Thursday, November 30, 2017

Turning Pollution into Fuel/RNN

As always we bring you new technology and the potential of game-changing new sources of power and efficiency.  This, of course, is a double win--taking existing pollution and re burning it for fuel.

Be interesting to see if, then, the equation changes on which power plants actually burn "cleaner".  Once the spent carbon gets reused, our existing facilities don't look so bad.

MIT researchers have developed a new system that could potentially be used for converting power plant emissions of carbon dioxide into useful fuels for cars, trucks, and planes, as well as into chemical feedstocks for a wide variety of products.
The new membrane-based system was developed by MIT postdoc Xiao-Yu Wu and Ahmed Ghoniem, the Ronald C. Crane Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and is described in a paper in the journal ChemSusChem. The membrane, made of a compound of lanthanum, calcium, and iron oxide, allows oxygen from a stream of carbon dioxide to migrate through to the other side, leaving carbon monoxide behind. Other compounds, known as mixed ionic-electronic conductors, are also under consideration in their lab for use in multiple applications including oxygen and hydrogen production.
Carbon monoxide produced during this process can be used as a fuel by itself or combined with hydrogen and/or water to make many other liquid hydrocarbon fuels as well as chemicals including methanol (used as an automotive fuel), syngas, and so on. Ghoniem’s lab is exploring some of these options. This process could become part of the suite of technologies known as carbon capture, utilization, and storage, or CCUS, which if applied to electicity production could reduce the impact of fossil fuel use on global warming...

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Corporate Fleets Making the Switch to Electric Vehicles

Another great step forward on the corporate side of green:

Recently, 10 major transnational corporations launched EV100, a new global initiative to slash emissions by increasing the number of corporate fleet electric vehicles (EV) on the road. EV100 companies, including Ikea, Unilever, and HP, are committing to, by 2030, integrate EVs into their owned or leased fleets and install EV charging stations for customers and employees. 
The full initial list of companies, many of which operate many thousands of fleet vehicles, includes: Baidu, Deutsche Post DHL Group, Heathrow Airport, HP Inc., IKEA Group, LeasePlan, METRO AG, PG&E, Unilever, and Vattenfall. Vattenfall, the Swedish power company that serves most of Europe, intends to meet the campaign’s commitments, and then some. “Replacing our whole 3,500 car fleet with EV in the coming five years, working with our customers to deploy charging infrastructure, and building northern Europe’s biggest connected charging network, are three examples of actions we are taking to promote a sustainable and climate smarter living for customers and citizens.” Said Magnus Hall, CEO of Vattenfall.
EV100 is filling a gap created by the Trump administration. The Department of Energy under the Obama Administration set up the Workplace Charging Challenge, which provided technical assistance to hundreds of companies, agencies, and organizations small and large interested in installing EV charging stations for employees and customers, adding EVs to their fleets, and otherwise accelerating EV adoption. Members included the Coca-Cola Company, Kohl’s, and Pacific Gas & Electric. However, the Trump administration has ended the program. Some of the program’s information is still available on the web, and there are other important DOE advanced vehicle technology programs that appear to exist (for now), but the Trump DOE is no longer taking new members of the Workplace Charging Challenge or otherwise actively supporting workplaces for EVs. This, despite the fact that an employee is at least 6 times more likely to drive electric if there is access to a charging station at their workplace, according to a survey by the previous administration’s Department of Energy.
Other private small-scale efforts are working to scale up corporate engagement on EVs. For the past few years, Plug In America and Reach Strategies been hosting “ride and drive” EV showcase events at business locations, such as the Google campus, to inspire workplaces to install charging stations to better accommodate and increase the usage of EVs.
The transportation sector is the fastest-growing contributor to climate change, accounting for 23% of global energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In the U.S. this number is even higher, transportation is now the largest single source of carbon emissions. But electric vehicles, with no tailpipe emissions, are a clean alternative to the traditional vehicles that pump out dangerous pollution that leaves our air dirty, our families sick, and our climate in peril. Even factoring in the emissions from the electricity used to power EVs, they are lower in GHG emissions than conventional vehicles. As we shift to more renewable sources of electricity, EVs become even cleaner over time.
The EV100 initiative is organized by The Climate Group, a non-profit networking organization focused on building relationships with world businesses in order to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions all the way down to zero. Founded in 2004, the Climate Group has grown to incorporate over 80 multinational businesses across the entire world. Over the past few years, they have worked as a member of We Mean Business, a global coalition of business leaders focused on taking action on climate change. Through this relationship, The Climate Group has launched a number of campaigns to accelerate renewable energy and clean energy production. Helen Clarkson, CEO of The Climate Group, says: “We want to make electric transport the new normal...EV100 will use companies’ collective global buying power and influence on employees and customers to build demand and cut costs.The members being announced today see the business logic in leading a faster transition and addressing local air quality issues in their markets.”
Meanwhile, transit fleet leaders are considering a shift to zero emission buses. L.A. Metro, for example, which operates the second largest bus fleet in the U.S., just committed to switch to all zero emission buses by 2030. And individuals are making the switch too. In September of 2017, electric car U.S. sales -mostly among individual consumers- rose 24% over September of 2016. But to meet our climate and public health goals, we need to rapidly accelerate EV adoption by individuals, corporations, and transit agencies.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Walmart Orders TESLA’s New Electric Tractor Trailer/RNN

Walmart continues to invest heavily in reducing emissions and building a green fleet.  The new Tesla truck certainly helps give them better options.

