Smart Meters – The Gateway to Time of Use Rates

Smart meters collect detailed energy usage data at certain time intervals. When initially deployed, utilities and government entities will talk up the reasons and benefits as being “to provide users with more information in order to better manage their energy”. Consumers who have studied the smart grid and the purpose of smart meters will point to their main purpose as being necessary for “time of use (TOU) billing.” Utilities and government officials will accuse them of “fear mongering”.

Well, California is ahead of Florida, so let’s look at their experience with smart meters. A few days ago, San Francisco Gate reported that the California Public Utilities Commission is proposing sweeping new rate changes for California’s Investor Owned Utilities. Guess what they entail – time of use pricing!

SF Gate reports that residential customers with typical monthly usage of 600 kilowatts will see their bills rise 13% if they stay on flat rates and 16% if they switch to TOU pricing and don’t “change their habits”. What changes in habit are they talking about? Running those dishwashers and washing machines at times that they don’t want you to use energy.

For residential customers who use 1200 kilowatts, well they will see reductions of 14-17% in their bills. What you say? Hasn’t everyone been saying we need to conserve energy so we don’t have to build power plants and turn on peak power plants? The article goes on to claim that changes made during the last energy crisis caused an imbalance in pricing where heavy users were subsidizing low users.

Although there is a choice, note that everyone will be automatically enrolled in TOU pricing unless they “specifically” choose to stick with tiered rates.

Last year, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) proposed time of use pricing too. An editorial in the Sacramento Bee stated “The current system results in heavy users unfairly subsidizing low-use customers who use a disproportionate amount of electricity during times of peak demand. It sends the wrong price message to customers.”

The narrative is changing in California. But that is no surprise, as it changed in other places around the globe that have deployed smart meters and then later mandated time of use rates.

I questioned the Public Service Commission back in May 2012 on smart meter deployment asking “FP&L states we can have access to our usage on a continually basis. … The only time this becomes important information, as a consumer to have, is when you move to pricing based on “time of day usage”. Is this where we are heading with this “smart grid” and if so shouldn’t the public be alerted now?”

Walter Clemence responded in an e-mail on June 6, 2012 as follows:

“Will time-of-use rates become mandatory after smart meters are deployed?

Time-of-use rates are optional and customers may continue to take service under their current rate schedule.  Customers have had the option of time-of-use rates since 1974. “

Pay close attention to the words he used. He did not say that there were “no plans to move to TOU pricing”. And in fairness, California is letting those that want to stay on flat rate pricing do so. But as smart consumers know, that with nearly 20% rise in rates, eventually good comrades do what the State demands. They comply.

Google “smart meters and dynamic pricing” and see what you find.  There is a 10-year audit trail on their plans to move everyone to dynamic pricing and change behaviors through pricing. And just for the record, TOU pricing is just an interim step; the ultimate goal is “real time” pricing (RTP). This is a staged implementation for a reason. It’s like the frog. Put him in boiling water and he will jump out. Put him in cold water and gradually turn up the heat and he stays there until he can no longer get out.

Skeptics (pro-smart grid) will argue changing consumer behavior is essential and they will talk about the overloaded grid. But the forecast for electricity load growth tells a different story. Check out this Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, July 23, 2013 presentation to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC). Electricity Load Growth is expected to decline.

Source: July 23, 2013, Utility Business Models in a Low Load Growth/High DG Future, Charles Goldman, Andy Satchwell, and Peter Cappers, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

What’s in store for Florida? Can all its seniors handle staying up until 7:00 p.m. to do their laundry? Perhaps they will offer senior special discounts so they can afford to run the air conditioners during those hot summer afternoons. The rest of us will pay or sweat.

EDITORS NOTE: TOU means that instead of a single flat rate for energy use, time-of-use rates are higher when electric demand is higher. This means when you use energy is just as important as how much you use. To learn more about time of use rates watch this video from Pacific Gas & Electric:

RELATED COLUMN: DOE Plugs Energy Rating for Homes, Similar to MPG Rating for Cars

Florida Public Service Commission caves to FP&L smart meter demands

As expected the Florida Public Service Commission approved the staff recommendation today to allow FP&L to charge $95 upfront and $13 per month to those customers who wish to opt out of a smart meter.

My apologies, I did not know you could call in and make verbal public comments at this meeting over the phone. One citizen did that.

The OPC did little but suggest a reduced fee of $75 upfront and $10/month and based it off of California. They also recommended two paragraph’s be included in the Order. It was read quickly and I did not fully understand the significance, if any, of those inclusions. But basically OPC supported the tariff and the fee being charged.

Health and medical exemptions were never even discussed. No discussion of the definition of a non-communicating meter occurred, nor any of the other issues brought up to mitigate costs such as self-readings.

FP&L did admit that the fee needed to be and was designed to be high enough to disincentivize opt outs!

When questioned, they claimed customers who had an analog could keep it but also said there were NO savings by people opting out (which is not true since they will not be spending money putting on a smart meter). They also re-enforced that at any time if a customer wants to switch from an analog to a smart meter that there would be NO fee. Those customers refusing to pay the fees will be put into their normal collection process for non-payment. They admitted that the $77 visit charge may not occur for all customers but some customer may have 5 visits and it is meant to be an average assumption (so much for cost based and cost causer!).

If you wish to watch the meeting, it will be archived at this link and Item #6 starts at the 57 minute mark: http://www.floridapsc.com/agendas/audiovideo/index.aspx

FP&L will be revising their tariff and resubmitting today to reflect the staff recommendations. They indicated that they expected this service to become effective in May 2014 (I assume that is when they will start charging us).

