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Price of Crude Oil Tumbles After Soaring for 3 Days


HOUSTON — After three days of spiking oil prices, a barrel of crude tumbled back nearly 8 percent on Tuesday, renewing despair in the oil patch. At the same time, ConocoPhillips announced it was cutting its global work force by 10 percent.

The two events were not directly linked, but they combined to reinforce the widespread notion around the oil fields and corporate headquarters in cities like Houston and Oklahoma City that the declining fortunes of the industry will not reverse anytime soon.

“Our industry is undergoing a dramatic downturn,” Daren Beaudo, a ConocoPhillips spokesman, said in an email statement. “As we have assessed the implications of lower prices on our business, we’ve made the difficult decision that work force reductions will be necessary.”

The company will cut 1,800 employees, most of them in North America. More than 500 of ConocoPhillips’s 3,750 employees in Houston, the company’s base, will be cut, and another 400 will lose their jobs in Canada. The company had already cut 1,000 jobs this year.

The job cuts are part of a general restructuring that includes reductions in future deepwater exploration.

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Feds doling out millions to boost rail safety along heavy oil routes

Posted on September 2, 2015 | By Jennifer A. Dlouhy

WASHINGTON — The United States is doling out $10 million to help states upgrade highway-rail crossings and tracks that are seeing a surge in traffic involving flammable oil and ethanol cargoes.

The Federal Railroad Administration announced the grants Wednesday, amid mounting concern that more needs to be done to boost the safety of moving oil by rail. A series of fiery derailments involving tank cars carrying hazardous oil and ethanol has drawn attention to the rapid climb in oil-by-rail traffic, as trains heave crude to refineries and ports.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the grants would “support innovative ideas and solutions developed at the local level.”

The Transportation Department has already imposed tough new standards for rail cars transporting crude and ethanol.

But some analysts say more resilient tank cars only solve part of the problem — and more needs to be done to keep trains on the tracks.

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Opinion: Transit is key to both climate change and transportation


Legislature is debating carbon reduction and road construction too separately

Better transit service can reduce global warming and keep cars off the roads


Rep. Doris Matsui, center, is greeted by confetti and a marching band at Regional Transit’s new Blue Line extension at Cosumnes River College on Aug. 24. Randy Pench


Special to The Bee

Jeanie Ward-Waller is policy director of the California Bicycle Coalition. Chanell Fletcher is senior California policy manager for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

We are in the midst of a record drought and wildfire season that scientists tell us is one of the effects of climate change. We clearly cannot continue business as usual, yet two deeply intertwined debates are underway in their usual separate silos in the Legislature.

Gov. Jerry Brown is pushing even more ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions by increasing renewable energy production, improving energy efficiency of buildings and cutting petroleum use in half by 2030. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León aims to write those goals into law with Senate Bill 350.

Brown also convened a special session on our decrepit transportation infrastructure. Legislators have introduced a range of proposals, including raising the gas tax. But the focus of discussion on how to spend the money has been on filling potholes and adding new highway lanes to move more trucks.

We’re part of a coalition that called Tuesday for the Legislature to pass two bills that would provide $600 million a year in critical funding for public transit. We are pushing for investment to make it safer and easier to walk and bicycle to transit. The hard truth is we can’t tackle climate change without dealing with transportation.

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European regulators approve Shell-BG Group deal

Posted on September 2, 2015 | By Collin Eaton

    HOUSTON – Royal Dutch Shell on Wednesday got closer to completing its nearly $70 billion acquisition of BG Group after the European Commission cleared the purchase in an antitrust review.

    European antitrust regulators said Wednesday the the deal doesn’t raise concerns about market competition because it “would not lead to Shell benefiting form market power in a number of markets, namely oil and gas exploration, the liquefaction of gas and the wholesale supply of liquefied natural gas.”

    Shell, based in The Hague with its main U.S. offices in Houston, wouldn’t be able to box rivals in European LNG markets or in gas markets in the North Sea. It faces strong competition in its oil exploration and LNG businesses, so it wouldn’t be able to control product prices in its various regions, the European Commission said.

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    Former Fukushima Worker Sues TEPCO Over Cancer

    William Pentland ,CONTRIBUTOR

    I write about energy and environmental issues.

    Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

    A 57-year-old man is suing the Tokyo Electric Power alleging that he developed cancer as a result of exposure to radiation at the Fukushima nuclear reactor in 2011.

    The lawsuit, which was filed in the District Court of Sapporo, is seeking about half a million dollars in damages from TEPCO and Taisei Corp., one of the contractors hired by the utility to deal with the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

    In March 2011, multiple reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant spiraled out of control after a 42-foot tsunami overwhelmed the plant’s sea walls, rendering the vital systems used to cool the plant’s six reactors inoperable. Ultimately, fuel meltdowns occurred at three reactors, releasing vast amounts of radioactive matter and resulting in the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.


