Archive for June, 2007


Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

I haven’t been blogging much as I prepared for a workshop at Friends General Conference (Changing Climate Changing Selves) along with various interest groups. Maybe I’ll see you in River Falls?

After, I will be relaxing in St. Paul, MN. Hopefully I’ll get time to blog there, hopefully I’ll get time to relax and see the city and enjoy conversations with Friends.

Spoon and Cherry from Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Spoon and Cherry from Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Coal use could drop in US!

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

The US National Academy of Sciences issued a report Federal Research Needed to Determine Size of U.S. Coal Reserves and Meet Increasing Challenges in Mining Safety, Environmental Protection. From the press release:

Over half the nation’s electricity is currently generated by burning coal, but future levels of coal use will be largely determined by the timing and stringency of regulations to control carbon emissions, the report says. Coal use over the next 10 to 15 years — until about 2020 — could climb as high as 25 percent above 2004 levels, or drop as much as 15 percent below them, depending on environmental policies and economic conditions. By 2030, the uncertainty increases even more, the report says; coal use could range from about 70 percent above current levels to 50 percent below them.

Why increase funding by $10 million/year if coal use in the US might drop?

Health dangers to coal miners increase as they begin mining deeper seams, and seams over or under previously mined areas. Environmental protection and CO2 management require better (and different) plant operation. It is important to mitigate disturbances to groundwater and surface water, and minimize the risk of ground collapse over abandoned mines.

Interestingly, NAS cannot confirm (or refute) that the US has 250 years of coal at current rates of use [or about a century’s worth if coal supplies our fuel as well as our power. One reason is that no one wants to invest money in finding more coal if there is more than enough for any plant built today.]

You can read the full report online.

Added note: If coal power is reduced 50% by 2030, that still means we are building new coal power plants. This kind of plant is built to last about 30-some years, and most US plants are over 30 years old.

Distributed power

Saturday, June 9th, 2007

I’m posting a question on distributed power — do I understand it?

Amory Lovins extols distributed power; see Nobel prize winner debates future of nuclear power. (Note: Dr. Burton Richter, winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in physics, took the pro-position.) Sometimes I think that’s the problem that Lovins wants to solve, not climate change, not the other incredible health and environmental damages of the energy we use. The micropower Lovins mentions? Much of the 100 GW in coal power China installed was micropower.

What do people mean when they talk about distributed power? Are they picturing Alaskan villages far from the grid using wind, solar, and diesel?

If wind power is to produce more than 10 – 20% of US electricity, we will need to schlep wind power all over the US — presumably the wind is blowing somewhere, even if not here. We could use compressed air energy storage but it requires inefficient natural gas to get the electricity out of storage.

Using wind power requires huge grid upgrade, and connecting parts of the US that are not now connected. Despite Lovins contention that we would suffer grid failure less frequently, wouldn’t more connections and more use of wind power lead to more frequent grid failure?

Germany expands the grid.
Germany expands the grid.

There are other arguments against distributed grid — as weather varies around the US, it is sometimes cheaper and produces lower GHG emissions to schlep electricity north today and south in a few months.

I’m writing this, though, to make sure that I understand the arguments in favor of distributed power, so please explain!

Online GHG footprint calculator

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

Finally, a pretty accurate online calculator from (University of California) Berkeley Institute of the Environment.

Answers appear in graph form, easier to read. You can even get an idea how much emissions you are responsible for from your fish and red meat consumption.

This is new, so there are still a couple of bugs.

Erudite but easy-to-read pro-nuclear piece

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007

Someone is looking for reading material, suggested length 10 pages, but let us know any suggestions. Target audience: non-technical. Any ideas out there?

Climate change series continues this month

Friday, June 1st, 2007

The last two presentations in the series on climate change by Karen Street will be held on June 3rd and 17th, from 1 to 3 after meeting for worship, with a discussion of what government can do. Child care will be provided

What are the policy solutions that will make a difference? What do we look for in legislation? A look at Socolow wedges, cap and trade, and other policy issues. We will also examine the potential for technology, including efficiency, cellulosic biofuels, solar, wind, geothermal, and nuclear power.

Does nuclear power make sense in a carbon-constrained world? Karen will present some reasons for expanding the use of nuclear power; Joe Morris, a member of Santa Monica Meeting, will present some of the reasons against. The discussion and question period will be facilitated by Elisa Barbour of Berkeley Meeting.

Berkeley Friends Meeting
2151 Vine St.
Berkeley, CA