Batteries

Game-Changing Promise of a #GreenNewDeal #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum #StopAdani

By Naomi Klein

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks to activists with the Sunrise Movement protesting in the offices of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in Washington D.C., on Nov. 13, 2018.

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times via Redux

Like so many others, I’ve been energized by the bold moral leadership coming from newly elected members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley in the face of the spiraling climate crisis and the outrageous attacks on unarmed migrants at the border. It has me thinking about the crucial difference between leadership that acts and leadership that talks about acting.

I’ll get to the Green New Deal and why we need to hold tight to that lifeline for all we’re worth. But before that, bear with me for a visit to the grandstanding of climate politics past.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

It was March 2009 and capes were still fluttering in the White House after Barack Obama’s historic hope-and-change electoral victory. Todd Stern, the newly appointed chief climate envoy, told a gathering on Capitol Hill that he and his fellow negotiators needed to embrace their inner superheroes, saving the planet from existential danger in the nick of time.

Climate change, he said, called for some of “that old comic book sensibility of uniting in the face of a common danger threatening the earth. Because that’s what we have here. It’s not a meteor or a space invader, but the damage to our planet, to our community, to our children, and their children will be just as great. There is no time to lose.”

Eight months later, at the fateful United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, all pretense to superheroism from the Obama Administration had been unceremoniously abandoned. Stern stalked the hallways of the convention center like the Grim Reaper, pulling his scythe through every proposal that would have resulted in a transformative agreement. The U.S. insisted on a target that would allow temperatures to rise by 2 degrees Celsius, despite passionate objections from many African and Pacific islander delegates who said the goal amounted to a “genocide” and would lead millions to die on land or in leaky boats. It shot down all attempts to make the deal legally binding, opting for unenforceable voluntary targets instead (as it would in Paris five years later).

Stern categorically rejected the argument that wealthy developed countries owe compensation to poor ones for knowingly pumping earth-warming carbon into the atmosphere, instead using much-needed funds for climate change protection as a bludgeon to force those countries to fall in line.

As I wrote at the time, the Copenhagen deal — cooked up behind closed doors with the most vulnerable countries locked out — amounted to a “grubby pact between the world’s biggest emitters: I’ll pretend that you are doing something about climate change if you pretend that I am too. Deal? Deal.”

Almost exactly nine years later, global emissions continue to rise, alongside average temperatures, with large swathes of the planet buffeted by record-breaking storms and scorched by unprecedented fires. The scientists convened in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have confirmed precisely what African and low-lying island states have long-since warned: that allowing temperatures to rise by 2 degrees is a death sentence, and that only a 1.5-degree target gives us a fighting chance. Indeed, at least eight Pacific islands have already disappeared beneath the rising seas.

Not only have wealthy countries failed to provide meaningful aid to poorer nations to protect themselves from weather extremes and leapfrog to clean tech, but Europe, Australia, and the United States have all responded to the increase in mass migration — intensified if not directly caused by climate stresses — with brutal force, ranging from Italy’s de facto “let them drown” policy to Trump’s increasingly real war on an unarmed caravan from Central America. Let there be no mistake: this barbarism is the way the wealthy world plans to adapt to climate change.

The only thing resembling a cape at the White House these days are all those coats Melania drapes over her shoulders, mysteriously refusing to use the arm holes for their designed purpose. Her husband, meanwhile, is busily embracing his role as a climate supervillain, gleefully approving new fossil fuel projects, shredding the Paris agreement (it’s not legally binding after all, so why not?), and pronouncing that a Thanksgiving cold snap is proof positive that the planet isn’t warming after all.

In short, the metaphorical meteor that Stern evoked in 2009 is not just hurtling closer to our fragile planet — it’s grazing the (burning) treetops.

And yet here’s the truly strange thing: I feel more optimistic about our collective chances of averting climate breakdown than I have in years. For the first time, I see a clear and credible political pathway that could get us to safety, a place in which the worst climate outcomes are avoided and a new social compact is forged that is radically more humane than anything currently on offer.

We are not on that pathway yet — very far from it. But unlike even one month ago, the pathway is clear. It begins with the galloping momentum calling on the Democratic Party to use its majority in the House to create the Select Committee for a Green New Deal, a plan advanced by Ocasio-Cortez and now backed by more than 14 representatives.

The draft text calls for the committee, which would be fully funded and empowered to draft legislation, to spend the next year consulting with a range of experts — from scientists to local lawmakers to labor unions to business leaders — to map out a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” capable of making the U.S. economy “carbon neutral” while promoting “economic and environmental justice and equality.” By January 2020, the plan would be released, and two months later would come draft legislation designed to turn it into a reality.

That early 2020 deadline is important — it means that the contours of the Green New Deal would be complete by the next U.S. election cycle, and any politician wanting to be taken seriously as a progressive champion would need to adopt it as the centerpiece of their platform. If that happened, and the party running on a sweeping Green New Deal retook the White House and the Senate in November 2020, then there would actually be time left on the climate clock to meet the harsh targets laid out in the recent IPCC report, which told us that we have a mere 12 years to cut fossil fuel emissions by a head-spinning 45 percent.

Pulling that off, the report’s summary states in its first sentence, is not possible with singular policies like carbon taxes. Rather, what is needed is “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” By giving the committee a mandate that connects the dots between energy, transportation, housing and construction, as well as health care, living wages, a jobs guarantee, and the urgent imperative to battle racial and gender injustice, the Green New Deal plan would be mapping precisely that kind of far-reaching change. This is not a piecemeal approach that trains a water gun on a blazing fire, but a comprehensive and holistic plan to actually put the fire out.

If the world’s largest economy looked poised to show that kind of visionary leadership, other major emitters — like the European Union, China, and India — would almost certainly find themselves under intense pressure from their own populations to follow suit.

Now, nothing about the pathway I have just outlined is certain or even likely: The Democratic Party establishment under Nancy Pelosi will probably squash the Green New Deal proposal, much as the party stomped on hopes for more ambitious climate deals under Obama. Smart money would bet on the party doing little more than resuscitating the climate committee that helped produce cap-and-trade legislation in Obama’s first term, an ill-fated and convoluted market-based scheme that would have treated greenhouse gases as late-capitalist abstractions to be traded, bundled, and speculated upon like currency or subprime debt (which is why Ocasio-Cortez is insisting that lawmakers who take fossil fuel money should not be on the Green New Deal select committee).

And of course, even if pressure on lawmakers continues to mount and those calling for the select committee carry the day, there is no guarantee that the party will win back the Senate and White House in 2020.

And yet, despite all of these caveats, we now have a something that has been sorely missing: a concrete plan on the table, complete with a science-based timeline, that is not only coming from social movements on the outside of government, but which also has a sizable (and growing) bloc of committed champions inside the House of Representatives.

