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In Breakthrough, US and Cuba To Resume Diplomatic Relations

mdsolar More doctors (424 comments)

The flood of retirement age MDs may bring house calls back.

4 days ago
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US and Cuba To Hold Talks on Restoring Diplomatic Ties

mdsolar Cigars all around! (1 comments)

Oh, wait....

4 days ago
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Romanian Officials Say Russia Finances European Fracking Protests

mdsolar Re: Strategic resource (155 comments)

What about "so we can benefit from our own low gas prices" don't you understand?

about two weeks ago
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Romanian Officials Say Russia Finances European Fracking Protests

mdsolar Re: Strategic resource (155 comments)

I said keep our natural gas. You said keep our natural gas. WTF?

about two weeks ago
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NASA's Orion Capsule Reaches Orbit

mdsolar Re:2014, the manned mission to Mars (140 comments)

I think this had more to do with Bush over promising. He had that problem pretty often.

about two weeks ago
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Romanian Officials Say Russia Finances European Fracking Protests

mdsolar Strategic resource (155 comments)

Natural gas should be considered a strategic resource in the US. We should have enough export capacity to eliminate Russia's market share but leave it unused so we can benefit from our own low gas prices. This would provide us a great deal of leverage and industrial advantage simultaneously.

about two weeks ago
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Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

mdsolar Not enough uranium (652 comments)

There is not enough uranium to replace coal. So, there is no proven nuclear technology, just fast breeders that blow up pretty often.

about three weeks ago
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Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

mdsolar Not enough uranium (652 comments)

Uranium will run out in less than a century at the current rate of use. No point in increasing the rate of use if it means the new power plants won't have fuel for their rated lifetime.

about three weeks ago
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Harvard Students Move Fossil Fuel Stock Fight To Court

mdsolar Re:Harvard Charter (203 comments)

Certainly knowledge is often advanced by students. But, I think this is probably about betterment of youth. There was a religious education aspect back in 1650.

about a month ago
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Harvard Students Move Fossil Fuel Stock Fight To Court

mdsolar Re:Harvard Charter (203 comments)

It is worth looking at history too. Harvard divested to help end apartheid based in part on student effort. Since Harvard considers student interests in that case, they may well be required to do so again.

about a month ago
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Harvard Students Move Fossil Fuel Stock Fight To Court

mdsolar Re:You're making the problem worse! (203 comments)

So, Harvard must run brothels to keep pimps from selling their souls?

about a month ago
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Harvard Students Move Fossil Fuel Stock Fight To Court

mdsolar Re:Harvard Charter (203 comments)

The future generations part of the suit seems to have that aspect for sure according to the IPCC.

about a month ago
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Harvard Students Move Fossil Fuel Stock Fight To Court

mdsolar Re:Harvard Charter (203 comments)

The Harvard Moto, Varitas, may give standing through the good sciences clause. One is not teaching good sciences if embroiled in fossil fuel interests. Students have an interest is being taught well.

about a month ago
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Harvard Students Move Fossil Fuel Stock Fight To Court

mdsolar Probably Wrong (203 comments)

This letter from Harvard Magazine suggests you are mistaken:

In light of reporting in the July-August issue on Harvard’s position on fossil fuel divestment, we wrote Messrs. Paul J. Finnegan and James F. Rothenberg [members of the Harvard Corporation, and Treasurer and past Treasurer, respectively], expressing the perspective summarized below.

Harvard currently holds substantial investments in fossil fuel. The past is no longer prologue for this asset class.

The scientific community—including Harvard’s distinguished climate-related faculty—assert the world must hold global temperatures to no more than 2 degrees C above the preindustrial figure. Governments agree. And, yet, we have already gone half the distance to this ceiling, and are actually accelerating our rapid approach to it. We face an existential planetary threat.

By investing in fossil fuel companies that cling to the outdated business model of measuring success by discovery of new reserves, Harvard is encouraging (and expecting to profit from) the search for more fossil fuel—which will become unburnable if we stabilize global temperatures at levels necessary to sustain life as we know it. When the lid is put on, and carbon emissions are severely limited—as they must be—Harvard will be left holding stranded and devalued assets that can never be burned. (Proven reserves are three to four times what’s needed to transition to renewables by 2050.)

Across the country, hundreds of student organizations work to persuade their institutions’ endowments to divest. Sooner or later, as in the case of companies doing business in apartheid South Africa, divestment from fossil fuel companies will occur. Harvard should be among the first to do so. There are strong, independently sufficient arguments beyond the financial one of stranding to justify divestment. They include the moral (it is repugnant to profit from enterprises directly responsible for carbon emissions or to allow shareholder funds to be deployed in searching for more fossil fuel), the practical (a well-led institution should not wound itself by permitting endowment holdings to demoralize faculty and students, with adverse effects on quality of education, enrollment, and campus environment) and, in Harvard’s case, the unique opportunity (and corresponding duty) it has, as one of a handful of world leaders in education, to lead on this planetary issue.

We support these other arguments for divestment. However, we wanted to bring the financial argument, in particular, to Harvard’s attention. Over the past three years, equities in the coal industry declined by over 60 percent while the S&P 500 rose by some 47 percent. Coal, we submit, is the “canary in the oil well.” Disinvestment now, before this opinion becomes commonplace, is just sound, risk-averse investment judgment, fitting well within the duties of a fiduciary.

Bevis Longstreth, J.D. ’61
Retired partner, Debevoise & Plimpton; former member, Securities and Exchange Commission

Timothy E. Wirth ’61
Former U.S. Senator, president of the United Nations Foundation, and Harvard Overseer

http://harvardmagazine.com/201...

about a month ago
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Harvard Students Move Fossil Fuel Stock Fight To Court

mdsolar Harvard Charter (203 comments)

There are two aspects of the Harvard Charter which may give standing. First, the endowment has a specific purpose: "be for the advancement and education of youth, in all manner of good literature, arts, and sciences." And, good sciences say that investing in fossil fuels is a bad idea. Second, the Harvard Corporation is established so that it may be sued: "and also may sue and plead, or be sued and impleaded by the name aforesaid, in all Courts and places of judicature, within the jurisdiction aforesaid." http://library.harvard.edu/uni... So, disagreements about the endowment are supposed to be settled in court.

about a month ago
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U.S. and China Make Landmark Climate Deal

mdsolar Re: another bad idea (285 comments)

The US is raising CAFE standards. Silly to go on a natural gas excursion just as electric cars and fuel cells are coming on line. Stop Keystone.

about a month ago
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Longtime Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship indicted - See more at: http://www.wv

mdsolar Oops (1 comments)

Didn't mean to include the link in the title. Ken Ward's writing is good so I just quote here, but I didn't notice the tag-a-long link there.

about a month ago

Submissions

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Climate Deal Would Commit Every Nation to Limiting Emissions

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about a week ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes "Negotiators from around the globe reached a climate change agreement early Sunday that would, for the first time in history, commit every nation to reducing its rate of greenhouse gas emissions — yet would still fall far short of what is needed to stave off the dangerous and costly early impact of global warming.

