Tag Archives: Energy

Top fossil fuel producers caused half of global warming, third of sea level rise

I’ll just put this item from UCS here for your interest:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Study Finds Top Fossil Fuel Producers’ Emissions Responsible for as Much as Half of Global Surface Temperature Increase, Roughly 30 Percent of Global Sea Level Rise

Findings Provide New Data to Hold Companies Responsible for Climate Change

WASHINGTON (September 7, 2017)—A first-of-its-kind study published today in the scientific journal Climatic Change links global climate changes to the product-related emissions of specific fossil fuel producers, including ExxonMobil and Chevron. Focusing on the largest gas, oil and coal producers and cement manufacturers, the study calculated the amount of sea level rise and global temperature increase resulting from the carbon dioxide and methane emissions from their products as well as their extraction and production processes.

The study quantified climate change impacts of each company’s carbon and methane emissions during two time periods: 1880 to 2010 and 1980 to 2010. By 1980, investor-owned fossil fuel companies were aware of the threat posed by their products and could have taken steps to reduce their risks and share them with their shareholders and the general public.

“We’ve known for a long time that fossil fuels are the largest contributor to climate change,” said Brenda Ekwurzel, lead author and director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). “What’s new here is that we’ve verified just how much specific companies’ products have caused the Earth to warm and the seas to rise.”

The study builds on a landmark 2014 study by Richard Heede of the Climate Accountability Institute, one of the co-authors of the study published today. Heede’s study, which also was published in Climatic Change, determined the amount of carbon dioxide and methane emissions that resulted from the burning of products sold by the 90 largest investor- and state-owned fossil fuel companies and cement manufacturers.

Ekwurzel and her co-authors inputted Heede’s 2014 data into a simple, well-established climate model that captures how the concentration of carbon emissions increases in the atmosphere, trapping heat and driving up global surface temperature and sea level. The model allowed Ekwurzel et al. to ascertain what happens when natural and human contributions to climate change, including those linked to the companies’ products, are included or excluded.

The study found that:

<li>Emissions traced to the 90 largest carbon producers contributed approximately 57 percent?of the observed rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide, nearly 50 percent of the rise in global average temperature, and around 30 percent of global sea level rise since 1880.</li>


<li>Emissions linked to 50 investor-owned carbon producers, including BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Peabody, Shell and Total, were responsible for roughly 16 percent of the global average temperature increase from 1880 to 2010, and around 11 percent of the global sea level rise during the same time frame.</li>


<li>Emissions tied to the same 50 companies from 1980 to 2010, a time when fossil fuel companies were aware their products were causing global warming, contributed approximately 10 percent of the global average temperature increase and about 4 percent sea level rise since 1880.</li>


<li>Emissions traced to 31 majority state-owned companies, including Coal India, Gazprom, Kuwait Petroleum, Pemex, Petroleos de Venezuela, National Iranian Oil Company and Saudi Aramco, were responsible for about 15 percent of the global temperature increase and approximately 7 percent of the sea level rise between 1880 and 2010.</li>

“Until a decade or two ago, no corporation could be held accountable for the consequences of their products’ emissions because we simply didn’t know enough about what their impacts were,” said Myles Allen, a study co-author and professor of geosystem science at the University of Oxford in England. “This study provides a framework for linking fossil fuel companies’ product-related emissions to a range of impacts, including increases in ocean acidification and deaths caused by heat waves, wildfires and other extreme weather-related events. We hope that the results of this study will inform policy and civil society debates over how best to hold major carbon producers accountable for their contributions to the problem.”

The question of who is responsible for climate change and who should pay for its related costs has taken on growing urgency as climate impacts worsen and become costlier. In New York City alone, officials estimate that it will cost more than $19 billion to adapt to climate change. Globally, adaptation cost projections are equally astronomical. The U.N. Environment Programme estimates that developing countries will need $140 billion to $300 billion annually by 2030 and $280 billion to $500 billion annually by 2050 to adapt.

The debate over responsibility for climate mitigation and adaptation has long focused on the “common but differentiated responsibilities” of nations, a framework used for the Paris climate negotiations. Attention has increasingly turned to non-state actors, particularly the major fossil fuel producers.

