The price of electricity has shot up faster in Wisconsin than in all but five other states since 2000, which could pose a threat to the state’s economic competitiveness, a new analysis by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance says.
Wisconsin businesses and homeowners are paying more than most surrounding states, as the state continues to pay for power plant upgrades that followed near-brownouts in the late 1990s.
That, coupled with rising natural gas and coal prices, has pushed rates up. The state’s electricity prices, which ranked 11th-lowest in the nation in 1990, now rank 20th-highest, the report found.
“We need to recognize that energy prices really do have an effect on the competitiveness of the state,” said Kyle Christianson, policy research analyst at the nonpartisan Taxpayers Alliance. “We’re talking about trying to attract employers and adding new jobs, and particularly in a manufacturing-intensive economy like Wisconsin, energy prices are a major cost of doing business.”
Utilities regulators defend Wisconsin’s power plant building boom as important to keeping the state’s economy competitive over the long run.
“A manufacturing state simply cannot survive without a reliable electric infrastructure,” said Bob Norcross, administrator at the state Public Service Commission. “Wisconsin responded to its reliability crisis by making necessary investments that were in large part supported by the state’s business community, and they were sound. The rebuilding period that accompanied those infrastructure investments is now reaching an end, but we need to pay for them – and that’s why we have rate pressure.”
The recession has exacerbated the rate pressure on Wisconsin because utilities have had to respond to slowing sales with rate hikes to cover their fixed costs.
Most Wisconsin ratepayers can expect to see prices go up again in January if the Public Service Commission approves price increases proposed by four of the state’s five investor-owned utilities, including We Energies. A typical We Energies residential customer now pays nearly $99.50 a month, about 61% more than in early 2001, according to the PSC.
In addition to the costs of building power plants, rising prices for natural gas and particularly for coal have played a role in pushing prices higher. The price of coal has doubled since 2000, Christianson said.
“That’s really a major driver because coal supplies the majority of our electricity, so when the price of that goes up, that affects us more than states that rely on nuclear power or hydro,” Christianson said.
Gale Klappa, chairman and chief executive of the state’s largest utility, We Energies, said his utility’s prices are competitive – lower than Illinois and Michigan and in line with Minnesota, where rate hikes are about to take effect.
Power plant and transmission line upgrades have helped improve the competitiveness of power that’s sold by Wisconsin utilities into the Midwest wholesale electric market. Wisconsin’s power was $10 per megawatt-hour above the rest of the Midwest region in 2005, but that disadvantage has been narrowed to just over $1, Klappa said. Improved transmission ties with other states have helped utility customers because the state’s utilities pay less when they have to buy power in the wholesale market, said Jackie Olson, spokeswoman for American Transmission Co.
“From a competitiveness standpoint and electric price standpoint, we’re actually beyond the worst period,” Klappa said. “The peak of our competitive disadvantage was really 2005. We’ve gotten more competitive since then.”
Customer groups say it’s time for Wisconsin to take a look in the mirror and assess whether too much has been built – and whether the state should move ahead with plans to add more electricity generation.
Todd Stuart, executive director of the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group, said he is hopeful that other states will catch up to Wisconsin as they expand their renewable power supply and retrofit aging coal-fired power plants.
“Being on the front end of some of that, I hope we end up paying less in the long run,” Stuart said. “In the meantime, we need to take a deep breath. We do have excess capacity. We’ve built a tremendous amount of infrastructure and we have the perfect storm with the recession wiping out a lot of demand. We need to take a deep breath from building a whole bunch of new projects right now.”
Charlie Higley, executive director of the Wisconsin Citizens’ Utility Board, is concerned that rate increases will continue for residential customers.
“Our households are paying a high price for electricity, and it’s hurting their ability to make ends meet,” Higley said.
Wisconsin now has a power glut that prompted the state Public Service Commission to launch an investigation into whether some of the state’s older power plants should be mothballed or shut down.
Shutting down coal would help the state’s customers from having to cover the rising coal prices, Higley said.
“Since we get most of our power from coal that means we’re very susceptible to paying higher rates because of higher coal prices,” Higley said. “It underlies our calls for moving toward cleaner energy solutions like renewable energy and energy efficiency, which don’t have fuel costs.”
