Saturday, December 30, 2006

Electric Vehicles in China

The Communist Party's Central Committee wants innovation. The Chinese people will want hundreds of millions of vehicles and in order to prevent health-killing air pollution, the need for pollution-free vehicles and renewable energy in China is clear. Mao Zongqiang is one of ChinaŠŐ» leading experts on hydrogen and other alternative fuels at Tsinghua University's Nuclear and New Energy Institute.

Shen-Li High Tech Co. Ltd., a private company in Shanghai, is manufacturing a hydrogen fuel cell demonstration vehicle. It wants to produce hydrogen power for buses, taxis and generators. The company started operation in 1998 and the founder and president is Hu Liqing, 43. His factory is in Shanghai's suburban Longyang Industrial Garden. The company hopes to find a way to economically mass-produce the propulsion systems. The Shen-Li company is considering a partnership with the state-owned Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. to produce the cars, the Suzhou company would produce the buses.

A subsidiary of Fosun Pharmaceutical Corp purchased a 36 percent share of Shen-Li in 2006 and the company is now focused on electricity generators, which offer hope for more immediate sales in China and abroad.

Fuyuan Century Fuel Cell Power Co. Ltd. in suburban Beijing, headed by Zhong, 63, is researching ways to make membranes, which are the key and most expensive element in hydrogen fuel cells. DuPont, in the USA, dominates the market for these components. The Beijing city government purchased three hydrogen-powered demonstration buses from DaimlerChrysler for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

A chemical reaction in the fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electric current to power a vehicle and the waste emission is water vapor. Unfortunately, the problem is that producing, storing and distributing the hydrogen costs money and requires an infrastructure of filling stations that does not exist. (Wash Post)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Acid Rain Program Shows Continued Success

The U.S. EPA released its Acid Rain Program 2005 Progress Report, marking the 11th year of one of the most widely regarded and successful environmental programs in U.S. history. Since 1995, the program has significantly reduced acid deposition in the United States by decreasing sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions. Due to rigorous emissions monitoring and allowance tracking, overall compliance with the Acid Rain Program has been consistently high at nearly 100 percent.

There were no units out of compliance in 2005. In 2005, SO2 emissions from electric power generation were more than 5.5 million tons below 1990 levels. NOx emissions were down by about 3 million tons below 1990 levels. The program's emission cuts have reduced acid deposition and improved water quality in U.S. lakes and streams.The emission reductions to date also have resulted in reduced formation of fine particles, improved air quality, and human health related benefits.

A 2005 analysis in the Journal of Environmental Management estimated the value of the program's human health and environmental benefits in the year 2010 to be $122 billion annually (2000$). Most ofthese benefits result from the prevention of air quality-related health impacts, such as premature deaths and work days missed due to illness, but they also include improved visibility in parks and other recreational and ecosystem improvements.

Issued in March 2005, the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) will build upon the Acid Rain Program to further reduce SO2 and NOx emissions. CAIR achieves large reductions of SO2 and NOx emissions across 28 eastern states and the District of Columbia. When fully implemented, CAIR will reduce SO2 emissions in these states by more than 70 percent and NOx emissions by more than 60 percent from 2003 levels.

The Acid Rain Progress report summarizes human health and environmental improvements due to the program. The report also includes sections oncompliance strategies, surface water quality monitoring, environmentaljustice, and EPA's framework for accountability.

Emission & Allowance Data & Maps

The Acid Rain Program 2005 Progress Report

Department of Energy October Short-Term Energy Outlook

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) October Short-Term Energy Outlook Highlights:

* Households heating primarily with electricity can expect a slight price increase this winter and the demand for electricity is likely to continue to grow through 2007.

* Prices for petroleum products and natural gas are projected to increase from their current levels, but are not expected to surpass last winter’s levels.

* Next spring’s gasoline inventories are expected to be lower than last spring’s and colder winter weather would reduce gasoline output.

* The world oil requirement is expected to increase, resulting in an increase in the demand from OPEC. OPEC is not likely to increase crude oil production.

Short-Term Energy Outlook Report

EPA Publishes Updated List for Boutique Fuels

To comply with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, EPA has published a list of "boutique fuels." This list serves as the basis for any future adoption of boutique fuels into State Implementation Plans. A boutique fuel is a unique fuel blend developed by a state or local air pollution agency and approved by EPA as part of a State Implementation Plan to support meeting national air quality standards. The list limits the number and type of different fuels used around the country.

The existence of too many fuel types in a given area may present challenges for production, distribution, and storage during periodic disruptions like refinery shutdowns and weather-related incidents. To address this issue, President Bush directed EPA Administrator StephenJohnson to convene a Boutique Fuels Task Force. A report detailing the findings from this Boutique Fuels Task Force was published in late June.

Butique Fuel List
Boutique Fuel Task Force

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

China Will Produce More Carbon Dioxide Than the USA

The International Energy Agency says China will pass the United States in 2009 as the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming.

Although China has 1.4 billion people and the United States has 300 million people, the average U.S. citizen emits more carbon dioxide than the average Chinese citizen. The size of China and its economy is leading to the significant increase in carbon dioxide emissions.

Asia Carbon Dioxide Offset Trading

Asia Carbon Exchange (ACX), the world’s first CDM-focused exchange announced its first independent auction in August 2006. The auction of Certified Emissions Reductions (CER) was collectively offered from Brazil, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam. The Vietnamese project, a hydro-power plant will be commissioned in late 2008 and will fully begin to generate CERs from 2009.

