Sunday, November 30, 2008

Defining Moment

Definitions of water as stated in the

# binary compound that occurs at room temperature as a clear colorless odorless tasteless liquid; freezes into ice below 0 degrees centigrade and ...
# body of water: the part of the earth's surface covered with water (such as a river or lake or ocean); "they invaded our territorial waters"; "they were sitting by the water's edge"
# supply with water, as with channels or ditches or streams; "Water the fields"
# once thought to be one of four elements composing the universe (Empedocles)
# water system: a facility that provides a source of water; "the town debated the purification of the water supply"; "first you have to cut off the water"
# provide with water; "We watered the buffalo"
# urine: liquid excretory product; "there was blood in his urine"; "the child had to make water"
# secrete or form water, as tears or saliva; "My mouth watered at the prospect of a good dinner"; "His eyes watered"
# a liquid necessary for the life of most animals and plants; "he asked for a drink of water"
# fill with tears; "His eyes were watering"

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Iceland, Again

Last year this time I wrote a little bit about Iceland. The Geo Thermal activity there is harnessed into clean, green energy.

My cousins just got back from their honeymoon there.

Adam said it's a shame in a way -- because they have such cheap green energy they are attracting all sorts of very environmentally unfriendly businesses -- businesses that use an extraordinary amount of resources. It's good, because of course they would be using coal somewhere else. Still they have this beautiful, pristine place...

Julia said, the water gets hot really really fast.
She also said that the water was so fresh at first it tasted a little like fish.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful For The Dishwasher

I am spending the whole day cleaning. Having worked more this semester than ever in my life, things have become rather chaotic around these parts...

I'm thankful for the dishwasher...

This comes from a blog on the site "One Green Generation."

Posted by Melinda on Friday, September 5th, 2008

In 2006, Waterwise studied the amount of water used in hand washing versus machine washing. According to their website, “Waterwise is a UK NGO focused on decreasing water consumption in the UK by 2010 and building the evidence base for large scale water efficiency. We are the leading authority on water efficiency in the UK.”

I could not find the study online, but according to several places it was quoted, the study found the average dishwasher uses between 12 and 16 litres (3-4.25 gallons) of water, while washing dishes by hand uses as much as 63 litres (16.5 gallons).

But the study failed to address the energy efficiency between the two methods…

The University of Bonn also conducted a study of 113 people from 7 European countries (PDF), comparing their water usage with a dishwasher and without.

Interestingly, they categorized the different hand washers as “super dishwashers” (people who preclean, soap clean, and rinse), “dishwashing economizers” (people who squirt detergent on the sponge and try to use as little water as possible), and “care-free dishwashers” (people who used as much water and detergent as they wanted to without thinking about it). But noted that economizers didn’t always end up using less than the other two groups.

Each person washed 12 place settings. On average, hand washing used 27 gallons (103 liters) of water, and 2.5 kWh of water-heating energy. The human time it took to wash, rinse, dry, and put away was approximately 80 minutes.

The dishwasher used approximately 4 gallons (15 liters) of water, consumed 1-2 kWh of total energy, and required 15 minutes of human time (loading and unloading the dishwasher). All in all, the dishwashers got the dishes cleaner, in less human time, using less water and energy.

The study recommended these tips for maximum efficiency:

  • Remove large food scraps from the dishes with a spoon or fork.
  • If hand washing, wash right away before the food sticks. If washing by machine, the machines can clean dishes that have been stored without cleaning or rinsing for several days, so no need to pre-rinse.
  • Do not pre-rinse the dishes under running tap water, whether washing them by hand or in a machine.
  • Manual dishwashing is best in two sinks: one with hot water and detergent, the other with cold water for rinse. (The study noted that those who were “economizers” tended to use a LOT more detergent, which counteracted their low water usage.)
  • Use the amount of detergent recommended by the manufacturer.
  • If you can afford a machine, use one - preferably a new one that is the most energy-efficient.

The information provided by the EPA is in line with the previous study’s findings. It is unclear where the EPA received their information, but I do hope they’ve done their own research! Here’s what they say:

Washing dishes by hand uses much more water than using a dishwasher. Using an ENERGY STAR qualified dishwasher instead of hand washing will save you annually 5,000 gallons of water, $40 in utility costs, and 230 hours of your time.

