2016 Year in Review

 

Equipment on a ridge in Southern California Gas Company’s vast Aliso Canyon facility, site of the gas leak. Photo by Scott L from Los Angeles, USA. CC BY-SA 2.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Equipment on a ridge in Southern California Gas Company’s vast Aliso Canyon facility, site of the gas leak. Photo by Scott L from Los Angeles, USA. CC BY-SA 2.0. Wikimedia Commons.

  • January 12 – The methane and other pollutants spewing from a gas well in California is invisible to the naked eye, making it hard to comprehend just how large the leak is. Fortunately, the California Air Resources Board has been taking periodic measurements, which we can use to make some comparisons. [BBC]
Signing the Paris Agreement is a critical step toward saving the environment. Mokhammad Edliadi CIFOR

Signing the Paris Agreement is a critical step toward saving the environment. Mokhammad Edliadi CIFOR

  • April 23 – More than 170 nations attended the signing ceremony of the Paris Climate Agreement at the UN. For the Agreement to enter into full force, at least 55 nations comprising 55% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions must ratify it. [Forests News, Center for International Forestry Research]
  • June 14 – The Supreme Court on Monday left intact a key Obama administration environmental regulation, refusing to hear an appeal from 20 states seeking to block rules that limit the emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from the nation’s power plants. [Washington Post]
  • June 25 – Volkswagen has reportedly reached a $15 billion settlement with US car owners after admitting it cheated emission tests. The deal would offer to repair or buy back the affected diesel vehicles and pay owners compensation. The US settlement is still pending approval by a judge. [BBC]
    ($15 billion is about 23% of VW’s market capitalization.)
Protesters gather outside Exxon’s shareholders meeting in Dallas. Ben Torres/Redux

Protesters gather outside Exxon’s shareholders meeting in Dallas. Ben Torres/Redux

  • July 6 “Did Exxon Lie About Global Warming?” • In the case against Exxon, the plaintiffs do not have to show that the company injured a specific victim or conspired to hide what it knew about climate science, just that Exxon did not tell its own investors the truth about the investment risks of climate change. [RollingStone.com]
After seven months, Solar Impulse 2 has returned to the sky as it prepares to resume its record-setting round-the-world flight.

A view from the cockpit of Solar Impulse II

  • July 26 – More than a year after it first took to the skies, Solar Impulse 2 has completed an epic around-the-world journey without burning a single drop of fuel. The revolutionary single-seat solar-powered plane touched down Tuesday morning in Abu Dhabi, at the same airport from which it took off back in March 2015. [Huffington Post]
  • August 5 “Nuclear Power Is Losing Money At An Astonishing Rate” • Half of the existing nuclear power plants are no longer profitable. The New York Times and others have tried to blame renewable energy, but the admittedly astounding price drops of renewables aren’t the primary cause of the industry’s woes. [ThinkProgress]
  • August 13 – Scotland is pledging to reach 100% renewable sustainability for energy production by the year 2020, a reasonable goal after meeting 100% of the energy demand through wind power alone for a day. Scotland is believed to have the largest oil reserves in Europe, but has proven they largely do not need it. [Interesting Engineering]
Road closed due to weather. FEMA photo. Public domain. Wikimedia Commons.

Road closed due to weather. FEMA photo, after Hurricane Katrina. Public domain. Wikimedia Commons.

  • August 24 – As residents of Louisiana this week struggle to recover from a 1,000-year flood, “one of the worst floods in modern history,” there is a chance that federal aid may not be so forthcoming thanks to a trio of Bayou State Republicans, who back in 2013 voted against helping victims of another storm: Hurricane Sandy. [eNews Park Forest]
  • September 13 – Opinion: “Meet the mom litigating the ‘biggest case on the planet’” • Julia Olson is litigating what should be considered the most important court case in the United States: She’s helping 21 kids, as young as age 9, sue the Obama administration over its insufficient action on climate change. Olson will attempt to make their case for the future. [CNN]
Huitengxile wind farm, Inner Mongolia (Photo by Steven Buss, CC BY SA, Wikimedia Commons)

