17 Jan 2017:
China Cancels Plans for
100 New Coal-Fired Power Plants
China has canceled plans for more than 100 new coal-fired power plants, including several that were already under construction, according to news reports. The power stations, with an estimated price tag of $62 billion, would have had an electricity-generating capacity of more than 100 gigawatts, spread across several provinces. The decision, announced by the National Energy Administration, follows other recent moves by China to build more renewable energy facilities and reduce the country’s dependence on coal. Last year, China announced it would cap coal power generation at 1,100 gigawatts, according to Reuters
. It plans to install 130 gigawatts of new solar and wind power by 2020. The latest decision also comes at a time when the country is expected to assume a key role in global climate change action
following the election of Donald Trump, who supports reducing U.S. climate efforts.
Republican Who Led EPA Urges
Confronting Trump on Climate
William K. Reilly, who was head of the EPA under President George H.W. Bush, is blunt in his assessment of the climate change deniers and anti-regulatory hawks
William K. Reilly
who have been nominated to fill many of President-elect Donald Trump’s top environmental posts. Reilly, a Republican, looks with special alarm on Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, nominated to run the EPA. “For a prospective EPA administrator to doubt or even contest a conclusion that 11 national academies of science have embraced is willful political obstruction,” says Reilly. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Reilly discusses how Trump administration threats to cut funding for NASA climate change research represent a “reckless head-in-the-sand posture,” explains why he believes former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson may turn out to be one of the more enlightened environmental voices in the new administration, and urges EPA employees to stay and fight for the environment. “I would not advocate that committed people leave,” says Reilly. “We need them now more than ever.”
Read the interview.
11 Jan 2017:
First Carbon-Capture Coal
Plant in U.S. is Now Fully Operational
The first large-scale power plant in the U.S. that removes and stores carbon dioxide from coal combustion is now fully operating
near Houston, Texas, capturing more than 1 million tons of CO2 annually. Operated by NRG Energy and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp., the Petra Nova plant
— which cost more than $1 billion — extracts carbon dioxide from flue gases and then pipes them to the West Ranch oil field 80 miles away, where the CO2 helps extract additional oil from the ground. The U.S. Department of Energy, which provided $190 million in grants to the plant, called the facility “the world’s largest post-combustion carbon-capture system.” A second large carbon-capture plant is set to become operational in Mississippi by the end of the month. The Kemper Power Plant is designed to turn lignite, a type of coal, into a gas called syngas, removing some of the CO2 before the syngas is burned to generate electricity.
06 Jan 2017:
U.S. Likely to Become Exporter
Of Energy by 2026, New Report Says
The U.S. could become a major exporter of energy by 2026, if not sooner, as natural gas production increases and electricity demand
Solar panels in New Mexico.
flattens in the coming years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest Annual Outlook
released this week. The report also projects that renewables will grow faster than any other power source over the next three decades. But while electricity-related CO2 emissions are expected to fall as natural gas, wind, and solar increasingly power the grid, industrial and transportation emissions will likely increase. As a result, the EIA said, the country will not significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and meet its pledges under the Paris Climate Agreement. Energy-related CO2 emissions fell an average 1.4 percent annually from 2005 to 2016. But according to the EIA report, that annual decline will likely average only 0.2 percent between 2016 and 2040.
Interview: In Costa Rica, Momentum
Builds for a Clean-Energy Economy
Costa Rica has an impressive track record when it comes to renewable energy. The country, famous for its ecotourism industry, produces almost all of its electricity
from renewable sources. But Monica Araya wants her nation to go even greener. Araya, the founder and director of Costa Rica Limpia — a citizen’s group that promotes renewable energy — is now pushing for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles in Costa Rica, all part of a vision of making her country one of the world’s first carbon-neutral nations. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Araya describes how the fledgling effort to decarbonize Costa Rica’s transportation sector has encountered government resistance, and she urges clean-energy advocates worldwide to intensify their efforts, despite the pro-fossil fuel stance of the incoming Trump administration. “If the U.S. doesn't want to be part of the game, the game is going to continue,” says Araya. “Clean energy's going to continue. Electric mobility is going to continue... Costa Rica's going to move forward.”
Read the interview.
03 Jan 2017:
Indian Industrial Plant
Converts Captured CO2 Into Baking Soda
A coal-fired industrial plant in southern India has begun successfully capturing CO2 emissions and converting them to baking soda
The zero-emissions Tuticorin Chemicals plant.
