Report: Going 100 percent renewable power means a lot of dirty mining

For more than a decade, indigenous communities in Alaska have been fighting to prevent the mining of copper and gold at Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery and a crucial source of sustenance. The proposed mine, blocked under the Obama administration but inching forward under the Trump administration, has been billed by proponents as necessary to meet the growing demand for copper, which is used in wind turbines, batteries, and solar panels. Similar stories are playing out in Norway, where the Sámi community is fighting a copper mine, and in Papua New Guinea, where a company has been mining the seabed for gold and copper.

Weighing those trade-offs — between supporting mining in environmentally sensitive areas and sourcing metals needed to power renewables — is likely to become more common if countries continue generating more renewable energy. That’s according to a report out Wednesday from researchers at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia. The report, commissioned by the environmental organization Earthworks, finds that demand for metals such as copper, lithium and cobalt would skyrocket if countries around the world try to get their electric grids and transportation systems fully powered by renewable energy by 2050. Consequently, a rush to meet that demand could lead to more mining in countries with lax environmental and safety regulations and weak protections for workers.

“If not managed responsibly, this has the potential for new adverse environmental and social impacts,” the report says.

The list of metals used in the production of renewable energy is long. It includes the well-known — copper, silver and aluminum — as well as rare earths such as neodymium and dysprosium, used to make magnets for wind turbines. Mining for these metals is currently concentrated in just a handful of countries: Democratic Republic of Congo, China, Chile, and India, among them.

Startup Nikola Bets Hydrogen Will Finally Break Through With Big Rigs

Hydrogen has been a promising but elusive vehicle fuel for half a century, powering a range of fuel cell cars and SUVs but never quite solving cost and efficiency snags and lack of fuel stations that make it less attractive than batteries for zero-emission vehicles. The problem isn’t the technology, argues the founder of Arizona startup Nikola Motor, but that big trucks are a much better choice for hydrogen.

The 4-year-old maker of hydrogen tractor trailers is extolling a vision as brash as the one Tesla’s founders unveiled 13 years ago with its pricey all-electric cars: Nikola will act as a catalyst to bring hydrogen to the mainstream, building tens of thousands of hydrogen-powered big rigs and a coast-to-coast hydrogen station network to fuel them. It also wants carmakers like Toyota, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and Daimler to use those stations to expand their hydrogen fuel cell vehicle sales beyond California.

It won’t be cheap: Nikola is seeking $1.25 billion to fund it, on top of $300 million raised so far, CEO Trevor Milton tells Forbes. He’ll make a big push this week with a Nikola-led hydrogen tech conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, convening suppliers, partners, potential investors, future customers and carmakers, to gin up excitement and win powerful allies.  

Goldman: The Renewables Revolution Is Good For Big Oil

The renewable energy revolution that many have been seen as a threat for the oil and gas industry will actually benefit one significant segment of it: Big Oil. That’s what Goldman Sachs’s head of natural resources research in the EMEA region told CNBC this week.

The reason for the counterintuitive conclusion has everything to do with size: the same factor that has made Big Oil the most likely winner in the shale patch as long as oil and gas prices don’t slump too low.

“The decarbonization push, the push from the market to adapt to climate change, is tightening the financial conditions in the sector so much that we’re recreating the barriers to entry and we’re reconsolidating the market structure we lost at the beginning of the 2000s,” Michele della Vigna said.

Huge Global Study Just Smashed One of The Last Major Arguments Against Renewables

We just got some massive news in the ongoing drive to switch to renewable energy: scientists have identified 530,000 sites worldwide suitable for pumped-hydro energy storage, capable of storing more than enough energy to power the entire planet.

Pumped-hydro is one of the best technologies we have for storing intermittent renewable energy, such as solar power, which means these sites could act as giant batteries, helping to support cheap, fully renewable power grids.

As of now the sites have only been identified by an algorithm, so further on-the-ground research needs to be done. But it was previously assumed there were only limited suitable sites around the world, and that we wouldn't be able to store enough renewable energy for high-demand times – which this study shows isn't the case at all.