If no protest is filed, the Order will become effective in 21 days.

Big Florida Brother Has Spoken – FP&L Customers will Comply or Pay Up!

In a show of support for the Florida Public Service Commission’s (FPSC) Staff Recommendations regarding Florida Power and Light’s (FP&L’s) petition for smart meter opt-out fees, Commissioner Brise stated “It helps the system as a whole by making sure there is a sufficient incentive that everyone can move in the direction of smart meters.” Ken Rubin of FP&L previously commented at the hearing that the fee needed to be around $100 (high enough) to create a “sufficient disincentive to opt out”.

The Commission never addressed the written comments from the public that dealt with health issues caused by the smart meters. Not one question was raised whether medical exemptions should be given for those falling ill from these devices or whether the American Disabilities Act required an exemption. They never addressed multi-family dwelling and property rights issues either. And God forbid any of the Commissioner’s ask a reasonable question as to whether there is a way to mitigate and lower these costs – such as customer self-reads. Nope, none were addressed although many public commenters made such recommendations to the Commission.

The Commission also did not address the specifics of a “non-communicating” meter. Although FP&L did state that if the customer managed to hold onto its analog meter they would be able to keep them for now. But those that didn’t and want to get rid of the smart meter will get a “non-communicating” meter of FP&L’s choice, even though the Commission was alerted through public comments that digital non-communicating meters were found to still cause health issues in states such as California and Nevada. These State’s Commissions eventually had to order that analogs be the replacement meter to alleviate public outcry. It is also not clear whether FP&L’s “non-communicating” meters contain the computer and storage to collect interval usage data that customers with privacy issues object to. But I guess we all know by now that our Fourth Amendment rights are gone (NSA scandals) and who cares about the “takings” clause in the Constitution.

The Commission never addressed communication issues for this new tariff either. FP&L does not plan to let all it’s customers know about this option. They only plan to alert via letter those 24,000 customers who are formally on their “postpone” list. The other 12,000 customers who refused access to their premises or barricaded their meters will be “automatically enrolled” and charged the fee. They will have 45 days after being charged to comply (let FP&L onto their property and install the smart meter) or the charges will stand. If they comply, they will reverse the charges.

What about the other 4.464 million customers? They will receive no notification of this option – unless you readers tell them. The least they know the better! Industry surveys show that most people don’t even know they have a smart meter or what it is. The same applies to FP&L’s customers based on my research.

Although almost 40,000 have rejected the smart meter, the costs are based on only 12,000 electing to enroll in the new tariff. They believe the fees will be high enough to make 24,000 comrades see the right way and comply. By using a lower figure it makes the costs higher and ensures everyone “moves in the direction of smart meters.” If you used the correct number (36,000 +), then the upfront fee on a real cost basis would be about a third or about $30. At that level than more people could afford to keep the meter off their homes and that would be inconsistent with FP&L and FPSC’s goal of moving everyone onto a smart meter.

I know there has been conditioning done on the public to believe that extra costs will be incurred and those opting out should pay that cost. But to those I ask, where is the fee to be put on budget billing? That non-standard billing service cost money to develop and money to run and there is NO fee to elect this service.  We all paid for it. The Commission failed to address how that non-standard service is different. A service everyone is paying for but only a few receive a benefit.

“Cost causers” in the Commission’s world is very different than you may think. The one-time fee includes a $77 field visit charge. FP&L assumes they will need to make a field visit at least once to the expected 12,000 enrollees in this program. The Commissioners spent a lot of time making sure if a customer had an analog meter and enrolled in the smart meter opt out program and FP&L had to go out there 4-5 times over the 3-5 yr. period that the customer be only charged once. But if FP&L never had to go out it was okay to charge the customer for a field visit that they would never have. It was perfectly logical to spread the costs to all the opt-outers and not to charge the individual “cost causer” for multiple visits.

Equally important, they all agreed that if after the initial enrollment period a customer bought a home with an analog and wanted a smart meter then FP&L would roll that truck and install a smart meter for free. But if a customer bought a house with an analog and wanted to keep it, they would need to enroll and pay the $95 fee even though FP&L didn’t need to roll a truck and the service visit included in the enrollment fee would not occur. Oh brave new world!

So if you are on the “postpone” list expect a letter telling you to enroll. You will be charged a $95 one-time fee and $13/month for the pleasure of not having a smart meter. These charges per FP&L will start around May 2014. Protests to the Order must be filed within 21 days.

Not happy with the Commission ruling and want to protest it?

Contact CHASM at smartmeterradiation@gmail.com . Visit their site here http://microwavechasm.org/

Florida Public Service Commission to take up Smart Meters January 7, 2014

According to Marilynne Martin from Venice, FL, “The Florida Public Service Commission staff has posted its recommendation to the Commission regarding Florida Power & Light’s (FP&L) request to charge for an opt out. In a nutshell, they are recommending the charge be reduced as follows: One Time Fee – FP&L requested $105, Staff Recommends $95; Monthly Fee – FP&L requested $16/month, Staff recommends $13/month.”

“The recommendation does not address the type of meter you will get. FP&L’s tariff just says ‘non-communicating’ meter. This causes two problems. For those objecting for privacy reasons, they can put a digital meter on your home that contains a computer that collects data but does not transmit such data wirelessly to FP&L,” notes Martin.

For those that are getting sick from the meters, it was found in California and Nevada that the digital non communicating meters continued to make people sick. They fought and won the right for an analog meter.

