Building the World

September 22, 2022
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TRANSPORT: Tunnels – Environmental Option

“Hamburg-Mitte-Elbe Tunnel” by Anita Janda, 2019. CC4.0 wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Ten years to plan, nine years to build, seven billion to budget: the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link Tunnel will offer an alternative to a 45-minute ferry between Germany’s Fehmarn island and Denmark’s Lolland isle. The new tunnel will clock travel time to ten minutes by car and seven minutes by train. Not just a faster trip between islands, Fehmarnbelt will reduce passage duration between Copenhagen and Hamburg.

Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link Tunnel will shorten the travel time between Copenhagen and Hamburg. Image: “Fehmarn bridge” by Bowzer. CC by SA 3.0, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

It will be the world’s longest immersed tunnel, although at 11.1 miles long (18 kilometers) shorter than the Channel Tunnel stretching 31 miles (50 kilometers). Other differences include construction methods. The Channel Tunnel was built using a traditional boring machine. Fehmarnbelt will be pre-fab: tunnel sections completed on land will be submerged and then connected. Each section is 711 feet long (217 meters) – about half the size of a large container ship. All that length is heavy – each section weighs as much as 13,000 elephants.

One section of the tunnel’s pre-fab building blocks weighs as much as 13 elephants. Image: “Elephant,” by Felix Andrew, 2005. Public domain gnu. Included with appreciation.

In a world where the environment is part of every decision, Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link will include newly established stone reefs on both Danish and German sides, similar in some ways to the natural paths fashioned along the New River of England. Tunnels offer other environmental advantages, bringing automobiles, trains, and trucks below the surface where emissions be captured, if the tunnels are so equipped.

SMART Tunnel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, combines transport and flood control. Image: “SMART tunnel entrance,” by David Boey, 2018. Wikimedia CC4.0. Included with appreciation.

Another environmental advantage of tunnels is response to flash floods. The Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is designed to divert rainwater into a lower section, allowing the upper section to remain open to vehicular traffic. Floodwater diversion, storage, and reuse options are certain to present problems (and opportunities) in our future: can tunnels be part of the solution?

Thanks to Cherie E. Potts for suggesting this post, and to Frank P. Davidson for proposing and achieving the success of the Channel Tunnel.

Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link. “Why we’re building the Fehmarnbelt fixed link.” Femern. https://femern.com

Prisco, Jacopo. “Denmark and Germany now building the world’s longest immersed tunnel.” September 2022, CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/fehmarnbelt-longest-immersed-tunnel-cmd/index.html

SMART. https://smarttunnel.com.my/smart/what-is-smart/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

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September 16, 2022
by Building The World
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SPACE: Life on Mars?

Mars appears to have had significant volcanic and seismic activity. Magma rising during eruptions could have melted ice near the surface, providing conditions for microbial life. Image: “Mars Seismic Wave Simulation,” NASA. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

Perseverance rover has collected some samples that may reveal if life on Mars is speculation, fantasy, or history. Jezero Crater once held a lake whose delta may have harbored lifeforms yet unknown to us. Jezero Crator is sizable: 28 miles (45 kilometers).

Jezero Crater seen from Perseverance. NASA.gov, public domain. Included with appreciation.

Recently, Perseverance explored a delta mount nicknamed “Wildcat Ridge” by NASA scientists. The rover found and scooped up high concentrations of organic matter. We know the organic nature of the rocks because samples are pre-scanned by a rover instrument called SHERLOC, or Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals.

Mars Sample Return Mission. Illustration by NASA. Public domain. Included with appreciation.

The Mars Sample Return Mission will bring the ultimate rock collection back to Earth’s awaiting laboratories in the next decade. While life forms did not greet the rover, discovery of the their possible past may reveal not just history but organic components that may help to determine our future – there, and here.

NASA. “Mars Sample Return Mission.” https://mars.nasa.gov/msr/

NASA. “Spacecraft Instuments, SHERLOC.” https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/spacecraft/instruments/sherloc/

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September 10, 2022
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Queen Elizabeth II: Ave atque Vale

Queen Elizabeth II, 1959. Image: Library and Archives of Canada, e010975985. Included with appreciation and respect.

“Ave atque Vale,” meaning Hale and Farewell, are Latin words that poet Catullus wrote upon the death of his brother. The full phrase is “Atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale.” This week, just two days after her final official act of appointing Liz Truss as the UK’s new prime minister, Queen Elizabeth passed into history. The first prime minister Queen Elizabeth worked with was Winston Churchill. Throughout 70 years of her reign, Queen Elizabeth was known to many as an icon of grace, strength, and stability.

