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Renewables - May 6

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Power station harnesses Sun's rays

David Shukman, BBC
...From a distance, as we rounded a bend and first caught sight of it, I couldn't believe the strange structure ahead of me was actually real.

A concrete tower - 40 storeys high - stood bathed in intense white light, a totally bizarre image in the depths of the Andalusian countryside.

Solar thermal power station Image: BBCThe tower looked like it was being hosed with giant sprays of water or was somehow being squirted with jets of pale gas. I had trouble working it out.

In fact, as we found out when we got closer, the rays of sunlight reflected by a field of 600 huge mirrors are so intense they illuminate the water vapour and dust hanging in the air.
The effect is to give the whole place a glow - even an aura - and if you're concerned about climate change that may well be deserved.

It is Europe's first commercially operating power station using the Sun's energy this way and at the moment its operator, Solucar, proudly claims that it generates 11 Megawatts (MW) of electricity without emitting a single puff of greenhouse gas. This current figure is enough to power up to 6,000 homes.

But ultimately, the entire plant should generate as much power as is used by the 600,000 people of Seville.
(5 May 2007)
Contributor SP writes:
Worth visiting the BBC site/link just for the pictures.


Wind Farms May Not Lower Air Pollution, Study Suggests

Matthew L. Wald, NY Times
Building thousands of wind turbines would probably not reduce the pollutants that cause smog and acid rain, but it would slow the growth in emissions of heat-trapping gases, according to a study released Thursday by the National Academy of Sciences.

The study found, however, that officials who will decide whether to build the turbines have few tools to measure the devices’ impact on air quality, on animals like birds and bats, and on wilderness preservation.

In fact, making good decisions about wind energy may be difficult, said David J. Policansky, the study director, because negative effects occur locally while benefits are probably regional or national.

The report observed that unlike European countries, “a country as large and geographically diverse as the United States and as wedded to political plurality and private enterprise is unlikely to plan for wind energy at a national scale.” But it said developers and local officials got little federal guidance about how to make such decisions.
(4 May 2007)


Sacrificing Our Children to the 'Corn God'
Ethanol May Not Be the Miracle It's Made Out to Be

John Stossel and Andrew G. Sullivan, ABC News
...The idea that ethanol is the answer is a myth. Ethanol is one thing that both Republican and Democratic candidates agree on this campaign season. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani voice their support for the corn-based fuel, and Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Barack Obama, D-Ill., and former Sen. John Edwards want the government to subsidize ethanol production. According to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, "The economics of ethanol make more and more sense."

Ethanol "makes sense" to these politicians because, they say, it's a clean and renewable energy source that will slow global warming, protect the environment and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Plus, it just sounds good: Ethanol's made from corn, and we grow corn, so it just seems natural.

But if ethanol made so much sense, we wouldn't have to subsidize it or mandate its consumption. Jerry Taylor of the Cato Institute said, "If you can make a profit in this economy by putting something on the market, the government doesn't need to put a gun to your head."

But ethanol producers do need the help of government subsidies if anyone is going to buy their product, because without subsidies it would cost much more than gasoline. And critics point out that the idea that ethanol is good for America in terms of energy prices, foreign policy or the environment is a myth.
(2 May 2007)
Familiar theme to Energy Bulletin readers. What's unique is this piece is co-authored by Libertarian John Stossel, who is strongly criticized by environmentalists.


The Book That Oil Companies Don’t Want You To Know About

Randy White, Lawns to Gardens
America, if you are tired of high prices for fuel, food, and just about everything else, boy do I have the book for you. David Blume’s Alcohol Can Be A Gas is nothing less than the playbook for saving America. You heard me right. This is it - the plan to free ourselves from our present oil challenges while raising the standards of living for citizens at the same time. The book points the way with facts, figures, and real life examples of post-petroleum businesses that can be had in the alcohol fuel revolution. The realization that a small scale producer is now a viable economic possibility and that after peak oil, alcohol will be as good or better than money based on oil.

That’s why oil companies don’t want you to know about this book. Alcohol Can Be A Gas reveals so many energy industry secrets, I’m surprised David Blume hasn’t been hauled off to a secret prison in Poland by oil company mercenaries. For over twenty five years, Blume has meticulously gathered information that will make any reader realize just how much Americans have been duped into supporting a food and energy system dependent on fossil fuel inputs, namely oil (though things are starting to look more promising). The author weaves the entire history of alcohol fuel like a thrilling novel, detailing how alcohol has been used as a renewable fuel from before Henry Ford to present day.

Blume’s detailed plan contained in the book gives Americans an equal opportunity to fix the country by ourselves. The book details everything needed to enhance local living, free ourselves from oil, create jobs, ensure food security, make money, help slow global warming, and redirect funds from oil wars.

Skeptical? I was. As a member of Portland Oregon’s Peak Oil Task Force, I know enough about Peak Oil to understand Alcohol Can Be A Gas is a top solution for truly solving many of our country’s challenges. Blume shares innovative solutions with readers, backing up his writing with research that instills inspirational pragmatic optimism for the future. Does Blume’s plan solve all of our energy problems? Probably not. But in a sea of energy despair, corrupt politicians, and oil dependency, Alcohol Can Be A Gas offers an excellent plan to follow.
(2 May 2007)
Reviewer Randy White is a marketing person - can you tell? In any case, it's good to see that David Blume's book is finally to be released. David Blume is a permaculture teacher and a long-time advocate of ethanol as a fuel. His book apparently takes a different approach than industrial corn ethanol, and so is perhaps worth a read. -BA

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