NewEnergyNews: 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The new challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: A UTILITY IN THE MAKING: THE MUNICIPALIZATION OF BOULDER, COLORADO
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT NATIONAL HIGH VOLTAGE TRANSMISSION SYSTEM?
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: THE STATE OF THE U.S. WIND INDUSTRY (AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR UTILITIES)
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: HOW SACRAMENTO'S PUBLIC UTILITY IS GETTING IN THE RESIDENTIAL SOLAR BUSINESS
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    GET THE DAILY HEADLINES EMAIL: CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: HAS APS INVENTED A ROOFTOP SOLAR BUSINESS MODEL FOR UTILITIES?
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: THE GRID NEEDS INDEPENDENT DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM OPERATORS
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: HOW SHOULD UTILITIES VALUE SOLAR?
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: IS PUERTO RICO THE NEW POSTER CHILD FOR THE UTILITY DEATH SPIRAL?
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: Reindeer Stresses
  • Weekend Video: Pink Fracking
  • Weekend Video: Fighting Duke For Solar
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: ARE NATURAL GAS AND RENEWABLES THE FUTURE OF TEXAS' POWER GRID?
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: COULD FERC PUT A PRICE ON CARBON?
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is an occasional contributor to NewEnergyNews

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    Some of Anne's contributions:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.

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    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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  • Monday, July 31, 2006

    EAA-PHEV (Electric Auto Association - Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle)

    From Ace Reporter Forbes Bagatelle Black:
    Plug-In-Hybrids (PHEVs) are here right now. For ~$3,000, an individual with significant electro-mechanical skills can retrofit a Prius such that it runs in battery-only mode around town.

    It is amazing to me how GM manages to convince people that their
    "Hy-Wire" concept WILL BE the basis of all the cars driven" in "ten or twenty years." It is also remarkable that GM convinces people hydrogen will come from sea water, when those "in-the-know" understand that today's hydrogen comes from fossil fuels...Enjoy the H-Wire video, but don't believe the hype!

    The ten-to-twenty year timeframe for alternative vehicles is fiction created by big oil to keep people driving SUVs as long as possible.

    12 MYTHS

    "12 Great Myths of Improving Residential Efficiency in Hot Climates" by Danny Parker, Florida Solar Energy Center researcher (abridged by Ken Sheinkopf, communications specialist, American Solar Energy Society):
    - 1: ...Monitoring studies have shown that attic vent fans use more electricity than they save.

    - 2: ...Fans should not be operated constantly, especially when no one is home.
    - 3: ...Concentrate on lowering attic temperatures more than adding wall insulation.
    - 4: ...use the lightest color roof you find aesthetically pleasing and you'll help keep your home much cooler.
    - 5: Setting the thermostat lower cools the home quicker. Absolutely not...
    - 6: Solar hot water systems...save 1,570 kWh annually -- that's about $188 per year at today's typical rates, meaning the system will pay back its full cost during its lifetime of use...As rates go up, these payback times will be even shorter.

    - 7: Storing groceries in a second refrigerator in the garage [does not] save money...
    - 8: ...make sure you have and use an exhausting range hood that vents outdoors. Every kilowatt-hour of cooking heat that is not vented away will cause the air conditioner to use another 300-watt hours...
    - 9: ...The average homeowner spends about $130 per year for lighting -- an amount that can be reduced by 70 percent or more by using compact fluorescent lamps in fixtures...
    - 10: Pool pumps...running far less than eight hours can still effectively maintain a pool properly...
    - 11: ...You can easily spend a couple of hundred dollars a year heating a spa with electricity, or more than $100 using a clothes dryer...
    - 12: Side-by-side tests of efficient homes vs. conventional ones have shown savings of as much as 80 percent in air-conditioning use just from energy-efficiency, and more than 90 percent when solar electric systems are used...addition of a solar hot water system, attic radiant barrier, high-efficiency air conditioner, smaller pool pump and efficient lighting cost $9,000 but saved more than $1,000 annually...

    POLITICIANS TO FUND RENEWABLE EDUCATION


    This is about politicians moving at the speed they usually move (slow). Since it concerns funding to put renewable energy in schools and educate kids about renewable energy, it is good news. But given the speed politicians move, what is the future for the kids affected by the legislation?Reid bill promotes renewable energy projects in schools
    July 25, 2006, (Associated Press/Las Vegas Sun)
    - Public school districts in Nevada and five other Western states could issue interest-free bonds to pay for renewable energy projects under legislation announced Tuesday by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
    - The Renewable Schools Energy Act of 2006 would allow Nevada school districts to issue $90 million in the zero-interest bonds. Arizona and Utah could issue $60 million each, and Montana, Idaho and Colorado could sell $30 million each.
    - School districts would compete for a share of the bond issuing authority. The money could be spent on projects such as solar panels or wind turbines, which could cut utility bills in growing school districts while teaching students about alternative energy sources.
    Matheson urges loans to schools for energy
    Friday, July 28, 2006 (deseretnews.com)
    - Rep. Jim Matheson wants the federal government to give interest-free loans to schools in the Mountain West to help buy renewable energy equipment such as solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal heat pumps.
    - Matheson, D-Utah, said Wednesday that he is introducing in the House a bill identical to one introduced in the Senate by Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
    - The measure would target help for schools in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Montana, because Matheson said they have significant potential to develop renewable energy resources nearby, and they may need it to keep up with rapid growth.

