NewEnergyNews: 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006

NewEnergyNews

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

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE- EU UPS THE WORLD’S BAR ON EMISSIONS CUT TARGETS
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-FIRST BIG MOROCCO SOLAR NEAR POWERING UP
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NORTH SEA WIND-HYDRO INTERLINK TO GROW
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-TURKISH GEOTHERMAL GETS INTELLIGENT
  • THE DAY BEFORE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Oct. 23:

  • TTTA Thursday-EVANGELICALS IN ‘CREATION CARE’ CLIMATE FIGHT
  • TTTA Thursday-ADVANCED WIND-MAKERS MAKANI, SHEERWIND READY DEMOS
  • TTTA Thursday-TEA PARTY BACKS SOLAR, ATTACKS UTILITY MONOPOLIES
  • TTTA Thursday-WHAT DRIVERS DON’T KNOW HOLDS BACK THE FUTURE
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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

  • THE STUDY: THE IMPACT ON REAL PEOPLE OF RISING POWER PRICES
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 22: SCHOOLS SAVE W/GEOTHERMAL HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; BUILDING FOR NEXT-GEN U.S. BIOFUELS; ENERGY STORAGE MARKET EMERGING
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: WHERE U.S. OFFSHORE WIND WILL CONNECT
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 21: SOLARCITY TO CROWDFUND WITH $1,000 BONDS; NEW JERSEY LOOKS AT OCEAN WIND; SMART LED LIGHTING MRKT TO DOUBLE
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN TRANSMISSION
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 20: ELEVEN GOOD THINGS ABOUT SOLAR ENERGY; YAHOO BUYS WIND; SMART THERMOSTATS’ BILLION DOLLAR FUTURE
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • Weekend Video: The Ocean Speaks Out
  • Weekend Video: Adapting To The Inevitable
  • Weekend Video: The Joy Of Driving EVs Powered By The Sun
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • 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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  • Thursday, August 31, 2006

    THE STORY BEHIND PROP. 87

    Full disclosure: i have met Dan Kammen (read below) and he knows what he is talking about.

    'Regular guy' provides force behind Prop. 87
    Laura Mecoy, August 27, 2006 (McClatchy Newspapers via The ContraCosta Times)

    - At 42, [Anthony] Rubenstein has never before been involved in a political campaign. He has never been active in environmental causes and claimed little energy expertise…Yet this self-described "low-rent screenwriter" is the instigator of one of the biggest environmental initiatives in years and one of the most expensive ballot measure campaigns this year…

    - [UC Berkeley energy professor and longtime alternative energy advocate Dan]
    Kammen became his first contact among the alternative energy field's leading scientists. The energy professor referred Rubenstein to others, including Nathan Lewis, a California Institute of Technology chemistry professor…Soon Rubenstein was hosting weekly conference calls with Kammen, Lewis and about a dozen other scientists, policy specialists and environmentalists…
    - Rubenstein said he did not develop the policy in Proposition 87 -- the committee of experts did. But he said he insisted the panel come up with a way to pay for the alternative energy program Proposition 87 would create…the group realized California was the only major oil-producing state without a severance tax on oil extraction…California imposes a 6.2-cent-per-barrel regulatory fee that produces about $14 million in revenue…Proposition 87 proposes a new tax on producers of 1.5 percent to 6 percent of the value of the oil they extract in California. The size of the tax would increase as the per-barrel price of oil rises…
    - Opponents said California, with its corporate income and property taxes, already has the fifth-highest taxes on oil producers of any of the top 10 oil-producing states…[and call] the initiative a flawed measure that would have benefited from legislative review…Rubenstein said they decided against legislation because every other oil severance tax proposal died in the Legislature, and Sacramento legislative staff members warned this one would, too…

    - Instead, Rubenstein went in search of an "angel" who could bankroll an initiative campaign….He called a high school friend, Stephen Bing, the wealthy television producer and contributor to Democratic and environmental causes…Bing sent Rubenstein to talk to environmental experts and eventually to a lawyer to write the initiative. He also became the campaign co-chairman and has donated more than $11 million…
    - [A] brief flirtation with Texas oilman Boone Pickens….fell by the wayside in disagreements over changes Pickens wanted in the initiative…

    - [Vinod Khosla, a Republican venture capitalist who invests in alternative energy] agreed to be the campaign's co-chairman and has donated more than $1 million.
    Khosla opened the door to other venture capitalists and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, including investor John Doerr and Lawrence Page, Google president of products.
    Even with these wealthy contributors, the "Yes on 87" campaign is far behind in fund raising. Supporters have collected more than $5.5 million, much of it from investors in the alternative energy…The oil industry, which would pay the $4 billion in taxes Proposition 87 would impose, has donated more than $30 million to defeat the measure.
    - "I regret that I picked a fight with a guy who is so big and strong," Rubenstein said.
    He has become the chief executive for the campaign...But he said he expects to be unemployed the day after the election -- even if Proposition 87 is approved. No matter the outcome, Rubenstein said he expects to stay in the alternative energy field…"I feel this to the depth of my heart that we need to use less oil in this world," he said. "It's an intrinsic good for us to use cleaner alternatives to oil as much as we possibly can."

    Even if the voters reject Prop 87, the publicity about the problem will be helpful. On the other hand, if both sides took the money they're going to spend on the campaign and bought wind turbines, it would make a lot of carbon-free electricity for a long time.

    POLL: PEOPLE WANT SUN

    Results of a spring, 2006, poll commissioned by Sharp Electronics show a strong market for solar energy:

    - 79% of Americans feel that homebuilders should offer solar power as an option for all new homes…
    - 84% of Americans 25 to 49 supported solar on new homes; 69% over 65 agree.

