Monday, August 31, 2009

Clunkers Don’t Come Cheap

The New York Times Editorial Board Agrees With Wottrich Article With ChinaView

(Editor's Note: Wottrich was interviewed by Xinhau News Agency on August 26th, 2009, regarding the U.S. Cash-for-Clunkers program. His critical conclusions are supported by today's NYT's editorial.)

The $3 billion cash-for-clunkers program that ended last week worked well as a jolt of economic stimulus. Nearly 700,000 people used the rebate to buy new cars in July and August — adding about 0.3 to 0.4 percentage points to economic growth in the third quarter, at an annual rate.

But there’s also another lesson in the cash-for-clunkers experience: such rebates are a spectacularly inefficient way to implement environmental policy. Sure, the new cars deliver about nine miles per gallon more than those traded in, on average. But the benefits — measured in terms of reduced greenhouse gas emissions — come at inordinate expense.

On average, cars are driven 12,000 miles per year, according to government statistics. Considering that the traded-in clunkers had an average fuel economy of 15.8 m.p.g. while the new ones deliver 24.9 m.p.g., a swap saved some 278 gallons of gas per year — which would have released almost 2.8 tons of carbon dioxide when burned.

Assuming the clunkers would have been driven four more years, the $4,200 average rebate removed 11.2 tons of carbon from the atmosphere, at a cost of some $375 per ton. If they would have been driven five years, the carbon savings cost $300 per ton. And if drivers drive their sleek new wheels more than they drove their old clunkers, the cost of removing carbon from the atmosphere will be even higher.

To put this in perspective, an allowance to emit a ton of CO2 costs about $20 on the European Climate Exchange. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that a ton of carbon would be valued at $28 under the cap-and-trade program in the clean energy bill passed by the House in June.

The program might have been more efficient with modifications, like a smaller rebate. But even if the new cars bought under the program had zero emissions, the price of removing the clunkers’ carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would have been nearly $140 per ton.
The best tool to induce Americans to drive more fuel-efficient cars would be a gas tax that provided rebates for low-income drivers. Another, though inferior, alternative — if Congress couldn’t face the political risks of a gas tax — would be a program that provided a rebate for drivers of clean cars while imposing a fee on drivers of gas hogs.

In any case, as environmental policy, it’s just too expensive to buy clunkers to take them off the road.

Will Solar Ever Live Up to the Hype? Paul Allen, Vinod Khosla Bet On Infinia’s Engines of the Sun

Sitton, the CEO of Kennewick, WA-based Infinia, showed me a device resembling a satellite dish that has attracted some deep-pocketed investors, including Paul Allen and Vinod Khosla. Their hope is that Infinia’s dishes will finally turn solar energy into a workhorse for meeting more of the world’s electricity demand. If Sitton and his backers are right, he’ll be running a multi-billion dollar company five years from now. If he’s wrong, Infinia will be written off as just another costly pipe dream.

Here’s how this is supposed to work. That satellite dish I mentioned earlier? It has a little motor attached to it that keeps it in the right position to capture as many direct rays of sun as possible during daylight hours. Like any dish, it uses mirrors to reflect something, in this case, sunlight, back up to a focal point. That’s where Infinia has the business end of its device.

It’s a Stirling engine, made to convert that concentrated heat from the sun into mechanical work. It’s like a steam engine, except it doesn’t need water—it powers its internal piston through the expansion and contraction of helium. The heat moves the piston, which generates electricity. These engines are thought to be attractive for this kind of work, partly because they are highly efficient at converting heat into electricity, and they don’t require water, or oil. They are supposed to be able to last 25 years with zero maintenance, Sitton says.

Balance of article: xeconomy

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Scottish island moving to 100% tidal power

Claggain Bay, Islay

The Scottish island of Islay is reported to be moving itself entirely to tidal power. According to the Guardian the island, which is home to 3500 people, will soon get all its electricity from turbines placed in the Sound of Islay. The island, Scotland’s fifth largest, is known for its whiskey.

According to the article the project will provide the 239 square mile island with 10MW of power by 2011. At £50m it’s not an inexpensive undertaking, but the move towards renewable energy seems perfect for the circumstances. The tides around the island move at up to 3 meters a second making them ideally suited for the power turbines.

As well suited as tidal power is for an island, the technology is still in its earliest stages. In fact, the articles goes on to point out that tidal energy generation is more expensive than offshore solar projects, which themselves can cost up to £3m per megawatt. Despite the price difference tidal energy should be more reliable than wind power, which fluctuates based on weather conditions, and will outlast the the current solution, a nuclear reaction on the mainland which stop being used in 2016.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Politics of Energy #17 - Ag interests challenge EPA on global biofuels damage

By Bill Lambrecht
Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Midwest farmers argue that the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t know beans about farming.

That’s essentially what the St. Louis-based American Soybean Association contends in an offensive opened this week aimed at persuading the EPA to back off proposed new rules that could hamstring production of soy-made biodiesel as part of the nation’s drive to curb climate change.

The St. Louis trade group issued a “national call-to-action for grassroots activism” asking farmers and their allies to weigh in before an EPA public comment period expires next month.
The issue is complex: The EPA has proposed new rules that factor in damage that American biofuels production inflicts in faraway lands like Brazil and Malaysia, where carbon-filled forests are going up in smoke.

The “indirect land use” provisions are part of new rules to develop next-generation biofuels, including ethanol made from something other than corn.

The EPA is relying on studies showing that cultivation of new croplands to fill gaps in the commodities market when people farm for fuel rather than food has destructive effects around the world.

The issue is more than academic: The Renewable Fuel Standard requires that alternative fuels like ethanol and biodiesel reduce pollution of heat-trapping gasses over the long-term in order to qualify for guaranteed markets granted by Congress.

Corn-growers breathed easier when the EPA granted corn-made ethanol exemptions from the new rules over the next several years. But the soybean growers and the Jefferson City-based National Biodiesel Board weren’t so fortunate.

“The government is supposed to be promoting the use of renewable fuels, not making it more difficult for renewable fuels to get a start,” soybean industry spokesman Bob Callanan told us when we phoned him.

In their new grassroots campaign, the ag interests want the EPA to rewrite the proposed rules — and give biodiesel a break.

(Editor's Note: Driven by the growth of biodiesel, soybean prices are up: Today’s Crop Farmer - Sales of soybeans ($5.50 a bushel) $177,000; Tomorrow’s Energy Farmer - Sales of soybeans ($6.90 a bushel) $220,800)

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Politics of Energy #16 - US Department of Energy awards nearly $300M for 25 cost-sharing alternative fuel projects

Associated Press

SEAL BEACH, Calif. - The U.S. Department of Energy has chosen 25 cost-sharing alternative-fuel projects to receive a total of nearly $300 million from funds allotted by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Energy secretary Steven Chu said Wednesday that these projects will "speed the transformation of the nation's vehicle fleet, putting more than 9,000 alternative-fuel and energy-efficient vehicles on the road, and establishing 542 refueling locations across the country."

The DOE estimates the projects will help reduce the nation's annual petroleum use by about 38 million gallons.

The program will fund a range of energy-efficient and other vehicle technologies, such as hybrids, electric vehicles, plug-in electric hybrids, hydraulic hybrids and compressed natural gas vehicles.

