Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Who Can Help Get Energy Clean?

Now there’s a question with anywhere between ten and ten thousand, maybe a million, answers.

The easy answer is, “All of Us.” The complications begin under the category, “Some of us more than others.”

Energy we all understand. Dirty is also pretty clear. But Clean can come in many different packages including, but not limited to, burning things and Waste.

How does waste enter the picture? On thinking about it we can see that waste also comes in many different packages.

Consider leaving your hot water running longer than it’s needed. That is waste of the water itself and waste of the energy needed to heat the water and if that energy happened to be fossil fuel based – additional air, water and ground pollution.

Say that hot water was running 1 gallon per minute and it ran one minute longer than needed. Also say that the same thing happened in every American home once during the month. With over 112 million households that would be 112,000,000 gallons of hot water wasted.

Now what does it take to heat a gallon of water from 45 degrees as it comes in from the street to 120 degrees in a storage tank? OK enough math!

Beginning to see the picture?

It always seems like such a little thing. Turn the light off, it’s only 75 watts. So it’s on for an hour. That’s 75 watt-hours or 0.075 kilowatt-hours. And in those 112 million homes that’s 8,400,000 kilowatt-hours. Nothing small about the little consumer!

So who can help?

We’re back to that “easy answer” – All of Us.

It’s actually a matter of getting rid of some old habits and starting a few new ones. And that’s not easy – it takes a concentrated effort over a period of time until what used to be considered a simple truth – power is cheap and endless –is replaced with a real truth – we cannot afford to spend (use) a single watt that is not absolutely essential.

Turning off that light, not using the air conditioner during peak weekday hours, doing the wash at night can be learned. And lots of chores that must be done, can be done at hours when the utility and grid system is not at peak demand. Again habits that can be learned.

And We can Do It – All of Us.

What Good Are Energy Statistics?

A would-be humorist once said, “Statistics are a like a bikini bathing suit. What they reveal is interesting, but what they conceal is vital.”

If this is a truth for statistics in general, then it is a lot truer for statistics dealing with all the forms of energy we use on this plant – as well as the energy we use to travel away from it.

Thinking about it – we have crude oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, propane, jet fuel, natural gas, coal, peat and geothermal heat – just to name a few categories.

And promoters of each energy form will present statistics that will attempt to prove that their particular energy form is getting cleaner and cheaper than any other and is the one that should be chosen for universal use.

While of course their opponents will argue, quite forcefully, that the opposite is true.

And thereby lays the problem – those vital facts that are concealed.

However in the case of energy – the vital concealed facts are much more important to human health and even survival than, say, the dominant color of newborn babies eyes in Saskatchewan.

For example, while working one’s way through the “smoke and mirrors” of the current Clean Coal Campaign one should be told how many people died in the past year from breathing or lung diseases caused by polluted air. Or what percentage of the water consumed in the United States for drinking did not conform to the requirements of the clean water act of 1972 that caused what number of deaths or illnesses?

We are not going to get this disturbing information from the fossil energy people on a voluntary basis. So once again it falls to the elected representatives of the people to establish and maintain a constant watch for the concealed facts that we need to have for our health and welfare – the common welfare our founding fathers knew needed protection.

The common welfare and common sense should go hand in hand and our need for the facts is a requirement of both. We must continually remind our Congress, State and Local governments of their responsibility to ensure that we get the facts. And we must be ever on guard to make sure they do so.

Oh, and our founding fathers also provided automatic “term limits”. They’re called elections.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Is There Anything New in Desalination?

We have seen that the world is at least 70% covered in water. We have also seen that only about 9% of that water is what is called “potable” (that’s drinkable, pure water.)

We have also seen that converting dirty, salty ocean water to potability is expensive and requires great quantities of heat from one energy source or another, usually electricity.

One thing is certain – there is so much raw water available that a great number of researchers and water scientists are concentrating on the possibilities of developing greater quantities of potable water – at greatly reduced cost. And the good news? They are succeeding.

From the United States and Canada to China there are all sorts of experiments being made and developments tested for reliability and feasibility.

In Canada, for instance, two university graduates in Vancouver have developed a solar process for desalination of sea water that they claim can reduce electricity requirements by up to 80%. They further state that the process can cut the high cost of desalination in half.

The two have started a company, Saltworks Technologies Inc., that is building desalination plants using commercially available components, saving time and money,

Across the Pacific, a group of researchers from Tsinghua University in Bejing have announced that water desalination can be achieved without electric energy or high water pressure using a source of biodegradable organic matter or bacteria as the fuel.

Their claim has been published in the Environmental Science Technology journal in August, 2009. According to the paper the researchers modified a microbial fuel cell by placing two membranes between an anode and a cathode, creating a middle desalination chamber between the membranes. When electricity was produced by bacteria on the anode, ionic species in the middle chamber were transferred into the two electrode chambers, thereby desalinating the water in the middle chapmber.

If this sounds confusing, don’t be concerned. It really is. But if the process can be made to handle large quantities of water it will certainly be a major step in the right direction – clean water for more people.

Earlier we looked at the use of geothermal heat sources to desalinate water and that process continues to be tested around the Pacific coasts, particularly in California. At UCLA a mobile desalination test has proved successful and will be reported on here in the near future.

Meanwhile, we must all continue to be careful not to waste water at any time in any way.

Is Water Really the New Oil?

This is a subject we’ve discussed before but under the current financial conditions around the world the most important things are the most basic – food, clothing and shelter. And as Jacques Cousteau often pointed out, “Air and Water, the two essentials for human life, have been thrown in the garbage.”

Today’s mission is to compare (1) the values, and (2) the costs of using these two naturally found substances.

Water covers at least 70% of the earth. Oil occurs underground in decreasing availability. As a result oil is much more expensive to obtain and use.

But the finding and producing petroleum, oil and gas, involve huge financial processes that, not surprisingly, wield huge political power. And huge profits.

OPEC, the “Big Five” International Oil companies (ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips), and to a lesser degree the second-tier oil companies run pretty much out of control. There are few, if any, significant government controls that limit the actions of these giants. They are entrenched.

On the other hand, water companies are plentiful but most are public utilities rather than private corporations. And their product is carefully controlled, both as to purity and cost. Furthermore it has been shown that privately held water companies charge more for their product and are not in the business of developing water power in any respect.

So what is needed for water to replace oil? What is needed is investment in companies that will find and develop water sources for the generation of electricity. Oil can only be replaced as a burning fuel when hydro generated electricity can replace oil-generated power. And this would ultimately include the use of electric cars replacing gas fired vehicles.

So we must be very clear in separating (1) the water used for human consumption from (2) the water used to generate electricity. Water generated electricity is vastly cheaper than that generated by coal, oil or gas. As such hydropower companies can show very strong financial positions – attractive to investors.

So it follows that if and when water replaces the fossil fuels for power generation – it could be considered “the New Oil.” It would not compete with the water utilities that bring clean water to your home or business but could in fact ensure that power generation would no longer cause the air and water pollution of the Fossil Barons.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why is Money Called “Green”?

Well, since 1862, during the Civil War, when the United States Treasury Department developed a special green dye that would make counterfeiting more difficult, the back of US currency has been colored green. (Thus the term “greenbacks”) Another little historical note, the man responsible for the greenback development was US Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase.

