Why Climate Change Might Mean Colder Weather

1677 River Thames ~ Abraham Hondius The History Channel

1677 River Thames
~ Abraham Hondius
The History Channel

For a long time I have not used the term “global warming” but have preferred to think in terms of “climate change” as a constant of life on earth regardless of whether man’s behavior effects it or not (though I have to believe that human behavior has its effects for I believe that everything is inter-related).

Last Sunday night my family watched a dvd from The History Channel about The Little Ice Age. This is not ancient history lost in the mists of time. This is history that most of us have learned some portion of in our schooling but I had no idea that sudden and brutal climate change was the underlying factor for so many events that I had other explanations for. I’ve long realized that climate change happens all the time on this planet. I don’t doubt that the behavior of such an overwhelming presence on the planet as human beings are would affect our planet’s overall qualities including its weather related qualities.

It was surprising to know that such diverse occurrences as the Irish Potato Famine, which peoples originally migrated into the United States of American and why, the “Black Death” bubonic plague, the fall of the Ming Dynasty with the breach of the Great Wall by Manchurian invaders giving rise to the Qing dynasty in China, the Salem Witch trails and burnings, the French Revolution, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein book and the deaths of thousands of Napoleon’s troops in the Russian invasion are all effects of a 500 year long “Little Ice Age”.

Napoleon Retreating from Moscow in 1812 ~ The History Channel

Napoleon Retreating from Moscow in 1812
~ The History Channel

It is staggering to realize that it only took a couple of degrees change to bring it on or how quickly such a “flip” in climate can occur. This is not a rare occurrence in the history of the Earth’s climate. In his article, Thom Hartmann describes The Great Conveyor Belt including the Gulf Stream, undersea rivers that move currents of cold salty water from the Atlantic ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Although much of Europe and Scandinavia are at the same latitude as Alaska and permafrost-locked parts of northern Canada and central Siberia, their climate is more similar to that of the United States than northern Canada or Siberia.

That warmth is the result of ocean currents that bring warm surface water up from the equator into northern regions that would otherwise be so cold that even in summer they’d be covered with ice. In the North Atlantic Ocean salty, cool waters settle to the bottom of the sea and then flow south down to and around the southern tip of Africa, where this river finally reaches the Pacific Ocean. The slightly lower level of the Atlantic ocean than the Pacific ocean draws in a strong surface current of warm, fresher water from the Pacific to replace the outflow of the undersea river from the Atlantic. This warmer, fresher water loops around North America where it’s known as the Gulf Stream, and ends up off the coast of Europe.

Map of  The Great Conveyor Belt

Map of
The Great Conveyor Belt

Amazingly, this Great Conveyor Belt is the only thing between comfortable summers and a permanent ice age for Europe and the eastern coast of North America. Only since the 1980s have scientists begun to understand the transition time from icy to warm back to icy. According to Hartmann, in studying ice core samples from Greenland “scientists were shocked to discover that the transitions from ice age-like weather to contemporary-type weather usually took only two or three years. Something was flipping the weather of the planet back and forth with a rapidity that was startling”.

These weather patterns are part of a delicately balanced teeter-totter, which can exist in one state or the other, but transits through the middle stage almost overnight. What brings on these sudden shifts are the warm-water currents of the Great Conveyor Belt shutting down. Once the Gulf Stream is no longer flowing, it only takes a year or three for the last of the residual heat held in the North Atlantic Ocean to dissipate into the air over Europe, and then there is no more warmth to moderate the northern latitudes. When the summer stops in the north, the rains also stop around the equator so that at the same time Europe is plunging into an Ice Age, the Middle East and Africa are being ravaged by drought and wind-driven firestorms.

This is weather that is NOT for the faint-hearted !!! If the Great Conveyor Belt, which includes the Gulf Stream, were to stop flowing today, the result would be sudden and dramatic. Winter would set in for the eastern half of North America and all of Europe and Siberia, and never go away. Within three years, those regions would become uninhabitable and nearly two billion humans would starve, freeze to death, or have to relocate.

