Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Clean energy is a growing political juggernaut. Should it leave climate change behind?

We avoid political discussions--as we believe sustainability should be the great bastion of cooperation among all people, casting aside our many differences--but this article is a very positive statement on how clean energy, particularly in certain Swing States in the US, is well liked by the people and will cast influence on elections.

This article reaffirms, in our view, that most people are on board as we march from a fossil-fuel economy to one driven by renewables.  As that transformation becomes more mainstream, political support follows as elected leaders are anxious to keep their constituents happy.   All good new for the momentum around this, what we call, next, great revolution:

"There's a new poll of eight key swing states out, and it shows that — surprise! — voters in swing states love clean energy.
Specifically, the poll (done by Hart Research on behalf of NextGen Climate Action) shows that 70 percent of swing state voters have a favorable reaction to the goal of 50 percent clean energy by 2030, including 54 percent of Republicans. Similar majorities support a target of 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Somewhat smaller majorities look favorably on several other clean energy policies, including upgrading the power grid and raising state renewable energy standards.
At this point, polls showing robust, bipartisan support for clean energy and pollution reduction are so common that they come as no surprise (see herehereherehere,herehere, etc. forever). Americans love clean energy!
Most Americans, that is. The one demographic that remains steadfast in its support for fossil fuels and skepticism toward alternatives is — surprise! — Tea Party Republicans, i.e., hyper-conservative older white guys.
Why do the most ardent ideological conservatives oppose clean energy? Because for them, energy, like almost everything else, has become a part of the culture war. Partly that means they reject it simply because the left supports it. But specifically, among engaged partisans on both sides, energy has become inextricably bound to the climate change debate. That's part of why support is so high among self-identified liberals and why so many conservatives view it as a big-government boondoggle.
This poses interesting political strategy questions for both parties.

Republicans would be better off detaching clean energy from climate

On the Republican side, the current situation works well for the fossil fuel billionairesfunding the fight against clean energy. And it works well for conservative media and activists, who are loath to agree or cooperate on anything with liberals.
But for Republican leaders, and the professional political class concerned with the party's electoral fortunes, it's more complicated. They cannot speak directly against fossil fuels; there's too much money involved. But clean energy is popular and growing, rapidly transitioning from niche to serious player in energy markets. Some of the states with the most installed wind and solar have Republican governors. Republican-led cities are investing in clean energy and transit. There's an economic and cultural shift underway, and if the right-wing base remains intransigent, it will be same-sex marriage all over again — the base will set the agenda, the whole GOP will be branded as backward and out of touch, and they'll get steamrolled.
Some conservatives seem to have caught on to this and are attempting to rehabilitate clean energy. If you look at billionaire conservative Jay Faison's website, purportedly devoted to convincing conservatives to accept climate change, you find that it is overwhelmingly devoted to the business-friendly benefits of clean energy.

Democrats would be better off keeping them attached

For the Democrats, it's a different and considerably more favorable set of choices.
One option would be to downplay climate change (which is seen as divisive) in favor of a focus on clean energy (which is more broadly popular), seeking to remove barriers to bipartisan cooperation. On this view, climate has become a stigma, a sticking point, and it would be better make progress on clean energy independent of it. Help conservatives get on board by meeting them where they are, as it were, instead of forcing them to accept climate change. This is one of the recommendations of the "Climate Pragmatism" stuff out of the Breakthrough Institute, along with more consultant memos and op-eds than I care to remember.
This would be a familiar strategy: triangulation, the tactical maneuver of choice for mainstream Democrats since 1992. It envisions setting aside differences and divisions and coming together around shared priorities. It hasn't worked during the Obama years, ever, not once, but who knows. Hope springs eternal.
A more ruthless Democratic strategist, one more concerned with winning than coming together, might counsel the opposite. If its association with climate change is preventing conservatives from embracing clean energy, then emphasize that association at every opportunity. Public opinion on clean energy is consistent, deep, and positive; public opinion on climate change is shallow and wishy-washy. The latter won't drag the former down; the former will lift the latter up. If Democrats can connect climate change with a more positive story of innovation, economic opportunity, and national purpose, they can cleanse it of some of the dour, hectoring tone it has taken on for many Americans.
Meanwhile, climate will act as a force field keeping the right away, which will allow Democrats to own both issues for a generation. (And in a generation, they will almost certainly be top national priorities.) Dems will win victories for clean energy not by persuading or cajoling conservatives to their side, tiptoeing around climate, but by coupling national peril with national opportunity, without hedging or apology, confident that they are on the right side of history. Republicans will be forced to chase them instead of obstructing them.
It will be interesting to watch Hillary Clinton navigate this issue. Her first sally indicates that she is going with the smarter strategy, headlining an ambitious clean energy goal but very much framing it as a response to climate change — keeping the two connected. Perhaps she and her advisers are taking a cue from Obama, who discovered that he got the most done, and was most popular, when he acted boldly (and unilaterally, if necessary) on liberal priorities instead of trimming his sails in hopes of conservative cooperation.
It will also be interesting to see, once we're past the Trump Circus, how the eventual Republican nominee treats the issue. The "moderate" candidates like Jeb Bush are already squirming on climate change, seeking a path between an increasingly embarrassing science denialism and a politically verboten discussion of serious climate policy. How will Bush approach energy? So far he seems to be taking the "remove all energy subsidies" line popular among conservative economists and politicians who are fully aware that renewable energy subsidies are vulnerable and fossil fuel subsidies really aren't.
Will clean energy get enough attention and momentum to demand more of him, or of whoever wins the GOP scrum? That would be a significant marker."

Global warming intensified the record floods

Last night we spent time with a visitor from central Africa.  One of the issues facing her country back home is flooding in between long, arid droughts.  When the rain comes, in flashes in waves which does relief their drought conditions.

Here's a similar story for parts of Texas and Oklahoma.  In Africa our guests has helped create an organization educating people through out the Continent on global warming.  The risks are great to Africa--in some countries up to 80% of their agricultural output has been destroyed by changing weather conditions.  That cripples their economy and puts them at risk for starvation.  All nations are vulnerable to the same destruction of homes, businesses, farms, infrastructure.  The warming of our atmosphere is unmistakable.  Much of future planning for all countries will be how to deal with the intense ramifications of such an environmental shift.