Chase’s family name has continued in the financial world ever since. And it is in the hands of the financial world that the clean greenness of the country, perhaps the world rests. And how does that work?

As you know, any business, old or new, needs financing. Financing has many component parts but two major ones are Cash and Credit. Most businesses need both in reasonable quantities.

In normal times, investment cash is readily available for projects of reasonable risk. There is also some money available for relatively risky endeavors. Again, in “normal” times.However the financial conditions around the world 2008-09-10 are anything but normal and not yet even near what some would call stable.

As a result, there are literally trillions of dollars of investment capital sitting on the sidelines waiting for some certainty of returning stability (sanity?) following the now famous recession of 2008-09.

That capital could be put to good use in developing green hydropower to replace the coal burners and then the oil burners and finally the gas burners. Truly a green purpose for the green money.

And this is where capitalism must perform at its best. That’s because the cost of construction of hydropower generating plants is considerably higher than that of, say, coal or oil fired plants. Hydropower Capital investment must be on the long term basis.

However the long term benefits of hydropower are huge and far outweigh the start-up costs. Production costs that are minuscule compared to the coal-oil-gas costs and, most important, the impact on the ecology of the plants in operation is ZERO. Accordingly, profits far exceed that of the fossil investments – that’s capitalism at its best.

Finally, the World Health Organization has stated that every $1 spent on water and sanitation can bring economic benefits averaging between $7 and $12. There you are.

And that is why we have been preaching – and will continue to preach – the message that we must replace the homicidal fossil burners with clean water power!

Where Does Natural Gas Fit In?

As the feller says, “Where would you like it to fit in?”

Well it fits in a number of places. It is being used in many areas to generate electricity in addition to power plants where demand has exceeded maximum plant output. Some of those augmented power plants still burn coal and using natural gas certainly produces less harmful by-products than coal.

Actually converting the coal-fired plant to natural gas would be the best thing – As long as we understand that the use of natural gas should be only a temporary stop on the way to truly clean hydropower.

Contrary to the promotions that call natural gas a renewable energy, it is not renewable and while there is plenty still available – even here in the United States – it does not replace itself in the way that water does (covering 70% of the earth) or even solar whose switch is “on” all the time. More about that shortly.

Much as we dislike boring you with statistics, there are some that should not be ignored when comparing natural gas to oil and coal:

The main products of burning natural gas are carbon dioxide and water vapor – same as humans exhale when breathing. Coal and oil are much more complex with much higher carbon ratio and higher nitrogen and sulfur contents. Thus they release much higher levels of carbon emissions, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. Coal and oil also release ash particles, substances that don’t burn and are carried into the atmosphere causing more pollution.

With the combustion of natural gas there is very little amounts of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, virtually no ash or particulate matter and lower levels of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other reactive hydrocarbons.

One might ask, “Why not just replace coal and oil with natural gas, isn’t that enough?” And the answer would be, “That would be an improvement, but natural gas still emits only thirty (30%) percent less carbon dioxide than oil – whereas hydropower emits no carbon dioxide, or any of the other offending products of burning coal, oil OR GAS.

So as a last resort, if there is no way to get to hydropower – natural gas is a distant fourth choice (solar is second, wind is third)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Did I Mention HYDRO?

If you are a regular reader, you will see the humor in that question. We have taken on the mission of making sure that everyone, sooner or later, preferably sooner, comes to realize that with the sun, hydro power is the one true and clean answer to solving all the problems that continue to accumulate by the burning of fossil fuels – Coal, Oil and Gas.

The message must be constantly repeated because there are some pretty powerful and rich people whose fortunes are tied to the Fossil Fuel Industries – and who would appear to care less about the future of the planet than their own status in the power structure.

This is why regular readers will recall our messages entitled, Hydropower 101, 102, 103, 104 and 105 as well as one entitled “Little Water, Big Energy.” We don’t take this lightly, and believe no one should take lightly, the misleading arguments that fossil fuels can be made clean and that there is no further hydropower developments possible.

Nothing could be farther from the truth and while we have called Hydro Power the Power of the People – it is the people who must insist that the elected powers realize that clean fossil fuel is an oxymoron and only water, and to a lesser degree solar, power is the answer. These elected officials must be constantly reminded of their duty to those who cannot vote for them.

Yes, I said cannot vote for them. Some are still children and in many more cases not yet born.

Even today there are areas on earth where ambient conditions are so bad they cause children to be born with all sorts of horrible defects if, in fact, they actually survive birth at all. These are areas where there is no clean water, no pure anything and, perhaps worse, no medical help available.

Of course, the worst of these areas are in “undeveloped” parts of the world. However that fact should not lull the more fortunate of us into thinking “it can’t happen here.”

Of course it can and while nature responds to the good and bad of human behavior rather slowly – it does react and by these bad examples it attempts to warn us that our future will be limited by our present behavior.

It is our mission to be certain that the deadly results of burning fossil fuels is ended in time to save the planet for its inhabitants and that water – pure for drinking and renewed for electricity generation - becomes the logical successor to the coal and oil energy sources

What is a Smart Grid? Are There Dumb Ones?

And those are not dumb questions.

The “national grid” which in theory is supposed to connect all parts of the American electric system, from coast to coast, is still a “work in progress.”

Falling under the category of Misleading Titles, it is unfortunate that an English Corporation calling itself National Grid has invaded our shores with unfortunate results. The firm intended to produce a real grid system for the U.S. and instead wound up purchasing a number of U.S. utilities, primarily in the Northeast.

So recognizing that the American Grid is really a few localized grids handling groups of states utilities the old grid (the not-so-smart one) is what has developed almost haphazardly over the years with sections added as needed.

The New, SMART Grid will be one that has the technological ability to sense where power is needed and, on an instant notice, get it there.

So you can see several things are required.

First the wire connections must be installed connecting all the parts, generators, distribution centers, lines to electric companies and lines to the ultimate consumers.

Second, the digital technology that will in turn do several things:

1. Control the delivery system, sensing and satisfying need

2. Allow bidirectional power flow (going in reverse directions when load requirements shift from one area to another)

3. With devices installed in consumer’s homes on their appliances, read times and amounts of use and charge extra for on-peak usage.

There are some still undeveloped (and controversial) programs proposed under which a consumer would let the electric company know what he would have plugged into his system and the electric company would be able to selectively turn off some devices in order to prevent blackouts or brownouts

This latter idea raises some pretty serious privacy issues since the electric company would know how private citizens use each of their appliances.

So, perhaps the earlier grid was not so much dumb as inert and civilly harmless.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What Does “Time-Of-Day” Billing Mean?

And can it aid in the fight against global warming?

To begin, Time-of-Day (TOD) electric rates, also known as Time-of-Use rates, are designed to induce consumers to use electricity during hours when the utility’s system is not at peak load. These times are called “off-peak” hours.

The inducement is created when the utility charges a premium during periods of high demand on the utility’s system and offers a discounted rate during off-peak hours.

So when are these peaks and off-peaks anyway? Well they occur pretty much as you would expect – the highest during the hottest summer days when air-conditioning demand is at its highest.