The agreement reached by delegates from 196 countries establishes a framework for a climate change accord to be signed by world leaders in Paris next year. While United Nations officials had been scheduled to release the plan on Friday at noon, longstanding divisions between rich and poor countries kept them wrangling through Friday and Saturday nights to early Sunday.

The agreement requires every nation to put forward, over the next six months, a detailed domestic policy plan to limit its emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases from burning coal, gas and oil. Those plans, which would be published on a United Nations website, would form the basis of the accord to be signed next December and enacted by 2020."

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Global Warming to Make European Heat Waves 'Commonplace' by 2040s

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about two weeks ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes "In June 2003, a high-pressure weather system took hold over Western Europe and hovered there for weeks, bringing warm tropical air to the region and making that summer the hottest since at least 1540, the year King Henry VIII discarded his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves.

Temperatures were about 2.3 degrees Celsius, or 4.1 degrees Fahrenheit, above average that summer, contributing to perhaps 70,000 additional deaths and hitting the elderly particularly hard. The heat was a factor in the outbreak of forest fires and in lower than usual crop yields. It caused Alpine glaciers to shrink at a rate double that seen in the previous record summer five years earlier.

Now, three scientists from the Met Office, the British weather agency, have concluded that human-caused global warming is going to make European summer heat waves “commonplace” by the 2040s.

Their findings, published on Monday in the online journal Nature Climate Change, suggest that once every five years, Europe is likely to experience “a very hot summer,” in which temperatures are about 1.6 degrees Celsius, or 2.9 degrees Fahrenheit, above the 1961-90 average. This is up from a probability, just a decade ago, that such events would occur only once every 52 years, a 10-fold increase."

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New Mexico levies $54M against US for violations at nuclear repository

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about two weeks ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes "New Mexico on Saturday levied more than $54 million in penalties against the US Department of Energy for numerous violations that resulted in the indefinite closure of the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository.

The state Environment Department delivered a pair of compliance orders to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, marking the state’s largest penalty ever imposed on the agency. Together, the orders outline more than 30 state permit violations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico and at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The orders and the civil penalties that come with them are just the beginning of possible financial sanctions the Energy Department could face in New Mexico. The state says it’s continuing to investigate and more fines are possible.

The focus has been on a canister of waste from Los Alamos that ruptured in one of WIPP’s storage rooms in February. More than 20 workers were contaminated and the facility was forced to close, putting in jeopardy efforts around the country to clean up tons of Cold War-era waste."

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Harvard Students Move Fossil Fuel Stock Fight to Court

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about a month ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes "A group of Harvard students, frustrated by the university’s refusal to shed fossil fuel stocks from its investment portfolios, is looking beyond protests and resolutions to a new form of pressure: the courts.

The seven law students and undergraduates filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in Suffolk County Superior Court in Massachusetts against the president and fellows of Harvard College, among others, for what they call “mismanagement of charitable funds.” The 11-page complaint, with 167 pages of supporting exhibits, asks the court to compel divestment on behalf of the students and “future generations.”"

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Longtime Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship indicted - See more at: http://www.wv

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about a month ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes "Don Blankenship, the longtime chief executive officer of Massey Energy, was indicted Thursday on charges that he violated federal mine safety laws at the company’s Upper Big Branch Mine prior to an April 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners.

A federal grand jury in Charleston charged Blankenship with conspiring to cause routine and willful violations of mandatory federal mine safety and health standards at Upper Big Branch between Jan. 1, 2008, and April 9, 2010, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said.

The four-count indictment, filed in U.S. District Court, also alleges that Blankenship was part of a conspiracy to cover up mine safety violations and hinder federal enforcement efforts by providing advance warning of government inspections. The indictment also alleges that, after the explosion, Blankenship made false statements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission about Massey’s safety practices before the explosion."

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Drones spotted over seven French nuclear sites

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about 1 month ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes "France’s state-run power firm Électricité de France (EDF) on Wednesday said unidentified drones had flown over seven nuclear plants this month, leading it to file a complaint with the police.

The unmanned aircraft did not harm “the safety or the operation” of the power plants, EDF said, adding that the first drone was spotted on 5 October above a plant in deconstruction in eastern Creys-Malville.

More drone activity followed at other nuclear power sites across the country between 13 October and 20 October, usually at night or early in the morning, EDF said, adding that it had notified the police each time.

Greenpeace, whose activists have in the past staged protests at nuclear plants in France, denied any involvement in the mysterious pilotless flight activity.

But the environmental group expressed concern at the apparent evidence of “a large-scale operation”, noting that drone activity was detected at four sites on the same day in 19 October – at Bugey in the east, Gravelines and Chooz in the north and Nogent-sur-Seine in north-central France."

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Partial Solar Eclipse 2014 Arrives Thursday

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about 2 months ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes ""It's already been a big week for skywatchers, and more celestial fun is on the horizon.

On Tuesday, skywatchers were treated to the annual Orionid meteor shower. And now a spooky partial solar eclipse will darken skies for viewers across North America on Thursday, Oct. 23.

A partial solar eclipse occurs when the new moon passes in front of the sun, casting a shadow on Earth and blocking a portion of the sun from view.

The eclipse will be visible in the late afternoon between the East and West Coast of the U.S., as far north as the Arctic, and as far south as Mexico."

If you can be in an area with dappled sunlight, you may notice the individual spots of light are no longer round during the eclipse."

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Power Plants Seek to Extend Life of Nuclear Reactors for Decades

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about 2 months ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes "The prospects for building new nuclear reactors may be sharply limited, but the owners of seven old ones, in Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina, are preparing to ask for permission to run them until they are 80 years old.

