Ethiopia opens Africa’s tallest and most controversial dam  

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The Economist has a look at Ethiopia's new 1870 MW Gibe III dam on the OMO river which has the capacity to double the country’s electricity output - Ethiopia opens Africa’s tallest and most controversial dam.

Dubbed “the water tower of Africa”, Ethiopia has long sought to harness the power of the rivers that tumble from its highlands. Flagship dam projects were central to the modernisation plans drawn up by the Italian administration of 1936-1941 and by the former emperor, Haile Selassie, in the 1960s. Gibe III is the latest in a series being built along the Omo River by the government, which is also constructing what will be the largest-ever dam in Africa when it opens, in theory, next year: the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile. Together these projects are intended to turn Ethiopia, which has scarce minerals but enormous hydropower potential, into a renewable-energy exporter. Gibe III alone is expected to generate as much electricity as currently produced by the whole of neighbouring Kenya, which has enthusiastically signed up to buy some of its power. The export earnings will help to plug Ethiopia’s gaping current-account deficit, while the cheap power will provide a timely fillip to its nascent manufacturing sector.

Why is the Arctic so warm in winter ?  

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The Independent has an article by Chris Mooney on the melting Arctic and research into how this affects the weather patterns in North America an Eurasia - The Arctic is showing stunning winter warmth, and these scientists think they know why.

Last month, temperatures in the high Arctic spiked dramatically, some 36 degrees Fahrenheit above normal -- a move that corresponded with record low levels of Arctic sea ice during a time of year when this ice is supposed to be expanding during the freezing polar night.

And now this week we're seeing another huge burst of Arctic warmth. A buoy close to the North Pole just reported temperatures close to the freezing point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 Celsius), which is 10s of degrees warmer than normal for this time of year. Although it isn't clear yet, we could now be in for another period when sea ice either pauses its spread across the Arctic ocean, or reverses course entirely.

But these bursts of Arctic warmth don't stand alone -- last month, extremely warm North Pole temperatures corresponded with extremely cold temperatures over Siberia. This week, meanwhile, there are large bursts of un-seasonally cold air over Alaska and Siberia once again.

It is all looking rather consistent with an outlook that has been dubbed "Warm Arctic, Cold Continents" -- a notion that remains scientifically contentious but, if accurate, is deeply consequential for how climate change could unfold in the Northern Hemisphere winter.

The core idea here begins with the fact that the Arctic is warming up faster than the mid-latitudes and the equator, and losing its characteristic floating sea ice cover in the process. This also changes the Arctic atmosphere, the theory goes, and these changes interact with large scale atmospheric patterns that affect our weather (phenomena like the jet stream and the polar vortex). We won't get into the details yet, but in essence, the result can be a kind of swapping of the cold air masses of the Arctic with the warm air masses to the south of them. The Arctic then gets hot (relatively), and the mid-latitudes -- including sometimes, as during the infamous "polar vortex" event of 2013-2014, the United States -- get cold.

World's Biggest Windmills Now Make Jumbo Jets Look Tiny  

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Bloomberg has an article at the increasing size and efficiency of wind turbines - World's Biggest Windmills Now Make Jumbo Jets Look Tiny.

As they got bigger, the units became more efficient, boosting global installations 23 percent last year to a record 63.5 gigawatts, which at full tilt would be about as much as what flows from 63 nuclear reactors. ... “The doubling of turbine size this decade will allow wind farms in 2020 to use half the number of turbines compared to 2010,” said Tom Harries, an industry analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “This means fewer foundations, less cabling and simpler installation -- all key in slashing costs for the industry.”

The average turbine installed in Europe was 4.1 megawatts last year, 28 percent larger than in 2010, according to the London-based researcher, which expects 6.8 megawatts to be the norm by 2020. Harries said Siemens has hinted it’s working on a 10 megawatt turbine.

Airpocalypse Now 2 in Beijing  

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The ABC has a report on Beijing's appalling air pollution problems (something DOnald Trump apparently hopes to see return to the skies of US cities) - . Perhaps they need to ban cars on alternate days again in order to see blue skies.

Heavy smog has engulfed large parts of northern China for a fourth straight day, with the environment ministry warning that some firms in the region were continuing to flout emergency restrictions and dozens of flights out of Beijing cancelled.

Donald Trump's Energy Nostalgia and the Path to Hell  

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Michael Klare has a look at "Trump’s Carbon-Obsessed Energy Policy and the Planetary Nightmare to Come" - Donald Trump's Energy Nostalgia and the Path to Hell.

“American energy dominance will be declared a strategic economic and foreign policy goal of the United States,” he declared at the Williston forum in May. “We will become, and stay, totally independent of any need to import energy from the OPEC cartel or any nations hostile to our interests.” He seems firmly convinced that the accelerated extraction of oil and other carbon-based fuels will “make America great again.”

This is delusional, but as president he will undoubtedly be able to make enough of his energy program happen to achieve both short term and long term energy mayhem. He won’t actually be able to reverse the global shift to renewable energy now under way or leverage increased American fossil fuel production to achieve significant foreign policy advantages. What his efforts are, however, likely to ensure is the surrender of American technological leadership in green energy to countries like China and Germany, already racing ahead in the development of renewable systems. And in the process, he will also guarantee that all of us are going to experience yet more extreme climate events. He will never recreate the dreamy America of his memory or return us to the steamy economic cauldron of the post-World War II period, but he may succeed in restoring the smoggy skies and poisoned rivers that so characterized that era and, as an added bonus, bring planetary climate disaster in his wake. His slogan should be: Make America Smoggy Again.

Targeting the microgrid market  

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RNE has an article on the rapidly maturing microgrid market combining solar panels and energy storage - Carnegie, Lendlease join forces to target “massive” microgrid market.

Both companies already have considerable skin in the microgrid game, including together, on the community-level battery storage pilot kicked off last year in the northern suburbs of Perth – a sustainable community development at Alkimos Beach that combines 1.1MWh of lithium-ion battery storage with more than 100 rooftop solar homes, and is testing different electricity tariff options and retail models.

Fossil Fuel Subsidies Double Those Of Renewable Energy  

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Says it all really...

How clean is solar power?  

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The Economist has a post on research from the Utrecht University into the energy investment required for solar panels and the amount of carbon emissions involved - How clean is solar power?. You can see how far solar PV has come in terms of energy return on investment when the numbers being quoted for new panels are around 15 now (taking less than 2 years to return the initial energy investment).

Wilfried van Sark, of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and his colleagues have ... calculated the energy required to make all of the solar panels installed around the world between 1975 and 2015, and the carbon-dioxide emissions associated with producing that energy. They also looked at the energy these panels have produced since their installation and the corresponding amount of carbon dioxide they have prevented from being spewed into the atmosphere. Others have done life-cycle assessments for solar power in the past. None, though, has accounted for the fact that the process of making the panels has become more efficient over the course of time. Dr Van Sark’s study factors this in. [The team] found that solar panels made today are responsible, on average, for around 20 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour of energy they produce over their lifetime (estimated as 30 years, regardless of when a panel was manufactured). That is down from 400-500 grams in 1975. Likewise, the amount of time needed for a solar panel to produce as much energy as was involved in its creation has fallen from about 20 years to two years or less. As more panels are made, the manufacturing process becomes more efficient. The team found that for every doubling of the world’s solar capacity, the energy required to make a panel fell by around 12% and associated carbon-dioxide emissions by 17-24%.

