Thursday, October 29, 2009

Climate Change Legislation Will Increase Diesel Prices, Hurt Consumers

/PRNewswire/ -- The American Trucking Associations (ATA) First Vice Chair Barbara Windsor told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today that the current cap-and-trade proposal will increase the price and volatility of diesel fuel for the trucking industry without significantly reducing carbon emissions.

"ATA strongly supports efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make this country more energy independent," said Windsor, who is President and CEO of Hahn Transportation in New Market, Md. "However, an economy-wide cap and trade system is not the answer." Proponents of an economy-wide cap-and-trade system say increasing the price of fuel will reduce consumption, Windsor said, but that does not hold true in the trucking industry.

"In our industry, a higher fuel price does not translate into fewer miles traveled because the nation depends on trucks to deliver nearly 100 percent of the food, clothes, and medicines that we use in our daily lives," said Windsor. "Instead, this increase in diesel prices will raise logistics costs within the economy and hurt the American consumer."

Cap-and-trade requires oil refineries to purchase emission allowances that cover their direct refining operations and the amount of carbon produced by downstream combustion of the produced fuels. "The costs associated with obtaining these allowances will be passed on the fuel consumers in the form of higher prices," said Windsor. "A major petroleum supplier to the trucking industry has advised that diesel fuel costs could rise by up to 88 cents."

"Should Congress move forward with a cap-and-trade carbon control system, oil refinery carbon caps should apply only to the refinery's direct carbon emissions and not to the downstream combustion of the products they produce such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel," said Windsor.

Cap-and-trade also will increase price volatility as carbon prices will fluctuate. Volatile fuel prices make it very difficult for trucking companies to accurately predict expenses and pass them on to customers.

ATA is concerned with the support of various investment banks for cap-and-trade. These firms would profit from volatility in the energy futures markets and a carbon derivatives market. Congress must reform commodity trading before creating new derivative carbon markets.

Windsor's testimony suggested alternative methods of reducing carbon emissions from the trucking industry. These alternatives are set forth in ATA's environmental sustainability plan, which would reduce fuel consumption by 86 billion gallons and reduce the carbon footprint of all vehicles by nearly a billion tons over the next 10 years. The sustainability plan includes: a national 65 mph speed limit and governing new truck speeds to 65 mph or below; decreasing idling; reducing highway congestion through highway infrastructure improvements; increasing fuel efficiency through EPA's SmartWay Program; promoting the use of more productive truck combinations; and supporting national fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

"Our plan can achieve real results with far less cost and disruption to our industry sector than under a cap-and-trade scenario," said Windsor.

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Harvesting Energy from Natural Motion

By taking advantage of the vagaries of the natural world, Duke University engineers have developed a novel approach that they believe can more efficiently harvest electricity from the motions of everyday life.

Energy harvesting is the process of converting one form of energy, such as motion, into another form of energy, in this case electricity. Strategies range from the development of massive wind farms to produce large amounts of electricity to using the vibrations of walking to power small electronic devices.

Although motion is an abundant source of energy, only limited success has been achieved because the devices used only perform well over a narrow band of frequencies. These so-called “linear” devices can work well, for example, if the character of the motion is fairly constant, such as the cadence of a person walking. However, as researchers point out, the pace of someone walking, as with all environmental sources, changes over time and can vary widely.

“The ideal device would be one that could convert a range of vibrations instead of just a narrow band,” said Samuel Stanton, graduate student in Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, working in the laboratory of Brian Mann, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials sciences. The team, which included undergraduate Clark McGehee, published the results of their latest experiments early online in Applied Physics Letters.

“Nature doesn’t work in a single frequency, so we wanted to come up with a device that would work over a broad range of frequencies,” Stanton said. “By using magnets to ‘tune’ the bandwidth of the experimental device, we were able verify in the lab that this new non-linear approach can outperform conventional linear devices.”

Although the device they constructed looks deceptively simple, it was able to prove the team’s theories on a small scale. It is basically a small cantilever, several inches long and a quarter inch wide, with an end magnet that interacts with nearby magnets. The cantilever base itself is made of a piezoelectric material, which has the unique property of releasing electrical voltage when it is strained.

The key to the new approach involved placing moveable magnets of opposing poles on either side of the magnet at the end of the cantilever arm. By changing the distance of the moveable magnets, the researchers were able to “tune” the interactions of the system with its environment, and thus produce electricity over a broader spectrum of frequencies.

“These results suggest to us that this non-linear approach could harvest more of the frequencies from the same ambient vibrations,” Mann said. “More importantly, being able to capture more of the bandwidth makes it more likely that these types of devices could someday rival batteries as a portable power source.”

The range of applications for non-linear energy harvesters varies widely. For example, Mann is working on a project that would use the motion of ocean waves to power an array of sensors that would be carried inside ocean buoys.

“These non-linear systems are self-sustaining, so they are ideal for any electrical device that needs batteries and is in a location that is difficult to access,” Mann said.

For example, the motion of walking could provide enough electricity to power an implanted device, such as a pacemaker or cardiac defibrillator. On a larger scale, sensors in the environment or spacecraft could be powered by the everyday natural vibrations around them, Mann said.

Mann’s research is supported by the Office of Naval Research.

By Richard Merritt

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Suniva, FLS Energy Target Southeast U.S. With High-Performance U.S. Solar Farm

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Suniva, Inc., a U.S. manufacturer of high-efficiency monocrystalline silicon solar cells and modules, and FLS Energy, a North Carolina-based solar energy generation company, yesterday announced they will integrate Suniva’s high-power, solar modules in a series of installations in the southeastern U.S. The first project is a 550 kW solar farm that will occupy a former landfill; implementation is underway in North Carolina. FLS Energy has a 20 year power purchase agreement to sell the solar generated electricity to Progress Energy.

“We’re seeing unprecedented demand in the Southeast for solar,” said Michael Shore, president of FLS Energy. “In order to address the rapidly expanding market here, FLS is committed to using the most advanced, efficient, and cost-effective solar technology available. Working with Suniva will allow us to address growing demand with technology that combines high-yield solar power with high-quality U.S. manufacturing content.”