But Klappa said the record power use this summer – in the midst of an economy that’s slow to emerge from the Great Recession – underscores that Wisconsin doesn’t have a power glut.
“We never had a 95-degree day this summer and we set two energy consumption records for customers, July for residential customers and August for small commercial and industrial customers,” he said. “There’s not a lot of excess.”
The key question facing businesses thinking about locating in Wisconsin is what the competitive landscape will be in the years to come, not the past, Klappa said. And We Energies, he said, is well-positioned from that perspective because it has moved ahead with installing pollution controls at its major power plants faster than many other utilities.
A suite of new environmental rules aimed at promoting cleaner air and water are expected to require advanced scrubbers – or retirement of coal plants – across the country.
“Many, many companies in the Midwest and elsewhere in the U.S. are going to incur far greater expense because they have far greater need for environmental upgrades than we’ll have to spend on our systems,” Klappa said.
Todd Berry, president of the Taxpayers Alliance, said the goal of his report was not to second-guess the construction of power plants and transmission lines that has taken place since the late 1990s.
“Producing energy is not like turning on or off a bathtub,” Berry said. “We were not attempting to say that we’ve built too much; it’s just the nature of the industry because we were way underbuilt in the 1990s.”
Tough federal emissions standards are being blamed for the closure of 15 coal-fired plants and the loss of nearly 480 jobs in Georgia.
Georgia Power plans to close the power plants, cutting its grid capacity by more than 15 percent, in a move the utility said was necessary to comply with federal regulations aimed at reducing air pollution.
“We recognize the significant impact that these retirements will have on the local communities and we took that into account when making these decisions,” said Georgia Power President and CEO Paul Bowers. “These decisions were made after extensive analysis and are necessary in order for us to maintain our commitment to provide the most reliable and affordable electricity to our customers.”
“There’s no question about it, the industry is being targeted by this administration.” – Jason Hayes, spokesman for the American Coal Council
The announcement was hailed by environmental activists but lamented by coal industry advocates, who say the Obama administration is “targeting” their industry.
“There’s no question about it, the industry is being targeted by this administration,” Jason Hayes, spokesman for the American Coal Council, told FoxNews.com. He said current regulations and laws make it nearly impossible for older coal-burning plants to be upgraded in a cost-effective manner, leaving utilities like Georgia Power little choice but to shut them down.
In recent months, several utilities have made similar announcements, saying they opted to close aging coal plants rather than pay hundreds of millions of dollars to install pollution-control equipment to comply with federal clean-air rules.
Hayes said the Obama administration’s policies have combined with a sluggish economy and increasingly cheap natural gas – coal’s main competitor – to hurt the industry.
Georgia Power used coal to produce 70 percent of its electricity as recently as five years ago, but now gets less than half its juice from the fossil fuel, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Officials said the lost capacity will be replaced with nuclear energy and natural gas.
Although officials said customer’s bills won’t jump immediately, the cost of shutting down the plants could ultimately be passed on to consumers.
“Georgia Power’s announcement today shows utilities’ continued move away from coal, which we support as beneficial for both our health and Georgia’s economy,” Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, executive director of GreenLaw, an Atlanta-based environmental law firm, told the newspaper.
Federal regulators and environmentalists say power plants are responsible for about half the nation’s mercury toxins, which contaminate water and fish. The new regulations are designed to help prevent premature deaths, asthma and other health problems, but coal industry officials, say the aggressive rules are costing jobs and driving up the price of electricity.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/01/08/georgia-utility-to-shutter-15-coal-power-plants-costing-480-jobs/#ixzz2Qpn1NLDz
Current consumption rates will cause world energy demand to increase 1.6 per year until 2030, the IEA reports.
The world can expect energy prices to continue their generally upward spiral in the years ahead if global energy policies remain the same, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported this week.
Rapid economic development in China and India, coupled with relatively consistent energy use in industrialized nations, will likely strain the world’s ability to meet a projected rise in energy demand of some 1.6 percent a year until 2030, the agency predicted Wednesday in its annual World Energy Outlook report [PDF].
The IEA significantly increased its projections of future oil costs in this year’s report due to the changing outlook for demand and production costs. It now expects crude oil to average $100 per barrel over the next two decades and more than $200 per barrel in 2030, in nominal terms. Last year’s forecast estimated that a 2030 barrel would amount to only $108.
