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BigCityLib Strikes Back: A Wee Design Flaw

The BrightSource Energy plant, a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert, works on the principal of focusing sunlight on a bunch of towers full of water until the water boils and drives a series of steam powered generators.  Unfortunately, the reflected sunlight also focuses on the areas around the towers, and when flying animals like insects, bats and birds pass through that area, they spontaneously ignite into “streamers”, to use the industry jargon.  Possibly as many as two a minute, or 120 an hour, or 2,880 a day, or 1,051,200 per year. So something’s gone all fucked up.

And, if anyone (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Ralph Surette suggests that Nova Scotia’s tax and regulatory review pay close attention to the fact that it can do more than simply slash both: Nova Scotia already has relatively low corporate taxes and lower than average taxes for the highest earners. Yet none of this can seem to get into the conversation that has us as high-tax, anti-business and anti-everything. I invite the review committee to pin down where we actually stand on the comparative tax scale.

I also invite it to take note of what’s going on next door. New Brunswick (Read more…)

The Disaffected Lib: World’s Largest Private Bank, UBS, Says Fossil Energy is Toast

The Swiss banking giant, UBS, says renewable energy is the hands down winner and conventional power generation is finished.

In a briefing paper sent to clients and investors this week, the Zurich-based UBS bank argues that large-scale centralized power stations will soon become extinct because they are too big and inflexible and are “not relevant” for future electricity generation.  Instead the authors expect it to be cheAper and more efficient for households and businesses to generate their own energy to power their cars and to store any surplus energy in their own buildings even without subsidies.“Solar is at the edge (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: The Lethal Dysfunction Of The Far Right: A Mound of Sound Guest Post

Problem: you’re already getting hammered by early-onset climate change. Solution: deny it’s happening, look the other way, think happy thoughts.

It sounds ridiculously dysfunctional and it is but that is the approach being taken by governments, state and municipal, in parts of the American south.

Take North Carolina, for example, where the uber-rightwing state legislature has found a solution to scientific projections of at least a metre of sea-level rise this century – pass legislation banning any mention of that.

And then there’s posh Miami, Florida where real estate prices are sky high and still climbing. Miami now floods regularly (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Some Real Hope For Renewables

I only have time for this quick post, but allow me to direct you to this story about what appears to be a breakthrough in solar power generation and this story that opens up a range of possibilities for electric cars.

Here is some video to accompany the stories:

Recommend this Post

Politics and its Discontents: A Mound Of Sound Guest Post: The Relentless Growth of CO2

I put this item together a while ago but I was reminded of it today while reading a report from the WMO, the World Meteorological Organization, that April will go in the books as the first month in which atmospheric CO2 topped 400 ppm throughout the northern hemisphere. Not just one nasty region here or there, the entire bloody northern hemisphere. That’s change you can believe in (sorry Barack).

Scientists say emissions will need to peak by 2020 and then decline rapidly to limit warming to 2C, a target agreed at the 2009 round of UN talks in Copenhagen.

(Read more…)

reeves report: Kathleen Wynne’s environmental ups and downs

Feature image: Ontario Rangers youth gather at Queen’s Park in January, 2013 to protest cuts to a Ministry of Natural Resources program many former participants claim changed their lives.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has called an election for June 12, and as the parties gear up their campaign platforms, it’s worth taking a look back at the environmental ups and downs of Wynne’s 15 months as Premier.

(Note that a full breakdown of environmental legislation introduced in the last session of parliament, all of which died on the order paper, will be published soon at Alternatives Journal. Check back for (Read more…)

the reeves report: Field naturalists granted construction stay at Ostrander Point

The south shore at Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County (Photo by Terry Sprague.)

The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists were awarded a stay of construction at Ostrander Point this week that will prevent wind developer Gilead Power from beginning construction on their nine-turbine, 22 megawatt project until the outcome of the appeal is known.

“Now, Gilead Power will not be able to destroy any habitat before we can ask for leave to appeal,” said Myrna Wood, PECFN president. “We are relieved, as early migration has begun and spring melt is starting to create the conditions needed by (Read more…)

the reeves report: Europe looks to coal to reduce electricity prices

One year after The Economist signalled an ”unwelcomed coal renaissance”, Bloomberg News reported Jan. 6 that Europe’s lust for lower energy prices was reviving lignite mining for coal-fired generation in a big way.

Lignite, a low-quality form of coal that contains less units of energy and greater volumes of carbon than traditional coal, is once again the prize European energy firms are seeking in open-pit mines in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic in an effort to wrestle high-energy prices to the mat.

According to Bloomberg, new coal developments “go against the grain of European Union rules limiting (Read more…)

Bill Longstaff: Alberta creates a Minister of Renewable Energy

Occasionally a spark of hope interrupts the dreary flow of environmental news. Such a spark occurred in Alberta last week with the announcement by Premier Redford that Donna Kennedy-Glans would be the new Associate Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy. The ministry will be the first of its kind in Canada.

Considering that Alberta’s heavy reliance on coal results in it being responsible

350 or bust: Energy Darwinism: The Foolish Risk of Fossil Fuels

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- It shouldn’t be a surprise that more people are pointing out the importance of effective regulation in preventing disasters like the Lac-Mégantic explosion. But it may be somewhat unexpected to see that message from a CEO in the industry which stands to be regulated: Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. CEO Hunter Harrison warned that a catastrophic derailment like the one that levelled the centre of Lac-Mégantic could happen again if regulators don’t impose tougher safety rules for transporting hazardous materials.

