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By Mark Jaffe
The Denver Post
Posted: 07/23/2014 05:04:48 PM MDT
The opening salvo in the battle over the future of rooftop solar in Colorado is slated to take place Thursday at a Colorado Public Utilities Commission workshop.
Xcel Energy, the state's largest electricity utility, with 1.2 million customers, has challenged a key financial incentive — net metering — for installing a residential rooftop solar array.
The PUC will hear from an Xcel executive and from representatives of the solar industry and the Colorado Rural Electric Association. The meeting, at PUC headquarters at 1560 Broadway, begins at 10 a.m.
The workshop is the first of three fact-gathering sessions the commission will hold before it decides how to proceed, said PUC spokesman Terry Bote.
Net metering provides a credit for every kilowatt-hour an array puts on the grid at the same price residential customers are charged for electricity — about 10.5 cents.
As other incentives are cut back in Xcel's Solar Rewards program, the net metering credit has become key to the financing of the units.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_26204192/battle-over-xcels-net-metering-credit-starts-thursdayShare This Post
July 25, 2014 | Updated: July 26, 2014 3:36pm
If California and much of the West is suffering from severe drought, then why have the responses to it been weak and largely ineffective? The answers are as complicated as California's water system itself, with our wildly diverse sources and uses of water, prices and water rights, institutions, and more. But here are some observations.
By almost any definition, the current drought is severe. The U.S. Drought Monitor, which provides a rough measure of natural conditions, shows 100 percent of California to be in "severe" drought or worse. Other indicators, such as reservoir levels, river flows, water available to farmers and fish, fire risk and stream temperatures, also highlight the drought's severity. This year will be one of the driest on record, and it is the third dry year in a row.
Based on these data, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in January and asked Californians to voluntarily reduce water use by 20 percent. The state also announced the availability of nearly $700 million for drought emergency relief. Yet, six months later and in the hottest, driest time of the year, the state has little progress to show.
Few water agencies or users have aggressively acted to save water. Statewide water use has increased over last year. The governor's declaration was not followed by mandatory restrictions or wide distribution of information on how homeowners, farmers and businesses could save water.
Some agencies have put up billboards urging people to stop wasting water, but few customers have gotten serious requests to reduce use or detailed information telling them how to save water. People don't know what to do, or don't know they should be doing anything, because no one is telling them. Yet, as the newest statewide poll shows, a remarkable three-quarters of the population favors far stronger actions
In short, we're in denial. Why?
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/article/California-drought-requires-urgent-action-5647754.phpShare This Post
By Matt Weiser and Phillip Reese
Published: Monday, Jul. 28, 2014 - 12:00 am
Voluntary conservation measures are not reliably saving water during the worst drought to hit California in a generation, according to data from water agencies across the state. Only mandatory conservation rules, backed by a threat of fines, seem to prompt consumers to save.
California water agencies with mandatory rules alone used 5 percent less water from January through May this year, compared to an average over the three previous years, according to a Bee analysis of the data. Agencies with only voluntary conservation measures saw water demand rise 4 percent over the same period.
The difference is even more significant when examining only the month of May. That is the most recent month for which data is available. It also was an unusually hot month in many areas and marks a point when it was obvious that drought was gripping the state.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/07/28/6586310/voluntary-water-conservation-not.htmlShare This Post
July 25, 2014 | Updated: July 26, 2014 3:38pm
Water fights in California are usually about how to take more water rather than about how to conserve what we have, so it is no surprise that the state does not regulate groundwater pumping. Why invest in efficient water-use technology when you can stick your drinking straw into your neighbors' wells without consequence? A third year of drought has changed that thinking.
A broad coalition of water folks including groundwater users has gotten behind legislation that would end California's status as the only Western state that doesn't manage its groundwater and the only state that doesn't treat surface water and groundwater as part of the same hydrologic system. The drought has been the catalyst to do what we must do - pass laws to bring California into the modern age of water use.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Pass-law-to-regulate-diminishing-California-5647756.phpShare This Post
Growers begin looking at ways to store more, recharge supply
By Kevin Fagan
July 26, 2014 | Updated: July 26, 2014 10:26pm
Ditch tender for San Luis Canal Company Dean Peck twists open a gate along the Arroyo canal to release water to a farmer while checking on meters and gates in the area as he delivers water July 24, 2014 near Los Banos, Calif. Most Central Valley farmers received no more than a 5 percent water allotment this season from government water sources, leaving many farmers with no choice but to pump ground water to keep their businesses afloat.
