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July 11th, 2012 Archives
By Morgan Lee
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
In a probe reminiscent of California's energy crisis, federal energy regulators are investigating whether JPMorgan Chase & Co. may have gamed electricity markets here and in the Midwest.
A federal judge in Washington D.C. has given JPMorgan until Friday to explain why the bank should not turn over 25 internal emails to energy market regulators probing the possible manipulation of wholesale electricity markets, including California's.
The investigation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission involves several bidding techniques that may have extracted inflated payments at above-market prices.
The stakes appear lower than manipulations that drove up California energy prices and triggered rolling outages in 2000 and 2001, an "energy crisis" tied closely to deregulation.
In its investigation of JPMorgan, the energy commission cites $73 million in overpayments by grid operators in California and the Midwest. The transmission operator for San Diego County and most of California calculates overpayments of $57 million between August 2010 and February 2011 due to suspect bidding practices that were reported to federal officials.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/jul/11/gaming-of-energy-markets/Share This Post
RALEIGH, N.C.—Jim Rogers, the chief executive of Duke Energy Corp., told state regulators he didn't orchestrate the boardroom drama that unfolded last week when Duke's directors abruptly removed Bill Johnson, the company's newly installed chief executive, and restored Mr. Rogers to the top executive spot.
The board's action came only hours after Duke completed a $26 billion merger with Progress Energy Inc., which Mr. Johnson had headed, surprising investors, regulators and employees.
Testifying under oath before the North Carolina Utilities Commission, Mr. Rogers said the board of the combined company found Mr. Johnson's management style autocratic and didn't think it "was appropriate or transferrable to leadership of the combined company."
While Charlotte-based Duke, the larger utility, tried to approach the deal as a merger of equals, Mr. Rogers said, "It became clear that Progress viewed this as a takeover of Duke," and deep cultural differences between the two companies concerned Duke's board.
The board was also worried about disappointing earnings at Raleigh-based Progress, he said, and the poor performance of some company nuclear plants.
To read the entire article go to: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303567704577519013679855528.html?mod=WSJ_Energy_leftHeadlinesShare This Post
By Bill Scher 5 Jul 2012 3:34 PM
Original source: http://grist.org/politics/how-environmentalists-win/
Recently The New York Times published my op-ed “How Liberals Win,” in which I argued that throughout American history, liberal advancements have been mainly achieved with corporate support, and not without. For example, FDR needed corporations to establish basic workplace standards. LBJ needed them to spark a wave of environmental regulation. And Obama needed them to win health care, stimulus, Wall Street reform, higher fuel-efficiency standards, and stronger food-safety rules.
But as you surely know, I was not able to include a cap on carbon emissions on that list. And it might look at first glance that the failure of “cap-and-trade” legislation, which had a multitude of corporate compromises that made environmentalists cringe to varying degrees, debunks my case.
Soon after the bill was left for dead in the Senate, 350.org’s Bill McKibben declared, “So now we know what we didn’t before: making nice doesn’t work. It was worth a try, and I’m completely serious when I say I’m grateful they made the effort, but it didn’t even come close to working. So we better try something else … we’re going to need a movement, the one thing we haven’t had.”Share This Post
Q. Subsidies are in the news. Greens are going after oil subsidies, Republicans (and some Democrats) in Congress are going after clean energy subsidies. Are subsidies worth the ideological battle?
A. The issue of subsidies is really, really important, but it needs to be properly thought through. There’s this stuff going on in the U.S. now over $4 billion in subsidies to oil and gas, yet oil and gas is also a huge producer of tax revenue around the world, particularly in Europe, where taxes on oil and gas are much higher. On the enviro left, you have people focusing on one tax break without looking at the big picture of what oil and gas does to an economy. Cheap oil and gas is actually quite good in terms of enabling growth and economic activity.
But on the other hand, you have this enormous focus on clean energy subsidies, which are really very small in the grand scheme of things. It’s what we’ve always done. Fracking technology — whether it was horizontal drilling, fracking itself, reservoir mapping — was developed with cash from the DOE. In many cases there were also direct subsidies, as with coal — as there were for television, aviation, and space travel. It’s absolutely disingenuous to say that every major high-tech industry has benefited from explicit or implicit industrial policy, but now we expect this one to achieve those same things without one.
