09 Aug 2012:
New Atmospheric Compound
Tied to Human Health and Climate Change
An international team of researchers says it has discovered a new atmospheric compound
that reacts with sulfur dioxide to form sulfuric acid, which produces acid rain, has negative respiratory effects on humans, and causes increased cloud formation. Reporting in Nature
, the scientists from the U.S., Finland, and Germany identified the new compound as a type of carbonyl oxide, formed by the reaction of ozone with natural and manmade hydrocarbons, known as alkenes. When the carbonyl oxide compounds react with sulfur dioxide — which is primarily produced by coal and other fossil fuel combustion at power plants — large amounts of sulfuric acid are produced. The scientists say it is the first time that this complex new interaction of atmospheric compounds has been documented. Sulfuric acid creates acid rain that is harmful to terrestrial and aquatic life, and airborne sulfuric acid particles play the main role in the formation of clouds, an increase of which could help cool the planet. Smaller sulfuric acid particles near the planet’s surface have been shown to cause human respiratory ailments.
07 Aug 2012:
Dozens of Small Earthquakes
Detected Near Texas Drilling Sites
A new study by researchers at the University of Texas has found that dozens of small earthquakes occurred in a shale region of north Texas within a two-year period, with many occurring close to injection wells associated with oil and gas drilling projects. In an analysis of seismic data, study author Cliff Frohlich found that 68 earthquakes had occurred between November 2009 and September 2011
— all with a relatively weak magnitude of 3 or lower — in the Barnett Shale region, a large area that covers several Texas counties and contains a geological formation increasingly targeted for extraction of oil and gas from shale formations. According to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, 23 of those quakes occurred within two miles of high-volume injection wells
that pump wastewater from controversial hydrofracturing drilling technology deep underground. “You can’t prove that any one earthquake was caused by an injection well,” Frolich said. “But it’s obvious that wells are enhancing the probability that earthquakes will occur.”
06 Aug 2012:
California Meets 20 Percent
of Electricity Demand With Clean Energy
California power utilities are now achieving more than 20 percent of the state’s electricity needs with renewable energy sources, state regulators say. In its latest quarterly report
, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said that the state met 20.6 percent of its
electricity demand with renewable sources — including wind, solar, and geothermal — during 2011, up from 17 percent in 2010. In 2012, the report says, the state is on pace to far surpass that level. According to the CPUC report, 2,871 megawatts of energy capacity from clean sources has been added statewide since ambitious clean energy standards were enacted in 2003, and another 3,000 megawatts are expected to be added during 2012. A dozen utility-scale solar photovoltaic plants, with a combined capacity of 2,200 megawatts, are currently being built in California
, while another 62 plants totaling 11,600 megawatts of capacity are being developed. The state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard requires that 20 percent of electricity sold to customers be generated from renewable sources from 2011 to 2013; the target increases to 33 percent by 2020.
01 Aug 2012:
Historic Blackouts Reveal
Troubling Holes in India’s Power Network
The historic blackouts that left more than 670 million people in India without electricity this week revealed profound problems with a power network struggling to keep pace with one of the world’s fastest growing economies, experts say. While it’s unclear what specifically triggered this week’s massive grid failures, which knocked out power in 20 Indian states
, government officials accused several northern states of drawing more power from the grid
than their allocated amounts. Another factor may have been increased electricity usage caused by unusually high water pumping for irrigation as a result of weak monsoon rains. Experts say the blackouts reveal a fundamental gap between supply and demand in a nation that aspires to be a global economic leader. While India has increased its power capacity more than 35 percent in the last five years, a peak-hour electricity shortfall of about 10 percent exists
and hundreds of millions of people in rural areas have no access to electricity. As much as two-thirds of India’s electricity comes from the burning of coal and some plants are struggling to meet demand because of a coal shortage.
31 Jul 2012:
U.S. Meat Producers Call for
Pause in Ethanol Quotas in Wake of Drought
U.S. meat, poultry, and dairy producers are urging the Obama administration to suspend a quota for corn-based ethanol production, warning that the renewable fuels standard could trigger a food crisis as a prolonged
drought pushes corn and soybean prices to record levels. In a letter sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a coalition that includes the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council asked for a one-year waiver on federal ethanol quotas
, saying that the ongoing drought in the U.S. Midwest has slashed the amount of corn available to feed livestock and poultry. The current renewable fuels standard would require that 13.2 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol be produced in 2012 and 13.8 billion gallons in 2013. In 2012, the meat producers say, those quotas would consume nearly 40 percent of all U.S.-produced corn. “The extraordinary and disastrous circumstances created for livestock and poultry producers by the ongoing drought in the heart of our grain growing regions requires that all relevant measures of relief be explored
,” the letter said.
