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Best path to U.S. energy security? Depends who you ask

Posted on September 30, 2014 at 10:49 pm by Rhiannon Meyers in Crude oil

While the shale boom has helped the United States reduce its dependence on foreign oil and protected Americans from dramatic price fluctuations during the recent upheavals in the Middle East and Ukraine, the country still relies on imports for almost half of its energy needs.

Weaning the United States from crude shipped in from overseas requires new policy solutions and a shift in thinking, but whether that means incentivizing oil and gas companies to drill more or investing in renewable energy depends on the perspective.

On Tuesday night, an independent oil and gas producer, an international energy expert and a vocal critic of the Keystone XL pipeline squared off in a discussion at the University of Houston about whether energy independence is good for the nation. The debate in front of a packed auditorium happened the same day the International Energy Agency announced that the U.S. is set to overtake Saudi Arabia in crude oil production.

While the panelists agreed that domestic energy sources help the nation in varying ways – reducing the risk of foreign supply disruptions that could throw the country back into a recession, for example – they disagreed on the best approaches to achieve that energy security.

To read the entire article go to: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/09/30/best-path-to-u-s-energy-security-depends-who-you-ask/

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Democrats to Obama: Get tough on oil companies drilling on public land

Posted on September 30, 2014 at 5:32 pm by Jennifer A. Dlouhy in General, Hydraulic fracturing, Politics/Policy

WASHINGTON — A dozen Senate Democrats on Tuesday implored the Obama administration to impose tough new rules for oil companies drilling on public lands across the United States.

At issue is the Interior Department’s proposed rule to tighten standards for wells on federal and Indian lands, including new mandates for the hydraulic fracturing process used to coax oil and gas out of dense rock formations.

“We urge you to issue the strongest possible safeguards to ensure that public health, safety and our environment are protected,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and 11 of his colleagues, in a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan. They called it “critical that the final rule for hydraulic fracturing on public lands offers stringent protections for the safety of workers, our water, air, lands and public health.”

The OMB is now vetting the measure, and the Interior Department is expected to unveil the final rule later the year.

To read the entire article go to: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/09/30/democrats-to-obama-get-tough-on-oil-companies-drilling-on-public-land/

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Delayed Justice for the Navajos

By THE EDITORIAL BOARDSEPT. 29, 2014

The long struggle of American Indian tribes to be fairly compensated for decades of federal mismanagement of their tribal lands’ resources reached an important point last week with an agreement by the largest tribe, the Navajo Nation, to accept $554 million in settlement of long-running litigation over breach-of-trust claims.

The settlement was the latest and most encouraging development in a historic reversal by the Obama administration of past federal policy that rigidly responded to complaints with endless litigation and hollow promises of justice. In the past four years, the administration has negotiated settlements with 80 tribes totaling $2.61 billion in compensation for claims of exploitation and mismanagement of the tribes’ resources that date back more than 50 years.

Through past treaties and other arrangements with Indian tribes, the Interior Department has come to manage in trust more than 50 million acres of lands and more than 100,000 leases on those lands, which have been lucratively developed by outside mining, lumber and ranching interests in contracts that shortchanged the tribes. The plaintiffs also charged the government with failing to invest the proceeds to maximize profits.

As recently as 2002, Judge Royce Lamberth of federal district court, frustrated with the government’s litigation tactics, cited then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton for civil contempt, declaring the department “has served as the gold standard for mismanagement by the federal government for more than a century.”

To read the entire article go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/30/opinion/delayed-justice-for-the-navajos.html?_r=0

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California Is Integrating Buffett’s Western Utilities Into Its Grid Balancing Market

The new balancing authority could save Berkshire Hathaway-owned utilities $129 million, while boosting wind and solar.

Jeff St. John

September 30, 2014

Most of the United States’ electricity grid is fairly well ordered -- but parts of it remain a frontier when it comes to managing the interstate energy demands of the system as a whole.

