US congress targets “super” climate pollutants.

I have to say that I am always skeptical about having new environmental regulations in the US, because I fear to have a society that is over regulated at the expense of its economic growth. In my previous post about climate change and the economy, I talked about why it’s important for the whole world to come together to make a unified regulation to tackle climate change. It should not be that one country will be trying hard to reduce climate change at the detriment of its economy and the other will be carefree about it. The bottom line still remains that it’s when you are rich that you think about the environment and we don’t want to over regulate the country to the extent of forcing industries to close down and taking the economy into another series of recession. Don’t get me wrong, I love the environment and will do all I can to live in a free and safe environment but we have to do it with a level of consideration.

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Last week Friday, precisely 10th of May 2013, US Congressman Scott Peters (D-Calif.)introduced the Super Pollutant Emissions Reduction Act of 2013, or “SUPER Act”, to establish a U.S task force to reduce super climate pollutants under existing authorities.  The super pollutants are also known as short-lived climate pollutants because they remain in the atmosphere for only short period of time but significantly contribute to climate change because they are highly potent in their warming effects.

These pollutants includes black carbon, a primary component of soot, tropospheric ozone, the principal component of urban smog, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), factory-made chemicals used in air conditioning, refrigeration, and insulating foams. All these pollutants have been presently regulated by the environmental agencies, therefore I think the most important thing to do is to look for ways to effectively apply and streamline the existing regulations instead of adding another layer of complication to the existing rules.

I believe that major things needed to tackle climate change in the world is having efficient manufacturing and technological processes that will reduce energy use and its corresponding pollutants which will cut across every industrialized nation in the world.  I really love the idea of the “Super Act” by the congressman but I think the US need to effectively manage the existing regulation instead of adding more to it. I will like to hear your views about this issue and how we can tackle climate change in the world at large.

Thanks

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What do you think about bike sharing?

We have rental cars, airplanes, helicopter, boats…. why not bicycles?  Most times we look at the cost and think there is no need to rent a bicycle when you can easily afford one. The major reason for bike sharing is not because of the cost, it’s basically a means of reducing pollution for short trips that would have been easy to use a bike as well. Bike sharing is getting common everywhere now so why not join the group of people that care about climate change. I remember at Oklahoma state university, we used to have a bicycle network owned by the school which students can easily borrow for short trips inside the campus. Bike sharing network ensures that you always have a bicycle anywhere and anytime you need it.

 

update112_countriesToday, I read on the Earth Policy Institute website that “500 cities in 49 countries host advanced bike-sharing programs, with a combined fleet of over 500,000 bicycles”, so the question you should ask yourself is why not here?  Forward-thinking cities are turning back to the humble bicycle as a way to enhance mobility, alleviate automotive congestion, reduce air pollution, boost health, support local businesses, and attract more young people.In the United States, more than two dozen cities have active public bike-sharing programs, including Washington, DC, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Boston, Miami Beach, Denver, Madison, and Ft. Worth.

On the 8th of April 29, 2013, the city of New York released the city’s first bike sharing program themed;“NYC Bike Share: Designed by New Yorkers ”. From May 2013, Cyclists will be able to purchase passes to the system which at the moment has three subscription options: a 24-Hour Pass for $9.95, a 7-Day Pass for $25, or an Annual Membership for $95. This program will definitely reduce pollution in the city and equally institute healthy lifestyle among residents by exercising with the bikes.

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Your short lunch break needs a bike and not your car, you quick run to the store could make use of a bike too, going to classes will be better on bikes and all other short errands will be okay with the use of a bike. I know that problem of theft and vandalism that disrupted previous programs like this will still be there, but designing a unique special bicycle that cannot be sold in the commercial market and having proper monitoring systems like the library book lending will definitely reduce or eliminate theft. This is a call to tell you council representatives that you need a “Bike Sharing” network in your city.

ACT NOW!

Thanks.

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Your lawn mower is also causing climate change

Most of us want to keep pointing finger at others saying they are the ones causing climate change without looking within to consider how our lifestyle is also influencing it. Dr Bret Simmons’ leadership class at University of Nevada Reno taught me that in other to be an effective leader we should have the “rear view mirror” mentality of prudence. He said that “the evaluation of prudence is best made by looking in your rear view mirror, back at decisions you’ve made to confirm that the sacrifices you endured were justified by the rewards you earned.” Therefore to be an effective leader in the campaign against climate change, we should be able to access our lifestyle to know if we are making the right sacrifices to stop climate change on our part.

