105 miles of steam pipes (NYT video) run beneath the streets of New York, delivering steam to 2,000 buildings for heating, cooling, and other purposes. The system is maintained by Con Edison (1 2 3). [more inside]
Small-scale, low-carbon generation now produces one-quarter of world electricity (Rocky Mountain Institute)
All of Lanai's owners have sought, in one way or another, to refashion the island into a paradise on earth. Former Oracle CEO Larry Ellison hopes to transform it into the "first economically viable, 100% green community."
"A new electricity distribution system being described as the "'Hoover Dam' of the 21st century" will bring wind energy from Wyoming to customers in California—and it will get there by way of a $1.5 billion artificial cave built specifically for storing air inside a salt dome in Utah. " [more inside]
The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States (PDF); prospectus (PDF); press coverage (YT) - "The signature effects of human-induced climate change—rising seas, increased damage from storm surge, more frequent bouts of extreme heat—all have specific, measurable impacts on our nation's current assets and ongoing economic activity. [The report] uses a standard risk-assessment approach to determine the range of potential consequences for each region of the U.S.—as well as for selected sectors of the economy—if we continue on our current path..." [more inside]
"The wall-mounted keyholder has two hooks, one for your bike key, one for your car key. If you grab the bike key, you’re out the door and on your way. If you grab the car key, the machine drops the bike key on the floor, forcing you to stoop down and pick it up. At that point, you have both keys in your hand–effectively giving you a second chance to weigh your options.
UN Climate Report: We Must Focus On 'Decarbonization', and It Won't Wreck the Economy - "The basic message is simple: We share a planet. Let's start acting like it." [more inside]
Meet Scott, the cool young Republican! A new ad campaign from the RNC showcases a young man named Scott Greenberg, a young voter who is 'ticked off' with politicians. [more inside]
The only thing green about that bud is its chlorophyll. In California, indoor marijuana grows account for about 9 percent of household electricity use. An indoor grow module accommodating four plants sucks as much electricity as 29 refrigerators. For every pound of pot grown 4,600 pounds of CO2 goes into the atmosphere. The energy needed to produce a single joint is enough to produce 18 pints of beer and creates emissions comparable to burning a 100-watt lightbulb for 25 hours. The production and distribution of pot in America emits as much carbon as 3 million cars. And other fun facts.
A Star in a Bottle. "An audacious plan to create a new energy source could save the planet from catastrophe. But time is running out."
Installed solar capacity is growing by leaps and bounds, led by Walmart and Apple, and helped by bonds backed by solar power payments,[*] which have sent industry stocks soaring, even as molten salt and new battery technologies come on line to generate storage for use when the sun doesn't shine. Of course we could always go to geostationary orbit -- or the moon -- as well we may (if politics allow it) as thirst from the developing world grows beyond the earth's carrying capacity. [more inside]
Cloud services that power email and other technologies we use each day are themselves massive energy consumers. Gigaom reporters have written a pair of in-depth articles about efforts by Amazon and Apple to build infrastructure and source their own energy.
2013 Science Journalism Award winners from the American Association for the Advancement of Science:
- Large Newspaper: Deep Trouble, about invasive Asian Carp, sewage, the Chicago River and Lake Michigan
- Small Newspaper: Warning: Quake in 60 Seconds, about why California doesn't have a decent early warning system for earthquakes
- Magazine: Attack of the Mutant Pupfish, about genetic integrity vs. genetic restoration in the fight to preserve endangered species
- Television (20 minutes or less): NOVA's profile of computer scientist Adrien Treuille and Foldit, a crowd-sourced protein-folding game
- Television (more than 20 minutes): Smithsonian Channel: Killer in the Caves, about bats and the deadly white-nose fungus
- Radio: NPR and The Center for Public Integrity - As Mine Protections Fail, Black Lung Cases Surge and Black-Lung Rule Loopholes Leave Miners Vulnerable
- Online: An environmental scandal that’s happening right underneath your feet, about the hidden cost of natural gas leaks in pipelines underneath cities
- Children's Science News: Cold Water Corals: Paradise on the Seabed [pdf]
From the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency... (Interactive Presentation)(Actual Report PDF) Actual global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached a new record of 34.5 billion tonnes in 2012. Yet, the increase in global CO2 emissions in that year slowed down to 1.1% , which was less than half the average annual increase of 2.9% over the last decade. This is remarkable, as the global economy grew by 3.5%. This development signals a shift towards less fossil-fuel-intensive activities, more use of renewable energy and increased energy saving. Increases in fossil-fuel consumption in 2012 were 2.2% for natural gas, 0.9% for oil products, and 0.6% for coal.
