Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tesla Motors Launches Revolutionary Supercharger Enabling Free Long Distance Travel

Today Tesla Motors unveiled its highly anticipated Supercharger network, which is said to make long distance travel in cars totally free thanks to the use of solar energy and electricity. So far the network is made up of six Supercharger stations stretching across California, as well as parts of Nevada and Arizona.

These stations will allow the Tesla Model S to recharge for free, and each charge is said to last for an extremely long distance. This is so groundbreaking because until now one of the major drawbacks to electric cars was their inability to travel long distances on a single charge.

The charging centers that have opened so far are just the first of many, the company plans to install Superchargers in high traffic corridors across the United States, enabling fast, purely electric travel from Vancouver to San Diego, Miami to Montreal and Los Angeles to New York, all by next year. By 2015, Tesla Motors plans to create more than 100 charging stations across the United States, while also branching out into Europe and Asia.

The Supercharging stations will be twice as fast as any now in use and will be installed at highway rest stops. The rooftop canopy at many of the charging stations will carry a solar array that will place more electricity onto the local power grid, over time, than the cars use. For an undisclosed price there will also be home charging stations that will make local driving more convenient.

Elon Musk, Tesla Motors co-founder and CEO said in a press release “Tesla’s Supercharger network is a game changer for electric vehicles, providing long distance travel that has a level of convenience equivalent to gasoline cars for all practical purposes. However, by making electric long distance travel at no cost, an impossibility for gasoline cars, Tesla is demonstrating just how fundamentally better electric transport can be. We are giving Model S the ability to drive almost anywhere for free on pure sunlight.”

It is only fitting for an achievement like this to come from an organization that took on the name of Tesla. Nikola Tesla was one of the greatest inventors in history and had actually discovered methods of harnessing free energy during his lifetime. Since many of Tesla’s inventions were not politically feasible they were never invested in and were never able to truly be realized. Today’s political climate is just as treacherous and controlled as it was in Tesla’s day, and there are many people out there who are fighting to suppress this sort of energy, so the development of these charging sites will be a very interesting thing to watch. More


Wind Tops 10 Percent Share of Electricity in Five U.S. States

A new picture is emerging in the U.S. power sector. In 2007, electricity generation from coal peaked, dropping by close to 4 percent annually between 2007 and 2011. Over the same time period, nuclear generation fell slightly, while natural gas-fired electricity grew by some 3 percent annually and hydropower by 7 percent.

Meanwhile, wind-generated electricity grew by a whopping 36 percent each year. Multiple factors underlie this nascent shift in U.S. electricity production, including the global recession, increasing energy efficiency, and more economically recoverable domestic natural gas. But ultimately it is the increasing attractiveness of wind as an energy source that will drive it into prominence.

Wind power accounted for just 2.9 percent of total electricity generation in the United States in 2011. In five U.S. states, however, 10 percent or more of electricity generation came from wind. South Dakota leads the states, with wind power making up 22 percent of its electricity generation in 2011, up from 14 percent in 2010. In 2011, Iowa generated 19 percent of its electricity with wind energy. And in North Dakota, wind’s share was 15 percent.

The two most populous U.S. states are also harnessing more of their wind resources. While adding more than 900 megawatts of new wind farms in 2011 to its existing 3,000-megawatt wind capacity, California was able to increase its wind electricity share from 3 to 4 percent. Texas has the most wind installations of all the states, with 10,400 megawatts. In fact, if Texas were a country, it would rank sixth in the world for total wind capacity. Figures from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the independent service operator that delivers 85 percent of the state’s electricity, show that wind’s share of electricity in the ERCOT region jumped from 2.9 percent in 2007 to 8.5 percent in 2011. More


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Peak Oil Crisis: A New Malaise

It has now been more than 33 years since Jimmy Carter's famous "malaise' speech given in July 1979. As this speech is often cited as the beginning of the end for the Carter Presidency, no politician in the intervening years has seen fit to offer anything but an optimistic, upbeat outlook on the course of the nation and its economy.

While looking across the global landscape, it is easy to conclude that the situation in 1979 was only a shadow of what we face today. The world's economy is stuck in a slump which shows every sign of continuing indefinitely or getting worse; our climate is spinning out of control and some are seriously talking about the end of life on earth; public debts are skyrocketing and governments around the world have turned on their printing presses to "stimulate" (read inflate) their way out of current economic troubles; the internet has spread so much information to so many that much of the world is inflamed over real or imagined slights; mobs are running through the streets and bombs are going off faster than can be counted.

Closer to home we have very high oil costs. Although rarely mentioned by the media or public officials, persistent $4 gasoline, and its equivalent in other fuels and in other countries, is slowly eating the heart of our transportation and energy-centered civilizations. Despite much optimism from the financial press, realistically the outlook is not good.