And before there was air-conditioning the highest peak was during a dark winter evening.

The off-peak hours would be, again as you would imagine, after working hours on work days and all day and night on weekends. And you might say, “what about air-conditioning on weekends?” And the answer would be that residential cooling loads are not anywhere near the total of commercial, industrial and residential on regular workdays.

You will also see that in addition to weekends, holidays are also given credit as totally off-peak times.

But some of our favorite utilities could not leave well enough alone. They decided that maybe too much off-peak credits were being given and so for some of the hours between peak and off-peak, they invented “Shoulder-Peak Hours.” In effect they said in answer to some of your residential air conditioning, “We gotcha”

These Shoulder Hours would be before and after work hours on weekdays and in some cases even on weekends. The Peak, Off-peak and Shoulder Hours vary from state to state and utility to utility. Your local supplier will be pleased to provide your local information.

Finally, to make life easier, there are computer programs designed to remind you when you should not run your washer, dryer, dishwasher or air conditioning. But being creatures of habit we can pretty much tell when the peak hours are.

And in following the TOD program we are all helping to ease some of the pressure on the grid that delivers electricity around the country. And lowering the peak also helps to “green” the ecology.

So you see – it’s not only the other guys who can help – it’s all of us!

Danger! Coal and Oil Commercials!

We’ve raised this issue before, as we have many other issues. But this one seems to us to be the most insidious. It is the use of dirty money – a lot of it – to continue the promotion of dirty energy and the end result- if not prevented- has to be the criminal neglect that will leave our world uninhabitable in less than a century.

You think that is paranoid sensationalism? Propaganda? Think again.

There is plenty of unquestionable proof that the burning of coal – regardless of how allegedly “clean” it is - coal will always be a problem in polluting air, water and land. It has been proven that to “clean” coal some pollutants, carbon, etc, can be removed – but that very waste must be disposed of and what do they propose to do with it? – Bury It In the Ground!

Well, the industry has formed an American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) which in turn has sponsored and these organizations have set about the business of convincing the American public, in the words of the King in Rogers and Hammerstein’s “King and I” that “what is not so – is so!”

There is just no miraculous way that coal can be suddenly, or ever, made truly clean.

So what is needed is concerted action by a great number of concern citizens such as those promoting the “Citizens’ Clean Energy Economy Investment Act of 2009.” We need groups of dedicated people – not politicians – to put constant pressure on all the applicable government departments and agencies at all levels.

That goes from the Department of Energy to the local Mayor’s energy advisor. Small local groups can have an immense impact at the Town and Village level and should not be dismissed offhand by the fossil folks.

And while we are working on these projects we had better also look out for subliminal advertising phrases like “clean, plentiful and economic coal” and add the words “deadly.”

And while we’re at it we had best pay attention to the natural gas folks who make sense by saying their fuel is cleaner than coal and should be its’ replacement.

Let’s agree that getting rid of coal using natural gas is a good temporary “stopgap” on the way to converting to totally clean, really plentiful and really inexpensive Hydropower.

Water Power will be proven to be the Power of the People!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Energy Changes We Can All Make

Energy changes can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. So we’ll start with United States and Canada and go from there…..

Can you name the things that you do each day that use energy? And can you use them in a different and better way to reduce air and water pollution?

Let’s start with your car or cars. Are your filters and emission controls at their peak efficiency? Do you have to drive in rush-hour conditions where your engine runs in idle while you’re standing still? Are your tire pressures set properly for most efficient car operation? There’s more you can probably think of.

Meanwhile back at home – How is your home insulation? Have your windows been checked lately for leakage (summer and winter)? If you burn oil or natural gas to heat your home is your burner set at maximum efficiency? Do you know if your electric company has “time of use” or “time of day (TOD)” rates? If they do, do you know how your timely use of electricity can save you money and help the environment at the same time?

Then, leaving home, do you commute to work? Do you drive there? Do you know what a motor pool is? Are you in one? Can you take mass transit to work (railroad, bus, subway)?

Oh, and do you smoke? Cigarettes, cigars or pipe? Do you know how many tons of tobacco are consumed each year in the United States? … in the world? Do you think that adds to GHG pollution? (Did you know GHG stands for Green House Gas?)

Do you believe that global warming is caused by humans? If so, do you believe that humans can solve the problem?

It is suggested that as we study these questions, and our answers to them, we should also study how our friends and neighbors approach the questions.

Can you, or we, work together to reduce the human impact on the global warming, not only GHG but all other pollution causing activities?

It has been said that government at the local level is basic, most democratic so to say. If you believe that common action can have an impact on the causes of global warming – then, by all means, act with your neighbors and get your representatives to take real action at all levels of government.

Perhaps it is wise to remind the government people that our constitution has built-in term limitations – they are called elections!

Small Town Hydro Tools

Small towns and small hydro tools are beginning to make big news – slowly but surely. Let’s define a small town – Let’s say 10,000 people. Sound reasonable?

Now, where the town is located will also be important when considering whether hydropower is feasible. In a dessert, or very dry area with little running water (rivers or falls) and little annual rainfall, it’s not likely that hydropower will be an option.

And of course any area with plenty of flowing water and rainfall, hydro will be a natural. This is true whether the ultimate user is near a grid connection or not, Hydro is most certainly user friendly.

We all know what turbines are – or at least think we do. We see them on airplanes and powerful cars. We know they are used in generating electricity at the big dams.

We know they use the flow of air, gas or water, to create motion which in turns can cause a vehicle to move, or fly. We also know they can cause rotation that can be used to generate electricity – in a big or small way.

And it’s in the small way that hydro can generate electricity – even in your backyard if the flowing water is there.

There are three kinds of little turbines that can be used to make power: (1) Impulse or “high head” turbines, (2) Reaction or “low head” turbines, or (3) Submersible propeller turbines. Yes, we know, more definitions needed.

“Head” is the vertical distance between where the water enters above the turbine system (usually a pipe) and where it reaches the runners within the turbine. High head is defined to be a drop of 20 feet or more. Low head, of course, is lower.

Impulse turbines are ideal where a relatively small amount of water runs down a steep hill or a little waterfall.

Reaction type turbines require a much larger water flow than the Impulse types but can operate with as little as two feet of head.

The underwater propeller turbines are the least efficient but of the simplest design. With a propeller mounted on the front of the turbine, the unit looks like an outboard motor attached in reverse.

Care must be taken that the power be actually used when running turbines. If not used, the controlled power can cause damaging heat problems for the turbines.

And the good news is that all these units are now available in a number of sizes and at prices that truly compete with the local utility charges

Friday, November 6, 2009

Global Warming?

And NIMBY means what?

OK- “Not In My Back Yard”

So you would like to think that global warming doesn’t exist in your backyard – or especially that it doesn’t start in your backyard.

But, we’re sorry to report that you are wrong on both counts.

Well for one thing, you think that burning the fossil fuels that pollute the atmosphere is done only by the big factories and power plants.

Do you have an oil burner? Or a gas fired water heater? Do you drive a gas-powered car? Oh, and have you used manure for your yard or garden?

Perhaps you live in the city. But if you moved to the suburbs and the lot where your new home was built was cleared of trees and plants – your backyard added to the global warming.