How The Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio actually makes a case against austerity and for redistribution, but also for money printing (and, arguably, for bailouts), while stressing the need to keep making productivity-improving public and private investments. However, it could be equally entitled: How The Industrial Age Political-Economy Doesn't Work Anymore, viz. Surviving Progress (2011)... [more inside]
"Over the years, napping has gotten a bad rap, becoming a sign of laziness or weakness, especially during the workday. Yet, according to a growing body of scientific research, napping can actually be a very good and very smart thing to do. How so? Napping can help refresh the mind, make you more creative, boost your intelligence, and even help you live a longer, healthier life. Studies over the past decade have confirmed all of this and more, and napping is slowly gaining acceptance as a part of a healthy lifestyle, even in some corporate offices. Whether you're ready to jump on the nap-happy bandwagon or just learn more about the research being done on the practice, read on as we share the science behind the need to nap, interesting research into napping, and a scientist-approved method for taking the ideal nap."
Abe's Nuclear Energy Policy and Japan's Future: "Japan has nearly doubled spending on solar power projects to $20 bn and ramped up renewable energy capacity equivalent to six nuclear reactors, pointing the way to a sustainable and cheaper alternative to nuclear energy." [more inside]
Sweden is putting only four percent of its household waste in landfills (the US puts about half of its garbage in landfills) and much of the remainder is used for heating through an innovative waste-to-energy program. The problem? They are now running out of garbage, and have to import from neighbouring countries.
Spain Secretary of State for Energy, Alberto Nadal has signed a draft royal decree that levies a consumption taxes on solar power (El Pais translation, lol version)
Estimated US Energy Use in 2012: 95.1 Quads - "Energy flow charts show the relative size of primary energy resources and end uses in the United States, with fuels compared on a common energy unit basis." (via) [more inside]
Canada has lost its famous politeness. With oil and gas now accounting for approximately a quarter of its export revenue, over the last decade Canada has not so quietly become an international mining center and a rogue petrostate.
President of the United States Barack Obama unveils his Climate Action Plan
While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not polluted and damaged. Through steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution, we can protect our children’s health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so that we leave behind a cleaner, more stable environment.[more inside]
German Brewers Say Fracking Will Mess Up the Country's Beer (via The Atlantic) Brewing the world's best hefeweizen, you see, requires great drinking water -- and fracking, they said, "could reduce or even completely eliminate the security of the water supply." In a letter (in German), the organization (Deutscher Brauer-Bund) argued that this newfangled way of extracting energy would conflict with Europe's oldest food purity law, the Reinheitsgebot of 1516.
Methane hydrates, also known as clathrates, are crystalline ice structures which trap molecules of natural gas. They are fairly ubiquitous in near-shore seafloor sediments, where methane from decaying organic matter is trapped in an ice structure at low temperature and high pressure. Though methane hydrates are believed to contain substantially more natural gas than conventional deposits, extraction of the natural gas was thought to be impractical. Until now. [more inside]
US Carbon Dioxide emissions in 2012 were at their lowest levels since 1994 According to the the Business Council on Sustainable Energy. [more inside]
How can we get CO2 out of the atmosphere? Get it out of the sea first. Making jet fuel from seawater is a pretty cool -- albeit energy intensive -- trick. But applying the same science to scrub CO2 out of seawater, where it is more densely concentrated than in the atmosphere -- and, by doing so, to reduce atmospheric levels of CO2 back to acceptable levels -- that's a game saver.
"what would it take to draw atmospheric carbon down to 350 ppm with just this technology? . . . we would require the power of about 700 AP-1000 nuclear reactors. At the Chinese cost of $1.3b apiece and an 80 year lifetime this would cost a bit over $1 trillion dollars. That sounds like a lot of money. But its only about the cost of America’s 2003 Iraq War spread over the century, so I guess it’s a question of priorities."
A five-part series on the ultimate limit on technology, and how that limit could help us find other civilizations: 1 2 3 4 5 [via]
Global Trends 2030 Alternate Worlds is the latest quadrennial report from The US National Intelligence Council (NIC). (Report: PDF / Talking Points: PDF.) Similar to its predecessors, '2030' attempts to predict 'alternate visions of the future.' An official blog discusses their speculations. The Atlantic Council has published a "companion publication": "Envisioning 2030: US Strategy for a Post-Western World." [more inside]
A new DOE-funded study has concluded liquified natural gas exports will help the US economy. (PDF) In this report, the word "environment" occurs four times -- none of them with respect to impact on, or cost to the environment of either extraction or transportation. [more inside]
"You probably don't think of your car as a developer platform, but Mike Rosack did."
