- Crooked Timber links the near-criminal destruction of Grenfell Tower with Thatcherism's deregulations and catastrophes.
- The Dragon's Gaze notes that TRAPPIST-1e is slated to be among the first observational targets of the James Webb Space Telescope.
- Far Outliers shares Edith Durham's account of an exciting St. John's Day in Albania in 1908.
- Language Hat looks at a passage from Turgenev.
- What, the LRB wonders, will Emmanuel Macron do with his crushing victory after the parliamentary elections, too?
- Marginal Revolution wonders to what extent is Germany's support for Nord Stream consistent with Germany's concerns over NATO and Russia.
- Ed Jackson's Spacing Toronto article about the need to preserve queer public history in Toronto is a must-read.
- Torontoist's Alex Yerman notes the new activity of the Jewish left against a conservative establishment.
- Window on Eurasia suggests that modern Russia is repeating the Soviet Union's overmilitarization mistakes, only this time with fewer resources.
- Centauri Dreams notes new studies suggesting the flares of red dwarf stars damage potentially habitable planets.
- The Crux notes that the wild apple is going extinct.
- D-Brief notes that recent high winds in Europe helped push energy prices there to negative territory.
- The Frailest Thing considers Neil Postman's thoughts on the intersection of mass media and childhood.
- Inkfish argues in favour of accidental wetlands in urban areas.
- Language Log looks at the trope of the repeated character in some recent Chinese advertising.
- The LRB Blog considers the costs, environmental and otherwise, to the United States' leaving the Paris climate agreement.
- Marginal Revolution wonders what assumptions about deep history the news of Homo sapiens' longer history overturn.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that, in the area of energy costs, mid-20th century Uruguay was worse off than New Zealand.
- The Russian Demographics Blog looks at polling on Russian opinions about the Russian Far East and its future.
- Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell is skeptical about Jeremy Paxman's claims about privacy in modern journalism.
- The New York Times' Michael Wilson tells the sad story of how a woman murdered in Harlem was only identified 47 years later.
- In NOW Toronto, Gelek Badheytsang writes about the complexities surrounding the visit of the 17th Karmapa to Tibetan-heavy Parkdale.
- Novak Jankovic writes in MacLean's that there are real declines in the Toronto real estate market, but not enough to set a trend.
- The Toronto Star's Jackie Hong reports that protecting Bluffer's Park from the waves of Lake Ontario could also wreck an east-end surfing haunt.
- The National Post reports on how the Ontario NDP claims, probably correctly, that the Wynne Liberals are stealing their ideas. Good for them, I say.
- Universe Today's Matt Williams notes a study reporting that life on Mars' surface is a much greater risk factor for cancer than previously thought.
- Seth Miller argues that efficient electric cars will push Big Oil through the trauma of Big Coal in the 2020s.
- Crooked Timber responds to The Intercept's release of data regarding Russian interference with American elections.
- Dangerous Minds reports on how Melanie Gaydos overcame a rare genetic disorder to become a model.
- Dead Things seems unduly happy that it does see as if Tyrannosaurus rex had feathers. (I like the idea.)
- The Dragon's Gaze reports on our ability to detect the effects of a planet-shattering Nicoll-Dyson beam.
- The Frailest Thing considers being a parent in the digital age.
- Language Hat notes the African writing systems of nsibidi and bamum.
- Marginal Revolution notes that Trump-supporting states are moving to green energy quite quickly.
- Window on Eurasia notes how Russian guarantees of traditional rights to the peoples of the Russian North do not take their current identities into account.
- Anthropology.net reports on new evidence that Homo naledi may have used tools, buried their dead, and lived alongside Homo sapiens.
- Centauri Dreams remembers an abortive solar sail mission to Halley's Comet.
- Dangerous Minds shares photos of the "Apache" dancers of France.
- Cody Delistraty writes about Swedish futurist Anders Sandberg and his efforts to plan for humanity's future.
- At the Everyday Sociology Blog, Karen Sternheimer talks about her day as a sociologist.
- Joe. My. God. notes the good news that normal young HIV patients can now expect near-normal life expectancies.
- Language Hat looks at a recent surge of interest in Italian dialects.
- Language Log looks at the phenomenon of East Asians taking English-language names.
- The LRB Blog considers the dynamics of the United Kingdom's own UDI.
- Marginal Revolution looks at the existential issues of a growing Kinshasa still disconnected from the wider world.
- Steve Munro notes that Metrolinx will now buy vehicles from France's Alstom.
- The New APPS Blog uses Foucault to look at the "thanatopolitics" of the Republicans.
- The NYRB Daily looks at Trump's constitutional crisis.