“At the start of the Industrial Revolution, very few people understood that carbon dioxide emissions progressively undermine the stability of the climate as they accumulate in the atmosphere, so there was nothing blameworthy about selling fossil fuels to those who wanted to buy them,” said Henry Shue, professor of politics and international relations at the University of Oxford and author of a commentary on the ethical implications of the Ekwurzel et al. paper that was published simultaneously in Climatic Change. “But circumstances have changed radically in light of evidence that a number of investor-owned companies have long understood the harm of their products, yet carried out a decades-long campaign to sow doubts about those harms in order to ensure fossil fuels would remain central to global energy production. Companies knowingly violated the most basic moral principle of ‘do no harm,’ and now they must remedy the harm they caused by paying damages and their proportion of adaptation costs.”

Had ExxonMobil, for example, acted on its own scientists’ research about the risks of its products, climate change likely would be far more manageable today.

“Fossil fuel companies could have taken any number of steps, such as investing in clean energy or carbon capture and storage, but many chose instead to spend millions of dollars to try to deceive the public about climate science to block sensible limits on carbon emissions,” said Peter Frumhoff, a study co-author and director of science and policy at UCS. “Taxpayers, especially those living in vulnerable coastal communities, should not have to bear the high costs of these companies’ irresponsible decisions by themselves.”

Ekwurzel et al.’s study may inform approaches for juries and judges to calculate damages in such lawsuits as ones filed by two California counties and the city of Imperial Beach in July against 37 oil, gas and coal companies, claiming they should pay for damages from sea level rise. Likewise, the study should bolster investor campaigns to force fossil fuel companies to disclose their legal vulnerabilities and the risks that climate change poses to their finances and material assets.

Trump, Perry, Energy, Climate, #Sad

Two items I know you’ll want to check out.

The ‘intellectual’ debate Rick Perry says he wants is already over

Last week, Energy Secretary Rick Perry told CNBC he considers his skepticism towards climate data to be a sign of a “wise, intellectually engaged person.” Yesterday, at a press briefing at the White House – it’s apparently supposed to be “Energy Week” – Perry used similar phrasing, calling for “an intellectual conversation” on global warming.

Four myths journalists should watch out for during Trump’s “Energy Week”

The White House has declared this to be “Energy Week” and is pushing a theme of “energy dominance,” with a particular emphasis on exports of natural gas. Three of President Trump’s cabinet members are out in force this week trying to spread misleading or false messages about energy and exports through the media.

“An energy-dominant America will export to markets around the world, increasing our global leadership and influence,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt wrote in a joint op-ed published Monday in The Washington Times.

Watch out for these myths:

Myth #1: Natural gas exports are good for ordinary Americans and the overall U.S. economy

Myth #2: Natural gas exports are good for the climate

Myth #3: Natural gas exports have been blocked until now

Myth #4: The U.S. can achieve “energy dominance”

The item at MMFA has the details.

Why fossil fuel corporations killed us

Sometimes, when I look at the things the Republicans and their leader, Donald Trump, are doing, I think of that poignant line in so many actual and fictional moments: “You have killed me.”

Someone says that because the killing is done, but they are not yet dead. The knife is driven deep, the car is heading for the cliff, the contract killer is closing in. Then the person dies, but not before they get to say, “You killed me.”

Today, I look at Donald Trump, the Koch Brothers, Rex Tillerson, the petroleum industry, the Heartland institute. They didn’t kill me, but they have killed my daughter, and they have killed my son.

And I wonder, why the hell did they do that?

Wondering leads to thoughts, and thoughts lead to blog commentary, so this:

ExxonMobil, to take one example, made a very significant mistake and essentially killed themselves as a corporation. They did this by choosing to not shift their corporate activities to follow, if not actually lead, in the energy transition that is absolutely required if our global civilization is expected to survive into the future, decades hence. ExxonMobil and the other petroleum corporations can not exist 100 years from now, though they could have made decisions over recent decades to ensure that they do.

I’m reminded of my deceased mentor’s comments (before he ceased) on patrilines. Irv Devore, when discussing patriliniality and kinship systems, would note that patrilines and corporations, unlike people, are expected to exist for all eternity, or at least, up until the day they stop existing. Once you grasp that idea, it is possible to understand why either does what they do. An elder man in a patrilineal kinship-based society will go to great lengths to preserve the patriline. The very strong often heinous preference for male over female children is part of this. Since only sons carry on the patriline, too many daughters are a threat. Infanticide of daughters is therefore significantly more common than infanticide of sons. And so on.

