Generally, when electricity demand rises in an area, we just fire up some source like a gas plant or a coal plant, or put more water through a hydroelectric dam, to produce more electricity to meet that demand. But what about other users voluntarily shifting their use to compensate for that rise in demand? This concept of Demand Response sounds simple, but until recent technological developments, like a smarter grid and rapid energy communication and control systems, it wasn’t feasible since the response time needed to be in minutes, not hours.
Some users can shift their energy usage to different … [read more]
The rapid increase in U.S. oil production has had a number of impacts. One of these is that shipping of crude oil by rail has increased more than 400% since 2005, due to pipeline limitations and the sheer pace of development. On Monday, a train carrying 109 oil cars derailed in West Virginia and 20 of the oil cars exploded. Other recent, high profile accidents have rekindled the discussion about the safety of transporting oil-by-rail that began after a derailment in Quebec in July, 2013 killed 47 people.
In July 2014, the Department of Transportation issued a new rule … [read more]
Coal can’t get much love. Cheap natural gas and a bevy of EPA regulations are conspiring to force old coal plants to close and pushing U.S. production down to less than one billion short tons, near a two-decade low. While low-cost production in Wyoming and Illinois has been able to hold steady, the legacy mines of Appalachia face devastating losses in production and jobs. Meanwhile, projects that were supposed to demonstrate a future for coal in a carbon-constrained world are struggling or dead. The Obama administration pulled the plug on the FutureGen clean coal project this month. Another similar project … [read more]
Today there are 100 nuclear plants operating in the United States, providing roughly 17% of our electricity. They do so with water technology developed in the 1960’s and 1970’s and many of these plants are extending their licenses from 40 to 60 years after careful regulatory review. Even new design nuclear plants such as Westinghouse’s AP-1000 and General Electric’s ESBWR are fundamentally the same technology, which are described as evolutionary. Yet today there are many new innovative designs and technologies that are being developed that are not water based.
These innovators face enormous challenges in coming up with new designs … [read more]
The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, along with the Highway Revenue Act (1956) created the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) as a mechanism through which federal gasoline taxes would be used to fund the construction and maintenance of the U.S. highway system. Both the taxes themselves and the authority to place these funds into the HTF expire and must be extended periodically. In 1993, the last increase brought the federal gas tax to 18.4 cents per gallon, 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel. Many point to inflation and increased fuel efficiency as causes of significant shortfalls in the HTF and claim … [read more]