Wednesday, November 30, 2016

New Feasibility Study Sponsored By Timberland Makes Compelling Case for Bringing Cotton Farming Back to Haiti

What timing on this story given our work in Haiti with what will soon be a sustainable orphanage.  The picture in Haiti, we know, is bleak:  ravished by an earthquake and hurricane, impoverished, stripped of much of their eco-capital.  And, of course, littered in trash.

Here is a glimmer of hope.  Bringing back cotton farming would open up incredible economic avenues.  Let's hope this time farmers do not get crushed by bad policy and politics.  The country cannot afford any more setbacks.

Kudos to Timberland, sponsor of the promising study, and SFA, the Smallhoder Farmers Alliance.

NEW YORK, November 9, 2016 /3BL Media/ – Today, the nonprofit Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) announced two breakthrough innovations being proposed for agriculture in Haiti. The announcement was made at the Haiti Funders Conference in New York City, the third annual gathering of donors and investors focused on the goal of achieving sustainability in Haiti, a country still reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in early October.

The catalyst for this announcement is the release today of a new feasibility study entitled “Cotton: Export Market Potential for Smallholder Farmers in Haiti.” Commissioned by nonprofit Impact Farming and sponsored by SFA and global outdoor lifestyle brand Timberland, this study makes a compelling case for reintroducing a crop that was once the country’s fourth largest agricultural export, but which collapsed nearly 30 years ago due to a combination of politics and policies, and provides a new model to connect small-scale Haitian farmers to the global economy.

Key factors outlined in the study in support of cotton’s return to Haiti include ideal growing conditions, considerable farmer interest and the availability of the next generation of agricultural best practices gleaned from smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia. The study recommends that cotton be reintroduced along with a comprehensive support system and range of services that were not in place when cotton previously failed. By positioning cotton as a rotational crop in mixed farms that include vegetables, grain and livestock, the resulting agricultural benefits will extend far beyond a single crop. And by utilizing the SFA system of having farmers access this support system and services by planting trees, the benefits further extend to combating climate change.

The impetus for the study was the five-year partnership between Timberland and SFA in creating a model whereby farmers in Haiti voluntarily tend to a network of nurseries that produce up to one million trees annually. In return for their efforts, farmers receive training, crop seeds, seedlings and tools that help restore tree cover and increase the farmers’ own crop yields – a mutually beneficial and sustainable cycle. To date, this self-sustaining business model has resulted in planting nearly six million trees and helped 3,200 farmers increase productivity on their farmlands by an average of 40 percent, resulting in increased household income of 50 percent, on average. The program has also resulted in increased access to education and healthcare, including an estimated 3,400 additional children of SFA members placed in school.

“Over the past five years, we’ve been proud to partner with SFA to turn a simple tree-planting initiative into a sustainable business model for smallholder farmers,” said Colleen Vien, director of sustainability for Timberland. “Our hope in sponsoring this study, is that we can take steps to transition from being an early supporter of smallholder farmers in Haiti, to potentially being a customer, purchasing cotton for our own supply chain.”

The cotton study also uncovered the need to help connect smallholder farmers growing export crops with overseas markets, setting the stage for Impact Farming and SFA’s plans to launch a new for-profit export, marketing and finance company dedicated to smallholder exports. The resulting public/private partnership, called the “Haiti Impact Alliance (HIA),” is being developed with the Initiative for Smallholder Finance to replace the traditional agricultural supply chain with a wholesale export operation that will emerge as a new type of smallholder social enterprise with implications beyond the borders of Haiti.

“Smallholder farmers hold the key to achieving food security and combatting climate change in Haiti, and we see cotton as central to unleashing their potential,” said Hugh Locke, President of the SFA and Impact Farming, “In addition to resulting in significant numbers of trees being planted, the new Haiti Impact Alliance will provide farmers with first stage processing capacity, improved infrastructure, increased export and marketing opportunities, efficient data management, access to farm financing and specialized agricultural research in cotton and other export crops.”

For more information and to read the full cotton feasibility study, visit  To learn more about the five-year partnership between Timberland and SFA, and download the powerful documentary film chronicling their journey, visit 

About Smallholder Farmers Alliance

The Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) applies business solutions to help feed and reforest a renewed Haiti by establishing market-based farmer cooperatives, building agricultural export markets, creating rural farm businesses and contributing to community development. This approach recognizes Haiti as an agrarian nation whose short and long-term recovery is irrevocably linked to the fate of its one million smallholder farm families, each with land holdings of less than 2 hectares (5 acres). The SFA recently launched the Haiti Smallholder Recovery Operation to help targeted farm families recover from damage caused by Hurricane Matthew.