(Hell. My writing is interrupted by an Amber Alert. An ex-boyfriend stabbed the mother of his son, took off with the son. A male associate assisted. Long life the patriarchy. Fuck the patriarchy.

https://twitter.com/MnDPS_BCA/status/846712545322905600

But I ever so slightly digress…)

This should mean that decisions by corporations are made with very long term consequences in mind. When ExxonMobil and the other Big Oil corporations realized, in the 1980s, that continued use of fossil fuel would eventually a) be curtailed by regulation and/or b) cause the end of civilization and thus corporations, they should have started on plans to change what they do. A big energy company could have developed non-fossil fuel burnable materials, they could have muscled their way into the electricity industry, figuring that electric motors, already the preferred means of running a lot of machines that could have been run with IC engines, were part of the future. They could have done a lot of things to usher in a new age of reduced fossil fuel use and expanded use of other energy sources.

But no. They didn’t. Instead, they’ve killed us.

They, the big energy companies, the corporate sycophant-parasites known as Republicans, and their allies and puppets like the Heartland Institute and others chose to kill us all rather than do the right thing.

So why would someone like Rex Tillerson, when he was CEO of a major oil company, make decisions like this?

A lot of you will say: they do it for the short term profits, for the quarterly earnings report, because the corporation is beholden to the stockholder, etc. etc.

I do not disagree with any of that, all of that is true. But, there is another element that I think needs to be considered.

Even though all those reasons are true, there is something else that should be going on, and that in fact HAPPENS ALL THE TIME in other corporations. Not all corporations fail to consider the long term. Leaders of many corporations make decisions that positively affect the long term. They recognize that short term reduction in earnings can have long term positive effects on earnings. They choose sensible investment in the future, in all the future quarterly earnings.

But in some industries, I suggest, this is much less likely because of the interplay between risk and compensation.

If you run a company that makes shirts, nothing is going to happen in your corporation that causes the entire world to suddenly focus on you as the person in charge of a deadly disaster. Well, OK, in the past that did happen for shirt companies now and then, but not any longer. But if you run a company with offshore rigs, chemical factories, refineries, giant ships full of oil, a fleet of passenger carriers, and so on, then there is a risk of a sudden and singular disaster that will attract everyone’s attention, cost hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, and that may become truly notorious. Bhopal, Exxon Valdez, Deep Water Horizon. Unforgettable disasters.

(I think we actually do forget about some of the disasters, if they are in a category with frequent events over decadal times scales. So, even if you don’t remember Tenerife, you know that plane crashes are bad.)

If you are a Rex Tillerson in charge of an ExxonMobil, or the CEO of any of these high risk corporations, there is a distinct possibility that you will wake up one morning to the news that a chemical leak in one of your factories just killed thousands of townspeople, with thousands more to have permanent debilitating injuries. You might be informed, just before picking up your bonus check, that one of your ships ran ashore and dumped 41 thousand cubic meters of crude oil on a formerly pristine natural coastline. You might get the news just before going to bet that one of your off shore rigs has exploded and is burning, eleven dead, three months of oil blowing into the sea, the worst environmental disaster ever, and on your watch. Or perhaps you’ll learn that one of your aircraft just colided with another at an obscure airport in the Canary Islands, and nearly 600 died in the fiery crash.

Most of us would be able to live for years off of a single year’s salary of any of the top CEOs in the oil industry. And, by years, I mean hundreds of years. But from the CEO’s point of view, the relevant balance is between getting a huge salary and bonus this year, allowing one to never have to work a day again, to cover high end living expenses for the whole family and their offspring, vs. the long term health of a corporation that might fire you at any day if something really terrible goes wrong.

Why would a corporate executive choose to stop earning an income forever? Well, if your company kills a few thousand people or destroys a major habitat under your watch, you might not be working for a while.*

The bottom line: In an industry that can spit out major career ending disasters, the foresight of corporate leaders becomes myopic, and long term prospects become invisible, much more easily than in most corporations. This strongly biases the already myopic focus on short term earnings reports. The result: corporate, or any, sustainability goes out the window.