    - Those living in the south and west are more likely to favor solar on new homes (83%) than those living in the Midwest or Northeast (74%)…
    - After being told that solar homes have a proven higher resale value, 64% would be willing to pay more for a home with a solar system…
    - 73% believe that solar technology is more important today than ever…
    - 42% say that saving money on monthly utility bills is the most compelling argument for installing solar power. 31% said it was to decrease the nation’s dependence on oil. 18% said it was to reduce environmental pollution…

    WASHINGTON TIMES SAYS GLOBE IS WARMING

    This influential conservative paper’s endorsement of the Al Gore position on global warming is a significant step toward bipartisan agreement:

    Commentary/Forum: Physicist Examines Global Warming
    Michael Pravica, Assistant Professor of Physics/University of Nevada, Las Vegas, August 27, 2006 (The Washington Times)
    - Carbon dioxide produced by all life (not including humans) may be larger than that created by human activity. But without humans, it has been in equilibrium/balance for much time via the carbon cycle. Humans continue to add enormous additional quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and are also removing the ability of life to remove/sequester carbon dioxide (by e.g. decimating rain forests). This alters the Earth's natural homeostatic balance and it's possible we are only beginning to see the negative results…

    - Unfortunately for humans, there is no politics in nature but absolute natural laws. We cannot go on pretending these laws of nature don't exist and can be violated without disastrous consequences. Whether it is warming, pollution, dwindling natural resources, pestilence and disease or overpopulation, the human race is on a collision course with reality and only science can avoid likely catastrophes ahead…
    - In that spirit, I encourage all members of the public and their leaders to first of all learn the science behind the phenomenon of global warming and engage scientists in the debate so we can all decide together on the future course of action to tackle and prepare for global warming for the survival of the human race.

    Wednesday, August 30, 2006

    PROPOSITION 87

    Make Big Oil pay? Or a recipe for waste?

    Californians weigh a new tax on oil companies
    Daniel B. Wood, August 29, 2006 (The Christian Science Monitor)
    - How many other Californians are angry about gasoline prices - and ready for their state to take action - will be clear this November, when voters decide whether to levy a new tax on oil companies that drill in California and use the money for in-state development of alternative fuels…

    - The fight over Proposition 87 is no small matter. Not only will the vote give Congress and other states a first reading of public disgruntlement over gasoline prices, but it might even affect the domestic oil market. California crude, after all, accounts for 12 percent of US production - supplying 37 percent of the state's oil demand…
    - Prop. 87 aims to raise and spend $4 billion on alternative-fuel programs over time, with the goal of cutting Californians' use of gasoline and diesel 25 percent by 2017. It also would prohibit oil companies from simply raising prices at the pump to cover their costs of the new tax…
    - Prop. 87 proponents say the initiative will eventually reduce oil use by supplying new technologies and alternative fuels for California motorists. It will also provide incentives to make clean energy more affordable, cutting polluting emissions, they say…

    - Opponents say Prop. 87 would reduce revenue for local government, schools, public safety, and healthcare and drive up the price of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. Refineries in California would simply seek cheaper oil from out of state (not subject to the in-state tax), they argue, and demand for California crude would slacken…
    - Each side has amassed a campaign war chest of more than $25 million. A California Field Poll conducted in July found Prop. 87 is favored 52 percent to 31 percent, with 17 percent undecided. But only 19 percent of respondents knew anything about the measure…
    - But is it possible, really, to prevent oil companies from passing on to consumers the added tax, as the initiative proposes? Proponents of Prop. 87 say yes, citing the state attorney general's comments that it would be possible. Some economists, meanwhile, say the price at the pump is likely to rise for reasons beyond Prop. 87…
    - Another hurdle for Prop. 87, say analysts, is voter confusion. Several state initiatives have failed during the past 10 years because voters did not understand their implications. In November, Californians will also decide whether to OK a $60 billion bond measure to improve infrastructure, and that measure could affect their decision on Prop. 87.
    "This is a complicated measure with a lot of moving parts: creation of an independent board, severance tax on oil, money to provide incentives" for fuel alternatives, says John Matsusaka of the Initiative & Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. "I don't dismiss the possibility that the measure could have an effect, but the voters should not be asked to commit all that money on faith. Proponents have to come up with some reliable evidence."


    Make comments, influence readers, have your say.

    First thought: Take the 50 million they've got for the political fight and invest in wind turbines. Think it will bring in 4 mil by 2017?

    Tuesday, August 29, 2006

    GREENING THE BIG EASY

    Rebuilding a better, greener New Orleans/Global Green and Brad Pitt join forces to help bring housing to the Gulf Coast region
    (Segments from the Today Show of July 18, 2006)

    - To help encourage environmentally-friendly building, Brad Pitt, along with Global Green, announced a sustainable design architectural competition for the areas of New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina. It drew 3000 registrants from all over the world, six finalists were chosen. Check out the designs…
    - All of the selected designs express a clear understanding of the need to address rising electricity and energy costs and mounting health problems caused by exposure to unhealthy building practices. Healthy, energy efficient homes and affordable housing often have no or little increased cost, yet provide vast benefits through lower energy and water bills, increased durability, and improved health of the residents…

    The finalists’ proposals:

    1. “GreeN.O.LA”: Matthew Berman and Andrew Kotchen of Workshop/APD, New York, N.Y.

    2. “NOLA shotgunLOFT”: Fred Schwartz of Schwartz Architecture, New York, N.Y.

    3. “The Levee”: Drew Lang of Drew Lang Architects, New York, N.Y.

    4. “Rebuild Renew: Sustainable Design for the Holy Cross District”: MetroStudio,
    New Orleans, La.


    5. “On the River”: Brad Lynch and David Brininstool of Brininstool and Lynch,
    Chicago, Ill.


    6. “Breathe”: Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, New Orleans, La.

