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  • richardmitnick 1:41 pm on October 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Energy, , Using University of Michigan buildings as batteries   

    From University of Michigan: “Using University of Michigan buildings as batteries” 

    U Michigan bloc

    University of Michigan

    September 21, 2017 [hiding your light under a bushel?]
    Dan Newman

    How a building’s thermal energy can help the power grid accommodate more renewable energy sources.

    1
    Connor Flynn, an energy engineer with the Energy Management team, helps Aditya Keskar, a master’s student in electrical and computer engineering, retrieve data from a campus building’s HVAC system.
    No image credit.

    Michigan researchers and staff are testing how to use the immense thermal energy of large buildings as theoretical battery packs. The goal is to help the nation’s grid better accommodate renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.

    For power grids, supply must closely track demand to ensure smooth delivery of electric power. Incorporating renewable energy sources into the grid introduces a large degree of unpredictability to the system. For example, peak solar generation occurs during the day, while peak electricity demand occurs in the evening. Because of this, California, the leading solar producer in the U.S., has had to pay other states to take excess electricity off of its grid, and at other times simply wasted potential electricity by disconnecting solar panels.

    As renewable sources become more prevalent, so does the unpredictability and mismatched supply and demand, creating a growing problem in how to keep better control of both.

    To address this, and help demand for electricity react to the variability of supply from renewable energy sources, an MCubed project is testing how buildings store energy.

    The team consisted originally of project leader Johanna Mathieu, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science (EECS), Ian Hiskens, Vennema Professor of Engineering and professor of EECS, and Jeremiah Johnson, formerly an assistant professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment and now an associate professor at North Carolina State University. Additionally, Dr. Sina Afshari, former postdoctoral researcher, helped set up the project on campus.

    “The goal is to utilize a building as a big battery: dump energy in and pull energy out in a way that the occupants don’t know is going on and the building managers aren’t incurring any extra costs. That’s the holy grail,” Hiskens said. “You wouldn’t have to buy chemical batteries and dispose of them a few years later.”

    Commercial buildings, like those around campus, use massive Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems to keep occupants comfortable. Large buildings require a vast amount of energy to heat and cool, and their HVAC systems consume around 20% of the electricity generated in the United States.

    However, the large building size also means any short-term changes in a thermostat will not be felt. This means a building can cut or increase power to its HVAC for a short time to help a power grid match supply and demand, while the building’s temperature remains unchanged.

    2
    Aditya Keskar downloads data from another campus building’s HVAC system.

    Aditya Keskar, who is pursuing his masters in electrical engineering and computer science, has been working with staff to test these short-term changes in HVAC power consumption in three campus buildings.

    “We’ve had immense support from the Plant Operations team and building managers. They’ve helped us gather baseline data over months, and implement the tests,” Keskar said. “With their help, we were able to make short-term adjustments to their HVAC system with no change in the actual temperature, and no complaints from building occupants.”

    If there is a surplus of supply on the grid due to heavy wind production, for example, a building automation system (BAS), which controls an HVAC system, could automatically lower its thermostat settings in the summer and increase its energy use for fifteen minutes, and then raise the thermostat to balance the extra energy consumed. This action would soak up some of the excess electricity and help to maintain equilibrium on the grid.

    If darker skies reduce the usual solar production, a BAS could raise its thermostat setting in the summer and decrease its energy use immediately, then lower the thermostat to balance the extra energy consumed.

    See the full article here .

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    U MIchigan Campus

    The University of Michigan (U-M, UM, UMich, or U of M), frequently referred to simply as Michigan, is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States. Originally, founded in 1817 in Detroit as the Catholepistemiad, or University of Michigania, 20 years before the Michigan Territory officially became a state, the University of Michigan is the state’s oldest university. The university moved to Ann Arbor in 1837 onto 40 acres (16 ha) of what is now known as Central Campus. Since its establishment in Ann Arbor, the university campus has expanded to include more than 584 major buildings with a combined area of more than 34 million gross square feet (781 acres or 3.16 km²), and has two satellite campuses located in Flint and Dearborn. The University was one of the founding members of the Association of American Universities.

    Considered one of the foremost research universities in the United States,[7] the university has very high research activity and its comprehensive graduate program offers doctoral degrees in the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as well as professional degrees in business, medicine, law, pharmacy, nursing, social work and dentistry. Michigan’s body of living alumni (as of 2012) comprises more than 500,000. Besides academic life, Michigan’s athletic teams compete in Division I of the NCAA and are collectively known as the Wolverines. They are members of the Big Ten Conference.

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  • richardmitnick 10:51 am on September 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Borrowing from nature to tap the power of the sun, , Energy, EU Horizon   

    From EU Horizon: “Borrowing from nature to tap the power of the sun” 

    1

    Horizon

    29 September 2017
    Julianna Photopoulos

    1
    By using knowledge of plant photosynthesis we could soon develop new forms of renewable energy through artificial leaves. Image credit – Dr Vincent Artero

    An artificial leaf that can harvest energy from the sun faster than a natural one could lead to a new generation of renewable energy and medical technologies.

    Over hundreds of millions of years, evolution has refined a process that allows plants to use the sun’s energy to turn carbon dioxide and water into the sugary fuel they need to grow.

    The elegant series of biochemical reactions involved in this process are some of the fundamental building blocks of life on this planet.

    But now scientists have beaten nature at its own game by creating a semi-artificial leaf that incorporates some of the components honed by evolution to produce a device that is up to six times more efficient.

    ‘When the natural components of photosynthesis are incorporated in artificial devices, these devices outperform the electron transfer ability found in the natural environment,’ said Dr Nicolas Plumeré, a chemist at the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany.

    He and his colleagues, as part of the EU-funded PHOTOTECH project, used a protein found in real leaves that is responsible for transporting electrons during photosynthesis to create their semi-artificial leaf.

