Tag Archives: Energy Crisis

Group developing efficient homes for rural Alaska

From Alaska Journal of Commerce, Saturday, December 10, 2010:

With high fuel prices and harsh winter climes, constructing energy-efficient housing in rural Alaska communities can be a difficult task that is compounded by the prohibitively high costs.

In Fairbanks, Jack Hebert and a team of engineers with the Cold Climate Housing Research Center are rising to the challenge, designing and building prototype homes and empowering communities to build more of them for themselves.

In 2008, the CCHRC began its Sustainable Northern Shelter Program. CCHRC designs sustainable home technology, with its aim being to reduce the amount of fuel used to heat rural homes.

The group contracts with local crews to get the homes built. In fact, CCHRC officials don’t actually build the homes; with input from the locals, they design it and the locals themselves build them.

Consultations with the community help establish what their cultural needs are, among other things, Hebert said.

The goal, Hebert said, is to enable local residents to build their own sustainable homes without the aid of outsiders.

 “The wisdom of the people who have lived here for 10,000 years is important,” Hebert said.

Continue reading:  Group developing efficient homes for rural Alaska

U.S. Needs Critical Boost in Energy Research, Panel Tells Obama

From The New York Times, Wednesday, December 1, 2010:

The United States needs to more than triple its spending on energy research, development and demonstration projects, from about $5 billion now to $16 billion, and should institute a strategic review of national energy policy every four years, an advisory group of scientists and engineers said in a report to President Obama this week.

The United States lags behind other industrialized countries in public support for energy research and risks being overtaken in the development of new energy technologies if added support is not forthcoming, the group warned in the report, by the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. Security concerns arising from an overreliance on foreign oil and the environmental threat of climate change must also be addressed in a more comprehensive way, the report said.

Continue reading: U.S. Needs Critical Boost in Energy Research, Panel Tells Obama

Healy coal plant slides off restart timeline

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Tuesday, November 23, 2010:

Restart plans for a dormant coal plant in Healy have slipped off schedule again. The proposed owner, Golden Valley Electric Association, said signs of progress still offer hope.

State environmental managers pulled permitting plans for the unit, dubbed the Healy Clean Coal Project, from a federal review desk in September.

The decision offered the federal Environmental Protection Agency more time for discussion, the state and GVEA explained following the decision. Brian Newton, CEO of GVEA, said at the time the decision reflected a “good sign” federal regulators wanted to clear the plan eventually.

Newton said the same Monday, even as the restart plan’s timeline appeared to backpedal again.

State environmental managers, carrying the proposal on behalf of GVEA, had suggested two months ago they’d likely resubmit the plans in November. Newton said Monday it will instead take weeks longer.

New energy: climate change and sustainability shape a new era

From The Christian Science Monitor, Saturday, November 20, 2010:

“Tonight I want to have an unpleasant talk with you,” a somber President Jimmy Carter said gravely into a television camera on an April night in 1977.A series of oil embargoes and OPEC price hikes had hit the nation hard. Gasoline prices had tripled. Auto-dependent Americans had sometimes waited hours in line to buy the gasoline needed to get to work. The president, in an iconic fireside chat — in a beige cardigan — two months earlier had congenially urged Americans to turn thermostats down to 65 degrees F. by day, 55 by night.

But on this night, he ratcheted up his tone: Warning of an imminent “national catastrophe” and scolding Americans for selfish wastefulness, the president declared it time for Americans to curb consumption of oil, which he said had doubled in the 1950s and again in the ’60s — time to end their dependence on imports.

“This difficult effort will be the moral equivalent of war,” he said.

Mr. Carter created the Department of Energy. He called for energy conservation and increased production of coal and solar power. He installed solar panels on the White House.

But his vision — to push America and the world into a new energy era as significant as the shift from wood to coal that fueled the Industrial Revolution — never materialized.

Continue reading: New energy: climate change and sustainability shape a new era

Nissan Will Sell 500,000 Electric Cars a Year by 2013, Says Chief

From The New York Times,  Tuesday, November 16, 2010:

On the eve of the market debut of the Nissan Leaf electric carCarlos Ghosn, chief executive of the Renault-Nissan alliance, said the only constraint on sales for the next three years will be how many battery packs the factories could churn out.

Deliveries of the Leaf are scheduled to start next month. Mr. Ghosn, speaking to reporters in Washington on Monday afternoon, did not say just how many he expected to sell in the first three years. He said, however, that the Leaf would hit 500,000 units a year in three years. Mass production, he explained, would lower costs enough to make the car a sales success without subsidies sooner than once expected. He said he once thought that number was a million cars a year, but now believed it was from 500,000 to 1 million.

“We’re going to have to put some efforts into selling the car, but the kind of spontaneous demand is going to be driving the sales for the next three years,” Mr. Ghosn said. “There is such a curiosity about the car and attention to the car.”

He predicted that 10 percent of the world car market would be electric vehicles by 2020. “There is no doubt in the minds of anyone in the industry that this is going to be a big factor in the industry,” he said.

Continue reading: Nissan Will Sell 500,000 Electric Cars a Year by 2013, Says Chief

World’s oil thirst leads to risks

From The Associated Press, Thursday, November 4, 2010:

The world’s thirst for crude is leading oil exploration companies into ever deeper waters and ventures fraught with environmental and political peril.

The days when the industry could merely drill on land and wait for the oil – and the profits – to flow are coming to an end. Because of that, companies feel compelled to sink wells at the bottom of deep oceans, inject chemicals into the ground to force oil to the surface, deal with unsavory regimes, or operate in some of the world’s most environmentally sensitive and inaccessible spots, far from ports and decent roads. All those factors could make it difficult to move in equipment and clean up a spill.