Suniva’s UL and IEC certified, CEC listed solar modules contain more than 90% U.S. content and offer a 25-year performance warranty, representing the highest quality standards in today’s industry. The modules are powered by Suniva’s high-efficiency ARTisun® series solar cells and deliver peak power output up to 300watts, one of the highest in the industry. High power output is a key factor in reducing installation and balance-of-system costs in all installations.

“Working with FLS Energy, Suniva will play a major role in driving growth in the southeastern solar market,” said John Baumstark, CEO of Suniva. “Our solar modules Powered by Suniva™ cell technology will enable FLS’s installations to deliver some of the highest levels of performance and reliability in the industry.”

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Southern Company Awarded $165 Million to Advance Smart Grid Initiatives

/PRNewswire/ -- Southern Company yesterday announced that it has been awarded a $165 million in stimulus funds as part of President Obama's plan to invest $3.4 billion to spur transition to a smarter energy grid.

"As an industry leader in developing and deploying new technologies, Southern Company is pleased to be among those selected to advance this critical investment in our nation's electric infrastructure," said Southern Company Chairman, President and CEO David Ratcliffe. "These funds will be used to augment the company's robust investment in grid reliability, already among the nation's best, and make it more efficient and secure."

Southern Company received the grant to integrate smart-grid technology into its transmission and distribution system that can:

-- Reduce the loss of electricity as it moves from the generating plant
to homes and businesses; reducing delivery losses can have a direct
environmental and economic impact by increasing efficiency and
reducing carbon emissions
-- Better locate the area of an outage before dispatching crews, reducing
outage time for customers
-- Improve monitoring and control capabilities of the system while
enhancing proven grid reliability

For example, line devices with two-way communication will be installed to enable system operators to isolate faulted lines remotely. Moreover, some of these devices will be placed in self-healing network schemes that will automatically isolate trouble areas and then restore power to unaffected portions of the circuit, all without operator intervention.

The company will match the $165 million in funding as part of an initiative across Southern Company's service territory that spans the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.

The grant awarded to Southern Company was among the top 10 made by the administration.

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GE Announces Latest Advancements to Leading Gas Turbine

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Using next generation gas turbine technology to increase output and efficiency, GE Energy today introduced its upgraded Frame 7FA gas turbine to meet growing performance requirements for power plant operators. The upgraded turbine is designed to help power plant operators reduce their total cost of ownership and environmental impact by allowing them to use less fuel to generate power.

The continuing evolution of GE’s gas turbine technology supports a growing industry trend toward the use of natural gas. A recent report by the Colorado School of Mines indicated that following recent discoveries, the United States now has 1,800 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the equivalent of 320 billion barrels of oil—more than Saudi Arabia’s 264 billion barrels. That available supply, coupled with the current low cost and the fact that natural gas emits less carbon than other fossil fuels, has spurred many power generators to consider switching from other fuels to gas.

A typical power plant operating two new 7FA gas turbines with a single steam turbine in combined cycle configuration would achieve a fuel cost savings of more than $2.1 million per year at a natural gas price of $6 per MMBtu when compared to a similar plant with an earlier version of the 7FA for equivalent net plant output. This updated plant would also avoid the emission of more than 19,000 metric tons of CO2 per year compared to the earlier version, an improvement equivalent to the CO2 emissions of approximately 3,800 cars on U.S. roads.

“Investing in the needs of tomorrow with R&D and technology is at the foundation of GE and helps us to maintain a competitive advantage in the power generation arena,” said Steve Bolze, president of GE Energy’s Power & Water business. “Today’s announcement demonstrates our ongoing commitment to GE’s leadership in advanced gas turbine technology that helps deliver power more efficiently and flexibly to our customers without compromising their high standards for operational excellence.”

“Since its introduction, our F technology has consistently set industry standards for reliability and efficiency,” said Rick Stanley, vice president of engineering for GE Energy. “The 7FA upgrade underscores our commitment to continue refining the technology to meet the evolving needs of today’s customers.”

“GE is focused on delivering products and services that help our customers save significant operating costs while simultaneously slashing emissions and fuel consumption. We have amassed technological advances from across our expansive portfolio of power generating and aviation turbines and delivered them in this upgraded 7FA turbine,” said John Reinker, general manager of gas turbine and combined cycle products for GE Energy. “Of the 1,000 plus GE F-technology gas turbines shipped worldwide, more than 70% are 7FA units—and the advances now available for the 7FA will ensure that it continues to be the industry's workhorse advanced technology turbine.”

Many companies have already evaluated the new gas turbine technology. Some of the first new 7FA turbines are planned for the proposed Oakley Generating Station in Oakley, Calif. The plant, which is projected to generate 586 megawatts of power, is being developed by Radback Energy, Inc., and is expected to be transferred to Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) after it enters commercial operation.

The new turbine is a part of GE’s ecomagination portfolio, due to the increase in net plant efficiency and higher output delivered by this machine compared to all earlier 7FA models, which should result in less fuel consumption and lower emissions on a megawatt per hour basis than delivered by previous 7FA models.

Key regions for the upgraded, 60-hertz 7FA will include North America, Latin America, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. The upgraded 7FA will begin shipping in early 2012 and will be manufactured at GE Energy’s gas turbine facility in Greenville, S.C.

GE ecomagination certification

The ecomagination Product Review (EPR) process provides a third-party verification of claims, quantifying operating and environmental performance benefits that accrue to GE’s customers by using ecomagination products relative to baselines such as competitors' best products, the installed base of products and regulatory standards. These ecomagination claims can be found in GE's printed materials and advertisements and on the Web at Ecomagination products are re-certified regularly to help ensure that claims remain accurate.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Grant funds weatherization, energy education

A $1.3 million stimulus grant to University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences will help Georgians reduce their energy bills and carbon footprint, and create jobs in Georgia.
Jorge H. Atiles, extension professor of housing and FCS associate dean, received the grant from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority. The authority manages federal stimulus funds from the U.S. Department of Energy for the Georgia Low-Income Weatherization Assistance Program.