Decades from now, if we are exquisitely lucky enough to tell a thrilling story about how humanity came together in the nick of time to intercept the metaphorical meteor, the pivotal chapter will not be the highly produced cinematic moment when Barack Obama won the Democratic primary and told an adoring throng of supporters that this would be “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” No, it will be the far less scripted and markedly more scrappy moment when a group of fed-up young people from the Sunrise Movement occupied the offices of Pelosi after the midterm elections, calling on her to get behind the plan for a Green New Deal — with Ocasio-Cortez dropping by the sit-in to cheer them on.

Sunrise Movement activists outside Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington D.C. on Nov. 13, 2018.

Photo: Briahna Gray/The Intercept

I realize that it may seem unreasonably optimistic to invest so much in a House committee, but it is not the committee itself that is my main source of hope. It is the vast infrastructure of scientific, technical, political, and movement expertise poised to spring into action should we take the first few steps down this path. It is a network of extraordinary groups and individuals who have held fast to their climate focus and commitments even when no media wanted to cover the crisis and no major political party wanted to do anything more than perform concern.

It’s a network that has been waiting a very long time for there to finally be a critical mass of politicians in power who understand not only the existential urgency of the climate crisis, but also the once-in-a-century opportunity it represents, as the draft resolution states, “to virtually eliminate poverty in the United States and to make prosperity, wealth and economic security available to everyone participating in the transformation.”

The ground for this moment has been prepared for decades, with models for community-owned and community-controlled renewable energy; with justice-based transitions that make sure no worker is left behind; with a deepening analysis of the intersections between systemic racism, armed conflict, and climate disruption; with improved green tech and breakthroughs in clean public transit; with the thriving fossil fuel divestment movement; with model legislation driven by the climate justice movement that shows how carbon taxes can fight racial and gender exclusion; and much more.

What has been missing is only the top-level political power to roll out the best of these models all at once, with the focus and velocity that both science and justice demand. That is the great promise of a comprehensive Green New Deal in the largest economy on earth. And as the Sunrise Movement turns up the heat on legislators who have yet to sign onto the plan, it deserves all of our support.

Of course there is no shortage of Beltway pundits ready to dismiss all of this as hopelessly naive and unrealistic, the work of political neophytes who don’t understand the art of the possible or the finer points of policy. What those pundits are failing to account for is the fact that, unlike previous attempts to introduce climate legislation, the Green New Deal has the capacity to mobilize a truly intersectional mass movement behind it — not despite its sweeping ambition, but precisely because of it.

This is the game-changer of having representatives in Congress rooted in working-class struggles for living-wage jobs and for nontoxic air and water — women like Tlaib, who helped fight a successful battle against Koch Industries’ noxious petroleum coke mountain in Detroit.

If you are part of the economy’s winning class and funded by even bigger winners, as so many politicians are, then your attempts to craft climate legislation will likely be guided by the idea that change should be as minimal and unchallenging to the status quo as possible.

After all, the status quo is working just fine for you and your donors.

Leaders who are rooted in communities that are being egregiously failed by the current system, on the other hand, are liberated to take a very different approach. Their climate policies can embrace deep and systemic change — including the need for massive investments in public transit, affordable housing, and health care — because that kind of change is precisely what their bases need to thrive.

As climate justice organizations have been arguing for many years now, when the people with the most to gain lead the movement, they fight to win.

Press link for more: The Intercept

WE NEED AN APOLLO PROGRAMME FOR #CLIMATECHANGE #auspol #qldpol #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #StopAdani #GreenNewDeal #TheDrum #QandA

By Bill McGuire

A recent visit to the cinema to see the excellent First Man, which follows astronaut Neil Armstrong on his path to immortality, reminded me of the big anniversary coming up next year.

I find it hard to believe, but 2019 will see the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, way back in July 1969. I was a schoolboy at the time and remember it vividly. In many ways, this seminal event was the beginning of the end for the hugely ambitious US space programme. Despite another five landings following, and all the drama of the Apollo 13 emergency, the final two moon missions were scrapped, along with plans for a moon base and manned mission to Mars in the 1980s. There has been no return to the Moon and – notwithstanding wildly optimistic ravings from Elon Musk and other internet billionaires with more money than sense – a human presence on the red planet seems as far away as ever.

      It is probably not entirely a coincidence that interest in space and reaching out to other worlds began to fade at a time when concerns over our own was growing. Today, few in their right mind would prioritise space exploration over putting our house in order down here on Earth.

A house that is in severe danger of being trashed beyond repair by a conspiracy of climate breakdown, environmental degradation and mass extinction. Notwithstanding this, space still has a major role to play down here on the surface. Specialist satellites play a key part in observing and tracking many of the features that flag up how quickly our world is falling apart, including ice cover, sea-surface temperatures and land use. The Apollo programme, in particular, also taught us a vital lesson; just how quickly something can be accomplished if it is wanted badly enough. This is encapsulated in a short clip from the now famous speech President Kennedy made in 1962, during which he announced the intention to put a man on the Moon. 

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.

      Swap ‘stop climate breakdown’  for ‘go to the Moon’ and these few sentences describe perfectly the can-do thinking that a war on climate change requires.

It may be Kismet, but Kennedy’s speech was made seven years before the first moon landing; the same length of time over which Extinction Rebellion demands that UK carbon emissions reach net zero.

So, it seems obvious.

What we need is an Apollo Programme for climate change.

An all-embracing crusade that strives to cut emissions to the bone within seven years.

To do this will require retooling the economy and rebooting our wasteful lifestyles to make falling carbon output the measure of the success of our society; not rising GDP, the number of families with two cars, or how many fighter jets we have sold to Saudi Arabia.

      The driver for the Apollo programme was simple and straightforward – get to the Moon before the ‘Russkies’ do.

When the alternative is global catastrophe, an Apollo Programme for climate change shouldn’t really need to be incentivised.

Knowing that we will bequeath to our children and their children a world that is not desecrated beyond redemption should be sufficient.

Nonetheless, there are welcome incentives too.

A zero carbon world will be a cleaner, safer and – almost certainly – a happier one.

So what’s not to like.

The sooner we start the better.

Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL and author of Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanic Eruptions. He was a contributor to the IPCC 2012 report on Climate Change & Extreme Events and Disasters.

Press link for more: XR Blog

A zero-carbon economy is both feasible and affordable #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #ClimateEmergency we must act now #TheDrum

The issue is whether governments, industry and consumers are willing to do what is required

By Adair Turner

Jonathan Adair Turner, Baron Turner of Ecchinswell (born 5 October 1955) is a British businessman and academic and was Chairman of the Financial Services Authority until its abolition in March 2013.

He is a former Chairman of the Pensions Commission and the Committee on Climate Change, as well as a former Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry. He has described himself in a BBC HARDtalk interview with Stephen Sackuras a ‘technocrat‘.

A solar farm. Achieving net zero emissions requires boosting the role of electricity

Fossil fuels have driven rising prosperity for more than 200 years and today provide 80 per cent of human energy needs. But carbon dioxide emissions from their use threaten potentially catastrophic climate change.

