U.S. Agencies Report: More Drought and Less Food Due to Greenhouse Gas Emissions

U.S. Agencies Report: More Drought and Less Food Due to Greenhouse Gas Emissions

New U.S. Climate Report

New U.S. Climate Report

A new science report representing a consensus of 13 agencies developed over a year and half and focused on potential climate change impacts on the United States.

It’s the most comprehensive report to date on the possible impacts of climate change for everyone across America, and begins an important process of redefining the sort of information we need in order to deal with climate change at national and regional scales. Effectively managing our response to a changing climate falls into two general categories:

1)      Implementing measures to limit climate change and therefore avoid many of the impacts discussed in the report. These measures must reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and might include increasing our reliance on clean energy, and developing energy efficient technologies
2)      Reducing our vulnerability and increasing our resilience to ongoing climate change in pro-active, community-based ways. Examples of this include such measures as developing more climate-sensitive building codes to keep people out of harm’s way, or planting more drought or heat tolerant crops, for example.
As a first step in reducing the impact of climate change, we need to know what impacts we must avoid in the future, and this report, “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States”,  does just that– outlining the possible direction of climate change under two broad scenarios: the first if we reduce greenhouse gas emissions aggressively, and the second, if we are less aggressive. These are neither the highest or lowest possible scenarios but begin to compare the possible futures for the U.S.
An important element of this new report, apart from that it is deliberately written in plain language so we can all read and understand the science in it, is that it dives down in the various regions of the U.S. and provides much more regional detail about possible impacts than ever before – critical information for an effective response. It also breaks down the potential climate change impacts by economic and social sectors, most of which transcend regional boundaries, such as water, energy, health, transportation, and agriculture – all vital components of a healthy and stable society.
The report notes climate change impacts that we are already seeing across the U.S. as well as those that will soon emerge or become more intense if action is slow to occur. Some of the impacts that the report mentions are:
·         More rain is already coming in very heavy events, and this is projected to increase across the nation. This would have impacts on transportation, agriculture, water quality, health, and more;
·         Heat waves will become more frequent and intense, increasing threats to human health and quality of life, especially in cities;
·         Warming will decrease demand for heating energy in winter and increase demand for cooling energy in summer. The latter will increase peak electricity demand in most regions;
·         Water resources will be stressed in many regions. For example, snowpack is declining in the West, and there is an increasing probability of drought in the Southwest, while floods and water quality issues are likely to be more of a problem in most regions;
·         In coastal communities, sea-level rise and storm surge will increase threats to homes and infrastructure including water, sewer, transportation and communication systems.
Through identifying the climate change impacts we are experiencing now, as well as those that are emerging faster than we thought, and those projected to increase in the future, the report clearly highlights the choices we face regarding possible response options to reduce the impacts of climate change across the United States.
Responses to climate change impacts in the United States will almost certainly evolve over time as we learn through experience. Determining and refining the responses will involve partnerships between scientists, policymakers, the public, private industry, communities, and decision-makers at all levels. Implementing these response strategies will require careful planning and continual feedback on the impacts of policies for government, industry, and society.
More of the report’s findings are located at , which is the new home of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the interagency Government program that commissioned the report. The report was led by NOAA.

Top Utilities Grow Solar Power Despite Recession

Top Utilities Grow Solar Power Despite Recession

Utility scale solar continues high growth

Utility scale solar continues high growth

By John Addison (5/28/09).

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA)  whose membership includes 110 utilities issued a new report – “2008 Top Ten Utility Solar Integration Rankings” – which identifies the utilities in the U.S. that have the most solar electricity integrated into their portfolio.

The report demonstrates that the utility segment is making a major investment to increase the amount of solar energy in power portfolios, with many utilities doubling the amount of solar power in their portfolio in just one year. The installed solar capacity of the top ten ranked utilities rose 25 percent in a tough economy, from 711 megawatts to 882 megawatts.

