No nuclear power plants have been ordered in this country for three decades. Once touted as "too cheap to meter," nuclear power simply became "too costly to matter," as the Economist put it back in May 2001.
Yet growing concern over greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel plants has created a surge of new interest in nuclear. Wired magazine just proclaimed "Go nuclear" on its cover. Environmentalists like Stewart Brand and James Lovelock have begun embracing nukes as a core climate solution. And GOP presidential nominee John McCain, who has called for building hundreds of new nuclear plants in this country, recently announced he won't bother showing up to vote on his friend Joe Lieberman's climate bill because of insufficient subsidies (read "pork") for nuclear power.
What do they know that scores of utility executives and the Economist don't? Nothing, actually. Nuclear power still has so many problems that unless the federal government shovels tens of billions of dollars more in subsidies to the industry, and then shoves it down the throat of U.S. utilities and the public with mandates, it is unlikely to see a significant renaissance in this country. Nor is nuclear power likely to make up even 10 percent of the solution to the climate problem globally.
Why? In a word, cost. Many other technologies can deliver more low-carbon power at far less cost. As a 2003 MIT study, "The Future of Nuclear Energy," concluded: "The prospects for nuclear energy as an option are limited" by many "unresolved problems," of which "high relative cost" is only one. Others include environment, safety and health issues, nuclear proliferation concerns, and the challenge of long-term waste management.
Since new nuclear power now costs more than double what the MIT report assumed -- three times what the Economist called "too costly to matter" -- let me focus solely on the unresolved problem of cost. While safety, proliferation and waste issues get most of the publicity, nuclear plants have become so expensive that cost overwhelms the other problems.
Jul 28, 2008
By now everyone has heard the news frenzy over Ronald Herberman, Director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, advising faculty and staff to limit cell phone use because there is no proof that it's not a cancer risk. Nonsense! All cancer agents act by disrupting chemical bonds. In a classic 2001 op-ed LBL physicist Robert Cahn explained that Einstein won the 1905 Nobel Prize in Physics for showing that cell phones can't cause cancer. The threshold energy of the photoelectric effect, for which Einstein won the prize, lies at the extreme blue end of the visible spectrum in the near ultraviolet. The same near-ultraviolet rays can also cause skin cancer. Red light is too weak to cause cancer. Cell-phone radiation is 10,000 times weaker.
Jul 25, 2008
At a recent news conference and bill signing on the Lake Michigan shore near Saugatuck, Republicans and Democrats alike agreed that they had just saved the state’s water resources. The sentiment is wonderful, but that’s not what the legislation does.
More than 23 years after the signing of a regional pact to protect the Great Lakes and 10 years after a Canadian company proposed to capture and ship 50 freighters per year of Lake Superior water to Asia, Michigan politicians have just signed onto weak measures that will do as much harm as good.
After 10 years of effort, the Compact just consented to by Michigan specifically allows Great Lakes water to become a product – the direct opposite of what the public wanted. While proponents of the Compact say it bars major water exports, there’s a loophole – there is no limitation on the amount of water that can be removed and exported from the Great Lakes as long as it is done in containers of under 20 liters (5.7 gallons). And Michigan law specifically exempts packaged water from the ban on diversions.
Why this happened is less important than how to fix it. Most importantly, Michigan lawmakers need to know their job is far from done. It’s hardly begun. The state needs quickly to close the water-for-sale loophole. And if the Legislature and Governor won’t do it, the people should do it through a petition drive and referendum.
The alternative is more misleading news releases – and the slow draining of the Great Lakes for the benefit of a select few.
Read full By David Dempsey
1: a confused mass
From David Dempsey A federal appeals court has upheld the authority of the Clean Water Act and U.S. EPA to regulate ballast water dumping into lakes. Meanwhile, two competing bills in Congress would mandate either EPA or the Coast Guard to take action on the problem. The bills have divided conservationists, some of whom doubt the Coast Guard can ever be expected to take strong action against the powerful shipping and port lobby.
Jul 24, 2008
Jul 23, 2008
SURROUNDED on all sides by desert, over 1000 kilometres from the nearest city, lies the tiny town of Innamincka, South Australia.
Innamincka has a permanent population of just 12, but each year up to 50,000 tourists swell their numbers, keen to experience the Australian outback, if not its lack of creature comforts. To keep these visitors cool, the tiny town runs up diesel bills of roughly $250,000 each year.
Come next January, however, the town could be powered for free, with electricity generated from heat mined from subterranean "hot rocks".
Conventional geothermal power taps hot water rising naturally to the surface from shallow beds of volcanic rock. By contrast, hot rock, or engineered geothermal systems, depend on heating water by circulating it through rock as far down as 5 kilometres, that has been shattered to make it porous. Source: newscientist
Jul 22, 2008
Jul 21, 2008
Jul 20, 2008
"Since 2000, coal prices are up 400 percent, uranium is up 1,000 percent, natural gas is up 300 percent, and oil is up 600 percent," according to Jigar Shah, founder and chief strategy officer for SunEdison in Beltsville, Md.