We Need to Accept That Oil Is a Dying Industry  

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Motherboard has an article from Nafeez Ahmed on the dim long term prospects for the oil industry - We Need to Accept That Oil Is a Dying Industry.

The future is not good for oil, no matter which way you look at it. A new OPEC deal designed to return the global oil industry to profitability will fail to prevent its ongoing march toward trillion dollar debt defaults, according to a new report published by a Washington group of senior global banking executives. But the report also warns that the rise of renewable energy and climate policy agreements will rapidly make oil obsolete, whatever OPEC does in efforts to prolong its market share. ...

As oil gets more expensive again, there is more incentive to use alternative, cheaper forms of energy—like solar photovoltaics, which can now generate more energy than oil for every unit of energy invested. ...

A report published in October by the Group of 30 (G30), a Washington DC-based financial advisory group run by executives of the world’s biggest banks, warns investors that the entire global oil industry has expanded on the basis of an unsustainable debt bubble. ...

The industry’s long-term debts now total over $2 trillion, the report concludes, half of which “will never be repaid because the issuing firms comprehend neither how dramatically their industry has changed nor how these changes threaten to soon engulf them.”

Oil being burned off of a Louisiana marsh after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

Citizenfour  

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I finally got around to watching Laura Poitras' documentary "Citizenfour" on Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald tonight. If you've never watched it I recommend it. It's on ABC iView for another day or you can find it on the internet here - Citizenfour.

Scientists confirm that warm ocean water is melting the biggest glacier in East Antarctica  

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The Antarctic now seems to be in danger of melting as fast as the Arctic has. The Washington Post has a report on troubling findings from the world's largest ice sheet - Scientists confirm that warm ocean water is melting the biggest glacier in East Antarctica.

Scientists at institutions in the United States and Australia on Friday published a set of unprecedented ocean observations near the largest glacier of the largest ice sheet in the world: Totten glacier, East Antarctica. And the result was a troubling confirmation of what scientists already feared — Totten is melting from below. ...

These waters, the paper asserts, are causing the ice shelf to lose between 63 and 80 billion tons of its mass to the ocean per year, and to lose about 10 meters (32 feet) of thickness annually, a reduction that has been previously noted based on satellite measurements.

This matters because more of East Antarctica flows out towards the sea through the Totten glacier region than for any other glacier in the entirety of the East Antarctic ice sheet. Its entire “catchment,” or the region of ice that slowly flows outward through Totten glacier and its ice shelf, is larger than California. If all of this ice were to end up in the ocean somehow, seas would raise by about 11.5 feet.

Virtual power plant trial a big hit with Australian consumers  

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RNE has a look at progress for AGL's South Australian "virtual power plant" experiment - creating a cluster of buildings with solar panels, energy storage and software controlling when power is drawn from the storage systems - World’s largest virtual power plant trial a big hit with SA consumers.

AGL first announced plans to develop the ambitious VPP project in August – a centrally controlled network of 1,000 residential and business battery storage systems with a combined total of 7MWh capacity that would both store rooftop solar power and help manage grid stability in the state.

The hardware for the VPP – the 1,000 battery systems – and the energy management software are being supplied by US-based energy management company, Sunverge, which got the job through competitive tender.

AGL has said the finished product, which will have an output equivalent to a 5MW solar peaking plant, will work by using a cloud-connected intelligent control system that will allow the batteries to be directed in unison: a strategy aimed at helping both consumers to maximise solar self-consumption, and the broader community to manage state-wide peaks in electricity demand.

AGL chief Andy Vesey has said on various occasions that he believes such centrally controlled networks of rooftop solar and battery storage will be a key ingredient of energy systems of the future – systems that will be centred around the consumer.

Why the Peak Oil Movement Failed  

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John Michael Greer (aka The Archdruid) has a look back at why the peak oil "movement" (a term I've always loathed) faltered so quickly once oil prices dropped back off their late 2000s / early 2010s highs - Why the Peak Oil Movement Failed.

As I glance back across the trajectory of this blog over the last ten and a half years, one change stands out. When I began blogging in May of 2006, peak oil—the imminent peaking of global production of conventional petroleum, to unpack that gnomic phrase a little—was the central theme of a large, vocal, and tolerably well organized movement. It had its own visible advocacy organizations, it had national and international conferences, it had a small but noticeable presence in the political sphere, and it showed every sign of making its presence felt in the broader conversation of our time.

Today none of that is true. Of the three major peak oil organizations in the US, ASPO-USA—that’s the US branch of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, for those who don’t happen to be fluent in acronym—is apparently moribund; Post Carbon Institute, while it still plays a helpful role from time to time as a platform for veteran peak oil researcher Richard Heinberg, has otherwise largely abandoned its former peak oil focus in favor of generic liberal environmentalism; and the US branch of the Transition organization, formerly the Transition Town movement, is spinning its wheels in a rut laid down years back. ...

Geological realities imposed, and continue to impose, upper limits on global petroleum production, but economic forces have determined how much less than those upper limits would actually be produced. What happened, as a result, is that when oil prices spiked in 2007 and 2008, and then again in 2014 and 2015, consumers cut back on their use of petroleum products, while producers hurried to bring marginal petroleum sources such as tar sands and oil shales into production to take advantage of the high prices. Both those steps drove prices back down. Low prices, in turn, encouraged consumers to use more petroleum products, and forced producers to shut down marginal sources that couldn’t turn a profit when oil was less than $80 a barrel; both these steps, in turn, sent prices back up.

That doesn’t mean that peak oil has gone away. As oilmen like to say, depletion never sleeps; each time the world passes through the cycle just described, the global economy takes another body blow, and the marginal petroleum sources cost much more to extract and process than the light sweet crude on which the oil industry used to rely. The result, though, is that instead of a sudden upward zoom in prices that couldn’t be ignored, we’ve gotten wild swings in commodity prices, political and social turmoil, and a global economy stuck in creeping dysfunction that stubbornly refuses to behave the way it did when petroleum was still cheap and abundant. The peak oil movement wasn’t prepared for that future.

V3Solar’s spinning solar cells claim to generate 20 times more electricity than flat photovoltaics  

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Inhabitat has an article on some interesting CPV (concentrating solar photovoltaic) technology claiming to generate 20x as much power as a regular solar panel (presumably per unit of area occupied rather than per area of silicon) - V3Solar’s spinning solar cells generate 20 times more electricity than flat photovoltaics.

The V3 Spin Cell was developed through collaboration with industrial design team Nectar Design. The company believes that the Spin Cell could be a game-changer in its market. On their website V3 explains that if one places a 20x solar concentration on a flat, static solar panel then “the temperature quickly reaches 260 degrees F, the solder melts within ten seconds, and the PV fails. With the same concentration on the Spin Cell, the temperature never exceeds 95 degrees F.”

