine began methodically developing scale models.

The year also saw important research from Canada further discounting the substantiality of so-called wind turbine syndrome as well as new protections for birds, bats, and radar.

9. Natural gas vs. wind, natural gas & wind.

Newly-tapped natural gas shale reserves kept supplies high, prices low and interest in building gas power plants stirred up. During wind’s 2005-to-2009 boom period, its primary competition for new generation was natural gas. In 2010, as new wind capacity dropped, natural gas took prominence and both consultant Black & Veatch and the DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicted big growth in natgas.

Some speculated about wind’s demise, but the Worldwatch Institute, among others, pointed out the crucial partnership between wind and natural gas for integrating higher levels of low-emissions energy into wider U.S. use.

10. Goodbye Renewable Electricity Standard; thank goodness for 1603.

Multiple studies and passionate speeches about the economic and other benefits of wind (and other renewables) did not convince U.S. Senate recalcitrants to institute an RES, and suddenly, on November 3, the Production Tax Credit (PTC), the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), the manufacturing tax credit (48C) and the 1603 Treasury Grant program all looked like potential targets for the newly elected spending-wary Congress.

It was therefore a celebrated, end-of-the-year triumph for the renewable community when the Obama Administration was able to convince the Senate to give the 1603 program, which makes tax credits viable in a recessionary economy, one more year of life.

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46 Responses to Energy and global warming news for January 1, 2011: Wind energys 2010 Top Ten — Building and Bust

  1. pete best says:

    You have to admire the technology behind wind, 10 and 15 MW turbines are on the horizon, deep sea projects too. Its all really compelling stuff but it needs infrastructure investment in the power lines especially in the USA. In China its all new so its easier I guess.

    If we look at installed global power capacity which is around 15 TW then replacing that is a long haul project as it takes 1000 GW of capacity to replace a TW. I would suggest that 200-400 GW of renewable power is required every year in all of its forms to replace 90% of that 15 TW in 50 years. Wind in 2010 managed 40 GW of increase and if we factor in all of the new nuclear, CSP, geothermal and hydro we might have a chance come 2010 to do it.

    Its daunting and it looks unlikely especially considering the amount of fossil fuels infrastructure being deployed as well as the renewables. However coal is a obvious target to replace and then we can tackle transport in the future once coal has gone.

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    I’m wary of this push toward natural gas. Being better than coal by virtue of emitting half its CO2 is still not good enough. It would mean that US emissions would decline very gradually, creating the illusion of progress with a result that is out of sync with what actually needs to happen.

    Drops in natural gas prices may be currently manipulated by companies such as Exxon Mobil (which recently bought a big natural gas company) as a way to capture the utility market if coal is actually going to be phased out. This process of intensive development leading to declining prices began under W Bush, as the rulebooks for gas drilling were thrown out, including chemical fracking reports and drilling access to public lands in the West. We saw something similar in the late 1970′s, when solar was making a push. Suddenly, in 1978, gas became so cheap that nascent solar companies went bust.

    Fossil fuel companies are hopelessly destructive, but they are also quite clever and ruthless. Those who oppose them need to develop those qualities.

  3. Nell says:

    With the permafrost melting, how can we get there from here?

  4. DaveE says:

    Mike Roddy (#2) I agree with you completely. I’ve seen this figure that natural gas is better than coal by a factor of 2, but I’ve also heard mention of losses of about 20% in the distribution of natural gas. If this is true would this largely negate the carbon savings for natural gas, at least in the short term until the methane oxidizes to water and carbon dioxide? Combine this with the possible environmental problems of fracking and it seems like we should be moving to renewables as rapidly as possible.

  5. Paulm says:

    2010: A Record Breaking Wet Year in the Caribbean

    By Rob Miller, Senior Meteorologist

    Jan 1, 2011; 11:00 AM ET
    Share |
    Residents of San Juan, Puerto Rico will remember 2010 as the wettest year on record.
    Throughout the year, 89.51 inches of rain accumulated in the city. This is nearly double the normal amount of yearly rainfall, which is 50.76 inches.
    Despite the excessive amount of rain, rain fell on 199 of the 365 days, which is nearly the average amount of rainy days in a year (average is 202 days). San Juan did, however, break 2 records on the way to the yearly record. The first record was the number of rainfall amounts over 0.25 of an inch, which occurred 95 times. The other record was the number of 1 inch or more rainfall amounts, which occurred 28 times in 2010.

