“Clean Coal” Plant Billion$ Over Budget Should Just Give Up And Burn Natural Gas


Click to enlargeWilliam Widmer/Politico

Round and round the money goes and where it comes out nobody knows

❝ A coal gasification plant in development in Mississippi is more than $4 billion over budget and years past deadline — and now it may have to rethink plans to burn gasified coal in favor of cheaper natural gas after a recommendation from state regulators.

The recommendation was made to prevent potential rate increases as the Kemper County plant continues to face cost overruns. Kemper was supposed to be up and running by 2014, for less than $3 billion. But the plant has now run up a $7.5 billion tab and may need redesigns on a critical part, a process that could take up to two years to complete, according to E&E News. No official decision has been made yet, but the Mississippi Public Service Commission made it clear last week that burning cheaper natural gas instead of gasified coal may be a long-term solution for the facility…

❝ According to a carbon capture and storage project database maintained by MIT, plans for Kemper started in 2004 but “costs began increasing almost immediately, especially once construction began in 2010 and the company discovered that many of the original designs needed major changes.” Specifically, pipe thickness and metallurgy appeared to have been miscalculated, and, after those changes were made, the support structures for the pipes had to be changed…

Fossil fuel pimps rant and rave against subsidizing any projects for alternative energy. At the same time, it’s business as usual for coal-based plants getting billion$ in subsidies and forgivable loans to keep on cranking out projects that don’t do a damned thing other than suck up taxpayer money and spew out pollution.

The World’s Largest Coal Company Is Shutting Down 37 Mines


Channi Anand

❝ Coal India — a government-backed coal company – is reportedly closing 37 of its “unviable” mines in the next year to cut back on losses.

India is primed for an energy revolution. The country’s ongoing economic growth has been powered by fossil fuels in the past, making it one of the top five largest energy consumers in the world. But it has also invested heavily in renewables, and the cost of solar power is now cheaper than ever. In some instances, villages in India have avoided coal-powered electricity altogether, and “leapfrogged” straight to solar power…

❝ India’s energy situation is changing so fast that even expert predictions about its switch to renewables are wildly off: A study from last year claimed India would be building more than 300 coal plants in the next 10 years, but experts said the data was already outdated by the time the report was published, and that India would be moving toward renewables instead.

The decline of Coal India, which produces 80 percent of the country’s domestic coal output, is more evidence that we are collectively moving away from fossil fuels as cleaner, renewable technologies become more widely available. This reality is important to grasp in every country where coal used to be king. Even as Donald Trump promises coal jobs, let’s remember that those jobs aren’t likely to come back.

❝ And for countries like India, where companies like Coal India employ more than 300,000 people, training people to work in more viable energy markets will be increasingly important to provide sustainable livelihoods. Luckily, it looks like the solar industry will have some job openings.

The same is true in the United States on a smaller scale. US mines are highly automated compared to India. Still, the possibilities for new jobs are at least as strong – if we only had state and federal governments in place that cared more about retraining workers for new jobs than guaranteeing profits for out-of-date lobbyists and corporate CEOs.

Wyoming’s fossil fuel workforce can walk straight into growing wind industry jobs

❝ It’s no secret that Wyoming has recently faced a downturn in energy prices and that workers have lost jobs. The state is filled with people who have a specific skill set, such as facing potential hazards, working at great heights and handling electrical equipment. But when oil and gas production slows or coal mines cut back on production, the opportunity to utilize those skills goes down too.

Now, an international wind manufacturing company is hoping to convince the roughnecks, mechanics and coal miners of Wyoming to join its industry, betting on the growth of wind generation in the country and a number of wind projects slated to go up in the state.

❝ Goldwind Americas, in partnership with wind developer Viridis Eolia, will offer free training to Wyoming’s workforce starting with three introductory sessions in mid-July in Rawlins, Casper and Gillette. The company also plans an upcoming tour of its wind farm near Shamut, Montana.

“We believe that folks that come from certain industries, fossil fuels, oil and gas, coal, they have skills that are transferrable to the wind industry,” said David Halligan, CEO of Goldwind Americas. “That’s why we’re offering the training and specifically why we are offering it in Wyoming.”

They are training people who could maintain a wind farm, technicians who respond to mechanical problems, install replacement parts and run the day-to-day operations at a large wind site.

Wind technician is the fastest growing occupation in the U.S.

And the jobs ain’t going away just because today’s version of Republican is trying to claw their way back to the 19th Century.

