|Issue of the Day Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category|
General Motors has kicked up its campaign for the new Chevy Volt, which is part of their strategy to address increasing fuel efficiency standards facing car makers and demand from buyers today. The Volt, which is expected to be available late next year, can be plugged into a normal household outlet and travel exclusively on electricity for 40 miles. After that, a small gasoline motor kicks in. The headline making the rounds is that the Volt will get 230 mpg for city driving only and assumes that the driver is operating mainly on electricity. A freeway number has not been released so far and GM states that it will be “fairly significantly lower…yet greater than 100 mpg.” The US Environmental Agency has yet to verify GM’s 230 mpg claim.
Plug-in electric cars may, at some point in the future, add significant demand to the grid. The time gap will allow for an improvements to the grid; today the net generation of electricity depends upon coal and natural gas generation. Without adding more renewable energy in electricity generation, plug-in electrics will simply shift carbon emissions from source to another, one that may or may not be more efficient, in particular when energy loss during transmission is taken into consideration.
Angola Becomes Africa’s Largest Petroleum Producer
Published Tuesday, August 11th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
As part of a seven-nation trip, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton encouraged Angola to continue reforms and pledged to boost trade ties with the war ravaged country. Angola recently surpassed Nigeria as Africa’s largest petroleum producer, and the country supplies vast amounts of petroleum and liquid natural gas to the US market. Clinton’s visit comes as the US competes for energy resources in Africa and as Angola recently eclipsed Saudi Arabia as the leading source of crude oil for China. China has a history of investing billions without political reform, yet Secretary Clinton urged Angola to build upon successful legislative elections by adopting a new constitution, prosecuting human rights abuses, and electing a president. Also, Clinton urged the Angolans to create greater accountability and transparency in the petroleum sector, which accounts for nearly 60% of the country’s gross domestic product.
The total consumption of liquid fuels and other petroleum products is projected to decrease by 650,000 billion barrels a day in 2009 due to the economic downturn, which amounts to a decrease of 3.3% over 2008. The United States consumes petroleum as a source of energy at a steady range of 150-100 trillion kilowatt hours (KWh) a year according to the Energy Information Administration. This is significantly down from the late 1960’s-1989 where the peak was measured at 360 trillion kWh.
Baltimore Gas and Electric, Co. a subsidiary of Constellation Energy Group, Inc. has unveiled a plan for a smart grid program that will replace the need for a new power plant. The utility is planning to install 2 million “smart” electric meters in customers’ homes and businesses. The meters will help the customers reduce their energy consumption at peak demand with rebates to compensate. The program will cost $500 million, of which consumers will pay through a surcharge added onto their bill — $1.24 per month for residential and $3.00 for commercial consumers. BGE is also seeking $200 million from the Department of Energy and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to reduce the charges passed on to consumers. There is $4.5 billion set aside in the stimulus package for new smart grid programs. Also, a “smart” pricing system will give consumers rebates for using less power at peak times. The program could launch by the end of 2009 and finish by 2014, with the new pricing system in place by 2012. Savings are estimated at $2.6 billion and 500 megawatts over the life of the program.
Since 1973 our consumption of energy per person has been relatively steady at about 95838 kilowatt hours annually, at an average cost of $4300. In that time, the price per kilowatt hour has reached nearly $0.10 for residential consumers, $0.95 for commercial consumers and $0.62 for industrial consumers, all of which increased relatively $0.02 since 2000.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) keeps taps on our trash and has reported its findings on the generation and disposal of trash in the U.S. for 30 years. The data is used to map the success of waste reduction and recycling programs across the country. In 2007, the most recent data, Americans generated 254 million tons of trash and recycled/composted 85 million tons of that trash, an equivalent of a 33.4% recycling rate. On average, the normal American recycled and composted 1.5 pounds of 4.6 pounds of personal waste generated per person per day.
Over the years of data collection, the EPA has mapped a current recycling rate that is 3 times that of 1980. Recycling programs have fallen to 8,660 curbside recycling programs nationwide, down from 8,875 in 2002. Community composting programs, the decomposition of biodegradable material (e.g., yard trimmings, food scraps), have grown by 283 programs to 3,510 programs nationwide. In 2007, nearly 31.9 million tons of materials or 12.6% of all refuse was combusted for energy. Waste combustion for energy has remained fairly flat since 1990. The Obama Administration has included energy recovery from refuse as a part of its energy and environment initiative, which strives to increase the use of refuse and other renewable sources for alternative energy.
The volatility of the oil market has many wondering what is fueling the rollercoaster prices at the pump. After last year’s wild run of $145 a barrel high in mid 2008 to $33 a barrel in December, the recent rise of crude oil prices to $67.97 a barrel has some wondering if demand is responsible or market speculation. All reports suggest that demand for crude oil will slip further by 3-4% in the West and 2% worldwide. Instead, experts point to the financial markets as the weak dollar made investors flee and turn to safer staple stocks such as oil and wheat, thus driving those commodity prices up. One of the red flags was the largest rise in monthly oil prices in 10 years as prices surged $11.38 from May 9th to June 9th. Also, OPEC has reduced production, and political and economic unrest have reduced output from other oil production countries like Iran, Venezuela, Mexico, Nigeria and Iraq.
World crude oil production has steadily risen since the early 1980s. OPEC reduced its production of crude oil by nearly half after 1980 whereas Non-OPEC countries continued increasing output.
