As the race between the Republican contenders for their party’s endorsement for the presidential candidacy nomination gets into full gear, debates are flying all around.
For those voters concerned about what the various men vying for the nomination have to say about US energy policy, this coming Tuesday’s debate will be of special interest.
The Republicans will come together in Washington, DC to debate the state of the country’s national security, which is strongly correlated with the US policy on energy.
It is expected that these candidates will support increased domestic oil and gas drilling in order to make the United States more secure.
The debate is also expected to give the candidates a chance to re hash old criticism of the energy policies of the Obama administration, especially the president’s opposition to new drilling in areas of Alaska and both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts
For the third time in a period of ten years the Covanta Energy Corp has requested to be recognized as a renewable power source by the New York State Public Service Commission.
Covanta produces electricity from the incineration of garbage at their trash-burning power plant. They argue that the production of energy from garbage is worthy of consideration as a renewable power on par with wind, solar and biomass energy generation.
If Covanta wins renewable power designation it would then be eligible to apply for millions of dollars in state subsidized funds with which it could build new trash-burning power plants.
James Regan said on behalf of Covanta that the main issue is whether Covanta and other developers will build additional power plants in New York, which already has ten in operation. The state subsidies would give Covanta and others a more competitive edge when competing for municipal waste with landfills. Landfills usually charge lower tipping fees to garbage collectors than Covanta and others can afford.
Last Tuesday the Building Trades Employers’ Association hosted a conference entitled, “New York 2030: The Rise of the Retrofit and Repositioning New York’s Buildings.” The conference was held at the First American Title Insurance Company on Third Avenue, and in attendance were Frank Martino, the vice president of Operations for Columbia University, and the director of Energy Services for NYU Langone Medical Center, John Bartlik, among others.
The conference is a response to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s commitment for the city to reduce its carbon footprint by 30% by the year 2030 under the auspices of PlaNYC. Since the energy used in buildings produces about 75% of the city’s carbon emissions it is logical to discuss ways of reducing carbon emissions in this sector, which was the goal of the conference.
One way energy is already being saved in buildings is through retrofitting. Columbia University and NYU have shown themselves to be leaders in this movement. And the results so far have proved impressive. At NYU Langone Medical Center there has already been achieved a 34% reduction in carbon emissions. Mr. Bartlik said that NYU is predicting a further reduction of 30% by 2018. Columbia University has also shown good results from retrofitting, reducing emissions by 13% and expecting an additional reduction of 30% by 2017.
Riding the Green Wave
Retrofitting can refer to the entire overhaul of a building’s energy distribution system to something as simple as just adding insulation. Whichever it might be, retrofitting is turning into a major part of New York’s construction industry as more and more business owners, homeowners and office building owners get serious about saving energy and reducing their carbon footprint. Building owners especially see riding on the “green wave” as good for business as they can market their properties as “environmentally friendly” and “sustainable.”
If you are in the process of building a new home, it is worthwhile considering whether or not to build a New York ENERGY STAR® labeled home.
There are several good reasons that an ENERGY STAR labeled home could be right for you:
• You will be more comfortable any time of year in an ENERGY STAR home. They are designed and built to be warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, with no drafty areas, quieter and more durable.
• You can expect much lower bills from your power company, up to 30% or more, every month, all year long.
• ENERGY STAR homes allow owners to dwell within them in confidence, knowing that their homes had to pass a performance test and a computer-based energy analysis to be awarded their special status.
• The living environment is healthier than many other homes. Ventilation systems provide excellent air quality, eliminating problems with moisture.
• Experience peace of mind knowing that your home helps reduce the problems of global warming and climate change and minimizes harmful carbon emissions. Due to the minimizing of greenhouse gas pollution from the ENERGY STAR home, the construction of the home and its use is the equivalent of planting about one acre of trees.
