31 July 2010

Dennis Gets It!!!

30 July 2010

Dennis Gets It!!!

29 July 2010

Oil Spill Update

28 July 2010

Oil Spill Update

26 July 2010

No Comment Needed

25 July 2010

24 July 2010

Texas Town Installs a Monster Battery for Backup Power

An aging transmission line built in 1948 is the only link between the U.S. power grid and the little city of Presidio in West Texas. So Presidio has invested in a single huge battery that can power the entire town and serve as emergency backup for the frequent outages caused by the line going down, NPR reports.
The huge battery began charging up this week and can store up to four megawatts of power for up to eight hours. It represents the first NaS battery in Texas and the biggest in the U.S., and has already earned the local nickname of BOB (big-old battery).
Before BOB's arrival, the Texas town had an agreement with the Mexican government that allowed it to transfer the town's electrical load over to Mexico -- but that took time and left people without power for a certain period.
Similar room-sized sodium sulfur (NaS) batteries have already found growing use among U.S. utility companies that want to put off expensive upgrades for the power grid or building new transmission lines. USA Today notes that the batteries, built by NGK Insulators of Japan, store energy and can help ease blackouts for cities.

Electric Transmission Texas helped put the battery project together for around $25 million. But the utility has also agreed to build a second 60-mile transmission line to Presidio for about $44 million by 2012.
Such a battery could also serve as a test bed for utility companies to see how the devices can help with energy storage regarding renewable energy, such as wind power or solar power. That sounds good to us, as long as utility companies don't simply lean on the batteries as a technological crutch to avoid giving the power grid its much-needed makeover.

23 July 2010

22 July 2010

Don't Believe Me? Ask Lloyd's of London

A newly released report from Lloyds Insurance and Chatham House does an amazing job of putting the case for Transition to a business audience (you can download it here).

We can expect dramatic changes in the energy sector in the coming decades. This report encourages businesses, both in the energy sector and beyond, to look at how this will impact on their firms. The transition towards a lowcarbon economy and the interim volatility in traditional fossil fuel markets presents businesses with numerous risks but also opportunities. In order to reduce potential vulnerability and seize opportunities, business should be aware that:

1. Energy security is now inseparable from the transition to a low-carbon economy and businesses plans should prepare for this new reality. Security of supply and emissions reduction objectives should be addressed equally, as prioritising one over the other will increase the risk of stranded investments or requirements for expensive retro-fitting.

2. Traditional fossil fuel resources face serious supply constraints and an oil supply crunch is likely in the short-to-medium term with profound consequences for the way in which business functions today. Businesses would benefit from taking note of the impacts of the oil price spikes and shocks in 2008 and implementing the appropriate mitigation actions. A scenario planning approach may also help assess potential future outcomes and help inform strategic business decisions.

3. A ‘third industrial revolution’ in the energy sector presents huge opportunities but also brings new risks. Of particular importance for new technologies is the risk of constraints on raw materials such as rare earth metals, as scarcity may drive up costs. The rapid and widespread diffusion of some new technologies may also incur negative environmental implications.

4. Energy infrastructure will be increasingly vulnerable to unanticipated severe weather events caused by changing climate patterns leading to a greater frequency of brownouts and supply disruptions for business. This throws out a critical challenge to energy providers, investors and planners in terms of choosing the location of new infrastructure and fortifying existing plants and networks. Those businesses for which uninterrupted access to energy is of fundamental importance should actively consider investing in alternative energy supply systems.

5. Increasing energy costs as a result of reduced availability, higher global demand and carbon pricing are best tackled in the short term by changes in practices or via the use of technology to reduce energy consumption. The wider use of renewable energy and even self generation, bring added price and supply security benefits.

6. The sooner that businesses reassess global supply chains and just-in-time models, and increase the resilience of their logistics against energy supply disruptions, the better. The current system is increasingly vulnerable to disruption, given the trends outlined in this report.

7. While the vast majority of investment in the energy transition will come from the private sector, governments have an important role in delivering policies and measures that create the necessary investment conditions and incentives. If the global carbon market is to become a reality then government action must be taken to bring additional price stability and transparency. Investing in a secure, low-carbon energy future may have higher upfront costs, but will deliver lower cost energy in the future. Sound renewable energy and demand side measures are crucial elements in delivering the necessary energy services for businesses and the expected return on investments.

21 July 2010

Shale gas — the hydrofracking wars

By Dave Cohen

Published Jun 28 2010 by Decline of the Empire,

Josh Fox's film Gasland has stirred up a lot of controversy over the environmental damage caused by shale gas drilling. Shale gas reservoir rock lies many thousands of feet below the surface, with the depth depending on the location. In order to get the gas to flow up to the wellhead, operators drill down to the shale rock layer, and then apply a process called hydraulic fracturing to "open up" the rock. This requires injecting a fracturing fluid into the shale at very high pressure. This fluid is mostly water, but also contains hundreds of nasty chemicals.

