Why coal country must be part of the clean economy

March 8, 2017 by  
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One of the most remarkable developments in recent years has been the relatively drama-free embrace in many corners of the private sector of the concept of environmental externalities. Arguments over the indirect costs of fossil fuel combustion — climate change, mercury contamination, ground level ozone and the like — have been a form of hand-to-hand combat in utility rate cases and other regulatory actions for years.

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Why coal country must be part of the clean economy

Groundbreaking technology affordably captures CO2 from fossil fuel plants

February 22, 2017 by  
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What if fossil fuels could be burned without pouring emissions into the air? Many people consider that idea to be wishful thinking, but chemical engineer Rodney Allam doesn’t. He’s been working on carbon capture technology on and off since the 1970’s, and with the help of venture capital incubator 8 Rivers , recently put the finishing touches on the Allam Cycle , an electric-generation system that captures all the carbon dioxide (CO2) made from burning fossil fuels. Allam investigated bolt-on methods during his decades of searching for a way to capture CO2 from fossil fuel plants, but found those methods too expensive. He aimed to make carbon capture affordable, but gave up in the 1990’s. Then 8 Rivers came along in 2009 with a plan to make use of Recovery Act money from the federal government. When Allam returned to the issue, he was at last able to develop the Allam Cycle. Related: Breakthrough technology turns coal plant CO2 into baking powder The Allam Cycle doesn’t utilize steam to create electricity . Instead, CO2 under pressure and in a supercritical state spins the turbines powering the generators. Combustion adds CO2 to keep the process going, and any excess is sent into a pipeline. NetPower , 8 Rivers’ portfolio company constructing the first Allam Cycle plant, describes the technology as truly clean, saying plants that utilize the Allam Cycle are able to “inherently eliminate all air emissions.” That means no particulate matter, mercury, nitrogen oxides, or sulfur oxides either. Plus, Allam’s technology can generate electricity at the same six cents per kilowatt-hour as other gas-fired turbines. NetPower is working with Exelon and Toshiba on the first plant. According to Forbes, such a full-size plant costs around $300 million to construct and can generate 300 megawatts yearly. Once the plant is built, it will take a few months before NetPower can show the cycle is stable. Allam told Forbes they might know for sure in a year. The first plant will run on natural gas ; 8 Rivers says on their website they are also developing a coal -based system. Via Forbes Images via Wikimedia Commons and eutrophication&hypoxia on Flickr

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Groundbreaking technology affordably captures CO2 from fossil fuel plants

Third highest CO2 polluter in U.S. to shut down 25 years early

February 15, 2017 by  
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Coal power is on the way out–and the closure of the 2,250 megawatt Navajo Generating Station is evidence. The major Arizona coal plant that’s provided electricity to cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Phoenix during its over 40-year history is set to shut down in 2019. The Navajo Generating Station, which started generating electricity in 1974 and is managed mainly by Salt River Project , is slated to close 25 years ahead of schedule, according to High Country News. The plant is a huge polluter in the American West, spewing so much carbon dioxide Azcentral.com said the plant is America’s third largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to carbon emissions, the station pumps out 472 pounds of mercury, 259 pounds of arsenic, and 4,370 pounds of selenium from its smokestacks yearly. High Country News reports those elements toxic to humans and wildlife have appeared in Grand Canyon fish and Mesa Verde National Park precipitation. The coal plant also consumes around nine billion gallons of water taken from Lake Powell every single year for cooling and steam generation. Related: China orders a halt to over 100 coal-fired power plants Coal power is no longer the area’s cheapest power source. Salt River Project officials have said it’s less expensive for them to purchase power from alternative sources than to generate energy at the station for their one million customers, due largely to low natural gas prices. While the shut down will provide a breath of fresh air for the environment , the transition could be hard for local communities. 90 percent of the plant’s 400 employees are Native Americans . The Navajo Nation and Hopi tribe receive royalties from the plant and the Kayenta coal mine located 78 miles away which provides coal for the Navajo Generating Station. High Country News suggested the plant owners could work with local tribes to build renewable energy plants on reservations instead. Via High Country News Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Third highest CO2 polluter in U.S. to shut down 25 years early