To avoid that we must achieve net zero emissions across the whole world by around 2060. 

That may seem daunting. But it would be undoubtedly technically possible at very small economic cost, as a report from the Energy Transitions Commission makes clear. The issue is not feasibility, but whether governments, industry and consumers are willing to take the actions required to get there. 

Achieving net zero emissions requires boosting the role of electricity.

The commission, which I chair, estimates its share of energy demand must grow from 20 per cent today to more than 60 per cent by mid-century.

Total generation would have to rise from 20,000 terawatt hours to up to 100,000 twh. 

Nuclear power could play some role but most of this power must and can come from renewable sources, including wind, solar and water.

Less than 1.5 per cent of the global land surface area could produce all the renewable electricity the world needs: and it is physically possible to run grids that rely on intermittent renewables for 85 to 90 per cent of their power, while still delivering electricity whenever needed.

The real challenge is to get to this endpoint fast enough: that requires us to quintuple our annual investment in renewables capacity for the next 40 years. 

Three other technologies are also essential.

First there must be a major role for hydrogen power: steel producers could potentially use it rather than coking coal as the reduction agent, and ammonia (produced from hydrogen) could be used as fuel for ships.

Hydrogen can result in zero-carbon emissions if produced via electrolysis using zero-carbon electricity. 

Second, we must tap bioenergy to provide zero-carbon aviation fuel and as a feedstock for plastics production. But this step must be carefully managed to avoid harmful impacts on ecosystems and food production.

Third a relatively small but still vital role for technologies that capture CO2, particularly in cement production. 

Some aspects of a zero-carbon economy will make consumers better off.

Within 10 years, electric cars will not only be cheaper to operate than diesel or petrol, but also cheaper to buy.

In heavy industry and transport, where it is harder to reduce CO2 emissions, some additional costs are unavoidable but often the consumer impact will be trivial: making cars from zero-carbon steel would add no more than 1 per cent to a typical car price. But in some specific sectors, material price increases may be unavoidable: if bio-based aviation fuel costs 50-100 per cent more to produce than conventional jet fuel, that would add up to 20 per cent to ticket prices.

Overall, the commission estimates that achieving zero emissions in heavy industry and transport by 2060 would make the global economy at most 0.5 per cent smaller than it would otherwise have been.

That figure could be reduced to less than 0.3 per cent if we increased the recycling and reuse of industrial materials.

That means that there are no unmanageable technological, resource or even cost barriers to impede our path to a zero-carbon economy. Still, without strong government intervention policies we will fail to achieve it. 

Charging for carbon emissions is essential but must be designed to avoid unfair competition. Making steel zero carbon may add only trivially to car prices, but any steel producer facing a carbon price that adds $100 to the costs of producing a tonne of steel, would be severely disadvantaged if competitors in other countries did not have to pay similar taxes. 

Ideally, we would strike international agreements, but we should not rule out imposing carbon-related tariffs on imports from non-co-operating countries. We should also consider unilateral domestic carbon prices in sectors such as cement, where international trade is limited. In some sectors, regulation may be more effective. Green fuel mandates requiring airlines to use a steadily rising percentage of zero-carbon bio or synthetic jet fuel would provide powerful incentives for innovation and large-scale production. Tight rules on the dismantling and disposal of discarded products will be essential to drive recycling.

Reaching agreement on many of these policies will of course be difficult. But it should at least be easier if we start with certainty that a zero-carbon economy is both technically feasible and affordable. 

The writer, a former head of the UK Financial Services Authority, chairs the Energy Transitions Commission

Press link for more: Financial Times

We urgently need a #GreenNewDeal #auspol #qldpol #ClimateEmergency #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #TheDrum #QandA #StopAdani Demand #ClimateAction

Deteriorating climate requires more aggressive action

By Craig S. Altemose

THE LATEST CLIMATE SCIENCE has come in, and it’s time to update our state’s climate laws.

As a graduate student working on climate change in 2008, I was proud to help lead hundreds of students from across Massachusetts to campaign effusively for the passage of our state’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act. It was, and remains, the nation’s most aggressive binding climate law, and everyone who helped pass it and all the legislators who voted for it should remain proud of that accomplishment, particularly the bill’s visionary co-sponsors, Sen. Marc Pacheco and recently-retired representative Frank Smizik.

And yet the source of that pride—the knowledge that we were aligning Massachusetts’ policies with the latest and best available science—should now leave all of us who care about a livable future feeling unsettled. Because the latest and best science has changed.

The 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act was based on the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which aimed at helping society avert a 4-degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature.

While that may not seem like a lot, our climate system is actually pretty sensitive, just like the human body.

It turns out increasing the planet’s temperature by 4 degrees may be as dangerous as increasing your body’s internal temperature a comparable amount; as we know, going from 98.6 degrees to 102.6 degrees is pretty serious.

To have a 50 percent chance of avoiding the catastrophe that would come with a 4-degree temperature rise, the IPCC said in 2007 that developed nations such as the United States should reduce their climate pollution 25 to 40 percent by 2020 and 80 to 95 percent by 2050 (below the 1990 baseline levels).

Massachusetts became the only state in the nation to adopt legislation requiring us to land within that range (25 percent by 2020 and at least 80 percent by 2050), putting our state in line with other nations such as the 27-member European Union and Japan.

Since 2008, three critical trends have been observed that have changed the calculus of what we need to do.

Two of these trends (worsening science outlook and delayed action) are unsettling, while the third (clean energy growth) is more promising.

The first trend is that the science has continued to be updated, and continues to look worse.

The IPCC’s latest report issued earlier this year has demonstrated that 3 degrees Fahrenheit, not 4 degrees Fahrenheit, is the more appropriate, safer target that society must achieve.

It’s the difference between keeping some coral reefs—currently home to over 25 percent of all marine life—or having them all disappear, along with most of the fish and people who rely on them for food.

It’s the difference between hundreds of millions of people being able to continue living with relative peace and prosperity in their ancestral homelands, and those hundreds of millions of people being displaced and migrating across international lines, creating massive migration crises, food riots, and the collapse of governments.

It’s the difference between a world we mostly recognize, and one we do not.

The second, related trend is the under-implementation of climate solutions around the world. With global climate pollution continuing to rise over the past decade instead of dropping, we must be even more ambitious in our pollution reduction to achieve the same result, because it’s the total amount of pollution (the stock), not how much we emit in a given year (the rate), that counts.

In other words, if you have a deadline to run a marathon, and you decide to walk the first 10 miles, you have to run the rest of the course a lot faster to hit your deadline than you would have if you had started running at the beginning.

That’s where we are—we have great distance to cover in relatively little time.

The latest IPCC report suggests that the whole world now needs to halve global emissions by 2030 and zero them out by 2050 in order to have a reasonable chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change.

And given Massachusetts’ history of progressive leadership; above-average wealth; absence of coal, oil, and gas deposits; and robust clean tech sector, we should be doing substantially more, not less, than the global average.

