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May 23rd, 2012 Archives
By MATTHEW L. WALD May 18, 2012
WASHINGTON — A federal proposal to ban the construction of coal-fired power plants that release all of their carbon dioxide into the atmosphere would seem to smooth the way for carbon capture, a budding technology that traps the greenhouse gas for storage or other uses.
But even as the Environmental Protection Agency prepares to open hearings on the proposed rule, unveiled in March, industry experts say the persistently low price of natural gas is threatening the viability of the nation’s carbon capture projects.
Natural gas is so cheap and plentiful that utilities have little incentive to build coal-fired plants with the capture technology. And the proposed rule exempts existing coal- and gas-fired plants.
In the tiny universe of American carbon capture projects, the first casualty may be the Taylorville Energy Center, a project in the coal fields of Illinois. The plan was to cook coal into methane, capture the carbon dioxide released in the process, then burn the methane in a conventional natural gas-style power plant.Share This Post
Ken Silverstein | May 17, 2012
Drilling for natural gas is fracturing many communities. But a recent study by the University of Buffalo, NY is concluding that most major environmental events tied to “fracking” can be nearly mitigated by company action.Share This Post
Published: Saturday, May 19, 2012, 5:50 AM Updated: Saturday, May 19, 2012, 7:50 AM
By John Funk, The Plain Dealer
There are major loopholes in the state's proposed law requiring gas well companies to reveal the chemicals they use, local and national environmental watchdog groups say.
The law would allow drilling companies to declare some of chemical compounds "trade secrets" that state regulators could not reveal to the public except to health professionals in a medical emergency. And doctors who were given the details of a toxic chemical would not be permitted to reveal it publicly except to the patient and immediate family.
Gov. John Kasich's administration counters that the law, as it emerged from the Senate earlier this week, reflects more than eight weeks of hard bargaining involving lawmakers, the administration's experts, environmentalists and the industry.
Now on track for passage by the House on Wednesday, the bill requires companies drilling gas and oil wells to disclose the chemicals they are using to drill and then fracture the rock containing the oil and gas.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2012/05/gov_john_kasichs_proposed_frac.htmlShare This Post
By BEN CASSELMAN May 20, 2012, 7:16 p.m. ET
As investors struggle to assess the health of embattled natural-gas producer Chesapeake Energy Corp., some say they are facing an obstacle: the company's accounting.
Chesapeake, which pumps more gas in the U.S. than any company besides Exxon Mobil Corp., accounts for its exploration and drilling expenses using a method that accounting experts say is generally more aggressive and less transparent than the approach many other big energy companies use.
The accounting method is legal and not uncommon. But some critics say it makes it hard to figure out the true costs of Chesapeake's drilling programs and their success, and forces investors to ferret out the hundreds of millions of dollars Chesapeake is making in interest payments. For example, the company last year spent $776 million in interest, according to securities filings, but reported only $44 million on its income statement.
"You get distorted operational results," said Phil Weiss, an Argus Research analyst who has been a frequent Chesapeake critic.
To read the entire article go to: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304791704577416483070025516.html?mod=WSJ_Energy_leftHeadlinesShare This Post
Posted: 05/22/2012 12:34 pm Updated: 05/22/2012 8:54 pm
WASHINGTON -- The Natural Resources Defense Council on Tuesday released a report dispelling the myth that the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would lower gas prices. Rather, the opposite is true, findings show.
On a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, report author and NRDC attorney Anthony Swift called the pipeline's impact on gasoline prices "one of the most misunderstood issues surrounding the proposed Keystone XL," adding that when TransCanada originally proposed the pipeline, they pitched it as a way to increase the cost of oil in the United States, providing increased revenue for Canadian producers. Since then, proponents of the pipeline in the United States have pitched it as a means of decreasing U.S. gasoline prices.
Swift's study examined these two conflicting claims, and findings suggest that the former is the true one. "Our study has found that Keystone XL is likely to both decrease the amount of gasoline in U.S. refineries for domestic markets and increase the cost of producing it, leading to even higher prices at the pump," Swift told reporters.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/22/report-keystone-xl-gas-prices_n_1536227.html?Share This Post
Posted: 05/22/2012 10:45 am
In case you missed it, scientists at Harvard and Yale released yet another study in April demonstrating the widening disconnect between public attitudes on clean energy and the rhetoric and policy choices emanating from Washington.
