…and people still think solar’s not worth it?
The first quarter of 2014 was another big one for the U.S. solar industry, with 74 percent of all new electric generating capacity across the country coming from solar power. The 1,330 megawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) installed last quarter bring the total in the U.S. up to 14.8 gigawatts of installed capacity — enough to power three million homes, according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
In addition to being the largest quarter ever for concentrating solar power, a method of large-scale solar generation that uses a unique ‘salt battery’ to allow the solar plant to keep producing power even when the sun goes down, it was also the first time in the history of SEIA’s reports that residential solar installations surpassed commercial in the same time period. 232 MW of residential PV were installed in the first quarter, compared to 225 MW of commercial solar.(Think Progress)
Of course, power utilities aren’t exactly enthralled about it…just look at the attempts across the country to force solar-power users to pay outrageous fees in return for going solar; while solar power may not be the right choice for everyone, its’ certainly worth the investment, both in terms of lower electrical prices and in a better climate for all of us.
Now can we begin discussing America’s addiction to fossil fuels?
On the weekend of the 25th anniversary of the disastrous Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, officials announced that a collision of a barge and a ship in the busy Houston Ship Channel spilled as much as 168,000 of its nearly million-gallon cargo of thick, sticky marine fuel called RMG 380, “a special bunker fuel oil often used in shipping that doesn’t evaporate easily.” The channel was still closed at the moment this was written, leaving at least 80 ships unable to get in or get out. The U.S. Coast Guard said part of the channel could be reopened soon, but they offered no timeline for that or for containing the spill. Cause of the collision is under investigation.
Two of the six-member barge crew were treated from exposure to fumes. Such exposure can irritate lungs, eyes and skin, and the “vapor may contain hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas which can be harmful or fatal if inhaled,” states the Material Safety Data Sheet.(Daily Kos)
Even if the spill doesn’t turn into another Exxon Valdez or Deepwater Horizon, the effects are already starting to be felt…
…Richard Gibbons, conservation director for the Houston Audubon Society, said he had already received reports and photographs of oiled birds at the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary near the spill. Staff there reported smelling the oil on shore, but had yet to spot the oily sheen on the water.
Oiled birds that have flown into the sanctuary, Gibbons said, include ruddy turnstones, laughing gulls and American white pelicans, and some shore birds have also appeared with oil — a sign the oil has made it to shore.
The sanctuary attracts 50,000 to 70,000 shorebirds annually to its shallow mud flats. Gibbons said he was working with state officials responding to the spill to ensure the environmental effects are limited.(Los Angeles Times)
For years I used to be an ardent supporter of fossil fuel consumption, regardless of the consequences…nowadays, not so much.
Given that the House has yet to pass any kind of meaningful legislation, at least we know where their screwed-up priorities are at for the moment…
After a relatively quiet year on the energy and environment front, House Republicans are again revving up attacks on President Obama’s policies for energy development, this time with a pair of bills that would chip away at the administration’s authority over oil and gas production on federal lands.
Much of the debate scheduled for the House floor Wednesday will focus on legislation sponsored by Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, to block the Interior Department from regulating fracking on public lands where state regulations are already on the books.
Ahead of Wednesday’s debate, supporters of the measure framed it as an attempt to ward off a regulatory regime that would prove harmful to the domestic oil and gas boom.
“We have a shale-energy revolution in this country and the federal government shouldn’t be doing anything to jeopardize that,” Flores told National Journal Daily. “This bill would put the power to regulate back into the hands of the people who do it best—the states.”
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., similarly painted the legislation as an attempt to block the administration from slowing oil and natural-gas production.
“Imposing a ‘one-size-fits-all’ federal regulation on hydraulic fracturing would add costly and duplicative layers of red tape that would only stand in the way of increased American energy production,” Hastings said.
The legislation is expected to pass but is not likely to win many Democratic votes. “I will not be supporting this bill,” Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., commented ahead of the vote. “The Obama administration has proposed reasonable regulations for hydraulic fracturing, and they should be allowed to go forward.”(National Journal)
I’m of two minds here. On the one hand, Democrats are dead-to-rights correct in criticizing Republicans on taking this up when there are other substantive things that they could be doing. On the other hand, there needs to be a clear balance between protecting the environment and providing for affordable, safe energy resources for Americans.
