Fusion Energy Advance Is Hailed by a Seattle Start-Up – The New York Times

“Zap Energy, a fusion energy start-up working on a low-cost path to producing electricity commercially, said last week that it had taken an important step toward testing a system its researchers believe will eventually produce more electricity than it consumes.

That point is seen as a milestone in solving the world’s energy challenge while it moves away from fossil fuels. An emerging global industry composed of almost three dozen start-ups and heavily funded government development projects is pursuing a variety of concepts. Zap Energy, based in Seattle, stands out because its approach — if it works — would be simpler and cheaper than what other companies are doing.”

French Nuclear Power Crisis Frustrates Europe’s Push to Quit Russian Energy – The New York Times

“PARIS — Plumes of steam towered above two reactors recently at the Chinon nuclear power plant in the heart of France’s verdant Loire Valley. But the skies above a third reactor there were unusually clear — its operations frozen after the worrisome discovery of cracks in the cooling system.

The partial shutdown isn’t unique: Around half of France’s atomic fleet, the largest in Europe, has been taken offline as a storm of unexpected problems swirls around the nation’s state-backed nuclear power operator, Électricité de France, or EDF.

As the European Union moves to cut ties to Russian oil and gas in the wake of Moscow’s war on Ukraine, France has been betting on its nuclear plants to weather a looming energy crunch. Nuclear power provides about 70 percent of France’s electricity, a bigger share than any other country in the world.”

Get Ready for Another Energy Price Spike: High Electric Bills – The New York Times

“Already frustrated and angry about high gasoline prices, many Americans are being hit by rapidly rising electricity bills, compounding inflation’s financial toll on people and businesses.

The national average residential electricity rate was up 8 percent in January from a year earlier, the biggest annual increase in more than a decade. The latest figures, from February, show an almost 4 percent annual rise, reaching the highest level for that month and approaching summer rates, which are generally the most expensive.

In Florida, Hawaii, Illinois and New York, rates are up about 15 percent, according to the Energy Department’s latest figures. Combined with a seasonal increase in the use of electricity as people turn on air-conditioners, the higher rates will leave many people paying a lot more for power this summer than they did last year.”

More big-tech billionaires backing next-gen nuclear startups — ANS / Nuclear Newswire

“The trend of big-tech billionaires of Silicon Valley investing in next-generation nuclear energy startup companies continues. In a March 22 article on the Bloomberg website, Lizette Chapman, of the site’s venture capital group, writes that these investors view nuclear power as “a solution to both cutting carbon emissions and weaning the world off now-controversial Russian gas.”

According to the article, venture funding for startups focusing on nuclear energy reached a peak in 2021, with an investment amount that year of $3.4 billion. That amount compares with $381 million in 2020 and only $131 million back in 2012.”

Source: More big-tech billionaires backing next-gen nuclear startups — ANS / Nuclear Newswire

Philip Verleger and David G. Victor | The Clean Energy Revolution Is Speeding Up Thanks to Europe – The New York Times

Philip Verleger and 

Dr. Verleger is a retired professor of economics from the University of Calgary and a nonresident senior fellow at the Niskanen Center. Dr. Victor is a professor of innovation and public policy at the University of California, San Diego, and nonresident senior fellow at The Brookings Institution.

“Today’s energy crisis has a familiar ring. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, energy supplies have faltered and prices have skyrocketed. Americans are seeing costly gasoline, and in Europe, natural gas prices are around five times typical levels for this time of year, driving up the price of electricity and even threatening bankruptcies across industries that depend on gas.

After previous global energy crises — 1973, 1979, 1990 and 2008 — tensions abated, prices fell, people forgot and governments turned to other priorities. And global dependence on oil and gas kept rising.

This time could be different. Western nations have aggressively employed sanctions against Russia, and those sanctions are expected to tighten and include Russian oil and gas exports, as Europe and other importers gain confidence that they can replace those supplies. But what really matters for the long term is whether the West can lower its dependence not just on Russian exports, but on fossil fuels altogether.”

How the Recoil From Russian Gas Is Scrambling World Markets – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/04/business/russia-europe-natural-gas.html

Stanley Reed, a longtime global energy correspondent, reported this article from London.

Sign up for the Russia-Ukraine War Briefing.  Every evening, we’ll send you a summary of the day’s biggest news. Get it sent to your inbox.

“Just months ago, Germany’s plans to build a terminal for receiving shiploads of liquefied natural gas were in disarray. Would-be developers were not convinced customers would make enough use of a facility that can cost billions of dollars. And concerns about climate change undermined the future of a fossil fuel like natural gas.

Perceptions have changed. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Kremlin’s threats to sever fuel supplies, the government in Berlin has decided it needs these massive facilities — as many as four of them — to wean the country off Russian gas and act as a lifeline in case Moscow turns off the taps. The cost to the taxpayer now seems to be a secondary consideration.”

Want to Sleep Like a Baby? 60-67 F  Try a Smart Thermostat. | Wirecutter

. . . .  Who can do this

“There are a few factors to think about when you’re picking a smart thermostat (we go over them in-depth in our guide to the best smart thermostat), but the first is whether the particulars of your home, and your existing climate-control system, are even compatible with a given model. In general, if you have central air, a Nest or Ecobee model is likely to be compatible—you can confirm in advance on the Nest and Ecobee sites—and the same is true of forced-air heating. Hot-water hydronic and steam heating systems may require additional wiring or the use of an adapter, which is typically DIY-able. Electrical heating typically includes a thermostat in each location already.”

