Friday, January 29, 2016

New Study Argues Vegetarianism

Do we need to rethink our diets as well?  Sometimes you cannot win.

New Study Argues Vegetarianism Isn’t As Earth-Friendly As People Think 1 / 16

  © Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images Only thing green here is the color.

Taking the USDA's advice and eating a diet heavy on fruits and veggies may be good for us, but it may not be as good for the Earth. A group of Carnegie Mellon scientists calculated the environmental impact of healthy diets, and they argue in a new paper that some vegetables' energy use and gas emissions are worse for the climate than people realize. One author explains that on a per-calorie basis, "Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon," and they call their findings "perhaps counter-intuitive."
It's well established that meat isn't great for the environment, and the authors point out that beef is still worse than lettuce, but pork and chicken are practically Al Gore in a Prius next to celery and eggplant. "There's a complex relationship between diet and the environment," lead author Michelle Tom explains. "What is good for us health-wise isn't always what's best for the environment. That's important for public officials to know and for them to be cognizant of these tradeoffs as they develop or continue to develop dietary guidelines in the future."
Critics have called the study deceiving, since a calorie of lettuce goes a lot further than a calorie of bacon, but the researchers also evaluated the USDA recommended diet (which is heavy on seafood and dairy) and found that a healthy diet uses 38 percent more energy and increases greenhouse gases by 10 percent. Yikes.

Pumped beyond limits many U.S. aquifers in decline

This week we've been covering the decline of some of our natural capitol and thinking about the potential impact on our economy (which is beyond the environmental risk, of course).  We continue that today with this story on the decline in US aquifers.

Here, it is easy to imagine the fallout of losing irrigation systems for the heartland of corn production.  We've strained many of our natural and man made resources.  Water is our most valuable resource.  Running out of it, anywhere in the world, puts us immediately at crises.

Pumped beyond limits, many U.S. aquifers in decline

by Ian James and Steve Reilly
SUBLETTE, Kansas – Just before 3 a.m., Jay Garetson’s phone buzzed on the bedside table. He picked it up and read the text: “Low Pressure Alert.”

He felt a jolt of stress and his chest tightened. He dreaded what that automated message probably meant: With the water table dropping, another well on his family’s farm was starting to suck air.

The Garetson family has been farming in the plains of southwestern Kansas for four generations, since 1902. Now they face a hard reality. The groundwater they depend on is disappearing. Their fields could wither. Their farm might not survive for the next generation.

At dawn, Jay was out among the cornfields at the well, trying to diagnose the problem. The pump was humming as it lifted water from nearly 600 feet underground. He turned a valve and let the cool water run into his cupped hands. Just as he had feared, he saw fine bubbles in the water.

“It’s showing signs of weakening,” he said sadly, standing in the shoulder-high corn.

“This’ll last another five or 10 years, but not even at the production rate that we’re at here today,” he said. “It’s just a question of how much time is left.”

Time is running out for portions of the High Plains Aquifer, which lies beneath eight states from South Dakota to Texas and is the lifeblood of one of the world’s most productive farming economies. The aquifer, also known as the Ogallala, makes possible about one-fifth of the country’s output of corn, wheat and cattle. But its levels have been rapidly declining, and with each passing year more wells are going dry.

As less water pours from wells, some farmers are adapting by switching to different crops. Others are shutting down their drained wells and trying to scratch out a living as dryland farmers, relying only on the rains.

In parts of western Kansas, the groundwater has already been exhausted and very little can be extracted for irrigation. In other areas, the remaining water could be mostly used up within a decade.

The severe depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer is symptomatic of a larger crisis in the United States and many parts of the world. Much more water is being pumped from the ground than can be naturally replenished, and groundwater levels are plummeting. It’s happening not only in the High Plains and drought-ravaged California but also in places from the Gulf Coastal Plain to the farmland of the Mississippi River Valley, and from the dry Southwest to the green Southeast.

