Author Archives: bob

Biofuel from Seaweed

A relatively new contender for a source for biofuels, ethanol from seaweed, has come to the fore. Ethanol is blended with gasoline, commonly a ten percent blend in gasoline or less frequently E-85, a blend of eighty-five percent ethanol with fifteen percent gasoline. The latter is used extensively in Brazil. First a little background on making ethanol by traditional means.

The most common method for making fuel ethanol is fermentation of sugar with yeast. The sugar itself can be had directly from sugar cane, sugar beets or various fruit juices or indirectly from any source of starch such as grains or potatoes. Enzymes obtained from malted barley convert the large polymeric starch into small molecules which the yeast can use as a substrate for fermentation. The process has been known for over five thousand years. The oldest evidence of writing is cuneiform tablets found in modern day Iraq, then known as Sumeria. Some of these ancient tablets have records for beer production and distribution.

Virtually all ethanol produced in the United States is derived from corn and that is a problem on several levels. First and foremost is the fact that the process of capturing energy from sunlight is very inefficient compared to solar panels or wind turbines. Large swathes of land must be dedicated to energy production which otherwise would be suitable for food production. Ethanol from corn also consumes large amounts of fresh water and degrades the soil over time.

Ethanol can hypothetically be produced from plant fiber (cellulose) rather than starch, hence waste plant matter such as grass clippings and leaves could be turned into fuel. Although cellulosic ethanol has been studied intensely for decades, no commercial production has yet been achieved.

Now back to ethanol from seaweed. It’s recently been reported that ethanol can be made from seaweed using a genetically engineered bacteria. This is possible because the chemistry of seaweed is fundamentally different from land plants. Seaweed is comprised of large alginate molecules rather than cellulose or starch.

E. Coli, a bacteria common in the intestines of mammals and birds has been modified so that it has the enzymes necessary to disassemble the seaweed. This releases small molecules similar to sugar just as barley malt releases sugar from starch. A second modification of the genes in the bacteria allow metabolic processes that convert the sugar equivalent to ethanol, hence acting like yeast.

There are a number of advantages to the use of seaweed for fuel production. There is no diversion of food crops to fuel production. Seaweed can be harvested as a perennial crop from coastal areas or salt marshes so there is no impact on freshwater or land erosion. Seaweed production could even have a positive effect in certain coastal areas. Fertilizer runoff from the grain belt ends up in the Mississippi and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. This nutrient-laden water causes unwanted algae blooms which consume oxygen and create a “dead zone.” If seaweed were farmed in this location it could absorb the nutrients for its growth and then be harvested for fuel production- a win-win situation.

Next time you have a little sake (the ethanol portion ) with your sushi (the wrapper part) consider that it could be coming from the same seaweed, all the while cleaning the environment.

Dr. Bob Allen, Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Arkansas Tech University

A Sinister Life

I have spent a lifetime as a lefty in a right-handed world. Left-handedness appears naturally in about ten percent of the population across cultures and across time. The minority status of lefties has resulted in several negative descriptors. In Latin, right and left are dextra and sinistra. The Latin word for right gives us dexterity, and the word for left yields sinister. In French, left is gauche which we incorporated into English with a meaning of awkward or lacking in certain skills.

In my lifetime left-handedness has been suppressed by parents or teachers or at least made difficult. Regardless, a right hand dominated world has existed for eons. Cave Paintings dating back tens of thousands of years depict hunters brandishing their spears in the right hand. Going back hundreds of thousands of years, cut marks on bones from sites of human habitation show that the bone was held in the left hand and cut with the more “dexterous” right hand.

As longs as humans have been, well human, there is evidence of dominant right-handedness. Stone tools have been in use for over two million years. Examination of artifacts of tool preparation show handedness. The simplest of tools, a sharp flake of stone used for cutting is produced by striking one stone, the hammerstone, against another to chip off flakes. Archaic Hammerstones show chip marks that indicate the users were predominantly right-handed.

There are advantages and disadvantages to lefties. In both team and individual sports, lefties have an advantage because opponents have less experience playing against left-handers. On the tennis court and even more importantly at table tennis, slams from lefties come from the opposite side. The football spirals out of a left-handed quarterback in the opposite direction of the more common right-hander. Receivers who practice with left-handed quarterbacks have an advantage over defenders trying to intercept a ball spinning in a direction they aren’t used to. Curveballs from left-handed baseball pitchers break in the opposite direction.

