Monday, July 31, 2006


Clever Ads on Sustainability Topics

The Creative Gallery on Sustainability Communications is available on
UNEP website:

Energy topics:

Saturday, July 29, 2006


Jeffords shows the way

I'm not voting for anyone who won't sign on for this.

check out Sen. Jeffords' Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act. Here
are the highlights:

· Requires that the U.S. reduce its emissions between 2010 and 2020
to 1990 levels. By 2030, the U.S. must reduce its emissions by 1/3 of
80% percent below 1990 levels, by 2040 by 2/3 of 80% percent below 1990
levels and by 2050, to a level that is 80 percent below 1990 levels.

· Requires that power plants, automobiles and carbon intensive
businesses reduce their global warming pollution.

· In the event that global atmospheric concentrations exceed 450
parts per million or that average global temperatures increase above 2
degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial
average, EPA can require additional reductions.

· Provides for standards and grants for sequestration of greenhouse

· The National Academy of Sciences will report to EPA and the
Congress to determine whether goals of the Act have been met.

· Requires the US to derive 20% of its electricity from renewable
sources by 2020.

· Establishes energy efficiency standards similar those found in
California and ten other states.

· Invests in innovative technologies.


Is there a candidate smart enough to seize on this?

Note the promise of the last sentence in the penultimate
paragraph--the question is whether there are any candidates smart
enough to see the potential of making a sane response to global
warming Public Issue #1


It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Stupidity
Published: July 29, 2006

San Anselmo, Calif.

I WENT to see “An Inconvenient Truth” last weekend, but the theater was
closed. The power was out because of an overheated transformer. It was
Day 9 of our 11-day, record-melting heat wave here in the San Francisco
Bay Area, where Mark Twain once supposedly, but probably apocryphally,
compared our foggy summer to the coldest winter he’d ever known.

The fog — the Coast’s natural air-conditioner — kept failing to arrive,
however, as we sweltered in triple-digit heat. I briefly remembered the
single night I’d hated the fog, freezing in extra innings at Candlestick
Park. But mostly I recalled the sheer wonder of watching it spill over
sun-struck mountains, summer after summer, and I yearned for its return.
Where had it gone?

I’d just returned from a week in a Mexican desert to find it several
degrees hotter at home, in a marathon that meteorologists have called
unprecedented. My 7-year-old’s skin was so warm that I took his
temperature. A neighbor had to shut down the emergency sprinkler system
at his house, which, sensing fire, was about to douse his furniture. The
water scalded his hands.

Inland, where incomes are lower and temperatures normally higher, the
elderly and infirm have been quietly dying in their overheated
apartments and cars, sometimes slumped in front of running fans.
Yesterday, state authorities were blaming the heat for more than 130 deaths.

Certainly, it was nothing compared to the 2003 killer heat wave in
Europe, which led to tens of thousands of deaths, and yes, we know that
much of the rest of the country is suffering hot weather too. But it was
our heat wave, and we hated it just the same. Power failures left
hundreds of thousands of Bay Area customers cursing Pacific Gas and
Electric in the dark. One repairman reported that his crewmen had just
installed a fresh transformer and were taking a break, sipping some
Gatorade, when he watched their work explode into sparks.

Local meteorologists offered clashing opinions about why the fog stayed
away, but they agreed that the culprits included a mass of warm air that
shifted northward from the Four Corners and parked over the Great Basin.
Part of this high-pressure air mass extended over California’s coast,
tamping down the cool sea breezes. The days were scorching, the nights
sticky and hot.

The San Francisco Chronicle published an article headlined “Scientists
Split on Heat Wave Cause,” which said some climate experts attributed
the heat wave “at least partly” to global climate change. “Others,
however, disagree,” the article continued, “and say it’s still too early
to blame the current weather on the planet’s changing climate.”

This made me wonder: when will it be too late? I get it that you can’t
blame climate change for any one weather event. But I can also see that
there’s a pattern emerging — and it sure looks a lot like what
mainstream scientists have been predicting for several years. They’ve
been warning of more frequent and severe heat waves and warmer nighttime
temperatures that rob you of any relief. You don’t really need a
climatologist to know which way the wind is blowing.

“It’s so hot,” my friends and I say to one another. “It’s scary.” And we

“Aren’t you scared?” I asked my husband.

“Sure,” he said, and went back to watching the A’s.

I know he’s mentally healthier than I. Twain, after all, also is
supposed to have said that everyone complains about the weather but
nobody ever does anything about it. At the time, his comment was pithy
and wise. But times have changed: a consensus of leading scientists
suggests the world has a chance of stalling climate change if we make
deep and immediate reductions in our fossil fuel consumption. This would
take some leadership, but I’d put my children in day care and work full
time for someone with that kind of vision, and I’d bet parents across
the country would do the same.

The fog finally rolled inland on Thursday. But the clock is still tick- ing.

Katherine Ellison is the author of “The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood
Makes Us Smarter.’’


For those who wonder why industrialists are so often portrayed as self-interested pigs

Spend some time visiting John Engler's cukoo-cloud land where global
warming is just a left-wing conspiracy

(Then spend some time at to find out what actual climate
scientists have to say.)

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Interesting: Intriguing local problam solving format takes on energy

I don't know how much of this will be substantive, but this is an
interesting attempt to take discussion out of the sterile "panel
discussion with Q&A" mold and try a different setting and approach.

August 13th -- Meet Minds, Solve Problems
On Sunday August 13, 2006 the first “Meeting of the Minds” will take
place in the Red Light Lounge of the Temple Club located on 500 N. Grand
River in Lansing. This newly forming group is being created to focus on
a single socio/political issue each month, to address important issues
in the community, and to support local organizations that are working to
create solutions.

The format for the first meeting will be:
4:00 PM Doors open, A\V presentations from local artists, board games.
6:00 PM Dinner & organizations speak focus topic.
7:00 PM Participant discussion in the form of "Five Minutes of Fame" on
state commentary on the focus topic.
11:00 PM Networking.
The August meeting will focus on energy issues. For more info, contact
Josef A. Petrous at (517) 507 1799 or



Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Should brave men die . . .?

Should Brave Men Die So That You Can Drive?


Ethanomania further debunked.

This guy does a great job on his very thorough blog.


Peak Oil Medicine Blog--how is health care to work in the low-energy future?

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Free film showing on hybrid home construction, 8/2 and 8/16

Join the Lansing Post-Petroleum Planning Project for a FREE two-part showing of
"Building with Awareness: The Construction of a Hybrid Home."

The 2 h, 42 min film will be shown over two evenings Wednesdays Aug. 2 and 16 at 7 p.m. in the Community Room at EVERYBODY READS bookstore, 2019 E. Michigan Ave, Lansing (next to Gone Wired Cafe).

Everyone is welcome.

Here is information about the teaching film from the producer's website:

Building With
Learn About Straw Bale Home Construction, Solar House Design,
and Green Building With Our How-To DVD Video, Books, and Website

Building With Awareness: The Construction of a Hybrid Home Is The Award- Winning DVD Video On How To Build Beautiful and Energy-Efficient Solar-Powered Straw Bale Homes With Straw Bale, Adobe, Mud, Cob, and Other Natural Materials. Every step, from breaking ground to the final coat of earth plaster, is beautifully presented and easy to understand.