In a nationwide examination of the problem, USA TODAY and The Desert Sun analyzed two decades of measurements from more than 32,000 wells and found water levels falling in nearly two-thirds of those wells, with heavy pumping causing major declines in many areas. The analysis of U.S. Geological Survey data revealed that:
  • Nationwide, water levels have declined in 64 percent of the wells included in the government database during the past two decades. 
  • The average decline among decreasing wells has been more than 10 feet, and in some areas the water table has dropped more than 100 feet during that period – more than 5 feet per year.
  • For 13 counties in Texas, New Mexico, Mississippi, Kansas and Iowa, average water levels have decreased more than 40 feet since 1995.
  • Nationally, the average declines have been larger from 2011-2014 as drought has intensified in the West. But water tables have been falling consistently over the years through both wet and dry periods, and also in relatively wet states such as Florida and Maryland.
  • Across the High Plains, one of the country’s largest depletion zones, the average water levels in more than 4,000 wells are 13.2 feet lower today than they were in 1995. In the southern High Plains, water levels have plunged significantly more – in places over 100 feet in just 20 years.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


From our friends at Climate Reality.  What do we read into these numbers?  That expertise sits at a much higher level than we have.  However, good to know and to factor into how we manage energy and the environment.


NOAA and NASA have both confirmed what scientists have been predicting for months: 2015 was globally the hottest year ever recorded (and the direct temperature records date back to 1880). But what else did scientists determine about the state of the climate in 2015? Here’s what else you need to know.

1. 2015 CRUSHED 2014

Not only was 2015 the warmest year on record globally, it beat the previous record, set in 2014, by a wide margin. The average temperature (over land and ocean surfaces) was 1.62°F (0.90°C) above the 20th century average, a full 0.29°F (0.16°C) above the previous record set in 2014.
That might not seem like much, but it’s the widest margin by which the global average annual temperature record has been broken – ever.


The planet is warming because of manmade carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases emitted from human activities like burning fossil fuels. The planet has warmed about 1.4°F (0.8°C) since 1880 and in 2015 this warming trend continued unabated.
On top of this human-caused warming, an El Niño event began last year and continues into the present. El Niño refers to the natural condition where ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific near the Equator warm to levels above the long term average. The 2015/2016 El Niño rivals the one from 1997/1998 as the strongest since record-keeping began (in terms of ocean surface temperatures above the long-term average).
El Niño events are a result of complex circulations in the ocean and atmosphere. They occur roughly every four to seven years and have a big impact on weather patterns globally. El Niño events can cause short-term spikes in average global temperatures, but they are not behind the long-term warming we’ve experienced over the past century. An increasing body of research suggests that strong El Niño events might happen more frequently as our planet continues to warm and our climate changes.
The bottom line? El Niño makes temperatures change from year to year, but in the long run, the Earth is steadily warming and it’s due to human activity.


Of these 16 years, 1998 was the only one that occurred in the 20th century – and like 2015, 1998 was a strong El Niño year. While climate scientists don’t expect every year to be record warm (due to these natural fluctuations), there is already evidence to suggest this time next year we’ll be writing about 2016 being the new hottest year on record. The writing is on the wall: as humans continue to burn fossil fuels, our climate will change.
As atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe told the Associated Press, "It's getting to the point where breaking record is the norm. It's almost unusual when we're not breaking a record."

Why Arctic is warming twice as fast as rest of planet

As we push more urgently on the shift away from fossil fuel, and, perhaps, start to perfect technology around storage of carbon, it will be interesting to see if this trend quickly changes and the warming abates?

Why Arctic is warming twice as fast as rest of planet        

More from the front page of our network site: The Art of Smog

Not great news this week as we report on many stories, but important events that we need to focus some attention on.  Find more at our main site at Renewable

Art imitates life, right?  A nice, dramatic telling of the horrifying story of uncontrolled, poorly thought out growth in China.  We hope this student helps shape, quickly, a culture of change.

Our friends at Formula-E shared this story with us, and we wanted to share it with you- a Chinese artist's approach to trying to bring awareness to the pollution in China.

The pressing need for a drastic change in the quality of air in Beijing – the home of Formula E in China – has been graphically brought to life by an artist know as Brother Nut.

Armed with an industrial vacuum cleaner, Nut spent four hours a day for 100 days walking the streets of Beijing, passing the famous Birds Nest Arena, where the Beijing ePrix takes place, during his tour. After 100 days he had collected 100 grams of dust and smog, which he baked into a brick by mixing it with clay.

