Building the World

June 2, 2022
by Building The World
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ENERGY: Aloha

 

“Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, Oahu,” by D. Howard Hitchcock, Hawaii 1928. Image: wikimedia in the public domain. Included with appreciation to D. Howard Hitchcock.

Aloha means both hello and goodbye. It’s a fitting word for transitions. Here are two case examples of solar policy changes in Hawaii and in Australia.

Hawaii is a perfect location for renewable energy: sunshine and wind are abundant. Yet, even with its natural advantages of sun and wind, Hawaii has been slow to move away from fossil fuels. But when electricity rates increased by 34% (from April 2021 to April 2022), homeowners who pay those hiked rates began to install solar. Now, more than one-third of all residential buildings in Hawaii have solar roofs. Could Hawaii serve as a case example of the challenges, and paths, to transitioning from fossil to renewable energy?

“Hawaii solar: a photovoltaic power station.” by photographer Reegan Moen, U.S. Department of Energy, 2017. Wikimedia public domain. Included with appreciation to Reegan Moen and U.S. Department of Energy.

Policy matters. Just a few years ago, Hawaiian Electric, the largest power provider in the island state, lobbied to reduce rebates for rooftop solar. In 2015, utilities slashed revenues for excess energy sent to the grid by homeowners. But Hawaii has changed policies now, offering incentives up to $4,000 for Oahu residents to install home batteries for solar systems: the utilities now siphon excess power between 6pm – 8:30 pm, when demand peaks. Policy has encouraged solar adoption: legislating a Performance Based Regulation (PBR) for Hawaiian Electric now makes renewable sources easier to adopt and link, further aiding homeowners in their rooftop systems. Kauai has made the most progress: 70% of the island’s electricity is carbon-free and expected to increase to 90% with more solar and a hydroelectric plant that both creates and stores energy.

How will geopolitics hasten the clean energy transition? “Top Oil Producing Countries,” by U.S. Department of Energy, 2022. Image: wikimedia, public domain. Included with appreciation.

Geopolitics recently hastened the transition. In 2021, oil-supplied power plants delivered two-thirds of Hawaii’s electricity. Most of that oil (80%) was imported from Russia (as well as Argentina and Libya), while 20% was obtained from Alaska. Further, Hawaii is about to close its major coal plant. Forces of war and threats to supply have turned Hawaii in the direction of the sun. There is still debate over what kind of solar is best: utilities prefer large-scale options; but macro-scale means large tracts of land, something Hawaii does not have in abundance. Hawaii has set a new goal to achieve 100% renewable energy sources: it is the first American state to do so. Recently, other states have set the same goal. Cities are making solar decisions ahead of states. Hawaii’s Honolulu has three solar panels per person; California’s Los Angeles ranked number one of 57 cities surveyed for total installed solar capacity in 2019, while Nevada’s Las Vegas is close behind. In 2019, more solar capacity was added to the U.S. grid than any other energy source.

“The Famous Bondi Beach, Australia,” by photographer Alex Proimos, 2012. Image: creative commons 2.0. Included with appreciation to Alex Proimos.

Another place in the sun? Bondi Beach, Australia, home of  Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric.  Australia drew 76% of its total energy from fossil fuels in 2020 with a mix of coal (54%), gas (20%), and oil (2%). Australia plans to close its largest coal plant in 2025 (seven years earlier than scheduled) and is now picking up the pace in solar. Australia increased rooftop solar installations by 28% from 2019 to 2020 – one in four homes there have solar panels: incentives and grants, contributed to the change. By 2020, renewable energy reached 24% of Australia’s power array. How much did the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act of 2000 accelerate the change? Will the 2022 election of a new Australian government advance climate action?

“Sunlight on the face of Earth,” by NASA Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) that tracks sunlight , from Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR)” by NASA 2017. Image: wikimedia public domain. With appreciation to NASA.

