Thursday, November 28, 2013

Virginia Approves Power Line Over James River

Scott Neville/For The Washington Post
           Dominion Power has proposed installing towers
 across the James River that would be visible
 from College Creek Beach on the Colonial Parkway.
 Local history buffs and nature lovers are
 trying to protect the scenic beauty of the area.
The State Corporation Commission (SCC) of Virginia in Richmond approved a controversial request by Dominion Power on Tuesday to build a 500,000-volt transmission line over the James River — a plan that faces heavy opposition from preservationists and other organizations around America’s founding waterway.

The Center generally supports these sorts of projects and supports this plan.

Now, the focus — and fight — moves to the federal level. The project requires a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, and the groups that have denounced Dominion’s plan on historic and economic grounds say they’re digging in.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation believes the SCC missed the mark but  hopes the Army Corps will take a hard look at this and make a meaningful evaluation of the historic and environmental impacts of Dominion’s plan.

The utility’s 7.4-mile transmission line would span the same stretch of river that some of the first English settlers navigated in 1607 before landing at Jamestown. It would cross the James on a series of as many as 17 towers — the largest being nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty and, critics say, be visible from the tip of Jamestown Island and along the historic Colonial Parkway.

The SCC concluded, “the evidence is clear that the proposed project is necessary to continue reliable electric service to the hundreds of thousands of people who live and work across this broad region of Virginia.”  Dominion Virginia Power noted it, “is sensitive to historic and environmental concerns and the Commission ultimately agreed that the company’s recommended routes are the least impactful.”

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the College of William and Mary, and Preservation Virginia are among those opposing the project. In June, the National Trust for Historic Preservation added the James River to its list of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places in an effort to amplify the controversy.

Construction of the transmission line could begin before the end of the year. The SCC ordered Dominion to finish the project by June 1, 2015.  (Wash Post, 11/27/

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Coal Mine Closures & Layoffs Hitting Kentucky Hard

Unprecedented pressures on the U.S. coal industry in Central Appalachian coalfields are seriously hurting counties in eastern Kentucky.  While the coal industry overall is losing market share to abundant natural gas, mines in Central Appalachia have become increasingly uneconomical. Natural gas is cheaper, and so is coal mined in two other big coal basins centered in Wyoming and Illinois.
A Wall Street Journal analysis of Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) data reveals that the picture is bleakest across a swath of 26 counties in Kentucky's eastern coalfields.  The number of coal-mining and related jobs in the region remained fairly steady between 2000 through 2011. Since 2011, the area has seen an unrelenting decline and state officials say there are now fewer miners working in Kentucky than any other time in records dating to the 1920s.
The state's eastern coalfields had 161 active mines in the second quarter of this year, down from an average of 256 active mines for the four quarters of 2011. There were 22 mines with coal production in the second quarter of this year, down from 44 at the beginning of 2011, according to the MSHA data.
At the same time, competition among mines has heated up. It costs utilities about 40% more to generate the same amount of electricity using the region's coal compared with coal from Wyoming. Coal from Wyoming doesn't generate as much electricity per ton and costs more to transport. Still, it is a better deal for utilities because the costs to mine coal from seams 60-feet thick are far less.
In Central Appalachia, the region's coal seams are thinner, and so are mining companies' profit margins. It typically costs $60 to $70 to extract a ton of coal there, while the current price for coal from the region used by utilities, known as thermal coal, is under $65 a ton.
Even West Virginia and Virginia have some advantages over eastern Kentucky. They possess higher grades of coal, including more reserves of metallurgical coal used in steelmaking that currently sell for about $150 a ton.

Since January, the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, the 23-county agency, has used funds from a two-year $5.2 million grant from the U.S. Labor Department to retrain 407 unemployed miners. The program has so far helped another 430 find new jobs in manufacturing, construction and health care.

Many unemployed miners blame President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency for their plight. They cited a series of regulations to tighten emissions rules for coal-burning power plants, which they believe amounts to what has popularly been called a "war on coal."