Iconic monuments around the world honored Queen Elizabeth II, during the recent Platinum Jubilee and upon her passing – both in 2022. Image: “Platinum Jubilee Parliament Hall 2022,” by Peter Ormond. Wikimedia, dedicated to the public domain by the photographer. Included with appreciation

In her honor, icons around the world displayed visual tributes. The London Eye dimmed. The Eiffel Tower went dark.The Empire State Building in New York illuminated in royal purple and silver.  Blackpool Tower displayed red, white, and blue – colors of the UK flag – as did the Fountain of Cybele in Spain and the Brandenburg Gate in Germany. The Sydney Opera House in Australia featured an image of the queen.

“London Bridge Illuminated at Dusk.” by Peter Burgess, 2006. Creative Commons 2.0. Included with appreciation

The passing of a sovereign is often planned in advance to ensure a peaceful and orderly transition of power. There is always a code phrase. In the case of Queen Elizabeth II, the code phrase was: “London Bridge is Down.” London Bridge was the first large stone bridge in England, completed in 1209. Subject of art, legends, and even a traditional children’s song, London Bridge remains symbolic in many ways. Bridges extend across barriers, facilitating communication. Metaphorically, we also speak of bridges as spanning one era to the next, as in bridging history.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

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September 2, 2022
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TRANSPORT: Origins of Labor Day

“Golden Spike Ceremony: Promontory Summit, Utah, 1869” marked the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Soon, the new railroad industry would be linked to Labor Day. Image: National Archives and Records Administration (NAI #594940. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

When the Transcontinental Railroad, with more than 1,800 (2,900 kilometers) miles of track, opened in 1869 with the driving of the Golden Spike in Utah, thousands of workers had toiled to complete what had been the largest government project in history, to date. A cross-country trip that had previously taken months of overland perilous journey across deserts and mountains, or a sea-voyage around South America, was now possible. But working conditions were arduous and dangerous. Rail travel proved more comfortable: George M. Pullman began converting passenger cars into sleepers, employing “Pullman porters” to work aboard. Hiring practice discriminated racially, and enforced extremely long working hours – 400 per month.

“Pullman strikers and Illinois National Guard at Arcade Building,” 1894. Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project. Image: wikimedia, public domain, Included with appreciation to all workers on Labor Day.

When Pullman laid off 30% of the workers in the recession of 1893, Pullman porters and employees walked out on strike. Train travel stalled in 27 states from Illinois, home to the Pullman company, and the West Coast. In the Chicago suburb of Blue Island, a crowd derailed a locomotive pulling a postal train, and the U. S. Attorney General enacted an injunction against the striking workers. President Grover Cleveland sent troops. Riots broke out, hundreds of rail cars were ravaged and burned by protestors; the National Guard fired into the mob, killing 30 people and wounding many others. This was in July 1894. Ironically, Cleveland had just signed, in June, a bill declaring a new holiday to honor workers and promote good conditions. The first Labor Day was celebrated on the first Monday in September of that year.

“A. Phillip Randolph – political and social leader.” Founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Image: wikimedia, public domain. Included with appreciation to A. Phillip Randolph and those in the BSCP union.

The Labor Day announcement raised national attention regarding Pullman workers. The Guard was recalled and the strike was over by August. While Labor Day began a new era of awareness of worker health and safety. Pullman porters now worked in better conditions: some earned more money, others advanced to management positions. But hours remained long. In 1925, Pullman porters, organized by A. Phillip Randolph, formed a union: Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP). It took more than ten years to negotiate better working hours – 240 per month.

Transport has always initiated economic and social change. Ships, rails, wheels, and wings caused major shifts in commerce, communication, and culture. Labor Day honors all workers. Around the world, there are Labor day celebrations, some in May. But in the United States, the holiday is always observed in September, and we have transport to thank for its origin and celebration.

“Labor Day” by S.D. Ehrhart, 1909. Image: Library of Congress #2011647501. Public Domain. Included with great appreciation to all who labor.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

Davidson, Frank P. and K. Lusk Brooke. “The Transcontinental Railroad,” Chapter 17, Building the World. Pages 205 – 238. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2006. ISBN: 0313333734.

Loomis, Erik, A History of America in Ten Strikes. The New Press,  2018. ISBN-10: 1620971615.

United States Department of Labor. “History of Labor Day.” https://www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history

Whitney, Asa. A Project for a Railroad to the Pacific. New York: George Ward, 1849. Text available in Building the World, pages 215-227.

