Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

Global warming ‘irreversible’ for next 1000 years.

As reported by AFP, NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) scientists have released a study saying that current levels of global warming will cause irreversible damage, no matter what is done in the future to decrease CO2 and other related emissions.  I will add a link to the primary scientific article when the link is published.

“NOAA senior scientist Susan Solomon said the study, published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, showed that current human choices on carbon dioxide emissions are set to “irreversibly change the planet.” Researchers examined the consequences of CO2 building up beyond present-day concentrations of 385 parts per million, and then completely stopping emissions after the peak. Before the industrial age CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere amounted to only 280 parts per million. The study found that CO2 levels are irreversibly impacting climate change, which will contribute to global sea level rise and rainfall changes in certain regions. The authors emphasized that increases in CO2 that occur from 2000 to 2100 are set to “lock in” a sea level rise over the next 1,000 years.”

This is certainly well past a wake-up call, if anybody still needed one. Here’s where the relentless optimist meets the original cynic: I refuse to accept that it is worthless to make the biggest changes possible to head off increased global warming. Am I denying science? No, I’m just clinging to hope.

Original text copyright © 2009 James K. Bashkin

See futher discussion of this post here at

As reported by Ken Thomas of the Associated Press (AP), the Chevrolet Equinox has been delivered to people participating in a trial program that involves free loans of the innovative vehicles to a small group of consumers. In addition to General Motors, Honda and BMW are supplying hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars for initial trials in real-life driving conditions. The AP report is summarized here, with additional information provided (links to sources are given).

The Chevy Equinox carries up to 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds) of hydrogen gas in pressurized tanks. In the fuel cell, hydrogen reacts with oxygen to generate electricity and the byproduct, water. Although explosive under some conditions, hydrogen is considered safe in these cars because a leak in the system would simply cause the hydrogen to become diluted by air, reaching concentrations that aren’t flammable. Equinox driver Tom Albert has covered 2300 miles in two months, and is enthusiastic about the car, citing only the lack of filling stations and the 200 mile range as real limitations (there are only two filling stations in the Washington, D.C. area where he lives).

Reportedly, the performance of the Equinox is equivalent to approximately 43 miles per gallon with conventional gasoline. The cars themselves are considered to be zero emission vehicles, though the source of hydrogen affects the ultimate environmental impact of this technology. Currently, most hydrogen comes from fossil fuels in a process that does generate CO2. However, the goal is to generate hydrogen from renewable sources. One approach to sustainable hydrogen was recently described here and republished here with additional discussion. In addition, as reported by Thomas, extracting hydrogen from natural gas results in about half the CO2 production associated with equivalent gasoline use by a vehicle. This information comes from Patrick Serfass, director of technology for the National Hydrogen Association.

There is a Federal Government target of producing hydrogen at a cost equivalent to $1.50/gallon of gasoline by 2010; current costs are estimated to be $3.00/gallon.

The Chevy Equinox is joined by the Honda FCX Clarity, which is being leased for $600/month to about 200 people in California. There were 50,000 web-based requests for leases, but the program was limited in part by the location of filling stations. Of the 61 hydrogen fueling stations in the U.S., about half are in California. A press release from Air Products, a major supplier of hydrogen, provides more information about present and future health of hydrogen as fuel.

The FCX Clarity travels about 270 miles on one tank of hydrogen, and Jon Spallino is one happy driver:

You’re not sacrificing anything, and actually for me it’s an enhanced driving experience… I think that’s a misconception people have, that you’re puttering around in an underpowered cramped little soapbox

BMW’s Hydrogen 7 runs on gasoline or hydrogen, with separate tanks to take you about 130 miles on hydrogen and 300 miles on gas.

So far, the production of fuel cell cars requires custom manufacturing, so the real costs per car are very high and undisclosed, but things are certainly being driven in the right direction.

