General

A link between climate change and tornadoes?

By Bill McKibben, Published: 2011-05-23 Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week’s shots from Joplin, Mo., you should not wonder: Is this somehow related to the tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala., or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that (which, together, comprised the most active April for tornadoes in U.S. history). No, that doesn’t mean a thing. It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas — fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been — the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they’re somehow connected. For the full story in the Washington...

BHP To Mine Uranium With Renewables?

By Giles Parkinson BHP Billiton has big plans to mine uranium at Olympic Dam, and company documents show that renewables might actually be the best option for powering the project, writes Giles Parkinson BHP Billiton has caught some flak from the green movement about its massive Olympic Dam project, including over its apparently conservative choice of power supplies. A spokesperson for Greens senator Scott Ludlam last week was scathing: “BHP Billiton has designed a world’s-worst-practice uranium mine, when the alternative would see a lower greenhouse footprint and skilled jobs retained in South Australia”. It’s right that BHP is under scrutiny, because if the biggest mining company in the world — one that measures its annual profits in the tens of billions of dollars — can’t afford to invest in that green thing, then who can? Not so fast. While BHP Billiton appears to have committed to connecting the mine to the coal-fired grid and gas supplies, and is seeking approval for a gas-fired power plant of up to 650MW to power the project, it is also keeping its options open. In a decision that stands as a clear message to the country’s established energy generators, and to the Cassandras who idly dismiss the potential of renewable energy sources, BHP Billiton is pointedly refusing to sign long-term power supply agreements, because it is canvassing the possibility of sourcing much of its power from geothermal and solar thermal energy sources. The supplementary environmental impact statement released on Friday makes it clear to its board of directors that it would be mad if it didn’t. In the initial stages of the project, up to the point that...

China to raise rare earths production

  BEIJING (AP) – China said Thursday it will increase this year’s production quota for rare earths but gave no sign it might reverse plans to cut exports of the exotic metals needed by high-tech industry. China accounts for most rare earths production and has alarmed global manufactures by reducing exports of the ores as it tries to develop its own producers of lightweight magnets and other high-tech goods that use the metals. This year’s production quota will be 93,800 tons, the Ministry of Land and Resources said on its website. That would be an increase of about 5 percent over 2010. The ministry also said no new licenses for rare earths, tungsten or antimony mines would be granted before June 30, 2012. The announcement made no mention of altering plans announced in December to reduce export quotas for the first half of this year by about 11 percent from a year earlier to 14,446 tons. Rare earths are a group of 17 minerals used in manufacturing flat-screen TVs, mobile phones, batteries for electric cars and wind turbines. China has about 30 percent of rare earths deposits but accounts for 97 percent of global production. Rising global demand, coupled with the decline in Chinese exports, has prompted companies in the United States, Canada and Australia to announce plans to develop or reopen rare earths mines. Last week, the government announced a tax increase on rare earths in another move to limit exports. ___ Ministry of Land and Resources:...

Shell Oil Predicts ‘Depression 2.0′

By Stephen C. Webster Tuesday, February 15th, 2011 — 11:43 The industrial doomsday scenario put forward by peak oil theorists isn’t just for far flung voices on the Internet anymore. Peak oil is not a problem of Earth’s supplies: there’s plenty of oil in a variety of forms. The difficulty is in how much energy it takes to recover and process it. And if it hasn’t happened already, soon the demand for energy commodities will soar past existing production capacity and crash headlong into the brick wall of declining discoveries. The economic effects of this could be devastating to the human populations within industrialized societies, to say the least. That’s not just the line from Noam Chomsky, Michael Rupert and Dmitry Orlov: the second largest company in the world, Shell International, a major player in the energy commodities industries, is saying it too. In a recent “Signals & Signposts” report by Shell, forecasting energy scenarios through 2050, the oil giant predicted a growing volatility in the price of oil and a coming period of “extraordinary opportunity or misery.” As the demand for oil buts up against actual production and remaining reserves, the climbing price of oil will cause the gross domestic product of all nations to decline, they predict. In another section, Shell calls these economic effects “Depression 2.0.” Though that scenario is introduced as “unlikely,” the rest of the report does not paint a rosy outlook. Climate and environment Shell predicts that as the energy industry struggles to meet global demand, “environmental tension will swell and spread.” They add: “Political, industrial and individual choices will determine whether these...
Rare Earths and our Future

