The Great Green Wall – Holding back the world’s largest desert

the great green wall

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The Great Green wall project in Africa to hold back or turn back the growing Sahara Desert is a great cause that the Get Real Alliance is wholeheartedly in favor of and will promote when we have funds to do so.  Our global carbon sequestration program outlined in our white paper on the website talks about the importance of desert restoration to help make the world carbon negative.  In fact, our solutions of basalt rock dust remineralization and use of biochar will dramatically boost this program in survival and growth. 
 
the great green wall
© Jane Hahn/Redux

David Munson shares his theological idea as the basis to being climate-conscious

David Munson

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Opinion: Climate change is a consequence of human activity, it falls within the imperative of ethical principles because human beings are responsible for their actions. The ethical demand to love one’s neighbor applies here, as “planet Earth has become our neighbor”, and one that is vulnerable to human activity.

Big Oil Invests In Geothermal Energy Breakthrough

geothermal energy

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When you are seeking long lasting always available renewable energy the most logical is barely mentioned compared to the huge attention paid to the unreliable intermittent renewables that have short lives.  This is irrational but that is the esence of  the proposals for the future of energy production.  Solar at best provides power only for a few hours a day and can be offline due to clouds or snow for days.  Solar power production is half as much peak power in winter with far shorter useful power delivery time as well.  Geothermal heat lasts forever and the equipment lasts far longer than solar panels or wind turbines.  The article below talks of some breakthroughs in Geothermal that may make it less expensive and easier to adopt more widely.  It may seem ridiculous if you are concerned about climate to invest in a big oil company but their investment in this new technology may be a great thing.  Believe it or not but the current administration’s attack on the domestic oil industry may really benefit international oil companies as well due to falling production in America leading to no surplus and higher prices.  We need to make improving geothermal and being willing to pay a little extra to have reliable power that works in all weather conditions.  Geothermal installations can provide both electricity and heat which would have been welcome in Texas during the winter storm.  We must get real about energy and not fall for the marketing pitch of the solar industry that its power is anything but what it is intermittent and unreliable needing full backup from natural gas power plants.

 

“BP and Chevron, this Tuesday, announced plans to invest heavily in geothermal energy through a new innovative start up. The new technology introduced by Canadian startup Eavor, pronounced “ever”, provides a clean energy source directly from the earth’s heat. BP and Chevron have made a $40 million investment in Calgary-based Eavor, bucking the trend by developing a largely overlooked energy source. Funding goes mainly towards the research and development of geothermal power. 

 

Senior vice president of zero carbon energy at BP, Felipe Arbelaez, states “Technology such as Eavor’s has the potential to deliver geothermal power and heat and help unlock a low carbon future.”. Further explaining, “Eavor has developed a new type of geothermal technology that, in very simple terms, creates an underground “radiator.””. The new technology, named ‘loop’, provides a closed-loop network of pipes which is installed between 3 to 4 km underground, linked to an aboveground facility. Liquid is able to travel in the pipes from the facility, through the hot underground environment, then back to surface level where it is converted into electricity. The flow of this liquid can be controlled to manage output. 

Unlike batteries, solar or wind power, this geothermal technology allows for a constant flow of power that does not rely on challenges such as weather conditions. Further, the technology can fit into existing energy production areas such as underneath solar farms, to combat space constraints. Until now, geothermal energy had accounted for less than 0.3 percent of the world’s energy due to its high-risk nature. However, the risks taken to invest in the geothermal power technologies of the 1980s and 90s are no longer an issue when using Eavor’s closed-loop structure.Eavor’s system is ground-breaking as is significantly cheaper and more environmentally friendly than traditional geothermal technology. It does not rely on fracking methods to put the system in place and does need specific underground hot water sources to tap into geothermal energy.

Related: Oil Prices Soar As U.S. Oil Production Plunges 30%

In addition, the geothermal technology releases zero carbon emissions, offering oil and gas companies a means to fulfil the increasingly common aim of net-carbon-zero within the next one to three decades. This represents BP’s first investment into geothermal power, and Chevron’s return to the market, having sold its geothermal assets in 2016. It is the first investment by oil majors into Eavor’s system, which previously only accepted angel and venture capital investment. 

