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Climate Change Is Destabilizing The City Of Chicago. Who Knew?

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The New York Times is often criticized by CleanTechnica readers, and rightly so, for its years long campaign of negative reporting on Tesla. Yet on the issue of climate change, it is a journalistic leader, at least in the United States. On July 7, it published a Pulitzer Prize worthy story about the city of Chicago and how climate change threatens its very foundation.

Chicago is a tribute to the indomitable human spirit that starts with the premise that people are smarter than nature. Where Chicago stands today was once a swamp, back in the days when Marquette and Joliet were the first Europeans to explore the area. Indigenous people showed the pair a watery pathway between the Mississippi and Lake Michigan and that was the beginning of what would become America’s Second City. The elevation between the two bodies of water was minuscule. Sometimes the water would flow one way and sometimes in the opposite direction.

It’s not a pleasant subject, but all of civilization depends on the proper disposal of its waste products. The first thing an army does is dig latrines. Then and only then do issues like food and shelter get addressed.

There are no cities without flush toilets. Chicago was built on a plain just a foot higher than Lake Michigan, which meant it could not bury sewer pipes deep underground as other cities did. News reports of the day describe the streets of Chicago as fetid conduits filled with raw sewage so deep that if an errant peddler made a wrong turn, his horse and carriage could sink out of sight into the festering ooze.

So Chicago did something audacious. In the late 1800s, it built a new sewer system, put streets on top of it, and raised all of its buildings approximately 8 feet to match level of the new roads. Hundreds of workers were enlisted to turn giant jackscrews that lifted the buildings out of the muck. According to a report by the Chicago Tribune at the time, “The superintendent takes his stand,” and with a “shrill whistle” directs the crew to begin. “He continues his whistle long enough for every man to turn each screw one complete round of the thread. Thus the building is raised at every point precisely at the same moment.”

An engineering marvel that nevertheless begs the question, “Should we be doing this?” Humans delight in taming nature, building ever higher, ever wider, and everywhere until every square inch of earth is covered with monuments to homo sapiens. If we can do it, it is done. Today, many look at such wonders and scoff that climate change is just another engineering challenge that the human mind will overcome.

“Not to worry, people. We will science our way out of this,” they say, sure in there smugness that nothing nature can do will ever cause them to miss their favorite TV show or suffer any discomfort. How exquisitely arrogant! The best recent example may be Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin telling an audience of adoring reactionaries, “Climate change is bullshit.”

But climate change is not bullshit to Chicagoans. For centuries, the level of Lake Michigan never varied more than a few inches — a little more in the spring as winter snows melted and refreshed the Great Lakes, a little less in the autumn as the summer’s heat led to more evaporation. That steady state was disrupted in the past decade, with the level of the lake changing by as much as 6 feet. Suddenly, storm surges were battering the building in Chicago’s poshest neighborhoods.

Heavy rains have flooded the Chicago River, which is little more than a huge uncovered sewer carrying the city’s effluent away to the mighty Mississippi. Once that happens, the city must open the floodgates to allow all that untreated sewage to flow back into Lake Michigan — the source of Chicago’s drinking water. Lovely!

High water is a problem, but so is low water. The Chicago River is fed by Lake Michigan. If the water level gets too low, there is no water coming into the river and so its flow stops, leaving the city’s sewage to fester in the open air.

Where Did The Beach Go?

Josh Ellis, a former vice president of Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council, tells the New York Times, “There are buildings just teetering on the edge of the lake. A few years ago, they had a beach. Now the water is lapping at their foundations. This is an existential problem for those neighborhoods and, ultimately, for the city.”

South Side resident Jera Slaughter remembers a dramatic flood in 1987 when water washed through the ground floor of her apartment building. “We were told, ‘You’ll never see this kind of water again in your lifetime,’” she says, “but it’s worse now.” In South Side, sewage in the basement has become a way of life. Patios that once overlooked the lake are now taken over with cobbled together storm barriers made from sand bags, concrete blocks, and sections of highway barriers. The water doesn’t seem deterred in the slightest.

Climate Change Is The Culprit

Drew Gronewold, a hydrologist at the University of Michigan, tells the New York Times the speed and uncertainty of the changes taking place underscore how Chicago is more immediately exposed to the dangers of global warming than cities on the ocean. At least ocean levels change relatively slowly and predictably and move in just one direction — up.

