October 29, 2010

Sustainable or Restorative?

Chef Barton Seaver presents a modern dilemma: Seafood is one of our healthier protein options, but overfishing is desperately harming our oceans. He suggests a simple way to keep fish on the dinner table and raises the question whether we should be aiming for sustainable seafood or restorative seafood.

Communities affected by coal ash

Here are a few stories about communities that have been affected by coal ash. Remember that 90% of Americans live with in 50 miles of a coal ash dump...

Did you know that there are less regulations regarding the disposal of coal ash than there are for normal everyday garbage? 

The EPA is requesting comments on whether they should regulate coal ash - Click here to let them know your thoughts. 

Driving the Volt and Leaf

Both the Volt and the Leaf are among the 14 semifinalists for the 2011 North American Car and Truck of the Year award.

On challenging two-lane roads, the Leaf and Volt each felt quite at home, even traveling at brisk speeds. The Leaf's steering is lighter and has better feel than the Volt's, although the electric Nissan is hardly awash in feedback. The Leaf was quicker to head into a turn, and the Volt felt more nose-heavy. There was more of a pause before the Volt began to change direction.

Both cars' bodies felt solid, perhaps partly because their large battery packs provide some additional bracing for vehicles' structures. Even under hard cornering the body lean on each is nicely controlled, a benefit of the weighty batteries sitting low in the vehicles.
The grip is more than adequate, although their low-rolling resistance tires ultimately provide less cornering grip than a conventional tire. The ride quality of each car was adequately comfortable even on a broken surface. The feel of the Leaf's brakes was better than the Volt's, on which the pedal felt too soft.
The electric motors in each car provide instant as well as relatively strong and steady acceleration, a reminder that under the right circumstances electricity can be a great playmate.
Chevrolet says the Volt will go from zero to 60 m.p.h. in about 8.5 seconds. Nissan has not released a zero-to-60 time, but a writer for Green Car Advisor recently reported clocking the Leaf at 7.7 seconds.
When it comes to ride and handling, these are real cars with different dynamic natures. The Volt is a pleasant cruiser and commuter, while the Leaf is more lively and may appeal more to a driving enthusiast, albeit a driving enthusiast on a leash.

Plans for Largest Solar Plant - in California & South Africa

The Obama administration on Monday approved what investors say will be the world's largest concentrated solar power plant and one that more than doubles all of U.S. solar output and can power at least 300,000 homes. 

Construction on the $6 billion, 1GW plant is expected to start by the end of 2010, with production starting in 2013. Developer Solar Millennium, a company based in Germany, says the plant will generate 1,066 construction jobs and 295 permanent jobs.

The plant will use "parabolic trough" system whereby parabolic mirrors focus the sun's energy onto collector tubes. Fluid in the tubes is then heated and sent to a boiler, which sends live steam to a turbine to produce electricity.

Meanwhile South Africa unveils plans this week for what it claims will be the world's biggest solar power plant (also 1GW in size) – a radical step in a coal-dependent country where one in six people still lacks electricity. The giant mirrors and solar panels in Northern Cape would reduce carbon emissions and generate one-tenth of the country's energy needs. 90% of South Africa's energy is currently produced by coal fired power plants. 

Fuel Efficiency Standards for Trucks

Article by Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and I have proposed the first national standards for greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency for medium and heavy-duty trucks, vans, and buses.

This is a historic first step to address categories of vehicles previously excluded from America's corporate average fuel economy guidelines. Currently, the vehicles we propose covering account for 20% of the transportation sector's carbon emissions. So reducing those emissions and improving fuel efficiency for these vehicles is certainly a win for the environment.

But the new standards are also a win for energy independence and the economy. We're talking about saving 500 million barrels of oil and cutting emissions by nearly 250 million metric tons over the life of model year 2014 to 2018 vehicles covered by our proposals.
For example, the new rules are expected to save truckers more than $35 billion in net benefits. Whether you're an independent contractor who relies on a pickup truck or an independent operator of a full-size semi, shrinking fuel costs will mean more money in your pocket.

Some of those fuel-cost savings will also reduce transportation costs for businesses, who may choose to invest those savings in creating new jobs here at home rather than shipping barrels of dollars abroad to foreign energy providers.

The innovative technologies fostered by this program will also yield economic benefits, enhance energy security, and improve air quality.

Sure, we have more work to do as we attempt to mitigate environmental damage and increase our energy independence. But today's announcement is an important step along the way.
Please remember, however, that today's announcement was only a proposal. EPA and NHTSA are providing a 60-day comment period. 

That's where you come in. The proposal and information about submitting comments are available on the EPA website and the NHTSA website. So visit those websites, read the proposal, and let us hear what you have to say.