The Top 10 Utilities in cumulative megawatts installed represent six states stretching from California to New York:

#1 Southern California Edison(EIX) – CA (441.4MW)
#2 Pacific Gas & Electric (PCG)  – CA (229.5)
#3 NV Energy – NV (77.9)
#4 San Diego Gas & Electric (SRE) – CA (49.3)
#5 Public Service of Colorado (Xcel Energy – XEL) – CO (28.5)
#6 LA Department of Water & Power – CA (13.6)
#7 Public Service Electric & Gas Co. – NJ (13.2)
#8 Arizona Public Service Co. – AZ (10.6)
#9 Sacramento Municipal Utility District – CA (10.2)
#10 Long Island Power Authority – NY (7.7)

Although the sunny West Coast dominates this year’s list, other states are coming on strong including Florida, North Carolina, and Florida. Yes, the availability of sunlight is one driver in the expanded use of solar. Other drivers include the retail price of electricity, state government initiatives such as RPS, and cap-and-trade of emission credits.

There are two primary solar technologies, photovoltaic and concentrating solar power. Photovoltaic (PV) technologies utilize a photosensitive material to generate electricity direct from sunlight. PV can also be magnified using mirrors or lenses in low- or high-concentrations known as concentrating photovoltaic technology or CPV. Concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies utilize mirrors or lenses to concentrate sunlight on a point or line and generate high-temperature heat, which is captured to generate electricity in a later process.

Julia Hamm, Executive Director of SEPA, sees strong growth in both PV and CSP. For example, Southern California Edison is planning a massive 1.3GW of CSP with BrightSource. Arizona Power is planning 125MW of PV. Medium- and utility-scale photovoltaic and concentrating solar thermal power projects are adding around 20 billion of dollars worth of investment.

Some European nations that aggressively use wind power, such as Spain and Denmark, have demonstrated that intermittency is quite manageable when renewable energy is less than 20% of the mix. CSP can take the mix much higher by storing energy in liquids like molten salt for delivery when demand peaks.

#5 on the list, Public Service of Colorado (Xcel Energy), is already experimenting with vehicle-to-grid (V2G Report),  which will allow the growing population of electric vehicles to provide power to the grid during peak hours. Utilities are experimenting with several forms of large scale grid-storage which will be promising if significant costs are achieved.

Some 30 years ago, solar was dismissed as impractical. Now that PV manufacturing cost is 100 times less than in early days, utilities are taking the lead in the growing demand for solar power.

High-Speed Rail Unlocks Intermodal Potential

High-Speed Rail Unlocks Intermodal Potential

Diridon Station San Jose

Diridon Station San Jose

By John Addison (4/7/09).

Intermodal solutions allow people to effectively navigate major cities such as New York, Washington D.C., Paris, Madrid, and Tokyo. Subway and light-rail are especially effective, but expensive to build. As cities grow, change, and morph, not every potential route can be served with subway and light-rail. Bus rapid transit is a cost effective way to duplicate some of the benefits of light-rail, at a fraction of the capital expenditure. Buses, taxis, car sharing, bicycling, and walking are all parts of the solution. For many, cars are their preferred way to get around, yet if all transportation were cars then cities would be frozen in gridlock.

High-speed rail integrates all these systems together and moves people from city to city at high-speed. When the distance is only a few hundred miles, high-speed rail coupled with city transit beats airplane and car every time.

Now an 800 mile high-speed rail network is being started in California. Because it depends on local and public-private partnership funding, as well as state and federal funding, it will be built in sections. First online are likely to be areas that are currently overwhelmed with passenger vehicles crawling on freeways that should be renamed “slowways.” Likely to be among the first in service are the Orange County – Los Angeles section and the San Jose – San Francisco section.

San Jose provides an example of current transportation problems as well as the future promise of high-speed rail integrated with intermodal solutions. Currently, during rush hour, cars crawl from all directions into San Jose, the self-proclaimed capital of Silicon Valley. Vehicles overload some of the nation’s busiest highways – 680, 880, 101, 280, 87, and 17.

Commuters to and from San Jose have a number of options. Many require multiple transit agencies and added time to reach their destination. Caltrain services cities from San Francisco to San Jose, at times taking only an hour, at other times being less frequent and taking much longer. Several transit agencies have special commuter shuttles including AC Transit and Santa Cruz Metro.