Ah, but we aren’t all professional ball players, and that’s where the advantages may end. The disadvantages begin early in life. Every left-handed student knows the problems. The desks are wrong, the binders are wrong, scissors are wrong and on and on. Writing can be particularly troublesome for left-handed children if teachers aren’t sensitive. Many lefties end up with the “hooked” hand where the wrist is twisted clockwise and the grip of the pencil is close to the lead. This uncomfortable style can result in a certain degree of fatigue and even cramping.

More modern devices are no better: the computer mouse and numeric keypad are for the righty. Game controllers? Right-handed of course. Watch faces and even the clasps on bike helmets are right-handed.

More serious trouble occurs when more advanced tools, especially power tools, come into play. The more complex the tool, the greater the danger. Tools and all their safety features are designed for the majority. And safety is a big issue. There are more power tool injuries among lefties compared to righties. Speaking from personal experience, I have cut, bruised, or broken body parts from the use of right-handed tools. Or is it that I’m just gauche?

Dr. Bob Allen, Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Arkansas Tech University.

Trump’s Wall is Harmful

The number to undocumented aliens in the United States has been decreasing, not increasing over the past decade. The majority of Americans don’t see a need to spend billions of dollars more on border walls. Yet, the government of the wealthiest nation on the planet is closed for business over arguments to spend money on said wall. What would the harm be to go ahead and spend money on the wall, even if it isn’t necessary nor even wanted by the majority?

Aside from claiming some sort of crisis where none exists, there is the negative impact on the environment. A recent scientific article published in Bioscience and endorsed by over 2,700 scientists lays out the case for opposing the wall.

The border between Mexico and the United states is in total 3,200 kilometers, about 2000 miles. As recently as January 15, William Barr, nominee for Attorney General said before the Senate Judiciary Committee that building a piece of wall here or there will only shift illegal traffic to those locales without a wall. If a wall is to have any effect it must be continuous from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. But even pieces of walls, fences, etc. has a negative effect on the movement of wildlife.

The borderlands region is home to over 1500 species of plants and animals, including 62 species listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN.) Construction of any physical barrier entails not just the barrier itself but supporting structures such as roads, lighting, and operational bases. This disrupts the environment, destroys local vegetation, fragments the habitat. The one factor most critical in loss of biodiversity is loss of habitat.

In 2005 the Department of Homeland Security was given authority to override traditional laws protecting the environment, laws such as the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA.) Without these protections wall construction will run roughshod across what is otherwise pristine environments.

Many large mammals normally migrate across the border to and from breeding grounds and overwintering sites. These include both predator and prey species: bighorn sheep, gray wolf, pronghorn antelope, ocelot, and jaguar all have populations on both sides of the border. A wall would isolate and thereby fragment these population to the degree that they may not survive. Even more numerous impacted species are smaller mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and crustaceans.

Millions of acres of borderlands in the United States and Mexico are managed explicitly for biodiversity. Wall construction would disrupt bilateral agreements with Mexico in the Sonoran desert, Sky Islands region, Big Bend, and the lower Rio Grande.

If physical barriers are absolutely needed, they need to take into account the native biosphere. The barriers need to be constructed so that they are somehow permeable to movements of wildlife. Haste in construction is the enemy of biodiversity. Where construction must occur it should be done with thorough planning to avoid negative effects. In some cases it may be necessary to forego any barrier construction.

Dr. Bob Allen, Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Arkansas Tech University.

Nutritional Supplement Scams

This is the time for New Year’s resolutions and many resolve to do better with their health. Diet and exercise changes are frequently at the top of lists of resolutions. One shortcut to better health may be achieved via nutritional supplements, but do they really work?

In 1994, Orin Hatch, Republican of Utah introduced and got passed the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA.) Before this act, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversaw the regulation of essentially anything sold that made health claims. Oversight was in the form of requiring proof of efficacy – does it really do what it claims to do. Appropriate, properly controlled studies were needed to support any claims of beneficial health effects.