    ‘Under light, a protein found in natural leaves or algae can produce about 50 high-energy electrons every second,’ explained Dr Plumeré. ‘When this same protein is incorporated into artificial leaves, up to 300 high-energy electrons are produced every second.’

    Dr Plumeré hopes this approach could eventually deliver new, simple and cheap solar-cell technologies — also known as photovoltaic cells — based on photosynthesis, although he warns the technology is still years away from finding commercial applications.

    ‘Large-scale green photovoltaics could simply be painted on a wall to collect solar energy directly at their point of use,’ he said. The technology could also be used to power tiny medical devices, such as sensors implanted in contact lenses to monitor biomarkers in tears.

    As the protein needed for the devices can be obtained from algae, it can be produced at a low cost compared to the rare earth metals needed for current solar panel cells.

    ‘These photosynthetic materials can be grown on wastewater and the chemical elements necessary for their assembly are infinitely available,’ said Dr Plumeré. ‘As such, they open a great promise for future devices for sustainable energy harvesting, which themselves can be fabricated in a sustainable manner.’

    Producing devices that can generate renewable energy in an environmentally friendly way can play a key role in helping to replace the planet’s dependance on polluting fossil fuels. But the intermittent nature of such renewable energy sources makes this task difficult. How, for example, can the lights be kept on when solar cells do not produce electricity at night?

    Splitting water

    The answer lies in storing the energy produced by such renewable sources, although to date, modern batteries and other storage options offer only a limited ability to do this. But scientists believe photosynthesis may also provide a solution here too.

    ‘The most effective way to store renewable energy is to produce a fuel such as hydrogen,’ said Dr Vincent Artero, a chemist at the Grenoble Alpes University and CEA-Grenoble, France. ‘As solar energy is the most abundant renewable energy, why not develop a process that directly captures sunlight and transforms it into fuel?’

    Dr Artero and his team have copied the metabolism of some algae that use solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Funded by the EU’s European Research Council, the PhotocatH2ode project is aimed at incorporating bio-inspired dyes and catalysts into a photo-electrochemical cell, producing a kind of artificial leaf that can generate hydrogen from sunlight and water.

    ‘Our approach uses molecular components, such as dyes, to absorb sunlight and catalysts to achieve hydrogen production, immobilised on transparent electrodes.’ said Dr Artero. ‘This work opens new horizons for the development of novel hydrogen production technologies.’

    Mimicking nature

    But understanding how algae, plants and bacteria can convert light energy on a molecular level could lead to even more efficient artificial light-harvesting systems. A team working on the EU-funded ENLIGHT project is developing new theoretical and computational models to unravel how these complex yet unique systems work.

    ‘In these organisms, light-harvesting is the first, fundamental step of photosynthesis,’ said Professor Benedetta Mennucci, a chemist at the University of Pisa in Italy, who is leading ENLIGHT. ‘The developed models can now be applied to different types of organisms to understand if nature has optimised some specific features — common to all systems — that can be mimicked in artificial ones.’

    This work could prove crucial in driving an emerging area of research: solar-driven chemistry. This aims to mimic nature by using solar energy directly for the production of fuels, chemicals and materials.

    ‘We could replace all our current methods for producing fuels and commodity chemicals with new ones that use water, nitrogen and carbon dioxide as the starting materials, along with light or renewable electricity as the energetic input,’ said Dr Artero. ‘This would be a revolution for Europe.’

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:04 am on September 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Energy, High-tech mirror-like optical surface, Stanford professor tests a cooling system that works without electricity,   

    From Stanford: “Stanford professor tests a cooling system that works without electricity” 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

    September 4, 2017
    Taylor Kubota

    Stanford scientists cooled water without electricity by sending excess heat where it won’t be noticed – space. The specialized optical surfaces they developed are a major step toward applying this technology to air conditioning and refrigeration.

    1
    A fluid-cooling panel designed by Shanhui Fan, professor of electrical engineering at Stanford, and former research associates Aaswath Raman and Eli Goldstein being tested on the roof of the Packard Electrical Engineering Building. This is an updated version of the panels used in the research published in Nature Energy. (Image credit: Aaswath Raman)

    It looks like a regular roof, but the top of the Packard Electrical Engineering Building at Stanford University has been the setting of many milestones in the development of an innovative cooling technology that could someday be part of our everyday lives. Since 2013, Shanhui Fan, professor of electrical engineering, and his students and research associates have employed this roof as a testbed for a high-tech mirror-like optical surface that could be the future of lower-energy air conditioning and refrigeration.

    Research published in 2014 [Nature] first showed the cooling capabilities of the optical surface on its own. Now, Fan and former research associates Aaswath Raman and Eli Goldstein, have shown that a system involving these surfaces can cool flowing water to a temperature below that of the surrounding air. The entire cooling process is done without electricity.

    “This research builds on our previous work with radiative sky cooling but takes it to the next level. It provides for the first time a high-fidelity technology demonstration of how you can use radiative sky cooling to passively cool a fluid and, in doing so, connect it with cooling systems to save electricity,” said Raman, who is co-lead author of the paper detailing this research, published in Nature Energy Sept. 4.

    Together, Fan, Goldstein and Raman have founded the company SkyCool Systems, which is working on further testing and commercializing this technology.

    Sending our heat to space

    Radiative sky cooling is a natural process that everyone and everything does, resulting from the moments of molecules releasing heat. You can witness it for yourself in the heat that comes off a road as it cools after sunset. This phenomenon is particularly noticeable on a cloudless night because, without clouds, the heat we and everything around us radiates can more easily make it through Earth’s atmosphere, all the way to the vast, cold reaches of space.

    “If you have something that is very cold – like space – and you can dissipate heat into it, then you can do cooling without any electricity or work. The heat just flows,” explained Fan, who is senior author of the paper. “For this reason, the amount of heat flow off the Earth that goes to the universe is enormous.”