Where do the gas, the chemicals, and the contaminated water end up? The best outcome says that all three 1) flow up to the wellhead, where they are captured or produced; or 2) stay trapped in the shale rock many thousands of feet below the surface. This description is over-simplified, but basically correct. The gas industry wants you to believe this story. Josh Fox wants you to believe that these gas or fluids get loose, flowing into the water table or the air, and thus polluting both.

Which story should you believe?

You should believe both of these stories. How many times in the last 40 years have we seen this narrative play out? The answer is too many times to count. Does drilling and hydro-fracking sometimes pollute the environment? Sure it does! Does a bear shit in the woods? On the other hand, shale gas production is perfectly safe most of the time. No one really knows how frequently drilling pollutes the environment in a serious way, which is really the immediate issue at hand.

But we need to step back and look at the Big Picture. Do we need the natural gas? Yes, indeed—see my Betting The House On Shale Gas. Do we want to further pollute the environment? No, of course not—see any story on the BP oil spill. This is the bed we have made, and now we have to sleep in it.

Where are the wind farms, and the solar concentrators, and the whatevers which are supposed to alleviate pressures to produce more & more natural gas? They don't exist! We could re-frame that question. Where are the natural gas vehicle fleets & infrastructure that could alleviate pressures to produce more & more oil? They don't exist! I could go on and on here, and the answer would always be the same: They don't exist!

OK, why don't they exist? Once again, we get into two narratives. The oil & gas industry will tell you that renewable energy is not up to the task of replacing fossil fuels. The environmentalists will tell you the political power of the oil & gas industry prevents us from implementing renewable solutions. I could write a book about this too, but take note: we are still trapped in the same old pointless conflict. People want a sustainably clean environment, but they also want their homes heated (or cooled) and their lights to come on when they flip the switch.

In other words, we want to have our cake and eat it too. How do we break out of this vicious circle? One way we could have escaped would been to have a coherent, universally agreed upon energy policy in place over the last 3 decades after the energy dislocations of the 1970s and early 1980s. That policy could have been amended as circumstances changed. But it was way too much for us to expect such a wise policy in Cowboy America. No can do—we'll just make it up as we go along.

So, we don't break out of this vicious circle. This infantile Fossil Fuels versus The Environment debate has gone on for about 40 years now. This noise will continue well into the future until all the Big Questions have finally been resolved. And that resolution will mean that sometime in the 21st century, we will have exhausted most of our exploitable fossil fuel resources, and we will have trashed the planet.

All because we wanted to have our cake and to eat it too.

20 July 2010

Policies of St. Ronnie Ruined America

Cross Posted from Jobsanger

If you listen to conservatives you might think that Ronald Reagan was one of our greatest presidents. Even today, they are preaching a return to the policies of the dead president. They point to the time of his presidency as a time of economic benefit for almost all Americans.

They may have a small point. During the early years of his presidency, Americans were doing well. But they were doing well thanks to the efforts of the administrations that preceded the Reagan administration. The sad fact is that the policies that Reagan put into place started a long slow slide into the economic mess that we are now experiencing.

Reagan's idea was that if we just removed the regulations inhibiting Wall Street and American corporations the resulting economic growth would be of benefit to everyone in the society. He called it the "trickle down" theory. The theory said that as businesses (mainly the giant corporations and financial institutions) prospered, much of the money they made would trickle down to workers.

This simply didn't work. Actually less money filtered down to workers as the unregulated corporations depressed wages to make even larger profits, and the poor were left completely out of the equation. It didn't work because Reagan (never an economic genius) bought into the corporate lies and got economic reality exactly backwards -- money doesn't trickle down in a capitalist economy, it flows upward (when the workers have money everyone benefits, including businesses).

Even though the right-wing denies that the current economic mess is due to policies put into place during the Reagan administration (and accelerated during the George W. Bush administration), there is evidence that "Reaganism" had seriously hurt America. The folks over at AlterNet have published six revealing charts which show how American economic well-being has degenerated. And oddly enough, these six things started degenerating in the early years of the Reagan administration (1981-82) -- all six of them!

One of these might be a coincidence -- maybe even two. But six things traced back to the same period of time shows a clear failure of Reagan's policies. Here is what the AlterNet charts show:

1. Around 1981-82 the United States started a downward movement from a creditor nation to a debtor nation. The U.S. net international investment dropped by over 30% (as a percentage of GDP).
2. Around 1981-82 the worker's share of benefits from increased production (which had been relatively flat through both Democratic and Republican administrations) began to steadily drop. There was a small period of recovery during the Clinton's second term, but then dropped even more precipitously when Bush took office and continued Reagan's policies.
3. Around 1981-82 the concentration of wealth among the richest 10% of the population began to steadily rise. They went from owning less than 35% of America's wealth to currently owning well over half of the country's wealth.
4. Around 1982 the personal saving rate of American workers began to drop. It fell from 11.2% to a saving rate in the negative percentages (2006 was -1.1%) as workers have had to start spending their savings just to live.
5. Around 1981-82 total household debt (as a percentage of GDP) began to climb from less than 50% to over 100%.
6. Around 1981-82 nominal GDP growth began to fall from a healthy 3.0% to less than 0.5%.