Electric cars and solar power could freeze fossil fuel growth by 2020

February 3, 2017 by  
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Fossil fuels could officially be a thing of the past as early as 2020, according to a new report. The report shows the declining costs of electric vehicles and solar energy could put a stop to the growth in worldwide demand for oil and coal in less than three years time. According to the Guardian , a report by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative entitled “ Expect the Unexpected: The disruptive power of low-carbon technology,” polluting fuels could lost 10 percent of their market share to solar power and “clean cars” within a decade. To put it in perspective, a 10 percent market share loss was enough to cause the recent collapse in the U.S. coal industry , while the five major utilities in Europe collectively lost about $100 billion between 2008 and 2013 because they didn’t ready themselves for the 8 percent growth in renewable energy . Related: Ireland votes to be the world’s first country to fully divest from fossil fuels According to the study , “Big energy companies are seriously underestimating the low-carbon transition by sticking to their “business as usual” scenarios which expect continued growth of fossil fuels, and could see their assets “stranded.” The study also notes that solar photovoltaic power could supply 23 percent of global power generation by 2040, and as much as 29 percent by 2050. That’s enough to entirely phase out coal and leave natural gas with just a 1 percent market share. At the same time Exxon is predicting renewables will supply just 11 percent by 2040. The researchers also see electric vehicles making up about 35 percent of the road transport market by 2015, and as much as 67 percent by 2050. That growth trajectory will see EVs displace about two million barrels of oil per day in 2025, and grow to 25 million barrels per day by 2050. Via Guardian and Carbon Tracker Images via USAF and Ride_and_Drive , Wikimedia Commons

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Electric cars and solar power could freeze fossil fuel growth by 2020

Torontos 8 Winter Station winners to revive citys frozen beaches

February 3, 2017 by  
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Toronto’s freezing beaches will soon be a hotspot of activity. The third annual Winter Stations design competition recently unveiled this year’s eight winners, a series of temporary art installations that will take over the city’s east end beaches beginning February 20. These interactive pieces will be built atop ordinary lifeguard stands and offer designs ranging from a Japanese onsen-inspired installation to a modern lighthouse. The Toronto Winter Stations competition selected five professional and three student teams to create temporary sculptures for the Toronto beachfront created under the theme of “Catalyst.” The competition seeks visionary designs that reinvent the waterfront landscape into an inviting and memorable place during a time of year when the frozen beaches are normally deserted. “Winter Stations 2017 delivered, once again, gutsy and lyrical transformations of ordinary lifeguard stands,” said Lisa Rochon, Winter Stations Design Jury Chair. “Visitors will be able to touch and feel their way along the beach, experiencing luminous shelter from the wind, warming waters for their feet, and designs that celebrate the Canadian nation of immigrants.” Related: 7 Burning Man-style winter stations unveiled for Toronto’s snowy shores The winning entries in the professionals category include: Asuka Kono and Rachel Salmela’s I See You Ashiyu, an installation where visitors can dip their feet into a Japanese hot spring-inspired basin; studio PERCH’s North, a suspended forest of 41 trees hung upside down; Mario García and Andrea Govi’s Collective Memory built from recycled bottles in reference to a statistic that says nearly one-half of the Canadian population over the age of 15 will be foreign born or a child of a migrant parent by 2031; Dionisios Vriniotis, Rob Shostak, Dakota Wares-Tani and Julie Forand’s BuoyBuoyBuoy, a reflective sculpture mimicking the motion of multiple buoys; and Joao Araujo Sousa and Joanna Correia Silva’s modern interpretation of a lighthouse in The Beacon, which will also double as a drop-off location for non-perishable items like canned food or clothes. The selected student works include University of Waterloo’s Flotsam and Jetsam that speaks to the ills of plastic consumption; Humber College School of Media Studies & IT, School of Applied Technology’s the Illusory that uses mirrors to distort perspectives; and Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto’s Midwinter Fire, which immerses visitors in a miniature version of a Southern Ontario winter forest. + Winter Stations Via ArchDaily Images via Winter Stations

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Torontos 8 Winter Station winners to revive citys frozen beaches

Deutsche Bank vows to end new coal lending, in line with Paris Agreement

February 2, 2017 by  
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New coal financing guidelines promise to “not grant new financing for greenfield thermal coal mining and new coal-fired power plant construction.”

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Deutsche Bank vows to end new coal lending, in line with Paris Agreement

