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|Thursday, December 19th, 2013|
|Say Goodbye To Inefficient 40- And 60-Watt Incandescent Light Bulbs Starting Next Year
Starting on January 1, 40- and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs will no longer be allowed to be imported into or manufactured in the U.S. These bulbs, which are highly inefficient and waste about 90 percent of their energy giving off heat rather than light, make up over half of all light bulbs purchased in the country.
Over the past two years, 75-watt and 100-watt incandescent bulbs have been phased out as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act enacted in 2007 under the Bush Administration.
According to Noah Horowitz, Senior Scientist and Director of the Center for Energy Efficiency for the Natural Resource Defense Council, once the transition away from inefficient incandescent bulbs is complete Americans will save $13 billion on their annual energy bills.
On his blog Horowitz writes that, “consumers now have three major types of bulbs to choose from:”
“New and improved incandescents that use 28 percent less energy, and CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) and LEDs (light-emitting diodes) that provide energy savings of at least 75 percent and last a lot longer.
In fact, these standards requiring improved efficiency have led to more lighting innovation over the past five years than we saw during the 100-plus years since Edison invented the light bulb!”
LED bulbs have dropped in price to about $10 from around $50 as recently as 2012. LED bulbs can save a consumer up to $100 over its lifetime (25 years!) compared to standard incandescent bulbs — in part because they convert about 60 percent of their energy to light, rather than the 10 percent of traditional incandescents. This means an LED bulb only needs 9.5 watts to produce the same amount of light as an old 60-watt bulb.
This can even factor into holiday season budget planning, writes Horowitz in a different article:
“LED holiday lights can last up to 20,000 hours so they’ll also be twinkling for many years to come. A string of 150 small holiday lights costs about $12, or less, at the big box stores, which is a bargain considering how long they last and that they’ll pay for themselves via the energy they save. If you’re the type that enjoys creating outdoor holiday displays so stunning that cars stop to admire your decked-out lawn, you might be able to cut your holiday electric bill by an estimated $100 or more by using LED lights instead of the older incandescent versions.”
These changes reach far beyond household energy consumption. Lighting consumes 19 percent of the electricity used in the U.S. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, if all of the four billion light bulb sockets in the U.S. contained compact fluorescent or LED lights 30 coal plants’ worth of power could be saved. In this case, “mercury emissions from power plants would drop 60 percent and 100 million tons of carbon would be prevented from entering the atmosphere each year,” writes Sustainable Business.
A survey released this week by lighting company Osram Sylvania found that 59 percent of consumers didn’t know that the popular 40- and 60-watt bulbs will be phased out starting next year. Mark Voykovic, national light bulb merchant for The Home Depot, told The USAToday that he expects The Home Depot to have enough of the old bulbs to last through mid-2014, and that sales are actually up at the moment as stores are running promotions.
Improving energy efficiency while saving money may seem like common sense, but nonetheless the efficiency requirements on light bulbs have been controversial amongst certain politicians and media outlets.
Editorials engaged in fear-mongering, trying to convince consumers that there was a “ban” on incandescent light bulbs that would cost them a lot of money just to keep the lights on. Or that there was cause for alarm that compact fluorescents bulbs might fry skin with UVA radiation.
In 2011 the newly Tea Party-laden Congress voted to defund the money the Department of Energy needed to enforce the lightbulb standards for one year, but the industry had already moved on and it ended up just being an unnecessary bump in the road.
“The American people want less government intrusion into their lives, not more, and that includes staying out of their personal light bulb choices,” Republican House Representative Michele Bachmann said at the time.
The post Say Goodbye To Inefficient 40- And 60-Watt Incandescent Light Bulbs Starting Next Year appeared first on ThinkProgress.
This is neat:
Here, we describe a new acoustic cryptanalysis key extraction attack, applicable to GnuPG's current implementation of RSA. The attack can extract full 4096-bit RSA decryption keys from laptop computers (of various models), within an hour, using the sound generated by the computer during the decryption of some chosen ciphertexts. We experimentally demonstrate that such attacks can be carried out, using either a plain mobile phone placed next to the computer, or a more sensitive microphone placed 4 meters away.
Beyond acoustics, we demonstrate that a similar low-bandwidth attack can be performed by measuring the electric potential of a computer chassis. A suitably-equipped attacker need merely touch the target computer with his bare hand, or get the required leakage information from the ground wires at the remote end of VGA, USB or Ethernet cables.
