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Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions
From: The Guardian  Posted: July 3rd 2015

The OECD secretary general, Angel Gurria, asked governments to think two, three or four times before authorising new coal-fired electricity generating plants. That has significance for the South African government which plans to use coal to boost Eskom's capacity. There are cleaner, less health damaging and better economic solutions available. Mr. Gurria also warns of the real possibility that they will become stranded assets. Germany shows us the way.

Two articles from Courtney White point out where the answer to missing carbon dioxide may lie (in the soil) and how to utilise existing technology to increase its sequestration. Ian Angus looks at how climate change may not be a smooth process during this century.

The Guardian tells us why shale gas is as bad as coal in GHG terms and so is not a 'bridging fuel'. A new technique of accurately monitoring CO2 from space promises better oversight, whilst SA announces how uncontrolled emissions may be handled under the law.


Range Anxiety to End
From: LeftLane News  Posted: July 2nd 2015

Several auto manufacturers have boosted speculation that major improvements in battery technology will mean that the next versions of their EVs will have longer (double) range. In the latest of these VW claim that their e-Golf will have a range of 300km. between charges, compared with 130km. now. What we have yet to learn is when the EV's will be in production and how much they will cost.

Honda have ditched their natural gas vehicles and an analysis of bus travel suggests that electric buses are hugely more efficient than diesel or natural gas. Meanwhile hydrogen as a fuel for transportation may have been given a lift by the announcement of an economic process of using solar PV to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

An interesting picture of what it's like to own and drive an EV in a record cold winter in Canada is reassuring to those of us that live in warmer climes. The author paints us a picture of grandpa leaving the boy racers in his wake as he speeds away from the lights.


Storage: Research Promise and Production
From: Nanowerk  Posted: July 1st 2015

Research, development and product launches of electricity storage devices continue with unabated enthusiasm. Not everything is proceeding with breakneck speed though and included are examples of patient research that has taken or will take several years.

Amongst the launches, lithium sulphur (Li-S) batteries with double the energy density of the current crop of Li-ion batteries should be available in the US next year. That means for EVs that the same range could be provided for half the weight of batteries or that the range could be doubled using the same weight. The price per kWh will be on a par with Tesla's Powerwall or slightly below it, but since sulphur is a cheaper ingredient than Li-ion's equivalent, Li-S batteries could come to dominate.

But Biosolar Inc. claims that it can double the energy density of Tesla's batteries at a price around one quarter of them. Anyone interested in an empty giga-factory? Let's see what really happens as these products come onto the market, but if the claims become reality, we are looking at a very rapid transition away from internal combustion engine (ICE) passenger vehicles. That in turn will increase demand for clean electricity, which will likely mostly come from solar PV.


Shale Gas Economics - Part 1
From: Ian Perrin  Posted: June 26th 2015

The first part of our examination of the economics of shale gas production in South Africa takes a look at actual break-even costs in the US, anticipated costs in the EU and the break-even costs of conventional liquid natural gas (LNG) from Mozambique. It looks, too, at the premium paid by electricity utilities. Part 2 will look at the costs not so far included in the calculations.

Falling world gas and oil prices have made it difficult for the industry to compete profitably with cheap coal and particularly renewable energy. Many companies have hedged against falling prices, but the technique has a limited life. Should prices continue at their current, below break-even levels, then the experience of Itochu that sold a $1 billion investment for $1 this week may be repeated elsewhere.

It is vital that South Africa takes a long, hard look at what the fluctuation in fossil fuel prices can mean in terms of revenue to the fiscus, dependence on the oil and gas industry and the harsh effects upon employment. Are we living in an age of 25-year certainty (the life of a gas fired power station) or are we living in an age of great uncertainty, where stable fuel prices come into their own?

Future Food Catastrophe
From: Nafeez Ahmed  Posted: June 23rd 2015

A new report, backed by the British Foreign Office and Lloyds of London, suggests that without radical policy changes very severe food shortages could take hold in mid-century. The authors modelled what would happen under a business-as-usual (BUA) scenario in an El Niño year should the current damage from Asian soybean rust and Ug99 stem rust not be eliminated. The scenario, though, did not include any measures taken in advance to mitigate the crises.