- Out There considers the issues surrounding the detection of an alien civilization less advanced than ours.
- The Planetary Society Blog looks at the United States' planetary science exploration budget.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at Argentina's underrated reputation as a destination for foreign investment.
- Progressive Download shares some thinking about sexual orientation in the context of evolution.
- Peter Rukavina looks at the success of wind energy generation on the Island.
- Understanding Society takes a look at the dynamics of Rome.
- Window on Eurasia shares a lunatic Russian scheme for a partition of eastern Europe between Russia and Germany.
Bloomberg's Jessica Shankleman and Chris Martin report on how technological and economic progress is set to make solar energy the most inexpensive source of electricity around.
In 2016, countries from Chile to the United Arab Emirates broke records with deals to generate electricity from sunshine for less than 3 cents a kilowatt-hour, half the average global cost of coal power. Now, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Mexico are planning auctions and tenders for this year, aiming to drop prices even further. Taking advantage: Companies such as Italy’s Enel SpA and Dublin’s Mainstream Renewable Power, who gained experienced in Europe and now seek new markets abroad as subsidies dry up at home.
Since 2009, solar prices are down 62 percent, with every part of the supply chain trimming costs. That’s help cut risk premiums on bank loans, and pushed manufacturing capacity to record levels. By 2025, solar may be cheaper than using coal on average globally, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
“These are game-changing numbers, and it’s becoming normal in more and more markets," said Adnan Amin, International Renewable Energy Agency ’s director general, an Abu Dhabi-based intergovernmental group. "Every time you double capacity, you reduce the price by 20 percent.”
Better technology has been key in boosting the industry, from the use of diamond-wire saws that more efficiently cut wafers to better cells that provide more spark from the same amount of sun. It’s also driven by economies of scale and manufacturing experience since the solar boom started more than a decade ago, giving the industry an increasing edge in the competition with fossil fuels.
The National Post shares Vito Pilieci's Postmedia News article noting the advantage that lower energy costs gave Québec over Ontario.
Internet giant Amazon Web Services has opened a cluster of data centres near Montreal due to the ready availability and cost of hydro-electric power in Quebec.
The company, which is notoriously secretive about its data centres, said there are now at least two data centres just outside Montreal to offer web-based services to the “Canada Region.” Canada joins 15 other regions around the globe from which Amazon is running data services on behalf of clients.
Teresa Carlson, vice-president of public sector with Amazon Web Services, said the cost and availability of hydro-electric power is ultimately what made Amazon choose Quebec as its Canadian home.
“We picked the area that we did because of the hydro power,” said Carlson. “We did find them (Quebec) to be very business friendly.”
Carlson said Amazon conducted a thorough review of various options within Canada, including Ontario, that involved looking at a number of factors, including the price of electricity. She also said Amazon is keen to source green energy where it can as the company is attempting to get all of its data centres on renewable energy sources.
Bloomberg News' article describing the many economic and environmental incentives for China to keep shifting to clean energy is a must-read.
Beijing’s air quality fell short of national standards on 179 days last year. That’s one reason why the world’s biggest coal consumer is likely to stick with its plan to clean up its energy supply -- regardless of what President-elect Donald Trump does in the U.S.
“At the current stage of China’s economic growth, the industries and the models that the nation has developed all face constraints related to the environment and resources,” said Xuan Xiaowei, a senior research fellow at a government think tank called the Development Research Center of the State Council. “Environmental pollution is so serious. Can it work without green development?”
By any account, China must curb environmental pollution to keep its public happy. About 80 percent of the 338 Chinese cities regularly monitored by the environment ministry failed to meet official standards last year, the ministry says. Resentment about worsening pollution has created cottage industries of everything from smartphone applications to low-cost monitoring devices to keep track of air quality.
[. . .]
China has been the biggest clean-energy investor since 2012, spending $384.7 billion in that period on clean sources of energy such as wind and solar power. And it’s holding onto that lead. According to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, China invested $48.1 billion in new clean energy projects so far this year, compared with $9.6 billion in Japan and $32.6 billion in the U.S.
The results of all that spending are gradually beginning to appear. Coal accounted for 64.4 percent of total energy consumption last year, down 1.7 percentage points from the previous year while the share of non-fossil fuels rose by 0.8 percentage points to 12 percent, the government said in January.
"Investing in cleaner energy will help China to gain economic benefits and improve the transition of its energy structure," said Zheng Xinye, associate dean at the School of Economics at the Renmin University of China in Beijing.
MacLean's shares a Canadian Press article describing the successful, if expensive, working of the first installed tidal electricity generating plant in Nova Scotia's Bay of Fundy.
