WHEN THE WOLF LEADS THE SHEEP:

JOURNALIST UNCOVERS SOURCES OF WELL-FUNDED CAMPAIGN TO SPREAD DECEIT ABOUT OFFSHORE WIND ENERGY (Stephen ProctorFebruary 12, 2024, The Cool Down)

[C]ompanies pushing for offshore drilling have an interest in discouraging the use of offshore windmills through misinformation.


An op-ed published in a Delaware newspaper on Nov. 6 is one recent example.

The article, which was rife with misinformation, described offshore wind as an “environmental wrecking ball,” and it was written by David Stevenson, director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy at the Caesar Rodney Institute, a think tank that works to shift policy in favor of dirty energy, according to CAP 20.

It just so happens that CRI recently received thousands of dollars from the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and American Energy Alliance, the outlet reported.

Politicians can also play a role in misleading people about solar and wind energy.

In September, at a rally in South Carolina, former President Donald Trump claimed that offshore windmills “are causing whales to die in numbers never seen before,” per the BBC.

However, that’s not true. According to the BBC, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration examined about 90 humpback whales that washed up on U.S. beaches since 2016 and found that the No. 1 cause of death was human interaction, which includes their getting tangled in fishing nets or struck by boats.

The Department of Energy, alongside other government agencies, has addressed the “misinformation” about the whales, and the Associated Press also recently debunked the faulty claims, stating, “Scientists say there is no credible evidence linking offshore wind farms to whale deaths.”

THE FUTURE ALWAYS HAPPENS FASTER THAN YOU THOUGHT:

‘HISTORIC’ EXPANSION OF RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES REWRITING THE FUTURE OF GLOBAL ELECTRICITY: ‘WE’RE MOVING CLOSER’: “What some people were saying was impossible only a few years ago is not only possible — but it is happening.” (Ben Raker, February 7, 2024, The Cool Down)

Renewables 2023, an assessment by the International Energy Agency, reported that the world’s capacity to generate electricity from renewables (solar, wind, and other power sources that don’t burn polluting fuels) expanded by 510 gigawatts in 2023, which is 50% more than the also-hefty amount added in 2022.

The 2023 expansion was “equivalent to the entire power capacity of Germany, France, and Spain combined,” IEA’s executive director Fatih Birol (@fbirol) shared on X, formerly known as Twitter.

TAX THE EXTERNALITIES AND DRIVE INNOVATION:

How to decarbonize 85% of all industry using today’s technology (Loz Blain, February 01, 2024, New Atlas)

The industrial sector is responsible for about 25% of global CO2 emissions – or about 9.3 billion metric tonnes per year and growing. But a team at the University of Leeds says we don’t need to wait for magical new tech to clean most of it up.

In a new study published in the journal Joule, the researchers went through a range of different industrial sectors looking at the available options for decarbonization, their emissions reduction potential, and their technology readiness level (TRL) – a measure of how close a given technology is to being ready for widespread mass adoption.

They found that even if only medium and high-maturity options (TRL 6-9) were used – primarily involving carbon capture and storage (CCS), and/or switching fuel to hydrogen or biomass – most industrial sectors are already in a position to cut an average of 85% of emissions.

SIMPLE ECONOMICS:

MAJOR AUTOMAKER OVERSEAS LAUNCHES ITS MOST AFFORDABLE EV YET (Jeremiah Budin, January 30, 2024, The Cool Down)

According to reporting from Electrek, the IONIQ 2 is intended to rival Volkswagen’s upcoming ID 2all, which is expected to start at around $27,000.

Although no official price has been announced, the IONIQ 2 may be even less expensive than that, as Hyundai Europe’s VP of marketing, Andreas-Christoph Hofmann, told Automotive News, “Everybody in the industry knows the target of this kind of vehicle is 20,000 euros [around $21,700].”

Hyundai’s EVs have gotten consistently rave reviews, especially relative to their price points. The IONIQ 5 recently became the first fully electric vehicle to win MotorTrend’s SUV of the Year, and the IONIQ 6 topped the list of the most efficient cars available in the United States alongside the Lucid Air.

TAX WHAT YOU DON’T WANT:

Clean Energy Subsidies vs. A Carbon Tax (Jeffrey Miron, 1/22/24, Cato)

The existing scientific consensus implies that carbon and other GHC emissions (henceforth, “emissions”) constitute an externality, meaning an effect of one person’s actions on other economic actors, in ways not mediated through prices. Air pollution from cars and factories, fertilizer runoff from farms, and loud noises from highways and airports are standard examples.

In the presence of externalities, free markets produce too much of the externality‐​generating good, and government can in principle improve economic efficiency.

The standard approach is a tax that raises the good’s price, which lowers its production and thus the externality. Measured economic output goes down, but true economic output—measured output minus the externality—goes up.

…AND CHEAPER…

Are 3D-Printed Homes the Future of Housing? (Kristi Waterworth, Jan. 19, 2024, US NEWS)

Because companies like Alquist 3D are working on ways to build 3D-printed homes with materials that are on hand locally, these homes can also have very small carbon footprints. One of Alquist 3D’s ultimate goals is to design homes that are not only carbon neutral but carbon negative – they literally remove carbon from the atmosphere.

