Loading...

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Today Is The Last Day For Sale of CFC Asthma Inhalers

Our president informs us that asthmatics should also be careful because the propellent in most of the hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) inhalers is ethanol-based and, in his experience, can irritate faster than the CFC inhaler. It is also a bit slower in relieving shortness of breath. The Ventolin HFA inhaler, left, does not contain ethanol as its propellant. He recommends the Ventolin inhaler if you are sensitive to, or do not like, the ethanol propelled inhalers [ProAir, Proventil].

Read the 'Description' in the insert included in the inhaler box. The inserts read:

VENTOLIN HFA is intended for oral inhalation only. Each unit contains a microcrystalline suspension of albuterol sulfate in propellant HFA-134-a (1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane).

PROAIR HFA is intended for oral inhalation only. Each unit contains a icrocrystalline suspension of albuterol sulfate in propellant HFA-134-a (1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane) and ethanol.
Of course, one could also avoid the propellants altogether by using the nebulizer, where the albuterol medication is in sodium chloride (salt water).

Although we like the chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) inhalers better, they destroy atmospheric ozone that protects us from the negative effects of ultra violet radiation. In accordance with an FDA Final Rule and under the authority of the Clean Air Act of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, no CFC-propelled albuterol inhalers can be produced, marketed, or sold in the United States after December 31, 2008. How depressing. It is estimated that these inhalers destroy less than 1% of atmospheric ozone.

The spray from the HFA inhaler tastes and feels different than the spray from the CFC-propelled albuterol inhalers (albuterol is the medication). The spray from an HFA inhaler is also less forceful than the CFC inhalers. Whereas the CFC relief is virtually instant, the HFA seems to take about 30 seconds. MORE.

Source: U.S. FDA Consumer Health Information

Metered Dose Inhalers

FDA Safety Update: Asthma Medications

FDA's Web Page on Eliminating Ozone depleting Substances from Metered-Dose Inhalers

Disclaimer: CECE makes no claims of medical expertise regarding the opinions expressed above, nor is our president a doctor and his observations are in no way recommended to the public as any sort of certified medical advice. By utilizing any of this infomation as your personal medical guide, you 'hold harmless' CECE, its officials and assigns from any resposibility for your own actions.

Monday, December 29, 2008

TVA Says It Will Clean Up Fly Ash Waste In Kingston

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has pledged to clean up the massive coal waste (fly ash) spill in central Kingston, Tennessee. The TVA's initial estimate for the spill tripled from 1.8 million cubic yards, or more than 360 million gallons of sludge, to 5.4 million cubic yards, or more than 1 billion gallons. The sludge is a byproduct of the ash from coal combustion.

A retention pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority's power plant in Kingston, about 40 miles west of Knoxville, contained the waste until a wall breached on December 22, sending the sludge downhill to damage 15 homes and cover at least 300 acres. All the residents were evacuated. The plant sits on Clinch River, a tributary of the Tennessee River. (CNN.com)

German Offshore Wind Farm Most Remote In World

German utility E.ON Netz GmbH has awarded ABB an order worth more than US$400 million to supply the power equipment that will connect the world's largest offshore wind farm to the German grid. ABB will connect the 400-MW Borkum-2 park using its HVDC Light (high-voltage direct current) transmission technology. Scheduled to be operational in September 2009, the wind farm is expected to avoid CO2 emissions of 1.5 million tons per year by replacing fossil-fuel generation. Germany currently uses wind for about 7% of its electricity requirements. The Borkum-2 is located 62 miles off the German coast in the North Sea and will be the most remote wind farm in the world.

ABB is responsible for system engineering including design, supply and installation of the offshore converter, sea and land cable systems and the onshore converter. Most of the transmission system provided by ABB will be laid underwater and underground, thus minimizing environmental impact.

HVDC Light offers environmental benefits, such as neutral electromagnetic fields, oil-free cables and compact converter stations, and is ideal for connecting remote wind farms to mainland networks without distance limitations or constraints on the grid. (Transmission & Distribution World, Nov 2008)

BASICS For Refrigerant Chillers

There are two primary chiller types: absorption and refrigerant, which operate very differently. There are two primary types of refrigerant chillers, either air cooled and water cooled or centrifugal compressors.

Refrigerant chillers follow the Carnot Cycle, which has four main steps (See Diagram below):

1) Compression (compressor)

2) Condensing (condenser)

3) Expansion (expansion valve)

4) Evaporation (evaporator)

The compressor is the chiller system's heart. It takes the lower-pressure vaporized refrigerant coming out of the evaporator, compresses it to a higher pressure, and discharges it into the condenser.

Expansion valves: High pressure liquid refrigerant passes through expansion valves, reducing pressure and flashing to a gas within the evaporator, absorbing energy frm the chilled water.

The condenser is were the refrigerant rejects heat (energy) to the condenser water or air, causing refrigerant phase change from gas to liquid.

The evaporator is where the refrigerant removes heat (energy) from the chilled waters.

Engineered Systems magazine

Constellation Energy Group Settles Fly Ash Lawsuit

Residents of Gambrills, Maryland who claimed a subsidiary of Constellation Energy Group contaminated their water supply by dumping coal ash near their homes for more than a decade expects a $45 million settlement of their class action to be approved by Baltimore Judge Alfred Nance this week. Plaintiffs’ attorney William “Hassan” Murphy III collaborated with the Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos on the case to come up with the agreement for payouts and property restoration plans.

