Posts Tagged ‘The Greening Continues’

By Harry {doc} Babad,  © Copyright 2011, All rights Reserved.


Note, many of the technologies I share are in various stage of first, development, and are often far from being a commercial success. Their inventors and supporters still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable, Remember There Ain’t No free Lunch and silver bullets too often turn to lead.

When and if you Google them in depth, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many other studies that are more skeptical because there is no easy way to for them into our systems.

I always, as 75 year old cynic, find it appropriate, to step back as I read and WIIFT – No it’s not something new to smoke; just the compulsion to ask what’s in it for them. It’s okay to have a hidden agenda, but agenda’s too hidden discomfort me. In addition, most have no relationship to solving the problem that is being bragged about.

I know, perhaps even truly believe, that for green energy related items, if we put a simple price (tax) on carbon (greenhouse gases) and gave out no subsidies, these new technologies would have a better chance to blossom. With American ingenuity, Indian and Chinese too, thousands more ideas would come out of innovators’ garages. America still has the best innovation culture in the world. But we need better policies to nurture it, better infrastructure to enable it and more open doors to bring others here to try it.

Remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to control climate or its effects, or about that your sure its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. By the way, I do agree, it’s all a conspiracy — Gaia and the Good Lord!

Stay tuned; today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequence. However, that’s better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember TAMIFLU; there’s no free lunch; as a taxpayer and consumer you must and will always end up paying the piper!

Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, for the New Snippets and Topics

  • China Reportedly Plans Strict Goals to Save Energy —The Yin and Yang of US and Chinese Energy Polices.
  • Solar Energy Faces Tests On Greenness — The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
  • Energy Payoffs —In search of Radical Solutions by Vinod Khosla
  • Are You Ready for More Baaad Weather? —In a world of climate change, freak storms are the new normal. Why we’re unprepared for the harrowing future.
  • Solid-State Batteries – The Power Of The Printing Press.

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China Reportedly Plans Strict Goals to Save Energy

The Yin and Yang of US and Chinese Energy Polices.

Inertia, one of the few serious limitations of our Western Democratic systems, let’s hope it does kill us all.


As the title of this topic and the reference contain therein implies:

  1. The Chinese believe there is a global warming problem
  2. The governments realized that hurting their people lead to Social Unrest
  3. Smoggy cities, drastic unexpected and larger than predictable weather patterns, durations and incidents. Then there’s the increase of temperature/humidity related diseases we’ve begun to document in both the government and it’s policies for a Greater China at risk.

So, according to this article and others I’ve studied they are willing to put their resources where the mouths and platitudes of western politicians now are. You know the three wise monkeys.

HONG KONG — With oil prices at their highest level in more than two years because of unrest in North Africa and the Middle East, the Chinese government plans to announce strict five-year goals for energy conservation in the next two weeks, China energy specialists said Friday.

Beijing’s emphasis on saving energy reflects concerns about national security and the effects of high fuel costs on inflation, China’s export competitiveness and the country’s pollution problems.

Any energy policy moves by Beijing hold global implications, given that China is the world’s biggest consumer of energy and largest emitter of greenhouse gases. And even the new efficiency goals assume that China’s overall energy consumption will grow, to meet the needs of the nation’s 1.3 billion people and its rapidly expanding economy.

As a net importer of oil, China tends to view its energy needs as a matter of national security. And so, even as Beijing tries to quell any signs of the Arab world’s social unrest striking a political chord with Chinese citizens, the government is also intent on not letting similar upheaval impinge on its energy needs.

Although, China, as part of the new five-year plan, has placed a big bet on renewable energy, emerging as the world’s biggest and lowest-cost manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels. But the country remains heavily reliant on coal and nuclear for its electricity. And its oil imports are surging after auto sales have surpassed the American market in each of the last two years.

An important feature of the five-year plan is its call to double the share of natural gas in Chinese energy consumption, to 8 percent in 2015 from 4 percent last year, according to Fatih Birol, the chief economist of the multilateral International Energy Agency in Paris. This will make China a natural buyer of large quantities of Russian gas, making it a competitor to Europe, which already relies heavily on gas from Russia.

The goals in China’s new five-year plan are consistent with the International Energy Agency’s “new policies” plan for climate change, a middle course that represents an improvement from current policies, Mr. Birol said. But he noted that the Chinese goals did not go far enough to meet what the agency considers necessary to prevent world temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius, an increase that many scientists fear as potentially leading to very broad environmental changes.

There’s more, promoting electric cars, building 20 new state of the art Generation III+ nuclear reactors, localizing local energy use by setting enforceable consumption and pollution targets. Click though and read the rest of the details.

Keith Bradsher Article References and Notes

Article by Keith Bradsher for the New York Times, Published: March 4, 2011

How does China’s 12th Five-Year Plan address energy and the environment? By the World Resources Institute, 7 Mar 2011.

China’s Five-year Plan & Renewable Energy – A Detailed Explanation, by DeBlock Consulting Ltd, March 2011.

While China Cuts Energy Waste, the U.S. Just Wastes, Posted by Bryan Walsh for Time Magazine, March 4, 2011.

As a Serious Sidebar – for the Chinese, Nuclear Power is both renewable and environmentally protective.

Nuclear Plans in China, the Japanese accident hasn’t stopped the planning and building, and taken a time out for doing enhanced safety analysis factoring in the lessons being learned from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. “When compared with the 11th Five-year Plan, the 12th Five-year Plan will continue the fast paced development stage; It is estimated that between 2011 and 2015 the rate of increase in China’s installed nuclear capacity will be over 30%, from 2010 levels of 10.8GW to 43GW in 2015. Third generation AP1000 nuclear technology will be an important direction in China’s nuclear development. Currently second generation CPR1000 technology is the most common among completed nuclear projects and nuclear projects under construction, but in planned nuclear projects the third generation AP1000 technology is used much more than CPR1000. Geographical development of nuclear projects will build on the fast paced development in coastal regions such as Liaoning, Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Fujian and gradually move into central regions such as Jiangxi, Hunan and Anhui, forming the “central/eastern nuclear belt”.

Nuclear power in the People’s Republic of China, Wikipedia 2011.

Nuclear Power in China, World Nuclear Association, June 2011.

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 Solar Energy Faces Tests and Challenges on Greenness

— It’s a total life cycle cost thing and crossing all the “t’s” and dotting the “I’s” thing, as I’ve been preaching

KISS Me Once, Kiss Me Twice And Kiss Me Once Again:

  • Fragile Desert Environment adversely affected by large plant footprint.
  • Unsubstantiated and waving of the hand environmental documentation
  • Unsubsidized production costs, even without life cycle costs included, are uncompetitive in most areas
  • Grid Connection and maintenance costs are not reliably factored into the baseline costs
  • Inadequate analyses of the costs of pollution control from toxic conditions and chemicals used for photovoltaic solar cell manufacture; not a factor when assessing solar thermal generation.
  • Unusable for base load production, without major breakthrough, so far under costed, for storage when the sun is not shining.

What follows is an excepts from the latest report by folks assessing the total cost of solar photo voltaic energy as a green alternative to nuclear, off shore other coastal based wind power, and perhaps appropriate located geothermal power generation.

SAN FRANCISCO — Just weeks after regulators approved the last of nine multibillion-dollar solar thermal power plants to be built in the Southern California desert, a storm of lawsuits and the resurgence of an older solar technology are clouding the future of the nascent industry.

The litigation, which seeks to block construction of five of the solar thermal projects, underscores the growing risks of building large-scale renewable energy plants in environmentally delicate areas. On Jan. 25, for instance, Solar Millennium withdrew its 16-month-old license application for a 250-megawatt solar station called Ridgecrest, citing regulators’ concerns over the project’s impact on the Mohave ground squirrel.

At peak output, the five licensed solar thermal projects being challenged would power more than two million homes, create thousands of construction jobs and help the state meet aggressive renewable energy mandates. The projects are backed by California’s biggest utilities, top state officials and the Obama administration.  But conservation, labor and American Indian groups are challenging the projects on environmental grounds. The lawsuits, coupled with a broad plunge in prices for energy from competing power sources, threaten the ability of developers to secure expiring federal loan guarantees and private financing to establish the projects. Only one developer so far, BrightSource Energy, has obtained a loan guarantee and begun construction.

Like so many of this state’s troubles, the industry’s problems are rooted in real estate. However, it grew much broader when apparent flaws in both environmental analyses, a potential for actual public fraud, and lots of what the kind at heart would call misrepresentation of liabilities and gains. This makes an interesting read. When added to the references I’ve listed below make a compelling statement of narrow vision, based on gluttons’ visions of a full trough at the public expense. …And there’s also, all the knock on your door solar home system sales people.

After all we know the courts will decide, but regular readers know my opinions of courts and juries to get science related issue right. Again I plead for a science literacy tests, say the ones they use Europe and Asia for 8th grade students, for all who would serve as juries in science and engineering court cases. That should include the judges too, but I’m being too utopian.

By Todd Woody, for the New York Times, Published: February 23, 2011.


Pros And Cons Of Solar Energy, Clean Energy Ideas Blog, Undated.

Environmentalists Weigh Solar Power’s Pros, Cons, SolarPower.Org Blog, Posted June 2, 2006.

Solar Power: The Pros and Cons of Solar Power, About.Com Blog, By Larry West, Guide, 2011.

Solar Power, <and> Solar Energy, “Wikipedia”, 2011 – two articles.

The Solar Power Scam, by Brian Schwarz and Thomas Lifson for the “American Thinker” <a conservative blog>, April 19, 2011.

10-Year Sentence In Solar Energy Scam, “The Healdsburg Patch blog”, May 3, 2100.

Are We Really Going To Let Ourselves Be Duped Into This Solar Panel Rip-Off? By

George Monbiot for the, March 1, 2010

Solar Power Scams, “Energy Matters” an Australian Renewable Energy News Blog, March 26, 2009.

How to Detect a Solar Scam – Here’s a deal for you! “Solar Kismet”, March 2007.

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Energy Payoffs

In search of Radical Solutions by Vinod Khosla, Venture Capitalist

Unusual for me, I’m just providing this topic as a reference link and ultra short SciAm synopsis, enjoy. It was published in Scientific American in January 2011, and due to their access restrictions, the full article may be hard to access outside of a library. But the abstract posted a link is well worth reading.

In Brief,

Radical innovation, not incremental improvement, is needed to make dean, efficient energy technologies that can compete, unsubsidized, in big markets.

Mainstream technologies such as air conditioning and automobile engines may be the best targets for breakthroughs that change the energy game.

More people with  Ph.D.’s in technical disciplines are needed to create true breakthroughs.

Students are beginning to flock to these areas. A low-carbon-electricity standard, not renewable energy standards or cap and trade would most encourage cleaner technologies, including for fossil fuels.

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Are You Ready for More Baaad Weather?

—In a world of climate change, freak storms are the new normal. Why we’re unprepared for the harrowing future.

Not only did I find the article detailed and factual, I was also amazed by the amount of Ostrich Heads in the Sand Flaming it produced. It matters not whether this is global warming, or just out turn in the weather cycle, the damage is real and the incidence of more aggressive and destructive weather incidents, worldwide is increasing. We’ve tow choices. The first is to rescue those victimized by bad weather until governments run out of money. Alternative, start slowing and globally to take a chance that climate change theory is good, if incomplete science, caused by green house gasses and other aggressive environmental damage caused by man (e.g., deforestation) and start to do something about it.

 An Excerpt

Joplin, Mo., was prepared. The tornado warning system gave residents 24 minutes’ notice that a twister was bearing down on them. Doctors and nurses at St. John’s Regional Medical Center, who had practiced tornado drills for years, moved fast, getting patients away from windows, closing blinds, and activating emergency generators. And yet more than 130 people died in Joplin, including four people at St. John’s, where the tornado sucked up the roof and left the building in ruins, like much of the shattered city.

Even those who deny the existence of global climate change are having trouble dismissing the evidence of the last year. In the U.S. alone, nearly 1,000 tornadoes have ripped across the heartland, killing more than 500 people and inflicting $9 billion in damage. The Midwest suffered the wettest April in 116 years, forcing the Mississippi to flood thousands of square miles, even as drought-plagued Texas suffered the driest month in a century. Worldwide, the litany of weather’s extremes has reached biblical proportions. The 2010 heat wave in Russia killed an estimated 15,000 people. Floods in Australia and Pakistan killed 2,000 and left large swaths of each country under water. A months-long drought in China has devastated millions of acres of farmland. And the temperature keeps rising: 2010 was the hottest year on earth since weather records began.

From these and other extreme-weather events, one lesson is sinking in with terrifying certainty. The stable climate of the last 12,000 years is gone. Which means you haven’t seen anything yet. And we are not prepared.

Picture California a few decades from now, a place so hot and arid the state’s trademark orange and lemon trees have been replaced with olive trees that can handle the new climate. Alternating floods and droughts have made it impossible for the reservoirs to capture enough drinking water. The picturesque Highway 1, sections of which are already periodically being washed out by storm surges and mudslides, will have to be rerouted inland, possibly through a mountain. These aren’t scenes from another deadly-weather thriller like The Day After Tomorrow. They’re all changes that California officials believe they need to brace for within the next decade or two. And they aren’t alone. Across the U.S., it’s just beginning to dawn on civic leaders that they’ll need to help their communities brave coming dangers brought by climate change, from disappearing islands in Chesapeake Bay to dust bowls in the Plains and horrific hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet only 14 states are even planning, let alone implementing, climate-change adaptation plans, says Terri Cruce, a climate consultant in California. The other 36 apparently are hoping for a miracle.

The game of catch-up will have to happen quickly because so much time was lost to inaction. “The Bush administration was a disaster, but the Obama administration has accomplished next to nothing either, in part because a significant part of the Democratic Party is inclined to balk on this issue as well,” says economist Jeffrey Sachs, head of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. “We [are] past the tipping point.” The idea of adapting to climate change was once a taboo subject. Scientists and activists feared that focusing on coping would diminish efforts to reduce carbon emissions. On the opposite side of the divide, climate-change deniers argued that since global warming is a “hoax,” there was no need to figure out how to adapt. “Climate-change adaptation was a nonstarter,” says Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center. “If you wanted to talk about that, you would have had to talk about climate change itself, which the Bush administration didn’t want to do.” In fact, President Bush killed what author Mark Hertsgaard in his 2011 book, Hot, calls “a key adaptation tool,” the National Climate Assessment, an analysis of the vulnerabilities in regions of the U.S. and ideas for coping with them. The legacy of that: state efforts are spotty and local action is practically nonexistent. “There are no true adaptation experts in the federal government, let alone states or cities,” says Arroyo. “They’ve just been commandeered from other departments.”

The rookies (functionally science illiterate) will struggle to comprehend the complex impacts of climate change. The burning of fossil fuels has raised atmospheric levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide by 40 percent above what they were before the Industrial Revolution. The added heat in the atmosphere retains more moisture, ratchets up the energy in the system, and incites more violent and extreme weather. Scientists disagree about whether climate change will bring more intense or frequent tornadoes, but there is wide consensus that the 2 degrees Fahrenheit of global warming of the last century is behind the rise in sea levels, more intense hurricanes, more heat waves, and more droughts and deluges. Even if the world went carbon-neutral tomorrow, we’d be in for more: because of the CO2 that has already been emitted, we’re on track for another 5 degrees of warming. Batten down the hatches. “You can no longer say that the climate of the future is going to be like the climate of today, let alone yesterday,” says Judi Greenwald, vice president of innovative solutions at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. “In all of the plausible climate scenarios, we are going to have to change the way we do things in ways we can’t even predict.”

So what lies behind America’s resistance to action? Economist Sachs points to the lobbying power of industries that resist acknowledgment of climate change’s impact. “The country is two decades behind in taking action because both parties are in thrall to Big Oil and Big Coal,” says Sachs. “The airwaves are filled with corporate-financed climate misinformation.” But the vanguard of action isn’t waiting any longer. This week, representatives from an estimated 100 cities are meeting in Bonn, Germany, for the 2nd World Congress on Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change. The theme is “Resilient Cities.” As Joplin, Mo., learned in the most tragic way possible, against some impacts of climate change, man’s puny efforts are futile. But time is getting short, and the stakes are high. Says Daniel Sarewitz, a professor of science and society at Arizona State University: “Not to adapt is to consign millions of people to death and disruption.”

Check it out, there’s lots more facts, links to disaster TV footage, it’s real… will likely get worse… who cares the cause.


By Sharon Begley for Newsweek, May 29, 2011.

References On a comparable Theme

Piecemeal Possibilities and Climate Change – Paying attention to alternative ways of cooling the planet is a good idea; ignoring carbon emissions isn’t, The Economist, February 17, 2011.

A Fistful Of Dust and Climate Science — The true effect of windblown material is only now coming to be appreciated, The Economist, Jan 6th 2011.

Acute Climate Change in the Arctic: Fighting Air Pollution May Slow Warming, Stockholm Environmental Institute, June 9, 2011.

Carbon Flows, The Omitted Emissions — The usual figures ignore the role of trade in the world’s carbon economy, The Economist, Apr 28th 2011.

References — Samples of Denial and Flaming

Newsweek’s Global Warming Fear-Mongering Isn’t Science; It’s Science Fiction, The Ace of Spades HQ Blog, May 31, 2011.

Cooler Heads Prevail Against Climate Panic, June 01, 2011|By Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe Columnist

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Solid-State Batteries – The Power of the Printing Press

The power of the press; a new process will make solid-state rechargeable batteries that should greatly outperform existing ones. Electronics made a huge leap forward when the delicate and temperamental vacuum tube was replaced by the robust, reliable transistor. That change led to the now ubiquitous silicon chip. As a consequence, electronic devices have become vastly more powerful and, at the same time, have shrunk in both size and cost. Some people believe that a similar change would happen if rechargeable batteries could likewise be made into thin, solid devices. Researchers are working, and succeeding on, various ways to do this and now one of these efforts is coming to large-scale fruition. That promises smaller, cheaper, more powerful batteries for consumer electronics and, eventually, for electric cars.

The new development is the work of Planar Energy of Orlando, Florida—a company spun out of America’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in 2007. The firm is about to complete a pilot production line that will print lithium-ion batteries onto sheets of metal or plastic, like printing a newspaper. “Thin-film” printing methods of this sort are already used to make solar cells and display screens, but no one has yet been able to pull off the trick on anything like an industrial scale with batteries. Paradoxically, though thin-film printing needs liquid precursor chemicals to act as the “ink” which is sprayed onto the metal or plastic substrate, it works well only when those precursors react to form a solid final product. Most batteries include liquid or semi-liquid electrolytes—so printing them has been thought to be out of the question. Planar, however, has discovered a solid electrolyte it believes is suitable for thin-film printing.

Lack of range is reckoned one of the main obstacles to the widespread use of electric cars. If solid-state batteries could overcome such range anxiety that would, indeed, be a revolution on a par with the silicon chip.

Okay, this is a teaser, so click though and enjoy the rest of the article.

Published in the Economist, Jan 27th 2011.

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits:  — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when copying materials that I cite, I do not fill the sourced ‘quoted’ words with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another secondary source external to itself.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

The materials I share in the topical snippets that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental magazines and newsletters, both pro or anti any given subject’s focus or technologies; as well as excerpts from blogs and ‘lists’ to which I subscribe. Since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original materials, click on-through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> to check out other background references on the topic(s).          Doc.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and admittedly biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send me feedback and I’ll give it a shot ˆThe name of my game!”

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.


I am again this week taking advantage of the harvest of clippings I gathered during March and April while I was tied up with other work and family matters. Do remember, yes I trust Wikipedia as a secondary source of information, but only if I’ve checkout most of an articles references for bias and accuracy!

You may wonder why there are a number, larger then usual in a non-nuclear specific article, of nuclear related items below? It my reaction to the media and the public’s Shakespearian overreaction to the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami tragedy, which far out weights that from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident.

What you ask?         It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. (Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5.)


Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, for the New Snippets and Topics

  • Biofuels Aren’t Really Green N Cultivate inorganic energy sources instead of biofuels
  • Nuclear Energy Is A Disruptively Cheap And Simple Way To Boil Water
  • Can the U.S. Compete With China on Green Tech?  — A New York Times Debate Feature
  • The Hybrid Electric Car Victory – or at least its seemingly positive progress.
  • Small and Medium Reactors (SMRs) — The cases for and against
  • Assumptions for Land Needed by Wind and Solar — An Analysis
  • Stories vs. Statistics — A reality check

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Biofuels Aren’t Really Green

Cultivate inorganic energy sources instead of biofuels

Interesting, although several a older studies have been published in peer reviewed sources, they appear to have been ignored by politico’s and silver bullet seeking subsidy hunters. Un-green biofuels also  goes against the current governmental biofuel creation goals and subsidy trends.

Has any done a recent updated system study on the effect of all variables on the issue of biofuel potential? The best of what I’ve googled focuses primarily on the transportation sector. Not often, and only weakly is there consideration given to its use for generating electrical power generation in which biofuel would replace, coal, natural gas and perhaps grid linked efficient solar or wind power.

Sustainable, green, renewable, organic—the words come up so often in energy and climate debates that they tend to sound as if they mean the same thing. But of course they don’t. Nuclear reactors emit no carbon and are therefore in a sense green, but uranium is nonrenewable; hydropower is green and renewable but may not always be sustainable, because the ecological consequences can be bad and reservoirs are not limitless; coal is organic, but its carbon emissions make it the very opposite of green. All that is obvious enough. But even so, it may be jarring to hear—as the authors have found and will describe — organic biofuels can’t possibly fuel a growing world economy in a sustainable manner, whereas, in principle, inorganic fuels could.