"Recovery" either by Keynesian stimulus or tax cuts seems highly dubious. Some are calling for new models of economic organization, ranging from China where the key levers of economic power are in the hands of the central government to total laissez-faire. Remove all government regulation and let free enterprise run everything without government interference and minimal taxes. The real question, however, is just how does the world get itself out of all this mess? Or can it?

There is a report out of Cambridge University this week in which a leading arctic specialist says the polar ice cap will be totally melted in three or four year. This in turn will lead to the thawing of the arctic permafrost and the release of much methane – conceivably a fatal dose. This suggests that the real hardships that will come from global warming may be many decades closer than generally believed. Recent warnings from the UN about impending food shortages echo concerns that we may not have decades to argue about growth vs. the environment in the face of the reality of global warming.

For hundreds of thousands of years, the story of mankind has been one of evolving technology. At first new technologies came very slowly – tools, cutting edges, the wheel – but in recent centuries the pace of technological change has been breathtaking. While there have been great "benefits" to all this technology, it has brought with it serious problems such as overpopulation, global warming, and growing cultural conflicts. More


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Without nuclear, the battle against global warming is as good as lost

A madness is taking hold. In the same week as Arctic ice cover is recorded at its lowest ever extent, two major countries decide to reduce or eliminate their use of the only proven source of low-carbon power that can be deployed at sufficient scale to tackle our climate crisis.

Japan plans to phase out nuclear entirely by 2030, its prime minister announced today. The French president has just revealed a plan to dramatically reduce the country's reliance on nuclear, which currently gives France some of the cleanest electricity in the world.

Let me be very clear. Without nuclear, the battle against global warming is as good as lost. Even many greens now admit this in private moments. We are already witnessing the first signs of the collapse in the biosphere this entails – with the Arctic in full-scale meltdown, more solar radiation is being captured by the dark ocean surface, and the weather systems of the entire northern hemisphere are being thrown into chaos. With nuclear, there is a chance that global warming this century can be limited to 2C; without nuclear, I would guess we are heading for 4C or above. That will devastate ecosystems and societies worldwide on a scale which is unimaginable.

Given the trauma the Japanese people have suffered since the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011, it is understandable that major questions are asked of domestic politicians. But we must never forget that Fukushima has killed no one. More people in Japan recently died from an E coli outbreak due to eating contaminated pickles. Scientists also agree there will never be an observable cancer increase in the Japanese population attributable to Fukushima.

But in response to the nuclear shutdown, oil and gas imports to Japan have doubled, and carbon dioxide emissions soared by more than 60m tonnes. Any environmentalist who celebrates this outcome is not worthy of the name.

Japan is already backing away from its own climate change targets. As a participant in the UN climate negotiations last year, I watched this happen. Under the 2009 Copenhagen accord, Japan pledged to reduce CO2 emissions by 25% by 2020. The plan was to increase nuclear to half of national electricity in order to facilitate the carbon cuts, supported by an increase in renewables to 20% by 2030. To reach the same targets without nuclear is impossible; wind and solar combined meet barely 1% of electricity production today in Japan, and there is no way they can be deployed at sufficient scale to meet the gap. So the climate targets will be dropped, as Japan re-carbonises its economy.

It is nothing short of insane that politicians around the world, under pressure from populations subjected to decades of anti-nuclear fearmongering by people who call themselves greens, are raising our collective risk of catastrophic climate change in order to eliminate the safest power source ever invented. More


Friday, September 14, 2012

Flood Threat To Nuclear Plants Covered Up By Regulators, NRC Whistleblower Claims

In a letter submitted Friday afternoon to internal investigators at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a whistleblower engineer within the agency accused regulators of deliberately covering up information relating to the vulnerability of U.S. nuclear power facilities that sit downstream from large dams and reservoirs.

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Facility
The letter also accuses the agency of failing to act to correct these vulnerabilities despite being aware of the risks for years.

These charges were echoed in separate conversations with another risk engineer inside the agency who suggested that the vulnerability at one plant in particular -- the three-reactor Oconee Nuclear Station near Seneca, S.C. -- put it at risk of a flood and subsequent systems failure, should an upstream dam completely fail, that would be similar to the tsunami that hobbled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in Japan last year. That event caused multiple reactor meltdowns.

In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Huffington Post, Richard H. Perkins, a reliability and risk engineer with the agency's division of risk analysis, alleged that NRC officials falsely invoked security concerns in redacting large portions of a report detailing the agency's preliminary investigation into the potential for flooding at U.S. nuclear power plants due to upstream dam failure.

In addition to the Oconee facility, the report examined similar vulnerabilities at the Ft. Calhoun station in Nebraska, the Prairie Island facility in Minnesota and the Watts Bar plant in Tennessee, among others.