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August 26, 2022
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Tunnel Visionaries

Underwater tunnels like the Channel Tunnel, and Japan’s new tunnel under the Tsugaru Strait, are engineering feats. Here, “Underwater tunnel in Mandalay Bay Aquarium” photo by Daniel Ramirez, 2014. Creative Commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

Walking on water takes a miracle, but walking through water requires excellent planning. When the Channel Tunnel was first designed, over a luncheon meeting in New York City hosted by Frank P. Davidson, Thomas Lamont, and representatives of Bechtel, Brown & Root, and Morrison Knudsen Company, a 1959 decision saved lives in 2022. The group engaged Charles Dunn of International Engineering Company of San Francisco, CA, to design the project. Dunn added a service tunnel. It was not mandatory, but it proved prescient.

Channel Tunnel has three tunnels – two rail lines and a service tunnel between. The design by Charles Dunn has saved lives. Image: “Cross section with service tunnel in between two rail lines,’ by Commander Keane and Arz. Wikimedia commons. Public domain. Included with appreciation.

The three tunnels under the Channel (in French, “La Manche”) are a north-running tunnel, a south-running tunnel, and – between them – a service tunnel. During an August 2022 incident, a train experienced an alarm warning, stopped, and held for assessment. Passengers walked for 15 minutes from the rail shuttle to a freight train that conveyed them through and out of the service tunnel. That freight train did not have the usual accommodation for passengers: no elegant meal service, not even seats. But with Dunn’s design, the service tunnel, and its freight train did provide safety. When passengers arrived in Folkestone, terminal restaurants welcomed them with free food and beverages.

Strait of Dover between England and France. Image: NASA, 2000. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

The service tunnel in the Channel Tunnel has proven its worth before. In 1996, a fire broke out in the Channel Tunnel when a train carrying heavy goods vehicles (there are passenger trains as well as freight trains carrying trucks) sparked a fire. The train was brought to a controlled stop adjacent to an entrance to the service tunnel. While there were no reported fatalities, some people suffered from smoke inhalation. The fire was fought by English and French teams who extinguished the flames after considerable effort. Tunnel repair was carried out by Freyssinet, a French engineering firm. Bi-national Channel Tunnel Safety Authority (CTSA) chaired one of three inquiries: the result was regular bi-national team practice exercises and shared operational procedures. In 2008, a fire in the Chunnel, started by a truck that spread to other vehicles, caused damage but no fatalities or serious injuries. It is worth noting that when the Channel Tunnel project began, the service tunnel was the first built.

“Tsugaru Srait” by Kyoyaku, adapted by Bourrichon, 2019. Creative Commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

How can the Channel Tunnel’s design inspire the future? Japan, home to many tunnels that connect the nation composed of four main islands – Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku – is currently planning a new tunnel across the Tsugaru Strait for automobile traffic between Honshu and Hokkaido. The tunnel would span 31 kilometers (19. 26 miles) and cost about $7 billion (720 billion yen). In the new Tsugaru Strait tunnel, there will be two decks: the top for autonomous vehicles like self-driving cars; the lower for freight trains. Economic benefits include increased ability to transport agricultural produce from Hokkaido, estimated at 34 billion yen ($249 million).  The project will take 15 years to build; construction costs would be recouped in 32 years. Tolls are estimated to be 9,000 yen for cars ($65).

“Platooning” is a method for linking controls of lines and groups of autonomous vehicles. Could this be used in the new Tsugaru Strait Tunnel? Image: “Platooning Back” by U.S. Department of Transportation, 2019. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

Tsugaru Strait is also the location of Japan’s Seikan Tunnel, serving only trains; it was not built with a separate escape or service tunnel, but with two emergency escape points in the system, Tappi-Kaitei station and Toshioka-Kaitei station. Shinkansen trains in Japan’s high speed rail network use the Seikan system. Fifty trains traverse the Seikan Tunnel every day, and night trains offer sleeping accommodation. Seikan suffered inundation accidents during construction but no fatalities.

“Cross-Harbour Tunnel Bridge Fire,” in Hong Kong, 2019. Photograph by Studio Incendo. Wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Other tunnels around the world have experienced accidents, fires, and floods. In Hong Kong, the Cross-Harbour Tunnel was the first built there for underwater transit; in 2019, protestors set fire to tollbooths, causing the tunnel to close but avoiding any fatalities. In 1991, two trains collided in the Severn Tunnel joining England and Wales; 185 passengers were injured but none fatally. In 1999, a fire in the Mont Blanc Tunnel joining France, Italy, and Switzerland, caused 39 deaths and 14 non-fatal injuries. These examples point out the wisdom of Dunn’s design of an extra service tunnel for the Channel Tunnel.

