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CO2 emissions from energy production drop to 1994 levels in the U.S.

The headline at The Guardian says almost everything you need to know: U.S. carbon emissions fall to lowest levels since 1994.

Carbon dioxide emissions fell by 13% in the past five years, because of new energy-saving technologies and a doubling in the take-up of renewable energy, the report compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) [PDF] said.

The reduction in climate pollution -- even as Congress failed to act on climate change -- brings America more than halfway towards Barack Obama's target of cutting emissions by 17% from 2005 levels over the next decade, the Bloomberg analysts said.

By the end of last year, America's emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions had fallen 10.7% from the 2005 baselines.

The caveat:  The carbon emissions discussed are those related to energy production. Energy production isn't all CO2 emission, but it's a lot of it.

So here's what that reduction looks like. Since 1974, levels of energy-related carbon emissions have seen two peaks. As indicated above, we're on a downward trend, something David Roberts explained last year.

Click to embiggen.
BCSE
Click to embiggen.

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Explosion at headquarters of Mexico’s state-owned oil company kills 32 [UPDATED]

It's not clear why the lower floors at the headquarters of Pemex, Mexico's state-owned oil company, exploded. Things that have been blamed so far: a gas leak, a malfunctioning boiler, the electricity supply. Mexico's Interior Minister, Miguel Angel Osorio, outlined the known facts for the press last night (translated via Google):

[Yesterday], around 15:40 pm in the North Annex B-2 Pemex Administrative Center, there was an explosion which seriously affected the ground floor, basement and mezzanine of the building and caused severe damage to three floors. …

The death of 25 people, 17 women, eight men, same SEMEFO have been transferred to the Attorney General of the Republic, 101 wounded, of whom 46 remain in care and the rest were discharged.

What is clear is that Pemex has a track record of mistakes and accidents -- and that the explosion comes at a tricky political moment for the company.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy

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California levies record $1 million fine against Chevron for refinery fire

Nearly six months after a Chevron refinery erupted in flames in Richmond, Cailf., there's a tiny bit of charred justice for residents of the San Francisco East Bay area.

bigblacksmokecloud

In an announcement Wednesday, California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) said it would be fining Chevron $963,200 for the fire -- the biggest fine ever levied by the agency, and the biggest fine Cal/OSHA was even legally able to levy.

Cal/OSHA enforces workplace-safety law, and this judgment stemmed directly from 25 violations the agency said Chevron had committed. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

The state said 11 of the violations were willful and that Chevron had disregarded known and obvious hazards, a category that carries a fine of $70,000 per instance. Twelve other violations were deemed serious, with fines ranging from $6,000 to $25,000 apiece. The other two violations were minor.

Cal/OSHA found that Chevron officials ignored their own reliability department's urging in 2002 that they replace the pipe that ultimately failed. Company inspectors told managers that the line was vulnerable to corrosion.

The line had lost more than 80 percent of its thickness to corrosion when it finally ruptured, a separate federal investigation has found. ...

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Cyclists are the happiest of us all

Wheeeeee!
Shutterstock
Wheeeeee!

Despite getting run over, doored, harassed, and generally being treated as second-class citizens of the road, bicyclists are the happiest of all commuters. Go figure!

The finding comes via an Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium study released this month. Those who walk to work, the study found, are nearly as happy as cyclists, who are about three times happier than solo car-drivers.

Of course, your commute happiness is improved if you're on your way to a good job that makes you a lot of money, but income gap aside, even rich workaholic bikers still had safety concerns that chipped away at their smile scores.

New York Daily News columnist Denis Hamill sees your safety concerns, cyclists, and he raises you a head injury, because that's the only explanation I have for Hamil's ragey column on New York's bike lanes that, he says, have "disfigured the city in a logistical and aesthetic way."

Read more: Cities

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Water use for electricity production set to double globally by 2035

You can't make electricity without water. I mean, you can, but you have to use things like "solar panels" or "wind turbines," and who's going to do that? (Lots of people, I guess, but that doesn't help my point.) A 2009 study suggested that half of the freshwater we use goes to energy production, boiled to create steam to turn turbines, or used to cool off reactors. When we run low on water -- or when the water gets too warm -- the ability to generate electricity declines or halts. (Except from wind turbines and solar panels; I'll just keep pointing that out.)

According to the International Energy Agency, the amount of water we use for energy is about to go up. A lot. From National Geographic:

The amount of fresh water consumed for world energy production is on track to double within the next 25 years, the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects. …

If today's policies remain in place, the IEA calculates that water consumed for energy production would increase from 66 billion cubic meters (bcm) today to 135 bcm annually by 2035.

That's an amount equal to the residential water use of every person in the United States over three years, or 90 days' discharge of the Mississippi River. It would be four times the volume of the largest U.S. reservoir, Hoover Dam's Lake Mead.

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National Geographic

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U.S. ends record streak of days without tornado fatalities

Climate Central reports that a weather-related record ended yesterday morning: the longest the U.S. has gone without a tornado-related death, 220 days.

[A] large and powerful tornado struck Adairsville, Ga., killing at least one person in a mobile home park. That tornado, which may rank as an EF-4 -- the second most powerful on the Enhanced Fujita Scale -- overturned cars on I-75 and damaged numerous buildings in downtown Adairsville, which is about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta.