Building an energy-efficient solar home requires more than just using straw bale walls. Every element of the design can have a positive effect on reducing or eliminating your energy bills. Energy-efficiency and beautiful aesthetics can both come from the same materials. This web site shows how green building techniques can make both large and small buildings dramatically more energy efficient.

Our Building With Awareness: The Construction of a Hybrid Home DVD video follows the construction of one straw bale solar house, from start to finish. This DVD video will educate you on how both materials and the design of the building will determine its energy efficiency, visual appeal, and construction cost.

Your host: The Lansing Post-Petroleum Planning Project (LP4) is a local group made up of people concerned with helping the Greater Lansing area create a plan to thrive in the very challenging years that are coming up, as the world supply of cheap energy begins to diminish and the need for drastic reductions in overall fossil-fuel usage further limit our options.

Please post/publicize/forward wherever appropriate.

Previous films shown in this summer sustainability stories series:

June 21 THE END OF SUBURBIA: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream

July 5 THE POWER OF COMMUNITY: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil


Friday, July 21, 2006


Great ad


Read and Heed


TXU plans massive crimes against humanity

Burning Debate
As Emission Restrictions Loom,
Texas Utility Bets Big on Coal
Planned TXU Plants Raise Global-Warming Concerns; Rivals Try New Technology Mr. Wilder Cites Demand
July 21, 2006; Page A1
Top executives at many utility companies have reluctantly accepted that coal-fired power plants contribute to global warming, and they have begun planning for a more restrictive future.

Then there is C. John Wilder, chief executive of TXU Corp. The Dallas-based utility company is racing to build 11 big power plants in Texas that will burn pulverized coal. That process releases substantial amounts of carbon dioxide, the most worrisome of several heat-trapping gases widely blamed for global warming.

TXU contends Texas needs a lot more power, and it wants to be the company to provide it. Critics of its $11 billion construction program see another motivation: The federal government may slap limits on carbon-dioxide emissions. If it does, plants completed sooner may have a distinct advantage. That's because the government may dole out "allowances" to release carbon dioxide, and plants up and running when regulations go into effect may qualify for more of them than those built at a later date. . . .

In his public appearances, Mr. Wilder maintains that more power generation is urgently needed. At TXU's annual meeting on May 19, he displayed a chart on infant mortality, arguing that countries with high per-capita electricity usage have a lower incidence of early death than countries with little electricity. He argued that Texas' electricity surplus is "literally melting away" and that the state needs TXU's new plants to buttress its standard of living.

"We know what we do is a valuable thing to society," he told shareholders. "And part of the debate of this new build program that we have...with some of our [that] you have to look at the whole system of benefits and cost to society. There's not a form of electricity today that can be generated without some society harm." . . .

In its written response, TXU said it opposes regulation because it would "stunt economic growth" and because "there would not be any real environmental benefits." The U.S. should take no action on mandatory carbon-dioxide reductions, TXU wrote, "unless all nations adopt similar programs."

TXU executives contend that the current Congress is unlikely to act. "It's easier to stop a bill than pass a bill," says TXU's Mr. McCall. "It will only take 40 senators to block carbon regulation." . . .

TXU's decision to build pulverized-coal plants -- and to build them quickly -- may stem in part from the way the federal government has instituted pollution regulations in the past. A 1990 federal program to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, a contributor to acid rain, employed a "cap and trade" system. Existing polluters were given "allowances" -- essentially, rights to pollute -- which they could use themselves or sell to others.

The allowances were intended to soften the blow for companies that had made investment decisions without knowing they would later face antipollution measures -- to "grandfather" them. Over time, the number of annual allowances handed out was reduced. That drove up their resale value and provided companies with an incentive to install pollution-control equipment.

Many believe the government eventually will adopt a similar system to control carbon-dioxide emissions. In late 2004, TXU consultants advised the company against trying to cut such emissions in anticipation of federal action. In a written report, the consultants said that such "early actions" could reduce the allowances that TXU receives in the future.


The Mother of All Positive Feedback Loops

Undersea Gas Could Speed Global Warming - Study
NEW YORK - If the world continues to get warmer, vast amounts of methane gas trapped in ice under the sea could belch up and worsen climate change, according to a study.

"We may have less time than we think to do something (about the prospect of global warming)," Dr. Ira Leifer, a marine scientist at University of California Santa Barbara, said in an interview.

Leifer is the main author of a study that looks at how "peak blowouts" of melting undersea formations called methane hydrates could release the potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. The study was published Thursday in Global Biogeochemical Cycles, a climate science publication.

The distribution of methane hydrates throughout the world is so vast that energy companies hope one day to tap the resource. The US Department of Energy estimates that such formations could harbor as much as 200,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Hydrate formations exist under hundreds of meters of water in places like the Gulf of Mexico and closer to the surface in permafrost areas of the Arctic.

Methane, the main component of the fossil fuel natural gas, has two faces. When burned it releases less carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas that scientists believe are warming the earth, than any other fossil fuel.

But if it escapes to the atmosphere without being burned, it can trap heat rapidly because it is a greenhouse gas at least 20 times stronger than carbon dioxide.

The study measured the amount of methane that escaped to the atmosphere from a peak blowout from small volcanoes on the ocean floor off of California. It found that virtually all of the methane escaping from the deep water reached the atmosphere, countering some theories that methane seeps out in tiny bubbles that harmlessly dissolve in the ocean.

Leifer said rising temperatures could warm the oceans, creating a feedback loop in which warm temperatures make global warming even worse.

Most scientists believe emissions of heat-trapping gases from cars, industrial sources and the burning of forests are warming the earth. NASA has said that 2005 was the warmest year at the earth's surface since records began in the 1860s.

While deep ocean temperatures have been more stable, currents of gradually rising sea-surface temperatures could eventually warm the ocean's depths and release gas, said Leifer. "If you expose a hydrate to water that's warmer than normal it starts destabilizing," he said.

"I have no doubt that if we warm the atmosphere too much the oceans will follow and will cause the problem to become severe at some point."    

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Cui bono?

Letter to the Metro Times:

Two cheers for Ben Lefebvre's piece on ethanol, though its refusal to reach a conclusion about the value of ethanol likely left a number of readers unable to sort out the competing claims.

Worse, the story forgot the most important rule in investigative journalism: Follow the money. In this case, we need to ask the age-old question, "Cui bono?" ("Who benefits?") A really first-class piece on ethanol would have told us who funds the research projects and laboratories of Drs. Dale, Pimental, and Patzek.

The world is at or near the peak in oil production, with natural gas soon to follow. That doesn't mean we run out soon--but it does mean that the amounts available of both is going to inexorably decline from here on, even as worldwide demand is exploding.

Rather than helping us prepare for the post-petroleum world, people promoting ethanomania are telling America (and especially Michigan) exactly what it wants to hear: that we can maintain the easy-motoring one-car-per-person lifestyle forever and that the only thing we need to change is the name of the fuel that puts the tiger in our tank. It's a dangerous delusion that we cannot afford to entertain for long.