Note also that the average Energy Star dishwasher uses 4 gallons of water, where the average non-Energy Star dishwasher uses 6 gallons.

The EPA recommends these tips to maximize your dishwasher’s energy efficiency:

  • Run your dishwasher with a full load. Most of the energy used by a dishwasher goes to heat water. Since you can’t decrease the amount of water used per cycle, fill your dishwasher to get the most from the energy used to run it.
  • Avoid using the heat-dry, rinse-hold and pre-rinse features. Instead use your dishwasher’s air-dry option.
  • Scrape don’t rinse: just scrape food off the dishes and load. ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers and today’s detergents are designed to do the cleaning so you don’t have to pre-rinse. If your dirty dishes are going to sit overnight, use your dishwasher’s rinse feature. **Pre-rinsing dishes before loading the dishwasher can use up to 20 gallons of water, where the pre-rinse cycle on a machine uses just 1-2 gallons.**
  • Using a dishwasher that is made in the past few years (or at least after 1994), and one that uses a booster heater (ie, it heats the water on demand vs using your water heater), you can save even more water and energy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

326 million trillion gallons

In the beginning of learning about oil I had to back way up. I really don't know that much. My five-year-old son said the other day, "there's more water than earth," which isn't quite right...

My students have been using How Stuff Works as a source lately -- I wanted to see what it was like.
I think it's not as bad as Wikipedia -- but really, anything un-bylined...

There's a whole lot of water on Earth! Something like 326,000,000,000,000,000,000 gallons (326 million trillion gallons) of the stuff (roughly 1,260,000,000,000,000,000,000 liters) can be found on our planet. This water is in a constant cycle -- it evaporates from the ocean, travels through the air, rains down on the land and then flows back to the ocean.

The oceans are huge. About 70 percent of the planet is covered in ocean, and the average depth of the ocean is several thousand feet (about 1,000 meters). Ninety-eight percent of the water on the planet is in the oceans, and therefore is unusable for drinking because of the salt. About 2 percent of the planet's water is fresh, but 1.6 percent of the planet's water is locked up in the polar ice caps and glaciers. Another 0.36 percent is found underground in aquifers and wells. Only about 0.036 percent of the planet's total water supply is found in lakes and rivers. That's still thousands of trillions of gallons, but it's a very small amount compared to all the water available.

The rest of the water on the planet is either floating in the air as clouds and water vapor, or is locked up in plants and animals (your body is 65 percent water, so if you weigh 100 pounds, 65 pounds of you is water!).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Next Year

Well, after a very long break...

I'm now going to begin a year about water.
About half-way through the year I realized they were parts of a whole.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

There's a First Time For Everything

One of my students wrote a pirate story last month --
there was treasure and intrigue -- a feather...

This from the NYTimes today...

"JIDDA, Saudi Arabia — A hijacked Saudi-owned supertanker carrying more than $100 million worth of crude oil is approaching Somali waters where it is expected to anchor so that negotiations can begin on the release of the vessel and its 25 crew, United States Navy officials said Tuesday.

The vessel, the 1,080-foot Sirius Star, is the largest ship ever seized by pirates — three times the size of an aircraft carrier, by American estimates — and was captured off the coast of Kenya.

“At this time we believe the ship is just off the Somali coast,” said Cmdr. Jane Campbell, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, stationed in Bahrain. “We don’t have a specific indication that the ship is at anchor, but if it follows the pattern of previous attacks, that’s what will happen and negotiations will begin between the pirates and the owners of ship.”

Although the supertanker’s exact location near the Somali coast is not clear, in the past most pirates have brought hijacked vessels to a stretch of coastline between Eyl in the north to the Harradera region to the south, Commander Campbell said in a telephone interview.

The hijacking follows a string of increasingly brazen attacks by Somali pirates in recent months, but this appeared to be the first time that pirates have seized a loaded oil tanker."

I didn't know anyone was still called a pirate... flags? Peglegs?
This is, of course, very awful for a lot of people.
More by way of language...
Terrorist or Pirate.
Hijacking, kidnapping, environmental blackmail...

