Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bush Adminstration Halts Petroleum Reserve Purchases

The purchases of crude oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) were halted on May 16 by the U.S. Department of Energy. About 13 million barrels of crudewould have been delivered to the underground salt caverns in Louisiana and Texas between July and December. It has been speculated that buying 76,000 barrels a day of crude oil for the reserve was needlessly adding to upward pressure on prices. The reserve currently has 703 million barrels, or enough to replace U.S. oil imports for 52 days. The SPR capacity is 727 million barrels, but the Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorized the president to expand it to 1 billion barrels.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Global Nuclear Power Expansion Needs GNEP To Be Successful

The Washington Post published a disturbing article today that basically said the Middle East wants to 'go nuclear' for two reasons: 1) to hedge against a nuclear armed Iran, and 2) to sell oil instead of burning it in electricity generating power plants. Such implications for utilizing commercial nuclear power plants as a 'technology-driving' practice for building weapons facilities hurts the case for providing electricity by using these reactors. This is why the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) program is needed to provide adequate confidence by Israel, the United States, Russia, China and others that commercial development of nuclear power will be secure from proliferation of weapons programs to unstable states. GNEP provides a frameworkd for nations with secure nuclear capabilities to provide potential partner nations with nuclear facilities, fresh fuel and recovery of used fuel for recycling.

The article states that several countries in the Middle East are interested in building commercial nuclear reactors: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Yemen. In Africa the list includes: Egypt, Nigeria, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and the kingdom of Jordan. Turkey is also interested in developing commercial nuclear power. Canada and Australia are even expressing interest in building enrichment facilities. Unfortunately, the article pointed out several precedents for commercial programs leading to weapons programs:

"Both India and Pakistan built nuclear devices using an industrial infrastructure built ostensibly for nuclear power. Taiwan and South Korea conducted weapons research under cover of civil power programs but halted the work after being confronted by the United States."
We understand that countries might find the GNEP program to represent a paternalistic intrusion into their sovereignty, but they must understand that the comfort of GNEP nations would be an excellent hedge against the possible unexpected destruction of facilities under construction. In particular, it would send the appropriate signal to Israel that its safety is secure within the context of not only global commercial nuclear power expansion, but particularly among Middle East countries.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission Goes Wind Power

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) has announced that it will buy one-third of its electricity from a Pennsylvania Wind Farm under a 10 year contract. The deal was brokered by Constellation Energy. WSSC provides drinking water to 1.8 million customers in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area.

Friday, May 02, 2008

EPA Proposes Stronger Air Quality Standards for Lead

EPA is revising the nation's air quality standards for lead for the first time in 30 years, proposing to dramatically strengthen the standards to reflect the latest science on lead and health. The proposal recommends tightening the primary standard to protect public health by 80 to 93 percent. It would revise the existing standardof 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter of air to a level within the range of0.10 to 0.30 micrograms per cubic meter.

The agency is taking comment on alternative levels within a range from less than 0.10 to 0.50 micrograms per cubic meter. Since 1980, emissions of lead to the air have dropped nearly 98 percent nationwide, largely the result of the agency's phaseout of lead in gasoline. And average levels of lead in the air are far below the level of the 1978 standard. Lead in the air today comes from a variety of sources, including smelters, iron and steel foundries, and general aviation gasoline. About 1,300 tons of lead are emitted to the air each year, according to EPA's most recent estimates. Lead that is emitted into the air can be inhaled or, after it settles out of the air, can be ingested. Ingestion is the main route of human exposure. Once in the body, lead is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and can affect many organ systems.

More than 6,000 studies since 1990 have examined the effects of lead on health and the environment. Evidence from health studies indicates that lead in the blood can cause harm at much lower levels than previously understood. Exposure to lead is associated with a broad range of health effects, including harm to the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, kidneys and immune system. Children are particularly vulnerable: Exposures to low levels of lead early in life have been linked to effects on IQ, learning, memory and behavior. Lead also can cause toxic effects in plants and can impair reproduction and growth in birds, mammals and other organisms. EPA is proposing that the secondary standard, to protect the environment, be identical to the primary standard. EPA will accept public comment for 60 days after the proposal ispublished in the Federal Register. The agency will hold two publichearings on June 12, 2008: one in St. Louis and one in Baltimore. EPAmust issue a final decision on the lead standard by Sept. 15, 2008. Details about the proposal and public hearing information: http://www.epa.gov/air/lead