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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Virginia Gov-Elect McDonnell Promoting Offshore Drilling

Governor-elect Robert F. McDonnell (R) recently sent a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asking him to allow for the exploration of oil and gas off Virginia's coast. Outgoing Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) made a similar request while in office. The Center opposes expanded offshore drilling, particularly on the East and West coasts.

The 25-year-old federal moratorium on offshore energy exploration and development expired in 2008. The Minerals Management Service, part of the Interior Department, included Virginia in its five-year plan and began soliciting companies to drill off the coast in 2011. It is the only state on the East Coast included in the plan. Secretary of Interior Salazar has halted the process to review the plan and get input from the public. (Wash Post, 12/30/09)

Sparrows Point AES LNG Project Passes Air Quality Test

The Federal Energy Regulary Commission (FERC) assessed the potential air quality impacts of building and operating a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at Sparrows Point and 88-mile pipeline and found the project would uphold Maryland’s air quality goals. Receiving passing air quality grades is just one in a list of nearly 170 conditions that Virginia-based AES Corp. must meet in order to begin building the $400 million project that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved in January and reaffirmed in December.

But that list could be useless because of a ruling last week by a three-judge panel on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to uphold Maryland’s denial of a water quality permit to the project. AES cannot move forward with the project without Maryland approving the water permit. (Maryland Daily Record, 12/29/09)

DuPont Environmental Education Center

The DuPont Environmental Education Center is located on tbe 212-acre Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge in Wilmington, Delaware. The four-story building along the Christina River overlooks a man-made marsh and is the latest addition to Wilmington's Riverfront.

The Center has a sprawling tree sculpture and “hobbit” house, waterfall and botanical gardens. Across an arching pedestrian bridge and walkway is the 13,000-square-foot, four-story education center, which features interactive exhibits, multi-media presentations, a marsh wet lab, and a multi-purpose space with sweeping views of river, marsh and city. Visitors can venture into the refuge on a quarter-mile boardwalk that surrounds a tidal pond, where education stations extend into the water for hands-on activities. The boardwalk also features seating areas and observation decks overlooking the Christina River.

The Delaware Nature Society (DNS) operates educational programs on site for children and adults as well as school and community groups. Participants in both free and low-cost programs presented by DNS will have an opportunity to experience the marsh wetland, using binoculars, dip nets, and microscopes. (Wash Post, 12/30/09, Photo Credit: Nancy Trejos)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

$36 Million To Constellation Energy Group Foundation

Company Will Give 1 Percent or More of Operating Income to Support Nonprofits

Constellation Energy Group (CEG) is contributing $36 million to the Constellation Energy Group Foundation in support of their commitment to improving the quality of life in communities where it has operations. The contribution is in connection to CEG's recently completed nuclear joint venture with Electricite de France and the will give 1 percent of annual operating income to support charitable organizations and causes.

CEG provides a wide range of programs, donations and grants to nonprofit organizations that make an impact in the company’s key areas of focus – energy, education, economic growth and the environment – as well as through employee involvement in the company’s efforts.

Energy

CEG supports organizations that offer energy assistance, as well as provide energy conservation and education to community members. In 2009, CEG donated $1 million to the Baltimore Community Foundation to establish the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company Heating System Fund, which will provide 200 new, energy-efficient furnaces to qualifying, limited-income customers in Baltimore who are in need of a heating system replacement.

Environment

CEG contributes resources to organizations that are making tangible strides in environmental preservation and restoration. In November of this year, employees joined with community members in Baltimore to plant trees as part of the company’s commitment to the TreeBaltimore initiative. CEG has pledged $300,000 over the next three years to plant 1,000 trees to help advance TreeBaltimore’s goal of increasing the city’s tree canopy.

Education

CEG's contributions of time and resources to educational programs include supporting more than 100 scholars annually and emphasizing diversity and career development through organizations such as the CollegeBound Foundation, the Partners in Excellence Program and other scholarship funds.

Economic Growth

CEG works to revitalize its communities through partnerships with organizations like Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity. In 2009, CEG provided employee volunteers and financial support to help build 100 energy-efficient homes for limited-income families in Baltimore.

Employee Involvement

Through the Constellation Energy Kids initiative, children of CEG employees have prepared 700 hoagie sandwiches to help feed the homeless, assembled 300 baby bags for new mothers in homeless shelters, donated books to children in homeless shelters and created 1,500 basic needs care packages for children in homeless shelters. (BusinessWire, 12/28/09)

Renewable Energy Conference In Israel

Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy International Conference
The 3rd Annual Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy International Conference will take place from February 16th through the 18th at the Herod’s & Dan Hotels in Eilat, Israel. For three full days, participants take part in lectures from senior industry leaders, intensive discussions, as well as top notch business networking.

In addition to the conference itself, trips to Renewable Energy projects in the Eilat region will be offered.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Jobs For Main Street Act (H.R. 2847)

The Jobs For Main Street Act (H.R. 2847), introduced by Representative David Obey (D-WI), left, redirects repaid funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to help create jobs on main street by creating key initiatives to help America's small businesses. Specifically, the bill expands the federal guarantee for banks that lend to small businesses and eliminates fees on Small Business Administration (SBA) loans.