Q. What do you make of the popular notion that government is poor at “picking winners”?
A. When it extends to individual companies, I absolutely agree with that. But on the other hand, the government has a huge role in funding early-stage technology, simply because corporates won’t do it. Nuclear fusion, second-generation bio-based technologies, all that stuff, companies can’t do that. Their shareholders don’t have 10-, 15-, 20-year horizons.
What government should do is pick broad technology directions, solution areas. What they shouldn’t do is then get into the business of picking individual companies. But it’s hard. Say we’re interested in low-energy nuclear reactions — there’s only NASA and MIT and [Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory]. You’ve got to pick somebody to do the work. You do it smartly and with proper review processes.
Part of the militarization of this debate is, you’ve got the Democrats saying, “This is so obviously a good thing to do. It’s so obviously worth diversifying our energy technologies, being more distributed; there’s so many co-benefits, even before you get into the climate discussion. Why won’t Republicans play nice? Why won’t they be bipartisan?”
When Obama came in with the stimulus program, what he did is ring-fence a whole bunch of it for the green stimulus and then dole it out, literally on a company-by-company basis, often to people who were Democratic supporters and sympathizers. Without having to argue corruption, you can just say that what he did is create a client industry. To now turn around and say, oh, this industry exists, and it’s all very well-disposed toward the Democrats, why wouldn’t the Republicans embrace it?Share This Post
By EDWARD WELSCH Updated July 10, 2012, 5:01 p.m. ET
Various safety failures by pipeline company Enbridge Inc. and "weak regulation" by U.S. government officials are to blame for the 2010 spill of 20,000 barrels of oil into Michigan's Kalamazoo River, the lead U.S. transportation regulator said Tuesday.
Poorly trained staff in the Canadian company's control room and mistakes made during the first hours of the response caused oil to flow from an Enbridge pipeline near Marshall, Mich., for 17 hours after the rupture, according to the findings from the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation into the spill. The spill was ultimately detected by a local gas-utility worker.
In the meantime, Enbridge control-room personnel tried to restart the pipeline twice, which caused 80% of the spill volume.
"When we were examining Enbridge's poor handling of their response to this rupture, you can't help but think about the Keystone Kops," NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said at a public review of the board's findings, referring to the fictional team of bungling policemen from the silent-film era.
To read the entire article go to: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303343404577518982687407326.html?mod=WSJ_Energy_leftHeadlinesShare This Post
Gov. John Kasich’s executive order gives state gas and oil chief broad authority over injection wells
Published: Tuesday, July 10, 2012, 7:30 PM
Gov. John Kasich issued an executive order granting the state's oil and gas chief Rick Simmers czar-like authority over injection well permitting.
The order makes it clear that the governor wants the Department of Natural Resources to be more of a watchdog than merely a permit processor for the industry.
Simmers now has the authority to require a bevy of tests before a well is drilled and even after it is operational.
The new rules apply to all injection well applications, even those filed before Tuesday.
Under the order, Simmers can:
• Order seismic testing before an injection well is drilled and seismic monitoring afterward.
• Order an X-ray examination of the bottom of the well bore after it is drilled to look for faults in the bedrock.
An unseen fault in the rock under a Youngstown well late last year has been linked to the more than a dozen small earthquakes there. The state has kept that well off limits ever since the owner voluntarily stopped injecting brine.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2012/07/gov_john_kasichs_executive_ord.htmlShare This Post
James Crisp / AP Images for The Center for Public Integrity
By Chris Hamby
Center for Public Integrity
PRESTONSBURG, Ky. — Ray Marcum bears the marks of a bygone era of coal mining. At 83, his voice is raspy, his eastern Kentucky accent thick and his forearms leathery. A black pouch of Stoker’s 24C chewing tobacco pokes out of the back pocket of his jeans. “I started chewing in the mines to keep the coal dust out of my mouth,” he says.