“It’s not healthy. You have nowhere to hide. It is in the air and all around us,” Nut told The Guardian. "The more we pursue and dig for resources, the more dust we will produce. When all the world's resources are exhausted one day, we will end up with becoming real dust ourselves.”

The creation of the smog brick came at a significant time in Beijing, as the Particulate Matter (PM2.5) Index hit its all-time highest figure. According to data from the U.S State Department Air Quality Monitoring Program, the index read over 500 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3) - the World Health Organisations ‘safe levels’ for PM2.5 levels is 25 ug/m3!

Formula E, is committed to the improvement of air quality in cities through the development and promotion of Electric Vehicles, sustainable mobility and clean energy. Formula E, alongside our partners, serves as a framework to showcase new sustainable technologies and to address important contemporary environmental issues to a global audience.
- See more at:

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Troubled Waters of Flint, Michigan

We sadly have watched, like everyone, this community disaster unfold.  As bad as it is, and hearts bleed for Flint, the wives, husbands, children getting sick from high levels of contamination, this is just the beginning of similar tragedies unfolding in many cities and towns.

We've done a lot of reporting and work on our decaying pipes and urban infrastructure.  Our delivery systems of water, gas other utilities are shot.   No money has been spent to upgrade core components.  Much of the Northeast underground is antiquated.

We sometimes take for granted our access to modern conveniences.  Perhaps we will not ever do that again.  The health risk, when the system breaks down is, as we see here, staggering.  Kids, of course, will take the brunt of the illness and long-term ramifications.  Very sad.

Typical, as we see here in this story, are our myopic decisions to save money and not treat aggressively possible flaws in our systems.  The fallout on this one will be massive.  Let's hope it spurs consideration and remediation, where necessary, around the world:

Go to our main site, Renewable, for more stories and this week's interview with Stuart Scott of Faith and Science Initiative.  God knows we'll need lots of faith and science to get us out of some of these crises.  

Is Flint, Michigan ground zero in the United States when it comes to authorities being held accountable for unhealthy, and what some consider to be poisonous drinking water from the result of their own actions?

The contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan (United States), started in April 2014, after the change in source from treated Lake Huron water (via Detroit) to the Flint River, the city's drinking water had a series of problems that culminated with lead contamination, creating a serious public health danger. According to some reports 90% of this problem could have been avoided if an anti-corrosive agent treatment, at a cost about $100 a day, was applied. But for reasons that are now be investigated by the Feds and the State Attorney General, those in-charge choose not to administer the treatment to the contaminated water. The fall-out so far has seen four government officials—one from the City of Flint, two from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and one from the Environmental Protection Agency—resign over the mishandling of the crisis, and Michigan Governor Snyder issued an apology to citizens, while promising money to Flint for medical care and infrastructure upgrades.

We all need to pay particular attention to what is happening at Flint, while not forgetting the disaster of Gold King Mine when on August 5 , 2015 millions of gallons of toxic wastewater was released in rivers in three states by an EPA error. Clean drinking water shouldn’t be a pricey luxury in fancy (mostly plastic) bottles, with slick names, and most of all our water shouldn’t be contaminated by avoidable mistakes by those in government offices, and agencies.

ReNewable Now came across an interesting post on FLINT WATER STUDY by Dr. Marc Edwards that we wanted to share with our readers. We were particularly shocked when Dr. Edwards wrote, “Consultants also openly bragged about approaches, that would make lead in water look low during EPA compliance sampling, even when it was high when people were drinking the water, at national meetings right in front of OGWDW officials.” This reminds us of what Volkswagen did with emission testing. Maybe these consultants need to be named, and if such testing took place those involved need to be held accountable. To read the rest of Dr. Edwards article click here.
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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

IBM Expands Green Horizons

Great news as IBM continues to broaden their environmental services globally.

It is amazing how broad the scope listed here.  Take a look at the diversity of th work they are performing for this countries.  IBM has proves before;  knowledge is power.  With their help can leaders in Beijing and others predict, control and reduce air pollution levels?  How quickly would their citizens breath easier?

