Sunday, June 5, 2011

More bad news on the environmental front

For most of my life, I have naively assumed that if some piece of environmental news was bad enough, we would wake up and start getting our acts together.  I'll be 62 this summer--I have seen absolutely ZERO evidence so far in my life that anyone is close to waking up and taking meaningful action in USA.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reaching Record Highs
By ARTHUR MAX 06/ 5/11 06:59 AM ET  
AMSTERDAM -- Despite 20 years of effort, greenhouse gas emissions are going up instead of down, hitting record highs as climate negotiators gather to debate a new global warming accord.
The new report by the International Energy Agency showing high emissions from fossil fuels is one of several pieces of bad news facing delegates from about 180 countries heading to Bonn, Germany, for two weeks of talks beginning Monday.
Another: The tsunami-triggered nuclear disaster in March apparently has sidelined Japan's aggressive policies to combat climate change and prompted countries like Germany to hasten the decommissioning of nuclear power stations which, regardless of other drawbacks, have nearly zero carbon emissions.
"Japan's energy future is in limbo," says analyst Endre Tvinnereim of the consultancy firm Point Carbon. The fallout from the catastrophe has "put climate policy further down the priority list," and the short-term effect in Japan – one of the world's most carbon-efficient countries – will be more burning of fossil fuels, he said.
And despite the expansion of renewable energy around the world, the Paris-based IEA's report said energy-related carbon emissions last year topped 30 gigatons, 5 percent more than the previous record in 2008. With energy investments locked into coal- and oil-fueled infrastructure, that situation will change little over the next decade, it said. more
But Obambi is a "progressive" isn't he?  Surely someone in his administration will get right on top of this problem.  Yeah right!
Bill McKibben, Obama Strikes Out on Global Warming
By: Tom Engelhardt Thursday June 2, 2011 6:25 am

Three Strikes and You’re Hot
Time for Obama to Say No to the Fossil Fuel Wish List
By Bill McKibben

In our globalized world, old-fashioned geography is not supposed to count for much: mountain ranges, deep-water ports, railroad grades — those seem so nineteenth century. The earth is flat, or so I remember somebody saying.

But those nostalgic for an earlier day, take heart. The Obama administration is making its biggest decisions yet on our energy future and those decisions are intimately tied to this continent’s geography. Remember those old maps from your high-school textbooks that showed each state and province’s prime economic activities? A sheaf of wheat for farm country? A little steel mill for manufacturing? These days in North America what you want to look for are the pickaxes that mean mining, and the derricks that stand for oil.

There’s a pickaxe in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming, one of the world’s richest deposits of coal. If we’re going to have any hope of slowing climate change, that coal — and so all that future carbon dioxide — needs to stay in the ground. In precisely the way we hope Brazil guards the Amazon rainforest, that massive sponge for carbon dioxide absorption, we need to stand sentinel over all that coal.

Doing so, however, would cost someone some money. At current prices the value of that coal may be in the trillions, and that kind of money creates immense pressure. Earlier this year, President Obama signed off on the project, opening a huge chunk of federal land to coal mining. It holds an estimated 750 million tons worth of burnable coal. That’s the equivalent of opening 300 new coal-fired power plants. In other words, we’re talking about staggering amounts of new CO2 heading into the atmosphere to further heat the planet.

As Eric de Place of the Sightline Institute put it, “That’s more carbon pollution than all the energy — from planes, factories, cars, power plants, etc. — used in an entire year by all 44 nations in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean combined.” Not what you’d expect from a president who came to office promising that his policies would cause the oceans to slow their rise.

But if Obama has admittedly opened the mine gate, it’s geography to the rescue. You still have to get that coal to market, and “market” in this case means Asia, where the demand for coal is growing fastest. The easiest and cheapest way to do that — maybe the only way at current prices — is to take it west to the Pacific where, at the moment, there’s no port capable of handling the huge increase in traffic it would represent.

And so a mighty struggle is beginning, with regional groups rising to the occasion. Climate Solutions and other environmentalists of the northwest are moving to block port-expansion plans in Longview and Bellingham, Washington, as well as in Vancouver, British Columbia. Since there are only so many possible harbors that could accommodate the giant freighters needed to move the coal, this might prove a winnable battle, though the power of money that moves the White House is now being brought to bear on county commissions and state houses. Count on this: it will be a titanic fight. more
And then there is that little problem that we have just about killed the oceans.
We've Eaten All The Fish In The Sea
Henry Blodget | Jun. 4, 2011, 9:29 AM 
The ocean seems infinitely huge, but we're emptying it.
That's the message of a 2003 study by Villy Christensen, Sylvie Guénette, and other researchers (via Paul Kedrosky).
The authors took a look at annual catches of popular North Atlantic fish over the past half-century, and estimated the change in fish populations over the last hundred years.
Below is the most frightening chart, which is based on the study (click for bigger). more

But see, ALL the news isn't bad.  GE is FINALLY getting its oar in the "green technology" water and now claims it will have some solutions in five years.  Oh Goody!  In five years, all the money governments can generate through taxes will go to paying off the banksters.
GE Sees Solar Cheaper Than Fossil Power in Five Years
By Brian Wingfield - May 26, 2011 
Solar power may be cheaper than electricity generated by fossil fuels and nuclear reactors within three to five years because of innovations, said Mark M. Little, the global research director for General Electric Co. (GE)
“If we can get solar at 15 cents a kilowatt-hour or lower, which I’m hopeful that we will do, you’re going to have a lot of people that are going to want to have solar at home,” Little said yesterday in an interview in Bloomberg’s Washington office. The 2009 average U.S. retail rate per kilowatt-hour for electricity ranges from 6.1 cents inWyoming to 18.1 cents in Connecticut, according to Energy Information Administration data released in April.
GE, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, announced in April that it had boosted the efficiency of thin-film solar panels to a record 12.8 percent. Improving efficiency, or the amount of sunlight converted to electricity, would help reduce the costs without relying on subsidies.
The thin-film panels will be manufactured at a plant that GE intends to open in 2013. The company said in April that the factory will have about 400 employees and make enough panels each year to power about 80,000 homes.
Solar-panel makers from Arizona to Shanghai are expanding factories to add more cost savings that analysts say will sustain the industry’s expansion. Installations may increase by as much as 50 percent in 2011, worth about $140 billion, as cheaper panels and thin film make developers less dependent on government subsidies, Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecast.
The cost of solar cells, the main component in standard panels, has fallen 21 percent so far this year, and the cost of solar power is now about the same as the rate utilities charge for conventional power in the sunniest parts of California, Italy and Turkey, the London-based research company said. more

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