“Shadertoy Tunnel Example,” by Inigo Quilez, 2016. Creative Commons, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

In a time of budget cuts, along with an increased focus on transportation infrastructure, this week’s Channel Tunnel problem and its successful rescue solution may serve to underscore the importance of safety, and its support by budget and planning. In a new era when safety measures for autonomous vehicles and driverless cars are forefront, Japan’s new tunnel may set an important example for tunnel transport infrastructure for autonomous vehicles. What safety measures should be included?

Bove, Tristan. “Passengers forced to walk through ‘terrifying’ emergency tunnel under the sea after France-England train breaks down.” 24 August 2022. Fortune. https://fortune.com/2022/08/24/eurotunnl-evacuation-passengers-walk-terrifying-service-tunnel-between-france-england/

Davidson, Frank P. and K. Lusk Brooke. “The Channel Tunnel,” pages 761-804, Building the World (2006) ISBN: 0313333742.

Failure Knowledge Database. “Train Fie in Hokuriku Tunnel.” http://www.shippai.org/fkd/en/cfen/CA1000605.html

Rosenberg, Jennifer. “How the Channel Tunnel Was Built and Designed.” 12 August 2019. ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-channel-tunnel-1779429

Takahashi, Toru. “$7bn plan for new Japan undersea tunnel warms up after years on ice: Project would allow auto traffic between Honshu and Hokkaido.” 3 January 2021. Nikkei Asia. https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Engineering-Construction/7bn-plan-for-new-Japan-undersea-tunnel-warms-up-after-years-on-ice

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August 19, 2022
by Building The World
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WATER/ENERGY: Hydroelectricity – What is the Future?

Lake Mead is shrinking through prolonged drought. That will affect hydroelectricity generated by the Hoover Dam. Image: “A Comparison of Lake Mead 2000 and 2015,” by Joshua Stevens, NASA Earth Observatory, using Landsat data from U.S. Geological Survey. Image from the Public Domain: wikimedia and nasa.gov. Included with appreciation.

Drought affecting the Colorado River, and resultant depletion of reservoirs Lake Mead and Lake Powell, may soon bring about Tier 2 shortage conditions. When Lake Mead’s water level falls below 1,050 feet above sea level, the new normal will reduce water allotments for Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico. Arizona will face a 21% reduction. Lake Mead’s drought is so big that is it now visible from space. Water for drinking, agricultural irrigation, and industry will be affected.

Will water continue to course through the Hoover Dam’s jet-flow gates? “View of Hoover Dam with jet-flow gates open,” by U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 1998. Public Domain image. Creative Commons, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

But there may be more consequences. The Colorado River, down 40% from 2021, flows through the Hoover Dam, generating electricity. If Lake Mead’s water recedes below 1,000 feet (just 50 feet above Tier 2 danger level), “dead pool” will happen, meaning water cannot flow downstream to power the dam. The Hoover Dam supplies electricity to Arizona, California, and Nevada. Western parts of the United States have suffered a prolonged drought; hydropower has dropped to 14% below its 10-year average.

Hydroelectric power is also threatened in other locations around the world. Italy recently suffered electricity reductions due to drought on the Po River. India and Pakistan share water usage, including hydroelectric access, under the terms of the Indus Waters Treaty; eight new hydropower plants have just been approved.

“Murray-1 Hydroelectric Power Station, Snowy Mountains,” by photographer Ear1grey, Dr. Rich Boakes. CC3.0, wikimedia, included with appreciation.

The Murray River of Australia, key to Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric, is now seriously affected by drought; water for drinking, agriculture, and electricity may be threatened. Brazil’s water flows into hydro dams reached a 90 year low, affecting facilities including Itaipú. The alternatives, when hydro fails to produce, may include greater reliance on fossil fuels. Many are concerned about that direction.

The Indus River may add eight new hydropower plants. Image: “Indus River near Skardu, Pakistan,” by Kogo, 2004. GFDL Public Domain, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

In a world of climate change, increasing droughts may lead to a rethinking of hydroelectric power which, in 2020, generated 1/6th of the world’s electricity. Hydroelectric facilities can be found in 150 countries, with China the largest producer. Global investment in hydroelectricity is significant, and growing; will it be a wise investment?