That inorganic might beat organic contradicts fashionable prejudice, which like all fashion changes with the season. Take the case of the United States: First came the enthusiasm for corn ethanol, its extravagant subsidization, and a farm-industrial miniboom. Then, when corn’s limits started to become better known and its costs more glaringly obvious, we started to hear about the promise of switch grass, a native species of the North American prairie that promises high energy-conversion efficiencies.

All of this knowledge ignored, in parallel to our scientifically trained American legislators allowing and by implication promoting the increased of corn based ethanol. To 15% in gasoline, despite marginal or perhaps negative fuel efficiencies, known engine corrosion problems and the shortage of corn for food world-wide. To mix metaphor, these folks really know which side of their bread is buttered. It’s a shame that there is no legal way to shame them and their staff, as well as the industry lobbyist into using the 15% adulterated fuel for six months to a year.

President George W. Bush first mentioned it in a 2006 speech to the nation. Before long, Al Gore was chiming in too, promising that with adequate government support for research, grass-based fuels could free us from the dual specters of energy shortage and runaway climate change.

In Germany rapeseed has been all the rage; in India, jatropha; and in Brazil, sugarcane ethanol. Yet the plain fact is that nobody really knows when or whether organic fuels will be competitive with hydrocarbon based fuels (gasoline and or natural gas, except under unique circumstance such as hold in Brazil.  Engineering breakthroughs, by their nature, are unpredictable—that’s what makes them exciting. So to evaluate whether organic fuels could ever be in a position to power the world, we looked at them purely in terms of physical resource availability, assuming that the costs would eventually become competitive. We asked how much land and water would be needed to make the quantities of biofuel that a prosperous world would need. We also asked whether there were other sources of fuel and energy that might put less strain on resources while adding less greenhouse gas to the atmosphere.

To our own surprise, the authors note, the model we constructed showed that there is simply not enough land and water to support a prosperous biofueled world. At the same time, it suggested that inorganic sources, such as photovoltaic cells, could in principle do the job. There’s the rub… the words in principle.

There’s much more so read on — make up your own mind, but remember that the 2009 premises input to the authors’ model was already outdated when published. There is, as you all know no thing as constant as change itself. Also check out the last topic in this blog called “statistics and stories. (Doc.)

Article by Deepak Divan and Frank Kreikebaum, IEEE Spectrum November 2009.

See Also:

Biofuel from Wikipedia, 2011

Sustainable (Green) Energy from Wikipedia

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Nuclear Energy Is A Disruptively Cheap And Simple Way To Boil Water

I’ve combined inputs from two of Rod Adam’s articles to give you a taste of his ideas on nuclear energy related issues. They include his views on nuclear related costs issues and other red flags. I am in total agreement with Rod’s thesis and logic, based on independent reading. No I’m not an economist, venture capitalist, or investment broker, but I am a pretty good systems engineer. Since I’m on a Shakespeare kick, Rod’s articles are as much about “much ado about nothing: but neither does it credit the impossible dream as American nuclear  naysayer preach.

Guys-Gals, France, China, Russia and India are not going either broke by supporting nuclear. Neither will Japan, after they slowly recover from the earthquake-tsunami. Owing ones soul to either the company store or to the international oil magnates is not my version of the American dream. Is it yours?

Why Select Rod’s Articles! — First, he writes for what Steve Jobs would call the rest of us. Experience wise, he is a pro-nuclear advocate with extensive small nuclear plant operating experience and a former engineer officer, USS Von Steuben. He is also the host and producer of The Atomic Show Podcast. Adams and is a frequent contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.  …Mostly, although I’ve looked, I’ve not found any errors in the logic behind his analysis or the validity of his sources.

For the majority of human history, people used their own muscles to provide almost all of the work required for survival and development. A thin slice of humanity achieved a moderate amount of personal comfort and leisure because they were able, often through an accident of birth, to control a portion of the daily work output of hundreds to thousands of their fellow humans. The only sources of work—in the engineering sense—that were not either human or animal muscle came from capturing falling water or intermittently by capturing the breezes through devices like cloth sails or wind mills.

Humans understood fire. They used it to keep warm, to process their food, to produce some implements from metal, and as a weapon of destruction. It was not, however, until inventive people with names like Savery, Newcomen, and Watt started to work out ways of using the hot gas produced when fire boiled water that humans learned how to become masters of the earth’s vast store of combustible materials.

The seemingly simple act of boiling water provided humans the means necessary to gradually invent and manufacture their way out of a life of drudgery. Steam power was the key; H2O had always been important for people, but when they learned to pump it as a liquid, heat it into a pressurized gas, and condense it back down into a liquid, H2O became he vital working fluid that could turn heat into work and force machines to become the drudges in service of human beings. It is not an exaggeration to note that without the act of boiling water to create and use steam, getting rid of serfdom and slavery would have been virtually impossible.

I would bet that most of the people who nod their heads at that phrase have never had to cut and carry enough wood to boil a large pot of water, say for doing a week’s laundry. I am sure that few have ever spent much time watching a coal conveyor steadily feed a large boiler that is producing some of the electricity that feeds the electrical sockets and stoves in their homes. Boiling water is not only important, but it is not as simple as it may seem. It generally requires the consumption of a vast quantity of increasingly expensive materials and it requires a tacit {implied} agreement on the part of everyone in the area of the fire to accept their share of the waste products that are spread far and wide from every fire.

The exception to that general rule is the water that gets boiled by the heat released from atomic fission. Once the work of the talented engineers and builders is complete, operating a fission-heated boiler is a rather simple task. The task is not made simple by sets of complex automation or hard working pumps and conveyors; it is enabled by physics. Once a moderate amount of fuel is loaded into a nuclear reactor, it will reliably and simply produce heat for somewhere between 18 months and 33 years (the later for a Virginia class nuclear submarine) with relatively little additional effort.

There’s a tad more to this historic tale — click the first reference…

Rod concludes the fact is that nuclear energy is a cheap, clean, and even simple way to perform the vital act of boiling water

To get a taste of the economic issues, that red flag nuclear, check out the second link. Rod makes a lie out of many of ways the most virulent anti-nuclear activists have begun focusing almost exclusively on spreading the assumption that nuclear energy means expensive energy. They have been helped in this effort by statements from the established nuclear industry that claim that new plants are so expensive that they require government assistance and incentives in order to get them financed and built.

The fundamental aspect of nuclear energy that the rest of us need to understand is that fission heat is actually quite cheap. The average total production cost from a US nuclear power plant today is just 1.86 cents per kilowatt-hour. That total is normally broken into two pieces – fuel costs and non-fuel Operations and Maintenance costs. For 2008, nuclear plant owners in the US spent an average of just 0.49 cents per kilowatt-hour for fuel and 1.37 cents per kilowatt-hour for non-fuel operations & maintenance. Data from the Nuclear Energy Institute is provided in Rod’s article that describes what is included in those numbers.

Also enjoy the outdated, but still qualitatively appropriate data on US Government and State energy subsidies — =talk about picking favorite or free market distortions.

Okay enough said so just click through. Also relevant, but not part of this articles are the lowered costs when consider either small nuclear power plant (batteries) and modular reactors such as those being designed by Babcock & Wilcox Company for near future licensing.

Nuclear Energy Is A Disruptively Cheap And Simple Way To Boil Water. Posted on February 1, 2011 by Rod Adams in the ANS nuclear cafe Blog.

Nuclear Energy Is Cheap and Disruptive – Controlling the Initial Cost of Nuclear Power Plants is a Solvable Problem. Posted February 6, 2010 by Rod Adams for the Energy Collective.

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Can the U.S. Compete With China on Green Tech?

— A New York Times Debate Feature

When reading this article or the ones I referenced, I wonder whether this competition stuff is a smokescreen. Does it really matter who the ever changing statistics is number one. By all estimates the projected markets are so huge that they can’t likely be monopolized. (Green tech, please note is different from controlling a narrow commodity such as rare earth elements (of recent headline fame) or OPEC and petroleum supplies. America is known for its inventiveness, creativity and ‘venturous’ spirit. However that does not mean that we don’t  need to re-assert, despite the risks, our ability to get our competitive manufacturing up to snuff; or we’re back to hind teat.

After all the jobs and profits go to those who manufacture, not the inventors. That why jobs are exported to the lowest cost technically savvy  ‘competent’ producer – iPad’s from China and flat screen TV’s from Japan and South Korea, with some of manufacturing in part outsourced to China. In addition everything I read, that is based on peer reviewed hard science is that small business do not have the ability to create more than a few jobs, it’s all about mega manufacturing, in America, that creates jobs and raises living standards — more of that in a future article.

The Obama administration has sought to promote green technology as a growth engine in the U.S. But even with some government support, new firms have a hard time competing with foreign producers. The U.S. currently accounts for just $1.6 billion of the world’s $29 billion market for solar panels, with China, using aggressive policies, to become the dominant maker of equipment like solar panels and wind turbines. Congress was so concerned about unfair trade practices harming American manufacturers that it recently approved a provision to require the Pentagon to buy only American-made solar panels. Anyone for a trade war?

What are the obstacles for American companies trying to win global markets in clean energy industries? Read the NYT discussion. Can green industries take off in the U.S. and compete globally? What might stand in the way? The topics discussed in the NT sponsored debate and Op-Ed include:

Pitfalls in Public Policies— Robert N. Stavins, Harvard UniversityWe Need a Manufacturing Agenda — Joan Fitzgerald, Northeastern University

Ways to Recapture the Lead — Robert E. Scott, Economic Policy Institute

How We Gain From China’s Advances  — Matthew Kahn, UCLA. Institute of the Environment

Government Should Be a CatalystVan Jones, author, “The Green Collar Economy”

Our Comparative Advantage — Frank A. Wolak, Stanford University

Understanding the ObjectiveDavid Roberts,



See Also:

Welcoming The Competition, Like It Or Not, The Economist, June 10th 2010

Senator Harry Reid: US Must Compete With China To Lead On Energy By Matthew Daly, Associated Press Posted Wed Apr 27, 2011.

Can the U.S. Compete With China on Green Tech? –We Need a Manufacturing Agenda, Posted on 19 January 2011 by Sara Haimowitz. For the ‘Trade Reform’ Blog.

US Must Cut $100 Billion from Defense to Compete with China on Clean Energy: Expert, by Brian Merchant, Brooklyn, New York  on January.12, 2011 for the Tree Hugger Blog11.

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The Hybrid Electric Car Victoryor at least its seemingly positive progress. founder Felix Kramer tells the plug-in hybrid story in this re-post.  For background, see “Plug-in hybrids and electric cars — a core climate solution.”

The details:

(1) On the evolution of the hybrid electric car, and perhaps an all electric car.

(2) The lessons learned during their development by their major manufacturers and the

(3) Challenges ahead for this energy saving-petrochemical use reducing transportation alternative.

…All are described in an article entitled “The Hybrid Electric Car Victory” for the Energy Collective by Joseph Romm, Posted December 22, 2010.

Romm, as an early pioneer and advocate for hybrid cars, Romm’s narrative is folksy, anecdotal and easy to read — tune in you enjoy the doing so.

…And while I’m at it my next <used> car is a 5-7 year old Toyota Prius – Consumer Reports tested a 2002 (nine year old model) with 206,000 miles on the odometer and found minimal if any degradation of its operating systems including the battery. Alas, there hasn’t been a used Prius for sale in the used automobile advertisements for the last 6-9 months.


More Reading

Hybrid Vehicles, …And… Hybrid Electric Vehicles, In Wikipedia 2011.

How Hybrid Cars Work, by Karim Nice and Julia Layton in How Stuff Works. 2011.

Hybrid Vehicle, The Next Step In The Evolution of the Automobile! By Kjartan Bergsson, Blog Editor

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Small and Medium Reactors  — The cases for and against

Challenges in getting large nuclear projects off the ground seems to have renewed interest in small modular reactors. But not everyone is convinced there is a market for smaller plants. Can the SMR developers play ball with the big boys of nuclear?

This year the nuclear energy industry is thinking small, or at least a segment of it is. Everyone from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to Nuclear Energy Insider is staging an event or carrying out a study into small modular reactors (SMRs), while manufacturers are gearing up new product designs.

Is the hype justified? It depends who you ask.

SMRs (the acronym also stands for small and medium reactors, defined by the IAEA as having ratings of under 300MW and up to 700MW, respectively) have been around for a long time and have not exactly shown great commercial promise throughout their existence.

The article discusses a variety of efforts ranging from the failed pebble bed SMR to the ongoing active international approaches in a race that appears to be running almost neck-to-neck relative to technology alternatives. The one thing these designs have in common is the concept of using a small sized 50-100 MW nuclear battery maintenance free unit that is installed underground, used for it’s lifetime, retrieved and recycled by it’s manufacturer. No extra external cooling systems, earthquake proof to NRC or IAEA standards, no refueling, no active safety systems… it’s just a battery. The image is the Hyperon Reactor concept.

Take the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor originally planned in South Africa by the company of the same name, in association with African electrical giant Eskom. After six years of development the project was shelved last September, allegedly due to a lack of customers and investors. Poor management and planning, or the world economic downturn?

On the pro side, However, Steve Kidd (deputy director general of the World Nuclear Association) acknowledges that it is probably current energy generation economics that is driving current interest in SMRs: “You don’t need such a large dollop of front end capital to get a programme underway,” he accepts.

Adrian Heymer, executive director of strategic programs at the USA’s Nuclear Energy Institute, adds: “Interest is being driven in part by smaller utilities looking at different types of energy generation and which cannot afford a large nuclear plant. “If you add capacity in 50 MW to 300MW increments it’s easier on the planning. You can bring the units on in stages, so you are still getting 600MW to 700MW in a 10 to 15-year period but you can finance it as you go forward.”

Another advantage of an SMR design, Adrian says, is that because most of the components can be shipped ready-built from the manufacturer, “it doesn’t take as long to build. You can assemble most of the plant in a factory.”

According to Jay Harris, an independent consultant, a further reason why some utilities might be keen on SMRs is because they provide greater base load flexibility as intermittent renewable energy sources are increasingly integrated into the grid.

The danger for a utility that is bound by regulation to accept renewable energy is that if most of its base load comes from a single nuclear source then a peak in renewables could mean a portion of the base is no longer profitable, and there may be further costs if the plant has to shut.

There lot’s more here to tweak your interest, and while you’re reading check out the supplementary references. Of particular interest are the enhanced safety features, and life cycle, including low construction costs and minimal maintainability, advantages. These are in essence small On the negative side, a terrorists may chose to fly a large helicopter with a sky hook and lift it top drop it where it will ‘scare people’.

It’s Just a BIG Battery

ThreeMmodules in the  B&W Concept

Note that what I report in this topical is not the modular reactor concept, which will be the source of another future article. Modular reactor are large scale reactors which can be built and centrally operated using some installed prefabricated modules to fit power needs, but closely resemble the newer generation of standard nuclear power plants. These are being explored as a means of lowering up front capital costs without a need to significantly change the licensing requirements and regulatory approval process

Nuclear Energy Industry Insight, by Jason Deign, February 9, 2011.

More Reading

Small Modular Reactors.           …And…         List Of Small Nuclear Reactor Designs. Wikipedia 2011.

Small Nuclear Power Reactors. World Nuclear Association, April 2011

Are Small Nuclear Reactors Safer? The Celsias (climate) Blog, by Timothy B. Hurst

Interim Report Of The American Nuclear Society President’s Special Committee On Small And Medium Sized Reactor (SMR) Generic Licensing Issues, July 2010.

The economy of small: how SMRs have captured the imagination of US policy makers and industry leaders. By Jack Craze, October 18, 2010, for the Nuclear Energy Insider.

Small Nuclear Reactors Are Becoming Big Business – The race is on to develop refrigerator-size reactors that could power small towns or plants. Published in Bloomberg Businessweek, By Jeremy van Loon and Alex Morales, May 20, 2010. – IEER/PSR: ‘Small Modular Reactors’ No Panacea for What Ails Nuclear Power (An alternate View), by Arjun Makhijani of the anti-nuclear IEER, Posted October 1, 2010.            …And…         Small Modular Reactors – No Solution for the Cost, Safety, and Waste Problems of Nuclear Power. Fact Sheet by Arjun Makhijani And Michele Boyd for the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research [IEER], September 2010.

The Gates Path to an Energy Revolution By Andrew C. Revkin, August 24, 2010 for The New York Times

Bill Gates and Toshiba building commercial mini nuclear reactors. By Leslie Shapiro for the DEVICE Blog, Mar 23, 2010.

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Assumptions for Land Needed by Wind and Solar — An Analysis

Abstracted from Martin LaMonica‘s CNET article::

Imagine if your country had an unlimited budget but a limited amount of land: what renewable energy has the most potential? Rutgers University professor Clinton Andrews and colleagues ran the numbers on this thought experiment and came up with some surprises.

The authors identified clear limits on some technologies, notably biofuels, but concluded that the bigger challenges to renewable energy and land relate to siting energy facilities, particularly transmission lines. Andrews presented an early version of the paper at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy conference. The goal of the analysis and others like it is to size up the land requirements for different renewable-energy sources which in many cases require more land than fossil fuels and nuclear power. As the U.S. and other countries seek to ramp up renewable-energy production, land use is becoming a more contentious issue. Already plans to build large-scale solar plants and wind farms in the U.S. have been opposed for aesthetic and environmental reasons.

Even for distributed energy sources, such as rooftop panels, permitting and siting issues stand to loom large because upgrades to the electricity grid are needed, the study found. “It’s not so much the land that we need for producing the energy. It’s how we move to where we want to use it,” according to the analysis that Andrews presented.

Professor Andrews goes on to discuss land use associated with

  • The small land needs for Geothermal and concentrating solar thermal production.
  • Alas, the largest energy associated land hog is biofuels, particularly biodiesel.

There’s more so click though and get the rest of the story. I wish that the reporter who shared Professor Andrew’s work had more directly included coal, natural gas and nuclear in the CNET analysis, but that seemed beyond the scope of the reporter interests. Never the less from the material provided in other references I checked in passing, the land use patterns are very clear. The image is from a 2011 C&EN article.

Remember that land use is only one of the trade-offs needing to be considered while planning our hopefully independent energy future and controlling climate change. The obvious cost of the energy produced, when off set by some sort of charge for pollution needs to be considered. Unfortunately the bureaucrats and industrialists of the world seem to be blind-siding this issue, creating a false balance sheet of costs for energy alternative. “Gaia doesn’t care, the laws of nature will take their coursed whether we believe them or not.

A perhaps more scholarly study, the second reference further highlights energy production  land use issues:

Concern over climate change has led the U.S. to consider a cap-and-trade system to regulate emissions. In the referenced articles we illustrate the land-use impact to U.S. habitat types of new energy development resulting from different U.S. energy policies. The authors estimated the total new land area needed by 2030 to produce energy, under current law and under various cap-and-trade policies, and then partitioned the area impacted among habitat types with geospatial data on the feasibility of production.

The land-use intensity of different energy production techniques varies over three orders of magnitude, from 1.9–2.8 km2/TW hr/yr for nuclear power to 788–1000 km2/TW hr/yr for biodiesel from soy. In all scenarios, temperate deciduous forests and temperate grasslands will be most impacted by future energy development, although the magnitude of impact by wind, biomass, and coal to different habitat types is policy-specific.

Regardless of the existence or structure of a cap-and-trade bill, at least 206,000 km2 will be impacted without substantial increases in energy efficiency, which saves at least 7.6 km2 per TW hr of electricity conserved annually and 27.5 km2 per TW/hr of liquid fuels conserved annually.

Climate policy that reduces carbon dioxide emissions may increase the areal impact of energy, although the magnitude of this potential side effect may be substantially mitigated by increases in energy efficiency. The possibility of widespread energy sprawl increases the need for energy conservation, appropriate siting, sustainable production practices, and compensatory mitigation offsets.

Caveat Lector:  I could not Google a copy of the original Rutgers Study by Professor Clinton Andrews, so can not attest to the underlying technical detains in the original article. All posted information was a variation of the LaMonica CNET report

Figuring land use into renewable-energy equation. Reported n the Green Tech Blog

By Martin LaMonica, May 29, 2010.

Energy Sprawl or Energy Efficiency: Climate Policy Impacts on Natural Habitat for the United States of America. The Plosone Blog, by Robert I. McDonald, Joseph Fargione, Joe Kiesecker3 William M. Miller, and Jimmie Powell; August 2009.

Nuclear Energy: The Antidote to Energy Sprawl, Nuclear Energy Insight, Nuclear Energy Institute, September 2010.

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Stories vs. StatisticsA reality check

Years ago I took a graduate school course, at the University of Denver from my favorite faculty friend and colleague Dr. Albert Ritter. The course combined an introduction to the principals of symbolic logic, dipped into the basis of the scientific method and added what appeared to be a segment on ‘how to lie with statistics.” Although I would not have passed the course being simultaneously being overwhelmed with life’s realities. I was simultaneously teaching, developing an organic chemistry Ph. D. curriculum, chasing funding and then building myself a research laboratory, and enjoying a new marriage. Non-the less, the course changed my approach to what I read and how I approached scientific life!   