Nuclear proponents say that extending plants’ lifetimes is more economical — and a better way to hold down carbon dioxide emissions — than building new plants, although it will require extensive monitoring of steel, concrete, cable insulation and other components. But the idea is striking even to some members of the nuclear establishment.

At a meeting of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in May, George Apostolakis, a risk expert who was then one of the five commissioners, pointed out that if operation were allowed until age 80, some reactors would be using designs substantially older than that.

“I don’t know how we would explain to the public that these designs, 90-year-old designs, 100-year-old designs, are still safe to operate,” he said. “Don’t we need more convincing arguments than just ‘We’re managing aging effects’?”"

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Ebola Test Is Positive in Second Texas Health Worker

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about 2 months ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes "The authorities in Texas reported on Wednesday that a second health care worker involved in the treatment of a patient who died of the Ebola virus had tested positive for the disease after developing a fever.

The worker, who was not identified by name, had been “among those who took care of Thomas Eric Duncan after he was diagnosed with Ebola,” a statement from the Texas Department of State Health Services said."

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Coalition accused of 'bullying' ANU after criticism of divestment

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about 2 months ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes "The government has been accused of bullying the Australian National University, after Joe Hockey criticised it for divesting from a number of fossil fuel companies.

In highly unusual remarks about a business’s investment decisions, the treasurer said ANU should reconsider its decision to jettison investment in seven firms – Santos, Iluka Resources, Independence Group, Newcrest Mining, Sandfire Resources, Oil Search and Sirius Resources.

“I would suggest they’re removed from the reality of what is helping to drive the Australian economy and create more employment,” Hockey told the Australian Financial Review.

“Sometimes the view looks different from the lofty rooms of a university.”

Hockey is one of several politicians to publicly rebuke ANU over its fossil fuel divestment. The assistant infrastructure minister, Jamie Briggs, said he would write to the ANU vice-chancellor, Ian Young, to ask him to reconsider the blacklisting of coal seam gas company Santos.

“To publicly denigrate the reputation of one of South Australia’s finest companies is a disgrace,” Briggs said. “This seems to be taking green activism to a new level where it is damaging Australian companies and potentially job creation in the country.”"

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Ebola Cases Could Reach 1.4 Million in 4 Months

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about 3 months ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes "Yet another set of ominous projections about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa was released Tuesday, in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that gave worst- and best-case estimates for Liberia and Sierra Leone based on computer modeling.

In the worst-case scenario, Liberia and Sierra Leone could have 21,000 cases of Ebola by Sept. 30 and 1.4 million cases by Jan. 20 if the disease keeps spreading without effective methods to contain it. These figures take into account the fact that many cases go undetected, and estimate that there are actually 2.5 times as many as reported.

The report does not include figures for Guinea because case counts there have gone up and down in ways that cannot be reliably modeled.

In the best-case model — which assumes that the dead are buried safely and that 70 percent of patients are treated in settings that reduce the risk of transmission — the epidemic in both countries would be “almost ended” by Jan. 20, the report said. It showed the proportion of patients now in such settings as about 18 percent in Liberia and 40 percent in Sierra Leone."

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Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement Continues To Grow

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about 3 months ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes "A growing movement of individuals and institutions selling off shares linked to fossil fuels has the power to galvanize global efforts to halt climate change, said the co-founder of a group that works with investors.

The movement got a boost on Monday when the Rockefellers, who made their fortune from oil, along with other philanthropists and rich individuals, announced pledges to divest a total of $50 billion from fossil fuel assets.

"It's a turning point in the movement — it's a recognition that our political bodies have failed to respond to the pace of climate change," said Chuck Collins, co-founder of Divest- Invest Individual, an organization that supports individuals who want to divest from fossil fuels.

While some politicians continue to debate whether man-made climate change does exist, the move to divest highlights a potentially important shift that could help create a critical mass of people not only demanding action on climate change but putting their money where their mouth is, he said."

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Hundreds Of Thousands Turn Out For People's Climate March In New York City

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about 3 months ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes ""More than 400,000 people turned out for the People's Climate March in New York City on Sunday, just days before many of the world's leaders are expected to debate environmental action at the United Nations climate summit.

Early reports from event organizers are hailing the turnout as the largest climate march in history, far bigger than the Forward on Climate rally held in Washington, D.C., last year. High-profile environmentalists including Bill McKibben, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva marched alongside policymakers such as Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former Vice President Al Gore were also there, and more than 550 buses carried in people from around the country."

Big science contingent too: http://www.scientificamerican...."

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Techies for climate justice

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about 3 months ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes "On Sunday, September 21, hundreds of thousands of people will march in New York City for a strong, international climate treaty – and techies of all types will be there! Explore the tech hub for information about ways you can get involved, whether you’re coming to NYC or planning a solidarity action where you are.

Hackers, Techies, Geeks, Engineers, Builders, Makers, Unite to Disrupt Climate Change and Build Climate Justice

Here’s all the latest logistical information for the day of the March. Check back here often for updates.
Assembly:

The Technology Contingent – i.e., all of the tech groups together – will assemble on Central Park West around 75th Street on the day of the March. You will be able to enter the CPW from 72nd and 77th Streets only.

        You may enter the block as early as 8:00 am on the day of the March.
        ThoughtWorks and friends will gather at 10:00 for an open-source picnic in Central Park at the statue of Simon Bolivar (just northeast of Sixth Avenue /Avenue of the Americas and Central Park South)

The Technology Contingent will step off from 58th Street to take its place within the march whenever the “We Have Solutions!” theme group reaches Columbus Circle. We’re anticipating this will be sometime between 12:00 and 1:00, but it could be earlier and may very well be later.

According to Science Friday, there will be a gathering of scientists nearby at 79th Street and Central Park West near the Museum of Natural History as well. http://www.sciencefriday.com/s..."

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Three in every four nuclear power builds worldwide are running late

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about 3 months ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes "A review of the 66 nuclear reactors 'under construction' worldwide shows that 49 are running behind schedule, including all five in the US and most in China. The long and unpredictable build times of nuclear plants, and the extra costs that ensue, are a compelling reason not to depend on the technology for either power or to mitigate climate change.

As of this month, 49 of 66 reactors under construction around the world are running behind schedule, according to an updated analysis conducted by the authors of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2014.