About Impact Farming

Impact Farming works with smallholder farmers internationally to scale business solutions that integrate sustainable food production with increased tree cover and self-financed community development. Impact Farming also supports the work of the Haiti-based Smallholder Farmers Alliance.

About Timberland

Timberland is a global leader in the design, manufacturing and marketing of premium footwear, apparel and accessories for the outdoor lifestyle. Best known for its original yellow boot introduced in 1973, Timberland today outfits consumers from toe-to-head, with versatile collections that reflect the brand’s rich heritage of craftsmanship, function and style. Timberland markets lifestyle products under the Timberland® and Timberland Boot Company® brands, and industrial footwear and workwear under the Timberland PRO® brand. Its products are sold throughout the world in leading department and specialty stores as well as company-owned retail locations and online. Timberland’s dedication to making quality products is matched by an unwavering commitment to environmental and social responsibility – to make things better for its products, the outdoors, and communities around the globe. To learn more about Timberland, a brand of VF Corporation (NYSE: VFC), please visit or follow us along the modern trail @timberland.

About The Initiative for Smallholder Finance

The Initiative for Smallholder Finance (ISF) is a multi-donor and investor platform for the development of financial services for the smallholder farmer market. ISF engagement is most useful in developing high-potential, yet nascent financial structures, that lack either an “anchor” investor or funder or whose development sits between a set of organizations.

Domtar Sees 24% Reduction in Waste to Landfill Since 2013

We are seeing more and more data from companies on their success in cutting waste and energy.  This is much more than company PR.  This is the grunt work we all need to do around efficiency.  Our stats should look equally good.

Companies are a big part of the environmental problem.  They are also a very big part of the solution.  Take a look at the Paris accords and subsequent industry agreements around carbon reduction to see how valuable they are.  Behind the numbers are a true commitment from these organizations to improve operations, facilities and employee behavior.  Big improvements take big investments, but the returns are great.

Companies now fully understand we must balance the economy and environment and protect natural capital.  Let's hope this awareness and passion do not abate under the new US administration.

Highlights from Domtar’s 2016 Sustainability Update 

"Our progress in diverting materials from landfills has accelerated dramatically since 2013. In fact, waste sent to landfills from pulp and paper mills was reduced 24 percent, as we coordinated a more consistent, disciplined, company-wide approach to defining, measuring and reporting byproduct streams.

Our goal is to reduce total solid waste sent to landfills 40 percent by 2020 from 2013 levels. How will we achieve this?

Through three ways:

Implementing source reduction programs
Expanding our success in finding innovative, “next life” uses for our byproducts
Developing creative strategies to meet safety and regulatory requirements that often were not designed for selling and beneficially re-using byproducts in the marketplace
Sustainability at Domtar is our endeavor to take a longer-term view of creating and preserving shareholder value. We accomplish this by considering how we respond to and contribute to emerging opportunities and risks in the world around us. Our 2016 Sustainability Update provides insight into our priorities on the journey towards becoming a more sustainable business. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Totem unveils design for the future of smart power

Now, after running the depressing piece on New Delhi's horrendous fight with air pollution, it feels great to present a possible solution to their city and many others.  As you read this give great thought to this paragraph:  "Totem believes design can fundamentally change the world. We're on a mission to realize the full potential of energy's transformation by providing communities and corporations with intelligent, experiential and engaging structures - something that delivers powerful functionality and tells an easily understood story about clean energy and the next generation of critical services," said Brian Lakamp, CEO and founder of Totem Power. "We are building technology for the cities of tomorrow."

Totem, the world's first energy solution to reimagine and redesign smart utility, today announced its groundbreaking platform for modern companies and communities. The Totem platform combines solar energy and energy storage, WiFi and 4G communications, electric vehicle charging, and smart lighting into a single, powerful product that weaves these capabilities directly into the built environment. The first Totem model is slated for release in Summer 2017.

"Totem believes design can fundamentally change the world. We're on a mission to realize the full potential of energy's transformation by providing communities and corporations with intelligent, experiential and engaging structures - something that delivers powerful functionality and tells an easily understood story about clean energy and the next generation of critical services," said Brian Lakamp, CEO and founder of Totem Power. "We are building technology for the cities of tomorrow."

Totem: A Dynamic Smart City Platform

Energy, communications and transportation need to undergo radical transformations to support the emerging needs of truly smart, clean cities. Totem provides the foundation for reshaping smart utility in an integrated, visually-stunning product designed for the living spaces of communities, instead of relegating it to only rooftops and garages.