The one meter-diameter cones feature a layer of hundreds of triangular photovoltaic cells positioned at an angle of 56 degrees, encased in a “static hermetically-sealed outer lens concentrator.” The photovoltaic cone spins with the assistance of a “small amount” of its own solar-generated power which feeds a Maglev system, intended to reduce the noise generated by the cones as well as any required maintenance.

Trump, Putin and the Pipelines to Nowhere  

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Alex Steffen has a look at the "carbon bubble" and the potential for a lot of stranded assets to be created during the period the big oil / Putin axis has control of the US government - Trump, Putin and the Pipelines to Nowhere.

If we can’t burn oil, it’s not worth very much. If we can’t defend coastal real estate from rising seas (or even insure it, for that matter), it’s not worth very much. If the industrial process a company owns exposes them to future climate litigation, it’s not worth very much. The value of those assets is going to plummet, inevitably… and likely, soon.

Currently, though, these assets are valued very highly. Oil is seen as hugely valuable, coastal real estate is seen as hugely valuable, industrial patents are seen as hugely valuable.

When there’s a large difference between how markets think assets should be valued and what they are (or will) actually be worth, we call it a “bubble.” Experts now call the differences between valuations and worth in fossil fuel corporations, climate-harmful industries and vulnerable physical assets the “Carbon Bubble.” It is still growing.

Lucid Motors Officially Unveils The “Air”  

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Cleantechnica has a look at a luxury EV brand launching in 2018 - Lucid Motors Officially Unveils The “Air”.

The model name for the electric sedan is the “Air;” a 100 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery pack comes standard; combined drivetrain performance is 1,000 horsepower; the 0–60 mph time is 2.5 seconds; and the model comes standard with a full self-driving tech hardware suite that includes LiDAR. Pricing is around $100,000 for lower-optioned vehicles. The Lucid Motors website went live ~7 hours ago. Very interestingly, the company is planning on offering a 130 kWh battery pack option, which will reportedly boost real-world range to over 400 miles per single full charge.

Another embarrassing u-turn for climate scientists  

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World Energy Hits a Turning Point: Solar Power That's Cheaper Than Wind  

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Bloomberg has a report on the continuing decline of the cost of solar power - World Energy Hits a Turning Point: Solar That's Cheaper Than Wind.

This year has seen a remarkable run for solar power. Auctions, where private companies compete for massive contracts to provide electricity, established record after record for cheap solar power. It started with a contract in January to produce electricity for $64 per megawatt-hour in India; then a deal in August pegging $29.10 per megawatt hour in Chile. That’s record-cheap electricity—roughly half the price of competing coal power. “Renewables are robustly entering the era of undercutting” fossil fuel prices, BNEF chairman Michael Liebreich said in a note to clients this week.

Those are new contracts, but there are plenty of projects reaching completion this year, too. When all of the 2016 completions are tallied in coming months, it’s likely that the total amount of solar photovoltaics added globally will exceed that of wind for the first time. The latest BNEF projections call for 70 gigawatts of newly installed solar in 2016 compared with 59 gigawatts of wind.

Guerrilla archiving  

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Grist has a post on "guerrilla archiving" of climate science data, just in case the Trump administration tries to flush it all down the memory hole - Scientists try to download government climate data before it disappears forever.

It’s not like anyone thinks Trump’s appointees will delete or suppress valuable troves of data including CO2 levels, sea and land surface temperatures, ice sheet thickness, sea-level rise maps, changes in the Gulf Stream, and more … right?

Just in case, scientists have started to make copies of vast historical data sets currently housed on government servers, the Washington Post reports. Climate Mirror, a project duplicating important public data sets, launched with a tweet from journalist Eric Holthaus and is organized by University of California at Davis environmental researcher Nick Santos.

Latin America is set to become a leader in alternative energy  

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The Economist has an article on "the power of the Andean sun" - Latin America is set to become a leader in alternative energy.

BESIDE the Pan-American Highway, almost 600km (375 miles) north of Santiago, Chile’s capital, lies El Romero, the largest solar-energy plant in Latin America and among the dozen biggest in the world. Its 775,000 grey solar panels spread out across the undulating plateau of the Atacama desert as if they were sheets of water. Built at a cost of $343m by Acciona Energía, a Spanish company, last month El Romero started to be hooked up to the national grid. By April it should reach full strength, generating 196MW of electricity—enough to power a city of a million people. A third of its output will be bought directly by Google’s Chilean subsidiary, and the rest fed into the grid.

El Romero is evidence of an energy revolution that is spreading across Latin America. The region already leads the world in clean energy. For almost seven months this year, Costa Rica ran purely on renewable power. Uruguay has come close to that, too. In 2014, the latest year for which comparable data exist, Latin America as a whole produced 53% of its electricity from renewable sources, compared with a world average of 22%, according to the International Energy Agency.

How did BNEF's predictions for 2016 turn out ?  

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BNEF has a look at how their predictions for 2016 panned out, giving themselves a mark of 70% - LIEBREICH: A YEAR OF HECTIC CHANGE AND OFF-TARGET PREDICTIONS.

As for our serenely sunny prediction for the clean energy sector itself, we were, on average right, with some sectors doing worse and some better than expected. It is worth highlighting three areas in which events surprised us.

First, when our advanced transport team forecast early in the year that EVs would ride a remorseless descent in battery prices to claim 35 percent of new car sales globally by 2040 (with the possibility of 50 percent on one scenario), the immediate reaction from the outside world was mainly disbelief. Yet within months, as one major motor manufacturer after another made decisive commitments to EVs, opinion swung round to agree with us, and most other major forecasters fell into line. By the end of the year, the most frequent comment we get when we present is: “Surely by 2040 more than half of new cars will be electric.” We will be updating our forecasts for the electric vehicle market early in 2017 – watch this space.

The second surprise was a series of astonishingly low tariffs for solar projects in developing countries, starting in January with $64 per megawatt-hour in Rajasthan, India, then riding a downward escalator via Peru, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco to a new record of just $29.10 per megawatt hour in Chile. With the world record for unsubsidised power from solar is now below $30 per megawatt hour, and that for wind not far behind, you can forget competitiveness, renewables are robustly entering the era of undercutting. If you need to build new generating capacity, and you can deal with the attendant variability at an affordable cost, renewable energy will beat any other technology in most of the world without subsidies.

Tapping Wave Energy To Create Fresh Water With Atmocean  

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Cleantechnica has an article / advertisement for a new ocean energy / reverse osmosis company looking for crowd-funding of their technology to develop a pilot plant in Peru - Tapping Wave Energy To Create Fresh Water With Atmocean. High risk and probably low reward, but this sort of technology could be very useful in western coastlines of the southern hemisphere.

Los Alamos National Laboratories estimates that globally there are over 7,000 miles of non-cultivated coastline with sufficient waves to support an Atmocean system. The company estimates that over 13,000 systems could be deployed in Peru and Chile alone, generating billions of gallons of fresh water per year. Sadly, Peru is even now experiencing conflict and social strife as freshwater supplied by melting glaciers becomes less reliable and aquifers are being depleted. ...