The answer to bizarre and counterproductive subsidies for oil is not equally bizarre and counterproductive subsidies for ethanol, especially given that, as Lester Brown puts it, ethanol means that the poor needing food have to compete with our SUVs for it.

(Re: *


Michigan's Ethanomania

Stalking the answers
Metro Times Detroit
By Ben Lefebvre
Critics and boosters tackle the questions about ethanol

Monday, July 17, 2006


Am. Inst. Of Physics--the Discovery of Global Warming

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Preparing the county to cope with climate change, as Sims is doing, "is exactly what leaders are for"

Preparing the county to cope with climate change, as Sims is doing, "is exactly what leaders are for," says William Ruckelshaus, the first U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator and a Medina resident.

A great example for us, showing us that it is possible to be a leader and give a city what Lansing needs more than anything else: leadership on the twin dilemmas of living in a society built on endless supplies of cheap energy when that cheap energy is no more, and figuring out how to deal with the consequences of having blown all the carbon in all that cheap energy into the atmosphere. 

If our response to the first problem is to simply shift to the cheapest fossil fuels (coal), then we are simply condemning the next generations to live with whatever wild climate disruption happens to result. 

It's time people understood something very important:

Global warming is all four horses of the apocalypse all in one, because it is likely to bring us wars, disease, famine, and pestilence in relentless waves.

It's encouraging to see some leadership on this issue--but where is that leadership in Lansing?

Global warming: They're not laughing at Ron Sims now

By Keith Ervin
Seattle Times staff reporter

The first time Ron Sims tried to set up a county office to study the effects of global warming, he was mocked.

A Seattle Times editorial said King County Council members Sims and co-sponsor Bruce Laing were belching "hyperbolic clouds of rhetorical gas," and suggested they instead buy some tomato plants and steer manure.

"The point is," wrote the amused editorialist, "that the sky-is-falling, icecaps-are-melting, oceans-are-rising rhetoric must be tempered by common sense." With little support for the idea from the environmental community and none from council colleagues, the proposal quickly disappeared.

That was 1988, before rising temperatures, increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and melting ice sheets persuaded most of the scientific community that the planet is undergoing potentially disastrous climate change caused by human activity.

Now county executive, Sims has set up a climate-response planning team — and no one is laughing. Long admired by environmentalists, but previously unable to make the case that a local official should poke his nose into a planet-sized problem, Sims is drawing national attention for his efforts to reduce the county's greenhouse-gas emissions and prepare for the effects of climate change. .  .  .(snip)

Preparing the county to cope with climate change, as Sims is doing, "is exactly what leaders are for," says William Ruckelshaus, the first U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator and a Medina resident.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Very good interview with "Big Coal" author

We need to get over this idea that we need to find ways of generating more power so we can keep consuming more.

[Excerpts from a great interview, snips marked thus: . . .]

. . .

*DR:* Coal boosters say we have 250 years worth of coal to burn in this country. You argue that's misleading. Why do you think that figure is inflated?

*JG:* It is based on old studies that haven't been updated since the '70s. Those studies themselves were based on studies from the '20s and '30s.

It's not mysterious where coal is. It doesn't pool underground; it doesn't move around. It's a sedimentary rock. We pretty much know where the coal is. The problem with that number -- 250 years, or 270 billion tons -- is that it doesn't take into account where it is and what it will take in environmental and economic terms to get it out of the ground. Vast coal reserves are buried under towns, under state parks, under forests. We've been mining coal for 150 years. We start with the easy stuff, and it gets harder and harder to get out. The coal they're going after now, even in the Powder River Basin [in Montana and Wyoming] where there's lots and lots of coal, is getting deeper and deeper. It's more deeply buried in Appalachia, requires more destructive technologies, like mountaintop-removal mining. Underground mines are going into coal that was considered off-limits before because it was too difficult or dangerous to get at.

*. . .

*DR:* You mention Americans' ignorance about where electricity comes from.

*JG:* Everyone I talk to can tell me the price of a gallon of gas to the tenth of a cent, but I've not found a person -- except for one guy at a reading last night who had a solar panel -- who could tell me what they pay for a kilowatt of electricity. We're completely divorced from the price.

If you look at electric power bills, you will see they often make it very difficult to know exactly what you're paying.

*. . .

* JG:* . . .It's interesting to think about what would have happened in Morgan's vision: We would have had decentralized electricity generation. We would be generating electric power like we generate heat now, with little furnaces in our basements. It would be a whole different paradigm for the industry.

*DR:* It's a paradigm that has come back into vogue now with environmentalists.

*JG:* Totally. There's no reason that couldn't have worked. With all these technological forks in the road, there's all kinds of unanswered questions, but it was a close fight at that time. It's certainly fun to think about how the world would have been different if Morgan had won the argument. . . .

*DR:* Do you think decentralized electricity generation could work today?

*JG:* Oh yeah. The age of the giant power plant is essentially over. There are people who have ideas about mega mega huge nuclear plants and things like that, but ... I grew up in Silicon Valley -- I'm a big believer in the micro model. That's where the future is, because it scales up much more quickly, allows diversity of generation, allows people in the sunny places to have solar, people in windy places to have wind. That paradigm plays in with the whole evolution of a smart transmission grid, net metering, back and forth.

The centralized paradigm of electric power is a legacy of the monopolistic robber baron era. And Samuel Insull and Thomas Edison. We're seeing a fight by Big Coal and Big Nuclear to keep that paradigm alive. I could be just as wrong as anyone about this, but I think that era is over.

*DR:* There's such a legacy of money and political connections.

*JG:* It's not gonna change overnight. But it's hard to see how it gets bigger. We already lose ... transmission is so inefficient. To build power plants any bigger is so expensive, and there are so many siting problems, it's a kind of nightmare. This is not something that's going to play out in five years, but over the long term. Again, maybe it's just my Silicon Valley bias, but that seems to be where the creativity and the energy is right now.

*DR:* The regulatory scheme that was born alongside coal generation created a natural monopoly.

*JG:* The electric power industry model we have now, the architecture, was designed by Samuel Insull, the apprentice to Thomas Edison and later Chicago power magnate. He understood that the best way to preserve a monopoly was to submit to regulation and set up this quasi-regulatory model of public service commissions and things like that.

He knew it would make barriers to entry very high, and being a Chicagoan understood that the regulators could be pretty easily bought off. So it was essentially no regulation at all. And that paradigm has continued. There's been a whole movement toward electricity restructuring, trying to open markets up, but very powerful players don't want that to happen. The last thing they want is competition.

This ancient transmission and regulatory infrastructure has become incredibly complex now, even for someone like me who spent three years trying to understand things like participant funding. How do you allow someone else to hook up to the grid? Who has the first right of transmission through particular lines? The big electric utilities, like American Electric Power and Southern Company, who control some of these grids, do everything they can to make
it difficult for smaller generators to set up. I've heard many stories about this. I know a guy who had this incredibly great proposal for a wind farm in Tennessee. Everything was set, except he couldn't get the Southern Company to allow him to hook up to the grid. They invent 20
million reasons why this won't work or that won't work. The project died. As long as you have these entities for whom competition is not a good thing, as long as they're essentially controlling the wires, it's very difficult.