The auctions helps establish a price for offsets. The Chief Operating Officer of the Asia Carbon Group believes the platform demonstrates the need for a trading system that allows for price discovery and transparency for the carbon markets to fully appreciate and mature in accordance with the key objectives of the Kyoto Protocol. This is especially relevant for the CER markets, which had evolved without a basis for price but used the EU allowance spot and futures markets.

Kyoto Protocol Will Not Work Because of USA, India and China

The USA, India and China plan to build nearly 850 new coal-fired plants, which would pump up to five times as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce. China, India, and the U.S. - are expected to emit as much as an extra 2.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide, whereas Kyoto countries unrealistically hope to cut their CO2 emissions by some 483 million tons. If all those power plants are online by 2012 to add an estimated 327,000 megawatts of capacity, it completely cancels out any gains from Kyoto.

China is on track to add 562 coal-fired plants - nearly half the world total of plants expected to come online in the next eight years. India could add 213 plants; the US, 72. (Christian Science Monitor)

China To Build Two Nuclear Power Plants in Weihai

China plans to build two nuclear power plants in the coastal city of Weihai, in Shandong province, according to city officials. The two plants will be located in the Rushan and Rongcheng districts of Weihai. The projects are awaiting final approval. China will begin building a new generation 'pebble-bed' nuclear reactor in Weihai with the aim of making the technology commercially viable by 2020.

China plans to quadruple its nuclear generation by building 40 new reactors in the next 15 years. (AFX News Ltd)

Friday, December 22, 2006

HFC-23 is 12,000 Times More Potent Than Carbon Dioxide

The Secretariat of the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) estimates that a ton of trifluoromethane (HFC-23) has the same greenhouse effect as about 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide. HFC-23 is used as a refrigerant and in fire supression systems, right. The gas can be decomposed via a thermal oxidation process.

Companies in China and India are utilizing the Certified Emissions Reductions generated as a result of large-scale industrial abatement projects to generate offsets to sell through the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol. Neither country is a signatory to the protocol but the CER and CDM allow developing countries to participate through a signatory country.

Nearly all HFC-23 emissions (98 percent) are created as a byproduct in the production of chlorodifluoromethane (HCFC-22) and generally are vented to the atmosphere. In some cases the HFC-23 is captured for use in a limited number of applications. The increase in HFC emissions since the early 1990s reflects the use of HFCs as replacements for CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons), halons, and other ozone-depleting substances (ODS) that are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol because they damage the Earth’s stratospheric ozone layer. HCFCs deplete ozone. HFCs do not deplete ozone. (DOE-EIA, NYT)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Gazprom is the ExxonMobile of Russia

Gazprom (Wikipedia) is Russia's super oil and gas company. It is the biggest extractor of natural gas in the world. Other similar companies in Russia include Rosneft, Transneft, the state oil pipeline monopoly and Yukos (dismantled since filing bankruptcy). The politics around this company are complex, but it is currently state controlled.

A big controversy right now is Gazprom's insistence that Shell include it as a partner in the Sakhalin II, a joint project between Shell and Japanese companies (Wikipedia). ExxonMobile's Sakhalin I (Wikipedia) project is also being forced into partnerships with Gazprom. Russia is using environmental regulations as a way to force negotiated partnerships and increased tax revenues.

Statoil Buys Norsk Hydro & Becomes Largest Offshore Company

Statoil of Norway bought Norsk Hydro for $28 billion to become the world's largest off-shore oil company. Statoil is controlled by the Norwegian government and the combined companies will produce 1.9 million barrels a day. The combined companies have an estimated 6.3 billion barrels in oil and gas reserves.

Norway holds about half of Europe's oil and gas reserves and is the world's third largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and Russia. (NYT)

European Union Goes After Airlines on Carbon Dioxide

Beginning in 2011, the European Union wants to put extra charges for carbon dioxide emissions on foreign and domestic airline carriers. It is an effort to meet the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. It is estimated that the plan will cost 2.9 billion euros ($3.8 billion) a year to buy allowances starting in 2012. The costs will be passed on to passengers and could be more than $50 per ticket depending on the destinations and offset prices.

Oil Shale: Extract by Electric Heat, Steam & Gas Injection

Shell, Chevron and EGL Resources want to pump oil out of underground oil shale by using three separate techniques: 1) Electrical Heater, 2) Hot Steam and 3) CO2 injection, respectively. Shell wants to heat shale 2,000 feet deep to 650 degrees F. Chevron wants to circulate CO2 or other gases creating a chemical reaction that will force the oil up. EGL would use a radiator system under the shale and a web of pipes to pump it out of the rock. The largest deposits of oil shale are in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

Government estimates put the recoverable oil from shale at 800 billion barrels, more than three times the proven reserves os Saudia Arabia. The U.S. is the Saudi Arabia of oil shale. We estimate that oil has to reamina at between $70 to $100 to justify the expense of extracting oil from shale.

The companies have the challenge of doing this without contaminating the groundwater. They must also figure out how to produce the energy needed to heat the shale without producing huge greenhouse gas emission. Maybe a small nuke plant would work. (The New York Times)

Westinghouse to Build Nuclear Power Plants in China

China and the United States have signed an agreement that supports the transfer of nuclear technology to China. Westinhouse Electric Company wants to build 4 nuclear power plants in China. The agreement was signed by China's minister for the National Development and Reform Commission and U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman.

