Schools in Japan Complete Solar Projects

Sometimes good things really do come out of something bad.  The Great East Japan Earthquake devastated schools, businesses, homes and lives. But this week, the Japan Reconstruction Fund held a ceremony at Shinchi Elementary School to commemorate the completion of several solar facilities in four public elementary and junior high schools in the town of Shinchi in Soma-gun, Fukushima Prefecture. The solar systems are part of the city’s urban development program.

The solar power projects were funded from grants from Coca-Cola Company and Coco-Cola Educational Foundation. The Fund decided to assist Shinchi Elementary School, Fukuda Elementary School, Komagamine Elementary School, and Shoei Junior High School after evaluating requests to help reinforce disaster management with new solar power facilities and to help educate pupils about clean energy.  The solar power system includes an emergency solar generator with a maximum capacity of 20 kilowatts and storage batteries with a total capacity of up to 16 kilowatts.

During the ceremony, Mayor Norio Kato greeted attendees and delivered opening remarks about Shinchi’s recovery. Tatsuya Natori, Chair of the Shoei Junior High School Student Council, delivered a speech on behalf of all the students.

Natori said, “We were very relieved to hear that the solar system means that we can still use electricity after a disaster. We will always be grateful to the Fund for its kindness, and will study hard so we can play solid roles in local reconstruction.”

While the schools are all educating students about energy and environment, they each have a different focus. For example, Shinchi Elementary School focuses on educating about solar and wind power and Shoei Junior High School plans to teach about nuclear power generation as well as solar generation. However, all of the local schools and the town will collaborate in researching solar power and announcing their findings as part of the town’s overall efforts to acquire knowledge about the environment and energy.

Wind Power & Biodiversity

In June, over 40 individuals from various European public and private entities came together in Lisbon to discuss how impacts on biodiversity by wind energy projects could be decreased. The result is a series of presentations regarding, “Wind Power and Biodiversity: Tools to Measure, Avoid and Compensate Impacts.” The workshop, organized by EDP, Bio3 and the Fundacion Global Nature, demonstrated to participants practical solutions to real world wind energy problems.

As wind energy gains momentum, so have concerns about its environmental impacts. Experts explained that by following the mitigation hierarchy, environmental aspects can be measured properly and realistically taken into account. The workshop was moderated by António Sá da Costa, president of APREN (Portuguese Renewable Energy Association). Throughout the day, there were 12 presentations and three working groups for a “World Café” discussion session.

Key discussions included:

  • What instruments can be used to measure and quantify impacts on flora and fauna during operation in a cost-effective way? A site and species-specific methodology is needed.
  • How to avoid and minimize the negative effects: Selecting the best location and conducting a proper environmental impact assessment (EIA).
  • When and how can unavoidable impacts be compensated: EIA as an open process.
  • What offset measures can be applied to compensate the negative impacts? How to select target-species, how to conduct habitat management and how to manage prey populations recovery.

The workshop was just one of many initiatives of the European Business and Biodiversity Campaign.

Ethanol Eliminates 100 Mil Tons of Green House Gases

A new report from an international group promoting biofuels says the forecasted amount of global ethanol production this year will eliminate green house gas (GHG) emissions of 100 million tons in 2012. The Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) has released its annual forecast and puts the amount equal to 20.2 million cars being taken off the road.. the total number of vehicles registered in Mexico or the total GHG emissions of all of the Philippines.

“This is all very good news because these figures clearly show that biofuels are continuing to play a critical role in reducing damaging GHG emissions around the world,” stated Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the GRFA.

“In the wake of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, this data confirms that to successfully combat climate change, biofuels must be part of our future energy mix,” added Mr. Baker.

The report comes as the Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change is underway in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Book Review – Climategate

For those of you who believe in climate change, you will criticize me for not only reading but reviewing “Climategate,” by Brian Sussman as the last book in my 2012 La Nina Reading List. For those of you who don’t buy in to climate change, you’ll applaud me for bringing you this review.

Sussman is best known as a TV science reporter and meteorologist and a person who does not buy into the theory of global warming. In fact, he wrote the book to “sound a vociferous warning: global warming is a scam perpetuated by an elite sect of Marx-lovers who believe they can do communism/socialism more effectively than their predecessors; and now, with the ascension of Barack Obama as president, the scam has reached hyperspeed.”

If you have read enough of my book reviews (and if you haven’t get to reading), you will note that Sussman is in the same camp as all the others who don’t believe in climate change – it is a scam with influential players from politicians, to scientists to environmental organizations, to make money.

The book takes a look at the “foundation of fraud” that has led us to where we are today. It dates back to the late sixty’s, early seventies, writes Sussman, with the advent of Earth Day and has gained warp speed with the creation of climate conferences, global treaties and legislation. One of the worst hoaxes of climate change—the Environmental Protection Agency determining that carbon dioxide is a pollutant.

