Energy

Part one of a two-part series on the Keystone XL pipeline

Gas prices are spiking once again; the cost of a gallon of regular unleaded is about 12 percent higher than it was a year ago. But winter typically isn't the time for a rise in gas prices. Demand for gasoline is at a 14-year low and domestic oil production is at an eight-year high.

The dispute over Iran's nuclear program has again rocked oil markets. And Iran is threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, which is just 34 miles wide yet serves as the passageway for 20 percent of the world's oil.

This is not a new drama. In fact, it was a recurring issue in the 1980s. Still, there's been relatively little activity among Gulf oil producers to find alternative routes to get their oil to market.

Just outside of West Virginia's capital city, Charleston, on the banks of the Kanawha River, sits the Institute Industrial Park. Chemical plants have operated here continuously since World War II, when the local factories cranked out synthetic rubber. Today there are industrial pipes, tanks and buildings stretching in just about every direction.

Soon, there could be more.

Pete Souza/White House photo

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

 

Dear EarthTalk: What are the environmental implications of the road ahead as laid out by President Obama in his recent State of the Union? -- Marilyn Pike, Bethesda, MD

 

New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association

Feb 11, 2012
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinkheadedbug/">John Brownlow</a> via Flickr/Creative Commons

When Bob and Celine Richer decided to retire to New Hampshire, they knew they would need an energy-efficient home to be able to afford the long heating season. Bob contacted the New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association for help. The Richers’s home is constructed of insulated concrete form with a geothermal and solar heating system.

Bob: The Sustainable Energy Association provided us guidance and encouragement along the way because there were so many things to choose from.

The nuclear industry is celebrating the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission's decision to give the go-ahead for a utility company to build two new nuclear reactors in Georgia, the first license to be granted for a new reactor in the U.S. since 1978. But last year's accident at reactors in Fukushima, Japan, still clouds the future of nuclear power, as does the cost of new power plants.

Southern Co. will build the reactors at its Vogtle site in Georgia, where two older reactors already operate.

iStock Photo/Thinkstock

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that cable and other pay TV boxes that sit atop television sets consume massive amounts of energy, in part because they are always on, even when the TV is off? -- Sam Winston, Metarie, LA

 

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/75001512@N00/6663062823/in/photostream/" target="blank">joelk375</a> via Flickr/Creative Commons

Most of the few routines we have in my house involve the thermostat - at night, as we all trek upstairs to bed, I turn the main floor thermostat down and turn the upstairs thermostat up. In the morning, we do the reverse. It keeps our heating bill down, but it's a little like trying to save gas by hypermiling - not everyone is going to put in that much time to save a buck here and there.

Hemera Collection / Thinkstock

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

 

Dear EarthTalk: I understand that some companies are now looking to cut down forests and burn them as “biomass” for generating electricity. Is nothing sacred?   -- Audrey Barklay, Newark, NJ

USDA

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

 

Dear EarthTalk: There are a number of companies out there now doing “energy audits” for the home, after which they try to sell you attic insulation and other products and services. Is this just a scam or would it be wise for me to look into this?                            -- Bill Richards., New York, NY

 

iStock/Thinkstock

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

 

Dear EarthTalk: What do I need to know about the new U.S. energy efficiency standards for light bulbs that take effect in January 2012? Will certain bulbs be unavailable? And am I supposed to switch out my older inefficient bulbs with newer efficient ones?   -- Melissa McCarthy, Aptos, CA

More families in New Hampshire can now get help with their fuel bill this winter.

Congress increased funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, this week.

New Hampshire will receive a total of $26 million, rather than the $14.7 million dollars originally allotted.

That original appropriation forced Community Action Agencies to target the money to families of four earning less than $28,000.

Other low-income households were placed on a waiting list.

At first, many New Englanders seemed on board with this alternative energy source, but now some these projects are encountering stiff breezes.  We’ll find out how Wind Power is playing at the local level in the Granite State and how recent debates have become more nuanced and less black-and-white than in the past.

Guests

Jim Richmond via Flickr Creative Commons

Seabrook Nuclear Plant officials says the plant is continuing to operate safely.

The vote of confidence came during the Seabrook’s annual required press briefing.

Spokesman Alan Griffith said the failed cooling system pump that prompted the plant’s shutdown in October has been fixed. But he said engineers continue to assess possible deterioration of concrete under one plant section, an electrical tunnel.. Griffith says a core sample turned up what is called Alkalide silica reaction, or ASR .

 

Sam Evans-Brown

The American Lung Association announced a project that will pay individuals in Southern New Hampshire to swap out their old woodstoves.

The money for the program comes from a company’s settlement with the EPA.

The project provides consumers from Merrimack, Hillsborough, and Rockinghman counties vouchers  to replace old, inefficient wood stoves, with new clean burning ones.

The vouchers are worth anywhere from one to three thousand dollars, and can be used for pellet stoves, or wood-burning stoves.

Photo by Tom Maglieri, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

PART 1

 “Clean coal,” refers to technologies that reduce heavy metal, carbon and other emissions from the burning of coal. The development of technologies that could, potentially, filter greenhouse gases and store CO2 permanently is moving ahead. “Carbon Sequestration” is an important step in testing the potential of clean coal technology. We spoke with Maggie Koerth-Baker, Science Editor for Boing-Boing; she visited a carbon sequestration demonstration in Alabama.

plus

iStock Collection/Thinkstock

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Thorium is a naturally occurring element that is supposedly more available, more efficient and safer to use than uranium for generating nuclear energy. Is this true and, if so, why haven’t we made the switch?                                                                    -- Jane Westermann, Austin, TX

PUC Awards Grants For Renewable Energy

Nov 4, 2011

The Public Utilities Commission has awarded grants to fund renewable energy projects in the state.

