mdsolar writes ""Teams of lawmakers are working hard on bills to cut corn-based ethanol out of the country’s biofuel mandate entirely, according to National Journal.
It’s the latest twist in America’s fraught relationship with biofuels, which started in 2005 when Congress first mandated that a certain amount of biofuel be mixed into the country’s fuel supply. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was then expanded in 2007, with separate requirements for standard biofuel on the one hand and cellulosic and advanced biofuels on the other. The latter are produced from non-food products like cornstalks, agricultural waste, and timber industry cuttings.
The RFS originally called for 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2010, 250 million in 2011, and 500 million in 2012. Instead, the cellulosic industry failed to get off the ground. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was forced to revise the mandate down to 6.5 million in 2010, and all the way down to zero in 2012.
The cellulosic mandate has started to slowly creep back up, and 2014 may be the year when domestic production of cellulosic ethanol finally takes off.
But then last month EPA did something else for the first time: it cut down the 2014 mandate for standard biofuel, produced mainly from corn. And now Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) have teamed up on legislation that would eliminate the standard biofuel mandate entirely. The mandates for cellulosic biofuel, biodiesel, and advanced biofuels (the previous two fall under this broader category) would remain.""Link to Original Source
mdsolar writes "Last month saw the hottest global November surface temperature on record, according to the latest data from NASA. Of course, the global surface temperature is only one of many indicators the planet just keeps warming....
Now two new studies demolish the myth that warming — including surface warming — has not continued apace."Link to Original Source
mdsolar writes ""In October, power plants generating 530 megawatts of electricity came online in the United States. And every single electron put on the grid came from the sun, according to a report released today.
It’s possible to make too much of the fact that solar energy was the sole source of new electricity capacity in US that month. After all, the completion dates of power plants can be random. That’s particularly true for complex, multibillion-dollar, fossil fuel power stations that can take years to build and are subject to oversight by state regulators.
However, it is also possible to be too dismissive of this energy shift and the fact that solar supplanted coal and natural gas in October. It’s not a huge amount of power – at peak output 530 megawatts is what a medium-sized natural gas-fired power plant would generate. But it’s a clear sign that solar is no longer a niche play – especially when you consider that the October’s numbers don’t include the installation of roof photovoltaic panels on homes and businesses. In California alone, for instance, 19.5 megawatts of rooftop solar was installed in the territories of the state’s three big utilities just in October.""Link to Original Source
mdsolar writes "The boom in solar energy in the US in recent years? You haven’t seen anything yet. The pipeline of photovoltaic projects has grown 7% over the past 12 months and now stands at 2,400 solar installations that would generate 43,000 megawatts (MW), according to a report released today by market research firm NPD Solarbuzz. If all these projects are built, their peak electricity output would be equivalent to that of 43 big nuclear power plants, and enough to keep the lights on in six million American homes."Link to Original Source
mdsolar writes "There’s a simple technology that transforms our lives every day, and yet we rarely give a passing thought to its existence (unless of course it flares out at an inopportune moment): the light bulb. And yet for more than a billion people in the developing world who lack access to electricity, this simple device can make an unimaginable difference....a family with a light bulb is a family with opportunities. Women can set up small shops in their homes, for instance, to sew or cook for extra money. Kids can study for school: A light may keep a girl or boy from dropping out. Families read, or may use the light to set up classes to teach others to read. A shop owner keeps his or her store open longer, earns more money, sends more kids to school—and those kids can then use the glow to read in the evenings. That’s why there are dozens of organizations around the world dedicated to nothing more than making sure that people have access to light.... [N]early unbreakable LEDs are easily paired with solar power, and so in poor communities, what seems excessive to us becomes a long-lasting investment that bypasses both inefficient incandescents and the lumbering power grid."Link to Original Source
mdsolar writes ""These days Barry Goldwater, Jr. is on an unlikely crusade. In March, the former California Republican congressman founded Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed, or TUSK, after Arizona’s largest electric utility proposed a hefty new fee on solar customers and a plan to lower net metering rates, which dictate how much electric utilities pay solar customers for excess energy sold back to the grid. "Republicans want the freedom to make the best choice," Goldwater said in a statement on TUSK's website. So he cobbled together a ragtag coalition of libertarian-minded conservatives, solar industry advocates, and business groups to wage a colorful guerrilla campaign. In the past few months, TUSK has run ads attacking the electric utility on conservative talk radio and the Drudge Report. They’ve posted clever YouTube videos, including a song parody sung to the tune of “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” “They Totally Think We're Not Smart.”
