Tag Archives: wind energy

The first floating wind turbines just came online, which is very good news, indeed.

Toward the end of the last ice age, about 19,000 years ago, the sea rose in several large spurts, according to a new study of coral reefs that grew during this period.

This contradicts assumptions that sea level rises gradually. Instead, coral fossils show sudden inundations followed by quieter periods. This offers new information that supports the theory that glaciers and ice sheets have “tipping points” that cause their sudden collapse along with a sudden increase in sea level.

Researchers at Rice University surveyed deep-sea coral fossils in the Gulf of Mexico, scanning their 3D structures to analyze them for growth patterns. Coral likes to live close to the surface, so it grows slowly when sea level is constant. But when sea level rises quickly, the coral grows vertically to try to stay near the surface, forming terraces.

“The coral reefs’ evolution and demise have been preserved,” lead author of the study, Pankaj Khanna, said in a press release. “Their history is written in their morphology — the shapes and forms in which they grew.”

Whether the future is written in these forms, too, remains to be seen.

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The first floating wind turbines just came online, which is very good news, indeed.

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You’re probably going to be driving an electric car soon.

While we’re all talking about IQ tests, here’s a math problem: Imagine you’re a tree with 56 apples to take care of. One day, a massive storm comes and knocks out about four of those apples. They’re all on the ground now, kind of smushed.

But one of those apples didn’t have the same advantages as the other ones — too many pesticides growing up, let’s say — and it’s extra-smushed. It is also $74 billion in debt. (You may ask: Who loaned an apple $74 billion? Hedge funds have long embraced predatory lending practices, but that’s a math problem for another time.)

Anyway — as the tree, it’s your job to get those apples back in shape. You decide to allocate $36.5 billion in fallen-apple assistance. But only $5 billion specifically goes to that extra-smushed, indebted apple, and then that apple has to pay it back. It has to share about $14 billion with the other less-indebted and -smushed apples.

Surprise! This isn’t really a math problem — it’s an ethics problem. The tree is the United States government, the apples are all of its states and territories, the smushed apples are Florida, Texas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the extra-smushed apple is Puerto Rico. Donald Trump’s self-lauded aid plan for the ailing and indebted territory is a loan.

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You’re probably going to be driving an electric car soon.

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British Columbia is having its worst wildfire season in recorded history.

That’s all kinds of scary. If there’s one place on Earth that would be the worst possible spot for a giant volcanic chain, it’s beneath West Antarctica. Turns out, it’s not a great situation to have a bunch of volcanoes underneath a huge ice sheet.

In a discovery announced earlier this week, a team of researchers discovered dozens of them across a 2,200-mile swath of the frozen continent. Antarctica, if you’re listening, please stop scaring us.

The study that led to the discovery was conceived of by an undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh, Max Van Wyk de Vries. With a team of researchers, he used radar to look under the ice for evidence of cone-shaped mountains that had disturbed the ice around them. They found 91 previously unknown volcanoes. “We were amazed,” Robert Bingham, one of the study’s authors, told the Guardian.

The worry is that, as in Iceland and Alaska, two regions of active volcanism that were ice-covered until relatively recently, a warming climate could help these Antarctic volcanoes spring to life soon. In a worst-case scenario, the melting ice could release pressure on the volcanoes and trigger eruptions, further destabilizing the ice sheet.

“The big question is: how active are these volcanoes? That is something we need to determine as quickly as possible,” Bingham said.

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British Columbia is having its worst wildfire season in recorded history.

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We broke down Trump’s baffling speech on the “solar wall.”

The nation’s largest privately owned coal company, Murray Energy, just filed a lawsuit against the Last Week Tonight host over the show’s recent segment. Oliver had criticized the company’s CEO, Robert Murray, for acting carelessly toward miners’ safety.

Murray Energy’s complaint stated that the segment was a “meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character and reputation” of Murray by broadcasting “false, injurious, and defamatory comments.”

Oliver shouldn’t be too concerned, according to Ken White, a First Amendment litigator at Los Angeles firm, who told the Daily Beast that the complaint was “frivolous and vexatious.”

The lawsuit is hardly a shocking development. Before the show aired, Oliver received a cease-and-desist letter from the company. He noted that Murray has a history of filing defamation suits against news outlets (most recently, the New York Times).

Oliver said in the episode, “I know that you are probably going to sue me, but you know what, I stand by everything I said.”

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We broke down Trump’s baffling speech on the “solar wall.”

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Just as John Oliver predicted, a coal tycoon is suing him.

The nation’s largest privately owned coal company, Murray Energy, just filed a lawsuit against the Last Week Tonight host over the show’s recent segment. Oliver had criticized the company’s CEO, Robert Murray, for acting carelessly toward miners’ safety.

Murray Energy’s complaint stated that the segment was a “meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character and reputation” of Murray by broadcasting “false, injurious, and defamatory comments.”