But that was before the drought, and before the land began to sink beneath their feet.
Now they and every farmer for miles around are talking to each other all the time, brainstorming in ways they've never had to before.
The ground is sinking because farmers and water agencies throughout the Central Valley are pumping groundwater heavily from far beneath the Earth's surface to make up for the lack of rain. The problems caused by this sinkage are many, with no easy fix in sight.
Vlot's wells are collapsing, crushed by the shifting soils. The dam Hurley depends on to divert water into the company's canals from the San Joaquin River has sunk so far - about 3 feet in just five years - that the river is threatening to spill over. If that happens, he'll have less water to distribute to farmers who grow cotton, tomatoes and a range of other crops.
The deepwater aquifer being tapped by thousands of wells throughout the valley will take generations to restore, experts say. And if the sinking isn't stopped, everything from house foundations to railroad lines - such as the high-speed rail planned for the valley - could suffer.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/California-drought-As-land-sinks-farmers-5649466.phpShare This Post
By Lewis Griswold
The Fresno BeeJuly 26, 2014 Updated 18 hours ago
Fresno and other central San Joaquin Valley cities want residents to reduce water usage in light of the state's three-year drought.
And they're doing whatever it takes, including sending water cops through neighborhoods to look for water wasters, monitoring water meter readings for signs of toilet or faucet leakage and recommending shorter showers.
But some wonder just how much more Valley residents can save.
In Fresno, per-capita water use is down more than 20% since 2008, and other cities say water use has gone down.
Meanwhile, city workers are writing tickets, imposing fines and educating the public about water regulations and water-saving strategies.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/07/26/4042126/in-drought-water-cops-crack-down.htmlShare This Post
Jennifer Stokes and Thomas Hendrickson
July 25, 2014 | Updated: July 26, 2014 9:39pm
While excessive water use is easily spotted above ground, the Department of Water Resources estimates that 10 percent of California's treated drinking water is lost through leaks in the water system.
California is experiencing a historic drought, requiring water providers to stretch limited supplies to meet our needs. Among our efforts to use water wisely, investments in leak detection, pressure management and water pipe repair deserve more attention.
Why? Because they work and do not depend upon individual behavior changes.
According to the Department of Water Resources, approximately 10 percent of treated drinking water in California escapes through leaks between the treatment plant and customers. Think about it: 200 billion gallons of water, or enough for approximately 1.5 million households, is lost each year through leakage. This has been considered normal, but technological advances, applied along with proactive management, make a lot of these losses preventable.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/article/Leaks-the-under-appreciated-water-conservation-5647739.phpShare This Post
Steven Frisch is president of the Sierra Business Council, a nonprofit network of more than 4,000 businesses, community organizations, local governments and individuals.
Special to The Bee
Published: Monday, Jul. 28, 2014 - 12:00 am
Before they left Sacramento for summer recess, legislators said they would work together to hammer out a new water bond bill when they returned in August. This would replace the $11.14 billion proposal currently on the November ballot, which has already been delayed twice.
Although legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown have put forward conflicting ideas that may be difficult to reconcile, we have confidence our leadership can get the job done. But it will be up to us to hold our elected leaders accountable because if they don’t pass a workable water bond deal, we risk devastating consequences.
Here are just a few reasons why:
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/07/28/6583412/viewpoints-water-bond-must-recognize.htmlShare This Post
By Marc Lifsher
July 27, 2014, 8:41 p.m.
The San Joaquin Valley city of Stockton has had it rough.
It's been plagued with soaring home foreclosures, a municipal bankruptcy and 10%-plus unemployment.
Now, locals are hoping that their luck might change.
Their guarded optimism centers on California's effort to woo a much-sought-after plant to make batteries to power electric cars built by Tesla Motors Inc.
The Golden State was not even in the running until a few months ago, when the Palo Alto company expanded its candidate list that once included only Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas.