Hydroelectric Power has a low carbon footprint, and is valuable in a time of climate change. Illustration: “Carbon Emissions by Electricity Source,” by Vattenfall and Japan’s Central Research Institution for the Electric Power Industry, 1999. Image in the public domain, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Hydropower is low-carbon electricity, a property valuable in a world trying to limit carbon emissions. Hydropower is also continuous, an important factor to balance intermittency of renewables like solar or wind. The future of hydroelectric power is linked to the future of water. How will recent funding of climate preservation and protection support water sustainability? Will water innovations help harness the power of water to power the future?

Brooke, K. Lusk. “Colorado River.” Renewing the World: WATER. pages 86-95.  Cambridge: 2022. ISBN: 9798985035919.

CNN. “New water cuts coming for Southwest as Colorado River falls into Tier 2 shortage.” 16 August 2022. https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/16/us/colorado-river-water-cuts-lake-mead-negotiations-climate/index.html

Energy Information Administration. “Drought effects on hydroelectricity generation.” 30 March 2022. https://www.eia.gov/today/inenergy/detail.php?id=51839

“Hydro Electric Projects in Indus Basin.” http://indiawris.gov.in/wiki/doku.php?id=hydro_electric_projects_in_indus_basin

Itaipú Binacional. “ITAIPÚ will host global Water and Energy Conference.” 24 January 2022. https://www.itaipu.gov.br/en/press-office/news/itaipu-will-host-global-water-and-energy-conference

National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and American Planning Association. “Falling Dominoes: A Planner’s Guide to Drought and Cascading Impacts.” 31 October 2019. https://www.drought.gov.

Robbins, Jill. “Dry Rivers Threaten Production of Clean Energy.” 23 August 2021. Voice of America: Science & Technology.

United Nations/India and Pakistan. “Indus Waters Treaty.” 1960. https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTs/Volume%20419/volume-419-I-6032-English.pdf

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

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August 11, 2022
by Building The World
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ENERGY: Mine your own business

Are old coal mines the new gold mines? Image: “Round Mountain Gold Mine” by Patrick Huber, 2008. Creative commons license: 2.0. Included with appreciation.

As we transition from coal, what will happen to those old mines? Two approaches are worth considering. One is a necessary expense; the other is a new kind of gold mine.

Days of the California Gold Rush (1848-1865) began an era of intense and often unregulated mining. In a frenzy of attack, 370 tons of gold worth (in today’s value) $16 billion were unearthed. In the United States, the 1872 General Mining Act regulated gold mines opened up by the Gold Rush, as well mines for extracting substances including lithium – needed today for batteries powering electric vehicles. Current competition for lithium mining rights is active across the United States, and the world. But what happens afterwards?

Will we soon see the end of coal mining? Image: “Coal mining,” illustration from The Graphic, 1871. Image: wikimedia. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

When a mine is depleted, it is often abandoned. In the U.S., there are 390,000 abandoned mines on federal land. More than 67,000 present physical dangers; 22,000 pose environmental risks. Mines seep metals and toxic materials into streams and rivers, polluting drinking water for humans and wildlife. Moreover, mines on sovereign land of original Native Indigenous Americans are insufficiently protected. From 2008 to 2017, the U.S. spent $2.9 billion addressing mining problems. Could cleaning up old mines become profitable? There is precedent. The Abandoned Mine Land Fund, instituted in 1977 as a mandate for the coal industry to clean up abandoned mines and upgraded by an addition proposed by Representative Liz Cheney, yielded not only improved environmental and health benefits but fees for future use; by 2020, more than $11 billion poured into the fund. What should we do with the money? Is there an incentive leading to opportunity?

Coal-fired plants are already wired to the grid. Close the mine but keep the infrastructure. Image: “Electricity Grid Schematic,” by M. Bizon, 2010. Based on Datei: Stromversongung. Image: wikimedia 3.0. Included with appreciation.

Coal-fired plants are essential for the future: not for coal, but for their existing infrastructure. Coal-fired plants are wired to the grid. Getting permit permissions is a lengthy process;  building grid connectivity infrastructure is expensive. Using existing wired infrastructure may be one answer. In the United States, former coal-fired plants are now being repurposed as battery, solar, and wind facilities. Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, and North Dakota are among states phasing out coal while turning plants into renewable energy centers. In Massachusetts and New Jersey, seaside coal plants already wired to the grid are now being connected to offshore wind energy. Worldwide, there are 8,000 coal-fired power plants: China has 1,000; India has 285; the USA has 240. All of those are candidates for energy reuse and revitalization.