China’s Micius Satellite tests quantum entanglement record > Preps for Hack-Proof Internet


Alfred Pasieka/Getty Images

❝ In a landmark study, a team of Chinese scientists using an experimental satellite has tested quantum entanglement over unprecedented distances, beaming entangled pairs of photons to three ground stations across China — each separated by more than 1,200 kilometers. The test verifies a mysterious and long-held tenet of quantum theory, and firmly establishes China as the front-runner in a burgeoning “quantum space race” to create a secure, quantum-based global communications network — that is, a potentially unhackable “quantum internet” that would be of immense geopolitical importance…

❝ The concept of quantum communications is considered the gold standard for security, in part because any compromising surveillance leaves its imprint on the transmission. Conventional encrypted messages require secret keys to decrypt, but those keys are vulnerable to eavesdropping as they are sent out into the ether. In quantum communications, however, these keys can be encoded in various quantum states of entangled photons — such as their polarization — and these states will be unavoidably altered if a message is intercepted by eavesdroppers.

❝ Ground-based quantum communications typically send entangled photon pairs via fiber-optic cables or open air. But collisions with ordinary atoms along the way disrupt the photons’ delicate quantum states, limiting transmission distances to a few hundred kilometers. Sophisticated devices called “quantum repeaters” — equipped with “quantum memory” modules — could in principle be daisy-chained together to receive, store and retransmit the quantum keys across longer distances, but this task is so complex and difficult that such systems remain largely theoretical.

Poisonally, I don’t doubt the NSA and other federal alphabet spooks are trying both methods and more. They have an endless supply of taxpayer dollar$.

Madrid Maersk Lands at First Northern European Dock

The largest containership to ever visit northern Europe arrived at the Port of Felixstowe earlier this week as part of its maiden voyage from China.

The 20,568 TEU Madrid Maersk arrived in Felixstowe on Tuesday marking its first port call in North Europe as part of the 2M’s AE2 service from Asia to Europe. While at the port, crews were expected to unload over 6,000 TEU loaded in China and Malaysia for the UK…

❝ Here’s Madrid Maersk departing Felixstowe on June 8 with the assistance of four tugs…

Cripes! The first of eleven to be built for Maersk.

Russian hackers are hiding in Britney Spears’s Instagram account

❝ In order to hack foreign governments, military officials, and embassies, Russian hackers are now using Britney Spears in their operations by posting cryptic comments on her Instagram photos.

Hackers at Turla, a group believed to be linked to Moscow, are using Instagram comments on Britney Spears’s photos to control their hacking operation, said researchers at Slovakian security firm ESET…

❝ The comment doesn’t make sense and doesn’t seem threatening to the untrained eye. But, according to ESET, it’s key to the hackers’ success.

❝ After compromising computers, hackers need a way to send them instructions and get data back. They often set up a command and control server to do this. Security professionals defending against cyberattacks usually try to find the central server and shut it down in hopes of crippling the entire network.

The comment on Britney Spears’s photo is a clever strategy for announcing the location of a new command and control server after the previous one gets shut down. When decoded, it’s actually the central server’s internet address

❝ So why are the Russian hackers now targeting an American pop star’s Instagram account?

The answer is simple: Web traffic from users around the world is constantly flowing through Instagram. It would be incredibly easy to hide malicious comments and links on photos posted by celebrities…

❝ The discovery raises questions about what else is hiding in the comment sections of celebrities’ social media pages and how Russian hackers are getting creative to avoid tracking.

And, of course, no country’s cyberspooks have exclusive use of creepy hacks, political or otherwise. The same stunts are liable to be foisted on popular websites by the NSA or CIA – or Trump’s favorite 400-lb teenager in his Long Island bedroom.

Pope hosts conference on sustainability – takes delivery on Electric Popemobile


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Vatican City wants to become the first C02 free country in the world through the use of electric mobility and renewable energy.

During Laudato Sì, a sustainability conference addressing key environmental issues and future mobility, hosted by the Vatican earlier this week, Opel’s CEO Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann presented his Holiness Pope Francis with the keys to a brand new Opel Ampera-e…

During the conference, Vatican City, along with Opel and Italian energy company Enel, promised to develop a sustainable mobility program for the smallest country in the world.

The Opel Ampera-e isn’t a bad place to start, its 520 km of NEDC rated range dwarf its next closest competitor by at least 100 km.

Yes, it is a Chevy Bolt – the German version produced by Opel.

Military communications may have accidentally formed a protective bubble around Earth


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❝ When the Navy wants to send a message to an underwater submarine, it sometimes uses very low frequency (VLF) radio waves. These long wavelengths, beamed from large towers on the ground, are unique in their ability to travel through salty water. But some end up in space instead. There, according to a new report, they may be forming a protective bubble around Earth’s atmosphere.