Many year later, a book “Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists”, by Joel Best, University of California Press; 1 edition (May 8, 2001) added another nail to my sense of disbelief of ‘public’ infomercials’ on the numerics and cherry-pickled statistics provided by talking heads what ever their titles or positions.


Therefor the following NY Times article touched on a nerve, always, especially after elections or congressional debates, raw and bleeding.


Half a century ago the British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow bemoaned the estrangement of what he termed the “two cultures” in modern society — the literary and the scientific. These days, there is some reason to celebrate better communication between these domains, if only because of the increasingly visible salience of scientific ideas. Still a gap remains, and so I’d like here to take an oblique look at a few lesser known contrasts and divisions between subdomains of the two cultures, specifically, those between stories and statistics.

Dr. Paulos begins by noting that the notions of probability and statistics are not alien to storytelling. From the earliest of recorded histories there were glimmerings of these concepts, which were reflected in everyday words and stories. Consider the notions of central tendency — average, median, mode, to name a few.

They most certainly grew out of workaday activities and led to words such as (in English) “usual,” “typical.” “customary,” “most,” “standard,” “expected,” “normal,” “ordinary,” “medium,” “commonplace,” “so-so,” and so on.

The same is true about the notions of statistical variation — standard deviation, variance, and the like. Words such as “unusual,” “peculiar,” “strange,” “original,” “extreme,” “special,” “unlike,” “deviant,” “dissimilar” and “different” come to mind.

It is hard to imagine even prehistoric humans not possessing some sort of rudimentary idea of the typical or of the unusual. Any situation or entity — storms, animals, and rock patterns — that recurred again and again would, it seems, lead naturally to these notions. These and other fundamentally scientific concepts have in one way or another been embedded in the very idea of what a story is — an event distinctive enough to merit retelling — from cave paintings to “Gilgamesh” to “The Canterbury Tales,” onward.

The idea of probability itself is present in such words as “chance,” “likelihood,” “fate,” “odds,” “gods,” “fortune,” “luck,” “happenstance,” “random,” and many others. A mere acceptance of the idea of alternative possibilities almost entails some notion of probability, since some alternatives will be come to be judged more likely than others.

Likewise, the idea of sampling is implicit in words like “instance,” “case,” “example,” “cross-section,” “specimen” and “swatch,” and that of correlation is reflected in “connection,” “relation,” “linkage,” “conjunction,” “dependence” and the ever too ready “cause.”

Even (science based) hypothesis testing and Bayesian analysis possess linguistic echoes in common phrases and ideas that are an integral part of human cognition and storytelling. … Despite the naturalness of these notions, however, there is a tension between stories and statistics. One under-appreciated contrast between them is simply the mindset with which we approach them. In listening to stories we tend to suspend disbelief in order to be entertained. Whereas, in evaluating statistics we generally have an opposite inclination to suspend belief in order not to be beguiled.

A drily named distinction from formal statistics is relevant: we’re said to commit a Type I error when we observe something that is not really there and a Type II error when we fail to observe something that is there. There is no way to always avoid both types, and we have different error thresholds in different endeavors, but the type of error people feel more comfortable may be telling. It gives some indication of their intellectual personality type; on which side of the two cultures (or maybe two cultures) divide they’re most comfortable. Check Wikipedia,

Okay, that’s right; if the author’s thesis catches your fancy read on… after all there are both philosopher kings and philosophical scientists, although Plato did not distinguish between them.

Article by John Allen Paulos, in the New York Times Opinionator Column, October 24, 2010.

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits:  — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when copying materials that I cite, I do not fill the sourced ‘quoted’ words with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another secondary source external to itself.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

Readers please read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

The materials I share in the topical snippets that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental magazines and newsletters, both pro or anti any given subject’s focus or technologies; as well as excerpts from blogs and ‘lists’ to which I subscribe.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and admittedly biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send me feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original materials, click on-through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> to check out other background references on the topic(s).          Doc!

QUOTES de Mois —

  • The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
  • For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.
  • It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.  Richard P. Feynman

By Harry Babad, © Copyright 2010, All rights Reserved.


This edition of my greening article departs a little from the traditional style I’ve established in earlier posts.

I’ll be starting out with ad-libs (e.g., opinions) on five items that reflect my observations of energy and general greening technology and its associated swings but NOT provide you with a rationale or other justifications for my thoughts. Accuse me of venting — blowing off steam — Fine, if you don’t do this occasional, also your mind has died, or at least turned into a prune. – Call this a case of I Believe!.

Call them doc_Babad’s five-jaundiced weltanschauungs — the darker side of the 2010 vision.

  • Let Keeping Studying things Until We Die — More experts then ever refused to make decisions on dealing with the forthcoming and near future from climate change. Rising sea levels, doubts, hurricanes and tornadoes and of course floods and forest fires.Their rationale — they need to do more research to reduce their uncertainty. As my philosophy professors and even my father noted, not taking action is a decision. Check out Naomi Oreskes’ new book called “Merchants of Doubt” listed I the reference section.A typical risk analysis, not the guys who figure the worst oil rig blowout, or the worst likely flooding of New Orleans, add defenses, in depth — likely expensive – to counter uncertainty. However, that is politically incorrect.
  • Bearing False Witness — A new class of experts continues to dominate the public debate about energy, climate change and/or any other science based issue such as public health including vaccine safety, caused of cancer, tobacco based disease and our newest daemon, cell phone radiation risks. These folk, who have jumped outside of the technical the areas of their science and engineering training and hove spouted fear, uncertainty, and doubt. This reminds me an old IBM technique called FUD, to an every hungry media and a mostly scientifically illiterate public.Most of these folks have never had a paper on their new avocational expertise published in a peer reviewed journal and feast on traded mutually supporting reference that have no basis in measured truth. Although stretching the point it reminds me of the ultra orthodox rabbis in Israeli cling to their truth that that anyone who doubts their ‘given’ truth’ must not be Jewish.My I suggest this new year that they and theirs opt for having an auto mechanic perform any needed surgery on them when needed, its cheaper — all the mechanics need to do is suggest that they’ve read the manual and so are obviously then qualified.
  • The nuclear renaissance in the western world seems almost stillborn. Why inexpensive natural gas, poor or false lifecycle accounting for costs of wind and solar energy, depression lowered energy demand, and the lack of any desire to take risk on behalf of western governments and the local banking system.Even France a long tome advocate, efforts are slowing down because of the mismanagement of the construction of Areva’s {Nuclear} new generation reactors and the Germans still say Nein. …and of course the Brits are moving cautiously and Australians are still thinking about it despite having the free worlds larges supply if uranium.The good news is that China, India, and the Koreans are not stopping their efforts, albeit they start from a small installed reactor base. Did you know America has the largest installed base of installed operating reactors 104 accounting for 20.2% of our baseline power) with France coming in only second at 58 but accounting for 75.2% of the grid load. More interesting, the wealthy countries in the middle-eastern countries are getting on board, as perhaps are the Brazilians.
  • A Unworldly Solution to Climate Change — Politicians around the world have balked in working together, internationally, con dealing with climate change. Some small individual nations are taking the lead but only within their boundaries or regions. Alas the later are victims of the ‘pimple’ effect when compared to the greenhouse emissions fro the USA, Russia, China and other off shore manufacturers.It is always comically surrealistic, if not fully tragic, that the USA is making some measured progress is lowering industrially produced green house gases by outsourcing the work. That gives us a two-stage benefit. We look greening the too often looked down upon dirty manufacturing capability… e.g. Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, that blight our nations — the heartland that made us great and strong after World War II.
  • Turn Off the Sun — This option, tongue in cheek of course, is an observation of the effects of the almost universal American nuclearphobia about radiation, be it sunshine, radio frequency for cell, phones, medical diagnostic procedures, and of course nuclear electricity in decision making and risk adversity. Of course, except when there is a case of food bacterial based poisoning, then there’s a hue and cry… and the search for a scape-goat. As a society, we almost totally ignore the toxic material in our mass produced foods, potential mutagens in our cosmetics, polluted water systems, and the gas chamber effects of urban air pollution. As far as last item goes, if the concentrations were higher, the agents might have been put to use by the Nazi’s during the Holocaust – alas they were too slow to meet the Third Reich’s goals.

No, I’m not giving up on either American ingenuity and ability to decisively act in a crisis, nor of the creative energies of mankind to overcome political and belief structure based paralysis, as usual; but years end finds me a bit maudlin and introspective. Could it be because I turn 75 in a few months? Or is there a deeper root cause?

Perhaps we need to rearrange our democracy, add criteria for being the franchised, along the lines of Heinlein’s Star Ship Trooper? I am of course aware that Winston Churchill remarked: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” (Nov. 11, 1947)

Folks, the 5-fold path to enlightenment on these issues seems to elude me — I just don’t get it. So I’d better get on with this months greening related tid-bits.

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WARNING: This issue is more focused on Nuclear than usual. I’ve never claimed to be either unbiased or to provide a balanced treatment of energy and environmental options. I only state that I will do, to the best of my ability, read all relevant references documents in my considerable references collection. Look for added and more current information by preceding each citation’s use with web searches. I shall give the option, where I deem comments and ad-bibs are appropriate, a fair shot based on those references.

The New Snippet Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Orde,

  • Did You Know – The Word is out! Call it a dump even if its state of the art technology
  • With Every Passing Year a New Miracle — Green Now, perhaps for Duke Energy, Includes Nuclear Power Too, some day soon, Congress
  • With Every Passing Year a New Miracle — Green Now, perhaps for Duke Energy, Includes Nuclear Power Too
  • America’s Oil Crude Oil Habit — Hey folks be fair, everyone has the right to their choice of a ‘Fix’
  • When the Assembly Line Moves Online — It’s all beyond Charlie Chaplin’s Imagination
  • Clean Energy Entrepreneurs Face More Obstacles in U.S. — Were back to  the 2010-2012 version of the China Syndrome, with a whimper not a bang this time.
  • How To Stop Global Warming – Even If You Don’t Believe In It

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Did You Know – The Word is out!

Yup, according to Gwyneth Cravens. One of my favorite born again ‘nuclear related authors’ who is a long time-well respected environmentally focused author.

— “A memo went out long ago from Greenpeace and other anti-nuclear organizations: “Always say ‘dump’! Never say ‘repository’ or ‘storage site’!”  “Dump” conjures up a vision of dump trucks backing up to a hole in the ground and letting loose their nasty cargo in a helter skelter fashion. If only city dumps were as tidy as those strictly regulated nuclear waste repositories!

“Words with negative connotations that are repeated over and over have a powerful effect on public.”

Folks, I’m sure if I asked, Gwyneth would send me several examples, … but that a trivial game. Her articles and books are always exceptionally well documented and referenced.

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With Every Passing Year a New Miracle — Green Now, perhaps for Duke Energy, Includes Nuclear Power Too, some day soon, Congress

Ever since the late 1980s, Duke Power’s CEO James Rogers has been beating the drum for green energy as an answer to global warming, putting him in the vanguard of climate-change activists. But what’s most remarkable is that Rogers happens to be the CEO of Duke Energy Corp., the huge electric and gas utility that ranks among the U.S.’s biggest emitters of carbon dioxide.

Moreover, that dubious distinction is one the Charlotte, North Carolina, utility won’t be relinquishing any time soon. It is the only power company in the U.S. that is simultaneously building two coal-burning plants, which are due to come online in 2012. And coal, although it is both abundant and cheap, is a notorious pollutant compared with natural gas or nuclear power. What explains the apparent paradox between Rogers’ green persona and Duke’s seemingly retrograde strategy? A self-proclaimed pragmatist, he argues that a climate-friendly future will require a 40-year forced march. So how do new coal plants fit into this scenario? For those detail, check out the link!

Which of All The Alternative Energy Sources Holds The Most Promise? — If you look out over the next decade, the Environmental Protection Agency is going to write a set of regulations requiring us to shut down as much as one third of the existing coal fleet [of plants] in the United States. And that coal fleet is going to have to be replaced by something. Will it be natural gas? Will it be nuclear? Will it be renewables? One of the great challenges confronting us is what mix of those three do we need to replace one third of the U.S. coal fleet.

What Drives Your Interest In Green Energy? — I’m in the business of making billion-dollar decisions, and as a pragmatist, I ’m an advocate for advancing [green] issues, in part so that I can deliver on my job one: making energy as affordable, reliable and clean as possible. Whether it’s a coal plant at $3 billion or a nuclear plant at $12 billion to $14 billion, I can make more-informed decisions about huge investments that will last 50 years if I know the[environmental] rules, even though a cleaner carbon footprint in our generation facilities is going to translate into higher prices.

What Do You Say To People Who Deny Global Warming? — There’s a wide number of people that don’t believe it, for a variety of reasons. But even if it didn’t exist, what would I change about my strategy?

We are building plants today that are modernized and have significantly reduced the emissions per kilowatt hour. We would be doing that anyway.

The Institutional Investor by Frances Denmark, 29 Oct 2010.

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America’s Oil Crude Oil Habit — Hey folks be fair, everyone has the right to their choice of a ‘Fix’

Every petroleum crisis in this country — whether triggered by foreign suppliers flexing their muscles, a price spike at the gasoline pump, or a spill that causes untold environmental damage — heightens demands that the U.S. wean itself from oil. So, predictably, in reaction to the colossal BP leak in the Gulf of Mexico, lawmakers and corporate heavyweights are dusting off past proposals and crafting new ones to kick the national addiction.

Doc Sez — Sorry, to day I’m again feeling cynical — Even the financially troubled PB has pockets deep enough to buy most of entire congress, its called lobbying coupled with political contributions, made all the more murky by the recent US Supreme Court decision to allow corporations to be treated as ‘people’ with no requirement for disclosure. If that does work then perhaps the US Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, and Business Round table can join big oil in keeping the status quo. On the other hand, the Saudi’s and other Middle Eastern countries are investing in nuclear energy, perhaps, being more comfortable with taking along view, they know something America doesn’t or refuses to acknowledge.

On Monday, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D. Ore., outlined an ambitious plan to transition American cars and trucks to alternative fuels, reform and-use laws to make communities less dependent on cars, and shift more freight from 18-wheelers to trains and barges. The freshman senator is also calling on the White House to create a National Council on Energy Security. A week earlier, six-term Sen. Richard Lugar, R. Ind, introduced legislation to raise automobile fuel-efficiency requirements yearly and expand the federal program encouraging advancements in biofuels.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing the Energy Department to designate at least five test sites for electric cars. They want Uncle Sam to help pay for the installation of charging stations in those communities and to give residents tax breaks for buying plug-in vehicles.

Doc Sez: There’s lot more, check it out— Perhaps tomorrow I will regain my optimism! Alas, I’m having real problems distinguishing between show and tell, type posturing, and real initiatives that may roll back our dependence of oil.

Bottom Line — No other nation is so thoroughly hooked on oil. Even though Americans constitute only 4 percent of the world’s population,  they consume 20 percent of its petroleum. Of the 20 million barrels this country uses each day, 13 million are imported. And about 70 percent of the black gold burned in the U.S. goes to power vehicles.

The Fly, Other Than Politics, in The Ointment — Every time gasoline prices skyrocket, lawmakers look for ways to cut domestic oil use. When the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries embargoed oil to the United States in 1973, Washington required automakers to produce more-efficient cars and pushed electric utilities to turn to fuels other than oil. Please recall that starting with President Carter, to some degree all of our presidents tried and FAILED.

National Journal Group Inc, by Margaret Kriz Hobson, June 19, 2010.

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When the Assembly Line Moves Online — It’s all beyond Charlie Chaplin’s Imagination

In “Modern Times,” Charlie Chaplin, second from left, was mired in monotony. Today, many repetitive tasks are being parceled out on the Internet.

Do one assigned task on your computer. It shouldn’t take you more than two seconds. Repeat 14,399 times. Congratulations! Your eight-hour workday is complete.

No such workplace yet exists, but with the fiendishly clever creation of standardized two-second tasks, delivered to any computer connected to the Internet, it is now technically possible to set up. Microtask, a start-up company in Finland, has come up with the software that delivers such tasks. [] The company offers to take on “dull, repetitive work” — like digitizing paper forms or business cards — for prospective clients. As it says in a video on its Web site, “Microtask loves the work you hate.”

The company is in a position to love that work because not one of its 12 employees actually performs it. Its software carves a given task into microscopically small pieces, like transcribing a handwritten four-digit number in a tiny rectangle on a form. (Handwritten numbers and letters are the bane of text-recognition software.) These tasks, stripped of identifying information about the client or the larger task, can then be distributed online anywhere.

The approach shows how the online concept of widely distributed work has evolved since it was pioneered by the Mechanical Turk service, introduced by in 2005. Mechanical Turk [] resembles an online bulletin board. Businesses post income-earning opportunities, with rewards for each task completed. Turkers, as the independent contractors are informally called, choose a task they like and are qualified for. Recent offers included 2 cents each for finding the contact information for 7,500 hotels and 3 cents each for answering questions about 9,400 toys.

Miriam Cherry, an associate professor of law at the University of the Pacific, tried Mechanical Turk and says she found out for herself that the compensation was meager. “My assistant and I tried but we couldn’t make minimum wage,” says Professor Cherry, who presented an argument last year in the Alabama Law Review [ 60/Issue 5/cherry.pdf] for extending minimum-wage laws into cyberspace.

Fascinating – Check out the rest – This is an idea not even my Science Fiction addiction had turned up!

The New York Times, by Randall Stross, October 30, 2010

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Clean Energy Entrepreneurs Face More Obstacles in U.S.Were back to  the 2010-2012 version of the China Syndrome, with a whimper not a bang this time.

With erect posture and clear gray eyes, Chuck Provini still looks like the Marine who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1969 and was repeatedly decorated for bravery in Vietnam.  Chuck Provini, chief executive of Natcore Technology in Red Bank, N.J. He fumes at strangers who call him a traitor for agreeing to manufacture in Zhuzhou, China, a new solar panel production device that his company developed in the United States.  “I love my country,” said Mr. Provini, chief executive of 10-employee Natcore Technology in Red Bank, N.J. “It makes me crazy that I’ve got countries that want to do things with us, but not here.”

Mr. Provini acknowledges that further refinements are needed to the technology, which involves replacing a costly furnace in the manufacture of solar panels with a room-temperature process. But his experience in trying to commercialize it highlights the challenges that clean energy entrepreneurs face in the United States — and the opportunities that await in China. American venture capitalists are the main source of money for many clean energy start-ups because most commercial banks are leery of lending to businesses with no proven revenue. But venture capitalists are reluctant to make long-term financial commitments, Mr. Provini said, and want clear timetables for when they can get their money back with a profit.

“They want to come in, make a killing and get out,” said Mr. Provini, who spent most of his career on Wall Street, including as president of Ladenburg Thalmann Asset Management.

He said he spoke with a Congressional aide and visited a Washington law firm, Baker Botts, seeking advice on government assistance. But available grants came with too many restrictions, and were hard to find and apply for, Mr. Provini said. What Natcore really wanted was money for its own research and help finding joint-venture partners with the right technology.

Investors in Brazil, Taiwan and particularly China were more interested, he said.

There lot more details posted, check it out. Alas, Sez Doc, this is a more typical story than not. From my, albeit limited reading (e.g., the Economist, Business Week, the Sunday Times and the Wall Street Journal on line) American venture capitalist have gotten the take not risk that require waiting for more than 3-5 years for a payout.

“I feel what China is doing is taking chances on new technologies, investing relatively small amounts of money understanding that some of those technologies will blossom,” Mr. Provini said.

Matt Rogers, an adviser to the United States energy secretary, said his department had many grants available of all sizes, and that the competitions for them effectively identified companies that investors might also want to finance. “We have the best technology,” Mr. Rogers said. “I think we have the best manufacturing here in the United States.”

However, many Chinese clean energy executives are skeptical of Rogers assertions, saying that the United States was losing its lead even in the production of the sophisticated factory equipment needed to make solar panels, and now retained an advantage only in the earliest stages of research.

The New York Times, By Keith Bradsher, September 8, 2010

Also Check Out:

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How To Stop Global Warming – Even If You Don’t Believe In It

In the global-warming debate, scientists are, admirably, still trying to save the day. Last week, the American Geophysical Union announced plans to mobilize about 700 climate scientists in an effort to improve the accuracy of media coverage and public understanding of their field. Separately, a smaller group of scientists organized by John Abraham of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota said it was putting together a “rapid response team” to bring accurate climate science to public debates.

On the face of it, such efforts certainly make sense. The scientists hope, not unreasonably, to bring more attention to the climate-change crisis. More crucially, they seek to halt the slide in public opinion on the issue, with recent polls finding Americans’ belief in the evidence for global warming on the decline, along with their view of the need for immediate action to slow climate change. And it’s true that science education, when done well, may help accomplish these goals.

But will it lead to meaningful policy? Or will this latest round of efforts instead result in another spate of news stories about scary end-of-the-world scenarios, another series of debates over whether global-warming science is a hoax and more wasted time — time we don’t have? There is good reason to think that those who are worried about climate change would make greater progress — especially among Republicans, who profess increasing skepticism about warming — if they focused less on arguing the scientific reality and more on building support for specific solutions that all sides can agree on.