It also strikes us that IBM is a company that understands resilience well, perhaps giving them keen insight and experience on how to transform and adapt.  Not alike what we, collectively, need to do to restore our ecological/economic balance.  Their early roots were far removed from environmental consulting.  Our carbon levels were far removed from where they are today.  Yet, IBM is clearly an expert in giving governments new tools to manage their cities and communities.  Let's hope our planet can follow the IBM plan for survival.

IBM Expands Green Horizons Initiative Globally To Address Pressing Environmental And Pollution Challenges

  • Programs to Benefit Citizens in Beijing, New Delhi, Johannesburg and Other Cities
  • Machine Learning and IoT Technologies Improve Accuracy of Environmental Forecasting
Beijing and Armonk, NY /PRNewswire/ - IBM Research (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it will expand its Green Horizons initiative globally to enable city governments, utility companies and factories to better understand and improve their relationships with the environment and to help tackle pressing issues related to air pollution and climate change.

Today's announcement builds on a successful year-long collaboration with the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB), expanding to include over a dozen commercial deals and research engagements on four continents. IBM's China Research lab is working with the Beijing EPB to provide one of the world's most advanced air quality forecasting and decision support systems, able to generate high-resolution 1km-by-1km pollution forecasts 72 hours in advance and pollution trend predictions up to 10 days into the future. It models and predicts the effects of weather on the flow and dispersal of pollutants as well as the airborne chemical reactions between weather and pollutant particles. In the first three quarters of this year, the Beijinggovernment was able to achieve a 20 percent reduction in ultra-fine Particulate Matter, bringing it closer to its goal of reducing PM 2.5 by 25 percent by 2017.

The new Green Horizons engagements apply IBM's advanced machine learning and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to ingest and learn from vast amounts of Big Data, constantly self-configuring and improving in accuracy to create some of the world's most accurate energy and environmental forecasting systems. They include:
  • An agreement with the Delhi Dialogue Commission to understand the correlation between traffic patterns and air pollution in India's capital and provide the government with 'what if' scenario modelling to support more informed decision-making for cleaner air.
  • A pilot program with the City of Johannesburg and South Africa's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research to model air pollution trends and quantify the effectiveness of the city's intervention programs in support of Johannesburg's air quality targets and long-term sustainable development.
  • Additional clean air projects in China with the Environmental Protection Bureau in Baoding (one of China's most polluted cities) to support the city's environmental transformation; the city of Zhangjiakou (host to the 2022 Winter Olympics) to improve air quality for the outdoor sporting event; and Xinjiang Province in north-west China.
In addition, the program is delivering on its promise to help increase contributions of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources in to national grids. New customer engagements include:
  • UK energy giant SSE is piloting IBM technology to help forecast power generation at its wind farms inGreat Britain. The system is able to forecast energy for individual turbines and includes visualization tools to show expected performance several days ahead.
  • In Japan, IBM is working with the Toyo Engineering Corporation and renewable energy company Setouchi Future Creations LLC on the Setouchi solar project – one of the largest in the country. IBM's monitoring systems will help Setouchi manage and control energy from the plant's 890,000 solar panels.
  • Through the United States Department of Energy's SunShot initiative, IBM is making renewable energy forecasting technology available to government agencies, utilities and grid operators across the United States to support supply and demand planning.
  • IBM is working with China's largest wind power solution provider - Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co., Ltd to use IoT, cloud computing, big data analytics and other advanced technologies to drive innovation and transform Goldwind's business and technological models. Also in China, Shenyang Keywind Renewable Company is using cognitive forecasting technologies to help integrate more energy into the grid.
  • The Zhangbei Demonstration Project, managed by China's State Grid Jibei Electricity Power Company, is tapping the power of Green Horizons renewable energy forecasting technology to integrate 10 percent more alternative energy into the national grid, enough to power more than 14,000 homes.
"Even as society is looking to address some of the biggest challenges of our generation -- environmental degradation and climate change -- two game-changing technologies have emerged that are completely transforming our understanding of the world in which we live," said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director, IBM Research. "With Green Horizons, we are applying the most advanced cognitive computing and IoT technologies, combined with world-class analytics, to enable forward-looking government and business leaders in their efforts to make better decisions that can help safeguard the health of citizens today while helping to protect the long-term health of the planet."