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According to several data analysis, it was discovered that in urban cities, more carbon dioxide is released from residential lawns mowers that are adding to the carbon footprint and thereby influencing climate change. Most of us will think that the impact our small lawnmower will make is little or nothing, forgetting the fact that it all adds up when the cumulative effect of all the mowers are considered.  Several states including the state of California has continually reduced lawn mower emission standard and some go to the extent of having a replacement program to exchange resident’s old mowers for a new efficient one. These regulations are working but it’s not by any means eliminating its carbon dioxides production. Some residence even go to the extent of buying mowers in states that have lower standards  to use it a different state that has a higher standard.

I think the best approach to this is by making individual assessment of our lifestyle, and see how much we are contributing to climate change, not to keep blaming the energy or oil and gas industry without making a move to support what we believe in. There are several electric power and rechargeable lawn mower that we can use and it will not emit any carbon to the atmosphere. We can also use solar powered lawn mower which will be the most ideal in this kind of situation. This is another call for us to change our lifestyle in order to stop climate change.  Protests and demonstrations alone cannot solve the problem if we are not resolved in our heart to make a change in our individual activities. Kindly make a move to get a zero emission lawn mower today.

Thanks

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Dubai is leading renewable energy generation in the gulf.

I was very impressed to read about the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park project flagged-off by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, (DEWA) last year. This project will be a pioneering initiative by a middle-eastern country into renewable energy production. The project costing more than Dh12 billion (3.2 billion US dollars), was launched in January 2012 and is considered the largest of such project in the Gulf region. The park is part of Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030’s target to use solar energy to generate five percent of the emirate’s total power output by 2030.

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The Dubai government has earmarked 48sqkm of land for this project which is expected to be completed by 2030. The first phase will be built at a cost of Dh120 million and aims to generate 10 MW of power by the fourth quarter of 2013. The full project of 1,000 MW will be completed by 2030.The future projects will be scheduled to achieve set objectives of satisfying one percent of Dubai’s energy needs by 2020 and five percent by 2030 as per the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030 targets. The park will include an R&D Centre that will run tests on solar technologies such as photovoltaic, concentrated solar energy systems, parabolic dishes etc.

I think this is a very interesting gesture by the government of UAE where oil and gas recourse is presumed to be in excess and the cost is relatively very cheap. This should send some thoughts to the rest of the world that no matter how expensive the use of renewable energy is, it’s still very important to invest in it to protect the environment and also to diversify energy needs. I corroborate the saying that “cheaper does not always mean better”. The fact that the US is enjoying the abundant natural gas resource now does not mean that it should forget its commitment to renewable energy.

The government should do more in supporting renewable energy project because it is becoming increasingly expensive to finance by private investors. Some states have proposed different renewable energy standard from power generation and I strongly believe the whole country should follow suit. These policies should be equally applied across the states and provisions to make it achievable should be provided by the government. Hope other countries in the mid east will equally follow this Dubai power park initiative and together we will reduce climate change. Kindly drop your comments below on how to increase renewable energy production in your area.

Thanks

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Its Earth’s day 2013.

Today is Earth Day! Every year, April 22 is set aside as a day to honor environmental awareness and action. This year’s theme is “The Face of Climate Change”, chosen to highlight the mounting impact of global warming on people worldwide. Year in year out, Google has been there to acknowledge the Earth day by providing doodles on its website to celebrate the day. From melting polar ice in 2007 (a prophetic nod to the record Arctic melt that year), rocks in 2008, a waterfall and marine life in 2009 to parrots in 2010pandas in 2011 and animated flowers in 2012. This year, Google is commemorating Earth Day with an animated doodle showing a cycle of all four seasons.

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Yesterday, the city of Reno also celebrated pre-earth day event with a lot of fun and glamour. This event brought hundreds of exhibitors to educate the public about clean and green technologies. It also highlighted discussions on human impact on the environment and ideas about sustainable living habit. The Los Angeles times also posted an article about seven ways to honor the planet which I think is interesting. Last week, I also posted a blog post on how the NBA is joining the climate campaign by celebration its 5th NBA annual earth week with different environmental awareness program planned for the week.

