Thursday, July 26, 2007

Saco eyes 2nd wind turbine

Journal Tribune

SACO — Plans are in the works for an energy-generating wind turbine to power Saco’s future Transportation Center near the existing train station.

Charles Newcomb of Entegrity Wind Systems recently gave a presentation to the City Council on the company’s 100-foot EW15 wind turbine, which Saco is considering purchasing.

The City Council is satisfied with the residential-sized wind turbine that was installed in January near the Wastewater Management Building and is ready to take the next step in the city’s new alternative-energy initiative.

“We’ll be making a tremendous statement,” said Mayor Mark Johnston on the prospect of installing a new wind turbine. Saco would be the first community in Maine to buy a mid-sized wind turbine.

After searching for three months for a suitable company to provide the turbine, the city picked Entegrity Wind Systems Inc. EWSI is a leading manufacturer of intermediate wind turbines, and is based in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

“Our research tells us this is the right company,” said Johnston.

EWSI only markets a single product: The 100-foot tower equipped with a 50-foot rotor that can generate 50-kilowatt electrical power at a wind speed of 27 mph.

The company offers two models of the EW15 with differing costs: $130,000 for a lattice base or $145,000 for a monopole. Installation is not included in these prices, but would reportedly cost approximately $40,000.

All of EWSI’s installations include a five-year warrantee, 5 years of maintenance as well as a guaranteed 100,000 kilowatts of energy produced each year. Each one of their turbines is closely monitored and streams information via wireless devices to the company. Newcomb says he can simply go to a console and check on how many kilowatts a turbine in Texas or Canada is producing.

The wind turbine, which has an estimated 30-year life span, is said to have a 10-year payback, which means that 10 years after it first starts spinning, it will have saved enough energy to offset the purchase cost.

“In our 11th year it becomes profit,” said Councilor Eric Cote, anticipating the energy- and money-saving possibilities of the turbine.

With the current municipal price of electricity at approximately 14 cents, Cote estimated that the turbine should generate at least $14,000 worth of electricity in the first year.

The wind turbine would accompany a geothermal heating and cooling system for the new Chamber of Commerce building. It is expected to be an entirely “green” building, advocating energy efficiency and supporting local companies.

“We are attempting to make sure all of the materials inside the building are from Maine-based companies,” Said Johnston, “What’s exciting about this is that it creates so many Maine jobs.”

The energy created by the turbine will not only support the transportation center, but also offset municipal energy usage within a half-mile radius.

The City Council has scheduled a workshop for Aug. 20 to discuss the EW15.

Johnston hopes to begin installation of the turbine by Oct. 1, and complete the project by April.

“What have we got to lose?” asked Eric Cote, “It’s a pretty attractive proposal. All you’ve got to do is stick a wind turbine up in the air and get free fuel, with no pollution!”

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Monitoring your electric usage


The August 2007 issue of Wired magazine had a short article titled, "Psst! You're Wasting Electricity". This article made mention of a new product being produced by the UK design firm DIY Kyoto. This product, known as the Wattson, is a wireless, Internet-enabled, device which monitors your electrical usage. You can compare your usage with other Wattson users on the web. You can also view historical graphs of your usage. Pretty darn slick. Unfortunately it is uncertain how long before this product is available over here.

I reported on a similar product earlier this year known as the PowerCost Monitor. The advantage of the Wattson over the PowerCost Monitor is the ability to view historical data and upload to the web. The PowerCost Monitor merely shows real time usage and the past 24 hour summary.

Another low cost monitor which has been mentioned in Wired in the past is the Energyjoule. This is basically a night light which shows current usage and energy cost. It also changes color as the cost of energy changes throughout the day. Interesting, but not terribly useful. This said, Ambient Devices has some pretty cool devices such as the Energy Orb which was used in California to give consumers a visual cue that they needed to turn off electrical devices.

I guess I will have to wait for the Wattson or perhaps someone sharp cookie here in the US will design and build something similar.


Friday, July 20, 2007

Plan for power plant unveiled

The $1.5 billion Wiscasset project would create clean fuel, backers
say, but it faces obstacles.

By GREGORY D. KESICH, Staff Writer July 20, 2007

Plans for what could be the most expensive commercial
construction project in state history were unveiled in Wiscasset
this week, raising the possibility that Maine could become one of
the first sites in the world for a revolutionary and controversial
type of power plant.

The $1.5 billion Twin River Energy Center would turn coal and
wood biomass into clean gas that would fire a 700-megawatt
generator, producing what promoters say would be low-cost
energy. The plant also would produce "ultra-clean diesel" that
would reduce the tailpipe emissions that contribute to acid rain,
air pollution and global warming.

Twin River is a subsidiary of National RE/sources, a real estate
development company based in Connecticut that owns the
former Maine Yankee site. The 11-year-old company has
acquired and redeveloped $1 billion in industrial properties,
projects ranging from closing old power plants and cleaning up
the Hudson River to removing asphalt plants and remediating
major drinking-water aquifers, according to the company.

