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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.
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    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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    Occupy Ogallala


    I got another Keystone XL (KXL) email this morning, but it wasn't from Duncan Meisel or Bill McKibben:

    Dear Friend:

    Thank you for writing.  President Obama has heard from many Americans concerning the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project, and we appreciate hearing from you.

    The President is committed to creating the most open and transparent Government in American history, and values your input.  Given your interest in this matter, you may be interested in reading a recent official White House response to a petition on this issue.  To learn more, please visit: www.WhiteHouse.gov/Energy.

    Thank you, again, for writing.

    Sincerely,

    The White House
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    Daniel Yergin Gets Tight

    I watched Val Kilmer in Red Planet again last night. It's 2056 and Earth has been seeding Mars with algae because our blue marble is almost toast. The acting and SFX are OK, but the plot is contrived. I like scifi enough to overlook small errors, but some of the science in the fiction doesn't make a lot of sense. Spaceships swoosh as they go by, but just about every show does that. A helper robot ignores Asimov's three laws and decides to be a ninja assassin. A scientist calls some exoskeletoned Martian insects, "nematodes," which I recall as being simple roundworms. But hey, it's escapist fantasy.

    In America's New Energy Security, Daniel Yergin jumps on the tight oil bandwagon, claiming that everything's going to be fine because we're finding plenty of new oil in the good old US of A.

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    The Unbelievable Adventures

    I just read that John Neville, who played Baron Munchausen in The Adventures Of ..., and the Well-Manicured Man on The X-Files, has died. In stories, Munchausen was a comical hero able to lift himself to the moon by his own bootstraps, or out of a swamp by his own hair, and so on.

    In the 1970s, I wanted an EV so I could avoid sitting in gas lines. On the one hand pretty girls would walk up and down the line selling coffee, doughnuts, and Washington Posts but on the other there were fistfights and guns drawn over one's place in line. I bought a 120 mpg moped and filled it from my car's tank, so my fingers smelled like gasoline but I only had to refill every 1000 miles.

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    Natural Gas Looks Green


    The greenest car in America still runs on fossil fuel: Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).
     
    Honda Civic Natural Gas Named 2012 Green Car of the Year


    The all-new 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas – the only factory-built, CNG-powered car produced in America – was named 2012 Green Car of the Year® at the Los Angeles Auto Show today. The award was presented to Honda by the editors of Green Car Journal representing a diverse panel of environmental experts and automotive enthusiasts who annually select a single vehicle for its outstanding environmental performance.
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    Green Stuff


     
    I found a blog called Triple Pundit - People, Planet, Profit - which purports to discuss sustainable business practices. As a reflection of the difficulty of practicing both sustainability and profitability, some articles impress me and some depress me.
     
    After attending a presentation by BMW’s Manuel Sattig at Opportunity Green 2011, a guest author rethinks some reservations TriplePundit has expressed about other EVs in The BMW i3: Advancing Automotive Sustainability

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    Fuel me twice


     
    In 2007, Time Magazine dubbed the Prius design team, Heroes of the Environment. By contrast, I recently posted a Mother Jones news item about the dirty secret that making hybrids, EVs and a lot of other gizmos requires rare earths that are about as nasty to refine as tar sands. 
     
    Over at TTAC, Bertel Schmitt first interviewed the leader of that team, Toyota Chief Engineer Ogiso Satoshi (in the center, above) about the effort that led to the Prius: 
     
    “Look, when we started the Prius project in 1993, we did not even think of a hybrid system for the Prius. We did not set out to build a hybrid. We studied what was needed for the 21st century, and two things were certain: The need to protect the environment, and the need to bring consumption down. That’s all we knew, and you did not need to be a clairvoyant to know it.”
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    Peak Fuhgeddaboutit

    The Post Carbon Institute's Energy Bulletin has reposted an Oil Drum wrapup of ASPO Day One, my ASPO article and a reassuring article from PRNewsWire:

    Ricardo Study Suggests Global Oil Demand May Peak Before 2020

    Ricardo today announced the results of a landmark multi-client research study conducted by Ricardo Strategic Consulting in association with Kevin J. Lindemer LLC, and involved participation of some of the world's leading energy and technology companies and organizations. The research challenged the concept that "Peak Oil" will be a supply side phenomenon and predicts that the demand for oil may well peak before 2020 and then fall back to levels significantly below 2010 demand by 2035.