Oliver shouldn’t be too concerned, according to Ken White, a First Amendment litigator at Los Angeles firm, who told the Daily Beast that the complaint was “frivolous and vexatious.”

The lawsuit is hardly a shocking development. Before the show aired, Oliver received a cease-and-desist letter from the company. He noted that Murray has a history of filing defamation suits against news outlets (most recently, the New York Times).

Oliver said in the episode, “I know that you are probably going to sue me, but you know what, I stand by everything I said.”

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Just as John Oliver predicted, a coal tycoon is suing him.

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Trump Railed Against China While Abandoning Paris. His Views Are Wildly Outdated.

Mother Jones

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President Donald Trump announced Wednesday afternoon that the US will abandon the historic Paris climate agreement—promising to “begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States.”

In doing so, Trump characteristically railed against China—labeling it an economic foe and arguing it got the best end of the deal. “They can do whatever they want in 13 years, not us,” he said of China’s emissions plans. Casting the deal as an erosion of US sovereignty, Trump added that “the rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris agreement. They went wild. They were so happy. For the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage.”

But here’s the reality: In the Paris agreement, China, for the first time, set a date at which it expects its climate emissions will “peak,” or finally begin to taper downward: around 2030. That goal came about after the US and China finally brokered a landmark bilateral climate deal in 2014 to work together. China has always argued it’s unfair for developed countries—who have already enjoyed the economic growth that comes with spewing carbon into the atmosphere—to curtail the growth of developing countries like China. So getting China to agree to “peaking” emissions was a major diplomatic break-through that turned out to be the secret sauce the world needed to come together in Paris.

The president’s view of China is outdated. Here’s what Trump left out:

China is already ahead of schedule. As we reported in March 2016, Chinese emissions may have actually peaked in 2014, and if those emissions didn’t peak in 2014, researchers say, they definitely will by 2025, years ahead of China’s official 2030 goal. Chinese coal consumption dropped 3.7 percent in 2015, marking two years in a row that coal use in the country declined. That meant 2015 was the first year in 15 years that carbon emissions dropped in China, according to the World Resources Institute.

China is far surpassing the US on investment to create clean energy jobs. In February, China announced that it would spent $361 billion over the next couple of years to create 13 million green jobs, according to the country’s National Energy Administration.

China is winning on clean energy technology. In 2016, a Chinese firm topped a global ranking for wind energy production for the first time, beating America’s General Electric. China leads the world in solar energy production—and has done so for some time. (Go inside one of the world’s biggest solar manufacturing plants with me, here.)

This year China is slated to launch the world’s biggest national carbon trading marketstitching together seven pilot carbon trading markets which have been up and running since 2013.

China overtook the US as the world’s biggest market for electric vehicles in 2015—and has a big plans for expansion. “We are convinced China will become the leading market for electro-mobility,” said Volkswagen brand chief Herbert Diess at a recent Shanghai car show.

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Trump Railed Against China While Abandoning Paris. His Views Are Wildly Outdated.

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Want to fight for a future that doesn’t suck? Try Grist’s 21-Day Apathy Detox.

In a meeting reportedly scheduled for Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s team will debate whether to abandon the historic climate pact.

It might seem surprising that this is even up for debate. During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged to “cancel” the agreement, which many consider necessary to keep the planet from overheating. But before making a move, it appears he’ll let his advisers fight it out.

Two members of Trump’s inner circle, Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, want the administration to stick with the agreement. Reports say the meeting will pit those two against Steve Bannon, the climate-denying former chief of Breitbart News, and Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, who want out. Reports say Kushner and Tillerson argue that remaining in the Paris accord gives the administration diplomatic leverage in other matters.

If the opening skit on Saturday Night Live is any sign, the outlook for Kushner’s faction is good.

Of course, President Trump’s moves to trash the environment since taking office suggest that, whatever happens, the administration has no plans to meet the the carbon-cutting pledge the U.S. made under the Paris Agreement.

UPDATE, 18 Apr 2017: The meeting has been postponed. No word yet on rescheduling, but the White House is expected to announce its decision on whether to stay in the agreement in late May.

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Want to fight for a future that doesn’t suck? Try Grist’s 21-Day Apathy Detox.

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Why Is Trump Ignoring These Good Heartland Jobs?

