Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The solar panel toxic waste problem

For decades, the solar industry benefited from generous federal, state, and local subsidies to increase its footprint. Yet these generous subsidies ignore the costs of disposal of solar panel waste.

Things may be changing. In May 2018, Michael Shellenberger, a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment” and Green Book Award Winner, wrote in Forbes that the problem of solar panel disposal will explode with full force in two or three decades and wreck the environment because it is a huge amount of waste which is not easy to recycle.

Shellenberger was citing comments, published in the South China Morning Post, from Chinese solar expert Tian Min, general manager of Nanjing Fangrun Materials, a recycling company in Jiangsu province that collects retired solar panels. Tian called his country’s solar power industry “a ticking time bomb.”

This is not really news. The Associated Press had reported in 2013 that the heavily subsidized solar industry was creating millions of pounds of polluted sludge and contaminated water that is often shipped landfills often hundreds of miles away.

The now-defunct, bankrupted Solyndra used its $535 million in guaranteed federal dollars to generate about 12.5 million pounds of hazardous waste, much of which was carcinogenic cadmium-contaminated waste, during its four years of operations.

But, you say, solar energy is clean, green, and mean – and taking over the world one massive array at a time. Isn’t that what we have all been told?

The truth can be brutal. The average lifespan of a solar panel is about 20 years, but high temperatures (as in the Mojave Desert) can accelerate the aging process for solar cells, and snow, dust, and other natural events (tornadoes, earthquakes),can cause material fatigue on the surface and in the internal electric circuits – gradually reducing the panel’s power output.

Solar panels generate 300 times more toxic waste per unit of energy than nuclear power plants. They also contain lead, cadmium, and other toxic (even carcinogenic) chemicals that cannot be removed without breaking apart the entire panel. Worse, rainwater can wash many of these toxics out of the fragments of solar modules over time.

Another real concern is the vast increase in the use of nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) in the construction of solar panels – up 1,057 percent over the past 25 years. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change deems NF3 to be 17,200 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas – meaning that even relatively minor quantities can have major impacts.

While the European Union has long required solar panel manufacturers to collect and dispose of solar waste, in the U.S. until very recently only Washington State had any recycling requirements. Yet even their standards did not address costs.

Proponents like to cite the small size of the industry to date as a reason to ignore recycling requirements and costs in their business plans. But the deeper truth is that the costs for solar waste disposal can be huge. As Cara Libby, senior technical leader of solar energy at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), put it, “I’ve heard that [recycling] will have to be mandated because it won’t ever be economical.”

Japan is also facing a growing solar waste problem. In a November 2016 article, Osamu Tomioka stated that Japanese solar panel waste will likely grow from the current 10,000 tons a year to 800,000 tons a year – and that just to recycle all of the waste produced through 2020 will take 19 years. How long will it take, and at what cost, to recycle 80 times that amount?

A 2018 report from the Institute of Energy Research suggests imposing a recycling fee on solar panel purchases. A federal disposal and decommissioning fund would then dispense funds to state and local governments to help pay for removal and recycling or long-term storage of solar panel waste. [Similar fees help recover costs for nuclear waste disposal and coal mine reclamation for bankrupt facilities.]

But how much of a fee would be needed? IER admits that recycling costs are generally more than the economic value of the materials they recover. And bankruptcies have been all too common in an industry that has relied so heavily on disappearing subsidies.

The simple truth is that it is past time for a real accounting of the overall costs to the public and to the environment of a massive increase in the use of solar panels as compared, for example, of increased reliance on non-intermittent technologies like nuclear energy and natural gas.


House of Representatives working to bring back energy dependence

The House of Representatives is advancing a series of bills designed to permanently block access to huge portions of America’s vast oil reserves.

Dr. Jay Lehr reports at CFACT.org that the House wants endless moratoriums (depending on the bill) on pumping oil in the Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelf, the Gulf of Mexico, along the Florida coast, the entire Arctic National Wildlife refuge (ANWR) and others.

The 1973 Arab oil embargo proved just how dangerous dependence on foreign oil can be.  Many of us still remember skyrocketing prices, long lines at the pump, out of control inflation and throbbing economic pain.

Foreign oil dependence is not only dangerous for the American economy, it places our national defense, and with it the security of the world, in real jeopardy.

For decades politicians promised energy independence, but accomplished little.  The private sector stepped up.  The shale energy revolution and discovery of tremendous oil reserves in the U.S. and Canada brought what was once an unrealistic goal into solid being.