Constellation Power Source Generation, a subsidiary of Constellation Energy Group, deposited millions of tons of fly ash — a byproduct of burning coal — from two of its Anne Arundel County power plants into two Gambrills quarries from 1995 until last year. In September 2007, Constellation paid a $1 million fine as part of a consent decree with the Maryland Department of the Environment, which had previously approved the program. In their November 2007 lawsuit, the representative plaintiffs alleged Constellation Power Source Generation should have known the ash contained toxic elements such as arsenic, lead and mercury and that it would leach into the groundwater through the quarries’ porous floor. They alleged Constellation had “actively engaged in a campaign of deception to mislead” the plaintiffs as to the health threat.

Constellation has agreed to pay for 84 households, which previously relied on private wells, to be connected to public water over the course of the next two years. The company will also pay for their water bills for 10 years or until they move out, whichever comes first. Constellation will also put $9.5 million into a trust fund for those residents and $500,000 into a separate fund for a second class of plaintiffs — people who lived near the dump site s north of Route 3 between Waugh Chapel and Evergreen roads but who did not use well water. Finally, Constellation has agreed to stop dumping ash at the sites and will spend at least $10 million on remediation of the former sand and gravel quarries and beautifying the acreage, which is now largely an open, grassy field. (The Daily Record, 12/29/08)

Note: We thought Wayne Curry was handling this case.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sasol Should Partner With Exxon at LaBarge, Wyoming

Sasol is the only facility in the world that is converting coal into diesel fuel. The Center is the only environmental group in the world promoting the conversion of carbon dioxide into diesel fuel and gasoline [see EDR]. ExxonMobil is separating and pumping carbon dioxide from its La Barge, Wyoming facility to several oil fields around the state where it is injected into the ground to help with oil recovery. The Center wants Sasol and ExxonMobil to get together in Wyoming to convert the separated carbon dioxide into diesel fuel and gasoline. Absent our EDR, a private sector development project could demonstrate the viability of the process in America. Such a demonstration of the Fischer-Tropsch method for converting CO2 into gasoline would show investors and the Department of Defense the viability of the process.

Technology at ExxonMobil's La Barge, Wyoming facility strips carbon dioxide from natural gas wells then the greenhouse gas is shipped through dedicated a pipeline. Exxon currently captures about four million tons a year of carbon dioxide and plans to capture six million tons a year by 2010. The Center believes converting the CO2 to fuel is another good use for the gas. A good portion of the CO2 probably seeps back to the surface and escapes to the atmosphere from these underground sites. At LaBarge, 65% of ghe gaseous mixture from the wells is carbon dioxide and natural gas is only 22%. About half of the CO2 that ExxonMobil pumps out of the ground at LaBarge is captured and then sold. The other half is vented into the atmosphere. Sasol, in partnership with ExxonMobil, could turn that 2 million tons a year of CO2 into diesel fuel. (The Wall Street Journal, 12/26/08)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

TVA Must Relocate Families Displaced By Coal Ash Spill

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has no choice but to relocate the families from the 15 homes that were flooded by the coal ash spill in Kinston, Tennessee on Dec 23. A dam containing coal fly ash that was deposited in a huge retention pond broke and released 1.7 million cubic yards of fly ash in 300 million gallons of sludge and water. The contents of the coal ash from the Kingston Fossil Plant inlcude heavy metals like arsenic, lead, selenium, thallium, cadmium, mercury and other contaminans. EPA does not list coal ash as a contaminant. It is estimated to cost $5 billion to clean up this ash if EPA declared it hazardous.

Ash is collected at power plants from the boiler and is collected when exhaust from the burning process is cleaned, before it goes out the smokestack. The ash ponds are north of the power plant and the Emory River. The sludge ran down to the neaby residential area north of the pond area and then spilled into a tributary to the Emory River, which feeds into the Clinch River. The TVA should not hesitate in this matter or the consequences will be severe in terms of litigation, human suffering and public relations. The homes are clearly uninhabitable and the groundwater nearby is completely contaminated. The people need to be completely compensated for their losses and provided with equivalent residences nearby. (The New York Times, 12/25/08) Photo: J. Miles Carey/Knoxville News Sentinel, via Associated Press

Climate Change Legislation Will Help Natural Gas & Nuclear

Natural gas produces about half as much carbon dioxide as coal when burned. This gives it a major advantage if and when a price is put on carbon dioxide. Nobody knows how much it will cost to reduce carbon dioxide because you cannot put a piece of equipment on a power plant to 'scrub' it out. The current 'political' fix is to sequestor it in underground locations. The Center is promoting converting CO2 into diesel via the Fischer-Tropsch method. Regardless, you can get a fifty percent cut in such emissions just by switching fuels.

This could present a big problem for coal companies and coal jobs. Of course, nuclear produces no CO2 at all and would capture the full benefit of higher electricity prices due to a price on carbon dioxide (reduction). Of course, just a year ago, natural gas futures were projected to rise to $12 per million BTUs (British Thermal Units) compared to a forecast price of $5.50 for 2009. Natural gas averaged about $9 per million BTUs in 2008.