Which leads me to the more promising trend: clean energy has advanced dramatically in the last decade.

The price of solar and wind – both onshore and offshore – has dropped tremendously, and is economically competitive with coal, oil, and gas in more and more places with each passing day, while breakthroughs around energy storage, smart grids, microgrids, and electric vehicles are proceeding aggressively.

Quite simply, we have the technology we need to advance a transition off of fossil fuels, and using 2018 technology to charge forward aggressively with that transition is a lot easier than charging forward with 2008 technology.

These three trends – more accurate climate science, delayed action, and a rapid growth in climate solutions – all point to the same conclusion: we can, should, and must redouble our efforts on climate change and support ambitious, science-based targets. If we truly want Massachusetts to assume its historic leadership role on this greatest crisis facing humanity, then we should have all of our policies driving toward 2030, not 2050, as the deadline for our work.

Doing so will require creative imagination, the courage to disrupt business-as-usual politics regarding our “public” utilities, and to grapple with tough choices. But there are some serious upsides to chartering an ambitious and bold response to climate change. We can also help infuse society with an inspiring and meaningful shared purpose. We can take advantage of the coming economic restructuring to simultaneously address systemic issues of racial and socioeconomic inequalities. We can move our economy away from one with disposable things and disposable people toward one that invests in healthy, whole, resilient communities. And we can save life on earth as we know it.

Many are now starting to frame such an aggressive, holistic response as a Green New Deal, with an emphasis on heavy government intervention on clean energy and jobs creation to advance critical social needs. Key components include a guaranteed good-paying job for anyone willing to work as part of the transition off of fossil fuels, and a particular focus on ensuring that fossil fuel workers, workin- class communities, and communities of color equitably share the benefits of this transition, all with an eye toward prompt and ambitious action on the timeline—years, not decades—that counts.

As tough as this path may seem, the choice is truly an easy one.

Will we take the necessary steps to repower and rework our economy, or will we continue on a path of gradual, inadequate actions and watch as California burns, oceans rise, storms strike, and crops fail? 

It’s time for Massachusetts to accelerate our efforts to build a better future that works for all of us and take the lead in a proportionate response to the climate crisis.

Craig S. Altemose is the executive director of Better Future Project and 350 Mass Action.

Press link for more: Commonwealth Magazine

Humanitarian Crisis in California! Catastrophic #ClimateChange 79 Dead, 700 missing, thousands homeless. Demand #GreenNewDeal #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #auspol

https://youtu.be/YokRLakwZ2E

The wildfires in California signal that in the era of climate catastrophe no one will be untouched.

Time to make the planet great again.

We need to join movements like the Extinction Rebellion, Climate Strike, Stop Adani and 350.Org.

The time for procrastination is over.

The climate crisis is here we need to demand a Green New Deal.

Climate change policy can be overwhelming. Here’s a guide to the policies that work. #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol Climate Solutions.

A new book from veteran energy analyst Hal Harvey simplifies decarbonization.

That is the question Hal Harvey, long-time energy analyst and CEO of the energy policy firm Energy Innovation, set out to answer with a new tool.

The tool is the Energy Policy Simulator, which allows anyone to choose a package of energy policies and immediately see the impact on carbon emissions and other pollutants. (It’s like a video game for energy nerds.) It’s based on a model that attempts to replicate the physical economy, with detailed information about real-world assets.

Using that tool, Harvey and his team narrowed in on the policies that work, the places they work best, and the best way to design them.

Their conclusions are summarized in a new book, Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy. It’s a compact but detailed how-to guide for developing energy policies that have real impact. (A fairly extensive miniature version of the book is online here, if you want to flip through.)

The results are oddly heartening, or at least clarifying.

For instance: The top 20 carbon emitting countries in the world are responsible for 80 percent of global emissions. Just seven countries emit more than a gigaton annually.

It’s daunting to lure the world’s nearly 200 countries into a globally unanimous agreement, like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is forever attempting to do. (Witness the heroic work necessary to secure the Paris climate agreement, which isn’t even legally binding.) But 20 countries? Surely the world can get decent policies in place in 20 countries.

Just as they are geographically clustered, emissions are also clustered in a relatively small number of sectors.

Here is a graph from the book showing, in light blue, the total emissions currently projected for 2050 (it includes the effects of current policies). The colored squares are the sectors where additional policy-driven efforts can reduce emissions enough through 2050 to offer a 50 percent chance of avoiding more than 2 degrees Celsius of global temperature rise. (That is, you will recall, the commonly agreed international target, though many advocate shooting lower, for 1.5 degrees.)

Putting land use aside (it’s important, but the book focuses on energy policy), that’s five sectors.

Well, technically it’s four sectors and one cross-sectoral policy, namely carbon pricing.

Four sectors + carbon pricing. That’s manageable! And it turns out, within those four sectors (+ carbon pricing), a total of just 10 types of policies can do the job.

The overall message is that climate policy doesn’t have to mean doing everything possible, everywhere possible.

It’s mainly about applying a toolbox of 10 energy policies to four economic sectors in the 20 top-emitting countries, plus a bunch of carbon pricing and land-use reform. That will get us most of the way there, and it’s a tractable task. (Not easy. But tractable.)

Policymakers at every level — perhaps even some of those newly elected Democratic governors — will find the book a practical help. It tailors recommendations to different geographies and levels of economic development and gets into nitty-gritty design issues for each policy.

And it reminds them again and again: focus. There are about a dozen policies that work, but “there’s a fast fall-off after that dozen,” Harvey says. “There’s tons of things that sound good but just don’t make much of a difference.”

I chatted with Harvey by phone about policy design, the role of carbon pricing, and the kind of R&D America really needs, among other things.

Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Hal Harvey

Energy Innovation

David Roberts

Tell us a little bit about the tool you created to compare policies.

Hal Harvey

We’ve developed this [Energy Policy Simulator] now for eight countries, which together represent more than half the world’s carbon emissions.

The model is essentially a replica of the physical economy. For example, it knows how many cars there are in the United States. It knows how many miles they drive and what kind of fuel they use, and therefore the carbon emissions they emit. It knows how many retire each year, and what they’re replaced with.

By keeping track of all those cars over all those years, we can determine quite precisely what effect an incremental fuel efficiency standard will have. That’s just one of many options in the transportation sphere. You could have a gas tax, congestion pricing, feebates, or a carbon tax with an EV rebate. We measure well over 50 different policies.

The model also handles interactions among policies. It knows which policy is controlling at any given time. (You can’t just add them all up; it doesn’t work that way.)

The upshot is, the user can take any one of these policies and slide it up and down from zero to very strong and instantly see the effects on CO2, on a dozen other pollutants, and on cash flow.

A snapshot from the Energy Policy Simulator.

David Roberts

One thing you stress in the book is timing. It’s important to get policies in place early, so technologies have time to develop.

