Tag: "alternative energy"

The Wind Beneath the Waves

The $2.6 billion off shore Cape Wind project failed to meet deadlines to secure financing and to begin construction and the heavily subsidized wind farm is now going to “sink below the waves.” The millions in taxpayer subsidies already prove that this thing should not float. While other off shore wind farms are planned, falling natural gas prices are reducing the urgency to find other sources of energy.

Heavy investments by government and others into renewable energies are really counterproductive. Aggressively introducing theses sources of energy into the energy market is extremely costly to all those involved, especially the taxpayers. The energy market will openly bring in energy sources such as wind and solar, when it is ready to bring them in (if ever). So far, there has been no reason for the energy market to move away from oil, natural gas and coal.


Volcanos as a Source of Renewable Energy

Harnessing the power of lava for energy sounds like a herculean task, but a group of researchers in Iceland think they are up to the challenge. Iceland ― which already fills a quarter of its electricity needs with geothermal energy ― is looking to expand its geothermal energy production with the Iceland Deep Drilling Project.

Geothermal energy, obtained by tapping into and converting underground reservoirs of heat into energy, is touted by the U.S. government for its availability, low emissions, and long-term sustainability.

Given the technological advancements coming up and Iceland’s success, why does geothermal energy only account for 0.41% of U.S. electricity production?

The answer is simple: costs. The start-up costs for geothermal energy are extremely high.  To get a geothermal energy plant off the ground in the U.S. costs a minimum of $2500 per installed kilowatt. In comparison, construction costs for a coal-fired power plant range between $1,000 and $1,500 per installed kilowatt, and construction costs for a gas-fired power plant range from $400 – $800 per kilowatt.

The high start-up costs are not just limited to the U.S. The exploratory borehole for the Iceland Deep Drilling Project cost a minimum of $22 million. The Geothermal Energy Association estimates that the average cost of a 20-megawatt geothermal power plant stands around $30 million.

Until renewable energy sources ― and geothermal energy in particular ― can be cost efficient without large government subsidies, they will remain a drop in the bucket for U.S. energy production.

Renewable Energy Protest Deflates

Demonstrators in Madison, Wisconsin protested outside the Public Service Commission for more renewable energy in the state last week.

Demonstrators gathered outside the Public Service Commission to protest against a requested rate structure change by the local utility company, Madison Gas and Electric (MG&E). During the protest, they decried the use of “dirty coal” and called for more renewable energy. To make their point, they had a blow-up coal power plant that was running on a fan powered by wind and solar charged batteries. Before the protest was over, however, the batteries died and their solar panel could not produce enough energy to keep the power plant standing upright.

– from the MacIver Institute

The Gas Tax

The American Petroleum Institute’s Gasoline Tax interactive map allows users to check out each state and the United States average state excise tax, other state taxes/fees, total state taxes/fees and total state and federal taxes.

Some of the states with the highest federal and state gasoline tax include:

  • New York — 68.90 cents
  • California — 68.18 cents
  • Connecticut — 67.70 cents
  • Hawaii — 66.85 cents

Some of the states with the lowest federal and state gasoline tax include:

  • New Jersey — 32.90 cents
  • South Carolina — 35.15 cents
  • Oklahoma — 35.40 cents
  • Virginia — 35.68 cents
  • Missouri — 35.70 cents

The federal government adds 18.40 cents per gallon in each state. That federal tax is higher than the total state taxes for the states of New Jersey, South Carolina, Virginia, Oklahoma and Missouri.

High gasoline taxes from the states and federal government have a huge impact on gas prices at the pump. This is a heavy burden that the consumers are having to bear the brunt. The federal government and many states feel that the increased revenue from the gas tax is beneficial and that it will encourage less gasoline consumption and more alternative fuels/transportation. However, these excessive and usually unnecessary taxes directly hurt American consumers and damage the United States economy. This tax should be a really low flat tax across the nation creating a fairer and less burdensome tax, while still generating revenue for the states and/or federal government.

How We Misjudge Costs and Benefits with Energy Efficiency

Imagine walking up to someone sitting in a Lexus and offering a $5-an-hour job flipping burgers. How many people do you think would accept? Probably none.

Yet, I often see people waiting at Costco for half an hour to save 10 cents a gallon on gas. Even for the owner of an SUV with a 20-gallon tank the savings amount to two dollars, or just $4 an hour. The burger-flipping job would be a better use of their time!

A key mistake people make when it comes to energy efficiency is overestimating the benefit of some strategies, spending a dollar to save a dime.

For example, some argue we need so-called green construction standards like LEED. Government mandates, like LEED rules, are very expensive, and even when they do save energy (which they often do not), the savings realized are so small they rarely make sense.