It’s a strange campaign not least because it seemed at first like the electric utility’s proposal would be a lay-up. Arguing that customers were not paying enough to cover the cost of maintaining the grid infrastructure they use whenever the sun is not shining, the electricity provider—Arizona Public Service, or APS—only needed approval from the state’s utility commission, which is 100 percent Republican. And the company generally enjoys strong support among Arizona Republicans. It donated $25,000 to the Republican Victory Fund in 2012, according to Arizona campaign filings...."
A longer article which goes on to claim that Goldwater won in Arizona."Link to Original Source
mdsolar writes ""California Sen. Barbara Boxer said Thursday that federal regulators might be improperly concealing documents on a long-running investigation at the now-closed San Onofre nuclear power plant.
In a letter to Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Allison Macfarlane, Boxer said she made several requests for documents related to the ongoing probe at the seaside plant, as far back as May 2012. But certain records "may have been removed" before boxes of NRC documents were delivered to her office in June, Boxer said.
The Democrat heads the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
"Any effort to obstruct or impede my oversight activities is unacceptable," Boxer wrote.
The NRC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The agency has disclosed previously that its Office of Investigations and Office of the Inspector General are conducting probes into "allegations of willful wrongdoing" at San Onofre, but provided no details.""Link to Original Source
mdsolar writes ""Nuclear power plant operators won a significant victory yesterday when a federal appeals court said the U.S. should stop collecting $750 million a year for a spent-fuel repository it has never built.
Left unsettled is an issue that has vexed the industry and political leaders for decades: where to dispose of 70,000 metric tons of atomic waste now in temporary storage at power plants across the country.
“There’s nothing in this opinion that’s going to move a single fuel rod a single foot from where it’s sitting now,” Peter Bradford, a former Nuclear Regulatory Commission member and professor at Vermont Law School, said in a phone interview. ""Link to Original Source
mdsolar writes "A team of researchers from the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science in Japan has demonstrated that the magic numbers 20 and 28 disappear from all neutron-rich magnesium isotopes, thereby establishing a new, larger area of nuclear deformation in the nuclear chart.
The Japanese study, published today in the prestigious journal Physical Review Letters, was made possible by the intense beam at the Radioactive Beam Factory (RIBF) at RIKEN, which produces the most intense radioactive isotope beams in the world.
Inside the atomic nucleus, protons and neutrons are organized in shell structures similar to the electron shell around an atom. When proton or neutron shells are filled with 2, 8, 20, 28, 50, 82, or 126 nucleons, these numbers are called "magic" and nuclei assume spherical shapes. In contrast, nuclei lose their spherical shape and become "deformed" when the number of nucleons is not a magic number.
Recent experimental data on neutron-rich, radioactive isotopes has challenged the assumption that magic numbers are the same for all nuclei. The neutron-rich isotope 32Mg, which is composed of 12 protons and 20 neutrons, has been shown to be deformed by the disappearance of the neutron magic number 20, for example. In addition, 42Si, with 14 protons and 28 neutrons, is also deformed.
The "Island of Deformation" is the region in the nuclear chart comprising elements known to lose their neutron magic number 20. This region was previously thought to be composed of only a few nuclei around 32Mg. In the current study, the team led by Dr Pieter Doornenbal and Dr Hiroyoshi Sakurai, sought to understand whether the regions around 32Mg and 42Si are two isolated islands of deformation, or belong to the same, larger, connected area of deformation.
To carry out their experiment, the team accelerated a beam of stable 48Ca up to 70% of the speed of light and projected it onto a beryllium target. The resulting radioactive 39Al and 40Si were selected and purified into beams that were shot at 60 % of the speed of light onto a carbon target. This second step produced neutron-rich, radioactive magnesium isotopes 34,36,38Mg. By measuring the energy levels of the gamma rays emitted by the first excited states of these isotopes, the team could conclude that they all displayed a very deformed shape, and had lost their magic numbers 20 and 28."Link to Original Source
mdsolar writes ""A new study of the effects of tiny quantities of radioactive fallout from Fukushima on the health of babies born in California shows a significant excess of hypothyroidism caused by the radioactive contamination travelling 5,000 miles across the Pacific. The article will be published next week in the peer-reviewed journal "Open Journal of Pediatrics."
Congenital hypothyroidism is a rare but serious condition normally affecting about one child in 2,000, and one that demands clinical intervention — the growth of children suffering from the condition is affected if they are left untreated. All babies born in California are monitored at birth for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) levels in blood, since high levels indicate hypothyroidism.
Joe Mangano and Janette Sherman of the Radiation and Public Health Project in New York, and Christopher Busby, guest researcher at Jacobs University, Bremen, examined congenital hypothyroidism (CH) rates in newborns using data obtained from the State of California over the period of the Fukushima explosions.
