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Guest Opinion: Fighting climate change — If not Palo Alto, then who?

 

You may not realize it, but as a Palo Alto resident you're living in a city that's leading the fight against climate change.

Our group, Carbon Free Palo Alto, was instrumental in convincing the city of Palo Alto and its electric utility to commit to delivering 100 percent carbon-neutral electricity to all customers, starting in 2013. This single action has reduced the total carbon footprint of the entire city by about 20 percent at no additional cost to ratepayers.

We're one of the few cities in the world to accomplish this, and recently have been featured in national publications such as Slate, Grist and Inside Climate News. We're gaining attention in the national and international arena for our efforts and providing sorely needed leadership.

While this is a huge milestone, there's a lot more that we can and should do to prevent dangerous climate change.

It will take a drastic reduction in carbon emissions worldwide in the next 20 years to give the entire planet a fighting chance of avoiding severe climate impacts for generations to come. Carbon Free Palo Alto is now calling for 50 to 60 percent reduction of Palo Alto's greenhouse gas emissions in the next 10 years. This is the kind of reduction that needs to occur in the entire industrialized world. It sounds daunting on the surface, but we think it's possible, and that the co-benefits are significant.

To achieve such reductions, we must transform our energy infrastructure from one based on coal, natural gas and oil to one that is primarily based on electricity generated from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and water.

Stanford Professor Mark Jacobson and colleagues have authored an impressive number of papers that provide extensive analysis and present this transformation in more detail. Other research and analysis efforts have reached similar conclusions, including a recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

To help accomplish this transformation, Carbon Free Palo Alto is promoting a broad effort centered on the concept of "fuel switching." The idea is to switch from devices that consume gasoline and natural gas to their high-efficiency electric-based equivalents. Here in Palo Alto we're fortunate: The electric replacements will have a near-zero carbon footprint!

Some will say, "We heard that natural gas is better than coal," and natural gas is being touted as a "clean" bridge to a low-carbon future. While this may have been a viable strategy 15 or 20 years ago, it no longer is. Numerous studies have shown that continued reliance upon natural gas provides no net benefit in attaining emissions reductions.

Several other factors make natural gas a fuel to avoid. The increase in fracking operations in the United States has threatened water supplies, increased earthquake activity and overwhelmed the ability of water-treatment plants to deal with the toxic water produced from the wells. A lot of much-needed capital is also being diverted into an infrastructure that contributes nothing to the transformation we so desperately need.

Natural gas is also itself a potent greenhouse gas, and there is much evidence to indicate that the unintentional release of natural gas into the atmosphere is woefully underestimated. When this is taken into account, natural gas can have the same carbon footprint as coal. Two fossil-fueled devices used extensively in Palo Alto are excellent candidates for fuel switching: cars and water heaters.

The obvious replacement for a fossil-fueled car is an electric vehicle (EV). EVs are a common sight on Palo Alto streets. No wonder, because EVs charged in Palo Alto have near-zero carbon emissions and can cost up to $10,000 less than a gasoline-powered car to buy and operate over the vehicle's lifetime. In addition, Californians can collect $10,000 in rebates and tax credits within a year of buying an EV. Electric vehicles are fun to drive and reduce air pollution and associated health impacts such as asthma and other lung-related diseases. To put things in perspective, even a car like the Toyota Prius is highly polluting in comparison with an EV.

Many potential EV buyers express "range anxiety" (for example the Nissan Leaf has about a 90-mile range). In practice, however, such a limitation is not much of an issue in most cases. EVs work well for many commuters and for local trips, and with a little planning they can even work well for round trips to San Francisco and the East Bay.

Another great way to reduce your natural-gas emissions is by replacing your natural-gas water heater with an ultra-efficient heat-pump water heater, which is available for about $1,000, but is eligible for $800 in rebates. Depending on your electricity rate and other assumptions, heat-pump water heaters can have about the same lifetime costs as natural-gas water heaters.

Palo Alto is in many ways ideally positioned to respond aggressively and intelligently to climate change. It is a nexus of technological innovation, has a highly educated populace and possesses significant financial resources. If not Palo Alto, then who?

This is an outstanding opportunity for Palo Alto and its citizens to deploy effective solutions to this unprecedented global issue. Your actions are amplified by the unique position that Palo Alto enjoys as a symbol of innovation and forward-thinking action. By switching from fossil-fuel devices to the new and exciting future of energy-efficient electric devices such as EVs and heat-pump water heaters, you will make a meaningful contribution to solving the climate crisis.

