WBEZ | Renewable energy http://www.wbez.org/tags/renewable-energy Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Power struggle: Who’s your energy provider? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/power-struggle-who%E2%80%99s-your-energy-provider-108077 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Rig_wind_river_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Curious City producers and reporters are usually hard at work answering your <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/#!/archive/all">growing list of questions</a>. But every now and then, an answer or even a listener comment stops us dead in our tracks, and we&rsquo;ll say to one another: Why don&rsquo;t we ask more people about this?</p><p>That&rsquo;s what happened after we took on this question from Janice Thomson of Chicago&rsquo;s North Center neighborhood:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Now that Chicago has a new electricity supplier, how much of the city&rsquo;s energy would ultimately come from natural gas via fracking?</em></p><p>We&rsquo;re curious how Chicagoans and others take something that Janice told us after environment reporter <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932">Chris Bentley laid out an answer</a>. If you&#39;re already familiar with Janice&#39;s story and figure you&#39;re ready to weigh in, <a href="#Poll">our survey below awaits</a>. If you&#39;re still a little shaky on the details, though, we should first unpack her question just a bit. So, what is fracking (otherwise known as high-volume hydraulic fracturing)? Here&rsquo;s the skinny from Bentley:</p><blockquote><p>&nbsp;&ldquo;... drillers blast water, fine sand and chemicals to break up porous rock containing fossil fuels, and horizontal drilling, which allows a single rig to explore long, flat sedimentary rock formations thousands of feet underground without drilling straight down from the surface many times.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>As for that &ldquo;new electricity supplier&rdquo; bit? Well, Chicago switched energy providers late last year, and Integrys won the city&rsquo;s contract. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932">The gist</a>:</p><ul><li>Integrys&rsquo; portfolio is &ldquo;primarily&rdquo; natural gas.</li><li>In 2012, 40 percent of the nation&#39;s natural gas production came from shale formations, and that percentage is rising. A good deal of that new production is derived from fracking.</li><li>It&rsquo;s impossible to know exactly how much of Chicago&rsquo;s electricity is generated from natural gas derived via fracking, but some of it is, since the nation&rsquo;s gas supply is not divided by fracked and conventional sources.</li></ul><p>Just last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s office announced Chicago is <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city%E2%80%99s-power-deal-boosts-wind-energy-108003">increasing its supply of wind energy</a>. A month ago, Illinois lawmakers passed the most restrictive high-volume oil and gas drilling regulations in the country.</p><p>News about fracking in Illinois is still rolling in. Yet, Curious City&rsquo;s investigation is making Thomson rethink her energy options right now.</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;As a consumer, I do now plan to &ldquo;opt out&rdquo; of the default Integrys electricity supplier and sign up with a 100% renewable energy supplier. I initially wasn&rsquo;t too keen on the idea of renewable energy credits (which remind me of carbon offsets), but it sounds like that&rsquo;s the best I can do living in Chicago.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p></blockquote><p>Purchasing renewable energy credits from companies offering green energy plans is one option and perhaps the most economical one. Illinois&rsquo; Citizens Utility Board, a watchdog group that looks out for energy consumers&rsquo; interests, <a href="http://www.citizensutilityboard.org/ciElectric_cubfacts_alternativesuppliers.html">lists alternative electricity suppliers</a>. People can generate their own power, but that is often a pricey upfront investment, said David Kolata, CUB executive director. Still, conservation remains the easiest, most effective option, he said, adding that there are many steps people can take towards energy efficiency.</p><p>Below, we&#39;ve prepared a (very) short survey about whether you&#39;ve considered your own electricity supply options and whether you&#39;ve taken action about it. We invite you to give your two cents. When you&#39;re done, click the link that reads <a name="Poll"></a>&quot;See previous responses&quot; to see how others answered.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="450" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/179KmxKnNPIqDYyb8PyjeS9A0RqnvVI1QC93VhMrW5XA/viewform?embedded=true" width="620">Loading...</iframe></p><h2><strong>Selected poll responses</strong></h2><p><script type="text/javascript" src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/static/modules/gviz/1.0/chart.js"> {"dataSourceUrl":"//docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/tq?key=0Ai7E2pZ6aCZtdEJpb2RfMXpFWnRtS01lOFRpY0ROclE&transpose=0&headers=1&range=H1%3AH66&gid=0&pub=1","options":{"titleTextStyle":{"fontSize":16},"series":{"0":{"hasAnnotations":true},"1":{"hasAnnotations":true}},"showRowNumber":false,"animation":{"duration":0},"width":620,"hAxis":{"useFormatFromData":true,"title":"Horizontal axis title","minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},"vAxes":[{"useFormatFromData":true,"title":"Left vertical axis title","minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null}],"sortColumn":null,"title":"Chart title","booleanRole":"certainty","height":320,"page":"enable","legend":"right"},"state":{},"view":{},"isDefaultVisualization":true,"chartType":"Table","chartName":"Chart 1"} </script></p></p> Wed, 17 Jul 2013 02:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/power-struggle-who%E2%80%99s-your-energy-provider-108077 City’s power deal boosts wind energy http://www.wbez.org/news/city%E2%80%99s-power-deal-boosts-wind-energy-108003 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/2643266482_465ec09356_z_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Two downstate wind farms will provide five percent of Chicago&rsquo;s electricity, Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s office announced Tuesday, nearly doubling the share of wind power in the city&rsquo;s electricity supply.</p><p>Through its <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/progs/Electricity%20Aggregation/GeneralAggregationPresentation.pdf">municipal aggregation program</a>, the city negotiated with electricity supplier Integrys Energy Services to increase the amount of wind energy it sends to Chicago homes and small businesses.