Weatherization assistance is provided directly by Community Action agencies and similar energy assistance agencies in the state to reduce infiltration and improve energy performance in homes of those on limited-incomes. The $1.3 million grant will fund the first seven months of a UGA Cooperative Extension program that will monitor weatherization activities and provide energy conservation education across the state to Georgians receiving weatherization assistance.

Atiles said the grant will create a sustainable weatherization program that aims to ensure that after homes are weatherized, their occupants will be in the best position to realize energy savings and reduce their carbon footprint. The project will help Georgians meet the Governor´s Energy Challenge to reduce energy bills by 15 percent by 2020.

The current contract is eligible for an additional two-year funding renewal that could exceed $4.5 million for this sustainable weatherization monitoring and education program.

"Through this grant, UGA Cooperative Extension will be able to save at least five jobs and fund 20 new positions reaching every Extension district in the state. We are realizing one of the many goals of the federal stimulus package: the creation and preservation of jobs," Atiles said.

UGA Extension is a partnership between UGA colleges of Family and Consumer Sciences and Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

By Mandi Colson
University of Georgia

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Landrieu, Chambliss Announce Creation of Senate Natural Gas Caucus

United States Senators Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., today announced the creation of the bipartisan Senate Natural Gas Caucus.

“When we produce natural gas in America, we produce jobs in America,” said Sen. Landrieu, Co-Chair of the Senate Natural Gas caucus. “A reliable and affordable supply of U.S. energy has profound impacts on every sector of our economy and is the backbone of the U.S. employment base. Natural gas is a clean burning, low-carbon fuel that is predominantly produced here at home. This caucus will serve to investigate and debate the economic and national security implications of the newfound abundance of natural gas in the United States.”

“America has an abundant supply of clean, natural gas and has the means to access these resources in an environmentally friendly way,” said Chambliss. “Increasing domestic production is a critical component of a comprehensive energy policy that will reduce America’s dependence on foreign sources for our energy needs. I’m pleased to join Senator Landrieu in creating this caucus. It is my hope that we can start a serious conversation in the Senate about our nation’s energy policy.”

Natural gas is produced in 33 states and relied upon as an energy source in many others. Over 20 percent of the electricity in the United States is generated by natural gas. Natural gas is also an important feedstock in chemical and fertilizer production, and is used to eliminate soot in clean diesel fuel. Natural gas is used as a raw material that goes into lightweight cars, wind power blades, solar panels and energy-efficient materials.

In 2008, nearly 90 percent of the natural gas consumed in the United States came from domestic U.S. supplies. Thanks to technological advances, the U.S. now has triple the amount of natural gas than was estimated in 1966, and 40 percent more than previously believed just a couple of years ago.

Approximately 1.3 million people are employed directly by the companies that drill, ship and supply natural gas to American consumers, with another 2.7 million Americans employed in supporting positions indirectly created by the development of America's domestic energy supplies. The combined economic impact of natural gas development, exploration, production and usage to the U.S. economy in 2008 was $385.5 billion.
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HHS Provides More Than $2.6 Billion to States to Help Low-Income Households with Energy Costs

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced the release of more than $2.6 billion to states to help low income citizens with their heating bills during October, November and December of this year. These funds represent grants to states, tribes and territories under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

"By releasing this money now, we are helping to provide needed assistance to millions of Americans who otherwise might not be able to afford heat this winter," Secretary Sebelius said. "This program helps to offset seasonal energy costs for low income families, leaving more of
their income to use for other necessities."

LIHEAP helps eligible families pay the costs of heating and insulating their homes in the winter, and cooling their homes in the summer. HHS is releasing such a large allocation of LIHEAP funds now in order to ensure that states have resources available to support their energy assistance programs as the weather turns colder.

"Each year LIHEAP helps more than five million low income households deal with energy costs," said Carmen Nazario, assistant secretary for children and families. "We will continue to work with states, tribes and territories to assure their heating assistance programs work effectively."

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Southern Company Teams Up With Industry Peers to Advance Electric Transportation Technologies

/PRNewswire/ -- Southern Company today joined electric utilities across the nation in an industry-wide initiative to advance electric transportation technologies. The initiative was developed to help ensure the necessary infrastructure is in place to support the full-scale commercialization and deployment of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs).

"Southern Company is committed to helping make plug-in electric transportation in this country a reality," said David Ratcliffe, chairman, president and CEO of Southern Company. "The process to electrify our own fleet is underway and we will continue to deploy these technologies where appropriate."

Southern Company, the premier energy company serving the Southeast, is an enthusiastic supporter of electric/hybrid vehicles. Fleet organizations across the company's operating subsidiaries in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi currently have 20 hybrids in operation, including five hybrid bucket trucks, which offer quieter operations, better fuel economy and reduced emissions. The company also plans to field test 11 plug-in hybrid electric Ford-550 Trouble Trucks in 2011.

In addition, Southern Company is hosting a 36-month plug-in hybrid electric vehicle demonstration in a partnership with Ford, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the U.S. Department of Energy and 10 other utilities to help develop a pre-production PEV. The company is also researching into the effect of increased PEV use on the electric grid.

The initiative, launched in conjunction with "The Business of Plugging In" - a conference in Detroit this week on the commercialization of PEVs sponsored by DTE Energy, General Motors, and the University of Michigan, highlights the industry's commitment to help accelerate the penetration of PEVs in the United States by focusing on the following five arenas:

-- Infrastructure - Utilities will help ensure there are no system
impacts from fueling large numbers of plug-in vehicles from the power
grid. They also will help develop comprehensive local charging
infrastructure plans.

-- Customer Support - Utilities will ensure that PEV customers receive
excellent customer care on questions ranging from charging mechanics
to rates.

-- Customer and Stakeholder Education - Utilities will collaborate with
state and local officials, automakers and other stakeholders to
provide comprehensive education outreach to customers on all aspects
of PEVs.

-- Vehicle and Infrastructure Incentives - Utilities will work closely
with federal, state and local stakeholders to encourage PEV
penetration, including purchase incentives, tax rebates, off-peak
charging rates and subsidized parking.

