Map: where Western wildfires have made the air outside too dangerous to breathe

Vox

Map: where Western wildfires have made the air outside too dangerous to breathe

Particulates from smoke have drastically impacted air quality in areas of several states.

by Casey Miller and Umair Irfan    September 13, 2017

Unusually bad wildfires have been blazing in the Western United States, leaving areas across Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Wyoming choking on harmful levels of smoke and shrouded in a cloudy haze.

Fire officials anticipate some relief this week as a weather system is expected to bring rain to some of the smoldering states. But the fires will also continue to burn through dry woodlands.

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A map of large fires across the United States National Interagency Fire Center

“We’re expecting another day or two of warm conditions that could keep the fires a little bit active, particularly across the Northwest and the Rockies, and also some breezy conditions in Montana that are pushing fires around,” said Ed Delgado, the national program manager for predictive services at the National Interagency Fire Center.

On Tuesday, NIFC was reporting 62 large fires across nine Western states that had already taken more than 1.6 million acres. And 2017 is on track to be one of the worst years for wildfires in the US on record, with a total of 8.1 million acres burned as of September 12 — already well above the annual to-date average of 6 million acres for the past decade.

For residents of some areas of California, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Montana, the worst threat from the fires is lingering poor air quality that may take up to a week to disperse. You can use this map to zoom in on which towns have it worst.

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The Environmental Protection Agency measures the harm from wildfires with its Air Quality Index, as shown here.

The math is a little convoluted, but the index allows regulators to make apples-to-apples comparisons of health risks across different pollutants like ozone and sulfur dioxide.

The six categories for the Air Quality Index range from “good” (“It’s a great day to be outside.”) to “hazardous” (“Avoid all physical activity outdoors.”). As you can see, air in some parts of Montana has reached that worst-case, “hazardous” level.

Unfortunately, smoke from wildfires poses a threat even in small quantities, and can cause harm even to people hundreds of miles away from the nearest flames.

Wildfires can loft bits of dust and carbon into the jet stream, but health hazards emerge when the local weather conditions bring these particles back down to ground level, which is why specific local air quality monitoring and forecasts are so important.

The smallest particles are the biggest concern.

EPA regulates PM2.5, which refers to particles with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less. Wildfires directly create these particles as they torch plains and forests.

“Generally, we think that the smaller it is, the more likely it is to make you sick,” said Jia Coco Liu, a postdoctoral researcher studying air quality after disasters at Johns Hopkins University.

These particles penetrate deep into lungs causing inflammation, asthma attacks, and over the long-term, cancer.

Even in tiny concentrations, measured in micrograms per cubic meter, particulates can increase visits to the emergency room, especially for the elderly and people with chronic breathing problems.

“My research shows that when pollution is very high, over 37 [micrograms per cubic meter], we start to see health consequences,” Liu said.

Officials don’t have many options to help people get fresh air under smoke and haze. “Other than staying indoors, it’s pretty hard to do, because you can’t stop breathing,” Liu said.

Overall, this fire season is far worse than officials expected. “We had a very wet winter and spring, but that was pretty much erased in July when we had a very strong heat wave in the West that dried this out very, very quickly,” Delgado said.

As average temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, health officials are bracing for more wildfires scorching wider swaths of Western lands, leading to more coughing, wheezing, heart attacks, and deaths.

But on Tuesday fire officials had at least some good news to share for the regions blanketed by smoke: Almost half of ongoing wildfires didn’t gain any ground yesterday.

“Basically, it’s late in the year, so generally we’re in the wind-down mode,” Delgado added.

Obama’s Solar Goal Has Been Met, Trump’s Energy Department Brags

Bloomberg

Obama’s Solar Goal Has Been Met, Trump’s Energy Department Brags

https://assets.bwbx.io/images/users/iqjWHBFdfxIU/iWyP5q.jwJbI/v0/-1x-1.jpgPhotographer: Ken James/Bloomberg

By Ari Natter       September 12, 2017

From Climate Changed

The Trump administration announced Tuesday that former President Barack Obama’s goal of slashing the cost of solar power has been achieved early, taking credit for milestone even though the new administration is skeptical of renewable power.

“With the impressive decline in solar prices, it is time to address additional emerging challenges,” said Daniel Simmons, the Energy Department’s acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Simmons previously worked for the Washington-based Institute for Energy Research and has said that solar and wind “is more expensive and will increase the price of electricity.” The group called for the abolition of the office Simmons now heads. And President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal called for cutting solar energy funding within the Energy Department by 71 percent to $70 million.