  6. BB says:

    One of the biggest obstacles to Wind Energy in the US (especially New England)…is environmentalists themselves. They can get pretty NIMBY. Moreover, they don’t like disturbing the natural appearance of their window views, whether it be on a mountain or slightly offshore. Once they get over that, wind energy should be a breeze.

  7. Prokaryotes says:

    Cities evacuated as flooding spreads in Australia

    Residents of Rockhampton, Australia, joined a growing number of evacuees on Saturday as floodwaters threatened to sink the coastal city as the water spread across the country.

    Days of rain have overflowed riverbeds and flooded an area of Australia larger than France and Germany combined.

    “In many ways, it is a disaster of biblical proportions,” Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser told reporters in the flooded city of Bundaberg on Saturday. http://calgary.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20110101/australia-flooding-evacuations-110101/20110101/?hub=CalgaryHome

  8. Prokaryotes says:

    Over 364,000 affected in Sri Lanka floods

    … more than 364,000 people were affected by flash floods in several parts of Sri Lanka, Xinhua reported Saturday.

    The eastern Batticaloa district was the worst affected with over 330,000 people marooned, the disaster management centre said.

    A total of 1,400 houses were destroyed and 3,500 more damaged, it said. Over 16,000 affected people are housed in 63 relief camps. http://www.sify.com/news/over-364-000-affected-in-sri-lanka-floods-news-international-lbbuuddfedj.html

  9. Prokaryotes says:

    Floods ruin 60,000 acre paddy crops in Batticaloa district http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=33299

  10. Prokaryotes says:

    UNITED NATIONS: Millions of Pakistanis are still in need of assistance as they recover from the floods that inundated large portions of the country during one of its most challenging years, two senior UN officials stated Friday.

    “With an estimated 20 million people affected by devastating floods, the country faced its biggest ever humanitarian crisis,” Rauf Engin Soysal, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Assistance to Pakistan, and UN Resident Coordinator Timo Pakkala said in a joint message. http://www.dawn.com/2011/01/01/millions-still-in-need-of-post-flood-assistance-un.html

  11. Prokaryotes says:

    May Flood Shapes Middle Tenn. In 2010
    Biggest Local News Stories Reviewed
    For 36 hours on May 1 and 2, many parts of Middle Tennessee received 14 to 20 inches of rain — the equivalent of 420 billion gallons of water.

    There were 10,000 people forced out of their homes and 2,773 businesses damaged, putting about 15,000 out of work. Twenty-four people died, with 11 in Nashville alone.
    http://www.wsmv.com/news/26334752/detail.html

    US: In 2010, Edmond experiences ice, a 500-year flood and a battle over an apartment complex http://newsok.com/flood-hospital-expansion-top-2010s-news-in-edmond/article/3528371

  12. Prokaryotes says:

    Residents sort through belongings, assess damage after storms pass

    “As soon as I shut the door everything started rumbling underneath me,” Rolla resident Jason Stevenson told CNN affiliate KPLR. “The whole house looked like it imploded. I got picked up and down at least three times I know of before I come to a slamming halt up against a small little tree in front of the house.”

    “Unfortunately, this storm system is not letting up and we are dispatching additional Red Cross teams as the storms continue to plow across the country,” Spencer said.

    In Mississippi, the storm system knocked out power to nearly 20,000 homes in the central part of the state … Elsewhere, the storm caused injuries and damage in Pulaski and Laclede counties in Missouri, knocking out power at Fort Leonard Wood, a U.S. Army post that took a direct hit from a suspected tornado http://edition.cnn.com/2011/US/01/01/midwest.storms/

  13. Prokaryotes says:

    Twisters claim 7th victim as survivors clean up
    Two more injuries in storm overnight; parts of Alabama see rising waters

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Shaken residents spent New Year’s Day sifting through the wreckage wrought by tornadoes that touched down in several states in the final hours of 2010, killing seven people in two states and injuring dozens of others.

    Six of the victims — three in Missouri and three in Arkansas — died Friday as tornadoes fueled by unusually warm air pummeled the South and Midwest.


    Southard said nothing was left of the trailer except for the frame and that the twister scattered debris 40 to 50 yards from where the trailer had sat. The woman were found under a pile of debris, Southard said.

    “It’s like you set a bomb off in it,” Southard said in a phone interview. “It just annihilated it.”

    Parts of Alabama and Florida were on tornado watch for much of Saturday and the same storm system triggered flash flooding in parts of Alabama.