Most coal industry executives believe the stepped-up regulations have exacerbated a market depression brought about by new fracking technologies that have revolutionized natural gas drilling and made it possible to tap massive reservoirs of gas from deep shale layers.

Coal accounted for 39% of U.S. electricity generation through August of this year, compared to 27% for natural gas. In 2003, coal powered 51% of generation, compared to 17% for natural gas.

Utilities have frequently cited new emissions standards among reasons for closing aging coal-fired power plants. Roughly 9% of coal-fired capacity is slated for closure between 2013 and 2018, according to the EIA.

Alpha, the nation's third-largest coal operator by production and the biggest in Central Appalachia, has laid off 594 workers at Kentucky mines and related coal facilities since January 2012. It now operates 10 underground mines in the state, down from 23 underground and six surface mines in 2011. It also shut four facilities that process coal.  (WSJ, 11/26/2013)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Bitcoin: An Innovative Payment Network & A New Kind of Money

Bitcoin uses peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority or banks; managing transactions and the issuing of bitcoins is carried out collectively by the network. Bitcoin is open-source; its design is public, nobody owns or controls Bitcoin and everyone can take part. Through many of its unique properties, Bitcoin allows exciting uses that could not be covered by any previous payment system.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Court Rules Nuclear Plants Do Not Have To Pay $750 million A Year In Fees To The Federal Government

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that nuclear power plants no longer have to pay $750 million a year in fees to the federal government to cover the long-term cost of storing their nuclear fuel. The U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia ruled that it was unfair for the Department of Energy to collect money for waste disposal when the department had no idea how much that might cost.  The court ruled:
"Until the Department (of Energy) comes to some conclusion as to how nuclear wastes are to be deposited permanently, it seems quite unfair to force petitioners to pay fees for a hypothetical option.''
The existing fee is one-tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour. The Department of Energy said it is reviewing the court's opinion. (Syracuse Post Standard, 11/20/2013)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Walter Reed Hospital Redevelopment

The Walter Reed Army Medical Center is named after the physician who linked mosquitoes to yellow fever at the turn of the 20th century. The 110-acre site that has been dormant since September 2011 after 102 years in operation will not remain so.
Local officials in Washington named a master development team headed by Hines, a national firm based in Houston, with two local companies, Urban Atlantic and Triden. Plans call for 3.1 million square feet of development, costing $1 billion, over perhaps 20 years of construction — including 2,097 residential units, 250,000 square feet of retail space, 90,000 square feet of offices, a science center, restaurants, a Hyatt hotel and conference center, and 20 acres of open space.
A rendering of the Parks at Walter Reed, covering more than 60 acres of the former hospital.
The plan says that historic buildings are to be preserved. Some housing will be at lower than market rates, including units for the elderly and the homeless. And there may be an upscale grocery, possibly a Wegmans or a Whole Foods. The Hines team has also recruited Weingarten Realty Investors, a national shopping center developer, and Toll Brothers, a luxury home builder.
The development is projected to create 4,500 construction jobs and 2,900 permanent jobs, with annual local tax revenues of $37 million.
The new project, to be known as the Parks at Walter Reed, will encompass 66.7 acres. The State Department is to take over 43.5 acres on the site’s northwestern side for a “foreign missions center” to accommodate 20 to 30 chanceries.
The Army hospital merged with nearby Bethesda Naval Hospital in 2011 to become the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The change was part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closing Act that trimmed the number of bases nationwide as part of defense budget reductions.
Now that a master developer has been chosen, the next step is for local Washington officials to negotiate a purchase price with the Army and then convey the land to Hines. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development must also approve the plan.  (NYT, 11/19/2013)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bakken Oil Production To Top 1 Million Barrels Per Day

The latest monthly update of estimated crude oil production in the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana shows total wellhead output topping 1 million barrels of oil per day (bbl/d) next month. The update appears in the most recent issue of the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Drilling Productivity Report (DPR).

The Bakken region now accounts for a little over 10% of total U.S. oil production and is expected to be the fourth region (along with the Gulf of Mexico, Eagle Ford, and Permian basins) producing more than 1 million bbl/d in the nation in December.