DSHEA created a loophole by allowing a new category of products, dietary supplements, which henceforth would not require any proof of efficacy. Marketers can now define their product as a dietary supplement, not a drug, and thereby escape any oversight by the FDA. Currently, dietary supplements is a forty billion dollar market, growing at five to ten percent per year. Over half the adult population take some sort of dietary supplements.

Claims of effectiveness are made for the supplements generally through testimonials or vague statements of some testing. None of these need be true! When it comes to supplements, caveat emptor, “let the buyer beware.” Actually, the Federal Trade Commission does examine claims for truthfulness. Hence, you will see untestable claims like the nostrum “supports” heart health or memory or some such.

One popular dietary supplement, fish oil capsules, are used daily by eight percent of the adult population of the United States. The fish oil market came about with the recommendations of the American Heart Association. The AHA suggested that fish oil supplementation is beneficial for those with existing cardiovascular disease. It was also recommended to reduce the risk of cancer. The fish oil industry took this recommendation and pitched it to the general population as a way to prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease.

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine tested this hypothesis. A prospective, placebo-controlled study with 26,000 subjects over the age of fifty was conducted. After five years there was no evidence of beneficial health effects, neither reduced rates of cancer nor cardiovascular disease.

Another common supplement, the combination of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate, is used by many for joint pain, especially weight-bearing joints like knees and hips. The evidence of beneficial effects is variable and limited. Dosage and quality of these agents vary from brand to brand and may account for the variance. The American College of Rheumatology does not recommend the use of Glucosamine/Chondrotin supplements.

Literally thousands of supplements are sold, the effectiveness of which is mostly unproven. Marketing via testimonials and improperly or uncontrolled studies can not provide evidence of efficacy. Whereas a healthier diet and more exercise are well proven to improve health, dietary supplements are not.

Dr. Bob Allen, Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Arkansas Tech University.

Buffalo River Hog Farm Update

Back in November, many applauded the decision of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to deny the permit which allows the C&H Hog Farm to operate in Mt Judea. The site is just a few miles upstream of the Buffalo National River. The denial of the permit means that the farm should cease operations within 30 days. But not so fast. Everything is back in court, a couple courts actually.

First the briefest of backgrounds. The farm was permitted in 2012 to hold 6,500 hogs and spread annually their feces and urine on a few hundred acres of hay fields adjacent to Big Creek. It drains downstream about six miles to its confluence with the Buffalo National River where every year several million people canoe swim, fish, hike, camp and generally recreate. And there is the problem, can these activities coexist? Yes, we need places to recreate and places to raise hogs, but can’t we figure out how to do these things in separate places? My guess it is a lot easier to move a hog farm than move the nation’s first national river.

The original permit allowing the farm to operate had certain flaws so when it expired the farm had to request a new permit. On Jan 10, 2018, the ADEQ offered up a draft denial of C&H hog farm’s request for a Regulation 5 permit to operate; however, they allowed the farm to operate before a final ruling following a public comment period. On November 19, they formally denied the permit.

C&H then went to a local district judge in Jasper and got a ruling to stay the denial and allow the farm to operate while on appeal. Subsequently, the Judge denied the ADEQ and intervenors to dismiss the stay so the farm will continue to operate while battles continue in the courts. Time will tell if ultimately the ADEQ decision to deny the permit will prevail. We should trust the judgment of the scientists and engineers at ADEQ and its oversight body, the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission which oversees the actions of the ADEQ.

Now enters another player, stage right. Biennial law making starts up next January. Our ledge is quick to take on anything in their purview and they are the lawmakers and budget determiners so just about anything is game. Recall they got into a fight and threatened the budget of the supreme court for a ruling they didn’t like about a ballot issue.

Rumor has it that certain powers are preparing legislation to weaken the requirements for siting Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs.) Legislative mischief in this case could do considerable damage to our natural environment in an effort to keep the farm in business. Other legislation could weaken air and water quality standards which would impact everywhere in the state. Or they may strengthen the “right to farm” legislation so farms could not be regulated to protect the natural environment. Hold on to your hats, or canoes, or hiking boots. The environment of the Natural State may be in for a rough ride.

Agriculture and tourism are the two biggest industries in the state. We all need to work to ensure that both prosper and that neither gets in the way of the other.