    “Several roads in and around Harstelle are becoming impassable due to rising water,” the National Weather Service reported, adding that Albertville and Guntersville also saw road closures.

    “In the winter you don’t always have the instability” that would allow tornadoes to develop, Buonanno said. “This time, we have the instability.”

    While the spring brings most of the region’s tornadoes, violent weather at this time of year isn’t unheard of. A February 2008 outbreak killed 31 in Tennessee and 14 in Arkansas, and in January 1999 two separate outbreaks across the South killed 18, including seven in Arkansas.

    A year ago, there were no tornado deaths nationwide between Oct. 9, 2009, and March 10, 2010.

    Buonanno said there appears to be some association between changes in South Pacific Ocean temperatures and changes in the flow of the jet stream in the central part of the United States, causing an uptick in violent weather. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40870720/ns/weather/

  14. Prokaryotes says:

    Mike Roddy said “I’m wary of this push toward natural gas. Being better than coal by virtue of emitting half its CO2 is still not good enough.”

    Exactly the supposed low carbon footprint of natural gas/dangerous Methane is nothing less than a MYTH!

    LNG is very dirty and the US seems to support these even in Qatar, according to a wiki cable.

    Quote

    While natural gas power plants emit approximately half the carbon dioxide of an equivalent coal power plant, the natural gas combustion required to produce and transport LNG to the plants adds 20 to 40 percent more carbon dioxide than burning natural gas alone.[16] With the extraction, processing, chilling transportation and conversion back to a usable form is taken into account LNG is a major source of greenhouse gases. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquefied_natural_gas

    “… they have the biggest carbon footprint on the planet”

    Wow!

    Qatar has experienced rapid economic growth over the last several years on the back of high oil prices, and in 2008 posted its eighth consecutive budget surplus. Economic policy is focused on developing Qatar’s nonassociated natural gas reserves and increasing private and foreign investment in non-energy sectors, but oil and gas still account for more than 50% of GDP, roughly 85% of export earnings, and 70% of government revenues.

    Oil and gas have made Qatar the second highest per-capita income country – following Liechtenstein – and one of the world’s fastest growing. Proved oil reserves of 15 billion barrels should enable continued output at current levels for 37 years. Qatar’s proved reserves of natural gas are nearly 26 trillion cubic meters, about 14% of the world total and third largest in the world.

    Qatar’s national income primarily derives from oil and natural gas exports. The country has oil reserves of 15 billion barrels (2.4 km³), while gas reserves in the giant North Field (South Pars for Iran) which straddles the border with Iran and are almost as large as the peninsula itself are estimated to be between 80 trillion cubic feet (2,300 km3) to 800 trillion cubic feet (23,000 km3) (1 trillion cubic feet is equivalent to about 80 million barrels (13,000,000 m3) of oil). Qatar is sometimes referred to as the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. Qataris’ wealth and standard of living compare well with those of Western European states; Qatar has the highest GDP per capita in the Arab World according to the International Monetary Fund (2006)[18] and the second highest GDP per capita in the world according to the CIA World Factbook.[9] With no income tax, Qatar, along with Bahrain, is one of the countries with the lowest tax rates in the world.

    Qatar has the highest per-capita carbon dioxide emissions, at 55.5 metric tons per person in 2005.[21] This is almost double the next highest per-capita emitting country, which is Kuwait at 30.7 metric tons (2005) and they are three times those of the United States. Qatar had the highest per-capita carbon dioxide emissions for the past 18 years. These emissions are largely due to high rates of energy use in Qatar. Major uses of energy in Qatar include air conditioning, natural gas processing, water desalination and electricity production. Between 1995 and 2011 the electricity generating capacity of Qatar will have increased to six times the previous level. The fact that Qataris do not have to pay for either their water or electricity supplies is thought to contribute to their high rate of energy use. Despite being a desert state they are also one of the highest consumers of water per capita per day, using around 400 litres http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qatar

    http://climateprogress.org/2010/12/02/qatar-2022-world-cup-bid-stadiusm-outdoor-air-conditioning-system/

  15. Prokaryotes says:

    Australia faces ‘biblical’ floods
    Tens of thousands of Australians have evacuated their homes as “biblical” floods deluged an area of Queensland as big as France and Germany combined, with fears of worse to come.

    Army helicopters dropped supplies to stranded towns, police patrolled in boats looking for looters, and families were warned of the risk from giant saltwater crocodiles and poisonous snakes being washed into urban areas.