Martin states, “Staff’s report indicates that as of the writing of their report only 35 residents filed objections to the tariff. There are 4.5 million FP&L customers. No serious opposition on record so I fully expect the Commission to approve the staff recommendation and charges will most likely start to occur April 2014.”

The Commission will meet on this docket on January 7, 2014. All Docket Info can be found here http://www.floridapsc.com/dockets/cms/docketFilings3.aspx?docket=130223.

Martin provided the following talking points for those concerned about Smart Meters in Florida:

  • If you are a FP&L customer and don’t have a smart meter, please note that in your comments up front.
  • Not only should this petition be suspended but it should be put on hold pending full evidentiary public hearings on smart meters from a cost, health, privacy and security perspective. In light of the recent NSA scandals and also all the Federal Government concerns and potential mandates on cyber-security for the grid, as well as the fact that FP&L’s own estimates from the recent rate case do not show savings to the ratepayer, it is time to re-evaluate.
  • Opt Out’s alleviate some concerns but not all. What happens to the multi-family dwellings? How does someone with 10-100 meters behind their wall “opt out”? You can’t. What happens to the residents that are getting sick from their neighbors meters or the associated equipment outside their unit on the poles?
  • What exactly is a “non-standard” meter? Those opting out want to retain their analog meters and do not want a non-communicating meter (digital). (This is important as California found that the digital meters were still making people sick because of the dirty electricity it produced on their home electrical lines.)
  • Those opting out should not have to pay a fee to protect their health and privacy. The smart meters cost approx. 5 times more than the analog and their estimated useful life is half. They require more equipment (routers, repeaters, IT maintenance, security, software, telecom fees, etc.) than analogs. The cost is far greater. Weather events will cost more as there is now additional sensitive communication equipment that can be damaged and will need replacement
  • As FP&L admitted in Docket # 130160, smart meters stop communicating. FP&L needs a method to get the meter reads in for the smart meters that don’t work properly. FP&L could use the same programs to get the manual meter reads in for the opt outs. They don’t need to write separate programs.
  • Monthly manual meter reads are not required for those opting out. FP&L could do one of two things. Either do estimated billing based on history or have the customer submit their own meter reading. Once a year FP&L should be coming out to all customers (regardless of which meter they have) to inspect their equipment on our property to make sure it is in good working order. They could do a meter read at that time to verify that the customer was doing proper readings. In addition, customers could also submit digital photos of their meter to support their readings. No need for monthly charges.
  • There is PLENTY of precedent of services be performed for “some” customers and not “all” and no fee is charged. Examples, 1) spanish translations of materials, customers service, 2) brail bills, 3) TDDY services for the deaf, 4) home energy audit.

EDITORS NOTE: For those interested in the installation of smart meters on their homes in Florida may contact the Public Service Commissioners directly. Very important that you put “Comments for Docket # 130223” in the Subject line. Public Service Commission e-mail addresses are as follows:

Commissioner Eduardo E. Balbis: Commissioner.Balbis@psc.state.fl.us

Commissioner Julie Imanuel Brown: Commissioner.Brown@psc.state.fl.us

Commissioner Ronald A. Brise: Chairman.Brise@psc.state.fl.us

Commissioner Lisa Polak Edgar: Commissioner.Edgar@psc.state.fl.us

Commissioner Art Graham: Commissioner.Graham@psc.state.fl.us

Office of Commission Clerk: clerk@psc.state.fl.us

Obama’s War on America’s Energy Needs

The Obama administration’s relentless war on the nation’s coal industry and on the electrical power generation plants that depend upon it is one aspect of his war on America that doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. There is literally no basis, no justification for it, and yet the mainstream media tends to take little notice or supports it.

coal as energyIt is far more than a “war on coal”. It is a war on the nation’s capacity to meet its ever expanding energy needs. You can’t build a power generation plant overnight. You can’t get the enormous amount of electrical energy the nation needs from wind and solar power. Even nuclear energy, touted as “clean” because it produces no carbon emissions, has not seen any surge in new plants in decades.

As a Washington Times editorial noted on November 20, the regulations being imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “have forced more than 100 coal plants to shut down and have made it all but impossible to construct new coal-fired plants despite rising energy demand…Since coal-fired plants generate nearly half of all the electricity used in the U.S., the EPA regulations add significantly to other upward pressures on electricity rates across the country.”

Two days later, CNS News reported that “The price of electricity hit a record for the month of October, according to data released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That made October the eleventh straight month when the average price of electricity hit or matched the record level for that month.”

“Americans now pay 42% more for electricity than they did a decade ago.”

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity released a report in 2013 that stated that 204 coal powered plants would shut down over the next three to five years. That represents the loss of 31,000 megawatts of generating capacity. The law of supply and demand says that when there is less and the demand is more, the price goes up.

The closures are spread over twenty-five states. People living in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina will see the most closures. Not only will the cost of electricity go up, but jobs will be lost. Less energy. Less employment. Less reason to build a new manufacturing facility in these states.

An article from the current edition of EnergyBiz Magazine points out that “As recently as 2008, coal-fired power plants accounted for more than 50 percent of our nation’s electricity supply. Coal and other hydrocarbons such as oil and natural gas have supported our standard of living and provided us with a substantial and sustained competitive advantage in the world economy.”

“The war on hydrocarbons (coal, oil, and natural gas) is fought on many fronts, but they tend to converge at the most basic of our critical energy infrastructure, the electric power plant. People assume that even though we use more electronic gear we are not increasing power demand. The opposite is true.”

