Archive for November, 2013

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US National Strategy for the Arctic Region

November 26, 2013

there has been much discussion of this topic in the academic and professional worlds for the past few years, and now the White House has released an official document (link opens a pdf file) which, at the very least, will guide the discussion going forward.

Arctic Shipping Routes

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US ditches Monroe Doctrine, while China appears to be construcing its West Pacific analog

November 25, 2013

Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry proclaimed that the nearly 2 century old Monroe Doctrine, through which the US claimed hegemony over most of the Western Hemisphere, was “dead” (although it should be noted that Kerry either mischaracterized or misunderstands the Monroe Doctrine to begin with).

This week, China has added a new layer to what is essentially its own version of the Monroe Doctrine in the East and South China Seas, identifying areas in international space and even legally Japanese space as subject to China’s air defense rules.   This follows by just a few months China’s extending its controversial “9 dash map” with an even more expansive 10 dash map.

China does not have the military power – yet – to successfully challenge the US on these matters.  However, they are probably banking on the fact that the US in general and this president in particular are not positioned for a fight and will likely let these matters drop with nothing more than a protest.  This gives China its de facto claim over the waters, while at the same time diminishing US credibility as an effective counterbalance to her growing power.  This is a significant victory in the coalitioning phase of the current world power cycle and China has, in effect, won this round without firing a shot.

Read Andrew Erickson for updates on the ADIZ (air defense identification zone) controversy. 

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World Energy Council says efficiency, not renewables, the key to climate mitigation

November 22, 2013

Via Energy Post:

“To deliver sustainable energy systems our focus must shift from the supply mix to demand efficiency.” This is the conclusion that Christoph Frei, Secretary-General of the World Energy Council (WEC), draws from the World Energy Scenarios recently published by WEC. According to this new report, “current technologies, policies, and innovation are not enough to meet climate goals”. Despite strong growth in renewables, fossil fuels will remain dominant. Frei concludes that “We are looking in the wrong place to address the issues facing the sector. We need more demand-side investments, innovation, incentives and stronger technical standards to reduce energy intensity.”

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Natural Gas Technologies in the Distributed Power Sector

November 21, 2013

A wide number of new – or newly enhanced – natural gas technologies are making cheap natural gas an attractive option for business, landowners and even some homeowners, challenging (or, at least, supplementing) rooftop solar in the increasing de-centralization of power generation.

From the latest IEEE Spectrum:

(E)xperts say the boom in the natural gas supply and memories of large-scale outages are  . . . playing a big role in moving electricity generation out of the hands of big utilities.  Different gas-fueled technologies—fuel cells, microturbines, reciprocating engines, and turbines—are now competing for a spot in the basements of businesses. “People are genuinely waking up to their options,” says Kerry-Ann Adamson, research director at Navigant Research. “Distributed-generation technology can be better than the current option of centralized power on the grid.”

This will present a major challenge for existing utilities – and for municipal governments.  Here in Los Angeles, for example, the city uses the Department of Water and Power as a sort of off-the-books piggy bank to hide pension and other costs.  The resulting rate hikes are actually surreptitious (and highly regressive) tax hikes, but if distributed power takes off and undermines the finances of the DWP, the whole house of cards collapses.  Which is why it is important to build out the distributed power system quickly, before the utilities and their politician allies build up legal and policy walls to prevent it.

 

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Wind Farms adversely effecting radar performance

November 20, 2013

Wind farms create vortices that sometimes show up on sophisticated modern radars as weather systems, and can even cause radar images of planes to appear and disappear.  As wind farms increase in both number and in size, this is becoming an increasingly dangerous problem for both military and civilian aircraft and ground controllers.  Additionally, weather tracking and even microwave signals can be impacted by wind farm effects.  The US Air Force is currently looking at ways to solve the radar problem.

Figure4

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Checking in on the 1 Million Electric Vehicle pledge

November 7, 2013

Back when he was running for his first term as president, then Senator Barack Obama made the promotion of plug in hybrid and battery electric vehicles (PHEV and BEV, respectively) a central plank of his energy plan.  Indeed, he made the specific claim that by 2015 at least 1 million PHEV and BEVs would be on the road in the US (and that they would all be made in America).   The latest sales numbers are out and, through the month of October, 2013, the grand total of PHEV and BEVs sold in the US stands at just under 150,000.  While sales have dropped for consecutive months, the yearly total is already greater than it was last year.  Indeed, more than half the PHEVs and BEVs sold in the US since 2009 have been sold this year.  Some of those cars are no longer on the road, so we don’t know the actual total, but no matter – the 1 million car pledge is far from being met and will likely come up about half a million cars short.  I think a big part of the problem is that these cars are somewhat deceptively marketed – they are sold as the equivalent of long haul cruisers, but in reality they are just commuter cars – commuter cars at a premium price, I might add.  In this, they are outperformed by hybrid vehicles, which can combine enhanced gas mileage with long haul capabilities.  Teslas are big here in Los Angeles, but you can’t load the family up and drive them to the Grand Canyon.  You can do that with a Prius – and receive the same access to the car pool lane (not to mention the $30,000+ price premium you will receive).

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Russia nearing completion of its own missile defense system

November 5, 2013

While doing everything it can to slow the pace of a US deployed ballistic missile defense system, Russia is apparently on the verge of launching its own S-500 system which will have the capability of knocking down every known ballistic missile.  The S-500 would be the heir to the world-class S-300 air defense system and is rumored to be deployed as soon as 2017.