    The lawsuit is the first to allege a direct causal link between the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima reactors and cancer.

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    India Could Be a Major Draw for International Solar Manufacturers

    JA Solar’s recent capacity announcement hints at the possibility.

    Mohit Anand
    September 1, 2015

    According to Bloomberg, JA Solar plans to start construction on a 500-megawatt solar cell manufacturing facility in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh in partnership with Essel Infraprojects. The cell-manufacturing facility will likely be followed by a 500-megawatt module plant later next year. While doubts remain on the progress of these manufacturing plans, the move is a noteworthy signal of the increasing viability of setting up Indian solar manufacturing for leading international PV suppliers.

    According to GTM Research’s estimates, cell-manufacturing capacity in India currently stands at close to 0.9 gigawatts, with module-manufacturing capacity at 2.1 gigawatts. This is despite India expecting to become an annual 3.3-gigawatt-demand market in 2016, with a cumulative 100-gigawatt ambition for 2022 put forth by the Indian government (though, by some estimates, actual installation numbers by around then might not exceed a cumulative 31 gigawatts).

    With the significant expected demand, a domestic content requirement of at least 5 gigawatts under the National Solar Mission, and the Indian market’s reliance predominantly on cell and module imports from China, the case for sizable Indian solar manufacturing is very strong.

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    Iceland turned an old coal plant into a haven for artists and entrepreneurs

    By Scott Shigeoka on 1 Sep 2015

    Incongruously placed at the center of the Elliðaárdalur valley in Reykjavík, Iceland, is a large, gloomy structure tucked between a crowding of trees along the banks of the Elliðaár River. I’m waiting by the building’s brick-lined door, under a large red sign with its name emblazoned across it — TOPPSTÖÐIN — when a tall, spectacled man glides up to me on his bicycle.

    Upon meeting Andri Snær Magnason, writer, activist, and co-founder of Toppstöðin, one quickly gets the impression that he could talk anyone into embarking on an adventure with him. (His ideal excursion, as he later tells me, is cycling 280 miles along Iceland’s southern coast with his family.) His gift for persuading people to tackle big challenges bleeds into his professional life, too: He’s arguably the father of the modern Icelandic environmental movement.

    Toppstöðin — Magnason’s pet project since 2008 — is a decommissioned coal plant turned equal parts co-working space and artists’ haven, and has become a model for how communities can re-purpose old power plants in a post-fossil fuel economy. Built by the teamwork of an eclectic group of activists, entrepreneurs, artists, and local government, Toppstöðin provides a glimpse of the possibilities for Reykjavík’s future.


    Andri Snær Magnason, co-founder of Toppstöðin. Scott Shigeoka

    This was the last coal-fired power plant here in Iceland before we removed coal from the grid in the `80s,” Magnason tells me.

    Magnason’s soft-spoken demeanor belies the fact that he’s a gifted storyteller. He can move people with his words and has mobilized grassroots rallies, bringing together tens of thousands of Icelanders. With his book Dreamland: A Self-Help Manual for a Frightened Nation, he brought the conflict between Iceland’s ecology and its economy onto the global stage by exploring corporations’ exploitation of the country’s natural resources. Since its publication, Magnason has spent much of the last decade working on environmental projects in Iceland, alongside influential leaders like singer Björk and the country’s former president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, who was the world’s first democratically elected female head of state.

    “You could say Iceland is the post-coal utopia in some ways,” he adds.

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    Obama Makes Urgent Appeal in Alaska for Climate Change Action


    ANCHORAGE — President Obama on Monday issued a global call for urgent action to address climate change, declaring that the United States was partly to blame for what he called the defining challenge of the century and would rally the world to counter it.

    “Climate change is no longer some far-off problem; it is happening here, it is happening now,” Mr. Obama said here at an international conference on the Arctic. “We’re not acting fast enough. I have come here today, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second-largest emitter, to say that the United States recognizes our role in creating the problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it.”

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    U.S. Military Is Saving Lives By Allying With Clean Energy Developers

    SEP 1, 2015 @ 5:05 AM

    Ken Silverstein ,CONTRIBUTOR

    I write about the global energy business.

    Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

    The New Energy Economy is boasting an old ally — the U.S. military, which is increasingly employing renewable energies and high technologies. With the U.S. armed forces moving in, the question then becomes how such a market place will unfold and who will be the major players in it.

