Germany fires up bizarre new fusion reactor

On 10 December, Germany’s new Wendelstein 7-X stellarator was fired up for the first time, rounding off a construction effort that took nearly 2 decades and cost €1 billion. Initially and for the first couple of months, the reactor will be filled with helium—an unreactive gas—so that operators can make sure that they can control and heat the gas effectively. At the end of January, experiments will begin with hydrogen in an effort to show that fusing hydrogen isotopes can be a viable source of clean and virtually limitless energy.

The article discusses some of the huge engineering problems which must be overcome with both stellarators and tokamaks in the effort to build a practical fusion reactor.


Why is the EPA singling out Louisiana?

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency released proposed new rules to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in generating electricity by 30% from 2005 levels, by 2030. The rules changes would vary from state to state, however; under these rules Louisiana would have to reduce CO2 levels by 40%.

Why so high? The understood purpose of the new rules was to discourage the use of coal-fired plants to generate electrical power. While Louisiana does use some coal for this purpose (there are plants near Mansfield and near Lena in North Louisiana), only about 12% of our power comes from coal. About 15% comes from nuclear plants, and the majority of the rest is from natural gas.

Louisiana officials are not sure why the numbers for our state are so high, and the EPA is not saying. Moe Lane (who is not from Louisiana), says politics are to blame:

It is more accurate to say that neither wants to provide said clear reason. But we’re all adults here, right? Louisiana got hit by this because of three things.

1. One, Louisiana is a Southern state that has gotten more and more Republican ever since state Democrats utterly failed to handle Hurricane Katrina.
2. It’s a heavy producer of oil.
3. The governor of Louisiana – Bobby Jindal – has the temerity to not only be a conservative minority Republican, but one that is in fact as intelligent, erudite, and competent as Barack Obama pretends to be.

#3 is probably the big one, here. Although never underestimate the petulant fury of a Democratic party apparatchik who is seeing an entire state’s worth of local patronage slip out of his party’s fingers.


Are we going to build Keystone or not?

The State Department can’t really find any objections on an environmental basis. The greenies are focusing on the parts of the report saying how nasty tar sands oil is; that part really doesn’t matter, because Canada is going to dig it up anyway, and somebody is going to refine it and use it even if we don’t. This heavy crude is currently being shipped by rail to refineries on the Gulf coast; TransCanada could also build a pipeline to their Pacific coast and sell it to the Chinese. (Besides, if you object to tar sands crude, why are you making such a big deal about shale, horizontal drilling and fracking?)

This has gone on long enough. Environmentalists have latched on to the Keystone XL pipeline as the current eco-monster out there, and President Obama has been afraid to cross them. He is running out of excuses for blocking this economic boon to the middle of the country,though, and the time has come.

Just build the darn thing.


Ethanol free gasoline

The Renewable Fuel Standard has mandated that gasoline retailers sell increasing amounts of ethanol in motor fuel. There are many reasons why this is a bad idea, including that it does not accomplish its intended purpose (reducing carbon emissions). Poorer fuel mileage and engine damage with gasahol has caused a demand for pure gasoline. You can find a station near you selling gasoline without alcohol here. In Louisiana, these stations reportedly sell ethanol-free gasoline. The price may be a little higher, and in many cases only higher octane fuels are sold ethanol free.



Do you have a high school diploma and want to make $80,000 a year? Try Midland/Odessa Texas.

In the vast stretches of barren desert that surround Midland and Odessa, the telltale pyramid-shaped rigs run clear to the horizon. Underneath lies the famed Permian Basin, an ancient ocean basin that wildcatters have been tapping since the 1920s.

Someone right out of high school can now earn $80,000 a year lugging supplies and handing out water bottles to more skilled workers on the rigs.



New Executive Order–prepare for climate change

From Bridget Johnson at PJ Tatler:

President Obama just issued an executive order “to prepare the Nation for the impacts of climate change by undertaking actions to enhance climate preparedness and resilience.”

“The impacts of climate change — including an increase in prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, an increase in wildfires, more severe droughts, permafrost thawing, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise — are already affecting communities, natural resources, ecosystems, economies, and public health across the Nation. These impacts are often most significant for communities that already face economic or health-related challenges, and for species and habitats that are already facing other pressures. Managing these risks requires deliberate preparation, close cooperation, and coordinated planning by the Federal Government, as well as by stakeholders, to facilitate Federal, State, local, tribal, private-sector, and nonprofit-sector efforts to improve climate preparedness and resilience; help safeguard our economy, infrastructure, environment, and natural resources; and provide for the continuity of executive department and agency (agency) operations, services, and programs,” the order states.

The Order doesn’t say what type of climate change we are to prepare for, warming or cooling, but I have no doubt that it will cost us money. Recent evidence may be pointing to a Maunder Minimum-type change, but the Administration continues to promote greenhouse gas disaster blaming.

C’mon guys, why are we continuing to pretend that “the science is settled”, and disaster is imminent if we do not immediately cripple our economy?

UK review says shale gas fracking is a low risk to public health

The British are desperate enough for less expensive energy that they will probably be going forward with tapping their large shale gas resources, in spite of environmentalist protests.

Reuters is reporting that the UK health ministry says “health impacts were likely to be minimal.”

“The currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to emissions associated with the shale gas extraction process are low if operations are properly run and regulated,” said John Harrison, director of PHE’s center for radiation, chemical and environmental hazards.