-- Utility fleets - Utilities will take significant steps to accelerate
the introduction of PEVs into their utility fleet operations.

In line with industry efforts to advance electric transportation technologies, Southern Company also will serve as the primary host company for the CALSTART 2009 Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF) Oct. 27-29 in Atlanta. The HTUF national conference brings together leading truck manufacturers, suppliers and fleets focused on producing and using medium- and heavy-duty hybrid-electric, hybrid-hydraulic, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles for commercial and military use.

In recognition of the growing importance of hybrid vehicles, Gov. Sonny Perdue has proclaimed the week of the conference "Hybrid Truck Week" in Georgia.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Georgia Transmission Corp. Completes Thomson-to-Warthen 500-kV Transmission Line

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Georgia Transmission Corp. today announced the completion of a 39-mile 500-kilovolt (kV) transmission power line connecting substations in Thomson, Ga. and Warthen, Ga. The line marks the company’s first project of its size in two decades, its first of many new lines in a major upgrade of the state’s power grid and a new design for 500-kV power lines.

Georgia Transmission, a not-for-profit cooperative that builds and maintains high-voltage infrastructure on behalf of 39 of the state’s 42 Electric Membership Cooperatives (EMCs), began planning for the $48 million project in late 2004. The 500-kV line, to be energized in the summer of 2010, is the largest type of power line built in Georgia. Georgia’s electric co-ops are not-for-profit utilities that provide power to more than four million Georgians.

“Georgia’s energy demand has nearly doubled since 1990 due to growth in population and per-capita energy use,” said John Raese, Georgia Transmission’s vice president of project services. “By fortifying the power grid, Georgia’s utilities are protecting all Georgians from increased outages and a greater risk of blackouts.”

Twenty meetings with the public and key stakeholders were held prior to final route selection. Irby Construction handled the construction, which began in early 2008 and added nearly $1 million to the local economy. Georgia Transmission will pay the counties through which the line passes more than $300,000 in property taxes in 2010.

“We are particularly proud that we delivered this project early and under budget,” said Jeannine Rispin Haynes, Georgia Transmission’s senior public relations representative. “The local communities’ input and cooperation was crucial to completing the project on time so EMCs can continue to provide affordable, reliable power to their members.”

The transmission line totals 38.7 miles, stretching through portions of Glascock (12.9 mi.), McDuffie (11.6 mi.), Warren (3.6 mi.) and Washington (10.6 mi.) counties. More than 366 miles of wires span across 158 latticed steel structures that average 140 feet in height. The transmission line right-of-way is 150 feet wide, encompassing 704 acres of land at a cost of more than $4 million.

The project is the first to use a new Delta Cat design that has a narrower footprint and better access for maintenance than the industry’s current horizontal and delta designs. Developed in cooperation with Georgia Power and Southern Company, Georgia Transmission’s design also has improved shields to guard against outages from bird contamination. It will be used on four other 500-kV lines the companies are planning and building in northern and central Georgia.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Aluminum Use in Electric Vehicles will Reduce High Cost of Battery Power for Plug-Ins and Hybrids, New Study Confirms

/PRNewswire/ -- Opting for high-strength, low-weight aluminum over heavier steel structures for plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles can cut vehicle price overall by reducing the battery energy requirements and the associated costs, according to a new study released today at the Center for Automotive Research's (CAR) Business of Plugging In conference. The study was jointly conducted by The Aluminum Association, Inc. with Ricardo, a leading technical research and strategic consultancy to the world's automotive, transport and energy industries.

Michael Bull, Director of Automotive Technology for Novelis, Inc., represented the Aluminum Association at the conference and participated in a panel discussion on future automotive changes associated with all electric vehicles.

"As automakers gear up for a new generation of plug-in electric vehicles, the high cost of battery power remains a barrier," said Bull. "What this new report shows is that by upgrading from traditional steel to an advanced aluminum body structure, the vehicle's stored energy requirements can be cut by about 10 percent, which could save up to $3,000 per vehicle since less power and energy is required to move the lighter vehicle."

"Plug-in and hybrid electric cars contain precious little, and quite expensive, 'fuel' in the form of batteries," added Bull. "Therefore, every effort must be made to utilize this stored energy to the highest possible efficiency. The solution lies in lowering the vehicle's weight with aluminum as part of a holistic approach to also include advanced powertrains and batteries, enhanced thermal management, improved aerodynamics, and reduced rolling resistance."

Highlights from the Ricardo electric vehicle study, for the federal test procedure (FTP75) drive cycle, include:

-- The driving range of the vehicles could be improved approximately
equal to the mass saved. Reduce the mass of the vehicle 20 percent,
go 20 percent father. One example vehicle had the range extended from
80 to 97 miles.
-- The heaviest vehicle in the study, at 1,822 kg, consumed about 300
Wh/mi, while the lightest at 627 kg consumed about 146 Wh/mi.
-- Regenerative braking could recover about 65 percent of the energy
associated with the vehicle's momentum irrespective of the vehicle
weight. But this is only about 15-20 percent of the total energy
-- For the lightest vehicle, about 44 percent of the energy is lost to
powertrain inefficiencies, with 33 percent of the energy used to
overcome air resistance, and only 24 percent is used to move the
-- As with conventional vehicles, the lighter vehicles have faster

The purpose of the Ricardo study was to evaluate the impact of vehicle weight reductions on electric vehicle performance, range and battery size. The majority of the vehicle simulations were done using the FTP75 drive cycle with a few highway drive cycles. In general, the relationships between vehicle mass, battery weight and energy, and range are linear up to the maximum range studied of 80 miles. At this range, the battery weight doesn't grow enough to start a significant "weight spiral."

The study also examined the role of vehicle mass on regenerative braking; specifically the question of whether strong regenerative braking might lessen the impact of weight reduction. This turns out not to be the case. All vehicles studied could recoup about 65 percent of energy associated with moving the vehicle. But the energy balance for each vehicle changes. As the vehicle gets lighter, less energy is required to move it, while the aerodynamic losses remain constant. For the lightest vehicle the aerodynamic losses are higher than the energy to accelerate the vehicle.

