Tag Archives: renewable

Subsidies good – for new tech

Rooftop solar panels could become part of a neighborhood microgrid.A few years ago, I wrote about the subsidy Pennsylvanians give to oil companies. I’d done some research and some math, and calculated that if we paid the subsidies at the pump rather than in our tax bill, gasoline would cost slightly north of $16 a gallon. We are still paying, but it’s likely more now.

Natural gas is plentiful and, for now, cheap, but it was the United States government that used taxpayers’ money to make fracking an economically viable process.

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No speed record – yet

Solar Impulse 2 over Abu DhabiThe aircraft took off from Nagoya, Japan, Sunday on a planned 120-hour flight to Hawaii. Clearly, it is not out for a speed record; it was cruising at a ground speed of about 10 miles an hour when I watched it online.

In 2010, the craft flew a then-record breaking 26 consecutive hours. When it landed, it reportedly had enough battery left for another six hours in the air. Only five years later, the flight from Japan to Hawaii is scheduled for nearly five times as long. The goal is a 13-segment flight around the world – a seemingly easy feat for nearly any four-motored aircraft – except this one is powered by the sun.

Solar panels on the wings and fuselage charge the batteries during the day, while the airplane climbs as high as 30,000 feet. Then during the night, it runs the battery-powered motors in a long, slow, descent. Along the way, pilot and CEO André Borschberg snatches 20-minute naps.

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Electricity-water “collisions” becoming increasingly frequent

Fracking fluid spilled in a stream eventually may find its way to the Chesapeake Bay“Electricity-water collisions” is a term that’s reportedly been around a couple years, but it hasn’t had much attention. Summer 2012 may change that. According to a post by a Union of Concerned Scientist’s senior climate and energy analyst, Erika Spanger-Siegfried, “Our electricity system, it turns out, wasn’t built for summers like 2012, and it showed.”

Summer 2012 proved, or at least strengthened, the dual argument that global warming is real, and continued operation of air conditioners in an effort to pretend otherwise is not a divinely declared certainty.

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Some encouragement required

American wind farms mean American jobs and cleaner air.I’m watching an old black and white movie on television, “Cow Country,” made in 1953. It’s about times economic change in the 19th Century West, and cattlemen having a rough time adjusting.

Their situation was like oil companies of the 21st Century saying wind and solar will not work – because it’s easier and more profitable to keep doing what they’re doing than figure out how to do something new.

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Coal, nukes, fracking and 16.9-ounce plastic bottles

A reservoir outflow is dry and rocky with water in the impound more than two feet below normal.Throughout this nation’s history, we have counted on a plentiful supply of water.

With 75 percent of the Earth’s surface covered by water, goes the old adage, clearly man was meant to spend 75 percent of his time fishing.

Unfortunately, with 75 percent of the planet covered by water, the majority of the Earth’s surface, once warmed, will stay that way – or get warmer.

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Demand for electricity straining water supplies

Rivers streams and lakes are jeopardized by our insatiable thirst for electricityThe Chicago Tribune reported last week nuclear and coal-fired power plants along the Great Lakes have been granted waivers to release hotter-than-normal water into the lakes, causing fish to die or migrate to deeper, cooler locales. Plant operators say they need the waivers because shutting down the plants will cost them profits and make them unable to supply electricity for their elderly customers.

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Pocket change: Fracking industry invests $23M in Pa legislature, reaps $1T profit

Fracking money pours from a golden faucet into capitol dome inverted to be a funnelAccording to a release last week by MarcellusMoney.org, the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry has spent $23 million in direct contributions to favored legislator campaigns and lobbying efforts since 2000.