The most identifiable culprit in this assault on the nation’s energy needs is the EPA. The Washington Times noted that its officials “have stalled for two years on providing Congress and the American people with the scientific evidence—peer-reviewed studies, analytical papers, and databases—that would justify regulations targeting the coal industry.” When you are intent on destroying a critical element of the nation’s infrastructure, the last thing you want to do is produce any verifiable evidence, particularly when there is none.

As the Times noted, “There are solid reasons for being suspicious of the EPA’s claims about peer reviews and public comment periods. Peer reviews mean little when everybody involved is funded by an administration conducting a ‘war on coal.’ And public comment periods are all but useless when conducted away from areas of the country most affected by the agency’s regulators.” No public sessions were held in major coal states like West Virginia or Kentucky.

This isn’t just devious. It is borderline criminal as a deliberate act of deception perpetrated on all Americans. It is economic warfare. It is a war against America’ energy needs.

The justification for the EPA regulations is the claim that coal-fired plants emit too much carbon dioxide which, in turn, contributes to global warming. But there is NO global warming. And hasn’t been since the Earth entered a natural cooling cycle about fifteen or more years ago.

The Institute for Energy Research succinctly says the “EPA’s proposed rule (to increase limits on CO2 emissions) will have essentially no positive impact on the environment. If the U.S. as a whole stopped emitting all carbon dioxide emissions today, the impact on projected global temperature rise would be a mere reduction, of approximately 0.08 degrees Centigrade by the year 2050 and 0,17 Centigrade by the year 2100.” And, of course, coal-fired plants in China, India and other nations continue to email CO2, a gas that is vital to all life on Earth as “food” for all the vegetation on Earth.

We are looking at a travesty being imposed on the nation, one that has a larger percentage of proven reserves of coal than Saudi Arabia has of world proven reserves of oil. Obama’s 2008 pledge to bankrupt the coal companies is coming true and, in the process, denying Americans the energy they need and expect while needlessly driving up the cost of what they are using today and tomorrow.

Congress has to shake off its partisanship and lethargy, and save the nation from Obama’s EPA and an Interior Department resisting the granting of leases to find new sources of energy.

© Alan Caruba, 2013

Fraud Florida style: nuclear plant shutdowns, smart meters and “secret” settlements

Robert Trigaux, Tampa Bay Times business columnist, in his August 1st column titled, “Thank you, Tallahassee, for making us pay so much for nothing” wrote, “Hey, elected clowns! Thanks for passing a law forcing Duke Energy customers to pay up to $1.5 billion in higher rates for a long proposed nuclear power plant in Levy County that will not be built. And no, Florida customers, you’re not getting any of that money back.”

“With the Levy project canceled, and the broken Crystal River plant now permanently closed, Duke appears to be exiting the nuclear power business in Florida. At least for the foreseeable future,” notes Trigaux.

Trigaux stated, “Too bad we can’t shut down Florida legislators just as easily. Especially those lawmakers who conjured up the 2006 law letting power companies charge advance fees to ratepayers for high-priced and, yes, even ill-considered nuclear power projects.” In May the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission held an open house to discuss the closing of the Crystal River nuclear power plant owned by Duke Power.

Thomas Saporito stated in a press release, “Duke Power has apparently decided NOT to restart the failed Crystal River nuclear plant. The decision comes after billions of dollars in losses and many failed attempts to repair the troubled nuclear plant after a hole was cut in the containment building about 3-years ago to replace failed steam generators. Perhaps this is a warning signal for the entire nuclear industry about the hazards of operating nuclear reactors well-beyond the end of their 40-year safety-design basis?”

Another issue facing Floridians is the installation of “smart meters” on homes and business by Florida Power & Light (FPL).  Florida Supreme Court Case SC 13-144 against FPL and the Florida Public Service Commission concerning smart meters has been filed and is scheduled for oral arguments. The lawsuit states:

“FPL customers are now placed in a position by order of the Commission – to pay for smart meters which cannot operate as alleged by FPL. Therefore, FPL’s claims of cost savings for its customers are patently false and not true. Notably, it is not realistic to believe that FPL customers would be willing to expense the cost of replacing their existing appliances with smart appliances in these dire economic times.

To the extent that there appears to be fraud on the part of FPL related to cost recovery for smart meters from customers of FPL, the undersigned requests that: (1) the Commission authorize and otherwise order an investigation of FPL related to smart meters and associated cost recovery; (2) the Office of Inspector General for the Commission conduct an investigation of FPL and/or the Commission – related to smart meters and associated cost recovery as authorized by the Commission; and (3) the Commission convene a public hearing to create a record for which the Commission can rely and consider to Order FPL to refund all smart meter associated costs back to the customers.”

A third lawsuit was filed Attorney Jack L. McRay – representing the AARP – who filed a brief with the Florida Supreme Court asking the Court to remand the decision by the Florida Public Service Commission (Commission) to approval a “secret” settlement agreement between Florida Power & Light (FPL) and three other parties related to FPL’s March 2012 petition filed with the Commission to raise electric rates for some 4.1 million customers.

Thomas Saporito in a press release stated, “The Florida Public Service Commission has reopened Docket No. 120015-EI in the Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) rate case to consider a motion filed by citizen Intervenor Thomas Saporito to reconsider its Order granting FPL exclusive authority to “self-regulate” and increase electric rates at will over the next several years.”

According to Saporito, “The citizens of Florida can no longer have any trust or confidence in the Commission to act as their advocate in establishing fair and reasonable electric rates. The Commission’s decision to allow FPL to ‘self-regulate’ puts the Commission’s integrity in the toilet”

Depending on the Commission’s decision on the Saporito motion – the case could be headed for review by the Florida Supreme Court. Saporito is also considering filing with other federal agencies and possibly filing a civil action against the Commission for violating his “due-process” rights in this matter.

