Sahara Desert Solar Project (Not DESERTEC) to Power Half the World by 2050? – If you haven’t heard about this project yet, it is a HUGE, renewable energy project with a ton of cool features. The Sahara Solar Breeder Project is its name, though it has also been referred to as the Super Apollo Project by the project leader. To start with, it will build a silicon manufacturing plant in the desert, a good location for such a plant. Using that silicon locally (rather than just shipping it around the world), solar power plants will be constructed nearby as well. Then, some of the electricity generated from those will be used to construct more silicon manufacturing plants. Sounds like a solar energy empire in the making. You are probably wondering at this point which country the people doing all this are coming from. It is a joint project between universities in Algeria and Japan, and Hideomi Koinuma of the University of Tokyo is leading the project. “The energy generated by the solar power plants will be distributed as direct current via high-temperature superconductors, a process that Koinuma said will be more efficient than using alternating current,” Lin Edwards of PhysOrg writes. “He envisages a large network of supercooled high-voltage direct current grids capable of transporting the expected 100 GW of electricity at least 500 kilometers.”
World Bank to lead global carbon market charge – The World Bank will today formally launch a new multimillion-dollar fund designed to help developing countries deploy carbon market mechanisms to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions. Trailing the announcement, which will be made later today on the sidelines of the UN’s climate change summit in Cancun, World Bank President Robert Zoellick released a statement yesterday confirming the bank would unveil a host of new measures designed to help those countries most vulnerable to climate change invest in adaptation and mitigation measures. “We know that the poorest countries will suffer the earliest and the most from climate change,” he said. “We also know that, while these countries would like to see a comprehensive global accord on climate change, they are not waiting for one. They are acting now and acting differently to shift from being climate vulnerable to being climate smart. We are fully engaged and have been ramping up our efforts with countries as they put in place practical, effective solutions leading to low-carbon growth and inclusive efforts to overcome poverty.”
An Alert on Ocean Acidity – Carbon dioxide emissions from man-made sources are causing the acidity level of the world’s oceans to rise at what is probably the fastest rate in 65 million years, threatening global fisheries that serve as an essential food source for billions of people, according to a new United Nations report. Roughly 25 percent of the carbon dioxide generated by the combustion of fossil fuels enters the oceans, and as the gas dissolves in seawater, it changes into carbonic acid. One result has been a rapid alteration in ocean chemistry that is already affecting marine organisms. The acidity of the oceans has grown by 30 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. At current emission rates, ocean acidity could be 150 percent higher by the end of the century, the report states. Marine life and coral reefs have already shown vulnerability to rising levels of acidity, and the changes expected in coming decades are severe enough that they could have a serious impact on the ability of people around the world to harvest needed protein from the seas, according to Carol Turley, senior scientist at Britain’s National Oceanography Center and the lead author of the report. “We need to start thinking about the risk to food security,”
Wind, solar backers take their case to Congress – Supporters of wind and solar energy urged Congress on Wednesday to renew a federal grant program credited with jump-starting renewable power projects nationwide. The incentive program is set to expire at month’s end unless Congress acts – but the odds of that happening narrowed when the initiative was left out of a tax cut package developed by the Obama administration and congressional Republicans. Under the grant program, companies can nab direct cash payments from the Treasury Department that cover up to 30 percent of the cost of building qualified renewable projects. The initiative was created as part of last year’s stimulus package in response to concerns that the economic downturn had caused traditional renewable energy financing tied to investment and production tax credits to dry up. Because that tax credit financing market hasn’t rebounded, the incentive program is “the most important policy for continued growth of the renewable energy industry in the United States,” .
Brazil best, Canada worst in climate index – Canada, the United States and China rank near the bottom of a global climate change performance index released this week by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe. The world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters dropped a few ranks compared to last year, with China now ranked 56th and the United States 54th out of 57 countries surveyed. Canada ranked last in the index, compiled with the help of more than 190 experts who analyzed national policies in the countries. Poland was placed at No. 55. Australia, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia came in after Canada. This year’s index identifies Brazil as the top climate protection performer for its successful efforts to reduce emissions and contain deforestation. Brazil ranks fourth, with the first three spots again left vacant as no countries did enough to earn the honor, the groups behind the index said. Sweden, Norway and Germany came after Brazil on the list.
