Rising energy prices for natural gas have been hurting homeowners. Now, economists say 2006 is going to be a rough year for farmers as well. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner explains:
Rising energy prices for natural gas have been hurting homeowners. Now, economists say 2006
is going to be a rough year for farmers as well. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner
At the American Farm Bureau’s annual convention, agriculture economists predicted a 10 percent
drop in farmers’ income this year. Rising energy prices can affect a farmer’s ability to borrow
money, and they make nearly everything on a farm more expensive – fertilizer, fuel for
machinery and irrigation.
Keith Collins is chief economist for the USDA.
“As we look out to 2006, the general forecasts are for slightly higher diesel prices and for higher
natural gas prices which is the main component in nitrogen fertilizer, the most important fertilizer
that farmers use.”
Collins says to address the problem, the USDA is targeting grants and loans to energy production
and conservation projects in rural areas. The agency is also developing tools for producers to
evaluate and improve energy efficiency on their farms.
Canada is a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol – an international agreement aimed at curbing heat trapping gas emissions. Now, a new study shows that these gas emissions have risen sharply in Canada over the past ten years. The release of the study comes just days after the prime minister criticized Washington for its climate change policies. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Dan Karpenchuk reports:
Canada is a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol – an international agreement
aimed at curbing heat trapping gas emissions. Now, a new study shows
that these gas emissions have risen sharply in Canada over the past ten
years. The release of the study comes just days after the Prime Minister
criticized Washington for its climate change policies. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Dan Karpenchuk reports:
The study was prepared by the Environment, Health and Statistics
departments of the Canadian government. It shows as of a couple of
years ago emissions of greenhouse gases were 32 percent above the
targets laid out in the Kyoto Protocol.
Alberta and Ontario had the worst emissions of all the provinces.
The study found that the most of the greenhouse gas emissions came
from energy production and consumption. Vehicular traffic accounted
for about twenty percent, an increase reflected in the shift from
automobiles to vans, SUV’s and trucks. Those heavier vehicles emit
about 40 percent more greenhouse gasses on average.
Climate change has become a touchy issue between Ottawa and
Washington. Recently, Prime minister Paul Martin said the White House
had failed to yield to a global conscience in its refusal to sign the Kyoto
Protocol. Washington warned him to tone down his anti-US rhetoric,
describing it as cheap electioneering.
The Environmental Protection Agency last year set new emissions standards for diesel truck engines. Most of those engines are manufactured in the Midwest by Indiana-based Cummins, Michigan-based Detroit Diesel, Pennsylvania-based Mack Truck, and Illinois-based Caterpillar. One of those companies is trying a different approach to meet the new standards. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl reports:
The Environmental Protection Agency last year set new emissions
standards for diesel truck engines. Most of those engines are
manufactured in the Midwest by Indiana-based Cummins,
Michigan-based Detroit Diesel, Pennsylvania-based Mack Truck,
and Illinois-based Caterpillar. One of those companies is
trying a different approach to meet the new standards. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl reports:
A truck engine the size of a
small couch is up on blocks at the
testing center of Caterpillar’s engine
research division just
outside of Peoria, Illinois. When it starts up,
you can feel
(ambient sound, engine)
While this engine for a typical 18-wheeler is
large and loud,
the engineers who designed it say what makes it
very small. Tana Utley is an engineering
“We actually talk about the amount of fuel
that an injector
injects in terms of cubic milliliters. We measure the
milliseconds. And even the degree of accuracy that is required to
measure what we are doing is not unlike what you’d find if
were to go to the space program and look at some of the things
they do for NASA.”
Caterpillar is trying a different approach to reduce
pollution from the engines on vehicles like school busses, dump trucks,
and 18-wheelers. Other engine makers are using a process
cooled exhaust gas recirculation. That essentially
cooling off the exhaust from the engine that
pollutants, and running it back through the engine
releasing it into the air. Cooling the exhaust makes it
filters to pick up pollutants, and reduces the amount of
air required to run the engine. But Caterpillar says it has a
better system. They call it ACERT, or Advanced
Emissions Reduction Technology. ACERT doesn’t bank
on one thing
to clean up engine emissions like its competitors.
says it is a combination of dozens of improvements to
the way a
large diesel engine works. She says one
example is a second
turbine placed at the end of the
“When we put a series turbo on, what we
do is we take the
exhaust energy that would normally be wasted and go out to the
environment at that temperature, the
second turbine takes that
temperature and turns it into useful work. That useful
work is used to add energy to the intake air, which helps us to
fuel consumption. It also provides plenty of cool, clean air to
the engine to give us clean combustion.”
Utley says improvements to the engines air intakes,
injection systems, and the electronics
that run the engine all
combine to make for cleaner exhaust. John Campbell is
Caterpillar’s director of On-Highway Engine Products. He says
the ACERT engine follow Cat’s mission of taking a comprehensive
approach to solving problems.
“Who invented ACERT? The answer is Caterpillar invented ACERT.
Because it took a series of people with all kinds of
backgrounds, working together, and if you will,
playing off of
each other. And ACERT development
was a true teamwork effort
among a broad-based skill of people to make it occur and
actually bring it to production.”
Campbell says because ACERT does not rely on one piece of
equipment or technology to comply with new standards, Cat
have an easier time of meeting the next round
standards in 2007. But not everyone
confidence that ACERT will be the clear
leader in the engine
market. Mike Osenga is the publisher of
Diesel Progress, an engine trade magazine. He says Caterpillar’s
unique approach to the engine market goes beyond the technology.
“The interesting thing that Caterpillar did with
ACERT is they
said, not only does it, in their opinion, change
technically, but they also intended to charge more for ACERT
equipped engines. Especially the truck engine
market is hugely
price competitive. So Caterpillar has said
they’re coming in
with a new technology and they intend to get more
money for it.
That is typically not a path taken in moving a technology
into to a market.”
Osenga says it is impossible to predict which technology will
prevail, or which engine manufacturer will have an easier time
meeting future emissions standards. He says the biggest
question mark is durability. Osenga says none of the engines
currently on the market have been tested for the hundreds of
thousands of miles trucking companies demand from their engines.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Jonathan Ahl.
A new study suggests wind power is cheaper to produce than coal or natural gas. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl reports:
A new study suggests wind power is cheaper to produce than coal or natural gas. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl reports.
The report from Stanford University shows creating electricity using wind power costs about three and a half cents per kilowatt-hour. That compares to coal and natural gas costs of almost four cents per kilowatt-hour. Mark Jacobson is an engineering professor at Stanford, and the author of the study. He says the government needs to pursue using more wind power over coal and natural gas.
“ …and also, wind energy is more efficient than solar, or other renewable energy sources. So all of the renewable energy sources, you would want to exploit wind first.”
Jacobson says wind power is even a better deal when the environmental costs of pollutants from coal and gas plants are taken into consideration. But there is a downside. To convert two thirds of the nation’s coal generated electricity to wind power would take an up front investment of more then 330-billion dollars. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Jonathan Ahl.