Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Google Promotes Electrical Efficiency in Computers

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

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

Mag Lev Accident in Germany Kills 25

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

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

Contaminated Ground Zero Deutsche Bank Demolition

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

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

Thursday, September 21, 2006

E. Coli Tainted Spinach Killing People & Spinach Market

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

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

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

Bush Administration Releases Climate Change Plan

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

Judge Blocks Bush Rule to Open Nat'l Forest Logging

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

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Google Starts Innovative Foundation

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

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

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Review of the Book "Bluebells and Nuclear Energy"

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

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

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

Friday, September 15, 2006

Governor Ehrlich Wins Court Decision on PSC

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

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Interior Department Rejects Fission Waste on Reservation

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

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

Offshore Oil Leases & the Outer Continental Shelf

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 11, 2006

Support Dominion Power High Voltage Power Lines

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

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

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

Waldorf-Astoria Facade Needs to be Cleaned

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

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

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Huge New Chevron Oil Find in Gulf of Mexico

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

New Book on Health, Poverty & Environment in Asia

The new book, "Poverty, Health, and Ecosystems: Experience from Asia," highlights the challenges faced by these poor and often resource dependent households across Asia in 16 case studies. The majority of Asia's poor live in rural areas where ecosystems they depend on - water bodies, grasslands, soils and forests - are facing strains from unsustainable exploitation, according to a new publication launched by ADB and the World Conservation Union. Roughly one billion Asians still live in severe povery and suffer disproportionately from the health risks caused by inadequate or dirty water and polluted air. The poor bear the burden of collecting the resources for their daily use, such as water and fuelwood.

The case studies include analyses of pressures facing agricultural systems in People's Republic of China (PRC), India, and Pakistan. They also cover examples of links between households or communities and freshwater or marine aquatic ecosystems in Bangladesh, PRC, India, Lao People's Democratic Republic, and Sri Lanka. A case from Mongolia examines the relationships between grassland ecosystems as a source of pastures for livestock, while cases from Nepal and the PRC document how the poor rely on forests for fodder, medicines, fuel wood, and other products. One study looks regionally at the complex linkages between gender, poverty, and environment, while other cases from the highlands of Viet Nam, tribal groups in Orissa, India, and in Yunnan Province of the PRC illustrate how ethnic minorities are not only among the most poor and marginalized but also among the most natural resource dependent. Hat Tip: ">Ron Taylor

Nuclear Fuel Management and Disposal Act

Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) understands the serious need to build new nuclear power plants. He and Center President Norris McDonald, at Yucca Mountain-left, also understand how important it is to solve the waste problem. A summary of his bill that addresses nuclear waste is below:

Nuclear Fuel Management and Disposal Act (S. 2589)

1) Withdraws specified land from all forms of entry, appropriation, and disposal under the public land laws.
2) Transfers to the Secretary of Energy (Secretary) the land covered by such withdrawal that is under the jurisdiction of the Secretary concerned (the Secretary of the Air Force, or the Secretary of the Interior, depending upon the specific lands).
3) Reserves the land covered by the withdrawal for use by the Secretary for specified activities associated with the disposal of high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel.
4) Revokes Public Land Order 6802 of September 25, 1990, and a certain right-of-way reservation.
5) Subjects the use of the land covered by the withdrawal to conditions the Secretary deems necessary to conduct activities related to the Yucca Mountain Project.
6) Amends the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 governing Yucca Mountain site application procedures to provide that an application for construction authorization shall not be required to contain information relating to any surface facility other than those necessary for initial operation of the repository.
7) Revises requirements governing Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) actions on construction applications and infrastructure activities.
8) Includes infrastructure activities within the scope of expedited authorizations.
9) Prohibits surface or subsurface mining or oil or gas production, including slant drilling from outside the boundaries of the land covered by the withdrawal.
10) Declares specified federal, state, or local regulatory requirements inapplicable to: (1) material owned by the Secretary that is transported or stored in an NRC-certified container for transportation or storage; or (2) material located at the Yucca Mountain site for disposal, if its management and disposal is subject to an NRC license.
11) Prohibits a state or local governmental entity from issuing, administering, or enforcing a new or existing air quality permit or requirement affecting a federal facility or activity subject to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.
12) Authorizes the Secretary to determine the extent to which certain transportation regulated under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Authorization Act of 1994 shall instead be regulated exclusively under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954.
13) Deems the use of water from any source to implement this Act to be: (1) beneficial to interstate commerce; and (2) non-detrimental to the public interest.
14) Requires the NRC, in deciding whether to permit the construction or operation of a nuclear reactor or any related facilities, to deem that sufficient capacity will be available in a timely manner to dispose of the spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste resulting from the operation of the reactor and related facilities.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Steve Irwin : In Memoriam

Australian Naturalist and TV personality Steve Irwin died on Sunday in an unusual attack by a stingray. He is best known as "The Crocodile Hunter," and will be remembered as a hyperactive wildlife entertainer engaging in daring stunts with wide-eyed enthusiasm. His shows appeared in over 30 countries around the world. In 2002, Irwin and his wife, Terri, took their act to the big screen with the film, "Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course." The Irwins also managed the running of their wildlife park, Australia Zoo. (Washington Post Article)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Terminating Election Year Carbon Dioxide: Great Symbolism

California passed a carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction law for vehicles in 2002 (AB 1493). Now in an election year frenzy, California Governor Arnold Schwarzezegger and Democratic legislators have passed another law (AB 32) to reduce CO2 from all sources by 2020. Californians better get ready to start holding their breath. The new law, like the old law, is being challenged by the industry.

The general provisions of the law include mandatory regulations, incentives and market-based cap-and-trading. Didn't President Bush push cap-and-trading in the Clear Skies Initiative that would have cut sulfur, nitrogen and mercury emissions by 70% by 2018 and the left balked? The current Cali CO2 law like the last law has the California Air Resources Board drafting regs by 2009 that go into effect in 2012. Blue East coast states have laws and are developing regs to cut CO2 emissions by 10 percent by 2019. Is California really leading like it used to, or are they merely imitating and following themselves? These political CO2 laws will not reduce human produced global carbon dioxide emissions. (L.A. Times)