In May, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk called California a "long shot" for the massive, 6,500-worker "gigabattery" factory expected to cost as much as $5 billion.
But already several areas are being touted for the job. They include Stockton, the East Bay city of Concord, Sacramento, and Imperial County on the Mexico border, east of San Diego.
But Stockton, population 296,000, is shaping up as a leading in-state contender, economists and business development experts say. They point to plenty of industrial-zoned property, a port that handles ocean-going vessels, major freeway access and nearby rail and airport facilities.
To read the entire article go to: http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-80922017/Share This Post
Published 7:06 pm, Sunday, July 27, 2014
Faced with a huge increase in hazardous oil-carrying trains, California is urging quicker implementation of technology that would prevent train accidents caused by human error. But after pushing back against the idea for nearly half a century, the rail industry is far from ready to adopt the safety measure.
The technology monitors and controls train movements with a digital communications network that links locomotives with control centers. It's designed to prevent collisions by automatically slowing or stopping errant trains that are going too fast, miss stop signals, enter zones with maintenance workers on the track or encounter other dangers.
Yet 45 years after the National Transportation Safety Board first recommended such a system, the technology, known as positive train control or PTC, operates only on a tiny slice of America's rail network - including a segment of the Metrolink commuter rail line in Southern California, which has become a leader in adopting the technology after a crash near Chatsworth (Los Angeles County) killed 25 people and injured 102 in 2008. It is also coming soon to Caltrain in the South Bay and on the Peninsula.
In the four-plus decades since the federal safety board began urging that the technology be installed, 139 crashes that could have been prevented with collision-avoidance systems have occurred on U.S. rail lines, resulting in 288 deaths and 6,500 injuries, according to internal records of the safety agency examined by Hearst Newspapers.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sfgate.com/nation/article/System-can-prevent-train-accidents-rail-industry-5650550.phpShare This Post
July 25, 2014 1:02 pmJuly 25, 2014 1:02 pm
In a thorough piece, “Albany Nears Oil-Hub Status as 100-Car Trains Jam Port,” Bloomberg News does a great job of illustrating why New York State has to work swiftly to get a handle on issues related to the oil-by-rail boom.
Here’s an excerpt, but please click and read the whole piece (and forward it to friends in the region):
Albany’s importance as a link in the energy-production chain is poised to grow under Global Partners’ effort to win state permission to handle oil-sands crude and biofuels for shipping over objections of neighbors and environmental groups.
The convergence of Bakken crude cargoes in upstate New York adds Albany to the roster of North American cities grappling with a surge in rail-borne oil. The public debate in Albany echoes concerns raised elsewhere that the trains pose a risk of spills and fiery derailments like the one in Quebec last year.
“One morning we woke up and all of a sudden there were all of these trains lined up in people’s back yards,” said Vivian Kornegay, an Albany city council member representing the community adjacent to Global Partners’ plant. “When you walk out your back door they are right there. The only thing separating the trains from the houses is a chain link fence.” [Read the rest.]
To read the entire article go to: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/07/25/the-new-oil-patch-rail-lines-in-albany-and-elsewhere/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0Share This Post
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on July 25, 2014 at 2:55 PM, updated July 25, 2014 at 7:35 PM
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber on Friday released a report urging the state to institute a fee on rail cars moving oil and other hazardous materials to fund oil train safety preparedness.
The report, the culmination of a five-month, top-to-bottom review of oil train readiness Kitzhaber ordered in February, shows Oregon has a lot to do before it can claim to be prepared for oil trains already crossing the state.
But on the review's key point -- finding the money to pay for needed fixes -- the governor stopped well short of offering concrete details. His review concludes that Oregon should "consider" a per-barrel fee on crude oil arriving by rail in the state. Just how much? It doesn't say.
Kitzhaber, a Democrat running for re-election, promised to offer those specifics when he submits his budget proposal in November for the Legislature to consider in 2015.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2014/07/gov_john_kitzhabers_oil_train.htmlShare This Post
Posted: 07/27/2014 12:01:00 AM MDT
Electric utilities in Colorado have watched their coal supplies drop in recent months because of clogged capacity on the nation's rail lines. The congestion's biggest impact so far is on coal transport, but other commodities such as oil, grain and manufactured goods also are experiencing shipping delays.
