June 30, 2009

The word is out

The word is out. Earlier this month the blog, "44 toxic coal ash spills to be hidden from the public," informed us that utilities were making an effort to withhold the know-abouts of ash spills and ash storage ponds from the public. Now we know the locations of these hazardous ponds. We are entitled to know this information as citizens of a free nation, who are for the most part consumers of coal provided electricity. It is imperative that we know of such hazards for the sake of our own well being. Also attached to this post is a link of a video of several people who are victims to the coal ash spill in Tennessee as a result to the TVA spill. After reading, please take a look. The video illustrates the detrimental effects of such pollution.
The Sun News
Associated Press
EPA list unveils risky coal ash sites
H. Josef Herbert
June 29, 2009

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday finally made public a list of 26 communities in 10 states where residents are potentially threatened by coal ash storage ponds similar to one that flooded a neighborhood in Tennessee last year.

North Carolina has the most sites on the list, a dozen. The largest concentration is near Cochise, Ariz., where there are seven storage ponds.

The agency said it will inspect each of the 44 coal ash sites located near communities to make certain they are structurally sound. The sites are being classified as potentially highly hazardous because they are near where people live.

"The high hazard potential means there will be probable loss of human life if there is a significant dam failure," said Matt Hale, director of EPA's office of research, conservation and recovery.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., whose Environment and Public Works Committee held hearings on the coal ash risks, hailed the EPA decision. She said making the most high-risk sites public is essential "so that people have the information they need to quickly press for action to make these sites safer." Boxer had called on the EPA to make the information available.

Burning coal produces ash, which is kept in liquid, known as slurry, in containment ponds or dams.

The EPA lists more than 400 such impoundments across the country, but the 44 singled out Monday represent those that are near populated areas, posing a higher danger.

Last year, two days before Christmas, a coal ash pond broke near Kingston, Tenn., sending 5 million cubic yards of ash and sludge across more than 300 acres, destroying or damaging 40 homes.

The incident prompted a safety review of storage ponds that hold the waste by product near large coal-burning power plants.

The storage ponds hold fly ash, bottom ash, coal slag and flue gas residues that contain toxic metals such as arsenic, selenium, cadmium, lead and mercury, although generally at low concentrations.

Until now, the national coal ash site list has not been provided to the public. Earlier this month, the Army Corps of Engineers said it didn't want the locations disclosed because of national security.

The 10 states, the number of sites and communities are:

North Carolina, 12 (Belmont, Walnut Cove, Spencer, Eden, Mount Holy, Terrell and Arden).

Arizona, 9 (Cochise, Joseph City).

Kentucky, 7 (Louisa, Harrodsburg, Ghent and Louisville).

Ohio, 6 (Waterford, Brilliant and Cheshire).

West Virginia, 4 (Willow Island, St. Albans, Moundsville, New Haven).

Illinois, 2 (Havana, Alton).

Indiana, 1 (Lawrenceburg).

Pennsylvania, 1 (Shippingport).

Georgia, 1 (Milledgeville).

Montana, 1 (Colstrip).

Two electric utilities - Columbus, Ohio-based America Electric Power and Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy Corp. - operate nearly half of the coal ash sites on the list. Spokesmen for both companies said the sites are safe.

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June 29, 2009

An Impecable Declaration

Coal River Mountain Action: June 23 Declaration
Dr. James E. Hansen

June 23, 2009

Several people asked for more information about the 23 June civil disobedience near Coal RiverMountain. We need Dickens to describe the local situation, but you can glean something from the first attachment (“June 23 Declaration”), a statement I was reading at the time we were arrested. Local pollution effects and regional environmental destruction should be enough to stop the practice of mountaintop removal. Vernon Haltom vernoncrmw@gmail.com, head of Coal River Mountain Watch, provided the details therein. Email contact for the office is coalriver@crmw.net. Website is http://www.crmw.net/. They can make good use of any support.

The bigger picture, including climate change, makes it clear that mountaintop removal, providing only 7 percent of United States coal, makes no strategic sense whatever. Better leave the coal holding up the mountains. The second attachment has the remarks I made at the rally. There has to be some leadership from the top. We cannot continue to give President Obama a pass on this much longer. On the other hand, he needs broad support in order to do what is right.

As for the local people, we found them to be very friendly, and the state police were courteous and professional. Massey employees were out in force making as much noise as possible to try to drown out the speakers at the protest. If Gandhi had the sequence right (first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win), we are already three-quarters of the way there. I noticed that it was only a handful of Massey people who were really vocal.

But that’s not to say that it isn’t a dangerous situation for the local people who oppose mountaintop removal – they are the courageous ones. Some barrel-chested noise-makers seemed pretty close to going over the edge. One of the Massey wives assaulted (sucker-punched) Julia Bonds, Goldman Prize winner for North America and co-director of Coal River Mountain Watch. I went up the mountain with Larry Gibson, who refuses to sell his property, which includes a 200-year-old cemetery containing scores of his relatives. He has been the target of drive-by shootings as recently as last week, and I saw two bullet holes in the side of his house.The FBI should be investigating. On the way down the mountain some thick-necked Massey employees gave us a vigorous one-finger salute – but others a friendly nod on passing. Larry mentioned that when Bobby Kennedy Jr. looked at the scalped mountain he said “if any foreign nation had done this to us, we would have declared war on them.” Instead what we have in Washington is (coal-fired) Senators who advocate for the abominable practice.

Don Blankenship, Massey CEO and seemingly a role model for a few of his employees, suggested he would like to “debate” me about global warming. I agreed to a discussion in which I could make a presentation (of order 40 minutes) of the science, he would have as much time (before or after), followed by discussion and interaction including audience. Mountain State University eagerly agreed to provide the auditorium. It seemed fool-proof, because if Blankenship failed to show, I could give a bit longer talk and have discussion with the audience. But, after I got a room in Beckley, staying an extra day, Blankenship decided he would only do a debate in a television studio with his favorite moderator. When Mountain State University learned what Blankenship wishes were, they withdrew permission to use their auditorium. I turned on the television news and heard: Blankenship offered to have a discussion with me, but “Dr. Hansen was still trying to check his schedule” – this was a television station that knew exactly what had actually happened. It seems that even the media is owned by coal.

When the strategic interest of the nation and the world is so clear, can a few gluttons with a few bucks really drive our policy? Does this great country not have better leadership than that? Op-ed on mountaintop removal is at http://e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2168#comments

When, in the course of their lives, people find they are being abused by those in position of power, and their children and their children’s future are being damaged by those in power, it is the right of the people, and their sacred duty, to resist those in position of power and fight for the well-being of the young and the unborn..

First, we believe that no child’s health and safety are expendable for the expediency of a dirty energy source. Marsh Fork Elementary stands as the prime example of just how far this country has gone to support its addiction to coal, and just how far Massey Energy will go to support its profit margin. The West Virginia Supreme Court has joined Governor Manchin in turning their backs on these children, subjecting them to expanded operations within 300 feet of the school, in clear violation of the law’s intent to protect the children. According to Massey’s own documents, the second coal silo and associated operations will add over three tons of coal dust to the air the children breathe every school year during their most formative years. Therefore, we demand that Massey withdraw plans to build the second silo within 300 feet of Marsh Fork.

Second, even without the second silo, the children’s health is still at risk from the coal dust they already breathe. In addition, Massey subjects the children to the daily threat of a 2.8 billion gallon sludge dam only 400 yards upstream. Massey’ 2,000-acre mountaintop removal site, with multiple violations, drains into the sludge dam and also subjects the children to dust. Community members have for years demanded a safe, new school in the children’s own community. The hard-working taxpayers of the community did not create this unhealthy situation—Massey did. Therefore, we demand that Massey fund the building of a new school at a safe location in the children’s own community.

Third, mountaintop removal destroys opportunities for sustainable economic development. On Coal River Mountain, Massey has applied for permits to remove over ten square miles of a ridge that has excellent commercial wind potential. This action would lower the mountain enough to remove this important economic opportunity. Wind energy here would also provide a source of electricity that does not put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, thereby helping to prevent the worst effects of the global climate crisis. Therefore, we demand that Massey withdraw its permits on Coal River Mountain in order to facilitate the Coal River Wind Project, which would provide a permanent source of clean energy and jobs.

Fourth, mountaintop removal destroys the life-giving water supplies that are essential to viable communities and sustainable livelihoods. As we have been again reminded in recent months, mountaintop removal subjects communities to greater risk of devastating floods. Instead of continuing to destroy mountains, Massey workers could be employed for decades minimizing the damage that has already been done. To begin this important task, Massey must not destroy one more acre of the mountains. Mountaintop removal exacerbates dependence on coal, which is largely responsible for fueling the global climate crisis. We must take immediate steps to transition away from coal as a source of electricity. Therefore, we demand that Massey stop conducting mountaintop removal operations.