Distributed Solar + Storage

Distributed renewable energy generation and storage are essential elements for bringing clean cities to reality. With Totem's scalable model, the grid will be able to shatter the limits for solar and wind that the current network imposes. Totem's breakthrough product is designed for placement in locations such as city streets, schools, corporate campuses and retail settings.

Advanced Communications

Advanced communications further establish Totem as the foundation for smart cities. Totem provides a reliable hub for Wi-Fi and 4G cellular services that support increasingly connected lifestyles. Moreover, Totem is designed with an eye toward the future of energy networks enabled by connectivity. By unifying energy and communications, Totem is positioned to be an integral component of smart cities and the emerging, dynamic energy networks that power them.

Electric Vehicle Charging (EV)

As EVs and autonomous vehicles proliferate, cities are presented with new considerations and the need for a more flexible and distributed model to support new mass transportation fleets. EV charging in the Totem platform lays the groundwork for the fundamental shift in transportation infrastructure that has already begun.

Emergency Resilience

Totem's platform also plays a pivotal role in emergency preparedness and resilience. With onboard generation and storage, Totem's energy foundation is self-sustaining and capable of maintaining critical services. Most importantly, communications powered by Totem will continue to operate in the event of grid failure.

The Power of Totem

Totem stands as a symbol for the limitless possibilities of smart cities by simultaneously tackling key aspects of infrastructure modernization. The platform presents an integral tool for companies and communities seeking to bring sustainability and smart utility front and center in operations and interactions with the public. It is a critical entry point for communities that want to enable cleaner and more capable lifestyles.

"By 2020, the construction industry has the potential to comprise over $10 trillion, including the largest number of green projects in our history. Despite vast regional distinctions, we all share the desire for smarter and better designed energy solutions." said Jeffrey Kenoff a Director at Kohn Pedersen Fox. "Totem is one of the first to unite design, infrastructure, and community in a single as well as exquisite platform. It's hard to imagine a major project or public space that it would not transform."
- See more at:

New Delhi chokes on pollution as scientists urge action

What levels of pollution does it take for us to accept we can not, going forward,  live on fossil fuel as our primary source of power.  We will react only one country at a time?

Sadly, we see levels getting to crises saturation before we act with urgency.  Why?  We have plenty of options.  We have the intelect and technology to keep the lights on with efficiency, renewables and cleaner forms of fossil fuel.  It is time to bring the environment and economy back in balance.  Anything short is a short and long term disaster.

Scientists and air pollution experts are calling for Indian government officials to back a ten-point plan to improve air quality following a severe episode at the beginning of November when New Delhi was blanketed under an unprecedented cloud of choking smog.

The Indian government had on Sunday 6 November declared an emergency as toxic pollutants reached severe levels. This week fine particulate levels continued to be well above Indian government standards with air quality defined as "poor" or "very poor".

The new report, 'Breathing Cleaner Air', by a task force of eminent Indian and international experts, outlines solutions that can significantly reduce air pollution, including critical near-term measures such as:

Prevent agricultural burning by turning crop residue into fuel for electricity generation;

Provide cleaner fuels (LPG, Electricity) and biomass stoves with an efficiency of 50% or more and with a forced draft fan to those who cannot afford LPG.
Switch to low sulphur fuel, implement Euro VI equivalent standards for engine emissions; shift freight transport from road to lower-emission modes rail and shipping modes;

Introduce a new street cleaning program to limit emissions from road dust.
The government meanwhile announced that it was already moving to implement another overarching report recommendation for the creation of a new National Clean Air Mission to coordinate across local, state and national jurisdictions to prevent life-threatening pollution in Indian cities.

Dr Ajay Mathur, Director General of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), said that Delhi air pollution emergencies were becoming an annual event and that coordinated action needed to be taken to prevent them occurring in the future.

"These solutions [in the report] are both technically feasible and cost effective and the most encouraging part is that the experts and expertise exists in India," he said. "We have seen what is possible in places like California, which once had some of the most polluted cities in the world, and we know that air pollution cannot and should not be part of India's future.

"The time has come to clean the air and achieve standards that can protect people's health, agriculture, and overall quality of life."

In recent winters, Indian cities have experienced increasingly dangerous levels of air pollution. The start to this winter witnessed an exceptional situation with severe levels being recorded on a daily basis. In the first week of November, recorded daily average levels were more than 20 times the equivalent WHO Guideline value for PM2.5, with peak concentrations of over 1000 micrograms per cubic metre in some locations, on occasion. Schools were subsequently closed, construction activities halted and other emergency measures taken by local authorities.