Original text Copyright © 2008, James K. Bashkin

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Yahoo Autos and Road & Track Magazine have provided “spy” photographs (by Brenda Priddy & Company) and a very preliminary description of the new Honda Hybrid, a 2010 model destined to reach dealers in late 2009. While details of the gasoline engine side of the car have not yet been disclosed, the electric side is reportedly based on a nickel/metal-hydride battery design rather than a lithium-ion battery. Gas mileage is thought by Road & Track to be “class leading” and well above 40 mpg. Author Sam Mitani says:

The price of this new car will be low, as Honda maintains it will be an entry-level car with 200,000 units selling annually — half of those to be sold in the United States. Early rumors indicate that it may be as low as $19,000. With seating for five, this 4-door, front-wheel-drive hatchback…

Although exactly where this car will fit into the Honda line is unknown to outsiders, the new Honda hybrid will compete with the Toyota Prius:

Whichever label it wears, one thing for sure is that the new Honda Hybrid will be one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles in the world, and may wrest the crown away from the Prius as the world’s favorite green car.

The appearance of another hybrid in the U.S. and world markets is certainly a cause for celebration, though my loudest cheers will be for the plug-in hybrids that will (or should) also be arriving soon.

Original text copyright © 2008 James K. Bashkin

The website reports that

Congress is now deciding which federal programs will be funded in 2009. Among those programs are the Green Jobs Act, which would invest $125 million in green-collar job training programs, and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, which would authorize grants to local communities to help improve their energy efficiency and increase renewable energy. Now we must make sure that Members of Congress keep their promise and fully fund these programs.

If you wish to write to Congress to voice your support for Green Jobs and Grants, this link will help.

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Michelle Bennett of with the latest on solar concentrators coupled to solar panels: “We already know that concentrated solar power (CSP) is shaking things up in the solar industry. A subset within the industry is turning up the heat. “Extreme” Concentrated solar magnifies intense sunlight onto a solar cell, at temperatures that could melt it, to boost efficiency for less money.” and “Sunrgi hopes to bring their product to market in about a year, so we’re not talking about pipe dreams. These guys are serious, and they’re out to make some money at 5 cents/kwh. But fortunately for us all, this technology is not new, and Sunrgi is not the first to point a magnifying glass at a solar panel. The Aussies beat us to it.”

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For web-savvy environmentalists, or any interested environmentalists, please consider joining sustainability, a home for all environmentally-related content on See also the new site for discussion of solar power on solar power.  If you don’t know about Squidoo, I didn’t either until a little while ago.  It is easy to set up a “lens” that focuses on your favorite topic, blog, website, etc.

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“Scientists have produced further compelling evidence showing that modern-day climate change is not caused by changes in the Sun’s activity…” from an article by Richard Black, Environment correspondent, BBC News website. “The research contradicts a favoured theory of climate “sceptics”, that changes in cosmic rays coming to Earth determine cloudiness and temperature.”

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This is a good overview of the solar industry by Michelle Bennett of The article discusses Nanosolar‘s thin solar cell technology, traditional polysilicon photovoltaics, AVASolar’s CdTe thin film technology, problems with ramping up production of new (and old) PV technology, and alternative clean energy techniques, including solar heating. The article doesn’t mention First Solar, who are in production with thin film, non-silicon based photovoltaics that are, I believe, also based on CdTe (I learned about First Solar from Steve B.). However, it is a nice summary of the solar panel, photovoltaic (or PV) industry. Ms. Bennett mentions that Nanosolar has beaten the $1/Watt goal according to the US Department of Energy (DOE), so their solar panels are officially generating electricity cheaper than coal.

The story does omit mention of the terrible environmental problems in China due to polycrystalline silicon production.

In Ms. Bennett’s article, the point is made that with oil falling out of favor, a potential opportunity for coal exists to compete with solar, etc. Luckily, as I’ve blogged about, some investment banks are refusing to fund coal-fired electricity plants. We need to make sure that our government plays its part in keeping coal from expanding (which is a realistic goal after the current administration is swept out). Coal plant emissions have already been ruled illegal in the US.* A great example is being set by Germany, for example, where solar and wind power are being pursued aggressively. Spain is also very active in solar power, and England is pursuing wind power with vigor.