Comments

1 person likes this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 31, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Classic economic mistake: treating subsidies/rebates as "free money", whereas those funds actually have a large carbon footprint. If you move the carbon footprint from one "pocket" to another, that is not a reduction.


1 person likes this
Posted by John Kelley
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 31, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Thank you for an excellent, well-informed piece. I'm particularly grateful for your pointing out the benefits of "ultra-efficient heat-pump water heater[s]."


1 person likes this
Posted by Higher Utility Bills
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 31, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Doug is exactly right.

They show up in our higher utility bills.


2 people like this
Posted by Jetman
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2014 at 3:58 pm

In a typical day, over 200 commercial jet airliners transit Palo Alto airspace. Under the FAA's NextGen plan these airliners will transit Palo Alto airspace at reduced power settings. At reduced power settings, jet engines do not burn fuel efficiently, and the engines spew microscopic droplets of unburned jet fuel.

Jet pollution can penetrate the Lungs and Brain study reveals
News.com.au ~ May 13, 2011 Web Link

Carnegie Mellon Study from Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry and Physic: Web Link

One-day flight-track maps for Palo Alto area: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 1, 2014 at 4:20 am

Relax. Recent news stories say commonplace fusion reactors are just around the corner!


1 person likes this
Posted by JC
a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2014 at 8:17 am

End the enormous subsidies and tax breaks for animal agriculture!

With 60+ BILLION food animals on the planet our best chance to mitigate climate change is to severely reduce consumption of animal foods. More than 1/3 of human induced warming is attributable to animal agriculture. Methane is 24 times more potent than CO2 but takes only 7 years to cycle out of the atmosphere. CO2 takes around 100 years to come out. Human pursuit of animal protein is the leading cause of methane release and a primary cause of CO2 concentrating in the atmosphere. Check the facts and act!

"As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease." Worldwatch Institute, "Is Meat Sustainable?"

“If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains... the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” Environmental Defense Fund

"A 1% reduction in world-wide meat intake has the same benefit as a three trillion-dollar investment in solar energy." ~ Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy

There is one single industry destroying the planet more than any other. But no one wants to talk about it... Web Link

Step by Step Guide: How to Transition to a Vegan Diet Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2014 at 10:08 am

Doug is correct. Grid electric power is completely fungible so "carbon-neutral electricity" just moves the electricity to another customer. The net result is no reduction in carbon emissions.

Palo Alto is conspicuous in it's lack of Solar electricity generation, perhaps trying to protect its municipal utility. Los Altos, Mountain View, etc. have installed much more solar on its city properties and schools.


2 people like this
Posted by Carbon-Free-Is-Delusional
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2014 at 11:49 am

> if not Palo Alto, then who?

This headline is truly off-putting. There are six billion plus people in this world. To suggest that the tiny, tiny, tiny town of Palo Alto is the only group of people in the world to “change the world” is truly ludicrous!

> The obvious replacement for a fossil-fueled
> car is an electric vehicle (EV).

Obvious? Well not if you want to use your vehicle to go into the out-back, or climb a mountain, or just drive continuously for more than 100 miles from home.

The idea that this world is going to stop using carbon fuels is beyond delusional. Solar can not generate power at night, and it is almost useless as an on-board power source for our vehicles. Solar has its uses, but it is no solution to our basic energy needs.

[Portion removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2014 at 12:34 pm

@Carbon-Free-Is-Delusional Ever heard of a thing called battery storage?


4 people like this
Posted by Josef Stalin
a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2014 at 12:35 pm

What is the carbon cost of producing all that concrete and steel for all those new oversized office buildings that all those greens support?


3 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 1, 2014 at 12:43 pm

City Council is requiring new single family homes being built to be wired for electric car charging stations, but did not require solar panels. Why?

Because electric car charging stations will create more utility revenue, while solar panels will reduce utility revenue.


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 1, 2014 at 2:13 pm

>To help accomplish this transformation, Carbon Free Palo Alto is promoting a broad effort centered on the concept of "fuel switching." The idea is to switch from devices that consume gasoline and natural gas to their high-efficiency electric-based equivalents. Here in Palo Alto we're fortunate: The electric replacements will have a near-zero carbon footprint!

