Peter Coy | A Gold Mine of Clean Energy May Be Hiding Under Our Feet – The New York Times

“Sometimes we miss things in front of our faces. We don’t see what we aren’t looking for. “We can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness,” Daniel Kahneman, the psychologist who shared a Nobel in economic science, wrote in his 2011 book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” A flower, for instance. “Nobody sees a flower — really — it is so small — we haven’t time — and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time,” the artist Georgia O’Keeffe once wrote.

You know what else has been hiding in plain sight? Hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe. Hydrogen, which is heralded as the clean energy carrier of the future because its only combustion product is water.

Sure, we’ve known about the hydrogen that’s locked up with oxygen in water molecules and with carbon in fossil fuels like propane. But we — and by “we” I mean everybody except for a handful of scientists and some people in Mali (I’ll get to that) — never really saw, and never expected to see, hydrogen floating around on its own in gaseous form.

“Hydrogen does not exist freely in nature,” the National Renewable Energy Laboratory confidently states on its website. “Hydrogen occurs naturally on Earth only in compound form with other elements in liquids, gases or solids,” the U.S. Energy Information Administration avers.”

“. . . . . But the optimism is welling up. There may be hundreds of millions of megatons of hydrogen in Earth’s crust, and even if only 10 percent of it is accessible, that would last thousands of years at the current rate of consumption, Geoffrey Ellis, a research geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver, told me. He and a colleague, Sarah Gelman, presented their findings to the Geological Society of America in October.

OK, I asked him, but isn’t the idea that the future rate of consumption would be much higher than the current rate? True, he acknowledged. Right now hydrogen is mainly used for lightening and sweetening crude oil, making ammonia for fertilizer, treating metals and processing foods. Cheap hydrogen could also be used to generate electricity or power vehicles. “If we found it everywhere, we’d use it for more things, so maybe it would last only hundreds of years,” he said. “But hopefully in hundreds of years we have cheap fusion so we don’t have to worry about any of this.”

As for cost, natural hydrogen from the ground should be producible for less than $1 per kilogram, versus around $5 per kilogram for green hydrogen that’s derived from water by electrolysis, said Viacheslav Zgonnik, the chief executive of a Denver-based start-up, Natural Hydrogen Energy. “My opinion is biased, of course, but I believe that it will happen. That’s why I’m continuing to work on it,” he said. ” . . . . .

Tesla Powerwall — SunFusion Energy Systems

“Are you considering a Tesla Powerwall system for your home?

If so, you realize the benefits that a system like that can bring. Having the ability to power your entire home on battery provides distinct benefits:

  • Immunity from power outages and brownouts.

  • Save money on monthly energy bills by charging batteries using solar or off-peak grid power.

  • Keep your home running when utility companies shut off the power to your neighborhood.”

Source: Tesla Powerwall — SunFusion Energy Systems

As Heat Pumps Go Mainstream, a Big Question: Can They Handle Real Cold? – The New York Times

“Over the past decade, heat pumps have been steadily making their way into more American homes. There was a major milestone last year when they surpassed gas furnaces in annual sales by a wide margin.

But the blistering cold weather descending on the Midwest this week has many homeowners wondering: Do heat pumps still work in freezing temperatures?

Experts and electrification advocates say that they do — and that even in cold weather, they can still be more efficient, and better for the climate, than furnaces and boilers that run on fossil fuels.

An electric heat pump is an all-in-one heating and cooling unit, essentially an air-conditioner that runs in two directions. In the summer, it functions like a traditional A.C. unit, pumping heat out of the home and pulling cooler air back in. In the winter, it draws heat into the home. That might seem surprising, but it’s true. Even when it’s bitterly cold outside, there is still heat available. As it gets colder, heat pumps have to work harder, using more energy, to extract that heat.”

David Lindsay Jr.
NYT Comment:

I love my 8 ductless split heat pumps by LG. I have a 450 sq ft house in Connecticut, and these splits completely heat and cool the house all year round. We also have a heat pump hot water heater, an electric car, and hybrid prius prime that has a 25 mile electric battery, that covers most of my local driving. All of this is powered by 54 solar panels on the east, west and south roofs, so we don’t have to worry about buying dirty energy which is a plus. I am pleased to report, that after three solar installations, the home is now a private power generation station with an annual output capacity of 14.83 kW. Yes, we still have our gas furnace as a backup, and we run it monthly to make sure it is working, but we haven’t actually needed it since the third group of solar panels were installed. When the temperature approached zero, the splits worked fine. We made one mistake with the installation of the the two condensers which we put on the outside wall of the family room, on brackets, attached to the house. We have dance band and singing parties and rehearsals in the family room, which are hampered by the loud low rumblings of the condensers against the wall. I should have spent a little more, to have these two condensers mounted on cement footings on the ground a few feet from the house, to maintain the sanctity or functionality of our music making room.