The average person on the street has no idea where electric power comes from, much less the details and intricacies of this incredibly complex regulatory network. It's all in the hands of three or four public service commissioners in most states.

*. . .

*DR:* If those commissioners wanted to allow rates that change at peak hours, could they do that now? How much control do they have?

*JG:* They're handcuffed by a mandate to provide lowest-cost power. The problem is, how do you define cost? It's always a problem when you talk about coal, because they'll say, coal is only three cents a kilowatt and gas is six. But of course coal costs much more if you factor in what's
going in Appalachia, and global warming, and air pollution, and that kind of stuff. So revising this obligation to low-cost service, changing that definition, is really important. It's a difficult thing to do, but there are a lot of people who are targeting public service commissions now to try to educate and reform and change them, to get these commissioners to understand that there's more to price than pennies per kilowatt.

*. . .

*DR:* Public perception has it that air quality has improved in terms of soot, in terms of particulate pollution. It's held up as one of the environmental victories. But you ask some pointed questions about that view.

*JG:* The coal industry rightly points out that since 1970, emissions from coal plants are down 35 percent, the air in many places in the country is cleaner, and things like acid rain have -- there's some debate about this -- been solved. There's been a lot of progress. But the industry fought every one of these changes tooth and nail, predicted the end of the economy, said they couldn't do it, it'll cost everybody billions of dollars ... and they got it done.

According to the American Lung Association, 24,000 people a year still die prematurely from pollution from coal-fired power plants. Clearly there's still a big problem. I visit places like Masontown, Penn., where you've still got these big old coal burners just dumping the stuff out.
That's what the new-source review fight's about: there's still these big filthy coal plants that should have had pollution controls on them years ago, still pumping it out. In those communities, there's still profound health effects.

This whole idea of the air getting cleaner is only true from a 1970s point of view. You look at the things that have been regulated -- sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, the two main components of smog -- and those are what have gone down. But the things we're concerned about now ...
mercury, that's not going down. Most importantly, carbon dioxide: since 1990, in the U.S., carbon dioxide emissions are up 17 percent. From coal plants, 27 percent.

*. . .

*DR:* Most people would pin the campaign of misinformation around global warming on the oil industry. But coal's had a role to play as well.

*JG:* Coal has fought against it from the very beginning. The Greening Earth Society is a classic example an astroturf campaign set up to make us think that global warming is good, that it will make the earth more bountiful and the beaches warmer and nicer and everybody'll have a better suntan. I've often wondered how cynical it really is.

It's clear that the coal industry has always viewed global warming as a game ender. They know -- or at least they've always believed this, I don't think it's true -- that if we take global warming seriously, they're in deep trouble. Mercury, clean air stuff, they can deal with all that. They don't want to -- it's just a question of money, a question of time. They have long viewed global warming as: they're out of business. It's partly a product of their paranoia, partly a product of the fact that they feel beaten up by the environmentalists, and partly ignorance.

When I was in Gillette, Wyo., in 2004 I sat down with the CEO of one of the biggest coal companies in America. We were talking about global warming. I asked him if he talks to his kids about global warming. He said, yeah, I do, I make sure they wear hats when they're out in the
sun. I'm like, what do you mean? And he said, well, the hole in the ozone, I don't want them to get skin cancer. This is what you're concerned about?

There's a profound and willful ignorance on the industry's part. It's hurt them. I don't think global warming is necessarily a game ender for coal, but the fact that they've dragged their feet on it so much just makes the challenge all the harder for them.

*DR:* If you really think it's a game ender for your industry, is that not impetus to go find out what it is, and whether there's validity to it? It's hard to understand how you could grasp the problem and still work to prevent concerted action.

*JG:* This is a cultural problem. This is an industry that has always been resistant to change. The entrepreneurial era in the electric power and coal industry ended around 1925. It's been on automatic pilot for about 75 years.

The other thing is, it's not really their job. This is a political failure, not a business failure. They're responsible to their shareholders to make as much money as they can within the law. It's odd to say this, but I feel some sympathy. They're fighting for what they think is survival.

If we crack down, finally, on carbon dioxide emissions, they will adapt or die. They will do it.

*. . .

*DR:* Do you have thoughts on the nuclear debate?

*JG:* My problem with nuclear is not so much the waste thing. We need to get over this idea that we need to find ways of generating more power so we can keep consuming more. Nuclear plays into that idea that we can just switch out coal and build nuclear -- that we don't have to think about it anymore.

*DR:* The same role ethanol plays with gasoline.

*JG:* Right. And the same role /coal/ plays with gasoline, the idea that we can liquefy coal to replace Middle Eastern oil. It's a switch-the-box kind of solution.

It also keeps the big corporate powers in play; it keeps this essential structure in the electric power distribution intact -- it's about the big hubs and all that.

*DR:* And incredibly high barriers to entry.

*JG:* Right. It keeps it out of your hands; it's Big Daddy's answer to our problems. That's the problem with it. But I also agree with Al Gore: I don't think it's going to scale. The cost is so huge, the financial risks are so huge ... I think we'll see a handful of them built. But to scale them up to really deal with the problems, I just cannot imagine happening.

*DR:* What are the motivations behind the Asia-Pacific pact?

*JG:* To look like you're doing something. There's nothing behind that. It's all this vague idea of technology transfer. There's no real money involved. There's nothing more than a bunch of people sitting around talking. It's a completely transparent attempt to look like something's
happening, when nothing is happening. I see no evidence of anything serious.

GE's just going to give them the technology for gasification? I went to China three times for this book, and the plane's always loaded with coal people going over there. They love selling their second-rate scrubbers to China -- they want to transfer a lot of technology, especially the
old shit they can't sell here. They want to dump it on the Chinese. If you are a company that sells scrubbers to coal plants, and you see what's going on in China, it's like a wet dream. You've got zillions of coal plants going up over there. You want to transfer your technology as
quickly as you can. Cleaner air in China is important, and they should all have scrubbers, but that's not the real issue.

*. . .

*DR:* I've heard that about China before, that they're really clear-eyed. But on the other hand, if they really do build the hundreds of dirty coal plants they're planning, the game's up -- there's no way to avoid catastrophic climatic consequences. You don't want to consign them to poverty, but you don't want to consign the rest of the world to catastrophe ...

*JG:* I have an 8-year-old daughter. She understands very clearly that if she messes up her room, she needs to clean it up. We, the West, are the ones who have dumped all this shit into the atmosphere that's causing the problems now. We are the richest nations in the world. The
environmental movement shies away from the morality of this. I have friends in the movement who say, "we can't talk about morality. We can't tell people what to do." But I get a little bit tired when people ask me, as they always do: if we're not going to burn coal, what are we
going to do? What are we going replace it with? Is it nuclear? Is it solar? Is it wind?

When I was working on this book as I spent some time looking at slavery debate. During the slavery debate there was all this stuff: oh, you can't abolish slavery, the farms will collapse, what are you going to replace this labor with, we don't have people, who's going to pick our cotton, everything's going to fall apart. The great thing Lincoln said is, that's not the issue. The issue is, is it right or is it wrong? You make that decision first and /then/ you decide how to do it. Global
warming is reaching that moment.