Dr. Bob Allen, Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Arkansas Tech University

It’s Time for Underground Transmission Lines

What do the Camp wildfire in California, sales of Tesla Model 3, and the east coast hurricanes have in common? The answer is that currently, none involve underground electric transmission and distribution lines.

The Camp Wildfire in Northern California this year was the deadliest in the history of California. At least 85 people died, 12,000 structures were destroyed, and over 220 square miles were burned. This one wildfire alone caused 10 billion dollars in property damage. Although climate change-induced drought and increasing population density both contributed to the catastrophe, the ultimate cause was most likely a short in an overhead electric transmission line.

Several million people lost electric power due to Hurricanes Michael and Florence. Extensive damage to downed transmission and distribution lines can take weeks to replace or repair. This delay impacts the local economy and threatens the health of those dependent on hospitals, clinics, and electrically powered medical devices. The cost to repair the electrical grid damage will be tens of millions of dollars.

Tesla’s lower cost but still pricey Model 3 is outselling all other luxury cars combined. In August it became the fifth highest selling car in the United States. As we convert our transportation systems to electric power we need to upgrade and expand our electrical grid.

At the same time, climate change is threatening the stability of traditional overhead transmission and distribution lines. Storms such as tornadoes and hurricanes can knock down lines. Floods and droughts both can cause shorting of lines and loss of power. It is time to consider burying our grid. Estimates of the costs of burying the grid as opposed to overhead lines vary wildly, some up to a order of magnitude higher.

Not calculated in these costs are the externalities mentioned above. Also as is often the case, the price of modernization goes down with both economies of scale and improvement in the technology itself.

A couple of years ago a major controversy raged across this part of Arkansas over the proposal for a large transmission line designed to bring cheap wind-generated electricity from the midwest to consumers to our east. Politics, the advent of cheap natural gas from fracking, and strenuous objections from landowners caused the cancellation (delay?) of this project.

There is no question that vast reserves of cheap wind energy exist on the great plains, but the power needs to be delivered to users, most of which are to the east of the plains. Large-scale transmission lines are needed.

One project looks to the future. A 350 mile HVDC underground transmission line has been proposed to run from Mason City, Iowa to Chicago. It will take advantage of cheap wind power. To lower project costs the line will use existing railway rights of way. Major transmission lines could also be located aside highway rights of way. It is not safe to put overhead lines along highways as they present a serious collision hazard.

All of our infrastructure needs maintenance and occasional upgrades as environmental conditions change. We can pay for a more stable climate and resilient electrical grid now, or have our children pay much more in the future.

Dr. Bob Allen, Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Arkansas Tech University.

Global Cooling Myth

Those in denial about Anthropogenic Global Warming (AWG) frequently make a claim about a past prediction of global cooling rather than warming. The argument goes something like this: How can we trust the scientific community about their dire warnings of global warming when not that long ago they were warning about an impending ice age? What is it, warming or cooling? They don’t know.

The graph of the earth’s temperature between 1880 and now is bumpy to say the least, in scientific terms it is called a noisy signal. If you look at a short enough time period one can find both periods of warming and cooling. From about the 1940s to the 1970s there was a period of cooling; overall however, the trend is to warming. We are now about 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than 1880.

This brief period of cooling led to a number of studies focused on climate change. One significant discovery in this era was a climate driver known as “Milankovitch cycles.” This was a recognition of a certain wobble in the earth’s tilt and small changes in earth’s orbit. Whereas these cycles may have been important in past ice ages, they had little or nothing to do with the current changes in contemporary climate issues.

Another factor studied was particulate matter in the atmosphere. The brief cooling of the 40s-70s may have been impacted by larger than previous amounts of fine dust particles from burning fossil fuels. The dust actually caused reflection of sunlight, lowering the amount of light and heat that reached the surface of the planet. In fact, this has led some to the dangerous proposition of injecting dust into the atmosphere to combat AGW.

These were the discussions of scientists in the 1970s, where publishing in peer-reviewed journals is what goes for scientific discussions. A recent study, a peer-reviewed publication of course, looked at the number of publications in the 70s relating to changes in the earth’s climate. The authors of this study found there were only 7 papers predicting cooling, 20 predicting no change, and 44 predicting warming. The was never any consensus of global cooling, only a brief discussion.