This legislation is the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment to H.R. 2847. HR 2847 passed the House on December 16 by a vote of Passed, 217-212, with 6 not voting. The Senate is not going to start working on this until Congress reconvenes after the holidays in early 2010. A lot of this funding may stay, or it could get tossed, depending on what final legislation is negotiated between the House and the Senate. The Center supports H.R. 2847.

H.R. 2847 would provide approximately $70 billion in discretionary spending for a second Democrat economic "stimulus" similar to H.R. 1, which passed in February 2009. Funds for this new spending would be offset with rescissions from the Troubled Asset Relief Fund (TARP). In addition, the bill includes roughly $79 billion in extensions and expansions of mandatory spending programs and tax provisions.

The bill would provide billions in funding for many of the same programs that received spending increases in the first Democrat stimulus:

~ $41 billion for an Unemployment Insurance benefit extension and

~ $23 billion to increase federal Medicaid payments to States.

~ $48 billion in infrastructure spending to rebuild roads and bridges[$27.5 billion on highway spending], modernize public buildings and mass transit and clean our water and air.

~ $27 billion to save or create 250,000 education jobs over the next two years, and helps retain law enforcement officers and firefighters.

~ $500 million to create 250,000 summer jobs for low-income kids.

~ $750 million for job training programs at community colleges, a third of which is targeted at low-income trainees.

The bill also includes provisions to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund. It restores $19.5 billion in interest payments foregone on the Trust Fund’s previous cash balances, and lifts the ban on the Trust Fund receiving interest payments in the future. The bill calls for the General Fund, rather than the Highway Trust Fund, to support long-standing fuel tax exemptions, such as those provided to state and local governments. This provision will increase Trust Fund balances by about $1.7 billion annually, for a total of $9.8 billion over six years. (GOP.gov, Fleet Owner, 12/17/09)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Unlimited Fed Gov Backing For Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac

PRESIDENT'S CORNER

By Norris McDonald

America has officially adopted the Chinese model by providing unlimited federal government monetary backing for the secondary mortgage market giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Although such backing was always implied, they is now actually functioning as a qovernmental entity that maintains jobs while promoting housing capitalism. Combined with all of the other bailouts of formerly private institutions, we have adopted the Chinese model whereby one cannot tell where the government part begins and the private ownership begins. It is capitalism backed by socialism. It is the same engine that China perfected and that is making the Chinese economy the hottest one in the world right now.

So my observation is not a criticism. It is an acknowledgment about how America has changed in the last year. There was no way the housing bubble could have continued to expand on its own without eventually bursting. There is no way America can provide health insurance for all without government participation. Same with union-partnered automobile companies that want to pay a wage that can afford a mortgage, health care and retirement. The Bush administration and the Obama administration had no choice but to bail out the various markets that were collapsing under their own weight.

The electric utilities are next. They cannot continue to meet the electricity demand requirements while being forced to keep rates low. Smart meters are not going to keep people from going to Best Buy and Costco to buy the latest electricity gobbling gadgets. And we are moving towards plugging the cars into a home electrical socket too.

We are China. And it is not necessarily a bad thing. We just have to learn to do it as well as them. A good start might be to completely limit the exorbitant executive compensation payments except in cases where company performance merits it. (Wash Post, 12/25/09)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Should EPA Regulate CO2 as a Criteria Pollutant?

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, right, wants Congress to establish the rules for regulating carbon dioxide (CO2). Although EPA has ruled that CO2 is a danger to human health and welfare[Endangerment Finding], the agency does not want to regulate the gas as a Criteria Pollutant. EPA's current plan is to regulate CO2 under the New Source Review Program instead of as a Criteria Pollutant under National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The Obama administration and EPA would prefer for Congress to pass legislation to specifically address how CO2 should be regulated. It is generally agreed that the current Clean Air Act does not have the mechanism to adequately address regulating CO2.

Unfortunately, in addition to litigation from industry to prevent regulation at all, EPA is also being challenged to treat CO2 as a Criteria Pollutant, which would then put the agency in the position of regulating most stationary and mobile sources, including airplanes, trucks and trains and the fuels that propel them. Such a plan would be ineffective. For instance, EPA setting a standard of 350 parts per million in America makes no sense because carbon dioxide is created, dispersed and spreads around the world.

The Clean Air Act, which was last amended in 1990, requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (40 CFR part 50) for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment. The Clean Air Act established two types of national air quality standards. Primary standards set limits to protect public health, including the health of "sensitive" populations such as asthmatics, children, and the elderly. Secondary standards set limits to protect public welfare, including protection against decreased visibility, damage to animals, crops, vegetation, and buildings.

The EPA has set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six principal pollutants, which are called "criteria" pollutants: Ozone, Particulate Matter, Lead, Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxides and Carbon Monoxide.

