Saturday, May 31, 2014

How Dandelions May Help Us Kill Superbugs

There is some scary stuff in this article worth considering as we think about on-going changes in our world. One of those valid fears that keeps scientist awake at night is the threat of infections/bugs resistant to treatments.  Ironic that as people spend millions this time of year killing Dandelions with harsh chemicals, that they might be diminishing their natural protection against a changing e-coli bug.

Bringing balance to our world, and to our juxtaposition of the economy with the environment, is impacted by so many assumptions and habits we let dictate our actions and lives.  Articles like this one brings new insight and pause to our sometimes lack of knowledge.



Looking out my office window, I see a beautiful natural setting and a small lawn covered in bright yellow flowers and I wonder: “Why do so many people despise dandelions?”  While they think up new and toxic ways to eradicate these “weeds,” I celebrate their powerful medicinal qualities based on their high levels of vitamins, minerals, and other medicinal compounds. Recently researchers have added superbug killer to the dandelion’s impressive health-boosting resume.  Scientists from the Huaihai Institute of Technology in Lianyungang, China found that the yield of polysaccharides from dandelion showed high antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli (E. coli), Bacillus subtilis, and Staphylococcus aureus.
People can contract E. coli when they come into contact with the feces of both people or animals. While this sounds unlikely, the frequency with which food or water is contaminated by the bacteria may alarm you. Meat is the most common culprit in the United States. E. coli can get into meat during processing and remain active if the meat is not cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F.
Other food that has come in contact with infected meat can also pick up the bacteria. Raw milk and dairy products can also pick up E. coli from cows’ udders and even fruits and vegetables that come in contact with infected animal feces can be contaminated with E. coli.  The bacteria can also be found in pools, lakes and water supplies and on people who do not properly wash their hands after having bowel movements.
E. coli has always been with us but experts now estimate that 30 percent of all E. coli urinary tract infections are resistant to treatment. As I researched my upcoming book, The Probiotic Miracle, I found that only five percent were resistant a mere decade ago. Scientists have discovered that E. coli has developed the ability to secrete a substance called beta-lactamase which deactivates antibiotics. The mechanism known as “extended-spectrum beta lactamase” is also showing up in other bacteria, further disabling the effectiveness of antibiotic drugs.
Bacillus subtilis is ever-present in the air, water and soil.  The bacteria rarely colonize the human body but can cause allergic reactions when people are exposed to it in high amounts. It produces a toxin called subtilisin which, oddly enough, is used in some laundry detergents.  Its composition is very similar to E. coli so it is often used in laboratory research.
Staphylococcus aureus is not so benign.  When you read news stories about the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant superbugs in hospitals, chances are you are reading about MSRA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the bacteria are a leading cause of food poisoning. Infection can also be obtained through animal bites, and contact with another person, particularly if he or she has infected lesions. MSRA rates are increasing in crowded environments like hospitals and nursing homes, and symptoms can vary from a brief period of nausea and vomiting to toxic shock or death.
The Chinese researchers concluded that the dandelion, that despised weed, contains compounds that may be a viable option for use as a food preservative, thereby reducing the risk of these deadly bacteria. Further study is needed to explore a wider variety of bacteria-fighting applications for this powerful little flower.
Try eating dandelions in one of these recipes:
Cream of Dandelion Soup
Dandelion Syrup

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Future of Food?

Thanks to Barbara Seely, one of our key contributors, for a terrific post.   Send us your comments or suggestions on stories:

Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last ten years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.


Agribusiness Genetically Tampering With Our Food
By Jim Hightower, Truthout | Op-Ed
Farming Under Occupation
By Anna Lekas Miller, Triple Crisis | Op-Ed
The Future of Chocolate: Will it Turn GMO?
By Maryam Henein, Truthout | News Analysis

Electric Car Racing Hits Long Beach /Formula E arrives in the US

Glad to bring you this update on Formula E.  We will be interviewing them soon on the radio side.

All updates and stories can be found on our main site at Renewable Now. biz

Mayor Bob Foster welcomes new global electric 
racing series to California 

The FIA Formula E Championship, the world’s first fully-electric racing series, last week announced that round seven of its inaugural season will be held on the iconic streets of Long Beach, California, USA.

