Renewables increase most…again !

Renewables surged in 2012, according to FERC report
Nathanael Massey, E&E reporter

Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Nearly half of all the new electrical generating capacity installed in the United States in 2012 came from renewable energy sources, according to the most recent Energy Infrastructure Update from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Wind energy posted the greatest gains overall, with 10,689 megawatts of new generation installed over the course of the year. It was followed by natural gas, at 8,746 MW, and coal, with 4,510 MW of capacity installed.

Solar power added 1,476 MW, or about 5 percent of the total increase.

The United States added 18 percent more generating capacity in 2012 than in 2011, while renewable energy generation increased 51 percent compared with its gains the year before.

Renewable energy now accounts for 16 percent

Two scientists talk climate change

Andrew Rivkin of the NY Times reported:
This is a graph of Americans who support subsidies for solar panels and fuel efficient vehicles, based on their views of climate change. We all support solar, even if you are a climate skeptic/denier.
Common Ground, Common Atmosphere
KERRY: One of us has usually voted for Republicans.
PETER: The other, for Democrats.
KERRY: But as scientists, we share a deep conviction that leaders of both parties must speak to the reality and the risks of human-caused climate change, and commit themselves to finding bipartisan solutions.
PETER: Scientists have known for more than 100 years that the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere traps heat. And today we know that the excess carbon dioxide accumulating in the atmosphere from human activity — like burning coal and oil and clearing forests — is altering our climate.
KERRY: It’s a conclusion based on established physics and on evidence gathered from satellite data, ancient ice cores, temperature stations, and fossilized trees and corals.
PETER: And it’s a conclusion affirmed by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, which was established by President Abraham Lincoln to advise our nation’s leaders on matters of science.
KERRY: Unfortunately, as the scientific understanding of climate change has advanced, our nation hasn’t risen to the challenge.
PETER: Science tells us that the extent and severity of climate change faced by our children’s generation depends on the hard choices we must make today. Political leadership is about ensuring that we adults face up to this task.
KERRY: President Obama leads a nation increasingly affected by climate change. He commands a Pentagon that calls climate change a national security threat and presides over federal scientists already working to help states and cities prepare.
PETER: Leaders of both parties need to take seriously what science tells us.
KERRY: Please pass this video along to friends and family…and to at least one person who might have a political view different from your own.
PETER: Then call on your Members of Congress to get to work building bipartisan solutions to climate change.
KERRY: For the sake of our common atmosphere…
PETER: It’s time to find common ground

Hottest year yet in the lower 48 states.

Warmest year ever recorded in lower 48 states came in 2012
Lauren Morello, E&E reporter

Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2013

It’s official: 2012 was the warmest year ever recorded in the contiguous United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said yesterday.

The average temperature in the lower 48 states reached 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, shattering the previous record set in 1998 by a full degree. The government’s temperature records for the contiguous United States go back to 1895.

An exciting, but not always enjoyable or predictable, year of broken weather records.

What’s remarkable, said NOAA climate scientist Jake Crouch, is that the other 117 years in that temperature record fell within a 4.2-degree range, or envelope.

No other year has approached the heat 2012 brought to the lower 48 states, he said. “We are well above the pack for all the years we have data for the United States,” Crouch explained.

“Climate change has had a role in this,” he told reporters, cautioning that it is still hard for scientists to tease out how much of this year’s searing heat was caused by natural variability and how much was sparked by man-made climate change.

The contiguous United States endured a record-warm spring, its second-warmest summer and fourth-warmest winter, and a warmer-than-average autumn. Every state there recorded unusually warm temperatures last year.

There was one notable national exception, however: far-flung Alaska, which experienced its 11th-coolest year since records there began in 1918.

Warmer years to come
But overall, scientists said, it is the unusually warm years that will become more common as man-made climate change intensifies.

“Going into the future, we would expect warmer years, or years with temperatures much above the 20th century average, to become more frequent,” Crouch said. “2012 was an outlier in terms of looking at the past record for the contiguous United States, but as we move forward and the warming trend continues, we would expect to see more warmer-than-average years.”

Globally, 2012 appears to be the eighth-warmest year in a record that goes back to 1880, he said. NOAA will release its global temperature analysis for 2012 next week.

But in the United States, it is clear that last year was not only warm but extreme in other ways. The Northeast suffered a devastating blow from Superstorm Sandy, while a smoldering drought gripped a wide swath of the country’s midsection beginning in early summer.

Record warmth and notable dryness helped sustain the drought, which peaked in July with 61 percent of the country affected. It remains a force in a wide area of the central United States even now. Water levels on the Mississippi River are so low that barge operators expect the federal government to halt barge traffic later this month, cutting off a major shipping artery through the middle of the country.

All told, 2012 stands as the nation’s second-most extreme weather year on record, according to NOAA scientists who maintain the U.S. Climate Extremes Index.

The index tracks extreme weather activity, monitoring extremes of temperature and precipitation and tropical cyclones that make landfall. (That means Sandy, which transformed from a tropical storm to a supercharged nor’easter before it hit land, wasn’t included in the tally, researchers said.)

“Big heat and big rain are the types of extreme events that we are seeing most often, and those, not coincidentally, are the extremes where climate science has made the most confident connections on how they are going to evolve in a warming world,” said Deke Arndt, chief of the climate monitoring branch at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

New EV car sales up, up up !

Green cars account for just a teeny, tiny fraction of U.S. auto sales —

3.3 percent in 2012. But that teeny, tiny fraction is growing fast!

BusinessGreen reports:

Analyst firm Mintel estimated last month that sales of hybrid,

plug-in hybrid and electric cars in the US will exceed 535,000

units in 2013, a sizable increase on the 440,000 sold last year.

