Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

NY State's Unicorn Problem

by nb41 Sat Oct 5th, 2013 at 05:22:59 PM EST

from dKos

Normally, renewable energy is really popular - right up there with cute kitten and puppy pictures. For example, here is a survey done about offshore wind energy in New Jersey: (from Sierra Club). Unfortunately, in this survey nobody ever asked if people in NJ were willing to pay for the electricity made in this manner..... and we know that talk can be really cheap....

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US Foreign Policy, Iran and Wind Power

by nb41 Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 03:13:59 PM EST


Iran's wind resource is concentrated in the north, especially northeast, often in "wind canyons" similar to Tehachapi in California, or Oaxaca in Mexico. So far they only have 130 MW of capacity in some world class windy areas (only Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan and Egypt have more installed capacity in the Middle East/North Africa). Wind sourced electricity in Iran means that natural gas (or fuel oil) that might be burned locally to make electricity can instead be exported to Europe or India, and given what world natural gas AND oil prices are and are likely to be, that's a money gusher. The light orange areas could utilize Low Wind Speed Turbines at reasonable delivered electricity prices.

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Big Fast Wind Projects - Get 'em While You Can...

by nb41 Mon Jul 30th, 2012 at 03:45:39 AM EST


From Emporia State University a view of some of the 111 1.8 MW Vestas V90 wind turbines, with a distant view of an older wind farm in the Flint Hills of Kansas.

front-paged by afew

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Mocking Donald Trump in Scotland

by nb41 Sun Apr 29th, 2012 at 09:06:40 PM EST


From Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group and also a great summary of what this battle (in Scotland) really is all about. There is a massive offshore effort going on in the waters around the British Isles these days, one that could dwarf the already massive oil and gas industry. Something well in excess of $US 100 billion in the next decade will be invested in making electricity from there, and the neat thing about wind is that it will never deplete, at least as long as humans are on this planet....

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NY Electricity Bills Explained - And What It Means

by nb41 Fri Jan 20th, 2012 at 01:48:48 PM EST

It now can be logically argued that we now have less freedom (= less rights) than even a decade ago - for example, via indefinite detention, "legal" assassination of Americans, (lack of) on-line privacy, the "death" of "habeus corpus" and warrantless wiretapping. And yet one local (to NY State) hard won right is the freedom to vote with the money you spend on your electricity bill as to how you want that electricity made. Do you want it made via polluting or non-polluting means? You get your choice - by a way that maximizes the probability of a Fukushima/Chernobyl event (and we've had some really close calls in NY State), or way with a zero probability of such a horror? Do you want that electricity made in a way that has minimal CO2 pollution, or maximal CO2 pollution. After all CO2 pollution (CO2 made by burning fossil fuels) is the prime driver for Global Climate Change, which will NOT be good for us, by a long shot. About 40% of the CO2 pollution made in our country comes from burning coal and natural gas to make electricity. How about electricity in a way that maximizes NY State job creation, instead of in a way that exports the maximum quantity of money (out of state corporate profits, fossil fuel expenditures/corporate rentier profits)?

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The GLOW in NY State Dims to Essentially Nothing

by nb41 Wed Sep 28th, 2011 at 11:48:13 AM EST

GLOW is an acronym for Great Lakes Offshore Wind, and this relic of the People's Power Company of NY State (NYPA, alias New York Power Authority, entirely owned by NY State, though in practice, NY State may be partly owned by NYPA...) recently canned its SECOND attempt at offshore wind in NY State. The first was a 140 MW project near NY City, also canned, and now it's third attempt at offshore will be further offshore of Long Island in federal waters. Here is a brief description of the  gory details.

As with all things NYPA, this is at core a political decision, in this case in favor of methane derived from fracking and against renewable energy that is job creating and reasonably priced. Is there a relation between the $44,000 contribution that one of the purported Sith Twins of our time (David Koch) made to one of our Governor's campaign funds, qualifying him (and lots of others) for the term "Koch Whore?" Well, as the saying for the NY Lotto (otherwise know as another tax on working class people) goes, "Ya Never Know"

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Irene and the Indian Point Twins

by nb41 Fri Aug 26th, 2011 at 12:27:56 PM EST

Hurricane Irene is now on track to "beach-sweep" much of the US Eastern shore, from North Carolina to Maine, and it looks like it's final destination is to come ashore near NY City and then cruise on up the Hudson River, dumping massive amounts of rain. It will most likely do this when tides are maxed out due to a full moon.

The Hudson River normally gets tidal action almost all the way to Albany, and sometimes there are "standing waves" that are discernible some distance up the River. But, 10 foot plus storm surges from a major hurricane that coincide with a full moon tide - not good. There will be a lot of waterfront and riverfront damaged - and perhaps a lot of the Amtrak rails that connect NYC to Albany and Montreal are going to get water and other damage.

But, all that is chump change when one considers what is sitting on the waterfront 38 miles north of midtown Manhattan - the Indian Point nuclear complex. These are two big reactors (about 1300 MW and 1100 MW) that supplied NYC with about 1863.1 MW of electricity (on average) last year. This wikipedia link wikipedia link has a nifty picture of these twin potential doom engines for a large part of the NYC metro region, with about 30 million or  more people in "internal tanning range".

Anyway, when massive water walls of water interact with sea-level situated nukes, the results can be ...not good. Then lets take a water-sodden ground and intense wind gusts associated with a big area hurricane going onshore, and lots of grid damage can happen. And when a grid connection happens combined with a back-up diesel system fails to activate, you get a "Loss of Cooling Accident" or LOCA. That is NEVER a good thing. And if that continues for more than a few hours, well, the stinky stuff really hits the proverbial fan. That is really bad, and is NOT supposed to ever happen. But it has happened before...

So, maybe that site should just be put into shutdown mode pronto, control rods fully inserted in both nukes, and get those back-up diesels activated. If they don't work as they should right away (and that has also happened, more than once, at places like the Fermi 2 nuke in Michigan), maybe they will be working by the time Irene comes to town. And maybe they ought to get more back-up gen-sets lined up in case the back-up diesels get swamped, or some other Black Swan event rears its ugly head, care of Mr. Murphy and his nefarious laws.