The Long Beach ePrix, as it will be titled, will take place on April 4 2015 and will form one of 10 races – and one of two in the US alongside Miami – taking place in city-centres across the globe. Organisers also confirmed that the Long Beach race will be one of two that forms part of the championship’s Legacy Programme giving free access to fans with a focus on attracting school and university students from the nearby area to appeal to a new generation of motorsport fans and promote the electric vehicle industry.

Formula E is the FIA’s(Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) new open-wheel championship using fully-electric race cars capable of speeds in excess of 150mph. Its 10 teams have already been confirmed and feature some of the leading names in motorsport including two from the US - Michael Andretti’s Andretti Autosportand Jay Penske’s Dragon Racing. A total of 20 drivers will take part, two per team, four of which have already been announced including former F1 stars Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport Abt Formula E Team) and Jaime Alguersuari (Virgin Racing Formula E Team).

The announcement was made during a press conference held at the Terrace Theatre Plaza – which overlooks part of the circuit – hosted by Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, who pledges his full support to the new initiative, the CEO of Formula E Alejandro Agag and driver Lucas di Grassi.

"Long Beach is proud to be among the elite group of international cities hosting the FIA Formula E Championship," said Mayor Bob Foster, who is a long-time electric vehicle owner and recognised expert on energy issues. He added: "The Long Beach ePrix will bring a new generation of race fans to the iconic streets of Long Beach."

Long Beach was selected to host one of the 10 international races by championship promoters Formula E Holdings due to its commitment to sustainable mobility and long-running success hosting large scale sporting events and high-visibility special events. California is the number one market for plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) sales with around 12% of national sales alone occurring in the South California area.

Alejandro Agag, Formula E CEO, said: “We are very thankful to Mayor Bob Foster and all the city authorities for their warm reception here today and for welcoming the new all-electric FIA Formula E Championship to Long Beach as hosts of round seven. They all share our passion for not only motorsport but for promoting sustainable mobility, and I have every confidence that the people of Long Beach and Southern California are going to experience a revolutionary, and of course very exciting, new racing event come April 2015. The goal of Formula E is to showcase the true potential of electric vehicles and to inspire people to believe in these cars for their own personal use.”
The Long Beach street circuit is the longest running in the US beginning in 1975 and hosted Formula One from 1976 to 1983 before staging annual CART, Champ Car and IndyCar races. During the press conference, the exact track layout was also revealed which will see the Formula E cars use a modified configuration to the regular IndyCar circuit. At 1.6 miles (2.1km) in length and featuring seven turns, the Formula E cars will use the same iconic start/finish line adjacent to the Marina before heading off in a clockwise direction past the Rainbow Lagoon. They will then turn right onto South Pine Avenue before re-joining with the more familiar track configuration. The cars will then pass around the grounds of the Convention Centre before a final right-hand hairpin brings them back across the start/finish line.

Speaking about the track during the event driver Lucas di Grasi said: “Long Beach is one of the most iconic city tracks in the world. This is the perfect place for Formula E to showcase innovation and sustainability."

Gil de Ferran, former IndyCar legend and Formula E ambassador, added: “Long Beach is an iconic track. It is the most famous street circuit in North America and is a little bit of a tradition in American motorsport. It says a lot for Formula E that it is racing at such a venue.”

The first Formula E race takes place around Beijing’s Olympic ‘Bird’s Nest’ Stadium on September 13 2014. All Formula E events take place in just one day – practice, qualifying and a one-hour race – in order to help minimise disruption to the city.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Solar Helping Battle Electoral Fraud

This is a very nice piece on an amazing use of clean tech and new technology.  What a potential impact on society.  Let us know your thoughts, and you can view this, and many other great stories, at:

An Australian company has developed a solar powered voter verification system to help ensure fairer elections in Africa.
Electoral fraud is an issue in all nations, but particularly so on the African continent. Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe won a seventh term in office last year amid accusations of large-scale electoral fraud.
The Genie ID system can generate photo ID and send images signatures and fingerprints back to a central location via 3G wireless networks for cross-referencing. This can help prevent voters from voting multiple times or attempting to assume the identity of a deceased person still on the electoral role. 
Part of the system is Rollcall, which automatically initiates an adjudication process if suspected fraud is detected. The suspect registration is checked by two adjudicators, who then review the data and decide if a fraud has occurred or not.
The entire verification process takes 2 minutes from start to finish.
"The Genie ID Verification unit makes it easy for electoral officials at voting centres on Election Day to confidently verify that the person who is seeking to vote is actually the same person that appears on the Voter Registration ID card that is being presented before them," says the company.
The units can be powered directly from mains, or a small solar panel - an important feature given electricity supply can be sporadic or non-existent in many parts of Africa. Constructed from heavy-duty materials, the Genie ID can withstand harsh environmental conditions.
The parent company of Genie ID, The Jazzmatrix Corporation, is based in Iluka, Western Australia. 
According to Dynamic Business, the company is in negotiations with the electoral commissions in Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda and Tanzania for Genie IDs; with Tanzania considering around 15,000 units and Mozambique is contemplating an order of 2,700 units.

