Climate & Energy

A Stirling idea

Development in waste-heat-to-electricity technology

Here's a 200 year old idea with merit: A Stirling engine, modified to capture the waste heat of industrial processes to make electricity. Gar noted Stirling Energy Systems' efforts in this vein to make electricity from solar thermal collectors using a Stirling engine a year ago, but instead of the sun, a startup in my neighborhood, ReGen, is developing a Stirling that will specialize in using the low to moderate heat generated by landfill gas systems, paper mills, steel mills, chemical and petroleum refining facilities, glass ovens, cement plants, and similar locations:

Put down the oil

Increasing oil production will not substitute as energy solution

Originally posted on the NDN Blog. Yesterday, Saudi Arabia did what everyone -- including George W. Bush on bended knee -- has been asking it to do for months: agree to increase production. Prices closed up a dollar. The Saudi move and its non-impact on the market shows just how tight supplies remain. While it was designed in large part to offset declines in Nigerian production due to rebel violence in the oil-rich, poverty-stricken Niger Delta, it might have sent a psychological signal of easing supplies but it did not. Meanwhile, back in Washington, another panel of oil traders told Chair Dingell's House Energy and Commerce Oversight subcommittee that speculation is driving up oil prices and tighter oversight of commodities futures markets could lower prices. Staffers released data to the effect that 70 percent of trades are now speculative, up from 30 percent not long ago.

Tokyo set to pass citywide cap-and-trade bill

Tokyo, Japan, is on track to pass a bill on Wednesday that would limit the amount of greenhouse gases big companies in the city could …

Refrigeration without electricity

Here’s Adam Grossner’s brief TED talk, on his effort to create a refrigerator that doesn’t use electricity: (thanks LL!)

Notable quotable

Hansen on fossil fuels

On tar sands, oil shale, the like, and global warming: "If we use unconventional fossil fuels then there's no hope." On the Bush-McCain plan for offshore oil drilling: "It's just a crazy thing to do." -- Dr. James Hansen, speaking at a National Press Club luncheon, which honored him and commemorated the 20th anniversary of the landmark 1988 Senate hearing on global warming.

Pyongyang syndrome

Agriculture and energy solutions to avoid the fate of North Korea

John Feffer has a good article over at Asia Times Online. It points out the deep danger we're in -- how teetery both the world and America's food and energy systems are. It is well worth a read, particularly because of its clear articulation of the bind we're in -- the strategies we've used in the past to get out of disaster will only accelerate collapse in the long-term.. The tools we're using to get more food out of the ground take food from the future.

Twenty years later

The new testimony before Congress

The following is a guest post from climate scientist James Hansen, taken from his briefing to the House Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming. ----- My presentation today is exactly 20 years after my June 23, 1988 testimony to Congress, which alerted the public that global warming was underway. There are striking similarities between then and now, but one big difference. Again a wide gap has developed between what is understood about global warming by the relevant scientific community and what is known by policymakers and the public. Now, as then, frank assessment of scientific data yields conclusions that are shocking to the body politic. Now, as then, I can assert that these conclusions have a certainty exceeding 99 percent. The difference is that now we have used up all slack in the schedule for actions needed to defuse the global warming time bomb. The next president and Congress must define a course next year in which the United States exerts leadership commensurate with our responsibility for the present dangerous situation. Otherwise it will become impractical to constrain atmospheric carbon dioxide, the greenhouse-gas produced in burning fossil fuels, to a level that prevents the climate system from passing tipping points that lead to disastrous climate changes that spiral dynamically out of humanity's control. Changes needed to preserve creation, the planet on which civilization developed, are clear. But the changes have been blocked by special interests, focused on short-term profits, who hold sway in Washington and other capitals. I argue that a path yielding energy independence and a healthier environment is, barely, still possible. It requires a transformative change of direction in Washington in the next year. --- On 23 June 1988 I testified to a hearing, chaired by Sen. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.), that the Earth had entered a long-term warming trend and that human-made greenhouse-gases almost surely were responsible. I noted that global warming enhanced both extremes of the water cycle, meaning stronger droughts and forest fires, on the one hand, but also heavier rains and floods. My testimony two decades ago was greeted with skepticism. But while skepticism is the lifeblood of science, it can confuse the public. As scientists examine a topic from all perspectives, it may appear that nothing is known with confidence. But from such broad open-minded study of all data, valid conclusions can be drawn. My conclusions in 1988 were built on a wide range of inputs from basic physics, planetary studies, observations of on-going changes, and climate models. The evidence was strong enough that I could say it was time to "stop waffling." I was sure that time would bring the scientific community to a similar consensus, as it has. While international recognition of global warming was swift, actions have faltered. The U.S. refused to place limits on its emissions, and developing countries such as China and India rapidly increased their emissions. ---

A modern-day Cassandra

Thoughts on the 20th anniversary of James Hansen’s historic Congressional testimony

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was given the gift of prophecy -- of seeing the future. But she was also cursed to have no one believe her. For far too many years, Dr. James Hansen has been a modern-day Cassandra. Gifted with a scientific training that allowed him to see the forces at work that are warming the planet, for too many years he was also not believed by many who chose to ignore or deny the scientific reality of global warming. Today, it is my pleasure to welcome Dr. James Hansen back to Capitol Hill on this 23rd of June 2008. It was twenty years ago today in 1988 that Dr. Hansen first came to Congress to deliver his message about global warming. He stated: "The greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now." Dr. Hansen, who currently serves as the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and a professor of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department at Columbia University, is a pioneer in modeling research and showed rising greenhouse gas levels would cause "temperature changes sufficiently large to have major impacts on people and other parts of the biosphere." Dr. Hansen has been more than just a leader within the global warming research community. He has served as a spokesperson communicating the global warming science to the public. Dr. Hansen has stood up to pressure to change the tone of his scientific research for political reasons in order to ensure that the pubic receives the most accurate information possible about climate change. Over the past twenty years, the body of evidence Dr. Hansen and his colleagues began has only continued to grow. It recently resulted in the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report showing how rising concentrations of man made pollutants are changing the climate of our planet. The debate is over. Global warming is here. Dr. Hansen was right.

Paul Revere rides again

Hansen marks 20th anniversary of landmark testimony to Congress with renewed call to action

James Hansen. Photo: It was a sweltering June 23 in Washington, D.C., when climatologist James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, …