We hold it self evident that these demands are just, feasible, and essential. No job or profit margin justifies Massey’s ongoing threats to the community by mountaintop removal.

Mountaintop removal ignites strong passions because local effects are obvious – pollution of air and water, effects on human health, destruction of the environment.

But another effect of coal mining, global climate change, will become important in the next few decades. Climate change will have large consequences for people who are alive today,especially children, and future generations.

President Obama speaks of “a planet in peril” for good reason. If we do not move rapidly to carbon-free energy, we will hand our children a planet that has passed climate tipping points. It will be a more desolate planet, with half or more species committed to extinction.

Burning all fossil fuels would destroy the future of young people and the unborn. Coal is the critical issue. Coal is the main cause of climate change. It is also the dirtiest fossil fuel. Air pollution, arsenic, and mercury from coal have devastating effects on human health and cause birth defects.

The science is clear. We must have a moratorium on new coal plants and phase out existing ones within the next 20 years. We should start with termination of mountaintop removal now. Coal from mountaintop removal provides only 7% of United States coal, less than the amount of coal that we export.

Why is the Administration not stopping mountaintop removal? Why do they advocate halfway measures? Because of the political clout of coal in Washington, that’s why. But coal did not elect Obama. Who helped Obama win the Iowa primary? Not coal, it was young people. Who got out the vote in the general election – it was young people – young people who had hope – hope that we could have leaders who do the right thing, not what is politically expedient.

We must raise the pressure to do what is right – for our children and the planet – not for the wallets of the few. Continued mountaintop removal defeats the purpose of the administration’s effort to fight climate change.

And mountaintop removal poisons water supplies and pollutes the air. Coal ash piles are so toxic and unstable that Homeland Security has declared that the location of the nation’s 44 most hazardous coal ash sites must be kept secret. They fear terrorists will find ways to spill the toxic substances. But storms and heavy rain can do the same.

President Obama remains the best hope, perhaps the only hope, for real change. If the President used his influence, his eloquence, his bully pulpit, he could be the agent of real change. But he needs our help to overcome the political realities of compromise.

Politicians may choose to advocate for halfway measures. But it is our responsibility to make sure our representatives feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not what some judge as “winnable”.

We must make clear to Congress, to EPA, to the Obama administration that we the people want mountaintop removal terminated and we want a move toward rapid phase-out of coal emissions. The time for half measures and caving in to polluting industries is over. It is time for citizens to demand – yes, we can.

To read this article, click here

June 28, 2009

Where to find your renewable-energy job

The Post and Courier
Where to find renewable-energy jobs
Sandy Shore
June 24, 2009

Everywhere you turn there is talk of a shift to renewable energy, of building wind farms and solar plants, of making buildings more efficient, of developing biofuels. And of billions of dollars in federal funding to help make it all happen.

This should mean a whole lot of new energy jobs. So where are they, and how do I get one?

The clean-energy sector has certainly been on a tear in recent years, and there will be a lot more money flowing in to meet government-backed demand.

Here's the "but":

The recession has walloped the clean-energy sector like every other, and no one is going on a hiring spree right now. Companies have shelved plans for wind farms, solar parks and biofuels plants.

Some have laid off workers. Others have been forced to seek bankruptcy protection.
Still, this is a growth field, and most experts agree that business will pick up later this year or in 2010.

Renewable energy provides a small fraction of electricity used today, but the wind and solar sectors are among the fastest growing in the United States.

Between 1998 and 2007, renewable energy employment grew by about 9.1 percent, according to a recent study by The Pew Charitable Trusts that was based on an extensive jobs database.

That still totals only about 770,000 jobs, or about one half of 1 percent of all jobs in the United States, according to the study. And the period under study ended before the recession struck, so it remains unclear how well the new- energy sector has fared since then.

Yet there are early signs that, in addition to government funding, venture capital continues to poor into renewable energy.

Here are some questions and answers about the industry, including what kind of jobs are available.

Q: What kinds of renewable-energy jobs are there?
A: Just about any job found in a traditional industry can apply to renewables. But
a few fields stand out.

Solar and wind turbine manufacturing plants will need assembly line workers. Mechanics, electricians and maintenance workers will be needed for wind farms, solar parks and biofuels plants. And many types of science and engineering positions will be central to the growth of the industry.

Q: How is the federal money being allocated?

The package includes about $21 billion in tax incentives for renewable-energy manufacturers, which has been a key source of funding to help them lure additional investments. About $11 billion is being earmarked for improving the nation's overcrowded, aging electricity system. Other allocations include: $6 billion, energy efficiency projects; $5 billion, weatherization program for low-income housing; $2 billion, advanced battery technology; $500 million, job training; $300 million, fuel-efficient vehicles for federal government use.

Q: What particular parts of the renewable energy sector are

A: About 65 percent of the jobs today are with companies that recycle waste, cut greenhouse-gas pollution and handle water conservation, according to the Pew study released this month. There also has been job growth this year at major utilities that are quickly adding a big solar component to the business, said Neal Lurie of the American Solar Energy Society.

Q: What kind of experience is needed?
A: Many types of jobs require little or no additional training and transition smoothly to the green industry — accountants, stock clerks, security guards or electricians are
all represented in the field.

Community colleges are offering training classes for more specialized jobs, such as solar-panel installation, wind-turbine repair and biofuels processing.

An electrician, for example, can spend a couple of weeks in training and then begin installing solar panels. A plumber can be trained in a few weeks to install solar thermal water heaters, said Roger Bezdek, president of Management Information Services.

Q: What is the salary range?
A: A study released this year by Management Information Services and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics detailed some median annual salaries:
Insulation worker, $30,800; recycling worker, $26,400; energy audit specialist, $40,300; environmental engineer, $76,000; environmental engineer technician, $42,800; microbiologist, $64,600; physicist, $93,300.

Q: What's the best way to break into the field?
A: Do a little research to figure out where your interests lie, think about your work
experience, and consider what sector is growing in your region, or in a place where you'd be willing to relocate. Volunteer at nonprofit organizations or tour businesses to see the technology and how it works.

There are a number of Web sites that list renewable energy jobs and job hunting tips, such as the American Solar Energy Society, Renewable Energy World and Sustainable Business.

To read this article, click here

Santee Cooper ignores everyone

Santee Cooper: Two years of missed opportunities
Frank Knapp Jr.

June 21,

In a guest column that ran in the Charleston Post & Courier on July 6, 2007, I said that Santee Cooper’s proposed coal-fired plant in Florence County was a bad business decision. Building the plant would be a bad, long-term investment. It would create an escalating financial burden to the consumer due to the increasing cost of generating electricity from coal. It will also hasten destruction to our small-business tourism economy as a result of carbon emissions contributing to climate change.

Subsequently, The S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce, of which I am the president and CEO, joined the S.C. Wildlife Federation in calling for the Santee Cooper Advisory Board to hold an open review of the proposed coal-fired plant. I followed that with a guest editorial in the Florence Morning News on Jan. 12, 2009. I insisted that there are better options to meet the short-term, pre-nuclear plant energy needs which include energy efficiency measures, renewable energy sources, natural gas and excess capacity from our state’s private utilities.

All of this has earned the Small Business Chamber the scorn of representatives of big business calling our position “incredulous” and our 7,500 plus member organization “a fringe group.”So what has happened on this issue in the nearly two years since
my first guest column?

Santee Cooper has spent $650 thousand for a PR campaign to scare the public into accepting the coal plant and downplaying the negative impact of carbon emissions, paid for a study that vastly over-inflated the plant’s economic impact and has held numerous public meetings to convince the public that the state-owned utility is listening.But while Santee Cooper essentially has dug in its heels for the last two years insisting on building another coal plant, private utilities have either withdrawn or been denied permits for 83 new coal plants in the United States. Attorneys general from eight other states have asked South Carolina not to build the coal plant due to
the negative consequences of its carbon emissions. Gov. Mark Sanford now opposes the plant due to the present and future cost of coal. The head of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources opposes building the plant, as does Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela. And the Chairman of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, a critic of the Small Business Chamber’s position on this issue, told a TV reporter that a new coal plant “is not the best alternative.”

The Central Electric Power Cooperative in Columbia is the wholesale power supplier for the state’s 20 electric cooperatives. It’s president and CEO, Ron Calcaterra, recently wrote that we can avoid building the new coal plant by expediting the construction of the SCE&G-Santee Cooper shared nuclear plant, investing in residential energy efficiency and having the state’s utilities collectively share their
existing and future power supplies to serve the needs of the state as a whole.

