Ice Apocalypse  

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Eric Holthaus at Grist has a look at Antarctica's melting glaciers - Ice Apocalypse.

In a remote region of Antarctica known as Pine Island Bay, 2,500 miles from the tip of South America, two glaciers hold human civilization hostage.

Stretching across a frozen plain more than 150 miles long, these glaciers, named Pine Island and Thwaites, have marched steadily for millennia toward the Amundsen Sea, part of the vast Southern Ocean. Further inland, the glaciers widen into a two-mile-thick reserve of ice covering an area the size of Texas.

There’s no doubt this ice will melt as the world warms. The vital question is when.

The glaciers of Pine Island Bay are two of the largest and fastest-melting in Antarctica. (A Rolling Stone feature earlier this year dubbed Thwaites “The Doomsday Glacier.”) Together, they act as a plug holding back enough ice to pour 11 feet of sea-level rise into the world’s oceans — an amount that would submerge every coastal city on the planet. For that reason, finding out how fast these glaciers will collapse is one of the most important scientific questions in the world today.

Radical Reels 2017  

Posted by Big Gav

I saw this year's Radical Reels earlier in the week - the pick of the movies were a French film about skiing ultra-steep alpine mountain faces and some American guys kayaking in Papua New Guinea.

RIP Edward Herman  

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Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone has a farewell to "Manufacturing Consent" co-author Edward Herman - RIP Edward Herman, Who Co-Wrote a Book That's Now More Important Than Ever.

Edward Herman, the co-author (with Noam Chomsky) of Manufacturing Consent, has died. He was 92. His work has never been more relevant.

Manufacturing Consent was a kind of bible of media criticism for a generation of dissident thinkers. The book described with great clarity how the system of private commercial media in America cooperates with state power to generate propaganda.

Herman's work was difficult for many to understand because the nature of the American media, then and now, seemed at best to be at an arm's length from, say, the CIA or the State Department. Here is how the book put it:

"It is much more difficult to see a propaganda system at work where the media are private and formal censorship is absent."

The basic thesis of Manufacturing Consent was that propaganda in America is generated through a few key idiosyncrasies of our (mostly private) system.

One is that getting the whole population to buy in to a narrative requires the sustained attention of the greater part of the commercial media, for at least a news cycle or two.

We don't censor the truth in America, mostly. What we do instead is ignore it. If a lone reporter wants to keep banging a drum about something taboo, like contracting corruption in the military, or atrocities abroad, he or she will a) tend not advance in the business, and b) not be picked up by other media.

Therefore the only stories that tended to reach mass audiences were ones in which the basic gist was agreed upon by the editors and news directors of all or most of the major media companies.

In virtually all cases this little mini-oligarchy of media overlords kept the news closely in sync with the official pronouncements of the U.S. government.

The appearance of dissent was permitted in op-ed pages, where Democrats and Republicans "debated" things. But what readers encountered in these places was a highly ritualized, artificially narrow form of argument kept strictly within a range of acceptable opinions.

Herman's last article had a look at the long history of "fake news" published by The New York Times - Fake News on Russia and Other Official Enemies (though they are from from the only ones guilty of this).

It has been amusing to watch the New York Times and other mainstream media outlets express their dismay over the rise and spread of “fake news.” These publications take it as an obvious truth that what they provide is straightforward, unbiased, fact-based reporting. They do offer such news, but they also provide a steady flow of their own varied forms of fake news, often by disseminating false or misleading information supplied to them by the national security state, other branches of government, and sites of corporate power.

An important form of mainstream media fake news is that which is presented while suppressing information that calls the preferred news into question. This was the case with “The Lie That Wasn’t Shot Down,” the title of a January 18, 1988, Times editorial referring to a propaganda claim of five years earlier that the editors had swallowed and never looked into any further. The lie—that the Soviets knew that Korean airliner 007, which they shot down on August 31, 1983, was a civilian plane—was eventually uncovered by congressman Lee Hamilton, not by the Times.