The study takes into account several delay announcements in recent weeks:

        USA: two reactors, Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Station Unit 2 and Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Station Unit 3;
        South Korea: two reactors — Shin-Hanul-2 and Shin-Wolsong-2;
        and Finland: Olkiluoto-3.

Little is known about the progress on four nuclear reactors in India. All the other reactor projects have been under way for less than two years, which makes it difficult to identify delays in the absence of full access to information.

The study highlights the two EPR-design reactors currently under construction: Finland's Olkiluoto-3 and France's Flamanville-3. Both are running about $7 billion over their initial budgets and now projected to cost more than $11 billion.

EDF's Flamanville reactor was due to be completed by 2012 at a cost of €3.3 billion, but is now projected for completion in 2016 at a cost of €8.5 billion.

Finland's Olkiluoto-3 reactor, the first EPR construction project, is likely to be a decade behind schedule upon delivery, with a projected completion date of 2018. Construction of the 1.6GW plant began in 2005 and was originally due for completion in 2009."

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Busy Days Precede a March Focusing on Climate Change

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about 3 months ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes "In a three-story warehouse in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, hundreds of people are working to turn the People’s Climate March planned for Sunday into a visual spectacle.

There were victims of Hurricane Sandy from the Rockaways toiling with artists on a 30-foot inflatable life preserver, and immigrant artists constructing a papier-mâché tree embedded with axes. Elsewhere, religious leaders were building an ark and scientists were constructing a chalkboard covered with calculations about carbon.

The run-up to what organizers say will be the largest protest about climate change in the history of the United States has transformed New York City into a beehive of planning and creativity, drawing graying local activists and young artists from as far away as Germany.

“This is the final crunch, the product of six months of work to make the People’s March a big, beautiful expression of the climate movement,” said Rachel Schragis, a Brooklyn-based artist and activist who is coordinating the production of floats, banners and signs."

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Obama Presses Leaders to Speed Ebola Response

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about 3 months ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes "President Obama on Tuesday challenged world powers to accelerate the global response to the Ebola outbreak that is ravaging West Africa, warning that unless health care workers, medical equipment and treatment centers were swiftly deployed, the disease could take hundreds of thousands of lives.

“This epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better,” Mr. Obama said here at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he met with doctors who had just returned from West Africa. The world, he said, “has the responsibility to act, to step up and to do more. The United States intends to do more.”

Even as the president announced a major American deployment to Liberia and Senegal of medicine, equipment and 3,000 military personnel, global health officials said that time was running out and that they had weeks, not months, to act. They said that although the American contribution was on a scale large enough to make a difference, a coordinated assault in Africa from other Western powers was essential to bringing the virus under control."

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The Canadians Are Coming

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about 3 months ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes "Hundreds of Canadians will join tens of thousands of people in the streets of New York City next weekend for one of the largest climate change mobilizations in history.

Renewable energy advocates of all ages will be gathering as a part of the Tar Sands Free bloc at the march, which will coincide with the UN climate summit in New York.

"While this will be one of the largest climate marches in history, it also isn't just about size. It's about showing that people are standing alongside those impacted most by climate change and extreme extraction," said Eriel Deranger, communications coordinator for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, who will be marching in New York. "People are impacted from the extraction of carbon polluting industries such as the Tar Sands and fracking, as well as the way to the extreme impacts of climate change."

Travelling from Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Kingston and Halifax, among other cities, the Canadian marchers will join communities impacted by climate disasters like Hurricane Sandy, and Indigenous peoples resisting tar sands and other extreme extraction both in Canada and abroad."

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Decades After Nuclear Test, U.S. Studies Cancer Fallout

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about 3 months ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes "Nearly 70 years after the U.S. conducted the world's first atomic-bomb test here in the New Mexico desert, federal researchers are slated to visit the state this month to begin studying whether some residents developed cancer due to the blast.

As part of the long anticipated project, set to start Sept. 25, investigators with the National Cancer Institute will interview people who lived in the state around the time of the 1945 Trinity test and assess the effects of consuming food, milk and water that may have been contaminated by the explosion.

For years, residents of the rural, heavily Hispanic villages near the test site have claimed that a mysterious wave of cancer has swept through this dusty stretch of south-central New Mexico, decimating families and prompting calls for the government to determine whether radiation exposure played a role."

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Leading philanthropic foundations can create climate "tipping point"

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about 3 months ago

mdsolar (1045926) writes "In the largest and most international declaration ever published by environmentalists, 160 winners of environmental prizes from 46 countries, have today called on the world’s foundations to use their financial power to fight global warming.

In an appeal published in the International New York Times they call on foundations and philanthropists to dig into their endowments to create a tipping point in climate action – “to trigger a survival reflex in society.”

The world’s philanthropic foundations own endowments worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

They invest those endowments to generate returns from which they can pay out grants or make loans. They use these to fund a multitude of causes, but as things stand only a minority tackle climate change, either as part of their mission or as their major focus.

Yet climate change is the issue that is arguably the single biggest threat to civilization."

Link to Original Source

Journals

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Lessons not Learned

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about a year ago Lessons Learned is a sad but effective way to reduce accidents and fatalities. Taking the time to investigate accidents, find their causes and eliminate the occasions of future accidents may be the most profound way to show respect for accident victims. But these days, we don't seem to care. The National Transportation Safety Board has halted accident investigations. The Mine Safety and Health Administration has posted no fatalgrams for three consecutive coal mining fatalities. One occurred in Wyoming where accident investigation can be especially effective in preventing future accidents.

Accidents are preventable, but only if we find out what is causing them and make appropriate changes. If a recall does not get issued because a dangerous defect is not identified owing to lack of accident investigations, that means needless deaths.

Delayed medical research and lost lab mouse genetic lines probably mean the same thing. But failure to honor the victims of accidents with full investigations that might bring some meaning to an otherwise senseless tragedy seems especially callous.

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Shutting down the right to petition

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about a year ago The Bill of Rights includes a right to petition the government for redress of grievances. When the government has erred, the people must demand redress. But what happens when the government makes a mistake, and then shuts down the petition process?

That is exactly what is happening now at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

"Last year, a federal appeals court sided with the states of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, which argued the Nuclear Regulatory Commission wrongly assumed spent reactor fuel eventually would move to a permanent waste repository, even though the Obama administration canceled the Yucca Mountain project in Nevada."

Previously, the courts had ruled that Yucca Mountain would not work, and data fabrication by government scientists had put into question the ability of the Department of Energy to even manage such a project.

