"The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.”" ~~~~Samuel P. Huntington

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Your Infrastructure Will Be Your Undoing - One Reason Why Natural Gas CANNOT Replace The 20% Of Coal-Fired Powerplants Due Offline By 2015

Updated January 06 2011:
In the San Francisco Chronicle today:
Feds put nation's pipeline operators on notice

Federal safety officials responding to the findings of the San Bruno disaster probe issued a nationwide bulletin Wednesday urging operators... of natural-gas pipelines to verify they have accurate records about their lines and to cut pressure on them if they don't.

The regulators took the unusual step in response to the discovery that Pacific Gas and Electric Co. had erroneous records about the high-pressure gas line that exploded in San Bruno in September, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes.

The revelation raised questions about whether the utility had set the line's maximum allowable operating pressure too high and whether it had used an inspection method for the pipe that was ill suited to detect some possible weaknesses... [Read more]

This isn't some fanciful initiative Lisa Jackson dreamed up one day.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to continually update pollution limits to reflect the latest science. The U.S. District Court, for instance, has ordered the EPA to set new mercury standards by the end of next year. As a result, new rules are now coming down the pike on smog-forming pollutants, on mercury, on coal ash...

...according to industry analysts, many coal plants will have to shut down...":
[The rules] would force utilities to invest tens of millions of dollars on technologies to remove the substances. Many of those plants are about 50 years old and are already inefficient. "Those investments are just not going to be justifiable," said Dan Bakal, director of electric power programs at Ceres, a group of environmentalists and institutional investors.

Francois Broquin, a co-author of reports on coal by Bernstein Research, said the combined rules could push as much as 20 percent of U.S. coal-fired electric generation capacity to retire by 2015. "
In Full @ New Republic
Even as America comes to depend more and more on Natural Gas for it's energy needs, and it WILL ramp up even more dramatically as that 20% of all coal-fired power plants, 50,000 MW of nation's dirtiest coal plants, begins to go offline due to EPA regulations, one can begin to see that flammable gases are MUCH more dangerous than the 'Bunker Fuels' and Coal traditionally used in power generation.

San Bruno Pipeline Explosion Aftermath

But that's not all. Gases are hard to contain in the material's transmission infrastructure itself, EVEN WHEN THE INFRASTRUCTURE IS SHINY NEW, and the source needs to be somewhat nearby the end user to prevent massive product and by-product losses which also pollute heavily.
In the United States, methane emissions from natural gas distribution mains accounts for 32 percent of the industry's total methane emissions. (source)
That means gas pipelines and infrastructure everywhere to control costs and pollution, leading inexorably to more stories like these over the last few days:
2,000 Evacuated After L.I. Propane Leak

"A cracked plastic valve on a propane tank was the source of a leak that sent thousands of gallons of toxic, flammable liquefied propane gas..." More
Another news story today:
Gas leak raises alarm at Miami elementary school

Miami Fire-Rescue hazmat teams responded to a gas leak Saturday afternoon at Silver Bluff Elementary School.

The situation -- liquid propane gas leaking from three large tanks near the school cafeteria... More
Columbia Missouri:
Gas leak by new parking garage under control source
Little Rock Arkansas:
CenterPoint Energy fixing Pine Bluff gas leak

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (KTHV) -- The Pine Bluff Fire Department has evacuated one block bordered by 3rd and 4th Streets, as well as Main and State Streets because of a gas leak. source
It could be worse, ALOT worse, like the blast that wiped the homes and people who were in them near a transmission pipeline in the suburban SF Bay city of San Bruno off the map a few months back.

San Bruno Pipeline Explosion Aftermath 2

Considering the public safety track record of most power generation companies in the United State AND their state regulatory bodies...
The natural gas boom gripping parts of the U.S. has a nasty byproduct: wastewater so salty, and so polluted with metals like barium and strontium, that most states require drillers to get rid of the stuff by injecting it down shafts thousands of feet deep.

Not in Pennsylvania, one of the states at the center of the gas rush... In Full @ Alternet
...one would think that our everyday lives over the next few years, as the RUSH to 're-tool' our energy infrastructure intensifies with the typically concurrent lack of inspection/regulatory oversight (if only due to the lack of qualified inspection personnel), will become MUCH more dangerous.

The New York Times: "Utilities shift to gas-based plants as alternative to coal"

Wall Street Journal: "Utilities are increasingly looking to natural gas to generate electricity"

Financial Times: "Wave of closures set to hit U.S. coal stations"

Denver Daily News: "PUC approves retiring Denver-area coal-fired plants, switching to natural gas"

Reuters: "Xcel to shut or convert Colorado coal power plants"

Chattanooga Times Free Press: "TVA to shutter coal plants, turn to nuclear"

Times Daily: "TVA to idle coal plants to cut emission output"

Charlotte Observer: "Duke considers closing old coal plants"

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