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Chasing New Horizons – Alan Stern & David Grinspoon


Chasing New Horizons
Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto
Alan Stern & David Grinspoon

Genre: Astronomy

Price: $14.99

Publish Date: May 1, 2018

Publisher: Picador

Seller: Macmillan

Called “spellbinding” ( Scientific American ) and “thrilling…a future classic of popular science” ( PW ), the up close, inside story of the greatest space exploration project of our time, New Horizons’ mission to Pluto, as shared with David Grinspoon by mission leader Alan Stern and other key players. On July 14, 2015, something amazing happened. More than 3 billion miles from Earth, a small NASA spacecraft called New Horizons screamed past Pluto at more than 32,000 miles per hour, focusing its instruments on the long mysterious icy worlds of the Pluto system, and then, just as quickly, continued on its journey out into the beyond. Nothing like this has occurred in a generation—a raw exploration of new worlds unparalleled since NASA’s Voyager missions to Uranus and Neptune—and nothing quite like it is planned to happen ever again. The photos that New Horizons sent back to Earth graced the front pages of newspapers on all 7 continents, and NASA’s website for the mission received more than 2 billion hits in the days surrounding the flyby. At a time when so many think that our most historic achievements are in the past, the most distant planetary exploration ever attempted not only succeeded in 2015 but made history and captured the world’s imagination. How did this happen? Chasing New Horizons is the story of the men and women behind this amazing mission: of their decades-long commitment and persistence; of the political fights within and outside of NASA; of the sheer human ingenuity it took to design, build, and fly the mission; and of the plans for New Horizons’ next encounter, 1 billion miles past Pluto in 2019. Told from the insider’s perspective of mission leader Dr. Alan Stern and others on New Horizons, and including two stunning 16-page full-color inserts of images, Chasing New Horizons is a riveting account of scientific discovery, and of how much we humans can achieve when people focused on a dream work together toward their incredible goal.

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Chasing New Horizons – Alan Stern & David Grinspoon

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California utilities say, “No batteries for you!”

California utilities say, “No batteries for you!”


No batteries allowed.

California has the nation’s biggest “net metering” program, allowing solar panel and wind turbine owners to pump their excess electrons onto their local power grid so they can be sold to their neighbors by a utility company.

But in some cases the state’s utilities are refusing to allow customers to take part in the program if they hook up a battery to their renewable energy system. In others, the utilities will allow solar plus battery systems — but only if customers submit to costly double-metering upgrades.

The companies claim battery owners could game the system by pumping dirty power through their pristine power lines instead of the renewable variety for which the program was designed. Critics, on the other hand, accuse the utility companies of putting up roadblocks to prevent the renewables renaissance from making the utilities and the dirty electricity that they sell obsolete.

“We wanted to have an alternative in case of a blackout to keep the refrigerator running,” Matthew Sperling told Bloomberg after he spent $30,000 installing eight panels and eight batteries atop his Santa Barbara home. He says Southern California Edison rejected his application to link the system to the grid:

Power-market regulations and the industry’s ability to monitor flows from solar systems haven’t kept pace with the technology, said Gary Stern, director of regulatory policy at Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International.

“Our rules are not really caught up to effectively include issues with energy storage,” Stern said in a phone interview from Rosemead, California.

The company doesn’t want to “discourage solar” and is working with regulators to come up with “reasonable policies” for battery-storage systems, said Vanessa McGrady, a Southern California Edison spokeswoman.

State regulators are aware of the problem and are working on guidance to offer both solar installers and utilities, according to Terrie Prosper, a spokeswoman for the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco.

“There have been some complaints from developers in Southern California Edison’s territory that Edison has inconsistently applied the benefits of net energy metering to energy-storage projects,” Prosper said in an e-mail. The commission is working with all three utilities “to provide formal direction on these issues in the coming months.”

Until this is resolved, Californians who own solar panels and battery packs have two main options: disconnect the battery, or bulk up on hardware and go entirely off the (electric) grid.

Battery-Stored Solar Power Sparks Backlash From Utilities, Bloomberg

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants: johnupton@gmail.com.

