I remember hearing someone on NPR's Science Friday recently predicting Toyota plug-in hybrids next year. It looks like that was a bit optimistic.The Associated Press reports that Toyota doesn't even have a timeline for when these vehicles will be available.
President Bush has touted the potential of the technology but obstacles exist, ranging from making the batteries lighter, less expensive and more durable. Some observers have expressed concern about the ability of the electrical grid to support the vehicles, but supporters say most plug-ins would be recharged at night.
As we all know, if these cars are going to recharge at night, they will increase baseload demands. In Minnesota, this is mostly coal and some nuclear. I suspect these cars will hit the market long before renewable sources such as wind make up a dramatic contribution to the grid which means the cars will not be nearly as clean as we would hope.However, plug-ins can become cleaner over time as we clean up the grid with renewable sources, so they certainly need to be encouraged.The article suggests that Toyota is increasingly looking at E85 capable hybrids as well.Thanks to the theWatt NewsBot for this story.
All those in favor of more coal power plants: stop reading now. The rest of us? The comment period for Big Stone II is open still according to an email that Stacy just forwarded me. Click that link for a Sierra club action notice.
I believe Big Stone II is supposed to be emissions neutral for criteria emissions because they are going to clean up Big Stone I as part of the deal. But I could be wrong - anyone else know better? The real issue in my mind is the problem with CO2 - which is not a criteria emission.
I found something today that I thought others would find interesting and/or useful. The World Resource Institute has an MS Excel based tool to "help companies integrate the value of carbon dioxide emissions reductions into energy-related investment decisions."
Renewable Energy Access featured the Minneapolis-based Institute for Local Self Reliance in its 6 July podcast.I don't think we have talked about the new law which encourages plug-in hybrids. It passed unanimously.
The law instructs the state to buy plug-in hybrids on a preferred basis when they become available. It also encourages Minnesota State University-Mankato to develop flex-fuel plug-in hybrid vehicles, and creates a task force consisting of business, government and utility representatives to develop a strategy for using, and producing such vehicles in Minnesota.
David Morris discusses the strategies necessary to get legislation passed when dealing with the baggage around GHGes. The interview also covers Ford's reaction to this. Part of the legislation seems to be aimed at keeping that Highland Park Ford plant open and working on hybrids. From what I have read, this could only be accomplished by demolishing the existing facilities and building a new factory. Ford seems reluctant despite the advantage of its cheap hydro electric power source on the Mississippi River.This is a short podcast - 15 minutes - of which the interview takes up 5 minutes.
Though I have escaped this heat wave across most of the United States, I feel for the rest of you. From the NY Times comes a reminder of the relationship between high temps and energy usage. Not only do record highs produce record electrical consumption, it also disrupts the grid (wires run hotter) and transportation systems.
Looks like the G8 discussions focused on energy. I'm not sure that much of this will come to pass, but they are leaning on oil-producing nations to produce reliable stats about oil reserves. This is one of the main issues that surrounds peak oil because no one really trusts what many oil-producers publish.
I wonder if the G8 is actually planning to crack down or it is just trying to sound tough. I have to imagine it would take a lot to change the game theory game of oil producers and reserve estimates.
They also discussed a plan for dealing with a world oil shock involving strategic reserves.
The group endorsed efforts by the Paris-based International Energy Agency to prepare for a possible world oil shock with a plan to coordinate the release of the Group of 8 countries’ emergency reserves, like the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in the United States.
This is interesting, but I have to assume that any shock large enough to cause such a problem would probably outlast the strategic reserves. I wonder if politicians actually understand orders of magnitude involved if terrorists were to successfully damage Kuwait and Saudi Arabian facilities in a meaningful way.
Renewable Energy Access posted an article from the SOLAR 2006 conference last week in Denver. In the plenary session they advocate for the need for a rapid transformation in architecture and building design as part of reducing GHG emissions.
Some critical observations:
* Buildings require 48 percent of US energy consumption today,
* Buildings have relatively long lives making it important to start immediately to make broad changes to the way we build them,
* "By 2035, three-quarters of the built environment in the US will be either new or renovated."
The range of changes they recommend look to focus upon the energy use by the building itself calling for incorporation of active and passive solar systems and consideration of energy consumption in siting decisions. What they don't talk about at all are the energy impacts of material selection, landscaping, transportation to/from building, the time the buildings sit unused, etc. This is a good start, though.
Of interest to the Humphrey students is that Socolow brings up the carbon wedges.
Here's the clip of Bill Clinton that aired recently on MPR.
