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NREL Announces Plans To Collaborate With Georgia Institute of Technology



The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Georgia Institute of Technology have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to bolster the interactions, collaborations, and joint scientific output of both institutions.

The purpose of the MOU is to leverage the expansive capabilities and infrastructure of both institutions in a multidisciplinary approach; expose a pipeline of talent to challenges of practical importance and complex nature early in their academic programs; and introduce new ideas, science, and technology into the industrial and federal marketplace with jointly developed intellectual property.

Image courtesy of NREL, the U.S. Department of Energy.

“We are excited about this MOU, which will facilitate expanded collaboration between NREL and Georgia Tech’s esteemed faculty and first-rate students,” said Peter Green, deputy laboratory director and science and technology officer at NREL. “Together we will leverage the significant intellectual, research, and infrastructure capabilities of both institutions to address some of the critical large-scale, complex research challenges facing industry during the energy transition.”

It is anticipated the collaborative projects between the two institutions will:

  • Support goals that are complementary to those held by both institutions
  • Share and leverage specialized or unique research facilities and equipment
  • Increase inter-institutional collaborative engagement of faculty, staff, and students
  • Look for opportunities for additional joint research initiatives and joint appointments.

“Building deep, substantive partnerships to impact society’s most urgent challenges is a major priority for Georgia Tech’s research enterprise,” said Chaouki Abdallah, executive vice president for research at Georgia Tech. “We are excited about the possibilities for collaborative, innovative energy-related research with NREL, which has the potential to improve human lives and the world at large.”

The agreement also acknowledges that the energy research environment is evolving. Energy-related research topics are becoming more complex, and the pipeline of research talent is changing due to shifts in academic programs related to energy and the level of student interest in energy-related research as a career. The potential long-term benefits of creating and disseminating new energy technologies for the public good is regarded by the academic community as an increasingly important consideration for the nation’s economy and its prospects for energy security. Leaders from NREL and Georgia Tech agree that the outcomes from this memorandum of understanding will advance our ability to address this evolving landscape.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

Article courtesy of NREL, the U.S. Department of Energy.

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The Kids Get It



Driving down the Bruce Highway this morning, we encountered a traffic jam. Several kilometers of slow-moving traffic (about 10 km/hour) caused by a recent accident. A line of police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances blocked the right-hand lane.

As we crawled along, we ended up next to a pickup truck covered in stickers, dad driving, kids in the back seat. One boy (10–12 years old) was hanging out the window yelling, “Tesla! Go Tesla!” My wife wound down the window and he said: “It’s my dream car!” She replied, “I really want a Cybertruck!” The dad was watching with a look of bemused incomprehension on his face.

Even when Tess is sitting in the driveway, the kids walking past the house call, “Look, dad, it’s a Tesla.”

The kids get it.

This is the sort of thing we have come across many times. Dropping the granddaughters off at primary school, the older students line up at the fence chanting Tesla, Tesla.

Isobelle, who is 7, says, “I can’t wait till all the cars are electric and it doesn’t stink so much.” And, “I won’t need a driving license because by the time I am old enough to drive, all the cars will be driving themselves.” Seth and Oscar sit in the backseat and laugh themselves silly with fart mode. “Do a launch, Grandad!” I hear from the back seat at every traffic light.

Leon’s dad drives a classic RX8, but he thinks the Tesla is way cooler. They fight to take turns to plug the car in. Despite the comments from Nissan, the cable isn’t that heavy.

Yes, the kids certainly do get it. It augers well for the future.

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TikTokers Expose Horrors of Florida’s Choice to Dump Toxic Wastewater into Tampa Bay



I’m an avid user of TikTok and often find interesting things, funny things, and sometimes even topics to write about for CleanTechnica there. This past week I found a few videos from folks in Tampa Bay on my For You Page (FYP), which is the app’s version of a home feed area where the algorithm picks videos it thinks you would like to see.

I am sharing the story of TrashCaulin, who documents his work on TikTok and other apps. Caulin is an environmental advocate who often cleans up trash and documents pollution. The first video I saw wasn’t just his, but it was from @EcoLogicalChris, who explained in his video that Caulin was in Florida trying to raise awareness about what was happening in Florida.

I reached out to Caulin on Instagram, who agreed to a phone interview. Caulin explained that in April 2021, a phosphate plant known as Piney Point, which is owned by HRK Holdings, was allowed by the State of Florida to discharge toxic contaminated wastewater into Tampa Bay. This was an effort to prevent the collapse of the dam to the reservoir that prevented the wastewater from entering the bay. (This was on national news at the time, so you may have caught it.)