What do you think about that idea?


Comments >> (20 comments)

Nukes - "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime"

by nb41 Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 05:41:23 PM EST

It's a great saying: "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime". And it applies to nuclear power in major ways, even if the crime of epic-scale poisoning or wasted investment on a massive scale was or was not "intentional". Or if some yahoo uses a nuclear weapon, or a nuke as a weapon, or if a yahoo country does the same. All that money down the drain that was put into a weapon(s) that can't be used unless self destruction of that person, that country (including the people in that country) is seriously considered a possibility. In the case of a nuclear war, the destruction of "our species" has to be considered via a massive "first strike" and/or via the retaliation by those who got nuked, weren't happy about it, and had the means and wherewithal to effect this retaliation. Who would even want to consider crap like that as a template for our future? And what if the crime was intentional? Is there a difference to those rapidly killed by poisoning or eventually by being "cancered", as to whether it was an accident or deliberate?

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Marcellus Gas Pipe Dreams or Wind Turbines?

by nb41 Sun Nov 28th, 2010 at 09:51:52 AM EST

There has been a lot of talk about the latest get-rich-quick (GRQ)  scheme(s) called Marcellus Tight Shale Gas (MTSG) which is based on a  Devonian Shale (350 million years ago) resource. It turns out that this  is methane and other hydrocarbons (ethane, propane, benzene, for  example) trapped in essentially non-porous rock that have the  consistency of a brick. The hydrocarbons will not flow out of this rock  unless the rock is fractured in a special way ("fracking"). Quite often, the formation is between 1 to  2 miles underground, and there is often saturated saltwater laden  layers on either side of the approximately 100 foot layer (a former  swamp/shallow ocean bottom) of shale. The hydrocarbons are not  uniformly dispersed at the same concentration in the Marcellus shale formation, so there are regions of  hydrocarbon rich shale and other regions without any significant  organics (as in hydrocarbon chemicals) content.

These are not easy hydrocarbon reserves to extract, and they also are financially  expensive to bring to market compared to "easy gas". But, since most of the easy pickings of  natural gas have been developed and are being or have been drained of gas in North America, our  hydrocarbon addiction has resulted in a "seeds and stems" situation,  where we are getting down to the dregs. If we want to keep using and living large (energy wise), it's  time to use up the bottom of the barrel stuff - beggars can't be too choosy, after all.

Frontpaged with minor edit - for your Sunday reading - Nomad

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Economy - Time for a Plan B, ASAP

by nb41 Mon Sep 27th, 2010 at 11:13:52 AM EST

Here's another eye-opener on the cause of the Great Recession, and one of the reasons why appeals to private industry to employ people with their hordes of cash ($1.8 TRILLION last heard of) will lead to naught. Industry really no longer cares about employing people, as "social contracts" now appear to be so "yesteryear" ....

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/9/27/905593/-Krugman,-Morgenson-Nail-Wall-St.-Jobless-Lies,-M ortgage-Fraud-

So, if oodles of tax credits and tax breaks won't employ people at a rate that is SOCIALLY REQUIRED, maybe it's time for Plan B. Maybe the Federal govt needs to directly employ a few million people for a few years doing necessary things, like building passenger rail at a prodigious pace ($100 billion/yr type rates). This is something that will directly replace petroleum used in cars and airplanes, and private industry is incapable of operating passenger rail in this country (or just about any country).

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Nebraska Official Winds Race for Stupidist on 8-11-2010

by nb41 Sun Aug 15th, 2010 at 12:03:42 PM EST

With apologies and thanks to Keith Olbermann, whose nightly vigil "World's Worst Person" is just so informative and I guess, for some, inspirational.

It seems that in just about every day in the USA of late there has been this intense race to the top...of "the Stupid Bowl". Granted, people like Glen Beck, Laura Ingram, Sharon Angle (probably the one with the most native talent in this regard), Sarah "The Paleocon (servative)" Palin  or our local favorite - Carl "Put 'em in Work Camps" Palladino - just seem to be so immensely talented in this regard that newbies almost never stand a chance to be the winner of the Stupid Bowl for the day. But, move over, you professional incompetents, here comes the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), and their big cheese, one Ron Asche.

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Some Fossil Fuel Subsidies in the Electricity Biz

by nb41 Wed Apr 28th, 2010 at 11:48:34 AM EST

We have seen a good example of how a process called Demand  Destruction  works - the use of oil for electricity production in  the U.S. It used to be fairly common to  burn oil and make electricity,  either in a regular boiler (especially  using Bunker Oil, which is  basically only good for boiler  fuel) or a jet engine/combined cycle  system, especially in NY State. But  due to the high price relative to   coal and natural gas... by a factor of almost 10 times the thermal cost   of coal ...well, using oil to make electricity is not a real moneymaker  these days. It just costs  too much to use oil products to make  electricity, given the current  price of oil these days - crude seems to  be centered in on $85/bbl, and  fuel oil is above $2.20/gallon in 100,000  gallon barge lots.  Besides, oil is too valuable for use in  transportation, where coal and  natural gas really can't be currently  used to any significant extent.

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New US Wind Energy Potential Update

by nb41 Fri Feb 19th, 2010 at 11:29:05 AM EST

There is a newly released blurb on the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) website (see http://www.awea.org/newsroom/releases/02-18-10_US_Wind_Resource_Larger.html) that is definitely worth a look, a mirror of one from the US Dept of Energy:

This is about a serious update of the wind energy potential that was last estimated in the 1979-1981 era (see http://rredc.nrel.gov/wind/pubs/atlas/), and which was woefully out of date. This new one used wind speeds present at 80 meter heights (most commercial scale units installed in the US are have been on 80 meter tall towers for several years). This is still a pretty conservative estimate, and the details are a bit sketchy.

But, the estimate is that 37 million gigawatt-hrs/yr (an average of 4220 gigawatts (GW) of continuously produced power) could be made with wind turbines putting out an average of 30% of their rated gross capacity (i.e. no shutdowns for maintenance and inspections). Since the average net output (the electricity put on the grid and which turbine owners get paid for) is about 94% of the gross output, that's still close to 4 Terawatts (TW) of average output. It would take about 10.5 million GW of wind turbine capacity, or about 4.2 million x 2.5 MW wind turbines to supply this rather large quantity of power/energy.