The Energy Department announced that the average price of utility-scale solar dropped to 6 cents per kilowatt hour, which Obama had set in 2011 as the goal for his “SunShot” program. That program, which provided research funding and other support aimed to reduce the total cost of photovoltaic energy by 75 percent by 2020.

“I don’t know why they are touting it,” Jack Spencer, vice president of the Heritage Foundation and a former member of Trump’s Energy Department transition team, said in a phone interview. “I think it should be abolished right away as should all government subsidies.”

Instead, the department announced $82 million in new funding for solar research, with the majority directed toward concentrating solar, which uses mirrors instead of solar panels. And Trump’s team has set a new solar goal of its own: lowering the cost of utility-scale solar power further, to 3 cents by 2030.

“As we look to the future, DOE will focus new solar R&D on the secretary’s priorities, which include strengthening the reliability and resilience of the electric grid while integrating solar energy,” Simmons said.

The Energy Department press office didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Texas couple takes wedding photos in Harvey debris, will donate $5K wedding reception funds to people affected

Shellie Schoellkopf and Robert Callaway, both Houston natives, planned to hold their wedding reception next month for 150 guests at a restaurant in downtown Houston. Then, Hurricane Harvey, the most powerful storm to hit Texas in over a decade, happened.

After Irma, Florida prepares for days — and maybe weeks — without power

Washington Post

After Irma, Florida prepares for days — and maybe weeks — without power

Patricia Sullivan, Mark Berman and Katie Zezima     September 12, 2017

Irma leaves millions of Florida residents without electricity

https://img.washingtonpost.com/wp-apps/imrs.php?src=http://s3.amazonaws.com/posttv-thumbnails-prod/09-12-2017/t_1505245685718_name_20170912_powerlines1.jpg&w=800&h=450As of Tuesday, Sept. 12, millions of Florida residents were still without power in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Here’s a look at the areas hit hardest by outages. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Millions of Floridians grappled with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on Tuesday, confronting a sweltering reality: Nearly half of Florida still lacked electricity, and for some of them, the lights might not come back on for days or even weeks.

“We understand what it means to be in the dark,” said Robert Gould, vice president and chief communications officer for Florida Power and Light (FPL), the state’s largest utility. “We understand what it means to be hot and without air conditioning. We will be restoring power day and night.”

But, he acknowledged: “This is going to be a very uncomfortable time.”

Across the nation’s third most-populous state, that discomfort played out in homes that were silent without the usual thrum of perpetual air-conditioning. It meant refrigerators were unable to cool milk, laundry machines were unable to clean clothes and, for the particularly young and old, potential danger in a state where the temperatures can range from warm to stifling.

Even for those who had power, some also were struggling to maintain cellphone service or Internet access, sending Floridians into tree-riddled streets in an effort to spot a few precious bars of signal to contact loved ones.

“It’s a mess, a real mess. The biggest issue is power,” said Bill Barnett, mayor of Naples, on Florida’s Gulf Coast. “We just need power. It’s 92 degrees and the sun is out and it’s smoking out there.”

Utility companies made progress as they undertook a massive recovery effort, restoring power to some. At its peak, the Department of Homeland Security said about 15 million Floridians — an astonishing three out of four state residents — lacked power.

Throughout the day Tuesday, state officials gradually lowered the number of customers without power, dropping it to 4.7 million by Tuesday evening from 6.5 million a day earlier. Because each power company account can represent multiple people, the sheer number of residents without electricity was massive: Going by the Homeland Security estimates, at one point Irma had knocked out power to one out of every 22 Americans.

It would take some time before all of them had electricity again. Duke Energy Florida said it would restore power to most customers by Sunday, a week after Irma made its first landfall in Florida. Some harder-hit areas could take longer due to the rebuilding effort.

Gould said that FPL, which powers about half of the state, expected customers on Florida’s East Coast to have power back by the end of the weekend. People in western Florida, closer to Irma’s path, should have it back by Sept. 22. That estimate does not include places with severe flooding or tornado damage, he said, and those areas could also face a longer wait to be able to switch on the lights.

As Irma swept in, concern about a child, a respirator, and a battery

17-month-old Lena was born with a defective diaphragm and needs a ventilator to breathe. Her family moved across the country in 2016 so she could get the best care available, and only recently settled into their own apartment after almost a year spent in the hospital. But Hurricane as Irma moved in, they took shelter back at the hospital, knowing a power cut could endanger Lena’s life.

