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    See Shell Sue by the Sea Shore


    I often stop at a gas station/convenience store near Breezewood PA for their chicken tenders and potato wedges. Sometimes I buy gas, too. After the Macondo blowout and Deepwater Horizon spill, they covered up their BP signs with Shell tarps. They eventually got permanent signage, but I wonder what sign will go up next.

    Shell’s Lawsuit Against Environmental Organizations Invites Disaster

    Shell is suing 12 environmental organizations to preempt legal challenges to exploration in the Arctic Ocean. The environmental groups include, among others, the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Audubon Society, Oceana ... and the Sierra Club. Crazy isn’t it, Shell, a $378 billion company, attacking the National Audubon Society? It’s a bully image that can only hurt, and Shell should know better because it’s happened to them over and over again.
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    Clean Car Calculator

    I ran across UCSB's Clean Car Calculator in a comment, and while it seems fairly slick, it could be better:

    CleanCarCalculator.com grew out of a homework assignment for Energy and Resource Productivity, a graduate course at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management taught by Professor Sangwon Suh. Initially, the assignment asked students to compare two vehicles—one conventional gas engine and one high-efficiency—in terms of their total lifetime costs. This net present value (NPV) calculation unearthed surprising results. Most of the students had anticipated that purchasing a high-efficiency vehicle, such as a Toyota Prius or Chevrolet Volt, would cost more over the lifetime of the vehicle (i.e. that savings from the higher fuel efficiency would not be enough to offset the higher upfront cost of the vehicle). Instead, we were surprised to not only find that established hybrids paid themselves back in fuel savings, but that newly released vehicles, such as the Volt and Leaf, were also extremely affordable.
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    EV Politics and Promotion

    First, the San Francisco Chronicle sheds light on the Republicans anti-GM, anti-Tesla, anti-anything Obama strategy:

    GM, Tesla fight politicization of electric cars

    GM Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson has complained about the political atmosphere that surrounds the Volt.

    "Sometimes I feel bad for President Obama," he said this month after an appearance at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. "This car was designed and committed to well before he was president, and it's called the 'Obamacar.' It's not the Obama car. I'm proud and I'm pleased that he thinks highly of it, but it's all on us. It's not a political issue."

    The automaker accused Republicans and the media of hyping claims that the car caught fire during testing, which forced temporary layoffs at the Volt plant in Detroit.

    Tesla, which received a $465 million Department of Energy loan, has dropped pursuit of new federal loans, raised private cash and plans in July to start deliveries of its $50,000 S car, claiming it is on its way to the mass car market.

    "We applied during the Bush administration, and we were approved under the Obama administration, so as far as we're concerned, we at least had a bipartisan relationship for the loan," said Tesla spokesman Ricardo Reyes. "We got one of first loans and we used it to build the car that is now going into production in a U.S.-based facility. ... I'd like to think we're pretty much a case study on what the loan program was designed to do."
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    Fix When Fail

    The Infrastructurist blog shut down in January—but not because we have been paying more attention to our aging infrastructure.

    Rivers and canals carry an enormous amount of goods through the hinterlands—coal, grain, fuel oil. Water transport is cheaper than railroads, and far cheaper than trucking. Monongahela or "falling banks," was the native American name for one such river, and we have built a series of manmade structures intended to keep it navigable by large vessels. At what is now Pittsburgh, the Mon joins with the Allegheny River to form the Ohio River, which is in turn the largest tributary of the Mississippi. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has posted two parts of a four part series on the locks and dams along nearby rivers.

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    Your ticket, sir

    For an example of profits trumping fair traffic policing, The Consumerist blog cited a Canadian Yahoo article, Cellphone ticket baffles senior with no phone:

    A Winnipeg couple is shaking their heads, wondering why they got a ticket for talking on a cellphone while driving — when they don't own a cellphone.

    Laszlo Piszker and his wife, Margaret, were pulled over by two city police officers in the 2500 block of Portage Avenue on Friday.

    Piszker was handed a $199.80 ticket, even after he urged the officers to search him and the car for any sign of a cellphone.

    "I told them, 'Do whatever it takes. There's no phone in here; never has been. I don't know anything about the phone.' But they won't have it," ...

    Immediately after getting the ticket, the couple went to a nearby police station to complain.

    Piszker said the officer there laughed and suggested the ticket was likely issued to fill a quota.

