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Other energy - Feb 16

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Edison, BP Plan $1 Billion California Hydrogen Power Plant

Reuters, Planet Ark
BP and Edison International said Friday they plan to team up on a $1 billion hydrogen-fueled power plant in southern California.

The plant, near the BP refinery in Carson 20 miles (32 km) south of Los Angeles, would come online by 2011 and generate 500 megawatts of electricity, about enough to power 325,000 homes.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the plant would be the first in America to use a new process that uses a chemical process to produce clean-burning hydrogen from petroleum coke, a residue from refining crude oil.

The hydrogen is burned to fuel the power plant. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide produced in the process of extracting hydrogen from coke is caught and stored.

Rather than being released into the air, about 90 percent of the gas would be trapped and injected into a natural reservoir thousands of feet underground, where it would stimulate additional oil production, BP said.
(13 Feb 2006)
Really this is a power plant which burns petroleum coke via a hydrogen middleman. There might be some advantages from a carbon sequestration perspective (itself a rather new and not widely tested concept); separating the carbon dioxide emmissions earlier in the process might well be easier than trying to capture it from exhaust fumes. However the project's other great advantage might be merely to allow the Governator to utter the H word again... -AF


China’s fast breeders

C Raja Moham, India Express
While the Indian Department of Atomic Energy insists on building its fast breeder programme in splendid isolation, China is on fast track development of a breeder programme. With a little help, of course, from Russia.

Although Chinese engineers have been working on fast reactor physics since the 1960s, there has been an acceleration of the breeder reactor programme in the last few years.
(13 Feb 2006)


Tip sheet for journalists: How energy-positive is ethanol, really?

Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ)
Thanks to state and federal energy policy (steered in large measure by the agriculture lobby), ethanol has become one of the most popular forms of renewable vehicle fuel in the US. However, if you consider everything that goes into making ethanol, as well as its byproducts and waste products, does it truly represent a net increase or decrease in overall fossil energy consumption?

...There's no easy answer to the ethanol economics debate, but it does pay to ask questions about it. When considering local sources of ethanol or biodiesel, crunch the numbers. Try asking:

1. What is the energy content of a gallon of the renewable fuel? (In megajoules or another standard energy unit.)
2. How much biomass feedstock (corn, etc.) does it take to produce a gallon of the fuel? How much energy was required to produce that biomass? (Consider farm equipment, fertilizers, pest management, transportation, storage, etc.)
3. What other substances are required, in which quantities, to produce a gallon of the fuel? (Process chemicals, etc.) How much energy was required to produce each of these?
4. How much energy is required to manufacture a gallon of the renewable fuel? And, on average, to transport and store it?

...Add the answers to 2, 3, and 4 together, and subtract that figure from 1. If the answer is a positive number, ethanol is net energy positive in that case. Perform similar calculations to determine the energy economics of gasoline in your region. You can also extrapolate from this calculation to compare greenhouse gas emissions.

The energy and environmental impacts of ethanol, and how they compare to those of gasoline, can vary substantially by region, feedstock (or petroleum source), and manufacturing process.
(15 February 2006)
From the Society of Environmental Journalists. Two other questions. 1) What will be the effect of constant cropping on soils, if ethanol production is expanded to a large scale? 2) What will be the effect on the food prices and the foodsupply? -BA


An energy revolution (alcohol)

Robert Zubrin, The American Enterprise
The world economy is currently running on a resource that is controlled by our enemies. This threatens to leave us prostrate. It must change—and the good news is that it can change, quickly.

...Ritualistic calls by utopians, moralists, and environmental absolutists for energy conservation are utterly inadequate and doomed to failure.

...Today’s favorite alternatives to oil are wind, solar, hydroelectric, and nuclear power. They each have strengths and weaknesses, but the bottom line is that these are all methods of generating electricity—and electricity is far from the central issue of energy independence. The United States has plenty of coal, and if necessary could easily generate all of its electric power that way.

The key to energy independence, rather, is liquid fuel to power cars, trucks, trains, ships, and airplanes. These vehicles are not mere conveniences; they are the sinews of our economy and the fundamental instruments of our military strength. Our civilization cannot be sustained without efficient liquid fuels, and there is no foreseeable prospect whatsoever of cost effective, large-scale generation of liquid fuels from wind, solar, hydroelectric, or nuclear sources.