Global warming intensified the record floods in Texas and Oklahoma


A new study finds a human fingerprint in the wettest month on record in Texas and Oklahoma

Flood waters from the Brazos River encroach upon a home in the Horseshoe Bend neighborhood, Friday, May 29, 2015, in Weatherford, Texas. Photograph: Brandon Wade/AP

In some instances, areas are experiencing more severe droughts and more flooding as the weather systems swing from dry to wet quickly. Added to this is the fact that ocean temperatures have an enormous influence on weather.
As an example, an El Niño, which is the appearance of a warm water pool in the Pacific Ocean, can influence weather across the globe. Human-caused warming of the oceans adds to the El Niño cycles, which in turn affect the atmosphere. The real scientific question is, do human greenhouse gases influence a specific flood or drought event? A growing body of science is finding that the answer to this question is yes.

A paper just published in Geophysical Research Letters looked at the May 2015 floods in Texas and Oklahoma in the USA, which resulted from the wettest single month on record in both states. The lead author, Dr. Wang from Utah State and his colleagues examined the role of strengthened El Niño teleconnections on the flood event. Before getting into their conclusions, a little background is important.

In the Pacific Ocean, there is a water temperature oscillation that occurs every few years. This oscillation happens near the equator and stretches from South America almost all the way to Australia. During one part of the oscillation, there is colder than normal waters (called the La Niña phase) while in the other part of the oscillation, the waters are warm (called El Niño). Many times, the water temperatures are near normal, and we call that a neutral phase.

This process has large global consequences. First, when the ocean is in the warm El Niño phase, global surface temperatures rise temporarily. When in the La Niña phase, the temperatures temporarily drop. These short-term rises and falls last just a year or so and are superimposed on a long-term temperature increase from greenhouse gases. The cycle also has big implications for rainfall patterns around the globe.

Dr. Wang and his authors recognized that in a warming world, the way El Niño intensifies rainfall patterns would change. That is, today’s El Niños may be more potent than prior El Niños. In particular, they compared the El Niño influence from 1948–1980 with the influence after 1980. They used a wide collection of measurements and modeling tools and concluded,
The record precipitation that occurred over Texas and Oklahoma during the month of May 2015 was the results of a series of climate interactions and anomalies. Foremost is the role that El Niño played. A developing ENSO (El Niño/Southern Oscillation) has a tendency to increase spring precipitation over the southern Great Plains and this effect was found to have intensified since 1980; this intensification was concomitant with a warmer atmosphere due to anthropogenic (human) greenhouse gases.
Specifically, the intensified ENSO teleconnection appears to be triggered by enhanced latent heat in the equatorial central Pacific, and is associated with a broad sea surface temperature warming in the tropics. In essence, there was a detectable effect of anthropogenic global warming in the teleconnection and moisture transport leading to Mays 2015’s high precipitation.
Also worth noting is the potential for predicting extreme events like the Texas floods. ENSO impacts are one of the few climate anomalies forecasters today have a better handle of. This paper notes that the chance for Texas and Oklahoma to experience an abnormally wet season in May was predicted as early as in March, according to computer models used by the Climate Prediction Center. What remains challenging is how scientists can anticipate the extraordinary magnitude of precipitation as fell in Texas and, if they do see it, how can the right information reach people.

The detection of human influence on extreme weather is a rapidly maturing field and each year we are finding more and more evidence of the connections. The corollary is that without efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, we can expect more frequent and intense extreme weather in the future.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

In climate bid, Obama stares down melting Alaska glacier

I spent many years working in Alaska and it is an unforgettable landscape.  Getting that close and on top of the glaciers is one of life's most humbling experiences.  

Take a look at the bottom paragraph.  The US is still spitting out more carbon than many countries combined.  We can change that and reshape our economy so that it is sustainable for our future generations.  Let's do it.

In climate bid, Obama stares down melting Alaska glacier

by Josh Lederman

President Barack Obama speaks to members of the media …

SEWARD, Alaska (AP) — President Barack Obama stared down a melting glacier in Alaska on Tuesday in a dramatic use of his presidential pulpit to sound the alarm on climate change.

From a distance, Exit Glacier appears as a river of white and blue flowing down through the mountains toward lower terrain. In fact, it's just the opposite. The 2-mile (3.2-kilometer)-long chock of solid ice has been retreating at a faster and faster pace in recent years - more than 800 feet (240 meters) since 2008, satellite tracking shows.
"This is as good of a signpost of what we're dealing with when it comes to climate change as just about anything," Obama said with the iconic glacier at his back.

Obama trekked up to the glacier with photographers in tow in a carefully choreographed excursion aimed at calling attention to the ways human activity is degrading cherished natural wonders. The visit to Kenai Fjords National Park, where the glacier is located, formed the apex of Obama's three-day tour of Alaska, his most concerted campaign yet on climate change.

The president, dressed for the elements in a rugged coat and sunglasses, observed how signposts along the hike recorded where the glacier once stood and now only dry land remains.

"We want to make sure that our grandkids can see this," Obama said, describing the glacier as "spectacular."
In another presidential photo-op brimming with theatrical potential, Obama stood on the bow of a tour boat in Resurrection Bay in Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, staring out at the serene waters and lush mountain vistas in both directions. Photographers and reporters traveling with the president were brought alongside him in a separate boat to capture the moment in living color.

Spotted on his voyage: a humpback whale, and seals "hauled out" on a rock jutting out of choppy waters.

Obama is counting on Alaska's exquisite but deteriorating landscape to elicit a sense of urgency for his call to action on climate change. He opened the trip on Monday night with a speech painting a doomsday scenario for the world barring urgent steps to cut emissions: entire nations submerged underwater, cities abandoned and refugees fleeing in droves as conflict breaks out across the globe.

Exit Glacier has been receding for decades at an alarming rate of 43 feet (13 meters) a year, according to the National Park Service, which has been monitoring its retreat for decades using photography and, more recently, by satellite.

Glaciers ebb and flow due to normal fluctuations in the climate, and even without human activity, Exit Glacier would be retreating. But the pace of its retreat has been sped up thanks to heat-trapping greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, said Deborah Kurtz of the National Park Service.
"Climate is the primary driver for the retreat of glaciers and for ice loss," Kurtz said.

Obama's trip was more about visuals than words, and the White House has put a particular emphasis on trying to get the message across to audiences who don't follow the news through traditional means. To that end, Obama taped an episode of the NBC reality TV show "Running Wild with Bear Grylls," putting his survival skills to the test while in the national park.