Presents & Futures: Copper, Natural Gas and Oil

Copper dropped from about $3 per pound at the beginning of 2008 to about $1.25 per pound by the end of the year.

Natural gas for January delivery is at $5.74 a million British Thermal Units

Crude oil (light sweet) for January delivery is at $38.98 a barrel on the Nymex.

Source: WSJ

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Clean Air Interstate Rule Reinstated By Court

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed (on 12-23-08) its July decision to vacate the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which requires 28 mostly Eastern states to reduce smog-forming and soot producing emissions carried long distances by wind currents. In July the court ruled that EPA had overstepped its authority by instituting the CAIR. The court was concerned that America would go without a clean air law for too long without CAIR. The court did not give a deadline to come up with new regulations but until EPA responds, regulated sources will have to comply with CAIR.

This is just more complexity to unhealthy outdoor air mitigation. Legislation that was rejected by Congress would have solved this situation and CAIR will still not stand up to legal scrutiny. So Congress will have to pass the equivalent of President Bush's Clear Skies Initiative, except this time it will have a Democrat stamp on it. This merry-go-round of litigation is completely frustrating for the Center. Now it will be another ten years before some sort of certainty is accomplished in this area. And the Clear Skies Initiative would have been implemented by 2018, about the same timeframe we will end up with anyway. (Environment News Service)

Credit Default Swaps and Collateralized Debt Obligations


Tricky mortgage insurance schemes did not cause the financial crisis, but they did contribute to the marketing of subprime mortgage loans that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis. Fannie and Freddie insured the mortgages they purchased in order to make their mortgage backed securities (MBS) appear to be more attractive investments. Of course, the more-than-implied (and now real) government backing of these two government sponsored organizations (GSO) represented a large share of secondary mortgage market purchases. Other similar institutions are equally culpable in selling insurance as a way to sell MBS. To the extent that poor and minority toxic mortgages contributed to the financial crisis, so too did exotic financial instruments, such as good credit ratings for GSO's insurance-backed MBS.

Credit default swaps (CDS) are insurance policies against companies or investment vehicles going bankrupt and being unable to pay their creditors. Government approved credit rating agencies gave the AAA stamp of approval on what would turn out to be toxic mortgages. It is speculated that much of the subprime disaster could have been avoided if these credit raters had never agreed to put the AAA tag on collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). These obligations, similar to MBS, have even less transparency than MBS. But although there was not that much knowledge about these exotic financial instruments, investors understood AAA ratings, so they bought away. The AAA rating means sound, conservative investing instruments to potential investors. Hopefully, such ratings and insurance will be reformed along with reforms at Fannie, Freddie and other secondary mortgage market institutions. (The Wall Street Journal, 10/29/08)

Sina Purchases Focus Media Holdings Service

Focus Media Holding Ltd. has sold Sina Corporation its nationwide network of hundreds of thousands of flat panel displays that play video ads in places like stores and office building elevators. The $1 billion sale (in stock) shows the power of Internet companies in China.

Sina was founded in 1999 and operates China's most popular Web portal by advertising revenue. Focus Media will keep its INternet advertising division, movie theater advertising network and certain traditional billboards. (The Wall Street Journal, 12/23/08)

Center Wants $20 Billion Of Stimulus for Energy Defense

The Center is requesting the Obama administration and Congress to authorize $20 billion of the estimated $800 billion 'stimulus package' to support our Energy Defense Reservations (EDR) demonstration project. The EDR combines a nuclear power plant with a coal-fired power plant to produce electricity, hydrogen, oxygen, and gasoline. The nuclear plant uses very high temperatures to split water into hydrogen for fuel cell production and oxygen for oxycombustion in the coal plant firebox, which will burn powdered coal in almost pure oxygen. The carbon dioxide will be converted into diesel fuel and gasoline via the Fischer-Tropshe method.

The Center will be meeting with representatives from the Defense Department, Congress and the Obama administration to promote these 'red, white and blue' jobs. We believe these jobs are just as important as the 'green energy efficiency and conservation jobs' we also promoting in the stimulus package. Thousands of planning jobs would be created immediately by this ambitious 'Apollo Project.' The nuclear industry, coal industry, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and pipeline companies, among others, would all have to figure out how to make EDR work. The smart national grid being targeted for support in the stimulus package would also be crucial to the commercialization of these plants.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Center Supports Lisa Jackson for EPA Administrator

The Center supports Lisa Jackson's nomination to be administrator of the U.S. EPA and will aggressively promote her confirmation in the U.S. Senate. Ms. Jackson's performance when she was Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) combined with her almost two decades with the U.S. EPA have prepared her to lead the agency. Below are some of the issues we believe she has handled appropriately and that show her readiness to be the administrator. We will publicize more of these issues and decisions in the coming weeks.

The proposed plan initiated by Ms. Jackson for cleaning up New Jersey's abandoned toxic waste is projected to be completed in 2009 and complaints about polluting companies 'potentially' using their own subcontractors for clean up sounds sort of like 'polluter pays' to us. She supported reasonable chromium safety standards to lift a moratorium on development of chromium-contaminated land in order to get these sites cleaned up for Brownfields redevelopment.