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California utilities say, “No batteries for you!”

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America wants Kyoto Protocol replaced with peer-pressure campaign

America wants Kyoto Protocol replaced with peer-pressure campaign


Can peer pressure save the planet?

America never ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, and it doesn’t want the rest of the world ever signing anything like it again.

As world climate delegates try (not very successfully, mind you) to thrash out a new agreement to replace the protocol, which expired last year, the U.S. is pushing a very different approach to reducing the world’s greenhouse gas emissions: international peer pressure.

Instead of agreeing to a set of emissions goals, America wants each country to set its own targets — in the hopes that the glare of the international community will encourage governments to make those targets meaningful. America’s goal appears to be to agree to not agree.

From The Guardian:

The proposal that a global climate deal by 2015 should be based on national “contributions” gained traction at last week’s round of UN talks in Germany, although China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, said it wanted far more binding commitments by wealthy countries.

In the first public US statements on the plan, Todd Stern, the US State Department’s special envoy on climate change, told reporters on Tuesday that the US approach was designed to bring as many countries as possible to the table through a form of peer pressure and break the impasse over a successor to the 1997 Kyoto protocol.

“Countries, knowing that they will be subject to the scrutiny of everybody else, will be urged to put something down they feel they can defend and that they feel is strong,” Stern said from Berlin during a summit of environmental ministers focused on ways to advance the UN climate talks. …

Stern said that having each country’s plans and targets “in an environment of intense public interest” may encourage countries to step up their existing plans.

Peer pressure often takes hold in the playground. Given that delegates have been squabbling and dithering like children as they try to reach a worldwide plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, I guess the hope is that it will work here too.

John Upton is a science aficionado and green news junkie who


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blogs about ecology

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America wants Kyoto Protocol replaced with peer-pressure campaign

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Famed climate economist Nicholas Stern: ‘I underestimated the risks’ of climate change

Famed climate economist Nicholas Stern: ‘I underestimated the risks’ of climate change

You will be forgiven for not knowing who Nicholas Stern is. In short, a former chief economist for the World Bank, he began service in the office of Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. There, in 2005, he was asked to produce what became a definitive assessment of the economic effects of climate change. Published in 2006, the “Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change” suggested that climate change would result in a 5 percent drop in the annual gross domestic product in perpetuity, and that stabilizing the climate would itself cost 2 percent — a massive sum.

World Economic Forum

Nicholas Stern not being listened to at Davos, 2009.

Last week in Davos, however, Stern suggested that his conclusions were wrong. They were too optimistic. From The Guardian:

In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Stern, who is now a crossbench peer, said: “Looking back, I underestimated the risks. The planet and the atmosphere seem to be absorbing less carbon than we expected, and emissions are rising pretty strongly. Some of the effects are coming through more quickly than we thought then.”

The Stern review, published in 2006, pointed to a 75% chance that global temperatures would rise by between two and three degrees above the long-term average; he now believes we are “on track for something like four “. Had he known the way the situation would evolve, he says, “I think I would have been a bit more blunt. I would have been much more strong about the risks of a four- or five-degree rise.” …

“This is potentially so dangerous that we have to act strongly. Do we want to play Russian roulette with two bullets or one? These risks for many people are existential.”

The risks for the people to whom Stern was speaking — those attending the exclusive Davos convening — were not existential at all. They largely have the resources to avoid climate disaster’s worst effects; many won’t live to see them.

This has long been the problem Stern faces. In late 2011, Stern suggested a key contradiction in climate policy: markets value fossil fuel companies continuing to extract beyond levels that world governments say are acceptable. Stern, as a representative of the latter group, has tried for years to use the language of the former group — economics — to explain to them why and how climate change must be halted. But the problem isn’t in his translation. It’s in the unwillingness of those with money and power to invest that money and that power in a more stable future. Stern saying he was downplaying the risk of climate change is another sentence in a language they understand, but another statement they aren’t interested in hearing.

Philip Bump writes about the news for Gristmill. He also uses Twitter a whole lot.

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Famed climate economist Nicholas Stern: ‘I underestimated the risks’ of climate change

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