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.Read more

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.Read more

Electricity-water “collisions” becoming increasingly frequent

“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.”Read more

Some encouragement required

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 moreRead more

Coal, nukes, fracking and 16.9-ounce plastic bottles

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,Read more

Demand for electricity straining water supplies

The 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 themRead more

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

The 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 twoRead more

Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

Lower-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 drillingRead more

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

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 lotRead more

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.Read more

Sometimes it takes us all

Wind 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. Continue reading …Read more

Late may not be better than never

Last 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 usRead more

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 inRead more

EPA regs not to blame for refinery shutdowns

According 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 …Read more

Just how much does a gallon of gas cost, anyway

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 senateRead more

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

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. TheRead more

Renewable energy has jobs for the future, now

Amid 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 renewableRead more

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