Can we turn old coal mines into a new form of gold mine? Gold from the sun? Image: “Saulés elektriné” by Aiseinau, 2021. Creative commons license. Included with appreciation.

Mining is an ancient practice but its environmental safeguards need an upgrade, both in the United States and worldwide. New mines for lithium and other materials may develop. Coal mines will close but can serve a new goal. How can owners of coal-fired plants benefit from this opportunity? Repurposing coal-fired plants – already wired to the grid – to support renewable energy could turn what is now a liability into a new kind of gold mine.

Brooke, K. Lusk. “Phoenix Rising: The future of coal-fired plants and coal mining.” Renewing the World: Energy. Forthcoming. For related information, https://renewingtheworld.com

Heinrich, Martin and Chris Wood. “This mining law is 150 years old. We really need to modernize it.” 28 July 2022. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/28/opinion/clean-energy-mining-pollution.html?referringSource-articleShare

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “Queued up: Characteristics of power plants seeking transmission interconnection.” 2021. https://emp.lbl.gob/queues

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “Power plants seeking transmission connection – interactive data visualization link.” https://emp.lbl.gov/generation-storage-and-hybrid-capacity

McGowan, Elizabeth. “Federal funds to help turn Virginia coal mine into solar farm.” 8 March 2019. Energy News. https://energynews.us/2019/03/08/virginia-solar-farm-among-10-projects-to-receive-mineland-reuse-funds/

Misciagna, Vanessa. “A county torn over lithium mining could set the tone as America looks for renewable energy sources.” 15 April 2020. The Denver Channel. https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/national-politics/the-race/a-county-torn-over-lithium-mining-could-set-the-tone-as-america-looks-for-renewable-energy-sources

Shao, Elena. “In a first, renewable energy is poised to eclipse coal in U.S..” 13 May 2020. The New York Times. https://nytimes.com/2022/07/15/climate/coronavirus-coal-electricity-renewables.html?referringSource=articleShare

State of Illinois. “Coal-to-Solar Program.” 2022. https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/Media/PressReleases/Pages/PR0220601.aspx

United States. Government Accountability Office. “Abandoned Hardrock Mines.” March 2020. https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-20-238.pdf

United States, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. “Status of the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fund (AML Fund).” Amendment initiated by Representative Liz Cheney. https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/2462/text

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August 3, 2022
by Building The World
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CITIES: Naming Heatwaves

Will Los Angeles be the first American city to name heat waves? Image: “Sunset on the city of Los Angeles, California.” by Censor, 2016. Wikimedia/Unsplash – CC0 1.0 dedicated to the public domain. Included with appreciation.

We name hurricanes and cyclones. Putting a face and name on the alert of coming danger helps people to prepare. We name wildfires for the same reason. Now, in this new normal of climate change, we are beginning to name heatwaves – in and for cities.

Cities are hotter, forming “heat islands.” Image: NOAA, public domain, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Because heatwaves are felt most vividly in cities, the idea of naming heatwaves is now being considered by Los Angeles, California. That city experienced 6 dangerous heatwaves between 1998 – 2000; now, there will be more, with 22 annually from 2020 to 2050. In 2020, hospitals saw a tenfold increase in emergency room visits during heat spells in Los Angeles.

How would heatwaves be named? Using the model of hurricanes, a number of factors would be assessed: heat overall, night-time heat, and temperature trends. With these factors, an impending heatwave would be declared along a 1-3 scale.

“3rd” no ascribed author. Public Domain. From wikimedia commons. Included with appreciation.

Each city would have different evaluations. When heat hits a city that rarely experiences scorching temperatures, people are less prepared. In Miami, Florida, USA, where “heat season” is already a term for the period from May – October, people are equipped with air conditioners and fans. In days before climate became a crisis, heat waves inspired songs. But the recent UK heatwave found many people in London without air conditioning, something rarely needed in the British Isles. London’s Luton airport had to suspend flights when July 2022 heat melted a runway.

Cities of London and Manchester suffered extreme heat in July 2022. Image: “UK heatwave weather warnings July 2022.” from Met Office, Open Government Licence v3.0. Included with appreciation,

Seville, Spain, where heat is common, has begun to name heatwaves. Seville is the first global city to do so. Seville decided to start at the end of the alphabet, rather than at the beginning as is traditional with hurricanes. Accordingly, “Zoe” arrived in July, with temperatures of 109F (43C), she was considered a category 3 – the highest designation. In the United States, four states are testing the heatwave naming system: Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles, California; Miami, Florida; Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Will Seville, Spain lead the way? Image: “La Plaza de Espana de Sevilla,” by Francisco Colinet, 2013. Wikimedia Creative Commons CC by SA 3.0 es. Included with appreciation.