    GREEN AIRPLANE

    Boeing hydrogen plane set to lift off
    Jonathan Leake, August 27, 2006 (UK Times)
    - Boeing is developing a light aircraft powered by fuel cells and electric motors, making it potentially the greenest plane ever to fly…It would emit no carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed for global warming, or other pollutants, leaving just a trail of water. It would also be almost completely silent. The hitch? It would fly at only 70mph…The decision to develop the plane comes amid growing concern over high carbon dioxide emissions from passenger jets…

    - Boeing is working with Intelligent Energy, a British fuel cell designer. It hopes the two-seater aircraft will make its maiden flight in the next 12 months…Boeing engineers in Madrid have stripped out its fuel tank, replacing it with a bottle of compressed hydrogen that will feed into a fuel cell…There, the hydrogen will be chemically combined with oxygen from the air to generate power. This will then be fed to an electric motor to turn the propeller…The system is mechanically simple. Fuel cells have no moving parts and run silently. They tend, however, to be bulky and expensive, which is why their use has never become widespread…
    - The Boeing project will be the first manned fuel cell- powered aircraft. Last year AeroVironment, a Californian firm, flew an unmanned surveillance plane, the Global Observer, which was powered by a fuel cell…

    - Even if Boeing succeeds with its aircraft it will take many years to scale it up for commercial use...
    - Another big problem is finding a supply of “green” hydrogen. Most commercially produced hydrogen is synthesised in refineries from fossil fuels such as natural gas. Critics call this “black hydrogen” because carbon dioxide is generated as a by-product, cancelling out many of the potential benefits…

    WORKERS PAY FOR ENERGY

    Here's whats wrong with not having domestic, renewable energy:

    NAM: Higher energy costs have cut US workers' wages
    Nick Snow, August 28, 2006 (Oil and Gas Journal)
    - US workers' real hourly wages have fallen because energy prices overall have climbed 80% since the end of the 2001 recession, said the National Association of Manufacturers in its 2006 Labor Day report on Aug. 28…

    - Energy cost impacts are the single negative in a domestic economy where nonfarm productivity grew 2.3% year-to-year (slightly down from the 3.3% pace of the prior 3 years), 1.7 million new private sector jobs were added, and average unemployment fell below 5% for the first time in 5 years, NAM said…
    - This is the first US economic recovery in 30 years where energy prices have climbed instead of fallen... NAM is calling for a national debate on a comprehensive national energy strategy…

    OIL BULLIES

    Hoping to bully the US:
    Venezuela to boost oil sales to China
    Aug. 25, 2006 (Oil and gas Journal)
    - Venezuela will cooperate with China in supplying crude oil to help fulfill the Asian giant's energy demands, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez said Aug. 25…

    - During a news conference in Beijing, Chavez said Venezuela is arranging to sell 500,000 b/d to China in 5 years. In July, Venezuela exported about 155,000 b/d of crude oil to China, and Chavez said he hopes to double oil sales to China next year…
    Chavez can’t push the US around while it is Venezuela’s biggest oil customer.

    Hoping to bully Eastern Europe:
    Gazprom threatens to cut gas exports to Bosnia
    Aug. 25, 2006 (Oil and Gas Journal

    - Russian gas giant OAO Gazprom threatened to cut natural gas exports to Bosnia on Oct. 1 unless Bosnia begins to pay its debt, Bosnian state-controlled gas importer Energoinvest said in a statement…
    Most of Eastern Europe’s gas supply comes from or through Russia.
    Hoping to bully the oil companies:
    Chevron, Petronas ordered to pay tax or leave Chad
    Eric Watkins, Aug. 28, 2006 (Oil and Gas Journal)
    - Chad President Idriss Déby has accused Chevron Corp. and Malaysia's state-owned Petronas of failing to pay taxes and ordered the companies to leave the country…

    - Chevron denied the charges, saying it has been in full compliance with all of its tax obligations, while Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said, "This is a big surprise to me."

    That a national oil company is angling for a better deal from the majors who explored its resources should come as a surprise to nobody.

    FOR THE CONSPIRACY MINDED

    Here they are, together again, naturally:
    Aramco, partners sign Yanbu' refinery contract
    Aug. 24, 2006 (Oil and Gas Journal)

    - Saudi Aramco, ConocoPhillips, and Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) gathered in Houston recently to sign a front-end engineering contract for start of construction of a 400,000 b/d refinery in Yanbu'…
    - The Yanbu' export refinery, slated for completion in 2011, will process Arabian heavy crude oil into motor fuels and other products for US and European markets. Its twin-sister plant in Jubail, a joint venture of Saudi Aramco and Total SA, will primarily serve the Far East market…
    - Both refineries will be sited near existing Saudi Aramco facilities.

    Monday, August 28, 2006

    ALL ABOUT BATTERIES

    Wondering what's up with all those battery recalls? Here's a little info:
    All charged up
    Damon Darlinand & Barnaby J. Feder, 8/20/2006 (NYTimes via StL Post-Dispatch)
    - In the information age, people want their electronics everywhere they go…But they rely on batteries that have not improved as rapidly as the devices they power. Moore's Law, which offers a yardstick for the exponential advances in computer chips, has no counterpart in the world of batteries…Researchers are trying to improve the situation…

    -Portable rechargeable batteries are expected to be a $6.2-billion market this year, and more than 1 billion batteries will be made by some of the largest electronics companies in the world: Sony, Sanyo, Matsushita, and Samsung…But scientists are running into some basic hurdles of chemistry and physics. The more energy they store in a small package, the more volatile and dangerous that package becomes…Though the chance of a flaming notebook is small, the number of incidents involving burning batteries is rising each year because there are so many more devices using small and powerful power sources…
    - There is another pressing reason for the quest for improvements: battery-powered cars. An electric car needs a power source that is 2,000 times as powerful as a laptop battery…
    - The potential for fire in a lithium-ion battery is a result of its chemical composition. Contained in that small package are all the elements needed for a fierce blaze: carbon, oxygen, and a flammable fluid…The battery is made of a thin layer of lithium cobalt oxide, which serves as the cathode, and a strip of graphite, the anode. These are separated by a porous insulator and surrounded by fluid, a lithium salt electrolyte that happens to be highly flammable…When the battery is charged, lithium ions on the cathode migrate to the anode. As the battery is used, the ions migrate back to provide the energy. In the charged state, the cathode without most of its ions is highly unstable. If a spark occurs, the temperature of the cathode can exceed 275 degrees…That is hot enough to cause the cathode to decompose and release oxygen. A fire starts, and as heat builds the battery begins what scientists call a "thermal runaway."
    - Scientists are looking for new battery chemistry that does not involve carbon, oxygen, and fuel…much of the work is concentrated on replacing the cobalt-based cathode with magnesium. Others want to get the carbon out of the system. Sony, for instance, has a new generation of batteries that use tin…Valence Technology, a maker of alternatives to lithium-ion batteries in Austin, Texas, uses a phosphate-based cathode…