At the 'Endangerment Finding' announcement [related to light trucks], EPA indicated that it would soon finalize a new "Tailoring Rule" that will set a greenhouse-gas-emissions threshold for regulators at 25,000 tons a year. The rule proposes new thresholds for greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) that define when Clean Air Act (CAA) permits under the New Source Review (NSR) and Title V operating permits programs would be required for new or existing industrial facilities. Also, under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) portion of NSR, which is a permit program designed to minimize emissions from new sources and existing sources making major modifications, EPA is proposing a major stationary source threshold of 25,000 tpy CO2 and a significance level between 10,000 and 25,000 tpy CO2.

Senate Passes Health Care Bill

Harry Reid
The Senate passed a health care bill today on a vote of 60-39 along a strict party-line vote. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590) will expand health care coverage to 31 million currently uninsured Americans through a combination of cost controls, subsidies and mandates. It is estimated to cost $848 billion over a 10 year period, but would be fully offset by new taxes and revenues and would actually reduce the deficit by $131 billion over the same period.

The House passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act (HR 3962) on November 7. Now the legislation goes to conference where each chamber is expected to passed the final bill and President Obama will sign it. (Open Congress)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Electrical Transformers & Utility Poles

The transformer's job is to reduce the 7,200 volts down to the 120/240 volts that makes up normal household electrical service.

There are two things to notice in the pictures at left and right:

1) On the right, there are two wires running out of the transformer and three wires running to the house. The two from the transformer are insulated, and the third one is bare. The bare wire is the ground wire. The two insulated wires each carry 120 volts, but they are 180 degrees out of phase so the difference between them is 240 volts.

On the left, there are three wires running out of the transformer that connect to pole-to-pole lines that serve other houses. Two insulted wires run to these homes as well, along with a ground wire. This arrangement allows a homeowner to use both 120-volt and 240-volt appliances.

2) There is a bare wire running down the pole in the picture at right. This is a grounding wire. It is in direct contact with the earth, running 6 to 10 feet underground.

Below: Cutaway of Pole Type Distribution Transformer

The transformer is wired in this sort of configuration:


The 120-240 volts enters your house through a typical watt-hour meter like this one:

Voltage ratios

All transformers have a ratio--the number of windings the high and low sides have. Let's say that the voltage on the high side of the power pole is 12,000 volts and the power coming from the pole transformer into your home is 120 volts. The ratio of the step down transformer would be 100 to 1. In other words for every 100 windings on the high side there is only one winding on the low side.

Step-up and step-down transformers

Every transformer for the most part can be used as a step-up or step- down transformer. That is why when the power goes out most electrical utilities want you to have a disconnect switch in place if you use a generator. That generator may be giving you 120 volts but if plugged into the pole transformer it can generate 12,000 volts on the high side and injure a utility worker.MGN (multi-grounded neutral): a single uninsulated grounded conductor. At many poles, the MGN is physically grounded to a groundrod at the base of the pole. (Science-HowStuffWorks, Ann's Graden, eHow, photos courtesy Neal McLain)


EPA Proposes to Expand the Lead Monitoring Network

Proposed Changes To Determine If Areas Meet Air Quality Standards For Airborne Lead

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to expand the lead air quality monitoring network to ensure that the most vulnerable Americans are protected from exposure to lead. Even at low levels, exposure to lead can impair a child’s IQ, learning capabilities, memory and behavior. Lead emitted into the air can be inhaled or can be ingested after it settles. Ingestion is the main route of human exposure. Children are the most susceptible because they are more likely to ingest lead, and their bodies are developing rapidly. There is no known safe level of lead in the body.

EPA is proposing to require air quality monitoring around sources that emit a half ton or more of lead a year, lowering the current threshold from one ton a year to include more sources. The proposal also modifies the current requirement for monitoring in larger urban areas. Monitors would be placed at each of the multi-pollutant monitoring stations being established in urban and rural areas.

This proposal is in response to a petition for reconsideration requesting EPA to reevaluate the air monitoring requirements finalized in 2008 along with the tightened national air quality standards for lead.

EPA is not reconsidering, nor is it delaying the implementation of, the 2008 lead standards. States will still need to deploy lead monitors around sources emitting at least one ton of lead a year by January 1, 2010.

EPA will accept comments on the proposal for 45 days after it is published in the Federal Register. (EPA)

More information

Flue Gas Desulfurization Gypsum Used On Farm Fields

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (DOA) are promoting "beneficial uses" of coal combustion waste (CCW). The Center supports such beneficial uses as long as they do not threaten human health or groundwater. Our recommended uses include concrete for highways, sewer pipes and other infrastructure uses that are not in direct proximity to humans. We oppose reuse of CCW for agricultural purposes, particularly those involving the food supply. We cautiously invoke the Precautionary Principle when it comes to CCW use.

Fly ash is one waste and another is the material produced by coal-fired power plant "scrubbers" that remove acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide from plant emissions. This synthetic mineral gypsum also contains mercury, arsenic, lead and other heavy metals. Currently, EPA says those toxic metals occur in only tiny amounts that pose no threat to crops, surface water or people. The synthetic gypsum is a whitish, calcium-rich material known as flue gas desulfurization gypsum, or FGD gypsum. DOA promotess FGD gypsum's use in farming.