Seville’s system was developed with the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center. Seville’s former mayor Juan Espadas praised the system “encouraging other cities in the world to also undertake this great endeavor.” (Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center) What do you think about naming heatwaves? How should names be chosen?

MORE:

Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock). “Seville Mayor Juan Espadas announces heatwave naming and categorization initiative.” 18 October 2021. https://onebillionresilient.org/2021/10/18/seville-mayor-juan-espadas-announces-heatwave-naming-and-categorization-initiative/

Debusmann, Bernd, Jr. “Climate change: Will naming heatwaves save lives?” July 30. 2022. BBC. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-62297346

Monroe, Marilyn. “We’re Having a Heat Wave.” YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1xe9gi2gIU

National Ocean Service. “Why do we name tropical storms and hurricanes?” NOAA. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/storm-names.html

National Public Radio. “How do wildfires get their names?” 26 August 2015. Audio and Transcript: https://www.npr.org/2015/08/26/434821450/how-do-wildfires-get-their-names-the-national-park-service-explains

Osborne, Margaret. “‘Zoe’ becomes the world’s first named heat wave.” 2 August 2022. Smithsonian Magazine.

World Meteorological Organization. “Tropical Cyclone Naming.” https://public.wmo.int/en/our-mandate/focus-areas/natural-hazards-and-disaster-risk-reduction/tropical-cyclones/Naming

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

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July 29, 2022
by Building The World
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ENERGY: Agreeing on a better future

 

U.S. leaders finally agree on climate. Image: “Handshake icon” by Masur, 2007. Wikimedia creative commons public domain. Included with appreciation.

The largest energy investment in United States history just made history. Climate and energy policy, worth $369 billion, has been agreed. Incentives and actions in the bill are estimated to lower American carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.

“High Park Wildfire, USA.” Image from U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2012. Wikimedia public domain, included with appreciation.

It’s not a minute too soon. At a time when Americans are battling drought, wildfires, flooding, heatwaves so intense that roads are melting, climate policy has grown urgent. And costly. The insurance industry reports costs of $39 billion in climate-related damage in the first half of 2022; that’s up from $31 billion just a year ago. Germany is turning off hot water in public taps, and all of Europe is bracing for a winter without Russian energy. The UK announced sea-level rise increased faster and more than expected. Nations, and regions, must work together to share energy resources and transitions.

The Manhattan Project marshaled the cooperation and resources of a nation. Image: “Manhattan Project Map” by Liandrei, 2011. Creative commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

Americans have risen to the challenge of urgent energy response before. The Manhattan Project, spurred by fear of disaster and damage yet unknown to humankind, marshaled the resources of a nation. The result was a new form of energy.  The Clean Air Act of 1990 was the last big American environmental legislation: this will top that, bringing a plethora of incentives, subsidies and taxes. Some environmentalists lament one provision allowing drilling on 2 million acres of public land and 60 million acres of offshore seabed before use for renewable energy. While there are EV credits, the bill lacks similar encouragement for bikes, especially ebikes, knocking off an earlier credit of $900 in the earlier plan.

Here are some bill provisions, still pending passage:

POWER PLANTS – tax credits for zero-carbon power including battery, geothermal, nuclear, solar, wind.

CARBON SEQUESTRATION – tax credits for carbon capture.

EV – Buy a new electric car and get $7,500 off; buy a used Ev and get $4,000 off.

ENERGY EFFICIENT HOMES – the bill allocates $9billion for new energy-saving appliances, solar roofs, new air conditioning, heat pumps.

CLEAN MANUFACTURING –  for domestic production of batteries, or key minerals like lithium, solar panels, or wind turbines, there is $60 billion waiting, plus an additional $500 million to assist with heat pumps and key minerals.

METHANE MITIGATION – plugging leaks from gas and oil wells, pipelines is key to stopping methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide. This provision works by penalty – $900 per metric ton of emissions over federal limits by 2024, moving to $1,500 in 2026. On the plus side, $20 billion for farmers to reduce cow burps and agricultural gases.

DOING GOOD IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD – $60 billion for communities unfairly burdened by climate change.

In November 2022, the world will reconvene for COP 27 to report climate action steps. If passed into law, this new agreement will advance climate response for the United helping to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #13 – Climate Action.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal – CLIMATE ACTION. Image: United Nations, 2016. Wikimedia public domain. Included with appreciation.