PM2.5, or extremely fine particulate matter (PM), is dangerous to human health because the particles can penetrate deep into people's lungs, bloodstream, and bodies. The report finds eighty per cent of Indian cities don't meet national standards for PM pollution.

Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment, said air pollution is currently the greatest environmental threat to human health and one of the fastest growing issues on the global health agenda.

"The recent smog crisis in India highlights how important it is to work across borders on an issue like air pollution," he said. "Activities in one place can affect the health and well-being of people hundreds of miles away.

"We need an integrated approach, with solutions that provide real benefits for people. Efforts to improve air quality improve the quality of life, protect our climate and supports sustainable development."

Improving urban air quality is complicated by the fact that local air pollution regulations have little impact on activities, like agricultural burning, that may take place hundreds of miles away in a different jurisdiction.

This is why the task force recommended as its highest priority the launch of a National Clean Air Mission (CAM-INDIA) with the mandate to implement government air pollution reduction policies across several ministries - including transport, power, construction, agriculture, rural development, and environment - and across city and state jurisdictions.

"Technologies, monitoring instruments and governance strategies are all available to solve the air pollution problem and provide cleaner air for citizens of India," report Chair Professor Ramanathan said. "The solutions recommended by our taskforce were based on lessons learned in living laboratories around the world."

Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative to India, said air pollution is a major constraint to public health and sustainable development.

"It is everybody's business and each one is a stakeholder," he said. "Tackling air pollution requires a concerted whole of society approach backed by strong political in order to make a difference to our present and future."

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition, in collaboration with the World Health Organization and UN Environment, recently launched the BreatheLife campaign, an initiative that aims to inform people about the health and climate impacts of air pollution. The campaign provides concrete solutions that can make a difference, including many of those featured in this report. The campaign at is building an alliance of cities working to improve air quality so they can share knowledge and showcase success stories.

The report task force was chaired by Professor Veerabhadran Ramanathan of the University of California, San Diego and Co-Chaired by Mr Sumit Sharma and Dr Ibrahim Rehman of TERI, with support from the United Nations Environment's Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC). The World Health Organization's (WHO) Regional Office for South-East Asia also supported the organization of stakeholder consultations that contributed key elements of the review.

- See more at:

Monday, November 28, 2016

Batteries That Make Use

Storage continues to improve our use of renewables.  Price is very reasonable given the big increase in revenue.

Batteries That Make Use of Solar Power, Even in the Dark

Rows of solar panels are spread over 25 acres of Nicholas Beatty’s farm near Hartwell, England. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

HARTWELL, ENGLAND — A new cash crop has sprung up on Nicholas Beatty’s enchanting farm near here. Rows of gray solar panels range over about 25 acres, turning sunlight into electricity, as dog-size muntjac deer hop by.

The panels themselves, trouble-free money earners that feed into the electric grid, are no longer unusual on farms in Britain or other countries. What’s new in Mr. Beatty’s field is a hulking 40-foot-long shipping container.

Stacked inside, in what look like drawers, are about 200 lithium-ion cells that make up a battery large enough to store a substantial portion of the electricity the solar farm puts out.
The battery and its software give Mr. Beatty an advantage over other solar panel farmers. Power prices in Britain and elsewhere rise and fall, sometimes strikingly, during the day and over the year, depending on the supply and demand. By storing power in the battery, Mr. Beatty can feed it into the grid when prices are high. “The battery effectively takes power off the line when there is too much and puts it on when there is too little,” he said.

The battery inside a storage container on Nicholas Beatty’s property can store a substantial portion of the electricity from his solar farm. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Mr. Beatty said the battery, which costs about 825,000 pounds, or $1 million, could increase revenue for his solar farm by as much as £200,000 a year. In addition to making more by timing his delivery to the grid, he said he planned to enter an auction to become a standby source of power to compensate for unexpected drops in the grid.

Mr. Beatty is one of many entrepreneurs and businesses trying to play the fast-shifting electric power landscape. The global effort to combat climate change is forcing what had been an old-line business to evolve. Polluting, coal-fired power stations are closing, while clean energy sources like wind and solar are growing fast.

While renewable energy sources have the huge advantage of not emitting the gases blamed for climate change, they can be tricky for a grid operator to rely on, not least because their output is dependent on wind and sunlight. In addition, the power they produce is essentially free, which puts downward pressure on prices. “The growing use of renewables is creating an unstable energy system,” said David Hill, managing director of Open Energi, a British company that helps industrial companies save money by timing and otherwise managing their energy use. “What everyone is trading on now is that there is a value in flexibility.”

