Since Capitalism Answers To Money, Question The Money To Get To Solutions

Since Capitalism Answers To Money, Question The Money To Get To Solutions

Ecological concerns over issues such as air quality or toxic radiation drive much progressive change, but as often as not, money prompts change.  For example, early adopters installed rooftop solar mostly because it’s ecologically responsible, but it’s a dropping price point that attracts the average customer.  Or, electric utilities initially installed wind generators because of lawsuits or regulations over coal pollution, but anymore, wind power is booming because its cost has dropped below that of coal.

However, as sound as this principle is, and as likely as the profit motive will bring some ecological solutions, major money players can manipulate the market to their own ends. 

Nuclear Subsidies: Some outliers profess that nuclear electricity is carbon-free, and could be a key climate solution (ignoring the critical toxic waste costs for 10,000 years).  First of all, nukes do produce CO2, from the uranium mining and milling and the immense use of concrete containment buildings. 

Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) are the main benefactors of increased Federal subsidies to agribusiness and tax credits to ethanol refiners

Climate campaigners have been targeting BlackRock for years, and their CEO, Larry Fink, had conferred with Pope Francis who urged leading corporations to shift to renewables.  But it was the $90 billion value destruction that brought BlackRock to its decision.  According to a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), “Out of BlackRock’s $90 billion in estimated losses, 75% are due to its investments in four companies alone – ExxonMobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and BP”.  Because of its sheer size, BlackRock is hugely influential in the financial sector.  Kingsmill Bond, an analyst who used to work at Citibank and Deutsche Bank, “I, for one, see this as the beginning of the end for the fossil-fuel system”.  Learn more at –

Renewables alone won’t end the climate crisis.  We must use less energy and downsize

Renewables alone won’t end the climate crisis. We must use less energy and downsize

The Green New Deal is basically just a framework for a society to cut climate emissions by cutting fossil fuel use.  Most of the details remain to be devised.  The principle pillar most commonly cited is that of 100% renewable energy, but again, the type of society to be fueled by renewables is undefined.  Richard Heinberg has explained that human societies “didn’t have to wait for biological evolution to slowly deliver improved organs.  Cultural evolution rapidly supplied new ideas, behaviors, and tools that enabled us to take over habitat from other creatures.  Starting roughly in the 19th century, concentrated energy of fossil fuels sped up cultural evolution to the point where disruptive cultural innovations . . . are spiraling entirely out of our control, notably, the planetary feedbacks associated with climate change”. – Power, the Acceleration of Cultural Evolution, and Our Best Hope for Survival.  It’s not just the type of energy use that must change, but the quantity and pace of energy use.

Award winning ecological and energy journalist, Andrew Nikifaruk, has written “We have a ways to go if we choose to reduce emissions by simply replacing fossil fuels with wind turbines.  What also matters is using less energy.  We have to look at downsizing, degrowth, using less”.  Those are critical considerations for crafting a successful Green New Deal.  It’s not easy to grasp the kind of energy transition that must take place by comparing the various percentages of renewables growth and ratios of fossil vs. renewable use rates.  But consider how Tad Patzek, a professor of petroleum and chemical engineering in Texas, puts it.  “If we divide the days of the year up based on total energy use, fossil fuels — oil, coal and natural gas — powered the globe for 321 days in 2018.  Dams and nuclear power kept the lights on for 15 days.  Renewables energized the globe for only about 29 days, and most of that energy came from biomass or wood burning.”

Roger Pielke Jr., a Colorado professor, recently noted “If we really wanted to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050, and we solely choose wind power as the solution, we’d need to build and deploy 1,500 wind turbines on about 300 square miles every day for the next 30 years”.  That’s impossible, if for no other reason than the amount of fossil fuel needed to build them.  But it illustrates the magnitude of society’s challenge.  The math doesn’t work to simply keep the party going with renewables.  Globally, electrical demand has been rising faster than the increase in production from renewables for decades, with little or no change.  David Hughes, one of Canada’s most esteemed energy analysts, pointed out that “We need to radically reduce energy consumption and use renewables to actually retire fossil fuel infrastructure”.  To date, the evidence shows that we have largely used renewables to consume more energy – It Bears Repeating: Renewables Alone Won’t End the Climate Crisis.

Nate Hagens, a former Wall Street wolf and now an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota, emphasizes that our current energy glut lifestyle and the Green New Deal both suffer from the same shortcomings.  Neither understand that it’s energy flows which underpin economic flows and growth. Longtime energy analyst, Andrew Nikifaruk explains, “The fossil fueled business-as-usual model pretends that expensive fossil fuels like fracked oil or bitumen can replace cheap conventional stuff with no global economic contraction.  They can’t.  The Green New Deal model pretends that renewables can provide the same quality and quantity of energy as fossil fuels with no global upheaval.  They can’t.  Both ignore the limits imposed when 7.7 billion human beings are consuming the planet, and the dire consequences of that for biodiversity.  Any way you look at it, overpopulation is part of the problem.”