"Air pollution and climate change are global challenges that require stronger action by government and business," said Bob Perciasepe, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). "To get to a clean energy future, we need accurate data about emissions, air quality and power generation. Advanced technologies can provide crucial insights about our impacts on the environment -- today and in the future."

New Initiatives Build on Success of IBM Clean Air Partnership in Beijing
IBM's Green Horizons initiative is based on innovations from the company's Research Laboratory in Beijing, with contributions from leading environmental experts across IBM's global network of research labs. To help address the issue of air pollution -- considered to be the greatest environmental threat to human health -- IBM has developed next-generation pollution forecasting and management systems which draw on vast amounts of Big Data from environmental monitoring stations, weather stations, traffic cameras as well as meteorological and environmental satellites. 

Cognitive technologies understand this data, and use it to tune a predictive model that shows where the pollution is coming from, where it will likely go, and what will be its potential effect, allowing more informed decisions about how to improve air quality. Machine learning technologies ensure that the system automatically adjusts the predictive models to different seasons and topographies.

"In the past two decades China has been at the center of global manufacturing and economic growth," said Dr. Xiaowei Shen, Director, IBM Research - China. "However, this great progress has come at a cost and today the Chinese government has placed air pollution and climate change high on the national agenda. With Chinese investments into green innovation worth billions of dollars and with a new budding generation of environmental scientists coming to the fore, China is the natural starting point for IBM's Green Horizons initiative which is now being exported to other parts of the world."

To support China's clean air action plan, IBM has entered a number of collaborations across the country. Building on their existing relationship, IBM and the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau are launching a new Joint Environmental Innovation Center that will provide decision support capabilities to the Beijing government. Using scenario modelling, the government will be able to optimize its emission reduction strategy and achieve a balance between clean air and continued economic growth. Measures include short term limitations on urban traffic and construction activity as well as long term improvements to industrial production and power generation - such as switching to cleaner energy sources and installing filtering systems. The Beijing EPB also uses a colored alert system to warn citizens when harmful levels of pollution are forecast for the coming days. Selective, temporary reductions in industrial activity are also considered for large scale events such as the 2022 Winter Olympics.

"Our environmental engineers are working on a daily basis to tackle Beijing's complex and challenging pollution problem and protect the health of citizens," said Dawei Zhang, Director of Beijing's Environmental Monitoring Center, a department of the BEPB. "Through our collaboration with IBM Research – China, we are delivering on our environmental commitments with the help of some of the most advanced technologies available. Over the past year we made good progress and the joint innovation with IBM is one of the key driving forces behind it."

Building on these results, IBM is also working in the Chinese city of Baoding with the local Environmental Protection Bureau and environmental service provider Encanwell to improve the air quality in one of China'smost polluted cities. Pollution source tracking analyzes current emissions and prevailing weather patterns to identify the likely origin of pollution - a powerful tool for environmental law enforcement at industrial parks, factories and power stations.

"Our aim is to reduce PM2.5 by 33 percent over the next two years - IBM's pollution analytics and forecasting technologies will help us to achieve this," said Jimin Zhao, Lead Researcher at Baoding City Environmental Protection Bureau. "Using Green Horizons to track the source of pollution, we can take rapid, targeted action to reduce emissions. For example, we can require that heavily polluting enterprises install filtering systems, use smokeless fuels or we can even consider closing or relocating factories and power plants in the long term."

About IBM Research
Now in its 70th year, IBM Research continues to define the future of information technology with more than 3,000 researchers in 12 labs located across six continents. Scientists from IBM Research have produced six Nobel Laureates, 10 U.S. National Medals of Technology, five U.S. National Medals of Science, six Turing Awards, 19 inductees in the National Academy of Sciences and 14 inductees into the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame – the most of any company.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Creating an Offshore Wind Industry

Excellent follow up to our wind special we broadcast late last year.  We will be focused on this again early this year on the radio side.

Creating an Offshore Wind Industry

Vince Font

As the United States starts to build its first offshore wind farm, what policy and technology initiatives will be necessary to create a fully functioning offshore wind industry?