Like a blade of grass in the wind, Atmocean’s wave energy array has been designed to move with rather than resist the waves, ocean currents, and tides which together make the ocean a very complex and punishing environment. This key feature reduces our impact and footprint on the seafloor, keeps operating costs down, and allows for ease of maintenance.

UNSW smashes perovskite solar cell record, predicts doubling in 12 months  

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RNE has an article on another solar power research success at UNSW - UNSW smashes solar cell record, predicts doubling in 12 months.

In a presentation to the Asia-Pacific Solar Research Conference in Canberra on Friday, UNSW team leader and senior research fellow at the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics, Anita Ho-Baillie revealed her team had achieved 12.1 per cent efficiency for a 16 cm2 cell. This gives UNSW claim to the largest single perovskite photovoltaic cell, at least 10 times bigger than the current certified high-efficiency perovskite solar cells on record, certified with the highest energy conversion efficiency. ...

Perovskite – named after the Russian mineralogist who discovered it, Lev Perovski – is a red hot area of solar research, and moving at a break-neck speed, largely because the crystal-like compound is cheap to produce and simple to manufacture. As the video below illustrates, it can even be sprayed onto surfaces.

Big Oil And The Traditionalist International  

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During the US election campaign I occasionally wondered if a Trump administration might occasionally do some oddball things that had positive outcomes. Even after the election he made time to meet with Al Gore and Leonardo Di Caprio to talk about global warming, which could have been seen as a sign there could be some hope of some forward looking policies on clean energy.

As his cabinet appointments have been announced though, it has become clear that a Trump administration is going to be dominated by fossil fuel interests even more heavily than the Bush / Cheney regime was, with the announcement of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State showing that US foreign policy will remain single-mindedly focused on oil for the foreseeable future.

Exxon has been looking to expand its presence in Russia for some time and Vladimir Putin awarded Tillerson the Russian "Order of Friendship" in 2013 after they negotiated a deal trading access to oil fields in the Russian Arctic for Exxon in exchange for Russian access to oilfields in Texas.

Joe Romm thinks that the Trump-Putin petrostate axis is going to focus on destroying international action on global warming, noting "the aligning interests between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s choice for U.S. president (Donald Trump), and Big Oil represents the gravest threat to humanity (and democracy) since the rise of the Axis powers in the 1930s. That’s because while Trump may not be able to destroy global climate action and the landmark 2015 Paris climate deal all by himself — as he pledged to do during the campaign — he probably could do that with help from Russia and the trillion-dollar oil industry."

The grassroots backing for this new axis of evil is coming from what is being dubbed in some quarters as the "Traditionalist International", a 21st century reversal of the old communist international concept - with Moscow looking to promote extreme nationalism along with a return to feudal social structures and other "traditional" practices like fossil fuel based transportation and power generation.

The Economist has a good summary of this Russian push to retard progress in the West via the "alt right" in the United States and far right wing groups in Europe and elsewhere - Russian propaganda is state-of-the-art again.

From the Mediterranean to the Pacific, Mr Putin is hailed as an example by nationalists, populists and dictators. “My favourite hero is Putin,” said Rodrigo Duterte, the brutal president of the Philippines. Mr Trump called Mr Putin “a leader far more than our president.” In Italy Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement took Mr Putin’s side against the West, and the anti-immigrant Northern League, led by Matteo Salvini, has enthused about his Russia. “No clandestine immigrants, no squeegee merchants and no Roma encampments [in Moscow],” tweeted Mr Salvini during a visit in 2014.

In France Marine Le Pen, whose National Front received a loan from a Russian bank, attacks the European Union and America for being too aggressive towards Russia. In the words of Dimitar Bechev, the author of a forthcoming book on Russia in the Balkans, “Putin enjoys a cult status with all holding a grudge against the West.” Nowhere is that status greater than with the nationalists of America’s “alt-right”. Matthew Heimbach, the founder of the Traditionalist Worker Party and a crusader against “anti-Christian degeneracy”, told the New York Times he sees Mr Putin as “the leader of the free world.” He called for the creation of a “Traditionalist International”—a reference to the Communist International founded in 1919.

The last time Russia had such a role in crystallising anti-establishment ideas was in the 1920s and 1930s, after the Bolshevik revolution. When Stalin wrote that the Soviet Union had become an “open centre of the world revolutionary movement”, it was not just propaganda. ...

Today, 25 years after the Soviet collapse, Russia is again seen as an emblem—this time of a nationalist imperial order. And just as in the 1930s, its isolationism does not prevent it from being involved in the global populist, anti-establishment trend. The Kremlin’s bet on marginal right-wing parties has paid off as they have moved into the mainstream. It has pumped out disinformation and propaganda both through its official media channels, such as the RT and Sputnik news networks, and through thousands of paid internet trolls. Its cyber-attacks against Western countries produced troves of emails and documents which it dumped into the hands of foreign media, disrupting America’s presidential elections to the benefit of Mr Trump. ...

Unlike the Socialists of the 1930s, the Kremlin and its friends today are driven not so much by ideology as by opportunism (and, in Russia’s case, corruption). Mr Putin’s primary goal is not to present an alternative political model but to undermine Western democracies whose models present an existential threat to his rule at home. Having lived through the Soviet collapse, he is well aware that the attraction of the prosperous, value-based West helped defeat communism. The retreat of that liberal democratic idea allows Russian propagandists to claim a victory.

Grid-scale vanadium flow battery storage headed for Australia  

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RNE has an article on moves to start using vanadium flow batteries in energy storage projects in Australia - Carnegie teams with Sumitomo for grid-scale vanadium flow battery storage.

Carnegie Wave Energy’s 100 per cent owned subsidiary, Energy Made Clean, is set to develop and demonstrate a commercial-scale solar and battery storage plant in Australia, after entering into a joint venture targeting Australia’s vanadium redox flow (VRF) battery market.

As we have noted on RE before, vanadium redox flow batteries are tipped to be one of the key players in the booming global energy storage market, as more and more renewable energy sources are brought onto grids around the world. The batteries are considered uniquely suited to on- and off-grid energy storage applications due to their scalability and long asset lives, with deep and very high cycling capability.

Australia, as well as being a key market for battery storage uptake, has been noted for its potential to become a top global producer of vanadium – a metal found in a range of mineral deposits.

The Rockefeller Family Fund vs. Exxon  

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The New York Review of Books has an article discussing the Rockefeller family fund's divestment of holdings in Exxon and other fossil fuel firms and the company's role in promoting disinformation about climate science - The Rockefeller Family Fund vs. Exxon.

Earlier this year our organization, the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF), announced that it would divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies. We mean to do this gradually, but in a public statement we singled out ExxonMobil for immediate divestment because of its “morally reprehensible conduct.” For over a quarter-century the company tried to deceive policymakers and the public about the realities of climate change, protecting its profits at the cost of immense damage to life on this planet.

Our criticism carries a certain historical irony. John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil, and ExxonMobil is Standard Oil’s largest direct descendant. In a sense we were turning against the company where most of the Rockefeller family’s wealth was created. (Other members of the Rockefeller family have been trying to get ExxonMobil to change its behavior for over a decade.) ...

