The latest knockoff to be produced in China is the carbon credit.
On Tuesday, the nation’s first carbon-trading program was launched in Shenzhen. Under the small pilot project, 635 companies responsible for 38 percent of the city’s carbon pollution began trading emission allowances. The program is scheduled to be expanded to six other areas by next year and then to the whole country before 2020. It will help China meet a national carbon cap that’s expected to be imposed by 2016.
China’s carbon-trading plans are modeled on similar programs underway in Europe, Australia, California, New England, and other large economies. In fact, carbon trading seems to be catching on with governments everywhere — except the United States.
Though the Chinese program is starting off small, it’s expected to have big ramifications. From Reuters:
While the exchange in the southern city of Shenzhen will not immediately lead to a big cut in China’s emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gas, now the world’s highest, it does still represent a statement of intent by Beijing, campaigners said.
“This is just a baby step when you look at the total quantity of emissions, but it enables China to establish institutions for carbon controls for the first time,” said Li Yan, head of environmental group Greenpeace’s climate and energy campaign in China.
This is one Chinese knockoff that environmentalists and indeed the whole world can welcome.
TransCanada swears that once the Keystone XL pipeline is operational, it will be totally safe. The company is apparently so confident — despite already having had to dig up and replace faulty stretches of the pipeline’s southern leg — that it doesn’t see the need to invest in state-of-the-art spill-detection technology. TransCanada is like that obnoxious seventh-grade skateboarder too confident in his sick moves to bother with a helmet.
The internal spill detectors TransCanada currently uses — in which sensors alert remote operators if pressure along the pipeline drops — are standard for the industry, but they’re designed to catch high-volume spills. Bloomberg Businessweek reports:
Keystone XL would have to be spilling more than 12,000 barrels a day — or 1.5 percent of its 830,000 barrel capacity — before its currently planned internal spill-detection systems would trigger an alarm, according to the U.S. State Department, which is reviewing the proposal.
New external technology, on the other hand, can identify much smaller leaks. For example, acoustic sensors can pick up the sound of oil escaping through a pinhole-size opening. And helicopters doing flyovers can be fitted with trash-can-size devices that detect oil vapors in infrared sunlight, potentially spotting leaks flowing at rates of less than 10 barrels per day.
Bloomberg Businessweek calculated that it would cost about $705,000 — $5,000 per mile — to install advanced fiber-optic cable technology along 141 critical miles of the pipeline, areas where drinking water, ecosystems, and population centers are at risk. That’s hardly a drop in the bucket compared to the overall $5.3 billion cost of the pipeline. And investing in better spill-detection technology pays off:
Equipment available to spot spills more quickly would have cut 75 percent off the estimated $1.7 billion toll in property damage caused by major incidents on oil lines from 2001 to 2011, consultants said in a December report prepared for the [U.S. Transportation Department].
Though the U.S. EPA recommended these new external detection tools be used on Keystone XL, a TransCanada representative told Bloomberg that they haven’t yet been sufficiently tested on projects the scale of Keystone, and that they produce too many false positives to be reliable. But it’s not like the current system is doing a bang-up job, either:
Internal systems such as the one planned for Keystone XL have a spotty record catching leaks, according to the Transportation Department’s report, prepared by the engineering firm Kiefner & Associates Inc., of Worthington, Ohio. Members of the public reported 23 percent of the 197 oil and liquids pipeline leaks between January 2010 and July 2012, according to the study, compared to 17 percent identified by the pipeline companies.
TransCanada claims to be studying, at the EPA’s request, whether it could implement the new technologies along environmentally sensitive portions of the pipeline.
The company has had its share of safety issues — record numbers of leaks and a shutdown on the original Keystone pipeline, an explosion of a natural-gas pipeline, accusations that it cuts corners on construction. And a report by researchers at Cornell estimates that we could see 91 major spills over 50 years from Keystone XL. So maybe it couldn’t hurt for TransCanada to spring for some new and improved safety features this time around.
We strongly recommend that you do not use this method to get in touch, as it were, with the Earth. But as this video shows, it is technically possible to run over eight or 10 feet of red-hot lava and emerge with your limbs intact. Someone tell those kids pretending the floor is lava that it’s safe to get off the couch!
At Wired’s Eruptions blog, geoscientist Erik Klemetti explains why this stunt, while dumb, is not the dumbest possible thing.