A local news broadcast included a helicopter flight over the area damaged by the twister.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy

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Monsanto CEO acknowledges climate change, open to GMO labels, thinks veggies suck

Image (1) monsanto_withered_c.gif for post 40274The Wall Street Journal sat down with Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant in what were probably some very nice chairs for this comfy little edited Q&A. The global agriculture giant is "battered, bruised, and still growing," according to the WSJ, whose cup runneth over with pathos for poor Hugh. The interview kicks off with: "What's the harm in disclosing genetically modified ingredients to consumers?" Yes, Hugh, please tell us about the harm.

Grant says California's Proposition 37 -- which would have required GMO foods to be labeled, and which Monsanto spent millions to defeat (weird, WSJ, y'all left that bit out!) -- "befuddled the issue." But Grant says he's personally "up for the dialogue around labeling." Why? Because he thinks GMOs are so great of course! (Come on, you knew that answer.)

They're the most-tested food product that the world has ever seen. Europe set up its own Food Standards Agency, which has now spent €300 million ($403.7 million), and has concluded that these technologies are safe. [Recently] France determined there's no safety issue on a corn line we submitted there. So there's always a great deal of political noise and turmoil. If you strip that back and you get to the science, the science is very strong around these technologies.

GMO haters gonna GMO hate! And Grant would rather be in the future than in the past. "I think some of the criticism comes with being first in a lot of these spaces. I'd rather be there than at the back of the pack." On the whole, Monsanto has "mended a lot of fences" and "turned things around" recently with the general public, according to Grant, in part because of "consistent messaging." I will give him that!

One of Grant's and Monsanto's messages, apparently: Vegetables taste crappy. This should definitely help the company with the 18-and-under crowd, at least.

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Pirates on Africa’s west coast have a new target: Oil

The rate of piracy off the coast of Somalia in East Africa has dropped significantly over the past few years. The International Chamber of Commerce maintains a live map of attacks; the plurality at this point are off the coast of India. Earlier this month, a Somali pirate kingpin announced his retirement using that traditional pirate tool: the press conference.

A rocket-propelled grenade fired by Somali pirates is buried in the side of a cruise ship
ooocha
A rocket-propelled grenade fired by Somali pirates is buried in the side of a cruise ship.

At the same time, attacks along the western coast of Africa have increased. One key target? Oil. From Quartz:

The East Africa attacks were also sometimes on oil tankers, but with the goal of squeezing out large ransoms from the cargo-owners. The difference now is that the West Africa attacks are after the oil itself. On Jan. 21, for example, a tanker called ITRI was captured by pirates near Cote d’Ivoire; it has not been heard from since. Most of the oil attacks are off the coast of Nigeria, where pirates ply the Niger Delta.

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Campaign to label frankenfoods goes viral

organic-gmo-tomato-carousel Want to be able to tell the difference between a natural fish and a genetically engineered frankensalmon in the dystopian food future? It looks like you may not be required to live on the crunchy West Coast for that.

After California's GMO-labeling Proposition 37 failed to pass last fall, bills that would require labels for genetically modified food are rolling in Oregon and Washington, and similar initiatives are picking up steam in Minnesota, Missouri, and New Mexico, as well as in Connecticut and Vermont, where GMO-labeling legislation failed to pass last year amid threats of legal action from Monsanto.

New Mexico could be the first state to pass such a law. State Sen. Peter Wirth of Santa Fe, who is sponsoring the legislation, says the bill is aimed at "leveling the playing field" for food actually grown in fields.

Minnesota is home to the headquarters of General Mills, Hormel, Cargill, and Land-O-Lakes, which were all big contributors to the fight against Prop 37, but citizens groups are pushing legislators to pass a label law there too (and the local Fox affiliate covers them pretty appropriately). Meanwhile, Missouri's legislation would just target genetically modified meat and fish.

The most interesting take on the national GMO label fight comes from the belly of the beast: the International Dairy Foods Association, which just had its annual meeting. From Meat Poultry News:

Read more: Food

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Turbine in the U.K. converts wind power into kinetic, falling-over energy

If you're wondering why you thought you might have heard a sound something like a combination of giggling and coins jingling and a breeze ruffling the fur of an ugly otter, it's because Donald Trump is happy today. Trump hates wind turbines, not because he understands how they work or what they're used for (probably) but because he doesn't want them in the ocean near his bullshit golf course.

He is happy because this happened. From the Guardian:

A wind turbine in north Devon has collapsed, leaving local residents concerned about safety. It is understood to be the first such reported incident in the UK, although blades have fallen from turbines in a small number of cases.

The turbine was sited on farmland in the Bradworthy area and fell down in the early hours of Sunday morning. Margaret Coles, chairwoman of Bradworthy parish council, which opposed the erection of the turbine, told the Daily Telegraph that strong winds had hit the area. "The bolts on the base could not withstand the wind as we are a very windy part of the country. Dulas [the energy company] have egg on their face," she said. "There are concerns about safety."

Well, yes. When a big, heavy thing specifically designed to be used in the wind is knocked over by the wind, that should rightly prompt concerns.

A Devon turbine, presumably in its proper, upright position
kevinzim
A Devon turbine, presumably in its proper, upright position.
Read more: Climate & Energy