Flood Pictures

Not much coverage on this in the national news AFAICT – seems everybody is concentrating on other topics. According to CNN, the hot topics of the day are “George Carlin”, West Nile Virus”, “Gas Prices”, “Iran”, and “Election Center”. I wonder if this has something to do with the folks being affected by the flooding.


Update – Those pictures were posted on Boston Globe’s new photo blog – The Big Picture.



It’s About Time

WASHINGTON – Power producer NRG Energy Inc. is expected on Tuesday to submit the first application for a new nuclear reactor in the U.S. in nearly 30 years.

NRG’s application for two new units at its South Texas Project in Bay City will be the first complete construction and operating license submission the government has received since before the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Scott Burnell on Monday said the agency, based on conversations with the company, expects to receive NRG’s application Tuesday morning. He added that the government still expects to receive up to six more applications this year from Duke Energy Corp., Dominion Resources Inc. and others.

Utilities see in nuclear plants an opportunity to affordably meet demand for electricity, which the Energy Information Administration is forecasting will grow by 42 percent by 2030. High natural gas prices and the prospect of taxes or constraints on greenhouse gases are making gas- or coal-fired plants less attractive.

While NRG and other nuclear renaissance enthusiasts expect new reactors to come online by 2015, a March report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service predicted the process would take closer to 15 years to complete for several reasons, including the government’s new review, testing and approval procedures.

Representatives from NRG did not immediately return calls for comment Monday afternoon. The company last month said it selected reactor designs from Toshiba Corp. for the two units, which are expected to generate enough power for more than 2.1 million homes when operational in 2014 and 2015.

NRG, based in Princeton, N.J., filed its letter of intent to construct the two units in June 2006, and expects work on the first to start at the end of 2010.

On a side note, I was reading an interesting article in Time last night about the Arctic ice cap, which scientists now say will completely melt during the summer by 2040, and there’s nothing we can do today to stop it. The Time article primarily dealt with the new land grab going on up there, which ironically, has to do with global energy reserves believed to be located under the arctic sea bed. Go figure. If we hadn’t stopped developing nuclear reactors in the states back in the 70’s, maybe more of that ice cap would still be there?

Next Century’s Beach Front Bargains

A Google Maps mashup that displays the flood impact of global warming in the United States. The elevation data provided by NASA doesn’t appear to too far off – a quick look at my house shows my investment is doomed to a watery grave if sea levels rise seven meters, or about 23 feet. The site also helps predict possible storm surge threats in your particular area, since you can adjust the flood meter up until you get a clear flood path between the closest water body and your house.

Found via Reason.

Bio vs. Electric

Let’s do some basic math. In 2006, Americans used about 7.5 billion barrels of oil. By 2030, that could increase about 30 percent to 9.8 billion barrels, projects the Energy Information Administration. Much of that rise would reflect higher gasoline demand. In 2030, there will be more people (an estimated 365 million vs. 300 million in 2006) and more vehicles (316 million vs. 225 million). At most, biofuels would address part of the increase in oil demand; it wouldn’t reduce our oil use or import dependence from current levels.

Suppose we reach the administration’s ultimate target of 60 billion gallons in 2030. That would offset less than half of the projected increase in annual oil use. Here’s why. First, it’s necessary to convert the 60 billion gallons into barrels. Because there are 42 gallons in a barrel, that means dividing by 42. Further: Ethanol has only about two-thirds of the energy value of an equal volume of gasoline. When you do all the arithmetic, 60 billion gallons of ethanol displace just under 1 billion barrels of gasoline. If that merely offsets increases in oil use, it won’t cut existing import dependence or greenhouse gases.

WaPo OpEd by Robert J. Samuelson (free reg required)

Electric cars and trucks and a major ramp up in the number nuclear power plants seems like a better solution over the long term.

