Fracking over nuclear

It’s not all bad with fracking after all! The recent boom in natural gas supply is related to the current advancement in hydraulic fracking.  After hydraulic fracturing hit the scene, it opened up vast stores of previously unobtainable gas. That led to a big gas boom and the subsequent cheap supply in natural gas for energy production. It’s already had a huge impact on coal mostly, by killing it off and encouraging natural gas power generation.

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Until recently, coal power kept half the nation’s lights on. Last year, for the first time, enough power plants switched to natural gas, to the point that coal was down to providing only a third of the nation’s power.
Shale gas boom is not only stopping the development of new nuclear plant but it’s also forcing the existing nuclear power facility to switch to gas. Nuclear power has always been exorbitantly expensive. Every reactor requires staggering loan guarantees from the government and comes with massive upfront costs. That’s partly why between 1978 and 2012, just one new nuclear power plant was approved for construction in the United States

Lord Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency, of the United Kingdom also supported the move to encourage shale gas fracking in the UK.  I am also joining the team of few environmental professionals that is in support of shale gas fracking but it must be done in a transparent and supervised manner.   I believe the oil and gas companies have been working to reduce pollutions from gas exploration. I want you to look into the present shale gas exploration system and recommend ways to make it better.

 

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Less Smog in California, despite more people and cars.

This is great news coming out of California. Californian environment is reaping the dividend of having strict environmental regulations. As you all know it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get environmental permits to build new fossil fuel power plant or industries in California.  In as much as I do not agree with all environmental regulation in California, I still believe it’s paying off now. The LA Times on June 5, 2013 published a report titled “Despite more people and more cars, California’s smog is in retreat”.

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According to the report, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado led the research, which analyzed decades of data and collected air samples from over flights in 2010. The study found that Southern California’s air chemistry has changed for the better. The amount of organic nitrates in the atmosphere which causes smog has drastically reduced. Ozone and other pollutants have been monitored in the state since the 1960s. Since then, the population in Southern California has tripled, as has the number of cars on the road. Nevertheless, tailpipe emissions have decreased.

The state of California’s stringent emission standard has been credited for this pollution reduction. But I need to remind you that this progress comes with a price. Residences of California are paying for this environment progress with their hard-earned income. And energy productions to the state are offshore from neighboring states to supplement supplies from the few power plants in the state.

Happy father’s day to all the fathers.

 

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Its Earth’s day 2013.

Today is Earth Day! Every year, April 22 is set aside as a day to honor environmental awareness and action. This year’s theme is “The Face of Climate Change”, chosen to highlight the mounting impact of global warming on people worldwide. Year in year out, Google has been there to acknowledge the Earth day by providing doodles on its website to celebrate the day. From melting polar ice in 2007 (a prophetic nod to the record Arctic melt that year), rocks in 2008, a waterfall and marine life in 2009 to parrots in 2010pandas in 2011 and animated flowers in 2012. This year, Google is commemorating Earth Day with an animated doodle showing a cycle of all four seasons.

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Yesterday, the city of Reno also celebrated pre-earth day event with a lot of fun and glamour. This event brought hundreds of exhibitors to educate the public about clean and green technologies. It also highlighted discussions on human impact on the environment and ideas about sustainable living habit. The Los Angeles times also posted an article about seven ways to honor the planet which I think is interesting. Last week, I also posted a blog post on how the NBA is joining the climate campaign by celebration its 5th NBA annual earth week with different environmental awareness program planned for the week.

The earth day is a significant day and need to be celebrated with a level of sacrifices on our path. I have decided to celebrate today by not printing on any paper at the office today.  I am also going to buy food with little or no packaging. This is also a call to action for you too, kindly think of something you can do to celebrate the Earth day and share your comments about the day below. May sure you talk to someone about the danger of climate change today.

Thanks

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Lessons from Euro carbon market

Last November, California Air Resources Board flags off the first carbon market program in the United States of America despite the US senate’s 2010 failure to pass a national program. Given the state’s history of implementing environmental regulations that later becomes national policy, a successful cap-and-trade system could serve as a federal model in the future. I think the cap-and-trade idea is to make it more expensive to emit CO2, and to make green technologies-including renewable fuels, and carbon capture and sequestration-that are initially expensive more competitive with fossil fuels.If cap-and-trade in California fails, then that could be a big blow to its consideration as a national policy instrument in Washington.

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The European carbon program is going through some hard times. last week, the European parliament  voted 334-315 (with 60 abstentions) against a controversial “back-loading” plan that aimed to boost the flagging price of carbon, which since 2008 has fallen from about 31 euros per ton to about 4 euros (about $5.20).  This blog post is to make a quick assessment of the European carbon program and highlight some lesson the world could learn from its mode of operation.

I believe that what really plummet the European carbon market were the 2008 economic Recession and the subsequent anemic recovery that still lingers on till now. Due to the slow economic recovery, the demand for carbon reduces and the supply continues to increase; forcing a bad economics of scale. Tomas Wyns, director of the Center for Clean Air Policy Europe, a Brussels-based nonprofit said there should be a price-stabilization reserve that buys up allowances when prices are too low. The EU should have introduced a back-loading system that will take a chunk of the excesses out of the market creating an artificial scarcity that would have boosted the price of carbon.

