Consumer Energy Report is now Energy Trends Insider -- Read More »

By Russ Finley on Sep 16, 2012 with 11 responses

Nuclear Energy Deniers

I was rebutting a comment I found under a CER News Desk article titled: Utility Head: Japan Can’t Afford Renewable Energy, Needs Nuclear when I realized I had generated enough material for an article.

Although not a single talking point in the comment I addressed is novel (few thoughts are), and not a single footnote to a source was proffered, the comment serves a larger purpose by providing me an opportunity to express some critical thought.

I don’t want the commenter to feel singled out and welcome him to continue to participate, but I would also like to suggest that he take the time to provide links to sources so the audience knows who the originators of the talking points are and so they can assess the quality of the sources of the information he passes along. I know of one site that does not allow unsourced comment. I don’t think this is necessarily a good idea because it has a tendency to spill over into censorship. They do this in an attempt to keep the comment field from becoming a come-one-come-all liar’s club (although most people are inadvertently passing along information they don’t realize — or care — is bunk).

Here is the link to my comments.

CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Aug 26, 2012 with 1 response

Unplug — Discover The Forest

I’ve seen several billboards around town with this image. I also saw it in an ad here on Consumer Energy Report. They’re part of a joint venture between the Ad Council and the USDA Forest Service. Here is a list of organizations supporting it. Every advertising executive knows that half of their money is being wasted. They just don’t know which half it is. In this case, I hope none of it is being wasted.

CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Aug 16, 2012 with 19 responses

Is the U.S. Military Presence in the Middle East a Subsidy for Big Oil?

Should the cost of maintaining a military presence in the Middle East be viewed as a subsidy to oil companies? This idea has been  repeated often enough to become unchallenged conventional wisdom codified by the “NO WAR FOR OIL” bumper sticker.

It has been argued that the Gulf and Iraq wars were not necessary to keep the global price of oil stable and neither is our continued military presence in the Middle East. There is no way to rerun the experiment to see what the world would look like had we not had the Gulf and Iraq wars. My guess is that the Gulf war was probably a smart move, the Iraq war,  maybe not so smart.

CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Jul 25, 2012 with 5 responses

Ethanol Saved Consumers $134,400,000,000 in 2011?

 

Back in 2009 two researchers released a study that suggested corn ethanol was saving American’s money at the gas pump. I wrote to one of the authors asking for clarification. His reply:

In the paper, we conclude that evaluated at the average ethanol production level of 01/1995-03/2008, the wholesale gasoline prices is $0.14/gallon lower. The change of retail gasoline prices varies across refinery markets from $0.29-$0.40/gallon.

CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Jul 12, 2012 with 26 responses

The Exaggerated Promise of Renewable Energy

The continued existence and expansion of human civilization is wholly dependent on affordable sources of energy. The latest study just released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (an organization that exists to study and promote the viability of renewable energy) suggests that it may be possible to get 80% or so of our electric power from renewable sources by 2050. The study also (inadvertently) provides evidence that renewable energy will be a minority player in humanity’s energy portfolio.

The results may disappoint my fellow solar enthusiasts because it suggests that only 13% of our electric energy will come from solar. Distributed solar enthusiasts (who favor photovoltaic solar panels on rooftops) will be further disappointed because half of that 13% will come from water-sucking centralized concentrated solar thermal power plants, many located in desert ecosystems, leaving only about 6% for solar panels on rooftops, of which many will probably not be on rooftops but in centralized power plants, probably displacing ecosystems or crops.

CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Jun 27, 2012 with 9 responses

Hydropower: Dammed If You Do

No, that is not a picture of cooling ponds inside a nuclear reactor. Those are dust covers on the turbines at the Grand Coulee dam. According to the photographer, you have to pass through a metal detector to get this far into the power plant. Come to think of it, the nuclear power industry could probably improve their public image with similar tourist photo ops of their spent fuel cooling ponds.

There’s an article over on Mongabay about a protest of the  Belo Monte Dam project in Brazil:

 Belo Monte will flood more than 40,000 hectares of rainforest and displace tens of thousands of people. The project will impede the flow of the Xingu, which is one of the Amazon’s mightiest tributaries, disrupting fish migrations and potentially affecting nutrient flows in a section of the basin.

CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Jun 19, 2012 with 6 responses

First Vehicle to Home Power System in North America

Nissan issued a press release earlier this month to announce that Power Stream will be using the V2H system with its fleet of Leafs in Canada. This device acts as a charger and as a power inverter, allowing 4 hour charges instead of 8 hours as well as the capacity to power a home for a couple of days in the event of a power outage. Apparently your Leaf has to have the CHAdeMO protocol quick charge port which was an option on the 2012 cars. The price seems about right to me costing roughly twice as much as the charge stations now installed in homes but that’s still cheaper than a charge station and a backup generator system. And if… Continue»

By Russ Finley on Jun 4, 2012 with 21 responses

Will Fukushima Save the Bluefin Tuna?

From a story in Forbes titled Fukushima Radiation May Actually Save Bluefin Tuna:

If the governments can’t help, maybe bad publicity will [save the bluefin tuna]. Nicholas Fisher, the study’s co-author and a marine biologist at Stony Brook University in New York, says when he first saw the levels of radiation in the fish, caught off of San Diego, “my first thought was ‘this will do more for the conservation of this endangered animal than nearly anything else could.’”

Which is also the first thing I thought when this story broke. And yes, I know that isn’t a picture of a bluefin tuna.

 There are natural levels of radioactivity in the tuna, and Fukushima has only added the slightest amount more. (The report can be found here.) “But people are often anxious about radioactivity,” says Fisher.

And this may be what ultimately benefits the Bluefin. The fish, Madigan points out, is not harmed by the radiation that they collected while swimming through the spill waters off the coast of Japan after the tsunami.

But the public perception of the fish may be contaminated for good. And that may keep it out of restaurants.

CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on May 24, 2012 with 2 responses

Multidisciplinary Problem Solving

I made a trip to my forest property last weekend where I took these photos. The rough skinned newts had returned to the lakes from their terrestrial stage winter wonderings, just in time to avoid their main predators, the snakes that were hibernating. The frog tadpoles were plentiful in seasonal ponds that will eventually dry up, concentrating their numbers into smaller and smaller areas. The snakes and herons will have a heyday then, but that is part of the reproductive strategy. Like with salmon, the tadpoles will be too numerous to all be eaten. The snakes will get full way before the tadpoles are gone. The emerald tree frogs only lay eggs in ponds that dry up in the summer because they don’t have major predators in them like fish and turtles. Nature, what remains of it, always amazes me.

CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on May 20, 2012 with 12 responses

Plug-in Solar Panels — Do They Make Cents?

An article over on CNET titled Got a deck? Solar panels now a plug-in appliance, suggests that you can buy from Amazon.com a 1,000 watt solar panel system that plugs into your wall outlet for only $1,099. I thought they were really on to something until I read the comments:

This article was written very poorly. At first read, it would appear that the 1,000 watt system costs $1,099.95, but going over to Amazon, that is just the price of one panel whose rating is 240 watts.

At about $4.58/watt, these panels will not produce electricity to pay for the finance charges alone. You will not be able to recover your investment on this, as the panels deteriorate through time.

If the 1,000 watt system costs $1,099.95, it would truly be disruptive as it will be feasible. But no, this solar PV will not cut it, still too expensive. If they can just sell these to about $2/watt, then it would be very worthwhile, given that you will mount these yourself.

CONTINUE»