(Editor's Note: The projected gasoline savings of 38 million gallons represents .00274% of our annual gasoline usage of 140.5 billion gallons. Put another way, the subsidized cost for the first 38 million gallons is $7.89 a gallon.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Plugging to the Sun - National Geographic

Editor's Note: This month's Naional Geographic has an expansive article entitled "Plugging Into the Sun" that is well worth reading.

"If we talk about geothermal or wind, all these other sources of renewable energy are limited in their quantity," Eicke Weber, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, in Freiburg, Germany, told me last fall. "The total power needs of the humans on Earth is approximately 16 terawatts," he said. (A terawatt is a trillion watts.) "In the year 2020 it is expected to grow to 20 terawatts. The sunshine on the solid part of the Earth is 120,000 terawatts. From this perspective, energy from the sun is virtually unlimited."

Balance of article: National Geographic

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Biofuels to have greatest impact on land use and habitat

London, August 26 (ANI): A new study has determined that biomass production for fuel or electricity generation will have the biggest impact on landscape and habitats.

According to a report in Nature News, the broad analysis of potential US energy and climate-mitigation scenarios compared the land and habitat impacts of various energy mixes - from nuclear power to biofuels - resulting from an array of policy options.

In a supplement to the study paper, the authors re-ran their estimates to take account of the likely impact of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, also known as the Waxman-Markey bill.

The bill, which is awaiting approval by the US Senate, includes a cap-and-trade system to regulate greenhouse gases.

The researchers estimate that regardless of whether the Waxman-Markey bill were enacted, the amount of land affected by energy development by 2030 will be between 21-70 million hectares - an area which is, even at its lower bound, about the size of the state of Wyoming.

"A cap-and-trade bill may have some incremental effect in increasing energy sprawl, but most of the development that's going to happen is because of other laws that are already in place," said study author Robert McDonald, a landscape ecologist with The Nature Conservancy
, a non-profit environmental organization based in Arlington, Virginia.

Those other laws include the US renewable fuel standard, which requires that the volume of renewable fuel blended into gasoline is increased from 34 billion litres in 2008 to 136 billion litres by 2022.

That increase will require an area of between 19 and 31 million hectares - the largest component of McDonald's projected energy sprawl, despite the fact that biofuels are expected to comprise less than 5 percent of the country's total energy budget.

The US Energy Information Administration predicts that ethanol derived from corn alone might reach annual production levels of 39 billion litres by 2030.

McDonald and his colleagues calculate that this would require more than 9 million extra hectares of land to be planted with corn (maize), an area about the size of the state of Indiana.

"If we are to prevent serious, damaging climate change, it will require one of the largest land-use changes in the history of the country," said Jimmie Powell, a policy expert at The Nature Conservancy and a co-author of the study.

"Because the change is so big, it's important that we do it carefully to minimize the environmental impacts of these new energy resources," he added. (ANI)

News Track India

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Energized Portfolios: Five Power Picks

SmartMoney Magazine by Elizabeth O'Brien (Author Archive)

T. Boone Pickens grabbed headlines last year by adding wind energy to his ongoing investments in the oil patch. But across the country, investors who are not quite as famous are mimicking a new, pragmatic approach to energy investing—call it the have-it-both-ways tack. On the one hand, they’re continuing to invest in the traditional energy that will likely power our cars, heat and light homes, and run factories for decades to come. But they are also hedging those bets by plowing assets into greener and cleaner technologies.

It’s a strategy that echoes what some Big Oil companies are doing, from BP, which has spent $3 billion over four years on wind, solar and biofuels, to Exxon Mobil, which is spending $600 million on research into biofuels. Even some utilities are taking the dual approach, operating old-fashioned coal and oil-fired plants while sinking money into wind turbines and solar-energy farms.

Schlumberger (SLB)
The Houston-based oil-services firm helps customers—mostly major Big Oil firms, like Exxon Mobil—find and extract oil by setting up wells and maximizing their efficiency. About three-quarters of Schlumberger’s $27 billion in annual sales comes from outside the U.S.

The Houston-based company won’t drill unless oil is at least $40 a barrel and natural gas is at least $4.50 per million BTUs. So these days Apache (APA: 88.36, -0.51, -0.57%) is looking for oil but putting much of its search for natural gas on hold. But investors who have watched the company for years point to its long-term record of boosting production and reserves, through both acquisitions and efficient operations.

First Solar
This year it plans to double its worldwide production, manufacturing enough solar panels annually to provide about 1,000 megawatts of electricity. Analysts say this should give First Solar (FSLR: 124.08, +2.54, +2.08%) an edge, as solar technology evolves from a niche product to a more widely used energy source.

When New York State needed help unsnarling the state’s crowded roadways, officials turned to Telvent (TLVT: 25.54, +0.94, +3.82%). Traffic management is one of many services the company provides to improve efficiency in energy, transportation and other industries.

Massey Energy
Coal stocks have been “left for dead,” says Jerry Jordan, manager of the Jordan Opportunity fund, which owns Massey Energy (MEE: 30.46, +0.03, +0.09%) shares. For savvy investors, all those negatives could spell opportunity. Coal remains one of the cheapest and most abundant fuels—powering half of the nation’s electric output—and America isn’t likely to wean itself from coal for decades. Richmond, Va.–based Massey is poised to benefit: It’s the nation’s fourth-largest coal producer and the largest coal company in Central Appalachia, with 36 percent of the region’s reserves.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Alternative energy powerhouse Brazil finds, drills big oil

Petrobras workers walk on platform 51 “Majuro” in Angra dos Reis, Brazil. An enormous offshore field in territorial waters, the biggest oil discovery in the Western Hemisphere in 30 years, has Brazilians saying, “Drill, baby, drill.”

The Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil, long proud of its push to develop renewable energy and wean itself off oil, has a bad case of fossil-fuel fever.An enormous offshore field in territorial waters — the biggest Western Hemisphere oil discovery in 30 years — has Brazilians saying, "Drill, baby, drill," while environmentalists fear the nation will take a big leap backward in its hunt for crude.

There has been virtually no public debate on the potential environmental costs of retrieving the billions of barrels of oil, a project one expert said will be as difficult as landing a man on the moon.

"The government is whipping Brazil into a euphoria that this is going to be a solution for all our societal problems," said Sergio Leitao, director of public policies for Greenpeace Brasil. "Brazil is no longer seriously looking at alternatives.

"Home to the bulk of the Amazon rainforest, Brazil for decades has developed alternative energy as an issue of national security following severe energy shortages in the 1970s. It uses hydroelectric power for more than 80 percent of its energy needs, is the world's largest exporter of ethanol, and nine out of every 10 cars sold in the nation can run on ethanol or a combination of ethanol and gasoline.

A U.N. study found that in 2008, Brazil accounted for almost all of Latin America's renewable energy investment, to the tune of $10.8 billion.

But since the national oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, discovered the massive Tupi field off the coast of Rio de Janeiro two years ago — estimated to hold 5 to 8 billion barrels — it is the development of oil fields that has gone into overdrive.

Thirty years ago, more than 85 percent of Brazil's oil came from foreign sources. Today, it is a net exporter.There have been a series of other discoveries since Tupi — each lying at least 115 miles (185 kilometers) offshore, more than a mile below the ocean's surface and under another 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) of earth and salt. Estimates of the entire area's recoverable oil range between 50 billion and 100 billion barrels.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva hailed the finds as the nation's future, a second declaration of independence and an economic savior for 57 million Brazilians living in poverty — 30 percent of the population. The military wants new submarines and jets to protect the crude. Leftist groups want it all nationalized.