Sales of hybrids and electric cars rose 73 per cent in 2012,

making it the fastest growing segment in the US auto market.

A separate market analysis by Pike Research “estimates annual global

sales of 3.8 million electric or plug-in hybrid cars by 2020,” the

International Herald Tribune reports. It also “estimates that sales of

plug-in cars will grow by 40 percent annually. During that same period,

general car sales will grow by 2 percent.”

The plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt gets some of the credit for those rising

numbers. “General Motors sold three times as many Chevrolet Volts in

2012 as it did in 2011, which was the car’s first full year on the

market,” reports CNN — “23,461 Volts in 2012 compared with just 7,671 in

2011.” That’s still below GM’s sales targets, but, as Climate Progress

points out, it makes GM “the first American auto manufacturer to sell

more than one million vehicles with a 30-mpg fuel rating.” No thanks to

all the Volt-hating right-wingers out there.

Nissan’s all-electric Leaf didn’t fare as well: Just 9,800 sold in 2012,

1.5 percent more than in 2011.

But prospects for other green cars are looking up, and there are a lot

more of them to choose from. “There are currently 11 plug-in hybrid and

electric models available to US consumers, compared to just three in

2011, and further new models such as BMW’s i3 and the Ford Focus

Electric are set to hit forecourts in the coming months,” according to

BusinessGreen.

Drought still hurting American midwest

This is just what climate change scientists predicted.
Drought Still Threatens Mississippi River
RELATED ARTICLESBarges Lighten Loads, Hope for Rain as Drought Lowers River Levels
A new year has started, but last year’s drought is still afflicting the United States. The latest map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows nearly 73 percent of the contiguous U.S. is still in drought. Rain has slaked the thirst of parts of the Northeast and Southeast, but dry conditions expanded in other regions.
The southern Mississippi Valley recently received rainy relief as a belated Christmas present, but the northern stretches of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and their headwaters remained parched.

The retreating river may have a costly effect on American commerce. An important stretch of the Mississippi south of St. Louis, Mo. may soon be shut down to barge traffic. Most of the towboats that haul barges along the river need at least a 9-foot draft, the depth at which the ship’s hull and propeller sit in the water. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) latest weather and water forecast warned that the river may drop to only an 8-foot draft, rendering the waterway impassible to most towboats.

Earlier,the USACE had warned that the river could become unnavigable by January 15. However, efforts by the USACE to blast away rocks near Thebes, Il. (see image above) have successfully bought more time for barge shipping, according to a press release from the American Waterways Operators (AWO) and Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) The river will now likely stay open through January.

After January, the future of Mississippi River traffic is still as murky as the river’s waters, and that makes planning difficult for river captains and shippers

Senator Sanders Defends Wind Power in the WSJournal. Get ’em, Bernie !

Regarding your Dec. 26 editorial “The Winds of Washington” and the companion op-ed by Phil Gramm “The Multiple Distortions of Wind Subsidies”:

I have been trying to figure out what principle underlies your opposition to encouraging the development of clean, renewable energy sources that create American jobs and could help us avoid the planetary calamity of global warming.

Are you really worried about budget deficits? While railing against modest incentives for wind energy, you say nothing of the more than $113 billion in federal subsidies that will go to fossil-fuel industries over the next 10 years alone. These subsidies benefit some of the wealthiest corporations on the planet, including the five largest oil corporations, which made a combined profit of $1 trillion over the last decade.

Do you really think there should be a 20-year cutoff for support for “mature” industries? If that’s your yardstick, I look forward to your support for my bill to end subsidies for the century-old fossil-fuel industry. While you’re at it, how about taking on the massive corporate welfare over the past 65 years for the nuclear-power industry, which has received more than $95 billion (in 2011 dollars) in federal research and development support?

Do you really believe in closing tax loopholes? Please. I missed your outrage over Exxon-Mobil, XOM +0.14%one of the most profitable corporations in history, paying no federal income taxes in 2009 and in fact receiving a rebate from the IRS.

Is Sen. Gramm really concerned about “preferential treatment by the Bureau of Land Management?” If so, he might have dripped a little of his disdain in the direction of coal companies and their single-bid, sweetheart leases to mine on federal lands without paying fair value in royalties to the U.S.

Here’s the bottom line: Scientists now foresee the earth warming by 8 degrees Fahrenheit or more by the end of this century. That would be catastrophic. It’s already past time to get serious about the threat of global warming. One important way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is by supporting wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other sustainable energy sources.

Sen. Bernard Sanders (I., Vt.)

Washington

Global Warming storms droughts costing plenty

U.S. hit with 90% of the world’s disaster costs in 2012
Evan Lehmann, E&E reporter

Published: Friday, January 4, 2013

The United States led the world in disaster losses last year as a massive drought seared Midwestern crops in the field and as superstorm-driven waves wreaked havoc and blackouts along the East Coast. They added up to one of the most expensive weather damage years on record.

Nearly all the world’s economic damage from storms, drought, fire and earthquakes was centered in the United States as it experienced the highest temperatures ever recorded, according to Munich Re, a global reinsurance company. More than 90 percent of insured losses worldwide occurred in the United States, well above the 30-year average of 65 percent.

Superstorm Sandy, a massive Atlantic storm that heaved ocean surges of up to 15 feet onto shorelines in New York and New Jersey, caused more economic damage worldwide than all its disastrous counterparts in a year with $160 billion in global costs.

Insurers are still tallying the October storm’s impact, but it’s expected to cost the industry $25 billion or more, surpassing the financial losses of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and perhaps even topping the wreckage of Florida’s Hurricane Andrew of 1992. Sandy promises to be the second or third costliest disaster in U.S. history. Its total economic costs are estimated to be more than $50 billion.