How did it do that? When the trees and plants were killed, they stopped storing carbon – which nature has them do – and they released all the carbon that had been accumulated over tens and maybe even hundreds of years.

All that released carbon from driving or heating or fertilizing or cutting down trees adds carbon dioxide (CO2) to the air. CO2 is one of the now famous “Greenhouse Gasses.”

Another major greenhouse gas is methane. While this gas is caused by nature, humanity adds to it to an unfavorable degree.

Methane is caused by nature when it is released from arctic tundra and wetlands. It is also released as the earth goes through a cycle of climate change. Even without human interference this climate change usually lasts about 40,000 years.

But it seems man can’t wait for nature to mess things up.

And finally for today, can you believe that eating supermarket meat adds methane to the atmosphere. You could Google it. Clearing the land to grow animal feed, using fossil fuel power equipment to process the food – and the meat - adds up quickly.

And the big sum is that animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of all global greenhouse gas emission. (Source: US Food and Agriculture Organization).

So we’re all guilty and we need to make some changes - Suggestions will follow.

Where is the Hydro in Your Town?

In a way, that would seem to be an easy question. Water comes to us in the pipes, is metered and clean. It also rains quite a bit. And then there’s the river and the lakes nearby. And for some there’s the ocean. And for some there are wells.

But that isn’t the real question is it?

And the answer is that we must clearly define HYDRO and logically, Hydropower.

The term ‘hydro” refers to electricity generated by the flow of water. And, no surprise, so does hydropower.

But hydropower includes more than the generation of electricity. It includes motion generated by falling water in a turbine or water wheel. That motion can be put to use in running machinery as well as dynamos. (Oops, what’s a dynamo?) Okay, while we’re defining things, a dynamo is a generator of electricity consisting of a coil that rotates between the poles of an electromagnet causing current to flow.

But the real message is that hydro is everywhere. Hydro power potential is in many back yards. Little flowing streams. Small waterfalls. These are not uncommon and are in many cases able to produce small but usable amounts of electricity.

And the small hydro technology is fast becoming a do-it-yourself project for those willing to learn the new techniques of power generation on the small (less than 500 Kilowatts) scale.

There are on the market even now small generation units that offer stable, inflation-proof sources of electricity. In addition while in the past small hydro installations have been cheap to run but expensive to install, that is changing with smaller, lighter and higher speed turbines and lower cost electronic controls, not to mention much cheaper plastic piping.

While capital required to develop hydro is still higher than, say, diesel equipment of equal capacity, hydro plants enjoy a much longer life and much lower operating costs.

British Columbia, Canada has for years developed and used small hydro in all its forms and today has installed many up-to-date plants in places such as Glacier Park (150Kw), Hoeya Hilton (37 Kw), Nimmo Bay(40 Kw), Klentu (650 Kw) and many others.

Their message is that there are business opportunities in small hydro all over and a number of people are catching on.

Why not learn more – we’ll try to help.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Coal to Gas to Water – Triple Play!

So who were Tinkers and Evers and Chance anyway? Well, in the world of baseball – particularly professional baseball a triple play – three outs all in one play – is really rare. As a matter of fact even the great New York Yankees have only produced 18 triple plays from 1876 to the present day.

But the triple play we’re talking about today is a different kind. In this one we will put the first out by using the second and put the second out by using the third. And the third is the solution we have been propounding so vociferously for all these years (101 years to be exact).

The first is that highly dangerous COAL which pollutes everything it touches –even after the miserably failed efforts to clean it up – the junk it contains has to go somewhere and outer space is not a feasible solution at the present time.

So when you hear or see the Coal Industry’s commercials telling you how cheap and available their “wonderful” coal is you should ask why the industry is spending more on advertising than on cleaning up or replacing the lethal product.

So we go to the second which is NATURAL GAS. Perhaps it is important to point out that while the gas we are discussing is “natural” there are also a number of unnatural – or manufactured gasses made from among other things – are you ready? – Coal.

Natural gas burns cleaner than coal or oil. (We didn’t forget oil – we just passed it because it’s almost as dirty as coal). Please understand that burning cleaner than coal or oil does mean that there is no problem with gas’s residue. There is, but here again you hear commercials about how clean and cheap and readily available natural gas is. That is true but don’t forget what ends up in the air after burning it:

And so there is a reasonable argument for the use of natural gas instead of coal and oil BUT only as a temporary replacement for those demons until the clean, cheap and totally renewable energy source is fully developed.

And of course that form is Water Power, the third step – but in our program not an out.

So the play goes: replace coal and oil with natural gas for a while and then replace the gas with water power. Of course we would gladly settle for a Double Play whereby we would go from Coal/Oil directly to hydropower.

Hydropower as soon as possible for our grandchildren and their grandchildren. We should do no less and – we can.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What’s New Canada?

Since our article on Canada’s awakening, a few things have happened. And a few things should have happened – that haven’t.

What has happened in the good sense is a continuation of the agreement with the U.S. that we share the goal of combating climate change. Clearly the Canadian hydropower availability is being explored much more seriously than in the past.

However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, while emphasizing Canada’s role as an “energy superpower” (which it clearly is) took issue with one provision of the Waxman-Markey climate bill that passed the House of Representatives in June.

The provision that raised his hackles, and those of others around the world, is the one that would impose tariffs on countries that did not get or keep their emissions under control.

With a little Canadian humor Mr. Harper said, “Such a measure would become a front for protectionism quicker than you can say ‘hello.’” This issue was also raised in India during a visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this past summer.

Mr. Harper also said, “A better way would be to make sure all nations did their part to reduce emissions and share the burden from the beginning. I hope we will push toward that kind of solution instead of a solution toward tariffs.”

One part of the Canadian effort to “harmonize efforts” with the United States is, to us, somewhat troublesome and that is participation in the cap-and-trade system which, if you have read our efforts, creates as many problems as it solves and at best delays the real reduction of emissions wherever it is practiced.

As one observer noted, “No country, government or company is ready yet to face the cost of pollution and the cost of cutting pollution.” And may we add – as long as the governments and politicians are on the payrolls of the energy producing companies.

Hydropower can and should be developed at a rapid pace by others than the fossil fuel energy companies. Its cost is better than that of trying to clean up the fossil problems.

In addition, we can look to Canada for advice and leadership in the development of water powered electricity generation and distribution.

And more of us should.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Articles of Common Sense

(With Appropriate Apologies)

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a people to dissolve the attachments that have connected them with the evil purveyors and burners of fossil fuels and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and immaculate environment to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the dissolution.

And so we shall.

Global warming – melting of the glaciers
Greenhouse Gases
Carbon Dioxide
Air pollution and Water pollution
Caused by burning coal
Caused by burning oil
Caused by burning gas
Caused by autos burning petroleum products
Caused by Man-made forest fires (also natural ones)

All caused by lack of government regulation or control.

We will talk at another time about agriculture and population – two very hot topics – and very controversial.

We will show all sides.

Small Hydro – More Power to the People!

Well, as promised earlier, we have a compendium of the small and simple equipment and techniques that promise (and deliver) clean and very inexpensive energy, primarily electricity and heat.

