Top 10 Most Interesting Energy, Environment, & Climate Articles From December

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PG&E tests utility-scale batteries in CA

Here’s my latest monthly pick of the “Top 10” most compelling clean energy, climate, and environment-related news stories from last month. While some articles may impact you profoundly, at the very least, others are very interesting. Over a thousand articles were reviewed and 30+ were collected and sent to my private reader list. This newsletter is available upon request. The 10 best are here, with the most interesting (to me) held for the very last as #1.

10. As California closes in on its (energy) portfolio requirement of 33% renewables by 2020, it is beginning to trial utility-scale batteries into the grid. Initially, of course, costs are high for utility-scale batters, but California and other states will benefit from California’s trials. [Editor’s note: see our 100% Renewable Energy page to check out studies on how to achieve the lowest-cost grid of the future primarily with renewables — which studies have found are the cheapest option for our long-term energy needs.]

9. According to projections from Potsdam Institute, when global temperatures exceed 3 degrees (Celsius) above pre-industrial levels, 40% more people than present will experience water shortages. Timing is in the coming decades, not centuries. The most effected areas are the Souther USA, Southern China, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

8. The World Economic Forum introduced its “energy architecture index,” which ranks 105 countries by their level of generating sustainable energy. The top three are Norway, Sweden, and France; and the bottom three are Lebanon, Tanzania, and Ethiopia (the US is #55, which puts it in the bottom half of the list).

7. A report anticipates 15,000 clean energy jobs were created in 2013, with California, Nevada, and New York leading the way and with solar energy growth — by far the leading energy platform  for both power generation and job creation.

6. Researcher Kachan & Co predicts 2014 will be a resurgence of investment in cleantech.

5. Grads from Princeton and Northwestern have formed AirCarbon, a company that makes plastic out of GHG emissions and doing so cost efficiently, which up to now has been the main sticking point. Independent labs affirm their manufacturing is “carbon negative.”

4. New EPA 2014 rules for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) reduce production requirements for biofuels. While responding to the reality of the biofuel industry, the net effect (although small) raises consumption of gasoline, including foreign oil, and increases GHG emissions.

3. The DOE’s Argonne Lab is testing a new ceramic material (perovskite crystals) that promises numerous advantages over standard ceramics (ferroelectric) for thin-film solar cells. Advantages include lower cost of materials, faster production time, thinner and lighter weight, greater efficiency and the ability convert not only ultraviolet light to energy but also visible and infrared light.

2. China’s state media issued a statement that their intense smog is actually good, in that it brings people together, facilities a sense of humor and has military advantages. So if tchotchkes can be made in China, why not “spin?”


1. Examining the carbon “hoof print” of livestock, the Nat’l Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reveals chickens and pigs are far more efficient (up to 100x more) in producing a unit of protein than cattle, sheep and goats. Study looks at feed consumed, GHG emissions produced by the animals (flatulence) and resulting efficiency of producing protein. Comparisons were made on kilograms of carbon (GHGE’s) vs. kg’s of protein.

…. And because of cattle’s high contribution to GHGE’s (methane), there’s a movement (UK) to tax beef.

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