Taking a look at the video, the lava flow in question is moving pretty slow and has a dark crust on it. This means it is likely pretty cool — in fact, it looks like it is a`a lava, which is even more viscous than the pahoehoe many people associate with lava flows. Crust forms quickly on lava flows because there is a high temperature gradient between the lava (at ~1000°C) and the air (~25ºC), so the lava hardens into a semi-flexible crust. Based on where the guys are standing, the lava flow isn’t likely very large because the guy who doesn’t run up the flow doesn’t seem concerned to be standing only a few feet away. The flow itself looks confined to a small channel surrounded by solidified lava. My guess is that this little flow is fairly far from the vent (source).
Now, I’m not sure why he chose this route to get up the ridge (well, beyond showing off), but if that flow has a decent crust (which it does) and is moving fairly slow (which it is), and if you move quickly, your weight isn’t going to be enough to cause you to sink into the flow.
But you could still trip and put your hand in the flow, or tread on an area with a thinner crust and go in up to your ankles. It’s a stupid, horrible idea. But it might make you a YouTube star for five minutes, and isn’t that worth it? (Spoiler: no.)
Well, that was embarrassing.
The trend toward skepticism and away from alarmism is now unmistakable …
Publication of a Chinese translation of Climate Change Reconsidered by the Chinese Academy of Sciences indicates the country’s leaders believe their [failure to sign a global climate treaty] is justified by science and not just economics.
But really all that happened was that one of Heartland’s climate-denial reports, “Climate Change Reconsidered,” was translated into Chinese [PDF].
And translation does not mean endorsement. Even the translators’ preface says the work was undertaken “to understand different opinions and positions in debates on climate change” and “does not reflect that [those involved in the translation] agree with the views” in the report.
When the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) got wind of Heartland’s blog post, it was not pleased. It put out a statement harshly condemning the post:
The claim of the Heartland Institute about CAS’ endorsement of its report is completely false. …
Since there is absolutely no ground for the so called CAS endorsement of the report, and the actions by the Heartland Institute went way beyond acceptable academic integrity, we have requested by email to the president of the Heartland Institute that the false news on its website to be removed. We also requested that the Institute issue a public apology to CAS for the misleading statement on the CAS endorsement.
Evie Sobczak is a young science rock star who has already done more in her 16 years than most of us will in our entire lives (I KNOW, I should speak for myself):
For a fifth-grade science fair, Evie Sobczak found that the acid in fruit could power clocks; she connected a cut-up orange to a clock with wire and watched it tick. In seventh grade, she generated power by engineering paddles that could harness wind. And in eighth grade, she started a project that eventually would become her passion: She wanted to grow algae and turn it into biofuel.
And she totally did. Sobczak engineered all of her equipment herself, creating a totally chemical-free way to grow algae, extract the oil, and use it as biodiesel. Plus, her process produced as much as 20 percent more oil than current methods, which could make algae biofuel cheaper. She recently won first place at Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair for her process, which is a big deal because, as Sobczak says, “It’s like the biggest science fair ever.” As she says in a video for Intel:
I really believe algae could be our next fuel source because it doesn’t take a lot of land and it doesn’t take away from our food source. And if you use my processes, you don’t use any chemicals, so it’s not harming our environment. I live in Florida, so we have a lot of algae problems, so I thought why not use something negative to help our world?
Watch her awesomeness:
And no matter what you think about algae, it’s rad to see a young woman totally kick ass in a field where women are hugely underrepresented (fewer than 1 in 4 environmental scientists is female). YOU GO, GIRL.
Nearly eight months after Hurricane Sandy destroyed almost three miles of historic boardwalk along the Rockaway peninsula at the southern end of New York City, the shore hums with sounds of $140 million worth of beach recovery: circular saws, jack hammers, and tractors. While construction continues around the clock, officials have reopened beaches in hopes that a vibrant tourist season will kick-start the local economy; on this hot June day, a handful of surfers catching breaks on the city’s only legal surfing beaches is one tangible sign that the work to remediate 1.5 million cubic yards of displaced sand [PDF] has been successful.
Now, beyond immediate relief work and the big-ticket city spending — the A train is finally rumbling along elevated tracks to Far Rockaway — community organizers can rattle off a shopping list of daily small-dollar needs that don’t usually get their own entries in big-name relief agency spreadsheets: community garden maintenance, recovering lost furniture, or hiring a killer grant writer to ensure the money keeps flowing.
As relief turns to long-term recovery, community activists have their eyes on a group they know has some money left unspent: Occupy Sandy.
After Superstorm Sandy hit New York last October, Occupy Wall Street — the global protest movement against economic inequality that started in downtown Manhattan — set up a new group, Occupy Sandy, and mobilized thousands of supporters to raise more than $1.37 million, according to finances made public on its website.