Hal Harvey

There’s this naïve idea that the way technology works is, people sit in labs and think and worry and work on an idea, and then it pops into the world and becomes ubiquitous. The reality is, a very large fraction of progress on technologies happens through deployment.

One of the things we try to do is unpack the learning curves.

So there’s stuff that’s crazy out there and requires science — that might be algae, or carbon sequestration, or advanced nuclear power.

Then there’s stuff that’s pretty cool, seems to work, but requires a lot of engineering to get there — the solar field went through this phase during the late ’70s to the mid ’80s.

And then there’s the last stage on that learning curve, which comes from deployment, learning by doing. For that, you need very large volumes of sales, continued over time. The dramatic price reductions in wind and solar — and more recently in offshore wind — reflect this last part of the learning curve.

Technology learning curves and policy — a representative chart.

But this, somewhat ironically, is what Bill Gates doesn’t get.

He thinks we need breakthroughs, when in fact the biggest breakthroughs we’ve had have been by incrementally making, e.g., batteries cheaper, cheaper, cheaper. We’re doing it with LEDs, by increasing scale, by deploying and deploying.

David Roberts

Throughout the book, you focus on policy design. It’s not enough to pass these policies, they have to work right. You extract a few design principles. Give me an example of one of those principles.

Hal Harvey

I’ll start with performance standards.

Performance standards — by that I mean C02-per-kWh, or fractions of renewables on the grid, or miles per gallon per car, or minimum energy standards for your building codes — have been the killer app in energy policy.

Performance standards have completely transformed refrigerators.

They have a bad rep from an age-old and completely upside-down debate about “command-and-control” policy. But we use performance standards all the time, and they work really well. Our buildings don’t burn down very much; they used to burn down all the time. Our meat’s not poisoned; it used to be poisoned, or you couldn’t tell. And so forth. If you just tell somebody, this is the minimum performance required, guess what? Engineers are really good at meeting it cost-effectively.

When you design performance standards, there are a few characteristics that make them work really well. The first, which I emphasize again and again, is continuous improvement. Don’t set a quantitative target, set a rate of improvement.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving. It tells manufacturers, you gotta get better and better and better. It helps them structure their R&D. Maybe most importantly, it uses political bandwidth once and delivers the goods forever.

California’s building code gets tighter every three years. It only took one law, in the 1970s, to make that happen. That bill, Title 24, was signed when Jerry Brown was the youngest governor in California’s history. He’s now the oldest governor in California’s history. In between, Republicans and Democrats alike saw the building code get stronger and stronger. It didn’t require cashing in political capital, going back to the legislature, debating it — it just happens.

I’ll give a counter-example. [President] Gerald Ford doubled fuel efficiency in cars between 1975 and 1985 with a fuel efficiency standard. And then we went to sleep for 25 years. For 25 years, we didn’t increase fuel efficiency. We took all the technological improvement that was coming down the pike and devoted it to mass and power — cars doubled power and increased weight by 40 percent.

We pay two kinds of tax for that: first, enormous amounts of carbon dioxide; second, if we had had continuous improvement, we would have saved a trillion dollars that we sent to countries that hate us.

And we let our auto companies become uncompetitive, because the Germans and the Japanese were improving all the while. So we have the auto companies go bankrupt — two out of the three.

Again, if Gerald Ford had simply said “4 percent a year” instead of “26 miles per gallon,” we would have avoided all that.

David Roberts

These days, people across the political spectrum are talking about carbon pricing. How does it fit into the larger effort?

Hal Harvey

The thing about carbon pricing is, it’s helpful, but it’s not dispositive.

There are a number of sectors that are impervious to a carbon price, or close to impervious.

A carbon price works when it’s part of a package that includes R&D and performance standards. It does not work in isolation. It helps, but it doesn’t do nearly as much as is required.

Australia’s Carbon Price worked until the current government axed it.

Also, it has to be a real number.

Twenty bucks a ton doesn’t affect much at all.

David Roberts

What is the lowest real number?

Hal Harvey

First of all, it’s okay to start at a low number, as long as you have a steady ramp — it’s back to continuous improvement.

That’s actually a smart way to do it, so you don’t shock the system.

I think you need to push it to 50 bucks a ton — which is what’s going to happen in Canada over the next four years — in order to have a meaningful impact on carbon emissions.

A carbon price is good at reaching (this is just gonna roll off the tongue, ready?) price-sensitive, heterogeneous industries. What I mean by that is, it’s hard to set a performance standard that works for glass, pulp and paper, steel, chemicals, and so forth. So in those realms, setting a price is a nice way to handle it. Then businesses can simply internalize the costs and make better decisions.

Here’s where [a price on carbon] doesn’t work.

It doesn’t work in buildings, at all. The people who design and build buildings never pay the utility bills, and in much of America, people who own the buildings don’t pay the bills either. So the poor renter is stuck with a leaky building, but has no ability to put capital into the building and fix it, or to get it right in the first place. The only policy that’s ever worked at scale in buildings is a strong building code.

It doesn’t do much in transportation, because fuel is a relatively small part of driving a vehicle, and the more efficient the vehicle, the less the fuel price matters. For proof of this, look at the European Union, where [fuel] taxes are [the equivalent of] over 400 dollars a ton [of carbon]. They still need a fuel efficiency standard to get fuel efficiency where it needs to go — even at 400 bucks a ton, which I don’t think we’re talking about on the US Senate floor these days.

The policies that work and how much they contribute.

David Roberts

Tell me about the hybrid carbon pricing system you describe in the book. You try to capture the best parts of a cap-and-trade system and a tax.

Hal Harvey

The debate between a carbon tax and a carbon cap has to be one of the sillier ways to waste electrical energy.

David Roberts

Years of my life.

Hal Harvey

Dude, you got off easy. There are some poor souls at RFF who are still wracking their brains against this one.

For most reasonable ranges of either, they’re the same.

What you’re worried about with the carbon cap is the price might be really high or really low. If it’s really high, it’ll cause economic shock, if it’s really low, it won’t do anything.

But the answer to that is to put a price floor and a price ceiling on those permits, as we do in California. If the price is too low, you just don’t auction off as many. And if it’s too high, you just release more permits, because you really don’t want to tank the economy as part of your climate solution.

Same with the carbon tax. You can adjust it too, if you want. If you put in a 10-dollar carbon tax and you discover it has no effect on anything except cement production, then you can raise it up a little bit. Then it’s looking more and more like a cap.

By putting reasonable boundaries on either of these systems, they start to look a lot alike; they start to behave a lot alike.

A hybrid carbon-pricing system.

David Roberts

I was a little surprised by the prominent role of the industrial sector in emission reductions.

Hal Harvey

There are about 10 industries that dominate energy consumption in industry. They’re the ones you’d expect: steel, concrete, pulp and paper, chemicals, non-ferrous metals, fertilizers, and so forth.

What you have to do is think hard about how to get each of these quite different businesses, with different constraints and opportunities, on to a decarbonizing path.