Floridians reacted to the outages eclectically. Some welcomed the absence of perpetual air-conditioners. Others flocked to their local malls for a respite from the heat.

“There’s no power at home, so we might as well just stay here and stay cool,” Amanda Brack, who was with her son, Gavin, said while walking through a Brookstone at the Galleria shopping mall in Fort Lauderdale.

Blake Deerhog had walked to the mall from his powerless and steamy apartment in nearby Victoria Park, trekking some 20 minutes in the stifling heat and humidity after he Googled and learned it would be open.

“This is definitely better than being back at my apartment,” he said, adding that he planned to spend the afternoon there.

The outages also caused rising alarm in some places. Here in Cape Coral, an assisted care facility for patients with dementia and memory impairment that sheltered in place during the storm went without power for three days, as elderly patients suffered in the rising heat.

The southwest Florida facility, Cape Coral Shores, had 20 patients stay during the storm as part of an agreement with state and local officials because the emergency shelters it would normally use were both evacuated as Irma approached. Power at the facility went out, and it stayed out, even as homes and businesses all around it saw their lights come back on.

As the indoor temperature climbed to the mid-80s Wednesday morning, humidity made the hard-surfaced floors slick with condensation. Patients gathered in a small day room to catch a slight breeze from screened windows. A handful of small fans powered by a borrowed generator were all that kept the situation from devolving into a medical emergency, said Dan Nelson, Cape Coral Shores’ chief operating officer.

“People here are fragile,” Nelson said, adding that air-conditioning in such facilities is a medical necessity. “This is not just about comfort, it’s about safety. We have magnet door locks that don’t work, fire suppression equipment whose batteries have run out, assisted bed lifts that don’t work. And the temperatures today and tomorrow are headed back to the mid-90s.”

A state emergency official said Wednesday afternoon he had found a large generator and 50 gallons of gas for the facility, but there was no need: The power came back on.

While the Sunshine State was the hardest hit by the outages, they extended to the other states Irma raked as it headed north. Hundreds of thousands lost power in the Carolinas, Alabama and Georgia, where at one point 800,000 were experiencing outages on Tuesday, though that number declined during the day.

The deteriorating storm once known as Hurricane Irma — classified Tuesday as a post-tropical cyclone — grazed onward through the Mississippi Valley, losing essentially all of its prior strength but still drenching some areas with rainfall.

Across the southeast, even as people acknowledged that they had dodged the worst possible hit from Irma, they were still left to contend with destroyed homes, flooded cities, swollen rivers, canceled flights and debris in the streets.

The city of Jacksonville, Fla., remained flooded after the St. Johns River overflowed so severely the day before that it forced residents from their homes. Charleston, S.C., city officials said the intense flooding there on Monday closed more than 111 roads, most of which had reopened Tuesday.

Authorities said they were investigating several fatalities that came since the storm made landfall, though it was not clear how many were directly due to the storm.

Among them were a 51-year-old man in Winter Park, Fla., outside Orlando, who police said was apparently electrocuted by a downed power line in a roadway. In Georgia, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office said a 67-year-old woman was killed when a tree fell on her car; the mayor of Sandy Springs said a 55-year-old man was killed when a tree fell on the bedroom where he was sleeping. In other cases, fatal car crashes claimed lives as the storm loomed.

[Why Irma wasn’t far worse]

In Key West, it remained unclear when power, cellphone service or supplies would be available again.

“What you have on hand is rationed to make sure you can get through,” said Todd Palenchar, 48, noting that his supplies of food and water are designed to last for a week. “You don’t know how long it’s going to be.”

Palenchar said he is used to camping and roughing it, but his main concern right now is his property.
“I’ve already posted signs where I’m at, ‘Looters will be shot, no questions asked,'” he said as he pulled up his shirt to reveal a .380 caliber pistol.

As Irma tore through the Caribbean and approached the Keys last week, authorities had ordered millions in Florida to evacuate and, in some cases, ordered them to hit the road again as the storm’s path wobbled. On Tuesday, officials slowly began letting those people return home.

In Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, and other places that let residents back, officials warned that many areas are still without power, cellphone reception is questionable and most gas stations remain shut.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said about half of the county’s traffic signals were out. Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said the number was closer to 45 percent of traffic signals there. Across the state, the explanations for the outages were visible alongside the road.

