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First hanging chads, now an energy pig

Al Gore can’t win – even when he does win as evidenced by the 2000 US Presidential Election and now the Oscars, he seems to somehow lose in the court of public opinion.

I’m no Al Gore lover, I thought he was the lesser of two evils in the 2000 election (I’m still steamed about Gore “inventing the Internet” and the music ratings advanced by his spousal unit in the 1980s.) The attention given to “An Inconvenient Truth” is annoying, but helpful in raising awareness about climate change.

Now Tennessee Center for Policy Research alleges Gore is an energy pig, reporting the consumption of 221,000 kilowatt hours in the past year. OK, it turns out that it was really 191,000 kilowatt hours (there’s that new math instruction hitting home again,) that the Center didn’t ever contact the utility for the information, and that the Center declines to state their electric power consumption for their executive leadership. Let’s just stipulate that Gore is a rich guy with a big house, 10,000 square feet. He’s got a heated pool, an electric gate, and gas lamps lining his driveway (though I fail to see the electric connection on the latter issue.)

Could he conserve more? Undoubtably. We all could – I suspect the Tennessee Center for Policy Research could as well. What is he doing? He’s paying a premium for “green energy” adding $432/month to his power bill. The house is in the process of solar panel installation. Because Gore is a rich guy with a big house that consumes lots of energy, does that mean climate change is a myth? Does that mean he’s a hypocrite given that he’s offsetting his consumption with available green options?

Rather than spending time and resource attacking an admittedly easy target in Gore, why not actually advance a policy that advocates the replacement of coal powered electric generation with renewables. Nah. That’s boring, no one would blog about it, there wouldn’t be any press releases. That sounds like work…..and there we have it. Work. We’ve all got to conserve as we can (I’d like to see Gore make a little progress on that but people in glass houses….) and work to use the renewable technologies available to start closing the gap now as well as work to improve and invent new technologies to make it happen.

Here’s your challenge Tennessee Center for Policy Research: Advance a policy that solves the problem. When you can do that, even if it’s a stupid policy, you’ll earn some airtime. Until and unless you do that, you’re part of the problem.

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Carbon Prize: Talk about putting your money where your mouth is…

Richard Branson today announced a $25M prize for the first viable means of “scrubbing the atmosphere of billions of tons of carbon gases from the atmosphere.”

It’s a big challenge, sort of the same spirit of the Ansari X Prize that gave $10M to the first non-government organization to reach space with manned flights twice within two weeks.

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Speaking of big ideas…

The Oil Drum published this long and detailed entry from the Engineer Poet on how to replace our dependence on fossil fuel and get to carbon neutrality using an enhanced biomass system coupled with electricity generation, fuel cells, and battery transport power. If you don’t have time for a long read, are data averse, or have attention deficit, the referenced post might not be for you…

This is an old post by net standards, published at the end of November of last year, but certainly is filled with interesting data. Now I don’t subscribe to the “solve the energy crisis in one fell swoop” approach, but this post did make me think that perhaps more is possible in big hunks than I’ve been allowing. Even so, this is is a grandiose proposal that would require 20 years or more to implement, if it even could be implemented. But the ideas are worth exploring as realizing even 10% of the benefit would make a difference.

The thesis of the post is: “The US can replace our fossil fuel dependence with sustainable fuel and positively impact our carbon footprint – but, not with our current approach, assumptions, or reward system.” The author then goes on to outline at length why our current situation and approach is flawed, current consumption and conversion of energy to work, outlines an improvement using biomass with several outputs including charcoal, ethanol, and electricity, tackles the issue of carbon capture from the atmosphere, then outlines plans for electricity and transportation, and finally ties it all together.

If you’re at all interested in this subject area, this is must-read content. Thanks to Bruce for passing this along.

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Cool new DoE resource

The Energy Information Administration (part of DoE) has launched a new website that provides a comprehensive overview of energy consumption, production, and distribution across the US, with deep dives into each state. It’s pretty cool (though there is room for improvement as the Imperial Valley in California is missing as a geothermal producer for example.) It seems to use much of the same data from the Electric Power Monthly report and much more aggregating it into a more consumable format. It’s certainly a great start.

When clicking around a bit, one of the things that struck me was that California, with 12% of the US population is responsible for only 2.2% of carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions and 0.2% of sulphur dioxide emissions in the US. While the share was wildly disproporitionate, the absolute tonnage of emission is still enormous. The image below shows a summary of California, click the picture to get the detail that goes along with the image.

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Seismic activity at The Geysers

One of the tidbits picked up on our recent trip to The Geysers was about the seismic activity around the resource. Since it is a geothermal resource, one of the things an exploration team looks for is seismic activity as it is a primary indicator of resource.

It was a surprise to me (but really shouldn’t have been) that the seismic activity in the region has increased both in frequency of activity and magnitude since the field has been in production. Logically, one would expect that if you’re taking huge amounts of mass from underground that there would be some impact, at the very least, subsidence. This isn’t to say there are huge cataclysmic quakes happening, the quakes tend to be small and frequent.

Click the map to visit the USGS for more detail.

As you can see from the USGS quake map above, there are 52 quakes in the past week, the cluster of events near the left, top of the map is in The Geysers region. The magnitude of these quakes range from 1-3 typically, though a 4.4 was registered in the Calpine leasehold in the past few years. Curiously, the activity has increased with the injection measures taken to replace mass extracted from the production wells. Since the reservoir is a series of fractures in a confined space, this may be from overloading certain areas of the reservoir rather than a more even distribution of the injected fluid across the fissures.

Nevertheless, a very interesting side effect of the geothermal activity in The Geysers region.

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