As I said, the best policy with them is a significant, steadily rising, long-term carbon price — whether it’s a cap or a tax. That will induce them to see what they can electrify. There are cements, for example, that are half the carbon or less of normal cement. And cement is 5 percent of global carbon — it’s a big number.

But it’s not easy to break into that business. It’s very low-margin and it’s got a lot of sunk capital costs. So without a pretty serious price signal, you’re not going to get there. There are some things you can do with performance standards, but fundamentally pricing is what matters — plus serious R&D.

It’s a different kind of R&D than America likes to do. Our R&D ever since World War II has focused on fundamental truths: the meaning of life; what’s inside a quark; stuff like that. We don’t really have that many institutions that focus on new ways to run a mini-mill for steel. Or new chemical reactions that require a lot less energy and have a lot less waste. Or ways to use waste heat from industry.

The Germans have a really interesting set of institutions called the Fraunhofer Institutes. There are 70 of them — one for every problem you can think about. Their job is exactly to figure out this kind of thing. I think it would behoove America to think more about that part of learning, which I call the engineering part of the learning curve. You’re doing really gritty work. It’s not theoretical stuff. It’s not breakthrough stuff either, but it’s where we have to go with industry.

Cement production is no joke!

David Roberts

Your modeling does not include any carbon sequestration through 2050.

You frame it as a post-2050 technology.

How did you come to that conclusion?

What’s the role of negative emissions in the big picture?

Hal Harvey

This gets back to an absolutely fundamental strategic question that everybody who cares about this stuff needs to ask at the beginning, which is: What policies or technologies are going to get the most tons [of carbon reductions] the fastest?

That’s the carbon imperative.

If you delay, if you don’t do the really big stuff now, then your future has to be unfathomably heroic.

In fact, even if you had free negative emissions that were infinite, you might not solve the problem, because we’re going to spin some natural systems into an unrecoverable runaway. We defrost the tundra and it releases soil carbon and methane. Or the melting lubricates more melting, and so forth.

If you start with this fundamental strategic question — most tons fastest — then you realize that carbon sequestration is perhaps something you should think about [with regard to] path dependency, but as a major focus today, while we’re not rapidly shutting down every coal plant and every natural gas facility, not converting the auto fleet, not launching building codes … it’s crazy. It really is an abnegation of responsibility to focus on the last five percent while you ignore the first 95 percent.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do R&D.

We argue for R&D.

We need more options in the future. But the logic — that, well, all the IPCC scenarios show that we have to go negative, therefore that’s where we’re gonna put our attention — completely misapprehends the nature of carbon math.

Let me add one more thing to that. Right now, solar is coming in at negative dollars per ton, because it’s cheaper than what it is replacing, and it offers benefits, in the form of electricity. Then you contrast it with carbon capture, which is coming in at hundreds of dollars per ton and offers no benefits. It’s a pure tax on society to build these direct-air capture machines, or grow a bunch of biomass and build a bunch of gas pipelines and pump everything underground.

If you have one technology that is always gonna be dead weight on the economy, and the other one levitates the economy, and one’s not available, and one is available … what the hell.

Carbon sucking machines: maybe not the top priority?

David Roberts

The book also has nothing about behavior change — no turning off lights or going vegetarian. Do you find that lever unrealistic?

Hal Harvey

It’s a policy design book, and there aren’t many policies that have people change their diet. Michael Bloomberg taxed sugar, so there’s one. But we’re not gonna have the tons-of-barbecue-per-capita tax in North Carolina. (I probably shouldn’t use the word “tons” there, but you get the point.)

We have limited political bandwidth. If you’re serious about change, you have to identify the decision makers that can innovate the most tons the fastest. Then you have to a develop a strategy to influence them. There are 7.5 billion decision makers on diet. There are 250 utility commissioners in America — and utility commissioners control half the carbon in America.

If you made everybody do meatless Mondays or taco-free Tuesdays or whatever’s next, you’re still nibbling away at less than 1 percent, unless you can get billions of people to do it.

Trying to invoke behavior change on something as personal as eating en masse is morally sound, it’s ecologically a good idea, but as a carbon strategy, it doesn’t scratch the surface.

David Roberts

What can cities do on carbon?

Hal Harvey

This is gonna make me more enemies, but … cities have almost no power over carbon. Some cities have building codes tougher than the state’s, but that’s rare. They control traffic patterns, kinda, but since we have so many municipalities, it tends to be a metropolitan planning organization within the state agency that does that.

David Roberts

What about zoning?

Hal Harvey

Well … what about zoning? You can do an urban growth boundary, but that’s a state policy. You could do mixed-use zoning. That’s a great idea.

David Roberts

I gotta say, the urban mobility piece of your little dot graph seems sadly small to me.

Hal Harvey

That’s a huge element in an aborning country, like China, or the big cities in Africa, or the Middle East. In a mature economy, with all the infrastructure in place, the time constants are just slower. I’m still completely in favor of it: urban growth boundaries, really functional mass transit, bike lanes, mixed use. And that is emphatically city or regional policy.

David Roberts

Paul Hawken’s Drawdown Project looked at options for reducing greenhouse gases and found that educating girls and family planning were the two most potent.

Hal Harvey

When I was at the Hewlett Foundation, we sponsored a study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research that asked the question: Globally, if you met unmet need for contraceptives — that is to say, no coercion whatsoever — what would it cost and what would the carbon impact be?

We found large-scale abatement at less than a dollar a ton. So I’m completely in favor of that.

Carbon abatement in action.

Here’s the thing about the Drawdown book: It’s a technology book, not a policy book. And it’s geographically indifferent — it doesn’t say you have to do this in the top 20 countries, or anywhere. It doesn’t mention policy, it doesn’t mention geography — and without those two things, it’s not a plan. I think it’s a good contribution to the world, but it doesn’t tell anyone what to do on Monday morning.

David Roberts

And that’s your book. The Monday-morning book.

Hal Harvey

If you’re an energy person — if you’re the aide to the governor of Wyoming, say, or Georgia or Colorado — this book tells you very clearly not only what to do, but how to do it.

Press link for more: Vox.com

Rebellion Day: does the gravity of #ClimateChange ever justify breaking the law? #ExtinctionRebellion #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #springst #wapol #sapol #TheDrum #QandA

A new group of environmental activists want to use civil disobedience to highlight the climate crisis.

By India Bourke

India Bourke

Getting this balance right is perhaps the greatest challenge facing a new group of environmental activists, known as Extinction Rebellion, who want to use civil disobedience to highlight the climate crisis.

Drawing upon findings from a recent UN report on climate change, the movement argues that the world only has “12 years left” to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.

They consequently want the UK to reach net-zero emissions by 2025.

“We say the social contract has been broken, so we not only have a right to rebel, we have a duty to rebel”, said Gail Bradbrook, an experienced activist and mother of two, at a press conference last week.