Still, some argue if it can be shown to work anywhere, it can be made to work here. But in the U.S., electricity costs about one-third what it does in Germany, even when you include the environmental costs. Expensive green buildings may make sense in Germany but are often entirely wasteful here.

If consumers want to save money, they should do a careful analysis of the costs and savings when seeking to be more efficient. If our goal is to help the environment by saving energy, we can afford to be less picky, but it would probably be better simply to buy renewable energy credits or invest in carbon-reduction projects. We’ll get more environmental bang for the buck.

My advice is to skip the gas line, pay a few cents more and spend the day at the beach.

from the Wall Street Journal

Thorium’s Potential to Deliver Safer, Cleaner and Cheaper Energy

Nuclear energy promised to generate low-cost electricity safely, with fewer environmental and health problems from air and water pollution than fossil-fueled power plants. For a number of reasons, that promise has not been fulfilled.

However, in addition to new designs for uranium-fueled reactors, efforts are underway in a number of countries to develop commercial nuclear reactor designs that could solve many of the problems encountered with existing uranium-fueled nuclear power plants. This new generation of reactors will be fueled by thorium (Th-232) instead of uranium (U-235).

Thorium-fueled reactors have a number of advantages over uranium reactors, including less potential for nuclear proliferation and less waste.

  • Thorium is three times as abundant in the Earth’s crust as uranium, and there are thorium-bearing ores identified in many countries.
  • Currently operating nuclear reactors are inefficient in extracting energy from uranium. Only about 3 percent of the uranium in the rods is consumed before the rods must be replaced, due to the buildup of fission byproducts in the rods.
  • Fission byproducts in liquid thorium salts, by contrast, can be removed and reprocessed to produce additional fuel stock, while the reactor continues to operate.

Thorium-based reactors have been shown to be more economical than uranium-fueled reactors. In contrast to conventional light water reactors using uranium, according to a 2013 report from the Bellona Foundation:

  • The capital costs of thorium reactors would be lower than conventional nuclear reactors; a 1 gigawatt (GW) thorium power plant would cost at most an estimated $780 million in comparison to capital costs currently of $1.1 billion per GW for a uranium-fueled reactor.
  • Less manpower would be required to operate the plant; for a 1 GW power plant, staffing costs may decrease from $50 million to $5 million.
  • Less radioactive waste is produced, perhaps one-tenth as little, by volume; thus, nuclear waste disposal for a 1 GW thorium power plant would cost an estimated $1 million or even less per year.

There are technical challenges in designing an efficient thorium-fueled nuclear reactor, but current development efforts underway will likely lead to a commercially practical system. The relative abundance, greater safety and lower cost of thorium-fueled systems could help fulfill the promise of nuclear power.

Hydropower has Renewable Energy Flaws

Out of all the renewable energy options, hydro powered dams have been a very popular option. Many see it as one of the cleanest options which produces lots of energy. However, dams and reservoirs are currently — and have been for a long time — caused all kinds of harm to the environment and water eco systems.

Some of the damage the hydropower effort have had includes:

  • Contributing four percent of all human emissions.
  • Pollute water ways.
  • Blocks the natural developments of the rivers, waterways and the eco systems.

Efforts are under way to remove dams and other water structures that are already having a positive effect on the water eco systems in those regions. There is no need to let government make the push for renewable energy, when there are already plenty of resources available, even in the United States.

Texas Wind Energy’s Expensive Wait and See Experiment

Wind energy subsides and other public incentives cause “Wait and See Experiment” in Texas. The state is now home to one of the largest sources of wind energy production in the world.

  • Texas has invested about $7 billion in a sprawling wind power network that spans nearly 4,000 miles.
  • Alternative energy projects have benefited mostly from generous public investment, including direct subsidies and tax incentives.
  • More private firms, like Google, Walmart and Microsoft have also channeled resources into the emerging wind sector.
  • Analysts point out that the slow trickle of capital reflects the maturing of wind power, even as alternative energy still remains very reliant on public support.
  • T. Boone Pickens was forced to abandon a massive wind farm initiative in 2012 knocking him off Forbes 400 list of richest Americans the very next year.

Texas is taking a huge risk by diving so deep into wind technology. Relying on the alternative energy subsides and other incentives, many investors in this new technology are running a risk of entering too early into the market or competing in the wrong market all-together. Subsides can have a negative impact to the economy by working against free markets.

Creating Reliance on U.S. Energy

The world that exists today is one of open barriers, and intertwined economies that become necessary in foreign policy. The more entwined economies get the more resistance there is for justifying conflict with each other. It just gets too expensive. It is one of the reasons that a conflict with China is not very realistic despite what some media outlets may say. The best way to accomplish this is through trade of a good, and the U.S. is producing the most sought after good of all, energy. Many countries around the world are recognizing the need for U.S. energy, and Chile just became the latest.