We believe these early orders of their trucks are important both financially to Tesla and symbolically.  Acceptance of EV's, in any class vehicle, must come early and often to keep the producers afloat.  This is a timely and trend-setting buy by Walmart.

Tesla introduced its electric tractor trailers last night along with its surprising unveiling of the Tesla Roadster. The company is already winning some big contracts as Walmart has announced preordering 15 of these new giant Tesla Semi trucks. The pilot is planned for the United States and Canada with 5 vehicles for Walmart US and 10 for Walmart Canada, the retailer has said.
Considering this quick post-unveiling announcement, it is likely the deal was done before the battery powered mammoth vehicles were shown off to the world last night. “We have a long history of testing new technology – including alternative-fuel trucks – and we are excited to be among the first to pilot this new heavy-duty electric vehicle,” the world’s biggest retailer said in a statement.
This news comes bringing more trust among other potential clients and for Tesla itself as it aims to give yet another “hardcore smackdown” to gas (and diesel) powered vehicles and electrify the transport industry. “We believe we can learn how this technology performs within our supply chain, as well as how it could help us meet some of our long-term sustainability goals, such as lowering emissions,” a Walmart spokesperson added.
Elon Musk claimed that these vehicles could save companies thousands of dollars as a Tesla Semi is 25 cents cheaper to operate per mile than a standard diesel truck. If that is indeed true, a Tesla Semi could save a company over $25,000 a year based on the average miles of 100,000 driven by a truck. The company is also promising a range of 500 miles at maximum weight and highway speeds. Musk boasted that the electric semi truck has a drag coefficient of 0.36, making it more aerodynamic than the Bugatti Chiron – a $2.7 million supercar!
Getting too excited? Remember that the vehicle is a long way away from adorning our highways since it will go into production in 2019. Add in the production woes of the Model 3 and we could easily see a few additional years in that timeline. However, this isn’t stopping industry watchers and giants from being the first to try these new battery powered vehicles.
While it may still be a few years away, along with Walmart, the Arkansas based J.B. Hunt Transport Services has also announced reserving “multiple” Tesla trucks as well. “We believe electric trucks will be most beneficial on local and dray routes, and we look forward to utilizing this new, sustainable technology,” John Roberts, president and CEO, said in a statement to the media. CNBC reports Tesla’s shares went up 4.5 percent following J.B. Hunt’s announcement.

Designing For Sustainability: Coverage of GREENBUILD Boston 2017/

Please get to Renewable Now to see our report from Boston:

Sustainability Coordinator, Jim Murphy, and our video crew were on hand for three days at GREENBUILD Boston 2017 where we had the chance to learn what the future of sustainability looks like when it comes to the built environment and beyond.
We had many great interviews, one was with USGBC Co-Founder and Chairman & CEO of the International WELL Building Institute Rick Fedrizzi of USGBC who spoke about how LEED’s connection to human health, he said, “LEED has always had a very strong connection to human health but it was centered around light and air quality. So what we have done is we’ve been looking at how LEED would relate to another rating system that actually took the idea of human health and wellness about 75% further so a realy deep dive into how air, light, and acoustics, and toxins affect people. But also going further into the world of fitness, comfort, mind and nutrition, things that drive us all in the advancement of our society.” You can learn about what Rick had to say by watching Designing for Sustainability’s 2017 coverage of GREENBUILD Boston.
Other great interviews included Bill McDonough, architect, product designer, and author of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, USGBC President, Mahesh Ramanujam, Ralph DiNola, CEO of the New Building Institute, Maureen Hart, Executive Director of ISSP, Jamie Statter, USGBC’s VP of Strategic Relations, Alex Wilson, President Resilient Design Institute, Jeremy Sigmon, USGBC Director of Technical Policy, Christopher Schaffner, Founder of The Green Engineer, Grey Lee, Executive Director of USGBC MA Chapter, Mike McNally, Fmr., Chairman of the Board of Director of USGBC.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The City Preparing for Climate Change Without Ever Saying the Words

What a great opening to this profile of a city--Tulsa, OK--quietly scripting a resilient future:  

"Along with millions of other people, Anna America was saddened by the devastation and loss of life that struck Houston in August. Like many others, she wondered whether the city’s massive sprawl contributed to the damage from Hurricane Harvey. Thousands of acres in Houston that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had intended to use for a reservoir and other flood control projects had been paved over, taken up by homes that left flood waters with nowhere to go. That kind of thing wouldn’t happen where America lives. “We haven’t done that for decades,” she says. “Since the 1970s, we have not built noncompliant homes in floodplains.

Does this with a biblical warning we've been hearing for over 2000 years"  You reap what you sow, more than you sow, later than you sow".  From Houston to every city in every part of the world, we have over developed, ripped natural capital from its roots, and left ourselves more vulnerable than ever to flooding and storm damage. 

Too late to react?  of course not.  Now is the time to make the right investments to re balance our economy and environment.