Westinghouse wants to build facilities at Snmen in Zhejiang Province and at Yangjiang in Guangdong Province. Westinghouse wants the plants up by 2013. Westinghouse wants to build its new AP 1000 nuclear power plant. Shaw Group Inc (Westinghouse's U.S. engineering and construction services contractor) signed a companion agreement with China's State Nuclear Power Technology Co. to work out details for the contract and construction. (The Washington Post)

EPA, China & Asia Agree to Cooperate on Environment

EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, left, signed a Statement of Cooperation with the Chinese State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Beijing. This agreement will support the development of cap and trade mechanisms, the use of economic and market tools to address environmental issues, and the strengthening of SEPA's regional>infrastructure. China's rapid economic growth and urbanization have placed pressures on its environment. Large-scale investments will be necessary to improve air quality in major cities and towns, treat wastewater discharged into rivers and lakes, and provide safe drinking water supplies.

This trilateral collaboration leverages EPA resources and expertise to help China address environmental challenges. EPA and ADB currently have technical cooperation programs in China. In 2005, ADB approved about $1.5 billion in loans and $18.5 million in technical assistance to China. In December 2003, EPA and SEPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding that included annexes on Air Pollution, Water Pollution, and Pollution from Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and other Toxic Substances. A fourth annex on Hazardous and Solid Waste was added during Administrator Johnson's first visit to China in April 2006.

Verizon To Build NEW Optical Line To China

Verizon Business is the only U.S. based business that will play a vital role in building the first next-generation undersea optical cable system directly linking the U.S. mainland and China. The Trans-Pacific Express will provide greater capacity and higher speeds to meet the dramatic increase in demand for IP, data and voice communications to the world's fastest growing region, Asia-Pacific.

It will support the equivalent of 62 million simultaneous phone calls, more than 60 times the overall capacity of the existing cable, to support future Internet growth and advanced applications such as video and e-commerce.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Congestion: Asthma in the Electricity Transmission System

When utiltiies do not have enough electricity from their own generation they import from other utilities or merchant generators. Bottlenecks in the transmission lines prevent transmission of enough electricity and raises the price of this power for everybody (congestion charges). New transmission lines are needed but NIMBYites restrict the building of lines whenever and wherever they can. They are supported by professional environmentalists and environmental organizations.

The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that congestion charges add $8 billion, about $40 per person, to electricity charges to about 200 million people on the Eastern grid system. Transmission lines have not been maintained and expanded to keep up with growing electricity demand. The weaknesses in the transmission system also serve as a barrier to successful deregulation. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 prevents state and local officials from blocking new lines. Provisions from this law will probably be needed by Dominion Power to build new lines across the Allegheny Mountains to serve Northern Virginia.

The Department of Energy estimates that peaking plants are now being used 40 percent of the year instaead of just during times of peak electricity use just to keep enough electrons on the grid. Another factor is that congestion charges are not broken out separately in the average residential customer's electricity bill. (New York Times)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dominion Virginia Power High Power Line Plans Protested

Residents protested at a December public meeting sponsored by Dominion Virginia Power to get feedback on its plans to build high power lines through Frederick Co, Warren Co, Fauquier Co and Prince William Co. The lines would run from Meadow Brook substation near Route 81 over the Blue Ridge Mountains and curving north near Haymarket towards Dulles Airport to the Loudoun substation.

The Center supports the plans for the 500,000 volt lines. Of course, the affluent communites oppose the lines based on visual impact. It is a NIMBY luxury view and does not consider the greater power needs of the region. Opponents beleive the lines will ruin the ambience of historic sites too.

Inspector General Report Says Oil Royalties Unpaid

Evidently companies operating offshore oil rigs are not pyaing billions in royalties on oil and gas from federal land and coastal waters. The report's findings:

* Since 2000, audits have declined
* The Interior Department reviews only 9 percent of all properties and 20 percent of all companies.
* The computerzied fact-checking system is inadequate.
* Government data are incomplete and inaccurate.

The eight month report was delivered as a report to Congress. (NYT)

NASA Seeks Comments on Proposed Nuke Rover on Mars

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement(DEIS) for public comment on its proposed Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Mission to explore the surface of Mars using a mobile science laboratory (rover) to acquire detailed information on the habitability of Mars for life forms.

The DEIS addresses alternative and the potential environmentali impacts associated with preparations for and implementation of the proposed mission. NASA's proposed action, Alternative 1, would use a radioisotope power source consisting of plutonium (Pu-238) dioxide. Alternative 2 would use a solar array to provide power for the rover. The DEIS also discusses the No Action alternative.

Congress Approves Nuclear Power Assistance for India

Before Congress adjourned on Dec 9 they passed legislation to assistance India with civilian nuclear power production, even though such assistance is banned under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) that for nonnuclear nations that build nuclear weapons. India pursued nuclear weapons before seeking assistance from the U.S. under NPT.

Normally, the U.S. seeks to use the NPT as an incentive for nonnuclear weapons nations to pursue civilian nuclear power by agreeing to inspections of their facilities in exchange for civilian nuclear power assistance and an agreement not to build nuclear weapons. This principle has been stood on its head with India.

McKinsey Report Predicts Global Energy Usage

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, to date, the global debate about energy has focused too narrowly on curbing demand. Instead, the best way to meet the challenge of growing global energy demand may be to focus on energy productivity, which reconciles both demand abatement and energy-efficiency. According to the report, global energy demand will grow more quickly over the next 15 years than it has in the last 15. Demand could grow at a rate of 2.2 percent per year, boosted by developing countries and consumer-driven segments of developed economies. This acceleration will take place despite global energy productivity continuing to improve by 1.0 percent a year.

