Friday, August 27, 2004

Sacramento frenzy splits logic on energy bills

Drivers will be encouraged to conserve fuel by driving their hybrid vehicles in HOV lanes while homeowners will not be asked to help the environment by installine solar panels. Meanwhile, big-utilities will have profits guaranteed under an energy re-regulation bill going to the governor:

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Model for Energy Restructuring: Future or Past?

Sacramento Bee Columnist Dan Weintraub examines the debate over energy restructuring in California:

Democratic lawmakers are ignoring Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal for a more flexible, decentralized electricity system that would be more open to innovation. Instead, they're pushing to vest as much control as possible in the monopoly utilities of yesteryear. Some even want to return to a completely regulated, state-controlled system.

It's a battle between the past and the future, and so far, the past is winning. Burned by a failed, 1990s experiment in what was called deregulation but in truth was bad regulation, the Democrats who control the Legislature are reluctant to leave the security blanket provided by the big utility. Like the last defenders of Ma Bell and the old telephone monopolies, they prefer stable, slow and expensive over even a little bit of experimentation with what they perceive to be a risky business.

California is not knows as being a State where people "play it safe". Innovation is a hallmark of the Golden State. Whether that remains true for the energy industry, however, remains to be seen.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Los Angeles Pulls out of Coal Plant Investment

The City of Los Angeles has withdrawn from a consortium building a coal-fueled power plant in Utah:

Los Angeles was negotiating to receive 15% to 20% of the power from the plant when it begins operations in 2009. Currently, the city receives 44% of the electricity generated by two other coal plants operated by Intermountain Power in Utah.

The agency is financed by 37 cities and utilities.

More than half of the electricity that the DWP provides to the city's 3.8 million residents comes from coal-fired plants.

The cost of coal has been 4 cents or less per kilowatt in recent months, or 10 times less expensive than the DWP's current investment in solar power.

The money will instead go to fund investment in renewable energy sources.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Utility's Energy Bill may kill Solar Incentive Programs

Demonstrating that politics are more important than policy in Sacramento, legislators have amended the Schwarzenegger-backed solar energy incentives bill to require that the Governor also sign the Edison-backed electric restructuring bill in order for either to take effect. Luckily, there are only four more days of legislative shennanigans left in Sacramento for the year.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Plan would tax vehicle miles traveled

One component of Governor Schwarzenegger's California Performance Review would explore whether or not to impose a tax on vehicle miles traveled--not just on gasoline consumed:

It's a looming problem as hybrids become more popular, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's government-reform commission has come up with a solution: Tax motorists based on the miles they drive, not the amount of gas they consume.

The idea from the California Performance Review is just that at this point: an idea. It would have to go through extensive debate to come to fruition.

But it's not at all far-fetched. Oregon will do a test run of such a "vehicle- miles traveled" system next year.

The plan, which still requires legislative approval there, would put a $100 global- positioning-system device in every new car in Oregon. The device would beam drivers' in-state mileage to a satellite, which would then send the information to the service station where the driver is refueling so the proper tax can be levied at the pump.

Conservationists raise valid concerns that using such a plan, exclusively, would discourage drivers from using more cost-efficient vehicles. Yet the plan would seem to make sense for insurance companies to adopt...

TURN threatens initiative if Edison Bill not passed

The advocacy group TURN, aka The Utility Reform Network, appears to have cozied up to Southern California Edison and is threatening to take energy reform to the voters:

Consumer groups said Wednesday that they might push for a ballot initiative that could close the door on attempts to deregulate California's electricity market should Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger veto a key power bill making its way through the Legislature.

The initiative would ask voters to permanently prohibit manufacturers, big-box stores and other major energy consumers from buying electricity at unregulated prices — a key feature of deregulation scenarios favored by the Schwarzenegger administration, which has said consumers should be allowed to "choose their energy providers."

"If we can figure out a way to bring this directly to the people of California, I think the response would be overwhelmingly favorable," said Bob Finkelstein, executive director of the Utility Reform Network, a San Francisco ratepayers advocacy group also known as TURN. "After the [deregulation] experiment blew up in their faces in 2001, they'll say, 'Yeah, we're not going to do that again.' "

...Nuñez and his allies say AB 2006 would protect against shortages by requiring that utilities have more than enough electricity on hand to handle demand on the hottest days — either from their own power plants or through long-term contracts with private generating companies. The bill would ensure that utilities such as Southern California Edison Co. could charge their customers rates that were high enough to pay for the cost of building power plants.