"Only a few years ago, the average ransom was in the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now payments can range from $500,000 to $2 million.

The pirates’ profits are set to reach a record $50 million in 2008, Somali officials say. Shipping firms are usually prepared to pay, because the sums are low compared with the value of the ships."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Nothing lasts forever...

“It’s not that we like lower prices, but our competitive advantage is more obvious to people in a low-price environment,” says Rex W. Tillerson, the chairman and chief executive of ExxonMobil, the world’s largest, mightiest oil company. “But in a high-price environment, our competitive advantage has been quite evident as well.”

Someday I would like the NYTimes to call a poet Mighty.

Last year, Exxon, which is based in Irving, Tex., celebrated its 125th anniversary, marking a straight line that connects it to John D. Rockefeller’s original Standard Oil Trust before the government broke up the enterprise. While other oil companies try to paint themselves greener, Exxon’s executives believe their venerable model has been battle-tested. The company’s mantra is unwavering: brutal honesty about the need for oil and gas to power economies for decades to come.

“Over the years, there have been many predictions that our industry was in its twilight years, only to be proven wrong,” says Mr. Tillerson. “As Mark Twain said, the news of our demise has been greatly exaggerated.”

I'm going to keep going with this blog for a few more days -- a week or so -- I'm too busy to end it the way I would like to -- which is to say, with anything more than a minute.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Brooklyn Bound

In order to truly cut down on cars, pollution and dependence in this country we would have to have all sorts of public transportation which we simply have not really invested in. Not surprising since the people doing the investing are investing in oil...

The issues of light rail and rail -- of public transportation -- I have always found them really interesting. My former father-in-law helped develop the Accella -- he's an economist, but he was also involved in the tests to see how fast a body could go before puking.
I have a friend in city planning who's been talking about the issues of our faulty system for years.

Interesting to think of how important the train could become -- if air fare does, as it was said last summer, truly become out of reach...

I'm taking the Accella to Brooklyn today.

A $260.91 Drive From Miami

Posted by The Interloafer on May 24, 2006 - 7:50am in The Oil Drum: Local
Topic: Miscellaneous
Tags: amtrak, gas prices, rail, transportation [list all tags]
Lore Croghan, a Daily News reporter, flew down to Miami recently to pick her daughter, Antonia, up from college. The two drove back to the city in a VW New Beetle. The 1,323-mile road trip cost them $260.91, including lodging and meals. Lore also had to fly down to Miami, which cost another $124, for a total of $384.91.

With a few days notice, Amtrak tickets for two from Miami cost $212 or $274 aboard the Silver Star or the Silver Meteor. You still need to factor in meals aboard Amtrak, which will raise that ticket price a bit. But the two prices seem roughly comparable for a party of two. But are they really?
The price breakdown ignores the fixed costs of owning a car (depreciation, vehicle maintenance, insurance, parking, etc.), and the related $124 that that Lore had to spend on her flight. Half of the purpose of the trip, after all, was to retrieve the car as well as the daughter. (Once you buy a car, you have to keep track of it.)

Of course, the increasing cost of energy is affecting rail travel as well as commercial aviation and private automobile use, but it is affecting rail a lot less than the other two. So as the price continues to increase, as we Peak Oilers expect it will, there will come a point where rail travel is unequivocally less expensive than driving. When that happens, I think we can expect "the markets" to start directing some money to the long-underinvested rail system.

Ignoring the fixed costs and overhead of owning a car, even on a per-trip basis for an individual, the economics are beginning to favor rail. A single adult ticket one way from Miami to New York costs $106 or $137 on Amtrak, half the price of two riders. Would one person driving along cost exactly half the price of two people? No. The cost of gasoline would be exactly the same. That is why it always makes sense to pack the car up with people and split the cost. We New Yorkers grapple with this question every time we're in a group trying to decide whether it makes sense to take a cab or the subway: The more people you have to fill up a cab, the cheaper the cost is per rider.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lame Duck My Foot 2

This from the LA Times:

U.S. takes first step toward new offshore oil drilling
The federal government begins the process that could open up the Virginia coast. A long-standing ban on new energy exploration off much of the U.S. coast expired last month.
By Cynthia Dizikes
November 13, 2008
Reporting from Washington -- The federal government announced Wednesday that it would be taking the first major step to expand offshore oil drilling after a long-standing ban on new energy exploration off much of the U.S. coast expired last month.