The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, found a solid majority of Americans would be willing to pay more on their energy bills if they knew their money was being invested in truly renewable power sources like wind and solar. And 'more' doesn't mean pocket change. If the option was to pay an additional $35 a year or nearly three bucks monthly, a whopping 81 percent of respondents would be happy to pony up. Even at $155 per year, or an extra $12 a month, a solid majority (56 percent) of Americans would have no problem opening their wallets for clean power. (For reference, three dollars per month is just a bit more than the statewide distributed household cost of getting a moderate-sized offshore wind power farm constructed, as we've been trying to do in Maryland).
That's got to come as a blow to the Solyndra-gate spin-doctors, whose endless conniptions and campaign-trail digs about the failed solar manufacturer have apparently failed to persuade American voters that the entire clean-energy industry is a massive socialistic boondoggle. Instead, it seems many Americans have managed to grasp a simple fact that has unsurprisingly through the spin-doctors' oil-greased fingers: that there's no way our domestic clean-energy industry can compete when we feed it crumbs and countries like China gorge their manufacturers on subsidies.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/keith-harrington/time-for-obamas-marriage-_b_1533665.html?ref=greenShare This Post
By MIREYA NAVARRO May 22, 2012
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the construction of a much-debated natural gas pipeline that would run beneath the Hudson River from New Jersey into the West Village in Manhattan, connecting with Consolidated Edison’s distribution system.
The 4-to-0 decision on Monday had been widely expected since the commission’s staff concluded in March that the construction and operation of the pipeline would not pose significant environmental hazards.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg supports the project, which would transport up to 800 million cubic feet of gas a day, as a way of meeting New York City’s growing energy needs. But antidrilling groups and many public officials in the region, including the mayors of Hoboken and Jersey City, oppose the pipeline, and legal challenges are expected.
The $1.2 billion project, proposed by Spectra Energy of Houston, includes 15.2 miles of new pipeline that would run from Staten Island through Bayonne, N.J., and Jersey City before crossing over to Manhattan beneath West Street. It would be the first major natural gas transmission line to reach the city in 40 years.
“This approval clears the way for a much-needed new natural gas supply in the New York City region,” Mr. Bloomberg’s deputy mayor for operations, Caswell F. Holloway, said in a statement. Mr. Holloway said the project would make the city’s energy supply more reliable and help reduce emissions of soot and heat-trapping greenhouse gases by providing an alternative to more polluting energy sources like oil.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/nyregion/gas-pipeline-beneath-hudson-river-is-approved.htmlShare This Post
Original source: http://grist.org/politics/clean-energy-as-culture-war/
Not that long ago, some folks were arguing that clean energy — unlike climate change, which had been irredeemably stained by partisanship (eww!) — would bring people together across ideological lines. Persuaded by the irrefutable wisdom of wonks, we would join hands across the aisle to promote common-sense solutions. It wouldn’t be partisan, it would be … post-partisan.
Some day, I will stop mocking the people who said that. But not today. The error is an important one and it is still made regularly, especially by hyper-educated U.S. elites. They think clean energy is different from climate change, that it won’t get sucked into the same culture war. They are wrong.
On clean energy, the material/financial aspects of the conflict are the easiest to understand. Wind, solar, and the rest threaten the financial dominance and political influence of dirty energy. Last week, the Guardian broke the story of a confidential memo laying out a plan to demonize and discredit clean energy, meant to coordinate the plans/messages of several big right-wing super PACs funded by dirty-energy money.
At the bottom of that same piece, though, is one of the best expressions I’ve ever seen of the cultural and psychological aspects of the conflict. Witness:
Opposing Obama’s energy policies was a natural fit for conservatives, said Marita Noon, a conservative activist from New Mexico who was at the meeting. “The American way, what made CostCo and Walmart a success, is to use more and pay less. That’s the American way.” The president’s green policies however were the reverse, she said.
“President Obama wants us to pay more and use less.”
Not for the first time, it strikes me that conservatives understand the stakes of this struggle much better than liberals and centrists do, especially at a gut level. They’re on the wrong side of it, but at least they get it.
Photo by Walmart.