Along with millions of other people, Anna America was saddened by the devastation and loss of life that struck Houston in August. Like many others, she wondered whether the city’s massive sprawl contributed to the damage from Hurricane Harvey. Thousands of acres in Houston that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had intended to use for a reservoir and other flood control projects had been paved over, taken up by homes that left flood waters with nowhere to go. That kind of thing wouldn’t happen where America lives. “We haven’t done that for decades,” she says. “Since the 1970s, we have not built noncompliant homes in floodplains.”
America is a member of the Tulsa, Okla., City Council. In recent decades, Tulsa has become an unlikely model for strong flood control efforts. Back in the 1970s, so-called 100-year floods occurred nearly every year, with creek beds overflowing and damaging property. Following a particularly devastating storm in 1984, which killed 14 people and damaged 5,500 homes, the city decided it was time to take a new approach. Since then, it has put in place a series of detention ponds -- excavated basins designed to hold water following severe storms -- and uses flood maps more demanding than those required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It’s also pursued an ambitious plan to move or tear down homes that have been subject to repeated flood damage. All told, the city has paid to transport or destroy roughly 1,000 houses, an effort that’s ongoing.
Tulsa’s flood issues aren’t over. Although the city has gone a long way toward reducing the overflow of its creeks, it hasn’t done much lately to deal with another potential problem: flooding along the Arkansas River, which runs through parts of town. Still, Tulsa has done more to address its exposure to a serious natural threat than just about any other city in the country. Not that long ago, Tulsa had the highest flood insurance rates in the nation. Today, its rates are just about the lowest. Other Oklahoma cities continue to suffer extensive damage when sudden storms known as “toad stranglers” pass through. But Tulsa hasn’t flooded on those occasions, even during recent months that have been among the wettest on record. “In 2015, there was flooding in the suburbs, but we didn’t have any,” says Bill Robison, the city’s floodplain manager.
As a conservative oil town sitting 500 miles north of Houston and the Gulf of Mexico, Tulsa is a surprising setting for one of the nation’s most extensive climate adaptation efforts. Its example, though, shows that local leadership and investment can do a lot to prevent damage from the predictable threats that are likely to worsen with climate change.
Communities like Tulsa, far from any coast, still face increased risks from a variety of disasters, including fires and tornadoes. Coping with these problems may take decades of investment and political fighting. It can be a tough sell for local governments that want to create a safer and more secure future. It seems to be human nature to believe that disaster will not strike one’s own home. Even when the worst does happen, people have a hard time accepting that it could easily happen again. “A natural disaster is not enough, in and of itself, to push cities to make real policy change,” says Rachel Krause, a political scientist at the University of Kansas who studies responses to climate change. “Frankly, it takes deaths.”
What’s more, progress won’t always happen under the words “climate change.” In Tulsa, environmentalists have learned that in a town founded and fueled by the oil economy, the term is a surefire way to shut down discussion. They talk instead about “extreme weather,” emphasizing the need to plan for reoccurring storms.
The same is true in many places. Progressive coastal cities such as Boston and Seattle now formally worry about sea-level rise and other effects from climate change as part of their policy making process. But in many areas of the country, the idea that the climate is changing in permanent and unpredictable ways is not an accepted fact. That doesn’t mean, however, that no thought is given to recurrent problems such as flooding, hurricanes and wildfires. Every city has some plan in place for dealing with natural disasters and emergencies. Thinking about climate could simply mean taking possible effects into account as part of broader planning and response efforts. “We don’t freak out, to use a highly technical term, if for political reasons, folks don’t want to say ‘climate change,’ as long as they are taking steps to address climate change,” says Otis Rolley of the Rockefeller Foundation's 100 Resilient Cities effort, which has provided funding to Tulsa.
By its very nature, climate change will have unpredictable effects. But many of its main effects are entirely predictable. Places that are prone to natural disasters will likely see more of them. If a region experiences hurricanes, for example, it will have more intense hurricanes. If it is routinely hit by floods, there will be more flooding. And regardless of whether climate change is an accepted fact, it’s clear that the gears of nature’s disaster-making machinery are speeding up. During the 1980s, the nation endured, on average, fewer than three natural disasters per year that caused $1 billion in damage, in constant dollars. Now, the annual count is higher than 10.
A decade ago, the idea that places should adapt and prepare themselves to endure new and strange effects, rather than working to prevent climate change by lowering their carbon emissions, felt to some environmentalists like an admission of defeat. Those days are over. Even if no more carbon were put into the atmosphere, cities and counties would still be facing a set of climactic circumstances unlike those they have seen in the past. Planning for the obvious stuff -- locally recurring issues such as floods or fires -- should be a given.
It’s possible that the season of destruction wrought by Harvey, Irma and Maria will lead the nation to think about taking steps to prepare for disasters in the places where they’re most likely to occur. Prior storms such as Katrina and Sandy led to tighter building regulations. Two weeks before Harvey engulfed Houston, however, President Trump rolled back an Obama-era order making it easier for storm-struck communities to use federal emergency aid to rebuild structures in ways that strengthened them against future disasters. “Raising additional money is harder without the impetus of a catastrophe,” says Janet Bly, general manager of the Miami Conservancy District in Dayton, Ohio, a flood control agency created a century ago. The lack of problems since then in her area have made it hard to keep people focused on the potential for devastation, she says. “We’re almost the victim of our success when it comes to that.”
