U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu spoke at the National Press Club yesterday. Here's video, provided by Peter Sinclair. According to Politico, "Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and CEQ chief Nancy Sutley will head to Mexico next week to join in the Cancun fun. Exact dates of the visits are TBA, but a State Department spokesman said that they will be in town for a day each for events underscoring their department's work. Chu will trumpet clean tech, Vilsack will talk REDD and Sutley will discuss adaptation." The Sierra Club has a team in Cancun right now. In fact, some from the Club's delegation will be blogging on Compass from there. Read one delegate's first impression by clicking here. You can also follow the Club's delegation at the Activist Network.
If you want to hook your home up to renewable energy and solar energy isn't all that feasible, perhaps the answer is blowing in the wind. Ron Stimmel is a small-systems expert with the American Wind Energy Association. He took some time to answer questions about what a typical American homeowner needs to know about wind power.
When people think of wind power they think of vast farms with giant turbines. In contrast, small wind is something entirely different. Can you briefly define small wind?
We're talking about individual turbines used for individual purposes. It's a lot like solar panels in terms of using it to offset your own energy. If you have at least a half acre or more of land and find yourself complaining about how windy it is all the time, then you're probably a good candidate for a small wind turbine.
But how do you know you have enough wind to justify a turbine? It's probably more than just licking your finger and pointing up.
There are people out there who sell and install them who are trained in wind resources and site assessment -- and they can take satellite imagery, survey land features on a particular lot, and give you a good idea of what your output would be for a given turbine at a given height.
Imagine putting together a conference once a year that draws 10,000 to 20,000 people from all over the world, and each year it is in a different host country. This is a major undertaking, and every year there are logistical glitches. Last year in Copenhagen there were annoying problems with registration including long, long lines.
Cancun is no different. Here the challenge is the layout of the meeting locations with informational meetings (side events) in one venue and negotiations and official proceedings in another. Transport times by bus would be an expected annoyance, but on this first day 15 and 20 minutes commutes took 1.5 to 2 hours because of traffic and security measurers. Diplomats and NGO representatives alike found themselves stuck in buses and cabs. Hopefully by tomorrow this problem will be resolved or improved upon.
There's a long list of sources scientists use to measure climate change and to interpret its implications. This article shows that you can add California's ancient redwood trees to that list.
By studying the rings, scientists hope to be able to forecast how the redwoods will change as the Earth warms up. One thing they've already learned is that these trees play a huge role in removing from the atmosphere the carbon dioxide that traps heat on Earth and leads to global warming. [...]
"Embedded in this tree ring is a remarkable record of climate," said Todd Dawson, the director of the Center for Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry at UC Berkeley, as he held up a core sample from a Montgomery Woods redwood. "Based on what has happened in the past, we can really project what will happen in the future."
You might have heard that GM won the car of the year award from Motor Trend for its plug-in hybrid Volt. Now the Nissan LEAF has a feather to put in its cap. The electric car was named the 2011 European Car of the Year. Via Autobloggreen:
Head juror Hakan Matson proclaims that the Leaf is "a breakthrough for electric cars" and that it "is the first electric vehicle that can match conventional cars in many respects."
It's great to see such recognition -- and competition among two auto giants.
In Sept. 2008, Laura Love and her husband got solar panels for their four bed, two-and-a-half-bath home in San Diego. They couldn't afford to purchase the panels but, because of a leasing deal offered by SolarCity, they live almost entirely off the grid thanks to a four-kilowatt panel system.
SolarCity, which operates in five states, provides panels at $90 a month, which includes free installation and no upfront charges. Read USA Today's coverage of this deal here. Municipalities are providing similar deals. For example, San Francisco launched a finance plan that lets homeowners pay for panels through their existing property taxes. Click here for more tips on going solar. Meantime, enjoy our interview with Love on how she went solar.
Describe the system.
It's a four-kilowatt system and the panels are fitted for your home based on your energy needs. The power that the panels generate is DC current, but the power you use in your house is AC current. The inverter box converts it so that you can put it into the main grid. It's a beige box about two-and-a-half feet by four feet, and it has a little tiny display. It took the installers three days to set it up.
What has happened to your monthly bills?
The way San Diego Gas & Electric runs it is that we owe a bill once a year now. They do a net-metering account that we only pay in October. Through the summer we usually generate more than we use. Last year our total usage for the year came to $220, whereas before we installed the system, we paid about $130 or $140 a month. It depends on how much we generate and use. In the rainy months, we have usage. In the summer, we feed energy back into the grid.
On Sunday on our way to the UN conference center in Cancun to pick up our credentials as official NGO observers for the Sierra Club, Tyla and I struck up a conversation with a young delegate from Kenya. His first question for us was, "Has the USA softened its stance on ratifying the Kyoto Protocol?" When I told him "no chance" he just laughed -- a knowing laugh of frustration that the US, the largest economy in the world and historically the largest carbon emitter still fails to make any longterm commitment to CO2 reductions.
For the past twenty years the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has brought humanity together to address one of the gravest threats it has ever faced. This institution and the process it oversees brought the global community to the brink of a historical global treaty urged on by thousands of protestors at the gates of the Bella center and heralded by stirring speeches and raucous chants of "1.5 to stay alive."
However, Copenhagen failed to deliver a "FAB" deal and the vacuum created by the bursting of this bubble has opened the door to any number of criticisms of the international negotiations – some legitimate, some misguided. One thing that has become painfully clear however is that it is no longer tenable to justify our collectively insane approach that more of the same will produce a different result. It's time to let international efforts evolve.
First and foremost the United States must release its hostage and allow progress on a global climate fund. Other issues such as technology transfer, REDD, and adaptation are important but climate finance is key for maintaining the interest of parties. U.S. demands for a "balanced outcome" rather than allowing certain key issues to move forward on their own have fed a paralyzing dynamic with China; A dynamic which allows the country to hide behind the "Bali Firewall" despite being the world's number one emitter. At the same time it has left the door open to other Annex I parties seeking to jump ship from the Kyoto Protocol. All while a host of key countries wait in the wings ready to commit to reducing emissions and get the world on track to address climate change.
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
It's a short week for most of us, but I still scoured the Internet and found some interesting stories. The outlook from political blogs is consistently grim. Climate zombies are invading Congress. Most of them come from the GOP ranks. And what about those few GOPers who seem immuned from the zombie bug? Well, here's a great example of what happens to a GOPers who actually thinks climate science makes sense:
Rep. Bob Inglis, the defeated South Carolina Republican who is attacking climate skepticism in the GOP ranks, says his belief in global warming put him on “Satan’s side” in some voters' eyes.
The outgoing lawmaker — who lost his GOP primary in a challenge from the right — told ClimateWire that his views damaged him politically in his district, which is in the northwest part of his state.