Energy and global warming news for February 28: Greenland’s glaciers double in speed (with video); Global cuts threaten clean energy growth

Greenland’s glaciers double in speed (with video)

The contribution of Greenland to global sea level change and the mapping of previously unknown basins and mountains beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet are highlighted in a new film released by Cambridge University this morning.

The work of glaciologist Professor Julian Dowdeswell, Director of Cambridge University’s Scott Polar Research Institute, is the focus of This Icy World, the latest film in the University’s Cambridge Ideas series.

A frequent visitor to both the Arctic and Antarctic, Dowdeswell’s research has found that the glaciers around Greenland are the fastest flowing in the world.

He said: “There is evidence that some part of the ice sheet have doubled in speed up to 10 km per year in the last decade. That means the contribution of Greenland to global sea level change is increasing.”

“The numbers of icebergs released into the seas around Greenland is also increasing. We need to know just how fast these changes are taking place.

“Things are changing very rapidly here because the Arctic is the most sensitive part of the global climate system. Over the coming century, temperatures are likely to rise at double the global average here.”… “Glacier and ice-sheet change is a reality at both poles. The ice is thinning and retreating and that means water is flowing back into the global ocean. Today, sea level is rising 3mm per year; over the coming century, sea level is likely to rise by up to about 1m and it’s actually that rise – with the worst storm waves you can imagine – that could cause real damage.

“In those circumstances, sea defences can be breached and low lying areas of the world can be flooded. That has serious implications for humankind.”

Cuts threaten green energy growth, says Ernst & Young

Ernst & Young will on Monday release the latest analysis of global renewable energy markets with a warning that government spending cuts are threatening to undermine the industry’s continued expansion.

The latest update of the consultancy giant’s Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Indices confirms that overall investment in clean energy hit record levels during 2010, rising 30 per cent year-on-year to $243bn, according to figures from analyst firm Bloomberg Energy Finance.

However, the report, which rates countries based on their renewable energy policies, technologies and infrastructure, found significant country-to-country variations in the level of support available to renewable energy projects.

For example, China again cemented its position as the most attractive market for renewable energy investment with total wind energy capacity soaring 64 per cent year-on-year to 42GW, while the US market continued to expand after the Obama administration extended its high-profile Treasury Grant Program and announced plans for new clean energy targets.

However, the outlook was mixed for many other countries as governments sought to tackle budget deficits by trimming renewable energy incentives. For example, feed-in tariff incentives were cut in Spain, Germany and Italy, while France imposed a three-month ban on new projects, and the Netherlands and Australia also scaled back incentives.

Mass. company making diesel with sun, water, CO2

A Massachusetts biotechnology company says it can produce the fuel that runs Jaguars and jet engines using the same ingredients that make grass grow.

Joule Unlimited has invented a genetically-engineered organism that it says simply secretes diesel fuel or ethanol wherever it finds sunlight, water and carbon dioxide.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based company says it can manipulate the organism to produce the renewable fuels on demand at unprecedented rates, and can do it in facilities large and small at costs comparable to the cheapest fossil fuels.

What can it mean? No less than “energy independence,” Joule’s web site tells the world, even if the world’s not quite convinced.

“We make some lofty claims, all of which we believe, all which we’ve validated, all of which we’ve shown to investors,” said Joule chief executive Bill Sims.

“If we’re half right, this revolutionizes the world’s largest industry, which is the oil and gas industry,” he said. “And if we’re right, there’s no reason why this technology can’t change the world.”

The doing, though, isn’t quite done, and there’s skepticism Joule can live up to its promises.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory scientist Philip Pienkos said Joule’s technology is exciting but unproven, and their claims of efficiency are undercut by difficulties they could have just collecting the fuel their organism is producing.

Timothy Donohue, director of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says Joule must demonstrate its technology on a broad scale.

Perhaps it can work, but “the four letter word that’s the biggest stumbling block is whether it ‘will’ work,” Donohue said. “There are really good ideas that fail during scale up.”

Sims said he knows “there’s always skeptics for breakthrough technologies.”

“And they can ride home on their horse and use their abacus to calculate their checkbook balance,” he said.

