Saturday, December 31, 2016

Argonne Researchers Study

Great follow up to this week's radio interview with reps from Oak Ridge National Lab, both funded by USDOE.  At Oak Ride the team is converting, for commercial use, carbon dioxide into ethanol.  Here they study the best crops for creating ethanol. 

Both would represent significant fuel break throughs.  We like the Oak Ridge approach as it takes existing carbon levels down.  Yet, producing large amounts of sustainable ethanol supplies, and pushing cars to run up to 85% on the mix, would, by itself, garner great gains in transporation.

As always we are just scratching the surface of R & D that will quickly become commercial successes while building a new, green economy.

Argonne Researchers Study How Reflectivity of Biofuel Crops Impacts Climate

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Argonne National Laboratory have conducted a detailed study of the reflectivity effects of converting land to grow biofuel crops.

Their study is part of an overall analysis of greenhouse gas emissions from land use change: instances where land that was previously forests, grasslands or pastureland is converted to producing biofuel crops. Historically, these types of analyses considered only changes in the amount of carbon stored in the soil and vegetation of these lands.

The new analysis, published in The Royal Chemistry Society's Energy & Environmental Science, incorporates the additional effect of changes in reflectivity, or “albedo.” Albedo effects sum up the amount of incoming solar energy that gets reflected back into space; these changes, along with numerous other factors, in turn contribute to changes in greenhouse gas emissions.

While there is much data variability, the findings reveal that when a piece of land is changed to produce a biofuel crop, albedo effects also changed. When only albedo change effects are considered, researchers found that land converted to producing corn ethanol had a net cooling effect on climate. By comparison, land that was converted to producing miscanthus and switchgrass, two other plant sources for next-generation biofuels, had a net warming effect. But when carbon stock changes, another key effect of land use change, are also taken into account, corn and switchgrass ethanol exhibit net warming effects associated with land use change whereas miscanthus grass ethanol exhibits a net cooling effect.

Led by researchers in Argonne’s Energy Systems and Environmental Sciences Divisions, the work outlines the importance of considering changes in reflectivity when assessing land use change-induced effects of biofuel production on climate.

“Our analysis is helping build a fuller picture of the climate effects of biofuel feedstock production,” said Hao Cai, an Argonne environmental analyst and lead author of the study.

Cai and his team began their research by first collecting data on land cover and albedo gathered from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and NASA satellites, respectively. They mapped the albedo data associated with specific land types—say, corn cropland or prairie. Then they ran simulations where they converted different land types to produce corn, miscanthus and switchgrass, and looked to see what would happen to albedo and to the net cooling or warming of the atmosphere as a result.

Unlike past studies of albedo effects of land use change, which analyzed no more than 20 sites of specific land types, the team investigated millions of sites in more than a thousand counties in the U.S., covering 70 percent of the nation’s corn production fields.

“Another factor that sets this study apart is the specific modeling approach used to simulate albedo effect on a finer scale and provide more robust data analysis,” said Yan Feng, an atmospheric and climate scientist involved in the study.

The model allowed Feng and fellow researchers to examine the albedo dynamics of millions of parcels of land individually in squares just 500 meters at a side (5382 feet).
By analyzing a large number of sites in detail, the researchers were able to take into account site-specific variations to better represent albedo effects in their analysis. Albedo effects varied among corn, miscanthus and switchgrass crops in part due to differences in their size and shape, as well as growth and environmental factors—all of which can vary dramatically from one site to the next.

Albedo also varied considerably based on the type of land that was converted. For example, forest had the lowest albedo compared to other land covers, like shrubland and grassland, found within the same agro-ecological zone.

The magnitude of the area of land converted, as determined by economic modeling, also varied. For example, when the researchers compared miscanthus and switchgrass production necessary to produce a given biofuel volume, they found that converting land to miscanthus had a lower warming albedo effect compared to switchgrass. One cause for this is the fact that miscanthus requires less land than switchgrass to yield an equal volume of ethanol because miscanthus has higher yields.

The researchers used computing resources at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF), a DOE Office of Science User Facility, to process and visualize the albedo and land cover data.

“ALCF’s high-performance computing resources were critical to our analysis based on the amount of data we were working with. The facility provides powerful and helpful tools for data-intensive analyses like this,” said Jiali Wang, an Argonne atmospheric scientist involved in processing the data.
The study, “Consideration of land use change-induced surface albedo effects in life-cycle analysis of biofuels,” was supported by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Friday, December 30, 2016

eNow Raises $2.36 Million in Series A Funding/Renewable

Those who have followed us for awhile know eNow well.   It is a start-up (now getting more mature) bringing new tech around solar and batteries to cut the use of diesel in trucking and small applications of diesel-powered equipment.  Since inception, they have shown steady growth.  At the same time the market demand for reducing fleet carbon has mushroomed.

Why is this important to you?  First, transportation is a big player in the CO 2 game.  Their push into renewables and alternative fuels is material to our Paris accord goals.  Second, you can be a smart shopper and support companies who embrace carbon improvements.  Finally, as we drive more EV's and hybrids, much of this advance technology that is helping fleets get clean will improve our vehicle performance as well.  We can piggy back, very quickly, their success.

eNow is just one company we have followed.  Collectively these innovative start ups are shaping a much different world.   A world in balance.  A world that can growth the great quality of life.

eNow, a leader in renewable energy solutions for the commercial trucking, RV and marine industries, today announced it has closed on $2.36 million in Series A funding, bringing the total amount raised to date to $5.3 million. Demand for eNow's solar solutions for transportation vehicles has increased over the last year, which has spurred increased interest and support from investors.