...To liberate ourselves from the threat of foreign economic domination, undercut the financiers of terror, and give ourselves the free hand necessary to deal with Middle Eastern extremists, we must devalue their resources and increase the value of our own. We can do this by taking the world off the petroleum standard and putting it on an alcohol standard.

Dr. Robert Zubrin, president of the aerospace engineering and research firm Pioneer Astronautics, wrote The Case for Mars, and other books.
(15 February 2006)
For more on Dr. Zubrin, see Wikipedia. Zubrin's argument of energy policy as an instrument of national security is similar to that of NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman,
ex-CIA director R. James Woolsey and many others. Unfortunately, Zubrin's analysis is less balanced than theirs, and seems to be fixated on one magic technology: alcohol. Almost all serious energy planners agree that a solution will involve multiple approaches, and that conservation and efficiency are key. Not to mention the serious doubts about the energy efficiency of the ethanol process.
On the other hand, it's great to see the conservative American Enterprise publishing a serious article on energy, which even mentions (gasp!) government intervention. How the taboos are falling. -BA

UPDATE: Submitter MW has two links about "How to do ethanol right!':
How to Beat Climate Change & Post Fossil Fuel Economy (Dr. Mae-Wan Ho)
The E3 BioSolution (Merging Technologies for Earth, Energy, Environment)


Hybrid perks may become problems

Steven Ginsberg, Washington Post
As Vehicles Pack HOV Lanes, Experts Fear Advantages Could Turn Counterproductive
------------
The purchase of a hybrid car is more and more likely to put its driver into a privileged class of motorist with access to carpool lanes, special parking spots and other perks -- the kinds of things most drivers can only dream about when they're stuck in traffic or circling a block.

But many commuters and some transportation experts say the generous incentives intended to reduce oil consumption and help clean the air are working too well and are in danger of becoming unfair, unnecessary and, ultimately, counterproductive.

...An incentive -- whether it's access to a carpool lane or cut-rate financing -- still aims to put another car on the road, and that undermines efforts to encourage carpooling.

...According to statistics maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, the cleanest and most popular hybrids, the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic, emit half as many smog-causing pollutants as a standard Honda Accord, Ford Explorer and other popular models.

In most cases, that clearly favors hybrids. But in carpool lanes, where two or three passengers are normally required, the benefits are negated. A car such as the Explorer with three people in it, for instance, pollutes less than three hybrids with solo travelers.
(14 February 2006)
Eric de Place recommended this article in a post at Gristmill. He writes:

There's growing reason to believe that those incentives for hybrids will make things worse -- actually generating more gasoline use, not less. That's because many of the incentives confuse the means for the end.

Reducing fuel use (and attendant GHG emissions, air pollution, etc.) is the goal; getting drivers into hybrids is simply one instrument in pursuit of that goal.


Senators oppose Bush cuts to coal research and development

Noelle Straub, Independent Record (Helena, Montana)
WASHINGTON - Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., questioned Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman on Thursday over funding cuts to clean coal technologies in President Bush’s proposed 2007 budget as other Western lawmakers also criticized the cuts and vowed to restore funding.

At a Senate Energy Committee hearing on the department’s budget, Thomas pressed Bodman about the proposed reductions in Bush’s budget for coal-to-gas conversion, clean coal technologies and research and development funds.

Thomas said the budget focuses on long-term projects he supports but does not address short-term energy issues facing the country. He told Bodman that private interests in Wyoming have real opportunities to implement coal-to-gas conversion technologies but that they need some federal assistance.

“I’m talking about doing something in the next two, three years to convert coal to gas,” Thomas said. “And yet there’s not much support for that in this budget.”

Bodman replied that conversion technologies are “simply a priority.”

“We can’t do everything and so this is what the process produced as a balance between where we think the real impact can be from the department, and I can’t say anything more than that,” Bodman said.
(11 February 2006)
Recommended at Sirotablog.


Viridian Linkfest

Big Gav, Peak Energy (Australia)

Bruce Sterling notes of his latest Viridan Note - "A hemorrhage of time-consuming links that have piled up in the Viridian hopper. Could take all day. Maybe you're snowed in. Enjoy!"

I'm feeling much the same way - so many links, so little time
(15 February 2006)
More articles for the truly addicted. Peak Energy has a new fix of energy-related articles every day or two.

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