EPA is also drafting a regulatory rule for coal waste, in response to a spill from a coal ash pond near Knoxville, Tennessee one year ago. Ash and water flooded 300 acres, damaging homes and killing fish. The cleanup is expected to cost about $1 billion.The EPA propose regulations early next year, setting the first federal standards for storage and disposal of coal wastes. It is still unclear whether EPA include FGD gypsum in the draft rule.

According to EPA, field studies have shown that mercury, the main heavy metal of concern because it can harm nervous-system development, does not accumulate in crops or run off fields in surface water at "significant" levels. EPA believes that the use of FGD gypsum in agriculture is safe in appropriate soil and hydrogeologic conditions.

Since the EPA-USDA partnership began in 2001, farmers' use of the material has more than tripled, from about 78,000 tons spread on fields in 2002 to nearly 279,000 tons last year, according to the American Coal Ash Association (ACAA), a utility industry group. They report that about half of the 17.7 million tons of FGD gypsum produced in the United States last year was used to make drywall. (Wash Post, 12/23/09)

Federal Court Blocks Sparrows Point LNG Project

A federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia upheld Maryland's denial of a water-quality permit for a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in eastern Baltimore County, issuing a decision Tuesday that halts the $400 million project for the time being.

It was just last week that the proposed terminal and a related 88-mile pipeline was reaffirmed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). But the Virginia-based AES cannot proceed with construction until it secures the required state permits and meets nearly 170 conditions imposed by government agencies, most of them involving environmental and safety issues.

Before tankers could navigate the harbor, AES would have to dredge a 118-acre turning basin and approach channel to a depth of 45 feet. AES has not submitted a plan for disposal of the dredge material, which could contain decades' worth of hazardous materials from industrial operations at Sparrows Point. Maryland Department of the Environment officials argued that such dredging could wipe out aquatic life in the area. (Balt Sun, 12/23/09)

Aircraft Emissions Contribute To Global Warming

A Stanford University analysis of emissions from commercial airline flights shows that they are responsible for 4–8% of surface global warming — equivalent to a temperature increase of 0.03–0.06 °C overall. This is the first use of actual emissions data — from 2004 and 2006 — to calculate warming from commercial aircraft flights. There are around 35 million commercial airline flights every year.

Stanford engineer Mark Jacobson, right, presented the analysis on December 17 at the American Geophysical Union's annual meeting in San Francisco, California. Jacobson and his team developed a model for aircraft emissions that accounts for atmospheric composition, cloudiness and the physical properties of emissions, particularly of black carbon — a major part of soot. Jacobson analysis shows that if black-carbon emissions from aircraft could be reduced 20-fold, warming would be halted and a slight cooling would occur from plane-created vapour trails. The team's study is being peer reviewed and is expected to be published soon.

The new analysis reveals that aircraft emissions increased the fraction of cirrus clouds where vapour trails were most abundant, and actually decreased the cirrus fraction in several locations by increasing the temperatures in the lower atmosphere, reducing the relative humidity in such locations.

The European Union is considering levying a carbon tax on aircraft emissions. (Nature News, 12/21/09)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

EU CO2 Emissions Price Drop Due To Failure In Copenhagen

Click on photo for Center Carbon Mercantile Exchange (CMX)
The failure of the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen to produce a binding agreement to cut carbon-dioxide emissions caused prices for carbon-emissions permits in European carbon markets to drop by more than 8%. And the nonbinding Copenhagen Accord did not stipulate how much big countries, such as the U.S. or China, have to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases.

That helped push prices for carbon permits down from €13.58 ($19.35) on Friday to €12.41 ($17.73) per metric ton (2,200 lbs) on Monday. Carbon-permit prices have fallen 14% since the beginning of the Copenhagen conference. The Center is currently marketing CO2 offsets for $20 per ton.

The European Union's emissions-trading plan caps the amount of greenhouse gases that power companies and the like can emit. They can purchase carbon permits on the market in order to comply with emissions limits. The Center markets CO2 offsets through its Carbon Mercantile Exchange (CMX). CMX offsets are based on short tons. (WSJ, 12/22/09)

EPA Adopts Strong Air Pollution Standards for Large Ships

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized arule setting tough engine and fuel standards for large U.S.- flagged ships, a major milestone in the agency’s coordinated strategy to slash harmful marine diesel emissions. The regulation harmonizes with international standards and will lead to significant air quality improvements throughout the country.

There are enormous health and environmental consequences that come from marine diesel emissions, affecting both port cities and communities hundreds of miles inland. Stronger standards will help make large ships cleaner and more efficient, and protect millions of Americans from harmful diesel emissions. Port communities have identified diesel emissions as one of the greatest health threats facing their people – especially their children. These new rules mark a step forward in cutting dangerous pollution in the air we breathe and reducing the harm to our health, our environment, and our economy.