The earth day is a significant day and need to be celebrated with a level of sacrifices on our path. I have decided to celebrate today by not printing on any paper at the office today.  I am also going to buy food with little or no packaging. This is also a call to action for you too, kindly think of something you can do to celebrate the Earth day and share your comments about the day below. May sure you talk to someone about the danger of climate change today.

Thanks

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Lessons from Euro carbon market

Last November, California Air Resources Board flags off the first carbon market program in the United States of America despite the US senate’s 2010 failure to pass a national program. Given the state’s history of implementing environmental regulations that later becomes national policy, a successful cap-and-trade system could serve as a federal model in the future. I think the cap-and-trade idea is to make it more expensive to emit CO2, and to make green technologies-including renewable fuels, and carbon capture and sequestration-that are initially expensive more competitive with fossil fuels.If cap-and-trade in California fails, then that could be a big blow to its consideration as a national policy instrument in Washington.

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The European carbon program is going through some hard times. last week, the European parliament  voted 334-315 (with 60 abstentions) against a controversial “back-loading” plan that aimed to boost the flagging price of carbon, which since 2008 has fallen from about 31 euros per ton to about 4 euros (about $5.20).  This blog post is to make a quick assessment of the European carbon program and highlight some lesson the world could learn from its mode of operation.

I believe that what really plummet the European carbon market were the 2008 economic Recession and the subsequent anemic recovery that still lingers on till now. Due to the slow economic recovery, the demand for carbon reduces and the supply continues to increase; forcing a bad economics of scale. Tomas Wyns, director of the Center for Clean Air Policy Europe, a Brussels-based nonprofit said there should be a price-stabilization reserve that buys up allowances when prices are too low. The EU should have introduced a back-loading system that will take a chunk of the excesses out of the market creating an artificial scarcity that would have boosted the price of carbon.

The major opponents to the carbon market program are the major industries ranging from the steelmakers to beer brewers who argue that if the price of carbon goes up they will not be able to compete against competitors from other countries that are still benefiting from the already cheap energy sources like the shale gas in America. While I think it is a legitimate argument especially with the fragile state of European economic, it equally important to think about its potential risk

Although the US senate voted down the 2010 cap and trade proposal, I hope the European experience will not be a deterrent for future consideration.  I believe the complexity of European politics has contributed to the European carbon market problem and that with a stable political system and support, the US will definitely gain from a thoroughly planned emission trading program. The California carbon market is relatively young and will appreciate your positive criticism and comments below in order to make it better.

Thanks

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Texas fertilizer plant explosion and its corresponding health hazards

It has been a terrible week in American history, as the nation is mourning the death of three and the injury of over 170 people from the Mondays’ Boston marathon, just two days later on Wednesday April 15, 2013, the city of West, Texas was thrown into pandemonium. About 12 people were confirmed dead in a fertilizer manufacturing plant explosion and rescuers continue to search for missing people through the rubbles. This incident also has over 200 people injured, a couple of residents displaced and millions of dollars’ worth of properties destroyed. Thousands of tons of anhydrous ammonia have been released into the atmosphere leaving the lives of people and animals in this region at great risk.

Anhydrous ammonia is a colorless, highly irritating gas with a sharp, suffocating odor.  People will notice the pungent odor at levels ranging from 5 – 50 parts per million (ppm).  Irritating effects generally begin at levels between 25-50 ppm, and more serious effects will occur at levels greater than 100 ppm. I believe that the concentration of anhydrous ammonia in the atmosphere will be of great magnitude because the plant was storing as much as 54,000 pounds of this dangerous gas. The blast was so powerful that the United States Geological Survey registered it as a 2.1-magnitude earthquake.

Although, the disaster has happened and lots of lives has been lost, the most important thing now is how to save the life of  the thousands of West resident that are still alive. I think this accident should be treated a nuclear disaster and the evacuation exercise must be effective until the EPA can confirm that the concentration of ammonia in the air is no longer toxic. I will like share the guidelines that I got from the North Dakota Department of Health that will be helpful to the resident of West, TX when they are allowed to go back to theirs homes.

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Guidelines for people returning to their homes include:

  • Food that was not in sealed packaging should be thrown away.  Food in the refrigerator should be safe to eat unless there was a power outage.  Perishable food items (meat, milk, etc.) in refrigerators where there was a loss of power should be discarded.  Foods in freezers during power outages are generally safe to eat unless the power is out for an extended time period.