“It’s a lot of trees and power lines and snapped poles,” said Kate Albers, a spokeswoman for Collier County, which stretches across southwestern Florida and includes Marco Island, where Irma made her second landfall.

“I can tell you from driving around you see lines down all over the place,” Albers said. “You see trees thrown through power lines and you’ll see an occasional pole.”

The high number of outages across Florida were due largely to the storm’s massive size, said Ted Kury, director of energy studies for the Public Utility Research Center at the University of Florida.

“For a significant period of time, the entire state was under a hurricane warning,” Kury said. “Normally it comes through, sometimes it comes through fast and sometimes it comes through slowly. But this one hit pretty much everybody.”

White House warns Florida that power could be out for ‘coming weeks’

With millions in Florida without electricity, White House national security adviser Tom Bossert described “the largest ever mobilization of line restoration workers in this country” on Sept. 11, but cautioned that power could be down in homes for weeks.

Kury was among those who did not lose power but did lose Internet, cable and cellphone service, so he and his wife had to walk to the next development before his wife got enough signal to text their oldest son and her parents.

Storms that rip down power lines are frequently followed by questions about why more power lines are not buried underground, away from punishing winds.

Cost is one factor. A 2012 report for the Edison Electric Institute, a trade association representing investor-owned electrical utilities, found that it can be five to 10 times more expensive to put lines underground — otherwise known as “undergrounding” — than to hang them overhead.

The utilities also weigh issues such as how much cost they can pass on to their customers and the aesthetics of overhead wires, Kury said, noting that there is no uniform policy for power companies because diverse regions have different needs.

“It’s kind of a misstatement when folks say undergrounding power lines protects them from damage,” Kury said. “What it really does is insulates them from damage from wind events and flying debris. But it makes them more susceptible to things like flooding and things like storm surge.”

He added: “If you’re in an area where your biggest risk to the infrastructure is storm surge and flooding, putting the lines underground can actually make them more susceptible to damage and not less.”

Florida utility companies embarked upon a massive response effort to get the lights back on. Gould, the spokesman for FPL, said the company had dispatched 20,000 workers to work day and night restoring power, first to critical care infrastructure — like hospitals and 911 systems — and then to feeders that send juice to the most customers. Finally, they get to individual neighborhoods.

In St. Petersburg, where gas-powered generators had growled through the night, residents lit their way with battery-powered lanterns, flashlights and tea lights.

“We’ve run out of power before,” said Jeanne Isacco, 71, reaching for her walker to stand and punctuate her point. “Why do you think we live here? Excuse me! We know it’s hot.”

Berman and Zezima reported from Washington. Darryl Fears in St. Petersburg, Leonard Shapiro in Fort Lauderdale, Camille Pendley in Atlanta, Dustin Waters in Charleston, Kirk Ross in Raleigh, Scott Unger in Key West, Fla., and Brian Murphy, Angela Fritz and Carol Morello in Washington contributed to this report, which was updated throughout the day. 

Enbridge’s plans to build tar sands pipeline through Minnesota just hit a snag

ThinkProgress

Enbridge’s plans to build tar sands pipeline through Minnesota just hit a snag

Enbridge’s Line 3 in Minnesota just took a serious hit.

Samantha Page    September 12, 2017

https://i2.wp.com/thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/ap_100729141216.jpg?resize=1280%2C720px&ssl=1In 2010, a worker monitors water in Talmadge Creek, near the Kalamazoo River as oil from a ruptured pipeline, owned by Enbridge Inc., is attempted to be trapped by booms. CREDIT: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 project — an effort to replace and expand an oil sands pipeline through Minnesota — hit a roadblock Monday when the state’s Department of Commerce said that the project is environmentally and economically risky and that the company has failed to show that the pipeline is even needed at all.

“Enbridge has not established a need for the proposed project; the pipeline would primarily benefit areas outside Minnesota; and serious environmental and socioeconomic risks and effects outweigh limited benefits,” the Department of Commerce said in a statement announcing its filings to the Public Utility Commission (PUC). The PUC is evaluating the project in advance of issuing — or denying — a Certificate of Need and a Route Permit. Public hearings will be held between September 26 and October 26, followed by additional filings and hearings. The PUC is expected to make its final determination at the end of April 2018.

In order to get approval from the PUC, Enbridge must show that the project is both necessary and beneficial to the people of Minnesota. According to the Department of Commerce’s analysis, which was conducted by external oil market experts, the Line 3 project is neither.