Hawaii and Australia may serve as examples of how natural resources like sun and wind interact with policy and geopolitics in a dynamic system influencing factors driving the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. What kinds of laws and policies are needed to encourage change?

Australia, Federal Register of Legislation. “Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000.” C2019C00061. https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2019C00061/Html/Text

Australian Government of Industry, Science, Energy, and Resources. “Australian electricity generation – fuel mix.” 2020. https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2019C00061/Html/Text

Environment America Research and Policy Center, and Frontier Group. “Shining Cities 2020: The Top U.S. Cities for Solar Energy.” 2020. https://environmentamerica.org/feature/ame/shining-cities-2020

Harlow, Casey. “Honolulu tops national list for solar energy generation.” 19 April 2022. Hawaii Public Radio. https://www.hawaiippublicradio.org/local-news/2022-04-19/honolulu-tops-national-list-for-solar-energy-generation

Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC). “Performance Based Regulation (PBR).” Decision and Order No 37787, 17 May 2021. https://puc.hawaii.gov/energy/pbr/

Paul, Sonali. “Australia’s biggest coal-fired power plant to shut in 2025.” 16 February 2022. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/origin-shut-australias-biggest-coal-fired-power-plant-225-2022-02-16/

Penn, Ivan. “Hit Hard by High Energy Costs, Hawaii Looks to the Sun.” 30 May 2022. The New York Times.

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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March 9, 2022
by Building The World
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ENERGY: Sustainability – natural and geopolitical

“Ukraine animated flat.” by Zscout370. CC 3.0. Image: wikimedia.

The crisis in Ukraine has tragic consequences for people and country, but also reveals something else of concern to peace: energy and geopolitical sustainability. While science has made it clear that climate change is driven by energy choices, transitioning from fossil fuels will be a challenge in the best of circumstances. But recent world events remind us of another factor in energy strategy: geopolitical sustainability.

What can the Suez Canal teach us about strategic assets in times of peace, and times of war? “Suez Canal” satellite photo by NASA, 2001. Public domain. Wikimedia.

Geopolitics emerged as an economic factor during the Suez Canal crisis of 1959. When the matter was resolved, by a team led by Jean-Paul Calon, the Suez Canal Company became one of the leading financial investment houses. Suez reveals the importance of who controls strategic assets in times of peace, and in times of war. Another case study: the energy crisis of 1973 when the OPEC declared an oil embargo: by 1974, oil prices rose by 300%. What can those lessons teach us today?

“Russia’s petrolem regions.” by Historicair, 2007. Creative Commons 3.0. Image: wikimedia.

Russia supplies 40% of Europe’s natural gas (Poitiers 2022). Some experts recommend that this is the time for the EU to support more energy-vulnerable members, and to restructure the continent’s energy system. In other market areas, there is a significant difference. Russia exports more than half its market output to Europe; but the EU sends just 5% of its exports to Russia. The EU’s market economy is ten times greater than Russia’s. But the figures in energy look very different. Various EU states have differing exposures. For example, here are figures for reliance upon Russian natural gas:

Bulgaria: 100%

Poland: 80%

Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia:  60%

Germany: 50%

Italy: 40%

Belgium, France, Netherlands: 10%

Spain, Portugal: 0%

Source: Poitiers et al., 2022

European gas reserves are currently 1/3 full. But that relatively comforting news is countered by gas prices: on February 24 when Russian troops crossed the Ukraine border, gas prices in the EU skyrocketed by 60%.  Some help may come from Qatar and the United States; Japan and South Korea could send some supplies. But many supply lines are already maxed out: Algeria and Norway are producing and exporting at capacity. Pipelines are under threat. If the Netherlands upped their natural gas exploitation, there is the danger of increased seismic vulnerability. What are the alternatives until we can transition fully to renewable energy? Who has reserves?

“Countries with Natural Gas Reserves: 2014: Russia has the largest reserves” by Ali Zifan, who has dedicated this work to the public domain, CC0 1.0. Image: wikimedia.