The McKinsey report states that no strategy can control the growth in energy consumption unless it includes developing countries. An estimated 13 percent of the growth in global energy demand between now and 2020 will come from new Chinese power plants, with Chinese vehicles and buildings adding to the load.

Congress Passes Revision of Magnuson-Stevens Act

Congress passed reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act before it adjourned on Dec 9. The bill reauthorizes the act through 2013. President Bush released the Ocean Action Plan in 2004 as his effort to make our oceans, coasts, and lakes cleaner, healthier, and more productive. President Bush also established the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, the largest single conservation area in the history of the U.S. and the largest protected marine area in the world. Enactment of a stronger Magnuson-Stevens Act was one of the top priorities of the Ocean Action Plan. The revised law seeks to:

* End overfishing of depleted species

* Establish a selling and trading of shares in a fishery to promote conservation

* Empower fishery scientists, not the fishing industry, to set fishing levels;
studying and protect deep sea corals; and

* Allows the U.S. to sanctions countries practicing illegal pirate fishing internationally.

The law also increased summer catch limits for New England flounder. The cap-and-trade program is unique and mirrors the same sort of approach in 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments Acid Rain Program. The 30-year-old law is the main legislation regulating fishery management in ocean waters between 3 miles and 200 miles offshore. S. 2012 & H.R. 5018, the American Fisheries Management and Marine Life Protection Act, sponsored by Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.), Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Yucca Mountain Supplemental Environmental EIS

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) held a Supplemental Yucca Mountain Repository Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) public scoping meeting in Washington, DC at L'Enfant Plaza Hotel on Oct 30, 2006. The meeting was to help determine the scope of the SEIS, which will address current repository design and associated operational plans.

Since publication of the Yucca Mountain Final Repository EIS in 2002, DOE has continued to develop the repository design and associated operational plans. The comment period closed on Nov 27, 2006. Additional information can be requested at www.ocrwm.doe.gov

Friday, November 17, 2006

Dominion Virginia Power Having Trouble Siting Power Lines

The utiltiy dropped plans to run a high power line through most of Loudoun County. There are very rich and powerful people there so it is no wonder. People are such hypocrites when it comes to energy. They want to use as much as they can but do not want to be inconvenienced by even the mere sight of a tower and lines.

Dominion is planning to use the I-66 right of way but the rich horse country citizens will make it virtually impossible to build the lines anywhere. They will fund the obstructionist environmental groups to block it every else as an encroachment on scenic views. Yet all of these people probably live in large homes that gobble electricity. They probably have multiple televisions, computers and other appliances. They probably have 50 incandescent light bulbs too. Such illogical hypocricy must be challenged and overcome for the good ot the greater society.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

G.E. & Hitachi Will Merge Nuclear Divisions

The two companies will merge to compete with Westinghouse (owned by Toshiba & Areva) to build the new but yet built economic simplified boiling water reactor and advanced boiling water reactor.

Hitachi will take a 40% ownership share of G.E. and Hitachi will take a 20% share of Hitachi's nuclear business. (NYT)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Robert Samuelson Is A Global Warming Genius

The Washington Post columnist is so dead on in his article, "Greenhouse Guessing," that it is scary. At first we thought he had lost his mind by criticizing the current Stern Report. But by the end of the article, you had to agree that Samuelson nailed it. Nailed fairly, squarely and scientifically.

Samuelson acknowledges global warming and agrees that something needs to be done about it. He rejects Stern's notions though that you can measure the precise economic effects based on what 'might' happen. Samuelson writes, "No one knows what [global warming's effect] might be, because we don't know how much people might adapt....Unless we develop cost-effective technologies that break the link between carbon dioxide emissions and energy use, we can't do much." Smauelson gets it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Constellation & Areva Promote Nuclear Power

Constellation Energy Group and Areva formed a joint venture in 2005, Unistar Nuclear, to build new nuclear power plants. Unistar is considering building new nuclear plants at Calvert Cliffs, Maryland and Nine Mile Point in New York.

Areva is a Bethesda based subsidiary of French nuclear power services Areva Group. Constellation is based in Baltimore, Maryland. The new UniStar Nuclear is based in Annapolis, Maryland.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Kyoto Protocol Joint Implementation Mechanism

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has launched a new mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol expected to generate significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which cause global warming. With the launch of the Kyoto Protocol’s joint implementation (JI) mechanism, developed countries will be able to acquire carbon credits from greenhouse gas emission reducing projects undertaken in other industrialized countries, in particular central and eastern European transition economies.

These tradable carbon credits can then be used to meet emission reduction or limitation commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. JI will generate real projects which will help green the economies of central and eastern Europe. With its launch, we can expect emission reductions in the order of several hundred million tonnes of CO2 by the end of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. The JI is similar to the Kyoto Protocol’s clean development mechanism (CDM), which permits industrialized countries to invest in sustainable development projects in developing countries, and thereby generate tradable emission credits.

While smaller in terms of its emissions reduction potential, it is an equivalent to the CDM with regard to cooperation among countries that have targets under the Kyoto Protocol and a credible alternative to the much-feared ‘hot air.' ‘Hot air’ refers to the concern that some countries will have excess emission allowances under the Kyoto Protocol without undertaking specific efforts to reduce emissions and that they could then flood the carbon market by selling them at lower price, reducing the incentive for other countries to cut emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol presently requires 35 industrialized countries and the European Community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5% below 1990 levels in its first commitment period between 2008 and 2012.