When the comment period is over and the proposal is finalized, I look forward to presenting President Obama specific medium and heavy duty vehicle standards for model years 2014 to 2018. These will be our nation's first-ever standards for those vehicles–yes–but they are just one more step in our effort to develop a new generation of clean, fuel-efficient American vehicles.

Eastern US - Warmest in 116 Years

19 States including Massachusetts had their warmest April - June in the 116 years that records have been kept.

6 States had their 2nd warmest April - June in the 116 years that records have been kept. 

That means that half of the states in the union had either their warmest or 2nd warmest April to June since records have been kept. 

Lake Mead over the last 25 years

Take a look at this picture of Lake Mead in 1985 and in 2010. 

Lake Mead is now at it lowest level in 75 years - since it was being filled up for the first time. 

National Heat Records set in 2010

Zambia recorded its hottest temperature in history Wednesday, October 13, when the mercury hit 42.4°C (108.3°F) in Mfuwe. The previous record was 42.3°C (108.1°F) set on November 17, 2005 in Mfuwe. Zambia is in the Southern Hemisphere, and we are still three months from the peak heat of summer, but the nation is sufficiently close to the Equator that record highs and lows can be set at any time during the year. 
Zambia is the 18th nation to record a hottest all-time temperature this year, which is also a new record. The year 2007 is in second place, with 15 such records. No nations have recorded an all-time coldest temperature so far this year.
The record warmth that we are seeing this year is all the more powerful evidence of human-caused warming "because it occurs when the recent minimum of solar irradiance is having its maximum cooling effect," as a recent NASA paper notes.
Here's Masters' full list of "National heat records set in 2010″:
Belarus recorded its hottest temperature in its history on August 6, 2010, when the mercury hit 38.9°C (102.0°F) in Gorky. The previous record was 38.0°C (100.4°F) set at Vasiliyevichy on Aug. 20, 1946.
Ukraine recorded its hottest temperature in its history when the mercury hit 42.0°C (107.6°F) at Lukhansk on August 12, 2010. The previous record was set at the same location on August 1, 2010–41.3°C (106.3°F). Ukraine also reached 41.3°C on July 20 and 21, 2007, at Voznesensk.
Cyprus recorded its hottest temperature in its history on August 1, 2010 when the mercury hit 46.6°C (115.9°F) at Lefconica. The old record for Cyprus was 44.4°C (111.9°F) at Lefkosia in August 1956. An older record of 46.6°C from July 1888 was reported from Nicosia, but is of questionable reliability.
Finland recorded its hottest temperature on July 29, 2010, when the mercury hit 37.2°C (99°F) at Joensuu. The old (undisputed) record was 95°F (35°C) at Jyvaskyla on July 9, 1914.
Qatar had its hottest temperature in history on July 14, 2010, when the mercury hit 50.4°C (122.7°F) at Doha Airport.
Russia had its hottest temperature in history on July 11, when the mercury rose to 44.0°C (111.2°F) in Yashkul, Kalmykia Republic, in the European portion of Russia near the Kazakhstan border. The previous hottest temperature in Russia (not including the former Soviet republics) was the 43.8°C (110.8°F) reading measured at Alexander Gaj, Kalmykia Republic, on August 6, 1940. The remarkable heat in Russia this year has not been limited just to the European portion of the country–the Asian portion of Russia also recorded its hottest temperature in history this year, a 42.7°C (108.9°F) reading at Ust Kara, in the Chita Republic on June 27. The 42.3°C (108.1°F) reading on June 25 at Belogorsk, near the Amur River border with China, also beat the old record for the Asian portion of Russia. The previous record for the Asian portion of Russia was 41.7°C (107.1°F) at Aksha on July 21, 2004.
Sudan recorded its hottest temperature in its history on June 22 when the mercury rose to 49.7°C (121.5°F) at Dongola. The previous record was 49.5°C (121.1°F) set in July 1987 in Aba Hamed.
Niger tied its record for hottest day in history on June 22, 2010, when the temperature reached 47.1°C (116.8°F) at Bilma. That record stood for just one day, as Bilma broke the record again on June 23, when the mercury topped out at 48.2°C (118.8°F). The previous record was 47.1°C on May 24, 1998, also at Bilma.
Saudi Arabia had its hottest temperature ever on June 22, 2010, with a reading of 52.0°C (125.6°F) in Jeddah, the second largest city in Saudi Arabia. The previous record was 51.7°C (125.1°F), at Abqaiq, date unknown. The record heat was accompanied by a sandstorm, which caused eight power plants to go offline, resulting in blackouts to several Saudi cities.
Chad had its hottest day in history on June 22, 2010, when the temperature reached 47.6°C (117.7°F) at Faya. The previous record was 47.4°C (117.3°F) at Faya on June 3 and June 9, 1961.
Kuwait recorded its hottest temperature in history on June 15 in Abdaly, according to the Kuwait Met office. The mercury hit 52.6°C (126.7°F). Kuwait's previous all-time hottest temperature was 51.9°C (125.4°F), on July 27,2007, at Abdaly. Temperatures reached 51°C (123.8°F) in the capital of Kuwait City on June 15, 2010.
Iraq had its hottest day in history on June 14, 2010, when the mercury hit 52.0°C (125.6°F) inBasra. Iraq's previous record was 51.7°C (125.1°F) set August 8, 1937, in Ash Shu'aybah.
Pakistan had its hottest temperature in history on May 26, when the mercury hit an astonishing 53.5°C (128.3°F) at the town of MohenjuDaro, according to the Pakistani Meteorological Department. While this temperature reading must be reviewed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) for authenticity, not only is the 128.3°F reading the hottest temperature ever recorded in Pakistan, it is the hottest reliably measured temperature ever recorded on the continent of Asia. The old Pakistani record was 52.8°C (127°F) at Jacobabad in 1919.
Myanmar (Burma) had its hottest temperature in its recorded history on May 14, when the mercury hit 47.2°C (117.0°F) in Myinmu. This broke the record of 47.0°C set at the same location two days previous (May 12.) Myanmar's previous hottest temperature was 46.0°C (114.4°F) at Magwe in May, 1980. According to Chris Burt, author of the authoritative weather records book Extreme Weatherthe 47.2°C measured this year is the hottest temperature in Southeast Asia history.
Ascention Island (St. Helena, a U.K. Territory) had its hottest temperature in history on March 25, 2010, when the mercury hit 34.9°C (94.8°F) at Georgetown. The previous record was 34.0°C (93.2°F) at Georgetown in April 2003, exact day unknown.
The Solomon Islands had their hottest temperature in history on February 1, 2010, when the mercury hit 36.1°C (9°F) at Honiara Henderson. The previous record for the Solomon Islands was 35.6°C (96.0°F) at Honaiara, date unknown.
Colombia had its hottest reliably measured temperature in history on January 24, 2010, when Puerto Salgar hit 42.3°C (108°F). The previous record was 42.0°C (107.6°F) at El Salto in March 1988 (exact day unknown)Some unreliable extreme highs include 43.0°C at Puerto Salgar in May 2002, and 42.7°C at Barrancabermeja in December 1949.