I am not quite sure why "consumer advocates" would want to guarantee higher prices, but I can be sure of one thing: if budgeting at the ballot box is risky, asking voters to make energy policy is an even riskier scheme.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Sempra customers could face higher rates from CPUC decision

A rulemaking decision by the California Public Utilities Commission would tie electric prices paid by Investor-Owned Utilities to the costs of energy in the long-term energy contracts signed by Gray Davis in 2001. San Diego would be hardest-hit:

In the aftermath of the power crisis, regulators decided that the fairest way to spread the pain would be to charge each utility evenly based upon how much electricity its customers consumed.

Now, at the urging of the two northern utilities, regulators are poised to change the deal to a formula known as "cost follows contract." Put simply, consumers would be charged according to the actual cost suppliers are charging them under the long-term contracts.

The new formula would punish customers of San Diego Gas & Electric because the utility sold off almost all of its generating plants before the power crisis began. That means it's buying more electricity than its rivals, which held onto hydroelectric dams, nuclear facilities and other generating assets
One of the failures of the deregulation scheme was that wholesale prices were deregulated while retail prices were not--forcing the IOU's to the brink of bankruptcy. The proposed revision appears to move away from this twisted thinking and charges utilities for the energy they use.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Are Fuel Cells the Future?

From Instapundit and Futurepundit, comes this promising news about an alternative energy resource:

Imagine a power source so small, yet so efficient, that it could make cumbersome power plants virtually obsolete while lowering your electric bill. A breakthrough in thin film solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) is currently being refined in labs at the University of Houston, making that dream a reality.

Originating from research at UH's Texas Center for Superconductivity and Advanced Materials (TcSAM), these SOFCs of the "thin film" variety are both efficient and compact. With potential ranging from use in the government in matters of defense and space travel to driving forces in the consumer market that include computers and electricity, this breakthrough carries tremendous impact.

"By using materials science concepts developed in our superconductivity research and materials processing concepts in our semiconductor research, we are able to reduce operating temperatures, eliminate steps and use less expensive materials that will potentially revolutionize from where we derive electrical energy," said Alex Ignatiev, director of TcSAM and distinguished university professor of physics, chemistry and electrical and computer engineering at UH. "While there are a number of fuel cell research programs at the university, ours focuses on the application of thin film science and technology to gain the benefits of efficiency and low cost."

Compared to the macroscopic size of traditional fuel cells that can take up an entire room, thin film SOFCs are one micron thick – the equivalent of about one-hundredth of a human hair. Putting this into perspective, the size equivalent of four sugar cubes would produce 80 watts – more than enough to operate a laptop computer, eliminating clunky batteries and giving you hours more juice in your laptop. By the same token, approximately two cans' worth of soda would produce more than five kilowatts, enough to power a typical household.

While we wait and develop these new technologies, however, we should be thinking about how we are going to meet soaring demand in today's markets nonetheless.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Scientific Expert: Environmentalists, NIMBYs block energy solutions

Michael Fumento, an expert from the Hudson Institute, takes a look at LNG as a clean energy solution for California, and cites environmentalists and NIMBY's as the technology's greatest enemies:

Environmental activists hate all affordable forms of energy, no matter how clean, because it's the lifeblood of industry. To them, Saddam Hussein may be bad but industry is absolutely evil. Although not building a terminal "would be a recipe for unacceptable economic hardship for those who can least afford it," according to two true top-ranking California environmentalists in a recent op-ed, the activists in green paint couldn't care less.

There are also the NIMBY groups, who recognize California's need for a terminal but Not in My Back Yard. They don't want any new industry near them that is heavier than, say, flower arrangement.

But such ideas can't be sold to the broader public, so other reasons are concocted.

Fumento also examines four of the leading terminal proposals and examines each's strengths and weaknesses.

Solar Surcharge stalled

Legislation which would add a surcharge to utility bills to pay for the installation of solar power on new homes stalled yesterday in the Assembly Appropriations Committee:

SB 1652 would raise $100 million annually over the next decade by tacking a 25-to 30-cent monthly surcharge onto residential power bills. The money would be disbursed to home builders to subsidize the installation of photovoltaic power systems on new homes.

The legislation would also mandate that at least 5 percent of new homes come solar-equipped, and increase that by 5 percent each year until half of all new homes had photovoltaic systems. By comparison, fewer than 1 percent of new homes now are built with such systems.