It is ironic that the biggest petroleum related disaster ever was the sinking of a rig named Deepwater Horizon. There is nothing deep about the time horizon considered by Big Oil. Yes, that is because of the quarterly report fetish, but the mitigation of short term thinking is obviated by the grotesquely imbalanced comparison of likely disaster vs. outlandish salary and bonuses.

FYI: The top paid oil company execs get between 15 and 150 a year in salary, and between 4 and 10 extra in bonuses.

Million.


*Note: People in charge of major corporations when there is a major disaster don’t necessarily lose their jobs or become unhirable. But it does affect them. Lawrence Rawl was in charge of Exxon when the Exxon Valdez crashed into Alaska, and he was criticized for badly handling the response. He kept his job for four more years and retired, and I don’t know if he got very many more bonuses. But, he is officially “known for the Exxon Valdez spill.” That is his legacy. Warren Anderson was in charge of Union Carbide when Bhopal happened. He was charged with manslaughter. He remains a fugitive. Other higher ups in the Indian part of that company were tried and convicted of various charges. Tony Hayward, CEO of BE at the time of Deepwater Horizon, was not fired but then was replaced, and that disaster and his handling of it has left him a very controversial figure. He is dogged by protestors and companies and institutions that have anything to do with him find themselves shunned. So, no, this is not a simple formula: I will be fired if there is a disaster. But there are consequences, and I suspect, a perception of fear of consequences is very real.

Examples of “You killed me”:

What we need to do to stop global warming

Obviously, we need to stop the human enhanced extra greenhouse effect. There are a number of ways to approach this. Let me say right away that taking CO2, the main greenhouse gas of concern long term, out of the atmosphere is NOT one of the ways. Here’s why: It takes energy to put Carbon into solid or liquid form. You get energy back when you move the Carbon into a gas form (as CO2). That is something of an oversimplification but long term, large scale, it is correct. Since, for the most part, the greenhouse effect is caused by the the generation of energy for use, which causes the movement of solid or liquid Carbon compounds in fossil sources to gas Carbon compounds (CO2), it is not possible to solve this problem by adding energy demand to the system to put that Carbon back. Again, I oversimplify, but that is the big picture.

One approach may be to increasingly use “clean energy” such as nuclear, solar, wind, and so on, while we otherwise allow the fossil fuel industry to do whatever it needs to produce our energy, either in support of electricity generation or as stuff we burn directly in vehicles or buildings. That, however, is also NOT a viable approach.

There has been a sense among experts for quite some time now that there is only one way to address climate change: Keep the Carbon in the ground. We need to do everything we can, as quickly as we can, to keep the Carbon currently in solid or liquid form, or as gas trapped in the ground, in place.

So, the very first thing you need to do that is to NOT build more pipelines NOT drill more wells, NOT start up new coal mines.


Check out: The IKONOKAST Science Podcast. Excellent interviews with top scientists.

___________________

At the same time the other first thing you need to do is to STOP building any sort of new electricity generating plant that uses fossil fuels. No more coal plants, no more methane plants.

At the same time the other other first thing you need to do is to NOT build any more infrastructure that processes fossil fuel into usable products. No more refineries, etc.

And now, there is a current report that backs up this sense, and tells us how important it is to NOT do these things.

The rpeport is by “OilChange” but produced in cooperation with 350.org, Amazon Watch, APMDD, AYCC, Bold Alliance, Christian Aid, Earthworks, Équiterre, Global Catholic Climate Movement, HOMEF, Indigenous Environmental Network, IndyAct, Rainforest Action Network, and Stand.earth. Here are the bullet points (summarized here):

Key Findings:

  • The potential carbon emissions from the oil, gas, and coal in the world’s currently operating fields and mines would take us beyond 2°C of warming.
  • <li>The reserves in currently operating oil and gas fields alone, even with no coal, would take the world beyond 1.5°C.</li>
    
    <li>With the necessary decline in production over the coming decades to meet climate goals, clean energy can be scaled up at a corresponding pace, expanding the total number of energy jobs.</li>
    

    Key Recommendations:

    <li>No new fossil fuel extraction or transportation infrastructure should be built, and governments should grant no new permits for them.
    