The World Still Doesn’t Have Enough Places to Plug In Cars

Recharging has to get easier before electric vehicles take over.

Even in the biggest electric vehicle markets, a driver venturing too far from home can have a hard time finding a place to recharge.

Try your luck on California’s Pacific Coast Highway. The roughly 600-mile route between San Diego and San Francisco has dramatic sea cliffs, off-the-grid retreats, lush vineyards—and, in some long stretches, few places to recharge for anyone who isn’t behind the wheel of a Tesla Inc. car.

1.5 Million Volunteers Plant 66 Million Trees in 12 Hours, Breaking Guinness World Record

The central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh set a new Guinness World Record on Sunday after 1.5 million volunteers planted more than 66 million tree saplings in just 12 hours along the Narmada river.

The effort bested the state of Uttar Pradesh's previous record-breaking feat, when 800,000 participants planted 50 million trees in one day in July 2016.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, boasted the achievement: "I am extremely proud to happily share that people of Madhya Pradesh successfully planted 6.63 Crore saplings today." One crore is 10 million.

A fuel value over $7.00 per gallon, and everyone’s chasing it: The birth of USA Bioenergy and the surge in renewable diesel

In California, we are now seeing project flow projecting a sustainable $7.63 price for renewable diesel in the California market, where the Low Carbon Fuel Standard stacks on top of the RIN values from the federal Renewable Fuel Standard.

That’s market value, not subsidy. Though some die-hards might still insist that renewable fuels should only be sold based on energy value, not on market value, as in for example the markets which Californians freely established for themselves with the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, and in which any fuel producer can avoid carbon taxes and no one is guaranteed a subsidy. Yes, Californians have different standards for fuels than other states. But then again, some people drink bottled water at $6 a gallon and some drink tap water for pennies. Up to you — that’s how markets work.

Thousands of Southerners Planted Trees for Retirement. It Didn't Work.

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Over the past hundred years, the George family’s farm has been sharecropped, grazed by cattle and planted with cotton. By the late 1980s, Clayton George was growing soybeans and struggling to make ends meet.

A new federal program offered farmers money to reforest depleted land. Pine trees appealed to Mr. George. He bought loblolly seedlings and pulled his pickup into a parking lot where hands-for-hire congregated. 

“We figured we’d plant trees and come back and harvest it in 30 years and in the meantime go into town to make a living doing something else,” he said.

California lawmakers pass bill to phase out fossil fuels by 2045

Lawmakers in California have strengthened the state's commitment to clean energy by passing a bill to stop using fossil fuels entirely by 2045. The legislature passed S.B. 100 by 43 votes to 32, making California the second state to take such a step, following Hawaii. The bill now moves to a procedural vote in the Senate, and then to Governor Jerry Brown to sign it into law. Around 72 percent of the state's residents were in support of the move, according to polls cited by CBS.

There's a lot of work ahead for California to meet its goal, though it's on track to meet previous clean energy goals a decade sooner than expected.The state gets around a third of its current energy needs from renewable sources, according to US Energy Information Administration data. Natural gas accounts for about 49 percent, and nuclear energy makes up nine percent of the total.

THE IMO’S 2020 GLOBAL SULFUR CAP WHAT A 2020 SULFUR-CONSTRAINED WORLD MEANS FOR SHIPPING LINES, REFINERIES AND BUNKER SUPPLIERS

The International Maritime Organization on October 27 announced it was going ahead with a global sulfur cap of 0.5% on marine fuels starting from January 1, 2020, ending years of uncertainty.

Under the terms of the IMO’s MARPOL Annex VI regulation, the 2020 date was “subject to a review, to be completed by 2018, as to the availability of the required fuel oil. Depending on the outcome of the review, this date could be deferred to 1 January 2025.”

Dirty Reality Catching Up With Fossil Fuel Vehicles

This week marks an important transitional step away from the obsolete technology of dirty fossil fuel vehicles and in favor of electric vehicles that can run on clean energy. The Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) has come into force in the EU from 1st of September 2018, leading to much hand-wringing by the traditional fossil fuel vehicle OEMs, whose cars have always been highly polluting, and are now running out of road. The old fig leaf of the 1990s NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) testing regime is being replaced by the updated, more realistic WLTP testing regime, along with its onroad-emissions-testing counterpart, the Real Driving Emissions test (RDE). While still imperfect, these new testing regimes do track real world emissions performance much more closely.