Solar ‘Gold Rush’ in U.K. May Die With Incentive Roll-Back

Cornwall, the poorest county in England, said five months ago it expected a “gold rush” of $1.6 billion in solar energy investments. Now, the U.K. government may get in the way.

The central government said this month it’s considering cutting incentives and reducing the size of projects, concerned that the above-market rates it promised through April 2012 may lead to too many solar farms.

Britain is moving faster than any other European country to contain a surge in solar power and prevent the boom-and-bust seen in Spain and predicted for the Czech Republic. The risk is scaring off the investors who would create the “green jobs” Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking to revive the economy.

“It’s going to completely kill the market,” said Tim German, renewable energy manager for the local government in Cornwall at the U.K.’s southwest tip. “Investors are starting to get cold feet.”

Sharp Corp., the Osaka-based electronics maker which employs 1,100 U.K. workers after doubling the size of its panel factory in Wales, says the government may cripple the industry. Already, companies are scaling back. Matrix Group Ltd. and Ingenious Media Holdings Plc suspended solar funds seeking 55 million pounds ($89 million). Low Carbon Solar Ltd. says it can’t spend the 70 million pounds it secured from pension funds.

At Good Energy Group Plc, a clean electricity retailer based in Chippenham, England, Chief Executive Officer Juliet Davenport says she may only get 4 percent of the 100 megawatts of solar power-purchase agreements she wanted.

Saudi Arabia signs solar deal with South Korea

Saudi-based Polysilicon Technology Co (PTC) has signed a $380 million deal to build a polysilicon plant in the kingdom, it said on Sunday, as the leading oil exporter seeks to shift toward solar power.

Polysilicon is used in solar power to transform sunlight into electricity.

PTC a joint venture between Saudi Mutajadedah Energy Co (MEC) and South Korea’s KCC Corp (002380.KS: Quote) signed the engineering, procurement and construction contract with South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering Co [HYENG.UL] and KCC Engineering and Construction Corp.

The plant will be located in Jubail, on the Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia and will have an initial production capacity of 3,350 tonnes of solar grade polysilicon.

Saudi Arabia is seeking to diversify its energy resources, turning to solar and eventually nuclear to reduce its need to burn fuel oil for electricity and so preserve its oil for lucrative export markets.

Not a carbon copy of the U.S.

If per capita carbon emissions in China and India rose to car-happy U.S. levels, global emissions would increase by 127%, according to the International Energy Agency. If their emissions stopped at the levels found in hyper-dense Hong Kong, world emissions would go up less than 24%. As the Asian economies prosper, the United States should hope that they embrace the skyscraper more than the car, and we should reform our own policies that subsidize sprawl.

China, a manufacturing powerhouse, is already the world’s biggest carbon emitter, but ordinary Chinese remain remarkably parsimonious in their energy use. Matthew Kahn, Rui Weng, Siqi Zeng and I, in a study published in 2010, estimated carbon emissions for urban households in China, measuring only household emissions and personal transportation. In our sample, the average Chinese household emitted less than 2.2 tons of carbon dioxide a year, which is less than 1/17th of the levels that Kahn and I found in an earlier study of U.S. cities. Even the greenest U.S. metro areas, such as San Jose and San Francisco, emitted almost 12 times as much as carbon as the Chinese metropolitan areas.

Our American households typically used more than 1,000 gallons of gasoline a year driving; the Chinese used about 1/100th as much gasoline. In many American cities, carbon emissions from household electricity use can top 10 tons annually, but in China, the norm was slightly more than 1 ton per year. Poor countries heat before they cool, and China heats with particularly dirty energy sources, but even there, we found that the coldest Chinese cities were emitting about as much carbon in their home heating as Los Angeles, and far less than in the parts of America with real winters.

Iceland Wants Volcanoes to Power Europe’s Homes Through Longest Ever Cable

Europeans left stranded at airports last year as an Icelandic volcano spewed ash across the continent may soon benefit from the power that seethes beneath the remote north Atlantic island.

Iceland is doing a feasibility study into building a 1,170- kilometer (727-mile) power cable to Scotland to transport as much as 18 terawatt-hours of geothermal and hydropower a year — that’s enough to fuel as many as 5 million European homes. The project has the full backing of the government, Industry Minister Katrin Juliusdottir said in an interview.

