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Desert Year: Doing a 180 on Energy

by Skip Laitner • May 7, 2012 @ 8:53 am

Running with the lizards and doing a 180 on energy!

The heat of the season is beginning to arrive earlier in the morning. And on this particular day it seemed especially sensible to get out ahead of the sun – well before it began to beat down with any real strength.  So I headed out early for a leisurely morning amble.  The route took me up a road that has very high curbs to channel the water from the fall monsoons. On this specific stretch of curb there was a single lizard, hugging the side of the concrete wall.  It scurried maybe 10 feet ahead of me as I approached, and then it stopped.  As I again advanced within three feet, it jumped ahead maybe another 8-10 feet, still hugging the curbside. And then again. . . .

I don’t have a clue why the lizard insisted on moving forward with me, hugging tightly to the pavement sidewall. The smarter thing, it seemed to me, would have been to scurry at a very quick right angle away from me to safety.  Yet, as I again approached it for perhaps the fifth time, it suddenly turned 180 degrees and bolted past me in the opposite direction – leaving me alone with my thoughts.  Although the suddenness of its movement startled me, I reflected a little and thought . . . that was very cool. And I immediately wondered why it is that we are so often dogged in maintaining our existing course of action?

A Changing of the Minds?

The good news is that people can and they sometimes do change their minds. Not to distract from his current predicament, in 2006 Rupert Murdoch, for example, “had a change of heart on climate change and now believes global action is needed.” Also changing his mind on climate change? Bjorn Lomborg who claimed for many years that climate was not an especially important issue to address. Yet in 2010 he released a new book with new equations stating the exact opposite. The indication is that while did change his mind, he hugely underestimates what might be an appropriate scale of mitigation effort. His current thinking recommends that we should spend $100 billion a year to mitigate and avoid the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions. The evidence, however, suggests it should be many times larger.  (more…)

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Desert Year: Meeting Energy Needs is All About Perspective

by Skip Laitner • April 18, 2012 @ 2:25 pm

It had been in my mind for some time.  Picacho Peak is a fascinating and major focal point of the Arizona landscape, located perhaps 40 miles north of Tucson.  I’ve wanted to explore both the peak and its surrounding area almost since my first return to Tucson last May.

Earlier this year Arizona celebrated the 150th anniversary of the only Civil War skirmish that occurred in Arizona — right there in Picacho Pass. The Union forces lost that particular encounter because of the disobedience of an overeager young lieutenant. They also suffered three fatalities in that fight.

The little bit of publicity I saw about this anniversary only heightened my interest in climbing the peak.  So I set out one fine Friday with a friend to get it done.

Picacho Peak at a Distance

Our very first picture was taken at about 7:30 am in the morning as we approached Picacho Peak from the south on Interstate 10.  At that angle and distance one might begin to wonder, how the heck do we even begin to think that we can actually make the ascent? And if we look at the seemingly insatiable demands for energy, how might we do anything but dig for more coal or drill for more oil? (more…)

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Costs of Inaction: Energy and Water Demands Collide

by Kristen Sheeran • June 24, 2011 @ 11:05 am

A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists details how our electricity demands are colliding with our fresh water needs. Though often overlooked, the electricity sector’s dependence on fresh water runs deep, and not only in regions that rely heavily on hydropower. Fossil-fuel and nuclear power plants rely on fresh water for cooling purposes. Power plants demand the largest share of U.S. freshwater withdrawals: 41%. Just as hydropower plants operate at reduced capacity or shut-down during periods of prolonged drought, steam-generating power plants cut back production or shut down during dry and hot periods.

The bottom line: the energy system is not only the primary driver of global climate change but is highly vulnerable to its impacts. As climate change reduces the availability of fresh water supplies and contributes to greater irregularities in the timing of peak stream flows, the capacity of our energy system to reliably produce power declines. The solution: we need to embrace lower-water technologies such as air cooling for power plants and no-water options such as wind farms and energy efficiency.

 You can read the full report here.

 Releated posts: The Costs of Inaction: Southwest Water Crisis; Costs of Inaction: Energy, Water, Infrastructure

 

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