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Mark Piazzalunga

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Blog Entries posted by Mark Piazzalunga

  1. Mark Piazzalunga
    Renewable energy companies have been in a tough situation for more than twenty years (since the beginning of renewables' sector). Two fires, two enemies to fight, the first is the entire fossil fuels' sector, the second is the internal competition in its own sector. The first is a strong, old and rich institution, with thousands of billion of dollars and has exponents like Shell, BP, Total, Exxon and Chevron. The second is also strong and in a long-term can monopolize the entire energy market, it's the internal competition in renewable energy sector, where companies double their profits in less than a year (like First Solar or SunPower) and hydroelectric sector growth rises every year of 3.1%.

    The slow but inevitable ascent of renewables in the energy market can't be stopped although it can be delayed and this delay can represent a high environmental price and the Earth (and also us) will pay it. We're talking about the deadly consequences of climate change, triggered by an abudance of fossil fuels usage. It's vital, for our lives and for our environment, that fossil fuels leave the market in the fastest way as possible and to do that alternatives are required, strong alternatives. To improve and strengthen remewable energy market one of the two enemies must be fought: fossil fuels (already happening) and internal competition. How can renewable energy companies overpass this obstacle and become a strong, united market? Joint ventures.

    Someone already thought about that, like Solar Power Inc. The company, which 71% is owned by China's LDK Solar Co., has formed a partnership with Wircon GmbH to build projects in the U.K. The joint venture intends to own and sell the projects it develops in the U.K., Roseville, California-based Solar Power said today in a statement. The company initially intends to build about 55 megawatts of capacity. This will go to reach U.K. goal of the 30% of the country's power from renewable sources by 2020. In Japan the lack of land territory brought Kyocera Corp. and Century Tokyo Leasing Corp. to build two solar power stations designed to float on the surface of reservoirs.

    I've mentioned it already before but it's here again: DESERTEC project, building renewable power plants in territories with an abundance of solar and wind energy and connecting three continents with energy infrastructures. The consortium which administrates the project is one of the biggest companies union in the world. The Dii GmbH is composed by E.ON, ABB, Siemens, Enel Green Power, Terna, State Grid Croporation of China, Deutsche Bank, Flagsol, Abengoa Solar, Schott Solar and RWE. This consortium administrates more than $500 billion and operates in three continents.

    Another consortium focused on energy infrastructures is Medgrid (focused more on Middle East) and formed by Abengoa, GDF Suez, EDF and other companies. Between the many examples of joint ventures in the world there's the cooperation between First Solar and BELECTRIC for the construction of PV power plants or 3SUN, the biggest solar power joint venture in Europe including Enel Green Power, Sharp and STMicroelectronics.

    Joint ventures help new companies to invest in foreign countries and strengthen relationships between companies increasing the profits and the total capacity of renewable energy power plants all over the world. But if we want to accelerate the process the number of joint ventures and consortia have to double. The final target? A global renewble energy network, connecting all the companies of the sector. In fact, a renewable energy OPEC doesn't exist, it must be created. In a world where everything is connected it's unthinkable that renewable energy companies are isolated and under the pressure of fossil fuels companies. Like oil is transported from Middle East to the U.S. so renewable energy must be an international fuel to power a clean and green future.
  2. Mark Piazzalunga
    Debates are good, healthy, and after a debate there’s always a winner. Believe me, in climate change debate action will win, action against the worst environmental crisis of human history, action against a deadly enemy which kills 7 million people a year. Climate change debate landed in Japan after the tragic facts of Fukushima in 2011. After three years Japan is ready to move on (at least the government is). In fact, the Nuclear Regulation Authority vouched last month for the safety of two reactors in Sendai. Still, the proposal of the government depends more and more from the public opinion which is skeptic through nuclear.

    And with April coal power plan, renewable energy seems very far away. There are interests in restarting nuclear reactors, higher than the safety of Japan people. In 2011, after the meltdown of Fukushima’s reactors, 160,000 people were evacuated and in Germany it was decided to shut down all nuclear plants by 2022. Still, 32 reactors will start to be operative by 2018. Local governments are trying to protest since if they approve the restarts and something happens they will be responsible.

    Although, someone in the government is taking another direction. The minister of the environment said Japan must aim to get 30% of its power from renewable sources by 2030. According to IEA (International Energy Agency) Japan renewable energy share should reach 28.2% of total generation in 2035. So, considering that the prime minister has decided for a coal power long-term solution, it’s a good starting but not enough.

    Another light sparkle in the dark of coal emissions: Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry wants to increase the budget to boost the use of fuel cells and install more energy-saving devices. The ministry is requesting $2 billion (an increase of 32% from the previous year). The budget for hydrogen-related projects has more than doubled and the ministry wants to use this money to begin sales of fuel cells cars. For clean energy, the ministry is asking an increase of 16.5%. The funds will be used for wind and geothermal research.

    Also solar energy is seeing a bright future in Japan. Kyocera Corp. and Tokyo Leasing Corp. plan to build two solar power stations that are designed to float on the surface of reservoirs. The idea addresses the problem of the missing space in Japan for large-scale solar projects. One of the station will have capacity of 1.7 MW making it the world’s largest floating solar plant. The venture of the two companies is aiming to develop about 60 MW of floating solar. The energy debate goes on and, although fossil fuels have big supporters, a bright future expects Japan.

    References from Bloomberg.com

    In the photo the explosion of Fukushima.
  3. Mark Piazzalunga
    Renewable energy companies are just at the beginning but when the shift to renewables will take place would oil giants just go away? In this ranking there are just oil producers or traders. The first renewable company is 31st and is Iberdrola.

    1. Exxon Mobil Corporation
    It's American multinational oil and gas corporation headquartered in Irving, Texas. A direct and the richest descendant of the famous Stantard Oil company. In 1999 Exxon merged with Mobil forming the biggest energy company in the world. It's the biggest company in the world and guilty of one of the worst oil spills in history: Exxon Valdez. It's one of the six Supermajors with Shell, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Total. Revenue: $ 422.33 billion (it could buy Chile and Vietnam and still have money to buy an army, a large one).

    2. Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabian Oil Company)
    It's a Saudi Arabian company, operating in the sector of petroleum and natural gas. It's based in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. It has the largest oil reserves in the world. It produces 3.479 billion barrels (553,100,000 m^3) every year. Revenue: $313.34 billion.

    3. Vitol Group
    It's a Dutch company and somehow the “white sheep” in this ranking since it doesn't produce oil, it just trades it. In fact, it's the largest energy trader in the world. In 1995 Vitol supplied Milošević's government with oil (still a client) and paid a Serbian criminal war to deal with Milošević. The company trades also natural gas, LGP, coal, power (1.5% of global electricity) (1.5% of global electricity) , methanol and sugar. Revenue: $309.43 billion.

    4. Royal Dutch Shell Plc
    Who doesn't know Shell? It's a Dutch oil and gas company. It's around since 1907 and it's quoted on the London Stock Exchange and on Euronext Amsterdam and the NYSE. Shell revenue is equal to 85% of the Netherlands GDP. Apparently it also has owners: Capital Group (which administrates $1 trillion) and Blackrock. Shell is specialized in oil and has minor renewable power plants. It's one of the Supermajors. Revenue: $257.77 billion.

