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18Apr/14Off

The Fracking Industry Faces Its Climate Demon

To preserve its climate credentials, the natural-gas industry has to tame a tricky menace: methane.

By Ben Geman

April 17, 2014

BUFFALO TOWNSHIP, Pa.—On a flat, roughly one-acre square cut into a hilltop in the rolling farmlands, four natural-gas wells sit adjacent boxy machines that separate wastewater and hydrocarbons sucked from the ground over two square miles.

Attached to those boxes are gauges small enough to easily escape notice. But they're of outsize importance: They measure methane—a greenhouse gas over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide—and other emissions. Controlling methane is key to lowering the climate footprint of the natural-gas industry and its efforts to sell itself as the environmentally friendly fossil fuel.

And so Matt Pitzarella, spokesman for natural-gas producer Range Resources, is eager to point out the emissions gauge, and especially eager to point out its results. "Methane levels—zero percent," he says. "You have no issues, nothing coming out."

But overall industry methane emissions across the complex gas-development chain are hardly zero, either in Pennsylvania or nationwide. Their size, however, is a matter of fierce dispute and ongoing research.

At stake in the debate: natural gas's role as friend or foe in the battle against climate change.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.nationaljournal.com/new-energy-paradigm/the-fracking-industry-faces-its-climate-demon-20140417

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18Apr/14Off

Labor shortage threatens to bust shale boom

Posted on April 18, 2014 at 7:47 am by Bloomberg in Workforce

By Isaac Arnsdorf, Dan Murtaugh and Jack Kaskey

Bloomberg News

How high is demand for welders to work in the shale boom on the U.S. Gulf Coast?

So high that “you can take every citizen in the region of Lake Charles between the ages of 5 and 85 and teach them all how to weld and you’re not going to have enough welders,” said Peter Huntsman, chief executive officer of chemical maker Huntsman Corp.

So high that San Jacinto College in Pasadena,Texas, offers a four-hour welding class in the middle of the night.

So high that local employers say they’re worried there won’t be adequate supply of workers of all kinds. Just for construction, Gulf Coast oil, gas and chemical companies will have to find 36,000 new qualified workers by 2016, according to Industrial Info Resources Inc. in Sugar Land, Texas. Regional estimates call for even more new hires once those projects are built.

To read the entire article go to: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/04/18/labor-shortage-threatens-to-bust-shale-boom/

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18Apr/14Off

Front Groups Spread Disinformation in Attempt to Freeze Ohio Cleantech Laws

Posted: 04/16/2014 12:39 pm EDT Updated: 04/16/2014 12:59 pm EDT

Gabe Elsner Become a fan

Executive Director, Energy & Policy Institute

Utility and fossil fuel-funded front groups are peddling disinformation to attack Ohio's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) and Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) that should not be considered credible evidence as legislators debate a bill to freeze the pro-clean technology laws. Policymakers should instead consider unbiased research when evaluating the impact of Ohio's clean energy and energy efficiency standards.

The fossil fuel-funded Heartland Institute has been using flawed analysis to inflate the cost of renewable portfolio standards in states around the country. Heartland Institute's James Taylor claims that because electricity prices in Ohio have risen slightly faster than the national average since 2008, the state's clean energy standard is the culprit causing a spike in electricity prices. But Taylor ignores several additional factors that impact electricity prices.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gabe-elsner/front-groups-spread-disin_b_5113560.html

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18Apr/14Off

My climate confession: I assumed we had limits on power plant pollution

Benjamin Schneider / Published April 17, 2014 in Health / Air qualityLegal

Original source: http://www.edf.org/blog/2014/04/17/my-climate-confession-i-assumed-we-had-limits-power-plant-pollution

Should we have reasonable limits on carbon pollution from power plants, or no limits at all? That’s the question now facing the United States, and one many Americans probably never before thought to ask – including me.

As someone in his mid-thirties who’s been worried about climate change pretty much his whole life, that’s a little embarrassing to admit. Even before I started here at Environmental Defense Fund, I followed climate policy battles closely. I was a reporter covering the United States Senate when the Climate Change Act of 2008 stalled there. And from my PR firm in 2010, my heart sank as I watched the 2010 Act die in the Upper Chamber, as well.