Why are people buying into this theory? Sussman says when citizens lack a frame of reference they are primed to be sucked into believing what “experts” say. In other words, peoples’ lack of education around basic energy and environmental knowledge has left them open to corruption.

So what are the solutions to this problem? The country needs an energy plan that does not involve restrictions and limitations. An effective energy policy will be one that provides Americans with inexpensive and abundant power that includes harvesting fossil fuel resources argues Sussman.

Who is this book for? Not those mired deep in the beliefs of climate change who are weak of heart. You just might have a stroke. This book is best read by those who agree that global warming is a farce and will give you additional arguments to back up your theories.  Ultimately, Sussman diverges from others in his linking those who buy-in to climate change as being a Marxist or communist. Has he gone too far or not far enough?

Book Review – Eaarth

What is happening to the “Eaarth”? A question many are asking, including author Bill McKibben, as the summer brought us the worst drought in decades along with extreme heat. Many people would blame this on global climate change while others would argue that “global warming” and “weather” are actually two separate things. Well it is time we delve back into the discussion I began earlier this summer as part of my 2012 La Nina Reading List.

McKibben is a true believer in climate change, holds humans responsible and writes we’re dealing with a “spooky, erratic climate”. He writes that global warming is no longer a philosophical threat or a future threat, no longer a threat at all. It is reality. Because we no longer live on the same planet, argues McKibben, earth needs a new name: Eaarth.

The focus of his book is to turn back time, per se, to safe levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The “safe” level according to climatologist James Hansen, is 350 parts per million – a number we have surpassed and now hover around 390 parts per million. Throughout the book, Hansen explains why lowering levels of CO2 “will be extremely hard” but offers ways “we can try”.

Why do we need to do this? Because, argues McKibben, “…the earth has changed in profound ways, ways have already taken us out of the sweet spot where humans so long thrived. We’re every day less the oasis and more the desert. The world hasn’t ended, but the world as we know it has- even if we don’t quite know it yet.”

One of the main issues he focuses on in the book is the need to replace the fossil fuel system. Other issues include the need to fix infrastructure and he posits that climate change will cause more resource wars and leave billions of people “climate change refugees”.

The book concludes with a discussion about ways to reduce impact with the main theme being things need to get smaller and less centralized. He also writes that we need to focus on maintenance not growth. In addition, McKibben writes we need global governments to have the courage to take a stand against climate change.

For those who are passionate about the environment, you know that McKibben is one of the best-known writers in the field. His latest book doesn’t disappoint – it is an interesting read. Yet he barely scratched the surface on outlining what needs to be done to live on the new Eaarth. Might that be the topic is his next book that he could call Eaarth 2.0?

Vocal Trash Sings About Being Green

Here is a fun story for a Friday. A group called Vocal Trash entertains consumers across the country with a musical mix of pop, rock and swing used to educate listeners about being green. The group’s song reflect earth-friendly values like recycling and upcycling. As if this is cool enough, the group also “recycles” their instruments used in their performances.

“If you want a high energy show, with standing room only crowds, Vocal Trash is the way to go,” said Danny Aguilar of the Delaware State Fair. “They have been a huge entertainment hit for our patrons and they demand Vocal Trash return each year.”

Fans have raved about the singing, industrial style drumming and comedy all interwoven into their live performances. While people dance and sing along with the group, they are also learning about their impact on the environment and offering simple solutions and ways to improve their environmental footprint.

Kelsey Rae, a member of Vocal Trash said of their style, “We’re like a fusion of the Black-Eyed Peas and Al Gore. We’re simply presenting a positive message in an effective way. Music and dance is universal… there’s no better way to reach the masses. THINK… before you throw it away.”

Survey Shows Drought Spurs Need for Alt Energy

According to a recent ORC International survey, 81 percent of Americans are concerned about “increased drought” and other extreme weather conditions. Conducted on behalf of the Civil Society Institute (CSI), the poll results showed that concerns about drought, of which the many states have been severely affected, go hand in hand with worries about water shortages.

Three out of four Americans think that, “with all the current concern about severe drought and the risk of water shortages, America needs to start focusing more on alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar, that require less water.”

Other key findings include worry over shortages of safe drinking water due to drought and “the diversion of water for energy production” is the No. 1 overall concern in 10 drought-stricken states including, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Missouri  Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Texas. Nationwide, 64 percent of respondents are “very concerned” about the prospect of  “possible shortages of safe drinking water” due to drought and diversion for energy production.

On average, 85 percent of Americans believe availability of ample clean water should be a top national priority for the country. In addition, 89 percent of respondents said that want an energy/water “road map” for the country. People believe that, “U.S. energy planning and decision making must be made with full knowledge and understanding about the availability of water regionally and locally, and the impact this water use from specific energy choices has on their economies, including agricultural production.”

