Friday Round-Up – 5/10/2013

Friday, May 10, 2013 13:51
Posted in category Uncategorized

This ‘Monumental Shift’ in the US Buildings Sector May Surprise You 

Sustainable Building Makes Huge Strides in Efficiency

Conventional wisdom says that buildings are a sprawling, untamable black hole for energy. But a new analysis of federal data shows that the U.S. buildings sector has made enormous strides in efficiency over the last six years — potentially eliminating the need to build any new power plants to support growth in the sector through 2030.

When sustainable architecture guru Edward Mazria looked at the EIA’s latest Annual Energy Outlook, he noticed two surprising things: one, that 2030 projections for building energy consumption continue their steep decline; and two, that America plans to add over 60 billion square feet of new buildings by then. So even as a huge portfolio of new buildings is constructed in the next two decades, the energy needs in those buildings will be low enough to prevent the need for any new power plants to service them, concluded Mazria.

“There is no longer any need to build power plants to meet growth in the buildings sector,” said Mazria. “This is a monumental shift.”

Read More at Green Tech Media

With Carbon Dioxide Approaching a New High, Scientists Sound the Alarm

400-ppm of Carbon is a sobering milestone

If uncertainty runs rampant in the global-warming debate, it is in part because scientific data is often too complex to be well understood by anyone but climate scientists.

This month, however, the world is likely to reach a scientific milestone that appears impressively scary even to those with only a cursory knowledge of climate science.

For the first time in human history, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will surpass 400 parts per million, according Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which has been measuring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii since 1958.

“The 400-ppm threshold is a sobering milestone, and should serve as a wake-up call for all of us to support clean energy technology and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, before it’s too late for our children and grandchildren.”

Read more at IHT Rendezvous NY Times Blog

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Interview with John Cruden, President – Environmental Law Institute

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 16:45
Posted in category Uncategorized

John CrudenQ: How did you first get involved in environmental issues and the Environmental Law Institute?

A: Growing up in Michigan our home was across from a forest with a small river. Nature inspired me, and provided clean air and clear water for a young boy to breathe and play in, pushing me to want those great natural resources to continue for all generations.   Much later, as an attorney at the US Department of Justice, I had the privilege of representing the United States in Court, acting to both protect the environment but also to bring environmental enforcement cases against those who violated the law and in so doing often damaging our fragile eco-structure. The cases I was involved in ranged from the Exxon-Valdez oil spill when I first arrived at DoJ, to the Deepwater Horizon/Gulf Oil Spill which I supervised until I left DoJ in 2011 to become the President of the Environmental Law Institute.  ELI has a vision statement that makes me proud to be here, promoting “A healthy environment, prosperous economies, and vibrant communities founded n the rule of law.”  Our wonderful staff works diligently each day to make the world a better place to live in.

Q: What trends are you noticing in how environmental issues are viewed in the public? 

A: The Pew research center has tracked the public view of environmental issues over the years. What is clear is that most Americans support  environment protection. And they care about the economy. I don’t take these two data points as being in opposition. There is no reason environmental improvement has to come at an unreasonable cost to the economy if done well. Instead, I think Americans are telling us they want economic growth and economic security as well as a clean environment and environmental security for future generations. ELI is working to help bring about that reality.

Q: In your opinion, what is the single biggest hurdle facing the attempts to curb greenhouse gas emissions? 

A: The failure of Congress to enact comprehensive climate change legislation had cost the United States its leadership position on this critical issue.  To regain that position, it is imperative for this Administration to accomplish as much as it can through implementing the Clean Air Act.  The three critical decisions by EPA—the endangerment decision, the

greenhouse gas emission standards for vehicles, and the tailoring rule–which were unanimously upheld by the DC Circuit last year were a superb start, but there is much more to do.  And, I continue to believe that these regulatory actions should again inspire Congress to act in a comprehensive, bipartisan manner.

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Interview with Bill McKibben, Founder of 350.org

Monday, April 8, 2013 14:45
Posted in category Uncategorized
Bill McKibbenQ: What trends are you noticing in how climate change is viewed in the public?

A: There’s been a big spike in concern and interest, according to all the polling data, and I think the reason is pretty clear: There have been such an endless spate of climate disasters that by now everyone can tell what the problem is, and most are starting to understand we must take some action.

