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Monday, November 24, 2014

Solar and Wind Energy Start to Win on Price vs. Conventional Fuels

NY Times -- For the solar and wind industries in the United States, it has been a long-held dream: to produce energy at a cost equal to conventional sources like coal and natural gas.

That day appears to be dawning.

The cost of providing electricity from wind and solar power plants has plummeted over the last five years, so much so that in some markets renewable generation is now cheaper than coal or natural gas.

Utility executives say the trend has accelerated this year, with several companies signing contracts, known as power purchase agreements, for solar or wind at prices below that of natural gas, especially in the Great Plains and Southwest, where wind and sunlight are abundant.

Those prices were made possible by generous subsidies that could soon diminish or expire, but recent analyses show  (read more)

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Falling apart: America's neglected infrastructure

CBS News -- Our roads and bridges are crumbling, our airports are out of date and the vast majority of our seaports are in danger of becoming obsolete.  (read more)

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Opec a shadow of its former self

Times LIVE-The Sunday Telegraph -- In 1976, Saudi Arabia's former oil minister, Ahmed Zaki Yamani, stormed out of the Opec gathering early when other members of the cartel would not comply with the wishes of his new master, King Khaled.

The 166th meeting of the group, in Vienna next week, is looking like it could end in a similarly acrimonious way, with Saudi Arabia and several other members at loggerheads over what to do about falling oil prices.

Whatever action Opec agrees to take to halt the sharp decline in the price of crude, experts agree that one thing is clear: the world is entering an era of lower oil prices that the group is almost powerless to change.

This new energy paradigm might result in oil trading at much less than the $100 (R1100) a barrel that consumers have grown used to paying over the past decade...  (read more)

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Chernobyl: The catastrophe that never ended

CBS News -- Nearly 30 years after the explosion, Bob Simon travels to Ukraine and discovers the reactor still has the power to kill  (read more)

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While U.S. feasts on cheap oil, OPEC nations likely to squabble

The Columbus Dispatch -- Thanksgiving is a time of reflection on resources and relatives, even for one group of a dozen oil-producing countries that won’t observe the holiday this week.

The free fall in oil prices has led to billions of dollars staying in U.S. consumers’ pockets instead of pumped into their gas tanks just as the holiday spending season gets underway. Since June oil prices have fallen 30 percent. While OPEC nations aren’t about to cry poverty, the cartel will be working in the new week to stop the drop.

OPEC oil ministers meet on Thursday but not for a Thanksgiving feast. Instead, the powers that control almost 40 percent of world oil production will argue over how much oil they are pumping and if they should pump less of it. But like many extended family gatherings for the holiday, there will...  (read more)

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Flurry of B.C. court battles threaten to drive away investment

The Globe and Mail -- A flurry of court cases has tied up more than $25B worth of resource projects this year as FN, environmental groups and others battle pipelines, mines, a dam and a coal port – a situation that some observers fear will drive away investment

Executive VP/CPO for the Business Council of BC worries BC's reputation could suffer if the wave of litigation continues

“The No.1 reason why investors are reluctant to invest in BC is because of the FN land-uncertainty question

One of the reasons for all the legal action is that the government is not doing enough to protect the environment

One way to restore public confidence and cut down on the litigation would be for the province to get out of the agreement that authorizes the NEB to approve Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain pipeline proposa  (read more)

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China Needs 1,000 Nuclear Reactors to Fulfill Its Climate Pledge

Bloomberg News -- China, which does nothing in small doses, will need about 1,000 nuclear reactors, 500,000 wind turbines or 50,000 solar farms as it takes up the fight against climate change.  (read more)

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US welcomes oil deal between Kurdistan, Baghdad

Gulf News -- US Vice President Joe Biden welcomed an agreement between Iraq’s central government and its northern Kurdistan region over the management of oil exports, a step forward in a feud that has threatened the unity of Iraq.

After years of friction, the two sides last week struck a deal in which Kurds will give half of their overall oil shipments to the federal government and Baghdad will pay overdue civil servants’ salaries in the region.

“I was encouraged to see the recent interim agreement between Baghdad and Arbil on managing exports and revenue sharing,” Biden told an Atlantic Council summit on energy and the economy in Istanbul on Saturday.

