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18Dec/14Off

Checkmate, Putin. Russia’s economy is stuck in a catch-22.

By Matt O'Brien December 16

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Well, that escalated quickly.

It didn't take long for Russia to go from having a reasonable facsimile of an economy to having none at all. Not when oil prices have fallen 50 percent the past few months. That's because Russia never so much had an economy as an oil-exporting business that subsidized everything else. So now that Russian companies don't have petrodollars to turn into rubles, there's less demand for rubles overall — and its price is falling. A lot.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/12/16/checkmate-putin-russias-economy-is-stuck-in-a-catch-22/

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18Dec/14Off

Oil spill in Israel’s Evrona Nature Reserve is disastrous news for a precious resource

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Crude oil streams through the desert in southern Israel, near the village of Be’er Ora, north of Eilat on Dec. 4, 2014. Millions of liters of crude oil have bubbled up from a broken pipeline to flood 200 acres of a desert nature reserve. (Stringer/Reuters)

By William Booth December 17 at 1:14 PM

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BEER ORA, Israel — Crews swaddled in white biohazard suits have been dunking nozzles into streams of oil, racing to soak up the ooze seeping into the desert valley floor here, two weeks after a major spill threatened one of Israel’s most precious habitats.

Officials are calling it the worst environmental disaster in the nation’s history — a literal blot on a landscape that harbors some of the hardiest known plants and animals, which live in an impossibly difficult environment.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/israeli-oil-spill-is-bad-news-for-a-precious-nature-preserve/2014/12/17/7855e726-7fd7-11e4-9f38-95a187e4c1f7_story.html

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17Dec/14Off

OPEC of the West? North America eyes stronger energy ties


By Jared Gilmour, Staff writer DECEMBER 17, 2014

    WASHINGTON — High-level officials from a handful of influential oil-producing countries met this week to coordinate energy policy and promote market integration.

    No, this wasn’t a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the cartel of petro states that collectively raise or lower production to influence prices. Instead, energy ministers from Canada, the US, and Mexico convened this week to lay out plans for further cooperation on oil and gas, as well as the integration of electric grids and energy data. It was the first such meeting in seven years, and a sign of North America’s growing importance in the oil market.

    Of course, the US, Mexico, and Canada are very different from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and the rest of the countries that make up OPEC. The chances of a formal, price-colluding cartel forming in North America are slim to none. But there’s no doubt that the shifting global energy landscape tips the geopolitical balance away from OPEC. The US is emerging as an energy superpower, and it can look to allies both north and south of its borders for support.

    “It will be tempting for North America to band together to try to counterbalance OPEC,” says Deborah Gordon, director of the energy and climate program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank. Still, Ms. Gordon adds in an email to the Monitor, “North American oil cooperation can only go so far.”

    Plummeting oil prices have created a stand-off between OPEC and US shale producers whose booming crude has pushed down the price of oil. In the last five months oil prices have plunged more than 40 percent. The global benchmark, Brent, was just above $60 a barrel Wednesday.

    To read the entire article go to: http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2014/1217/OPEC-of-the-West-North-America-eyes-stronger-energy-ties

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    17Dec/14Off

    Should the Price of Oil Really Impact the Adoption of Renewable Energy?

    While collapsing oil prices will result in many investors remaining on the sidelines, key tipping points are being breached across clean energy technologies.

    Rob Day
    December 16, 2014

    The current collapse in oil prices has to be worrisome for those of us hoping to see more capital come back into the clean energy sector.

    To be clear, many clean energy technologies aren't really competing directly against low-cost oil, at least in the world's biggest economies. The vast majority of oil used in the U.S. goes to transportation, dwarfing the very small amount that goes to electricity generation, for example. Low-cost natural gas is a much more direct "competitor" to solar, energy efficiency, batteries, etc., and that's been in place in the market for the past few years already, hindering but certainly not stopping growth. Low-cost oil, if here to stay for a while, would suggest a need to shift emphasis within the sector, not a need to shift away from clean energy altogether.

    To read the entire article go to: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/tipping-over-the-oil-barrel

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    17Dec/14Off

    California Approves Major Revisions in the Renewable Auction Mechanism

    The RAM is the way California procures renewable energy in the midsize utility market of 3- to 20-megawatt projects.

    Tam Hunt
    December 16, 2014

    The Renewable Auction Mechanism has been California’s preferred procurement mechanism for renewable energy in the midsize utility market of 3- to 20-megawatt projects. These solar, wind or biomass projects can provide enough power for anywhere from about 750 homes up to 20,000 homes for the biggest projects. This size is a "sweet spot” in many ways, because these types of projects can realize much of the economies of scale of significantly larger projects but can still interconnect on the distribution grid much closer to load.

    The California Public Utilities Commission created the Renewable Auction Mechanism (RAM) program in 2011, with an initial 1,000-megawatt allocation to the big three investor-owned utilities (PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric). There have been five RAM auctions in the last few years, but only a few projects have been constructed so far, because it can take up to three years after a contract is awarded for projects to come on-line.