The first problem with focusing on the science debate is that the spectacle of dueling scientists confuses people. We have already seen this story unfold in the media: Two opposing sides, given similar exposure, argue about complexities that most Americans feel they have little ability to assess. Instead of focusing on the causes of climate change in simple terms that people can grasp and act upon, it is all too easy for scientists to get trapped in a debate with skeptics about whether they can prove that warming is real and how they can show definitively that its effects are imminent. Faced with this sparring, it becomes fairly easy for the average person to dismiss climate change as an open question and cross it off the list of things they need to worry about.

Unfortunately, the global warming debate increasingly turns more on political belief than on scientific fact. Until relatively recently, environmental issues were largely nonpartisan. Republican presidents such as Richard Nixon have historically achieved significant environmental gains, and voters across party lines used to express fairly equal levels of support for environmental protections.

There’s more – do the check references thing!

Congress, member of both parties, must start by focusing on climate-friendly policies and stop assuming that we must first achieve unanimity on global warming science. People can support the transition to a carbon-free energy future without believing, or even knowing, that it might influence glaciers, coral reefs or Arctic ice.

There is a long list of carbon-reduction measures that strong majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents firmly support, including mandating better fuel efficiency, increasing federal funding for clean-energy research, spending more for mass transit, raising efficiency standards for homes and other buildings, and requiring utilities to produce more energy from renewable sources. They even support limits on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases – just as long as they are seen as anti-pollution measures, not “caps.”

The Washington Post, by Meg Bostrom, November 14, 2010

Also See:

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits: — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA. If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the material with quotation makes, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source. Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

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Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming [Hardcover] by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway; Published by Bloomsbury Press; 1 edition (May 25, 2010) has some well written review of the book, others can be googled.

In Closing

I’ll be posting articles for your comfort and anger in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

Remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequence. However, that’s better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, there’s no free lunch and as a taxpayer and consumer you must always end up paying the piper!

May your world get greener and all creatures on Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their function in thi,s Gaia’s world.

Harry, aka doc_Babad


Previous Greening Columns

By Harry Babad, © Copyrigght 2010, All right Reserved. 

——— The most interesting & eclectic of what I read.


Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

Paraphrasing: The Paradigm I’ve Live By, a quote from Dr. Isaac Asimov writer, thinker and scientist. 

  • “I believe in evidence.
  • I believe in observation, in measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers.
  • I’ll believe any thing, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.

Let me reemphasize on more bias. Research does not create sustainable jobs despite politician claims, neither does piloting (scale-up testing} of new technology. Going commercial, without subsidies, and making a profit does. More customers, the more jobs, and making a profit for their creators are the only sustainable path.

Remember, governments have an almost perfect record of picking failure relative to commercialization and new technology based job creation. It does and should support R&T, Scaleup efforts and guaranties for capital-intensive projects and the higher cost/risk to keep the NIMBY wolves eating projects by legal tactics in the courts. Alternatively, if the messiah comes soon, let the challengers and their lawyers pay the undiscounted out of pockets costs for any delays they cause.

Since my tid-bits are only a partial look at the original article, click on through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> other references on the same topic(s).


Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, The New Snippets

  • The Greener Energy World Has a New Class of Refuseniks — The UltraNIMBY
  • The Water Costs of Fossil Fuel Production
  • The Return of the Automotive Steam Engine
  • New Zealand Sheep Farmers Harvest Carbon Credits — Growing trees can be more profitable than raising sheep
  • Gulf Oil Disaster: Looking Beyond the Spill, Obama Highlights Long-Term Restoration
  • Climate Change: Critics Are Far Less Prominent Than Supporters /// US National Academy of Sciences Clears Climatologists of Wrong Doing.
  • Nuclear Micro-reactors Could Supply Jobs, Energy to South Dakota
  • Algae Might Be a Viable Source of Clean, Renewable Diesel Fuel
  • Which Senators Refuse to Let Coal Ash Be Regulated as Hazardous Waste?

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The Greener Energy World Has a New Class of Refuseniks — The UltraNIMBY

“For the past 25 years, virtually anyone who opposed the construction of some kind of major energy facility, such as an oil or gas storage tank, electrical transmission line, power plant, or wind farm in his or her area has been labeled, derisively, as a “NIMBY,” an acronym standing for “Not In My Back Yard.”

I do in principal agree with Glenn Scheede that “it’s time to shed light on the NIMBY issue, identify provable NIMBYs associated fears, and challenge those who use the epithet in an attempt to avoid dealing with real, substantive issues raised by energy projects. Those fears – concerns, as described by their author, are found later in this article.

“Citizens have long been concerned about adverse health, safety, noise, environmental, and ecological impacts of energy and other facilities located near them, including projects that impair scenic, property, and other values they consider important. Federal, state and local governments have enacted a variety of measures to protect private property rights and to limit adverse impacts extending beyond property lines. Governments have also exercised powers of eminent domain to permit construction of facilities that government authorities believe have public benefits that should override private property rights.

“Objections to the location of energy facilities is not a phenomenon that begins with people living in rural areas or those who wish to protect scenic areas or the value of privately owned property. Instead, objections to the location of energy facilities really begin with people living in urban and suburban (“metropolitan”) areas and organizations located in those areas.

“People and organizations in these areas account for a majority of the nation’s energy demand. These people and organizations want the convenience of having reliable energy supplies — electricity, gas or oil — immediately available for their homes, offices, shopping centers, and cars.

“However, they don’t want storage tanks, electric generating units (whether powered by coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear energy, or wind) located anywhere near their homes and offices or impairing their parks or scenic areas or impairing their views or life styles. Also, they want the pipelines and electric transmission and distribution lines needed to bring the energy to their homes and offices to be as nearly invisible as possible – preferably buried underground.”

However I also believe many of those whose hue and cry stop energy related projects are fueled by either misinformation, selfish self interests and/or at time the dupes of the circulation seeking media and vested interest naysayers. On a case-by case basis, just keep reading and dissecting the protests against energy projects, and see who gains at general societies loss. Then make up your own mind

I also strongly believe that in a democratic society, the common good must prevail, and that those who cause delay or actually stop well conceived, technically defensible and commercial viable energy project need to be forced to pay the piper for cost they cause to be run up.

“So, while they want the convenience of immediately available energy, they also want any adverse environmental, health or safety impacts kept away and out of their sight! They insist that adverse impacts associated with the facilities should be borne by someone else — as far away as possible.

“For example —

  • People in California object to power plants in their area, but are quite willing to import electricity generated in Utah or Arizona using coal or nuclear energy. They also want oil and gasoline for their vehicles (even from insecure or hostile nations!) and natural gas for generating plants but do not want any production from oil and gas reserves located off California’s coast.
  • People in the New York City metropolitan area demand electricity but also want necessary generating plants and transmission lines that serve their needs to be built in upstate or western New York – or even in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia or West Virginia.
  • People in New England want adequate and reliable electricity but prefer that it be generated elsewhere, perhaps in Canada, and moved to them over long transmission lines.
  • Political leaders are eager to override citizen and local government opposition to electric generating plants, wind farms, and transmission lines but would be aghast if a 400+ foot wind turbine with blades covering an area larger than the length and wingspan of a 747 aircraft was placed on the front lawn of a capitol building or executive mansion in Washington DC or a state capital, or if a transmission line with 125 foot towers were to be placed near their private residences.”

How should people who object to energy or other facilities respond when developers or others seek to dismiss their objections by labeling them “NIMBYs”? Glenn Scheede suggest the following five steps to factually substantiate you claims and concerns.

  • First, learn the details of the proposed project and its true costs and benefits, both for the owner, the area, and the nation.
  • Second, those objecting to a proposed facility should have a sound, substantive case for objecting to the facility.
  • Third, identify and understand the motives of those promoting construction of the facility, particularly those people using the “NIMBY” label in a derisive way.
  • Fourth, those who are labeled “NIMBYs” should not be embarrassed and should not “back off” when they are pressured.
  • Fifth, citizens should not be intimidated by government pronouncements concerning the energy technologies and facilities that should be constructed.

The article concludes with the question — What should be done about necessary energy facilities < emphasis added>?

“Are some of these facilities clearly necessary and in the national and public interest? Certainly they are, but that doesn’t diminish the critical questions: (a) where should they be located, (b) who should bear the adverse environmental, scenic and property value impacts, and the health and safety risks, (c) how should those who are adversely affected be compensated, (d) should eminent domain laws be changed to give greater protection and/or compensation to those adversely affected, (e) how should people in rural areas be protected, particularly if they are not protected by zoning laws, and/or they have inadequate political representation because legislatures are dominated by representatives from urban areas?

Alternatives should be evaluated. Perhaps, more facilities such as electric generating plants should be located near or IN the heart of metropolitan areas that are being served so that long transmission lines with attendant losses of electricity are not needed. Many cities have blighted areas that could be restored with properly constructed generating plants – perhaps not as large as those plants would be if located at a distance, but still large enough to supply a significant amount of electricity for people in the urban area.” Read further to find out about a nuclear alternative that proposes the use of micro scale nuclear reactors so you can get only the amount of power you want/need at lower cost and risk.

There’s more detail in Glenn’s fine analysis – please check out the link and read on!

I found this article written by Glenn R. Schleede, and posted on March 2, 2009 by accident. This one speaks for itself. Although the UltraNIMBY, as an individual or grouped in protest may have valid reasons for their concern, they must prove them and let the review process determine whether their individual good, out weight that of their regional neighbors, the country and the world.

I have in this and other articles and books shared how things like nuclearphobia or radiophobia cause cost in siting and building a nuclear energy generation plant to be 3 to 5 time that in other no-less safety conscious countries. How many of our children will die of small pox, once eradicated, because of fears, which are scientifically demonstrated and peer supported, of unproven dangers of vaccination?

“Schleede is semi-retired after spending more than 35 years dealing with energy related matters in the federal government and private sector. He writes frequently about wind and other energy issues, particularly government policies that have adverse impacts on taxpayers and consumers.”

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The Water Costs of Fossil Fuel Production

— Burning Water: A Comparative Analysis of the Energy Return on Water Invested

A short tidbit… In comparing competing sources of energy, many recent analyses have focused on relative conversion efficiencies and associated greenhouse gas emissions. However, other potentially limiting factors also contribute to the value of a given approach. Based on the prediction that fresh water will become one of the most limited resources in the future, Mulder et al. [] estimated the energy return on fresh water input (for production and processing) across a range of energy technologies.

Mulder and the team found “while various energy-producing technologies have been analyzed to assess the amount of energy returned per unit of energy invested, this type of comprehensive and comparative approach has rarely been applied to other potentially limiting inputs such as water, land, and time. We assess the connection between water and energy production and conduct a comparative analysis for estimating the energy return on water invested (EROWI) for several renewable and non-renewable energy technologies using various Life Cycle Analyses. Our results suggest that the most water-efficient, fossil-based technologies have an EROWI one to two orders of magnitude greater than the most water-efficient biomass technologies, implying that the development of biomass energy technologies in scale sufficient to be a significant source of energy may produce or exacerbate water shortages around the globe and be limited by the availability of fresh water.”

One of the more striking outcomes of the analysis is that the most efficient petroleum-based energy source (diesel fuel) yields over two orders of magnitude more energy per volume of fresh water used than does biomass. Such a vast difference in return on water invested suggests that policies striving to replace fossil fuels with biomass resources—their many other appealing characteristics notwithstanding—may exacerbate the increased burden on a global fresh water supply already stressed from the higher agricultural demands of a more populated world (though feedstock shifts may relieve some of this pressure). Solar and wind technologies show potential advantages in this context. — NW

By Nicholas S. Wigginton, Science Magazine VOL 327,        26 MARCH 2010

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The Return of the Automotive Steam Engine?

Startup Cyclone Power thinks it has a way to replace internal combustion engines.

The gasoline-powered, internal combustion engine dominated transportation during the 20th century, but during the early years of the automobile it wasn’t obvious that it would beat out two alternatives: batteries and steam

The Cyclone Engine is a Rankine Cycle heat regenerative external combustion, otherwise known as a “Schoell Cycle” engine. In short, the Cyclone is a 21st century, high efficiency, compact and powerful steam engine.  It is capable of running on virtually any fuel (or combination of fuels) including today’s promising new bio fuels, while emitting far fewer pollutants than traditional gas or diesel powered internal combustion engines. To date, Cyclone has over 1,000 hours of running and testing our engines, has achieved verified thermal efficiencies above 30%, and is very close to putting the first of these engine models into small-scale commercial production.

The movement to cut carbon emissions and petroleum consumption has of course renewed interest in electric vehicles. But there’s also an effort to revive the steam engine.

Today I got a letter (speaking of antiquated technologies) from the president of the Steam Automobile Club of America, Tom Kimmel, directing my attention to Cyclone Power Technologies, a startup based in Pompano Beach, FL. A few days ago, the company demonstrated its new steam engine, which generates 100 horsepower. The company has also posted some videos of the engine here. It can run on just about any source of heat: the sun, wood pellets, biofuels, diesel, or waste heat from other engines. Basically anything that can be used to produce a head of steam. The first application would be generating power from waste heat, the company says, but the engine could also be used to power vehicles.

Kimmel writes that steam engines can run directly on biomass, without the need to convert it into biofuels, with the energy losses that this entails. But there’s a reason why liquid fuels beat out the alternatives before–they store more energy. It’s hard to imagine this being a real alternative–outside of some nice applications. Anyone think otherwise?

In reading the feedback on this hard science based blog, I was again made aware of how both uninformed and scientifically unknowledgeable most readers are about even simple scientific concepts. Many of the feedback items noted that water can’t burn and therefore the idea was absurd. Of course water can’t burn and obviously it contains NO carbon…duh! , But any carbon based fuel from pelletized wood to the oil from MacDonald’s potato fryers makes a great source of energy of a boiler converting water to steam with less energy overall need to concert it to a biodiesel. No I’m not going to hang a list references to life cycle costs for the conversion of used oil to biodiesel for burning in an internal combustion engine.  Perhaps burning such ‘waste’ efficiently in a diesel engine, to burning that fuel directly in a modern steam engine to run the boiler.

Google it your self to get the input pieces and do the calculation for yourself. But just maybe as ‘dancrisso’ noted in the blog feedback, steam engines can do away with gearboxes. It is a great idea to work on steam engines and find a way to power generators & cars. We can perhaps directly convert all combustible our waste and reduce consumption of imported oil. [Emphasis provided by doc.] Ah the sweet <???> smell of success.

Another set of feedback to Kevin Bull’s blog stated, “Steam is a significant source of CO2. Water vapor of any kind produces a lot of carbon dioxide. Oceans, for instance, are the number one cause of CO2 emissions. Goodness knows, if we were trying to cut back on CO2, steam would be counter- productive. We should be more like Mars- though desolate, it has halted its CO2 production by drying up all its water and consolidating all its carbon dioxide in the form of dry ice at its polar caps. Have you seen any steam cars on Mars? No, because they know its bad for the environment. It would take a page or two to point out the incorrect assumptions in this puppy — you count the ways.

Information for the rebuttal argument can be found at: [], or in the Wikipedia Articles on Carbon Dioxide

By Kevin Bullis

Technology Review, December 15, 2009

Will Your Next Car Be Steam Powered? RideLust  Blog,

Cyclone Power Web Site See a video and read bout how the engine works  —

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New Zealand Sheep Farmers Harvest Carbon CreditsGrowing trees can be more profitable than raising sheep

…Is this another potential case of unintended consequences related to short-term gains tied to long-term losses?

In New Zealand, where the sheep outnumber humans 9 to 1 and National Lamb Day is celebrated every Feb. 15, a carbon emission trading system that kicked off in July is upending the economics of sheep farming, a once crucial sector of the economy. Sheep farmers are walking away from the business of selling wool and lamb chops and are converting their grazing lands into tree farms that could prove valuable when the country’s agricultural sector is forced to pay for greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2015.

Home to alpine glaciers, massive mountain ranges, and rolling green farmland, New Zealand would seem the last place on earth with a greenhouse gas problem. (The country actually ranks 51st in such emissions with only 0.2 percent of the world total, according to the U.N.) Yet sheep and other livestock do have carbon foot (or hoof) prints. Sheep emit methane when they belch and nitrous oxide through their waste.

Prime Minister John Key’s government in Wellington has said a carbon trading regime probably won’t have a big impact on the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, yet will boost the country’s green credentials and clout in global climate talks. The government’s carbon program is also a welcome opportunity for some sheep farmers, struggling against slumping wool prices, drought, and competition for land from the dairy and lumber industries, to diversify, says Neil Walker, a forester in the Taranaki region of New Zealand’s North Island.

Farmers who convert their land from sheep grazing to planting trees could add $172 per acre in value each year to their land holdings, says David Evison, a senior lecturer at the University of Canterbury’s New Zealand School of Forestry. Forests planted for carbon credits may increase to 74,000 acres, or about 0.27 percent of all pasture and grass land a year, compared with about 8,650 acres in 2009, the government estimates. “It turns forestry into a cash-flow business,” says Evison.

Some New Zealanders aren’t convinced carbon farming is a wise move. Communities that rely on the farm economy are losing jobs once held by shearers, mechanics, and veterinarians. Farmers may not understand the risks involved in forestry, says Don Nicolson, president of Federated Farmers of New Zealand. And while the loss of sheep farms is likely permanent, the carbon-trading program may only be temporary, and its benefits illusory, Nicolson says.

Nicolson estimates carbon forests could replace 20 percent, or 2,800, sheep and beef farms and put the economy in danger. He says farmers are being sold on carbon trading without understanding that they could lose trees to fire or disease or that the government might cancel the program at any time. “The trouble is, it comes with massive risk, and that’s not what’s being talked about,” says Nicolson.

The bottom line: New Zealand sheep farmers are converting pastureland to forests, driven by a carbon-trading plan whose benefits some doubt.

By Stuart Biggs, Bloomberg Businessweek, August 26, 2010

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Gulf Oil Disaster: Looking Beyond the Spill, Obama Highlights Long-Term Restoration

As disastrous as the oil spill has been, the Deepwater Horizon tragedy is just the latest affliction for wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico. For decades this productive coastline has been sliced apart by navigation channels and chewed through by invasive rodents. Worse, engineering of the Mississippi River has starved the delta of the sediment needed to keep it above sea level. All told, nearly 6000 square kilometers of wetlands have disappeared underwater in the past 100 years. Even though about $1.2 billion has been committed over the past 2 decades by the state of Louisiana and the federal government, efforts to restore the ecosystem are dwarfed by the scope of the problem.


Tough choices. Louisiana’s coastal plan includes a proposal (left), recommended by scientists, to divert river water and maximize new land. Another concept (right) would disrupt fisheries less and better protect downstream infrastructure.

All told, nearly 6000 square kilometers of wetlands along the Gulf of Mexico have disappeared underwater in the past 100 years. Even though more than $2 billion has been committed over the past 2 decades by the state of Louisiana and the federal government, efforts to restore the ecosystem are dwarfed by the scope of the problem. But now advocates have hopes for new momentum. In a primetime speech about the oil spill, President Barack Obama last week called for long-term restoration and put the secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, who was governor of Mississippi from 1988 to 1992, in charge of developing a plan.

By Erik Stokstad, Science 25 June 2010: 
 Vol. 328. No. 5986, pp. 1618 – 1619

Full story at

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Climate Change: Critics Are Far Less Prominent Than Supporters

A new analysis of 1372 climate scientists who have participated in major climate science reviews or taken public positions on their main conclusions confirms what many researchers have said for years: Those who believe in anthropogenic climate change rank, on average, much higher in the scientific pecking order than do those who take issue with the idea.

The co-authors examined lists of scientists who have signed statements in support or opposition to the main findings over the years of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, namely that the planet is warming and humans are largely responsible. They categorized the scientists as either “convinced” or “unconvinced” and then analyzed how many papers involving climate they had published. “Unconvinced” scientists comprised only 2% of the top 50 researchers ranked by number of climate publications and 3% of the top 100. Among scientists with 20 or more papers on climate, the so-called convinced group had an average of 172 citations for their top paper compared with 105 for the unconvinced.

But the paper, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, faces several criticisms. The first is that the grouping of researchers into “unconvinced” and “convinced” fails to capture the nuances of scientific views on the subject. That makes the paper a “pathological politicization of climate science,” says Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado, Boulder. Pielke also objects to applying the “unconvinced” label to anyone who signed a paper opposing immediate cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. “So you are a ‘climate skeptic’ if you have a certain view on climate policy?” he asks. “Bizarre.”

Critics say the results reflect the cliquishness or biases inherent in peer-reviewed science. “We are being “black-listed,” as best I can tell, by our colleagues,” says John Christy of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, who was in the “unconvinced” group.

On a generally similar climate studies related subject, a pat of the infamous email blame game, US Panel(s) Faults IPCC Leadership But Praises Its Conclusions.

The world’s most authoritative climate science bodies, the U. S. National Academies of Science and Engineering, noted that based on it’s studies and has performed well enough so far, says a new independent review of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This is also supported by scores of individual papers in recent months have confirmed the bottom line of the IPCC assessments: The world is warming due to release of greenhouse gases from human activities, and the emerging consequences are severe.

But the report, from a panel convened by a coalition of national science academies, says the increased public scrutiny IPCC is facing and the growing importance of its work means that it must do better than that.

“Overall, IPCC’s assessment process has been a success and served society well,” says Harold Shapiro, president emeritus of Princeton University and head of the review carried out by the Inter-Academy Council (IAC). But “it’s not as agile and responsive as it needs to be,” the report says.