    Sunday, July 30, 2006

    GREEN-FUEL CARS: WHY THEY SELL AND WHY THEY DON'T

    Consumers are apparently anxious to drive green cars though they have misimpressions and doubts.
    Harris Interactive Reports: Two-Thirds of Adult Vehicle Owners are Familiar with Flexible Fuel Vehicles and More than Half are Interested in Purchasing One
    Jen Cummings, July 26, 2006 (Harris Interactive)

    - The most recent wave of the Harris Interactive AutoTECHCASTSM study reports that two-thirds of consumers surveyed are familiar with flexible fuel vehicles (vehicles can run on bio-fuels, including E85 which is comprised of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline), and more than one-half are interested in purchasing such a vehicle. Though awareness levels are lower among younger consumers (ages 18 to 34) (59%), they are the group most likely to consider purchasing such a vehicle...
    - Among consumers interested in purchasing flexible fuel vehicles, most (88%) cite a reduced dependency on petroleum as the leading reason for consideration...Harris Interactive finds that more than half of all those surveyed (53%) indicate that they are willing to pay more money for a vehicle that relies less on petroleum-based fuel...
    - Consumers indicate they would choose a flexible fuel vehicle because of the improved fuel economy...However, ethanol-fueled vehicles will likely produce a slight decrease in fuel economy..."Consumers are assuming that a non-petroleum based fuel will result in better fuel economy, but that is not necessarily the case with ethanol...Still, beyond fuel economy, consumers are interested in flexible fuel vehicles for the impact they will have on the environment and that is certainly a benefit that this type of fuel can provide."

    Plug-in hybrids: Not ready for primetime
    Peter Valdes-Dapena, July 27, 2006 (CNNMoney.com)
    - As car buyers search for more fuel-efficient alternatives, interest in plug-in hybrids is increasing.
    - Ordinary hybrids, like the Toyota Prius, use power from the vehicle's gasoline engine to charge batteries that in turn power electric motors. When these hybrids were first introduced, people had a hard time understanding that they did not need to be plugged in to get needed electricity.
    - Plug-in hybrids, however, can get their power from the same outlet that charges your cell phone or electric razor. That option greatly reduces reliance on gasoline...And a plug-in hybrid could drive on pure electric power for many miles before the gasoline engine would even need to turn on, offering the benefit of an electric car without the downside of limited range...
    - So why are car companies still "working on it?"
    1. Batteries: The biggest challenge is the battery...
    2. Expectations: Consumers will also need to be educated about how the vehicles will work...
    3. Cost: Currently, the cost difference between a hybrid vehicle and an identical non-hybrid version is about $3,000 to $5,000. The cost difference for a plug-in hybrid could be twice that...
    - The two most difficult challenges facing researchers, for the time being, will be battery cost and life span...answers will likely come through more research and through simple creativity...

    WAR SPILLS OIL IN LEBANON

    What can anybody say that means anything? Please stop? Who?
    Oil Spill Adds Ecological Crisis to Lebanon's Agony
    Lin Noueihed, July 28, 2006 (Reuters/Planet Ark)
    - Along Lebanon's sandy beaches and rocky headlands runs a belt of black sludge, 10,000 to 30,000 tonnes of oil that spilled into the Mediterranean Sea after Israel bombed a power plant.

    - Lebanon's Environment Ministry says the oil flooded into the sea when Israeli jets hit storage tanks at the Jiyyeh plant south of Beirut on July 13 and 15, creating an ecological crisis that Lebanon's government has neither the money nor the expertise to deal with...
    - "...The cost of a full clean-up could run as high as US$40-50 million."
    - An Israeli warship damaged by a Hizbollah missile on July 15 may also have spilled diesel oil into the sea, according to the Environment Ministry website (www.moe.gov.lb)...

    TEXAS BIGGEST BLOWHARD

    Who's Number One? Hook 'em!
    Texas tops in wind energy production
    STEVE QUINN, July 25, 2006 (Associated Press/ Yahoo News)

    - Long known as a top oil- and natural gas-producing state, Texas has gained new energy acclaim by becoming the nation's top producer of wind energy.
    - Texas capacity stands at 2,370 megawatts, enough to power 600,000 average-sized homes a year..

    - That puts Texas slightly ahead of California, the nation's leader since 1981...The total U.S. capacity is 9,971 megawatts...So far this year, Texas has added 375 megawatts, or 46 percent of the total 822 megawatts brought online nationwide...

    - Last year, wind energy generation grew 35 percent nationwide, adding 2,431 megawatts, but that fell short of the projected 2,500. The wind association believes it can add 3,000 megawatts nationwide this year, even if that means another 2,178 megawatts by year's end...