As noted earlier, the Schwarzenegger administration prefers incentives over regulation to promote renewable energy.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Feinstein proposes Fix-it for California Energy Crisis

In a press release today, US Senator Dianne Feinstein gives her opinion on how California's Energy Crisis can be fixed:

Increasing FERC’s Authority

Senator Feinstein has advocated increasing federal oversight of energy markets since the beginning of the energy crisis, and she has offered legislation to give FERC the powers it has requested to adequately punish possible instances of fraud and manipulation, and impose stiffer penalties for those in violation of regulations.

Senator Feinstein this week renewed her call for increased federal oversight in letters to FERC Chairman Pat Wood and the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman.

In her letter to Chairman Wood, Senator Feinstein expressed her desire to give the Commission more authority and again requested that FERC use the authority it already has to provide California with the $9 billion it was overcharged during the last energy crisis.

Senator Feinstein wrote: “I would like to work with you to develop the changes to the penalties sections of both the Federal Power Act and the Natural Gas Act, in addition to changes in the refund effective date of the Federal Power Act.”

She continued: “[G]uilty pleas [of former Enron executives] clearly indicate that fraud and manipulation took place on a major scale during the energy crisis. This is proof positive that California should be refunded the $9 billion it was overcharged during the Crisis, and that FERC should void the contracts the State entered into at the height of the crisis.”

In her letter to Senator Domenici and Bingaman, she wrote: “I would very much like to work with you and other members of the Committee to amend the Federal Power Act and the Natural Gas Act to provide, as Chairman Woods calls for, ‘this agency with greater refund authority and civil and criminal penalty authority, all of which are needed to more effectively address the type of activity that we witnessed in 2000-2001 in the Western energy markets.’”

New Regulatory Framework

Earlier this year, Senator Feinstein invited California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to work with her to establish a new energy framework for the State of California, and she proposed a framework that would promote timely and adequate investments in efficient, cost-effective, environmentally-sustainable resources and provide customers with reliable electric service at reasonable cost. This proposal became the basis for the legislation which Speaker Fabian Núñez introduced in the State Assembly.

Senator Feinstein this week reiterated her call for such a framework, which would provide consumers with reliable electric service at a reasonable cost.

In a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger, Senator Feinstein wrote: “…it is imperative that California move quickly and swiftly to at least partially re-regulate the energy markets so that small customers served by utilities have consistent and reasonable rates. I am concerned that if the State does not act to take control of its own energy future, then the energy crisis could be repeated.”

In a letter to Speaker Núñez, she wrote: “I will do everything I can here in Washington to increase the civil and criminal penalty authority that FERC has to penalize companies that manipulate the energy markets in the future. Hopefully, this will be enough of a deterrent to prevent companies from manipulating the energy markets in the first place. In the meantime, I hope that this letter provides you with further evidence as to why legislation such as yours is necessary.”

Schwarzenegger says Businesses Better Shop Around

Taking on active consumer interests and the Edison lobby, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has stated that his administration will only accept an energy deal which includes direct access for business customers:

"The only element necessary for legislative action is direct access, and this bill no longer addresses that," said Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Ashley Snee.

Nuñez did not address the specific recommendations, but said, "Obviously, we have some disagreements with his approach."

The governor's approach angers consumer advocates.

"It's like faith-based deregulation," said Mindy Spatt, spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network. "We've seen that deregulation didn't lower prices -- it raised prices -- but that was the belief behind it. And the belief apparently still exists."

With Schwarzenegger taking a stand on the Nuñez bill so late in the legislative session, some question whether the bill will die, taking with it the chance to revamp California's electricity market this year.

Speaker Nunez only has himself to blame for the energy debate coming so late in the session. Shwarzenegger repeatedly stated that, after the budget is passed, his next priority is fixing the energy markets. Guess what? Nunez refused to allow a vote on Schwarzenegger's budget and stonewalled that process by at least six weeks.

Oil Prices little impact on California gas prices

While oil prices have soared in recent weeks, some experts are predicting a heavy toll on the world economy. Yet, in California at least, gas prices seem to be falling from their artificial highs of earlier this summer. Some may consider this a result of price collusion...others might think it is evidence of the fact that refining capacity is so limited in California that it--not the price of oil--drives prices. We're not sure, but are still befuddled by the apparent contradiction between oil and gas prices in the Golden State.

LADWP mismanagement increases terrorism vulnerabilities

Mismanagement at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is exposing the City of L.A. to potential terrorist threat:

The city's reservoirs and electricity plants are vulnerable to terrorist attacks because the Department of Water and Power has not done enough to screen, train and manage guards, according to security workers interviewed for an internal report.