Both by Eli Kintisch, Science 25 June 2010: 
 Vol. 328. No. 5986, p. 1622


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Nuclear micro-reactors could supply jobs, energy to South Dakota — An Op-Ed Piece

A new generation of small, low-cost nuclear plants soon might be producing climate-friendly energy. Known as micro-reactors, they could be built at factories in the United States for a fraction of the cost of conventional nuclear plants.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently said that micro-reactors could be licensed, built and generating electricity by 2020. Some utilities might prefer micro-reactors instead of a large nuclear plant. Others might see a need for both.

Artist’s Rendering — Toshiba 4S Reactor Design Hyperion Power Generation’s Mini Nuclear Reactor

If micro-reactors no larger than semitrailers can be deployed within a decade, a significant reduction in global greenhouse-gas emissions could occur. Small modular reactors capable of producing 45 megawatts to 140 megawatts of electricity could be manufactured quickly at a factory and transported by rail or barge to a nuclear site for one-tenth the cost of 1,200-megawatt designs being planned. Utilities could use them to replace coal-fired power plants that face future restrictions and penalties for carbon.

The article continues with (1) discussions of barriers to introducing micro reactors, (2) general descriptions of such reactors, (3) Potential benefits to South Dakota by using this form of nuclear power generation, and finally described the industrial players who are leading the micro reactor efforts.

Most micro-reactor designs are simplified versions of large reactors, requiring fewer pumps, valves and moving parts but using the same conventional light water technology. But unlike traditional plants, micro-reactors would be small enough to be located underground for added safety.  Moreover, many micro-reactors are being designed to refuel every five years instead of every 18 to 24 months as nuclear plants are today. Since they also could either be cooled by water or air, there is no need to locate them near lakes, rivers or the ocean. States in the arid West and the semi-arid Great Plains might find this appealing.

I agree, but with the proviso that the licensed reactors be installed and refueled in a mode that protects them from proliferation risks and potential terrorist attacks. — Doc.

Robert McTaggart • September 1, 2010, The Aurgus Leader Website (Sioux Falls) {Robert McTaggart, 41, of Brookings is associate professor of physics at South Dakota State University.}

More Reading

Micro Nuclear Reactor and references/links therein, Wikipedia – 2010

Mini Nuclear Plants to Power 20,000 Homes, by John Vidal and Nick Rosen, The Observer (UK, Sunday 9 November 2008

Traveling Wave Reactors, Wikipedia, 2010

Traveling-Wave Reactor, Technology Review, March/April 2009

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Algae Might Be a Source of Clean, Renewable Diesel Fuel

“At the beginning we’d tell people, ‘I know this sounds crazy,’” says Bryan Willson, a Colorado State University engineer and cofounder of Solix Biofuels.

When researchers conceived of turning algae into diesel fuel three decades ago, the idea sounded like something out of the old sci-fi movie Soylent Green. But in July, ExxonMobil teamed up with biologist Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics to take algaebiofuel to the marketplace. ExxonMobil has invested $600 million to design better strains of algae and to convert them into fuel. Meanwhile, several start-up companies—including Aurora Biofuels and Solix Biofuels —have built pilot plants that prove it is possible to brew algae-derived diesel fuel in large quantities. “At the beginning we’d tell people, ‘I know this sounds crazy,’” says Bryan Willson, a Colorado State University engineer and cofounder of Solix Biofuels. “But with the Exxon Mobil investment, algae is entering the mainstream.”

Traditional biofuel crops such as soybeans yield 50 to 150 gallons of fuel per planted acre per year, but Solix’s facility near Durango, Colorado, is producing more than 2,000. The centerpiece is a sealed growth chamber, or photo-bioreactor, made from a clear polymer to let sunlight through; inside is a strain of algae selected for its high rate of oil production. (Closed reactors are less susceptible to contamination by out side algae than are open-pond systems.) After the algae are harvested, their oils are extracted and refined into renewable diesel. Besides sunlight, the algae require little more than carbon dioxide from nearby power plants, so operating expenses should be low.

Willson predicts his company’s algae fuel (and its co-products, which are to be sold for animal feed) will be cost-competitive with petroleum diesel within five years. “It represents a large-scale solution to a global problem,” he says.

Doc Sez, this area is becoming more interesting as a possible achievable technology since it has move d from laboratory, to pilot plant and soon to scaled up further. At that point we’ll, as will ExxonMobil, whether the whole effort will be cost effective. An issue I’d like to learn more abut is how such a product will be distributed into the normal fuel (e.g., gas station, heating oil supply chain) and whether it is will need to be dispensed separately or can be mixed with petroleum diesel fuel.

This is an area worth following closely, but always being reminded that diesel, like any alternative fuel such as biodiesel, must be compatible with the existing distribution-user devices systems chain or will need to sustain the costs of modifying it in a cost effective manner. I’ve not had the time to check out the general chemistry of such algal oils to see how they compare with the hydrocarbons used in diesel engines. Feedback of course is welcome.

By Elizabeth Svoboda, Discover Magazine, January-February 2010 Special Issue;

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Which Senators Refuse to Let Coal Ash Be Regulated as Hazardous Waste?

— Despite numerous studies on the potential health risks of using coal ash in products many members of the public are exposed to daily.

We know that the EPA {was?} is considering classifying coal ash as hazardous waste, and we’ve heard that the process is a bit lacking in transparency. The EPA wrote initially “maintaining a [nonhazardous] approach would not be protective of human and the environment.” Now, here’s at least one clue into what’s holding the EPA back on taking the leap to recognizing coal ash, the waste produced at coal-fired power plants, as hazardous waste.

First, 31 members of the House energy committee, nine of them Democrat and 22 Republican, sent a letter to the EPA denouncing such a classification. Fine, mostly Republicans and all members on the energy committee — to be expected. But Senators Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, both Democrats, sent a separate letter (coauthored by Sam Brownback—definitely not a Democrat) to the EPA pressing the agency to continue to treat coal ash as a non-hazardous material. . Read more from the Center for Public Integrity.

From their letter, which Conrad posted online and which the Center for Public Integrity points out echoes “almost word for word the utility industry’s letters to the EPA opposing its coal ash waste plan”: “Regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste is simply not warranted. Doing so would fly in the face of years of research and force unworkable requirements on our state’s utilities, resulting in serious economic consequences.”

The letter also says, “Federal policies should encourage greater recycling of CCRs by facilities that use coal,” despite numerous stories from around the country illustrating the potential health risks of using coal ash (CCR is “coal combustion residue”), which contains and leaches toxic metals like arsenic, in products that people use in their daily lives, including roofing shingles, fertilizers, even kitchen countertops. It is also used in highway de-icing and can be mixed into resurfacing compounds.

By Rachel Cernansky, Green Blog, Aug 16, 2010 Also See —the Center for Public Integrity web site.


EPA Proposed Rule: RIN – 2050-AE81; Hazardous And Solid Waste Management System; Identification And Listing Of Special Wastes; Disposal Of Coal Combustion Residuals From Electric Utilities

Opens Public Comment Period on Coal Ash. What Happens If It’s Not Regulated as Hazardous Waste? By Rachel Cernansky, Green, Jun 30, 2010

EPA Backed Off ‘Hazardous’ Label for Coal Ash After White House Review

By PATRICK REIS (of Greenwire) to the New York Times Published: May 7, 2010

As an aside I wonder whether is rulemaking will move to the same inaction that in the past lead to classify radioactive coal clinkers (furnace bottoms) as non-regulated from a radwaste perspective while treating less highly radio- active nuclear waste materials as if one exposure, however slight will possibly cause you cancer.  Yes I know I’m mixing cats and dogs here, but it’s my column. In addition, I have no idea how well ground water regulation pertain to such burned coal bottom hills which are also loaded with toxic materials.

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits: — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the duplicated material with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.


I’ll continue posting articles for attract your interest and at times anger you in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

Thanks for Reading – Feedback is welcome.

Readers Please Note — Many of the technologies I share still have to prove that they are reliable, durable, scalable, and make an unsubsidized profit for their investors, including the taxpayer.

If you Google new technologies in detail, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often, as many studies that are skeptical — Beware, think out of the box, and search for unintended consequences.

What I now know, and truly hold to be true about energy and climate change — For green energy related items, if we put a simple price (tax) on carbon (greenhouse gases), these new technologies would have a better chance to blossom. With American ingenuity, thousands more ideas would come out of innovators’ garages. America still has the best innovation culture in the world. But we need better policies to nurture it, better infrastructure to enable it and more open doors to bring others here to try it.

…Remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about things {climate change} are all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequence. However, facing that possibility is better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, that “G_d Does Not Play Dice With the Universe” (Einstein) – and mankind is far from perfect. Remember, there’s no free lunch — as a taxpayer and consumer you must always end up paying the piper. The most recent example is corn based ethanol… for which you twice {as noted above} both as a taxpayer and as a driver.

May your world get greener and all creatures on G_d’s green Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their destinies
in this Gaia’s world.

Harry, aka doc_Babad


Previous Greening Columns

By Harry Babad, © Copyright 2010, All right Reserved.


Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at :-}

The materials I share in the articles that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental newsletters to which I subscribe. However, as a fallen chemist I still subscribe to Chemical & Engineering News. A magazine published by the American Chemical Society. I’ve been a member of that organization for over 50 year, despite having switched my attention to the safe disposal of high-level (the hot stuff) nuclear wastes including both those generated in the defense of our country and from the generation of nuclear electricity. So I decided to see what I could glean fro the last half-inch or so of back issues, that might interest our readers.

Chemistry is related to, by less than three degrees of separation, to most aspects of our lives from energy we use, to the production food and safety, medicine to extend our lives, and is a critical part of all the widgets and do-dads that make up our technology toys. So, enough blabbering, here’s the best what I found.


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Now, As Usual, in No Formal Order, The Titles of My New Snippets

  • Our World is Really Warming
  • Biofuel Feedstocks From Algae are Getting Big-Gun Attention
  • Natural Gas Drilling Process Draws Environmental Scrutiny
  • Fuel From The Sun — Water + sunlight = fuel.
  • The Value Of Carbon Dioxide
  • Carbon Dioxide’s Emissions Control Unsettled Future
  • Microbes To The Rescue? — The Gulf Oil Spill
  • The Gambler — My degree says I’m a doctor, would you let me perform open-heart surgery on you?

As always my tid-bits are only a partial look at the original article, click on through if you want more details, as well as <often> other references on the same topic(s).

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Our World is Really Warming this despite the naysayers who keep blowin’ in the wind.

Ten measurable, global features all provide evidence that Earth’s climate  has warmed during the past half-century, according to a report released last week by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 2010, 6, S1). Seven indicators showed an uptick: air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, air temperature over oceans, sea level, ocean heat, humidity, and temperature of the troposphere, which is the lowest layer of the atmosphere. And three indicators declined: the extent of Arctic sea ice, the mass of glaciers, and spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere. “These independently produced lines of evidence all point to the same conclusion: Our planet is warming,” explains NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. NOAA’s “State of the Climate” Report for 2009 is based on information from scientific institutions around the world and includes data from satellites, weather balloons, ships, and field surveys. The report was published as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and is available at

Doc Sez, no matter how you drink your tea, it can’t all be a conspiracy. Perhaps a universal global hallucination fostered upon us by ET’s whose motives we’ll never figure out, but no a conspiracy. Once again I ask who will gain by fostering denial. It doesn’t mater whether you believe that the change is anthropogenic (Man caused) or not. If the continuing tends, which rely on:

  • Additional varied and improved instrumentation,
  • More and varied collected data sets, and
  • An increasing number of studies by independent investigators

…continues to trend as it has, cause is irrelevant, man, Gaia or G-d, we can become victims or do something about it.

For an excellent, easy to follow overview on the factors that appear to strongly affect global warming check out the Blewbury Energy Initiative UK site

Article by Cheryl Hogue, Chemical & Engineering News, August 2, 2010.

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Biofuel Feedstocks From Algae are Getting Big-Gun Attention

ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) opened a greenhouse in La Jolla, Calif., last week to begin testing methods to produce affordable biofuel feedstocks from algae. The two companies became partners a year ago when Exxon agreed to invest $600 million over the next decade in R&D at SGI and in its own labs.

Algae are considered a promising biofuel starting point because they are fast-growing and can be raised on non-arable land. Various companies, from biotech start-ups to Dow Chemical, are pursuing algae-derived biofuels, but the Exxon-SGI alliance is by far the most financially ambitious.

Moving out of the lab into real sunlight is “a small, but important, step,” SGI CEO J. Craig Venter said at a press conference. Although the partners are not yet using a real-world environment, they will begin assessing natural and engineered strains of algae in systems that range from open ponds to closed photo-bioreactors. They plan to evaluate and optimize growth conditions, oil production, harvesting, and recovery.

The collaborators also have conducted lifecycle and sustainability studies to determine the impact of biofuel harvesting on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as on land and water use. In an effort to be independent of agricultural resources, their process uses sunlight, salt water, and carbon dioxide, Venter explained. “Fuels cannot compete with agriculture if this is going be successful.”

They hope to find or design a strain of algae that can secrete the desired long-chain hydrocarbons. “The greenhouse will enable us to go into the next phase of our development plan, which will include a larger test facility outside,” said F. Emil Jacobs, ExxonMobil’s vice president for research. Scaling up into that facility is expected in mid-2011.

So far, the algal products look similar to intermediate streams processed in existing refineries, Jacobs pointed out. Both he and Venter emphasized that the project is long-term and that it will take billions of dollars to reach commercial scale. “We are committed to this activity and will spend money necessary to be successful,” Jacobs remarked.

By Ann M. Thayer, Chemical & Engineering News, July 19, 2010

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Natural Gas Drilling Process Draws Environmental Scrutiny

Doc says, net to resuming offshore drilling, obtain large amounts of natural gas, trapped in US shale deposits is the next big energy brouhaha. What is see is folks getting polarized and hot under the collar, rather than working together t find cost effective solutions to any negative potential environmental impacts for such drilling. After-all oil the burning natural gas for transportation fuel and electricity generation creates less carbon dioxide when burned, in shale based gas is a made in America product. It’s sure has heck easier to move natural gas, and were done with the radioactive, unregulated slag piles that surround our coal powered electrical facilities. — I have only accepted a few ‘semi-random sections of this excellent multi-page article, to wet your appetites. The reason I am sharing this particular article, among the many I’ve googled, is that it ha , despite appearing an a chemistry profession oriented magazine, is even handed about both the hopes and the fears of producing shale stored natural gas by hydrofracturing.

The U.S. has a plentiful supply of natural gas—a clean-burning, efficient  fuel that could help solve the nation’s energy problems, ranging from climate change to dependence on foreign oil, industry proponents contend. But critics say this view is overly optimistic, because the technology for releasing gas embedded deep underground in massive shale fields has not yet been shown to be economical. Such technology could also contaminate water supplies with toxic drilling chemicals.

Geologists have long known that natural gas is abundant in shale rock formations running from the Appalachian Basin to the Rocky Mountains. But the resource has remained largely untapped because of the difficulty in extracting it. In recent years, however, advances in a technology developed decades ago by the petroleum industry to boost production at aging oil wells has helped unlock vast reserves of once-inaccessible natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing is a process in which millions of gallons of chemically treated water and sand are pumped into the ground at extremely high pressure to generate fractures or cracks in shale rocks and release trapped gas.

Recoverable U.S. gas reserves might now exceed the proven reserves of Russia, the world’s largest natural gas producer, some experts say. In 2009, the Potential Gas Committee, a panel of U.S. industry specialists, found that the nation’s estimated gas reserves had surged 35% since an assessment in 2007. The jump was the largest increase in the 44-year history of reports from the committee.

The U.S. now has about 2,074 trillion cu ft of technically recoverable natural gas resources—enough to meet domestic demand for more than a century at the current rate of consumption.  “New and advanced exploration, well drilling, and completion technologies are allowing us increasingly better access to domestic gas resources—especially unconventional gas—which, not all that long ago, were considered impractical or uneconomical to pursue,” says John B. Curtis, a professor of geology and geological engineering at Colorado School of Mines.

Natural gas is the fuel of choice for a wide range of industries, including chemical manufacturing. In addition to its use in generating electricity, natural gas is also a feedstock for a variety of products, including petrochemicals, plastics, and fertilizers.

Environmental Concerns and Initial Assessment Actions — Although hydraulic fracturing has the potential to turn gas deposits in shale formations into an energy bonanza, the method is coming under increasing scrutiny. Environmental activists and some lawmakers are concerned that the drilling technique may pose a threat to drinking water. Consequently, they argue, the federal government should regulate the drilling practice. Individual states currently monitor fracturing activities.

What worries critics are the chemical additives used in the process to reduce friction, kill bacteria, and prevent mineral buildup. The chemicals make up less than 1% of the overall solution, but some are (may be) hazardous in low concentrations. [The critics provided no peer reviewed references that I could find.]

“We have significant concerns not only about contamination of our water resources, but also depletion of the water table,” says Tracy Dahl, president of the North Fork Ranch Landowners Association in Colorado. “We have already seen significant impacts and expect more to come.”

In an attempt to determine whether federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing is warranted, House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) has asked eight oil-field service companies to provide detailed information about the chemicals used in their drilling operations. These will be evaluated to determine their toxicological properties, relative to ground water protection.

Hydraulic fracturing “could help us unlock vast domestic natural gas reserves once thought unattainable,” Waxman noted in a statement. “As we use this technology in more parts of the country on a much larger scale, we must ensure that we are not creating new environmental and public health problems.” The inquiry, he added, will “help us better understand the potential risks this technology poses to drinking-water supplies and the environment, and whether Congress needs to act to minimize those risks.”

The Environmental Protection Agency also intends to conduct a comprehensive research study of the effects of fracturing on water quality and public health. A committee of EPA’s Science Advisory Board is expected to recommend a strategy for conducting the $1.9 million study by this summer. Agency officials have said they intend to have their initial research results completed by the end of 2012. EPA reviewed various past studies on fracturing in 2004 and concluded that the technology poses “little or no threat” to drinking water.

Environmentalists dismissed the finding, claiming it was politically motivated and scientifically unsound.

Poor bewildered Doc! I can’t understand why, according to the referenced link, the environmentalist bashed the 2004 studies but are pleased to have EPA expand and update it?

By Glenn Hess, Chemical & Engineering News, May 31, 2010

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Fuel From The Sun — Water + sunlight = fuel.

This equation embodies the use of solar energy to rip apart water molecules to produce hydrogen, which can be used as an energy-rich fuel for vehicles and to produce electricity. If perfected and made affordable, the technology  could supply a substantial portion of future global energy demand, which is anticipated to double between now and 2050.

Key to solar water splitting is developing inexpensive catalysts to capture light efficiently and speed the process while minimizing the amount of electricity needed to drive the electrochemistry. Most catalysts so far have less than stellar efficiencies, rely on expensive and rare metals, or tend to be easily deactivated under harsh working conditions.

Two U.S. research groups have recently reported breakthrough developments that could signal a new wave of progress in producing H2 via solar water splitting. Daniel G. Nocera and coworkers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have made a heterogeneous cobalt phosphate water-oxidation catalyst <chemical stuff> with improved stability. And Craig L. Hill of Emory University and coworkers have created a related homogeneous cobalt catalyst supported by bulky polytungstate ligands <more great chemical stuff> that displays improved catalytic activity. Both catalysts are made from Earth-abundant elements, avoid organic ligands that are prone to oxidation during electrolysis, have a built-in mechanism for self-repair to improve lifetime, and operate at neutral pH with modest electricity input.

Development of such cobalt water-oxidation catalysts do benefit from federal initiatives to harness solar power to make hydrogen fuel. If perfected and made affordable, the technology could supply a substantial portion of future global energy demand, which is anticipated to double between now and 2050. Key to solar water splitting is developing inexpensive catalysts to capture light efficiently and speed the process while minimizing the amount of electricity needed to drive the electrochemistry. Most catalysts so far have less than stellar efficiencies, rely on expensive and rare metals, or tend to be easily deactivated under harsh working conditions.

A company, which Nocera started last year to develop inexpensive solar-powered water-splitting systems <E.g., Direct sunlight to electricity via hydrogen as fuel to make H2 for a fuel cell that generates electricity. His company has garnered more than $4 million in ARPA-E funds. “ARPA-E is having an incredible impact on other small companies, enabling us to follow our dreams to turn science into technology and eventually into commercial products,” In a full, but not totally energy conserving cycle, In fuel cells, which also require catalysts, the opposite reactions take place to release the energy stored in the H–H bonds: hydrogen and oxygen are fed into a fuel cell, releasing electrons to make electricity and producing water.

Commercial technology to derive H2 from water by electrolysis has been available for nearly a century. Because electrolysis remains expensive, industrial H2 production continues to be primarily by steam reforming of petroleum and by coal gasification, both of which are based on limited fossil resources, comments Matthias Beller of Leibniz Institute for Catalysis at Germany’s University of Rostock, who studies iron-based H2-generating catalysts. “Clearly, on a mid- to long-term basis, there is an essential demand for alternative technologies to generate H2 in a more sustainable manner if it is to be used as a transportation fuel and for producing electricity,” Beller says. “Photocatalytic water splitting offers the most straightforward production of H2 from H2O. In this respect, the recent work from the Nocera and Hill groups is highly interesting.”