“Icelanders live with earthquakes and volcanic activity but the benefits are that now we can monetize these powers,” said Valdimar Armann, an economist at Reykjavik-based asset manager GAMMA, who estimates annual clean-energy exports could reach about a tenth of the island’s $12 billion economy.
The island is trying to emerge from Europe‘s biggest banking meltdown this century to restyle itself as one of the European Union’s main sources of renewable energy. The power cable, which would be the longest of its kind ever built, would come as the EU strives to reach its target of 20 percent clean energy by 2020. In about 20 years, Iceland’s energy revenue per capita may rival that in Norway, where oil income has made its $540 billion sovereign wealth fund the world’s second-biggest, Armann said.

The U.K. day-ahead spot price values 18 terawatt hours at 828 million pounds ($1.33 billion), according to data available on Bloomberg. Landsvirkjun, a state-owned utility that produces 75 percent of Iceland’s electricity, is driving the feasibility study for the $2.1 billion power-cable project.

Re-energize the Economy

Nearly every governor in America is wrestling with budget issues, making unenviable choices on which services, programs or salaries to reduce or eliminate, and deciding whether higher taxes and fees are viable. Most governors are hemmed in by state requirements that the budget be balanced without deficit spending. And I know how daunting “” and all-consuming “” the task can be. What I hope does not get lost in this effort is the governors’ responsibility to help develop a clean energy economy in America, one that will help create jobs, wean us off foreign oil and protect the environment.

Building this new economy starts with understanding how clean energy legislation can create jobs. During my four-year term in Colorado, I signed 57 pieces of clean energy legislation. In 2007, for example, we doubled the proportion of energy in the state that is required to come from renewable sources to 20 percent by 2020. In 2010, we increased that to 30 percent for our biggest utility. As a result, Colorado now ranks fourth among the 50 states in its number of clean energy workers per capita, and 1,500 clean energy companies call our state home “” an 18 percent increase since 2004. Wind- and solar-energy companies that have built factories and opened offices in Colorado have brought in thousands of new jobs.

Greenland’s glaciers double in speed

30 Responses to Energy and global warming news for February 28: Greenland’s glaciers double in speed (with video); Global cuts threaten clean energy growth

  1. Colorado Bob says:

    One person dead, 110,000 acres burned in Texas wildfires

  2. Colorado Bob says:

    Bureau of Meteorology hydrologist Jimmy Stuart told AAP the Cassowary Coast region had received 600mm of rain in the past four days.

    Some suburbs in Cairns were also hard hit with 516mm of rain recorded at Kamerunga and 497mm at Cairns airport over the past four days.

  3. Robert says:

    “If per capita carbon emissions in China and India rose to car-happy U.S. levels, global emissions would increase by 127%, according to the International Energy Agency.”

    How about the US reducing emissions to China or India’s level.


  4. Colorado Bob says:

    In a press release, the group points to the Kochs’ involvement in the ongoing standoff between public employees and Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin:

    “Koch Industries, and oligarchs like them, have most recently started to manipulate the political agenda in Wisconsin,” “Anonymous” writes. “Governor Walker’s union-busting budget plan contains a clause that went nearly un-noticed. This clause would allow the sale of publicly owned utility plants in Wisconsin to private parties (specifically, Koch Industries) at any price, no matter how low, without a public bidding process. The Koch’s have helped to fuel the unrest in Wisconsin and the drive behind the bill to eliminate the collective bargaining power of unions in a bid to gain a monopoly over the state’s power supplies.”

  5. Brian N says:

    The 18 terawatt hours /yr is more easily understood as 2GW average power which is about 5% of U.K. ave power production roughly 40GW.
    And I would imagine this would be baseload supply!

    If Iceland were to start making DME (Dimethyl Ether is like ethanol C2H6O but with the oxygen atom in between the 2 carbons) that would be a great way to supply energy in liquid fuel to the world. I understand that DME burns like diesel and doesn’t mix with water like ethanol.

    IIRC a U.S. aluminum smelting company is also about to build a plant in Iceland.

    Iceland has great potential to become quite a RE export powerhouse.

  6. Colorado Bob says:

    Can a group of scientists in California end the war on climate change?