The funding involves twenty private investors and two angel funds, Tamiami Angel Fund and Slater Technology Fund. The investment funds will be used to accelerate the adoption of eNow's products and services, including additions to its financial, sales and technical teams. In addition, Bud Stoddard, formerly with the Tamiami Angel Fund and now a venture partner with the Adrenaline Fund, will join eNow's Board of Directors.

"We are honored by the interest of the investment community in our solutions," said Jeff Flath, CEO and Founder of eNow. "Our company's solutions address both environmental and practical concerns. This 'Planet and Profit' approach translates into less carbon emissions, great fuel savings and a way to deal with increased anti-idling regulations. We look forward to translating this buy-in from the investment community into even greater success in 2017."

As the market leader in designing, developing and manufacturing solar-based power systems for the commercial trucking, RV, and Marine industries, eNow's solutions are known for their durability, superior power, low cost and quick return on investment. Over the past several years, eNow has made great progress within the transportation industry, including partnerships with industry leaders such as Dometic Group, Mitsubishi Fuso, Freightliner, Navistar, IdleAir and Vanner. The eNow solar solution is sold through OEMs and Aftermarket Dealers.

"With this Series A round of financing, eNow can further deploy resources to expand its market share through its exciting lineup of products," said Board Member Bud Stoddard. "eNow has the ability to transform the transportation industry with its advanced energy management systems." - See more at:

President Obama’s Environmental Legacy/Renewable

2016 is waning.  All of us have a couple of days to retrospect our past 12 months accomplishments and, more importantly, plan for a great effort in 2017.  President Obama, and leaders around the world, must do the same.

The president, in combination with the Canadian government, set a high standard this month in taking historic action to protect the Arctic.  As reported on our main site, the US and Canada took "steps to build a strong Arctic economy".  What was not stated, but is unquestionable, is the underlining asset of that economy--the eco-capital of the Arctic waters and ecosystem.

Over the past century, in state after state, country after country, investments in land preservation and quality of life have given doubled returns.  These assets, once burned or destroyed, are permanently gone.  Preservation, in this case, is fully putting and keeping the asset in our economy and working.

It seems that the last environmental act that the President will add to his legacy will focus on the health of our oceans. Some may have questioned President Obama’s strength when it comes to the interests of the environment, but now they’re more concerned on whether there will be any interest in protecting the environment at all with the incoming administration.

On December 20, the United Sates, in partnership with Canada, took
historic steps to build a strong Arctic economy, preserve a healthy Arctic ecosystem and protect our fragile Arctic waters, including designating the bulk of our Arctic water and certain areas in the Atlantic Ocean as indefinitely off limits to future oil and gas leasing.

These actions, and Canada’s parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on earth.  They reflect the scientific assessment that, even with the high safety standards that both countries have put in place, the risks of an oil spill in this region are significant and the ability to clean up from a spill in the region’s harsh conditions is limited.  By contrast, it would take decades to fully develop the production infrastructure necessary for any large-scale oil and gas leasing production in the region – at a time when the majority of us feel the need to continue to move decisively away from fossil fuels.

In 2015, just 0.1 percent of U.S. federal offshore crude production came from the Arctic and Department of Interior analysis shows that, at current oil prices, significant production in the Arctic will not occur.  That’s why looking forward, there is a need to focus on economic empowerment for Arctic communities beyond this one sector. Obama’s Administration has proposed and directed unprecedented federal investments in the region, but more must be done – by the federal government, the private sector and philanthropy – to enhance infrastructure and our collective security, such as the acquisition of additional ice breaking capacity, and to lay the groundwork for economic growth in the industries of the future.

- See more at:

Thursday, December 29, 2016

PAGE Supports Identification of Green Trade Opportunities in South Africa

The UN, so many times, gets a bad rap.  Most of the news is on discord and countries inability to agree on anything.  Including, right now, on Israel and their controversial expansion within Jerusalem.  

Yet, the UN does some great work.  They are leaders in green.  We, like others, have no reported enough on their initiatives and projects.  Those efforts are global, of course, which bridges many cultures and economies together.  In a good way.

You will see many more of these types of stories from us next year:

PAGE Supports Identification of Green Trade Opportunities in South Africa

Pretoria, 22 November 2016 - On 22 November 2016, thirty stakeholders participated in a Development Dialogue Seminar, Green Industrial Development in South Africa, which was hosted by Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS), a national institution which supports policy development through research and dialogue. The dialogue provided a platform to discuss the work of TIPS on climate-compatible industrial development, and to qualify the findings arising from an analysis being undertaken as part of the PAGE-supported activity, South Africa Green Economy Industry and Trade Analysis (SA-GEITA). 

In South Africa, PAGE intends to contribute to green economy policy implementation through improved collaboration and coordination, enhanced sectoral reform and improved capacities in government institutions and collaborating partners. The SA-GEITA which is focused on sectoral reform, is implemented by TIPS on behalf of PAGE and government partners, to identify and assess sectors or industrial segments that offer particular opportunities for green industrial development, both for import substitution and for and exports.