The other way that 3D-printed homes will ultimately become more affordable for homeowners is by simply being more energy efficient. Concrete homes have traditionally had high insulation values, but by customizing the wall formulas, local construction experts can make walls that respond better to local needs.

“Moving to using 3D printing to create homes can significantly help reduce energy usage because designs can be optimized to balance different features,” says Soydan Ozcan, sustainable manufacturing and materials scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. “For instance, we can create homes with walls that are structurally sound but that minimize heat loss.”

In the future, Ozcan says, a collaborative team from the Oak Ridge laboratory and the University of Maine will be introducing smart-wall features that can improve energy efficiency in response to a change in the environment.

FUDDIE DUDDIES:

You’ve Formed Your Opinion on EVs. Now Let Me Change It.: Frozen Teslas, unsold inventory piling up at dealerships, production woes—yet sales of electric vehicles still continue to rise. Dan Neil is here to address all your EV fears and doubts. (Dan Neil, 1/19/24, WSJ)

If you think EVs are too expensive, just wait. The mother of price wars is coming consumers’ way, as Tesla continues to leverage its low production costs to undercut the competition. Tesla watchers also expect the company to unveil its long-awaited Model 2 later this year, with a similarly long-awaited $25,000 price tag.

Charging: After a decade of self-sabotage, most automakers decided last year to adopt Tesla’s NACS charging standard in the U.S., which will allow their customers to use Tesla’s robust Supercharging network, like civilized people. Meanwhile, the Biden administration is targeting a half-million public fast chargers in the field by 2030. Pretty soon range anxiety will be returned to neurotics.

Some FUD is simply out of date. For example, the prohibitively high cost of batteries. In 2023 alone, lithium battery pack prices fell 14%, according to BloombergNEF’s Zero Emissions Vehicle Factbook—a tenth of where it stood a decade ago. The race to the bottom on cost will also eliminate the use of battery tech’s most problematic material: cobalt. Advanced lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) batteries use no cobalt and have a lot of other agreeable properties, too, including being more durable, less flammable and cheaper.

The most pernicious FUD may be the idea that EVs can’t move the needle on carbon emissions. They already are. EV adoption cut demand for oil by 1.8 million barrels in 2023, according to BloombergNEF, thereby avoiding 122 megatons of carbon-dioxide emissions.

SIMPLE ECONOMICS:

The Clean Energy Transition May Be Cheaper Than We Thought: Cost estimates leave out some of the savings of using less fossil fuels, new analysis says. (DAN GEARINO, 1/19/24, MoJo)

The global transition to clean energy has a cost, but it may be a lot lower than the figures that sometimes get thrown around. The differences are large, amounting to trillions and even tens of trillions of dollars.

A new analysis from RMI, the clean energy research and advocacy group, identifies what its authors say is a basic flaw in many of those estimates: They don’t fully take into account the decrease in fossil fuel spending.

“This kind of narrative that there’s a massive surge in capital that’s required is simply incorrect,” said Kingsmill Bond, a co-author of the report and an analyst for RMI whose work covers the financial side of the energy transition.


The report finds that global capital spending (money used for equipment and property, among other things) on energy supply is on track to be about $2.5 trillion in 2030, up from $2.2 trillion in 2023.

“It’s 2 percent per annum growth,” Bond said. “On a net basis, it’s not much.”

And then starts paying for itself.

EARTH ABIDES:

“Dirt-powered fuel cell” draws near-limitless energy from soil (Loz Blain, January 16, 2024, New Atlas)

Microbial fuel cells, as they’re called, have been around for more than 100 years. They work a little like a battery, with an anode, cathode and electrolyte – but rather than drawing electricity from chemical sources, they work with bacteria that naturally donate electrons to nearby conductors as they chow down on soil.

The issue thus far has been keeping them supplied with water and oxygen, while being buried in the dirt. “Although MFCs have existed as a concept for more than a century, their unreliable performance and low output power have stymied efforts to make practical use of them, especially in low-moisture conditions,” said UNW alumnus and project lead Bill Yen.


So, the team set about creating several new designs targeted at giving the cells continual access to oxygen and water – and found success with a design shaped like a cartridge sitting vertically on a horizontal disc. The disc-shaped carbon felt anode lies horizontally at the bottom of the device, buried deep in the soil where it can capture electrons as microbes digest dirt.

The conductive metal cathode, meanwhile, sits vertically on top of the anode. The bottom part thus sits deep enough to have access to moisture from the deep soil, while the top sits flush with the surface. A fresh air gap runs down the whole length of the electrode, and a protective cap on top stops dirt and debris from falling in and cutting off the cathode’s access to oxygen. Part of the cathode is also coated with a waterproofing material, so that when it floods, there’s still a hydrophobic section of the cathode in touch with oxygen to keep the fuel cell running.

In testing, this design performed consistently across different soil moisture levels, from completely underwater to “somewhat dry,” with just 41% water by volume in the soil. On average, it generated some 68 times more power than was required to operate its onboard moisture and touch detection systems, and transmit data via a tiny antenna to a nearby base station.