Friday, July 18, 2014

Renewable Energy Continues to Thrive

More people are working in the renewable energy industry globally according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

"With 6.5 million people directly or indirectly employed in renewable energy, the sector is proving that it is no longer a niche – it has become a significant employer worldwide," said agency director Adnan Z Amin in The Guardian.

The 14% growth in the clean energy industry is led by solar as more and more businesses and people are tapping into the sun's clean power. Read the full renewables report here.

Meanwhile in Germany, the perennial leader in renewable power not just World Cups, the offshore wind power industry enjoys over 100K employees and over $10 billion invested, according to Bloomberg.

With the need to support clean energy breathing down our necks and climate change flooding our feet, nice to see some good news. Thanks to Neighborhood Energy for pointing it out.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Leaving Sea Shells by the Sea Shore

I see people with buckets full of shells on Florida beaches as if prospecting for gold. What can they possibly be using them for? Aren't they just going to be thrown away in a year or ten, or left to collect dust in some box in a garage or attic?

Collecting seashells by the seashore seemed harmless enough until now. Researchers have found that collecting seashells is not good for the beach ecosystem. Shells support the beach structure, provide homes for all kinds of critters, and grow algae, which is lunch for many.

Nature has a purpose for everything.

The old wilderness mantra -- leave only footprints take only photographs -- certainly applies to the beach.

Does the damage compare to other ocean harms like ocean acidification and overfishing? Nope, but it's still a negative impact.

I did it. I had a large collection. I still hang onto a nice looking shell once in awhile, but I leave it on the sand when I depart. Fair enough.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Thank the EPA on Coal

Show your support for clean air today.  Here's an opportunity to write to the head of the EPA, Regina 'Gina' McCarthy, and the EPA staff.

Tell them you support their new restrictions on coal burning plants.

You can send Natural Resource Defense Council's pre-made note, or you can send your own words, which will have more oomph.

Maybe what I wrote will get the juices flowing:

Dear Regina 'Gina' McCarthy & EPA Staff,

You've already heard a ton of crazy rhetoric from the coal industry on your awesome new restrictions.

It's the voice of a tired, old industry trying to preserve a business model that simply costs all of us way too much.

Just know: we are with you as you take this flak. Please stand strong.

This is the right thing to do on so many levels. I come from the "ocean world," and climate change seriously threatens the health of the world's oceans. The oceans that feed billions everyday.

The time is now to turn this around and your restrictions on coal ring that bell.

It's our responsibility to protect our children and future generations from the effects of climate change.

This is a message of solidarity and urgency, and thanks -- thank you for putting people before polluters.

Link to letter. 

(Those last two lines were paraphrased from NRDC's note.) 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Clean Energy Running in Place

Don't despair but despite many positive things happening -- tighter restrictions on coal plants, growing use of wind and solar, greater awareness by the general public -- clean energy is not gaining ground on fossil fuels.

"All told, coal, oil, and gas made up 87 percent of the world's energy consumption in 2013. By contrast, low-carbon sources — including nuclear, hydropower, wind, solar, and biomass — made up just 13 percent.

That ratio hasn't changed since 1999, as the University of Colorado's Roger Pielke Jr. has long pointed out. Fossil fuels have provided 87 percent of the world's energy for more than a decade — even as overall energy use grows," according to a story on Vox by Brad Plumer.

How is that possible? Hello off the charts booming Asian economy.

Renewable energy cannot keep up with demand for energy from fossil fuels in Asia. This means more coal is being used than ever and that carbon continues to pour into the atmosphere at ever faster rates. Asia alone accounted for over half of global carbon emissions last year.

There's work to be done.

Find solace in the fact that more and more people are aware, painfully aware, of the terrible costs of fossil fuels. Costs we all pay for. Think asthma, mercury in our food, extreme weather, drought, a more acidic ocean (bad for all living things), and sea level rise to name a few that are not relegated to the margins anymore. They are real and people understand what's happening.

This can only help us accelerate the pace of our adoption of clean energy.  Can we survive the pace of such adoption? Jury's out on that one. Depends on who you ask kind of thing.

Can you imagine a world where solar, wind, and tidal (or some untapped source) make up 87% of the world's energy consumption?

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Wandering Soul of Katharine the Great...White Shark

From Cape Cod to Miami, Katharine's travel log rivets me, especially since Katharine's a great white shark hugging the coast.

The awesome crew of Ocearch researchers tagged her with a radio transmitter in the cold waters off Massachusetts.

At fourteen feet, she took up most of the bay of their special vessel.  Her skin shimmered like something beautiful from another world.  On her face shaped like a bullet, her eyes seemed to reflect the darkest ocean depths, callous and cold.

The tag is attached to her dorsal fin and when she surfaces, it sends out a signal.  And Katharine surfaces a lot.  That gives researchers good data and a clear path of Katharine all the way down the Atlantic seaboard.

