Entries Tagged as 'Energy'

PHEV

PHEV that’s the acronym for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle… and the Toyota Prius may well be the first production car in that class.

Yes, there have been conversions for a number of hybrids in the past, but the 2011 Toyota Prius will be available as a PHEV (it may only be available as a PHEV — there has not been any official announcements from Toyota yet).

Currently Toyota is still using the nickel-metal hydride (NiMh) battery cells like used in the current Prius in the PHEV prototypes, but it is still a possibility that the 2011 will go production with Lithium Ion (Li-ion) or be switch to use the denser Li-ion technology in the near future.

A PHEV would allow most urban commuters to use electric for the vast majority of their driving (provided charging stations become more wide spread), and since it does have a gasoline engine there never need be a concern with exceeding the range of the battery.

Originally posted 2010-01-14 02:00:37.

Silence those pesky alarms!

What does the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform and Upper Big Branch coal mine have in common other than many workers lost their lives because of the negligence and greed of their owners (and operators)???

Simple, according to Mike Williams (an employee of Transocean) and investigators of Massey Energy’s operations in West Virginia both often instructed employees to disable warning alarms — often because supervisors didn’t want to be disturbed during the night!

Silencing alarms?  I think most any reasonable person would reach the conclusion that the fabricators of the equipment put audible alarms in place because of safety concerns; and that generally those safety concerns are influenced by laws and legal precedences.

Eleven workers died on the Deepwater Horizon possibly because of a bypassed alarm; and twenty-nine in Upper Big Branch.

In my mind — ordering a worker to disable an alarm before a catastrophe that kills workers is sort of like saying you’re willing to accept full responsibility for the ramifications of your negligence.

Originally posted 2010-08-02 02:00:36.

Gulf Oil Spill

Well, I’d say that the fact that BP stock is at a fourteen year low is karmic retribution for the way BP has been handling the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; but the stock price doesn’t really hit the company, and most of the large investors are likely to weather the stock price storm until the public forgets about what a horrible company BP is.

Though — the public might not forget too quickly, because the incompetence of BP has now put the problem squarely into hurricane season, and the $2.35 billion that BP has spent to date on the issue could be a pittance compared to what it might cost them if a tropical storm hits the Gulf… and of course the storms have started in what forecasters have indicated is likely to be a very active season.

Originally posted 2010-07-03 02:00:19.

The Anti-Green – Architectural Lighting

It’s estimated that US electrical plants burn six million tons of coal daily to power unnecessary outdoor lighting — this estimate doesn’t include the wasted hydroelectric in areas like Las Vegas used to power unnecessary outdoor lighting.  Another estimate puts the waste at three-hundred twenty thousand kilowatt hours per minute!

Often called “light pollution” this unnecessary outdoor lighting could be produced by individuals or businesses and both need to take responsibility for adopting more sustainable lighting policies.

Earth Day this year illustrated just how much “needless” light we humans produce… and just what the potential savings and reductions could be.

Consider that electricity isn’t free; it has the initial cost of purchasing the kilo-watt hour of power and the negative impact it’s generation had on the environment (even in areas where wind or hydroelectric are used there are negative impacts to the environment — and power saved there could be routed to areas using coal or natural gas for power further reducing the carbon footprint).

This is an excellent area where it doesn’t take much to save a great deal.

First, think — if the light doesn’t serve a useful purpose, turn it off; or use it sparingly.  Put it on a timer or a motion sensor if you’re forgetful.

Second, consider the lighting technology.  Lights that need to be on quite a bit should use technology that’s efficient, like LED lighting.  Lights that are on occasionally could use (and recycle your existing CF bulbs — remember production and disposal of those lighting elements have an adverse effect on the environment).  For lights that are rarely on, and heat does not pose a problem re-using your existing incandescent bulbs might make sense.

Third, consider using solar powered LED lighting completely for outdoor lighting.  While the rechargeable batteries in those devices do impose potential environmental impact, properly recycled their impact is greatly mitigated by their years of service lighting without drawing power from the grid.

In commercial applications it’s probably a no win situation unless the business takes directed action to improve their lighting; and that might require local, state, and federal government taking action to make it fiscally desirable — a combination of taxes and tax credits.  Here we as individuals might want to take the initiatives to make heavy consumers of electricity pay a “waste” tax (users who actually produce real goods and services would have a threshold for the tax than those who simply consume it for eye candy effect).