“One thing is certain,” said Nobuo Tanaka, the IEA’s executive director, in a prepared statement. “While market imbalances will feed volatility, the era of cheap oil is over.”
Oil and natural gas resources are expected to supply the world for more than 40 years at current consumption rates. But the report expressed concern that rising world energy demands will outpace production.
“There remains a real risk that under-investment will cause an oil-supply crunch in that timeframe,” the report said. “The gap now evident between what is currently being built and what will be needed to keep pace with demand is set to widen sharply after 2010.”
The price of meeting the world’s energy demands is estimated at $26.3 trillion through 2030-an average of more than $1 trillion a year, the IEA said.
In addition to higher prices, most new oil fields are offshore or smaller than in years past, making oil extraction more difficult than ever. “Oil resources might be plentiful, but there can be no guarantee that they will be exploited quickly enough to meet the level of demand,” the report said.
Demand for oil is predicted to rise from the current 85 million barrels per day to 106 million barrels per day in 2030, the report said. Due to this year’s high oil prices, the predictions are 10 million barrels per day less than what was projected last year. Still, this represents an increase of 1 percent per year.
Natural gas demand is expected to grow even faster, at a rate of 1.8 percent per year. And coal demand would advance 2 percent per year on average, according to the report.
China and India are expected to account for more than half of the projected additional energy demand, and their power sectors would consume 80 percent of the additional coal. Overall, countries that are not members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, a grouping of 30 industrialized economies, are estimated to represent 87 percent of the increased energy demand.
The result of this energy boom would be a steady rise in energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. The IEA said the emissions increase expected under this scenario would result in a 6-degree Celsius rise in the average global temperature by the end of the 21st century. This would likely devastate many species and coastal communities worldwide.
The report also notes that renewable energy will likely surpass natural gas to become the second-largest source of electricity behind coal sometime after 2010.
These predictions, however, are based on a business-as-usual approach to energy use. If the international community enacts “profound shifts” in energy policies, namely through an international climate change agreement, the world’s unsustainable energy path may be avoided, the report said.
The IEA estimates that $4.1 trillion in additional energy-efficiency investments is needed between 2010 and 2030 to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at 550 parts per million (ppm) of carbon-dioxide (CO2) equivalent. To reduce concentrations to a lower 450 ppm, $2.4 trillion more would be needed to pay for low- or zero-carbon power plants, and $2.7 trillion for more energy-efficient equipment.
Some climate researchers, including James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, have stated that the atmosphere needs to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at 350 ppm in order to avoid “irreversible catastrophic effects” [PDF]. The atmosphere currently contains an estimated 385 ppm of CO2 equivalent.
Representatives from the renewable energy industry have criticized the IEA report for underestimating clean energy’s future potential. The IEA projected that renewable energy, excluding hydropower, could supply 4 percent of total power generation in 2030.
“We regret that the IEA still does not fully realize the actual dynamics and economics of renewable energy,” said Stefan Gsänger, secretary general of the World Wind Energy Association, in a statement. “The new World Energy Outlook may, as a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, mislead policy makers to make poor decisions by not putting enough focus on renewable energy and thus slowing down the renewable energy deployment rates.”
The Energy Watch Group, a German-based international network of scientists, released a report [PDF] earlier this week that predicted renewable energy could supply between 17 and 30 percent of global electricity and heat demands by 2030 if investments increased significantly.
The IEA report also calls for energy efficiency and renewable energy investments to address the current global financial crisis. Several organizations, including the Worldwatch Institute, have called for similar “Global Green New Deals,” just days before leaders from the world’s 20 largest economies meet in Washington, D.C., this weekend.
“We cannot let the financial and economic crisis delay the policy action that is urgently needed to ensure secure energy supplies and to curtail rising emissions of greenhouse gases,” the IEA’s Tanaka said. “We must usher in a global energy revolution by improving energy efficiency and increasing the deployment of low-carbon energy.”
According to the EPA
Reflective insulation, is type of attic insulation that can help improve the comfort of your home while helping to reduce your energy bills.
Reflective insulations perform a function that is similar to that of conventional insulation, however they differ in the way they reduce the heat flow into your house. On a sunny summer day, solar energy is absorbed by the roof, and heat is radiated downward toward the attic floor. When a Reflective insulation is placed on the attic floor, much of the heat radiated from the hot roof is reflected back toward the roof, thereby reducing the amount of heat that moves through the insulation into the rooms below the ceiling.