Put all these factors together and you have the makings for an economy in crises -- our current recession. And every single one of them can be traced right back to policies instituted during the first Reagan administration. I'm not trying to excuse George W. Bush. He accelerated the impending crises with free-spending coupled with tax cuts. But the genesis of the current crises was the policies instituted under Ronald Reagan.

"Saint Ronnie" was not only not a good president, but he was a bad president who planted the seeds of our economic destruction.
Posted by Ted McLaughlin

19 July 2010

Vote Republican and Starve!

Cross Posted from Jobsanger

The political and economic pundits are still trying to tell Americans that the recession (depression?) is over and things are now starting to get better. I wish that was true, but it's not. According to the Labor Department, after a couple of months in which a thimble-full of jobs were created, the United States again showed a net loss of jobs last month.

Some economists are crowing over the 83,000 jobs created in the private sector last month (a drop in the bucket alongside the 12-15 million jobs lost so far in this recession) and the drop in the unemployment rate edged down to 9.5% by government figures. But that only counts the people receiving unemployment or still periodically making the futile trip to the unemployment office. The real figure is probably upwards of 15% or 16% at least.

According to the government there are 14.6 million unemployed people. Then there are another 2.6 million people who are called "marginally attached" to the work force (they want and are available for work but have given up trying to find work). And the number of people who would like full-time work but have been forced into part-time jobs are 8.6 million. That means there are 25.8 million people in this country who would like a full-time job but cannot find one.

If the country were to add 100,000 jobs a month (which we are not doing), it would take 258 months (or 21.5 years) to put all these people to work, and that doesn't take into account the new people who enter the work search every year (college and high school graduates and drop-outs). And the truth of the matter is that there were 125,000 less jobs in June than the month before. We are making little to no headway on the jobs front.

Another part of the economy that economists have been bragging about lately is the weak rebound in housing. But it looks like that may be over too. All parts of the country show much weaker growth in sales of both new and used homes in May (a drop of at least 30% and the worst month in over a year).

And in the midst of all this misery the Republicans still think the deficit is the most important thing. They say everything will be all right if we just reduce the deficit. What nonsense! The truth is if we put massive amounts of people back to work the deficit will drop because of all the new taxes being paid, and if we don't the only people the deficit will matter to are the rich (who will be stuck with the bill).

As usual, the Republicans don't care about anyone but the rich, and seek to keep them from being taxed to help everyone else. They don't seem to care that millions of people are out of work and millions more are underemployed and underpaid. They recently killed a bill that would extend unemployment payments (an economic stimulator) and another that would help homeless veterans. They also oppose new job creation help from the government.

This recession is far from over, and if we follow the Republican policies it will take many more years to climb out of it (if ever). But they don't care. The rich are making money just like they did back during the Depression (the ones that survived the Crash). As workers lose houses and farms, they are there to snap them up at bargain prices.

If you like this recession, then you should vote Republican this Fall (because they'll keep it going for a long time). If you don't, then you should be doing your best to put even more Democrats in Congress (especially the Senate). Republican policies have put us well on the way to becoming a third-world country. We must elect enough Democrats to make sure those policies are eradicated.
Posted by Ted McLaughlin

18 July 2010

No Comment Needed

16 July 2010

OK VA it's your turn

15 July 2010

14 July 2010

Europe Will Be Powered By Saharan Sun in Five Years

The super-sized solar projects being built in the Sahara desert will start generating and providing Europe with clean energy within the next five years, according to the European energy commissioner. This is much sooner, than the initial 10-year time frame given to the project.

The EU and many European companies are helping to fund a large scheme of solar projects in Northern Africa called Desertec in hopes of using that energy to meet a target of having 20 percent of its energy come from renewables by 2020. The first phase of projects will have a capacity in the hundreds of megawatts, while over the next 20 to 40 years, the capacity will reach hundreds of gigawatts.

The electricity will be transmitted to Europe with new inter-connector cables being constructed under the Mediterranean Sea, but will also service African nations.

13 July 2010

Cheaper, Spray-On Solar Panels Could Appear in Three Years

AUSTIN, TX — Researchers at the University of Texas have developed a method to create photovoltaic panels at one-tenth the cost of existing technologies using nanoparticle "inks" to generate electricity from the sun.

The group, lead by Brian Korgel in the University's chemical engineering department, predicts that the technology, which would allow solar panels to be painted on rooftops or the sides of buildings, could be market-ready in three to five years.

"The sun provides a nearly unlimited energy resource," Korgel said in a statement, "but existing solar energy harvesting technologies are prohibitively expensive and cannot compete with fossil fuels."