Oil has been at the heart of a feud between the Arab-led government in Baghdad and the ethnic Kurdish-run northern enclave, which dispute control...  (read more)

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NC motorists see lowest gas prices in 5 years

More North Carolinians are heading over the river and through the woods for Thanksgiving, and they will find the trip won't cost nearly as much as it has recently.

AAA Carolinas says 1,345,000 North Carolinians are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home. About 1,210,500 of those travelers will drive, an increase of about 48,600 than last year. They will be enjoying the lowest gas prices in five years.

Gas prices in North Carolina are averaging $2.77, down 57 cents from Labor Day. Residents also are paying 46 cents less at the pump compared to last Thanksgiving.

AAA Carolinas President and CEO David Parsons says lower gas prices have encouraged more people to travel for Thanksgiving.  (read more)

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For Google's self-driving cars, learning to deal with the bizarre is essentia

Star Tribune -- In 700,000 miles of navigating roads, Google's self-driving cars have encountered just about everything -- including an elderly woman in a motorized wheelchair flailing a broom at a duck she was chasing around the street.

Apparently perplexed and taking no chances, the vehicle stopped and refused to go farther.

Through extensive testing covering nearly every street in Google's hometown of Mountain View, Calif., the company's 20 or so autonomous vehicles have developed an abiding sense of caution. Google researchers concede it will take more experience on the roads before the autos can learn to cope with every situation without becoming bewildered and shutting down, stranding passengers. When that happens now, researchers have to take the wheel and step on the gas.

One of the most surpri  (read more)

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

'America loves you': Jay Leno surprises wounded veteran with new car

Today / NBC News -- Behind every salute and every handshake from a soldier, there's a great story. Jay Leno set out to share one of those stories, and went above and beyond to show his appreciation for their service — by giving a soldier a brand new car.

"We took all these wounded warriors and did sort of a lottery and reached in and picked a soldier at random (to) do something for him and hopefully it expresses what we want to do for all the soldiers," Leno said.

That soldier was Cpl. Ethan Laberge. Laberge had been on foot patrol in Afghanistan when a suicide bomber drove up and detonated himself, seriously injuring Leberge and killing two fellow soldiers who had been standing with him.

..Leno had just the thing for Leberge: a ride in a 2015 Dodge SRT Hellcat.

When Leno asked Leberge if he wanted to tak  (read more)

Submitted Nov 22, 2014 By:

Toyota Unveils Hydrogen-Powered 2016 Mirai

GasBuddy Blog -- Image From ..caranddriver.comToyota has unveiled a mid-size car that runs on hydrogen fuel cells, joining some of its rivals as they mark a new foray into alternative powertrains.The world’s top seller of cars and trucks said this week the 2016 Mirai will be available starting in the fall of 2015. Toyota expects to make only 700 of the vehicles next year. The Mirai—a Japanese word that translates to “future”—will be rolled out at select dealers that have hydrogen fueling stations nearby.Toyota hopes the Mirai can attract drivers in the same way its Prius helped pave the way for hybrids and electric cars after launching in 1997. In five or six years, the automaker hopes to boost sales to the tens of thousands....  (read more)

Submitted Nov 22, 2014 By:

Robin Hooders" pay expired meters

usa today -- The self-styled "Robin Hooders" race to the rescue of the parking peasantry, pumping quarters into their expired meters and leaving behind cards informing them they have been saved from "the king's tariff."

Nobody, not even the king - in this case the quaint New Hampshire college town of Keene - disputes their right to use pocket change as political capital in what they view as a fight against government oppression.

But city officials say the not-so-merry band leaves behind more than cards with a cartoon Robin Hood and a suggestion to pay their good deed forward: stressed-out parking enforcement officers. And now the New Hampshire Supreme Court is deliberating if there is a line to be drawn between protecting free speech rights and protecting government employees from harassment.  (read more)

Submitted Nov 22, 2014 By:

EPA Delays Decision on Ethanol in Gas

ABC News -- Last year the Environmental Protection Agency proposed to reduce the amount of ethanol in fuel for the first time, acknowledging that a biofuel law that both Republicans and Democrats had championed nearly a decade ago was not working as well as expected.

A final decision was due before the end of the year on the already-delayed standards, but the EPA said Friday the final rule will now come in 2015.