Phase 1 of the SA-GEITA comprises of a scoping study focused on identifying potential sectors for further analysis. The Development Dialogue provided a platform to qualify the findings arising from the policy and trade data analysis, and to raise awareness of the SA-GEITA and the importance of working on green trade and industry issues in South Africa

A presentation on the scoping phase of the SA-GEITA, delivered by TIPS economists, Shakespear Mudombi and Chris Wood, affirmed the divergent perceptions of a green economy in South Africa, despite the existence of an enabling policy framework. While certain products and sectors, such as renewable energy, biofuels and energy efficiency, are being promoted by Government, they rarely address the promotion of trade and industry.  

The scoping phase of the SA-GEITA drew on policy and trade data analysis, complemented with stakeholder insights. The assessment found that the scale of green trade is still low, but that there are key products where South Africa holds a comparative advantage such as downstream opportunities in platinum-group metals. Other high trade-potential sectors include small-scale renewable energy and smart grids, biogas-transport value chain, composite materials, and water-related technologies. 

The next phase of the SA-GEITA will select up to five of the initial green trade opportunities identified for deeper analysis to assess whether the creation of a resource-efficient, low-carbon and export-oriented industry can position South Africa in the development of green technologies, reduce dependencies on imports of these technologies and ancillary services, and leapfrog brown technology segments, at great environmental, social and economic benefit to the South African people.

If you would like to learn more about the South Africa Green Economy Industry and Trade Analysis please reach out to

This strange electric car has 3 wheels and no roof

Why is one funky EV noteworthy?  One, it puts fun into driving.  Two, shows we can break the mold on car design.  And, three, is part of a wave of new vehicles that are not only electric but, with some, as we reported, charge on solar.

Good for us that we have plenty of choices right now on hybrids and EV's.  Better for us that those choices will continue to mushroom and reflect our innovative and diverse consumer demands and fun lifestyles.

This strange electric car has 3 wheels and no roof

There are plenty of electric cars on the market right now.

But none of them stand out quite like the new UK1909 vehicle from Morgan Motor.
The kooky three-wheeled vehicle is the niche British automaker's first foray into the electric-powered market after 107 years of business. The car is reminiscent of the company's first model, another three-wheeler that debuted in 1909.

The focus of this car is fun and excitement, and not Tesla-style practicality.
CNNMoney got exclusive access to drive and film the new car near the company's headquarters in Malvern, which is an hour's drive west from William Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon.

The topless sports car is remarkably loud for an electric vehicle and produces a satisfying "vroom" that's sure to thrill attention-seeking drivers. (Bystanders were suitably agog during CNNMoney's test drive.)

The UK1909 is not the most powerful car, with just 70 horsepower. And its range (150 miles per charge) is limited by its smaller frame and battery storage capacity.

Morgan cars, which look like they could have been plying England's roads during World War I, are built largely without the assembly line methods and machinery seen at most modern automakers.

electric car uk 1909 morgan
Morgan Motor launched its first electric car this month at 
the London department store, Selfridges.

The small, family-owned automaker is only producing 19 UK1909s and selling them exclusively at the London department store Selfridges. The price -- £52,500 ($65,300) -- isn't far off what a Tesla Model S goes for in the U.K.

Despite the limited production run, Morgan insists that electric cars will be a key part of its future.
Morgan is investing £6 million ($7.5 million) in electric technology and plans to eventually produce larger four-wheel electric models.

morgan motor car factory
The family-owned Morgan Motor is known for making
cars that look like they've driven straight out of a 
'Downton Abbey' episode.

It will also use the UK1909 frame -- with different trim and colors -- to make a second electric car, the EV3. Morgan plans to sell 50 EV3s per year, a significant commitment for a company that produces only 850 hand-built cars a year.
"We won't necessarily make a large return on selling [UK1909 and] EV3 vehicles. But in doing this campaign we are exploring what it means to produce these cars," said Morgan's head of design, Jonathan Wells.

"It's a nice way of us gathering momentum as we explore [electric technology] much more significantly further down the line," he said.

electric cars Morgan UK1909
Each UK1909 electric car will be hand-crafted at the Morgan 
headquarters in Malvern, U.K.

Selfridges, which collaborated on the UK1909 design, is promoting the car's launch by selling a variety of driving accessories to the 19 buyers, including goggles and a scarf crafted by British luxury brand Alexander McQueen.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Global Climate Target Could Net Additional Six Million Tons of Fish Annually

We just reported on the scourge of pest eating through our forest.  Part of the problem there, may, in fact, result from Earth's warming.  Here we see the potential UPSIDE of reigning in environmental changes, globally, and the value to our invaluable eco-capitol.

Think about the economics of adding six million metric tons of fish to our food supply.  Without, of course, over fishing and depleting stocks.  Final word here--everyone benefits, as stated below, from meeting the agreement's targets.  It adds quality to our life-support system--Earth--and financial gains, across the world, to some of our threatened industries.

If countries abide by the Paris Agreement global warming target of 1.5 degrees Celsius, potential fish catches could increase by six million metric tons per year, according to a new study published in Science.

The researchers also found that some oceans are more sensitive to changes in temperature and will have substantially larger gains from achieving the Paris Agreement.

"The benefits for vulnerable tropical areas is a strong reason why 1.5 C is an important target to meet," said lead author William Cheung, director of science at the Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program and associate professor at UBC's Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries.