Infrastructure improvements in the central part of the nation carried more of this oil to refineries in recent months, helping to narrow the price difference between the Bakken region and West Texas Intermediate, which is priced at Cushing, Oklahoma.

The growth of crude oil production in the Bakken region is part of a longer-term trend in drilling efficiency gains (see graph below) and has led North Dakota to rank second in crude oil production in the United States, behind only Texas. These production gains have led to increases in gross domestic product in the state as well as increased demand for electricity.  (DOE-EIA)

Monday, November 18, 2013

CARB Forest Carbon Offsets

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has just approved the first carbon offsets generated from forest lands for use in the State’s cap-and-trade program.  CARB has also issued the first compliance offset credits eligible for use in California's cap-and-trade greenhouse gas emissions reduction program.

Carbon offsets from forestry projects are expected to make up a significant portion of the offsets sold into developing carbon markets. The two projects recently approved by CARB are located in California’s Mendocino County and in eastern Maine, demonstrating the point that the California compliance market is not limited to offset credits generated in that State. This is an important milestone, confirming the market for forestry-based carbon offsets. Some environmental groups opposed the out of state offset component of the program.

The first batch of 600,000 offsets includes a combination of early action projects and compliance offset projects. Carbon offset credits are issued for GHG reductions that take place in sectors not covered under the state’s cap-and-trade program. Each credit represents 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide and only carbon offset credits issued by CARB are considered compliance offset credits.

Covered facilities may use carbon offsets to cover up to 8 percent of their compliance obligation. Carbon offsets also act as a cost-control measure for covered facilities because offsets generally cost less than allowances, which are issued by the state.

The offsets come from projects that provide additional environmental benefits beyond reducing GHGs. These include protecting the ozone layer or supporting improved forest management, which upgrades water quality and habitat.

CARB currently has four approved offset protocols that can generate compliance-grade carbon offset credits:
  1. Forestry management projects (in the lower 48 states)
  2. Urban forestry projects
  3. Dairy digester projects (to capture methane from manure at dairy facilities)
  4. Ozone depleting substances (ODS) destruction projects
(Environmental Leader, Sept 18, 2013)

No New (Carbon) Taxes


By Norris McDonald

Robert Samuelson wrote a great piece in The Washington Post today, but he lost me when he proposed a tax on carbon as a solution to global warming. 

Here is what Samuelson said:
"For years, I’ve advocated an energy tax — my preference now is a carbon tax — because it could advance other national goals. It could reduce budget deficits and enhance energy security by pushing consumers toward more efficient cars and trucks. That’s my standard: Support policies that, though they might address climate change, can be justified on other grounds."
Now at the end of the article he suggests that such a carbon tax could replace the income tax -- I could support that. Except he didn't come right out and say it as a tit for tat replacement:
"But we do know the size of the budget deficit, and we do know that revenue from a carbon tax might help finance a simplification of the income tax. By addressing multiple problems, an admittedly unpopular carbon tax might command broader support."
We prefer a cap and trade program.  It is market based and at one time or another, has been supported by both Republicans and Democrats.  In addition, we believe technology fixes are the most effective and we are recomming a program called Energy Defense Reservations, which utlizes the military in partnership with the private sector to convert carbon dioxide into transportation fuel.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Warranted or Exaggerated: Rooftop Solar Panels and Fires

Recent events around the country have begun to light the kindling for fear as firefighters are unable to perform their jobs correctly if a location has installed solar panels. Unfortunately for the renewable energy technology, skeptics of solar power pounced on the subject like a lioness hitting a lame zebra. Is the fear that is sweeping across the Internet from the dangers of solar panel installations exaggerated in order to get ratings on blogs and websites, or is there solid base to reconsider firefighting techniques?

Electrocutions - It's a scientific fact that water conducts electricity. Given the amount of power that can travel across the power lines of a solar array, this amount of power can easily electrocute a firefighter while causing severe damage and possibly worse. If the heat and flames expose the wires from a solar array and a stream of water hits these cables, the electricity can spread across the liquid at the speed of light. It's unnerving to think about to say the least.

