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U.S. Natural Gas Rises As America’s CO2 Emissions Drop

FEB 4, 2016 @ 06:00 AM 223 VIEWS


I write about nuclear, energy and the environment

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

As much as fossil fuel alternatives are increasing, natural gas is increasing more. And will continue to grow faster than all other sources in the United States and Europe.

This may be a double-edged sword.

On the plus side:

- natural gas is cheap. The figure below shows the slow anticipated price increase over the next two decades, barely a dollar per million British Thermal Units (MMBtu) over that time

- the carbon emissions are half those of coal (fugitive emissions notwithstanding)

- it is a lot cleaner than coal in those nasty metal, particulate, sulfur, non-CO2 ways

- outages are rare and most gas systems work when the electricity is out

- gas appliances, like dryers and furnaces, generally use less total energy than electric ones

- gas is necessary to back-up most utility-scale renewable sources like wind farms and solar arrays

- the gas industry supports almost 3 million jobs in the U.S.

- we have lots and lots of domestic natural gas, more than anyone in the world, and enough for several hundred years.


The cost of natural gas in the United States should stay low, below $4/MMBtu, for a decade, and below $5/MMBTU for decades. This is on contrast to prices that ranged from $4 to $13/MMBTU between 2006 and 2014. Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Richard Meyer American Gas Association

On the minus side:

- gas is still a fossil fuel

- gas can explode

- it requires an extensive network of pipelines

- gas doesn’t do well during a Polar Vortex

- Porter Ranch.

Overall, the pluses really outweigh the minuses, which is why gas is growing so rapidly and America’s power plant of choice is fueled by natural gas.

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Fracking waste more likely to be located in poor communities and neighborhoods of color

By Raven Rakia on 3 Feb 2016

Hydraulic fracturing — using a high-pressure injection of liquid into rock to release natural gas or oil —  involves using a lot of water. Once that process is done, the fracking companies have to put that chemical-heavy wastewater somewhere.

In South Texas’ Eagle Ford — an area that has been transformed by fracking — wastewater storage units are located disproportionately in neighborhoods of color and communities with higher levels of poverty, according to a recent study. Environmental Health News reports:

After the Southwest Workers Union — where [Chavel] Lopez works as the labor coordinator — expressed concern about Eagle Ford fracking waste, [study author Jill] Johnston and colleagues looked at the racial and economic makeup of residents where oil and gas disposal wells were permitted between 2007 and 2014 in the heavily fracked Eagle Ford area of Texas. The Eagle Ford covers 26 counties and has seen explosive growth as improvements in fracking technology opened the previously untappable reserves. Researchers estimated more than 1,000 new wastewater wells have been permitted in the area since 2007.

They found that — after controlling for population density — people in areas that were more than 80 percent minority were twice as likely to live near permitted wastewater wells than areas less than 20 percent minority.

Of the more than 217,000 minorities living less than three miles from a disposal well, 83 percent were Hispanic, according to the study published last month in the American Journal of Public Health.

Wastewater storage poses a threat of contaminating the groundwater. “A lot of people [in the Eagle Ford area] are reliant on groundwater,” Johnston told Environmental Health News. “Putting this all underground is jeopardizing water sources.”

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Fossil Fuel Company Super PAC Gifts Came Before Congress Ended The Oil Export Ban

Chevron and Devon Energy made direct corporate contributions.

02/03/2016 04:05 pm ET

  1. Paul Blumenthal
    Money in Politics Reporter, The Huffington Post



A super PAC run by former aides to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) received large contributions from oil and gas companies as they lobbied Congress to lift the 40 year old oil export ban.

WASHINGTON -- A handful of the biggest oil and gas companies and their CEOs poured millions into a super PAC created to boost the election of Senate Republicans as the industry made a successful lobbying effort to repeal the 40-year-old ban on oil exports.