Eco-friendly bikes soon available at IKEA

Good time of year to be thinking about biking.  With IKEA's global reach, the bikes should sell very well.  Also, interesting story on the writer which we reproduced below:



IKEA doesn’t just sell affordable home decor to the masses anymore. The furniture giant has added eco-friendly to its repertoire in the past and is now launching an electric bike that they’re calling the FOLKVÄNLIG.
The electric bike is designed to be a sleek ride that is both environment-friendly and affordable for conscious commuters and consumers. It has a front fork made of steel and an aluminum frame that also holds the rechargeable lithium-ion battery. It is powered by a 250-watt electric motor, toting a pedal-assisted range of 37 to 45 miles. Built with a Shimano transmission with six different driving modes, the bike comes in designs for both men and women. Its riders will need to set aside approximately 6 hours to charge it, making it the perfect bike to ride to work and charge during the work day.
The FOLKVÄNLIG costs 749 Euros or about 1,000 USD and will initially be available at a few IKEA stores in Vienna, Austria.
The Swedish company is also known for its other eco-friendly practices such as packing its products in ways that help reduce waste materials, and using solar power for its buildings and products. The planet-passionate company is taking earth-friendly even further by planning to get 100% of the energy it uses in its stores and buildings from renewable energy sources by the year 2020. The eco-friendly bike is just another step in the sustainable direction.
About Maria Mooney
Maria Mooney, MSW, LSW, is a raw vegan licensed social worker, certified holistic health coach, research and editorial assistant at and freelance writer. After years of suffering with chronic health conditions, she is healing herself through a plant-based diet, radical self-care and consuming self love, and she wants to teach you how to do the same. She has done it all, including the Gerson Therapy and Hippocrates Health Institute's Life Transformation program. She knows how to make delicious juices, grow wheat grass, sprout anything and everything, create mouth-watering, healthy treats, grow shoots and more! She is also licensed in the mental health field and loves to marry mental health healing with physical healing to teach her clients to be themselves, love themselves and heal themselves. Contact her at for a free health consultation today! 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Air Conditioning: Cooler on the Inside, Hotter on the Outside!

Given the time of year, this is a good piece to run today.  Thanks to Environmental News Network for their continued excellent reporting.

If you run AC, see what you can do to help cut usage and impact on the environment:

"We all love to be comfortable in our homes and businesses. We use air-conditioning to provide comfortable temperatures indoors. Air conditioners work basically by moving hotter air from inside to outside. Does this have an impact on climate? Global warming?
A team of researchers from Arizona State University has found that releasing excess heat from air conditioners running during the night resulted in higher outside temperatures, worsening the urban heat island effect and increasing cooling demands.
"We found that waste heat from air conditioning systems was maximum during the day but the mean effect was negligible near the surface. However, during the night, heat emitted from air conditioning systems increased the mean air temperature by more than 1 degree Celsius (almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit) for some urban locations," said Francisco Salamanca, a post-doctoral research scientist at Arizona State University's School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences.
The research is presented in the paper, "Anthropogenic Heating of the Urban Environment due to Air Conditioning," published in the March 6 issue of Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres.
Salamanca, the lead author of the paper, is joined by Matei Georgescu, an assistant professor in ASU's School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and a senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability; Alex Mahalov, The Wilhoit Foundation Dean's Distinguished Professor in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at ASU; Mohamed Moustaoui, an associate professor in ASU's School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences; and Meng Wang, a graduate student also in ASU's School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. All five authors are affiliated with ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.
The paper focuses on the anthropogenic contribution of air conditioning systems on air temperature, and examines the electricity consumption for the rapidly expanding Phoenix metropolitan area, one of the largest metropolitan area in the US. Phoenix is located within the semiarid Sonoran desert and because of its harsh summertime conditions makes considerable use of air conditioning systems."