And there is only one problem - the US only used an average of 425 GW in 2009. So, using the net output basis, we have 9.3 times too much wind capacity. And even if we replace all the natural gas heating with renewable electricity, that would only boost the demand to around 750 GW. We have too darn much wind capacity - what are we to do with all this useless potential, eh?

Maybe we could get Goldman Sachs to write up some CDS's on all this unusable potential....just kidding.

There is another small point about this study - just what constitutes a wind speed needed to get a 30% gross energy output? For that, we will have to wait for the full report to come out, which will hopefully be in the near future. As expected, the midwest really shines (for example, Texas could more than power up the country, and Nebraska could almost do it). Of course, there is also the matter of getting the electricity from where it is made to where it will be used by actual human beings and in the factories, offices and homes they use. Or maybe it's time to start transplanting people to where the energy is (but then there is the water problem....). So maybe it's easier to keep most people where they are.

This study does not touch upon offshore (Great Lakes, Atlantic and Gulf, or the deepwater potential of the very windy west coast (it's shallow on the Atlantic side, not on the Pacific side)). And it excludes a lot of potential in more populated areas, or in the southeast, because of the requirement in this study for the 30% gross output.

Here is why that is important. Different wind turbines tend to be targeted to different wind regimes. A turbine designed for fast winds (like Altamont Pass wind canyons) will not work so well in more moderate wind regimes. And one designed for more moderate winds like those in NY State (onshore anyway) will get torn to shreds in the windy zones - the blades are too big for the generator, and the unit would self-stop for a considerable part of the year. Anyway, here are some examples of wind speeds at hub heights that will give a 30% gross output at close to standard conditions (15 C air temperature, sea level).

Wind Turbine  ...........................  Wind Speed needed for 30% Gross Output

Vestas V-100 x 1.8 MW  ...........  5.8 m/s
Vestas V-90 x 1.8 MW  .............  6.1 m/s
Vestas V82 x 1.65 MW  .............  6.3 m/s
Vestas V-90 x 3 MW .................  8 m/s
GE 1.5s 1.5 MW x 70 m rotor ....  6.8 m/s
GE 1.5sl 1.5 MW x 77 m rotor ...  6.5 m/s

The Vestas numbers (V-90) correspond to the rotor diameter. And since the power in the wind is proportional to the cube of the wind speed.... well, the V-100 x 1.8 MW unit tapping 5.8 m/s wind is getting a 30% gross out from winds with about 71% of the power of those needed by the GE 1.5sl (now the most widely used wind turbine in the US). Those same 5.8 m/s winds have less than 39% of the power that are needed for the Vestas V90 x 3 MW unit (they do best in 9 m/s average wind speed zones...).

So, by using turbines designed for more mellow wind resource areas, a lot more land gets opened up. Another trick is to use a taller tower - as is often done in Europe. Winds at 100 meters above the ground could easily be more than 5 to 10% faster. Tower heights in Europe are often 113 meters (the tallest is 160 meters). And really big turbines, like the Enercon E-126 x 7.5 MW unit need tall towers just to keep the blades in windy zones (the E-126 would reach up to 204 meters above the ground).

Anyway, this is great timing. President Obama has just decided to pursue the "nuclear option" - no, not to get rid of the filibuster in the Senate and pass some modest Health Care proposal, but to pay back a big campaign contributor - Exelon (formerly Illionis's biggest utility, Commonwealth Edison, now sort of spun off as a nationwide electricity generator  - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exelon). Those new nukes proposed for Georgia would, if they ever do get built, deliver electricity at more than 20 c/kw-hr - and with no mandate for high level trash disposal or catastrophic insurance (that one is probably worth $500 million/yr per reactor, assuming it was even possible). Oh well, now that the Yucky Mountain trash disposal site is no longer an option, I hope the folks in Georgia understand that the disposal site for that trash is going to be located...at the site where those reactors get installed (in adjacent "swimming pools). Won't THAT do wonders for property values...

Maybe the President can make a better PR announcement for this stinker of a project in Georgia on April 26... assuming he has a shred of courage. Hint, April 26 is one of those anniversaries that a lot of people would really like to forget about... especially the nuke crowd). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster.

Also cross-posted on http://www.dkgreenroots.com


Comments >> (6 comments)

A Big New Green Energy Act Payoff in Ontario

by nb41 Thu Jul 30th, 2009 at 09:35:29 AM EST

From the Great Lakes Wind Collaborative comes news of the first major Great Lakes Offshore wind project (see Watertown Daily Times article). In effect, a 710 MW wind turbine array is planned for Duck Island Shoal, which is on the Canadian side of the NE corner of Lake Ontario, next to Main Duck Island, of course - here's the map. It's roughly 22 miles due west of Cape Vincent, NY, in some of the shallower waters of lake Ontario, though close to the drop-off where deeper waters are the norm. in general, Lake Ontario is fairly deep (average depth is over 86 meters/282 feet, but as you get near the mouth of the St Lawrence River, it gets shallower - maximum depth is 244 meters/802 ft). This spot gets the full force of the prevailing winds across the waters, which tend to be in the direction from the exit of the Niagara River to the entrance of the St Lawrence River.

This project has been in the works for a while, but a couple of key events have made this a happening project. The island has some of the strongest average winds in Lake Ontario, according to estimates derived from the Canadian Wind Atlas - the site is predicted to experience annual average wind speeds of 8.64 m/s at 80 meters above the water; slower in summer, and a very decent 9.5 m/s in the winter. It has a fetch of the prevailing winds of over 165 miles/265 km, and being Lake Ontario, icing is not a huge problem (though that part of the Lake may get iced up briefly, since it is shallow). It is also close enough to land to "wire up", and there is a big grid connection on the northern shore of Lake Ontario, so the electricity product can get to market. And there is a strong grid network around the edge of the lake (US and Canadian sides), a big market in Toronto and Montreal (~ 5 million people each), and pumped hydro/deferred hydro electricity storage capability en masse, should the need arise, in various locations in Ontario/Quebec and NY State.