The project’s developers say the process, which will capture up to 60,000 tons of CO2 each year, is the world’s “first industrial-scale example of carbon capture and utilization,” according to The Guardian
. It costs just $30 per ton
to capture the CO2, compared to the $60-90 per ton price tag that came with previous carbon capture systems. The technology is installed at Tuticorin Alkali Chemicals near Chennai in southeast India. It uses a form of salt to bond with CO2 molecules exiting the plant’s boiler system. The plant then reuses the captured gas to make baking soda, also commonly known as soda ash, a chemical used in the manufacturing of a variety of other products, including glass, paper, and detergents.
29 Dec 2016:
Affluent Chinese Families
Now Have Similar CO2 Footprint as Europe
The rising numbers of middle and upper class Chinese now generate carbon emissions that are beginning to rival those of Europeans
, according to a new study. An Austrian researcher calculated that the 300 million Chinese who now make up the country’s increasingly well-off urban population annually generate 2 to 6.4 tons of carbon dioxide per capita. The wealthiest Chinese now have a carbon footprint that approaches residents of the European Union, who have an annual carbon footprint of 6.7 tons per capita. Because many of its 1.3 billion citizens still live in poverty, China overall only produces 1.7 tons of CO2 per capita, far below the average American’s carbon footprint of 10.4 tons per capita. Reporting in Nature Climate Change
, researcher Dominik Wiedenhofer said rising Chinese emissions underscore that all nations must focus on “decoupling” carbon emissions from affluent living standards.
22 Dec 2016:
France Opens World’s
First Solar Panel Road in Normandy
France has opened what it says is the world’s first solar-paneled road
— a one-kilometer stretch that is expected to power street lighting
A new solar panel road in Normandy, France.
in the village of Tourouvre-au-Perche in Normandy. The motorway, which is covered in 30,000 square feet of solar panels, cost $5.2 million to build and will be traveled on by 2,000 cars each day. The company that installed it, French engineering firm Colas, says it has about 100 other solar-paneled road projects underway, both in France and abroad. Critics of the project, however, argue that the Normandy road is not a good investment. Normandy gets only 44 days of strong sunshine each year, according to The Guardian
. Solar roadways have been proven less efficient at generating electricity than panels installed on rooftops. France’s environment minister, Ségolène Royal, has said she would like one kilometer in every 1,000 kilometers of French highway to be made of solar panels.
19 Dec 2016:
U.S. Interior Department Updates
Coal Regulations to Protect Waterways
The Obama administration finalized a rule on Monday that strengthens protections for rivers, streams, and forests
near coal mining facilities —
Coal waste downstream of a mine in Kentucky.
the first update to the Interior Department regulations in 33 years. The tougher guidelines require companies to avoid mining practices that could pollute streams and drinking water sources, as well as restore waterways and landscapes to their original state once mining is complete, according to Reuters
. The Interior Department said the updated Stream Protection Rule would safeguard 6,000 miles of waterway and 52,000 acres of forest over the next two decades. It is likely to be one of the Obama administration’s last major environmental actions before leaving office, and one of President-elect Donald Trump’s earliest targets after inauguration. Trump has pledged to rebuild the U.S. coal industry
, saying on the campaign trail that he would repeal
any update to the stream protection rule if elected.
13 Dec 2016:
Large Majority of U.S. Voters
Supports CO2 Limits and Renewable Energy
Seven in 10 American voters believe that the U.S. should participate in international efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new survey
conducted by Yale University and George Mason University. The survey, which polled more than 1,200 people nationally shortly after the November election, also found that 62 percent and 63 percent of voters want President-elect Donald Trump and Congress to do more to address climate change, respectively. Only 10 percent of Americans oppose taxing or regulating greenhouse gas emissions, while 70 percent support limiting CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants — the primary aim of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan — even if it raises the cost of electricity. Eighty-five percent of Democrats and 76 percent of Republicans think the U.S. should use more renewable energy, and more than 71 percent of polled voters believe the federal government should do more to prepare for the impacts of climate change.
12 Dec 2016:
Major Tech Investors Announce
$1 Billion Fund for Clean Energy Research
Bill Gates and several other major technology giants announced Sunday
that they will invest $1 billion in clean energy innovation
Wind turbines near Fluvanna, Texas.
over the next several years. The investments will be made through the Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund, created by tech titans like Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, and Alibaba founder Jack Ma. Major areas of interest are expected to include energy storage, low-carbon electricity generation, transportation, and energy efficiency. "Anything that leads to cheap, clean, reliable energy we’re open-minded to," Gates told Quartz
. “People think you can just put $50 million in and wait two years and then you know what you got. In this energy space, that’s not true at all.” The investments will help supplement federally funded research at government and university labs, as well as support early-stage startups and labs without government grants.
