Huge Battery Investments Drop Energy-Storage Costs Faster Than Expected, Threatening Natural Gas

The global energy transition is happening faster than the models predicted, according to a report released today by the Rocky Mountain Institute, thanks to massive investments in the advanced-battery technology ecosystem.

Previous and planned investments total $150 billion through 2023, RMI calculates—the equivalent of every person in the world chipping in $20. In the first half of 2019 alone, venture-capital firms contributed $1.4 billion to energy storage technology companies.

“These investments will push both Li-ion and new battery technologies across competitive thresholds for new applications more quickly than anticipated,” according to RMI. “This, in turn, will reduce the costs of decarbonization in key sectors and speed the global energy transition beyond the expectations of mainstream global energy models.”

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Migrating Russian Eagles Run Up Huge Data Roaming Charges

Russian scientists tracking migrating eagles ran out of money after some of the birds flew to Iran and Pakistan and their SMS transmitters drew huge data roaming charges.

After learning of the team’s dilemma, Russian mobile phone operator Megafon offered to cancel the debt and put the project on a special, cheaper tariff.

The team had started crowdfunding on social media to pay off the bills.

The birds left from southern Russia and Kazakhstan.

The journey of one steppe eagle, called Min, was particularly expensive, as it flew to Iran from Kazakhstan.

Min accumulated SMS messages to send during the summer in Kazakhstan, but it was out of range of the mobile network. Unexpectedly the eagle flew straight to Iran, where it sent the huge backlog of messages.

The price per SMS in Kazakhstan was about 15 roubles (18p; 30 US cents), but each SMS from Iran cost 49 roubles. Min used up the entire tracking budget meant for all the eagles.

The Russian researchers are volunteers at the Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre in Novosibirsk. Their crowdfunding appeal, which has paid off more than 100,000 roubles (£1,223), was called “Top up the eagle’s mobile”.

More: Migrating Russian Eagles Run Up Huge Data Roaming Charges






Environmental Ethics Quiz: A hunter was fatally gored by the deer he thought he killed, officials say

So… did you think “that’s fair!” or something else?

An Arkansas hunter was killed Tuesday by a deer he assumed was shot dead, said Keith Stephens, a spokesman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Thomas Alexander, 66, was an experienced hunter who had lived in the Yellville, Ark., area for several years, Stephens said. He was hunting Tuesday in the nearby Ozark Mountains using a primitive firearm known as a muzzleloader, according to Stephens, and called a family member at 6:30 p.m. to tell them he had successfully shot a buck.

But the timeline of events becomes less clear after that.

Stephens isn’t sure if Alexander, a licensed hunter, immediately left his deer stand or waited before approaching the buck. Muzzleloader season runs from Oct. 19-27, Stephens said — but regardless of the firearm, the commission recommends waiting at least 30 minutes to ensure a shot deer is actually dead.

More: A hunter was fatally gored by the deer he thought he killed, officials say

Externalities & Health: More Heart Attacks and Strokes on High Pollution Days & Recent Increases in Air Pollution: Evidence and Implications for Mortality

Externalities: Paying with your health (and related costs for increased health care)

Correlation between air pollution and serious medical emergencies (in England):

Each year emergency services see more than 120 additional cardiac arrests, more than 230 additional strokes and nearly 200 more people with asthma requiring hospital treatment on days of high pollution compared with the average on days of lower pollution.

The data, to be published in full next month, shows the extra strain that poor air quality is putting on already stretched NHS emergency resources

More: Scores more heart attacks and strokes on high pollution days, figures show.

And in the US: a new study reveals

After declining by 24.2% from 2009 to 2016, annual average fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the United States in counties with monitors increased by 5.5% between 2016 and 2018.

More: Recent Increases in Air Pollution: Evidence and Implications for Mortality

Bee Vectoring of Organic Pesticides

On August 28, the EPA approved the first-ever bee-distributed organic pesticide for the US market—a fungus-fighting powder called Vectorite that contains the spores of a naturally occurring fungus called Clonostachys rosea (CR-7). CR-7 is completely harmless to its host plant and acts as a hostile competitor to other, less innocuous fungi. It has been approved for commercial growers of flowering crops like blueberries, strawberries, almonds, and tomatoes.

