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By Russ Finley on Aug 19, 2016 with 5 responses

Is The Tesla Model X The Hummer Of Electric Cars?

Tesla catches fire in France

Tesla catches fire in France

Another Tesla goes up in smoke. I’ve written about some of the other incidents here and here.

When I built my electric bicycle back in 2007, I had been waiting for a battery that was less volatile than what had been available. I didn’t want to risk having a fireball under my seat. Tesla traded volatility for power density.

I think electric cars are great for all kinds of reasons, which is why I bought one in 2011. But like any car, they are not created equal, and as marketers begin the process of differentiating them to get us to buy them, that inequality will grow and diversify as it has for conventional cars. And for any fellow electric car enthusiasts out there who think electric cars are going to make a significant dent in carbon emissions in the foreseeable future, read Robert Rapier’s article on that subject. Even a strongly biased study by the UCS shows that electric cars, on average, presently produce about half of the emissions of conventional cars in a cradle-to-grave analysis. Eliminating fossil fuels instead of nuclear from our energy mix will improve that over time. CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Aug 7, 2016 with 3 responses

First Annual Clean Energy Forum at the Columbia (nuclear power) Generating Station

I was recently invited to attend the first annual Clean Energy Forum, hosted by Energy Northwest in Richland, Washington, which included a tour of the Columbia Generating station.

The Tour

We were greeted at the security gate by three polite security guards who inspected the bus and checked our photo IDs against a list. This level of security isn’t unique to nuclear power stations. You would have to go through a similar procedure to take a tour of Hoover dam. We also had to leave our cell phones on the bus (which would also be the case should you ever get the chance to take the highly recommended Boeing, Everett factory tour). CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Jun 25, 2016 with 27 responses

Did Climate Change Drive the Bramble Cay Melomys to Extinction? Probably

Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola)
Credit Ian Bell/Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection

Melomys Rubicola has been declared extinct. Had it been something like a fuzzy koala or panda instead of a rat, the world might have taken more notice, but maybe not. A Google search on the topic goes over 20 pages deep. This seems to have struck a nerve.

It’s possible that an undiscovered genetically identical population exists somewhere else. It’s not unheard of for a species declared extinct to show up again. But if it has been on that tiny island off the coast of Papua New Guinea long enough for speciation to occur, then it is extinct because to repopulate someplace else a pregnant female would have needed to leave the island and establish itself elsewhere, and that is extremely unlikely.

There have been some dubious claims of extinctions caused by climate change, as one would expect, and I’m sure there will be many more. But little by little, the real extinctions will arrive. CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Jun 12, 2016 with 4 responses

Nuclear Energy Waste–Making Mountains Out of Mole Hills

Contrary to what you read in the lay press, nuclear energy is starting to make major headway around the world with a plethora of new technologies (and attendant potential investment opportunities) on the horizon.

10 New Nuclear Power Reactors Connected To Grid In 2015, Highest Since 1990

Obama is seeking $10.25 billion to expand research for development of nuclear reactors, clean-vehicle technologies, and energy storage.

The International Energy Outlook 2016 report predicts nuclear will be the single largest low carbon source of electricity by 2040.

Nuclear is currently the biggest contributor to the mighty low-carbon energy quatuor: nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar. CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Jun 6, 2016 with 2 responses

Why Comment Fields Matter

Social Primates

Social Primates

Photo credit: patries71 via Flickr

Cross-posted from Biodiversivist.

Andrew Revkin posted an interesting article a few weeks back:

Lately, I’ve come to frame the challenge as a question: Can we foster an online (and real-life) culture in which veracity is cool? You’ll see more on this here in the coming months.

As social primates, we are instinctively motivated to seek higher status in our given troop hierarchies. The word cool is sometimes used as a synonym for impressive. Impressive denotes a measure of status. Coolness is any marketer’s primary weapon. I like Andy’s idea of making veracity cool, but I’m skeptical it could ever take hold. How would car marketers ever convince us to buy their cars? Although, certainly, he’s on the right track in that, if you want to change behavior, like getting people to drive electric cars (or Hummers), convincing them it’s cool to drive one will work wonders. CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on May 21, 2016 with 6 responses

Challenging The “Does Nuclear Really Help The Integration Of Renewables?” Strawman Argument

Photo courtesy of tracie7779 via Flickr

What’s with the green parrots you may be asking? A parrot repeats what it hears without understanding what it’s saying. And by “green” I’m referring to people who, like myself, consider themselves to be environmentalists (whatever exactly that means). To the left of the green parrots is a screenshot of the “shares” from a guest post on the Clean Technica website, which has at least 99 parrots sitting on their wire.

It all started when an apparent shale gas enthusiast (Nick Grealy) wrote a 1,100 word article at his blog about the use of shale gas in France which contained the following rather cryptic throwaway sentence:

French nuclear exports help Germany, the UK, Italy and Spain accelerate their renewable uptake.


By Russ Finley on May 10, 2016 with 3 responses

What Environmentalists Are Getting Wrong: Articles of Interest and Commentary

Green Tech Media

I Was Wrong About the Limits of Solar. PV Is Becoming Dirt Cheap

by David Keith

Although quite upbeat about solar PV (and I’m also a big fan of solar PV), this article generated almost 300 comments because it was also frank about the limits of solar PV, and wind, and to make matters worse, he concluded the article with the following statement:

My view is that only two forms of energy — solar and nuclear power — can plausibly supply tens of terawatts without a huge environmental impact.


By Russ Finley on Apr 20, 2016 with 9 responses

Terrorists, Nuclear Powerplants, and Snakes

Nicholas Kristof wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times a few weeks ago titled: Terrorists, bathtubs, and snakes.

It was about how our evolved abilities to assess risk (which worked great when we were hunter-gatherers) can fail us pretty miserably in the modern industrial world–a point that has been made over and over again by lesser known writers over the last decade about the safety of nuclear powerplants.

In short, our brains are perfectly evolved for the Pleistocene, but are not as well suited for the risks we face today. If only climate change caused sharp increases in snake populations, then we’d be on top of the problem!

Yet even if our brains sometimes mislead us, they also crown us with the capacity to recognize our flaws and rectify mistakes. So maybe we can adjust for our weaknesses in risk assessment — so that we confront the possible destruction of our planet as if it were every bit as ominous and urgent a threat as, say, a passing garter snake.


By Russ Finley on Mar 15, 2016 with 6 responses

Update on the Progress of the Electrification of Transportation


Graph from Study in Nature Energy Modified by Me to Add Timeline

I found this study on Nature Energy, which I subscribe to: Moving beyond alternative fuel hype to decarbonize transportation.

Although I disagree with the study’s main conclusion, the above chart they put together (which I have modified) was of interest to me because it suggests that things are finally starting to happen when it comes to electrification of transportation. CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Feb 24, 2016 with 2 responses

Ecosystem Restoration Takes Precedence Over Renewable Energy Projects

The front page of last Sunday’s edition of the Seattle Times had an article titled Elwha: Roaring Back to Life. It’s an update on the many positive impacts to the river ecosystem after removal of the Glines Canyon and Elwha hydroelectric dams, writes Russ Finley.