Those defeats were a wakeup call. I decided I had to do more in the fight against climate change. And for almost three years now, I’ve had the privilege to do that as part of the climate communications team here at EDF.

I knew I had a lot to learn when I started here, but I was still shocked when I learned the truth about power plants. As of right now, there are no national limits on carbon pollution from power plants at all. Zero limits, despite their being the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States.

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18Apr/14Off

Microgrids Introduce Issues for Utilities

Ralph Masiello | Apr 17, 2014

Microgrids are gaining traction among large utility customers, and this is an exciting and fundamental advancement in the evolution toward smart grids. Companies have begun deploying microgrids to improve energy security, reduce energy costs and lower emissions and thanks to technology advancements, their deployments can be practical and economical.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.energybiz.com/article/14/04/microgrids-introduce-issues-utilities?utm_source=2014_04_18&utm_medium=eNL&utm_campaign=EB_DAILY&utm_content=243426

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18Apr/14Off

DWP resumes shut-offs on delinquents


The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power wants the $242 million it says it’s owed by delinquent ratepayers, and it’s ready to begin shutting off their electricity.

Apr 17, 2014, 1:21pm PDT

Scott Bridges

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power wants the $242 million it says it’s owed by delinquent ratepayers, and it’s ready to begin shutting off their electricity.

In November, the City Council ordered the DWP to hold off on most of those shutdowns because of a new billing system that the council viewed unreliable. Officials at the department said this week, however, that those problems have been resolved and they’re ready to collect or cut off the juice,  according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

“We’re feeling much more comfortable with the billing,” said Randy Howard, the DWP interim executive director of customer services.

Before cutting off power, the agency is manually checking each account. At present, they’re going after businesses that are behind more than 90 days on payments — “the oldest and highest dollar amount first,” said Howard.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.bizjournals.com/losangeles/news/2014/04/17/dwp-resumes-shut-offs-on-delinquents.html

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18Apr/14Off

California to Utilities: Connect Battery-Solar Systems to the Grid

UPDATE: SolarCity resumes applications as California regulators clear way for net-metered solar-battery systems

Jeff St. John

April 16, 2014

California regulators have just issued a rebuke to utilities, and a thumbs-up to customers and companies that want to connect hundreds of now-stalled battery-backed solar PV projects across the state.

On Tuesday, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a proposed decision that would exempt most storage-solar projects from extra utility fees and interconnection studies (PDF). Instead, it would require utilities to treat them as regular old net-metered solar systems, as long as they meet certain requirements.

For the past twelve months or so, California’s big three investor-owned utilities -- Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric -- have been demanding these systems undergo extensive reviews that come with between $1,400 and $3,700 in extra fees. Utilities have said they need to do this for safety reasons, as well as to make sure that batteries don’t store grid power, then feed it back under the guise of green, net-metered power.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/California-Tells-Utilities-Connect-Battery-Solar-Systems-to-the-Grid?utm_source=Daily&utm_medium=Headline&utm_campaign=GTMDaily

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18Apr/14Off

New Solar Factory Hurt by SDG&E Contract Change

April 17, 2014   William J. Kelly

Original source: http://www.cacurrent.com/storyDisplay.php?sid=7491

A French company’s $150 million concentrated photovoltaic panel factory in San Diego is gearing up to employ 450 people, but its future is clouded. Its major client, Tenaska, it appears is switching a solar generating project in Imperial Valley to conventional photovoltaic panels.

Soitec April 15 announced that Tenaska decided not to use its panels for the 150 MW project. The France-based company’s stock dropped 10 percent in trading that day on the Paris exchange.

The company maintained, however, that the loss of sales to the U.S. power plant developer “does not materially jeopardize the prospects for its North American manufacturing facility in California from which it supplies a worldwide demand.”