Mainstream media fake news is especially likely where a party line is quickly formed on a topic, with any deviations therefore immediately dismissed as naïve, unpatriotic, or simply wrong. In a dramatic illustration, for a book chapter entitled “Worthy and Unworthy Victims,” Noam Chomsky and I showed that coverage by Time, Newsweek, CBS News, and the New York Times of the 1984 murder of the priest Jerzy Popieluzko in Communist Poland, a dramatic and politically useful event for the politicized Western mainstream media, exceeded all their coverage of the murders of a hundred religious figures killed in Latin America by U.S. client states in the post-Second World War years taken together. It was cheap and safe to focus heavily on the “worthy” victim, whereas looking closely at the deaths of those hundred would have required an expensive and sometimes dangerous research effort that would have upset the State Department. But it was in effect a form of fake news to so selectively devote coverage (and indignation) to a politically useful victim, while ignoring large numbers whose murder the political establishment sought to downplay or completely suppress.

Bitcoin: A Massive Waste Of Energy  

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Digieconomist has a look at the massive waste of energy that Bitcoin mining represents - Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index. Bitcoin is the opposite of an energy backed currency (one of the useful forms of alternative currency proposed in the past).

‘The windscreen phenomenon’ - why your car is no longer covered in dead insects  

Posted by Big Gav

The UK Telegraph has an article on the ongoing decimation of insect populations - ‘The windscreen phenomenon’ - why your car is no longer covered in dead insects.

Wildlife experts have been warning about the alarming decline in insects for decades. But the fall in numbers of bugs in Britain has now reached such a troubling extent that even motorists are noticing that their windscreens are clear of squashed flies, gnats, moths and wasps. Where a trip in high summer would once have necessitated taking a squeegee to the front window, now the glass is largely clear, drivers are reporting.

The most recent RSPB State of Nature report, which brings together findings from 50 organisations, suggests there has been a 59 per cent decline in insects in the UK since 1970.

Fukushima cleanup to cost $72 billion  

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Bloomberg has a report on robots exploring the ruins of the Fukushima reactor complex - Japan Pictures Likely Show Melted Fukushima Fuel for First Time.

Because of the high radioactivity levels inside the reactor, only specially designed robots can probe the unit. And the unprecedented nature of the Fukushima disaster means that Tepco, as the utility is known, is pinning its efforts on technology not yet invented to get the melted fuel out of the reactors.

The company aims to decide on the procedure to remove the melted fuel from each unit as soon as this summer. And it will confirm the procedure for the first reactor during the fiscal year ending March 2019, with fuel removal slated to begin in 2021.

Decommissioning the reactors will cost 8 trillion yen ($72 billion), according to an estimate in December from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Removing the fuel is one of the most important steps in a cleanup that may take as long as 40 years.

Renewable energy becoming so cheap the US will meet Paris commitments  

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Quartz has an article noting that Trump's withdrawal from the Paris agreement is just an act of carbonite theatre - renewable energy is now so cheap the US will meet its target anyway - Renewable energy is becoming so cheap the US will meet Paris commitments even if Trump withdraws.

Research analysts at Morgan Stanley believe that renewable energy like solar and wind power are hurtling towards a level of ubiquity where not even politics can hinder them. Renewable energy is simply becoming the cheapest option, fast. Basic economics, the analysts say, suggest that the US will exceed its commitments in the Paris agreement regardless of whether or not president Donald Trump withdraws, as he’s stated he will.

“We project that by 2020, renewables will be the cheapest form of new-power generation across the globe,” with the exception of a few countries in Southeast Asia, the Morgan Stanley analysts said in a report published Thursday. “By our forecasts, in most cases favorable renewables economics rather than government policy will be the primary driver of changes to utilities’ carbon emissions levels,” they wrote. “For example, notwithstanding president Trump’s stated intention to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord, we expect the US to exceed the Paris commitment of a 26-28% reduction in its 2005-level carbon emissions by 2020.”

Record half year for rooftop solar in Australia  

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RNE reports that solar PV installations in Australia are now well above their feed-in tariff driven peak of 2013 - Record half year for rooftop solar after another bumper month.

The new statistics, released by industry analyst Sunwiz, follow a new report released last week that showed that the average uptake of rooftop solar in Australia had now reached 25 per cent, and above 31 per cent in Queensland and South Australia. The Sunwiz data shows that Australia now has 5.83GW of rooftop solar installed on 1.71 million homes and businesses. Queensland leads the way with 1.77GW – bigger in capacity than the state’s largest coal fired generator.