Mailing Address: CLIMATE CHANGE SECRETARIAT (UNFCCC), P.O. Box 260 124, D-53153 Bonn, Germany Office Location: Haus Carstanjen, Martin-Luther-King-Strasse 8, D-53175 Bonn, Germany Media Information Office: (49-228) 815-1005 Fax: (49-228) 815-1999 Web: http://unfccc.int

Friday, November 03, 2006

Our Carbon Mercantile Exchange Is Open for Business

The Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy (the Center) has opened an emissions trading service with carbon dioxide as the main commodity. The Carbon Mercantile Exchange (CMX) is a service that allows clients to trade carbon dioxide, methane, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury. Customers can reduce their "emission footprint," the total emissions created by driving, flying, usnig electricity and other activities. CMX is easy to use and fully transparent. All transactions are open for public review. The CMX is a free on-line emissions offset clearinghouse service.

CMX can be used to complement other emissions offset programs. Our mission is to promote verifiable reductions in greenhouse and smog-forming gases. The service is open to everyone. It is a market-based system that will rely on the goodwill of the participants to conduct honest trades. The service is a dynamic portal that will serve as a gateway for innovative emissions reductions. CMX is one part of a global effort to reduce global climate change and smog in our cities.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Constellation Cancels Sale To Florida Power & Light

Baltimore-based Constellation Energy Group has terminated its proposed $10.8 billion sale to FPL Group because uncertainty over regulatory and legal issues in Maryland. The ratepayers of Maryland have been hurt by this cancellation. Size matters in the 21st Century utility sector. The sale would have created one of the largest utility companies in America. Now Constellation will have to fend for itself in compettive utility waters. The Maryland Legislature should be ashamed of itself for creating this debacle. Maryland ratepayers will pay for their folly. Are you listening Mike Miller?

FPL Group derives most of its revenue from its utility subsidiary, Florida Power and Light. Constellation operates Baltimore Gas and Electric. The deal was delayed by legislation passed during a special summer session of the Maryland General Assembly focusing on increased electric rates. The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that the legislature wrongly fired the five members of the Public Service Commission. It let stand a measure barring the sitting commission from approving the merger. (Wash Post)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

NERC Report Says Electricity Systems In Big Trouble

According to the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC), North America's electricity system will decline unless changes are made soon. This is NERC's first reliability assessment since being named the Electric Reliability Organization (ERO) for the U.S. NERC's 2006 Long-Term Reliability Assessment Report analyzes the adequacy of electricity supply and transmission reliability in North America through 2015, and calls for actions to improve bulk power system reliability.

Demand for electricity is expected to increase over the next 10 years by 19 percent in the U.S., but confirmed power capacity will increase by only 6 percent. The transmission system requires additional investment to address reliability issues and economic impacts. The NERC report identifies 22 necessary actions that encompass all areas of the bulk power system including generation, transmission, fuel supply and delivery, and demand response. Specific recommended actions include:
* Addition of power generation facilities;
* New and upgraded transmission facilities;
* Stronger contracts and other arrangements;
* More "demand-side" measures; and
* Addressing aging workforce issues in the electric industry.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Coal Is Not Going Anywhere

All of the talk about global warming has not stopped or even slowed down the coal-fired power plant industry. They plan to build coal-fired plants just as fast as they can. A new report documents that growth: "Tracking New Coal-Fired Power Plants: Coal's Resurgence in Electric Power Generation."

The report projects 154 additional coal-fired power plants costing $137 billion to fuel 93 million homes by 2030. It gives the proposed new plants, capacity and investments by state.

Google Goes Solar

Google plans to provide 30 percent of the electricity for its Mountain View headquarters complex in California with solar power. That sounds like a reasonable target because photovoltaics have a 30 percent capacity factor. The system will use 9,200 solar cells, which could power 1,000 homes. Google is not disclosing the purchase price (photovoltaics are expensive) but estimates are around $10 million with a 5 to 10 year payback. The system is being installed by Pasadena, Calif-based El Solutions, a division of Energy Innovations.

Google will still use power from the grid provided by Pacific Gas & Electric. That is the central weakness of Photovoltaic system - - they still need grid back up. (NYT)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

We Love Our Oil in America (Everywhere Else Too)

Op-Ed Columnist Robert J. Samuelson is being wasted at The Washington Post. He should be running The Nature Conservancy or ExxonMobile. He gets the energy picture in relation to American pursuits of happiness.

He opens with, "Our main energy problem is our huge dependence on imported oil." He closes with, "Because Americans want painless salvation, our politicians proffer visions that promise just that." The information in the rest of the article (linked above) is quite informative for the casual reader.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Constellation Sells Six Natural Gas-Fired Power Plants

Constellation Energy Group Inc. agreed to sell six power plants to Tenaska Power Fund LP for $1.64 billion in cash. Constellation, the parent of Baltimore Gas & Electric estimates it will net $1.5 billion and record a one-time gain of $245 million. The gas-fired plants to be sold generate 3,145 megawatts of power. The plants include:
1) High Desert plant in Victorville, Calif.;
2) Rio Nogales plant in Seguin, Texas;
3) Holland Energy in Shelby Co., Ill.;
4) Big Sandy in Neal, W.Va.;
5) University Park in Chicago, Ill.;
6) Wolf Hills in Bristol, Va.