But here’s the thing: Roughly $1 out of every $5 raised — nearly $300,000 — remains unallocated. According to interviews with Occupy Sandy organizers, it’s been more than three months since the group began the process of giving this remaining money over to community groups in the hardest-hit areas. Only a fraction of the $150,000 that has already been allocated to the Rockaways has so far been disbursed.
Meanwhile, as Americans face an ever-increasing number of natural disasters and extreme weather events, more recent victims like those in tornado-devastated Moore, Okla., are looking to Occupy Sandy as a model to replicate, warranting a closer look at how the group balances its books.
So far, there’s no clear picture of how nearly $240,000 of funds already allocated have been, or will be, spent. Bre Lembitz, an original Zuccotti Park occupier and now Occupy Sandy’s bookkeeper, attributes the delay mostly to paperwork snags beyond the group’s control: “The documentation has fallen by the wayside,” she says. “It hasn’t been a priority for people.”
Some Rockaway residents say that Occupy Sandy is keeping them in the dark about how it will dish out its remaining money, and that the group, which has no one central location in the city but operates from several hubs, isn’t including them in decision making.
Milan Taylor, the 24-year-old director of the Rockaway Youth Task Force, says Occupy Sandy “was brilliant at first.” In the immediate aftermath of the storm that destroyed 175 houses and businesses here and left 34,000 customers were left without power [PDF], sometimes for months, Occupy Sandy volunteers worked side by side with locals to lug water and blankets to people in damaged homes or darkened residential towers. They gutted and mucked out houses and educated locals about the health risks of mold infestations, coordinating their efforts via a fleet of vans; they were applauded for agility while the big agency relief machinery ground into motion.
“I believe we’ve been hugely successful and we’ve done a lot with a little money,” says Terri Bennett, 35, the codirector of Respond and Rebuild, an arm of Occupy Sandy in the Rockaways. At this point, she says, Occupy Sandy has worked at around 300 homes in the Rockaways and conducted extensive one-on-one surveys of local needs.
But the relationship risks being soured, Taylor says. If Occupy Sandy doesn’t tell the Rockaways community how it plans to spend the rest of the money, “I personally believe they have outstayed their welcome,” he says.
Taylor’s group received Occupy Sandy grants totaling $17,800 in January, but he wonders what will become of the remaining Occupy cash. Just a portion of it could help his group hire a part-time professional caseworker to track teenagers whose education was disrupted for months after the storm. He says he has found it difficult to get information from Occupy Sandy. “Now there’s this additional pool of money they have,” he says, “and it’s like they are changing the rules as things are going along.”
But according to Lembitz, the group’s mission has always been to transition to a community-driven approach — it has just taken a little time to get up and running. “Ideologically this is the best idea, but that doesn’t mean necessarily it can be put into practice,” she says. “I naively thought it was going to be much easier to set up, and it wasn’t.” Occupy Sandy has now convened a nine-person panel to serve the specific needs of the Rockaways, including four residents affiliated with Occupy Sandy, and to decide how their chunk of money gets spent. There is no timeline for this, but organizers say some grants might begin to flow in another month’s time. As for the nearly $300,000, Lembitz says Occupy Sandy is “in the process” of having open meetings “where the community can come together and decide how best to allocate the rest of the money.” But apart from one debrief session, the group’s public calendar is bare through the end of the year.
The Rockaway peninsula is split from east to west along historic socioeconomic lines: The poverty rate in densely populated Far Rockaway to the east, where there are a number of big public housing developments and nursing homes, is around 22 percent. On the western tip in Breezy Point, it’s 2 percent. That makes navigating local needs and politics especially important.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” says Robyn Hillman-Harrigan, who runs Shore Soup Project, a group that provided more than 50,000 hot meals door to door in the aftermath of the storm. She goes out of her way to say she’s supportive of the bigger Occupy Sandy principles, and thinks its efforts have been largely commendable. But she can’t help but see the irony of a small group making decisions about money meant for the many. “It feels like a club,” she says.
Terri Bennett defended the makeup of the new Rockaway panel. “There’s a really fine line between inviting enough people to participate, and inviting too many,” she says. She also says the group wants to avoid being overwhelmed by requests and repeating the mistakes of the past: “I also think that those [community] groups are kind of the same people over and over again that are already involved in these processes, but if we invite people who aren’t normally invited to the table, then it builds a bunch of peoples’ capacities.” This hasn’t stopped the group investing $100,000 elsewhere in a FEMA-approved Staten Island group that, unlike in the Rockaways, puts Occupy Sandy in direct weekly contact with a diverse coalition of established community and faith leaders.
