Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

New Home!

Energista! has moved to a new home - Energista.org. Please visit our new home. You can create your own account if you want an identity for posting comments and such. If you have questions or comments about the switcheroo, please email me and I'll straighten you out.

This new codebase offers more features and supports local small business rather than relying upon the generosity of Google's services. Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Slow Start to Nuclear

Despite the Federal government sending a message to the private sector to push forward with building new nuclear power plants, the response has been tepid. A longish NY Times article looks at the business outlook on nuclear power plants. I found there to be a couple interesting tidbits. One is that the reasons companies decide not to build a new nuclear power plant are generally not the same as the reasons opponents are worried about:

“Opponents often cite the risk of accidents and the problem of nuclear waste, but the companies that do not want to build say that those are not factors in their decisions…the risk that really matters to utility executives is financial. Among the companies that would actually build these plants, executives focus more on uncertain factors like the future price of power, the cost of producing competing fuels, and the cost of cleaning up coal plants to meet standards for the pollutants that Washington does regulate — sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and soot.” 

One energy company executive stated it clearly that their role is to maximize their shareholders profits. Even if nuclear power plants may eventually be more cost effective than coal plants they carry a much higher level of uncertainty and risk. An example is that typically when they build a new power plant they begin the process by selling the future power for a certain length of time (hedging). They then use these contracts to ease the worries of investors and bankers in order to get the outside financing necessary for the high capital outlay. Since nuclear power plants take on the order of 10 years to bring into production it is difficult to sell power 10 years from now for a 10 year timeframe.



Airline Emission Trading

The World's 18 Aug, 2006 technology podcast discusses a proposed airline emissions trading program.

I seem to recall the statement that airline emissions are the fasting growing carbon emissions in Europe. So the EU may institute a trading program to reduce them.

The view is shared by a number of airlines which accept that their current exemption from tax on aviation fuel is not tenable in the long term. Many operators are alarmed at plans to slap a levy on tickets to generate funds for areas not related to aviation, such as development aid. Moreover some airlines see an advantage in the fact that it will take at least two or three years to get the measure through the EU legislative procedure.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A way to model the pollution impacts of distributed energy sources

Ok, the last post for the day. Researchers in California have developed means to model the air quality impacts of small scale, distributed power sources.  

“Using a supercomputer, scientists analyzed thousands of variables including land-use information, emissions data and atmospheric chemistry to determine the potential effect of distributed generation on Southern California air by 2010. Distributed generation – the operation of many small stationary power generators located throughout an urban air basin – includes fuel cells, photovoltaics, gas turbines, micro-turbine generators and natural gas internal combustion engines. The use of clean distributed generation in place of traditional power-plant generation cuts down on electricity transmission losses, reduces the need for unsightly overhead power lines and facilitates the use of generator waste heat, which further reduces electricity needs and emissions.”

Bioenergy crops on Industrial Brownfields

In the hopes of being able to address two problems at once, researchers have been investigating growing bioenergy crops in brown-fields; areas that are not usable for other purposes without considerable cleanup. 

“Right now, brownfields don’t grow anything,” Thelen said. “This may seem like a drop in the bucket, but we’re looking at the possibilities of taking land that isn’t productive and using it to both learn and produce.”

They are also investigating whether or not the plants will contribute to remediation of the pollution by taking up contaminants from the soil.

While the plants are not going to be eaten I think it is still going to be important to investigate whether or not the contaminants taken up from the soil impact the use of the biomass. The processes used for conversion of biomass to ethanol involve a number of yeasts and enzymes that could be adversely affected by many different compounds. If the biomass is to be burned the concern would be the level of contaminants in the emissions. We certainly don’t want to just be trading soil and groundwater contamination for air contamination.


Scientific American looks at Energy and Climate Change

The Scientific American recently had a series of articles related to energy and climate change. Unfortunately, most of these require a subscription to access online. You can purchase them or buy the hardcopy.


A Climate Repair Manual [ INTRODUCTION ]
Global warming is a reality. Innovation in energy technology and policy are sorely needed if we are to cope


An Efficient Solution [ ENERGY EFFICIENCY ]
Wasting less energy is the quickest, least expensive way to stem carbon emissions


High Hopes for Hydrogen [ FUEL CELLS AND MORE ]
Using hydrogen to fuel cars may eventually slash oil consumption and carbon emissions, but it will take some time


The Rise of Renewable Energy [ CLEAN POWER ]
Solar cells, wind turbines and biofuels are poised to become major energy sources. New policies could dramatically accelerate that evolution


What to Do about Coal [ CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE ]
Cheap, plentiful coal is expected to fuel power plants for the foreseeable future, but can we keep it from devastating the environment?


A Plan to Keep Carbon in Check [ STRATEGY ]
Getting a grip on greenhouse gases is daunting but doable. The technologies already exist. But there is no time to lose.