Remember how climate scientists have been telling us for decades that climate change will bring with it wetter conditions in some areas, drier conditions in others?  Over the past three decades, the Great Lakes Basin has received far more precipitation than average. The past five years collectively have been the wettest half-decade on record. It’s not bullshit, senator Johnson, it’s reality.

Chicago’s historic average for precipitation for May, 4.49 inches, was eclipsed in May 2018 when a record 8.21 inches of rain fell. In May 2019, 8.25 inches soaked the city. Then in May 2020, another record, 9.51 inches, swamped Chicago. Is it a coincidence that the average air temperature in the region has increased 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1991? Warmer air factors into wetter weather, and a surging lake level, because it can hold more moisture.

This is where the ice comes in to play. Even a slight air temperature increase can dramatically reduce the lake’s winter ice cover. And because ice reflects the sun’s heat, less ice means warmer water, which accelerates evaporation. But in recent years, destabilized jet stream patters in the Arctic have let to blasts of frigid air and more ice on Lake Michigan. Colder water means less evaporation and higher lake levels. That’s not bullshit, senator Johnson. That’s reality.

The Point Of No Return

Climate scientists are indeed surprised by the rate at which climate change is accelerating. The latest IPCC report will say we have already passed several tipping points that will make catastrophic global warming inevitable. All the while, we act like nothing is wrong and that somehow, someway, as the temperature is Sheboygan and other American cities hit 120º F on a regular basis, a miracle will happen and we will be saved from a disaster of our own making.

It’s not going to happen. We either stop making fossil fuels the basis of our economy or the vast majority of us are going to die. It’s as simple as that. In a comment to the New York Times article, Susan Long says, “We ignore this at our peril. And yes, the businesses involved: shipping and the manufacturers of goods being shipped have a financial and moral responsibility to contribute to researching solutions and making them happen.”

I have said elsewhere that the human race will have a one word epitaph — Greed. I am going to amend that and say there may be a second possible epitaph — Hubris. If we don’t put all our resources to work to transition away from a carbon based economy, our goose is cooked, literally and figuratively. And that’s no bullshit!


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/07/12/climate-change-is-destabilizing-the-city-of-chicago-who-knew/

Cleantech

Jobs In Renewable Energy Fared Better Than Other Sectors In 2020

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Employment in renewable energy and battery-related sectors was far more resilient to the shock of the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to an annual DOE report released Monday.

Overall, one in 10 U.S. energy workers lost their jobs in 2020, with oil and gas workers hit hardest despite billions in bailouts and substantial payouts to executives.

Wind energy employment grew by nearly 2%. Jobs in the electric and hybrid-electric vehicle sectors grew by 8% and 6% respectively, and battery storage jobs also increased.

“While we do have work to do to make our energy sector more robust, we also have a lot of work to do in making our energy sector look like America and to make sure that these new clean energy jobs are paying family-sustaining wages, with good benefits and union membership,” DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm said during a virtual report release.

Sources: ReutersThe Hill

This is a quick news brief from Nexus Media.


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/07/21/jobs-in-renewable-energy-fared-better-than-other-sectors-in-2020/

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Cleantech

Jobs In Renewable Energy Fared Better Than Other Sectors In 2020

Published

on

Employment in renewable energy and battery-related sectors was far more resilient to the shock of the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to an annual DOE report released Monday.

Overall, one in 10 U.S. energy workers lost their jobs in 2020, with oil and gas workers hit hardest despite billions in bailouts and substantial payouts to executives.

Wind energy employment grew by nearly 2%. Jobs in the electric and hybrid-electric vehicle sectors grew by 8% and 6% respectively, and battery storage jobs also increased.

“While we do have work to do to make our energy sector more robust, we also have a lot of work to do in making our energy sector look like America and to make sure that these new clean energy jobs are paying family-sustaining wages, with good benefits and union membership,” DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm said during a virtual report release.

Sources: ReutersThe Hill

This is a quick news brief from Nexus Media.


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/07/21/jobs-in-renewable-energy-fared-better-than-other-sectors-in-2020/

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Cleantech

EU’s Proposed Green Deal Is A Big Victory For Fossil Fuel Companies

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On the 14th of July 2021, the EU Commission published its proposal for dealing with the climate crises and biodiversity crises, using money made available to counter the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The mix of climate crises, biodiversity crises, and economic recovery makes this packet something where many people find bits to be happy about and many people find bits not to be happy about.