    5. Chevron Corporation
    Here's another descendant of Rockfeller's Standard Oil, Chevron is specialized in oil and natural gas although is opening its eyes to renewables investing $2 billion in this sector. Standard Oil California became ChevronTexaco and then Chevron. It's one of the Supermajors. Revenue: $239.45 billion.

    6. Petrochina Company Limited
    It's a Chinese oil and gas company, traded in Hong Kong, Shangai and New York. It's part of the state-owned China National a Petroleum Corporation. It's the biggest oil producer in China. Since CNPC was too big it was decided to inject some of the assets and liabilities to Petrochina which was founded in 1999. Revenue: $238.41 billion.

    7. Total SA
    A French company, specialized in oil and natural gas, based in the La Défense district, West Paris, in a skyscraper called Tour Total higher 190 m. The company is one of the six Supermajors and with Shell the main producer of oil in Europe. It owns 60% of SunPower since 2011. Revenue: $150 billion.

    8. BP Plc
    British Petroleum, the masters of oil spills, no one can win against them. They're guilty of the destruction of Mexican Gulf. In 2010 an explosion of one of their oil platform spilled 4.9 million barrels in the sea causing great damages to the environment and the death of 11 people. It's a British (easy to guess) oil and gas company. It's one of the Supermajors and is in the blacklist of all the seagulls in the world. Revenue: $144.47 billion.

    9. China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation
    Also called Sinopec Limited is a Chinese oil and gas company based in Beijing. It's listed in Hong Kong, New York and Shangai. In 2010 an explosion in one of their factories killed 12 people and in 2013 another explosion of a pipeline killed 35 people. Revenue: $103.36 billion.

    10. Statoil ASA
    A Norwegian oil and gas company headquartered in Stavanger, Norway. The government is the largest shareholder in Statoil with 67% of the shares. The company is specialized also in biofuels and hydroelectric power. It has many platforms in the Arctic Sea and it's listed on the Oslo and NY Stock Exchanges. Revenue: $89 billion (like Bill Gates).
  4. Mark Piazzalunga
    While here in Northern Italy there are 18º and a lot of rain, storms and a Autumn climate California is a little bit hotter. Here's a news for the people who believe climate change doesn't exist: California’s three-year drought just went from bad to dreadful. In the course of the last week, the crimson expanse of “exceptional drought” grew to engulf the northern part of the state.

    The following chart , showing the drought's progession since 2011, speaks for itself:

    All of California is in "severe drought" (shown in orange), and 82 percent is rated “extreme drought” (in red). The agency’s highest drought rating — “exceptional drought” (crimson) -- now covers 58 percent of the state, up from 36 percent a week ago. California is becoming Sahara. Cheer up, beautiful people, it’s not the worst drought California has ever seen: in 1977, the state’s water storage was at 41 percent of the historical average but conditions are still getting worse.

    California is famous for its agriculture sector, especially wine grapes which are located most in the Cental Valley, the heart of agriculture, that now is in a terrible crisis. To face this drought Governor Jerry Brown has called for a statewide voluntary reduction of water use by 20 percent, and residents now face fines of as much as $500 a day for wasting water. They should have think to that earlier but it's the nature of humans, thinking that prevention is useless and not effective.

    Let's here what NASA said about the drought (spoiler alert: they made a joke): “California is supposed to be the Golden State. Make that golden brown” sad but true “According to the US Dept. of Agriculture and NOAA, dry conditions have become extreme across more than 62% of California’s land area—and there is little relief in sight”. California produces 20% of U.S. GDP and this drought is effecting the economy of the state and the people, because of the situation thousands of farmers are losing their jobs.

    On January 18th 2014 Govern Jerry Brown declared the state of emergency and it was a winter month. Now it's Summer and with a further increase of temperatures the situation's getting worse. Any solutions? Not really, this problem is effecting California for decades but this time is the worst because of climate change. The best solution should have been prevention, too late for that. Preventing any waste of water, low the levels of CO2. Everybody keep saying that, let's hope this time things will change.

    References from Bloomberg.com and Nasa.gov
    Photo from BusinessInsider.com
  5. Mark Piazzalunga
    Sahara desert climate is hot and arid, everybody knows it. So how can this simple and well-known fact become the idea to power a continent like Europe? Let’s start from the principle: renewable energy is the future of energy; we assume that this sentence is true since all facts gets to this point. Second principle: European territory is restricted and allows the construction of a few plants that could use renewable energy. Paradoxically, countries like Africa have renewable sources, particularly solar, in abundance but scarce funds to make the best of these resources. Now find the connection.

    Is it possible to produce huge amounts of solar energy in Africa and transport them to Europe through energy infrastructures? Apparently yes, according to DESERTEC project developers and supporters. And what is DESERTEC? It’s an initiative of the Club of Rome (a global think tank that has its headquarters in Switzerland) started in 2009. Directly from the official website of the project (Desertec.org):

    "The DESERTEC concept was developed by a network of politicians, scientists and economists from around the Mediterranean, from which was born the DESERTEC Foundation. Demonstrates a way to provide climate protection, energy security and the development of sustainable energy generation from sites where renewable energy sources are at their most plentiful."

    In practical terms? Connect renewable energy power plants in Africa to Europe through a network of HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) systems. The Foundation target is to build several renewable power plants of various types (mainly wind, photovoltaic and solar concentration) throughout North Africa. To support the project financially, the Foundation and other 12 companies (including Deutsche Bank, E.ON, RWE and ABB) created an industrial initiative: Dii GmbH.

    The construction project would continue until 2050 and for that date, the cost is estimated at € 400 billion, which means $ 546,720,000,000, approximately seven times Bill Gates’ fortune. It’s little bit expensive (life on Mars seems cheaper) but the entire network could provide Europe with the 15-20% of electricity that it needs. We must also consider the drastic decrease of pollution, direct effect of the project.

    This project isn’t just an idea but it seems an accurate and long-term plan. This could be an opportunity to connect two continents and to give them economic opportunities and jobs. There could be some problems like the wars and the instability of some of North Africa countries or how to get all 40 nations to agree to an arrangement for subsidizing the green electricity.

    There’s also the possibility to build the plants in Europe, just $ 54 billion more, and doing some math it brings to a shocking number: €2 per citizen per year to keep tens of thousands of jobs in Europe -- and to prevent Europe from becoming dependent on foreign countries for its electricity. Well, the project just started and it has the funds to go forward. We can't wait to see the results.

    Photo from Desertec.org
  6. Mark Piazzalunga
    On Thursday 17th of July a Malaysian airplane, flight MH17, was hit by a surface-to-air missile over the border between Ukraine and Russia, an unstable and dangerous area because of the war between Ukrainian army and the separatists supported by Russia. The plane crashe to the land, all the passengers of the plane (280) and the crue (15) died and leaving on the ground a horrible apocalypse of fire and metal. Because of the news international media focused again of the civil war in Ukraine and remembered people about the missing of flight MH370 altough the two events have no connections except the airlines company (which has just one fault) and connecting them now it's ridicolous.

    Malaysian airlines has one fault: that plane mustn't flied over a war territory. And it's not the only one company that continues to fly over countries in war and dangerous. The plane was flying at 10,000 meters which was authorized although the Ukrainian government had closed the airspace for lower altitudes. The shstem which hit the plane was a SA-17, both Ukraine and Russia armies have them but also separatists have some units as an AP journalist can testify.

