The Grid: Energy, Resources, Environment, Sustainability | Bloomberg

Spring's Alarm Clock Rings Early in 2012

Dandelions In Bloom, Numbrecht, North Rhine-Westphalia,

The temperature in Montgomery County, Maryland, topped 60 degrees Fahrenheit last weekend. Bright atmospheric conditions couldn't dissuade my four-year-old daughter and me from heading indoors to ice-skate (first time!). As we walked to the car afterwards, M. noticed a dandelion, which she picked and marveled at. My two thoughts: First, that's extremely weird for Jan. 8, and second, she has no idea how weird it is.

Dandelions, crocuses, cherries and hydrangeas are blooming around the Washington metropolitan area. "They don't have clocks," said Laura Miller, the county's forest conservation coordinator, when I called her yesterday. "They just have to hit a certain cold [temperature] for a certain period of time," before they reset for spring. Unseasonably warm weather and the lengthening days of sunshine were enough to trick the dandelions.

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Wind Power to Shipyard: Release the Kraken

The Innovation

Like arms of a steel kraken, cranes stretch skyward behind run-down brick warehouses in the Polish shipyard of Gdynia. This is where Hochtief AG, Germany's biggest builder, is spending 200 million euros ($268 million) erecting the world's most powerful ship that builds wind farms at sea.

The unfinished 147-meter-long beast, dubbed "Innovation," looks like an aircraft carrier sitting in dry dock. Instead of fighter jets, though, its deck will load windmills. Germany plans to install as much as 10,000 megawatts of sea-based turbines by the end of this decade, up from about 200 megawatts today, and Hochtief may build as many as many as three more ships to meet demand, said Ulrich Reinke, who heads the company's energy division.

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Whole Fracking World Eyes U.S. Shale: Hot off the Griddle

Good afternoon, and welcome back to the Griddle, a menu of fortified items for the busy person's media diet. The world wants to frack. Even as the U.S. debates tainted water and earthquakes linked to hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, companies from China, Europe and Japan are buying up North American stakes to gain the expertise and land rights to do it themselves. In the last two weeks alone, energy producers from China, France and Japan have committed $8.3 billion to U.S. and Canadian shale rock for drilling. Shale acquisitions helped push overseas offers for U.S. oil and gas fields to $51billion last year. Scott Hanold, a Minneapolis-based analyst for RBC Capital Markets, told Bloomberg News reporter Joe Carroll, "There's not a lot of fear of regulation right now."

And now this week's Best of Bloomberg Sustainability:

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Mongolia's Renewables Belittle World's Nuclear Supply

Mongolia Catches Wind of Renwables

Untapped mineral riches are fueling Mongolia’s ambition to compete with Australia and Brazil in Asia. The nation's resource-based economy grew 21 percent last quarter alone.

This largesse obscures a potential aboveground treasure also awaiting investors.

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Frack-Quake Coverage: Hot off the Griddle

Good afternoon, and welcome back to the Griddle, a menu of fortified items for the busy person's media diet. “You lose your whole house, that’s your life savings." That concern prompted Charles P. Sammarone, the mayor of Youngstown, Ohio, to take out earthquake insurance, after tremors linked to natural gas drilling shook the region. Ohio residents and policymakers are weighing the risks of the shale gas extraction process -- known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking -- against the enormous profits that come from it. As Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Governor John Kasich, told Bloomberg News reporter Mark Niquette: "We are not going to stand by and let someone drive a stake through the heart of what could be an economic revival in Eastern Ohio."

And now the news:

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10Q: Achates Power Reinvents the Engine

Achates Power's Two-Stroke Diesel engine

Imagine the commercial delivery truck of the future -- powered by a silent electric engine and emitting fresher air than it takes in. Now keep imagining, because for the next few decades, the reality is that roads will more likely be dominated by the same internal-combustion vehicles our grandparents drove.

In the meantime, Achates Power has revisited a century-old concept of how to remake the internal combustion automobile engine so it’s cheaper, has fewer emissions and uses less fuel. It may not be the future you imagined, but sometimes the best new ideas are actually old ones.

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Good Weather for Coffee: Hot off the Griddle

Good morning, and welcome back to the Griddle, a menu of fortified items for the busy person's media diet. "It was a good year for Brazilian coffee," states the 78-year-old coffee brokerage Escritorio Carvalhaes, in its last 2011 weekly report. Arabica beans, the coffee variety common at Starbucks, finished the year expensive -- 42 percent above the 5-year average. High prices were caused in part by heavy rains last spring in Colombia, influenced by a strong La Nina. Now, coffee addicts are paying the price. Starbucks announced yesterday it would raise prices on some drinks across many of its 10,800 U.S. locations. The outlook for 2012? Carvalhaes: Extreme weather and “market fundamentals will maintain prices in 2012."

And now the news:

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Extreme Weather: Hot off the Griddle

Good afternoon, and welcome back to the Griddle, a menu of fortified items for the busy person's media diet. Winds exceeding 100 miles per hour whip Scotland. Dry weather from Ukraine to Argentina threaten the global grain supply. The northeastern quadrant of the U.S. will be five to eight degrees higher than normal next week. And it's only January 3. After last year's extreme weather will 2012 be worse? As in all affairs the most reliable expectation should be reversion toward the mean. The only trouble is, the climate 'mean' is changing, and no one knows how fast.

And now the news:

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Last-Minute Edition: Hot off the Griddle

Good afternoon, and welcome back to the Griddle, a menu of fortified items for the busy person's media diet. Retailers are going to unprecedented lengths to make sure the Christmas season is as productive as it can be. Something's working: The National Retailers Federation projects a 3.8 percent increase in sales over last year. Some stores are extending their hours, giving customers an opportunity to engage in what might be called endurance shopping. Toys 'R' Us is keeping almost all of its 600 U.S. stores open for 112 straight hours. Some Macy's stores are going 83 hours without turning deadbolts, Matt Townsend of Bloomberg News reported today.

Almost a third of shoppers still had holiday shopping to do this week. They may need something to read. Here's the Best of Bloomberg Sustainability from this week:

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10Q: Exploring Attenborough's Earth

David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough is a British Broadcasting Corp. filmmaker who was knighted in 1985 for his science and nature documentaries. He spoke recently with Alex Morales, climate change reporter for Bloomberg News. The interview was conducted at an event marking the publication of “Edward Wilson’s Antarctic Notebook,” by David and Christopher Wilson. The book celebrates the scientific notes and artwork that Edward Wilson produced on British explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s two Antarctic expeditions in the early 1900s. The venue was the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's London Wetland Centre. Scott's son Peter, a founder of the World Wide Fund for Nature, established the trust in 1946.

Q: You’re here to celebrate the centenary of Captain Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition. How important were the early explorers to our scientific understanding of the extremes of the planet?
A: They were the pioneers. At the time they had a huge influence because it was the first bit of information. Taking the first step of anything, understanding what’s happening at the Poles is very important. That no discovery he made revolutionized anything immediately is neither here nor there. It was the first step.

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About The Grid

Nations and companies face rising competition for strategic resources — energy, food, water, materials — and the technologies that make best use of them. That's sustainability. It's about the 21st-century race for wealth, health and long-term security, across the global grid.

Analyses or commentary in this blog are the views of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg News.

Eric Roston, Editor
eroston@bloomberg.net

Tom Randall, Deputy Editor
trandall6@bloomberg.net

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