“The Commerce Department testimony is really damning and really well reasoned,” Aaron Klemz from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy told ThinkProgress. “They seem to have taken a really hard look at the facts and made a decision on them rather then just taking the company’s word for it.”

Enbridge’s application would relocate and expand a pipeline, already known as Line 3, which carries Canadian tar sands oil from the border to refineries in Wisconsin or to other pipelines. Opponents to the project say the new route will carry oil through sensitive wetlands, including some of the only wild rice marshes in the world. They also say that building more fossil fuel infrastructure now — oil sands is one of the dirtiest fuels in the world — is antithetical to efforts to transition to clean energy, reduce climate change, and keep air and water clean.

“This is a key moment,” Klemz said. “We are in the middle of a transformation in our energy systems. It makes no sense to invest billions of dollars in new energy infrastructure.”

For its part, Enbridge says not only does it need a bigger pipeline — doubling its capacity to 760,000 barrels per day — but the old pipeline is falling apart. According to the company’s own testimony, the current Line 3 is deteriorating. “There are no feasible technology or operational changes that can arrest or reverse the external corrosion on Line 3 and/or remove the defects that were inherent in the way the pipe was originally manufactured,” Laura Kennett, Enbridge’s supervisor of pipeline asset integrity projects, told the PUC.

But acknowledging the current Line 3’s problems may backfire on the company. The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, a legal organization, filed a petition in July with the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), citing Enbridge’s own testimony and calling for action to inspect the line and prevent leaks or shut it down.

“There is good cause to believe that Line 3 is a threat to environmental health, water and soil resources, and potentially public safety. It is PHMSA’s responsibility to conduct inspections if there is any reason to believe that a pipeline is not at par with safety standards,” senior staff attorney Leigh Currie wrote in the July 10 correspondence.

In its testimony, the Department of Commerce echoes calls to shut down the current line, saying, “in light of the serious risks and effects on the natural and socioeconomic environments of the existing Line 3 and the limited benefit that the existing Line 3 provides to Minnesota refineries, it is reasonable to conclude that Minnesota would be better off if Enbridge proposed to cease operations of the existing Line 3, without any new pipeline being built.”

In addition to being energy-intensive to extract and refine, tar sands oil presents a particular concern in waterways, if it spills. Tar sands oil is heavier than water and thinning agents (chemicals) are added when it is transported via pipeline. The current and proposed Line 3s cross several waterways in Northern Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes.

A request for comment from Enbridge was not immediately returned Tuesday.

New British wind power deals cheaper than nuclear supplies

Reuters

New British wind power deals cheaper than nuclear supplies

By Susanna Twidale, Reuters        September 11, 2017

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By Susanna Twidale

LONDON (Reuters) – The price Britain will pay for new offshore wind power has plunged below new nuclear generation for the first time, according to figures from a power auction on Monday.

The rapidly falling cost of wind power may stoke criticism of the government for promising much higher prices to investors in the long-delayed Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, the first to be built in Britain for more than 20 years.

Britain needs to invest in new capacity to replace ageing coal and nuclear plants that are due to close in the 2020s.

Renewables, such as wind power and solar, can only meet part of those needs because of their variable supplies determined by the weather and, for now, there are no large scale energy power storage options.

Nuclear plants can offer a steady supply, but plans for Hinkley Point C have been beset by delays and rising construction costs.

Britain’s subsidy auction for new offshore wind projects awarded contracts between at 74.75 pounds and 57.50 pounds per megawatt hour (MWh) depending on the delivery date.

That compares with the 92.50 pounds/MWh, index linked to inflation, awarded to France’s EDF in 2012 to build Hinkley Point C.

“This auction has demonstrated the real progress in cost reduction and our result shows how affordable offshore wind can be compared to other technologies, including new thermal generation,” said João Manso Neto, CEO of EDP Renováveis which was successful in the auction.

The eleven renewable energy projects that won contracts are expected to deliver up to 3 gigawatts (GW) of new electricity generation capacity from 2021-2023, with the contracts worth up to 176 million a year, the government said.

Dong Energy’s Hornsea 2 was the largest project to win a contract, and at 1.4 gigawatts (GW) is set to be the world’s largest wind farm when it begins generation in 2022.

“This is a breakthrough moment for offshore wind in the UK and a massive step forward for the industry,” said Matthew Wright, Managing Director for DONG Energy UK. Innogy Renewables and Statkraft’s [STATKF.UL] Triton Knoll offshore wind farm, secured 74.75 pounds/MWh, and EDP Renováveis and ENGIE’s Moray East project secured 57.50 pounds/MWh.