The ethanol targets are required by a 2007 law that tried to address global warming, reduce dependence on foreign oil and boost the rural economy by requiring oil companies to blend billions of gallons of biofuels into gasoline annually. But lawmakers did not anticipate fuel economy would improve as much as it has in recent years, reducing overall demand for gasoline.

 (read more)

Submitted Nov 22, 2014 By:

Safe home heating: Eight tips to stay alive this winter -- There is more to home heating than the price of natural gas or electricity. And what you don't know can be fatal.

There is more to worry about winter heating than the price of natural gas or electricity. And what you don't know can be fatal.

Here are eight heating safety tips, courtesy of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and Consumer Reports:

>Have the furnace inspected and if necessary tuned up every fall. And ask for an inspection of the chimney or PVC exhaust piping now used to vent high-efficiency furnaces.

>Never use an oven to heat the house. Most household ovens are not vented, and incomplete combustion can produce carbon monoxide, an orderless killer.

> Make sure chimneys and vent pipes for fireplaces and wood stoves are in good shape, not clogged and will not leak...  (read more)

Submitted Nov 22, 2014 By:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Cold triggers tire sensors: don't ignore your TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) !

GasBuddy Blog -- Image From ..bostonglobe.comWhile much of the country was blanketed with snow this week and more may be  on the way in the Great Lakes... maybe the last thing you want to worry about is your tire pressure.  After all, if you've been buried in places like Buffalo, it may be some time before you even find your vehicle, let alone drive it. 

Once you turn the heat on and get behind the wheel, don't be surprised if there's a light on your dashboard that you're not familiar with. When it comes to our cars, steep temperature drops can trigger a sign of winter that we don’t welcome: a yellow or orange low tire pressure warning light.When your light comes on, your car is simply telling you that you need more air in your tire and this time of year, the warning is usually related to steep drops in temperature. What should you do?  Don't ignore it. ...  (read more)

Submitted Nov 21, 2014 By:

Takata executive warns about ability to fix deadly air bag flaw

Reuters-Yahoo -- WASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) - An executive from Japan's Takata Corp told U.S. senators on Thursday the supplier is urgently trying to ramp up replacement parts for millions of vehicles fitted with potentially deadly air bags, but said it may not be able to move quickly enough.

The U.S. auto safety regulator also warned of the risks of moving to a nationwide recall, as senators have urged, saying such a move could divert replacement parts from humid regions where the defective air bags are more likely to rupture upon deployment, shooting metal shards into cars.

At least five fatalities have been linked to the defect so far, mostly in the United States.

 (read more)

Submitted Nov 21, 2014 By:

GasBuddy Outsmart the Pump Sweepstakes Winner Announced

GasBuddy Blog -- If you think gas prices have been low lately, imagine paying $0 at the pump for the entire year. That’s what Brenda Price of Lilburn, Georgia will be paying as GasBuddy’s “Outsmart the Pump” summer sweepstakes winner.

Price and her husband Allen Price are retirees and active volunteers at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Georgia, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the poor and disadvantaged in the community. When asked what they plan to do with the winnings, the couple said they plan to volunteer even more, now that gas costs won’t be much of a concern.

“I couldn’t believe we won!” Brenda Price said. “You never think something like this could actually happen to you. We are very blessed. It’s overwhelming.”...  (read more)

Submitted Nov 21, 2014 By:

Iran Vows to Guard Oil-Market Share as OPEC to Review Output

Bloomberg -- Iran will protect its share of global crude sales under all circumstances, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said, as OPEC members prepare to meet next week to review production levels.

The Persian Gulf nation can double oil exports in two months if sanctions against are removed, Zanganeh said, according to the ministry’s news website Shana.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will gather on Nov. 27 in Vienna to assess its collective output amid a supply glut and a 30 percent drop in prices this year. Iran’s crude output has languished under international economic sanctions that deter foreign energy investors and limit its exports to approximately 1 million barrels a day.

“Under no circumstance will Iran decrease its share of the global market, not even by one barrel,”...  (read more)

Submitted Nov 21, 2014 By:

TransCanada Energy East faces new hurdle with demands from Quebec

Bloomberg News -- TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Energy East pipeline is facing another obstacle in Quebec as the province sets conditions for the project linking the oilsands to the East Coast.