Food in sealed containers, such as canned goods or those sealed in airtight plastic wrap or in plastic containers may be eaten after cleaning the container thoroughly with soap and water.

Food in boxes that have been opened, such as cereal, crackers, etc., that do not have an airtight seal, should be thrown away.

If you are unsure about food products, a good general rule to follow is, “When in doubt, throw it out.”

  • These same general guidelines, apply to pet foods.  Pet food that had been left out should be discarded.  Pet food in sealed cans or in other airtight packages is safe after the outside of the container is wiped off with a wet cloth.  However, pet foods in bags that had been previously opened should be discarded.

Contact your veterinarian if your pet is experiencing symptoms which may be related to exposure to anhydrous ammonia.  These symptoms would be similar to those experienced by people, especially those involving difficulty breathing or other respiratory problems.

  • There may be a white powder residual in your home.  This substance is ammonium hydroxide and occurs after anhydrous ammonia settles out after exposure to water.  It is similar to the ammonia used in general home cleaning.  If you notice any of this white powder on surfaces in your home, it can be safely cleaned up simply by using a wet cloth.  This substance could cause skin irritation, so rubber gloves should be used when cleaning.
  • If this white residue is on clothing or other fabrics, they can be cleaned in a washing machine.
  • Plates, silver ware and other eating utensils can be cleaned in a dishwasher or by washing with soap and water.
  • Avoid eating snow (especially Kids).  It is possible that the snow may be contaminated with small amounts of anhydrous ammonia and could cause skin irritation.  Direct skin contact with snow should be minimized

Associated press also reports that the Texas plant last OSHA inspection was dated back to 1985. I think somebody should be responsible for this and justice administered. I also think that accidents like this could be avoided if proper oversights are provided and regulatory agencies do their job. Your comment will be appreciated below about providing adequate safety for the people of West, TX and the world at large.

Thanks

 

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Is ground level ozone really falling faster than predicted?

The general believe that “every good thing has a bad flip side” also hold for ozone. Ozone is a reactive gas molecule composed of three oxygen atoms. It occurs both in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and at ground level. Ozone can be either good or bad, depending on where it is found.  The “good” ozone occurs naturally in the Earth’s upper atmosphere (stratosphere), 6 to 30 miles above the Earth’s surface.  Ozone at this level helps to protect the earth from the harmful ultraviolent rays of the sun. While the “bad” ozone occurs near the ground surface (troposphere), this ozone is formed from photochemical reaction of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons. It is the primary ingredient of smog air pollution and very harmful because it attacks the lung tissues.

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During my Environmental Engineering postgraduate degree at Oklahoma State University, I worked on a creative component research that studied the spread of ground level ozone.  One of my advisorscould not agree with the idea of using a box model analysis to predict ozone transport because we had to assume it’s a completely mixed condition in a hypothetic unit constrained area which in reality does not happen like that. But this was the basis for most ozone transport model.Since there is no technology to practically predict the ozone plume concentration we had to finally agree to use this method. Although I did not use any of the current commercial based photochemical models at that time, my mathematical analysis was based on the same general methodology.

Last month, Daniel Cohan, Wei Zhou and Sergey Napelenok published an article from rice university research works that substantiate the fact that ground level ozone is difficult to accurately predict,  the article said that the  “model widely used to predict the impact of remediation efforts has been too conservative” and there are discrepancies between the model to actual analysis.  The EPA cap-and-trade program of 2002 known as the NOx SIP helped to reduce emissions of ozone-forming NOx from industries especially in the Eastern states. This dramatic reduction in emissions over the yearsprovided a real-world data for the researchers to test how well computer models predict improvements in air quality.The research found out that even after trying to model with the best meteorological and emissions data, there seem to be a gap between what the model predicted and the real life results.

This research does not by any means undermine the results from the previous works, but it makes us to understand that we still have a lot to do to fully understand ground level ozone transport. Despite the fact that the analysis shows the flaws of the current models, I still thinkthismodel analysis brought us closer to this discovery. Further research into this model will help fine tune it andfix it for future use. Remember that the fact that the ‘weather’ man’s prediction isn’t always right doesnot mean we should forsake his advice. Kindly leave a comment below as we continue to look for more accurate method to predict ground level ozone.