    Although our own bodies release heat through radiative cooling to both the sky and our surroundings, we all know that on a hot, sunny day, radiative sky cooling isn’t going to live up to its name. This is because the sunlight will warm you more than radiative sky cooling will cool you. To overcome this problem, the team’s surface uses a multilayer optical film that reflects about 97 percent of the sunlight while simultaneously being able to emit the surface’s thermal energy through the atmosphere. Without heat from sunlight, the radiative sky cooling effect can enable cooling below the air temperature even on a sunny day.

    “With this technology, we’re no longer limited by what the air temperature is, we’re limited by something much colder: the sky and space,” said Goldstein, co-lead author of the paper.

    The experiments published in 2014 were performed using small wafers of a multilayer optical surface, about 8 inches in diameter, and only showed how the surface itself cooled. Naturally, the next step was to scale up the technology and see how it works as part of a larger cooling system.

    Putting radiative sky cooling to work

    For their latest paper, the researchers created a system where panels covered in the specialized optical surfaces sat atop pipes of running water and tested it on the roof of the Packard Building in September 2015. These panels were slightly more than 2 feet in length on each side and the researchers ran as many as four at a time. With the water moving at a relatively fast rate, they found the panels were able to consistently reduce the temperature of the water 3 to 5 degrees Celsius below ambient air temperature over a period of three days.

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    This photo from 2014 shows the reflectivity of the mirror-like optical surface Fan, Raman and Goldstein have been researching, which allows for daytime radiative sky cooling by sending thermal energy into the sky while also blocking sunlight. The people in this photo (left to right) are Linxiano Zhu, PhD ‘16, co-author of the [Nature], Fan and Raman. (Image credit: Norbert von der Groeben)

    The researchers also applied data from this experiment to a simulation where their panels covered the roof of a two-story commercial office building in Las Vegas – a hot, dry location where their panels would work best – and contributed to its cooling system. They calculated how much electricity they could save if, in place of a conventional air-cooled chiller, they used vapor-compression system with a condenser cooled by their panels. They found that, in the summer months, the panel-cooled system would save 14.3 megawatt-hours of electricity, a 21 percent reduction in the electricity used to cool the building. Over the entire period, the daily electricity savings fluctuated from 18 percent to 50 percent.

    Right now, SkyCool Systems is measuring the energy saved when panels are integrated with traditional air conditioning and refrigeration systems at a test facility, and Fan, Goldstein and Raman are optimistic that this technology will find broad applicability in the years to come. The researchers are focused on making their panels integrate easily with standard air conditioning and refrigeration systems and they are particularly excited at the prospect of applying their technology to the serious task of cooling data centers.

    Fan has also carried out research on various other aspects of radiative cooling technology. He and Raman have applied the concept of radiative sky cooling to the creation of an efficiency-boosting coating for solar cells. With Yi Cui, a professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford and of photon science at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Fan developed a cooling fabric.

    “It’s very intriguing to think about the universe as such an immense resource for cooling and all the many interesting, creative ideas that one could come up with to take advantage of this,” he said.

    Fan is also director of the Edward L. Ginzton Laboratory, a professor, by courtesy, of applied physics and an affiliate of the Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy.

    This work was funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) of the Department of Energy.

    See the full article here .

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    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

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  • richardmitnick 1:40 pm on August 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Energy, , , World's Biggest Solar Thermal Power Plant Just Got Approved in Australia   

    From Science Alert: “World’s Biggest Solar Thermal Power Plant Just Got Approved in Australia” 

    ScienceAlert

    Science Alert

    16 AUG 2017
    DAVID NIELD

    1
    Crescent Dunes near Las Vegas, the blueprint for the new plant. Credit: Solar Reserve.

    The onward march of renewables continues: an Australian state government has greenlit the biggest solar thermal power plant of its kind in the world, a 150-megawatt structure set to be built in Port Augusta in South Australia.

    As well as providing around 650 construction jobs for local workers, the plant will provide all the electricity needs for the state government, with some to spare – and it should help to make solar energy even more affordable in the future.

    Work on the AU$650 million (US$510 million) plant is getting underway next year and is slated to be completed in 2020, adding to Australia’s growing list of impressive renewable energy projects that already cover solar and tidal.

    “The significance of solar thermal generation lies in its ability to provide energy virtually on demand through the use of thermal energy storage to store heat for running the power turbines,” says sustainable energy engineering professor Wasim Saman, from the University of South Australia.

    “This is a substantially more economical way of storing energy than using batteries.”

    Solar photovoltaic plants convert sunlight directly into electricity, so they need batteries to store excess power for when the Sun isn’t shining; solar thermal plants, meanwhile, use mirrors to concentrate the sunlight into a heating system.

    A variety of heating systems are in use, but In this case, molten salt will be heated up – a more economical storage option than batteries – which is then used to boil water, spin a steam turbine, and generate electricity when required.

    The developers of the Port Augusta plant say it can continue to generate power at full load for up to 8 hours after the Sun’s gone down.

    The Crescent Dunes plant in Nevada will act as the blueprint for the one in Port Augusta, as it was built by the same contractor, Solar Reserve. That site has a 110-megawatt capacity.

    Renewable energy sources now account for more than 40 percent of the electricity generated in South Australia, and as solar becomes a more stable and reliable provider of energy, that in turn pushes prices lower.

    Importantly, the cost of the new plant is well below the estimated cost of a new coal-fired power station, giving the government another reason to back renewables. The cost-per-megawatt of the new plant works out about the same as wind power and solar photovoltaic plants.

    But engineering researcher Fellow Matthew Stocks, from the Australian National University, says we still have “lots to learn” about how solar thermal technologies can fit into an electric grid system.