In May, the Tampa Bay Times reported that the contamination levels may have declined but the initial results showed that the effect of the release was contained in an area of lower Tampa Bay. “We’re fairly fortunate that we didn’t see a long-lived, widespread effect on that ecosystem,” said Thomas Frazer, dean of the University of South Florida College of Marine Science.

From my conversation with Caulin, it’s clear that this is most definitely having a long-lived, widespread effect on that ecosystem — and probably the surrounding ecosystems.

“Back in April 2021, there was a location called Piney Point, which was a wastewater management treatment plant that is located on the Manatee County side of Tampa Bay Area. What happened was this treatment plant was not maintained and over time it became very poorly constructionally sound. The foundation of one of the pools started to crack and they spent a couple of days figuring out what they were going to do about it.

“Instead of letting the whole foundation crack and it seep into the bay, they decided that they’re just going to drain roughly 173 gallons worth of the wastewater. It’s called phosphate-phosphogypsum and it’s basically phosphate runoff from agriculture farming and stuff like that. So they took the 173 gallons — just basically the top layer — and dumped it into the ocean.”

A Perfect Storm For Red Tide

Caulin continued:

“In doing so, there’s already harmful red tide anticipation for the year 2021 coming, but with all of that phosphate that was added into the bay, it allowed the algae to pick up on it and bloom harder — along with the warm water we’ve been experiencing this year. It kind of just made the perfect storm for this red tide.

“This was back in April 2021, and when that happened, everyone was kind of already fearing that this red tide was going to be really bad. So, in the past week or so, it started to really make itself evident on how much bigger it was than other red tides. And it’s only been like 20 days in.”

What Caulin Has Seen

Caulin shared that although he was born in Florida, he lives in California, and as soon as he found out about what was happening in Tampa Bay, he flew out to document it.

“The first beach that I stepped onto–I didn’t even have to try to find the spot–I stepped onto the first beach and it was lining the shoreline. I’m talking, probably like hundreds of fish just piled on top of each other, and as the waves pushed in you could see them push into them — it’s just insane.

“They’re out there floating in the water. They’re out there on the shoreline. Million-dollar homes have seas of dead fish in their backyard views of the water. And what’s happening is there’s smaller fish, there’s bigger fish. A goliath grouper had been taken out of the water — they had to use heavy machinery to get that out. Numerous dolphins are affected by this.”

It’s Affecting More Than Just The Fish

“Over 800 manatees, I think this year, have died from red tide, which is a record-breaking number. A full-grown sea turtle washed ashore on the beach this morning. It’s affecting more than just the fish — even so to where, like, if you’re exposed to the water for too long, you can experience puffy eyes and an irritated throat because of it.

“People don’t realize that it’s a bigger issue than just killing fish.”

Editor’s note: When you are around red tide, it feels a bit like you have a cold.

Why Did The State Of Florida Decide To Dump The Toxic Wastewater Into The Ocean?

I really wanted to understand why a state government, whose job is supposed to care for its citizens’ safety, would choose to poison its own bay. Caulin shared his thoughts.

“They had already started taking action far past the point of return. I think they’re still under investigation. The owner of Piney Point was the one responsible for keeping the facility up to par. Instead, he took a lot of shortcuts and a lot of breaks, and the Florida government also is very lenient with what you’re allowed to dump into the water.

“They kind of prioritized company profits over pollution — that’s what seems to be happening. It got to the point where it started to crack and there was kind of nothing else they could do. I remember making a video about it at the time thinking that their best option was to dump the water. It’s so absurd and it’s infuriating because it could have been stopped up to that point. But when it got to that point, it became too late.”

Editor’s note: I live in Manatee County, and I recall an alert coming across my phone warning that toxic waste could start rolling across part of the county at any moment. “Luckily,” the alternative worked — dumping toxic waste into the bay.

Message To The State Of Florida

Not only is this a horrendous act, but the State of Florida — the government, not the citizens* — should definitely own up to its part in creating this ecological disaster. The state’s leniency on pollution echoes those of other red states where state governments prioritize profits over people and our planet. Caulin has a message for the state government:

“Stop picking profits over pollution and prioritize preservation. Stop downplaying the actual severity of what’s happening here just to save tourism. Florida relies a lot on tourism for the money that generates its economy. The tourism is going to stop if we continue to treat our state as a free for all dumping land.”

(*Editor’s note: As a Floridian, I think the blame is squarely on the citizens as well. The state has been electing extreme right-wing Republicans for years. In fact, a former Republican Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, is now a Democrat because the party has long left his sense of what is good and driven itself toward total lack of respect for US democracy, the health of its citizens, basic public policy that the vast majority of people support, and preservation of the things that make Florida great. More citizens should have noticed this by now and drained the swamp of GOP corruption.)