Power Outage Comparison - Unlike a traditional house fire, power cannot be killed to the establishment directly. Regardless if the fire consumes the breaker switch or not, solar panels will continue to draw energy from light. Coincidentally, did you know that the intense light of a fire can be used to fuel solar cells even at night? As the array burns up, the panels surrounding the fire can still be producing thousands of watts worth of electricity.

Focusing on the Negative - Considering how many panels are installed across the world and how often they have intervened in fighting a fire, are media channels merely focusing on a few negative incidences in order to appease to a broad-base of renewable energy disbelievers and oil tycoons? Although some may feel that the news of the manufacturing plant in New Jersey spread across the Internet like a wild-fire of its own accord, it does bring up the question about putting firefighters in harm's way.


Adjusting Tactics - The facility in New Jersey was nearly reduced to nothing more than rubble as firefighters were unable to combat the blaze from the roof. In some situations, there is just no way to combat such an instance. However, wouldn't this call for a more safe approach such as dumping slurry, salt or sand directly onto the fire? Although it's not as effective as a direct hose blasting the fire's fuel, there needs to be alternatives outside of the box that these professionals haven't thought of yet.

Media's Focus - If you were to run a search in Google for "solar panel fire" and date all entries for 2011, you'll see a far different search result than you would for today. Solar panels are not new, but the focus of media has changed for many. Instead of the damage wrought by fires involving solar panels as you would see for 2013, the 2011 search brings up precautionary and preventive measures. What has caused such a shift in the view of so many bloggers and reporters?

The fact is, fighting a fire where vast amounts of electricity are located is going to be ultimately dangerous. Instead of wagging a finger at solar panel manufacturers and the technology, innovation needs to step in and figure out a way to make it safer. Humans are inherently resourceful - what's the next step to safeguard photovoltaic power?
Author Bio:

This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to:

Friday, November 15, 2013

EPA Proposes 2014 Renewable Fuel Standards

Proposal Seeks Input to Address “E10 Blend Wall,” Reduction in Biofuels Requirement

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed for public comment the levels of renewable fuels to be blended into gasoline and diesel as required by Congress under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Developed with input from the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture, the proposal seeks public input on annual volume requirements for renewable fuels in all motor vehicle gasoline and diesel produced or imported by the United States in 2014.

The proposal seeks to put the Renewable Fuel Standard program on a steady path forward – ensuring the continued long-term growth of the renewable fuel industry – while seeking input on different approaches to address the “E10 blend wall.” The proposal discusses a variety of approaches for setting the 2014 standards, and includes a number of production and consumption ranges for key categories of biofuel covered by the RFS program. The proposal seeks comment on a range of total renewable fuel volumes for 2014 and proposes a level within that range of 15.21 billion gallons.

Specifically, EPA is seeking comment on the following proposed volumes:

Proposed Volume a
Cellulosic biofuel
17 mill gal
8-30 million gallons
Biomass-based diesel
1.28 bill gal
1.28 billion gallons
Advanced biofuel
2.20 bill gal
2.0-2.51 billion gallons
Renewable fuel
15.21 bill gal
15.00-15.52 billion gallons
aAll volumes are ethanol-equivalent, except for biomass-based diesel which is actual

Nearly all gasoline sold in the U.S. is now “E10,” which is fuel with up to 10 percent ethanol. Production of renewable fuels has been growing rapidly in recent years. At the same time, advances in vehicle fuel economy and other economic factors have pushed gasoline consumption far lower than what was expected when Congress passed the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2007. As a result, we are now at the “E10 blend wall,” the point at which the E10 fuel pool is saturated with ethanol. If gasoline demand continues to decline, as currently forecast, continuing growth in the use of ethanol will require greater use of higher ethanol blends such as E15 and E85.