The state of scientific publications now is a resounding consensus for global warming. The data is clear, the planet is getting warmer which is forcing changes to the climate. We know the warming is due to human activities because of correlations between warming and increases of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and deforestation.

Being skeptical about scientific findings is healthy. In that respect science is self correcting. Misunderstanding and outright fraud have been uncovered by questioning scientific results. But at some point when a consensus becomes clear, even overwhelming then the refusal to accept the consensus changes from healthy skepticism to dangerous denial.

Denial of AGW is hazardous as it allows some to justify inaction. The longer we wait, the more expensive will be our actions to mitigate damage. It is somewhat like a debt, the longer one waits to pay it off, the more costly it becomes. Inaction now just shifts greater costs to the future, our children.

Dr. Bob Allen, Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Arkansas Tech University.

Climate Change in the Courts

Remember school house rock and “How a bill becomes a law?” The Saturday morning programming focused on wide-ranging subjects including civics. The video addressed legislation but there is another mechanism to “make law” or at least influence government policy. Individuals and cities or states can seek redress in the courts to force actions of government agencies when they think the agencies are acting in violation of existing laws or constitutional mandates.

The suggestion that human activities, most notably burning fossil fuels, can influence global climate has been around since early in the Nineteenth century. The connection has been strengthened ever since. A landmark decision of the supreme court occurred during George W Bush’s second term in 2007. Several states and cities, led by Massachusetts successfully sued the Environmental Protection Agency to force regulation of Carbon Dioxide and other greenhouse gasses as pollutants.

The case, Massachusetts v EPA turned on the definition of a pollutant. The court ruled that greenhouse gasses are pollutants and therefore should be regulated to protect the environment. This allowed the Obama administration to ramp up efficiency standards for cars and light trucks and to produce the clean power plan which clamped down on carbon emissions from power plants.

President Trump has acted to reverse both of these Obama era regulations. His actions are being contested in the courts, based to a considerable degree on the previous supreme court interpretation of greenhouse gasses as pollutants and the need for their regulation.

Another interesting case is before the court now. This case, Juliana v U.S. is being brought by a group of children ages 11 to 22 against a number of agencies including the EPA, Energy, Interior, and Defense departments. This is literally a children’s crusade for the right of future generations to live in a stable climate.

Apparently, the government will not challenge the scientific consensus that the planet is warming and the climate changing. Nor will they deny human influence on the changes. Rather the government will argue that the claimed harms of weather extremes cannot be reasonably connected to climate change.

The connection between any individual storm event and climate change is a difficult claim to make but let me use a favorite sports analogy. Mark McGuire, a slugger for Oakland and St. Louis, hit home runs both before and after employing anabolic steroids to enhance his performance. Can any one home run be linked to “juicing?” No, of course not. However, both he and Sammy Sosa both broke the previous home run record while juicing.

We are now breaking records for climate disruption while enhancing climate change. The job of the litigation will be to make that connection. If so the court should rule with the children to protect their future.

The children are not asking for damages per se, but rather are asking the judge to order the affected agencies to revamp regulations with the goal of reducing emissions of Carbon Dioxide and other greenhouse gasses to much lower levels than exist today.

It is time to abandon fossil fuels

The transportation sector of our economy has recently become the number one contributor of greenhouse gasses, surpassing electricity production just this year. Oil production is up due to improved recovery methods, essentially fracking. This causes a lowering of the price of gasoline stimulating the purchase of bigger cars and hence more fuel consumption.

Meanwhile, greenhouse gas production from the electricity sector is down because of increases in electricity production from renewables such as wind and solar. Coal-fired plants are on the decline with much of that production being replaced with cleaner-burning natural gas.

The obvious need now is to wean our transportation systems off the use of fossil fuel products such as gasoline and diesel and convert them to electric power. Electric vehicles are inherently more efficient even when charged from the grid. Gasoline and diesel are pure fossil fuel whereas electricity from the grid has contributions from fossil fuel free wind, solar, nuclear, and hydro. Much electricity is produced from natural gas but it is cleaner burning than gasoline and diesel.