What we had funded was an investigative journalism project. With help from other public charities and foundations, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), we paid for a team of independent reporters from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism to try to determine what Exxon and other US oil companies had really known about climate science, and when. Such an investigation seemed promising because Exxon, in particular, has been a leader of the movement to deny the facts of climate change.3 Often working indirectly through front groups, it sponsored many of the scientists and think tanks that have sought to obfuscate the scientific consensus about the changing climate, and it participated in those efforts through its paid advertisements and the statements of its executives.

Moneyball Politics  

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Forbes has an interesting profile of Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner (of 666 Fifth Avenue) and his "moneyball" tactics for targeting Facebook ads at vulnerable voters in swing states helped Trump win the election (along with some help from the Russians and aggressive vote suppression techniques being applies by state Republican governments of course) - How Jared Kushner Won Trump The White House.

“It’s hard to overstate and hard to summarize Jared’s role in the campaign,” says billionaire Peter Thiel, the only significant Silicon Valley figure to publicly back Trump. “If Trump was the CEO, Jared was effectively the chief operating officer.”

“Jared Kushner is the biggest surprise of the 2016 election,” adds Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, who helped design the Clinton campaign’s technology system. “Best I can tell, he actually ran the campaign and did it with essentially no resources.”

No resources at the beginning, perhaps. Underfunded throughout, for sure. But by running the Trump campaign–notably, its secret data operation–like a Silicon Valley startup, Kushner eventually tipped the states that swung the election. And he did so in manner that will change the way future elections will be won and lost. President Obama had unprecedented success in targeting, organizing and motivating voters. But a lot has changed in eight years. Specifically social media. Clinton did borrow from Obama’s playbook but also leaned on traditional media. The Trump campaign, meanwhile, delved into message tailoring, sentiment manipulation and machine learning. The traditional campaign is dead, another victim of the unfiltered democracy of the Web–and Kushner, more than anyone not named Donald Trump, killed it.

This wasn’t a completely raw startup. Kushner’s crew was able to tap into the Republican National Committee’s data machine, and it hired targeting partners like Cambridge Analytica to map voter universes and identify which parts of the Trump platform mattered most: trade, immigration or change. Tools like Deep Root drove the scaled-back TV ad spending by identifying shows popular with specific voter blocks in specific regions–say, NCIS for anti-ObamaCare voters or The Walking Dead for people worried about immigration. Kushner built a custom geo-location tool that plotted the location density of about 20 voter types over a live Google Maps interface.

Soon the data operation dictated every campaign decision: travel, fundraising, advertising, rally locations–even the topics of the speeches. “He put all the different pieces together,” Parscale says. “And what’s funny is the outside world was so obsessed about this little piece or that, they didn’t pick up that it was all being orchestrated so well.”

For fundraising they turned to machine learning, installing digital marketing companies on a trading floor to make them compete for business. Ineffective ads were killed in minutes, while successful ones scaled. The campaign was sending more than 100,000 uniquely tweaked ads to targeted voters each day. In the end, the richest person ever elected president, whose fundraising effort was rightly ridiculed at the beginning of the year, raised more than $250 million in four months–mostly from small donors.

The Observer has a look at the right wing propaganda and analytics machine that enabled Kushner's tactics to be so effective - Google, democracy and the truth about internet search.

The constellation of websites that Albright found – a sort of shadow internet – has another function. More than just spreading rightwing ideology, they are being used to track and monitor and influence anyone who comes across their content. “I scraped the trackers on these sites and I was absolutely dumbfounded. Every time someone likes one of these posts on Facebook or visits one of these websites, the scripts are then following you around the web. And this enables data-mining and influencing companies like Cambridge Analytica to precisely target individuals, to follow them around the web, and to send them highly personalised political messages. This is a propaganda machine. It’s targeting people individually to recruit them to an idea. It’s a level of social engineering that I’ve never seen before. They’re capturing people and then keeping them on an emotional leash and never letting them go.”

Cambridge Analytica, an American-owned company based in London, was employed by both the Vote Leave campaign and the Trump campaign. Dominic Cummings, the campaign director of Vote Leave, has made few public announcements since the Brexit referendum but he did say this: “If you want to make big improvements in communication, my advice is – hire physicists.”

Steve Bannon, founder of Breitbart News and the newly appointed chief strategist to Trump, is on Cambridge Analytica’s board and it has emerged that the company is in talks to undertake political messaging work for the Trump administration. It claims to have built psychological profiles using 5,000 separate pieces of data on 220 million American voters. It knows their quirks and nuances and daily habits and can target them individually.

“They were using 40-50,000 different variants of ad every day that were continuously measuring responses and then adapting and evolving based on that response,” says Martin Moore of Kings College. Because they have so much data on individuals and they use such phenomenally powerful distribution networks, they allow campaigns to bypass a lot of existing laws.

“It’s all done completely opaquely and they can spend as much money as they like on particular locations because you can focus on a five-mile radius or even a single demographic. Fake news is important but it’s only one part of it. These companies have found a way of transgressing 150 years of legislation that we’ve developed to make elections fair and open.” ...

We don’t understand it. It is not bound by terrestrial laws. And it’s in the hands of two massive, all-powerful corporations. It’s their experiment, not ours. The technology that was supposed to set us free may well have helped Trump to power, or covertly helped swing votes for Brexit. It has created a vast network of propaganda that has encroached like a cancer across the entire internet. This is a technology that has enabled the likes of Cambridge Analytica to create political messages uniquely tailored to you. They understand your emotional responses and how to trigger them. They know your likes, dislikes, where you live, what you eat, what makes you laugh, what makes you cry. ...

For the nearly 20 years that Google has been in existence, our view of the company has been inflected by the youth and liberal outlook of its founders. Ditto Facebook, whose mission, Zuckberg said, was not to be “a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission to make the world more open and connected.”

It would be interesting to know how he thinks that’s working out. Donald Trump is connecting through exactly the same technology platforms that supposedly helped fuel the Arab spring; connecting to racists and xenophobes. And Facebook and Google are amplifying and spreading that message. And us too – the mainstream media. Our outrage is just another node on Jonathan Albright’s data map.

Want to Bring Back Jobs ? Call Elon Musk  

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The NYT has an article pointing out that if Donald Trump wants to bring jobs back to the US, he should look at the job creation that Elon Musk is doing at Tesla, SolarCity and SpaceX - Want to Bring Back Jobs, Mr. President-Elect? Call Elon Musk.

Electrek reports that theTesla Gigafactory now employs over 850 workers, with 1,000 more to come in first half of 2017 with production ramp up and that the company is about to double the size of its manufacturing plant in California to handle demand for the Model 3.

President-elect Trump has spent a lot of time talking about how he plans to reinvigorate the manufacturing sector, repeatedly telling the public on the campaign trail, “We are going to bring back jobs that have been stolen from you.” And yet the group of business luminaries he named on Friday to advise him on “job creation” — which included Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Robert Iger of Disney and Mary Barra of General Motors — was missing a key name: Mr. Musk, the real-life Tony Stark behind Tesla, the electric car company; SolarCity, the solar power provider; and SpaceX, the rocket company.