    Saturday, July 29, 2006

    A FEW WORDS ABOUT NATURAL GAS

    CH4. Only one carbon in the molecule, as opposed to the multiple carbons in the crude oil molecules. Burning less carbon, gives us more time to get to renewables? Read more:
    The lures (and limits) of natural gas
    From Boston to St. Petersburg, natural gas is changing the way the world thinks of energy. But as gas goes global, will Russia become the new Saudi Arabia?
    Drake Bennett, July 16, 2006 (Boston Globe)

    - Worldwide, technological advances-like LNG, which frees gas from the geographical limits of pipelines-have combined with a growing concern about climate change to push many of the world's developed nations in the direction of gas…
    - To understand why gas works differently from oil in the context of energy markets, it's important to keep in mind that gas is not really a commodity-not yet, at least. ``With oil, the term economists use is that it's fungible, you can send the same barrel hither and yon," says Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a consulting firm...
    - The gas market, on the other hand, is much more rigid…Though there were companies drilling and selling gas in the United States in the mid-19th century, it was hard to transport very far…

    - Today, while the construction of international pipelines and the development of LNG have created something of a global market for gas, it still lacks the flexibility of the oil market…Whereas oil can simply be pumped into a tanker like water from a tap, gas has to be liquefied, which requires that it be cooled to a couple hundred degrees below zero, then stored at that temperature in the tanker, then turned back into a gas (usually by mixing in seawater to warm it up) when it arrives at its destination…a typical gas field along with a liquefaction plant costs $3 billion to $4 billion. Delivering the same amount of energy from an onshore oil facility costs $600 million to $750 million, a fraction of the price…

    NATTY

    Lots of action in the gas market. Jon Stewart’s Daily Show satirized the idea of investors looking to profit from the hurricane season but it is all too real:
    Why natural gas is so cheap
    James Woodburn, 20 Jul, 2006 (The Daily Reckoning)

    - Natural gas..."Natty", as it's called in trading circles, has shed almost $10 in ten months, notching new contract lows last week following its explosion to $15 in the wake of Katrina...The culprit was the warmer-than-expected winter. Natural gas not needed to heat homes and business was injected into underground storage, leaving the market as much in need for it as the Savannah needs a sandbag.
    - Hurricane season may be upon us but natural gas is twice as cheap vis-à-vis crude as it should be. At the same time, World War III may be in the process of breaking out in the Middle East...But what really could spark the next explosion in natural gas prices is another hurricane. Considering the lingering psychological effects of Katrina, just the mere CHANCE of another big storm could send this market sharply higher in a hurry. Spot gas rallied nearly $1.50 in June on news of a tropical depression with very little chance of damaging facilities in the Gulf...
    - Natural gas is currently one of the most hated commodities on the board, making it all the more attractive from a contrarian standpoint; through thinking differently from the investment crowd, profits will be made...
    Seriously funny.

    BRITISH COLUMBIA FIGHTS BACK

    Good and Bad Energy in BC Hydro’s Open Call for Power
    July 27, 2006 (Peace, Earth & Justice News)
    - “We’re very pleased to see some robust wind proposals winning contracts,” said Guy Dauncey, BCSEA President. “Now BC can finally start to catch up with the rest of the world. There is no reason why all BC’s electricity needs should not be met with conservation and 100% non-greenhouse gas emitting energies.”

    - “British Columbians are very concerned about climate change and aware that we need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. BC Hydro could cut out the coal and still meet its energy needs. The two coal projects increase BC’s emissions of greenhouse gases by 1.6 megatonnes a year, adding to BC’s total, as well as pollutants such as mercury...We promise a “P-4” response -– prolonged and persistent public protest – against these unnecessary and backward-looking coal-fired power proposals.”

    - “It is strategically critical that BC Hydro should gain competence in feeding wind power into the grid, “said Tom Hackney, British Columbia Sustainable Energy Association Policy Specialist. “The United States is moving toward mandatory controls on greenhouse gas emissions, in spite of rearguard action by the president. BC can’t afford to be left behind.”

    GOOD NUCLEAR?

    And now for something NOT carbon:
    The Best Nuclear Option
    The U.S. Energy Department's fuel-recycling initiative could be a distraction from a more achievable goal: reviving today's nuclear industry and averting some carbon emissions in the short term.
    Matthew L. Wald, July 20, 2006 (Technology Review, An MIT Enterprise)

    - Imagine a nuclear industry that can power America for decades using its own radioactive garbage, burning up the parts of today's reactor wastes that are the hardest to dispose of. Add technology that takes nuclear chaff, uranium that was mined and processed but was mostly unusable, and converts it to still more fuel. Then add a global business model that makes it much less likely that reactor by-products such as plutonium will find their way into nuclear weapons in countries like Iran, even as economical nuclear-power technology becomes available to the whole world.
    Does that sound good? Well, here's the wake-up call:
    - That is the alluring triple play the Bush administration hopes to turn with the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) it unveiled earlier this year, a proposed long-term research and development program almost as audacious as the Manhattan Project. The basic fuel-reprocessing concepts at its heart have been kicking around for the better part of a half-century. Now they are being touted anew as a way to provide plentiful carbon-free fuel for an energy-hungry world threatened by human-induced climate change...
    - In practice, though, in the best scenario GNEP would take decades to develop, and in the worst it might produce nothing; it could turn out to be a nonstarter on technical grounds, or the technology could be economically uncompetitive with other carbon-free sources of electricity. And the program could undermine a more modest and achievable goal: resuscitating a nuclear industry that hasn't launched a successful reactor project since 1974...
    But this might be the punchline:

    - If the Energy Department wants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by promoting the promised revival of nuclear energy, it will have to hurry before power companies fill the market with conventional coal plants that could last 50 years...
    Or maybe THIS is the punchline:
    - It's easy to see why the research community is delighted about GNEP. It represents a huge source of funds...But GNEP is not relevant to a revival of nuclear power...What nuclear power needs is to get up and running soon, supplanting carbon-dioxide-emitting sources in an economical and boring way. Without that, nothing will follow.

    Friday, July 28, 2006

    ALTERNATIVES BOOM IN SE ASIA, NOT WAR

    Southeast Asian leaders are planning to grow renewable energy:
    ASEAN calls for more renewable energy use amid high oil prices
    shi/fz/bmm/swp, XFN-ASIA, 7-27-2006 (Forbes)
    - Energy ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have called for cooperation to boost renewable energy use amid soaring oil prices...

    - ASEAN wants more investment and research to raise the region's capacity in renewable energy such as bio-fuels and hydro-power as alternatives to oil...
    - "Reliable, adequate and affordable energy supplies are essential for strong and sustainable economic growth and competitiveness,' the ministers said in a joint statement...
    And Hong Kong is rolling up its sleeves:
    HK's CLP Eyes Renewable Energy Projects in Asia
    Alison Leung, July 10, 2006 (Reuters)

    - Hong Kong's largest electricity utility, CLP Holdings Ltd., is actively seeking wind energy and hydro power projects in China, India and other Asian countries to beat its renewable energy target...
    - The power firm, which generates about half of its energy by coal with the balance from nuclear power and gas, promised to generate 5 percent of energy from renewable sources by the end of the decade, compared with 1.7 percent now...
    It's the right direction.

    ILLINOIS SENATORS FIGHT FOR WIND

    More wind in the heartlands. (See Wednesday's post, below)
    Obama, Durbin: Just Upped the Ante in Fight for Midwest Wind Farms
    Lynn Sweet, July 25, 2006 (Chicago Sun-Times)

    - U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) Monday announced that they will put a hold on the nomination of Andrew Steinberg to be Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs until the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issues a conclusive determination as to whether the operation of wind farms under construction in the Midwest will interfere with radar systems. A hold has the effect of blocking a nomination.
    - “The Administration’s promised response on windmill construction is long overdue. It is time for a straight answer,” said Durbin. “Windmills have become an important source of clean alternative energy throughout the country and are particularly important in the Midwest which has more cumulative wind energy potential than any other area in the country. If there are real problems, we should find ways to mitigate, reduce or eliminate them, but our wind farm owners deserve an answer today.”

    - “While I take very seriously any concerns that these structures could interfere with military readiness, I also believe that with mounting instability in the Middle East and energy prices at record levels, we must begin investing in alternative energy sources today,” said Obama. “Wind farms are an important part of our ongoing efforts to make the United States more energy independent, which is why the FAA needs to immediately clarify its position so that investors feel comfortable putting their money into these projects and construction crews can get to work.”

    HYDROGEN FARMS?

    Is this a joke?
    Hydrogen Farms Promise Limitless Power
    Robin Turner July 24, 2006 (Western Mail)
    - PLANS are under way to grow the fuel of the future in "hydrogen farms" in Wales…

    - Hydrogen promises limitless energy with no pollution, drinkable water being the only emission from its use…But the barrier to a hydrogen economy is production because, to release hydrogen from water, an electric charge is necessary and most electricity is produced by fossil fuels…
    - But now the Carmarthenshire Energy Agency is embarking on a joint project with Ireland to produce hydrogen from trees…The Wales and Ireland Rural Hydrogen Energy Project aims to release hydrogen contained in fast-growing willow trees.
    - Hydrogen from renewable resources like trees can be obtained by the use of microbes to break down the willow into methane and hydrogen gas…Or, alternatively, willow can be used to fuel electricity to produce hydrogen, the growing crops "paying back" the atmosphere for any carbon dioxide produced in electricity production.

    Thursday, July 27, 2006

    METHANE HYDRATES

    Methane trapped in marine sediments as a hydrate represents such an immense carbon reservoir that it must be considered a dominant factor in estimating unconventional energy resources; the role of methane as a 'greenhouse' gas also must be carefully assessed. Dr. William Dillon, U.S. Geological Survey

    From the USGS website:
    - Hydrates store immense amounts of methane, with major implications for energy resources and climate, but the natural controls on hydrates and their impacts on the environment are very poorly understood.
    - Gas hydrates occur abundantly in nature, both in Arctic regions and in marine sediments. Gas hydrate is a crystalline solid consisting of gas molecules, usually methane, each surrounded by a cage of water molecules. It looks very much like water ice. Methane hydrate is stable in ocean floor sediments at water depths greater than 300 meters, and where it occurs, it is known to cement loose sediments in a surface layer several hundred meters thick.
    - The worldwide amounts of carbon bound in gas hydrates is conservatively estimated to total twice the amount of carbon to be found in all known fossil fuels on Earth.
    Now, the news:
    Undersea Gas Could Speed Global Warming - Study
    July 21, 2006 (Reuters)
    - If the world continues to get warmer, vast amounts of methane gas trapped in ice under the sea could belch up and worsen climate change, according to a study.