Literally Sublime

Catching up late night after a long long day of coding. Found this post on BLDGBLOG, digging into a recent New York Times article. Interesting stuff, made even more facinating by BLDGBLOG’s brilliant writers-

“We are already in a new era of geography,” said the Arctic explorer Will Steger. “This phenomenon – of an island all of a sudden appearing out of nowhere and the ice melting around it – is a real common phenomenon now.” In August, Mr. Steger discovered his own new island off the coast of the Norwegian island of Svalbard, high in the polar basin. Glaciers that had surrounded it when his ship passed through only two years earlier were gone this year, leaving only a small island alone in the open ocean.

That image, of course, is both horrific and exhilarating – literally sublime: the discovery of terra nova, right here on a planet that once seemed topographically claimed. Surely our era is due for a new Jules Verne?

Meanwhile, as Arctic temperatures continue to rise, and as the Greenlandic ice cap continues to liquefy, we’ll see more and more spectacular – if catastrophic – shifts in global geography. (Whole new continents!)

And this won’t be limited to the Arctic: “Over the long term,” we read, “much larger sea-level rises would render the world’s coastlines unrecognizable, creating a whole new series of islands.”

Inconvenient Truth

Public records reveal that as Gore lectures Americans on excessive consumption, he and his wife Tipper live in two properties: a 10,000-square-foot, 20-room, eight-bathroom home in Nashville, and a 4,000-square-foot home in Arlington, Va. (He also has a third home in Carthage, Tenn.) For someone rallying the planet to pursue a path of extreme personal sacrifice, Gore requires little from himself.

Then there is the troubling matter of his energy use. In the Washington, D.C., area, utility companies offer wind energy as an alternative to traditional energy. In Nashville, similar programs exist. Utility customers must simply pay a few extra pennies per kilowatt hour, and they can continue living their carbon-neutral lifestyles knowing that they are supporting wind energy. Plenty of businesses and institutions have signed up. Even the Bush administration is using green energy for some federal office buildings, as are thousands of area residents.

But according to public records, there is no evidence that Gore has signed up to use green energy in either of his large residences. When contacted Wednesday, Gore’s office confirmed as much but said the Gores were looking into making the switch at both homes. Talk about inconvenient truths.

Gore is not alone. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has said, “Global warming is happening, and it threatens our very existence.” The DNC website applauds the fact that Gore has “tried to move people to act.” Yet, astoundingly, Gore’s persuasive powers have failed to convince his own party: The DNC has not signed up to pay an additional two pennies a kilowatt hour to go green. For that matter, neither has the Republican National Committee.

Maybe our very existence isn’t threatened.


I’d say the global warming threat is real, albeit a little blown out of proportion right now, and that Gore’s hypocrisy shouldn’t give the rest of us any reason not to conserve energy or decrease the amount of pollution we produce.

Nuclear Energy

The co-founder of Greenpeace gets behind nuclear energy –

The 600-plus coal-fired plants emit nearly 2 billion tons of CO2 annually — the equivalent of the exhaust from about 300 million automobiles. In addition, the Clean Air Council reports that coal plants are responsible for 64 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions, 26 percent of nitrous oxides and 33 percent of mercury emissions. These pollutants are eroding the health of our environment, producing acid rain, smog, respiratory illness and mercury contamination.

Meanwhile, the 103 nuclear plants operating in the United States effectively avoid the release of 700 million tons of CO2 emissions annually — the equivalent of the exhaust from more than 100 million automobiles. Imagine if the ratio of coal to nuclear were reversed so that only 20 percent of our electricity was generated from coal and 60 percent from nuclear. This would go a long way toward cleaning the air and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Every responsible environmentalist should support a move in that direction.


Personally I’m all for nuclear power. There was a big paranoid stink back in the 70s that basically killed the development of new nuclear power plants. Maybe it’s time we revisit the idea now that global warming is reaching center stage and the paranoia over nuclear power plants has subsided. People had less faith in science back then, hopefully this has changed.