David is a dance caller and musician, song leader and folk singer, who blogs about the enviroment at

Robinson Mayer | A Huge, Uncharted Experiment on the U.S. Economy Is About to Begin – The New York Times

”  . . . . .  But I worry that the federal government has started its experiments too haphazardly. The Inflation Reduction Act did not emerge from careful study and bipartisan consensus building, but from intraparty haggling and a harried legislative process. Even the bipartisan CHIPS Act was more of a crisis measure than a strategic intervention. These shortcomings are forgivable; in the Inflation Reduction Act’s case, it’s not like Republicans were ever going to help pass a climate bill. But these constraints have deprived the government of the strong institutions, internal expertise and administrative capacity that have made similar experiments successful in other countries.

For practical purposes, that means, first, that the government won’t be able to spend all this money in the right place. The U.S. financial system persistently struggles to fund projects that take a long time to turn a profit and that can expect to have only modest returns. Unfortunately, the biggest and most important physical infrastructure — factories, transmission lines — often fall under that category. In other countries, industrial policy has entailed creating an agile, entrepreneurial agency that can get money to the right companies in the right ways — as a loan, as equity, as a purchase guarantee.

Congress took some steps in that direction last year. The Inflation Reduction Act beefed up the Loan Programs Office, the Department of Energy’s in-house bank, and it established a new green lending office within the Environmental Protection Agency. But Congress has put these institutions on a short leash with a limited mandate. This means that the government can’t support as many risky investments as it should.

Second, the government may lack the ability to coordinate its own actions. Late last year, the Biden administration declined to help reopen a “green” aluminum factory in Ferndale, Wash., that was exactly the kind of low-carbon industry it wants to champion. The local union, electric vehicle makers and the state’s Democratic leadership all wanted to revive the factory. The project even has national-security relevance, since the United States currently imports aluminum from Russia. But Mr. Biden chose not to intercede with the local electricity provider, the Bonneville Power Administration, to supply the plant with enough cheap power to operate even though it is a federal agency ostensibly under the president’s control. Never mind the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing: The right hand couldn’t get the left hand to plug the cord in.

Finally, the government may not understand enough about the companies it’s trying to help. In Taiwan and South Korea, industrial-policy agencies don’t only hand out money; they constantly gather information from the private sector and use it to adjust goals and policies over time. The Inflation Reduction Act contains very few mechanisms for this kind of in-flight course adjustment. Its main incentives are tax credits, which are hard to repeal once they’re in place and hard to fix if they’re not working. They are an unusually mindless way to incentivize companies to change their behavior.” . . . .

David Wallace-Wells | Europe Turned an Energy Crisis Into a Green Energy Sprint – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

“This was supposed to be a winter of energy crisis in Europe. Beginning last spring, not long after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the fear of gas shortages spread across the continent, along with fears of what might follow. The coming winter crunch was compared to wartime, with energy experts less focused on whether it would bring rationing than how much. Others suggested that spectacular price spikes would mean suspensions of energy markets and that the continent as a whole would experience not a “cost of living crisis” but a crisis of “molecules” — in which there wasn’t enough energy to be had, no matter the price. A recession was simply taken for granted among the commentariat — almost like a badge of honor demonstrating the moral valor of standing up to Vladimir Putin.

Europe as a whole has indeed endured a lot through the cold months: dramatic spikes in energy prices, with wholesale prices for electricity and gas growing as much as 15-fold, often accompanied by similar spikes in government relief. Countries from Germany to Denmark and Italy spent more than 5 percent of G.D.P. to shield citizens from the crunch, enacting public conservation measures that darkened city streets and limited power use in other ways. In Britain, average bills were expected to grow by 80 percent before the government artificially lowered the average annual household energy bill to about $3,000. Across the continent, people turned their thermostats down and snuggled with hot water bottles at night. Industry was dialed back in places but also often found alternative power supplies.

All told, though, the worst has not come to pass. There were no blackouts, as experts were warning as recently as December. There was no significant mortality from the cold. Industrial production took some hits but didn’t disappear, and indeed, economic forecasters who were six months ago almost unanimously predicting a continentwide recession are now almost unanimously predicting ongoing, if limited, economic growth. There are still worries about whether next winter will prove as manageable as this one, but natural gas storage levels have remained high for months, and gas prices have now fallen back to where they were in September of 2021, several months before the invasion.

What is perhaps most remarkable is that the European Union has not just managed to avert a crisis but has actually “turbocharged the green transition,” as The Economist recently put it, potentially enough to knock a full decade off the continent’s decarbonization timeline.”

U.S. Carbon Emissions Grew in 2022, Even As Renewables Surpassed Coal – The New York Times


“America’s greenhouse gas emissions from energy and industry increased 1.3 percent in 2022, continuing to rebound from an abrupt pandemic decline in 2020 but not quite reaching prepandemic levels, according to preliminary estimates published Tuesday by the Rhodium Group, a nonpartisan research firm.

Emissions ticked up even as renewable energy surpassed coal power nationwide for the first time in over six decades, with wind, solar and hydropower generating 22 percent of the country’s electricity compared with 20 percent from coal. Growth in natural gas power generation also compensated for coal’s decline.”