  • Some fields and mines – primarily in rich countries – should be closed before fully exploiting their resources, and financial support should be provided for non-carbon development in poorer countries.
  • This does not mean stopping using all fossil fuels overnight. Governments and companies should conduct a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry and ensure a just transition for the workers and communities that depend on it.
  • I am being told by experts that I trust that these findings are probably substantially correct. These are experts who have made similar studies and are now reviewing this important report. If they produce any posts or articles about this, I’ll insert them here.

    <li>Ashley Braun  at DESMOGBLOG writes: <a href="http://www.desmogblog.com/2016/09/21/nations-embrace-paris-agreement-world-s-existing-fossil-fuels-set-exceed-its-goals">As Nations Embrace Paris Agreement, World’s Existing Fossil Fuels Set to Exceed its Goals</a>
    

    Meanwhile, you can download the report here, and read it for yourself. Pick it apart, tell us what you think.

    What do important people think about climate change

    By important, I mean people who have their hands on the levers of power, more or less, in areas that affect energy policy.

    I don’t really care if Uncle Bob doesn’t accept climate change. Uncle Bob votes for right wing yahoos anyway, that wasn’t going to change. Why should it matter what Uncle Bob thinks?

    Unless Uncle Bob is a top policy actor involve din climate and energy issues at the federal level or in Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, or Ohio. Right?

    The Climate Constituencies Project looked at these folks (Uncle Bob’s colleagues as described) to see where they stand on climate change.

    … there is an overwhelming level of consensus around the science of climate change among policy actors at the Federal level and in these four swing states. In fact, even with all of this talk of climate denial, opinions have gotten even stronger and the numbers have gone up since summer 2010 when we conducted a previous round of this research. Across the four swing states and the federal level, there are no statistically significant differences in opinions on these questions.

    It turns out there is real debate in the area of climate change and energy, but it is about what to do, not that something needs to be done.

    When asked about potential policy instruments to address climate change and energy options, however, there was much less agreement. Opinions around a potential cap-and-trade bill were statistically significantly different across the swing states and the federal levels, with policy actors in Florida and at the federal level having much lower opinions than the other states.

    You can read more about it here.

    Coal Use by US Educational Institutions Down 64% since 2008

    A lot of higher education institutions are old, and back in the day, things were different. Not only were most schools simultaneously on top of and on the bottom of great snow covered hills, but they were often surrounded by nearly medieval settlement, or at least, pre-industrial ones, that lacked things like central heat, electricity, and so on, even after these things became common and normal.

    I remember the legacy of this reality at my Alma Mater, a small university in Cambridge, Mass. Most of the campus had its own heating system, which was built at a time when centrally distributed electricity and such were certainly in place but just as certainly not universal. There, a power plant, which I am going to guess formerly burned coal but later natural gas and oil, made electricity for the general grid, but in so doing also produced steam. The steam was then shipped (mostly) across the river and quite a ways down the road to the campus, where it was distributed to many buildings to provide heat. At several points were grates that gave access to the steam heating system, creating open air warmer micro environment, on which homeless folks would sleep. It was a big deal when the University administration decided to put spiky metal barriers over the vents to keep the homeless people from having a chance to survive a cold winter. There was an outcry. The vents were uncovered in a matter of days.

    But I digress.

    Today’s news, which comes to us from the Department of Energy, is that educational institutions are using way less coal than they used to. And that makes sense only in the context of the above described sort of thing; educational institutions, as large and demanding places where people both lived in work, with many buildings and a lot of contiguous spaces, were among those places that historically developed their own electricity generation systems, as well as heating systems. Some of those electricity generating systems also fed out to the local grid, so the odd situation developed where among a region’s power plants would be one or more owned and operated by a university or college, or an agent thereof. And, a certain number of these burned coal.

    But now

    Coal consumption by educational institutions such as colleges and universities in the United States fell from 2 million short tons in 2008 to 700,000 short tons in 2015. Consumption declined in each of the 57 institutions that used coal in 2008, with 20 of these institutions no longer using coal at all. Many of these institutions participate in the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, a program aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Coal consumption has decreased as institutions switch from coal to natural gas or other fuels.