Obama's first glimpse of a glacier on the trip came as Marine One whisked him about 45 minutes south of Anchorage to tiny Seward. As he flew past snow-capped peaks and sprawling forests, the sheet of ice emerged, snaking its way through mountains toward a teal-tinged lake.

His itinerary also includes the first presidential visit to the Alaska Arctic, which comes amid concerns that the U.S. has ceded influence to Russia in strategic Arctic waters. Melting sea ice has been making way for shipping routes that never existed before, but the U.S. only has two working icebreakers, compared to the 40 in Russia's fleet — with another 11 on the way.

As he boarded a U.S. Coast Guard vessel to tour Resurrection Bay on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, Obama said he was asking Congress to speed up construction of new icebreakers. He offered few details about the timeline or costs.
Although Obama's trip hasn't entailed new policy prescriptions or federal efforts to slow global warming, Obama has said the U.S. is doing its part by pledging to cut carbon dioxide emissions up to 28 percent over the next decade.

Obama set that target as America's commitment to a pending global climate treaty that the president hopes will be a capstone to his environmental legacy.

Despite his efforts, the U.S. isn't a shining example when it comes to greenhouse gases. Each American emits more than twice as much carbon dioxide as a Chinese and 10 times that of someone from India, Energy Department figures show. China, the U.S. and India are the world's top three polluters.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Team Gemini’s waste-to-energy project

This is a fabulous story;  what an amazing facility.  No doubt we will get down there and cover the opening.

Waste-to-energy is game-changing technology and getting built on small to very large sizes.  It solves so many problems.  One of the great applications is to use it on farms, even smaller scale.

Look at the number of jobs produced by this project...what a great example of the booming green economy.

Team Gemini’s waste-to-energy project near SWACO grows to $420M


A Florida development company plans to start construction soon on a $420 million green energy and recycling industrial park with a long-term goal to divert all the waste going to the Franklin County landfill.
The cost of the privately financed project has grown by one-third since Orlando-based Team Gemini LLC first announced its contract with the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio in January.

The first part of the interconnected project is a $160 million waste-sorting facility on 22 acres adjacent to the Franklin County Landfill on the south side of London Groveport Road. When it opens at the end of 2015, trucks will dump commercial and eventually municipal waste at the Center of Resource Recovery and Recycling instead of directly in the landfill. Recyclable material will be pulled from the loads and bundled for sale. Until the rest of the park is built, the rest goes to the landfill, so at first the facility will focus on loads from businesses that are almost all cardboard and paper.
The next phase is the $260 million Gemini Synergy Center, on 340 acres north of London Groveport Road, which will include a facility to sort and shred food and other non-recyclable waste and send it to energy plants that digest it into methane and compost or convert shredded plastic back to petroleum. Heat and steam from those processes will be used to lower operating costs on 1.7 million square feet of greenhouses and an indoor freshwater fish farm. Plans call for a bridge and conveyor system to send the trash across the street from the sorting facility, eliminating some truck traffic.

 Together the sorting, energy and greenhouse operations would have 560 permanent employees.
Similar models have been used in Europe for years but never to this scale in the United States, Haughn said in an interview before Thursday’s ceremonial groundbreaking.
“As a result of this project, Central Ohio will be the most sustainable community in North America,” said Dennis Hall, director of The Third Frontier-funded Ohio Bioproducts Innovation Center at Ohio State University, which has consulted on the project.

Four Trends Driving Profitable Climate Protection/Part 3


Five years ago, most pundits opined—and activists despaired—that nothing could be done about climate change without a binding global treaty. Today, spurred by ever-starker evidence of climate perils, and with leadership from Pope Francis to The New Climate Economy and from the grassroots to the pinnacles of finance and industry, disparate interests are converging on a Paris agreement in December. China–U.S. climate cooperation makes this far more likely. However it turns out, the world’s climate conversation seems to have passed a tipping point toward a constructive direction led by popular demand, national example, and corporate purpose.
If RMI’s Reinventing Fire (2011)—for which the U.S. is essentially on track—is potentially a model for developed countries and Reinventing Fire: China (2016) for developing countries, both together could start to provide a model for the world. The U.S. synthesis showed how to raise 2010 energy and carbon productivity 3- and 16-fold respectively by 2050, and preliminary results from the China synthesis showed 7- and 12-fold, both trillions of dollars cheaper than business-as-usual. That’s a winning formula for a clean, secure, prosperous, low-carbon energy future for all.
Corporate purpose combines serving customers and employees, expanding markets, making profits, building brands, and sustaining the conditions that prosperity and life itself require. Investors and directors are focusing on these imperatives. Six years ago, the Copenhagen climate conference reminded us how hard it is to price carbon and craft international cooperation if policymakers assume, as many still do from misapplied economic theory, that climate protection must be costly. RMI has been pointing out for more than a third of a century that this assumption is empirically wrong (e.g., Least-Cost Energy: Solving the CO2 Problem,1981). Business practitioners prove daily that saving fuel costs less than buying fuel, let alone burning fuel; that’s how Dow already returned $9 billion on a $1-billion efficiency investment. As such business experience gets noticed, eminent groups are now starting to accept they got the sign wrong, so we must focus on turning market failures into business opportunities. If that meme spreads, Paris may mark the crucial shift of the climate conversation from cost, burden, and sacrifice to wealth creation, jobs, and competitive advantage. That recognition of market realities could so simplify and sweeten the politics that any remaining resistance can melt faster than the glaciers.
Now more than ever, the biggest levers for energy transformation—business logic, smart policy, public demand, and an insistent Mother Nature—can build on each other at that critical moment when, as Dana Meadows said, we have exactly enough time, starting now.
This article originally appeared on Forbes. Reprinted with permission.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Four Trends Driving Profitable Climate Protection/Part 2