The Obama Administration has taken a number of steps to allow or encourage the use of these higher ethanol blends. In 2010, EPA approved E15 for use in vehicles newer than model year 2001 and developed labeling rules to enable retailers to market E15. In addition, since 2011, USDA has made funding available through the Rural Energy for America Program to support deployment of “flex-fuel” pumps that can dispense a range of ethanol blends. The 2014 proposal seeks input on what additional actions could be taken by government and industry to help overcome current market challenges, and to minimize the need for adjustments in the statutory renewable fuel volume requirements in the future. Looking forward, the proposal clearly indicates that growth in capacity for ethanol consumption would continuously be reflected in the standards set beyond 2014. EPA looks forward to further engagement and additional information from stakeholders as the agency works in consultation with the Departments of Agriculture and Energy toward the development of a final rule.

The renewable fuels program was developed by Congress in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand the nation’s renewable fuels sector while reducing reliance on foreign oil. The standards determine how much renewable fuel a refiner or importer is responsible for, and are the standards designed to achieve the national volumes for each type of renewable fuel. 

Today, in a separate action, EPA is also seeking comment on petitions for a waiver of the renewable fuel standards that would apply in 2014. EPA expects that a determination on the substance of the petitions will be issued at the same time that EPA issues a final rule establishing the 2014 RFS.

Once the proposal is published in the Federal Register, it will be open to a 60-day public comment period.  (EPA)

More information on the standards and regulations
More information on renewable fuels

2013 Completions of Large Solar Power Plants

map of Santos and Campos basins, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Report and Monthly Update (Forms EIA-860 and EIA-860M) Note: This map excludes generators for which solar thermal energy is not used as the primary energy source, such as the 75-MW Martin Solar Energy Center, which connects a parabolic trough field to an existing natural gas combined-cycle plant.

Several large, new solar thermal power plants are expected to begin commercial operation by the end of 2013, more than doubling the solar thermal generating capacity in the United States. The projects use different solar thermal technologies and storage options. Abengoa's Solana plant, which came on line in October 2013, is a 250-megawatt (MW) parabolic trough plant in Gila Bend, Arizona with integrated thermal storage. BrightSource's Ivanpah, expected to enter service by the end of 2013, is a 391-MW power tower plant in California's Mojave Desert and does not include storage.

Solana and Ivanpah are much larger than solar thermal plants that have previously entered service in the United States. Over the past decade, a few smaller-scale and demonstration solar thermal projects have entered service. The only other dedicated solar thermal plants larger than 10 MW in the United States are the series of Solar Energy Generating System (SEGS) plants built in California in the 1980s and early 1990s and the Nevada Solar One parabolic trough project completed in 2007.

EIA projections for total solar thermal capacity additions in 2013 and 2014 include six projects for a total of 1,257 MW, with more expected in 2015 and 2016. However, while these solar thermal capacity additions are significant for the technology, they represent only 4% of total expected capacity additions for 2013 and 2014 (see chart below). Solar thermal capacity additions also continue to be outpaced by solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity additions, even though solar PV has only meaningfully entered the utility-scale market in the past few years.

graph of Brazil presalt oil production, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Report and Monthly Update (Forms EIA-860 and EIA-860M)

The tabs below describe the solar thermal technologies at Solana and Ivanpah, as well as Solana's storage deployment.
Graph of forward curve for the Algonquin Citygate basis futures contract, as described in the article text

Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Loan Guarantee Program Office

Ivanpah, which is expected to come on line by the end of 2013, uses a series of three power towers: a field of movable mirrors (heliostats) focusing light on a 459-foot central tower. The light heats water in a boiler at the top of the tower, creating steam, which is used to run a conventional steam turbine like those in a typical fossil-fired power plant.
Graph of Algonquin basis futures for Jan 2015 contract, as described in the article text

Source: Abengoa, used with permission

Solana, which began delivering electricity to the grid outside Phoenix, Arizona, uses parabolic, mirrored troughs to collect sunlight, as well as thermal storage, allowing the plant to operate up to six hours on stored energy alone. The parabolic troughs are movable, tracking the sun and focusing sunlight onto a tube running down the center of each trough, which contains a heat transfer fluid. A heat exchanger creates steam that in turn runs a conventional steam turbine. (See additional resources on solar thermal technologies and images of Solana.)
Graph of forward curve for the Algonquin Citygate basis futures contract, as described in the article text
Source: Abengoa, used with permission

