For most football fans watching the Super Bowl, the half-hour power outage that stopped the game amounted to little more than a weird inconvenience. But as America waited – or took to Twitter to pass the time – the issue of energy reliability was suddenly thrust into center stage. The question now is: Will it stay in the limelight?
The power outage that plunged America's most-watched television event into half light was caused by the failure of a relay. according to Entergy, the utility supplying power to the Superdome, which hosted Sunday's Super Bowl. The equipment was supposed to protect the stadium's electrical supply. It ended up causing an embarrassing delay.
With large outages happening more frequently and the impending retirement of more that 60 gigawatts of fossil-fueled electrical power by 2017, America's electrical grid will be under more stress. Areas of the United States will see their reserve margins of electrical power reduced. Texas, next door to Louisiana, will be hit particularly hard. The Super Bowl outage was not related to these shifts, but it could serve as a wake-up call.
Egypt is not only hungry for energy—it’s starving, and this starvation will play a role in the underlying revolutionary instability that has foreign investors asking whether the other boot is about to drop and should they quit the country.
Most immediately, Egypt is hoping to buy 968,000 tons of diesel fuel for April-June delivery to stave off a worse energy crisis amid country-wide protests that threaten the Muslim Brotherhood’s hold on power ahead of April parliamentary elections.
The past four weeks have been very rough—against the backdrop of political unrest, tensions simmer as a result of fuel shortages that have people lining up for hours outside gas stations.
Diesel is experiencing an acute shortage and public transportation is suffering for it, while the add-on effects are rises in food prices, particularly agricultural products. ( Continue… )
The jump isn't entirely unexpected. Prices tend to rise during the switch from winter-blend gas to the more expensive summer-blend gas. Refineries temporarily slow production to sell off the winter blend gas and undergo maintenance during the transition. That raises wholesale prices, and, in turn, the prices at the pump.
Anticipating those rising costs, investors pour money into oil and gas futures, betting on higher price outcomes.
"It’s almost a certainty that whatever the price is on Groundhog Day, the price on St. Patrick's Day is going to be significantly higher," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service.
Signs of a stabilizing economy aren't helping gas prices either. Steady job growth and a healthy housing market have contributed to a 10 percent increase in oil prices over the past two months. OPEC production slipped to a 15-month low in late January, putting even more upward pressure on prices. [Editor's note: This sentence was modified to clarify the price impact of reduced supply.]
The hardest hit consumers are in the Midwest, where gas prices increased 22 cents to $3.51 per gallon since last week. Californians are also feeling the pain, with gas prices topping $4 in Los Angeles. ( Continue… )
The post office will no longer deliver letters on Saturdays. The move comes as the United States Postal Service struggles with shrinking mail volume and rising operating costs.
So how much money can it expect to save by scrapping Saturday delivery? Overall, the Postal Service expects to save $2 billion a year out of an annual operating budget of more than $70 billion. A big part of that saving presumably is labor costs. Another savings is fuel.
The Postal Service owns and operates the world's largest civilian vehicle fleet with more than 213,000 cars, trucks, and vans that travel 1.2 billion miles each year. In fiscal year 2010, USPS vehicles consumed about 146 million gasoline gallon equivalents (GGE), or about 700 GGE if you include contract vehicles. The cost of fueling and maintaining USPS vehicles runs about $1 billion a year.
And those costs have been rising, despite USPS efforts to curb them. ( Continue… )
Could smart grid technology have prevented the blackout that occurred at Super Bowl XLVII? Probably not, but it would have certainly reduced the duration of the power cut.
It is still unclear exactly what caused the power outage, which left much of the Superdome in darkness and led to a 34 minute delay to the game. Early suggestions that it may have been Beyoncé’s half time show have been denied as that ran on its own generator.
Entergy Corporation (NYSE: ETR), the energy utility that provides power to the stadium, along with SMG, the company who manages the stadium, have rather vaguely stated that a circuit breaker was switched when “a piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality.” (Related article: Chu's Departure Means End to Energy Era)
Electricians then had to manually search for the fault before rebooting the system.
Smart grid technology, in the form of paired sensors working a two way digital communication between a central operating system and circuits in operations around the Superdome, would have either prevented the blackout, or isolated the fault and reapplied the electricity in a much shorter time frame; spectators may only have seen a flicker of the lights.
Rob Pratt, from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, suggests that smart grid technology would have tested the system within the stadium and identified fault and its location within seconds, directing electricians to the correct area instantly, if needed. He estimates that adding such a system would cost anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million for a venue like the Superdrome.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper may be about to get tough on offshore oil developers and pipeline companies with legislation that could make them liable for billions of dollars in the event of an accident.
The rumor is that Harper’s cabinet is pouring over some major legislation that would go a long way to appease environmentalists who view the country’s laws governing the sector as far too lenient.
Speaking to Canadian media, Environment Minister Peter Kent went on record both to describe the potential new legislation as “significant” and that the current legislation essentially requires taxpayers to foot the bill for accidents that should be the responsibility of the oil and gas industry.