Not really. PA just outbid other cities to claim large hydro projects, forcing those cities to buy electricity from coal. PA also buys wind-generated electricity from wind farms that slaughter huge numbers of birds of prey (and blight our wild lands).

Why all the alarmism? Global warming is NOT settled science, no matter what Al Gore says (even a recent Obama climate advisor said this). The rejection of natural gas would have a huge negative economic effect, as well as being a national security risk. We should be celebrating fracking!

Why no mention of nuclear power, Bruce? It is carbon-free energy.


Like this comment
Posted by The Shadow knows.....
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 1, 2014 at 2:13 pm

None of us will be carbon neutral in our effect on the planet until we stop breathing and emitting carbon dioxide, methane, and other "green house" gasses.............


Like this comment
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 1, 2014 at 3:00 pm

@Craig Laughton: "Why all the alarmism? Global warming is NOT settled science..."?

Excuse me, what? There is incontrovertible proof that global warming DOES exist, and that human activity is the main driving force behind it. [Portion removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 1, 2014 at 3:36 pm

>Excuse me, what? There is incontrovertible proof that global warming DOES exist, and that human activity is the main driving force behind it.

Troll, please read the following:

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 1, 2014 at 4:56 pm

The Wall Street Journal? Steven E. Koonin? The chief "scientist" for BP? Really?

If you're to play that game, then try this:

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2014 at 7:14 pm

Mr. Hodge sees a City in the environmental leading edge. As a resident I see a City in the environmental backwater, with land use polices and development controls regressed and out of the 60's producing congestion, increased auto emissions from gridlock, over development, ugly streetscapes,sign clutter, destruction of aesthetic values, unsafe streets, filth and garbage piled up and noise pollution at construction sites, dewatering for basement construction during extreme drought with trees dying and under stress and in an area subject to subsidence. Mr. Hodge,
you need to take your blinders off- your narrow view is disconcerting and
detracts from and undermines the positive message you are trying to convey.


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 1, 2014 at 7:44 pm

>If you're to play that game, then try this:

OK, Troll, I tried it. Your guy also admits that the science is NOT settled...best to actually read your own references.

You remind me of the Paul Ehrlich scare scenarios (why not, it' Halloween season). There are huge societal costs to overreacting. If you think we are all on the edge of the cliff, then why not ban airplanes, with all their pollution in the high skies?

We are probably not facing an era of scarcity, but an era of abundance, with less pollution, and less use of natural resources. No need for the majority of us to wet our pants. Certainly no need for PA to lead a crusade...that is what got our city council to support high speed rail...now we have to suffer the consequences.


1 person likes this
Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 1, 2014 at 7:48 pm

So sad to read such global warming hype and delusion. Shows that science education is a total failure these days.


Like this comment
Posted by eye of the beholder
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2014 at 8:01 pm

While Palo Alto may not be in the environmental leading edge, this looks like the perfect place to fight it all out - what's science, what's myth.

C. Laughton,

Interesting about banning planes, but why such extremes? You obviously agree they are polluting machines, any science that could improve upon that?

Anyone?




Like this comment
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 1, 2014 at 11:24 pm

Chris Zaharias is a registered user.

Can someone tell Bruce global warming's over, and the new Inquisition is income redistribution?


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 2, 2014 at 7:03 am

I agree that we are in a excellent POSITION to fight climate change. A POSITION and execution of same is the problem.

I am glad to see that SU is fronting some studies and actions. So SU - a major topic in climate change is Drought vs Flooding. SU needs to look at their own property and resolve the Searsville Lake silt build up which is at the head of the San Francisquito Creek. That silt build up is a game changer for all other flood control / revitalization issues on the creek that we have been trying to resolve for many years.

Government and private organizations who have control of lakes, dams, and creeks need to assume the responsibility of managing the silt built up which is part of the management job. SU keeps pointing as the expense of the silt removal, yet is busy building on their property and dumping other poor quality soil in the baylands landfill / "soccer field" at a discounted price.

SU needs to head up the action to clean up the lake and move the silt to other open space areas that can benefit from the high quality soil additive. Atascadero Preserve can use some high quality soil - the golf course can use some high quality soil, the Open Space people can use some high quality soil. I can use some high quality soil - I am on fill - adobe soil that is a wreck. It could benefit from some high quality soil additive. It costs a lot at the nursery.