Solana stores some of the sun's energy as heat, using a molten salt as the thermal medium. The molten salt is stored in the round tanks, seen at the bottom center of this overhead image of Solana. This storage capability sets the plant apart from photovoltaic or wind technologies, which are dependent on the immediate availability of the sun or wind. With storage, Solana can operate while clouds pass overhead, providing a predictable supply of power to the grid. It can continue to produce electricity for up to six hours after the prime hours of sunlight have passed. This flexibility is particularly important as demand for electricity often peaks in the early evening. Storage technology was critically important in the development of Solana's 30-year power purchase agreement with Arizona Public Service (the largest utility in Arizona), which will buy all of Solana's output.

Both parabolic trough and power tower technologies can be integrated with varying levels of thermal storage. For example, the Crescent Dunes solar thermal power tower plant near Tonopah, Nevada that is expected to come on line by the end of 2013 will include 10 hours of thermal energy storage.

All five of the major solar thermal projects—including Solana and Ivanpah—that are scheduled to come on line in 2013 and 2014 were awarded loans through the U.S. Department of Energy's Loan Guarantee Program. Solana received a federal loan guarantee for $1.45 billion of the approximately $2 billion cost of the project, according to the parent company, Abengoa. BrightSource Energy reports a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee on the approximately $2.2 billion Ivanpah project.  (EIA-DOE)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

2013 DC Stormwater Management Rule - Additional Training Sessions

Also see the Center Stormwater Credit Exchange
Below is a schedule for additional public training sessions related to the 2013 Rule on

Stormwater Management and Soil Erosion and Sediment Control (2013 SW Rule) and the 2013 Stormwater Management Guidebook (2013 SWMG), which provides technical guidance on how to comply with the rule. 
As DDOE responds to questions from individual projects, DDOE is identifying issues that should be clarified for the benefit of the larger stakeholder community. To that end, DDOE will be providing updates through this email list and on its website.
Among the topics on which DDOE has received questions is the plan for transitioning o the stormwater management performance requirements in the 2013 SW Rule. To provide greater clarity, DDOE has revised the transition plan summary posted on its website. This revised summary is attached.
The 2013 SW Rule, 2013 SWMG, updated training schedule, and related information are available via
The addresses of training locations are below the list of sessions.
General Compliance
·      Tuesday, November 19, 2013
DDOE Room 509
Generation and Certification of Stormwater Retention Credits (SRCs), Discount on Stormwater Impervious Fees, and Use of the Online Application Portal/Database
·     Tuesday, December 3, 2013
DDOE Room 509
·      Tuesday, January 7, 2013
DDOE Room 509
The above sessions will all be at DDOE’s offices, located at:
1200 First St. NE
Washington, DC 20002
* 2 blocks from the NOMA Metro station (red line); exit south side of station onto M St., NE
* Please check in with receptionist on 5th floor, and you will then be escorted to the training room.  (DDOE)

Zip Code Ranking Map with Super Zips

Click HERE To Go To Site

The Washington Post analyzed census data to find Zip codes where people rank highest on a combination of income and education. They are Super Zips.
The ranks, ranging from 0 to 99, represent the average of each Zip’s percentile rankings for median household income and for the share of adults with college degrees. Super Zips rank 95 or higher. This

The map at top shows the nation’s 650 Super Zips. Among them, the typical household income is $120,272, and 68 percent of adults hold college degrees. That compares with $53,962 and 27 percent for the remaining 23,925 Zips shown. Only Zips with at least 500 adults are displayed.

A Washington Post analysis of the latest census data shows that more than a third of Zip codes in the D.C. metro area rank in the top 5 percent nationally for income and education. But what makes the region truly unusual is that so many of the high-end Zip codes are contiguous. They form a vast land mass that bounds across 717 square miles. It stretches 60 miles from its northern tip in Woodstock, Md., to the southern end in Fairfax Station, and runs 30 miles wide from Haymarket in Prince William County to the heart of the District up to Rock Creek Parkway.