</p><p><a href="http://www.perfectpowerinstitute.org/sites/default/files/Chicago%20CCA%20Preliminary%20Report.pdf">A report released Tuesday</a> by the Illinois Institute of Technology&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.perfectpowerinstitute.org/">Perfect Power Institute</a> said Chicago&rsquo;s electricity aggregation deal, including the new provision for local wind power, &ldquo;achieve[s] substantial reductions&rdquo; in air pollution. According to the report, electricity aggregation led to a 16 percent reduction in carbon emissions, a 98 percent reduction in ozone depleting and acid rain causing nitrogen oxide emissions, and a water-use savings equivalent to the annual consumption of about 12,500 households.</p><p>That report also said a previously underused natural gas power plant in Pennsylvania would ramp up production to meet the 95 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s electricity demand not coming from Illinois wind. Chicago and <a href="http://www.nexteraenergyresources.com/content/where/portfolio/pdf/Marcus_Hook.pdf/">the Marcus Hook power plant</a>, located about 20 miles south of Philadelphia, are in the same region of the power grid overseen by PJM Interconnection, which stretches from New Jersey to North Carolina and also includes patches of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan.</p><p>In November voters let the city negotiate for cheaper energy on their behalf, approving electricity aggregation by 56 percent. The city agreed to buy electricity from Integrys, a sister company of Peoples Gas, at a fixed rate through May 2015.</p><p>Price was the defining feature of the deal. The city said replacing Exelon subsidiary Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) saved ratepayers an average of $150 per year on electricity bills, due to ComEd&rsquo;s long-term contracts with more expensive energy suppliers.</p><p>But the aggregation deal also pushed the city&rsquo;s power supply towards cleaner sources of energy. Chicago required its new energy supplier to rid the city&rsquo;s fuel mix of coal, which previously provided about 43 percent of the roughly 5 million megawatt-hours of electricity the city consumes each year.</p><p>Chicago commands some attention in the market, so the city&rsquo;s decision to specify the fuel mix could set a precedent.</p><p>&ldquo;Something that suppliers wouldn&rsquo;t necessarily put forth the effort to do for a smaller customer, they have done for Chicago,&rdquo; said Mark Pruitt, a consultant with the city on its aggregation deal. &ldquo;I think that the supply community, once they realize that this is desirable, will respond positively and they&rsquo;ll find a way to get it done for smaller volume communities.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932">Natural gas replaced the bulk of the power previously supplied by coal, irking some voters who viewed the November referendum as a vote for renewable energy</a>. Currently the city&rsquo;s deal requires Integrys to meet<a href="http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=IL04R"> the state Renewable Portfolio Standard</a> (RPS), which ramps up gradually to meet the state&rsquo;s goal of 25 percent by 2025. This year it rose to 7 percent. Integrys satisfies that requirement largely through the purchase of paper credits called Renewable Energy Certificates.</p><p>The 5 percent of electricity coming directly from downstate wind farms, the identity of which the Mayor&rsquo;s office would not reveal Tuesday, is in addition to the RPS.</p><p>Tuesday&rsquo;s announcement that the city would seek electricity produced by two Illinois wind farms came as welcome news to members of the Illinois Clean Power Coalition, who fought to close Chicago&rsquo;s Fisk and Crawford coal plants and promoted electricity aggregation as a means to renewable energy deployment.</p><p>&ldquo;Our goal is to green our grid,&rdquo; said Sarah Wochos of the Environmental Law &amp; Policy Center, &ldquo;not just to buy renewable energy certificates from faraway.&rdquo;</p><p>Essentially paper credits used to offset pollution from fossil fuel-fired energy, RECs can go toward a city&rsquo;s or energy supplier&rsquo;s renewable energy requirements without procuring any actual electricity. Texas&rsquo; booming wind industry has flooded the market with cheap RECs that provide so-called &ldquo;100 percent renewable&rdquo; electricity deals with a relatively inexpensive way to say their power supply is green.</p><p>In reality, the industry does not track the sources of individual electrons sent through the grid. Still, direct power purchases send a stronger market signal than do RECs, many analysts say, although RECs do provide supplemental income for renewable energy providers.</p><p>Renewable energy supporters are hopeful that municipal electricity aggregation could prove a useful vehicle to promote policies from distributed energy storage to local green jobs.</p><p>&ldquo;With municipal aggregation,&rdquo; said The Sierra Club&rsquo;s Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin, &ldquo;cities like Chicago and every city and suburb in Illinois has the power to ask those questions to their suppliers.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Chicago&#39;s inclusion of local wind energy in their power supply is an example for other aggregated communities to follow and build upon,&rdquo; he said in a statement.</p><p>About 600 cities and towns across the state have pursued aggregation deals.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter at<a href="http://twitter.com/cementley"> @Cementley</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 09 Jul 2013 17:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/city%E2%80%99s-power-deal-boosts-wind-energy-108003 Chicago’s energy deal: An ‘F’ for fracking? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fracking%20topper%202.jpg" title="Fracking operation near Shreveport, Louisiana. (Flickr/danielfoster437)" /></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F99525534&amp;color=00bdff&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: Chris Bentley answered Janice Thomson&#39;s question about a week before Chicago&#39;s City Hall announced new developments regarding the municipal aggregation deal mentioned here. In an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-electricity-and-fracking-update-108130">update</a>, we take another look at the question posed here, given that there&#39;s new information on the role of wind power and natural gas in the city&#39;s municipal aggregation contract.</em><em>&nbsp;But Janice&#39;s question also prompted us to wonder if other people are considering choosing alternative electricity providers. We&#39;ve been hearing from many people about why or why not. You can <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/power-struggle-who%E2%80%99s-your-energy-provider-108077">have your say</a> right now as well.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Curious Citizen Janice Thomson does not consider herself an environmentalist.</p><p>&ldquo;Environmentalist has this different kind of connotation,&rdquo; said the northsider. &ldquo;I think of environmentalists as people who go hiking. And I don&rsquo;t. But I&rsquo;m obviously concerned about impacts on our earth, our air, our ability to grow food.