Monday, July 28, 2008

Carbon Capture Sequestration is Needed Soon

The world’s population continues to grow and along with it so grows our dependence on electricity. The world is not adopting alternative and renewable fuel sources such as solar, wind, wave, etc quickly enough, so plans are being drawn up to build new coal-fired power plants around the world.

E.on, the German energy giant based in Düsseldorf, Germany, wants to build a new coal plant at Kingsnorth in Kent, England. Protesters and scientists want to stop the plan from going forward unless it is linked to a carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility which would store its emissions underground. The proposed plant has no CCS plans for Kingsnorth and so its CO2 emissions would vent into the atmosphere. Protesters will not be able to stop the proposed construction of the plant and an E.on company spokesman said they have obtained injunctions to give police more powers to arrest protesters.

With the threat of violence between environmentalists and power plant owners heading towards the boiling point, CCS research needs to be finalized soon.

E.on currently has three new pilot projects to develop CO2 capture technology in cooperation with other companies based in Canada, U.S. and Japan. The three test plants will all be built in Germany. The three projects join four existing projects that E.on is pursuing together with Alstom, Hitachi Power Europe, Siemens and TNO.

The purpose behind cooperating with so many different companies is to test the capture mechanisms with several plant construction methods.

Germany appears to be taking their role in this potentially lucrative field very seriously. Just how serious is England in its quest to be one of the world’s leaders in carbon capture technology? Despite its promise of ‘urgent detailed implementation plan’s for carbon capture nearly five years ago, it is still only intending to help fund one small-scale project which should be operational by 2014. Companies taking part in the competition to build this demonstration plant are not even sure how much money they will receive.

This month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency only just began working on the regulatory framework for this potential weapon against climate change. Estimates suggest there is enough geologic space in the U.S. to store more than 3,000 gigatons of CO2, enough to store emissions from nearly 1,000 coal-fired power plants for a millennium. CCS, however, is in its infancy and not practiced on a broad scale in the U.S. but actual production needs to take place in order to keep up with Germany.

The European Union is testing several projects and on Wednesday gave Norway additional funds for an experimental CCS project at a gas-fired power plant. The Alberta government in Canada said last week it will spend $2 billion on major CCS projects.

Other countries pursuing CCS include Australia and Japan. By 2012, the global CCS market could top $236 billion.

With coal providing 25% of global primary energy needs and generating 40% of the world’s electricity, as well as being one of the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, there is doubt that coal will be replaced by alternative energy sources any time soon. This is manly due to the cheaper cost of burning coal versus oil or natural gas.

Research into CCS is urgently needed in order to keep up with the inevitable rising trend in building new coal-fired power plants. And it appears we are on the right track, but it is going to take at least another five to ten years before we begin seeing clearer skies around these mammoth polluters. Whether we will see CCS come to fruition in time to be our saving grace from choking out the planet remains to be seen. But with Germany taking the lead in the race we will know the answer sooner than we would from these other countries.

Further reading:
World Resources Institute
Science Daily

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

California’s Workable Solution to Funding Solar?

Two California cities have come up with an innovative method that could incentivize the much needed move towards the use of solar panels. The solar loan law, sponsored by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), will ‘allow’ cities and counties to make low-interest loans to homeowners and businesses to install solar panels, high-efficiency air conditioners and other improvements to save energy.

The best part of the package is that homeowners can pay back the loans as part of their property taxes. If they move, the improvements and loan balance are transferred to the next owner.

This plan reduces the upfront costs associated with solar panel installation and reduces the risk that the investment will be lost when people sell their homes.

Three thoughts come immediately to mind.
One-(on the positive side) the installation of solar panels will increase the resale value of homes, a much needed incentive for this crippled housing marketing, although it still won’t guarantee the homes sale.
Two-(on the potentially negative side) the wording of this bill is suspicious in that it uses the word ‘allow’. There are no guarantees that cities will actually loan money to property owners and there is no incentive for them to do so.
Third-(on the negative side) rebates of the cost of the systems are running about 25% and are declining due to several factors, one being homeowners are simply not taking advantages of them. So, unless the home owner is motivated by the possibility of reselling excess energy back to the power company, I don’t see this bill being of much use to anyone.

Palm Desert, a city with an aging population and high air-conditioning costs, already has a list of interested customers and has created the Palm Desert Energy Independence Program to offer the loans, setting a goal of reducing energy consumption by 30% over five years.

Berkeley has decided to support the loan program and has created “Berkeley FIRST”, but it is still in the planning stages.