There's an incredible literature of southerners, smart southerners, well-intentioned southerners, saying /we won't be able to pick anything/. How many people will we have to import? How many northerners will we have to hire to replace ex-slaves? The same kind of
one-box-for-the-other you have with coal and wind now.

*DR:* Once you get in those technical arguments, it's hard to say: have faith that human beings are smart, they're clever, they're adaptable. We'll figure something out.

*JG:* One of the things the industry is good at is perpetuating this myth of economic peril. They've done that since the moment the Clean Air Act landed on the desk of Richard Nixon in 1970.

*DR:* If you had to predict, do you think that in 50 years, 100 years, we'll still be burning coal?

*JG:* . . . But in the long run, it's obvious to me, and to everyone, that coal is a very inefficient way of getting energy, even in the best-case scenario. Best-case scenario, it is a bridge to some other breakthrough, some cleaner, greener technology. Solar is the holy grail, and there's a lot of money flowing into that now. Because what is coal but solar power? Just 300 million-year-old solar power.


Michigan's Energy Future--forum in GR, 7/22

Michigan's Energy Future, a Community Forum, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Saturday, July 22, at the Wealthy Theatre

Registration and Continental Breakfast is at 8:30 a.m.

The program begins at 9:00 a.m. with an address by our own Cool Cities Mayor, George Heartwell, on the topic, "Cities will Save the World:
the Future of Renewables."

He will be followed by Aaron Wissner's presentation on Peak Oil, what it is and and its far-reaching implications for our economy and our way of life, its impact on the world, our nation, our state and our community.  Aaron is recent founder of Local Future Network, and a teacher and community leader, who has made it his personal mission to thoroughly educate himself on this topic and in turn, to educate his fellow citizens.  Visit his website at

David Gard of the Michigan Environmental Council, and director of the Council's energy program, will conclude the formal presentations with
"Meeting Michigan's Challenges -- Energy Conservation, Efficiency and Renewable Energy Standards."

Round-table discussions on relevant topics will be conducted over lunch with the help of designated facilitators.

In the afternoon,three extraordinary documentaries, each followed by a facilitated discussion, will be offered: End of Suburbia, The Oil Factor, and The Power of Community.

A $15.00 fee is being asked to cover expenses, including continental breakfast and a catered lunch.  Please rsvp to  We need a reasonable estimate of attendance asap.

This event is envisioned as an introduction to a summer series of events on renewable energy, as well as a host of other events in the planning stages by various groups in the community wishing to promote a continuing dialogue on the subject of global warming and related issues.  Please join us.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Breakthrough: ABC reports on the positive feedbacks that will accelerate climate disruption

Key section:
A cascading effect is now in place. Rising temperatures cause greater releases of greenhouse gases, which in turn cause temperatures to rise, resulting in even more gases being released, and so on.

The most disturbing report on that phenomenon was published recently in Science. But like so many reports, it seems to deal with events so far away and so arcane that it's easy to look the other way. Yet the consequences will land on everybody's doorstep.

Here's the bottom line of that report: The permafrost that blankets northern Siberia is thawing.
Wow, you say, Siberia. So far away.
But here's the statement that needs to be printed on every politician's forehead.
That permafrost contains 75 times more carbon than is released by burning fossil fuel around the entire planet for an entire year. That number is worth repeating. More carbon than all our cars and factories will release in 75 years.

Global Climate Change Is Happening Now
Scientists Fear Global Warming Is Irreversible and Its Effects Possibly Disastrous
July 12, 2006 -- - Scientists waited a long time to declare that global warming was real. And they waited even longer to declare that it resulted from human activities.

And they are still waiting to announce what is becoming increasingly obvious: It isn't going to take nearly as long as had been expected for profound changes to take place.

Good scientists are always cautious scientists, and that chiefly explains their reticence. But now, nearly every research institution involved in the study of global climate change -- from the American Academy of Sciences to the atmospheric department at your local university -- has issued reports citing overwhelming evidence that the planet is changing.

But how much will it change? How will that affect us? And how soon?
Those are the tough questions, and some of the answers will remain elusive for years to come. After all, predicting climate, even day to day, is foggy at best. Given the variables, it may be the most difficult science of all.

But many experts confide privately what they aren't yet ready to announce publicly: Change is accelerating at a dramatic rate.

A cascading effect is now in place. Rising temperatures cause greater releases of greenhouse gases, which in turn cause temperatures to rise, resulting in even more gases being released, and so on.

The most disturbing report on that phenomenon was published recently in Science. But like so many reports, it seems to deal with events so far away and so arcane that it's easy to look the other way. Yet the consequences will land on everybody's doorstep.

Here's the bottom line of that report: The permafrost that blankets northern Siberia is thawing.
Wow, you say, Siberia. So far away.
But here's the statement that needs to be printed on every politician's forehead.
That permafrost contains 75 times more carbon than is released by burning fossil fuel around the entire planet for an entire year. That number is worth repeating. More carbon than all our cars and factories will release in 75 years.

The scientists who wrote the report, all of whom are at the University of Florida, called that a "potent, likely unstoppable contributor to global climate change if it continues to thaw." And, by the way, that's not much of an if. It will take decades, and probably centuries, for that process to be reversed.

Siberia's permafrost, which is supposed to remain frozen for most of the year, covers nearly 400,000 square miles and contains about 500 billion metric tons of carbon.

"You start thawing the permafrost, microbes release carbon dioxide, that makes things warmer. More permafrost thaws and the process continues," says Ted Schuur, an assistant professor of ecology at the university and one of three authors of the report.

A report issued by the university noted that "If all the Siberian permafrost thawed, decomposed and released its carbon in the form of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, it could nearly double the 730 billion metric tons of carbon in the atmosphere presently, an outcome that would have huge warming impact."

Permafrost is not limited to Siberia. Any thawing, whether it be in Alaska or northern Europe, will result in the release of some greenhouse gases, but Siberia is more extreme. The layers of permafrost there are very deep, so the carbon that is trapped has been in place for a very long time.

Samples that Schuur brought back from Siberia to his laboratory in Gainesville contained carbon that dated back tens of thousands of years as organic material became trapped in the soil.

Further examination revealed that the carbon from the Siberia samples was released very rapidly as the soil thawed.
"If these rates are sustained in the long term, as field observations suggest, then most carbon in recently thawed (permafrost) will be released within a century -- a striking contrast to the preservation of carbon for tens of thousands of years when frozen in permafrost," the scientists conclude in their Science paper.

It's easy to find examples of changes that are already taking place.
The Mendenhall Glacier, just a short drive from my home in Juneau, Alaska, is one of the premier tourist attractions in the state. It is a spectacular river of ice that extends up a vast valley carved by the glacier as it gorged its way down through the rocky cliffs that tower above.

When I first saw it as a young Coast Guard officer on duty in Alaska, I was awed. I'm still awed today. But the Mendenhall is rapidly becoming a shadow of its former self. It is melting and receding at a rate of several hundred feet a year.

Just a few years ago, scientists thought the 500-square-mile ice field that feeds the glacier would soon start to get colder, part of an anticipated natural cycle.

But the Mendenhall, like nearly every other glacier in Alaska, is disappearing. Just 200 years ago, the toe of the glacier was where the Juneau airport is today. Now it's several miles -- that's miles -- back into the spruce-covered hills.