Hagens thinks the world needs a non-partisan conversation about this reality, and about how to prepare for a 30-per-cent drop in energy consumption.  He says civilization has three options: it can muddle on, bend, or break.  Muddling is what we are doing now.  So far, no one is talking about bending.  That would require dramatic reductions in energy spending and a different way of living.  But that’s the keystone to a realistic, though extremely difficult, Green New Deal – The Green New Deal Battles Business as Usual. Both Will Doom Us.

Lawrence Electric Vehicle Showcase – 2019

Lawrence Electric Vehicle Showcase – 2019

Saturday, 14 September 2019, 10:00am-2:00pm – FREE.
RAIN DAY: Sunday, 15 September 2019,  10:00am-2:00pm
Hy-Vee Grocery, 3504 Clinton Prkw., Lawrence KS 66047

The second annual Lawrence Electric Vehicle Showcase is being organized by the Sustainability Action Network with the help of our co-sponsor, The Sierra Club/Wakarusa Group.  There will be at least 21 cars on display by their owners, including Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model S, Model 3, and Model X, Toyota Prius Prime, Chevy Bolt and Chevy Volt, and Ford C-MAX Energi.  You can talk with EV owners about the advantages of driving an EV.  Here’s an EV guide showing the range and price of each vehicleEV Guide_June 2019.

Electric vehicles are smooth and quiet, with high torque and instant acceleration. Driving on electricity is about five times cheaper than fueling with gasoline, and maintenance is cheaper too. Because they get 100mpg equivalent or better, EVs are one the most effective ways that motor vehicles can reduce petroleum use and cut air pollution.  When charged by renewable energy, EVs are zero emissions.  Because they are so much more efficient than gasoline cars, EVs charged from a utility produce fewer emissions than internal combustion vehicles.

 

We’ll have electric bicycles too, and electric scooters.  Electric cars are a great improvement over fossil cars, but E-bicycles are the gold standard, using but a fraction of a percent of energy used by a motor vehicle.  A 4000lb electric car requires up to 60 Kilowatts (60,000 Watts) of electricity per hour, and consumes about ten times the electricity used by a home.  Pedaling a standard bicycle uses only 150 Watts to go 20mph, and slightly more if electric pedal assisted.  More info is available at – Lawrence Electric Vehicle Showcase

In addition to the local sponsors, national sponsors are Nissan LEAF, Plug In America, the national Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association.

 

 

Alarm Bells Rising About Pending Climate Collapse

Alarm Bells Rising About Pending Climate Collapse

Two major reports released in late 2018 brought climate disruption to the forefront.  For many people who previously had only passing concerns about the climate, the reports are unequivocal how climate disruption is a clear and present danger.  The Fourth National Climate Assessment_2018 by the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration, and the United Nations IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C both reaffirm the science, and both reinforce each other’s conclusion that we have until 2030 to reverse global emissions and warming, before we face runaway climate collapse.

A single report might be easily ignored by deniers of climate trends and the scientific validity behind it, but two reports that present compelling data in detail are hard to dismiss.  And now there is a third such report, released in May of this year, that presents a 2050 scenario “with dire implications, absent a fundamental change in human behaviour”.

The Melbourne, Australia based think tank, the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration, has concluded that the IPCC and the NOAA reports both are too optimistic.  The report, Existential Climate Related Security Risks, projects that climate disruption “now represents a near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilization”, with a high liklihood of societal collapse as soon as 2050, if serious mitigation actions aren’t taken in the next decade.  The new analysis is written by David Spratt, Breakthrough’s research director, and Ian Dunlop, a former senior executive of Royal Dutch Shell who previously chaired the Australian Coal Association.  It is also endorsed by retired Admiral and former Chief of the Australian Defence Force, Chris Barrie.

NBC news explained how the Spratt-Dunlap analysis reached more dire conclusions.  “The current climate crisis is larger and more complex than humans have ever dealt with before.  Studies such as the UN IPCC report fail to account for the sheer complexity of Earth’s many interlinked geological processes.  As such, they fail to adequately predict the scale of the potential consequences.” 

The collapse scenario “begins with world governments ignoring the advice of scientists, resulting in a global temperature increase 5.4 F (3 C) by the year 2050.  At that point, the world’s ice sheets vanish; brutal droughts kill many of the trees in the Amazon rainforest (removing one of the world’s largest carbon offsets); and the planet plunges into a feedback loop of ever-hotter, ever-deadlier conditions”Civilization could crumble by 2050 if we don’t stop climate change now.  Billions would suffer water scarcity, food production would suffer dramatically worldwide, and nation-states like the US and China would unravel.

Admiral Chris Barrie relates in the study’s introduction “This policy paper looks at the existential climate-related security risk through a scenario set thirty years into the future, painting a disturbing picture of the real possibility that human life on earth may be on the way to extinction, in the most horrible way.  A doomsday future is not inevitable!  But without immediate drastic action our prospects are poor.  We must act collectively.  We need strong, determined leadership in government, in business and in our communities to ensure a sustainable future for humankind – Can we think in new ways about the Existential Climate Risks?.   The report states that the only way to avoid such a collapse is “akin in scale to the World War II emergency mobilization” focused on rapidly building out a zero-emissions industrial system – ‘Social Breakdown and Outright Chaos’: Civilization Headed for Collapse by 2050, New Climate Report Warns.