Palo Alto - recent visit to the 7.7 acres in Foothill Park - silt build up a topic on Los Trancos Creek - yes silt build up is a natural process that is expected to be managed - it is part of the job. If you own the creek than manage it.

Baylands - busy talking flood control but the creek at the 101 bridge has not been touched and there is silt build up and excess vegetation - that is an easy fix given that there are earth moving trucks at the utility department.

Landfill - we used to be able to bring items to the landfill - bottles, papers, other household items which can be recycled. Some ones great idea was to stop that. I cannot figure out who benefited from that action - it was such a great resolution to the recycle problem on standard household items - bottles, glass, plastic, paper, cardboard, etc.

Baylands - we are so sad looking in the baylands. The Interpretative Center is not being used and is falling apart. We have a launch area for kayaks, etc. but it is tacky. Go look at Mountain View - they get gold stars for the excellent management of their Shoreline and the creek outflows into the bay. Stevens Creek is being managed well and has a support group. And they have a GOLF COURSE. How many PA people keep dissing the PA golf course?

So everyone wants to talk about cars - but meantime PA is pushing bicycles.

The management of property is key to many of the problems in climate change - is the city just pushing that on to the individual homeowners but not working the larger issues which are property management at the top city level.

Is SU talking to get recognition but not managing their property at the top level?

The car issue will resolve itself - Ford, and others are working that issue - the city and SU do not own that problem.

The electricity issue will be resolved at a higher level than PA or SU - management of all of the elements that produce electricity are at the state level - also Dept of Interior who manages those elements.
Understanding the part each group can contribute to is key to resolving issues - homeowners can only do so much but the city and state need to do their part.


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 2, 2014 at 8:19 am

>C. Laughton,
Interesting about banning planes, but why such extremes? You obviously agree they are polluting machines, any science that could improve upon that?

Beholder, I used the airplane banning as a device to show how far the extremists should be willing to go, if we are truly in extreme danger of climate warming...surely, we should be willing to go back to pre-flight days, if we are going to destroy our planet by not doing so! Since I am not alarmed by the alarmists, I will continue fly (without guilt).

In terms of improving flight pollution, I suppose there is always going to be increased efficiencies, but I don't believe we will be seeing the end of fossils fuels anytime soon...too much energy density in them.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 2, 2014 at 9:04 am

When I read the Menlo Park Almanac or the Mountain View equivalent I see reasonable people making reasonable comments. Then I go to the PA On-line system and see hyperbole to make a case, or people exaggerate their points which does not translate to the reader. Or snide comments. I wish people would realize that what they say needs to be clear to the point and reasonable. Please do not trust others to recognize exaggerations.


Like this comment
Posted by eye of the beholder
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2014 at 9:16 am

Craig Laughton,

About air travel inefficiencies. Without incentives, people will do what they will do. Industry will keep costs down, government will take the easiest way out (guided by industry), and investments will rip through any considerations that actually matter to people who are thinking more broadly about problems.

What's the most important thing that people are asking for here?

Net neutrality.



Like this comment
Posted by eye of the beholder
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2014 at 9:19 am

C. Laughton,

There are no incentives for reducing pollution form air travel.

The focus is on efficiencies for having flights arrive on time, and things like the private shuttles like Surf Air. Right up there with net neutrality.


Like this comment
Posted by eye of the beholder
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2014 at 9:47 am

Our priorities are currently more about things like shopping.

Web Link

We want to be able to shop more efficiently.


Like this comment
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 2, 2014 at 10:52 am

It never fails -- the topic of global warming comes up, and the deniers come on with their usual talking points.

Then again, they may think they won't have to face the consequences when global warming becomes irreversible. But such is the power of delusional "thought."


Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Nov 2, 2014 at 10:56 am

I agree we aren't ever going to be carbon free but reducing its release. Recycling has helped over time but I still see way too much waste.

I would airports are giant carbon producing beasts along with those long traffic jams over the Sunol grade.


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 2, 2014 at 11:15 am

>It never fails -- the topic of global warming comes up, and the deniers come on with their usual talking points.

Then again, they may think they won't have to face the consequences when global warming becomes irreversible. But such is the power of delusional "thought."

Troll, Paul Ehrlich couldn't have said it better. Of course, he also said that we should have already had a massive kill off of the world's population due to overpopulation. Didn't happen.