    The state’s transport system has ground to a halt in places, and mining has been badly hit, with some companies telling customers abroad that they cannot deliver coal supplies.

    Some small towns have been completely evacuated, leaving only a few police behind to protect properties against looters. Flights over the floodwaters revealed vehicles floating and horses and cattle swimming to try to find dry land.

    Police in the coastal city of Rockhampton, home to 77,000 people, were preparing families for evacuation before flood levels peak on Tuesday or Wednesday as massive amounts of water head downstream.

    Brad Carter, the town’s mayor, warned that about 40 percent of the city could be submerged, and that residents must be prepared to evacuate to higher ground for at least two weeks. He warned that the town could be cut off for ten days, with the risk of flooding cutting roads and shutting down the town’s airport.

    We’re still directly battling flood waters – we haven’t seen the peak of the flood yet at centres like Rockhampton

    Mrs Gillard said the mining sector had been particularly badly hit.

    “They’ve had to say to the people who buy their minerals that at this time, circumstances are such that they can’t keep supply moving,” she told reporters.

    “Even those mines that could continue to mine obviously have got difficulties with supply routes because so many roads have been affected,” she said, adding that farmers, small businesses and tourism would also suffer. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/8235159/Australia-faces-biblical-floods.html

    Mining for energy is more secure with clean tech. submerged Wind Parks are still capable to DELIVER during tuff times.

  16. Brian N says:

    Alas Capacity Factor has not been mentioned which in the U.S. is 30% and upto 35% in other places for farms. Individual sparse turbines can have much hight CF because the local grid can more easily regulate ie accept their output.

    Its correct to say above that a turbine with 2.5MW nameplate capacity provides for 500 US homes but note an ave U.S. homes draw 1.5kW so just 750kW is actually being delivered from such a turbine.

    For wind to provide say 20% of U.S. current ave production of about 440GW, you would need vastly more than 88GW nameplate capacity if nothing else changed in the grid. Massive investment in HVDC super grids, perhaps some pumped hydro storage, thermal storage, flywheel storage, smart grid and predicable wind analysis will all improve CF maybe to 60%.

    I’m most hopeful that a new energy storage invention from a U.K. startup called Isentropic will be the best solution. It uses a reversible Ericsson cycle heat engine + motor/generator. It creates a huge thermal delta in an insulated gravel store with hot + cold regions either side of the heat engine. The inventors believe the returned electricity can be 70% efficient and use 1/1000 of the ground area of pumped hydro storage. They also claim it should reverse between charging and discharging very quickly.
    http://www.isentropic.co.uk/

  17. espiritwater says:

    No flooding here (N.E. coast, U.S.). However, the heat’s turned off, windows open, and people outside with short sleeve shirts. In January! Seems like a warm, spring day! Oh, and I saw a bee outside– alive!

  18. Prokaryotes says:

    This is not Hollywood

    Extreme Weather Impacting Australia
    Military aircraft are dropping supplies to towns cut off by floods in northeastern Australia in an area larger than France and Germany combined.
    http://www.newslook.com/videos/279477-extreme-weather-impacting-australia?autoplay=true

    A heatwave in Australia’s south by south from Queensland (when you drive 21 hrs).

  19. catman306 says:

    It wasn’t ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ after all. That’s Hollywood. Very dramatic to sell tickets.

    Should have been ‘The Year After Next’. Slower time scale because the Earth is enormous compared to a person. But ‘The Year After Next’ will still be dramatic when it’s happening to you. No ticket required.

  20. catman306 says:

    Espiritwater, an experienced sailor doesn’t mention how good the weather is because it can change to watery hell in a couple of hours. For your sake, please don’t temp the furies.

  21. Charles says:

    Prokaryotes, I’m sure you mean well, and your posts sometimes contain interesting material, but there are so many OT posts of yours in this thread that it is distracting.

    Joe, maybe this issue has been dealt with in the past, but an overabundance of OT posts, especially long ones, causes me to lose interest.

  22. David B. Benson says:

    In this region, 30% capacity factor has been considered good enough to plant a wind turbine farm. One utility, which has most of the wind farms so far, generates 1.7 MW when the wind blows. When it doesn’t, BPA’s hydro is used instead, but for a single CCGT which maybe is also used for wind turbine backup.

  23. David B. Benson says:

    Clicking on Western Wind and Solar Integration Study (WWSIS)
    resulted in
    There was an error opening this document. The file is damaged and could not be repaired.

    Too bad, I certainly wantedd to read the report.

