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Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

VW whistleblower speaks out

Posted by Charles II on September 26, 2015

Hat tip to Thurb at Eschaton. Rupert Neate, The Guardian:

John German has barely had time to catch his breath all week between appearances on TV news channel and radio phone-in shows. He’s … a grey-haired automotive engineer…

German earns a modest salary as US co-lead of the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) a small nonprofit organisation dedicated to helping to reduce vehicle emissions and has an annual budget of just $12m.

German explained that the idea to carry out the test, which he described as “very ordinary”, came from Peter Mock, a colleague in Europe, who noticed discrepancies in the emissions of the diesel VW Passat and VW Jetta.

Then German sourced a Passat, Jetta and a BMW X5 (which also showed emissions discrepancies in Europe) and “had a drive around”. “The VWs were massively exceeding their official emissions readings in normal driving conditions…”

Arvind Thiruvengadam, a research assistant professor at WVU, who conducted the tests said: “We were doubting ourselves and our procedures and making sure to double check that we were not doing anything wrong.

German published the research in May 2014 and handed it over to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). …“We did send a courtesy copy to VW…”

There was no response from the EPA either, but keen-eyed German noticed an EPA press release in which VW agreed to recall almost 500,000 vehicles in December 2014 to reinstall software, which it said would solve the higher-than-expected emissions.

German said it was unclear how the defeat device software worked, but the software could work by detecting periods when the steering column wasn’t turning but the wheels were which would indicate the car was on dynamo-meters for testing, or could also test for the precise uniform temperature that the tests are carried out at.

Posted in corruption, crimes, environment | Leave a Comment »

Solar evaporators will save the world

Posted by Charles II on September 10, 2015

Via commenter Jo6Pac, Derek Markham, Clean Technica:

WaterFX Hydro I, Inc., doing business as HydroRevolution℠, a California subsidiary of WaterFX™, is offering the shares to finance the construction of a fully solar-powered desalination plant in the Central Valley, which is expected to be able to produce up to 1.6 billion gallons (5000 acre-feet) of water per year, with virtually zero liquid discharge. The HydroRevolution℠ process is said to allow for a 90% recovery rate, with the remaining brine being treated further to isolate the salt and mineral byproducts for industrial applications.

Instead of desalinating seawater, as many desalination operations do, this plant will pull water from shallow irrigation water (also called subsurface drainage water) which is produced as a consequence of agriculture, and which has a high salinity content that can be detrimental to freshwater ecosystems

Once completed, the plant will be the first of its kind in California, and the largest solar desalination plant in North America.

Now, I think we could use distilled seawater to recharge aquifers that are being drawn down, and counter continental drying. But in any case, we’re going to need sources of fresh water. This desalination process will help.

Posted in environment | Leave a Comment »

Tough guy

Posted by Charles II on September 2, 2015

Sarah Everts, C&EN:

Smaller than a finger nail, the marine slug Elysia tuca may not seem like a formidable predator. Yet the tiny gastropod has an unwavering predilection for a rather intimidating prey. The slug hunts Halimeda incrassata, a species of seaweed that packs toxic defense compounds and is more stone than flesh—its body is 85% calcium carbonate, the same mineral found in limestone and coral.

After finding its prey, the slug pierces the seaweed with a sharp saw-like appendage called a radula, and sucks out the seaweed’s cytoplasm, including its chloroplasts, which the slug then uses to make its own energy from sunlight. “It’s a solar-powered slug,” Rasher says, explaining that it gets 60% of its fixed carbon from these stolen photosynthetic organelles. The slug also steals the seaweed’s toxic arsenal of halimedatetraacetate—one of the compounds used by the slug to track the seaweed—for use as its own defense.

While you’re there, read up on a self-cleaning membrane that could help to pick up oil slicks

Posted in environment, Just for fun | Leave a Comment »

Using more than 10% of our brain: more thoughts on mitigating global warming

Posted by Charles II on August 24, 2015

OK, so suppose that we were to do as I suggested and bring ocean water inland to mitigate sea level rises, then evaporating it to generate power and create fresh water. This would serve the purpose of cooling the continental interior, bringing water inland to substitute for the degradation of the natural conveyor, and generate power without burning carbon.

We understand the technology, and it is not without its problems

Laurene Veale, MIT Technology Review:

[The basic issue is that there is very little freshwater]

The two main desalination processes are Multistage Flash (MSF) distillation and Reverse Osmosis (RO)

A more radical solution [than reverse osmosis] is solar-powered desalination, now being deployed in Tunisia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia with Jordan and Morocco announcing their intention to desalinate water with renewable energy.

However solar or wind power will not resolve a major environmental challenge posed by desalination: brine, the highly saline slush created from the desalination process. For every litre of freshwater, a litre of brine is produced. “When desalination is done inland, far from the coastline, dealing with the brine is a problem. You cannot dump it in the sea, and the only solution it to dump in the ground, but this contributes to increasing the salinity of the groundwater, which is destructive for the environment” explains Arafat.

Discharging the brine back into the sea is harshly criticised by marine biologists, who deplore its destructive impact on the marine environment. The high salinity and the high temperature of the brine can destroy marine flora and micro-organisms which in turn affects the entire marine food chain in the area.