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Novel Offshore Deep Water Platforms

by nb41 Fri Feb 20th, 2009 at 12:24:35 PM EST

Here is a story about a new and very nifty offshore wind platform for waters that are more than 50 meters (164 ft) deep:


Here is the company doing this:

It will probably be demonstrated off the shore of Portugal initially (that part of the Atlantic Ocean is quite similar to the Pacific Coastline of North America, as it's really windy, and gets decently deep fast). Right now, Europe rules with respect to offshore wind.

Obviously, this will have great utility in deeper near coastal ocean waters, such as those found between Washington State and California (the Pacific gets deep really fast; the Atlantic is much shallower near shore). It will also be very useful in the Gulf of Mexico, where most of the US Southeast wind resources are located. And, in some cases (like the Gulf of Maine), there are US Atlantic applications.

But this unit, and ones like it, really would do wonders for the deeper waters in the Great Lakes. In particular, Lake Ontario comes to mind in my neck of the woods (most of Lake Erie is in the 0 to 30
meter depths, and there are established, well demonstrated and less expensive foundations for those shallower waters). This also would be great for Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, where only a small
percentage of these lakes are in the 0 to 40 meter depth. After all, the average depth of Lake Superior is 462 feet, and often deeper in its windier zones. However, there is a deep zone in Lake Erie (59
meters), which is where the most intense winds across the lake happen to be.

Lake........Ave Depth ft    m

Superior..........462'.......147 m
Ontario...........283'........86 m
Michigan..........279'........85 m
Huron.............159'........59 m
Erie..............62'.........19 m

There are about 40 million people currently residing near the Great Lakes, mostly in 5 metro regions (Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto, Montreal), and the only fossil fuel resources are a bit of oil and gas in Michigan and a lot of brimstone laden coal in Illinois, with less malodorous coal in Pennsylvania. But, lots of wind and water....

Units such as these floating turbine foundations could be readily mass produced in any Great Lakes City with a port/docks and the ability to work with steel. Like Buffalo/Lackawanna/Tonawanda, for example. This would make a great use of the former Bethlehem and Republic Steel sites, as well as some places like the Colorado Iron & Steel site (next to Huntley, a 400 MW coal burning ancient entity), and even the former GM foundry in Tonawanda. All you need is water access or even train access for the major parts, which can be modularly sub-assembled at ports and then assembled at the proposed turbine sites.

Also, see links for maps. In the GL map (last link), the areas where platforms like this would come in handy are the green and blue shades, or about 75% of the surface area of the Great Lakes. That is MORE than enough to power up ALL of the US and Canada, but that is not necessary, as lots of regions have plenty of renewables to keep themselves happy and then some. But there is a benefit to doing a significant chunk of energy production near where it is consumed, and then buffering this with other areas, so in the rare event that the Great Lakes are not sufficiently windy, well somebody else is getting more than well..er...winded. Those places also can import the excess from the Great Lakes when the weather tables are turned, or the excess can also be easily stashed. For example, many of the areas near Lake Superior are quite steep. Lake Superior could become a giant "hydro-battery" for the midsection of the North American continent (there are also several other such potentials in the US and Canada). However, this is more than enough to completely rid ourselves of the need to use
nukes, coal and Ngas to make any electricity, unless this is a result of co-gen operations (which tends to get rid of the nuke option, as these are not reliable enough for co-gen). In addition, much of our liquid
fuel supply could be obtained by either hydrogenating nitrogen (ammonia is both a fertilizer and can be a fuel) or carbon dioxide (methanol, ethanol, butanols, synthetic gasoline, diesel), often in conjunction with fermentation and biomass frying/combustion. And of
course, stored electrical energy is easily obtained by pumping water up a hill, and running it downhill back to lakes to make this electricity, as is done on both sides of Niagara Falls at present.

Anyway, here is a future almost completely renewably powered. It will require sensible feed-in laws to make this economically viable, and to effect a smooth transition between our present unsustainable ways and
a future that is sustainable as well as one that has a significantly larger number of manufacturing jobs in our region than is currently the case. And for scenarios like this, energy efficiency still reigns supreme, but that only takes you so far, and it certainly will not replace the natural gas used to keep us warm on winter nights. And of course, the
more wind turbines located on land means that less have to be located offshore (the offshore ones will be about 4 c/kw-hr more expensive than the onshore ones, which will be about 10 c/kw-hr in most feed-in
law arrangements).

Anyway, between 5 to 9 c/kw-hr is the difference between a sustainable, high employment future and an unsustainable, low employment, pollution based future based on a declining fossil fuel energy resource. In effect, that's the price of freedom from nukes and
fossil fuels and especially imported oil and natural gas. Or the drowning of much of the big ocean coastal metropolitan areas via the action of Global Warming from CO2 pollution on the Greenland Ice-sheets. It's also the price for an expanding economy, and not a shrinking one, as well as a society not in a downward spiral based on a few high income "intellectual" (but no longer financial-real estate-insurance-speculation based) jobs and a vast mass of under and unemployed struggling over the scraps of the few remaining
manufacturing and construction jobs not taken by our
Chinese/Indian/European creditor overlords, thanks largely to Bu$h & Co, but also plenty of shared "stupid".

Here is a link to Great Lake Depth maps (Lake Superior is MIA for now)

Or, there is this map:

Oh well, a person can always dream...And besides, in this part of our continent, its the only places where those darn wind robbing, wind abrading trees don't grow.

Comments >> (21 comments)

What Happens If Wind Energy Gets Successful in the U.S.A.?

by nb41 Mon Nov 10th, 2008 at 10:25:51 AM EST

The collapse in credit access worldwide has all kinds of permutations on various localities. One such example is described here - that of the New York State "Wind Rush", which is just starting to pick up steam. Our Wind Rush is not yet at the level of Texas, but wind turbines do happen to be the lowest cost route to adding electricity into the New York State grid - certainly cheaper than new coal or new nukes, and natural gas (especially with CO2 trash stashing factored into the cost of electricity production, or for nukes, rad waste and plutonium proliferation). But, wind turbines of a commercial scale don't grow on trees (if so, we'd be on easy street - still lots of trees in NY), and the proposed ones in NY are a wish list of about $15 Billion, so far. We still have another $90 Billion of these to add, plus grid upgrades, needed to replace all those polluting and fully depreciated/obsolete coal, Ngas and nuke facilities....and the question is, where's that pile of capital going to come from? If it even does come...in which case, time to break out those Mad Max movies and prep for that dystopian future that most say we don't want to be THE future. But it will be a DOOMER heaven....