26 Jul 2012:
Pulling Carbon From Air
Should Be Pursued Despite Costs, Study Says
Columbia University scientists say that technologies to extract carbon dioxide from the air will likely become a critical part of any strategy to stabilize the global climate and should not be abandoned because of high costs
. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, the researchers from the university’s Earth Institute argue that the use of technologies to remove emissions at the source — such as at coal-powered plants — will not go far enough because they don’t address the transportation sector, which accounts for up to half of global CO2 emissions. In addition, the scientists say that the shift to renewable energy sources will likely not occur fast enough. Technologies that remove CO2 from the atmosphere on a large scale — such as forests of artificial trees or the use of absorbent liquids that extract CO2
— could help avert potentially dangerous warming. While the costs will likely be high at first, the paper said, they will come down as the technologies are more widely deployed. “The field of carbon sequestration as a community is too timid when it comes to new ideas,” said Klaus Lackner, lead author of the paper.
25 Jul 2012:
U.S. Identifies Zones for
Solar Development on Public Lands
The Obama administration has identified 17 sites on public lands
across six Southwestern states that officials say are most suitable for utility-scale solar projects. In a report, federal officials vowed to expedite applications
for solar projects on these sites — located in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah — which were targeted because of access to existing or planned transmission lines, minimal resource conflicts, existing development incentives, and solar potential. The sites,covering a total of 285,000 acres, have the potential to produce nearly 5,900 megawatts of energy, enough to power 1.8 million homes, according to the U.S. Interior Department. While the government also created a process for quicker approval of “well-sited projects” on another 19 million acres outside these zones, the plan excluded more than 78 million acres of public land from solar development.
23 Jul 2012:
Some University Fracking Studies
Funded by Industry Groups, Report Says
Several university-led studies that have downplayed concerns about the controversial drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing have been funded in part by drilling companies themselves, Bloomberg News reports
. Bloomberg cited, for example, a 2009 report published by Pennsylvania State University predicting that drilling companies would shun projects in that state if required to pay a 5 percent tax on drilling revenues. But researchers did not disclose that their study had been funded in part by a $100,000 grant from a drilling industry group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition. A University of Texas researcher who found no evidence of groundwater contamination from fracking received more than $400,000 from a Texas fracking company, Bloomberg said. And a study from the State University of New York at Buffalo concluding that regulations have helped curb the environmental impacts of fracking did not acknowledge extensive industry ties. “It’s a growing problem across academia,” Mark Partridge, a professor of rural-urban policy at the Ohio State University, told Bloomberg. “Universities are so short of money, professors are under a lot of pressure to raise research funding in any manner possible.”
19 Jul 2012:
`Great Green Fleet’ Trial
Launched by U.S. Navy in the Pacific
The U.S. Navy this week held military exercises in the Pacific Ocean that used an expensive blend of biofuels and conventional fuels to power 71 aircraft and three warships,
part of an ongoing effort by the Navy to develop alternative fuels for its global operations. The so-called “Great Green Fleet” initiative is a top priority of Navy Secretary Ray Maybus, who contends that the U.S. military must eventually free itself from dependence on fossil fuels “because unpredictable and increasingly volatile oil prices could have a direct impact on readiness.” But numerous critics, including U.S. Senator John McCain, criticize Maybus’ initiative as unnecessary and costly, noting that the 50-50 biofuel/conventional fuel blend costs $26 a gallon — more than six times the cost of conventional fuels. A Defense Department study said that the military will spend $2 billion more annually if it continues to pursue its biofuels experiments. About 90 percent of the biofuels was rendered from cooking oil waste and the remaining 10 percent was refined from algae. Maybus, speaking aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, contended that the rising costs of oil and breakthroughs in biofuel production will eventually narrow the price gap between conventional and alternative fuels.