- Wed, 16:01: Medgar Evers Pool (Check-in) http://t.co/IW7aNQUXtH
- Wed, 18:16: Turns out my Roku model (3xxx) is a model 2 - not a model 3 (who's model number is 4xxx. And, sure, that makes to... http://t.co/VTRwJ5rd03
- Wed, 19:01: today's basket http://t.co/cVvq4AWx1m http://t.co/BCor2nv0CI
- Wed, 19:16: For some reason this old shot just turned up in my Google Plus Photos. It's at least 4 or... http://t.co/9R1gHIa5Pt http://t.co/jxFpiBHLut
- Wed, 20:10: RT @jmspool: Kerning. It's important. https://t.co/UTftscaZPB
- Wed, 20:46: TiVo Time vs Real Time. An hour or possibly longer turned out to be 10 minutes. http://t.co/9QhypWF1nz http://t.co/EbKM3t7uAn
- Thu, 01:31: The new transparent CC system in the latest @TiVO update make a huge difference - WAY better! http://t.co/nHMDo6Ep9o
- Thu, 04:31: Thanks Robert Knight - This is a heck of a deal. I haven't 'grouponed' since just after th... http://t.co/N1UgnJ3EBh http://t.co/axTbF47ecm
|Wednesday, December 18th, 2013|
|Los Angeles Becomes First Major City To Require ‘Cool Roofs’
On Tuesday the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a building code update that will require all new and refurbished homes to have cool roofs, which use sunlight-reflecting materials. Los Angeles is the first major city to require such a measure, which was pushed for by the local organization Climate Resolve. Climate Resolve works throughout Southern California to prepare the region for the impacts of climate change.
UCLA research has suggested that temperatures in the area will increase between 3.7°F and 5.4°F by 2050. Southern California also already relies on outside sources of water to meet demand. With the state experiencing one of the driest years on record, climate change will make many different kinds of conservation measures far more critical.
According to the Climate Resolve press release, cool roofs, “can be more than 50°F cooler on the surface of the roof during a hot summer day and can cool the interiors of buildings by several degrees Fahrenheit, reducing chances of heat-related injuries or deaths.”
“Cool roofs are a win-win-win for the people of Los Angeles,” said Jonathan Parfrey, Executive Director of Climate Resolve. “Keeping temperatures down on Extreme Heat Days will protect lives; energy efficiency will save millions of dollars; and cool roofs will help Los Angeles combat global climate change at the local level.”
According to the Global Cool Cities Alliance, reflective roof surfaces do not need to be white, but can come in shades of grey and even red. These surfaces reflect more sunlight than traditional dark-colored roofs, thus turning less of the sun’s energy into heat and minimizing the urban heat island effect in which urban areas are far hotter than surrounding rural regions.
The post Los Angeles Becomes First Major City To Require ‘Cool Roofs’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.
|It's a small world after all...
In the ‘small world’ department, it turns out that my new bus-riding friend, Jeanette, is the very person who signed in my paperwork when I delivered it to the Center City Courthouse back in early October. (I thought she looked a bit familiar.) I’ve since told her the whole story of my adventures with RonG. Today, after work, I sent RG his Summons by certified mail and had a statement to that effect notarized per my instructions from the court.
In other news, I have been too efficient, once again, and the St Paul Foundation is running out of things for me to do, even though I did much more than they’d planned. So tomorrow, Thursday, rather than Friday will be my last day there. On the plus side, they sang my praises to Tempforce, and I’ve let the agency know I’ll be available again right away in January and am ideally looking for a temp-to-hire situation.
|What would I do with Sandman?
Having seen that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is working as a producer on a Sandman movie*, I've been thinking about what I'd do if I were making one.
Because my main thought is "Not be a slavish copy of the comics". I'd want to pick some of the common threads that run through it, some of the dialog (where it's suitable for movies - comic dialogue and movie dialogue are rarely the same thing), and the basic themes, but I wouldn't want to try and fit 75 issues of very disparate storytelling into a movie, or even a series of them. It's far too big and sprawling for that, and I just can't see it working well. As a series of tv episodes, where the style and format was free to shift dramatically between episodes, I think it would be fascinating to try something like that, but movies have to be more cohesive than that.
My next thought is that a movie would have to tell a story, whole and complete in itself. I'd leave things open for more movies - I think that you could make a Sandman-shaped movie trilogy, but the initial movie has to be something that stands alone. So I'd probably take Preludes & Nocturnes and The Doll's House, and merge them into one another. Tell the story of his capture in flashback during the credits (something Watchmen did so well), and then make the linkage between Dream and Rose more explicit early one - he's got a job to do, he doesn't have the tools to do it, and he has to recover them in time to deal with her and prevent something awful happening. This then adds extra tension to the regaining of his tools, and makes this plot feel more cohesive. I'd strip the superheroes/villains out of it, and make it purely about magic, dreams, and destiny. I'd have him go to Destiny for help, before he goes to the Fates for assistance, to make it clear earlier that he has siblings. I'd _want_ to have The Sound of Her Wings to an epilogue to the movie, if I could make that work, but if not I'd cut it altogether (as well as the whole of Dream Country).
That gives you a solid story in which Morpheus is captured, freed, and works to do his duty (we'd emphasise his dedication to duty repeatedly, as that's a theme that would lead through future movies), introducing various bits of background (including his trip to hell, and the serial killers convention). I think that can all be fitted into two and a half hours in a way that works.
