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24Oct/14Off

Rick S. Piltz, Firebrand on Climate, Dies at 71


By DOUGLAS MARTIN OCT. 23, 2014

Rick S. Piltz, a climate policy analyst who resigned from the administration of George W. Bush in 2005, accusing it of distorting scientific findings for political reasons and then releasing internal White House documents to support his contention, died on Saturday in Washington. He was 71.

The cause was metastasized liver cancer, his wife, Karen Metchis, said. When he resigned, Mr. Piltz was a senior associate in a White House group that coordinated climate research among a dozen agencies. He quit, he told PBS in 2006, because he thought he could no longer be “complicit” in what he viewed as “a conspiracy of silence.” He said his bosses had watered down language in scientific reports to play down warnings of global warming.

The essential issue in the climate change debate is whether human activities — particularly emissions of so-called greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels — will raise temperatures over the next century. Many in the Bush administration questioned whether existing scientific evidence justified spending billions of dollars to cut emissions.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/24/us/politics/rick-s-piltz-firebrand-on-climate-dies-at-71-.html?ref=energy-environment&_r=0

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Viewpoints: California leads the way on stopping gas pipeline leaks

BY MIKE LANGFORD AND KIM GLAS  SPECIAL TO THE BEE

10/23/2014 5:00 PM 10/24/2014 12:00 AM

Mike Langford is president of the Utility Workers Union of America. Kim Glas is executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance, a national coalition of major labor unions and environmental groups.

There are more than 1 million miles of pipe that carry trillions of cubic feet of natural gas to America’s homes, businesses, factories and farms each year. We depend on the reliable delivery of natural gas, but too often in recent years we have had explosions and leaks that harm our communities, degrade the environment and contribute significantly to global warming.

Thirty-seven states have programs to speed up repairs and replacement of problem sections of the gas distribution system. Most recently, California enacted a leak mitigation approach from which the whole country can take a lesson.

Part of the climate change package signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last month is a law to require a significant reduction in pipeline leaks. Senate Bill 1371 was sponsored by the Utility Workers Union of America. California’s natural gas pipeline system is vast – more than 100,000 miles of pipe running through the state. Without proper attention to safety and integrity, it is dangerous. The September 2010 explosion in San Bruno showed the need to protect the public from leaks that pose an imminent danger.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/soapbox/article3338566.html

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Environmental group urges Texas regulators to tackle methane

Posted on October 23, 2014 at 7:32 pm by Ryan Holeywell in Environment, Natural gas, Politics/Policy

A prominent environmental group is urging Texas regulators to address methane emissions from oil and gas companies’ operations and says the federal government should become involved if the state fails to act.

Natural gas emits less of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide when it burns than other fossil fuels, so it’s touted as a cleaner alternative to oil and coal. But methane, its primary component, is itself a potent greenhouse gas and can leak into the atmosphere at several points between production and final use.

Representatives of the Environmental Defense Fund said in a meeting Thursday with Houston Chronicle editors and reporters that outdated equipment and processes are allowing too much methane into the atmosphere, particularly amid surging production of natural gas from shale formations .

“Texas leads the nation in oil and gas production and has a special responsibility to deal with this leaking methane,” said Jim Marston, vice president for U.S. climate and energy at the Environmental Defense Fund. “It’s air pollution. It’s a greenhouse gas. If Texas will not step up and do that, then the federal government ought to do it.”

To read the entire article go to: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/10/23/environmental-group-urges-texas-regulators-to-tackle-methane/

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Utilities and Clean Energy Advocates Find Common Ground on Distributed Generation

EEI’s David Owens on NRDC’s Ralph Cavanagh: “I’m sometimes surprised that he and I do agree on many things.”

Julia Pyper
October 23, 2014

It may come as a surprise to some, but David Owens, executive VP of the Edison Electric Institute, and Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s energy program, seem to have a lot in common.

Owens leads the trade group representing the nation's investor-owned utilities; Cavanagh is an attorney with an environmental organization that heavily influenced the new EPA carbon rules. But the two do share similar perspectives on certain contentious issues.

“I’m sometimes surprised that he and I do agree on many things,” said Owens, speaking at a PJM Interconnection grid event this week in Washington, D.C.

Both men argued in favor of decoupling utilities' rates of return from electricity sales, agreed that utilities should be distribution system operators managing distributed generation, and also advocated for policies that ensure solar customers pay their fair share of grid costs.