Rare Earths and our Future

Many Want Rare Earths, but Few Are Mining Them By KARL RUSSELL (Published 2011-02-06  NYT) “RARE earth” is a historical misnomer. Elements that fall under this label were identified mostly in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the word “earths” was used to describe a group of geological materials.  At the time, a subset of these was thought to be uncommon. Multimedia Graphic Production and Consumption Graphic Green Technologies Increase Demand In fact, rare earths are relatively abundant. But they are very hard to extract, and processing them can cause environmental damage. The process involves toxic acids, and rare earths are often found in deposits containing the radioactive elements uranium and thorium. The first color television included rare earths. Recently, demand for them has become more acute, as they have been used to make an array of high-tech products including smartphones, hybrid cars, flat-panel televisions, wind turbines and military weapons. For the full...

New Carbon Credit Fund

GENEVA, February 2, 2011 PRNewswire EUR150 Million Fund to Promote Climate-Friendly Economic Growth Mercuria will participate as anchor investor in a new Carbon Credit fund launched today by the International Finance Corporation. This new fund, of value up to EUR150 million, will be an instrument to purchase carbon credits to help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, extend carbon markets, and increase access to finance for projects that promote environmentally friendly economic growth. Mercuria Energy and Shell Trading committed to the facility as anchor investors. IFC will invest up to EUR15 million in the IFC Post-2012 Carbon Facility and mobilize the remainder from European power utilities and energy companies. The facility will forward purchase Certified Emission Reductions that are expected to be produced from 2013 to 2020, from projects either directly financed by IFC or by local banks financed by IFC. This will ensure that projects can continue to benefit from carbon finance during a period of policy uncertainty in the approach to the end of the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol in 2012. The facility will provide a longer-term high-quality carbon revenue stream and increase financing options for projects that reduce emissions. Andrei Marcu, Head of Regulatory Affairs, Environment, and Climate Change at Mercuria Energy said: “Investing in post-2012 reductions at this time is an expression of Mercuria’s confidence in the increasing role for carbon markets in addressing climate change post 2012, and also a great business opportunity. We feel that investing with IFC provides us with a solid partner in navigating these new waters.” Mohsen Khalil, Global Head of IFC’s Climate Business Group, said: “IFC’s investments in the...

Battery Recycling Realities for Energy Storage

By John Petersen One of the most fervently debated and poorly understood topics in energy storage is the subject of battery recycling. What percentage of the raw materials that go into a battery can be economically recovered from used batteries with existing recycling technology and infrastructure? While the details are quite complex, this article will offer a high-level overview of the economics of battery recycling for energy storage investors. Lead-acid batteries are the most recycled products in the world. The process is both straightforward and cost-effective. When batteries arrive at the recycling plant, they’re put through a shredder and then sent to a water bath. The shredded plastic floats to the top where it’s cleaned and reprocessed like any other recycled plastic. The shredded metals sink to the bottom where they’re transferred to a blast furnace for further processing. The output from the blast furnace is mostly molten lead with small amounts of copper and other metals that are skimmed from the surface for disposal or further processing. The lead is then poured into ingots and returned to manufacturers for use in making new batteries. Because of the inherent efficiency of the recycling process, over 97% of all lead-acid batteries in the US and Europe are recycled and almost 80% of the lead used in the US comes from recycling rather than mining. Many major lead-acid battery manufacturers, including Johnson Controls (JCI), Enersys (ENS) and Exide Technologies (XIDE), operate company-owned recycling facilities for the dual purpose of protecting the environment and stabilizing their raw materials supply chains. Nickel Metal Hydride [NiMH] batteries present a more complex recycling challenge than...