Businesses are the biggest mover in the uptake of rooftop solar – possibly because they are being hit with even bigger rises in electricity bills, and accounted for a record 33 per cent of installations in the last month, and more than 40 per cent of installations in states likes South Australia.

Holland’s first Vertical Forest  

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Inhabitat has a look at another example of an urban forest - Holland’s first Vertical Forest to rise with 10,000 air-purifying plants.

Hot on the heels of the world’s first Forest City in China, Stefano Boeri Architetti has announced their winning bid for the first Vertical Forest in the Netherlands. Set to rise in Utrecht, the Hawthorn Tower will, like its Milanese predecessor, be blanketed in greenery and is expected to absorb over 5.4 tons of carbon dioxide. The equivalent of one hectare of woods will be installed on the tower to create a real urban ecosystem with over 30 different vegetal species.

Batteries are going to make rooftop solar invulnerable  

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Dave Roberts at Vox has an interesting look at the problem cheap battery storage is posing for utilities trying to stop the spread of solar power - Utilities fighting against rooftop solar are only hastening their own doom.

As they get cheaper, batteries make sense for more commercial applications. As new markets for storage grow, demand for batteries increases. As demand increases, economies of scale kick in and batteries get cheaper. Rinse, repeat.

The McKinsey analysis shows this dynamic playing out within the power sector, both “behind the meter” (batteries inside a customer’s home or building) and “in front of the meter” (batteries assembled into large-scale storage installations). Batteries are soon going to disrupt power markets at all scales.

The whole analysis is interesting, but I want to focus in on the way batteries will affect rooftop solar. Across the country, intense battles are being waged as utilities push back against the rapid spread of rooftop solar. (See, as the latest example, Nevada.) Batteries, McKinsey reveals, are going to scramble those battles, making them effectively unwinnable for utilities. The existential crisis they hoped to avoid by slowing rooftop solar is going to slam into them twice as hard once batteries enter the picture.

A Wave Of Gigafactories  

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GTM has a look at the wave of gigafactories being built - 10 Battery Gigafactories Are Now in the Works. And Elon Musk May Add 4 More.

Gigafactory announcements have been trending in recent months, with plans for at least 10 new plants revealed in the last six months. Half a dozen have been planned in the last month alone.

In Germany, for example, the Daimler subsidiary Accumotive laid the foundation for a $550 million plant designed to take annual lithium-ion battery production from its current level of 80,000 units up to around 320,000.

And Energy Absolute, of Thailand, reportedly has plans for a $2.9 billion factory in Asia, with an annual production capacity of 1 gigawatt-hour per year, scaling to 50 gigawatt-hours a year by 2020.

Meanwhile, a consortium including Boston Energy and Innovation (BEI), Charge CCCV, C&D Assembly, Primet Precision Materials and Magnis Resources confirmed it will build a 15-gigawatt-hour-a-year plant on IBM’s former Huron Campus manufacturing site in New York.

BEI, Charge CCCV, C&D Assembly and Magnis Resources are also working with Eastman Kodak Group to build a similarly sized plant near Townsville in Queensland, Australia. The backers have said the plant could create around 7,000 jobs.

More recently a company called Energy Renaissance has lifted the lid on plans for a factory in Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory, with a production capacity of a gigawatt-hour of batteries a year.

The most aggressive gigafactory plans, however, remain with the company that came up with the concept. Tesla’s Elon Musk has said he will announce “probably four” new gigafactories this year. One has long been slated for Europe, and another has been confirmed to be in the works in Shanghai, China. ...

Trump's New World Order - Browns vs Greens  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Michael Klare has an article at TomDispatch looking at the emerging US-Russia-Saudi Arabia axis of "petro-powers" and their confrontation with the greens that make up the rest of the world - The Petro-Powers vs. the Greens.