As developed countries’ buildings, factories, and mobility get efficient faster than they grow, they’re using less energy. America’s and Europe’s electricity and gasoline use has been falling since 2007. Australia’s electricity use has plummeted while its solar adoption per capita reached about ten times California’s. Since Fukushima, Japan’s lost nuclear output has been half displacedby efficiency, frugality, and renewables. And last year, renewables provided 10 percent of Britain’s electricity consumption, 13 percent of America’s, 20 percent of Ireland’s, 27 percent of Germany’s, 33 percent of Italy’s, 46 percent of Spain’s, 50 percent of Scotland’s, over 50 percent of Denmark’s, and 64 percent of Portugal’s. Germany’s fossil-fueled generation hit a 35-year low, renewables were its biggest power source, and its wholesale power prices were half those of 4½ years ago, with April on-peak prices below off-peak.
Yet over half the world’s renewable installations and investments last year were in developing countries, led by China. China keeps cutting its energy intensity 4–5 percent a year, adding fewer coal plants and running them less, and burning less total coal. China added more solar PV capacity in 2013 than the U.S. added since inventing it 61 years ago. In each of the past three years, China produced more windpower than nuclear power. India did the same for the past two years, has quadrupled its renewable targets, and aims to build a world-class solar industry. Both countries also have immense efficiency potential, partly because they’re building so much infrastruc­ture and can more easily build it right than fix it later.
Renewable leadership is also emerging in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica (100 percent renewably powered for the first 75 days of this year), Guatemala, Nicaragua, Caribbean and Pacific islands, Ethiopia (nearly 100 percent and aiming to electrify the other three-fourths of its 100 million people while reducing carbon emissions 40 percent), rich Middle Eastern nations (Bahrain recently bid the world’s cheapest solar power, under $0.05 per kWh unsubsidized), and several African countries.
Coal is thus in terminal decline; Peabody’s stock is down 97 percent.


With few exceptions, such as Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and usually China, government energy policies are variable in quality and erratic over time. American energy legislation has been nearly paralyzed for over a decade, leaving only executive-branch opportunities and state and local initiatives (which fortunately are far more important and often vibrant, as are military initiatives). National policy in Australia, Britain, Canada, Hungary, Japan, Poland, and Russia usually undercuts efficiency and renewables despite contrary rhetoric. The clean-energy star is rising through clouds in France, India, Korea, Mexico, and Sweden while it dims in Italy and Spain. German policy remains broadly consistent, and so successful that a major disinformation campaign claims the opposite, but has lately shifted market power from citizens back to big firms.
This fluctuating policy environment raises cost and risk for private firms, which need clarity, transparency, and consistency to invest effectively in decades-long change. Yet major firms are increasingly proposing and promoting sensible policies. Europe’s top six oil companies, led by Shell and BP, called for carbon pricing despite vehement protests from ExxonMobil and Chevron. Global firms aren’t waiting for carbon pricing; most have long used it internally. Utility giants E.ON, RWE, GDF Suez, and NRG are shifting to efficiency, renewables, and distributed, customer-centric strategies. Commerzbank, M&S, Microsoft, and SAP are already 100-percent renewably powered. Walmart, IKEA, Infosys, and others target 100 percent by 2020 or sooner, followed longer-term by Amazon Web Services, Apple, Facebook, Google, Interface, Nestlé, Philips, Swiss Re, Unilever, and many more. Now American firms are buying renewable power not just by contracts but by direct project investments—1.2 GW last year, 1.4 GW through July this year—often with the help of RMI’s Business Renewables Center or RMI’s spinoff Black Bear Energy.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Four Trends Driving Profitable Climate Protection

We love the sound of "profitable climate protection".  There is nothing better for us than seeing the positive financial gains of investing in transformation and seeing the green economy  booming across the globe.

This is a great article.  We will break it up into pieces as it is long, but well worth reading, considering, following.

This week is the seventh Climate Week NYC. The annual event brings together influential global figures—and new voices—from the worlds of business, government, and society who are leading the low-carbon transition. We live in an exciting time, when more companies and investors are committed to bold climate leadership than at any other time in history. RMI/CWR is proud to be part of Climate Week. We know that the transition to a low-carbon economy is essential, and is the only pathway to long-term sustainable economic growth. Bold climate action is not a burden, but a historic opportunity!
Today kicks off Climate Week NYC, the seventh such annual event. But it was four years ago that Rocky Mountain Institute’s (RMI’s) Reinventing Fire predicted that “climate protection…will be led more by countries and companies than by international treaties and organizations, more by the private sector and civil society than by governments, more by leading developing economies than by mature developed ones, and more by efficiency and clean energy’s economic fundamentals than by possible future carbon pricing….” How are those four shifts doing?


In 2013 alone, renewable energy other than big hydropower received $254 billion of global investment; energy efficiency, $310–360 billion; and cogeneration of electricity with useful heat, about $70 billion. These three carbon-savers thus attracted about $650 billion of capital in one year.
Long-term fixed-price contracts to sell new U.S. windpower and utility-scale solar power have lately averaged below $0.025 and $0.04 per kWh, respectively. Those are net of federal subsidies, but wind’s has expired, solar’s will drop by two-thirds at the end of next year, and both will still win (though not as quickly in as many places) despite fossil fuels’ larger, decades-old, permanent subsidies. Unsubsidized wind and solar will still average below $0.04 and $0.06 per kWh respectively, beating new fossil-fueled plants by two- to three-fold and closing many as simply uneconomic.
That’s exactly what’s happening. In the next 15 years, fossil-fueled plants are expected to halve their capacity growth (not counting bigger retirements), renewables to double theirs. A simultaneous shift of scale to what the Economist calls “micropower”—renewables minus big hydro, plus cogeneration—now has half the new generation market and produces one-fourth of the world’s electricity.

Cheaper still is energy efficiency, with utilities’ programs averaging $0.02–0.03 per kWh and optimally designed investments often much less—even below zero. Moreover, efficiency dwarfs even the quarter-trillion-dollar and 80-billion-watt annual additions of global renewable energy (other than big hydro dams). U.S. energy savings since 1975, mostly from smarter technologies, have cut cumulative energy use 31 times more than renewable growth raised supplies. Yet efficiency remains invisible while the renewables sprouting on roofs and landscapes enjoy the limelight. Despite U.S. renewables’ rapid growth, savings’ growth in 2014 was three times bigger...."

Friday, September 25, 2015

Weather Complaints Affirmed:

Changing weather patterns, as you know, can cause major disruptions to our economy--and major hits--and to our daily lives.

Here we see average temperatures rising...globally.  That means farming suffers, water shortage exasperate, AC runs constantly and life gets very uncomfortable in urban centers.  Kids, older adults are exposed to unhealthy conditions.  Air quality levels degrade.