Perkins was the lead author of that report, which was completed in July of 2011 -- roughly four months after an earthquake and subsequent tsunami flooded the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, cut off electric power to the facility and disabled all of its backup power systems, eliminating the ability to keep the reactors cool and leading to a meltdown.

The report concluded, among other things, that the failure of one or more dams sitting upstream from several nuclear power plants "may result in flood levels at a site that render essential safety systems inoperable." High floodwaters could conceivably undermine all available power sources, the report found, including grid power, emergency diesel backup generators, and ultimately battery backups. The risk of these things happening, the report said, is higher than acceptable.

"The totality of information analyzed in this report suggests that external flooding due to upstream dam failure poses a larger than expected risk to plants and public safety," Perkins's report concluded, adding that the evidence warranted a more formal investigation.

In response to the report, the NRC launched an expanded investigation, which is ongoing. It also folded the dam failure issue into the slate of post-Fukushima improvements recommended by a special task force formed in the aftermath of that disaster. But in a press release dated March 6 of this year, the agency said the report "did not identify any immediate safety concerns."

The NRC made a heavily redacted copy of the report publicly available on the NRC website the same day.

"Nuclear power plant designs include protection against serious but very rare flooding events, including flooding from dam failure scenarios," the agency release noted. "Dam failures can occur as a consequence of earthquakes, overflow, and other mechanisms such as internal erosion and operational failures. A dam failure could potentially cause flooding at a nuclear power plant site depending on a number of factors including the location of the dam, reservoir volume, dam properties, flood routing, and site characteristics." More


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Studies find Earth has enough wind to power the world

(CBS/AP) - Two new studies say Earth has more than enough wind to power the entire world, at least technically.

One study, conducted by Carnegie Institution for Science and published in "Nature Climate Change," focused on the total planetary availability of wind power. The first line in the study says it all: "There is enough power in Earth's winds to be a primary source of near-zero-emission electric power as the global economy continues to grow through the twenty-first century."

Both studies looked solely at the global geophysical limits of wind power: is there physically enough wind on planet Earth to make wind power a dominant form of energy creation? The answer is a resounding yes.

Historically, wind turbines are placed on Earth’s surface, but high-altitude winds are usually steadier and faster than near-surface winds, resulting in higher average power densities

But the research looks only at physics, not finances. Other experts note it would be too costly to put up all those wind turbines and transmit energy to all consumers. As the Carnegie Institution of Science notes, "It is likely that wind power growth will be limited by economic or environmental factors, not global geophysical limits."

The studies are by two different U.S. science teams and were published in separate journals Sunday and Monday. They calculate existing wind turbine technology could produce hundreds of trillions of watts of power. That's more than 10 times what the world now consumes. More


Monday, September 10, 2012

BP selling oil fields in Gulf of Mexico ahead of Deepwater Horizon fines

BP has agreed to sell some of its Gulf of Mexico oil fields for $5.6bn as it builds up cash reserves ahead of potentially huge fines for 2010's Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The British oil giant is selling its interests in older smaller fields in the gulf to Plains Exploration & Production of Houston. BP will remain a major operator in the area.

"While these assets no longer fit our business strategy, the Gulf of Mexico remains a key part of BP's global exploration and production portfolio, and we intend to continue investing at least $4bn there annually over the next decade," chief executive Bob Dudley said in a statement.

"This sale, as with previous divestments, is consistent with our strategy of playing to our strengths as a company and positioning us for long-term growth. In the Gulf of Mexico, that means focusing future investments on our strong set of producing assets and promising exploration prospects."

On completion of the transaction, BP will continue to operate four large production platforms in the region – Thunder Horse, Atlantis, Mad Dog and Na Kika – and hold interests in three non-operated hubs – Mars, Ursa and Great White.

Analysts calculate that BP faces a fine of up to $20bn under the clean water act for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The blowout killed 11 workers and pumped about 4.9m barrels of oil into the Gulf.

Transocean, the company that owned Deepwater Horizon, said Monday that it was in discussions with the justice department to pay $1.5bn to resolve civil and criminal claims related to the US's worst offshore oil spill.

Last week the US department of justice launched a withering attack on BP over its handling of the disaster. In court papers government lawyers said BP had made "plainly misleading representations" in its settlement proposals. More


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Saudi Arabia may not have oil to export by 2030

If the headline doesn't concentrate the world's efforts to find alternatives nothing else will. Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, could become an oil importer by 2030, according to analysis by Citigroup's Heidy Rehman.

It appears Saudi Arabia consumes a quarter of all its production. In fact, on a per-capita basis, the kingdom is using more oil than most industrialised nations.
And it's going to gorge itself on even more as demand for electricity soars.