.

Dennis Blair and Joseph Dunford Jr. | Ukraine’s Russia Crisis Reveals the West’s False Sense of Energy Security – The New York Times

“. . . . Are the United States and its allies adequately focused on the risks of today’s energy reality? Have they positioned themselves for a future in which they have ready access to the raw materials essential to emerging technologies?

The answer is no — they are at risk of being usurped by adversaries. And perhaps the biggest threat ahead is China. The United States and its allies are making strides to harness diverse and clean energy sources like wind, solar and hydrogen. They are smartly deploying electric vehicles to end our dependence on oil and its market-controlling cartel. Increases in battery efficiency are helping to encourage both trends.

But the danger of the electric vehicle transition especially is that it will convert America’s current vulnerability to oil and gas markets to dependence on a supply chain for critical minerals for advanced batteries that is now controlled by and flows through China.

Over a decade ago, China made a strategic decision to corner the world of electrification. It made substantial investments in the manufacture of batteries and the assembly of electric vehicles, as well as in the mining and processing of minerals vital for E.V.s.

Electric vehicle batteries at a workshop in Nanjing, in the Jiangsu Province of China.

Credit…Xu Congjun/VCG, via Getty Images

As of 2020, Chinese firms controlled more than 60 percent of the world’s lithium and nickel refining and over 70 percent of cobalt refining, according to a report prepared by the consulting firm Roland Berger for SAFE, the energy security group that one of us chairs. These are essential for lithium ion batteries used in electric vehicles. The same report found that U.S. companies account for only 4 percent of lithium, 1 percent of nickel and zero percent of cobalt refining. Further along this supply chain, Chinese companies produce 41 percent of the cathodes and 71 percent of the anodes used in E.V. batteries. The United States produces essentially none of these key components.

The bottom line is that the United States now depends heavily on supply chains from nations that do not share our interests and values. Policymakers must heed this risk or risk being held hostage by these nations.”   . . .

David Lindsay: Excellent opinion piece. Here are the two top comments, I also recommended.

The Poet McTeagle
CaliforniaFeb. 22
Times Pick

It’s not just EV assembly and battery cell manufacturing. It’s everything else, like robot manufacturing, because robots make the EVs. Also all the bolts, washers, other parts and computer chips and paint and everything else that makes robots and EVs. Offshoring all manufacturing to China was a really bad idea in the first place. It happened because Big Money saw big profits to be made. Those in government went along with Big Money, because it’s Big Money that controls our government.

11 Replies524 Recommended

Chris commented February 22

Chris
Times Pick

It’s not that we can’t. It’s that we don’t. We don’t build stuff anymore. The real problem seems related to how corporate america likes to manage businesses. Building products, innovating is difficult business. It’s tricky, doesn’t always pan out, and can often result in lower profit margins. Senior managers in this country want 20% growth with 60% profit margins. They want low capital investment. That’s why we have silicon valley and social media companies. That’s why we’re so good at advertising. It’s isn’t the natural competitive advantage of nations. But rather the culture of executive leadership and risk tolerance in capital markets that drives this. Executives and investors in Chinese companies do not have these constraints. At some point wall street has to get back to investing in boring companies that build stuff.

15 Replies400 Recommended

Admiral Blair and General Dunford | Ukraine’s Russia Crisis Reveals the West’s False Sense of Energy Security – The New York Times

Dennis C. Blair and 

Admiral Blair, who retired from the Navy in 2002, was a director of national intelligence in the Obama administration and served as commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command. General Dunford was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Obama and Trump administrations. Before that, he served as commandant of the Marines.

“Russia’s belligerence against Ukraine is underscoring once again the inextricable link between national security and energy security. Today, Russia is flexing its energy dominance over a dependent Europe. But tomorrow, the danger may come from China and its control over the raw materials that are key to a clean energy future.

The United States and its allies must ensure that doesn’t happen.

In recent years America has been lulled into a false sense of energy independence. The shale revolution of the past decade has generated incredible supplies of vital natural gas and oil. European countries, blessed with diverse economies, have also felt relatively secure in recent years. But that is changing.

Germany now depends on Russian suppliers for as much as two-thirds of its natural gas and the European Union for about 40 percent. And as it phases out its nuclear power plants by year’s end, Germany, Europe’s largest economic force, has appeared more hesitant than its peers to forcefully confront the Kremlin. Moscow sees Europe’s energy dependence for what it is: a supply chain dynamic it can control and exploit at will.”

Opinion | Schwarzenegger: Solar Costs Could Rise if California Regulators Get Their Way – The New York Times

Mr. Schwarzenegger is a former governor of California.

“California has more rooftops with solar panels than any other state and continues to be a leader in new installations. But a proposal from the state’s public utility commission threatens that progress.

It should be stopped in its tracks.

When I was California’s governor, we set a goal in 2006 of putting solar panels on one million roofs across the state. Skeptics said it couldn’t be done, but with bipartisan support in the State Legislature, California met its goal in 2019.

The state now has 1.3 million solar rooftops generating roughly 10,000 megawatts of electricity — enough to power three million homes. And more are being added every week. Roughly two-thirds of those rooftops are on houses and businesses; the rest are on government buildings.

But this hard-earned and vitally important accomplishment is now under threat. The California Public Utilities Commission is considering a plan that would make it too costly for many Californians to embrace solar power. A decision could come as soon as Jan. 27.”