Articals of interest to the coal industry.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What can happen when fools collide!

Coal in the classroom

Opposition to mountaintop removal mining is becoming part of the curriculum at a growing number of colleges and universities.

By Tim Thorntontim.thornton@roanoke.com381-1669
Roanoke Times

Election Day, Dave Cooper stood in the President’s Dining Room at Hollins University and made a solemn announcement.
"I’m an environmental activist," he told more than two dozen college students who had carried their lunch down the hall. "To some people, that means ‘wacko.’ "
Cooper is an engineer by training, a former employee of 3M who quit that job to spread the word about mountaintop removal coal mining.
Supported by honorariums from colleges and contributions from environmental organizations, he takes the Mountaintop Removal Road Show around the eastern United States.
"That helps cover my travel expenses but mostly I sleep on couches and eat peanut butter sandwiches and cereal," the 47-year-old Cooper e-mailed between sessions in Ohio.
He’s in the middle of a 12-state tour, appearing often on college campuses. He used to visit student environmental groups. Now, he often brings opposition to mountaintop removal mining into the classroom as well.
More than one professor has called that a no-brainer.
RU professor Jeremy Wojdak was happy to have Cooper address his pollution biology class. Students have read and talked a lot about theory, Wojdak said. The road show was their introduction to how issues play out in the real world.
"I think, at the very least, hearing someone with first-hand experience gets the students’ attention in a way that won’t if I tell them," Wojdak said.
Laura Meder, an Averett University professor who teaches courses in environmental problems and environmental policy and law, said, "I wanted people to get a chance to hear from people who face this in their daily lives. For these two classes that I teach it’s a really good real life example."
Last year, Cooper brought Pauline Canterberry and Mary Miller to Meder’s Danville classroom. The two elderly women brought bags of coal dust that had settled on their porch and stories about a mine and processing plant devaluing their home and degrading their lives.
This time Cooper brought Eric Blevins, a recent graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, who helped convince students to impose a fee on themselves so the university could buy electricity from renewable sources.
The hair Cooper has left is short. He favors khakis and a tweed jacket.
Blevins’ hair falls halfway down his back. He’s bearded. He wears jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt with the "Defend what you love" printed across the front.
They have a bifurcated routine. Cooper lays out the problem, explaining the mountaintop removal process and playing a DVD or slide show that expands on what he’s said. Then Blevins suggests things that can be done about it.
Cooper and Blevins rolled the road show into a Radford University classroom a little more than a week ago. It was early afternoon. The room was warm and stuffy. Nevertheless — with the exception of one young man who wrestled with his apparently leaden eyelids — Cooper and Blevins held the undergraduates’ attention through explanations of federal mining laws and descriptions of the effects of mountaintop removal mining.
The students heard about valley fills, blackwater spills, overburden, floods and approximate original contour. About 3 million pounds of explosives are used on Appalachian strip mines every day, Cooper told the students.
Jennifer Bowman shook her head, her eyes widening as the statistics and pictures flashed by.
She knew about mountaintop removal mining, but the scale surprised her.
"I don’t know how we can do something as bad as this and get away with it," Bowman said. "I just think it’s really sad and something ought to be done about it."
That’s the response Cooper hopes for. He passes out clipboards at each session, asking students to sign up if they’re interested in learning more or helping the cause.
"If you’re really, really interested, put a star by your name," he said in Radford.
At Radford he also promoted a gathering at Kayford Mountain, W.Va., a site that’s become familiar to people familiar with the anti-mountaintop removal movement. The remnants of Larry Gibson’s family farm is surrounded by mountaintop removal mines. Marsh Fork Elementary School is near the foot of Kayford Mountain. A mountaintop removal mine, with the attendant sludge pond and coal silo, looms over the school.
About 60 students visited Gibson the weekend after Cooper and Blevins visited Radford. A third of those students came from Radford University.
Julia Hasty, a member of the school’s Green Team, was among them.
"This weekend woke me up," she wrote in an e-mail the day after returning. "It was definitely an emotional experience. On Saturday night we all gathered around a fire and talked about what all we had seen and felt. … It was really sad when we left. It was sad to me that I was going back to a coal-dependant university that was paid for by the blood and children of the people that I had met and befriended in the Appalachian mountains in West Virginia.
"I swear I’ll make a change. I just need help."
Meder wishes she’d hear more talk like that from her students.
"This is not a very activist campus," she said of Averett. "I wish that it were."
At Hollins, Godard is trying to get students interested in environmental issues by relating them to social justice issues.
"It’s this big push we’ve got going and these guys are part of it," Godard said.
There’s apparently no similar push to bring pro-mining forces into college classrooms.
The Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, which is working on clean coal technology, is based at Virginia Tech. The Powell River Project, which explores ways to reuse land that’s been surface-mined, has roots at Tech, too. Both groups have educational programs, but they are aimed at elementary or high school students.
Wojdak, the Radford professor, said he’s sure the one-sidedness of the presentation disturbs some students, but there’s only so much he can do about that.
"They’re our one and only guest speaker," Wojdak said, "for budgetary reasons."

Monday, November 20, 2006

"Hippy stuff"
(College Students beware this stoopit hippy stuff could make you an idiot)

This site lets you see what your personal car emissions are driving a average 12,000 miles a year. I punched in my Monte Carlo and poof I need to send these people $45.00 bucks to off set my CO2 emmissions. Talk about "white guilt". This is "environmental guilt". Oh its the same hussle and song and dance but the names changed some. Sort of like "Send us $15 bucks or the baby Seal gets it". Oh well as Grandpaw Doe used to say "It takes all kinds to make this freckled face world go around. But this does reveal a problem, other than the obvious "pinch" or rip off, and that is that these people have a cash cow of income from selling a bumber sticker for $45.00. And God only knows what they are really funding with the money they are collectiong from people who "want to do something". They are selling good feelings. Send us money and feel good about yourself. Its ok to drive that Volvo just off set it with a cash donation to this group and your going to heaven brother. Well Grandpappy also said "the road to hell is paved with good intentions". I reckon that would apply here.
Just log onto the site and put in your car type and year and poof you see what a bad person you are.

Personal emissions report
Your car emits 8,862 lbs of CO2 per year.
You should get a Standard TerraPass.
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TerraPass funds clean energy projects that reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Your TerraPass is third-party verified to reduce the equivalent of your car’s carbon dioxide pollution.
Calculate your car’s emissions
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When you buy a Road TerraPass, where does your money go?
For you

Window decal (bigger)
Yeah, this is about the environment. But it's also about you and your car. Spread the word that taking responsibility for global warming is easy and affordable.
Your member kit includes:
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TerraPass bumper sticker. Be loud and proud.
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For the environment
Your TerraPass purchase supports clean energy projects. When you buy a TerraPass, you sponsor a guaranteed reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
For example:
An entrepreneurial wind farmer receives funds to expand his plant.
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Using financial instruments such as carbon credits, your funds result in guaranteed reductions. Find out how we make these projects happen.

For more "Hippy stuff" go here ;; This is really two post but the topic is the same "Hippy stuff"

Here is a small section thaqt tells about why you should stop eating cows.

Cutting back or eliminating meat and dairy from one's diet is another great way to fight climate change, while also keeping healthy. Cows used for meat and milk are continuously fed in order to maximize their productivity, and as a result they continually emit methane as they digest. According to Noam Mohr of the non-profit EarthSave, methane gas is 21 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide coming out of our tailpipes. Given the massive proliferation of livestock around the globe, these industries are major contributors to global warming. Also, switching from supermarket-based, energy-intensive processed foods that must be shipped long distances to food grown locally can reduce one's greenhouse gas contribution even more than by switching from a gas-powered mid-size car to a hybrid.Various climate-related websites, including and, offer free online "carbon footprint calculators" so individuals can see and even calculate how their actions contribute to global warming. helps businesses of all sizes take action on climate change.
Did de-regulation in utility's work ?
New York Times News Service

Four big investment firms bought a group of Texas power plants in 2004 for $900 million and sold them the next year for $5.
8 billion.