Where many Latin American countries such as Brazil and Venezuela are rich in natural resources, Chile is actually the poorest boasting a measly 150 billion barrels of oil and 3.46 billion cubic feet of Light Natural Gas (LNG). In order to cover for the shortfall the country is turning to light natural gas, and the United States to fill the gap. In the 1990’s the primary provider of LNG for Chile was Argentina and was delivered through a pipeline. Due to domestic shortages in Argentina, Chile had to change its reliance to countries that were further away such as Qatar, Yemen, and Equatorial Guinea.

By creating lasting economic relationships with the Americas, the U.S can help meet their energy needs. In addition to energy requirements, Latin American Counties such as Chile are also making changes to its environmental regulation that resembles the policy of the United States.

central and south american nat gas

LNG is proven to provide a tremendous amount of benefits when comparing to coal and oil. LNG is cheaper than oil, and produces little to no carbon dioxide emissions which have come under fire lately in the U.S. government. While the process of fracking does leak the greenhouse gas methane the amount of leakage varies from 2 to 8 percent. According to a study by the Recorder, if methane leakage is 2 percent then after 55 years the amount of carbon reduced compared to coal use is a staggering 55 percent! While 8 percent leakage of methane still produces a benefit of 17 percent reduction over a course of 100 years. This brings up an extremely interesting scenario; can the U.S. cut the reduction of the planet’s carbon dioxide levels from exporting LNG?

global carbon dioxide emissions

Many in the U.S. continue to go on and on about solar and wind energy, when the facts are simple. The technologies cost billions in research still, do not provide the power that existing energies do, and increase costs for consumers. Even worse to imagine is that these problems are in the U.S. Where we have the most advanced technology in the world, rational thinking would prove that other countries around the world will continue to use both coal and oil.

That is where natural gas exportation comes in. By allowing exports of natural gas, and increasing relations with several countries that have high carbon dioxide emissions, we can curb emissions through the free market. It is a fairly easy thing to accomplish within the government as well. The country would be able to sell cheap, affordable clean energy, and reduce emissions while increasing quality of life in developing countries. It is past the time of easing economic regulations; in order to create prosperity in these countries it must be done utilizing free trade.

The U.S. is at an amazing time in its history where unemployment has hit a 6 year low and 200,000 jobs are being created monthly due to our spur in energy innovation. Markets around have a pressing need for our own labor capital and energy resources. It is time to meet that need.

Solar Roads: Driving to the Future

If Back to the Future is any indication of our real future, we won’t need roads. As cool as it would be to have flying cars, our world is stranded with realistic ideas. This is why a couple from Idaho has designed a solar roadway that does more than just support our infrastructure.

The idea of a road paved with solar panels has been kicked around for years, but no one has been able to efficiently create a proper alternative to current roads. These Hexagonal Solar panels are linked to create a network that;

  • Absorb sunlight to produce energy through means of the built in solar panels to provide electricity for homes and businesses.
  • Can replace power lines as the main means of transporting electricity throughout cities.
  • Withstand 250,000 pounds. Currently, the Federal weight limit for heavy vehicles is 80,000 pounds.
  • Utilizes LED technology to illuminate roadways and safety lines. Considering a study done in the United Kingdom, LED marker illumination can reduce nighttime accidents by 70%.
  • Has the ability to melt ice and snow using heat generated from stored electricity. On average there are 467 deaths due to icy conditions each year.
  • Also can change shapes, creating additional handicap spots if all remaining are taken.

Smart roadways are a natural technological step in the advancement of infrastructure, and can be considered a priority in advancing cities. The team that created the tiles is beginning with a parking lot as the initial public trial, and then will move on to bigger projects. The Federal Highway Administration has acknowledged the product and guided them in establishing the ability and store and move storm water through the tiles.

According to their Indiegogo, they are attempting to stay away from large investors as a way to keep jobs in America, which is similar to the strategy, piloted Elon Musk and Tesla. While this project is revolutionary, it is important to keep in mind the economic risks with a new technology. In order to advance, the environmental and economic risks must be weighed effectively and allowed to expand to the market naturally. This blogs’ current advice would be to;

  • Work with toll companies to create a private grid that can expand the technology, while allowing the company to sell off the power generated by the tiles.
  • Remain unsubsidized by the government, and instead work with American companies such as Google and Tesla to keep jobs in the United States.
  • Attempt to rework the tiles as roof shingles, in order to reduce the amount of upkeep involved in roads and allow consumers to purchase them independently. Roadways are generally government expenditures, and it would leave no access to independent homes aside from driveways and patios.

Keeping renewable energy in the hands of the private sector is an important task going forward if renewable and sustainable technologies are to continue advancing.