As of the beginning of November, 2008 there are some big happenings in the world, ones which will affect the wind industry on many dimensions. One was the tricky and crafty inclusion of the renewable energy incentives (MACRS, PTC, REPI, CREBs, etc) into the $700 Billion Big Bank Bailout package in October of this year. While the incentives are only extended one year (drop dead date now is midnight, December 31 2009 instead of 2008) it is certainly better than not having them at all. There is good reason to believe that these will be extended several years past the end of 2009. The second big "plus" was the election of Senator Obama as President and several Democrats (many of a progressive streak) as Senators and Congresspersons. All have made much of using more renewable energy, and of creating significant numbers of jobs in such industries, though details are extremely nebulous at present. Furthermore, there is the problem of the "Oxymoron Twins" - "clean coal" and "safe nukes" - though proper language (that is, non-Orwellian) would rephrase these as "cleaner coal" and "safer nukes". See http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/9/17/95026/1326for an opinion on that. And then there are ideas such as those promoted by Van Jones, that of "Green Keynesianism" - for example, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/20/van-jones-qa-about-his-ne_n_135....

Also, Greenpeace has just issued another renewable energy report called "energy [r]evolution: a sustainable global energy outlook" - only 212 pages, but lots of pictures, and an extensive set of documentation in the Appendix section(s). It can be found here:

So far, in New York there are 707 MW of wind turbines installed, and 587 MW under construction. A great example of the scale of this can be seen (on a clear day) by driving down Route 20 east from East Aurora towards Wyoming County, where the Invenergy Sheldon High Winds (112.5 MW - see http://www.highsheldonwind.com) and Noble Wethersfield (126 MW - see http://www.noblepower.com/our-windparks/wethersfield/index.html) projects are under construction. A taste of the near future for New York State can be seen in the following document from NYISO:
http://www.nyiso.com/public/webdocs/services/planning/nyiso_interconnect.... Keep in mind that the $16 billion proposed for the new Nine Mile 3 nuke (1600 MW capacity) comes from the same pool of money that could finance more than all of the proposed wind farms listed in the NYISO Queue. There is only so much money/capital to go around, especially now that so much of it was toasted in the recent speculation binge centered on derivatives, mortgage backed securities and collateralized debt obligations.

Complicating this optimistic view of the wind industry are the recent semi-collapse of the world financial system, the collapse of fossil fuel prices and the collapse of economic demand (= a recession), which will lead to lower demand for electricity, including in Western New York. As less natural gas is consumed to make electricity (also a bit of a seasonal thing), electricity prices as set via the West NYISO zone will tend to collapse to the levels set by some old, polluting and fully depreciated coal burners (Huntley, Dunkirk, Somerset (total = 1.8 GW)) and fully depreciated, often quite old nukes (notably the Ginna and Oswego based ones (total = 3.4 GW)). The lower electricity demand will lead to lower NYISO electricity prices, which will put more pressure on the wind farms, which were a bet on higher electricity prices (eventually). In addition, the recession and Wall Street layoffs may also depress the number of companies and individuals who have the tax appetite needed to make the U.S. wind energy financial incentives work. It's a complicated web that is weaved.....

The economic meltdown has also affected the natural gas industry and even the oil industry. With oil, most of the new expansions in the Alberta Tar Sands are being deferred because there is no financial justification for them at $70/bbl; prices near $100/bbl or more are needed. The same goes for some expensive offshore developments, such as near Brazil. The same applies to natural gas, where the marginal wellhead cost is over $8.50/MBtu. With current Ngas (natural gas) prices near $6.50/MBtu, a lot of drilling operations are being deferred/canceled as too expensive to justifying such activity until prices of Ngas recover. The low oil and Ngas prices are happening due to "de-leveraging" of options and futures contracts such as those formerly held or done through AIG and Lehman Brothers; this process will be largely complete in the next 6 months. In a few months, energy prices, led by natural gas and oil, will resume a sharp upward price trend, once the lower production rates catch up to the lower demand. This is especially true for "tight shales" projects (Barnett Shales, near Dallas, Tx or the Marcellus Shales, on the NY-Pa border), where wells rapidly deplete and require new drilling/"hydro-fracturing", all of which are expensive, in these large fields. Most gas wells deplete within a few years, and giant fields of Ngas need new wells all the time, and this is even more pronounced with tight shales projects. Once Ngas prices rebound, wind turbine projects will become more viable as electricity prices rise to acceptable levels.

Once again, cheap electricity prices will deter renewable energy development. Even Florida Power & Light (one of the major U.S. wind developers) is shaving $300 million off of their 2009 wind turbine projects budget.

At a recent environmental meeting held at University of Buffalo (October, 2008), it was obvious that while most people wanted more renewable energy, few had a clue about the economics of it. The basic rule is this: if wind energy is not profitable here, it won't happen here. Wind is cheaper than electricity made in new coal, new nukes or with old coal that employs "CO2 trash stashing", unsubsidized, but for "old polluters", unsubsidized wind is more expensive. As for natural gas, that depends on what the Ngas price is, something not that predictable at all, especially over the span of one to five years.