Take the stretch of the United States from California’s Sierra Nevada to the Rocky Mountains. Unlike the rest of the country, this region lacks any federal agency like the Bonneville Power Administration or TVA, or any entity like PJM, ISO New England, NYISO and California’s Independent System Operator (CAISO), to bring regulatory oversight and market structures to the business of generating, transmitting and distributing energy in the area.

Instead, 38 electricity balancing authorities in the region all talk to one another to match supply with demand. In the days of reliable, centralized fossil fueled power, that was simpler -- but it’s a problem when intermittent wind and solar power come into the picture.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/California-is-Integrating-Buffets-Western-Utilities-into-its-Grid-Balancin

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4 Things You Should Know About Energy Storage

9/30/2014 @ 5:08PM

Contributor

Ucilia Wang

I write about renewable energy, electric cars and water tech

We don’t fawn over battery technology like we do over shiny gadgets and smart apps, but know this: it’s set to play an important role in our attempt to use more low-carbon energy like solar and wind.

Batteries and other energy storage equipment make it possible to store solar and wind electricity and use it whenever it’s needed, not just when it’s produced. That ability will help utilities to manage their power supply and demand. More interestingly, it will help businesses and homeowners to do the same as a growing number of them install solar panels on their roofs.

That’s partly why Tesla Motors TSLA -0.55% is building giant lithium-ion battery factories. While the company intends to use the batteries mostly to power its cars, it’s getting ready for the energy storage market to take off as renewable energy gradually increases its share in the country’s — and the world’s — electricity mix.

Here is my list of topics and trends to watch as tech companies and investors gather at the Energy Storage North America conference, which gets underway in earnest tomorrow in Silicon Valley:

To read the entire article go to: http://www.forbes.com/sites/uciliawang/2014/09/30/4-things-you-should-know-about-energy-storage/?ss=energy

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Bull—- Market

America is overlooking a plentiful renewable resource: animal manure.

By Daniel Gross

The U.S. is belatedly making great strides on becoming more energy-efficient and carbon-friendly. Huge new solar and wind farms dot the countryside. Car companies are making revolutionary investments in efficiency. We’re relying less on coal to create power. Landfill operators are capturing the methane released from decomposing trash to generate electricity.

But there’s one plentiful, renewable resource that America is overlooking: animal manure.

Our industrial-scale farms produce bull crap, chicken poop, and pig manure in great abundance. A single cow can produce 30 pounds of manure per day. But in America—where farmers often have vast acreage, electricity is comparatively cheap, and regulations are relatively lax—there hasn’t been that much pressure on (or incentives for) farmers to do much more with manure than spread it around their fields or pile it into lagoons, as pig farmers in North Carolina have done.

That’s a waste of good waste. Instead, farmers could put the stuff in an anaerobic digester (a large metal vessel the size of a truncated grain silo), throw in some microbes that thrive in an oxygen-deprived environment, and then let nature quietly take its course. The process produces methane, which can be sucked into a pipeline or burned to generate electricity and heat. The slurry that is left behind is run through a press, leaving fibers (which can be used as a replacement for peat moss or as bedding for cows) and liquids (which can be further processed to make plant nutrient pellets).

To read the entire article go to: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2014/09/america_is_overlooking_a_plentiful_renewable_resource_animal_manure.html

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Bonneville regains hiring authorities; managers look to bring “very difficult chapter” to a close

By Ted Sickinger| tsickinger@oregonian.com

Email the author | Follow on Twitter

on September 30, 2014 at 3:10 PM, updated September 30, 2014 at 5:18 PM

Almost a year after a hiring scandal prompted a federal takeover of the Bonneville Power Administration's human resources functions, the U.S. Department of Energy has reinstated the Portland-based power marketing agency's authority to hire, fire and promote staff.

BPA Administrator Elliot Mainzer told employees in an e-mail Tuesday that the agency still had work to do. But he described the reinstatement as the culmination of a 13-month process "to complete the get well plan and re-establish a fully compliant, high-performing human resource function."

"This is a major major accomplishment and brings to a close a very difficult chapter for BPA," he said.