    - "We may have less time than we think to do something (about the prospect of global warming)," Dr. Ira Leifer, a marine scientist at University of California Santa Barbara, said in an interview.
    - Leifer is the main author of a study that looks at how "peak blowouts" of melting undersea formations called methane hydrates could release the potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. The study was published Thursday in Global Biogeochemical Cycles, a climate science publication.

    HELEN CALDICOTT SPEAKS OUT

    Dr. Helen Caldicott, major force in the anti-nuclear movement of the late 70s and early 80s, spoke out on energy recently.
    Helen Caldicott: Fuel plan beset by fossilised thinking
    John Howard and Kim Beazley are sending the wrong energy message, says Helen Caldicott
    By Helen Caldicott, July 25, 2006 (The Australian)

    - AUSTRALIA is perfectly placed to be the real energy superpower: the instigator and global leader in renewable electricity production. A country bathed in sun and ferociously windy in many locations, Australia could, with political will and vision, usher in a safe, carbon-free and nuclear-free future.
    - Instead, both Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition leader Kim Beazley seem fixated on the continued mining and burning of coal: a strategy which, at this juncture in the world's history, is environmentally contraindicated. Anyone who has seen Al Gore's extraordinary film An Inconvenient Truth will realise that the world must, urgently, stop burning fossil fuel…

    - …for the first time in human history, all electricity can be generated by a combination of renewable carbon-free and nuclear-free technologies. But the forces opposing these promising developments are very powerful…
    - We need, above all, politicians who are scientifically and medically knowledgeable, not just lawyers, business men and former humanities academics who seem not to comprehend the immensely dangerous problems threatening the survival of our children, descendants and 30,000 other species that cohabit this planet.

    THE NEW WAR GAMES

    Former State Department Ambassador and advisor to Colin Powell, Republican Richard Haas is now President of the prestigious and influential Council on Foreign Relations think tank. This Op-ed piece is a perfect example of how to know the Peak HAS arrived, cheap oil is GONE, the point HAS tipped, the paradigm HAS shifted. Time to get to work.
    Let's Not Play The Oil Game
    Richard N. Haas, May 15, 2006 (Newsweek International)

    - Today’s war games have more to do with the falling supplies and rising price of oil than with tanks and armored personnel carriers rolling across borders. Consider…In a simultaneous three-front strike, terrorists sank a tanker in the Bosporus, blocking the Turkish straits linking the oilfields of the Caspian Sea with the Mediterranean. They also successfully attacked the oil port of Valdez in Alaska. An assault on the critical Ras Tanura complex in Saudi Arabia was rebuffed, but several million barrels a day (roughly 5 percent of world supply) were taken off the oil market for at least four months…Overnight, prices jumped to $120. U.S. gasoline prices shot to $5 a gallon.
    - What surprised me is how sanguine the participants seemed about the political and economic consequences of far more costly oil… the players [did not] … a meltdown of the global financial system.
    - What can we learn…First: with global demand and supply balanced so closely, and with so little excess production capacity, it doesn’t take much for oil prices to skyrocket…second…waiting to develop a serious energy policy until catastrophe hits only increases the pain.

    - The good news is that we know what needs doing. The bad news is that we remain largely unwilling to act. And by not acting, the United States and other oil-consuming nations leave themselves at the mercy of the market, or to individual producers who would manipulate it.
    - Energy politics is one thing. Energy policy is fundamentally different. We have too much of the former and not enough of the latter.
    - Current high prices largely reflect the fact that demand is rising faster than supply. India and China are growing rapidly, as is their consumption of oil and natural gas. The world cannot drill its way out of this conundrum. The answer mostly lies in using less oil—something that will result from increasing efficiency and accelerating alternatives.
    - …the best way to cut back on demand is through much higher gas taxes. Fuel-efficiency standards for new cars, SUVs and light trucks should be raised. There must be new incentives for companies to produce and people to purchase fuel-efficient hybrids and advanced diesel cars. The emergence of substitutes can best be hastened not by government-directed R&D but by guarantees that gas taxes will be kept high enough to discourage wanton consumption and to ensure a decent return on investment in alternatives.
    - If this isn’t a crisis, what is?

    Wednesday, July 26, 2006

    SMART CAR

    Not crazy about the "fortwo" name...
    Smart fortwo with electric drive at the British Motor Show
    - ...The Smart fortwo ev (electric vehicle) will celebrate its world premiere at the British International Motor Show (July 18th – 30th 2006) in London...
    - The vehicle will be driven by an electric motor...the Smart fortwo with electric drive costs a mere EUR 0.02 per kilometre to run...