&rdquo;</p><p>After five years living in Brussels, Belgium she got used to regular media coverage of climate change and renewable energy. Back in the U.S., even a<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/science/earth/arctic-sea-ice-stops-melting-but-new-record-low-is-set.html"> record low in arctic sea ice</a> failed to elicit any mention of the issue during the 2012 presidential debates &mdash; <a href="http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/23/the-issue-that-dare-not-speak-its-name/?_r=0">the first time that has happened since 1988</a>.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/janice thomson.jpg" style="height: 175px; width: 275px; float: right;" title="Curious citizen Janice Thomson says she felt duped by the definition of clean energy Chicago used in electricity aggregation language." /></p><p>&ldquo;When I came back to Chicago [in 2011] I was looking for a renewable supplier for my energy,&rdquo; Thomson said. Along with about 56 percent of Chicago voters, she voted yes on the<a href="http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=210191"> 2012 referendum</a> for<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/progs/Electricity%20Aggregation/GeneralAggregationPresentation.pdf"> municipal electricity aggregation</a>, hoping it would expand the market for wind and solar power.</p><p>Then she got a letter from Integrys Energy Services, the city&rsquo;s new electricity supplier, touting the city&rsquo;s &ldquo;cleaner&rdquo; energy supply.</p><p>Chicago struck a two-year contract with Integrys, replacing Exelon subsidiary Commonwealth Edison and reportedly saving households $150 on average per year by 2015.<a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20130104/NEWS11/130109930/city-reveals-integrys-winning-energy-bid"> <em>Crain&#39;s Chicago Business</em></a> reported Integrys won the deal with a fee of about $8.8 million, about two thirds the price of runner-up Exelon. Energy prices change daily, and low prices are not guaranteed forever, but the contract gives the city an option to switch after May 2014.</p><p>The deal didn&rsquo;t deal just with energy, costs, though; it also eliminated coal, which used to provide roughly 40 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s power, from the city&rsquo;s fuel mix. So our Curious Citizen wanted to know:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Now that Chicago has a new electricity supplier, how much of the city&rsquo;s energy would ultimately come from natural gas via fracking?</em></p><p>Jennifer Block, a spokeswoman for Integrys, said the new fuel mix would be &ldquo;primarily&rdquo; natural gas. Integrys buys electricity wholesale from many power plants and passes it along to distributors like ComEd. The company won&rsquo;t divulge which power plants it buys from, which can and do vary constantly based on the price of those power plants&rsquo; electricity. Integrys can&rsquo;t track individual electrons as they make their way through the grid, so Chicago&rsquo;s no-coal requirement just means Integrys will need to verify that at any given time they have enough non-coal power in their possession to satisfy all of the city&rsquo;s demand. Because it is currently inexpensive, natural gas-fired electricity will satisfy the brunt of that demand.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/crawford%20coal%20chris%20betley.jpg" style="height: 185px; width: 315px; float: left;" title="The Crawford coal-fired electricity generating facility, one of two southwest side coal plants closed in 2012, sits along the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. (Flickr/Chris Bentley)" /></p><p>But for Thomson and self-identifying environmentalists alike, trading one fossil fuel for another might be considered a <a href="http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pyrrhic%20victory">Pyrrhic victory</a> at best. &ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t know that clean energy wasn&rsquo;t the same as renewable energy,&rdquo; Thomson said.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s requirement that its new energy supplier drop coal was the first of its kind, and the<a href="http://cleanpowerchicago.org/"> Chicago Clean Power Coalition</a> endorsed aggregation as a means to promote renewable energy in the future. Currently the city&rsquo;s deal only requires Integrys to meet <a href="http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=IL04R">the state Renewable Portfolio Standard</a> (RPS), which rose this year to 7 percent. The RPS ramps up gradually in pursuit of the state&rsquo;s 25 percent by 2025 goal. Solar, wind, biomass, hydroelectric, anaerobic digestion, biodiesel and landfill gas &mdash; methane, essentially natural gas, recovered from landfills &mdash; count towards the state&rsquo;s RPS, but natural gas mined from the earth through fracking or other methods does not.</p><p><a href="http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-and-you/affect/natural-gas.html">According to the Environmental Protection Agency</a>, natural gas-fired power plants emit about half as much carbon dioxide, less than a third as much nitrogen oxides, and one percent as much sulfur oxides as coal plants. That&rsquo;s the main basis for calling natural gas a &ldquo;clean&rdquo; fuel &mdash; it&rsquo;s clean compared to coal.</p><p>&ldquo;Clean sounds nice,&rdquo; Thomson said, &ldquo;but it doesn&rsquo;t mean what you think it does. I felt duped.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>The &lsquo;F&rsquo; Word</strong></p><p>Thomson shares many environmentalists negative opinion of the controversial drilling process of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking. Joining the religious environmental consortium<a href="http://faithinplace.org/"> Faith in Place</a> on a lobbying trip to Springfield, Janice helped call<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/madigan-mell-push-two-year-ban-fracking-106109"> for a moratorium on fracking</a>, and then later, when an outright ban seemed unlikely, for strong regulations on the practice. Governor Pat Quinn<a href="http://soundcloud.com/afternoonshiftwbez/frack"> signed the regulatory bill into law</a> on June 17.</p><p>While emissions from natural gas power plants are substantially lower than those from coal plants, the process of extracting and transporting the resource is fraught with technical challenges.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/silverfuture%20stop%20illinois%20fracking.jpg" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="A protest against fracking in Illinois from July 2012. (Flickr/silverfuture)" /></p><p>&ldquo;Unconventional&rdquo; oil and gas resources are so-named because they have previously been impossible to dig up economically. But innovations in drilling technology have brought together fracking, in which drillers blast water, fine sand and chemicals to break up porous rock containing fossil fuels, and horizontal drilling, which allows a single rig to explore long, flat sedimentary rock formations thousands of feet underground without drilling straight down from the surface many times. The resulting practice has opened up massive stores of previously out-of-reach oil and gas.