If the climate alarmists would get behind the newer versions of nuclear energy, we would probably see a very serious reduction in greenhouse gasses, WITH strong economic growth.


Like this comment
Posted by eye of the beholder
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2014 at 11:15 am

CNN has the topic of of Web Link today

"The cost of fighting climate change will only climb if industrialized nations don't take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the United Nations' panel on the matter warned Sunday in its wrap-up report.......

"It is technically feasible to transition to a low-carbon economy," said Youba Sokona, the co-chairman of IPCC Working Group III. "But what is lacking are appropriate policies and institutions. The longer we wait to take action, the more it will cost to adapt and mitigate climate change."

Excepts the "costs" are relative. Even reducing immediate impacts of pollution are not considered a "cost" because the "costs" more broadly speaking are generally denied.

Definitely no incentives to have appropriate policies, when there is a debate about which costs one is worrying about.


Like this comment
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 2, 2014 at 11:28 am

@Craig Laughton: You seem to have a vested interest in showing off your ignorance and your ideological blinders.

The question is: Why?


1 person likes this
Posted by Scientist
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 2, 2014 at 11:51 am

@ Craig Laughton, you've shown yourself to be the troll. Citing the Wall Street Journal, a bastion of of high wing politics and "money over all", owned by a hardcore reactionary - that's laughable.

If you want science, cite a science journal. Unfortunately for you, they all came to a scientific conclusion years ago that you won't like.

And 97% is not "unsettled". 97% is ** overwhelming **. I did a recent count and found that it's actually 99.9918%, but who's counting. Both figures are well below the accepted statistical variant of 5%. So there are no scientists "out to lunch", only the deniers.


Like this comment
Posted by eye of the beholder
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2014 at 11:52 am

C. Laughton,

I'm not as enthusiastic about economic growth having to drive every single decision in town. Look at what that has done for Palo Alto development, more offices here and more buildings for fear of becoming Detroit. That fear of Detroit seems to be used in everything.

Some things have to also make sense, and there are things that can be done in the near future about this issue - since you seem to agree it is an issue, just has to be done "WITH" strong economic growth. For example, I would ground little private commuter shuttles that are polluting the air hilly nilly to provide a consumer "experience" for a few, and suggest people commute in big airplanes, with the masses like everyone else.

Waiting for nuclear powered aircraft? Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 2, 2014 at 12:20 pm

It would be good for the true believers to read James Lovelock (founder of the Gaia theory). He now states that he overreacted, and now favors fracking and nuclear energy.

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 2, 2014 at 6:49 pm

OK, I would suggest reading:

What To Do about Greenhouse Warming: Look Before You Leap
by S. Fred Singer, Roger Revelle and Chauncey Starr
Cosmos: A Journal of Emerging IssuesVol. 5, No. 2, Summer 1992

... but I doubt many global warming supporters ever do any real scientific research.

Remember, Roger Revelle is Al Gore's hero, cited in his film.

The first sentence in paper's conclusion is:

"Drastic, precipitous and, especially, unilateral--steps to delay the putative greenhouse impacts can cost jobs and prosperity and increase the human costs of global poverty, without being effective."

And, @ Scientist,
I have little respect for anyone here not using a real name, but I am most saddened by folks picking names with delusions of being something they are not.




Like this comment
Posted by Jetman
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2014 at 9:15 pm

While terrestrial transportation technology is rapidly transitioning to a whole host of technologies that will dramatically reduce emissions (hybrid, fuel cell, electric, etc), air transportation is stuck with liquid fossil fuels for the foreseeable future.

The aviation industry is still stuck in the 1950s... general aviation aircraft, and many helicopters, still even use leaded-gas today, some 40 years after it was phased out of automotive gasoline in the 1970s.


"Leaded Fuel Is a Thing of the Past—Unless You Fly a Private Plane"
Mother Jones ~ January 3, 2013 Web Link

EPA Airport Lead Monitoring Program Update: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 3, 2014 at 9:47 am

Chris Zaharias is a registered user.

I personally am taking *great* enjoyment from seeing climate alarmists resort primarily to personal attacks now that they've been proven wrong. I'm guessing it's gonna take another 18-36 months before the vast majority of them stop talking about climate change and find another cause that allows them to once again engage in their passions: false righteousness and talking down to others.