Sempra Energy, parent of the utility in San Diego, bought nine Texas power plants with two partners in 2004 for $430 million, selling two of them less than two years later for more than $1.6 billion.
Goldman Sachs and its partners bought power plants in upstate New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio starting in 1998 and sold them in 2001 at a profit of more than $1 billion.
These enormous profits were one surprising result of a massive deregulation effort on the part of 21 states a decade ago that overhauled the business of providing electricity -- all in the name of stimulating competition and lowering utility bills.
But they weren't the only surprise. So far electricity is the only deregulated industry that has not produced consistently lower prices for consumers, who, after similar efforts, now enjoy lower plane fares and long-distance telephone rates.
Indeed, the biggest beneficiaries of energy deregulation seem to be big investment firms, like Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and the Carlyle Group, that, with their partners, have been able to flip the power plants -- meaning that in short order, they sold them at a much higher price than they bought them.
As for consumers, on top of their ordinary electric bills, many continue to be saddled with monthly surcharges that were slapped on their bills years ago to cover construction costs for plants that were sold and then resold at huge profits. These surcharges will continue for a long time.
Analysts have hashed out the problems in many ways. Regulators, they say, often urged utilities to sell plants quickly and cheaply, to encourage competition that often never came. And sometimes, they say, regulators permitted too-cozy sales of the plants from the utilities to their unregulated sister companies. When these sister companies found it hard to turn a profit, the plants were allowed to return the regulated fold, where they were guaranteed state-approved rates of return, analysts say.
The effect of all of this on the industry has been enormous. By last year, only 63 percent of the nation's electricity generating capacity was owned by utilities, down from almost 90 percent 10 years ago. And the effect on consumers and localities has at times been even greater.
Take the case of the Texas power plants. After the Texas Legislature, urged by Enron and big industrial customers, voted to make electricity generation a competitive business, the utility serving the Houston area sold 60 power plants that generate most of the power for the area to four investment firms -- the Texas Pacific Group, the Blackstone Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Hellman & Friedman -- which soon resold the plants at the $5 billion profit.
Electricity customers, who were supposed to have been the beneficiaries of a more competitive way of generating power, were ordered by state regulators to pay an average of $4.75 monthly for 14 years to finish paying for the construction of the power plants, plus interest.
And the utility that sold the plants, Centerpoint, is suing for even higher payments from customers. Houston-area consumers now pay among the highest electricity rates, nearly double the national average.
Supporters of deregulation said that customers would benefit from healthy competition among a growing number of electricity producers. But such competition has not developed. For one thing, many of the new power plants failed because, unlike many of the old plants, they almost all used natural gas to produce electricity. Demand for natural gas soared, and prices for that fuel tripled, making electricity from these plants too costly to be competitive.
The value of these plants collapsed, and some owners sought refuge in bankruptcy court. That's when investment firms, anticipating a much higher price for the plants' electricity, bought them for as little as 20 cents for each dollar spent to build them.
And in fact the investment firms guessed doubly right: By paying so little for the plants, they made construction costs prohibitive for building new ones, helping them corner the market even more. Over the last five years, few new power plants have been built, although demand for electricity has risen.
The story has been different for electricity customers. Many of the power plants that were sold are still owned by the utilities' parent companies -- they were simply transferred from the regulated utilities to unregulated sister companies. Some regulators allowed utilities to favor the sister companies with long-term contracts even if they did not offer the best price for electricity.
In fact, independent electricity producers argue that their modern generating plants often sit idle while older, inefficient plants owned by politically powerful utilities and their unregulated sister companies whir around the clock under long-term contracts. For example, Calpine, an independent generating company, and some big industrial customers have complained that Entergy, the Louisiana utility holding company, is favoring its own unregulated plants when Calpine's power would be cheaper. Congress has ordered studies of the issue.
As the issue is studied, Calpine's plants remain in mothballs, even though the company claims it can produce electricity 30 percent more cheaply than the Entergy plants.
Because utilities are still allowed to pass on the cost of the power they buy, they have little incentive to choose a cheaper supplier. Electricity customers therefore end up paying more than they would have to if electricity production were truly competitive.
After Baltimore Gas & Electric transferred its 12 power plants to an unregulated affiliate and became a distribution company, it continued to buy 70 percent of its electricity from the plants because there weren't enough independent generators to supply the area's needs. Baltimore Gas & Electric sought a 72 percent rate increase this year, causing such an outcry that Maryland regulators gave it only an immediate 15 percent, but with big additional increases virtually guaranteed over the next few years.
Paul Allen, a spokesman for the utility's parent company, Constellation Energy, said that Baltimore Gas & Electric rates have been frozen since 1993 and the increase largely reflects the higher price of producing electricity, including the cost of fuel. He said a rate increase was inevitable regardless of the new system.
But Robert McCullough, a utility economist and consultant, disagreed and blamed the new system. He said that in places like Baltimore, where a utility's plants were sold to an unregulated sister company, "the same energy is generated by the same plants, owned by the same owners, and sold to the same customers, simply at a vastly higher price."
Ralph Nader, head of the watchdog group Public Citizen, said that many power plants were sold for artificially low prices and that state regulators often failed to protect customers. He said regulators should have required price protection to shield consumers from a "double header corporate gouge, where the defenseless customer is paying twice for the same power plants."
The American Electric Power Co., with operations in 11 states, sold some Texas power plants at prices so low that it wanted electric customers to pay on average $9 a month for 14 years to cover the difference between the cost of building the plants and the lower price for which they were sold, plus interest. After some plants were quickly resold for 15 times as much per unit of generating capacity, state regulators questioned whether the utility should have sold the plants for higher prices. Still, regulators have required customers to pay on average $5 per month for 14 years, or more than $800 each.
There are persistent allegations that many plants have become inordinately profitable for their new owners; in some cases, disputes have arisen over just how profitable the plants are. In Connecticut, three plants together earn at least $700 million in annual profits, money that is over and above the 10 percent profit they would earn if they were still in the regulated system, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said. He wants the state to end the new system and return to a more regulated system or even have a state agency provide power.
The plant owners, PSE&G Power and Dominion Resources, said that the profit estimates were "wildly exaggerated" and that most of the power was sold at fixed prices with profits not significantly different from what regulated plants would earn. They did not release precise profit figures.
In Ohio, the state's consumer advocate, Janine Migden-Ostrander, said the potential savings from a competitive electric industry were undercut by favoritism that regulators showed to utility companies there.
In effect, she said, Ohio regulators allowed an extremely favorable price when unregulated sister companies acquired power plants. The lower the price a sister company pays for a power plant, the more difficult it is for an independent power producer that must build an expensive new plant to compete. That "is how the utilities killed the market before it could be started," she said.
Lynn Hargis, a longtime utility lawyer who now volunteers as counsel to the consumer group Public Citizen, said the terms under which power plants were sold are "the equivalent of selling your grandmother's house for the price she paid 60 years ago, less depreciation. No one would do that."
The utilities say that no one knew at the time the plants were sold that they would later soar in value. Floyd Le Blanc, a spokesman for Centerpoint, the Texas company that sold the 60 Houston-area plants, said, "We complied with all legal and regulatory requirements." His remarks were echoed by other utilities.
But even after buying plants at low prices, some utilities have been unable to profit in a competitive setting after decades of operating in a regulated market, where profits are virtually guaranteed. State governments have provided a refuge.
Corporate parents with both regulated utilities and unregulated power plant companies have persuaded sometimes reluctant regulators to allow them to put failing plants into the hands of the regulated utilities, where they were almost certain to turn a profit, said Richard Stavros, executive editor of Public Utilities Fortnightly, a trade magazine. That has happened in Arizona, Missouri, Texas and other states.
Arizona Public Service, for example, brought five plants owned by its unregulated affiliate, Pinnacle Energy West, into the utility. The staff of the state board that regulates utilities at first opposed the deal, saying it was not in the best economic interests of customers. But the staff relented after Arizona Public Service promised it would not add any power plants to its regulated operations before 2015, which may encourage others to enter the market.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently approved a deal to move a Texas power plant back into a regulated utility, although it expressed concern that allowing utilities' parent companies to salvage their failed investments in the competitive market could be unfair to competing generating companies.
The sale back to utilities of power plants that are not making money is "a disturbing national trend," said Jan Smutny-Jones, executive director of Independent Energy Producers in Sacramento, Calif., a trade association for power plant owners.
"It's a great deal," he said, "having ratepayers cover your managerial mistakes."

© 2006
Democrats Agenda; Repeal Of Some Oil Industry Tax Breaks

November 19, 2006 3:08 p.m. EST

Linda Young - All Headline News Staff Writer

Washington, D.C. (AHN) - Democrats are planning legislation that would put the brakes on some of the president's push to use non-renewable energy sources over the past six years.
Now that the Democrats will have some power in Congress, the party is planning to push legislation that would repeal billions of dollars of tax breaks for oil companies.
The incoming house speaker has mentioned energy as being one of her priorities. Nancy Pelosi promised to foster more energy independence for the nation "by rolling back the multibillion dollar subsidies for Big Oil," CNN news reported.
But observers say that a more comprehensive energy bill to encourage renewable energy sources and conservation will likely not occur until later, because the Democrat's majority in Congress is too narrow.
That means no tax on the oil industry's windfall profits from gas price hikes and no new increases in automobile fuel economy in the near future.
At the top of Democrat's list for repeal are the tax breaks from the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Washington Post reported Sunday. That bill gave tax breaks to expand oil refineries and for geological studies that help find oil. And also a tax credit if they drill in the U.S. instead of elsewhere.
The Democrats argue that the industry has such high profits from soaring crude oil prices that those tax benefits are unceccessary. It is also expected that Democrats might impose higher taxes for any new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico

Friday, November 17, 2006

Top scientists say man may need to dirty skies to shield against warming!