11 Jul 2012:
New European Auto Standards
Would Cut CO2 Emissions By One Third
The European Union has introduced strict new auto emissions standards
that officials say would cut carbon dioxide emissions by a third by 2020. The new standard, which must be approved by all member states and the
European Parliament, would require that new passenger cars emit no more than 95 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer driven, compared with 130 grams today, and 147 grams per kilometer for vans. Connie Hedegaard, the European commission’s climate chief, said the new standards would help European automakers compete with foreign manufacturers and cut fuel costs for consumers. According to EU estimates, the average driver would save about €340 in fuel during the first year, and between €2,900 and €3,800 during the lifetime of the vehicle. In addition, the EU predicts it would save about 160 million tons of imported oil. Greenpeace officials, however, called the plan too weak
, saying that, among other loopholes, it allows manufacturers to continue producing heavy-emitting vehicles in return for building zero-emitting electric cars, regardless of how many electric vehicles are sold.
05 Jul 2012:
U.S.’s Largest Solar Factory
Halted in Face of Dropping Prices
General Electric has halted construction of what would have been the largest solar factory in the U.S.
due to the falling price of photovoltaic modules globally and says it will focus instead on developing the next generation of cadmium-telluride thin-film technologies for the developers of solar plants. Construction of the 400-megawatt factory in Aurora, Colo, which had been announced after GE purchased Primestar Solar in April 2011, will be put on hold for at least 18 months, company officials say. While the thin-film panels are less efficient than conventional silicon panels, they had emerged as a popular option for large utilities since they can be built at a cheaper cost, particularly when silicon prices are high. But with a steep drop in silicon prices and increased solar production in China, the price of conventional solar modules has dropped roughly 50 percent in recent months. “Given those dynamics… we’re focusing our efforts on developing the next generation of [cadmium-telluride] module technology so we can reach higher efficiency levels and a more competitive cost position,” Danielle Merfield, GE’s general manager for solar technologies, told Forbes
27 Jun 2012:
BP Oil Spill Accelerated
Erosion of Louisiana Marshlands
The 2010 BP oil spill hastened the loss of Louisiana’s already fragile salt marshlands
, a new study says. In a comparison of erosion rates at three healthy marsh sites and three areas affected by the oil spill, University of Florida scientists found
that oil from the spill coated thick grasses on the outer edge of some wetlands, killing off salt marsh plants 15 to 30 feet from the shoreline. When those grasses died, the deep roots that held the soil sediment died as well, causing the rate of erosion on shore banks to more than double. In Louisiana’s Barataria Bay, for instance, oiled marshes have receded nearly 10 feet per year after the spill — about twice the normal rate of erosion in a region already losing huge areas of marshland as a result of channelization of the Mississippi River and rising sea levels. “We already knew that erosion leads to permanent marsh loss, and now we know that oil can exacerbate it,” said Brian Silliman, a University of Florida biologist and lead author of the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Video: Belo Monte Dam Controversy
The Belo Monte dam, now under construction in the Amazon, is heralded as a much-needed power source for Brazil’s burgeoning economy. But critics contend the project’s benefits are outweighed by the environmental and social costs — the flooding of 260 square miles of rainforest and the displacement of more than 20,000 people. In a Yale Environment 360
video report, multimedia journalist Charles Lyons explores both sides of this controversial project.
Watch the video
20 Jun 2012:
Growth of Renewables
Is Being Underestimated, Reports Say
While renewable energy sources still provide a small portion of the world's power needs, several new reports suggest the global community may be
underestimating the growth potential for the green energy sector. The Washington Post
cited studies showing that global solar generation nearly doubled in 2011, with consumers using more than 55 terawatt-hours of solar power, compared with about 30 terawatt-hours in 2010. According to one analyst
, solar energy has the potential to provide nearly 10 percent of global electricity by 2018 if current trends continue, although growth in recent years has been largely driven by a decline in solar panel prices and government subsidies in the U.S., China, and Germany. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has projected a slower growth for renewables, although the IEA previously underestimated the expansion of alternative energy
19 Jun 2012:
Major World Cities
Cite Progress in CO2-Reduction Effort
Speaking at the Rio+20 sustainability summit, the mayors of New York City and Rio de Janeiro will announce that 48 of the world’s largest cities are taking steps to cut 248 tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020
, the equivalent of removing 44 million cars from the road for a year. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes said that four-dozen cities in the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
are reducing emissions by launching energy efficiency programs, capturing methane in landfills, installing more efficient street lighting, and other initiatives. They cite the CO2 reductions as proof that cities can make significant progress on slashing greenhouse gases even in the absence of a global agreement on cutting carbon emissions. “We’re not arguing with each other about emissions targets,” Bloomberg told reporters in a teleconference. “What we’re doing is going out and making progress.” Bloomberg and Paes said that 59 cities have committed to cut their carbon emissions by a total of 1 billion tons by 2030, equivalent to the combined greenhouse gas emissions of Canada and Mexico.
