Tag Archives: energy

Climate Sense: Sea ice, economics, legal issues and the orca task force

The shift to “clean fuels,” such as solar and wind power, is tied up in economics, and it appears that change is coming — with or without a push from government. This week, I read three different and somewhat contradictory reports about this dynamic competition between fossil fuels and renewable energy.

I also took a look at the hard data surrounding Arctic sea ice and reviewed videos of the governor’s orca task force meeting on Monday.

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‘Geothermal’ heating does not require a geyser

You don’t need to have a geyser in your backyard to benefit from “geothermal” energy.

While superhot water from deep underground makes for a pretty exciting story, it’s not the only way to go. Klamath Falls, Ore., is involved in a $1.6 million project to generate electricity from what is considered “low temperature” geothermal water. Check out the story in yesterday’s edition of the online magazine Government Technology.

Michael Mayda of Thermal Systems in Silverdale describes a geothermal heat pump in a new Bainbridge Island home.
Kitsap Sun photo

“The city, with its high-desert landscape, sits above natural geothermal springs, which residents have used for 100 years to heat their homes,” states the article by Russell Nichols. “Hot rocks and geysers keep the sidewalks warm when the winter comes and pump heat into buildings downtown.”

The article goes on to describe a low-temperature geothermal power plant proposed for Klamath Falls that was pioneered at Chena Hot Springs in Alaska. For a description of the Chena project, involving United Technologies Corporation, see the For Your Own Power Web site.

While geothermal electricity is exciting technology, what caught my attention was a federal residential tax credit that will pay 30 percent of the cost of solar, wind, fuel cell … and, yes, geothermal systems. I pursued geothermal heat pumps in a story I wrote for Sunday’s Kitsap Sun.

The unlimited tax credit makes it feasible to consider geothermal heat pumps in many new home installations. Furthermore, an additional $1,500 rebate from Puget Sound Energy opens the door to consider them when replacing old heating systems, especially for large homes.

In addition to my Sunday story, these resources may help you understand the operations and benefits of geothermal heat pumps:
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‘Lioness in spring’ coordinates environmental policy for Obama

Carol Browner, who ran the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clinton administration, now finds herself somewhat out of the loop when it comes to government regulation. Instead, she is playing perhaps a more important and somewhat subtle role as the nation’s first “coordinator of energy and climate policy.”

In a revealing article titled “The Lioness in Spring,” Newsweek explains how Browner has become central to coordinating President Obama’s policies on energy, environment, transportation and business relations.

While President Clinton “mouthed the right words about the environment,” he didn’t achieve much because he was afraid of hurting the economy, says the article by Michael Hirsch in this week’s magazine.

“Obama is, by all accounts, a true believer in the idea that good environmental policy is to a large extent the future of the U.S. economy, which needs something of a pick-me-up these days,” Hirsch states. “Browner says a major source of America’s next great growth spurt will be ‘green jobs and green technologies.’”

Of course, not everyone is happy.

“There are, to be sure, some who complain they’re not yet part of the discussion,” Hirsch notes. “Industry lobbyists remain wary that Obama and Browner are still slighting traditional energy sources such as oil, gas and nuclear, favoring renewables such as solar and wind (the exception is clean coal, a big Obama focus).”

For a little more background, Time magazine wrote a nice summary about Browner in December before she took her new “czarina” post.

And here’s a link for you to bookmark for the next four years — a kind of scorecard of Obama’s players — compiled by The New York Times.

Will coastal oil drilling take a back seat to wind?

Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar will not advance plans for offshore oil drilling, saying he will promote “a new way forward,” according to an Associated Press story by reporter H. Josef Hebert.

In a press conference today, Salazar criticized the “midnight timetable” for new oil and gas development on the outer continental shelf of the U.S. He said the Bush administration failed to consider the views of states and coastal communities.

Salazar has directed scientists in his agency to produce new reports about oil and gas supplies off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. He also extended the public comment period until September and says he will hold meetings in the regions where drilling is likely.

Any offshore energy plans should consider renewables, such as wind, he said.

Needless to say, environmentalists were pleased.

Richard Charter of Defenders of Wildlife (PDF 92 kb):

“We will provide comments to the Department explaining that the Bush administration’s plan was the worst five-year offshore drilling plan we’ve ever seen and should be permanently shelved, not just delayed for 180 days.”

House Republicans, in a letter last week to President Obama (PDF 476 kb), voiced their displeasure over the prospect of holding up or canceling plans for offshore drilling:

“As you know, at the height of our nation’s energy crisis last year, the American people spoke with one voice to express their outrage when they saw that not only were we dependent upon foreign oil, but furthermore, that energy resources located within American territory were locked away and could not be developed. Our national vulnerability was on plain display for the American public last summer because we lacked a coherent energy policy to allow for responsible energy exploration and development.”

So does anybody think Salazar’s stance will not be the end of offshore drilling, at least for California and states that have oil but are opposed to drilling?

If you recall, oil industry folks I talked to last summer told me that Washington state would be one of the last places they would drill.