As a consequence, the current generation of fossil fueled vehicles (FFVs) are now officially earmarked by lawmakers as being more polluting in particulates, carbon dioxide, and other harmful emissions. A higher bar is set for their entry on to the market, which will require expensive and complex technology to achieve. They will also be taxed at higher levels than before, and will cost consumers more to purchase.

Fading Power in N.H.

Chuck Theall, with a burly woodsman’s physique and white Santa Clause beard, stands on the ground near a pile of wood chips piled higher than a house.

The warm scent of pine lingers in the air.

“I worked 10 years in nuclear power in the Navy. Got out, interviewed at a trash plant,” recalled Theall, sweat stains soaking through his Carhartt T-shirt under a warm afternoon sun. “I didn’t like that.”

He heard that a new wood-burning electrical power generation facility in rural New Hampshire was looking for a steam plant operator. That was 30 years ago. Theall said he stayed because the work and small town life suits him — and there’s something really pleasant about being around freshly cut wood.

“It smells like Christmas trees all the time here,” he said.

$10 Gas? The Obscure Maritime Rule That Could Make it a Reality

A little-noticed rule requiring large ships to soon slash the air pollution they produce threatens to drive benchmark oil prices as high as $200 a barrel, send prices at the pump soaring to $6 or even $10 a gallon and crash the global economy just 17 months from now.

The doomsday scenario was described in a paper last week by Philip Verleger, an economist who advised two presidents and correctly forecast in 2007 that oil prices would sharply rise to levels that could trigger a financial crisis – a development experts saycontributed to the Great Recession. And in his latest prediction, he's not alone.

Shell's Starship Initiative semi truck looks crazy, is crazy efficient

Would it sound weird if we told you that Shell (yes, the petrochemical company) is building a starship? Probably. It would probably be less weird if we said that the Starship was actually a hyper-efficient bespoke semi truck that just did a coast-to-coast run from San Diego, California, to Jacksonville, Florida. 

The oil market problem no one it talking about – yet

At the moment, the world has more than enough oil to meet its needs. In fact, it has too much, which is why OPEC is holding back some of its production to drain off a portion of the excess crude sitting in storage depots around the world. Furthermore, according to an estimate from the International Energy Agency (IEA), the oil market will remain well supplied through at least 2020 even though demand should continue expanding at a brisk pace.

It's a different story post-2020, where there's a growing concern that the oil industry might not be able to keep up with continued demand growth because it's not reinvesting enough money into longer-term projects. That could result in a big shortfall in supplies, potentially fueling a significant spike in oil prices in the coming years. 

Loosely regulated market for biofuel credits spurs speculators and swindlers

Andre Bernard made a killing selling a mirage.

As oil refineries struggled to comply with federal mandates for blending renewable fuels into the nation’s gasoline and diesel supply, Bernard offered a solution: millions of dollars’ worth of biofuel credits they could buy to help meet their obligation. The credits were ostensibly generated by biofuel companies Bernard and his partners owned.

The only problem is they weren’t making the fuel. They were faking it, generating at least $42 million worth of phony credits. Bernard was sent to prison last month.

Mazda's 'Skyactiv-3' Engine Could Be As Clean As Some Electrics With 56% Thermal Efficiency

Mazda has been vocal about its plan to continue developing internal combustion engines despite a major industry push towards electrification and EVs. The company displayed its innovative Skyactiv-X engine last year, and now Automotive News reports that a next-generation motor—called Skyactiv 3—will offer efficiency levels that could yield overall CO2 output similar to that of some EVs. 

With Mazda’s Skyactiv-G engine having been out for a while now, and Skyactiv-X coming soon—that’s the one with the innovative Spark Controlled Compression Ignition technology—the company is apparently working to further increase internal combustion engine efficiency with a new generation of Skyactiv called “Skyactiv-3.”