Do I get a medal for having poo poo'd global warming from the very start?


4 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 3, 2014 at 10:05 am

Palo Alto tends to be much better at showering itself with congratulations for small, showy, sometimes silly gestures, than at providing true leadership toward effective solutions. This blog is a case in point.

100% renewable energy: a delusion for the technologically innocent. PA Utilities may pay premium prices for an amount of solar, wind, and hydro power equaling what Palo Alto uses, but where is the assurance we are actually receiving that energy in our toasters and laptops? It ain't there, and it cannot be.

First, the wind blows and the sun shines on their schedules, not ours. So we buy solar and wind energy when it's available, and put it onto the grid to share it with the USA. A noble, altruistic gesture to be sure, one which we reverse on windless nights.

Hydro? Why are drowned rivers so ecologically desirable? For that matter, where's the benefit in paving many square miles with solar arrays that deny the sun to the life below, that dessicate the soil beneath into a dry powder that blows clouds of dust in the slightest breeze, which dust has to be periodically washed off the solar cells to keep them operative?

Never mind the birds killed in wind machines.

Short term congratulations, long term consequences.

Electric cars? Spare me. They merely displace the pollution elsewhere. Electric cars are, in fact, the only contemporary vehicle which runs, at least in part, on coal.(EVs charged entirely in solar carports excepted.)

The long-term solution is to learn to live with nuclear power. Modern fail-safe reactor designs exist, and nuclear waste carefully sequestered in limited areas is far better legacy than the global carbon catastrophe we are preparing to leave our grandchildren.


1 person likes this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 3, 2014 at 10:12 am

"Do I get a medal for having poo poo'd global warming from the very start?"

Yup. It's shaped like a very large seabird, to be worn around the neck.


Like this comment
Posted by Crag Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 3, 2014 at 11:39 am

curmudgeon,

Excellent post on your part.

I have long been perplexed about the opposition to the newer forms of nuclear power by the greens (with a few notable exceptions, like Lovelock and Brand). It is safe, clean, abundant, carbon-free, disseminated, scalable and appropriate to third world (even fourth world) countries.

Solar power will make major steps, especially on existing rooftops, as the efficiency/cost curves catch up to coal.

I see an era of abundance in front of the entire world. Read Peter Diamandis's book, "Abundance" to get a feel for it. However, this will require abundant and cheap electrical power, available everywhere...which can be achieved via nuclear and solar power.

In about 50 years, I foresee our next generations scratching their heads, wondering what the big deal was about fresh water shortages. Newer technology desalination membranes (e.g. graphene )will make the oceans our primary source.

Gloom and doom and talk of scarcity is not a way that PA leaders should be painting the future...after all, we are in the middle of Silicon Valley! Somehow, our leaders have been sucked into a vortex of negativity by various luddite-like, true-believing greens.

BTW, I have been trying to book a ticket on a cruise through the Northwest Passage (ice free), but the dang ice just won't get out of the way!


1 person likes this
Posted by member
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 3, 2014 at 1:39 pm

While it may be a laudable goal to reduce carbon emissions, Mr. Hodge makes a number of statements that are his opinion masquerading as fact. He postulates that natural gas is just as bad as coal in terms of carbon emissions, the fact is that burning natural gas to generate electricity releases half the carbon as coal. That is a fact and the chemistry is well known. The widespread use of coal in the US is a direct result of the move away from nuclear power in the 1980's due to concerns about safety. We should seek to replace older coal fires plants with natural gas plants ASAP.

Mr Hodge also presents his opinion that fracking causes earthquakes as a fact when it is not. I would think that making the US self sufficient in energy and in fact a net exporter of energy will lessen the world's dependency on unstable regions of the world, and reduce the risk of conflict.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts. Let's try to present arguments in an intellectually honest way so that we can have a rational discussion. That is the only way we will ever reach a solution


Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 3, 2014 at 3:21 pm

"He postulates that natural gas is just as bad as coal in terms of carbon emissions, the fact is that burning natural gas to generate electricity releases half the carbon as coal."

Methane has about 30x the GHG potency as CO2, and Hodges makes it plain his statement refers to burned plus leaking natural gas.

"Mr Hodge also presents his opinion that fracking causes earthquakes as a fact when it is not."