The Center supports the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and Jackson's plan adequately supports the goals of the other signatory states. The [New Jersey] Global Warming Response Act just passed in 2007 requires NJDEP to develop a pollution monitoring and reporting program by January 2009, a plan to achieve the 2020 limit by no later than June 2008, and a plan to achieve the 2050 limit no later than June 2010. She submitted the plan. It is a major challenge for the RGGI signatories to meet the reduction goals just as it is the signatories of the Kyoto Protocol, who are not meeting the goals.

She has issued a stream protection order that protects areas within 300 feet of waterbodies from being developed. This action is designed to protect creeks and rivers, eagle habitat and eagles. NJ PEER compliments Lisa Jackson for offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the apprehension of the person who cut down a tree with a bald eagle’s nest. Eagles have recovered all over the Lower 48 and should be taken off the Endangered Species List.

She pushed the NJDEP to shut down the Kiddie Kollege daycare center as soon as inspectors confirmed that some mercury contamination remained at the site. The New Jersey Sierra Club points out that Ms. Jackson was not to blame for the Kiddie Kollege incident and blamed New Jersey's former environmental commissioner for removing the site from the state's list of contaminated sites.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Warren Buffet Still Gets P-A-I-D By Constellation

Electricite de France (EdF) won the war for Constellation with Warren Buffet's MidAmerican Energy Group, but he gets a king's ransom for his deal being rebuffed. Constellation, like many utilities, had been weakened over the past few years by a combination of frozen retail rates due to (botched) deregulation. They were also weakened by heavy borrowing for stock speculation on commodities. Buffet's $1 billion bailout check that came with his initial buyout offer saved Constellation from bankruptcy. That is how he convinced Constellation to take his bid for shares [$26.50 a share] that was lower than the EdF share offer.

For cancelling the MidAmerican deal Constellation has to now pay Buffet a $175 million "termination" fee, $418 million in cash, plus Constellation stock worth about $460 million. That is $1.05 billion for less than four months work - an annual rate of return above 300 percent. Buffet also gets back his original $1 billion investment. Constellation stock began 2008 at $100 and closed yesterday at $23. Although the Center opposed Buffets deal and supported the EdF offer, we hope he will not hold it against us. With that four month 300 percent return, he can still feel free to press our Donate button. (BaltimoreSun.com, 12/19/08)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Center Supports Obama Economic Stimulus Plan

Democrats in Congress would like to have an economic stimulus package of about $850 billion ready for President Obama to sign on January 21, 2009. The package would include:

A $50 billion to $100 billion tax cut

$100 billion in state government aid (Medicaid)

Funding for:

1) infrastructure,
2) school construction,
3) energy efficiency,
4) broadband access and
5) health-information technology.

The Center supports the stimulus package and is promoting the replacement of drinking water lines and the separation of Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) lines in older cities as part of the traditional infrastructure funding.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Center On Winning Side With Electricite de France

The Center supported the sale of Constellation to Electricite de France (EdF) and opposed the sale to Warren Buffet's MidAmerican's Energy Holding Company. Constellation clearly listened to the Center's advice and called off the Buffet deal. Constellation reversed course and after they had initially accepted Warren Buffet's offer over EdF's. The Center knew the Buffet offer was a bad deal for Constellation and residents of Maryland and New York. EdF, the French state-controlled nuclear power company, and Constellation expect this deal to close in six to nine months. The Center supports the EdF - Constellation deal and will do everything in our power to assure its success. The Center's call on this deal should alert the entire American utility industry of our prowess in analyzing such deals.

Constellation Energy will sell half of its nuclear power business to EDF for $4.5 billion. Electricite de France is already Constellation Energy's largest shareholder and its offer for half of Constellation's nuclear business includes an immediate $1 billion cash infusion and an option for Constellation to sell up to $2 billion of non-nuclear generation assets to the French company in six to nine months. Constellation's nuclear business includes three nuclear power stations with five reactors in Maryland and New York. Nuclear power accounts for 61 percent of Constellation's total electricity generating capacity of 8,700 megawatts.

Constellation will have to pay MidAmerican $593 million in cash -- including a $175 million termination fee -- and issue MidAmerican 20 million shares, or 9.9 percent of its stock. The preferred stock that MidAmerican bought with its $1 billion infusion will be converted into a loan with a 14 percent interest rate that will have to be repaid in a year. (The Baltimore Sun, 12/17/08)

Previous Center Posts on the Deal:

Dec 8, 2008: "Constellation Board Meeting On Electricite de France Offer"

Dec 4, 2008: "Electricite de France Wants Half of Constellation Nuclear Unit"

Oct 31, 2008: "Center Participates in Nuclear Regulatory Commission Meeting"

Oct 31, 2008: "Center Opposes Warren Buffet Purchase of Constellation"

Sept 29, 2008: "Plans For 3rd Nuclear Plant at Calvert Cliffs Probably Dead"

Oct 03, 2008: "Plans For 3rd Nuclear Plant at Calvert Cliffs Looking Better"

(The Washington Post article on this issue)

Obama Picks Tom Vilsack As Agriculture Secretary

President Elect Barack Obama has selected former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack (D-Iowa) to be his Secretary of Agriculture (DOA). He received a law degree in 1975 from Albany (NY) Law School. Vilsack, 58, was elected mayor of Mount Pleasant, Iowa in 1987. Vilsack did not seek a third term as governor and left office in 2007.