The new geothermal technology could be the Zero-Emitting Load-Following Resource (ZELFR) the oil and gas industry has been waiting for. Thanks to its low-cost installation, constant energy supply and minimal space requirements, it could prove to be the green energy that governments and regulators have been calling for. As well as providing constant energy, the most promising part of this system is that the underground heat providing geothermal energy will not run out, making it a safer bet than the finite resources we currently use. Despite being largely overlooked until now, the new technology could harness the power of this untapped resource. “

By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com

Super cold in Dallas with many cloudy days

dallas, tx cold

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On Monday the 15th of February 2021 Texas is experiencing record electric demand while struggling with some loss of power from both renewable and non renewable sources.  Many people have seen their power shut off sometimes for hours.  While some maintain that we are headed for warmer weather in winter and summer this record breaking cold spell that grips much of the US shows that simplification of the complex climate system is foolish.  What would be the situation if we were dependent on solar power for much of our electricity?  After a number of cloudy days no reasonable amount of batteries would have any charge and today with some sun the panels would have to be cleared of snow to be able to generate a few hours of power at a small fraction of their rated capacity.  We must get real about energy and its use.  Times like this with extremely low temperatures make clear that we need to build more well insulated buildings with less glass.  Building designers don’t really prioritize energy efficiency in so many cases.  In normal winter weather here in Dallas the heat is barely needed and a south facing window may pickup more heat than it gives off but on a very cold cloudy day that big window is a huge energy thief chilling the space.
 
Many advocated for the use of electric heat pumps as a better alternative to natural gas heating.  In fact some areas are banning new natural gas hookups for home.  Some builders are building homes in the outer areas of Dallas where there isn’t natural gas piping and choosing to save money developing the lots by not paying to bring it in.  My engineer lives in a nice home outside Dallas that doesn’t have sewer or natural gas in a subdivision that was built with big lots that allow micro-sewer systems to be installed at each home that use the treated waste water to irrigate a small part of the back yard.  Heat pumps work as an air conditioner in reverse cooling the outdoors and directing the heat from condensing the refrigerant into the house.  As is well known such systems move more heat by far than the electrical energy that powers them when the climate conditions are warm enough to allow the evaporation of the refrigerant to cool the outside air.  The problem comes when the outside air is colder than the evaporation temperature, then the refrigerant remains liquid and the system stops moving heat.  Heat pump designers deal with this by installing much less efficient electric resistance heating coils in the inside air handler to take over when the temperature is too low for the much more efficient heat pump to work.  That is what is happening today when the temperature is at record lows.  Luckily a large amount of the heating in Texas is done by natural gas or propane which doesn’t face a huge increase in energy use when the temperature drops low other than the increased heat load of the house.  With an electric heat pump there is a double hit of increased need for heating and a sharply lower efficiency of the system.
 
Texas has a lot of wind power but the news today said that some are frozen so that further cuts the power supply.  Luckily my house so far as not had a power outage but when I came to my office today thru the snow a number of red lights were out indicating blackouts and while my power was luckily back on at my office it had gone out during the night.  Sadly with the large amount of wind power that has been constructed and solar promoters building new solar farms the market for a natural gas power plant has shrunk and is losing favor as a badly needed backup of unreliable renewable power. 
Texas has an auction market for electricity in which prices fluctuate wildly depending on weather, time of day and availability of power sources.  The state grid operator just chooses the lowest price power provider at any time which means that at night when the always on coal and nuclear plants are competing with usually abundant wind power that is strongest at night the rates in normal times can drop near zero.  But last night with record cold and some of the wind turbines frozen there was a shortage of power and up to a million Texans lost their power.  My stepson spend the night at a friends where the power went off and the house was 40 degrees in the morning!!! 
 
Investors in something like a quick acting natural gas power plant called a peaker face uncertain income and the myth that cheap battery storage is coming to provide extra power like they really do.  People look at the long term when investing and why invest in a needed natural gas plant if miracle batteries are going to make them obsolete!!  Much is made of big battery installations which have come down in price which are usually rated in terms of how many homes they can power for two hours.  Battery proponents see batteries as being able to soak up excess renewable energy such as solar at mid day and emit it when the solar power is gone in the late afternoon and on an ideal day that can work for some of the time.  No one talks about what to do on a week like last week with days of cold cloudy weather where there is no solar power for many days.  Battery materials are limited and costs will increase with more demand.  There are proposals to build some limited battery storage but these are intended for short duration power delivery with recharges twice a day to meet peak power demand in the morning and evening when solar doesn’t make power.  There is not anything like the amount of battery backup needed for more than a fraction of the needed power during those short spells.  In practice if we are realistic about solar power every megawatt of solar should be backed up by a megawatt of natural gas peaker power plant that can quickly step in during all the time when solar is offline including for days of cloudy weather like last week.
 