    At least 154 people on the flight were Dutch citizens. There were also 43 Malaysians, including all 15 crew on board, 27 Australians, and 12 Indonesians. Other nationalities so far identified were six passengers from the United Kingdom, four from Germany, four Belgians, three from the Philippines and one Canadian. There are still 47 dead whose nationality has not yet been confirmed. There was also a Italo-Dutch citizen.

    Both nations, Russia and USA (who else?) exploded accusing the other one of the disaster of the plane. The act seems not to be a terrorist attack but a mistake of one part in the conflict. According to the Times the separatists shot accidentally to the plane since the missing of a radar able to recognize the target. President Obama said the separatists are military supported by Russian Federation constantly and that U.S. have the proofs from satellite images.

    This civil, useless, bloody war caused this. No doubts. We're in the XXI century and if a part of a country demands independence they have to start a war. And the most unbelievable fact is that Ukraine let the planes fly over a war zone. In fact 40 kilometers behind flight MH17 there was another plane. The explanation: apparently the route is cheaper. It's always money. This world won't progress if money is more important that the lives of thousands of people who risk to be killed without even knowing that.

    There are many unbelievable facts about this tragedy, the last is that the area of the crash is full of separatists soldiers and the international observers stayed on the site for only 75 minutes. The black boxes are in Moscow and we probably never know what happened on that plane. Unfortunately there are people who make jokes about the death of the passengers. A civilization course would be a good thing for them but first for who started the war and who shot to the plane, who cares if it was an accident, that missile shouldn't be used (and built).
  7. Mark Piazzalunga
    Our world is powered by an energy system based mainly on fossil fuels since the beginning of the XX century. How much could it last? Some years? Some decades? Certainly not an entire century. It’s time for alternative energy. An energy system based on renewables can last for centuries instead.

    Hydrogen cells represents part of the future of energy and its continuing development will have an effect on the reduction of fossil fuels usage. Hydrogen can be used to power vehicles with fuel‐cell engine. A miniature fuel cell is light and economical than to an ordinary battery. This would allow to supply even small appliances. The hydrogen fuel cell is an electrochemical generator in which the electricity is produced by the reaction between a fuel (hydrogen) and a gaseous oxidizer compound (oxygen or air). Together with electricity, heat and water are produced. Hydrogen cells have a high electrical efficiency and a low environmental impact.

    Right now many US companies, such as Wal‐Mart, AT&T, FedEx and Hyundai, are using hydrogen cells and increasing the usage. Since the process produces little or no greenhouse gases, hydrogen power stands to get a boost in the wake of President Barack Obama’s recent call for tighter controls on carbon emissions. And what is the real support to hydrogen from the US government. Apparently it's high, they dedicate hydrogen an entire program and a website… well, part of a website (hydrogen.energy.gov).
    A few years ago hydrogen power powered just 1% of power worldwide, according to EIA (Energy Information Administration). Former Energy Secretary Steven Chu was skeptical and called for a 44% reduction in funding for hydrogen research. Also Tesla Motors Inc. CEO Musk was and still is skeptical. “I’m not the biggest fan of fuel cells,” Musk said “I usually call them ‘fool cells.’” Not the best joke ever but when Sandia National Laboratories, the Department of Energy, Hyundai, Wal-Mart, etc. tell that hydrogen power is a green way to reduce fossil fuels, I tend to believe them.
    Many companies are increase hydrogen use, such as those previously mentioned and the grocery chain Kroger Co. and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG. And now it's time for transport companies: Hyundai will begin deliveries of its fuel‐cell Tucson SUV next week. Honda Motor Co. already offers one there and Toyota Motor Corp. will follow next year. Although Tesla will remain a little bit longer without hydrogen cells since the CEO's strong opposition. Automakers may be selling 1.76 million fuel‐cell vehicles a year worldwide by 2025, according to Deloitte Consulting.

    For years hydrogen cells producers were losing money but now their profits are highly increasing. Plug Power is up more than 1,000 percent in the past year, the best performer on the Nasdaq Index. Ballard has doubled and FuelCell has gained 49 percent, compared with a 23 percent gain for the broader market index. The current administration is supporting this green way to reduce carbon emissions and the future for these companies is now easier and brighter.

    More information on hydrogen.energy.gov and Fuelcells.org

    References from Bloomberg.com

    Photo from Getty Images
  8. Mark Piazzalunga
    The ranking is based on the data of Blacksmith Institute (an organization working against pollution and its damages) and Green Cross Switzerland. It's a sad chart and it shows how profit and personal interests can destroy the lives of many.

    Agbogbloshie, in Accra, Ghana, is the second largest e-waste processing area in West Africa. E-waste, or electronic waste, is a broad term referring to a range of electronics. Heavy metals released in the burning process easily migrate into homes, food markets and other public areas. Samples taken around the perimeter of Agbogbloshie found a presence of lead levels as high as 18,125 ppm in soil. The standard for lead in soil is 400 ppm. A previous study confirmed that 40,000 people were at risk, now it's 250,000.

    The worst nuclear disaster hit this city on the night of April 25, 1986 when testing in the Chernobyl power plant a massive meltdown of the reactor’s core releasing more than 100 times the radioactivity of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Certain deaths in the incident, 65. The deaths for csncer years later, more than a million according to Greenpeace. The reactor was buried in a concrete casing designed to absorb radiation and contain the remaining fuel. However the structure was only intended to last no more than 30 years, this is the 28th since the disaster and thousands of people are at risk of cancer and leukemia.

    It covers an area of 13,000 square kilometers and it comes to contact with 9 million people. The river provides 80% of Giacarta water authority and supply more than 2,000 farms. Contaminants from both industrial and domestic sources are present in the Citarum River. Manganese and other heavy metals levels in the water are above the standards. Manganese in the water is four times higher than normal.

    Throughout the Soviet period, Dzershinsk was one of Russia’s principle sites of chemical manufacturing, including chemical weapons. Between 1930 and 1998, an estimated 300,000 tons of chemical wastes were improperly landfilled in Dzershinsk and the surrounding areas. High concentrations of toxic phenol in the air has led to residents of Dzershinsk suffering from increased levels of diseases and cancers of the eyes, lungs, and kidneys. Life expectancy is really low: 47 years for women, 42 for men. The city has 245,000 residents, they are all at risk.

    There are 270 tanneries in Bangladesh, 90% of them concentrated in Hazaribagh in 25 hectares of land. Together, the tanneries employ around 8,000 to 12,000 people. Every day, the tanneries collectively dump 22,000 cubic liters of toxic waste, including cancer-causing hexavalent chromium, into the Buriganga, Dhaka’s main river and a key water supply. The homes of tannery workers in Hazaribagh are built next to contaminated streams, ponds, and canals. 185,000 at risk.

    Kabwe, the second largest city in Zambia, is located about 150 kilometers north of the nation’s capital, Lusaka. In 1902, rich deposits of lead were discovered, leading mining and smelting operations to run almost continuously for over 90 years without the government adequately addressing the potential dangers of lead. Smelting was largely unregulated throughout the 20th century in Kabwe, and these smelters released heavy metals in the form of dust particles, which settled on the ground in the surrounding areas. The result was a total contamination and now the lead level in the blood of the children exceed the limit by ten times.