Real world designs support the fact that lightweight structures are a significant enabler for these vehicle types. Examples include Tesla Motors's Roadster, or upcoming midsized platform, Fisker Automotive's luxury vehicle and Bright Automotive's van. All are all using lightweight aluminum platforms for their vehicles.

"Many of the current hybrid vehicles are progressively adding lower weight components to improve the overall vehicle performance. When it comes to making electric vehicles more affordable and efficient, aluminum is proven to get you there with no compromises," said Bull.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Change Bill Needs State Roles, Says Emory's Buzbee

The Boxer-Kerry bill on climate change now making its way through Congress moves in the right direction, says environmental law expert William Buzbee, but some critical improvements are needed to make the legislation effective.

Buzbee's analysis of the bill, one of a series from the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) by their member scholars, appears on the CPRBlog.

One unintended consequence of the bill's many implementation steps and corrective mechanisms, writes Buzbee, "is an avalanche of obligations." A big question, he says, is whether this "will lead to implementation delays."

A big risk in Boxer-Kerry, says Buzbee, "is that the federal law could prove too lax, but that the federal legislative and regulatory venues would be gridlocked and hence unable to set new, lower emissions caps or take other actions to lower emissions levels."

If that happens, he writes, "states might once again want to reassume the climate change leadership role they exhibited over the past decade and take actions to reduce emissions."

The bill does have provisions to preserve states' ability to require lower emissions than federally mandated, and provisions to prevent polluters from "simply turning and selling emission allowances or credits outside the jurisdiction."

Boxer-Kerry also retains the power of the federal EPA "to take action to supplement a cap-and-trade scheme if that proves necessary," writes Buzbee. "In reality, the mere threat of such supplemental action could nudge polluters into supporting implementation of the cap-and-trade regime."

Yet the bill is less than clear on whether "state supplemental roles are meant to be preserved under all the bill's provisions," writes Buzbee. A second important but missing element "is a citizen suit provision authorizing citizens to sue regulators, polluters, or other players in the cap-and-trade market for violations of the law."

With a law this complicated, writes Buzbee, "a multiplicity of enforcers is needed."

He concludes that "retention of state roles in combating climate change and adding a citizen suit provision" are near necessities "if a cap-and-trade market is to become a well policed reality."

Buzbee is professor of law and director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program at Emory Law School. He is also a director of Emory’s new Center on Federalism and Intersystemic Governance.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Biodiesel Returns More Energy To The Earth Than Ever, Study Finds

/PRNewswire/ -- Biodiesel is better than ever at harnessing the power of the sun and turning it into fuel. In fact, a study shows the fuel is returning more than four times the energy that it takes to make biodiesel.

Newly published research from the University of Idaho and U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that for every unit of fossil energy needed to produce biodiesel, the return is 4.5 units of energy. This energy-in, energy-out ratio is "energy balance."

Biodiesel made from soybean oil has a high energy balance because the main energy source used to grow soybeans is solar.

"This gives Americans even more reason to put their faith in the environmental and societal benefits of biodiesel," said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board. "The Environmental Protection Agency should take this into account when considering biodiesel's greenhouse gas reductions," he said.

Jobe was referring to EPA's proposed rule to implement the expanded Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2). EPA used 2005 baseline numbers for petroleum and biodiesel to project carbon impact 22 years in the future. That stacks the deck in favor of petroleum.

"In its rulemaking, EPA should recognize that biodiesel production is growing more efficient, while oil exploration and drilling becomes more intensive each day," Jobe said.

The USDA/Idaho study finds key drivers that continue to make biodiesel an efficient fuel choice:

-- New seed varieties and management practices are upping soybean yields.
-- Farmers have minimized cultivation of the soil. These reduced tillage
practices have cut how much fuel they need to grow soybeans.
-- Modern soybean varieties have reduced the need for pesticides.
-- Today's soybean processing and biodiesel plants are more energy

"Our research shows continued progress in the renewability of biodiesel production," said University of Idaho Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering Assistant Professor Dev Shrestha. "Farmers, soybean processors and biodiesel producers are getting even better at using non-fossil resources and adopting other efficiencies that are leading to greater energy returns."

The new study is based on biodiesel produced from soybean oil, the largest share of the biodiesel market. Other abundant sources used for biodiesel included recycled cooking oil, fats and other plant oils, such as canola oil. Biodiesel is a clean-burning renewable fuel for diesel engines. It improves air quality and creates green-collar jobs. The NBB is the national trade association of the industry.

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Oglethorpe Power Closes Purchase of Hartwell Electric Generating Plant

/PRNewswire/ -- Oglethorpe Power Corporation has closed on its purchase of the Hartwell electric generating plant from International Power and its partner. The purchase price for the northeast Georgia facility was $148.5 million, which includes approximately $53.5 million of existing project level debt that Oglethorpe Power paid off at closing.

Oglethorpe Power previously purchased the entire output of the approximately 300-megawatt oil and gas-fired plant under a contract set to expire in 2019. A right-of-first refusal clause in that contract gave the corporation first purchase rights to the facility if it was sold. In April of 2009, International Power announced that it, together with its partner, had reached agreement to sell the Hartwell plant to Southern Power Company, subject to a decision by Oglethorpe Power on whether to purchase the plant itself. In July 2009, Oglethorpe Power notified the plant's owner that it would purchase the facility.

"Purchasing and operating the Hartwell facility as part of our own generating portfolio will help ensure that the plant continues to provide needed peaking power to Georgia's EMCs and the citizens of our state," said Elizabeth B. Higgins, Chief Financial Officer of Oglethorpe Power.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oil Demand from Developed Countries Has Peaked

World oil demand is poised for recovery driven by emerging markets but demand from OECD countries is unlikely return to its 2005 high

CAMOil demand in developed countries—currently 54 percent of all oil demand—likely reached its all-time peak in 2005, according to a new research report by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates. While world oil demand is now set to grow as the world economy moves from recession to recovery, the demand lost in 30 developed countries that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is not likely to ever be regained, the report finds.