"Countries in these sensitive regions are highly dependent on fisheries for food and livelihood, but all countries will be impacted as the seafood supply chain is now highly globalized. Everyone would benefit from meeting the Paris Agreement."

The authors compared the Paris Agreement 1.5 C warming scenario to the currently pledged 3.5 C by using computer models to simulate changes in global fisheries and quantify losses or gains. They found that for every degree Celsius decrease in global warming, potential fish catches could increase by more than three metric million tons per year. Previous UBC researchshows that today's global fish catch is roughly 109 million metric tons.

"Changes in ocean conditions that affect fish stocks, such as temperature and oxygen concentration, are strongly related to atmospheric warming and carbon emissions," said author Thomas Frölicher, principal investigator at the Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program and senior scientist at ETH Zürich. "For every metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, the maximum catch potential decreases by a significant amount."
Climate change is expected to force fish to migrate towards cooler waters. The amount and species of fish caught in different parts of the world will impact local fishers and make fisheries management more difficult.

The findings suggest that the Indo-Pacific area would see a 40 per cent increase in fisheries catches at 1.5 C warming versus 3.5 C. Meanwhile the Arctic region would have a greater influx of fish under the 3.5 C scenario but would also lose more sea ice and face pressure to expand fisheries.

The authors hope these results will provide further incentives for countries and the private sector to substantially increase their commitments and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"If one of the largest carbon dioxide emitting countries gets out of the Paris Agreement, the efforts of the others will be clearly reduced," says author Gabriel Reygondeau, Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program senior fellow at UBC. "It's not a question of how much we can benefit from the Paris Agreement, but how much we don't want to lose."

Spread by trade and climate, bugs butcher America's forests

Sometimes we miss the many small aspects of environmental change and risk.  This story reminds us how destructive bugs and infestation can be to our habitat.

The eco and financial costs, you can see, is potentially staggering.  Like flues and human infection, much is being spread through globalization.  Earth warming may be impactful as well.  Clearly, we are ill equipped right now to combat these little terrors.

Forest, as you know, are hard to replace.  They are amazingly valuable eco-capitol.  They play a vital role in preserving our natural surroundings.  Similar devastation is wrecking urban canopies in which the damage is even greater in many ways.  Can we depend on science to fix this problem as well?  How can we help?  Will innovation in controlling trees nemeses give birth to new technology and start ups?

We hope so...and, soon.

Spread by trade and climate, bugs butcher America's forests 

by Michael Casey and Patrick Whittle

PETERSHAM, Mass. — In a towering forest of centuries-old eastern hemlocks, it's easy to miss one of the tree's nemeses. No larger than a speck of pepper, the Hemlock woolly adelgid spends its life on the underside of needles sucking sap, eventually killing the tree.

The bug is one in an expanding army of insects draining the life out of forests from New England to the West Coast. Aided by global trade, warming climate and drought-weakened trees, the invaders have become one of the greatest threats to biodiversity in the United States.

Scientists say they already are driving some tree species toward extinction and are causing billions of dollars a year in damage — and the situation is expected to worsen.

"They are one of the few things that can actually eliminate a forest tree species in pretty short order — within years," said Harvard University ecologist David Orwig as he walked past dead hemlocks scattered across the university's 5.8-square-mile research forest in Petersham.

This scourge is projected to put 63 percent of the country's forest at risk through 2027 and carries a cost of several billion dollars annually in dead tree removal, declining property values and timber industry losses, according to a peer-reviewed study this year in Ecological Applications.

That examination, by more than a dozen experts, found that hundreds of pests have invaded the nation's forests, and that the emerald ash borer alone has the potential to cause $12.7 billion in damage by 2020.

Insect pests, some native and others from as far away as Asia, can undermine forest ecosystems. For example, scientists say, several species of hemlock and almost 20 species of ash could nearly go extinct in the coming decades. Such destruction would do away with a critical sponge to capture greenhouse gas emissions, shelter for birds and insects and food sources for bears and other animals. Dead forests also can increase the danger of catastrophic wildfires.

Today's connected world enables foreign invaders to cross oceans in packing materials or on garden plants, and then reach American forests. Once here, they have rapidly expanded their ranges.

, Hemlock woolly adelgids on hemlock tree needles are seen through a microscope at a lab in Petersham, Mass. No larger than a speck of pepper, the Hemlock woolly adelgid spends its life on… While all 50 states have been attacked by pests, experts say forests in the Northeast, California, Colorado and parts of the Midwest, North Carolina and Florida are especially at risk. Forests in some states, like New York, are close to major trade routes, while others, like in Florida, house trees especially susceptible to pests. Others, like New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine, are experiencing record warming.

"The primary driver of the invasive pest problem is globalization, which includes increased trade and travel," Andrew Liebhold, a Forest Service research entomologist in West Virginia. "But there are cases where climate change can play an important role. As climates warm, species are able to survive and thrive in more northerly areas."

The emerald ash borer, first found in 2002 in Michigan, is now in 30 states and has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees. The gypsy moth, discovered in 1869 in Boston, is now found in 20 states and has reached the northern Great Lakes, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Native bark beetles have taken advantage of warming conditions and a long western drought to rapidly range from Mexico into Canada. An outbreak in Colorado spread across 3.4 million acres of forest from 1996 to 2013, according to the Forest Service, and in California 100 million-plus trees have died in the Sierra Nevada since 2010.

