Southern California environment news and trends

Natural gas catches up with coal in America

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David McNew/Getty Images

The AES Corporation 495-megawatt Alamitos natural gas-fired power station stands on October 1, 2009 in Long Beach, California.

There’s nothing quite like the first time. That’s the sentiment behind last week’s announcement by the U.S. Energy Information Association that the amount of electricity being generated by natural gas is in a dead-heat with the amount derived from coal.

As reported by Treehugger, April data shows that natural gas plants generated 32 percent of the nation’s power, the same share produced by coal plants. That’s 95.9 million megawatthours from natural gas, compared to 96.0 megawatthours from coal.

According to the EIA, natural gas was able to catch up due to prices being at a 10-year low in April and reduced demand for electricity thanks to a mild winter (and spring). The EPA also recently imposed new rules limiting emissions of mercury, chromium and more. Another far more controversial reason behind the natural gas boom is the hydraulic drilling process of “fracking.”


Song of the Week, for San Onofre, and the summer energy needs ahead: "Can't Smile Without You"

David McNew/Getty Images

Evening sets on the San Onofre atomic power plant December 6, 2004 in northern San Diego County, south of San Clemente, California.

A little over a week ago, steam generator tubes failed during a test at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Since then Edison has been testing about 1% of its 19,000-plus tubes on site. And it would seem that could take a while, based on tweets from Edison's community outreach like this: 

This week, Southern California and the California Independent System Operator began to grapple with what a shutdown at San Onofre could mean to summer energy needs. The ISO, at a meeting this week, discussed contingencies for that circumstance. System operators could consider speeding up Sunrise Powerlink and the Barre Ellis transmission projects. They could keep a power plant on its way to extinction in Huntington Beach open a little longer. They could step up calls for public conservation, and public agencies and the military could impose mandatory restrictions. 


Eco-cage match: California Energy Commission vs. the electric vampires


It what sounds like one surreal eco-horror flick, the state of California’s Energy Commission has declared war on “vampire” chargers that greedily suck electricity and drive up utility bills. Citing the statistic that up some chargers waste up to 60% of the electricity they consume, I can’t stop glaring at my cable box. But I digress.

California is actually the first state to adopt such measures, with the Commission voting 3-0 to lay the smack down on said charging units, even amidst the expected objections including some from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. Given the number of chargeable devices that currently litter our lifestyles, it’s a move that’s right one time, if not overdue.

The new regulations (which require the products consume less energy while providing the same services) kick in on February 1, 2013, and are projected to save enough energy annually to power a city the size of Bakersfield, not to mention a whopping $306 million for ratepayers.