WE need to get real about solar energy capability which the industry hates to be truthful about.  They love to talk about rated capacity which is the electric output at an optimal 1000 watts of solar radiation per square meter.  They use that benchmark to talk about how cheap solar power is when you divide the rated capacity by the installed cost being very optimistic about received solar radiation and other factors.  What they don’t like to talk about is how short the time of power production actually is and how in a city like Dallas the actual solar radiation on a typical winter week could look like this.
Now it maybe hard for you to read the numbers on the graph but the good days peaks for a short time at just 500 watts per square meter for such a short time as to make it impossible to charge a battery.  The three cloudy days mark solar radiation so low as to not make significant power.  This week is far better than last week was but would be a disaster if you were relying on a very optimistic ideal of solar power and short term battery backup.  We need to get real and take action to make sure that we have reliable power especially on days like today when indoor temperatures can drop dramatically if the power goes out.
 
Solar in the winter really can’t deliver more than a fraction of the summer power but if we have natural gas power plants sized to provide more than enough power to back it up we can get some use out of solar on sunny winter days even if they are only a day or two a week.    Now there is another problem and that is a failure to have extra natural gas available with the wells not being run at a near maximum level as the desperate for cash small natural gas exploration companies have to do to fight off bankruptcy.  We need to reform the way we price natural gas and get utilities and big users to get away from pricing natural gas based on the commodity markets often distorted low level of pricing that is currently below the cost of delivering natural gas due to speculators taking advantage of the deeply indebted natural gas companies often being required to hedge their production on the futures market with more hedging when prices ever creep up towards a profitable level.  We need utilities and natural gas power plants to be more focused on guaranteed availability of as much natural gas as needed so that in really cold times we have enough natural gas capacity to keep everybody warm unlike this spell where many shivered in houses where the pipes busted.  People have died because of the neglect to be prepared with extra natural gas capacity which affected heating but also importantly power generation.
 
America’s infatuation with pursuing the lowest cost even if it may not be reliable led Texas to a bad situation that has resulted in lots of damage and perhaps even loss of life.  Geothermal energy is the most reliable and longest lasting source of power but suffers from higher installed cost in many cases and also fails to satisfy investors and utilities that seek large power production instead of distributed power.   When you look at carbon emissions it is important to look at total lifetime emissions and in that case solar and wind with relatively short lives and lots of embedded carbon emissions really fail to be that desirable.  Geothermal electric power plants actually  make more energy as the temperature goes down as they are thermal processes that benefit from cooler condensation temperatures in the typical organic rankine cycle powerplant.  The best geothermal plants produce both electricity  and low temperature heat for heating needs or even to power a heat powered air conditioning unit.  This sharply boost overall efficiency. 
 
The other so called geothermal energy use is very sensible which is using the vast cool region of the near surface earth as a heat sink in summer to sharply reduce air conditioning bills and as an area for a electric heat pump to draw heat from in the winter very efficiently regardless of air temperature.  Texas wouldn’t have had the problem it had if we had gone to such systems that are very available yet require more investment than a typical air conditioner or heat pump.  Builders choose to build the cheapest way they can without regard to energy use or society having adequate power.  Geothermal heat pumps should be mandated for new buildings and retrofits encouraged for existing buildings.
 
We need to get real about providing stable secure essentials for all.

When Correcting Soil Fertility Costs Too Much!

soil fertility

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What good is a soil test if it costs too much to follow the advice given?

By Neal Kinsey, Owner and Senior Consultant, Kinsey Agricultural Services

More often than not this is a major complaint concerning fertilizer requirements, even from those
who believe they should follow the recommended advice as closely as possible?

Provided the soil test properly represents the fertility level of the area in question, the first step to
the correct answer to such a question is to determine what the grower has in mind to
accomplish. Without understanding what is actually expected from the information on a soil test,
it is possible that the best approach for the farmer or grower’s specific situation is not what the
one making the recommendations has in mind.


Most soil samples are taken in a hurry, sent in a hurry and results are expected “in a hurry” as
well. Consequently, very valuable information that could be most helpful for recommending the
best program to the farmer or grower may not have even been provided or properly considered.