Film 2 would combine Season of Mists with bits of Brief Lives - it's about duty - those that give it up, and those that can't. About people who will will do what they're told, and those that refuse. About those who will do anything to gain power, and those who will do anything to give it up. Morpheus will see that he did wrong to Nada, and he will realise that he did likewise with his son. We thread Brief Lives through this, with Delirium wanting to go hunting for Destruction, and Morpheus too tied up in his duty (to the key) and his own realisations to realise he should be helping her, and when he does, this leads him to his son, where he sets things right.
Film three then covers The Kindly Ones and The Wake - as Morpheus realises that he is bound by rules and duties he no longer truly believes in, and realises that he already made his choice when he had his final meeting with Orpheus. But it takes him a long while to realise that every thread he's pulling brings the net tighter around himself, and the only answer is to cut himself free.
All of which is just some random thinking on the subject. And I'd never get to actually _do_ any of that stuff. So I'll just wait and see what someone else does with it. I hope it's not awful.*Neil's reponse here
Original post on Dreamwidth
- there are
|A Michigan Utility Tried To Hide Its Coal Plant Behind A Wind Farm
A coal holding field is seen at the Karn-Weadock electric power plant in Bay City, Mich.
CREDIT: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
It may have come as a surprise this morning when conservative news aggregation website the Drudge Report tweeted that new greenhouse gas emissions regulations recently set by the Environmental Protection Agency have effectively forced a power cooperative to abandon its plans to build a clean energy project in Rogers City, Michigan.
Indeed, the Michigan-based Wolverine Power Cooperative on Tuesday announced that, after nearly 8 years and $25 million spent, the company will walk away from its proposed Wolverine Clean Energy Venture. Though the project has faced a number of regulatory hurdles, environmental challenges, and economic skepticism over the years, Wolverine CEO Eric Baker said that new greenhouse gas rules from the EPA ultimately “render the project impossible to build.”
The main rules Baker is speaking of are updated draft regulations setting a limit on the amount of carbon dioxide that new power plants can emit, which EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has called the “first uniform national limits on carbon pollution for new plants.”
The twist, however, is that the company’s “Clean Energy Venture” was in actuality two coal-fired base load power plants that would have altogether had capacity of 600 megawatts, and no proposed method of capturing or storing the carbon. With no method of storing these emissions, it would certainly make it hard for the company to build a new coal-fired plant. Under the proposed rules, coal plants either have to emit only 1,100 pounds of carbon per megawatt hour over one year, or the plant can take 7 years to get average emissions down to 1,050 pounds per megawatt hour.
The reason that Wolverine was able to deem the project “clean” was likely the fact that a 35-turbines wind turbine farm was also lumped in with the coal plants. That part of the proposal, however, was “seldom talked about” and lacking in essential data.
And even with the wind farm, according to Wolverine’s air permits, the project in its entirety would have added 995 tons of particulate pollution, 1,344 tons of SO2 pollution, and 2,647 tons of NOx pollution annually.
Wolverine had also proposed releasing 46.8 pounds of mercury pollution, 700 pounds of lead, and more than 6 million tons of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), which opposed the project.
“The wind farm originally may have been an attempt to make this overall project look cleaner than it was,” Andrew Armstrong, an attorney at the ELPC, told ThinkProgress on Wednesday. “But it’s possible that, even though the coal plant is dead, the wind farm may proceed.”
Now that Wolverine’s project is dead, Armstrong said, Michigan-based company Swan Bay Wind LLC may be able to move forward with its plans to build a 42-turbine, 140 megawatt wind farm on that same land. If approved, Swan Bay told The Alpena News that it would need “a considerable amount of temporary workers” to build it, and six permanent workers for the 25-year lifespan of the turbines — not as many as the 100 permanent jobs the coal plant would have created, but still a boost for the area’s economy.
But still, the Michigan Public Service Commission in 2010 expressed doubt that the new coal plants proposed by Wolverine would be needed — even going so far as to say the plants would result in an estimated rate increase of $76.95 per month for the average residential customer.
Commercial wind energy production, on the other hand, has grown in the last decade, with Michigan Public Services Commission data updated this month showing total operational wind capacity at 1,161 megawatts and 676 turbines. Though Rogers City isn’t located in one of the Primary Wind Energy Zones where there are a lot of wind turbines, it is right on the coast of Lake Huron, which Wolverine itself had called “one of the best wind sites in Michigan.”
“I think Wolverine is doing the right thing by its customers by cancelling the coal project, ” Armstrong said. “Its kind of funny because this totally encapsulates what’s going on now. You cannot build a new coal plant. But wind is economically viable.”
The post A Michigan Utility Tried To Hide Its Coal Plant Behind A Wind Farm appeared first on ThinkProgress.
|China’s First Smog Clinic Opens Its Doors
China opens its first smog clinic after a year of record-breaking air pollution.
A clinic dedicated to treating victims of China’s notorious smog has opened its doors in Sichuan Provence, southwest China.
Wang Qixun, a doctor at Chengdu No. 7 People’s Hospital, which runs the clinic, told the A.P. that over 100 people have already received treatment in the clinic’s first week. Patients’ symptoms range from coughs and sore or itching throats, to asthma and cardiovascular problems.