“The economic downturn has been masking a larger trend in the oil demand of developed countries,” said IHS CERA Chairman and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Prize, Daniel Yergin. “The fact is that OECD oil demand has been falling since late 2005, well before the Great Recession began.”

The key factor making it unlikely for OECD demand to ever return to its 2005 peak is that petroleum demand in the transportation sector—which accounts for 60 percent of OECD petroleum demand—is likely to flatten out after years of steady growth. Oil demand outside the transportation sector has already been relatively flat since 1980. Now the conjunction of several long-term factors is doing the same to transportation:

- Demographic and socioeconomic changes – Vehicle ownership rates in developed countries have reached a “saturation” level while aging populations with low to negative population growth suggests a flattening of demand for mobility. The growth of women’s participation in the labor force is also leveling off, meaning the flattening of another source of demand growth.

- Stronger governmental and consumer push for passenger vehicle fuel economy gains – Energy security concerns and climate change initiatives have led OECD governments to tighten fuel economy standards. The rise in energy prices over the past several years has pushed consumers to value increased efficiency and the auto industry through a major reorientation toward greater efficiency.

- Greater penetration of alternative fuels and vehicle technologies – Governments across the OECD continue to favor mandates that increase the share of alternative fuels in the transportation sector. New technologies such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and next-generation biofuels could also have a greater impact in the future.

“Petroleum for transportation has been the single driving force behind OECD oil demand for the past two decades,” said Aaron Brady, IHS CERA Director, Global Oil. “After the oil crisis of the early 1980s the nontransportation sector turned to readily available substitutes like coal, gas or nuclear power. Now we are seeing the tempering of the last significant driver of oil demand in developed countries—petroleum for transportation.”

Future world oil demand growth will be driven almost exclusively by emerging markets. The latest IHS CERA World Oil Watch expects oil demand to increase from 83.8 mbd in 2009 to 89.1 mbd in 2014. 83 percent (4.4 mbd) will come from non-OECD countries. China alone is expected to account for 1.6 mbd of cumulative growth. Just 900,000 bpd of growth is expected to come from OECD countries, just a fraction of the 3.7 million bpd of demand lost over the course of 2005 to 2009.

But the peak of OECD oil demand does not mean that the end of the oil age in these developed economies is imminent, the report finds. The size of the decline in oil demand from the peak year of 2005 to 2030 is expected to be fairly modest, says Brady, assuming that some demand rebounds over the next few years.

“The reason for a modest decline is that although the potential for demand growth has diminished so has the potential, at least in the short to medium term, for large-scale substitution away from petroleum,” he said. “Today’s alternative fuels and technologies can only gain market share slowly owing to the slow turnover of the cars, trucks and airplanes that use petroleum. Petroleum will still be the dominant fuel for transportation 25 years from now, although other sources of energy will likely have captured a growing foothold in transportation.”

Regardless if the decline is modest, the peak of OECD demand will have major implications, the report finds. Peak demand will dampen the rate of increase in dependency on oil imports. It likewise could also help make economic growth in those countries less susceptible to oil price shocks. Finally, peak OECD demand could counteract the expected rapid demand growth in the developing world.


About IHS CERA (
IHS CERA is a leading business information provider to energy companies, consumers, financial institutions, technology providers and governments. IHS CERA ( delivers strategic knowledge and independent analysis on energy markets, geopolitics, industry trends, and strategy. IHS CERA is based in Cambridge, Mass., and has offices in Bangkok, Beijing, Calgary, Dubai, Johannesburg, Mexico City, Moscow, Mumbai, Oslo, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, Tokyo and Washington, DC.

About IHS (
IHS (NYSE: IHS) is a leading global source of critical information and insight, dedicated to providing the most complete and trusted information and expertise. IHS product and service solutions span four areas of information that encompass the most important concerns facing global business today: Energy, Product Lifecycle, Security, and Environment, all supported by Macroeconomics. By focusing on customers first, IHS enables innovative and successful decision-making for customers ranging from governments and multinational companies to smaller companies and technical professionals in more than 180 countries. IHS is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2009 and employs approximately 4,000 people in 20 countries.

IHS is a registered trademark of IHS Inc. CERA is a registered trademark of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, Inc. Copyright ©2009 IHS Inc. All rights reserved.
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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Shining Light on Green Energy

The physical chemistry lab of Tim Lian specializes in ultra-fast spectroscopy, electron transfer processes and quantum dots - nano-particles that hold promise for everything from electronics to medicine and renewable energy.

In collaboration with scientists at Emory and elsewhere, Lian's team is studying ways to convert the sun's energy into cheap and clean solutions to the global energy crisis. "Solar energy conversion is very complex," he says. "Spectroscopy allows us to break it down into small, fundamental steps that you can study carefully."

Quantum dots are good at absorbing light and could provide energy to drive reactions needed for solar energy conversion processes.

"These are all very challenging scientific problems," Lian says, adding that it will take many people, working across disciplines, to make solar energy go mainstream. "We have to solve these problems, because using fossil fuels is not sustainable."

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Georgia Public Service Commission Allows Atlanta Gas Light to Make New STRIDES for Better Service

/PRNewswire/ -- Atlanta Gas Light received approval from the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) today to begin a multi-year system upgrade to improve the utility's ability to provide service on peak demand days.

This program, called the Georgia Strategic Infrastructure Development and Enhancement Program (STRIDE), will merge into the company's existing Pipeline Replacement Program (PRP) and incorporate a new Integrated System Reinforcement Program (i-SRP). STRIDE's initial three-year construction phase, which was approved today, is estimated at $175.7 million.

"STRIDE's approach to regulatory oversight and rate recovery began with the Public Service Commission's creation of the PRP mechanism in 1998," said Hank Linginfelter, executive vice president, Utility Operations, AGL Resources. "The Georgia Public Service commission continues to show leadership in the area of limiting rate impacts on our customers while encouraging necessary investment."