One of the solutions proposed by Arafat is to crystallise the brine to make salt…

Now, this isn’t the last word.

1. Reverse osmosis also can cause damage to marine systems. One solution is to distribute the high-salinity effluent over a large area.
2. It’s not impossible, as the article implies for desalination to be done far from the sea. There’s just an associated energy cost.
3. The problem for marine systems is not just with output. It’s with input as well. One doesn’t want to sweep up plants and small animals with the intake feed. And then there’s the point that effluent can alter the temperature of the effluent and damage marine systems that way.
4. The problem of contaminating groundwater is real, and has to be dealt with.

But these are not impossibilities. They are simply technical problems to be overcome. For example, one could consider using the high brine effluent to grow brine tolerant plants. Here’s an ARAMCO document by Luis Lujan Rodriguez on desalination:

Desalination discharges have been shown to represent detectable environmental effects in seagrass habitats, phytoplankton, invertebrate and fish communities in areas near the discharge sites. Some species show that an increase in salinity of only 1-2 parts per thousand (ppt) can affect highly sensitive seagrasses. Salinities of 40-45 ppt increase the mortality in exposed plants, and epifaunal mysids and echinoderms. Other marine animal species may also be affected as some species of worms have been observed to become more dominant whereas others decreased in diversity up to a distance of 400 m from a discharge point. Reductions in the abundance of plankton, sessile invertebrates, and echinoderms can also be related to the discharge of brines especially when the copper concentration was high.

In addition to diluting the salt with other wastewater, this document suggests extracting valuable (e.g. precious metal) and toxic (e.g. copper)salts from the effluent, and converting the salt using CO2 into sodium bicarbonate (which additionally sequesters carbon).

But this is far from exhaustive. One could, for example, use brine tolerant plankton (or other aquatic life) to concentrate the salt, then release the organisms back into the environment. One simple example: grow algae or seaweed, then use them as human or animal food. In the case of plankton, one could release them into the sea to help restore the damage we have already caused to the ocean.

The point is that we haven’t even really thought about the issue. When we do, we will think of solutions. But our immediate problem is that global warming will radically damage our productive industrial plant, trigger conflicts, and reduce agricultural productivity due to interior continental warming. We do need to cut carbon emissions. But that’s not going to happen overnight. We need to use all our brainpower as a species.

Added, from Phoenix Woman’s link (Tina Casey, Clean Technica), on the recovery of valuable minerals from saline water:

Here’s how it works on the agricultural drainage water of Central Valley, which is typically discarded as an unsuable byproduct of irrigation. The salinity level for drainage water in that region can range higher than the content of seawater.

Phase 2 is where the rubber will hit the road in terms of resource recovery. Due for completion this fall, phase 2 is expected to demonstrate that resource recovery can from the brine can be managed with minimal environmental impacts, if any.

The recoverable products include gypsum and calcium compounds that are widely used in the building industry for drywall, plaster, and cement.

Also present in the brine from this particular drainage area are magnesium salts, which are used in the medical industry, selenium (a health supplement), nitrates (fertilizer), and boron, best known for its use in bleach and pyrotechnics among many other uses.

Boron is also coming into its own in high-efficiency electronics and cutting edge solar technology, and for the record, selenium is also used in electronics as well as glass making, so altogether the region could be looking at a new high-value, job-creating industry in tandem with its agriculture base.

Posted in climate change, environment, global warming | 7 Comments »

Media reports to the contrary, global warming is still on

Posted by Charles II on July 15, 2015

Jim Wild, Lancaster University:

Recent headlines are warning that the Earth will enter into a “mini ice age” in about 20 years because the sun is heading towards a period of very low output. Here’s why this scenario is extremely unlikely.

So what about global climate change? If solar activity is falling, and that has a cooling influence over the UK and Europe, isn’t that a good thing?

Unfortunately not. The overwhelming consensus among the world’s climate scientists is that the influence of solar variability on the climate is dwarfed by the impact of increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Most calculations suggest that a new “grand solar minimum” in activity would have a cooling effect that would temporarily offset just a few year’s worth of the warming due to the emission of carbon dioxide by humans.

We may well be heading towards a period of low solar activity, but a new mini ice age seems very unlikely at this point.

Briefly, the last Little Ice Age was probably due more to volcanic activity than to fluctuations in solar output.

Expressing my outrage with those who twist scientific work into support for the petroleum industry’s profits is impossible without swearing.

For that matter, suppose we are going to have a Mini Ice Age. Shouldn’t we should be saving fossil fuels for when we’ll need them? But for hypocrites, there are no boundaries, no reason, nothing except their narcissistic pursuit of planetary destruction.

Posted in environment, global warming, liars, science and medicine | 1 Comment »

Lies my leaders told me

Posted by Charles II on July 10, 2015

Union of Concerned Scientists:

This report presents seven “deception dossiers”—collections containing some 85 internal company and trade association documents that have either been leaked to the public, come to light through lawsuits, or been disclosed through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. While many of these documents have been analyzed by others (Oreskes 2011; Oreskes and Conway 2010; Gelbspan 1998), these dossiers offer the most complete and up-to-date collection yet available.