    (That's less than 4 cents a mile! Better than 75 miles per gallon!) Don't count on Los Angelenos to see the wisdom of it but for Londoners and New Yorkers and Berliners and Parisians and Chicagoans, its...SMART.

    COAL TO LIQUID FUEL

    During World War II, both Germany and Japan made liquid fuel from coal. But it required slave labor. Now, China and Montana are trying to do it for today’s marketplace, suggesting the companies involved expect oil prices to remain high long term. Who doesn’t?
    Shell, China's Shenhua Coal to invest 6 bln usd in coal to liquid plant
    07.16.2006 (Forbes)

    - Shell Gas and Power Developments BV and Shenhua Ningxia Coal Industry Co Ltd will jointly invest 6 bln usd in a coal-to-liquids plant in northern China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region...Lim Haw Kuang, executive chairman of Shell in China, said Shell will offer its proprietary techniques for the project and a preliminary feasibility study on the project will be completed within three years.
    Two Companies Agree to Study Coal-To-Gas
    July 18, 2006 (Associated Press)
    - Two companies, including a leading coal producer, have agreed to look at sites in Montana for a plant that would turn coal into diesel and jet fuel, Gov. Brian Schweitzer said...

    - While there's been no firm commitment from Peabody Energy or Rentech Inc., Schweitzer told reporters here that the prospects for a plant being built -- likely in southern or eastern Montana -- are "very promising."
    - The companies, in a joint news release, said they'd agreed to look at sites in Montana and unspecified parts of the Midwest for coal-to-liquids plants that could range in production capacity from 10,000 barrels of fuel per day to 30,000 barrels per day...

    CHANGE BLOWIN' ACROSS THE LAND

    Wind energy projects are developing all over the heartlands:

    Minnesota blows away energy crisis
    Soaring oil prices, along with government incentives, are drawing US investors into the wind market and more turbines are being erected
    Idaho developers ready to tap the state's wind energy potential
    BOISE -- Scientists rank Idaho 13th in the nation for wind energy potential.
    Wisconsin utility buys development rights for wind farm project
    Wisconsin Power and Light Co. has bought the development rights to the Cedar Ridge Wind Farm project in Fond du Lac County, Wis.

    Kilowatts Per Acre?
    The breeziest part of Missouri
    is attracting more interest for companies wanting to set up wind farms. Two more companies are leasing land in northwest missouri's Atchison County, which is considered part of Missouri where the wind speeds are consistently high enough to turn the big blades of a generating windmill.
    Texas tops in wind energy production
    DALLAS -- Long known as a top oil- and natural gas-producing state, Texas has gained new energy acclaim by becoming the nation's top producer of wind energy.
    Please note: These aren't stories about the FLEASABILITY of wind energy but about INVESTMENTS in it.

    SECOND LIFE FOR BEATRICE FROM WIND

    Wind is the new energy source for oil's legendary North Sea Beatrice Field:
    Work starts on Beatrice oil field wind farm
    July 19, 2006 (Oil & Gas Journal)

    - [Work has begun] on a demonstration deepwater wind energy project that will extend the life of Beatrice oil field in the UK North Sea off Scotland.
    - The project...will use two of the largest turbines installed anywhere to test feasibility of wind farms in 45 m of water...It will supply power to the adjacent Beatrice platform, parts of which will require modification. On stream since 1981, Beatrice produced an average of 3,800 b/d of oil last year...

    The Beatrice Field, discovered and developed by legendary Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens' Mesa Petroleum, was named after Pickens' wife and was the first North Sea field ever named after a woman. (She is the beautiful blonde, above.)

    Tuesday, July 25, 2006

    NEW SOLAR TECHNOLOGIES

    Ace Reporter Forbes Bagatelle Black writes:
    There are two ways to harness solar energy via parabolic collectors.
    1. Use them to heat a liquid, then harness the heat energy to power a
    turbine. This has been the most common method to date. I like this
    architecture because it results in a setup which, unlike photovoltaic
    arrays, does not require rare and toxic materials. Nor does it require
    expensive semiconductor materials.

    2. Focus the concentrated solar energy on photovoltaic cells, as
    SolFocus is doing.
    SolFocus claims that they can use PV cells "approaching 40%" efficiency
    using this method. This would be drastically higher efficiency than
    seen in PV cells using non-focused sunlight. The primary benefit of
    this setup versus option 1 is simplicity; there are NO moving parts in
    a PV array unless it has a tracking function.
    At Solarbuzz, a breakthrough in PV technology is reported:
    BP Solar Develops New Silicon Growth Process
    - BP Solar has developed a new silicon growth process that significantly increases cell efficiency over traditional multi-crystalline-based solar cells. The new technique, named Mono²™, enhances BP Solar’s technological expertise in the silicon growth and wafering arenas where silicon ingots and wafering technology are key to future growth...

    - Solar cells made with these wafers, in combination with other BP Solar advances in cell process technology, will be able to produce in excess of five to eight percent more power than solar cells made with conventional processes. This translates into an equivalent module power increase and hence a substantial cost reduction at the installed system level...