There’s kind of a pattern: A community endures one bad event after another, until finally it experiences something so catastrophic that it’s ready to address the problem. That certainly held true in Tulsa. Residents put up with recurring floods for decades. It was the fatal flood of 1984 that led to change. Even with the 14 deaths and extensive damage fresh on everyone’s minds, it took a dedicated band of individuals, inside and outside of government, who were willing to spend years pushing the issue. Their success has since bred complacency. Plenty of people now wonder whether it isn’t time to rebuild along Mingo Creek, particularly a mile-long stretch that has since been denuded of homes. New projects are also being proposed along the Arkansas River, which has historically been prone to severe floods.
What the story of Tulsa shows is that protecting against climate effects is an effort that has to be more or less permanent, stretching across generations. It’s doable, but it’s certainly not easy, either from an engineering standpoint or a political one. The only places that will make the attempt are the ones where people realize that, practically speaking, there’s no better choice. The alternative is continuing destruction and death. “We’re never, ever going to be able to say we’re done with disasters,” says Tim Lovell, executive director of the Disaster Resilience Network, a nonprofit group in Tulsa. “Disasters are going to continue. The question is whether you can design your community so that they don’t have the impact they might have.”
When it comes to natural disasters, Oklahoma has it all. The state constitutes a central stretch of what’s known as Tornado Alley. Thanks to oil industry fracking, Oklahoma has supplanted California as the place where residents are most likely to experience damage from earthquakes. The wind that comes sweeping down the plains causes damage. So do hail and ice storms. The sun shines most days, but storms are so common that the Tulsa Voice, the local alternative weekly, includes “Best Place to Wait Out Extreme Weather” as a category in its annual “Best of” awards. This year’s winner, appropriately, was a basement bar called the Cellar Dweller.
Tulsa sits on the edge of the 1930s Dust Bowl, but for most of the 20th century it was plagued by floods caused by sudden squalls or cloudbursts. The city experienced major floods in 1923, 1943, 1957 and 1959. “The river would flood routinely,” says Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum. “My parents’ generation, and certainly my grandfather’s, all have stories about taking sandbags down to Brookside to keep stores from flooding.” In response to repeated flooding in Brookside and other neighborhoods, the Army Corps of Engineers completed Keystone Dam, which is about 25 miles south of Tulsa, back in 1968.
But around that same time, Tulsa annexed unincorporated land to its east, tripling its size and taking in homes that had been built under next to no regulation whatsoever. The Mingo Creek watershed was a particularly popular place for development. Wooded streams are always a scenic place to be. Tulsa back then was making the same mistake Houston has since made, building without concern for where the displaced water was going to go.
Flooding seemed to intensify during the 1970s, back when Bynum’s grandfather was serving as mayor. A total of nine federal flood disasters were declared between 1975 and 1980. People who’d been washed out of their homes would come to city hall to demand action, sometimes still covered in mud -- or so the local legend goes. Many of them also talked to Ann Patton, then a reporter with the Tulsa World, whose articles helped keep up the pressure on the city government. Patton, who ended up working on flood issues for the city, became an ally of Tulsans for a Better Community, a citizens’ group that pressed for serious flood management efforts from city hall. “We had a war going on between the citizens and the development community,” recalls Ron Flanagan, a longtime planner in Tulsa. It was dubbed the “great drainage war” by the local media.
The city government passed some ordinances to address flooding, but homebuilders and developers pushed back, raising money to support candidates who were sympathetic to their needs. Their efforts helped lead to the election of James Inhofe as mayor in 1978. Inhofe would go on to national fame as the leading climate change denier in the U.S. Senate. He told Flanagan and others working on flood control efforts that their services wouldn’t be required during his administration. Some stuck around, but several of them scattered to jobs in other states.
Everything changed in 1984. On Memorial Day, 15 inches of rain fell within six hours, according to one gauge. In addition to the 14 deaths, 288 people were injured and 7,000 vehicles were damaged or destroyed. Total losses were estimated at $180 million ($415 million in today’s dollars). As it happened, many of the former officials and activists concerned with the flood issue -- they called themselves the “flood friends” -- had gathered in Tulsa over the holiday weekend for a reunion. Terry Young, who had been sworn in as mayor 19 days earlier, summoned Flanagan and two others that night to work out a plan to try to address flooding along the creeks once and for all.
Young, a one-time weatherman, had made stormwater management a centerpiece of his campaign, having heard so many complaints about flooding during his years on the county commission. While the typical response after a catastrophe was and is to help people rebuild, Young convinced a bare majority of the city council to pass an ordinance forbidding homes that had been damaged in that particular flood from being rebuilt. That ordinance gave him leverage to come up with a longer-term plan. It made no sense to keep rebuilding in the same place, Young had concluded. Some homes, then worth $30,000, had received as much as $100,000 in federal payments due to repeated losses. The mayor decided it was smarter to buy out the owners and tear down the houses. “When you have that kind of repetitive flooding, and the house is still there like a sitting duck -- it’s just stupid policy,” Young says.
The city’s plan was to pay homeowners not only what their houses had been worth before the flood, but what they’d have been worth if they hadn’t been built in a floodplain in the first place. The city would also pay moving and relocation costs, throwing in a $1,000 bonus if people moved somewhere outside of a floodplain.
Selling the plan took a lot of work, both locally and at the federal level. Young argued that Tulsa faced significant legal exposure if it continued to approve permits in areas prone to flooding. The moratorium on rebuilding helped prod the development community and get it to agree to the new regulations. And the city was able to convince FEMA and Congress that it was cheaper in the long run to buy people out than to keep making them whole after each storm, getting the feds to kick in a sizable percentage of the cost.