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18Apr/14Off

Study Chides U.S. Over Loan Default by Solar Business

By MATTHEW L. WALDAPRIL 17, 2014

WASHINGTON — Long before the Energy Department lost $68 million on Abound Solar, a manufacturer that went bankrupt two years ago, it should have known that the company’s chance of repaying the loan it had guaranteed was deteriorating, according to a report by the department’s inspector general.

The damning report was issued as the Obama administration prepared to offer as much as $8 billion in additional loan guarantees.

The loan guarantee program has been a magnet for criticism since the failure of Solyndra in 2011; that company took $528 million in loans guaranteed by the Energy Department.

The new report, released on Thursday, focused on loan guarantees extended to Abound Solar, which was initially offered $400 million. When the company missed several production milestones, the department cut off the loan guarantees, limiting the loss to taxpayers.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/18/business/energy-environment/study-chides-us-over-loan-default-by-solar-business.html?ref=energy-environment&_r=0

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18Apr/14Off

Communities Find That Oil Trains Are A Disaster Waiting To Happen

By Andrew Breiner on April 17, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Original source: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/04/17/3427500/oil-trains-disaster/

When a freight train carrying crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken formation derailed and exploded in the middle of the Canadian town of Lac-Mégantic, killing 47 people and destroying half of the downtown, no one knew it’d mark the start of a new era of train disasters, or that so little would be done to keep more from happening.

Less than a year and 10 oil train derailments later, it’s largely luck that has prevented another deadly disaster. Trains carrying crude travel through an unknown number of American cities on a daily basis, endangering countless residents, and safety efforts move slowly and with industry opposition. And Wednesday, the freight rail industry revealed that mandatory safety technology to prevent derailments and collisions will only be installed on 20 percent of tracks on deadline at the end of 2015.

Examples of inaction on rail safety are plentiful. Firefighters say they aren’t trained to deal with derailments or explosions. Trains travel in secret, in one instance passing through a town for over a year before residents had any say. Thin-shelled railcars continue to carry crude oil even after their contribution to multiple fiery derailments, and new railcar safety standards still aren’t final. And the Bakken crude oil that’s driving the need for train shipments was only discovered to be especially flammable after several explosions and fires had occurred.

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18Apr/14Off

Oregon oil train shipments increased 250 percent in 2013

By Rob Davis | rdavis@oregonian.com

on April 17, 2014 at 3:23 PM, updated April 17, 2014 at 8:08 PM

The volume of oil hauled on Oregon’s rails increased 250 percent in 2013. A sharp increase in crude shipments along a rail route through Portland, Scappoose, St. Helens and Rainier drove the jump.

In 2013, 19,065 tank cars moved more than 11 million barrels of oil through Oregon, according to annual reports that railroad companies submitted to the Oregon Department of Transportation. That’s up from the 5,491 cars that moved 2.9 million barrels in 2012.

Just a few years ago, almost no oil moved on the state’s railroads. In 2007, railroads moved just 659 tank carloads of oil.

The reports from BNSF Railway Co. and Union Pacific provide the best estimate to date of how much oil is moving around Oregon. Most is brought into the state by BNSF in Portland, bound for an oil train terminal near Clatskanie that loads the oil on barges bound for West Coast refineries. But millions of barrels move elsewhere, passing through the Columbia River Gorge, Salem, Eugene, Bend and Klamath Falls.

Crude shipments by rail are expected to continue growing in the Northwest. The Clatskanie terminal is seeking to expand. And across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Wash., state regulators are deciding the fate of what would be the Pacific Northwest’s largest oil train terminal, capable of loading 360,000 barrels a day onto barges.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2014/04/oregon_oil_train_shipments_inc.html

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18Apr/14Off

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson wants more disclosure on crude oil transport

By Jeremy B. White

jwhite@sacbee.com

Published: Thursday, Apr. 17, 2014 - 10:48 pm

Pointing to the catastrophic derailment in Quebec of a train transporting oil and similar accidents, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, proposed legislation Thursday to get emergency responders more information about crude-carrying trains that roll through California.

As the United States reaps the fruits of a domestic energy boom, driven in part by huge volumes of natural gas extracted through hydraulic fracturing, the amount of oil transported by rail has grown apace.