</p><p>It has also sparked environmental concerns. When well casings fail, for example, fracking fluid &nbsp;and other material<a href="http://phys.org/news/2013-05-fracking-ground.html"> can contaminate groundwater</a>. Drillers recover much of the fluid used in fracking, but some is left deep underground. And in areas stricken by drought,<a href="http://www.reporternews.com/news/2013/jun/16/texas-illinois-fracking-fuels-water-fights-nations/"> the water-intensive process has sparked fights</a> over water use.</p><p>Then there&rsquo;s global warming. Methane, the primary component of natural gas,<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/more-methane-epa-reexamines-potency-greenhouse-gas-107148"> is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide</a>, and how much of it leaks into the atmosphere as a result of fracking<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/epa-rolls-back-methane-emissions-natural-gas-106891"> is a topic of heated debate</a>. Many environmentalists argue even if methane leakage is low, the math says<a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719"> we have to start leaving fossil fuels in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change</a>.</p><p>The drilling industry calls Illinois&rsquo; regulations the toughest in the nation, noting provisions for water quality monitoring and oversight from state environmental agencies. In 2010 Congress ordered the EPA to investigate whether fracking posed risks to drinking water, with results expected in 2014.<a href="http://grist.org/news/epa-delays-fracking-safety-study-until-2016/"> The results of that study were recently delayed until 2016</a>.</p><p><strong>Curious kilowatts</strong></p><p>Drillers<a href="http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/us/southern-illinois-counties-seeing-fracking-rush-682303/"> have already leased land in 17 Illinois counties</a> and, according to <a href="http://www.pantagraph.com/news/state-and-regional/illinois/high-volume-fracking-already-underway-in-ill/article_48600bc8-c87c-11e2-9335-001a4bcf887a.html">an Associated Press investigation</a> of state records, at least one company has already attempted high-volume fracking in the state. But the Illinois Oil and Gas Association&rsquo;s Brad Richards said it will likely be at least six months before the first permit is issued.</p><p>&ldquo;Realistically this thing&rsquo;s a year or more out before we see any significant production going to market,&rdquo; Richards said, noting that test wells first need to verify how much oil and gas is actually in Illinois&rsquo; New Albany Shale play. Drilling itself takes time, and pipeline infrastructure would have to be built to transport large quantities of gas.</p><p>Even when they do hit the market, Illinois&rsquo; resources are heavily weighted towards oil, not gas. Gas is very cheap at the moment, Richards said, &ldquo;And these companies wouldn&rsquo;t be here leasing if they believed it were a dry gas play.&rdquo;</p><p>Conventional production in Illinois is almost entirely oil, with very little gas. So especially in the near term, Chicago&rsquo;s natural gas-fired electricity almost certainly isn&rsquo;t coming from downstate.</p><p>Nationally about 40 percent of U.S. natural gas production was from shale formations in 2012, according to Jonathan Cogan of the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That share is growing, so it&rsquo;s likely that at least some of the electricity Integrys buys from natural gas power plants comes ultimately from fracking.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/U.S.%20Energy%20Information%20Administration.png" style="height: 213px; width: 320px; float: left;" title="The natural gas supply, according to U.S. EIA's Annual Energy Outlook 2012, in trillions of cubic feet per year, projected to 2035. Unconventional gas plays a significant and growing role. (U.S. Energy Information Administration)" /></p><p>It&rsquo;s impossible to tell exactly how much fracked natural gas ends up as electricity in Chicago, Integrys&rsquo; Jennifer Block said. The same problem afflicts opponents of particular types of oil.</p><p>&ldquo;People sometimes want to boycott products made from Canadian Oil, for example,&rdquo; said the Illinois Oil and Gas Association&rsquo;s Brad Richards, &ldquo;but once it hits the refinery, oil is oil, baby. The golf balls, the plastic bags, the gas in your tank &mdash; who knows where what came from.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Other options? </strong></p><p>Someone like our Curious Citizen who wants to avoid any connection with fracking could opt-out of the Integrys program altogether without a cancellation fee. Many suppliers offer customers &ldquo;100 percent green&rdquo; options, which generally rely on Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).</p><p>Essentially renewable energy derivatives, RECs accumulate at any renewable energy power plant that generates electricity. A wind farm in Iowa, for example, could sell its RECs to a city in Illinois looking to offset pollution from a predominantly fossil fuel-fired electricity supplier.</p><p>Consider Evanston. The north suburb&rsquo;s own electricity aggregation deal calls for an audit of the electricity supplier &mdash; at first Constellation, now Verde Energy &mdash; to make sure they are purchasing enough RECs to offset 100 percent of the city&rsquo;s electricity use. According to<a href="https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.icc.illinois.gov%2Fdownloads%2Fpublic%2FIL%20Disclosure%20Label%20June%202013.pdf"> their most recent environmental disclosure statement</a>, Verde&rsquo;s actual electricity still comes mostly from fossil fuels. But Evanston&rsquo;s sustainability coordinator, Catherine Hurley, said RECs move the market nonetheless.</p><p>&ldquo;Wind energy assets run at a very small margin, so the additional revenue stream that RECs offer really does help make the case for developing renewable energy,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Currently it&rsquo;s the best, easiest and cheapest option for us to take the next step forward.&rdquo;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ice%20bear%20chris%20bentley.jpg" style="height: 199px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Outside Evanston's Chandler-Newberger Community Center, the city's newly installed Ice Bear whirs on a hot summer day. The system makes ice to store energy at night, when electricity generation is less expensive, and releases it as the ice melts during the day to cool the building. A pilot project, the Ice Bear is part of Evanston's electricity aggregation deal with energy supplier Verde. (Flickr/Chris Bentley)" /></p><p>Verde&rsquo;s contract with Evanston offsets 100 percent of the city&rsquo;s energy with RECs at a rate lower than competitors.