Atlanta's metropolitan area has experienced rapid growth in the past two decades, and much of that growth has shifted to regions farther removed from Atlanta Gas Light's existing interstate supply points and high-pressure transmission pipeline system. STRIDE system improvements will target the counties of Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, Gwinnett, Fulton, Forsyth, Henry, Paulding and Rockdale.

"Atlanta Gas Light has an obligation to maintain its system to provide adequate operating pressures to serve our customers on the coldest days of the year," said Suzanne Sitherwood, president, Atlanta Gas Light. "We proposed STRIDE as a new regulatory approach to perform the necessary improvements and keep our monthly customer charges as low as possible."

The PSC also authorized Atlanta Gas Light to implement recovery for the STRIDE program. The initial charge, expected to begin in late October, will increase rates for all firm customers by an additional $0.39 per month. Beginning October 2010, the rates will be $0.78 per month, and beginning in October 2011, the rates will be $1.18 per month.

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Southern Company, University of Alabama at Birmingham to Partner on Greenhouse Gas Reduction Project

/PRNewswire/ -- Southern Company said yesterday it will help train students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in carbon sequestration engineering under a project that adds to efforts advancing the commercialization of technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power production.

The research project, selected by the U.S. Department of Energy for funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will help develop an educated work force to support commercial utility-scale geologic sequestration activities in the future, said Richard Esposito, Southern Company principal geologist.

The project includes the involvement of undergraduate engineering honors students in independent research on geologic sequestration focused on the sealing capacity of cap rocks serving as barriers to carbon dioxide migration in geologic formations; development of an advanced undergraduate/graduate level course on coal combustion and gasification, climate change, and carbon sequestration; support of six graduate students conducting research on the development of protocols for assessment of seal layer integrity; and analysis of cap rock samples from geologic formations under consideration for sequestration of CO2.

"Understanding the integrity of cap rocks is one of the key elements to safe and permanent sequestration," Esposito said.

The project is one of 43 that DOE is funding to offer training opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students that will provide the human capital and skills required for implementing and deploying carbon capture and storage technologies.

"This is an excellent opportunity to meet an important need as we seek to commercially deploy carbon capture and sequestration technology - a work force that is educated and skilled in how the technology works," said Chris Hobson, Southern Company chief environmental officer. "We are pleased to have this opportunity to partner with UAB to increase our knowledge of geologic sequestration."

The project will provide the UAB investigators and their students with rock samples for study in the laboratory, geologic data with which to construct mathematical models and simulations, direct contact with Southern Company geologists and engineers engaged in carbon capture and storage research and development, and opportunities to visit field sites where large-scale tests of carbon sequestration are underway, said Peter Walsh, UAB research professor of mechanical engineering.

"Southern Company's involvement and support are key components of the training for our students to work in carbon capture and storage," Walsh said. "We are delighted to partner with Southern Company on a project that enables us to contribute to a solution of one of the most interesting, important and complex issues of our time."

Southern Company is committed to leadership in researching, developing and deploying advanced technologies, including carbon capture and sequestration, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Among the company's key projects:

- DOE recently selected Southern Company to operate and manage the new National Carbon Capture Center, which will develop and test advanced technologies to capture carbon dioxide from coal-based power plants.

- Southern Company is partnering with DOE, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., the Electric Power Research Institute and others to build a demonstration facility to capture carbon dioxide emissions from an existing unit of subsidiary Alabama Power's Plant Barry near Mobile, Ala. CO2 from the plant will be transported for permanent underground storage in a demonstration of start-to-finish carbon capture and sequestration.

- Southern Company subsidiary Mississippi Power's Plant Daniel is host site for a sequestration demonstration in which 3,000 metric tons of CO2 have been injected into a deep underground geologic formation.

- Mississippi Power has proposed to build a 582-megawatt coal gasification plant using advanced Transport Integrated Gasification (TRIG(TM)) technology developed by Southern Company, KBR Inc. and others that also will include 65 percent carbon capture and re-use.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

New Material Could Expand Applications for Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

A new ceramic material described in this week’s issue of the journal Science could help expand the applications for solid oxide fuel cells—devices that generate electricity directly from a wide range of liquid or gaseous fuels without the need to separate hydrogen.

Though the long-term durability of the new mixed ion conductor material must still be proven, its development could address two of the most vexing problems facing the solid oxide fuel cells: tolerance of sulfur in fuels and resistance to carbon build-up known as coking. The new material could also allow solid oxide fuel cells—which convert fuel to electricity more efficiently than other fuel cells—to operate at lower temperatures, potentially reducing material and fabrication costs.

“The development of this material suggests that we could have a much less expensive solid oxide fuel cell, and that it could be more compact, which would increase the range of potential applications,” said Meilin Liu, a Regent’s professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “This new material would potentially allow the fuel cells to run with dirty hydrocarbon fuels without the need to clean them and supply water.”

The research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Basic Energy Science Catalysis Science Program.

Like all fuel cells, solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) use an electrochemical process to produce electricity by oxidizing a fuel. As the name implies, SOFCs use a ceramic electrolyte, a material known as yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ).

The fuel cell’s anode uses a composite consisting of YSZ and the metal nickel. This anode provides excellent catalytic activity for fuel oxidation, good conductivity for collecting current generated, and compatibility with the cell’s electrolyte—which is also YSZ.

But the material has three significant drawbacks: even small amounts of sulfur in fuel “poison” the anode to dramatically reduce efficiency, the use of hydrocarbon fuels creates carbon build-up which clogs the anode—and because YSZ has limited conductivity at low temperatures—SOFCs must operate at high temperatures.

As a result, fuels used in SOFCs, such as natural gas or propane, must be purified to remove sulfur, which increases their cost. Water in the form of steam must also be supplied to a reformer that converts hydrocarbons to hydrogen and carbon monoxide before being fed to the fuel cells, adding complexity to the overall system and reducing energy efficiency. And the high-temperature operation means the cells must be fabricated from costly exotic materials, which keeps SOFCs too expensive for many applications.