Thanks to cmanders53 for DIGGing this article, which is how I came across it.

*On Friday, a US federal appeals court in Washington ruled that a policy by the Bush administration that exempted coal- and oil-fired power plants from regulations on emissions of mercury and other hazardous substances “was unlawful”. See the link above for more by Sam Carana on illegal coal emissions.

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© James K. Bashkin, 2008

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Earth Hour was reported by much of the press, and Associated Press writer CARYN ROUSSEAU published

Cities switch off lights for Earth Hour

which gave summary of world-wide activity and information from the parent Earth Hour organization. You can read the original story at the above link for details, but here are a few highlights and lowlights from Rousseau’s article:

…. In Ireland, where environmentalists are part of the coalition government, lights-out orders went out for scores of government buildings, bridges and monuments in more than a dozen cities and towns.

But the international banks and brokerages of Dublin‘s financial district blazed away with light, illuminating floor after empty floor of desks and idling computers.

… much of Europe — including France, Germany, Spain and European Union institutions — planned nothing to mark Earth Hour. …

Given Germany’s strong stand on clean power implementation, I think that is one place that already has the message, loud and clear. For example, the German city of Marburg has made solar energy systems mandatory on new buildings, and Germany and Spain have collaborated on huge solar panel-based power plants.

The wrap-up from Earth Hour US can be found here.

I think that the event was great for raising awareness and building a sense of community across international borders and locally.

In addition the the great support found in many quarters, there are a lot of cynical comments to be found on the web about Earth Hour. I’ll say this about cynicism- it is just talk, and never achieves anything.

© James K. Bashkin, 2008

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This information came to me by email because I signed up and committed to Earth Hour 2008, which is fast approaching. Since the message emphasizes getting the word out, and since it is written so well, I’ve reproduced a portion of it here. The full message can be found at the Earth Hour newsletter. Earth Hour is an important symbolic and real act of conservation and activism, a demonstration of awareness, a statement of how important the issues of sustainability, energy conservation and energy use are to each of us, and more. Go to the Earth Hour website for information about how entire cities and organizations are participating, worldwide, and how you can join in. The environment is our home, let’s keep working on cleaning it up and protecting it for the future. From the newsletter of March 27 (the content in the following indented quote is © Earth Hour):

This is the weekend to take a stand. Earth Hour – this Saturday, March 29 from 8-9 pm local time. You’ll be joining millions of people across the U.S. and around the globe in a monumental call for action on climate change. Here’s a last-minute checklist to help you make the most of the hour:

· Go compact — Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), that is. Come out of Earth Hour with better lighting than before. Changing to energy-efficient lighting is just one step, but it’s a part of Earth Hour we all can do. Identify the bulbs you can replace, then hit the hardware store and stock up. And watch for special free and discounted bulbs in many communities across America.

· Prepare to party — Whether you’re hosting a planet-friendly get-together by lamplight, camping out with the kids or just enjoying some unpowered screen-free “you” time, make sure you’ve got all the supplies you need ready at hand. It’s not too late to invite a few more friends.

· Buzz in the dark — You can often hear electric light bulbs buzzing. This weekend, the big buzz comes when we all turn them off. Tell your friends. The more people know about Earth Hour, the bigger an impact we’ll each make. E-mail your friends, link to Earth Hour on your blog, pass out flyers and stickers or just ask your neighbors, “What are you doing Saturday at 8?”

· Think long-term — Turning out the lights for one hour is a great start, but what will you be doing after March 29? As Saturday approaches, make a plan to go green after Earth Hour. Recycle more, drive less, talk to your elected leaders—whatever you do, make Earth Hour the beginning of a new, greener you!

This is another day to do something for the environment (as is every day!).  I hope you will be able to join us and participate in this historic event.

James K. Bashkin

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