From Obama’s Chief Scientist,
Parting Words of Caution on Climate
John Holdren is the longest-serving presidential science adviser in U.S. history and probably one of the most influential,
having advised President Obama on key energy issues for the last eight years. A physicist by training, Holdren was among the chief architects of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan. The plan has been lauded by environmentalists, but is loathed by conservative politicians, some of whom have filed suit against it. Holdren spoke with Yale e360
contributing writer Elizabeth Kolbert about the difference between “dangerous” and “catastrophic” warming, the incoming Trump administration, and how to talk to people who deny the existence of climate change. “Part of the reason that I retain some optimism about the future is that there are these fundamental forces pushing us toward doing the right thing,” he said.
Read the interview.
06 Dec 2016:
Google to Power Itself Using
100 Percent Renewable Energy in 2017
Google announced that it has purchased enough solar and wind capacity, 2.6 gigawatts, to run entirely on renewable energy
The company, whose data centers and offices consume as much electricity as the city of San Francisco, will get most of its wind
energy from the U.S. Midwest, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, and its solar from contracts in North Carolina and Chile. Google bought its first wind power in 2010 and is now the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy. “The science tells us that tackling climate change is an urgent global priority,” said Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice president of technical infrastructure. “We believe the private sector, in partnership with policy leaders, must take bold steps and that we can do so in a way that leads to growth and opportunity.”
02 Dec 2016:
To Fight Air Pollution, Four
Cities Announce Ban on Diesel Cars By 2025
Four of the world’s largest cities announced Friday that they will ban diesel cars by 2025
in an effort to cut air pollution.
Traffic and smog in the outskirts of Paris.
Leaders from Paris, Madrid, Athens, and Mexico City made the declaration at the C40 Mayors Summit, a biennial meeting of civic leaders concerned about climate change. Toxic air is responsible for an estimated 3 million premature deaths
each year, according to recent research by the World Health Organization. While diesel engines burn fuel more efficiently and therefore release less carbon dioxide, they do produce nitrogen dioxide and particulates that can inflame and damage people’s lungs. “Mayors have already stood up to say that climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face,” said Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris. “Today, we also stand up to say we no longer tolerate air pollution and the health problems and deaths it causes.”
21 Nov 2016:
Canada to Phase Out
Nearly All Coal-Fired Electricity by 2030
Canada’s Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna, has announced that the country will eliminate virtually all coal-fired power plants
by 2030, which would mean that 90 percent of Canada's electricity would come from carbon-free sources of energy by that time. Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, McKenna said that four provinces still burn coal for electricity — Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. They will either phase out coal use or will be allowed to temporarily keep some coal-fired power plants open if equivalent CO2 emissions reductions are achieved in other sectors, McKenna said. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose Liberal Party took power a year ago, ran on a platform of reducing carbon emissions and embracing renewable energy. Roughly 60 percent of Canada’s electricity is generated using hydropower, and analysts predicted that the Liberal government’s announcement Monday will stimulate the development of wind, solar, and other renewable forms of energy.
15 Nov 2016:
For Third Year in a Row, Carbon
Emissions Flat as Global Economy Grows
Global carbon emissions from fossil fuels stayed flat in 2015 and are projected to increase by only 0.2 percent in 2016 — marking three years in a row that emissions have been decoupled from global economic growth, according to a new analysis
by scientists at the University of East Anglia and the Global Carbon Project
. The three-year slowdown is largely due to China’s declining coal usage, the study said, which helped the country reduce emissions 0.7 percent in 2015 and a projected 0.5 percent in 2016. But the scientists warned that emissions simply staying flat is not sufficient to combat climate change. “This third year of almost no growth in emissions is unprecedented at a time of strong economic growth… but it is not enough,” Corinne Le Quéré, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia who led the data analysis, said in a statement. “Global emissions now need to decrease rapidly, not just stop growing.”
03 Nov 2016:
Even With Paris Pledges, World
Could Warm As Much as 3.4 Degrees C By 2100
Global temperatures could rise as much as 3.4 degrees C (6.1 degrees F) this century even if nations achieve the greenhouse gas reduction targets set forth in the Paris climate agreement, according to a new report
from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Emissions for 2030 are projected to be 54 billion to 56 billion tons of carbon dioxide, which is nearly 25 percent — or 12 billion to 14 billion tons of CO2 — higher than levels needed to hold global warming to 2 degrees C by 2100. The new UNEP report comes just one day before the Paris climate agreement officially enters into force, and a few days before the next UN global climate conference in Marrakesh, Morocco. “The world must urgently and dramatically increase its ambition to… have any chance of minimizing dangerous climate change,” the UNEP said
26 Oct 2016:
At Least 74,000 Americans Live
Near Oil and Gas Wells on Public Lands
A new online tool
mapping active oil and gas wells on U.S. public lands shows that at least 74,000 people in six states
Map showing population and oil and gas wells.
