NewEnergyNews: ART CENTER SUMMIT 2008, DAY 2: THE POSSIBILITIES OF A WELL-DESIGNED FUTURE

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The new challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • THE STUDY: RUNNING OUT OF GAS
  • QUICK NEWS, November 24: NEW ENERGY DOMINATES THE U.S. NEW BUILDS AGAIN; SIERRA CLUB, UNITED STEELWORKERS WANT WIND JOBS; THE ABUNDANCE OF SOLAR
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: Much More Inhofe Now
  • Weekend Video: Jon Stewart Talks Keystone, Politics, And Jobs
  • Weekend Video: Jon Stewart On How Keystone Opponents May Be Caught In Their Own Trap
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-A NEW WAY TO SEE CLIMATE CHANGE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-EU OCEAN WIND TO CUT COSTS, KEEP GROWING
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-COST-COMPETIVE NEW ENERGY, GERMANY’S ‘GIFT TO THE WORLD’
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NEW ENERGY MATCHES COAL ON COST, CAPACITY IN TURKEY
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, November 20:

  • TTTA Thursday-TOP REPUBLICAN DROPS CLIMATE DENIAL
  • TTTA Thursday-FORD ELECTRIC CARS FOR ‘THE MASSES’
  • TTTA Thursday-MIDWEST SOLAR MAKES SENSE AND CENTS
  • TTTA Thursday-NEW ENERGY JOBS BY THE BAY
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: THE MIDWEST GRID IS READY FOR 40% NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, November 19: OHIO NEW ENERGY JOBS REPORT SUPPRESSED; SOLAR GIANT BUYS WIND DEVELOPER; BUSINESS TO MAKE IT BIG IN SMART CITIES
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: THE NEW ENERGY LIFE-CYCLE CUTS EMISSIONS
  • QUICK NEWS, November 18: U.S. TAKES WORLD LEAD IN WIND; SOLAR TO SHOW MISSOURI JOBS; WAVE ENERGY ROLLING SLOWLY IN
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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  • Friday, February 08, 2008

    ART CENTER SUMMIT 2008, DAY 2: THE POSSIBILITIES OF A WELL-DESIGNED FUTURE

    Two things are uniquely true of the current crop of young adults. For one thing, as Art Center instructor Geoff Wardle pointed out in remarks closing The Art Center Summit 2008: Systems, Cities & Sustainable Mobility, this baby boom generation born of the post-World War II baby boom generation is uniquely passionate about the idea of sustainability and about their desire to live green. The second uniquely true thing about them was perfectly demonstrated by the last panel of the Summit, “21st Century Strategies”: Despite the passion, despite the widely recognized importance of being green and living sustainably, nobody knows exactly what “sustainability” is, what “green” is or how to get there from here.

    Without romanticizing or oversimplifying the past, it is probably pretty accurate to say that the similarly passionate post-War baby boomers had a relatively simpler set of challenges in their youth. Not better, just simpler. The threat of nuclear midnight hung over the mid-20th century like the nightmare that it could have been but it left little choice other than commitment to engagement. From Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan, it was – as John Kennedy admonished – negotiate from strength but negotiate. All those boomers could do was protest nukes until the leaders finally listened. On the environmental front, the first baby boom generation had to invent the movement, but its fights were usually local and were always about cleaning up the mess.

    The current generation has an entirely different kind of geopolitical challenge and, though Kennedy’s words might very well still be a guiding light, it is rarely entirely clear who to negotiate with. Meanwhile, diplomacy might be unremittingly successful even as a disgruntled fanatic strikes a shard of nuclear nightmare into the brightest dreams.

    As to environmental issues, when these young folks look wise men to ask what the problem is and how to fix it, they might do a lot worse than University of Houston Future Studies Professor Peter Bishop, Designer/optimistic-entrepreneurs-advocate Freeman Thomas and Axel Friedrich, Director of the Environment, Transport and Noise Divison, Umwelt Bundes Amt (the German environmental protection agency). But when these 3 elders were asked in the Summit's closing panel to succinctly summarize their ideas about how to get to a solution on sustainability, Friedrich said more government, Thomas said more entrepreneurial spirit and Bishop said it was an undelineated combination of the two.

    Glad they settled that.

    An easier to understand description of problems and solutions came from Futurist and Author Hazel Henderson. She made her presentation via satellite so she didn’t have to travel to appear. That made her carbon footprint near zero by anybody’s calculation. She didn’t have to talk about how new technology offers solutions because she was living it. She urged her audience to design the future and described how even economic statistics can be shaped to tell the truth. She pointed out to the car design crowd that Gross National Product (GNP) goes up when there is a car accident because it doesn't subtract the harm. She showed her “wedding cake” slide and pointed out that GNP only accounts for half of society’s layer cake while the “Love Economy” goes uncounted.

    The message was simple. Not easy, but simple. Live the future you believe in, even as you seek to understand it better and design it.


    Henderson's layer cake. (click to enlarge)

    The
    Art Center Summit 2008: System's Cities & Sustainable Mobility

    February 6 & 7, 2008 (Art Center College of Design)

    WHO
    “21st Century Strategies” panel: Peter Bishop, Freeman Thomas, Axel Friedrich and Jane Poynter (moderator); Hazel Henderson

    WHAT
    A discussion of “21st Century Strategies” moderated by Biosphere 2 crewmember, author and Paragon Space Development Corporation President Jane Poynter.

    Friedrich created an auto world uproar when he told German automakers these efficiency measures are more important to the next 20 years than the hydrogen fuel cell. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    - Bishop began by talking about society is currently shaped by its place at the end of the oil era and the end of the fossil fuels era.
    - Friedrich made the point that throughout the Summit he had heard no satisfactory definition of “sustainable” but it is not hard to see what “unsustainable” is.
    - Thomas talked about what the horse meant to people a hundred years ago, said the car was that symbol of freedom today and suggested the digital communicationwill provide that freedom in the future.

    WHERE
    - Bishop described society as now needing to cross a chasm to the next energy era and said the only question is how deep into the chasm society must go.
    - Friedrich described how to design a “city of short trips” by including regulations requiring regional production and efficient transportation systems.
    - Thomas described seeing a new development being built on the old El Toro Naval Station land and expressed disdain and dismay at the lack of design.

    Henderson showed how economic statistics need fixing. (click to enlarge)

    WHY
    - Bishop insisted government’s role is to do one thing: Internalize the externalities so that citizens can see the true cost of their choices and respond.
    - Friedrich insisted, as he always has, that efficiency measures are the only improvements needed to make cars sustainable. He talked about his super-efficient 2-seat VW that actually got 250 mpg and described the theoretical 4-seater capable of 150 mpg.
    - Thomas said that the problem with government leaders is that they lack vision so change can come only from the marketplace. He asserted that cars aren’t likely to change until gas is $10 per gallon.

    The visual theme of the Summit. One last takeaway: Keynote speaker Paul Hawken recalled Model T inventor Henry Ford's observation about the marketplace - "If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have told me they wanted a faster horse."

    QUOTES
    - Friedrich: “Government must lead…Female mayors run cities differently…”
    - Thomas: “When gas is so cheap nobody is valuing what we have.”
    - Bishop: “We’re involved in a very slow moving train wreck.”
    - Geoff Wardle, Art Center instructor/Summit principle: “The word ‘sustainable’ may go out of fashion in a few months or a few years but theissue will not. The issue is here to stay…”

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