Rather than submit yet another petition, they believe that peaceful but arrestable protest is the best way to grab the attention of the press and the politicians.

This will culminate in a Hunger Games reminiscent “Rebellion Day”, on Saturday 17 November, in central London. Organisers say over 500 people have signed up to be arrested in a protest that they hope will “shut down” the city.

Their approach has already had some success: at least 27 protestors were arrested on Wednesday, after super-gluing themselves to the Downing Street gates, while human-blockades and “lock-ons” have also stopped traffic outside the Department for Energy and the Brazilian Embassy.

But to reach a critical mass of participants, the movement must persuade people who wouldn’t normally conceive of committing crime, to do just that. So can it convince new recruits that the climate crisis justifies breaking the law?

“Climate change will lead to irreparable harm to our planet’s abiliity to sustain life, and cause great suffering, says Eduardo Gill-Pedro, a post-doctoral researcher in law at Lund University and a former rights and justice campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “So there is a good argument that we have a duty to do something, and that this duty outweighs our duty to obey the law.”

Breaking the law does not necessarily have to result in a wider disintegration of legal respect, he argues. “If we break the law saying ‘we don’t care what the law says, we want X, or we do not want Y’ this might undermine respect for the rule of law. Yet if we break the law, acknowledging that it is the law and, in principle, should be respected, but we say ‘despite this, other moral considerations impel us to break the law’, this will not necessarily undermine respect for the rule of law.”

Key to staying on the right side of law-breaking is also a commitment to non-violence and acknowledgement of any crimes committed, say the leaders of Extinction Rebellion. For example, they are training new activists to remain next to any graffiti they spray (with washable spray-paint), or even wash it off themselves. Participants in Saturday’s event also can choose whether to be involved in arrestable protest or not.

By opening out – and potentially popularising – a mode of protest previously only pursued by a small group of hardcore activists (many of whom have helped establish Extinction Rebellion), the organisers hope the environmental justice movement will gain new energy and reach.

Already, this week’s protests have drawn participants from a vast range of communities and professions, from farmers to faith groups. A town councillor and a retired civil servant protesting fracking in their local Lancashire community tell me they are also planning to make the trip.

Environmental NGOs are also supportive. “Friends of the Earth only takes part in peaceful, legal protest but we recognise we need a broad coalition of people, all clamouring loudly for action, to deal with this crisis before it’s too late,” says Liz Hutchins, campaigns director at Friends of the Earth.

And yet, there is a risk that in aiming to resolve all the world’s ills at once – political and environmental – the movement may not change any in time.

One stumbling block could be the extent of their ambition. Net-zero emissions by 2025 is a more extreme target than that set by the UN’s own report (which calls for a 45 per cent cut in carbon emissions by 2030, then net-zero by 2050). It may instead be wiser to follow the findings of the Independent Committee on Climate Change, which is presently looking into how and when the UK could responsibly reach net-zero.

A second sticking point could be the movement’s focus on climate science’s very worst predictions. “My personal view is that a collapse is coming,” said Gail Bradbrook at the press event. But while visions of a global collapse in food production and human population, in which only the richest survive, is not altogether inconceivable (just this week, the hiring of private fire-fighters by the Kardashian family, showed just how linked the ability to cope with climate change is to class), it also feels like an overly gloomy estimation of the human capacity for innovation, adaptation and co-operation.

And a third is the movement’s radical political edge. The personal view of Howard Rees, 38, a press coordinator with Extinction Rebellion, is that sufficient change is not possible under our existing system. Britain’s present form of democracy is a “sham”, he says, where the leaders are “puppets” of a capitalist elite, reliant on planetary exploitation. Consequently, the movement also aims to introduce a new representative People’s Assembly, which would dictate economic priorities to politicians.

As membership swells, however, the ambitions of the Extinction Rebellion may shift again, since its decision making process is based around internal discussion. And its members are not short on passion.

So when it comes to encouraging government to take swift action on emissions they may yet prove, as the Hunger Games puts it, that “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear”. 

Press link for more: New Statesman

For a better understanding of the Extinction Revolution watch this video.

by Rupert Read

https://youtu.be/uzCxFPzdO0Y

Lecture given at Churchill College Cambridge University

This Civilisation is finished! So what is to be done? #ShedALight #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #wapol #SpringSt #StopAdani #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #ClimateChange #TheDrum #QandA

Watch Rupert Read’s Lecture https://youtu.be/uzCxFPzdO0Y

Rupert Read (born 1966) is an academic and a Green Party politician in England.

He is Chair of the Green House thinktank, a former Green Party spokesperson for transport, former East of England party co-ordinator and currently a Reader in Philosophy at the University of East Anglia.

Watch Tony Juniper’s Lecture https://youtu.be/cPn46dJRuFY

Anthony Juniper CBE (born 24 September 1960) is a British campaigner, writer, sustainability advisor and environmentalist who served as Executive Director of Friends of the Earth, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. He was Vice Chair of Friends of the Earth International from 2000–2008.

Two lectures from recent Shed A Light talks Churchill College Cambridge.

Shed A Light is a series of talks that seek to present alternative framings of future human-nature interactions and the pragmatic solution pathways that we could take to get there.

By recognising the interlinkages between struggles for ecological, social and economic justice in addition to the desperate need for immediate societal transformation, Shed A Light aims to engage everyone with the green agenda and prompt broad-based discussions on sustainability issues.

The Paris Agreement explicitly commits us to use non-existent, utterly reckless, unaffordable and ineffective ‘Negative Emissions Technologies’ which will almost certainly fail to be realised. Barring a multifaceted miracle, within a generation, we will be facing an exponentially rising tide of climate disasters that will bring this civilization down. We, therefore, need to engage with climate realism. This means an epic struggle to mitigate and adapt, an epic struggle to take on the climate-criminals and, notably, to start planning seriously for civilizational collapse.

Dr Rupert Read is a Reader in Philosophy at the University of East Anglia. Rupert is a specialist in Wittgenstein, environmental philosophy, critiques of Rawlsian liberalism, and philosophy of film. His research in environmental ethics and economics has included publications on problems of ‘natural capital’ valuations of nature, as well as pioneering work on the Precautionary Principle. Recently, his work was cited by the Supreme Court of the Philippines in their landmark decision to ban the cultivation of GM aubergine. Rupert is also chair of the UK-based post-growth think tank, Green House, and is a former Green Party of England & Wales councillor, spokesperson, European parliamentary candidate and national parliamentary candidate. He stood as the Green Party MP-candidate for Cambridge in 2015.

Press link for more: Chu.cam.ac.uk

Scientists are now bottling solar energy and turning it into liquid fuel #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani clean energy #Innovation

Solar energy has proven to be among the most attractive renewable energy source. 
Image: REUTERS/Stringer 

In the last year, a team from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, essentially figured out how to bottle solar energy. They developed a liquid fuel containing the compound norbornadiene that—when struck by sunlight—rearranges its carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen atoms into an energy-storing isomer, quadricyclane. Quadricyclane holds onto the energy, estimated to be up to 250 watt-hours of energy per kilogram, even after it cools and for an extended period of time. For use, it’s passed through a cobalt-based catalyst, at which point the energy is released as heat. The team’s research could be a breakthrough in making solar energy transportable and thus even more usable for meeting real-world energy needs.