The two also agree about the need to evolve the grid and enable customers to generate and sell their own energy generation or energy efficiency.

“The utility business model is a model that’s got to understand and deal with the changes that are taking place, because the customer wants the ability to reduce energy, the customer wants green energy, and the utility has the responsibility of keeping the lines open,” said Owens.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Utilities-and-Clean-Energy-Advocates-Find-Common-Ground

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24Oct/14Off

Tendril’s Zero-Data Analytics: No Utility Bills Required

Home energy insight for any address—and solar providers as potential partners

Jeff St. John
October 23, 2014

Tendril Networks has gone through a lot of changes in its decade in the home energy management business. But throughout its faltering as a provider of energy dashboards and displays, as well as its later reinvention as a software and data analytics provider, it's almost always had access to a key source of data: utility energy bills.

That made sense, since utilities make up most of Tendril’s customer base. But plenty of tasks on Tendril's menu rely on data sources beyond the meter. Demographic research and market segmentation, physics-based home energy profiling based on property records and consumer databases, and cost-benefit analysis of which customers make the best targets based on past behavior are a few examples of what it's been doing.

Tendril says it’s gotten pretty good at figuring out the energy essentials from these outside-the-meter sources -- so good, in fact, that it can do it for pretty much every address in the country. On Thursday, the company announced it's making that capability available to customers, through what it calls “zero”-data calibration.

The “zero” is meant to underscore the fact that it’s using no utility meter or billing data to deliver high-resolution understanding of each home’s energy profile. Most utility-connected “virtual audits” of this kind rely on at least thirteen months' worth of data to run the linear regression analyses that allow patterns and predictions to emerge for individual addresses or accounts, Chris Black, Tendril’s chief technology officer, said in an interview this week.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/tendrils-zero-data-analytics-no-utility-bills-required

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24Oct/14Off

What it’s like to have 30 oil & gas wells as neighbors


By Tara Lohan

Cross-posted from Faces of Fracking

24 Oct 2014 9:01 AM

Original source: http://grist.org/climate-energy/what-its-like-to-have-30-oil-gas-wells-as-neighbors/

The first thing Don Martin asks me is if I want the little picture or the big picture. Big picture, I tell him, and he leads me from the gate of his apartment complex to the driveway of his next-door neighbor.

Martin’s neighbor is Freeport McMoRan, a company worth $30 billion. Freeport’s property beside Martin is just one tiny sliver of an empire that spans continents and includes some of the largest gold and copper mines in the world.

But Freeport is not mining for precious metals next to Martin — this is Los Angeles. Instead, Freeport is drilling for oil. It’s hard to see from the street. If you’re driving through West Adams, a tightly packed residential neighborhood in south central L.A., you’re liable to miss the whole operation.

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New Jersey Begins the Process of Deploying Grid-Scale Energy Storage

A small solicitation for energy storage in the Garden State bears the experience of Hurricane Sandy.

Eric Wesoff
October 23, 2014

Grid-scale energy storage is slowly moving from its pilot-program phase to its early commercialization phase. And the slow road to commercialization at U.S. utilities comes in the form of requests for quotation and solicitations like the one just issued by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, which approved a modest $3 million competitive solicitation "aimed at encouraging the development of renewable electric storage projects."

A 2012 Navigant study from the Department of Obvious Conclusions found the potential opportunities for energy storage on the New Jersey grid were:

  • Shifting the use of renewable generation to more suitable times of the day
  • Providing additional frequency regulation that might be needed with higher levels of renewable generation

The RFQ issued by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities cites the study, stating, "Two months after the release of the Navigant study, Superstorm Sandy knocked out power to millions of New Jersey residents and businesses and thousands of critical facilities. As a result, [an] important motivation emerged in support of energy storage market development: Hardening the state’s electric infrastructure and allowing essential services to continue operating during grid outages." (Read Stephen Lacey's e-book on the subject for an in-depth look at Sandy and its impact on the grid.)

To read the entire article go to: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/New-Jersey-Begins-the-Process-of-Deploying-Grid-Scale-Energy-Storage

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24Oct/14Off

Scientists can now see fracker’s “fingerprints” all over polluted water

By Madeleine Thomas

23 Oct 2014 6:42 PM

Original source: http://grist.org/list/scientists-can-now-see-frackers-fingerprints-all-over-polluted-water/

People are getting sick all across fracking country, and many are blaming their mysterious illnesses — headaches, excruciating rashes, even liver damage — on the chemicals oil and gas companies have been pumping into the earth. But thanks to trade-secret laws, which allow companies to stay mum about the chemicals in their fracking fluid, it’s been difficult to pin the blame on the practice — until now that is.