Plenty of that dust still found its way to his lungs. For the past 30 years, he’s gotten a monthly check to compensate him for the disease that steals his breath — the old bane of miners known as black lung.
In mid-century, when Marcum worked, dust filled the mines largely uncontrolled. Almost half of miners who worked at least 25 years contracted the disease. Amid strikes throughout the West Virginia coalfields, Congress made a promise in 1969: Mining companies would have to keep dust levels down, and black lung would be virtually eradicated.
Marcum doesn’t have to look far to see that hasn’t happened. There’s his middle son, Donald, who skipped his senior year of high school to enter the mines here near the West Virginia border. At 51, he’s had eight pieces of his lungs removed, and he sometimes has trouble making it through a prayer when he’s filling in as a preacher at Solid Rock Baptist Church.
There’s James, the youngest, who passed on college to enter the mines. At 50, his ability to breathe is rapidly declining, and his doctor has already discussed hooking him up to an oxygen tank part-time.
Both began working in the late 1970s — years after dust rules took effect — and both began having symptoms in their 30s. Donald now has the most severe, fastest-progressing form of the disease, known as complicated coal workers’ pneumoconiosis. James and the oldest Marcum son, Thomas, 59, have a simpler form, but James has reached the worst stage and is deteriorating.
To read the entire article go to: http://openchannel.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/07/10/12646127-deadly-black-lung-surges-back-in-coal-country?liteShare This Post
Ken Silverstein | Jul 08, 2012
The quest is on to capture carbon dioxide. And while the notion of separating such releases from other fumes before they escape the smokestack is prevalent in most minds, other ideas are also creeping into the mainstream.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.energybiz.com/article/12/07/quest-capture-carbon&utm_medium=eNL&utm_campaign=EB_DAILY2&utm_term=Original-MemberShare This Post
Light-bulb standards mean you’ll need new fluorescent fixtures, will pay more for halogen spotlights
Published: Monday, July 09, 2012, 6:00 AM Updated: Monday, July 09, 2012, 12:37 PM
By John Funk, The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Two household light bulbs are about to vanish from store shelves.
The commonly used four-foot, 40-watt fluorescent tube hanging over workbenches in millions of basements and garages and still gracing many kitchen ceilings will no longer be manufactured after Saturday. The disappearance of the bulb, once heralded for its ultra-modern technology, is sure to put consumers in a tizzy.
That same day, manufacturers also will stop making the current versions of the common halogen flood and spotlights that illuminate the backyard decks of millions of homes.
In both cases, the old bulbs do not meet new federal energy efficiency standards. And in each case, the industry is ready for the new rules and already has more efficient bulbs on store shelves that will last longer and use less electricity, though they will cost a little more.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2012/07/us_doe_light_bulb_efficiency_s.htmlShare This Post
Derecho hits just as New York regulators issue concerns
Phil Carson | Jul 09, 2012
I've had my ear to the ground regarding any lessons learned from the massive and destructive storms that swept the East ten days ago and I've heard some intriguing lines of thought. These thoughts definitely precede actual lessons learned, as serious analysis will be utility-by-utility and large investor-owned utilities' findings may or may not enter the public record.Share This Post
By DIANE CARDWELL July 11, 2012, 12:27 am
The rollout of smart meters, devices that can record and send reams of information on real-time electricity usage, has been anything but smooth. Customers have complained about inaccurate readings, being promised savings that never materialized, possible health hazards and threats to their privacy. But utilities have soldiered on.
They continue to install millions of the meters, saying that the data they provide helps them manage electrical load, pinpoint or avoid power losses, stabilize the grid and ease the integration of renewable forms of energy into the grid — all of which in theory will save customers money in the long run.
But all that information is more than the utilities can handle, according to a study released on Tuesday by the software company Oracle. Lacking the organizational structure and staff members with the analytical skills needed to handle the deluge of data, 45 percent of utility executives surveyed said they found it hard to get information to the right managers.