live within a half-mile of drilling sites. That close proximity puts these people at increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory problems from natural gas leaking from the wells, said the Wilderness Society, which together with Earthworks helped create the tool. In Wyoming, for example, 15,869 oil and gas facilities
operate on public land, and some 4,000 people live within a half-mile of them — the range that airborne pollutants from wells, such as benzene, can easily travel. The mapping tool is being released at a time when scientists, environmental groups, and policymakers are ramping up calls to reduce and regulate natural gas leaks
from drilling and storage sites.
19 Oct 2016:
Can We Turn CO2 into a Useable
Fuel? Scientists Say They Have Found a Way
Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee report that they have found a way to convert carbon dioxide into ethanol
, a usable fuel. The team used a spiky nanotechnology-based catalyst made out of carbon, copper, and nitrogen. When they applied voltage to the catalyst, CO2 dissolved in water turned into ethanol, with a yield of 63 percent. “We discovered somewhat by accident that this material works,” said Adam Rondinone, the Oak Ridge scientist that led the research. Because the materials are relatively cheap and the reaction can happen at room temperature, the researchers say the technique could be scaled up to store renewable energy as ethanol, for example, or to convert CO2 emissions into fuel. Finding new ways to use CO2 “in order to displace a fossil feedstock,” the scientists wrote in the study
, “is an appropriate intermediate step towards a carbon-free future.”
10 Oct 2016:
Trump Proclaims at Debate
That ‘Coal Will Last for 1,000 Years’ in U.S.
At the second 2016 U.S. presidential debate, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump clashed over energy policy and climate change
, with Trump
saying the energy industry is “under siege” from Obama administration regulations and vowing that “clean coal” will continue to power the U.S. for a thousand years. While both pledged to help beleaguered coal miners, Trump doubled down on his support for fossil fuel production while Clinton said the U.S. must gradually decouple its economy from coal, oil, and natural gas. “I support moving towards more clean, renewable energy as quickly as we can because I think we can be the 21st-century clean-energy superpower and create millions of new jobs and businesses,” she said.
07 Oct 2016:
Scotland to Generate Some of
World’s First Kite-Driven Power in 2017
The United Kingdom will begin harnessing energy from kites flying 450 meters above ground as early as next year. Developed by UK-based Kite Power Solutions
A kite-powered wind energy generator.
the system is composed of two 40-meter wide kites that rise and fall in tandem, spooling a tether line to turn a turbine. A test site was previously built in Essex
, and a 500-kilowatt system will be built near Stranraer, Scotland on the West Freugh air force station. Because the kites are lighter than wind turbines, they can more easily be built offshore and reach higher altitude winds, which are faster and more consistent. The technology, which companies hope could revolutionize global renewable energy strategies, is also being tested
in Switzerland and Italy, among other countries.
06 Oct 2016:
Methane Emissions From Fossil
Fuels Much Higher Than Previously Thought
Methane emissions from global fossil fuel production are up to 60 percent higher than previously estimated, according to a new study in the journal Nature
by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and several universities. Combined, methane emissions from oil and gas production and natural geological leakage are up to 110 percent greater than previously estimated. The upward revision shows that the fossil fuel industry is responsible for 25 percent of total global methane emissions, or up to 165 million tons of the 623 million tons emitted from all sources. The study comes at a time when companies are working to reduce methane leaks
from extraction facilities and pipelines, with some success. The scientists found leak rates have declined from 8 percent to 2 percent over the past 30 years. Increased natural gas production, however, has negated these improvements.
Public Art or Renewable Energy?
New Designs Aim to Produce Both
When the topic of energy infrastructure comes up, works of art don’t usually come to mind. But hundreds of such hybrid creations — part renewable power generators,
A vegetable farm off the Santa Monica Pier.
part large-scale art installations — now exist, at least on paper, as the result of a sustainable design competition known as the Land Art Generator Initiative
. Multi-disciplinary teams across the world have taken up the challenge to come up with buildable designs that produce renewable energy and “add value to public space, inspire, and educate.” In a photo essay, Yale Environment 360
highlights eight submissions to this year’s biennial competition, including the three winners announced this week. All designed for the waters off the Santa Monica Pier in Southern California, the systems range from a ring-shaped farm floating offshore to sail-like structures that harvest drinking water from fog.
27 Sep 2016:
Could California’s Gridlock
Generate Electricity for the Grid?