    The U.S. Department of Defense is modernizing its military bases both domestically and around the world because it is saving lives, and money. Because it must remain on its toes, the military is continually moving generators and fossil fuels — resources that can run low and endanger the well-being of existing operations. By carrying sustainable sources of power with them, soldiers are reducing their risks while also cutting their emissions.

    “When we think about power, we can’t have a short power interruption or a cyber hack,” says Mark Russell, vice president for technology at defense contractor Raytheon RTN -1.96% Co., in an interview. “We need to be able to operate off the grid.”

    How so? Instead of generators and lots of fossil fuels, the Defense Department is relying increasingly on things like solar panels, battery storage and microgrids that deliver the power to enclosed campuses. Raytheon engineers the concepts and writes the software that “glues it all together.”



    A German national flag flies beside an installation of transportable solar panels at the entrance to a Capable Logistician (CL15) field training exercise by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) using Smart Energy solutions in Varpalota, Hungary, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Defense companies including Thales SA and Multicon Solar AG will join NATO to test the military’s ability to use renewable power in combat and humanitarian operations. Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

    Consider the Marine Corps Air Station near San Diego that is using a microgrid that was developed in part with Raytheon technology, in conjunction with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory: Solar panels are creating the electricity, which is being harnessed by a battery storage system built by Primus Power. The end result, says Russell, is a reliable, continuous flow of power.

    Tesla Tees Up To Mass Produce Energy Storage For Green-Centric Utilities

    With Reliability And Security At Stake, Microgrids Are Going Mainstream

    Want More Wind And Solar Energy? Invest A Lot More In The Grid

    Altogether, the Defense Department has set a lofty goal for itself to consume 3,000 megawatts from renewable sources by 2025. Getting there is an imperative, given that it is now spending $4 billion annually to power its current installations and operations, says Russell. The major costs are the logistics associated with moving the generators and fuels — items that could eventually be displaced with 21st Century technologies.

    “The goal is to make renewable energy smooth and manageable,” or not to have interruptions in service when the weather is disagreeable, says Russell. “If we can perfect this using a microgrid with energy storage, it could change how the military — and how commercial businesses — operate.”

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    Democrats Have Lots of Ideas on Spending Cap and Trade Cash


    Senate Leader Kevin DeLeon says cap and trade money can't be spent on highways. (Max Whittaker/KQED)

    By Marisa Lagos

    SEPTEMBER 1, 2015

    Having money to spend isn’t exactly a problem in Sacramento. But when there’s cash, there are competing priorities — as evidenced by the 2015 battle over where to spend cash from California’s growing cap and trade fund.

    At issue is more than $2 billion in revenue already raised from cap and trade auctions, money paid by California companies for credits to offset their greenhouse gas emissions.

    Legislative Democrats agree the money needs to be spent in ways that those emissions, but they have different ideas on what the best projects would look like. And it appears likely that whittling down their list of ideas before the legislative session ends on September 11 will take some serious negotiations.

    Gov. Jerry Brown included a list of priorities in his May budget proposal, including spending money on energy efficiency upgrades to private and public buildings; handing out rebates for water-saving appliances; restoring wetlands and watersheds; and increasing waste diversion.

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    Another View: Proposition 39 is working in California’s schools

    AUGUST 31, 2015

    Students are benefiting from air conditioning and more efficient lighting

    Some projects will take more time and planning for completion

    Proposition 39 is an eight-year program, so it’s too early to make judgments


    Proposition 39 co-chairman Tom Steyer, at podium, addresses students last October at John Marshall High School in Los Angeles, which was approved for $1.8 million in Prop. 39 funds for energy projects. Damian Dovarganes Associated Press file


    Special to The Bee

    Andrew McAllister is a member of the California Energy Commission.

    As kids and parents hear school bells ring this fall, they’ll notice some big changes in California’s classrooms: air conditioning that works; new lighting that saves energy; windows and shades that help keep classrooms warm in the winter and cool in the summer; and solar panels on school facilities.

    All of this was made possible by California voters, who approved Proposition 39 in 2012. The measure closed a tax loophole that existed in no other state and had rewarded businesses for moving jobs out of state. Now those tax dollars are being invested in our children, our schools and our environment.

    While some, including The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board, have questioned its results so far (“Trust is in short supply as promises of Prop. 39 fall flat,” Aug. 18), $2.35 billion in new funding has been recaptured in less than three years and is being redirected to California schools.

    For many of the schools, these are the first energy improvement projects in years. The upgrades will make it easier and safer for students to learn, and over time they will save school districts millions of dollars on energy bills.