Water splitting is a two-stage process. In an electrolysis cell, water is oxidized at the positive electrode, or anode, to form oxygen, along with four hydrogen ions and four electrons. The hydrogen ions migrate to the negative electrode, or cathode, where two hydrogen ions [H+] are reduced by two electrons arriving through an external circuit to form hydrogen gas. Of the two electrode processes, both of which require a catalyst to be efficient, the water-oxidation reaction is more complex and thermodynamically demanding.

Also check out Mitch Jacoby’s article Hydrogen From Sun And Water, Chemical & Engineering News, AUGUST 10, 2009. It shows how the science is increasing the efficiency of such catalysts, a key to making them cost effective. 

For a different approach check out Getting to the Hydrogen Highway Via the Nano Road, by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, August 20, 2009.

There’s lots more… if what I shared is not enough check both “fuel cells” and Water Splitting in Wikipedia or just Google the terms. You’d be amazed! Not much of this has approached cost effective commercialization, but methinks were getting close. One interesting sidelight — Fuels produce direct current, not the usual AC current in our walls; this is the type of electricity that Edison was promoting in days gone by.

Article by Stephen K. Ritter Chemical & Engineering News, 88(27), July 05, 2010

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The Value Of Carbon Dioxide Where some see pollution, Andrew Bocarsly sees products

I found this article while browsing a recent C&EN issue and decided to share it because it pushed a button in my mind. Almost of the ways of dealing with the excess carbon dioxide in the environment call for what is in essence throwing it away.  Whether that’s by pumping into a deep geological formation, or precipitating it into the ocean bottom; even using it to enhance oil recovery for spent wells — it’s all a toss the stuff game.  Albeit, Dr. Bocarsly’s science is just at the invention stage, it is one of the few approached that I’ve read that use the infamous greenhouse gas as raw material. The other alternatives are to grow trees, or other vegetation including algae to use them for creating bio fuels.

Andrew Bocarsly’s lab at Princeton University looks like any photo-electrochemistry lab you might stumble into. Crumpled pieces of aluminum foil cloak light-sensitive chemical reactions. Three-necked flasks decorate the bench tops like vases sprouting electrodes instead of flowers. But it’s a chemical you can’t see that’s become a focus for the Bocarsly lab in recent years—carbon dioxide, specifically the CO2 pollution that pours out of cars and power plants each day.

Two years ago, Bocarsly reported that with the help of a pyridinium catalyst he was able to use visible light to transform CO2 into methanol (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2008, 130, 6342). The process uses a light-driven gallium phosphide semiconductor electrode to reduce carbon dioxide gas that’s bubbled through a pyridinium solution. <Okay, that more chemistry than you wanted, but keep reading anyway – this is just another hopefully great magical POfS*>.

Since that time, the research has spun off in two directions: In Bocarsly’s lab at Princeton, there’s been an intensive effort to understand the mechanism behind this process and in a research park five miles north of campus, a small company called Liquid Light is trying to capitalize on it.

In 2008, Kyle Teamey, Liquid Light’s chief operating officer, was working as an entrepreneur-in-residence with Redpoint Ventures. He read Bocarsly’s Journal of the American Chemical Society communication and thought the technology had promise. “With any catalytic process there are certain things you look for,” Teamey says. “You look for energy efficiency, the stability of the catalyst, the kinetics. Several factors need to come together for a catalytic process to work efficiently, particularly when you’re looking at commodity markets where products are made at large scale. We were attracted to this technology because it displayed factors that generally indicate it has potential.

“Ultimately what we’d like to do is make CO2 a feedstock for producing fuels and chemicals. That’s the ultimate vision,” Teamey says. For that to happen, Bocarsly’s process needs to compete cost-wise with traditional methanol production. It’s not enough to be doing something that’s environmentally friendly by removing excess CO2 from the air. Liquid Light needs to compete financially.

There’s a lot more including so me interesting chemistry for those like me who are so inclined. Also note that POfS is a pinch of stuff.

By Bethany Halford, Chemical & Engineering News, JUNE 28, 2010

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Carbon Dioxide’s Emissions Control Unsettled Future Technologies to reel in greenhouse gas emissions abounds, but can’t move forward without policy actions

With world population climbing, and energy demand along with it, countries are trying to figure out how to minimize the global-warming consequences of carbon-based energy. The challenges are enormous: Because of differences in energy resources, nations around the world have different abilities to shift away from fossil fuel and to adapt technologies that reduce CO2 emissions. And many of those technologies are not moving as fast as they could be because of uncertainty in public policies to reduce CO2 emissions. These are the take-home messages from a conference held to stimulate ideas and form collaborations to quicken the pace of development and implementation of CO2-emissions-reducing technologies.

“Many scientists and engineers recognize that energy production and controlling greenhouse gas emissions are our biggest technology challenges today,” chemical engineer Frank Zhu told C&EN. “If we continue business as usual, we can’t imagine how CO2 emissions are going to impact the planet.”

Zhu pointed out at a recent global warming related conference’s opening remarks, that countries around the globe are pursuing three CO2 solution pathways: (1) CO2 reduction, (2) CO2 rejection, and (3) CO2 dilution,

To “reduce” CO2, countries can cut emissions by improving the efficiency  of vehicles, electricity generation, and industrial processing, he said. To “reject” CO2, countries can develop ways to burn coal cleanly and use technologies to capture and store CO2 to keep the greenhouse gas out of Earth’s atmosphere. And to “dilute” CO2, countries can reduce their use of fossil fuel and increase use of carbon-neutral biofuels and alternative sources of energy such as solar and wind.

The public would like to have clean energy from these new technologies, but at the same price as petroleum-based products, Powell said. “We can’t implement new technologies for free, but our challenge is to do it at the lowest cost possible and with as limited a footprint as we can—new energy technologies have to be cheap, clean, and convenient.”

Doc sez, I can’t figure out how to get any more than two of three of these goals optimized simultaneously – something has to give. This sounds too much like ‘a free lunch’. On top of that there have to be customers willing to pay for what you produce.

Globally, three sequestration technologies are actively being developed: storage in saline aquifers in sandstone formations, where the CO2 is expected to mineralize into carbonates over time; injection into deep, uneconomic coal seams; and injection into depleted or low-producing oil and natural gas reservoirs.

Overall, billions of tons of CO2 must be captured and stored per year to stabilize atmospheric CO2 at levels that should moderate global warming. Global capacity for sequestration is pegged at hundreds of billions of tons of CO2, adequate for several hundred years of storage. Currently, only tens of millions of tons of CO2—most of it from natural gas and not coal-fired power plants—are being squirreled away by demonstration storage projects and oil and natural gas mining operations.

George A. Richards, focus area leader for energy system dynamics at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, agreed: “We need more energy, and it needs to be affordable, especially for countries with developing economies,” he said. “Like the U.S., these countries are going to use the fossil-fuel resources available to them first. It’s imperative we develop CO2 capture and sequestration technologies that will allow us to do that. And that means we can’t abandon fossil-fuel energy research solely in favor of renewables.”

Like most of the attendees at a recent CO2 summit, DOE’s Richards believes many different energy technologies, from coal to solar, will be integral parts of the future energy mix. It’s not possible to know politically or economically which ones will play leading roles. “Predicting the future is easy, but predicting it correctly is more difficult,” he quipped. “I can say with confidence that we need more energy, and we want to manage the CO2 emissions.

There’s lot more about the international perspectives on how to control and dispose CO2.  However, most technical experts continue believe “If we continue business as usual, we can’t imagine how CO2 emissions are going to impact the planet.

By Stephen K. Ritter, Chemical & Engineering News, July 26, 2010.

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Microbes To The Rescue? — The Gulf Oil Spill

The fate of spilled oil in the Gulf rests with the hydrocarbon-digesting microbes colonizing underwater plumes.  Millions of gallons of oil now drift throughout the Gulf of Mexico in massive, underwater plumes. Last week, scientists from the University of South Florida confirmed that this submerged oil came from BP’s leaking well more than 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface. Over the past three months, the high pressure at the wellhead has pulverized the oil, while chemical dispersants have broken it into microscopic droplets. Unlike surface oil slicks, which physical forces such as evaporation can degrade, the fate of these hovering oil clouds—and by extension the Gulf’s ecological future—lies chiefly with a biological process: the conversion of hydrocarbons into less harmful byproducts by marine bacteria.

After an April 20 explosion sank the Deepwater Horizon exploration rig and started the largest oil spill in U.S. history, microbiologists have converged on the Gulf to investigate the microbial composition throughout its waters and affected coastlines. According to Joel Kostka, a microbial ecologist at Florida State University, Tallahassee, the fundamental goals of this research are to determine the oil’s impact on the Gulf’s microbial ecosystems and to assess how limiting factors, chiefly oxygen concentrations, influence microbial oil degradation. Results could supply insights not only into the Gulf’s ongoing recovery, Kostka says, but also into how scientists might direct cleanup operations more efficiently.

Preliminary data collected by these researchers show that marine microbes have mobilized across the Gulf and are in fact chewing their way through the oil plumes. These monitoring efforts have chiefly focused on drops in dissolved oxygen levels, a sign of microbial metabolism. Graduate students working with Andreas Teske, a marine biologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, collected water samples from May 26 to June 8 aboard the University of Miami’s research vessel (RV) Walton Smith. They found that alkane hydrocarbon -digesting bacteria have colonized the Deepwater Horizon oil plumes and have begun to consume significant amounts of dissolved oxygen.

Likewise, David Valentine, a microbial geochemist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has observed microbe-associated oxygen declines in plumes of oil and methane gas. In these “gassy” plumes located within a 5- to 7-mile radius of the wellhead and at depths greater than 2,500 feet, oxygen levels drop by between 5 and 35%, he says. Valentine gathered his samples from June 11 to June 20, while aboard the RV Cape Hatteras, operated by the Duke/University of North Carolina Oceanographic Consortium. Also in a July 23 report, the US government’s Joint Analysis Group described dissolved oxygen drops at depths below 1,000 meters near the wellhead, where BP crews have injected dispersants directly into the leaking oil.

But scientists don’t exactly know yet which bacteria species are present in these plumes. The Gulf has a “leaky” seafloor, populated with natural seeps that discharge between 560,000 to 1.4 million bbl of crude oil ever year, according to a 2003 National Research Council report on oil spills. Also hydrocarbons in general are ubiquitous in the ocean and can be found not only in seeping oil, but also in plant waxes and lobster shells. Myriad marine bacteria have evolved to consume these hydrocarbons, and now the spill has allowed them to travel beyond their natural food sources.

Doc sez, like all solutions, natural or man-made, there’s a bit of Yang with every Ying. The bacterial action may reduce spilled oil toxicity and other damage, but we don’t know how server the oxygen depletion effects will be on the marine ecosystem. Guys and Gals – this is nature. Not man-caused in action so we need to watch the wheel turning to intercede, if we can, should things go badly awry.

By Charles Schmidt, Chemical & Engineering News, August 2, 2010.

Also check out:Cleaning Up The Gulf Oil SpillResponse teams use multiple techniques, including a new one, to try to protect coastal wetlands. Article by Michael Torrice Chemical & Engineering News, May 13, 2010

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I’d like to close this column with a copy of an article called The Gambler sent to me by my colleague John Droz, jr. — A physicist & environmental advocate.

The Gambler

When we are confronted with questions of science we often have neither the resources nor intellectual rigor to properly do our homework. In our ignorance, we have a habit of bestowing quasi-mystical properties on our own creations in much the same way as the faithful can be moved and inspired by splendid architecture or pious icons. Our instincts suggest that this level of expenditure, the moral correctness of the enterprise, and the weight of our investments in hope and good intentions, must surely prove the underlying theory.

It stands to reason that we wouldn’t have gone so far down this path if the technology didn’t work. We take it as a given that somebody — our scientists, our politicians, our priests, or our parents — has done the intellectual heavy lifting already. Alas, this is seldom the case, and definitely not so here.

In the disciplines of politics and parenting, expedience is quite often the order of the day, and obfuscation, misdirection and white lies are the tools of implementation.

In a world currently focused on all things green it is perceived to be politically irresponsible to be circumspect or behind the curve. “We have to do something, or every little bits helps” have now become the mantra.

The “something” our representatives are endorsing is for us to pay exorbitant premiums to people who have no more background in power production than does the local school marm. We are asked to line the developer’s seemingly limitless pockets with unrequited subsidies and incentives — despite the fact that green energy solutions on the production side of the equation have been shown, the world over, to be window dressing, canards and delusions.

In so doing we will divert resources, time and attention away from more meaningful solutions, and from programs like conservation and reuse — options and programs that we know reduce our impact on the environment.

Instead, we will expend greater resources, build bigger more impressive monuments and blindly put our faith in the promises of others — despite all the empirical science to the contrary. We will convince ourselves that our good intentions plus the size and scope of the effort is evidence enough of its merit.

We are being seduced by the splendor of the temple without taking the time to see the emptiness of the catechism.

Frankly, I’d rather just pray. It costs less, holds equal promise, and is not a blight on the landscape.

The Gambler — Translated from a post by Gord McDonald — in the Wellington Times, April 16, 2010”

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the material with quotation makes, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics, usually indented.

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In Closing

Remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequences. However, that’s better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, there’s no free lunch and as a taxpayer and consumer you shall always end up paying the piper!

Readers Again Please Take Note — Many of the technologies I share still have to prove that they are reliable, durable, scalable and cost effective. They also have to demonstrate that we will not fall victim top the law of unintended consequences when we implement them. If you care to Google them in detail, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many studies that whose authors remain skeptical. Putting ones money where one mouth is creates one method of determining the reality of a dream still to come true. Ask any one with a technical start-up company – the big cost is the leap from bench scale to operational facility. Sometime not that is a good test – look at the ethanol plants that have shut down in the mid-west.

May your world get greener and all creatures on Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their function in this Gaia’s world.

Harry, aka doc_Babad


Previous Greening Columns

By Harry Babad, © Copyright 2010, All right Reserved


Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

The materials I share in the articles that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental newsletters to which I subscribe. When I have time, I also check a variety of energy related and environmental blogs. In addition, I subscribe to New York Times, Time Magazine, The Economist, Business Week, Wired, National Geographic, Smithsonian – all which I skim for articles of interest.

Some of what I chase is called out in publications by the libraries of the Pacific Northwest [NewsBridge], Sandia, Argonne and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, which are managed by the US Department of Energy. Other articles I found interesting come from technology feeds from the, Discover Magazine, various international energy and green advocacy groups as well as The American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS]. from the American Nuclear Society [ANS] magazine Nuclear News is a source and for chemistry related news C&EN from the American Chemical Society [ACS],.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and intentionally biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send us feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequences. However, that’s better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, there’s no free lunch and you must always end up paying the piper!

Since my tid-bits are only a partial look at the original article, click on through if you want more details, as well as <often> other references on the same topic(s).


Now, As Usual, in No Formal Order, My New Nine Snippets

——— A List of Their Titles ———

  • Medical Radiation Overdoses in the US
  • Symposium Looks at Geoengineering Opportunities & Challenges
  • Energy Push Spurs Shift in U.S. Science
  • Nuclear Science Protects Revered Fruit
  • The Start-Up Pains of a Smarter Electricity Grid
  • No Surplus Snow Means No Surplus Power For BPA To Sell
  • U.S. Official Says Technology To Reduce Carbon Easier Than Politics
  • Success Of US Green Industry Could Hinge On China
  • New Detection Technology Identifies Bacteria, Viruses, Other Organisms Within 24 Hours

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Medical Radiation Overdoses in the US

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has widened its investigation into radiation overdoses that patients have received from a type of brain scan, suggesting the problem may be nationwide, it was reported today.

The agency says it is looking into possible overdoses at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank and a hospital in Alabama, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Providence St. Joseph is now the third hospital in Los Angeles County under investigation for problems with CT brain perfusion scans, a procedure used most often to diagnose strokes.

Unlike the other cases, which involved scanners made by General Electric, the scanner at Providence St. Joseph was made by Toshiba — adding a new dimension to the investigation, The Times reported.  
Angelo Bellomo, head of environmental health for the L.A. County Department of Public Health, said 34 patients appear to have received excessive radiation at Providence St. Joseph over a 20-month period ending in October, The Times reported. The problem was discovered by Los Angeles County radiation safety inspectors and reported to the FDA last week, FDA and county officials told the newspaper.

Patricia Aidem, a spokeswoman for the hospital, told The Times she was unaware of any problems with the scans and that the hospital had always complied with dosing standards.

The first indication that anything was wrong with the scans came in August when Cedars-Sinai discovered that it had accidentally exposed more than 200 patients to eight times the normal radiation for the procedure. In November, a similar problem was discovered at Glendale Adventist Medical Center.

As I have noted previously, any technology is capable of getting out of control, and only eternal vigilance is the price of safety. <No I’m not sorry for the mixed metaphor and fractured quote…  – Doc.

Written by Los Angeles Sentinel News Service, on 12-10-2009

For More Current Details on Medical Overdoes Issues Check Out:
A Spate Of Radiation Overdoses In the U.S. 

The Hindu Newspaper, August 5, 2010.

Hear That Drumbeat About CT Scans and Radiation Exposure? It’s Growing Louder. Los Angeles Times, August 4, 2010… and the links therein.

Clamping Down On CT Scans For Kids

The Chicago Tribune, July 31, 2010,0,6285822.story

After Stroke Scans, Some Patients Face Serious Health Risks

New York Times – International Herald Tribune, July 31, 2010

Radiation Offers New Cures, and Ways to Do Harm

New York Times – International Herald Tribune, January 25, 2010

IAEA Enhances Patient Radiation Safety in Medical Diagnosis & Treatment

Concerns of Developing Countries Given More Importance

July 29, 2010

Some Things To Know About Radiological ProceduresTips and Suggestions for Ensuring Patient Safety

IAEA Staff Report, By Misha Kidambi, IAEA Division of Public Information, July 29, 2010.

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Symposium Looks at Geoengineering Opportunities And Challenges — Experts discuss possible solutions to climate change

McGill graduate and benefactor Lorne Trottier established the Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium in 2004 to hold public discussions on important scientific topics. In this year’s edition of the symposium, three climate scientists and one historian of science discussed today’s climate problems and possible solutions to prevent rising atmospheric CO2 levels.

Organized by professors in the Earth System Science program and the symposium office, the event, titled “Avoiding dangerous climate change: Geoengineering or mitigation?” brought together Professors David Keith of the University of Calgary, James Fleming of Colby College, Alan Robock of Rutgers University, and Philip Rasch from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Image from the Economist Magazine – I couldn’t resist — Doc.

McGill geography professor and symposium moderator Nigel Roulet initiated the discussion by presenting alarming statistics concerning global warming. Roulet cited a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicting worldwide temperature levels to be 1.4 to 4.8 degrees warmer by 2100 compared to conditions in 1850. “There is a large body of literature that suggests that these kinds of changes in climate will have a profound effect on society, including things like the global economy, environmental resources, and water,” said Roulet.

Roulet introduced the two main policies for dealing with climate change: mitigation of greenhouse gases to reduce the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, and geoengineering, or the “deliberate manipulation of the physical chemicals and the biological aspects of the Earth system.”

Roulet then cleared the podium for Professor David Keith, a climate scientist who has worked closely in energy technology and public policy. While Keith argued that mitigation alone will not dramatically reduce CO2 concentrations, he also reasoned that current geoengineering strategies such as solar radiation management, the practice of reflecting sunlight to cool the planet, are not reliable enough to be implemented.

“Even if we cut emissions to zero today, we cannot eliminate the possibility of really horrific climate change,” said Keith. “I think we need a serious research program to develop the capability to do [geoengineering].”

While Keith expressed optimism in future uses of geoengineering, other panelists were more guarded about its applicability. Professor James Fleming, a historian of the American Meteorological Society, referenced failed attempts by the U.S. to control the weather. Fleming likened geoengineering to pulling a lever to move the earth.

“Where would the [Earth] roll if it were tilt?” asked Fleming. “I’m not in favor of technocratic, pulling the lever type of activities. I’m [also] not against [geoengineering research], I’m just in favor of indoors, peer-viewed research. Climate change is extremely complex and deserves attention from many people.”

Professor Alan Robock, the next speaker in line, cited experiments where sulfate aerosol was injected into the stratosphere to determine the effects on climate change. Upon compiling the results, Robock explained climate, political, and ethical reasons why geoengineering may be a bad idea.

“While geoengineering may result in a cool planet, and reduce or reverse sea ice melting and sea level rise, there are seventeen reasons why it might be a bad idea [such as ozone depletion and drought in Africa and Asia],” said Robock.

Dr. Phil Rasch, a renowned expert in climate modeling, followed Robock and similarly criticized modern geoengineering as an unreliable method to control the climate. However, Rasch urged scientists and policymakers to shed any preconceived notions when discussing the future capabilities of geoengineering

“Geoengineering [techniques] require funding and systematic study, and we are far from a time when we can depend upon them,” said Rasch.

The presentations were followed by a question and answer session between the panelists themselves, which was later extended to the audience.

For more about geoengineering, an overview it’s methods and potential risk check out: 

A little bit of goggling would also inform and hopefully delight you.

Oh if this scares you, I suggest you create a full self-sufficient place well above sea level and close to the arctic then you now likely live.

Alternately, help colonize the moon. Otherwise, get educated, get involved and help make appropriate risk based decisions before you have to learn to either breath water, or worse, after a greenhouse trip-over, carbon-dioxide and methane. Doc

Article by Trip Yang in The McGill Tribune, November 24, 2009

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Energy Push Spurs Shift in U.S. Science

The Obama administration’s push to solve the nation’s energy problems, a massive federal program that rivals the Manhattan Project, is spurring a once-in-a-generation shift in U.S. science.