Living in Alaska, I find it's sometimes kind of nice to think that the planet is growing warmer. But there's a price to be paid. And the loss of the Mendenhall Glacier pales in the face of horrendous storms, starvation and inundation of coastlines that are sure to come.

Don't think of it in terms of centuries, or even decades. It's happening now.
Copyright © 2006 ABC News Internet Ventures


Another $ign of ethanomania's real purpo$e

(Mining the government fisc.)

US Ethanol Plants Look to Tax-Free Financing

CHICAGO - Ethanol plants are sprouting like corn in many parts of the United States as gasoline prices skyrocket, and some developers are looking to tax-exempt bonds to help finance them.  "These plants are the best economic development opportunity for small communities," said Todd Sneller, administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol Board, a state agency that promotes the ethanol industry. . . .

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Hydrogen Fuel Cells, R.I.P.

[ Comments by Ben Kenney from

At last weekends
Lucerne Fuel Cell Conference, which is a highly respected technical conference, Ulf Bossel, the organizer, made a pretty signinficant announcement: the European PEMFC Forum series will not be continued because hydrogen fuel will never contribute to a sustainable world. Instead they will focus on phosphoric acid fuel cells, molten carbonate fuel cells and solid oxide fuel cells which "can meet the challenges of a sustainable future".

Here is the entire announcement which was attached to the proceedings of the conference: ]


Announcement Lucerne Fuel Cell Forum
2-6 July 2007,
Lucerne / Switzerland

Fuel cells are energy converters, not energy sources. They will be part of a sustainable energy solution only if they can compete with other conversion technologies. This includes system parameters, fuels and applications. Time has come for a critical assessment.

We need fuel cells for available fuels, not synthetic fuels for new fuel cells. Natural gas and oil-derived liquid hydrocarbons will be around for many years. However, their use will be restricted by costs, environmental concerns or even political reasons. Sustainable hydrocarbons like bio-methane, bio-ethanol and bio-methanol from organic waste, wood or farming are already replacing fuels of fossil origin. Hydrocarbon fuels will be important forever and so will fuel cells capable of directly converting these fuels into electricity.

The impressive performance of phosphoric acid, molten carbonate and solid oxide fuel cells clearly indicates that these fuel cell families can meet the challenges of a sustainable future. Some of these fuel cells have reached 65,000 hours of operation with the first stack and natural gas or bio-methane.

It is highly uncertain that synthetic hydrogen can ever be established as a universal energy carries. Electricity from renewable sources will be the source energy in a sustainably organized future. The direct distribution of electricity to the consumer is three to four times more efficient than its conversion to hydrogen by electrolysis of water, packaging and transport of synthetic energy carrier to the consumer and its conversion back to electricity with efficient fuel cells. By laws of physics, hydrogen economy can never compete with an "electron economy".

But the laws of physics cannot be changed with further research, investments or political decisions. A sustainable future energy harvested from renewable sources (nuclear energy is not sustainable!) must be distributed and used with the highest efficiency. A wasteful hydrogen economy does not meet the criteria of sustainability. As a result, a viable free-market hydrogen infrastructure will never be established and fuel cells for hydrogen may not be needed. For all applications electricity from hydrogen fuel cells have to compete with the source electricity used to make hydrogen.

The European Fuel Cell Forum is committed to the establishment of a safe energy future. Therefore, it will continue to promote fuel cells for sustainable fuels, but discontinue supporting the development of fuel cells for hypothetical fuel supplies. Time has come for decisions. Keeping all options open is not an adequate response to mounting energy problems.

Therefore, the schedule of the European SOFC Forum will be continued in 2008 with an extended conference every second year. Beginning 2007 (July 2 to 6) sustainable energy topics will be emphasized in odd years. Despite earlier announcements the European PEFC Forum series will not be continued.

I would like to thank all who have contributed to establish the European PEFC Forum. You and your colleagues have developed a magnificent technology, but the fuel needed to make it work is not offered by nature. We cannot solve the energy problem by wasting energy. The laws of physics speak against a hydrogen economy. Physics cannot be replaced by wishful thinking, or changed by presidential initiatives, research programs and venture capital.

Solutions must be implemented soon as long as resources are available for this most challenging task. I sincerely hope that this announcement will be accepted as a constructive contribution to the ongoing energy debate.

Ulf Bossel, Ph.D.


Lots of wind available
. . .  The report itself (PDF) is really great news. One of the things I find so odd about the so-called realists out there: If we ever expect to provide an energy-intense standard of living for the rest of the planet's population, renewables are the only way it will ever happen. From sea to shining sea -- including the land in between -- the U.S. has several times more wind power then it needs. Add solar, and the U.S. starts to look positively blessed. Forget being the Saudi Arabia of CoalTM -- America is the Saudi Arabia of renewables. Globally, countries like China and India will only be able to build a pleasant way of life through conservation, renewables, and efficiency. End of story. . . .


Fascinating juxtaposition of environmental stories

[Not sure what is up with "Planet Ark" putting a US header over the Canadian climate exchange story--perhaps it was a freudian slip by the editor revealing the US takeover of Canadian greenhouse gas policy.

The first story is about Canada considering dropping out of Kyoto; the second and third are about the scorching summer destroying crops in Manitoba and the US. No connection there, no sirree. There's a saying that I'd love to verify--supposedly by some Native American of the 19th C.--along the lines of "We wonder when the White Man will realize that you can't eat money."]

Canada Climate Exchange Awaits Govt Kyoto Decision

Canada's 'Winterpeg' Facing a Dry Summer

US: Drought Sears US Wheat, Corn Prices Soar - USDA


Anything but conservation!

Just as the US quietly began importing oil in 1953 without anyone noticing, we're now a coal importer, on the way to becoming a net importer--and that's while continuing to guzzle 1/4th of the world's oil (and on our way to importing 75% of that). 

If we do anything like the shift to coal being proposed in some quarters, we'll bankrupt ourselves on both coal and oil and still not have enough to supply our 52" TVs and heated towel bars.  Apparently _anything_ is better than conserving!


July 10, 2006 edition -

Why coal-rich US is seeing record imports
They've jumped from 9 million tons to 30.5 million tons since 1999, as demand grows for low-sulfur coal.

By Mark Clayton | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

With nearly a quarter of the world's coal supply - enough to last centuries - the United States has been dubbed the "Saudi Arabia of Coal," by US officials and energy experts. [This is a dangerous fiction to build energy policy around.  See "Big Coal" by Jeff Goodell.]

But thanks to growing global coal markets and clean air regulations, the US is witnessing a latter-day equivalent of "carrying coals to Newcastle" - a 230 percent leap in coal imports to the US since 1999.

Coal-fired power plants along the Gulf Coast and East Coast have long imported coal by ship in small amounts. But with transportation costs and the price of low-sulfur coal from central Appalachia and Wyoming rising, US demand is soaring for coal from South America and as far away as Indonesia.

Leaping from 9 million tons to 30.5 million tons in the past six years, US coal imports could jump to 40 million tons this year, government analysts say. And that trend is accelerating as demand for low-sulfur coal grows following last year's federal Clean Air Interstate Rule, a mandate for big cuts in sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants in the eastern US.