The enthusiasm is also fanned by Brazil's devotion to Petrobras, routinely listed as one of the most-admired companies in national polls.Founded in 1953 to fend off an economic crisis and dependency on foreign oil, Petrobras has long embodied Brazilian nationalism and the notion of shielding domestic wealth from foreigners — particularly the United States and Europe.In 2008, Brazil's total oil and natural gas production was nearly 2.3 million barrels per day. Petrobras was responsible for more than 96 percent of it.

"Most Brazilians think of Petrobras like they think of their soccer stars," said Eric Smith, an offshore oil expert at Tulane University in New Orleans who likened efforts to get at Brazil's oil to a trip to the moon. "Try to find Americans who support Exxon like that."

Balance of article: The Rutland Herald

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Natural Gas Prices Plummet to a Seven-Year Low

HOUSTON — Natural gas prices plunged on Thursday to levels last reached in 2002 after an Energy Department report showed that the amount of gas in storage had hit a record high for this time of year.

The sharp price decline of natural gas, to below $3 per thousand cubic feet from a peak of over $13 last summer, has been caused by a drop in demand from factories and homes because of the recession, coupled with a big expansion of domestic production over the last few years.

“It is tough times in the gas business, certainly,” said Thomas F. Darden, chief executive of Quicksilver Resources, a major natural gas producer, after the government stockpile report was released. “Prices today are below our costs to produce, so in our view this is not a sustainable scenario.”

Even as it reflects weakness in the economy, the declining price of natural gas will be good for many industries and consumers. It is gradually bringing down utility bills for the 60 percent of American homes that use natural gas to fuel stoves, water heaters, furnaces and other appliances. And since natural gas is an important fuel for utilities and factories and a prime feedstock for the chemical and fertilizer industries, the price collapse helps cut their costs.

Kathy Mathers, a vice president of the Fertilizer Institute, a trade organization representing manufacturers and retailers, said rising natural gas prices over the last six years had forced 30 fertilizer plants, representing half of domestic production, to close. Foreign producers, with access to cheaper natural gas, have claimed more and more of the market.

Ms. Mathers said the price decline this year “provides important relief,” adding that “it won’t bring the old plants back but it will save the remaining U.S. production.”

Gas executives saw a silver lining, arguing that the low prices would help them make a case in the Senate when it takes up energy and climate change legislation later this year. The gas companies want federal incentives to sway utilities to switch to gas from coal, and they want more government entities and businesses to convert their diesel bus and truck fleets to compressed natural gas.

The House version of the legislation, passed in June, disappointed industry leaders who contended that coal interests got a better deal than they did, even though gas is a cleaner fuel.

The weekly Energy Department natural gas stockpile report showed that underground storage in the lower 48 states rose by 52 billion cubic feet, to about 3.2 trillion cubic feet, for the week that ended last Friday. That is a storage level 21 percent above the level a year earlier and 19 percent above the average for the last five years at this time of year.

Balance of article: The New York Times

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hope for Cap-and-Trade?

The Washington Post asked politicians, academics and others whether the health-care debate has made it unlikely that climate change legislation will be passed in the near future. Below are contributions from Steven F. Hayward, Kenneth P. Green, James M. Inhofe, Geoff Garin, Tony Fratto, Steve Seidel, David G. Hawkins, Harold Ford Jr., Kay Baily Hutchison and Barbara Boxer.

Editor's Note: Business owners should take note as congress will dole out credits to those who have the most clout.


Resident scholars at the American Enterprise Institute

Ironically, the difficulties of passing health-care reform may boost the chances that cap-and-trade legislation is revived and passed by the Senate. President Obama and Hill Democrats are going to need a major legislative victory and a way to change the subject.

The Waxman-Markey bill that emerged from the House is badly flawed, though it has the political virtue of postponing its serious costs for a decade or more, making it harder to portray it in town hall meetings as a "death panel" for American industry. And there are two ways the Senate might fix it. Waxman-Markey gives away 85 percent of emission allowances to existing coal users and other interests. But oil and gas were largely cut out of the deal. The votes of senators from oil and gas states could be bought by cutting them in on the free allowances. This is the most likely strategy, and it will mean giving away 100 percent of the allowances. The greens might scream, but they are so desperate for a win that they'll take one under any circumstances.

Another option is that the Senate might start over from scratch. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has a cap-and-trade proposal that would have a 100 percent auction for emission allowances, with 75 percent of the revenue rebated directly to consumers and the other 25 percent devoted to alternative energy research and production. In contrast to Waxman-Markey's 1,300 pages, Cantwell's proposal is only 22 pages. It's so crazy simple it just might pass.


Ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

As lawmakers return to Washington and assess the fiery backlash of constituent opposition to government-run health care, those mired in the thick of the climate change debate are wondering: What does it all mean for us?

The warring factions over climate policy should step back and try to discern whether constituents are signaling a more basic distrust of new government schemes. Polling data from the past several months indicates that such public distrust is real, deep and widespread. This means the Democrats' government-run, cap-and-trade scheme -- in fact, an energy tax that extends into every corner of American life -- now faces an even higher hurdle, including growing opposition from many Democrats in the Senate. Such distrust will only grow if Democrats insist, as they did in the House, on crafting climate legislation in their inner sanctums, with no time for serious public input and debate. And this is exactly the course being drawn in the Senate.

Still, Washington's appetite for spending, taxing and regulating -- cap-and trade contains elements of each -- is boundless. So, despite having public opinion on our side, those opposed to cap-and-trade are facing a monumental battle this fall in the Senate. There will be a mad race for 60 votes, and the outcome will reverberate beyond 2010.


Democratic pollster and strategist; president of Hart Research Associates

Passing energy reform isn't any tougher because of the battle over health care. There is broad public support for an energy reform policy that reduces carbon emissions and promotes increased reliance on alternative and renewable energy. Americans believe it is urgent that we end our dependence on oil, especially imported oil, and see the development of alternative energy as offering real potential to create the next generation of American jobs.

This doesn't mean that the fight to pass significant energy reform will be easily won. We will see the same kind of massive resistance by the Republican leadership on energy as there has been on health-insurance reform, and we will see the same scare tactics as well. But the public understands the stakes with energy reform even more clearly than it does with health reform, and at least a few Republicans in Congress seem to understand they will put themselves on the wrong side of history by standing in the way of a clean-energy future.

Of course, we don't yet know how the health debate will end. I still expect Congress will pass significant reforms to protect consumers and expand access to affordable coverage -- with virtually no help from Republicans. The bruising nature of the health debate might make a few Democrats more gun-shy about taking on another controversial fight, but success on health care is just as likely to create a template and a launching pad for success on energy. And if Congress fails to get anything done on health reform, the pressure to show some accomplishment on energy will be even greater.


Deputy assistant to the president and deputy press secretary from September 2006 to January 2009

Let's review: In June, the House passed, by the slimmest of margins, a 1,200-plus-page, loophole-filled energy and climate bill that included a controversial, costly and complicated cap-and-trade scheme.

The bill was a heavy lift, ultimately requiring President Obama to make the vote a referendum on his presidency, and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to harangue House Democrats with his best "coffee is for closers" speech. The issue sparked popular unrest in congressional districts around the country (foreshadowing what's been happening with health care) as Americans rightly wondered how adding staggering new costs would affect an ailing economy. The deliberative Senate wisely decided to deliberate a bit more.

Before the heat turned up in health-care town meetings, before the spines of Blue Dogs stiffened and before deteriorating presidential opinion polls, cap-and-trade was unpopular and likely to fail in the Senate.

The health-care debate didn't improve cap-and-trade's prospects. The public outcry served as a wake-up call for members of Congress. But if cap-and-trade falls, it will fall under its own weight.


Vice president for policy analysis at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change

The path to passing climate change legislation in the Senate looks very different from the one that led to the passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act in the House. There, much of the action was in a single committee, and while eight Republicans voted for the bill, most of the negotiations were among Democrats.

Success in the Senate is a more difficult challenge. It will require true bipartisan engagement, compromise and far more active leadership by the Obama administration. Given that 10 Republican senators have written, co-sponsored, voted for or spoken in favor of mandatory greenhouse gas reductions in the recent past, bipartisan engagement should be possible, though it's not easy in today's political environment. The Senate will need to address outstanding concerns such as the issue of nuclear power as a potential "clean energy" option and enhancing the effectiveness of provisions to contain costs. Strong leadership by the White House will be critical to merging the disparate perspectives of different Senate committees into a package that can achieve broad support. Reaching agreement on a comprehensive climate and clean-energy bill will take time and may not happen until next year.


Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate programs

Can Congress actually do two important things -- address both health care and climate change -- before it quits for the year? Of course it can. There is ample floor time on the calendar to debate both of these important measures. Senators and staff members are already hard at work on key design issues for clean-energy and climate legislation, even as they continue work on health care.

Many senators understand that a program to promote clean-energy investments and cut global warming pollution will build a path to economic vitality. This program would deliver jobs to Americans, provide planning certainty for U.S. businesses and cut our shackles to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. It would also stave off huge threats to national security, public health, economic growth and the natural environment that would flow from a disrupted climate. The House has already passed a bill. With international climate negotiations scheduled for December, the world is waiting to see the United States resume its leadership role. Now is the time to act. The senators who understand this won't want to table the issue.


Chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council

President Obama can pass energy legislation this year, but to do so he needs to absorb four lessons from the health-reform debate.

First, write the bulk of the energy bill with the input of Congress. Despite recent dips, Obama's favorable ratings are high enough to enact reform. Having served in Congress, I respect and admire the Democratic leadership, but the country wants the president to lead on his top priorities.

Second, he should own energy. He did as a candidate; he should as president. Control the debate and don't lose control. The country voted for change; give it to them. Regrettably, the health-reform debate has been about "death panels" and "higher taxes," instead of real talk of insurance reform, cost containment, more access for those who don't have insurance and incentives for preventive care. Obama needs to seize the debate and make it about fewer wars over oil, lower gas and electricity prices, and more jobs for Americans.

Third, settle on better language than "cap and trade" and climate change. These abstract labels don't resonate in Kansas. Some analysts have projected that the House energy reform bill will cost each U.S. household $175 a year. That's a small price to prevent today's 13- and 14-year-olds from having to go to war in the Middle East in 10 years to protect oil, which we should drastically reduce our dependence on.

Finally, lead by example. Get on the road and sell energy reform. Practice conservation in the White House. Launch a national competition in public schools that encourages energy conservation. And tell the country why this is important to keep America safe and growing.


Ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee

Cap-and-trade legislation will fail under its own weight, just like health-care legislation. Each massive, misguided policy is being doggedly pushed by the Obama administration and the Democratic congressional leadership in a narrow, partisan fashion that will contribute to and ensure its failure. We could forecast the American outrage, based on past experience with these types of proposals, and if the Democrats succeed in forcing these bad policies on American families, they will be held accountable by the public.

The administration's health-reform proposal would nationalize and bureaucratize health care in America. Cap-and-trade, meanwhile, will kill 2 million American jobs; shrink the household incomes of average Americans by more than $1,000 annually; and penalize the industries that produce our nation's energy -- at a time when we are already concerned about the high costs of fuel and utilities. It will increase our dependence on foreign energy imports, which is already at an astounding 60 percent. We have seen such proposals before, and the good news is that they have failed miserably because Americans are well informed and understand how they could impact their lives.


Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

As we are moving to address some of our nation's great challenges -- revitalizing our economy, putting Americans back to work and passing health insurance reform -- scientists are telling us we have a short window to take the steps that are needed to avoid the ravages of global warming. We must also act quickly to ensure America leads the world in clean energy technology. We need to confront all of these issues; we don't have the luxury of picking and choosing. By creating powerful incentives for clean energy, the bill that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and I will introduce in September will restore our economy and create jobs at home while reducing carbon pollution and making us less dependent on foreign oil. John Doerr -- one of the nation's leading venture capitalists, who helped launch Google and -- has predicted that the investment capital that will flow into clean energy will dwarf the amount invested in high-tech and biotech combined. It will create millions of jobs in America -- building wind turbines, installing solar panels on homes and producing a new fleet of electric and hybrid vehicles.

We can successfully address all of these challenges. Our forebears have set the pace ever since our nation was founded. President Obama has reminded us that America built the transcontinental railroad and established the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of the Civil War. In the 1960s, we passed historic civil rights legislation even as we took on the challenge of going to the moon. At the end of the day, leaders have to lead when action is needed.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Politics of Energy #15 - Natural gas is the 'alternative' we need now

By Thomas Kostigen, MarketWatch
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- For all the talk of alternative energy, a traditional energy source may be the future power of America -- at least in the near term.

Natural gas reserves are up tremendously -- 39% higher than previous assessments -- new estimates show. New drilling procedures to extract natural gas from shale are the primary reason estimates have been revised so sharply upward.

But natural gas hasn't been tapped much lately either. The depressed economy has kept prices low and they've yet to rebound. Natural gas prices have tracked oil's general slide, sans the recent bounce. Low prices mean less exploration and drilling.

The Potential Gas Committee, an independent nonprofit organization, recently released a report that indicates the U.S. possesses a total resource base of 1,836 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the highest resource evaluation in the group's 44-year history.

"Most of the increase from the previous assessment arose from re-evaluation of shale-gas plays in the Appalachian basin and in the mid-Continent, Gulf Coast and Rocky Mountain areas," the committee said.

Total reserves are enough to power the country for decades.

Coal currently produces half the power for electricity in the U.S. Coal plants produce large amounts of carbon emissions that are under fire for their association with climate change and global warming.


New legislation promises to crack down on carbon emissions from coal plants and to raise the price of carbon. Natural gas, which produces about half the carbon emissions of coal when burned to create energy, could step in as a replacement.

Don't think, however, that natural gas is squeaky clean. Carbon emissions are only reduced; they're not eliminated entirely via natural gas production. Shale extraction is not without its downside either. It takes energy to extract the energy source, and it's expensive.

Former Colo. Sen. Timothy Wirth, president of Ted Turner's United Nations Foundation and a pro-environment Democrat, spoke last month to the natural gas industry.

"The time has come for the natural gas industry to get organized, take the gloves off, and get thoroughly engaged in helping our country advance rapidly toward a low-carbon economy," he said. "You will help yourselves, leave a legacy for your grandchildren and play a major role in saving the world. But you have to ask for the order."

Next step

Wirth and other environmental advocates see natural gas as the next step in weaning the world off fossil fuel burning for power. They believe natural gas could be used in a mix with solar and wind power until technology allows the world to be fully reliant on clean and sustainable energy supplies.

I agree.

Until we see the day when the sun powers our needs, a natural step in the right direction may be natural gas, imperfect as it may be.

Natural gas can be used to power homes, cars and industry, all without concern for the whether the sun is shining or wind is blowing to sustain resources. It's waiting on something equally as frustrating and unpredictable as the weather, however -- politics and business acceptance.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Politics of Energy #14 - Drilling Ordeals Said to Delay Geothermal Project

(Photo: RLW)

Published: August 19, 2009

The Obama administration’s first major test of geothermal energy as a significant alternative to fossil fuels has fallen seriously behind schedule, several federal scientists said this week, even as the project is under review because of the earthquakes it could generate in Northern California.

Intended to extract heat from hot bedrock, the project has been delayed because the bit on a giant rig, meant to drill more than two miles underground, has struggled to pierce surface rock formations, the scientists said.

The bit has snapped off at least once and become repeatedly fouled in a shallow formation called cap rock, and the drillers have twice been forced to pull it out and essentially start the hole over again.

Late last year, the project, undertaken by a start-up company called AltaRock Energy, received $6.25 million in financing from the Energy Department, in hopes that it would be the first of dozens of projects to produce renewable energy by fracturing rock at the bottom of a deep hole and then circulating water through the cracks to generate steam.

But last month, after an article in The New York Times raised questions on whether AltaRock had been forthcoming about earthquakes generated by a similar project in Basel, Switzerland, the Energy Department and the Bureau of Land Management informed the company that it would not be allowed to fracture rock until the department completed a new review of whether the project would be safe. The company was allowed to keep drilling, however, down toward the depth at which it would begin the fracturing.

The scientists who told of delays in the project spoke only on the condition that they not be identified, in order to preserve their access to company progress reports. The scientists said that after nearly two months of the highly expensive drilling, the rig had reached depths of less than 4,000 feet. The original schedule called for it to reach a final depth of 12,000 feet, or 2.3 miles, after no more than 50 days of drilling, according to company officials.

The problems are particularly surprising given that the drilling essentially started at 3,200 feet, at the bottom of an older hole at the site, north of San Francisco at a place called the Geysers.

The company has also raised some $30 million in venture capital. Among AltaRock’s high-profile investors are Google and the investment firms Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Balance of article: The New York Times

Editor's Note: Thus far (according to this NYT report) AltaRock Energy has drilled 800 feet after receiving federal funding of $6.25 million. This works out to $7,812.50 per foot.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Too Much Algae is a Bad Thing

Algae spread threatens coastline

BBC - The Environment Agency says it is worried by the spread of a seaweed that is threatening to choke wildlife along the south coast of England.

The algae is thriving on nutrients released by farmland fertilisers and sewerage systems.

Hundreds of acres of mudflats along estuaries and harbours have been taken over.

The agency hopes new controls on farming and sewage will help to starve the algae.

Large areas of the French coastline in Brittany have also been been badly affected.

Walkers in the UK and France say the green slime is ruining beautiful coast lines.

The Environment Agency says there is no danger to people or their pets - but has warned walkers to avoid the areas if they smell rotting eggs as a precaution.

The algae has been building up in some areas since the 1960s. Tonnes of the seaweed is now threatening important habitats for plants and wildlife.

The Environmentt Agency's Dave Lowthion is helping the assess how far the algae has spread.

He said: "When you get a deep layer of the seaweed it actually stops the oxygen getting into the mudflats.

"And because of that the worms, the shrimps etcetera that live there, some of the sensitive species die."

Birds who feed on mudflats are finding the thick layers of seaweed hard to break through - so they can't get to the surviving creatures.

The algae is growing where tides are not strong enough to break up beds of the seaweed.

The areas affected are Chichester and Pagham harbours in Sussex, Portsmouth and Langstone harbours in Hampshire, Newtown and Bembridge harbours and the Medina estuary on the on the Isle of Wight, the Hamble estuary in Hampshire and Poole Harbour and Holes Bay in Dorset.

It's hoped that tighter controls on farming fertiliser and sewerage plants should begin to starve the algae of the nutrients they need to survive.

But experts think it will be a decade before some mudflats return to normal.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Politics of Energy #13 - Biofuels organization gets tax-exempt status

By Ike Wilson
Photo by courtesyPhoto

Joanne Ivancic, Advanced Biofuels USA’s executive director, discusses alternative energy with U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-6th, at a recent Go Green energy conference at the Frederick fairgrounds.

Advanced Biofuels USA received notice recently that it has become a tax-exempt nonprofit organization.

The organization's main educational tool is its website, , the only site in the world dedicated to expanding knowledge about advanced biofuels, said Joanne Ivancic, the organization's executive director.

"Our focus is on education of the general public, government leaders and decision-makers, as well as the media and the agriculture, fuels and investment communities," Ivancic said. "I'm thrilled that we have received this (tax-exempt) recognition, which enables supporters to deduct from their taxes donations they make to Advanced Biofuels USA."

Balance of article:
Editor's Comment: No comment.

Monday, August 17, 2009

First offshore German wind farm goes live

The Alpha Ventus project in the North Sea began producing electricity Aug. 12 and could someday power 50,000 homes

Electricity generated by Germany’s first offshore wind energy park began streaming into the national network as three wind turbines located 45 kilometers (28 miles) north of the North Sea island of Borkum went online.

The three wind turbines are massive. Each towers more than 100 meters (328 feet) above the waves, with blades spanning more than 116 meters. Individually, the wind turbines are capable of generating 5 megawatts of energy per year. The initial trio will be joined later this year by nine more wind turbines. When all 12 go online later this year, the installation is expected to provide enough electricity to power 50,000 homes.

The project, dubbed Alpha Ventus, is co-financed by German energy giants Vattenfall, E.on (EONGn.DE), and EWE. Construction began in 2007, and cost €250 million ($357 million)—significantly more than the €190 million originally budgeted for the project. Bad weather last summer delayed the construction of the facility by almost a year.

Though Germany is considered a world leader in land-based wind power, this is the country’s first offshore facility. The United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands all have offshore wind energy parks already.

Balance of article: Tehran Times

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Helium-3 on Moon may provide humans with millions of tons of nuclear energy

New Delhi, August 16 (ANI): After circling the Moon for nearly 18 months, China’s Chang’e 1 spacecraft has successfully achieved four scientific targets that include detection of helium-3, a crucial element for nuclear fusion, which may provide humans with millions of tons of nuclear energy in the future.

The identification of helium-3 came about by the exploration of the soil layer on the Moon, a pioneering work that has not been done by any other country.

The Chang’e 1, using microwave technology, measured the depth of the soil layer across the moon.

One of the focuses of the soil examination was to detect how much helium-3, a crucial element for nuclear fusion, is on the moon.

Since the fossil energy on Earth might be exhausted in a century or less, mankind has to find an alternative energy source. Nuclear fusion would be an important option.

There is an abundance of helium-3, perhaps millions of tons, on the moon, which could be used to generate energy once the technology matures.

Scientists feel this is the reason why the moon might fundamentally change the pattern of energy generation for humans.

Other missions included the formulation of a two-dimensional as well as a three-dimensional map of the entire moon.

The Chang’e 1 scanned the moon’s surface with three laser beams, measuring the height or altitude of more than 9 million points on the moon.

Based on the data collected, a stereoscopic map of the Moon will be accomplished before the end of this year. (Asian News International)

Thaiindian News

China National Space Administration

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Politics of Enery #12 - Leaders: China seeks friendly ties with Islamic countries

China would cement friendship and cooperation with the Islamic countries based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, President Hu Jintao told visiting Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayedal-Nahayanon, Aug. 14, 2009.(Xinhua Photo)

The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence (simplified Chinese: 和平共处五项原则; pinyin: hépíng gòngchǔ wǔxiàng yuánzé) or Panchsheel.

A series of agreements between the People's Republic of China and India. After the Central Government took control of Tibet, China came into increasing conflict with India. However, both nations were newly-established and interested in finding ways to avoid further conflict. Therefore in 1954 the two nations drew up the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence:

1. Mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty (互相尊重主权和领土完整)

2. Mutual non-aggression (互不侵犯)

3. Mutual non-interference in each other's internal affairs (互不干涉内政)

4. Equality and mutual benefit (平等互利)

5. Peaceful co-existence (和平共处)

Editors Note: The Sixth Principle of Peaceful Coexistence is, "Sell us your oil, please."

Balance of article: China Economic Net

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Long Look at Lithium: Chile's SQM Poised for Growth

Editor's Note: Government Alternative Energy Subsidies = Electric Car Stimulus Funds = Major Battery Technology Gains = Increased Lithium Usage

Sociedad Quimica y Minera (SQM), headquartered in Chile, looks poised for solid returns as global markets demand more lithium-ion battery energy and agricultural resources. SQM is a leading producer of key resources such as potassium nitrate, iodine and lithium carbonate. It also produces specialty plant nutrition products, iodine and lithium derivatives, and certain industrial chemicals, including industrial nitrates. SQM is well positioned as the world population adds 700 million new middle class people (examples, China 350 million and India 100 million respectively) by 2022.

Its primary competitor, Rockwood Holdings' Chemestall Division (ROC), has 28% global Lithium market share. However, Rockwood -- exposed widely among several sectors -- reported a 21% decrease in net sales for Q2 2009 with debt issues and poor earnings per share results. SQM is financially better positioned long-term, given low debt and Lithium plays with contributing plant nutrition (agriculture) and iodine (medical) revenues, despite its just announced 11% earnings decrease for Q2 2009.

Balance of article: Seeking Alpha

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Orange County Choppers Builds an EV. Seriously

Editor's Note: Prototype cost? $1,000,000.00
By Dave Eyvazzadeh , WIRED

Known for building machines as brutish as they are loud, Orange County Choppers has produced this paradoxical bike touted as the “first custom electric American chopper.” The showpiece exhibits the trademark OCC outrageous ode to flair and themed design, but this time you wont hear it coming from a mile away.

On Wednesday, Siemens, the electronics and electrical engineering global powerhouse, unveiled the Smart Chopper it commissioned from the renowned custom motorcycle outfit. Siemens claims the bike has a 60-mile range and a 100 mph top speed. An onboard charging unit can be plugged into any 110-volt socket to charge the bike in five hours, and Siemens says it’ll charge in as little as one hour when plugged into a higher-voltage station. A single-speed, clutch-less transmission delivers the power from a 27-hp electric motor.

The Smart Chopper joins the growing ranks of electric motorcycles, including the Brammo Enertia, Zero X and the Mission One.

Steve Conner, CFO of Siemens’ Energy Service Division, sees the venture as a way to showcase the company’s innovative and environmental awareness along with the current state of technology.

“We already have what we need to make it a reality,” Connor told “This isn’t Star Wars.”

Siemens CEO Daryl Dulaney with Paul Teutul, Sr. of Orange County Choppers. Teutul's the guy with the tats.

Don’t worry about the bike lacking that distinctive OCC look and feel. The 350-pound bike is long and low, with an massive 300mm (10.5 inches) rear tire. With an outrageous 120-inch wheelbase and overall 45-degree raked front end, you’ll need four lanes to make a U-turn. Sounds like an OCC bike to us.

Of course, the entire bike is outfitted with LED lighting by OSRAM Sylvania, a Siemens subsidiary. Along with the lighting supplies, Siemens has also provided the electric motor, charging system, power management system and wind turbine blade fiberglass for the Teutuls to integrate into their design, in keeping with the family’s knack for tying form with function and theme.

As a cradle-to-grave electrical technology company, Siemens’ products generate 33 percent of all power consumed in the United States and 25 percent worldwide, including wind, solar, hydro and clean coal-generated power. With its Smart Grid technologies providing the efficient delivery of power over long distances once considered impossible, Siemens has pledged to reduce its own CO2, water and waste footprint by 20 percent within five years.

Jolt from Volt: 230 mpg in city driving

Editor's Note: GM is owned by the federal government and auto unions and is operating after the infusion of billions in taxpayer bailout funds and a "quick" bankruptcy. We're thinking they will not have any problems with false advertising claims. GM is making about 10 Volts a week by hand. The tax payer subsidized estimated sticker price of this vehicle will be roughly $40,000.

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

The Chevrolet Volt's eye-popping 230 miles per gallon city fuel economy estimate will bring a lot of people into showrooms.

But what does it mean behind the wheel?

General Motors Co. says its extended-range vehicle will free most drivers from hardly ever using gasoline, given the car's ability to travel up to 40 miles on battery power alone.

It doesn't mean, however, that the Volt -- which goes on sale next year -- will literally make a 230-mile trip on a single gallon of gasoline.

GM, which has a lot riding on the success of its first plug-in car, says the 230 mpg figure means that during 100 miles of city driving, the Volt would use less than a half-gallon of gasoline and 25 kilowatts of electricity.

To get to that figure, the testing procedure assumes more than one full battery charge, and that city drivers are traveling significantly fewer than 100 miles a day.

GM notes that 80 percent of Americans have a daily commute under 40 miles.

"You will quickly see that people, even if they are going on longer trips over the weekend, will not have a problem to achieve numbers that are in that ballpark," said Frank Weber, global vehicle line executive for the Volt.

"It's not a fictitious number that nobody is believing."

GM declined to release its estimate of the Volt's highway mileage, but acknowledged it will be much lower than the city estimate.

Since city driving accounts for 55 percent of the combined city/highway score, the Volt's overall fuel economy will be above 100 mpg no matter what the highway figure is if the final city estimate remains at 230 mpg.

Balance of article:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Politics of Energy #11 - Grants aim to rev up alternative-vehicle technology

Editor's Note: The U.S. federal government is announcing huge grants to develop electric vehicles, but as the U.S. Department of Energy points out, more than 50% of the nation's electricity is produced by burning coal. The coal industry has been excluded from federal stimulus spending. Why? Over the next 20 years natural gas will become the dominent choice for new electric plants. This is the reality - we are switching from oil to coal and natural gas and they are all three fossil fuels.

By Jeff Karoub
Associated Press (

DETROIT — President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other administration officials took to separate stages nationwide Wednesday to announce $2.4 billion in federal grants to develop next-generation electric vehicles and batteries.

It was a dramatic way for the president's team to jump-start the biggest bet yet on a future free from — or at least far less dependent on — fossil fuels. Biden made the case from the home of the hard-hit U.S. auto industry.

"The ultimate success of electric cars relies on better batteries, better drivetrains, reducing carbon emissions, making alternative energy more available," Biden told a crowd of about 300 in Detroit outside NextEnergy, a nonprofit that works with businesses on research involving alternative and renewable energy. "If we fail to invest, virtually none of that market will be in the U.S.''The grants will be split among nearly 50 projects in 25 states, with the biggest shares going to Indiana and Michigan to create job opportunities in the automotive industry. No California companies made the cut, disappointing at least two Silicon Valley firms that had applied — Palo Alto's Better Place, and Imara, a Menlo Park lithium-ion battery maker.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Politics of Energy #10 - N.C. Senate bill bans mountain wind farms

Editor's Note: Just as the wealthy citizens of Nantucket moved to ban 130 wind turbines in their sight line in Nantucket Sound, so now have the good politicians of North Carolina done the same with their mountain ridges. NIMBY is alive and well - and apparently politically correct.

Efforts to allow commercial windmill construction along N.C. mountain ridges have died in the State Senate.

Supporters hope to revive the issue in the State House. But with the legislature nearing the end of its session, it’s not clear there will be time for progress on the issue this year.

The N.C. Senate effort ended Wednesday. The Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee sent to the floor a bill that would ban commercial windmill development on high mountain ridges. It sets rules for wind development elsewhere in the state, including its coasts. And it allows small windmills for private use along the ridges.

Sen. Steve Goss, D-Watauga, proposed an amendment that would let mountain towns and counties adopt their own windmill regulations. He argued that the permits would be controlled locally and would create economic opportunity in the mountains. But it was overwhelmingly rejected on a voice vote.

Ridge law
Without development along the windy ridges of the high country, North Carolina becomes an unattractive location for wind projects, says George Everett, Duke Energy’s chief lobbyist in the General Assembly.

The bill that will go to the full Senate allows development in coastal areas of the state and on ridges below 3,000 feet in the mountains. Everett says that for commercial projects, the only area where windmills would be viable is on the high ridges.

The best coastal winds are off shore, and developing them would be expensive, he says. And below the high ridges the mountain winds are too inconsistent to be commercially attractive.

The state’s high ridges are protected the state’s 1983 Ridge Law. That law, a reaction to a high-rise condominium built on a peak on Little Sugar Mountain, prohibits tall structures on the ridgeline.

Since commercial windmills are generally 30 stories tall or more, they are prohibited. Goss’ amendment would have created an option for local governments to set their own rules to allow wind development.

Balance of article: Charlotte Business Journal

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Harnessing Wave Power With New 'Oyster' Machine

ScienceDaily — A giant new machine called' Oyster' designed to harness the power of ocean waves and turn it into ‘green' electricity is being installed on the seabed off the Atlantic shores of the Orkney Islands. In autumn 2009 it will undergo demonstration trials to prove whether its innovative technology could lead to a commercial source of renewable energy for use in seashores around the world.

In contrast to many other wave power devices, Oyster uses hydraulic technology to transfer wave power to shore, where it is then converted into electricity. ‘A key design feature is a 18m wide oscillator based on fundamental research at Queen's University Belfast led by Professor Trevor Whittaker using their wave tanks', explains Dr Ronan Doherty, Chief Technical Officer of Aquamarine Power the Edinburgh based company which has developed the first ‘Oyster'. The oscillator is fitted with pistons and, when activated by wave action, pumps high-pressure water through a sub sea pipeline to the shore. Onshore, conventional hydroelectric generators convert this high-pressure water into electrical energy.

‘The whole field of generating electricity from wave power is ground breaking' says Dr Doherty, ‘But Oyster' technology is highly innovative because it relies on simplicity. Its offshore component -a highly reliable flap with minimal submerged moving parts - is the key to its success when operating in seas vulnerable to bad weather where maintenance can be very difficult. There is no underwater generator, power electronics or gearbox underwater to go wrong. All the complex power generation equipment remains easily accessible onshore'.

Oyster is designed to be deployed at near-shore water depths of 12 to 16 metres, benefiting from the more consistent seas and narrower directional spread of the waves in this location. The reduced wave height and load enhance survivability and allow a high percentage of annual average power and consistent power delivery. Any excess energy is spilled over the top of the flap, its rotational capacity allowing it to literally duck under the waves.

The environmental risks associated with the device are minimised by using only water as its hydraulic fluid, rather than oil, and there are no toxic substances involved. It is also silent in operation. Based on figures from the Carbon Trust, each Oyster's annual carbon saving could be as much as 500 tonnes.

Although at an early stage of development, the Oyster concept could have significant potential for use in many locations around the world. Dr Doherty explains: ‘Our computer modelling of coastlines suitable for this technology shows that Spain, Portugal, Ireland and the UK are ideal candidates in Europe. But globally there is huge scope in areas like the North West coast of the USA and coastlines off South Africa, Australia and Chile. We estimate that the potential size of the market could be in excess of £50 billion'.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Solar Updraft Towers

August 5th, 2009 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

There are many different ways that you can extract usable energy from sunlight, and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Historically, the biggest disadvantage has been cost when compared to more traditional sources of energy, such as coal-fired power plants. For if solar power was an economical and practical alternative to other forms of energy generation today, it would already be deployed on a wide scale.

I think it is only a matter of time before renewable energy sources become more cost competitive. The question is which methods make the most sense. My favorite idea is the ‘Solar Tower’ (or ‘solar updraft tower’, or ‘solar chimney’), an artists rendering of which is shown below.

While most people have never heard about it, the Solar Tower design was implemented on a small scale in Spain years ago to test the concept. More recently, a privately-funded company called EnviroMission has been working toward the construction of one or more 200 megawatt power plants in the Australian Outback. The company has also been actively pursuing plans to build power plants in China and Nevada.

Balance of article: Roy Spencer, PhD

Friday, August 07, 2009

Scientists use algae to develop photo-bioreactors and novel cell decomposition methods

Washington, August 7 (ANI): Using energy production from microalgae, a team of scientists is developing closed photo-bioreactors and novel cell disruption methods.

Microalgae are monocellular, plant-like organisms engaged in photosynthesis and converting carbon dioxide (CO2) into biomass.

From this biomass, both potential resources and active substances as well as fuels like biodiesel may be produced.

While growing, algae take up the amount of CO2 that is later released again when they are used for energy production.

Hence, energy from algae can be produced in a CO2-neutral manner contrary to conventional energy carriers.

“Compared to land plants, algae produce five times as much biomass per hectare and contain 30 to 40 percent oil usable for energy production,” said Professor Clemens Posten, who directs this research activity at the KIT Institute of Life Science Engineering.

As the algae may also be cultivated in arid, that is, dry areas not suited for agriculture, there is hardly any competition with agricultural areas. There, however, closed systems are required.

Presently, algae are being produced in open ponds in southern countries of relatively small productivity. This is where Posten’s new technology starts.

“In terms of process technology, our approach is completely different, as we are working with closed photobioreactors,” said Posten. “Our plants convert solar energy into biomass, the efficiency being five times higher than that in open ponds,” he added.

The plates in usual photo-bioreactors are arranged vertically.

“Every alga sees a little bit less light, but the plant is operated at increased efficiency,” emphasized Posten.

So far, Dr. Georg Muller, head of this institute’s Pulsed Power Technology Division, has studied the decomposition of plant cells of olives, grapes, apples, sugar beets, and terrestrial energy plants in cooperation with partners from research and industry.

“It is our objective to develop new economically efficient and sustainable extraction methods to obtain a maximum amount of cell constituents from the algae that can be used for energy production,” said Muller.

“The plant cells are exposed to a high electric field for a very short term. This causes a perforation of the cell membrane and the constituents are released,” he added. (ANI)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Clinton Foundation to build solar power station near Pakistan border

The Clinton Foundation has agreed to build the world's largest solar power station close to India's border with Pakistan, a government minister has confirmed.