Some of the board members of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental control, which is responsible for giving Santee Cooper a needed air pollution permit, have voiced serious concerns about building the coal plant. And even Santee Cooper’s board chairman, Mr. O.L. Thompson, is reported to have said, “We don’t want to build a coal plant.”For the past two years the momentum against Santee Cooper building the coal plant has been growing. Yet the utility has remained steadfastly defensive. Mr. Calcaterra sees it clearly. “Years from now, environmentalists, regulators, politicians and utilities will mourn the missed opportunities to think big if we don’t stop the target shooting and get down to some visionary planning-together.”
It appears that only Santee Cooper and it’s shrinking band of supporters stand in the way of the needed visionary planning. Instead, the utility marches on with blinders and is promising significant rate increases over the next two years partly to fund a
down payment on the new coal plant. Only Santee Cooper knows how many more rate increases residents and businesses will face if the plant is actually

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June 27, 2009

Arkansas makes an efficient footprint

Arkansas saw a great victory this last week. Let's do the same here in South Carolina; we need a victory. The article below is important because it illustrates how the Arkansas Court of Appeals boosted energy-efficiency in the face of a proposed coal plant. We can do the same in South Carolina, let's follow Arkansas by saying no to coal.

Arkansas Online
6 judges reject PSC approval of approval of power plan Appeals panel says consent given in stages counter to law
Bill W. Hornaday

June 25, 2009

The $2.1 billion coal-fired John W. Turk Jr. power plant project under construction near Texarkana saw a major setback Wednesday as the Arkansas Court of Appeals unanimously rejected its approval by state utility regulators.

A six-judge panel ruled that the Arkansas Public Service Commission misapplied “plain language” law that requires new power plants and related facilities such as transmission lines to be reviewed all at the same time. It also found that the commission failed to adequately establish need for the plant.

The commission exceeded its authority by approving Southwestern Electric Power Co’s need to secure 1,600 megawatts of electricity five months before it approved the plant itself in November 2007 - and more than two years before permitting lines that would link the plant to the electric grid, the court found.

So far, neither SWEPCO nor the commission has decided whether to appeal the ruling to the Arkansas Supreme Court, officials of both parties said. SWEPCO can reapply for approval, as long as all Turk plant related matters are heard simultaneously, the court ruled. Hunting-club attorneys Rick Addison of Dallas and Chuck Nestrud of Little Rock applauded the court’s decision.

Nestrud said SWEPCO can no longer demonstrate a compelling need for the plant and that better locations than Hempstead County exist.

“When SWEPCO does the type of evaluation that the Court of Appeals has now required, if they follow the decision rendered today, they should pull the plug on this project,” Nestrud said. Addison said that given the court’s decision, he expects work to “cease immediately” at the plant site.

“They no longer have a valid [certificate],” Addison said. Commission attorneys argued that the commission followed a legislative directive from 2003 that calls for “resource planning” dockets to precede major proposals such as power plants, a practice that has since become routine.

Yet the court noted that until opposed by the Hempstead County Hunting Club and other landowners such practices had never been challenged.

“The mere fact that the practice has gone unchallenged cannot create a presumption that it is proper,” the court found.

The Turk plant is the centerpiece of SWEPCO’s push to meet growing demand from its 113,500 customers in Arkansas, plus 358,000 more in parts of Louisiana and Texas. Without it, SWEPCO contends that it will soon be unable to provide power to customers without long-term reliance on more costly options such as natural-gas-fired plants, whose fuel prices are historically unstable, or electricity purchased on the open market that largely comes from gas-fired plants.

Opponents contend that coal fired plants harm humans and wildlife, add to global-warming concerns and threaten pocketbooks with soaring construction costs and the prospect of expensive environmental legislation.

State and environmental authorities say the plant is near some of Arkansas’ last cypress swamps and stands of virgin timber.

Few comments were offered by the Shreveport-based company, other than to confirm that construction continued Wednesday at the 3,042-acre plant site in
Hempstead County.

“Obviously, we’re extremely disappointed in the Court of Appeals ruling,” SWEPCO Chief Operating Officer Paul Chodak said in a prepared statement.

Chodak added that the ruling appeared to address how plants are approved and “not whether the Turk plant is the best way to serve our customers.”

Two other Turk plant opponents who are appealing the plant’s air permit before the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission also voiced their approval of the ruling.

The court protected our environmental, public and economic health,” said Sierra Club regional director Glenn Hooks. “Today is a tremendous victory for Arkansans.” Audubon Arkansas Executive Director Ken Smith said a recent economic study by his group showed that Arkansas’ current and future energy needs can be met through energy efficiency, renewable fuels and natural gas.

Alternatives do exist to the coal-fired power plant but were not considered by the [commission],” Smith said. Gov. Mike Beebe, whose Commission on Global Warming recommended in September that no new coal-fired power plants be built in Arkansas until 2020, also issued a prepared statement.

Despite the September finding, Beebe told environmental groups in December that he had no authority to stop the plant.

“If the appeals court decision stands, and the applicant chooses to restart this process at the Public Service Commission, [Beebe] encourages the [commission] to give the facts of this case a full and thorough hearing and to seek input from every affected party,” Beebe said in the statement.

In its 19-page decision, the court noted that state law clearly requires “the expeditious resolution of all matters in a single proceeding for generating plants and transmission lines, not one proceeding for generating plants and another for transmission lines.”

The statute Arkansas Code 23-18-502, contains several paragraphs that define environmental quality and “alternative, renewable and nonrenewabletechnologies that are energy-efficient as key considerations in approving the construction of major newutility facilities.

It also calls for “adequate opportunityforindividualsandgroups interested in energy and resource conservation and the protection of the environmentto take part in decisions on such facilities.

By pursuing a “needs docket” that the hunting clubs did not take part in - followed by a plant docket where the need for the Turk plant was established - the commission corrupted “the spirit and letter of the law,” the court found.

Because the need for the plant had already been approved, the hunting-clubs arguments against the plant were hindered, Nestrud argued before the appeals court.

Separating the issues into three distinct proceedings subverted the clear intent of the legislature for the APSC to structure a comprehensive evaluation of proposals in order to determine the economical and environmentally safe provision of utility services to the public,” the court

In failing to properly establish need for the Turk plant, the court noted that the commission did not require SWEPCO to address alternate sites that it considered for the plant.

Such steps also are defined by state law, which requires utilities - in their environmental impact statements - to describe the “merits and detriments” of each alternate location, the energy source considered and why the proposed location and energy source were chosen, the court stated.

According to the ruling, SWEPCO’s application and environmental impact statements cited only a study conducted by engineering consultants Sargent & Lundy that identified nine plant sites - four in Arkansas, four in Louisiana and one in Texas.

The court found “particularly disturbing” that the Hempstead County site ranked seventh on the list and that the study did not list a preferred or alternate site in Arkansas.

The court noted that the Sargent & Lundy study was the only site-selection process cited by SWEPCO in the case.

But in August 2007, SWEPCO told the commission that it evaluated seven bids - four in-house and three from outside companies - before Hempstead County won out over another SWEPCO plant near Hallsville, Texas.

The Hempstead County site cost $16 million less than the Texas site, SWEPCO officials said in 2007. SWEPCO also cited public opposition to 11 proposed coal plants in Texas as another reason for building in Arkansas.

Two of the three outside proposals were rejected because they lacked a minimum net worth of $500 million that SWEPCO requested. The third asked SWEPCO to make the initial fuel purchase, and neither the bidder’s parent company nor its banks would back the proposal, SWEPCO officials said.

In a concurring opinion, Judge Josephine L. Hart took the commission’s staff and the attorney general’s office to task for what she described as their shortcomings in the case. By using only three witnesses to question SWEPCO’s application, the staff offered an “inadequate response” to the Turk plant’s application, Hart wrote.

She also described the attorney general’s role as “almost nonexistent” by raising no objection in the proceeding. She also took issue with the exclusion of Entegra Power Group - operators of a 2,200-megawatt, natural-gas-fired power plant less than 100 miles from the Turk plant - as an option to meet SWEPCO’s power needs.

“It defies understanding that the [commission] could not find good cause to allow Entegra to intervene ... especially in view of the assertion that the purchase of such power would be at a lower cost” than at the Turk plant, Hart said.

However, Entegra failed to submit a bid when SWEPCO sought proposals in 2005 for a project. Entegra argued in filings with the commission in 2007 that the financial requirements were too restrictive in the bidding process.

