Energy and Global Warming News for November 16th: Troposphere warming, as climate science predicted; Clean energy jobs still on the rise

Troposphere is warming too, decades of data show

(Reuters) — Not only is Earth’s surface warming, but the troposphere — the lowest level of the atmosphere, where weather occurs — is heating up too, U.S. and British meteorologists reported on Monday.

In a review of four decades of data on troposphere temperatures, the scientists found that warming in this key atmospheric layer was occurring, just as many researchers expected it would as more greenhouse gases built up and trapped heat close to the Earth.

This study aims to put to rest a controversy that began 20 years ago, when a 1990 scientific report based on satellite observations raised questions about whether the troposphere was warming, even as Earth’s surface temperatures climbed.

The original discrepancy between what the climate models predicted and what satellites and weather balloons measured had to do with how the observations were made, according to Dian Seidel, research meteorologist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It was relatively easy to track surface temperatures, since most weather stations sat on or close to the ground, Seidel said by telephone from NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory in Silver Spring, Maryland, outside Washington….

When the 1990 study was published, showing a lack of warming in the troposphere especially in the tropics, it prompted some to question the reality of surface warming and whether climate models could be relied upon, NOAA said in a statement.

This latest paper reviewed 195 cited papers, climate model results and atmospheric data sets, and found no fundamental discrepancy between what was predicted and what is happening in the troposphere. It is warming, the study found.

In short, Spencer and Christy are still as wrong as ever (see “Should you believe anything John Christy and Roy Spencer say?”)

2011 Outlook for clean energy jobs in the U.S. — Beating the trend

New Hampshire, United States — The reports are so grim, it is hard to believe at times. America is staring down a 10% unemployment figure and the number doesn’t seem to budge as the months tick by.

Analysts report that if you take into account the number of Americans that have stopped looking for employment as well as the number who have found only part-time work but seek full-time employment, the figure is more like 18%. In California, it’s 22%, an unemployment percentage that hasn’t been seen since the depression. In total, as many as 30 million people are looking for work right now.For years, the clean energy industry has claimed that it is the one bright spot in the U.S. economy. While other industries shrink and lose jobs, clean energy grows.

In looking at the data, it is clear that in all renewable energy technologies but one, in 2011 there will be significantly more jobs than there are now. The simple fact is that clean energy is indeed growing and creating jobs, but with U.S. unemployment figures so large, it’s just been hard to notice.

The solar power industry doubled the number of people that worked in the industry from 2009 to 2010, from approximately 50,000 in 2009 to 100,000 in 2010, according to the latest reports. In 2011, it is expected to grow the number of jobs in the industry by 26%. “You’d be hard pressed to find another industry with a 26 percent job growth rate for 2011,” said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The Solar Foundation released its National Solar Jobs Census 2010 at Solar Power International in October, showing that the solar industry is creating jobs at a much faster rate than the overall U.S. economy, which is expected to grow at around 2%. The report documents, through 2500 interviews with employers throughout the country, that over the next 12 months, more than half of U.S. solar firms expect to add jobs, while only 2% expect to cut workers. Firms are adding employees in all 50 states and the fastest growing jobs are installers and electricians….

It appears very likely that when accounting for both solar electric and solar thermal installations, the industry will surpass the 1 GW mark for annual installations in 2010. While 1 GW is a big number, Resch announced at SPI that the industry’s goal is to be installing ten times that number annually in 5 years. Resch said that installing 10 GW annually by 2015 would create as many as 220,000 jobs….

Clean Energy Creates Millions of Jobs

Admittedly, it’s difficult to tally these numbers in any comprehensive way to draw a clear picture of the total growth of the renewable energy job market for next year, in five years and in 15 years. Some industry estimates are projecting jobs in 2011, others look out as far as 2025. Just a rough summation of the above numbers shows that more than 2.5 million people, at least, will be either directly or indirectly employed in renewables by 2025. That would put about 8% of the 30,000,000 people looking for jobs right now back to work.

U.S.-Produced subsidized ethanol exports are at a record , the FT reports

U.S.-produced ethanol, subsidized by the federal government as an alternative to foreign oil, is being exported in record quantities, the Financial Times reported.

A U.S. tax credit to companies that blend ethanol with petrol expires at the end of the year, the newspaper said.

Government figures last week showed that 251 million gallons of fuel ethanol, mostly refined from corn, were exported in the first nine months of the year, more than double the total in 2009; actual exports may have been higher, since ethanol mixed with gasoline before shipment isn’t counted, the FT said.

Robert Vierhout, of ePure, a European ethanol trade group, said the tax credit for blenders wasn’t intended to subsidize exports and spoke of legal action to stop such shipments, the newspaper reported.

BP ready for controversial Libyan drilling

LONDON, Nov. 15 (UPI) — A controversial deal in the desert is set to come to fruition in December when oil drilling starts in the Libyan desert, BP expects.

Embattled energy company BP said it aims to start drilling for oil in the Ghadames Basin by December, London’s Independent newspaper reports.

BP plans to invest roughly $1 billion during the next seven years to development Libyan oil reserves, including offshore developments, the newspaper adds.

U.S. lawmakers, outraged over the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, are investigating a Scottish decision in 2009 to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on compassionate terms.

