Energy & Environment

Where Could Trump Find an Example of a GOP-Led Clean Energy Plan? Texas

“Even without a carbon tax, Trump could implement a successful, Republican-led clean energy transition. And there’s one place he can turn for an example: Texas,” Marilu Hastings writes for Dallas News.

“Texas’s main power grid operator is expected to cut carbon dioxide emissions 28 percent below 2005 emission levels by 2035, or 61 million tons per year, as new, efficient plants and renewables replace older, dirtier coal-fired power plants. This will easily surpass any carbon-dioxide reductions called for in the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.”

“Clean energy has created jobs in Texas. In 2014, the governor’s office reported that 1,300 Texas companies employ more than 100,000 people in the renewable energy sector. According to Carlton Schwab, chief executive of the Texas Economic Development Council, these new jobs pay average annual salaries of more than $78,000.”

All the Risks of Climate Change in a Single Graph

Vox: “Since the atmosphere affects everything, everything will be affected by its warming — there’s no single risk, but a wide and varied array of risks, of different severities and scales, affecting different systems, unfolding on different timelines. It’s difficult to convey to a layperson, at least without droning on and on.”

“One of the better-known and more controversial attempts to address this problem is a graphic from the reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The so-called ‘burning embers’ graph attempts to render the various risks of climate change — ‘reasons for concern,’ or RFCs — in an easy-to-grasp visual form.”

Want to Improve Wind and Solar Power? Bring Them Together.

Ensia: “A handful of enterprising renewable energy developers are now exploring how solar and wind might better work together, developing hybrid solar–wind projects to take advantage of the power-generating strengths of each — with the two technologies in tandem serving as a better replacement for climate-warming fossil fuels than either could be alone.”

“On the rolling plains just west of Australia’s Great Dividing Range, construction is expected to begin on a 10-megawatt solar farm adjacent to 73 wind turbines that are already online. According to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency — ARENA, a governmental agency tasked with increasing deployment of renewable energy — which has invested A$9.9 million in the project a couple hours’ drive southwest of Sydney, the co-location of solar and wind provides more continuous energy generation than having either technology working alone.”

“But that’s not the only benefit. Co-locating wind and solar plants can save money on grid connections, site development and approvals, says ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht. By building the Gullen Solar Farm adjacent to the existing wind project, Frischknecht estimates savings as high as A$6 million — reducing the cost of the project by a full 20 percent.”

Why U.S. Coal Industry and Its Jobs Are Not Coming Back

James Van Nostrand: “As a candidate, and now as the incoming President of the United States, Trump has embraced the ‘war on coal’ narrative that has been a staple of political discourse in coal-dependent regions of the country for the past several years… It would seem to necessarily follow, then, that ending this ‘war on coal’ by electing a new president would result in a stirring revival of the nation’s coal industry.”

“Unfortunately, that is not likely to happen, and the reasons are straightforward: The economic, political, and geological forces aligned against coal — chief among them the increasing abundance of cheaper, cleaner, U.S.-produced natural gas — dwarf the impact that the federal government’s regulations have had on the coal industry.”

Will Donald Trump Help or Hurt Big Oil?

CNN Money: “Donald Trump has promised to be a loyal friend of Big Oil. Not only does the president-elect want to remove the shackles on oil by rolling back regulations, but he wants to unleash America’s natural resources by expanding drilling on federal land.”

“Problem is, the world is inundated with oil, currently. So, the actual impact of Trump’s energy agenda is less clear cut. In many ways, Trump presents a double-edged sword for oil: His policies may seek to help the oil industry itself. But tapping oil is not the problem that oil companies face. It’s low prices.”

“In fact, Trump’s efforts to boost production may hurt oil companies by exacerbating the epic supply glut that caused prices to crash in the first place.”

A Super-Nerdy Insurance Plan Could Save Poor Countries from Damage Caused by Climate Change

Quartz: “CCRIF was, according to its CEO Isaac Anthony, the world’s first ‘multinational parametric insurance company.’ In layman’s terms: it’s insurance for acts of God, designed to help countries rebound quickly after disaster.”