The technology has been in development for the past two years, with Korgel collaborating with professors Al Bard and Paul Barbara, both of the University of Texas's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Professor Ananth Dodabalapur of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. The team last year published a proof of concept paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

When the technology has been improved, the panels could consist of inks painted on plastic or stainless steel, or directly onto buildings themselves. While the technology has yet to reach efficiency levels of existing solar technologies -- currently the spray-on panels are just 1 percent efficient, while existing panels can reach 25 percent efficiency or more -- using the nanoparticles can potentially boost efficiency because of the tiny size of the materials.

"If we get to 10 percent, then there's real potential for commercialization," Korgel said. "If it works, I think you could see it being used in three to five years."

Korgel added that other future uses for the technology could include a semi-transparent layer that would allow windows to double as solar cells.

Read more: http://www.greenbiz.com/news/2009/08/24/cheaper-spray-solar-panels-could-appear-three-years#ixzz0ryTl7iWG

12 July 2010

Making Gasoline from the Sun

A Louisville, Colorado, company says it has perfected a solar-energy technology capable of producing 100 million gallons of synthetic gasoline annually from corn stalks and wood chips.

Sundrop Fuels Inc., which has constructed a 60-foot tower rising above a nearly 3,000-mirror solar array near Highway 7 and Interstate 25 in Broomfield, Colorado, already has proven it can generate synthetic gas using the sun’s heat.

Now it wants to raise between $100 million and $150 million to build the world’s first solar-powered biorefinery. That demonstration project could make 7 million to 8 million gallons of gas a year.

“We want to use the sun to make renewable fuel,” said Wayne Simmons, Sundrop’s CEO. “We’re going to convert the sun’s energy into liquid fuel using concentrated solar power to gasify biomass, then convert the biomass into gasoline or diesel.”

The new technology has the potential to revolutionize the biofuels industry, experts say, because it removes one of the long-term cost hurdles to creating fuel from organic waste.

The company blasts organic materials, such as wood chips and straw, with superhigh temperatures gathered from sunshine. The heat tears the material apart on a molecular level, adds the sun’s heat energy in the thermo-chemical reaction, and creates a synthetic gas that can be formed into gasoline or diesel fuel.

“They’re using solar power in conjunction with biomass-to-energy, and really, no one else is doing that,” said Jim Lane, editor of the online Biofuels Digest, a leading biofuels-industry daily newsletter that has 15,000 subscribers.

Sundrop’s solar reactor, near the top of the tower, operates at temperatures of 1,200 to 1,300 degrees Celsius (2,200 to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit) using the heat reflected from the mirrors.

By comparison, concentrated solar-power plants, which use the sun’s reflected heat to generate steam for electricity, typically operate at around 500 degrees Celsius (more than 900 degrees Fahrenheit), Simmons said.

Biofuels are a growing area of interest because they offer what’s essentially an above-ground oil reservoir that can be located in the United States. When vehicles burn biofuels made from plants, they’re relatively carbon-neutral.

That means there’s little or no net gain in carbon-dioxide emissions from cars using the synthetic fuel, because the CO2 comes from the biomass grown in the last year or so, rather than from fossil fuels formed millions of years ago.

And biofuels can act as a hedge for large oil companies worried about unstable foreign regimes or their ability to find more oil, Lane said.

Sundrop’s reactor can use any kind of biomass, including plants grown specifically for their energy content. The organic biomass material is dropped into the reactor; the high temperatures vaporize it in seconds. The molecules are torn apart and recombined to form a synthetic gas (syngas), made up of hydrogen and carbon—which can be turned into gasoline, diesel, plastics, or chemicals, Simmons said.

Gasification of organic material to make synthetic gas has been done. But traditional gasifiers burn a large percentage of the biomass, or a fossil fuel such as natural gas, to reach operating temperatures above 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit). Sundrop’s process uses the free sunshine as its fuel source, and—as a plus—picks up some of the sun’s heat energy in the chemical process, he said.
As a result, Sundrop can produce 100 to 125 gallons of fuel per ton of dry biomass, about twice what conventional gasification plants are getting. It also needs just a half gallon of water—and its hydrogen molecules—to produce a gallon of fuel, compared to six gallons or more needed by traditional gasification technology, Simmons said.

The high temperatures also mean not producing tar as a waste byproduct, which happens with traditional gasification processes, he said.

The bottom line, according to Simmons, is that Sundrop’s technology can produce fuel that’s cost competitive, with unsubsidized production costs of under $2 per gallon. Meanwhile, oil prices have ranged between $70 and $80 per barrel for the last few months.

“This is a renewable, thermal-chemical sledgehammer; because of the temperatures that we operate at, it’s possible to handle all kinds of feedstocks,” said Alan Weimer, a University of Colorado chemical engineering professor and Sundrop consultant acting as its chief technology officer. Weimer co-founded Boulder-based Copernican Energy Inc., a company pursuing the use of solar-fired reactors, which Sundrop bought in June 2008.

Weimer also is executive director of the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels. The center is a consortium involving CU, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado State University, and the Colorado School of Mines.

The Broomfield tower has its roots in technologies coming out of CU, NREL, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Scientists at the three institutions have spent years working on using the sun’s heat to tear apart molecules.