Environmental Protection Agency, United States (EPA). “Clean Air Act.” 1990. https://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview/clean-air-act-text

Nilsen, Ella. “Clean energy package would be biggest legislative climate investment in US history.” 28 July 2022. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/28/politics/climate-deal-joe-manchin/index.html

Shao, Elena and Brad Plumer. “Seven Key Provisions in the Climate Deal.” 28 July 2022. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/28/climate/biden-climate-deal-key-provisions.html?referringSource=articleShare

Zipper, David. “There’s a maddening omission in the Senate Climate Bill: Congressional Democrats cannot imagine a world in which fewer people drive cars.” 29 July 2022. Slate.com. https://slate.com/business/2022/07/climate-bill-manchin-schumer-senate-ebikes-evs-cars.html

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

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July 22, 2022
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Heat melts airport runway

“Aircraft landing at Zurich International Airport” by Kuhnmi_DSC-3711.2, 2014. Creative Commons license 2.0, wikimedia. Included with appreciaiton.

Airline woes have lately taken a toll on passengers, crew, aircraft maintenance, and profits. But during this week’s heat wave, an airport runway melted. When London, England, UK suffered a temperature rise to 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), Luton airport had to suspend flights to repair a runway damaged by intense heat. Transport infrastructure is made of materials susceptible to heat. Roads buckle, and airport runways are specialized roads.

“Hammersmith Bridge, 1827.” Original drawing scanned by Project Gutenberg. Public Domain, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Bridges are also vulnerable. City of famed London Bridge saw some structures falling down. Hammersmith Bridge was wrapped, Cristo style, in a cooling material designed to reflect sunlight away. The temperature control system, costing about half-million dollars (420,000 Pounds), is designed to keep the 135-year-old bridge from melting and placing an untenable load on its support pedestals that are made of cast-iron, also vulnerable to heat.

“Three Rail Tracks” by photographer G-Man, 2003. Dedicated to the public domain. Wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Railways become hot grids when sunlight sears the rails. With the high ambient temperatures combining with sun rays on the rails, the heat reaches 48 Celsius (118 Fahrenheit). The solution? Painting the rails white.

Wildfires cause damage to people, animals, plants, and also to the atmosphere. “Carbon Monoxide from Amazon Wildfires in 2019.” NASA/JPL-Caltech. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

In Europe and the UK, heat is causing wildfires: 27,000 acres scorched in southwestern France, causing 32,000 people to leave their homes. Spain’s wildfires caused the state railway to suspend service; in Portugal, one person died every 40 minutes between July 7-13. In the United States, over 100 million people are sweltering in record-breaking heat. In China, heat melted the roof of the museum housing cultural treasures of the ancient Forbidden City. Sadly, each season brings the same dangers and the same warning: according to World Weather Attribution (WWA), the 2021 heat wave was “virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.” In addition to human and natural resources suffering, heat waves damage economies: projected economic impacts in Europe by 2060 are expected to increase five-fold (García-León 2021).

“How a heat wave forms.” by U.S. weather.gov. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons. With appreciation.

Bad as that news is, it is also an indication of the potential savings – in human, natural, and economic resources – of innovations that can halt and reverse climate change – and also innovations in materials more suitable to a warming world. Even with climate goals met, warming will continue for some decades. Aging transport infrastructure is due for rebuilding: bridges, roads, and runways need an upgrade. What kinds of materials can be developed for a changing climate?

García-León, David, et al., “Current and projected regional economic impacts of heatwaves in Europe.” Nat Commun 12, 5807 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-26050-z

Hammersmith & Fulham Council. “Keeping Hammersmith Bridge cool- and open – in the heatwave.” 13 July 2022. https://www.lbhf.gov.uk/articles/news/2022/07/keeping-hammersmith-bridge-cool-and-open-heatwave

National Weather Service, NOAA. “WetBulb Globe Temperature.” https://www.weather.gov/tsa/wbgt

Vera, Amir. “It’s so hot, roads are buckling, they’re putting foil on a bridge, and roofs are melting around the world.” 22 July 2022. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/21/weather/global-infrastructure-its-so-hot-extreme-heat/index.html

World Weather Attribution (WWA). “Western North American extreme heat virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.” 7 July 2021. https://www.worldweatherattribution.org/western-north-american-extreme-heat-virtually-impossible-without-human-caused-climate-change/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

 

 

 

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