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Man with a Plan October 24, 2008

Filed under: Politics,Renewable Energy — Katie @ 6:39 pm
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Pickens plans to use more environmentally friendly resources.

Pickens plans to use more environmentally friendly resources.

Billionaire T. Boone Pickens has a proposition for America, and he’s looking for public support to back his Pickens Plan to decrease our dependency on foreign oil.  The man wants American private industries to invest a trillion dollars in establishing wind turbines around the country to use for power generation in our homes and businesses.  Oil currently used on power generation can then be used solely for transportation purposes.. fueling our cars, trucks, scooters, whatever. Pickens estimates that this plan could save the U.S. $300 billion that we annually spend on foreign oil, meaning the plan would pay for itself in about three and a half years, and says that, with the right leadership, we could expect this to successfully take off within a decade.  The plan has merits – wind energy and a focus on using natural gas instead of oil to fuel our vehicles would significantly decrease the amount of carbon emissions in the air.  But, it’s important to note that full carbon reduction potential isn’t Pickens’ goal… his main proposal is to decrease our dependency on foreign oil.  His plan has been endorsed by Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club, who says that “to put it plainly, Pickens is out to save America.” Presidential candidate Barack Obama has also said he supports parts of Pickens’ plan.  PIckens will need to garner enough political support for his plan to get passed in Congress before it becomes a reality.  Check out his site or watch the video below and decide for yourself.  


The dirty truth October 9, 2008

Filed under: Technology — Katie @ 6:05 pm
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Our oil dependency may be what fuels our cars, but it’s coal that provides half of U.S. electricity on a daily basis. Per unit of energy, coal blows oil away by emitting 29 percent more carbon emissions into the air. We know this. That’s why we’re starting to use clean coal, right?

Clean coal has been compared to healthy cigarettes.

Clean coal has been compared to healthy cigarettes.

For starters, each step involving coal is dirty and puts out emissions – mining, transporting, refining, etc. Clean Coal Technologies (CCT) only impacts the final stage once coal is used at power plants.

According to BusinessWeek earlier this summer, is that CCT is more of a buzzword than a reality. The concept of CCT is based on theoretical carbon capture and sequestration – separating carbon dioxide from the coal-burning process that would release it into the air, and instead, put it back into the ground where it came from as a liquid.

Hold on a sec.  According to Rainforest Action Network, U.S. power plants produce 1.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year.  We want to bottle these emissions and put them into the ground?  Large carbon concentrations are potentially fatal to humans – in 1986, a carbon dioxide leak killed almost instantly 1,800 people.  Whether putting this much CO2 into the ground will affect ground stability or increase the number of earthquakes is uncertain. 

Financial costs need to be taken into consideration as well.  Journalist Ben Elgin wrote that the conservative cost estimate to turn this idea into a practical reality would cost several trillion dollars, which definitely won’t help our utility bills any time soon.  How about we use that money to build transmission lines for wind turbines or solar panels for houses? 

What about energy costs?  In 2006, the EPA estimated that successfully capturing and sequestering 90 percent of coal emissions will increase the amount of energy we need to produce by 40 percent, which ultimately increases the number of pollutants in the air. 

Recent studies have been done to show the effects of what happens when carbon dioxide is pumped into the oceans as another means of disposal.  It increases the acidity of the water, and even mere absorption from the atmosphere caused sea urchin spines and mollusk shells to dissolve, giving the ocean what Discover Magazine calls a case of carbonized osteoporosis.  Obviously, if we value our sea life, dumping carbon into the ocean isn’t a solution. 

Granted, scrubbers and other technologies have made coal less dirty but clean coal will always be an oxymoron. Don’t buy into campaign promises of clean coal as a viable long-term energy plan.  BusinessWeek compared clean coal to a healthy cigarette – it doesn’t exist.


Business benefits by lowering emissions September 23, 2008

Filed under: Reports — Katie @ 9:43 pm
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UK Carbon Trust published a study yesterday about the benefits mainstream sectors of the economy have to gain from lowering carbon emissions. 

Car manufacturers have the most to gain by harnessing hybrid technologies, but also have the most to lose should they not meet future emissions standards, the report says.  We’ve already seen that impact on Hummer sales in the United States as CEO Rick Wagoner announced the possibility of remodeling or discontinuation of Hummer models earlier this summer.  

The sooner businesses realize the money that can be saved by harnessing energy-saving technologies (not to mention the money to be made as people are beginning to make lifestyle changes in favor of lowering their impact), the better for everyone. 

Business standards may be readjusted next year at a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen next year.  In the meantime, hopefully they’ll take heed of this report and begin to make industrial changes on their own accord.