Keys to sensitive facilities were carelessly handed out to contractors, and guards had to patrol remote sites alone with radios that couldn't reach distant security staff, employees told a researcher hired to assess workplace conditions.

"All a terrorist has to do is hit our water and power, and L.A. would be gone," one employee says in the report, obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The security employees said in focus-group interviews that "possible sabotage" of agency facilities was a concern.

"They very emphatically stated that almost anyone can get a job as a security officer within LADWP and that these individuals have automatic access to all facilities and security procedures," the report says. "They stated that water facilities are an especially easy target for infiltration."

As new energy projects, such as LNG terminals are being cited as potential terrorist targets by hyper-ventilating opponents, it is forgotten that existing facilities can be just as great a target--the key is managing the security properly...and good management is something LADWP is not famous for.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Sempra makes monopoly play on LNG Supplies

In a shockingly frank conversation with Petroleum News, Sempra's Washington, D.C.-based vice president of federal affairs, David Freer admits that the company wants to establish monopoly power on Natural Gas imports along the Pacific Coast:

The company is in “serious negotiations with a number of foreign governments and international oil and gas companies” to supply LNG to the Costa Azul facility, and expects to conclude those negotiations and have a contract signed within 30 to 60 days.

Freer said Sempra expects that contract to tie up LNG capacity on the West Coast. Costa Azul will be permitted at 1 billion cubic feet a day and will have the capacity to expand to 2 bcf. “When that occurs, the market will be essentially closed on the West Coast to additional LNG supply from any other source.”

Of course, since Sempra also owns the distribution company and a major electrical generator, having monopolistic powers over the supplies of Natural Gas imports would only strengthen their ability to manipulate energy markets in California.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Governors push for trans-border power pact

Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger (R - CA) and Bill Richardson (D - NM) are pushing a collaborative power management plan among the States along the U.S. Mexican Border. If adopted, the plan would coordinate energy production, distribution and marketing:

That plan, promoted by Schwarzenegger, a Republican, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, commits to shifting away from oil and coal over the next two decades and greatly increasing Western states' reliance on renewable energy, using tax breaks and other incentives.

"We will end up with cleaner air, cleaner water, an improved economy and a more diversified and stable power supply," Schwarzenegger told Mexican leaders.

"And these benefits will not stop at the border. They cannot. Not when our regions and our people are so intertwined."

Administration officials said the Mexican government, not individual Mexican states, controls most energy policy, but Schwarzenegger indicated he wanted governors to collectively pressure national leaders to adopt conservation and renewable energy standards.

One of the most contentious trans-border power issues is the construction of Liquified Natural Gas terminals. Companies seeking to avoid NIMBY opponents and California regulations have sought to place LNG ports in Baja California, even though the infrastructure isn't there yet to ship the natural gas directly into California.

Schwarzenegger Skiddish on Edison Energy Reforms

While State Legislators argued over who was more of a "girlie man", lobbyists for Southern California Edison worked with Assembly Speaker Devin Nunez to quietly sneak legislation through the corridors of Sacramento which would change the State's energy markets to benefit the incumbent Utility. But the OC Register's Jim Hinch reports, Governor Schwarzenegger isn't buying it:

Today, Schwarzenegger's resources secretary, Mike Chrisman, will issue a letter opposing a major energy bill backed by Southern California Edison that would enable Edison and other utilities to build their own power plants.

The letter also will lay out Schwarzenegger's own energy priorities, which include beefed-up electricity reserves, more renewable energy sources and a partial deregulation plan that would give large electricity consumers direct access to power sold by private generators.

..."The governor is concerned about blackouts," said Public Utilities Commissioner Jeff Brown, who met with Schwarzenegger last week to discuss energy policy. But he and his staff favor "more competition. ... They're approaching (the Edison-backed bill) with caution. ... They're looking at this like Reagan used to look at Gorbachev's proposals for missile reductions."

"Trust, but verify," would seem a generous approach to dealing with an energy proposal bankrolled by one company which stands to profit from the outcome of the debate.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Heat wave puts California on Power Watch

Despite a small likelihood of blacouts, Californians are being asked to conserve energy today:

Soaring temperatures have caused the Independent System Operator to issue "power watch" for the day...

Demand for electricity across the state may set a new record today -- surpassing the one-day record set less than three weeks ago.