Cost Of Transition To Renewables Dropping, Cost Of Climate Disasters Rising

Cost Of Transition To Renewables Dropping, Cost Of Climate Disasters Rising

“Imagine a world where 85% of all electricity comes from renewable sources, there are over one billion electric vehicles on the road, and we are on track to preserve a livable climate for our children and future generations.  The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reported this week that such a future is not merely possible by 2050, but thanks to plummeting prices in key clean energy technologies, the cost of saving the climate has dropped dramatically.  According to IRENA, the most cost-effective strategy to achieve a ‘climate-safe future’ is an accelerated energy transition to renewables and energy efficiency coupled with electrification of key sectors like transportation.” – Joe Romm, Global economy would save up to $160 trillion by shifting to renewables, electric cars.

The choice is to pay for climate protection by rapidly transitioning to renewables and electrification of everything, or pay increasingly for climate disasters.  The National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) cost figures for 2017 climate disasters was $306 billion, a record high.  NOAA said that since 1980, the total costs for climate disasters has been $150 trillion – 2017 Weather and Climate Disasters Cost U.S. Record $306 Billion.  By comparison, the IRENA report projects that over the next 30 years, a Renewable Energy Roadmap (REmap) scenario “would save the global economy up to $160 trillion cumulatively”.  IRENA reports that “every dollar spent on energy transition would pay off up to seven times”.  At the same time, the REmap would achieve more than 90% of emissions reductions needed to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius, by reversing the emissions curve 70% – Global energy transformation: A roadmap to 2050 (2019 edition).

Of course, the transition to a renewable energy economy should have begun 30 years ago, as folks like Amory Lovins, Donella Meadows, M. King Hubbert, and James Hansen had championed.  But since we are in the current bind we are, Yes! Magazine has described a three phase transition that can make great strides within ten years, and almost a complete transition by 2050, while simultaneously reducing atmospheric carbon with each passing year.  The first phase takes on the easy stuff, like solar and wind power for electricity instead of coal, rooftop solar with battery storage, walking and bicycling and transit, and electric vehicles (EVs).  Add to that things that hadn’t emerged at the time of the 2016 Yes! article, such as the rapid development of EVs as battery storage for utilities, as well as utility scale battery banks to replace peak load generation by natural gas.  And a move to more organic agriculture could significantly reduce much the 20% of emissions from petro-chemical fertilizers and pesticides, while sequestering enormous amounts of atmospheric carbon in topsoil.  For some reason, the article overlooks the even larger potential of tree planting to capture atmospheric carbon.

1950 energy use level

Phase two tackles the more difficult stuff, like electrifying heavy transport by truck and rail and transit, converting to sail-powered ocean ships, and deglobalization of manufacturing to reduce the need for shipping.  There are significant challenges in the manufacturing sector, though much of it already runs on electricity.  Considerable effort will be needed to replace fossil fuel feedstocks for plastics and other petrochemicals, such as the emerging bio-based plastics.  Mining and metals smelting pretty much require fossil fuels, so a strategy may be to reduce their need by “cradle-to-cradle” reuse and recycling programs.

And phase three addresses the really hard stuff.  The second most common building material is concrete, which requires the high heat of fossil fuels to cook the portland cement.  To convert to production by concentrating solar thermal or solar-derived hydrogen would require completely redesigning the process.  The most difficult aspect of eliminating fossil fuels from agriculture is in the realm of mechanized field traction – plowing, discing, combining.  Abandoning huge industrial farms in favor of smaller, more labor intensive organic farms will likely meet with resistance unless labor and pay equity are guarantied.  The use of rare earth minerals and high heat processing for electronics and communications is a knotty problem, for which the best solution might be to make very durable and readily repaired products.  And finding a light weight, energy dense power source for air transport is barely on the drawing boards – 100% Renewable Energy: What We Can Do in 10 Years – Yes! Magazine.

A sobering take-away lesson from the Yes! article is, “One way or another, the energy transition will represent an enormous societal shift.  During past shifts, there were winners and losers.  In the current instance, if we don’t pay great attention to equity issues, it is entirely possible that only the rich will have access to renewable energy”.

duck curve energy demand cycle

To achieve the practical goals listed in the Yes! article, a renewable energy future will need to electrify everything.  The common perception from the coal electricity era has been that electricity is inherently dirty, and to be minimized.  However, it’s possible, and it’s getting progressively more feasible to get electricity down to zero carbon through wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal (some falsely claim nuclear too – read the myth here – There is no such thing as a zero or near-zero-emission nuclear power plant).  The same cannot yet be said of combustion fuels, even of biofuels that take an almost equivalent amount of fossil fuels to grow and process.  Much of the research to electrify everything is focused on the electric grid – how to supply it with carbon free energy, and how to balance the ever-fluctuating solar and wind supply with the ever fluctuating user demand – as represented by the “duck curve energy demand cycle”.  We won’t get into the details here, but the reading is fascinating at – The key to tackling climate change: electrify everything, and What Would the ‘Electrification of Everything’ Look Like in America?.