The cost of producing electricity from wind farms has plummeted in the past few years, helped by larger turbines.

This year, DONG won two German offshore wind power tenders with the promise of a zero subsidy bid.

The British and German subsidies are not directly comparable since the German tender did not include transmission costs which typically make up about 25 percent of a project’s total cost.

As part of extensive reforms to Britain’s electricity market, the government replaced direct subsidies with a contracts-for-difference (CfD) system.

Under the scheme, qualifying projects are guaranteed a minimum price at which they can sell electricity and renewable power generators bid for CfD contracts in a round of auctions.

“Falling prices for low carbon technologies show that electricity market reforms are working as intended. Early projects were more costly, but as technologies have matured, developers can achieve lower costs,” a spokesman for EDF’s British arm EDF Energy said.

(Reporting by Susanna Twidale, additional reporting by Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen.; Editing by Louise Heavens and Edmund Blair)

Offshore Wind Costs Fall Below New Nuclear Plants in U.K.

Bloomberg

Offshore Wind Costs Fall Below New Nuclear Plants in U.K.

By Anna Hirtenstein   September 11, 2017

https://assets.bwbx.io/images/users/iqjWHBFdfxIU/iL4AbbMIQg_k/v0/1000x-1.jpgA general view of the worlds largest and most powerful offshore wind turbine at Fife Energy Park on November 4, 2013 in Methil, Scotland.  Photographer: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The cost of generating electricity from offshore wind farms fell sharply in the U.K. to below the price the next nuclear reactors will charge, making the form of clean energy one of the cheapest ways to supply the grid.

In a government auction that handed out power-purchase contracts worth 176 million pounds ($232 million) a year, all of the bids to build offshore wind farms and other renewable technologies were below the 92.50 pounds per megawatt-hour price awarded to the controversial Hinkley Point atomic plant due to be complete in the next decade.

Winners included the Danish utility Dong Energy A/S, with an offer of 57.50 pounds per megawatt-hour for power from its Hornsea 2 offshore wind farm, and EDP Renovaveis SA, and Engie SA, which will receive the same for their Moray Fifth East project. Environmental and renewable-energy groups said the 50 percent plunge in the cost of power from turbines sited in the sea indicates that clean-energy technologies are quickly rivaling traditional forms of generation without heavy subsidies.

“This is a breakthrough moment for offshore wind,” Matthew Wright, managing director for Dong in the U.K. said in a statement. “It will also deliver high quality jobs.”

This was the U.K.’s second contracts-for-difference auction, where would-be developers compete for projects by bidding the price it would be willing to accept for its electricity. The contest was for “less-established technologies” such as offshore wind, tidal and anaerobic digestion.

Cheaper Power

The power-purchase agreements are fixed for 15 years with a CfD mechanism. If the wholesale rate is lower than the set price, the government pays the developer the difference. If it’s higher, the company reimburses the state. Wholesale power prices in the U.K. have averaged about 47 pounds per megawatt-hour over the past year.

The government said the contest indicated it’s succeeding in drawing in investment needed to replace aging power plants with low-pollution forms of generation.

“We’ve placed clean growth at the heart of the industrial strategy to unlock opportunities across the country, while cutting carbon emissions,” said Richard Harrington, minister for energy and industry. “The offshore wind sector alone will invest 17.5 billion pounds in the U.K. up to 2021 and thousands of new jobs in British businesses will be created by the projects announced today.”

Other Winners

Other developments that received contracts included two biomass facilities and six advanced conversion technologies, including waste to energy, according to a statement from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Innogy SE and Statkraft AS also won accords for their Triton Knoll offshore wind farm, although with a higher bid than Dong’s.

All of the 11 selected projects, which will total 3 gigawatts of capacity, were cheaper than the price fixed for the controversial nuclear plant at Hinkley Point. The most expensive was 19 percent cheaper and offshore wind is now over a third less.

As the renewable energy becomes more affordable, the government’s decision on the new nuclear project may come under additional scrutiny. It was approved in September 2015 and developer Electricite de France SA has increased the cost estimate from 18 billion pounds to more than 20 billion pounds.

Costs Falling

The offshore wind industry by contrast has seen its costs plunge as the capacity of its turbines doubled since 2007. It’s set to double again by 2020, driving down costs further, according to research by the environmental group Greenpeace.