From the Arctic to Cuba to the coast of Nigeria, avoiding catastrophes like BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill is likely to become increasingly difficult and require cooperation among countries that aren’t used to working together.

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Abnormally high Fairbanks gas prices not abating soon

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sunday, October 24, 2010:

Gas prices aren’t cheap in Alaska. For many, expensive gas just comes with the territory of a high-cost-of-living area. For the past year, however, prices have been steadily 40-90 cents higher than the national average, according to alaskagasprices.com. As recently as mid-2009, they were almost equal. What happened?

One might think in an oil-rich state, the abundance might affect a supply-demand curve. The process to the market is not so simple.

Two oil refineries operate in the state — Tesoro Alaska and Flint Hills Resources. They both produce jet fuel, diesel and gasoline among other things, and only a portion of their crude oil supply comes from Alaska. When they look around, they don’t see many other competitors. In fact, they are considered an oligopoly in the state.

Since they have so much influence over prices, they have been accused of marking up the cost of their crude oil, which usually makes up about half the amount of gasoline prices. ­

In 2009, the State House of Representatives created House Bill 68 to prevent price gouging among Alaskan refineries. Fairbanks Rep. Scott Kawasaki sponsored the bill.

“I think they’re just making gross profits,” Rep. Kawasaki said about the two refineries. “They’re basically abusing consumers.”

State works with villages to keep them warm

From Alaska Dispatch, Tuesday, September 7, 2010:

A state program designed to ensure that rural Alaska communities have an adequate supply of home-heating fuel is headed into its second successful year, the state reported in a press release.

The Fuel Watch program is an initiative of Gov. Sean Parnell that was implemented by the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development through its Division of Community and Regional Affairs.

Fuel Watch came about as a proactive approach to preventing the kind of seasonal hardship that fuel shortages caused in many rural communities in the winter and early spring of 2009.

To date, DCRA staff have made hundreds of phone calls to communities around the state to verify that fuel supplies are in order for the upcoming winter. In the program’s first year, DCRA staff made more than 1,500 phone calls and assisted 200 communities prior to the onset of winter. Alaska villages saw a significantly reduced number of fuel shortages than were experienced a year earlier.

“Fuel Watch is an excellent example of the proactive and supportive relationship our department strives to develop with communities throughout Alaska. Working to prevent another crisis situation is a much better use of state resources than responding to an actual crisis,” said Susan Bell, commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. “Alaskans will be better prepared this winter because of the dedication of Division of Community and Regional Affairs staff.”

DCRA officials are also working with fuel delivery companies and rural communities to identify where assistance may be needed. Communities with limited financial resources are being encouraged to apply for financing through state loan programs.

“Ensuring that rural families stay warm in the winter is part of our division’s mission to promote healthy and safe communities,” said DCRA Director Tara Jollie. “It is not too early to start thinking about the coming winter. When we take steps to avoid an emergency, it is a win-win situation for everyone involved.”

Clean energy can lessen Native suffering

From The Anchorage Daily News, Sunday, August 15, 2010:

As an Alaska Native veteran, I want to see our country expand our clean energy sources. It will help our planet and our state, it will help Alaska’s Native peoples and it will help our national defense.

I am 69 years old. In my lifetime I have seen many changes connected to global warming. A big part of where I grew up has permafrost. The small village where my mother was born has sunk in and is now part of a large lake. I saw the old village of Kasigluk begin sinking in my short lifetime. The island where my maternal grandparents lived is mostly gone. A new Kasigluk was created almost a mile downriver from the old village. A new school, federally funded houses, post office and airport had to be built at a high cost.

The warming has affected the fall white fish runs on the Johnson River not far from Bethel. People there rarely fish for them anymore. The black fish creeks are almost nonexistent because of the changing river channels due to warming. The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta has been invaded by beaver, which dam up the many small tundra creeks, disrupting the black fish runs.

Newtok, where my maternal grandmother’s family is from, and the village of Shishmaref need to be relocated at great cost due to erosion. Our elders link the erosion to changing weather due to warming. The melting of the permafrost also increases the cost of constructing homes and public buildings.

In rural villages, the cost of fuel to heat homes is high. So is the cost of electricity, which comes from expensive diesel fuel.

Continue reading: Clean energy can lessen Native suffering

DOE Answers Your Weatherization Questions

From US DOE, Monday, August 20, 2010:

Last week as part of Vice President Biden’s announcement of 200,000 homes weatherized under the Recovery act, we asked you to send us your questions and comments about the weatherization process. Today, we’re following up with answers experts from the Department’s Weatherization and Intergovernmental Program:

1) From edmooney via Twitter: @Energy Besides caulking, what are the best values in weatherization for the Northeast region. #weatherization

Nationwide, the energy-efficient retrofits that consistently provide the best return on investment involve sealing gaps in the building envelope which allows conditioned air – either heated or cooled – to escape the interior of the home. States in the Northeast region, which on average have an exceptionally high number of heating degree days each season, are particularly susceptible to energy loss through poor air sealing of the building envelope.

These gaps in the building envelope can include joints between materials, gaps around doors and windows, and penetrations for piping, wiring, and ducts. A blower door test can be used identify these gaps and measure the aggregate degree of air infiltration into your home. Retrofit measures such as caulking, weather stripping, gaskets, and duct sealing can be used to seal these gaps and improve the energy efficiency of your home.

Continue reading: Response to Weatherization Questions