    “One of the big challenges for solar thermal as a storage tool is that it can only store heat,” says Stocks. “If there is an excess of electricity in the system because the wind is blowing strong, it cannot efficiently use it to store electrical power to shift the energy to times of shortage, unlike batteries and pumped hydro.”

    Authorities say 50 full-time workers will be required to operate the plant, using similar skills to those needed to run a coal or gas station. That will encourage workers laid off after the region’s coal-fired power station was closed down last year.

    Solar thermal has been backed to the tune of AU$110m ($86m) of equity provided by the federal government.

    And as renewables become more and more important to our power grids, expect to see this huge solar thermal plant eventually get eclipsed by a bigger one.

    “This is first large scale application of solar thermal generation in Australia which has been operating successfully in Europe, USA and Africa,” says Saman.

    “While this technology is perhaps a decade behind solar PV generation, many future world energy forecasts include a considerable proportion of this technology in tomorrow’s energy mix.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:32 am on August 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A copper catalyst that converts carbon dioxide into ethanol, , , , Energy, How do you make ethanol without growing corn?,   

    From Stanford: “How do you make ethanol without growing corn?” 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

    June 20, 2017 [Delayed waiting for a link to the science paper.]
    Mark Shwartz

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    SLAC scientist Christopher Hahn sees his reflection in a copper catalyst that converts carbon dioxide into ethanol. | Image credit: Mark Shwartz.

    Most cars and trucks in the United States run on a blend of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol, a renewable fuel made primarily from fermented corn. But producing the 14 billion gallons of ethanol consumed annually by American drivers requires millions of acres of farmland.

    A recent discovery by Stanford University scientists could lead to a new, more sustainable way to make ethanol without corn or other crops. This technology has three basic components: water, carbon dioxide and electricity delivered through a copper catalyst. The results are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    “One of our long-range goals is to produce renewable ethanol in a way that doesn’t impact the global food supply,” said study principal investigator Thomas Jaramillo, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Stanford and of photon science at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

    “Copper is one of the few catalysts that can produce ethanol at room temperature,” he said. “You just feed it electricity, water and carbon dioxide, and it makes ethanol. The problem is that it also makes 15 other compounds simultaneously, including lower-value products like methane and carbon monoxide. Separating those products would be an expensive process and require a lot of energy.”

    Scientists would like to design copper catalysts that selectively convert carbon dioxide into higher-value chemicals and fuels, like ethanol and propanol, with few or no byproducts. But first they need a clear understanding of how these catalysts actually work. That’s where the recent findings come in.

    Copper crystals

    For the PNAS study, the Stanford team chose three samples of crystalline copper, known as copper (100), copper (111) and copper (751). Scientists use these numbers to describe the surface geometries of single crystals.

    “Copper (100), (111) and (751) look virtually identical but have major differences in the way their atoms are arranged on the surface,” said Christopher Hahn, an associate staff scientist at SLAC and co-lead lead author of the study. “The essence of our work is to understand how these different facets of copper affect electrocatalytic performance.”

    In previous studies, scientists had created single-crystal copper electrodes just 1-square millimeter in size. For this study, Hahn and his co-workers at SLAC developed a novel way to grow single crystal-like copper on top of large wafers of silicon and sapphire. This approach resulted in films of each form of copper with a 6-square centimeter surface, 600 times bigger than typical single crystals.

    Catalytic performance

    To compare electrocatalytic performance, the researchers placed the three large electrodes in water, exposed them to carbon dioxide gas and applied a potential to generate an electric current.

    The results were clear. When the team applied a specific voltage, the electrodes made of copper (751) were far more selective to liquid products, such as ethanol and propanol, than those made of copper (100) or (111).

    Ultimately, the Stanford team would like to develop a technology capable of selectively producing carbon-neutral fuels and chemicals at an industrial scale.

    “The eye on the prize is to create better catalysts that have game-changing potential by taking carbon dioxide as a feedstock and converting it into much more valuable products using renewable electricity or sunlight directly,” Jaramillo said. “We plan to use this method on nickel and other metals to further understand the chemistry at the surface. We think this study is an important piece of the puzzle and will open up whole new avenues of research for the community.”

    See the full article here .

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    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

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  • richardmitnick 2:55 pm on August 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , California, , Climate policies study shows Inland Empire economic boon, Energy, ,   

    From UC Berkeley: “Climate policies study shows Inland Empire economic boon” 

    UC Berkeley

    UC Berkeley

    August 3, 2017
    Jacqueline Sullivan

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    UC Berkeley researchers found that the proliferation of renewable energy plants — like the San Gorgonio Pass wind farm shown above — is responsible for over 90 percent of the direct benefit of California’s climate and clean energy policies in the Inland Empire. (iStock photo).

    According to the first comprehensive study of the economic effects of climate programs in California’s Inland Empire, Riverside and San Bernardino counties experienced a net benefit of $9.1 billion in direct economic activity and 41,000 jobs from 2010 through 2016.

    Researchers at UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education and the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at Berkeley Law report that many of these jobs were created by one-time construction investments associated with building renewable energy power plants. These investments, they say, helped rekindle the construction industry, which experienced major losses during the Great Recession.

    When accounting for the spillover effects, the researchers report in their study commissioned by nonpartisan, nonprofit group Next 10, that state climate policies resulted in a total of $14.2 billion in economic activity and more than 73,000 jobs for the region during the same seven years.

    Study focal points

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    Inland Empire residents are at especially high risk for pollution-related health conditions. This hazy view from a Rancho Cucamonga street attests to the region’s smog problem. (Photo by Mikeetc via Creative Commons).

    Because smog in San Bernardino and Riverside counties is consistently among the worst in the state, residents are at especially high risk of pollution-related health conditions.

    “California has many at-risk communities — communities that are vulnerable to climate change, but also vulnerable to the policy solutions designed to slow climate change,” said Betony Jones, lead author of the report and associate director of the Green Economy Program at UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education.

