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One for the Good Guys

Mar 04, 2010
Update: March 3, 2010: Let the Rehabilitation Begin!
The first piece on saving Vermont Yankee to appear in the Times2 did so barely a week after the Vermont Senate vote to deny Entergy their bid for a 20-year extension to operate the plant. The focus this time: What will become of poor, doughty Vernon, VT, when the plant shuts down in 2012?

Originally published February 26, 2010
The corporatocracy which, today, controls the nation’s social, political, and economic life, for the apparent sole purpose of filling top management’s pockets (customers, stockholders, and workers be damned), took a small hit a couple of days ago when the Vermont Senate voted 26-4 to deny Entergy a 20-year extension to run the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. It is the first time in 20 years that the public or its representatives has decided to close such a facility.1

By all accounts, including Entergy’s, Vermont Yankee (VY) is a mess. The 38-year-old plant is leaking radioactive tritium, one of its cooling towers collapsed in 2007, plant owners lied—excuse me, misspoke—in testimony before two state panels regarding the condition of the facility, and Entergy has been attempting to elude their decommissioning responsibilities by selling off VY and a few other aging facilities to a new corporate entity of their own devising.

One VT senator, otherwise relatively sympathetic to the nuclear industry, opined to the effect that Entergy could not have done a better job of shooting themselves in the foot had their upper management been infiltrated by anti-nuclear activists.

Entergy vows to fight on, and I am sure they will have powerful backers. Check with us in March 2012 to see if VY will really have to close its doors. Knowing the state of the nation, my heart is with the people of Vermont, but my money is on Entergy.

No one wants to see the lights go out, and nuclear energy is undeniably essential to avoiding that event today. However, it is a suicidal means of generating electricity, and our leaders must not only set a priority on promoting the necessary development of green technologies, but they must be seen to be doing so. In that context, Obama’s recent boosterizing of the nuclear industry was yet another disappointment to his quickly vanishing base.
1 Vermont Senate Votes to Close Nuclear Plant, by Matthew L. Wald, from the New York Times, Feb 24, 2010, accessed Feb 25, 2010.
2 Town Finds Good Neighbor in Nuclear Plant, by Katie Zezima, from the New York Times, Mar 3, 2010, accessed Mar 4, 2010.
tags: Electricity

Guest Editorial: Shai Agassi

Apr 24, 2009
We'll take the day off and let Shai Agassi talk to you about A bold plan for mass adoption of electric cars. This TED Talk will show you how whole countries will be driving emission-free electric vehicles by 2020. “Persuasive; Inspiring; Ingenious!”
tags: Electricity

Blow Wind, and Crack Your Cheeks!

Jul 17, 2008
Wind power currently provides a meager 1% of U.S. electricity needs. The U.S. Department of Energy would like to see that number increase to 20% by 2030. The Congressional Research Service (CRS), a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, has released a report entitled Wind Power in the United States: Technology, Economic, and Policy Issues.

The CRS is a non-partisan research service that produces reports for members of Congress and their committees. Their reports are not automatically made available to the public, and there is some controversy over whether they should be and, if so, through what venue. The CRS spends $100 million of taxpayer money each year enlightening Congress, and some of those taxpayers believe they are entitled to a peek at the non-classified results. At present, the reports come to us through a variety of individuals and services, including (to name but two) OpenCRS, a project of the Center for Democracy & Technology, and the Federation of American Scientists through their Secrecy News Blog or at their page dedicated to CRS reports.

The 53-page report is a good starting point for understanding where we have been, where we are, and where we are going with wind power. The essential challenge of the technology involves the capture, storage, and distribution of the electricity produced, though various other issues—aesthetic, economic, and political— also provide tough nuts to crack on the way to making wind a significant contributor to our enormous electricity needs. However, it's not a question of if but of when it will do so, and now is a good time to get a working knowledge of the issues involved.
tags: Electricity

Read the OpenCRS Summary and Download the Report

King Coal

Jul 15, 2008
In 2007, the U.S. produced 1,145,600,000 tons of coal. That's over 2 trillion pounds of the stuff, and we've been digging more or less that amount out of the earth for years. We burn most of it, primarily to produce electricity, sock some of it away against a rainy day, and export a bit.

Appalachia still produces a hefty portion of our coal (377 million tons in 2007), but a lot more of it comes from the Western states (621 million tons), with the rest coming from in between.

In 2007, we relied on coal-burning plants to generate 50% of our electricity; nuclear power and natural gas generated about 20% each, and the rest was generated by hydro (6%) and "petroleum and other," (3.6%) where I guess they tuck away solar and wind. It is sobering to realize how little of what we depend on so heavily comes today from renewable sources such as hydro, wind, and solar.

Meanwhile, scores of new coal-fired electricity generating plants—perhaps the worst contributors to global warming—are in various stages of production, including over 100 in proximity to our national parks, as reported in this July 8 ATN News Item.

These numbers come from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), an arm of the Department of Energy. You can read the 2007 report, and access earlier ones, at the link below.
tags: Electricity

Read the Report

The Next Wave

Jun 17, 2008
In theory, the world's electricity needs could be met with just a tiny fraction of the energy sloshing around in the oceans. (From "The coming wave")

Harnessing that power, however, is another matter. Solar and wind technologies, the other two darlings of the green movement, are much further advanced and are improving at a faster pace. Wave power, though in its infancy, nevertheless shows great potential and there are many very smart people working out the bugs.

In "The coming wave," the Economist has provided an excellent summary of the state of wave power in the world—past, present, and future. Read about Salter's Duck, the Pelamis device, and the Aquabuoy, among other projects. With the vast potential of inexhaustible power from oceans well distributed to deliver it to every corner of the world, it's only a matter of time before this infant technology comes of age.

One worrisome fact: All the players in the R&D wave power game are from countries other than the U.S. Surf's up, people. Let's get moving!
tags: Electricity

Read the Article

Well, Blow Me Down!

Jun 06, 2008
Here Comes Wind Power. In a report released by the Department of Energy and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, "wind projects accounted for 35 percent of all new electricity-generating capacity added in the U.S. in 2007, and more than 200 GW (gigawatts, or billion watts) of wind power are in various stages of development throughout the country."
tags: Electricity

Read the Report

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