“We are witnessing a revolution in U.K. energy,” said Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace in the U.K., which has spent decades opposing nuclear energy. “The government needs to seize the opportunities of this great deal.”

Until last year, developers offshore wind developers in Europe were targeting to reduce their costs to 100 euros a megawatt-hour by 2020. This target was broken by Dong Energy in July 2016, while an April auction in Germany yielded three projects that will require zero subsidy once they’re completed in the next few years.

The U.K. auction didn’t result in projects as cheap as in Germany partly because the government in Berlin pays the cost to connect wind farms to the national electricity grid. Britain requires developers to cover those costs, so the companies contend that their projects need to be paid a higher price to make money.

“The level of upfront government enablement is higher in some European markets, site selection to some upfront development costs are not shouldered by equity sponsors, leading to a lower cost of capital,” said Rob Marsh, head of renewables at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright LLP. “Water depth is another factor as well.”

Hurricane Irma Already Destroyed One Trump Mansion. Now Mar-a-Lago Is Being Evacuated

Fortune Business

Hurricane Irma Already Destroyed One Trump Mansion. Now Mar-a-Lago Is Being Evacuated

Chris Morris       September 8, 2017

https://s.yimg.com/lo/api/res/1.2/s6NwFdRyGUVxYGGFFnhIJQ--/YXBwaWQ9eW15O3E9NzU7dz02NDA7c209MQ--/http://media.zenfs.com/en-US/homerun/fortune_175/a96b0ec0f6eee5d09558aa531e3756a3Hurricane Irma seems dead set on targeting Donald Trump’s properties.

After destroying “Le Chateau des Palmiers,” Trump’s 11-bedroom mansion located on the Caribbean island of St. Martin (as well as Richard Branson’s home on his private island), the storm has South Florida in its crosshairs. And the president’s seaside resort, Mar-a-Lago, has been ordered to evacuate as Irma approaches.

Mar-a-Lago isn’t Trump’s only South Florida holding, though. Sixty miles south of the resort, on Sunny Isles Beach, Trump owns three 45-story luxury condo towers, collectively known as Trump Towers, Sunny Isles. Floor plans for apartments in the buildings range from 1,435 square feet to 2,558 square feet, with prices on units currently for sale reaching as high as $3 million.

Trump also owns a golf course in the Miami area. Trump National Doral Miami is an 800 acre estate with four courses, a spa, pools, and dining.

What does that mean in terms of hard dollars? “Le Chateau des Palmiers” is for sale for $16.9 million (down from its original $28 million asking price). Mar-a-Lago is valued at $20 million. The overall value of Trump Towers, Sunny Isles couldn’t be determined. And Trump National Doral had a 2016 market value of roughly $92 million, but in 2014 Trump reportedly completed $250 million in renovations to the resort.

Hurricane Irma, which is now a Category 4 storm, has killed at least 14 people after tearing through the Caribbean, including Barbuda and Turks & Caicos. It’s currently expected to hit Florida early Sunday morning.

Harvey spells it out: markets alone won’t protect you

The Guardian

Harvey spells it out: markets alone won’t protect you

Joseph Stiglitz   September 8, 2017

We should have learned the lessons of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy – we need political action to help prevent disasters

https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/0a18bfbbe19beec30b1e5e4d4e3a1a4fb34e1150/415_0_6065_3639/master/6065.jpg?w=620&q=20&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&dpr=2&s=b5df99c1c88c2089a16b95b1b60cb7aeUS CBP Air and Marine Operations aircrew evacuate stranded residents trapped by flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Photograph: Donna Burton/Zuma/Avalon.red

Tropical Storm Harvey has left in its wake upended lives and enormous property damage, estimated by some at $150 to $180 billion. But the storm that pummeled the Texas coast for the better part of a week also raises deep questions about the United States’ economic system and politics.

It is ironic, of course, that an event so related to climate change would occur in a state that is home to so many climate-change deniers – and where the economy depends so heavily on the fossil fuels that drive global warming. Of course, no particular climate event can be directly related to the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. But scientists have long predicted that such increases would boost not only average temperatures, but also weather variability – and especially the occurrence of extreme events such as Harvey. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded several years ago, “There is evidence that some extremes have changed as a result of anthropogenic influences, including increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.” Astrophysicist Adam Frank succinctly explained: “Greater warmth means more moisture in the air which means stronger precipitation.”

To be sure, Houston and Texas could not have done much by themselves about the increase in greenhouse gases, though they could have taken a more active role in pushing for strong climate policies. But local and state authorities could have done a far better job preparing for such events, which hit the area with some frequency.