The Great Pacific plastic TRASH Island/Charles Moore

Do you have an ability to cut down on the amount of packaging and plastic you use?  We hope so.  Clearly, our mountains of trash are choking our oceans and marine life.

This is one of those crucible intersections between the economy/environment.  No government, at least currently, is going to totally ban the use of plastic bottles, containers, etc.  The industry is too big, the jobs too critical and they each country wants to remain competitive on a global basis.  They could ban such consumer use--there's plenty of good alternatives now, many of which are seen in organic packaging. 

As consumers, we need to lead the charge to better, smarter choices in our everyday lives.  Take a look at this very compelling (and shocking) video and be aware our trash ends up a very long way from our trash bins and local landfill.

Please take a look at this as well:  Please see my post on how to reduce your plastic consumption on my web site. A BBC coverage of what is…

Saturday, May 24, 2014

EPA Takes Aim at Federal Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals

Good to see (some would argue it is late coming, but we hope the process can now speed along).  It has been pretty scary to see the fall out (contaminated water supplies, as an example) from fracking.   Every loves to see domestic energy produced, with jobs and money staying home, but the risks to the environment, including plunging us into additional quakes (see the work being done on the CA fault line), are potentially very dangerous.

Thank you to Seth Handy, our wonderful co-host and environmental lawyer, for providing this update from The National Law Review:  

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken its first official step toward creating a federal regulatory program that would require disclosure and reporting concerning chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process.  On May 9, 2014, EPA released an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that seeks public comment on the types of information that should be reported or disclosed for hydraulic fracturing substances or mixtures and the mechanism for obtaining this information.
While the ANPR is directed to the public in general, companies in the oil and gas industry, particularly those that manufacture, import, process or distribute chemical substances used in hydraulic fracturing treatments, should take note.
In August 2011, Earthjustice and 114 other organizations petitioned EPA under section 21 of TSCA to adopt a rule that would require, among other things, mandatory disclosure and reporting of the chemicals used in oil and gas exploration and production (E&P). 
Specifically, the petition requested that EPA adopt a rule pursuant to TSCA section 8(a) requiring manufacturers and processors of E&P chemical substances and mixtures to maintain records and submit reports to EPA disclosing:
  1. the identities, categories, and quantities of E&P chemical substances and mixtures,
  2. descriptions of byproducts of E&P chemical substances and mixtures,
  3. all existing data on potential or demonstrated environmental and health effects of E&P chemical substances and mixtures, and
  4. the number of individuals potentially exposed to E&P chemical substances and mixtures.
In addition, Earthjustice petitioned EPA to adopt a rule pursuant to TSCA section 8(d) to require submittal of all existing, not previously reported health and safety studies related to the health and/or environmental effects of all E&P chemical substances and mixtures.
In November 2011,  the EPA granted in part the TSCA section 8(a) and 8(d) petitions for chemical substances and mixtures used in hydraulic fracturing but denied the petitions to the extent they addressed E&P chemicals not used in hydraulic fracturing, finding that the request was overly broad and petitioners had failed to demonstrate that such a broad rule was necessary.  EPA also rejected companion petitions under TSCA section 4 (for lack of foundation) and section 8(c) (which does not authorize petitions).
In July 2013, EPA released a document that set forth the Agency’s reasons for denying in part Earthjustice’s petition and announced its plans to move forward with an ANPR focused on the reporting of chemical substances and mixtures used in hydraulic fracturing, including submission of unpublished health and safety studies.


In the ANPR published today, EPA seeks comment on the types of information  associated with hydraulic fracturing chemicals and mixtures that should be disclosed, in addition to the options for reporting related health and safety studies. 
The Agency has not yet decided whether disclosure should be mandatory, voluntary, or a combination of both.  EPA solicits views on this question and also asks whether best management practices should be disclosed, whether third-party certification and collection should be required, and whether EPA should employ incentives for disclosure of information.