The Wiscasset proposal dwarfs all other major construction
projects now under consideration in Maine, and would have a
major economic influence on Wiscasset and the midcoast region,
still smarting from the loss of the Maine Yankee nuclear power
plant. The plan's backers estimate that it would create 750
annual jobs during the four-year construction phase and 200
good-paying, full-time jobs when it is up and running.

The proposal faces major obstacles, however, including
extensive permitting processes, financing questions, the
selection of a corporate energy partner and some environmental
criticism that already has emerged. These critics say that even
though it would produce clean fuel, the new technology has no
method for disposing of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that
will be released into the air from the plant's smokestack.

Backers have not identified where the money for the massive
project will come from or which energy company would operate
it, though they said those discussions are taking place. A Twin
River representative says all those questions will be answered in
time for the start of construction in 2009.

The proposal received the unanimous approval Tuesday of the
Wiscasset Board of Selectmen. It will be the subject of a public
informational meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Wiscasset High
School, then will be reviewed by the town Planning Board.

Although no formal application has been filed, Twin River
representatives have met with the heads of state agencies, who
say that based on the information they have so far, the proposal
is promising.

"In theory, this should be an extraordinarily clean plant," said
David Littell, commissioner of the Department of Environmental
Protection. "This is the type of coal plant that we have been
saying should be built."

Based on the presentation from the company, Littell said the
plant would be able to remove sulfur from the coal before it is
burned and sell it as a commodity. The diesel fuel it would
produce would be much cleaner than what is currently available
on the market, and if sold locally, would reduce the emissions of
existing vehicles and also permit expansion of the use of diesel
passenger cars.

Littell said he was assured that the plant would meet Maine's
mercury emissions cap, which is the toughest in the country, but
he cautioned that there has been no investigation into any of the
company's claims yet. That will take place during the regulatory

"We are going to apply the laws of our state," Littell said.
"Everything in the promotional presentation will have to be
proven in the application process."

Twin River project manager Scott Houldin said land on the 430-
acre parcel is perfect for this development because its deep
water and rail access would facilitate the delivery of coal.
Existing power transmission lines on the site would reduce the
necessary infrastructure investment that would be needed to
distribute the electricity generated.

Even so, the project would be extremely expensive by Maine
standards. For instance, a proposed hotel-and-office-building
development for the Maine State Pier in Portland is projected to
cost $125 million, less than 10 percent of the Twin River's
proposed cost.

Houldin said the company has adequate financing to carry it
through the anticipated two-year permitting process. Before
construction, it would partner with an energy company, which
would finance the construction.

Houldin said there have been negotiations with potential
partners, but everyone is waiting to see what the town of
Wiscasset will decide. He declined to name the companies.

The plant would also be able to supplement coal with wood-
waste products to produce both gas and diesel, but coal would
be the primary fuel source. Houldin cautioned the public not to
confuse the new technology with other coal-burning power

"But this is not your grandfather's coal plant," he said. "We do
not burn coal. We gasify it."

If built, the plant would superheat the fuel source under high
pressure, creating a synthetic gas. The process removes 99.9
percent of the sulfur and 99.9 percent of the particulate matter.
Then it goes through a process to remove carbon dioxide, the
greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

What happens next is the problem for environmentalists, said
Steve Hinchman, staff attorney for the Conservation Law

The removed gas would be released into the air through the
plant's smokestack because the industry has no method to
dispose of it any other way.

Hinchman said the company deserves credit for producing
clean-burning fuels, but until officials can explain how they will
dispose of the greenhouse gasses, they are just exchanging one
dirty fuel for another.

"That's the Achilles heel of this whole thing," Hinchman said.
"They still have the carbon beast to tame, and they just don't do

Houldin said the critique is unfair. Even with the release of the
carbon dioxide, the plant still would meet the toughest
regulations in the country. Also, the plant would have the ability
to filter out and dispose of the gas, if the technology is
developed, unlike other types of power plants.

The plant would have the capacity to produce 700 megawatts of
power, compared with Maine Yankee's capacity of 865
megawatts. The plant would represent a 20 percent increase in
Maine's power production, which is already well ahead of the
state's consumption, said Public Utility Commission Chairman
Kurt Adams.

The project has the opportunity to sell low-cost power locally,
said Maine Economic Development Commissioner John

Other sites in Maine have created "energy parks" where low-cost
power is sold to local businesses, making them more
competitive outside the state, Richardson said, and that is an
option with Twin River.

"We need to be smart and strategize about our energy
resources," Richardson said. "We need to consider how a plant
could feed a cluster of businesses that surround it."

For right now, however, Twin River's proposal is before the
residents of Wiscasset, not state agencies, Richardson said.

"The state will sit back and wait for a local decision," he said.
"The state supports the need for public input and local control."

Staff Writer Gregory D. Kesich can be contacted at 791-6336 or

Monday, July 16, 2007

A PC That Uses Less Energy, but Charges a Monthly Fee

Fantastic idea. I want one, but only if it is a laptop. I have written the company and await their reply. Either way, this seems like a great business model.

NY Times
July 16, 2007


SAN FRANCISCO, July 15 — Subscription-based personal computers are not a new idea — and never popular — but GrĂ©goire Gentil and Alain Rossmann have devised a green twist.

