A front-page story in today’s Baltimore Sun says rising wholesale energy rates, along with a prediction of a Maryland energy shortfall by 2011, will cause a 5.5 percent annual increase in gas and electric utility bills for residential customers beginning in June 2008.
Massachusetts began deregulating its electric grid in March 1998, and our utility rates are among the highest in the nation. Any driver pulling up to the pump can relate to the skyrocketing petrol prices. Does anyone leave their house these days and keep the heat turned to anything higher than 60 or 62 degrees? Since 1999, the price of heating oil climbed 198 percent, regular gasoline rose 140 percent, and natural gas 92 percent.
How can we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels? This is one of the many burning questions, pun intended, that the Mayor’s Energy Advisory Committee will try to answer in the coming months and years. Earlier today, I distributed a media advisory for an energy press conference and kickoff meeting for this committee that is set for next week.
About 40 percent of Massachusetts’ electricity is sourced from coal-burning power plants, and we all know the infrastructure costs and resulting pollution. Nuclear power is safer, but where to dump the used fuel rods if not Yucca Mountain? Renewable energy is great, but it can never substitute power plants unless built to a scale this state is unlikely to support, given the long delay in the off-Cape wind farm proposal. So we either retrofit the aging coal plants and/or use newer and safer nuke plants, and use the renewables–wind, solar, water, photovoltaic, in-stream hydroelectric–as supporting sources.
There is a hydroelectric dam on the upper Merrimack River, by the Amoskeag Falls. I’m not surprised, but I didn’t know this until I started looking for hydroelectric dams connected to the river. Yesterday, at Plum Island Coffee Roasters, I watched the partial ice-covered river rush by, and I got to thinking about whether we can tap into that frenzy with a tidal energy farm, maybe farther out by the Coast Guard station at the river’s mouth.
Speaking of water energy, I came across Google’s official blog and discovered they recently held a contest and challenged the online world to create videos that showed innovative ways to use pedal power to foster climate change. Entrants uploaded their videos to YouTube, and the winning team’s video is below.
Five engineers from San Bruno, California created a trike that allows source water to be poured into a tank, and through pedal power, the water is filtered and gravity-poured into a cleaner container. It’s quite ingenious, a mechanism that would make Buck Fuller proud. Would developing nations use it?