Officials Need To Be Held Accountable

Another TikTok user, @Chastenation, shared her video and it came up on my FYP after I’d interacted with Caulin’s and his friend’s videos. “Our fishery is dying!!! We need the ‘elected officials’ to be held accountable,” she wrote in her caption. Her location was the beach across from Tampa Bay and she explained that the wastewater leakage combined with the red tide was what was killing the fish. She fishes for a living.

In her video, she’s walking along the beach with dead fish in the background as far as the eye can see. “The entire beach is covered,” she said, as she pulled a dead grouper from the waves and added it to a pile with other dead fish.

“We need these elected officials to be held accountable because this is where we live, and I’m gonna be honest — but I don’t want to live like this. This is how I make my living and it’s all dead.”

My Thoughts

As a writer who cares about this planet and our impact on it, I felt it was my duty to uplift the voices of Caulin and anyone else out there trying to raise awareness. This is a huge crisis in Florida and it seems that either no one is taking it seriously or that it is being heavily downplayed by the officials. Even TikTok is flagging Caulin’s videos as “containing sensitive material.”

We need to stop killing our planet. No, let me rephrase: Those in power who have the authority to run countries and states need to stop destroying our planet in the name of corporate greed.

You can watch all of Caulin’s videos here.

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Does It Cost You More To Run Your Lawnmower Than Your Car?



I used to own the only Tesla Model 3 (probably the only electric car) in my suburb of Bracken Ridge 18 km from the central business district of Brisbane. Now, I see another red one at the local supermarket, a grey one at the library, and a few white ones just cruising around. As my grandmother would say in a strong Yorkshire accent, “They’ll be common as muck soon!”

One of the reasons may be that electricity is relatively cheap in Australia (roughly 20 cents per kWh) and petrol is relatively expensive ($1.50+ a L depending on the price cycle). We are at the top of the cycle now, with petrol costing $1.75 in Queensland.

I recently wrote a post on Facebook showing a photo of a traffic jam caused by a metropolitan petrol station that had somehow missed the call and left their prices low. I got caught up in this in my non-petrol-using vehicle. I got lots of comments on the Facebook post, and this one below was the best. The author has given me permission to use it.

Picture of Tess taken at a disused servo on the way to Warwick (about 160 km west of Brisbane). Image courtesy of David Waterworth.

“Costs more to run my lawnmower than my car — I had to fill up a 10L tank for my lawnmower the other day, cost me $15.23. I got paid my quarterly power credit of $7 about a week ago, which includes all my car charging apart for some public charging of around $2. I did approximately 8000 kms in that time. It’s sobering to think it costs me more to run my lawnmower than my car.

“It was funny, I parked my TM3 outside the fuel station within sight of the teller. She asked me if I wanted a Frequent Fuel card after I paid for the fuel. Instinctively I laughed and said, “Are you serious?” and I pointed to my car and informed her my car doesn’t run on petrol.” —Tony Elms, Model 3 Facebook page.

I recently had the need to fill up my can of mower fuel. As I walked into the servo office, another customer remarked that it was strange to see a Tesla parked at the bowser. I indicated the tin, then asked the two checkout operators what they thought the future would like for them. They shrugged and said same as now, except they — indicating the bowsers outside the window — will be EV chargers. I fear for their future and their jobs when it costs more to mow your lawn than it does to run your car.

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Do Electric Vehicles Pollute As Much As Gas-Powered Ones?



No. The answer to the question posed in the title, “Do Electric Vehicles Pollute as Much as Gas-Powered Ones?” is unequivocally no. As electric vehicles have gained consumer interest and market share over the past decade, some studies have emerged to supposedly refute claims that EVs are better for the environment. The counter-argument went that something like, “EVs pollute because the energy needed to manufacture the ever-important battery — in additional to the emissions from electricity generation — makes EVs pollute worse than a gas-powered car.”


A new study from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) proves that all the negative hype is nothing more than hooey.

“Results show that even for cars registered today, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) have by far the lowest life-cycle GHG emissions.”

The findings have significant implications for policymakers seeking to substantially decarbonize road transport by 2050, in line with Paris Agreement objectives.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from global road transport in 2050 need to be dramatically lower than today’s levels. That’s clear. Light-duty vehicles, the vast majority of which are passenger cars, are responsible for the largest share of transport-related GHG emissions, currently about 5 Gt CO2 eq.

And what’s also evident is that only full battery EVs and hydrogen fuel-cell EVs have the potential to be very low-GHG pathways. It turns out that the emissions from manufacturing batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines are very small when compared to the GHG savings from the greater efficiency and cleaner energy supply of EVs compared to conventional vehicles.

