There goes the neighborhood…


Click to enlarge

150ft iceberg, which dwarfs nearby town of Ferryland, becomes tourist attraction as number of icebergs moving into North Atlantic shipping lanes spikes.

Advertisements

California cranked out so much solar power this spring that wholesale electricity ran negative$

❝ The extraordinary success of solar power in some pockets of the world that combine sunshine with high investment in the technology mean that governments and energy companies are having radically to rethink the way they manage—and charge for—electricity.

California is one such a place.

❝ On March 11, it passed a milestone on the route to powering the whole state sustainably. For the first time, more than half the power needs of the entire state came from solar power for a few hours that day…

The power came from utility-scale solar photovoltaic farms, solar thermal plants, and the panels installed on private homes. Based on the data it collects, the EIA estimated that in each hour of peak times, that total capacity produced 4 million kWh of electricity on March 11…

❝ The spikes also have a big effect on wholesale energy prices, which dipped to zero or even to negative territory this spring during certain hours in California…That’s in sharp contrast to the same hours (8am to 2pm) in the month of March between 2013 and 2015, when average hourly wholesale prices ranged from $14-45 MWh.

Negative prices usually happen because there’s a glut of renewable energy, but non-renewable generators are also producing. They don’t shut them off completely because of the high costs of restarting.

California now accounts for a sizable chunk of the US market, having the highest energy demand of any state after Texas. It also has almost half of all the solar power in the US.

❝ This doesn’t mean, however, that Californians are paying nothing for their power because wholesale prices don’t translate directly into retail prices, which are based on averages, not single days. But it will mean energy companies start to rethink how they deliver and charge for electricity as the mix of renewables increases.

Unless, of course, you’re a public utility, fossil fuel producer or dimwit politician who hopes and prays that renewable power sources just disappear.

Trump’s EPA doesn’t care about protecting kids from lead paint


Noah Berger/Reuters

❝ Environmental Protection Agency officials are proposing to eliminate two programs focused on limiting children’s exposure to lead-based paint, which is known to cause damage to developing brains and nervous systems.

The proposed cuts, outlined in a 64-page budget memo revealed by The Washington Post on Friday, would roll back programs aimed at reducing lead risks by $16.61 million and more than 70 employees, in line with a broader project by the Trump administration to devolve responsibility for environmental and health protection to state and local governments.

Old housing stock is the biggest risk for lead exposure — and the EPA estimates that 38 million U.S. homes contain lead-based paint.

❝ Environmental groups said the elimination of the two programs, which are focused on training workers in the safe removal of lead-based paint and public education about its risks, would make it harder for the EPA to address the environmental hazard…

❝ Lead is a potent neurotoxin, and particularly harmful to children and the elderly. Its dangers in gasoline, paint and drinking water have been scientifically documented over many decades, which has led to stronger regulatory protections.

Trump and his cohort in the Republican Party simply don’t give a damn about what happens to working class families. They belong to the 1% class. They owe their peronal political budgets to the 1% class. Establishment conservatives of either party consider the 1% class the only power worth listening to, worth emulating.

The rest of us – and our families – can fend for ourselves as best we can. Our elected officials bear no responsibility for the well-being of the nation.

A German coal mine might be primed to become a pumped storage electricity generation station

❝ In the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, a coal mine will close in 2018. Aging coal infrastructure, low wholesale power prices, and a move away from the highly polluting power source all make renewable energy the political darling of the day.

But that doesn’t mean the Prosper-Haniel coal mine will be shutting down completely. According to Bloomberg, North Rhine-Westphalia State Governor Hannelore Kraft recently confirmed that a project to turn the coal mine into pumped storage will move forward after mining activities have stopped.

❝ Pumped storage has been used for decades, but placing a pumped storage scheme at a retired mine is somewhat new. Here’s how it works: when electricity is plentiful and cheap — say, on a windy day when the Sun is shining and solar panels and wind turbines are working at their maximum—a pumped storage facility pumps water from a lower reservoir up to an upper reservoir. When electricity is scarce, the facility can release the water back down to the lower reservoir through a turbine, creating renewable hydroelectric power.

❝ Traditionally, pumped storage has required fairly specific terrain. But a used coal mine can offer the right environment for pumped storage without natural elevation differences and reservoir capabilities, although mines do require extensive analysis to make sure they’re geologically fit for pumped storage. The University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) is working with mine owner RAG AG to complete the project, and…UDE professor André Niemann said the mine site is “suitable for the infrastructure to implement an underground pumped-storage power station as a closed system.”…

❝ …Support seems to be growing for such projects. Renewable Energy World reported last week that Virginia’s legislative bodies have passed bills this year to spur development of pumped storage facilities, which could be situated at abandoned coal mines. A combined bill now awaits the signature of Governor Terry McAuliffe.

So perhaps pumped storage using a retired mine has some maturing to do, but with the right political will and some good investment, maybe this kind of creative reuse could be possible in the future.

Of course, if Virginia had a Trumpublican governor unemployed miners would be put to work painting stones black in hope of somehow fooling coal-burning plants into producing electricity.

California Still Leads on Auto Emissions Standards — Ready to Confront Fossil Fuel Pimps

California’s clean-air agency has voted to push ahead with stricter emissions standards for cars and trucks, setting up a potential legal battle with the Trump administration over the state’s plan to reduce planet-warming gases.

