When I was but a wee tot, I really, really wanted a pink, battery-powered Barbie car. I coveted. Oh, yes. My parents, however, had sense enough not to shell out $400 for a piece of plastic that zipped along at 0.2 miles an hour and that I likely would have plowed into the family dog as soon as I took the wheel. I had to settle for a “manual” toy car that I powered myself through a hole in the floorboard — a la “The Flintstones.” I probably got going faster in that thing than I would have in the Barbie-mobile. I definitely got more exercise!
I hadn’t thought about those childhood toys in years, until I listened to an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air back in June. The host talked to the senior editor for Popular Science magazine, Seth Fletcher, about his new book, “Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars and the New Lithium Economy.” Fletcher believes that “advanced lithium batteries could hold the key to an environmentally sustainable, oil-independent future.” Read more here. continue
Eight months after the San Bruno, Calif., natural gas pipeline explosion killed eight people, injured dozens and left 55 homes uninhabitable, I still run across articles nearly every day regarding the ongoing investigation of Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and what could have been done to avoid this tragedy. While most of these articles place an understandable and significant amount of blame on the utility, there have been a few that turn some of that blame to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). continue
May 19, 2011 • Electricity
by Ann Barczak
Tanorexia - silent killer.
I was making Easter dinner when I remembered that I forgot to buy butter. Real butter. Contrary to the belief of my sons, real butter is not the stuff that sits in a tub and never changes shape. I have to have real butter on holidays.
The grocery store was closed, so I made my way to an open drugstore hoping they might have what I needed. I noticed the tanning salon was open next door. Easter… Fourth of July… Festivus… nuclear holocaust… nothing could close the irreverent tanning salon.
Tanning salons are a lot like traffic court. You never know what you might run into. I think my favorite experience at the tanning salon would have to be the young mom who couldn’t understand why she couldn’t take her baby into the booth with her. I’ll save my traffic court stories for another post. continue
April 13, 2011 • Sustainability
by Sarah McKee
WKU Office of Sustainability
WKU is home, not only to my college years, but also to the Hilltoppers, the red towel and the big blob mascot known as Big Red. Red is the most common color found on “the hill,” the term students and alumni lovingly use to refer to the steepest climb you’ll ever face at 7:30 in the morning. Now, Western Kentucky University is adding another color to its palette: green! continue
As we look to the future of our energy landscape, signals increasingly seem to point to a dynamic reworking of the face of energy. Here are just a few indicators warning of markets primed to shake up conventional wisdom.
Politicians and lobbyists are increasingly focusing on energy management and energy sustainability policies. Perhaps the prominence energy played in President Barack Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address is the best indicator of the impact energy is set to have on our political, social, and economic futures.
President Obama’s energy thesis: “Instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”
Signs had been pointing toward much of this investment going toward nuclear power. That is until the recent tsunami caused a potential nuclear plant meltdown threat in Japan. Now, voices are being raised on both sides of the debate: continue
With the recent event on Jeopardy in which Watson the computer decimated its human competitors, I thought it would be fun to start today’s post with a Jeopardy question:
Answer: This rhyming term refers to a utility employee who looks at electric, gas, or water consumption and records the volume used. continue
February 11, 2011 • Electricity, Energy's Lighter Side
by Katie Schultz
Blog entry ideas can be hard to come by. I’m still fairly new at Summit, and even more new to the world of blogging, so this task is somewhat of an adventure for me. So far, I’ve written about a few things that crossed my radar and piqued my interest.
But this month I was stumped. It’s fun to have a theme, and I’ve written about a holiday before, so I glanced up at the calendar for inspiration. Valentine’s Day promised a few sustainability topics, but I wasn’t satisfied. I was venting my writer’s block frustration when someone suggested President’s Day. So I started wondering if there were any presidents that influenced the industry that I’m now a part of. What’s some of the history that allows a company like Summit to exist? (A topic was born!) continue
February 8, 2011 • Current Events, Perspectives
by Roger Durham
A quick scan of energy-related headlines last week presented an interesting perspective. Like a lesson in macro versus micro economics, the news reminded me that while long-term energy policy implications are at play in the Middle East, there are short-term infrastructure issues that challenge the supply of energy in the United States. That juxtaposition of long versus short term / global versus local concerns is not unique to this past week, but the contrapuntal headlines make it hard to miss: continue
It appears I started something with my last post on nuclear power, as my colleagues Dominic Barbato and Kevin Cowart have added posts on nuclear power in the last couple of weeks. I’d like to return the favor by elaborating on something Dominic wrote.
Dominic commented on the “scientific elegance of harnessing the power of the atom.” Indeed, the scientific concept of nuclear energy is remarkably simple and efficient, which makes it all the more amazing that this source of energy has gone undeveloped in this country for more than 30 years. continue
January 7, 2011 • Electricity, Energy Efficiency
by Brandon Dickerson
Over the course of my two years learning the regulated side of the energy industry, I have spent a great deal of time attempting to perfect the art of utilities management. Part of my job is to know a utility’s tariff inside out and have a detailed understanding of the various rates and programs offered to its customers. Through this endeavor, I have come across a multitude of demand response programs, each unique in how they benefit customers (or put customers at risk). As with most things, the programs that offer the most potential savings are also the ones that offer the most risk. continue