The beauty of Vectorite is that it mimics a “locally appropriate natural system,” said Vicki Wojcik, director of Pollinator Partnership Canada. “It’s an interesting twist… where care for the health of the pollinator is actually vital because it is your actual vector.”

Thus… bee vectoring.

More: A new pesticide is all the buzz: The EPA has approved the first-ever bee-distributed pesticide for the US market

Carbon Bubble


Are the world’s capital markets carrying a carbon bubble? This question related to the fact that there is unburnable carbon, and some of that is owned by listed companies. In terms of carbon there is a clear overhang of fossil fuels beyond what can be burned in a 2°C scenario; there is a lively debate about the financial implications. Some of the issues that have arisen include:

  • Are there assets which are being valued in a manner inconsistent with the expected future scenario?
  • Does the short-term bias of valuation models mean that the impact of lower-than-expected future demand is largely discounted out at present?
  • Is the market capable of pricing in the complex set of factors which could affect demand and price?
  • Do large diversified companies (eg mining stocks or oil majors) dilute the impact of a reduction in coal or oil revenues?
  • Do current accounting rules capture the value and any potential impairment of assets in a consistent and useful manner, (eg compare mining vs oil; contrast IFRS and US GAAP)?
  • If capital expenditure continues to be used to replace reserves could this lead to the inflation of a carbon bubble which would have to be corrected in a scenario of sudden drastic action to prevent dangerous climate change?

More: Carbon Tracker and Wikipedia entry on Carbon Bubble

Hedonistic Sustainability

…In Copenhagen, there’s a new power plant “embodying the notion of hedonistic sustainability.”

Known both as Amager Bakke and Copenhill, the site is a waste to energy plant designed to convert enough tons of waste to provide clean energy for 150,000 homes. The giant chimney was intended to blow giant smoke rings, but that plan was abandoned.

…The exterior features enough facilities to host the X-Games, including a ski slope, freestyle park, climbing wall, and running trail.

Source: Power plant looks like it’s holding a giant cigarette (and features its own year-round ski slope)

More information: Bjarke Ingels On The Future Of Architecture

Increase in Artificial Light at Night Impacting Plants & Animals

Buns, Downtown Delaware, OH (source)

Since 2010, the scientific literature has exploded with research examining light’s effects on individual species, from birds to fish to trees to humans. The news, in general, isn’t good. Artificial light changes animal migration and reproduction, tree leaf growth, bird nesting and fledging, pollination, human sleep, and much more. It even affects the spread of diseases. In July, researchers reported that West Nile–virus–infected house sparrows that live in light- polluted conditions are infectious for two days longer than those that live in darkness are, increasing the risk of a West Nile outbreak by 41 percent.

More: The Dark Side of Light

Recycling rates improve when people know what items will become

Jeans into insulation, plastic bottles into coats – details like this make people more inclined to use the blue bin.

When you throw something in the recycling bin, do you ever stop to think about what it could become? And when you do, does it make you more inclined to use that recycling bin, instead of lazily tossing an item in the trash? Several consumer psychologists designed a study around these questions, in an effort to determine whether or not explaining to people what their recyclables are transformed into would help boost recycling rates.

More: Recycling rates improve when people know what items will become

More: Recycling rates could rise significantly with this simple tweak

University of Alberta vice-president resigns over seemingly pro-climate change billboards

The University of Alberta’s vice-president of university relations has resigned over the school’s “beefier barley” billboards, which were slammed as promoting climate change.

“The messaging on the ad called the reputation of the University of Alberta and its extensive research on climate change into question,” vice-president of university relations Jacqui Tam said in an announcement posted Sunday.

“As Vice-President (University Relations), I apologize for this and take responsibility. In the best interests of the institution, I am announcing my departure from the University of Alberta, effective immediately.”

Read more: University of Alberta vice-president resigns over ‘beefier barley’ billboards