China has garnered a lot of undesired publicity over the last year for its growing air pollution crisis. A major source is its 2,300 (and growing) dirty coal plants. In January, Beijing experienced its worst air pollution on record — levels of particulate matter topped out at 723 micrograms per cubic meter. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers 25 or less micrograms per cubic meter ideal for human health. Above 300 is considered hazardous. In October, air pollution nearly shut down the entire city of Harbin, and in December, extreme air pollution forced children and the elderly in Shanghai behind closed doors and windows for at least seven days.
Particulate matter (PM) is mostly made up of sulfate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, carbon, mineral dust and water. PM is classified by the size of the particles, with the smallest particles, PM2.5 considered the most dangerous because they can become lodged deep in people’s lungs.
According to the WHO, chronic exposure to particulate matter contributes to the risk of developing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. PM2.5 was also officially designated as a carcinogen in October. In November, an official Chinese news report, announced that an 8-year-old girl in the eastern province of Jiangsu had been diagnosed with lung cancer and that her doctors were attributing the disease to air pollution. The girl is the youngest-ever to be diagnosed with lung cancer in China.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently reported that in 2010, exposure to ambient fine particles was estimated to have contributed to 223,000 deaths from lung cancer, with more than half of those deaths projected to have been in China and other East Asian countries. Another recent study, in Nature Climate Change, found that up to three million premature deaths could be avoided each year globally by 2100 if aggressive carbon emissions cuts are made.
China imported more coal in 2012 than any country in history.
China has responded to the pollution catastrophe and the negative international limelight that comes with it, in a number ways that send conflicting messages. A journalist at CCTV, China’s national broadcaster, tried to convince the public that the smog has made Chinese people more united, equal, clear-headed, humorous and knowledgeable. A Chinese newspaper claimed that the country’s murky, opaque skies offered a military advantage as smog would hamper missile guidance that relies on human sight, infrared rays, or lasers.
At the same time, however, the Chinese government unveiled a plan to fight the pollution in September and doubled its renewable energy capacity this year.
The post China’s First Smog Clinic Opens Its Doors appeared first on ThinkProgress.
|Thursday, December 19th, 2013|
|Sheep vs everything else in the thunderditch
Yesterday I saw a car with a bumper sticker that proclaimed
SAY NO TO KILLER ROBOTS
Now, in the context of some of the other stickers on this car, I am pretty sure it's referring to army drones. However, on face value I find myself wondering who wouldn't get in behind that sentiment. Like,
KILLER ROBOTS NEED LOVE TOO
EQUAL RIGHTS FOR KILLER ROBOTS
ADOPT A KILLER ROBOT TODAY!
Yeah, I know, there's some hippie out there who's got tired of hugging trees and at this moment is starting a support group for the poor misunderstood killer robots. I'm sure of it. But other than them, do we really need to be admonished to avoid encouraging killer robots?
Maybe we do. After all, Google has bought Boston Dynamics
. I find that vaguely disturbing myself...( OvinophiliaCollapse )
I am fully aware that when I'm old I will probably be known as The Sheep Lady and live in a house that's a museum to sheep-related trivia. I am ok with this and will probably milk it for all it's worth. Because after 30 years of spending more time with sheep than most, I think they are awesome. Based in experience.
Still wouldn't claim them as my Power Animal though.
* In my opinion, this is probably because the truth hurts. People are a lot like sheep, at least in their social structure. And that's not that ridiculous either, considering that we share an evolutionary trait of being without the natural defences many other animals have (teeth, claws, fast running), and rely on being in groups for our survival. No shame in that. We could do a lot worse tbh.
** Sheep were worth $1 each and the news was full of footage of farmers shooting their sheep and bulldozing them into holes into the ground because that was cheaper than selling them for meat. If you want to know where all these chains of investment farms came from, it was the people who still had money at the end of the 80s, buying land in mortgagee sales from those who'd gone broke.
*** This is bullshit. Marrying a farmer would make me a farmer's wife. I wanted to be the protagonist in my own story, not the sidekick in someone else's. I don't see why so many people fail to understand this.
|Wednesday, December 18th, 2013|
One of the luxuries of being retired is having time. Time of do shit. Shit that was rarely, if ever done peacefully, efficiently and timely in my working life. And shit that is just frivolous.
- Finished off yesterday's bear
- Reconfigured the nearly dead laptop so that my very very occasionally used EyeFi card will still work on those rare occasions when I use the stand alone camera - reconfiguration necessary to eliminate that annoying error message.
- While in the wires, I also mounted the other external drive, just in case.
- Then I spent some time tidying up those wires.
- Called Roku. Then remembered my Roku is, indeed, the model everyone but me thought it was.
- Pulled out the Medicare Advantage plans, picked one and enrolled.
- Did a poor man's laminate of my Medicare card. Trying very hard not to, I managed to get a Zoey hair under the tape. She'll now be with me forever - Medicare-speaking.
- Made a PICK UP sign and took the soundbar downstairs.