Fracking does indeed produce earthquakes, if not directly, then as a consequence of the deep injection disposal of its waste liquids, which has made Oklahoma the leading USA earthquake state Web Link.


1 person likes this
Posted by member
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 3, 2014 at 7:31 pm

So fracking INDRECTLY causes earthquakes? Oh, now I understand. Theory is not the same as fact just because it appears to bolster an argument.

As far as methane leaking from oil wells, yes it is a potent greenhouse gas which is why we should capture it rather than venting it off into the atmosphere. As we invest in the infrastructure to capture more methane and liquify and transport it to where it is needed then we can eliminate this source of greenhouse gas emissions.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 3, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Article at curmudgeon's old weblink, 4th paragraph from bottom, references a report of

"... 43 earthquakes that occurred on 18 January, ranging in intensity from 1.0 to 2.8 Md (milliDarcies.) "

I guess fracking quakes are measured in millidarcies. It's on the internet, must be true.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 3, 2014 at 11:52 pm

Methane Gas - Shoreline Park is built on an old landfill and has had a methane gas problem - early use of Shoreline Park - sit on the grass and lite a match - blue flame. When they first started putting in trees they died from the methane gas. They are managing that problem. Not an easy fix if you are building on a landfill.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 4, 2014 at 8:46 am

@member,

Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing. The entire point of fracking is to fracture the rock and inject the pores with chemicals which increase the movement of hydrocarbons. So yes, fracking by definition induces small quakes.

Usually these quakes are very small but waste injection wells can pump a lot of the same chemicals in one location which sometimes results in measurable quakes.


4 people like this
Posted by If not. who
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 4, 2014 at 8:48 am

There are many worthy causes to support and we seem to have beaten this one to death where many of us are sick and tired of hearing about it.

We already have Palo Alto Utilities, our Chief Sustainability Officer, our incessant mailings urging us to conserve while our rates go up, we send our Utilities people on junkets so they can brag about Green Palo Alto, Brown Palo Alto, our Water Waster spies, etc etc. We've got Zero Waste competitions, apps, etc.

How about taking up another worthy cause like fighting Citizens United and the unlimited money buying elections? Vermont did. We can, too.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 4, 2014 at 10:22 am

I was approaching the Dumbarton Bridge Sunday at high tide. There was a boat anchored that was obviously there to push soil around to create levees. There were fresh levees in the high tide water. Since Facebook is building new facilities in the HWY 84 area across from their buildings then there is an obvious need for management of the tides - high water everywhere.
The point being that high tides move up creeks with soil and debris - in our case San Francisquito Creek. Management of the creek in the bay-lands is essential since tides are pushing salt water upstream while in heavy rains fresh water is coming downstream causing flooding. A high tide plus a storm will create great problems if the property is not managed to accommodate the confluence of water and silt. Planning needs to take place in the summer to clear debris, branches that will break off, and deepen channels so that water can move through.
We can do that now - no rain will be coming soon IAW the forecasters.


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Posted by Vanessa Warheit
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 11, 2014 at 12:38 pm

[Portion removed.]

I agree with Bruce Hodge that we need to do more. I applaud him and Carbon Free Palo Alto for the work they have already done. I agree with the commenter who pointed out that we have a paltry amount of solar here in Palo Alto and would like to point out that without locally generated power, we are increasingly vulnerable.

I also agree with the commenter who pointed out the vast scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change. There is as much scientific debate on this issue as there is on the subject of gravity. Let's move on.

And to the person arguing about the carbon impact of EVs: there was a study done two years about by the California Air Resources Board on the *lifetime* emissions of battery-electric vehicles vs. hybrids vs. conventional gas cars. They found that EVs came out way ahead. That being said: putting a whole lot of people in an electric bus, or on bicycles, would be even less carbon-intensive. Let's look at how we can put those buses on the roads, make our streets safe for cycling, and power the stuff we need with local, renewable power.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 12, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Vanessa,

The problem with your argument is that it represents a 'tomorrow belongs to me' motif. Paul Ehrlich used (and still uses) this propaganda trick. To see how it was done, back in the 1930s (by the NAZIs) see this clip from "Cabaret" (Web Link ). Note: Pay attention to the old man, who is far outnumbered, yet he knows better. The best scientists on climate are also old men, and they are ignored, and not funded. Think about it.

You need to read your own referenced study, which you offer in vague terms. It makes absurd assumptions about California's energy mix by 2020.