“SWEPCO did not provide bidders with an opportunity to offer alternative forms of credit, such as property liens or guaranteed letters of credit that could substitute for this requirement,” Entegra attorneys stated. Judge Karen R. Baker wrote the main opinion. Along with Hart, Judges Robert J. Gladwin, Rita W. Gruber, David M. Glover and Waymond M. Brown agreed with the decision.

Click here to read this article

June 26, 2009

Manufactured homes and efficiency

The State
Lindsay: Energy-efficiency starts in the home: the manufactured home
Laura Lindsay

June 20, 2009

South Carolinians have a real opportunity to reduce our energy consumption.

An estimated 355,499 South Carolinians lived in manufactured homes in 1990, and according to the 2007 U.S. Census, this growing demographic accounted for 20 percent of all South Carolinians. Many of those homes were manufactured before 1979.

Why is this important? Not until 1976 did the first federal code on manufactured housing take effect, dramatically increasing the energy-efficiency of manufactured homes. Thus, it is likely that somewhere between 125,000 and 190,000 homes in South Carolina have shells that perpetually leak air; inferior or no insulation in the walls, under the roof or and in the doors; and heating and cooling ducts that have no insulation, not to mention wiring deficiencies and other safety issues.

In 2007, the median income for families living in these “worst energy efficiency violators” was $24,000, which, depending on the number of family members, falls near the federal poverty level. These unsafe energy hogs are costing their financially fragile occupants 30 percent more in energy bills, and they also are emitting literally tons of unnecessary carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to South Carolina’s dependency on non-native, toxic coal imports.

Unfortunately, these same families could face a more pressing concern. A recent Texas study, found a 2.6 percent increase in autism rates per 1,000 pounds of mercury released in that state by its coal-fired plants, with a decrease in autism by 1 percent to 2 percent for every 10 miles distance lived from the plants. If these numbers prove true, then just looking at one toxic substance from the cornucopia released by these plants in South Carolina every year, it is possible to conclude that the man is sticking it to these rural poor twice.

We can change this. The American Clean Energy and Security Act, introduced in Congress on May 21, offers South Carolinians a chance to make substantial changes in the energy efficiency of our existing manufactured homes. The act provides for substantial rebates in the purchasing of Energy Star-rated manufactured homes for low-income families who reside in pre-1976 manufactured homes, and it encourages states and private donors to match or exceed those rebates. South Carolina has already stepped-up to the plate with a $750 income tax credit and sales tax exemption for these homes, while Duke and Progress, two of our private utilities, already provide a 5 percent rate discount for these homes.

Of course, some will argue that the $50,000 price tag on Energy Star-rated manufactured homes is too high ($15,000 more than standard manufactured homes) and that the poor cannot afford these homes. That is precisely where we step in as a community, following the examples from such states as Kentucky, Maine and Montana, which are pooling community resources to decrease their energy dependence and take the burden of high energy costs off the shoulders of the poor by helping them trade up to energy-efficient manufactured homes.

What can South Carolinians do? Demand that your representatives vote for passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, through phone calls, e-mails and letters. Then demand that your state officials and community leaders come up with a comprehensive plan to begin the hard work of helping our struggling citizens exchange pre-1976 manufactured homes with new Energy Star-rated manufactured homes. Lastly, volunteer and contribute where you can to make this plan a reality, and our state more energy efficient.

We can and must make a collective resolution to stop the criminal polluting of our environment and remove our hand in the cycle of poverty.

To see this article, click here

More mercury?

The Post and Courier
Mercury warnings affect 28 waterways
Tony Bartelme
June 24, 2009

State health officials are warning people not to eat a single bite of certain kinds of fish in 28 South Carolina waterways because of mercury and other kinds of contamination, a new roster shows.

Ten Lowcountry rivers and creeks are on this list, including the Edisto, Black and Ashley rivers. The warnings are similar to those issued in past years.

In the Edisto, people should avoid eating any bowfin, catfish, largemouth bass and chain pickerel, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

In the Ashley, DHEC warns people should not eat any bowfin. Largemouth bass should be off-limits on the Black River.

Many of these fish are bottom-feeders and tend to absorb more mercury and other contaminants than other species. Pregnant women are particularly at risk when they eat fish with high concentrations of mercury.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can cause birth defects, heart damage and other health problems. Major sources of mercury pollution include coal-fired power plants, cement kilns and incinerators.

DHEC officials measure mercury contamination in thousands of fish a year across the state to compile their fish consumption advisories.

"This information will help our citizens determine whether to keep and eat the fish they catch in South Carolina waters or release them back into the water," said David Wilson, chief of DHEC's Bureau of Water.

To read more click here

June 25, 2009

Reassure 'em while they're young

How should children be educated about the truth of coal?

Perhaps provide the opinions of advocates and critics, not just one side.

What occurred at St. Francis Elementary in Beckley, West Virginia once a week for five weeks, however, was not a two sided presentation. Third graders received presentations from the organization, the Friends of Coal Ladies Auxiliary. The presentations simply promote coal's "benefits." As mentioned in the prior blog post, lessons on coal could be considered history lessons, right? Coal is old and environmentally regressive, costing West Virginia, not benefiting it. Even Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, which sponsors the Friends of Coal Ladies Auxiliary, said that the third graders needed to know more about their environment. What environment was Mr. Raney referring to? The Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia? Because as the blog posted yesterday plainly states, coal has severely damaged West Virginia and will further hurt its environment, not be "friends" with it. So the presentations were based off of misleading information? The West Virginia Coal Association's presentations were instances of the "Reassuring Lie" not the "Inconvenient Truth," not education based on alternatives and sustainable technology, and certainly not education on energy-efficiency.

Furthermore, Mr. Raney states, “I don’t understand why any human being wants to try to take the job of another human being particularly in today’s economy." He does not understand why any human being would want to take the job of another human being... The recession, yes, has made the job market particularly difficult. However, our economy consists of market competition. If a dirty commodity, like coal, is unhealthy and its customers deny its market, consumption will naturally decrease. The utility or firm must either exit, shutdown, or cooperate with the changes within the market. The coal industry as a whole, should heed these environmental complaints and wake up from any "misunderstanding" in order to cushion the blow of the energy efficiency market. Like other fallout markets in our capitalist history, and coal advocates claim to know history, new and innovative markets consisting of lower costs will succeed. Coal is extremely costly and will fall.

As for South Carolina, I ask you to ask yourself, "What are South Carolina's 'Inconvenient Truths,' and what are South Carolina's 'Reassuring Lies?'" We know who is trying to reassure... We know Santee Cooper is trying to reassure over and over again -- jobs, prosperous communities, and more energy. Claiming the new coal plant will generate employment and fix the economy in South Carolina's low country is a reassuring lie. We need Santee Cooper to show the truth -- help bring us out of history and, rather, into the present by eliminating the reassuring lies like those taught to the third graders at St. Francis Elementary.

West Virginia Coal Association
Coal in classroom wrapping up for now
June 14, 2009

The president of the West Virginia Coal Association visited St. Francis Elementary school in Beckley.

Raney spoke with third graders as part of a Friends of Coal Ladies Auxiliary project called Coal in the Classroom. St. Francis was the first school to adopt the curriculum but it’s expected to expand to the public school system this fall.

The fifth and final Coal in the Classroom session wrapped up on Wednesday.

Now, Morgan Hylton says she has a better understanding of what her dad does for a living. "My dad is an above ground miner," Hylton said. "Learn they burn coal to make electricity if we didn’t have it we wouldn’t be able to have a lot of stuff."

Gage Blankenship says he also learned something about his family. He says his dad, uncle and grandfather work for the coal industry. "It’s fun to learn about what they do," Blankenship said.

For the past five weeks, the children have heard 1-hour presentations on the geographical location of coal in the US, surface mining, underground mining, and electricity. Yesterday, West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney talked about the jobs coal provides to state residents.

"They had an intense interest in everything that was going on," Raney said. "They were remarkably knowledgable about all aspects of the coal industry and how really important it is to their everyday life and how important electricity is."

In the hallway after he finished speaking with the kids, Raney criticized the environmental activists and their efforts to stop mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia. Last weekend 17 protesters were arrested at three mining stes across Southern West Virginia.

"I don’t understand why any human being wants to try to take the job of another human being particularly in today’s economy," he said. In light of the protests, he says the classroom program is vital.

"It’s critical they learn about the environment, it’s critical they learn about the industry they learn about the professionalism that the industry operates under," he said.

The program is scheduled to start at Stratton Elementary in Beckley this fall, but Regina Fairchild, chairwoman of Friends of Coal Ladies Auxiliary, says several schools in the region have requested the program.