I certainly believe that an individual or company should be able to purchase and use electricity for whatever purpose they desire; however, I also believe that individuals and companies that waste that electricity without providing benefit to society as a whole should shoulder the costs of the impact on the environment more than those who attempt to use resources responsibly.

Originally posted 2010-05-24 02:00:04.

LED Lighting

You think those CF (Compact Florescent) bulbs you’ve been buying are green???

Well — think again!

CFs do use considerable less energy than a comparable incandescent bulb, but they (like all florescent bulbs) contain a number of hazardous materials that negatively impact the environment when disposed of improperly (no — you can’t just throw them in the garbage can).

What’s a better choice?

Easy… technology from the 60’s comes to the rescue — LED based bulbs.  They’re made now in a number of configuration and bases to replace virtually any bulb you might have in your house.

OUCH — they’re kinda expensive.

I knew you’d say that… yes they cost substantially more than CFs (especially if you’re in an area where the utility companies are subsidizing CFs); but the thing you need to keep in mind is they consume substantially less energy than a CF and they last much longer.

I would love to tell you that if you factor in the energy savings and the longer life that they’ll work out to be less expensive than a CF; but if you’re buying subsidized CFs that’s not going to be the case.  One question to ask is why are utility companies subsadizing CFs and not LEDs?

LEDs have a much lower impact on the environment; and if enough people start using them we’ll see the prices come down… but doing what’s “right” often has a slightly higher price tag than what’s in “vogue”.

You can purchase LED bulbs at Sam’s Club.  They are selling “Lights of America” (see the link below) and “GE” LED bulbs — it’s rumored that a new Sam’s Club located near Cape Kennedy will use LED lighting throughout the store!

For the best pricing, check your local retailers and wholesale clubs as well as do a search online (consider sales tax and shipping when you compare).

GE Lumination

Lights of America

And maybe we should not only bring pressure on our utilities to subsidize LEDs rather than CFs (or at least in addition to); but get them added to the energy tax credit.

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For background information on LEDs (Light-Emitting Diodes) you can checkout the article on Wikipedia or do a search.

NOTE: LEDs lower power consumption make them the ideal choice for a home solar lighting system.

Originally posted 2009-08-21 01:00:51.

Go Green — Goes Slow

1 April 2010 the US (by the hand of Barack Obama) sets new standards requiring automobile manufacturers to increase their fleet average MPG by about 5% per year starting in 2012, moving up a goal set three years ago to meet a 35 MPG average by 2020.

Also, the waiver request California filed to have more stringent emission standards than the federal standards that was blocked by George W Bush (who obviously needed to serve his friends interests in the oil and auto industries) was reversed; allowing California to require automobiles sold in that state to further improve MPG and reduce emissions.

Nearly four decades after the oil embargo; and almost as many decades since emissions have been linked to air quality and climate change the US makes a small move forward to require the carbon foot print of every automobile sold in the US is reduced to a standard that could have easily been met years ago — and further encouraging the development of alternative energy.

So little, so late, so slowly — while it might seem like an event to applaud, it really is something to hang your head in shame and ask why was this not done sooner — why aren’t we doing more?

Oil companies still report record profits and push to drill off shore of our pristine beaches while sitting on thousands of parcels of lands they already have leases for.

Originally posted 2010-04-13 02:00:46.

Hydroelectric Power

On this day in 1882 the world’s first commercial hydroelectric plant (later to be known as Appleton Edison Light Company) began operation on the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin, US.

Clean power was born in a time of dark and dingy coal powered factories and generation facilities… a small reprieve back to the days that spawned the industrial revolution where mechanical power was harnessed from flowing water just as it had been for many years before.

Today we have many hydroelectric power plants and a moderate amount of power in the US is produced from the flow of water (much more than from other renewable resources), yet by far most of the power produced in the US is from fossil fuels.  Fossil fuel imports accounts for a sizable portion of our trade deficit.

America has had several wake-up calls, and for well over thirty years has chosen to ignore the inevitable — we must use our resources more wisely, we must conserve, we must reduce, we must increase efficiency, and we must find alternatives.