The London Array is the world’s largest offshore wind farm. Credit: London Array Limited.
It is an auspicious time for the U.S. offshore wind industry. Driven by the fact that a present count of offshore wind farms in the United States amounts to nil, there is a great push underway to leverage one of the country’s most abundant and untapped natural resources for the production of clean energy. A wave of recent conferences, including a White House summit on the matter, have served to spark serious discussion on what remains to be done to create a robust U.S. offshore wind industry.

The Block Island Factor

At center stage is the Block Island Wind Farm, a 30 MW installation currently under construction in the waters some 15 miles off the southern coast of Rhode Island. If all goes according to plan, Block Island will begin commercial operations in 2016, becoming the first operational offshore wind farm in the United States. Small though it may be, Block Island represents a crucial first step that has served to invigorate the proponents of offshore wind development following a decade of stagnation.

The 630-MW London Array in UK waters. Credit: London Array Limited.
Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski, whose company is spearheading the project’s development, said he believes Block Island is “just the start of something much bigger,” and added he is “more optimistic now than ever” that offshore wind will take hold as a transformative means of shaping the future of the U.S. renewable energy mix, while also revitalizing the local economies that will benefit from these installations.

In Lessons From U.S. Offshore Wind Projects to Date, Keith Martin of Chadbourne & Parke said Block Island serves as an example of the importance of scale when tackling early offshore wind efforts. “Block Island demonstrates it may be better to make the first project a small project as proof of concept before moving to a larger scale,” Martin wrote. He added that that the significantly higher number of financially responsible parties involved in large-scale projects could “increase the difficulty of holding everything together.”

Late Starts and Missed Opportunities

Although the U.S. appears poised to take concrete steps in the direction of offshore wind energy, many share the opinion it should have been much further along by now. In a paper titled The Time Has Come for Offshore Wind Power in the United States, professors from the University of Delaware (UD) suggest the U.S. offshore wind industry may actually be worse off today than it was 10 years ago following the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Jeremy Firestone, School of Marine Science and Policy professor and lead author of the UD paper, called the embryonic state of the offshore wind industry in America “disheartening” and said the past decade was an era of “missed opportunity.”

Lillgrund Wind Farm is located about 10 km off the coast of southern Sweden. Credit: Mariusz Pazdziora.
Compared to Europe, the U.S. has far to go. There are now over 10 GW of installed offshore wind capacity throughout 11 European nations, with another 26.4 GW of projects already consented and 98 GW of offshore wind farms in the planning. In the UK alone, there are 1,452 offshore wind turbines accounting for 5.1 GW of capacity. The UK is also home to the world’s largest offshore wind farm, London Array, which alone has a capacity of 630 MW.

Aerial view of Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island, where the first U.S. wind farm is under construction. Credit: Wikipedia.
Adding perspective, Grybowski drew comparisons to the early days of the European offshore wind market and where the U.S. is today. “What we’re going through in the U.S. is not really surprising, because the same thing happened in Europe,” Grybowski said at a recent briefing held by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI). “It took a long time for the industry to take off in Europe, and then it exploded.”

The result of nearly a quarter century of continued deployment and investment, the European offshore wind industry saw exponential growth in the decade between 2004 and 2014, adding almost 7.5 GW of capacity. Current in-construction projects in Europe will bring cumulative capacity to 10.9 GW by 2016.

Bruce Bailey, CEO of AWS Truepower, said much of that success is owed to broad support of renewable energy initiatives among policymakers and the public. “There has always been a greater appetite in European for renewable energy,” Bailey said, pointing also to the fact that European offshore wind has enjoyed a greater than 20-year jump on the U.S.

Offshore Wind Stalling in China

The U.S isn’t the only world superpower having trouble launching an offshore wind industry. Things are rocky in China, too, where a recent report states the country has fallen behind by three years on its bid to develop 5 GW of offshore wind capacity.
Shi Pengfei, honorary chairman of the Chinese W
ind Energy Association, cited high risk and cost as the main reasons behind China’s failure to achieve its goal — although the country does have a modest number of operational offshore wind farms at just under 660 MW.

In response, the National Energy Administration in China has issued directives to get the industry back on track, which involve coordination between various agencies to put supporting policies and technologies into place.

Leveraging the European Model

In the UD paper, Firestone and associates identified a combination of “political will, price and policy support, and spatial planning” as the driving forces that propelled the European offshore wind industry to great success – leading to the natural presumption that Europe could serve as a model from which all other lagging nations, including the U.S. and China, might learn a great deal.