Officials with the U.S. Minerals Management Service, which oversees oil and gas development in federal waters, said that starting today it would begin the process that could lead to leases at a potential site at least 50 miles off the coast of Virginia, an area that has not had offshore drilling.

And so we are moving forward.
And with as much promise and hope as could be in store, the damage that has been done is still here -- is still in progress.

I have four more days of this blog -- I wish I could say that I have something great to do between now and then -- but at least I'm not George Bush.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

if we could find the secret...

A friend wrote today from an artist colony...
"I want to be viable," she said.

Here's a clip from 1938. Jimmy Stuart looking for energy in leaves...
"Just one little discovery and we'd walk on air for days..."
and a moonlit night...
Of course Stuart and his friend gave up on their research -- went into auto sales and banking... glad their not there now.

The Democratic party is seeking relief for the auto companies...
I for one want to marry Jimmy Stuart -- more hope in that.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteren's Day

At the end of a year, I don't feel any need to connect the issues of the war and oil.

May the soldiers be happy, may the soldiers be healthy, may the soldiers be safe, may the soldiers live in ease.

The Associated Press
As of Monday, Nov. 10, 2008, at least 4,193 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The figure includes eight military civilians killed in action. At least 3,388 military personnel died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

POWER TRANSFER: Iraqi army prepares to pay Sunni fighter groups

FEMALE VETS: 15% tell of sexual trauma

The AP count is the same as the Defense Department's tally, last updated Thursday at 10 a.m. ET.

The British military has reported 176 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 21; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, seven; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia and Georgia, three each; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand and Romania, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan and South Korea, one death each.

Since the start of U.S. military operations in Iraq, 30,774 U.S. service members have been wounded in hostile action, according to the Defense Department's weekly tally.

Nov. 10

BAGHDAD: Bombs kill at least 31, wound 71

Nov. 8

• Staff Sgt. Timothy H. Walker, 38, Franklin, Tenn.; died in Baghdad when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle; assigned to the 64th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.

Nov. 6

• Pfc. Theron V. Hobbs, 22, Albany, Ga.; died in a motor vehicle accident in Kirkuk; assigned to the 572nd Engineer Company, 20th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas.

Nov. 5

• Army Spc. Adam M. Wenger, 27, Waterford, Mich.; died in Tunnis, Iraq, in a noncombat incident; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 76th Field Artillery, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Material Witness

A few days ago I read about the anniversary of the SF oil spill. I was surprised to find this this morning. People's lives... how foreign they are... how seldom we think of them...

Sometimes you just get stuck somewhere...

By PAUL ELIAS Associated Press Writer
Article Launched: 11/07/2008 04:35:28 PM PST

SAN FRANCISCO—A federal magistrate judge ruled Friday that two crewmen of the Cosco Busan cargo ship can finally go home in a few weeks to China after involuntarily spending a year detained in San Francisco as witnesses to the massive San Francisco Bay oil spill.

Four other crew members, including the captain, will remain detained as "material witnesses" for at least the next several weeks.

The six have been stuck here since the Cosco Busan on Nov. 7, 2007 struck the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, gashing its hull and releasing 50,000 gallons of oil that killed thousands of birds and fouled beaches.

They are not charged with any crimes and continue to draw their salaries while living in a furnished apartment paid for by their employer. Each also receives $1,200 per month in witness fees.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Lame Duck My Foot

While we were all busy watching the election...

Published: November 7, 2008

The Bureau of Land Management has expanded its oil and gas lease program in eastern Utah to include tens of thousands of acres on or near the boundaries of three national parks, according to revised maps published this week.

National Park Service officials say that the decision to open lands close to Arches National Park and Dinosaur National Monument and within eyeshot of Canyonlands National Park was made without the kind of consultation that had previously been routine.

The inclusion of the new lease tracts angered environmental groups, which were already critical of the bureau’s original lease proposal, made public this fall, because they said it could lead to industrial activity in empty areas of the state, some prized for their sweeping vistas, like Desolation Canyon, and others for their ancient petroglyphs, like Nine Mile Canyon.