Mr. Musk, 45, is arguably the one person in the nation more responsible than anyone else for generating a vision for the re-emergence of manufacturing in the United States en masse. And he is revered among most of his peers here in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. In the last decade, Mr. Musk has created nearly 35,000 jobs among his various enterprises — and most of those jobs are classic manufacturing ones. His Tesla Gigafactory, a 5.5-million-square-foot battery factory under construction outside Reno, Nev., is expected to employ 6,500 people in manufacturing jobs by 2020.

After the factory is complete, 95 percent of the parts contained in Tesla vehicles will be made in the United States. His company’s leading-edge advances have pushed the entire auto industry to innovate, with rivals seeking to copy many of Tesla’s best features.

Google: 100% renewable is just the beginning  

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Google has announced they that their data centres will be fully powered by renewable energy next year - 100% renewable is just the beginning.

I’m thrilled to announce that in 2017 Google will reach 100% renewable energy for our global operations — including both our data centers and offices. This is a huge milestone. We were one of the first corporations to create large-scale, long-term contracts to buy renewable energy directly; we signed our first agreement to purchase all the electricity from a 114-megawatt wind farm in Iowa, in 2010. Today, we are the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable power, with commitments reaching 2.6 gigawatts (2,600 megawatts) of wind and solar energy. That’s bigger than many large utilities and more than twice as much as the 1.21 gigawatts it took to send Marty McFly back in time. ...

Over the last six years, the cost of wind and solar came down 60 percent and 80 percent, respectively, proving that renewables are increasingly becoming the lowest cost option. Electricity costs are one of the largest components of our operating expenses at our data centers, and having a long-term stable cost of renewable power provides protection against price swings in energy.

Exxon and Putin Take Charge Of US Foreign Policy  

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The fossil fuel lobby and Vladimir Putin appear to be the big winners from Donald Trump's nominations for positions in his new administration (assuming he makes it past the intelligence agencies conspiring against him and the plotters trying to get the electoral college members to dump him before the inauguration) - Rex Tillerson: an appointment that would confirm Putin's US election win.

If Rex Tillerson is nominated as the next secretary of state, it would confirm Vladimir Putin as one of the strategic victors of the US presidential election. Barack Obama has ordered an inquiry into covert Russian intervention in the campaign, which the CIA says was designed to secure a victory for Donald Trump. But whether or not Russian intervention made a significant difference to the outcome, a Tillerson appointment would represent a significant gain for Moscow.

While the other leading candidates for the job hold largely traditional and adversarial views on Russia, the outgoing chief executive of Exxon Mobil has a history of close business ties to Putin, who bestowed the Order of Friendship on Tillerson in 2013.

Deglobalisation 2.0 ?  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

The Guardian's Economics Blog is declaring that "globalisation is already dead" and that we are now entering a period of de-globalisation - It's too late for hand-wringing – globalisation is already dead.

Donald Trump and Theresa May are not flagbearers in the distance, they are catapults battering at the walls. Trump’s stated intent to pull the US out of the TPP on his first day in office underlines the new reality we inhabit, as does the European Union’s recent troubles closing a trade agreement with Canada thanks to Wallonia’s obstinance. Today, we have a new meme – deglobalisation – as people turn their backs on an interconnected world economy and societies turn iconoclastic.

It is not for the first time.

Globalisation may be defined as when trade across nations is growing faster than GDP. People interact more, transact more and create more wealth. Deglobalisation is the alternate state where trade grows less than GDP. Countries focus inwards, trade declines as a proportion of GDP and growth shrinks. A clear cycle of the two emerges over history.

Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept is making a number of similar points - Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit.

The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much — when they caused a ruckus — and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy.

That message was heard loud and clear. The institutions and elite factions that have spent years mocking, maligning, and pillaging large portions of the population — all while compiling their own long record of failure and corruption and destruction — are now shocked that their dictates and decrees go unheeded. But human beings are not going to follow and obey the exact people they most blame for their suffering. They’re going to do exactly the opposite: purposely defy them and try to impose punishment in retaliation. Their instruments for retaliation are Brexit and Trump. Those are their agents, dispatched on a mission of destruction: aimed at a system and culture they regard — not without reason — as rife with corruption and, above all else, contempt for them and their welfare. ...

That analysis was inspired by a short, incredibly insightful, and now more relevant than ever post-Brexit Facebook note by the Los Angeles Times’s Vincent Bevins, who wrote that “both Brexit and Trumpism are the very, very wrong answers to legitimate questions that urban elites have refused to ask for 30 years.” Bevins went on: “Since the 1980s the elites in rich countries have overplayed their hand, taking all the gains for themselves and just covering their ears when anyone else talks, and now they are watching in horror as voters revolt.”

How much storage is needed in a solar and wind powered grid?  

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RNE has a post on the role of energy storage in transforming Australian energy generation to 100% renewables by 2050 - How much storage is needed in solar and wind powered grid?.

The CSIRO and Australia’s electricity network owners this week released a study that showed the best to deliver reliability, bring down costs and lower emissions in Australia was through a national grid powered almost exclusively by wind and solar. The cost savings over business-as-usual – a grid powered primarily by coal and gas – were significant, with consumer savings of between one-quarter and one-third of their bills.

But it does beg a question: If the grid is powered by “variable renewable energy” (or VRE), such as wind and solar, what will happen when, as the detractors say, the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine? The answer, of course, is storage. But not nearly as much as the cynics suggest. And at not nearly the cost.

Julian Assange releases full testimony to Swedish prosecutors  

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Julian Assange remains trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy but the Swedes still haven't prosecuted him 6 years on - Julian Assange releases full testimony to Swedish prosecutors six years after rape allegation.

In a 19-page statement he gave in a landmark interview to Swedish investigators, the WikiLeaks editor-in-chief also said he had been subjected to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment". The 45-year-old computer programmer has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for four years to avoid arrest. "I want people to know the truth about how abusive this process has been," said the Australian journalist.

Last month, for the first time, Ms Ny's deputy and a police officer interviewed Mr Assange at the embassy, where he is an asylum-seeker. Swedish prosecutors are awaiting transcripts from the Ecuadorian embassy, but he beat them to it by publishing his statement on Wednesday. He has never formally been charged.

100% renewable energy cheapest for South America  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

RNE has an article on how to transition South America to 100% renewable energy - 100% renewable energy system cheapest for South America.

Transitioning to a fully renewable energy system, with over 50% coming from solar PV, would be the cheapest option for South America and it is possible in the next 15 years, according to research conducted by the Lappeenranta University of Technology.

As an ever-present accomplice to South America’s dramatic scenery, heavy sunlight could also be the dominant source of energy for the region by 2030, according to a new study from Finnish Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. But this is not the only clean energy source that the region should adopt, as the study finds that a 100% renewable energy system, including numerous renewable technologies, would be the cheapest energy system option for the region, due to its rich solar, wind and hydro resources.

Mayors Of Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens Move To Ban All Diesel Vehicles By 2025  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Paris is so smog afflicted it has made public transport free and limited the days drivers are allowed on the roads in a bid to reduce traffic congestion. Paris is also one of a number of city looking to ban diesel vehicles from use by 2025 - Mayors Of Paris, Mexico City, Madrid, & Athens Move To Ban All Diesel Vehicles By 2025.