Originally posted 2010-09-30 02:00:18.

Solar Panels

I just did a little exercise in trying to figure out if solar panels would be cost effective for me.

Using my latitude and longitude; NREL and NASA data; along with the ratings from a couple of the manufacturers of the most cost effective panels currently produced it appears that for about $750 I can produce enough electricity to run two [small] compact florescent lights — or a little less than $30 in electricity per year (at today’s rate).

So considering the energy and tax savings the panel couldn’t pay for itself in ten years (and that’s just the panel, that doesn’t include the batteries, inverter, installation, etc).  Plus, I suspect it’s unlikely that a solar panel would last ten years here.

I’d say that solar panels have to increase in cost/performance by a factor of roughly 2x before they’d be feasible here (and we get quite a bit of sun).

I’m always on the lookout for ways to be a little more “green”; but I also believe that any solution needs to be sustainable; and I’m sure if I consider the impact of the production of the panels into this “equation” I’m going to find [here] that solar panels really aren’t that “green”.

I’ll have to keep looking for other options that might be more effective.

Originally posted 2009-08-13 01:00:36.

BP Profits

Byron Grove, BP’s chief financial officer said a week after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion that it was too early to talk about how much BP would be spending on the cleanup.

2010 First Quarter financial statements for BP show profits double the same period last year at $6.08 billion.

Over the past few years BP has been fined for workplace safety violations… but apparently the company hasn’t had a problem staying in business and making record amounts of money.

The oil spill cleanup is after all, just a cost of doing business for BP; and perhaps it’s time to crank up that cost with hefty fines for each and every day it continues.

The Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar has threatened BP with a government take over of the clean up… but last I check the government was already involved.  And US Coast Guard Admiral Thad W Allen has been clear that their is little more that they can do… mainly because there isn’t a contingency plan for this type of spill — by any government agency.

In 1989 Exxon was hit hard by a consumer boycott when they dragged their feet in the clean up of the Valdez spill; but so far there’s no sign that consumers are slowing their purchases at BP — the largest oil and gas producer in North American, and one of the largest in the United States (selling under the retail labels of BP and Arco).

Maybe when the news media starts providing images of animals and habitat that’s devastated by the oil spill consumers might wake up — but there are actually live feeds of the oil spewing from the damaged rig that show oil-soaked birds and now there’s plenty of footage of landfall of the spill in Louisiana… so maybe not.

The oil and gas industries are the 14th largest contributors to congress — almost $7 billion per year ( http://politics.usnews.com/congress/industries — don’t be shocked by how many times Harry Reid is the #1 recipient of that money — and by all means use this list to know who to vote out of office) — so it’s understandable why the federal government is slow is really punish BP; after all, we know that our elected official look out for their interests first (which involves looking out for the interests of those who give you money — over those who you consider sheep who’ll just continue to vote for you).

FINES FINES and MORE FINES — if BP is making money hand over foot, let’s make sure that they bare the full cost of this cleanup and the costs of un-doing the damage that they’ve caused…  I’m thinking $50 million per day would be just about right to force BP to take real action.

Originally posted 2010-05-28 02:00:19.

The Anti-Green – Junk Mail

Why does the United States Postal Service encourage companies to send “Junk Mail” by substantially reducing the costs of distributing it?

It just doesn’t make sense.

Sure, I understand that it may actually cost the post office a little less to distribute junk mail than it does to distribute first class letters and such — but take a look at how little junk mail you even look at… and how much ends up in your recycle bin (and I’m not even going to bring up the large number of people who probably don’t recycle since they don’t have curb-side recycling programs).

America needs to take action to reduce it’s carbon footprint — and as I have pointed out for the last few days it would be extremely easy to make a fairly substantial improvement without sacrificing anything most consumers care about — and in fact, it would probably improve the quality of life for most Americans not having a mailbox full of junk mail they have to sort through so as not to miss something that might be important.

Sure, the post office would probably have to raise the cost of postage, and possibly reduce the service level (hey — I have no problem with mail not being delivered on Saturday — of maybe being delivered only on alternate days or only a few days per week).  The overall effect would be a decrease in the waste (of natural resources and energy).

Originally posted 2010-05-10 02:00:50.