Mother Jones

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For half a century, Tim Hemphill grew corn and soybeans on his 720-acre farm in northern Iowa. Then five years ago, as he readied his son to take over the business so he could retire, catastrophe struck: Local corn prices plummeted. “It was about the worst thing that ever happened to farmers,” he says. And it’s happening all over the country: Slumps in commodity prices, paired with rising costs of pesticides and seeds, have driven many small farms out of business, and caught on throughout Iowa, not only bringing a much-needed boost to farmers, but also generating county tax revenue to fund school and road improvements and adding new jobs. Iowa now gets 36 percent of its electricity from wind, a higher percentage than any other state, even California. While coal is still Iowa’s main source of electricity, one of the state’s largest utilities, MidAmerican Energy, has set ambitious reap at least $10 million a year leasing their land to turbines. Nationwide, they may earn as much as $900 million a year by 2030, according to analyst Alex Morgan of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Farmers cannot farm anything legally on that small amount of land and get that kind of return,” says Chris Kunkle, a Western policy manager at industry advocacy group Wind on the Wires. Iowa’s Gov. Terry Branstad credits wind energy with drawing $12 billion worth of investments to his state. It also added 11 manufacturing facilities and thousands of jobs, including for wind turbine technicians, the country’s fastest-growing profession. In 2016, some 9,000 Iowans worked in the wind industry, about a fifth of the number operating farms. Both Facebook and Google have set up data centers in the Hawkeye State, taking advantage of how clean energy can help them meet their goals for renewables. And more than two-thirds of Iowa’s installed wind power is in poor communities: Kunkle says he’s visited small rural counties that get about a tenth of their total budget from wind farms.

Iowa isn’t the only state benefiting from the breeze. Wind farms—and the new jobs that come with them—have swept across the Midwest, where coal and traditional manufacturing gigs have vanished. (Despite what President Donald Trump will tell you, coal jobs started to disappear back in the 1980s, when the steel industry began to sink and utilities stopped building new coal-fired power plants.) In the “wind belt” between Texas and North Dakota, the price of wind energy is finally equal to and in some cases cheaper than that of fossil fuels. Thanks to investments in transmission lines, better computer controls, and more efficient turbines, the cost to US consumers fell two-thirds in just six years, according to the American Wind Energy Association. A federal tax credit—which gives producers 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity for 10 years—is set to expire at the end of 2019, but analysts with financial firm Lazard say that even without federal subsidies, the price of wind energy is finally on par with that of traditional energy sources.

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Still, not all windy states have a turbine-friendly climate. In Wyoming, for example, coal-loving legislators penalizing utilities for including renewables in their portfolios. According to Michael Webber, deputy director of the University of Texas’ Energy Institute, the next few years will see a showdown between “rural Republicans who really want to get the economic boost wind offers to their district, versus Republican ideologues who don’t like renewables because they like fossil fuels”—and whose campaign contributions depend on protecting them.

So farmers—and voters —will have to fight for wind, which, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency, “offers the greatest potential for growth in US renewable power generation.” In his energy plan, Trump speaks of reviving the country’s “hurting” coal industry and argues that “sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America.” We do—and those reserves could lead to hundreds of thousands of jobs in the coming years, and very few carbon emissions. And if Trump weren’t so fixated on the sputtering coal industry, he might actually see them.

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Why Is Trump Ignoring These Good Heartland Jobs?

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Sick of American politics? The would-be leader of France just invited you over.

The industry is growing so fast it could become the largest source of renewable energy on both sides of the Atlantic.

In America, wind power won the top spot for installed generating capacity (putting it ahead of hydroelectric power), according to a new industry report. And in the E.U., wind capacity grew by 8 percent last year, surpassing coal. That puts wind second only to natural gas across the pond.

In the next three years, wind could account for 10 percent of American electricity, Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, said in a press release. The industry already employs over 100,000 Americans.

In Europe, wind has hit the 10.4 percent mark, and employs more than 300,000 people, according to an association for wind energy in Europe. Germany, France, the Netherlands, Finland, Ireland, and Lithuania lead the way for European wind growth. In the U.S., Texas is the windy frontier.

“Low-cost, homegrown wind energy,” Kiernan added in the release, “is something we can all agree on.”

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Sick of American politics? The would-be leader of France just invited you over.

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Fracking causes noise pollution that could be harmful to your health.

The crisis of affordable housing (after climate change, natch).

It’s not for lack of local media coverage. Follow the news from New York City to Seattle, and you can’t avoid stories about skyrocketing home prices and rent along with record rates of homelessness. The bestseller Evicted followed low-income residents in Milwaukee who were tossed out of their homes for missing a rent payment.

Add up each local crisis, city by city, and it’s clear that the country has a national crisis that requires a national response. Yet affordable housing passed without much notice in the 2016 election. Interviewers and debate moderators never asked about housing. Republican presidential candidates, including President-elect Donald Trump, a high-end real estate developer, ignored it altogether.

To be sure, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders issued modest proposals on housing policy. But they gave housing little attention on the campaign trail.

So will 2017 be the year that our political system wakes up to the housing crisis? The signs aren’t promising. Trump and congressional Republicans want to cut housing aid, which has already been squeezed by cuts from the Budget Control Act of 2011.

But maybe it’s the year that progressives in Congress propose a national strategy to provide high-quality, affordable housing to all Americans. It’s a political cause in dire need of a champion.

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Fracking causes noise pollution that could be harmful to your health.

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