  • The economic recovery is high priority, very short term.
  • The climate crises is ultimate priority, very short term.
  • The biodiversity is medium priority, medium to long term.

With that last classification, many people will get very angry. But it is a task that will take our attention for the coming centuries. Getting one or two years delayed in formulating policies, writing laws, and reaching consensus is not the biggest problem. The realization that we should start doing it, that we should keep doing it for as long as we are the custodians of life on Earth, that is the hardest part. It is something that can not be, even a tiny little bit for your special case, sacrificed for convenience or financial gain.

The second classification about climate change is even harder to understand for most people. Species are disappearing today, to be never seen again. The climate is something that will last centuries from now. How can it have a higher priority?

Catastrophic climate change is already happening today. It is killing people in heatwaves and floods today — literally, today. If we do not succeed to halt the growth of the greenhouse gas layer in this decade for the most part, mopping up the rest of the pollution sources in the next decade, biodiversity does not matter anymore. We will likely go to an Earth with a completely different biotope, one where there is no place for mammals.

Without mammals in the mix, there will be room for many thousands, if not millions, of new species on earth. Biodiversity will be saved, but not as we envision it today.

Economic recovery is always a very short-term action. For the economic problems caused by the coronavirus measures, immediate relief is needed. Companies should not go broke and people should not get unemployed because of what is essentially a natural disaster.

That the money for the economic recovery is used to accelerate the necessary transition to a clean/green economy is logical. Why spend money to rebuild what we were planning to demolish. I mean, the fossil fuel–based economy has to go. No reason to waste money in preserving it.

Logical, but not what many stakeholders of the fossil industry would like to see. They have dreams of transitioning the economy to greener fossil fuels. The previous attempt to switch to clean diesel failed, but that is not a reason to give up and go find a new career. There is still the fuel of the future, hydrogen. It is preferably made from natural gas (preferably for them, not for us), and in the long run with electricity from nuclear reactors, through a future electrolysis process.

Convincing policymakers that hydrogen (green in the future) is essential for road transport will delay the growth of battery electric vehicles — those pesky toys that do so much harm to the automotive industry and can drive on electricity from the solar cells on one’s roof.

These goals in the EU Green Deal proposal — not nearly large enough (“fossil fuel friendly,” you might say) — are:

  • A 600kW station every 60 kilometers along European highways for light vehicles by 2030 (2*150kW by 2025 and 4*150kW by 2030).
  • A 3500kW station every 60 kilometers along European highways for medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles in 2030 (perhaps 5*700kW?).
  • A hydrogen station every 150 kilometers for ???????.

Currently, the fastest charging is at 175 kW or 250 kW for 350V–400V batteries. Double that for 800V batteries. A two-plug 150kW each station every 60 kilometers is probably sufficient in Northern Sweden and Lapland. Between 2025 and 2030, the number of BEVs on the roads will multiply by four (increase by 300%) at least. I expect Tesla alone to offer more stations with more plugs long before 2030.

Trucks have charging at their home depot, or are long-haul trucks charging on the road? (Okay, this is a bit simplified.) The Tesla Semi uses about 1.25 kWh/km. The charge time of the truck can be booked as the mandatory rest time of the driver. The 1 MW or 1.2 MW chargers that are now discussed are a reflection of this reality.

Truckers like to combine their rest time with their lunch or dinner break. This creates high demand for many plugs around these times with low demand during normal trucking times. Logistics is a commercial business. It will create the needed charging infrastructure via demand and supply. Selling electricity and a warm meal is the name of the game.

Local governments need to be prepared to facilitate the permitting process and plan the grid connections. Each station (both for light-duty vehicles and medium-/heavy-duty vehicles) should be planned for a 2MW–8MW connection or more. Building the transport line between the charging station and the existing grid is very expensive.

For the chargers, the most important metric is missing. That is the number of plugs needed at each station. For this, an analysis of the traffic volumes on the European roads is needed. It would show that many roads will need a charging station every 30 kilometers with 8 to 20 plugs.

In Europe, many have free travel in their company cars. Company cars are new, and after 2025, likely all electric. While the complete European car fleet will likely take 20+ years to replace, the fleet traveling on highways will be replaced in about 6 years. Due to less range, a BEV will charge more often than a fossil fuel vehicle makes a tank stop, at least twice as often. It will also keep a charging space longer occupied than a gas pump will be occupied — for ease of computation, double the time.