Most types of transportation are accessible to electrification. Some rail lines, particularly passenger trains in the east are already electric powered and there are no great impediments to extending this to all rail traffic both freight and passengers. Long-haul trucking will soon see the first generation of electric 18-wheelers. Tesla Motors is currently testing a semi with a 500-mile range. In the wings are delivery vans and pickup trucks.

Several totally electric passenger vehicles are on the market now. Tesla model 3 and Chevrolet Bolt are small sedans showing up across America. They both have a range of about 250 miles and the build-out of rapid charger networks will transform passenger car traffic.

Short range delivery vehicles are ripe for conversion to electric power. They have defined routes and predictable energy needs plus a central location for charging when not in use. Charging delivery vehicles at night is especially beneficial because there is excess generating capacity so rates are lower.

One of if not the best application of electric fleet vehicles are buses. Clean running buses in urban locales can greatly improve air quality over fossil fuel powered buses, even those employing clean burning natural gas. With electric buses there are no local pollution emissions and greatly reduced greenhouse emissions from remote generating plants.

Everyone with a child or grandchild, a niece or neighbor, who rides a school bus daily is exposed to noxious emissions from those buses. The bus that idles while waiting to pick up a load of children at school, the bus that idles while picking up and dropping off children in the community, the bus that runs up and down our highways and byways are all significant sources of pollutants such as fine particulates, carbon monoxide, and the components which form smog and ozone.

And finally, if climate change and the health of children aren’t enough, consider the fact that electric vehicles are cheaper. Electricity as a fuel is one third to one quarter the cost of gasoline and diesel. Maintenance costs are considerably lower for electric vehicles – fewer moving parts, no oil changes, radiator fluids, longer brake life due to regenerative braking, etc.

It’s time to start talking to superintendents, school boards, the PTA – anybody that will listen. Electric school buses are good for both our children and our pocket books.

Voting for Change

The mid-term elections are just about over with mixed results. The Democratic message was one of access to affordable healthcare and human rights. The Republicans argued for the need to protect our southern border from migrants. What wasn’t often discussed was the increasingly loud drumbeat for addressing climate change.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most dire yet. Previous reports have generally given a range of possible effects, be they global warming, ocean acidity, or sea level rise. The essence of this latest report is that the predicted outcomes appear to fall at the extreme end of the range. Basically, it is getting hot even faster, sea levels are rising even faster, etc. The pace of climate change is accelerating and the obvious response should be a more rapid reduction in the release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Efforts have been made by some. Seven candidates for governor ran and won promising to support renewable energy solutions. Governors-elect in Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, Maine, New Mexico, and Oregon campaigned to expand their Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) . The percent capacity for renewable energy has been expanded and target dates for attainment have been shortened.

Governor-elect Jared Polis, Colorado will seek a target of 100% renewable energy by 2040, up from the current RPS of 30 % by 2020. Also with a target of 100% is Connecticut Governor-elect Ned Lamont. The Connecticut target date is 2050. The leader in concern for climate change, California, already has an RPS of 100% BY 2045. The recent wildfires in California have been linked to climate change and only serve to strengthen the resolve of Californians.

Unsurprisingly, all seven are Democrats. This reflects the desires of the party’s membership, where concern for global warming is much higher than among Republicans. A recent Pew Research Center poll showed that 70% of Democrats trust the science of global warming. Compare that with Republican trust at only 15%.

The climate lost in a couple of direct challenges. In ever-so-blue Washington State, a ballot issue to impose a carbon tax failed. Colorado failed to drastically limit drilling for oil and gas on state property. Arizona voters rejected a 50% by 2030 RPS, while Nevada approved the exact same RPS.

Here in Arkansas, we don’t have any RPS. We do have a favorable net metering regulation. Some homes and small businesses have grid-tied renewable energy systems. Using solar panels as an example, such grid-tied systems can send energy to the grid when the sun shines making the meter run backwards. When the sun doesn’t shine the owner draws power from the grid.

Right now the “exchange rate” is neutral. Owners of such systems get paid the same price as they pay when consuming. The cost-effectiveness of renewable systems depends on the rate structure which is determined by the Public Service Commission. Big producers such as Entergy and SWEPCO are lobbying the PSC hard and fast to limit the competition by seeking a rate structure far less favorable to small producers of renewable energy.