Electric vehicles pollute far less than their legacy counterparts. Additionally, battery EVs can be expected to operate with progressively fewer upstream emissions over their lifetimes as electricity grids become green and the relative benefit of driving EVs compared to gasoline, diesel, and natural gas cars grows over time.

Studying How Much Electric Vehicles Pollute

The ICCT study, “A Global Comparison of the Life-Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Combustion Engine and Electric Passenger Cars,” took into account the most relevant powertrain types —

  • internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs), including hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs);
  • plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs);
  • battery electric vehicles (BEVs); and,
  • fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).

It also reviewed a variety of fuel types and power sources, including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, biofuels, e-fuels, hydrogen, and electricity.

As the average useful lifetime of a passenger car is between 15 and 18 years (for trucks and buses, it is often even longer), decarbonization policies will be most impactful if they reflect passenger cars transitioning to all EVs for new sales by the early 2030s. It is necessary in order to achieve deep decarbonization of the transport sector by 2050.

Importantly, the study also finds that natural gas does not offer climate benefits compared to gasoline and diesel, and many biofuel pathways do not, either. There is not likely to be sufficient supply of very low-GHG biofuels, biogas, and e-fuels to decarbonize internal combustion engine vehicles, and drivers of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles rely too much on the gasoline engine for this pathway to be a long-term climate solution.

The carbon intensity of the electricity consumed by charging BEVs and PHEVs is based on the average lifecycle GHG emissions of the different electric energy sources, their projected mix during the lifetime of the vehicles, and transmission and distribution losses in the electric grid. Note, also, that for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy, the lifecycle GHG emissions are considered. In other words, the emissions corresponding to their construction and maintenance.

Distinct Measures of EVs’ Vast Superiority

The study analyzed 4 distinct dimensions to come up with its conclusions that electric vehicles pollute much less than gas-powered vehicles.

  • It considered the lifetime average carbon intensity of the fuel and electricity mixes, including biofuels and biogas. Based on stated policies, it accounts for changes in the carbon intensity during the useful lifetime of the vehicles.
  • It reviewed the fuel and electricity consumption in average real-world usage instead of solely relying on official test values. This is especially important for assessing the GHG emissions of PHEVs.
  • It used recent data on industrial-scale battery production and considers regional battery supply chains. This results in significantly lower battery production emissions than in earlier studies.
  • It incorporated the near-term global warming potential of methane leakage emissions of natural gas and natural gas-derived hydrogen pathways. Different from other GHGs, methane contributes several times more to global warming in the first 20 years after emission than is reflected by the 100-year global warming potential.

Here are the results.

Only battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles have the potential to achieve the magnitude of lifecycle GHG emissions reductions needed to meet Paris Agreement goals. The assessment finds that the lifecycle emissions over the lifetime of BEVs registered today in Europe, the United States, China, and India are already lower than a comparable gasoline car by 66%–69% in Europe, 60%–68% in the United States, 37%–45% in China, and 19%–34%
in India.

For medium-size cars projected to be registered in 2030, as the electricity mix continues to decarbonize, the lifecycle emissions gap between BEVs and gasoline vehicles increases to 74%–77% in Europe, 62%–76% in the United States, 48%–64% in China, and 30%–56% in India.

There is no realistic pathway for deep decarbonization of combustion engine vehicles. Hybrid EVs improve the efficiency of internal combustion engine vehicles by recovering braking energy and storing it in a battery that can then be used to support propulsion with an electric motor. In this study, HEVs were found to reduce lifecycle GHG emissions by only about 20% compared to conventional gasoline cars.

This study also analyzed the development of the average blend of biofuels and biogas in fossil diesel, gasoline, and natural gas based on current policies and projected supply. Across the four regions and all fuel types, the impact of future changes in the biofuel blends driven by current policies range from a negligible influence to a reduction of the lifecycle GHG emissions of gasoline, diesel, or natural gas vehicles by a maximum of 9%, even over the lifetime of cars registered in 2030.

Due to a number of factors, including competing demand from other sectors and high cost of production, it is not feasible to supply enough low-carbon biofuels such as residues and waste-based biodiesel, ethanol, or biomethane to substantially displace fossil fuels in combustion engine cars.

Final Thoughts

To reduce the GHG emissions of light-duty vehicles, many governments now follow two complementary approaches:

  1. They aim to reduce the fuel consumption of new vehicles by setting fleet average CO2 emission or fuel efficiency standards, and by providing incentives for vehicles with electric powertrains; and,
  2. They support the decarbonization of the electricity grid and incentivize the production of renewable and low-carbon fuels.

Given the continuous efforts to decarbonize electricity grids, BEVs are assumed to consume a less carbon-intensive electricity mix with each passing year of their lifetime. It’s time to support communities that are making the switch to electric transportation modes in our personal, regional, and professional capacities.

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