The DOE put Bonneville's management team on a short leash after the agency was engulfed in a hiring scandal last summer, suspending legal and personnel authorities that are central to the operation of the agency. The actions alarmed BPA customers and the region's congressional delegation, who feared the loss of autonomy would strip Bonneville of its ability to serve regional, versus national, interests.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2014/09/bonneville_regains_hiring_auth.html

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Deal to get financial records from DWP trusts goes to utility board

Union leader Brian D'Arcy warned at a June 17 rally that the city was asking for "trouble" if money was withheld from two controversial Department of Water and Power-affiliated nonprofits.

By Emily Alpert Reyes

September 30, 2014, 2:33 p.m.

Los Angeles lawmakers are pressing ahead with a plan that could end the legal battles over two controversial trusts affiliated with the Department of Water and Power.

The City Council voted in August to seek a long list of conditions before ending lawsuits over the trusts and sending a disputed $4 million payment to the nonprofits.

The litigation was triggered when trust executives declined to open their financial records to city auditors. On Tuesday, the council met behind closed doors to talk about the settlement negotiations.

Afterward, Council President Herb Wesson said city lawmakers were sending the proposed settlement on to the Board of Water and Power. The utility board, which would need to approve the plan, is scheduled to meet Oct. 7.

"There's light at the end of the tunnel," Wesson said of the settlement talks.

To read the entire article go to: http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-81546914/

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Time running out for rooftop solar benefit

By Morgan Lee6 a.m.Oct. 1, 2014

The sun is setting steadily on California's super-incentive for rooftop solar.

Customers of San Diego Gas & Electric have reached the half-way point toward a cumulative cap on a program known as net energy metering, the utility reported on its website.

Under net metering, rooftop solar customers of California's major investor-owned utilities are credited for excess electricity at the full retail rate. The arrangement effectively winds a household electric meter backwards, allowing some customers to pay next to nothing on electricity bills or even earn some money after a 12-month period.

California's investor owned utilities are phasing out the current version of net metering. New rooftop solar customers can still lock in the deal for a 20 year period. But they must act before utility regulators modify rules or before rooftop solar capacity expands to 5 percent of the region's peak electricity usage -- whichever comes first.

As of Aug. 31, rooftop solar installations and registered applications accounted for 2.5 percent of peak demand, or half-way toward the cap. State law says the new regulations must be in place by mid-2017.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/oct/01/days-numbered-solar-incentive/

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Vivint Solar Prices IPO at $16 per Share and Aims for SolarCity-Style Ride

America’s No. 2 solar installer is going public today. Does the market want another public solar financier and installer?

Eric Wesoff

September 30, 2014

Vivint Solar, owned by the Blackstone Group, set its IPO terms to offer 20.6 million shares at $16 per share. That would give the Provo, Utah-based installer and financier a market cap of more than $1.5 billion. Goldman Sachs, BofA Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse are serving as lead underwriters.

It's an important event in the U.S. solar industry as Vivint Solar, the No. 2 installer in the U.S. opens the residential solar market to further investment and growth.

SolarCity and Vivint Solar combined to install 51 percent of all U.S. residential PV in the second quarter of the year, according to GTM Research's U.S. PV Leaderboard. The U.S. added 247 megawatts of residential PV, making it the segment's second largest quarter ever.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Vivint-Solar-Prices-IPO-at-16-per-Share-and-Aims-for-SolarCity-Style-Ride

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Oil industry wants 7-10 years to phase out tank cars

Posted on September 30, 2014 at 9:35 pm by Jennifer A. Dlouhy in General, Politics/Policy, Rail

WASHINGTON – Leading oil industry trade groups on Tuesday told federal regulators that proposed regulations to boost the safety of transporting crude by trains need to be phased in more slowly and should not mandate tank cars with extra-thick shells.

If the Department of Transportation doesn’t relax the proposed requirements, the price tag for consumers could be up to $45.2 billion, said American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard, citing a study by ICF International.

The “current proposals could stifle North America’s energy renaissance and curtail substantial volumes of U.S. and Canadian oil production,” Gerard said on a conference call with reporters.