Aled Jones, the lead author of the report stated "The results show that based on plausible climate trends, and a total failure to change course, the global food supply system would face catastrophic losses, and an unprecedented epidemic of food riots. In this scenario, global society essentially collapses as food production falls permanently short of consumption."

The droughts in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe may or may not be warnings of what is to come, but we would be foolish not to be alerted. The water rationing now introduced in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and the measures being taken to protect the wildlife there should be assumed to be harbingers of what is to follow. Nothing is lost should prudence prove unnecessary.

Research: A Better Understanding of Climate Change Related Events
From: The Guardian  Posted: June 22nd 2015

Highly regarded New Zealander, Kevin Trenberth and his team at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) have published their recent research into the effects of climate change on extreme weather events and how we may more accurately determine whether such events have been affected by it. He tells us that "All storms, without exception, are different. Even if most of them look just like the ones we used to have, they are not the same."

Belgian activists are preparing to sue their national and regional governments for failing to implement adequate climate change policies, whilst the EIA calculates that fossil fuel companies benefit from subsidies to the tune of $115 per tonne of carbon emitted and in the US, the EPA is proposing to regulate emissions from big trucks.

The death toll from the heatwave in southern Pakistan passed 1,200. At first sight this looks to be a climate change related event, but we must wait for NCAR or a similar organisation to confirm it. A report from the Lancet in the UK suggests that cutting carbon emissions could save 500,000 lives a year by 2030 and millions per year before 2050. Then there's a new study that confirms the belief that the earth's sixth great extinction, caused by humans, is underway.


SA Huge Market for Storage
From: IOL  Posted: June 17th 2015

Tesla's Powerwall storage units have huge potential for South Africa according to JB Straubel, the company's chief technical officer. "We can both effect resiliency, as well as back-up, as well as helping expand the infrastructure to do more." he told a US Energy Information Administration energy conference in Washington. Prices could decline to under half the current values by 2020 to aid that process and 24M a 'stealth' start-up claims it has the technology to do just that.

That storage costs are declining rapidly is evidenced by rapid price reductions of competing technologies in Australia, an RMI review of current prices versus those forecast for 2015 just a few years ago and by technical advances typified by an intriguing advance from a South Korean university.

Existing EV manufacturers are waking up to the possibility of re-using their batteries for residential and commercial electricity storage once they are deemed to have fulfilled their original life. Both GM and Nissan have announced schemes to prolong Li-ion battery usage in ways that may benefit the second user and the original car owner.

NISSAN  |   GM vs TESLA  |   24M  |   UET

Pollution and Health. Climate Change and Fracking
From: Climate Progress  Posted: June 17th 2015

Domoic acid has been cited as the product of large algae blooms which is damaging marine life along much of the US western seaboard. Commercial harvesting of shellfish has been halted along large stretches of the coastline, since the toxins can cause serious illness or even death in humans. The intensity of the algae blooms has been blamed on the unusually high temperature of the NE Pacific.

The American Medical Association has called for full disclosure of all chemicals being used in fracking, saying "If we don’t know what chemicals are being used at specific well sites, physicians and public health officials can’t do their jobs."

Politico Magazine claims that at least 74 workers have been killed whilst working in the Bakken since 2006 and Michael Brune of the Sierra Club takes a good look at the EPA's Hydraulic Fracturing Drinking Water Assessment. A University of Texas study found "widespread groundwater pollution in the Barnett shale from fracking chemicals.".


Rapid Growth of Residential Solar PV in US
From: Clean Technica  Posted: June 11th 2015

Residential solar installations grew by 76% between Q1 2014 and Q1 2015 in the US despite may states suffering from the worst winter ever recorded. From small beginnings a substantial revolution in the mix of electricity generation is appearing. Coal powered plant is closing and so far in 2015 renewables have comprised over 84% of new capacity.

Concentrated solar power (CSP) will come into its own as penetration of renewables increases, due to its ability to provide power after dark, whilst city rooftops will sprout panels as we begin to see the benefits to urban populations from locally generated, clean and cheap electricity.

General Electric sees potential for combining solar with heat pumps (CHP) and has launched a prototype system, including storage, in Germany. Improvements in the efficiency of solar cells and in the way that they are manufactured will strengthen the global solar revolution as costs quickly reduce to match the level of onshore wind. Fossil fuels are on the way out for electricity production.