    In the area Artisanal Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM) forms the primary source of income for 43,000 people. The vast majority of ASGM miners globally utilize mercury in the gold extraction process. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) estimates that more than 1,000 tons of mercury are released into the environment each year through this process, which constitutes about 30 percent of the anthropogenic mercury emissions. The quantity of mercury in the water is twice than normal Indonesian standard.

    The Matanza-Riachuelo River Basin is more than 60 kilometers long and houses a number of SME clusters, including chemical manufacturers. It is estimated that 15,000 industries are actively releasing effluent into the river, which cuts through 14 municipalities in Buenos Aires. Chemical manufacturers are responsible for more than a third of the pollution. The level of chromium in the soil is seven times higher than regular one. 12,000 are at serious risk of respiratory and diarrheal diseases and 80% of water samples taken weren't safe to drink.

    Niger River Delta occupies 8% of total Nigeria land mass. Between1976and2001therewerenearly7,000 incidents involving oil spills where most of the oil was never recovered. As of 2012, some 2 million barrels (320,000 m3) of oil were being extracted from the delta every day. An average of 240,000 barrels of crude oil are spilled in the Niger delta every year due to mechanical failure, third party activity, and many unknown causes. Groundwater and soil are totally compromised.

    Norilsk is a mining city founded in 1935. Nearly 500 tons each of copper and nickel oxides and two million tons of sulfur dioxide are released annually into the air. Life expectancy for factory workers in Norilsk is 10 years below the Russian average. Children are especially vulnerable and become ill 1.5 times more frequently than children from surrounding districts. While investments have recently been made in reducing environmental emissions, the surrounding area remains seriously contaminated. 130,000 people at serious risk.

    To find out more: blacksmithinstitute.org and greencross.ch
    In the photo Sector 4, Nuclear Power Plant of Chernobyl.
  9. Mark Piazzalunga
    What is ISIL? It stands for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. It's an unrecognized state established in 2004 by different Islamist religious groups, including Al-Qaeda in Iraq, professing Sunni Islam. It's still operative, actually more than ever, and they are intentioned to occupy the entire territory of Levant arriving to Lebanon. The military group of this state is composed by some tens of thousands of men and on 6 June attacked Mosul from the northwest and quickly entered the western part of the city. On the night of 9 June, Iraqi Army soldiers fled the city as it was under attack, with the militants in control of much of Mosul by midday on 10 June. The militants claimed to have released at least 2,400 prisoners, after seizing police stations and prisons across the city.

    “This can’t be looked at as anything other than a comprehensive failure by the Iraqi army,” Crispin Hawes, managing director of the research firm Teneo Intelligence in London, said in a phone interview. “If the army can’t protect Mosul, how are they going to protect other cities?” he said. “Moving southward would be the logical thing to do for ISIL.” A total failure, the Iraqi army can count on 300,000 soldiers and left the city by itself and so all the people who lived in it. Right now a half million people is leaving the city because of the attack of ISIL.

    More bad news for the entire world: the largest refinery of Iraq (second producer of oil in the OPEC), Baiji, were attacked and occupied by ISIL. Output at the 310,000 barrel a day plant stopped after militants seized the facility overnight, according to a police statement today. The advance of ISIL fighters has rattled oil futures and markets in both Iraq and Turkey. Brent crude oil rose to the highest since the start of March.

    This is the most important challenge for U.S. since President Obama stated many times that the war in Iraq is over but he recently added that something must be done. He considered the possibility to send drones and airstrikes to weaken the defenses of ISIL and let the Iraqi army to do the rest. But why the Iraqi army failed? Why 300,000 soldiers couldn't stop 10,000 men of ISIL? Will Iraqi army now regain all the cities? Apparently the army wasn't well organized and ISIL offensive was unexpected and mlre violent than they thought. According to the International Business Times ISIL loot $429 million from Mosul Central Bank becoming the richest group in the world.

    It's hard to say if Iraqi army will regain the cities, everything will depend on the decisions of the U.S. President. An eight years war ended three years ago and now another one is going to start. The economy of many countries depends on Iraq and its refineries so the interests of U.S. in the area are high and if the situation doesn't get better the will certainly send drones and airstrikes, like Lybia three years ago.

    Final question: how can we obtain a long-term stability in this area of the world? Sending armies and drones represents a temporary solution but can the people who live in these countries know what peace means for more than some years? The cause isn't oil but what we, occidental countries, made of it. It became a target, a goal to reach, at any cost. The invasions that came after are the proofs.

    In the photo, Associated Press, ISIL fighters in Syria.
    References from Bloomberg.
  10. Mark Piazzalunga
    New technologies are changing global energy system and there will be a time where physical energy infrastructures won't exist anymore because of wireless power, which is the transmission of electrical energy from a power source to an electrical load without man-made conductors. Can we really send Watts of energy as we send an email? Apparently yes and the advantages are endless. Think about the amount of money spent in energy infrastructures (pipelines, electricity cables...) and think how much energy can be shared in the world. There are many ways to transmit power without wires. The most common form of wireless power is carried out using direct induction followed by resonant magnetic induction. Other methods are laser and microwave transmission (which I mentioned regarding space-based solar power) and electrical conduction throguh natural media.

    Electromagnetic induction is an effect on which are based all the machines which transform mechanical energy into electricity. This is the specific field of Mr. Tesla, inventor and father of wireless power. In a few words: energy is transformed into a magnetic field and transfered from one bobine to another and then it turns into electricity again. This principle is applied into a larger scale.

    For longer distances the most efficient method is microwave transmission which consists in converting energy into microwaves and send them to an antenna called rectenna that converts them into energy. Rectenna conversion efficiencies exceeding 95% have been reached. This is the method that is going to be used in space-based solar power. Still, this method has some disadvantages due to the excessive diameters of the antennas (in space they have a 10 km diameter and on Earth a 1 km one) but with a continuing research they'll be reduced. Another problem could be caused by atmosphere that could stop microwaves. Connecting the space and the Earth is a difficult problem to solve but on our planet microwave transmission is the best way for wireless power.

    Power can also be transmitted by converting electricity into a laser beam that is then pointed at a photovoltaic cell. This mechanism is generally known as "power beaming" because the power is beamed at a receiver that can convert it to electrical energy. Laser power presents different advantages than other methods but laser radiation is hazardous. Low power levels can blind humans and other animals. Conversion between electricity and light is also inefficient. Photovoltaic cells achieve only 40%–50% efficiency.

    The wireless transmission of alternating current electricity through the Earth uses the possibility of electricity to be transmitted through determined subsurface layers, for example, from one ocean to the other, thanks to the presence of certain minerals which determine a low loss of electricity during the transfer. This method can be applied in the air as well.

    This kind of transmission could bring to four great changes in energy system:

    1. Energy sharing; one of the greatest problem of our time is the inequality of energy distribution in the world. Wireless power would allow to send energy where physical infrastructures can't arrive. It would allow to send energy where it can't be produced.

    2. Connecting sources and consumers. There are places where energy can't be produced (like space) and it would be impossible to ship the energy produced there to the consumers unless wireless power is used.