Major San Jose employers promote carpool and van pool commute programs. Shuttle buses run to the nearby airport. Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority’s (VTA) light-rail and buses effectively cover major parts of the city and connect to other systems. A variety of private bus, shuttle, car sharing, taxi, and other services all help. A network of bicycle trails and paths helps some enjoy their commute and stay in shape.

A central hub for VTA, Caltrain, and Amtrak is the Diridon Station in San Jose, named after Rod Diridon who provided leadership for the modern transportation system in the greater area as six-time chairperson of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and Transit Board. He has also been chair of the American Public Transit Association; he is the Executive Director of the Mineta Transportation Institute and Chair Emeritus of the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CAHSR).

When I met with Rod Diridon last month he was optimistic about CAHSR breaking ground within two years, and carrying a high volume of riders on at least one segment within ten years. The reasons for success are compelling: high-speed rail is less expensive than freeway expansion, less expensive than airport expansion, secured voter approval during a severe recession, will create up to 400,000 new jobs, integrates all of California’s major transit systems, reduces petroleum use, and helps prevent increased climate change damage. Mr. Diridon feels that support is also strong, because each year of delay could add millions to the ultimate cost of the 800 mile system.

In ten years, the Diridon Station is likely to see high volumes of travelers as high-speed rail shuttles people to and from San Francisco in 30 minutes. The CAHSR system will share the corridor currently in place for Caltrain. The station will allow passengers to board Amtrak and continue on to places like Los Angeles and Sacramento. Eventually, the high-speed rail will continue to those destinations, as all right-of-way and not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) issues are resolved.

In ten years, increased VTA light-rail traffic will flow through the system as San Jose continues to grow. VTA Transportation Planner Jason Tyree described how light-rail will be supplemented with advanced bus-rapid transit that will rapidly move people with modern features such as level boarding, automated fare handling, signal prioritization, and potentially dedicated lane sections. The 60-foot buses will be hybrid diesel.

People from the East Bay area may connect to the station via an extension to BART. Feeding off BART will be AC Transit’s ultramodern buses including its expanded fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses.

The Diridon Station ten-years from now could well have zero-emission electric bus shuttles from the nearby airport or even a more advanced people-mover service. Preferred car parking at the station is likely to be for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. San Jose, home to advanced vehicle and technology companies like Tesla, is committed to an extensive city-wide vehicle charging infrastructure.

Although many electric vehicles are criticized for only having less than 100 mile in range per battery charge, such range is good for several days when combined with effective public transportation systems. Another way to cover the last miles to and from home and work is the good old bicycle. Bicycle boarding will be permitted on high-speed rail and the other public transportation systems.

As cities are connected with high-speed rail, similar multimodal systems will also be connected in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Sacramento, and other major cities in this state of 40 million people; soon to be 50 million people.

The new high-speed rail and the light-rail transit systems use electricity not petroleum. Electric rail is many times more efficient than diesel engine drive systems. In ten years, by law 33 percent of the electricity will be from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal. In 20 years, especially with the benefit of California’s new cap-and-trade of greenhouse gases, renewable energy is likely to be less expensive than natural gas and nuclear, with coal already being phased out in California. In other words, the high growth part of California transportation is likely to be zero-emission providing significant relief in emissions and energy security.

Combining improved multimodal transportation with high-speed rail with renewable energy is bringing climate solutions just in time. California’s busy Highway 101, which stretches over 800 miles and which carries millions daily, will find major sections under water if the sea rises only 16 inches.

As leading delegates from 175 nations now meet to discuss climate solutions  scientist agree that global warming is accelerating and the artic ice cap is disappearing.

The multimodal transportation that serves millions of Americans is experiencing record use and provides the foundation for a more promising future.

John Addison is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet.

Test Driving the New Nissan EV

Test Driving the New Nissan EV

San Diego to Get 100 Nissan EV

San Diego to Get 100 Nissan EV

By Tom Bartley (3/26/09).