California is testing whether its heavy traffic can produce not just emissions and air pollution, but electricity.
Traffic on Interstate 80 near Berkeley, Calif.
The state’s Energy Commission says it will spend $2 million to examine the potential of using piezoelectric crystals embedded under asphalt as a way to send the energy created by moving cars to the grid. The crystals generate energy when compressed by the weight of moving cars, but tests of the technology at larger scales have failed or been canceled in Tokyo, Italy, and Israel, according to the Associated Press
. California, therefore, “needs to figure out whether it can produce high returns without costing too much,” the AP writes. If successful, the technology could help the state reach its goal to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. California is expected to hit a 25 percent renewables target by the end of this year.
20 Sep 2016:
China Leads in Wind Installation,
But Continues to Prioritize Coal in the Grid
China built two wind turbines every hour in 2015, double that of the U.S., according to the International Energy Agency
. The country is installing enough wind to meet all of its new energy demand, more than 30,000 megawatts last year. Despite this promising development, however, the IEA told BBC News
that China is giving coal-fired power plants priority access to the grid over wind, hampering the country’s pledge to get an increasing share of its electricity from renewable energy sources. “The rather rosy statement on wind energy hides the issue that 2015 and the first half of 2016 also saw record new installations of coal,” an IEA spokesman said. “China has now a clear over-supply. In the province of Gansu, 39% of wind energy had to be curtailed (turned off).”
Clinton vs. Trump: A Sharp Divide
Over Energy and the Environment
Environmental and energy issues have received relatively little attention from the two major-party candidates in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. But when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have spoken out on these issues, the differences — like just about everything else about this campaign — have been stark. In a chart, Yale Environment 360
compares what Clinton and Trump have said on topics ranging from climate change to coal. See the graphic.
07 Sep 2016:
Costa Rica Runs on Renewable
Energy For More Than Two Months Straight
Costa Rica has generated 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy 150 days so far this year, including all of the past two months, according to the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity, the nation’s main power provider. The country’s main source of renewable energy is hydropower, which accounted for 80 percent of Costa Rica’s electricity generation in August, according to Mashable
. Another massive hydroelectric power plant, the Reventazón dam, is scheduled to come online in September, further boosting the nation’s hydroelectric production. Geothermal, powered by Costa Rica’s many volcanoes, generated another 12.6 percent of electricity. Wind and solar make up roughly 7 percent of generation. Experts say Costa Rica is on track to meet, if not beat, last year’s record 299 days of 100 percent renewable energy.
25 Aug 2016:
Scientists Find New Way
To Convert Carbon Dioxide into Energy
Scientists have discovered a way to convert greenhouse gas emissions into a fuel
in a single step using a light-driven bacterium, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
. A team of U.S. scientists, led by biochemists at Utah State University, used a modified version of the phototrophic bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris
as a catalyst to break apart carbon dioxide and turn it into hydrogen and methane, the latter of which can be burned to generate electricity. "It's a baby step, but it's also a big step," said Utah State biochemist Lance Seefeldt
, a co-author of the study. "Imagine the far-reaching benefits of large-scale capture of environmentally damaging byproducts from burning fossils fuels and converting them to alternative fuels using light, which is abundant and clean."
For China’s Massive Data Centers,
A Push to Cut Energy and Water Use
China’s 1.37 billion people, many of them fully connected to the Internet, use an enormous amount of energy as they email, search the Web, or stream video.
Solar panels atop a green data center in Hangzhou.
Indeed, the Chinese government estimates that the country’s data centers alone consume more electricity than all of Hungary and Greece combined. But as Chinese technology and internet businesses look to burnish their environmental credentials and lower costs of operation, many are working to run their massive computing facilities more sustainably. Globally, tech giants such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are making rapid progress in this field, as they boost energy efficiency at data centers and seek to completely power their operations using renewable energy.
12 Aug 2016:
July Electric Car Sales in China
Rose by 188 Percent Over Last Year
Chinese consumers bought 34,000 new electric cars in July, a 188 percent jump over the same period last year, according to CleanTechnica
, an energy and technology news organization. The monthly total puts China on track to sell 400,000 electrical vehicles in 2016, accounting for 1.5 percent of the total auto sales market — larger than annual EV sales in Europe, or the U.S., Canada, and Mexico combined. By the end of the year, China is projected to have 700,000 electric cars on its streets; the vast majority of EV sales, 96 percent, are for Chinese-made cars, including from manufacturers BYD Auto, Zhidou, and SAIC Motor. Tesla accounts for just 2 percent of EV sales in the country, and Porsche just 1 percent.