By Dean Nelson in New Delhi
Published: 3:57AM BST 06 Aug 2009

Foundation officials have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create a solar park with the capacity to generate more than 5,000 Megawatts of electricity, Gujarat state's energy minister Saurabh Patel told The Daily Telegraph.

The project is one of up to 40 schemes aimed at transforming the desert border with Pakistan into the world's biggest solar energy hub.

The state government has signed deals with 40 energy companies, each planning to generate between five and 50 Megawatts of solar energy.

One plan will see the border area lined with large solar mirrors to transform the sun's rays into power.

Mr Patel said his government had allocated 1,500 hectares of land for the project and will also offer financial incentives for companies which begin generating electricity before December 2010.

The development emerged on Wednesday after India's central government in New Delhi unveiled plans to invest £11 billion in new solar plants and encourage 20,000 families to switch to solar by 2020. Government offices throughout the country must make the switch before 2012.

Balance of article:

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Scientists find a way to make nanostructured plastic solar cells

Washington, August 5 (ANI): A research team headed by David Ginger, a University of Washington associate professor of chemistry, has developed the netechnology.

Researchers the world over are striving to develop organic solar cells that can be produced easily and inexpensively as thin films that could be widely used to generate electricity.

But a major obstacle is coaxing these carbon-based materials to reliably form the proper structure at the nanoscale (tinier than 2-millionths of an inch) to be highly efficient in converting light to electricity.

The goal is to develop cells made from low-cost plastics that will transform at least 10 percent of the sunlight that they absorb into usable electricity and can be easily manufactured.

Now, Ginger's research team has found a way to make images of tiny bubbles and channels, roughly 10,000 times smaller than a human hair, inside plastic solar cells.

These bubbles and channels form within the polymers as they are being created in a baking process, called annealing, that is used to improve the materials' performance.

The researchers are able to measure directly how much current each tiny bubble and channel carries, thus developing an understanding of exactly how a solar cell converts light into electricity. inger believes that will lead to a better understanding of which materials created under which conditions are most likely to meet the 10 percent efficiency goal.

Balance of article: Newstrack India

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Politics of Energy #9 - Wind Power is Not Very Reliable

Sanity still blowing in the wind

by Terry McCrann

(Editor's Note - This article out of Australia dicusses the simple fact that the wind does not blow all the time. In fact, wind farms usually stand idle. Further, when the wind blows, it usually blows everywhere, or not at all. So the canard that wind farms everywhere will mean that somewhere the wind is blowing is not usually true. This makes for unreliable power grids. RLW)

THE Rudd Government's 'green power' strategy has been utterly shredded by detailed analysis which shows the total uselessness of the one form of power on which it is almost entirely based - wind.

Further, this independent analysis is a damning indictment of not only the federal government and all state governments for their betrayal of their most fundamental duty to the public interest. But it also exposes the disgrace of the so-called 'public service' bureaucracies.

Where is the official analysis of what wind power generation does in practice - at either federal or state level? Which, if it had been done, would have embarrassingly exposed its uselessness. Why has it had to be done by 'privateers'?

The answer is of course that the public service at both state and federal level has abandoned not just its broad general duty to the public, but even its narrower duty to tell political government the truth by providing policy advice and analysis.

Simply and damningly: If you don't ask the question, if you don't do the analysis, you won't come up with the 'wrong' answer.

If you do, you find that not only does wind fail as a power source. Not that that's a surprise to anyone who's prepared to 'look'. When the wind don't blow, the power don't flow. Even more devastatingly, as this analysis shows, the wind not only don't blow an awful lot of the time. It tends to not blow 'everywhere' at the same time.

This utterly shreds the claim that if we build enough of the so-called 'wind farms' across southern Australia, the wind will always be blowing somewhere.

Balance of article:

Monday, August 03, 2009

If You Don't Like My Apples, Don't Shake My Tree

Asian giants put the West’s targets for solar energy in the shade

by Jeremy Page

For years India and China have been cast in the West as the biggest obstacles to international agreement on how to tackle climate change. Now the two emerging economic giants of Asia have challenged the West to match their bold plans to develop solar power.

India’s unveiling of a National Solar Mission comes soon after China revised its solar energy targets upwards to 2 gigawatts (2 billion watts) installed capacity by 2010 and 20GW by 2020.

India now aims to produce 10 per cent of its power from renewable sources by 2020, while China is targeting 20 per cent. China is already the world’s fourth largest producer of wind power and makes half of the world’s solar panels.

By contrast President Obama has set a goal of 10 per cent renewable energy use by 2012 and 25 per cent by 2025, but has yet to lay out a plan to achieve those targets — which are being watered down by Congress.

The European Union has committed to producing 20 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, but member states have also been slow to provide details of how to meet the target.

India and China are now certain to showcase their relatively bold plans during international negotiations in Copenhagen in December to try to agree a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Western countries have long argued that China and India must agree to specific limits on their carbon emissions as they are now the world’s biggest and fourth biggest producers respectively of greenhouse gases.

Beijing and Delhi oppose that demand, insisting that the West must be the first to act because it has caused most of the world’s industrial pollution.

Balance of article: TimesOnline

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Nanos are Coming!

Tata Motors to deliver 60,000 Nanos by July 2010

New Delhi: Country's largest auto maker Tata Motors will deliver up to 60,000 units of the Nano, which is touted as the world's cheapest car, by July next year while remaining committed to handing over the first one lakh (100,000) cars by 2010 once its mother plant in Sanand goes on stream.

He said the new plant in Sanand is likely to be ready by the end of this financial year. It would have an initial production capacity of 2.5 lakh (250,000) units per annum.

Editor's note: There has been criticism of Nano, simply because India's infrastructure is ill prepared for the infusion of hundreds of thousands of cars. The larger issue is global warming and the disagreement between Developed and Emerging Economies as to who shall make economic sacrifices on carbon emissions.

Balance of srticle: MSN News

Saturday, August 01, 2009

One On One - Geo-Exchange Systems for New Homes

Photo by Collin Smith

Nathan Poss, front, and his business partner, Robert Konrad, perform a test of the geo-exchange system they installed at Clay Trevenen’s home. Together, Poss and Konrad own PK Geothermal, an Erie-based company that only installs geo-exchange heating and cooling systems.

Local man uses geo-exchange system for new home

Clay Trevenen, 39, smiles about possibilities as he looks out at 6,400 feet of high-density plastic coils laid out in a 7-foot deep pit next to his partially-built new home in Moffat County.

The coils are part of a geo-exchange heating and cooling system — also known as geothermal — that will help the environment.

But green energy wasn’t the focus.

What makes Trevenen smile is possibly saving $300 to $500 in utility costs each year.

“That’s more what I’m thinking about,” he said.

Trevenen’s home is one of the first in the county with a geo-exchange system.

The concept is simple, if the actual process is less so.

High-density coils are buried deep enough in the ground to be past the frost point in winter, where the ground is a consistent 55 degrees year-round. The constant temperature allows a chemical solution inside the coils to collect or dump heat.

A heat pump then either moves warmth from the coils into the home to heat it, or moves heat from the home and into the coils to cool it.

“You’re just taking the heat out of the ground and putting it in your house, or you’re taking the heat out of the house and putting into the ground,” Trevenen said.

Balance of article: Craig Daily Press