Chemical Disclosure Under TSCA Section 8(a)

According to EPA, TSCA section 8(a) gives the Agency the authority to require, by rulemaking, chemical manufacturers and processors to maintain records and submit to EPA such reports as EPA may reasonably require, including reports regarding the following:
  • The common or trade name, the chemical identity, and the molecular structure of each chemical substance or mixture for which such a report is required.
  • The categories or proposed categories of use of each chemical substance or mixture.
  • The total amount of each chemical substance or mixture manufactured or process, reasonable estimates of the total amount to be manufactured or processed, the amount manufactured or processed for each of its categories of use, and reasonable estimates of the amount to be manufacturer or processed for each of its categories of use or proposed categories of use.
  • A description of the byproducts resulting from the manufacture, processing, use or disposal of each chemical substance or mixture.
  • All existing data concerning the environmental and health effects of each chemical substance or mixture.
  • The number of individuals exposed, and reasonable estimates of the number who will be exposed, to each chemical substance or mixture in their places of employement and the duration of such exposure.
  • The manner or method of disposal of each chemical substance or mixture, and any subsequent changes to such manner or method.
In this ANPR, EPA is seeking comment on the type of information that should be disclosed, including the identity, quantities, types and circumstances of uses of chemical substances and mixtures used in hydraulic fracturing, as well as what types of health and safety studies should be reported or disclosed.  EPA also requests input on how this information should be reported to EPA, either directly or through a third-party certifier, and whether this information should be disclosed publicly.
Protection of trade secrets has been one of the most contentious issues surrounding state disclosure rules for hydraulic fracturing.  In the ANPR, EPA seeks comment on whether and how data that are claimed to be trade secrets or confidential business information (“CBI”) could be reported to EPA (or a third-party certifier) and then aggregated and disclosed to the public while protecting the identities of individual products and firms.    
Notably, the Agency is considering substantially more information-gathering and public disclosure than the states have required. Specifically, the Agency is considering disclosure of:
  1. Basic company information (i.e., company name, mailing address, website, and technical contact information).
  2. Steps involved in processing chemicals or mixtures on site before injection. Typical composition and performance standard of hydraulic fracturing fluid as an end use product, before injection.
  3. Steps involved in processing chemicals or mixtures for reuse, recycling, and/or reprocessing in the hydraulic fracturing operation.
  4. Hydraulic fracturing fluid composition:
    1. Common name or trade name of each chemical product in the hydraulic fracturing fluid and a  description of each product’s function.
    2. Chemical identity (chemical name and Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Number) of each  chemical substance in each product.
    3. Total volume of the carrier fluid and percentage of the carrier fluid that makes up the total hydraulic    fracturing fluid (e.g., water volume and percentage of water in the hydraulic fracturing fluid).
    4. Actual amount of each chemical substance or product in the hydraulic fracturing fluid in order to      understand the loading (e.g., mass or volume).
  5. Production type (i.e., gas and/or oil).
  6. Frequency of use of the chemical substance or mixture for hydraulic fracturing (e.g., number of times or per fracture stage or number of wells).
  7. Number of workers exposed or likely to be exposed to the chemical substance or mixture.
All existing data concerning the human and environmental health effects of the chemical substance or mixture.EPA also seeks comment on whether mandatory reporting should include chemical substances and mixtures which are formed on site and/or chemicals introduced or intended to be introduced into an oil or gas well for the purpose of maintaining or improving the function and productivity of the well (e.g., acid treatments, corrosion inhibitors, scale reducers, biocides).
Other information for which EPA is requesting input is whether third-parties should be used to collect the information requested, and/or to certify the use of best practices; the threshold for the size of entities that should be required to report; how to best minimize duplicative reporting and/or disclosure requirements, particularly for companies that may also report to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM); and whether incentives and recognition programs could be used to support the development and use of safer chemicals in hydraulic fracturing.

Related Health and Safety Studies Under TSCA Section 8(d)

According to EPA, TSCA section 8(d) authorizes the Agency to require manufacturers, processors, and distributors of any chemical substance or mixture and persons who propose to manufacture, process, or distribute in commerce any chemical substance or mixture to submit health and safety studies to EPA.
In the ANPR, EPA is also requesting comments on potential options for reporting or disclosure of health and safety studies for chemical substances and mixtures used in hydraulic fracturing.  Among other things, EPA is seeking input on whether there are existing mechanisms in place, including non-regulatory mechanisms, for EPA to obtain hydraulic fracturing-related health and safety studies. 
EPA is also asking whether it should require reporting of studies for all chemical substances or mixtures used in hydraulic fracturing or focus its efforts on chemical substances and mixtures that EPA believes are not well-characterized by health and safety studies.
Because of the wide-ranging impact of the proposal, it is expected that EPA will receive a large number of comments on this ANPR.  All comments must be submitted on or before August 18, 2014.
© 2014 Bracewell & Giuliani LLP

Friday, May 23, 2014

Climate change uncertainty is no reason for inaction since we can't rule out risk We don't have to believe that our house will burn down to take out insurance. So why delay taking action to reduce emissions?