Batteries are one way of achieving that flexibility.
Amid all this disruption, Britain and other countries have created a smorgasbord of incentives to power providers to keep the lights from going off. Neil Hutchings, director of power systems and storage at Anesco, the small British company that supplied Mr. Beatty’s battery, said there were no fewer than 14 ways that it could make money. “The real secret is how to pick out the best combination,” he said.

While he said the batteries, which are imported from China, were improving, the real key was in the electronic controls that allowed them to react almost instantaneously to the needs of the grid.

Storing electricity for a time when it is needed has always been one of the biggest challenges for renewable power, but Steve Holliday, former chief executive of National Grid, the British network operator, said at a recent event that batteries could play an expanding commercial role.

“Real big industrial-size battery storage is going to be available in the U.K. pretty quickly,” Mr. Holliday said at a seminar organized by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, a nonprofit.
Mr. Beatty, 55, is a former banker who made his first foray into renewable energy in part to head off a plan to put up wind turbines, which he said he considered an eyesore, near his 350-acre property, about 65 miles north of London. With about a dozen friends and family members, including James Basden, an energy consultant, he spent £6.5 million to build the solar farm in 2014. The solar panels, which generate about £650,000 in revenue a year, are theoretically capable of powering as many as 2,000 homes, Mr. Beatty said.

Largely out of view, the panels do not detract from the gentility of the farm, where a herd of brown and white English longhorn cattle grazes in fields that are studded with pollarded oaks, possibly up to 1,200 years old.

The 17th-century stone house was once a royal hunting lodge and is full of mementos of Mr. Beatty’s trans-Atlantic pedigree. His paternal grandparents were a British battle-cruiser commander in World War I and the daughter of Marshall Field, the Chicago department store entrepreneur.

Mr. Beatty said that his experiments with batteries — the one on his farm was his second — might open his eyes to future entrepreneurial opportunities. For instance, more electric cars will require grid-management measures to accommodate surges associated with charging those vehicles. “There is going to be a need for a lot more of these to be installed,” he said of the batteries. “We think this is just the start of that process.”

Con Ed Says Plan to Install Rooftop Solar

This story gives insight into the difficulty of making renewables available to low-income neighborhoods.  In addition to the hurdles listed below that make solar unavailable in many urban centers, landlords don't see benefit since, in most cases, they are not paying the utilities.

Hence, it is great to see a grid use virtual net metering, and other buildings, to share the clean energy benefits with residents.  That is a great step forward in reducing and fixing electricity costs for their customers.

Con Ed Says Plan to Install Rooftop Solar Panels Will Aid Poor New Yorkers

From left, Matthew Ketschke, John Zigmont and Kevin Nestfield, all of Consolidated Edison, atop the utility’s expansive warehouse in Queens. Credit Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

More than 10,000 New York City residents are using solar power to reduce their electric bills. But hardly any of those people converting the sun’s rays into savings are poor.
The reason so few New Yorkers with low incomes are tapping into the power of the sun is not a lack of interest, but rather a lack of access, community activists say. Simply put, most poor New Yorkers — like many other city residents — do not have a roof of their own on which they could install solar panels, even if they could afford to do so.

Consolidated Edison is offering use of its own rooftops to help solve that problem for at least a few thousand of its low-income customers. The utility plans to ask state regulators this week for permission to install solar panels on some of its buildings in the city and to share the benefits with needy customers.
“We want to do our part to make sure that all of our customers have access to renewable energy, regardless of their income level,” Matthew Ketschke, Con Edison’s vice president for distributed resource integration, said. Mr. Ketschke added that he believed the proposal fit with the regulators’ demand that utilities increase their use of renewable energy.

Buffeted by gusting winds as he stood atop a warehouse in Astoria, Queens, Mr. Ketschke listed the obstacles blocking the poor from using solar power: They tend to live in apartments and to share an electric meter with other tenants. And those who live in houses or have access to a rooftop where solar panels could be installed often do not have the thousands of dollars it would cost for the installation or enough credit to finance it.

Con Edison’s idea could circumvent all of those hurdles, Mr. Ketschke said. The company has buildings all around the city and in some of its northern suburbs, enough roof space to hold solar panels that could produce as much as 11 megawatts of electricity, he said. That could result in savings of $5 a month for as many as 6,000 customers who qualify for financial help from the company, Mr. Ketschke said.

That is a tiny fraction of Con Edison’s three million electricity customers in the city and Westchester County, but it could have a larger symbolic value. The company wants to show that it is heeding an order issued last year by the state’s Public Service Commission to allow communities to share sources of renewable energy.

