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Death Toll Hits 240 in Philippine Floods

Survivors of flooding from Tropical Storm Ketsana in the Philippines struggled with mud and filth in their homes as the death toll rose to 240, officials said.

Relief teams waded through knee-deep mud and putrid water to help nearly half a million people displaced by the floods, the Philippine Star reported.

“We are concentrating on massive relief operations. (But) the system is overwhelmed, local government units are overwhelmed,” National Disaster Coordinating Council Director Anthony Golez told reporters.

The BBC quoted the government as saying 240 people are known to have died in the disaster. Foreign aid has been sought to help some 375,000 living in makeshift shelters.

Manila and neighboring areas with a total population of about 12 million were the worst hit by the storm, the Star reported. Some areas remained under several feet of water because of inadequate drainage systems and infrastructure facilities including telephone and power services were out of service.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro expressed concern about supplies running out, which would make the situation worse.

The big jump in the death toll was partly due to more than 90 deaths being recorded in Manila.

“My house is super, super messy,” a woman in the Manila suburb of Pasig City told CNN, complaining about the mud left behind by receding floodwaters. It is “really smelly,” she said.

There were also concerns about looting, hoarding of essential commodities and outbreak of diseases.

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo warned hoarders would be punished, Manila Times reported.

“Let us unite through our tradition of sharing and taking care of one another,” she said in a statement.

Enlisted men from the U.S. base joined in the rescue effort, using a helicopter, rubber boats and night capability equipment.

Posted in Infrastructure, Nature & Ecosystems, Other0 Comments

Romania and Azerbaijan Deepen Natural Gas and Energy Ties

Romania and Azerbaijan are deepening their energy ties.

Ziua reported Monday that Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Romania, Eldar Hasanov, said during an interview that common areas of Azeri interest in energy cooperation with Romania include Azerbaijan’s interest in supplying gas for the Nabucco natural gas pipeline project.

In discussing Azeri-Romanian relations Hasanov said, “Azerbaijan has become a country that occupies a leading position in the South Caucasus region, from a geopolitical, geostrategic, as well as from an economic point of view. Azerbaijan has an independent, pragmatic, and balanced foreign policy, and it already plays an important role in the world’s oil and gas infrastructure.

“Our country has become one of the world’s important energy centers, and it is ready to contribute to Europe’s energy supply, in the context of the implementation of the Nabucco and Constanta-Trieste projects. We are also playing an active role in the creation of transport corridors such as Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA), North-South, and East-West.

“Azerbaijan is seen as a trustworthy partner, also because it has registered record rises in GDP and economic development over recent years, and the World Bank recognizes Azerbaijan as the country that has reached the most advanced stage of achievement of its economic reforms.”

Posted in Energy, Energy & Fuels, Infrastructure, Natural Gas, Other1 Comment

Philadelphia Going Green with Rain Capture Plans

Philadelphia is rejecting the infrastructure of tunnels and sewage treatment plants for the green capture of storm water, water department officials said.

A $1.6 billion plan will create an oasis of rain gardens, green roofs, thousands of additional trees and porous pavement among other ambitious ideas to be carried out over 20 years, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday.

The new infrastructure will stall, if not absorb, the flow of billions of gallons of rainwater into the city’s sewer system — which often overwhelms the system.

The Philadelphia Water Department says the project will create jobs, increase property values, improve air quality, reduce energy use and even reduce deaths from heat stroke.

“This is the most significant use of green infrastructure I’ve seen in the country, the largest scale I’ve seen,” said Jon Capacasa, regional director of water protection for the Environmental Protection Agency, which has the final say on whether the plan passes muster.

Regulators and environmental experts are still examining the 3,369-page plan, the newspaper said.

Posted in Energy, Ideas, Humanities, & Education, Infrastructure, Other, Regional0 Comments

Northern Brown Grizzly Bears Feed on Whitefish in Northwest Territories

EDMONTON, Alberta, Sept. 22 (UPI) — Canadian scientists say they have discovered brown grizzly bears are feeding on migrating broad whitefish in a Northwest Territories stream.

Scientists from the University of Alberta say the discovery in the Mackenzie Delta region of the Northwest Territories has researchers advising increased care in petroleum extraction and infrastructure development within the area.

Oliver Barker and Andrew Derocher, who led the study, said they observed at least one brown bear engaged in the unusual activity of caching whitefish at Pete’s Creek, a small Mackenzie River tributary located between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk.