    The Berkeley Earth project say they are about to reveal the definitive truth about global warming

  7. Colorado Bob says:

    Climate change causing demise of lodgepole pine in western North America

    The researchers concluded that some of these forces have been at work since at least 1980, and by around 2020 will have decreased the Pacific Northwest range of lodgepole pine by 8 percent. After that, continued climatic changes are expected to accelerate the species’ demise. By 2080, it is projected to be almost absent from Oregon, Washington and Idaho, some of the areas facing the most dramatic changes.

    “For skeptics of climate change, it’s worth noting that the increase in vulnerability of lodgepole pine we’ve seen in recent decades is made from comparisons with real climatic data, and is backed up with satellite-observations showing major changes on the ground,” said Richard Waring, an OSU distinguished professor emeritus of forest science.

    “This is already happening in some places,” Waring said. “Bark beetles in lodgepole pine used to be more selective, leaving the younger and healthier trees alone.

    “Now their populations and pheromone levels are getting so high they can more easily reach epidemic levels and kill almost all adult trees,” he said. “Less frost, combined with less snow favors heavier levels of bark beetle infestation. We’re already seeing more insect attack, and we project that it will get worse.”

  8. Esop says:

    UAH troposphere temperatures just surpassed 2009 temps, and SSTs are within 0.04 degrees.
    This does not look good for the gullible ones (useful idiots) who bet their own money on global cooling.
    It also does not look good for those who claim cooling and also like to claim that they would like to bet big money on cooling (but always weasel out), like Bastardi and Corbyn (coincidentally two of the worst forecasters in the biz).

  9. Mike says:

    FutureGen to store carbon dioxide in Morgan Co. [Illinois]

    CHAMPAIGN (AP) – Developers of the FutureGen project have chosen Morgan County in western Illinois as an underground storage site for carbon dioxide generated by a nearby power plant they plan to refit with experimental low-emissions coal technology.

  10. Sasparilla says:

    Our courageous President and his intrepid administration (yes I’m being sarcastic), getting ready to deliver the coupe-de-grace to climate action in the US at the national level for years, are already putting the feelers out about how they’ll have to “give in” on the EPA and sign off on a two year delay (with lots of money and power wanting that “delay” to just keep getting renewed every couple of years).

    Not a surprise, as many will remember, the President said later last year he would be open to “compromise” on the issue as part of his strong going in negotiation position…looking just like the behavior on the climate bill by the administration and this is without Axelrod and Emanual in the administration supposedly guiding the President away from climate change…the President is just kicking this can off to the administration that follows his…following the same behavior (on climate change legislation) he has had since he got into office.

    There’s alot of money that wants things this way and both parties and their members take that money.

  11. Beesaman says:

    Esop, 2009 UAH temperatures had a big dip this month. But it will be interesting to see when 2011 reaches the average.

  12. Colorado Bob says:

    The city has already experienced its longest-ever run of nights where the minimum temperature did not fall below 20 degrees, and that mark is set to be extended even further in the next week.

    The number of officially “warm” nights is now 15, breaking the record of 13 set in 1985 and 1990, and the forecast is for more of the same for at least the next seven days.

  13. Prokaryotes says:

    Exclusive Super Leaks GreenLeaks is a media organisation that publishes information of environmental significance.

    We are committed to ensuring that information of public interest is used to inform environmental debate and good public outcomes.

    We publish information in its original form and facilitate a story finding an audience in local and international media.

    Importantly, we are not just interested in publishing information for its own sake, but take an active role in facilitating stakeholders using information to hold corporations and government to account, thereby improving public health and protecting the environment in their local communities.

    In short, we follow our stories through to fruition.

  14. Colorado Bob says:

    Water demand will ‘outstrip supply by 40% within 20 years’ due to climate change and population growth

    Read more:

  15. Prokaryotes says:

    Re +7

    “For the rest of the team, Muller says he picked scientists known for original thinking. One is Saul Perlmutter, the Berkeley physicist who found evidence that the universe is expanding at an ever faster rate, courtesy of mysterious “dark energy” that pushes against gravity. Another is Art Rosenfeld, the last student of the legendary Manhattan Project physicist Enrico Fermi, and something of a legend himself in energy research. Then there is Robert Jacobsen, a Berkeley physicist who is an expert on giant datasets; and Judith Curry, a climatologist at Georgia Institute of Technology, who has raised concerns over tribalism and hubris in climate science.”