The price of gas in the last 48 days has risen $0.61 or 30.3% on average nationwide to set a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline to $2.669 on Monday. This comes as global events pull crude lower to $70 a barrel. Crude has had a rollercoaster ride with global events such as protests in Iran and sabotage in the Niger Delta; the World’s Reserve Currency and OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) have stated that $75-80 per barrel is a fair level.
From each barrel of crude, a refinery produces 19.15 gallons of gasoline, 9.21 gallons of diesel, and 16.32 gallons of various other products. In 2007, the cost of crude oil only contributed 58% to the price of gas per gallon at the pump; this is 10 percent higher than previous years. The refining cost — up 1% from the previous 7 years — contributed 17% to the average distribution cost of a gallon of regular. Distribution, marketing and retail dealer costs and profits in 2007 were 10% of the gasoline price, which is down from the 2000-2007 average of 12%. The demand for gas in the US, another factor in the price per gallon, is driven by a steady increase in the monthly vehicle mileage. Given slow rise in vehicle fuel efficiency, the US consumption of gasoline has, since 1980, remained about 700 gallons per year or a consumption of 9 million of barrels of crude oil a day.
The House Republicans have planned to introduce an energy bill, called the American Energy Act, as an alternative to the Democratic plan scheduled for vote this month. The proposal seeks to push for 100 nuclear reactor plants to be built over the next 20 years. Also, the bill calls for increased oil and gas production on public and private lands and offshore, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Within the act, there is also no cap on emissions. This comes as the Department of Energy has awarded a $587,000 grant as a part of the DoE’s investment in nuclear energy research and development for the new Nuclear Energy University Program.
The Republican plan is ambitious since there has not been a new nuclear plant in the US since 1978 due to the high cost of construction and difficulty with regulatory approval. Currently there are 104 commercial nuclear reactors generating 100,000 megawatts of electricity, which makes the US the largest supplier. The overall percentage of the total US net generation of electricity produced by nuclear energy, which increased rapidly from 1974 to 1988 and afterwards remained at 20% present.
From the state of Vermont comes the Vermont Energy Act of 2009, which will create and regulate new 10-20 year contracts—25 years for solar projects—for the sale of power produced by owners of small renewable energy facilities. So-called “Feed-in Tariffs” are used to encouraged the installation of grid-connected renewable energy systems by both individuals and businesses by making such systems a profitable investment and guaranteeing income that can help attract financing. Currently, Vermont’s Feed-In systems are at 2.2 megawatts capacity; the act sets a cap of 50 megawatts for such contracts. The linchpin for Governor Jim Douglas was the Act’s provision that the Vermont Public Services Board adjust the preliminary standard rates—varying by method of generation—set by the legislature.
Renewable energy is a priority policy issue for the Obama Administration. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides over $45 billion to encourage renewable energy production, which includes $4.5 billion for the creation of a smart grid to handle today’s generation needs. Renewable energy generation accounts for 7% of our total generation output in 2008; this is a product of a revival in renewable energy after a 12% drop in net generation in 2000. Sources of renewable energy include biogenic waste, geothermal, hydroelectric, solar and wind.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spend on average 12.5% of their budgets on food each year, yet still many find their access to food is shrinking. The price of food is closely related to the initial cost of that food’s ingredients, the energy to create the food, and the fuel to transport the product to market. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office stated that increased use of ethanol accounted for about 10% to 15% of the rise in food prices between April 2007 and April 2008. According to the Consumer Price Index, the average cost of food rose 5.9% last year as food companies wanted to protect their profit margins. Accordingly, overall food prices rose by 0.3% in April compared with the previous month yet they are still 3.7% lower than they were a year earlier.
Prices for fruits and vegetables also reacted to production costs as vegetables rose 1.4%, yet fruit higher demand offset energy costs, causing prices to fall 3%. Products that rely on biofuels products like corn and wheat rose 7.4%. Meat products, such as beef and pork, chickens and eggs have increased in price; where as dairy products, such as milk, as a whole have decreased 3.1% over last year’s prices. Much of this can be explained by the farm acreage that is utilized by biofuels production and the lower numbers of livestock operations. Another added expense to the prices of food stuffs is the ever increasing price for farm foods packaging.
Alternative Fuels get a Boost of Funding from ARRA
Published Thursday, May 7th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
Nearly $800 Million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been announced in a press release by US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to accelerate bio-fuels research and commercialization. Also, the money will go towards commercial-scale biorefinery demonstration projects. This move follows the Obama Administration’s initiative to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, addressing the climate crisis and creating jobs that cannot be outsourced. Broken down, $480 million will go towards 10 to 20 awards for integrated pilot- and demonstration-scale biorefineries for commercial-scale replications. Also, the Act releases $176.5 million for increasing the federal ceiling on pre-existing biorefinery projects. There is $110 million for sustainability research, the development of technologies and bio-fuels including algal based. Plus, $20 million goes towards Ethanol research into flex-fuel vehicles, the impact of higher ethanol blends in conventional vehicles and the subsequent infrastructure for fuels up to E85.
Alternative fuel consumption started gaining ground in 1981 when the US consumed barely 7000 Billion alternative-based Btus. Consumption rose at a slow pace until President Bush’s Biomass Research and Development Act of 2000, which saw the use of biofuels increase exponentially along with the 2002 Farm Bill and the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Currently, the consumption of alternative fuels, which has been cultivated by the Federal Government, has risen to 626,000 Billion Btus in 2007.