    In the Inland Empire, per capita income is approximately $23,000, compared to the state average of $30,000, and 17.5 percent of the residents of Riverside and San Bernardino counties live below the poverty line, compared to 14.7 percent of all Californians.

    The Net Economic Impacts of California’s Major Climate Programs in the Inland Empire study comes out right after the state’s recent decision to extend California’s cap-and-trade program, and as other states and countries look to California as a model.

    Cap-and-trade

    After accounting for compliance spending and investment of cap-and-trade revenue, researchers found cap and trade had net economic impacts of $25.7 million in San Bernardino and Riverside counties in the first four years of the program, from 2013 to 2016.

    That includes $900,000 in increased tax revenue and net employment growth of 154 jobs through the Inland Empire economy. When funds that have been appropriated but have not yet been spent are included, projected net economic benefits reach nearly $123 million, with 945 jobs created and $5.5 million in tax revenue.

    Proliferation of renewables

    The researchers found that the proliferation of renewable energy plants is responsible for over 90 percent of the direct benefit of California’s climate and clean energy policies in the Inland Empire. As of October 2016, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties were home to more than 17 percent of the state’s renewable generation capacity, according the California Energy Commission.

    3
    Researchers found that altogether, renewables like the solar panels pictured above, contributed more than 60,000 net jobs to the regional economy over seven years. (iStock photo)

    “Even after accounting for construction that would have taken place in a business-as-usual scenario, new renewable power plants created the largest number of jobs in the region over the seven-year period, generating 29,000 high-skilled, high-quality construction jobs,” said Jones.

    The authors compared the jobs created in the generation of renewable electricity with those that would have been created by maintaining natural gas electricity generation. “While renewables create fewer direct jobs, the multiplier effects are greater in the Inland Empire economy,” Jones said. “Altogether, renewable generation contributed over 60,000 net jobs to the regional economy over seven years.”

    Rooftop solar, energy efficiency programs

    The report looks at the costs and benefits of the California Solar Initiative, the federal renewables Investment Tax Credit, and investor-owned utility energy efficiency programs, which provide direct incentives for solar installation and energy efficiency retrofits at homes, businesses and institutions. These programs provided about $1.1 billion in subsidies for distributed solar and $612 million for efficiency in the Inland Empire between 2010 and 2016.

    While researchers calculated benefits for these two programs separately, they identified the costs of these programs to electricity ratepayers together. When the benefits are weighed against these costs, the total net impact of both programs resulted in the creation of more than 12,000 jobs and $1.68 billion across the economy over the seven years studied.

    The report’s authors suggest that officials and/or policymakers:

    Develop a comprehensive program for transportation, the greatest challenge facing in California’s climate goals;
    Expand energy efficiency programs to reduce energy use in the existing building and housing stock while reducing energy costs and creating jobs and economic activity;
    Ensure that the Inland Empire receives appropriate statewide spending based on its economic and environmental needs;
    Develop transition programs for workers and communities affected by the decline of the Inland Empire’s greenhouse gas-emitting industries.

    “California continues to demonstrate leadership on climate and clean energy, and results like these show that California’s models can be exported,” said Ethan Elkind, climate director at the UC Berkeley Center for Law, Energy and the Environment.

    Noel Perry, founder of Next 10, said the report gives policymakers and stakeholders the concrete data needed to weigh policy options and investments in the Inland Empire and beyond.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:26 pm on August 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Energy, MITEI   

    From MITEI at MIT: “Microbial engineering technique could reduce contamination in biofermentation plants” 

    MIT News
    MIT News
    MIT Widget

    1

    August 4, 2016
    Helen Knight

    Approach could lower cost and eliminate need for antibiotics during biofuel production.

    2
    The ability to ferment low-cost feedstocks under nonsterile conditions may enable new classes of biochemicals and biofuels, such as microbial oil produced by the yeast Yarrowia lipolytica (shown here, oil in lipid bodies is stained green and cells walls stained blue). Photo: Novogy, Inc.

    The cost and environmental impact of producing liquid biofuels and biochemicals as alternatives to petroleum-based products could be significantly reduced, thanks to a new metabolic engineering technique.

    Liquid biofuels are increasingly used around the world, either as a direct “drop-in” replacement for gasoline, or as an additive that helps reduce carbon emissions.

    The fuels and chemicals are often produced using microbes to convert sugars from corn, sugar cane, or cellulosic plant mass into products such as ethanol and other chemicals, by fermentation. However, this process can be expensive, and developers have struggled to cost-effectively ramp up production of advanced biofuels to large-scale manufacturing levels.

    One particular problem facing producers is the contamination of fermentation vessels with other, unwanted microbes. These invaders can outcompete the producer microbes for nutrients, reducing yield and productivity.

    Ethanol is known to be toxic to most microorganisms other than the yeast used to produce it,Saccharomyces cerevisiae, naturally preventing contamination of the fermentation process. However, this is not the case for the more advanced biofuels and biochemicals under development.

    To kill off invading microbes, companies must instead use either steam sterilization, which requires fermentation vessels to be built from expensive stainless steels, or costly antibiotics. Exposing large numbers of bacteria to these drugs encourages the appearance of tolerant bacterial strains, which can contribute to the growing global problem of antibiotic resistance.

    Now, in a paper published today in the journal Science, researchers at MIT and the Cambridge startup Novogy describe a new technique that gives producer microbes the upper hand against unwanted invaders, eliminating the need for such expensive and potentially harmful sterilization methods.

    The researchers engineered microbes, such as Escherichia coli, with the ability to extract nitrogen and phosphorous — two vital nutrients needed for growth — from unconventional sources that could be added to the fermentation vessels, according to Gregory Stephanopoulos, the Willard Henry Dow Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at MIT, and Joe Shaw, senior director of research and development at Novogy, who led the research.