The discovery comes from the Van Allen Probes — two spacecraft, launched in 2012, that patrol the radiation belts surrounding Earth. The Van Allen radiation belts are zones where charged particles streaming from the sun get stuck in Earth’s magnetic field. These high energy protons and electrons can destroy a satellite’s electronics, which is a constant concern because the belts don’t always stay in one place…

During an intense geomagnetic storm in 2015, a large solar storm knocked back the plasmasphere, but surprisingly the outer Van Allen belt didn’t come any closer to Earth. “The plasma retracted but the belt didn’t follow,” says Erickson. But he and his colleagues noticed something else: “The edge of where these very powerful radio signals stop is the same place where the electrons stop coming in.”

❝ In addition, data from the 1960s suggests that the belt’s inner boundary was much closer to Earth back when VLF transmissions were less common. The team thinks that, nowadays, when electrons shooting out from a solar storm approach Earth, VLF waves deflect them, knocking them off their trajectory and pushing them into the atmosphere, where they get lost.

“The edge of where these very powerful radio signals stop is the same place where the electrons stop coming in.”

“At least in the first hours to a couple of days into a solar storm, the waves seem to halt the electrons from coming in further,” says Erickson. “If you wait longer, the story gets more complicated because they gradually diffuse in…”

❝ Sometime this year, the U.S. Air Force plans to launch the DSX satellite, which will test the feasibility of using VLF waves to deflect space radiation. If it works, humanity may be able to harness these waves to help protect against solar eruptions that dump giant clouds of charged particles into the solar system.

Not a perfect cure for a rare happening. Still, science happening upon a collateral solution is always welcome. Except to beancounter$, of course.

The Power of Wind Revisits the North Sea Courtesy of G.E. and Germany


G.E’s DolWin3 floating wind power platform

❝ General Electric Co. said it’s ready to ship a 1.5 billion euro offshore wind platform destined for the North Sea, underscoring the industrial giant’s commitment to clean power.

The platform is a key part of the DolWin3 offshore project and will help transmit wind power generated in the North Sea, according to Alf Henryk Wulf, who heads GE’s power unit in Germany, which led construction of the unit. Wulf didn’t want to discuss U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to quit the Paris accord during an interview at a port in Rostock, Germany where the 900-megawatt high-voltage converter was built.

❝ Commissioned by grid builder Tennet Holding BV, Dolwin3 is undergoing final dry-dock tests before being floated around Denmark and into the North Sea. The platform will bundle power from three wind farms next year, transmitting high-voltage direct current onshore, where it can then be reconverted to alternating currents for use in homes.

“As offshore prices fall, the North Sea’s potential for offshore is shining even brighter,” Wulf said. “We all owe it to consumers to engage that potential.”…

And Trump’s favorite coal investors get little or nothing from their best pimp.

❝ Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the Group of Twenty nations, has sought to keep the U.S. on board the Paris treaty, wooing Trump with projections that a global shift from fossil fuel would create jobs and stimulate economic growth.

Just 1 percent of the North Sea’s offshore potential has been exploited, and billions of euros in future investment will be needed to tap the rest, Siemens said last month. Dong Energy SA and Energie Baden-Wuerrtemberg AG won Germany’s maiden auction of 1.49 gigawatts of offshore power in April offering to build parks free of subsidies.

I don’t think anyone holds out hope for reality, evidence-based investing or modern science to mean a damned thing to our so-called president.

Paul Allen has a new plane and it’s very, very BIG


Click to enlargeStratolaunch Systems

Paul Allen’s intriguing launch company, Vulcan Aerospace, has gone relatively quiet in recent years, and questions about the venture’s viability have been increasing. But on Wednesday, the cofounder of Microsoft shared a new photo of the company’s Stratolaunch airplane — the largest in the world — and it seems the company is moving forward.

The new plane is, in a word, bigly. The aircraft has 385-foot wingspan and, powered by six Pratt & Whitney engines used on Boeing 747 aircraft, has a maximum takeoff weight of 1.3 million pounds. The Stratolaunch’s wingspan is the largest in history, blowing away the previous record-holder (Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose) by 65 feet. Vulcan Aerospace says its Stratolaunch airplane will have an operational range of 2,000 nautical miles. Serving as a reusable first stage for rocket launches, the Stratolaunch system will be capable of delivering payloads to multiple orbits and inclinations in a single mission.

Recently…the company moved the Stratolaunch aircraft out of its hangar at the Mojave Air & Space Port in the eponymous California desert. This was first time it had been moved outdoors, and Allen said the purpose was to conduct a “fueling test.” This event marked the completion of the construction phase, the company later said, and the beginning of ground and eventually flight tests.

I’m the only member of my extended New Mexico family who’s never been a pilot. But, wow, would I love to go along on this critter for a launch flight.