Everyone is familiar with solar cells, they have been used for years, mainly on calculators, emergency road signs, parking lot lights, and even accent lights around your home. But it will probably take a major increase in the cost of power production similar to what is happening at the gas pump before people will get serious about adopting this cleaner power source.

Last year, Colorado State University discovered a method of manufacturing low-cost high-efficiency solar panels that will be ready for mass production by the end of 2008. Perhaps this will be the push needed to jump start the “solar revolution”.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Higher Food Prices and Biofuel Production, There is a Connection

As everyone without the power to do anything about it already knows, the push for biofuels is the leading factor in the increase in worldwide food prices.

Despite what our government has been trying to push off as fact, a new study has proven they are lying to us. And here is why.

Biofuels is a new market with the potential of huge profit for corporate America therefore the American government is doing everything it can to ensure its success, even at the risk of causing millions of world citizens to go deeper into poverty or to die of starvation, even at the risk of costing millions of Americans more money at the supermarket, even at the risk of alienating American voters. Money talks louder than any group of protesters and any group of people writing blogs trying to get the truth out to fellow Americans who refuse to take the time to educate themselves to what is really going on.

The World Bank reports that biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% while our government holds fast to its claims that biofuel production’s effect is only 3%. Any thinking person can look at how much corn has been diverted from food production to biofuel production (over one third) and can reasonably conclude that food prices are going to suffer.

This report was completed in April 2008 and has yet to be published because the World Bank is worried about embarrassing an America President who has attained the lowest approval rating of any past President.

Also, the British government has withheld its own report on the impact of biofuels, the Gallagher Report, which states that plant based fuels have played a “significant” part in pushing food prices up to record levels.

Does anyone out there have any doubt remaining about where the loyalties of the powers that be lie? Those loyalties are certainly not with the voters who put them into office.

The U.S. government doesn’t want the everyday Joe to know that ethanol can be made cheaper from other non-edible substances because if a significant number of Americans know this then the government would look foolish over giving so much in subsidies to corn farmers. But then again the Bush administration has already shown that it doesn’t give a damn about what Americans want, it’s all about how much money corporations can make.

Bush continues his charade of the causation of higher food prices by placing the blame on higher demand from China and India. But the World Bank study disputes that "Rapid income growth in developing countries has not led to large increases in global grain consumption and was not a major factor responsible for the large price increases."

Even successive droughts in Australia, calculates the report, have had a marginal impact. Instead, it argues that the EU and US drive for biofuels has had by far the biggest impact on food supply and prices.

The report points out biofuels derived from sugarcane, which Brazil specializes in, have not had such a dramatic impact. But sugarcane for biofuel production does not create a large enough market as does corn for biofuel and therefore American corporations would not stand to make as much money from using it.

Producing and using ethanol would help ease global warming, to some extent, but why do we have to pay for this in higher food prices and more deaths?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Drive Faster or Save Nature?

Why destroy natural habitat and bleed our bank accounts just so we don’t have to change our ways?

According to the Alliance to Save Energy the best way to deal with rising gas prices is to:
- drive 5% less
- slow down
- inflate your tires

Sounds simple enough.

If everyone followed these simple steps U.S. oil consumption would decrease by 1.3 million barrels a day, immediately.

If we do this then we would not need to search for more oil. Oil companies could not say they have to rip out nature to feed our unquenchable thirst for more oil.

We are still using plastic bags and plastic water containers by the billions. We are still driving like there is no shortage. I get passed by people on the freeway every day. Somebody out there is not slowing down. Somebody out there is still buying water in plastic bottles.

Figures claim that we are driving less, and mass transit ridership is up. Let’s don’t just rely on them to reduce our dependence on oil let’s all jump in and help.

We all complain about being forced to pay more for gasoline and instead of following these simple common sense steps that would save us money and cut down on the amount of oil we consume the U.S. wants to drill for more oil. When George W Bush wants to drill for more oil it should send up a red flag that we should not drill for more oil. He is only going to help his ‘big oil’ friends bottom line. Face it people we have reached maximum capacity without destroying more natural habitat. And we can do something about it.

Please, slow down, quit accelerating so hard, and maintain your vehicle. Think about what your personal habits are costing every one. If you don’t care about what it is costing everyone else then think about how much money you personally could save if you just followed these simple, very reasonable, steps.

Where are you going in such a hurry?

According to Julius Pretterebner, a vehicles and alternative-fuels expert at Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a consultancy that does a lot of work for the oil companies, how fast people drive and how quickly they accelerate is responsible for 10% to 30% of fuel consumption.

Are Americans so unyielding to reason that we refuse to follow simple, common sense steps that will save us money.

We can’t slow down those fools who think they have to pass everyone on the road but we certainly have the power not to be one of them.