It appears Florida’s power companies are in a meltdown mode.

RELATED COLUMNS:

What FPL’s President Thinks About Nukes, Renewables

Private Citizen Complains to the Florida Supreme Court

Florida Supreme Court asked to review FPL rate hike

Utilities to Address ‘Significant Weaknesses’ in Cybersecurity

AARP files brief in the Florida Supreme Court challenging the Florida Public Service Commission

Attorney Jack L. McRay – representing the AARP – has filed a brief with the Florida Supreme Court asking the Court to remand the recent decision by the Florida Public Service Commission (Commission) to approval a “secret” settlement agreement between Florida Power & Light (FPL) and three other parties related to FPL’s March 2012 petition filed with the Commission to raise electric rates for some 4.1 million customers.

McRay argues that AARP is a nonprofit organization with a membership that helps people 50+ years of age – have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. McRay argues that utility costs comprise a substantial portion of their housing expenses – that the burden can be severe – that even people who own their homes outright may pay over half their limited income for housing – due in large part to the high cost of utilities. Inability to pay utilities ranks as the second most common cause for eviction after inability to pay rent.

AARP is appealing to the Court to ensure that the Commission follows the law in setting residential utility rates that are fair, just, and reasonable. The Commission approved a non-unanimous settlement in the FPL case – contrary to Florida law – because it failed to make findings based upon competent, substantial evidence on the record as a whole to address the objections raised by OPC – representing the interests of residential ratepayers. Moreover, the Commission approval of the settlement includes new matters that should not be included in the rate case because no public notice of them was provided as required.

Global Climate Report Warns of Food Shortages and Social Upheaval

The inaugural edition of the recently published Global Climate Status Report (GCSR)© by the Space and Science Research Corporation (SSRC), headquartered in Orlando, Florida, discloses startling new information about global food shortages and widespread social upheaval that is just around the corner; all the cause of the new global cooling era.

This single source document from the SSRC details an apolitical, fact-based version of the Earth’s climate status as measured by twenty four climate parameters. The summary conclusion of the report shows that the planet is heading into four decades of potentially dangerous, cold weather.

Mr. John L. Casey, SSRC founder, Editor of the GCSR, and author of the internationally acclaimed climate book, “Cold Sun” was recently named “America’s best climate prediction expert” by Watchdogwire.com.

He elaborates on the conclusions of the GCSR by saying, “The news isn’t good, especially for those who still believe in man-made global warming and that mankind’s CO2 emissions have a major role in climate change. They will be totally unprepared for this new cold era. Though we had issued a press release in February to announce the climate report, the specific findings from the full report and their implications for everyone on the planet are still largely unreported by the media and unknown to our leaders. It is certainly still surprising that what is likely one of the most important news stories for the next fifty years is completely ignored by the mainstream media, including most science periodicals.

Casey states, “For these reasons, I want to be very clear about what this report is saying. Here in the United States, we face the real prospect of major crop damage and food shortages as we get closer to the bottom of the next cold era estimated to be 2031. We should fully expect to see substantial crop losses during the 2020’s along with accompanying food riots, and social unrest, especially in every major US city. That means we may have seven years, and likely less, to set aside the food we will need or make adjustments to our national food production and consumption practices in order to get through the global cooling onslaught with minimal damage.”

“This situation will be made worse because the current administration of President Obama has its head in the sand on this global threat and unbelievably is still telling the world that the Earth is warming because of man’s industrial greenhouse gas emissions,” notes Casey, “Nothing could be further from the truth according to the overwhelming evidence that climatologists and solar physicists around the world have compiled and is discussed in our global climate report for all to read.”

Click here to download the 3-Page PDF Version of the report.

Click here to download the Executive Summary of the Global Climate Status Report.

Time for Florida to Pull the Plug on Electric Vehicles?

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report in 2012 that has received scant media attention. The report titled “Effects of Federal Tax Credits for the Purchase of Electric Vehicles” takes a critical look at government subsidies for electric vehicles (EV).

Proponents argued for tax subsidies on the promise that EVs would reduce gasoline use and emissions.

The CBO report states, “[T]he [tax] credits will result in little or no reduction in the total gasoline use and greenhouse gas emissions of the nation’s vehicle fleet over the next several years.”

The CBO notes, “At current vehicle and energy prices, the lifetime costs to consumers of an electric vehicle are generally higher than those of a conventional vehicle or traditional hybrid vehicle of similar size and performance, even with the tax credits, which can be as much as $7,500 per vehicle. That conclusion takes into account both the higher purchase price of an electric vehicle and the lower fuel costs over the vehicle’s life.”

The following chart provides an overview of the CBO findings:

According to the US Department of Energy – Alternative Fuels Data Center, Florida has 351 charging stations. These EV charging stations are concentrated in the cities of Orlando, Tampa and Miami/Dade. Nearly all of the state charging stations are part of the California based ChargePoint Network. According to its website, “ChargePoint customers include large corporations such as Google and SAP; utilities such as Orlando Utilities Commission…” NovaCharge, LLC is the distributor of charging stations in the Southeast United States and is headquartered in Tampa, Florida. According to the NovaCharge website it is, “[D]edicated to enabling a better environment for future generations by supporting zero-emissions transportation infrastructure.”

Florida is home to several early adopters of EVs. Among them is the Fahs family – Fran and Ron.  Fran is also owner of  Tallahassee based Green Energy Marketing and Consulting, LLC. Fran created the Electric Vehicle Initiative (EVI) website and has become an activist for expanding the use of EVs in Florida and across America.  The EVI website states, “For years we have wanted to do something substantial to help the environment. Empowering people to take control of their transportation costs while taking a big chunk out of global warming is our desired contribution.”

