April 29, 2009

Oil produces only 1% of U.S. electricity

Oil is still sometimes raised in attempts to push wind energy, as running out, making us dependent on unpleasant trade, polluting. Most people know by now that oil is not an important part of the overall electricity debate (it is significant only in some localities, especially islands, that rely on diesel generators).

Less than 2% of the oil used in the U.S. is used for electricity production, generating only 1% of our electricity.

The source for these figures is the Energy Information Administration, Department of Energy ~~

Electric Power Monthly: in 2008, gigawatt-hours:
from petroleum liquids: 31,162
from petroleum coke: 14,192
from all sources: 4,110,259
percent from petroleum: 1.10

Annual Energy Review: in 2007, million of barrels per day:
of crude oil imports: 10.02
of crude oil production: 5.10
of other net imports: 5.48
used for electric power: 0.29 (1.40%)

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

April 17, 2009

More coal for less electricity -- due to wind?

We have been informed that the current North American Windpower trade magazine includes an article reporting that the amount of electricity generated from coal dropped by 2.7% from November 2007 to November 2008, while electricity from wind increased between the same months by 42.4% (or 46.6% by my calculations: see "Net generation by other renewables" from the Energy Information Administration (EIA)).

In the big picture, however, the record installation of more than 8,000 MW of wind turbines last year increased its share of electricity generation by less than one-half percent. Coal's share went down just over two-thirds of a percent. Total electricity generation declined 1.3%.

But here's the hidden information: The EIA also reports how much coal is actually used for electricity. Although electricity from coal declined by 2.7%, coal consumed for electricity declined only 1.5%. That is, more coal was required per KWh of electricity that it generates.

Also see earlier posts: "U.S. coal use for electricity, 2002-2006" and "U.K. fossil fuel use for electricity, 2002-2006".

This appears to be evidence that the burden of wind -- an intermittent, highly variable, and nondispatchable source of energy -- introduces inefficiencies that cancel much of its theoretical benefit of reducing fossil fuel use.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

April 16, 2009

The Moral Question of Dinner

Re “Humanity Even for Nonhumans,” by Nicholas D. Kristof (column, April 9):

Thank you for this inspiring and enlightening article. Animals raised for food suffer miserably.

The meat and dairy industries want to keep their operations away from the public’s discriminating eyes, but as groups like PETA and the Humane Society have shown us in their graphic and disturbing undercover investigations, factory farms are mechanized madness and slaughterhouses are torture chambers to these unfortunate and feeling beings.

The overwhelming passage in November of Proposition 2 in California, which banned tight confinement of many of the animals raised for food, is a fine example of the power of publicity to educate people about the atrocities we commit to those animals who have no voice of their own.

Laura Frisk
Encinitas, Calif., April 9, 2009

To the Editor:

In making the personal decision of where to place ourselves in our ethical relationship with animals, it is important to evaluate the reality of our words. If human beings were confined, mutilated and killed, would we call it “humane” if the cages were a few inches bigger, the knife sharper, the death faster? Would we say these people were slaughtered in a “people friendly” manner?

Confinement is confinement, mutilation is mutilation, and slaughter is slaughter. Animal agriculture is inherently inhumane.

Animals rescued from so-called humane farming establishments have been found in horrific condition.

Our relationship with animals should be based on respect and caring, and that begins with not eating them.

Irene Muschel
New York, April 9, 2009

To the Editor:

Nicholas D. Kristof’s column brought back an image of my father dropping live lobsters into boiling water. I was 4 or 5, and I cringed.

At 14, as I started making my own choices, my eating habits began to change. After time in the Marines, I veered strongly away from eating creatures, thinking of their suffering. In my 40s, I became a vegetarian because I was saving sick and injured birds, and I just couldn’t eat them and save them.

My doctor says my tremendous health and strength are due to my being a vegan. Push-ups, sit-ups, carrying 50-pound bags of bird seed — and I will be 71 in May. I still have the same six-pack stomach I had in the Marines.

Every meal, for me, is a celebration of life. That’s right, for me — but it may not be for others. Being “kind” to the animals has been great for my quality of life.

Buzz Alpert
Chicago, April 9, 2009

environment, environmentalism, animal rights, vegetarianism

April 14, 2009

Georgia Mountain wind project has applied for permit

The Georgia Mountain wind project has applied for a permit:

April 23, 2009 - Docket 7508 - Prehearing Conference - 1:30 P.M.

Before the Vermont Public Service Board, Hearing Room - 3rd Floor, Chittenden Bank Building, 112 State Street, Montpelier, VT

Petition of Georgia Mountain Community Wind, LLC, for a Certificate of Public Good, pursuant to 30 V.S.A. Section 248, authorizing the construction and operation of a 5-wind turbine electric generation facility, with associated electric and interconnection facilities, on Georgia Mountain in the Towns of Milton and Georgia, Vermont, to be known as the "Georgia Mountain Community Wind Project"

Of note, the project does not exactly specify what it entails. The petition describes 3-5 wind turbines of 1.5-3 MW capacity each. In his prefiled testimony, John Zimmerman gives the total rating as 7.5-12 MW.