As a result, the NRC is not allowed to issue licenses for nuclear power plants until it clears up this mistake, though is seem happy to give up on proper procedure and allow nuclear power plants to operate without a license.

So, now the people are supposed to have their say, exercising their right to petition their government through the public comment period. But the NRC is closing up its ears, cancelling public meetings and shutting down our constitutional right.

While it may be a fair point brought up by "Janet Phelan Kotra, who worked for the commission for more than 28 years and served as project manager for the waste confidence issue for 14 years, [when she] said the proposed new rule is improperly based on the idea that the commission has confidence in the safety of long-term storage at reactor sites rather than on confidence that a permanent repository will become available in a reasonable time frame." Telling everyone else to just shut up seems like a violation of a very primary right.

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Is Indian Point Next to Close?

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  about a year ago

Nuclear power plants are retiring early all over the country and planned power uprates are being canceled. With the recent decision to close Vermont Yankee, it comes to five closed reactors and five canceled uprates.

Now Entergy, the troubled owner of Indian Point close to New York City, is issuing denials that it will close Indian Point just as it had until so recently issued denials that it would close Vermont Yankee.

A second law suit has been filed against Energy by security employees saying the Indian Point plant is vulnerable to attack. And with the checkered history of violations by Entergy on this score, it seems likely that the coverups described in the suit have been occurring as per usual. Vermont Yankee was on the list of the ten most likely to retire early constructed by analyst Mark Cooper (linked above).

  • Palisades (Repair impending, local opposition)
  • Ft. Calhoun (Outage, poor performance)
  • Nine Mile Point (Site size saves it, existing contract))
  • Fitzpatrick (High cost but offset by high market clearing price)
  • Ginna (Single unit with negative margin, existing contract)
  • Oyster Creek (Already set to retire early)
  • Vt. Yankee (Tax and local opposition)
  • Millstone (Tax reasons)
  • Clinton (Selling into tough market)
  • Indian Point (License extension, local opposition)

So is Indian Point. I'd guess that chances are better than nine to one that it will be next.
 

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Fossil Fuel Use Cuts Body's Internal Radiation Burden

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  more than 2 years ago Many discussions of nuclear power on slashdot are polluted by references to completely bogus calculations at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory web site that claim that coal power plants emit more radiation into the environment than nuclear power plants. This is completely bogus because when coal is burned, the uranium within it remains in the ash and its concentration is no greater than in typical low carbon soils. You might as well say that a bulldozer pushing clay soil around is releasing radiation into the environment. Why? Because the uranium in coal comes from the soil out of which the primaeval forest grew. When the coal is burned, you just get the soil components back. It always seemed curious that a national laboratory, even one so captured by the nuclear industry, would be yanking everyone's chain like that, making such preposterous claims. It could just be stupidity. But....

One thing about fossil fuels is that they have been isolated from the atmosphere for a very long time. That means that the carbon-14 produced by cosmic ray impacts with nitrogen nuclei in the atmosphere that they originally contained has pretty much decayed away. So, when fossil fuels are burned, carbon-14 in the atmosphere is diluted with respect to carbon-12 in the atmosphere. But that diluted mix is just where our food comes from, and since we are what we eat, we end up with less carbon-14 in our bodies. If we were to instantaneously double the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, the amount of carbon-14 in our bodies would go down by half. This would cut the beta decay rate from carbon-14 in our bodies by half and the combined beta decay rate from potasium-40 and carbon-14 by about 12%. If we subsequently removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to control the climate, carbon-14 would be removed together with carbon-12 and the internal radiation burden in our bodies would remain low for thousands of years as carbon-14 production would catch up on a timescale similar to the decay timescale for carbon-14 (5700 years).

Now, potasium-40 decays are more energetic than carbon-14 decays but carbon-14 in incorporated in DNA and thus decays may have a greater chance of inducing mutations, the apparent origin of cancers.

Nuclear power use, on the other hand, only increases radiation exposure, it does not decrease it. And it does so for long long after there has been any benefit from the power generation. While there are immediate cancer risks in the chemical components emitted from coal, gasoline or diesel burning, those risks are incurred by those benefiting from the fuel use and are not transmitted down the ages. The long term cancer legacy, in fact, is reduced cancer risk owing to reduced internal radiation burden.

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Fossil fuel use cuts body's internal radiation burden

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  more than 2 years ago Many discussions of nuclear power on slashdot are polluted by references to completely bogus calculations at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory web site that claim that coal power plants emit more radiation into the environment than nuclear power plants. This is completely bogus because when coal is burned, the uranium within it remains in the ash and its concentration is no greater than in typical low carbon soils. You might as well say that a bulldozer pushing clay soil around is releasing radiation into the environment. Why? Because the uranium in coal comes from the soil out of which the primaeval forest grew. When the coal is burned, you just get the soil components back. It always seemed curious that a national laboratory, even one so captured by the nuclear industry, would be yanking everyone's chain like that, making such preposterous claims. It could just be stupidity. But....

One thing about fossil fuels is that they have been isolated from the atmosphere for a very long time. That means that the carbon-14 produced by cosmic ray impacts with nitrogen nuclei in the atmosphere that they originally contained has pretty much decayed away. So, when fossil fuels are burned, carbon-14 in the atmosphere is diluted with respect to carbon-12 in the atmosphere. But that diluted mix is just where our food comes from, and since we are what we eat, we end up with less carbon-14 in our bodies. If we were to instantaneously double the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, the amount of carbon-14 in our bodies would go down by half. This would cut the beta decay rate from carbon-14 in our bodies by half and the combined beta decay rate from potasium-40 and carbon-14 by about 12%. If we subsequently removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to control the climate, carbon-14 would be removed together with carbon-12 and the internal radiation burden in our bodies would remain low for thousands of years as carbon-14 production would catch up on a timescale similar to the decay timescale for carbon-14 (5700 years).

Now, potasium-40 decays are more energetic than carbon-14 decays but carbon-14 in incorporated in DNA and thus decays may have a greater chance of inducing mutations, the apparent origin of cancers.

Nuclear power use, on the other hand, only increases radiation exposure, it does not decrease it. And it does so for long long after there has been any benefit from the power generation. While there are be immediate cancer risks in the chemical components emitted from coal, gasoline or diesel burning, those risks are incurred by those benefiting from the fuel use and are not transmitted down the ages. The long term cancer legacy, in fact, is reduced cancer risk owing to reduced internal radiation burden.