In planning a transition from fossil fuels, we need a global redrawing of the energy supply chain. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for a new energy vision with strategic withdrawal from Russian oil and gas (the UK gets only 5% of its gas from Russia) but Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz advocated exempting Russian energy from sanctions. (BBC 2022). Meanwhile, the United States announced new policy on Russian coal, gas, and oil. With Ukraine crisis, most serious in humanitarian and democratic concerns, there have been effects on regional and global energy, as well. Russia is the largest producer of crude oil, after Saudi Arabia. This week, oil prices rose to $139 per barrel – a high of 14 years. Will the Ukraine crisis cause a redesign of world energy and accelerate the transition to an energy system sustainable not only in resources but also in geopolitics? Climate change is cited by many as a pressing reason to transition to renewable energy. But the deprivation, suffering, tragedy of war now bring this issue to a painful urgency. Could the current crisis and war lead to a new era of energy with a renewed commitment to peace?

Barsky, Robert B. and Kilian, Lutz. “Oil and the Macroeconomy since the 1970s” The Journal of Economic Perspectives. 18 (#4): 115-134. doi: 10.1257/0895330042632708

Biden, Joseph R.,President. “Announcement of U.S. Sanctions on Russian Energy,” 8 March 2022, White House.gov. VIDEO: https://youtu.be/G7Kr1tHmEP0

Davidson, F. P. and K. Lusk Brooke. Building the World. Volume One, Chapter 16, pages 187-204. Greenwood/ABC-CLIO/Bloomsbury, 2006. ISBN: 0313333734.

Houser, Trevor, et al., “US Policy Options to Reduce Russian Energy Dependence.” 8 March 2022. Rhodium Group. https://rhg.com/research/us-policy-russia-energy-dependence/

Johnson, Boris as quoted in “Ukraine war: PM calls for ‘step-by-step’ move from Russian fuel.” BBC. 7 March 2022.

Krauss, Clifford. “Loss of Russian Oil Leaves a Void Not Easily Filled, Straining Market.” 9 March 2022. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/09/business/energy-environment/russia-oil-global-economy.html?referringSource=articleShare

Poitiers, Niclas et al., “The Kremlin’s Gas Wars: How Europe Can Protect Itself from Russian Blackmail.” 27 February 2022. Foreign Affairs. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/russian-federation/2022-02-27/kremlins-gas-wars

Reed, Stanley. “Burned by Russia, Poland Turns to U.S. for Natural Gas and Energy Security.” 26 February 2019. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/26/business/poland-gas-ing-russia-use.html?referringSource=articleShare

Upadhyay, Rakesh. “The 5 Biggest Strategic Petroleum Reserves in the World,” 29 March 2017. oilprice.com. https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/The-5-Biggest-Strategic-Petroleum-Reserves-in-The-World.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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June 7, 2021
by Building The World
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ENERGY: Arctic Refuge

“Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” Photograph by Steven Chase, US Fish and Wildlife Service. Image: wikimedia commons.

US Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will keep its mission as a refuge, at least for now. Leases to drill for gas and oil have been suspended, pending review. This follows cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, on 20 January 2021. When the Alaska Highway was built, and later the Trans-Alaska pipeline, it was a matter of war and then of preservation of another kind. But the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) covers 19.6 million acres including the Mollie Beattie Wilderness. It is the second largest wilderness area in the US, and contains 1 million acres of coastal plains. Coasts are attractive as access points for ships and drilling operations. But coasts are also critical for habitat, and already of concern for rising seas.

“Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” Image: wikimedia commons.

Mollie Beattie, conservationist and former director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (the first woman to head the agency), once said: In the long term, the economy and the environment are the same thing. If it’s un-environmental, it is un-economical. That is the rule of nature.

