EARTH FIRST:

Geothermal is the hottest thing in clean energy. Here’s why (Maria Gallucci, 25 March 2024, Canary Media)

Solar, wind power and battery-storage projects are already cleaning up the U.S. electrical grid. But energy analysts warn that these technologies might not be enough on their own to fully buck America’s reliance on fossil-fuel-burning power plants, which are the second-largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions after transportation. The grid also needs carbon-free electricity available on demand to guarantee it can provide the sort of 24/7 power needed by cities, data centers and industrial facilities like aluminum smelters or steel mills.

At the moment, however, these so-called ​“clean, firm” sources remain elusive. Recent advances in geothermal technologies, demonstrated by a handful of real-world projects, suggest that harnessing the earth’s heat could be among the most promising ways to solve this clean-energy conundrum. But that can only happen if it can overcome the sizable challenges that stand in its way.

“If we can crack the nut on this new-generation geothermal, it means we can put geothermal just about anywhere,” Cindy Taff, CEO of the Houston-based startup Sage Geosystems, said during a March 9 panel at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

TAX EXTERNALITIES:

New report outlines surprising side effects of switching to electric vehicles (Leo CollisMarch 23, 2024, The Cool Down)

A study from the [American Lung Association] examined what the world would look like if all new vehicles sold by 2035 were powered by electricity rather than dirty fuel, and the results were promising.

This notable shift could lead to almost 2.8 million fewer asthma attacks among children and reduce upper and lower respiratory symptoms in kids by 2.67 million and 1.87 million, respectively.

That’s alongside 147,000 fewer acute cases of bronchitis and a reduction in the infant mortality rate by 508 cases.

SAVING CITIES:

People Hate the Idea of Car-Free Cities—Until They Live in One (ANDREW KERSLEY, MAR 19, 2024, Wired)

London’s car-reduction policies come in a variety of forms. There are charges for dirtier vehicles and for driving into the city center. Road layouts in residential areas have been redesigned, with one-way systems and bollards, barriers, and planters used to reduce through-traffic (creating what are known as “low-traffic neighborhoods”—or LTNs). And schemes to get more people cycling and using public transport have been introduced. The city has avoided the kind of outright car bans seen elsewhere in Europe, such as in Copenhagen, but nevertheless things have changed.

“The level of traffic reduction is transformative, and it’s throughout the whole day,” says Claire Holland, leader of the council in Lambeth, a borough in south London. Lambeth now sees 25,000 fewer daily car journeys than before its LTN scheme was put in place in 2020, even after adjusting for the impact of the pandemic. Meanwhile, there was a 40 percent increase in cycling and similar rises in walking and scooting over that same period.

What seems to work best is a carrot-and-stick approach—creating positive reasons to take a bus or to cycle rather than just making driving harder. “In crowded urban areas, you can’t just make buses better if those buses are still always stuck in car traffic,” says Rachel Aldred, professor of transport at the University of Westminster and director of its Active Travel Academy. “The academic evidence suggests that a mixture of positive and negative characteristics is more effective than either on their own.”

For countries looking to cut emissions, cars are an obvious target. They make up a big proportion of a country’s carbon footprint, accounting for one-fifth of all emissions across the European Union. Of course, urban driving doesn’t make up the majority of a country’s car use, but the kind of short journeys taken when driving in the city are some of the most obviously wasteful, making cities an ideal place to start if you’re looking to get people out from behind the wheel. That, and the fact that many city residents are already car-less (just 40 percent of people in Lambeth own cars, for example) and that cities tend to have better public transport alternatives than elsewhere.

Plus, traffic-reduction programmes also have impacts beyond reducing air pollution and carbon emissions. In cities like Oslo and Helsinki, thanks to car-reduction policies, entire years have passed without a single road traffic death. It’s even been suggested that needing less parking could free up space to help ease the chronic housing shortage felt in so many cities.

IT’LL NEVER FLY, ORVILLE:

Chart of the Day: California surges beyond 100 pct renewables (Giles Parkinson, Mar 18, 2024, Renew Economy)

[C]alifornia, the world’s biggest sub-national economy, and the fifth biggest in the world if it were a country, is also setting new benchmarks for renewables, with its wind, solar and hydro resources more than matching demand over the past week.

According to Mark Jacobsen, the Stanford University academic who has outlined plans for wind, water and solar to provide the bulk, if not all, electricity needs in countries across the globe, California’s wind, water and solar resources have bested 100 per cent of local demand for varying periods in nine of the last 10 days.

On Sunday, California time, the peak was 115 per cent of demand and wind, water and solar beat demand for five solid hours.

Jacobsen says that wind, water and solar have accounted for more than 100 per cent of state demand for between one and six hours for nine out of the last 10 days. And that is one in the eye for all the naysayers.

“In 2009, when we first proposed 100% WWS, the utilities and naysayers claimed the grid would go unstable with more than 20 per cent renewable energy, with no evidence,” Jacobsen wrote on X.

“In 2017, they claimed, with no evidence, a limit of 80 per cent. In 2020, they claimed 90%, then 95% . Now 100% WWS is here to stay.”

HOW COULD DECLINING ENERGY COSTS POSSIBLY AID GROWTH…:

Can We Slash Carbon Emissions and Still Have Economic Growth? (AKIELLY HU & JOSEPH WINTERS, 3/10/24, Grist)


But the kind of decoupling needed to achieve international climate targets is called “absolute” decoupling, when economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions veer in opposite directions: GDP up, emissions down. More recent research has documented this in a number of high-income countries. The U.S., for example, saw a 32 percent increase in GDP between 2005 and 2021, while its overall CO2 emissions fell by about 17 percent.

Something similar appears to have happened in other developed economies like France, Sweden, and Germany—even when you account for so-called “consumption-based” emissions, which include emissions from the production of goods that are imported or exported. In other words, these countries seem to really be reducing climate pollution and not just offshoring it to the developing world.

Since 2016, reports from the World Resources Institute, the Breakthrough Institute, and independent researchers have shown more and more countries achieving periods of absolute decoupling, including their consumption-based emissions. Perhaps the splashiest analysis came in 2022, when a Financial Times data columnist reported that 70 countries—one in three worldwide—had experienced at least five consecutive years of absolute decoupling between 1990 and 2020. “Green growth is already here,” the columnist wrote.

LIFE-SAVING:

Scientists lay out how energy transition can prevent millions of deaths (Leo Collis, March 7, 2024, The Cool Down)

As the experts detailed, the mortality burden was greatest for cardiometabolic conditions, accounting for 52% of 8.34 million deaths linked to air pollution per year. Among those issues is ischaemic heart disease — a leading cause of heart attacks.

Meanwhile, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were both notable related illnesses, accounting for 16% each.

According to atmospheric consultant Jos Lelieveld from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, an estimated 5.13 million excess deaths could be avoided worldwide each year if we phased out fossil fuels.

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.