As to the rest of the documents filed (click here), they too are a laugh, a charade of self-rationalization, misrepresentation, and evasion. For example, the noise impact study asserts a typical rural sound level that is above what it actually describes for a couple of sites tested. It asserts that only an increase of more than 10 dBA would be considered to be intrusive, when it is generally accepted that an increase of 5 dBA raises concerns. It cites the World Health Organization guidelines for community noise, ignoring the statements that "Noise with low-frequency components require lower guideline values" and "Lower noise levels may be disturbing depending on the nature of the noise source". It thus ignores (except for a throwaway line that it isn't a problem) the significant low-frequency component and the unique rhythmic and unpredictable nature of wind turbine noise. It goes without saying that the "noise impact study" completely ignored actual studies of wind turbine noise impacts, such as Nina Pierpont's "Wind Turbine Syndrome".

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, animal rights, human rights, Vermont

April 11, 2009

2-km Wind Turbine Setbacks for Health and Safety


We, the undersigned, request, for reasons of safety and health regarding onshore wind energy facilities, that:

1. No large wind turbine generator shall be erected closer than 1,600 meters (1 mile) or 12 times its total height (hub height plus rotor radius), whichever is greater, from a neighboring property line or public road or path; and

2. No large wind turbine generator shall be erected closer than 2,000 meters (1-1/4 miles) or 15 times its total height, whichever is greater, from a residence, school, place of business, or health care facility.

Go here to sign.


Large wind energy turbines
  • Are subject to stresses that often cause catastrophic blade failure, collapse, and fire.

  • May shed and throw large pieces of ice over a great distance.

  • Create intrusive shadow flicker over a long distance when the sun is behind the turning blades.

  • Raise noise levels to a degree that is incompatible with the rural or wild environment in which they are typically sited.

  • Generate a wide range of noises and vibration, day and night, that cause loss of sleep, headaches, tinnitus, irritability, dizziness, nausea, and other symptoms in people who live near them.
Large wind turbines therefore need adequate setbacks to protect the health and safety of nearby residents. A minimum distance of 2 kilometers (or 1-1/4 miles) between homes and the turbines is recommended by a number of noise and health experts.

In certain terrains, such as rolling hills, in quiet rural areas, and under some climatic conditions, greater distances of 3-5 km (~2-3 mi) are required to protect the health and welfare of neighbors. Any specified setback, however, must be part of a robust set of regulations to limit noise and protect the environment and landscape.

For more information, see
How to use this petition

Show it to your legislators and government officials in discussing regulation of the wind industry. Use it as a starting point for local zoning. Use it as a model for local petitions.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms

April 4, 2009

The Changes and Chances of This Mortal Life

I see President Obama, having surrounded himself with advisors well-schooled in the very principles and practices that have landed us in unending war and unraveling economy, doing what members of that class have always done-rewarding wealth, incompetence and malfeasance, shifting blame to the victims and passing the bill to the future. ...

New century, new president, new Congress. Same old, tired, failed ideas. Give public money to private interests. Reduce oversight and remove accountability. Feed the military-Industrial complex as much wealth as it demands; console the widows and orphans with condolence letters, casket flags and lies. Flog the myths of "Clean Coal" and "Energy Independence."

--Christopher Cooper, Common Dreams, April 2, 2009

April 3, 2009

Build more: Use more

How do we persuade people to drive less—an environmental necessity—while also encouraging them to revive our staggering economy by buying new cars? The popular answer—switch to hybrids—leaves the fundamental problem unaddressed. Increasing the fuel efficiency of a car is mathematically indistinguishable from lowering the price of its fuel; it’s just fiddling with the other side of the equation. If doubling the cost of gas gives drivers an environmentally valuable incentive to drive less—the recent oil-price spike pushed down consumption and vehicle miles travelled, stimulated investment in renewable energy, increased public transit ridership, and killed the Hummer—then doubling the efficiency of cars makes that incentive disappear. Getting more miles to the gallon is of no benefit to the environment if it leads to an increase in driving—and the response of drivers to decreases in the cost of driving is to drive more. Increases in fuel efficiency could be bad for the environment unless they’re accompanied by powerful disincentives that force drivers to find alternatives to hundred-mile commutes. And a national carbon policy, if it’s to have a real impact, will almost certainly need to bring American fuel prices back to at least where they were at their peak in the summer of 2008. Electric cars are not the panacea they are sometimes claimed to be, not only because the electricity they run on has to be generated somewhere but also because making driving less expensive does nothing to discourage people from sprawling across the face of the planet, promoting forms of development that are inherently and catastrophically wasteful.

--David Owen, "Economy vs. environment", The New Yorker, Mar 30, 2009

So the more electricity that is produced without burning those fossil fuels, the less fossil fuel will be burned, putting less greenhouse-creating goop in the air and therefore easing (or at least not exacerbating) global warming. Right?

No. Wrong.

Or at least doubtful.

Unless the expansion of wind, solar, and other renewable power sources is accompanied by some mechanism to reduce the demand for - and therefore the production of - electricity from coal and oil.

The reason, according to many experts (and not refuted by any) is that the human demand - or at least the American human demand - for electricity is effectively infinite. The more that is produced, the more that will be consumed, as our technological and innovative (and somewhat hedonistic) society creates more electronic gadgets. ...

There is, of course, another way to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced by power generation: use less power. That does not require slower economic growth, as demonstrated in one state - this one.

--Jon Margolis, "The wind and the warmth", Vermont New Guy, Apr 2, 2009

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, Vermont