Renewables on the Rise 2021: The Rapid Growth of Renewables, Electric Vehicles and Other Building Blocks of a Clean Energy Future

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Wind turbines and solar panels made up a tiny fraction of our energy infrastructure 10 years ago. Today, they are everyday parts of America’s energy landscape. The number of homes heated with clean, efficient electric heat pumps increased by 28% in a decade from 2005 to 2015. Just a few years ago, electric vehicles seemed a far-off solution to decarbonize our transportation system. Now, they have broken through to the mass market.

Virtually every day, there are new developments that increase our ability to produce renewable energy, apply it to a wider range of energy needs, and reduce our overall energy use. These developments enable us to envision an economy powered entirely by clean, renewable energy.

Who’s killing the grizzlies of Fremont County?

Read the full story in the Washington Post Magazine.

Hunting is prohibited in the national park. But in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, you can hunt big game like deer and mountain lions and wolves. You can also hunt cranes and waterfowl and squirrels and rabbits. You cannot, however, hunt a grizzly, with its distinctive shoulder hump and rounded ears. Grizzlies are one of the few animals in the area protected as a threatened species by federal law; a grizzly killing is allowed only if in proven self-defense or the defense of others and reported within five days. Otherwise, killing a grizzly bear is punishable with fines up to $50,000 and a year in prison. Someone was flouting the law.

Fueling the Transition: Accelerating Cost-Competitive Green Hydrogen

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Green hydrogen production costs could fall below $2 per kilogram in many locations in the next five years. This zero-carbon fuel will be critical to decarbonizing some of the hardest-to-abate sectors, such as shipping and steelmaking. Achieving the crucial $2/kg target for cost-competitiveness will enable decarbonization of multiple sectors and play an important role in aligning the globe to a pathway that limits warming to 1.5°C.

RMI’s report, Fueling the Transition: Accelerating Cost-Competitive Green Hydrogen, analyzes the cost reduction opportunity and the critical enabling tools required to bring cost-competitive green hydrogen to market this decade. This report is intended for industry executives, regulators, and policymakers.

Home truths

Read the full story in Q Magazine.

Those who study sustainable housing are conscious of how a Green New Deal could not only control and manage the climate crisis, but help mitigate America’s socioeconomic crisis as well. According to his most recent publication “A Green New Deal for Public Housing to Deliver Racial, Economic, and Climate Justice,” Daniel Aldana Cohen, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California at Berkeley, asserts that a Green New Deal would “deliver massive health and economic benefits to disadvantaged communities.” With plans to “invest $119 billion to $172 billion in green retrofits that include all needed capital repairs,” this plan for green housing would not only dramatically reduce carbon emissions but also improve “health, safety and comfort.” The plan would reduce annual carbon emissions by roughly 5.6 metric tons, which is “the equivalent of taking over 1.2 million cars off the road,” while also reducing public water bills by up to 30% and energy bills by 70%. Not only is the plan cheaper annually and radically more environmentally friendly; it also has the potential to “create up to 240,723 jobs nationally across multiple sectors” due to the redirection of government funds toward a modern, retrofit economy. These jobs would benefit low-income areas, which struggle with both high unemployment rates and the impacts of environmental racism.

In addition to his research, Cohen collaborates with the Climate + Community Project, an organization that explores the impacts of environmental racism and aims to release briefs that will “make recommendations … that center the needs of [low-income communities], expand democracy at all scales of governance, and facilitate flexible implementation.” According to this project, green housing, an idea that has been mentioned but not successfully implemented by the political left, is not only an important step toward addressing climate change, but an essential one for the planet — particularly those who are currently living in low-income housing. “We know how to do this,” Cohen argues, but getting the public to really understand the importance of housing as a part of a broader agenda of climate justice remains a challenge for its advocates.

