The Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference ended Friday, and much of the first day concentrated on energy presentations. Cold Bay, King Salmon, Kodiak, Adak, and other communities from the Bristol Bay/Aleutians area had representatives present as well as Anchorage based office staff of SWAMC. Perceptions, costs, community based applications, etc… There was a concentration of in the immediate getting BTU’s and electricity from fish guts/bones and wastes which are a byproduct of canneries; there were regional reps from a couple of the fish processors in on strategy groups as well as sessions. There was talk of tidal/wave and geothermal energy yet a realistic understanding that these are large projects that would be far off into the future before producing for industry or home use. Most interesting, there was a review the third day of new traffic and demand realities that are up and coming in the future with the increase of traffic in the Bering Straight the next few decades (as well as concern over who will clean up a spill or take care of the classic tragedy of the commons which could occur. This is an active area with Dutch Harbor being one of the top 10 worldwide ports (in terms of activity). The leaders at the conference were on topic, and see directly how energy involves their remote grids -and daily lives.
Often road racing is thought of as a dirty, smoky and fuel wasting sport. Ever wonder how many gallons to the mile those high octane guzzling stock cars get in the large round track races? (Or how much fuel is split in demo derby competitions across the nation?) In New York there has been different sort of venue the past decade in Watkins Glen. Organizer B. Gillespie uses the races as an opportunity to provide public education on renewable/alternative fuels, lowering greenhouse gas emissions as well as not being energy dependent on other nations. This year’s race is a two stage (the first a 100 miles) event. The first is set on a traditional closed off race course with relatively fuel efficient racers and the second stage on public roads for an ‘Electrathon’ which will have 1 person/driver electric vehicles racing. (Now if someone could take a look at monster truck rallies….)
I heard a report yesterday that gas has gone up ~14 cents per gallon to account for the national fuel average of $3.40/gal. Obviously we are far higher than that, and I’m told the day of the announcement that Flint Hills refinery in North Pole was to close, our fuel prices from Washington went up ~13 cents; this was such a sudden jump within 24 hours of the announcement that it is likely it was from the adjustments vendors made in their prices due to lack of market confidence, or expectations of raised costs. The point being, even in energy- not just luxury goods- do the expectations and confidences of vendors and consumers alike change price and quantity demanded. A good economics lesson that transcends the various products in free markets.
FOSSIL FUEL AND GEOTHERMAL ENERGY SOURCES FOR LOCAL USE IN ALASKA (also known at SP066) is a comprehensive compendium of resources which can be viewed by regional breakouts. Good graphics and well laid out text make it a good research piece. (You can download it at http://www.dggs.alaska.gov/pubs/id/24264). In an unusual way, due to the fact that it is the AK geological survey putting it together, you have a combined report of fossil and renewable sources that can be extracted. It is worth perusing through, if not systematically reading it over time, cover to cover!
The latest issue of Bioenergy Insight, Paul Scott Abbott looks at the export of wood pellets to satisfy the demand in the European markets. One way of measuring this is to look at the number of North American ports being built from which pellets can be exported via Canada and the U.S. The article notes that the U.S. has been sending more percentage of volume out than Canada the last couple of years. Much of this has come out of the Southeastern states where new ports in the Carolinas are allowing product that in the past was waste be sent to Europe as a value added heating commodity! Makes you wonder what Alaska could do with its excess wood at the polar ice opens……Attend the Alaska Wood Energy Conference in Fairbanks (Westmark) this April, and I’m sure there will be more discussion on the matter!
Natural gas that is, in referring to a Stanford study published in Science. Though natural gas has been sited as having the advantage of not letting off carbon dioxide, it has been noted in the study that use of natural gas does let off methane- which is not a good thing in terms of green house gasses. You can read more at http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20140215/study-climate-benefits-natural-gas-inflated.
Arriving at midnight into Arizona, the first visible sign of things being drastically different was palm trees. And big cactus. riding on the light rail I spoke with an electrical cooperative operator (of a co-generation power plant) from New Mexico who mentioned it has been the driest there since 1920′s….he said, “We are really hurting, someday water will become a commodity”. (Hopefully Alaska will be an abundant exporter of both at some point). Obviously solar is big here- even the light rail train utilizes solar (for cooling!).
The conference is “Energy, Utility & Environment” which is the countries largest for this genre as they advertise it. 1500 vendors, 500 speakers, a couple thousand attendees, etc….The acting assistant administrator of the EPA just opened up saying it looks like a great conference and that she has ‘agenda envy’…. I’ll keep this blog up to date on developments!
Though not directly related to useable energy, the force and kinetic energy that was involved in the snowslides near Valdez (between the foot of Thompson Pass and Keystone Canyon) was incredible. And the ongoing effort it will take to remove all the snow (where will they put it?) will possibly take months (including the repair of bridges and roadway). The amount of water being penned back from the residual ice is quite dramatic to see (
http://www.trapperman.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/4268041/Valdez_&_Thompson_Pass_Ava#Post4268041). Thankfully, a stranded fuel tank was recently freed when a plow cut through for close to 30 miles to make a rescue path. The close to two dozen people stranded at their subdivision at the foot of Thompson Pass now have phone/power. This will be an ongoing, energy intensive effort- now if we could only figure out how to harness the energy in snowslides!
This week Gene Therriault of the Alaska Energy Authority’s Statewide Energy Policy Development section gave a presentation on Alaskan energy projects ‘on the burner’ with a thorough explanation of the constraints and political considerations with different parts of the state being represented during the ongoing legislative session. Two presentations in the early week were held at the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation and at Alaska Center for Energy and Power’s lecture series out at the Blue Loon. You can view the Blue Loon presentation at: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNXWo6IF1w4KIPv4owxY5uw . Take a look and see what the latest considerations are by our state planners when it comes to energy!
Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas. It forms naturally from the radioactive decay of uranium, which is found at various levels in bedrock. Radon gas escapes upward through the soil from the bedrock below into the air, ground water and surface water. Thus radon is present outdoors and indoors. It is normally recorded at very low levels in outdoor air and in drinking water from rivers and lakes due to dilution. However, it can be found at sustained, higher levels in the air of homes and other buildings due to containment. Once it moves freely throughout the home’s indoor air, occupants breathe it into their lungs where it can cause cell damage that may lead to lung cancer. Radon is particularly deadly when at a high level with a smoker in the house. Like many public health warnings, there is no chart or formula, which tells what level of lung cancer occurs to an individual after particular time/lengths of exposure at certain levels. Rather, the health danger of radon is increases the risk of cancer over a long period of time in a home that has levels above 4 picocuries per liter of air. This is a great month to test your home as homes are rather tight and more likely to show on a test what your most concentrated levels are. Remember, the only way you’ll know what the radon level is in your home is to test! Contact your local cooperative Extension agent or call me 907-474-6366 with any other questions or information on where to obtain testing kits.