One in four households in the region are in a Super Zip, according to the Post analysis. Since the 2000 Census on which Murray based his analysis, Washington’s Super Zips have grown to encompass 100,000 more residents. Only the New York City area has more Super Zips, but they are a much smaller share of the total of that region’s Zip codes and are more scattered. (Wash Post)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Another Global Climate Change Meeting: Sigh

By Norris McDonald

Clearly the global warming issue is beyond humanity's ability to manage.  And so almost 200 countries have send representatives to a conference each year to discuss the issue.  It appears they agree that there is not really much they can genuinely do to curb this planetary threat.

Representatives from more than 190 countries gathered in Warsaw on Monday to continue debating how to deal with climate change beyond 2020, even as nations are falling further behind on their collective goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet.

Major breakthroughs are not expected at the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Instead, these talks have been described as sessions that will lay a foundation for a global agreement to be reached in time for 2015 talks in Paris.

Yeah.  Right.  Where is the inspiration? We've been laying that foundation for decades now.

Developing nations want to know how the developed world plans to make good on a pledge to “mobilize” $100 billion by 2020 to help them cope with the effects of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The world wants to know how the nations of the world will draw a road map toward a 2015 treaty that will further rein in greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020.

What happened to trying to limit the increase in maximum global average temperature to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, as the parties agreed in Copenhagen in 2009?  The U.N. Environment Program, in its annual report issued last week, said that even under best-case scenarios, that is not going to happen.

The 2014 conference, scheduled for Lima, Peru, would take the process further before a global accord is finalized in Paris.  (Wash Post, 11/11/2013)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Bureau of the Public Debt

The Bureau of the Public Debt is a small agency within the Department of the Treasury whose customers are every day people and anyone who has ever bought any type of Treasury security.  Millions have done this in the case of savings bonds.  Their job is to borrow the money needed to operate the federal government and to account for the resulting debt.

They borrow by selling Treasury bills, notes, and bonds, as well as U.S. Savings Bonds.

They pay interest to investors; and, when the time comes to pay back the loans, they redeem investors' securities. Every time they borrow or pay back money, it affects the outstanding debt of the United States.  They also provide reimbursable administrative, financial management and information technology services to a variety of Federal government entities through our Administrative Resource Center (ARC).  (Bureau of the Public Debt)

How Currency Gets into Circulation

  • There is about $1.2 trillion dollars of U.S. currency in circulation.

  • The Federal Reserve Banks distribute new currency for the U.S. Treasury Department, which prints it.

  • Depository institutions buy currency from Federal Reserve Banks when they need it to meet customer demand, and they deposit cash at the Fed when they have more than they need to meet customer demand.

Federal Reserve

As of July 2013, currency in circulation—that is, U.S. coins and paper currency in the hands of the public—totaled about $1.2 trillion dollars. The amount of cash in circulation has risen rapidly in recent decades and much of the increase has been caused by demand from abroad. The Federal Reserve estimates that the majority of the cash in circulation today is outside the United States.

Meeting the Variable Demand for Cash

The public typically obtains its cash from banks by withdrawing cash from automated teller machines (ATMs) or by cashing checks. The amount of cash that the public holds varies seasonally, by the day of the month, and even by the day of the week. For example, people demand a large amount of cash for shopping and vacations during the year-end holiday season. Also, people typically withdraw cash at ATMs over the weekend, so there is more cash in circulation on Monday than on Friday.

To meet the demands of their customers, banks get cash from Federal Reserve Banks. Most medium- and large-sized banks maintain reserve accounts at one of the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks, and they pay for the cash they get from the Fed by having those accounts debited. Some smaller banks maintain their required reserves at larger, "correspondent," banks. The smaller banks get cash through the correspondent banks, which charge a fee for the service. The larger banks get currency from the Fed and pass it on to the smaller banks.

