The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
The first thing you see of the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Facility, and you can be miles away, is a light so bright you can’t look directly at it. This sits atop a 640-foot cement tower, rising from the flat, empty Nevada desert around the halfway point on the highway from Reno to Las Vegas. The tower’s surrounded by a nearly two-mile-wide field of mirrors that send shimmering beams of light into the sky.
Travelers sometimes ask whether they’ve driven past something extraterrestrial, said Darby, the bartender at the century-old Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah, a dusty former silver mining town 15 miles from the plant. Such questions are accepted at face value around here. Area 51, the classified facility where the conspiracy-minded believe the U.S. Air Force hides evidence of space aliens, is just another hour or so down the road.
What people are actually seeing is a 110-megawatt concentrated solar power (CSP) plant, built and operated by SolarReserve of Santa Monica, California. It’s not from outer space, but there’s not yet anything quite like it of this size anywhere else on the planet.
SolarReserve is trying to prove that the technology that drives Crescent Dunes can make solar power an affordable, carbon-free, day-and-night energy source, dispatched on the electric grid like any fossil fuel plant. Here, concentrated sunlight heats molten salt to 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit in that shimmering tower; then the salt gets stored in a giant insulated tank and can be tapped to make steam to run a turbine.
Over the past few years, natural gas has become the primary fuel that America uses to generate electricity, displacing the long-time king of fossil fuels, coal. In 2019, more than a third of America’s electrical supply will come from natural gas, with coal falling to a second-ranked 28 percent, the Energy Information Administration predicted this month, marking the growing ascendency of gas in the American power market.
But new peer-reviewed research adds to the growing evidence that the shift from coal to gas isn’t necessarily good news for the climate.
A team led by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed that the oil and gas industry is responsible for the largest share of the world’s rising methane emissions—which are a major factor in climate change—and in the process the researchers resolved one of the mysteries that has plagued climate scientists over the past several years.
Warning that climate change is already taking a “dire toll” on Los Angeles, city councilors in the wildfire-ravaged city have introduced a motion urging a lawsuit to hold oil and gas companies accountable.
Introduced by City Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Paul Koretz, the motion directs the city attorney to explore options for the suit and requests an amicus brief in favor of New York’s recent lawsuit against five major oil companies for damages caused by climate change.
“Taxpayers should not be footing the bill for infrastructure repairs that likely wouldn’t have been necessary had it not been for the willful neglect of the fossil fuel industry,” Bonin and Koretz said in the motion, which was also signed by councilmen Jose Huizar and Marqueece Harris-Dawson.
Trees growing in floodplains surrounding the Amazon river emit up to 20 million tonnes of methane gas (CH4) to the atmosphere every year, a study in Nature has estimated.
Methane is one of the three most potent greenhouse gases and traps up to 34 times more heat compared with carbon dioxide.
The amount calculated in the study is similar to emissions from the Arctic tundra, or emissions from all oceans combined, or the total volume of methane emitted from wild animals and termites globally, the authors point out.
Still, the amount of methane emitted from Amazon trees is just half that emitted by humans, according to the authors — whether in the form of emissions from landfills, the meat industry, or burning fossil fuels.
Repeated large-scale coral bleaching events are the new normal thanks to global warming, a team of international scientists has found.
In a study published in the journal Science, the researchers revealed a “dramatic shortening” of the time between bleaching events was “threatening the future existence of these iconic ecosystems and the livelihoods of many millions of people”.
The study examined 100 tropical reef locations across the world, analysing existing data on coral bleaching events as well as new field research conducted on the Great Barrier Reef after the longest and worst case of bleaching caused by climate change killed almost 25% of the coral.
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