The bureau’s new maps, made public on Election Day, show not just those empty areas but 40 to 45 new areas where leasing will also be allowed.


They say within eyesight. I wonder if the vibrations will be strong enough to begin to collapse...

They are beautiful parks.

Amazing isn't it -- how much damage a person can do on their way out. It's the most selfish time -- the what can I grab, who can I get back at, how mad am I and don't forget my power time...

May President Bush be happy may he be healthy may he be safe may he live in ease.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

One Year Ago Jots What

I started this almost a year ago -- this is the last week. The week I started there was a major oil spill in CA -- followed quickly by another in Korea. It's funny how you can stumble into something -- it's coincidence by looks like it happens all the time.

It's strange to think about a year -- I've always thought that.

A year after the Cosco Busan spill
San Francisco Gate
Sejal Choksi,David Gordon

Friday, November 7, 2008

One year ago today, the Cosco Busan container ship hit the Bay Bridge, spilling more than 50,000 gallons and causing San Francisco Bay's largest vessel-related oil spill in over a decade. The spill galvanized local leaders to improve California's oil spill response policy. Despite this progress, the high frequency of oil spills worldwide and the international nature of the shipping industry require new federal legislation to improve shipping practices to prevent oil spills before they happen.

Oil prices last October closed around $85. Just at the upturn...

One Year ago—jots what?


One Year ago—jots what?

God—spell the word! I—can't—

Was't Grace? Not that—

Was't Glory? That—will do—

Spell slower—Glory—

Such Anniversary shall be—

Sometimes—not often—in Eternity—

When farther Parted, than the Common Woe—

Look—feed upon each other's faces—so—

In doubtful meal, if it be possible

Their Banquet's true—

I tasted—careless—then—

I did not know the Wine

Came once a World—Did you?

Oh, had you told me so—

This Thirst would blister—easier—now—

You said it hurt you—most—

Mine—was an Acorn's Breast—

And could not know how fondness grew

In Shaggier Vest—

Perhaps—I couldn't—

But, had you looked in—

A Giant—eye to eye with you, had been—

No Acorn—then—

So—Twelve months ago—

We breathed—

Then dropped the Air—

Which bore it best?

Was this—the patientest—

Because it was a Child, you know—

And could not value—Air?

If to be "Elder"—mean most pain—

I'm old enough, today, I'm certain—then—

As old as thee—how soon?

One—Birthday more—or Ten?

Let me—choose!

Ah, Sir, None!

SANLIURFA, Turkey, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- A pipeline explosion caused by pressure problems left a large oil slick along the Turkey-Iraq border, Turkish officials say.

Friday, November 07, 2008 10:53 AM
(Source: Belfast Telegraph)trackingBIRDS wintering on a Fermanagh lake are under threat after hundreds of litres of oil poured into the water.

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency said it had taken measures to contain the spill but some oil had still found its way into Racecourse Lough, one of Fermanagh's best fishing lakes. However, it promised the remaining oil would be cleaned up in the next few days.

A history of spills
(from the San Francisco Gate article above)
The Cosco Busan incident was not an anomaly. Oil spills are all too common, and there is a dire need to improve shipping standards. Within one month of the Cosco Busan tragedy, we saw devastating oil spills in Korea and the Black Sea. Here on the West Coast, the Selendang Ayu spilled 330,000 gallons of oil near Alaska's Aleutian Islands in 2004, closing down fisheries in the heart of one of America's most productive fishing regions. In 1999, the New Carissa spilled 70,000 gallons of fuel along the Oregon coast.

And let's not forget the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. On the eve of its 20th anniversary, the devastating impacts of that spill still plague local residents. The Exxon Valdez oil spill compelled lawmakers to improve safety standards for oil tankers - but excluded cargo ships. Since then, cargo ships have increased in size and carry huge amounts of fuel, escalating the risk of significant oil spills from cargo ships.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We Are Already Better...

Now what...

November 5, 2008, 2:43 pm

Energy Thinkers Ponder The Future

Barack ObamaWhat does — and should — the future of energy and energy policy look like under an Obama administration? (Photo: Getty)

Senator Barack Obama has said that energy issues will be near the top of his presidential agenda, and he will have plenty to wrestle with — foreign oil, climate change, renewable energy and green jobs, to name a few.