- 'Rebooted' network on TiVo a couple of times to see if upgrade was ready. It wasn't, it wasn't, it WAS - restarting now.
- Started packing list for CES
- Testing portable charger on my phone.
And now I'm going make me some lunch!
|13 Major Clean Energy Breakthroughs Of 2013
While the news about climate change seems to get worse every day, the rapidly improving technology, declining costs, and increasing accessibility of clean energy is the true bright spot in the march toward a zero-carbon future. 2013 had more clean energy milestones than we could fit on one page, but here are thirteen of the key breakthroughs that happened this year.
1. Using salt to keep producing solar power even when the sun goes down. Helped along by the Department of Energy’s loan program, Solana’s massive 280 megawatt (MW) solar plant came online in Arizona this October, with one unique distinction: the plant will use a ‘salt battery’ that will allow it to keep generating electricity even when the sun isn’t shining. Not only is this a first for the United States in terms of thermal energy storage, the Solana plant is also the largest in the world to use to use parabolic trough mirrors to concentrate solar energy.
2. Electric vehicle batteries that can also power buildings.
Nissan’s groundbreaking ‘Vehicle-To-Building‘ technology will enable companies to regulate their electricity needs by tapping into EVs plugged into their garages during times of peak demand. Then, when demand is low, electricity flows back to the vehicles, ensuring they’re charged for the drive home. With Nissan’s system, up to six electric vehicles can be plugged into a building at one time. As more forms renewable energy is added to the grid, storage innovations like this will help them all work together to provide reliable power.
3. The next generation of wind turbines is a gamechanger. May of 2013 brought the arrival of GE’s Brilliant line of wind turbines, which bring two technologies within the turbines to address storage and intermittency concerns. An “industrial internet” communicates with grid operators, to predict wind availability and power needs, and to optimally position the turbine. Grid-scale batteries built into the turbines store power when the wind is blowing but the electricity isn’t needed — then feed it into the grid as demand comes along, smoothing out fluctuations in electricity supply. It’s a more efficient solution to demand peaks than fossil fuel plants, making it attractive even from a purely business aspect. Fifty-nine of the turbines are headed for Michigan, and two more will arrive in Texas.
4. Solar electricity hits grid parity with coal. A single solar photovoltaic (PV) cell cost $76.67 per watt back in 1977, then fell off a cliff. Bloomberg Energy Finance forecast the price would reach $0.74 per watt in 2013 and as of the first quarter of this year, they were actually selling for $0.64 per watt. That cuts down on solar’s installation costs — and since the sunlight is free, lower installation costs mean lower electricity prices. And in 2013, they hit grid parity with coal: in February, a southwestern utility, agreed to purchase electricity from a New Mexico solar project for less than the going rate for a new coal plant. Unsubsidized solar power reached grid parity in countries such as Italy and India. And solar installations have boomed worldwide and here in America, as the lower module costs have driven down installation prices.
5. Advancing renewable energy from ocean waves. With the nation’s first commercial, grid-connected underwater tidal turbine successfully generating renewable energy off the coast of Maine for a year, the Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) has its sights set on big growth. The project has invested more than $21 million into the Maine economy and an environmental assessment in March found no detrimental impact on the marine environment. With help from the Department of Energy, the project is set to deploy two more devices in 2014. In November, ORPC was chosen to manage a wave-energy conversion project in remote Yakutat, Alaska. And a Japanese delegation visited the project this year as the country seeks to produce 30 percent of its total power offshore by 2030.
6. Harnessing ocean waves to produce fresh water.
CREDIT: (AP Photo / Robert F. Bukaty)
This year saw the announcement of Carnegie Wave Energy’s upcoming desalination plant near Perth, Australia. It will use the company’s underwater buoy technology to harness ocean wave force to pressurize the water, cutting out the fossil-fuel-powered electric pumps that usually force water through the membrane in the desalination process. The resulting system — “a world first” — will be carbon-free, and efficient in terms of both energy and cost. Plan details were completed in October, the manufacturing contract was awarded in November, and when it’s done, the plant will supply 55 billion litters of fresh drinking water per year.
7. Ultra-thin solar cells that break efficiency records. Conversion efficiency is the amount of light hitting the solar cell that’s actually changed into electricity, and it’s typically 18.7 percent and 24 percent. But Alta Devices, a Silicon Valley solar manufacturer, set a new record of 30.8 percent conversion efficiency this year. Its method is more expensive, but the result is a durable and extremely thin solar cell that can generate a lot of electricity from a small surface area. That makes Alta’s cells perfect for small and portable electronic devices like smartphones and tablets, and the company is in discussions to apply them to mobile phones, smoke detectors, door alarms, computer watches, remote controls, and more.
8. Batteries that are safer, lighter, and store more power. Abundant and cost-effective storage technology will be crucial for a clean energy economy — no where more so than with electric cars. But right now batteries don’t always hold enough charge to power automobiles for extended periods, and they add significantly to bulk and cost. But at the start of 2013, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory successfully demonstrated a new lithium-ion battery technology that can store far more power in a much smaller size, and that’s safer and less prone to shorts. They used nanotechnology to create an electrolyte that’s solid, ultra-thin, and porous, and they also combined the approach with lithium-sulfur battery technology, which could further enhance cost-effectiveness.