In the U.S., there are 3 basic ways that the wind industry is made competitive with electricity by polluting routes (coal, Ngas, nukes) using essentially fully depreciated facilities. These are the PTC and MACRS tax based incentives, and the REC/RPS approaches. RECs (Green Tags) add between 0.3 to 3 c/kw-hr to the price of wind energy. The RPS (renewable Portfolio Standard) is a bidding system that mandates some (usually a small percentage) non-polluting electricity within an area, and is usually done in a complicated bidding (low bidder = minimum economic incentive) arrangement; in NY, the RECs and the RPS are one process. The PTC (Production Tax Credit) is now 2.1 c/kw-hr, applicable only to passive income (rental income, for example), while the MACRS (rapid depreciation) allows the entire capital (turbine + installation) investment to be written off as fully depreciated in 6 years, even though the turbines will last over 20 years. See this site for a description of these:

The PTC and MACRS often can be worth between 4 to 6 c/kw-hr as incentives. However, they only apply to those with the appropriate and huge enough income; generally only the upper 1% of individuals on the income scale and to wealthy corporations. Thus, these incentives can become a way that effectively ONLY the wealthy will own non-municipal owned commercial scale wind turbines in the U.S. It also will be a way to transfer another $1 trillion over the next decade or so from electricity customers to the upper class owners of such facilities IF wind becomes a major factor in U.S. electricity production.........

Well, that sounds yummy; how would that work? Just what we need, more wealth for the wealthy....

Let's assume that wind turbine installations go something like according to Al Gore's recent proposal, so that we don't need pollution as a by-product of electricity manufacture. Let's assume that on average wind turbines get an average of 30% of their nameplate capacity (low for much of the prime U.S. wind sites), and that they cost on average $2 billion per gigawatt (GW), or $2000 per kw, or $2 million per MW of installed capacity. Let's also assume that the marginal income tax rates go to 40% (the higher that is, the more "tax income" is retained by the rich IF they invest in renewables). If the installed capacity rate is kept at 100% per year and then adjusted downwards once we are making 32 GW/year, and eventually "flatlines" at 192 GW by 2016, this is what would result - 1560 GW of installed capacity by 2020, chugging out an average of over 468 GW of electricity - enough to supply the current U.S. average requirement for electricity. This would only be less than one sixth of the U.S. capacity via wind - though that really depends on what an acceptable price for that electricity is defined as. Graphically, that is shown in Figure 1:


Anyway, this humongous investment would create a lot of jobs and economic activity (GREAT!!!), and under current laws, lots of tax avoidance by those who invest in wind turbines. Just how much? Well, in the 10 years modeled here, it would be $1.273 trillion, in constant 2008 dollars (see Figure 2).


And the tax loss per year would be near $250 billion per year by 2020. These tax losses coupled with a huge wind turbine installation rate are what used to be known as a "snowballing" scenario. Granted, the incentives are better than nothing, but consider carefully that nothing is the standard of comparison. A classic example of having a great wind resource but poor policy is Great Britain (one of the best wind resources in Europe), which now has less wind capacity than France (with Feed-In Laws), and about 10% of the installed capacity of Germany (also Feed-In Laws), even though the wind resource in Germany is significantly poorer than in Great Britain.

Obviously, these are getting to absurd levels.... and given the effects that Peak Oil and Peak Natural Gas will have on the U.S. and world economy in the next decade (NOT GOOD) - see http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4727 - more
and http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/4712 - more (warning! not for the naive and cornucopian) - it is doubtful if those quantities of tax deductions will even exist. Plus, the pro-nuke and pro-coal crowd don't like such a projection, as they don't end up with any piece of that pie (besides, they also employ all kinds of subsidies and hidden governmental goodies, like free catastrophic insurance and inadequate penalties for CO2 pollution). Then there is the attitude of the "we can't crowd" - also referred to as the ones who would have us speaking German and Japanese after an alternative ending of WW2, when we also would have said that such efforts were not possible...). Or the "we can't go to the moon crowd"...which was done, and that is the scale of the effort needed to repower our country, fast. It just so happens that wind is one of the most economical, scalable and demonstrated ways to bring renewable electricity online using already known, but steadily improving technology. It may not look like the futures envisioned a few decades ago (the Jetsons anyone?), but them's the breaks.... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jetsons

Anyway, the PTC and MACRS and other subsidies seem inadequate to the task of delivering LARGE quantities of wind derived electricity in a timely manner, or one with any kind of semblance of economic psuedo-fairness. An approach that would cost NO LOSS of tax dollars would be what has been demonstrated to produce more installed wind turbines at lower cost in less time and in a more democratic manner is known as Feed-In Laws. Here is a site with lots of advocacy for that approach, including lots of power points with lots of pictures and not too many words - easy summaries to breeze through, including some made to the Michigan State Legislature - http://www.wind-works.org.

Education can be a wonderful thing, and just because we are getting older does not mean that we have to stop learning. Energy investments are long term, tricky, and not well suited to rapidly fluctuating prices of basic commodities used to make it - like oil, coal and natural gas. The investments also need governmental/societal guidance, since the costs of energy usage, like Global Warming and Peak Oil, don't show up immediately, but have slow and awesome consequences anyway. Feed In Laws are one way to incorporate these into the cost of energy, and allow a gentle transition from the present environmentally and economically unsustainable methods that are generally used into a more sustainable approach. It's just a matter of going from "now" to "not yet here", and not by accident.

Also posted on http://strandedwind.org


Comments >> (14 comments)

US Offshore Wind Farm a Step Closer

by nb41 Thu Jun 26th, 2008 at 11:22:24 AM EST

On June 25, a potentially important announcement came concerning an offshore wind project in the U.S. see http://www.hometownannapolis.com/cgi-bin/read/2008/06_24-02/OUD or here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/23/AR2008062302217.html and the developers website, here http://www.bluewaterwind.com/delaware.htm

For this 200 MW farm (initial phase of 600 MW total), an amazingly high price for electricity of $117.10 (Euro 74/MW-hr) on the U.S mid-Atlantic coast was negotiated. This should bring in about $82 million/yr in revenue from the wind farm, which will probably cost in excess of $800 million to build. The key to it is a 25 year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). The local utility (Delmarva Power) tried to back out of this idea when such costs/prices were encountered, but somehow they saw the light. Delaware has no natural gas or coal of its own, much of its electricity is provided by coal and natural gas and this is getting quite expensive. In the near future, these offshore power rates will be looking like quite the bargain.