I tend to romanticize travel, and of the school that considers all travel good for the soul.  That's probably why my imagination soars with thoughts of Katharine's journey.

Did she hear the sounds of the squealing teenagers near the boardwalks of the Jersey Shore?  Did she smell the southern cooking along the Carolinas?  Did she run into the crowds -- surfers, paddlers, boaters -- enjoying the ocean every way possible along the Florida stretch?

The researchers say she is looking for food in almost everything she does.  She is a feeding machine, a top predator.  They call her species "the lion of the sea".

At several points along the way, she ventured very close to inlets and places where rivers meet the ocean with names like Ponce Inlet or Biscayne Bay.  This is where fish -- her food -- congregate as nutrients pour off the land.

We all know that sharks don't like to eat humans.  They usually bite them in a case of mistaken identity.  Still hard to get over "the bite" part of that scenario, however.

I wonder how many people, maybe swimming at dusk after a nice afternoon laying on the sand or out for a brisk morning kayak up the beach, never realized how close Katharine came to them.

Or perhaps a few did see her.  They spotted Katharine and watched wide eyed and breathless as her unmistakable silhouette silently glided past them.  Back on land, they found themselves unable to stop talking about her.

The pings show that Katharine moved past Key West and through the Dry Tortugas into the Gulf.  No one is sure where she'll go next.  I hope she finds what she's looking for but never stops swimming.

Orange line is Katharine's path. 

Osearch has a cool app.
News about Katharine.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Everybody had Matching Towels

A little reminder that the ocean is not only beautiful and valuable but also plain old fun with a capital F.

Rock Lobster by the B-52s

(Ski-doo-be-dop) We were at a party (Eww)
(Ski-doo-be-dop) His ear lobe fell in the deep (Eww)
(Ski-doo-be-dop) Someone reached in and grabbed it (Eww)
(Ski-doo-be-dop) Was a rock lobster (Eww)

Rock lobster
Rock lobster

We were at the beach (Eww)
Everybody had matching towels (Eww)
Somebody went under a dock (Eww)
And there they saw a rock (Eww)
It wasn't a rock (Eww)
Was a rock lobster (Eww)

Rock lobster
Rock lobster

Rock lo-o-obster
Rock lo-o-obster

Motion in the ocean (Ooh ah)
His air hose broke (Hoo ah)
Lots of trouble (Ooh ah)
Lots of bubble (Hoo ah)
He was in a jam (Ooh ah)
He's in a giant clam! (Hoo ah)

Rock, rock
Rock lobster! (Aaaaaaaaah)
Down, down! (Aaaaaaah)

Let's rock!

Boys and bikinis
Girls and surfboards
Everybody's rockin'
Everybody's frugin'

Twistin' round the fire
Havin' fun

Bakin' potatoes
Bakin' in the sun

Put on your noseguard
Put on the lifeguard
Pass the tanning butter

Here comes a stingray (ooh wok ooh wok)
There goes a manta ray (ah ah ah)
In walked a jellyfish (huah)
There goes a dogfish (rea-owr)
Chased by a catfish (geh geh geh geh geh geh geh geh geh geh)
In flew a sea robin (Laaaaa)
Watch out for that piranha (eh rek eh rek ah hoo)
There goes a narwhal (eeeeh)
Here comes a bikini whale! (Aaaaah!)

(Lobster rock lobster-ster) Rock lobster
(Lobster) Rock lobster (Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah)
(Lobster rock lobster-ster) Rock lobster
(Lobster) Rock lobster (Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Same Old Song and Dance

The clean energy dance goes something like this: Two steps forward, one step backward.

Two steps forward.

The EPA finally won something.  Two things actually.  Their rules were upheld recenlty in court.  Now, dirty coal plants must scrub their stacks, and dirty states are not allowed to export their pollution across state borders.  Respectable victories both.  The beginning of the end for coal one can only hope.

One step backward.

On the same day as the coal victories, the New York Times ran an op-ed about how gas is a good thing -- that is extracting gas from the shale rock and burning it to make electricity.  Titled "The Right Way to Develop Shale Gas" and written by Michael Bloomberg and Fred Krupp, it was a huge disappointment.

Krupp is head of the Environmental Defense Fund and former NYC mayor Bloomberg certainly trends green.  Here they are promoting gas fracking.  They should be embarrassed.

In the op-ed, there was no mention of the potential negative impacts of fracking on drinking water let alone ecosystems.  In the fracking process, unknown chemicals (industry has sued to keep the contents of their quixotic brew secret) are injected into the ground.

Also, the entire op-ed represents the outdated fossil fuel mindset that got us into the climate change mess in the first place.  Burning more fossil fuels are not going to get us out of it.  Gas is cleaner than coal but it is still dirty.

They could have said things like let's use our economic muscle and our substantial brainpower to move as fast as possible to a clean energy economy.  They could have kept the part about jobs and energy independence -- both are very real benefits of clean energy.

So round and round we go again,
Two steps forward,
One step backward,
Now do-si-do your partner!