In a personal email Fran Fahs stated to WDW, “With the recent attack on the Algerian oil field, the mega-storms and mega fires of the past years, I think that many more people understand that the time has definitely come to reduce our dependency on oil. It is evident from the environmental degradation that we see in our world that these environmental costs that will be passed on to the taxpayers, represents a subsidy to oil producers, since we, and not they, are paying for these high environmental costs of mining that oil from the ground.”

The common thread in all of these EV initiatives is to “help the environment” and “reduce transportation costs”. The CBO report appears to fly in the face of both of these goals. Continued subsidizing of EVs has no measurable effects other than using taxpayer money to fund credits for those who would have bought their EV anyway. Taxpayers are also subsidizing the costs of the charging stations.

It is commendable to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. That has been the stated goal of the Department of Energy since its inception. That goal has been elusive. However, another report by the US National Intelligence Council projects energy independence for America as achievable within 20 years. The path to energy independence is due to two new technologies – fracking and horizontal drilling.

WDW has asked for comments on the CBO report from Florida proponents. When they are received this column will be updated.

Federal Judge Shoots Down EPA Global Warming Rule

On Jan. 11, 2013, Judge Ralph Beistline of the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska issued a decision striking down the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) final rule designating more than 187,000 square miles of critical habitat for the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The designated area is larger than the state of California.

According to Becky Bohrer from the Huffington Post, “The federal government declared the polar bear threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2008, citing melting sea ice. The move made the polar bear the first species to be designated as threatened under the act because of global warming.”

The designation was challenged by the oil and gas industry, the state of Alaska and by several native Alaskan groups. Although the judge upheld the rule against 10 claims by the plaintiffs, the court found that the agency failed to explain why inclusion of such a large area of critical habitat was justified. The court explained that FWS:

“…cannot designate a large swath of land in northern Alaska as “critical habitat” based entirely on one essential feature that is located in approximately one percent of the area set aside. The Service has not shown and the record does not contain evidence that Unit 2 contains all of the required physical or biological features of terrestrial denning habitat [primary constituent element], and thus the final rule violates the APA’s arbitrary and capricious standard.”

The court also found that FWS failed to follow applicable procedures under the ESA by not providing the state of Alaska with adequate justification for not incorporating the state’s comments into the final rule. As a result of the decision, the critical habitat rule was remanded to the agency for further consideration.

Bohrer reports, “U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said [Judge] Beistline made the right decision, calling the bear populations ‘abundant and healthy’.”

“The only real impact of the designation would have been to make life more difficult for the residents of North Slope communities, and make any kind of economic development more difficult or even impossible,” Murkowsky said in a statement.

US Government: Fracking is the Future

The US National Intelligence Council has released its latest report Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds.

The report states:

“Experts are virtually certain that demand for energy will rise dramatically—about 50 percent—over the next 15-20 years largely in response to rapid economic growth in the developing world. The US Energy Information Agency anticipates steadily rising global production through 2035, driven primarily by a combination of OPEC production increases and larger unconventional sources. The main or references scenario of the International Energy Agency also posits growing global production of key fossil fuels through 2030 (about 1 percent annually for oil). Much of this increased production—and recent optimism—derives from unconventional oil and gas being developed in North America. The scale-up of two technologies, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, is driving this new energy boom. Producers have long known shale “source rock”—rock from which oil and natural gas slowly migrated into traditional reservoirs over millions of years. Lacking the means economically to unlock the massive amounts of hydrocarbon in the source rock, producers devoted their attention to the conventional reservoirs.” [My emphasis]

“Once the industry discovered how to combine hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, the vast gas resources trapped in shale deposits became accessible. The economic and even political implications of this technological revolution, which won’t be completely understood for some time, are already significant,” stated the report.

In a tectonic shift, energy independence is not unrealisticfor the US in as short a period as 10-20 years. Increased oil production and the shale gas revolution could yield such independence. US production of shale gas has exploded with a nearly 50 percent annual increase between 2007 and 2011, and natural gas prices in the US have collapsed.”

US has sufficient natural gas to meet domestic needs for decades to come, and potentially substantial global exports.

Service companies are developing new “super fracking” technologies that could dramatically increase recovery rates still further.

The report concludes, “The prospect of significantly lower energy prices will have significant positive ripple effect for the US economy, encouraging companies to taking advantage of lower energy prices to locate or relocate to the US. Preliminary analysis of the impact on the US economy suggests that these developments could deliver a 1.7-2.2 percent increase in GDP and 2.4-3.0 million additional jobs by 2030.

Read the entire report:

Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds by

The Integrity of the Florida Public Service Commission in the “Toilet”?

Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) website states, “The Florida Public Service Commission is committed to making sure that Florida’s consumers receive some of their most essential services — electric, natural gas, telephone, water, and wastewater — in a safe, reasonable, and reliable manner. In doing so, the PSC exercises regulatory authority over utilities in one or more of three key areas: rate base/economic regulation; competitive market oversight; and monitoring of safety, reliability, and service.”

The FPSC was considering a rate increase for Florida Power and Light (FPL) late last year. However, the process according to those attending the public hearings on the rate increase was usurped by FPL and commission staff at the expense of Florida citizens. Larry Nelson, a citizen present during the 2012 hearings in Sarasota and Miami, outlined in a letter how FPL was given preferential treatment by the Commission and staff.