</p><p>&ldquo;The reason to do it is two-fold,&rdquo; said Evanston&rsquo;s mayor, Elizabeth Tisdahl. &ldquo;It saves money and it reduces your carbon footprint. What could be better?&rdquo;</p><p>And no matter what supplier a consumer chooses, there is one universal option to lessen demand for nonrenewable resources.</p><p>&ldquo;One thing consumers can do is use less,&rdquo; said Tom Wolf, of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. &ldquo;Every kilowatt you don&rsquo;t use is one that doesn&rsquo;t have to be produced.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/does-electricity-aggregation-do-enough-renewable-energy-106760">RECs may not be the ideal means of encouraging renewable energy deployment</a>, but they are a useful tool for communities like Evanston that aren&rsquo;t near many utility-scale renewable energy power plants. Likewise municipal aggregation itself could give a voice to citizens who want more control over their power supply.</p><p>&ldquo;In 2012 Chicago asked the question of which suppliers can give us coal free electricity,&rdquo; said The Sierra Club&rsquo;s Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin. &ldquo;In the future Chicago or other cities are free to ask, &lsquo;Who can give us gas-fired power that didn&rsquo;t come from fracking?&rsquo; We&rsquo;re just really at the tip of the iceberg in innovation here &hellip; at the end of the day the demand for all energy starts with us.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment for WBEZ. Follow him</em><a href="http://twitter.com/cementley"><em> @cementley</em></a></p></p> Tue, 02 Jul 2013 16:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932 Global Activism: Road tripping for solar energy across Ghana on the 'SolBus' http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-road-tripping-solar-energy-across-ghana-solbus-107815 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ghana_1_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>David Levine wants to &ldquo;solarize Ghana.&rdquo; Later this summer volunteers with his organization, Volunteers for International Development and Aid <a href="http://www.thevida.org/">(VIDA)</a>, plan on road tripping across Ghana on a 40-foot revamped school bus that will serve as a &ldquo;mobile solar workshop.&rdquo; Their mission is to install solar power in schools and clinics that might not otherwise have access to electricity along the way. For <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism"><em>Global Activism</em></a>, Levine joins us to explain what he and fellow volunteers hope to accomplish with the SolBus.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F97739705" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 20 Jun 2013 09:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-road-tripping-solar-energy-across-ghana-solbus-107815 Does electricity aggregation do enough for renewable energy? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/does-electricity-aggregation-do-enough-renewable-energy-106760 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/photos_by_laurence/5130848556/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/%28Courtesy-Laurence-Pearlman-via-Flickr%29.jpg" title="Transmission lines in Des Plaines, Ill. (Courtesy-Laurence-Pearlman-via-Flickr)" /></a></p><p>When Chicagoans <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/municipal-electricity-aggregation-explained-103585">voted for electricity aggregation in 2012</a>, becoming the largest city in the U.S. to do so, they gave the city power to negotiate a new price for electricity on their behalf.</p><p>Pooling customers saves money, but it also gives them a unified voice that they can use to demand renewable energy.</p><p>Somewhat ironically, however, state requirements meant to encourage renewable energy development in Illinois could dampen aggregation&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/referendum-could-mean-more-renewable-energy-chicago-102911">potential to do just that</a>.</p><p>The state&rsquo;s Renewable Portfolio Standard requires Illinois energy suppliers purchase 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025. But they can meet half of that requirement by buying renewable energy credits (RECs) from out-of-state producers. <a href="http://www.midwestenergynews.com/2012/08/10/experts-chicago-aggregation-could-hurt-renewable-energy-unless-the-rps-is-fixed/">A quirk in the law</a> could actually <a href="http://grist.org/climate-energy/how-to-make-illinois-into-a-clean-energy-leader/">prevent money collected through aggregation for the purpose of funding renewable energy</a> from spurring any new renewable development.</p><p>Jack Darin of the Sierra Club hopes the state will fix that glitch. Even if it does, cities buying renewable energy are actually buying credits&mdash;&nbsp;not renewably generated electricity itself.</p><p>&ldquo;RECs are renewable energy derivatives, essentially,&rdquo; said Kevin Borgia, policy manager for Wind on the Wires.</p><p>A wind farm in Texas, where there is no state requirement for renewable energy, could build up RECs that would find their way to Illinois towns looking to meet the standards they set forth in an aggregation deal.</p><p>&ldquo;They don&rsquo;t move growth in renewables the way purchasing actual electricity would,&quot; Borgia said. &quot;The use of RECs in general is somewhat a missed opportunity.&rdquo;</p><p>Since the state allowed aggregation in 2009, <a href="http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=a4f51b5b-3000-44e5-95ee-1f666723990b">more than 200 Illinois communities</a> have approved their own deals. Elgin&rsquo;s contract with Direct Energy costs 4.915 cents per kilowatt-hour and is 100 percent renewable. Oak Forest pays an extra eight-tenths of a penny per kWh to purchase enough renewable energy credits to cover 100 percent of the town&rsquo;s power. Evanston and Oak Park have also pursued 100 percent renewable power. But that doesn&rsquo;t mean every light bulb in those cities is channeling wind energy.</p><p>The Illinois house <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=2623&amp;GAID=12&amp;GA=98&amp;DocTypeID=HB&amp;LegID=74429&amp;SessionID=85">this week passed legislation</a> that spelled out ratepayers&rsquo; right to know the source of their power. Chicago is large enough to command the market&rsquo;s attention, but small towns don&rsquo;t have energy experts advising them. Darin of the Sierra Club said the new state law might inspire other aggregated communities to push for more green energy.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s all a matter of how communities use their aggregation buying power,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I think we&rsquo;re going to see more creativity and more exciting things as cities realize what they can do.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/virtualphotographers/4978307600/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pontiac%20wind%20farm%20%28courtesy%20virtualphotographers%20via%20Flickr%29.