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Posts tagged "power"
Iceland’s 300+ glaciers losing 11 billion tons of ice a year. Several have already melted away, and many more will disappear in the next decade.
Above, one of Iceland’s longest bridges now stands over dry land. Via Daily Climate.

What happens when the power goes out in a big city? 19 photos of the Northeastern Blackout 2003.

Article also mentions serious pollution from coal power plants:

* Of the 274 coal plants that discharge coal ash and scrubber wastewater into waterways, nearly 70 percent (188) have no limits on the toxics most commonly found in these discharges (arsenic, boron, cadmium, lead, mercury, and selenium) that are dumped directly into rivers, lakes, streams and bays.

* Of these 274 coal plants, more than one-third (102) have no requirements to monitor or report discharges of these toxic metals to government agencies or the public.

* A total of 71 coal plants surveyed discharge toxic water pollution into rivers, lakes, streams and bays that have already been declared impaired due to poor water quality. Of these plants that are dumping toxic metals into impaired waterways, more than three out of four coal plants (59) have no permit that limits the amount of toxic metals it can dump.

* Nearly half of the coal plants surveyed (187) are operating with an expired Clean Water Act permit. 53 of these power plants are operating with permits that expired five or more years ago.

Read the report: Closing the Floodgates: How the Coal Industry is Poisoning Water

Should the radioactive forests preemptively be cut down? 

*This post is for anon, who earlier this evening asked me to update a previous post on new plants in the US. No update is needed. There have been no new nuclear power plants allowed to be built in the US since 1978. Anon may have been referring to applications for new plants or perhaps rehabs of old power plants.

Inspiring read on women architects who defied great odds (re: men) via ArchDaily.

A sampling:

  • Sophia Hayden Benett was the first woman to receive an architecture degree from MIT when she graduated in 1890
  • Marion Mahony Griffin, was not only one of the first licensed female architects in the world, but was the first employee of Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Charlotte Perriand applied for a job at Le Corbusier’s studio in 1927. Unimpressed, he dismissed her work with the comment: “We don’t embroider cushions here.”
  • Jane Drew was an early proponent of Modernism in England and was responsible for bringing Le Corbusier’s work to India.


Snow covers photovoltaic panels at a solar park in Meuro, northeastern Germany. In spite of the snow layer, the plant situated on an old lignite mine is producing energy. Picture: BERND SETTNIK/AFP/Getty Images (via Pictures of the day: 22 February 2013 - Telegraph)


Also, Media Matters is fantastic…


Fox News says: The future for solar power in the U.S. is “dim” because we don’t get as much sunlight as Germany.

Reality: The U.S. gets far more sunlight than Germany. Unfortunately our solar policies don’t harness that energy nearly as well as they do. 

Death rate per watts, Nuclear, Oil, Coal. Classic chart exposes cognitive dissonance, and persistent self-denial…

Do you have an opinion about nuclear power? About the relative safety of one form of power over another? How did you come to this opinion?

Here are the stats. For every person killed by nuclear power generation, 4,000 die due to coal, adjusted for the same amount of power produced.

Vivid is not the same as true. It’s far easier to amplify sudden and horrible outcomes than it is to talk about the slow, grinding reality of day to day strife. That’s just human nature. Not included in this chart are deaths due to global political instability involving oil fields, deaths from coastal flooding and deaths due to environmental impacts yet unmeasured, all of which skew it even more if you think about it.

This chart unsettles a lot of people, because there must be something wrong with it. Further proof of how easy it is to fear the unknown and accept what we’ve got.

Via Seth Godin

Update: Nuclear waste is not an issue.

Update II: The reblog comments are incredible. Not one acknowledged or seems to have read the post. Nor, it seems, has a single reader clicked through to read the original post. Only one commenter, that I could tell, attempted to discuss the underlying facts. Instead, there were mostly “But” type replies that repeat the very myths this chart aims to debunk. What an incredible experience from my point of view, and a major lesson learned…

"Controversial" environmentalist Michael Shellenberger was on Colbert the other day. Shellenberger argues that environmentalists need to embrace new technologies, such as nuclear power, rather than reject them routinely.

He discusses his new (surprisingly cheap) ebook, Love Your Monsters: Postenvironmentalism and the Anthropocene. It gets to the heart of why new technologies can work to increase environmental protection. And that environmentalists are hurting their various causes by not working with polluters.

