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.
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?
Some good stuff in the new Grist mag:
- The FAA has apparently determined that wind farms in the Midwest should not be built until more research is done into how wind farms affect small plane radar... even though there are other wind turbines within range of radar systems that cause no problems. Wonder who took care of that bribe?
- Our favorite green company, WalMart, is pondering selling E85 at its gas stations; the ethanol industry is excited. Chevron is also looking into ethanol and biodiesel. There's also a good lil piece on the feasability of ethanol.
- For those of you planning a trip to wine country, do so soon - global warming could reduce the ideal climates for the finicky grapes by 80% by the end of the century.
- Apparently there is a company in San Francisco that makes solar-powered skateboards! Just kidding... the factory is solar-powered.
- Bush is planning to reduce energy efficiency programs by 16% so that the money will instead be directed towards future speculation into alternative energy sources. Sounds pretty brilliant to me - why invest in technologies or programs that will reduce our current need for energy when you can spend them instead on mesquite-powered cars??
- And lastly, the rankings for sustainable cities are in! Minneapolis took 10th - Portland, OR, was #1. Apparently transit ridership was a large part of the rankings...
A friend of mine is a huge train buff and he sent me some information that I thought was interesting. This article starts with the total newbie in mind:
You didn’t know locomotives had emissions regs? Neither did I. I assumed that the 207-ton iron gorilla of the wheeled world damn well did whatever it wished. But the new Tier II standards require substantial cuts in NOx and particulate matter, and GE, one of the world’s major locomotive manufacturers, has designed a new engine to meet them handily. The engine has an air-to-air turbocharger intercooler that lowers induction-air temperature to only a few degrees above ambient, for cleaner emissions and more power. Not only is the new GEVO 12 four-stroke diesel 40 percent cleaner than its predecessor, it’s three percent more fuel-efficient as well.
Apparently, each locomotive has multiple engines - which burn an average of 300,000 gallons of diesel a year.
A modern locomotive is a hybrid. The diesel doesn’t drive the train; it cranks an alternator, which powers the six huge electric traction motors that actually turn the locomotive’s wheels. Each motor is set transversely between a pair of drive wheels. On an Evolution the electric motors will put out a total of almost 60,000 pound-feet of torque at start-up—the equivalent of about 120 Ferrari Enzos—good for a zero-to-60 time, unloaded, of just shy of 45 seconds. Rather longer, though, if you’re dragging a 17,000-trailing-ton coal train.
The article also explains how modern train drivers - yeah, they dropped the term "conductor" - stay awake on the job. Apparently, the most tedious part of driving a train is that they often have to stop at ungated road crossings to make sure no one is approaching - I can only imagine how much fuel this constant braking/acceleration cycle costs. The Associate of American Railroads (AAR) claims:
I am somewhat disappointed with Friedman's "A Quick Fix for the Gas Addicts." I have long believed Tom's integrity is as good as anyone who gets to spread his views across this country.
But he just keeps convoluting (if it ain't a verb yet, it should be) the issue around fuel efficiency. We all know that only 20% of our oil imports come from the Middle East. We don't know how much of that goes to support terrorism, but I'm guessing it just isn't that much when compared to all the money Saudi Arabia makes off its oil sales to the U.S. If I didn't mess up, the EIA claims Saudi sold us 556,000,000 barrels of oil in 2005. We used about 7,500,000,000 barrels of oil in 2005. Saudi Arabia sold us 7% of the oil we used last year.
Okay, so oil is a world market. Great. So our consumption helps to determine world prices that marginally increases the amount of oil money going to fund terrorists. Not that much though.
The thing is that we have many reasons to increase fuel efficiency. Terrorism is not one of them! Even if you posit that we are at war purely to protect our future oil supplies, then the war is not about terrorism - and only fools thought Iraq was about terrorism.
Tom should know all of this.
Our military is in a war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan with an enemy who is fueled by our gasoline purchases. So we are financing both sides in the war on terror. And what are we doing about that?
This is so simplistic. Although terrorists may very well get a decent share of their money from oil revenues - my understanding is that their funding is far more sophisticated than that. Afterall, look at all the shit they financed when oil was at $15 a barrel. If they were so hooked into oil revenues, they must be positively giddy at $70 per barrel. And why was there so much hub-bub about all the money going to terrorism through Saudi charities?