Hydrogen: Critical Decarbonization Element for the Grid, Manufacturing, and Transportation: State Energy Policy, Program, and Planning Considerations

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Hydrogen offers potential pathways for decarbonizing the electricity system, hard-to-electrify industrial and heating applications, and heavy transportation. It can provide large-scale and long-duration energy storage to balance variable power generation and demand. Hydrogen offers non-carbon paths as both energy and material input for ammonia, steel, fuels, and other production. It can be made from non-carbon renewable and nuclear generation as well as from fossil fuel sources that can be coupled with carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). There are economic development opportunities for new technologies, processes, and applications as well as to leverage and adapt some existing natural gas, petroleum, and petrochemical infrastructure and expertise for hydrogen-based energy and production. Research, development, and demonstration (RD&D), environmental policies, economies of scale and scope, economic development programs, and other measures will affect hydrogen’s path. State Energy Offices and other pertinent agencies should consider hydrogen options and opportunities, including supportive policy, program, and regulatory measures, in developing their energy, environmental, and economic development plans.

The hidden history of ancient artifacts

Read the full post from the DuPage County Forest Preserve District.

People have lived in DuPage County for thousands of years, so it’s no surprise that some of the tools and objects they used are still being found in many DuPage forest preserves.

For decades curious people have searched for interesting things on the ground, often picking up objects and taking them home. But it is important to understand there are laws and considerations that apply to these objects.

‘Hunker down’ is not enough: 2021 hurricane season showed US isn’t prepared as climate-related disasters push people deeper into poverty

People wade through high water to evacuate a flooded home in LaPlace, La., after Hurricane Ida struck. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

by Marina Lazetic, Tufts University and Karen Jacobsen, Tufts University

Hurricane Ida hit New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2021, 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina flooded the city. This time the levees held. Billions of dollars invested in reinforcing them had paid off – at least for part of the population.

A strong similarity between Ida and Katrina still emerged: Low-income communities and communities of color remain at high risk from hurricanes.

As scholars who study refugees and migration worldwide, we are finding that the communities most at risk are being pushed into permanent displacement and homelessness, or deeper into poverty, with each climate-related disaster. Much of this could be prevented if the U.S. government invested in preparedness and did more to protect vulnerable communities.

‘Hunker down’

Despite years of preparations, New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell said there was no time to issue a mandatory evacuation order as Ida rapidly intensified into a powerful Category 4 hurricane. She urged city residents to “hunker down.” Mass evacuations require coordination among multiple parishes and states, and there wasn’t enough time. In several surrounding parishes, people were told to evacuate, but in low-lying and flood-prone areas, many residents couldn’t afford to leave.

Hurricane Ida became the most destructive storm of the busy 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, which ended Nov. 30. It was one of eight named storms to hit the U.S. as the season exhausted the list of 21 tropical storm names for only the third year on record.

While many New Orleans residents breathed a sigh of relief as Ida’s storm surge subsided, the damage outside the city’s levee system was devastating.

In St. John the Baptist Parish, about 30 miles northwest of New Orleans, Ida’s storm surge flooded the largest town, LaPlace, whose residents have faced many natural disasters over the years. Most LaPlace residents couldn’t afford to evacuate. When the storm hit, people pleaded for boat rescues. Two months later, residents were still waiting for repairs, and some were contemplating leaving permanently.

Native communities living in the bayous of coastal Louisiana are also facing the risk of permanent displacement. One example is the Houma people, who saw many of their homes damaged or destroyed. The Houma have been recognized by the state as a tribe since 1972 but are not recognized by the federal government and thus are not eligible for federal community assistance. Instead, members apply for assistance as private citizens. Many were left without housing, and their displacement erodes the Houma’s sense of community and connection to their land.

A young man walks through furniture and household items strewn about by the hurricane, rescuing his mother's belongings.
Many homes in LaPlace, La., were unlivable after Hurricane Ida. Scott Olson/Getty Images

FEMA aid favors wealthier homeowners

In many parts of the U.S., the legacy of segregation means that low-income communities are more likely to live in high-risk areas. When Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston in 2017, for example, low-income neighborhoods were most affected. According to the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium, a quarter of affordable, multifamily housing lies within a currently mapped floodplain and is vulnerable to future flooding.

As disasters become more frequent in a warming climate, low-income people without adequate assistance in flood- and hurricane-prone areas are likely to be permanently displaced because it will be too costly to try to rebuild.

Agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Housing and Urban Development all respond to climate-related emergencies. But the absence of any central coordinating agency means the government’s response tends to be disorganized and can even contribute to deepening inequalities.

FEMA, the main source of post-disaster funding, focuses primarily on recovery and reconstruction of property, which favors homeowners and wealthier individuals. The aid is allocated based on cost-benefit calculations designed to minimize taxpayer risk.