The Department of Agriculture activities include:

expanding markets for agricultural products and support international economic development, further developing alternative markets for agricultural products and activities, providing financing needed to help expand job opportunities and improve housing, utilities and infrastructure in rural America, enhancing food safety by taking steps to reduce the prevalence of foodborne hazards from farm to table, improving nutrition and health by providing food assistance and nutrition education and promotion, and managing and protecting America's public and private lands working cooperatively with other levels of government and the private sector.

The DOA organization chart is below (click on image to enlarge):


Obama Picks Senator Ken Salazar For Interior Department

President Elect Barack Obama has selected Hispanic Colorado Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) to be his Secretary for the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). Salazar, right, received his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1981 and after a short private practice was elected as Attorney General for the State of Colorada in 1998. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. While in the Senate, Salazar voted against increasing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, against repealing tax breaks for oil companies, and he favors increased offshore oil drilling.

The Mission of the Department of the Interior is to protect and provide access to the Nation's natural and cultural heritage and honor trust responsibilities to Indian Tribes and commitments to island communities. Interior has established goals that encompass the major responsibilities of the Department. These goals provide a framework for the strategic plans of Interior's bureaus. The Departmental goals are as follows:

Resource Protection - Protect the Nation's Natural, Cultural, and Heritage Resources
Resource Use - Manage Resources to Promote Responsible Use and Sustain a Dynamic Economy Recreation - Provide recreation opportunities for America
Serving Communities - Safeguard lives, property and assets, advance scientific knowledge, and improve the quality of life for communities we serve

These goals are pursued through eight DOI bureaus:

1) Bureau of Indian Affairs

2) Bureau of Land Management

3) Bureau of Reclamation

4) Minerals Management Service

5) National Park Service

6) Office of Surface Mining

7) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

8) U.S. Geological Survey

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Steven Chu and Nuclear Power

President Obama's designee for Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE) is pronuclear energy. He even supports nuclear fuel recycling. This is very good news for America. It is also good news for the world. When asked if nuclear energy should be part of America's energy mix, Mr. Chu stated:

"Absolutely. Right now about 20 percent of our power comes from nuclear; there have been no new nuclear plants built since the early '70s. The real rational fears against nuclear power are about the long-term waste problem and [nuclear] proliferation. The technology of separating [used fuel from still-viable fuel] and putting the good stuff back in to the reactor can also be used to make bomb material."

In an article for the San Francisco Chronicle, Steven Chu wrote:

"Fission energy has significant issues: long-term waste storage and the potential proliferation of nuclear weapons materials. Despite these issues, it needs a second look, especially if radioactive waste can be greatly reduced by recycling and burning down long-lived radioactive products into shorter-lived waste."

He goes into great detail about the oft stated 'problem' of nuclear waste:

"And then there's the waste problem: with future nuclear power plants, we've got to recycle the waste. Why? Because if you take all the waste we have now from our civilian and military nuclear operations, we'd fill up Yucca Mountain. So we need three or four Yucca Mountains. Well, we don't have three or four Yucca Mountains. The other thing is that storing the fuel at Yucca Mountain is supposed to be safe for 10,000 years. But the current best estimates - and these are really estimates, the Lab's in fact - is that the metal casings [containing the waste] will probably fail on a scale of 5,000 years, plus or minus 2. That's still a long time, and then after that the idea was that the very dense rock, very far away from the water table will contain it, so that by the time it finally leaks down to the water table and gets out the radioactivity will have mostly decayed. Suppose instead that we can reduce the lifetime of the radioactive waste by a factor of 1,000. So it goes from a couple-hundred-thousand-year problem to a thousand-year problem. At a thousand years, even though that's still a long time, it's in the realm that we can monitor - we don't need Yucca Mountain."
We would suggest to Mr. Chu that the spent fuel should be reprocessed AT Yucca Mountain. [UC Berkeley News, Photo: on his office balcony overlooking the UC Berkeley campus. (BAP photos)]

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The War Between The Climate Change Trade Associations

They spend hundreds of millions of dollars fighting each other on television, in newspapers and on Capitol Hill. And America's energy soul is at stake. So is the planet's climate. Yet will these expensive ad wars make any real difference. Wouldn't that money be spent better if invested in technology, including renewables and carbon dioxide capture and conversion?

The Alliance for Climate Protection is the environmental groups' coaliton that is sponsoring those goofy 'clean coal' ads [ThisIsReality.org campaign] you see where the guy in a hard hat goes through a door and stands in the desert, then points out the clean coal technology at work--but nothing is there but desert--get it? The coalition includes the Sierra Club and National Resources Defense Council, among many others. The coal industry formed a trade association called the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity to promote its product.

While the Alliance for Climate Protection and the American Coaliation for Clean Coal Electricity spend hundreds of millions fighting with each other, the Center is promoting a practical solution to the problem of carbon dioxide capture and reuse. It is called Energy Defense Reservations and generally converting carbon dioxide into gasoline. Since the federal government is in a generous mood, it should direct significant funding into the EDR, oxycombustion retrofits and pipeline construction.

Obama Should Support U.A.E. Nuclear Power Proposal

The Center supports the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) and President Obama should continue this program to provide emission free nuclear energy to our allies. The program involves the U.S. controlling the fuel, which eliminates proliferation risks. UAE has hired Thorium Power Ltd of Virginia and CH2M Hill to oversee its nuclear power program.