“New York City is burdened with some of the highest electricity rates in the country,” Jeremy Friedman, coordinator of the Central Brooklyn Community Solar Program, said. “It’s definitely important to be looking at ways to bring renewables to low-income people. That really hasn’t happened in New York City until now.”

The low, flat top of Con Edison’s expansive warehouse in the northwest corner of Queens would be ideal. The roof could hold several thousand panels, each of which measures about 3 feet by 6 feet and produces up to 250 watts of power.
The power generated on the roof would be measured as it is fed into the local grid. Con Ed would determine its value, after accounting for the costs of the installation, and share it with customers who sign up for the pilot program.

Mr. Ketschke said the company was prepared to put solar panels on top of other buildings, including offices, substations and garages. The first installations could be in use by the end of next year, he said. Con Edison has installed panels on a roof of its headquarters near Union Square in Manhattan, but it uses the power generated there to provide electricity to the building.

Only about 200 of the more than 10,000 Con Edison customers who generate their own solar power qualify as low-income, said Christopher Raup, director of Con Edison’s Utility of the Future group. Low-income customers receive a discount of $9.50 on their monthly electric bills, he said.
Con Edison’s proposal requires approval from the state commission in part because the company would own the solar panels. Generally, utilities that distribute electricity in New York are prohibited from owning sources of power generation.

Mr. Friedman, whose program has been helping older homeowners in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, band together for bulk discounts on solar panels, said he approved of the proposal. “It’s a good idea,” he said. “You want to really level the playing field by opening up these really great sunny roofs.”
But, he added, “it’s not just an altruistic idea.”

He said Con Edison was grappling with surging demand for power in booming parts of the city and would benefit from having more sources to draw from in times of peak demand. “They have a statutory need to figure out how to manage demand differently,” Mr. Friedman said, “especially across large swaths of Brooklyn and Queens.”

Friday, November 25, 2016

Scientists Accidentally Discover

Scientists Accidentally Discover Efficient Process to Turn CO2 Into Ethanol

The process is cheap, efficient, and scalable, meaning it could soon be used to remove large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere.  It is amazing what we some times discover, inadvertently, when we venture down a new road.

What a blessing this discovery will become.  The environmental and economic benefits will be fantastic.

Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have discovered a chemical reaction to turn CO2 into ethanol, potentially creating a new technology to help avert climate change. Their findings were published in the journal.

The researchers were attempting to find a series of chemical reactions that could turn CO2 into a useful fuel, when they realized the first step in their process managed to do it all by itself. The reaction turns CO2 into ethanol, which could in turn be used to power generators and vehicles.
The tech involves a new combination of copper and carbon arranged into nanospikes on a silicon surface. The nanotechnology allows the reactions to be very precise, with very few contaminants.
"By using common materials, but arranging them with nanotechnology, we figured out how to limit the side reactions and end up with the one thing that we want," said Adam Rondinone.

This process has several advantages when compared to other methods of converting CO2 into fuel. The reaction uses common materials like copper and carbon, and it converts the CO2 into ethanol, which is already widely used as a fuel.

Perhaps most importantly, it works at room temperature, which means that it can be started and stopped easily and with little energy cost. This means that this conversion process could be used as temporary energy storage during a lull in renewable energy generation, smoothing out fluctuations in a renewable energy grid.
"A process like this would allow you to consume extra electricity when it's available to make and store as ethanol," said Rondinone. "This could help to balance a grid supplied by intermittent renewable sources."

The researchers plan to further study this process and try and make it more efficient. If they're successful, we just might see large-scale carbon capture using this technique in the near future.

Nations, Fighting Powerful Refrigerant

Ironic the timing on this new accord as we live in the shadow of the US possibly, after Jan 20, pulling out of the Paris agreement and cutting existing and new environmental legislation.

This is a huge step forward.  It proves again we enjoy global cooperation.  It allows us to move away from a particularity  bad greenhouse gas while not crippling an industry or a convenience we enjoy--AC.  It is simply smart business.

Let's hope this deal lives on as with other hard fought treaties.  Now is not the time to step away from significant progress.  Kudos to every nation for their courage and conviction.

Nations, Fighting Powerful Refrigerant That Warms Planet, Reach Landmark Deal

Climate Deal Is Praised as a 'Great Success'

Negotiators from more than 170 countries celebrated in Rwanda on Saturday after reaching a legally binding accord to cut the worldwide use of a powerful planet-warming chemical used in air-conditioners.