That Donald Trump is a grand disruptor when it comes to international affairs is now a commonplace observation in the establishment media. By snubbing NATO and withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, we’ve been told, President Trump is dismantling the liberal world order created by Franklin D. Roosevelt at the end of World War II. “Present at the Destruction” is the way Foreign Affairs magazine, the flagship publication of the Council on Foreign Relations, put it on its latest cover. Similar headlines can be found on the editorial pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post. But these prophecies of impending global disorder miss a crucial point: in his own quixotic way, Donald Trump is not only trying to obliterate the existing world order, but also attempting to lay the foundations for a new one, a world in which fossil-fuel powers will contend for supremacy with post-carbon, green-energy states.

This grand strategic design is evident in virtually everything Trump has done at home and abroad. Domestically, he’s pulled out all the stops in attempting to cripple the rise of alternative energy and ensure the perpetuation of a carbon-dominated economy. Abroad, he is seeking the formation of an alliance of fossil-fuel states led by the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, while attempting to isolate emerging renewable-energy powers like Germany and China. If his project of global realignment proceeds as imagined, the world will soon enough be divided into two camps, each competing for power, wealth, and influence: the carbonites on one side and the post-carbon greens on the other.

Arctic Sea Ice At Record Low Level  

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Wind power's big bet: turbines taller than skyscrapers  

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Reuters has an article on the evolution of wind turbines to exceed 10 MW generation - Wind power's big bet: turbines taller than skyscrapers.

Michael Simmelsgaard, head of offshore business at Swedish utility Vattenfall, said the industry would cross the 10 MW turbine threshold "faster than many expect now", without being more specific. A 10 W turbine could power about 9,000 homes. "We will definitely see these big turbines," he added.

DONG Energy's wind business, Samuel Leupold, laid out more ambitious plans: "We believe we can utilize (turbines) in the range of 13 to 15 megawatts," he said on the sidelines of an offshore wind conference in London this month - the first time an industry executive has given such a high figure. Previously, companies have only spoken about turbines in the region of 10W.

EnBW also said it was turning to megaturbines. "Size is an important driver of efficiency," said Dirk Guesewell, its head of generation portfolio development. "Bigger rotors mean fewer turbines and foundations are needed to achieve the same capacity."

German turbine maker Senvion said it was developing megaturbines of over 10 MW. While the machines are still in the design stage, it said it was already offering them for future use to wind farm operators.

Houston startup plans to store wind energy underground  

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The Houston Chronicle has an article on a compressed air energy storage project in Texas - Houston startup plans to store wind energy underground.

Texans have long stored oil, natural gas and other forms of energy in underground salt caverns, so it's only natural that a Houston startup wants to store wind energy there, too. The method is in the company's name, Apex-CAES, where CAES stands for compressed air energy storage. The company plans to use electricity at night, when it's cheap, to compress air into an underground cavern. The company then releases the air through turbines to generate electricity when the price is right.

The only thing holding back this 30-year-old technology has been the economics. The difference between the high and low prices in a 24-hour period has not been large enough to generate a reasonable return on the capital investment. Texas' wholesale electricity market and huge nightly wind resource, though, make compressed air energy storage viable, said Jack Farley, CEO of Apex-CAES. Build enough compressed air energy storage, and Texas would never have to burn coal again, and consumers would enjoy even lower electricity prices, he told me.

Volvo's Electric Future  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

The Atlantic reports that Volvo is going to cease making fossil fueled vehicles entirely - Volvo's Electric Future.

Volvo, the Chinese-owned Swedish automaker, announced Tuesday that starting in 2019 it will only make fully electric or hybrid cars. ... The move is a significant bet by the carmaker that the age of the internal-combustion engine is quickly coming to an end—though the Gothenburg, Sweden-based automaker is lone among the world’s major automakers to move so aggressively into electric or hybrid cars. Volvo sold around half a million cars last year, significantly less than the world’s largest car companies such as Toyota, Volkswagen, and GM, but far greater than the 76,000 sold by Tesla, the all-electric carmaker.

Bolivia's Lithium Mining Boom  

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The SMH has a look at the Bolivian lithium mining boom - The open veins of Bolivia's lithium powering the world.

On a clear day and from afar, Salar de Uyuni looks like a colossal mirage. From up close, it looks nothing less than a miracle. But it may not remain that way for long.

