To Compete with Electric Engines, Aramco Incrementally Improving Fuel Efficiency of Combustion Engines

(p. B1) NOVI, Mich.—The world’s largest oil company has 30 engineers working away in this Detroit suburb on a project that sounds counterintuitive: an engine that burns less oil.

But there is a common-sense explanation for why the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known as Saudi Aramco, wants a more efficient internal combustion engine. It is trying to protect its market share by slowing a potential exodus to electric vehicles.

David Cleary, head of Saudi Aramco’s Detroit Research Center, said the company’s goal with its research is to preserve the market for fuel. To that end, he said, any breakthroughs in better-engine designs would be widely shared.

“We are trying to get technology into production, and we want to be very fast,” Mr. Cleary said.

While electric-vehicle adoption remains small globally, and is expected to rise gradually, the prospect of a large-scale shift is setting up a showdown between oil companies and utilities over who will power tomorrow’s cars.

For the full story, see:

Russell Gold. “Big Oil Reinvents Engines to Survive.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, July 16, 2018): B1-B2.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 15, 2018, and has the title “Oil, Utilities Fight to Fuel Vehicles of the Future.”)

“Land Rebound” May Slow Glacial Retreat by 40%

(p. A5) The complex relationship between Antarctica’s glaciers and the land on which they rest may help slow the rate of ice loss in the long term, according to a new method for modeling such interactions.

. . .

The new model takes into account, at a higher resolution than previous ones, the way land springs up after ice is removed, according to glaciologists. (Models break up geographical areas into grids, like pixels in a photo. The smaller the area those grids represent, the more detail a model has.) The land rebound helps stabilize glaciers by propping them up at the point where the frozen rivers start to float. The ground’s hold increases friction, which steadies them.

The phenomenon has been documented and studied in other parts of the world, including North America, which was once covered with glaciers.

The effect is greatest after a lot of a glacier’s mass has been lost, according to the study, which was published Thursday [April 25, 2019] in the journal Science.

. . .

The team focused on West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier, which scientists believe is especially vulnerable to climate change. Earlier this year, NASA scientists used radar to find a massive gap between its ice and the bedrock, where water could creep in and melt it from below.

Within the next 100 years, the rebound of land beneath Thwaites could slow down the glacier’s retreat by about 1%, according to the study. But by 2350, that effect could hover around 40%, as more mass is lost and the earth has more opportunity to rebound.

For the full story, see:

Daniela Hernandez. “Study Sees Slower Glacial Retreat.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, April 26, 2019): A5.

(Note: bracketed date, and ellipses, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 25, 2019, and has the title “New Model Suggests Slower Decline of Glaciers.”)

“Macron Is Concerned with the End of the World; We Are Concerned with the End of the Month”

(p. A6) “Bosses prefer taking on temporary workers,” says Virginie Bonnin, 40, who works in local auto parts plants. “We are disposable.”

A single mother of three girls, Ms. Bonnin earns €1,900 a month. She learns on Thursday nights what her hours will be for the coming week. When her jobs end, she is sustained by unemployment benefits of about €1,400 a month.

“I’m not the worst off,” she says. “But it’s tricky.  In those times, I will not eat meat so that the kids can eat meat.” Her last summer vacation, a sacred French institution, was two years ago.

Ms. Bonnin was provoked into joining the Yellow Vests by the same measure that mobilized much of the country, a tax on gasoline that was to take effect in January.

Mr. Macron promoted it as a means of adapting to climate change. Outside major cities, where people rely on cars to get nearly everywhere, it supplied proof that the president was indifferent to the working class.  “Macron is concerned with the end of the world,” one Yellow Vest slogan put it.  “We are concerned with the end of the month.”

That accusation endured even after Mr. Macron suspended the gas tax in the face of Yellow Vest furor.

For the full story, see:

(Note:  the online version of the story has the date April 15, 2019, and has the title “Inequality Fuels Rage of ‘Yellow Vests’ in Equality-Obsessed France.”)

