- Genetically modified crops—primarily corn and soybeans—have not substantially contributed to global food security and are primarily used to feed animals and cars, not people.
- GMO crops in the US are not more productive than non-GMO crops in western Europe.
- A recent case study in Africa found that crops that were crossbred for drought tolerance using traditional techniques improved yields 30 percent more than genetically engineered varieties.
- A price treatment: Higher electricity prices during critical peak hours. Customers were charged prices ranging from $0.65/kWh – $1/kWh (up from a base rate of approximately $0.25/kWh).
- A “moral suasion” treatment: Courteous day-ahead and same-day requests for electricity demand reductions during critical peak days.
- Control group: No notification of/price increases during critical peak events.
Green imperialism - NATO plans to test the latest clean energy technologies in a war game due to be held in Hungary this coming June. The military alliance’s website says over 1000 soldiers will take part in the exercise, which will use the latest self-contained wind and solar power cells. NATO assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges, ambassador Sorin Ducaru, said the focus was on deploying “smart energy” to battlefields around the world. “Now is the time to start thinking about multinational cooperation: by setting clear priorities; by bringing together groups of interested nations; and by achieving economies of scale,” he said. The potential for renewables to replace fossil fuels in a war zone was highlighted during the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, where NATO relied heavily on fuel to be transported by road to outlying bases. These were frequently attacked and ambushed by insurgents, leading to an estimated 3000 dead or wounded US soldiers between 2003 and 2007. Military forces are significant energy users. Together US army, navy and airforce are the country’s largest consumers of oil. The Pentagon has committed to investing in solar, with a 1 gigawatt target for 2025. In 2012 it started trials of biofuels in part of the US fleet, in what was dubbed the ‘Great Green Fleet’
Energy Glut Is More Than Just Crude - First up, let us ride the wave of renewables hitting California. For not only is its renewable generation target of 33% by 2020 aggressive, but also achievable. A rather impressive accolade considering if it were a country, it would rank as the 8th largest economy in the world. It is already meeting 22% of its electricity needs from non-hydro renewables, while solar generation in 2014 was more than three times higher than 2nd placed Arizona, and more than all other states….combined. California is on target to meet 5% of its electricity generation needs this year from utility-scale solar, while 2,300 MW of small scale solar capacity has been installed in homes and businesses, helping to offset the lack of hydro due to worsening drought conditions: Next up, we look at the momentum behind wind power in the US. Not only is it one of the fastest-growing sources of renewable power generation as it reaches 5% of the total generation mix, but with continued investment in technological innovation and grid integration the US could go from having 61 GW of wind generation capacity in 2013 to 224 GW by 2030, to 400 GW by 2050. On this trajectory, wind could account for 10% of the US generation mix by 2020, 20% by 2030, and 35% by 2050: Switching to excess in the world of black gold, Texas tea, according to the EIA’s drilling productivity report new well oil production for the Permian region is set to increase by a whopping 20% month-on-month in April, as a precipitous drop in oil prices spurs producers to be much more nimble in achieving greater efficiencies. A shift to ‘high grading’ – areas of greater productivity and lower costs – makes logical sense, but to see this shift manifesting itself so starkly illustrates the flexibility involved. Permian is still the most active US shale play, accounting for 35% of total active rigs (at 283 rigs). That said, the Permian rig count – like total oil rigs – has fallen 50% from its peak late last year.
Times: “The worst possible result” revealed at Fukushima — Plant Chief: Centuries may pass before humans find a way to deal with molten cores — Top Official: “We have no idea” what to do, “the technology simply doesn’t exist… I can’t say it’s possible” (VIDEOS) ENENews
- NHK: The people trying to decommission the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have been hit by setback after setback… and faced accusations of misconduct. It’s lost them a lot of public trust… [Naohiro Masuda, president of Tepco's decommissioning company] revealed he’s not sure if he can comply with the government set plan [for] removing the fuel…
- Naohiro Masuda, president of Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi Decommissioning Company: We have no idea about the debris. We don’t know its shape or strength. We have to remove it remotely from 30 meters above, but we don’t have that kind of technology, it simply doesn’t exist... We still don’t know whether it’s possible to fill the reactor containers with water. We’ve found some cracks and holes in the three damaged container vessels, but we don’t know if we found them all. If it turns out there are other holes, we might have to look for some other way to remove the debris. It’s a very big challenge. Honestly speaking, I cannot say it’s possible.
Toxic alert after second series of blasts at Chinese chemical plant in two years -- At least 14 people were injured, with six in a stable condition in hospital, after a series of explosions at a chemical factory in southern China on Monday evening. It was the second time in two years that there have been blasts at the plant in Zhangzhou in Fujian province. Firefighters had brought the blaze under control on Tuesday morning and fires in two of three burning oil tanks had been extinguished, the fire department in Fujian province said in a statement on social media. The explosions at the paraxylene plant in Zhangzhou were caused by an oil spill near the tanks, according to officials at an emergency command centre at the scene. No chemical leaks or traces have been detected in villages downwind of the plant, the provincial government’s press office said. The injured include four firefighters. About 350 police and more than 600 firefighters were still at the scene on Tuesday morning. More than 400 soldiers have also been deployed to help deal with the incident, the provincial government said. Paraxylene (PX) is a chemical essential to the process of manufacturing plastic bottles and polyester clothing which is dangerous if inhaled or if absorbed through skin, causing different degrees of damage to abdominal organs and the nervous system. China is the world’s largest PX producer and consumer as of 2010. Safety concerns over PX factories have prompted environmental protests in China.