Mr. Harrison, an outspoken industry executive who has been running railroads in Canada and (Read more…)

Eclectic Lip: Electron democracy

A long-belated companion to Steven Chu’s “Time to fix the wiring” essay I posted earlier, this is the white paper I co-authored for the same McKinsey & Company series. Given the roughly five-month delay in uploading this, I suppose “Time to post the writing” might be an apt subtitle…

Ever the stickler for citing sources (in university, while writing up a chemical engineering lab report, I once cited a colleague’s report I made use of, in my bibliography of sources – yes, I was a wild one) I was pleased McKinsey kept the footnote crediting the work John Robb (Read more…)

Autonomy For All: The 0.01% Oppose Renewable Energy Because You Can’t Suck Rents From It

It doesn’t get much more naked than this (AP): A political group founded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch wants Georgia’s utility regulators to reject a plan requiring Southern Co. to buy more solar energy, but an Associated Press review ahead of a vote on the issue finds that it has used misleading figures to build its case.

Misleading figures?  Quel surprise.  Read the piece, the story is particularly egregious in terms of bald and bold lying to the public, claiming a 1% increase in solar energy purchased would increase residential electricity prices 40%. The Kochs (Read more…)

BigCityLib Strikes Back: On Environment Ministers And Petcoke

From Impolitical:

CTV was reporting that Peter Kent may be moving on and therefore would be out as Environment Minister. Not sure there’s much a new Canadian minister might do to sway the Obama administration but Keystone has got to be figuring into Harper’s thinking. Is Rempel, currently the Parliamentary Secretary to Kent, the one? Whoever it is, they’re also going to have to deal with this burgeoning – and very warranted – focus onpetcoke. This oil sands byproduct gained greater visibility recently given the Koch brothers’ piling of it on the Detroit waterfront to the discomfort (Read more…)

. . . → Read More: BigCityLib Strikes Back: On Environment Ministers And Petcoke

The Canadian Progressive: Canada’s tar sands are the fifth largest climate threat in the world

By Greenpeace International | Jan. 22, 2013: TORONTO – Canada’s tar sands ranked fifth of the 14 largest carbon intensive projects in the world, according to a new report from Greenpeace International. The “Point of No Return” notes government hypocrisy on major energy projects – like the tar sands – which increases climate change and places READ MORE

Eclectic Lip: Our Renewable Future part 1: clearing “myth”conceptions

With Obama talking the talk on climate action in his State of the Union address yesterday, now seems a good time to start compiling a planned set of blog entries about renewable energy. Many many others have done so online already (as evidenced by the fact I’m linking to them!) but I’d like to communicate my cautiously nascent optimism in my own words.

I’m growingly confident that I’ll live to see renewables dominate global electricity production, as dominantly as oil dominates global transport today, with immense and commensurate environmental benefits.

That moment won’t come a moment too soon, either,

. . . → Read More: Eclectic Lip: Our Renewable Future part 1: clearing “myth”conceptions

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Friday reading.

- Paul Dechene interviews Marc Spooner about Saskatchewan residents left behind in the province’s boom: One way that our growing income gap can be hand-waved away is by pointing to the fact that every other province that goes through an economic boom faces this.

Perhaps it’s just a natural result of us going through a transitional phase?

Spooner doesn’t find that argument compelling.

“That implies a very non-responsive government,” he says. “Can we not learn from our neighbours in the west? Can we not see what happened in Alberta and be forward-looking and do

. . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.- Ed Broadbent comments on both the growing problem of inequality, and the one institution which can do something about it:Canada is not doing better. From 1982 until 2004, almost all growth in family i… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.- Christopher Curtis and Stephen Maher break the news that the Cons have falsified donation records, claiming donations to their Laurier-Sainte-Marie riding association from individuals who deny ever making contributio… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

The Ranting Canadian: Eventually people will have to get it through their heads that…

Eventually people will have to get it through their heads that cleaner alternative energy isn’t just for tree-hugging hippies. Eventually these energy sources — along with energy conservation, reducing/re-using other products, and population redu… . . . → Read More: The Ranting Canadian: Eventually people will have to get it through their heads that…

350 or bust: Sweden Trashes Canada In Renewable Energy

  Read more: Sweden Wants Your Trash . . . → Read More: 350 or bust: Sweden Trashes Canada In Renewable Energy

350 or bust: Fossil Fuel Industry’s Bottom Line Will Destroy Our Climate: Do The Math

Wednesday night was one to remember. After a scramble to get my passport renewed (I only noticed last week it had expired over the summer), my husband and I traveled by ferry from Victoria British Columbia to take in the first night of Bill McKibben&#8… . . . → Read More: 350 or bust: Fossil Fuel Industry’s Bottom Line Will Destroy Our Climate: Do The Math

350 or bust: Hurricane Sandy Reminds Us We’re All Paying The Price For Politically-Created Climate Of Doubt

The PBS Frontline program “Climate of Doubt” masterfully exposed the strategies and tactics that climate denialists have used to delay, if not undermine meaningful action in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change in… . . . → Read More: 350 or bust: Hurricane Sandy Reminds Us We’re All Paying The Price For Politically-Created Climate Of Doubt

The Disaffected Lib: A Huge Breakthrough for Renewable Energy

One serious drawback of some forms of renewable energy, such as wind or tidal power, has been that they don’t conform to peak market demand.   Some are intermittent, some work best at off-peak, low-demand hours.  What’s been missing is a viable means of storing surplus renewable energy production.

A Brit engineer seems to have come up with a solution, liquid air, that is nearly as efficient as conventional battery technology.   Water vapour and oxygen are removed from the air.  The remaining nitrogen is then super-cooled until it liquifies using off-peak renewable energy production.   The liquid