    3. Avoiding physical infrastructures incidents. For too much time we saw disasters such as oil spills on the land and in the sea causing tremendous damages to the environment. With wireless power these spills will stop.

    4. Extromission of fossil fuels. One of biggest disadvantages of fossil fuels is the high transport cost. Think to the oil trains and the ships and the pipelines. All these costs make fossil fuels expensive and obsolete. Renewable energy can be easily converted into electricity and with wireless transmission can be shipped at a low cost.

    Besides, I will be tremendously happy when I'll see fossil fuels decade.

    This revolutionary idea is being experimented but soon it will become operative and another step to a faster and efficient energy system will be done.

    Photo from ESO (European Southern Observatory).
  11. Mark Piazzalunga
    All over the world people are protesting against what I call the stupidest project of the moment: Keystone XL. We shouldn’t use oil so why should people just accept the damages this pipeline will bring? “The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere averaged more than 400 parts per million throughout April, the first time the planet’s monthly average has surpassed that threshold.” When I read this on Bloomberg I immediately thought to oil and then Keystone. It’s unbelievable the disrespect of some governments to the CO2 limits. While UN are shouting CO2 emissions must immediately stop some governments think to pipelines and coal plans.

    But apparently some people are bored in front of an environmental accusation so I will analyze this pipeline from a non-environmental point of view.

    First point: jobs. TransCanada (the company that should build the pipeline) CEO says the project will put 20,000 U.S. workers to work investing $7 billion in the economy. Although Cornell ILR Global Labor Institute found that Keystone XL construction would result in 2,500 to 4,650 temporary construction jobs. President Obama also stated "The most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline, which might take a year or two, and then after that we're talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in an economy of 150 million working people." We have to consider also the loss of jobs. After completion of the Keystone XL line, oil pipelines to the U.S. may run nearly half-empty, so there won’t be new jobs, just a swing from one line to the other.

    Second point: cost. Canadian government spent $9 million by May, 2012 and $16.5 million by May, 2013 to promote Keystone XL. To promote it. Not to build it. And I really think that’s all for this point. One more thing: the original Keystone Pipeline cost $5.2 billion but with the expansion slated to cost approximately $7 billion.
    Third point: local population. Many Native Americans and Indigenous Canadians are opposed to the Keystone XL project for various reasons, including possible damage to sacred sites, pollution, and water contamination, which could lead to health risks among their communities. Who has the authority to destroy the land of a people?

    Fourth point: any profit? No. In fact with Keystone gas prices won’t be cheaper. From a Cornell University study: KXL will divert Tar Sands oil now supplying Midwest refineries, so it can be sold at higher prices to the Gulf Coast and export markets. As a result, consumers in the Midwest could be paying 10 to 20 cents more per gallon for gasoline and diesel fuel. These additional costs (estimated to total $2–4 billion) will suppress other spending and will therefore cost jobs.

    If this isn’t enough please go to see the environmental consequences. You can find them everywhere. The last controversy is about the major safety than trains transporting oil. I will repeat again: the cleverest thing to do is stop using oil. I’m sure that one day we’ll stop fighting on how to transport oil and dedicate our energy to new greener sources.
  12. Mark Piazzalunga
    Today, a month and two days after Spring Equinox, is the Earth Day. A few days ago we celebrated the Earth Hour and now we dedicate an entire day to environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970 and now it's organized by the Earth Day Network and takes place in more than 192 countries each year. Over the years milions of people all over the world take action to make the Earth greener and safer and today everybody can act to contribute the Earth Day.

    But what is the sense? Will something really change? Will climate change end today? Of course not but what we do today should be repeated every day of our lives. All these daily actions will make the difference. In the past years the word has been spread and a new green generation is ready to face and solve the problems made in the past years.

    Earth Day this year is dedicated to green cities. Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. As the urban population grows and the effects of climate change worsen, our cities have to evolve. According to the Earth Day Network we have to improve three aspects of our cities:

    Energy. Most of the world currently relies on outdated electric generation structures that are extremely inefficient and dirty. Renewable energy is the energy of this century.

    Green Buildings. Buildings account for nearly one third of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Through simple efficiency and design improvements to buildings we can reduce those emissions drastically.

    Transportation. The fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. We need to improve standards, increase public transportation options, invest in alternative transportation, and improve city walkability and bikeability.

    But what you can do today not to feel guilty and to help the environment? If you want to join this global movement there are two ways:

    Online activism. Lend your voice, spread the word from your computer.

    Local campaigns. More than 192 countries (almost all in the world) are celebrating Earth Day. Join the nearest campaign to you.

    One of the causes that brought to the first Earth Day was an oil spill in California and today we're still fighting against the same dirty and polluting kind of energy source. It sounds repetitive but change is necessary and change depends from the number of people involved, so let everybody know that today is the Earth Day.

    For more details on green cities and global campaigns go to earthday.org
  13. Mark Piazzalunga
    While the third IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report explains that fossil fuels use must end to avoid the dramatic consequences of climate change, 202 millions barrel of oil are stocked in Houston, Texas ready to entering the energy market.

    Let's proceed in order: IPCC is an international organization, part of UN and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Its reports are precise, accurate and sadly true. Refute the results of reports would be stupid and useless since I don't think the IPCC is part of a secret lobby with the only intent to destroy the dominance of fossil fuels.

    Directly from the report: "Since 2007, many renewable energy technologies have substantially advanced in terms of performance and cost and a growing number have achieved technical and economic maturity, making renewable energy a fast growing category in energy supply". UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon said we must act now to stop climate change and governments are starting intensive renewable energy politics.

    With one exception: 202 millions barrel of oil are ready to contribute to greenhouse gases emissions, that in the past decade doubled according to UN. All these millions barrel are decreasing the high prices of oil over America so everybody's happy. Or not? A few days ago geologists linked a serious of small earthquakes to gas drilling in the state of Ohio. The lives of many people are in constant danger because of unsafe carload transporting oil. An enormous and useless pipeline, Keystone XL, will (or could) be built. Many spills, few jobs, short-term usage and a lot of money. A short description of this pipeline.

    This miracolous oil boom won't make U.S. independent from Middle East since any instability in that area will increase oil prices. Oil is a temporary, pollutant and instable energy source, intended to end but in the meanwaile can damage our environment in an irreversable way. UN are from the side of the people and the planet, they are warning us for too many years. It's time to listen and to act. I hope that all that oil shipped in Houston won't be used and that all the people, the organizations, the companies and the governments will finally act for change.

    References: Bloomberg, The Guardian.
  14. Mark Piazzalunga
    On Saturday March 29th at 8:30pm, millions of people across the world are switching off lights for one hour - to celebrate their commitment to the planet. This is definition of the Earth Hour, the biggest event against climate change in history launched in 2007 and organized by WWF. In a few hours the world will be darker but millions of people will be happy to fight against a phenomenon that is starting to change our daily lives. Bacteria that are coming from the melting of the ices, high pollution that kills seven millions people a year (for more details go to the news section). These aren't little changes, these are threats to our future, to the future of our planet.