Four companies and one elementary school will receive part of a one million dollar grant for projects that reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Carbon Harvest Energy will receive the largest portion of the grant -$500,000- for a landfill gas-to-energy combined heat and power plant in Lebanon.

Greenville Elementary School will receive a grant to replace its oil-fired boiler with a wood pellet one.

EPA Holds Hearing On PSNH Power Plant

Nov 4, 2011

The Environmental Protection Agency held a public hearing on a new permit for PSNH’s coal-fired power plant in Bow.

The draft permit could force the utility to upgrade its cooling system to prevent fish kills.

The EPA says the Merrimack station power plant withdraws large quantities of water from the Merrimack River and returns it at much higher temperatures.

The agency says installing a more modern cooling system would reduce fish kills by 95-percent.

But it would also cost PSNH $112 million over a 20 year period.

With power still out from last weekend’s snow storm, New Hampshire’s senators are pressuring federal regulators for answers.

New Hampshire’s senators are asking the federal agencies that oversee electrical grids to identify why the power keeps going out.

More than three hundred thousand people in New Hampshire were left in the dark and cold after the storm Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte says that’s unacceptable.

“With the ice storm there was a pretty lengthy outage and with this storm there was an outage and we want to make sure the grid is where it should be.”

Public Service of New Hampshire

New Hampshire environmental officials presented an updated report on the state of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to lawmakers Tuesday.

As NHPR’s Amy Quinton explains, the report reignites the debate over whether to keep the state in the carbon emission cap and trade program.

The report shows that program, known as RGGI, is working as designed.

Under the program, power plants buy an allowance for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit.

The Northern Pass electric project is searching for a new, less controversial path through the North Country.

But a small group of landowners is determined to block the utility’s plan even though it means giving up hundreds of thousands of dollars.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

Sound of piano music.

At 65 years of age Lynne Placey gives piano lessons.

She lives with a cat and a gray-muzzled dog in a small house in Stewartstown.

And she hopes she’s blocking the path of a corporate giant.

Public Service of New Hampshire announced today it wants to increase its rates.

NHPR’s Sam Evans-Brown tells us why.

PSNH has asked the Public Utilities commission for a rate increase of a little more than a half cent per kilowatt hour.

For the typical resident that would mean about three dollars and seventy-seven cents more every month.

The hike will pay for a new scrubber designed to clean up emissions from PSNH’s coal burning plant in Bow.

Massachusetts is expected to announce new rules that will raise the bar on the definition of green energy.

NHPR’s Sam Evans-Brown reports that shift could cost NH electric producers millions of dollars.

Massachusetts is on track to pass new regulations aimed at cutting the amount of greenhouse gasses going into the atmosphere.

The focus is on power from biomass – basically, burning wood to make electricity.

Dwayne Breger of the Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources, says there are two good reasons to get the most out of every tree.

The price of home heating oil is expected to hit an all-time high this winter. That’s unwelcome news from Maine to Maryland, where millions of people rely on the fuel to stay warm. The spike could make life difficult for heating oil suppliers and their low-income customers.

When the price of crude oil jumps the price of home heating oil pretty much follows.

In the last 12 months, the price of crude has shot up 40%.

What’s causing the spike?

Aaron Brady, an analyst for IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, says its emerging markets like India and China.

A new report projects winter household heating oil will be at an all-time high.The cost of all major heating sources is up this season, with the exception of electricity.

Heating oil has seen the biggest increase, 33 cents more than this time last year.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration says on average, a gallon will now run about $3.71.

EIA’s Howard Gruenspecht says world oil prices have been jumping around.

It’s that time of year when people light fires in the morning, or see their tomatoes glazed in frost. It won’t be much longer before the real cold comes. Last year, some 45,000 families around New Hampshire received some help paying their heating bills. But this winter, all signs point to a cut in federal fuel assistance.

The math is pretty simple, says Mark Wolfe with the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association.

“At this point both the House and Senate both call for a cut of about $1 billion dollars.”

Brady Carlson, NHPR

The Northern Pass hydropower project from Quebec, which includes transmission lines through New Hampshire, has divided our state with passionate disagreement on the amount of energy it will bring, how badly that energy’s needed, and the economics of the project, including its affect on property values. We’ll talk to those on both sides of this debate.

Guests

This month’s installment of our 11 for '11 series of big picture conversations on the issues of our times. Today, it’s energy, specifially oil. Oil is trading at 112-dollars a barrel, up from 86-dollars a year ago. Michael Klare says the era of easy oil is behind us. He’s made news for his concept of “extreme energy” – the pursuit of fossil fuels in increasingly difficult environments using expensive and sometimes dangerous methods.

Faced with strong, statewide opposition officials from Northern Pass say they are reworking parts of their plan, including finding a better route through the North Country. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

NorthernPass officials say they want to change some important parts of their plan to bring 1,200 megawatts of hydro-electric power from Canada.

 Their possible changes include finding a new route between Canada and Groveton, one that will calm the furor in the North Country.

 Last month at least 2,300 people attended seven public hearings on the project.

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