If efficiency improvements and incremental advances in today's technologies fail to halt global warming, could revolutionary new carbon-free energy sources save the day? Don't count on it--but don't count it out, either


Fueling Our Transportation Future [ AUTOMOTIVE ANSWERS ]
New technologies, lighter vehicles and alternative fuels can lower greenhouse gas releases from cars and trucks


The Nuclear Option [ ROLE FOR FISSION ]
A threefold expansion of nuclear power could contribute significantly to staving off climate change by avoiding one billion to two billion tons of carbon emissions annually 



Oil Profits and Arms Purchases

An article at the TimesOnline links profits received due to the high oil prices to purchases of military goods. The month of July showed sales of $12.9 billion from the US to foreign governments – the largest single month during the Bush Administration. Besides being tied to the support for the US government’s foreign policy aims and other factors it is also related to oil profits.

"Other factors behind the leap in arms sales include the rising price of oil, which has given oil-producing nations more money to spend."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A New Look at Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Sciency Daily has a story about a new imaging device at NIST that will allow researchers to watch the internal workings of hydrogen fuel cells.

""Better water management is fundamental to meeting targets for fuel cell performance, reliability and durability. Reaching these targets, in turn, is integral to efforts to replace petroleum with hydrogen to power cars and trucks by 2020--the goal of President Bush's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative."

"An expert panel described the imaging method as "one of the most significant analytical advances in the membrane fuel cell realm in decades." "

Still, nothing that should make one hopeful of having a viable hydrogen solution in the coming decade capable of widespread use.

Willow for Ethanol

IT Conversations has a podcast about non corn ethanol sources (also not sugar cane). 15 minute interview with Stephen Hall, Chief Executive of Genesis R&D.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Ford Cuts Production Again

Ford sees no end in sight for the high gas prices and cutting truck and SUV production as a result.

Looks like the specific cuts will be announced in September but will definitely impact St. Paul.

The change will result in more downtime at Ford's St. Paul Ranger Truck plant as well as nine other plants, officials said.

Might As Well Pack It In...

Dang -- just as all this energy policy stuff was getting interesting, a bunch of smart Irish guys have figured out how to get clean free energy! So much for worrying about whether global warming is real, since it turns out basic physics is what turned out to be a hoax. Rather than waste time on those science journals (who would just try to ruin the party), they've taken out a full-page ad in the Economist challenging scientists to prove there's no dragon in their garage.

What I haven't figured out is how they plan to make money on this scam -- it seems like an awful lot of effort just to get email addresses to sell spammers.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Chicago Story

Several blogs have been abuzz with a remarkable story from the Chicago Tribune. Paul Salopek tracked the origin and route of gas pumped from a nearby station. In essence, he de-fungized oil.

The oil industry largely refused to help him. Only Marathon - a gas station that consistently offers the cheapeast price in southern suburbia - aided Salopek's mission by sharing some data. He actually volunteered dozens of times to work at a gas station where he interviewed people (disclosing that he was a reporter) between janitorial tasks. He finished with a 4 part series for the paper. I would be surprised if he does not develop a book out of it.

I grew apprehensive at the first Matthew Simmons quote and discussion of peak oil, but Salopek integrates it well and does not become sidetracked with the peak oil debate. This is good reading. It mixes the daily lives of gas station attendents with those on the rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. It hops between lecture and human interest. It even seems to be rather balanced.

U.S. refineries have dwindled from more than 300 to just 145 over the last 25 years. Industry blames this perilous bottleneck in the nation's gasoline production on environmental red tape and public opposition to new oil infrastructure--BANANA they call it, Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody. But critics claim that Big Oil actually likes the status quo; the inevitable shortfalls drive up gas prices.

This article may seem lengthy, but it rolls many insights into a few paragraphs.

Americans already get more oil from Africa than from Saudi Arabia. By 2015, oil experts say, African states will supply a quarter of all U.S. imports, up from 15 percent today. The United States quietly signaled this shift in 2002, when the State Department declared African oil a "strategic national interest," meaning in diplomatic code that U.S. troops may intervene to protect it.

"I think the U.S. military would find our swamps worse than Iraq," snorted Austin Onuoha, a Nigerian human-rights activist who specializes in oil issues. "But at least they might build some infrastructure after they invade. Americans always do this, right?"

Onuoha's sarcasm was well-earned. He was talking in the dark, from his blacked-out house in the oil-rich Niger Delta. The electricity in Africa's petro-giant had winked out again. And this fit sourly into his main thesis: Oil is rotting Africa's frail democracies.

As for the people who think the United States need to install a windfall tax to capture some of the "unfair" profiting of oil companies, they must seriously freak out when they consider how it impacts the areas from which it is extracted.

Jeremiah's catch fetched 450 naira at the local market, about $3. His boat engine had swallowed $6 in fuel. As it happened, it was Oct. 27, the day when Exxon Mobil announced record quarterly oil and gas profits of $7.35 billion.