Nelson wrote, “My first stop on my adventure was the public service hearing held in Sarasota on May 31, 2012. Here I first saw the most shocking thing about the public hearing process. In the lobby of the hearing site (Sarasota City Hall) were numerous FPL customer service representatives wearing FPL shirts who are greeting members of the public arriving to speak to the rate increase proposal. And FPL seems to have their own dedicated room. Which made no sense at all. It’s like a court hearing but one of the parties to the case gets to have their own room in the courthouse and a staff to lobby everyone, judges, jurors and the public as they walk by as to why their side is right. FPL also gets to have a table handing out literature. Nobody else gets to have a room or a table or representatives right outside the hearing room. There is no Audubon Society, no Environmental Defense Fund, no Florida Public Interest Research Group in the lobby lobbying (I guess that is where the term comes from!) against the rate increase or against the proposals or actions of FPL.”

The result of the rate increase hearings was FPSC issuing an Order on January 14th, 2013 granting Florida Power and Light FPL the ability to self-regulate over the next 4-years and to increase rates without citizen representation by the Office of Public Counsel. Thomas Saporito, from Saprodani Associates, believes that the process by which the FPSC came to issue this order was at best flawed and at worse illegal violating  multiple Florida statutes.

Saporito states, “The recent decision by the Florida Public Service Commission has placed public trust and confidence and the integrity of the agency in the “toilet”. No longer can the citizens of Florida have any measure of trust or confidence in the agency to be an advocate for the Public Interest regarding electric rates established for the Florida Power & Light Company (FPL). ”

According to Saporito, “The settlement is “illegal” as a matter of law because the Commission does not have requisite jurisdiction and authority to consider the settlement for several reasons:

(1) the Office of Public Counsel (OPC) opposed the settlement and OPC represents all FPL ratepayers – and is a vital and required signatory to any FPL settlement;

(2) the settlement violates the “due-process” rights of citizens who would otherwise intervene where FPL seeks recovery for power plants which have not yet been built or are not yet operational;

(3) the Commission placed the settlement hearing on a rush basis and denied intervenors from fully participating in the discovery process; and

(4) the settlement allows FPL to create a “slush-fund” and access depreciation and dismantlement funds without proper oversight for the sole purpose of raising FPL’s return on equity (profits for its shareholders).”

Thomas Saporito filed a motion for reconsideration on January 14th, 2013 asking the Commission to reconsider its decision.

According to Saporito: “I am gravely concerned about the Commission’s approval of the revised settlement with FPL where the citizens had no representation by the Office of Public Counsel. I have raised serious mis-conduct issues about the entire Commission with Steven J. Stolting, Inspector General – Office of Inspector General and I have asked his office to conduct an investigation.”

Depending on the Commission’s decision on his motion to reconsider – Saporito, “Fully intends to challenge the Commission’s Order – in filing an appeal with the Florida Supreme Court – and to file with agencies of the federal government – and perhaps a civil legal action.”

Root Cause of Middle East Riots – Hunger

In the NPR column “Can Riots Be Predicted? Experts Watch Food Prices” Maria Godoy reports, “When French peasants stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789, they weren’t just revolting against the monarchy’s policies. They were also hungry.” [Emphasis Mine]

Washington Post’s Foreign Service corespondent Ariana Eunjung Cha in April 2008 reported, “The price of grains — corn, wheat, and rice — has been rising since 2005 under pressure from farmers who would rather plant crops for bio-fuels than for food, the lack of technological breakthroughs in crop yields, and drought and disease. The sharpest increase has been this year, with the price of Thai rice, a world benchmark, nearly doubling since January, to $760 per metric ton. Some analysts expect that price to reach $1,000 in the next three months.” [Emphasis Mine]

“Despite efforts by governments to increase public-sector wages and introduce food subsidies, price increases and shortages have led to violent clashes along supply lines, in food distribution centers and at supermarkets,” reports Cha. [Emphasis Mine]

Obama administration was warned about the nexus between hunger and riots just prior to the Arab Spring.

According to Godoy Yaneer Bar-Yam of the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, “…and his colleagues say they submitted their analysis warning of the risks of social unrest to the U.S. government on Dec. 13, 2010. Four days later, Tunisian fruit and vegetable vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire – an event widely seen as the catalyst for the Arab Spring.”

“From the French Revolution to the Arab Spring, high food prices have been cited as a factor behind mass protest movements. But can food prices actually help predict when social unrest is likely to break out?”, asks Godoy. The answer is yes.

According to Bar-Yam the NECSI model offers the potential to forecast future social unrest by identifying “a very well-defined threshold [for food prices] above which food riots break out”. Godoy reports:

The researchers define the riot danger zone in relation to the U.N.’s FAO Food Price Index, which tracks the monthly change in international prices for a basket of cereals, dairy, meat, sugars and oil/fats. Riots become more likely, their model showed, when the index goes above 210. The index has been hovering above that “disruption threshold” since July, pushed upward by the drought in the U.S., the world’s biggest exporter of corn and wheat.

Wheat is now at $9 per bushel — higher than the high of $8.94 hit in February 2011, when the Arab Spring was in full swing. Corn is at $7.56 a bushel, close to the $7.65 highs of 2007-2008 — though it spiked well above $8 a bushel this summer. The Mideast is particularly sensitive to wheat prices; it imports most of its wheat, which is a major staple for the region.

David W. Kreutzer, Ph.D. writes, “The ethanol mandate in the federal Renewable Fuel Standard increases corn prices and food prices. This harms consumers and distorts the domestic and international commodity market. While waiving the mandate would be an improvement, eliminating it is the best choice.”