The big winners in the Cash for Legislation sweepstakes between 2000 and April 2012 were:

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Wind helping blow coal away – in the U.S., anyway

Wyoming and Pennsylvania have some of the most reliable wind in the nationThe largest wind farm in the world may be coming to the Wyoming prairie. And smaller farms are in the works offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The Wyoming project would comprise up to 1,000 turbines, generating enough electricity to serve a million homes. The project, in two groups of turbines named, respectively, the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre sites, would occupy about 2,000 acres of public and private land south of Rawlins. Together, the two farms could replace two coal-fired generating plants in nearby Nevada.

The Bureau of Land Management has completed the final environmental impact statements …

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Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

Sign identifies Range Resources drill site and DCNR permit for five million gallons a day water useLower-than-hyped revenue, plunging natural gas prices, and growing environmental concerns could spell trouble for the Marcellus Shale industry.

It’s attempt to recover corporate value could be problematic for Pennsylvanians at both ends of the state, as natural gas producers leave the northeast for the, hopefully, more profitable western hills.

While those away from the drilling fields see little effect from the industry’s efforts, those within it notice promised riches, flammable water, and eviction notices.

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Some Marcellus-related companies may be boosting profits by importing illegal workers

A quarter mile from a Marcellus Shale job site, WV union workers protest imported laborers

A newspaper story Thursday reported a federal indictment against a Texas-based company accused of bringing illegal workers to Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale fracking fields.

Coincidentally, workers in West Virginia are staffing road-side positions, protesting the practice of some Marcellus-related companies bringing out-of-state workers to take jobs for which local workers are available.

“We have a lot of people trained to do the work,” Stephen “Vern” Montoney, of Randolph County, W.Va told me last week.

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While we continue to subsidize fossil fuels, at least one American industrial giant invests in green technology in, of all places …

Masdar, a city in the middle of a desert with zero carbon emissions
While some of our politicians and fossil fuel barons try, with varying success, to convince us we’re not digging up enough coal, oil or natural gas, the folks who we are told are selling us our oil are busy building a city that doesn’t need it.

For the first time in more than a half-century, the U.S. exports more fuel than it imports. We still are the world’s largest importer of crude oil, but a huge portion of the imported crude becomes exported product, including fuels. Continue reading

Sometimes it takes us all

A row of 300-foot tall wind turbines visible from the Pennsylvania turnpikeWind power, a Pennsylvania state politician recently said, is accomplishing one thing: spending taxpayer money.

But there is growing evidence it is doing other, more positive things, such as creating jobs and supplying the electrical grid – with considerably less risk than the Keystone State’s other burgeoning energy source.

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Late may not be better than never

50-foot wide pipeline path cuts through Loyalsock forestLast month, the EPA announced new regulations that will require natural gas drillers to capture the methane they ordinarily allow to escape before they cap their well. The new rules take effect in 2015.

Last week, the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, announced proposed regulations that would require drillers to tell us what chemicals they are pumping into the ground – and sometimes spilling onto the ground and into our waters – to release natural gas by fracturing shale thousands of feet underground.

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Computers are good at step-by-step, but only a human can be, well, human

r-pod camper and Jeep Grand Cherokee tow vehicle in campgroundWe had picked up the Messeder Space Pod in Myrtle Beach on a Thursday afternoon and headed home. Somewhere a little south of Petersburg, Va., we decided to start looking for a place to pull in for the night.

So we asked Sally G, our faithful GPS, to find one. She found several. We picked the closest one and dialed the phone number. A fellow whose gravelly voice came from National Geographic’s “Swamp Men,” only friendlier, listened patiently while I described where I was – some exit off I-95, northbound toward home.

“It’s not that I don’t want your business,” the proprietor said, “but I’m over on (Interstate) 85, and that’s pretty much out of your way.”

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Hydroelectric power – an alternative to burning dead carbon lifeforms

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the nation’s dams not currently being used to generate electricity could, if equipped, supply more than 12 gigawatts of power to run coffee pots, computers and cars.

One gigawatt is enough to electrify about 300,000 homes. That’s more than seven counties the size of the 100,000-person one in which I live in southcentral Pennsylvania.