This summer the pair will begin selling a simplified Linux-based PC for $99 and a $12.95 monthly subscription charge. They say that the deal is better than it looks because the 15-watt PC can save up to $10 a month in electricity compared with a standard 200-watt PC.

Their company is Zonbu, and the Zonbu computer will be sold through its Web site, The founders said that the PC had received the highest certification possible from the Green Electronics Council, a nonprofit group that has created a product classification standard known as Epeat (for Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool).

The designation is meant to help consumers make educated choices when buying computer-related equipment and encourage electronics makers to build products that are more energy efficient and have a lower impact on the environment.

Zonbu said that it would be the first desktop computer for consumers to receive the gold rating.

The computer is the size of a cigar box and uses a low-power Intel-compatible microprocessor from VIA Technologies of Taiwan. It comes with four gigabytes of flash memory instead of a disk drive, a spinning mechanical part that uses much of a PC’s power. It also lacks a fan, another big energy user.

The Zonbu PC also uses a Gentoo version of the Linux operating system and will come with a range of software applications like the Mozilla Firefox browser, Skype voice-over-Internet service, OpenOffice software suite and many games. An additional 25 gigabytes of free online storage is available, with more offered for purchase.

Mr. Gentil, the chief executive and a Stanford-educated computer engineer, said that the idea for Zonbu came to him in his frustration over providing extensive computer support to his family in Paris and their various PCs.

“My father was crashing his Windows machine all the time,” Mr. Gentil said. That led him and Mr. Rossmann, a former Apple executive who has started many Silicon Valley companies, to pursue the possibility of creating an appliancelike computer tailored to consumers who have no computer expertise.

The two men think they can sell the PC the same way that cellphones are sold, subsidizing the cost of the hardware with the revenue from the monthly service charge.

“The market we want to target is the second PC in the home,” Mr. Gentil said. “If you want to give a PC to your kids or put it in the kitchen, this is a good candidate.”

Zonbu is based in Menlo Park, Calif. The system will lack a keyboard, mouse and monitor, which the company will sell as options. It plans to sell a version without a service fee to Linux software developers for $250, so that they will create more applications for the Zonbu PC.

The Linux operating system, once the province of computer enthusiasts, has now matured to the point where it could be a commercial rival to Windows and Macintosh, Mr. Gentil said.

Study Paints Dire Picture of Warmer Northeast

NY Times
July 12, 2007


Correction Appended

By the end of this century, 100-year floods could hit New York City every 10 years, Long Island lobsters could disappear and New York apples could be hard to come by if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report released yesterday by a group of scientists and economists.

“The Northeast can anticipate substantial — and often unwelcome or dangerous — changes during the rest of this century,” concluded the report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which examined the impact of global warming on the region. “The very character of the Northeast is at stake.”

The report, which covers nine states, is the product of a two-year collaboration between the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group, and a team of several dozen independent scientists and economists.

Speaking at a news conference at the New York Botanical Garden, one of the authors of the report, James L. McCarthy, professor of biological oceanography at Harvard University and president-elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said there could be droughts every summer in the Catskill Mountains, which supply drinking water for 9 million New Yorkers. At the same time, there could be heavy downpours that could turn the city’s water more turbid and cause flooding.

With higher temperatures, smog would increase and air quality in the region would decline, significantly worsening conditions for people with asthma, and the amount of pollen produced would soar, making life miserable for people with allergies.

In a similar report released last year, the Union of Concerned Scientists laid out the regional climate changes that global warming could bring. Average temperatures could rise by more than 10 degrees Fahrenheit in both winter and summer by the end of the century, and New York City might have to swelter through 25 days a year with temperatures over 100 degrees.

In the report released yesterday, the group focused on the possible impact of those changes.

Earlier springs, longer summers and less snowy winters are already being felt in part because of heat-trapping gases that were released over the last 50 years. The region will have to adapt to those changes, the scientists said. But things could become far worse, and much more costly, they said, unless steps are taken now to mitigate the impact.

Two alternative futures are laid out in the study, which was reviewed by other scientists before being released. One projects what the future would look like if steps were taken to lower emissions; the other looks at what would happen if emissions continued to grow.

Without reductions in emissions, sea levels could rise, inundating coastal areas on southern Long Island and pushing water into parts of Lower Manhattan, flooding the financial district and swamping the subways, making them inoperable. Atlantic City could be flooded every other year by late century.

The impact on New York State’s $3.5 billion-a-year agricultural industry could be devastating, said David W. Wolfe, a professor of plant ecology in the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University and one of the scientists who contributed to the report.

While higher temperatures might at first be welcomed because they would extend the growing season, they would bring new plant and insect pests like the corn earworm that could ravage crops.

Unless emissions are reduced, the scientists warned, Long Island lobsters would disappear or move to cooler waters up north. Without a hard frost to set buds, New York apple trees would not produce as much fruit as before. Under stress from invasive species, maple, beech and birch trees could disappear from certain regions of the state, including the Adirondacks.

And since it would often be hotter than dairy cows like, milk production could decline by 15 percent or more in late summer months.