“We’re trailblazing an area,” Weimer said. “It’s very unique and novel, and people don’t think of it in terms of conventional fuel production. What we do is at the interface of a couple of technologies. You have concentrated solar thermal using mirrors and towers to heat water to make steam to drive a turbine to make electricity. And on the other side you have people doing standard biomass conversion.

“We operate at the interface of those two areas.”

Sundrop is focusing on producing gasoline or diesel from its syngas because transportation fuels are a large, existing market that Sundrop’s fuel fits in with, Simmons said.

The fuel is identical to petroleum on a molecular level and can be shipped in existing pipelines, pumped in existing fuel pumps, and burned in existing vehicle engines—no new infrastructure is needed, he said.

Sundrop flipped on the tower’s solar reactor in late September. Simmons figures the company has another 18 months to two years of research work there before the tower no longer is needed.

But the next step is to raise those millions to build Sundrop’s next phase, a demonstration, commercial-scale gasifier and refinery.

Simmons said the plant—a 564-foot tower surrounded by 100 acres of mirrors and linked to a pilot-scale biorefinery—probably would be located in the sunny deserts of Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, or Southern California. The plant should be near a rail line, so trains can haul biomass to the plant, and a pipeline, to ship the fuel to market, he said.

Construction on the demonstration plant is expected to start this year. A full-scale commercial plant, with a tower surrounded by mirrors and an expanded biorefinery, capable of producing 100 million gallons of fuel a year, is planned for completion in 2015.

Colorado will remain home for Sundrop’s headquarters and research work, and the state also could play a role in growing crops destined for the gasifier, Simmons said.

11 July 2010

Waste-to-fuel reactor wins 2010 industry award

A new type of reactor that converts waste materials into liquid fuels has won the 2010 award from CWC World XTL, a conference for the gas, coal and biomass to liquids industry.

The microchannel reactor developed by Velocys, an Ohio-based subsidiary of the UK’s Oxford Catalysts, is designed to provide a small-scale but high-intensity way to produce liquid fuels from waste that’s close to the waste source. In that way, waste can be converted to productive use without having to transport it long distances, which could erase the environmental benefits of the process.

The Velocys reactor can achieve productivity levels that are orders of magnitude higher than those of conventional Fischer-Tropsch reactors. (The Fischer-Tropsch process uses chemical reactions to convert hydrogen and carbon monoxide into liquid hydrocarbons.) The reactor can also operate economically at outputs as low as 500 barrels of liquid fuel per day.

A demonstration plant that will use the Velocys reactor to convert gasified woodchips into fuel is currently being commissioned in G├╝ssing, Austria.

“Our innovation represents a whole new way of looking at the problems associated with the distributed production of new-generation biofuels, and the fuels produced offer significant environmental benefits over equivalent products from fossil fuels,” said Roy Lipski, CEO of the Oxford Catalysts Group.

10 July 2010

Those "socialist" countries? They're happy!

by cal in cali

I had to laugh as I read this article in Forbes magazine, of all places (OK, it was originally on Yahoo Travel):

"World's Happiest Places: A new report reveals where people feel most positive about their lives"

So America is #1, right? Hmmm.

You know those horrible "socialist" European countries that the wingnuts are always screeching about? They're hell, right? Depressing, soulless gulags of government-controlled misery, lacking all the glorious freedoms that make us the best country on Earth?

Oddly enough, Forbes magazine (whose motto is "The Capitalist Tool") reports that:

...happiness levels are highest in northern European countries.

How can this be? And when will Fox News report it?
Answers: 1) Read the article. 2) Never.

The Top 10 list of Happiest Countries is as follows:

New Zealand
This must really burn up the wingnuts! Our socialist neighbor Canada is #6! And the US didn't make the top ten.

Well, maybe it's OK if we're not happy, because we work hard, while those lazy nanny-state losers lay around all day being coddled.....

While the global economic crisis has taken a toll on every nation, the countries that scored at the top still boast some of the highest gross domestic product per capita in the world. Denmark, which got the highest score, is not only a wealthy country, it's also highly productive, with a 2009 GDP per capita of $68,000, according to the International Monetary Fund. The United States' GDP per capita, by contrast, is $47,335.

How can this be? They're "socialist" and yet they are productive and have high GDP? Higher than the world's bastion of capitalism?

Glenn Beck's mind will not be able to compute this data.

Now, if President Obama takes any steps towards the policies that help create these levels of happiness in those countries' citizens, the wingnuts will scream bloody murder. Fox News is already reporting the "end of capitalism." Because its our God-given right to make as much money as possible and achieve the American Dream. Then we'll all be happy, right?

Hmm. The article states:

Wealth alone does not bring the greatest degree of happiness.

Shocking! Why, that sounds like a socialist statement right there! Were these words actually printed in Forbes magazine?

The wingnuts would probably say that those "socialists" are so happy because they're all on welfare, right?