"We want to let the community and the area know that the people of coal care."

Also, the ladies will help to wrap up the Coal in the Classroom program with a field trip to the exhibition coal mine in Beckley. They also plan to visit Terex, a company in Beckley that manufactures high-wall miners.

Click here to read the full article

June 24, 2009

Letter To the Editor: Don't forget why Santee Cooper is increasing rates

I wrote a letter to the editor and I'm happy to say that the Florence morning newspaper, SCnow, published it on June 21. The letter points out that Santee Cooper will raise its rates to build a new coal plant fueled by coal from mountain top removal. Here's the link, but the letter has expired from the website.

"Don't forget why Santee Cooper is increasing rates"

As Santee Cooper, our state-owned utility, hikes rates by 15% over the next two years, let us not forget why. Revenues from the rate hike will be used to build the utility’s new polluting coal plant at a cost of over 1 billion dollars. This proposed coal plant not only poses a financial risk to rate payers, but an environmental and health risk to people and communities in Appalachia.

The coal plant will use approximately 12,000 tons of coal every day and much of this coal comes from the mountaintops of Kentucky and West Virginia. One million acres of mountain tops have been destroyed and the debris dumped in the valleys impacting communities and polluting water supplies. Santee Cooper’s new coal guzzling power plant will support this destructive mining, so not only will this plant threaten the health and welfare of people in South Carolina, but in Kentucky and West Virginia as well.

There are alternatives to another coal plant. Santee Cooper should focus revenue spending on energy efficiency programs that will reduce energy demand, while they invest and bring on line energy alternatives like biomass, offshore wind, solar and small natural gas plants. We do not need this rate hike to support old technology that not only jeopardizes our health and welfare here in South Carolina but whose impacts reach farther north to the mountains of Appalachia and the communities and people living there. Say no to another coal plant.

Proven: Coal's costs exceed its benefits

Coal's costs are higher than its benefits. The article below has the numbers to prove it. The costs are almost 7 times more than its benefits. Although the article addresses the Appalachian region, particularly West Virginia, the study is similarly applicable to South Carolina. Santee Cooper needs to understand the clear indication that the study finds: Coal is not sustainable and is detrimental to our health.

Following this post, there will be another post, "Reassure 'em while they're young," regarding the "Reassuring Lie" taught to elementary schools in West Virginia. "Reassure 'em while they're young" conveys the distance the coal industry goes to promote itself despite the evidence of coal's high costs. St. Francis Elementary received 1 hour presentations on coal. The third grade class essentially observed a history lesson. Coal is history. Ironically, when coal advocates are pinned to the numbers of coal's costs, most argue for coal's long history, on the lines of: "Coal has been with us over the past century and we cannot move on without it. It's traditional, providing at least 50% of our energy, we need it." Shooting back, reality questions: "We need bronchitis, mercury, soot, smog, asthma, and cancer?"

After reading the present post, and going on to read "Reassure 'em while they're young," keep in mind the numbers and statements made by WVU researcher Michael Hendryx.

The Charleston Gazette
Coal's costs outweigh benefits, WVU study finds
Ken Ward Jr.
June 20, 2009

Coal mining costs Appalachians five times more in early deaths as the industry provides to the region in jobs, taxes and other economic benefits, according to a groundbreaking new study co-authored by a West Virginia University researcher.

"Coal-mining economies are not strong economies," Hendryx said in an interview last week.Writing with co-author Melissa Ahern of Washington State University, Hendryx reports that the coal industry generates a little more than $8 billion a year in economic benefits for the Appalachian region.

But, Hendryx and Ahern put the value of premature deaths attributable to the mining industry across the Appalachian coalfields at -- by their most conservative estimate -- $42 billion."The human cost of the Appalachian coal mining economy outweighs its economic benefits," they wrote.

Hendryx is the research director at WVU's Institute for Health Policy Research and is an associate professor in the university's Department of Community Medicine.

Previous papers, also published in peer-reviewed journals, found that residents of coal-producing counties are more likely to suffer from chronic heart, lung and kidney diseases and more likely to be hospitalized for certain health problems that are connected to coal pollution.

Hendryx has also reported that coal county residents are more likely to contract lung cancer and generally suffer from excess numbers of premature deaths.

In each of his studies, Hendryx has tried to weed out other possible factors -- such as smoking and diet -- to pinpoint coal's possible role in these public health problems.The new study builds on Hendryx's previous work that found excess premature deaths in coal counties compared to other counties in Appalachia.

That work did not definitively blame the coal industry for the excess deaths, but said possible explanations included exposure to coal byproducts such as slurry leaching into water supplies or air pollution effects from mining and coal processing. Further research is needed in those areas, Hendryx has said.

"The number of coal miners in Appalachia declined from 122,102 to 53,509 between 1985 and 2005," the paper said.

"This decline corresponded to increases in mechanized mining practices and the growth of surface mining, which requires fewer employees than underground mining per ton mined."After these calculations, Hendryx and Ahern came up with a final annual regional economic gain of $8.1 billion.

Next, Hendryx and Ahern calculated a number of excess age-adjusted deaths in coal-mining areas, compared to non-coal areas of the region. The number varied from 3,975 to 10,923, depending on the years studied and comparison group.

Then, they plugged in what they described as a low estimate of the value of life -- about $3.8 million -- and, using the highest number of excess deaths, got a figure for the cost of coal-related excess deaths of $41.8 billion a year.

"Natural resources such as forests and streams have substantial economic value when they are left intact, and mining is highly destructive of these resources," the study says. "

For example, Appalachian coal mining permanently buried 724 stream miles between 1985 and 2001 through mountaintop removal mining and subsequent valley fills, and will ultimately impact more than 1.4 million acres.

"Coal generates inexpensive electricity, but not as inexpensive as the price signals indicate because those prices do not include the costs to human health and productivity, and the costs of natural resource destruction."

"Potential alternative employment opportunities include development of renewable energy from wind, solar, bio fuels, geothermal, or hydro power sources; sustainable timber; small-scale agriculture; outdoor or culturally oriented tourism; technology; and ecosystem restoration," the study says.

"The need to develop alternative economies becomes even more important when we realize that coal reserves throughout most of Appalachia are projected to peak and then enter permanent decline in about 20 years.

To read the full article, click here

June 23, 2009

Santee Cooper Is Cooping Us in Their Incentives: Consume and Waste

Santee Cooper's incentives = consume and waste. A higher percentage of consumption and waste and the utility receives more revenue. To reduce and conserve derails such revenue...So "crank the air condition as high as you can, especially during peak hours," is their rhetoric. The utility is not promoting the need for energy efficiency, or even, how to be more efficient during the summer days. Mollie Gore, spokeswoman for Santee Cooper, could preach more efficient agendas: "Even as temperature rises into the triple digits, South Carolinians need to watch their AC use, and try not use as much as possible!" Wasting and consuming snow balls -- the revenues from this summer will be allocated toward the proposed coal plant and not Santee Cooper's renewable energy. More pollution means more costs. "Crank up the air condition, don't conserve!" and Santee Cooper gets more revenue to build polluting plants. We, as consumers, control whether or not Santee Cooper collects such revenues. If only the Santee Cooper would help.
The State
Economy may hold down power comsumoption
Chuck Crumbo
June 19, 2009

Power companies serving South Carolina’s 2.4 million customers say a sour economy and growing conservation efforts could temper electricity consumption this summer.The utilities report consumption is either flat or down as much as 6 percent among residential customers compared to this time last year.

It’s difficult to project what the impact on the company’s bottom line will be, said Rhonda O’Banion, spokeswoman for Columbia-based South Carolina Electric & Gas Co.

“It largely depends on how committed customers are to conserving energy and on just how hot it will get,” O’Banion said.

Nationally, power consumption fell 3 percent during the first three months of the year and is projected to down nearly 2 percent for the year.

But power bills, triggered by higher fuel costs utilities pay to generate electricity, are expected to climb 5 percent for the year, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.

Despite conservation efforts, people are bound to turn up the air conditioner when the heat makes them uncomfortable, said Mollie Gore, spokeswoman for state-operated Santee Cooper.“When the temperature gets into the high 90s or triple digits, we think people will still want to crank up that air conditioning,” Gore said.

The price of gasoline could impact power consumption, said Duke Energy spokeswoman Paige Sheehan.

“Last year, when gas prices were really high, we had some anecdotal evidence that customers were reacting by adjusting the thermostat,” Sheehan said. “They could not control energy cost at the gas pump, but could at home."