Youth leader Milan Taylor says it’s vital for the movement to communicate its plans clearly: “The funding was raised in the name of the Rockaways,” he says. “It’s not complicated if you’re from the community. But for an outsider coming in and trying to understand an entire community history in six months, it’s impossible.”
You say you want to get around the city without spending the $9,000 to maintain and operate a car each year, and maybe get some exercise while you’re at it? You don’t have that kind of cash. And you know, the planet. But those bike lanes can look pretty intimidating, with all the mustachioed hipsters on their superbad fixies, the spandex-clad adrenaline junkies, and the cars whizzing by.
Well, you’re in luck:
If you’ve ever wondered whether water improves with age like a fine wine, wonder no longer: The answer is “nope.” Scientists found water in Canada that had been trapped in veins of rock 1.5 miles underground for at least a billion and possibly as much as 2.64 billion years. In the name of pure research, one of the discoverers took a taste. It was gross. Mystery solved.
Barbara Sherwood Lollar, a geologist who coauthored the Nature paper on this antique H2O, is not having any truck with “floral notes” or “full body.” Her professional opinion: “It tastes terrible. … You would definitely not want to drink this stuff.” Apparently the color and texture aren’t too appetizing either:
What jumps out at you first is the saltiness. Because of the reactions between the water and the rock, it is extremely salty. It is more viscous than tap water. It has the consistency of a very light maple syrup. It doesn’t have color when it comes out, but as soon as it comes into contact with oxygen it turns an orangy color because the minerals in it begin to form — especially the iron.
But while this does not represent a new gastronomic frontier for water, it’s still a very cool scientific discovery, especially if it turns out to contain microbial life. Finding out whether it does is Lollar’s next project, after she rinses the taste out of her mouth.
Are you a fan of electric vehicles who doesn’t want to own your own car?
Get thee to Indy.
A company that operates electric-vehicle sharing programs in France is looking to expand, and its executives have settled on Indianapolis for their first American foray. Bolloré Group’s $35 million plan will provide 500 shared cars and 1,200 charging stations at 200 locations throughout Indiana’s capital. The company’s inaugural American initiative will be modeled on its French Autolib program, with sharing slated to begin next year.
A press release describes the program:
The program is based around short one-way rentals, unlike some other US models which require the user to return to the vehicle where they rented it. Users pay a membership fee (daily, monthly, or annually) and receive an RFID card. When they wish to rent a vehicle they reserve a car on-line or at a dedicated car share kiosk, they unlock the car charger with their card, and then swipe the card on the windshield, which unlocks the car and allows them to drive off. The in-car GPS allows the user to reserve a parking spot with a charging station near their destination. Once they arrive, plug-in the vehicle and the transaction is complete. The user can then reserve another vehicle for their next trip, as needed. The rates for the Indianapolis service have not yet been established, but in Paris, membership costs $16 per month and a 20-minute trip costs about $4.50.
Indianapolis won’t be the only city where you can drive an EV through a car-sharing program, as Greentech Media points out. Car2go’s shared Smart cars in San Diego, Calif. are all electric, and its fleet in Austin, Texas, includes some EVs too.
But if the Indy scheme comes together as envisioned, it will be the largest all-electric car-sharing program in the U.S.
A cavalry of lawyers representing states and environmental groups was expected to launch a legal assault against the Obama administration this week over its slow movement on climate rules, but the charge was postponed at the 11th hour.
Those regulations are expected to include a long-awaited rule on carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants, which would likely make it impossible to build new coal plants unless they have carbon-capture technology. The administration has been delaying release of that rule, reportedly working to improve it so it can better withstand the inevitable industry lawsuits. That delay in turn prompted states and environmental groups to threaten their own lawsuit.
The attorney generals of New York and nine other states, along with three major green groups, had planned to sue the EPA this week because it missed a deadline in April to finalize emissions standards for new electric power plants.
Two months after notifying the agency they intended to sue, the consortium had expected to file as early as Monday, but backed off temporarily to allow the White House to disclose its climate plans.
“Due to public reports that the president will be announcing major action on climate change very soon, the Attorney General has decided to postpone a lawsuit on this matter for a short period,” said Melissa Grace, a spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
So the prospect of a new climate initiative is enough to mollify the would-be litigants — for now.
But climate activists are still restless and unhappy, particularly over Obama’s indecision on the Keystone XL pipeline. Just yesterday, 22 activists were arrested during a Keystone protest outside a State Department office in Chicago.