To be clear on the first commitment, this would apparently apply to all diesel vehicles — including trucks, not just cars. The idea is to improve local air quality and also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — which is what the C40 forum was initially formed for, the idea being to give mayors working to mitigate and prevent anthropogenic climate change a place to share notes, so to speak.

The mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, commented on this: “The quality of the air that we breathe in our cities is directly linked to tackling climate change. As we reduce the greenhouse gas emissions generated in our cities, our air will become cleaner and our children, our grandparents and our neighbours will be healthier.”

Fake News !  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

With all the recent kerfuffle about "fake news" contributing to Trump's election I found this story about the old "Mockingbird" / Watergate days of official fake news entertaining - The CIA and the Press: When the Washington Post Ran the CIA’s Propaganda Network.

Last week, the Washington Post published a scurrilous piece by a heretofore obscure technology reporter named Craig Timberg, alleging without the faintest evidence that Russian intelligence was using more than 200 independent news sites to pump out pro-Putin and anti-Clinton propaganda during the election campaign.

Under the breathless headline, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” Timberg concocted his story based on allegations from a vaporous group called ProporNot, run by nameless individuals of unknown origin, whom Timberg (cribbing from the Bob Woodward stylesheet) agreed to quote as anonymous sources. ...

In the meantime, here is a brief historical note on how at the height of the Cold War the CIA developed it’s very own stable of writers, editors and publishers (swelling to as many as 3000 individuals) that it paid to scribble Agency propaganda under a program called Operation Mockingbird. The disinformation network was supervised by the late Philip Graham, former publisher of Timberg’s very own paper, the Washington Post.

Seven energy charts  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Bloomberg NEF's Michael Liebreich has been in town this week, generating some local press coverage for renewable energy - Seven energy charts that will cheer and frighten about Australia and the world.

Australia has unmatched renewable energy resources but will meet its climate targets only by intervening to accelerate the retirement of coal-fired power plants, according to Michael Liebreich, founder of global advisory service, Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Mr Liebreich said the Turnbull government should avoid setting renewable energy targets and instead focus on devising market-based methods to phase out coal. It should also avoid "perverse" subsidies, such as the speculated $1 billion loan being considered for Adani's proposed mega-coal mine in Queensland, he said. ..

Mr Liebreich told a Sydney audience advances in renewable energy technologies were rapid, with solar photovoltaic prices falling by almost a quarter for each doubling of production. For wind, costs sank 19 per cent with each doubling of turbine output. Breakthroughs come regularly, with the University of NSW last week revealing it had achieved record efficiency rates for its perovskite solar cells, with prospects of more to come.

Meet the High-Tech Buses of Tomorrow  

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The Atlantic's CityLab has an interesting look at the future of urban transportation, including electric buses - Meet the High-Tech Buses of Tomorrow.

While many speculate that the autonomous vehicle technology now being pioneered by the likes of Tesla, Google, Uber, and (maybe!) Apple could spell the end of public transit, others are convinced of the opposite: AVs may roll out first not in private vehicles but in shared, public ones—driverless buses with sensors and artificial intelligence behind the wheel. In fact, some are already being tested in a handful of cities, from Helsinki, Finland, to Washington, D.C., to the city-state Singapore.

Among the vehicles vying to lead the autonomous bus race is Olli, a self-driving electric minibus from the Arizona-based Local Motors. It’s the first of its kind to use IBM’s cognitive Watson technology to interact with passengers. The bus can be summoned in Uber-like fashion, can answer questions about routes and nearby attractions, and could eventually personalize the trip by linking with the passengers’ social media accounts.

Australian Government killed emissions scheme despite knowing it could shave $15 billion off electricity bills  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

The Australian government is copping a huge amount of flack about its lack of energy policy this week, having first flip flopped (at the behest of the fundamentalist wing of the party) on suggestions that it might consider reintroducing carbon pricing in response to calls from energy industry participants and now having been found to have killed an emissions trading scheme that would have reduced power costs - Government killed emissions scheme despite knowing it could shave $15 billion off electricity bills.

State governments are now talking about introducing their own carbon pricing schemes (see the link for a good summary of carbon pricing schemes around the world) to make up for the policy chaos in Canberra which is stifling investment in energy.

The Turnbull government has been sitting on advice that an emissions intensity scheme - the carbon policy it put on the table only to rule out just 36 hours later - would save households and businesses up to $15 billion in electricity bills over a decade.

While Malcolm Turnbull has rejected this sort of scheme by claiming it would push up prices, analysis in an Australian Electricity Market Commission report handed to the government months ago finds it would actually cost consumers far less than other approaches, including doing nothing.

The Economist: Bolshiness Is Back  

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The Economist has a look at the slide towards deglobalisation in their "World In 2016" edition - Bolshiness Is Back. I'm not sure raising the spectre of Lenin and communism makes much sense though, given that the global left is basically dead and the threat to the liberal order is coming entirely from right wing authoritarian nationalists.

The global economy has delivered too many of its benefits to the richest: in America, the proportion of after-tax income going to the top 1% doubled from 8% in 1979 to 17% in 2007. And in many ways the future looks worse. Productivity growth has slowed. Unless this can be changed, politics will inevitably become a struggle over dividing up the pie. Tech giants such as Google and Amazon enjoy market shares not seen since the late 19th century, the era of the robber barons.

How can liberals save what is left of the liberal order? Part of the solution lies in being more vigorous in its defence—for example, pointing out that globalisation has lifted millions out of poverty and that reversing it will make today’s economic woes much worse. Part of the solution lies in exposing liberalism’s enemies as the paper tigers that they are: Mr Putin, in particular, presides, by fear and fraud, over a country whose economic power is stalling and whose people are plagued by poverty and illness. Other strongmen around the world are far less tough than they claim.

But liberalism’s champions must do more than just repeat tired mantras. They need to take worries about immigration more seriously and check their instinct to ride roughshod over minorities such as evangelical Christians. They also need to redouble their efforts to fix capitalism’s most obvious problems. High levels of inequality are threatening stability. Economic concentration is allowing companies to extract record profits. Overregulation is driving businesspeople to distraction. The revival of bolshiness has already taken a terrible toll. Liberals need to think more clearly, and act more forcefully, to stop the rot.

Australian Government To Reintroduce Carbon Pricing ?  

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Apparently re-introduction of carbon pricing is a possibility being considered by the Australian government, following pressure from energy industry groups to reduce policy uncertainty and start planning for a de-carbonised future - Conservatives furious over climate review. A dummy spit from the usual suspects happened shortly after the prospect was aired.

Australian Energy Council chief Matthew Warren, representing the bulk of generators, said the most important thing for the industry was a policy that would withstand changes in government. "We'd go for almost anything that has a substantial chance of succeeding and garners bipartisan support, because we can build on it," he said. Mr Warren said a decade of uncertainty on climate and energy policy had driven away investment, leaving a system "now materially degrading before our eyes". He said the energy industry wanted some form of carbon price linked to a clear emissions target that extended beyond 2030 - something the review will consider - to trigger investments in new power stations that would last decades.

