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!