    Earth Hour might be just a symbolic gesture (a big one) but half a million trees will be planted in the world's first Earth Hour Forest in a fight against the 6000 hectares of deforestation. Hectares of sea are being protected, raising the level of protection of Argentina’s seas from 1% to more than 4%. Concrete facts, fighting a common enemy that everybody must fight. This year, WWF is launching Earth Hour Blue, a digital crowd funding and crowdsourcing platform that enables participants to help raise funds and take action on a range of environmental issues.

    A small gesture, switch off a light, alone doesn’t have an impact so why should we do that? Because together millions of small gestures become the sign of a great change.

    Now what can you do in the Earth Hour? Switch off lights for one hour is the essential start but you can do more.

    1. First of all sign up to the WWF website to know everything about Earth Hour.
    2. Spread the word. Involve friends and relatives in the celebration of our planet.
    3. Follow the Earth Hour Live on streaming.
    4. Have fun in the dark! Switch off the lights, not the fun.

    So remember, tonight at 8:30pm, switch off the lights and celebrate our planet and at the same time fight for it!

    To know more about Earth Hour go to www.earthhour.org and www.wwf.org
  15. Mark Piazzalunga
    In the previous post I mentioned space-based solar power (if you prefer SBSP) as the future of photovoltaic. Does it seem too fictional? DOE (Department of Energy) thinks it's not. The first time space-based solar power was mentioned was in a novel of Isaac Asimov. Now it has become a possible alternative for the future.

    Let's hear what DOE has to say: every hour, more solar energy reaches the Earth than humans use in an entire year and 30% of energy is reflected back into space. Solar panels collect a high intensity uninterrupted solar radiation, thanks to huge mirrors they reflect it to the satellite that transform it into energy and then send it to the Earth as either a microwave or a laser beam.

    Obviously in space there aren't cloud and day and night, so space solar panels are able to capture and transmit substantially more solar energy than solar panels on Earth.

    SBSP presents more options: the two most commonly discussed designs for SBSP are a large, deeper space microwave transmitting satellite and a smaller, nearer laser transmitting satellite.

    Microwave transmitting satellites

    Microwave transmitting satellites orbit Earth in geostationary orbit (GEO), about 35,000 km above Earth’s surface. Designs for microwave transmitting satellites are massive, with solar reflectors spanning up to 3 km and weighing over 80,000 metric tons.

    The long wavelength of the microwave requires a long antenna, and allows power to be beamed through the Earth’s atmosphere, rain or shine, at safe, low intensity levels hardly stronger than the midday sun.

    The estimated cost of launching, assembling and operating a microwave-equipped GEO satellite is in the tens of billions of dollars. High price but it worth it. On Earth, the rectenna used for collecting the microwave beam would be anywhere between 3 and 10 km in diameter, a huge area of land, and a challenge to purchase and develop.

    Laser Transmitting Satellites

    Laser transmitting satellites orbit in low Earth orbit (LEO) at about 400 km above the Earth’s surface. This satellite, with its 10 metric tons, is just a fraction of microwave one and is cheaper too; a laser-equipped SBSP satellite would cost nearly $500 million to launch and operate. It would be possible to launch the entire self-assembling satellite in a single rocket, drastically reducing the cost and time to production.

    At its smaller size, there is a correspondingly lower capacity of about 1 to 10 megawatts per satellite. Therefore, this satellite would be best as part of a fleet of similar satellites, used together.

    A huge cost, a huge work and it seems an impossible and useless project, someone would say. It's true: a lot of money and work but fifty years ago who would have thought that today 20% of global energy comes from the Sun, the wind and the water? If we continue to repeat that something it's impossible we'll never reach our targets so we have to believe and to support these ideas that can become real facts that will improve our world.

    For more information go to Energy.gov
    Photo from NASA.
  16. Mark Piazzalunga
    We live in a world where renewable energy is taking place and the kind of energy won't be the only thing to change. In a few years we will face the necessity of a new, modern and efficient global energy system, i.e. a structure including:

    I. Searching of energy sources. The search of sources such as oil, natural gas and coal will reduce through the years since the search of renewable sources (solar, wind, hydro) will be integrated in the proper power plant. This is one of the great advantages of renewables; fortunately we don't have to extract wind and bring it to a power plant.

    II. Production of energy. This category includes every kind of power plant. The construction of renewable power plants is rapidly increasing and new renewable technologies are being developed (such as Concentrated Photovoltaic, Enhanced Geothermal, Biofuels...).

    III. Energy storage. It's an essential part of global energy system and like energy production, energy storage will evolve adapting itself to new kinds of energy. New energy storage systems are the smart grid or hydrogen cells (part of the hydrogen economy, i.e. an economy system where fuels are substituted by hydrogen).

    IV. Energy transport. Pipelines, transport ships, gas-ducts... Leaks and incidents make these transports ways unsafe and for sharing energy at a global level innovation is required. The first step to the future of energy transport? Wireless energy, i.e. the transmission of electrical energy from a power source to an electrical load without man-made conductors. It sounds impossible but it is. The most common form is using direct induction followed by resonant magnetic induction. Other methods are electromagnetic radiation in the form of microwaves or lasers.

    V. Energy sharing. It already exists, just think to the quantity of oil that is transported from one country to another. Changing the production of energy also the way energy is shared is going to change. It's unbelievable that the 0.04% of solar power of Sahara can meet Europe energy demand. There are ongoing energy infrastructure projects to connect different countries with different and complementary energy sources.

    VI. Energy usage. The last part of the process. The ways to distribute energy are many and some of them very innovative. For example a smart grid: a modernized electrical grid that uses information and communications technology to gather and act on information, to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity.

    This system will drastically reduce any kind of waste of energy. There are issues and controversies regarding each of these new ways to build a more functioning world but I think it's inevitable and most of all it's better, for us and for the environment.

    Photo from NASA. Representation of space-based solar power. The future of photovoltaic?
  17. Mark Piazzalunga
    In the past months one of the most popular topics in Europe and America was the weather (especially the bad weather). Part of this climate condition was Polar Vortex: a phenomenon that hit on the USA caused the death of many people and billions of dollars of damages (five according to The Guardian). It led at least a dozen of Governors to declare a state of emergency and forced some of the world's top airports to shut down for some weeks. The Polar Vortex has brought to the lowest temperatures of history and also brought snow in southern States. It's hilarious, and dramatic too, that some people used these facts to state that global warming doesn't exist. The reasons? Since it's cold how can the planet becoming warmer?

    The main error in the statement is a strange and inward vision of the world. United States doesn't occupy the entire Earth's surface. Global temperature UN data unfortunately tell us this: the 2013 was one of the hottest year in history. What is unacceptable is that some people try to disprove the existence of a global climatic phenomenon whose severity is often underestimated, especially when one of the worst droughts in the history of California has taken place.

    An article from The Guardian proposes an alternative view on the Polar Vortex: according to the article this phenomenon supports the theory of global warming for the simple fact that global climate is not only changing thermally but is becoming strongly unstable causing various kinds of phenomena. In fact his phenomenon is caused from the rapid melting of polar sea ice, which replaces white, reflective ice with dark, absorbent open water. As a result, these region has heated up faster than other parts of the globe. And apparently winter storm isn't over. There is an 90 percent chance snow will fall in New York on March 2 and 3, according to the National Weather Service.