    Really is ? The article is to much hype.

  16. climate undergrad says:

    Colorado Bob,

    The Berkeley Earth Project had almost made my day.

    That is until it presented Judith Curry as a team member (among what seems like an all-star cast) and the Charles G Koch Charitable Foundation as a source of funding (among other more reasonable sources.)

    Why is this the first I’ve heard of this? Is this a good thing? Is my day still made?

    I think we all expect what they will find; most people hear understand the difference between the IPCC and the NIPCC…

    But I’m having trouble interpreting this interpretation :)

  17. Colorado Bob says:

    On Wednesday, Feb. 16, the Colorado State Forest Service released the 2010 Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests at the annual Joint Ag and Natural Resources Committee hearing held at the State Capitol.

    Although the mountain pine beetle epidemic has largely run its course in north-central Colorado, insect and disease activity continued to stress the state’s forests in 2010.

    “From dying walnut trees in cities along the Front Range to spruce beetles attacking high-elevation forests in southwest Colorado, we continue to have concerns about forests throughout the state,” said Jeff Jahnke, state forester and director of the Colorado State Forest Service.

  18. Prokaryotes says:

    Calmer winds on Monday allowed an airborne assault on West Texas wildfires that destroyed dozens of homes and a dog kennel and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate.

    The 50-mile-per-hour winds whipping up the blazes that scorched 120,000 acres of bone-dry grasslands subsided and helicopters and tanker planes supported firefighters on the ground employing trucks and bulldozers. But it may take days to gain control of the several separate fires, authorities said.

    “It just takes so long get around those larger fires,” the Texas Forest Service’s Tom Spencer said.

    Fires destroyed 80 homes, many around Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle, the Forest Service said. Evacuations emptied a nursing home in Colorado City and a hospital in San Angelo, and the town of Matador.

    “It’s just overwhelming, I just panicked,” said

  19. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Colorado Bob #7. I am sure I read somewhere that Judith Curry had compromised her reputation as an honest scientist. Is that correct? ME

  20. Colorado Bob says:

    In Thailand, where he visited reefs last summer, nearly all were hit by bleaching.

    Andrew Baird, a scientist at the Australian Research Council’s Coral Reef Studies center, said he just returned from Indonesia’s Aceh province, where nearly 100 percent of corals died at most sites. He said the total loss of coral cover could range from 50 percent to 80 percent.

    “This is as bad as I have ever seen,” Baird said. A similar level of bleaching is likely in Thailand and India, but it isn’t nearly as bad elsewhere, he said.

    Read more:

  21. David B. Benson says:

    TNYT today had a short editorial on The Anthropocene.

  22. Michael T. says:

    75 Percent of Coral Reefs Under Threat
    New Analysis Released by the World Resources Institute

    Seventy-five percent of the world’s coral reefs are currently threatened by local and global pressures, according to a comprehensive analysis released by the World Resources Institute, along with the Nature Conservancy, the WorldFish Center, the International Coral Reef Action Network, Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, the UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Center, and a network of more than 25 partner organizations, including NOAA.

    For the first time, the analysis includes threats from climate change, including warming seas and rising ocean acidification.

    The most immediate and direct threats arise from local sources, which currently threaten more than 60% of coral reefs. Local threats include impacts from fishing, coastal development, and pollution. Left unchecked, the percent of threatened reefs will increase to more than 90% by 2030 and to nearly all reefs by 2050.

  23. Tim says:

    Brian, @6

    Dimethyl ether has a boiling point of –23.6 ˚C and a flash point –41 ˚C. In other words, it isn’t a liquid fuel because it isn’t a liquid at normal temperatures. Even diethyl ether is too volatile to be used a a fuel – its boiling point is 34.6 ˚C and it is the origin of many a fire in chemistry laboratories (which is one reason chemists prefer to use THF, a cyclic ether, when an etheral solvent is needed.)

  24. Prokaryotes says:

    GOP spending plan would cost 700,000 jobs, new report says

    A Republican plan to sharply cut federal spending this year would destroy 700,000 jobs through 2012, according to an independent economic analysis set for release Monday.

  25. Prokaryotes says:

    Australia spends $11 billion more encouraging pollution than cleaning it up