Professor McCarthy said those future effects could be eased substantially by efforts just now being put into place to curb emissions.

Those efforts include the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, in which all the northeastern states agreed to reduce power plant emissions and establish a carbon trading program. And New Jersey’s global warming law, which Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed last Friday, commits the state to reducing all greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 80 percent by midcentury.

A separate news conference was held in Trenton yesterday, focusing on global warming’s potential impact on New Jersey.

Mr. Corzine said that state and local efforts to reduce greenhouse gases are important, but controlling global warming requires a commitment on the national level, something the current administration has been reluctant to pursue.

“In absence of leadership on the federal level, the fight to reduce greenhouse gases has now fallen upon the states,” Mr. Corzine said. The governor also called on individuals to do their share with simple acts like driving less and using mass transit.

The report did not include an analysis of the potential cost to business and consumers of the efforts of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But Rohit T. Aggarwala, New York City’s director of long-term planning and sustainability, said at the New York news conference that cutting carbon emissions would not necessarily have a negative cost.

Mr. Aggarwala said that steps New York had already taken would improve the quality of life in the city and make New York more competitive. He said those efforts ranged from the relatively simple, like promoting the use of compact fluorescent light bulbs, to long-range strategic initiatives like congestion pricing.

The full report on climate change in the Northeast is available at the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Web site,

Correction: July 16, 2007

An article on Thursday about a report predicting dire flooding and other weather changes in the Northeast if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions misstated part of the title of Rohit T. Aggarwala, who said at a news conference accompanying the report’s release that cutting emissions would not necessarily have a negative cost to business and consumers. He is New York City’s director of long-term planning and sustainability, not stability. (Go to Article)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Warming could hurt Maine industries

Maine Today
John Richardson
July 12, 2007

AUGUSTA — Native birds and fish could disappear from Maine's
mountains and coastal waters.

Farmers could have longer growing seasons, and more

Storms like the Patriot's Day nor'easter could become more

And the western Maine mountains could be the last place in the
Northeastern United States to support a viable downhill ski

Those are some of the impacts that global warming could have
in Maine, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Union
of Concerned Scientists.

While the changes may dramatically affect the ecology and
economy of the states, according to the report, the most severe
and costly impacts also can be avoided if global emissions of
carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases can be reduced.

"The future is in our hands," said Thomas Tietenberg, an
economics professor at Colby College and one of more than 60
scientists nationwide to contribute to the report. "The
economically prudent decision is to take action now."

The Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group based in
Cambridge, Mass., issued the 125-page report on climate
change in the Northeast as a follow-up to more general findings
issued last fall. It includes the most specific projections yet
about how climate change could affect Maine.

Teams of scientists used computer models to project changes
and applied the changes to sectors such as forests, oceans and
recreation. The projections are limited by unpredictable events
and by uncertainty about how complex natural systems such as
the ocean will react to climate changes.

But scientists involved in the work said the research clearly
shows dramatic changes lie ahead if emissions are not reduced.

"Our emissions choices are essentially shaping the climate
future," said Erika Spanger, project manager for the Union of
Concerned Scientists.

Maine's commissioner of the Department of Environmental
Protection, David Littell, said the findings are consistent with the
state's own research into how global warming may affect the
state. "We see a real, dramatic threat to our forests, our coasts
and our fisheries," Littell said.

Maine is expected to see a shift away from its valuable spruce
and fir forests, according to Tietenberg.

And the state's coastal waters are expected to shift in ways not
yet entirely understood, said Lewis Incze, a University of
Southern Maine marine scientist and another co-author of the

Climate can affect the ocean's salinity, chemistry and currents.
But even the simple warming of the ocean is expected to have
important effects.

Cod, which is at the southern end of its range, could be driven
away from Georges Bank and out of the Gulf of Maine, the report

Lobsters, on the other hand, could increase in number in some
parts of the Gulf. Those lobsters, however, could also become
more vulnerable to shell disease and other threats.

Scientists are beginning to study and understand the effects of
climate change on the ocean and on regional resources, Incze

"A report like this sets a benchmark for future research," he said.
"Up until this point, people haven't had a platform to stand on."

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or

Wind power project backers boast organizational support

Kennebec Journal
Alan Crowell
July 11, 2007

PORTLAND -- Backers of the Black Nubble wind power project pointed to a diverse array of groups supporting the plan as evidence it deserves to be approved.

At a press conference Tuesday, the Natural Resources Council of Maine released a list of over 20 organizations, including faith-based groups and those that advocate for health issues, that support the Black Nubble wind power project.

The project calls for 18 wind turbines on Black Nubble Mountain in western Maine.

"I think this is a very significant day in the development of wind power in Maine," Pete Didisheim, advocacy director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said Tuesday. Didisheim said the varied group of supporters indicates the project strikes the right balance between preserving special places and increasing renewable energy.

The list includes the Conservation Law Foundation, Maine Center for Economic Policy, American Lung Association of Maine, Maine Council of Churches and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

Supporters say that underscores the growing acceptance of wind power as a source of clean energy that can lessen reliance on fossil fuels. Several of the groups cited the threat of climate change as part of their rationale for supporting the project.