Among many things that he said were two lessons he has learned since being in office about Climate Change:
* "It's a lot worse than I thought it was when I was President." Big Oil and Big Coal were really strong and the people who understood Global Warming were few. On whether signing Kyoto would have killed the US economy he offered Britain as a comparison to US. Similar economies but Britained signed on to Kyoto. Their economy is doing well and ours not so much.
* We need to get going because of Peak Oil but it will be a good thing. The general public needs to be much more aware and concerned about the oil supply problems. There is an opportunity to create a lot of new jobs in areas related to new energy sources.
The Bemidji Pioneer reports on ethanol wrangling in Congress, a new report, and sugar V corn in the U.S.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday issued a 78-page report which concludes that "with recent spot market prices for ethanol near $4 per gallon, it is profitable to produce ethanol from sugarcane and sugar beets, raw sugar and refined sugar."
But the price of ethanol is expected to drop significantly by next summer and make it not profitable to use sugar...unless CAFTA brings us unlimited cheap sugar imports.
I have been MIA for a while but I saw this article from the Pioneer Press online today, and couldn't resist...especially considering the high 90s weekend in front of us!
Anyone looking for some wind power research should head over to the collection of recent wind power reports on the Climate Change Action blog.
Looks like the UK is OK with nuke plants.
Trade and Industry secretary Alistair Darling said: "Our analysis suggests that, alongside other low carbon generating options, a new generation of nuclear power stations could make a contribution to reducing carbon emissions and reducing our reliance on imported energy."
The move to a pro-nuclear stance represents a fairly swift about-face from the government though, which in its 2003 energy review said the vast investment required by nuclear power stations made their economics unviable. The 2006 review says they could be financially sound based on "a range of plausible scenarios", but firmly puts responsibility for detailing those scenarios in the hands of the private sector.
So under the rubric of energy security and lowering carbon emissions (or rather the growth rate of carbon emissions I reckon) the UK is looking for ways to invest in nuclear generation facilities.Update: Climate Change Action blog has some comments about this report and reports on some criticism of the report by UK groups.
Israeli planes attacked the main highway between the Lebanese capital Beirut and Syrian capital Damascus, the Associated Press reported. Sabotage on two pipelines yesterday forced Eni Spa's Nigerian venture to cut output at three pumping stations, the Lagos-based Guardian newspaper reported.
"There's real disruption to supplies in Nigeria, potential disruptions in Iran, and now you've got what's happening in Israel," said Tobin Gorey.
Meanwhile, Voice of America reports
Crude oil for August delivery closed at a record $76.70 in New York Thursday. The price continued to rise in after-hours trading, hitting $78.40 ...
In early Asian trading Friday crude oil was at $77.95 a barrel.
So we have a new record. The peak oil folks see this as more proof for their argument. However, I think this spike will subside. Perhaps it will get worse depending on Middle Eastern craziness or continued problems in Nigeria or hurricanes in the Gulf. But I hear that China's economy is supposed to stop growing so quickly next year because they are afraid of it overheating ( acute coolant shortage?). I would certainly be surprised to see it drop below $70 a barrel anytime soon. But Saudi Arabia seems to be mostly siding with Israel in this Lebanon fiasco, so I wouldn't predict any geopolitical interference from producers over this. Though Iran certainly could do some damage to everyone if they cut exports.
Here is something that my first reaction was....oh my. Reported on the Legalectric blog is a reduction of wind capacity in order to fit in the production from the Mesaba IGCC plant. In order to add 600MW of production from the clean-er coal plant the MISO impact study proposes a reduction of 675MW of wind production in Southwest Minnesota. Not affected, though, is the level of production from the 600MW Big Stone II conventional coal plant planned for South Dakota.
I would love to hear the thoughts of those more up on electricity regulation as to the accuracy of this report (there are enough inaccuracies in the writing I have to question the veracity of the report) and the impact. If this is true then effectively the clean-er coal technology would actually be replacing wind production not conventional coal production.
Ford is shifting its focus from hybrid technology to biofuels. They appear to be conceding hybrids to Toyota and focusing on ethanol. Great.We don't need to make inefficient cars guzzle a new fuel. We need cars that are more efficient. The article ends with an incentive discussion.
Environmentalists have questioned the motives of the automakers pushing for E85. Car companies receive a credit for each vehicle they produce that is capable of running on ethanol or a similar bio-fuel.
But Ford noted that there are also credits to the buyers of hybrid vehicles. "It's not a
credit-driven thing," he said. "We get credit either way." More important, he said, was to spend money on technologies that could lessen the country's dependence on oil. "We need to keep a hand in everything so that when a break comes, we can move fast," he