  24. Prokaryotes says:

    Video: Saffron Farmers in Kashmir Suffering from Climate Change

    Saffron farmers in the Kashmir area around Pampore are facing declining crops due to climate change. Over the past few years the winter snow cover has diminished, affecting the crop yield.

    Saffron has been used by people in food and as folk cures for thousands of years. It is the dried stigmas and styles(female parts of the flower) of Crocus salivus. A kilo of the dried product fetches about US$4000. That seems like a huge price, but it takes hundreds of thousands of crocus flowers to yield a kilo of saffron. http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/7766556-saffron-farmers-in-kashmir-suffering-from-climate-change

  25. Prokaryotes says:

    Industries and factories stop burning petrol and sending poison into the atmosphere

    India’s hidden climate change catastrophe

    Over the past decade, as crops have failed year after year, 200,000 farmers have killed themselves

    The death of Mr Naik, a smallholder in the central Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, in July 2009, is just another mark on an astonishingly long roll. Nearly 200,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves in the past decade. Like Mr Naik, a third of them choose pesticide to do it: an agonising, drawn-out death with vomiting and convulsions.

    The death toll is extrapolated from the Indian authorities’ figures. But the journalist Palagummi Sainath is certain the scale of the epidemic of rural suicides is underestimated and that it is getting worse. “Wave upon wave,” he says, from his investigative trips in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. “One farmer every 30 minutes in India now, and sometimes three in one family.” Because standards of record-keeping vary across the nation, many suicides go unnoticed. In some Indian states, the significant numbers of women who kill themselves are not listed as “farmers”, even if that is how they make their living.

    “Every suicide can be linked to Monsanto,” says Ms Shiva, claiming that the biotech firm’s modified Bt Cotton caused crop failure and poverty because it needed to be used with pesticide and fertilisers. The Prince of Wales has made the same accusation. Monsanto denies that its activities are to blame, saying that Indian rural poverty has many causes.

    Beyond any argument – though no less politically charged – is the role of the weather in this story. India’s climate, always complicated by the Himalayas on one side and turbulent oceans on the two others, has been particularly unreliable in recent years. In Rajasthan, in the north-west, a 10-year drought ended only this summer, while across much of India the annual monsoons have failed three times in the past decade.

    India’s 600 million farmers and the nation’s poor are often the same people: a single failed crop tends to wipe out their savings and may lead to them losing their land. After that, there are few ways back. The drought, following a failed monsoon, that I saw in Andhra Pradesh in 2009 was the tipping point that drove Mr Naik to suicide.

    Such tragedies and even the selling of children for marriage or as bonded labour – a common shock-horror news story in India – are the most dramatic results. But far more common is the story of rural families migrating, in tens of millions, to India’s cities, swelling the ranks of the urban poor and leaving holes in the farming infrastructure that keeps India fed.

    She looked bereaved as she talked of the damage the 10-year drought had done. “It crushes people,” she said. “Before, we were able to deal with drought. It would come every four years, and you could prepare. We would store grain and people could share it. In the past, when your buffalo wasn’t giving milk, neighbours would share theirs. But now kindness is no longer possible.”
    It is widely agreed that there have been radical shifts in the weather patterns in India in the past two decades; what is less certain are the causes. Is the change in the weather “climate change”? For many development workers, the question needs answering, because the collapse of India’s rural economy – if it continues – will bring about a catastrophe that will affect people far beyond India’s borders: even rumours of a poor monsoon or bad harvest in India tends to send food prices on the world commodity markets soaring, as they did again this spring.

    Alka Awasthi, of Cecoedecon, a Rajasthani rural poverty organisation part-funded by Oxfam, asks: “When is the data going to catch up with the stories? Why don’t the scientists come and listen to people who actually work with the rain? They don’t know what a woman like Prabhati Devi is dealing with.”

    Dr Singh is in no doubt, though, that the changes in weather have increased poverty in rural India – and that there lies a huge injustice. “Climate change puts the onus on the poor to adapt – but that’s wrong. Who is using the planes, the cars and the plastic bottles? Not the poor man with no drinking water.”

    For Mrs Devi and Sugali Nagamma, though, such debates are meaningless. I asked Mrs Devi if she had a question to ask me. “If these industries and factories stop burning petrol and sending poison into the atmosphere will it bring our rains back?” I had to tell her I did not know. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/indias-hidden-climate-change-catastrophe-2173995.html

  26. Prokaryotes says:

    Al Gore to keynote Aspen symposium linking climate change, beetle kill

    Former Vice President Al Gore will be in Aspen in February to attend what’s believed to be one of the first major public symposiums linking global climate change to the deteriorating health of forestland in the American West due to ongoing insect infestations and the growing threat of wildfire.