“Parametric insurance makes payments not based on assessed loss, but on the intensity of an event. With a hurricane like Tomas, for instance, CCRIF measures the volume of rainfall and wind speeds. They then compare these factors to models of how much damage the disaster was likely to inflict, taking into account the regions and cities affected. Member countries take out policies with different levels of protection, and within two weeks of a disaster, CCRIF determines what, if any, payment they will make.”

“Parametric insurance makes payments not based on assessed loss, but on the intensity of an event. With a hurricane like Tomas, for instance, CCRIF measures the volume of rainfall and wind speeds. They then compare these factors to models of how much damage the disaster was likely to inflict, taking into account the regions and cities affected. Member countries take out policies with different levels of protection, and within two weeks of a disaster, CCRIF determines what, if any, payment they will make.”

Why Climate Progress Is Still Possible During the Trump Presidency

Mark Muro: “Without minimizing the gravity of the current moment, there are several solid (and not just wishful) reasons for maintaining some hope that progress can be maintained on the path of decarbonizing the economy and reducing the most devastating consequences of global warming. In this regard, many of the forces that have been most strongly shaping emissions outcomes in recent years remain beyond Trump’s reach and beyond the rules and stances of the U.S. federal government.”

“In keeping with that, here are three solid truths about where progress has been coming from thus far that point to genuine sources of consolation about further progress and priorities for the next stage:”

“States and cities will continue to lead… Technology change and market forces will continue to drive gains… Private finance will continue to drive the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Donald Trump Wants to Dismantle Obama’s Climate Rules. Can Anyone Stop Him?

Vox: “Donald Trump has made it perfectly clear that one of his top priorities is to dismantle the climate change regulations that President Obama has put in place over the past eight years. But the details of how he tries to do this matter enormously, and anyone interested in climate policy should pay close attention to the nuances here.”

“Trump will have a lot of power, on his own, to stall, weaken, or take apart Obama’s key climate rules, particularly the Clean Power Plan that regulates CO2 from power plants. It’s not easy, but he has a ton of leeway here.”

“The more pressing question, though, is whether Trump and the GOP Congress will pass a bill that will prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from ever regulating carbon dioxide again. If they did that, they wouldn’t just kill the Clean Power Plan — they would prevent any future presidents from tackling climate change the way Obama did.”

Tesla’s Stunning New Solar Roof Tiles for Homes

Tech Crunch: “Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk wasn’t kidding when he said that the new Tesla solar roof product was better looking than an ordinary roof: the roofing replacement with solar energy gathering powers does indeed look great. It’s a far cry from the obvious and somewhat weird aftermarket panels you see applied to roofs after the fact today.”

“Of course, there’s the matter of price: Tesla’s roof cost less than the full cost of a roof and electricity will be competitive or better than the cost of a traditional roof combined with the cost of electricity from the grid, Musk said. Tesla declined to provide specific pricing at the moment, since it will depend on a number of factor including installation specifics on a per home basis.”

Jay Faison’s Expensive, Maddening Quest to Save the Planet (And the GOP)

Bloomberg Politics: “The year before, Faison had arrived in Washington as a political nobody, flush with cash from the sale of his Charlotte-based electronics company. He hoped that, by dedicating his time and $175 million to the cause, he could show Republicans they had a role to play in saving the planet. Others have attempted this mission, but few have been as determined as Faison — and no one has invested as much money. Yet he’s encountered such indifference and hostility that he’s been forced to scale back his ambitions and shift sharply to the right. It’s been a lesson in what happens in politics when the irresistible force of cash meets the immovable object of dogma.”

Can We Capture Energy From a Hurricane?

Smithsonian: “In terms of energy stored and released, hurricanes pack a huge punch. Your ‘average’ tropical cyclone might release the equivalent of 600 terawatts of energy, with a quarter of a percent of that as wind; the vast majority of the energy in a hurricane is in the form of heat stored and released as water vapor condenses into rain.”

“So while wind is only a small part of the overall energy output of a hurricane, it still generates vast amounts of power: around 1.5 terawatts, or just over a quarter of the world’s current total electrical generating capacity of 5.25 terawatts. The wind from just one storm is a gold mine of clean energy.”