Low unemployment also contributes to happiness. "One thing we know for sure," says the OECD's Chapple, "not having a job makes one substantially less satisfied." Denmark's unemployment rate is just 2%, according the C.I.A.'s World Factbook. Norway's is just 2.6%. The Netherlands: just 4.5%. Many economists concur that a 4% unemployment rate reflects a stable economy. The U.S. unemployment rate is currently 9%.


Let's hear more from the Republicans about how we can never be more like Europe, because they're all socialists and that's bad, bad, evil and bad. No one in America would want social policies that actual contribute to people feeling more content with their lives, right?

This ranking was based on a Gallup World Poll that asked questions like:

Did you enjoy something you did yesterday? Were you proud of something you did yesterday? Did you learn something yesterday? Were you treated with respect yesterday?

Try asking yourself those questions. And think about how people in a truly happy country answered them.

09 July 2010

No Comment Needed

08 July 2010

Fueling Cars with Feces

By Dan Schank

A microbe has been found that can break down anything that contains cellulose and turn it into ethanol.

In 1996, Thomas Warnick was exploring the Quabbin Reservoir in Belchertown, Massachusetts, when he came across a tiny microbe with a big name—Clostridium phytofermentans. Warnick, a microbiology research assistant at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, was sent to the reservoir to find micro-organisms that could break down plant cellulose. His boss, Susan Leschine, had searched areas as diverse as Brazil, France and Hawaii for these organisms, but she’d never seen anything quite like what Warnick brought back.

The “Q microbe,” as it came to be known, is no ordinary bug. It can ingest—and produce ethanol from—virtually anything that contains cellulose, including human and animal sewage waste. So Qteros, the company Leschine founded to exploit the microbe’s abilities commercially, struck up a partnership with Applied CleanTech (ACT), an Israeli firm that generates alternative energy from wastewater solids. ACT’s sewage-recycling system transforms solids into “recyllose.” It turns out the Q microbe has a sweet tooth for recyllose, converting the cotton-like substance into ethanol for use in automobiles.

Jeff Hausthor, Qteros’ lead researcher, imagines a uniquely local market for this new biofuel. Obviously, waste materials are a burden to farms and municipalities, both financially and ecologically. But by putting the Q microbe to work, small-scale ethanol plants situated around sewage processing plants could become a reality.

07 July 2010

Biogas in Rural Costa Rica with the Santa Fe Women's Group

While the cost of carbon-based fuel is rising, people in rural areas across the world are experiencing financial hardships due to the price and inaccesibility of energy. People in rural Costa Rica are no exception. Before implementing the biogas project(what is biogas?), the majority of the people in Santa Fe de Guatuso purchased gas to power its gas ranges. As a result of the town's remote location, the price of a tank of gas had cost over $15 USD. Although this is a cost that many people in the developed world could afford, a family in Santa Fe that used more than one tank per month could not likely pay for the fuel to cook its food. Consequently, many families were forced to supplement their gas with firewood. Although this fuel source had no perceived monetary cost to the family, the practice of cutting trees for firewood was a long-term liability for the region of Guatuso as a whole. Such a practice was also harmful in the short-term, as the firewood was burned in the kitchen and often ignited with plastics and rubbers, which when burned give off carcinogenic dioxins. As a result, the people in Santa Fe were torn between financial, environmental, and health concerns.

biogas fills up the plastic in this biodigester-biogas methane digesterWhile faced with this dilemma, the Santa Fe Women's Group decided to seize an opportunity that conquered this threat to their financial, environmental, and physical well-being. The group chose to use the animal waste from their cattle to make biogas for cooking. Not only would the project take care of the environmental threat from the burning of firewood, but it would also solve the problem of animal waste management in the dairy-producing town.

In order to utilize cow manure for this alternative cooking fuel, the group needed to build biodigesters, which are tanks that process the manure to produce a biogas that is mostly comprised of methane. (Learn about biodigester design and construction) The biogas is producedin the tank through the anaerobic (which means 'in the absence of oxygen') digestion of the manure by bacteria. These bacteria, which thrive in underwater, oxygen-free environments, consume the animal waste, reproduce, and give off a methane-rich waste. This biogas bubbles up from the depths of the manure/water mixture and escapes through the surface above. the biogas is then trapped by a large plastic balloon that hovers over the tank. Then, in the middle of the plastic, PCV tubing connects the biogas source to the kitchen, where the gas range (see picture at top of page) is ready to supply the alternative energy for cooking.

With the aid of a donation from the UN Women's Group in Vienna, Austria and the technical assistance of the Agriculture Ministry office in Guatuso, the Santa Fe Women's Group was able to build 16 biodigesters in 2006. The women of Santa Fe, however, are not finished with this important biogas project. They are still dedicated to increasing energy independence through biogas by extending the privilege of a biodigester to other deserving families in Santa Fe and the greater Guatuso area.

06 July 2010

Finally! US’ First Offshore Wind Farm OK’d by Interior

by Timothy B. Hurst

Cape Wind, the proposed offshore wind farm near Cape Cod, Massachusetts has won final regulatory approval from the Obama administration.