The government’s multibillion-dollar push into energy research is reinvigorating 17 giant U.S.-funded research facilities, from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory here to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. After many years of flat budgets, these labs are ramping up to develop new electricity sources, trying to build more-efficient cars and addressing climate change.

In fiscal 2009, the Obama administration increased the funding by 18%, to $4.76 billion, to the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which oversees 10 national labs and funds research at another seven. The office will receive $1.6 billion in government stimulus spending, as well, much of which it will also channel to these laboratories.

The Office of Science estimates its bigger budget allowed it to create nearly 1,400 research jobs at the 10 labs it oversees in the fiscal year ending in September, up 11% from the previous year’s staffing levels. It estimates it created another 1,400 science jobs at universities. In addition, it says, funds from the Obama administration’s stimulus package created hundreds more government lab jobs. As a result, the balance of U.S. science is shading a few degrees — away from the pure research typically practiced at universities, and toward applied science.

These efforts mark a third wave of spending at national labs such as Oak Ridge, a vast complex of woods and research facilities not far from Knoxville, Tenn. Oak Ridge was one of three labs set up to help build the atomic bomb during World War II. It boomed again during America’s energy-independence push in the 1970s. Oak Ridge plans to increase its staff by 25%, or 800 positions, over the next 18 months — even as its neighbor, the University of Tennessee, has lost state funding and pared back faculty searches.

“We have a renewed sense of mission and urgency,” says Oak Ridge’s director, Thom Mason.

Critics of big government say the Obama energy plan gives politicians too big a role in how the nation conducts science, just as they fret about the government’s increased role in the financial sector. They also question whether the government’s funding push is sustainable amid mounting budget deficits. Others, in academics and industry, say that while government-funded research has made big gains, including advances in DNA mapping and magnetic-resonance imaging, the cost of administering such research is unnecessarily high. University-funded pure research has its own string of successes in areas from physics and chemistry to biomedicine and genetics, they say, including breakthroughs that led to the laser, pacemaker, ultrasound technology and rocket fuel.

In California, the Lawrence Berkeley lab says it will receive about $240 million for research in alternative energy sources, computing, energy efficiency and other areas.

“Most of our great breakthroughs have not been through [top-down government] funding,” says Michael Witherell, a former head of the government-funded Fermilab and now vice chancellor for research at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Diffuse Challenge — Even some of those involved in the energy push acknowledge its challenges. While a federal plan proved successful for building the atom bomb and putting a man on the moon — both clear-cut tasks — the energy problem is more diffuse, with hard-to-measure outcomes.

Link Up – Read On!

Article by Gautam Naik, The Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2009

Doc’s afterthought — It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good.

Alternatively — “Having limitless amounts of clean energy would do wonders for this world in terms of political stability, development, and quality of life. The second Renaissance so to speak.” — Robin Djang”

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Nuclear Science Protects Revered Fruit

IAEA Uses Sterile Insect Technique to Tackle Olive Fruit Fly

Homer wrote about olives in his Odyssey, Hippocrates praised olive oil for its medicinal purposes and olive tree leaves were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen.

But despite being revered by kings and symbolizing peace, this ancient tree is being attacked by Bactrocera oleae, more commonly known as the olive  fruit fly. This small, innocuous-looking pest, which only lays its eggs in olives, can infest up to 90% of a farmers fruit, damaging the crops and the livelihoods of the olive growers and exporters. The fly poses a serious threat to the olive and olive oil industries in southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and the USA. However, help could be at hand for farmers affected by these olive-eating pests in the form of nuclear technology.

Scientists from the Joint Division of the IAEA and the UN´s Food and Agriculture Organisation are working on a project to control the fly using the proven and environmentally-friendly Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), which uses radiation to sterilize pests. This technique, also known as “birth control for insects”, suppresses populations by breeding large numbers of sterile males. When released into the wild, they breed with females who in turn produce eggs that do not hatch.

FAO/IAEA entomologist, Andrew Jessup, said: “SIT has worked in the past with other fruit flies and it’s now being put to the test to combat the olive fly in southern Israel.”

I hope you won’t be bugged by linking the original article to read on!

IAEA Staff Report, November 25, 2009

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The Start-Up Pains of a Smarter Electricity Grid The smart grid will save energy and money, but implementation may prove costly

Only one thing is worse than the lights not coming on when the switch is flicked—and that’s the lights going out right afterward. The fact that the problem is most often a burned-out light bulb is testimony to the reliability of what’s sometimes called the world’s largest machine—the U.S. transmission and distribution grid for electricity.

But that reliability is tenuous at best and perhaps temporary: the machine needs an update to meet increasing demands for more electricity and to deliver it reliably and safely, according to the Obama administration and others. “If Alexander Graham Bell returned to Earth today, the progress in telecommunications over the last 125 years would be mystifying,” said Robert Catell, chairman of the New York State Smart Grid Consortium, at a smart grid event in New York City at New York University (NYU) in February. “If Thomas Edison came back today, not only would he recognize our electricity system, he could probably fix it” when problems arise.

That’s no surprise: Today’s grid was largely finished by the 1970s and contains mostly the same system of devices in use since the 1920s. And, after the wholesale power market was deregulated in 1992, many utility companies stopped investing in the grid—leaving it in a perilous state of disrepair today. An update could cost, according to some estimates, as much as $1 trillion over the next several decades—the stimulus plan alone provided $11 billion for a smart grid, including 32 demonstration projects in 21 states administered by the U.S. Department of Energy.

What exactly a smart grid is depends on who you ask.

“What really makes a grid smart?” asked electrical engineer Farshad Khorrami of Polytechnic Institute of New York University at the February event. His answer: “the control system in that grid.” In essence, it’s the telecommunications and information technology industries applying their innovations to the infrastructure that made computers possible, in large part, or overlaying the utility infrastructure with communications and control systems that will allow energy technology to be more productive.

There’s lot’s more to read in the article, so check it out. Hoever the bottom line is…

Bumps in the Grid But the smart grid has already run into resistance. Class-action lawsuits have been filed in California, alleging inaccuracy in the 5.5 million smart meters installed by PG&E, resulting in electricity bills as much as 300 percent higher. The company contends that such increases are a result of already approved rate hikes as well as a hotter than average summer in 2008—but also admits that thousands of meters were improperly installed and have manifested various problems, including communication malfunctions. Such growing pains can literally turn off customers: a smart homes pilot program in Westchester County, N.Y., lowered bills for almost all participants, but still 30 percent quit the program entirely.

Ultimately, the customer pays for all the fixes through rate increases. Whether a consumer with the smart grid saves money or, at least, breaks even “remains to be proven,” admitted Aubrey Braz, Con Ed’s corporate vice president in charge of smart grid technology.

Balance of Power — Another key challenge for a smart grid is the fact that electricity is an instantaneous commodity—it is consumed at the exact same moment that it is produced. Running an electric grid is “harder than rocket science,” says Stephen Wright, president of the Bonneville Power Authority based in Portland, Ore., simply because supply and demand must be so closely matched and both vary throughout the day…

By David Biello, Scientific American, May 10, 2010

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No Surplus Snow Means No Surplus Power For BPA To Sell

Northwest Oregon’s dry winter and spring will mean a tight summer for the region’s hydroelectric system. The Bonneville Power Administration announced Friday that the region is experiencing the fifth driest season since dams were built on the Columbia River.

A lack of snow in the mountains means less water this summer to turn the turbines. BPA spokeswoman, Katie Pruder-Scruggs says there’ll be plenty of electricity for Northwest customers – but not for anyone else.

Katie Pruder-Scruggs: “We will meet the needs of our customers. The shortfall is that surplus. Like, for instance, in the summertime, the California folks turn their air conditioners on and if we have surplus power, we can sell that at market rates, and use it to keep our rates low here in the Pacific Northwest.” Pruder-Scruggs says no surplus snow means no surplus power, and no surplus power means nothing to sell.

Without electricity sales, BPA anticipates it may have to raise rates – though ratepayers wouldn’t see those increases for more than two years.

Doc Sez: Whether you blame climate change of the laws of averages; we’re only seeing the tip of what’s likely to be a challenge for those who only want to relay on renewable energy – Draught happen, the wind blows too hard or not at all and the vagrancies of nature, forget unintended consequences, are real. In addition relative to this article – in the US –there are few damned few places left to build large dams and alas mini-dams don’t produce enough power.

By Rob Manning, Oregon Public Broadcasting News,  May 10, 2010 | Portland.

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U.S. Official Says Technology To Reduce Carbon Easier Than Politics

Developing the technology to reduce carbon emissions from the use of coal may be easier than persuading the public that fossil fuels remain a viable and environmentally friendly energy source, a Department of Energy official said Tuesday.

Speaking at the ninth annual conference on carbon capture and sequestration, James R. Markowsky, assistant secretary for fossil fuels, said “developing the technology will be much less difficult than developing the kind of confidence” needed to win public support for the idea.

Carbon capture and sequestration — also referred to as carbon capture and storage or CCS — is the process of capturing carbon dioxide emissions and storing them a mile or more underground so that they do not escape into the atmosphere.

The Obama administration is committed to the approach, Mr. Markowsky said, with $4 billion earmarked for making the process commercially viable. The money is helping to fund a series of projects to demonstrate techniques for capturing, storing and even reusing carbon dioxide. There’s more, enjoy!

Doc Sez, so what’s new! –  On the technically tough side, the quest for the holy grail of fusion power, of course my current favorite findings an acceptable way to geoengineer climate. But even before the research is proven, politics and vested interest will again raise their ugly heads – mankind gains someone individually loses is an essential as the ten commandments, and politics will continue to overcome reason  and evidence and any thought of a universal good.

By Elwin Green, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Wednesday, May 12, 2010

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Success of US and Western World Green Industry Could Hinge On China

The future of green industry in the U.S. rests in large part on the world’s supply of rare earth minerals, 97 percent of which currently come from China. The situation has sparked calls for action by lawmakers and is under review by the Department of Energy, which expects to issue a report later this year.

Rare earth materials, which comprise 17 metallic elements, are critical to the production of clean-energy technologies, specifically hybrid cars that require rare earth magnets, along with wind turbines, energy-efficient light bulbs and solar panels, whose reliability without the precious materials would be severely reduced.

Most troublesome is China’s decision in the last three years to reduce exports and increase export taxes on all rare earth materials by 15-25 percent due to its own surge in consumption. A Government Accountability Office report released in April warned that the U.S. is vulnerable and incapable of supplying rare earths on its own…

There certainly is a dependency, and yes, there are risks involved any time you’re dependent on a single source,” said Belva Martin, GAO’s acting director for the Acquisition and Sourcing Management team, who oversaw the report.

“In essence, China has become the Saudi Arabia of rare earths,” Representative Mike Coffman (R-Colo) wrote in a recent op-ed. Coffman is the author of the Rare Earths Supply-Chain Technology and Resources Transformation (RESTART) Act, which he hopes will re-establish a competitive domestic supply chain to “break away from our reliance on China.”

Coffman’s RESTART Act requires the Department of Energy, which was awarded funds under the stimulus bill and houses a loan program for energy-efficient producers, to write specific guidance for rare earth mining companies hoping to win government loans.

The U.S. wasn’t always so dependent on China. The Mountain Pass mine in California once “produced the majority of the global supply of rare earth materials,” according to the GAO report. But digging came to a halt in 2002 due to a combination of permitting issues, cheap Chinese competition and environmental worries…

Environmentalists remain skeptical of the pollution caused by mining. In Inner Mongolia, rare earths are dissolved by way of extremely corrosive acids, ammonia and other chemicals, including the radioactive element thorium. The Chinese dump the waste into ponds along the Yellow River, polluting the water downstream to the point where local authorities have warned it is unsafe even for irrigation.

Environmentalists share Coffman’s concern over rare earth mineral dependency but argue that proper regulation can alleviate the potential for pollution. Environmentalists “want to develop technologies that are less reliant on these precious heavy metals,” said Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress. Weiss is looking to lithium mines in Bolivia, which he says have developed more environmentally responsible mining techniques.

Molycorp Minerals, the company that owns the Mountain Pass mine, is eager to reopen its facility and is trumpeting a new model for responsible mining by eliminating wastewater. To process the loads of byproduct salt water without dumping it or resorting to pipelines that could leak or rupture, Molycorp has developed a way to reuse the waste by pumping it back into the mine.

“Basically our salt is just going in a loop,” said Chief Technology Officer John L. Burba. “We’re not putting any out into the environment.”

This innovation is expensive from a capital standpoint, and Molycorp estimates it would cost around $500 million to restart mining. Along with filing for an initial public offering to help generate revenue, Molycorp applied for a DOE loan through the wind turbine loan program, arguing that turbines can’t be made without rare earths, but was denied on the grounds that the project “went too far upstream,” according to CEO Mark A. Smith. Last year the company received a $3 million earmark by way of Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., but more money is needed.

Because rare earth materials are “strategic and critical” in manufacturing numerous weapons, according to the GAO report, the Department of Defense has begun assessing the national defense threat caused by dependency on China and is scheduled to publish its findings in September. “We see these resources as vital to our operational needs” and the report will suggest ways to “obtain and store these materials for the future,” said DOD spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin.

Doc Sez, this is another example of a real problem that is being politicized.  If my reading on the use of such scarce metal in areas ranging from chemical catalysis, photovoltaics, hydrogen from water, enhancing the performance if lithium batteries and a myriad if other technology areas is correct; we are making difficult to achieve but great strides in potentially replacing or minimizing the use of such materials. No not a done deal, and of course making China the villain (it may indeed be) is great politics.

By Ashlie Rodriguez, National, May 11, 2010

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New Detection Technology Identifies Bacteria, Viruses, Other Organisms Within 24 Hours

Law enforcement authorities seeking to detect bioterrorism attacks, doctors diagnosing diseases and regulatory agencies checking product safety may find a new ally in a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) detection technology.

The advance, known as the Lawrence Livermore Microbial Detection Array (LLMDA), could enable law enforcement, medical professionals and others to detect within 24 hours any virus or bacteria that has been sequenced and included among the array’s probes.

Developed between October 2007 and February 2008, the LLMDA detects viruses and bacteria with the use of 388,000 probes that fit in a checkerboard pattern in the middle of a one-inch wide, three-inch long glass slide. The current operational version of the LLMDA contains probes that can detect more than 2,000 viruses and about 900 bacteria.

The next version of the array, which is being prototyped as you read this, will be able detect or identify within a 24-hour period any of the approximately 60,000 viruses or 2,500 bacteria worldwide that have been sequenced.

“The ability to detect the major bacterial and viral components of any sample can be used in countless different ways,” said Tom Slezak, LLNL’s associate program leader for Informatics. “This is important because it fills a cost-performance gap that is relevant to many missions: biodefense, public health and product safety.”

In the area of biodefense, current systems are centered upon the detection of smaller prioritized sets of high-risk pathogens, rather than testing for a much broader spectrum of organisms.

Beyond its application in the early detecting of a bioterrorism incident, “One result of this research is that it demonstrates how modern technologies could change and drastically improve product safety,” Slezak said.

There’s more – check on!

Doc Sez – Wow! Years ago, while teaching at Denver University, he worked, almost, on a project proposal to detect nerve gas with the Denver Research Institute (DU). Why almost? Our team wasn’t low bidder, but our wives were pleased.

For nerve gases, your protective-suited outside-observer masks up, enters the ‘containment laboratory and immediately stabs {you} the exposed person with an atropine injector. It keeps them alive; however if you had a heart attack or just a fainting spell the cure kills you. At least that was the theory at the time.

ScienceDaily, May 6, 2010

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits: — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the material with quotation makes, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

I’ll be posting articles for you comfort and anger in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

Readers Please Note — Many of the technologies I share still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable — and if you Google them in detail, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many studies that are skeptical. All I know is this: for green energy related items, if we put a simple price (tax) on carbon (greenhouse gases), these new technologies would have a better chance to blossom. With American ingenuity, thousands more ideas would come out of innovators’ garages. America still has the best innovation culture in the world. But we need better policies to nurture it, better infrastructure to enable it and more open doors to bring others here to try it.

May your world get greener and all creatures on Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their function in this Gaia’s world.

– Harry, aka doc Babad


Previous Greening Columns

By Harry Babad © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved


With A Chip on My Shoulder — I avoid greening sites that equate a demonstration of a concept (e.g., a lab or small scale pilot scale test) to having an industrially viable commercial solution that an instant cure all for our environmental and energy woes. My paradigm, government subsidies don’t make things commercial viable — Indeed, governments have, internationally, been shown to consistently pick losers whether as energy-green or in other technology areas. . [E.g., Corn ethanol vs Food, No cost unmetered water policies in a world of drought and shortages or off shore oil as an energy cure-all.] In addition, subsidizing industry to use its politically sold favorites… no way.

Read more about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

The information I share in the articles that follows comes from the various weekly science and environmental newsletters to which I subscribe. When I have time, I also check a variety of energy related and environmental blogs.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and intentionally biased by my training, experience and at times my emotional and philosophical views of what works and what will not… If you want more information, read the article by clicking on its link. If that does not satisfy, Google a bit.

Bottom Line: The resulting column contains a mini-summary with links to articles I found interesting. I also get technology feeds from the New York Times, Time Magazine, The Economist, Business Week, Discover Magazine, various international advocacy groups, and the American Nuclear Society. I also subscribe to a number of technology blogs, which are identified when I use their posted contents.

Why a Greening Column? — This all started while writing two textbooks on things nuclear for high school students and their teachers. Googling and reading subscription turned out as a good way as any to keep up with a rapidly changing world of energy and greening – for example who would have thought a few weeks ago that off shore oil might not be the main route to US energy independence, climate change be damned?

Remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change. — So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Remember today’s favorite is tomorrows unintended consequences. However, soling unintended consequences is better than sticking one’s head in the sand. As Charles Dickens would have likely agreed — It was the best of times, the worst of times.

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No, As Usual, in No Formal Order, a Bakers Dozen Snippets

——— A List of Their Titles ———

  • Building Better Biofuels
  • EPA Proposes Stronger Air Quality Standards For Sulfur Dioxide /New Standard To Protect Millions of The Nation’s Most Vulnerable Citizens)
  • E-Transportation Jump-Start: Coalition Seeks to Pave the Way for Electric Vehicles
  • Don’t Bet On a Hydrogen Car Anytime Soon
  • Engineer Designs Micro-Endoscope to Seek Out Early Signs of Cancer
  • Experts Say — The Smart Grid Poses Privacy Risks
  • The Six Greatest Threats to U.S. Cyber Security
  • Battery Research Aims To Store Renewable Energy
  • A New Route{s} to Cellulosic Biofuels
  • As Nuclear Reactor Fleet Ages, Engineers Ask,’ Is 80 the New 40?
  • The Hidden Costs Of Fossil Fuels – And Biofuels, Too
  • Native Grasses An Explosive Idea For Cleaning Contaminated Soil
  • 10 Reasons Not to Revive the Nuclear Power Industry

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Building Better Biofuels

By Dr. Tim Donohue, Director of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center

( — Making biofuels from plants brings opportunities and challenges, according to Dr. Tim Donohue, Director of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, one of three U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Centers. The opportunity lies in the availability. Donohue gave a talk at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Frontiers in Biological Sciences Seminar Series. The series features academic government and industrial leaders who discuss novel ideas and scientific advances in biological sciences.

“We’re trying to replace fossil fuels in the liquid transportation fuels sector, so we have to use a readily available feedstock. Cellulose is the most abundant organic material on the planet,” said Donohue. It consists largely of sugar polymers (glucose plus others) that can be converted to other fuels by catalytic or microbial chemistries. And these sugars come from the non-edible parts of the plants, rather than from food sources.

The challenges include getting at the sugars trapped in insoluble fibers of the cellulose wall, and the variety of cellulosics. “Plants being considered are hardwood, softwood, corn, and switch grass. However, there’s likely no one magic solution,” said Donohue. One of the Center’s roles is to come up with the varying solutions needed.

Read more about the benefits and present limitations on biofuels production. Blog       Science-Physics-Technology-Nanotechnology News

November 17th, 2009 – Article Provided by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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EPA Proposes Stronger Air Quality Standards for Sulfur Dioxide /New standard to protect millions of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens)

WASHINGTON – For the first time in nearly 40 years, EPA is proposing to strengthen the nation’s sulfur dioxide (SO2) air quality standard to protect public health. Power plants and other industrial facilities emit SO2 directly into the air. Exposure to SO2 can aggravate asthma, cause respiratory difficulties, and result in emergency room visits and hospitalization. People with asthma, children, and the elderly are especially vulnerable to SO2’s effects.

“Short-term exposures to peak SO2 levels can have significant health effects – especially for children and the elderly – and leave our families and taxpayers saddled with high health care costs,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “We’re strengthening clean air standards, stepping up monitoring and reporting in communities most in need, and providing the American people with protections they rightly deserve.”

EPA is taking comment on a proposal to establish a new national one-hour SO2 standard, between 50 and 100 parts per billion (ppb). This standard is designed to protect against short-term exposures ranging from five minutes to 24 hours. Because the revised standards would be more protective, EPA is proposing to revoke the current 2 4-hour and annual SO2 health standards.