In the wake of Mr. Obama’s decisive victory on Tuesday night, Green Inc. contacted experts from a variety of fields with four questions relating to the energy priorities and pitfalls facing the new administration. Their e-mailed responses were a mix of high expectations and sober realism.

Vaclav Smil, a professor at the University of Manitoba who has authored numerous books on global energy issues, told us informally that anyone expecting Mr. Obama to “transform the world” will be quickly disabused of the idea — particularly when it comes to energy policy. “The degree of disappointment that must follow such a gross naivete will be phenomenal,” Mr. Smil wrote.

“There will be precious little of any rapid change,” he added, “as energy systems are inherently inertial and as energy transitions take decades to accomplish. Besides, he will preside over a bankrupt nation.”

Also participating in our Q&A:

  • Roger Ballentine, the chairman of the White House Climate Change Task Force during the Clinton administration and now the president of Green Strategies, an energy and environmental consulting firm in Washington.
  • Daniel J. Weiss, a senior fellow and director of climate change strategy at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning policy research organization in Washington.
  • Jim Owen, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, an association of shareholder-owned utilities.
  • Carol Raulston, senior vice president for communications at the National Mining Association, a trade group in Washington.
  • Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club.

    We’d like to thank all of them for participating. The questions, and their responses, follow.


    1) What should the new administration’s top three energy priorities be? What can and should the administration push in terms of energy in its first 100 days?

    2) What do the election results signify for the future of renewable energy?

    3) How likely is it that a meaningful cap-and-trade bill to limit carbon-dioxide emissions will pass Congress and be signed by the President in the next year?

    4) After 4 years, will the new administration have moved us closer to severing our dependence on foreign oil?


    What should the new administration’s top three energy priorities be? What can and should the administration push in terms of energy in its first 100 days?

    Roger Ballentine
    a) The first priority needs to be truth-telling and public education. The fundamental shift needed in energy and climate policy will not be possible if presented to a public whose freshest memories are the devolved and simplistic rhetoric on energy that was the focus of the campaign prior to the economic meltdown. Our overwhelming and inefficient dependence on petroleum is an economic, security and environmental cancer, but oil – not just foreign oil – is the problem and the American people need “straight talk” about the realities of the world oil market and the realities of geology. “Drill, baby, drill” is not a solution to these challenges.

    b) Climate policy and energy policy must be locked at the hip and the falsehood that good climate policy and good energy policy are in conflict needs to be debunked. Policies that invest in and increase energy efficiency should be among the first policies out the door – this allows a discussion about both reducing energy costs and reducing greenhouse gases as one and the same. A national goal and a concrete plan to increase our efficiency across the board should be job one.

    c) Next would be a roadmap for both transitioning to cleaner fossil fuel and substitution of low and zero-carbon energy sources (of all types) for our old and inefficient fossil resources.

    Vaclav Smil
    Explain to the nation that the Americans, who consume twice as much energy per capita as rich Europeans (and have nothing to show for it, as they are not richer, do not live longer, are not better educated and do not work less) should embark on a long road of trying to live within some sensible limits, which means less and not more. Everything else is quite secondary.

    Jim Owen
    a) Promote transportation alternatives that can help ease U.S. dependence on foreign oil. A leading candidate is the widespread development and deployment of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which can travel 40 miles on an electric charge before using any gasoline.

    b) Accelerate the research and development of low-carbon energy technologies.

    c) Promote policies that will help spur the siting and construction of badly needed new transmission facilities in the United States, along with policies that will help accelerate the development of a more efficient “smart grid” with advanced metering infrastructure.

    Daniel J. Weiss
    The most immediate priorities should include: 1) Enactment of an economic stimulus package that includes clean energy measures that will increase jobs, while decreasing energy use and bills. This would include funds for weatherization of schools and low-income homes, pending transit projects and other similar efficiency programs. 2) Approval of California’s petition to set greenhouse gas limits for motor vehicles, which 16 other states will also adopt. 3) Approval of an “endangerment finding” under the Clean Air Act, which would enable E.P.A. to begin to control greenhouse gases from power plants and other sources. The Supreme Court set this in motion with the decision in Massachusetts v. E.P.A.