European technology and experience in the arena may also serve as the catalyst to jumpstarting the fledgling U.S. industry. Grybowski said that continued development of offshore wind projects in the U.S. will rely heavily at first on the importation of the existing European supply chain. He said this will gradually lead to the creation of an established stateside infrastructure capable of operating on its own.

The Sprogø Vindmølle Wind Park in the Baltic Sea. Credit: Fxp42.
Paul Rich, director of project development for US Wind, said at the EESI briefing that leveraging European technology will enable offshore wind developers to “finally begin to establish an industry, a source of workforce development, and centers of excellence” in the United States.

Proposed Solutions

According to Firestone, one of the key stumbling blocks that has handicapped offshore wind efforts is the perception that development should follow the path laid by offshore oil endeavors. Emphasizing the great differences that exist between the two industries – including the fact that oil can be shipped across vast distances and sold, whereas offshore wind power generation relies on an established local grid – Firestone said comparing the two is “like trying to put a square peg in a round hole.”

Firestone and associates propose a number of solutions that will serve to pave the way forward. These include the establishment of a long-term tax credit that takes into consideration offshore wind’s “long planning horizon”; greater emphasis on loan guarantees that put developers on more solid footing; and focus on interstate collaboration, rather than policy they caution may end up “reinforcing competition among states when cooperation is needed.”

Likewise, Bailey emphasized the critical need for the installation of an investment tax credit, stating, “If nuclear power receives tax incentives, so should offshore wind.”

What Lies Ahead

Beyond Block Island, a handful of initiatives loom encouragingly. Neighboring state Maryland is in the process of performing survey work and pursuing financial incentives for offshore wind. Meanwhile, US Wind has begun the planning stages of a proposed 500 MW project to be located just off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland.

Further up the food chain, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) plans to auction some 350,000 acres of sea off the coast of New Jersey in November. The BOEM also teamed with the Department of the Interior for an environmental assessment and discussion of offshore wind development in North Carolina.

At the recent Summit on Offshore Wind, the White House announced the establishment of an Interagency Work Group whose purpose will be to aid in the coordination of efforts between federal agencies devoted to offshore wind development. Additional commitments announced include the creation of a multi-state project funded by the Department of Energy to develop a roadmap for large-scale deployment, and the establishment of an international forum to exchange best practices between nations.

Taking all of this into account, it would be easy to declare that growth of the U.S. offshore wind industry is imminent. However, it’s not a foregone conclusion. Whether the industry takes off in the U.S., and how fast growth will occur when those steps are taken, remains to be seen.
“The technology is there,” Bailey said. “But it’s the establishment of long-term policy that will have the greatest influence on how quickly the offshore wind industry develops in the United States.”

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Challenges of Cleaning Up Cooking

Great follow up to our recent discussions on Life Straw and its ability to cut fires and emissions for clean drinking water in devoloping nations.

We can move many of these families to new technology and health.

The Challenges of Cleaning Up Cooking

Renu Kushwaha cooking in her family’s home in a village near the northern Indian city of Lucknow. She said she suffers from dizziness and a constant headache. Credit Neha Tara Mehta

MUSTAFABAD, India — Khushboo Kushwaha has a few years before she will have to squat in front of a filthy, smoking open stove three times a day to cook meals for her family, as her older sister and cousins do now. 
Khushboo is 11, and the girls in her home usually take up cooking duties as teenagers. But the smoke that billows from the wood and dried dung they burn, stinging the older girls’ eyes and throats, already affects her.
The air in the semi-open courtyard of the Kushwaha family’s home is heavy and choking. The older girls patiently prepare food for as long as six hours a day, sifting flour, rolling dough and tending to the vegetable and lentil dishes that bubble atop rough-hewn clay stoves.
“I don’t like the smoke,” Khushboo said. “I cough when food is being made,” and her eyes get red.

