Earth – the final frontier

notmars

NASA is the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration.  It was established in 1958 by an act of Congress (literally) with this charter:

“The expansion of human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere and space”.

And yes, NASA has explored vast areas of space as well as turning its focus back on this planet (yes, Earth is a planet), to discover things like the hole in the ozone layer, and to observe planetary changes with high-resolution time-lapse photography from satellite imagery.

A recent editorial in 170-year-old magazine Scientific American talks to the fact that there are those – politicians –  who want NASA to avert its eyes of Earth science, possibly denying that it is a science at all.  And they have been able to divert monies for the study of our planet to other space efforts.  In one example, they have given NASA much, much more money than they asked for to study Jupiter’s moons, and much, much less money than they had asked for to study climate change.

We think NASA should be in charge of its mission, clearly chartered in 1958.

Have a look at what they have discovered about OUR planet at this portion of NASA’s web page, called “Images of Change“.  It seems some people are afraid of the facts, so they are just pointing the telescope away…

We at EarthPM encourage you to make up your own mind.   Look at those pictures.  Also experiment with NASA’s interactive application:

Climate Time Machine

You decide.  Should politicians be allowed to deny us this type of space exploration?  Is Earth part of space?  Should NASA continue to do this sort of work? We think so.

 

(By the way, the picture above, which looks indeed like it came from another planet, is indeed of Lake Mead, Planet Earth, showing how this lake has shrunk in the last 16 years)

Here comes the sun

We’re not fond of taking sides in politics.

But we do like to note when something works.  Especially when that something results in more projects, more PM jobs, and a better outcome for this particular 3rd- rock-from-the-sun.

Today’s Boston Globe newspaper has a short but powerful (excuse the pun) story about how Massachusetts – not exactly the Sunshine State – is tied for second place in the US with Hawaii for the lead in solar projects.  And the reason, at least partially, is subsidies from the government of the Commonwealth.  See the included chart on the left for the top states in the USA, and the chart on the right to see the (cloudy) truth about Massachusetts, in terms of weather.

From the story, here are some extracts.  We strongly encourage you to read the whole thing at the Globe’s site.

Massachusetts is no California when it comes to sun. But that isn’t stopping the solar energy industry from flourishing here.

Massachusetts, better known for long, cold winters, gloomy springs, and gale-driven nor’easters, is undergoing an unlikely solar power boom, attracting solar companies from around the country that are installing systems for homeowners, businesses, and institutions.

Only California has a better solar market than Massachusetts, which tied Hawaii in rankings by Ernst & Young, the Big Four accounting firm that tracks the alternative energy industry. Massachusetts was the only northern state to crack Ernst & Young’s top 10, beating Florida (the Sunshine State), Arizona (home of the Sun Devils), and New Mexico (sun symbol on the state flag).

Here’s an example of one success story:

SolarCity of San Mateo, ­Calif., a six-year-old installation company with 1,800 employees nationwide, entered the Massachusetts market in early 2011. The company installs solar panels at no cost to customers, then sells them power generated by the system, which SolarCity continues to own. The company is then able to take advantage of federal and state subsidies.

Ed Steins, SolarCity’s regional director, said the company already services more than 800 residential and commercial buildings in Massachusetts and has tripled its local staff to 45 from 15 since September.

Among SolarCity’s customers is Tom McDougall, 53, of Whitman. SolarCity installed a 6-kilowatt system on the roof of McDougall’s two-story Colonial. Since the system began operating in February, McDougall said, he has cut his electricity bills in half, paying SolarCity about $60 a month for electricity, compared with the $115 a month, on average, that he paid his utility.

Analysts at Ernst & Young, which does the comparative study of the states, has good insight on the story.

 

Again, from the story:

“It’s not a matter of how sunny it is,” said Michael Bernier, a senior manager at Ernst & Young. The “thing Massachusetts has been really good at is setting up an environment that helps renewable energy projects get done.”

That environment starts with New England’s traditionally high energy costs that can make photovoltaic systems more competitive here. Meanwhile, the falling solar panel prices, which have plunged more than 50 percent in the past two years, have combined with solar-friendly local policies to make solar installations even more attractive to homeowners and businesses.

So, perhaps the ‘environment’ – in this case, the business/political environment – has a more profound effect on solar projects that previously thought.  If that’s the case, as a project manager, you ought to be at least considering the support of regulations and incentives to bring more solar power to your state or territory.

Deepwater Spill has Climate Bill in Deep Weeds — UPDATED 20-May: SpillCam

spill map

You’d think that the environmental protection or “Climate Bill” might be shored up (excuse the terrible pun) by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which will likely overtake the Exxon Valdez as the USA’s worst oil spill.  In fact, the latest news from the spill involves the shutdown of all fishing in the entire Gulf area (see this story from the Houston Chronicle).

“More than 6,800 square miles of federal fishing areas, from the mouth of the Mississippi to Florida’s Pensacola Bay were closed for at least 10 days on Sunday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco says government scientists are taking samples from the waters near the spill to determine whether there is any danger.”

So…all of this should help pass the Climate Bill, right?  After all, the Climate Bill is about alternative energy, right?  And after all, the Climate Bill is about protecting the environment, right?

Think again.

As it turns out – and this is politics, folks – the bill calls for new offshore drilling; this was one of the concessions made to help build consensus for the bill.  Project managers know that a hybrid of compromise and collaboration often are what’s needed to get things done – and that’s what happened here.

But in this case, the inclusion of new offshore drilling in the light of this catastrophe will probably end up killing the bill, which is already stalled, puttering, and nearly dead anyway.

A good story on this situation appeared in the wire services (AP) and you can find that full story here.

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*** FLASH *** Update 14-MAY-2010

May 14, 2010 – news story broken by NPR – see full story here.

The amount of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico is far greater than official estimates suggest, according to an exclusive NPR analysis.

At NPR’s request, experts analyzed video that BP released Wednesday. Their findings suggest the BP spill is already far larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska, which spilled at least 250,000 barrels of oil.

[Editor’s comment: this means the Gulf oil spill is like one Exxon Valdez every four days]

Steven Wereley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, analyzed videotape of the seafloor gusher using a technique called particle image velocimetry.

A computer program simply tracks particles and calculates how fast they are moving. Wereley put the BP video of the gusher into his computer. He made a few simple calculations and came up with an astonishing value for the rate of the oil spill: 70,000 barrels a day — much higher than the official estimate of 5,000 barrels a day.

The method is accurate to a degree of plus or minus 20 percent.

UPDATE 21-MAY:

The update above still was too conservative; the estimates are much larger.  BP has been forced to admit that the 5,000 gallon-per-day rate was far off, because they are siphoning 5,000 gallons per day and the camera still shows huge plumes billowing out.

There is now a “SpillCam” on the US Government DOE site:

http://globalwarming.house.gov/spillcam

However, it’s been down almost since inception because of bandwidth problems (seems like a lot of people have an interest in this!)  You can still get a view of what’s going on down there from Senator Bill Nelson’s site, which captured some of the video and put it up on his site.