As an example, we provide a soil worksheet to be filled out as completely as possible by all of
those who send samples for analysis and recommendations. The requested information is
important to understand what is needed to make the best recommendations and to minimize
delays in getting the results back in the shortest possible time. When the proper information is
not supplied that lack often results in added delays in order to determine the proper way to
proceed.


On that worksheet, in the lower left hand corner is a box listing four types of recommendations
that can be requested. Excellent, Building, Maintenance and Minimum are shown there with a
note that the program to be used for attaining an excellent soil will be provided if no box is
checked. Some just do not take the time to consider this as important and fail to check the
appropriate box.  But many actually feel that Excellent is the program they want to follow, and it
truly would be best provided enough funds are available to cover the cost. But other than on
small plots and gardens, most only want the excellent program until they see how expensive that
is to accomplish. Then they have a program that is needed for providing the best results from that
soil for growing high yields and excellent quality, but it costs so much some just throw up their
hands and say the program is too expensive.


When you get the best, it will generally cost more. This is especially true where crops have been
grown over and over again without adequately replacing all of those nutrients that have been
removed. When growing crops for years on the same land without replacing what is taken out
year by year, it will usually cost quite a bit extra to try and put it back as soon as possible. How
many years has it been, if ever, since needed sulfur and micronutrients have been adequately
applied on soils that are still shown to be sorely deficient? We see soils that have received
manure or compost or small amounts of various trace elements in purchased fertilizers for years
that still fall into that category.

However, when funds are limited, does that mean there is no other approach that can still be
utilized based on what the soil test shows as needed?  The needs are still there, but under the
circumstances, which ones should provide the greatest advantage for producing the best
crop? Most growers want an excellent soil. But playing catch-up on what has been taken and not
replaced for years can add significantly to the cost. That added expense is what causes most to
start thinking more in terms of a minimum program of fertility. Yet the minimum program
should only be considered when you have absolutely no other choice, and even then, keeping in
mind that it is only a very temporary solution.  That is because when actually using such a
program, you are removing nutrients that are presently adequate for producing the crop without
replacing them. Depending on whether those levels are good or barely adequate could make a big
difference in the condition of the next crop that needs to be grown there.

There is still an additional choice that can be made when it costs too much to apply everything to
build the soil toward achieving its top potential in the shortest period of time – which is what the
“excellent” fertility program is intended to accomplish. If growers cannot do that, then spend the
available budget where it will make the most difference for the crop to be grown.

Whether intentional or just trying to help, too often farmers are led to believe soil fertility is too
complicated to understand and follow. Leave it to the “experts” who know what is
best. However, most fertilizer programs are designed with no real regard for what nutrient levels
are in the soil. Whether levels are good or bad, or for those who do not even know what those
levels would need to be, farmers and growers are led to believe the best approach to fertilizer use
is to feed the plants. Regardless of what fertility levels show to be in the soil, that feeding
program is too often based on a “good pH” and what amount of N-P-K fertilizer it requires to
provide the expected yield. In too many cases this may also include a smattering of trace
elements added in such miniscule amounts it would not even come close to solving any real
deficiency.


When this is the case, soils that are in excellent shape get the same recommended fertilizer
program as those that are in poor shape. Or even in some cases with GPS applications, the
problem areas may get more or less of the same mix, depending on the philosophy of those
giving the advice. As a result, how many farmers have been led to believe that they only need
one fertilizer program to grow each crop on the entire farm? This may sound good, but does it
provide the real needs for the best crop and yield? If such is the case who really needs a soil test
anyway? Just put on what it takes to grow the normally anticipated crop yield and hope things
get better, or maybe at least stay the same.

Does this really make good sense? Farmers tell us from time to time, a “feed the soil approach”
may work where you are, but it will not work here, because our soils are different. Well, yes they
are! But how many farms have the same soil on each entire field? Soils may be considered as
different for many reasons, but there is one thing you can prove about different soils over and
over again. When you see variations in soil color, soil texture, plant growth or any other obvious
difference, the fertilizer nutrient content will generally be different as well., and what is required
to grow the best crops there will also vary – sometimes in small amounts, but generally in
significant quantities of actual need. How small of an area that is losing ten to twenty bushels of
wheat, corn or soybean production is it worth to isolate and correct on your fields?