Alaska Wilderness League. “Arctic Refuge.” https://www.alaskawild.org/places-we-protect/arctic-refuge/

Gup, Ted. “Woman of the Woods – Mollie Beattie, a Natural as Fish and Wildlife Chief,” Washington Post. https://web.archive/org/web/20050306030214/http://www.esew.org/mollieb.htm

Harwood, John and Liz Stark. “Biden administration to suspend oil and gas drilling leases in Arctic refuge, undoing a Trump-era decision.” 1 June 2021. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/01/politics/oil-and-gas-arctic-leaders/index.html

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April 16, 2021
by Building The World
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WATER: Self-healing systems

Self-healing water systems: rebuilding water. Image: water pipes, wikimedia commona.

Houston is rebuilding. A severe winter storm knocked out power, in February, leaving families and businesses huddled for elusive warmth. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), supplier to 26 million people, proved not as reliable as its name. Collateral damage from the power outage: water problems. In the cold snap, water pipes cracked, causing water contamination and outages. Houston’s mayor admitted pipes were not insulated, also the case with power plants: disaster was foreseeable: “Our system in Texas is designed primarily for the summer heat, and not necessarily for a winter event. The reality is climate change is real, it is real, and these major storms can happen at any time.” (Turner 2021) Houston will have to rebuild its water system. United States’ declaration of disaster released federal funds. Rebuilding offers a chance not just to restore but to rethink. Could new technologies for self-healing systems offer options?

“Platelets.” Tieroardi 2005. wikimedia.

Self-healing pipes are inspired by human biology. When we experience a cut on the body’s skin, blood comes to the surface and then clots. It’s the work of platelets. That is what inspired engineer Ian McEwan of the University of Aberdeen, and now Scotland’s Brinker Technology to develop “artificial platelets” made from elastomeric material that can be injected into pipelines. When a leak occurs, the pressure change conveys the platelets to the leak, and they clog it. developed for pipelines carrying fuel and tested by British Petroleum and Shell, be adapted for municipal water systems? The method is currently being adapted to use in water pipes in the United Kingdom (UK) where 3,600 million liters of water leak out of pipes every day, causing water companies to repair by digging and replacing water pipes.

“Eielson Air Force Base, Aurora Borealis over Bear Lake.” Image: wikimedia

The Alaska Pipeline, completed in 1977, carries a different liquid; pipes are half buried underground and half above on elevated supports: a design innovation due to permafrost. Through the pipes are “smart pigs,”a playful name for serious devices housed in pipe interiors. If corrosion or leaks occur, smart pigs send a signal warning of disaster before it happens.

Water Use Map of USA. Image wikimedia

America is rebuilding. The United States has over a million miles of water supply mains – equal to 26 miles of water mains for every mile in the US federal highway system. It’s an old system: US pipes leak a full day’s water for every seven days, losing one of every seven gallons of drinking water. (Fishman 2014) Worldwide, 600 million people lack access to safe drinking water sources and systems. United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal on water and sanitation urges safe access for all by 2030. As we address water access for all, installing new plumbing for some areas and rebuilding older systems in others, can we utilize smarter, self-diagnosing, self-healing water delivery systems?

Al Jazeera. Interview with Houston, Texas Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Texas disaster ‘foreseeable and preventable,’ Houston Mayor says.” 21 February 2021. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/2/21/texas-disaster-foreseeable-and-preventage-houston-major-says

American Society of Civil Engineers. “Drinking Water: Infrastructure Report Card, 2017.” https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/cat-item/drinking_water/

Davidson, Frank P. and Kathleen Lusk Brooke. “The Trans-Alaska Pipeline: United States and Canada.” Building the World, Volume II, pages 681-709. ISBN: 0313333742.