Variability of Wind and Solar Increase Costs of Reliable Energy Sources

(p. A17) President Trump mocked the Democrats’ Green New Deal and its renewable-energy aspirations in a recent speech: “When the wind stops blowing, that’s the end of your electric.” But the most destructive consequence of wind and solar power result from periods of oversupply.
Coal and gas generating plants have to be kept on standby and ramped up to cover the shortfall resulting from still air and darkness. That forces them to operate less efficiently and pushes their costs up. During periods of low demand, wind and solar can produce too much electricity, creating gluts and driving wholesale prices negative, meaning grid operators have to pay consumers to burn unwanted energy. That makes nuclear, coal and gas generators unprofitable, necessitating extra subsidies to save the power stations needed to keep the lights on.

For the full commentary, see:
Rupert Darwall. “When There’s Too Much Sun and Wind; The biggest danger of renewable energy is overproduction.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, March 11, 2019): A17.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 10, 2019.)

Miami Is “Investing in Resilience”

(p. A27) Climate change is not a distant threat for Miami; it’s a daily presence in people’s lives. The city has been fighting to stay above water for decades. It knows that its future as a vibrant international hub for business, tourism, arts and culture depends on making the city more resilient to the impact of global warming.
That’s why the city of Miami is moving aggressively to adapt; in 2017, its citizens voted to tax themselves to build resilience against flooding and storm surges by approving a $400 million bond issue that is financing projects across the city.
. . .
Investing in resilience protects businesses and communities from devastating losses, so it must be measured in the lives saved and businesses that remain open. We are only now learning how to quantify these benefits to communities. Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, for example, calculated that projects to reduce wind and water damage avoided $81 million in losses when Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016, while costing only $19 million to carry out. The projects included raising buildings, improving drainage, and buying and demolishing properties in vulnerable areas.

For the full commentary, see:
Ban Ki-moon and Francis Suarez. “Miami’s Battle Plan for Rising Seas.” The New York Times (Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019): A27.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Feb. 20, 2019, and has the title “Miami Battles Rising Seas.”)

Cow Burps Increase Global Warming More Than Cow Farts

(p. A10) Agriculture was responsible for 9 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2016, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. While the sectors with the most emissions were transportation and electricity generation, at 28 percent each, United States agricultural emissions were still greater than Britain’s total emissions in 2014, according to data from the World Bank.
Cows and other ruminants are responsible for two-thirds of those agricultural emissions. Their guts produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that’s more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, though it also dissipates faster. Cows release some of that methane through their flatulence, but much more by burping.
Deer, camels and sheep also produce methane. But in the United States, it’s cows that primarily account for the 26.9 percent of methane emissions, more than any other source. Natural gas accounts for 25 percent.

For the full story, see:
Pierre-Louis, Kendra. “Source of the Problem, Also Part of the Solution.” The New York Times (Saturday, March 7, 2019): A10.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 6, 2019, and has the title “No One Is Taking Your Hamburgers. But Would It Even Be a Good Idea?”)

Ports Can and Do Adapt to Rising Sea

(p. B5) When the Port of Virginia began a sweeping renovation of its major Norfolk International Terminals, some easy-to-miss line items on the $375 million agenda included boosting the site’s electric power stations several feet off the ground and adding data servers as far back from the water as possible.
The actions at the fifth-largest container gateway in the U.S. are among the small steps seaports are starting to undertake as more reports project rising ocean levels in the coming years and cargo terminals consider the impact of higher waters and increasingly forceful storm surges.
. . .
Most major ports have infrastructure plans that don’t extend as far into the future as the forecasts for climate change, said Walter Kemmsies, an economist specializing in ports and infrastructure at real-estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.
. . .
Ports whose berths are at least 14 feet above sea level at high tide should be safe from flooding for the near future, Mr. Kemmsies said. “As long as the probability is really low and it wouldn’t matter if you raised everything by a foot or two, you leave it alone until the cost-benefit ratio might be higher,” he said.
That is the case at the Port of Houston, where officials said container docks stand 18 feet above the water.
Houston is the largest U.S. hub for energy exports and a rapidly growing container port. It also has withstood some of the worst storms to hit the U.S. in recent years, including Hurricane Ike in 2008 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

For the full story, see:
Erica E. Phillips. “Seaports Add Protections as Ocean Levels Rise.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019): B5.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version has the date Feb. 11, 2019, and has the title “At the Water’s Edge, Seaports Are Slowly Bracing for Rising Ocean Levels.”)