In what might signal the end of a nine-year long battle for the first offshore wind farm in the United States, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today announced the approval of the 468-megawatt Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts. The decision came at the end of a regulatory and legal process that involved virtually every local, state and federal governing body imaginable, will likely still face legal challenges from opponents including the deep-pocketed Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.

The most recent regulatory hurdle came at the hands of the Wampanoag Indian Tribe, which claimed that Horseshoe Shoal, where the project will be located, is the site of ancient burial grounds and a site of important cultural significance for the Tribe.

Salazar said steps would be taken to "minimize and mitigate" the impact of the project that would "help protect the historical, cultural, and environmental resources of Nantucket Sound."

When completed, the project will have the potential to generate 75 percent of the Cape & islands energy needs -- not only in the winter months when the wind resource is strongest, but as was was shown last year, Cape Wind will also be an integral part of smoothing out peak Summer demand.

"This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast," Salazar said at a joint State House news conference with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

Unsurprisingly, Cape Wind supporters were elated with the decision.

“A new offshore wind industry in America is launched today with this decision," said Pam Solo, president, Civil Society Institute. "This is an enormous accomplishment and is as much a victory for citizen participation as it is for clean energy.”

Clean Power Now Executive Director Barbara Hill said Salazar's announcement represented a "landmark decision" that would establish the "region as a national model of sustainability and a clean energy future.”

Despite the fact that 87% of Massachusetts voters support Cape Wind, the country's newest Senator, Republican Scott Brown of Massachusetts, went on record criticizing Salazar's decision, calling it "misguided" -- a move he may come to regret if his prognostications do not come to fruition.

"With unemployment hovering near ten percent in Massachusetts, the Cape Wind project will jeopardize industries that are vital to the Cape's economy, such as tourism and fishing, and will also impact aviation safety and the rights of the Native American tribes in the area," Brown said in a statement.

05 July 2010

China's Building "The Biggest Solar Energy Production Base in the Whole World"

The Washington Post reports on Solar Valley, a planned $740 million development outside Dezhou, China, that aims to be the clean energy technology hub of the country, if not the world. It will be anchored by Himin Solar Energy Group, but will accommodate about 100 companies in total. True to form, rural farmers are already being swept out of the way to make room for the developers. It's audacious, but what's China better at than big plans? Oh right, awkward translations. They're calling it "The Biggest Solar Energy Production Base in the Whole World."

04 July 2010

Offshore Wind, Not Offshore Oil

By Janet Larsen

The enormously devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is just one reminder that stretching out an addiction to a polluting and planet-warming fossil fuel poses risks to our health, our environment, and our economy.

U.S. oil production peaked in 1970 at 9.6 million barrels per day. Since then production has dropped by almost half and now supplies less than 30 percent of domestic consumption. In 2009, the United States spent nearly $200 billion on oil imports to make up the difference.

With oil wells on land getting tapped out, U.S. oil production would have fallen off even more precipitously than it did if not for offshore oil. Offshore oil production now comprises about a third of the U.S. total. Yet remaining resources are limited and are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. As BP’s inability to staunch the Deepwater Horizon oil spill starkly illustrates, controlling extraction from almost a mile below the sea surface is incredibly difficult and dangerous.

The era of “easy” oil is over. As Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency, recommends for the world, “we should not cling to crude down to the last drop – we should leave oil before it leaves us.”

Offshore wind: A viable alternative to offshore oil drilling

Fortunately there are alternatives. Much of the U.S. oil consumption of nearly 20 million barrels a day goes to run vehicles, the same vehicles that get city commuters stuck in traffic for a cumulative 4.2 billion hours a year, costing society some $87 billion, according to the Texas Transportation Institute. To cut dependence on oil, transportation options can be expanded beyond single-passenger vehicles to bus rapid transit, light rail, high speed rail, and space for bicycles and pedestrians.

Even though the U.S automobile fleet shrank by 4 million vehicles last year, cars will not disappear completely any time soon. However, the fleet can be cleaned up by marrying the electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles now starting to come to market to renewably-produced electricity. The U.S. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory estimates that the current electrical infrastructure could power over 80 percent of the U.S. car fleet, relying largely on off-peak electricity as cars are charged at night. Upgrading to a stronger, smarter, and interconnected national grid that taps into the country’s enormous wind, solar, and geothermal resources completes the transition.

While oil resources are limited, wind resources are abundant and inexhaustible. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that the world’s top carbon emitters have enough wind energy potential to meet their current electricity needs many times over. The United States’ total wind potential is estimated at 22 times current electricity use. For China the wind resource potential is 15 times greater than the country’s current electricity consumption, and for Russia, it is a staggering 170 times higher.

Looking at offshore wind resources alone, the U.S. potential is 4 times current electricity use. For Canada, offshore wind is a whopping 39 times greater.
To date, almost all the offshore wind action has been in Europe, but that may soon be changing. China and Japan have just begun developing offshore wind. With the recent approval of the Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts, along with proposals by Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and other states, the United States may join the game as well.