Fiberglass is a type of fiber primarily composed of glass that is used in a wide variety of applications, and is predominantly employed as a residential and commercial thermal insulator. Fiberglass is also used to create products as varied as automobile bodies, boat hulls, arrows, roofing, shower curtains, and tent poles. As an insulator, it slows the spread of heat, cold and sound in structures, cars and aircraft. By trapping pockets of air, it keeps rooms warm in the winter and cool in the summer and thereby serves as a convenient method to increase energy efficiency. Fiberglass is an attractive choice for home insulation because it poses no fire hazard. According to some estimates, thermal insulation (made from fiberglass and its alternatives) conserves 12 times as much energy as is lost in its production, and it may reduce residential energy costs by up to 40%.
Glass has been woven into small amounts of coarse fibers for many centuries, even by the ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians, but fiberglass did not exist in its modern form until 1932 as a result of an accident. A researcher named Dale Kleist was attempting to create a vacuum-tight seal between two glass blocks when a jet of high-pressure air turned a stream of molten glass into fine fibers. He had unintentionally discovered an effective method to produce large amounts of fiberglass particles, a method that he would refine in later years. Fiberglass was trademarked in 1938 as Fiberglas® and was subsequently used in clothing, boat hulls, fishing rods, and eventually automobile bodies in 1953 when Fiberglas® partnered with Chevrolet.
In homes, fiberglass insulation can be installed in various parts of the building envelope. It can be pink, yellow, white or green, depending on its manufacturer, and has a spongy feel. Commonly found in blanket form, called batts, it is available in bags containing standard pre-cut lengths and widths. Batts are typically stapled into place. It also comes in bags as loose fill that can be blown into attic, wall and floor cavities. Most fiberglass batts are manufactured with a paper or foil backing that faces the direction of warmth. When installed correctly, it creates a continuous membrane that retards the passage of moisture and reduces the likelihood that fibrous particles will enter the living space. It is important that the backing always faces the warm side of the structure in which the insulation is installed.
Batts are available in different thicknesses, with the thicker batts offering a higher resistance to heat flow. This resistance is known as R-value, with common R-values for walls being R11 to R19, and R30 to R38 for ceilings.
It is important for InterNACHI inspectors to understand the health risks associated with exposure to fiberglass insulation. These risks are not, at present, fully understood or agreed upon, but it is generally accepted that, in certain situations, it has the potential to cause physical harm. Small particles that come into contact with skin can lodge in pores and cause itchiness, rashes and irritation. When inhaled, particles can cause coughing, nosebleeds, and other respiratory ailments. Very fine airborne particles are capable of becoming deeply lodged in the lungs and are believed by many to cause cancer and other serious afflictions. OSHA considers this threat to be serious enough that it requires fiberglass insulation to carry a cancer warning label.
When it is disturbed, fiberglass insulation releases particulates into the air which may be inhaled by those installing or removing it, or by property inspectors crawling through attics or crawlspaces.
If you must disturb fiberglass insulation, wear gloves, long-sleeved shirts, pants and goggles. A respirator with a particulate filter should be used to prevent inhalation of the potentially dangerous fibers.
Before removing fiberglass insulation, it is a good idea to dampen the area to prevent particles from entering the airspace. Afterwards, wash your hands with water, preferably cold water, as warm water can expand pores which have trapped particles and allow them to travel deeper into your skin.
An Alternative – Cellulose
Cellulose, a plant-based insulator, is the oldest form of home insulation and, at times, has been produced from sawdust, cotton, straw, hemp, and other plant materials with low thermal-conductivity. Today, it is produced from recycled newspapers that are later treated with chemicals that reduce its ignition potential. It became popular in the 1970s due to the oil crisis, although it suffered from competition with fiberglass insulation as a result of fire-standards lobbying by the fiberglass and mineral companies. Cellulose must be chemically treated in order to reduce its flammable properties, although it always has the potential to burn. These chemicals, usually sodium borate, boric acid, or ammonium sulfate, are generally considered safe for human contact.