As in the case of solar power units, the initial cost of hydropower units is practically the only cost to be incurred. That of course involves purchase and installation of the units. Once in operation maintenance is relatively minor – and by that we mean relative to the cost of the electricity purchased from a utility.

And Hydropower without dams is the main answer. Free-flow turbines have a much smaller, in some cases infinitesimal, impact on fish migration and survival as well as water quality and the visual/aesthetic qualities of the environment.

Tidal hydropower units also use the natural movement of nature on a horizontal basis. These units adjust for the variances in tidal direction and speed. Tides such as those experienced in New York City’s East River are excellent examples of the tremendous forces that exist in what appears to be a plain old water passage.

Falling Water turbines also help fill the bill. These are very small versions of the turbines used by the big dams in their electricity generation. But these little ones can use many of the small dams already installed around the country. Actually of all the existing 80,000 dams of all sizes, only 2,400 are online and used for power generation.

In summary, any small hydro system consists of the following

- Water Conveyance – channel, pipeline, tide or pressurized pipeline (penstock) that delivers the water.
- Turbine or Waterwheel to transform the moving water to rotational power
- Alternator or generator to transform rotational energy to electricity
- Regulator to control the generator, and
- Wiring (or the grid) to deliver the electricity to the consumer.

It is not unreasonable to see a homeowner making his or her own electricity from the water flowing in small stream in the back yard. The only concern in that case would be whether the water flow was all year or seasonal. In either event when the water flows so will the electricity.

So hydropower can undoubtedly be the Power of the People!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What’s New in the Politics of Energy?

As the man says, “What could be new?” And you could add “What ought to be new?”

Well we have answers, as you probably guessed. But the answers will not match what you’ve been seeing or hearing through the news media. But then why should they?

We must distinguish between the news media and The Media. The news media is enfranchised to present facts. (Careful there!). The Media provides entertainment, editorials, amusement as well as “the news”. And all of these are funded by advertising with its powerful resources.
So one must be very careful when listening to or watching some of the ads put out by our big energy companies – the coal, oil and gas boys.

For example, a recent Center for American Progress report showed that “the coal industry’s infamous front group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity” (ACCCE) spent $45 million in 2008 in what was called it’s deceptive “America’s Power” campaign shouting about the benefits of “Clean Coal”- the concept we called in an earlier issue – The Great Energy Oxymoron.”

While it is happy with its advertising program, the coal industry has yet to spend any meaningful amounts on such items as Cleaner Technology or Safety in Operations. The ACCCE is made up of 48 coal companies. This group enjoyed a combined profit in 2007 of $57 billion. Yet over a period of several years it has spent only $3 billion for research into carbon capture and storage (CCS) – their supposed answer to Dirty Coal!

In April, 2009 The New York Times published an article by Jad Mouawad headlined “Oil Giants Loath to Follow Obama’s Green Lead.” Here we go again!

It seems that Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Exxon Mobil have cut back on their original intentions to assist in the development of renewable energy forms. According to the Times article, “The oil companies have frequently run advertisements expressing their interest in new forms of energy, but their actual investments have belied the marketing claims.”

According to Nathanael Greene of the Natural Resources Defense Council, “The scale of their alternative investments is so mind-numbingly small that it’s hard to find them.”

That really says it all. They practically laugh at President Obama’s plan to spend over $150 billion in the next decade to create what he calls “A clean energy future.”

That money could bring the additional hydropower we need to put the fossil fuel giants to pasture.

A dream worth pursuing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Upstate, Downstate, all around the Towns

Upstate in Illinois is where the major electric demand exists. Downstate is where the fuel that was used to make the power is located. More on this later.

Downstate New York is where that state’s major demand is located. Upstate is where Niagara Falls power plants are located; as well as Canadian Sources and Indian Point Nuclear Power plants.

And so it is around the country. Very often the source of power (mainly electricity) is not in the middle of the highly populated areas. This is especially true of nuclear plants but also generally true of fossil burning plants – and our good friends the major water power dams.

How it gets from here to there and from there to elsewhere is the story of the grid, the grid that almost exists. But we’ve been through that before (see earlier blogs).

Today’s sermon has to do with the way We the People get in the way of progress and by progress I mean letting the grid grow and prosper where possible.

Have you ever heard of NIMBY? Over the years the electric transmission companies have had the devil’s own time obtaining easements to install those infamous overhead lines that bring power from there to here.

“NIMBY,” a lot of us said. “Not In My Back Yard.” And so it took acts of Congress or local governments to clear the way for some sections of the growing grid. And in some small towns (famously in New York and California) local boards yielded to their constituents and refused to approve the needed installation.

When that happened, and happens, rerouting of the proposed sections of the new grid must be made. And as if cost of the grid was not already of concern, such rerouting only adds additional cost way out of proportion to the grid value first estimated.

And so, good fellow citizens, while we loudly proclaim that our government had better wake up to the need for clean renewable power we must also realize that teamwork is required and that We The People must be just as proactive as we ask our elected officials to be.

Fair is Fair

And demanding clean, renewable, non-polluting energy must be enabled as one of the rights guaranteed in our constitutions and in the soon to become famous “Articles of Common

Please stay tuned.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hydropower 106 – Where It’s At

Yes, we’re fixated on hydropower – the use of water to satisfy the requirements of all forms of energy: Heat, light, mechanical and electrical power- Cheap, clean and naturally replaced.

And hydro potential is everywhere, not just where you see those big dams – although they do a great job. The true and great hope for the future is the fact that small hydro equipment is now available that can be used anywhere – and everywhere – without any harm to the ecology or air or water.

The magic lies in the development of Small Hydro. Small Hydro is defined as “the development of power on a scale serving a small community or an industrial plant.” This definition is not fixed but a generating capacity of up to 10 megawatts (MW) or 10,000 kilowatts is the generally accepted size of a SH plant. In some areas in the United State and Canada the upper limited is raised to between 25 and 30 MW.

In contrast the big dams, such as Hoover Dam generate 2,074 MW of electricity.

Small Hydro is further subdivided into Mini Hydro which is defined as less than 1,000 KW and Micro Hydro which is less than 100KW. One can easily see that Small Hydro or its offspring could be used almost anywhere – and it is and will be more and more in the future.

The beauty of small hydro is that plants may be connected to conventional electrical systems as a source of low-cost renewable energy OR they can be built in isolated areas where it would not be economical to connect to the grid or even where there is no grid.

While we will give examples of the small hydro equipment available to all in a future message, suffice it to say that small hydro equipment together with currently available solar equipment can most certainly replace coal, oil and natural gas as our “prime movers” whenever people decide to make the change AND the governments involved decide to let them.

A neighbor of ours has a small stream running across his back yard. There is running water in the stream for at least 6 months out of the year. And those six months can be broken up into separate weeks or groups of days depending entirely on the current rainfall or snowmelt.

In any event he can reduce his electric and heating costs by half by installing a small turbine and a solar panel. Happy event – solar panel works best when the sun is out – no rain!

With Hydro there’s nothing but good news!

Cap and Trade – Again?

Unfortunately this subject is topical again because what appears to be a fraud to be committed against the American people may have turned out to be exactly that! And let’s get to the truth without attracting any libel or slander lawsuits!

Can that be done?