The plants helps Constellation improve its balance sheet. The gas-fired plants did not help the competitive supply portfolio or efficiencies of the baseload coal and nuclear plants. (AP, Examiner)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

BP & Shell Pay Violations of $1.5 Million for Unhealthy Gas

EPA reached settlements on Sept. 27 with BP Products and Shell, and two Shell subsidiaries Motiva and Equilon Enterprises LLC for threatening public health by producing noncompliant gasoline. EPA sets gasoline and diesel fuel standards under the Clean Air Act to reduce air pollutants such as smog, carbon monoxide and air toxics from motor vehicles. The companies, however, produced and distributed gasoline that failed to meet the regulatory requirements.

Use of noncomplying fuel in motor vehicles can cause an increase in emissions that can significantly harm public health. The settlements resolve violations of various fuel standards that occurred from 1999 through 2004 at retail outlets, terminals and refineries located throughout the U.S. A number of the violations involve the summertime gasoline standard for volatility, or tendency to evaporate, which is intended to reduce smog-causing hydrocarbon emissions. Some of the violations were self-reported by BP and Shell, while others were discovered through EPA's inspection and compliance programs.

BP agreed to pay a civil penalty of $900,000 and Shell agreed to pay a civil penalty of $600,000. BP and Shell will also perform extensive remedial efforts -- including quality assurance programs and technical changes in processes and equipment -- to correct the alleged violations and to prevent the recurrence of similar violations. (Source: EPA)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Google Promotes Electrical Efficiency in Computers

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin say that deploying correct power supplies in 100 million desktop PC's running eight hours a day could save 40 billon kilowatt-hours over three years, or more than $5 billion at California's energy rates. The Google white paper, "High-Efficiency Power Supplies for Home Computers and Servers," was written by Urs Holzle and William Weihl and describes their findings.

Currently and historically, power supplies have been provided by converting high-voltage alternating current to low-voltage direct current to provide multiple output voltage. These multi-voltage power supplies are not needed in today's PC's. Google wants a single 12-volt standard with an 80 percent efficiency standard. Current efficiencies vary from 20 percent to 80 percent. The motherboard would still convert the voltage, but it would be easieer to achieve efficiencies. A company called Ecos Consulting and a group of utiity companies have been measuring computer electricity use. (New York Times)

Mag Lev Accident in Germany Kills 25

A mag lev in Germany traveling at 125 miles an hour hit a service vehicle left on the track and 25 people were killed. This unfortunate tragedy will not stop the development of this unique technology. Magnetic levitation trains have no wheels or axles and work by inducing opposite magnetic forces in the train and track to make the train hover and propel it at speeds up to 280 miles per hour. They are expensive to build and operate though. The only commercial use of the train is in Shangai, China. That line, completed in 2004, is 20 miles long and runs from Pudog International Airport to Shanghai in eight minutes.

The German train runs as a demonstration about four times per week between Doerpen and Lathen near the Dutch border. The demonstration is to show off German technology. The train was manufactured by Transrapid International, a joint company of Siemens AG and ThyssenKrupp AG. The track is operated by Munich-based IABG.

Contaminated Ground Zero Deutsche Bank Demolition

The demolition of the Deutsche Bank tower, dark building in middle at left, has turned into a big problem. Local EPA inspectors have questioned the safety of the state's proposed deconstruction methods. The plan is to take the building apart piece by piece instead of by implosion or wrecking ball. The nearby neighborhood is concerned about being contaminated by the toxic Gound Zero dust still saturating the inside of the building.

There is an urgency to get this building at 130 Liberty Street down because construction has begun on the Freedom Tower. Published reports are citing concerns that the Pataki administration is trying to get standards lowered so that they can proceed with deconstruction. Of course, everyone is mum about such discussions. Regardless, the building will have to come down sooner or later. Hopefully, bureaucracy will not compromise the health of those nearby and the space will be made available for development soon.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

E. Coli Tainted Spinach Killing People & Spinach Market

Cattle manure with the E. coli bacterium O157: H7 saturated in ground and surface waters is probably the source of the contamination on spinach. Such water used to irrigate the spinach would contaminate it.

With one confirmed death and sickness rising in the hundreds, it is being reported that the multibillion dollar agricultural sector could lose hundreds of millions of dollars due to spinach market losses. Authorities are trying to locate and isolate the source of the E. Coli and supermarkets have already removed all spinach from its shelves. It appears that the E. coli appeared in a bag of spinach in New Mexico. It is being reported that the outbreaks have now reached 31 states. The Food and Drug Administration is continuing its investigation. (Wash Post article)

Normal E. coli is usually harmless as a bacterium in our and animal digestive systems. The acid in our stomachs is strong enough to kill the bacterium. E. coli O157: H7 is the one killing people because our stomach acid is not strong enough to kill it, thus the abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever and sometimes fatal kidney failure. A grain diet instead of a hay diet is more conducive to the production of O157: H7 E. coli. (New York Times)

Bush Administration Releases Climate Change Plan

The plan is available at "Climate Change Technology Program Strategic Plan." The Bush administration does not need to be sensitive about its climate change reputation because the Energy Policy Act of 2005 is the best policy tool developed by any nation to date to fight greenhouse gas emissions. The supports to renew nuclear power plant building is the best thing that has happened to help Earth's atmosphere. (Washington Post article)

Judge Blocks Bush Rule to Open Nat'l Forest Logging

California federal Magistrate Judge Elizabeth D. Laporte has set-aside a U.S. Forest service rule that allows governors to decide which land in national forests is suited for logging and mining. Judge Laporte ruled that the Bush elimination of a major program requires an environmental impact statement. The ruling does not affect Alaska's Tsongass National Forest. Aren't forest products renewable resources? There shouldn't be any roads through national forests?