(What this really shows is that one small thing changed in the computer models can really change the outcome, and begs ther question do we really want to re-structure the U.S. economy based on one of these models that show we need to reduce carbon emmissions? Or do we keep playing with computers till they tell us what we want to know? Each side in the debate will use the model that supports the side they have chosen. So in the end this does prove one thing. That to base major public policy on the use of any kind of computer model that has so many variables is dangerous)

The Associated Press

If the sun warms the Earth too dangerously, the time may come to draw the shade.
The "shade" would be a layer of pollution deliberately spewed into the atmosphere to help cool the planet. The proposal comes from prominent scientists, among them a Nobel laureate. The reaction here at the annual U.N. conference on climate change is a mix of caution, curiosity and some resignation to such "massive and drastic" operations, as the chief U.N. climatologist describes them.
The Nobel Prize-winning scientist who first made the proposal is himself "not enthusiastic about it."
"It was meant to startle the policymakers," said Paul J. Crutzen, of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Chemistry. "If they don't take action much more strongly than they have in the past, then in the end we have to do experiments like this."
Serious people are taking Crutzen's idea seriously. This weekend at Moffett Field, California, NASA's Ames Research Center hosts a closed-door, high-level workshop on the global haze proposal and other "geoengineering" ideas for fending off climate change.
In Nairobi, meanwhile, hundreds of delegates were wrapping up a two-week conference expected to only slowly advance efforts to rein in greenhouse gases blamed for much of the 0.6-degree-Celsius (1-degree-Fahrenheit) rise in global temperatures in the past century.
The 1997 Kyoto Protocol requires modest emission cutbacks by industrial countries — but not the United States, the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, because it rejected Kyoto. Talks on what to do after Kyoto expires in 2012 are all but bogged down.
When he published his proposal in the journal Climatic Change in August, Crutzen cited a "grossly disappointing international political response" to warming.
The Dutch climatologist, awarded a 1995 Nobel in chemistry for his work uncovering the threat to Earth's atmospheric ozone layer, suggested that balloons bearing heavy guns be used to carry sulfates high aloft and fire them into the stratosphere.
While carbon dioxide keeps heat from escaping Earth, substances such as sulfur dioxide, a common air pollutant, reflect solar radiation, helping cool the planet.
Tom Wigley, a senior U.S. government climatologist, followed Crutzen's article with a paper of his own Oct. 20 in the leading U.S. journal Science. Like Crutzen, Wigley cited the precedent of the huge volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991.
Pinatubo poured so much sulfurous debris into the stratosphere that it is believed it cooled the Earth by 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) for about a year.
Wigley ran scenarios of stratospheric sulfate injection — on the scale of Pinatubo's estimated 10 million tons of sulfur — through supercomputer models of the climate, and reported that Crutzen's idea would, indeed, seem to work. Even half that amount per year would help, he wrote.
A massive dissemination of pollutants would be needed every year or two, as the sulfates precipitate from the atmosphere in acid rain.
The American scientist said a temporary shield would give political leaders more time to reduce human dependence on fossil fuels — main source of greenhouse gases. He said experts must more closely study the feasibility of the idea and its possible effects on stratospheric chemistry.
Nairobi conference participants agreed.
"Yes, by all means, do all the research," Indian climatologist Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the 2,000-scientist U.N. network on climate change, told The Associated Press.
But "if human beings take it upon themselves to carry out something as massive and drastic as this, we need to be absolutely sure there are no side effects," Pachauri said.
Philip Clapp, a veteran campaigner for emissions controls to curb warming, also sounded a nervous note, saying, "We are already engaged in an uncontrolled experiment by injecting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere."
But Clapp, president of the U.S. group National Environmental Trust, said, "I certainly don't disagree with the urgency."
American geophysicist Jonathan Pershing, of Washington's World Resources Institute, was also wary of unforeseen consequences, but said the idea might be worth considering "if down the road 25 years it becomes more and more severe because we didn't deal with the problem."
By telephone from Germany, Crutzen said that's what he envisioned: global haze as a component for long-range planning. "The reception on the whole is more positive than I thought," he said.
Pershing added, however, that reaction may hinge on who pushes the idea. "If it's the U.S., it might be perceived as an effort to avoid the problem," he said.
NASA said this weekend's California conference will examine "methods to ameliorate the likelihood of progressively rising temperatures over the next decades." Other such U.S. government-sponsored events are scheduled to follow.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Think Tank Will Promote Thinking (Who would have thot?)

Advocates Want Science,

Not Faith, at Core of Public Policy

Washington Post;

By Marc KaufmanWashington Post Staff WriterWednesday, November 15, 2006;
Concerned that the voice of science and secularism is growing ever fainter in the White House, on Capitol Hill and in culture, a group of prominent scientists and advocates of strict church-state separation yesterday announced formation of a Washington think tank designed to promote "rationalism" as the basis of public policy.
The brainchild of Paul Kurtz, founder of the Center for Inquiry-Transnational, the small public policy office will lobby and sometimes litigate on behalf of science-based decision making and against religion in government affairs.
The announcement was accompanied by release of a "Declaration in Defense of Science and Secularism," which bemoans what signers say is a growing lack of understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry and the value of a rational approach to life.
"This disdain for science is aggravated by the excessive influence of religious doctrine on our public policies," the declaration says. "We cannot hope to convince those in other countries of the dangers of religious fundamentalism when religious fundamentalists influence our policies at home."
While the speakers at the National Press Club unveiling were highly critical of Bush administration policies regarding stem cell research, global warming, abstinence-only sex education and the teaching of "intelligent design," they said that their group was nonpartisan and that many Democrats were hostile to keeping religion out of public policy.
"Unfortunately, not only do too many well-meaning people base their conceptions of the universe on ancient books -- such as the Bible and the Koran -- rather than scientific inquiry, but politicians of all parties encourage and abet this scientific ignorance," reads the declaration, which was signed by, among others, three Nobel Prize winners.
Kurtz, a professor emeritus in philosophy from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a longtime critic of the influence of religion on public policy, said that the nation needed the equivalent of a "second Enlightenment." He said the methods of science, which have led to much human progress, "are being challenged culturally in the United States today as never before."
Several speakers also had strong words for the media, which they accused of distorting scientific consensus in the name of journalistic balance. David Helfand, chairman of the Columbia University astronomy department, said for instance that while 99 percent of scientists working in the field of climate change are convinced that it is serious and the result of human activity, the views of the 1 percent who disagree are often given equal weight in stories about global warming.
Lawrence M. Krauss, an author and theoretical physicist at Case Western Reserve University, said the scientific community has done a "poor job" of explaining its logic and benefits to the public. He also said scientists have a more active role to play in opposing faith-based governing, which he said the public often rejects once it understands the issues involved.
"In the current climate there is an implicit, if demonstrably false, sense that if your actions are based on a belief in God you are good person, and if they are not you are a bad person," Krauss said. "We should be very concerned that our political system reinforces the notion that the more you pray for guidance, the better suited you are to govern."
The goals of the new group are to establish relationships with sympathetic legislators, provide experts to give testimony before Congress, speak publicly on issues when they are in the news, and submit friend-of-the-court briefs in Supreme Court cases involving science and religion. The Center for Inquiry-Transnational, a nonprofit organization, is funded by memberships
Understanding China's energy market

China's economic trajectory has driven its growing energy appetite, and it is now the world's second largest energy consumer in the world.

China will continue to be a major player in world energy markets, but increasing energy demands pose tremendous challenges for China's people, its environment, and its leaders, according to a new report on China's energy industry just published by Energy Business Reports, an energy industry think tank.
Report findings include:
Energy demand in China: China's energy demand has surged since the beginning of the new millennium when a new round of investment-driven economic growth began. China's energy sector has enormous potential, especially the coal, petroleum and natural gas industries, yet China is currently a net importer of oil, and imports are expected to increase to more than 900 million barrels in 2006, against a total demand of 1.993 billion barrels per year. China is looking to expand its production of coal, natural gas, and renewable energy sources such as nuclear, solar and hydroelectric power to meet the enormous appetite for energy spawned by its massive industrial complex and consumer sectors.
It is estimated that in 2020, China will need 2.8 billion tons of coal and 600 million tons of crude oil, two and a half times more than in 2000. Given this scenario, China will need to import 250 million tons of petroleum, about 70 per cent, from foreign sources. What's more, its carbon emissions will reach 1.94 billion tons, and China will likely overtake the US as the nation with the highest greenhouse gas emissions.
Industrialisation coupled with greater consumer energy consumption has created an energy crisis in China, and symptoms of shortage are visible throughout the country. New capital and international technology will be required, opening the door to foreign investment and market entry.
China opens itself up to global market forces: In recent years, China has allowed market forces to play a larger role in its economy. Foreign investors are being encouraged by the government to participate in exploitation of the country's natural gas resources, energy infrastructure construction, sales of natural gas, coal mining, gas-fired power generation and the production of petrochemical products. Shell, Exxon Mobil and BP are jostling for positions in China's gas market, where demand is expected to quadruple to account for 8 per cent of China's total energy supply by 2010. In order to tap China's growing energy market foreign companies are making heavy investments.
Environment: China is one of the biggest polluters of the developing world accounting for 12 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions. In recent years, as concern about climate change and rising carbon dioxide emissions has grown, China has sent confusing signals about its willingness to clean up its energy production plant and tackle environmental pollution. China was among the 141 countries that ratified the United Nations' Kyoto Protocol on global warming, which took effect in February 2005. The move enabled China to portray itself as a defender of the environment while condemning the US, which withdrew from the treaty, as irresponsible. Yet despite throwing its weight behind the Kyoto treaty, China has few short-term solutions to satisfying growing energy demand beyond bringing new coal-fired power pants on line. China is planning 562 new coal-fired power stations, nearly half the worldwide total of plants expected to come online in the years up to 2012, when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol ends.
For more information, visit
Everything you ever wanted to know about why coal is the fuel of choice for the United States Of America

US$15bn plan for hydrogen power generation projects

The world will continue to make extensive use of fossil fuels, such as natural gas and coal, for power generation for the foreseeable future.