9. New age offshore wind turbines that float. Offshore areas are prime real estate for wind farms, but standard turbines require lots of construction and are limited to waters 60 meters deep or less. But Statoil, the Norwegian-based oil and gas company, began work this year on a hub of floating wind turbines off the coast of Scotland. The turbines merely require a few cables to keep them anchored, and can be placed in water up to 700 meters. That could vastly expand the amount of economically practical offshore wind power. The hub off Scotland will be the largest floating wind farm in the world — and two floating turbines are planned off the coast of Fukushima, Japan, along with the world’s first floating electrical substation.
10. Cutting electricity bills with direct current power.
Alternating current (AC), rather than direct current (DC) is the dominant standard for electricity use. But DC current has its own advantages: its cheap, efficient, works better with solar panels and wind turbines, and doesn’t require adaptors that waste energy as heat. Facebook, JPMorgan, Sprint, Boeing, and Bank of America have all built datacenters that rely on DC power, since DC-powered datacenters are 20 percent more efficient, cost 30 percent less, and require 25 to 40 percent less floorspace. On the residential level, new USB technology will soon be able to deliver 100 watts of power, spreading DC power to ever more low voltage personal electronics, and saving homes inefficiency costs in their electricity bill.
11. Commercial production of clean energy from plant waste is finally here. Ethanol derived from corn, once held up as a climate-friendly alternative to gasoline, is under increasing fire. Many experts believe it drives up food prices, and studies disagree on whether it actually releases any less carbon dioxide when its full life cycle is accounted for. Cellulosic biofuels, promise to get around those hurdles, and 2013 may be when the industry finally turned the corner. INOES Bio’s cellulosic ethanol plant in Florida and KiOR’s cellulosic plant in Mississippi began commercial production this year</a>. Two more cellulosic plants are headed for Iowa, and yet another’s being constructed in Kansas. The industry says 2014′s proposed cellulosic fuel mandate of 17 million gallons will be easily met.
12. Innovative financing bringing clean energy to more people. In DC, the first ever property-assessed clean energy (PACE) project allows investments in efficiency and renewables to be repaid through a special tax levied on the property, which lowers the risk for owners. Crowdfunding for clean energy projects made major strides bringing decentralized renewable energy to more people — particularly the world’s poor — and Solar Mosaic is pioneering crowdfunding to pool community investments in solar in the United States. California figured out how to allow customers who aren’t property owners or who don’t have a suitable roof for solar — that’s 75 percent of the state — to nonetheless purchase up to 100 percent clean energy for their home or business. Minnesota advanced its community solar gardens program, modeled after Colorado’s successful initiative. And Washington, DC voted to bring in virtual net metering, which allows people to buy a portion of a larger solar or wind project, and then have their portion of the electricity sold or credited back to the grid on their behalf, reducing the bill.
13. Wind power is now competitive with fossil fuels. “We’re now seeing power agreements being signed with wind farms at as low as $25 per megawatt-hour,” Stephen Byrd, Morgan Stanley’s Head of North American Equity Research for Power & Utilities and Clean Energy, told the Columbia Energy Symposium in late November. Byrd explained that wind’s ongoing variable costs are negligible, which means an owner can bring down the cost of power purchase agreements by spreading the up-front investment over as many units as possible. As a result, larger wind farms in the Midwest are confronting coal plants in the Powder River Basin with “fairly vicious competition.” And even without the production tax credit, wind can still undercut many natural gas plants. A clear sign of its viability, wind power currently meets 25 percent of Iowa’s energy needs and is projected to reach a whopping 50 percent by 2018.
The post 13 Major Clean Energy Breakthroughs Of 2013 appeared first on ThinkProgress.
|The U.N. Will Try For A New Disaster Risk Reduction Agreement
CREDIT: AP Photo / David Guttenfelder
The U.N. General Assembly is laying the groundwork for a new global agreement to reduce the escalating impact of natural disasters. Last week the U.N. announced that the third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will take place in Sendai, Japan in March 2015. The timing of this is significant because it comes just nine months before the 21st United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, which has been pegged as the date to deliver a new international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the official announcement, over 8,000 people are expected to attend the conference in Sendai, a city along Japan’s northeastern coast that sustained heavy damage during the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster. The last disaster risk reduction conference was held in 2005, and the main item on this Conference’s agenda is a successor agreement to the Hyogo Framework for Action adopted then, which was “the first plan to explain, describe and detail the work that is required from all different sectors and actors to reduce disaster losses.”
“The 3rd World Conference provides us with a rare opportunity to forge universal agreement on how to build disaster resilience across all sectors of society,” U.N. Office For Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) Chief Margareta Wahlström said in a statement. “It is particularly important that we have a strong urban focus as we expect 75 percent of the world’s population to be living in towns and cities by 2050.”