Thanks.

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NBA is greening our world.

I am a dedicated basketball fan and patiently waiting for the playoffs as my favorite ‘team’ OKC Thunders look set for another championship appearance.  With Kelvin Durant, Russell Westbrook , Siege Ibaka and the rest of the team gearing up for their second consecutive finals  appearance with the hope of winning it all this time, all I can say is ”Go Thunders!”. The NBA (National Basketball Association) pioneers a global campaign that should be emulated by other sport associations. Last week, April 4-12, 2013, NBA flagged off its 5th “Green Week” though partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Most Sports are outdoor activities and without good air, water and clean environment sports cannot be enjoyed. Therefore the right thing to do for sport bodies is to ensure they have safe environment that will foster the growth of the game.

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The NBA lined up a series of events that graced the week. You can visit the NBA website for more information about the Green week.  According to the words of NRDC Senior Scientist Allen Hershkowitz, who coordinated the organization’s development of this work, “the NBA’s commitment to reduce its ecological impact and to help educate basketball fans worldwide about the importance of environmental protection confirms why this league is regarded as one of the world’s most responsible sports organizations”. He continued by saying that “besides the tangible public health benefits that this initiative will advance, having the NBA embrace ecological criteria in its operations represents a watershed in our nation’s movement toward environmental progress.”

As we all know, sport is a major unifying factor in today society, itplays a positive role in uniting people from different social backgrounds, race, religion, culture etc in support of their favorite team.It’s just sad that it’s only the NBA that is showing their support for the environment by performing this green week at the moment. If all sports association could equally join in this campaign,it will definitely go a long way spreading the news about climate change and other environmental awareness.

I will also like the NBA to remember to include green information advert in the playoff finals maybe during one of the numerous time-outs because this will reach more audience.  Sport is the most watched program on TV and if sport organizations do something like this, it will go a long way in reaching the millions of fans watching their programs and educate them about the impact of climate change. The summer Olympics, FIFA World Cup and the Super bowl are the most watched events in television history worldwide. An environmental awareness talk during this event will reach billions of people and cultivate environmental curiosity amongst viewers especially in the developing nations where the media and internet has not fully penetrated the society.

Thanks for reading, you can subscribe to this blog or follow me on twitter @Engrdino for more up-to- date information about climate change and the environment.

Thanks

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Ormat Developed the Nation’s First Grid Connected Enhanced Power Generation System.

Sometime in September 2012, I was able to visit the Ormat geothermal power plant at their steam boat facility in Reno, NV with a team of professionals from the Eastern Nevada Chapter of AWMA (Air and Waste management Association). During the tour we were shown around the facility and we had the opportunity to see some of the cutting edge technologies they use in Geothermal Power generation. Ormat technology, a Nevada based company founded in 1965 committed to developing green, sustainable energy solution through the development of pioneering technology.

On the 12th of April 2013, the US department of energy announced that Ormat Technologies has developed the nation’s first commercial enhanced geothermal system (EGS) project to supply electricity to the grid. At its Churchill County facility, Ormat Technologies’ Desert Peak 2 EGS project had increased power output of its nearby operating geothermal field by nearly 38 percent – providing an additional 1.7 megawatts of power to the grid and validating this emerging clean energy technology.

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The technological concept for the EGS system can be found at the Department of energy website with a detailed animation of the process.  In summary, the concept behind the EGS technology is to extract heat by creating a subsurface fracture system to which water can be added through injection wells. Creating an enhanced or engineered, geothermal system requires improving the natural permeability of rock. Rocks are permeable due to minute fractures and pore spaces between mineral grains. Injected water is heated by contact with the rock and returns to the surface through production wells, as in naturally occurring hydrothermal systems. EGS are reservoirs created to improve the economics of resources without adequate water and/or permeability.

I believe this is a good indication that with proper investment in research and development, renewable energy can thump fossil fuel as sustainable means of energy production. In line with president Obama’s climate change policy, technologies like this will definitely reduce GHGs and hence positively affect climate change. Although there are still some reservations from critics about geothermal technology because of its potential ground water contamination, but I believe that any contamination will be significantly lower than those of gas fracking which is the major source of power generation.

Kindly leave your comments below.

Thanks

Daniel

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