When the public's demand for cash declines—after the holiday season, for example—banks find they have more cash than they need and they deposit the excess at the Fed. Because banks pay the Fed for cash by having their reserve accounts debited, the level of reserves in the nation's banking system drops when the public's demand for cash rises; similarly, the level rises again when the public's demand for cash subsides and banks ship cash back to the Fed. The Fed offsets variations in the public's demand for cash that could introduce volatility into credit markets by implementing open market operations. (Federal Reserve Bank of New York)

Currency & Debt

This video explains that whoever controls the supply of money controls the society.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Dan Utech: White House Director for Energy & Climate Change

Dan Utech
Dan Utech will become President Obama's top adviser on energy and climate change.  Utech is currently, the Deputy Director for Climate Change at the White House.  He joined the administration in 2010 and will replace current energy and climate czar Heather Zichal.

Prior to joining the White House, Dan served as a Senior Advisor to Energy Secretary Steven Chu. He joined the Administration after 10 years in the Senate, where he worked on a wide range of energy and environmental policy issues.

Prior to joining the administration, Utech worked on the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee and spent five years as then-Senator Hillary Clinton's (D-N.Y) top adviser on energy and environment issues. (Business Forward biography, The Hill, 11/8/2013)

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Ballast Water

In order to remain stable when loading and unloading cargo, filling up or burning fuel, ships may take on and release ballast water.  Cruise ships, large tankers, and bulk cargo carriers use a huge amount of ballast water, which is often taken on in the coastal waters in one region after ships discharge wastewater or unload cargo, and discharged at the next port of call, wherever more cargo is loaded. Once ballast water is taken on board, it may be released half-way around the world.

Ballast Water Discharge
Ballast water discharge typically contains a variety of biological materials, including plants, animals, viruses, and bacteria. These materials often include non-native, nuisance, exotic species that can cause extensive ecological and economic damage to aquatic ecosystems. If the organisms survive, they can cause major ecological and economic damage to the ecosystem.  (MIT, Wiki)

Friday, November 01, 2013

Big Demand for New Tankers

Oil Tanker
Shipping operators and investors are pouring billions of dollars into building new oceangoing tankers to transport diesel, gasoline and aviation fuel—scrambling to keep up with North America's energy boom. The shipbuilding demand is a result of new drilling and extraction technology in the U.S. and Canada that has unlocked vast new reservoirs of crude oil and natural gas. The newly tapped American oil has lowered costs for refiners, allowing them to better compete with their overseas rivals, ratcheting up exports and fueling demand for new tankers.  The U.S. exports and refinery expansions around the world are transforming product-tanker shipping demand.

New York-based Scorpio Tankers Inc. has grown from a little-known firm of around a dozen ships in 2010 into one of the world's biggest products-tanker operators, with about 50 vessels. Scorpio has an order-book of 65 new ships, worth between $3.5 billion and $4 billion, expected to be delivered by the beginning of 2016.

In July, U.S. refiners exported a record 3.8 million barrels of products a day, according to the latest monthly data from the Energy Information Administration. That's up nearly two thirds from 2010 exports. This translates into demand growth for product tankers of 7% in terms of capacity on average annually over the next three years. In comparison, demand for crude-oil tankers will likely decline by 1.5% over the same period, partly on the expectation that U.S. imports of crude will continue to fall.

It isn't just U.S. refining exports driving tanker demand. Across the globe, growth in refining capacity is likely to rise to 2.1% a year over the next 10 years, up from 1.1% a year in the past decade, according to industry estimates.  That has already boosted the global fleet of refined-product tankers in recent years, according to global maritime advisers Drewry. New ship orders shot up from 68 vessels in 2010, to 116 in 2012. With 80 ships already ordered in the first nine months of the year, 2013 orders should top that.

The combined tonnage of new orders rose to 5.8 million in 2012 from 3.3 million in 2010. Meanwhile, industry officials estimate private-equity players have pumped around $5 billion into financing product tankers over the past three to four years.

Maersk Tankers, a unit of Danish shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk, plans to invest around $400 million for up to 10 product tankers, while trying to sell a number of crude oil tankers, people familiar with the situation said.

Blackstone Group LP and Greek shipping firm Eletson Holdings teamed up this month to form Eletson Gas, a new shipping company said to be worth around $700 million that will transport liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG, a refined product used in cooking and heating. Blackstone will provide the capital to build new ships or acquire used ones.  (WSJ, 10/31/2013)