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Mitigating deep oil spills

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  more than 4 years ago

A mile below the surface of the ocean, conditions are different. The pressure of the water increases the boiling point of the water above the autoignition temperature of crude oil. Water could act as a sort of diesel chamber at that depth. With an oil spill plume rising from the ocean floor, mixing enough air from the surface into the oil could consume the oil completely in a self-sustaining reaction. Heat from the reaction would heat the surrounding water and turbulence would provide complete mixing of the oil and air, oxidizing the oil to carbon dioxide and water. Getting the air to the sea floor might be accomplished with off-the-shelf equipment. Electric air compressors could be arranged in stages down to the bottom each stage feeding a standard fire hose within its tolerance, with pressure increasing from stage to stage to balance the water pressure at the stage depth. Electric power might be supplied from a naval vessel. Once air can be introduced to the oil plume, a standard flare can initiate the reaction. Hot complete combustion at the bottom of the ocean may have greater environmental benefits compared with incomplete combustion at the ocean surface. Because off-the-shelf equipment is involved, this response might be faster than other responses.

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Vermont Senate Debate on Entergy Video

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Video streaming of the Vermont Senate Debate on Vermont Yankee is here: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/artikkel?NoCache=1&Dato=20100224&Kategori=NEWS03&Lopenr=100224011&Ref=AR&template=mogulus

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Slashdot Stalker Replies

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Apparently there are limits even to replying to replies to your own journal entry. So, this is to say welcome to my journal stalker. http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1561690

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VT Nuclear Expert on DemocracyNow

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  more than 4 years ago

A slashdot stalker has been pestering me about dry cooling so I've used up my replies for now. For those following the Vermont Yankee saga, Arnie Gundersen is on DemocracyNow! today providing details. http://www.democracynow.org/

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Tuppence in the Sun

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  more than 7 years ago Mr. Dawes Sr. If you invest your tuppence wisely in the bank, safe and sound, soon that tuppence, safely invested in the bank, will compound! And you'll achieve that sense of conquest, as your affluence expands! In the hands of the directors, who invest as propriety demands!

The lyrics to the song that follows this bit of wisdom in the musical Mary Poppins can be found here. The next song, Step In Time is much more energetic and it is perhaps understandable that a song about compound interest would fail to catch on.

We are seeing a lack of propriety these days in a number of financial transactions. The slicing and dicing of risk seems to have led to a questions of what value many securities have if any at all. But, if you want to take on projects that extend over a substantial period of time, credit markets are likely to be a part of what you do.

One thing we need to do is transform how we get energy and a number of options include long term components. Nuclear power, for example, extends so far into a climatically uncertain future that it is seeking extra help with finance through federal loan guaranties.

While renewable energy is forever, its implementation can be taken in 10 to 25 year chunks so it fits much better with standard lending terms. Further, risk is low so while raising capital though venture mechanisms can happen, it is also attractive to banks, especially since renewable energy equipment can serve as insured collateral. This is why so much of the financing for renewable energy is coming from institutions like Credit Lyonnais and Morgan Stanley especially in the commercial sector. In the residential sector, solar power equipment is being rolled into mortgages for new home construction while installers for existing homes are getting savvy at helping customers find financing through secured credit based on increased equity.

But, what if you want to follow the commercial sector model of separating ownership of the equipment from the use of the equipment in the residential sector. Individually financing each deal, as might work for supplying Walmart with solar power, becomes time consuming and thus expensive. What is needed is an aggregate instrument. One way that aggregation has been used with propriety is the securitization of leases. CVS, for example, financed its eastern expansion based on the security provided by the fact that it had property leases to conduct its business. This brought them lower cost financing since the aggregated leases were more secure than individual leases.

One way to secure low cost credit to allow the long term use of solar power on homes is to secure the credit on the basis of an aggregate of rental contracts which assure repayment of the debt. So long as those contracts are sufficiently attractive that few of them are likely to be broken (they save customers money) then you have a low risk security that does not require high interest. This is the form of financing that Citizenre (discussed here in February) has adopted for its solar power equipment rental business. Shaving the cost of financing puts it in a better competitive position than attempting to work out deal-by-deal financing, so much so, that it can afford to ignore state-level rebates available to individual purchasers of solar power equipment.

There is certainly room for venture capital in the solar power business, especially for high risk new technology development. But, for deployment of proven technology, the model being adopted in the commercial sector using more traditional financing leads to cost savings that are important for market competitiveness. Carrying this over to the residential market, with its much larger roof space resource, will likely rebalance the solar market towards an acceleration of its current 30% annual growth.

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Energy storage options

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  more than 7 years ago The closets of fossil energy are crammed full of skeletons. It is long past time to clean them out and as it turns out, renewable energy may need the storage space, not for skeletons, but rather to smooth the transition to full conversion to renewable energy.

Two newspaper articles are out talking about storage of renewable energy. Both articles fail to notice that the US grid already runs on about 20% stored renewable energy through hydroelectric power. About 24 GW of that capacity can run backwards rather than just throttle so we already have quite a lot of what we might need. And, the articles don't notice that distributed renewable power is not very intermittent. The wind is always blowing somewhere and clouds rarely cover all of a continent. The trick is to shuttle the power from where it is produced to where it is needed. If you have enough capacity to meet the peak use, then you don't really care about storing the extra power you don't need when you are using less, you just find something fun and interesting to do with it. Remember, renewable energy is extravagant. Think of the amazing fecundity and diversity of a rain forest. It is about prosperity not scarcity.

But, before we get to the point where we produce more energy than we use most of the time, methods of storage can help to retire fossil energy plants more quickly. So, lets just list the kinds of storage that are covered in the articles and on the Real Energy blog so we know a few of the options. We'll organize it in the types of energy physicists like to use.

Thermal:

Hot or cold, thermal storage adds a certain amount of extra time to use the energy. In some cases like the high thermal mass house, you are just avoiding using energy that you don't really need. The daily fluctuations of external temperature are not important with good insulation and a high heat capacity. In one article ice is used to shift electricity use from day time to night time and also save on over-all use while in the another, molten salts are used to keep solar energy for use at night. You can see how these might work together.