Here’s what the current legislation looks like: ( Continue… )
[Editor's note: This story was updated at 5:00 pm ET on Feb. 5 to include material from an interview with Donald Sadoway of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; At 12:30 pm ET on Feb. 6, the piece was edited again to more accurately state the 787's total number of operation hours.]
The source of Boeing 787 battery failures is proving elusive, weeks after two separate incidents involving overheated Boeing 787 batteries led to the grounding of the entire Dreamliner fleet.
Officials have confirmed that in both cases, the lithium-ion batteries showed signs of a "thermal runaway," a chain reaction in which rising cell temperatures accelerate chemical reactions in the battery. If heat is not allowed to escape, the situation can turn destructive.
Lithium-ion batteries are lightweight and charge quickly, making them an appealing choice for an airline company looking to reduce its energy usage. The energy-dense batteries are also prone to overheating.
Some have questioned the underlying architecture of the Boeing 787 battery systems, saying it lacks the ventilation and cooling systems necessary to keep the batteries stable.
"Large cells without enough space between them to isolate against the cell-to-cell thermal domino effect means it is simply a matter of time before there are more incidents of this nature," Elon Musk, CEO of electric car company Tesla Motors, wrote in an e-mail to Flight International last week.
The purpose of Energy Innovation 2013 – a half-day conference co-hosted by my organization, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and the Breakthrough Institute – was to discuss the possibility of developing and deploying all of the cheap, high-performing zero-carbon technologies necessary to meet 40 terawatts of projected global demand by mid-century. Most importantly, the conference spurred debate on how the need for clean energy innovation should influence the climate and energy policy debate.
Over the course of three stellar panel discussions as well as follow-on debate via twitter (check out #EI13), a number of themes emerged that merit further debate amongst advocates, thinkers, and policymakers:
It’s Global Warming, Not American Warming
ITIF President Rob Atkinson set the stage for why energy innovation needs to be a policy priority by presenting a straight-forward logic chain: climate change is real and man-made, it’s about developing clean energy technologies that are cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives to drive down carbon emissions, and it’s globally pervasive. Clean energy technologies need to be affordable to all nations, and particularly emerging economies with growing populations that will consume more energy in the coming decades than the United States.
From a global carbon emission perspective, our policy choices cannot be made in a vacuum. This is particularly important because many countries are simply trying to provide access to energy in the first place (vs. providing new access to clean energy), so cost and performance are even more acutely important. (Read More: Breaking Down the Federal Clean Energy Innovation Budget: Demonstration Projects)
Of course, this doesn’t mean America shouldn’t act. On the contrary, America should act aggressively even if other countries don’t. What the global perspective tells us though is that we have to be smart about what aggressive policies we choose to pursue. ( Continue… )
In my previous column — Why I Don’t Ride a Unicorn to Work — I used an analogy to describe the US government’s approach to cellulosic ethanol mandates. In brief, they have mandated that something that does not exist — commercial cellulosic ethanol volumes — be blended into the fuel supply in the hopes that they can incentivize the industry into existence. They decided to require gasoline blenders to purchase the fuel, which as it turns out was a bit of a problem since it didn’t exist.
Last week the court sided with the American Petroleum Institute in a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the mandates. The court ruled that the EPA — which was responsible for determining the mandated volumes each year — based their projections on wishful thinking rather than on sound analysis (See the court decision here).
So how did the EPA respond? Less than a week after the court ruled that the EPA had based their cellulosic ethanol projections on wishful thinking, the EPA set the 2013 cellulosic ethanol mandate at 14 million gallons — up from last year’s mandate of 8.65 million gallons. Given that only around 20,000 gallons of qualifying cellulosic fuel was produced in 2012 — about 0.2% of the final mandated volume — the EPA’s decision to increase the 2012 mandate by over 60% is odd to say the least. It seems like they have doubled down on last year’s wishful thinking with an even larger dose of wishful thinking.
Where did the EPA come up with 14 million gallons for 2013? They once again set the 2013 mandate based on what producers (e.g., KiOR and Ineos Bio) said they would produce, which was the approach that has failed miserably for each of the past 3 years. What’s the old saying about the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
I expect that we will see the EPA waste more tax dollars this year fighting — and losing — another lawsuit.
Link to Original Article: EPA Doubles Down on Unicorns
America believed it could put off the question of slavery. It did for 73 years from the drafting of the U.S. Constitution to the beginning of the Civil War.
America believed it could put off women’s suffrage after the Civil War even though so many women had worked so hard for abolition and for the rights of former slaves. It did for 54 years until the passage of the 19th Amendment.
The right of gays and lesbians to marry and to be free from discrimination in employment and housing is an ongoing struggle.
All these problems, however painful in their consequences, were or are being addressed over time. I say over time because, by their very nature, they were or are capable of being addressed by human action alone. In short, they are social problems. And, while those who are suffering from discrimination and hatred would like both to end now, the American republic has experienced continuity for more than 220 years despite many such trying social issues. ( Continue… )