    Carol Raulston
    Maintain current energy-related jobs, create new energy-related jobs and ensure energy-intensive industries don’t shed jobs because of volatile energy prices. In other words — jobs, jobs, jobs.

    Voters’ economic fears drove the election. The White House and the Congress will make the economy their top priority or pay the consequences.

    Carl Pope
    As a strategic matter, the first thing to do is to make clear that America is serious about a new energy future, and that the days of delay and stonewalling by Big Carbon are over. The new President should do this by reversing the two worst Bush executive actions — the refusal to grant the California Clean Car Waiver, and the refusal to treat carbon dioxide as an air pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

    The second step is to begin serious investments in high-performance energy productivity improvements — in particular those which create huge numbers of immediate jobs. Public and private building retrofits, mass transit improvements, and grid modernization should be part of any economic recovery package. The remaining necessary steps to 100 percent renewable energy should come immediately afterwards.

    And the third is to prepare the United States to rejoin the world effort to stop global warming by getting Congress to commit to a diminishing cap that will ensure that U.S. carbon emissions decline by 80 percent by mid-century — and using the revenues from auctioning carbon permits issued under that cap to finance the energy investments in future years when restoring fiscal sanity, not economic stimulus, will be the priority.

    Return to questions


    What do the election results signify for the future of renewable energy?

    Roger Ballentine
    The combination of linking climate and energy policy, along with an industrial policy (yes, we need to say this) aimed at creating green industry in the United States will mean a much larger role for renewable energy. But we can’t ask renewables to do it all, which is why a truly transformational energy policy will mean more renewables AND an emphasis on efficiency, more efficient fossil fuel use and nuclear.

    Vaclav Smil
    Who knows? Renewables will require enormous subsidies and the country has $60 trillion debt.

    Jim Owen
    Our industry strongly supports further integration of renewable electricity sources, which clearly will be front-and-center in the new administration and Congress. This also is the fastest-growing electricity generation sector. Congress took an important step in October by extending for one year the federal Production Tax Credit, which helps support renewable sources like wind, solar and biomass. But more can be done, including a longer-term extension of the P.T.C. Moreover, new transmission facilities will be needed to move larger amounts of renewable electricity generation from remote locations to large population centers where it is consumed.

    Daniel J. Weiss
    President-elect Obama and new senators and representatives campaigned on an agenda of economic stimulus, recovery and growth driven by investments in renewable energy and efficiency. Their election should speed the adoption of these policies.

    Carol Raulston
    We need a diverse energy portfolio that includes coal, oil and gas, nuclear and renewables. However, the public seems to be in no mood to pay a premium for its energy choices. Everyone will have to be competitive.

    Carl Pope
    They are a stunning signal from the American people that they understand that a new energy future is the key to economic recovery and middle-class jobs. “New Energy for America” trumped “Drill, baby, drill” in race after race. When the best news for Big Carbon is that James Inhofe did win reelection in Oklahoma, things are very bright for a low-carbon, clean future. A U.S. Senate with two Udalls in it is huge for a different energy future.

    Return to questions


    How likely is it that a meaningful cap-and-trade bill to limit carbon-dioxide emissions will pass Congress and be signed by the President in the next year?

    Roger Ballentine
    Unlikely, but that’s O.K. While we work toward cap-and-trade, the measures and investments we can make to turn low-carbon energy and energy efficiency into a vibrant and growing economic engine will set the stage for passage of a cap-and-trade bill – a stage that is not yet set.

    Vaclav Smil
    If it passes it will only further cripple America’s industries (but that is apparently fine with the New Messiah, who said three days ago that he wants to destroy the U.S. coal industry) – while China will make up any difference in emissions in about two months. No limits make any sense without China and India, the biosphere responds to marginal additions of the gas, no matter where it comes from.

    Jim Owen
    Accomplishing that in a single year would be a very ambitious timetable, given the complexity of the issue. Our industry supports enactment of federal climate change legislation with a timetable aligned with the availability of existing technology and the development and deployment of new technologies needed to do the job, e.g., advanced clean coal with carbon capture and storage.