Chemical:

Batteries have the potential for large scale storage and are mentioned in both articles. The anticipated sizes run up to 6 MWh. The batteries mention in the article are not exactly flow batteries which are also used together with wind farms and run up to 12 MWh. The blog also looked at using ammonia as a chemical storage method and producing hydrogen for later use is also a chemical method though it experiences high thermal loses. Aluminum can also be used for chemical storage and used to produce hydrogen on demand.

Mechanical:

Here we have two choices, potential energy or kinetic energy. Both articles mention gas pressure storage, essentially a form of of potential energy similar to damming a river. The size of the facility mentioned is about 100 MW and presumably can run for a day or two. About half the energy comes from compressed air and half from natural gas. One article mentions flywheels which store kinetic energy. In this case the flywheel stores 18 MWs or 5 kWh. One can reduce the tensile strength requirements for a flywheel and increase its capacity by usinging a magenetic track. Then the strength requirements are compressive and much simpler.

Electrical:

Capacitors are used to store power when very large currents pulses are needed as for example in inertial confinement fusion. These capacitors store about 3 kWh. Super capacitors are less bulky and are being developed for transportation applications.

Magnetic:

Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage is used in some applications with capacities moving toward 20 MWh.

Electromagnetic:

For very high energy density, excited nuclear states might be used. This is actually a new listing, but not very practical just now.

The complaint in the articles is that power storage adds cost to the the electric power distribution system. But, pretty clearly, the decreasing cost of renewable energy is making storage more attractive to utilities. Thermal storage in solar plants that work with thermal energy anyway is a natural extension to their capabilities. Similarly, those that work using chemical energy are designed to store energy from the beginning. It is clear that flywheel and magnetic storage are already being used for power conditioning. Very shortly, the cost of renewable power will drop well below the cost of other sources. For wind, it is already the cheapest way to produce power in many places. As it turns out, once we're ready to chase the skeletons our of the fossil energy closet, we'll be able to put in a great new closet organizer with slots for all kinds of storage that will make the dumping of the fossils all the more rapid. Energy storage is not an Achilles' heel for renewable energy, but rather a stepping stone to full deployment. Daniel Arvizu should know better.

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An Air of Leadership

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  more than 7 years ago The US negotiated the Montreal Protocol http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montreal_Protocol in the 1980's to control chlorofluorocarbons which had been shown to disrupt the Earth's ozone layer, allowing ultraviolet radiation to penetrate to ground level. This treaty has, until recently, been considered one of the most successful international treaties ever made. Control of these chemicals has reduced the rate of destruction of the ozone layer, preserving both health and the productivity of agriculture.

The Montreal Protocol was taken an a model for the Kyoto Protocol, aimed at limiting the emissions of greenhouse gases which cause global warming. The problem of greenhouse gases is considered to be more difficult because the mechanism of replacement of chloroflurocarbons needed to make the Montreal Protocol work is not so clearly available for the most important greenhouse gas, CO2. Further, there was a large disparity in the level of greenhouse gas emissions between developed and developing countries and reducing greenhouse gas emissions was thought to impact economic development. So, developing countries were left out of the first round on emissions reductions and had no responsibility, on their own, to limit the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, but rather were to be a testing ground for the efforts of developed nations to assist in economic development while also helping to avoid some of the worst emissions.

While the US negotiated this treaty, there were clear indications that it could not be ratified without stronger commitments from developing countries. In essence, the US negotiated in bad faith.

Now, the problem of economic development is catching up with the Montreal Protocol as well. The substituted materials worked when the demand for them was limited largely to the developed nations, but now economic development has brought in a larger pool of demand http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/23/business/23cool.html. The substitute chemicals, while better, do not bode well with a much increased load. The solution for this problem may well end up being further substitution such as magnetic refrigeration http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_refrigeration. But the fact of the problem raises another issue. If the Montreal Protocol needs revision, who can provide the leadership to bring this about?

US leadership was crucial to both the Montreal and the Kyoto Protocols but US credibility now lies in shambles because in never intended to implement the second protocol. Yet, the US has most at risk should the first protocol not succeed since mid-latitude food production will be at risk. I would suggest that it is time to end the patronizing attitude that divides the world into developed and developing countries and admit that leadership could come from those who have been left out. China is already taking a lead on renewable energy http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/33389.html, and perhaps India could bring us together again on ozone depletion. Hey, Ross, what's that great whooshing sound?

It's everyone else filling the vacuum we've left in credibility space.

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Follow the money

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  more than 7 years ago The NYT is reporting that the recent job loss in Silicon Valley is turning around. The reason: clean energy technology http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/29/technology/29valley.html?_r=1&ref=science&oref=slogin. From the article:

After five years of job losses, Silicon Valley is hiring again. The turnaround coincides with a huge increase of investment in the emerging category of clean environment technology.

Now, slashdoters have certainly beat them to market in the residential sector http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users-selling-solar.html but the larger commercial sector is wide open. The bandwagon is rolling owing to economic realities. The article also covers some Silicon Valley Blight issues.

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Your opinion could be paid for by ExxonMobil

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  more than 7 years ago As material from the web site of Sen. James Inhofe makes Slashdot's front page http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/01/18/0421242 in what is basically an ad hominum attach on a Weather Channel meteorologist, the tactics of ExxonMobil in using smoke, mirrors and hot air http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/global_warming/exxon_report.pdf to slow our response to global warming is revealed by the Union of Concerned Scientists. From the Executive Summary:

In an effort to deceive the public about the reality of global warming, ExxonMobil has underwritten the most sophisticated and most successful disinformation campaign since the tobacco industry misled the public about the scientific evidence linking smoking to lung cancer and heart disease.

It goes on to say that information laundering was used to attempt to confuse the public.

If you don't know that fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) is being fed to you, how can you be sure your opinion is your own?

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Slashdot is a lobbyist

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  more than 7 years ago I've come across this site http://www.grassrootsfreedom.com/ which hopes to stop the lobbying reform, which is part of the first 100 hours package the democrats are passing, from applying to normal political organizing. Basically, you'd have to report to the government if you asked people to contact their representatives. So, on issues like net neutrality, or GPL'd software or intelectual property slashdot might be considered a lobbyist. The National Review http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NDUxMzM5NmNiMjFkMThhMjgzZjhmMDkyZGVmYzBhZjk is up in arms as are a number of conservative groups that organize letter writing campaigns. Should slasdot organize a letter writing campaign about this?