I love a sun-powered country, A land of deepening mines, of ragged nuclear plants, of biomass and hydropower
While developed countries are pondering whether they should sign up to The Kyoto 2 Protocol and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5% by 2020, based on 2000 levels which may be of questionable impact, the tiny Pacific territory of Tokelau has ditched its primary source of electricity generation, costly diesel imports, in favour of 100% renewable solar power, becoming the first nation in the world to do so, at a time when the global energy systems of the 21C are struggling towards decarbonisation. [more inside]
The Futurist Magazine along with The World Future Society predicts the future with a list of the top trends and forecasts for 2013 and beyond.
A massive shortage of gas all over New York and New Jersey is fueling hours-long lines stretching blocks or even miles. A big part of the problem has been power shortages to gas stations and refineries. Nevertheless, some argue that laws preventing gas prices from spiking in response to the disaster ("price gouging") are making things much worse, discouraging businesses from staying open in tough conditions and preventing entrepreneurs from profiting from any clever ways of increasing supply. Others admit gouging has some advantages, but still consider it ethically dubious. Gouging seems to be happening informally regardless.
Eric Maundu - who comes from Kenya, now lives in West Oakland and is trained in industrial robotics- transforms unused spaces into productive, small aquaponic farms. He has taken the agricultural craft one step further and made his gardens smart. He explores new frontiers of computer-controlled gardening. More information about this story. His company, Kijani Grows. Via faircompanies.com.
"Of all the things the Internet was expected to become, it is safe to say that a seed for the proliferation of backup diesel generators was not one of them." Power, Pollution and the Internet [sl NY Times]
The first human-powered aircraft to achieve sustained and controlled flight, the Gossamer Condor (6.3 MB PDF), now belongs to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (2.2 MB JPG). So you'll need to build your own. (previously)
Incandescent lightbulbs are now banned across the entire European Union as of September 1. "Concerns about poor performance of replacement bulbs have been proved wrong." It is predicted to save 39 terawatt-hours of electricity across the EU annually by 2020. "The phase-out has been very smooth." BanTheBulb said "..the vast majority of the public have adjusted to using the next generation of lighting technologies with the absolute minimum of fuss and drama." [more inside]
Morton and Vicary on the Categorified Heisenberg Algebra - "In quantum mechanics, position times momentum does not equal momentum times position! This sounds weird, but it's connected to a very simple fact. Suppose you have a box with some balls in it, and you have the magical ability to create and annihilate balls. Then there's one more way to create a ball and then annihilate one, than to annihilate one and then create one. Huh? Yes: if there are, say, 3 balls in the box to start with, there are 4 balls you can choose to annihilate after you've created one but only 3 before you create one..." [more inside]
Signs of cooperation between China and the US on promising new energy technology Beijing-based CAS is a state group overseeing about 100 research institutes. It and the DOE have established what CAS calls the “CAS and DOE Nuclear Energy Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding.” [more inside]
In the year and a half since the earthquake and tsunami caused an industry-wide Japanese nuclear shutdown , Japanese consumers and businesses have been urged to conserve energy whenever possible. Although a few reactors are being brought back online temporarily, the Japanese government has pledged to move away from nuclear power sources. Yesterday the Japanese government announced what may be the world's highest solar photovolatic feed-in tariff at 53 cents per kWh generated. [more inside]
Big oil companies make more than $300 million every day. "Why should Americans prop up these companies with tax dollars and have to pay ridiculous fuel prices?" Self-described 'Democratic socialist' Bernie Sanders (Vermont) introduces a bill to cut $113B of fossil fuel subsidies. [more inside]
Solar Islands: A new concept for low-cost solar energy at very large scale.
A reduced-scale prototype is under construction.
A reduced-scale prototype is under construction.
A month ago, the Japanese TV show "Morning Bird" discussed the current state of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and specifically Unit 4, which is in terrible condition. During an interview with Dr. Hiroaki Koide, Research Associate at the Research Reactor Institute of Kyoto University, who explains the immense difficulty in moving the radioactive fuel rods - a process that will not even start until 2013 - the presenter asks what would happen if even a moderate earthquake struck near the plant before the fuel rods can be moved. Koide replies:
That will be the end.
"We do not share the view of many of our economics colleagues that growth will solve the economic problem, that narrow self-interest is the only dependable human motive, that technology will always find a substitute for any depleted resource, that the market can efficiently allocate all types of goods, that free markets always lead to an equilibrium balancing supply and demand, or that the laws of thermodynamics are irrelevant to economics."
Poo-Powered Rickshaw Unveiled At The Denver Zoo Poop. Is there anything it can't do? On Wednesday, The Denver Zoo introduced what is believed to be the world's first poo-powered motorized tuk tuk showcasing The Denver Zoo's very own patent-pending gasification technology.
On the one year anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, the Economist magazine now considers Nuclear energy to be "the dream that failed", in an issue with articles covering the history, safety issues, handling of nuclear waste, and costs (with emphasis on China) of nuclear power. [more inside]