One palpable way to get to carbon reduction is newer versions of nuclear power. Do you know anything about it?


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Posted by Roger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 13, 2014 at 10:55 pm

Craig: You do speak your mind, and you are not afraid. I especially like the above post by you. I remember that clip from Cabaret. Thank you for making the analogy with people who can so easily say, "There is as much scientific debate on this issue as there is on the subject of gravity. Let's move on." (Vanessa).

Propaganda can so readily be imbibed by the uninformed. I say this as one who thinks that carbon dioxide needs to be controlled, but I also understand the societal costs for going overboard. I agree with you about the newer forms of nuclear power. It is strange that so few of us greens want to accept nuclear.

Thank you for you for your perceptive post.


2 people like this
Posted by Michael Winkler
a resident of another community
on Dec 28, 2014 at 10:20 pm

I am working closely with Bruce Hodge to help Bruce overcome the barriers for widespread use of heat pump water heaters in Palo Alto. I am the Mayor of Arcata and work professionally as an energy analyst specializing in multi-family housing throughout California. The majority of my projects use no natural gas, are zero-net energy and use electric heat pumps for space heating and water heating and use solar electric systems to annually produce as much energy as each apartment uses. Thousands of heat pumps have been installed in projects that I have worked on. For more information see www.redwoodenergy.net

I made my home zero-net energy 12 years ago. My home uses a ground-source heat pump for space heating, a heat pump water heater and solar electricity. Our net cost for electricity is zero so each month we only pay PG&E the minimum charge of $5 to be connected to the electric grid. We pay PG&E about $5 per year for the tiny amount of natural gas we use for cooking and clothes drying.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 29, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Michael

A big possible barrier is compressor noise. Do the heat pumps have silent compressors? Are they installed outdoors or indoors? What is their noise level in dBA at 1 meter?




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Posted by Michael Winkler
a resident of another community
on Dec 29, 2014 at 3:09 pm

curmudgeon,

I don't have general information on compressor noise of heat pumps.
The amount of noise will be different with each brand and model of heat pump.

For my brand of heat pump water heater (EMC) and the other brand that I am most familiar with (GE) the fan in the unit is much louder than the compressor. For a heat pump water heater the compressor noise is comparable to a refrigerator. The fan is loud enough to be objectionable to many people so I would recommend putting a heat pump water heater in a garage or in a louvered cabinet located outside the living space. In addition to the noise issue, putting a heat pump water heater in the living space would cannibalize heat from the living space and increase space heating energy use (which would be a benefit if you were running air conditioning). In our house we have the heat pump water heater isolated from the living space and vented to the outside.

The compressor for my ground source heat pump is located outside my bedroom window and has a low-pitch, barely noticeable hum. Since it is a ground source heat pump it has no outside fan and no outside fan noise.

The noise of a whole-house air source heat pump (the most common type of heat pump) would be identical to the compressor and fan noise of a typical whole-house air conditioner. The other noise would be from the air handler which would be the same as for a central furnace or central air conditioner.


2 people like this
Posted by older person
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2014 at 3:27 pm

I like my natural gas cooktop. I like my natural gas grill. I'm not giving them up. I like being able to drive 300 miles, then fill up my car with gas, and drive 300 more. A lot of people around here who are lucky enough to be some of the richest in the world seem to forget that for many of us, getting a new car is not an option. I spend enough already to live here - why are you going to make it so much more expensive? Where are all these tax credits and incentives going to come from? Many of us barely get by as it is.


2 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 29, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Older person, I totally agree. And I can't tell you how tired I am hearing about composting! Enough already!

Here's an earlier relevant post on all this:

Posted by If not. who
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 4, 2014 at 8:48 am

There are many worthy causes to support and we seem to have beaten this one to death where many of us are sick and tired of hearing about it.

We already have Palo Alto Utilities, our Chief Sustainability Officer, our incessant mailings urging us to conserve while our rates go up, we send our Utilities people on junkets so they can brag about Green Palo Alto, Brown Palo Alto, our Water Waster spies, etc etc. We've got Zero Waste competitions, apps, etc.

How about taking up another worthy cause like fighting Citizens United and the unlimited money buying elections? Vermont did. We can, too.

==== Which reminds me, let the city also start fighting for Net Neutrality.

If not, PA, the "hub" of technology, then who?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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