The new material developed at Georgia Tech addresses all three of those anode issues. Referred to as BZCYYb as shorthand for its complex composition, the material tolerates hydrogen sulfide in concentrations as high as 50 parts-per-million, does not accumulate carbon—and can operate efficiently at temperatures as low as 500 degrees Celsius.

The BZCYYb (Barium-Zirconium-Cerium-Yttrium-Ytterbium Oxide) material could be used in a variety of ways: as a coating on the traditional Ni-YSZ anode, as a replacement for the YSZ in the anode and as a replacement for the entire YSZ electrolyte system. Liu believes the first two options are more viable.

So far, the new material has provided steady performance for up to 1,000 hours of operation in a small laboratory-scale SOFC. To be commercially viable, however, the material will have to be proven in operation for up to five years—the expected lifespan of a commercial SOFC.

“We don’t see any problems ahead for fabrication or other issues that might prevent scale-up,” said Liu. “The material is produced using standard solid-state reactions and is straightforward.”

The researchers don’t yet understand how their new material resists deactivation by sulfur and carbon, but theorize that it may provide enhanced catalytic activity for oxidizing sulfur and both cracking and reforming hydrocarbons.

In addition to its tolerance of sulfur and resistance to coking, the BZCYYb material’s conductivity at lower temperature could also provide a significant advantage for SOFCs.

“If we could reduce operating temperatures to 500 or 600 degrees Celsius, that would allow us to use less expensive metals as interconnects,” Liu noted. “Getting the temperature down to 300 to 400 degrees could allow use of much less expensive materials in the packaging, which would dramatically reduce the cost of these systems.”

Beyond its use in fuel cells, the material developed by Liu and his team—which also included Lei Yang, Shizhong Wang, Kevin Blinn, Mingfei Liu, Ze Liu and Zhe Cheng—could also be used for fuel reforming to feed other types of fuel cells.

Though the technology for solid oxide fuel cells is currently less mature than that for other types of fuel cells, Liu believes SOFCs will ultimately win out because they don’t require precious metals such as platinum and their efficiency can be higher—as much as 80 percent with co-generation use of waste heat.

“Solid oxide fuel cells offer high energy efficiency, the potential for direct utilization of all types of fuels including renewable biofuels, and the possibility of lower costs since they do not use any precious metals,” said Liu. “We are working to reduce the cost of solid oxide fuel cells to make them viable in many new applications, and this new material brings us much closer to doing that.”

This research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Basic Energy Science Catalysis Science Program under grant DE-FG02-06ER15837. The comments and conclusions in this document are those of the researchers and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Georgia Power Encourages Consumers To Take Advantage of Energy-Efficient Programs That Begin Today

/PRNewswire/ -- Thursday, Oct. 1, through Sunday, Oct. 4, has been designated as Energy-Efficient Product Sales Tax Holiday in Georgia.

During this time, all Georgia consumers who purchase selected ENERGY STAR® -qualified or WaterSense® labeled products and other designated energy-efficient items will pay no state or local sales and use tax. The offer is good on purchases of $1,500 or less per product on items for personal or home use only.

Qualified appliances include dishwashers, clothes washers, refrigerators, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, programmable thermostats, ceiling fans, windows and doors, compact fluorescent light bulbs and other eligible products. To find out which products qualify, visit

Consumers who buy energy-efficient ENERGY STAR-qualified products will receive the immediate tax savings, but more importantly, they will begin saving additional money and energy each time they use their ENERGY STAR product. These products use up to 50 percent less energy than those without the ENERGY STAR label, meaning Georgia residents will save money and energy, while helping protect our environment.

This is the fifth consecutive year the Georgia General Assembly has specifically made ENERGY STAR-qualified appliances and products eligible for a sales tax exemption.

ENERGY STAR is the U.S. government's nationally recognized program committed to helping individuals save money and energy while benefiting the environment through superior energy efficiency. ENERGY STAR products meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy. These products use advanced technologies that result in 10 to 50 percent less energy use than non-qualified products.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Department estimates state residents can reduce their energy use and save up to 30 percent, or $600 annually, on their utility bills by looking to ENERGY STAR products.

Consumers are also encouraged to take the "Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR" pledge. Taking the pledge is as simple as changing a light bulb, setting a programmable thermostat, making sure your home is well insulated or other energy efficient lifestyle changes. Changing a standard light bulb to an ENERGY STAR-qualified CFL saves more than $30 over the life of the bulb.

Customers are invited to take the pledge online at or look for the pledge card in their October bills.

Recycling just got easier!

Georgia Power has partnered with The Home Depot to offer recycling for compact fluorescent light bulbs at the retailer's stores in Georgia.

Georgia Power sponsors in-store bins at all 88 Home Depots in the state. This creates the state's most widespread recycling program for CFLs and brings relatively convenient recycling within reach of most households.

Georgia Power encourages its customers to practice energy efficiency year-round. For more information on the Georgia sales-tax-free weekend or for money-saving energy efficiency tips visit For additional information about ENERGY STAR visit

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Subplots Will Signal Whether New Senate Energy Bill Gets Passed

On Wednesday, U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced a bill that would establish for the first time a comprehensive national low-carbon energy program.

Tim Profeta, director of Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, has seen similar legislation introduced on Capitol Hill over the past 10 years, and calls the latest bill “a cautious first move in what must be a bipartisan leap to modernize the U.S. energy economy. The bill leaves question marks, appropriately, on some of the toughest issues.”

Profeta, who served as Counsel for the Environment to Sen. Joseph Lieberman before becoming founding director of the Nicholas Institute in 2005, said there will be telltale signs on whether Democrats and Republicans will be able to reach agreement on this issue.

“Make sure to watch three key subplots in this story develop,” he says. “First, will senators struggle to choose the right policy tool to prevent the costs of energy transition from harming consumers, business or the economy as a whole.

“Second, as the global economy continues to grow as an organic whole, how will lawmakers strengthen U.S. competitiveness in international trade.

“Third, in the wake of last year's Wall Street financial meltdown, will the new market for carbon credits be designed smartly, drawing on all of our knowledge and experience of how efficient markets work.”

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