And some of the dams probably would be cost effective to upgrade and equip. … Continue reading …

EPA regs not to blame for refinery shutdowns

One of the real reasons East Coast refineries are shutting downAccording to several sources, including the refinery owners, the U.S. EPA is not the source of their woes – unless we count a planned 25 percent increase in U.S. vehicle gas mileage scheduled by 2015. … Continue reading …

Just how much does a gallon of gas cost, anyway

We may pay $3.95 at the pump, but the actual cost is much higher.The U.S. Senate this week decisively shot down a proposal to eliminate subsidies to Big Oil & Gas.

The tally was 51 senators, including two Republicans – from Maine – voting to end the subsidies, and 47, including four Democrats – from Alaska, Lousiana, Nebraska and Virginia – voting to keep them. The 100-seat senate has a nifty rule in place designed to increase the power of the minority party: 60 votes are required to pass a bill.

It’s probably coincidental that the four states whose Democrat senators opposed the repeal are heavily involved in oil production or transportation.

Pennsylvania Democrat Sen. Bob Casey voted to repeal the subsidies, and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey voted to keep them.

A report published last year said Pennsylvanians provide nearly $3 billion in subsidies to fossil fuel producers. It’s a subject that draws little media attention. … Continue reading …

Wind off the Gitche Gumee (Lake Superior) and the other Great Lakes could power U.S. homes

Wind from the Great Lakes could supply the U.S. with more electricity than 700 nuclear power plants, according to a statement Friday by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The DOE made the claim while announcing a Memorandum of Understanding between the department and five states – Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania – that could lead to creation of the requisite generating facilities. The agreement, DOE said, is part of the Obama Administration’s “all of the above” approach to U.S. energy independence.

“President Obama is focused on leveraging American energy sources, including increased oil and gas production, the safe development of nuclear power, as well as renewable energy from sources like wind and solar, which is on track to double in the President’s first term,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, during a telephone conference call with reporters Friday. … Continue reading …

Clean the air, subsidize a business or two, and all with free money

Look, Ma. No fumes, no spills.California has a suggestion for Pennsylvania: use some money won from companies which have harmed Pennsylvanians’ health – tobacco money comes quickest to mind – to improve the health of the aforementioned residents.

Help support electric cars, for instance, in a public-private partnership that offers something more than tax breaks to petroleum fuel producers.

The Golden State has won $120 million from resolution of a power crisis a decade ago, in which companies such as Enron shut down power plants to create electricity pseudo-shortages and drive up consumer prices.

Now California intends to use $100 million of the money to help a company build electric car charging networks in densely populated areas such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and the San Joaquin Valley – areas that could benefit from a reduction in gasoline-powered vehicles that daily are stuck in barely rolling traffic jams, replenishing any smog the sea winds might have blown away.

The remaining $20 million reportedly will benefit programs to lower consumer electricity costs.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett wants to place money from the state’s tobacco settlement into the General Fund, where it can be spent on … lots of things his constituents want, or think they want, especially if what they want involves burning fossil fuels. … Continue reading …

Renewable energy has jobs for the future, now

An array of wind turbines near the Pennsylvania Turnpike Somerset service areaAmid the political posturing about the nation’s unemployment rate, two encouraging tidbits surfaced in the news flow this week.
The first item was that rising unemployment numbers might well indicate increasing numbers of jobs. Counter-intuitive, but true.

The second item to grab my ear was there are plenty of new jobs in the renewable energy industry, particularly for anyone interested in climbing 300-foot high wind-power towers to maintain the turbines.

And interested also, possibly, in moving from where they live to where the jobs are. (There was a time in this nation’s history when it was normal to move one’s residency for promise of income.)

For instance, Oklahoma has been beneficiary of a boom in wind-power generation, with small, jobless towns gaining treasure in much the way northern tier Pennsylvania towns have benefited from the Marcellus Shale … Read it all …