So, some customers have been lined up, and now the developer has to do their part. So far, this has been a killer of all offshore projects contemplated in the U.S. - no one will pay such high prices for electricity, even if it is non-polluting (especially of CO2), and the project makes lots of construction jobs. Perhaps a sea change has happened in that regard, too - more evidence of "Peak Ngas realized", at least for North America. They will be "assisted" by a 10 year tax credit on passive income of $15 million (roughly) each year (PTC), and the ability to completely depreciate the $800+ million in the first 6 years of this project, along with the interest on the loan (70 to 80% or more of the project cost) - worth $350+ million for the first 6 years, as long as they have profits to depreciate against. A representative of the developer (Babcock & Brown) had told me that all they needed was a viable PPA, and they could build massive offshore developments. The U.S. North Coast (Great Lakes) and East Coast has a very decent wind resource and lots of shallow waters upon which to build, and near millions of customers. Sure is preferable to nukes and coal burners, IMHO, even if it does but a hurt on the "viewscape" of rich people chillin' on the waterfront properties, or from their yachts tooling around on the waters. And if they are too drunk driving their watercraft to avoid collisions between their boast and the turbine towers/bases, looks like it will be payback time for the hungry crabs on that part of the ocean floor.... C'est la vie...

Oh well, this project is almost chump change in comparison to some recent activity - especially in Germany's offshore plans. The U.S. has been spoiled rotten with really cheap electricity for some time. Cheap electricity and air conditioning has allowed the hot and humid south to be sub-urbanized, after all, and the same goes for a lot of the southwest/California (less humid, more temperature). But, this PPA, and hopefully the project that results from the PPA is a first step, albeit a high subsidized one. Oh, and it sure beats toasting dollars in IraqNam or on idiotic weapons systems.


Comments >> (4 comments)

So Far - Bumper Crop Specter Lurks

by nb41 Mon Jun 2nd, 2008 at 10:35:39 AM EST

So far, 2008 looks like it will be a year of plentiful rainfall across North America, though the season is still young. Once this cool patch in May is done with, more or less normal rainfall is expected for June and July, but with August likely to be drier (see http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/NRD/docs/pdf/dlongrange.pdf). We can also expect a somewhat active hurricane season, especially if dust storms floating off of Africa aren't as severe as last year. While ball-busting supercanes are obviously not welcome events, hurricanes can purge any drought conditions from large parts of North America, especially the southeast (Alabama, Georgia, Carolinas), which have very large agricultural outputs. The official view through August can be seen here:
Thus, potentially huge crops of wheat, corn, soybeans, oilseeds, other grains, and maybe even barley and hops - perhaps beer prices might even get more reasonable (ya sure, you betcha, eh?).

Of course, agriculture is a tricky business, and weather vagaries are just one of many FUBARing possibilities. But weather is one of the biggies affecting the crop yields, and so far, so good. Perhaps this will calm down the speculation a bit, or perhaps not. After all, a lot of the hot money sloshing through the financial speculation zones will be looking to make some fast and easy money (it certain beats making money the "old fashioned way" - by making things useful to customers, like wind turbines and fuel efficient automobiles and mass transit systems - perish the thought!!!!!). It seems that perhaps the speculation in real estate, residential or commercial, mergers and acquisitions won't be able to migrate to food futures for 2008-2009 to a sufficient extent to make up for the massive real estate losses. Oh well, there is always oil and Ngas futures, as well as metals prices that can be gambled with.

In fact, in a normal year, all this potentially good weather would spell disaster for a very large percentage of farmers, starting with U.S. farmers, as it would raise the dreaded specter of "bumper crops". All those megatons of food, especially grain crops, would depress prices below the cost of production for most, and then would come the cantankerous resorts to the U.S. government to buy up the excess at a price sufficient to cover costs and pay for a living wage equivalent. That would mean squeezing more money from Congress in an era when a semblance of a balanced budget is nowhere in sight. And another admission that the free market alone cannot set agricultural prices correctly and in a way that admits that food is required by humans to live - no food, no life. But, let's assume that this would be done. Then it's time for Second, Third and Fourth World farmers to get the shaft, again. All the excess cropage from the U.S. would then get dumped onto the markets of countries where large percentages of people make a living or a subsistence by farming, depressing crop prices in these countries, and forcing millions of people from their land when the money they would get for their crops would also be less than the cost of producing that food. Then, its either suicide, starvation, refugee camps or off to a life of sex slavery, a career in "recycling" (scrounging for food and sellable items at the garbage dump), or immigration attempts to get into countries where there are already too many unemployed people. Like the U.S., with our more than 10 million unemployed people......or Europe, where this would be used to put downward pressure on the wages of most people, but never the wages of the executive "class", just like in the U.S.

But, perhaps the biofuels industries actually will be able to soak up these bumper crops, or at least the starchy and oily portions of these crops, since the protein parts of these crops really have little value with respect to biofuels. And those high crude and refined (well eventually high refined oil prices) oil prices do provide a lot of incentive for this, and its where the money is, and without money, there is no commercial crop production, = no food for anything more than subsistence, and certainly no food for the urban masses. So this biofuels production doesn't lower oil prices...lower oil prices are not really a good thing in these peak and post peak oil days, after all. Maybe it just puts a damper on the rate of increase in oil prices, while recycling money that would have otherwise been exported to various oil despots, and those few oil democracies like Norway. Geez, it could even result in lower starch/fat/oil/sugar contents in the average diet...could that be allowed? These could keep prices up enough so that "other world" farmers might actually get decent prices in their domestic markets. What a concept...As for the thought that there might not be sufficient fried corn chip to keep the fat layers maintained for the vast legions of overweight people in the U.S....forget about it. I'll bet that the obesity trend still continues, as starchy, sugary, oily fast food/packaged "food" is still cheap entertainment, even when that 7 oz (198 grams) bag of corn chips goes for $2.50, at least, with a corn content of less than 10 cents.

So perhaps the Specter of Bumper Crops might have to hibernate for this year. But it will lie in wait, lurking for an opportune time to pop up and throw still more people off of farms and out of rural regions, where they are no longer economically viable, and into urban areas where they are also no longer economically viable. Peak Oil or no Peak Oil. This Specter seems to be completely integrated into the concept of "free markets" for agriculture, where food is just a means of transferring money around the Monopoly board game. And the idea that the mountains of cash thrown at the oil despots could be used to buy some down and out people some food at prices that would allow farmers to make a living....well that seems to be the epitome of wishful thinking. After all, winners get to win, and they get to watch the losers starve to death.....otherwise, what's the joy to winning all that oil and/or metals wealth? Given time, that may even start happening in the so called "first world", too, or at least those first world countries without oil and with "excess" population, and a religion not to the liking of whoever has the oil money. And in many cases, no tears will be shed, as the leaders of those first worlders (or FFW's - formerly first worlders) really did little to engender themselves to the rest of the world. Probably the one thing that will be in short supply for some time is sympathy or empathy for the FFW's, as so many have had it worse for so long. Talk about a bitter harvest.....