A massive underwater turbine started generating electricity from the world’s highest tides in the Bay of Fundy on Tuesday, a test project the Nova Scotia government says marks a turning point for Canada’s renewable energy sector.
North America’s first in-stream tidal turbine was officially linked to the province’s electricity grid around noon, said Cape Sharp Tidal, the consortium behind the ambitious project.
The turbine is producing enough energy to power 500 Nova Scotia homes.
[. . .]
The partnership behind the project includes Halifax-based Emera Inc. and OpenHydro, a French conglomerate that specializes in naval defence and energy. Its two-megawatt turbine was lowered to the bottom of the bay two weeks ago.
The 1,000-tonne machine is about five storeys tall, but it is only a test model. It is anchored on the seabed at the eastern end of the bay in the Minas Passage, a five-kilometre-wide channel near Parrsboro, N.S. The powerful tides there left a smaller test turbine badly damaged in 2009.
A second test turbine will be installed next year.
The completed four-megawatt demonstration project will use a fraction of the 7,000 megawatt potential of the Minas Passage, the government said.
Konrad Yakabuski writes at The Globe and Mail about the underlying economic issues behind tense relations between Québec and Newfoundland, in the very low prices of Labrador-generated hydroelectricity sold to Québec.
Ottawa’s decision to extend an additional $2.9-billion loan guarantee to enable Newfoundland to proceed with its ruinous Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project looks a lot more like a bailout than the investment in clean energy infrastructure that Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr likes to call it.
Coming on top of the $5-billion federal guarantee the former Conservative government provided to Muskrat Falls, and on top of a separate $1.3-billion guarantee for an underwater transmission link from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia, the extra backstop rewards Newfoundland for its bet on a project that even the executive now in charge of it concedes is a “boondoggle.”
The guarantee will enable provincial government-owned utility Nalcor to complete construction of an 824-megawatt hydro generating station and undersea transmission line from Labrador to the island of Newfoundland that should never have seen the light of day.
Muskrat Falls is the legacy of former premier Danny Williams’s decision to snub Quebec by going it alone on a $6-billion hydro project – now projected to cost $11.4-billion and rising – that would restore provincial pride, which was still hurting after the 1969 Churchill Falls deal. Under that agreement, Hydro-Québec buys virtually all the power from the 5,400 MW Churchill Falls generating station at 0.2 cents a kilowatt hour and resells it to customers in Quebec and the United States at anywhere from 20 time to 50 times that price.
Newfoundland customers will be paying more than 100 times the Churchill Falls rate for their own electricity – about 21 cents a kw/h – once Muskrat Falls begins producing power in 2021. And that’s provided the project does not face additional delays and cost overruns, which it will considering recent undertakings by the province to address the higher methylmercury levels stemming from the project.
This Canadian Press report in the Toronto Star is disheartening.
The premier of Newfoundland and Labrador confirms that flooding of a reservoir at the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric site is underway.
Premier Dwight Ball says initial flooding will bring the river to springtime levels, similar to where “Mother Nature” raises waters during the season.
[. . .]
The Nunatsiavut Government, NunatuKavut Community Council, and the Innu Nation agreed that initial flooding is necessary but say it is possible to keep water levels at around 23 metres above sea level.
The aboriginal leaders urged the province to prioritize health concerns related to methylmercury contamination in its management of multibillion-dollar hydro project.
Jeff Gray and Oliver Moore write at The Globe and Mail about Toronto Hydro's dividends and saleability. All I can say is that the old adage about the dangers of consuming one's seed corn comes to mind.
The board of Toronto Hydro is considering whether to slash the dividend the company pays to the City of Toronto – worth $56-million last year – as the utility commits more cash to fix its aging infrastructure, according to senior city hall sources.
The Hydro board met on Monday night and will meet again on Nov. 23, when the utility is scheduled to release its third-quarter financial results. It is unclear when the decision on the dividend will be made.
City finance officials, at the urging of Mayor John Tory and city council, are taking a close look at whether to sell-off a portion of Toronto Hydro in order to raise money for other priorities, such as new public-transit lines or repairs to its crumbling public housing.
Reducing or eliminating the dividend could undermine one of the key arguments used by left-leaning city councillors who oppose the sale, which is that Toronto cannot afford to forgo the dividend – typically about half of the utility’s net profits – because the cash helps the city balance its own books every year.
However, Toronto Hydro chief executive officer Anthony Haines has warned publicly that the
utility needs to raise more money to cover the costs of fixing its aging electricity infrastructure. One source said that in the past few months, Hydro has been considering the idea of cutting the dividend to shore up its cash flow.