The ruling is a de facto reinstatement of the Clinton "Roadless Rule," which put significant national forest acreage off limits to development. Of course, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has authority over America's forest products and has a similar Bush forest rule. (Washington Post article)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Google Starts Innovative Foundation

Google founders, Sergey Brin & Larry E. Page have set up a philanthropy that will help the world. It is called Google.org and they intend to help innovative people and organizations.

We are excited by reports they are consulting with hybrid-engine scientists and automakers and intend to purchase a small fleet of cars with plans to convert the engines so the cars will get 100 miles per gallon. They also plan to develop an ultra-fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid car engine that will run on ethanol, electricity and gasoline. They should work with utilities and put their energies into commercializing a plug-in, fuel cell hybrid electric vehicle that will run on fuel cell, battery and regenerative braking produced electricity.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Review of the Book "Bluebells and Nuclear Energy"

Albert B. Reynolds has an excellent educational book on nuclear power, "Bluebells and Nuclear Energy." We recommond it to anyone interested in learning more about the technology. It is written in an easy to understand style, yet it is technical enough to provide any reader with an education on how fission power works. He has great sections on nuclear radiation, history of fission, a description of current power plants, new designs, disposal of nuclear waste, comparison of risks, fusion and a brief section on nuclear weapons.

Bluebells are his favorite wildflower. He compares the blue of the bluebells with the blue glow of the water in "swimming pool" (research) reactors and spent fuel storage pools. ("You cannot see it at a power reactor because the reactor is in a vessel that is in the containment where you cannot go"). If you want to learn about nuclear power, this is an excellent book. Rush out and buy it today and read it over and over. Albert B. Reynolds studied under and worked with top nuclear pioneers and was a Professor of Nuclear Engineering at the University of Virginia, among other positions. He is now retired. Email the author: hareyn@aol.com

For information on purchasing the book, address the publisher:
Cogito Books
(Medical Physics Publishing)
4513 Vernon Blvd.
Madison, WI 53705

Friday, September 15, 2006

Governor Ehrlich Wins Court Decision on PSC

The Maryland Court of Appeals restored Public Service Commission (PSC) members to office ruling (9-14-06) that the change was unconstitutional and only the governor has the power to remove commission members. The court ruled that lawmakers improperly usurped the governor's powers when they disbanded the regulatory body. After the PSC approved a 72% electricity rate increase, the legislature voted to disband the commission and limit the governor's power to fill the newly created vacancies. When Governor Bob Ehrlich vetoed the bill, the legislature overrode the veto and Commission Chairman Kenneth D. Schisler sued to overturn the new law.

The court had no problem with the legislature temporarily changing the method of appointment to increase its influence in filling vacancies. Previously, the commission's five members were chosen by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. The bill passed in June allowed Ehrlich to choose new members only from a list of names drawn up by legislative leaders. That provision remains intact. The court basically ruled that the legislature could not fire the governor appointed PSC. The court was also critical of the lack of due process standards by the legislative firing.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Interior Department Rejects Fission Waste on Reservation

The Department of the Interior (DOI) has blocked an interim nuclear waste storage facility on the Goshute Indian Reservation, 50 miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah. DOI is blocking the facility because they believe it will be a permanent, instead of interim, repository. DOI doubts Yucca Mountain, the official permanent repository, will ever be completed in Nevada. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) granted a 25-year operating license to Private Fuel Storage, a consortium of eight utilities at the beginning of this year. The waste would be stored aboveground in casks, above left, on 800 acres on the reservation.

The Interior Department considers itself to be acting as a “prudent” trustee of Indian lands, or a well-meaning overseer for the evidently viewed as hapless Skull Valley Goshute Indians. Although divided, the Goshute approved this project. DOI is thwarting their will and violating their sovereignty. The division revolves around jobs and sovereignty versus respecting Mother Earth. Many non-Indians, including elected officials, oppose the interim repository, possibly because their share of the income was insufficient.

Offshore Oil Leases & the Outer Continental Shelf

The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) is a big source of oil and gas. All offshore oil and gas wells supply approximately 25 % of the country’s natural gas production and approximately 30 % of total domestic oil production. The Department of the Interior (DOI) Mineral Management Service (MMS) estimates of oil and gas resources in undiscovered fields on the OCS total 76 billion barrels of oil and 406.1 trillion cubic feet of gas. These volumes represent about 60 percent of the oil and 41 percent of the natural gas resources estimated to be contained in remaining undiscovered fields in the United States.

The OCS Lands Act requires the DOI to prepare a 5-year program that specifies the size, timing and location of areas to be assessed for Federal offshore natural gas and oil leasing. It is the role of DOI to ensure that the U.S. government receives fair market value for acreage made available for leasing and that any oil and gas activities conserve resources, operate safely, and take maximum steps to protect the environment. OCS oil and gas lease sales are held on an area-wide basis with annual sales in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico with less frequent sales held in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and offshore Alaska. The program operates along all the coasts of the U.S. - with oil and gas production occurring on the Gulf of Mexico, Pacific and Alaska OCS.