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 305px; float: right;" title="A wind farm in Pontiac, Ill. (courtesy virtualphotographers via Flickr)" /></a></div><p><a href="http://www.sustainable-chicago.com/2012/06/21/power-to-the-people-electrical-aggregation/">According to the Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Collaborative</a>, 40 percent of their municipal clients that opt for a renewable energy rate hike go for full renewable coverage.</p><p>Chicago struck a two-year contract with Integrys Energy Services, replacing Exelon subsidiary Commonwealth Edison and reportedly saving households $150 on average per year by 2015. Energy prices change daily, and low prices are not guaranteed forever, but the contract requires Integrys to provide electricity cheaper than ComEd, and gives the city an option to switch after May 2014. It also banned coal, which provides roughly 40 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s power, from the city&rsquo;s fuel mix. A spokeswoman from Integrys said the majority of that displaced power would come from natural gas.</p><p>Compare that to San Francisco. The city&rsquo;s CleanPowerSF program is focused on providing consumers with more renewable energy. It offers 100 percent green power, mainly from wind, with an opt-out choice for customers who do not want to pay more for renewable energy. It&rsquo;s also rolled out gradually, with only 90,000 customers enrolled this year and the rest over the next two years. And it has the option of direct purchasing, so ratepayers buy renewable energy instead of credits.</p><p>In Chicago aggregation was an easy sell &mdash; prices fell immediately. In contrast with Chicago&rsquo;s Emanuel-driven 50-0 vote, three of San Francisco&rsquo;s 11 City Council members were against the proposal, and so was the mayor.</p><p>The two deals, though similar in size, come from a different set of circumstances. California&rsquo;s Renewable Portfolio Standard is more demanding than <a href="http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=IL04R">Illinois&#39;</a> (33 percent by 2020 vs. Illinois&rsquo; 25 percent by 2025). But researchers at Yale and George Mason universities found <a href="http://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/blog/2012/11/renewable-energy-yale-survey.html?page=all">88 percent of Americans say the U.S. should make an effort to reduce global warming, even if it has economic costs</a>. If ratepayers demand it, renewable energy (not just credits) could make up a greater share of the fuel mix in communities that have approved aggregation.</p><p>And if the two-year deal works out, analysts like Borgia hope Chicago will look at longer contracts. A new wind farm won&rsquo;t likely turn a profit in just two years, so a longer contract could spur wind and solar farm construction and bring in-state jobs, while providing a hedge against future fluctuations in the price of fossil fuels like natural gas.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not just about feel-good renewables,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;This is about economic sense.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about environmental issues. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Sun, 21 Apr 2013 16:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/does-electricity-aggregation-do-enough-renewable-energy-106760 Manufacturing comeback could drive infill and energy efficiency http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/manufacturing-comeback-could-drive-infill-and-energy-efficiency-105752 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/rappduane/6070960991/in/photostream/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/wind-turbine-by-Duane-Rapp.jpg" title="Wind turbines at the Lee-Dekalb Wind Energy Center. Renewable energy could benefit from a resurgence in the Chicago region's manufacturing sector. (Duane Rapp via Flickr)" /></a></p><p>Manufacturing is a defining part of the Chicago region&rsquo;s past, but <a href="http://cmap.illinois.gov/policy/drill-downs/manufacturing">a report from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning</a> says it could guide regional development in the future, too.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/what-next-decade-chicago-manufacturing-should-look-105755">WBEZ&#39;s Niala Boodhoo has a rundown of the report&#39;s main points</a>, but here&rsquo;s what it says for land use and energy &mdash; two key factors for the kind of manufacturing resurgence the report envisions. It&#39;s the kind of advanced manufacturing renaissance <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/video/state-union-2013-obama-announces-manufacturing-education-initiatives-18483105" target="_blank">recently touted by President Barack Obama</a>. (Read the <a href="http://cmap.illinois.gov/policy/drill-downs/manufacturing" target="_blank">full report and a summary here</a>.)</p><p><strong>Development and transportation</strong></p><p>CMAP looked at the seven-county region of northeastern Illinois. That encompasses 580,000 manufacturing jobs, a &quot;cluster&quot; of jobs second only to Los Angeles, but also the region&rsquo;s suburban and exurban sprawl. The report recommends incentives for infill growth and investment in transportation infrastructure. That would be transit-oriented development, oriented around pockets (or &ldquo;nodes&rdquo;) of density near the suburban hotbeds of the region&rsquo;s manufacturing sector.</p><p>Transportation infrastructure is already underfunded, with regional transit agencies eyeing about <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-27/news/ct-met-rta-borrowing-20120927_1_rta-chairman-john-gates-rta-plan-bond-plan">$31 billion for infrastructure improvements and other capital investments</a> over the next 10 years. The job growth projected in CMAP&rsquo;s report could potentially goad some additional investment, but the transportation system&rsquo;s looming budget gap is a serious challenge to the kind of transit-friendly development called for in the report calls.</p><p>To encourage density, the report recommends infill development &mdash; redevelopment on existing vacant properties. There are <a href="http://www.cmap.illinois.gov/documents/20583/019144d1-be14-4484-ae1d-ddd762a04122" target="_blank">more than 100,000 acres of land available for infill development</a>, CMAP said, but taking advantage of under-used land can be difficult. Industrial land could be environmentally contaminated, and much of the land that once hosted large facilities has been divided up by individual land buyers over the years, fragmenting the land available for new manufacturers. Still, there is massive potential, as seen in the map below.