    Daniel J. Weiss
    With leadership from President-elect Obama, and new senators and representatives, the 111th Congress will pass a cap-and-trade program that reduces green house gases and invests in clean energy.

    Carol Raulston
    “It’s the economy, stupid.” It won’t be enough to say we are creating new green energy jobs when you and your neighbor are losing the good jobs you already have.

    The president and Congress will only be able to pass a climate bill if they can find ways to substantially mitigate the costs of proposals that are currently on the table — not impossible, but very difficult. The Senate balked last year on a climate bill largely because it ran the numbers and didn’t like the results.

    The pencils are really going to be sharpened in the current economic environment. The National Mining Association has worked hard to develop proposals that would address climate while holding down the costs to consumers and preserving jobs.

    Carl Pope
    Very likely, although it is possible that what will pass this year will be the structure and outlines of such a bill, with the details to be filled in after Copenhagen. The key is that the public already understands that launching the clean energy revolution is the key BOTH to restoring the economy and to protecting the climate — the carbon lobby will try to pitch this as a trade-off, but that dog no longer hunts. Congress may not get it at first, but Obama has the mandate to see that the public will is respected.

    Return to questions


    After 4 years, will the new administration have moved us closer to severing our dependence on foreign oil?

    Roger Ballentine
    That’s the wrong question. The test should be that after four years our dependence on oil as the lifeblood of our transportation system has been decreased. A shift away from oil is the only way to “sever our dependence on foreign oil.” Just buying the same amount of oil from countries other than Venezuela, Russia and the Persian Gulf will not in any way limit the global strategic influence of these producers and it will do nothing to reduce GHGs.

    Vaclav Smil
    Only if there is a deep and lasting economic recession that cuts the demand. If some more or less normal situation returns, then the U.S. will be as dependent (cutting the dependence utmost by a few percent) as before. No real hope on that score, unless the economy collapses.

    Jim Owen
    Oil comprises just two percent of our industry’s electricity generation portfolio — but innovations like the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (P.H.E.V.), once it has achieved widespread adoption, can begin to make a serious dent in oil imports. The P.H.E.V. also can help significantly decrease carbon emissions.

    Daniel J. Weiss
    The Obama administration will reduce U.S. oil consumption due to the prompt implementation of new fuel economy standards under the Energy Independence Act of 2007. Investments in energy efficiency should also reduce U.S. oil dependency.

    Carol Raulston
    Consumers may do it themselves by driving less and using more fuel-efficient cars. In four years, there’s not much Congress or the president can do to substantially move the needle absent making imported oil more expensive, and that’s not a step anyone is going to be prepared to take.

    Carl Pope
    Wrong question. Closer absolutely. The test is whether in four years we can confidently project the date when that dependence is going to be ended — if so, that event will be reflected in the world price of oil. The danger is that Congress will try to take small steps, when what we need is game changers.

    Return to questions

  • Tuesday, November 4, 2008

    It's a Day for Hope

    Don't forget to vote.

    Tree fungus could provide green transport fuel
    Organism discovered in the Patagonian rainforest produces mixture of chemicals similar to diesel

    * Alok Jha, green technology correspondent
    * Tuesday November 04 2008 00.01 GMT
    * Article history

    A tree fungus could provide green fuel that can be pumped directly into tanks, scientists say. The organism, found in the Patagonian rainforest, naturally produces a mixture of chemicals that is remarkably similar to diesel.

    "This is the only organism that has ever been shown to produce such an important combination of fuel substances," said Gary Strobel, a plant scientist from Montana State University who led the work. "We were totally surprised to learn that it was making a plethora of hydrocarbons."

    Monday, November 3, 2008

    The Non-Issue


    There's an article about how falling gas prices are causing turmoil in the middle east.

    There's an article about another kidnapping -- the company insists the attack was provoked.

    My students are writing articles on the candidates positions on oil -- which seems a non-issue now, now that our financial collapse has stabilized prices...

    I am beginning to wonder -- a year after this project is over -- will I remember any of it at all...

    Sunday, November 2, 2008

    Like Whiskey

    The first modern steel-hulled oil tanker was named the Gl├╝ckauf. Before that, oil was transported in wood casks.