Their results are published in their paper "Changes in confirmed plus borderline cases of congenital hypothyroidism in California as a function of environmental fallout from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown." The researchers compared data for babies exposed to radioactive Iodine-131 and born between March 17th and Dec 31st 2011 with unexposed babies born in 2011 before the exposures plus those born in 2012.
Confirmed cases of hypothyroidism, defined as those with TSH level greater than 29 units increased by 21% in the group of babies that were exposed to excess radioactive Iodine in the womb [RR 1.21, 95% CI 1.04-1.42; p = .013]. The same group of children had a 27% increase in 'borderline cases' [RR 1.27, 95% CI 1.2-1.35; p = .00000001].""Link to Original Source
mdsolar writes ""America's energy use poses threats to national security on numerous fronts. Aging transmission systems coupled with an increasingly computerized grid have left our country vulnerable to a crippling attack on our energy infrastructure. The Department of Defense is the largest energy consumer in the world and is hemorrhaging money on electricity and oil expenditures. Overseas, reliance on fuel is deadly and costly for military operations. And of course, there's climate change, which poses numerous security threats to Americans. Solar energy offers a remedy for each of these monumental security risks.""Link to Original Source
mdsolar writes "Japan took a major step back on Friday from earlier pledges to slash its greenhouse gas emissions, saying a shutdown of its nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster had made previous targets unattainable. The announcement cast a shadow over international talks underway in Warsaw aimed at fashioning a new global pact to address the threats of a changing climate.
Under its new goal, Japan, one of the world’s top polluters, would still seek to reduce its current emissions. But it would release 3 percent more greenhouse gases in 2020 than it did in 1990, rather than the 6 percent cut it originally promised or the 25 percent reduction it promised two years before the 2011 nuclear disaster."Link to Original Source
mdsolar writes "Arizona will permit the state’s largest utility to charge a monthly fee to customers who install photovoltaic panels on their roofs, in a closely watched hearing that drew about 1,000 protesters and may threaten the surging residential solar market.
The Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities in the state, agreed in a 3-to-2 vote at a meeting yesterday in Phoenix that Arizona Public Service Co. may collect about $4.90 a month from customers with solar systems.
Arizona Public is required to buy solar power from customers with rooftop panels, and the commission agreed with its argument that the policy unfairly shifts some of the utility’s costs to people without panels. Imposing a fee designed to address this issue may prompt power companies in other states to follow suit, and will discourage some people from installing new systems, according to the Sierra Club.
The “decision to add new charges to Arizona’s main rooftop solar program will stifle the growth of our clean-energy economy,” Will Greene, the organizing representative for the Sierra Club in Phoenix, said in a statement yesterday."Link to Original Source
mdsolar writes "Two U.S. senators have accused the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of backing away from a probe of the worsening finances of Entergy Corp.'s nuclear plants, including the FitzPatrick plant in Oswego County, after Entergy complained about the inquiry.
In a letter Thursday to NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane, Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., said nuclear safety regulators are duty-bound to evaluate the financial fitness of plant operators.
The senators expressed "grave concern'' over reports that NRC staff members were told to stop asking Entergy for financial information after Entergy complained to higher-ups at the NRC.
"In our opinion, financial distress and the failure to maintain sufficient operating funds would be expected to signal the potential for future degradations in safety brought about by a licensee's need to conserve funding,'' they wrote."Link to Original Source
mdsolar writes ""The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not holding the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in California to the same standards it requires of every other nuclear facility to address potential earthquake hazards, according to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists. UCS prepared the report, “Seismic Shift: Diablo Canyon Literally and Figuratively on Shaky Ground,” for the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.
“This is a dangerous double standard,” said David Lochbaum, director of UCS’s Nuclear Safety Project and author of the report. “At other facilities, the NRC enforced its safety regulations and protected Americans from earthquake threats. Today, in the case of Diablo Canyon, the NRC is ignoring its regulations, unfairly exposing millions of Americans to undue risk.”
It is widely known that Diablo Canyon sits near earthquake fault lines. In late 2008, the plant’s owner, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), informed the NRC about a previously unknown earthquake fault line running as close as 2,000 feet from Diablo Canyon’s two reactors that could cause more ground motion during an earthquake than the plant was designed to withstand. Since this new fault was discovered, the NRC has not demonstrated that the reactors meet agency safety regulations.
When similar concerns surfaced at nuclear facilities in California, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, the NRC did not allow the plants to continue to operate until the agency determined they met safety regulations. In particular, the NRC needed to be sure that a number of devices, including “shock absorbers” on piping and other components, would limit earthquake damage. In contrast, the NRC has allowed PG&E to continue to operate Diablo Canyon’s reactors despite this known threat.""Link to Original Source