The term United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS, also called simply the Law of the Sea or LOS) provided new universal legal controls for the management of marine natural resources and the control of pollution. LOS opened for signature - December 10, 1982 and entered into force - November 16, 1994. The U.S. has signed but not codified the treaty. The Third United Nations Conference on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III) set the limit of various areas, measured from a carefully defined baseline, as follows:

Internal waters
Covers all water and waterways on the landward side of the baseline. Foreign vessels have no right of passage within internal waters.
Territorial waters
Out to 12 nautical miles from the baseline, the coastal state is free to set laws, regulate any use, and use any resource.
Contiguous zone
Beyond the 12 nautical mile limit there was a further 12 nautical miles or 24 nautical miles from the territorial sea baselines limit, the "contiguous zone", in which area a state could continue to enforce laws regarding activities such as smuggling or illegal immigration.
Exclusive economic zones
Extends 200 nautical miles from the baseline. Within this area, the coastal nation has sole exploitation rights over all natural resources.
Archipelagic waters
A baseline is drawn between the outermost points of the outermost islands. All waters inside this baseline is described as Archipelagic Waters and are included as part of the state's territory and territorial waters.
Landlocked states are given a right of access to and from the sea, without taxation of traffic through transit states.
(Sources: MMS, Wikipedia)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Support Dominion Power High Voltage Power Lines

Dominion Virginia Power, based in Richmond, Virginia, applied to the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) on Sept 6 for permission to build a substation and five-mile-long power line in a fast-growing area of Stafford County. If approved, the 230,000-volt transmission line would be built entirely on an existing right-of-way, linking a transmission line east of U.S. Route 1 and a proposed new substation near Garrisonville. The $13.5 million project needs to be in service by the summer of 2009 to meet the demand for electricity in the Garrisonville area, which is growing by 3 percent to 5 percent each year. Garrisonville is on the edge of Northern Virginia and along Interstate 95, about 30 miles south of Washington, D.C. The SCC, which is responsible for approving transmission power lines in Virginia, will set a schedule for public meetings and hearings.

Dominion is also planning another 500,00 volt electricity line to serve Northern Virginia that will run across parts of Prince William, Fauquier and Loudoun counties. It would be part of a 240-mile line from southwestern Pennsylvania and would connect to a substation near the Loudoun village of Aldie. The line will serve 275,000 homes and reduce stress on the entire mid-Atlantic electricity system. Traditional environmental and conservation groups are predictably opposing the project, although they have no practical alternative. The 100-mile line could receive "national interest" designation, which would allow the utility to by-pass state and local agencies. Dominion probably wants to get state and local support if it can. However, they have a fidiciary responsibility to provide power to their customers.

Dominion is one of the nation's largest producers of energy, with a portfolio of about 28,000 megawatts of generation, about 6.3 trillion cubic feet equivalent of proved natural gas reserves and 7,800 miles of natural gas transmission pipeline. Dominion also operates one of the nation's largest underground natural gas storage systems with about 950 billion cubic feet of storage capacity and serves retail energy customers in ten states. (Washington Post article)

Waldorf-Astoria Facade Needs to be Cleaned

Built in 1931 and located at 301 Park Avenue (between 49th & 50th Streets), the Waldorf-Astoria facade is a pitiful sight. It is covered with a film of soot particles probably cooked into the cement facade with heat and soaked in with acid rain. It looks horrible. The status associated with the name probably maintains profits and the location near Rockefeller Plaza and other midtown attractions make it an attractive destination. However, management knows what we are saying is true and they should sandblast it or put on a new metal facade.

We would be happy to assist them with the project if they are reluctant to improve their image. There might be other, newer locations, but just as Beverly Hills represents class in Hollywood, the Waldorf-Astoria represents class in New York. The difference is that Beverly Hills still look immaculate and the Waldorf-Astoria looks run down. The facade makes it look like a seedy motel somewhere in New Jersey. Come on. Get the sandblaster out and bring back the charm.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Huge New Chevron Oil Find in Gulf of Mexico

Oil prices have dropped from a high of $78 per barrel to $66 today. We continually predict these drops to our expert colleagues, but they alwasys believe prices will remain high. The Center believes America runs best on a price of $2-$3 per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline. Idealists get excited when the price of oil goes way up. When we tell them it will not stay there because politicians will take profits via a windfall profits tax or some other interventionist mechanism, they scoff and proclaim 'peak oil.' Oil companies know politicians will share any oil price pain, so they periodically raise and lower prices to maximize profit margins needed to satisfy investors and for investments in oil exploration and delivery. So the tar sands and oil shale projects always get delayed. But it is good to know they are there. It just takes a price of over $70 per barrel to make it profitable to exploit synthetic coal, shale and tar sand fuels.

The big Chevron Jack #2 deepwater well in the Gulf of Mexico is an historic find. Tapped about 5 miles (7,000 ft of water & 21,000 ft below sea floor) beneath the Gulf surface, the $100 million project is projected to produce 3 billion to 15 billion barrels of oil and natural gas. The well is 270 miles southwest of New Orleans and 175 miles offshore. The U.S. uses about 7.5 billion barrels of oil per year with more than half of that imported.

The find by Chevron, Devon Energy and StatOil will increase pressure to pass a conference committee report on the House and Senate approved offshore drilling bills. The Senate bill passed 71-25 Aug 1 and opens 8.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico, tripling the current drilling area off the Alabama coast near the Florida panhandle. The Senate measure gives 37.5% of annual oil production royalties to Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama. The House bill passed 232-187, lifts the federal ban on offshore exploration off the East and West coasts and gives 50-70% royalties. Drilling would be allowed beyond 100 miles from shore and between 50-100 miles if state legislatures approve. States could grant exemptions to drill within 50 miles.
(Chart: Offshore 247.com)