Air pollution from large ships, such as oil tankers and cargo ships, is expected to grow rapidly as port traffic increases. By 2030, the domestic and international strategy is expected to reduce annual emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from large marine diesel engines by about 1.2 million tons and particulate matter (PM) emissions by about 143,000 tons. When fully implemented, this coordinated effort will reduce NOX emissions from ships by 80 percent, and PM emissions by 85 percent, compared to current emissions.

EPA estimates that in 2030, this effort will prevent between 12,000 and 31,000 premature deaths and 1.4 million workdays lost. The estimated annual health benefits in 2030 as a result ofreduced air pollution are valued between $110 and $270 billion, which is up to nearly 90 times the projected cost of $3.1 billion to achieve those results. This rule, under the Clean Air Act, complements a key piece of EPA’sstrategy to designate an emissions control area (ECA) for thousands ofmiles of U.S. and Canadian coasts.

The rule adds two new tiers of NOX standards and strengthens EPA’s diesel fuel program for affected ships. This action represents another milestone in EPA’s decade-long effort to reduce pollution from both new and existing diesel engines under the National Clean Diesel Campaign. (EPA, More information)

Allegheny Energy & American Electric Power: New Application For High Power Electricity Line

PATH Files New Application in Maryland; Requests Withdrawal in Virginia

Allegheny Energy, Inc. and American Electric Power today asked Maryland to consider its high power transmission line application and withdrew its application in Virginia regarding the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) project in order to complete the project by June 2014.

The project consists of a 765-kilovolt transmission line extending approximately 275 miles from the Amos Substation in Putnam County, W.Va., to the proposed Kemptown Substation near New Market, Md. In today’s filings:

• The Potomac Edison Company, an Allegheny affiliate, submitted a new application to the Maryland Public Service Commission requesting authorization to construct the 20-mile Maryland segment.

• PATH Allegheny Virginia Transmission Corporation, also an Allegheny affiliate, asked the Virginia State Corporation Commission to allow the withdrawal of its application and to grant an immediate suspension of the current procedural schedule. PATH plans to file a new application for the 31-mile Virginia segment in early 2010.
The West Virginia Public Service Commission is also reviewing an application for authorization to construct the PATH project in West Virginia.

Allegheny Energy, headquartered in Greensburg, Pa., is an investor-owned electric utility with total annual revenues of over $3 billion and more than 4,000 employees. The company owns and operates generating facilities and delivers low-cost, reliable electric service to 1.6 million customers in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia.

American Electric Power, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, delivering electricity to more than 5 million customers in 11 states. AEP ranks among the nation’s largest generators of electricity, owning more than 38,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the U.S. (Business Wire, 12/21/09)

Monday, December 21, 2009

New Environmentalists: Columnists and TV Commentators

Back in the old days (early 1980s), environmentalists HAD to get quoted in the major newspapers and get on television. There were no computers. Well, the double floppy that used the 5 1/4 magnetic inserts wouldn't even be considered to be computers today. There was no internet. No web sites. No blogs. No Twitter. No Facebook. No cell phones. In fact, people carried pagers on their belts back then. Young people today do not even know what a pager is anymore. The fax machine and pager were state-of-the-art. So in order to get credentials to display to Congress, funders and the general public, one had to get quoted in The Washington Post or The New York Times.

Fastforward 30 years and now we have 24-hour cable news shows. Four major 24-hour cable news channels. Yet rarely do you see an environmentalist from a nonprofit environmental group on one of those shows. That is because their own commentators provide the commentary on the issue of the day. Or they have newspaper columnists as the new experts. So now the news media provides the environmental news via its own spokespeople. Very interesting. Particularly for those of us out here doing the real work. Maybe its just sour grapes or plain jealousy, but one would think the media would want outside voices commenting on issues they work on all the time. Even then, D-list groups like ours never get a break. Makes us wish for the old days. Maybe we'll fax out some more press releases and wait for the pager to go off.

The Copenhagen Accord

Ban ki-Moon, U.N. Secretary General
The Copenhagen Accord is the 3-page agreement that was drawn up at the end of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP15) conference in Denmark. The 11th hour Friday night meeting that drafted the accord included leaders from the US, China, India, Brazil and South Africa and was accepted by that group on Saturday morning at the very end of the conference.

The Copenhagen Accord is not a binding agreement, but a voluntary pledge to begin to take action on global warming. Other nations are invited to join the accord. President Obama, who led effort to broker the deal, is calling the accord “an unprecedented breakthrough.” President Obama also made an 8-minute, 956-word speech on Friday where he identified three ingredients needed for a successful final agreement

1) --- mitigation

2) --- transparency

3) --- financing.

The Center believes it falls far short of a binding treaty to combat global warming.

The Copenhagen Accord:

1) We underline that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time.

2) To reduce global emissions so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius.

3) Developed countries shall provide adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources, technology and capacity-building to support the implementation of adaptation action in developing countries.

4) Annex I Parties that are Party to the Kyoto Protocol will thereby further strengthen the emissions reductions initiated by the Kyoto Protocol.