    Policymakers have been happy with the RAM program due to its streamlined approval process and standardized contracts. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has been considering an expansion or revision of the program for about a year and issued a final decision, D.14-11-042, in late November. The final decision makes major changes to the program and essentially ensures that there will be opportunities for new contracts for many years to come, albeit probably at a smaller scale than in the initial program.

    To read the entire article go to: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/California-Approves-Major-Revisions-in-the-Renewable-Auction-Mechanism

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    17Dec/14Off

    Fracking undercuts climate change, water advances

    BY DANIEL JACOBSONSPECIAL TO THE BEE

    12/16/2014 4:00 PM 12/17/2014 12:00 AM

    Daniel Jacobson is state director of Environment California.

    Gov. Jerry Brown and the other West Coast leaders – Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark – who have pledged to solve global warming deserve a heartfelt “thank you” from the people of California and around the world, especially as Congress stalls on climate change.

    But the leaders who formed the Pacific Coast Collaborative have overlooked one serious component in their plan on the climate.

    Increased drilling for fossil fuels, especially expanding dangerous and unconventional drilling methods such as fracking, will reverse any of their positive efforts. To slow down global warming, Brown and his colleagues should heed the advice of scientists and academics and stop fracking in California.

    New studies showing the harms of fracking are published nearly every week.

    To read the entire article go to: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/soapbox/article4530609.html

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    17Dec/14Off

    Yurok tribe hopes California’s cap-and-trade can save a way of life

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    BRIAN VAN DER BRUG / LOS ANGELES TIMES

    Mist rises after a recent rain along the Klamath River in Northern California, where the Yurok tribe is managing acres of forest for carbon storage.

    BY TONY BARBOZA

    December 16, 2014, 4:30 a.m.

    This winter, Yurok tribe forestry crews will be four-wheeling down muddy fire roads, hiking through steep, slippery brush and trekking across more than 20,000 acres of forest to count and measure trees.

    Instead of preparing to sell lumber, as it has in the past, the state's largest Indian tribe is taking stock of its firs, redwoods and tanoaks to make money in California's cap-and-trade program.

    By managing its forest near Redwood National Park for carbon storage instead of timber harvest, the tribe is generating credits to sell to oil companies and other businesses that must reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of the state's effort to slow climate change.

    When trees are allowed to grow, they absorb more carbon dioxide from the air and store it in their trunks, branches and roots. That sequestered carbon, which would otherwise be contributing to global warming, is now a valuable commodity for landowners like the Yurok.

    The Yurok tribe has sold millions of dollars' worth of carbon credits, known as offsets, to some of the state's biggest polluters. The tribe's forestry program is one of more than two dozen operations across the nation that have generated offsets for California's growing carbon market.

    To read the entire article go to: http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-82301824/

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    17Dec/14Off

    PG&E email hints at improper contacts with PUC’s Mike Florio

    BY MARC LIFSHER

    December 16, 2014, 7:08 p.m.

    An ongoing scandal continues to unfold over what critics contend is an overly chummy relationship between electricity and natural gas companies and state utility regulators.

    A controversial new email has emerged that hints at improper contacts between Public Utilities Commissioner Mike Florio and the state's biggest power utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

    In a Jan. 14 electronic memo to two company executives, then-Vice President Brian Cherry summarized his communications with Florio concerning which commissioner and administrative law judge would handle a natural gas rate-setting case.

    According to Cherry, Florio said he was too busy to be the presiding commissioner but promised to "mentor" fellow Commissioner Carla J. Peterman in coming up with a proposed decision. What's more, Cherry wrote, Florio "even volunteered to do an alternate [decision] if we didn't like Carla's decision."

    To read the entire article go to: http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-82312722/

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    17Dec/14Off

    New Tariffs on Chinese Solar-Panel Makers ‘Remove Any Strategy That Involves China’

    Will the decision cause module prices in the U.S. to spike? Or domestic manufacturers to come back?

    Julia Pyper
    December 17, 2014

    The Department of Commerce slapped high tariffs on solar products from China and Taiwan yesterday in a decision intended to address dumping and unfair subsidization of imports to the United States. The final ruling marks another victory for petitioner SolarWorld Americas in a lengthy solar trade battle.

    Imports of certain crystalline silicon photovoltaic products from China were issued duties averaging 52 percent. China’s Trina Solar, the world's largest PV module mater, and Renesola/Jinko received final anti-dumping duties of 26.71 percent and 78.42 percent, respectively.

    Commerce also announced anti-subsidy rates on solar products from China ranging from 27.64 percent to 49.79 percent, for an average of 38 percent.

    The determination marks a tariff increase from a separate SolarWorld case that concluded in December 2012, with duties on solar cells from China averaging 31 percent.