This material provides a number of advantages over fiberglass – it is inexpensive, significantly reduces airflow, and is not believed to pose any serious health risks. It is possible that the material can produce harmful off-gasses from the ink contained in the newspapers, but insulation is generally contained in sealed locations, so this is not likely to be a health concern. As is true with fiberglass, protect your lungs with a breathing mask when handling cellulose insulation.
Fiberglass and cellulose are both used as insulators, although they offer somewhat different advantages. Also, keep in mind that there are other types of thermal insulation available that are not covered in this article, such as rock wool, vermiculite, and various two-part foams.
From Fiberglass Insulation: History, Hazards and Alternatives – InterNACHI http://www.nachi.org/fiberglass-insulation-history-hazards-alternatives.htm#ixzz2QMJKSuPR
PADUCAH, Ky. – Strong opinions were expressed during a public meeting on proposed power rate increases .
Paducah Power says they’re needed to remain profitable. One increase is slated for April 1. The other is scheduled a year later. That’s a 7.5 percent increase for residential consumers both dates.
Monday night, members of the community turned out for an informational meeting followed by public comment.
One man shared his worry over Paducah Power’s decision to leave the Tennessee Valley Authority and opt for Prairie State.
“I’m also concerned, we as residents, are locked in for 30 years. We can’t go on the open – as I understand it correctly, we can’t go on the open market for 30 years. We have to buy from Prairie State regardless of what the cost is,” the man said.
That is, indeed, the case. Paducah Power is locked in for 30 years.
The utility’s general manager has said the company is going with Prairie State to have better control over rates and have rate stability in the future.
The board is expected to make a decision on the increases at a March 25 meeting.
Duke Energy Carolinas today filed a request with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) to increase electric rates by approximately $446 million, for an overall increase of 9.7 percent.
More than 90 percent of the request is driven by capital investments that Duke Energy Carolinas has made in the electric system that serves 1.9 million households and businesses in North Carolina.
“As part of our ongoing fleet-modernization plan, we have recently built and put into service two new state-of-the art power plants that will provide cleaner air and serve our customers reliably for decades to come,” said Paul Newton, Duke Energy state president – North Carolina.
“The new natural gas plant at Dan River does the job of three older, less efficient coal plants that we will now retire,” Newton said. “And it does so with significantly lower emissions. Advanced technology at the Cliffside Steam Station in Mooresboro, completed at the end of 2012, removes more than 99 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions and 90 percent of nitrogen and mercury emissions.”
Today, a residential customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per month pays $102.72. If the company’s rate increase is approved as filed, that bill will increase by $14.27.
“Electric service for our customers is an excellent value. For our typical customers, the daily cost of powering their homes is somewhere between the price of a gallon of gas and a latte from a coffee shop,” Newton said. “Even with the proposed increase, Duke Energy Carolinas’ rates would remain well below the national average. When adjusted for inflation, our customers are still paying less for electricity than they did in 1991.”
Why Raise Rates?
The proposed rate increase is needed to begin paying the company back for money it has already invested in new cleaner, more efficient power plants and equipment and to comply with increasing state and federal regulations.
Examples of Duke Energy’s electric system investments include:
Dan River Combined Cycle Station in Eden, N.C. — This 620-megawatt unit uses cleaner, lower-cost natural gas to replace a similar amount of older, less efficient coal-fired generation. The capital cost included in this rate case is $673 million.
Cliffside Steam Station Unit 6 in Mooresboro, N.C. — This 825-megawatt coal plant employs state-of-the-art emission controls to remove 99 percent of sulfur dioxide, 90 percent of nitrogen oxides and 90 percent of mercury. The high-efficiency technology burns less coal per megawatt-hour of electricity generated than most other coal units in the nation. The capital cost included in this rate case is $863 million.
Oconee Nuclear Station, Oconee County, S.C. — New safety and security measures have been installed to continue to protect the plant from extreme conditions or a natural disaster. The Oconee plant is a safe and efficient source of carbon-free electricity generation. The capital cost included in this rate case is $448 million.
McGuire Nuclear Station, Mecklenburg County, N.C. — Upgrades have been made to the facility to make it more efficient and increase the amount of carbon-free electricity it produces. The capital cost included in this rate case is $203 million.
In addition to the investments in new generation, the rate request also seeks to pay items such as a new storm reserve fund and industrywide security upgrades.