The study marks the first scientific reporting of brown bears feeding on whitefish and supports what is recorded from local traditional knowledge.

Brown bears in the Mackenzie Delta face several challenges. Not only are food sources scarce, the bears are often active for just five months of the year, the scientists said. That creates extreme pressure for them to find adequate nutrition.

“These bears are real opportunists. They’ll take advantage of different food sources,” Barker said. This means some will turn to whitefish which are easily available in large numbers when they migrate in the fall. And although bears are omnivores and can exist on mostly vegetarian diets, fish are a better food source because they are rich in protein and fat.

The discovery is reported in the September issue of the journal Arctic.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Animals, Fish, Infrastructure, Other0 Comments

Bhutan Earthquake Death Tool Reaches Eight

NEW DELHI, Sept. 21 (UPI) — A powerful earthquake struck the Asian kingdom of Bhutan Monday, killing at least eight people, the country’s home minister said.

Bhutanese Home Minister Minjur Dorji said rescue teams traveling in eastern Bhutan could be delayed by closed roads littered with boulders rattled loose by the earthquake, CNN reported.

The 6.1-magnitude earthquake destroyed many homes and damaged monasteries, homes and Bhutanese fort, Dorji said.

“There’s definitely an impact on the infrastructure,” Dorji said.

At first, the quake was registered at 6.3 in magnitude, but the U.S. Geological Survey later revised the magnitude down to 6.1 on the Richter scale.

The number of people injured was unknown, Dorji said, adding that several school children and monks were treated for injuries.

The quake also was felt in India’s northeastern Assam state, which borders Bhutan.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported the quake was about 85 miles northwest of Gauhati, India; 110 miles east of Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu; 380 miles northeast of Kolkata, formerly Calcutta; and 870 miles from New Delhi.

Bhutan is at the eastern end of the Himalaya Mountains, and is bordered on the south, east and west by India and on the north by China.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Infrastructure, Nature & Ecosystems, Other0 Comments

Electric Cars Dominate Frankfurt Motor Show

FRANKFURT, Germany, Sept. 18 (UPI) — Resource-friendly electric cars dominate this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, but not every company agrees.

“The electric car will account for 10 percent of the global market in 10 years,” Carlos Ghosn, head of Renault-Nissan, told the BBC. “It is time for zero emission motoring.”

Those are bold words, and most European carmakers are trying to paint their image as “green” as possible at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show:

Volkswagen is showing off its E-Up, a tiny snub-nosed electric vehicle that the German car giant wants to throw on the market in 2013. The Wolfsburg-based company is also presenting the L1, a bullet-shaped concept car that has a range of 168 miles per gallon thanks to super-light construction materials and a state-of-the-art diesel/electric hybrid motor.

Swedish brand Volvo launched an all-electric city EV, the C30 BEV, which has a range of around 90 miles.

Toyota is revealing the plug-in hybrid version of its Prius, which can drive on its electric motor only on shorter trips and relies on the fuel engine for longer trips.

French-Japanese alliance Renault-Nissan has arguably the world’s most ambitious EV program, with four models presented in Frankfurt.

The four-door Renault Fluence ZE, to be sold as early as 2011, features a swappable battery that can be exchanged automatically at battery swap stations, enabling long-range driving. Renault-Nissan has teamed up with Better Place, a company that plans to build a large infrastructure of battery swap stations in Israel and in several countries in Europe.

Renault also unveiled an electric version of its delivery van Kangoo, for sale in 2011, and a small city cruiser, the Zoe ZE, out in 2012. The Twizy ZE, a four-wheeled city scooter for two people, rounds off the EV product line.

Even Porsche, the German brand famous for its horse-power-studded sports cars, may one day go electric: “I am convinced that one day Porsche will have an electric sports car in its line-up,” Michael Macht, Porsche’s new president and CEO, said in Frankfurt.

But experts say the batteries of today’s EVs are too heavy, too expensive and some say unsafe. A battery pack for an EV costs between $22,000 and $30,000, and its range usually doesn’t extend beyond 90 miles.

That should change over the next few years, says Ian Robertson, head of sales and marketing at German car giant BMW. “The battery manufacturers are advancing so fast at the moment,” Robertson told the BBC.

The Frankfurt Motor Show is one of the industry’s biggest fairs. A total of 781 car and car parts manufacturers from 30 countries are to present around 100 new models, according to the German Automobile Association.