Not everybody supports the project, however.

Maine Audubon, one of the state's largest environmental groups, said Tuesday it would oppose the project at Land Use Regulation Commission hearings to be held in September.

Jody Jones, a wildlife ecologist for Maine Audubon, said that while her organization supports wind power on mountains, Black Nubble is simply the wrong site.

"We should not throw up 18 turbines as a symbol toward battling global warming," said Jones.

Maine Audubon was one of many environmental groups that last year opposed the Redington wind power project, which called for erecting 12 turbines on Redington Pond Range and 18 turbines on Black Nubble Mountain.

The Land Use Regulation Commission rejected the Redington project in January by a 6-1 vote.

The environmental impact on sensitive habitat on Redington Pond Range and the scenic impact -- the closest turbine on Redington would have been only a mile from the Appalachian Trail -- were among the most controversial aspects of that project.

Last month, however, the commission agreed to consider an amended project that featured only the 18-turbine Black Nubble project.

The developer, Maine Mountain Power, said that because Black Nubble is less ecologically sensitive and further from the Appalachian Trail, the amended 54-megawatt project would offer most of the benefits of the previous plan while lessening potential environmental effects.

If the Black Nubble project is approved, Maine Mountain Power says it will forever protect the top of Redington from future wind power development.

Pete Didisheim, of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said the proposed $110 million project strikes the right balance.

Redington Pond Range, the last unprotected, undeveloped mountain in the state, would be protected under the plan, he said. Black Nubble, at about 3,500 feet, offers less valuable habitat, he said.

"Black Nubble is no Redington. It is a lower elevation. It is further from the Appalachian Trail and much, much more harvested," said Didisheim. He said most of the proposed turbine locations on Black Nubble have been harvested in the past ten years.

Didisheim said support for the project reflects grassroots support for wind power.

"I believe that Maine people ... understand that global warming is a real threat and our current forms of power generation, including from oil and coal, are causing too much harm," said Didisheim.

Jones, of Maine Audubon, said, however, that the Black Nubble project is not a good plan.

"There is a divide in the environmental community," said Jones.

Jones said that while there is a general desire to site wind power projects in Maine and while her own organization supports wind power -- Maine Audubon endorsed the proposed TransCanada wind power project on Kibby Mountain in Franklin County -- Black Nubble is simply not a good site.

Black Nubble is part of one of Maine's premier mountain regions and features habitat for rare and declining plant and animal communities as well as scenic values, said Jones.

To truck the wind turbines up the mountain and anchor them to the ridge, Maine Mountain Power will essentially have to blast the top off the mountain, forever changing its character and values, she said.

"I think Maine and New England have many better options ... (Black Nubble) is too rare and too special to destroy with a badly sited wind power project," said Jones.

Organizations outside the environmental community focused largely on wind power positives.

Edward Miller, chief executive officer of the American Lung Association of Maine, said concern about the health impacts of burning fossil fuels is behind the group's support of Black Nubble.

"We are looking at the whole fight for healthy air as really the third major campaign in our 100-year history," said Miller. Combating tuberculosis and tobacco use were the first two.

Miller said his organization was one of the few groups, and perhaps the only public health organization, to go on record supporting the Redington wind power project.

Science is finding out more and more about the negative health effects of even low levels of pollution, he said.

"The challenge for us going forward is: How do we develop energy systems and transportation systems that benefit our health?" said Miller.

Andy Burt, director of the environmental justice program of the Maine Council of Churches, said her organization supports Black Nubble because of concerns about climate change.

The council represents mainstream Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Diocese, said Burt.

She said her organization considers climate change one of the greatest moral issues in the world today.

"It really is a moral choice to change how we decide to generate and to use electricity," she said. "I think it is very much in keeping with teachings which are really at the heart of every faith tradition."

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, Burt said, the first commandment that was given to Adam and Eve was to take care of the garden.

"We actually are destroying the very systems that sustain life," she said.

Alan Crowell -- 474-9534, Ext. 342

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Company revises wind farm proposal

Maine Today
The Associated Press July 11, 2007

A scaled-down version of a proposed wind farm in western
Maine has been filed with the Land Use Regulation Commission
and public hearings are scheduled for September, project
developers said Tuesday.

The latest plan by Maine Mountain Power LLC comes five months
after LURC rejected its earlier proposal to erect a total of 30 wind
turbines on Black Nubble Mountain and Redington Pond Range
near the Sugarloaf USA ski resort.

In the revision, developers removed all 12 turbines from
Redington Pond Range while leaving the 18 turbines on Black
Nubble. The project would generate 54 megawatts of electricity,
enough to power 20,000 homes a year.

Public hearings are tentatively scheduled to be held Sept. 19 to
21, said Jeffrey Thaler, a Portland attorney for Maine Mountain

LURC could vote on the proposal by the end of the year, Thaler
said. If the project is approved then, construction could begin
next spring and the project could be operational in 2009, he

At a press conference Tuesday, representatives of about 20
conservation, health and other organizations expressed their
support for the project. They said it protects Redington Pond
Range from development while providing clean energy and
reducing U.S. dependence on fossil fuels.