Climate change is no longer an abstract, far off concept. It is Hurricane Sandy in the northeast, it is massive droughts in the southwest, it is floods in Brazil and wildfires in Russia.

Q: What is the single biggest hurdle facing 350.org, and the climate movement in general?

A: The biggest hurdle is the incredible financial, and hence political, power of the richest industry on earth, the fossil fuel industry. These guys have all the money – but that’s all they have. They have long since lost the argument, but all too often their money wins the fight. Money buys political advertising and funds election campaigns, but it does not buy action and commitment. We do not need every person to fill out that they support climate action on a survey, or even 51% of people – we need 5% of people being as loud and visible as possible. That is the major hurdle in our way.

Q: What do you think has been the most effective tool in reducing real emissions, what about in spurring the public to act?

A: The biggest public actions have come around the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, I think because it’s so easy to understand what’s going on. Especially with the recent spill in Arkansas, people realize that transporting highly toxic tar sands from Canada straight through the country, only to be exported abroad is not what we need. Climate change is a lot of relatively intangible things, a pipeline is visible and tangible, it has been a very effective lighting rod to getting people involved in climate change and energy.

Q: The criticism that acting on emissions in the US will not be enough to offset growth in developing nations seems to have at least some merit, how do you respond to this criticism?

A: Because climate change truly is a global issue, we at 350.org work all over the world trying to get action everywhere, but some leadership and diplomacy from the US would sure help.

Two things I would like to note about this issue. Although China has passed the US in total carbon emissions, their per capita emissions are still a fraction of westerners. Also, in India for example, with rising carbon emissions, there are hundreds of political parties, and all think that climate change is an issue, we have two – one that doesn’t believe it is real and the other that is hesitant to act.

Q: What is the one thing you would recommend the average person do to help combat global warming?

A: By yourself, you can only accomplish so much; you need to join with others, through something like 350.org, to amplify your voice. A loud and committed portion of the population has always been the driver of change in this country, climate change is no different.

Friday Round-Up 12/7/2012

Friday, December 7, 2012 14:00
Posted in category Uncategorized

Warming Slopes, Shriveled Revenues

Melting Ice SlopesSnow can be an entrancing sight or an exhausting burden, but for communities dependent on winter sports, it is one thing above all else: revenue.

In recent years, however, the cold cash that used to fall from the sky, giving an economic boost to 38 states, has become less reliable. Winters are getting warmer, less snow is falling, and snow seasons are starting later and ending earlier.

A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the climate-themed industry group Protect Our Winters takes a look at the possible impacts of climate change on the nation’s $12.2 billion snow sports industry and the 211,900 jobs it supports.

Read more at the NYTimes Green Blog

Solar Power Installation Prices Fell 14% in Past Year

Solar Installation PricesThe price of installing solar power for homeowners and businesses fell 11-14% in 2011 and in the first six months of 2012, new stats from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory show. In the fist six months of this year, California saw even greater drops in the cost of installing solar panels, an additional 3-7% above the national figures.

The report indicates that the median installed price of PV systems installed in 2011 was $6.10 per watt (W) for residential and small commercial systems smaller than 10 kilowatts (kW) in size and was $4.90/W for larger commercial systems of 100 kW or more in size. Utility-sector PV systems larger than 2,000 kW in size averaged $3.40/W in 2011.

Read more at TreeHugger

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Friday Round-Up 11/30/2012

Friday, November 30, 2012 11:11
Posted in category Uncategorized

SolarCity Prices Its IPO But Is It A Solar Company Or A Financial Firm?

Solar Panel InstallationSolarCity on Tuesday priced its initial public offering between $13 and $15 a share, going where few companies have dared to go as the market has grown hostile to green tech startups, particularly those in the solar business.

While SolarCity does indeed install photovoltaic panels on residential and commercial rooftops, its business and future success depends on putting together investment funds that finance solar leases for homeowners. Some 90% of SolarCity’s customers opt to rent their solar panels for a monthly fee rather than fork over five figures for a typical photovoltaic arrays.

Read more at Forbes.com

Polar Ice Sheets Melt Faster

Melting GlaciersHigher temperatures over the past two decades have caused the polar ice sheets to melt at an accelerating rate, contributing to an almost half-inch rise in global sea levels, according to the most comprehensive study done so far.