Thanks to our co-host in Boston, Jack Greg, for sending this insightful piece.   As the guardians of everything the business side of green, we'd agree with the writer, Tim Palmer, that investments in change, to protect our environment, economy, coastlines, natural resources, cities, cannot be held any longer.  The stakes are high but the asset we protect and the potential ROI on these investments eclipse, by a lot, the risk of spending the money.

We hope you agree:

A man walks in the rain along the Albert Embankment in London
  • Shaun Curry/AFP/Getty Images
    Climate change is sometimes presented in simple black and white terms. You either believe it or you don't. Perhaps after the recent controversies over email leaks and melting Himalayan glaciers, some may have decided to change camp.
    But this is a false dichotomy. Indeed the notion of "belief" plays no role at all in science, whether about climate change or anything else. The Royal Society, the UK's national academy of science, was founded 350 years ago on this very basis, with the motto Nullius in verba, or "take nobody's word for it". The founders took nothing for granted and chose to investigate observations and search for the conclusions that best fit them. The notion that these conclusions can never be considered certain and immutable, underpinned both their actions and those that came after them. As James Gleick wrote about the great 20th century theoretical physicist Richard Feynman; he believed in the primacy of doubt, not as a blemish on our ability to know, but as the essence of knowing.
    Modern day weather prediction is inherently uncertain. Every day, weather forecast centres will generate an ensemble, typically of 50 individual weather predictions, in order to assess uncertainty in the weather up to a week or more ahead. The individual predictions have very slightly different starting conditions, reflecting the fact that the weather observations which generate a forecast's initial state are neither complete nor wholly accurate. When the atmosphere is in a predictable state, all 50 predictions are more or less identical for the coming week and the forecaster can say with great confidence what the weather will be like. On the other hand, when the atmosphere is in a chaotic state, the best the forecaster can talk about are probabilities of different outcomes.
    Some, perhaps those without scientific training, may see probabilistic predictions as an evasion of responsibility. However, in reality, probabilistic predictions embody the scientific method. In any case, what is better for decision making, a forecast with some realistic measure of uncertainty, or some grossly overconfident prediction with no hint of uncertainty? Worldwide, probabilistic weather forecasts are now used by those making decisions to evacuate people exposed to river flooding, or to intense storms. For better or for worse, they are also central to who trade on future energy prices and other weather-sensitive commodities.
    Similar "ensemble" methods are used to predict climate change, except here it is also critical to vary uncertain parameters in the climate models as well as uncertain estimates of how greenhouse gas emissions will change over the course of the century. As with the weather forecasts, contemporary climate predictions are essentially probabilistic. Hence for example, based on the ensemble of the world's climate models, we can estimate that over the Asian monsoon region, a season that was so wet it would only have a 1 in 20 chance of occurring in the 20th century, could have a 1 in 3 chance of occurring by the end of the 21st century.
    We don't have to believe that our house will burn down in the coming year to take out insurance. Similarly we don't have to believe that dangerous climate change will occur to take action to cut emissions. A key question that everyone concerned by the climate change issue should ask, particularly those who are sceptical, is this. How large does the probability of serious climate change have to be before we should start cutting emissions? To be specific, how large does the probability have to be that by the end of this century, large parts of Bangladesh will under water because of sea level rise and a substantially more intense monsoon system? Or that the Amazonian rainforest will die because of shifts in rainfall patterns over South America? Or that the type of drought that plagued sub-Saharan Africa in the 1980s will become a quasi-permanent feature? 0.1%, 1%, 10%, 50%? Considered this way, it's clear that the dichotomy between the "climate believers" vs "climate sceptics" is indeed a false one.
    The scientific method is sometimes described as "organised scepticism", and this, rather than some logical progression from one certainty to the next, characterises the inherently uncertain path of scientific progress. As one leading climate scientist put it: "In truth, we are all climate sceptics." However, despite the climate scientists' best efforts at scepticism, it simply has not been possible to rule out the risk of the sort of climate changes discussed above.
    Handling uncertainty is key to the scientific method, but, conversely, the existence of uncertainty is not itself cause for inaction.
    • Tim Palmer is a Royal Society 2010 Anniversary Research Professor at the Unversity of Oxford, and is organiser of a two-day discussion meeting at the Royal Society (22-23 March) on Handling Uncertainty in Science. The meeting includes speakers as diverse as Professor Sir Roger Penrose, eminent cosmologist and theoretical physicist, and Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Colorado expected to pass the first state law regulating uberX and Lyft