Most scientists involved in research on this topic agree that the culprit is global warming, melting the icebergs on Greenland and the Arctic icepack and thus flushing cold, fresh water down into the Greenland Sea from the north. When a critical threshold is reached, the climate will suddenly switch to an ice age that could last minimally 700 or so years, and maximally over 100,000 years.

OK, so what’s the GOOD NEWS ? There is some . . . there is “hope” (except whatever is beyond what human beings are able to control at all – like a giant meteor striking the Earth or a coronal mass ejection from the sun !!). According to a very recent article in New York Magazine by Jonathan Chait, “There is good news. And not just incremental good news but transformational good news, developments that have the potential to mitigate the worst effects of climate change to a degree many had feared impossible.” He goes on to say “The world is suddenly responding to the climate emergency with — by the standards of its previous behavior — astonishing speed.”

Rail Cars loaded with Coal

Rail Cars loaded with Coal

A quick bold print snapshot tells us that Coal usage has declined 21% since 2007 and that the number of operational coal-powered electric generating plants has dropped from 523 in 2009 to 323 in 2015. I recently heard a bit on NPR about the railroads in Kansas City. Only 10 years ago, “… railroads couldn’t hire people fast enough. They couldn’t lease locomotives fast enough. They couldn’t upgrade the infrastructure quick enough. They couldn’t build railcars to haul the stuff quick enough.” according to Zach Pumphery, a train engineer in Kansas City. Since 2008 the rail traffic has dropped by the equivalent of 14,000 train loads for coal production alone. According to Frank Morris, “The big reason is the power plants like this one in Kansas City are switching from coal to natural gas, which is cheap now and burns cleaner.”

More good news ? The cost of a watt of solar power has dropped from $101 in 1975 to $0.61 in 2015. Global solar power installations have grown from 10,000 in 2009 to 65,000 in 2015. China plans to add 18 gigawatts of solar energy capacity in 2015 alone (just compare that to the TOTAL gigawatt capacity in the US of 20). “Clean Energy” has added 125,000 NEW jobs since 2013. And the number of electric cars has increased from 200,000 in 2012 to 750,000 in 2015.

The “Good News” is a long article but well worth reading to avoid despair over the climate change challenges. A link to the full article can be found in the ~ Information Resources at the end of this blog – “The Sunniest Climate-Change Story You’ve Ever Read”.

Good News Clouds

~ Information Resources

“Little Ice Age, Big Consequences” posted by Jennie Cohen, Jan 31, 2013 posted at The History Channel – http://www.history.com/news/little-ice-age-big-consequences

“Napoleon’s Disastrous Invasion of Russia, 200 Years Ago” posted by Jesse Greenspan, June 22, 2012 at The History Channel – http://www.history.com/news/napoleons-disastrous-invasion-of-russia-200-years-ago

“How Global Warming May Cause the Next Ice Age…” posted by Thom Hartmann, Jan 30, 2004 at Common Dreams – http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0130-11.htm

“The Sunniest Climate-Change Story You’ve Ever Read” posted by Jonathan Chait, Sept 7, 2015 posted at New York Magazine – http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/09/sunniest-climate-change-story-ever-read.html

“Fall In Shipping Commodities Threatens Commercial Railroad Industry” by Frank Morris on All Things Considered aired on NPR Sept 2, 2015 – http://www.npr.org/2015/09/02/436944868/fall-in-shipping-commodities-threatens-commercial-railroad-industry

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Who Wouldn’t Want Clean Power ?

Einstein Quote w Tree

Judging by the flurry of articles in our local Democrat-News published on Aug 12, 2015 there are certainly some who don’t want to make the effort to have cleaner sources of powering our electricity in these parts of our country. They include not only our local rural electric co-op and the guiding National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) but our politicians as well. That our politicians are directly supportive of our electric utilities doesn’t surprise me. The monthly Rural Missouri co-operative publication has been carrying editorials against the EPAs initiatives for months, maybe a year or longer. So of course it doesn’t surprise me to see editorial pieces this week in our local newspaper by Congressman Jason Smith (R) or Sen Roy Blunt (R) against the EPA plan as well.