The Albrecht system of soil fertility is designed to feed the soil and let the soil feed the plant. If
the level of a nutrient in the soil is sufficient to grow the crop then skip that one and go on to the
ones that are more limiting as that will make more difference in terms of fertilizer costs and
improving yields. We find many soils where magnesium is needed more than P or K for the next
crop, but how many consultants can really determine there is such a need, let alone how much to
use, when soils already appear to have too much? This involves a program of soil testing that is
exact enough to enable prioritizing all needed crop nutrients. Whatever is determined as priority
#1 is supplied first, then #2 and then #3, until the budget is used up. Using such a program
enables the grower to put the money that is available where it will tend to make the most
difference.

As a consulting company, we do not sell or make money on the sale of needed fertilizer and soil
amendments. We sell the advice farmers and growers need to make the best crop. Our priorities
are not affected by what the fertilizer company has on hand to sell. What the soil needs most to
grow the best crop is what motivates our concern and the recommendations we make for each
soil and crop.

Furthermore, materials that actually build the available levels of a deficient nutrient in the soil
should be applied to crops (regarded as “soil feeders”) instead of plant feeders.  Plant feeders are
types of fertilizer that must be picked up by the plants quickly, otherwise they will be tied up and
remain in a form that is no longer useable and thus will not build in the soil and will not show up
on a soil test as available for the next crop. As the soil feeder types of fertilizer, plus effective
soil amendments such as limestone, compost and manures, if available and called for on each
soil, are used to build sufficient nutrient levels in that soil, then as they are built up, they will
then show up as no longer the most limiting.  Therefore, based on the current levels shown on the
soil analysis, nutrients that are sufficient can be placed further down the list concerning how best
to spend the allotted budget for that crop or field.

Now it comes down to the question of whose knowledge should you trust? Prioritizing fertility
needs in a crop can be quite different for grass, vs, legume, vs. mixed grass/legume pastures, vs.
oats, vs. corn silage. Even more variations are possible between fertility for specific vegetables,
as opposed to apples, fruits, nuts, grapes, melons or bananas. But is such a program really
possible, or as some well-established sources claim, is this just another ploy to get farmers to use
this service rather than some other one?

Start a small test and learn for yourself what really works best. It is not so hard to believe what
you see with your own eyes. Split a field and use the current program on half and then use the
testing for the prioritized nutrient program on the other half. Determine to carry through with the
test for three years on good soils. It can take even less time on some poorer soils, but three years
will show even better results there too. First check to see whether the extra testing, time and
expense is worth the difference before making full use of any new program.

“Feed the soil and let the soil feed the plant” has made the greatest difference for those using our
services in terms of higher quality and more profitable crop yields for all types of growers and
their various crops. It works and it works very well. Start small, prove what works best, and
grow from there. That is the way we have built our business.

Neal Kinsey, from Charleston, Missouri, USA, owns and operates Kinsey Agricultural
Services, Inc., a company which specializes in soil fertility management. The program
is based on the system of providing soil nutrients to correctly treat the soil to correctly
feed the plants that grow there, using soil chemistry to correct the soil’s physical
structure to build the “house” which enables the biology to flourish. Our business
includes working with all types of food and fiber crops throughout the
world. Recommendations and consultations include soils received for analysis and
recommendations from every state in the United States, every province in Canada and
from over 75 other countries, principally Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, South
Africa, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, France, Ireland, Switzerland and The
Netherlands. Detailed soil audits will determine specific fertilization programs based
on each individual soil and its fertility requirements

Rebuilding Soil Fertility

Soil fertility

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If you are a student of agriculture you may have heard of Dr. Albrecht a visionary soil scientist who has been proven right for his findings that went against the prevailing chemical farming mentality of his day long ago.  One of his students has done much to promote his program and use his principles to increase productivity on soils around the world in an environmentally friendly and profitable way.  I used Neal Kinsey’s soil testing to dramatically improve the quality and quantity of food produced on my large commercial ranch.
 
 
You can learn more from him on his website at https://www.kinseyag.com/
 
Their mission: 
https://www.kinseyag.com/rebuildsoilfert.html
 
Stay tuned for more information about holistic soil management but his very good book ‘Hands on Agronomy” available at Acres USA bookstore is great for those who want to learn a lot more.  Support us so we can do more to build supporters for a holistic regenerative Agriculture that is carbon negative!!!
 
 
 

We need your help | spreading news and updates about our fight against climate change

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We’re in the middle of a post card campaign gathering up as much support as possible to help us in the fight for getting the right climate change proposal. With powers in the government shifting we’re seeing growing concerns in the climate change community and as the Get Real Alliance and a major donor to many of the smaller organizations we are looking for donations and social media exposure to help us achieve our goals.