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Lilac fire, near San Diego

Lilac fire, near San Diego

By George Harvey

At COP23, the Trump administration scheduled a presentation in which it was to tell the world that climate change can be stopped by the use of clean coal. The line of people wanting to get into the room where the presentation was to happen was about a kilometer long. The audience was made up almost entirely of protesters.

The entire island of Puerto Rico lost power as a result of Hurricane Maria. A $300 million contract to repair the power grid went to a company in Montana with two employees, without going to a bidding process. The company belongs to a major contributor to the Trump campaign. The contract was widely challenged and eventually canceled.

Regulators in Nebraska have approved the route of the Keystone XL pipeline. They did this shortly after a leak in the Keystone pipeline resulted in the loss of 200,000 gallons of crude oil into the environment. Though the approval is a step toward construction and use of the Keystone XL pipeline, it is not yet a done deal.

Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer BYD is building a large plant in Canada to build buses for the North American market. They said their choice of Canada was based to a degree on lack of support from the US federal government.

Based on field results, China increased its forecasts of solar power additions for 2017 by 80%. China is out-pacing solar and wind installations of all countries of the rest of the world combined. The US is lagging behind in these areas. The US is also far behind China in electric vehicles. There are about 400 times as many electric buses in the Chinese city of Shenzhen as there are in the entire US.

Siemens had extensive layoffs of employees who make equipment for natural gas power production. The moves reflect a decline in natural gas use for generating electricity, as renewable energy takes its place. Siemens’ layoffs were followed in a few weeks by more layoffs at GE, for the same reason. The renewable sector is creating jobs faster than they are being lost elsewhere, however.

Tesla’s unveiling of the truck they call the Tesla Semi happened in November, several weeks after it was originally scheduled, so the company could put efforts into helping Puerto Rico recover from hurricanes. During the show, Elon Musk abruptly stepped off of the stage, and a new Tesla Roadster drove on, making it a double unveiling.

A number of airplane manufacturers are working on electric aircraft. Airbus, Siemens, and Rolls-Royce, are now collaborating on the development of a hybrid electric aircraft engine, the companies jointly announced. They plan to have a demonstration aircraft ready to be witnessed publicly in 2020, after they have concluded tests.

When fires hit the vineyards in northern California, one vineyard was notably spared. It had to be abandoned by its workers, as the fire neared. But it had a solar-powered micro-grid, which the workers were able to continue running over the internet via satellite. It powered irrigation pumps, which provided trees and vines with water, so they could resist burning.

Puerto Rico suffered devastation from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and the federal government recovery efforts were barely underway when it was ended by leadership in Washington. A number of private organizations have taken the lead in those efforts, including Tesla and German battery maker sonnen.

Tesla fulfilled a promise by Elon Musk to build a 100-megawatt, 129-megawatt hour battery in South Australia in 100 days. The new battery will help with grid stability. The battery is the largest in the world. It has nearly twice the combined storage capacity of all grid batteries installed in the United States in 2015, the year with the greatest amount of US battery installations.

Tesla’s battery in South Australia may be big, and it may have been put in quickly, but Hyundai announced that it was putting in a battery 50% larger and would have it built faster. Hyundai’s battery is being installed near the coast of South Korea in Ulsan.

A research report from the Imperial College in London examined the possibility of powering the trains in the United Kingdom with solar photovoltaics. It concluded that all the trains in the UK could get all their power from photovoltaics sited along the tracks and at substations.

Devastating wildfires fueled by climate change are “the new normal,” California Governor Jerry Brown said. He continued, “We’re facing a new reality in this state,” and said they could happen “every year or every few years.” He made the comments after surveying damage from a 180-square mile fire in Ventura County, north of Los Angeles. The fire has grown to be bigger than the city of New York.

A study published in the journal Nature has warned that the worst-case predictions regarding the effects of global warming are the most likely to be true. It said that if emissions follow a commonly used business-as-usual scenario, there is a 93% chance that global warming will exceed 4°C by the end of this century. That is double the increase allowed under the Paris Climate Agreement.

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