Quebec is requiring TransCanada meet seven conditions before allowing construction of the pipeline, according to a copy of a Nov. 18 letter by David Heurtel, the provincial environment minister, to TransCanada Chief Executive Officer Russ Girling obtained by Bloomberg News and first revealed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Nov. 20.

Mounting criticism from environmental groups is stalling plans for pipelines to expand markets for Canada’s rising heavy crude supplies. Quebec’s conditions risk delaying Energy East and are the latest setback for TransCanada, after the defeat of a U.S. Senate measure this week to ex  (read more)

Submitted Nov 21, 2014 By:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving driving, what to expect on the highways and why -- Here's what you need to know about Thanksgiving holiday driving. And why it can be a nightmare.

•Only four in 10 Americans say their Thanksgiving plans include traveling.

•But most of them will drive rather than fly.

•And about 30 percent are planning round trips of 500 miles or more, meaning the interstate highways will be busy as usual.

•Another 31 percent are driving between 200 and 500 miles.

•Two-thirds of these families are planning to drive either on Wednesday before Thanksgiving or on Thanksgiving Day itself -- helping to create the annual surge that clogs even the largest interstate highways.

•More than 20 percent of these families will head home Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Another 42 percent will drive home over the weekend.  (read more)

Submitted Nov 20, 2014 By:

Special fund started to provide military families heating assistance

The Augusta Chronicle -- Natural gas provider SCANA Energy is joining forces with United Military Care to help Georgia service members, veterans and their families stay warm through a special fund they’ve started.

The fund, launched on Veterans Day, has raised around $5,650 and so far helped pay heating bills or open new accounts for 10 military families in Georgia who depend on natural gas for warmth.

United Military Care President Kim Scofi said the nonprofit organization also has around 10 other families who have applied for heating assistance through the program.

SCANA Energy started the fund with a $5,000 donation and plans to match every dollar donated above $5,000 – up to $10,000 – through February.

The fund is open to families of active-duty service members, including National Guard and Reserve, and...  (read more)

Submitted Nov 20, 2014 By:

CSX Warns Buffalo Snow May Cause Delays on Main Crude Oil Route

Reuters via Downstream Today -- CSX Corp warned customers on Thursday that a massive snowstorm in Buffalo, New York, may cause delays of up to 48 hours on deliveries along its main crude oil by rail route.

"Customers with shipments over the high-volume Buffalo line should continue to expect delays up to 48 hours," the company said in a customer service advisory.

The CSX line carries crude from Chicago to Albany, New York, where it is loaded onto ships that sail to Irving's refinery in St. John, in New Brunswick, Canada, or taken to refineries in the Philadelphia area. It passes through Buffalo, which is digging out of more than five feet of snow, with more expected.

Many trains bypass Albany and head south along the River Line to Phillips 66's refinery in Linden, New Jersey or Philadelphia Energy's Solutions refinery  (read more)

Submitted Nov 20, 2014 By:

Ford Recalls Fusions for Software Problem

Associated Press (AP) Published in Product Design and Development -- Ford is recalling about 65,000 Fusion midsize cars in North America because the ignition keys can be removed if the transmission is not in park due to a software problem.

The recall covers certain Fusions, including gas-electric hybrids, from the 2014 and 2015 model years. Ford traced the problem to a computer program in the instrument cluster. Keys can be removed 30 minutes after the ignition switch is turned off if the cars are left in gear. That violates U.S. safety regulations and increases the risk of cars rolling away unexpectedly.
 (read more)

Submitted Nov 20, 2014 By:

Minnesota's specialty courts for chronic drunken drivers reduce recidivism and costs, national study

Star Tribune -- Minnesota’s specialty courts for chronic drunken drivers reduce recidivism and save taxpayers money, prompting a call for the program’s expansion.

A national two-year study released Wednesday showed that in nearly all nine of the DWI courts evaluated, the rearrest rates for graduates of the intensive program dropped dramatically compared with offenders who went through the traditional court process. The state’s overall graduation completion numbers were also well above the national average for DWI courts.

Although dozens of DWI and drug courts have been researched, Minnesota’s study is the first to include a cost analysis. Because of the reduced recidivism, local agencies and the state save more than $1.4 million over the two years DWI court participants entered the program.

“We are ple  (read more)

Submitted Nov 20, 2014 By: