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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.

Calling all Citizens

Another LCMR deal:

We're currently requesting input from citizens regarding the most important environmental issues. Please go to our website and fill out the form! Tell all your friends! This information will go into our strategic plan (i.e. I will read all the comments and inform the commission. whee...)

Job Posting

So this may be out of the league of many of us (I myself would not apply), but I figure we can pass it along to those who may be interested.

The new (and improved?) Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources will, as of August 15, become the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. Thus, we are soliciting applications for those who would like to be citizen members. Applications are due June 27. Applications will go to a 5-member panel, who will choose an applicant pool from which the governor and the Legislature will appoint.

Video Games

A fun little article covering power consumption of video game console units. If you are into that sort of thing. No surprises that Microsoft's products are pigs.

While it’s obvious that an Xbox 360 would have higher energy demands then a Playstation 1, the curious question is by how much? Even more importantly is the question of whether your console might be costing you money while you sleep. Preposterous you say? Actually quite the opposite!

Back of the Envelope

I was having dinner on Sunday night with a bunch of people from my program and we were talking about government waste and such things. One of the people in my program was saying that FEMA had wasted billions by paying fraudulent claims.

So I was all like "that sounds unlikely to me." And I did a quick back of the envelope using some guesses at likely numbers of people committing fraud and how much one could expect to reap and said that I figured at the most, FEMA would not have likely given more than a billion in fraudulent claims.

3 days later, the Washington Post reported FEMA had messed up by about $1 billion.

The GAO said it was 95 percent confident that improper and potentially fraudulent payments were much higher: between $600 million and $1.4 billion.

I'm not sure if this is because of my heightened back of the envelope skills or because FEMA is unimaginably stupid. Regardless, I hope the survivors of E's spring class find this amusing =)

The "Risk" of Future Carbon Regulation

In another sign that companies are starting to acknowledge the possibility of future carbon regulation, Xcel has expressed interest in developing a carbon-constrained energy strategy. This was reported in the latest Public Utility Commission briefing papers for the Xcel Resource Plan filing. The Commission staff recommend the Commission develop a carbon hedge value and that carbon risk analysis be included in future resource plan filings and Certificate of Need filings for new power plants. California and Colorado already have CO2 hedge values of $8.00/ton and $9.00/tons, respectively.

Communicating Climate Change

Here's an interesting piece by Simon Retallack about framing of the Global Warming issue. Specific approaches recommended were:

1) placing the issue in the context of higher-level values, such as responsibility, stewardship, competence, vision and ingenuity 2) that action to prevent climate change should be characterised as being about new thinking, new technologies, planning ahead, smartness, forward-thinking, balanced alternatives, efficiency, prudence and caring 3) conversely, that opponents of action be charged with the reverse of these values – irresponsibility, old thinking and inefficiency.

A risk to radar? New wind farms may be delayed

Here's a link to the Star Tribune story by Tom Meersman that appeared in today's edition. The military is concerned about the national security effects of noise in radar caused by wind turbines. They are temporarily stopping any projects that are line-of-sight from any military radar installation until a study called for by Congress is completed. The ability to do this came about due to opposition to the Cape Wind project mentioned in a previous post.

New Grist mag!

Three interesting (energy) pieces in the new Grist mag:

An interview with Dick Luger, a Republican senator from Indiana, who is a great proponent of alternative energy (read: ethanol), saying "energy is the albatross of American national security." I can only assume he meant "around the neck of...", since obviously senators have superb grammar. Apparently alternative energy and smart energy policy extends to Arctic drilling, because it's oh-so-worth-it.

Speaking of energy plans, Democrats are apparently adding theirs to the national midterm election clamor.. will this be heard above the great GOP noise about death taxes and gay marriage??? Tune in to find out.

Saving the best for last, China has completed a railway connecting Beijing with Lhasa, Tibet. Yes, you read that correctly - Tibet. At the mere price of $4.2 billion, the Chinese have designed a railroad that "runs through seismically active areas, climbs over a mountain pass that reaches 16,900 feet, and crosses permafrost that could move as much as 15 feet over time as it thaws and refreezes." The Chinese have predicted that global warming will occur "at exactly 3.6 degrees over 100 years," and to adjust, they've built a refrigeration system to maintain the railroad. If only I had a bridge to sell...

Batteries

Obviously, batteries are a major issue in energy issues. Hybrids are limited by their batteries and weight issues and recharging. This could all change with new batteries. I think this is a continuation of the story I brought up months ago about the new nanotube batteries. A story on Sciencentral explores nanotube enhanced capacitors.

But capacitors contain energy as an electric field of charged particles created by two metal electrodes. Capacitors charge faster and last longer than normal batteries. The problem is that storage capacity is proportional to the surface area of the battery's electrodes, so even today's most powerful capacitors hold 25 times less energy than similarly sized standard chemical batteries.

The researchers solved this by covering the electrodes with millions of tiny filaments called nanotubes. Each nanotube is 30,000 times thinner than a human hair. Similar to how a thick, fuzzy bath towel soaks up more water than a thin, flat bed sheet, the nanotube filaments on increase the surface area of the electrodes and allow the capacitor to store more energy. Schindall says this combines the strength of today's batteries with the longevity and speed of capacitors.

Wind Out of Their Sails

Here's an interesting article in the latest edition of Mechanical Engineering on the opposition to the Cape Cod wind farms. They mention a new loophole that was introduced by Congress allowing the Governor to unilaterally veto any development plans. Of interest is the expected effect this has on any other off-shore wind projects.

"...it's likely governors will be under huge pressure to block offshore wind farms everywhere, just as similar interests have derailed oil and gas exploration off the Florida coast."

Nigeria

The United States gets a lot of oil from Nigeria. "Worse Than Iraq?" by Jeffrey Tayler in the April, 2006 Atlantic Monthly covers the political woes of Nigeria and the U.S. vows to defend Nigeria because it is a "strategic U.S. interest."

An OPEC member since 1971, Nigeria has 35.9 billion barrels of proven petroleum reserves—the largest of any African country and the eighth largest on earth. It exports some 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, and the government plans to nearly double that amount by 2010. Nigeria is the fifth-largest supplier of oil to the United States; U.S. energy officials predict that within ten years it and the Gulf of Guinea region will provide a quarter of America's crude.

More recently, Voice of America reports suggest Nigeria's political situation is deteriorating further.

A militant group in the Niger Delta Wednesday staged a bloody raid on an oil facility seizing five South Korean oil workers and killing four soldiers.

But maybe it wasn't that big of a deal - I think the price of oil has actually dropped a bit in the last few days. If you do not have a subscription to the mag, don't forget you can access these articles via Lexis/Nexis via the U library system.

Tax-me Republicans?

Green GOP is reporting on a story from USA Today.

You don't often hear a Republican say "Tax me!!" but that's exactly what Paul Anderson, chairman of Duke Energy, has proposed. As reported by USA Today, Anderson, a registered Republican, has asked the federal gov't to tax companies based on the greenhouse gases they produce. And he's not just any Republican - he's a major Bush supporter and part of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

New York Nukes

In one of the worst headlines I have seen in awhile - the New York Times reports "N.Y. Grid Could Stand to Lose Reactors, Panel Says" before writing in the second paragraph:

The report, released today, said electric demand is growing so fast in the region that even if the reactors stay in operation, simply keeping the lights on in peak summer periods will be a challenge in coming years.

This is not unlike a NYT headline that would read: "N.Y.C. Could Lose Many Streets" and then writing:

Sure, it would make life in NYC more frustrating and a lot of people would be inconvenienced, but it probably would not destroy the planet or anything.

Basically, the article says that NY will already need to add capacity in order to meet demand, but a bunch of Dems and enviros want to shut down the Indian Point nuclear reactors (nearly 2 GW) because they are afraid terrorists will target them.

While you can argue about the wisdom of building more nukes, the idea of shutting down fully functional nukes (which will have to be replaced with some sort of fossil fuels given modern realities) strikes me as being really really dumb.

An Inconvenient Truth

In case anyone didn't already know this, Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" opens this friday at the Landmark Uptown in Minneapolis. If anyone has seen this or is going to, share what you think...I will be out of town this weekend but plan on seeing it soon.

Wind Power and Wildlife

The New York Times has an article today about a citizen activist in Maryland crusading against wind power in his region on account of its effects on birds, bats, and vistas. While I find this debate completely exasperating, I think that the wind power supporters mentioned in this article are not being completly truthful when they pit wind power against coal- in other words, it's either build wind turbines or coal plants. I'm still learning about how wind integrates in the grid, but unfortunately it doesn't seem that wind energy can replace baseload power sources for now at least. I think it can if you get very high wind penetration rate in a region and its geographically dispersed (so that there are always some turbines turning), but there may be some areas (such as the eastern US) where you will never get a high enough penetration rate to replace baseload plants. Comments?

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