Jul 19, 2008
That statement is about like challenging your 2 year old to finish college by the time she is 12. Not exactly practical, more than a little crazy, and likely to be either ignored, or if you push it, to cause lots of therapy sessions by the time she is 8.
A bar too high will set up an inevitable failure. But, is a failure of say 70 percent renewable electricity by 2020 all that bad? It's much more aggressive than the G8's half-off reduction.
Jul 18, 2008
I hope the "hill reads this" PLEASE add "BIOgas" to Drive America on Natural Gas Act
The biggest biogas plant in the world to feed gas directly into the national gas grid is set to go into operation in eastern Germany at the beginning of 2009.
The plant at Konnern will feed 15 million cubic meters (m³) of biomethane into the national grid for use by customers anywhere in Germany. Experts say it is the start of a boom in biogas as the country's energy providers increasingly look to home-produced biogas to reduce their dependence on natural gas imported from Russia.
In 2007, there were 1280 megawatts (MW) of installed biogas capacity and about 3,750 biogas plants in Germany. As much as 20 percent of Germany's natural gas needs could be supplied from biogas by 2020, "Biogas is the market of the future because it allows energy to be produced and transported economically and in a decentralized way around the country,"
The boom in biogas comes thanks to a key technological breakthrough a year ago that allowed biogas to be injected into the natural gas grid and so transported around Germany economically, said Thomas Wilkens of WELtec BioPower, a company that manufactures biogas units. Read full via renewableenergyworld
Important reader comment: Anything that is compostable can be used as a feedstock for biogas. Therefore, the obvious answer to the feedstock problem is to use organic material diverted from our waste stream. This kills three birds with one stone: a). Less material going to landfill; b). Less methane production in landfills; c). free energy source for biogas production. Interestingly enough, manure is not an ideal feedstock (too much nitrogen); the ideal feedstock has a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 30:1. If you want to see how different material combinations will affect methane outputs, check out the Anaerobic Digestor Calculator located here So where could one find a bunch of carbon-heavy, organic feedstock? Hmmm...how about suburban American? With our sprawling lawns and fastidious homeowners...we produce a heck of a lot of organic material (grass clippings, etc) that just goes to waste. My hometown of Madison, WI, for example, has to pay to truck this waste to 3 big composting sites outside of town...why not just use this as an energy source right in town?
“As Americans continue to suffer from high gas prices, we need to take advantage of our abundant domestic supply of natural gas for use as a transportation fuel,” Senator Inhofe said. “The Drive America on Natural Gas Act adds flexibility to the current Renewable Fuels Standard mandates by adding natural gas. It encourages the use of a proven alternative fuel and sends a market signal to manufacturers to consider compressed natural gas as a cost competitive alternative. Natural gas is domestic, plentiful, affordable, and clean. The promise of natural gas as a mainstream transportation fuel is achievable today -- not 15 or 20 years from now.
“Today, the largest hurdle facing the natural gas vehicle industry is the lack of refueling stations available to the public. By encouraging the production of bi-fuel natural gas vehicles, my bill overcomes this key difficulty. Coupled with a home refueling unit (the Phill), consumers will be comfortable purchasing bi-fuel natural gas vehicles knowing that their vehicle can also run on conventional gasoline for that occasional long distance trip from home. Installed in one’s garage, the Phill is connected to a home’s natural gas line. Once plugged into a CNG vehicle, the Phill slowly compresses natural gas into the car’s tank. Similar to the idea of plug-in hybrids, the Phill allows consumers to re-fuel at home. Unlike plug-in hybrids, this technology is not a few years away -- it is here today.
“Just last month I was pleased to visit Tom Sewall of Tulsa Natural Gas Technologies, Inc. As a small business owner who installs NGV refueling stations, he is one of the most knowledgeable and vocal leaders in this growing industry. In my hometown of Tulsa, OK, a person can refuel their CNG powered cars for just 90 cents per gallon. Regular currently costs $3.95. That’s a savings of more than $3 per gallon.
“The Drive America on Natural Gas Act will allow natural gas to compete on its own merits; it does not dictate that consumers, businesses, or states must use natural gas as a transportation fuel. The bill encourages auto manufacturers to produce bi-fuel vehicles, streamlines EPA’s emissions certifications, and establishes a natural gas vehicle research program. Americans can ultimately choose whether natural gas powered vehicles are right for their own individual and business needs.”
Read about About the Drive America on Natural Gas Act: Get the Facts on Natural Gas as a Transportation Fuel
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently did a detailed study of the likely outcome of offshore drilling for their Annual Energy Outlook 2007, "Impacts of Increased Access to Oil and Natural Gas Resources in the Lower 48 Federal Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)." The sobering conclusion:
The projections in the OCS access case indicate that access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.