The European car sector has been hit hard by the global downturn, and many companies are now trying to green their image to generate new sales. While domestic cash-for-clunkers programs have helped revive sales, 2010 is expected to be a tough year for the sector.

Because of the crisis, the show is smaller than in previous years — Asian brands Honda and Mitsubishi, for example, decided not to come to Frankfurt.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Art, Cars, Infrastructure, Other, People, Transportation0 Comments

BP Expands U.S. Wind Power Operations

LONDON, Sept. 17 (UPI) — BP is expanding its wind power electricity generation capacity in the United States but is shedding an Indian unit, which has been sold to Green Infra Limited of India.

BP said Green Infra Limited purchased its subsidiary, BP Energy India Private Limited, for a total cash-free, debt-free enterprise value of about $95 million. Green Infra Limited is an independent power producer owned by funds managed by India’s leading infrastructure-focused private equity company, IDFC Private Equity.

BPEIPL owns and operates three wind farms in India with a total generating capacity of about 100 megawatts. The transaction was completed Wednesday.

BP’s decision to sell BPEIPL stemmed from a strategic review in 2008 that shifted focus on developing key wind power markets, especially the United States, as part of its future business strategy.

“We estimate that if 10 percent of the world’s power came from wind, it would cut CO2 emissions by one billion tons per year,” BP said.

The challenge, however, is to expand wind operations to form a material business that can own and operate gigawatts of installed power.

David Nicholas, a BP spokesman, told United Press International the company currently operates six wind power units in the United States and has begun construction of two more this year.

The electricity-generating wind farms include Cedar Creek, Colo., of which BP owns 33 percent and runs in partnership with Babcock & Brown. The wind farm has a gross capacity of 300 megawatts.

The Edom Hills wind farm in California has a gross capacity of 20 megawatts and is wholly owned by BP.

Other wind farms operated by BP include Sherbino Phase I, Texas, which has a gross capacity of 150 megawatts and runs in partnership with Padoma Wind (NRG). BP has a 50 percent stake in the unit.

BP owns 50 percent of Flat Ridge Phase 1, Kansas, which has gross capacity of 100 megawatts and runs with partner Westar Energy.

Silver Star Phase 1, Texas, with a gross capacity of 60 megawatts, is owned 85 percent by BP and is operated in partnership with Clipper Wind.

Fowler Ridge Phase 1 in Indiana has a gross capacity of 400 megawatts and is owned 62 percent by BP and operated jointly with partner Dominion.

At the end of the second quarter of this year, BP’s total net wind capacity was 678 megawatts, including about 100 megawatts from the Indian wind projects and about 30 megawatts from two small installations at a BP refinery and oil terminal in the Netherlands.

The two new wholly owned projects being built in the United States will start producing electricity early next year at Titan in South Dakota, 25 megawatts, BP 100 percent, and Fowler Ridge Phase II, Indiana, at 200 megawatts, Nicholas said.

Following the 2008 strategic review, BP decided to concentrate its global wind development activities on its portfolio of onshore wind development projects and opportunities that it had built up across the United States, Nicholas said.

BP has been building a wind business in the United States with interests in more than 1,000 megawatts of installed gross generating capacity and more than 1,000 megawatts gross capacity at an advanced stage of development. The company says its U.S. wind energy portfolio contains almost 100 projects, with a total potential generating capacity of up to 20,000 megawatts.

BP is one of the largest integrated oil companies in the world, with revenues of $361 billion in 2008.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Business & Economics, Electricity, Energy, Infrastructure, Other, Wind1 Comment

American Border Checkpoints in Iraq Now Powered by Alternative Energy

American Border Checkpoints in Iraq Now Powered by Alternative Energy

While the war in Iraq is remains a topic for debate, one thing is for sure. The use of renewable and alternative energy sources have proven themselves to be a great ally to the American armed forces.

The US Department of Defense released a news article on August 5, 2009 that described the use and to some degree, necessity of alternative energy in Iraq.

While Iraq struggles to rebuild itself, engineers for Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq have partnered with the Army Corps of Engineers to provide power where traditional power is no longer unavailable.

After years of military conflict the infrastructure of Iraq’s power grid remain in question. The use of alternative energy though is allowing for critical border control checkpoints to operate efficiently and now, environmentally as well.