The implementation of this partnership could serve as the model for expanding it to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Bahrain. The Center would also like to see the program implemented in Nigeria and other African countries.

The U.S. State Department (Hillary Clinton) will have an important role in getting this program approved in the U.S. Congress. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would also assure that UAE, and any other GNEP participant, would abide by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Such IAEA safeguards should convince Congress, which has concerns about UAE's trading relationship with Iran, to approve the partnership. If Iran had any sense, it would participate in GNEP. America and the Russians have offered, but Iran has refused. (The Wall Street Journal, 12/12/08)

President Obama Opposes Gasoline Taxes (We Do Too)


It is being reported that President Elect Obama opposes using gasoline taxes to 'force' conservation upon the driving public. We support this position. It would be regressive and destructive to the U.S. economy. Moreover, American technological ingenuity should be sufficient to devise higher efficiencies in our vehicles, buildings, power plants, homes, appliances and other systems.

Click On Image To Enlarge



The Department of Energy (DOE) nominee, Stephen Chu, favors gaoline taxes but will have to follow President Obama's lead. Fortunately, DOE neither implements tax policies nor fuel economy standards. They do handle appliance efficiency standards, even though the U.S. EPA has the better known 'Energy Star' program. Prospective Energy Czar Carol Browner opposes expanded offshore oil drilling. We do too.

Modest Results From Poznan, Poland Climate Conference

Clearly it is going to be difficult to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol climate change treaty. Topping the difficulty will be convincing America, China and India to cap carbon dioxide emissions. The mandatory caps in the Kyoto Protocol will not be met by any of the signatories and that is a major weakness for formulating Kyoto II (KP II). Although the 4,000 delegates, 5,500 observers, activists and journalists considered general and specific technical issues, the 2008 Poznan, Poland meeting did not come close to practical solutions to the climate change issue. That challenge is waiting for the delegates, observers, activists and journalists in the December 2009 Copenhagen, Denmark meeting. We will be there.

Will the USA under the Obama administration regulate carbon dioxide? Will the April 2007 Supreme Court decision that EPA can consider CO2 as a criteria pollutant, actually lead to regulations by EPA? Can EPA practically regulate CO2? If so, how will it do it? Will Congress have to pass legislation to genuinely formulate a workable climate change mitigation strategy for the USA? Of course we will? Will the U.S. Senate ratify an international climate change treaty similar to the Kyoto Protocol? We doubt it. The Senate voted 95-0 against even considering such a treaty in 1997. Of course, the Obama administration has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Car Industry Bailout Loan Bill Passes House/Fails in Senate

The U.S. House of Representatives approved an auto industry bailout loan package on a 237 to 170 vote. General Motors Corporation, Chrysler LLC and Ford Motor Company are seeking $34 billion in loans or lines of credit, but the House bill authorizes the immediate release of $14 billion in emergency loans and a promise for approval of long-term financing if the companies can agree on plans to restructure. The bill includes language that would force the auto makers to comply with state greenhouse-gas limits. A 'Car Czar' is also being considered to 'oversee' the manufacturers.

The $14 billion loan bill failed in the Senate on a vote of 52 to 37, well short of the 60 votes needed in invoke cloture (end debate and allow a vote). The bill died because of inability to get the UAW to commit to a date specific for agreeing to an hourly wage ($50) that would match that of nonunion workers at the foreign car companies in the U.S.

The Center has deep reservations about all of the bailouts, nationalizations and loans. The American people are also getting real nervous about all of this government intervention that does not put money directly into their pockets. Suddenly in America, there are numerous companies that are 'too important to fail.' Doesn't this new ethic perculating out of Washington go against everything that made America great? Can't those Detroit workers move south to the new plants being built there? Can't other mortgage banks pick up where a Fannie and Freddie failed? Ameica is quickly becoming a corporate welfare state. The corporations in these welfare lines should never again hold their noses up in the air about the 'welfare queens' of public housing. They have become her. Insistent and proud of their demands for welfare while their executives run off with vulgar salary payments and stock options.

Is America Becoming A Socialist Oligarchy?

Is America quickly morphing from a capitalist democracy into a socialist oligarchy? We believe the question is important to the future of our great country. History will show that 2008 led to the government takeover, bailout, and otherwise significant intervention into the marketplace. It can be debated as to whether deregulation or botched regulation led to the nationalization of many of our major financial and manufacturing institutions. One thing is certain: America is becoming what we have consistently and historically criticized Russia and China as being, that is, socialist/communist centrally controlling systems. Is America, which crowed for decades about the superiority of the capitalist model, now capitulating and acknowledging the superiority of the Russian/Chinese model by our actions? We can hear Russian President Medvedev and Russian Prime Minister Putin crowing right back at us pretty soon. That is after they finish their military exercises near us with Hugo Chavez. Of course China's President Hu Chin Tao is too sophisticated to 'publicly' crow about our verification of the productive efficacy of their societal model.