Australian minister says coal power can help reduce CO2 emissions

January 17, 2017 by  
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Don’t throw out your climate science books just yet, folks. Australian resources minister Matt Canavan recently said burning a certain kind of coal could help the country slash its overall carbon emissions . He commissioned a study conducted by the Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science that reportedly claimed the country could reduce emissions by 27 percent if they replaced current coal power stations with “ultra-supercritical” coal technology . But experts slammed the findings, saying such technology wouldn’t reduce emissions nearly as much as was claimed. Australia’s goal is to reduce emissions by 28 percent beneath 2005 levels by 2030, so a reduction of 27 percent with the help of new coal technology seemed almost too good to be true. But that’s the figure The Australian reported this week, although now it appears those statistics were inaccurate or misreported. The coal technology would actually only reduce emissions by around 12 percent, according to The Guardian, which also reported electricity sector emissions would need to be cut down to near zero to meet the 2030 target. Related: Sydney plans to divest $500 million from fossil fuels Canavan said in a statement that the coal “has an important role to play as Australia, and the rest of the world, reduce carbon dioxide emissions.” He also attacked “people who oppose the coal industry for ideological reasons,” and some of those people quickly fired back. Australia Institute economist Rod Campbell said if Australia were to replace old coal stations with ones boasting the new technology, electricity prices would go up, even higher than if renewable energy replaced coal. Member of Parliament Mark Butler said, “The latest intervention by Minister Canavan trumpeting coal isn’t about securing a reliable and affordable energy future; at its core it is just the latest ideological attack on renewables by a government desperate to draw attention away from the fact it has no plan on energy and climate.” Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons and Senator Matthew Canavan Facebook

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Australian minister says coal power can help reduce CO2 emissions

Wyoming architects convert former hayloft into light-filled guest home

January 17, 2017 by  
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Nothing tugs at our country-loving hearts quite like a good barn conversion . With this minimalist renovation in Wyoming, Carney Logan Burke Architects transformed a weathered farm building into a refined, light-filled guest house. Using reclaimed materials to help offset the project’s environmental impact, the firm deftly retains the original structure’s unique character. The Barn in Wilson is set into a lush green meadow. Extra large windows on one side of the loft flood the interior with natural light , offering unobstructed views of the surrounding greenery and majestic Teton Range in the distance. Related:Beautiful converted barn hides a secret library in Oxfordshire The natural setting and historic nature of the structure guided the renovation process. Reclaimed barnwood and cedar shake shingles give the exterior the appearance of a long-weathered barn without the maintenance headaches. The project’s most compelling feature can be found inside on the second floor. Originally a hayloft, the open space was outfitted as a sophisticated guest room, kitchenette, and gym. The living space is flooded with natural light, which enhances the reclaimed oak floors and plank ceiling with exposed trusses. The bottom level is used as a garage and workspace, resulting in an elegant, multipurpose guesthouse we’d be more than happy to live in. + Carney Logan Burke Architects Via Uncrate Photography by Audrey Hall / Carney Logan Burke Architects

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Wyoming architects convert former hayloft into light-filled guest home

Wyoming lawmakers launch bill that would ban selling renewable energy

January 17, 2017 by  
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In a move that puts the “R” in regressive, a group of Republican lawmakers in Wyoming just launched a bill that would effectively ban selling wind and solar power in the state. The measure proposes to fine utilities for purchasing energy produced by large-scale renewable power projects. According to Inside Climate News , the bill is chiefly sponsored by representatives from the state’s main coal-producing counties. If enacted, it would force utilities to use power from only approved energy sources like natural gas, nuclear power, hydroelectric, oil – and of course coal. Your average homeowner could still install a rooftop solar, backyard wind or other renewable energy setup, but the state’s utilities would get slapped with big fines for buying power from renewable projects. According to Inside Climate News, the move is confusing some locals who know the lay of the land. “I haven’t seen anything like this before,” said Shannon Anderson, director of local organizing group, Powder River Basin Resource Council . “This is essentially a reverse renewable energy standard.” But Inside Climate News adds that Republican Senator David Miller, the bill’s sponsor, says the goal of the legislation is to make sure Wyoming residents have access to inexpensive power. Related: Judge orders Exxon-Mobil to disclose 40 years of climate change documents “Wyoming is a great wind state and we produce a lot of wind energy,” Miller said. “We also produce a lot of conventional energy, many times our needs. The electricity generated by coal is amongst the least expensive in the country. We want Wyoming residences to benefit from this inexpensive electrical generation. “He added that he doesn’t want to see Wyoming “averaged into” other states that require utilities to supply “more expensive” renewable energy. The proposed bill would allow renewable energy producers in the state to sell power to customers outside Wyoming without a penalty. The cost of selling power in their own state would be $10 per megawatt hour of energy sold. Republicans significantly outnumber Democrats in both the state’s House and Senate, but Miller still puts his chances of passing the bill at “50 percent or less.” Via Inside Climate News Images via Flickr Creative Commons, Jeremy Buckingham and CGP Grey , Wikimedia Commons

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The human stories behind the ‘coal wars’

December 13, 2016 by  
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Coal is no longer king. Here’s a closer look at its end game.

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The human stories behind the ‘coal wars’

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