Click here to read more

June 22, 2009

The Guardians of Mother Nature

Mother Nature is calling for her guardians. Women have a strong ability to steer sustainability and environmentalism. Women pursue their ethical and virtuous characteristics by the virtue, care: the "feminine approach to ethics and moral education" (Nel Noddings). According to the philosopher Nel Noddings, care is the mother voice that needs hearing from all of us. Care is essential to environmentalism because this virtue emphasizes caring-for and caring-about with an end in justice - the basic sustainable methods of conserving our natural resources, wildlife, crop land, and health. As you will read in the article below, women need more education regarding the origination of our pollution and electrical grid distribution...and men do too just as well. We all need more education concerning our utilities. If we do not, Mother Nature will continue to be hurt by Santee Cooper and other polluting utilities. Using care, however, avoids such pains, which is guided by the reins of a woman's caring inclination; this we see everyday in our families, the lives of our children, and love for the outdoors.

PR-inside: Business Wire
Women Are the Energy Decision Makers and Want the U.S. to Move Toward Clean Energy, a New National Survey Shows
Business Wire
June 17, 2009

While Congress is contemplating a new energy policy, American women are paying the electric bills at home and making the critical decisions on energy use in their homes and businesses, according to the national Women’s Survey on Energy & the Environment, the first in-depth women’s survey on attitudes and awareness about energy.

The nationally representative survey of 801 women 18 years or older, commissioned by Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) in collaboration with the Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment (WCEE), shows that women want the country to move toward clean energy sources, and more than half (57%) are even willing to pay $30 more per month for it. Yet they don’t completely understand the electricity sources we use today, the impact of electricity on clean air and what is causing global warming.

“Women have a huge stake in our nation’s energy future and can play a vital role in moving our country toward clean sources of electricity, such as wind, solar and nuclear, that do not pollute the air we breathe or contribute to global warming,” said Barbara Kasoff, president of WIPP. “With so much resting on the energy and environment policy decisions we make today, every woman’s voice counts now more than ever.”

The survey also shows that:
  • 77 percent of women take primary or equal responsibility for paying their electricity bills, including 9-in-10 (91 percent) of unmarried women and 7 in 10 (70 percent) of married women.

  • Virtually all women (97 percent) are conserving electricity, and they are doing so through a broad range of steps ? such as lowering thermostats; turning off lights and appliances when not in use; purchasing energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs; keeping their homes cooler in winter; and installing energy-efficient appliances, doors, windows, or insulation.

  • 91 percent of women, including 86 percent of married women, play a dominant or equal role in conserving electricity at home.

  • When it comes to the country’s energy policy, twice as many women (43 percent) cite moving to clean energy over any other issue (reliability or affordability of electricity) as their most important goal.

  • Women are enthusiastic about solar and wind energy, both clean energy sources: 90 percent and 89 percent, respectively think they should play a very or somewhat important role in our country’s energy future.

Women Need More Information on Electricity and Clean Energy:

Women are unclear about electricity’s effect on the environment. Electricity-generating power plants are the biggest cause of global warming in this country, more than cars and trucks or any other source. However, only seven percent of women are aware of this. So while women believe clean energy is very important, they do not completely understand the connection between electricity and the deterioration of our environment.

Thirty-one percent say they don’t know the largest cause of global warming, and 24 percent mistakenly say cars and trucks are the main culprits. Women are also unclear about which sources of electricity cause global warming: 67 percent of women correctly identify coal power plants as a big cause or somewhat of a cause of global warming, but 54 percent think the same thing about nuclear energy; in reality, nuclear energy does not cause global warming at all.

“Most women can’t imagine a day without flipping on a light, powering up a computer or charging a cell phone, but they rarely think about where that electricity comes from or how it affects the world around us,” said Sharla Artz, president of WCEE. “Women have a tremendous opportunity to help solve this defining issue of our time, and it all starts with learning more about how electricity is produced and which sources are clean.”

Air Pollution’s Effect on Family Health Is a Major

Not surprisingly, women, generally acknowledged as the custodians of their family’s health, are especially concerned about the effects of air pollution on health: 70 percent of those surveyed are very or somewhat worried about its impact on their own health and the health of their children.

And women with and without children say leaving a better planet for the next generation is their most important goal when it comes to electricity—more than those who cite reliability and cost.

Yet they misplace blame for air pollution on energy sources that do not emit harmful pollutants that damage the environment and endanger human health. For example, while most know burning coal causes air pollution, 54 percent of those surveyed mistakenly believe nuclear energy releases a lot or some air pollution.

"Women have the right to expect the air we breathe to be clean. With respiratory health problems on the rise, women are looking for solutions that include clean energy sources to make our planet healthier for all of us,” says Clare Piercy, executive director of WCEE.

Women Business Owners Lead the Way:

Women business owners are at the forefront of leading America toward energy conservation and clean energy. In fact, a majority cite moving to clean energy as our most important energy policy goal, according to a similar survey of 455 women business owners also commissioned by WIPP and WCEE.

On both of these measures, women business owners are even more committed to
clean energy than the general female population. They strongly believe wind and solar energy should have an important role in addressing our country’s electricity needs. They are also more aware of nuclear energy’s clean-air benefits—that it is not a cause of global warming and releases no air pollution—than women as a whole, and they are more supportive of nuclear energy than the general female population.

Other significant findings are:

  • 77 percent of female business owners have cut their electricity use at their businesses in the past few years, and 98 percent have done the same at home.

  • Nearly 8 in 10 (79 percent) have made their businesses more environmentally friendly.

  • 87 percent favor federal tax incentives – including 52 percent who strongly favor them – to encourage companies to become more energy-efficient and use more clean energy.
To read the article, click here

June 19, 2009

Most of us forget the size of South Carolina's renewable job market. The renewable job market is continuing to grow at a fast rate. This is a great reminder of how much South Carolina has accomplished over the last decade. We need to remember South Carolina is not inept in renewable employment, despite the many proposals for dirty employment. So this is wonderful news, confirming that South Carolina has an ability to become more sustainable.

The State
Report says state's growth rate topped nation's between 1998 and 2007
Noelle Phillips
June 12, 2008

South Carolina is growing its clean energy economy faster than the U.S. average, a national study found.

In 2007, the state had 11,255 clean energy jobs and 884 clean energy businesses. It showed a 36.2 percent growth rate during a 10-year period, the Pew Charitable Trusts said in its new report, “The Clean Energy Economy: Repowering Jobs, Business and Investments Across America.”

Nationally, the clean energy economy grew 9.1 percent between 1998 and 2007, the report found.

“South Carolina has a small but fast-growing piece of the nation’s clean energy economy,” said Heyward Bannister, Pew’s South Carolina representative.

The report counted jobs in each state that exist because of environmentally friendly businesses and services. It did not include estimates, multipliers or

In South Carolina, those jobs include companies such as Argand Energy Solutions. The company designs and installs solar-powered electric and hot water systems. It employs 15 people.

And the state keeps recruiting new clean energy companies. Earlier this year, Peregrine Energy Corp. of Greenville announced plans for a $135 million biomass energy plant. It is slated to open in 2012 and would employ 30 full-time workers. The plant will burn byproducts from the logging industry to provide 50 megawatts of electricity for Sonoco’s Hartsville plant.

South Carolina’s clean energy economy grew at an average annual rate of 3.56 percent, the report said. The clean energy sector’s growth rate was 16 times faster than the overall job growth rate, the report said.

Among the report’s other findings:

• South Carolina ranked ninth nationally in the fastest-growing percentage of clean energy jobs.

• South Carolina ranked 24th in the nation in the number of clean energy jobs.

• It ranked 25th in the number of clean energy businesses.

• The state ranked 28th in the number of clean technology patent

• Clean energy jobs made up less than 1 percent of the state’s 2 million jobs.

• South Carolina had not attracted venture capital funding for clean energy jobs.

• South Carolina offers financial incentives to drive the clean energy economy.

• The state does not participate in regional initiatives such as multistate agreements to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

• South Carolina does not require electricity providers to provide a minimum percentage of customer power from renewable resources.

To read the article, click here

June 18, 2009

Back in Nas!

Natural gas is coming back! Nat-gas or Nas died out in the late '70s and now, as coal and oil prices increase, natural gas has attained a fair amount of attention for its cheapness and abundance. The commodity is also more efficient than coal. Sounds like a good deal, but is it really? Make up your mind for yourself, the below article provides some great info on Nas.

Calgary Herald
Natural gas to regain favour?
Peter Tertzakian
June 15, 2009

North America’s energy diet is ripe for a shift to a more secure, affordable and "lower carb" diet. As our society navigates through this energy health craze there is a unique opportunity for natural gas to regain its share of our energy appetite that it lost in the 1970s and ‘80s.