"The revised Nubble Mountain project strikes the right balance,"
said Pete Didisheim of the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

Not all conservation groups favor the project, however.

Jody Jones of Maine Audubon said her organization agrees that
wind power should be pursued, but that Black Nubble Mountain
is an inappropriate site because of its rare plant and animal
species and scenic vistas.

She said other opponents include the Maine Appalachian Trail
Club, the Appalachian Mountain Club and the National Park

"If we build it, we will be very sorry," Jones said. "It's a mistake."

Friedman: Live Bad, Go Green

NY Times Op-Ed
July 8, 2007


Over dinner with friends in London the other night, the conversation drifted to global warming and whether anything was really being done to reverse it. One guest, Sameh El-Shahat, a furniture designer, heaped particular scorn on programs that enable people to offset their excessive carbon emissions by funding green projects elsewhere. “Who really checks that it’s being done?” he asked. And how much difference does it really make?

But then he hit on an ingenious idea: If people really want to generate money to plant trees or finance green power, why not have them offset their real sins, not just their carbon excesses? We started to play with his idea: Imagine if you could offset the whole Ten Commandments.

No, really, think about it. Imagine if there were a Web site — I’d call it — where every time you thought you had violated one of the Ten Commandments, or you wanted to violate one of them but did not want to feel guilty about it, you could buy carbon credits to offset your sins.

The motto of Britain’s Conservative Party today is “Vote Blue, Go Green.” GreenSinai’s motto could be: “Live Bad, Go Green.” That would generate some income.

Here’s how it would work: One day, you’re out in the backyard mowing the lawn and suddenly you covet your neighbor’s wife. Hey, it happens — that’s why “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” is one of the Ten Commandments. No problem. You just go to and buy 100 trees in the Amazon or fund a project to capture methane from cow dung in India — and, presto, you’re free and clear.

Obviously there would be a sliding scale. Taking God’s name in vain or erecting an idol might cost you only a few solar water heaters for a Chinese village, whereas bearing false witness or stealing would set you back a pilot sugar ethanol plant in Louisiana.

As for adultery, well, I think that’s where the big money could be made. My guess is that we could achieve a carbon-neutral world by 2020 if we just set up a system for people to offset their adultery by reversing deforestation of tropical rain forests or funding mega wind and solar power systems in China and India.

O.K., O.K., more seriously, I raise this issue of carbon offsets because they’re symptomatic of the larger problem we face in confronting climate change: everyone wants it to happen, but without pain or sacrifice. On balance, I think carbon-offsetting is a good thing — my family has purchased offsets — if for no other reason than it directs resources toward clean technologies that might not have been funded and, therefore, moves us down the innovation curve faster.

But the danger, argues Michael Sandel, Harvard’s noted political philosopher, “is that carbon offsets will become, at least for some, a painless mechanism to buy our way out of the more fundamental changes in habits, attitudes and way of life that are actually required to address the climate problem.”

“If someone drives a Hummer and buys carbon offsets to salve his conscience, that is better than driving the Hummer and doing nothing,” added Mr. Sandel, author of “The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering.” “But it would be even better to trade in the Hummer for a hybrid. The risk is that carbon offsets will make Hummers seem respectable rather than irresponsible, and distract us, as a nation, from harder, bigger changes in our energy policy.”

People often refer to the current climate buzz as “a green revolution,” but the very term revolution suggests a fundamental break with past habits, attitudes and public policies. Yet, when you suggest a carbon tax or a higher gasoline tax — initiatives that would redirect resources and change habits at the scale actually needed to impact global warming — what is the first thing you hear in Congress? “Impossible — you can’t use the T-word.”

A revolution without sacrifice where everyone is a winner? There’s no such thing.

Katherine Ellison wrote a wonderful piece on this topic for in which she quoted Stephen Schneider, the Stanford University climatologist, as saying: “Volunteerism doesn’t work. It’s about as effective as voluntary speed limits. No cops, no judges: road carnage. No rules, no fines: greenhouse gases. We’re going to triple or quadruple the CO2 in the atmosphere with no policy. I don’t believe offsets are just a distraction. But we’ll have failed if that’s all we do.”

There’s a saying at the Pentagon that “a vision without resources is a hallucination.” For my money, the green revolution today is still a hallucination.

Brazil: Leader Chides Europe on Biofuels


European competitors are trying to undermine Brazil’s biofuels production by raising environmental concerns, President Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva said. Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of ethanol and a pioneer in developing biodiesel. It started a program to fuel cars with ethanol derived from sugar cane 30 years ago. “We have adversaries that will make up any kind of slander against the quality of ethanol and biodiesel,” Mr. da Silva said on his weekly radio show. Asked about reports in European newspapers that biofuels could contribute to deforesting the Amazon, he said, “I told them the Portuguese, who arrived in 1500, introduced sugar cane 470 years ago and it didn’t reach the Amazon for a simple reason — the temperature isn’t suitable.” The United States and Brazil signed an accord in March to jointly promote biofuel production in South America and Africa.