The evidence mounts that we continue to overheat the atmosphere.  Despite that we keep buying big SUV's and building mammoth, oversize houses.  Something has to give--we are headed for hitting the proverbial wall.

Time for us all to reduce, fast, our carbon footprint.

Weather Complaints Affirmed: NOAA Says July Was Hottest Month Globally On Record

A man finds a bit of shade on the boardwalk at Brighton Beach in New York City.
A man finds a bit of shade on the boardwalk at Brighton Beach in New York City.
It wasn't all in your head — last month was hotter than ever before.

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report that July had the highest average temperatures in records since 1880.

And it's not just in the U.S. Average July temperatures around the world set heat records too, NPR's Kat Chow reports.

She tells our Newscast unit that:
"This confirms what NASA and a Japanese agency found using separate data.
"Jake Crouch is a climate scientist with NOAA. 'So now that we're fairly certain that 2015 will be the warmest year on record, it's time for us to start looking at, what are the impacts for us, what does that mean for people on the ground' [says Crouch]."
Part of reason for the hotter temperatures is El Nino, Kat says.
Here are a few facts from NOAA:
July was the hottest month on record around the world.I
July was the hottest month on record around the world.                                                        
July was the hottest month on record around the world.
  • Year-to-date, the average land surface temperature around the world was up 2.41 degrees Fahrenheit from the 20th century average.
  • The average size for sea ice in the Arctic in July was 350,000 square miles. That's the eighth-smallest size for the month since ice size records began in 1979, but it's the largest area covered since 2009.
  • The global average sea surface temperature in July was 1.35 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it  ever has been previously.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

LEGO Wants Sustainable Building Blocks

Here's another company in transformation and investing in sustainability.  We applaud LEGO for using better materials that do not end up adding more plastic to our waste woes.  There is a better way and they will better serve kids by finding it.

Go to our main network site--Renewable for more of this week's stories and updates:

The LEGO Group establishes LEGO Sustainable Materials Centre and expects to recruit more than 100 employees in a significant step up on the 2030 ambition of finding and implementing sustainable alternatives to current materials.

Packaging is a major source of pollution--in manufacturing and disposition by the consumer--and needs lots of improvement.  We've done shows on this (and there is a industry group working with most of the major consumer providers to bring rapid improvement) and will talk to LEGO about this side of their goals.

Earlier this year, the LEGO Group announces a significant investment of DKK 1 billion dedicated to research, development and implementation of new, sustainable, raw materials to manufacture LEGO® elements as well as packaging materials.

Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO and President of the LEGO Group, says:

“This is a major step for the LEGO Group on our way towards achieving our 2030 ambition on sustainable materials. We have already taken important steps to reduce our carbon footprint and leave a positive impact on the planet by reducing the packaging size, by introducing FSC certified packaging and through our investment in an offshore wind farm. Now we are accelerating our focus on materials.”

The investment will result in the establishment of the LEGO Sustainable Materials Centre. The centre will be based at the LEGO Group’s headquarters in Billund, Denmark, and include all current functions and employees working to find alternative materials. In addition, the LEGO Group expects to recruit more than 100 specialists within the materials field during the coming years to work on this challenging ambition.

The LEGO Sustainable Materials Centre organisation will be established during 2015 and 2016, and it is expected that it will include satellite functions located in relevant locations around the globe. In addition, the centre will collaborate and develop partnerships with relevant external stakeholders and experts.

LEGO Group owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen comments on the announcement:

“Our mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. We believe that our main contribution to this is through the creative play experiences we provide to children. The investment announced is a testament to our continued ambition to leave a positive impact on the planet, which future generations will inherit. It is certainly in line with the mission of the LEGO Group and in line with the motto of my grandfather and founder of the LEGO Group, Ole Kirk Kristiansen: Only the best is good enough”.

- See more at:

Arpin Group Recognized For Their Innovation

We are very proud of this award.  Most of our R & D goes into efficiency, clean energy and designing state-of-the art, paperless systems for our global customers.  Our commitment is to be, for the next century and beyond, the greenest moving company in the world.  We believe that, along with other investments in great customer service, allows us to deliver the best value in the world--the best combination of service and price in moving.

Go to Renewable, our main network site, to view our acceptance and learn more about many companies in transformation, like ours, committed to helping build a cleaner, brighter future for all generations.  

On Thursday, Sept. 17, Arpin Group was awarded PBN's Fastest Growing Innovative Companies for 2015 for energy and environmental pursuits.

Over the years, Arpin Group has transformed itself into becoming the world's greenest moving company by initiating numerous programs, such as  ZERO waste service, which was achieved by 2006. Every element such as cardboard, paper, etc., was recycled and did not go into the Central Landfill, resulting in year over year average savings of 1,200 trees,  485,000 gallons of water, 40,000 lbs of air pollutants, and 215 yards of landfill space. What was an added bonus was the reverse logistic cycle that allowed Arpin Group to sell the materials back to the manufacturer at a cost of 60 - 80% less than the cost of utilizing virgin materials.

In 2007, Arpin Group began hosting e-waste collection events across the state that have netted 92,000lbs of e-waste, which otherwise would have went to the Central Landfill. During these collections voluntary donations were collected that total $8,000 that were give to Narragansett Save The Bay, the R.I. Audubon Society, and The Arctic Mission, all non-profits.

n 2010,  Arpin Group, along with Cardi's furniture, took an aggressive leadership role by installing the state's very first Electric Car Charging station and showing the future possibility of electric vehicles for everyone.

When word of the award was received, Peter Arpin said, "Arpin Group is committed to positive change and transformation. We are 115 years old but do not want to be the same company for the next 115 years.  Our investments in R & D, focused on building an efficient, streamlined, sustainable global moving company for the benefit of our customers, have completely changed and improved our operations. We are honored to be recognized for our efforts."

To see Arpin Groups complete list of Green Initiatives you can CLICK HERE. 
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Is This The Energy Storage Breakthrough

Yes, we believe this is part of the technological breakthrough we've been waiting for.  Not the only one, but a great first step.

Think about the work being done at MIT--can batteries last forever?  Energy storage is a game change for EV's, homes, mass transit, portable devices and many more applications.  

Good to see other players jumping in and investing in new products.  We love seeing many choices for all of us.

Is This The Energy Storage Breakthrough We Have Been Waiting For?