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/infill.png" style="height: 831px; width: 610px;" title="Infill redevelopment potential in the Chicago region. (Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning)" /></div><p><strong>Energy</strong></p><p>Manufacturing is the largest domestic consumer of energy, making up about one third of total energy use nationwide. Ultimately CMAP&rsquo;s projections for a revitalized manufacturing base in northeastern Illinois don&rsquo;t hinge on energy issues; only a few industries account for 70 percent of all the energy use by manufacturers in Illinois, and those same industries account for just 25 percent of manufacturing employment. Nonetheless energy remains a major factor for manufacturing operations.</p><p>Illinois has a slightly higher cost for energy delivered to industry than other states in the midwest, the report notes. The cost of coal in Illinois is 16 percent lower than the national average, but with natural gas prices plummeting, that is unlikely to be a major advantage. And manufacturers use more natural gas than any other end user.</p><p><a href="http://cmap.illinois.gov/policy/drill-downs/manufacturing" target="_blank">The report</a> also says industrial firms in Illinois could make better use of combined heat and power (CHP) systems that recover waste heat for reuse and electricity generation, citing a World Resources Institute study that found CHP potential in Illinois was the largest in the Midwest, totaling four times the currently installed capacity. They point to an East Chicago steel manufacturer, ArcelorMittal, that recovers more energy from its blast furnace, the world&rsquo;s largest, than the power from all the existing wind turbines in Illinois and Indiana combined.</p><p>CHP would be more attractive, the report says, if firms could more easily sell excess energy back to the grid. That practice is currently limited by regulation. The state <a href="http://www3.illinois.gov/PressReleases/ShowPressRelease.cfm?SubjectID=29&amp;RecNum=10557">recently won a grant to improve energy efficiency in manufacturing</a>, which could potentially speed up efforts to install CHP systems. To fund those installations, the report suggests that utilities provide upfront investments to be repaid through future energy savings.</p><p>Manufacturing growth could encourage renewable energy deployment, too, as manufacturers get a relatively high percentage (5 percent) of their energy from renewable sources compared to the residential (2.3 percent), transportation (1 percent)&nbsp;and commercial (0.8 percent) sectors.</p><p>And the regional employment outlook could also benefit from an increased demand for renewable energy. Wind turbine manufacturing is growing in northeastern Illinois &mdash; German turbine giant Nordex and Chinese company Xianjiang Goldwind located their North American headquarters in Chicago. With only a few hundred regional employees, wind turbine manufacturing is not yet a major employer. It is, however, <a href="http://www.awea.org/learnabout/publications/factsheets/upload/3Q-12-Illinois.pdf">a rapidly growing market</a>.</p><p>Energy storage is another likely beneficiary of the kind of manufacturing comeback CMAP recommends. The Department of Energy <a href="http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/30/seeking-to-start-a-silicon-valley-for-battery-science/">recently named</a> <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/argonne-national-laboratory">Argonne National Laboratory</a> a national hub for battery research.</p><p>But the report also notes that the region&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20130226/NEWS05/130229845/chicago-takes-a-nosedive-in-r-d" target="_blank">investments in research and development have plummeted</a>&nbsp;in the last ten years.&nbsp;The authors recommend the state match federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants to build on regional expertise. Renewable energy made up 13 of 82 SBIR awards in the region in 2011, more than any other specified research category.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about environmental issues. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 26 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/manufacturing-comeback-could-drive-infill-and-energy-efficiency-105752 Worldview 1.16.12 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-11612 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/episode/images/2012-january/2012-01-13/100711lenergy410.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Worldview</em> takes a break for MLK Day. Increasingly, people around the globe are inspired to tune in and turn on to alternative energy sources. They're reaching for the sun, for unexpected bounties on earth and, more often than not, for each other to power the planet. Today on <a href="http://www.latitudesradio.org/"><em>Latitudes</em></a>, we’ll hear energy stories from the Middle East, the Philippines, Burma, and South Africa.</p></p> Mon, 16 Jan 2012 16:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-11612 Daniel Yergin examines America's 'quest' for energy http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-19/daniel-yergin-examines-americas-quest-energy-92210 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-20/daniel-yergin-c-jon-chomitz.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A television ad running in upstate New York has been warning residents that the state's water supply is headed for ruin.</p><p>"New York tap water has always been the best in the world," it says. "In places where gas companies are already using a dangerous process called fracking, like Pennsylvania, the water is cloudy and full of toxic chemicals."</p><p>The ad is part of an intensifying debate over hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" — the process energy companies use to get a certain kind of natural gas out of the ground. Fracking is also one of the many subjects energy expert Daniel Yergin covers in his new book, <em>The Quest</em>. Yergin tells NPR's David Greene that the type of natural gas you get through fracking, the gas found in shale, only recently became a serious energy source for the U.S.</p><p>"Shale gas really has been a revolution that's happened extremely rapidly," Yergin says. "Up until 2008, it really wasn't recognized and then it just took off and it's gone from being virtually none of our natural gas production to about 30 percent of our total natural gas production."</p><p>According to Yergin, who sits on a Department of Energy committee that's investigating the environmental impact of fracking, the process has some potential drawbacks: there's the possibility that fracking could increase the amount of methane in the ground water supply and that equipment and generators used for drilling could lead to increased air pollution.</p><p>"The industry itself knows that these are issues that it has to deal with," Yergin says. "So I think we're going to see a lot of innovation and a lot of progress to address environmental questions around this."</p><p>These are all new questions for states like New York and Pennsylvania, who — unlike, say, Texas — are unaccustomed to energy development. Just consider New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo opened the door to shale gas production in the state's poorer regions in hopes that it would spark economic growth.