18 Jun 2012:
Japan Feed-in Tariffs Approved
As Government Restarts 2 Nuclear Plants
Japan’s struggle over its energy future was on display over the last two days as the government okayed restarting operations at two nuclear power plants
while also approving an ambitious renewable energy feed-in tariff
in which utilities will pay a premium for electricity generated by solar, wind, and geothermal power. After shutting down the country’s 50 nuclear power plants following the Fukushima nuclear power meltdown, the government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Saturday gave the green light to bring two nuclear reactors in western Japan back online. Despite public unease and a large street protest in Tokyo, the government said that post-Fukushima reforms had rendered the plants safe. Meanwhile, the government approved generous green energy feed-in tariffs as part of a drive to significantly expand renewable power generation.
Under the feed-in tariffs, utilities will pay 42 yen (53 U.S. cents) per kilowatt hour for solar-generated electricity and 23 yen per kilowatt hour for wind-generated electricity.
18 Jun 2012:
Online Twitter Campaign
Urges End to Fossil Fuel Subsidies
A coalition of activists today launched a 24-hour campaign on the social media network Twitter to pressure global leaders attending the Rio+20 summit to slash fossil fuel subsidies. Beginning at 8 a.m. GMT, participants started posting messages on the social media site using the hashtag #EndFossilFuelSubsidies
, a so-called “Twitterstorm” that organizers hope will call attention to the issue at the global summit in Brazil. By mid-morning the hashtag was the leading trend on Twitter. The campaign comes as a new report from Oil Change International
estimates that fossil fuel industries receive as much as $1 trillion in direct or indirect support from governments annually. “This world has a few problems where a trillion dollars might come in handy — and we’d have a few less problems if we weren’t paying the fossil fuel industry to wreck the climate,” said Bill McKibben
, founder of 350.org
, one of the groups organizing the Twitter campaign. While some countries have pushed for eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, the current draft of the Rio+20 agreement includes no such commitments
15 Jun 2012:
Sharp Divisions Emerge
As Rio+20 Negotiators Seek Consensus
With the United Nations Rio+20 summit on sustainable development set to open next Wednesday, negotiators from developing nations walked out of a key working group
over disagreements with wealthier nations about funding environmentally responsible development and the transfer of green technology. As negotiators attempted to forge an agreement, the G77 bloc of developing nations, led by China, proposed that wealthy countries finance a global fund for sustainable development with an initial annual budget of $30 billion. But European Union nations said they were unable to afford that because most EU states faced an economic crisis. Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, rejected that argument, saying, “We cannot be held hostage to the retraction resulting from financial crises in rich countries.” As 130 world leaders (with the notable absence of the leaders of the U.S., Britain, and Germany) prepared to arrive, a top Brazilian diplomat lamented the summit’s disparate blocs
, saying the traditional north-south divide was only one of many divisions.
12 Jun 2012:
Lithium-ion Battery Maker
To Announce Technological Breakthrough
The promising but financially troubled A123 Systems lithium-ion battery maker was expected to announce today it has made a significant advance in battery technology
that will enable electric car batteries to last longer and cost less. A123 has been a leader in the race to develop improved batteries for electric cars and has received tens of millions of dollars in U.S. government grants. However, technological challenges have slowed its progress,
forcing layoffs at its Michigan factory. But A123 is set to announce today that advances in the battery’s electrodes and electrolytes have eliminated the need for heating and cooling systems in extreme temperatures, which to date has been a major challenge. The company says it plans to begin production next year of its new battery, which uses a new electrolyte chemistry called Nanophosphate EXT. A123 also says the new battery can be used to replace traditional lead-acid batteries in conventional cars.
11 Jun 2012:
Renewable Energy Investments
Grew by 17 Percent in 2011, Reports Say
A surge in investment in renewable energy in India, coupled with strong green energy growth in the U.S. and China, led to a 17 percent global surge in alternative energy investments
last year, according to reports by the United Nations Environment Program and another organization. Robust investment in solar power helped India’s investment in green energy grow 62 percent last year, to $12 billion, the reports said. U.S. investments in renewable energy, dominated by solar power, totaled $51 billion last year, just $1 billion behind China’s $52 billion in alternative energy investments. Despite plummeting prices for natural gas and a decline in subsidies for renewable energy investments in developed countries, total global investments in renewable energy in 2011 reached a record $257 billion, nearly double the total five years ago, according to the reports. Even excluding large hydroelectric projects, renewable energy investment represented roughly one-third of new power generation installed in 2011.