    “Forests At Rick: Climate Change & the Future of the American West” is scheduled for Feb. 18 at the Doerr-Hosier Center on the campus of the Aspen Institute. Gore, a Democrat, Nobel laureate and Oscar-winning advocate for reversing the impacts of global climate change, will be the keynote speaker.

    Harris Sherman, former head of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources and current Obama administration undersecretary of agriculture for natural resources and environment (with oversight of the U.S. Forest Service), will kick off the event, which is sponsored by the Aspen-based nonprofit For The Forest.

    Several scientists and forest health experts will also speak and conduct workshops throughout the day, culminating in the keynote address by Gore. Deteriorating forest health and the looming threat of catastrophic wildfires were hot topics this summer and fall as major blazes raged in and around Boulder and Winter Park – areas hit by an ongoing mountain pine bark beetle epidemic. http://coloradoindependent.com/70902/al-gore-to-keynote-aspen-symposium-linking-climate-change-beetle-kill

  27. Prokaryotes says:

    Industrial Farming and Climate Change

    Industrial farming methods contribute to climate change. Whether you believe the evidence of global atmospheric warming or not, there is overwhelming evidence that changes are occuring in our climate. While climate change is a natural occurence over geological time, we are currently seeing some rapid fluctuations in weather around the globe. We have been bombarded with messages about how we need to change our livestyle in the developed countries to do our part to damp down these changes.

    There are three main gases that contribute to the Earth’s greenhouse effect. Without the balanced interaction of these gases, Earth would be a much colder place and life as we know it would not exist. Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide help trap the sun’s radient heat inside our atmosphere, much like a greenhouse traps heat, or a closed car’s interior on a summer’s day warms up and holds heat in.

    Most of us are well aware of the part that carbon dioxide plays in atmospheric warming. The burning of fossil fuels like coal since the Industrial Revolution has accelerated. Forests and humus in soils act like carbon banks to sequester some of this carbon. We have been made aware that our private vehicle use has added to the carbon load. http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/7766691-industrial-farming-and-climate-change

    Industries and factories stop burning petrol and sending poison into the atmosphere!

  28. Prokaryotes says:

    Have a look this article seems to spin or where is the denial?

    Corporations Favor EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases

    Earlier this month corporate climateers including Nike and 3M were given awards — supposedly “the equivalent of an Oscar for the climate change mitigation world” — for their efforts to reduce their carbon emissions. The honors were bestowed by the Carbon War Room, which “harnesses the power of entrepreneurs to implement market-driven solutions to climate change.” The Virgin Group’s Richard Branson is one of the nonprofit’s co-founders.

    As reported earlier this month by NLPC, Nike also co-signed a letter to President Obama that called for U.S. leadership in an initiative to create and finance the Global Climate Fund, which was established at the UN climate talks in Cancun in early December. Similarly as part of the Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy — created by environmental pressure group Ceres — Nike endorsed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his colleagues to urge Congress to allow the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions:


    We are writing as major US businesses to urge you to oppose all riders to the FY11 Interior Appropriations bill that would block or delay enforcement of the Clean Air Act and /or specifically curtail EPA’s ability to take action on the regulation of carbon.

    For nearly two years, our coalition, Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy [BICEP] has worked with members of Congress toward passage of comprehensive climate and energy legislation because we believe it is critical to the health of our businesses and essential for job creation and innovation in the United States.

    It is important to underscore that we have always believed strongly that Congress should lead on setting climate and energy policy for the United States. However, in lieu of Congress’s ability to pass a comprehensive bill we feel that EPA’s legitimate authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions should not be constrained at this time.

    http://www.nlpc.org/stories/2010/12/31/corporations-favor-epa-regulation-greenhouse-gases

    Other members of BICEP include Levi Strauss & Co. …

    Levi Strauss exec says measure to suspend global warming law would ‘turn back the clock’ for business http://climateprogress.org/2010/10/07/levi-strauss-exec-says-measure-to-suspend-global-warming-law-would-%E2%80%98turn-back-the-clock%E2%80%99-for-business/

    Did Levi Strauss suddenly made up his mind or is this … ?

  29. David B. Benson says:

    Wind and solar are new and interesting, but can only hanlde about 25% of the requirements. To replace those many hundreds of coal burners, consider nuclear power.