“We are committed to minimizing the impact of increased costs on our customers,” Newton said. “We offer a number of energy-efficiency programs and assistance for low-income customers. Since 1985, our Share the Warmth Program has given more than $33 million to low-income customers for heating bills during the winter season.”
Since the company’s 2011 rate case, Duke Energy Carolinas and its customers, employees and shareholders have provided total funding of approximately $1.5 million to these programs through the Duke Energy Foundation, in addition to an $11 million donation stemming from the company’s last rate case.
Customers can help control their energy costs with efficiency programs. Learn more at http://www.duke-energy.com/youtility/
The company’s request proposes an allowed return on common equity (ROE) of 11.25 percent (the current allowed ROE in North Carolina is 10.5 percent) with a 53 percent common equity component. The allocation of North Carolina retail rate base is expected to be approximately $12 billion through the date of the hearings.
For more details on the company’s request to increase rates, visit duke-energy.com.
The testimony filed in support of the company’s request can be viewed at the NCUC website (search using Docket No. E-7, Sub 1026).
Photos of some of the capital investments made in the Carolinas electric system can be downloaded from Flickr.
Duke Energy Carolinas owns nuclear, coal-fired, natural gas and hydroelectric generation. That diverse fuel mix provides 20,292 megawatts of electricity capacity to approximately 2.4 million customers in a 22,000-square-mile service area of North Carolina and South Carolina. Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is a Fortune 250 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available on the Internet at duke-energy.com.
Electricity rates vary widely. I’ve found rates from 12¢ to 50¢ per kWh from the same provider. If you want results that are anywhere close to accurate, you’ll need to check your own electric bill and find your actual kWh rate. Your bill might have multiple kWh rates (e.g., one for “delivery” and one for “fuel”), and in that case you should to add up them all up to get the total kWh rate. Most rates are tiered, meaning the higher your use, the higher the rate. You should generally enter your highest tier into the calculator, because any energy you save will save you money at that highest tiered rate.
Electrical use varies from model to model. I thought this would be obvious, but in hundreds of blogs and forums people say things like, “Mr. Electricity says a computer uses 150 watts,” which is a mis-characterization. The calculator and table figures are just examples. (See how to misquote this website.)
Some devices use varying amounts of electricity. An easy example is an oven, whose energy use depends on how high you crank it. Perhaps a less obvious example is a washing machine, which effectively uses phenomenally more energy if you wash in hot rather than cold. Then there’s the refrigerator, which alternates between periods of full energy use while the compressor is running, and then next to nothing when the compressor shuts off. (To solve this problem for fridges, the calculator lists the average wattage over time, not the higher amount used when the compressor runs.)
Most devices don’t run 24/7. Therefore the “Hours per Day” and “Days per Month” fields in the calculator are crucial. Even so, you might not have a good idea about how various appliances run. So below we’ll discuss which items use the most energy in a typical home. You can also measure a device’s usage yourself, which gives you the best information for your own situation.
Some devices use a little energy even when they’re not on. This is called standby power, or vampire power. In most cases it’s not especially significant, but in some cases it can be. My standby power page has more info.
A month ago, adventurer Geoff Mackley stood in a place no human had ever been before: only 30 yards above a roiling lake of lava in an active volcano on a South Pacific island.
The stunning photos and video that the volcanologist from New Zealand took after a 15-year quest produced awe — and a simple question: Why get so close to disaster?
“In this day and age, there are very few places you can go and things you can do where you can truly say ‘Wow,’’’ Mackley told Willie Geist on TODAY Friday. “There’s very few places on earth that you can actually truly go and stand and say, ‘I am the only human to have ever stood here,’ and such was the case with this place. It’s just a thirst for adventure to do something no one else has done.’’
It also is a thirst that could have some questioning his sanity.
“No, (I’m) not a little bit crazy,’’ he said. “I take calculated risks. I’ve been doing this for a long, long time. It’s been a 15-year quest to get to the bottom of that pit. No one else has ever achieved getting that close. I’m amazed no one has, but the pictures were exactly what I had in my mind all along. I knew that’s what I’d come away with, and I’m just totally blown away.
“It is like a drug. You just keep coming back because to be standing there looking at molten rock boiling like water that close, it’s indescribable.’’