“We now understand all too well the harsh realities of the current drought and its relationship to changes in the climate from global warming. America’s ‘all of the above’ non-solution for electricity generation is a dead-end path – one requiring vast amounts of water for coal-fired power plants, nuclear reactors and the fracking extraction of natural gas,” said Pam Solo, president, Civil Society Institute. Continue reading

Dynamic Fuels Get EPA Renewable Gas Registration

Dynamic Fuels, in a joint venture with Syntroleum, has garnered the EPA’s Part 79 registration for its Renewable Gasoline Blendstock 10. This Syntroleum news release says the designation allows enables Dynamic Fuels to generate 1.5 Advanced Biofuel, or D5, RINS for each gallon of its renewable gasoline blendstock when blended at 10 percent. The Dynamic Fuels’ Renewable Gasoline Blendstock can be blended directly into gasoline.

At its design basis production rate of 75 million gallons per year, Dynamic Fuels’ Geismar Plant should produce approximately 7.5 million gallons of renewable gasoline blendstock, or 11.25 million Advanced Biofuel RINS, per year. Advanced Biofuel RINS have traded for as much as $0.83 per RIN during 2012 and are currently approximately $0.46.

Dynamic Fuels also received the EPA Part 79 Registration for drop-in renewable fuels for Renewable Diesel Blendstock up to a 20 percent blend with petroleum diesel in 2009 and for Renewable Diesel for use at up to a 100 percent in 2011.

Researchers: LCFS Would Help America

During a bipartisan briefing on Capitol Hill, researchers from six institutions advocated that adopting a national Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) would be a positive step for America. Renewable fuels, they said, will be cleaner, cheaper and “Made in America”. This consensus by the group of researchers was met after conducting an extensive series of peer-reviewed LCFS studies. The research will be published in The Energy Policy Journal’s special issue on Low Carbon Fuel Policy over the next several months.

“A national Low Carbon Fuel Standard is a promising framework to help solve the transportation energy challenges that have eluded us for several decades,” said Dr. Daniel Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, one of the participating institutions of the National Low Carbon Fuel Standard Project. “Technologically, an LCFS is very doable. And it can help us address the complex choices with conventional oil, shale gas, oil sands, biofuels, and electric vehicles.”

The way that a LCFS would work is through setting a common target for carbon intensity, which would reduce the amount of carbon in transportation fuels. Energy companies would have to meet the carbon intensity level but could individually decide how to meet that goal. Companies could explore such things as biofuels or hydrogen fuels. In addition, companies could buy and sell carbon credits from companies producing low-carbon fuels.

Dr. Jonathan Rubin, professor of Economics at the University of Maine said, “An LCFS encourages innovation and diversity by harnessing market forces. “These reports provide practical policy recommendations, and are designed to inject scientific information into the national conversation on a Low Carbon Fuel Standard.”

Yet not everyone agrees that an LCFS would be a positive move for the country. The Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) has publicly come out against any national LCFS policies citing other studies that found such a move would cost millions of Americans to lose jobs, double gasoline prices and raise greenhouse gas emissions. Continue reading

Economics of Energy & The Environment

Ok everybody. It’s time to go back to school. Who has the time you think? Who has the money?  Who has a college campus near you? These are no longer valid excuses – the time is now to become energy literate.  There is a FREE online course called Economics of Energy & The Environment being taught by Dr. Ben Ho, Assistant Professor of Economics – Vassar College.  Ho believes that energy use and its impact on the environment will be two of the most important issues of the 21st century. I agree.

Ho explains that the large role of energy in geo-political relationships combined with the fact that a majority of greenhouse gas emissions believed to cause global climate change come from energy. This means the energy sector must change. This also means great opportunities for those who accept the mission of clean energy.

The class is designed as a primer for those interested in clean energy and its relationship with the environment.  Potential entrepreneurs, investors, managers and policy makers will all find the class beneficial. In addition, all of you folks running and working for energy companies (solar, geothermal, wind, biofuels, etc.) could learn a lot as well as those of us just interested and passionate about renewable energy. Topics will include environmental economics, energy economics, environmental ethics, oil sector, the electricity sector, alternative energy, sustainability, climate change, and climate policy.

I’ve checked it out and I’m going to take the class this summer, at my own pace. Everything is done online so you can hit the “Internet” when you have an hour or two of spare time and take as long as you need to complete the course. Dr. Ho answers questions so while it is not “real-time” per se, you can still get the one-on-one attention you may desire of the esteemed professor.

So, let’s take a DomesticFuel challenge and beef up our energy knowledge (a recent survey said most people were energy illiterate) and take the course. Write comments on the site as you go along. It would be great to get a good dialogue on the topics going. I will pull out some nuggets from each lesson as I take the course over the next few months and share them with you.  Ready…Set….Learn…my readers!