The command’s engineering team has designed a unique system that leverages solar panels along with a large wind turbine. Engineers designed a rugged system they refer to as “energy in a box” for a checkpoint southeast of the Iraqi capital, connecting the wind turbine and solar panel to the appropriate switch gear to enable both power sources to generate electricity as environmental conditions allow.

Iraqi border enforcement teams run the systems, while U.S. forces provide in-depth training on how to operate and maintain them. As an added benefit, the solar and wind systems cost less over the long term than transporting fuel to large generators every week, officials said.

A solar-powered pump that draws well water into an elevated tank gives Iraqi border enforcement teams a consistent source of drinking water. The pump shuts down when the sun goes down, but the tank delivers a continuous supply of water.

“These efforts assist Iraqi border guards with an indirect capability that helps with security,” said Army Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick, commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq.

Reports indicate that by year’s end, one facility southwest of Baghdad will be the first to be fully operated by alternative and renewable energy sources. In 2010, many more solar and wind facilities expect to be erected.

Posted in Energy, Infrastructure, Military, Policy, Law, & Government, Solar, Wind1 Comment

Federal Stimulus and Cleantech Infrastructure

No doubt, cleantech companies were upbeat when the White House stimulus package allocated 13 percent of the total $104 billion stimulus package for green technology. Much of the economic stimulus will flow to cleantech infrastructure, but exactly where will it go?
Cleantech sectors, which were big winners, include smart grid technology with $4.5 billion, energy efficiency for federal buildings with $4.5 billion and wind and solar with $6 billion for new loan guarantees.
It’s an unheard of sum for cleantech. And a recent survey of technology experts by Changewave Research sheds some light on where the impact will be felt most. Changewave surveyed 409 members of the Changewave Research Network, people who work for companies involved in infrastructure projects. The March 12-17 survey covered infrastructure spending in the transportation, electricity/smart grid and broadband sectors. But for this blog I’m going to focus on the results for the smart grid.

Industry respondents were asked which infrastructure areas they think will benefit most from the U.S. economic stimulus package in the next 12 months. Not surprisingly, transportation infrastructure (62 percent) was the winner, followed by alternative energy (44 percent). Electricity/smart grid (29 percent) and water infrastructure (11 percent) also stood out.
In terms of outlook on areas expected to experience the most growth over the next 12 months, electric powerline projects were viewed by surveyed experts as being strong, accounting for 36 percent of the growth. Control systems like generators, switches and circuit breakers registered only 22 percent. On the smart grid side, the investment in smart meters or meter infrastructure registered 37 percent.
What are the companies most likely to benefit from the uptick in spending on the electric grid infrastructure? The survey identifies General Electric and Siemens AG as well-positioned grid infrastructure suppliers. ABB and EMCOR are seen as the prime beneficiaries in the area of powerline infrastructure.
How about the downsides? Those surveyed indicated the biggest barrier to the upgrading of the electric power grid as not-in-my-backyard issues (NIMBY, 43 percent). The other barriers cited included too much bureaucracy (41 percent) and not enough funding (37 percent).
Those barriers will be challenging but the need for an overhaul to the 40-year-old infrastructure is long overdue. –Lee Bruno

Posted in Buildings, Electricity, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Infrastructure, Other, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Transportation, Wind0 Comments

Malthusians & Raindancers

Published in 1968 “The Population Bomb” became an enormously influential book, postulating, among other things, that humanity’s population growth, at current rates of expansion, would within perilously few centuries become a spherical ball of human flesh expanding at the speed of light in all directions into the universe. Like other such doomsday tracts, the Population Bomb extrapolated select demographic trends into the future, and predicted catastrophic shortages – land, food, energy, water, even the air itself.

Now we know better. We know, for example, that greater overall prosperity combined with female literacy – both ineluctable trends – lead to declining human populations, not an exploding population. Within the next century, humanity’s most likely demographic challenge will be how to maintain economic and scientific vitality amidst an aging and declining human population. We know that human population is unlikely to ever exceed 10.0 billion, and that most people seem to voluntarily prefer living in fairly dense urban areas. Despite the apocalyptic and emotionally compelling visions of doomsaying artists and analysts, from Soylent Green to the Population Bomb, these Malthusian messages are incorrect.

With respect to energy, for example, even though easily extracted light crude may becoming somewhat scarce in the world, at $100+/BBL, our planet’s remaining supply of fossil fuel is in no way limited by any realistic constraints. As we document in “Fossil Fuel Reality,” at 1.0 quintillion BTUs of energy consumption per year – 100 million BTUs per person per year on a 10 billion person planet, we have a 300 year supply of likely fossil fuel reserves. This clearly affords us plenty of time to discover and deploy cheap fusion power, or whatever.