EPA also is proposing changes to monitoring and reporting requirements for SO2. Monitors would be placed in areas with high SO2 emission levels as well as in urban areas. The proposal also would change the Air Quality Index to reflect the revised SO2 standards. This change would improve states’ ability to alert the public when short-term SO2 levels may affect their health.

The proposal addresses only the SO2 primary standards, which are designed to protect public health. EPA will address the secondary standard – designed to protect the public welfare, including the environment – as part of a separate proposal in 2011.

EPA first set National Ambient Air Quality Standards for SO2 in 1971, establishing both a primary standard to protect health and a secondary standard to protect the public welfare. Annual average SO2 concentrations have decreased by more than 71 percent since 1980

US Environmental Protection Agency  — Release date: 11-07-2009

Cathy Milbourn!OpenDocument

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E-Transportation Jump-Start: Coalition Seeks to Pave the Way for Electric Vehicles By Larry Greenemeier 

Although the widespread adoption of electric vehicles and their related infrastructure has always suffered from chicken-and-egg syndrome, Nissan and FedEx, along with several utilities and technology companies have formed a coalition to break the stalemate. At a press conference Monday in Washington, D.C., the Electrification Coalition announced its formation as well as a new 130-page report on the dangers of oil dependence, the benefits of electric vehicles, and ways to overcome roadblocks that have kept these vehicles from being deployed en masse.

Sixty percent of the petroleum used by the U.S. daily comes from foreign sources, FedEx CEO Fred Smith said at the launch event, adding that 90 percent of all U.S. transportation is petroleum-powered. Smith made clear his position that reliance on foreign oil is “in no small way related” to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This energy mentality has to change because the U.S.’s dependence on foreign oil has created what amounts to a security risk for the country as a whole, said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D–N.D.), who also spoke at Monday’s event.

The coalition’s position is that a move to electric vehicles would help the U.S. combat the economic, environmental and national security vulnerabilities caused by the country’s petroleum dependence. The coalition’s “Electrification Roadmap” report predicts that if by 2040, 75 percent of light-duty vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. are covered by electric vehicles, oil consumption in that fleet would be reduced by more than 75 percent, and “U.S. crude oil imports could effectively be reduced to zero.”

With the number of vehicles on the planet expected to grow from 600 million today to 2.5 billion by 2050, this group of companies sees electric vehicles as the best alternative, given concerns of foreign oil dependency, oil prices and climate change.

The Electrification Coalition, made up of carmaker Nissan Co., various utilities and tech companies.  Read more that the link below.

Scientific American

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Don’t Bet On a Hydrogen Car Anytime Soon

By Curt Suplee

Just in time for Thanksgiving, a familiar techno-turkey is back on the national policy table: the hydrogen-powered car. The Obama administration had flatlined funding for President George W. Bush’s pet initiative, briefly but heavily touted a few years back as the driving force toward a future “hydrogen economy” in which gas would displace gasoline.

Two wars and a financial sinkhole later, most Americans had managed to forget the whole thing. But then last month the Senate improbably restored $187 million for H-car research programs to an appropriations bill.

Okay, that’s barely enough to cover one year’s bonuses on the lower floors at AIG. But why is it there at all? The answer lies in the persistent, hypnotic allure of hydrogen eco-mythology, with its promise of breaking our addiction to fossil fuels and foreign oil while banishing greenhouse pollution from our skies — a vision most pointedly embodied in the hydrogen car. Or, more accurately, the notion of the hydrogen car.

Electrical current from a fuel cell, a device that combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, powers the prototypical H-car. The principle involved is a schoolroom classic: If you stick two electrodes into a beaker of water, the electrical energy breaks H2O apart into its ingredients, H and O, in a process called electrolysis. A fuel cell does the same thing in reverse, putting separate H’s and O’s back together into water molecules and thereby producing electrical energy, which can be used to run a motor. Click the Link — Read On.

The Washington Post, Tuesday, November 17, 2009

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Engineer Designs Micro-Endoscope to Seek Out Early Signs of Cancer

Traditional endoscopes provide a peek inside patients’ bodies. Now, a University of Florida engineering researcher is designing ones capable of a full inspection.

Physicians currently insert camera-equipped endoscopes into patients to hunt visible abnormalities, such as tumors, in the gastrointestinal tract and internal organs. Huikai Xie, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, is working on replacing the cameras with scanners that “see” beneath the surface of tissues — revealing abnormal groups of cells or growth patterns before cancerous growths are big enough to be visible.

“Right now, endoscopes just take pictures of the surface tissue. So, if you see some injury, or abnormality, on the surface, that’s good,” Xie said. “But most of the time, particularly with cancer, the early stages of disease are not so obvious. The technology we are developing is basically to see under the surface, under the epithelial layer.”

Experiments with the professor’s scanning “micro-endoscopes” on animal tissue have been promising, although his devices have yet to be tested in people. The pencil-sized or smaller-sized endoscopes could one day allow physicians to detect tumors at earlier stages and remove tumors more precisely, increasing patients’ chances of survival and improving patients’ quality of life.

Xie and his graduate students have authored at least 40 papers on various aspects of the research, which is supported with more than $1 million in grants, primarily from the National Science Foundation. In September, he delivered an invited talk, “MEMS-Based 3D Optical Micro-endoscopy,” at the 31st Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. He also recently launched a small company, the Gainesville-based WiOptix Inc., to speed commercialization of his scanning technology.

With current camera-equipped endoscopes, once doctors spot abnormalities, they typically perform a biopsy, and then send the suspicious tissue to a laboratory. But biopsy is risky and may cause bleeding and even trauma. Also, it usually takes a couple of days to receive the analysis of the biopsy sample from the laboratory. If it is cancerous, surgeons may attempt to remove the abnormality and surrounding tissue, using either endoscopes equipped for surgery or traditional surgical methods.

Xie’s endoscopes replace the cameras with infrared scanners smaller than pencil erasers. The heart of his scanner is a micro-electromechanical system, or MEMS, device: A tiny motorized MEMS mirror that pivots back and forth to reflect a highly focused infrared beam.

Computers process the return signal from the endoscopes, transforming it into a three-dimensional image of the surface tissue and the tissue beneath. One scanner even produces a 360-degree-image of all the tissue surrounding the endoscope. Doctors or other trained observers can then search the image for abnormalities or suspicious growth patterns. There’s more click on!

Also check out

AScribe Newswire, Nov. 19 2009

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Experts Say — The Smart Grid Poses Privacy Risks

By Brian Krebs

Technologists already are worried about the security implications of linking nearly all elements of the U.S. power grid to the public Internet. Now, privacy experts are warning that the so-called “smart grid” efforts could usher in a new class of concerns, as utilities begin collecting more granular data about consumers’ daily power consumption.

<Doc Sez, so what’s new – first the telegraph, then the cell phone. Now the Internet and the cell phone and soon the grid. Establish controls, enforce them HARSHLY and live with the reality that what can be done – will be done.>

“The modernization of the grid will increase the level of personal information detail available as well as the instances of collection, use and disclosure of personal information,” warns a report (PDF) jointly released Tuesday by the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF), a think tank made up of chief privacy officers, advocates and academics. The report mentioned above can also be downloaded as a PDF.

Smart grid technology — including new “smart meters” being attached to businesses and homes — is designed in part to provide consumers with real-time feedback on power consumption patterns and levels. But as these systems begin to come online, it remains unclear how utilities and partner companies will mine, share and use that new wealth of information, experts warn. Read more about the issue at the link below.

Doc Further Notes: Even when you anticipate the law of unintended consequences, it is never the less difficult to deal with them. Indeed in our blogger conspiracy theory rich Internet, even relatively solvable problems become major political and headline issues. After all of all the truths we hold self evident, scientific literacy and the ability to deal with risk related issues are rarely in evidence.

The Washington Post Security Fix Blog, November 18, 2009

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The Six Greatest Threats to U.S. Cyber Security

By Michael Cooney

It’s not a very good day when a security report concludes: Disruptive cyber activities expected to become the norm in future political and military conflicts. But such was the case today as the Government Accountability Office today took yet another critical look at the US federal security systems and found most of them lacking

From the GAO: “The growing connectivity between information systems, the Internet, and other infrastructures creates opportunities for attackers to disrupt telecommunications, electrical power, and other critical services. As government, private sector, and personal activities continue to move to networked operations, as digital systems add ever more capabilities, as wireless systems become more ubiquitous, and as the design, manufacture, and service of information technology have moved overseas, the threat will continue to grow.

Within today’s report, the GAO broadly outlines the groups and types of individuals considered to be what it called key sources of cyber threats to our nation’s information systems and cyber infrastructures.

Click on and read about our Nation’s vulnerability

Network World Inc., November 17, 2009

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Battery Research Aims To Store Renewable Energy

By Devin Powell and Philip F. Schewe, ISNS

A battery storage facility on Long Island helps to provide power for an MTA bus depot. Credit: New York Power Authority. Battery manufacturer EaglePicher, working in partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, received 7.2 million [dollars] to modify and lower the cost the sodium sulfur batteries.

The biggest chemical battery in the United States is located near Interstate 90 in the small town of Luverne, Minn. The 80 ton device — the size of two tractor-trailers stacked on top of each other — stores as much energy as about 3 million rechargeable AA batteries and can power about 3,000 houses for more than an hour when discharging at its maximum rate.

The battery is also intended to soak up extra energy at night, when the wind blows strongest and when the power demand from the grid is the lowest. This energy can then be released in the afternoon to lessen the strain on the electrical grid when people return home from work.

Why Size Matters — “Most of the batteries we have in the world were made for small-scale usage,” said George Crabtree director of the material science division of Argonne National Laboratory. “You don’t need much energy to start your car, and your car battery is going to recharge again as soon as the car starts.”

But according to a 2008 report by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, large-scale batteries need to be developed to deal with the increasing amounts of renewable energy on the grid. The AIChE report warned that no proven technologies have been developed to store large quantities of solar and wind energy. “Without [massive energy storage], renewable power can only be piggybacked onto the U.S. grid to supply not more than 15 percent of the power at best,” concluded the 2008 AIChE report.

The chemistry inside these sodium-sulfur batteries is similar to that of the lead acid battery inside of a car. In the car battery, a chemical reaction provides power by sending electrons from one lead plate to another through a liquid called an electrolyte. NGK batteries replace the lead plates with molten sulfur and molten salt and the liquid electrolyte with a solid piece of ceramic that allows electrons to flow between the two hot liquids.

This gives the batteries a much longer lifetime than car battery chemistry would allow. NGK guarantees them for 15 years (4,500 charge and discharge cycles), during which their efficiency at absorbing and discharging energy drops from about 92 to 75 percent.

There’s more , check it out: Google Large Scale Storage Batteries, there’s some fine articles out there-tune in ., November 19, 2009

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A New Route to Cellulosic Biofuels — ZeaChem’s pilot plant will make ethanol-using termite microbes. By Phil McKenna

Biofuel startup ZeaChem has begun building a biofuel pilot plant that will turn cellulosic feedstocks into ethanol via a novel approach that uses microbes found in the guts of termites. The company says the ethanol yields from the sugars of its cellulosic feedstocks are significantly higher than the yields from other biofuel production processes. ZeaChem says its process also has the potential to produce a plastic feedstock.

The company employs a hybrid approach that uses a combination of thermochemical and biological processes. It first uses acid to break the cellulose into sugars. Then, instead of fermenting the sugars into ethanol with yeast, as is typically done, the company feeds the sugars to an acetogen bacteria found in the guts of termites and other insects. The bacterium converts the sugar into acetic acid, which is then combined with hydrogen to form ethanol.

“It’s a little more complicated than a conventional process. It’s not the obvious, direct route, but there is a high yield potential,” says Jim McMillan of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO.

In more conventional biofuel processes, much of the carbon content locked up in the sugars is lost to the formation of carbon dioxide when the sugars are fermented into ethanol. Converting the sugars into acetic acid and then ethanol, however, yields no carbon dioxide. As a result, this method has the potential to raise biofuel yields by as much as 50 percent, according to ZeaChem.

In Israel, a different concept with the same goal Cellulosic Ethanol,

There’s more – there’s no free lunch!

Technology Review, November 2009

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As Nuclear Reactor Fleet Ages, Engineers Ask,’ Is 80 the New 40?

By Paul Voosen of the Greenwire Column

Could nuclear power plants last as long as the Hoover Dam?

Increasingly dependable and emitting few greenhouse gases, the U.S. fleet of nuclear power plants will likely run for another 50 or even 70 years before it is retired — long past the 40-year life span planned decades ago — according to industry executives, regulators and scientists.

With nuclear providing always-on electricity that will become more cost-effective if a price is placed on heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions, utilities have found it is now viable to replace turbines or lids that have been worn down by radiation exposure or wear. Many engineers are convinced that nearly any plant parts, most of which were not designed to be replaced, can be swapped out.

“We think we can replace almost every component in a nuclear power plant,” said Jan van der Lee, director of the Materials Ageing Institute (MAI), a nuclear research facility inaugurated this week in France and run by the state-owned nuclear giant EDF.

“We don’t want to wait until something breaks,” he said. By identifying components that are wearing down and replacing them, he said, suddenly nuclear plants will find that “technically, there is no age limit.”

Indeed, as U.S. regulators begin considering the extended operations of nuclear plants — the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) expects the first application for an 80-year license could come within five years or less — perhaps the largest lingering question is one of basic science: How do heavy doses of radiation, over generations, fundamentally alter materials like steel and concrete?

There’s more to read about

New York Times, November 20, 2009

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The Hidden Costs Of Fossil Fuels – And Biofuels, Too

By Moises Velasquez-Manoff,

The ‘hidden’ costs of burning fossil fuels and biofuels aren’t factored into their market prices, but someone has to pay them. Fumes, as illustrated,  emerge from a coal-fired power plant in Germany. The hidden costs of coal plants include the effects of mercury on wildlife and people, the climate-warming effects of carbon emissions, as well as pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter.

A new report by the National Research Council seeks to put a dollar amount on the “hidden” costs of energy produced by burning fossil fuels. These costs aren’t factored into the market prices of coal, oil, and gasoline, or the prices of electricity generated by fossil fuels, the report says. But someone eventually pays for them.

The report found that, in 2005, the hidden costs of energy production with fossil fuels in the United States amounted to $120 billion. This includes the negative impact of air pollution on health, but doesn’t include the effects of mercury emitted by coal-fired plants on wildlife and people, harm done to ecosystems by air pollution, or the climate-warming effects of carbon emissions.

Coal-fired plants produce about half the nation’s electricity. The report found that pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter cost the US $62 billion. That works out to about 3.2 cents’ worth of “non-climate” damages for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) generated.

Natural gas had fewer hidden costs than coal. Four hundred ninety-eight natural-gas-powered electric plants caused about $740 million in damages. That’s about 0.16 cents per kWh, or 1/20th of the damage produced by coal.

Vehicles, meanwhile, which account for 30 percent of US energy use, produced $56 billion in damages. That works out to between 1.2 and 1.7 cents’ worth of hidden costs per mile traveled.

Climate considerations aside, damages wrought by ethanol made from corn were usually similar to, or even slightly worse, than damages from gasoline. That’s because of the extra energy needed to convert corn to biofuel.

The Christian Science Monitor

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Native Grasses An Explosive Idea For Cleaning Contaminated Soil

By Judy Lowe

You hear a lot these days about the benefits of native plants, but here’s a new one: Certain native grasses can convert the toxic leftovers from atrazine – second most common herbicide in the US and a stubborn pollutant in the nation’s waterways – into harmless carbon dioxide, reports the Kansas City Star.

But there’s more.

Three researchers – Robert Lerch of the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA, Chung-Ho Lin of the University of Missouri at Columbia, and John Yang of Lincoln University – thought that if native grasses worked for atrazine, why wouldn’t they clean up soils contaminated with TNT and another explosive, RDX, which are chemically similar?

It turns out that two common native grasses – switch grass and Eastern gamma grass – do. This is a big deal, because “The U.S. Army has identified more than 538 sites contaminated by explosives, including 20 EPA-designated Superfund sites,” says Dr. Yang.

The grasses work by nourishing microorganisms in the soil that work to break down the explosives into harmless components. The advantage to using grasses is that they’re natural and cost effective, says Yang in an interview with the Columbia Daily Tribune. Research shows using native grasses to clean up a site costs only $200 to $10,000 for 2-1/2 acres — a fraction of cost of the traditional method of phytoremediation, reports the Tribune.

Compare those small amounts to the estimated cost of $100,000 to $1 million per acre that, the Star reports, it typically costs to haul away the soil in a field contaminated by TNT or RDX and incinerate it.

And the researchers think there may be many more potential uses for grasses in cleaning up contaminated areas.  “We really haven’t looked at that,” Dr. Lerch says. “I think it’s fair to say there is a lot more potential.”

The Christian Science Monitor

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10 Reasons Not to Revive the Nuclear Power Industry

By Elisabeth King

(“Nuclear power redux … why?), I would add these 10 reasons why nuclear power is the wrong answer to our nation’s energy needs.

Doc Sez, I wonder how much time it took Ms. King to search the copyright protected antinuclear sites to come up with this well-worn list. What no references — Isn’t that plagiarism or am I just under educated.

But in fairness, here’s Ms King’s List followed by my reality check based on US government and international agency documentation. There’s not enough space to provide all the references that counter Ms Kings agenda, but you can check out Google for the word,

1.)        Human Error.

That’s why the nuclear industry has the toughest safety training and zero tolerance for effort. After Three Mile Island, that Safety & Training became the paradigm of the industry. Can Ms King find one that is safer – Oil recovery, coal and other minerals mining, chemical manufacturing… ?

2.)        Carbon Footprint.

I absolutely agree with Ms King – all industries including renewable need to be judged on cradle to grave costs including their carbon footprints. I guess the steel (wind power) Concrete {hydropower) chemical pollutants {Photovoltaic Solar Power) and potential from ground water contamination (hydro cracking for natural gas.) are all foot print free.

3.)        Pollution of the Soil {and Groundwater}.

So what’s unique about uranium? How about lead, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, silver and god, and zinc mining, are they pristine? The issue is not contamination but creating rigorously enforcing regulations and assuring control measure are suitable for the risk associated with mining, or oil drilling for that mater.

4.)        Waste disposal.

Are contained nuclear wastes (HLW) in airplane crash proof storage, less risky that mining wastes. Are exposed radioactive coal slag piles less dangers that EPA mandated Low-level waste burial? You surely could have fooled me, and the majority of health-risk-exposure experts. If a cause is needed, start working on lobbyist funded politicians, undereducated technically illiterate bureaucrats and an public that thinks, for the most part, that science ins a dirty work.

5.)        Leakage.

All talk, just inflammatory smoke and mirrors. Miss King, prove the validity and generality of you claim documented by multiple certified scientific analysis published, independently replicated, and peer reviewed.  Provide references by any world regulatory agency that agrees with your hypothesis.

6.) Effects on health.

Without even casting rocks at the often almost discredited linear threshold dose hypothesis, there is ample evidence that low-level of radiation behave like most other toxic substances, what you ask does that mean? At sufficiently low dose {exposures}, most amply reported in the peer reviewed open literature, there is not linear threshold to radiation, or mercury or arsenic or chromium. The human body, and its well developed, but not perfect immune system has protected mankind other of Gaia’s creatures since they evolved and thrived.

7.)        Unreliability.

Since when – All you need to do call you claim false, is to check both the DOE’s and IAEA records, since of course you believe traceable industry records are not reliable. Shutdowns are preventative – if these were bad how could nuclear power be demonstrated to have online factors approaching 90-91%.

8.)        Expense.

Capital costs up front are caused by a combination of regulatory overkill and risk adverse bankers and venture capitalist, at least in the US. Ms King, have you ever wondered why the same nuclear power plant take twice to three times as long to build in the US than in the rest of the nuclear power seeking world. Are our plants any safer? After all most of the approved designs whether by the NRC or the IAEA, are carbon-copy clones of one-another, at least for this generation of reactors.

9.)        Eventual {uranium} shortages.

Hmm — what is there neither a breeder reactor, proliferation proof recycling, a thorium fuel cycle (India), and ocean extraction of uranium or finding new deposits in your future.

10.)      Fiscal responsibility.

Humbug!  You should become a politician. “Nuclear power is by far our most expensive option: the moral equivalent of buying a mink coat with a credit card while the refrigerator stands empty and the children have holes in their shoes.” Alas even the worlds economist will challenge that premise – true we Americans lead by your wisdom, make it so. Apples and oranges comparisons, our side of full lifecycle analysis is equivalent of the medieval belief in demoniacal possession and vapors and humors cause disease.

By now you, Miss King, must be really unhappy with me… However I can back my statement up with hundreds of peer (independently) reviewed studies, can you? Or is this another case of Dylanesque ‘Blowin’ in the Wind.

The Times Record, March 5, 2010

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits: — Most of these items were found in the newsletter NewsBridge that lists ‘articles of interest’ to the libraries technical and regulatory agency users. It is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  I then follow the provided link to the source of the information and edited the content (abstracted) the information for our readers. Should I find an associated or contradictory reverence, I also share that with you.


Charles Dickens in a Tale of Two Cities

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Charles Dickens, An English novelist (1812 – 1870)

In Closing

I’ll be posting articles for you comfort and anger in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for yourselves. To prove me wrong all you need to do is to send me scientifically peer-reviewed evidence (references).

May your world get greener and all creatures on Earth become healthier
and be more able to fulfill their function in this Gaia’s world.

Harry, aka doc_Babad


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