Researchers from Dartmouth College, Stanford University, and the French Geological Survey claim they’ve created a tool that detects a specific chemical fingerprint unique to fracking fluid, allowing scientists to pinpoint fracking as a culprit in water pollution.

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24Oct/14Off

This fracking protest is more like Bonnaroo than Occupy

By Sara Bernard

23 Oct 2014 2:02 PM

Original source: http://grist.org/climate-energy/this-fracking-protest-is-more-like-bonnaroo-than-occupy/

On a bone-dry October day in Oakland, Calif., activists from Food and Water Watch, UC Berkeley’s Students Against Fracking, and a group of folk singers called the Occupellas gathered to celebrate the third annual Global Frackdown. Food and Water Watch launched the Global Frackdown in September 2012 in an effort to eventually ban fracking worldwide. On Oct. 11, more than 250 anti-fracking events took place on all seven continents.

The Oakland Frackdown wasn’t your typical ultra-serious, anger-mongering protest, though. It was more like an upbeat outdoor festival, with food, music, silk-screen T-shirt making, and even a flash mob that did some slick choreography to Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” Attendees sang along to the Occupellas’ revolution songs, tweeted messages to Gov. Jerry Brown, and generally got one another jazzed about the movement to ban fracking in California.

And that battle is particularly fraught right now. Thanks to a surge of interest in the state’s oil and gas reserves and little chance of a statewide moratorium on the practice, citizens are bringing the issue to county ballots. San Benito, Santa Barbara, and Mendocino counties will all put fracking bans to the voters on Nov. 4.

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New crude oil report concludes risks of train spills are real

BY TONY BIZJAKTBIZJAK@SACBEE.COM

10/23/2014 8:12 PM 10/23/2014 11:18 PM

VILLEGAS/JVILLEGAS@SACBEE.COM

Mile-long oil trains that are expected to crisscross California daily in the coming years pose significant risks to residents of urban areas, including Sacramento, a new report concludes, contradicting earlier studies that found no major safety concerns.

The report, issued by San Luis Obispo County officials, is based on a plan by Phillips 66 to transport crude oil on 80-car trains, five days a week, to its Santa Maria refinery, some likely through Sacramento. The authors looked at the cumulative impact of all oil trains that could come through California on a daily basis and came to the conclusion that the risk of oil spills and fires is real, and offered suggestions on how those issues should be addressed.

“Up to seven crude oil trains a day could travel on the stretch of track between Roseville and Sacramento,” the report reads. “The cumulative risk would be significant.”

The analysis, called a draft environmental impact report, contrasts with two recent analyses of similar crude-by-rail projects in Benicia and Bakersfield. Valero Refining Co. in Benicia and Alon USA in Bakersfield are proposing to transport crude oil twice a day on trains into their facilities. The Valero trains would come through downtown Sacramento, Roseville, West Sacramento and Davis, likely on the same tracks as the Santa Maria refinery trains. Some of the Bakersfield-bound trains also may come through Sacramento.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/transportation/article3337650.html

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24Oct/14Off

Benicia sees cash in crude oil; neighbors see catastrophe

By Jaxon Van Derbeken

October 23, 2014 | Updated: October 23, 2014 10:14pm

A plan to bring tank-car trains filled with crude oil from Canada and North Dakota to a Benicia refinery is pitting the Solano County town against Northern California neighbors who say they will be burdened with the risk of environmental catastrophe.

Benicia officials must decide whether to approve a draft environmental impact report on a $70million terminal at Valero Corp.’s refinery near Interstate 680, where two 50-car oil trains a day would deliver crude.

Supporters and the company say California consumers stand to benefit: With no major oil pipelines running to the West Coast and marine transport both costly and potentially hazardous, they say, rail is the best way to keep local gasoline prices low.

“Right now, that refinery relies on more expensive crude from Alaska,” said Bill Day, spokesman for Valero. “Rail is the quickest, most efficient and safest way of delivery.”

Benicia’s environmental study weighing the risks of the project, however, has done nothing to assuage critics who say the city is downplaying the dangers of delivering oil by rail.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Benicia-sees-cash-in-crude-oil-neighbors-see-5843785.php?t=36163bb8aa

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24Oct/14Off

Tesla runs into trouble again

By Catherine Rampell Opinion writer October 23 at 7:56 PM

Catherine Rampell is an opinion columnist at The Washington Post

What’s good for General Motors dealers is good for America.