Saudi Arabia Could be an Oil Importer by 2030 — Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil producer (11.1mbpd) and exporter (7.7mbpd)," Rehman wrote.

It also consumes 25% of its production. Energy consumption per capita exceeds that of most industrial nations.

Oil and its derivatives account for 50% cent of Saudi's electricity production, used mostly (>50%) for residential use. Peak power demand is growing by 8%/yr. Our analysis shows that if nothing changes Saudi may have no available oil for export by 2030.

It Already Consumes All its Gas Production — Saudi Arabia produces 9.6bn ft3/day of natural gas. This is entirely consumed domestically. It is looking to raise gas production to 15.5bn ft3/day by 2015E, implying a 2011-15E CAGR of 12.7%. However, peak power demand is growing at almost 8% pa. We believe Saudi Arabia will need to find new sources to meet residential & industrial demand."

As a result of its subsidies we calculate ‘lost’ oil and gas revenues to Saudi Arabia in 2011 to be over $80 billion. This could rise to US$400bn by 2035,” Rehman wrote. At the domestic level, we believe the only real way to rationalize energy consumption would be to reduce subsidy levels.”

As with most things in the Gulf states, public-sector workers and most residents don't need to pay for their electricity and (desalinated) water. These are mostly subsidised as is filling up gas-guzzling SUVs. That could be costing all governments billions of dollars. More


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

UAE First "Newcomer" In 27 Years To Start Nuclear Power Plant Construction

The United Arab Emirates is the first country to start the construction of its first nuclear power plant in 27 years, since construction was started on China's first plant in 1985.

As of 30 August 2012, the Barakah-Unit 1 is reported in the IAEA Power Reactor Information System (PRIS) as "under construction".

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) poured the first nuclear safety-related concrete on 18 July 2012, after receiving a construction license from the Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation (FANR). The first unit of the APR1400 technology supplied by a Korean consortium led by KEPCO is scheduled to be in operation in 2017 and three additional units are planned to be operational by 2020.

The UAE has started its nuclear power programme to meet increasing demand for electricity. The country has been cooperating closely with the IAEA since the beginning of its nuclear energy programme.

In early 2011, the IAEA carried out an Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review Mission (INIR) to review the status of the UAE's nuclear power programme development. The INIR mission team concluded that the programme has progressed well and has been implemented in line with the IAEA "Milestones" approach. The results of the UAE INIR mission are published on the IAEA website.

An Integrated Regulatory Review Service Mission (IRRS) was conducted by the IAEA in December 2012, covering the UAE regulatory framework for all nuclear activities regulated by FANR. This mission also took into account the lessons learned so far from the accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. More


Monday, September 3, 2012

Blood for Oil

There is a close relationship between petroleum and war. James A. Paul, Executive Director of the Global Policy Forum, has described this relationship very clearly in the following words:

Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussain - 1980's
“Modern warfare particularly depends on oil, because virtually all weapons systems rely on oil-based fuel - tanks, trucks, armored vehicles, self-propelled artillery pieces, airplanes, and naval ships. For this reason, the governments and general staffs of powerful nations seek to ensure a steady supply of oil during wartime, to fuel oil-hungry military forces in far-flung operational theaters.”

“Just as governments like the US and UK need oil companies to secure fuel for their global war-making capacity, so the oil companies need their governments to secure control over global oilfields and transportation routes. It is no accident, then, that the world’s largest oil companies are located in the world’s most powerful countries.”

“Almost all of the world’s oil-producing countries have suffered abusive, corrupt and undemocratic governments and an absence of durable development. Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Angola, Colombia, Venezuela, Kuwait, Mexico, Algeria - these and many other oil producers have a sad record, which includes dictatorships installed from abroad, bloody coups engineered by foreign intelligence services, militariization of government and intolerant right-wing nationalism.”

Iraq, in particular, has been the scene of a number of wars motivated by the West’s thirst for oil. During World War I, 1914-1918, the British captured the area (then known as Mesopotamia) from the Ottoman Empire after four years of bloody fighting. Although Lord Curzon denied that the British conquest of Mesopotamia was motivated by oil, there is ample evidence that British policy was indeed motivated by a desire for control of the region’s petroleum. For example, Curzon’s Cabnet colleague Sir Maurice Hankey stated in a private letter that oil was “a first-class war aim”. Furthermore, British forces continued to fight after the signing of the Murdos Armistice. In this way, they seized Mosul, the capital of a major oil-producing region, thus frustrating the plans of the French, who had been promised the area earlier in the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement.

Lord Curzon was well aware of the military importance of oil, and following the end of the First World War he remarked: “The Allied cause has floated to victory on a wave of oil”. More