About three billion people, more than 40 percent of the world’s population, cook and heat their homes with dirty fuels like wood, dung and coal, burned on open fires or in traditional stoves, according to the World Health Organization. From China and Laos to Nigeria and Ethiopia, the resulting smoke prematurely kills about four million people a year, the organization says.
The smoky fuels, known as chula in India and biomass among scientists, are also a driver of climate change, in part because the black carbon particles they create absorb heat from the sun. It is not clear, however, whether a mass switchover to the alternative most readily available in India, liquefied petroleum gas, or L.P.G., would benefit the climate or be a small detriment, said Kirk Smith, professor of global environmental health at the University of California, Berkeley, and a leading voice on household air pollution.
From a health perspective, though, the pressing need for L.P.G. or other alternatives is clear, and renewable options like solar-powered cooking, while growing fast, are not yet widely available. It would be unconscionable for rich nations to demand “that the world’s poor should bear the burden of lowering carbon emissions, when essentially minuscule increases would have such huge benefits,” Dr. Smith said in an email. “It is not the cooking of the poor that threatens the climate, it is you and me.”
India, the world’s third-largest emitter of planet-warming greenhouse gases, is a key player at the climate summit meeting in Paris, and its leaders have long argued that they must prioritize improving the lives of the poor over tackling global warming. The competing agendas of wealthy nations, which have put most of the accumulated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and poorer ones worried that curbing their own growing emissions will hamper economic growth have long been a sticking point in efforts to reach a global climate deal.
About 700 million Indians, more than 55 percent of the country’s population, rely on biomass stoves.
Household air pollution is the second-biggest risk factor for death in India, and the third-biggest risk to health, causing stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, pneumonia and more, according to 2013 data from the landmark Global Burden of Disease study.
The suffering was apparent during a spring visit to Khushboo’s mud-walled home, in a village near the northern city of Lucknow, where her family scrapes out a living farming wheat and potatoes. Her mother’s vision is worsening, and she often feels too ill to cook, so an older daughter, Renu, 17, has taken up that responsibility.
Renu Kushwaha works beneath a bit of thatched roofing in a corner whose walls are black with soot. She suffers from dizziness and a constant headache.
Even the youngest knows what would solve their problems. “There’s no smoke in a gas stove,” Khushboo said. “It’s much easier.”
L.P.G., made up of propane and butane, is the cooking fuel families like the Kushwahas aspire to, smoke-free and far more convenient than the time-consuming chula. For many, though, L.P.G. is too expensive or simply unavailable, in part because India’s poor infrastructure hampers distribution.
Improving that infrastructure is key. Also critical, Dr. Smith said, is an overhaul of India’s L.P.G. subsidies, which largely go to the middle classes and the wealthy, not the rural poor who need them most.
Priti Kushwaha, a neighbor of Khushboo’s family, has an L.P.G. stove, but says she uses it sparingly. Buying the fuel means a motorcycle trip of 10 kilometers, or 6.2 miles, and the process is so cumbersome she often has to go twice.
A canister of gas costs 665 rupees, or about $10, she says, a third of which is covered by a government subsidy. Priti Kushwaha, who is not related to the other Kushwahas, would love to cook with L.P.G. more often. “It is much easier to use the gas stove,” she said. “It is just the inconvenience of getting it, and the cost.”
She cooks most often with a wood- and dung-burning stove that is more modern, and much cleaner, than her neighbors’ primitive ones. Provided by the Energy and Resources Institute, or TERI, a New Delhi-based research group, it is made of steel, with an electric fan that improves efficiency by forcing air into the burning chamber.
Increasingly, experts are seeing links between dirty fuels in the home and India’s wider air pollution problem. About 25 percent of the country’s outdoor pollution comes from households, said Kalpana Balakrishnan, a professor of environmental health engineering at Sri Ramachandra University in Chennai.
In the last 25 years, Venezuela, Chile and Costa Rica moved almost all households to L.P.G., Dr. Smith said. Ecuador did so in the 1990s and is now pushing for conversion to electric induction stoves, he said. Brazil achieved nearly universal gas use, but 10 percent of households returned to biomass when subsidies were scaled back, he said.
In India, more people are gaining access to L.P.G. But without a push from the government, it will take 20 to 30 years before gas and other clean-burning fuels are widely available, Dr. Balakrishnan said. “It’s the vaccine analogy, it’s the life-saving drug analogy,” she said. “You don’t wait for people to become rich before you get life-saving drugs to them. You step in and get them what they need.”