I like his thinking. He challenges environmentalists to reexamine their beliefs and positions without uprooting core philosophies. He makes this challenge in a way that is non-threatening and accessible. Reexamining environmentalism is, as many of my dear readers will note, a topic I’ve written about many times.

Shellenberger also runs The Breakthrough Institute.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Thoughts on Phoenix New Times column Solar Eclipsed: Why the Sun Won't Power Phoenix Despite an Industry Boom?
climateadaptation climateadaptation Said:

Hey anon,

Sorry, I’m not an energy guy, I’m into environmental risk.

I will note that, like most environmental articles, it concludes with zero solutions. Many of my long-term followers will know this is a pet peeve of mine.

Journalists have to get with the program in this regard when they present a problem to the public. They should, in 2013 and going forward, equally invest exploring options and solutions to the same extent as they used to get the facts of the story. There are plenty of tools and techniques he could have discussed to respond to this problem. Why didn’t he present solutions? That article is 5,000 words long! 10x the length of regular reports!

I think you should demand that, going forward, half his words should be dedicated to exploring options. Not pushing them, but discussing them as a way of “informing the public of the facts.” You might be surprised by the response if you ask.

Did you know that you can shape how subsidies work? Did you know that you can submit your own draft legislation? Did you know that you can help change the permitting, building, and zoning laws in your town? Probably not. Yet those are the very solutions that this long-winded article leaves out.

Write to the author and demand he stop with the old school journalism and start empowering his readers with real tools to stop the harms he’s exposing. (He might respond with some lazy trope that he can’t dip into advocacy. He’s wrong. Exploring 5 or 10 solutions to a problem is providing factual information. Journalists know the difference. So, preempt this scaredy-cat reply by asking what’s the point of reporting any problem if it’s not subsuming a public action for change?). 



NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s scathing letter to CEO’s of NY power companies demanding accountability for not being prepared for Hurricane Sandy. The letter was sent to the CEOs of six utilities that service New York City and surrounds: ConEd, O&R, Central Gas, Rochester Gas, National Grid, and LI Power. Have a quick read of the letter above if you can before continuing.

The second paragraph is pure shaming the utilities. Basically, “We all knew about the storm. Everyone else was prepared, why weren’t you?!” Pretty strong language. He concludes the letter by warning that NY State is going to take action against the utility companies.

But, to my mind Cuomo is playing power chess. He was NY’s Attorney General - the state’s top lawyer. You have to know your shit to be NY’s AG. It’s one of the most difficult jobs in the country. And I’m not exaggerating, NY’s AG is perhaps second in difficulty only Eric Holder’s job, the Federal Government’s AG.

However, Cuomo is no longer an attorney. He’s New York’s governor now, which means his powers are very limited in conducting a legal action. He can direct the new AG to investigate, or Cuomo can appoint a special panel to conduct a review for malfeasance, but he cannot directly oversee the legal action. But he didn’t ask his AG to act.

So, it seems to me, Cuomo is circumventing his AG in favor of working the system. He’s directed one of the state’s boards review the utility companies’ certificates. If the panel finds error, they have the power to pull their certificates, which is what the end of the letter eludes to. The key passage:

New Yorkers should not suffer because electric utilities did not reasonably prepare for this eventuality. In the context of the ongoing emergency, such a failure constitutes a breach of the public trust.

Under such circumstances, I would direct the Public Service Commission to commence a proceeding to revoke your Certificates. With respect to the Long Island Power Authority, I will make every change necessary to ensure it lives up to its public responsibility. It goes without saying that such failures would warrant the removal of the management responsible for such colossal misjudgments.

Strong stuff! But I’m not sure what would happen by revoking a power-company’s certificate. I suspect the utility would no longer be able to sell power and fuel to New Yorkers and other communities.

Assuming that is the case, we have to ask, ‘what happens when a utility leaves their market?’ Suppose one of the six power companies loses their right to sell electricity to New Yorkers due to the panel’s findings. That would leave a gap in the market leaving the other utilities to take over (or the creation of a new utility).

Essentially, it would be a transfer of millions of paying customers from one company to another. In other words, free money to the other utility companies! That’s the exact opposite of the letter’s intent!

To be sure, Cuomo’s letter is a real threat. And the CEOs will certainly take action. Perhaps they’ll take out full-page ads in the NYTimes, apologizing and reassuring New Yorkers et al that everything is A-OKAY-TRUST-US. In the background, the utility companies will have to fix and upgrade some infrastructure, and they’ll have to create better action-response plans for storms and other emergency outages.