By 2030, at least half the fleet on the highways will be BEV. That means that half the gas pumps have to be replaced by four times that number of charging plugs. We have an awful lot more than four gas pumps every 60 kilometers of highway. The European Automobile Industry (ACEA) has even explained that the progress in selling BEVs is limited by the buildout of the infrastructure on the ground. When the EU comes with an ambitious plan for the car market, an even more ambitious infrastructure plan should accompany it to make it reality.

The fossil fuel industry will be very grateful for this ridiculous lowball number for highway charging stations. There will never be enough plugs for the yearly mass migrations to the sun and the snow. But that is only about 6 weekends each year. It is like the airlines never having enough seats for Thanksgiving weekend in the USA. Sizing to the exception is impossible, but we can aim to have enough in the rest of the year.

There is NO metric for the hydrogen station. Probably the lobbyists know that there won’t be customers. It is only about getting subsidies for the uneconomical stations and slowing the transition to fully electric ones. It is just a distraction. The well-to-wheel energy need is too clear a case to expect any hydrogen ever playing a role in road transport.

There are a number of lofty goals for hydrogen production. It should get at volume soon, and 50% of the green hydrogen should be renewable by 2030. Makes one think — what is non-renewable green hydrogen? I can only think of hydrogen fused into helium as not renewable. That would liberate a lot of energy, by the way.

Photo by Cynthia Shahan, CleanTechnica

Another way of temporizing what the market is doing is setting goals for public chargers that are too low. These are mostly Level 2 chargers for people without home charging.

  • 2025 – 1 million
  • 2030 – 3.5 million
  • 2040 – 11.4 million
  • 2050 – 16.3 million

Either those civil servants in Brussel are math-illiterate, or they think we are. The total for the EU in 2025 is just twice what the home country of the main writers of the deal plan to build by that year. The 2030 number is about three times the number in their home country. These math-illiterate people are Commissioner Timmermans and his chief-of-staff Samson, both Dutch.

Before he became chief-of-staff, Samson was one of the authors of the Dutch Klimaatakkoord, where the numbers of Dutch planned chargers can be found.

The EU is over 25 times the population of the Netherlands, and many more times the size. The Dutch numbers are from before the more ambitious goals and the rise in BEV sales in the last two years. In another article, I discussed why they are too low. With over a million chargers for the Netherlands alone in 2030, there is only a goal of 2.5 million chargers for the rest of the EU.  … Somebody is math challenged, and it ain’t me. In my very humble and biased opinion, that number needs an extra zero. And then some.

While greenwashing their actions, the EU commission is applying the brakes at full force. The fossil fuel lobby was successful.


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/07/21/eus-proposed-green-deal-is-a-big-victory-for-fossil-fuel-companies/

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Cleantech

What Will Happen To Old ICE Vehicles In The Electric Era?

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David Waterworth

“Disabled & Elderly Parking Only.” That’s what the sign said, so he parked his ICE Corolla there. We saw the vehicle as we exited the restaurant and walked towards where we had parked our Tesla. When I pointed it out to my friend, he said, “In 20 years they’ll be using that car for a chook pen.”

Image by David Waterworth

I thought that was a little unfair, as one of my neighbours has an older Corolla (and 2 others the same model in the backyard for spares). They are certainly a great little car and have been a phenomenal success for Toyota. But so was the Morris Minor for British Motors Corporation and the Torana for General Motors Holden and the Cortina for Ford. 

Image by David Waterworth

The conversation continued around car clubs and the future of ICE vehicles for enthusiasts and hobbyists. Would they become quaint curiosities to be gawked at in special auto shows? Perhaps they would feature in car museums. While everyone else is driving normal cars (those that have electric motors, that don’t make a lot of noise or produce noxious smells), these could be taken out on weekends to drive in convoys for the nostalgic.

Or will it be smash-up derbies as was done to the old British cars of the ’60s – the Austins, Morrises, and Wolseleys were driven round the track and smashed into each other for fun and entertainment. 

When the age of horse power came to an end, many animals were kept as pets or out of kindness and duty. Unfortunately, most were slaughtered and eaten (yes, eaten). As the age of ICE vehicles comes to an end, we may have to give thought about what to do with the faithful Corollas that we will have to let go. There is a limit to how many we can keep as pets. And we can’t eat them. 

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He owns 50 shares of Tesla.


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/07/21/what-will-happen-to-old-ice-vehicles-in-the-electric-era/

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