Ford will expand start-stop feature

Alisa Priddle / The Detroit News Starting in 2012, Ford Motor Co. will expand the use of technology that shuts off the engine of an idling engine to include more cars and trucks. Auto Start-Stop technology already is on hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion and Escape, and on vehicles in Europe with manual transmissions. But the Dearborn-based automaker announced Monday that the fuel-saving feature will be available on most conventional cars and trucks, including those with automatic transmissions. The goal is to offer start-stop capability on most nameplates in North America by 2015, said Ford spokesman Richard Truett. Start-stop is poised to spread in North America in the next five years as automakers work to meet increasingly stringent fuel-economy and emissions requirements. Most automakers offer a form of start-stop technology in Europe because it is affordable — suppliers and analysts estimate the cost as low as $500 — and can improve fuel economy as much as 15 percent. But the systems are almost exclusively offered with manual transmissions. In North America, fewer than 10 percent of buyers drive a manual, so the technology must be adapted to work with cars most Americans drive. Ford plans to offer its Auto Start-Stop in gas-powered vehicles with both transmissions in North America, including Ford’s dual-clutch six-speed automatic. Ford says the system can improve fuel economy 4 to 10 percent, depending on the vehicle and how it is driven. City driving with multiple stops will yield greater benefits. When a vehicle is stopped, the engine turns off and automatically restarts when the brake is released. Vehicle functions and accessories such as the...

Chevy Volt vs. VW Jetta

Written by an automotive blogging enthusiast (reprinted with permission): Regarding a discussion evaluating the new MPG-E metric for EV’s and Plug-in Hybrids… This discussion is ridiculous. If you are NOT using a liquid fuel you are NOT getting miles per gallon! Auto purchases boil down to resource allocation.   If you have lots of resources you get what you want.  If your resources are scarce you buy what you need. It is insane to purchase a Volt for $45,000, even if it gets 60-80 whatever fuzzy MPG-E rating when you can buy a new VW TDI that really does get 45 to 50 miles per gallon for $25,000.  For the $20,000 difference, I can buy about 6,666 gallons of diesel fuel which will allow me to drive over 300,000 miles with a single tank range of over 600 miles whenever and wherever I desire.  So while that Chevy Volt is crushed in a recycling center after about 100,000 miles because no sane person will own a vehicle beyond the battery warranty when the battery replacement cost is $9,500, I will still be breaking in my VW as diesel engines have a historic track record of getting over 300,000 miles with very little maintenance and repair. 20,000/$3.00 = 6,666 gallons x 45mpg = 300,000 miles And please to not argue that I can get such and such incentives from the US Federal Government against the purchase of the Chevy Volt.  The US Federal Government is broke and programs to support EV’s just motivate the Fed to print more paper money which further devalues the USD.  I and other consumers will...

EPA’s first carbon pollution standards

by David Doniger 2010-12-10 4:01 PM , US EPA, Washington Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Big news today from the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, which just gave the green light to implementing the EPA’s first carbon pollution standards next January. The court flatly rejected the efforts by America’s biggest carbon polluters and the state of Texas to block all of the EPA’s efforts to begin curbing the dangerous pollution that causes global warming under the nation’s clean air laws. A rogues’ gallery of science-denying coal and oil companies, industry lobbyists and trade associations, right-wing advocacy groups, Tea Party funders, and ultra-conservative elected officials sued the EPA to stop every major action the EPA has taken over the last two years to start reducing carbon pollution — the science-based “endangerment” finding, the historic standards for new cars, and the first limits on carbon pollution from the biggest new power plants and factories. Over the last year, these cases have served as fashion accessories to dress up the lobbying campaign aimed at getting Congress to overturn the Clean Air Act and block EPA from doing its job under the Supreme Court’s 2007 global warming decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. But now that strategy has backfired. You see, the polluters and science-deniers can say anything they want in press releases and lobbying letters to Congress. Especially these days, when lobbying and politics take place in a fact-free zone. But when you go to court, you have to prove your case. And they’ve failed. They filed hundreds of pages of briefs and affidavits with wild claims that construction will be...