    THREE WAYS TO PAY FOR SOLAR

    IN VERMONT, NUCLEAR PAYS FOR SOLAR:
    Vermont agrees to allocate $500,000 for solar projects
    Vermont Press Bureau, July 19, 2006 (Barre Times/Montpelier Argus)

    — The state agreed on Tuesday how to spend the first dollop of renewable energy money received from the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant...About $500,000 of the roughly $1.3 million will be spent to encourage small-scale solar projects, primarily put up by homeowners or farms...
    IN VENEZUELA, OIL PAYS FOR SOLAR:
    Venezuela's Warao indigenous groups to manage solar energy scheme
    Patrick J. O'Donoghue, July 23, 2006 (Venezuela Electronic News)
    - Warao indigenous groups living in Venezuela's Delta Amacuro State will benefit from a solar energy scheme...The first part...will center on San Francisco de Guayo in the Antonio Diaz municipality.

    - The sponsors of the scheme are oil joint venture group: Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) and France's Total, which have set up the Tenesol Company to manage the alternative energy project.
    - 17 families and a local school will benefit from stage one of the project.
    - Electricity will be stored in batteries and transmitted to the janoko or indigenous dwelling...the municipality will be responsible for maintaining the service.
    - Total and PDVSA will pay for the purchase and installation of equipment worth 6.4 billion bolivares. Total will train 14 persons to manage and maintain the project...
    IN COLORADO, SOLAR PAYS FOR ITSELF:
    Colorado homeowners provide power to the grid
    MIKE McKIBBEN, July 24, 2006 (Summit Daily News)
    - His new home isn't even complete, but Doug DeNio already has seen a roof-mounted solar panel put 110 kilowatts of electricity into the power grid over the last three weeks...
    - The 1,500-watt photovoltaic array is the key feature in a home DeNio said was designed to be energy-efficient and reduce its impact on the environment...

    - The system requires no storage batteries...When the panels produce more electricity than needed, the excess is fed into Xcel Energy's power distribution lines, and the DeNio's electrical meter spins backward. At night, power is drawn from the grid for lights and other needs...the system will meet 55 to 60 percent of the couple's annual electricity needs..."With renewable energy rebates from Xcel and tax incentives, the economics are very positive," DeNio said...Xcel will pay a $4.50 per watt rebate for the solar power he puts into the system, he received a $2,000 federal tax rebate for the system and estimates a total annual energy savings of $6,750...

    THE WIND IN SPAIN

    Spain’s progress in renewable energy:

    Spain bets on fair winds for energy lift
    Agence France-Presse, July 23, 2006 (International Herald Tribune & Tapei Times)
    - Spain is in the European Union vanguard as the Union targets renewables for a 20 percent share of overall energy production by 2010…
    - Wind farms are a major part of the Spanish strategy, and the share of overall wind farm production is set to double to 12 percent over the next four years, giving some 20,000 megawatts of installed capacity…enough electricity for 240-300 homes…

    - Spain, where the energy market was deregulated in 1998, is second only to Germany and just ahead of the United States in terms of installed wind power capacity, at 8,155 megawatts in December 2004…
    - Solar power is also on the rise, with the Spanish photovoltaic association, ASIF, forecasting growth of as much as 1,100 megawatts by 2010, exceeding government forecasts…The first polysilicon solar panel plant in Spain came on stream last month…Iberdrola, the second-biggest Spanish electricity producer, said Thursday that a surge in its renewable energy business had helped lift first-half net profit by 25 percent to €818 million, or $1.04 billion…
    - Regarding nuclear power, Spain has nine plants in operation that account for 23 percent of all energy production, a level comparable with the United States and Britain but far behind France's 78 percent.
    - In a world which uses more than 300 billion kilowatt-hours of energy a day and rising, the rush to renewables shows no sign of abating…

    Monday, July 24, 2006

    HOT HOT HOT, WHEREVER YOU ARE

    CONSERVE!

    (click to enlarge)
    Tips for conservation:
    -Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
    -Replace energy-hungry incandescent lights with fluorescent lighting.
    -Check with your utility company for energy conservation tips.
    -Use a programmable thermostat that automatically turns off
    the air conditioner or heater when you don't need them.
    -Add insulation to your home.
    -Use a fan instead of air conditioning.
    -Use an EPA-approved wood burning stove or fireplace insert.
    -Microwave small meals.
    -Insulate your water heater.
    -Install low-flow shower heads.

    THE PARTY’S OVER: WHAT YOU CAN DO TO CLEAN UP

    There is so much in this life NOT in our hands, it is deeply gratifying when you stop and think about what you CAN do.