When property values are higher, FEMA’s payments for damages are higher, making it easier for wealthier neighborhoods to rebuild. As a result, the majority of the funds are not given to those who need them most but rather to those whose property is worth more.

A boy with a furrowed brow and sad look sits in a boat with his family as they check on flooded mobile homes.
Low-income communities along the Louisiana coast were hit hardest by Hurricane Ida. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

People with more resources can also apply more easily for aid, whereas the application process can be too complicated and demanding for those without access to up-to-date information and internet service.

FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program provides financial assistance to those who are uninsured, but the program cannot pay for all disaster-related losses. Federal assistance comes either as a loan or as a FEMA grant of about US$5,000 per household. But the average flood insurance claim in 2018 exceeded $40,000, according to FEMA.

The National Flood Insurance Program helps those who can afford the insurance. But those who are uninsured aren’t able to recover their losses. Disaster cycles ensue in which those who are most at risk cannot access funding either to prepare for disasters or to recover from them.

For example, in cases of urban flooding, families who own homes can get up to $30,000 in FEMA grants for rebuilding and recovery. If they have higher incomes, they can also benefit from a tax refund. Wealthier individuals are also more likely to apply for Small Business Administration low-interest disaster loans.

In contrast, low-income families who are uninsured or who rent a home often receive smaller grants from FEMA and do not qualify for significant tax refunds or SBA loans due to low credit scores.

A man moves cabinet in a kitchen with a missing roof and walls splattered with mud from the storm. Grand Isle, La.
Federal disaster aid focuses on rebuilding damaged homes, including in high-risk locations. Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Additionally, richer individuals and families often receive help from their employers and have more flexibility in terms of taking time off to recover and take care of their families. Low-income families generally do not have the luxury to step away from their jobs, and many even lose them as a result of climate-related disaster and business closures.

This means that those with wealth and high incomes experience a very different recovery process than those with fewer possessions and lower income. Climate disasters can drive less-privileged people and people who don’t own property into debt as they become displaced, lose their jobs and must pay higher housing and rent prices due to reduced housing availability.

How government could help

Social scientists have been saying for decades that natural disasters exacerbate inequalities. New Orleans and Houston are just two examples of the inadequacy of short-term emergency responses.

The U.S. government can minimize the risks and the impact of displacement by planning and preparing for both slow- and rapid-onset events.

It can move from a disaster response that is focused on recovering property to one focused on protecting those most at risk. The federal government is starting to make some moves in this direction. In September 2021, it expanded the forms of assistance offered. It also expanded the types of home ownership and occupancy documents it accepts, a change meant to help those in homes passed down through generations who lack clear ownership documents. These changes now need to be publicized as part of a wider government strategy to increase protection for low-income residents.

Ideally, the government could set up an agency focused on climate-related migration and displacement to research how at-risk areas will be affected and work with residents to find solutions. In our experience, the most effective agencies are those that work closely with local communities.

Strengthening protection in at-risk areas and supporting low-income communities recovering from disasters can help reduce economic and political polarization, population loss and economic decline, and boost protection for all.

This article was updated Dec. 1 with the 2021 hurricane season’s final numbers.

Marina Lazetic, Senior Research Analyst and Ph.D. Candidate in Human Security, The Fletcher School, Tufts University and Karen Jacobsen, Henry J. Leir Chair in Global Migration, Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘Health-giving’ fish waste offers food formulators cost and sustainability benefits

Read the full story at Food Navigator.

Fish farming by-products have the potential to increase the sustainability of aquaculture, and contribute to sectors such as food ingredients, diet supplements, animal feed and food packaging, according to a new study.

As circular economy momentum builds, Rheaply seeks to grow reuse connections

Read the full story at Waste Dive.

With new funding and award recognition, the Chicago-based startup’s goals include quantifying the savings from reuse and having more large enterprises adopt its platform.

Recycling silicon waste to make new lithium-ion battery anodes

Read the full story at Azo Nano.

An article published in the journal Materials Today Nano describes a novel approach of preparing composite materials to be used in next-generation lithium-ion batteries. The authors present an ingenious solution of utilizing silicon cutting waste powder by developing nanoporous composites of silicon which can then be used to manufacture high discharge capacity lithium-ion anodes with significant cycling performance.