May 29, 2020

Kusile and Medupi, Conceived in Resource-Rich 20th Century, Struggle in Water-Scarce 21st

EMALAHLENI, South Africa – Not far from Johannesburg, set amid the corn and sunflower fields of the Highveld in Mpumalanga province, stand two unusually thick and tall candy-striped smokestacks, dozens of stout concrete support columns, and the tangled steel superstructure of the unfinished 4,800-megawatt Kusile coal-fired power station. About 370 kilometers (230 miles) northwest, spread across a stretch of dry scrubland in Limpopo province, is the construction site for Kusile’s unfinished twin, the 4,800-megawatt Medupi …

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Challenged By Drought, Fire, Earthquake, and Flood, California Departs On New Path

OROVILLE, CA — Until visitors peer over the crest of 770-foot Oroville Dam, which stores the cold Sierra waters of the Feather River and is the tallest dam in the United States, it’s hard to tell a drought grips Butte County, or any of the other neighboring Central Valley counties in this part of northern California. The dirt-lined transport canals are filled to the top with water that slakes the thirst of thousands of hectares …

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U.S. Ports Modernize While Water Supply and Quality Deteriorate

SAVANNAH, Ga. — There’s not much about water infrastructure that gets America’s lawmakers excited these days unless it’s a big coastal port. The New York/New Jersey port, with a big assist from the federal government, is spending $1.3 billion to lift the 84-year-old Bayonne Bridge high enough to allow a new generation of super-sized cargo vessels to pass underneath. Charleston, S.C., with state and federal support, is spending $2 billion to deepen the harbor and …

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Meghalaya Documentary — “Broken Landscape” — Premieres At Big Sky Film Festival

Sean Peoples, a filmmaker with the Wilson Center, arrived today in Missoula, Montana to attend tomorrow’s premiere of “Broken Landscape” at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. The 13-minute documentary, which Sean co-produced with Michael Miller, explores the aftermath of the unexpected court-ordered shutdown of one of the word’s most lawless and dangerous coal fields, in Meghalaya, India. Judges have already recognized “Broken Landscape” as one of the ten best documentaries among the 125 films …

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Algae Blooms, A New Visitor, Ruin Sleeping Bear Dunes Shoreline

EMPIRE, Michigan — It’s winter in Northwest Michigan, the coldest and deepest season of ice and snow in years. It’s possible that the severe winter will produce the conditions necessary to curb the newest noxious and unsightly threat to the region’s waters: the algae blooms overtaking northern Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The blooms not only illustrate the presence of rising levels of nutrients in the water. They also are evidence of …

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Qatar Challenges The Way of the Desert

DOHA, Qatar — Seventy-five years ago all of Qatar, a nation of sand and Arabian (Persian) Gulf shoreline roughly the size of Connecticut, was home to 25,000 residents. Fishing was an economic mainstay. So was spending weeks at sea diving for pearls. Doha, the capital city, was a seaside village. Qatar today is a nation of nearly 2 million people and Doha, its capital and a city swelled by hydrocarbon wealth and Arab ambition, is …

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More on the Energy Boom and Water

Since June 2010, Circle of Blue has pursued a comprehensive and ground breaking reporting project – Choke Point: U.S. — to understand the confrontation between energy production and fresh water supply. Circle of Blue, where I serve as senior editor, is a non-partisan, non-profit, online news organization covering the global freshwater crisis from our six-person newsroom in Traverse City, Michigan. You’ll see from the Web site that when it comes to serious original reporting on …

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In U.S. Big Ideas Prompt Big “No!” In China, It’s The Opposite

In an era of economic turmoil that has produced massive unemployment, accelerated industrial decline, and sowed fear and doubt across much of North America and Europe, China last week offered a much different lesson on growth and development. In the latest draft of its new 12th Five-Year Plan to manage the world’s fastest growing industrial economy, China’s leadership called for restraining the runaway growth that is raising the incomes of more than 400 million people, …

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Midwest’s Emerging Solar Manufacturing Sector

Michigan and Ohio have emerged as important centers of solar energy manufacturing. Here’s my latest piece in the New York Times. Big question for the two states and the rest of the American clean energy industry: Will the November election snuff out recent advances? Many of the conservative lawmakers elected to state Legislatures, governors’ offices, and Congress campaigned aggressively against climate science and public incentives for renewable energy. — Keith Schneider

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In Era of Climate Change and Water Scarcity, Meeting National Energy Demand Confronts Major Impediments

Photo © Brent Stirton / Reportage by Getty Images for Circle of Blue The All-American Canal, the main water conduit from the Colorado River into the Imperial Dam, flows through the Imperial Valley, Calif. The U.S. consumes about 100 billion gallons of water a day. Nearly 85 percent is used for crop and livestock production. Of the 16.1 billion gallons that remain, half is devoted to producing energy. In November 2009, in pursuit of a …

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