    What’s more, because the engineered strains only possess this advantage when they are fed these unconventional chemicals, the chances of them escaping and growing in an uncontrolled manner outside of the plant in a natural environment are extremely low.

    “We created microbes that can utilize some xenobiotic compounds that contain nitrogen, such as melamine,” Stephanopoulos says. Melamine is a xenobiotic, or artificial, chemical that contains 67 percent nitrogen by weight.

    Conventional biofermentation refineries typically use ammonium to supply microbes with a source of nitrogen. But contaminating organisms, such as Lactobacilli, can also extract nitrogen from ammonium, allowing them to grow and compete with the producer microorganisms.

    In contrast, these organisms do not have the genetic pathways needed to utilize melamine as a nitrogen source, says Stephanopoulos.

    “They need that special pathway to be able to utilize melamine, and if they don’t have it they cannot incorporate nitrogen, so they cannot grow,” he says.

    The researchers engineered E. coli with a synthetic six-step pathway that allows it to express enzymes needed to convert melamine to ammonia and carbon dioxide, in a strategy they have dubbed ROBUST (Robust Operation By Utilization of Substrate Technology).

    When they experimented with a mixed culture of the engineered E. coli strain and a naturally occurring strain, they found the engineered type rapidly outcompeted the control, when fed on melamine.

    They then investigated engineering the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to express a gene that allowed it to convert the nitrile-containing chemical cyanamide into urea, from which it could obtain nitrogen.

    The engineered strain was then able to grow with cyanamide as its only nitrogen source.

    Finally, the researchers engineered both S. cerevisiae and the yeast Yarrowia lipolytica to use potassium phosphite as a source of phosphorous.

    Like the engineered E. coli strain, both the engineered yeasts were able to outcompete naturally occurring strains when fed on these chemicals.

    “So by engineering the strains to make them capable of utilizing these unconventional sources of phosphorous and nitrogen, we give them an advantage that allows them to outcompete any other microbes that may invade the fermenter without sterilization,” Stephanopoulos says.

    The microbes were tested successfully on a variety of biomass feedstocks, including corn mash, cellulosic hydrolysate, and sugar cane, where they demonstrated no loss of productivity when compared to naturally occurring strains.

    The paper provides a novel approach to allow companies to select for their productive microbes and select against contaminants, according to Jeff Lievense, a senior engineering fellow at the San Diego-based biotechnology company Genomatica who was not involved in the research.

    “In theory you could operate a fermentation plant with much less expensive equipment and lower associated operating costs,” Lievense says. “I would say you could cut the capital and capital-related costs [of fermentation] in half, and for very large-volume chemicals, that kind of saving is very significant,” he says.

    The ROBUST strategy is now ready for industrial evaluation, Shaw says. The technique was developed with Novogy researchers, who have tested the engineered strains at laboratory scale and trials with 1,000-liter fermentation vessels, and with Felix Lam of the MIT Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, who led the cellulosic hydrosylate testing.

    Novogy now hopes to use the technology in its own advanced biofuel and biochemical production, and is also interested in licensing it for use by other manufacturers, Shaw says.

    See the full article here .

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    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

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  • richardmitnick 5:48 pm on February 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Energy,   

    From UTA: “one-step process to convert carbon dioxide and water directly into renewable liquid hydrocarbon fuels” 

    U Texas Arlington

    University of Texas at Arlington

    February 22, 2016
    Louisa Kellie,
    Office 817‑272‑0864
    cell 817-524-8926
    louisa.kellie@uta.edu

    A team of University of Texas at Arlington chemists and engineers have proven that concentrated light, heat and high pressures can drive the one-step conversion of carbon dioxide and water directly into useable liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

    This simple and inexpensive new sustainable fuels technology could potentially help limit global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to make fuel. The process also reverts oxygen back into the system as a byproduct of the reaction, with a clear positive environmental impact, researchers said.

    “Our process also has an important advantage over battery or gaseous-hydrogen powered vehicle technologies as many of the hydrocarbon products from our reaction are exactly what we use in cars, trucks and planes, so there would be no need to change the current fuel distribution system,“ said Frederick MacDonnell, UTA interim chair of chemistry and biochemistry and co-principal investigator of the project.

    In an article published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled Solar photothermochemical alkane reverse combustion, the researchers demonstrate that the one-step conversion of carbon dioxide and water into liquid hydrocarbons and oxygen can be achieved in a photothermochemical flow reactor operating at 180 to 200 C and pressures up to 6 atmospheres.

    “We are the first to use both light and heat to synthesize liquid hydrocarbons in a single stage reactor from carbon dioxide and water,” said Brian Dennis, UTA professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and co-principal investigator of the project. “Concentrated light drives the photochemical reaction, which generates high-energy intermediates and heat to drive thermochemical carbon-chain-forming reactions, thus producing hydrocarbons in a single-step process.”

    Duane Dimos, UTA vice president for research commended the researchers on their success.

    “Discovering a one-step process to generate renewable hydrocarbon fuels from carbon dioxide and water is a huge achievement,“ Dimos said. “This work strengthens UTA’s reputation as a leading research institution in the area of Global Environmental Impact, as laid out in our Strategic Plan 2020.”

    The hybrid photochemical and thermochemical catalyst used for the experiment was based on titanium dioxide, a white powder that cannot absorb the entire visible light spectrum.

    “Our next step is to develop a photo-catalyst better matched to the solar spectrum,” MacDonnell said. “Then we could more effectively use the entire spectrum of incident light to work towards the overall goal of a sustainable solar liquid fuel.“

    The authors envision using parabolic mirrors to concentrate sunlight on the catalyst bed, providing both heat and photo-excitation for the reaction. Excess heat could even be used to drive related operations for a solar fuels facility, including product separations and water purification.