Federal regulators and grain shippers are particularly concerned about capacity constraints as this year's wheat harvest is piling up at shipping terminals.
Utilities still are working to rebuild supplies that fell below normal levels last winter.
Xcel Energy, Colorado's largest power supplier, said it suffered "a bit of a shortage" in the first half of this year when rail operators couldn't deliver enough coal.
Fort Collins-based Platte River Power Authority said it has been "moderately impacted over the past nine months by railroad performance."
Neither utility was forced to curtail generation, but their coal stockpiles fell below levels they seek to maintain in the event of supply disruptions.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_26218754/shortage-rail-capacity-slowing-colorado-shipments-coal-wheatShare This Post
By Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway July 25
Naomi Oreskes is a professor of the history of science at Harvard University. Erik Conway is a historian of science and technology at the California Institute of Technology. They are the co-authors of “The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future” (Columbia University Press), from which this article is excerpted.
It’s 2393. A historian is recounting the collapse of Western civilization due to catastrophic climate change. In her anniversary lecture, she explains how the carbon-combustion complex and blind faith in free markets during the late 20th and early 21st centuries conspired to prevent action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, until it was too late to prevent the Mass Migration of 2093 and the inundation of the world’s great coastal cities. But first, she has to introduce a few old concepts and terms that may no longer be familiar to her audience:
Bridge to renewables
The logical fallacy, popular in the first decades of the 21st century, that the problem of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel combustion could be solved by burning more fossil fuels, particularly natural gas. The fallacy rested on an incomplete analysis, which considered only the physical byproducts of combustion, particularly in electricity generation, and not the other factors that controlled overall energy use and net release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.Share This Post
By NICOLA TWILLEYJULY 25, 2014
Owen Guo provided additional reporting in China. This article was reported with support from the UC Berkeley-11th Hour Food and Farming Journalism Fellowship.
‘In Sichuan, we’re eaters,” said Chen Zemin, the world’s first and only frozen-dumpling billionaire. “We have an expression that goes, ‘Even if you have a very poor life, you still have your teeth to please.’ ” He smiled and patted his not insubstantial belly. “I like to eat.”
Chen, who is 72, never planned on being a dumpling mogul. Like almost everyone who came of age during the Cultural Revolution, he didn’t get to choose his profession. He was a “gadget guy” during his high-school years. “I liked building circuits and crystal radios and that sort of thing,” he told me. “I applied to university to study semiconductor electronics.” But the state decided that Chen should become a surgeon, and so he dutifully completed his studies and amused himself in his free time by learning how to cook: He made Sichuan pickles, kung pao chicken and, of course, dumplings. Even after he became vice president of the Second People’s Hospital in Zhengzhou, a provincial city about halfway between Shanghai and Beijing, Chen remained bored with his day job. “I didn’t have enough to keep me busy,” he said, blinking earnestly, hands steepled beneath his chin. “I would wander round inspecting the building, and I had meetings, but I felt as if I spent most of my time reading the newspaper and drinking tea.” He engaged in lots of Rube Goldberg-like tinkering: jury-rigging the hospital’s aging equipment, fixing his neighbors’ radios and even building Zhengzhou’s first washing machine. And he cooked. For decades, his lunar New Year gifts of homemade glutinous rice balls were legendary among friends and neighbors.
But as China began to open up to the West and Deng Xiaoping, Mao’s reformist successor, declared that some people “will get rich first,” Chen, who not only was bored but had two sons’ weddings to pay for, wanted to become one of those people. It wasn’t long before he started thinking about, as he put it, giving “my rice balls legs.” Chinese pot stickers and rice balls are traditionally made in enormous batches, in order to justify the effort it takes to knead the dough, roll it out, mix the filling and wrap by hand a morsel that stays fresh for only one day. Because of his medical background, Chen had an idea for how to extend the life span of his spicy-pork won tons and sweet-sesame-paste-filled balls. “As a surgeon, you have to preserve things like organs or blood in a cold environment,” Chen said. “A surgeon’s career cannot be separate from refrigeration. I already knew that cold was the best physical way to preserve.”
To read the entire article go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/27/magazine/what-do-chinese-dumplings-have-to-do-with-global-warming.htmlShare This Post