Though small, bugs can easily overwhelm big trees with sheer numbers.
"They drain the resin that otherwise defends the tree," said Matt Ayres, a Dartmouth College ecologist who worked on the Ecological Applications study. "Then, the tree is toast."
Forest pests in the era of climate change are especially concerning for timberland owners, said Jasen Stock, executive director of the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association.
"We're dealing with pests we've never been around before, never had to manage around before," Stock said. "It's something we're going to be dealing with forever."

Urban forests, too, are at risk from outbreaks. In Worcester, Massachusetts, a city of about 180,000, an Asian longhorned beetle infestation in 2008 resulted in the removal of 31,000 trees.

"You would leave for work with a tree-lined street, and you come back and there was not a tree in sight," recalled Ruth Seward, executive director of the nonprofit Worchester Tree Initiative. Most trees have since been replaced.

Though trees can die off quickly, the impact of pests on a forest ecosystem can take decades to play out. Dead hemlocks, for example, are giving way to black birch and other hardwoods. Gone are favorite nesting spots for two types of warblers, as well as the bark that red squirrels love to eat, Harvard's Orwig said. The birds won't die off, he said, but their ranges will be restricted.

"It's a great example of how one species can make a difference in the forest," Orwig said.
As pests proliferate, scientists seek to contain them.

Among the methods are bio controls, in which bugs that feed upon pests in their native lands are introduced here. Of the 30 states with emerald ash borer outbreaks, the USDA says 24 have released wasp species to combat them. Some scientists worry about introducing another pest; others complain they aren't effective because they can't eat enough of the fast-breeding pests to make a difference.

"With all bio controls, the hope is to create balance — balance between predator and prey," said Ken Gooch, forest health program director for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Genetic modifications also offer promise.

On a research farm in Syracuse, New York, are rows of 10-foot chestnut trees tweaked with a wheat gene to make them resistant to chestnut blight, a fungus that came from Japan more than a century ago and killed millions of trees. Genetic engineering could likewise be applied to fight insects, said William Powell, a State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry professor directing the chestnut research.

An alternative strategy, also a slow one, is to plant trees 50 or 100 miles away from their normal range so they can escape pests, or adapt to a more favorable climate, said Steven Strauss, a professor of forest biotechnology at Oregon State University.

"Mother Nature knows best," he said. "It's assisted migration."
To stop the next pest from entering the country, researchers like Gary M. Lovett, of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York, propose measures such as switching from solid wood shipping material that can harbor insects and restricting shrub and tree imports.
Nonetheless, Lovett said new pests are inevitable. "We have this burgeoning global trade," he said, "so we will get a lot more of these."

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Global Warming Alters Arctic Food Chain, Scientists Say, With Unforeseeable Results

Is this a microcosm of wider environmental changes?  If so how will such alterations impact our daily lives?

Science can provide some good data and insight, but no solutions.  None of us can predict how quickly things get worse or restore, and what actions, at what rate, can restore some environmental balance.  We are entering a new, expanded clean energy and digital economy pinning our hopes that those engineering changes alone can get us back on track.

Food and water could become very scarce very quickly.  Then nothing is the same, and all the predictions get thrown out as we try to survive a new realty.  

Global Warming Alters Arctic Food Chain, Scientists Say, With Unforeseeable Results

The Arctic Ocean may seem remote and forbidding, but to birds, whales and other animals, it’s a top-notch dining destination.

“It’s a great place to get food in the summertime, so animals are flying or swimming thousands of miles to get there,” said Kevin R. Arrigo, a biological oceanographer at Stanford University.

But the menu is changing. Confirming earlier research, scientists reported Wednesday that global warming is altering the ecology of the Arctic Ocean on a huge scale.

The annual production of algae, the base of the food web, increased an estimated 47 percent between 1997 and 2015, and the ocean is greening up much earlier each year.

These changes are likely to have a profound impact for animals further up the food chain, such as birds, seals, polar bears and whales. But scientists still don’t know enough about the biology of the Arctic Ocean to predict what the ecosystem will look like in decades to come.

While global warming has affected the whole planet in recent decades, nowhere has been hit harder than the Arctic. This month, temperatures in the high Arctic have been as much as 36 degrees above average, according to records kept by the Danish Meteorological Institute.

In October, the extent of sea ice was 28.5 percent below average — the lowest for the month since scientists began keeping records in 1979. The area of missing ice is the size of Alaska and Texas put together.

Since the mid-2000s, researchers like Dr. Arrigo have been trying to assess the effects of retreating ice on the Arctic ecosystem.

The sun returns to the Arctic each spring and melts some of the ice that formed in winter. Algae in the open water quickly spring to life and start growing.
These algae are the base of the food chain in the Arctic Ocean, grazed by krill and other invertebrates that in turn support bigger fish, mammals and birds.

Dr. Arrigo and his colleagues visited the Arctic in research ships to examine algae in the water and to determine how it affected the water’s color. They then reviewed satellite images of the Arctic Ocean, relying on the color of the water to estimate how much algae was growing — what scientists call the ocean’s productivity.

The sea’s productivity was rapidly increasing, Dr. Arrigo found. Last year he and his colleagues published their latest update, estimating that the productivity of the Arctic rose 30 percent between 1998 and 2012.