I’ve only seen ONE real argument against making any changes to how we get our electricity from any of these official sources – COST.

Sen Roy Blunt – “Electric service providers in Missouri have warned that the EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan will raise energy costs for Missourians . . . ” and “Middle and low-income families are hit the hardest by bad energy policies resulting in higher utility bills, . . .”

Congressman Jason Smith – “. . . under the Clean Air Act . . . emission limits will raise the price of electricity, force the closure of coal plants in Missouri and cost people jobs . . .”

Jo Ann Emerson (former Missouri Congresswoman, now CEO for the NRECA) – “Any increase in the cost of electricity impacts those who can least afford it, . . .” and “While we appreciate the efforts . . . the Clean Air Act . . . will raise electricity rates . . .”

Barry Hart, CEO Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives – “We are focused on the affordability . . . of electricity” and “. . . the final rules make it far more likely electric rates will dramatically increase.”

Maybe we don’t pay enough for electricity here in Missouri. We love our right to pollute in order to keep our costs low. Certainly, the burden will be on the poorer segments of society. I’m certain that there will be no executives volunteering to cut their salary in order to keep the increased cost of electricity lower for the poorer segments of society !! I do worry that “enormously wealthy individuals and vastly powerful corporations are digging in their heels and allowing themselves to be willfully blinded to reality, all in the name of milking the last few dollars out of a dying economy based on fossil fuels”.

Missouri's Callaway Nuclear Generating Station

Missouri’s Callaway
Nuclear Generating Station

Jim Jura, CEO Associated Electric Cooperative notes that “Coal generation has been a significant factor in providing our members with reliable electricity at low rates.” He also complains that the EPAs new rules do not credit electric cooperatives for the 750 megawatts of renewable energy from wind farms nor the millions of dollars spent on energy efficiency measures to reduce demand. Yes, Missouri does have a serious problem with the new EPA regulations.

In 2013, coal supplied 83% of Missouri’s net electricity generation. The state had one nuclear power plant, the Callaway Nuclear Generating Station, which contributes 9% of the state’s net electricity generation. And renewable energy resources accounted for only about 3% of Missouri’s net electricity with most of this coming from conventional hydroelectric power and wind. Honestly, I’ve no idea where the other 5% comes from as that was not identified at the US Energy Information Administration’s website !! So while I’ll admit to being a bit disappointed in Sen Claire McCaskill’s (D) lack of a visionary energy perspective as well, I do think she does make an important point – Missouri won’t be able to make such extreme modifications to our energy delivery systems in only 5 years, and maybe not even in 15 years.

I am grateful for our electricity. I miss it when we don’t have it. Our lives are built around access to certain conveniences. I certainly don’t prefer having to use the gas powered generator that we are reduced to when we have an extended power outage usually because of some storm. Thankfully these don’t happen too often. Gas powered generators are noisy and I don’t think gas is the “cleanest” kind of energy.

Electricity Cost

It’s not that I really want my electric bill to cost us more. Currently we pay $372 + each month for our local electricity consumption. No one (including us) really wants to pay more for anything. I’ve been grateful to see gasoline prices falling (yes falling, which seems like a novel idea at the moment) over the last year or two. However, I must admit that my environmentalist heart is in conflict with my frugal heart at the moment on this whole issue. We can’t forever deny the atmospheric challenges that are affecting our weather, will likely affect our food crops and often affect the quality of air that people breathe leading to suffering and diseases.

So I see this Clean Power Plan as something similar to Obamacare – not the perfect solution, not the complete answer to one of the more vexing, complex and difficult to solve problems of our time but it’s a beginning, an attempt to right the balance that sustains life on this planet. I fear sometimes that we are already too late but throwing up our hands in despair and doing nothing certainly can’t help. Pretending there isn’t a serious imbalance in our environmental qualities, or being in such a state of denial that we think there really isn’t a “problem” at all, won’t help us arrive at cleaner sources of energy generation.