To read the entire article go to: http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/11/so-much-data-from-smart-meters-but-who-can-analyze-it/?ref=energy-environmentShare This Post
Published: Saturday, July 07, 2012, 2:00 PM Updated: Sunday, July 08, 2012, 1:32 PM
By Michelle Jarboe McFee, The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A technology that turns ice cream into electricity is marrying a real estate giant with a tiny start-up company - and hinting at waste-to-energy projects that might spread from industrial Collinwood across the Great Lakes states.
By August, an anaerobic digester in the Cleveland neighborhood has a generating capacity of 1.3 million watts. And leftover ice cream, scraped from the pipes at the Pierre's Ice Cream Co.'s headquarters plant in Midtown, is one of its many fuels.
This super-sized mechanical gut uses the same bacteria found in animal intestines to turn food waste into methane. That gas runs a large, clean-burning biogas engine that spins a generator, pumping power into the grid.
The Collinwood digester is the first of several projects born of an unlikely union between Quasar Energy Group and Forest City Enterprises Inc., a publicly traded real estate developer with $10.5 billion in assets across the country. The Northeast Ohio companies see the business potential of turning organic waste, including the byproducts of food production, beverage bottling and brewing, into a commodity that can produce power, heat and fertilizer for farmers' fields.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2012/07/with_waste-to-energy_project_f.htmlShare This Post
Posted: 07/10/2012 04:29:46 PM PDT
Updated: 07/10/2012 05:06:50 PM PDT
MARTINEZ -- Contra Costa County took an official "no" position on the contentious state and federal proposal to siphon Sacramento Delta water into central and Southern California through an underground tunnel.
In a unanimous vote Tuesday, county supervisors rejected the pipeline despite Bay-Delta Conservation Plan leaders' recent signal that they intend to downsize the project.
Contra Costa residents rely heavily on Delta water and have for more than three decades opposed what began as the Peripheral Canal, a massive aboveground water diversion voters statewide rejected in the 1980s.
The latest iteration calls for a tunnel that would carry 15,000 cubic feet of water per second, an amount that would on some days equal the entire flow of the Sacramento River.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_21046851/contra-costa-rejects-latest-iteration-peripheral-canal?source=rssShare This Post
The L.A. utility and the tiny Mammoth Community Water District wrangle for control of the city's primary water source in a costly court battle.
By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times
June 29, 2012
MAMMOTH LAKES — The people of this small High Sierra ski town have survived drought, forest fires and earthquakes. They have endured economic recessions and volcano scares. But nothing in their history prepared them for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
The DWP launched a legal attack six months ago for control of the city's primary source of water, Mammoth Creek, which tumbles down the slopes through town. The utility contends it has owned the water since 1905 and Mammoth Lakes has been poaching for decades.
The tiny Mammoth Community Water District says that if it loses the lawsuits, the district would have to buy water from the DWP. That would force the district to raise average rates to levels many locals cannot afford — increasing them by at least 100%, to about $840 a year, one district official said.
The 7,700 year-round residents are largely working-class employees catering to vacationers who travel 300 miles north from Los Angeles. Forty percent are low-income.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-mammoth-water-20120629,0,5547575.storyShare This Post
By Mike Rosenberg
Posted: 07/10/2012 03:50:05 PM PDT
Updated: 07/10/2012 10:43:15 PM PDT
As California secures the riches needed to start building a high-speed rail line, some longtime bitter foes of the bullet train are beginning to back off -- yet from the courtroom to the boardroom, other opponents are preparing for one last shot at blocking the historic project.
The hoopla over the Legislature's dramatic approval Friday of Gov. Jerry Brown's $8 billion plan to begin building the $69 billion bullet train is now giving way to many less-scintillating challenges remaining before the state can break ground in the Central Valley early next year.
"The legislative aspect is over, we lost that round. So now it's going to be the litigated phase," said state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, who led the charge against the project in the Senate. "I don't think there's a complete 'give-up' view yet out there, but it does look tougher."
To read the entire article go to: http://www.mercurynews.com/california-high-speed-rail/ci_21046596/californias-bullet-train-faces-new-challenges-after-funding?source=rssShare This Post