Ice in the Arctic
From: Neven Acropolis  Posted: June 11th 2015

Sea-ice loss: "This is not like air pollution or water pollution, where if you clean it up it will go back to the way it was before". Without reversing warming, we have no way of replacing the ice we are losing from polar regions, no way of preventing the sea level rise (SLR) that is already in the pipeline.

Nevertheless, after starting from a low level in 2015, sea-ice extent has not nosedived as it did in 2012. It may be that that particular year was an outlier, much like 1998 was for global surface temperature. Ice specialist Eric Rignot cautions that the IPCC projections for SLR may be too conservative.

Jennifer Francis' theory that extreme weather in the US and Europe has ice loss as a primary cause is gaining ground. Meanwhile Shell "is utterly undeterred by science in its ceaseless, unblinking quest for profit." according to Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein and Annie Leonard.


Shale Gas Economics Becoming Clearer
From: Penn Energy  Posted: June 8th 2015

As Conoco Philips announce that they are withdrawing from Poland, they have released the costs of drilling there - $220million (R2.7billion) for 7 wells in its 6 year exploration or about R400million per well. These 7 though are exploration wells and we can expect that production wells would have been around half that cost, though that estimate would need to be updated as more wells were developed.

Even so, the break-even cost of gas could be at least double the cost of LNG, which the International Energy Agency (IEA) expects to be in substantial surplus for the remainder of this decade and beyond. These are not hopeful signs for those who wish to see shale gas developed in South Africa. The EU anticipates that shale gas costs will vary from $4.9 (most likely) to 19.4 (conservative) per MMBtu. With LNG costs expected to remain around $7-7.5 per MMBtu, shale gas would have to be produced at the bottom end of the EU range, whilst the EU has existing infrastructure and SA must build all all new pipelines, compressor stations, refineries and power stations.

The situation is even tougher when compared to onshore wind where costs of delivering electricity to the grid are close to parity with gas and reducing. Nor does wind carry the risks of price fluctuations and stranded assets.

Drought in South Africa and Namibia
From: IOL  Posted: June 7th 2015

On each recent occasion that the forecast maize crop has been reviewed the expectations have been lowered. Whilst SA normally exports part of its maize crop, this year the country becomes a net importer. There is a global surplus of maize, but with the Rand sinking against world currencies, the imports will drive food prices higher. As ever, the poor who spend a high proportion of their income on food will suffer most.

Up in northern Namibia, the situation is also severe. Grootfontein has received only 229mm of precipitation in its October to April rainy season, against an average of 557 since records began in 1917. That's the lowest since the 1932/33 rainy season. Maize prices are also being affected here. Between January 14th (N$1910) and February 16th (N$2998) the price of white maize increased by 57%.

In the same region a young woman with a tough history in Germany, South Africa and the UK adopts a sustainable lifestyle to provide her aunt, a pensioner, with produce from her smallholding. Unremitting toil under trying conditions is paying off and her neighbours are taking note.


Is Fracking Safe Now?
From: The Equation  Posted: June 5th 2015

Whilst the long awaited US EPA study of drinking water found no systemic problems with fracking it did identify areas where there is vulnerability, commonly as a result of the very high pressures that are required. No-one expected the EPA to find systemic problems, but incidents of water pollution allegedly connected with careless fracking practices fracking are well documented.

Such a case, though from an oil pipeline failure in California, highlights the problem. The company involved had given 'expert' advice to the government that a spill was 'extremely unlikely'. Yet they allowed the pipeline to rust away to a fraction of its initial thickness and the leak occurred close to where repairs were deemed necessary in 2012.

Elsewhere, Denmark halts fracking because unauthorised chemicals were used, China faces choking pollution and a new analytical technique helps identify chemicals which should not be used in fracking whilst at the same time making the results available for the world to see.


Renewable Energy vs Growth
From: Resilience  Posted: June 5th 2015

Richard Heinberg tells us that there are limits to the percentage of electricity that can be generated by renewable energy before their intermittency creates serious problems for a grid. Even if those problems are overcome (by cheap storage) electricity only accounts for one fifth of our energy requirements that are provided by burning fossil fuels. He concludes that energy use must be reduced and that that will put an end to growth.