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    Climate change bills would add costly burden to business

    AUGUST 31, 2015

    Small firms are already struggling to comply with 2006 law

    Rushing into more regulations would cost jobs and increase expenses


    Special to The Bee

    Much to the dismay of small business owners across the state, the authors of two major pieces of climate change legislation refuse to take responsibility for the massive cost increases should their bills become law.

    Senate Bill 32 would extend AB 32 (the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) by another 30 years and stack the more aggressive carbon reduction goal of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

    Small businesses are already grappling with how to comply with AB 32, cap and trade and stricter regulations without cutting jobs, services, or simply closing their doors.

    Sadly, SB 32 only compounds these challenges for the average small business by increasing these requirements – all with no clear direction as to how those operators and owners can meet those goals without severe adverse fallout for the business and its employees.

    Although the intent may not be to harm small business or the economy, the reality is that rushing into implementing this vast expansion of AB 32 would be devastating to everyone in California.

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    California should take next steps on climate change

    AUGUST 31, 2015

    More ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets are needed

    Bills would reassure and encourage clean energy businesses



    Special to The Bee

    California did the right thing in 2006 when it passed the Global Warming Solutions Act, also known as AB 32. Since 2006, the state has reduced harmful air pollution, attracted billions of dollars in investment and helped spawn the creation of thousands of new advanced energy businesses and jobs.

    AB 32, along with several complementary policies, has set clear goals to reduce greenhouse gases through 2020. This created a stable investment environment for businesses. California now has the nation’s largest advanced energy industry, with more than 430,000 workers. What’s more, Next10 projects that a more ambitious greenhouse gas reduction target will create 1 million jobs and a 6 percent increase in gross state product by 2030.

    However, we are now at a critical point. While California has a clear path through 2020, to truly address our environmental and public health challenges and maximize the economic opportunity before us, we must plan for the long term. Passing targets for the year 2050 through Senate Bill 32 would provide the long-term certainty businesses need and would affirm the state’s commitment to clean, sustainable economic growth.

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    Michigan Tea Party Lawmaker: ‘We Should Be Incentivizing Solar as Much as Possible’

    Michigan’s solar industry pulls in a strong conservative ally.

    Andy Balaskovitz, Midwest Energy News
    August 31, 2015

    A Michigan lawmaker more widely known for his highly conservative positions on social issues may be an unlikely ally for those pushing for more clean energy here.

    State Rep. Gary Glenn, a first-term tea party Republican who also heads the state chapter of the American Family Association, says he wants to incentivize -- “not mandate” -- solar energy growth in the state.

    In an interview with Midwest Energy News, Glenn said he is preparing to release an energy package next month that would encourage distributed generation and allow ratepayers to buy renewable energy from alternative suppliers.

    Glenn is the majority vice chair of the House Energy Policy Committee, which observers say has taken a strong interest in energy issues this session.

    Glenn aims to lift the current 1 percent cap on net metering for solar projects, the opposite direction Senate Republicans are headed. He also wants to restructure the 10 percent limit on customers who can participate in Retail Open Access that would allow customers to choose an alternative energy supplier if it is for renewable energy.

    Major utilities DTE Energy and Consumers Energy are fighting against both current policies, looking to eliminate net metering and electric choice.

    Glenn says his overall goal is to promote clean-energy growth.

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    AEP Invests $5M in Greensmith to Grow Grid-Scale Energy Storage


    Part of a $12.3 million round for the fast-growing energy storage software platform

    Eric Wesoff, Jeff St. John
    August 31, 2015

    Privately held Greensmith, a provider of software for grid-scale energy storage, just closed an "oversubscribed" $12.3 million round of funding with help from venture investors and $5 million from utility behemoth AEP. That brings Greensmith's investment total to about $20 million.

    GTM Research's Senior Storage Analyst Ravi Manghani notes, " This marks a shift in AEP's energy storage strategy. It's also the first major storage activity at AEP since the community energy storage (CES) pilots in Ohio. AEP was one of the first utilities to explore energy storage in the mid-2000s. Its strategy was focused on CES deployed closer to load centers that would provide AEP several grid and local benefits. Greensmith offers AEP an actionable path to monetize the various distribution-level benefits using its software platform. In that sense, it will be interesting to see if it continues to pursue 100-kilowatt scale CES projects with Greensmith's technology platform, or move further upstream with megawatt-scale projects."

    Although Greensmith is a software vendor (and that's why the scale of funding is not out of control), it has been pulled by the market to deliver turnkey energy storage hardware solutions as well. (Sunverge has followed this same path in residential energy storage.)

    In addition to AEP and another undisclosed strategic, Greensmith has received funding from VC firms Cota Capital and Maryland's own TDF Ventures. CEO John Jung told GTM this afternoon, "We don't need a lot of capital."

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