In responding to the hurricane – and in funding some of the repair – everyone turns to government, just as they did in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis. Again, it is ironic that this is now occurring in a part of the country where government and collective action are so frequently rebuked. It was no less ironic when the titans of US banking, having preached the neo-liberal gospel of downsizing government and eliminating regulations that proscribed some of their most dangerous and antisocial activities, turned to government in their moment of need.

There is an obvious lesson to be learned from such episodes: markets on their own are incapable of providing the protection that societies need. When markets fail, as they often do, collective action becomes imperative.

And, as with financial crises, there is a need for preventive collective action to mitigate the impact of climate change. That means ensuring that buildings and infrastructure are constructed to withstand extreme events, and are not located in areas that are most vulnerable to severe damage. It also means protecting environmental systems, particularly wetlands, which can play an important role in absorbing the impact of storms. It means eliminating the risk that a natural disaster could lead to the discharge of dangerous chemicals, as happened in Houston. And it means having in place adequate response plans, including for evacuation.

Effective government investments and strong regulations are needed to ensure each of these outcomes, regardless of the prevailing political culture in Texas and elsewhere. Without adequate regulations, individuals and firms have no incentive to take adequate precautions, because they know that much of the cost of extreme events will be borne by others. Without adequate public planning and regulation, including of the environment, flooding will be worse. Without disaster planning and adequate funding, any city can be caught in the dilemma in which Houston found itself: if it does not order an evacuation, many will die; but if it does order an evacuation, people will die in the ensuing chaos, and snarled traffic will prevent people from getting out.

America and the world are paying a high price for devotion to the extreme anti-government ideology embraced by Donald Trump and his Republican party. The world is paying, because cumulative US greenhouse-gas emissions are greater than those from any other country; even today, the US is one of the world’s leaders in per capita greenhouse-gas emissions. But America is paying a high price as well: other countries, even poor developing countries, such as Haiti and Ecuador, seem to have learned (often at great expense and only after some huge calamities) how to manage natural disasters better.

After the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the shutdown of much of New York City by Sandy in 2012, and now the devastation wrought on Texas by Harvey, the US can and should do better. It has the resources and skills to analyze these complex events and their consequences, and to formulate and implement regulations and investment programs that mitigate the adverse effects on lives and property.

What America doesn’t have is a coherent view of government by those on the right, who, working with special interests that benefit from their extreme policies, continue to speak out of both sides of their mouth. Before a crisis, they resist regulations and oppose government investment and planning; afterwards, they demand – and receive – billions of dollars to compensate them for their losses, even those that could easily have been prevented.

One can only hope that America, and other countries, will not need more natural persuasion before taking to heart the lessons of Hurricane Harvey.

Joseph E Stiglitz is a Nobel prizewinner in economics, professor at Columbia University, a former senior vice-president and chief economist of the World Bank, and one-time chair of the US president’s council of economic advisers under Bill Clinton

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Severe Wildfires Spread in Western States During Unprecedented Drought

EcoWatch

Severe Wildfires Spread in Western States During Unprecedented Drought

https://resize.rbl.ms/simage/https%3A%2F%2Fassets.rbl.ms%2F10845638%2Forigin.jpg/1200%2C630/MUrJvTIQOSj0P%2Fbh/img.jpgSmoke obscures much of the Pacific Northwest on Sept. 6, 2017. NASA / Goddard, Lynn Jenner

By Climate Nexus     September 8, 2017

An intense and deadly fire season continued to exhaust Western firefighters this week as drought envelops the region.

Officials reported Wednesday that more than one million acres total have burned during Montana’s fire season. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency last week, calling this “one of the worst fire seasons” in the state’s history.

As The Guardian reported, fires and drought are stunting crop yields and endangering cattle in one of the country’s most important agricultural areas. Climate change is intensifying drought conditions in the West: an exceptionally warm spring and summer helped to dry out the landscape after a wet winter. High temperatures and dry conditions increase the chance of a fire starting and can help an existing fire spread.

“Thinking about temperature trends due to human-caused climate change, we think that the western United States is 1.5 [degrees] Celsius, or 3 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than it would be in absence of climate change,” Park Williams, a research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, told The Atlantic.

“And there’s a heat wave on top of that,” said Williams. “Because of the exponential influence of temperature, that means that this heat wave is having a way worse influence on fire than it would in absence of human-caused warming.”