A dangerous journey
Located on the island of Ambrym in the archipelago of Vanuatu, 1,500 miles off the northwestern coast of Australia, the volcano is so remote that the journey to reach its edge is nearly as daunting as standing right by the lake of lava.
“Getting to the drop site is quite incredibly dangerous,’’ Mackley said. “You’re talking about 1,200 feet vertical, so pretty much if you stacked two Chrysler Buildings on top of each other, that was the commute to work each morning. You had to dodge rocks big enough to kill you that are moving at terminal velocity past you every few minutes. Standing on top of the edge of that lava pit was not actually that dangerous; getting to that point was just incredibly dangerous.’’
Mackley used a special fire suit and breathing apparatus commonly used by firefighters in New Zealand to be able to get near the 1,150-degree lava without being immolated. The first day they reached the site, he walked toward the edge of the volcano without the suit and had to cover his face and run back after only six seconds.
“If you took one gulp of the superheated air coming off that lava, it would kill you instantly,’’ he said. “I was able to stand there breathing cool, fresh air from the breathing tanks, and in that heat suit, you still felt like you were in an oven. It was kind of a surreal experience. You could feel the waves of heat blasting at you, and you just felt totally protected.’’
Mackley stood next to the lava for 40 minutes and was so entranced with the incredible scene that he let the air on his breathing apparatus run out. “They’re screaming at me, and I just stayed there until it ran completely out of air, such was the amazing sight I was looking at,’’ Mackley said. “Then I just ran clear of the lava and took the breathing mask off. Unforgettable.’’
PANAMA CITY — A Bay County woman will receive a free and brand new house built entirely by caring members of the community.
A group of community members met Monday to discuss the construction of the new home for Pamela Myers, a mother of two who lost her husband to heart problems in January.
“Different ones are coming together to make sure I have a safe home,” said Pamela Myers. “It was God.”
The impact of her husband’s death could be seen in the steadily rotting condition of their mobile home at 1508 Louisiana Ave.
“It was old, dry rotted and deteriorated,” Myers said. “It got so old until rain was pouring over the light switch.”
Myers said her family had not always lived in the mobile home, but after she became disabled in 2008 and was no longer able to work, the couple could no longer make payments on their house and, as a result, bought the trailer.
“Out of love,” Myers recalled Jack Whetstine, owner of The House that Jack Built, saying to her, “we’re going to build you a house.”
Whetstine, who specializes in building energy-efficient homes, knew the Myers through a previous bathroom installation he did at their mobile home earlier this year.
“That place was clean as a pen. You could eat off the floor,” Whetstine said. “She was doing her best to keep things tight and right. … I ended up looking at her situation and decided to go ahead and help her.”
According to Whetstine, he realized the condition of Myers’ home over the phone.
“I didn’t know to what extent it was,” Whetstine said, “until she started coughing a lot more. … It was because of mildew.
“I’m going to donate all my time, energy, and whatever else I can do to help her,” he added.
With the help of the community, Whetstine is expecting to donate $140,000 toward building Myers’ new home.
However, the community members are the key players. The Monday meeting brought in a handful of people; Faye Gause, spokeswoman for John Lee Nissan, and Bay County Commissioners Bill Dozier and Kenneth Brown were among those present.
“I’m not here because of Bay County; I am here because I’m a friend of Pam,” Dozier said.
Brown, another friend, said he wanted to help Myers in any way he could.
Whetstine said the house will be built in stages, and at each stage, community members can take part in helping to build the home.
“We need the community to come out on this one,” Whetstine said.
The three-bedroom, two-bathroom energy-efficient house will have a fireplace, screened-in back porch and a double-car garage.
Whetstine said he is looking for a variety of volunteer workers to help out with the construction of the house. The project will need trim carpenters, painters, plumbers and electricians.
In a typical situation, building a modest house as Myers would take anywhere from 90 to 120 days, Whetstine said. However, with the construction of the house being in the hands of the volunteers, it is unclear when the project will be complete.
“Just being able to have people from the community getting involved with it … I think it will be a pretty exciting thing to do because we’re Americans that try to help people, and I believe that is what we are trying to do with her,” Whetstine said.
Whetstine said donations of building materials also will be needed. Community mem-bers interested in helping to build the house should contact Whetstine at 769-3737 or 769-6441.
Currently Myers is living on Tyndall Air Force Base with her goddaughter awaiting the completion of her new home.