Patrick Mazza

Patrick Mazza is an independent journalist-activist focused on climate and global sustainability. He was formerly research director at Climate Solutions, and a founder of the group. His blog is Cascadia Planet.

Business & Technology

Super Bowl blackout makes the case for smart microgrids

More than just a symbol of America’s decaying infrastructure, the Super Bowl blackout showed the vulnerabilities of a centralized power grid.

Clean energy conference weathers blackout with microgrid

Waking up in my hotel room across the street from the 13th annual Harvesting Clean Energy Conference Monday, I hit the light switch.  Nothing.  I try a few other switches and then look out at the hall to confirm it’s a blackout. But I can see out the window the lights of the Oregon State University campus shining into the still darkened sky.  It turns out that while a blackout has engulfed Corvallis in darkness, the campus location is lucky 13 for the conference.  The original location in a building on the edge of campus is dark, but the conference …

The carbon math – Western US ecosystems capacity to store carbon in future depends on emissions reductions now

How much carbon is stored in natural systems of the continental western US?  Over coming decades, how much of the fossil fuel carbon dioxide we are pumping into the atmosphere will western ecosystems absorb? A new US Geological Service survey provides some sobering answers. The two crucial takeways: First, the capacity of western ecosystems to absorb carbon between now and 2050 depends on how rapidly we move now to reduce fossil emissions.  To put it simply, the hotter and drier we let the world become, the less will climate-stressed forests, grasslands and other systems be able to capture and store …

Climate & Energy

Fires, droughts put focus on climate — but will we seize the moment?

Information won't lead to action without proactive planning -- the kind that requires cooperation between government, business, and other groups with a commitment to change.

A storm-resistant power grid?

On the verge of revolutionizing the U.S. power grid

Rachel Maddow, a kindred spirit whose heart beats a little faster at the word "infrastructure," has been campaigning recently for more infrastructure spending in the stimulus package. Pointing to the mass blackouts caused by Midwest storms, she asked the other day on her MSNBC show, "Can I put in a request for a grid that works, even in the snow?" Yes, Rachel, you can! What you want is a smart grid rich in distributed energy resources. First, it is important to be clear that we have two power grids: a transmission grid, which consists of the big lines carrying power from distant generating stations, and a distribution grid, which carries power in the local area to homes, businesses, etc. Failures on the transmission grid, that's T to us geeks, lead to the really big blackouts like that in the Northeast in August 2003. But most failures -- around 90 percent -- happen on the distribution, or D grid, and they are usually not well publicized. Electric Power Research Institute estimates that, overall, blackouts and other power disturbances cost the U.S. economy in the range of $119-188 billion (see p. ES-3 [PDF].) By comparison U.S. power customers paid a total of $343.7 billion for electricity in 2007. The shocking fact is that the costs of an aging and technologically backward power grid adds something like one-third to one-half to our annual electricity costs. Ghost Town Louisville is a poster child, but most power problems do not receive national publicity.

GM 2.0

Call it ‘green mobility’

With an auto industry bailout careening down the pike, Climate Solutions policy director KC Golden has some vitally needed insights regarding what we need to demand from industry leader GM in return. —– We should not rescue General Motors as we know it. But Congress could use the proposed bailout as an opportunity to begin building a new prosperity that can last. As part of any public assistance, GM should be required to help America reduce its oil dependence and tackle the climate challenge by producing the cars of the future. Saving GM under any circumstances is a hard swallow. …