Interview: An Influential Voice
Warns of Runaway Emissions
Fatih Birol is a man watching a clock — the clock that ticks off the years in which little is done to slow emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases. As
chief economist of the authoritative International Energy Agency, Birol has a bully pulpit, and he has used it to consistently warn that time is running out if the global community hopes to avert potentially catastrophic climate change. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Birol discusses why the emissions situation is getting worse, why an overreliance on abundant natural gas reserves is a dangerous strategy, and why the global community has to take action in the next several years if it hopes to avert temperature increases that soar way past the 2 degrees C increase that climate scientists say is a prudent upper limit. “Individual efforts of countries or sectors will not bring us to 2 degrees,” said Birol. “And if the trends continue like this, we can very soon kiss goodbye to a 2-degree trajectory.” Read the interview
07 Jun 2012:
Environmental Tipping Point
Is Nearing, International Study Says
The rapid warming of the planet, a soaring human population, the steady loss of biodiversity, over-exploitation of energy resources, and the degradation of the world’s oceans are driving the world toward an ecological tipping point,
according to a new study in Nature
. Twenty-two scientists from five nations compared the major changes taking place today with previous ecological shifts — such as the end of the last Ice Age 14,000 to 18,000 years ago — that triggered mass extinctions of some species, expansions of others, and the creation of new global ecosystems. The paper said that while there is still considerable uncertainty as to whether the world is now approaching such a “state shift,” many signs point to a future of ecological upheaval. “Given all the pressures we are putting on the world, if we do nothing different, I believe we are looking at a time scale of a century or even a few decades for a tipping point to arrive,” lead author Anthony Barnosky
, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, said in an interview.
07 Jun 2012:
Mexico President Signs
Ambitious Climate Targets into Law
Mexico President Felipe Calderon this week signed into law ambitious climate targets
aimed at drastically cutting the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the share of clean energy in the coming decades. The law, passed unanimously by the Senate, commits Mexico to cut greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2050. In addition, it stipulates that 35 percent of Mexico’s energy will come from renewable sources by 2024 and that all government agencies will be required to use green energy sources. The law also calls for the creation of a permit-trading scheme for greenhouse gas emissions. On Twitter
, Calderon said the law is part of Mexico’s efforts to become “an international leader in environmental protection.” The U.S. Energy Information Administration lists Mexico as the world’s 12th-biggest carbon emitter
, producing 443.61 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
05 Jun 2012:
Growing Number of Farmers
Deploying Green Energy Systems in UK
A new report finds that an unexpectedly large number of UK farmers have installed renewable energy systems
such as solar panels and wind turbines on their properties, a trend that could increase the profitability
of the agricultural sector and help the UK achieve its green energy targets. By the end of summer, one in six farmers will have solar photovoltaic systems on their properties and one in five will be producing clean electricity with some form of renewable energy technology, according to researchers from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and NatWest bank. The report said about 200 megawatts of power are already installed on UK farms — enough to power 40,000 households. “The NFU has been encouraging farmers and growers nationwide across all sectors to diversify into renewable energy for the past few years, but we are amazed at this level of uptake already,” Jonathan Scurlock, a renewable energy adviser to the Farmers’ Union, told the Guardian
05 Jun 2012:
Carbon Emissions Declined
23 Percent Under Regional U.S. Program
Power plants subject to a regional cap-and-trade program in the northeastern U.S. known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI
) reduced their carbon dioxide emissions by an average of 23 percent during the first three years of the program, the group says. According to a RGGI report
, 206 of 211 power plants participating in the program met their compliance obligations from Jan. 1, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2011, the first three-year control period of the program. During that time, the average annual CO2 emissions were 126 million tons, a 23-percent decline compared with the previous three-year period. Emissions for the 2009-2011 period were about 33 percent below RGGI’s annual pollution cap of 188 million tons, which was due to a shift from coal to natural gas, the economic recession, and energy efficiency programs
. The RGGI regime requires major power plants to buy allowances at auction for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit. Companies that emit lower emissions can sell their unused allowances to other companies. Program participants include the six New England states and New York, Delaware, and Maryland.