Since the onset of deregulation of the energy marketplace in New York, several energy service companies, or ESCOs have developed to compete for consumers’ loyalty and pocketbooks. This healthy competition has contributed to lowered prices, improved customer service, and motivating companies to be more responsive and responsible to the needs of the communities in which they operate.
Energy Your Way
Accent Energy, which is headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, is an ESCO which provides electricity, natural gas and green alternative power to residents of New York (and Texas, too.) They specialize in customizing energy plans to meet the specific needs and wants of their customers by offering a large variety of choices for products, rates and services.
In addition to the many choices offered to its customers, Accent Energy also donates substantially to a large number of charitable causes, including the American Red Cross, Welcome Warehouse and Ronald McDonald House. In this way ESCOs, including Accent Energy, give back to the communities which support them.
A group of doctors, medical associations, and environmental groups sent a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo asking for a comprehensive evaluation of the impact of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, on public health.
Fracking is an alternative method of drilling for natural gas.
Environmental Study Left Out Public Health Impact
New York conducted a study on the environmental impact of fracking, taking into account the possible impact fracking will have on job creation, the character of communities, damage to roads, and wildlife. However, the impact fracking will have on public health was not evaluated.
The group sited in their letter documented cases of the negative health impact of residents living near gas wells and waste pits elsewhere in the country, from exposure to toxic chemicals
which are used for gas exploration and production. Among the health risks the doctors mentioned were problems breathing and the development of asthma.
The letter was signed by over 250 physicians and other anti-drilling groups, including the Catskill Mountainkeeper. The letter stated in part,
“The environmental impacts of gas development include air and water pollution and soil contamination, which are clearly established pathways for health impacts.”
Officials Counter Safeguards in Place
State officials from the environmental department defended themselves by saying that the proposed rules for the development of fracking in New York do take into consideration the health issues experienced in other states. They asserted that strict requirements will be incorporated into the procedures for the employment of fracking which will prevent those health issues from developing in New York.
The Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, the group that represents the natural gas industry in the state, asserted in a statement that safeguards will be incorporated into the drilling process which will prevent any health problem from developing.
“While some will suggest the hydraulic fracturing process poses a threat to human health, regulations and permit conditions have been and will be in place to prevent pathways to humans and the environment, similar to those in effect for many other industries,” it said.
The latest scheme coming from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office is to transform the many garbage dumps around New York into solar energy farms.
PlaNYC for a Greater Greener NYC
The plan is just one more part of the ongoing “Greater, Greener” sustainability plan, an all-encompassing project which at the moment contains 132 initiatives designed to improve the basics of life in New York, from improving air quality by cutting down on oil use to a scheme for loans towards more energy efficiency, and cleaning up and developing “brownfield” sites, which is vacant land which has been neglected due to the fact that the land is in some way polluted or contaminated.
Roofs, Dumps and Landfills to be Used for Energy
These initiatives are all part of PlaNYC, whose ultimate goal is to decrease the greenhouse gas emissions of New York by at least 30% before the year 2030. The city will go partners with private firms and together will build more than 60 megawatts of solar energy on roofs, and to also create large scale solar-heating facilities in former garbage dumps, landfills and other city-land throughout town.
“City landfills can accommodate more than 50 MW of solar power on only a small fraction of available land,” the PlanNYC report states. “Installing solar power at these sites could significantly improve local air quality by reducing generation at the city’s dirtiest plants during periods of peak summer demand.”
Grant Money to Help Things Along
In order to insure that PlaNYC’s deadline of 2015 for the creation of 15 solar PV and solar thermal facilities will be met, there is a $125 million renewable energy management program grant being utilized to meet that goal.
Mayor Bloomberg said,
“PlaNYC is our agenda for a greener, greater New York that will help guide our city to a better future. . . we’ve come an incredibly long way toward our goals, and now, together, we’re finding new ways to accelerate our progress.”
True to his campaign promises to do more for alternative energy production in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo re-booted the governmental process to expand the offshore wind energy industry in New York.