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Internet radio

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  more than 7 years ago Michael and Justine Willis Toms have been broadcasting for years on public radio and shortwave. Their program, New Dimensions, consists of hour long interviews in depth with people from all over the map. When I was in Hawaii I made time for two programs, both on the radio. One was a series of lectures by Alan Watts and the other was New Dimensions. When I came back to the East Coast, I missed those left coast salients into Hawaii's placid culture. Google helped me get back a bit of that when I found New Dimensions streamed at http://www.newdimensions.org/ with a program every week.

Recently, New Dimensions has expanded it's on line offering with a rotation of 6 programs, refreshed every week. This is called NDIR, New Dimensions Internet Radio. At the same time it has required a registration for the previous free offer of the program of the week. As I am writing, an interview with David Bohm ends and Larry Dossey begins. Later the Dali Lama will be followed by the pretty funny Swami Beyondananda. You can check it out at http://www.newdimensions.org/ndir-pop.html.

Now, why is this a slashdot topic? Real Player is very annoying. It does not work well as a radio. Especially, is does not have a timed off switch. So, because New Dimensions is something you want to listen to when you actually have the time to listen, and one of those times might be just before you go to sleep, here is a bash script to shut it down after an hour. This works with Fedora Core 6. It is crude, and it will mess with you're use of crontab so I've tied it to the gnome-cromagnon.png icon in it's applet launcher. Enjoy adding functionality to the intentionally broken Real Player.

date --date='1 hour' +%M' '%H' '%d' '%m' '%a' kill -9 ' > ctab2
ps x | grep real | grep Sl > ctab3
read realproc realprocext < ctab3
read killtime < ctab2
echo $killtime $realproc > ctab
crontab ctab

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American Interests in the Middle East

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  more than 7 years ago American vital interests in the Middle East, cited in the President's speech last night http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/11/us/11ptext.html are really two fold. The first is that uninterrupted oil supplies be available and the second that theocratic states not become so powerful that they pose a challenge to our position as the only superpower. Our military presence in the region is related to the first interest while our support of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, and a number of smaller Arab states is related to the second. They are also intertwined in the sense that our support of those states enables our military presence in the region through bases and ports which support logistics.

The strategic picture changes substantially if our interests change. The ability of theocraticists to imagine a strategically significant state is enabled by the presence of ready cash available through the sale of oil at prices much higher than the cost of production. Saudi oil income is easily diverted to theocratically minded organizations while Iranian oil income is already attached to such a system. In Iraq, oil revenues, such as they are, are also available to those who are sympathetic to the theocratic movement both legitimately and through massive corruption. In short, the theocratic movement is well funded because there is such a large cash flow to skim.

Changing this situation by eliminating our use of Middle East oil can only help. Oil is a global market, so eliminating our use of Middle East oil really means eliminating our use of oil altogether. Taking US demand for oil out of the market reduces the price of oil to much closer to its cost of production which is going up in the Middle East as more elaborate extraction methods are needed. The cartel structure for Middle East oil sales would have a hard time surviving a market with slim profit margins since production quotas would be difficult to allocate.

If America has no demand for oil, then our interests in maintaining the flow of Middle East oil devolve to support of our allies' needs for such a flow. However, our most important allies are already committed to reducing their use of fossil fuels generally (apologies to those down under) so it is not so hard to envision a world where the free navigation of the waters near the Middle East are of little strategic importance.

The technology is available now to eliminate our use of oil and to save money at the same time, so it seems like a strategic approach to the Middle East and Iraq would be preferable to the tactical approach the President is advocating.

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Why Renewables Displace Nukes First

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  more than 7 years ago Renewable energy is intermittent. Solar is in the day time, wind is available when it is available. But, one fine sunny cool breezy day our renewable capacity is going to meet total demand. What is a regulator to do? The renewables will be too dispersed to tell them to shutdown. All the rapid response generating capacity will already be shutdown because the renewables are free and who wants to compete with that. Hydro is in the middle of a mandated water allocation flow.

So, rather than blow the grid, the regulators will call the nuclear plant and tell it to go off line. But to do that, it has to shut down so it won't be up again for three days. A week later it happens again, and so it goes that spring and the next fall and all of a sudden, the cost of operation of the reactor just went through the roof. The nuclear industry whines about base load and all that but shortly the economics take over and that plant is decommissioned because it just isn't flexible enough to work in a renewables dominated grid.

At this point, or a little sooner, it is realized that what we really need is energy storage, fast in to handle over production, and slow out as a reservoir to handle night time. Any thoughts on what that technology would look like would be appreciated.

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Solar Power the Amway Way

mdsolar mdsolar writes  |  more than 7 years ago Solar photovoltaic power is competitive with retail electricity. If you could borrow at 3% and your electric bill were about $200 per month, you could buy a $30K solar PV system that produced all your power usage over the course of a year for the same amount that you pay for electricity now with a 30 year loan. This works in the states that have net metering laws. http://www.eere.energy.gov/greenpower/markets/netmetering.shtml

But, borrowing at 3% is little difficult to come by. Another way to look at it is that at today's retail rates for electricity, you get a 3% return on investment in a solar PV system. You'll get a higher effective rate of return if electric rates go up. This ties into inflation which might make borrowing even at a higher rate (than 3%) make sense but I'm not going to try to calculate that.

That said, venture capital has been moving into the solar PV market because solar is competitive at the retail level. One example where FedEx went solar is here http://www.powerlight.com/success/fedex.php.

At the corporate level that's fine. Big systems and big deals with risk management and all that. At the residential level, things are a lot slower. Enter a new player: http://www.citizenre.com/ which plans on renting solar PV systems to home owners for what their utility currently charges them for electricity. Their model for coming to market is like that of Amway: Multilevel marketing. They plan to begin installing in the Fall of this year (2007) and they are signing up customers now through a word-of-mouth campaign. How far will this go? I'm not sure, but they've doubled their customer base in a very short time (about a week) and they are approaching 3000 contracts now. That could be 3 million contracts in ten weeks if the viral marketing model works. I doubt that this can happen for practical reasons like server overload and the ability to build production facilities fast enough, but the eventual number of customers is not so unrealistic.

Another limit is the amount of net metering that states will allow as a percentage of total energy use. In Maryland, it looks like there is an out for the utilities at 34.7 MW of capacity http://www.energy.state.md.us/programs/renewable/solargrant/netmetering_statute.pdf which is not a lot.

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