At issue is a July proposal by the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration that aims to boost the resilience of the DOT-111 tank cars that are increasingly carrying crude across North America and have been deemed rupture prone. PHMSA has proposed a two-year phaseout of the old cars, among other changes.

To read the entire article go to: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/09/30/oil-industry-wants-7-10-years-to-phase-out-tank-cars/

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California senators ask DOT to expand crude by rail notifications

By Curtis Tate

McClatchy Washington BureauSeptember 30, 2014

The U.S. Department of Transportation should expand its requirement for railroads to notify first responders of large shipments of Bakken crude oil to include other hazardous materials, California’s U.S. senators wrote Monday.

In a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer wrote that his department’s May emergency order doesn’t go far enough because it excludes Bakken shipments under 1 million gallons, as well as any quantity of other kinds of crude oils and flammable liquids.

The order, which DOT seeks to make permanent as part of a larger rulemaking on oil train safety, doesn’t apply to tar sands crude from western Canada, as well as lighter crudes from Colorado and Texas, ethanol and dozens of other substances.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/09/30/241577_california-senators-ask-dot-to.html?rh=1

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Algae as biofuel focus of summit

By Bradley J. Fikes6:50 a.m.Sept. 29, 2014

For the first time since 2008, the algae research community’s biggest conference is returning to San Diego — the epicenter of algae biotechnology.

The Algae Biomass Summit is scheduled to take place today through Thursday, bringing together specialists in algae along with companies that hope to make money from these sophisticated biofactories. In San Diego alone, companies such as Sapphire Energy, Synthetic Genomics and Cellana have sprung up during the past decade to exploit algae’s properties for biofuels.

The conference will be held in downtown San Diego by the Algae Biomass Organization, an industry group. Events will include tours of algae research at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography; algae-growing centers in the Imperial Valley; and presentations on algae projects in Brazil, Israel, Japan and other countries.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/sep/29/algae-biomass-summit-mayfield-sapphire/

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Gov. Brown signs limo safety bill after bridge tragedy

By Henry K. Lee

Published 12:12 pm, Tuesday, September 30, 2014

In the wake of a limousine fire on the San Mateo Bridge that trapped and killed a bride and four other women, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Tuesday that he had signed legislation requiring fire extinguishers on board and inspections by the California Highway Patrol.

Brown signed a bill by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, that requires the CHP to expand its inspection program to include limousines carrying 10 or fewer people. Under the new law, limousine companies must pay for the inspections and are required to install fire extinguishers in the driver’s compartment and passenger cabin.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Gov-Brown-signs-limo-safety-bill-after-bridge-5791350.php

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Naomi Klein Is Wrong

Multinational corporations are doing more than governments to halt climate change.

By Zachary Karabell

In her new book, Naomi Klein (center) documents how some corporations and lobbying groups have thwarted action against climate change and even manipulated multiple governments into boosting the extraction of gas, coal, and oil.

The gathering of delegates in New York last week for the latest and likely futile installment of climate talks at the United Nations prompted a new round of familiar questions: Why have the governments of the world so far been unable to stem climate change? Why can’t the global community agree to halt the sharp rise in both carbon emissions and global temperatures?

Climate change debates are a maelstrom, and Naomi Klein has added to that fray with her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. She has a sharp, pungent answer to why no concerted action has taken place: “We have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find our way out of this crisis.” With meticulous research and reporting, Klein documents how some corporations and lobbying groups have thwarted action and even manipulated multiple governments into boosting the extraction of gas, coal, and oil.

The causal link between human actions and tumultuous climate shifts is beyond question, as is our collective failure to halt climate change. But Klein’s answers—as compelling as they may be to many—fall quite short. Because she is such a powerful voice in this discussion, her rhetoric risks obscuring just how much is being done by large companies around the world to reduce their carbon emissions and environmental footprint.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2014/09/naomi_klein_is_wrong_corporations_are_doing_more_than_governments_to_halt.html

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