    - As consumers demand more from notebooks and cell phones, the electronics industry may need a whole new way of thinking about power supplies…The most likely candidates are miniaturized versions of the fuel cells that are being developed for cars. Fuel cells use hydrogen, but because hydrogen is hard to store and handle, many microcells get hydrogen from fuels like methanol…Methanol-based microcells, for instance, have roughly 10 times the energy density, creating the prospect of wireless laptops that could run all day without recharging…The tweaking of materials and chemicals in the lithium-ion battery will extend its usefulness for at least another decade or more, said Gao Liu, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory…The best bet for the future probably is fuel cells, he said, but it may be more than a decade before they start appearing in mass-market portable devices…Pulling together all of the components has proved more challenging than fuel cell advocates predicted…

    ALL ABOUT BIODIESEL

    Informative piece on biodiesel:
    Is soybean-based biodiesel the fuel of the future?
    Gina Duwe, Saturday, August 19, 2006 (Janesville (Wisconsin) Gazette)
    - [Biodiesel fuel is] one of the fastest-growing industries in the country, producing 75 million gallons in 2005-three times the 25 million gallons produced just one year earlier, said Amber Thurlo-Pearson, communications specialist for the National Biodiesel Board.

    - "Four years ago, I could go to 100 people in the state of Wisconsin-including our government-and talk about biodiesel, and 99 of them had no idea what I was talking about," said [Kelly Maloney, owner of a small biodiesel plant, Renewable Alternatives in Manitowoc]…"If I had a million gallons sitting here right now, it would all be sold…”
    - Maloney's facility is the only Wisconsin biodiesel plant operating-though several more, including one in Evansville, are in the works…His facility can produce 1,000 to 2,000 gallons of biodiesel a day..."As the future progresses, it's just going to become more cutthroat and competitive," he said...Maloney declined to explain where he gets his soybean oil or reveal other production details.
    - Biodiesel is gaining attention outside of its industry…

    - What is biodiesel?
    - Biodiesel is a cleaner-burning alternative fuel, produced from domestic, renewable resources. It contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend…The less-polluting fuel…is produced from any fat or oil, such as soybean oil, through a refinery process called transesterification. The oil reacts with an alcohol to remove the glycerin, which is a byproduct of the process.
    - About one bushel of soybeans produces about 1.5 gallons of biodiesel…Ninety percent of the United States' biodiesel is made from soybeans. Some experts estimate that if the industry keeps growing at its current speed, more than 10 percent of the nation's soybean oil could be used...
    - For every unit of energy needed to produce a gallon of biodiesel, 3.24 units of energy are gained, according to Pioneer seed company.
    - Increasing crude oil prices, political unrest, economic benefits and the need for energy security are all contributing to the industry's surge…It's a move toward getting the country less dependent on foreign oil…

    - There are 65 large-scale biodiesel commercial plants in the country, with about 50 more under construction and dozens more in planning…There are more than 850 retail stations in the United States where consumers can buy biodiesel…
    - Biodiesel prices range closely with diesel prices…
    One thing: Lower mileage with biodiesel drives cost up.

    Sunday, August 27, 2006

    SHOWING THE MONEY

    Money flowing to new ideas in energy/Venture funding spikes to $445.1m
    Robert Weisman, August 26, 2006 (Boston Globe)
    - With rising energy prices stoking demand for new technologies, venture capital firms are showering attention, and hundreds of millions of dollars, on a field investors have long ignored: alternative energy...

    ...Start-ups working with solar, battery, hydrogen, wind, and fuel cell technologies raised $445.1 million in venture funds nationally in the first six months of this year, 56.1 percent more than the $285.2 million raised by such companies in all of 2005...
    - In New England, venture investments in alternative energy companies spiked to $87.9 million in the first half of 2006, six times more than the $13.5 million invested all of last year...

    - At today's higher energy prices, ``a lot of the things that didn't look economical in the past are starting to look more economical," said Jeff Andrews , a partner at Atlas Venture...

    CARS ON AIR

    Engines have long been able to run on compresed air, but with little efficiency. In the last decade or so, car designers have been tinkering with a more efficient, double compression system to make a green vehicle.

    MSNBC did a piece on them a couple of years ago. Wikipedia has a good entry on them. And here is the piece from The UK Sunday Times from last year.

    Apparently leading the market is the French-made MDI Air Car, with competition coming from the Energine Corporation's Pneumatic Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV).

    Like hydrogen, air requires an outside power source to become fuel (to compress it). If that outside power source burns carbon, the vehicle is not pollution free; if the outside source is green, the car is potentially pollution-free.

    The crux of the vehicle's value hinges on EROEI (and whether it burns carbon). As a future concept, it sounds exciting.

    Saturday, August 26, 2006

    FUTURE ENERGY CENTER

    The Grand Opening of the
    Future Energy Center
    will be from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 27 at a new visitor’s center located on the Dull Homestead Farm near Dayton at 10404 National Road, Brookville, Ohio.