Today the United States is at or near the top of world energy production.  Green zealots and their political allies want to shut America’s energy wonder down to the delight of OPEC and Russia.

It takes a special kind of stupid to think that dependence on foreign oil and higher fuel and electricity prices would be good for America or the world.


Climate Change and the Democrats
Climate change is one of those issues that the bien-pensants around the world all agree upon. We must act! If we do not act, people will lose their beach houses. Plants will wither and die. Birds will fall from the sky. Just last week, whole communities in the Caribbean were swept away.

There are, however, problems with eliminating or ameliorating climate change. For one thing, modern technology cannot seem to keep up with people’s ability to dream. Daydreams outpace technology every time. Dream up a problem such as climate change and I guarantee you it will be years before climate change is solved by technology. Though when I ponder some of the solutions now being offered for climate change, it might be worth the wait.

Consider Congressgirl Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She has dreamed up a vast scheme. She calls it the Green New Deal. It envisages all our homes and office buildings, and even factories being revised and rebuilt according to her green code. Others are more moderate. They would only wipe out the commercial airline industry, though the automobile industry could be next. Already there is an ambitious plan afoot in our country to end the life of the plastic straw.

Oh, yes, there is another problem with climate change. It is not a winning issue with the electorate. Any government that attempts this sort of Green Adventure almost immediately falls. I cannot think of a country on Earth whose majority supports climate change legislation. Possibly there is one in the Vatican. We know the pope favors it. Yet I would say that the Vatican is not a conventional democracy.

Australia is a conventional democracy, and climate change legislation has not done very well in Australia. Seven prime ministers have come to power in Australia in recent years, and all came a cropper in one way or another because of climate change. The most famous example of a climate changer being defeated by a climate change denier in Australia was in 2013. In that election, then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who ran on a platform of carbon taxes, was demolished by Tony Abbott, who once referred to climate change activism as crap. He sounds downright Trumpian to me.

Last Wednesday, we saw the Democrats’ lonely crowd of candidates traipse across a stage for a ghostly pageant hosted by CNN. The network finished dead last in the ratings that night, with the other two cable news channels elbowing it aside. The network’s average audience during the seven-hour event (yes, seven-hour!) was a measly 1.1 million viewers, according to The Hill. The topic of the spectacular was climate change. Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN, apparently thought it was the major issue with the Democratic hopefuls, and obviously, they agreed.

Gaffable Joe Biden, Pocahontas, Comrade Bernie Sanders and all the rest arrived on stage Wednesday night to talk about climate change all night long if need be. They compared it to World War II. They compared it to cancer. They blamed it for wars already in progress and wars in the future. One ludicrous comparison was between climate change and overpopulation. The wretched of Africa could be saved by Planned Parenthood’s arrival to the Dark Continent, all wearing pith helmets and garb from L.L. Bean.

Frankly, the Democrats’ obsession with climate change is more than odd. It is delusional. As The American Spectator’s Hunt Lawrence and Daniel J. Flynn wrote in commenting on the Wednesday night revels, health care “matters to voters in a real, tangible way, and not in an abstract sense like climate change.” Health care consumes 18 percent of the American budget, trending upward toward 20 percent by mid-decade. Americans now spend $3.5 trillion or so on health care, with the federal, state and local government footing 45% of the bill. How will we pay for it in 2025? The subject was not even discussed last Wednesday by the leading Democratic contenders.

Lawrence and Flynn are putting their money on health care, not climate change, as an issue in 2020.


White House moving forward to strip California of vehicle authority

The Trump administration is moving forward with a plan to revoke California’s authority to set its own vehicle greenhouse gas standards and declare that states are pre-empted from setting their own vehicle rules, three people briefed on the matter said on Thursday.

President Donald Trump met with senior officials on Thursday at the White House to discuss the administration’s plan to divide its August 2018 proposal to rollback Obama era standards through 2025 and revoke California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act to set state requirements for vehicles, the people said.

The meeting included Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and acting Office and Management and Budget director Russell Vought, the sources said.

The White House and the agencies declined to comment.

On Tuesday, Wheeler told reporters the administration had not made a final decision to divide the rule into two parts.

Following the meeting, sources said the administration plans to move ahead in coming weeks to divide the final regulation and finalize first the portion dealing with preempting states before issuing the new yearly standards.