Noon is more or less correct: The American Way has been to carelessly consume high quantities of cheap energy, much of it embedded in disposable plastic crap at Walmart. Conservative leaders are telling their flock that there are endless deposits of fossil fuels all around them, if only those pesky Democrats and their regulations would get out of the way. The message is that the American way of life can continue forever, indeed that it is our patriotic birthright, but that Democrats want to take it from them. That goes deeper than energy. It’s about home and hearth.
And Noon is right that the alternative — barely hinted at by Obama’s policies, but sure to come into sharper relief in coming years — is to use much less, and more expensive, energy. You and I know that even if the per-unit price of energy goes up, consumer bills can go down, through efficiency. You and I know that it’s possible to use less energy while still enjoying the same high quality of life. You and I know that there’s no other choice, that cheap, abundant fossil fuels are a thing of the past.
But Noon and her ideological cohort are hearing otherwise. They’re hearing that American abundance, the bounty available to even the poorest Americans at Walmart, is under threat. They’re hearing that Democrats want to make America, the land of plenty, into Europe, the (imagined) land of tiny cars, cramped apartments, and high prices. Again, that’s about more than prices or watts. It’s about cultural identity.
Clean energy supporters can try, if they want, to convince people like Noon that clean energy can offer the same abundance — “use more and pay less” — that fossil fuels offered, through the magic of technology or innovation or whatever. But it’s dishonest. Reducing emissions enough to substantially slow climate change will inevitably involve being more judicious and intelligent in our energy use. Profligate, heedless consumption of disposable crap is going to have to be reined in. That will mean changing habits and land-use patterns. Insofar as those habits and land-use patterns are viewed as constitutive of a “way of life,” many will view that as a threat.
Remember, unlike wonks, average folk don’t think in terms of discrete political “issues.” They think in terms of broad cultural associations and identities. For the conservative base — about which I’ve written many times, see especially here — the issue of energy is wrapped up in a way of life that they view as under threat from multiple directions.
As I’ve said before, it’s unlikely that such people can be persuaded with evidence and reason. What they will eventually do is die off. In the meantime, the job is to define a new American way of life for young people, so when they take over they won’t view Walmart as akin to church.
See also: More on clean energy and the culture warShare This Post
Bee Correspondent Published Sunday, May. 20, 2012
When solar technology company SMA America was looking for a place to put its headquarters, Rocklin was a logical choice. California, after all, represents more than 40 percent of the national market for solar installations.
When it came to choosing a place to manufacture its solar and wind inverters, however, the firm went to Denver.
"Denver offered a good mix of affordable buildings, access to skilled labor, a convenient distribution infrastructure and an overall attractive and supportive business climate," said Jurgen Krehnke, president and general manager of SMA America.
California leads the nation in encouraging renewable energy. Taxpayers and electricity customers dish out more than half a billion dollars a year to subsidize green power, spurring thousands of jobs in research, sales, design and installation.
But the state is missing out on a richer vein of jobs in green manufacturing, as companies go out of state or leave the country in search of lower costs and government incentives.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/05/20/4500710/california-missing-out-on-green.htmlShare This Post
firstname.lastname@example.org Published Monday, May. 21, 2012
A major component of California's crusade against global warming, one started by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and embraced by successor Jerry Brown, is the legal mandate to have 33 percent of electric power sales from "renewable sources" by 2020.
The latest version of the mandate, signed by Brown last year, defines biomass, thermal, photovoltaic, wind, geothermal, fuel cells with renewable fuels, small hydroelectric projects, digester gases, landfill gases, ocean wave and tidal current generation, ocean thermal, and conversion of municipal solid waste into clean-burning fuel as officially blessed.
The list obviously excludes California's largest single source of electric power – plants burning natural gas – and, of course, coal-burning plants in other states. Converting hydrocarbons to electricity releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
It also excludes nuclear power, which doesn't emit carbon and accounts for about 11 percent of California's electricity, but does have an unresolved waste disposal problem.
The more curious exclusion, however, is large-scale hydroelectric power – generators, usually connected to dams, that use falling water to spin turbines.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/05/21/4504286/dan-walters-shouldnt-hydro-count.htmlShare This Post
May 18, 2012 Elizabeth McCarthy
Original source: http://www.cacurrent.com/storyDisplay.php?sid=6123
Pacific Gas & Electric’s third try to get the Oakley power plant built is viewed by independent generators as a curse.