In the second half of 2015, Senate Leadership Fund received $1 million from Chevron, $1 million from Petrodome Energy, $750,000 from Devon Energy Corporation and $500,000 from Freeport LNG CEO Michael Smith. The super PAC, run by former aides to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also received $50,000 from Occidental Petroleum CEO Stephen Chazen, a frequent donor to Republican candidates and super PACs.

Senate Leadership Fund was created by former McConnell Senate and campaign aide Steven Law after Republicans won control of the Senate in the 2014 elections. During those elections, Law helped McConnell survive a primary campaign and win a general election campaign by running the pro-McConnell Kentuckians for Strong Leadership super PAC and the nonprofit Kentucky Opportunity Coalition. Law is also the head of American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, the super PAC and nonprofit duo co-founded by Karl Rove.

Oil and gas companies had been waging an extensive lobbying campaign pressing Congress to end the ban on oil exports. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was the lead proponent of ending the ban in the Senate. The repeal of the ban was ultimately added to the end-of-year omnibus budget bill in December in exchange for an extension of subsidies for renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

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After Keystone victory, environmentalists pushing Obama on Atlantic drilling

Posted on February 3, 2016 | By Bloomberg

Environmentalists emboldened by President Barack Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline are now trying to convince the administration to close a door it opened last year to allow oil drilling off the Atlantic coast.

Activists on Wednesday delivered 2 million petitions to the White House opposing the proposed sale of drilling rights from Virginia to South Carolina. More than 100 cities and counties across the East Coast have passed resolutions opposing oil exploration and related activities off their coasts and environmentalists have enlisted at least 100 members of Congress.

The action comes as the Interior Department works on a plan to govern offshore oil lease sales from mid-2017 to mid-2022. An initial draft, published last January, penciled in one sale of south Atlantic acreage, along with three auctions of oil leases near Alaska and 10 in the Gulf of Mexico. That draft foreclosed auctions of territory along the West Coast and in the north and mid-Atlantic, from Maryland to Maine.

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To Remake the Electricity Sector, New York Needs a Partner


The state is looking for an organization to help build a distributed energy marketplace.

by Katherine Tweed

February 04, 2016

If New York’s plan to overhaul its energy market is ever going to materialize, the state will need every stakeholder to get involved.

One of the most crucial tasks will be running the platform to connect customers, third-party energy providers and utilities. And now the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is looking for a partner to run that platform, called REV Connect.

New York's Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) is an ambitious attempt to turn utilities into "distributed system platform providers" that will enable more distributed generation and demand flexibility.

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Legislators want to overhaul California utilities regulator

FEBRUARY 3, 2016 12:02 PM

Constitutional amendment would restructure embattled regulator’s governance

Panel under fire for gas leak, nuclear plant closing


Saying California’s utilities regulator has failed, lawmakers are seeking a constitutional amendment that would allow them to dismantle and rebuild the embattled California Public Utilities Commission.

“Everybody recognizes the system is broken,” said Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles. “I’m proposing that we hit the reset button.”

The commission, which is responsible for overseeing areas that include California’s sprawling energy infrastructure, telecommunication and transportation, has been a regular target for lawmakers as a string of scandals have raised questions about the regulator’s effectiveness.

A prolonged methane leak in Aliso Canyon has led to charges against a Southern California utility company and offered the latest cause for criticism of the PUC’s oversight. The commission faced heavy scrutiny after a deadly gas-line explosion in San Bruno in 2010, producing an investigation of inappropriate communications, and clashed with lawmakers over the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

“There’s not one part of the state that hasn’t been affected,” Gatto said.

The PUC’s authority derives from language in the state constitution, giving the regulator a measure of autonomy.

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Lawmaker calls for breakup of state’s utility regulator

By Jaxon Van Derbeken Updated 5:47 pm, Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Frustrated by recent disasters blamed on lax regulatory oversight, a key state legislator called Wednesday for the breakup of the state’s embattled Public Utilities Commission as “too big to succeed.”

Mike Gatto, D-Glendale (Los Angeles County), the newly appointed chairman of the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee, said, “It is time to hit the reset button” and fix the state’s “broken” regulatory system.