Allegations were raised that the decision was somehow tied to the BP deal to drill for oil off the Libyan coast. The British and Scottish governments, along with BP, deny the claims.

Four ways to harvest solar energy from roads

Knowing what we know now about climate change, it’s clear that the tangled web of black asphalt roads that outlines our country is working against us. Asphalt can absorbs tons of heat, often reaching temperatures of up to 140 degrees in the summer and the process by which it’s made isn’t environmentally friendly either, but there may be a way to turn that pavement into an energy resource.

Researchers at the University of Rhode Island have come up with four ways to harness the solar energy absorbed by pavement and put it to good use and they’re working on ways to implement them now.

The first, and the simplest, is is to wrap flexible solar PV cells around the top of Jersey barriers that divide highways. Those cells would power streetlights and illuminate road signs. Cells could also be embedded in the pavement between the barriers and rumble strip.

The second is to embed water-filled pipes under the asphalt and the heat from the sun would warm the water. That water could be piped to bridges to melt ice and reduce the need for road salt and ice-clearing trucks. It could also be piped to nearby buildings for hot water and heating needs or converted to steam to turn a turbine.

Because asphalt retains heat really well, the pipes would stay warm even after sunset. Tests have shown the water can even get hotter than the asphalt.

Modern insecticides’ devastating effects

Like DDT before it, a new class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids is believed to be causing drastic population declines in bird species. It is so effective at killing insects, that it has deprived birds of their basic food. Some scientists also believe they are behind the decline in bee populations in Europe and the United States known as honey-bee Colony Collapse Disorder.

Neonicotinoids, which are part of the nicotine family, are essentially glued to plant seeds, and infiltrate the entire plant. Any bug that eats the plant is immediately infected. The toxin attacks the central nervous system and causes a quick death. It is much less toxic to other animals because the chemical blocks a specific neural pathway found more commonly in insects.

Henk Tennekes, researcher at the Experimental Toxicology Services in Zutphen, the Netherlands, has linked the use of neonicotinoids to declines in bird populations in his recent book, The Systemic Insecticides: A Disaster in the Making. Tennekes said, “The evidence shows that the bird species suffering massive declines since the 1990s rely on insects for their diet.” It is also accused of causing the alarming decline in bee populations. Researchers have found that the chemical negatively affects the bee’s navigational ability which in turn, causes the bees to neglect feeding and caring for eggs and larvae.

However, the true cause of Colony Collapse Disorder is not fully understood. Other possible factors include Varroa mites, insect diseases, malnutrition, genetically modified crops, and even cell phone radiation. Nevertheless, countries like Germany and France have strictly limited the use of neonicotinoids. In Germany, it is believe that the glue did not sufficiently hold the chemical to the seeds of agricultural crops. The chemical could then drift into the environment where it affected bees.

Feed-in tariff installations top 11,000 in six months

Ofgem has revealed that more than 11,000 generators registered for feed-in tariffs during the first six months of the incentive scheme, confirming that the policy has led to a surge in renewable energy installations.

About 44MW of renewable capacity was added after the tariffs came into force in April this year, as 11,352 systems were installed — enough to power about 35,000 homes.

The vast majority of these systems were solar PV panels, which tallies with the government data published so far and backs up reports that the tariffs have proved a much greater success than originally predicted.

The figures were released today as part of Ofgem’s annual round-up of its sustainable development work, Sustainable Development Focus, which was published alongside a set of five green indicators that will be updated throughout the year with new data.

Unilever pledges to halve environmental impact by 2020

Consumer goods giant Unilever has today launched a wide-ranging sustainability strategy that commits the multinational to halving the environmental footprint of its products by the end of the decade.

In what is being hailed in some quarters as one of the most ambitious set of corporate sustainability targets to be publically announced, the company also vowed to decouple business growth from its environmental impact, help one billion people improve their health and wellbeing, and ensure that 100 per cent of its agricultural raw materials are sourced sustainably.

Speaking at the launch of the Sustainable Living Plan, which was announced simultaneously in London, Rotterdam, New Delhi and New York, chief executive Paul Polman said that all the decisions the company takes will be informed by their potential environmental impact.

“We have ambitious plans to grow the company. But growth at any price is not viable,” he said. “We have to develop new ways of doing business which will ensure that our growth does not come at the expense of the world’s diminishing natural resources.”

Major pipeline in northern Canada years away, despite approval

OTTAWA “” A proposed $16 billion pipeline project in northern Canada could still be years away from beginning construction, despite getting a green light from the federal and Northwest Territories governments Monday, says a spokesman from the leading stakeholder, Imperial Oil.

“The project would literally need thousands of individual permits for specific pieces of work,” said Imperial Oil spokesman Pius Rolheiser. “As we said in our (public submissions), the stars would really need to align in order for construction of the project to commence in 2014.”

The two governments delivered a 127-page report on Monday that is rejecting many of the recommendations proposed by an environmental review panel, and referring others to the National Energy Board which is expected to release its own conditions for the project in the coming weeks.

Rolheiser said the project proponents are also hoping to continue negotiations on financial aspects of the program such as taxes and royalties.

Environment Minister John Baird acknowledged that talks had taken place, without making any commitments.