Each collection of internal documents reviewed here reveals a separate glimpse of a coordinated campaign
underwritten by the world’s major fossil fuel companies and their allies to spread climate misinformation and
block climate action. The campaign began decades ago and continues today. The fossil fuel industry—like the tobacco industry before it—is noteworthy for its use of active, intentional disinformation and deception to support its political aims and maintain its lucrative profits.

Since they used the tactics of the tobacco companies, let the oil companies be sued and regulated into oblivion… hopefully more effectively than has been done with the tobacco companies.

[Image from World Lung Foundation, Tobacco Atlas 4th ed.]

Posted in abuse of power, environment, Oil | Leave a Comment »

Light on your feet …and, farm gushers

Posted by Charles II on June 16, 2015

Anmar Frangoul, CNBC:

Pavegen is a London-based company that is looking to harvest the energy from our footsteps to do precisely this. They have designed and built flooring that converts the kinetic energy we produce when walking into clean, renewable electricity.

“The Pavegen panels convert the weight of your footsteps into electricity, so every time you walk on our product it harnesses a small amount of energy from every single step,” Laurence Kemball-Cook, CEO and Founder of Pavegen, told in a phone interview.

Anmar Frangoul, CNBC:

The global chemical industry is vast, and has an environmental impact to match. According to a 2013 report by International Energy Agency, the chemical and petrochemical sector accounts for approximately seven percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

One Illinois-based company is working to change an industry which has traditionally relied on oil-based products.

Elevance Renewable Sciences have developed technology and a process that they say enables them to “successfully bridge the renewables and chemicals industries, transforming natural plant-based oils… into speciality high-performance, cost-effective commercial products.”

Posted in energy, environment, science and medicine | 3 Comments »

The California drought is caused by not taking enough water out of rivers.

Posted by Charles II on April 29, 2015

Brian Sussman is making a documentary so that all generations to the end of time will know that the California drought is caused by communistic environmental liberals letting some water flow to the sea. Also, that he is terminally stupid:

I’m involved in a new film about watermelons; you know, the zealous environmentalists who are green on the outside and red (like Marx and Lenin) on the inside. The movie (available on DVD) is titled: It’s Easy Bring Green, When You Have No Choice.

As you think about the title for a moment, let me share what’s happening out here in California. We’ve got a serious drought and there’s a critical water shortage. However, the water shortage is completely man-made. Thanks to the environmentalists and their liberal co-conspirators in our state legislature, water storage in California has not kept up with a steady population increase and the associated water demand.

So, if you increase water storage, that means you are reducing the flow of water in the rivers. And, since the flow of water in rivers is already not enough for consumption, with water tables falling all through the agricultural areas, that means you are creating lakes in what is becoming a desert.


Posted in environment, idiots | 2 Comments »

Clean coal?

Posted by Charles II on November 21, 2014

Nikkei Asian Review:

Toshiba has developed technology to convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into an energy source at the highest efficiency to date, with a goal of commercializing it in 2020.

The artificial-photosynthesis technology combines a semiconductor with a gold catalyst. Oxygen and hydrogen ions are generated from water by applying sunlight to the semiconductor. The catalyst then creates carbon monoxide through a reaction between the carbon dioxide and the hydrogen ions. The carbon monoxide can be processed into such fuels as methanol.

An American article on this, using gallium phosphide with a cobaloxime catalyst, here.

So far, clean coal is a pipe dream, and not just because of CO2. Coal produces mercury and sulfur oxides among other pollutants.

But maybe some day.

Posted in energy, environment | 1 Comment »

The obvious question that no one asked (Keystone XL)

Posted by Charles II on April 19, 2014

State Dept. Briefing, 4/18:

MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us. Today [Senior State Department Official One] will provide an update on the application – the presidential permit application review for the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. [The official] will be referred to as Senior State Department Official One from here on out. We are also joined by [Senior State Department Official Two], who will be referred to as Senior State Department Official Number Two.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you very much. All of you have received a Media Note with the basic substance of the issue that we wanted to discuss today, so let me give some clarifying or complementary information.

Regarding the 2.5 million new public comments, they are indeed unprecedented. In response to the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that the Department published in March of last year, we received 1.5 million comments. Usually on some form of a pipeline application there may be less than 100 comments. We are concentrating our resources to review the public comments that we receive. We are proceeding to ensure that we review those comments and appropriately reflect them in the draft Record of Decision, which will eventually result in recommendations.

As far as I can tell, the State Department did not list how the comments were running. But one can guess: despite the fact that a majority of Americans support the pipeline, almost certainly a majority of Americans who know what bitumen is are opposed. Fiercely. And so when the State Department says that they will “review and incorporate all of those,” they are lying.

And that would explain why two public officials, talking about a matter of public record, are so cowardly that they gave a press conference metaphorically from behind a curtain. A curtain provided for them by our free press.


Posted in environment, Oil, State Department | Comments Off on The obvious question that no one asked (Keystone XL)

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