5) Non-Annex I Parties to the Convention will implement mitigation actions, including
those to be submitted to the secretariat by non-Annex I Parties in the format given in Appendix II by 31 January 2010.

6) Enhance removals of GHG emissions by forests and through the immediate establishment of REDD-plus (reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation).

7) Pursue various approaches, including opportunities to use markets, to
enhance the cost-effectiveness of, and to promote mitigation actions.

8) Scaled up, new and additional, predictable and adequate funding as well as improved access shall be provided to developing countries: mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion dollars a year by 2020.

9) Panel to study the contribution of the potential sources of revenue, including alternative sources of finance.

10) Establish the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund to support projects, programme, policies and other activities in developing countries.

11) Technology Mechanism to accelerate technology development and transfer in support of action on adaptation and mitigation.

12) Assessment of the implementation of this Accord to be completed by 2015.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Calculating Your Electricity Bill

The unit of electrical energy is the kilowatt-hour (kwh). This represents the work done when an appliance rated at one kilowatt of power is operated for one hour. The electric meter records the number of kilowatt-hours used. This is then multiplied by the rate per kwh to figure the cost. If the rate is 5 cents per kiloatt-hour, and you use 100 kwh, your bill will be 500 cents (100 x .05) or $5.00.

The meter at right reads: 19,109 kwh [How To Read Your Electric Meter]

volts x amps = watts

SAMPLE PROBLEM

Find the total power of the following appliances: a toaster that draws a current of 5 amps on a 115-volt line; an electric stove that uses a 5-amp current on a 230-volt line; and ten 100-watt light bulbs.

SOLUTION:

Step 1. The toaster uses 5 amps at 115 vots. Power = volts x amps = 115 x 5 = 575 watts

Step 2. The stove uses 5 amps at 230 volts. Power = volts x amps = 230 x 5 = 1,150 watts

Step 3. Ten lamps at 100 watts each. Power = 10 x 100 = 1,000 watts

Step 4. The total power is 575 + 1,150 + 1000 = 2,725 watts, or 2.725 kilowatts.

(Source: Modern Physical Science, 1966)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Smart Electricity Meters: Real Time Electricity Pricing

The vast majority of people are on fixed electricity meters, which simply measure how much electricity has been used. These are used by the utility company to calculate how much you owe them for the electricity you have consumed.

During the day there are peak times when many people are using a lot of electricity - for example, in the early evening when many lights, tv's, and computers are switched on, and ovens and kettles are being used to prepare meals. In the middle of the night demands drops right off.

A smart meter offers two way communication between the utility company (electricity supplier) and the consumer. When demand is high (and therefore wholesale electricity prices are very expensive) the utility company can pass high costs onto the consumer. When demand is low (and therefore wholesale electricity prices are very cheap) the utility company can pass savings to the consumer. This motivates consumers to use electricity when demand is least so that they can save money.

This video shows the 'In Home Energy Display' by General Electric

The use of smart meters will reduce overall carbon emissions (since thinking about electricity usage tends to make people reduce their overall consumption), and also reduce electricity bills for anyone who makes the effort to time their electricity usage - for example, running the washing machine or tumble drier at night rather than during the day, and turning the dish washer on just before going to bed rather than immediately after eating. (REUK.CO.UK)

What's An Environmentalist To Do About Global Warming?

PRESIDENT'S CORNER

By Norris McDonald

From Barcelona to Singapore to Copenhagen, the ship of international climate change mitigation has run up on the rocks. The U.S. Congress, as usual, got a climate/energy bill through the House of Representatives, but they are having trouble getting a bill to the Senate floor for a vote. So the Obama adminstration is taking the same road as the Bush administration, which tried to impose a cap-and-trade program through regulatory fiat via the Clear Skies Initiative because they could not get the initiative passed in Congress. In similar fashion, this administration issues an 'Endangerment Finding' and 'Tailoring Rule' in order to implement a cap-and-trade program by fiat instead of Congressionally passed legislation. Litigation stopped the Bush administration and it will stop the Obama administration. And let's not even talk about a climate change treaty. The Clinton administration would not even send one to the Senate back in the 90s and the Senate passed a resolution [Byrd-Hagel Resolution] 95-0 in 1997 that said the U.S. should not sign any international climate change treaty that would:

1) mandate greenhouse gas reductions from the U.S. without also requiring new, specific commitments from developing countries over the same compliance period; and

2) result in serious economic harm to the United States.

Whew. If the world is coming to an end because of global warming, or at least Amtrak, oil refineries, electric powerplants and waterfront properties will end up underwater, then what's an environmentalist to do about climate change?

We go back to technology. It can work without 192 nations agreeing on it and mostly without Congressional legisation. Although all-electric cars are probably not all that practical, plug-in hybrid gasoline/electric vehicles will probably be the wave of the future. And that could significantly cut down on oil imports. Shadows, night and cloudy days might limit photovoltaics, but wind will probably be a good supplemental source of electricity. We are recommending Energy Defense Reservations as a way to increase use of nuclear power and even more coal in a cleaner process. We are also calling for converting CO2 into gasoline [very expensive but much less so than climate change]. Finally, although we have some serious concerns about hydraulic fracturing and might oppose it, natural gas is probably in ascendance as a bridge baseload fuel [notwithstanding Duke Energy President Jim Rogers calling it 'crack' as an energy drug utilities should avoid.