Not only can it be done – it is being done – and we will quote only a few of the many voices – some quite sane and some very much otherwise – being raised on this issue.

Well for the sane, how do Wall Street Journal, U S News & World Report, the George C. Marshall Institute and The National Center for Public Policy Research sound to you?

And for the “happy” group you might include Neal Boortz, Carolyn Tacket’s Closet and a few others who don’t need mentioning.

All of these however agree that Cap and Trade is another government movement going in the wrong direction. Its cost will be staggering and the result will be to delay the eventual reduction in the burning of fossil fuels to the detriment of not only the ecology but – more important – our children’s lungs!

If you’re not familiar with “Cap and Trade” – shame on you – our edition entitled “Cap and Trade – Duck and Cover!” was issued in April (this year) and tells the story pretty completely.
The point of all the objections is twofold; (1) The delay in reducing the airborne pollution and (2) the high cost of this permitting of what we call “indulgences” for the benefit of large polluting corporations.

We must remember that we are talking about atmospheric pollution measured in Billions of Tons of Carbon Dioxide or equivalent heat-trapping gasses!

In our opinion and that of many others. Including, but not limited to, those listed above, is that the program is flawed, perhaps fatally, and should not be enacted.

Once again we refer to our April report when we quote an attorney who said,”Companies should have to abide by laws which limit the pollution or shut down! Any company which is producing enough products to cause that pollution is financially able to upgrade their equipment to control what they spill out into the air.”


Hydropower is the answer and always will be.

Tell your congressman to get to work.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Where Are All Those Energy Jobs?

Actually, the number of workers in the field, so to speak - mining coal, drilling for oil and natural gas - are relatively few, as we will see. But the peripheral businesses, such as gas stations and oil delivery companies, involve hundreds of thousands of employees throughout the nation. Some examples:


There are approximately 175,000 “blue collar”, full time, permanent jobs related to coal in the United States. (84,000 mining, 31,000 transportation and 60,000 power plant employees) This amounts to 0.12% of the U.S. workforce. One can see the decline of coal when comparing this data to the fact that in 1920, coal mining alone amounted to 1.89% of the total U.S. Workers.

Oil and Natural Gas

The data for these two categories tends to get “lumped” together, since a number of firms deal in the producing and distributing of both energy forms. According to R. Skip Horvath, CEO of the Natural Gas Supply Association: “Roughly 5.8 million Americans are employed in and supported by the natural gas and oil industries.” The so-called “blue jobs” are those taking the image of the blue flame of natural gas burning.

Renewable Energy

A recent ASES (American Solar Energy Society) report stated that “ the U.S. 8 million people were employed in renewable energy and energy efficiency industries in 2006. Three years later, that number has increased by at least 10%. Renewable energy includes wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, biofuels and hydropower generation.


Once again we return to the cleanest, least expensive and most accessible source of clean power on earth. It is available from falling water, flowing water and tidal movements in the seas. It is replenished by rainfall, snowfall and occasionally sleet.

As hydropower replaces fossil fuels, the number of employees needed to provide additional services will equal, if not exceed, the number of employees no longer needed by the oil and gas companies.

The vast number of hydropower sources that will not require connection to any grid is the subject of Hydropower 106, to be published in the near future.

Meanwhile, we are pleased to pass on a headline that appeared in a recent Renewable Energy World publication which stated: “New Developments in Hydropower Can Supercharge Obama’s Green Jobs.” Let’s hope Obama drops the coal in favor of water!


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hydropower 105

We have visited this subject many times. The subject needs viewing from a number of different angles in order to understand its importance to humanity and all forms of life on earth.
In Hydro 101 we looked at the dramatic results of water falling hundreds of feet to create millions of kilowatts of electricity.

In Hydro 102 we were introduced to the very real concept of water flowing horizontally to create electricity.

In Hydro 103 we found that there are great areas of potential water power in Canada and the United States – enough in fact to replace all that terrible burning coal with its deadly by-products.

In Hydro 104 we were presented with the arguments that continue between those whose concern is the “ecology” of the earth and those who know that there are many forms of hydropower that will not harm the ecology in any way.

Throughout our discussions we have seen how the various levels of government do not seriously help those concerned with clean energy – but actually get in the way. In one of our earlier articles entitled “Little Water, Big Energy – Big Government in the Way” we showed a few examples of the frustrating interference in energy control matters at every level of the government.

And so we come to the real power that will enable clean water and clean air for our children and their children – People Power: You and me and our families and friends and neighbors and coworkers - everyone in fact that enjoys being a citizen of this great country and who have always in the past answered the call to duty in times of peril.

This is not a call to war – but it is a call to service every bit as serious and threatening as a nuclear conflict.

The service required will be the active – really active – participation of everyone in the process of getting the powers that be to (1) recognize the problem of air and water pollution and its causes, (2) enact legislation to make mandatory the elimination of these sources of pollution, (3) specifically, replacement of burning fossil fuels with hydropower, (4) establishment of timelines within which pollution must be eliminated, (5) strict enforcement of the new energy laws and regulations.

This now becomes a movement greater than any political party’s lines. It requires that all people of all ages become involved and make certain they are heard. This means you!

After Nuclear, Where’s the Waste?

Now there’s a loaded question if there ever was one!

Nuclear waste. All by itself the concept is frightening. Ever since the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Japan in August 1945, the fear of radiation and associated diseases has been universal and endless.

The inventors and developers of the atomic bombs pleaded that governments condemn their use and make atomic war impossible. Thus the “Cold War” where east and west stared each other down for more than 40 years until Premier Gorbachev listened to President Reagan and “tore down that wall.”

Contrary to the best wishes of the people of the earth, a number of nations now have atomic weapons, the worst use of our nuclear knowledge. Fortunately, so far none have gone so far as to use those weapons at war.

But the peaceful use of our atomic knowledge, nuclear generation of electricity, has also grown and is use in most developed nations around the globe.

And here comes the loaded question yet again: What are you doing with the waste?
And the answer – or answers – is the subject of some pretty hot arguments between energy proponents of all persuasions.

In America, it starts in 1982 when Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.
The story of the now-infamous Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository is yet another example of federal confusion, intrusion and even illusion. Back in 1987 the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) proposed Yucca as the deep geological storage facility for spent nuclear reactor fuel and other radioactive waste.

Haggling and delay between DOE, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM), National Academy of Sciences (NAS) as well as representatives of Nevada and Arizona caused the possible final activation of a waste site off until as late as 2020!

Meanwhile there are121 locations around the continental states where nuclear waste is being accumulated. And while a lot more is known about safe treatment of such waste than was known 27 years ago – agreement and real action are still way off!

Here again is a strong argument in favor of shutting down nuclear facilities and replacing them with – wait for it – HYDROPOWER ! Hydro Generation is available - and by the “magic date” of 2020 – the nuclear problem could be solved also!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hydropower 104

Hydropower “courses” 101 through 103 were offered in February and March of this year with little fanfare and even less response. Understandable.

People in this country, at this time, are more concerned with such time-sensitive arguments as The Economy or The Condition of Healthcare in America, than the condition of our air and water supplies in the year 2020 or even 2040.