The tight balance between supply and demand for electricity in California underscores the need to expand the former and contrain the latter.

Energy Expert: Use LNG to fix California Energy Problems

At TechCentralStation, Doug Bandow examines the growing imbalance between supply and demand in the Golden State's energy markets and suggests LNG is the solution to California's energy crisis:

Natural gas fires one-fifth of power generation nationwide. It is a particularly important source of fuel for California power generation.

While the U.S. accounts for a quarter of the world's natural gas consumption, it possesses only five percent of natural gas reserves. As American production wanes, imports are expected to grow dramatically over the coming decade.

An obvious solution is liquefied natural gas (LNG). Impurities are removed from natural gas -- a combination of ethane, methane, propane, and other compounds. The gas is cooled to liquefy it. LNG is neither corrosive nor toxic, and need not be shipped under pressure.

Bandow also points out some of the pitfalls in making this solution a reality. He is particularly critical of the NIMBY phenomenon, which has killed many a project in California.

Bush Administration pushed Natural Gas Exploration in Southwest

Signaling their desire to exploit native resources first, the Bush Administration is puching a plan to drill for Natural Gas in a New Mexico National Forest:

Overriding the opposition of the U.S. Forest Service and New Mexico state officials, a White House energy task force has interceded on behalf of Houston-based El Paso Corp. in its two-year effort to explore for natural gas in a remote part of a national forest next door to America's largest Boy Scout camp.

Forest Service officials discouraged efforts to drill in the Valle Vidal at least three times since the agency acquired the land in 1982, citing concerns about water pollution, wildlife and recreation if a large-scale energy project were approved.

But last week, the agency took the first step toward approving the giant energy company's proposal to tap into 40,000 acres of alpine meadows in the Carson National Forest. The agency released a report that forecast a high probability of recovering gas from the area and laid out a scenario in which 500 wells could be drilled on the forest's east side.

The issue of Natural Gas supplies is not one of quantitiy--there is plenty of it in the world--it is the logistics of getting the gas from where the supply is to where the demand is. That is why six competing projects are looking to place LNG terminals along the West Coast to meet California's energy demands.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Study predicts new energy crisis for California

A new report, found through the California Insider, says that while demand for electricity continues to rise in California, the new plants pomised by then-Governor Gray Davis in 2001 are not coming on-line fast enough.

According to the report by the Bay Area Economic Forum, a second energy crisis could be expected in 2006--if not this summer or the next. Politically, this may motivate the Schwarzenegger to action, as the last thing they want the summer before an election is a repreat of his predecessor's worst crises.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Gas prices send automakers in two directions

Fuel prices have been all over the chart lately--mostly trending upwards. With the recent surge in the cost of a barrel of oil, most drivers are likely bracing for higher gas prices. Automakers are debating on how to mitigate the rising costs of gasoline:

Automakers remain divided on whether diesel or hybrid cars are the best way to improve fuel efficiency, and the split is often drawn along cultural lines.

All the major manufacturers are developing cleaner diesel engines, hybrids and hydrogen fuel cells. But companies are pushing harder on different technologies to get a leg up in meeting regulations that are becoming tougher around the world, and their views were represented in comments made at a management conference here on Wednesday.

Hybrids, while more environmentally friendly in their gas conservation, don't pan out for cost-effectiveness. Diesel vehicles, on the other hand, yield higher gas mileage and lower fuel prices (although by alot less than before). Could "Clean Diesel" someday displace Hybrid as the economically and ecologically friendly technology of choice?

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

CPUC rule changes boose PG&E Profits

Shareholers is Pacific Gas and Electric are now reaping the benefits of a late Christmas present from the California Public Utilities Commission:

The company recorded $372 million in profit (88 cents per share) for its second quarter, which ended June 30. In the second quarter of 2003, the company made $227 million (55 cents).

About 30 cents of the increase came as the result of a May ruling from the California Public Utilities Commission, which gave Pacific Gas and Electric more money for distributing electricity and natural gas, as well as increasing revenue from electricity generation.

Of course, the money will get passed along to the company's bottom line--not to ratepayers.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

20 Steps to reducing air pollution

Meeting energy needs is often at odds with improving air quality, at least until alternative, environmentally-friendly generation is more widely adopted., a website designed to petition U.S. Senators to support McCain-Lieberman bill to reduce CO2 emissions, also offers 20-simple steps people can take in their own homes. It's good advice.