But Mati Kahru, an oceanographer at the University of California, San Diego, was skeptical. As an expert on remote sensing, he knew how hard it is to get a reliable picture of the Arctic Ocean.

The ocean is notoriously cloudy, and algae are not the only thing that tinting the water. Rivers deliver tea-colored organic matter into the Arctic Ocean, which can give the impression that there’s more algae in the water than is actually there.

Dr. Kahru and his colleagues decided to take an independent look, scouring satellite databases for images taken from 1997 to 2015 — “every image available,” he said.
The scientists used a mathematical equation to determine how the color in each pixel of each image was determined by algae, runoff, and other factors. Dr. Kahru decided that Dr. Arriga was right: The Arctic Ocean has become vastly more productive.

Marcel Babin, an oceanographer at Université Laval in Quebec who was not involved in the new study, said that the researchers had done “very careful work” that confirmed the earlier studies. “It’s an important finding,” he said.

Not only is the Arctic Ocean producing more algae, but it’s doing so sooner each year. “These blooms are coming earlier, sometimes two months earlier,” Dr. Kahru said.

In fact, the bloom may be coming even sooner than satellites can record. On research cruises, Dr. Arriga and his colleagues have found that open water is no longer a requirement for algae to grow.
The ice has gotten so thin that sunlight reaches through it. “Now they’re not even waiting for the ice to melt,” said Dr. Arriga said of algal organisms.

If we stay on our current course, pouring more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the Arctic will only get warmer, perhaps becoming ice-free in the summer. If algae can find more nitrogen and other nutrients in the ocean, its productivity may continue to rise.

Scientists can’t yet say what the ecological effects of this transformation will be. “It is probable it will have an impact on the whole food web,” Dr. Babin said.

Dr. Babin and his colleagues have been studying that impact over the past two summers on an expedition called the Green Edge Project, which has studied the ecology in Baffin Bay off the coast of northern Canada. They hope to present the first results of the survey next year.
Some species may thrive because they can graze on the extra algae. But if the ecosystem comes to life earlier in the year, many species may be left behind.

Fish larvae may not be able to develop fast enough. Migrating whales and birds may show up too late. A lot of the extra algae may drop to the sea floor by then, untouched.
“It’s going to be a different Arctic unless we turn things around,” said Dr. Arriga.

Tesla, Panasonic to Begin Solar Panel Production in New York

There is so much good news in this story.  First, great to see Tesla continue to diversify their revenue base and take advantage of the technology they have helped create.  Second, we love seeing corporate collaboration.  This looks like a great partnership.

Third, new jobs to a depressed area...Buffalo NY.  And jobs that take advantage of their industrial history and base.  Fourth, the continued investment in renewables, this time by an overseas company funding job growth in the US, is very heartening.  The seeds of new economic growth are being planted today right there on the banks of the banks of Lake Erie.

Finally, in concert with their joint effort in Nevada to build batteries, the Buffalo production of solar will marry the two technologies to bring large-scale supplies to consumers.  Great step forward.

Image result for Picture of solar factory

Production at Buffalo plant to begin in summer next year

Move underscores deepening ties between the companies

Tesla Motor Inc and Panasonic Corp. will begin production of solar cells and modules next year at a plant in Buffalo, New York.

Production will begin in the summer, with the factory’s output capacity expanding to 1 gigawatt by 2019, the companies said in a statement Tuesday. Panasonic will invest more than 30 billion yen ($256 million) on the installation of production equipment, Yayoi Watanabe, a spokeswoman for the Osaka-based company, said by phone. The total investment was not disclosed in the statement.

The announcement underscores deepening ties between the two companies. They are jointly building a $5 billion lithium-ion gigafactory in Nevada to produce batteries for electric cars and energy storage products for homes and utilities. In October, Tesla revealed plans to work with Panasonic to make solar cells and modules for solar-roof installer SolarCity Corp. -- a company Tesla acquired last month for $2 billion.
“When production of the solar roof begins, Tesla will also incorporate Panasonic’s cells into the many kinds of solar glass tile roofs that Tesla will be manufacturing,” according to the statement. Tesla chairman Elon Musk revealed plans for solar roofs made of glass tiles in October.

Solar components from the Buffalo plant will also work seamlessly with Tesla’s energy storage devices such as Powerwall and Powerpack, the companies said.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Sustaining the triple bottom line: People, planet and profit

A simple, year-end reminder of just a small part of our formula for future collaboration and success.  Let's build, through sheer conviction, passion, innovation and heart a cleaner, brighter future:

People, planet and profit are essential factors that drive sustainability in business. But often, implementing sustainable practices involves significant investments that affect short-term profits and this puts many businesses off. On the other hand, we have seen instances of thriving businesses that embrace such practices. How does sustainability really impact businesses and profits?
Sustainability is a big buzzword in today's corporate environment. Financial Times Lexicon defines business sustainability as "a process by which companies manage their financial, social, and environmental risks, obligations and opportunities."
Although the words "sustainable" and "environment" are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. Being environmentally friendly may involve the discontinued use of plastic cups in the office for instance. A sustainable business however involves "long-term, strategic planning that allies business growth with positive environmental and societal continuity," according to The Times article. Essentially, it is about ensuring the longevity of a business in a way that benefits the business, its stakeholders and the environment
Why should businesses care about sustainability

"Many are not aware that sustainability actually increases profits."

