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