In 1971, natural gas held a 32% share of North America’s primary energy market. That was the glory year for gas, when its fraction of our energy appetite was at its peak. Then a big newcomer called nuclear started entering our power-hungry diet in a meaningful way and began whittling down the influence of natural gas in making electricity. In less than a decade natural gas lost seven percentage points of share. Then the oil price shocks in the 1970s curbed natural gas’ fortunes further when the Fuel Use Act of 1978 – president Jimmy Carter’s energy security legislation to conserve domestic U.S. oil and gas supplies – preferentially allowed coal and nukes to further bully gas out of the market, reducing its share to the low 20% range by 1985. Today, unchanged after 25 years, America’s energy diet still only contains 22% natural gas.

Let’s consider the US, which is the elephant consumer in the North American market. America’s total energy diet consists of the six primary groups: oil (37.3%), natural gas (24.0%), coal (22.8%), nuclear (8.5%), hydroelectric (2.5%), and a side dish of renewables (4.9%). Notably, the share of each source has been fairly constant since 1985.

There are two reasons that North America’s energy diet has been stable for almost three decades. For one thing, multi-trillions of dollars of infrastructure makes it very difficult to alter the supply patterns of an already-industrialized country. More simplistically, over the past three decades there hasn’t been a compelling need to change things up. But now the need for renewal is in the air. High on political agendas is the need to ensure future prosperity, promote environmental sustainability and maintain energy security. All three of these energy-rooted issues are exposed at the moment, so nations around the world, especially the United States, are busy re-evaluating their energy diets.

The energy source that has the most potential to gain meaningful market share in North America is natural gas. It’s scalable, proving itself to be abundant and affordable, and is by far the cleanest of the fossil fuels.

So, how much new demand is implied if natural gas can start taking market share away from our Ã’meat and potatoesÓ diet of oil and coal? First, recognize that stealing share away from coal in the power generation market is not a proportional dynamic; in other words, it’s not a straight one-for-one BTU swap at the source. That’s because generating electricity using a modern combined cycle gas-fired power plant is almost twice as efficient as the average coal plant. Put another way, on an energy basis you only need half as much natural gas as coal to generate the same amount of electricity. Accounting for differences in efficiency, and recognizing that the US consumes about 23 quadrillion BTUs of coal every year, the sensitivity of gas substitution is 1.4 Bcf/d for each 1% of market share taken away from coal. So regaining the 7% share gas lost in the 1970s and 80s would kindle 9.5 Bcf/d in new gas demand (or about 15% growth on today’s demand).

Natural gas is one-third the price of oil in today’s market is making people think about the possibilities. Recent policy moves are reminiscent of the 1970s when there was a serious desire to change things up. For example, the Louisiana House of Representatives recently passed a bill to give tax incentives to businesses and consumers to buy natural gas vehicles, or convert their gasoline engines over. On the infrastructure side there are incentives for fueling stations too. Other states, including South Carolina are coming on board too, and there is serious bipartisan movement afoot at the federal level with a bill called the NAT GAS Act (HR 1835), which is expected to be introduced to the US Senate soon.

North America’s energy diet is going to change over the next decade and natural gas has never looked more appealing on the menu.

To read the full article, click here

June 17, 2009

44 toxic coal ash spills to be hidden from the public

Knowing if there is a toxic coal ash spill down the road from you is imperative...wouldn't you agree? This last year a massive coal ash spill occurred in Tennessee, which the TVA is currently trying wipe up. (There was an article previously blogged, click here to see it). Because we know of Tennessee's spill from this last winter, we are able to investigate and develop renewable technology and policies. If we are aware of our utilities' unhealthy behaviors, we will have a drive to change and invest in healthier alternatives and actually spur economic growth. We are not "protected" by our leaders attempts to lie by omission. Leaders arguing for censoring the know-abouts of these 44 toxic coal ash spills, argue under a homeland security rational, saying that if an outside threat knows of the spills, the spills could be taken advantage of to jeopardize the state of the nation. Well, as citizens of the United States, we are entitled to know of our own security, and for instance, I mean by knowing whether or not I can eat the fish from a local river without getting mercury poisoning due to coal ash spillage. Environmental security is essential to moving forward in the world of renewable energy and energy efficiency, which of course guarantees awareness. Such Senators as Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), quoted and referred to in the article below, are working to ensure our awareness of such toxic coal ash spills throughout the nation. Knowing of our utilities' behaviors is essential -- we cannot turn our heads the other way. We need to keep South Carolina and the nation at our heart's interest. To see more information on energy justice regarding coal ash, click here.

The Huffington Post
Coal Ash Spills Too Dangerous To Reveal To Public, Says DHS (Video)
Ryan Grimm
June 12, 2009

Just how bad has the coal ash situation gotten in the United States? So bad that the Department of Homeland Security has told Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) that her committee can't publicly disclose the location of coal ash dumps across the country.

The pollution is so toxic, so dangerous, that an enemy of the United States -- or a storm or some other disrupting event -- could easily cause them to spill out and lay waste to any area nearby.

There are 44 sites deemed by the Environmental Protection Agency to be high hazard, but Boxer said she isn't allowed to talk about them other than to senators in the states affected. "There is a huge muzzle on me and my staff," she said.

"Homeland Security and the Army Corps [of Engineers] have decided in the interests of national security they can't make these sites known," she said.

There are several hundred coal ash piles across the nation, she said, all of them unregulated.

"If these coal ash piles were to fail they'd pose a threat to the people nearby," she said. While keeping it from the public, DHS is alerting first responders as to the location of the piles.

"I believe it is essential to let people know," said Boxer, arguing that if people knew what was in their backyard they'd press public officials to clean it up and protect the area. "I think secrecy might lead to inaction...I am pressing on this."

Boxer is sending a letter, she told reporters Friday, to DHS and the Army Corps, pressing for public release of the information and asking for a more thorough explanation and a comparison of this policy of secrecy to policies around Superfund-listed sites and nuclear sites.

"We don't need legislation if they do their job," she said.

A recent coal ash spill in Tennessee devastated the surrounding area, was 100 times worse than the Exxon-Valdez spill, said Boxer, and will cost a billion dollars to clean up.

That one's not secret.

To read the article, click here

June 16, 2009

Invasion of the seas

The Washington Post: Green
East Coast May Feel Rise in Sea Levels the Most
David A. Fahrenthold
June 8, 2009

Sea levels could rise faster along the U.S. East Coast than in any other densely populated part of the world, new research shows, as changes in ice caps and ocean currents push water toward a shoreline inlaid with cities, resort boardwalks and gem-rare habitats.

Three studies this year, including one out last month, have made newly worrisome forecasts about life along the Atlantic over the next century. While the rest of the world might see seven to 23 inches of sea-level rise by 2100, the studies show this region might get that and more -- 17 to 25 inches more -- for a total increase that would submerge a beach chair.

In the coming decades, they say, it will probably be necessary to spend heavily to defend some waterside places -- and to make hard choices about where to let the sea win.

"There will probably be some very difficult decisions that have to be made," said Rob Thieler, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "Are there places where we should simply retreat because the cost of holding the line is unacceptably high?"

Researchers say rising seas are one of the most tangible consequences of a changing climate. They rise because they are warming, expanding in volume like a highway bridge on a summer day. And they rise because they are filling up, fed by melting ice.

In the 20th century, global seas rose about 0.07 inches per year -- a steady climb up tide gauges, even as the world debated the existence and the science of climate change.

"It doesn't matter who's causing global warming. Sea-level rise is something we can measure," said Rob Young, a geosciences professor at Western Carolina University. "You can't argue that sea level isn't rising."

And it has been rising faster in the mid-Atlantic because the land here is sinking.

Understanding this phenomenon requires thinking of the Earth as an enormous balloon. Push down in one spot on the ball's surface and surrounding areas are raised up. Glaciers did this to Earth's surface during the last ice age: they pressed down on northern North America and areas to the south tilted up, like the other end of a seesaw. Today, thousands of years after the glaciers retreated, the seesaw is tipping back the other way, and the region from New York to North Carolina is falling about six inches per century.

Researchers are finding that climate change could bring new bad luck by untracking a system of ocean currents that performs the astounding feat of keeping the sea here below the average sea level.

They say it works like this: Warm water from the south Atlantic flows north along the coast, cools off and sinks. That sinking happens on such a vast scale that the Atlantic's surface is lower here, a depression in the ocean 28 inches deep. But two new studies have shown that climate change could make northern waters warmer and could dump a disruptive flood of fresh water from melting glaciers in Greenland.

"You're getting less sinking, because [fresh water] is less heavy, it doesn't sink as much. That kind of slows down this whole conveyor- belt thing," said Gerald Meehl, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado whose study of this phenomenon came out last week.