    At the same time UK is facing its wettest winter since 1766. A total of 435 millimeters (17 inches) of rain was recorded across England and Wales. Authorities are still working to pump away water and Deloitte LLP has estimated damages for 1 billion pounds ($1.7 billion). And a political debate on the budget for the floods emergency started. Apparently these floods have shown an incorrect handling of the budget for the emergencies.

    These are tragedies that speak for themselves. Climate change has many shades, some of these can be very dangerous and they hide behind the appearance. It's necessary to understand what are the consequences of climate change and fight them. It's important as fight the cause of all these phenomena: climate change. Here we come to the same but vital old story: we have to reduce pollution related to coal, oil and natural gas power plants, we have to explore new renewable energy technologies and I think that with the right measures bad weather won't do so many damages.

    Facing these adversities can be difficult and disorganization just makes things worse. I think that prevent other episodes like those we lived is in the general interest and that why is essential to understand the cause of all this. How can we understand if cold is a consequence of global warming? It's paradoxical but the only way is to listen what science have to say. Unfortunately people don't see climate change very often, it's gradual, while Polar Vortex or flooding in UK are visible and perceptible and so they are priorities. Wouldn't it be smarter to fight the cause than the consequences? We have to look further than the evidence if we have to avoid these emergency situations in the future.

    References from The Guardian and Bloomberg.
    Photo from CNN.
  18. Mark Piazzalunga
    One of the major accusations against the environmentalists is to be too much repetitive about a thesis so to become extremely boring. Therefore, let the photo speaks. From the image we can clearly see a desert landscape, like a Far West scenario. It’s California. This image depicts a devastating calamity, California’s drought. It’s a tragic consequence of the weather, “we can’t control it” said the Govern of California Jerry Brown.

    All we can do is face its consequences.

    38 millions of people live in California and they need water and also agriculture do need it. The Metropolitan Water District, the Los Angeles-based utility for 19 million people in Southern California, asked customers to voluntarily reduce water use by 20 percent.
    California isn’t the only state in this situation, eleven states are involved but we know that empathy doesn’t create water.

    According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, about two-thirds of California was hit by “severe” or “exceptional” drought. Some restrictions concerning the use of water have been implemented but of course there have been many violations.

    Water shortage wasn’t and isn’t the only problem: food prices may rise at least 10% and lost revenue in 2014 from farming sector could reach $5 billion and the number of wildfires last years had increased of 50% from 2012.

    The last year was the driest on record.

    Don’t worry. Soon all of this will be over. At least so they say… there’s a complicate plan of $15 billion of tunnels that should ship water from Sierra Nevada to the entire California. Obviously there are environmental controversies but this should be the strategy. Unfortunately this won’t be the last drought in California.

    The Golden State needs long-term measures to prevent these droughts. The first and most important measure should be conservation. There are dozens of ways to save gallons of water. Spending $15 billion is a little useless when saving could be the perfect, economic and long-term solution.

    References: Time, Bloomberg.

    Photo from Bloomberg.
  19. Mark Piazzalunga
    In the past few years, in the area between the States of Colorado, North and South Dakota and Wyoming, there was a peak of extraction and production of oil and gas. The lack of pipelines and energy infrastructures led to an increase of rail use to transport crude oil to the refineries, from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to 400,000 this year. Today 10% of total crude oil production is shipped by rail.

    But a series of accidents (like Quebec, North Dakota or Alabama, where 47 people died) which killed dozens of people led to many questions about the regulation on these shipments. Here’s now an interesting data: the quantity of oil spilled in these accidents in the past year is bigger than the one spilled from 1975 to 2012. The rapidly growth of oil sector in this part of the country should have brought to the construction of more pipelines but it’s a way that takes time so the decision was to converge on railways.

    Before the explanation of the recent events we have to ask ourselves: what are the main causes of this increase of rail which brought to these terrible accidents? One of the causes is the lack of pipelines but it isn’t the only one. There’s also a lack of controls on the security standards of the sector. Unfortunately we’ve seen before that the absence of controls can bring to several damages. Safety officials have warned that cars which transport oil were unsuited to carry flammable cargo. As always money role is primary and in this case also vital for the people who were involved in the accident and this is unacceptable. These accidents should have changed the situation and a political and economic debate opened.

    On the other side of this story we can find Keystone XL, a pipeline system to transport crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast. From one side Keystone is the alternative to rail in oil transport sector and from another Keystone is a dangerous project from the environment point and useless from the economic point. President Obama wasn’t convinced by the project but now, after these rail accidents, his opinion might change. Still, pipelines aren’t safe for the environment: just a few months ago, an Exxon pipeline leaked 840,000 gallons of crude into a residential area in Arkansas. Pipelines spilled more often than rail but the number of victims is higher regarding rail.

    Environmentalists are opposing to both: rail are the perfect example of how oil transport is dangerous for people and for the environment but Keystone has been criticized for its environmental impact. None of the two projects are a good idea but the best thing should be an improvement of sector standards and better controls of rail which involve a cost but it’s nothing compared to those people who died because of the lack of controls. I hope that soon people’s life and safety will be more important than convenience and money. It's time for this aggresive market to find safer ways to transport oil.

    References: NY Times, BusinessWeek.

    Photo: Cars on an oil train in Casselton.
    Photo from NY Times.
  20. Mark Piazzalunga
    The spill of about 7,500 gallons of a chemical substance from a cistern has polluted the Elk River in West Virginia, forcing 300,000 residents of nine counties not to use tap water for drinking, cooking or bathing since Jan. 9. The chemical material, used in coal processing, came out from a tank of the Freedom Industries Inc. complex, near the river. Freedom Industries president apologized for the spill said the company is working with state and federal officials.

    The operations to clean up the water of the river Elk Meanwhile go on, and the purification plant near the spill showed only small traces of the toxic chemical substance, ended up in the river. The day before yesterday the Democratic Governor of West Virginia, Earl Ray Tomblin, has decided to revoke a ban on the consumption of tap water in some areas of the State, after the water analysis. An estimated 35,000 residents in Charleston had water restored as of early yesterday, West Virginia American Water said.

    Responsibilities have to be ensured, although the lack of controls is obvious. West Virginia Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller said the last time the site of the spill was inspected was in 1991. Also the location of the chemical plant to the water was a hazard and the risk is evident.

    What is happening right now in West Virginia is unbelievable and not just for the gravity of the situation. There had been other accidents in 2008 and 2009 that brought to a NY Times investigation that revealed violations of pollution laws from some companies in the same valley of the chemical spill case. How many disasters have to happen to change this situation? What is more incredible is that three years ago a team of experts in the United States Chemical Safety Board had asked West Virginia to create a new program to prevent accidents in the Kanawha Valley, the valley of the accident.

    No program was established by West Virginia and now the population have to pay the price.

    Chemical and mining companies are an important part of W. Virginia economy so there must be a way to prevent future accidents and not to destroy an important part of the state economy. Still, according to the critics, laws and controls aren’t effective to counteract these accidents. Now the damages are visible, the signal is loud and clear: a strengthening of the regulations and the controls of this area is required. These controls shouldn’t affect the economy too much and they have to prevent similar accidents in the future.

    References: Bloomberg News
    Photo from Fox News
  21. Mark Piazzalunga
    Can we be afraid by energy? Just think to some of the tremendous consequences that energy can bring to. The fear caused by these consequences leads to a fear for energy itself. It’s impressive how energy can fascinates some people and completely disinterests others while it can divide people creating debates. Interest, fear, fascination, even skepticism and indifference are feelings caused by energy.