    This coal consumption is less than a tenth of one percent of the total US coal consumption, so this may be little more than symbolic to some. But it isn’t. This is fossil fuel not being burned, and it means a lot.

    The graph at the top of the post shows the trend.

    This is not all good news. It is nice to reduce coal use, but a lot, most, of this coal has been replace with natural gas. However, in some cases, geothermal was used, and some renewable sources of energy have been deployed.

    More here.

    A New North American Clean Energy Plan

    Barack Obama, Justin Trudeau and Enrique Peña Nieto, have made a joint announcement. As reported by NPR:

    President Obama and his counterparts from Canada and Mexico are preparing to unveil an ambitious new goal for generating carbon-free power when they meet this week in Ottawa.

    The three leaders are expected to set a target for North America to get 50 percent of its electricity from nonpolluting sources by 2025. That’s up from about 37 percent last year.

    Aides acknowledge that’s a “stretch goal,” requiring commitments over and above what the three countries agreed to as part of the Paris climate agreement.

    The news reports and press information about this event note that the US currently produces about a third of its energy from non fossil fuel sources. Mexico produces less than 20% of its power this way, and Canada is at about 81%. A big part of this shift will involve shutting down coal plants and expanding wind and solar. However, this mix, as well as the proposed 50% of “clean energy,” may include biofuels, which are very limited in their effectiveness in combating climate change, Nuclear, which is diminishing in its importance, and possibly “carbon capture” which is not an energy source and not likely to have much impact because it essentially doesn’t work at any meaningful scale because of physics.

    So, we will need to see some clarification in this area.

    Energy Irony: Trans Canada Wants 15 Billion From Obama

    Governments, and the people, should be filing law suits against the energy industry for causing the imminent collapse of civilization as we know it. But instead, the opposite is happening.

    From Reuters:

    TransCanada formally seeks NAFTA damages in Keystone XL rejection

    TransCanada Corp is formally requesting arbitration over U.S. President Barack Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, seeking $15 billion in damages, the company said in legal papers dated Friday.

    The Keystone XL was designed to link existing pipeline networks in Canada and the United States to bring crude from Alberta and North Dakota to refineries in Illinois and, eventually, the Gulf of Mexico coast.

    Obama rejected the cross-border crude oil pipeline last November, seven years after it was first proposed, saying it would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to the U.S. economy.

    TransCanada is suing the United States in federal court in a separate legal action, seeking to reverse the pipeline’s rejection.

    About 750,000 homes could be fitted with some really sweet solar arrays for that money. Let’s do that instead!

    Diablo Canyon nuclear plant will shut down

    This is bad news and good news, but mostly good news. No matter what you think of nuclear energy (and I’m one of those people who give it a stern look and remain suspicious), it does tend to produce electricity with the addition of much less fossil carbon into the atmosphere than, say, burning coal. So, we probably don’t want to see a wholesale reduction in the use of nuclear energy too quickly, and we may even want to see some new plants built.

    The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is the only working nuke plant in California, and it is famously located in an earthquake-rich locality. The plant was upgraded to withstand a 7.5 earthquake, but earthquakes occasionally happen that are stronger than that. There has only been one earthquake of that magnitude in Southern California since good records have been kept, and that was in 1952. But still….

    Diablo Canyon is historically important because the whole idea of building a major nuclear plant in an earthquake zone catalyzed the anti-nuclear movement, and that reaction probably helped to avoid further such construction, and helped nudge the plant operators to upgrade the earthquake readiness of this plant from handling a 6.75 magnitude quake to a 7.5 magnitude quake. There have been six quakes in that range of magnitude in the region in the historic record.

    A quick word about earthquakes. Really large earthquakes are actually pretty uncommon in Southern California; other areas, such as the Pacific Northwest have very few quakes but when they happen they can be huge, easily enough to Fuki up a plant like Diablo Canyon. See Earthquake Time Bombs by Robert Yeats for more on that. Nonetheless, being built to withstand a 7.5 earthquake doesn’t necessarily mean that a smaller quake won’t cause problems, or weaken structures that are then more vulnerable to subsequent strong quakes.

    Anyway, the following is from a press release from Friends of the Earth, describing how the plan is to replace the energy coming from Diablo Canyon with non fossil carbon fuels. And that, of course, is the extra good news.