At the same time, US coal exports are declining sharply. If present trends continue, the US will be a net importer of coal by 2013, according to the Energy Information Administration of the US Department of Energy. Still, most analysts see little need to worry since vast US reserves mean the US is unlikely to become dependent on overseas coal.

"It's truly an ironic situation with the growth in imports, but in the bigger picture, there's no need to worry," says Richard Bonskowski, a coal analyst at the Energy Information Administration. The US produced more than 1.1 billion tons of coal last year, he says. So the US is importing only 4 percent of US consumption. . . .

Energy security experts say the rapid rise of coal imports is not a big problem, because many other alternatives exist for power generation. Nuclear energy, natural gas, and domestic coal can all substitute if prices for imported coal rise too high.

That's different from the problem of US oil consumption in which the nation each year consumes about a quarter of the global supply, but has only 3 percent of global reserves, says Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security in Washington, a think tank focused on energy security issues.

"If we have our back to the wall, we can always fall back on the coal reserves we have here in this country," he says.
[Which doesn't address the fact that the heat value of the western coal is so low.]

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Interesting talk from Daniel Quinn

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


2 cool all-Electric scooters at Riverfront Cycles in Lansing


Important: Ethanomania further eviscerated


Oregon finds that capacity from energy conservation costs half of generation

(Instructive side note:  The NW Power and Conservation Council used to be called the NW Power Planning Council.

“Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective resource — half the cost of new generation," she said. “There’s more to be acquired if it were the wish of the Oregon Legislature for us to go after it.”
Fifth Power Plan: Energy Trust of Oregon
by Linda Anderson - 6.26.06

The Fifth Power Plan, released by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council in December 2004, calls for the acquisition of 700 average megawatts of conservation in the region between 2005 and 2009. Following is nwcurrent’s latest installment in a series examining how the region’s utilities are addressing the council’s recommendations. This month, we turn to Energy Trust of Oregon, which is legislatively charged with investing in cost-effective conservation and renewable energy resources in the service territories of PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric.

Energy Trust of Oregon says demand for conservation in 2005 outpaced its funds, requiring the agency to initiate a reservation program for its most popular conservation programs.

“It’s not an open question — the Energy Trust is a success,” said Tom Ekman, manager of conservation resources with the Northwest Power and Conservation Council in Portland. “Everyone has been exceedingly pleased with their performance.”

Energy Trust was created by legislation in 1999 to invest in cost-effective conservation and renewable energy in the service territories of Oregon’s investor-owned electric utilities, PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric. Customers of the two utilities pay a monthly 3 percent public purpose charge to fund the nonprofit. The agency also administers gas efficiency programs for NW Natural, whose Oregon residential and commercial customers pay a 1.5 percent surcharge on monthly bills to fund the programs.

In 2005, Energy Trust of Oregon saved more than 39 average megawatts (aMW) of electricity at a levelized cost of 1.3 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). In 2004 it reported saving almost 24 aMW.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council pegged the Trust’s share of its 2009 conservation target at 30 aMW of savings per year. However, the Energy Trust’s board of directors actually sets the agency’s goals in line with performance targets set by the Oregon Public Utility Commission.

Margie Harris, Energy Trust's executive director, said the organization will do its part to reach the council's target. “We’re always seeking the best and most cost-effective ways to meet those targets," she said.

The Energy Trust board has set a goal to save 300 aMW of electricity and 19 million therms of gas efficiency by 2012. Since its inception, it has captured about 96 aMW, or 32 percent of the goal.

The board also wants to meet 10 percent of Oregon's generation needs with renewable energy by 2012. Gov. Ted Kulongoski recently proposed a renewable portfolio standard requiring 25 percent of the state’s energy be generated by renewable resources by 2025.

To date, Energy Trust has financially supported almost 15 aMW of renewable energy, which is only about 10 percent of its 2012 target of 150 aMW. Harris said the Trust's efforts were hampered in 2005 by the unavailability of wind turbines and the earlier expiration of the federal production tax credit.

The industrial sector accounted for 20 aMW of the 2005 energy saved, most resulting from efficiency measures installed at the Blue Heron Paper Co. in Oregon City, Ore. [see
"Efficiency takes flight at Blue Heron mill,"nwcurrent, Feb. 7, 2005]. Because of efficiency upgrades, the paper mill is estimated to save more than 100 million kWh annually.

Compact fluorescent bulbs and commercial lighting delivered the most savings in the single-family residential sector and commercial sector, respectively.

“Lighting is the entry point in commercial,” Harris explained. “We’ve worked with big chains so we’re able to gain a lot of momentum and attention to the type of savings that can be replicated. It’s simple to diagnose what the opportunity is and create new opportunities for other savings.”

Harris said the agency needs to continue to move conservation to the next level in Oregon and continually respond to the marketplace — even if that means pulling back from funding certain measures.

“We pay only what we need to pay to acquire the savings,” she said. “It’s not cost-effective to pay for just windows in multi-family dwellings. We’ll pay for them in concert with other measures, or refer projects to [the Business Energy Tax Credit] offered by the state.”

Harris hesitated to say whether a public purpose charge is the best way to deliver conservation, but she did say it is highly effective.

“It’s working here,” she said. “There are about 25 other states with similar programs, but no two are exactly alike. Every state has its own history, climate and operating environment.”

Dave Kvamme, PacifiCorp spokesman in Portland, said the Energy Trust of Oregon is performing as intended.

“Their programs are in many ways comparable to the programs offered elsewhere in Pacific Power and Utah Power areas,” he said. “We are not pursuing this kind of legislation in other states, and if such new laws were proposed, we would comment and offer support with our customers’ well-being in mind.”

Ekman, however, said Energy Trust of Oregon is “definitely ahead of the game” when compared to other states.

But one obvious limitation of Oregon’s legislation is the exemption of public utilities, which serve about 20 percent of the state.

Ekman said it’s premature to say whether all states should implement a public purpose charge. The Northwest Power and Conservation Council plans to review the benefits of public benefit charges in other regions of the country.

“There’s a good and tarnished side of the coin,” he said. “Not every customer gets served equally as a consequence of the legislation. But when the legislature looked to steal money for other funding, they couldn’t.”

Harris said the Energy Trust could easily acquire more cost-effective energy efficiency on behalf of ratepayers if the organization had more money.

“Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective resource — half the cost of new generation," she said. “There’s more to be acquired if it were the wish of the Oregon Legislature for us to go after it.”

Monday, July 10, 2006


Unintended consequences and sequestration: CO2 suffocations

Volcanic Leaks Point to Climate Gas Storage Risks
NORWAY: July 10, 2006

TRONDHEIM, Norway - Hundreds of deaths caused by volcanic leaks of carbon dioxide from Cameroon to California are worrying experts seeking ways to bury industrial emissions of the gas as part of an assault on global warming.

Governments and companies are researching how to trap carbon dioxide -- a greenhouse gas released by burning fossil fuels in power plants and factories -- and then entomb it safely in porous rocks deep below ground.

However, they have done little to explain the vast costs and the risk of leaks from projects that could end up burying billions of tonnes of gas and do more to slow global warming than a shift to renewable energies such as solar or wind power.