    Donal's picture

    Absolutely Fabless


    During his keynote speech at the Energy Innovation Summit, Dr Steven Chu cited an ARPA-E grant recipient, Envia Systems, which has announced, "a more energy-dense lithium ion battery that it says will be cheaper than today's batteries and allow for an electric car with a 300-mile range."

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    The World's Dirtiest Oil

    TransCanada is moving ahead with the Southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline that would take oil, and synthetic oil from tar sands, from Cushing, Oklahoma to the refineries and ports near the Gulf of Mexico. A White House press release stated:

    The President welcomes today's news that TransCanada plans to build a pipeline to bring crude oil from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf of Mexico. As the President made clear in January, we support the company's interest in proceeding with this project, which will help address the bottleneck of oil in Cushing that has resulted in large part from increased domestic oil production, currently at an eight year high. Moving oil from the Midwest to the world-class, state-of-the-art refineries on the Gulf Coast will modernize our infrastructure, create jobs, and encourage American energy production.
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    The Bricked Battery Affair

    I watched a brief video on Motley Fool last weekend to the effect that Tesla Motors is a good investment while Zipcar has probably grown to its upper limit within walkable urban cities. But I'd be concerned about the bricked Roadster battery reports, which are getting fierce on both sides. A dogpile search shows dozens of stories like "Tesla Downplays Danger of Bricked Battery" and some that ridicule anyone that wouldn't already know that batteries will discharge. Meanwhile, self-proclaimed experts on Slashdot swear that LIon batteries couldn't possibly be fully discharged because they found an old cell phone once and recharged it.

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    Cold Fusion Believers and Homecoming Queens

     

    As we've seen in the comments to my last two posts, cold fusion, or LENR, has many skeptics and some firm believers. Scientific American describes a film, The Believers:

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    It's Going To Be Complicated


    Gasoline is expensive, getting more expensive, and that threatens our wide-ranging American way of life, y'all. The conservative solution seems to be drill, baby, drill and frack, baby, frack and pipeline, baby, pipeline. Others are looking for the big technological breakthrough—the dilithium crystals that will keep the Starship America on its continuing mission.

    In his latest Technological Update, Tom Whipple feels that there are two possible sources of energy that might replace fossil fuels. The bad news is that one is hydrogen. The worse news is that the other is cold fusion. Whipple is being cautious in his writing, but he still gives LENR more credence than do most of us:

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    Fracking, Drilling OK in Theory


    In UT: No Evidence of Groundwater Contamination from Hydraulic Fracturing, Rigzone lets fracking off the hook:
     

    No direct connection has been found between hydraulic fracturing and reports of groundwater contamination, according to a study released Thursday by the Energy Institute at The University of Texas of Austin.

    The study found that many of the problems linked to hydraulic fracturing are related to common oil and gas drilling operations such as casing failures or poor cement jobs.

    Researchers also concluded that many reports of contamination can be traced to above-ground split or other mishandling of wastewater produced from shale gas drilling, rather than hydraulic fracturing per se, said Charles "Chip" Groat, an Energy Institute associate director who led the project.

    "These problems are not unique to hydraulic fracturing," Groat said in a statement.
    Donal's picture

    Longtails to Long Tailpipes

    My massage therapist now rides a big black Yuba Mundo cargo bike, or longtail, like the one in the video above. While I was on the table he raved about the financial advantages of ditching his car, skipping the bus and cycling around town. He had even let his Zipcar membership lapse. He likes riding in an upright posture, because it takes stress off his arms, which are his tools. He's been riding all winter, which has been mild, but I do see people riding in the snow. I haven't been willing to try that, even though Dmitry Orlov says it is common enough elsewhere:

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    Donal's picture

    Hofmeister-Patzek Debate

    The video above efficiently trims the discussion to one hour. The debate proceeded as I expected.