Fishman, Charles. “13 Things You Probably Don’t Know About the U.S. Water System (But Should)” 14 August 2014. National Geographic. https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2014/08/12/13-things-you-probably-dont-know-about-the-u-s-water-system-but-should/

Graham-Rowe, Duncan. “Self-Healing Pipelines.” 21 December 2006. Technology Review. https://www.technologyreview.com/2006/12/21/130692/self-healing-pipelines/

Fluence. “Aging Water Infrastructure in the US.” 31 May 2018. Fluence News. https://www.fluencecorp.com/aging-water-infrastructure-in-the-us/

Hares, Sophie. “The cost of clean water: $150 billion a year, says World Bank.” 28 August 2017. Thomas Reuters Foundation. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-global-water-health-idUSKCN1B812E

Homer, Michelle. “City of Houston issues boil water notice.” 17 February 2021. KHOU-11. https://www.khou.com/article/news/local/city-of-houston-issues-boil-water-notice/285-1610aabc-1d48-4040-833c-45aaf572c721

White House. “President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Approves Texas Disaster Declaration.” 20 February 2021. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/02/20/president-joseph-r-biden-jr-approves-texas-disaster-declaration/

World Bank Group. “Water Supply.” 23 June 2017. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/watersupply

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June 17, 2020
by Building The World
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ENERGY: Old wells, new problems, emerging solutions

Could biogas drive the future? Image: wikimedia.

Could the next vehicle you drive be powered not by gas from a drilled well but by a cleaner form of energy known as biogas or biomethane? Climate improvement may be encouraged by a solving a problem.

Oil well pump, Midland, Texas. Image: wikimedia.

Oil wells – part of the 20th century landscape – are not only becoming a relic of the past, they are now a menace to the future. Old wells, once dry of oil, continue to emit pollution. More recently, other kinds of wells have been opened for hydraulic fracturing, sometimes called fracking, uses water to power invasive drilling to release oil and gas locked in rock formations. Drillers use underground water, promising to seal off the well. But what happens when the fracking site is no longer productive? Millions of older fracking wells are now starting to leak pollutants. And now, with the renewable energy becoming competitive in price and superior in environmental quality, wells are becoming antiquated. Moreover, the fossil fuel energy industry is stressed by dropping oil prices due to the 2020 viral pandemic: people are driving less; planes are parked in airports. Energy company bankruptcies are growing. Sometimes companies sell the wells to a new owner who then resells, and finally when it is no longer productive, the well is abandoned. No one is responsible for clean-up, since the original builder of the well has long since moved on.

Methane, a dangerous and long-lived pollutant in the atmosphere, is one of the greenhouse gases regulated by the Kyoto Protocol. Image: wikimedia.

According to the Groundwater Protection Council, “orphaned wells” are beginning to leak methane. Recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) flagged methane from abandoned oil and gas wells as an emerging global risk, in an April 2020 report. Worldwide, there may be 29 million abandoned gas and oil wells. Canada, where oil sands mining prevails, reported 313,000 abandoned wells emitting 10 kilotons of methane. The United States has 2 million abandoned wells: most were never properly sealed. China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia (the three other large oil and gas producers, along with Canada and USA) have not revealed their methane leakage from wells. Even small amounts of methane pose dangers. The United States reports methane as the cause of 10% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, but methane is 84 times more damaging than carbon dioxide in the first two decades of release, and 28 times over a century’s timeframe. Methane is one of the seven greenhouse gases regulated under the Kyoto Protocol: the list includes carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (JFCs), per fluorocarbons (PFCs), sulphurhexaflouride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NFc). These gases are dangerous because they are stable, meaning they stay in the atmosphere once released. Methane has been identified as responsible for 25% of global warming.

Capturing methane in a biogas sytem. Image: wikimedia

Yet methane is a valuable energy source, when harnessed. One possible solution: biogas (biomethane). Biomethane is formed by decomposing organic substances like agricultural or animal waste, even sewage. With upgrades, biogas can achieve an energy productivity equal to natural gas. Biogas can be recovered from waste treatment plants and refined to renewable natural gas (RNG) to generate electricity or even power car. Another method: fuel cell technology using waste; there is no combustion, so no exhaust and related pollution. A sample project using biogas to power fuel cells can be found in Fountain Valley, California; Apple uses fuel cell energy from Bloom Energy.