KIGALI, Rwanda — Negotiators from more than 170 countries on Saturday reached a legally binding accord to counter climate change by cutting the worldwide use of a powerful planet-warming chemical used in air-conditioners and refrigerators.

The talks in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, did not draw the same spotlight as the climate change accord forged in Paris last year. But the outcome could have an equal or even greater impact on efforts to slow the heating of the planet.

President Obama called the deal “an ambitious and far-reaching solution to this looming crisis.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking to fellow negotiators in Kigali, said, “It is likely the single most important step we could take at this moment to limit the warming of our planet and limit the warming for generations to come.”

“It is,” Mr. Kerry added, “the biggest thing we can do in one giant swoop.”
While the Paris agreement included pledges by nearly every country to cut emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the fossil fuels that power vehicles, electric plants and factories, the new Kigali deal has a single target: chemical coolants called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, used in air-conditioners and refrigerators.

HFCs are just a small percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but they function as a sort of supercharged greenhouse gas, with 1,000 times the heat-trapping potency of carbon dioxide.
The Kigali deal was seven years in the making, and is a compromise between rich nations and poorer, hotter ones, including some where rising incomes are just starting to bring air-conditioners within reach. Wealthier nations will freeze production of HFCs more quickly than poorer countries, though some nations, including those in Africa, elected to phase the chemicals out more rapidly than required, citing the grave threats they face from climate change.

While the Paris pledges are broad, they are also voluntary, often vague and dependent on the political will of future world leaders. In contrast, the Kigali deal includes specific targets and timetables to replace HFCs with more planet-friendly alternatives, trade sanctions to punish scofflaws, and an agreement by rich countries to help finance the transition of poor countries to the costlier replacement products.

So, narrow as it is, the new accord may be more likely to yield climate-shielding actions by industry and governments, negotiators say. And given the heat-trapping power of HFCs, scientists say the Kigali accord will stave off an increase of atmospheric temperatures of nearly one degree Fahrenheit.
That would be a major step toward averting an atmospheric temperature increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the point at which many experts think the world will be locked into a future of rising sea levels, severe droughts and flooding, widespread food and water shortages, and more powerful hurricanes.

Over all, the deal is expected to lead to the reduction of the equivalent of 70 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — about two times the carbon pollution produced annually by the entire world.

The Kigali accord is “much, much, much stronger than Paris,” said Durwood Zaelke, the president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, a research organization. “This is a mandatory treaty. Governments are obligated to comply.”
The deal is an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, the landmark 1987 pact designed to close the hole in the ozone layer by banning ozone-depleting coolants called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs. That means the Kigali amendment maintains the legal force of a treaty, even if that treaty was ratified by the Senate during the Reagan administration.

Chemical companies responded to the 1987 agreement by developing HFCs, which do not harm the ozone layer but do trap heat in the atmosphere.

The Kigali deal came about in part because Mr. Obama, as he sought to build a legacy of tackling climate change, elevated the obscure effort to amend the Montreal Protocol to a top White House priority. The final agreement is also consistent with the president’s efforts to push his climate change agenda while using creative ways to bypass a hostile Congress.

Mr. Obama began paving the way to the HFC deal at a 2013 get-acquainted meeting with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, at the Sunnylands golf estate in California. The two leaders agreed to make a deal to reduce the use of HFCs a priority, a major concession from China, the world’s largest HFC producer.

Since then, American and Chinese companies have increased production of HFC replacement chemicals, and major chemical makers in both countries stand to emerge as winners in the deal.
Top officials from the chemical industry were in Kigali to push for the deal. “Our industry is hard at work doing the research on the HFC alternatives,” said Stephen Yurek, the chief executive of the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, an advocacy group. “Getting that right is certainly as important as reaching agreement.”

The Kigali amendment adds momentum to a series of new global climate change agreements. The Paris agreement entered into legal force this month, and governments from 190 countries adopted a deal to curb planet-warming emissions from the aviation industry.
“This will be the trifecta of international climate agreements,” said Andrew Light, a former State Department climate change negotiator. “It’s just extraordinary.”
In each case, the new climate deals have been criticized by scientists for being too weak, and together they do not add up to the solution to global warming. But each accord will make significant inroads on different parts of the problem.

Negotiators in Kigali conceded that the final deal was much less stringent than some had originally hoped. The United States and other rich countries had pushed a plan that would freeze the use of the heat-trapping chemicals by 2021, reducing them to about 15 percent of 2012 HFC levels by 2046. That plan would have eliminated the equivalent of about 90 billion tons of carbon dioxide pollution from the atmosphere by 2050.
Negotiators from India and some of the world’s other hottest and poorest countries pushed back hard at that proposal. In India, millions of people are on the verge of being able to afford air-conditioners cooled by HFCs.