    BERKELEY, CALIF. – An historic agreement has been reached between Pacific Gas and Electric, Friends of the Earth, and other environmental and labor organizations to replace the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors with greenhouse-gas-free renewable energy, efficiency and energy storage resources. Friends of the Earth says the agreement provides a clear blueprint for fighting climate change by replacing nuclear and fossil fuel energy with safe, clean, cost-competitive renewable energy.

    The agreement, announced today in California, says that PG&E will renounce plans to seek renewed operating licenses for Diablo Canyon’s two reactors — the operating licenses for which expire in 2024 and 2025 respectively. In the intervening years, the parties will seek Public Utility Commission approval of the plan which will replace power from the plant with renewable energy, efficiency and energy storage resources. Base load power resources like Diablo Canyon are becoming increasingly burdensome as renewable energy resources ramp up. Flexible generation options and demand-response are the energy systems of the future.

    By setting a certain end date for the reactors, the nuclear phase out plan provides for an orderly transition. In the agreement, PG&E commits to renewable energy providing 55 percent of its total retail power sales by 2031, voluntarily exceeding the California standard of 50 percent renewables by 2030.

    “This is an historic agreement,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. “It sets a date for the certain end of nuclear power in California and assures replacement with clean, safe, cost-competitive, renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage. It lays out an effective roadmap for a nuclear phase-out in the world’s sixth largest economy, while assuring a green energy replacement plan to make California a global leader in fighting climate change.”

    A robust technical and economic report commissioned by Friends of the Earth served as a critical underpinning for the negotiations. The report, known as “Plan B,” provided a detailed analysis of how power from the Diablo Canyon reactors could be replaced with renewable, efficiency and energy storage resources which would be both less expensive and greenhouse gas free. With the report in hand, Friends of the Earth’s Damon Moglen and Dave Freeman engaged in discussions with the utility about the phase-out plan for Diablo Canyon. NRDC was quickly invited to join. Subsequently, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, Coalition of California Utility Employees, Environment California and Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility partnered in reaching the final agreement. The detailed phase out proposal will now go to the California Public Utility Commission for consideration. Friends of the Earth (and other NGO parties to the agreement) reserve the right to continue to monitor Diablo Canyon and, should there be safety concerns, challenge continued operation.

    The agreement also contains provisions for the Diablo Canyon workforce and the community of San Luis Obispo. “We are pleased that the parties considered the impact of this agreement on the plant employees and the nearby community,” said Pica. “The agreement provides funding necessary to ease the transition to a clean energy economy.”

    Diablo Canyon is the nuclear plant that catalyzed the formation of Friends of the Earth in 1969. When David Brower founded Friends of the Earth the Diablo Canyon was the first issue on the organization’s agenda and Friends of the Earth has been fighting the plant ever since. This agreement is not only a milestone for renewable energy, but for Friends of the Earth as an organization.

    Harvesting clean energy in cities

    There is a new technology that can convert both solar and wind energy into electricity in such a way that it is suitable for use on urban rooftops.

    Here’s the abstract from the paper describing this work:

    To realize the sustainable energy supply in a smart city, it is essential to maximize energy scavenging from the city environments for achieving the self-powered functions of some intelligent devices and sensors. Although the solar energy can be well harvested by using existing technologies, the large amounts of wasted wind energy in the city cannot be effectively utilized since conventional wind turbine generators can only be installed in remote areas due to their large volumes and safety issues. Here, we rationally design a hybridized nanogenerator, including a solar cell (SC) and a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG), that can individually/simultaneously scavenge solar and wind energies, which can be extensively installed on the roofs of the city buildings. Under the same device area of about 120 mm × 22 mm, the SC can deliver a largest output power of about 8 mW, while the output power of the TENG can be up to 26 mW. Impedance matching between the SC and TENG has been achieved by using a transformer to decrease the impedance of the TENG. The hybridized nanogenerator has a larger output current and a better charging performance than that of the individual SC or TENG. This research presents a feasible approach to maximize solar and wind energies scavenging from the city environments with the aim to realize some self-powered functions in smart city.

    The paper is “Efficient Scavenging of Solar and Wind Energies in a Smart City” by Wang, Wang, Wang and Yang. You can see the abstract and download a PDF file here.