Tales from the Trail

from Environment Forum:

Harry Potter, horcruxes and Steven Chu

Anyone familiar with Harry Potter knows as least two things: 1) this is the U.S. opening weekend for the final movie in the blockbuster series about the boy wizard and 2) ultimate villain Voldemort uses horcruxes to hold bits of his soul and extend his life.

Leave it to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu to riff on horcruxes to explain energy storage.

"While I confess I haven't yet seen all of the Harry Potter movies including the “Deathly Hallows Part 2,” a staff member (who might be a bigger nerd than I am) was telling me about Lord Voldemort's "horcruxes" -- objects he used to store his life energy.  Without them, he lost his power and couldn't survive," Chu said on his Facebook page.

"In the 'muggle' world, energy storage is crucial to our future as well, but for more positive reasons.  It is the key to greatly expanding the use of renewable energy sources that are intermittent like wind and solar power. Better batteries will mean longer range, lower cost electric vehicles, and will make our entire electricity generation and distribution system more efficient by smoothing out fluctuations in demand."

Check out what the Nobel laureate says about the seven "clean energy horcruxes" in the rest of his post.

Washington Extra – Fear factor

This was definitely an Ides of March to beware of.

NUCLEAR-USA/Japan faced a potential nuclear catastrophe after explosions at three reactors at a nuclear power plant sent radiation toward Tokyo. The fear factor sent shivers through world stock markets which tumbled.

Fear also reportedly prompted some Americans to buy potassium iodide tablets and Geiger counters. Good idea?

Reuters energy correspondent Tom Doggett reports that Energy Secretary Steven Chu didn’t see the necessity. “I think there’s essentially no concern in terms of the health effects on American shores. So, I think that they really shouldn’t be doing those things quite frankly, but, you know, it’s a free country,” Chu said after a hearing.

Steven Chu: Energy Secretary, Nobel Laureate, Zombie

67613_449706237290_79707582290_5525360_4352855_aYou sort of have to like a U.S. cabinet secretary and Nobel Prize winner who knows how to have a little fun while getting out a message.

That would be Steven Chu, who posted a picture of himself as a green-faced, blood-dripping zombie on his Facebook page. Just in time for Washington’s scrupulously-observed Halloween weekend, Chu used his own zombification as a platform to point out power-sucking appliances — energy vampires, he called them.

“Garlic doesn’t work against these vampires,” Chu wrote. “But by taking some simple steps – like using power strips or setting your computer to go into sleep mode – you can protect yourself, and your wallet.” Then he linked to the Energy Department’s “energy star” page .

from Summit Notebook:

Steven Chu: “I’m an energy efficiency nut”

He unplugged the extra refrigerator in the basement. He got a tankless water heater and reduced the heat setting. He turned down the air conditioning last summer and used fans to keep cool.

Yes, Energy Secretary Steven Chu acknowledged, "I'm an energy efficiency nut."

The Nobel physics laureate said he's slowly weatherizing his home in the Washington DC area, but "weatherizing" isn't a word he likes. "I'm decreasing its energy consumption and making money," was how he put it at a Reuters Washington Summit. Chu figures his energy bills are about half what the home's previous owners paid.

But he said that he, and most people, could still do more.

"In terms of energy efficiency, it's what the economists would say is a market failure ... Most people don't have the knowledge or inclination, there's inertia, they just can't be bothered, they let some things slip," Chu said. And he himself is not immune: "We've been living in the house for five months and it's still a work in progress -- and I'm an energy efficiency nut."

Energy Secretary proud to be a “Nerd” on The Daily Show

Following the launch of his Facebook and Youtube accounts, Energy Secretary Steven Chu made another attempt to reach the young, hip, in-crowd Tuesday night by appearing on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.

Chu,  a Nobel Prize winning scientist and self-described nerd, began his appearance by  offering a t-shirt to the show’s host comedian Jon Stewart, proclaiming him an honorary member of the “Nerds of America Society.”

“You know I have been an unofficial member for years,” Stewart quipped in response.

Do looks matter in China?

BEIJING – Does having “a Chinese face” help two top U.S. officials in hard bargaining on energy and trade issues with the Chinese?

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, whose grandfather came to the United States from China, told reporters in Beijing not necessarily so.

But Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao expressed pride in Locke and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s ancestory when he met with them on Thursday.

from Environment Forum:

Obama is just the facts on environment

Was that a dig at outgoing President George W. Bush? President-elect Barack Obama introduced his new environmental team and insisted his administration would focus on "the facts" as it put together policy.

"We understand the facts demand bold action," he said.

In case listeners didn't get the point that the new administration thinks it's different from that of outgoing President Bush, Veep-to-be Joe Biden gave it a try.

"There is no doubt about the challenges in front of us, but there is no putting our heads in the sand, either, as in my view we have done for some time. Particularly when it comes to science -- welcome doctor," he said, looking at Energy Department Chief-to-be Dr. Steven Chu.