Tesla has so far been the undisputed leader in the energy storage market as its Powerwall system has already been sold out for the year 2016. Nevertheless, the energy storage industry is witnessing the entrance of several other promising players who are offering newer technologies that promise to be better than the other.

Audi’s ‘Power to gas’ system and Lightsail’s Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) system are the two promising technologies that could (potentially) compete with Tesla’s energy storage system in the near future. A report from Lux Research recently stated that the energy storage industry is set to reach $50 billion by the year 2020 and electric vehicles would be the biggest market for the same.

 Batteries are one of the most integral parts of an EV as they take up most of space inside. In a quest to make the batteries last longer, researchers the world over are coming up with innovations that have the potential to turn into a major technological breakthrough.

Samsung and MIT have found a new way to make your battery last far longer

In a latest development, a group of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Samsung have found a technique that can make batteries last indefinitely, or so they claim.

According to new research, a change in the state of an electrolyte (which is the basic component of a battery) can dramatically increase the overall life of the battery. Currently, electrolytes are used in liquid form in batteries and they are responsible for the conduction of electricity. The liquid electrolytes also have a tendency of getting overheated and catching fire. The scientists at MIT and Samsung’s Advanced Institute of Technology claim that a solid electrolyte would facilitate greater power density along with increasing the charging capacity. Hence, a solid electrolyte can greatly increase the life of a battery along with enhancing its safety.

“All of the fires you’ve seen, with Boeing, Tesla, and others, they are all electrolyte fires. The lithium itself is not flammable in the state it’s in in these batteries. (With a solid electrolyte) there’s no safety problem — you could throw it against the wall, drive a nail through it — there’s nothing there to burn,” said Gerbrand Ceder of MIT.

Apart from the safety aspect, Ceder further adds that there would be no degradation reactions in case of a solid state electrolyte and this would result in batteries undergoing hundreds of thousands of cycles. In short, the battery with a solid electrolyte would have a capability of outlasting all current designs by a huge margin. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Researchers turn CO2 seized from air into valuable high-tech material

This is reminiscent of a recent radio show in which we discussed taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and remanufacturing it to gas in a new plant out West.  How cool is it to think multiple technologies will drain large scale carbon from our overheated planet and convert it quikly to a reusable form?

As with this invention, the new plant out west is using solar to power their facilities, and processes, as well.  Does not get much cleaner or more profitable than that.

Researchers turn CO2 seized from the air into valuable high-tech material

A team at George Washington University has found a way to hit two birds with one stone: mitigate climate change by pulling CO2 from the atmosphere and make a valuable material at the same time.
 The solar powered setup reacts a molten lithium carbonate in the presence of heat and an electrical current to produce carbon fibers, recently highly prized in engineering applications from cars and airplanes to wind turbines to tennis rackets.
The carbon nanofibers (seen above) were generated using a solar-powered electrochemical reactor that uses CO2 as its starting material. Image: George Washington University

The Solar Thermal Electrochemical Process or STEM first uses a concentrated solar power array to generate electricity and, secondly, heat the experimental device.

 Carbon dioxide from the air is pulled into the electrochemical reactor at one of two electrodes immersed in molten lithium carbonate. Running volts of electricity through the lithium carbonate at a specific temperature (750 degrees Celsius) kicks of a chemical reaction that dissolves the CO2 forming carbon nanofibres at the surface of one of the electrodes and lithium carbonate, which can be reused again in the next reaction.
Since it’s fully solar powered and uses CO2 directly fed from the atmosphere, the device basically makes carbon fibers out of thin air. This is definitely exciting considering a tonne of carbon nanofibers are valued on the market at $25,000. The researchers at George Washington claim, however, that they can scale their model to bring the cost down to $1,000 per tonne. Remember, all while pulling out CO2 from the atmosphere.

“One of the great threats facing our planet is climate change,” said Stuart Licht, of George Washington Univ.’s Dept. of Chemistry. “Rather than attempt to survive the climate change consequences of flooding, wild fires, starvation, economic disruption, human death and species extinction, we must mitigate the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.”

To curb global warming you need to do two things: stop emitting (massive amounts) of CO2 and sequestrate the excess carbon that’s already in the atmosphere. Various carbon sequestrating techniques have been proposed, the most common being using pours rocks that absorb CO2 then burring them a mile or so underground. This is expensive and hardly makes a dint in global warming – you’d need to build thousands of carbon storage pits through the world.

How do we stop global warming while renewable technologies to meet our energy needs are still under development? Part of the answer may lie in an emerging transition technology called Carbon dioxide (CO2) Capture and Storage (CCS).
What Licht and colleagues demonstrated is brilliant because the industry really needs these carbon fibers and the world needs to remove the excess carbon from the atmosphere. Of course, don’t imagine that carbon fiber plants will remove that much. For now, their prototype produces 10 grams of carbon nanofibres per hour, but it can be easily scaled.

Licht says his team ran some numbers and found their setup could remove enough CO2 to decrease atmospheric levels down to those of the pre-industrial revolution within 10 years using a physical area less than 10% that of the Sahara desert. This sounds quite impractical at this point, but remember each solution and method that might help curb global warming helps. Just like renewable energy sources, there’s no one winning strategy. Decades from now, all sorts of carbon sequestrating and carbon removal methods will be employed. For instance, another interesting idea ZME Science reported earlier concerned reacting gaseous CO2 with low grade minerals such as magnesium and calcium silicate to produce limestone – a material used in constructions.

There are still a couple of things Licht and colleagues need to solve until their solution can compete with other carbon nanofibre producing methods. For one, their fibres are too short for any noteworthy practical use. They have to find a way to grow the fibres longer. “It’s like when you shear a sheep and you get wool,” James Tour, a nanoengineering and materials scientist at Rice University in Houston said for Science. “Those little wool fibres that first come off its back — you can’t make a blanket out of that. You have to somehow get it spun into long fibres that you can then put into a machine to get a wool sweater or blanket.”

Monday, September 21, 2015

A pope for all seasons

We relish adding to the warmest welcome to the Pope as he soon hits the US.  May God bless his every journey.  His beautiful soul will shine brightly here.

We some what disagree with the Pope on his criticism of the global economy.  We believe a world exchange of commerce is a true blessing, particularly as we struggle to find common ground between factions and countries in so many other ways.  Yes, he's right, there is severe over consumption.  But as the green economy grows, and we power our jobs and companies, going forward with clean energy, smart consumers will buy less and become increasingly mindfull of their carbon and waste footprint.