I know I am not an official Energista, but I thought you guys might find this interesting. International Falls, MN might be the site of the nation's first plasma gasification waste disposal plant. This technology is cleaner than traditional incineration and can produce both energy and a solid glass like product that could be sold as tiles. Good times.
Funds for this adventure were included in this session's bonding bill, which Governor Pawlenty was kind enough to sign earlier today. According to the MPR story I heard, the project will received 2.5 of a required $30 million. There is clearly a capitol campaign to be held before this dream is a reality, but they are hoping that the state funding (up from an originally proposed $1 million) will help entice other donors. The program I listened to yesterday does not seem to be available on MPR’s Web site just yet, but here are a couple of March article from MPR and the Duluth News Tribune that covers the basics.
City Pages reported a quiet nuclear accident at Prairie Island which was apparently reported in the press.
While the City Pages article seems somewhat alarmist, it is curious that none of us heard of it. Or at least I didn't.
Dave Lochbaum, the director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists, says U.S. power plant workers are exposed to radiation under similar circumstances every two or three years. In Lockbaum's view, the most noteworthy aspect of the Prairie Island event was the number of workers effected; by that standard, it was the most serious accident in about five years. "Bottom line," says Lochbaum, "this is not the first time that mistakes caused workers to face unplanned radiation exposures and it'll likely not be the last time."
The Strib has an article today about wind energy that is being wasted because of lack of transmission capability. Xcel is the only utility mentioned in the report. Xcel issues "curtailment" payments to wind farm owners when they can't buy the electricity. These payments are passed on to the ratepayers.
The article should have mentioned the CapX study, a joint project by the major utilities in Minnesota to determine transmission needs through 2020. They accounted for the 10% wind by 2015 "required" by the REO in their scenarios.
The Green for Good Blog has an interesting ethanol post that features this quote:
Ethanol's potential has been blocked by the oil companies, however. In the early 1920s, cars needed an additive to boost octane and eliminate engine knocking. With its high octane rating, ethanol was the perfect choice, but it would have displaced 10 percent of the gasoline, so the oil industry chose to add lead instead. By 1970, lead's harmfulness had caused it to be banned. Once again, the oil industry could have chosen ethanol. Instead, they reformulated their gas to include more benzene, toluene and xylene. By 1990, the government had to limit these because of their toxicity, and Congress required the oil companies to add 2 percent oxygen to their gas in big cities. This can be achieved by adding 6 percent ethanol. About 20 percent of gasoline now does contain ethanol, but for the remaining 80 percent, the oil companies chose MTBE, an oil-derived product that causes groundwater pollution when it leaks. Thanks to MTBE, communities from California to New England now have polluted groundwater.
Thomas Friedman wrote a great piece in the NY Times today ripping General Motors for their promotion offering gas capped at $1.99 a gallon for one year in CA and FL on their biggest gas guzzlers, including Hummers and Suburbans. I love this statement: "the sooner this company gets taken over by Toyota, the better off our country will be. "
There is an article today in the Washington Post about the environmental impacts associated with the oil sands mining in Canada...
if that link doesn't work, it is also on MSNBC at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13039234/
This is pleasantly surprising... Bush's new nominee for Treasury Secretary, Goldman Sachs Chairman Henry M. Paulson Jr, is on record as supporting the Kyoto Protocol, arguing that the US's failure to enact Kyoto undermines the competitiveness of US companies. Paulson also serves as chairman of the board for the Nature Conservancy.
Here are reader's responses to Krugman on the environment. He talks about swift boating James Hansen and critiques the 'liars' of the global warming misinformation campaign.
SkyBuilt Power has some interesting solutions to provide serious power from renewable resources in areas that do not have it. These are probably temporary, massively expensive, but pretty cool for areas recently hit by disasters.
Check out this NYT article on companies that are doing something for GHG reductions:
The Greener Guys What motivates some to do this and others not to?
Diesel a Savior in Squeeze on Energy? Obstacles Exist Here is one take on diesel's mix in the energy future.
THE ENERGY CHALLENGE; 2 Industry Leaders Bet on Coal but Split on Cleaner Approach Also this one appeared over the weekend on the future of coal
This one should make everyone in PA 5721 really, really happy:
TECHNOLOGY; When It Comes to Alternate Fuels, All Gallons Aren' t Equal Enough to keep us all pondering a carbon managed energy future.