</p><p>"It comes down to employment. Shale gas has created hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs in the last five years in the United States. It's brought $1 billion of revenue into the state government of Pennsylvania," Yergin says. "It does have a transformative impact."</p><p>Energy development means more trucks, more traffic and more people working in the energy sector — and that's a lot of change.</p><p>"[That's] part of the reason for the response to it," Yergin says. "This is a great resource — this is the biggest energy innovation probably in the last 30 years, that we've seen. But it has to be done in a way that is both environmentally responsible and also acceptable to the public."</p><p><strong>A global reaction to American resources</strong></p><p>Last March, President Obama <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/03/30/remarks-president-americas-energy-security">stipulated that there could be a century's worth of shale gas beneath our feet</a> in the U.S. That much gas could give the country a measure of security, reducing dependence on foreign sources of energy. But a domestic move towards shale gas could also have global implications.</p><p>"My personal quest in writing <em>The Quest</em> was to try and provide a framework to see how these things all tie together," Yergin says. "It has become increasingly interconnected. If you wind the clock back to 2008, the United States was going to be a huge importer of liquefied natural gas from the Middle East, from countries like Trinidad, from Angola, from Nigeria and maybe from Russia. That's all off the table because we're now self-sufficient in terms of natural gas, and suddenly that gas that was going to come in cargos and ships to the United States has to find other destinations."</p><p>Less need for liquefied natural gas in the U.S. means there's more available for Europe, which means, perhaps, that Europe could rely less on Russia for gas.</p><p>"But then something else happened somewhere else in the world, this awful, terrible accident at Fukushima in Japan," Yergin says. "What was going to be the nuclear renaissance is now a much, much, much more uncertain thing. The German chancellor, [Angela] Merkel, who was a big advocate for stepping up the nuclear program in Germany, changes her mind really and says, 'We can't do it. We're going to shut down our nuclear power.' What does that mean? They'll import more natural gas. Where will they import it from? Russia."</p><p>And so, like dominos, one country changing its energy strategy can set off reverberations around the world.</p><p><strong>'We need to be diversified'</strong></p><p>The availability of a new resource can also raise questions about a country's energy policy. For instance, with so much shale gas available over the next hundred years, should the U.S. bother to keep developing renewable energy? Yergin says yes.</p><p>"We need to focus on renewables, to start with, for security reasons [and] for diversification reasons," he says. "I go back to what Winston Churchill, head of the British Royal Navy, said before World War I, when he was converting the Royal Navy from safe British coal to oil from Persia — Iran — and people said, 'This is really dangerous,' and he said, 'Safety in oil [lies] in variety and variety alone.' And I think that's still a fundamental starting point."</p><p>But security doesn't only mean protecting the country's oil infrastructure from enemies — it also means protecting the infrastructure from everything else that could happen.</p><p>"You know what's going to happen, and everybody agrees on what's going to happen, and then something else happens," Yergin says. "It could be everything from political crisis, as we've seen that effect oil supply, to natural disasters to technological breakthroughs. We have a very complex energy foundation that our $14 trillion economy rests upon."</p><p>The recent blackout in California and Arizona, for example, was the result of a chain reaction that started when an electrical worker mistakenly removed a piece of monitoring equipment. Yergin says there's an important lesson to be learned from that blackout.</p><p>"In general with energy, given how important it is to our economy, we need to be diversified," he says. "One of the big challenges we have is the growth of demand on a global basis, and there isn't one single solution that provides the answer."</p><div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.</div></p> Mon, 19 Sep 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-19/daniel-yergin-examines-americas-quest-energy-92210 Argonne scores hydropower research grant http://www.wbez.org/story/argonne-scores-hydropower-research-grant-91615 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-07/AP050526025387.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Argonne National Laboratory has secured nearly $2 million in federal money for hydropower technology research.</p><p>The lab, located in suburban Chicago, is one of 16 research facilities in 11 states to receive Department of Energy funds for such research. On Tuesday the department announced it would distribute funds totaling nearly $17 million over three years.</p><p>Argonne is the only Illinois project to receive money. The lab will investigate ways to improve pumped storage hydropower, where utilities pump water up to a dam when electricity demand is low, then release the water when demand is high. Supporters say it can make electric grids more reliable.</p><p>Energy Secretary Steven Chu said improving that technology would help maximize use of a clean energy resource and create jobs.</p></p> Wed, 07 Sep 2011 15:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/argonne-scores-hydropower-research-grant-91615 After a half century of unwavering support, Japan should become nuclear free, says prime minister http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-29/after-half-century-unwavering-support-japan-should-become-nuclear-free-s <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-July/2011-07-29/japan2.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Earlier this month, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan called for a society that doesn’t rely on nuclear power. His announcement stunned some of the political establishment, but it seems in line with Japanese public opinion. A recent poll revealed that 70% supported Kan's nuclear strategy. But the prime minister faces serious political hurdles: about 66% of Japanese voters would like to see him resign at the end of the Diet session in August.</p><p><a href="http://web.ics.purdue.edu/%7Edaldrich/" target="_blank">Daniel Aldrich</a> is an associate professor of political science at Purdue University and a visiting fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu. He just returned from a trip to Japan. We talk to him about Kan’s plans to curb nuclear power and ask whether a nuclear-free Japan is even possible.</p></p> Fri, 29 Jul 2011 17:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-29/after-half-century-unwavering-support-japan-should-become-nuclear-free-s