Along the salt lake's southern rim, industrial machines roar. Hundreds of heavy trucks are coming and going over the salty crust, wheezing like exhausted beasts, some 40 years old. Diesel fumes permeate the crisp mountain air. In their wake, the trucks leave perfect brown lines in the virginal whiteness, making the lake's scores of square kilometres look like a giant bowl of cafe latte. The workers are drilling the salt with humungous rigs, aiming for the brine beneath. Lodged under enormous quantities of magnesium and potassium lies their goal: lithium, the essential power source for all the world's gadgets, the key component to fuel the entire 21st century.

While these quantities may seem negligible in the wider scheme of things, the depths under the world's largest salt flats are claimed to contain the world's largest lithium reserves. According to some estimates, the Bolivian Andes harbour 70 per cent of the planet's lithium.

A number of studies have been done to corroborate these claims. According to the most optimistic one, as many as 140 million tons of lithium may be available in Salar de Uyuni, while the most pessimistic (US Geological Survey) foretells 'merely' nine million tons. Vast quantities of lithium have also been detected at the bottom of the world's oceans. Little wonder then that the mining industry, one of the planet's most toxic enterprises, is already turning its gaze downward into the seas. ...

The Bolivian market is opening and is attracting the attention of the Japanese, Germans, Swedes, French, Swiss, Koreans and Canadians. Sources say the American electrics giant Tesla also wants in on the action. The battery for Tesla's Model S requires as many as 63 kilograms of lithium carbonate, which is enough to power approximately 10,000 cell phone batteries.

In a recent report, the Goldman Sachs investment bank has called lithium carbonate the new gasoline. Eight years from now, the world's yearly demand is expected to total 470,000 tons. A 1 per cent increase in electric vehicle production could increase lithium demand by more than 40 per cent of current global production, the report boldly states.

Tesla to supply world's biggest battery for South Australia  

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The South Australian government continues to lead Australian states on the way towards 100% renewable energy, announcing they will build the world's largest lithium ion battery storage facility using Tesla batteries (with Elon Musk promising the storage will be free if not delivered within 100 days) - Tesla to supply world's biggest battery for SA, but what is it and how will it work?.

An array of lithium ion batteries will be connected to the Hornsdale wind farm, which is currently under construction in SA. It will look like a field of boxes, each housing Tesla commercial-scale Powerpack batteries. The array will be capable of an output of 100 megawatts (MW) of power at a time and the huge battery will be able to store 129 megawatt hours (MWh) of energy so, if used at full capacity, it would be able to provide its maximum output for more than an hour.

Businesses abandoning gas in Australia  

Posted by Big Gav in , , , ,

RNE has the latest in a string of articles about Australian businesses adopting to build their own renewable energy and energy storage systems rather than pay extortionate gas prices - Victoria agribusiness turns to 196MW wind farm with 20MW storage.

Agri-business company Nectar Farms has announced a $565 million expansion of its new hydroponics business near Stawell in the Victoria’s western districts, that will include a 196MW wind farm and 20MW of battery storage and make it 100 per cent renewable-powered. ... It is possibly the first time that a major project has relied on the ability to source renewable energy, because without it the cost of fossil fuels would have been too prohibitive.

Nectar Farms had planned to use gas – as the hydroponic farms needs heat and Co2 – but the cost was overwhelming and the gas supply was not guaranteed – so instead of abandoning the project altogether, or moving it elsewhere, it has turned to renewables and decided to completely electrify the process.

Elon Musk Says Model 3 Production Will Begin Friday  

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BNEF reports that Tesla Model 3 production is about to commence - Elon Musk Says Model 3 Production Will Begin Friday.

The company now makes two all-electric models: the Model S sedan and Model X sport utility vehicle. The Model 3, which is slated to start at $35,000 before options or incentives, is the culmination of Tesla’s 15-year-quest to reach mainstream consumers with a smaller, more affordable electric car. The Model 3 price tag is in line with the industry’s average new-car transaction price of $34,442 in June, according to Kelley Blue Book. ... The company delivered 25,051 vehicles in the first quarter and aims to make 500,000 in 2018 and 1 million in 2020. Tesla is expected to release second-quarter sales figures Monday.

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