Category Archives: News

Paris Climate Change Agreement and More

December has been  another big month for the environment with the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (also referred to as the Paris Climate Talks and COP21) ending in a broad, world-wide agreement to reduce greenhouse gasses in an attempt to combat global warming. The agreement confirmed the target of keeping the rise in temperature from the pre-industrial world to below 2°C, which scientists believe is necessary to prevent a global catastrophe.  The agreement even establishes for the first time, that the world should be aiming for a rise of only 1.5°C to protect island states, which are the most threatened by the rise in sea levels. The Paris agreement requires all countries to review their contributions every five years from 2020; they will not be able to lower their targets and are encouraged to raise them. In addition, countries will aim to achieve carbon neutrality in the second half of the century. See CPO21 for more information. Continue reading Paris Climate Change Agreement and More

Cancellation of Keystone Pipeline – A win for climate change or misplaced symbolism?

On Friday President Obama announced that he had rejected the request from TransCanada to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline which ultimately would have transported 800,000 barrels a day of heavy oil from the Canadian oil sands to the US Gulf Coast refineries. This ended a seven-year review that had become a contentious political issue and symbol of the debate over his climate policies.  Continue reading Cancellation of Keystone Pipeline – A win for climate change or misplaced symbolism?

MIT Plan for Action on Climate Change

On October 21st the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) issued its Plan for Action on Climate Change. This document was the culmination of a year of discussions within the MIT community on the risks of climate change and the role that MIT should play as a leader on climate sciences and energy innovation. MIT’s position is that overwhelming evidence shows that the world is warmer than it was in the pre-industrial age, and that present-day climate change is due to human activity, in particular the emission of greenhouse gasses. MIT supports the 2C Challenge which aims to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and sees the need for a world-wide, aggressive but pragmatic transition plan to achieve a zero-carbon energy system. Continue reading MIT Plan for Action on Climate Change

Senate approves MOX funding, but future remains cloudy

Most of the energy news recently has been focused on renewables, particularly solar and wind, which makes it particularly interesting when a different energy source makes the headlines. This article regarding the MOX (Mixed Oxide) fuel fabrication plant, currently under construction in South Carolina, addresses a relatively obscure offshoot of the topic of nuclear power, that of fuel reprocessing. What makes it triply interesting is that it has geopolitical ramifications with regard to a 2000 treaty between the US and Russia to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium and also illustrates how incredibly complicated and expensive it is to do anything with the word “nuclear” in it. Continue reading Senate approves MOX funding, but future remains cloudy

California – 50% renewable energy by 2030

On Wednesday California’s Governor Jerry Brown dramatically increased California’s climate-change goals by signing a bill that commits the state to use renewable energy for half its electricity and make existing buildings twice as energy-efficient by 2030. California already has some of the world’s toughest air quality standards, and in 2006, under Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger, mandated that renewable energy should make up one-third of its electricity by 2020. The state is well on its way to meet that goal with 25% of electricity coming from renewables last year, driven by significant increases in solar and wind power.  Continue reading California – 50% renewable energy by 2030

Texas’ Luminant to Purchase 116 MW Of Utility-Scale Solar

In an announcement made on September 8th, Luminant has agreed to buy 116 megawatts  of solar power from SunEdison’s new 800-acre Castle Gap solar facility in West Texas. Luminant is the largest generator of electricity in Texas and had total generating capacity at the end of 2014 of 15.4 GW, including coal, nuclear, and natural gas powered electrical generating plants. Total generation for 2014 was approximately 75% from coal and 25% from nuclear. Luminant is also one of the largest utility purchasers of wind power in the United States with approximately 700 MW of wind power under contract in 2014. Continue reading Texas’ Luminant to Purchase 116 MW Of Utility-Scale Solar

Shell Abandons Arctic Exploration

The oil industry has taken a number of huge hits this year with the collapse of oil prices. The latest is the announcement from Royal Dutch Shell that they are abandoning their Arctic drilling program in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of northwest Alaska after years of effort, over $7 billion spent, numerous regulatory battles, and unrelenting challenges from environmental groups. Shell announced that they found indications of oil and gas, but that they weren’t sufficient to warrant further exploration in the so-called  Burger prospect. The well will be plugged  and abandoned in accordance with U.S. regulations. The problem is that geologists believe the Arctic holds a quarter of the world’s undiscovered conventional oil and gas reserves. Shell’s high profile failure likely means that other companies won’t make similar attempts, and this resource will be unavailable to meet both US and world demand for oil  that is expected to grow by another 10% over the next several decades. Continue reading Shell Abandons Arctic Exploration

California Valley Fire Damages Geysers Geothermal Plant

One more casualty of the severe drought that has triggered devastating wildfires in California is the Geysers geothermal power generation facility, which is located on the Sonoma County and Lake County border. The Geysers is the world’s largest geothermal power production operation with a fleet of 14 power plants owned and operated by Calpine Corporation and a net operating capacity of approximately 725 megawatts. Continue reading California Valley Fire Damages Geysers Geothermal Plant

Eni Discovers Massive Gas Field in the Mediterranean

On August 30th, Eni SpA, the Italian oil company, reported discovery of a “super giant” natural gas field offshore Egypt that may be the largest find in the Mediterranean Sea and may hold hold 30 trillion cubic feet of gas. The field will go a long way toward addressing Egyptian domestic demand, which has swelled over the past years. The country is consuming most of its production and has cut gas sales abroad. Excess gas could be shipped to Italy or other destinations as liquefied natural gas (LNG) through a plant at Damietta on the Mediterranean coast that is currently not operating for lack of gas. Continue reading Eni Discovers Massive Gas Field in the Mediterranean

Drilling for wind in Lake Erie

In another small but important step forward for offshore wind development in the United States, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., or LEEDCo, began testing the soils at the bottom of Lake Erie. The tests and drilling for soil samples are being done at the six sites where LEEDCo has proposed locating turbines for an offshore wind pilot project. The sites are eight to 10 miles offshore, northwest of downtown Cleveland. Results will help answer the question of what kind of soil lies below the sandy lake bottom and will enable engineers to design the foundations for the turbines. Continue reading Drilling for wind in Lake Erie