If approved by two-thirds of both the Senate and the Assembly, the Public Utilities Reform Act would head to the ballot and voters would decide whether to force the commission’s breakup by July 2018. The agency would either be broken up entirely or reconstituted under the plan.

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Chairman calls for breakdown of CPUC

Gatto's proposal would require voter approval

By Jeff McDonald | 3:12 p.m. Feb. 3, 2016

Assemblyman Mike Gatto is suggesting a disbanding of the California Public Utilities Commission over its handling of a pipeline blast in San Bruno, nuclear plant failure in San Diego County and gas leak north of Los Angeles. (AP File/Rich Pedroncelli)

  1. 5

The California Public Utilities Commission would be broken apart with many of its duties distributed to other state agencies, under a voter initiative proposed Wednesday by the new chairman of the state Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce.

The agency has been under fire from critics and under investigation by state and federal authorities for its alleged coziness with the private utility monopolies it is supposed to oversee.



Proposed utilities reform act

Download .PDF

The move, announced at a Sacramento news conference by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, would place an initiative before voters as soon as November that would remove the commission’s regulatory authority from the California Constitution, effective July 1, 2018.

Responsibility for oversight of for-profit utilities and other companies regulated by the commission would be transferred at the legislature’s discretion to other departments or a successor agency.

Gatto said the changes are needed due to the commission’s mishandling of the San Onofre nuclear plant closure in 2012 and a deadly pipeline explosion in San Bruno in 2010. He also referenced the ongoing natural gas leak in the Aliso Canyon section of Los Angeles County.

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Lawmakers Propose Stripping Power From CPUC


Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), listens during an interview in San Francisco on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015. (Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

By Marisa Lagos

FEBRUARY 3, 2016

A trio of lawmakers proposed the most far-reaching reform of the embattled California Public Utilities Commission to date, rolling out legislation Wednesday that would ask voters to strip the agency’s constitutional authority and allow the Legislature to redistribute its power to other state agencies.

The constitutional amendment, which two-thirds of the Legislature would have to support in order for it to be placed before voters in November, comes as natural gas continues to spew from the Los Angeles County suburb of Porter Ranch.

And, as lead author Assemblyman Mike Gatto said, questions are being raised over whether the CPUC could have prevented the natural gas storage well leak in the first place.

“The people of the state of California are deeply concerned with the CPUC’s failures in recent years — you have people in the Bay Area, justifiably concerned about a pipeline explosion; you have folks in Orange County worried about nuclear waste; Sacramento and the Central Valley is on edge about rail safety, specifically oil trains; and of course Los Angeles is deeply concerned after a gas leak,” said Gatto, D-Los Angeles, chair of the Assembly’s Utilities and Commerce Committee.

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Aliso Canyon gas leak prompts new proposed state regulations


February 3, 2016, 4:19 p.m.

The natural gas leak in Aliso Canyon continues to reverberate in Sacramento, where air pollution officials are proposing new rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas facilities.

The state Air Resources Board is considering rules establishing new monitoring requirements for natural gas storage sites, quarterly inspections for leaks and needed repairs and a prohibition on venting and flaring.

The rules revision has been underway since 2014, though it has received renewed attention after the Southern California Gas Co. well began leaking near Porter Ranch. The well has released 80,000 metric tons of methane since Oct. 23, and the amount continues to grow.

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PG&E’s eco-friendly offer: Pay more, and we’ll green the grid

By David R. Baker

February 3, 2016

  1. pastedGraphic.pdf

Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

SunPower's west coast operations leader Lance Long walks past a row of solar panels at the California Valley Solar Farm near Santa Margarita, Calif., in San Luis Obispo County, on Fri. August 28, 2015.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers who want to go solar but can’t — perhaps because they live in an apartment or under a heavily shaded roof — can now buy sun power straight from the utility.