  30. Prokaryotes says:

    Giant oil and gas reserves off the southeastern coast of Brazil are the country’s “passport to the future,” President Dilma Rousseff said as she took office Saturday, while highlighting the importance of national control over the new-found wealth. http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20110101-700463.html

  31. riverat says:

    It seems obvious to me that when you’re talking about renewable energy generating capacity you need to overbuild that capacity by a substantial amount in order to cover times of peak load and also when the conditions for generating power are less than ideal. So there will be times when there is way more power available than can be used. We’ve already seen that here in the Northwest when wind turbine operators have been asked to take their turbines offline because of excess power availability. One way to use that excess capacity is pumped storage but it occurred to me there is another possibility.

    I wonder if it is possible and practical to develop a device that could use that excess power when available to crack the carbon atoms from the oxygen molecules in atmospheric CO2? You could site it near the generators so it wouldn’t be necessary to transport the power any great distance. It would be one way to start actively reducing CO2 in the atmosphere. I imagine it’s too costly but it might be worth investigating.

  32. David B. Benson says:

    riverat @8 — Yes, it is possible to force the chemical reaction
    CO2 –> C + O2
    by the addition of quite a bit of energy (more than one obtained from the reverse reaction). At least in the lab, one can do much better than natural photosynthesis just by using all the sunlight:
    STEP: new solar-powered process removes CO2 from the air and stores it as solid carbon
    http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=17198.php

  33. Roger says:

    Charles (@23) says,

    “Prokaryotes, I’m sure you mean well, and your posts sometimes contain interesting material, but there are so many OT posts of yours in this thread that it is distracting.”

    Sorry to disagree, but my wife and I read CP every day and we very much appreciate Prokaryotes’ posts, both on and off topic: They provide welcome variation from the topic, while also helping us to keep up with fresh climate-related news. Those who’d like can skip these posts.

    So, dear Prokaryotes, please carry on, knowing that you’re revered.

    Warm January regards,

    Roger

  34. riverat says:

    David B. Benson @34 – Yes I know the chemical reaction part doable. What I wonder is if it could be a practical use of excess power when it’s available. Could we do enough of it to make a difference?

    The nonowerk link was interesting but it works on solar thermal power and is a standalone device. What I’m thinking about is a device that uses the excess electrical power when supply exceeds demand and there’s no way to store it.

  35. paulm says:

    11th-hour really is spot on.
    I can’t believe I hadn’t viewed it before.
    I can’t believe it was done 3yrs ago and nothings been achieved.

    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/11th-hour/

  36. Prokaryotes says:

    Hydrogen production comes naturally to ocean microbe
    Cyanobacterium gives off hydrogen as by-product of day-to-day processes.

    A seemingly unremarkable ocean microbe turns out to be a multitasker — it can not only photosynthesize, but can also produce large amounts of hydrogen, opening up a potential way to make the gas cheaply for fuel.

    The single-celled cyanobacterium Cyanothece 51142 can make hydrogen in air, Himadri Pakrasi of Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, and his colleagues report in Nature Communications1. Until now, the only organisms known to make hydrogen could only produce it in an oxygen-free environment — making it a potentially expensive process to scale-up.

    Cyanothece 51142 was discovered in 1993, off the coast of Texas, by Louis Sherman of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, a co-author on the study. Pakrasi later discovered that the bacterium has a two-stage daily cycle. During the day it undergoes photosynthesis, using sunlight and carbon dioxide to make oxygen and branching chains of glucose molecules called glycogen. When the Sun goes down, the microbe’s nitrogenase enzyme kicks into action, using the energy stored in the glycogen to fix nitrogen from the air into ammonia. Hydrogen is formed as a by-product.
    http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101214/full/news.2010.673.html

  37. Prokaryotes says:

    Power Plants: Engineers Mimic Photosynthesis to Harvest Light Energy
    Theoretical models suggest ways for optimizing artificial photosynthesis to turn light into energy the way plants do

    Engineering artificial systems like those involved in the light harvesting step of photosynthesis calls for a different design approach, says Seth Lloyd of M.I.T. and the Santa Fe Institute, who also works on quantum coherence in photosynthesis. “Natural selection is adding quantum design features and tuning them to the point where it is just complex enough to get the job done without compromising robustness.” Engineers are often advised to keep it simple, but Lloyd says not too simple: “You want to have as many knobs that you can turn as functions you want to accomplish.”
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=power-plants-engineers-mimic-photosynthesis

  38. Prokaryotes says:

    First victim dies in Australia’s ‘biblical’ flood
    Woman missing; new evacuations along coast as waters head for sea

    A weather system that forecasters said could become a tropical cyclone brought gale-force winds, forcing several leading oil producers to halt operations and evacuate staff. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40869765/ns/weather/

    More than 1,000 dead birds fall from sky in Ark. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40874105/ns/us_news-environment/

  39. Prokaryotes says:

    Floods to force up fruit and veg costs
    The cost of fruit and vegetables is set to rise dramatically as a result of the flooding in Queensland.

