By Alex Kasdin
With the 2012 presidential election looming, Americans are starting to focus on the issues that are most important to them. For 8 in 10 Americans surveyed in a recent poll conducted by the AP-NORC Center, one of those issues is energy: only the economy, education, and healthcare ranked higher. Affordable energy is so important to Americans that fewer than 20 percent of people listed a summer vacation or a new smartphone as a higher priority than lowering their energy bill. According to the poll, they’re saving energy by using less electricity and using more efficient appliances, among other things.
What they’re not doing, however, is buying more fuel-efficient cars or hitching rides to work with their friends. In fact, people said altering their transportation habits to save energy was one of the hardest lifestyle changes they could make. Transportation is second only to industry in how much energy it uses, though, which means Americans will probably have to do more than turn off the lights to make a dent in their energy costs.
The Cornell Survey Research Institute, meanwhile, has also just released its own energy-related poll. This one focuses on New York State residents’ attitudes toward natural-gas drilling, and the results show that New Yorkers don’t want more of it. In recent years, gas prices have dropped thanks largely to new drilling techniques, especially fracking. But fracking has been criticized for the damage it does to the environme...
German solar power plants set a world record in late May, producing 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour, meeting nearly 50 percent of the nation’s midday needs, according to the head of a renewable energy think tank. That amount of energy is equivalent to 20 nuclear power plants operating at full capacity. Germany has abandoned nuclear power after the disaster in Japan at the Fukushima plant. The country will explore other renewable energy sources instead.
Credit: Creative Commons/Horst Kiechle
Fans of electric automobiles love the fact that they’re quiet, zippy and take far less maintenance than gasoline-powered cars (no oil changes, no ignition system, no radiator fluid…). In principle, electrics are also more climate-friendly — although until coal-fired power plants start capturing and storing CO2 to keep it out of the air, the climate advantage is still just a principle in lots of places.
But now, GE has come up with another plus—albeit a small one — for electric vehicles: they can power up your house during a blackout, like the one that disrupted the Northeast during last fall’s unprecedented Snowtober storm, or during the winds and rain from Hurricane Irene a few weeks earlier.
GE introduced the concept behind this new idea a few days ago at the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress in Detroit. It didn’t introduce any new technology, though, because the technology (or some of it, anyway), already exists. All you do, explains GE CEO Jeff Immelt in a video shot at the conference, is connect your Wattstation EV Charger (you have one of those, right?) to your Nucleus Home Energy Management System (check) to the Smart Grid (we’re still working on that), and voila! Thanks to your electric vehicle’s battery, which is strong enough to push a ton of metal down the road at high speed, your lights will stay on even as climate change makes some types of extreme weather events more common and more severe — along, presumably, with blackouts.
PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Spring is just around the corner, but here on the West Coast it’s hard to believe winter was ever here. In Washington, Oregon, and particularly California, far less snow and rain has fallen this winter than usual and it has many people worried about water supplies further into spring and summer.
Low reservoir levels at the Lower Granite Lock and Dam, Washington State. Credit: BPA.
Currently, river levels are forecast to be well below average throughout Northern California this spring and summer. Among other things, that doesn’t bode well for hydropower. On the other hand, rivers should be running closer to normal in Washington and Oregon this year, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. It’s a small blessing for Californians, who rely on their northern neighbors for electricity each summer.
But in the coming decades, warmer temperatures could hamstring hydropower production in the Pacific Northwest, forcing California to look elsewhere for an electricity boost.
The Pacific Northwest largely powers itself with dams on several major rivers. In fact, 70 percent of the electricity generated in Washington State comes via hydropower. In the summer, when local demands for electricity are at their lowest — after all, it’s rarely hot enough to need air conditioning — Washington, Oregon, and even British Columbia, produce more hydropower than they can use, so they sell it to nearby California, where the need for electricity is much higher.
Within the next several decades, however, “the ability to tran...
By a vote of 4 to 1, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the construction of the first new nuclear reactors to be built in the United States since 1978. The reactors would be built at the Vogtle power plant near Waynesboro, Ga., which is a nuclear power plant operated by the Southern Company.
As The Hill's E-2 Wire blog noted, the lone dissenting vote was cast by NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko. The nuclear industry has faced numerous obstacles, most recently the backlash following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, in its efforts to build new nuclear plants in the U.S., and the Commission has issued recommendations on how to better protect U.S. reactors from earthquakes and floods.
The Southern Company's Vogtle power plant, where the two new reactors are slated to be built. Credit: Southern Company.
The country currently operates 104 nuclear reactors, but all were approved at least three decades ago.
“This is a historic day,” said Marvin Fertel, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s trade group in a statement. “Today’s licensing action sounds a clarion call to the world that the United States recognizes the importance of expanding nuclear energy as a key component of a low-carbon energy future that is central to job creation, diversity of electricity supply and energy security.”
Andrew Restuccia, writing for The Hill, noted the project still needs to overcome public opposition to nuclear power that may result in a lawsuit against the project, and congressional opposition to a hefty $8.3 billion federal conditional loan guarantee for r...