The final deal will divide the world economy into three tracks. The richest countries, including the United States and those in the European Union, will freeze the production and consumption of HFCs by 2018, reducing them to about 15 percent of 2012 levels by 2036.
Much of the rest of the world, including China, Brazil and all of Africa, will freeze HFC use by 2024, reducing it to 20 percent of 2021 levels by 2045.

A small group of the world’s hottest countries — India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait — will have the most lenient schedule, freezing HFC use by 2028 and reducing it to about 15 percent of 2025 levels by 2047.

After arriving in Kigali on Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Gina McCarthy, and her counterparts spent hours locked in meetings, working on Excel spreadsheets to try to find a compromise. But no one could agree on the numbers. In contrast to many other environmental negotiations, it was possible for negotiators to calculate the exact effects of their proposals in real time, down to numbers of tons of planet-warming pollution avoided.
“It became clear that to get everybody to the same place was not possible,” Ms. McCarthy said. “It was not going to be a one size fits all.”
Mr. Kerry arrived on Thursday, and his talks with officials from India, Pakistan and China went late and grew contentious.

“We wanted a deal,” said Shri Manoj Kumar Singh, an Indian negotiator. “India is a hot country, a poor country, and we needed a deal that would work for us.”
After details were hashed out Friday night, the deal was gaveled in at 7 a.m., and the exhausted but exultant negotiators gathered for an impromptu Champagne breakfast.
Environmental advocates and countries that had pushed for a more stringent deal still called the Kigali amendment a significant step forward.
“It’s a step toward ensuring the survival of our island,” said Mattlan Zackhras, the climate change minister of the Marshall Islands, a low-lying Pacific nation threatened by rising seas. “But we need to take further steps.”

Negotiators noted that many of the hottest, poorest countries, including the entire African bloc, had decided not to join India on the least ambitious timetable, but rather signed on to the midlevel one. While most Africans lack air-conditioning, African negotiators said rapidly battling climate change was a higher priority.

“Africa is a continent that is deeply vulnerable to climate change,” said Vincent Biruta, Rwanda’s minister of natural resources. “We are witnessing disastrous droughts — our people are losing lives. We need to address climate change if we are to address poverty.”

Rwanda, which has worked to emerge from the shadows of its 1994 genocide, hopes to become known as well for the forging of a major climate deal. Negotiators met in the sparkling new Kigali Convention Center, and the night the deal was completed, it was illuminated in green.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

This solar-powered yacht

Marine pollution is high.  Recreational boating takes a heavy toll on natural resources.  For years they have been pioneers in small solar apps and other efficiency measures.

Good to see here they are expanding their horizons and cutting more load on engines, working towards 100% clean power.

In the meantime, for those using a lot fuel, how can they offset their emissions and help fund this transformation into better technology?

This solar-powered yacht will revolutionize luxury boating

The SoelCat 12 can travel up to six knots entirely off the energy provided by its solar panels. 

The SoelCat 12 can travel up to six knots entirely off the energy provided by its solar panels. 

Dutch firm Soel Yachts is taking the fast-growing industry of ecotourism and reduction of transport emissions into unchartered waters: solar-powered boats.

The company’s SoelCat 12, a solar-electric catamaran devised in collaboration with Netherlands-based firm Naval DC, is set to debut later this year with a price tag of around $560,000.
“The [boat] offers a 100 percent sustainable alternative to conventionally powered boats used in the industry so far,” Joep Koster, designer and naval architect at Soel Yachts, said in a statement. The 39-foot-long craft, which has room for up to 24 people, can cruise at speeds from seven to 17 m.p.h (six to 15 knots).

“At six knots, the vessel operates entirely off the energy provided by the solar panels during the sunshine hours,” Naval DC founder David Czap says. At the higher speeds, it gets an additional boost from a pair of 60-kilowatt-hour lithium batteries.

Built of lightweight yet durable fiberglass designed for saltwater use, the SoelCat 12features a large solar-paneled roof and two slender hulls that enable it to navigate in shallow lagoons, reefs, and bays. The spacious deck area is fully customizable for a variety of layouts and functions, from a simple bench setup for shuttle service to a fully equipped bar with matching lounge furniture for resorts or private owners.

The state-of-the-art vessel not only allows for quieter, more pleasant rides and tours—no noise or smell from combustion engines—but can also, Koster said, “offer surplus solar energy to the resort when [it] is moored.