The National Post shared Pete Rowley's post at The Conversation looking at Iceland's latest geothermal energy project.
Iceland is about to tap into water as hot as lava. Several kilometres below ground, a drilling rig named Thor will soon penetrate the area around a magma chamber, where molten rock from the inner Earth heats up water that has seeped through the seafloor. This water – up to 1,000°C and saturated with corrosive chemicals – will eventually be piped up to the surface and its heat turned into usable energy.
It is a huge engineering challenge, and one which may usher in a new age of geothermal power production. Existing geothermal projects around the world need waters heated to less than 300°C, so why go to this extra effort and expense?
The answer is simple: water at the most extreme temperatures exists in a state described as “supercritical”, where it behaves as neither a true liquid, nor a true gas, and is capable of retaining a phenomenal amount of energy. Supercritical water can generate up to ten times more power than conventional geothermal sources.
Iceland is a nation built on about 130 volcanoes resting above a divergent plate boundary which brings a continuous supply of hot, fresh magma up from the mantle just a few kilometres below. Icelanders have capitalised on this, and now generate more than a quarter of their electricity through geothermal, accessing boiling temperature water within 2 km of the surface.
The Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) was set up to find out what happens at depths below 4km in the Icelandic crust. In 2009, during their first drilling leg, they accidentally hit a magma pocket, and eventually stabilised the system to create the hottest steam ever produced in geothermal exploration: 450°C.
The Wall Street Journal's Rebecca Smith notes falling carbon dioxide emissions from the US, a consequence of, among other factors, shifting energy production methods. This news item should bring us some hope.
U.S. carbon dioxide emissions fell to a new 25-year low during the first six months of 2016, helped in large part by power plants switching from coal to natural gas and renewable sources of electricity, according to a Wednesday report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Mild weather also played a role. Many regions across the country experienced higher-than-normal temperatures last winter, which reduced demand for heating fuels, the agency said.
Energy-related carbon emissions in the first half of the year were 2.53 billion metric tons, the lowest since the same period in 1991. Full-year emissions for 2016 are on pace to be 5.18 billion metric tons, which would be the lowest on record since 1992, according to the latest federal projection.
The numbers mean the U.S. is on track to reduce energy-associated carbon emissions by at least 1.5% this year compared with a 3% drop last year.
“They’re not huge decreases, but our carbon intensity is going down as a nation,” said Allen McFarland, an analyst with the U.S. Energy Department. “Carbon intensity has been generally falling since 2005.”
- Bloomberg notes the closure of Poland's frontier with Kaliningrad, looks at how Google is beating out Facebook in helping India get connected to the Internet, notes British arms makers' efforts to diversify beyond Europe and examines the United Kingdom's difficult negotiations to get out of the European Union, looks at the problems of investing in Argentina, looks at the complications of Germany's clean energy policy, observes that the Israeli government gave the schools of ultra-Orthodox Jews the right not to teach math and English, examines the consequences of terrorism on French politics, and examines at length the plight of South Asian migrant workers in the Gulf dependent on their employers.
- Bloomberg View notes Donald Trump's bromance with Putin's Russia, examines Melania Trump's potential immigrant problems, and is critical of Thailand's new anti-democratic constitution.
- CBC looks at how some video stores in Canada are hanging on.
- The Inter Press Service notes that the Olympic Games marks the end of a decade of megaprojects in Brazil.
- MacLean's approves of the eighth and final book in the Harry Potter series.
- The National Post reports on a Ukrainian proposal to transform Chernobyl into a solar farm, and examines an abandoned plan to use nuclear weapons to unleash Alberta's oil sands.
- Open Democracy looks at the relationship between wealth and femicide in India, fears a possible coup in Ukraine, looks at the new relationship between China and Africa, examines the outsized importance of Corbyn to Britain's Labour Party, and looks how Armenia's defeat of Azerbaijan has given its veterans outsized power.
- Universe Today notes proposals for colonizing Mercury, looks at strong support in Hawaii for a new telescope, and examines the progenitor star of SN 1987A.
- Wired emphasizes the importance of nuclear weapons and deterrence for Donald Trump, and looks at how many cities around the world have transformed their rivers.
The Globe and Mail's Konrad Yakabuski writes about the huge unanticipated costs of a hydroelectric project weighing down on a depressed Newfoundland.
By his own admission, former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams entered politics in 2001 to turn his proverbially have-not province into the master of its own destiny.
For too long, Newfoundland had sat angrily by while its fishery resources were dilapidated by the federal government and the benefits of its vast hydroelectric potential, including the massive Upper Churchill generating station, accrued almost entirely to Quebec.