Walking up to the new Nissan Electric Vehicle prototype car, my first surprise was getting into the right hand front seat.  This car was only one of two in existence and driving in Japan is like the UK, on the left side of the road.  I had never driven a right hand drive car before, but I felt more comfortable to see the brake pedal on the left and the accelerator pedal on the right.  The only real difference was using my left hand to release the parking brake and move the shift lever to DRIVE.

I was excited to receive the invitation to test drive the new Nissan EV during its announcement with San Diego Gas and Electric in San Diego on Monday, March 23, 2009.  This was to be a limited rollout using a “mule” and not the actual car, but I knew all that and still wanted to feel what it was like to drive it.  I didn’t pay much attention to the style looks or interior of the car because Nissan is developing the final production model with a different body in Japan.
This electric vehicle was so quiet, I worried just a little about the absent minded driver who would accidentally step on the accelerator without realizing this quiet car was ready to go.

As I eased my foot into the accelerator I asked the company driver if I could floor it.  He agreed and I looked for an opportunity.  Not much distance at first because we started out on the short side of the course along the pier.  The course was conveniently laid out such that the high speed long side would put me into the water if something failed and I couldn’t stop.  Definitely not a golf cart, the accelerator had some real control.  The car felt so comfortable that by the time I turned around and headed down the long side I had forgotten about driving from the right side.

The longer part of the course allowed a quick acceleration to 70 km/h (45 mph) on the speedometer before I tested the braking regeneration, not wanting to test the Port’s capability to recover me out of the water.  Nissan’s more than 18 years of electric vehicle experience was evident by the control smoothness and no transmission design.  Driving the car felt like an ordinary gasoline car with the extra spirit of a turbo kick after an initial start up.

I have driven many of the electrically propelled vehicles, including the fuel cell million-dollar prototypes, and I am familiar with the high torque off-the-line acceleration of electric motors.  Nissan was successful in making this car feel like any other gasoline car I was used to driving on the road.  I can’t say enough about the control system because I have observed how difficult that can be in an electric vehicle.  It’s not a sports car, but neither will parents with kids have any trouble keeping up with traffic or staying out of the way.

The test mule prototype was a square bodied five passenger, four door, mini SUV that looked like an oversized bread box or a shrunken HUMMER.  I saw the car take one trip around the pier track where I estimated the people load to be in excess of 700 pounds.  The acceleration performance seemed to be the same as when only two of us were in the car.  If the car handles the same empty or loaded, that’s HUGE.

Charging options are a standard 4 hour, special 26 minutes, or emergency to get me home.  Nissan and SDG&E are working towards making available pre approved according-to-code installations through the county.

One thing for sure, the car recycles braking energy and the number of brake jobs will be few and far between.
How much is it going to cost?  Nissan is acting coy, but probably around $30,000 plus or minus.  Don’t go away yet; it qualifies for the $7500 EV tax credit, making it somewhat competitive with small hybrid electrics.  Nissan says that the car will save money unless gasoline drops below $1.10 per gallon (fat chance of that ever happening again).  I don’t believe the quoted 90 cents to “fill the tank”, but maybe SDG&E has something up its sleeve with special charging rates in the middle of the night using the smart meters now being installed around the San Diego area.

Ok, I’d like to have one.  When can I get one?  Nissan is planning to provide 100 fleet vehicles in San Diego through SDG&E.  I saw conflicting reports on whether SDG&E was planning to use all 100 vehicles or would offer some of those vehicles to other fleets.  Nissan would like that number to go to 1,000 in preparation for a full blown production and will be accepting “soft” fleet orders during the next 12 months for probable delivery in 2011.  The general public won’t have its turn until 2012.  If I can sell my gas guzzling high performance high maintenance Corvette Classic I might look for a way to get one of the fleet cars.

Car Sharing and Saving in a Tough Economy

Car Sharing and Saving in a Tough Economy

Buses Popular at Universities

Buses Popular at Universities

By John Addison (2/25/09)

American’s rise to tough challenges. This recession is hitting people hard. Transportation is 20 percent, or more, of many people’s expenses. American’s are finding smart ways to save. Public transportation use is at its highest in over 50 years. Commute program participation is breaking records. Americans drove 100 billion fewer miles in 2008 than the previous year.