Florida’s legislature unsuccessfully tried to introduce legislation to take the state off of the federal ethanol standard. The legislation died in December 2011 in the Florida Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee committee chaired by Senator Nancy Detert. The 2008 law that would be repealed by the bill, backed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist, requires gasoline to include 9 to 10 percent ethanol.

According to the Florida Times-Union Jacksonville, “The sponsor of a measure that would repeal a law requiring ethanol in Florida gasoline agreed to postpone its consideration Wednesday in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, with several members of the panel saying they’re uncomfortable with a full repeal, though there’s support for making sure non-ethanol gasoline is available.” Detert said, “I just don’t want to hurt the businesses that are in place to offer us renewable energy ideas.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that “Geologists believe there may be large oil and gas deposits in the Federal Outer Continental Shelf in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, off of Florida’s western coast.”

Perhaps Senator Detert and the Florida legislature should look at how using food for fuel is causing riots in the Middle East and elsewhere? Perhaps it is time for Florida to tap into the oil and natural gas deposits off of Florida’s shore line?

SOME FACTS:

According to  UNICEF and the World Health Organization every year six million children die from malnutrition before their fifth birthday. This equates to 16,438 children a day.

The World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the world is well-fed, one-third is under-fed one-third is starving.

Since you’ve entered this site at least 200 people have died of starvation.

Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger.

Hasner Asks: How many dimes do you have in your pocket right now?

Congressional Candidate Adam Hasner has taken a new approach to politics. He presents the math. Hasner asks in a recent email,”How many dimes do you have in your pocket right now? Ten cents won’t buy a pack of gum at the grocery store anymore, but at the gas pump, that little silver coin can make a big difference to America’s economy.”

“Did you know every time gas prices go up by just 10 cents, the buying power of American consumers shrinks by $11 billion over the course of a year?, states Hasner.

Zunaira Zaki from ABC News writes:

As the national weekly average for regular gas continues to climb — now $3.59 a gallon, up 7 cents from last week, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration — here’s how soaring prices are affecting American consumers:

      • The average American household spends $3,348 of its after tax income on gasoline and diesel.
      • A 10 cent rise in prices means that the average household spends $93.25 more on gas and diesel per year.
      • Lower-income households are most sensitive to fluctuations in energy prices. Households in the lowest income quintile spend about 11 percent of their income on energy (which includes gasoline, natural gas and electricity), whereas households in the highest quintile spend 6.8 percent of their income on energy, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Hasner notes, “For decades, Washington’s energy policies have failed to make real progress toward true energy security. As a result, gas prices are on a perpetual roller-coaster, seemingly breaking record highs on a regular basis.”

Hasner supports an, “All of the above energy approach that relies on innovative, cost-effective renewable energy technologies, new domestic oil and natural gas exploration, safe and reliable nuclear power, and market-driven solutions to keep energy costs affordable for Florida families.”

“Affordable energy costs are critical to getting our economy moving again and bringing jobs back to our country. Now more than ever, we need made-in-America energy solutions to fuel growth and ensure our national security today and for future generations,” states Hasner.

Hasner concludes, “This election isn’t about Republicans or Democrats; this election is about math. And now is the time to tell Washington we expect real energy results, because while 10 cents may not seem like a lot to them, those dimes add up for the rest of us.”

Florida Nuclear Plant Nearly Melts Down

Marimer Matos from Courthouse News Service reports, “Florida Power & Light fired a safety officer for shutting down a dangerously leaking nuclear reactor, because it cost $6 million to repair, the man claims in court.”

“Mark W. Hicks sued Florida Power & Light Co. in Port St. Lucie County Court, alleging whistleblower violations, intentional infliction of emotional distress, libel and fraud,” according to Matos.

“It was clear to Hicks that there was great potential peril, as a reactor which loses too much nuclear reactor coolant has a potential of causing core damage, which could ultimately lead to a nuclear meltdown at the power plant, putting the entire civilian population, which would be in proximity to the reactor, in danger,” the complaint states.

Matos reports, “In fact, the same type of coolant leak that Hicks observed at the St. Lucie power plant [pictured above] was what caused the partial nuclear core meltdown on March 28, 1979, known as the Three Mile Island Accident, in Middletown, Pennsylvania, which was the worst nuclear accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant history …”

“At the time of the incident, Hicks was following the plant safety procedures outlined in FPL’s Technical Specification § 6.8, and from his own general safety knowledge regarding the procedures required to reduce the safety concern.”

Hicks adds: “Following protocol, Hicks reported to the head of the Nuclear Power Division of FPL and the Executive Vice President of FPL Manoochehr Nazar, who then shockingly and recklessly insisted that Hicks start up the reactor.”

“Despite Hicks’ evaluation of the situation, the obvious safety concerns, and the clear legal requirements which dictated that Hicks and FPL shut down the reactor, Nazar ordered Hicks to sign off on starting up the reactor without repairing the valves,” reports Matos.

“Nazar took the position he did, to startup the reactor, strictly from a position of greed. The bottom line is that he was willing to risk the health, well being, and even the lives of the citizens of Florida to avoid the loss of revenue, while the reactor was being repaired,” states Hicks.

The Port St. Lucie  plant, pictured above, was built in 1976 and contains two nuclear reactors in separate containment buildings. St. Lucie Plant, Units 1 and 2 are located near Jensen Beach, FL (10 MI SE of Ft. Pierce, FL) in NRC Region II; Operator: Florida Power & Light Co.; More information on the NRC facility page link here and at this link.

Read more at Courthouse News Service.

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