UMaine Awarded More Than $1.5 Million for Wood Bioproduct Research

April 5, 2007
Contact: Sandra Neily (207) 581-2831; David Munson (207) 581-3777

ORONO, Maine - The Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded more than $1.5 million in federal funding to the University of Maine to advance the university's ongoing efforts to develop methods for converting biomass from Maine's forests into fuels and valuable chemicals. The state will contribute 50 percent in matching funds to the multi-faceted project through the Maine Economic Improvement Fund.

The money, which was awarded through the DOE's Experimental Programs to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), will be added to the $6.9 million the Forest Bioproducts Research Initiative (FBRI) received as part of the National Science Foundation's EPSCoR award in 2006.

The UMaine initiative is a truly collaborative, multidisciplinary effort that brings together scientists from educational institutions and businesses across the state to develop effective and efficient methods for transforming waste products from paper processing and other wood-based enterprises into fuels, plastics, and other materials.

This project adds the thermal conversion pathway to our earlier biochemical conversion focus for the utilization of woody biomass to produce biofuels and other co-products, says Hemant Pendse, chair of UMaine's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. Together these projects put UMaine in the position of strength to deal with the entire spectrum of technical issues involved in biomass conversion.

Supporting 12 researchers from across the state, the new research cluster will allow UMaine to expand its efforts to overcome the technological barriers faced by Maine companies currently working to develop effective techniques for producing wood-based fuels and chemicals within the wood products industry's existing infrastructure.

Forest biomass, including logging residue, pulp mill residue and spent liquors from pulp mills, hogfuel and sawdust, represents a significant renewable resource in Maine. Efficient use of this resource using our existing forest products industry manufacturing assets will help us save Maine jobs and build new businesses, said Pendse. New technologies coming out of university laboratories will help us to advance forest biorefinery deployment in Maine.

By using the funding to create a highly integrated and focused infrastructure for research, the project promises rapid advances in the area of bioproducts for Maine businesses and will help to establish Maine as a leader in bioproduct research and production.

This year, the Department of Energy awarded grants totaling $7.5 million to universities in Maine, New Hampshire, Delaware and Kentucky for research ranging from biofuels to nanomaterials, with states matching at least 50 percent of the awarded funds. The grants are part of an experimental program to improve the capability of universities to conduct nationally competitive, energy-related research in states that have historically received less federal research and development funding.

Friday, July 06, 2007

True Cost of Oil

I often think about the true cost of oil. I know in my gut that what we as consumers pay at the pumps is far from the price "true" costs would dictate. But $10+ per gallon? Such a price would certainly be high enough to change buying habits would it not? I would hope so.

I encourage you to read the following article on this very subject. The author attempts to leave no stone unturned.

The True Cost of Oil: $65 Trillion a Year?
By Chris Nelder

Quick: What's the most common criticism of renewable energy?

Right: That it's not economical. Too expensive compared to cheap oil, coal, natural gas, and nuclear.

And that's true, if you have a calculator that can only add, and you don't count a bunch of stuff.

But that's not the way we do math around here. We like to figure out the real cost of things. It's the only intelligent way to invest!

Let's try adding up everything for once, leaving nothing out, with no "externalities."
Crude Cost: $69 a Barrel

Neal Dikeman, partner at energy investment banking firm Jane Capital, adds up the production cost of oil this way:

Finding cost: $7.5/bbl (JS Herold 3 year avg costs for global integrated oil companies).

Lifting, production, and transportation cost: $6.5/bbl (JS Herold 3 year avg costs for global integrated oil companies).

Refining cost: <$5/bbl (10Ks from US independent refiners 2004-2005; the majors are lower).

So for a typical major oil company like Exxon, with its vertically integrated business from the wellhead all the way to the consumer, the average actual production cost is $14 to $19/bbl, depending on a lot of variables.

But of course two thirds of our oil is imported, and for that we pay at the delivery point: West Texas Intermediate is $68.97 today, NYMEX crude future is $69.12; call it $69/bbl in round numbers.

Counted in terms of transfer of wealth, at current prices, the U.S. sends about $313 million each day to OPEC for crude oil. That's $114 billion per year, just to OPEC countries . . . countries that are mostly dictatorships and oligarchies hostile to us.

If all of our 21 Mbpd consumption of crude oil were bought at the market price, it would cost the economy $1.5 billion per day, or $529 billion per year.

It is such direct fuel costs, as they contribute to the price of grid electricity, that are compared to renewable energy to show that the latter is too expensive. But have we really counted the cost of oil? Not even close.
Cost of Dependence: $233 Billion a Year

According to a 2000 study for the Department of Energy, there is a significant cost attached to the mere fact of our dependence. Supply disruptions, price hikes, and loss of wealth suffered through the oil market upheavals have cost the U.S. economy around $7 trillion (1998 dollars) over the 30 years from 1970 to 2000.

The study focused on three primary factors: macroeconomic adjustment costs, the potential loss of GDP, and wealth transfer. Still, the study notes, "These cost estimates do not include military, strategic or political costs associated with U.S. and world dependence on oil imports." (We'll get to that.)
All Economic Costs: $480 a Barrel

Milton Copulus, the head of the National Defense Council Foundation, has a different view. And as the former principal energy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, a 12-year member of the National Petroleum Council, a Reagan White House alum, and an advisor to half a dozen U.S. Energy Secretaries, various Secretaries of Defense, and two directors of the CIA, he knows his stuff.