Pakistan still flooded two months later

New satellite images from NASA show the extraordinary scope of the continuing disaster in Pakistan, where thousands of square miles of land remain submerged two months after the country was hit by catastrophic flooding. The area still submerged is the size of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island combined and 1 million people are still homeless. 

A satellite image captured last week shows floodwaters lingering in Sindh Province and Manchhar Lake at twice its normal size.
A satellite image captured last week shows floodwaters lingering in Sindh Province and Manchhar Lake at twice its normal size.

A satellite image from October 2009 shows the Indus River as it looks typically.
A satellite image from October 2009 shows the Indus River as it looks typically.

October 12, 2010

Solar Industry Record Growth

Rhone Resch is President and CEO of the Solar Energy Association (SEIA)

The solar industry is wrapping up its most successful year ever. Solar is now the fastest growing energy industry in the U.S., employing nearly 100,000 Americans and generating billions of dollars of economic growth for our economy.

While solar grew in 2010, fossil fuel companies continued to show why their dirty energy is no longer practical to power our nation. In April, at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, the coal industry suffered its worst mining accident in 40 years. Just one month later, the oil industry caused the worst spill in U.S. history, jeopardizing the ecosystem and economy of the entire Gulf region.

The solar industry, on the other hand, is on pace for a record year, installing enough clean, reliable solar energy to power more than 200,000 homes. This growth was highlighted last week when the Obama Administration announced that it would return solar to the White House.

The solar industry's gains continued with last week's announcement by the Department of the Interior that it will issue permits allowing the first utility-scale solar project on federal land. This is a significant milestone for solar. Over the last two decades, 74,000 permits have been approved for oil and gas drilling on public lands. And up until last week solar had received zero.

Over the next five years, our industry will see an aggressive expansion in both capacity and revenue. By 2015, the industry aims to install enough new solar electric capacity across the nation every year to power 2 million homes, making solar America's number one source of newly installed energy capacity.

Think about that – that's enough new solar capacity to replace 10 coal plants each and every year. We can install so much solar energy that we will eliminate the need for any new coal or nuclear power plants in the U.S. ever again.