World Bank will help finance carbon markets – As the United Nations climate change talks in Cancún lurch slowly toward an uncertain conclusion, the World Bank is stepping in to help developing countries set up pollution credit markets to help pay for clean development programs. Robert B. Zoellick, the World Bank president, will appear before delegates here on Wednesday to announce the creation of a multimillion-dollar program to create trading mechanisms to stimulate clean energy projects and to slow the destruction of tropical forests, one of the primary sources of global warming emissions. He will also be announcing new World Bank programs to help island nations that are acutely vulnerable to rising seas and other climate-related threats to increase their access to renewable energy sources.
Strong Evidence Emerges of BP Oil on Seafloor – A university scientist and the federal government say they have found persuasive evidence that oil from the massive Gulf of Mexico spill is settling on the ocean floor. New research shows that environmental damage from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could be significant where it’s hardest to find: deep under the Gulf’s surface. The new findings, from scientists at the University of South Florida and from a broad government effort, mark the latest indication that environmental damage from the blowout of a BP PLC well could be significant where it’s hardest to find: deep under the Gulf’s surface. The amount of oil that has settled in the sediment—and the extent of damage it has caused—remains unclear. But scientists who have been on research cruises in the Gulf in recent days report finding layers of residue up to several centimeters thick from what they suspect is BP oil.
Leaked documents show alternative deal in Cancun negotiations – Europe and a group of small island Pacific states have jointly proposed a new international treaty at the UN climate talks in Cancún, Mexico, to commit developing and developed countries to reducing their climate emissions, according to leaked documents seen by the Guardian and the Times of India. The move has outraged many developing countries, including China, Brazil and India, who fear that rich countries will use the proposal to lay the foundations to ditch the Kyoto protocol and replace it with a much weaker alternative. The new negotiating text could provoke the most serious rift yet in the already troubled climate talks because the Kyoto protocol is the only commitment that rich countries will cut their emissions. The treaty, adopted in 1997 and due for renewal in 2012, has been the subject of fierce arguments in Cancún, with Japan flatly refusing to sign up to a second round of pledges. Some Latin American countries have declared that they will not sign up to any deal if Japan carries out its threat.
Clean Energy Sector Scrambles to Save Incentives – Representatives of the renewable energy industries are scrambling to salvage what they say is a crucial federal incentive that has helped keep them afloat during the worst of the recession. In a release circulated Tuesday afternoon, the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group, said that “tens of thousands of Americans could lose their jobs or not get called back from layoffs” if the incentive program is not extended. The program, part of last year’s federal economic stimulus package, allows qualified renewable energy projects to access a cash grant — 30 percent of the project’s cost — in lieu of traditional tax credits. The measure, industry representatives have said, proved vital in helping developers to secure financing amid the downturn. The incentive will expire in a little over three weeks unless Congress extends it. “We have people being laid off right now, and we expect to see more without fast action on the tax extenders now being negotiated,”
Retirees: Get Ready to Live on $190 a Month – Are you prepared to live on $190 a month when you retire? For most Americans in their 50s, that’s all the personal savings they’ll have to look forward to during retirement, according to Wells Fargo’s annual retirement survey. The survey, which polled nearly 2,000 middle-class Americans ranging from 20 to 60 years old, found that Americans aren’t saving enough, they are underestimating the amount of money they will need in retirement, and they are more likely to end up working through retirement. While most Americans predict they will need a nest egg of $300,000 to live on for 19 years in retirement, the average savings of 50-somethings is only $29,000, which comes out to an income of $190 a month over 20 years assuming a 5% rate of return. "$190 a month is not going to cut it," said "This reinforces the huge gap in terms of what people are going to need and what people have. They have a little time to add to that nest egg, but it’s a huge shortfall to recover."
The Era of Mega Banks – The growth of the too big to fail bank is something that is modern to this era. In the 1990s there were fewer than 40 institutions that had total assets above $20 billion. In the late part of the 1980s and 1990s this number was below 20. The peak was reached in 2005 with 55 institutions having more than $20 billion in total assets. That number has fallen in recent years because of the crisis yet we have a handful of banks that control most of the nation’s banking assets. The total U.S. banking system as of today supports over $13 trillion in total assets. The FDIC insures these deposits with a deposit fund that is negative so it might as well be supported by pure faith. What makes up most of these assets are residential and commercial real estate loans. As we have discussed banks have yet to come to terms with the reality that many of these loans are not worth what they claim they are. First, let us look at the growth of too big to fail.
Microsoft today said it will deliver a record 17 security updates next week to patch 40 vulnerabilities in Windows, Internet Explorer (IE), Office, SharePoint and Exchange.