Global financial dependence, in which most countries cannot affort to isolate their economy, brings stability and is a step closer to peace.  Our exchange of ideas, technology, labor, diveristy in manufacturing facilities, investments in pushing business more fully into the virtural world, will benefit mankind.

The Pope's infectous personality will push us all into a triple-bottom line style of running comopanies.  His humble lifestyle will be the accepted model for us all.  His forgivness, openess, his care for all will help us bring our lives, we believe, back in balance...were they belong.

Old school is great for a successful life.  His work ethic, communication skills ability to influence us all in a very good way is grounded in old-school principals.  His main job is to help save souls.  As he does our lives, the planet, the future will be graced by his amazing love.

A pope for all seasons

The 78-year-old who lives behind a gas station in Vatican City previously worked as a nightclub bouncer. He’ll suffer the white robes of his office, but he won’t abide the red shoes his predecessor wore. He wants to save souls, but also save the Earth. During his first week on the job, he jokingly blessed a dog. He doesn’t really like it when they kiss the ring. He has his own flash mob.

But as Americans brace for the coming of Pope Francis, here’s a basic fact about the man often dubbed the coolest-ever leader of the Roman Catholic Church: He’s also plenty old school.

What Pope Francis will do during his trip to Washington, New York and Philadelphia: The crowded schedule includes a meeting with President Obama and speeches to a joint session of Congress and the United Nations, as well as four masses expected to draw as many as 2 million people.

He rises like clockwork at 4:30 a.m. and spends hours praying before Mass. Although he famously declared “who am I to judge” when asked about gay priests, he calls the Western rise of LBGT equality “a new sin against God.” He says the Devil is as real as God, and he endorses exorcisms. In an age when fewer and fewer believe in miracles, he is a saint-making machine. He hasn’t watched television in 25 years

This is the riddle of Pope Francis, the first Latin American pope and a man who has brought a dose of magical realism to the job of being pontiff. And as he prepares to stage his first official visit to the United States 2½ years into his revolutionary papacy, perhaps only one thing about the Argentine-born Francis is crystal clear: He is upending convention in one of the world’s oldest institutions.

Francis never saw the need to come to the United States before, but now that he’s pope, he’s embracing reality: The American Catholic church is one of the wealthiest, most vibrant and influential segments of Catholicism, even if it makes up only 8 percent of the global Catholic population. For a pope who has made clear that his focus is on those without power — migrants, the elderly, addicts, prisoners — visiting this superpower could be one of the most important stops of his papacy.

“The impact of the U.S. on the world is never absent from the Holy See’s view of the world — whether they think about it in positive or negative terms,” said the Rev. Bryan Hehir, who teaches about religion and global politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is a top adviser to Francis confidant Cardinal Sean O’Malley. “And this pope is pretty critical of the international global economy.”

To tackle the topics he has prioritized — immigration, poverty and the environment — Francis has to sway and involve Americans, Hehir said. He’s coming to tell the U.S. church, “You better attend to these issues.”

But will they listen? His climate-change encyclical, which challenged unbridled growth, aroused bitter responses among conservative American Catholics, who are also deeply unhappy with other signals Francis has been sending. Meanwhile, more liberal Catholics want to know whether he will follow his empathetic rhetoric on issues such as divorce and homosexuality with concrete change.

“My guess is he won’t be too specific,” Hehir said. “As others have said, he hasn’t changed the words, he’s changed the music. But that’s no small thing.”

A different kind of pope

For a guy who barely left his country at the tip of South America and seemed initially terrified at the prospect of being elected pope, Francis has turned out to be a natural global leader. But he has also been a surprise to the cardinals who thought they were putting a cautious moderate on Saint Peter’s throne.
To the chagrin of conservatives, he has evolved into a sort of pontifical version of Reagan-appointed Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, whose judicial decisions have upended his supporters’ expectations. After two popes who concentrated on doctrine and traditional families, Francis is clearly in a different mold.

The cardinals “thought he was going to be more conservative than he has been, but that was partly because he did not speak English, and many bishops outside of Latin America did not know him so well as they thought,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter. “In Buenos Aires, he had sat in the homes of poor people and heard their stories and did not see the marketplace or globalization as helping these people.”

But his economic pronouncements are not what rankles many traditional Catholics. Their concern is the absence of an emphasis on core teachings of the church — against abortion and for the traditional family.

Almost every other day since his election in March 2013, it seems, the pope makes news with his off-the-cuff comments and actions. He was the first pope to kiss the feet of female prisoners — a gender tweak to an ancient pre-Easter ritual that riled traditionalists. Earlier this year, responding to a reporter’s question about overpopulation and the church’s ban on artificial birth control, he said Catholics should not feel compelled to breed “like rabbits.” In an interview with Jesuit journalists, he said the church “sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules,” which many took to mean the focus on strict doctrine.

The Rev. Robert Sirico, a prominent conservative who founded the free-market-promoting Acton Institute, said “the pot is boiling over” among conservatives, who are uncharacteristically speaking out — at least to one another — against Francis. They are concerned that his style of discussion is leading many to think everything is on the table.
Catholic audiences have besieged Sirico with questions about the climate-change encyclical and whether they are obliged to embrace it even if they disagree. He tells them the pope’s authority extends to giving moral guidance, not resolving scientific disputes such as whether human beings are responsible for global warming.

That said, conservatives are also worried about Francis’s comments suggesting he is open to resigning, as his predecessor did in 2013, blowing the minds of church historians who hadn’t seen a pope step down in centuries. Like talking off the cuff, stepping down humanizes the papacy a bit too much, they feel. “The pope is supposed to be the Holy Father,” Sirico said. “Fathers don’t resign. They stay.”
“He is, more than any other pope, a pope of gestures. And I’m not sure he intends to be a pope of gestures,” said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

There’s no question that Francis is striving to be less an enforcer of religious discipline than something akin to a global Jiminy Cricket, a voice of conscience whether you believe in God or not. He has become perhaps the world’s leading champion of the poor. His first papal trip outside Rome was to speak to African migrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where he railed against the “globalization of indifference.”