Go to Engineer Live! @

However, technology now allows this to be done more cleanly by creating hydrogen from fossil fuels. The hydrogen is used as the fuel gas to generate electric power from turbines in a power plant. The carbon dioxide (CO2) produced can be captured, transported and stored safely and permanently in deep geological formations such as oil and gas fields.
Power generation accounts for some 40percent of manmade CO2 emissions. By combining hydrogen power generation with carbon capture and storage in one integrated project, 90percent of the CO2 in the fuel is captured so that it does not enter the atmosphere and a substantial step is made towards tackling the climate change issue.
In an effort to further develop this technology, BP and GE have announced that they are to collaborate on power, carbon capture and sequestration technologies (Fig.1).
“The combination of our two companies’ skills and resources in this area is formidable, and is the latest example of our intent to make a real difference in the face of the challenge of climate change,” said BP’s Vivienne Cox. “BP and GE's strategic approaches to developing increasingly cleaner, lower carbon power options are closely aligned and our skills and strengths are highly complementary.”
“Tomorrow’s energy mix will include hydrogen – and GE and BP are taking the lead in ensuring progress begins today,” said David Calhoun of GE. “This initiative will demonstrate that our companies’ leading-edge technologies can make hydrogen production efficient, reliable, and economical for large-scale, commercial power production. Our financial strength will ensure it happens now globally, changing the way we envision our energy future.”
BP has already announced plans for two such hydrogen power projects with carbon capture and sequestration, one in Scotland and the other in California, USA (see The big two). Both are to use GE technology. Subject to appropriate regulatory and fiscal regimes being in place, and necessary due diligence, the companies have an ambition to develop 10–15 further projects over the next decade, including the plants in Scotland and California.
Subject to further exploration, the current expectation is that the most appropriate structure may be through creation of a joint venture to invest in hydrogen power projects and a joint development agreement for development of related technology.
As a first step, BP and GE would jointly participate in the two hydrogen power projects with carbon capture and sequestration that BP has announced already.
The companies will apply some of the world’s leading technologies, project experience and assets to optimise the integrated design.
Reforming technology
The collaborative effort will draw upon the companies’ technologies and experience in areas such as coal gasification, reforming technology, gas turbines and carbon capture and storage.
“The combination of coal gasification and carbon capture and sequestration is crucial for clean coal development and presents great opportunities for countries with substantial reserves of coal such as the USA, China and India,” noted Lewis Gillies, BP’s Director of Hydrogen Power.
“GE and BP are combining our resources to develop economically attractive, breakthrough technologies in the area of hydrogen to power. This will allow power producers to use abundant, low-cost fossil fuel resources to generate electricity with very low CO2 emissions,” said Edward Lowe, general manager of GE Energy’s gasification business.
In addition to the complementary nature of the technologies and experience of the two companies, the collaboration is expected to be further strengthened by the global reach of each of the partners.
GE’s operations in Houston and BP’s operations in London will form the core groups for the hydrogen power collaboration.
Hydrogen power and carbon capture and sequestration is a key part of BP’s growing low-carbon power generation business, BP Alternative Energy. This business, launched in 2005, combines BP’s interests in hydrogen power with BP Solar, BP’s photovoltaic company, and the company’s interests in wind power and natural gas-fired power generation. BP anticipates investing US$8bn (E6.3bn) in BP Alternative Energy over the next decade reinforcing its determination to grow its businesses ‘beyond petroleum’.
The big two
In Peterhead, BP together with Scottish and Southern Energy plan to build a 475MW hydrogen fired power plant based on natural gas. It would sequester 1.8million t/y of CO2 4000metres below the seabed in the Miller oil field where the gas will enable the production of 40million barrels of oil that would not otherwise have been recoverable.
Meanwhile, the other US$1bn (E787m) plant is to be located alongside BP’s Carson refinery, about 20 miles south of Los Angeles, and be capable of producing 500 MW of low-carbon generation, enough power to serve 325000 Southern California homes.
This plant would take petroleum coke, a refinery
by-product and synthetic form of coal, to create the hydrogen.
The plant will capture and store fourmillion t/y of carbon dioxide which, like the Peterhead project, will enable incremental oil production.
Investment decisions
BP and Edison Mission Group hope to finalise project investment decisions for Carson in 2008 and bring the new power plant online by 2011. Its potential benefits include:
Providing 500MW of new clean generating capacity for Southern California at a time when state agencies are predicting possible power supply shortages during the coming years.
Eliminating four million tons of CO2 per year from the atmosphere by sequestering it underground.
Enabling additional production from existing California oil fields, producing previously unrecoverable oil reserves by injecting the CO2 into oil reservoirs, where the CO2 would be permanently stored.
Boosting the Southern California economy with 1000 construction jobs and 150 permanent operational positions.
Increasing the diversity and supply of US indigenous fuels available to generate electricity.
Preserving limited fresh water sources by using recycled and treated city wastewater for plant needs.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger describes the plant a perfect fit for the state: “With our strategic growth plan, a commitment to air quality, and innovative projects like this hydrogen plant, I know we can have clear skies, improve our quality of life and build a stronger, more vibrant economy for California.”
Final project investment decisions will follow further study by the partners and review by the California Energy Commission and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
BP and EMG are beginning project discussions with state and federal government agencies and local stakeholders and are exploring options for selling the electricity the plant would generate. BP is in discussions with Occidental Petroleum to develop options for sequestering the CO2 in Occidental’s California oilfields.
However, BP points out that the costs of hydrogen power are higher than those of traditional power plant fuels. As a result, it says, the project will depend, in part, on incentives provided in the Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 for advanced gasification technologies.
In addition, adds the company, continued progress on the California Public Utilities Commission’s electricity ‘resource adequacy’ procurement policies will encourage this first-of-its-kind facility

Monday, November 13, 2006

Renewable Fuels May Provide 25% of U.S. Energy by 2025
Nov 13, 2006

Wall Street Journal, Print Edition

WASHINGTON -- A new Rand Corp. study showing the falling costs of ethanol, wind power and other forms of renewable energy predicts such sources could furnish as much as 25% of the U.S.'s conventional energy by 2025 at little or no additional expense.
A second renewable-energy report soon to be released by the National Academy of Sciences suggests wood chips may become a plentiful source of ethanol and electricity for industrial nations because their forested areas are expanding, led by the U.S. and China.
Because use of renewable fuels to replace oil and cut emissions of carbon dioxide is an area on which Congress's coming Democratic leadership and the Bush administration agree, the studies are likely to hasten efforts to increase production incentives next year, either in a new energy bill or a farm bill. (See related articles.)
"We hope it will help policy planners rethink the context," said Reid Detchon, executive director of the Energy Future Coalition, a foundation-funded bipartisan group. The coalition sponsored the study by Rand, a nonprofit research group known primarily for defense studies.
The Rand study concludes that because prices for gasoline, natural gas and coal are likely to remain high, their cost advantage over renewables will erode, furthered by the hope that ethanol from farm wastes will be available by 2020.
Renewable fuels now produce only 6% of the nation's energy, and about half of that comes from hydroelectric dams. The study assumes renewable-energy costs will keep dropping at the rate of recent years. It says raising the use of renewables to 25% of all U.S. energy consumed would reduce U.S. reliance on oil by about 20% or the equivalent of the imports from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The study says the expected growth of energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide, thought to be artificially warming the atmosphere, would be cut by two-thirds over the next 19 years.
Rand researchers modeled more than 1,500 economic scenarios and found that in most cases, increasing the use of renewable fuels -- which don't enlarge the atmosphere's carbon-dioxide buildup -- would be cheaper than federal regulations forcing the reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions, about a third of which come from vehicles.
The study notes there has been "little systematic analysis" of the costs of renewable fuels. Much of the debate has consisted of optimistic projections by environmental groups and doubts expressed by some academic skeptics, who say that making ethanol from corn consumes nearly as much energy as it produces and could raise food prices. Ed Murphy, a group director for the American Petroleum Institute, said policy that assumes there will be substantial improvement in ethanol technology "could be foolish and costly."
The Rand study's cost estimates assume progress will continue on making ethanol from farm wastes, wood chips and other forms of biomass that are much cheaper and more plentiful than corn. Given the interest in so-called cellulosic ethanol, more than 100 companies from the agricultural, chemical and biotechnology sectors will begin a three-day meeting here today.
The study on the growth of forests says forests in 22 of the 50 countries with the largest wooded areas are growing. Destruction of forests in tropical nations, however, continues, with Brazil and Indonesia experiencing the greatest losses.
Write to John J. Fialka at