The major opponents to the carbon market program are the major industries ranging from the steelmakers to beer brewers who argue that if the price of carbon goes up they will not be able to compete against competitors from other countries that are still benefiting from the already cheap energy sources like the shale gas in America. While I think it is a legitimate argument especially with the fragile state of European economic, it equally important to think about its potential risk

Although the US senate voted down the 2010 cap and trade proposal, I hope the European experience will not be a deterrent for future consideration.  I believe the complexity of European politics has contributed to the European carbon market problem and that with a stable political system and support, the US will definitely gain from a thoroughly planned emission trading program. The California carbon market is relatively young and will appreciate your positive criticism and comments below in order to make it better.

Thanks

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What is the U.S. planning for its radioactive waste?

On Sunday, I watched the Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol(2011) movies starring Tom Cruise and began to wonder how dangerous a nuclear weapon could be in the hand of the wrong person.  The recent nuclear threats from Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korean republic sends fright into my spine on how devastating a nuclear disaster will be.  I posted a blog on 24th of February 2013 about the leaking nuclear tank in Hanford, Washington. This tragedy and the Fukushima nuclear disaster should remind us that we are sitting on a large capacity of nuclear waste from power generation and we still have not figured out what to do with it.

According to a report from world nuclear organization, USA has 103 nuclear power reactors in 31 states, operated by 30 different power companies. Since 2001 these plants have achieved an average capacity factor of over 90%, generating up to 807 billion kWh per year and accounting for 20% of total electricity generated. Capacity factor has risen from 50% in the early 1970s, to 70% in 1991, and it passed 90% in 2002, remaining at around this level since.”

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The USA today stated that The Commercial power reactors have about 64,000 tons of used reactor fuel at power plants in 33 states with the amount growing at the rate of 2,000 tons a year.The issue is; the nation has no place to permanently store the material, which stays dangerous for tens of thousands of years. Most of these wastes are buried under the 103 nuclear plants in the nation with most of them in the densely populated eastern states of America. Some are even sited close to the waters of the US because they need a lot of water for cooling the reactors.

I read an article about the French’s means of nuclear waste disposal and feels the US need to think along this line too. Just like the Yucca Mountain, NV repository site that was abandoned due to some political reasons, France is building a large subterranean storage plant that will be used to store high- and medium-level wastes. The process will include vitrification (process that would turn the liquid nuclear waste into glass). After which they will pour the molten glass into stainless steel casks placed within steel barrels and inject them into the rock for storage. They will also compress mid-level waste, which often includes exposed equipment, into steel canisters and then entomb them within concrete inside the tunnels. The specially designed canisters would prevent being heated by the radioactive decay occurring within them so that their outside surface temperature wouldn’t exceed 194 degrees Fahrenheit.

I am not a nuclear waste expert so I cannot provide an evidence- based approach to solving this problem, but experts in the industries choose the Yucca Mountain as the best location for siting this storage plant after a detailed consideration of its geographical terrain and its far distance to a densely populated city. I think the Yucca mountain project should be revisited and professional unbiased recommendations should be made in order to determine the way forward on this subject matter. This ‘not in my back yard’ mentality should be checked because any disaster to any of the over 100 nuclear plants will be a catastrophe to the whole nation. At the end, I think the host state (may be Nevada) will then have to negotiate a huge tax break from the government in other to make the process meaningful. Kindly remember to leave a comment on your thoughts on this issue.

Thanks

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Climate change and the economy: Part 1

In my previous post, I talked about the best way to reduce climate change is to have a worldwide participation where every country will be equally committed to reducing green house gases (GHG).  Especially since Climate change is a global issue, it is not really fair if one country increases taxes on its citizen while others continue to emit green house gases without a commensurate commitment to prevent climate change. This post will begin our series of discussion about climate change and its relative economic impacts.

February 17, 2013 remain a remarkable day in the US climate change protest. Climate activists descended on Washington, D.C., in what organizers boasted was the largest climate-change rally in American history, claiming more than 35,000 attendees according to LA times. The rally, themed as the “The Forward on Climate rally” called for President Obama to take immediate action on climate change, with many calling for the government to block the construction of the oil pipeline known as Keystone XL. The Keystone XL project will be a very important boost to the US economy especially as the economy is just bouncing back from the recession of 2008.

In January 2012, Obama rejected the initial 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Port Arthur, Texas, saying he needed more time for environmental review. Since the project crosses a U.S. border, it needs permit from the State Department, but Obama has said he’ll make the final call. The project’s developer, Calgary-based TransCanada, has since broken the project into two parts. It received approval last year from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin construction of the 485-mile, $2.3 billion southern leg of the project from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf Coast. Obama’s pending decision involves the 1,179-mile, $5.3 billion northern leg, from Alberta to Steele City, Neb. The Obama administration is planning towards having a north American energy independent by 2020 and this project is a very important part of this plan. This will help reduce American Middle East oil dependency and also create thousands of job opportunities.

In as much as I believe in the need to stop climate change, I also support making the economy work again. I think the keystone project should be allowed under strict supervision from the EPA. The design should be properly reviewed to avoid any environmental issue and all endangered species must be protected. The ideas above are my view that might not be generally accepted by most people.  I will really appreciate your comments on this issue and on ways to improve the economy and ultimately protect the environment.

Thanks