“After years of watching in frustration as opportunities for growth were missed, lost or mismanaged, I had enough,” Mr. Williams said in a speech this April. “From the fishery to the Upper Churchill, I was determined to change our path in the history books.”
It seemed to work out for a while. An oil boom and a deal with Ottawa on the province’s offshore resources enabled Newfoundland to move off the equalization rolls for the first time in 2007. And Mr. Williams capped off his premiership in 2010 by launching a $6.2-billion hydro project on the Lower Churchill River, free of what he called “the geographic stranglehold of Quebec.”
Newfoundlanders, it seemed, were indeed becoming masters in their own house.
Well, the oil boom has gone bust, driving the province’s public finances to the bottom of the Canadian heap, and the projected cost of the 824-megawatt Muskrat Falls hydro project now under construction on the Lower Churchill has been revised skyward to a staggering $11.4-billion. Muskrat Falls has become a millstone around the neck of an already down province.
- Bloomberg notes Ireland's huge unexpected recent reported growth, looks at the deindustrialization of Israel, observes Deutsche Bank's need to search for wealth abroad, looks at the demographic imperatives that may keep healthy Japanese working until they are 80, notes the slipping ANC grip on Pretoria and looks at the rise of anti-Muslim Pauline Hanson in Australia, and predicts Brexit could kill the London property boom.
- Bloomberg View calls for calm in the South China Sea.
- CBC notes some idiot YouTube adventurers who filmed themselves doing stupid, even criminal, things in different American national parks.
- The Globe and Mail reports on the plans for a test tidal turbine in the Bat of Fundy by 2017.
- MacLean's looks at the heckling of a gay musician in Halifax and reports on the civil war in South Sudan.
- The New York Times looks at the new xenophobia in the east English town of Boston.
- Open Democracy notes that talk of a working class revolt behind Brexit excludes non-whites, and reports on alienation on the streets of Wales.
- Wired looks at how some cash-strapped American towns are tearing up roads they cannot afford to maintain.
Yesterday, I photographed WindShare's ExPlace wind power generator, 91 metres tall and built in 2002, dramatically against the sun. This was the closest I've ever been to it, but this tower is visible throughout the west end and far up Dufferin Street. For the curious, the Toronto Star has an article going into greater detail about ExPlace's history.
- Bloomberg notes the decline of Japan's solar energy boom with falling subsidies, suggests 1970s-style stagflation will be back, looks at how an urban area in Japan is dealing with overcrowding, looks at Russia-NATO tensions, and examines how Ireland is welcoming British bankers.
- Bloomberg View looks at the return of Russian tourists to Turkey, notes Russia is not suffering from a brain drain, looks at the Brexit vote as examining the power of the old, and argues the Chilcot report defends Blair from accusations of lying.
- CBC reports on the end of Blackberry's manufacturing of the Classic.
- The Globe and Mail notes that, once, gay white men were on the outside.
- The Independent describes claims that refugees in Libya who cannot pay their brokers risk being rendered into organs.
- The Inter Press Service describes the horrors of Sudan and looks at how Russia will use Brexit to fight sanctions in the European Union.
- MacLean's reports on the opening up of the Arctic Ocean to fishing and looks at Winnipeg support for Pride in Steinbach.
- The National Post reports on the plague of Pablo Escobar's hippos in Colombia, looks at Vietnam's protests of Chinese military maneuvers, and examines Turkey's foreign policy catastrophes.
- Open Democracy notes the desperate need for stability in Libya.
- The Smithsonian reports on how video games are becoming the stuff of history.
- Bloomberg notes the rail boom in Bangladesh, looks at the fall in the value of the pound, notes a German proposal to give young Britons German citizenship and observes Spanish concern over giving Scotland a voice, looks at competition between Paris and Frankfurt to get jobs from the City of London, looks at how a Chinese takeover of an American ham company worked well, and observes that revised statistics show a much rockier economic history in Argentina.
- Bloomberg View notes that Merkel is Britain's best hope for lenient terms and compares Brexit to the Baltic break from the Soviet Union.
- The Globe and Mail notes continuing problems with the implementation of tidal turbines on the Bay of Fundy.
- MacLean's notes that pride marchers in the Manitoba city of Steinbach can walk on the street, and looks at the impact of immigrant investment on Vancouver's housing market.
- National Geographic notes the endangerment of Antarctica's penguins.
- Open Democracy compares Brexit and the breakup of the former Soviet Union, looks at water shortages in Armenia, and examines the impact of Brexit on Ireland.
- The Chicago Tribune looks at urban violence.
- Universe Today notes the Dutch will be going to the Moon with the Chinese.