FERC Reaffirms AES Liquefied Natural Gas Terminal

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reaffirmed their earlier decision to allow Virginia-based AES corporation to proceed with a proposed liquid natural gas terminal at Sparrows Point in eastern Baltimore County and an 88-mile pipeline through Maryland and Pennsylvania. FERC also denied requests from opponents of the project for additional environmental studies. The commission initially approved the $400 million project in January, despite vigorous opposition from state, county and federal officials as well as several community groups in both states. Although the Center does not have a position on the facility, and has testified at FERC hearings about our position, we are appalled by AES' dealings with the local community of Turner Station.

Virginia-based AES plans to construct the terminal on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel site and Sparrows Point shipyard [now Russian owned], and run a pipeline from there to Chester County, Pennsylvania. Large tankers would transport the gas from overseas up the Chesapeake Bay to the terminal.

The commission voted 3-1 Thursday, with Chairman Jon Wellinghoff dissenting, to reaffirm its Jan. 15 authorization. Wellinghoff also voted against the project in January, saying AES failed to demonstrate the need for the project and had not adequately addressed adverse impacts on the environment. AES must still fulfill nearly 170 conditions, many of them related to environmental and safety issues, before it can break ground. Neither the EPA nor the Maryland Department of the Environment has granted AES the permits necessary for the terminal to proceed. (Balt Sun, 12/18/09)

President Obama Speaks at Copenhagen Climate Summit

THE WHITE HOUSE

Remarks of President Barack Obama

Copenhagen Summit

Copenhagen, Denmark

December 18, 2009

Good morning. It’s an honor to for me to join this distinguished group of leaders from nations around the world. We come together here in Copenhagen because climate change poses a grave and growing danger to our people. You would not be here unless you – like me – were convinced that this danger is real. This is not fiction, this is science. Unchecked, climate change will pose unacceptable risks to our security, our economies, and our planet. That much we know.

So the question before us is no longer the nature of the challenge – the question is our capacity to meet it. For while the reality of climate change is not in doubt, our ability to take collective action hangs in the balance.

I believe that we can act boldly, and decisively, in the face of this common threat. And that is why I have come here today.

As the world’s largest economy and the world’s second largest emitter, America bears our share of responsibility in addressing climate change, and we intend to meet that responsibility. That is why we have renewed our leadership within international climate negotiations, and worked with other nations to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. And that is why we have taken bold action at home – by making historic investments in renewable energy; by putting our people to work increasing efficiency in our homes and buildings; and by pursuing comprehensive legislation to transform to a clean energy economy.

These actions are ambitious, and we are taking them not simply to meet our global responsibilities. We are convinced that changing the way that we produce and use energy is essential to America’s economic future – that it will create millions of new jobs, power new industry, keep us competitive, and spark new innovation. And we are convinced that changing the way we use energy is essential to America’s national security, because it will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and help us deal with some of the dangers posed by climate change.

So America is going to continue on this course of action no matter what happens in Copenhagen. But we will all be stronger and safer and more secure if we act together. That is why it is in our mutual interest to achieve a global accord in which we agree to take certain steps, and to hold each other accountable for our commitments.

After months of talk, and two weeks of negotiations, I believe that the pieces of that accord are now clear.

First, all major economies must put forward decisive national actions that will reduce their emissions, and begin to turn the corner on climate change. I’m pleased that many of us have already done so, and I’m confident that America will fulfill the commitments that we have made: cutting our emissions in the range of 17 percent by 2020, and by more than 80 percent by 2050 in line with final legislation.

Second, we must have a mechanism to review whether we are keeping our commitments, and to exchange this information in a transparent manner. These measures need not be intrusive, or infringe upon sovereignty. They must, however, ensure that an accord is credible, and that we are living up to our obligations. For without such accountability, any agreement would be empty words on a page.

Third, we must have financing that helps developing countries adapt, particularly the least-developed and most vulnerable to climate change. America will be a part of fast-start funding that will ramp up to $10 billion in 2012. And, yesterday, Secretary Clinton made it clear that we will engage in a global effort to mobilize $100 billion in financing by 2020, if – and only if – it is part of the broader accord that I have just described.

Mitigation. Transparency. And financing. It is a clear formula – one that embraces the principle of common but differentiated responses and respective capabilities. And it adds up to a significant accord – one that takes us farther than we have ever gone before as an international community.

The question is whether we will move forward together, or split apart. This is not a perfect agreement, and no country would get everything that it wants. There are those developing countries that want aid with no strings attached, and who think that the most advanced nations should pay a higher price. And there are those advanced nations who think that developing countries cannot absorb this assistance, or that the world’s fastest-growing emitters should bear a greater share of the burden.