2014 McKinsey & Co report, "Profits with purpose: How organizing for sustainability can benefit the bottom line," revealed that "an investment of $1 at the beginning of 1993 in a value-weighted portfolio of high-sustainability companies would have grown to $22.60 by the end of 2010, compared to $15.40 for the portfolio of low-sustainability companies."
Considering the positive findings, why are some companies still reluctant to embrace sustainable business models?
Myth 1: Only big companies can afford to adopt sustainable practices
A common misconception is that only large companies have the financial means to implement sustainability practices. Numi Organic Tea proves this assumption wrong.
Founded in Oakland, California by siblings Ahmed and Reem Rahim in 1999, Numi Organic Tea started off in a small 750 square feet apartment and was built on a sustainable business model from the start. All of their organic tea and herbs are biodegradable and Fair Trade certified. Their products are packed in an eco-responsible packaging printed with soy-based inks. The company also works with environmentally friendly business partners to offset carbon emissions.
From its humble beginnings, Numi Organic Tea has become one of the world's largest importers of Fair Trade certified tea, and it generates upwards of $20 million in sales annually. It is a standout example of a business striking the perfect balance between people, planet and profit
Myth 2: Nobody cares if businesses adopt sustainable practices
Consumers care.
A 2013 Procter & Gamble study, How Top Companies Are Creating Sustainable Brands, shows that 70 percent of consumers will buy environmentally sustainable products if the product's performance, value and price meet their needs. We can infer that an overwhelming majority of consumers do care that companies embrace sustainable practices, although they prioritize it after their own needs...

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Perks of Going Solar

OK, so Christmas is near.  New Year's awaits.  Time of year for gifts, perks.  Why not think about the gift of renewables.  It is, as you will see here, a gift that will give for many years. It is a joyful, loving gift.  It is a gift of the heart.

God bless you all.  Thank you for your commitment to smartly building a cleaner, brighter future.  

The Perks of Going Solar


Getting a solar power system has piqued your interest. You have heard that solar has many benefits, and you like benefits. But really, is going solar a smart long–term investment that can reduce your carbon footprint?

Absolutely! Let’s break down the top perks of going solar.

Reduced Electric Bills

Solar power can reduce your electric bills to almost nothing. This top benefit happens because you’re generating your own electricity and relying less on your power company. Thus, you save on your power bill.

Your savings also multiply over time! And since solar panels last 25–30 years on average, you can easily save thousands.

Increased Property Value

Are your moving plans keeping you from going solar right away? Think again! Recent studies found that property values increase after solar power is installed. You’ll earn back your investment or more when you sell a solar–powered home.

Solar–powered Profit

You may actually get paid for having an energy-efficient house! Solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) and net metering help you with this. Literally, your power company might hand you a check if you produce more power than you need for your home. Talk about return on investment!  There is also a 30% federal solar tax credit available and some states offer a solar tax credit for going solar.

Rising Energy Costs

Most people can’t control their energy bill because one power company dominates their entire area. With solar energy, you can have control. The cost of going solar has decreased more than 70 percent in the past decade, but electricity costs have risen about 5 percent. Electricity won’t get cheaper either. Going solar means you’ll be in the driver’s seat, not your power company.

Environmental Happiness

Solar energy makes the environment happy by reducing carbon emissions. You can reclaim your footprint in the world now. It also helps move the U.S. away from fossil fuels, making the nation safer and more independent than ever. We can’t think of a more admirable perk to solar energy than helping out the country and the environment at the same time.

Let’s sum it all up. Going solar means that you will lower your electric bill, increase your home’s value, receive a paycheck from your power company, avoid unexpected rises in power costs and make the environment love you. Well, what are you waiting for?

Ignoring Climate Change Just Got More Expensive

This should not surprise anyone.  Ignoring problems, in our home, work place, body, bring huge costs on the day of reckoning.  Why should the penalty for beating up the planet be any less onerous?

Are we ready for a financial reckoning?  How resilient will we be to the fallout?  And, most importantly, what dramatic investments can we make now to avoid some of the worst of it?

At RN we are eternal optimist.  We believe every sector of our economic system--government, academia, business, consumer--are least to some level, to positive changes.  Cooperation is up and progress, on many fronts, is great--at least in our view.  Momentum is on our side.  Lots of huge clean projects, better science and engineering, technology and a major shift of dollars in to impact investing are cascading around the world.  Good things are happening.

This type of data, though daunting, keeps us focused and motivated on pushing faster.   Whether it is using less eco-capitol, a cut in energy and waste, better transportation systems, smart buildings, smart cities, all add up to real progress.  All gets us further down the road to when the piper shows up for payment.  How far we get, how ready we may be, rest solely with you and me.


A leading economist looks at what the world is doing to slow global warming. His conclusion is not much.

If President-elect Donald Trump stops taking climate change into account when making federal energy policy, he’ll do so just as a leading projection of climate-related costs bolts upwards.

William Nordhaus of Yale University is a central figure in the study of climate change and economics. In the early 1990s he developed what became the leading computer model for studying the effects of warming on the global economy. The Dynamic Integrated model of Climate and the Economy (DICE) has long given resource economists, students, and policymakers an opportunity to test how different scenarios might lead to very different future climates.