Now America is appointing 'czars' to oversee major sectors in the American economy. These czars do not need Senate confirmation and operate outside of the authority of duly nominated and confirmed Cabinet members. An 'Energy Czar' has been announced. A 'Car Czar' is being proposed with the loan package to the auto industry. How long before there is a 'Shadow Czarist Cabal' that overshadows the official cabinet officials? The Center supports the Obama administration's push to rescue American capitalism, but we oppose this huge swing towards socialism and centralization of power initiated during the fading days of the Bush administration.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Carol Browner and Nuclear Power

What is Carol Browner's position on nuclear energy? The Center thinks it tilts to the negative side. The Clinton administration neither supported nor opposed nuclear power for the most part. As a protege of Al Gore, Browner is probably on the same page with the former Vice President. And former Vice President Gore goes out of his way to avoid support for nuclear power in his crusade against global climate change. There are big hints to where Energy Czar Browner will come down within the Obama administration on the technology. President-elect Obama has waffled back and forth on nuclear saying on the campaign trail that he is "not a proponent of nuclear power," while repeatedly stating that it should "be on the table." Obama's campaign guru David Axelrod once worked at the nation's largest nuclear utility, Exelon [as a consultant for their subsidiary Commonwealth Edison].

Carol Browner expressed reservations about using nuclear power because of the so-called 'waste' problem at the C-Span-televised 35th anniversary meeting of former EPA administrators in January, 2006. On January 19, 2001, Clinton EPA Administrator Carol Browner moved to finalize stringent water radiation exposure standards for Yucca Mountain to the White House for signoff. Of course, opponents used the water quality standards as a way to delay (think kill) the project.

Browner serves on the board of directors of John Podesta's Center for American Progress and at a July 26, 2006 forum there themed, "Energy Security in the 21st Century: A New National Strategy," she "called for pragmatic approaches to nuclear and coal power, emphasizing safety, and working in concert with a national carbon trading system." The Center has a Carbon Mercantile Exchange (CMX) and Green Carbon Bank (GCB) primed and ready for a national carbon trading system.

We conclude that Browner will promote Obama's marching orders on nuclear power, which will probably be close to Al Gore's position. They will say it should 'be on the table' but will probably not take up Senator John McCain's call to build 45 new plants. It all could be moot anyway because the cost of a new plant has doubled Shoreham's $6 billion financial meltdown decades ago.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Constellation Board Meeting On Electricite de France Offer

The Center is based in Maryland about 40 miles from Constellation's Calvert Cliff's nuclear power plant. We have presented statements in support of the facility at Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) meetings.

We strongly encourage Constellation Energy Group's board of directors to approve the Electricite de France (EdF) offer and reject the MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company offer. As we have repeatedly stated in the past, the Center believes EdF is more serious about promoting nuclear energy than MidAmerican. Mr. Warren Buffet has demonstrated that he is not committed to emission free production of electricity using fission, so we are not committed to his offer. In fact we have also stated that if EPA Clean Water Act 316(b) regulations go in the wrong direction, that MidAmerican would more than likely close the facility instead of building cooling towers. We also do not believe Mr. Buffet will build a new atomic energy plant at the site.

We also encourage Constellation shareholders to accept the EdF bid and reject the MidAmerican bid at the December 23 vote. The Center has also let its views be known at the NRC at a November Headquarters meeting (The Baltimore Sun, 12/8/08)

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznań

The Poznań Climate Change Conference provides the opportunity to draw together the advances made in 2008 and move from discussion to negotiation mode in 2009. At COP 14/CMP 4 in Poznań, Parties are expected to:

Agree on a plan of action and programmes of work for the final year of negotiations after a year of comprehensive and extensive discussions on crucial issues relating to future commitments, actions and cooperation

Make significant progress on a number of on-going issues required to enhance further the implementation of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, including capacity-building for developing countries, reducing emissions from deforestation (REDD), technology transfer and adaptation.

Advance understanding and commonality of views on "shared vision" for a new climate
change regime

Strengthen commitment to the process and the agreed timeline
The next meeting of the UNFCCC Climate Change Conference will be in December 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The European Union backs a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 40 percent.

President-elect Obama backs a goal of cutting GHGs back to 1990 levels.

President Bush backs stopping the rise of GHGs by 2020.

More: UNFCCC Poznań Climate Change Conference 2008

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Natural Gas Futures

Natural gas for January delivery settled at $6.017 per thousand cubic feet, or one million British Thermal Units, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Natural gas storage in the U.S. totaled 3.358 trillion cubic feet and 64 billion cubic feet was withdrawn from storage in the week ended Nov 28. (Sources: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Thomson Reuters Datastream, The Wall Street Journal-12/5/08).

Obama & Federal Building Energy Performance Contracting

President-elect Barack Obama intends to use some of the money in his economic recovery plan to make public buildings more energy efficient. He could start by working with the Congress and the Architect of the Capitol to cogenerate (produce electricity and hot water/steam) at the Capitol Power Plant. The same retrofit should be implemented at the General Services Administration (GSA) heating plants and the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. This will hopefully provide a good example for retrofitting other federal buildings all over the USA.

Then the entire federal government should be placed under Energy Service Performance Contracting. This shared energy savings approach allows contractors to make 'front-end' energy efficiency investments with payback and profit coming from energy savings. CECE President Norris McDonald cowrote the first legislation with the National Association of Energy Service companies in 1985 (Federal Shared Energy Savings Act--amending the National Energy Policy and Conservation Act) to allow federal agencies to engage in such contracting. The legislation was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in April 1986. President Obama should accelerate this unique public building retrofit program to serve as a model for the private sector.