Local planners and environmentalists held what they called “wine and fees” parties, trying to convince residents and business owners it would be more cost effective in the long run if they paid monthly stormwater fees to help pay for infrastructure improvements, overseen by a stormwater management board created in response to the 1984 flood. Those fees have paid for maintenance of the concrete flood walls and detention ponds that dot the city. With the detention ponds, the city got creative -- it built floodwater basins that could also serve as recreational facilities. The students playing tennis at the University of Tulsa or the kids shooting hoops at McClure Park may not know it, but they’re standing on detention ponds. Creating open space made the idea appealing to the public. “It would have been a killer to say we’re buying land to hold water for one day every 10 years,” says Flanagan, the planner who’s designed several of the parks that are part of the flood control system.
During World War II, the Army Corps of Engineers reached a reasonable, if basic, conclusion: Oil and water don’t mix. In order to protect Tulsa’s oil operations, which were considered essential for the war effort, the Corps built a 20-mile-long levee system along the Arkansas River, protecting industry, railroad lines and housing. The barriers were thrown up fast. The levee, which was made of local clay, has been maintained since, but not updated. The seven pumping stations along the levee are dependent on the kind of parts you’d expect to find in the laboratory of an old horror movie: pulleys and levers and mercury switches of a kind that aren’t even made anymore. “Parts? There are no parts,” says Todd Kilpatrick, the levee commissioner. “We take the pieces to a machine shop and try to meld it together. Isn’t it amazing in 2017 a city is relying on this to keep it safe from floods?”
Some of the levee’s drains have been clogged for years. The levee is on the Corps’ list of facilities at “very high risk” of failure. Kilpatrick traveled to Washington this summer in search of funding. At this point, he’s seeking $100,000 in federal funds for a feasibility study to find out what updating the levee would cost. “We have an aged-out levee system that protects over $2 billion worth of assets and thousands of people,” Kilpatrick says. “You can fix this levee for a heck of a lot less than $2 billion.”
Kilpatrick is hoping that Harvey, Irma and Maria will convince Congress it makes more sense to be proactive and repair systems that are known to be at risk. But he’s not especially optimistic. Common sense would tell you it’s cheaper to prevent disaster than respond to it, but history shows that people are more willing to spend the money on response. Memories are short following a disaster. For instance, the levee was breached in 1986 in Sand Springs, just across the river from Tulsa. But when the Oklahoma University Climate Science Center sent interns out recently to interview area residents about their awareness of flood risk, many of those questioned didn’t even know they were protected by a levee. It’s hard to convince people that flooding is a real risk when the river’s dry and they’re looking at sand. When the water dries out, says Patton, the former reporter, so does the commitment. “With success come amnesia and overconfidence,” she says.
Last year, Bynum convinced voters to support a redevelopment package that includes new dams on the river to create a lake and a park that will feature construction of a new island, with an inlet for water sports. The Arkansas River is now a dry riverbed most of the time as it runs through Tulsa, with water released once a day for hydropower. Filling parts of it with water makes sense, Bynum says. He’s grateful to earlier generations of local leaders for taking creek flooding off the list of things he has to worry about. Now, he argues, it’s time to restore one of the city’s prime assets: access to the water.
Patton and some of the other old hands who crafted the city’s flood management policies feel guilty in retrospect that their plan mainly addressed creek flooding and didn’t do much to address potential dangers along the river. They worry that Bynum is making a mistake by putting obstacles into the river itself that may only worsen flooding at some later date. Young, the mayor back during the early days of the flood control efforts, is currently suing the city in hopes of blocking construction of a riverside strip mall. Bynum insists that the development will be safe and that it comports with the Corps’ master plan for the river.
But the question is always whether safe is really safe. This era of severe storms has eroded the sense that the old 100-year-flood maps are reliable. Tulsa refused a recommendation from the stormwater management board to adopt the 1986 Arkansas River flood as the flood of record. That would have required builders to elevate structures beyond that highwater mark. Last year, to remember the 30th anniversary of the storm, the city put up a sign noting where the highwater mark was. It was taken down by order of the previous mayor within 24 hours, due to political pressure from a developer who noticed that it clearly showed nearby homes would be flooded if water again reached that level. “The administration said we have to accept some level of risk,” says Robison, the longtime city engineer, who himself was flooded out in 1984. “Probably, if you put it to a vote of the people, they’d agree, because of that feeling of complacency.”
Despite the conviction among environmentalists that a great deal more must be done, the reality is that Tulsa has made great strides in protecting its residents from much of the foreseeable danger. Just ask Ted Marsh, who lives a few blocks from Mingo Creek. Back in 1984, his house took in 28 inches of stormwater. Since then, he’s done what he can to fortify the place, piling up rocks and dirt in front and back of his house, and running a pipe alongside, out to the drainage ditch. But he knows his biggest break came when the city tore down the house next to his, along with others on the block. When it rains, those grassy homesites turn into ponds, holding the water and keeping it out of Marsh’s living room.
Marsh likes things that last. He’s replaced the engine several times on a 1953 Ford that now has more than a million miles on it. He believes that, with the city’s help in creating open space along his block, his house will last, too. “I figure this will go to my son, or grandson,” he says. “I’d like to keep it in the family as long as I can.” 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Much of what we talk about is dead-centered on building a more resilient world.  Here's a part of that as the business world indexes themselves on this effort.

How Does Your Business Resilience Rank?

In whatever countries in the world you site your business operations or rely on key suppliers, the business resilience of these countries matters. The FM Global Resilience Index is the first data-driven tool and repository that ranks the resilience of 130 countries and territories according to their enterprise resilience to disruptive events. It is designed to help executives evaluate the countries they rely upon so they can make more informed decisions when it comes to their own business and supply chain resilience.
Experience the intuitive interface. Explore the resilience factors and drivers. Download the easy-to-sort data tables.
 Get Started 

Features and Benefits

New Drivers
Three new drivers of enterprise resilience (urbanization rate, supply chain visibility, and inherent cyber risk) have been added to nine others to provide you an even more informed picture of each country.
Exporting Data
Ability to download data allows further analysis and inclusion in your reports and presentations.
In-depth Analytics
In addition to five-year country trends, each country can be explored deeper than ever before so you can glean more powerful insights.
Improved Interface
An easy-to-use graphical and numerical interface allows you to do easier and quicker comparisons of countries based on their enterprise resilience.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tesla’s Burning Through $4 Billion a Year/Bloomberg

Have you thought about what it takes to get a new technology or company to market, and to garner enough of that market to survive?  Even though Tesla is a it unique in its scope and size, it is reflective of the massive commitment it takes to go from start-up to player.

Tesla, though, even in its infancy, has changed the auto industry.  Now dipping their toe into trucks, their product line up is quickly expanding.  Of course they have become a significant player on the battery side.

We hope, of course, they hit a home run and return profits back to their investors.

  • By this calculation, Tesla would exhaust cash on Aug. 6
  • Company says it has ample money to meet its production targets
Elon Musk said last week that Tesla Inc. is designing a new sports car that could go from zero to 60 mph in 1.9 seconds. Not bad, but here’s a speed number that investors might want to focus on instead: 
Over the past 12 months, the electric-car maker has been burning money at a clip of about $8,000 a minute (or $480,000 an hour), Bloomberg data show. At this pace, the company is on track to exhaust its current cash pile on Monday, Aug. 6. (At 2:17 a.m. New York time, if you really want to be precise.)
To be fair, few Tesla watchers expect the cash burn to continue at quite such a breakneck pace, and the company itself says it’s ramping up output of its all-important Model 3, which will bring money in the door. But still, its need for fresh cash came into high relief last week when Musk unveiled his latest plan to raise funds. He’s asking customers to pay him upfront to order vehicles that may not be delivered for years.
The souped-up Roadster will cost buyers a $250,000 down payment even though it’s not coming for more than two years. That might generate $250 million; orders for the “founders” Roadster are capped at 1,000. And companies can pre-order electric Semi trucks for $5,000. They don’t go into production until 2019.
But all this is a pittance compared with Tesla’s financial needs. It’s blowing through more than $1 billion a quarter thanks to massive investment in making the Model 3, a $35,000 car that’s looking less likely to generate a return anytime soon.
“Whether they can last another 10 months or a year, he needs money, and quickly,” said Kevin Tynan, senior analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, who estimates Tesla will be required to raise at least $2 billion in fresh capital by mid-2018.

Ample Money

Tesla has said it has ample money to meet its target of producing 5,000 Model 3 sedans by the end of March. After that date, the company expects to “generate significant cash flows from operating activities,” Tesla said in a Nov. 1 letter to shareholders. Tesla’s capital expenditures should also decline as the company pays off its expenses related to the Model 3, CFO Deepak Ahuja said on a conference call the same day.
Dave Arnold, a spokesman for Palo Alto-based Tesla, declined to elaborate.
Tesla’s options are limited.
It’s already drawing down on more of its revolving credit facilities than ever before. And while the bond market is a possible route, it may not be especially welcoming right now. Investors who bought $1.8 billion of debt three months ago remain under water even after the notes recovered a bit from a low of 93.88 cents on the dollar early this month.
That may leave selling equity as the most viable option. But that, of course, would dilute existing shareholders, and Musk, at 20 percent, is the biggest. After hitting a record in September, Tesla’s stock has fallen by 20 percent.
“So long as the company is burning cash, it will remain dependent on the patience and enthusiasm of public markets or the deep pockets of a white knight,” said Christian Hoffmann, a money manager at Thornburg Investment Management.
— With assistance by Brandon Kochkodin, Dana Hull, Alec Mikrut, and Taka Endo

Toyota's Environmental Challenge: For tomorrow's show

To go beyond zero environmental impact and achieve a net positive impact, Toyota has set itself six challenges. All these challenges, whether in climate change or resource and water recycling, are beset with difficulties, however we are committed to continuing toward the year 2050 with steady initiatives in order to realize sustainable development together with society.

Part of our discussion tomorrow with their head of sustainability:

To go beyond zero environmental impact and achieve a net positive impact, Toyota has set itself six challenges. All these challenges, whether in climate change or resource and water recycling, are beset with difficulties, however we are committed to continuing toward the year 2050 with steady initiatives in order to realize sustainable development together with society.

New Vehicle Zero CO₂ Emissions Challenge

Life Cycle Zero CO₂ Emissions Challenge

Monday, November 20, 2017

FURLESS Gucci Making A Statement for the Environment/Renewable Now

Good to see another industry adopting better triple-bottom line practices:

Gucci has been a long-time leading luxury brand, but this company has become much more than purely fashion.  In recent years, Gucci has implemented various initiatives that make its practices much more sustainable and wholesome to people, the environment, and animals.  Beginning in its Spring/Summer 2018 collection, Gucci will no longer include fur in any of its designs. Marco Bizzarri, chief executive, and president of the company, told Business of Fashion “Do you think using furs today is still modern? I don’t think it’s still modern and that’s the reason why we decided not to do that. It’s a little bit out-dated… Creativity can jump in many different directions instead of using furs.”
Gucci joins other large brands, notably Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren, in its fur-free initiative.  Other brands such as Stella McCartney, have vowed from their inception to only use vegetarian or animal-friendly materials in their products.  The number of companies going cruelty/fur-free is only growing, primarily as a response to the public’s indifference and even disgust toward the use of animal skins as fashion statements.
On top of implementing a fur-free future, Gucci has also instilled a dedication to environmentally-friendly behavior in its business.  Gucci clearly states on its website that it as a company believes that climate change is a reality that must be fought against as much as possible. Gucci then details its environmental plan, which includes: Energy saving in all Gucci stores, offices, warehouses and supply chain; Distribution and transportation optimization; Use of paper and packaging sourced from certified sustainably managed forests (FSC); Reduction of waste, paper and water in all offices, warehouses, stores, production sites and supply chain; Increased attention to the use and management of chemicals; Development of innovative environmentally-friendly materials; Sustainable sourcing and traceability of raw materials, in respect of nature, biodiversity, animal welfare and local communities.  Furthermore, Gucci has donated a million euros to Unicef’s Girls Empowerment Initiative and has joined Parks – Liberi e Ugly, an Italian nonprofit that assists companies with implementing strategies for respecting diversity, focusing on gender identity and sexual orientation.  Gucci has made it a priority to have women largely represented in its company, with a majority of the senior management positions being held by females.
With a brand like Gucci on the side of saving the planet and all of its beings, it is no question that the positive influences of caring individuals have made their mark.  It will be no surprise to see more and more luxury brands taking the same types of initiatives and implementations, but we’ll remember who started the trend.  Thanks, Gucci!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Here’s what it’s like to sit in the new Tesla Semi

Great story to introduce the new Tesla heavy duty truck:

Tesla’s truck is a departure from more traditional diesel-powered equivalents in a number of ways, but it might be most starkly different when it comes to the cabin. I got the chance to spend some time in and around the Tesla Semi, and it’s going to offer up a dramatically different experience for drivers once they get the chance to hit the road.
The truck cab itself is obviously very different from the outside, with sleek lines that have more in common with Tesla’s consumer cars than with other transport vehicles. But the sleek lines and minimalist approach to seams and exterior breaks is only part of the story – inside, there’s a whole lot that you wouldn’t expect, too.
This starts with getting into the cab, which you do using a set of stairs that are built into the truck’s side and that extend nearly all the way to the ground. It’s a lot easier than getting in and out of a traditional semi truck cab, for sure. It feels more like getting into an expensive consumer highway coach bus, in fact.
Once inside the cab, I was started to find that even at 6’2″, I could easily stand with clearance left to spare above. There’ plenty of space in general in the cab, all around, even with the secondary jump seat installed (and it can be removed). The center-positioned driver seat takes up the most space of any cabin accoutrement.
That center seat is unusual, since most driver seats in existing vehicles are obviously offset to the left. But it’s also set more forward than on most trucks, since there’s no motor to fight for space with. The dash is also more minimal than most, with two touchscreen displays on either side of the wheel (these are the same units used in the Model 3, by the way).
The touchscreen display navigation information, as well as cabin controls, and multimedia. I was easily giving songs thumbs up and then quickly shifting over to the Autopilot controls on the left console, which would’ve allowed me to do things like engage lane keeping if it was actually on the road and driving.
The central position is designed to give you a bit of a “king of the road” feel, according to Tesla, and it does indeed convey that. It helps that you’re surrounded by a nearly panoramic set of three windows, including the windshield, that provide a much more unobstructed view of the road then you’ll normally get from a truck cab.
There also weren’t any wing mirrors on the Tesla Semi I sat in, which Tesla explained is just a conceptual vision of how it might be able to outfit the truck in future, when laws recognize that you could replace much of the functionality, if not do more, with cameras vs. physical mirrors.
The cab also featured plenty of storage, in the doors, above the rear wall (like airplane overheads) and with cupholders. Tesla says it’s designed to be convenient for the use habits of existing drivers, who tend to bring a lot of stuff on the road.
In the end, the Tesla Semi feels more like a car than any other transport truck I’ve had the chance to get into before. It lacks any shifters and seems a lot simpler to operate, too. It feels a little bit like you’re the captain of a futuristic space ship when you’re plunked in that central driver seat (which is also hydraulic for added comfort). I can definitely see a lot of truck drivers angling for a chance to pilot this once it becomes available.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Modernization Efforts Are Poised to Dramatically Reconfigure the Electric Grid

This is an imperative:Across the globe, we need to upgrade our grids to accept renewables as primary power, large-scale storage capacity, smart grid technology and an easy means of connecting our what will be our own microgrids.

Modernization Efforts Are Poised to Dramatically Reconfigure the Electric Grid

It’s been nearly two years since the release of the GridWise Alliance’s last Grid Modernization Index (GMI-3). The results of the just-released GMI-4, GridWise’s latest tracking of grid modernization efforts across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, demonstrates increased participation in and acceleration of grid modernization efforts across the nation – as clean energy, distributed resources, smart meters, and other technology adoption expands.

For the second consecutive edition, California ranks highest overall, and places first in each of the three GMI categories (state support, customer engagement, and grid operations). The three states ranked behind California remain unchanged from GMI-3. Illinois comes in second overall, repeating its best-ever performance. Texas remains No. 3, nine points behind Illinois, and there is then a seven-point drop to No. 4 Maryland.

Whereas 24 points separate California from Maryland, only nine points separate Maryland from No. 10 Delaware. Oregon moves up two places to the fifth spot, while Arizona climbs three spots to No. 6 and the District of Columbia drops two places to seventh. New York climbs eight spots to No. 8, while Nevada moves up five places to No. 9.

More Americans are taking advantage of the substantial and various benefits installing a residential solar energy system can provide – and not just because the federal solar investment tax credit is winding down. Utilities in states across the nation are ramping up their investments in solar power generation as well, but they continue to lobby for rules and regulations that maintain the balance of market power decidedly in their favor.
A decade ago, the U.S. Congress passed The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which helped launch many of the efforts we see underway today (many of which are tracked in the index). These include the:
  • Increased use of digital information and controls to improve reliability, security, and efficiency of the electric grid
  • Deployment and integration of distributed resources and generation (including renewables)
  • Development and incorporation of demand response, demand-side resources, and energy-efficiency resources
  • Adoption of communications and interoperability standards
One notable theme in GMI-4 is the progress made by the middle states in the rankings: those in the top half of the overall rankings, but outside of the top 10. This group includes seven states that have added at least six points to their overall score (Massachusetts, Washington, Colorado, Missouri, Ohio, Rhode Island, and New Jersey). Additionally, the median overall score in GMI-4 jumped 3 points from the previous edition, reflecting the increased efforts that states are putting into their grid modernization efforts.

What’s mobilizing these efforts? Cost declines are one key driver of the expansion of grid modernization activities. The cost of wind and solar energy, and increasingly energy storage, electric vehicles, and other emerging technologies, have decreased to where they are often the lowest-cost option for both utilities and consumers. Environmental impacts, and related concerns, are also driving consumers and policymakers to seek out these emerging non-traditional options. At the same time, utilities continue to prioritize reliability and cost-effectiveness while finding effective ways to integrate these new technologies.
Similarly, the declining cost of new sensors and communication and IT systems is enabling smarter, more efficient grid operations by leveraging customer usage data, smart devices, and other highly automated systems. These systems are increasingly being deployed where and when it makes sense, resulting in higher utilization of existing assets, greater system efficiency, and lower environmental impact.

Other major drivers impacting grid modernization include resiliency efforts by a growing number of utilities in the face of rising sea levels and powerful storms, wildfires, and other natural disasters; the threat of cybersecurity intrusions that could put electric utilities at significant risk; renewable energy targets and goals for cities, states, and corporations; and the advent of advanced digital technologies, including communications tools for consumer interaction and cloud services for both energy and efficiency provision.

Key takeaways, based on our analysis of GMI-4 survey results, include:
1.   The pace of grid modernization efforts has accelerated, particularly on the policy front. Many states are undertaking grid modernization initiatives or proceedings, including facilitating the adoption of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), pricing schemes and demand response (DR) mechanisms, and enacting other related policies. 
2.   Recent hurricanes and other extreme weather events, as well as human-caused cybersecurity and physical security threats, are focusing attention on grid resilience. While some states are leading the way, GMI-4 shows that a minority of states are actively planning for and incentivizing resiliency and security. These efforts will begin to expand to other states, ensuring that customers are less vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters.
3.   Leading states continue to make progress toward comprehensive grid modernization. Each follows its own approach to policy, business and regulatory models. Unique local and regional circumstances compel each state to develop its own approach to grid modernization. However, it is critical that states pioneering new ideas effectively communicate lessons learned to states that can build on their experience.
4.   Many states are just beginning their own grid modernization efforts. As innovative new technologies become more cost-effective, additional states are joining the leaders in actively pursuing grid modernization agendas.
5.   Some of the early movers may be seeing their momentum slow, particularly in the Grid Operations category. Some states that received an influx of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding to modernize their grid are being surpassed by states with more deliberate, locally-funded efforts.
6.   Utilities are prioritizing efforts to address customer demands for greater choice and the capability to manage their own energy usage. The trend is towards greater utility engagement and communications with customers. Investments in a range of technologies enable these efforts, providing greater visibility to customers, improved communication of critical information, and enhanced situational awareness for grid operators.
7.   Clean energy targets by states, cities, and corporations are driving utility efforts to accommodate rapid growth in distributed energy resources. With some states, cities, and corporations now targeting up to 100 percent renewables, efforts by a growing number of utilities to meet these goals are impacting their long-range planning, product and service offerings, and grid operations.

The next decade promises even greater grid innovation, including expanded use of renewable energy resources, storage, and electric vehicles; increased physical and cyber security and resiliency measures; and greater consumer choice via broader product and service offerings. As these and other grid modernization efforts expand, we hope that the GMI continues to be a useful tool for assessing activity and evaluating progress.