But will the letter work? It seems to me that while everyone is applauding Cuomo’s very ballsy letter, it’s really just a stunt to get the utilities to step-up their game. He fires off a popular letter, the public falls in love with the idea, and now the ball is in the utility companies’ court. Let’s hope the gambit works.


Decent (not great) primer on geoengineering. Worth a skim since my next post is on that batshiat crazy guy who dumped 100 tons of rusty iron dust into the ocean last week - just to see what would happen.

I know, it’s a carbon story - not my style. What’s most interesting to me, though, is the legal questions behind geoengineering.

For example, let’s say that geoengineering is a good option, one that could counter global warming and cool the earth just enough to make things safer. There are dozens of ways to do this, as the article points out. Like, the dudes (and they are mostly dudes) from DARPA send a big mirror into orbit to reflect the sun’s rays. Or someone figures out a way to create more clouds in the sky, which would then reflect the sun’s energy back into spaceblivion. Aaannd a presto! No more climate change.

Great news, right? But, and this is the legal bit, which country should be in control of such projects? Who decides how much geoengineering is just right?

What happens if a rogue nation decides to mess with the earth’s atmosphere for geo-political-advantage-of-doomy-doom??! How (and whom) would legally enforce this system, especially if someone screwed up? Should China or, say, Afghanistan hold the keys to geoengineering technology? Conversely, one can easily imagine a coalition of states - China, USA, the EU, maybe Brazil etc. - getting together to run this system. Which court system would hold this coalition responsible for our doomed existence? And other rhetorical, legal mind-fucks.

What Is Geoengineering and Why Is It Considered a Climate Change Solution?

Geoengineering is a word that means many different things to many different people. Typically what people call geoengineering is divided into two major classes. There are approaches which attempt to reduce the amount of climate change produced by an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and there are approaches that try to remove greenhouse gases that have already been released to the atmosphere.

The Earth is warmed by sunlight and the heat that is absorbed by the Earth is later re-radiated back to space. Greenhouse gases make it more difficult for the Earth to radiate energy to space. So the two main ways you can cause Earth to cool are either to create conditions such that Earth absorbs less sunlight or make it easier for the Earth to radiate heat energy back to space.

The first category of approaches typically includes things like: putting giant satellites in space to deflect sunlight away from Earth, putting tiny particles in the stratosphere, whitening clouds over the ocean, or perhaps whitening roofs or planting lighter [colored] crops. They are all attempts to deflect sunlight away from Earth.

The second allows more heat energy to escape.

There is one more category that some people propose: that we might take heat that exists near the surface of the Earth and stuff it down deep into the ocean. This hasn’t been looked at very much. But it’s another way of altering Earth’s surface temperatures.

Why do we even need to think about this?
If we…

Read the rest at SciAm

Reblogging to show a common problem with enviro-reporting.


An un-redacted version of a recently released Nuclear Regulatory Commission report highlights the threat that flooding poses to nuclear power plants located near large dams — and suggests that the NRC has misled the public for years about the severity of the threat, according to engineers and nuclear safety advocates…

The NRC report identifies flood threats from upstream dams at nearly three dozen other nuclear facilities in the United States, including the Fort Calhoun Station in Nebraska, the Prairie Island facility in Minnesota and the Watts Bar plant in Tennessee, among others. More at HuffPo

Important discovery, but the reporting seems over the top. Comparing the threat, for example, of a fresh-water river flood to a salt-water tsunami from the ocean is plainly disingenuous and frankly journalistically lazy.

I get that nuclear power plants are vulnerable to environmental change and climate impacts. Indeed, I have written about the threats several times, but this story smells of fear-mongering.

It’s an interesting article, no doubt. It shows that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission published two different reports, one of which was published publicly.

But discovering that there are two (or more) versions of a report is certainly not proof of a “cover-up.” Writing different versions of the same report is standard operating procedure to my mind.

The NRC has historically been blunt about environmental threats to nuclear power plants - indeed, that’s a primary objective of the commission. One would need crystal clear evidence to successfully accuse such a high-level, highly-scrutinized organization.

Besides, the very flood vulnerabilities discussed in both versions of the report are in fact being mitigated. So, what exactly is the problem here?

Finally, as is common with environmental reporting, the piece does not provide a plan of action to resolve the issue. It doesn’t say that the commission should be disbanded and replaced, nor show that the work being done to mitigate floods are flawed. The article subsumes the public will act, which is plainly disproportionate to the accusation at hand.