According to the California Energy Commission, 6.1 million barrels of crude chugged into California on trains in 2013, accounting for 1.1 percent of the amount processed at California refineries.

“It is safe to say that we’ve all become alarmed with learning about the large increase in certain types of crude oil and oil products that California refineries will be receiving,” Dickinson said during a news conference at the downtown Sacramento train station.

Cities have begun raising the alarm about safety hazards, and officials have testified to Congress that most communities are ill-prepared to handle the aftermath of a derailment. In addition to the deadly derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, oil trains have jumped the tracks and ignited in Alabama and North Dakota.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/04/17/6334191/assemblyman-roger-dickinson-wants.html

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18Apr/14Off

Fracking sand spurs grain-like silos for rail transport

Posted on April 18, 2014 at 7:30 am by Bloomberg in Hydraulic fracturing

By Thomas Black

Bloomberg News

The U.S. shale oil boom is putting millions of tons of sand onto North American railroads, enabling carriers to pack trains full instead of hauling just a handful of cars at a time.

With help from Union Pacific Corp. and Warren Buffett’s BNSF Railway Co., the sleepy silica sand industry that once mostly supplied glassmakers now ships more than 20 million tons of the material a year. Buyers including Halliburton Co. and Schlumberger Ltd. use the sand in hydraulic fracturing at oil fields in Texas and North Dakota.

Miners such as Emerge Energy Services LP, U.S. Silica Holdings Inc. and Hi-Crush Partners LP are taking a page from the grain industry’s playbook to deliver sand faster and cheaper. They’re building facilities at their mines to load unit trains, which move just one type of cargo, and near oil fields to empty them.

To read the entire article go to: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/04/18/fracking-sand-spurs-grain-like-silos-for-rail-transport/

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18Apr/14Off

Congress yet to act on funding for roads

A federally funded program to help pay for the nation's roads, bridges and mass transit could run out of money in July. But Congress faces the politically unpleasant prospect of calling for additional tax revenues to maintain the fund.

By Howard Gleckman, Guest blogger / April 15, 2014

It isn’t news that congressional Democrats and Republicans have agreed to spend the time between now and the November elections messaging, rather than legislating. When it comes to domestic policy it has only two real issues on its must-do list: Deciding the fate of 50+ tax breaks that expired last December and figuring out what to do about the Highway Trust Fund which is, not to put too fine a point on it, nearly broke.

The expired provisions have gotten most of the attention in recent weeks, but funding for roads, bridges and mass transit faces a more serious problem. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the trust fund will run out of money within the next few months and projects it may be unable to pay all of its bills after July. This is how CBO put it on February 4:

Under CBO’s baseline projections, the highway and transit accounts of the Highway Trust Fund will have insufficient revenues to meet obligations starting in fiscal year 2015. Under current law, the Highway Trust Fund cannot incur negative balances and has no authority to borrow additional funds….As a result, under CBO’s baseline projections, the highway account may have to delay some of its payments during the latter half of 2014.

Even though the message was buried in a footnote, that’s about as dramatic as CBO ever gets.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Tax-VOX/2014/0415/Congress-yet-to-act-on-funding-for-roads

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18Apr/14Off

Nissan Leaf buyers in some markets offered free charging


By David R. Baker

April 16, 2014 | Updated: April 17, 2014 4:54am

Nissan has a new way to lure Bay Area car buyers interested in the electric Leaf - free fill ups.

Starting this month, anyone who buys or leases a Leaf in the Bay Area will get two years of free access to the nation's largest networks of public charging stations. The same deal will be available to customers in Sacramento, San Diego and seven other urban areas nationwide.

"Customers will realize, 'Wow, this is easy and convenient,' " said Brendan Jones, director of electric vehicle infrastructure for Nissan North America. "Our customers want to charge in and around where they work and live."

It could prove to be a powerful perk.

Tesla Motors, for example, offers buyers of its electric Model S sedan free juice at the company's network of Supercharger stations. The offering is popular enough that Tesla has had to increase the number of Superchargers at several stations, particularly in California.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Nissan-Leaf-buyers-in-some-markets-offered-free-5408282.php?

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