Major Nuclear Fusion Energy Breakthrough to Be Announced by Scientists – The New York Times

“Scientists at a federal nuclear weapons facility have made a potentially significant advance in fusion research that could lead to a source of bountiful energy in the future, according to a government official.

The advance is expected to be announced Tuesday by the Department of Energy, which said a “major scientific breakthrough” was made at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Jennifer Granholm, the energy secretary, and White House and other Energy Department officials are expected to be in attendance. The Financial Times reported on Sunday that the scientific advance involves the National Ignition Facility, or NIF, which uses giant lasers to create conditions that briefly mimic the explosions of nuclear weapons.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
This is extremely good news, if we keep the planet healthy enough to ever enjoy it. Thank you Kenneth Chang and the NYT.
We will still need a revolution in human consumption and population reduction, since according to leading scientist, our survival most likely depends on the survival of many other species. And we do not know which ones are essential, wrote Edward O Wilson.

Inside the Saudi Strategy to Keep the World Hooked on Oil – The New York Times

“. . . . . Saudi Aramco has become a prolific funder of research into critical energy issues, financing almost 500 studies over the past five years, including research aimed at keeping gasoline cars competitive or casting doubt on electric vehicles, according to the Crossref database, which tracks academic publications. Aramco has collaborated with the United States Department of Energy on high-profile research projects including a six-year effort to develop more efficient gasoline and engines, as well as studies on enhanced oil recovery and other methods to bolster oil production.

Aramco also runs a global network of research centers including a lab near Detroit where it is developing a mobile “carbon capture” device — equipment designed to be attached to a gasoline-burning car, trapping greenhouse gases before they escape the tailpipe. More widely, Saudi Arabia has poured $2.5 billion into American universities over the past decade, making the kingdom one of the nation’s top contributors to higher education.

ImageMen in long, white robes and keffiyehs entering a domed tent.
Visitors to a Saudi forum at the United Nations climate conference in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, this month.Credit…Kelvin Chan/Associated Press
Saudi interests have spent close to $140 million since 2016 on lobbyists and others to influence American policy and public opinion, making it one of the top countries spending on U.S. lobbying, according to disclosures to the Department of Justice tallied by the Center for Responsive Politics.” . . . .

How the New Climate Law Can Save You Thousands of Dollars – Coral Davenport – The New York Times

“The Inflation Reduction Act signed into law by President Biden in August includes about $370 billion to fight climate change, some of it in the form of tax credits and rebates to help consumers save thousands of dollars on energy-efficient appliances, plug-in vehicles and renewable electricity for their homes.

But taking advantage of those savings will require patience and initiative.

The Biden administration has created a website designed to help you figure out which cars, appliances and home improvements will qualify for the tax credits and rebates. The answers are not yet clear in many cases because the programs are so new or the requirements of the law so stringent. White House officials say the website will be frequently updated as details take shape, and they advise consumers to subscribe to receive emailed updates.

Here’s what we know so far about how to use the new law to save money. One thing all the benefits have in common: Each one runs through at least 2032.”

Can This Man Solve Europe’s Energy Conundrum? – The New York Times

Stanley Reed reported this article in Wilhelmshaven, Hamburg and Werlte, Germany.

“Europe’s energy crisis is rooted in its love affair with natural gas, and now its citizens are paying the price for dependence on gas piped in from Russia. At the same time, Europe’s lawmakers and businesses are searching for an alternative that could keep its homes warm and power factories yet help the continent reach its climate goals.

One answer may be in a fuel that burns just like natural gas but uses hydrogen to help the continent reach its carbon goals. At a proposed hub on the northern coast of Germany, Marco Alverà is planning to deliver such gas — a clean and affordable synthetic substitute for the fossil fuels that Europe is importing in vast quantities at high cost.

“We are the cheapest way to replace oil and gas and coal without having to change the way we think about energy,” Mr. Alverà, 47, said over a lunch of pizza at the storefront his company has set up in Wilhelmshaven, a port city in northwest Germany. “We can go in the same ships, the same pipes, the same factories.”

Hydrogen, an emissions-free fuel made from water, features prominently in plans to run factories, power airplanes and heat homes in the future, and Europe’s energy crisis is only intensifying that interest. But the electrical process to create hydrogen gas typically results in abundant carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Hydrogen can be made cleanly — using renewable electricity — but until now the costs have been too high.

Mr. Alverà and his company, Tree Energy Solutions, or TES, attempt to overcome these problems by creating a synthetic “green” methane — the main ingredient in natural gas — from hydrogen that’s made using renewable energy and carbon dioxide, generated as a byproduct of different manufacturing process. The fuel would be usable where natural gas is used but release less greenhouse gases. And it would not come from Russia.

To minimize costs of making clean hydrogen, the company would sign deals to use giant solar farms in parts of the world that get a lot of sun, like the Persian Gulf, or where hydroelectric power is abundant. The gas could be liquefied and shipped via tanker, like liquefied natural gas.”