Comments >> (4 comments)

Russia Finally Gets on Board the "Wind Train"

by nb41 Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 11:56:07 AM EST

Here is a recent item that I came across, original source being the Daily News Bulletin in Moscow :

 First Wind Farm in Russia to Be Built in Murmansk Region

Apr 09 - Daily News Bulletin; Moscow

The first wind farm in Russia will be built in the Murmansk region.

Murmansk Governor Yury Yevdokimov and president of the Dutch company WindLife Energy signed a protocol of cooperation in building a wind farm in the Kola Peninsula on Tuesday.

Nikolai Sigin, Yevdokimov's press secretary, told Interfax the document stipulates the establishment of a company as the project operator and its registration in the region.

It was reported earlier that the regional administration planned to build three wind farms on the Kola Peninsula.

(c) 2008 Daily News Bulletin; Moscow - English. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.  


Anyway, congratulations to those involved - it's about time! - and may many more wind farm developments - big and small - follow this one. Odds are, this is going to be REALLY windy spot - the seas around Mumansk  are known for awesome, "ship-eating" weather, so this is a good place to start. Maybe the winds will be as fierce as they are near the Straits of Magellan, or in some of New Zealand's wind canyons, where one wind farm has an average hub height (40 meters) wind speed of more than 11 meters/second, and its really rough on the Vestas V47 turbines.

But regardless, Russia is a country that "Big" is an understatement for. Much of Russia lies in the 40 to 60 degree latitudes, which includes the "Roaring 40's" and the "Fearsome Fifties" wind regimes. A lot of it is flat, which is great for wind turbines. Then there are undoubtedly wind canyons snuggled in the Urals and other mountain ranges, and the Pacific coastline is also undoubtedly windy. And even though really windy areas are probably a long way from where people live in large numbers - they invented HVDC. Couple big hydroelectric facilities, lots of deferred hydro and pumped hydro potential, and to me, that seems like a lot of wind potential, and more importantly, job creating potential.

Geez, maybe they could even start on a Feed-In Law of sorts. Besides, if they can do gas deals, they can do wind deals. Using wind to displace Ngas and oil consuming electrical generators, and also coal burners, will be most welcomed by the rest of the world, and it's also smart business, since the Ngas not burned domestically is foreign dollars earned by perhaps exporting this Ngas as methane or ammonia.

So, the journey begins with a first step (well, actually, the first offshore units were near Odessa back in the 1930's, but that's old history). I hope that the Russians keep on truckin' in the wind turbine direction.


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Party at The EIA - Booze Flowing Like Water over Niagara Falls

by nb41 Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 05:50:53 PM EST

Pardon the title, as Booze may not be the ONLY explanation of this recent emanation from the U.S. Energy Information Agency - their March 4 update on their energy predictions for the future:
http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/index.html (download the .pdf). But, as acute intoxication is always (or usually) a decent excuse for screwing up, it's as good as any...at least for some. Never happened to me....ya sure you betcha....

It just seems to me that their crystal ball(s) are either non-existent (as in, it sometimes takes a bit of courage to tell some semblance of truth to power) or really foggy. Or else these EIA types (especially the ones who clear stuff for release) really are Borgish drones that are incredibly inebriated, buzzed out, seeing rainbows and other fantastic and wonderful colors and shapes, or maybe afflicted with a bad case of untreated syphilitic brain rot...Or maybe the soma is just in the office water, and the coffee is de-caf with Prozac and Valium as the active ingredients..

Actually, many of the hard working people at EIA do their thing, forward their analysis up the food chain, where things get diverted to REWRITE and where an approved and certified set of politburo types massages the predictions into conformity with the Bu$h administration and/or their clients/sponsors. And out pops the yearly EIA predictions, which companies, Federal, state and local governments and other governments use to make future decisions, perhaps not the sole source for this information, but an important one.

Anyway, try getting this report -http://www.earth-policy.org/Indicators/Wind/2008.htm and this data - http://www.earth-policy.org/Indicators/Wind/2008_data.htm to jive. Notice those nicely increasing exponential graphs for wind turbine installations. Up, Up and Away....And then try to square those with "Renewables" in the EIA.... well, they don't square up at all. Furthermore, where is all this new oil production in the US supposed to happen, overcoming depletion and then some? I guess Thunderhorse is going to finally come riding in to the rescue (at 3 billion barrels, less than 2 to 3 months of the U.S. oil seemingly never-ending demand http://www.rigzone.com/news/article.asp?a_id=40911), and there will be no such thing as bad weather in the Gulf this year (2007 could be classified as dodging that proverbial 50 caliber hurricane bullet - like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Tension-leg_Platform and worse never happened - oh wait, it did....http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunder_Horse). Or ever again.....

It is unfortunate that the blinders and/or muzzles seem to be on so many governmental analysts who attempt to provide a guestimate into the future, energy-wise. People, companies and governments have to make decisions about policies and investments now that will affect the future, and also about future investments, which will also AFFECT the future. And what about climate change consequences for this EIA scenario? After reading it, James Hansen of NASA is going to be left hairless...as he will be pulling out what's left of the rootstock after reading this EIA....resemblance of bovine derived fertilizer. But maybe he has thicker skin than we think is humanly possible....

Just a mere 7 months to go before The Evil Shrub & Co gets some walking papers. I sure hope his psuedo-spawn that goes by the name of McCain doesn't get his chance to screw up the world even more than Bu$h did/is/will. Who knows, maybe $hrubbie and his "succubus sidekick" VP (Jon Stewart's words, not mine see "Crude Awakening" at http://preview.tinyurl.com/232swk) can visit The Hague for a trial or two in 2009....


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