The new study, published Thursday in the journal Science, estimates that the melting of the ice sheets as a whole has raised global sea levels by 11.1 millimeters (0.43 inch) since 1992. That represents one-fifth of the total sea-level increase recorded in that period. In the 1990s, melting of the polar ice sheets was responsible for about 10% of the global sea-level rise, but now it represents about 30%, the data suggest.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

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After Hurricane Sandy: Considering ‘Climate Adaptability’

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 18:49
Posted in category Uncategorized

Hurricane SandyThe immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is affording little time to think about the big picture. With neighborhoods underwater, toppled trees lining the streets, the stock exchange locked, and the dependable New York public transportation closed indefinitely; most people don’t have time to worry about the lasting impacts of this storm.

But when the worst hurricane since the 1800’s hits the north east coast only one year after a tropical storm swept across the same unlikely area, people begin to take notice. Governor Cuomo may have offered the most poignant sentiment: “Anyone who thinks that there is not a dramatic change in weather patterns is denying reality. We have a new reality, and old infrastructures and old systems.”

Obviously, this “new reality” comes as little surprise to climatologists, who have understood for two decades that the rising temperature of the earth will bring on more extreme weather, more often. While scientists are hesitant to contribute any single event solely to climate change, the idea that storms like this will become more frequent and intense is hard to imagine for many in the northeast. Although the debate still rages in political circles about the reality of global warming, the laws that govern the climate tend not to care. Fortunately, those who have recognized the threat of climate change have set out to reduce our carbon emissions, so that we may avoid the worst of these disasters in the future.

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The Big Loser in the Presidential Debates – Climate Change

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 10:17
Posted in category Uncategorized

For the first time since 1988, there was not one single mention of climate change or global warming in the entire debate season. Not by Romney, not by Obama, not by the moderators or the town hall.

There were extensive discussions about the issues related to it: energy (conventional and alternative), international diplomacy, national security and government’s role in relation to the free market; but global warming just never came up.

This is somewhat surprising, given the undeniable string of dramatic weather events, the fact that the three hottest years on record happened in the last seven years and that taking a pro-climate stand appears to benefit candidates more than hurt them.

It is more surprising when you watch clips of candidates speaking about the issue of climate change in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008. In fact, by 2008, both tickets spoke of the need for bold actions to limit heat-trapping carbon emissions.

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Guest Post: Flirting with Disaster

Monday, October 22, 2012 10:46
Posted in category Uncategorized

by Frank Sherman

A few years back Chris and I went to the Grand Canyon. Gas was cheap and we had a full size rental car: we were kings of the road. We were determined to go right to the edge. For anyone who has been there, the Grand Canyon is a photo-op like no other. The funny thing is the Grand Canyon is so immense that it is hard to fully appreciate its power and meaning until you stand at the brink.

We were determined to get that photo. We even got a couple, who pulled into the parking lot with their RV about the same time, to snap our picture. They were well meaning and willing to go along with our request. The wife had us backs to the rail, telling us to get closer to the edge so she could get a better shot. That’s when Chris looked backward and saw just how close to the edge we were and said we were flirting with disaster.

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Can the World Rely Solely on Renewable Energy?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 10:40
Posted in category Solar Installer Articles

Wind EnergyThe answer certainly isn’t a simple “yes” or “no.” There are many factors to take into account when one is considering how realistic it would be for the world to rely solely on renewable energy. One of the main considerations is intermittency. Though solar are wind energy are excellent substitutions for fossil fuels, the sun isn’t always shining and the wind isn’t always blowing.

Because the average world citizen gets 90 percent of his/her energy from traditional fossil fuels and about 10 percent from renewable sources, the transition to full renewable generation is a daunting task. Of course, it’s become very clear that fossil fuels are not sustainable for many reasons, predominately because of the climate-altering effects of carbon emissions. In addition, as fossil fuels become more scarce, the methods used to extract them become more intensive and environmentally devastating, so it’s important to find ways to source our energy in a way that works for the long-term.

The truth is, energy investments and build-outs are measured in decades, not years and efficiency is the most effective “clean energy source” available to us today. You might have noticed a good bit of change in the automotive industry lately, with more hybrids and electric vehicles being put on the market. The auto industry is one of the leading examples of a race towards more efficient technologies leading to a decrease in emissions.

So, how can we expand the idea of putting more renewable energy resources in place beyond simply using dirty sources more efficiently, and is it even worth it?

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