    Floods have wiped out crops in several key food growing regions of the state.

    Foods like bananas, mangoes and pumpkin are expected to cost up to four times as much starting next week.

    John Cummings of the National Association of Retail Grocers says the price rises will last at least two months.

    “But it could be longer, people have to wait until the floodwaters actually subside before they can start to have real assessments of where their farms are and what their future for production is,” he said.

    Fruits like apples and oranges are not likely to be affected. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/01/02/3104991.htm

  40. The news articles appear to point in the same direction and toward the same outcome. That is the great shame.

    Many too many so-called experts have consciously and willfully chosen NOT to openly discuss the root cause(s) of the global predicament resulting from human overpopulation of the Earth because they did not think it would be helpful, I suppose. But look at what silence during the last 60 years has wrought. Elective mutism by so many experts regarding outstanding empirical research of certain human population issues, particularly human population dynamics, has effectively and perniciously vanquished science. This outcome could be the most colossal failure of nerve in human history. The consequences of this incredible mistake do not simply threaten a civilization with collapse. The collapse of civilizations has occurred before. Sometimes on a smaller scale and other times on a larger one. But at no time in history can I find records of the precipitation of a human-driven collapse with such profound implications not only for a civilization, but also for life as we know it and the integrity of Earth as a fit place for human habitation. The ‘brightest and best’, most knowledgeable people, those in positions of much influence and great power, have not spoken out loudly, clearly and often enough.

    When scientific knowledge is deludedly regarded as a threat to human wellbeing, and intellectual honesty, moral courage and personal accountability are everywhere eschewed, how on Earth do we ever give ourselves so much as a chance of mitigating damages, much less “solving” problems for which we bear a large share of responsibility?

    I do not know what the future holds for the children. I am hoping they will find ways to muddle through. If they manage to do so, it will likely not be the result of the efforts of those in my not-so-great generation of elders. We have failed them so far “on our watch” and will continue to do so as long as we continuously choose to keep doing the same unsustainable overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities we adamantly advocate and relentlessly pursue in our time, I suppose.

    Silence will not save anyone from anything, and surely will not save humanity from itself. Perhaps we can agree that the Earth will go on, with or without the human species.

  41. Prokaryotes says:

    Video

    Australia floods: New storm forecast for Queensland

    A severe thunderstorm threatening flash floods has been forecast for the already badly inundated Australian state of Queensland. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12105078

  42. Biff says:

    Charles #23

    I voiced this same opinion a week or so ago and was ridiculously labelled a ‘denier’ by Mr Prokaryotes. I’ve been reading CP for a long time but prokaryotes seems like a recent addition to the comments section, and an unwelcome one IMO. Unfortunately most of the other commenters seem to appreciate his input so I guess we’re outvoted. Like you, I find it rather wearying sorting through his endless ramblings to actually read comments related to the topics covered in the News section.

    I just hope he realises that incessant ‘end of the world’ predictions regarding weather variability can actually be counter productive. As an environmental consultant, one of the biggest issues I deal with is scepticism, and labeling everything as a climate change-induced apocalypse doesn’t help. For example, the current flooding in Australia may or may not be linked to climate change. What has to be remembered is that this island continent has always had extreme weather variability. I’ve lived in rural parts of NSW and can vouch for that first hand.

    We’re all ‘believers’ on this blog. I would welcome prokaryotes starting his own website to highlight weather-induced disasters and the links to climate change. May actually help to convert the sceptics.

    [JR: The 'news' posts are for people to post news as much as they are for people to comment on the news that is posted. Most people seem to like it that way. The only alternative is for people to post news on individual posts, much of it which would not be germane at all. I view this as a reasonable compromise.]

  43. Charles says:

    Fair enough, Joe. A reasonable compromise, and if some people like his posts, fine. I’ve given up reading any of them, agreeing with Biff that his weather postings don’t serve to do much.