29 Responses to Energy and global warming news for January 3, 2011: Top wind farms had costs averaging $0.059 per kWh; Carbon dioxide causing Caribbean coral collapse; Climate change is the next security threat
Certain senators and the new Republican-controlled House are attacking the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to limit carbon pollution. This is likely to have devastating consequences for our environment and our national security.
Over the past 14 months, Operation Free and thousands of veterans across the country, from every generation, have worked to support a national clean energy policy. The Veterans for American Power tour visited hundreds of communities nationwide, meeting with thousands of Americans to deliver the message that U.S. national security is closely tied to our energy policy.
In Washington, veterans have met with scores of senators to ask for support for a climate and energy policy that reduces dependence on oil.
This oil dependence is among the most dangerous threats to U.S. national security. For years, senior military and intelligence officials have warned that too much of U.S. oil payments eventually trickle down to terrorists, who use it to buy the weapons used against our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Former CIA Director Jim Woolsey said it best: “This [the war on terror] is the first time since the Civil War where we are funding both sides of the war.”
Ignoring all the warnings and security implications, the Senate failed to consider comprehensive climate and energy legislation last session. To make matters worse, Congress will soon consider legislation to strip the EPA of its authority under the Clean Air Act. This would give polluters’ free reign to emit as much carbon pollution as they want, speeding up the effects of climate change and risking national security.
If climate change continues unchecked, we will see millions of people displaced globally, countries destabilized and U.S. troops mobilized to address these new threats.
The Defense Department calls climate change a destabilizing influence and “threat multiplier.” There is no better example of climate change as a destabilizing force than what happened in Pakistan last year. More than one-fifth of Pakistan was flooded by torrential rains and insurgents have pounced on the chaos-created opportunity to turn Pakistan into a breeding ground and safe haven for terrorist activity.
As predicted climate-related calamities occur — including drought and famine in unstable countries like Somalia, Sudan and Yemen — these are also likely to become breeding grounds for terror.
While some senators attempt to move us in the wrong direction, the Obama administration now has an opportunity to steer us back on track. Pushed by a diverse coalition that includes veterans and national security organizations, the EPA recently set new fuel efficiency standards of 60 miles per gallon by 2025.
Sixty miles per gallon by 2025 is an achievable goal that we must attain if we are to reduce dependence on oil and strengthen our national security. It will significantly cut demand for oil and drive prices down.
And by reducing the $1 billion a day that the United States spends on importing oil, the new standard would put less money into the pockets of Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his nuclear program and his recently developed “Ambassador of Death” missile. It would also significantly hamper other regimes seeking to do us harm.
Most Americans don’t think about climate change as a national security threat. But we must begin to focus on how it makes us vulnerable in a global context. Thousands of veterans, active duty troops, intelligence professionals and national security experts are doing this every day — and will continue the fight to secure America with clean energy.
It is in our national security interest to do so.
– Jonathan Murray, a Marine veteran, is the former advocacy director for the Truman National Security Project and former campaign director for Operation Free.
Wind’s competitive edge (EnergyBoom):
Mark Z. Jacobson, a Stanford University professor and the Director of the University’s Atmosphere and Energy Program, co-authored in 2001 a Science Magazine article entitled, “Exploiting Wind Versus Coal.” Jacobson reported then that when the health and environmental costs of coal-based energy are calculated, “the total price for coal-based energy”¦” ranges from “”¦$0.055 to $0.083 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh).” Interesting, since the U.S. Department of Energy reports that as of 2008, top performing wind farms in areas with excellent wind resources had costs averaging only $0.059 cents per kWh, a price clearly competitive with, if not far less than, the costs of coal.
So apples to apples, wind power projects don’t cost more than the polluting, all-too-familiar energy sources we’ve come to accept, if only because until recently, American consumers have had few options.
Researchers have developed a novel thermochemical reactor that uses sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into hydrocarbon-fuel precursors at a relatively high efficiency.
The feat is a key step toward using solar energy to produce much-needed liquid fuels more efficiently than may be possible with alternative methods, such as photocatalysis or microbial fermentation-based hydrocarbon-fuel production.
The new thermochemical reactor is believed to be more efficient than previously developed ones, whose efficiencies could not be comparably measured. And it is amenable to continuous operation, suggesting that an industrial-scale version of the process could be developed for solar towers.
The reactor was designed by solar technology specialist Aldo Steinfeld of ETH, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich; materials scientist Sossina M. Haile of California Institute of Technology; and coworkers (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1197834). It uses concentrated solar energy to thermochemically dissociate CO2 and H2O via cerium oxide redox reactions to produce CO and H2, respectively, with O2 as a by-product. CO and H2 form syngas, which can be processed to generate methanol, gasoline, and other liquid fuels.
The reactor’s solar-to-syngas energy conversion efficiency, experimentally measured with a 2-kW prototype, is 0.7 to 0.8%, which Steinfeld says is significantly higher than those of current photocatalytic methods for CO2 dissociation. A thermodynamic analysis indicates that efficiencies of 16% or more are achievable with the new reactor.
The study’s “solar conversion efficiencies are less than 1%, but these efficiencies set an important benchmark for further improvements in the use of pure solar thermal energy to split CO2,” notes renewable energy researcher Stuart Licht of George Washington University.
The novelty is the experiment’s relatively large scale, “the number of cycles demonstrated, and performing the demonstration long enough and in such a reproducible and controlled way that the efficiency can be carefully determined,” says thermochemistry specialist James E. Miller of Sandia National Laboratories. “It’s a step toward demonstrating what’s possible for a technology that has been underappreciated and deserves more attention.”