The EPA in August 2018 proposed revoking a waiver granted to California in 2013 under the Clean Air Act as part of the Trump administration’s plan to roll back Obama-era fuel economy standards.

Under Trump, federal regulators backed freezing emissions requirements for new cars and trucks at 2020 levels through 2026. Administration officials say its final regulation will include a modest boost in annual efficiency requirements but far less than what the Obama administration set in 2012.

The Obama-era rules called for a fleetwide fuel efficiency average of 46.7 mpg by 2025, with average annual increases of about 5%, compared with 37 mpg by 2026 under the Trump administration’s preferred option to freeze requirements.

Last week, Reuters and other news outlets reported the U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether the decision of four automakers in July to reach a voluntary agreement with California to adopt state emissions standards violated antitrust law.

Ford Motor Co, BMW AG, Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) and Honda Motor Co struck a deal to adopt standards that were lower than Obama era rules but higher than the Trump administration’s 2018 proposal.

California and other states had vowed to enforce stricter Obama-era emissions standards, after Trump proposed rolling back the federal rules. Automakers worry that court battles between state and federal governments could create years of uncertainty.


Australian Leftist leader reveals climate change review

After being out of power since 2013 and losing an "unlosable" election, they have cause to change their policies

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has not ruled out scrapping Bill Shorten’s 45 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030, saying the party would now re-examine its promises on climate change.

Mr Albanese and his climate spokesman Mark Butler both shied away from recommitting to the target on Sunday, amid frontbench division on how ambitious Labor’s 2022 election policy on climate change should be.

“(The 45 per cent target) was a commitment that was given in 2015,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Sydney.

“We will examine our short and medium and long term commitments on where we go on climate change but we won’t re-examine our principles. We want to work towards zero emissions by the middle of this century.”

Mr Butler said any new emissions reduction target would still be higher than the Prime Minister’s Paris Agreement aim of 26 to 28 per cent.

“It’s clear 26-28 per cent is fundamentally inconsistent with the obligation to keep global warming way below 2 degrees.” Mr Butler told ABC News.

Asked if he was prepared to restate a commitment to Labor’s 45 per cent target, he would not be drawn.

“What I have said is all our policies are up for review exactly what medium-term targets, numerically are, whether it’s 2030 or 2035 given the passage of time is something we’ll engage over in the next couple of years.

“People can be assured it would be an medium term target utterly consistent with the best scientific advice about how we meet those commitments in the Paris Agreement and keep global warming well below 2 degrees and pursue efforts around 1.5.

“That is our generation’s responsibility to our children around our grandchildren and a responsibility or an obligation really that this government is simply shying away from.”

Former deputy leader Tanya Plibersek was the only Labor MP on Thursday to say she backed an “ambitious” target, following revelations­ in The Australian that the party’s 45 per cent target could be scrapped and a stronger focus given to its 2050 net zero pollution target.

The Greens and environmental groups slammed any weakening of the target, with Greens leader Richard Di Natale accusing Labor of “caving in to the coal, oil and gas lobby”.

Labor’s assistant Treasury and ­financial services spokesman ­Stephen Jones said the party would struggle to meet a 45 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030 if Anthony Albanese won government at the next election.

Labor’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said the ALP should devise climate change polic­ies that would ensure Aust­ralia met its Paris obligations “without doing damage to our economy”.

The comments came as Mr Albanese criticised the government for failing to deal with the drought, after revelations swathes of NSW could run out of water in the next six months.

“The government needs to next week actually come up with a plan for the economy, they need to come up with a plan for the drought,” he said.

“We have a circumstance whereby Dubbo is due to run out of water by November, so the government needs to come up with a drought strategy.

“It’s about time they introduced legislation to deal with the challenges Australia faces rather than just ‘wedge-islation’ to just play politics.”

On Saturday, Nationals leader and Deputy PM Michael McCormack used the party’s federal council meeting to launch the National Water Grid Authority, a $100 million organisation to help secure Australia’s long-term water supplies.

It will bring together scientists and harness local knowledge to shape national water infrastructure policy and identify opportunities for new projects. “It’s has been too long since we built a major dam in this country,” Mr McCormack said.

“This government is establishing the National Water Grid to take out the state- based politics and insert the science with a national-based approach to water security for Australia’s future.” The government has committed to 21 water infrastructure projects with a total construction value of $2 billion.



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