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Gas Prices Suck
Action Team

Automobile Supercapacitors: Promising New Technology

Ever-increasing gasoline prices and the search for a more environmentally friendly and fuel efficient means of transportation have resulted in the introduction of a promising new technology: ultracapacitors. Ultracapacitors (also known as super capacitors and double-layer capacitors) are a battery-like device that stores and releases energy quickly.

An Austin-based startup called EEStor promised "technologies for replacement of electrochemical batteries," meaning a motorist could plug in a car for five minutes and drive 500 miles roundtrip between Dallas and Houston without gasoline. The company has filed for patent rights on a new type of ultracapacitor for use in powering cars. The article said that the capacitor company had been purchased by a company that plans to built electric only cars and will use the new capacitor to power the cars. Supposedly the cars will be on the market in about two years. The article claimed that a ten minute charge would give enough power to go 500 miles.

Read more about this promising new technology at the following links:




Ideas for Gas Price Relief

  1. Create A Refinery in Michigan
    Kick start our economy by funding a refinery through a bond proposal
  2. Solar Research
  3. Conservation
    Speed Limit - 65 mph to cut consumption
    Electric Rail System - less pollution
  4. Make Michigan the Energy-Tech Capital
  5. Utilize Current Resources
    Build in Mt. Pleasant
  6. Portland Transportation Model
  7. Mandate Fuel Efficiencies
  8. Reduce Michigan Gas Tax for 3 months
  9. Limit Profits of Big Oil Companies
  10. Educate!

    Read a related article from The New York Times.

    View Online

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Please email me if you want to get involved in lowering Fuel Costs!

Deregulating power hasn't paid off for Michigan

Saturday, October 13, 2007
By Ken Sikkema and Jeff Williams

Special To The Press

The people of Michigan are concerned about a lot of things these days, but the future of electric power probably isn't one of them. Electricity, however, is the engine that powers the state 's economy -- and Michigan's use of electricity is growing.

A recent study says that our use of electricity is growing 1.2 percent each year. That might not sound like much, but recent studies say that we would need to build four new coal-powered generating plants and have them operating by 2015 to meet this demand -- and as many as nine new plants by 2025.

Building only new coal plants would be expensive, environmentally damaging, and continue our reliance on fossil fuels. Fortunately, alternatives exist. The most recent study that documents the state's increasing use of electricity -- Michigan's 21st Century Electric Energy Plan, authored by former Michigan Public Service Commission Chairman Peter Lark -- proposes reducing the number of new plants needed by requiring that 10 percent of our electricity come from renewable sources and implementing energy efficiency measures.

This plan says that renewable energy and energy efficiency can't do it all -- we would still need at least one new plant by 2015 and more by 2025. Unfortunately, the Michigan law that regulates electricity provision -- Public Act 141-- creates so many uncertainties for utilities that they will not commit to building these plants. Any new power needed will have to be imported from other states, and it will be less reliable, more expensive and provide no local jobs.

PA 141 dramatically changed our approach to providing electricity to Michigan customers. It was Michigan's answer to a new theory of providing electricity that gained credence in a number of states in the 1990s. This theory held that a competitive marketplace, where independent power producers would build power plants and sell electricity at a market price to businesses and residents, would result in lower electricity rates. Proponents of this theory believed that electricity was the same as any other product or service. About one-third of the states, including Michigan, accepted this reasoning and began restructuring their electric industry. The results have been less than stellar.

Many of the states that deregulated their electricity production have experienced dramatic price increases as rate caps -- which were imposed to smooth the transition from regulation to competition -- expired. Making matters worse, the large base load plants needed for future electric reliability are not being built in those states.

Public Sector Consultants recently published a report in which we discuss some of the problems with this approach for Michigan, particularly related to our need for more electricity. The long lead times and expense of building large base load plants make it highly unlikely that anyone will accept the risk of building the kind of power plants Michigan needs for its future, if PA 141 remains unchanged.

Our report recommends that, in order to achieve the 21st Century Energy Plan's recommendations of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and new base load power plants, Michigan should return to a regulated utility model. In a regulated model, electricity producers are better able to predict which customers will be served each year, and the massive investments required for new plants are shared fairly across all potential beneficiaries of the new generation. Moreover, Michigan's experts on electricity production and cost-based rates -- the staff and commissioners of the Michigan Public Service Commission -- can set clear, stable and durable rules for how utilities can appropriately recover investments in new and existing electricity plants from all rate payers.

By stabilizing Michigan's electric market and making the utilities' customer base more predictable, Michigan stands the best chance of realizing the goals of the 21st Century Energy Plan and securing the state's energy and economic future for years to come.

-- Jeff Williams and former State Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema work at Public Sector Consultants, Inc. Mr. Sikkema helped draft and pass Public Act 141 as a member of the Legislature.

2007 Grand Rapids Press





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