Category “Biofuels”

Global Forests showing Signs of Impending Extinction

Friday, 28 December, 2012

This is from the NY Times.

"As Forests Disappear, Examining the Mechanisms of Their Death"

"A recent study found that 70 percent of 226 forest species from 81 sites worldwide now live on the edge of this so-called hydraulic failure. "  We don't even understand how the trees are dying, from hydraulic failure and/or starvation. Sadly it seems much science of today has transformed into a death watch.

New Research indicating Agricultural production will be severaly impacted by Climate Change

Friday, 28 December, 2012

This is a great piece of “connect the dots” journalism that the scientific community is afraid or unable to do.

“If extreme weather becomes the norm, starvation awaits”

“I believe we might have made a mistake: a mistake whose consequences, if I am right, would be hard to overstate. I think the forecasts for world food production could be entirely wrong. Food prices are rising again, partly because of the damage done to crops in the northern hemisphere by ferocious weather. In the US, Russia and Ukraine, grain crops were clobbered by remarkable droughts. In parts of northern Europe, such as the UK, they were pummeled by endless rain.

Even so, this is not, as a report in the Guardian claimed last week, “one of the worst global harvests in years”. It’s one of the best. World grain production last year was the highest on record; this year’s crop is just 2.6% smaller. The problem is that, thanks to the combination of a rising population and the immoral diversion of so much grain into animal feed and biofuels, a new record must be set every year. Though 2012’s is the third biggest global harvest in history (after 2011 and 2008), this is also a year of food deficit, in which we will consume 28m tonnes more grain than farmers produced. If 2013’s harvest does not establish a new world record, the poor are in serious trouble.

So the question of how climate change might alter food production could not be more significant. It is also extremely hard to resolve, and relies on such daunting instruments as “multinomial endogenous switching regression models“. The problem is that there are so many factors involved. Will extra rainfall be cancelled out by extra evaporation? Will the fertilising effect of carbon dioxide be more powerful than the heat damage it causes? To what extent will farmers be able to adapt? Will new varieties of crops keep up with the changing weather?

But, to put it very broadly, the consensus is that climate change will hurt farmers in the tropics and help farmers in temperate countries. A famous paper published in 2005 concluded that if we follow the most extreme trajectory for greenhouse gas production (the one we happen to be on at the moment), global warming would raise harvests in the rich nations by 3% by the 2080s, and reduce them in the poor nations by 7%. This gives an overall reduction in the world’s food supply (by comparison to what would have happened without manmade climate change) of 5%.

Papers published since then support this conclusion: they foresee hard times for farmers in Africa and south Asia, but a bonanza for farmers in the colder parts of the world, whose yields will rise just as developing countries become less able to feed themselves. Climate change is likely to be devastating for many of the world’s poor. If farmers in developing countries can’t compete, both their income and their food security will decline, and the number of permanently malnourished people could rise. The nations in which they live, much of whose growth was supposed to have come from food production, will have to import more of their food from abroad. But in terms of gross commodity flows the models do not predict an insuperable problem.

So here’s where the issue arises. The models used by most of these papers forecast the effects of changes in averaged conditions. They take no account of extreme weather events. Fair enough: they’re complicated enough already. But what if changes in the size of the global harvest are determined less by average conditions than by the extremes?

This is what happened in 2012. This is what seems likely to happen in subsequent years. Here’s why. A paper this year by the world’s leading climate scientist, James Hansen, shows that the frequency of extremely hot events (such as the droughts which hammered the US and Russia) has risen by a factor of about 50 by comparison with the decades before 1980. Forty years ago, extreme summer heat typically affected between 0.1 and 0.2% of the globe. Today it scorches some 10%. “We can project with a high degree of confidence,” the paper warns, “that the area covered by extremely hot anomalies will continue to increase during the next few decades and even greater extremes will occur.” Yet these extremes do not feature in the standard models predicting changes in crop production.

If the mechanism proposed by another paper is correct, it is not just extremes of heat that are likely to rise. I’ve explained this before, but I think it’s worth repeating. The jet stream is a current of air travelling eastwards around the upper northern hemisphere. It separates the cold wet weather to the north from the warmer, drier weather to the south. Wobbling along this ribbon are huge meanders called Rossby waves. As the Arctic heats up, the meanders slow down and become steeper. The weather gets stuck.

Stuck weather is another way of saying extreme weather. If the jet stream is jammed to the north of where you are, the weather stays hot and dry, and the temperature builds up – and up. If it’s lodged to the south of you, the rain keeps falling, the ground becomes saturated and the rivers burst their banks. This summer the UK and the US seem to have found themselves on opposite sides of stuck meanders, and harvests in both countries were savaged by opposing extremes of weather.