Thursday, November 09, 2006

What Business Should Expect In Next Congress

Nov 9, 2006

Wall Street Journal, Print Edition

WASHINGTON -- Democrats' election victory Tuesday ended a six-year partnership between a business-friendly White House and Congress that enacted free-trade agreements, cut taxes on corporations and investors and -- with the significant exception of the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate-reform bill -- avoided new regulations.
Now, the question is how far the Democrats, tempered by a Republican president and a closely divided Senate, can push the pendulum in the other direction.
The party has yet to spell out its entire legislative agenda, but its leaders are talking about quickly boosting the minimum wage, seeking to curb executive pay and pushing for higher taxes on business, particularly oil companies. Many stocks, especially health-care shares, took a hit early yesterday as investors weighed the new political uncertainties, but the market went on to finish higher (see related article.)
See more on how the Democrats' success could affect regulation in several industries, including autos, energy and drugs.
• Webb Wins Virginia Senate Race
• Election Q&A: What Happens Next?
• Chief Concerns: Who Heads Key Committees?
• Will Bush, Pelosi Be Able to Cooperate?
• Election Outcome Shakes Up '08 Calculus
• In Virginia Race, 'Gail for Rail' May Be a Spoiler
• Blue Regime Augurs A Shift in Chairs
• Democrats Ride Social, Environment Issues to Religious Gains
• Democrats Gain Power From Statehouse Shifts
• Michigan Turns Back College Affirmative Action
• Vote Is a Blow to Republican Pursuit of Hispanics
• Exit poll analysis: Five states; national data
• Vote-tallies, map
• For complete coverage, see
Rep. Charles Rangel, the New York Democrat who is expected to become chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, cites "ending tax shelters for companies that move American jobs overseas" as one of his main objectives. He is also expected to complicate the White House's efforts to further liberalize trade by demanding strong protections for labor in any trade deals.
California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the probable new speaker of the House, has already called for ending "tax giveaways" to oil companies, negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for better drug prices for federal health programs and rolling back tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
Many political observers, however, doubt the Democrats can gain traction on more than a few of these issues, especially with business groups and their political allies keen to avoid losing any ground on trade and taxes.
Raising the minimum wage is one fight the Democrats are expected to win. That would be a victory for organized labor, which has pushed for an increase for years, but a defeat for the restaurant and retail industries and small-business owners, who argue it would hurt the economy by forcing them to hire fewer workers.
Mrs. Pelosi has promised to bring legislation to the floor within the first 24 hours of the new Congress to boost the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour from the current $5.15. The idea is popular with voters: Six states overwhelmingly passed ballot initiatives Tuesday to raise the minimum wage and tie future increases to inflation. Republicans may feel hard-pressed to oppose the move.
At a news conference yesterday, President Bush cited the minimum wage as "an area where we can ... find common ground."
On the trade front, businesses face the growing threat of protectionism. Several victorious Democrats campaigned as trade skeptics, arguing that U.S. manufacturers are being battered unfairly by companies in China and other low-wage countries with weaker environmental and labor protections. Trade watchers on both sides of the issue say President Bush will have a tough time winning a free hand from Congress to negotiate trade accords. The president's "fast track" authority -- under which Congress has to vote up or down on trade agreements, forgoing amendments -- expires in July, and a Democrat-led House is less likely to grant him such sweeping powers again.
Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers union, told reporters yesterday that the coming showdown over Mr. Bush's fast-track authority is "the first battle that we're going to win."
U.S. trading partners are reluctant to negotiate new trade accords if they think Congress will change the terms before ratifying them, and the current Doha round of global trade talks is already considered to be in deep trouble. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso appealed yesterday to the new U.S. Congress to help revive the stalled talks.
The trade debate is particularly heated when it comes to China, with its fast-growing export industries. Lawmakers could take steps to press China to improve its enforcement of intellectual-property rights and other trade rules. Yesterday, Mr. Rangel, the New York Democrat, said the U.S. needs to "be angry as hell and try to protect American industry....We have to protect American jobs and American manufacturers."
Robert Portman, the former U.S. Trade Representative who now heads the White House budget office, says the Democrats could create "a real nervousness among people who invest in and look at our economy closely. The trade dynamic has been very good. Export-driven growth is important, and if we're not knocking down barriers to trade that's a concern."
Democratic control of the House also will end the Republican Party's drive to lower taxes and could frustrate President Bush's hopes of extending the reduced 15% tax rates on capital gains and dividends, which expire in 2010. Republicans' decade-long push to scrap estate taxes is also likely to be halted.
Democrats are expected to support some tax sweeteners for business, such as the research and development tax credit. Mr. Rangel also said one of his priorities is to ease the burden of the so-called alternative minimum tax, which is designed to keep wealthy taxpayers from taking so many deductions and credits they escape taxes altogether. Easing the burden of the AMT, which has begun to ensnare many middle-class families, could cost the government $1 trillion over 10 years, and many policy watchers expect Democrats to rescind tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy to help offset any tax cuts or new spending.
At the same time, Democrats have vowed to force pharmaceutical companies to charge less for drugs sold to Medicare beneficiaries -- an idea strongly opposed by the drug industry. Mrs. Pelosi is expected to push a bill to allow direct price negotiations between the government and the drug industry. Though such a measure might not clear the Senate or the White House, it could give Democrats traction to advance other ways of driving down drug prices, such as widening the availability of imported drugs.
Drug prices are also likely to be a major focus for investigations, reports and hearings by the new Democratic House committee chairmen, particularly California Rep. Henry Waxman, who will head the House Government Reform Committee. A favorite drug-industry benefit -- six months of exclusive marketing of medications in return for studies on their effects in children -- is up for renewal and likely to draw scrutiny from Mr. Waxman and others. In an interview, Mr. Waxman says his priorities will include "reducing the price of prescription drugs."
Similarly, investors who own stock in student-loan providers like Sallie Mae worry about Democratic campaign promises to significantly reduce student-loan interest rates and speculation that they'll promote the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, in which students borrow directly from the federal government, rather than banks. That direct-lending program competes with the other federal student-loan program, Federal Family Education Loan Program, in which students borrow through a middleman such as Sallie Mae. In 4 p.m. New York Stock Exchange composite trading, shares of SLM Corp. -- better known as Sallie Mae -- were down 4.8% at $47.21.
The Democrat takeover of the House is expected to put outsize executive pay back in the spotlight, with a push toward giving shareholders a vote to approve pay packages. Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, who is expected to head the House Financial Services Committee, says he will hold hearings on executive pay and plans to move forward on a bill he introduced last year.
However, Mr. Frank and other Democrats have been receptive to business efforts to review the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate-governance law and to have regulators adjust some of the more controversial provisions. Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, has spoken recently about curbing some aspects of the law, which he says is driving business away from U.S. financial markets.
Mr. Frank also has a strong interest in affordable housing and his chairmanship could shift the odds in the three-year-old struggle to tighten regulation of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Bush administration's efforts to persuade Congress to force the companies to slash their mortgage holdings had already sputtered before the election, and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has been looking for possible compromises. Now almost any legislative language to rein in the two companies may be politically impossible to sell.
Fannie and Freddie shares gained 2.9% and 2%, respectively, to $61.25 and $71.23 yesterday in 4 p.m. Big Board trading.
Still, Mr. Frank is expected to push hard for the legislation to require Fannie and Freddie to use more of their resources for financing loans to low-income people. That may hurt the companies' profitability. And both parties still want to create a more powerful regulatory agency to oversee Fannie and Freddie in light of their violations of accounting rules in recent years.
Another industry that could both benefit and suffer from the Democratic takeover of the House is the auto industry. Democrats are likely to push for greater use of alternative fuels, which could hurt or help Detroit depending on how legislation is structured. The industry is sharply opposed to tougher fuel economy standards supported by Democrats. But domestic auto makers are bullish on the potential for ethanol to partly replace oil as a transportation fuel and would support efforts to build the ethanol infrastructure and production capacity.
More perilous for the industry is Democratic interest in addressing climate change by limiting carbon dioxide emissions. Automobiles are among the worst offenders, and car companies could be hurt by new taxes or regulations aimed at limiting carbon emissions.
President Bush is said to be interested in climate change as well, and he has repeatedly spoken in favor of alternative fuels, making them an area where potential exists for successful legislation.
--Kara Scannell, Brody Mullins, James R. Hagerty, Anna Wilde Mathews, Laura Meckler and Anne Marie Chaker contributed to this article.
Write to Deborah Solomon at and Michael M. Phillips at
Just who is Jim Webb?? I like what I see so far, this story below may be the major factor in his victory.

Belfast Telegraph Home > News

Webb spins his Ulster-Scots heritage into the US elections A former member of Ronald Reagan's government is on the brink of becoming a US Senator for the Democrats by using his Ulster-Scots heritage as a rallying point.