Huitengxile wind farm, Inner Mongolia (Photo by Steven Buss, CC BY SA, Wikimedia Commons)

  • September 21 – As an outcome of the recent G20 meeting in China, both China and the US volunteered to publish peer reviews of their current fossil fuel subsidies. Together, the two countries are annually providing over $20 billion in inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. Of this, $8.1 billion comes from the United States, and $14.5 billion from China. [CleanTechnica]
  • September 30 – The UK has signed its £18 billion contract with France and China to build the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, giving the final go-ahead for construction at the site in Somerset. The deal was finalized at a low-key ceremony in London, just two months after Theresa May put the entire project under review.
    [The Guardian]
  • October 5 – Canada will impose a federal price on emissions of carbon dioxide nationwide in 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced. The policy approach could push tougher limits on provinces that already use a carbon tax or a program for cap-and-trade, and could require major new programs for other parts of the country. [Bloomberg BNA]
Wildlife populations down by nearly 60% since 1970 (Photo by Roger Leguen / WWF)

Wildlife populations down by nearly 60% since 1970 (Photo by Roger Leguen / WWF)

  • October 27 – Global wildlife populations have fallen by 58% since 1970, a report by the Zoological Society of London and WWF says. The Living Planet assessment, suggests that if the trend continues that decline could reach two-thirds among vertebrates by 2020. Habitat loss, wildlife trade, pollution, and climate change are among causes. [BBC]
  • October 30 – According to a study from the American Lung Association in California, the unaccounted for health and societal costs of burning a gallon of gasoline total $1.30. This means that if these costs were to be accounted for in the price of gasoline, then pricing would be at least $1.30/gallon higher than it currently is. [CleanTechnica]
  • November 5 – The Paris Agreement on climate change became international law on Friday, November 4, 2016, after about 20 years of global wrangling. Exactly 30 days ago, it crossed both national and emissions thresholds needed to enter into force. The agreement now has 98 parties representing nearly 70% of global carbon emissions. [CleanTechnica]
Rift in Antarctic glacier, twenty miles from the sea

Rift in Antarctic glacier, twenty miles from the sea

  • December 1 – New research from Ohio State University determined that a calving event creating an enormous iceberg in West Antarctica in 2015 was even more notable than first thought. It was the result of a deep, subsurface rift that formed approximately 20 miles inland. This implies that the glacier is deteriorating faster than thought. [CleanTechnica]
  • December 2 – The Canadian province of Alberta, known for its notoriously dirty oil sands, has just made a symbolically significant about-face on energy policy, with potentially major implications for North American wind power. First up is a tender for 5 GW of wind power. Alberta will also pay its coal plants $1 billion to shut down. [CleanTechnica]
  • December 5 – “Through climate change denial, we’re ceding global leadership to China” • China was no more prepared for the results of the American election than the US. But it has been quick to size up the environmental implications of a Trump victory, and officials in Beijing are contriving to cast China in a fresh leadership role. [Los Angeles Times]
Block Islands last turbine going up

Block Islands last turbine going up

  • December 13 – The Block Island Wind Farm is supplying power to the grid, making it America’s first offshore wind facility. Deepwater Wind and project partners have commissioned the 30-MW installation off the coast of Rhode Island, and it is now delivering power into New England’s electric grid via a 20-mile-long submarine cable. [POWER magazine]
  • December 17 – Lazard Ltd’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis compares costs of various generation technologies. Its latest, LCOE 10.0, shows that the cost decline of generating electricity from solar PV was steeper than decreases among other forms of renewable energy in 2016, with utility-scale PV technologies down about 11% from last year. [Solar Industry]

12-2-eia_new_us_capacity_2016

  • December 20 – We all knew that 2016 was going to be a very good year for the US solar market; however no one could say exactly how good. Now, the DOE’s Energy Information Administration posted some of the first concrete numbers for the year. EIA estimates that the US will have installed 9.5 GW of utility-scale solar installed in 2016. [pv magazine USA]
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