Energy Task Force Documents Available Online

Skeptical that you are gettting the full picture about energy policymaking from the news? Now you can read for yourself via, Outraged Moderates, the files from the federal Energy Task Force. Wired reports:

They also include a now-infamous e-mail, known as the "If You Were King" memo, written by an Energy Department employee to a lobbyist asking what, if the lobbyist were king, he would like to see included in the nation's energy policy.

Some of the documents are informative for what they don't say. A 1.5-page e-mail between two Department of Energy employees features only the greeting to "Margot" and a final sentence reading, "Let me know if you have any further questions." The rest of the e-mail was blanked out by the department before it was forced to release the document in the lawsuit.

"This would be a crucial document the public would want to know about. But the entire document and other documents were redacted so heavily there was really no point in the Energy Department releasing it," Anderson said.

Anderson said that seeing the documents themselves, rather than reading about them through the filter of a news article, has a greater impact.

But you better have a fast Internet connection--the Energy documents alone are 608MB.

Schwarzenegger uses carrot--not stick--to develop solar energy

The California Energy Commission has a plan to encourage the development of solar energy in new home construction:

The Schwarzenegger administration is developing an ambitious plan to boost solar power in California — subsidized with $100 million a year in financial incentives paid for by electricity consumers — that would have 50% of all new homes producing the renewable energy within a decade.

Some business leaders were fearful of Schwarzenegger's embrace of a very Green agenda during his campaign for Governor. His use of incentives instead of regulation is a promising sign that he understands the delicate balance between economics and the environment.

Geo-thermal Generation Gets Geysers Region Shaking

Calpine's geothermal electric generation projects in Northern California are facing criticism--for causing an increase in the number of earthquakes:

Calpine owns 19 of the 21 power plants operating at The Geysers, home to the world's largest underground steam fields in the fault-lined, rugged mountains bordering Anderson Springs.

In December, Santa Rosa and three other cities began pumping 11 million gallons of wastewater daily to The Geysers. There, it is injected one to two miles underground to replenish the steam fields. The superheated vapor spins turbines at the surface, where it is turned into electricity.

Calpine admits micro-quakes - those of less than magnitude 3.0 - are caused both by the extraction of steam from the earth and injection of water back into the ground to recharge the dwindling steam supply. Both processes cool the magma-heated rock miles beneath the surface, causing it to shrink, which triggers earthquakes as the rock adjusts, Oppenheimer said.

"We recognize we do cause quakes," Stark said.

Nearby homeowners are blaming damage to their foundations on the micro-quakes and are seeking damages; if successful, their lawsuits could be a thorn in the side of this renewable resource's use for electric generation.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Hybrid Cars to replace Power Plants?

Ingenuity and imagination are often held out as the solution to finding a balance between energy needs and environmental protection. Now, it appears the two are working hand-in-hand to find synergies between hybrid vehicles and electric generation:

A technology called "Vehicle to Grid" is now available that will sell the excess electricity your hybrid vehicle generates back to the electric utility at a profit to you.

It is said that if 1 million V2G Hybrids where to be produced, they could generate as much as 10,000 Megawatts of electricity replacing the need for 30 typical power plants.

We have tried distributed generation plans (albeit less creative ones) and the main concern for the power companies has been control over the kilowatts--they don't want you or me to power our own homes. In this plan, those objections should be less critical.

Lockyer Lawsuit blames Power Plants for Global Warming

In an update to a story previously reported, the Sacramento Bee goes in-depth on California Attorney General Bill Lockyer's efforts to blame power plants in faraway places for the impacts of global warming in the Golden State:

The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the nation's top five power producers to cut carbon dioxide emissions every year for at least a decade, by an amount to be determined later by the court.

The targets are far from California: American Electric Power Co. Inc. in Columbus, Ohio; Cinergy Corp. in Cincinnati; Xcel Energy Inc. of Minneapolis; the Tennessee Valley Authority; and the Southern Co. of Atlanta.

Though the targeted smokestacks are hundreds if not thousands of miles away, the lawsuit ties their emissions to the future economic, environmental and public well-being of California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and New York City.

The suit paints catastrophic scenarios from global warming, including increased flooding and water shortages brought on by a diminishing Sierra snowpack, and a doubling of heat-related deaths in the Los Angeles area.

Of course, the Attorney General would have to first prove that global warming exists before he can make his case. This smells of a political petard that, even if ultimately unsuccessful, will serve to boost energy prices not only for customers of the named utilities, but also for customers of other utilities who might fear similar lawsuits in the future.