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By Russ Finley on Oct 8, 2014 with 13 responses

Renewable Energy Versus Wildlife Conservation

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Migrating waterfowl at feeding grounds via Pembina Institute

The argument goes something like this:

Real environmentalist: “We should not allow the destruction of orangutan habitat for palm oil biodiesel!”

Apologist: “In fact by displacing fossil fuels, palm oil biodiesel is helping orangutans, as well as everything else that is alive on the planet! Orangutans are at serious risk due to climate change. Some primate species are forecast to to lose more than 95% of their current ranges!” CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Sep 3, 2014 with 151 responses

Why Ethanol Free Gas is More Popular than E85

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Sign at a gas station that sells only ethanol free gasoline

Sam Avro, Energy Trends Insider editor, recently received an inquiry from a reader about the popularity of ethanol free gasoline in the Midwest. Coincidentally, I recently visited Indianapolis and had noticed a large billboard advertising ethanol free gasoline.

I thought I’d share what I found. Much to my surprise, there are about 8,000 gas stations offering ethanol free gasoline and only about 1,200 offering  E85 (85 percent ethanol). There are about ten million flex fuel cars on the road designed to burn E85. Assuming a cost of about $100 per car to make it flex fuel, and assuming that about 10% of flex fuel cars actually use E85, this would mean that consumers have paid about nine billion dollars for nothing.

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By Russ Finley on Aug 14, 2014 with 16 responses

Update on the Tesla Model S

Has anyone else noticed how much a Tesla Model S looks like a Jaguar XF (pictured below)? One of my neighbors drives a Tesla Model S. I was following him down the street a few weeks ago and heard his tires squeak three times in two blocks. Adequate acceleration to maneuver in traffic can enhance overall safety but too much acceleration potential can be dangerous, especially in the wrong hands. Not sure I’d want that temptation.

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Tesla Model S Photo courtesy of Gareth James via Flickr

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Jaguar XF Photo courtesy of Jimmy Smith via Flickr

Fast Chargers

Tesla is dead on with their promotion of fast charging stations. The ubiquitous 240 volt chargers are next to worthless simply because they take too long. A high voltage fast charger can provide a significant charge in a matter of minutes. I recently deliberately drove my Leaf beyond its range because we needed two cars to get supplies to a wedding. My plan was to stop at a charge station on the way home for a few hours to get enough charge to finish the trip. The rest of the family came home in our Prius.

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By Russ Finley on Jul 3, 2014 with 5 responses

Nissan Leaf Replacement Battery for $5,500

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Provision of an after-market battery pack is another electric car first and an all important step for electric cars to gain greater market share. Leaf owners now have the option to upgrade to a new battery (with new, more heat resistant chemistry) when the old one wears out, or of selling their car and letting someone else put a new battery in it. An electric car with a worn out battery wouldn’t have much resale value if you couldn’t replace the battery. The existence of a reasonably priced battery replacement might stimulate sales by putting at ease any prospective customers concerned about how they would sell their electric car once its battery wore out.

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By Russ Finley on May 19, 2014 with 28 responses

Road Trip–Thoughts on the Satsop Nuclear Power Station

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One of the Two Cooling Towers at the Unfinished Satsop Nuclear Power plant

My wife and I recently took a weekend road trip to view the annual shore bird migration along the Washington coast. Because it was along our route, we made a short stop in the town of Satsop.

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By Russ Finley on Apr 21, 2014 with 10 responses

Lie To Me–Keystone XL Could Mean the End for Wolves

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Photo courtesy Erin Eve via Flickr Creative Commons

I’ve gotten four email alerts related to the Keystone XL pipeline from my local chapter of the Sierra Club. They talk about wolves, water quality, and toxins, but other than one reference to the Boreal Forest storing 11 percent of the world’s carbon, they make no mention of climate change. Here’s a sampling:

Russell, can you help?‏ Wolf mothers and cubs are already cowering from helicopters dispatched to shoot them – all in the name of protecting tar sands mining sites.

The image has already been seared into my memory: wolves shot dead from helicopters to keep them away from the mines. I don’t want to see more of them dead, and I’m sure you don’t either.

Wolves are already at risk of being shot, but if Keystone XL is built, their quiet refuge in Canada will be all but decimated.

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By Russ Finley on Mar 22, 2014 with 43 responses

Will Government Mandated Corn Ethanol Consumption Ever End?

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This spring, the EPA will likely reduce the amount of corn ethanol that must be blended into our fuel supply by about 1.3 billion gallons (for a total of about 13 billion gallons) simply because our transportation system can’t absorb any more of it without exceeding a 10% blend, risking damage to cars. This is called the “10% blend wall.” Unlike beef, or chicken, gasoline, or smart phones, ethanol consumption isn’t consumer driven. In general, because consumers could care less about corn ethanol, fuel blenders also could care less about it except as an economically viable anti-knock additive in more modest quantities. They have to be forced to blend more of it by the government. Unless or until some unforeseen consumer demand arises, mandated blending will be necessary to keep the corn ethanol industry solvent.

And just as importantly, where is future growth going to come from? We can’t use all of our corn crop. This isn’t new technology. We’ve been making moonshine by distilling ethanol from fermented seeds and fruit for thousands of years. CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Feb 4, 2014 with 11 responses

Maintaining the Grid as Residential Solar Power Increases

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Photos courtesy of Activ Solar, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Avinash Kaushik, via Flickr Creative Commons

It makes little sense to be anti-solar energy in this day and age, although it does make sense to do it right. Even solar can be done wrong. Usurping farmland, forest, or pristine desert tortoise habitats for solar should be against the rules.

I was motivated to do this post by a rare, cloudless, 50 degree day in the dead of winter. CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Dec 30, 2013 with 15 responses

Volt’s 5-year ownership cost is much cheaper than Prius?

Five Year Ownership Costs for a Chevy Volt

Like a lot of headlines, the one I chose for this article isn’t true. I borrowed it from a website I found in a link in another article called True Cost Of Owning A Chevy Volt Might Surprise You.

When I went to the same Edmunds Cost To Own website used by the original article and plugged in my zip code and quotes from my own insurance company, I found the following out-of-pocket expenses including purchase price after five years at 15,000 miles per year: CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Nov 26, 2013 with 7 responses

Energy Use in the Galapagos Archipelagos

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I just spent two weeks on the Galapagos Islands. Their economies are driven almost entirely by Eco-tourism. Like the rest of us, the people of the Galapagos Islands are utterly dependent on affordable sources of energy for their existence.

As a result of a fuel tanker grounding and attendant oil spill in 2001, a consortium of energy companies from the G7, calling themselves e7 (created to bring renewable energy to developing nations), funded the installation of three wind turbines on San Cristobal, an island in the Galapagos archipelago, to minimize the amount of fuel that had to be delivered to run the generators. They also created a trust fund for maintenance and eventual removal of the turbines at the end of their twenty year life spans.

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My youngest daughter is studying in San Cristobal. Her class took a field trip to the power station shortly after my arrival. I sent along a list of questions.

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