With PG&E’s new Solar Choice program, the utility’s customers can pay extra to get either half or all their electricity from solar facilities. For a household using 500 kilowatt hours of electricity per month, picking the 100 percent option would boost monthly bills by $18.

Of course, electrons from solar panels, wind farms, hydroelectric dams and conventional power plants all mix freely on the grid, making it impossible to tell precisely where any of them come from.

But PG&E will buy electricity from solar facilities to cover the needs of customers who enroll in the voluntary program.

That electricity will be present somewhere on the grid, even if it doesn’t flow straight to a Solar Choice customer’s wall socket.

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A Solar Installer in Hawaii on Storage Hype and Getting to 100% Renewables

Marco Mangelsdorf, a veteran solar installer on the islands, does not view energy storage as a near-term savior for the Hawaiian PV industry.

by Eric Wesoff

February 03, 2016

Getting Hawaii to 100 percent renewables and other topics.

"Oahu is the biggest market in the state, and it's very interesting to see the ups and downs on what's been known as the 'solar coaster.' We've hit our peak already, as you can see, in 2012, went down in 2013, went down again in 2014 and went back up last year by approximately 15 percent, so there's been one heck of ride for people in my business."


Maps of the island grid from HECO show "darker colors are representative of those circuits which have the highest penetration of rooftop solar," said Mangelsdorf, adding that Hawaii is "reaching levels of PV penetration that are unprecedented, and unprecedented for any other part of the United States."

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A Look at the Biggest Energy Storage Projects Built Around the World in the Last Year


Photo Credit: AES Energy Storage

And if current activity is any indication, 2016 will be an even bigger year than last.

by Mike Stone

February 03, 2016


Last year will likely be remembered as the year that energy storage got serious. While projects of all sizes were installed in record numbers, distributed storage received outsized attention -- particularly in the U.S.

But what of the larger grid-scale projects?

We thought it would be helpful to round up some of the biggest energy storage projects that went live last year around the world.

Starting off our round-the-world tour in Europe, two big battery projects were tied for the top spot in 2015. In September, developer Energiequelle opened a 10-megawatt utility-scale energy storage plant at Feldheim in Brandenburg state, Germany. The lithium-ion installation at the Regional Regulating Power Station has been designed to provide frequency regulation services and help integrate more wind power into the grid.

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How Free Electricity Helped Dig $9 Billion Hole in Puerto Rico




A stadium in San Juan, P.R., where free electricity from the island’s power authority lights up baseball games at night.


Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The New York Times

AGUADILLA, P.R. — To understand how Puerto Rico’s power authority has piled up $9 billion in debt, one need only visit this bustling city on the northwest coast.

Twenty years ago, it was just another town with dwindling finances. Then, it went on a development spree, thanks to a generous —some might say ill-considered — gift from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

Today, Aguadilla has 19 city-owned restaurants and a city-owned hotel, a water park billed as biggest in the Caribbean, a minor-league baseball stadium bathed in floodlights and a waterfront studded with dancing fountains and glimmering streetlights.

Most striking is the ice-skating rink. Unusual in a region where the temperature rarely drops below 70 degrees, the rink is complete with a disco ball and laser lights.

Signs warn skaters not to wear shorts.

“Imagine how much it costs to have an ice-skating rink in the tropics,” said Sergio Marxuach, policy director at the Center for a New Economy, a nonpartisan research group in San Juan.

And that is the catch. What most likely would be the biggest recurring expense for these attractions — electricity — costs Aguadilla nothing. It has been provided free for years by the power authority, known as Prepa.

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Renewable energy forecast to grow 9 percent in 2016

Posted on February 2, 2016 | By James Osborne

The  surge in renewable energy in the United States will continue for another year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a report Tuesday.

The government forecasts growth in wind, solar, and hydroelectric power will push generation from renewable sources up 9 percent in 2016.

On a percentage basis the largest gains are expected to come in solar energy, which is anticipated to grow 28 percent. Generation from wind turbines is anticipated to increase 16 percent.

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