He has become a formidable diplomat, interjecting the Vatican into everything from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to U.S.-Cuba relations. He is using his post as a pulpit to demand that world leaders shape a comprehensive U.N. treaty to combat climate change.
Yet, to date, he has done nothing to alter church doctrine. His more embracing tone on issues such as homosexuality, coupled with his tough talk on global warming and free markets, is sparking a broad debate about the role of popes in the 21st century as well as the future direction of one of the world’s largest faiths. In him, a church he took over in a profound period of crisis, as well as a world that listens less and less to its religious leaders, have both gotten far more than they bargained for.

‘Starting a revolution’

For liberals — Catholics or not — Francis has emerged as an energizing force. These days in Rome, for instance, an impromptu flash mob periodically stops traffic, bopping and rhyming to a catchy tune in honor of Pope Francis. Yet these are not your everyday papists.
The troupe’s name — the Poppers — irreverently riffs on the street slang for a chemical stimulant because they find his message “addictive.” Some of its 300 members are regular churchgoers, but others are not. Perhaps not surprising given a pontiff who is dividing liberals and conservatives, “the Poppers” largely define themselves as open-minded progressives. The group is open to the young and old, to men and women, to straight and gay. It includes company executives and songwriters. They are Italians, Russians, Cubans and Americans. A few of them aren’t even Catholic. It’s an atypical fan club for an atypical pope.

“This pope is realizing the opening of the church that so many of us have waited for,” said a gleeful Francesco Grasso, 43, an Italian marketing executive and occasional churchgoer who joined a new flash mob in Rome last April. “There are a number of barriers that may not be broken immediately. But there are signs that Pope Francis is starting a revolution in the Roman Catholic Church.”

But Francis has also vehemently opposed same-sex marriage, condemned transgenderism as a theory “that does not recognize the order of creation,” and he called the spread of these social trends “ideological colonization.”
“This pope is realizing the opening of the church that so many of us have waited for.”
—Francesco Grasso, 43, an Italian marketing executive and occasional churchgoer who joined a new flash mob in Rome

The liberals who seek change in church policy hope to pin down his thoughts on hot-button social issues: the future place of Catholics who use artificial contraception, who divorce and remarry outside the church, who are LGBT. They want to know whether access to abortion and contraception — both supported widely by U.S. Catholics — will continue to be singled out as sinful by church leaders.

Francis has welcomed discussion this year about ways to lift the stigma on divorced Catholics who remarry outside the church — making them ineligible for Catholicism’s most holy rite of Communion because Catholicism teaches that marriages are forever. Earlier this month, he eliminated some of the bureaucracy and cost of obtaining an annulment.
In his typically blunt style, Francis this summer said sometimes divorces are “morally necessary” when marriages are extremely poor, and that the church needs to do much more to welcome people who are divorced — a good slice of U.S. Catholics.

Cleaning house

On the night of March 13, 2013, the Rev. Guillermo Karcher strode through the doors of the Sistine Chapel on his way to greet the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church.
Shortly before, billowing white smoke had signaled the anointing of a new pope, and Karcher, a senior Vatican protocol officer, was rushing to congratulate the longtime Cardinal of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Both men were Argentines and had known each other for years. But now, Bergoglio was Pope Francis, revered leader of 1 billion Catholics. Upon seeing the new pontiff, Karcher instantly fell to one knee to kiss his papal ring.
Francis, however, responded by casually nudging him back to his feet and encouraging Karcher to stand as an equal.

“Then we just stood there; he started asking me how my mom was doing,” Karcher recalled recently. He added: “Pope Francis is not about the ceremony, he is about the mission. I think that from the very beginning, we knew this man was going to be different.”
Perhaps nowhere would Francis’s touch become more present than inside the hermetically sealed walls of Vatican City. He would startle officials by eschewing the lavish papal apartments in favor of more humble quarters at St. Martha’s House, a lodging space for visiting clerics that stands as a grim reminder of 1990s architecture amid the Renaissance splendor of Vatican City. But the changes to come after would prove far more significant.
Francis had replaced Benedict XVI at time when the powerful bureaucracy that runs Vatican City, known as the Roman Curia, was in the throes of crisis. Major leaks to the Italian news media had revealed widespread corruption and intrigue, including the blackmailing of homosexual clergy and internal power struggles. Shortly after coming into office, Francis started cleaning house.

He fired Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Benedict’s secretary of state who was seen as an obstacle to reform. The new pope then continued an effort begun by Benedict, foisting new rules of transparency on the long-secretive Vatican Bank. Its 19,000 accounts were scrutinized. Following fresh revelations in 2013 that an Italian monsignor had allegedly used his account at the bank for illicit deals, Francis forced out the bank’s two top officials.
There has been pushback, including extraordinarily blunt critiques of the pope’s tenure by conservative members of the church hierarchy. A pitched battle is also looming between conservative and liberal clerics over possible changes to church policies looming next year, and on which Francis will have the final word.

“There is still opposition to the pope in Vatican City because he has criticized the power structure of the curia, and there are those who believe that the steps he has taken since arriving are diminishing the prestige of the papacy as an absolute power,” said Marco Politi, a longtime Vatican insider and author of the book “Pope Francis Among the Wolves.”
“But there is also opposition on the direction he is taking the church,” Politi said. “Some feel it is now a church without a rudder, that on the issue of remarried and divorced Catholics and others, he may go too far.”

Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Rebibbia prison on April 2, 2014, in Rome. For a pope who has made clear that his focus is on those without power — migrants, the elderly, addicts, prisoners — visiting the United States, the world's superpower, could be one of the most important stops of his papacy. (Alberto Pizzoli/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)                                                                       

A golden moment

Regardless of their own infighting, the Vatican and the U.S. church are eager to take advantage of the incredible goodwill and interest in Francis — not only from disaffected Catholics but also from non-Catholics. Polls this year show that Americans of all stripes give him high favorability ratings. He’s been cited as a moral authority by many, including Oprah Winfrey, Rolling Stone magazine and President Obama. U.S. church leaders know that this presents a rare opportunity for them.

And they believe the trip also will teach the pope something positive about the United States — a country he looks at with a very wary eye, as the cradle of capitalism and income inequality. But it’s also a busy spiritual marketplace, vigorous and pluralistic, and U.S. church leaders say Francis will probably look to learn from it.

One early indicator: The longtime rumors that Francis would come to gas-guzzling America and zip around our streets in a tiny Kia proved false. He will be riding in the most iconic of American brands: A Jeep Wrangler.