What’s more, the team has been adjusting the molecular makeup of their fuel so that it doesn’t break down as a result of storage and release cycles. It can be used over and over again. “We’ve run it though 125 cycles without any significant degradation,” according to researcher Kasper Moth-Poulsen.

As a result, the scientists envision a round-trip energy system they call MOST, which stands for Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage.

Image: Chalmers University of Technology

In the MOST system, the liquid runs through a concave solar thermal collector that has a pipe running across its center. The collector focuses sunlight on that pipe, and the fuel running through it, causing the transformation of norbornadiene into quadricyclane. The charged fuel then flows through transparent tubing into storage tanks, or it can be diverted and shipped elsewhere for use. Says Moth-Poulsen in the Chalmers press release, “The energy in this isomer can now be stored for up to 18 years. And when we come to extract the energy and use it, we get a warmth increase which is greater than we dared hope for.”

To release the fuel’s energy, it’s passed through the catalyst in which a chemical reaction occurs to convert the fuel back into liquid whose temperature has been boosted by 63°C or 145°F. So, for example, if the fuel goes into the catalyst at 20°C, it comes out at 83°C. In this form, the fluid can be used for heating a home or business, or be used in any other system reliant on heated liquid. “You could use that thermal energy for your water heater, your dishwasher or your clothes dryer,” MIT’s Jeffrey Grossman tells NBC MACH. “There could be lots of industrial applications as well.”

This last year has been a key time

Image: Johan Bodell

The first iteration of the Chalmers fuel was revealed about a year ago, and in the intervening months, the researchers have been working toward the robust behavior they’re now seeing, even beyond achieving that remarkable 18-year storage potential. “We have made many crucial advances recently, and today we have an emissions-free energy system which works all year around,” says Moth-Poulsen.

Though other researchers have experimented with similar uses for norbornadiene, their fuels broke down after just a few cycles before their research was abandoned. Those earlier fuels also didn’t hold the energy very long.

The Chalmers team also originally had to mix their isomer with flammable toluene. Now, however, they’ve worked out a way to use the isomer without dangerous additives.

As the world moves to renewable energy, solar energy has proven to be among the most attractive: Sunlight is free and releasing its energy produces no pollution or harmful effects. One remaining limiting factor has been finding ways of storing solar energy that are as clean as solar energy itself.

Much work is being down with batteries, but it’s difficult to produce power cells without using toxic materials.

The MOST system offers an exciting new angle to pursue.

Press link for more: Big Think.com

New wind and solar generation costs fall below existing coal plants #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #springst #wapol #StopAdani #ClimateChange demand a rapid transition to renewables. #Divest

The cost of new wind and solar power generation has fallen below the cost of running existing coal-fired plants in many parts of the US, threatening to wreck President Donald Trump’s hopes of reviving the mining industry.

New estimates published on Thursday by Lazard, the investment bank, show that it can often be profitable for US generation companies to shut working coal plants and replace their output with wind and solar power.

The calculations suggest that closures of coal-fired plants are likely to continue, eroding US demand for coal and jeopardising Mr Trump’s ambition to “put our coal miners back to work”.

The falling cost of renewable energy is adding to the pressure from cheap gas and stagnant demand for electricity, which have cut US coal power output by more than 40 per cent since 2007.

Retirements of US coal-fired plants are expected to hit a record high this year, and companies including FirstEnergy and American Electric Power have in the past few months announced further closures. Many of the plants being shuttered are reaching the end of their working lives, but even some relatively new capacity is being shut because it is no longer economically viable.

Vistra Energy said last year it was shutting coal plants in Texas including one that had brought its latest unit into service only in 2009.

According to Lazard, the all-in levelised cost of electricity from a new wind farm in the US is $29-$56 per megawatt hour before any subsidies — such as the federal Production Tax Credit, which is being phased out by 2024. The marginal cost of operating a coal plant is $27-$45 per MWh. So there are often times and places where building a wind farm even without any subsidy would make sense. Add in the PTC, which can cut the cost of wind power to as little as $14 per MWh, and the case becomes even stronger.

George Bilicic, head of power, energy and infrastructure at Lazard, said utilities could often make the case to regulators that it would be cheaper to shut coal-fired plants and replace them with renewables and energy efficiency improvements, delivering both higher returns for the companies and lower bills for customers.

Xcel Energy, the Minneapolis-based utility group, is one of the pioneers of this model, In August, the regulator in Colorado approved its plan to shut 660 megawatts of coal-fired capacity and replace it with 1,100MW of wind, 700MW of solar and 275MW of battery storage. The company said the plan would save about $200m for customers.

Ben Fowke, Xcel’s chief executive, said in a speech at the annual convention of the Edison Electric Institute, the industry group, in June: “I will tell you, it’s not a matter of if we’re going to retire our coal fleet in this nation, it’s just a matter of when.”

Other companies are putting more emphasis on energy efficiency. Public Service Enterprise Group, the New Jersey utility, in September proposed to its state regulator a $4bn six-year investment plan based principally on energy efficiency improvements, including financial incentives to buy more efficient appliances, smart thermostats and other equipment. The company closed its last two coal-fired plants in New Jersey last year.

Ralph Izzo, PSEG’s chief executive, told the Financial Times that its customers’ bills had dropped 30 per cent over the past 10 years, principally because of the plunge in the cost of gas caused by the shale revolution. Now gas prices had levelled off, he saw curbing power use would be the best way to reduce customers’ bills, and to “decouple” the company’s revenues from the number of megawatt hours it sold. “It really is a no-brainer,” he said.

US coal production picked up last year, helped by strong exports. The industry employs about 2,100 more people than it did when Mr Trump took office, an increase of about 4 per cent.

Output has been falling back again, however, and is expected to drop next year to close to its level in 2016, which was the lowest since the early 1980s. Westmoreland Coal, a Colorado-based mining company, last month filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with debts of about $1.4bn.

The Trump administration has been looking at ideas for subsidising coal and nuclear plants, on the grounds that the increasing reliance of US grids on gas and renewable energy exposes them to risks of blackouts in extreme conditions such as a period of severe cold weather. A first attempt launched last year was rejected by federal regulators, however, and although Mr Trump has alluded to a new plan, the administration has not yet published any formal proposals.

“There is a lot of smoke and not much fire,” said Seth Feaster of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a think-tank that supports renewables.

“Policy is not easy to turn on a dime, even if you want to.”

Utilities are making investment decisions that could last for decades, he added, and are unlikely to change course based on a policy that could be abandoned if Mr Trump fails to win re-election in two years’ time.

Press link for more: FT.COM