BUT our little organization, age 101, has been around the track several times; we’ve seen it, live (before television). Wars, Depression (real one), Recessions, Presidential Assassinations; Critical and Deadly Droughts.

We’ve also seen some good things: Cures of Polio, Smallpox, Yellow Fever, Pneumonia, diphtheria; discovery of Penicillin; decrease in death rate from pneumonia and influenza, to mention a few.

We also saw the reawakening of the importance of the power of water to produce energy – primarily electricity. Huge dams were built, Coulee and Hoover, series of dams in cooperatives such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, all using replaceable energy sources when the phase “renewable” wasn’t even considered.

We have also seen a great increase in public concern over the condition of what has become known as the Ecology.

And this is where we can find two diametrically opposed groups with the best of intentions – providing a serious impediment to the future of clean air and water.
There is no question that clean earth needs natural resource management as provided by the ecological sciences. There also is no question that the burning of fossil fuels damages the ecology as we know it today.

What needs to be explained to both parties is that the development of more hydropower does not have to impinge on and certainly not threaten the ecology. The development of the tidal, flow and small vertical water power generation is designed to avoid any harmful impact on the good balance of nature and its plants and animals.

Again, the Fossil Agents use the fear of the need to build huge dams that would indeed disturb the ecology, to keep the good guys on both sides from working together- as they most certainly must.

In Hydropower 105 you will find an explanation of all the small hydro projects that will do the job while keeping the peace.
Please stay tuned

Is There Any Clean Power in Mexico?

And we’re not talking just energy. Mexico is a very clear example of one of our favorite subjects: The politics of energy and the energy of politics (see earlier editions).

In the United States and Canada the battles are between oil/coal/fossil and the clean air and water group hydro/solar/wind. Mexico’s problems are compounded by the internecine drug war wherein it is truly difficult to tell who the good guys and bad guys are.

As if this isn’t bad enough, it becomes worse when you consider that Mexico is the third largest supplier of petroleum to the United States, second only to Canada and Venezuela. It currently supplies us with more than Saudi Arabia.

Last year, Rogelio Neri, former head of Mexico’s federal electricity commission blamed the inability of the nation’s oil industry to produce enough oil to meet rising demand that could cause Mexico to halt all oil exports – including the 11% of the United States total imports.

At the same time Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Secretary and a former border state governor stated that the United States and Mexico are “winning the often brutal war” against the drug cartels that operate across the US/Mexico border.

“We are not only fighting this fight, we are winning it,” she told the Southwest Border Task Force gathered in El Paso, TX in early August 2009. She highlighted a string of drug and weapons seizures as proof that the $billion plus war is succeeding in spite of a violet “push-back” from gangs who have often appeared able to outgun and outspend the Mexican “federales.”

Thus the question of Mexico’s viability as a key supplier of oil to the U.S. is of great interest in terms of (1) the price of oil (2) the security of U.S. oil supplies and (3) the viability of Mexico as a self-governing state.

Respected Mexico observer George Baker is confident that Mexico will continue to be an exporter because Mexico’s viability and thus its “domestic tranquility – to the extent that it has much left given that it is fighting both drug-related and political violence – depends on it.”
Regardless – if Mexico stops exporting oil in four to six years, that is not a lot of time to find replacement for the 1,088 thousand barrels per day now being delivered.

It is clear that the OPEC group still has a threatening choke-hold on oil supplies that we still need. Recall that Venezuela is a member of OPEC – yes, a founding member.

If anything this situation calls for a real “all-court press” to develop the renewable power sources in North America – primarily HYDROPOWER! We can’t say it enough!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Canada Awakes – In Time?

Any good Canadian will tell you that it hasn’t been Canada that’s been asleep. “The bloody Yanks south of the border are the sleepwalkers!”

And of course some of the “bloody yanks” will tell you that the “Canooks” have been promoting their dirty oil instead of that huge potential of hydropower sitting there- waiting for development – i.e., Investment, Money, capital, Dollar$.

Nowhere on Earth are there two neighbor nations on friendlier terms than the U.S. and Canada. Until 9/11 crossing the border between the two didn’t require passports or anything more than personal I.D. and a general statement of one’s reasons for the visit, personal or business.

So it is no surprise that cross-the-border business, in both directions, flourishes within the limits set by various regulations, states, provinces and federal governments.

So putting aside the friendly joshing about sleep – both countries have shown signs of finally recognizing the need to stop burning fossil fuels for energy and promote their plentiful hydropower potentials.

A perfect example of this cooperation is shown in a report published on August 3, 2009 in Chateaugay, New York by the New York Power Authority (NYPA). In it the NYPA announced that New York and Canadian authorities are planning a new huge international hydropower project.

Under the proposed program NY would import up to 2,000 megawatts (2 million kilowatts) of power from “multiple sources, including hydropower from Canada.”

Among the sources will also be power produced from Canadian Wind Farms that have been seeking a market outlet.

The project will cost between $4 and $6 billion phased over an eight year period. The NYPA says that the project will be the largest conducted in the State of New York in more than a half-century.

Further evidence of the growing US/Canadian energy alliance is seen in similar projects being proposed along the border of Canada and Minnesota, Montana and New England.

We can only hope – and trust – that the message of clean air and water resulting from the use of hydropower over fossil fuels is gaining credence and understanding by more and more responsible Americans.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What Are They Doing Everywhere Else?

That is everywhere other that North America. Some samples:

Norway – 99% of all power produced in Norway is through hydropower. Studies are also being made for feasibility of other renewable power sources

Sweden – Has some of the world’s largest sources of uranium- but they are not being further developed. 54% power is hydro and 37% nuclear. By 2010 nuclear should be fully replaced by Renewables – mostly hydro

Denmark-20% of nation’s power is generated by Wind Turbines. Once heavy in oil and gas use, Demark has been energy self-sufficient since 1998 – using biofuels, wave energy and hydrogen. Demark provides 65% of the world wind turbine market.

Russia-Always a major user of oil and natural gas – with Mideast sources right on its borders, hydropower is becoming a major replacement. There are 50 larger hydropower plants in operation – some needing repair – and many more major units planned that were held up at the breakup of USSR.

Japan- called the “Land of Rising Conservation” conversions from oil to fuel cells, solar energy and strong efforts in conservation stemming from Japan’s acute sense of insecurity as a resource-poor nation that imports most of its energy from the troubled Mideast reserves. Renewable energy sources development is top priority.

Australia- like Japan, there is a lack of potential hydropower sites impeding the growth of that portion of the renewable energy source market. However there is a strong movement to develop ocean, tidal and wave energy ultimately “contributing significantly to the global hydropower sector.”

China- Wind power sector to grow 64% this year to20 million kilowatts (20 GW) and hydropower is to increase to 300 GW nearly three times the 2007 level. However there are plans to increase the Chinese nuclear capacity to 75 GW up from 40 GW. China plans to be the world leader in hydropower generation in 10 years.

India- Hydropower is beginning to have significant impact on Indian electricity generation after years of slow development of renewable energy sources. Emphasis has been on solar development the growth of understanding about the need and benefits of hydropower have begun to emerge.

Brazil / Peru- The two countries are in talks leading to the construction of up to 15 hydropower plants in the Andean region. The first 5 will have generating capacity of 6 Gigawatts (6,000 MW). This will “replace a considerable amount of fossil fuel harm.”