We know the fault lines because we’ve been imprisoned by them for years. But here is the bottom line: we can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, and continue to refine it and build upon its foundation. We can do that, and everyone who is in this room will be a part of an historic endeavor – one that makes life better for our children and grandchildren.

Or we can again choose delay, falling back into the same divisions that have stood in the way of action for years. And we will be back having the same stale arguments month after month, year after year – all while the danger of climate change grows until it is irreversible.

There is no time to waste. America has made our choice. We have charted our course, we have made our commitments, and we will do what we say. Now, I believe that it’s time for the nations and people of the world to come together behind a common purpose.

We must choose action over inaction; the future over the past – with courage and faith, let us meet our responsibility to our people, and to the future of our planet. Thank you.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Electric Light & Power: The 2008 Utility Financial Rankings

Excerpts from Teresa Hansen, Editor in Chief, ELP

The utility financial rankings were described as “quiet” in 2005, “very good” in 2006 and “remarkable” in 2007. From these descriptions, it’s clear that utilities’ financial performance trended upward for several years in a row. The 2008 financial rankings, however, indicate the industry is “showing signs of weakness.” Not surprisingly, 2008 saw a decrease in capital expenditure growth, but not an actual decrease in capital spending from 2007 to 2008. This trend is expected to continue into 2009.

Climate Bill Adds Uncertainty: While utilities have been focused on adjusting to and operating in the economic recession, many have an even bigger issue to address—pending environmental legislation. In late June, H.R. 2454: American Clean Energy and Security Act 2009, also known as the Waxman-Markey bill, was approved by the House and sent to the Senate. This bill includes a cap-and-trade provision for dealing with greenhouse gas emissions. Just how much such a bill will cost the industry and its customers is the subject of much debate. Some estimates show the cost to be as low as $175 per household, while others come in above $1,000 a year per household. At this point, the true cost is still unknown, but utilities will feel an impact. In addition, no one knows whether the Senate will approve a version of the bill this year. Most people in the industry agree that if a bill is not sent to the president’s desk in 2009, some version of a clean energy bill will be signed into law in 2010.

Top 10 By Total Revenue Rankings:

1) Constellation Energy $19,818,300,000
2) Exelon $18,859,000,000
3) Southern Co. $17,127,000,000
4) FPL Group Inc. $16,410,000,000
5) Dominion Resources $16,290,000,000
6) AES Corp. $16,070,000,000
7) PG&E $14,628,000,000
8) American Electric Power $14,440,000,000
9) Edison International $14,112,000,000
10) Integrys Energy $14,047,800,000

Top 10 By Total Capital Expenditures

1) FPL Group Inc. $4,550,000,000
2) Duke Energy $4,386,000,000
3) Southern Co. $3,961,000,000
4) American Electric Power $3,800,000,000
5) PG&E $3,628,000,000
6) Dominion Resources $3,554,000,000
7) Williams Companies $3,475,000,000
8) Exelon $3,117,000,000
9) FirstEnergy $2,888,000,000
10) Edison International $2,824,000,000

TOTAL REVENUE RANKINGS & CAPITAL EXPENDITURES

Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracing, is a proven technological advancement which allows natural gas producers to safely recover natural gas from deep shale formations. Hydraulic fracturing is the injection of fluid under pressure to facilitate the production of oil and natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing, combined with sophisticated horizontal drilling, can recover extraordinary amounts of deep shale natural gas from across the United States. The Center is studying the issue and is very concerned about threats to groundwater by the use of this technique.

Hydraulic fracturing is used in oil and natural gas production. After a well is drilled into reservoir rock that contains oil, natural gas, and water, every effort is made to maximize the production of oil and gas. In hydraulic fracturing, a fluid (usually water containing specialty high-viscosity fluid additives) is injected under high pressure. The pressure exceeds the rock strength and the fluid opens or enlarges fractures in the rock. These larger, man-made fractures start at the injection well and extend as much as several hundred feet into the reservoir rock. After the formation is fractured, a “propping agent” (usually sand carried by the high-viscosity additives) is pumped into the fractures to keep them from closing when the pumping pressure is released. Hydraulic fracturing allows the oil or natural gas to move more freely from the rock pores to a production well so that it can be brought to the surface.

EPA's Underground Injection Program (UIP) does not regulate hydraulic fracturing because the 2005 Energy Policy Act excluded hydraulic fracturing from SDWA jurisdiction. In 2004, EPA conducted a study to assess the potential for contamination of USDWs from the injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids by coalbed methane (CBM) wells. Based on the information collected and reviewed at the time, EPA concluded that the injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids by CBM wells posed little or no threat to USDWs and additional studies were not justified.

Chesapeake Energy Video





Energy In Depth.Org Video of Oil and Gas Drilling



Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, plans hearings next year to examine "unconventional extraction techniques." There is concern that about hydraulic fracturing’s effect on groundwater. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and Sen. Robert Casey [D-PA] have introduced a bill during the last two congressional sessions that would subject fracturing to the Safe Drinking Water Act. Under the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009 (HR 2766) and Senate companion Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act (S. 1215), companies would be required to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. (Chesapeake Energy, EPA-UIP)