The vote, by the California Air Resources Board, is the boldest indication yet of California’s plan to stand up to President Trump’s agenda. Leading politicians in the state, from the governor down to many mayors, have promised to lead the resistance to Mr. Trump’s policies.

Mr. Trump, backing industry over environmental concerns, said blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!…But California can write its own standards because of a longstanding waiver granted under the Clean Air Act, giving the state — the country’s biggest auto market — major sway over the auto industry. Twelve other states, including New York and Pennsylvania, as well as Washington, D.C., follow California’s standards, a coalition that covers more than 130 million residents and more than a third of the vehicle market in the United States…

…The unanimous vote by the 14-member board, which affirmed the higher standards through 2025, amounted to a public rejection of Mr. Trump’s plans

Several states that follow California’s rules raced to its defense. “We’ve come a long way together,” said Steven Flint, director of the air resources division of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. “We’re with you, and we believe in what you’re doing.”

Only a fool would think we’ve come this far, led by science, dedicated to the common good of human beings and all the other living creatures of this planet – only to roll over like a short-sighted car company or some opportunistic political hack! The barbarians may be at the gates; but, the days of letting barbarians try to run the world are long gone.

NYC officials removed subway garbage bins in an experiment. Did you think it would work?

❝ Faced with too much trash in one of the world’s biggest — and arguably dirtiest — subway systems, New York transit officials tried an unusual social experiment. They removed garbage bins from 39 out of the more than 400 stations, figuring that would deter people from bringing trash into the system…

People who toss their soda bottles and potato chip bags onto platforms and tracks kept doing it, causing fires. And hungry rats kept scurrying through stations, drawn by garbage.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority run by New York state decided to put the bins back.

❝ “It took the MTA five years, but we are gratified that it recognized the need to end this controversial experiment that showed little to no improvements in riders’ experience,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who had released audits saying that fires started by trash thrown on the tracks system-wide didn’t decrease as a result of the program…

❝ In any case, the MTA has moved on to a more traditional solution for dealing with the 40 tons of daily garbage in the subways: an intense cleanup campaign.

Last summer, the MTA launched its “Operation Track Sweep” program. Workers are cleaning about 90 stations every two weeks, three times as many as previously. Portable track vacuums are being tested and the agency is purchasing more vacuum trains and cars that pick up the contents of 3,500 station receptacles more frequently.

The agency says the cleaning effort has resulted in the number of track fires dropping by 41 percent.

Providing services – which not so incidentally provide useful jobs – is likely to provide benefits faster than retraining the habits of millions of people. Works as well as the opposite. Want to get rid of bad habits. Make them more expensive, eh?

Donald Trump’s Ignorant Climate Fantasies

❝ Legend holds that King Canute brought his flatterers to the sea to show them that even a king could not command the ocean waves, that the laws of nature are more powerful than the decrees of men. So pity Donald Trump, who really believes that his executive orders can hold back the tides.

Trump is surrounded by cronies rather than flatterers, and they and their foolish, ignorant king believe that by denying climate change they can restore the wealth and glory of coal, oil, and gas. They are wrong. Greed will not reverse human-caused climate change, and Trump’s executive orders will not stop the global process of phasing out coal, oil, and gas in favor of wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, geothermal, and other low-carbon energy sources.

❝ In less than 100 days, we have learned that Trump is a man living in a fantasy world. He issues decrees, barks orders, sends out midnight Tweets, but to no avail. The facts – real ones, not his “alternative” variety – keep intervening. There is physics; there is law; there are courts; there are procedures; and there are voters, only 36% of whom approve of Trump’s job performance. There is also China, which wins technologically and diplomatically from every self-defeating move by the incompetent US president…

❝ Trump’s overriding motivation is to serve the economic interests of the US coal, oil, and gas industries, which provide ample campaign financing and media backing for the Republicans in Congress and in state governments across the country. In short, this is political corruption: government policies in exchange for campaign funds.

ExxonMobil, Chevron, the US Chamber of Commerce, and Koch Industries are all major players, and almost all of the Republican members of Congress are implicated in this disgraceful behavior. They are prepared to look like fools in public – denying climate science and global warming – as long as it keeps the campaign money flowing. Whether or not Trump himself is foolish enough to believe what he says, he knows that his executive orders play into the sweet spot of Republican power.

❝ But, as with so many of Trump’s decisions, there is more bark than bite, more bluster than reality. First, Trump can’t stop the waves, or the rising ocean levels in the case of global warming. The science is real, even if Trump is happy to show off his scientific ignorance.

Second, the world knows it’s real. Every UN member state signed the Paris climate agreement in 2015. The planet has just experienced the hottest three years on record. The oceans are warming dramatically…Trump’s cynicism and ignorance will change no minds and will attract no followers globally…

❝ In the end, we can be amazed at the foolishness of America’s president and the corruption of the US Republican Party. But we should not believe that Trump’s climate fantasies will change global reality or alter the implementation of the Paris climate agreement.

From the gullible character of American voters all the way over to activists who behold the global nature of our nation’s economy and see an ogre – the United States stands to miss out on jobs, fail at much of the world’s struggle to counter climate change. The absence of planetwide respect for our so-called leaders will continue to include a populace so far incapable of mounting successful opposition to the backwards political cabal which owns our government.

Jeff Sachs is right. This won’t stop the world – even if you want to get off at some other bus stop. But, the one step forward under Obama is taking more than two steps backwards under Trump. We’ll be playing catch-up on our domestic playing field for a decade or more. Especially if victory only replaces the wholly corrupt with the mostly inept.