Sean O'Driscoll in New York profiles Virginia's Jim Webb09 November 2006

There have been many US presidents with Ulster-Scots roots, but for Virginia Democrat, Jim Webb, being Ulster-Scots or Irish Scots has become a rallying point for his supporters and a focus of his astonishingly popular campaign for a Senate seat.
As last week's New Yorker magazine put it, Webb has presented Ulster-Scots heritage as "the DNA of red-state America".
And it seemed to be working as last night he claimed victory in his tightly-fought Senate race with Republican George Allen, even though a recount now looks to be on the cards.
Throughout the heavily Ulster-Scots mountain towns of Virginia, Mr Webb referred time and time again to his book, 'Born Fighting, How The Scots-Irish Shaped America', telling supporters that they had built America, yet their ethnic background had been deliberately besmirched by the establishment in favour of more "politically correct" ethnic groups.
His view of US history has been a huge hit with voters, particularly in the Scots-Irish strongholds in southwest Virginia.
It helped him close in on the incumbent Mr Allen, who looked certain to win the race at the start of the election.
Mr Webb's "love your inner Ulster Scot" message also won some big-name supporters - most noticeably commentator Christopher Hitchens in the Wall Street Journal, who wrote that Mr Webb "is right to stress the huge rage felt by those of Scots-Irish provenance who feel that they have borne the heat and burden of the day in America's wars, and been rewarded with disdain".
Mr Webb is a hugely contradictory - an anti-war candidate who revels in celebrating the military and who toasted his son's departure for Iraq as a US marine.
Mr Webb is nominally a Democrat yet was Republican president Reagan's navy secretary - a fact he used time and again in his campaign commercials.
His basic Scots-Irish message pulls these contradictory strands together with a new message: "The Scots-Irish were pushed out of Scotland, battled Catholics in Ireland, came to the US where they fought everyone from native Americans to the French and were packed overseas to fight the Germans, the Viet Cong and the Iraqis and what do you have to show for it? You're treated as Bible-thumping rednecks by cultural elitists in Hollywood, New York and Washington."
It's a message that has proved to be political dynamite in the Republican heartland, leaving many Republicans and moderate Democrats to ask why they didn't tap into this resentment a long time ago.
According to Mr Webb, the real number of Ulster-Scots in America could be as high as 30 million, their numbers vastly underestimated by confusion on census day, with many voters filing their ethic background as Irish, Scottish, British, Ulster-Scots or Scots-Irish and that many who wrote "Scots-Irish" were placed in the "Scots" and "Irish" ethnic groups.
With Mr Webb's enormously popular campaign rewriting politics in conservative Virginia (helped on by stupid gaffes by his opponent), the election could well see a clamour among politicians for an analyst who can help them tap into this new Scots-Irish pride.
Although he lives in the boring, utterly middle-class Washington suburb of Falls Church, his language on the campaign stump has been that of the Virginia Hills, and his Scots-Irish relatives who still live there.
They are the kind of people that Mr Webb describes in Born Fighting as having "unbending individualism" and an "ingrained hatred of aristocracy".
He links their "individualism" to their alleged dislike of liberal policy makers and to their love of religion and military service.
The Scots-Irish have "been in conflict with a variety of authoritarian power structures, and it remains so in today's America", he wrote in Born Fighting.
He says that for complicated reasons, many Scots-Irish are still mired in poverty and he lists off the stereotypes he most resents: "Rednecks. Trailer-park trash. Racists. Cannon fodder."
The ingratitude of "the establishment" was burnt into him after he came back from Vietnam to find privileged college kids belittling the war and making it sound as if they were taking a brave step by refusing to fight.
Repeatedly citing that the Scots-Irish have fought for America in numbers way above the national average, he never missed a chance to attempt to stoke that pride in his audience.
In Christiansburg in southwest Virginia last Saturday, he arrived in military garb.
His red, white and blue campaign signs read "Jim Webb: Born Fighting".
He immediately appeals to voters by referencing Scots-Irish hero and former President, Andrew Jackson, who represents the values of "the traditional Democratic Party" before it was 'hijacked' by tree huggers, gays and Vietnam protester, Jane Fonda (whom, he once said, he would not cross the road to see, "even to see her slit her wrists").
In the likely event that Mr Webb wins this race, he will have done so by tapping into something very deep in the Virginian psyche.
And he will then become part of the establishment he bemoans.
"Why are the 30 million Scots-Irish, who may well be America's strongest cultural force, so invisible to America's cultural elites?" he wrote in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal two years ago.
Like Andrew Jackson before him, that's a question that he himself will now have to answer

Monday, November 06, 2006

Climate chaos? Don't believe it

By Christopher Monckton, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:14am GMT 05/11/2006

Download Christopher Monckton's references and detailed calculations [pdf]
The Stern report last week predicted dire economic and social effects of unchecked global warming. In what many will see as a highly controversial polemic, Christopher Monckton disputes the 'facts' of this impending apocalypse and accuses the UN and its scientists of distorting the truth

Biblical droughts, floods, plagues and extinctions?
Last week, Gordon Brown and his chief economist both said global warming was the worst "market failure" ever. That loaded soundbite suggests that the "climate-change" scare is less about saving the planet than, in Jacques Chirac's chilling phrase, "creating world government". This week and next, I'll reveal how politicians, scientists and bureaucrats contrived a threat of Biblical floods, droughts, plagues, and extinctions worthier of St John the Divine than of science.
Sir Nicholas Stern's report on the economics of climate change, which was published last week, says that the debate is over. It isn't. There are more greenhouse gases in the air than there were, so the world should warm a bit, but that's as far as the "consensus" goes. After the recent hysteria, you may not find the truth easy to believe. So you can find all my references and detailed calculations here.
The Royal Society says there's a worldwide scientific consensus. It brands Apocalypse-deniers as paid lackeys of coal and oil corporations. I declare my interest: I once took the taxpayer's shilling and advised Margaret Thatcher, FRS, on scientific scams and scares. Alas, not a red cent from Exxon.
In 1988, James Hansen, a climatologist, told the US Congress that temperature would rise 0.3C by the end of the century (it rose 0.1C), and that sea level would rise several feet (no, one inch). The UN set up a transnational bureaucracy, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The UK taxpayer unwittingly meets the entire cost of its scientific team, which, in 2001, produced the Third Assessment Report, a Bible-length document presenting apocalyptic conclusions well beyond previous reports.
This week, I'll show how the UN undervalued the sun's effects on historical and contemporary climate, slashed the natural greenhouse effect, overstated the past century's temperature increase, repealed a fundamental law of physics and tripled the man-made greenhouse effect.
Next week, I'll demonstrate the atrocious economic, political and environmental cost of the high-tax, zero-freedom, bureaucratic centralism implicit in Stern's report; I'll compare the global-warming scare with previous sci-fi alarums; and I'll show how the environmentalists' "precautionary principle" (get the state to interfere now, just in case) is killing people.
So to the scare. First, the UN implies that carbon dioxide ended the last four ice ages. It displays two 450,000-year graphs: a sawtooth curve of temperature and a sawtooth of airborne CO2 that's scaled to look similar. Usually, similar curves are superimposed for comparison. The UN didn't do that. If it had, the truth would have shown: the changes in temperature preceded the changes in CO2 levels.
Next, the UN abolished the medieval warm period (the global warming at the end of the First Millennium AD). In 1995, David Deming, a geoscientist at the University of Oklahoma, had written an article reconstructing 150 years of North American temperatures from borehole data. He later wrote: "With the publication of the article in Science, I gained significant credibility in the community of scientists working on climate change. They thought I was one of them, someone who would pervert science in the service of social and political causes. One of them let his guard down. A major person working in the area of climate change and global warming sent me an astonishing email that said: 'We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period.' "
So they did. The UN's second assessment report, in 1996, showed a 1,000-year graph demonstrating that temperature in the Middle Ages was warmer than today. But the 2001 report contained a new graph showing no medieval warm period. It wrongly concluded that the 20th century was the warmest for 1,000 years. The graph looked like an ice hockey-stick. The wrongly flat AD1000-AD1900 temperature line was the shaft: the uptick from 1900 to 2000 was the blade. Here's how they did it:
• They gave one technique for reconstructing pre-thermometer temperature 390 times more weight than any other (but didn't say so).
• The technique they overweighted was one which the UN's 1996 report had said was unsafe: measurement of tree-rings from bristlecone pines. Tree-rings are wider in warmer years, but pine-rings are also wider when there's more carbon dioxide in the air: it's plant food. This carbon dioxide fertilisation distorts the calculations.
• They said they had included 24 data sets going back to 1400. Without saying so, they left out the set showing the medieval warm period, tucking it into a folder marked "Censored Data".
• They used a computer model to draw the graph from the data, but scientists later found that the model almost always drew hockey-sticks even if they fed in random, electronic "red noise".