It could be a much bigger problem for barrier islands and marshes, which are typically just a few inches above the water. Even before the recent research forecast accelerating rise, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge -- a rare, vast marsh on Maryland's Eastern Shore -- was predicted to become mainly open water by 2030.

So some researchers have already begun thinking about how to defend the coast. Professors at the State University of New York at Stony Brook have suggested building barriers that might pop up during big storms and seal off the city's water like a bathtub. The fishing port of New Bedford, Mass., has had such a "hurricane barrier" since the 1960s.

In the Washington region, Environmental Protection Agency official James G. Titus said, Hains Point, along the Southwest Waterfront, and K Street NW in Georgetown might have to be elevated. Sections of the waterfront Fells Point neighborhood in Baltimore might also need to be jacked up.

And, Titus said, rural areas along the water might have to be abandoned. On Maryland's Eastern Shore, for instance, rising seas could eat up large sections of marshy Dorchester County.

In Dewey Beach, Del., Mayor Dell Tush said the town had been staggered by the $12,000-per-house cost of elevating just a few homes that are too close to the water.

"The town basically has no plans, you know, for doing anything" to prepare for rising seas, Tush said. To raise all the town's houses "would be cost-prohibitive, it really would."

The threat is more tangible at Joey's Pizza and Pasta on Long Beach Island, N.J., another narrow, built-up barrier island. There, rain can bring Little Egg Harbor within a few feet of the door; a high tide and a good storm can put water in the dining room.

"You can't fight it. People say 'Sandbag the doors.' No, it comes in everywhere," said manager Tom Kowal. The restaurant makes light of its situation with a sign that says "Occasional Waterfront Dining." But Kowal said he is worried about what's coming.

"Ten inches higher than sea level right now? I'm underwater."

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June 15, 2009

Gaining a better understanding of the Smart Grid

Understanding a smart electrical grid, known as the "smart grid," is easy yet made very complicated. The smart grid is a way of essentially customizing your energy use. The smart grid uses methods of efficiency to consume electricity that need more attention in Congress and the media. The article below expounds well into the complexities of the smart grid very thoroughly and helps to illustrate all of its semantics and details. In addition to the article, is a link to a recent Congressional Committee in the House and Commerce that addressed the notions of a smart grid. The Congressional Committee: Electrical Transmission Infrastructure, Regulators, and Continuation makes an effort to establish our grid's future. Many of the current energy issues are up for discussion in the hearing. To see the hearing, click here and find the flashplayer on the right side of the screen.

The Economist: Energy
Building the smart grid
June 4, 2009

AROUND the world billions of dollars are being invested in clean-energy technologies of one sort or another, from solar arrays and wind turbines to electric cars. In order to accommodate the flow of energy between new sources of supply and new forms of demand, the world’s electrical grids are going to have to become a lot smarter.

The grids themselves have changed very little since they were first developed more than a century ago. The first grids were built as one-way streets, consisting of power stations at one end supplying power when needed to customers at the other end. That approach worked well for many years, and helped drive the growth of industrial nations by making electricity ubiquitous, but it is now showing its age.

One problem is a lack of transparency on the distribution side of the system, which is particularly apparent to consumers. Most people have little idea how much electricity they are using until they are presented with a bill. Nor do most people know what proportion of their power was generated by nuclear, coal, gas or some form of renewable energy, or what emissions were produced in the process. In the event of a power cut, it is the customer who alerts the utility, which then sends out crews to track down the problem and fix it manually.

The cure, many believe, is to apply a dose of computer power to the grid. Adding digital sensors and remote controls to the transmission and distribution system would make it smarter, greener and more efficient. Such a “smart grid” or “energy internet” would be far more responsive, interactive and transparent than today’s grid. It would be able to cope with new sources of renewable power, enable the co-ordinated charging of electric cars, provide information to consumers about their usage and allow utilities to monitor and control their networks more effectively. And all this would help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

What exactly would a smart grid look like? Many of the changes would be invisible. On the transmission and distribution side, sensors and digital relays installed on power lines will enable utilities to operate systems with greater efficiency and reliability. Today’s supervisory control and data acquisition systems, for example, typically provide data on the state of transmission lines every four seconds. Devices called synchrophasors can sample voltage and current 30 times a second or faster—giving utilities and system operators a far more accurate view of the health of the grid. A broad deployment of synchrophasors could be used as an early warning system to help halt or prevent power surges before they develop into massive blackouts, says Jeff Dagle of PNNL.

Other smart-grid technologies would be more visible to consumers. Probably most important would be the introduction of smart meters, which track electricity use in real-time and can transmit that information back to the power company. Smart meters have been used by commercial and industrial customers for decades, says Eric Miller of Trilliant, an American company that installs communications networks and software to implement smart meters. But in recent years they have become cheap enough for wider deployment.

Smart meters establish a two-way data connection between the customer and the power company, by sending information over a communications network that may include power-line, radio or cellular-network connections. Once smart meters are installed, power companies can determine the location of outages more easily, and no longer need to send staff to read meters, or to turn the power on or off at a particular property. Smart meters also help to curtail the theft of electricity.

Eventually smart meters will communicate with smart thermostats, appliances and other devices, giving people a much clearer view of how much electricity they are consuming. Customers will be able to access that information via read-outs in their homes or web-based portals, through which they will be able to set temperature preferences for their thermostats, for example, or opt in or out of programmes that let them use cleaner energy sources, such as solar or wind power.

As well as giving utilities more control, smart meters also give them more flexibility. In particular, they can vary the price of electricity throughout the day in response to demand. Telling people that electricity is more expensive when demand is high will encourage them to do their laundry when demand has fallen and electricity is cheaper, says Rick Stevens of Hydro One, a power company in Ontario that has installed almost 900,000 smart meters to date and plans to start sending price signals to its customers in 2010.

This could be done by showing real-time price and usage information on a display so that consumers can decide whether to turn on the washing machine. Studies have found that when people are made aware of how much power they are using, they reduce their use by about 7%. With added incentives, people curtail their electricity use during peaks in demand by 15% or more. But eventually it should be possible to do it automatically, so that the dishwasher waits for the price to fall below a certain level before switching on, for example, or the air-conditioner turns itself down when the price goes up.

This is more complex than today’s pricing, of course, but customers will be able to save money if they are prepared to put up with a bit more complexity. “If you don’t want to participate, then you’re going to pay a much higher rate per kilowatt-hour,” says Peter Corsell of GridPoint, a company that has developed a web-based portal that lets people respond to price changes from utilities. “And if you want to opt in, you may save a whole lot of money.” During a one-year pilot study carried out by PNNL, for example, consumers reduced their electricity bills by an average of 10% compared with the previous year.

The advantage from the utility’s point of view is that it becomes easier to balance supply and demand by reducing consumption at times of peak demand, such as during very hot or cold spells, when people crank up their air-conditioners or heaters. As well as improving the stability of the system, it could also enable utilities to postpone the construction of new power stations, or even do without them altogether, by reducing the peak level of demand that they have to meet.

Implementing all this will not be cheap. A smart meter costs about $125, and can cost several hundred dollars more to install, once the necessary communications network and data-management software at the utility are taken into account. (Smart meters can collect customer readings as often as every 15 minutes, rather than every month, so utilities need new software to cope with all the extra data.)

The American government is spending some $4 billion from its economic-stimulus package on smart-grid initiatives, but providing a smart meter for every American home would cost far more: California’s investor-owned utilities alone are spending about $4.5 billion on deploying smart meters over the next few years. That implies that a nationwide implementation could cost around $50 billion. But PNNL estimates that $450 billion would have to be poured into conventional grid infrastructure to meet America’s expected growth over the next decade anyway. Mr Carlson, who now works for GridPoint, argues that a bit of thought is called for if the aim is to move to a new energy-management model, “as opposed to building more of what we’ve already got.”

One way to realign the public interest with that of the utilities is through a process called “decoupling” which breaks the direct relationship between electricity sales and profits.

As well as producing savings from improved operational efficiency, a smart grid could also save utilities money by reducing consumption, and with it the need to build so many new power stations. Reducing peak demand in America by a mere 5% would yield savings of about $66 billion over 20 years, according to Ahmad Faruqui of the Brattle Group, a consultancy that has worked with utilities on designing and evaluating smart-meter pilot programmes. Moreover, studies have shown that the best in-home smart-grid technologies can achieve reductions in peak demand of up to 25%, which would result in savings of more than $325 billion over that period, calculates Dr Faruqui. “Technology is expensive,” he says, “but not using it will be even more expensive.”

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