My partner says we need a new kind of energy. Yes, that is what we really need now !! And that happy circumstance is not in our view finders currently.

Current Energy Choices

In this blog I try to be a voice that is reasonable and practical about the complexity of our environmental choices. As I write this morning, I am gazing at a thorny thicket which is blocking the forward progress of humanity. How do we keep the environmental quality of this planet at the level of human sustainability ? The way is not clear. Einstein said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” So we need an entirely different perspective on how to supply our energy needs. Not simple resistance, not blind denial, not optimistic sugar plums. I don’t personally have a creative vision of something that will solve this problem for us. But I do hope there are some humans out there who will yet find that opening into a brighter future. I believe there is no issue of more importance in our modern times than the resources we choose to supply our energy requirements and the ways in which our human behaviors affect the planet’s climate. There are so many ways that both of these are going to directly affect the quality of life for humans going into the future.

Even as far back as 1957, Admiral Hyman Rickover (a visionary with the gift of great insight and clear thinking) had this to say –

“The earth is finite. Fossil fuels are not renewable. In this respect our energy base differs from that of all earlier civilizations. They could have maintained their energy supply by careful cultivation. We cannot. Fuel that has been burned is gone forever. Fuel is even more evanescent than metals. Metals, too, are non-renewable resources threatened with ultimate extinction, but something can be salvaged from scrap. Fuel leaves no scrap and there is nothing man can do to rebuild exhausted fossil fuel reserves. They were created by solar energy 500 million years ago and took eons to grow to their present volume. In the face of the basic fact that fossil fuel reserves are finite, the exact length of time these reserves will last is important in only one respect: the longer they last, the more time do we have, to invent ways of living off renewable or substitute energy sources and to adjust our economy to the vast changes which we can expect from such a shift.”

“Fossil fuels resemble capital in the bank. A prudent and responsible parent will use his capital sparingly in order to pass on to his children as much as possible of his inheritance. A selfish and irresponsible parent will squander it in riotous living and care not one whit how his offspring will fare.”

Unfortunately, current energy strategies are at present based on unsustainable thinking. When it comes to public policies and strategic planning, a complete rethinking must take place in order to step away from self-destructing behavior. While it is understandable for us to focus on novel ways of obtaining energy (wind, solar, geothermal or nuclear power sources), it has long been recognized that simply reducing demand is cost effective and can help sustain us in the short term at least. Realistically there will be inefficiencies in our attempts at converting to alternate energy sources. Our dependence on complex systems means that we will need time to find a way. Using less energy in general, recycling most of the resources we do use (hopefully approaching even as high as 90-95% recycled) will keep enough material in the cycle to also help keep restocking demands from as yet untapped resources low.

Conserve Energy

~ Information Resources
(please note that this week you may not find ALL of the information resources below quoted or used in my blog but these are all good sources of information on this topic which I have located while doing my own research that may help you to form opinions and perspectives for your own self about this important issue. ~ Deborah Hart Yemm)

On New EPA Rule—McCaskill Leads Colleagues in Pursuing Commonsense Adjustments to Protect Consumers – posted on Sen McCaskill’s website Dec 10, 2014 – http://www.mccaskill.senate.gov/media-center/news-releases/on-new-epa-rulemccaskill-leads-colleagues-in_pursuing-commonsense-adjustments-to-protect-consumers

How Obama’s Clean Power Plan actually works — a step-by-step guide posted Aug 5, 2015 by Brad Plumer at Vox – http://www.vox.com/2015/8/4/9096903/clean-power-plan-explained

Clean Power Plan puts children ahead of polluters posted July 14, 2015 at Clean Air Missouri from the Columbia Daily Tribune – http://www.cleanairmissouri.org/clean-power-plan-puts-children-ahead-of-polluters/

Affordable Electricity Rural America’s Economic Lifeline – http://www.nreca.coop/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Affordable-Electricity-Rural-Americas-Economic-Lifeline.pdf

Clean Power Plan posted at the EPA website – http://www2.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan

6 Things Every American Should Know About the Clean Power Plan posted Aug 3, 2015 by Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator – https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/08/6-things-clean-power-plan/

Elon Musk: Burning Fossil Fuels “Dumbest Experiment In History” posted Mar 30, 2015 by Steve Hanley at Gas2.org – http://gas2.org/2015/03/30/musk-burning-fossil-fuels-dumbest-experiment-ever/

Sustainable Cities and Military Installations pg 238 as edited by Igor Linkov and published Nov 12, 2013 is posted at Google Books – https://goo.gl/5RXRae

Missouri State Profile and Energy Estimates – posted at the US Energy Information Administration website – http://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=MO

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Carbon Can Be Beautiful But Often is Not

Diamond in Coal

Diamond in Coal

The slogan is “Diamonds are Forever”. Yes, when coal becomes a diamond, it is beautiful but the extraction of diamonds mostly is not. Diamonds can be beautiful or useful industrially.

The carbon family consists of the five elements that make up Group 14 of the periodic table: carbon, silicon, germanium, tin, and lead. The family is particularly interesting because it consists of one nonmetal (carbon), two metals (tin and lead), and two metalloids (silicon and germanium). (A metalloid is an element that has some of the properties of both metals and nonmetals.)

Carbon is one of the most remarkable of all chemical elements. It occurs in all living organisms. In fact, the field of organic chemistry, which began as the study of the chemistry of plants and animals, can also be called the chemistry of carbon compounds. In addition, carbon and its compounds are of critical importance to the world as sources of energy. Coal, oil, and natural gas—the so-called fossil fuels—all consist of pure carbon or carbon compounds. Finally, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, along with gem-quality diamonds in Kimberlite.

Carbon occurs both as an element and in combined forms. As an element, it exists in at least three different allotropic forms. (Allotropes are forms of an element that differ from each other in physical and, sometimes, chemical properties.) The two best known allotropes of carbon are graphite and diamond.

The second common allotrope of carbon is diamond. In striking contrast with graphite, diamond is the world’s hardest natural material. Its ability to bend and spread light produces the spectacular rainbow “fire” that is often associated with diamond jewelry. Skillful gem cutters are able to cut and polish diamonds in a way that maximizes the effect of this natural property.

In 1985, a third allotropic form of carbon was discovered. It is a 60-atom structure called buckminsterfullerene that looks like a soccer ball when viewed under a microscope. A geodesic dome, like the new molecule, is a sphere made of many plane (flat) figures like the hexagon. Because of this similarity, the new molecule was given the name buckminsterfullerene or, more briefly, fullerene. Less formally, the molecules are also known as bucky-balls.

Coal Miner in China

Coal Miner in China

Then, there are the “black diamonds”, Coal (from the Old English term col, which has meant “mineral of fossilized carbon” since the 13th century) is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure. Coal is composed primarily of carbon along with variable quantities of other elements, chiefly hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen.

Throughout history, coal has been used as an energy resource, primarily burned for the production of electricity and/or heat, and is also used for industrial purposes, such as refining metals. A fossil fuel, coal forms when dead plant matter is converted into peat, which in turn is converted into lignite, then sub-bituminous coal, after that bituminous coal, and lastly anthracite. This involves biological and geological processes that take place over a long period.

Coal-Fired Power Plant

Coal-Fired Power Plant

Coal is the largest source of energy for the generation of electricity worldwide, as well as one of the largest worldwide anthropogenic sources of carbon dioxide releases. In 1999, world gross carbon dioxide emissions from coal usage were 8,666 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. In 2011, world gross emissions from coal usage were 14,416 million tonnes. Coal-fired electric power generation emits around 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide for every megawatt-hour generated, which is almost double the approximately 1100 pounds of carbon dioxide released by a natural gas-fired electric plant per megawatt-hour generated. Because of this higher carbon efficiency of natural gas generation, as the market in the United States has changed to reduce coal and increase natural gas generation, carbon dioxide emissions have fallen. Those measured in the first quarter of 2012 were the lowest of any recorded for the first quarter of any year since 1992. In 2013, the head of the UN climate agency advised that most of the world’s coal reserves should be left in the ground to avoid catastrophic global warming.