With water the argument of the Malthusians remains more credible, at least on the surface. Water is the “new oil,” and pundits predict wars over water as humanity’s industrializing multitudes relentlessly consume more water than ever. The raw materials of prosperity are energy and water, and there are already alarming examples of regional water scarcity that could disrupt the lives and delay the economic development for billions of people. Nonetheless the Malthusians are wrong about water, too.

Ethiopian raindancers – now joined with the
raindancers of technology & free enterprise.
(Photo: Wikipedia)

For thousands of years, human societies turned to raindancers who would perform their sacred rites in an attempt to bring on livegiving rains. But to address the water needs of 10 billion thirsty humans it is not necessary to only bring on the raindancers of antiquity – we now have several new promising technologies that will deliver water abundance at a global scale.

Desalination is a cost-effective, energy-efficient option for many water challenged regions – it can offer a backup source of water as well as a less expensive source of water. Using California’s Los Angeles basin as an example, a desalination plant constructed for $5.0 billion dollars could desalinate 1.0 cubic kilometers of water per year from the California Channel, enough water to satisfy the urban residential needs of 5.0 million Angelenos (ref. Desalination Costs). And the perhaps 5-to-1 waste water brine could easily be safely dispersed by outfall pipes running well into the California Channel, where more than 20 sverdrups (one Sverdrup equals 35 thousand cubic kilometers of water) of ocean water per year is passed along the coast by the California current.

The energy to desalinate water, 2.0 kilowatt-hours per cubic meter, is less than the amount of energy necessary to move, for example, up to 6.0 cubic kilometers of water per year over the Tehachapi Mountains (a lift of about 700 meters), from California’s Central Valley into the Los Angeles basin. That is, at somewhere between 500 and 700 meters of lift, it takes more energy to pump water over a mountain than it takes to desalinate an equivalent quantity from the ocean.

Another technological raindance, again using California as an example, is seasonal runoff harvesting. During even routine droughts, especially now that California’s policymakers intend their state to host up to 50 million residents within a couple of decades, Californian’s fret over finding enough water for the burgeoning annual needs of environment, agriculture, industry, and residents. But even during droughts, often during spring, there can be significant torrential storms that will each introduce cubic kilometer quantities of runoff, temporarily overwhelming streams and rivers downstream from reservoirs. If anything, this runoff often can seriously disrupt ecosystems, and should instead be captured and sequestered. At the same time, hydrologists estimate there are at least 10.0 cubic kilometers of aquifer storage already identified in California, with far more storage than that potentially available. California needs to develop systems to harvest runoff and refill her acquifers. In addition to percolation ponds and direct injection facilities, this particular raindance will require massive construction of weirs and holding ponds, aquaducts, pipes, and pumping systems (ref. California’s Water System).

Reuse and recycling technologies deliver additional raindancing enablers of water abundance. The potential of water reuse and recycling technologies is only beginning to be tapped, and the proliferation of these technologies is only beginning. Closely tied with these advances is the phenomenon of miniaturization and decentralization, whereby water harvesting, storage, reuse and recycling technologies can be implemented to create a water-positive usage profile at the building scale, at the scale of a community, or at the scale of a mega-city. Water, like energy, has the potential to be realized in an autarkic mode, and hence can make any building, community, or city able to elect to live off-grid or on-grid.

Last but not least are the raindancers of the market, where a well-regulated water grid, of sorts, operates like an energy grid, with spot prices and as much fungibility as can be cost-effectively facilitated. Water shortages need never occur if there is a well-established market-oriented grid for water supply and delivery among a pluralistic assortment of water suppliers and consumers, using the entire array of new raindancing technologies. A grid of exchange and delivery, where for each ton of Alfalfa or Rice not grown, for example, residential users purchase the water instead at a fair price, and within the arbitrage of such transactions are extracted revenues to finance increasingly advanced water infrastructure.

The essense of the Malthusian fallacy is the notion that human innovation cannot create abundance, cannot alleviate all needs. As long as the spark of individual creativity is not squelched by the vested interests of those who only benefit from extrapolations of the status-quo, abundance in all things is our destiny.

Posted in Consumption, Energy, Infrastructure, Other, Population Growth, Recycling, Regional, Science, Space, & Technology3 Comments

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