GAO Report Says CO2 Miscalculated in Kyoto Protocol

A General Accounting Office (GAO) report entitled, "International Climate Change Programs: Lessons Learned from the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme and the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism," concludes that the program was compromised because 1) the CO2 cap was estimated to be higher than actual emissions (thus causing the price of carbon offsets to collapse) and 2) it is difficult to determine whether the projects that industrialized nations funded in developing countries would have happened anyway. President Bush and the U.S. Senate opted out of the Kyoto Protocol because they did not believe it would work in the USA.

The GAO report recommendations include:

1) In deliberating legislation intended to limit greenhouse gas emissions that would employ a cap-and-trade system or allow the use of carbon offset programs such as the Clean Development Mechanism, Congress may wish to consider the lessons identified to help ensure that it develops policies that achieve the intended results in a cost-effective manner.

2) Specifically, Congress may wish to consider the following lessons from the ETS: (1) the importance of ensuring the availability and reliability of historic emissions data, with an accuracy compatible with the program's point of regulation, from entities that will be affected by the regulatory scheme prior to its establishment; (2) the importance of long-term certainty in encouraging investments in low-carbon technologies; and (3) the importance of understanding how the means of distributing allowances to emit greenhouse gases--such as free allocation versus auctioning--may create and redistribute substantial wealth.

3) Specifically, Congress may wish to consider the follwing lessons from the CDM: (1) that it may be possible to achieve the CDM's sustainable development goals and emissions cuts in developing countries more directly and cost-effectively through a means other than the existing mechanism; (2) that the use of carbon offsets in a cap-and-trade system can undermine the system's integrity, given that it is not possible to ensure that every credit represents a real, measurable, and long-term reduction in emissions; and (3) that while proposed reforms may significantly improve the CDM's effectiveness, carbon offsets involve fundamental tradeoffs and may not be a reliable long-term approach to climate change mitigation.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Electricite de France Wants Half of Constellation Nuclear Unit

Electricite de France (EdF) is offering to buy 50 percent of Constellation's nuclear power business and the Center supports the proposal. The Center has publicly stated that it supports the French firm's ownership and operation of the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant over that of Warren Buffet's MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company. We believe EdF would be a
better steward. Of course the EdF offer now includes Costellation's other two nuclear plants in New York: 1) Nine Mile Point and 2) Ginna. The plants are side-by-side on Lake Ontario in Scriba, New York. EDF's proposal would require review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. The Center believes this arrangement is the second best solution and would leave Constellation with Baltimore Gas and Electric, the utility that serves 1.1 million electric and gas customers in Maryland; its coal- and natural-gas power generation business; its commodities trading operations and half the nuclear business.

EDF is Constellation's largest shareholder and partner, with a 9.5% stake in Constellation. On December 23, Constellation shareholders will vote on the $4.7 billion transaction with MidAmerican. The Center urges shareholders to vote
against the purchase and to accept the origonal EdF/Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company (KKR) proposal. Absent that, then the 50 percent nuclear units partnership is acceptable to us. EDF is also proposing to provide Baltimore-based Constellation an immediate $1 billion cash infusion, just as MidAmerican provided in its purchase agreement. The Maryland Public Service Commission plans to make a decision about the MidAmerican deal by April 15. (The Baltimore Sun, 12/3/08)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Henry Waxman and Nuclear Power

The Center is going to go out on a limb and predict House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, left, will support nuclear power. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already stated support for the technology. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has never opposed Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant. He knows its value. House Majority Whip James Clyburn is aggressively supportive of nuclear energy. He should be. Half of the electricity in his home state of South Carolina comes from emission free fission power. We think Waxman will come to the same conclusion. California should build at least 10 nuclear plants along its coast in the next 10 years.

Climate change mitigation legislation will be the impetus for Waxman's support. He has no choice. The push will come from Congress' deliberations over regulating carbon dioxide. EPA will have to punt on this issue and Congress should give appropriate guidance for carbon capture and reuse. The Center has a solution waiting for him when he calls us [or when we see him in the Rayburn Building]. Energy Defense Reservations (EDR) are the truth, light and way in climate change mitigation and electricity reliability. Cap-and-trade without the nuclear energy solution is fruitless. America needs to cough up some of those billions to support the expensive construction of new plants too. Nuclear energy also needs Henry Waxman's help because new plant construction has become very expensive. But in a global warming and climate changing world, it is well worth every penny.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Capitol Visitor Center

The Capitol Visitor Center is Washington, D.C.'s latest monument and a holding bunker for Congress and the Supreme Court in case of another terrorist attack. The photo below shows Emancipation Hall with the historic Capitol in the background.



That said, it is a beautiful 580,000 square foot underground addition to the Capitol. The cost ballooned from $265 million to $621 million, but who is surprised by that? It has a multimedia gallery, a 530 seat cafeteria [better than the Supreme Court's 50 seats], two gift shops, two orientation theaters and 26 restrooms. A third of the facility is set aside for Congress. The entrance is across First Street from the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress.

Reservations

The Capitol Visitor Center contains about 3/4 as much space as the historic Capitol and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, except for Christmas Day, New Year's Day, Inauguration Day and Thanksgiving. Tours of the U.S. Capitol are conducted from 8:50 a.m. to 3:20 p.m., Monday through Saturday. (The Wall Street Journal 12/2/08)