The Alliance for Clean Energy in New York, ACE NY, applauded the move of Governor Cuomo, stating that New York has a sizable amount of offshore wind resources which should be tapped so New Yorkers can reap the benefits of this economical source of clean energy. It should be noted that all offshore wind projects are required by law to be mindful of protecting the coastal and marine resources, paying heed to the environmental impact the projects incur.
Happy Environmentalists Abound
Reactions to the move are positive. Gordian Raacke, the Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island, a non-profit organization in the area, stated that,
“Long Island and New York are blessed with an abundant energy resource right here at our doorsteps, yet we have so far ignored the potential to meet a significant amount of our electricity demand with offshore wind power. New York State needs to accelerate plans for offshore wind farms and today’s application to lease areas for wind energy production is an encouraging sign.”
The executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York, Carol Murphy explained that,
“As projects up and down the Atlantic coast come closer to fruition, beginning the federal leasing process in New York is a very important and timely step forward. We commend NYPA, LIPA and Con Edison for continuing their commitment to this initiative and look forward to seeing New Yorkers reap the many economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind power.”
Fuel developed from alcohol is not a new concept for automobiles, but work is now being done to create jet fuels from the renewable form of fuel which is derived from crops.
Several companies are now in the midst of developing aviation fuels from such sources as ethanol and/or biobutanol, including Gevo, Cobalt, Terrabon, ZeaChem and LanzaTech.
DARPA Getting Into the Act
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has gotten into the act by beginning to fund projects which are developing renewable jet fuels. Logos Technology, on behalf of DARPA awarded Terrabon $9.6 million over 18 months to create a more economical and more renewable solution for jet fuel production. The project, which began in April of 2011, will develop a customized fuel production process at the Bryan, Texas demonstration facility. The goal will be to be able to produce 6,000 liters of jet fuel using Terrabon’s high-tech bio-refining process known at MixAlco, as a preliminary step for taking this technology commercial.
Terrabon Hot on the Biofuel Trail
“An important focus of this DARPA effort is to produce a sustainable, cost-effective, non-fossil-fuel-based solution to support the military’s jet fuel needs. We thoroughly reviewed many potential processes and solutions for this initiative, and came to the conclusion that this goal can best be achieved with help of Terrabon and their mixed alcohol oligomerization pathway, MixAlco,” said Dr. Greg Poe, CEO, Logos Technologies.
Analysts expect that there will be a fuel spec approved sometime in 2013. So it is not too long in the future when not the only alcohol in the air will be the kind found in those teeny tiny bottles you get on board.
Preliminary government data has brought to the attention of US nuclear regulators the fact the country’s reactors may be in need of some safety updating.
Based on government data analysis by the Associated Press it appears that the risk that a large earthquake could severely damage a nuclear power plant is much higher than was previously thought.
Powerful Earthquakes Challenge for Nuclear Plant
August’s unusually powerful eastern seaboard earthquake, the strongest to strike Virginia in 117 years, has shaken regulators out of their comfort zone concerning the ability of US nuclear reactors to withstand earthquakes that may strike in the future. The recent earthquake, for example, seems to have surpassed what the North Anna nuclear power plant northwest of Richmond, Virginia, was built to withstand.
Reactors Need Upgrades
There are 27 central and eastern US nuclear plants which are in the greatest need of upgrades, according to the analysis, because they are much more likely to experience an earthquake more powerful than the ones that they were actually built to sustain.
Industry Says Reactors are Robust
The nuclear industry has stated that the Virginia earthquake has proven that the reactors are safe and strong. The North Anna plant in Mineral, Virginia lost off-site power when the earthquake struck, which caused the reactors to shut down, and then they cooled successfully, and then the four giant diesel generators came to life to supply power. About 24 spent fuel containers also moved a bit from the shaking, but the Dominion Virginia Power Company said that everything was sound.
Richard Zuercher, a spokesman for Dominion which operates the North Anna plant, said that the earlier risk assessment is still correct
“because an additional safety margin was built into the design when the station was built.”