The Weekly Carboholic

Posted on December 19, 2007

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Today I’m starting up a regular feature, the Weekly Carboholic, where I’ll be pointing out interesting nuggets of global heating information from around the world. The information will range from new websites of interest, global-heating news, renewable energy technologies, businesses doing global heating-responsible investment, etc. Enjoy!

The BBC reported this week that new geophysical research has shown that the IPCC’s estimated sea level rise may be half of what can really be expected. The IPCC estimated earlier this year that the sea level rise from thermal expansion of the oceans and glacial melting was likely to be no more than 81 cm (32 inches), but the new research suggests that during prior transitions from an ice age to a warmer period, the average sea level rise per century was more like 163 cm (64 inches), double the IPCC estimate. This goes along with news earlier this year that the Antarctic Ross Ice Shelf and Greenland’s glaciers are a) melting much faster than expected and b) the new data from both was too late for inclusion in the IPCC estimates.

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According to USAToday, the newly passed Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 all but officially bans old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs. All bulbs must be at least 25% more efficient by the end of 2014 and 70% more efficient by 2020. This will drive significant investment into improving compact florescent lighting, developing even lower power LED lighting, and high efficiency halogens. However, compact florescent bulbs require careful disposal as hazardous waste due to the mercury inside the bulb, and there are many states in the country where CF bulbs cannot be recycled. To see if your state and county has a recycling program (and to see where to dispose of the bulbs if it doesn’t), see the EPA’s bulb recycling page.

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Earlier this week, Nanosolar reported that they were shipping their first printable solar panels, part of a 1 MW installation, to a German power plant. Nanosolar CEO Martin Roscheisen claims that the company’s manufacturing process will ultimately be able to deliver prices down to $1.00 per watt, which compares very favorably to the current average of $4.83 per watt retail price for 125 W solar panels. Solar, combined with improved battery technologies and the opportunity to sell power back to the grid, has the potential to provide nearly all the power needed, but only if the solar panels are cheap enough that they compare well to other sources of power like coal and only if they’re widely distributed. A price point of $1.00 per watt, if it’s actually achievable in the next few years, would be a very good start.

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Carma.org imageIf you can’t measure something, you can’t tell if you’re improving or not when you start making changes. This fact holds as much for carbon dioxide emissions as it does for business or science. Until a few months ago, however, there wasn’t a single source for CO2 emissions data. Now, however, a new site called Carma.org – Climate Monitoring for Action has put much of the available CO2 data online. Included are filters for identifying the emissions from individual power plants, power companies, and entire geographic regions. This provides citizens the ability to monitor their own power company’s carbon emission intensity (the number of pounds of CO2 emitted per MWhour of energy), how they compare to the best and worst companies worldwide, etc. It looks like it has great potential as a resource for researchers and activists.

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The Futuregen Alliance, an international group of companies working with the U.S. Department of Energy to develop Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) clean coal and carbon sequestration technology, announced yesterday that they had chosen Mattoon, Illinois as the site for the FutureGen pilot plant. However, at the same time, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Bush Administration have been scaling back the project as its costs balloon and the timetable slips out. Barring a paradigm shift in energy supplies, “clean” coal will be a part of the short-term solution to decarbonizing the carbon economy, so the facts that the DOE has the power to cancel the project entirely and that the companies in the partnership are all balking at paying more on development are not good news, even if the people of Mattoon are presently quite happy about their new power plant.

That’s it for this edition. Join us again next week for another edition of the Weekly Carboholic.

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