    - Located beneath a skyline of six 120’ wind turbines, the Future Energy Center, the environmental branch of the Dayton International Peace Museum, will feature exhibits on alternative energy technologies and ways to conserve resources and the environment...will be partially powered by an innovative, residential hydrogen unit...
    Exhibits on:
    - solar...wind...hydrogen...geothermal...
    biomass...methane...ethanol...peak oil...
    hybrid vehicles...bio-diesel...
    green building design...farmland preservation...
    - A boardwalk around a 200-year-old oak tree along a regional bikeway has been constructed by Dayton’s MetroParks in the Dulls’ old growth woods. The international Heifer Project will have some animals at the Center. Entertainment will be provided...refreshments will be available...
    - Experts on environmental issues will give talks...
    - The Grand Opening is free to the public, but donations are suggested to help support the Dayton International Peace Museum...
    - For more information on the Future Energy Center, click here.

    GLOBAL DIMMING

    Why the Sun seems to be 'dimming'
    David Sington, January 2005 (BBC News)
    - We are all seeing rather less of the Sun, according to scientists who have been looking at five decades of sunlight measurements...They have reached the disturbing conclusion that the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth's surface has been gradually falling...Paradoxically, the decline in sunlight may mean that global warming is a far greater threat to society than previously thought.

    - The effect was first spotted by Gerry Stanhill, an English scientist working in Israel...Sunlight was falling by 10% over the USA, nearly 30% in parts of the former Soviet Union, and even by 16% in parts of the British Isles...overall the decline amounted to one to two per cent globally every decade between the 1950s and the 1990s...
    - Dimming appears to be caused by air pollution...invisible carbon dioxide - the principal greenhouse gas responsible for global warming - [and] tiny airborne particles of soot, ash, sulphur compounds and other pollutants...This visible air pollution reflects sunlight back into space, preventing it reaching the surface. But the pollution also changes the optical properties of clouds...polluted clouds contain a larger number of droplets than unpolluted clouds...this makes them more reflective than they would otherwise be, again reflecting the Sun's rays back into space...
    - Scientists are now worried that dimming, by shielding the oceans from the full power of the Sun, may be disrupting the pattern of the world's rainfall...
    - But perhaps the most alarming aspect of global dimming is that it may have led scientists to underestimate the true power of the greenhouse effect...extra energy is being trapped in the Earth's atmosphere by the extra carbon dioxide...What has been surprising is that this extra energy has so far resulted in a temperature rise of just 0.6 degree Celsius...This has led many scientists to conclude that the present-day climate is less sensitive to the effects of carbon dioxide than it was, say, during the ice age, when a similar rise in CO2 led to a temperature rise of six degrees Celsius...
    - But it now appears the warming from greenhouse gases has been offset by a strong cooling effect from dimming...two of our pollutants have been cancelling each other out...the climate may in fact be more sensitive to the greenhouse effect than previously thought...
    - As things stand, CO2 levels are projected to rise strongly over coming decades, whereas there are encouraging signs that particle pollution is at last being brought under control...Even the most pessimistic forecasts of global warming may now have to be drastically revised upwards...That is unless we act urgently to curb our emissions of greenhouse gases.

    SLIDE SHOW: In the early 21st century, it's become clear that air pollution can significantly reduce the amount of sunlight reaching Earth, lower temperatures, and mask the warming effects of greenhouse gases. Climate researcher James Hansen estimates that "global dimming" is cooling our planet by more than a degree Celsius (1.8°F) and fears that as we cut back on the pollution that contributes to dimming, global warming may escalate to a point of no return. Regrettably, in terms of possibly taking corrective action, our current understanding of global dimming has been a long time in the coming, considering the first hints of the phenomenon date back to 18th-century observations of volcanic eruptions. In this slide show, follow a series of historic events and scientific milestones that built the case for global dimming. (Susan K. Lewis, PBS/Nova)

    Friday, August 25, 2006

    CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF

    It’s a LOT better to “greenwash” global warming than to deny it or pretend the hydrogen fantasy is the best answer!

    BP revs up for carbon neutral motoring
    August 23, 2006 (UK Guardian)
    - These are the best of times and the worst of times for BP. Profits have never been higher…At the same time, the company with a green and yellow logo to emphasise its environmentally-friendly credentials is under fire for its record in Alaska…

    - Given that background, it was inevitable that when BP launched its "targetneutral" initiative to encourage motorists to "neutralise" carbon dioxide (C02) emissions from their vehicles, quite a few journalists voiced their scepticism…
    - Too often companies are criticised for not being proactive on environmental issues, yet when they try something, the idea is dismissed as "greenwash"; a gimmick to enhance their green credentials...The starting point for targetneutral is that road transport accounts for 22% of Britain's C02 emissions. BP argues that while it is working on biofuels and other forms of alternative energy to petrol, those schemes lie in the future and that action to mitigate CO2 emissions can be taken here and now…drivers can go to a website to calculate the cost of the annual C02 reduction needed to make their car C02 neutral. An average car, driven 10,000 miles a year, generates about four tonnes of C02. To neutralise that amount, BP says, will cost around £20 a year. It sounds like a piffling price to do your bit to save the planet. BP says a huge amount of C02 could be neutralised if all 40 million drivers in the UK signed up to targetneutral…
    - But how does all that C02 get neutralised? The money motorists pay towards targetneutral, which will be matched by BP when motorists register and use their Nectar card at a BP forecourt, will go towards five renewable energy projects in the developing world. These projects are designed to "offset" or "cancel" out a driver's emissions…
    - There is one big problem, though. Will motorists who are already grumbling about having to pay £1 a litre in some parts of the country be ready to go the extra mile -or in this case another £20 - for such a scheme?

    CHINESE ELECTRIC CAR

    The perfect partnership:

    China Car Manufacturer Receives Order for 500 Electric Vehicles from Listed Company ZAP

    - China car maker Shandong Jindalu Vehicle Co., Ltd has received orders for over 500 units of the XEBRA electric vehicle for export to the USA via a strategic partnership with automotive firm ZAP (NYSE Arca:ZP)…XEBRAs…are the first production electric vehicles made in China designed for US roads. Over 100 units have already been delivered to ZAP in California and Shandong Jindalu says it has the capacity to produce 1000 units per month...
    - The new XEBRA has been co-developed and co-designed through a strategic partnership with ZAP, a publicly owned company based in Santa Rosa, California. ZAP has an exclusive 10-year distribution contract with Shandong Jindalu to market the XEBRAs through its ZAP brand network of authorized sales and service centers.
    - The second micro-car ZAP is distributing in the US, the tiny XEBRA can park two to a normal parking space. It is a true Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) and ZAP is marketing them as an alternative for families with two or more cars as well as to government and corporate fleets. The car has been designed to plug in at any normal 110-volt outlet.

    MCCAIN MAKES IT AN ISSUE

    McCain studying global warming proves it will be an issue in the 2008 campaign.

    McCain heads overseas to observe global warming effects
    August 23, 2006 (Business Journal of Phoenix)

    -Arizona Sen. John McCain will visit Greenland, Turkey, Georgia, Montenegro and Italy as part of a Senate delegation headed overseas during Congress' summer break…McCain and the other Republican senators want to observe the effects of global warming while in Greenland. They also will attend an A-list economic and political conference at a swanky northern Italian resort…McCain and U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., favor legislation to cap industrial emissions in an effort to curtail global warming…
    - McCain… is expected to run for president again in 2008 and is courting voters and key GOP supporters in battleground states such as Iowa, Florida, Ohio, South Carolina, New Hampshire and California.

    Sounds like some hard travelin’…

    EU FOR EROEI

    This guy is talking about EROEI (Energy Returned On Energy Invested):

    EU energy chief says renewable energy must cost less to rival oil
    - Renewable energy must become less expensive if it is to offer a real alternative to oil, EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said Wednesday...

    - Europe has had a taste of the disruptive effects of high and volatile oil shocks on the economy in recent months and needs a consistent EU energy policy to curb its increasing dependence on imported oil…But for renewable energy to gain a real share of the market, a major factor would be "getting the cost of renewable and biofuels down,'' he said in prepared remarks...EU nations only generate 6 percent of total energy from renewables, he said, far off a target of 12 percent by 2010. He cited energy used for heating and cooling, saying "vigorous development'' was needed to make the target and promising that EU would put forward several initiatives next January…
    - Europe's commitment to reducing the greenhouse gases that are linked to climate change also means keeping the keeping the nuclear option open to the countries that want it, he said… "Nuclear energy represents at present the largest carbon-free source of energy in Europe,'' he said. "In terms of security of supply, nuclear energy is particularly attractive.''
    - However, he warned that the EU's nuclear plants are aging and nations need to work together to make sure nuclear plants and nuclear waste is dealt with at "the highest level of safety.''

    WIND PAYS

    $250+ million over 20 years is 12.5 mil a year that blows in with the wind:

    Study: Wind to blow $251M off energy bills
    August 23, 2006 (Denver Business Journal via Yahoo Finance)
    - A study released Wednesday by a trade association representing companies invested in the wind energy industry says Colorado customers of Xcel Energy Inc. are expected to save about $251 million in energy costs over the next 20 years through the use of wind energy vs. natural gas-fired power plants.

    -The study also said that consumers could have saved an additional $186 million if all the wind projects Xcel pursued had come to fruition…Several wind projects have fallen by the wayside in recent years due to a number of factors, ranging from higher costs of steel poles to support the turbines to difficulties negotiating agreements between developers and the utility…
    -Authors of the study were Jane Pater, who has worked on energy and environmental issues, and Ron Binz, former head of the Colorado Consumer Counsel's office…
    - The study also repeated the need for additional transmission lines, essentially highways for shipping electricity from rural and remote power plants to urban consumers.

    JEREMY MOORE

    Never got anything like this by Email before:

    - I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed reading your blog. I wrote a blog myself for four years, and I reached almost 4,000 weekly readers before I shut it down. It's exciting for me to see others "carry the torch" of online publishing.
    - I recently published a book of the best posts from my blog. The book is called Voting My Faith,and I was wondering if you'd be interested in posting a link to it on your site.

    This does not constitute an endorsement of Jeremy’s book. Good luck, Jeremy.

    Thursday, August 24, 2006

    LUCK OF THE IRISH?

    Solves the world’s energy problems, rewrites the laws of physics!

    Irish company challenges scientists to test 'free energy' technology
    August 18, 2006 (Yahoo News)

    - An Irish company has thrown down the gauntlet to the worldwide scientific community to test a technology it has developed that it claims produces free energy.
    The company, Steorn, says its discovery is based on the interaction of magnetic fields and allows the production of clean, free and constant energy -- a concept that challenges one of the basic rules of physics.
    - It claims the technology can be used to supply energy for virtually all devices, from mobile phones to cars.
    - Steorn issued its challenge through an advertisement in the Economist magazine this week quoting Ireland's Nobel prize-winning author George Bernard Shaw who said that "all great truths begin as blasphemies".
    - Sean McCarthy, Steorn's chief executive officer, said they had issued the challenge for 12 physicists to rigorously test the technology so it can be developed.

    Reaction from Eric Berger, SciGuy (chron.com):
    - The more I think about this I am of two minds:

    1. These guys really do think they've succeeded in breaking the laws of thermodynamics.
    2. Recall that Steorn is a former e-business company that saw its market vanish during the dot.com bust. It stands to reason that Steorn has re-tooled as a Web marketing company, and is using the "free energy" promotion as a platform to show future clients how it can leverage print advertising and a slick Web site to promote their products and ideas. If so, it's a pretty brilliant strategy.

    SOLDIERS AND COPS GO ALTERNATIVE

    Don't you love it when DoD is buyin'?
    Commanders in Iraq Urgently Request Renewable Power Options
    23 August 2006, (Defense Industry Daily)
    - On July 25, 2006, Al-Anbar commander and U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer submitted an MNF-W priority 1 request pointing to the hazards inherent in American supply lines, and noted that many of the supply convoys on Iraq's roads (up to 70%, by some studies) are carrying fuel. Much of that fuel isn't even for vehicles - it's for diesel generators used to generate power at US bases et. al. In response, the document requests alternative energy solutions to power US forward operating bases... and the US military looks like it will act on the request.

    - Zilmer's request is believed to be the first formal request [for alternative energy solutions] from a front-line commander. Not to mention the first formal request that acknowledges the security dimension of alternative energy sources in response to the growth of "systempunkt" terrorism and the non-linear battlefield. This is also an issue of cost, and reports indicate that foresighted CIA venture funding has even produced a front-runner for the coming contracts...
    - The request reportedly calls for 183 renewable energy systems of various power capacities. More than anything else, however, Zilmer's letter is about changing assumptions...Amory Lovins, who advises a Defense Science Board panel on fuel efficiency, was quoted by Defense News as saying that the Pentagon's fuel cost calculations have traditionally been based on wholesale prices, and have not taken into account the actual cost of delivering it to front-line units...
    - The US military's research and engineering director John Young has reportedly commissioned a task force on energy efficiency and renewable fuels...Meanwhile, in Iraq, the emerging conclusion is that one of the best ways to reduce casualties on the roads is to reduce the number of vehicles forced to use them...

    - "As we transfer control to the Iraqis, the addition of renewable and self-sustainable energy at the outlying bases will enable the Iraqis to operate independently, lessening the need for coalition forces to provide future logistics support...."
    - Zilmer's document encloses a list of requirements a successful renewable energy system fielded to Iraq must be able to satisfy, and Iraq's and Afghanistan's climates certainly make solar power a very strong option...the ability to operate in climates from cold to tropical and wet to dry is an obvious need...the usual military requirements of transportability and storage enter in...
    - Zilmer's request singles out the Mobile Power System (MPS), a containerized solution built by SkyBuilt Power...SkyBuilt may well face competition from military contracting veterans like Boeing, whose Spectrolab subsidiary just won a project in Australia which also aims to provide renewable, high-output solar power to far-flung communities...
    And:
    Met Police buys hybrids
    Tue 22 Aug, 2006 (Reuters)

    - The Metropolitan Police has placed Britain's biggest ever order for hybrid cars.
    It is leasing 117 Honda Civic hybrids for community support officers to use as part of its safer neighbourhoods scheme...Stuart Middleton, the Metropolitan Police's director of transport services, said the hybrids would help "meet police requirements and at the same time fulfill social responsibility to try and make our fleet of vehicles as green as possible. The police, like many other like-minded people, want to do their bit."
    Why wouldn’t they? They’re the ones fighting the terrorists who are funded by oil money.

    TROUBLE IN AFGHANISTAN

    Didn't we bring peace and democracy to Afghanistan?

    Besieged Pakistan tank-truck drivers rebel
    Aug. 22, 2006 (Oil and Gas Journal)

    - Increasing terrorist attacks on truckers transporting cheap oil from Pakistan to war-torn Afghanistan, have prompted an angry reaction from Pakistani tank-truck owners...the All Pakistan Oil Tanker Owners Association (APOTOA) threatened a nationwide strike in 2 weeks unless Pakistan and Afghanistan provide protection for them...
    - Within 2 months, nine tanker-trucks have been attacked in Kandahar, Afghanistan, while three were bombed inside the Pakistan border near Chaman in Balochistan province...a number of drivers have been killed, but their families have not received any compensation from either government or from Rawalpindi, Pakistan-based Attock Refinery Ltd. (ARL). Attock Oil Co. Ltd. owns 52.5% of ARL.

    GOOD NEWS FOR COAL AND NUCLEAR ENERGY

    Looking for the next Big Energy:

    Nuclear first:
    EU Energy Commissioner Backs Nuclear Power, to Aid Environment
    Stephen Voss, Aug. 23 (Bloomberg)

    - The European Commissioner for Energy promoted the use of nuclear power for electricity generation on the grounds it can provide the biggest reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases…
    - Nuclear power plants account for about 32 percent of the electricity produced in the EU. Uranium, the raw material for nuclear power, is distributed among countries that have ``less geopolitical risks'' than oil and gas-producing nations, Andris Piebalgs said.
    - David Cairns, the U.K.'s parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Scotland office, said at the same conference a new generation of nuclear power plants could help the U.K. reduce carbon dioxide emissions, while acknowledging that the government needs to consider issues of ``waste, security and safety.'' …Cairns added that any new power plants would be funded by companies, not the government.

    Now coal:
    Sasol discussing new S African coal to liquids (CTL) synfuels plant
    Gareth Tredway, 23-AUG-06 (Mineweb)
    - Amid confusing signals from the South African government, Sasol has confirmed that preliminary discussions have been held regarding a possible future increase in synfuels production capacity in South Africa. The discussions have included the possibility of a new greenfields CTL (coal-to-liquids) project.

    With promising research:

    Soil Properties and Carbon Sequestration of Afforested Pastures in Reclaimed Minesoils of Ohio
    D. A. N. Ussiri*, R. Lal and P. A. Jacinthe, 22 August 2006 (Soil Science Society of America journal)
    - Land-use change affects many soil properties, including soil organic carbon (SOC) pool, and the transfer of atmospheric CO2 to terrestrial landscapes. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of converting pastureland to Australian pine (Casuarina spp) and Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L) forest on selected soil physical and chemical properties and SOC sequestration in reclaimed minesoils (RMS) of southeastern Ohio...
    - The increase in the SOC pool was accompanied by an increase in the C/N ratios and root biomass in both Australian pine and Black locust sites in the 20- to 50-cm depth. Establishment of tree plantation has a greater potential for SOC sequestration than pastures in the RMS.

    CELLULOSIC ETHANOL PRO & CON

    FOR:
    - In Louisiana: Bagasse is ethanol from cellulosic sugar products.
    - In Pennsylvania: Corn-based cellulosic ethanol.
    - In Massachusetts: Pure research into the microbial breakdown of cellulosic biomass for ethanol (funded by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla).