The utility continues to pursue putting into its ratebase the project, which PG&E is to own after construction, although twice before it was shot down. The California Public Utilities Commission first rejected it, then later approved it. A Court of Appeals later invalidated regulators’ controversial approval.
“PG&E’s unflagging efforts to secure the commission’s approval of the Oakley project bring these concerns about favoritism and preferential treatment to the fore once again,” states the Independent Energy Producers Association in a May 10 protest to the CPUC.
“It seems highly unlikely to IEP that PG&E would undertake such extraordinary efforts to seek approval of a power purchase agreement with an independent power producer,” the generators’ protest added.
PG&E maintains the fossil-fueled facility would be efficient and provide ancillary services for the state’s renewable energy requirement, as well as baseload energy.Share This Post
Easier for small scale projects to count toward utility resource adequacy requirements
May 17, 2012 12:35 PM Eastern Daylight Time
FOLSOM, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Commercial rooftop solar arrays and other small scale generation will find it easier to connect directly to local electricity grids. The California Independent System Operator Corporation (ISO) Board of Governors today voted to streamline the process for interconnecting distributed generation, which includes renewable projects.
“The new approach will align ISO policy with the state’s goal to accelerate distributed generation – smaller scale resources connected to utility distribution systems and located close to customers”
The ISO will annually publish information showing quantities of potential distributed generation at various grid locations. The assessment will be used by load-serving entities, resource developers and local regulatory authorities in negotiating renewable energy contracts and developing projects.
“The new approach will align ISO policy with the state’s goal to accelerate distributed generation – smaller scale resources connected to utility distribution systems and located close to customers,” said ISO Board Chair Bob Foster. “This results in a diversified power mix, a key element of transitioning to a greener and more sustainable electricity future.”
To read the entire article go to: http://www.businesswire.com/news/sacbee/20120517006112/enShare This Post
Bruce Henderson | Charlotte Observer
last updated: May 18, 2012 10:24:22 AM Posted on Fri, May. 18, 2012
Apple won state approval Thursday for a 20-megawatt solar farm, the biggest proposed in North Carolina, near its data center in Maiden.
No complaints were filed and the project passed muster under environmental standards, the N.C. Utilities Commission said in approving the certificate of public necessity and convenience. Maiden is about 40 miles northwest of Charlotte.
Apple will sell the electricity to Duke Energy.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/05/18/149279/apple-plans-solar-farm-near-north.htmlShare This Post
Apple is cleaning up its energy act.
The computer company says that by early next year, the energy used to power its worldwide data centers will all come from renewable sources, such as solar, wind power, or hydroelectric dams. It announced the news Thursday in a post on its website.
That’s a victory for the environmental activists at Greenpeace, who have been pressuring Apple for more than a year to clean up its act and commit to renewable energy.
A major sticking point has been Apple’s Maiden, N.C., facility, which is on the inexpensive but partially coal-powered Duke Energy grid. Apple had already started building a 100-acre solar array and a biogas energy plant on the site, but was still using Duke for a large chunk of the power at the 500,000-square-foot data center.
Now, the company says it will instead use local power providers who use renewable energy: “By the end of 2012, we’ll meet the energy needs of our Maiden, North Carolina, data center using entirely renewable sources.”Share This Post
By Paula King
For the Contra Costa Times
Posted: 05/22/2012 05:52:37 AM PDT
Updated: 05/22/2012 05:53:50 AM PDT
Retired PG&E worker Spencer Brown was at first a bit skeptical about SheaXero, the "no-electric bill" homes now under construction by Shea Homes at the Trilogy retirement resort communities in Brentwood and Rio Vista.
Brown and his wife, Effie, live in a Trilogy home in Rio Vista and recently decided to upgrade to a Shea solar-powered home that promises to produce as much electricity as it uses. Brown said that some SheaXero homeowners whom he has talked with pay a few cents annually for their electric bills.
"We enjoy our home now, but we thought that we would step up to solar in the same community," he said. "It is cost-effective and it pays for itself."
Available since March, SheaXero is now a standard offered in all of Shea's active-lifestyle communities. So far, Shea has sold 16 such homes in Brentwood, but because the program depends on state solar rebates for builders, the homes will be available for a limited time, said Dan O'Brien, Shea's Northern California area president.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_20676697/developer-offers-no-electric-bill-homes-brentwood-and?source=rssShare This Post