Coal is extracted from the ground by coal mining, either underground by shaft mining, or at ground level by open pit mining extraction. Since 1983 the world top coal producer has been China. In 2011 China produced 3,520 millions of tonnes of coal – 49.5% of 7,695 millions tonnes world coal production. In 2011 other large producers were United States (993 millions tonnes), India (589), European Union (576) and Australia (416). In 2010 the largest exporters were Australia with 328 million tonnes (27.1% of world coal export) and Indonesia with 316 millions tonnes (26.1%), while the largest importers were Japan with 207 million tonnes (17.5% of world coal import), China with 195 million tonnes (16.6%) and South Korea with 126 million tonnes (10.7%).

Both the mining for “white” Diamonds and the mining for Coal are replete with horror stories. Our family, the Yemms come from a long-line of coal miners, beginning in the Gloucestershire area of England, and arriving in the United States to work the coal mines in Pennsylvania and Illinois primarily, later migrating into Indiana doing the same work. Thankfully, our ancestors found better and healthier ways to make a living. We live and work in rural Missouri. Our energy is provided by a Rural Electric Cooperative. While the blessings of electricity helped to improve the quality of life for all rural peoples in the state of Missouri, we are not proud of our rural electric cooperative’s stance regarding the pressing issue of climate change. For a very long time now, the rural electric cooperative’s management has encouraged us to resist efforts to reform the usage of coal to generate our electricity mostly depending on the fear of higher electric rates and the dislike of “big” government telling local folks what to do.

Stop EPA

Our cooperative maintains a grassroots effort via Action.Coop (the Cooperative Action Network) to send a message to our elected officials via their website “NRECA” (National Rural Electric Cooperative Association) – saying “MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD TODAY – America Needs a Common Sense Solution – Americans count on affordable and reliable energy to power our communities, promote job and economic growth, and keep costs in line for the basic necessities in our family budgets. The recently proposed EPA regulations that target existing power plants could add to the price of electricity, and have serious consequences for our communities. Join the more than half a million supporters of electric cooperatives who have asked the EPA to stop implementing costly new regulations. Speak out now and make your voice heard.” I’ve been reading Elizabeth Warren’s new book “A Fighting Chance” and it is an eye-opener about how government functions and about how hard it is for concerned citizens to actually win against the well-funded lobbyists in Washington DC.

Just like with the effort to reform health care, President Obama can only get his foot into heavily barred doors, in order to make any future progress possible. Michael Grunwald writes about “New Energy” for Time magazine and in the June 30, 2014 issue he says that he believes that our current president has done MORE to address climate change than any other president to date. His stimulus bill launched a clean-energy boom, his fuel-efficiency rules have racheted down greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks and his new regulations on soot, mercury and other stuff coming out of power plants has helped to accelerate the shift away from carbon. Coal continues to produce 3/4s of our emissions from electricity but it generates just 1/3 of our electricity. One could easily believe that President Obama has been conducting a tiny but plausibly denied “war on coal” and our rural electric cooperative has certainly responded as though they are under attack !! Just the week before, Grunwald noted that Americans trail 5 other countries in our belief in climate change and our willingness to do anything about it. (See “The (Slow) Greening of America” in the Information Resources below.)

Jo Ann Emerson’s replacement, Rep Jason Smith, is in lock-step saying – “The EPA is once again declaring war on rural American with these new regulations. The carbon capture technology the EPA wants to mandate is not even commercially viable. If these proposed regulations go into effect, utility rates will sky rocket for families in Missouri’s Eighth Congressional District. These regulations would halt all construction on new coal-fired power plants. Over 80 percent of families in my district rely on coal to power their homes, businesses, schools and farms. Bureaucrats at the EPA do not understand or appreciate our rural way of life here in Missouri. I plan to fight these regulations that would raise utility rates on folks who are struggling to makes ends meet.” Let us hope that the regulations DO halt new construction of coal-fired power plants !!