    ADAMANTLY OPPOSED: John R. Benemann, Don C. Augenstein, Don J. Wilhelm and Dale R. Simbeck of the Institute for Environmental Management, Inc. (Palo Alto) at The Oil Drum:
    - An independent analysis identified many problems with the currently proposed processes, including the relatively high costs of biomass delivered to commercial-scale plants (which would need to be 200 million liters per year output, or greater, for economics of scale), the problems with pretreatment, the low rates and yields of sugars from enzymatic cellulose hydrolysis, the resulting low sugar and ethanol concentrations, and the overall high energy consumption of the overall process. In addition to not tolerating high ethanol concentrations, genetically engineered organisms developed for combined hexose-pentose fermentations are subject to contamination, which will require prohibitively expensive containment systems.

    - Even ignoring, as most studies do, such major problems, and using available corn stover and enzymatic hydrolysis, the currently favored biomass resource and process, our techno-economic analysis estimated a cost of ethanol twice as high as that of ethanol from corn. Forest residues and wastes, biomass crops, and municipal wastes are even less promising. The conclusions of this assessment are that none of the existing processes are ready for commercial applications in any foreseeable time frame and that continuing fundamental and applied R&D is required. Some opportunities may exist for near-term applications of cellulose conversion technologies to some specific, modest-scale, agricultural wastes.

    OBIT FOR BATTERY BRAIN

    Detroit Metro Times columnist Jack Lessenberry memorialized the life of Iris Ovshinsky, battery technology pioneer:

    - Last week Iris Ovshinsky tragically died while swimming near her home in Farmington Hills. Not only was she half of perhaps the most important team of scientists in Michigan history, she was half of an incredible love story.
    - If you have a laptop computer, there's a good chance it's running on a nickel-metal-hydride battery, and you have Iris and her husband, Stan, to thank for inventing it. They met at a party back in the 1950s, locked eyes and hearts, and were seldom separated by more than a few arms' lengths after that.

    - They founded a company that, in many ways, was more revolutionary than Microsoft, though, alas, they were always better scientists than businessmen.
    - They were pioneers in solar cell research and alternative fuel technology. A word from their last name, Ovonics, is in Webster's Dictionary. Iris and Stan were featured prominently in this year's movie Who Killed the Electric Car?

    Wednesday, August 23, 2006

    GLOBAL WARMING QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

    Four Questions for Global Warming Enthusiasts
    August 17th, 2006 (The American Thinker)
    - 1. Is global warming happening?
    - 2. If warming is occurring, are human beings a significant causative factor?
    - 3. Regardless of cause, would the net effect be good or bad?
    - 4. If all of the above is satisfied and humans are contributing to warming Earth temperatures, and it would be harmful, can anyone do anything about it, at any cost?
    - Don’t be misled by leftists who insist the scientific question is closed…Scientists agree the Earth is round, and it can be proven. Therefore, it’s a fact. Many competent scientists disagree on each of the elements in my four-part test. That makes it a political issue. We should not confuse science with politics or entertainment with reality.

    Answers to "The American Thinker":
    1. Facts rarely get more incontrovertible. Science is decidedly NOT murky on this: Global warming is happening.

    "In the journal Science, an essay by Naomi Oreskes considered the abstracts of all 928 scientific articles in the ISI citation database identified with the keyword "global climate change". Dr. Oreskes concluded that none of these abstracts attempt to refute the position that man-made emissions of greenhouse gases are a substantial contributor to recent warming." [Wikipedia]

    For science—an intellectual activity dependent on give and take—this is ASTONISHING AGREEMENT! Scientists differ on anomalies like the "Little Ice Age" and when human activity began having a measurable effect but these things in no way controvert the pattern.

    2. Human beings ARE a factor. Name something humans do that does NOT warm the earth. Animals warm the earth. Humans warm it more because they burn fossil fuels and spew carbon dioxide, causing a greenhouse effect, trapping the heat we and all life gives off. Ten years ago there was substantial debate on this but now there is just nitpicking by a small proportion of scientists, mostly representing vested interests. (Did you see the reports of the way the White House savaged beyond all reason their own EPA scientist's warnings on warming?)

    Warming is now 0.6 +/- 0.2 degrees Celsius (1.1 +/- 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit). [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] And we are only at the beginning of the process, yet the polar ice caps are melting, with resultant rises in sea level and changes in weather.

    3. If you don't think major portions of Manhattan and Washington and London and Singapore and Hong Kong and many other cities, not to mention portions of COUNTRIES, disappearing under water (along with the associated economic havoc and environmental refugees) is a net "bad" effect, how about the bulk of the world's farmlands turning to desert, causing global-sized hunger? How about devastation to the world's drinking water supply? How about skin cancer becoming epidemic? Did we get to "bad" yet?

    4. Prompt conservation measures and changing as quickly as possible to lower carbon consumption transportation fuels in the next ten to twenty years could significantly alter the hundred-year pattern. If we start NOW (yesterday), we can prevent the temperature change from becoming 5 DEGREES C or more by the year 2100.

    Last point: Competent scientists may debate the specifics, but not the PATTERN. The pattern is leading to the conclusion only a tiny minority of scientists dispute, fewer every month: The earth is getting hotter, humans contribute, it is not a good idea and we need to stop burning carbon. Those are as close to facts as you will ever get. The earth is not round, it is oval.

    Changes in Earth's shape tied to climate
    January 7, 2005 (Space and Earth Science)
    - Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have found that significant changes in the shape of the Earth in the past 28 years may be linked to climate events such as the El Niño weather pattern...
    - The Earth’s shape changes because the climate events shift where the mass of water is stored: in oceans, continents and the atmosphere...
    - Dr. Minkang Cheng and Dr. Byron D. Tapley of the university’s Center for Space Research used nearly 30 years of NASA satellite laser ranging (SLR) data to examine how much the Earth flattens at the poles and widens at the equator…
    - The scientists found that two large variations of increases in the Earth bulging at the equator were connected to the strong El Niño-Southern Oscillation events from 1986-1991 and 1996-2002…Although El Niño is normally associated with warming of surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, it also causes changes in weather patterns and the way the ocean circulates…

    *