Looks like we are not alone in the world after all.

Monday, August 17, 2009

“And If Elected, I Promise…..”

How many times have we heard campaign rhetoric start with that phrase? As former New York Governor Mario Cuomo once said, “We campaign in poetry and govern in prose.”

How true, and in the case of energy, how sad: perhaps eventually tragic. And this is the reason that we have taken on the mission of insisting that our children understand the urgency of cleaning up our air and water not twenty years from now – but NOW!

But what are our elected officials actually doing?

The operative word is “politician” which is, after all what our elected officials are. And it seems that what politicians do best – and what gets them elected from time to time – is talk.

And talks seems to be all we can expect for the near future – say a year or two? That is because the talkers are busy working their way out of a financial crisis brought on mainly by – are you ready? – politicians not minding the economic and banking stores for the past ten years!

So when a newly elected president announces that his answer to air and water pollution is develop “clean coal” over the next twenty years, we cringe. For one thing he cannot still be president 20 years from now, or even 9 years. And so he will not have to answer the questions our children will raise about the junk that had to be buried from the coal after it was “cleaned.”

A number of US senate and congress candidates have made some very well-intentioned statements promising the elimination of importing fuel from the Mid-east. Of course they don’t complete the thought by telling what fuel will replace the Arab gold – but we know don’t we? – COAL! That great American product!

And on questioning some of them we are told that our Hydropower ideas are fine but there is no room for big dams anywhere in the country. Wonder where they got that idea? I’ll Tell You. The fossil fuel boys have staged a full scale program of misleading the people about hydropower and its “harmful” impact on the ecology. Can you think of any worse impact on the ecology than unbreathable air and undrinkable water?

Well, if the fossil fiasco is not cured in those famous “twenty years to Clean Obama Coal” there may just be nothing for our grandchildren’s grandchildren to look forward to- or more specifically – to survive in.

Get on your representatives!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The American Electric Grid – from Virtual to Real

Here we go again! There are times when explaining the status of the American energy systems seems like fiction touched with a little wizardry. Small wonder because even some experts are convinced that some things are true when they really aren’t.

I guess we better explain that! Perhaps a National Public Radio (NPR) report said it best: “The U.S electric grid is a complex network of independently owned and operated power plants and transmission lines.” The operative word is “independently.”

And the bottom line is there is no single US electric grid.

What is additionally bothersome is that some transmission lines, whose function is to connect the power supplies to the consumers, are, in NPRs words “Aging.”

In fact the entire infrastructure is in such a state of poor health that the increase in demand and rise in domestic electricity consumption has forced utility and government experts to proceed with the deepest critical examination to determine current status of the entire spectrum of the American electrical systems.

So the “American grid” is actually a collection of smaller grids comprised of thirteen groups of states each with its own set of interconnections. Canada has a similar collection of five groups of provinces with grids established within each.

The small state grids, called “Coordination Councils” (CCs) are connected to neighboring CCs and thus an accepted theory is that through these connections power could be sent from Maine to California.

The fact is that any power generated in Maine and sent toward California would be gobbled up by any one of the hungry CCs between “here and there.”

We have seen a number of blackouts through the years. Some of them have been very serious: 1965, 1977 and 2003 just to mention a few. The terrible news was that after each of these “grid failures” we, the American People, have been told that nothing has been done to prevent further failures! - And so they continue.

Our representatives need to study and cure (1) the existing electrical system defects and shortages, (2) the persons and organizations responsible for use, maintenance and growth of the systems, (3) Areas of conflict of interest involving public utility ownership of parts of the “grids” and (4) conflict between local, state and federal laws (supposedly) controlling the power supply and transmission systems so essential to human health and safety.

Next – let’s look at what the Pols have done so far!

North America – Wet or Dry?

No, we’re not talking prohibition or state laws involving the sale of liquors.

But there are serious problems in parts of the country that involve serious dry spells resulting in drought conditions that impact on everything in the area – including energy supply.

We have reported earlier that the most serious areas of drought are along the Pacific and Gulf coasts – which are, surprisingly areas where the desalination of sea water could be most feasible. (See our blog entitled “Desalination and Geothermal – Ideal Marriage?”)

The continental US has areas of great water supply and others that have become – or are becoming - centers of serious and likely permanent drought.

The Pacific Northwest, mainly the states of Oregon and Washington, are famous for the prodigious amount of hydropower generated there. About 51 percent of all the hydroelectricity generated in the country is made in the Pacific states. (Not including Alaska or Hawaii).

The main dry areas that have developed in recent decades have been found in California and Texas. The electrical requirements of these two states are significant – with continuing “grid” impact.

There is one major area in which conditions are considered “drought” but continue to improve with hope for reclassification to only “dry.” That covers the northern part of Michigan and parts of mid-Minnesota. Weather “eyes” are keeping close watch on this area.

Many of our recent issues have dealt with hydropower which we see as the one major and true “green” source of energy for the future.

A number of our reports have also dealt with the real and the virtual “national” grid systems in place and where seriously needed.

A third component that requires study and application is the population centers located throughout the nation and the electricity requirements in and near them.

All of these factors will come together in our next report that we hope will bring all the components up to date and enable a serious approach for our representatives to study, learn and use in the appropriate legislation and controls required to finally harness the fossil insults to our environment.

And yes, North America is both – wet and dry and the two can be made compatible.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Does Water Make the Grid Rusty?

You mean there’s a “grid” for water supply?

Well, not in the way that electricity is delivered throughout the nation.

So if the question is whether there is something like a grid for water the answer is “sort of” and that’s because clean water very often has to get from its source to its ultimate consumer and that requires major plumbing, sometimes pipes big enough to drive a truck through.

Electricity generated by hydropower involves similar logistics. One has to get the power generated at the hydro source to the ultimate consumer and that does indeed involve a grid. And in a national, coordinated sense the grid required to deliver hydropower generated electricity is indeed – Rusty!

The same grid that carries power generated by burning coal, oil or gas must be used to deliver water power. The problem is that while many fossil fueled plants are within cities or close to them, the hydropower is often in far away and remote locations. That doesn’t make the delivery system rusty, but the system in a national sense is inadequate and in some areas in poor shape and that condition if not rust, is certainly not acceptable.

We have reported before that due to the recent financial crisis there are literally trillions of dollars of investment money ready to upgrade the “national” grid – when the economy “settles down.” That can build a grid system capable of delivering power anywhere it is needed.

We have also reported on the development small local hydropower plants being developed that don’t require big dams or, in fact, any dams at all , but generate power from water that flows: yes, horizontally. And the flow plants have absolutely no impact on the ecology – another great blessing of hydropower generation.

As for the location of power plants, those burning fossil fuels can be located almost anywhere but the fuel or fuels have to be delivered to them. With hydropower just the opposite is the case
Hydropower must be created at the sources of flowing, tidal or falling water. That means that the Electric Grid has to be there for its product to be delivered.

This last point raises an additional question – the subject of one of our next issues:
Does grid wiring pose different problems, such as unsightly power lines, high tension power concerns? We continue to believe that all problems have solutions – and we pursue them eagerly.