It is embarrassing to be dependent upon such mindsets as we encounter among our rural electric cooperative administrators and local politicians. The Yemms do hope to eventually go off the grid, if or when we ever are able to afford to build a new place in which to live. We have a site and when the local rural electric cooperative representatives visited us there, they wanted to take their lines straight up the most environmentally sensitive aspect of our landscape, the perennial stream with rocky shut-ins to provide us with their electricity. We said, “no thanks”, and will find another way – most likely a mix of solar, wind and water generation. But that remains as yet unreachable and in the future.

Today, we are proud of our President Obama for trying to do something – anything – about the emissions from coal-fired electric plants because we know that without being forced into it, our rural electric cooperative will continue to do nothing. Just this month of June 2014, in the Rural Missouri Magazine the guest editorial by Jo Ann Emerson states (formerly our US 8th District Congresswomen, who dumped us one month after re-election to take the position of CEO for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association) “The EPA regulations to curb carbon dioxide emissions from power plants only stand to increase those energy bills. Even though not-for-profit electric cooperatives work each day to provide affordable and reliable electricity to the more than 42 million Americans we serve, the latest red tape out of Washington could present a serious challenge.” She states that “Electric co-ops already have reduced emissions rates from power plants by 10% and carbon dioxide emissions specifically over the past seven years.” She adds that “Any additional emissions reductions we achieve would be offset rapidly by emissions increases in China, India and other developing economies.” Is that any reason to continue to insist on using Coal to generate electricity ?

XPRIZE logo

I can certainly appreciate the initiative known as the Tri-State Carbon XPRIZE, which seeks to turn carbon dioxide from a liability into an asset by finding ways to convert it from a waste into useful fuels, chemicals and other products that will have market value. But I also agree with Michael Grunwald – “If we’re still getting over 30% of our power from coal in 2030, the EPA’s plan will be a huge disappointment. It will represent defeat in the Obama Administration’s crucial (though undeclared) war on coal. So it’s encouraging that the plan’s architect (EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy – a certified climate hawk) doesn’t seem to think it adds up either.” Actually, enacting any carbon rules will send a powerful signal to the market about dirty power (amplified by the Administration continuing to crack down on coal ash, ozone and other pollutants). McCarthy believes that “This will set expectations and things will just take off” from there. The Administration had to craft a plan that could withstand the certain legal and political challenges that any effort would face.

It’s a start and a start is better than not trying at all. Currently, my own optimism lies in the new High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal System (HCPVT) under development capable of concentrating solar radiation 2,000 times and converting 80 percent of the incoming radiation into useful energy. The system can also provide desalinated water and cool air in sunny, remote locations where they are often in short supply. There is always HOPE !!

High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal System (HCPVT)

High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal System (HCPVT)

~ Information Resources

Carbon Family – http://www.scienceclarified.com/Ca-Ch/Carbon-Family.html

Coal – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal

Guest Editoral “Time to turn the lights on in Washington” by Jo Ann Emerson – http://www.ruralmissouri.org/harttoheart.php

“Make Your Voice Heard Today” – http://www.nreca.coop/political-action/cooperative-action-network/epa/

“Carbon Rules Show Bad Arithmetic” by Michael Grunwald posted June 19, 2014 at Time.com – http://time.com/topic/new-energy-reality/

“The (Slow) Greening of America” by Michael Grunwalk posted June 12, 2014 at Time.com – http://time.com/2863213/the-slow-greening-of-america/

“Congressman Jason Smith: New EPA Regulations Will Raise Utility Rates” posted May 12, 2014 at News & Events from the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives – http://www.amec.org/content/new-epa-regulations-will-raise-utility-rates

XPRIZE “Making The Impossible Possible” Energy & Environment Prize Group – http://www.xprize.org/prize-development/energy-and-environment

“Made in IBM Labs: Collaboration Aims to Harness the Energy of 2,000 Suns” – http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/40912.wss

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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