    Donal's picture

    Keystone XL & $5.00 Gasoline


    An email from 350.org warns that the Keystone XL pipeline project is already being revived. You can sign a petition against that action here. While we follow the unfortunate death of Whitney Houston or the trial from the unfortunate death of Yeardley Love, or even the GOP Primary follies, oil interests are trying to pull a fast one:

    Senate Trying To Sneak The Keystone XL Pipeline Onto Obama's Desk Through An Unrelated Bill

    After last month's decision by the Obama administration to reject the 1,700-mile-route of the Keystone XL Pipeline, Republican lawmakers are trying to revive the controversial project by attaching it to transportation legislation.
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    DC Auto Prototype Show

    "It's a prototype; it's not supposed to work. That's why they call it a prototype." - Texas Rangers (2001)

    Getting to the DC Auto Show was easy. I drove South on I-95, parked at Greenbelt metro station, then took the green line seven or eight stops to the Mt Vernon Square / Convention Center station. I walked from the station into the convention center just as the show opened. Toyota had a Ride & Drive booth near the ticket area, so I scanned my driver's license and quickly found myself getting into a Prius v - which is called an extended hatchback wagon, but just looks like a longer Prius.
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    Obama attends DC Auto Show (before me)


     
    I stopped by Light Street Cycles today to buy a brighter taillight. The weather's been so unseasonably warm that I'm riding to the light rail, but it's really dark in the morning. The owner showed me all sorts of rechargeable blinkies, and I bought a Knog Boomer. I also signed a petition to complain about building a new street with no bike lanes right next to two college campuses, UMB & MICA. Then I told the owner that I was planning on visiting the Washington Auto Show tomorrow, and being a bike person, she looked puzzled. When I told her I wanted to see the Leaf, she seemed satisfied.
    Donal's picture

    Operation Plowshare

    I just added Operation Plowshare to the long list of stuff I never knew about.

    Following links, I ended up at 1967 Recklessness in PA Equals Destruction? at How Should We Do the Mountain blog:

    In hindsight, the plan seems impossibly audacious: Explode a 24-kiloton atomic bomb in the thick shale beneath the Sproul State Forest near State College to create a massive cavern for storing natural gas. Known as Project Ketch, it was a partnership between the Columbia Gas System Service Corp. and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, which was hungry to find peaceful purposes for nuclear technology. (Another commission brainchild of the era: to nuke its way across Panama to create a second canal.)

    Back then, Harrisburg had the red carpet out for any nuclear project, no matter how bizarre, and the proposal caught on. Why not put all that empty forest land to good use? Pennsylvania could cash in big, because the industry and the AEC hoped to detonate as many as 1,000 nuclear bombs to allow gas storage in the Northeast.

    While the plan had the blessing of lawmakers from downstream districts along the Susquehanna, the reception wasn’t as enthusiastic upstream. Among those opposed were the residents of Renovo, which was ground zero for Project Ketch.
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    The Man Who Fell for Fusion


    Back in the 1980s, no one could replicate Pons and Fleischmann's claims about cold fusion, and the idea of controlled fusion without tremendous costs became a sort of atomic snake oil. ITER's tremendously expensive controlled "hot" fusion is still decades away from practicality, but the hydrogen bomb seems to suffice as proof of concept. Cold fusion has crept back into the news, but not into peer-reviewed discussion. Skeptics attack the few articles published with a fury. Peak Oil guru Tom Whipple is used to doubt, and has followed the issue dispassionately in a handful of articles. His Cold Fusion Update discusses the current claims of Italian entrepreneur Andrea Rossi:

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    Hybrids: Alt Energi



    Even though Detroit is hurting, the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) is still a big deal in the industry. The historically Big Three did fairly well in 2011, particularly Chrysler, which increased sales some 26% more than 2010. I hated Chrysler's product line at last year's Baltimore show, but their Imported From Detroit campaign included several redesigned models. I read one article that attributed Chrysler's comeback to a patriotic fervor stimulated by the 2011 Superbowl advertisement featuring Eminem. That would be ironic, because since June, Fiat owns about 58% of Chrysler Group, LLC.

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    EVs: Leaf and i-MiEV



    I'm hoping Nissan shows the Leaf at the next Auto Show. I recently looked more closely at the specs. When the Leaf was first released, forced-air cabin heating was standard, and a cold weather package was optional. In chillier areas, the cold weather package was standard. In summer 2011, Nissan offered the cold weather package as standard throughout the US. It seems that cabin heating draws 3 to 5 KW and reduces the 75 or 100 mile range (depending on who you believe), which is already a source of concern for American drivers. Presumably front and rear heated seats, a heated steering wheel and a rear HVAC duct draw much lower wattage and eventually heat the cabin air. The package also includes a battery heater and heated outside mirrors.

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