Or so allegedly free-market, anti-protectionist Republican legislators and governors pretend to think, given that they have been doing their damnedest to protect auto dealers (for both GM and others, to be fair) from the threat of competition.

This week Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed a law effectively banning Tesla Motors, the high-end electric car manufacturer, from selling its cars in the state. It is the fifth state to do so, following Texas, Arizona, New Jersey and Maryland, and a slew of other states are erecting other creative restrictions that make it harder for the Silicon Valley upstart to sell cars locally.

To clarify, none of these states has explicitly singled out Tesla in legislative language; instead, they just require anyone wishing to sell a car to consumers to do so through an independent dealership. The middleman, you see, wants his cut.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/catherine-rampell-lawmakers-put-up-a-stop-sign-for-tesla/2014/10/23/ff328efa-5af4-11e4-bd61-346aee66ba29_story.html

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European Leaders Agree on Targets to Fight Climate Change


By JAMES KANTEROCT. 23, 2014

BRUSSELS — The 28 leaders of the European Union agreed early on Friday on targets for protecting the climate and generating greener power despite deep divisions among their nations over how to produce energy.

The main target that won approval was a pledge to slash emissions by at least 40 percent, compared with 1990 levels, by 2030.

The new target “will ensure that Europe will be an important player, will be an important party, in future binding commitments of an international climate agreement,” Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said at an early-morning news conference.

The accord makes the European Union the first major global emitter to put its position on the table ahead of an important United Nations climate meeting in Paris at the end of 2015.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/24/world/europe/european-leaders-agree-on-targets-to-fight-climate-change-.html?ref=energy-environment&_r=0

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24Oct/14Off

Ukraine gas talks fail again. Why that’s a big deal.

The coming of winter ratchets up tension surrounding Ukraine gas talks, which fell short of a deal again this week. Still, hopes remain high that a deal will be reached to pay off Ukraine's gas debts and reopen the flow of Russian supplies.

By Nick Cunningham, Oilprice.com OCTOBER 23, 2014

Negotiations over a natural gas deal between Ukraine and Russia have faltered since the spring, but the standoff has taken on a new urgency as winter approaches.

Following the overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich in February, Russia altered the terms by which it sells natural gas to Ukraine. Along with Yanukovich, favorable pricing went away. In April, Russia nearly doubled the sale price of natural gas to Ukraine, from $268.50 per thousand cubic meters to $485.50.

This was a price that the Ukrainian government said it could not meet. Even worse, Russian gas company Gazprom demanded upfront payment for gas supplies, an issue that kept the two countries at odds for months. Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Ukraine in June, saying Ukraine had failed to pay its debt. (Related: Putin Threatens Gas Reduction To Europe)

A long-term solution has eluded Moscow and Kiev since, and talks have dragged on for months. It’s not just Ukraine’s problem, though: around 40 percent of Europe’s gas imports from Russia travel across Ukrainian territory. So to a large extent, the standoff over pricing is a three-way dispute between Russia, Ukraine and the European Union. The supply cut-off in June underscored the threat to the rest of Europe.

It will be difficult to postpone a resolution any further. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak has demanded full payment in advance for gas deliveries in November and December. In addition, he says Gazprom must receive further debt payments from the Ukrainian government as a pre-condition to a deal.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2014/1023/Ukraine-gas-talks-fail-again.-Why-that-s-a-big-deal

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24Oct/14Off

Islamic State was making $1 million a day from oil sales before airstrikes began

By Karen DeYoung October 23 at 7:50 PM

Follow @karendeyoung1

The Islamic State sells oil from territory it controls in Syria and Iraq to Turkish middlemen, Iraqi Kurds and even the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, according to the Obama administration’s point man on terrorist financing.

Before the United States began targeting refineries in militant-occupied areas of Syria last month, the Islamic State was making about $1 million a day from oil sales, Treasury Department Undersecretary David S. Cohen said Thursday.

Its total income of “millions of dollars per month” from oil, kidnapping ransom and extortion in occupied areas, and the speed with which it has amassed funds, make the Islamic State unlike any other terrorist entity the United States has confronted, Cohen said.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/islamic-state-was-making-1million-a-day-from-oil-sales-before-airstrikes-began/2014/10/23/34e1b0c4-5ae8-11e4-bd61-346aee66ba29_story.html

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