As the world emerges from the coronona virus pandemic, countries are funding re-entry for businesses, cities, and states. Is 2020 the time to seize the opportunity to capture methane from old wells as the energy sector rebuilds?

Dlouhy Jennifer A “EPA Seeks to Abandon Regulation of Methane Leaks From Oil Wells.” 29 August 2019. Bloomberg News. TransportTopics. https://www.ttnews.com/articles/epa-seeks-abandon-regulation-methane-leaks-oil-wells.

Groom, Nichola. “Millions of abandoned oil wells are leaking methane, a climate menace.” 16 June 2020. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-drilling-abandoned-specialreport/special-report-millions-of-abandoned-oil-wells-are-leaking-methane-a-climate-menace-idUSKBN23N1NL

Kyoto Pr

The World Energy Foundation. “Methane Capture and Use as a Clean Energy Source.” 16 June 2015. https://theworldenergyfoundation.org/methane-capture-and-use-as-clean-energy-source/.

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October 13, 2018
by Building The World
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Eyes on the Prize

Nobel Prize in Economics 2018 goes to carbon tax advocates: William Nordhaus and Paul Romer. Image: wikimedia.

The Nobel Prize in Economics, awarded to William D. Nordhaus and Paul M. Romer, followed a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warning of urgent and dire effects if the world does not limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). Nordhaus advocated carbon pricing and taxation, stating: When I talk to people about how to design a carbon price, I think the model is British Columbia. You raise electricity prizes by $100 a year, but then the government gives back a dividend that lowers internet prices by $100 a year. You’re raising the price of carbon goods but lowering the prices of non-carbon-intensive goods.

Co-laureate Paul Romer stated at a press conference following the announcement: It’s entirely possible for humans to produce less carbon. There will be some tradeoffs, but once we begin to produce fewer carbon emissions we’ll be surprised that it wasn’t as hard as it was anticipated. Romer advocated supporting and encouraging innovation, while at the same time starting with a very low tax on emissions that will rise over time, if required. Outcome? “Innovators will start investing now in ways for people to get what they want without paying the tax. They will stop investing in ways to extract more fossil fuels that will be subject to the tax. Recent pessimistic environmental warnings might be true, but bad news is not always motivating, and can even cause avoidance and apathy. Romer continued: Optimism is part of what helps motivate people attack a hard problem, hoping that the Nobel award “will help everyone see that humans are capable of amazing accomplishments when we set about trying to do something.”

Davenport, Coral. “After Nobel in Economics, William Nordhaus Talks About Who’s Getting Pollution-Tax Ideas Right: A few governments – notably parts of Canada and South Korea – have adapted the the ideas in ways that frame them as a financial windfall for taxpayers.” 13 October 2018. The New York Times.

http://www.nber.org/chapters/c7620.pdf

Nordhaus, William. https://economics.yale.edu/people/william-d-nordhaus

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “Few countries are pricing carbon high enough to meet climate targets.” 18 September 2018. http://www.oecd.org/tax/few-countries-are-pricing-carbon-high-enough-to-meet-climate-targets.htm.

Rathi, Akshat. “Why the newest Nobel laureate is optimistic about beating climate change.” 8 October 2018. Quartz Media. https://qz.com/1417222/why-new-nobel-laureate-paul-romer-is-optimistic-about-beating-climate-change/.

Romer, Paul. https://paulromer.net/about-paul-romer/

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

 

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December 12, 2016
by Building The World
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Antarctica Drops Sea Ice the Size of India

India’s size is 1,269 million square miles. That’s how much sea ice Antartica lost. Image: www.lib.utexas.edu.