And the impact of the projected 7% (!) increase in lower-48 oil production that might result in 2030 thanks to opening the OCS is … wait for it …
… any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant.
US Senator John Warner (R-VA) introduced S. 3266, the “Immediate Steps to Conserve Gasoline Act.” This binding legislation calls on both the federal government and Congress to conserve gasoline by lowering their usage 3% for one year. The bill also asks the Energy Information Administration to study the effects of imposing a national speed limit of 60 miles per hour.
Warner recently requested that the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) study the imposition of the 55 mph speed limit in the US in 1974 to determine whether the administration and Congress should take similar action now. (Earlier post.)
The 3% reduction is the same amount by which federal agencies were required to reduce their energy usage in buildings and at facilities in the “Energy Independent and Security Act of 2007,” (EISA 2007).
While you may have to get to work 3 minutes later... "IF" we want to lower highway deaths?Consumption of 3% of gas? A billion in road repairs? Millions in tire wear? Lower the cost of shipping crap around?
More than 210 million litres of radioactive and chemical waste are stored in 177 underground tanks at Hanford in Washington State. Most are over 50 years old. Already 67 of the tanks have failed, leaking almost 4 million litres of waste into the ground.
There are now "serious questions about the tanks' long-term viability," says a Government Accountability Office report, which strongly criticises the US Department of Energy for delaying an $8 billion programme to empty the tanks and treat the waste. The DoE says the clean-up is "technically challenging" and argues that it is making progress in such a way as to protect human health and the environment.
The DoE's plan, however, is "faith-based", says Robert Alvarez, an authority on Hanford at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC. "The risk of catastrophic tank failure will sharply increase as each year goes by," he says, "and one of the nation's largest rivers, the Columbia, will be in jeopardy."
Jul 17, 2008
Richard Branson believes biofuels are the answer to guilt-free flying. But there is growing evidence that they are a downward spiral to increasing carbon emissions. Jackie Jacobsen reports It’s not enough for Richard Branson to plaster his trademark V on every industry...read more
Reuter- WASHINGTON - The United States unveiled plans on Tuesday to bury climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions deep underground to keep the greenhouse gas from further heating up the atmosphere.
The burial process, known as carbon capture and storage or geologic sequestration, has long been part of the Bush administration's strategy to combat climate change without imposing any economy-wide limit on carbon emissions.
But this is the first time the US government has proposed requirements on how to do it. No federal rule is expected until late 2010 at the earliest, according to Benjamin Grumbles of the Environmental Protection Agency.
HAASE - Why is this insanity? This is a short term REACTIVE fix that will deplete economy and finite coal & oil reserves... It allows us to continue pushing off inevitable conservation and technology programs required for a sustainable future.
- Comprehensive IPCC study
- And the "CCS" for dummies at Low Tech Magazine
- Or a whose "left and right" CCS debate view point at GRIST
Jul 16, 2008
Steve Spence from green-trust.org returned from Enviroweek. One of the most promising solutions was presented by West Indies Power (WIP), and centers on installing high voltage undersea power lines from nearby volcanic geothermal plants on Nevis and Saba. This electricity, provided to local power companies at $0.12 / kWh, is less expensive than the current $0.19 / kWh fuel component, which is expected to spike to astronomical levels, before becoming unavailable due to larger economies outbidding the islands to feed their burgeoning growth.
dehumidifier creates purified water, free of chemicals, chlorine, chalk or any other preservative agents.
the Enviro Week show in St. Maarten, we met Bruno Therond and his water makers. He kept us hydrated all weekend with these awesome machines:
The Air/Water Generator (AWG) Technology condenses moisture in the air “water from the atmosphere” and purify it into a superior grade of purified, potable water. While the principle & technology is well known as a refrigerated dehumidifier the application to AWGs are fairly new and the water collected is purified and stored instead of being disposed off.
The key challenge is to keep the clean drinking water purified until consumption.
The water produced remain purified through an elaborate system using 5 stages of filtration including ultra violet light to ensure complete sterilization of all water born bacteria.
These environmentally friendly, low voltage, chemical free, 100% independent automatic water supply can provide from 24 to 5000 liters of water per day for drinking water and additional purposes & water needs, (irrigation, cisterns, animals, etc.)
There is no connection to any water supply what so ever, no bottles to be delivered, no pipes.
The purified water quality is free of chemicals, chlorine, chalk or any other preservative agents.
It is a dehumidifier.
It also recycles and cleans the air you breathe. Find out more at: green-trust.org
Jul 15, 2008
Tell them something new and they will hate you for it
UN report finds life is getting better for people worldwide – but that governments are failing to grasp the opportunities offered at 'a unique time'.