"There may be massive public resistance, as we've seen with nuclear power" if governments fail to convince voters that storage is safe, said Bert Metz, co-chair of a 2005 UN report on carbon sequestration.

"Public a possible show-stopper if things are not done properly," he told Reuters during a conference of 1,000 researchers into carbon dioxide technologies in Trondheim, Norway.

Carbon dioxide is a non-toxic gas produced by respiration by animals and plants, making up a tiny 0.04 percent of the air. Levels are up 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution and most scientists say the rise is the main spur of global warming.

In pure form the gas can asphyxiate because it is heavier than air and so displaces vital oxygen.

In the worst case in recent decades, 1,700 people died after a catastrophic 1986 release of 1.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the depths of Lake Nyos in Cameroon, according to the International Energy Agency.

Thirty-seven people died from a similar seismic release from Lake Monoun in Cameroon in 1984. In 1979, an explosion at Dieng volcano in Indonesia released 200,000 tonnes of the gas, smothering 142 people on the plain below.


In April this year, three ski patrol workers died at Mammoth Mountain, California, when they were overcome by carbon dioxide while trying to fence off a dangerous volcanic vent.

"Carbon storage is not risk-free but we think the risks are manageable," said Philippe Lacour-Gayet, chief scientist for research and development at Schlumberger oil and gas services group, one of many companies involved in research.

He and other experts said any greenhouse gas stores would be in geologically stable regions far from earthquake zones -- commercial carbon dioxide stores are now safely in operation in places such as Norway, Canada and Algeria.

The risks of carbon storage pale when compared with the threats of catastrophic climate change. Many scientists say rising temperatures could spur floods, droughts, heatwaves and could spread diseases and raise world sea levels.

Even so, massive storage could mean pipelines and stores under the countryside from Austria to Australia. The public might object to concentrating a normally harmless gas into a more risky form at a likely cost of tens of billions of dollars.

A strong argument for public acceptance is that people accept a host of risks every day -- flammable petrol in the fuel tanks of their vehicles, toxic natural gas piped into their homes or electricity generated from nuclear power.

"All sorts of toxic liquids and gases are already stored underground," said David Reimer, a lecturer in technology policy at the University of Cambridge in England. "Carbon dioxide poses a far lesser risk than many accepted hazards."

Berlin has an underground store for explosive natural gas near the stadium where the World Cup soccer final will be played, he noted. And acid gas is stored underground near Edmonton, Canada.

Carbon dioxide storage sites would have to be carefully chosen, and monitored for centuries.


"I'm more worried about public acceptance of the costs than of the hazards of leaks," said Frederik Hauge, head of Norwegian environmental group Bellona which favours carbon storage.

Metz's UN report said that storage could provide 15-55 percent of all the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions needed until 2100 -- probably a bigger contribution than from renewable energies or from any revival of nuclear power.

It estimates that the costs of generating electricity from a coal-fired power plant would typically rise to US$0.06-$0.10 per kilowatt hour with technology to capture and store carbon dioxide from US$0.04-$0.05 on a power plant with no filters.

Many companies are researching carbon storage, including Schlumberger, Alstom and oil companies such as Shell and Statoil.

Governments need to work out liability rules in case of leaks. Most experts say companies should initially be responsible but governments would take over, perhaps between five and 20 years after burial.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Feeding yourself after Peak Oil

I just got this book and am very impressed.  This could be called "Feeding yourself after Peak Oil."

Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times
by Steve Solomon

ISBN: 086571553x

Publisher Comments:

The decline of cheap oil is inspiring increasing numbers of North Americans to achieve some measure of backyard food self-sufficiency. In hard times, the family can be greatly helped by growing a highly productive food garden, requiring little cash outlay or watering.

Currently popular intensive vegetable gardening methods are largely inappropriate to this new circumstance. Crowded raised beds require high inputs of water, fertility and organic matter, and demand large amounts of human time and effort. But, except for labor, these inputs depend on the price of oil. Prior to the 1970s, North American home food growing used more land with less labor, with wider plant spacing, with less or no irrigation, and all done with sharp hand tools. But these sustainable systems have been largely forgotten. Gardening When It Counts helps readers rediscover traditional low-input gardening methods to produce healthy food.

Designed for readers with no experience and applicable to most areas in the English-speaking world except the tropics and hot deserts, this book shows that any family with access to 3-5,000 sq. ft. of garden land can halve their food costs using a growing system requiring just the odd bucketful of household waste water, perhaps two hundred dollars worth of hand tools, and about the same amount spent on supplies - working an average of two hours a day during the growing season.

Steve Solomon is a well-known west coast gardener and author of five previous books, including Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades which has appeared in five editions.


Minimum 15% Renewables by 2020 to go on WA state ballot in Nov

Friday, July 7, 2006 - 12:00 AM
Bid to restrain fossil-fuel use likely to get fall vote
By Seattle Times staff
OLYMPIA — An initiative that would require utilities to get 15 percent of their power from renewable resources such as wind and solar appears headed for the November ballot.

Initiative 937 supporters estimated they turned in more than 330,000 signatures Thursday. They need 224,880 valid signatures of registered voters to qualify for the ballot. Today is the last day signatures can be turned in.

Washingtonians for Energy Security, the group backing the initiative, has raised about $478,000 and used paid signature-gatherers. Big donations include $50,000 from the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council and $25,000 from Seattle Biodiesel.

The goal of I-937 is to help wean the state from fossil fuels by requiring utilities serving 25,000 or more customers to get at least 15 percent of their energy from renewable resources by 2020.

Companies falling into that category supply about 84 percent of the energy used in the state.
The Association of Washington Business opposes the initiative, but it's not clear if there will be an organized campaign against I-937, said Don Brunell, president of the association. The group said it's concerned that the initiative could drive up energy prices.


Food or fuel?

Shell Says Biofuels From Food Crops "Morally Inappropriate"
SINGAPORE: July 7, 2006

SINGAPORE - Royal Dutch Shell, the world's top marketer of biofuels, considers using food crops to make biofuels "morally inappropriate" as long as there are people in the world who are starving, an executive said on Thursday.

Eric G Holthusen, Fuels Technology Manager Asia/Pacific, said the company's research unit, Shell Global Solutions, has developed alternative fuels from renewable resources that use wood chips and plant waste rather than food crops that are typically used to make the fuels. Holthusen said his company's participation in marketing biofuels extracted from food was driven by economics or legislation.

"If we have the choice today, then we will not use this route," Malaysia-based Holthusen said at a seminar in Singapore.

"We think morally it is inappropriate because what we are doing here is using food and turning it into fuel. If you look at Africa, there are still countries that have a lack of food, people are starving, and because we are more wealthy we use food and turn it into fuel. This is not what we would like to see. But sometimes economics force you to do it." . . .

He said Shell, in partnership with Canadian biotech firm Iogen Corp., has developed "cellulose ethanol", which is made from the wood chips and non-food portion of renewable feedstocks such as cereal straws and corn stover, and can be blended with gasoline. Ethanol is typically extracted from sugarcane or grain.

Shell Says Biofuels From Food Crops "Morally Inappropriate"
Related story:
INTERVIEW - Malaysia Weighs Palm Oil Share for Food, Energy

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