We produced some TV shows our of Betaspring in RI, a very well known accelerator of start-up companies, and one of their emerging companies offered ride-share technology as well.  We think this innovative service will catch hold and put more people in less cars.  That is always a good thing, particular in congested urban areas.

Funny how a LACK of regulation could potentially shut down an industry.  Ironic and sad, really. We are certain other states will follow Colorado's lead and craft similar legislation to offer safety and protection to consumers using the service.  Too much regulation, of course, would make the service noncompetitive.

In the meantime we hope lots of people take advantage of the financial and environmental rewards of sharing rides:

The Uber Technologies Inc. application and logo are displayed on an Apple Inc. iPhone 5s and iPad Air in this arranged photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Uber, a startup that lets drivers pick up passengers with their personal cars and that was valued at $3.5 billion in a funding round last year, has raised $307 million from a group of backers that include Google Ventures, Google Inc.'s investment arm, and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)
Any day now, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is expected to do something no other governor has done before: sign into law a bill regulating ridesharing services uberX and Lyft.
In doing so, he would put to rest an existential concern for the companies, which use technology to connect drivers in their own cars with paying passengers. As their young industry’s first representatives in Colorado, they had faced the prospect of being shut down due to a lack of regulations. The bill, sent to Hickenlooper on Thursday, would not only provide some certainty but it could, in the process, light the path for other states trying to resolve the same concern.
The services are so new — uberX, Lyft and competitor Sidecar all launched in 2012 — that there’s still inconsistency on what to call them. In Colorado, they would be called Transportation Network Companies. A Georgia bill refers to them as Transportation Referral Service Providers. Under a failed Arizona measure, they would have been Ride-Sharing Networks. There aren’t many models for how to regulate the new industry, either.
“There’s not a ton of information out there,” says state Rep. Libby Szabo, one of the Colorado bill’s co-sponsors and assistant Republican leader in the General Assembly. Szabo was introduced to the services by her daughter and has used both. (“I love it,” she says.) The bill awaiting Hickenlooper’s signature is among the biggest she’s sponsored, she says.
California was technically the first state to regulate the industry, but its rules were born in the bureaucracy — created by a utilities commission. Colorado’s rules would be the first crafted and enacted by elected state representatives. Both share some basic characteristics, requiring rideshare services to obtain permits to operate, driver background checks, vehicle inspections and minimum insurance coverage of $1 million per accident.
In California, the rules proved controversial. About a month after their September adoption, both Uber — which offers commercial rides as well — and the Taxicab Paratransit Association of California, a trade association, requested a rehearing.
Uber argued that its uberX service was merely a technology — not a transportation company — connecting drivers looking to make extra cash with passengers willing to pay for a cheap ride. TPAC argued the opposite: Ride-sharing companies were providing “nearly identical” services as taxi companies, it argued. (The services allow users to digitally hail cars to their location through a smartphone app.) But not everyone disliked the rules. Sidecar, an uberX competitor, responded to the decision by tweeting a thanks to its followers

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Renewable Energy Employs 6.5 Million

Great news, exactly what we have been talking about:  The green economy is booming.  Jump in with us:

A  new study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows approximately 6.5 million people were employed in the renewable energy industry globally last year; substantially up from 5.7 million in 2012.
"With 6.5 million people directly or indirectly employed in renewable energy, the sector is proving that it is no longer a niche, it has become a significant employer worldwide," said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin.

Of the 6.5 million, 2,273,000 were employed in the solar PV sector; the numbers spurred on by demand in China and Japan. The Chinese PV value chain is estimated by IRENA to have employed 1.6 million people last year.

Wind employment remained relatively stable at 800,000 jobs.

The biggest employers in the renewables industry last year were China, Brazil, the United States, India, Germany, Spain and Bangladesh respectively.