After taking into account the direct and indirect costs of oil, the economic costs of oil supply disruption, and military expenditures, he estimates the true cost of oil at a stunning $480 a barrel.

That would make the "real" cost of filling up a family sedan about $220, and filling up a large SUV about $325 (when oil was $10 a barrel cheaper than it is now!).

Due to the enormous military cost of protecting Persian Gulf imports, the hidden cost of oil from that region amounts to $7.41 per gallon of gasoline. The cheapest gas out in my part of the Bay Area is $3.11 a gallon for regular. Add them together, and the true cost of my gas is probably around $10.52 a gallon.

We use 21 million barrels a day of oil. At $480 a barrel, that's $10 trillion a year draining from the national coffers.

And we haven't even tried to count the blood.

But we're not done yet.
Government Subsidies

Ah, everyone's favorite, the government subsidies.

It's a surprisingly difficult thing to put a boundary around, because there are so many direct and indirect ways in which the government supports the oil industry, and every study has its own list of things to leave in and things to leave out.

For example, none of the studies I found included the hidden subsidy of leasing public lands to oil companies for next to nothing, which in essence assigns zero value to the oil extracted from the ground, paying the public nothing for the loss of its natural capital.

One 1998 study by the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA) looked at petroleum industry subsidies, including the percentage depletion allowance and tax-funded programs that directly subsidize oil production and consumption, among other things.

It assessed up to $17.8 billion per year in tax subsidies, plus government program subsidies (such as vehicle R&D programs, highway construction, and environmental cleanup) of between $38 billion and $114.6 billion per year.

They pegged health and social costs at an additional $231.7 billion to $942.9 billion per year, counting factors such as health issues due to pollution, loss of crop yields, and so on.

As for related costs, such as the direct and indirect costs of traffic delays, traffic accidents, subsidized parking and the like, they counted another $191.4 billion to $474.1 billion per year.

Adjusting the estimates to 2006 dollars and rounding, that makes a total of between $68 and $161 billion in government subsidies, between $283 billion and $1,152 billion in health and social costs, and between $233 billion and $579 billion in related costs.

All told, $584 billion on the low side, $1.9 trillion on the high side.
Environmental Costs

Burning fossil fuels has serious environmental costs, from water and soil pollution, to loss of species, to loss of ecosystem services such as cleaning the water and air. And yet nobody ever pays those costs directly. They are "externalized" onto the environment: you and me, and everything that lives around us.

The Union of Concerned Scientists reviewed some studies on this subject in a 1995 article citing several estimates: "Delucchi (1995) estimates the total cost in 1991 of environmental externalities to be $54 billion to $232 billion. Human mortality and morbidity due to air pollution accounts for over three quarters of the total environmental cost and could be as high as $182 billion annually. For the Los Angeles area, Hall et al. (1992) estimates the annual health-based cost from ozone and particulate exposure alone to be almost $10 billion."

Taking the upper estimate (because there's no way their list of factors was comprehensive), and adjusting for inflation, call it a total cost of $345 billion per year.
Climate Change Cost

Then there is the cost of climate change owing to the production of CO2 from burning oil and gas.

A 2006 study by the U.K.'s New Economics Foundation looked at these costs company by company and concluded that the climate change costs far outweighed the oil companies' profits.

Using a government estimate that put the cost of environmental damage at $35 per ton of carbon dioxide, they calculated the cost of emissions from BP's oil business from production all the way through to burning the fuel. They came up with a damage bill of $51 billion a year. But BP's profit was only $19 billion, putting the entire enterprise $31 billion in the red!

The same calculation put Shell $23 billion in the red.

Once you take into account the externalized costs, the oil business isn't even worth doing.

Somewhere up there, Sitting Bull is saying "Duh!"

Given the U.S.'s emissions of some 1,614 million metric tons, and using the $35/ton figure, that gives us a CO2 bill of about $56 trillion a year.
Summing It Up

To be honest, I have no idea how one could sum up these estimates. There are too many different boundaries for the costs that are counted and a lot of troublesome math that wouldn't yield a terribly significant number anyway.

But, just for fun, let's add up the above numbers.

All economic costs: $10 trillion.

Cost of dependence: $233 billion.

Government subsidies, health and social costs, and related costs: $1.9 trillion.

Environmental costs: $345 billion.

Climate change costs: $56 trillion.

Total: About $68.5 trillion a year.

And our GDP is about $13 trillion a year.

OK, undoubtedly some of the costs are being counted more than once.

But however you add it up, it's clear that we're running up an enormous tab with Mother Nature, even if "nobody" is paying for it.

Which makes it incredibly obvious why renewable energy is the answer. Almost all of those costs go away with renewables, and we could probably replace our entire energy generation system for that kind of cash.

No wonder $71 billion of new capital was poured into the renewables sector last year.

And you'd better believe Green Chip Stocks members are getting a piece of this action too!

Until next time,