    The research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Robert A. Welch Foundation. Wilaiwan Chanmanee, postdoctoral research associate in mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Mohammad Fakrul Islam, graduate research assistant and Ph.D. candidate in the department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UTA, also participated in the project.

    MacDonnell and Dennis have received more than $2.6 million in grants and corporate funding for sustainable energy projects over the last four years.

    MacDonnell and Dennis’ investigations also are focused on converting natural gas for use as high-grade diesel and jet fuel. The researchers developed the gas-to-liquid technology in collaboration with an industrial partner in UTA’s Center for Renewable Energy and Science Technology, or CREST, lab, and are now working to commercialize the process.

    MacDonnell also has worked on developing new photocatalysts for hydrogen generation, with the goal of creating an artificial photosynthetic system which uses solar energy to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen could then be used as a clean fuel.

    MacDonnell joined the College of Science in 1995, following his postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard. He earned his Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from Northwestern University.

    Dennis joined the College of Engineering in 2004 as an assistant professor. He earned his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering at Pennsylvania State University and completed his postdoctoral work in Environmental Engineering at the University of Tokyo.

    See the full article here .

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    The University of Texas at Arlington is a growing research powerhouse committed to life-enhancing discovery, innovative instruction, and caring community engagement. An educational leader in the heart of the thriving North Texas region, UT Arlington nurtures minds within an environment that values excellence, ingenuity, and diversity.

    Guided by world-class faculty members, the University’s more than 48,000 students in Texas and around the world represent 120 countries and pursue more than 180 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a broad range of disciplines. UT Arlington is dedicated to producing the lifelong learners and critical thinkers our region and nation demand. More than 60 percent of the University’s 190,000 alumni live in North Texas and contribute to our annual economic impact of $12.8 billion in the region.

    With a growing number of campus residents, UT Arlington has become a first-choice university for students seeking a vibrant college experience. In addition to receiving a first-rate education, our students participate in a robust slate of co-curricular activities that prepare them to become the next generation of leaders.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:29 pm on February 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Energy, , Wind power in China   

    From SA: “China Blows Past the U.S. in Wind Power” 

    Scientific American

    Scientific American

    February 2, 2016
    Daniel Cusick

    Wind farm in Xinjiang, China
    Wind farm in Xinjiang, China

    China solidified its standing as the world’s wind energy behemoth in 2015, adding almost as much wind power capacity in one year as the total installed capacity of the three largest U.S. wind-producing states: Texas, Iowa and California.

    New data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance show China installed just under 29 gigawatts of new wind energy capacity in 2015, surpassing its previous record of roughly 21 GW set in 2014. The country also accounted for more than 46 percent of all wind power installed globally for the year, eclipsing the next largest market, the United States, which added 8.6 GW (ClimateWire, Jan. 28).

    Amy Grace, head of wind insight at BNEF, said the Chinese growth figure was the biggest surprise of 2015 and roughly 4 GW higher than analysts predicted. After China and the United States, the world’s largest markets for new wind power in 2015 were Germany, India and Brazil, with gross installs of 3.7, 2.6 and 2.6 GW, respectively.

    Grace noted in an email that Chinese developers “got very excited about qualifying projects” before the government implemented a second round of reductions to its feed-in tariff program for onshore wind farms. The reforms, initiated in early 2015, reduced payments to turbine owners by roughly 3 cents per kilowatt-hour across the country’s primary wind-energy-producing regions in the north and west of the country.

    But a rush to collect cash wasn’t the only driving factor behind China’s wind energy boom, according to other experts who track the country’s energy indicators. Nor does a boom in Chinese turbine installations necessarily translate into a proportionate gain in electricity flowing to China’s grid.

    Joanna Lewis, an associate professor of science, technology and international affairs at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, said China’s wind power sector has also been aided by a steep decline in manufacturing and installation costs, as well as the establishment of a robust domestic supply chain, led by the nation’s industry leader, Goldwind.

    “The feed-in tariff is still important as a driver,” Lewis said, “but there are other government policies and incentives that are continuing to drive the rapid pace” of wind power development in China. They include the central government’s commitment to replace heavily polluting coal-fired power plants, which are blamed for wrenching air conditions in China’s cities, with non-emitting resources such as wind, solar and hydropower.

    As part of that commitment, the government has pledged to produce 15 percent of all electricity by 2020 using renewable resources, including 250 GW of wind power expected to come online by the end of the decade.

    “This is partly about reducing carbon emissions, but it’s also an air quality issue that has become very, very urgent,” said Kate Gordon, vice chairwoman for climate and sustainable urbanization at the Paulson Institute, the China-focused environmental policy think tank led by former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

    Gordon and Lewis also stressed that China’s clean energy story is only partly about capacity additions. The country still has considerable work ahead to effectively integrate renewable energy resources into the national grid. Among the hurdles are basic grid connectivity, but also the need for more effective management of the country’s power supply so that renewable energy resources are optimized.

    While investment in China’s power grid has risen substantially, the country still has some of the world’s highest curtailment rates for renewable energy, meaning thousands of turbines are taken offline, even under optimum wind conditions, because grid operators lack the knowledge and skills to integrate the clean energy with other sources, including baseload power from coal plants.

    Because of those limitations, Lewis said the United States remains a world leader in wind energy because capacity factors and utilization rates are much higher on average for U.S. wind turbines than for Chinese turbines.

    But China’s turbine technology is improving quickly, and it is closing the gap in the wind industry supply chain against other global brands.