    It isn’t a soap opera, it’s a remarkable fact and is determinant for the global energy system. It seems strange but it was fear and distrust that convinced many people of different countries to prohibit nuclear power stations such as Australia, Italy or Austria where it’s illegal by law. People that decide what kind of energy to develop more or less is the apogee of democracy.

    Although sometimes disinformation and disinterest can play a bad game. Think to renewable energy: skepticism and indifference remains feelings that people have for renewables. The reasons? Perhaps the cost that seems too high or the technology that sounds too fictional or the time it takes to these technologies to be developed and improved. I think that it would take much less time to this shift if skepticism and indifference wouldn’t be so determinant.

    But is there an objective opinion regarding the best energy source? There are a lot of data, pollution data, economic data, social data and I think that most of these data says green energy is and will be the best solution, not just for the environment but for people. People’s opinion is important and sometime decisive. So it’s a duty to fight against disinformation and to tell true facts to the people.

    Our opinion matters and it’s our responsibility to change our opinion basing on objective informations and to keep us informed about evidences that are important even if we don’t notice them. It’s a favor we have to do to ourselves not just to improve the entire world but improve our own lives.
  22. Mark Piazzalunga
    Biofuels are a controversial topic because of the conflict between two fronts (obviously pros and cons) that booth have valid points. The pros are many: the reduced cost and environmental impact compared to oil (85% of GHG emissions less) and their high availability (biofuels are considered renewable sources).the cons aren’t less: the environmental impact, reduced but still too high and the environmental consequences related to biofuels production.

    Actually there are two generations of biofuels: the first involves bioalcohols, biodiesels, vegetable oil… they’re the most utilized and the more dangerous to the environment. The second involves biomethanol, biohydrogen and algae fuels (it seems impossible but it’s true) and it’s more improved than the first. Biomethanol is one of the biofuels which isn’t obtained by biomasses but mainly from carbon dioxide so there aren’t consequences related to its production GHG emissions from biomethanol are extremely reduced compared to oil. Its price is extremely reduced since it costs 50 cent per gallon. Basing on an article on USA Today about gas prices I realized that biomethanol costs seven times less than gas.

    A growth of biomethanol usage in vehicle fuels sector will bring to an incredible decrease of GHG emissions and to a decrease of fuels prices. Still biofuels aren’t the greenest solution for vehicles sector. There are other projects involving renewable energy but they’ll take more time. I consider biofuels as a temporary solution for oil usage in vehicles sector. I underline temporary because it’s unthinkable that biofuels will be the only fuel such as oil right now. In the time frame between now and the global advent of renewable cars biofuels are a good solution.

    Carefulness is necessary, the best way should be investing in the second generation of biofuels (especially in biomethanol which is the greenest). This could be a compromise to heal a useless debate. A future use of biofuels shouldn’t be a debated topic, we should focus on how to improve their technology to prevent any environmental consequences. We must stop to argue about solutions that are better than oil and non-renewable and start acting.
  23. Mark Piazzalunga
    In our daily life we don’t pay much attention to the essential role that energy sources have. Every time we stop to a gas station we don’t think how oil is important (or someone does). In the lives of some of us energy is more important or have more consideration but we don’t spend an entire day thinking to energy or how our lives could change without it. It could be a positive thing to think to these questions just for a moment.

    It’s necessary to ask ourselves what will be the energy of the future. Will it have complications? Will our lives change? Will we notice that? Proceeding in order: a world running on renewables is definitely the way we’ll path since all the facts (economic and environmental advantages) lead to this answer.

    To the second question here’s my answer with some objectivity: when a problem gets fixed another one appears. It’s the nature of the human: always seeking perfection knowing that we’ll never reach it. Renewable energy will have complications but they won’t ever be connected to the energy itself.

    Third question. Our lives will definitely change. Just think to a normal day: every light we turn on will be powered by the Sun or by the wind. Today a few people have solar panels but in the future I think that a lot of roof will have solar panels. We’ll have to go to biofuel stations but the main change will be in the cities. The persistent smog in the air, the fumes of the exhaust pipes of cars, the gases coming out the smoke stacks of factories, all this will be a memory. It sounds impossible or imaginary but it’s possible.

    A renewable day is a bright future so why shouldn’t we imagine it and build it? Last question. At first all this will be new, maybe a little uncomfortable but after some time a day like this will be like a normal renewable day.
  24. Mark Piazzalunga
    Green politics isn’t a priority in these tough times of economic crisis and it seems too useless to the most important purpose: defeating the same crisis. On the contrary, it’s an objective fact that green politics is a way to path to reach this purpose. In 2013 jobs related to renewable plants sector are 700,000 and if the number of plants increases so also jobs will.

    Green politics mustn’t be a green parties’ battle ‘cause with the right financial support it could be an apolitical system to reduce the level of economic difficulties. Green politics can’t be an ideology belonging exclusively to green parties but it must a common target, some of the main benefits that green politics can bring in local governments are:

    • Decrease of fossil fuels and energy import expenses (every country can produce renewable energy so energy imports will decrease).
    • Increase of jobs relating to renewables sector. Jobs increase from 230,000 in 2005 to 700,000 in 2013.
    • Reduction of geopolitical conflicts related to fossil fuels reserves, availability and prices (every country will increase its electricity production).

    I exposed before different emerging renewable technologies that are currently under development. In the best green politics these technologies should support traditional renewable energies to guarantee a safe energy system.

    The best politics to undertake should be the all-renewables politics: allocating funds in the same proportions to all the kinds of renewable energies to prevent complications related to a certain type of renewable (shortage or cost problems). This will lead our society to an auto-sufficient world where renewable energy isn’t just part of the economy but it’s the engine.
  25. Mark Piazzalunga
    Besides the “traditional” renewable energies (solar power, wind, hydro and geothermal) other technologies are currently under development, among these there are artificial photosynthesis (exposed in the previous article), marine energy (which includes wave and tidal power), CPV (concentrated photovoltaic) and cellulosic ethanol (many companies such as Abengoa, Mascoma and BlueFire Renewables have invested significant amounts of money in this sector with the conviction that cellulosic ethanol will be a good investment for the future).

    Why should we develop new technologies, still uncertain and requiring constant financial supports? We must consider that possible eventuality where “traditional” renewable energies can’t satisfy the worldwide energy demand. There’s also the possibility that these technologies, when they will developed completely, will be less expensive than “traditional” renewables. The only way to find it out is to invest in these technologies. DOE has already started to finance some of the laboratories that are bring forward these projects (between the laboratories there are NREL, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories).

    Cellulosic ethanol is surely the most profitable at this moment and the less expensive too. Biofuels can be a good alternative to fossil fuels and, as exposed before, many companies has started to produce them. Artificial photosynthesis sounds fictional but with the right investments can be a valid sector. Marine energy is at a good point: wave power is still at the beginning but the main project is well financed by E.ON and Scottish Renewables. Regarding tidal power there are many operating power stations, some of them have a capacity of 250 MW. To support completely these projects it’s necessary to have a clear vision of the future and of the advantages that these renewables can bring, economically and ecologically.
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