Antarctica lost 1.48 million square miles (3.84 million square kilometers): about the size of India, or two Alaskas.  Earth’s polar regions are different: the Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land, but the Antarctic is land surrounded by water. That’s why Antarctica’s glaciers could disappear more quickly. Satellite observations, reported in a new long-term study, confirm Antarctic glaciers are losing 7m per year.  What actions should the Antarctic Treaty take to respond?

Comparing North and South Polar areas, http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/CLIMATECHANGE-ICE/010030W31X1/CLIMATECHANGE-ICE.jpg

Amos, Jonathan. “Ice loss spreads up Antarctic glaciers,” BBC Science & Environment, 12 December 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-38256932

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January 20, 2015
by Building The World
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Frozen Treasure

Arctic sea ice: 22% of earth’s undiscovered energy resources may be hidden beneath. Image: wikimedia commons.

Lomonosov Ridge is 1,120 miles (1,800 km) long, but, unlike the Appalachian Trail, no one has hiked it. That’s because Lomonosov lies underwater, and is considered to bifurcate the Arctic. The North Pole was formerly the focus of “claim,” but little treasure lies beneath Frederick Cook and Robert Peary’s achievement. Canada and the United States have expressed interest in the frozen north, cooperating to build the Alaska Highway and Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Now, scientists predict 22% of earth’s undiscovered energy resources may be located at Lomonosov Ridge, named by Russia, spanning the New Siberian Islands to the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Recently, the Lomonosov Ridge has been claimed to be an extension of Greenland’s shelf, drawing interest from Denmark. The United Nations’ Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, in accord with the Convention on the Law of the Sea (article 76, paragraph 8), will make a determination on Lomonosov Ridge in 2015. How should this treasure be safeguarded? Findings may influence the world’s energy future.

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

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September 9, 2013
by Building The World
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Pipelines: Trans-Alaska and Beyond

 

What do you think of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline? Image courtesy of senate.gov

When the Trans-Alaska Pipeline opened in 1977, 20,000 people had contributed to the project. Results were mixed: revenue benefit brought $900 million to Alaska’s economy but exploitation of the large petroleum deposits discovered in 1968 at Prudhoe Bay in Alaska’s North Slope were scene to the largest oil spill in United States history at that time: the Exxon Valdez released a flood of pollution with long-lasting effects. But Yoshihiro Kyotani, Japanese engineer and innovator, proposed that pipelines need not be filled with just oil. Why not float transoceanic pipelines as transport tubes for container shipping or vactrains? Along with the Channel Tunnel‘s Frank P. Davidson, Yoshihiro Kyotani designed tubetrains that may be the original version of Elon Musk’s 2013 Hyperloop. For more on Kyotani, please see: http://www.ieeeghn.org/wiki/index.php/Oral-History:Yoshihiro_Kyotani. But today all eyes are on a pipeline in the news: Keystone XL. It’s a complex issue; for more, visit http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/09/16/130916fa_fact_lizza?mbid=social_retweet. Then please return to our blog and let your voice be heard regarding pipelines transporting energy, or perhaps floating as a vactrain from Boston to Cadiz.

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

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June 25, 2013
by Building The World
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Alaska Highway – Environment

Alaska — Image from Wikimedia Commons

A cooperative endeavor undertaken by Canada and the United States, the Alaska Highway was dreamt of from the days of the Yukon gold rush, sketched a half century later, and finally built during a military emergency. It was one of the earliest attempts at homeland security. The arduous road, likened in difficulty to building the Panama Canal, challenged 16,000 workers for 1400 miles through frost, mud, and bogs in the 1940s. For the fascinating story of how the road was actually built, see (www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/introduction/alaska/). Today, together with the Alaska Pipeline, the northern territory faces another emergency, climate change. The polar bear has become a symbol of the environment of Alaska and the northern treasures of our world. How should we protect and preserve Alaska in the midst of environmental change?

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

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