04 Jun 2012:
Power Plant Production Drops
As Waters Warm and River Flows Decline
Rising water temperatures and a reduction in river flows have caused declining production at some thermoelectric power plants
in the U.S. and Europe, a trend that will likely continue for decades as the planet warms, according to a new study. Writing in em>Nature Climate Change
, researchers estimate the generating capacity at U.S. nuclear and coal-fired plants, which rely on consistent volumes of water flow at particular temperatures to cool overheated turbines, will fall 4 to 16 percent from 2031 to 2060 as a consequence of climate change. In Europe, scientists predict, production will drop 6 to 19 percent due to a lack of cooling water. According to the study, “extreme” drops in power generation caused by near or total plant shutdowns will triple during that time period. In the U.S., thermoelectric plants account for more than 90 percent of electricity generation. “This study suggests that our reliance on thermal cooling is something we’re going to have to revisit,” said Dennis Lettenmaier, of the University of Washington, the study's co-author.
01 Jun 2012:
Japan Forced to Reconsider
Climate Targets Without Nuclear Power
Japanese officials say they may have to scrap long-term targets for carbon emissions reductions as a consequence of moving away from nuclear power in the aftermath of last year’s Fukushima disaster. According to the Japan Times
, government officials this week conceded that goals to cut carbon emissions 25 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels were “to a fair degree” predicated on the use of nuclear power. “I have no doubt that an overall review will be necessary,” deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada said. Last month the nation shut down its last working nuclear plant more than a year after the Fukushima disaster made nuclear power unacceptable to many Japanese residents
. But considering that nuclear power provided nearly 30 percent of the nation’s electricity before the 2011 disaster, many predict the idled nuclear plants will trigger a rise in greenhouse gas emissions from an increased use of fossil fuels. A report released earlier this week said that the combined electricity produced from natural gas, oil, and coal-powered plants from January to April was up 40 percent
compared with the same period in 2011.
30 May 2012:
Natural Gas Boom May Halt
Renewable Energy Growth, IEA Warns
A surge in natural gas supplies worldwide could halt any meaningful growth in the renewable energy sector
over the next two decades if governments don’t take action, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warns. New technologies to extract natural gas, primarily from shale formations using a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, could triple production of unconventional gas globally between 2010 to 2035, to about 1.6 trillion cubic meters, according to a new IEA report
. These new sources of supply will, in turn, help keep prices relatively low, posing an increased risk to renewable energy sources, which are more expensive in part because the costs of greenhouse gas emissions are not part of the calculation of energy costs. “Policy measures by governments for renewable energy have to be there for years to come, as it is not always as cost-effective as it could be,” Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the IEA, told a conference in London, according to the Guardian
. While natural gas drilling on its face produces about half of the carbon emissions of coal burning, some experts say the methane released during the drilling process may be enough to offset the global warming benefits of switching from coal to gas.
24 May 2012:
Carbon Emissions Reached
Record Levels in 2011, Report Says
Global carbon dioxide emissions reached record levels in 2011
, driven largely by a 9.3-percent increase in Chinese emissions, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). According to preliminary estimates, worldwide carbon emissions climbed to 31.6 gigatonnes in 2011, a 3.2-percent increase from 2010. India’s emissions rose by 8.7 percent, passing Russia to become the world’s fourth-biggest emitter (behind China, the U.S., and the European Union). Such increases offset a reduction in emissions in the EU and the U.S., where a sluggish economy and an increased shift from coal to natural gas contributed to a 1.7-percent decline in carbon emissions. “The new data provide further evidence that the door to a two degrees Celsius trajectory is about to close,” said Fatih Birol, IEA’s chief economist
, citing concerns among scientists that emissions must begin being significantly reduced by 2020 to prevent potentially destabilizing temperature increases of more than 2 degrees C. According to the report, the burning of coal accounted for 45 percent of total energy-related carbon emissions, followed by oil (35 percent) and natural gas (20 percent).
18 May 2012:
Apple’s Main Data Center
Will Use Only Green Power by 2013
Apple Inc. has received approval to build two solar power installations at its main data center
in North Carolina, allowing the technology giant to run the center entirely with renewable energy by next year. The two solar farms, which will cover 250 acres near its core data center in Maiden, N.C., will utilize high-efficiency solar cells and an advanced solar-tracking system provided by SunPower Corp and startup Bloom Energy. The solar arrays will generate 84 million kWh of electricity per year. Apple, which produces the popular iPhone and iPad, says that all three of its main data centers ultimately will be powered by coal-free electricity. “I’m not aware of any other company producing energy onsite at this scale,” Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer told Reuters
. The company
is also developing a 5-megawatt fuel cell facility on the Maiden site. A recent Greenpeace report cited Apple
, whose data centers require an ever-expanding amount of power, for lagging behind in efforts to use clean energy.