This is where we stand with just 0.8 degrees of global warming and a 30% loss of summer sea ice. Picture a world with two, four or six degrees of warming and a pole without ice, and you get some idea of what could be coming.

Farmers in the rich nations can adapt to a change in averaged conditions. It is hard to see how they can adapt to extreme events, especially if those events are different every year. Last winter, for example, I spent days drought-proofing my apple trees, as the previous spring had been so dry that – a few weeks after pollination – most of the fruit shrivelled up and died. This spring was so wet that the pollinators scarcely emerged at all: it was the unfertilised blossom that withered and died. I thanked my stars that I don’t make my living this way.

Perhaps there is no normal any more. Perhaps the smooth average warming trends that the climate models predict – simultaneously terrifying and oddly reassuring – mask wild extremes for which no farmer can plan and to which no farmer can respond. Where does that leave a world which must either keep raising production or starve?”

A fully referenced version of this article can be found at

• This article was amended on 16 October to say that the jet stream travels eastwards, rather than westwards

Mr. President, Clean Coal, eh?!

Friday, 7 September, 2012

G’damit, how the hell did that happen?!
The Presidents’ acceptance speech was a grand vision (to be expected) and very good at hitting back and the high notes till the point where he said:

“clean coal” and
“unleash 100 billion cubic feet of gas”

There is nothing clean about coal, “it’s a dirty lie,” as the girl next to me at the March on Wall Street South said.  The technology to gasify and liquify and deep well inject the CO2 is decades away and simply not worth the money, when that capital is needed elsewhere.  Natural gas, love the stuff, awesome precursor to the petrochemical industry, and great substitute bridge to shut down coal plants, immediately.  But as the oil and gas industry states in their own internal documents (thank you Josh Fox, The Sky is Pink), nothing can be drilled into the ground without failure and contamination of aquifers and ground water.  9% of the well head casings fail immediately, and all fail eventually.  There are no free lunches with fossil fuels and few in energy systems in general.  What we shove down into wells and into the ground, drilling fluids, hazardous chemicals, CO2, comes back up, right into our water.  And water is a big issue, too much and not enough across the planet, thanks to too much carbon in the atmosphere (you have to love the enormous irony).  Are we crazy??!!  Alternatives have downsides yes, but nothing like these.

At that point I realized he, his speech writers and staff are still “drinking the cool-aid.”  How is it that such bold lies get perpetuated?  His other lies were absolutely minor in comparison.  Not even a nuance of associated problems or the essence of precautionary principle, just the whole tag line was lifted from the fossil fuel industry and dumped into what was a great speech.  Is there anyone who can help our leadership articulate the issues to the American people, balancing of the risks of continued reliance on FF and the upside to alternatives?  He should have added nuclear (which there are some options still viable, like small pebble breeder reactors, that should be left on the table and pursued if we want to avert climate disaster), but Fukishima may have killed that one, at least in the public perceptions eye.  Kudos to him, for he did try to “make it real” the impacts of climate change, but not nearly the degree that the eminent disaster should demand.

Is it laziness to understand the issue, placating the dirty fuel lobby, or do they really think we can continue to pursue drilling and mining without severe costs or impacts?  Granted, switching is years away, but we don’t have years.  We are at catastrophic tipping points.  We think jobs and the sluggishness of the economy are hard on the American people now, just wait, and not long, grant you.  The impacts of climate disruption will be profound, and we will not recognize the planet in a decade.  People and species will die on levels never seen on this planet, not even the great wars will measure up.

It would be nice to have leadership that would directly address the paucity of logic behind our failure to address the fundamentals of why we have not come together as a people over these issues.  This is at the heart of the problem of our political discourse, the failure to perceive the interconnections of life and ecosystems, your life affects my life, we breath the same air, drink the same water, etc.  It is the bottom line and the core to our unity but somehow has become a wedge issue.  And everything else, everything (though we may not want to believe it or does not give us the immediacy to lay down our life in defense) is secondary, and getting this cosmological “house in order” will be the first step and critical to our country and the planets’ future.

Obama has my vote, but unless we reduce the influence of the dirty energy money, and get our heads right, our future as a species is slim to none.  I will be at the phone bank and voter registration table this weekend.

The paucity of hope.