The large, full-colour "hockey-stick" was the key graph in the UN's 2001 report, and the only one to appear six times. The Canadian Government copied it to every household. Four years passed before a leading scientific journal would publish the truth about the graph. Did the UN or the Canadian government apologise? Of course not. The UN still uses the graph in its publications.
Even after the "hockey stick" graph was exposed, scientific papers apparently confirming its abolition of the medieval warm period appeared. The US Senate asked independent statisticians to investigate. They found that the graph was meretricious, and that known associates of the scientists who had compiled it had written many of the papers supporting its conclusion.
The UN, echoed by Stern, says the graph isn't important. It is. Scores of scientific papers show that the medieval warm period was real, global and up to 3C warmer than now. Then, there were no glaciers in the tropical Andes: today they're there. There were Viking farms in Greenland: now they're under permafrost. There was little ice at the North Pole: a Chinese naval squadron sailed right round the Arctic in 1421 and found none.
The Antarctic, which holds 90 per cent of the world's ice and nearly all its 160,000 glaciers, has cooled and gained ice-mass in the past 30 years, reversing a 6,000-year melting trend. Data from 6,000 boreholes worldwide show global temperatures were higher in the Middle Ages than now. And the snows of Kilimanjaro are vanishing not because summit temperature is rising (it isn't) but because post-colonial deforestation has dried the air. Al Gore please note.
In some places it was also warmer than now in the Bronze Age and in Roman times. It wasn't CO2 that caused those warm periods. It was the sun. So the UN adjusted the maths and all but extinguished the sun's role in today's warming. Here's how:
• The UN dated its list of "forcings" (influences on temperature) from 1750, when the sun, and consequently air temperature, was almost as warm as now. But its start-date for the increase in world temperature was 1900, when the sun, and temperature, were much cooler.
• Every "forcing" produces "climate feedbacks" making temperature rise faster. For instance, as temperature rises in response to a forcing, the air carries more water vapour, the most important greenhouse gas; and polar ice melts, increasing heat absorption. Up goes the temperature again. The UN more than doubled the base forcings from greenhouse gases to allow for climate feedbacks. It didn't do the same for the base solar forcing.
Two centuries ago, the astronomer William Herschel was reading Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations when he noticed that quoted grain prices fell when the number of sunspots rose. Gales of laughter ensued, but he was right. At solar maxima, when the sun was at its hottest and sunspots showed, temperature was warmer, grain grew faster and prices fell. Such observations show that even small solar changes affect climate detectably. But recent solar changes have been big.
Sami Solanki, a solar physicist, says that in the past half-century the sun has been warmer, for longer, than at any time in at least the past 11,400 years, contributing a base forcing equivalent to a quarter of the past century's warming. That's before adding climate feedbacks.
The UN expresses its heat-energy forcings in watts per square metre per second. It estimates that the sun caused just 0.3 watts of forcing since 1750. Begin in 1900 to match the temperature start-date, and the base solar forcing more than doubles to 0.7 watts. Multiply by 2.7, which the Royal Society suggests is the UN's current factor for climate feedbacks, and you get 1.9 watts – more than six times the UN's figure.
The entire 20th-century warming from all sources was below 2 watts. The sun could have caused just about all of it.
Next, the UN slashed the natural greenhouse effect by 40 per cent from 33C in the climate-physics textbooks to 20C, making the man-made additions appear bigger.
Then the UN chose the biggest 20th-century temperature increase it could find. Stern says: "As anticipated by scientists, global mean surface temperatures have risen over the past century." As anticipated? Only 30 years ago, scientists were anticipating a new Ice Age and writing books called The Cooling.
In the US, where weather records have been more reliable than elsewhere, 20th-century temperature went up by only 0.3C. AccuWeather, a worldwide meteorological service, reckons world temperature rose by 0.45C. The US National Climate Data Centre says 0.5C. Any advance on 0.5? The UN went for 0.6C, probably distorted by urban growth near many of the world's fast-disappearing temperature stations.
The number of temperature stations round the world peaked at 6,000 in 1970. It's fallen by two-thirds to 2,000 now: a real "hockey-stick" curve, and an instance of the UN's growing reliance on computer guesswork rather than facts.
Even a 0.6C temperature rise wasn't enough. So the UN repealed a fundamental physical law. Buried in a sub-chapter in its 2001 report is a short but revealing section discussing "lambda": the crucial factor converting forcings to temperature. The UN said its climate models had found lambda near-invariant at 0.5C per watt of forcing.
You don't need computer models to "find" lambda. Its value is given by a century-old law, derived experimentally by a Slovenian professor and proved by his Austrian student (who later committed suicide when his scientific compatriots refused to believe in atoms). The Stefan-Boltzmann law, not mentioned once in the UN's 2001 report, is as central to the thermodynamics of climate as Einstein's later equation is to astrophysics. Like Einstein's, it relates energy to the square of the speed of light, but by reference to temperature rather than mass.
The bigger the value of lambda, the bigger the temperature increase the UN could predict. Using poor Ludwig Boltzmann's law, lambda's true value is just 0.22-0.3C per watt. In 2001, the UN effectively repealed the law, doubling lambda to 0.5C per watt. A recent paper by James Hansen says lambda should be 0.67, 0.75 or 1C: take your pick. Sir John Houghton, who chaired the UN's scientific assessment working group until recently, tells me it now puts lambda at 0.8C: that's 3C for a 3.7-watt doubling of airborne CO2. Most of the UN's computer models have used 1C. Stern implies 1.9C.
On the UN's figures, the entire greenhouse-gas forcing in the 20th century was 2 watts. Multiplying by the correct value of lambda gives a temperature increase of 0.44 to 0.6C, in line with observation. But using Stern's 1.9C per watt gives 3.8C. Where did 85 per cent of his imagined 20th-century warming go? As Professor Dick Lindzen of MIT pointed out in The Sunday Telegraph last week, the UK's Hadley Centre had the same problem, and solved it by dividing its modelled output by three to "predict" 20th-century temperature correctly.
A spate of recent scientific papers, gearing up for the UN's fourth report next year, gives a different reason for the failure of reality to keep up with prediction. The oceans, we're now told, are acting as a giant heat-sink. In these papers the well-known, central flaw (not mentioned by Stern) is that the computer models' "predictions" of past ocean temperature changes only approach reality if they are averaged over a depth of at least a mile and a quarter.
Deep-ocean temperature hasn't changed at all, it's barely above freezing. The models tend to over-predict the warming of the climate-relevant surface layer up to threefold. A recent paper by John Lyman, of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, reports that the oceans have cooled sharply in the past two years. The computers didn't predict this. Sea level is scarcely rising faster today than a century ago: an inch every 15 years. Hansen now says that the oceanic "flywheel effect" gives us extra time to act, so Stern's alarmism is misplaced.
Finally, the UN's predictions are founded not only on an exaggerated forcing-to-temperature conversion factor justified neither by observation nor by physical law, but also on an excessive rate of increase in airborne carbon dioxide. The true rate is 0.38 per cent year on year since records began in 1958. The models assume 1 per cent per annum, more than two and a half times too high. In 2001, the UN used these and other adjustments to predict a 21st-century temperature increase of 1.5 to 6C. Stern suggests up to 10C.
Dick Lindzen emailed me last week to say that constant repetition of wrong numbers doesn't make them right. Removing the UN's solecisms, and using reasonable data and assumptions, a simple global model shows that temperature will rise by just 0.1 to 1.4C in the coming century, with a best estimate of 0.6C, well within the medieval temperature range and only a fifth of the UN's new, central projection.
Why haven't air or sea temperatures turned out as the UN's models predicted? Because the science is bad, the "consensus" is wrong, and Herr Professor Ludwig Boltzmann, FRS, was as right about energy-to-temperature as he was about atoms.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Virginia Energy Plan Comments by VMA

A Strategy for Increasing America’s Energy Independence with Coal
Comments submitted to the State of Virginia on September the 11, 2006 in Abingdon Virginia concerning the states “Energy Plan”.
By Dink Shackleford Executive Director of the:

Virginia Mining Association, located an
18, 7th Street, Park Ave Center, Suite 206
Norton, Virginia 24273

Virginia’s and America’s coal resources can be effectively used to move Virginia and the United States towards the goal of energy independence. Today coal provides nearly 49% of Virginia electricity.
The recent “Energy Act” called for the production of hundreds of new coal fired electrical generation plants to be constructed in the United State in the next 20 years to meet the ever growing increase in demand of 3 to 5% annually. If America is to avoid massive “brown outs and black outs” in the very near future the nation will have to come up with domestic reliable methods and sources of energy and electric development and production. The United States’ annual demand for coal could nearly double to over 2 billion tons by 2025 and lessen our dependence on imported energy, if current forecasts are realized and new markets for coal gasification and coal-to-liquids develop. A corresponding increase in domestic coal production – 1.1 billion short tons in 2005 – would be needed to meet this demand. America is facing an energy shortage and coal is the energy source most realistically able to meet this growing demand for electricity today as we face these challenges before us.

A number of factors contribute to this aggressive growth projection. Computers use 8% of all electricity generated today. When you add other information technologies to the mix, the number rises to 14%. This has been an increase no one projected 20 years ago and is a direct result of increasing technologies and the use of the personal computer. Coal is the fuel of choice for the next generation of electricity, and its share of the total electricity market is forecast to increase from roughly 50 percent today to as much as 54 percent by 2025. Today each American uses on average 33 pounds of coal a day through the use of electricity. A computer uses on average 3 to 5 pounds of coal a day to operate. Virginia employee’s nearly six thousand people in the mining of coal in Virginia and pays an average $50,000 dollars annually. According the U.S. Chamber of Commerce each high paying Virginia coal mining job creates another 3 to 5 within a community. The importance of these numbers becomes obvious when you look at the un-employment percentages that have run in the double digits through out the last several decades in the seven coal producing counties. Low cost generation of electricity can be used by the coal counties to help recruit electrical use intensive manufacturing industries.

Conventional oil and natural gas sources are constrained by availability and price even as demand for energy continues to grow. Wind generation is not capable at this time to realistically meet the growing energy demand and is becoming more and more controversial for environmental and destruction of wildlife species and endangered birds such as certain endangered species of bats. Hydroelectric generation has become impossible with existing environmental regulations concerning wildlife habitat destruction by the construction of any new dams. Conversely, the United States has a 250 year reserve and Virginia has nearly 50 to 100 years reserve (depending on the price per ton of coal) of abundant and affordable coal that can effectively contribute to lessening our dependence on foreign energy sources in the years to come.Coal used by electric utilities has increased from 320 million tons in 1970 to 875 million tons in 1995. During the same period, atmospheric levels of particulates from fossil fuel combustion dropped more than 60%.

In addition, coal gasification and coal-to-liquids technologies are opening promising new markets for coal in the residential, commercial, and industrial and transportation sectors. Production goals equivalent to 4 Tcf of pipeline quality synthetic natural gas (SNG) annually and 2.6 million barrels per day of liquid fuels from coal are possible by 2025. Over time, these modern coal conversion technologies, combined with an aggressive research program, could open the door to a hydrogen economy fueled by coal.
Ensuring that sufficient domestic coal is produced, transported and converted into the energy products demanded by a growing and increasingly energy dependent economy is a national imperative. Success requires a strong and coordinated partnership between coal producing, transporting and consuming industries to focus on actions and policies that:

• Enhance coal-fueled electric generating capacity using a suite of advanced clean coal technologies;
• Support the emerging coal gasification and coal-to liquids industries;
• Expand Virginia coal production in a safe and environmentally sound manner; and,
• Increase the coal hauling capacity of the Virginia’s (and support the nation’s) railroads, river systems and coastal waterways. An equally strong partnership between industry and government is needed.
While a range of polices and actions can affect the nation’s ability to meet the anticipated demand for coal, some are critical for success and require implementation of an action strategy designed to harness the attention, innovation and capabilities of both public and private sectors. These constitute our “Strategy for Increasing America’s and Virginia’s Energy Independence with Coal” and include:
• Developing and deploying new technologies that enable the industry to advance the safety and health achievements that have been attained to date, including effective training tools such as the encouragement of existing and the development of new training programs in support of those now established at Virginia Communities College’s for the new generation of miners that will join the industry in coming years. This can be accomplished though programs like the Virginia Community Work-Force Development Board.
• Promoting an aggressive coal conversion program that includes expansion of the nation’s capability to generate clean electricity from coal and use coal to produce pipeline quality synthetic gas and liquid transportation fuels. This can be facilitated through new industry-government partnerships such as a
Department of Defense-industry partnership to build coal-to-liquids plants that produce aviation grade fuel from coal.
• Reaching a consensus on land use and access policies that:
a. Allows access to coal reserves on federally owned lands and promotes accumulation of sufficiently large reserve blocks on privately held lands;
b. Allows timely expansion of the rail transportation network based on projected production-to-market scenarios, and support the maintaining and development of new access ports for coal loading facilities in and around Newport News, Virginia.
c. Provides appropriate sites for new power generation plants and coal gasification and coal-to liquids refineries; and
d. Provides access to rights of ways for expansion of the electric transmission system in a timely manner.
• Developing regulatory policies and permitting procedures that ensure:
a. Coordination among federal and states agencies to facilitate the expeditious review of permit applications and the resolution of any conflicts;
b. Expansion of existing coal production capacity through the development of new, green-field mines as well as the expansion of existing mines;
c. Sitting and permitting of expanded generating capacity;
d. Sitting and permitting of new green-field generating plants;
e. Expansion of transmission capacity;
f. Sitting and permitting of gasification and coal-to liquids facilities; and
g. Expansion of coal transportation systems.
• Establishing environmental policies that balance the need for expanded and affordable energy supplies with reasonable and sensible environmental protection requirements while providing the long term certainty needed for major investment, such as:
a. State assistance in any conflicts that may arise in Nationwide Permitting 21 provisions and resolution of related Section 404 issues at coal mines;
b. Resolution of particulate matter regulations so that coal production is not constrained by requirements that are not justified based on scientific and economic evidence and are inappropriate to coal mines;
c. Finalization of NSPS and mercury requirements for existing and new power plants;
d. Development of environmental requirements for coal refineries that take new and advanced technologies into account; and
e. Opposition to all mandatory restrictions on carbon emissions.
• Undertaking aggressive employee recruitment and training programs at the technical level and at university-level and community college level in mining engineering programs to meet the demand to replace 55,000 (national), 3,000 (Virginia) mining employees in the next five to 10 years. (Based on the average age on current coal miners being 53 years of age, again Virginia has nearly 6000 current active coal miners today) In addition, at least 300 new mining engineering graduates are needed annually to keep pace with projected retirements and growth in the industry.
• Enacting tax policies that not only encourage, but also ensure, timely and adequate investment in coal based energy infrastructure, including expansion of coal mine capacity, coal transportation infrastructure, and generating plant, transmission lines and coal refining capacity, such as:
a. Full expensing of expenditures for exploration and development costs;
b. Either accelerated depreciation or full expensing for capital expenditures associated with new or expanded coal production, transportation, and generating and refining capacity;
c. Use of accumulated alternative minimum tax (AMT) credits for capital investment in capacity expansion; and
d. Repeal of the AMT.
• Implementing financial incentives, including loan guarantees, low interest loans, grants, price guarantees or other incentives to:
a. Encourage expansion of coal mines;
b. Expand the coal transportation system;
c. Accelerate installation of advanced pollution control equipment at existing generating facilities; and
d. Promote construction of new generating plants and coal refineries using advanced technologies.
• Providing full funding of research and development partnerships between government and industry to:
a. Meet the research goals originally set out in the Industry of the Future vision statement for mining;
b. Fully implement coal utilization research, development, demonstration and deployment programs to meet the criteria and goals established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005;
c. Expand research on advanced pollution control technologies associated with the control of mercury and other criteria pollutants;
d. Continue development of advanced clean coal combustion, gasification and liquefaction technologies;
e. Allow for timely completion of the Future Generation projects;
f. Develop technologies to capture and sequester carbon; and
g. Achieve cost-effective production of hydrogen from coal.

To summarize there is realistically no other form of energy but coal that can accomplish the three major goals of any rational energy plan. One; to provide the energy we need in an environmentally sound way. Two; to help free Virginia and America from energy sources where those who control them would do us harm. Three; to meet the increasing demand brought on by technologies that demand the use of electricity.

The Virginia Mining Association and the National Mining Association who helped prepare these comments and commits themselves to the attainment of these objectives, which promote the utilization of coal to fuel America’s energy needs, move our nation towards a greater degree of energy independence and support our quality of life.
Any questions can be directed to Dink Shackleford Executive Director, Virginia Mining Association at:

18, 7th Street, Park Ave Center, Suite 206
Norton, Virginia 25273
Phone (276)679-4211
Fax (276)679-4942
A Virginia Energy Plan ?
I am going to post the VMA's comment next to the Dept of Mines Minerals and Energy listening tour that came down to Abingdon Va. to gater info from interested parties. I trust with the in

The Peak Oil Crisis: Virginia Writes a Plan

By Tom Whipple
Thursday, 02 November 2006
Last summer the Commonwealth of Virginia began work on a state Energy Plan in response to legislation adopted in the 2006 General Assembly session. Now it would be nice to think this plan was developed in response to the looming threat of peak oil, but sadly this is not the case.
The enabling legislation that will lead to the plan began life as a result of the Study of the Future of Manufacturing in Virginia. The bill’s sponsor was concerned about the high cost and constraints on natural gas supplies that are so important to the remaining manufacturing industry in the Commonwealth.
Once introduced, however, the energy bill of 2006 took on a life of its own so that it went well beyond the narrow issue of natural gas supplies. At final passage, the bill set out 12 policy statements concerning energy for Virginia. These include supporting research and development of renewable energy sources and clean coal technologies; promoting biodiesel and ethanol from Virginia agricultural crops; promoting cost-effective conservation, electric generation from non-greenhouse gas sources, and motor vehicles that use alternative fuels; as well as ensuring the availability of affordable natural gas, and the siting of LNG terminals.
The bill requires Virginia’s state government to make projections of energy consumption by type of fuel and to conduct in-depth analysis of such items as the adequacy of power generation, electric and natural gas transmission and distribution and related siting requirements; efficient use of energy resources, how Virginia issues relate to regional initiatives to assure adequacy of fuel production, generation, transmission and distribution assets, among others.
The results of all this work are to be incorporated into a 10-year plan to guide state decisions about energy. The plan will propose actions, with these objectives:
Ensure reliable energy supplies at reasonable cost to support Virginia’s economy;
Manage rates of consumption of existing resources in relation to economic growth;
Establish sufficient infrastructure to maintain reliability in event of a disruption to Virginia’s energy matrix.
Use energy resources more efficiently;
Facilitate conservation;
Optimize intrastate and interstate supply and delivery;
Increase use of less-polluting sources of energy;
Research the efficacy, cost and benefits of reducing, avoiding or sequestering greenhouse gases from energy generation;
Remove impediments to use of abundant low-cost indigenous energy resources and ensure the viability of energy producers;
Develop energy resources to not impose a disproportionate adverse impact on economically disadvantaged or minority communities;
Foster economically developable alternative sources at market prices to diversify Virginia’s energy portfolio; and
Increase use of biofuels.
These are indeed worthy objectives. Although they were developed without specific reference to imminent oil depletion they sound a lot like what a state should do to begin mitigating the consequences of peak oil.
An advisory group has been appointed to assist in the development of the new energy plan. Members represent consumers, local government, general business, environmental interests, electric utilities, natural gas utilities, petroleum industry, energy extraction industries, renewable energy interests and other groups with a special interest in energy, such as public transit. Numerous state agencies are also represented at the meetings.
At a recent meeting of the advisory group one could get a sense of the nature of the pre-peak oil energy debate in the state. As nearly everyone at the table was a professional lobbyist, expert in making the case for whatever organization was being represented, none was shy about speaking out forcefully.
As could be expected, the house soon divided along traditional lines. Representatives of the various "friends" of the earth, water, air, woods, scenery and what-have-you see a long-term energy plan as an opportunity to steer the state toward a cleaner environment. The traditional energy suppliers – coal, oil, electricity, and natural gas – are more ambivalent. Their representatives’ marching orders clearly include instructions that the forthcoming state plan costs them as little as possible in added expenses, gets rid of state regulation, and does not force them into renewable energy programs until they are ready.
The state role in the coming peak oil crisis will be interesting. Most states can do little in the short-term to increase the supply of energy for a state but clearly have the powers to allocate and to restrict its use. Acquiescing in drilling off Virginia shores may be a very emotional issue, but is unlikely to provide any real benefits in the short term, if at all. Judging from the outline, the draft plan is not due until next summer, and this plan is intended to guide long-term changes to Virginia’s energy resources. It says nothing about what the state is going to do when 2 or 3 million barrels a day, suddenly or even over the course of a few years, disappears from America's 13 million barrels a day imports. Even a cursory familiarity with discussions about peak oil make it virtually certain that cuts of this magnitude are coming before the plan's end in 2017.
Governors are said to have vast emergency powers. They can commandeer fuel from soccer moms’ SUVs and allocate it to essential vehicles like police cars and food trucks; mandate closings, speed restrictions, carpools, and hundreds of other ways to save fuel. This may be fine for the next hurricane or snowstorm, but mitigating permanent worldwide oil depletion is not the same. Once oil depletion sets in, there will be no turning back. Uncontrolled prices will fluctuate wildly. State revenues will have nowhere to go but down. It will be a new world.
Although the plan under development is clearly a good first step in the right direction, Virginia might just be planning for a world that will never exist