    According to BNEF, Beijing-based Goldwind dominated the Chinese domestic market in 2015, accounting for 7.7 GW of China’s new capacity, followed by rival Guodian United Power Technology Co. Ltd. with 2.9 GW, and Envision Energy and Ming Yang Wind Power Group Ltd., each with 2.7 GW of new capacity.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:54 pm on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Energy,   

    From SA: “A Turning Point in Combating Climate Change May Be Here” 

    Scientific American

    Scientific American

    December 14, 2015
    Shannon Hall

    Investigations against oil and coal companies raise optimism for a cleaner future

    1
    Darryl Peroni ©iStock.com

    The world is shifting. At least that’s what Bill McKibben, a leading environmental activist, tweeted on November 6. He was referring to the recent wave of push-back against fossil fuel companies. On November 5 New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened an investigation against ExxonMobil for potentially lying to the public and investors about the risks of climate change. The next day, the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Canadian tar sands to refineries near Houston, was rejected by Pres. Barack Obama and effectively killed. Then only two days later, Peabody Energy announced that a two-year investigation by Schneiderman had come to a close, forcing the company to disclose any financial risks it faces from future government policies and regulations related to climate change.

    It is tempting to take the rush of recent events optimistically, especially if you have been waiting to see more concerted action against human causes of climate change. In addition to McKibben, several activists, scientists and environmental lawyers agree the world is shifting from one doused in denial to one that might take big steps in the right direction. Such news, however, begs the question: What’s behind this change of heart? “The science is strong and getting stronger,” says Richard Alley, a geoscientist at The Pennsylvania State University. “And despite great efforts by clever people over decades, no one has succeeded in finding any real problems with the science or in generating any serious competing ideas.” But what’s more likely to change public opinion, many climate scientists point out, is the extreme weather prevalent today. Whether it is California’s record-breaking drought or the fact that 2015, like the year before it, will set yet another first for the hottest year on record, people are now seeing the impacts that likely arise from climate change in their own backyards. It is no longer a threat relegated to the future and faraway places.

    Not only is the public beginning to accept climate change as a real danger, they’re realizing that fighting it is a viable option. Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann points to “the remarkable growth of renewable energy” as adding to the sense that public perception is at a tipping point. Cleaner energy sources are surging so much that 2014 marked the first time in 40 years that global carbon dioxide emissions stalled, and even dropped during a time of economic growth. With the tie between economic growth and lower carbon emissions severed, the public has begun to see renewable energy as a viable alternative. Indeed, a recent Pew Research Center survey showed a clear global consensus on a need to tackle climate change. Across all 40 nations polled, roughly 78 percent of residents supported the idea that their countries should limit greenhouse gas emissions.

    The perceived turning point from climate denialism to action does not appear to be a scientist’s pipe dream, either. Lawyers who work at the forefront of climate policy agree that strong science and the ability to tackle climate change are changing people’s minds. But several legal turns have also taken place. “I actually think there is a trend in public conversations and even in private conversations toward thinking about liability for major energy companies for climate harm in a way we haven’t seen in many years,” says Cara Horowitz, co-executive director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law. And proving companies libel might just be the next step toward a renewable future.

    Horowitz says a legal angle into challenging big, man-made sources of carbon emissions began in court cases in the mid-2000s, particularly three lawsuits that were brought against fossil fuel companies under the federal common law of nuisance. Villagers in the Alaska coastal town Kivalina filed suit against several oil and gas companies in an attempt to be compensated for their relocation costs after flooding caused by the changing Arctic climate destroyed their homes. Residents along the Gulf of Mexico coast sued dozens of the nation’s largest carbon polluters when they suffered losses from Hurricane Katrina. And several states brought a lawsuit against some of the nation’s largest electricity generators to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

    All three cases failed after they reached the U.S. Supreme Court but they laid the groundwork for the legal thinking that Horowitz says is resurging now. Several changes have taken place in the years since. A crucial event occurred in 2013 when researcher and author Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute calculated that only 90 companies, including Chevron, ExxonMobil and BP, were largely responsible for the climate crisis. “So relatively few companies really are proportionally responsible for a pretty large share of the climate change problem in a way that allows lawyers and others to start thinking about causality in a legal sense,” Horowitz says.

    Fuel was added to the fire earlier this year when an InsideClimate News investigation revealed that Exxon was aware of climate change as early as 1977 (before the oil giant merged with Mobil). The news group claimed that despite the information, the company spent decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change, arguing the science was still highly uncertain. It even promoted climate misinformation—in 1989 the company helped create the Global Climate Coalition to question the scientific basis of climate change concerns and dissuade the U.S. from signing the Kyoto Protocol to control greenhouse gas emissions. Had Exxon been immediately transparent about its own research, the world might have begun developing clean energy decades earlier. As such, many experts have likened these actions to the deceit spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking.

    The key word, “deceit,” has opened up a new legal pathway to investigate these companies—New York State’s 1921 Martin Act. Because of the state’s rich history of publicly traded financial markets, the law confers on its attorney general broad powers to investigate financial fraud. “There’s no law quite like the Martin Act,” says Patrick Parenteau, former director of Vermont Law School’s Environmental Law Center and the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, “[It’s] the strongest law in the country.”

    Although the law is nearly a century old, it has never been used in the fight against climate change. Using it against ExxonMobil will not be based on claims of injuries wrought by global warming (like the cases in the mid-2000s) but rather on failure to disclose information that investors need to know. If more companies have to accurately disclose any risks to their bottom line, like Peabody Energy now has to do, they might no longer stand on firm financial ground. They may lose investors and customers, helping shift investment from fossil fuel companies and toward those promoting clean energy. “It’s kind of a back door to influencing the behavior of some of the largest oil and gas companies for the sake of climate change,” Horowitz says.

    And it is likely that the investigation will spur legal inquiries into other oil companies. ExxonMobil is not the only oil and gas company whose public stance on climate change did not match what we—and almost certainly they—knew about the risks of global warming at the time, Horowitz says. She and Parenteau agree that other companies likely listened to Exxon’s experts and did some of their own research as well. If other investigations can prove that these companies also deceived the public, they too could lose investors. “It wouldn’t surprise me,” Horowitz says, “if this is the beginning of a storm.”

    See the full article here .

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