Climate Central reports on a study that suggests that the emissions released into the atmosphere will cause 100,000 as much heat as the process that burnt the fuel and that will lead to global warming of 2-4.5°C by the end of the century. We are already seeing the destruction caused by a rise of less than 0.8°C.

On the other side of the debate the US is reporting 1.2million green job opportunities in the first quarter of 2015 and Renewable Energy World looks at the possibilities for using renewable energy generation in Africa's mines.


Largest Solar + Battery Off-grid Home
From: Giles Parkinson  Posted: June 4th 2015

With 170kW of solar array and 1MWh of battery storage, Bakken Hale, Hawaii is the largest off-grid home in the world. If they are using the popular 230W panels it would require 740 of them whereas a typical suburban house might look for 3kW and require just 15. Using the same ratio of storage to power, then the same suburban home would need 20kWh of batteries, or if you can get them a pair of 10kWh Tesla storage units.

The array is expected to generate 350MWh per year, which means it is expected to provide a little under the equivalent of 6 hours per day at peak production rates. The cost per kWh is interesting. The article quotes that the estate is currently paying around $0.50 for its propane gas generators and so we would expect the solar installation to at least match that. But even large commercial PV installations with storage are above that level. Maybe it is just quoting fuel costs, which for the new installation are zero.

The comments are interesting, too. Many think that such a large installation is necessarily wasteful and the occupants should be more frugal. Perhaps, but it would be pertinent to ask whether energy efficiency measures had been considered.


The State of the Climate Debate
From: Ian Perrin  Posted: June 13th 2014

"Kevin Anderson's blog of 5th June examines the US commitment to cut its emissions by 30 percent by 2030 and concludes that: The maths accompanying obligations to avoid 'dangerous climate change' demand fundamental change rather than rousing rhetoric and incremental action."

" View a 7 minute video clip of Michael Mann explaining the IPCC's conservatism and note that even the IPCC tells us that South Africa can expect temperature increases of 3 to 5C, without emissions reduction and that in turn implies consequences for food production."

"Ezra Klein, until recently a highly regarded political commentator with the Washington Post, wrote a piece entitled '7 Reasons America will fail on climate change' and Joe Romm of Climate Progress responded. Here we look at each of his 'Reasons' in turn and Joe Romm's response to each. "


Obama: ‘If Congress Won’t Act Soon To Protect Future Generations, I Will’
From: Joe Romm  Posted: February 13th 2013

"For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods – all are now more frequent and more intense."

"We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late."

"I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy."


TEDX study reveals more detail about the dangers of gas drilling
From Ian Perrin  Posted: 14th November 2012

"The study shows that air sampling near natural gas operations reveals numerous chemicals in the air, many associated with natural gas operations. Some of the highest concentrations in the study were from methane, ethane, propane, and other alkanes that occur as a result of natural gas operations"

"Although concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in this study appear low, they may have clinical significance."

We thank them sincerely on behalf of all South Africans for the effort they are making to understand the effects of drilling and fracking for natural gas that will result in better protection for our workers and communities alike. [Ian]

Greenhouse Gas Theory explained
From Ian Perrin  Posted: 24th October 2012

You might have gained the impression climate change caused by rising amounts of CO2 in our atmosphere is a contentious theory added only recently to our scientific understanding.

Not so – we can trace the basis for it all the way back to Isaac Newton's work in the early 1670's and the first, generally accepted theory around 1859, more than 150 years ago."

Here's our plain English version of the history of its development and some detail on the scientists involved.

We Must Heed James Hansen
From: Joe Romm & Michael Mann  Posted: 9th August 2012

"During the hot, dry summer of 1988, Hansen announced that 'it is time to stop waffling…. The evidence is pretty strong that the [human-amplified] greenhouse effect is here.'" Much criticism followed.

"Hansen, it turns out, was right, and the critics were wrong. Rather than being reckless, as some of his critics charged, his announcement to the world proved to be prescient – and his critics were proven overly cautious."

"Given the prescience of Hansen’s science, we would be unwise to ignore his latest, more dire warning."

"The time for debate about the reality of human-caused climate change has now passed. We can have a good faith debate about how to deal with the problem – how to reduce future climate change and adapt to what is already upon us to reduce the risks that climate change poses to society. But we can no longer simply bury our heads in the sand."

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