Nordhaus recently updated DICE. He published results of an early test-drive of it this week in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, titled “Projections and Uncertainties About Climate Change in an Era of Minimal Climate Policies.”

Readers of recent headlines might be forgiven for assuming the “era of minimal climate policies” referred to is about the next four years. In fact, Nordhaus suggests, the “minimal policy” era is the one we’re currently in. (Nordhaus couldn’t be reached for comment.)

The paper’s findings “pertain primarily to a world without climate policies, which is reasonably accurate for virtually the entire globe today,” he writes. “The results show rapidly rising accumulation of CO2, temperature changes, and damages.”

Even after adjusting for uncertainty, he writes, there is “virtually no chance” that nations will prevent the world from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), the upper bound for avoiding cascading catastrophes. With revisions to methods and data in the model, he estimates that the price associated with each ton of carbon dioxide emitted should be about 50 percent higher than the previous version of DICE.

His simulations echo findings of analyses such as the Climate Action Tracker project, which suggest current policies might lead to average warming of 3.6 Celsius. The United Nations Environment Program estimates that the world needs to slash emissions about 25 percent below what’s projected in 2030.

Here’s why the research is so consequential. DICE is one of three major “integrated assessment models” used by governments and the private sector to estimate the cost, in today’s dollars, of the damage climate change will cause. The Obama administrationrelied on these models to produce the “social cost of carbon” (SCC) at the heart of dozens of energy-related federal rules. The measure is expressed in dollars per ton of carbon dioxide emitted. The current U.S. estimate is about $40.

The SCC, paradoxically, has become semi-famous just by being so obscure. It has always drawn attention within the climate policy world because it’s so influential and complicated. Different assumptions entered into the models can yield dramatically different results. The measure has popped up at least twice since the 2016 election. Once, in a questionnairethat a Trump transition official sent to the Department of Energy (the document was later disavowed by the transition team). It also appeared on a post-election energy-policy wish list of the Institute for Energy Research (IER), a nonprofit, which said the estimates should no longer be used. IER’s president, Thomas Pyle, a former Koch Industries lobbyist, became head of the Trump Energy Department transition last month.

The National Academies has undertaken a major study of how to best update the SCC, with the final report due early next year. The current process was approved by a federal court as recently as August.

Tea-leaf-reading aside, the new administration’s actual intentions and priorities will become clear only after Jan. 20. The planet, meanwhile, seems to have intentions and priorities of its own, judging by the unprecedented warm Christmas
near the top of the world.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Bright Future for Energy Devices

This will be an excellent addition to our science and future products that will flood the market.  Note at the end some of the verticals that will benefit--solar tech, batteries, fuel cells, and supercapacitors.  One of the most interesting is supercapacitors.  They represent, at least according to some experts, the next frontier of energy efficiency.

A little sodium goes a long way. At least that's the case in carbon-based energy technology. Specifically, embedding sodium in carbon materials can tremendously improve electrodes.
A research team led by Yun Hang Hu, the Charles and Carroll McArthur Professor of materials science and engineering at Michigan Tech, created a brand-new way to synthesize sodium-embedded carbon nanowalls. Previously, the material was only theoretical and the journal Nano Letters recently published this invention.

High electrical conductivity and large accessible surface area, which are required for ideal electrode materials in energy devices, are opposed to each other in current materials. Amorphous carbon has low conductivity but large surface area. Graphite, on the other hand, has high conductivity but low surface area. Three-dimensional graphene has the best of both properties--and the sodium-embedded carbon invented by Hu at Michigan Tech is even better.

"Sodium-embedded carbon's conductivity is two orders of magnitude larger than three-dimensional graphene," Hu says. "The nanowall structure, with all its channels and pores, also has a large accessible surface area comparable to graphene."

This is different from metal-doped carbon where metals are simply on the surface of carbon and are easily oxidized; embedding a metal in the actual carbon structure helps protect it. To make such a dream material, Hu and his team had to create a new process. They used a temperature-controlled reaction between sodium metal and carbon monoxide to create a black carbon powder that trapped sodium atoms. Furthermore, in collaboration with researchers at University of Michigan and University of Texas at Austin, they demonstrated that the sodium was embedded inside the carbon instead of adhered on the surface of the carbon. The team then tested the material in several energy devices.

In the dye-sensitized solar cell world, every tenth of a percent counts in making devices more efficient and commercially viable. In the study, the platinum-based solar cell reached a power conversion efficiency of 7.89 percent, which is considered standard. In comparison, the solar cell using Hu's sodium-embedded carbon reached efficiencies of 11.03 percent.

Supercapacitors can accept and deliver charges much faster than rechargeable batteries and are ideal for cars, trains, elevators and other heavy-duty equipment. The power of their electrical punch is measured in farads (F); the material's density, in grams (g), also matters.

Activated carbon is commonly used for supercapacitors; it packs a 71 F g-1 punch. Three-dimensional graphene has more power with a 112 F g-1 measurement. Sodium-embedded carbon knocks them both out of the ring with a 145 F g-1 measurement. Plus, after 5,000 charge/discharge cycles, the material retains a 96.4 percent capacity, which indicates electrode stability.

Hu says innovation in energy devices is in great demand. He sees a bright future for sodium-embedded carbon and the improvements it offers in solar tech, batteries, fuel cells, and supercapacitors.

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan Technological University.