A study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) shows that the average cost of owning and operating a passenger vehicle is 54.1 cents per mile. This is over $8,000 per year per vehicle, based on 15,000 miles of driving. Depreciation is part of that cost. Anyone who has bought a car for $20,000 and later sold it for $5,000 understands depreciation. Fuel, maintenance, tolls, parking, financing, and insurance add up. Most U.S. households have two vehicles, costing them over $16,000 per year.

The opportunity to save on transportation costs depends on many factors: living in the city or suburbs, household size, number of kids, type of work, and feasibility of car sharing.

A friend of mine is getting hit hard with vehicle costs and by being in an industry that is in a downward spiral. He and his wife are refinancing the home to stay above water. Their family of five includes four vehicles – primarily SUVs and a pick-up truck. When their youngest turns 16 this year, my friend is planning to get his son his own car. Vehicle number 5. At first glance, it looks like they have no other choice. Like most suburbs, frequent public transit is not in walking distance. Everyone is busy with work, school, sports, and community activity.

A closer look shows that this family could save over $10,000 per year. The three teenagers/young adults could share one or two vehicles. They live two-miles from a main street where public transit is reasonably frequent. All are great athletes who could bike to and from transit. Transit includes express buses during morning and evening commute hours that connect to a major downtown, other transit systems, rail, colleges, and more.

No one likes to deal with conflicts with teenagers and vehicle sharing is sure to create some conflict, yet communication and conflict resolution are important lessons for teenagers to learn. Family members might surprise you in creating sharing solutions that work, especially when bike and transit options are there. Taking the bus or biking to and from high school is not the end of the world. A young adult that insists on having their own vehicle can take the responsibility of working part time to pay for the vehicle, insurance, and fuel.

For years, Mark and Lisa Williams shared one vehicle. Both Mark and Lisa commuted during similar work hours from Elk Groove to Sacramento. They rode to work together. By riding together they saved up to an hour daily by using the HOV lane for vehicles with two or more passengers.

They also saved the $1,740 per year that would be necessary to pay for two Sacramento parking spaces instead of one. Mark and Lisa were not always able to commute together. When their jobs were miles apart, Lisa would take Mark to the nearby light rail that transported him to Sacramento. The Williams, including their son, never ceased to find irony as the three of them in one vehicle drove past the three vehicles parked in the driveway of a single neighbor.

When their teenage son approached driving age, the Williams bought a second vehicle, a Toyota Prius. Most of the time, the three rode together, leaving their SUV in the garage. When someone was going in an opposite direction, then the second vehicle is used. After seven months, they we’re using the SUV so little that they could not justify the cost of keeping it. They are back to a one-car family which works for the three of them. On rare occasions, the SUV is missed. Mark says, “It does require some compromises, like borrowing a vehicle when we want to use our kayaks, but it is well worth it, and will only become more so as gas prices slowly start climbing again.”

When I talk with people aged 14 to 30, I am surprised by how many do not want a car. My niece Lindsay Short was given the family’s 2001 Prius when she graduated high school with honors. She leaves the car with her parents and lives car free at the university. Like many universities, anything is faster going from class to class than trying to drive and search for the impossible parking space. On campus transit, bicycling, and walking work best. When cars are needed, car sharing services such as Zipcar, offer qualified students aged 18 and older, vehicles by the hour. What many students need is a monthly allowance that is a fraction of the cost of car ownership, so that they can pay for car sharing, public transportation, and trips home to see family. As an environmentalist, Lindsay wants to be true to her values.

You do not need to be in school to make a difference. For everyone, from those who live alone, to roommates, to families, transportation costs can be cut with flexwork, commute programs, public transit, and car sharing.

During his February 24 Address to Joint Session of Congress, President Obama stated, “The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil… That is our responsibility.”

Millions of Americans are responding to the current challenge of being financially secure; they are also addressing the need to provide their children with a future that is energy secure and climate secure. People are riding clean, riding together, and riding less.