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JAPAN: 1.4-Meter Tsunami Hits Sendai  

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Tsunami reached wide areas of the Tohoku and Kanto regions. At Sendai Port in Sendai, a tsunami of 1.4 meters was observed, the highest since the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

The agency also issued a tsunami advisory for the Pacific coast from Aomori Prefecture to Chiba Prefecture, as well as for the Izu Islands chain.

The agency said a tsunami of 90 centimeters high was observed in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture; 80 centimeters high in Kuji, Iwate Prefecture, and Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture; and 50 centimeters high in Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture.

The agency downgraded the tsunami warning issued for Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures to a tsunami advisory at 9:46 a.m.

All the tsunami advisories were lifted by 12:50 p.m.

The tsunami warning issued Tuesday was the first since one was issued for Miyagi Prefecture after an earthquake with its epicenter off the Sanriku coast occurred on Dec. 7, 2012.

At a press conference held Tuesday morning, Koji Nakamura, the agency’s official in charge of earthquake information, called on people in areas where a strong jolt was felt to be alert against earthquakes of the same scale for the next week or so. Read the rest of this entry »

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The State Electricity Revolt

Health care, Wall Street, the Internet—by the time President Obama leaves office, there may not be much of the economy left for his successor to take over. The better news is electricitythat his attempt to do the same to the energy industry is meeting heavy resistance in the states.

The Environmental Protection Agency is finishing a rule—expected in June or July—that requires the states to meet carbon-reduction targets by reorganizing their “production, distribution and use of electricity,” as the EPA puts it. This is an unprecedented federal usurpation of what has been a state responsibility since the invention of the modern steam turbine in the 1880s.

States are normally allowed as much as three years to comply with EPA mandates that are far less complex than this one. But the EPA will instruct them to submit implementation plans by summer 2016 and make interim progress as soon as 2020. The rule is intended to impress the greendees of the Paris climate conference this year, so Mr. Obama can announce a global climate deal.

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EPA offices in Washington, D.C. Photo: Getty Images

The plan hangs on an obscure section of the 44-year-old Clean Air Act. That law’s section 111(d) was well understood but the EPA has published a new interpretation of these several hundred words that runs 1,200 pages. No less a dean of legal liberalism than Harvard’s Larry Tribe is stunned by this attempt to nationalize U.S. electric generation.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

States will be told to meet the targets using four “building blocks.” The first is uncontroversial: improving the efficiency of fossil-fuel power plants and installing pollution-control technology like smokestack scrubbers. But for the first time the EPA is also telling states to roam “outside the fence line” of power plants to force coal and eventually natural gas to shut down, mandate quotas for renewables like wind and solar, and impose energy conservation.

The problem is that the federal government has no legal power outside the fence line. Last year the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals slapped down the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s bid to claim authority over “demand response” on the electric grid.

Thus the EPA is trying to coerce the states into doing what it can’t do itself. Read the rest of this entry »


Soft Target: Security Holes in Power Grid Have Federal Officials Scrambling

In Congress, the vulnerability of the power grid has emerged as among the most pressing domestic security concerns

A report chronicling the vulnerability of the power grid said: “Many of the grid’s important components sit out in the open, often in remote locations, protected by little more than cameras and chain-link fences.” (Patrick Tehan / Bay Area News Group / February 2, 2014)  http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-grid-security-20140407,0,5068036.story#ixzz2z4sPXbaq

A report chronicling the vulnerability of the power grid said: “Many of the grid’s important components sit out in the open, often in remote locations, protected by little more than cameras and chain-link fences.” (Patrick Tehan / Bay Area News Group)

For the LATimes, Evan Halper writes: Adam Crain assumed that tapping into the computer networks used by power companies to keep electricity zipping through transmission lines would be nearly impossible in these days of heightened vigilance over cybersecurity.

When he discovered how wrong he was, his work sent Homeland Security Department officials into a scramble.

Crain, the owner of a small tech firm in Raleigh, N.C., along with a research partner, found penetrating transmission systems used by dozens of utilities to be startlingly easy. After they shared their discovery with beleaguered utility security officials, the Homeland Security Department began sending alerts to power grid operators, advising them to upgrade their software.

The alerts haven’t stopped because Crain keeps finding new security holes he can exploit.

“There are a lot of people going through various stages of denial” about how easily terrorists could disrupt the power grid, he said. “If I could write a tool that does this, you can be sure a nation state or someone with more resources could.”

“Many of the grid’s important components sit out in the open, often in remote locations, protected by little more than cameras and chain-link fences.”

Those sorts of warnings, along with vivid demonstrations of the grid’s vulnerability, such as an incident a year ago in which unknown assailants fired on a power station near San Jose, nearly knocking out electricity to Silicon Valley, have grabbed official attention. In Congress, the vulnerability of the power grid has emerged as among the most pressing domestic security concerns.

It is also among the most vexing. Read the rest of this entry »


M.I.T. Reality Check: The U.S. Won’t Match Russia’s Gas Exports to Europe for Years

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No matter how fast export facilities for liquefied natural gas are approved, it will be years before the U.S. can challenge Russia’s position as a dominant supplier.

Mike Orcutt writes:  The crisis in Crimea has prompted calls for the U.S. to ramp up natural gas exports to Europe by quickly approving new facilities capable of liquefying the fuel and sending it overseas. The argument is that this could undermine Russia’s strategic power by reducing Europe’s heavy reliance on Russian gas.

The numbers on natural gas exported to Europe show just how simplistic this argument is. Russia dominates the market, and regardless of the speed of the approval process, it will take several years and tens of billions of dollars of investment for the U.S. to come close to Russia’s exports.

In 2012, pipelines carrying Russian gas supplied 34 percent of all the natural gas sold in the European Union by non-E.U. countries. Several nations, including Bulgaria, Lithuania, and the Czech Republic, rely on Russia to supply over 80 percent of their natural gas needs. Around 80 percent of the gas exported to Europe travels by pipeline; the rest arrives as liquefied natural gas (LNG).

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Read the rest of this entry »