The hidden reasons behind slow economic growth: Declining EROI, constrained net energy --It should seem obvious that it takes energy to get energy. And, when it takes more energy to get the energy we want, this usually spells higher prices since the energy inputs used cost more. Under such circumstances there is less energy left over for the rest of society to use, that is, for the non-energy gathering parts--the industrial, commercial and residential consumers of energy--than would otherwise be the case. It shouldn't be surprising then that as fossil fuels, which provide more than 80 percent of the power modern society uses, become more energy intensive to extract and refine, there is a growing drag on economic activity as more and more of the economy's resources are devoted simply to getting the energy we want. A more formal way of talking about this is Energy Return on Investment or EROI. The "energy return" is the energy we get for a particular "investment" of a unit of energy. The higher the EROI of an energy source, the cheaper it will be in both energy and financial terms--and the more energy that will be left over for the rest of society to use. But we've seen a persistent decline in the EROI of U.S. oil and natural gas in the past century, a trend that is likely to be reflected elsewhere in the world as well. We rarely think of the energy it takes to get the energy we need because the processes are hidden from most of us. For example, when we drill for oil, there is energy expended to build the rigs, make the pipes, move and deliver them, drill the well, complete the well and pump the oil. The people involved all require energy in the form of food to live and tools and transportation to do their work. The oil is then transported by pipeline or tanker to refineries which use yet more energy to make the final products such as the diesel and gasoline we use. These products are transported to distributors and finally to retail service stations or large end users. This list is actually cursory, but it illustrates the scope of the activities involved.
What's the limit to the planet's growth? - I came across "The Limits to Growth" quite by accident in 1972, just when it was published. It was commissioned by the Club of Rome and written by a team of researchers at MIT led by Donella and Dennis Meadows. The book changed the way I thought about nature, people, history, everything. It persuaded me that physics matters, and that the idea of ever-expanding economic growth is a delusion. Although galloping economic growth already seemed normal to most younger people living in the developed world in 1972, the growth that took off after WWII was not normal. It is absolutely unprecedented in all of history. Nothing like it has ever occurred before: large and rapidly growing populations, accelerating industrialisation, expanding production of every kind. All new. The Meadows team found that we could avoid collapse if we slowed down the physical expansion of the economy. This, however, would mean two very difficult changes—slowing human population growth and slowing the entire cycle of physical production from material extraction through to the disposal of waste. The book was persuasive to me and I expected its message to have an impact on human affairs. Yet as the years rolled by, it seemed it was ignored. While scientists from Rachel Carson onwards have sounded the alarm about numerous problems associated with growth, our governments and bureaucracies have not paid attention. Economic growth has gradually been entrenched as the central objective of collective human effort. This really puzzles me.
“If We Dig Out All Our Fossil Fuels, Here’s How Hot We Can Expect It to Get” -- World leaders are once again racing to avert disastrous levels of global warming through limits on greenhouse gas emissions. An agreement may be in reach, but because of the vast supplies of inexpensive fossil fuels, protecting the world from climate change requires the even more difficult task of disrupting today’s energy markets. The White House last month released a blueprint to reduce United States emissions by as much as 28 percent by 2025. The plan lays the groundwork for the formal international climate talks this December in Paris, where the goal is a treaty on emissions that will seek to limit the rise in global temperatures to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels. Beyond 3.6 degrees, scientists say, the most catastrophic climate consequences will occur, possibly including the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. Forging a treaty in Paris would be no small task, yet would be just the beginning of a solution. The greater challenge will be deciding how much of the world’s abundant supply of fossil fuels we simply let lie. (Bill McKibben and more recently The Guardian have taken a maximal position in their Leave It in the Ground campaign.) To understand the scope of this challenge, I’ve tallied the projected warming from fossil fuels extracted so far and the projected warming capacity of various fossil fuels that can be extracted with today’s technology. This accounting was done by taking the embedded carbon dioxide in each energy source and using a standard model for the relationship between cumulative carbon emissions and long-run temperature changes based on a 2009 Nature article. (More detail on the method is available here.) For those who don’t like suspense, here’s the total: an astonishing 16.2 degrees. And here’s how that breaks down. Since the industrial revolution, fossil fuels have warmed the planet by about 1.7 degrees. We are already experiencing the consequences of this warming. In recent weeks, we have learned that the world had its warmest winter on record and that Arctic sea ice hit a new low, even as intense storms continue to inflict harm on communities globally.