    IOW, we needn't worry about fuel prices because we're going to need and want less and less of the nasty stuff anyway. If why that will be true isn't obvious to you, read on.

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    ASPO Conference: Adapting to future scenarios

    I just attended the Saturday session of the 2011 ASPO USA conference. I had been hoping to take a few personal days and attend Thursday and Friday as well, but it is hard to predict the future. I had to get some drawings out on Thursday, and had to do a code study for a Monday meeting. At least commuting was easy on Saturday. I took Metro to Union Station, walked out past Bike Station and about three blocks to the Hyatt Regency.
     

    There were four morning sessions listed: Investor's Roundtable featured Robert Rapier, whose R-Squared blog I read a bit, Community Adaptation and the Post-Peak Economy with ArchDruid John Michael Greer and Kollapsnik Dmitry Orlov, each of whom I follow a lot, Bringing Peak Oil into the National Policy Debate, and Innovative Communications, Writing a New American Story with Farmer/Author Sharon Astyk, who I also follow a lot. I chose Community Adaptation and sat in the front row. A woman sat next to me and we started chatting about the horrid traffic in DC. They had driven in from Ohio. Her husband brought the latest NY Times and Wall Street Journal. Then a familiar-looking young woman stopped in and gave her a hug. "Was that Megan Quinn Bachman?" I asked. Bachman was moderating the panel, and I had seen her picture on The Oil Drum many years ago when she had co-produced The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.
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    Solar Decathlon: Wrapping It Up

     

     
    On our way back from PA, and no internet access, the wife and I stopped in for the final day of the Solar Decathlon. The shuttle dropped us close to the media trailer, and Charlotte filled us in as to who had won. As I expected, the University of Maryland maintained their lead from Friday and WaterShed (above) was declared the overall winner. Purdue's INhome surprised me by finishing second, New Zealand's First Light closed to third and Middlebury's Self-Reliance took fourth.
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    Solar Decathlon: Affordability



    An unexpected deadline foiled my plans to attend the Solar Decathlon last weekend, and I'm not sure I'm going to make it back. But DOE has posted a photo gallery of interior shots for each entry, which are certainly better than any picture I could have snapped among a crowd of observers. To the left is Team Canada's master bedroom.


     

     

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    The Lash or the Pipeline



    In, Saudi woman's lashing drives home differences in oil, a Calgary Herald writer supports the mining of tar sands to produce synthetic oil by leveraging sympathy for the powerlessness of Saudi women.

    ... Sheima Jastaniah was sentenced by a Saudi court to 10 lashes for driving her car in July. In Saudi Arabia, it is against the law for women to drive, or to leave their homes without the permission of their husbands or other male relatives. What's really sad about Jastaniah's story, besides the obvious fact that she is a woman living in Saudi Arabia, is that she took part in a similar act of civil disobedience in, get this . . . 1990! A full 21 years have passed and not a thing has changed for her or any other female in that woman's maximum security prison called Saudi Arabia.
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    Visiting the Solar Decathlon in progress

    The Solar Decathlon felt like a small Olympic village today as team members from Canada, New Zealand, Belgium, China and the US hustled to finish their houses by Tuesday evening. Wearing Red Wing boots, I trudged the 1.3 miles from the Smithsonian Metro station to West Potomac Park. Because the nineteen small structures are still under construction, visitors were required to wear hard-soled boots, long trousers, a shirt with sleeves, safety glasses and a hardhat.

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    Oil Springs Eternal

    Writing The Prize (1991) , and winning a Pulitzer for it, brought Daniel Yergin automatic creds in the energy industry. Through Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), he has consistently maintained a cornucopian viewpoint about the future availability and price of oil, to the point that the energy depletion community has defined a Yergin unit as the $38 per barrel that in 2005, Yergin predicted would be the steady price of oil. Oil reached two Yergins in 2006, spiked to 3.6 Yergins in 2008, and currently Brent crude is trading at 3 Yergins. 

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    Solar Decathlon under assembly

    Solar Decathlon: A sneak peek at the houses from Mother Nature Network offers a quick look at each entry. Assembly started yesterday, and the event is open to the public starting September 23rd through October 2nd at the National Mall's West Potomac Park, near the FDR memorial, and not too far from the MLK memorial.

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    'Big Oil' Firms Peaking




    In, Has Peak Oil Come To The Non-Opec World? Maybe., Forbes advises investors that the traditional Western Big Oil firms have peaked, and to look elsewhere for profits from new production:
     

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