Unlike oil, wind is widely-distributed and clean; it does not spill or disrupt climate. It is also becoming increasingly cheap. With wind, we have a well that will not run dry.

03 July 2010

We’ll Be Twice as Rich if We Switch

Written by Susan Kraemer

An eighteen trillion dollar renewable energy economy would be created by a transition to 95% renewable energy by 2050, a report commissioned from the European Renewable Energy Council finds.

The in-depth economic analysis finds that it is not just technically, but economically feasible to cut global greenhouse gas emissions in line with the recommendations of climate scientists for a safe future climate; 80% by 2050.

The report, Energy [R]evolution – a sustainable energy outlook also did the math on continuing with business as usual. That would provide only a little over half as much of a jolt – eleven trillion dollars. Under business as usual, of the current energy industry’s 8.7 million jobs globally, only 2.4 million would be in renewables.

By contrast, a global switch to renewable energy would create 8.5 million jobs in renewable energy out of 12 million energy jobs by 2030, and create an $18 trillion energy industry by 2050.

It would also deliver free energy once the infrastructure is built, lowering energy prices. By 2050, we would be not just participating in a larger economy, but be paying less of that income for energy than we do now (as well as having cleaner, safer renewable energy that doesn’t spill toxic oil in our oceans).

The report assumed no efficiency or conservation – just energy production to meet the world’s global needs. “The scenario mapped out in the report is entirely feasible,” lead author Sven Teske told Business Insider. “We have not proposed cutting energy demand by curbing economic growth, everything is based on the IEA’s economic growth figures and its somewhat conservative projections for fuel costs.”

The reprt notes that policy mechanisms that have already been deployed are working – where they are in place. These include feed-in tariffs, energy efficiency standards, smart grid roll-outs, carbon pricing mechanisms, and cap and trade.

Rooftop Rentals Soar With Generous Canadian Feed-in Tariff
More Wind Farms Mean Cheaper Energy
Northeast Adds 17 Gigawatts of Renewables to Meet RPS
How 4 US States Lowered Greenhouse Gas Emissions Below 1990 Levels
Germany Runs Out of Solar Panels Due to Generous Feed-In Tariff
EU on Track to Meet or Exceed Original Kyoto Goals: Estimate 13% Below 1990 Level
How EU Cap and Trade Got Carbon Emissions Down
Port of LA Pollution Cap Successfully Cuts Emissions

More widespread applications of these successful policies will do more, the study concludes; especially in the third world which has virtually no energy infrastructure now, (so building a new one does not have to compete with infrastructure that is already paid for).

An international agreement whereby industrialized countries helped to fund feed-in tariffs in developing countries to accelerate the global roll-out of renewables would pay off in lower energy prices in the long term there too.

The report recommended phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, which according to a new report at the Financial Times; are currently about $550 billion a year globally according to the IEA. Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA in Paris, told the Financial Times that removing fossil energy subsidies was a policy that could change the energy game “quickly and substantially”.

02 July 2010

Fox News Is Losing Viewers

By Ted McLaughlin
It looks like things are not going so well over at the Fox News network. We have commented before on the troubles that Fox News pundit Glenn Beck is having. He has lost many of his advertisers in this country (and has no advertisers for his show in England). But losing advertisers is not his only problem. He has also lost a ton of his viewing audience. At one time he had an audience of 3.4 million. That has now fallen to around 2 million (a 41.2% drop) and gets only 1.7 million on many days.

That would be a big enough problem for Fox News, but it gets worse. It seems that Beck is not the only show losing viewers. Their entire line-up has lost viewers over the past year. O'Reilly (pictured) and Hannity currently have their worst numbers since January of 2009 (with O'Reilly falling from 1 million viewers then to only 693,000 this May). Van Sustern is at her lowest viewership since May of 2009.

In the daytime Fox News viewership has dropped by 6%. Primetime is doing even worse, having dropped by 7%. The folks over at Politicususa think the drop in viewers may be due to the network unequivocally linking themselves to the teabagger movement, and that might well be true. The network has not just reported the actions of the teabaggers -- they have unashamedly supported them and even helped to organize some of their events. Now the teabaggers are starting to lose some support and Fox News is losing viewers.

Meanwhile, the more liberal news network at MSNBC has seen a daytime gain of 3% and a primetime drop of only 1%.

01 July 2010

Same old story, no lessons learned

Take a look at this graph. It shows, once again, the level of misguided admiration given to Ronald Reagan.

Ronald Reagan was the worst thing to happen to this country, until Bush the second! He passified people into believing they could cut taxes and not services. This graph shows clearly that is was slight of hand.

Not only did he begin the track of unsustainable debt, he gutted the american labor movement, shipped manufacturing oversees and raped the environment through James Watt, a hated industry supporter who believes the US taxpayers should give resources to industry.

Fuck you teabaggers. Eat my shorts repubes! And dems your sins are worse since you know better.

Whoa and pain ahead!