"In general, manufacturing employment has shifted towards Asia as the share of Europe and the United States in global module production declined from 43% in 2007 to 14% in 2012. In the same year, China accounted for 64% of global production, Japan for 5%, and other Asian countries (such as Malaysia and South Korea) for 16% (Mehta, 2013)," states the report.

While the employment outlook for renewables looks bright on a global scale, IRENA warns education and training are critical enablers and skill shortages are already creating bottlenecks for deployment in some countries.

With regard to solar, the biggest skill gaps are solar power and solar thermal system installers and maintainers, plus building inspectors. The wind power sector is lacking project developers, service technicians, data analysts and electrical, computer, mechanical and construction engineers

IRENA's Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review 2014 (May 2014) can be downloaded here (PDF). IRENA works on behalf of the renewables sector to promote the acceleration of renewable energy uptake worldwide

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Antarctica's Melting Speed Doubles

Here's a couple of the stories we are covering this week on Renewable Now...  Not all good news, obviously.  Get ready for a changing world.

Photo by Christopher.Michel at Flickr 

If we needed more disturbing news on a melting Antarctica, scientists are supplying it. Days after we learned that the melting of the West Antarctica ice sheet is apparently unstoppable, researchers find that the continent is disappearing twice as quickly as it was when last measured. Information from Europe's CryoSat spacecraft show that Antarctic ice is now melting at a rate of 160 billion metric tons, or 176 billion short tons, per year, the BBC reports.

That rate will raise sea levels by about .017 inches yearly. Antarctica in its entirety, meanwhile, is dropping by about .79 inches per year. The new study focuses on data from the years 2010 to 2013; the previous data reflected the years 2005 to 2010. "We find that ice losses continue to be most pronounced in West Antarctica, along the fast-flowing ice streams that drain into the Amundsen Sea," says a researcher.

Extreme Drought  Causes Texans  To Turn
To Toilet Water 

Photo by Earl McGehee, Flickr
If you thought there wasn't a price to pay for climate change, just ask the folks living in Wichita Falls, Texas. After three years of severe drought, the city has imposed harsh restrictions that are forcing them to look for alternatives when it comes to their water needs.

We came across this interesting report on NPR and suggest that you take a look at it, this definitely has us wondering if this will also be our future, the world's future? Clean water is a necessity, it isn't like oil, or natural gas- we can live without those, but water is necessary. 

The city of Wichita Falls, Texas, may soon become the first in the country where half of the drinking water comes directly from wastewater.

Yes, that includes water from toilets.

The plan to recycle the water became necessary after three years of extreme drought, which has also imposed some harsh restrictions on Wichita Falls residents, says Mayor Glenn Barham.

"No outside irrigation whatsoever with potable water," he says. "Car washes are closed, for instance, one day a week. If you drain your pool to do maintenance, you're not allowed to fill it."

Barham says residents have cut water use by more than a third, but water supplies are still expected to run out in two years.

So the city has built a 13-mile pipeline that connects its wastewater plant directly to the plant where water is purified for drinking. That means the waste that residents flush down their toilets will be part of what's cleaned up and sent back to them through the tap.

Wichita Falls constructed a 13-mile pipeline to deliver the city's wastewater to a purification plant.

For some citizens, that's a little tough to swallow.

"I think it's gross," says Wichita Falls resident Marissa Oliveras. "I mean, it's recycled wastewater that we could possibly be drinking."

Oliveras isn't the only Wichita Falls resident who says she plans to switch to bottled water. At Gidget's Snack Shack downtown, customer Kira Smith also plans to spend extra money on bottled water when the recycled wastewater begins to flow.

"The thought of it definitely grosses me out," Smith says. "I'm sure that they would clean it and filter it up to standards, but I think just the idea would be — it's sort of a mindset kind of thing, you know what I'm talking about?"

The mayor insists the water will be clean and safe, and the city has undertaken a massive education campaign to explain the science behind the process, known as direct potable reuse. Several other Texas cities are pursuing the process. One small hamlet started recycling wastewater in 2011, but not on the scale that's being done here.

Some people unceremoniously call it "toilet-to-tap," but the city official overseeing this process, Daniel Nix, says that's not really how it works.

"The vast majority of water that enters a wastewater plant did not come from a toilet," he says. "They come from sinks, and bathtubs, and washing machines and dishwashers."