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Aggregating Energy Since 2006
We focus on energy policy and issues relating to climate change. Anyone may comment on an item; all views solely reflect the opinion of the author. Please email us if you have comments or questions.

Wind Integration Study Complete: Green Light For More Wind Power

"Groundbreaking Minnesota wind integration study finds up to 25% wind can be incorporated reliably into electric power system

"December 13, 2006: Results of a new study show that, under the right policies, utilities can incorporate wind power into their resource portfolio, comprising up to one-fourth of their delivered energy, without sacrificing reliability and with minor costs for absorbing the wind...."

To read more:  http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2006/12/13/031376.html

Green chimney and blowing smoke

 

 

1. CNN is reporting overzealously on a new carbon dioxide mitigation technology in an article, "Green chimney could save the planet" (because one technology is likely THE answer).  But it's worth a read:

"A new experimental technology he calls a liquid chimney that captures the greenhouse gas escaping from coal and natural-gas furnaces and turns it into a harmless material that could be used in construction or even dropped into the ocean to rebuild coral reefs."

Any theories on what the process or material is?

 

2. And if you think the global warming tide is turning and want a reality check with some right -of-center opinions, read this Katherine "Controversy Sells Papers" Kersten column (the comments from her readers are more interesting). "Global Warming's True Believers Stifle Dissent."

Does global warming science have a communication or believability problem?  And how do you respond to uncited comments in articles, columns, or blog comments that blatantly go against commonly understood scientific principles?

Saying nice things

Though many of us have already heard about this, I thought I would throw up a post anyway, just in case. Yesterday Gov. Pawlenty announced a target for the state of 25 percent renewable electricity by 2025. It basically ups the ante from our current renewable energy objective of 10% by 2015 and adds some teeth in the form of financial penalties for utilities that fail to the requirement. I'm still not clear on how this differs from the renewable energy standard that has come up recently. Business interests support Pawlenty's version - in fact a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce representative is quoted as saying that it is the "best of both worlds" - it avoids possible rate increases of a "mandate" while growing the renewable energy industry in the state. That leads me to believe that either utilities would be prohibited from passing on the penalties to ratepayers or that the penalties are rather mild.

Anyone have any more information?

Regardless, I think this could be a major step forward. I hope that there will be incentives for utilities to go beyond the 25 percent, and that lawmakers won't be prohibited from increasing the percentage in the future.

Opinions?

A new face of coal?

Heard an interesting piece on MPR this morning about a new coal-fired power plant being constructed in Springfield, IL:  Illinois Town Demonstrates Energy Flexibility.  Working with the Sierra Club, the town has created a plan to build a new coal-fired power plant but cut overall carbon emissions by investing in wind technology, encouraging consumers to increase efficiencies (see previous post - it really works!), and closing down two other coal plants.  Perhaps this can be a model for other new plants?

Good news!

For all of us worried about the energy problem in the US, take heart. According to the NY Times, "Energy Use Can Be Cut by Efficiency, Survey Says." Flashback to Family Feud: top answer? Fluorescent lightbulbs!

Great quote:

'One of the great mysteries is why the public has not shifted faster to fluorescent bulbs' said Alexander Lidow, a Stanford-educated physicist and the chief executive of International Rectifier, a maker of power management equipment of energy-efficient appliances."

Silly public.

EPA revising fuel efficiency ratings method

 

 

The New York Times and NPR are reporting on the EPA's proposed revisions to the vehicle mileage rating methodology that populates the sticker on new cars with city and highway miles-per-gallon (mpg) numbers. The main changes? Faster highway driving and air conditioning.

USAToday reports that it won't affect CAFE standard calculations.

But it's not clear that this will do anything...Do consumers care? The Consumer Federation is convinced they do...so is the Sierra Club...as does Jesus. But the Star Tribune reported earlier in November that fuel economy ranked 18th out of 56 things in considering a new car, behind cupholders and the sound system.

Cost of an Overheated Planet

 

 

The New York Times is continuing its "Energy Challenge" series with this article, the "Cost of an Overheated Planet," which attempts to bring economics into the discussion.

 

Kids Love Coal

Apparently kids love coal because it’s “American Energy” (that comes with “American Mercury,” “American Soot,” “American Carbon Dioxide” and “American Mountain Top Mining”). Our good friends at the “Coalition for Affordable and Reliable Energy” (CARE) are at it again and they sure “care” for kids.  Phase 2 of the coal is exciting-and-good-for-you marketing campaign is up on the DC metro, shilling children for coal.  (You’ll recall phase 1 was female internet excitement about coal.)

Women and children are apparently unconvinced about coal’s positive attributes and are the subjects of the marketing campaign.  No burly men have been seen yelling about burning carbon however. The lumps of coal, blackened miners, and mountain top removal must not have polled well.

Coal

The Alternative Energy Blog has a detailed post about coal that features a number of interesting facts.

The post features a number of links to further stories and photos. The Alt Energy blog seems to feature infrequent updates with in-depth stories. At any rate, some excerpts follow.

Virtually every power plant built in America between 1975 and 2002 was fired by natural gas. However between 1970 and 2000, the amount of coal America used to generate electricity tripled.

I suspect this is a result of the Clean Air Act and the failure of government regulations. Coal generation massively expanded without "building new facilities" because incentives encouraged them to "expand" existing facilities. If they built "new" facilities, they would be required to install much more effective (and expensive) pollution abatement equipment. However, such requirements are rarely required when "expanding" facilities.

Nonetheless, coal plants are officially being considered again as natural gas spikes make additional plants uneconomical.

Now with natural gas prices rising steeply, U.S. power utilities are expected to build the equivalent of 280 500 megawatt coal-fired electricity power plants between 2003 and 2030. China is already constructing the equivalent of one large coal burning power plant a week with two thirds of energy production coming from dirty coal. 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in China. India is the third largest producer of coal in the world, also getting over two thirds of its energy from coal. If these new coal plants are built, they will add as much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as has been released by all the coal burned in the last 250 years.

Existing coal plants already produce a lot of waste and environmental destruction from mining to burning.

Each year coal plants produce about 130 million tons of solid waste, about three times more than all the municipal garbage in the U.S. The American Lung Association calculates that around 24,000 people a year die prematurely from the effects of coal fired power plant pollution.

Apparently, much of the waste from coal plants can be recycled - one of its main uses is in building roads. IGCC plants (integrated gassification combined cycle) actually allow for greater recycling of waste from what I understand.

IGCC plants use heat and pressure to cook off impurities in coal and convert it into a synthetic gas, this gas is then burnt in a turbine. These plants are 10% more efficient than conventional plants, consume 40% less water, produce 50% less solid waste and burn almost as cleanly as natural gas plants.

Given the resource constraints of the future - particularly if we continue to expand corn production for fuel - IGCC's lesser water demand is quite a benefit as well as the ability to attach carbon capture and sequestration equipment to it.

Oil Prices During Election

I have been having a discussion on my personal blog about whether there was a conspiracy to lower oil prices to help Republicans in the November U.S. election. I wanted to throw it up here to see if there is a response.

It began with a link to this conspiracy article that details the accusations. I'm still not clear who exactly "they are" but I don't believe oil prices were manipulated by anyone in order to benefit Republicans.

I figured that we would see the same general downward trend for gas prices in the U.S. after September for most years. So I grabbed some data from the EIA on average gas prices (of all grades) in the U.S. since 1994.

I created the following graph (this is just for fun, so I don't have enough time or motivation to make it a slammin' graph, but I think it works). Click on it to get a slightly bigger version.

Gas Prices graph

As you can see, gas prices (when over a threshold of around $1.30) tend to drop off around this time. I consider this to be some evidence against the theory that some groups deliberately manipulated prices to benefit certain politicians. Is there any evidence of it? Would there be?

My kneejerk reaction is that conspiracies like this tend to catch one because it plays so well to people's existing prejudices. If you are more interested, check out the thread from my personal blog or post here.

News Stories

Jon has published links to many interesting and current news stories over at Loon Commons.

Playing devil's advocate

There has been some discussion lately on CBED and school wind projects. For my own edification and maybe other's, I'd like to throw out a question that may generate some controversy.

Basically, my concern is that the myriad of small community wind projects popping up around the state driven by CBED may pose a problem in achieving the ultimate goal of getting 20 percent or more of our electricity from renewable energy.

I'm thinking mainly in terms of transmission planning and grid integration isues. Since wind projects can be built much quicker than transmission lines, transmission planners may have a hard time connecting the dots when there are a lot of small dots compared to a few large dots. As far as integration issues, utilities will need greater control of wind farms once they start to make up a large portion of the electricity generated. For instance, utiltiies need to be able to disconnect wind farms from the grid to do line maintenance or when power output is exceeding line limits due to high winds. Wind farms will also soon be bidding on the MISO market (now they are simply negative load). It seems that it would be harder for utilities to monitor and control a myriad of small projects versus several large wind farms of 100 of megawatts or more.

Plus, the bigger the wind farm, the cheaper the electricity due to the economies of scale involved. Utilities may be reluctant to purchase higher priced electricity from small wind farms if policies like the Production Tax Credit go away.

Anyway, I just thought I would throw this out there to see what people think. Hopefully someone more knowaledgable can set me straight.

Climate Change Investigation

The BBC is offering Climate Change skeptics an opportunity to publicize how they are discriminated against. Those who have been wronged may submit evidence to the BBC, which will then investigate the allegations.

As we come up to the release of the fourth IPCC assessment report, the first for half a decade and undoubtedly the major event of next year in climate terms, the issues raised by the loose and diverse community of sceptics will become doubly prominent.

For that reason, we on the BBC News website will be spending some time over the coming months looking at these issues; and the allegations against science come first.

I may be crazy to ask this given my already bulging inbox, but here goes. If you have evidence of research grants turned down because of a clash with the prevailing consensus, of instances where journals or conference organisers or consensus bodies have rejected "inconvenient" findings, please send it to us; my email address is at the bottom of this article.

While we should expect that scientists who reject human-caused climate change are going to be discredited within the community, this invitation is more geared to refute those who claim that "inconvenient" evidence against climate change has been covered up.

I originally saw this story on slashdot, which has a discussion about it.

C-BED Schools

It looks like Macalester is not the only school interested in making money from renewable energy. The Free Press has a story about the St. Peter School District and a potential wind investment. This must be a C-BED project much like the Macalester College one Timothy discussed previously.

I have to think that C-BED is a great opportunity for schools looking for a dedicated source of funding for the future. I'm glad to see people taking advantage of it.

Massachusetts v. EPA

The Supreme Court hears Massachusetts v. EPA on Wednesday, 30 November. This case will determine if the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate carbon dioxide emissions as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

Bush's EPA is arguing that the CAA does not apply to carbon dioxide and it therefore cannot regulate emissions. The case is immediately about regulating from cars but will likely determine whether the EPA can regulate greenhouse gases at all. Odds point to a decision in favor of the EPA as the court tends to defer to administrative agencies. The decision will not come out for another 6 months, so we won't have any resolution until then.

I wrote a series of 3 papers about this case for my environmental law class at the University of Minnesota. I'm putting them up because they are (I hope) a quick and accurate introduction to the case and arguments involved.

Basic facts and arguments of the case
EPA's arguments
Massachusetts's arguments that the EPA must regulate greenhouse gas emissions

The NY Times covered the trial here

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