PRESS RELEASE: Columbia U. Mens’ Basketball Team rides to “victory” on Greenways biodiesel bus

Wednesday, 18 January, 2012

On January 7-8, 2012, Columbia University Mens’ Basketball team
traveled from Greensboro PTI Aiport to Elon and back on a biodiesel bus,
the first ground transportation by such means by an Ivy League conference NCAA team.

University travel by teams, faculty, students and staff is usually the third largest carbon footprint of a campus after buildings and daily commuters.   Greenway Transit of Durham, NC has developed a software program that calculates the footprint of any transit gig, giving the estimated footprint reduction by riding in a biodiesel bus.

Greenway Transit Footprint Report for
Columbia Mens’ Basketball Team:

260.0 miles where traveled In the a 47 passenger MCI Bus
with 28 occupants, using about 52. gallons of fuel.

CO2e and Crud totals for the trip and per person…
227.54 Pounds of CO2e for the TRIP TOTAL
8.12 Pounds of CO2e per person
1.96 Pounds of HC/CO/NOx/VOCs/PM for the TRIP TOTAL
0.07 Pounds of HC/CO/NOx/VOCs/PM per person

Comparing per capita B100 emissions against those of gasoline and diesel in units of pounds…
1001.05 Pounds fewer of CO2e produced by each person than with gas in an average light duty vehicle with one occupant.

Same as above in percentages…
99.19  Percent less net CO2e produced by each person than if using gasoline in a 2008-average light duty vehicle with one occupant

99.74 Percent less non-GHG air pollutants produced by each person than with gas in an average light duty vehicle with one occupant

Comparing gross trip emissions against those of gasoline and diesel in percentages…
77.45 Percent less CO2e overall than with gasoline in an average light duty vehicle
92.88 Percent less HC/CO/NOx/VOCs/PM overall than with gasoline in an average light duty vehicle

This was a major achievement on top of wining their 11th game of the season, and allowed the Columbia Lions to move their University down the road towards lowering their footprint.  Student athletes were impressed with the opportunity to lower their footprint and by the informative speech given to each Greenway group before their trip.

Biodiesel made from locally collected waste vegetable oil (WVO) has nearly a zero carbon footprint and significantly reduces other air pollutant emissions.  Combined with idle reduction and minimization of traveled miles through planning and logistics, which Greenway Transit practices, University travel footprints can be lowered.

“The key to future reductions will be high mpg vehicles, that combine carbon or composite fiber to lighten and strengthen vehicles and hybrid systems that store braked energy and help vehicles accelerate (where most of the energy is used),”  states Greenway Manager, Marc Dreyfors, “well, getting public policy that puts a price on carbon and finding and developing additional sources of sustainable, biofuel feedstock are also critical.”  He continued, “okay, we may have a long way to go to reduce our footprint, but this is at least a start!”

Greenway Transit is working with The Forest Foundation and Carolina Biodiesel to develop a franchise model for value-adding waste veggie oil, to biodiesel, to green transportation for university and college towns across the US.  For more information on how you can lower your University campus teams footprint, contact Greenway Transit at

Radical Electric Hybrid Design Line Buses

Tuesday, 26 January, 2010

Triangle Clean Cities, The Forest Foundation and Greenway Transit sponsored an impressive tour of Design Line’s new manufacturing facility in Charlotte.  We started with a relatively frank and open conversation with Marketing VP, Don Markarious.  The HEV is highly efficient and similar to a train, is seven years ahead of the competition and their R&D is keeping them ahead, while they slowly scale up their production.  They expect 5-600 units per year out of their NC based facility and have been offered an opportunity to site a second US based facility in NY to supply NY City with its annual replacement needs. Read the rest of this entry »

Can Durham Outshine Star, NC?

Monday, 25 January, 2010
The Garden and GreenHouse in front of Star

The Garden and GreenHouse in front of Star

Can each community in our nation achieve the goals set out by the little town of Star North Carolina, and their eco-industrial park?  After 15 years of what has been certainly hard work, the 6 counties in central NC bordered by Asheboro on the north and Rockingham on the south, Albemarle on the west and Siler City on the east, have created an experiment in rural economic development that rivals some of the finest examples across the country.  Read the rest of this entry »

Green is Golden-belt Redevelopment Project

Wednesday, 16 September, 2009

Historic Goldenbelt

A Community Supported Energy (CSE) Project and Incubator Space for the Arts and the Emerging Green Economy– a project of The Forest Foundation

The North Wing of Goldenbelt Manufacturing in Durham, NC is the last building in need of redevelopment, connecting us to our historical roots in the tobacco industry. It sits directly in the midst of a Hope VI federal redevelopment area Read the rest of this entry »