Australian Industry Group chief Innes Willox said the country could only play its part in tackling climate change at lowest cost if investors believed policies would survive. "Bipartisanship on climate and energy is the only way forward. The alternative is costly failure," he said.

The Climate Institute said the country had a clear choice: between a review that set Australia on a pathway to zero emissions, or continued the policy chaos of the past 10 years. Deputy chief executive Erwin Jackson said the goal must be a policy framework that was capable of decarbonising the electricity system well before 2050. It must include some form of carbon price, but that alone would not be enough as experience had taught that any scheme would be a political compromise.

CSIRO inks major China solar thermal power deal  

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RNE reports that Australia's CSIRO agency is licencing its solar thermal power technology to the Chinese- CSIRO inks major China solar thermal deal, but home market remains stalled.

Australia’s top science and research organisation, the CSIRO, has inked a deal with Chinese company Thermal Focus to make, sell and install its patented concentrating solar thermal generation technology in China. The partnership is a major coup for the CSIRO, particularly considering the potential market for CST in China, which just last month was named by the IEA as one of the countries most likely to lead the world in a solar

China’s plans for CST – to build 1.4GW of capacity 2018, and 5GW by 2020 – will double the world’s installed CST plants, and the CSIRO deal puts its proven solar heliostat technology in a prime position to bid for a piece of this action.

Standing Rock Stands Tall  

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The standoff at Standing Rock was looking like turning to Wounded Knee 3 over the weekend, as a small army of veterans converged on the site to try to defend the "water protectors" protesting against the planned North Dakota Access pipeline.

While Donald Trump's financial ties to the project will no doubt ensure that he will attempt to ensure the success of the project as part of his 4 year plan to increase his wealth at taxpayer expense any way he can, for now the natives and the vets can relax as the Army Corps of Engineers decided to deny the pipeline company a permit for their planned river crossing.

The Army Corps of Engineers will not grant the permit for the Dakota Access pipeline to drill under the Missouri river, the army announced on Sunday, handing a major victory to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe after a months-long campaign against the pipeline. Assistant secretary for civil works Jo-Ellen Darcy announced the decision on Sunday, with the army saying it was based on “a need to explore alternate routes” for the crossing.

The announcement came just one day before the corps’ deadline for thousands of Native American and environmental activists – who call themselves water protectors – to leave the sprawling encampment on the banks of the river. For months, they have protested over their fears that the pipeline would contaminate their water source and destroy sacred sites, and over the weekend hundreds of military veterans arrived at the camps in a show of support for the movement.

Australian Government to Subsidise Building World's Largest Coal Mine  

Posted by Big Gav in

I think it is fair to say that Malcolm Turnbull has been a total disappointment in his time as Prime Minister - Turnbull government eyes $1 billion Adani loan backed by new infrastructure fund.

Environmental groups were outraged by reports the government was moving closer to granting the $1 billion loan. Tim Buckley, analyst at the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said Australian taxpayers should not give "subsidies to foreign billionaires", despite the 1500 jobs that could be created by the mine.

"If you were to provide a billion dollars for solar projects across Australia you would probably create 3000 jobs," Mr Buckley told Fairfax Media. "It's farcical that they're paying out a foreign billionaire and they're doing it into structures that are clearly in tax havens."

Castro exits  

Posted by Big Gav

Fidel Castro must have died a reasonably happy man, having managed to defy an endless succession of US governments determined to kill him.

I've never been to Cuba so I never formed a strong opinion of him or his government, but they did seem to be remarkably effective in areas like healthcare even if they weren't so effective at creating material prosperity.

The hapless BBC interviewer in the video below made me laugh - a classic demonstration of our post truth era. She couldn't manage to deliver even a half coherent official government propaganda line.

German Leaders at Odds with Industry over Electric Cars  

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Der Spiegel has an article on the slow progress German carmakers are making towards switching to electric vehicles - German Leaders at Odds with Industry over Electric Cars.

With the trend in electric cars picking up, and not just in China, Berlin government circles are increasingly worried that the apparent technological dominance of Daimler, BMW and other German carmakers could soon be a thing of the past. Germany's industry value is being "put to the test" on a "scale that perhaps hasn't yet been totally registered," Chancellor Angela Merkel warned last week in parliament. Economics Minister Gabriel, who is also Merkel's deputy chancellor, pleaded with the industry "to preserve car manufacturing as the leading industry in Germany and Europe." An internal report from his ministry also warned that the companies in question are falling behind in the development of key electromobility components.

Two-wheel takeover: bikes outnumber cars for the first time in Copenhagen  

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The Guardian has an article on Copenhagen's switch from cars to cycling - Two-wheel takeover: bikes outnumber cars for the first time in Copenhagen.

Bicycle sensors in Copenhagen clocked a new record this month: there are now more bikes than cars in the heart of the city. In the last year, 35,080 more bikes have joined the daily roll, bringing the total number to 265,700, compared with 252,600 cars.

Over in the Netherlands, the Dutch are already reaching the point at which bike traffic is overtaking car traffic. In Amsterdam, 48% of city-centre trips are pedal-powered, while in Groningen’s core, bikes are used for 61% of all trips.

1 GW Solar PV array, the world’s largest, comes on line in China  

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Looks like the Indian PV plant touted as the world's largest at 648 MW has lost its crown very quickly to a much larger Chinese installation - 1 GW PV array, the world’s largest, comes on line.

The same solution but on a much larger scale has now been applied at the gigantic Yanchi, Ningxia, solar park, which came on line in September this year and is at 1000 MW the largest contiguous array in the world. Originally planned as a 2 GW array, the park currently contains 1 GW of solar panels controlled by SUN2000-40KTL and SUN2000-50KTL smart PV controllers with internal connection via a smart PV wireless transmission system.

IEA World Energy Outlook 2016  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

The IEA has released the 2016 version of their annual world energy outlook report - World Energy Outlook 2016.

The report has prompted a spate of articles about "peak oil demand" (with earlier reports from the Economist and WSJ being joined this week by Forbes, Bloomberg and The FT).

Other than speculation about when demand-driven peak oil production will occur, attention concentrated on:

1. Chinese coal use peaking in 2013 - China's coal use likely peaked in 2013 amid rapid shift to renewables, global energy report says (ABC).

2. Wind and solar will contribute will become the dominant source of energy in most major economies within two decades - IEA makes mockery of Turnbull’s renewable energy scare campaign (RNE).

3. Oil production from conventional non-OPEC fields and oil sands will drop by 6.1 million barrels a day by 2040 (although they still predict overall production will rise) - How Big Oil Loses Even Without Peak Demand (Bloomberg).

4. Fatih Birol says"We see clear winners for the next 25 years — natural gas but especially wind and solar — replacing the champion of the previous 25 years, coal" - Renewables & Natural Gas Win Out In World Energy Outlook, But Investors Must Not Misread Oil Demand (Cleantechnica).

5. A combination of efficiency and deployment of renewables has decoupled economic growth from carbon emissions - Massive report details the energy economy that limits warming to 2°C (Ars Technica).

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