Question: Prior to October 2013, when was the last time the United States produced more oil for domestic usage than it had to import in?
If you answered 1995, congratulations! For the first time in nearly 2 decades, the United States produced more oil than it had to import, according to the federal Energy Information Agency. Two reasons were generally cited by most experts: (1)the burgeoning practice of hydraulic fracturing (a/k/a fracking) and (2)continued improvements in fuel-efficiency and energy-efficiency. Indeed, the percentage of imported oil fell from a high of 60% back in 2005 down to 35%, its’ lowest point since 1973, when it was also 35% during the Nixon Administration.
I’m of two minds here…on the one hand, I still very much want to see the United States eventually wean itself off of fossil fuels (and given their finiteness and slowly rising costs, America will eventually wean itself off of fossil fuels). On the other hand, having more domestically produced oil means that less of our dollars went to hostile and not-so-friendly regimes around the world and that is a good thing.
Here’s a couple things I believe in this world….I believe:
(1)that climate change is real and that it is happening
(2)that we need to wean ourselves off of high-carbon fossil-based fuels(oil & coal) within a reasonable amt. of time
(3)that we need to harness as many different sources of energy as possible(geothermal, solar, wind, hydroelectric, biofuels and low-carbon fossil fuels such as natural gas)
(4)that nuclear energy should be one of those sources of energy as mentioned in #3
Any questions? Consider this an open thread…
Most years, the South is the region that gets cooked in August heat and humidity…however, as this Think Progress Climate article points out, its’ been the Midwest that’s gotten cooked over the past month, with the following consequences:
- School closures in Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado & Nebraska
- Flash droughts across the Midwest
- Spikes in grain prices
- Adverse factory working conditions
Still think climate change isn’t real? If conditions continue as they are, events such as this may be become commonplace.
Amidst all the chaos that sometimes seems to engulf post-U.S. occupation Iraq, the Iraqi government did manage to accomplish something long-thought improbable…the re-creation of the mythical Garden of Eden as an Iraqi National Park, according to the New Scientist this past week. Quoting:
THE “Garden of Eden” has been saved, even as chaos grows all around. Last week, amid a wave of bombings on the streets of Baghdad, Iraq’s Council of Ministers found time to approve the creation of the country’s first national park – the centrepiece of a remarkable restoration of the Mesopotamian marshes in the south of the country.
This vast wetland of reed beds and waterways, home of the Ma’dan Marsh Arabs, is widely held to be the home of the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden, the paradise where Adam and Eve were created and from which they were subsequently expelled.
Now why was this considered improbable in the opening paragraph? Blame the first Gulf War…
After the Gulf war in 1991, Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussain, used dykes, sluices and diversions to cut off the country’s two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. This drained 93 per cent of the marshes, largely obliterating the largest wetland ecosystem in the Middle East.
Ironically, this actually ended up helping speed up Saddam’s downfall in the second Gulf War due to the fact that, once the marshes were drained and became like the adjacent deserts, Allied forces were able to travel north to Baghdad faster than expected. Ironically, there have been a few surprises along the way…again, from the New Scientist:
Conservationists have been amazed that, despite the disappearance for many years of most of the marsh, every species survived. All 278 recorded bird species remain, including the endemic Basra reed warbler and Iraq babbler. “They had hung on in small spots. When the water spread again, so did the birds,” says Richard Porter of Birdlife International. “It shows how resilient nature can be, and gives hope that other lost wetlands can be restored.”
But it’s not quite paradise regained. “While some patches returned, others did not,” says Mudhafar Salim, chief ornithologist for Nature Iraq, the NGO that led the campaign for the park’s creation.
Now the question becomes: can Iraq’s first major post-occupation national park succeed in re-creating the legendary southern Iraqi marshlands? Only time, and the vagaries of regional politics, will determine the outcome for this park…but if past history is any indication, I’d say it’ll succeed, and that will be one good legacy of the second Gulf War.