According to the Germanwatch Institute, between 1993 and 2012 more than 530,000 people died as a direct result of almost 15,000 extreme weather events, costing more than $2.5 trillion.
Extreme weather events in the United States in 2011 and 2012 were responsible for over 1,000 deaths and up to $188 billion in economic damages according to a Center For American Progress analysis. Superstorm Sandy alone caused nearly $50 billion in damages.
The National Climate Assessment draft conducted by the U.S. Global Change Research program and released in January 2013 states that “climate change is already affecting the American people:”
“Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense, including heat waves, heavy downpours, and, in some regions, floods and droughts. Sea level is rising, oceans are becoming more acidic, and glaciers and arctic sea ice are melting. These changes are part of the pattern of global climate change, which is primarily driven by human activity. Many impacts associated with these changes are important to Americans’ health and livelihoods and the ecosystems that sustain us.”
While decisions by the UNISDR are not legally binding, they indicate the international interest of governments in managing extreme weather-related disasters, which make big headlines — and devastate communities — year round. Managing disaster risks from floods, tsunamis, heat waves, droughts, and other catastrophes is also a big part of climate adaptation, and could help spur broader agreement on a climate change mitigation agreement.
One example of a way to reduce disaster risk is to install early warming systems to alert communities of heavy storms, tidal waves or flooding dangers. A typhoon early warning system in the Philippines was credited last year with saving lives during Typhoon Bopha.
“This time last year over 1,400 people died on Mindanao in a similar event but this time big improvements in the early warning systems have saved many lives,” UNISDR Head of Regional Office for Asia Jerry Velasquez said at the time of Typhoon Bopha in December of last year. “More than 167,000 people have been evacuated to shelters.”
Super Typhoon Haiyan, which slammed into the Philippines in November, took over 5,000 lives and caused damages of nearly $300 million. With climate change likely exacerbating events like this, reducing risks caused from natural disasters is a major part of any international effort to confront climate change at a humanitarian level.
The post The U.N. Will Try For A New Disaster Risk Reduction Agreement appeared first on ThinkProgress.
|Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Linked To Dolphin Lung Damage And Hormonal Imbalances
Dolphins swim through an oil sheen after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill.
Dolphins living in an area hit hard by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill are suffering from lung damage and hormonal levels that are lower than in any other recorded dolphin population, a new study has found.
The study‘s findings are “consistent with petroleum hydrocarbon exposure and toxicity” and lend further insight to the NOAA-led Natural Resource Damage Assessment, an effort to find and quantify the environmental damage of the 2010 disaster. Researchers captured and ran tests on 29 bottlenose dolphins in Barataria Bay, Louisiana — an area that “received heavy and prolonged oiling” in 2010 as well as substantial dispersant exposure — and compared their findings to dolphins captured from Sarasota Bay, which was not affected by the oil spill.
Dolphins from Barataria Bay were 5 times more likely than Sarasota Bay dolphins to have moderate–severe lung disease, and nearly half of them had low levels of adrenal gland hormones. Nearly half of the dolphins tested were in “guarded” condition — meaning it wasn’t clear whether their health would improve or worsen — or worse, and 17 percent were in “poor or grave” health, meaning they were unlikely to survive.
“I’ve never seen such a high prevalence of very sick animals – and with unusual conditions such as adrenal hormone abnormalities,” Lori Schwacke, the lead author of the study, told the Times-Picayune.
The study’s link between the oil spill and the dolphins’ ill health adds to the Natural Resource Damage Assessment, which includes other studies on the environmental impact of the spill. If the studies find links between the oil spill and environmental damage, BP would be expected to pay for the damage — though for this particular study, BP is maintaining that the research doesn’t prove a link between oil exposure and dolphin health.
The study joins multiple others in linking the 2010 oil spill to serious health effects in dolphins and other marine life. A 2012 study found that a die-off of young dolphins off the Gulf Coast between January 1 and April 30 2011 was linked to oil exposure, which weakened the dolphins and made them unable to survive unusually cold ocean waters that spring. Following the disaster, fishermen in Barataria, Louisiana reported catching hundreds of pounds of eyeless shrimp, along with, according to one fisherperson in 2012, “eyeless crabs, crabs with their shells soft instead of hard, full grown crabs that are one-fifth their normal size, clawless crabs, and crabs with shells that don’t have their usual spikes … they look like they’ve been burned off by chemicals.” One study found Gulf killifish — an environmental indicator species — that were exposed to the sediments from sites affected by the oil had higher rates of developmental abnormalities compared to fish who weren’t, findings that are “predicative of population-level impacts in fish exposed to sediments from oiled locations along the Gulf of Mexico coast.”
And despite BP’s assurances that the company has made “significant progress cleaning the Gulf shoreline,” remnants of the spill continue to be discovered three years later. Cat Island in Barataria Bay, a former nesting ground for pelicans, has “eroded considerably” after the deaths of mangrove forests after the spill. In October, the Coast Guard unearthed a 4,100-pound tar mat off the coast of Louisiana, just four months after a 40,000-pound tar mat was discovered off the coast. And also in October, Tropical Storm Karen stirred up tar balls that washed ashore on a Louisiana barrier island.