    Reducing your carbon footprint: For everything you already do and for everything you decide to do on this list, YOUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN THANK YOU:
    *Things...you can do immediately. The items in this list will cost you no money at all and will in fact save you money.
    - Sign up to a green energy supplier, who will supply electricity from renewable sources (e.g. wind and hydroelectric power) - this will reduce your carbon footprint contribution from electricity to zero
    - Turn it off when not in use (lights, television, DVD player, Hi Fi, computer etc. etc. ...) - Turn down the central heating slightly (try just 1 to 2 degrees C)
    - Turn down the water heating setting (just 2 degrees will make a significant saving)
    - Check the central heating timer setting - remember there is no point heating the house after you have left for work
    - Fill your dish washer and washing machine with a full load - this will save you water, electricity, and washing powder
    - Fill the kettle with only as much water as you need
    - Unplug your mobile phone as soon as it has finished charging
    - Defrost your fridge/freezer regularly
    - Do your weekly shopping in a single trip
    - Hang out the washing to dry rather than tumble drying it
    - Go for a run rather than drive to the gym

    There are lists of things that take an initial investment but pay for themselves in energy bills savings (like energy saving light bulbs) and things to do on vacation (like renting a bike instead of a car) and things you can do at work (like not printing unnecessary documents) at CarbonFootprint.com.

    Sunday, July 23, 2006

    WHAT TO DO ABOUT CARBON: TRADE IT, TAX IT, BURY IT

    Trade It?
    This trade in carbon emissions won't combat global warming
    There are much more honest and sustainable ways of dealing with climate change, says Peter Bunyard
    July 21, 2006 (The Guardian)

    - Europe's gas emissions trading scheme is in disarray…The 11 governments now "face warnings of legal action from the European commission". In fact, the scheme may well prove unworkable, not least because British industry feels it is being unfairly treated in comparison with France and Germany, which are actually calling for emission allowances that would exceed their emissions of several years' back.
    - It is questionable whether carbon emissions trading will bring a certifiable reduction. As now embodied in the EU emissions trading scheme, fossil- fuel-burning companies such as power utilities, steelworks or cement factories are granted substantial carbon credits that they can sell - on the basis that they have emitted less than expected. That may provide some incentive to look to more efficient technologies, but the assumption is that someone elsewhere, even in another country, is going to buy that credit in order to pollute.
    - How relevant are such schemes when deforestation, particularly in the tropics, results in tens of times more carbon emissions than putatively captured by all CDM schemes put together? Perhaps a carbon tax that could be ploughed back into carbon-reducing schemes, even by the original emitter, would be much fairer and less prone to abuse.
    Tax It:
    Properly designed carbon tax could help Canada battle global warming
    Jon Kesselman, July 03, 2006 (Vancouver Sun)

    - Is a carbon tax the bogeyman that many federal and provincial politicians and industry representatives contend? Or could it serve a constructive role in improving Canada's environmental and economic performance?
    - Carbon tax proposals were first advanced by economists and later endorsed by environmentalists. In essence, such taxes would put a price on the greenhouse gas emissions from production and consumption activities. Some "green" advocates have promoted a major "tax shift" whereby taxes applied to environmentally damaging activities would be used to reduce taxes on productive activities…
    - The policy finesse is to use the additional revenues from a carbon tax to reduce the burdens of other major taxes, such as personal and corporate income taxes. Then individuals and industry alike could become net gainers…[A]pplying carbon tax revenues to reduce tax rates on productive activities has been called a "double dividend." Society would achieve a cleaner environment, with less global warming, while also improving incentives for productive work and business activities…
    As usual, the U.S. is way behind the curve on environment-protecting ideas:
    The Big Idea: An Energy Tax
    by Charles Wheelan, Ph.D., July 5, 2006, (The Naked Economist @ Yahoo.com)
    - I had lunch not long ago with a fund-raiser for a prospective presidential candidate. He admitted that his candidate is still looking for a "big idea."
    - …I will offer a "big idea" for whoever wants to take it. Since this proposal isn't inherently liberal or conservative (arguably it's both), it would work for a Republican or a Democrat, provided he or she has the backbone for it.
    - …Create a carbon tax -- basically a tax on energy calculated based on its carbon content -- and use the new revenue to provide offsetting cuts in the income tax, the payroll tax (the tax on wages used to fund Social Security), or both.
    - The whole package should be revenue neutral, meaning that it will not increase or decrease the total amount of revenue the government collects...
    Bury it: SEQUESTRATION
    Carbon Sequestration was highlighted on Tom Brokaw’s Discovery Channel essay, GLOBAL WARMING. How does it work?

    - One approach being considered to help mitigate CO2 concentrations is geologic carbon sequestration…CO2 emissions are captured from sources such as power plants and refineries and injected into underground formations—for example, old oil or gas fields or deep, briny aquifers—where the gas can be permanently isolated…
    - Each year, [Norway’s state oil company] Statoil injects about 1-million tons of CO2 recovered from its offshore Sleipner site into a saline geologic formation under the North Sea. The amount of CO2 being sequestered is equivalent to the output of a 150-megawatt coal-fired power plant. Statoil pursued the sequestration effort after Norway imposed a federal tax on atmospheric CO2 emissions from combustion-based sources. The Sleipner site is the first and largest commercial CO2 geologic sequestration facility in the world, and it is proving to be both environmentally and financially sound…
    One thing is certain:

    We can't keep burning it at the rates we have been.

    *