The post Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Linked To Dolphin Lung Damage And Hormonal Imbalances appeared first on ThinkProgress.
|Sustaining Current Rate Of Wind Power Can Save 157 Million Tons Of CO2 Per Year, Study Shows
CREDIT: AP Photo/LM Otero
Wind power in the United States quadrupled in the last five years, with four states now possessing enough wind turbines to supply more than 20 percent of their annual electricity needs, according to a study published last week by the non-profit Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center.
Assuming that wind generation has displaced capacity of natural gas and coal-fired power plants, the increase in wind power has helped the United States avoid 85.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution in 2012 alone, along with 79,600 tons of nitrogen oxide emissions and nearly 100,000 tons of sulfur dioxide pollution — the key ingredients of smog.
Replacing power plants with wind energy throughout the country has also saved enough water to supply the annual water needs of more than a million people, the study showed.
“Thanks to wind energy, America uses less water for power plants and produces less climate-altering carbon pollution,” the report, which was compiled through analysis of data on current and projected future annual wind generation from the federal Energy Information Administration, said. “To protect the environment, federal and state governments should continue and expand policies that support wind energy.”
Fossil fuel plants generally use large amounts of water for cooling their systems, the study said, which can come at a cost. While taking in water for cooling, plants can accidentally suck fish and other aquatic life into their intakes. After the water is used for cooling, it is generally discharged, but at a temperature that can be up to 17 degrees hotter than it was when it was withdrawn. The study estimated that half of all power plant cooling systems discharge water at temperatures that can harm aquatic life.
Additionally, the study found, fossil fuel plants with so-called “recirculating cooling systems” do withdraw less water from waterways and aquifers, but wind up losing more of that water to evaporation, which potentially exacerbates the local water supply.
If the United States were to install wind energy between now and 2018 at the same pace that it has in the last five years, enough water would be saved to supply annual domestic water needs to 2.1 million people annually by 2018, the study showed. More than 121,000 tons of nitrogen oxide emissions and and 195,000 tons of sulfur dioxide could be saved every year, along with approximately 157 million metric tons of carbon pollution annually.
The study can be found in full here.
The post Sustaining Current Rate Of Wind Power Can Save 157 Million Tons Of CO2 Per Year, Study Shows appeared first on ThinkProgress.
I slept so well last night that I blew right through my alarm. I woke up at 6:15 but still managed to be at the pool's edge ready to go in when it opened at 6:30. If it weren't for inhalers and pills, I probably would have been there too early! The swim was very good. Lately, the pool has not been at all crowded. I've had times when my whole hour was in a lane by myself.
The only thing on my agenda today is to take the Sound Bar to UPS but, now that I think about that, I can just leave it for the UPS guy down in the package bin (in the garage)... I think I'll do that. Worst case, he won't pick it up and I'll have to run it over to Office Depot. No biggie.
Zoey is really into knocking shit off of shit. She used to leave stuff alone mostly but no more. This morning I found my blood pressure pills all over the bathroom floor and it was clear at least one had landed in her water bowl... maybe that will chill her down a bit if she drank any of that water (which she probably didn't).
My tennis elbow is becoming really annoying. I iced it down last night and that made it feel instantly better so I guess I'll be doing more of that. I've pretty much stopped using my right arm (the one with the bad elbow) for turns in my swimming. But, I think knitting is also not doing it any favors and I have not yet noodled out how to knit with one hand.
Oh and I think I'll tackle the Roku issue today. I think the Roku service thinks I have a model 2 when I actually have a model 3. This is not huge except there are some Roku channels that do not work on 2 but do work on 3 but won't work on mine since it thinks it's a 2. I sent an email with my serial number asking why the channels wouldn't work on my Roku 3 and the response was 'that channel is not available on your Roku 2.' Soooo. Today we go to plan B which is either phone call or chat. I think we're starting with chat.
But, first, I need to get up, get dressed (I just toss a robe over my swimsuit to go to the early morning swim and toss that robe over myself to get home), and maybe get another cup of coffee.
|Tor User Identified by FBI
Eldo Kim sent an e-mail bomb threat to Harvard so he could skip a final exam. (It's just a coincidence that I was on the Harvard campus that day.) Even though he used an anonymous account and Tor, the FBI identified him. Reading the criminal complaint, it seems that the FBI got itself a list of Harvard users that accessed the Tor network, and went through them one by one to find the one who sent the threat.
This is one of the problems of using a rare security tool. The very thing that gives you plausible deniability also makes you the most likely suspect. The FBI didn't have to break Tor; they just used conventional police mechanisms to get Kim to confess.
Tor didn't break; Kim did.
|"Dark Leader" on its way!
You've been very patient, for which we thank you. Here at last is your reward: "Dark Leader," by Elizabeth Bear, Will Shetterly, and Emma Bull, goes live on Friday night at www.shadowunit.org! Current Mood: excited