    To read the entire article go to: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/commerce-department-hits-chinese-panel-makers-with-higher-tariffs

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    17Dec/14Off

    NASA says it would take 11 trillion gallons of water to end California’s drought

    By Mark Berman December 16 at 6:02 PM

    Follow @markberman

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    The edge of Folsom Lake near Folsom, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

    The historic, horrendous drought in California continues to be historic and horrendous. Even as rain continues to fall over parts of California, the drought is still ravaging much of the state.

    To give you an idea of just how brutal this three-year drought has been, NASA decided to use its satellites (it is NASA, after all) to take measurements and figure out the amount of water needed to recover. The answer is 11 trillion gallons, which is — hang on a second [jogs down to lab, runs a few tests, jogs back to desk] — a lot of water.

    NASA came up with this number by using its Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites to eyeball the water storage in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins. This data showed that the water storage in these basins was 11 trillion gallons below normal seasonal levels at the peak of the drought earlier this year, according to the NASA announcement.

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    The satellite data showing the trend in water storage between September 2011 and September 2014. (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

    The volume of water in these basins has dropped by 4 trillion gallons each year since 2011, with most of this loss due to the lack of groundwater under the state’s Central Valley.

    To read the entire article go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/12/16/nasa-says-it-would-take-11-trillion-gallons-of-water-to-end-californias-drought/

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    17Dec/14Off

    Catching rainwater from the sky eases drought’s grip for Bay Area innovators


    By Lisa M. Krieger lkrieger@mercurynews.com

    POSTED:   12/16/2014 11:42:28 AM PST


    1/6

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    Mark Wialbut checks the water level in one of two 5,000 gallon tanks that collect rain water from the roof of his home in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Calif., on Friday, Dec.12, 2014. (Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group)

    LOS GATOS -- When rain drenches Mark Wialbut's mountain home, it sprouts inspiration.

    His vast network of gutters, pipes, tanks and filters has captured more than 10,000 gallons so far this month, with more to come -- enough for his family to be self-sufficient this winter in their Los Gatos aerie.

    For most Californians, rain-catching is a seasonal hobby and not practical enough to wean us from our dependency on snowmelt, reservoirs and groundwater.

    But for Wialbut -- and the growing number of collectors like him -- rainwater systems are elaborate enough to weaken drought's fierce grip.

    To read the entire article go to: http://www.insidebayarea.com/news/ci_27147665/catching-rainwater-from-sky-eases-droughts-grip-bay?source=rss


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    17Dec/14Off

    Plunging oil prices are doing Obama’s foreign policy for him

    By Steven Mufson December 16 at 11:57 AM

    Follow @StevenMufson

    The swift drop in the price of oil is realigning global economic power — and might help President Obama achieve some of his foreign policy goals.

    The precipitous fall in oil prices, which is hammering countries heavily dependent upon oil exports, could prod Russia into abiding by a ceasefire in Ukraine, make Iran more pliable in talks over its nuclear program, undercut Venezuela’s influence in the Caribbean, and weaken the finances of the Islamic State.

    At the same time, however, other parts of Obama’s foreign policy agenda could become more difficult, including efforts to open up Mexico’s oil industry to foreign companies, promote oil-fueled development in poor nations in Africa, and reduce global fossil fuel use to limit climate change. Brazil, already grappling with a corruption scandal linked to its state-owned oil company, is now uncertain about long-anticipated revenues from ultra-deepwater oil prospects.

    Russia, which has been fueling fighting on Ukraine’s eastern front, suddenly finds itself fighting a rear guard action on its own economy. And, as one Russia expert put it, President Putin, instead of reveling in neo-imperial triumphalism over annexing Crimea, is being forced to convince Russians of the need to hunker down in a tough economic period.

    To read the entire article go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/12/16/plunging-oil-prices-are-doing-obamas-foreign-policy-for-him/

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    17Dec/14Off

    Abandoned Chevron gas project deals blow to Ukraine energy

    By Nick Cunningham, Oilprice.com DECEMBER 16, 2014

      Ukraine’s bid to rid itself of its dependence on Russian energy just took a huge hit.

      Chevron announced that it was pulling out of a deal that it made with the Ukrainian government to develop shale gas in western Ukraine. The $10 billion deal was signed before the ouster of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

      Chevron indicated that it was unsatisfied with the tax regime in Ukraine, after the post-Yanukovych government raised energy taxes. “We have just terminated that PSA (product sharing agreement),” said Peter Clark, Chevron’s country manager in Ukraine, according to Kyiv Post. “When it was signed, things had to be done, but not all of them got done.”

      To read the entire article go to: http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2014/1216/Abandoned-Chevron-gas-project-deals-blow-to-Ukraine-energy

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      17Dec/14Off

      Militant fighting, price plunge threaten Iraq’s oil production goal

      Posted on December 17, 2014 at 6:43 am by Bloomberg in Crude oil, Markets, Middle East

      Iraq said a collapse in oil prices and the cost of fighting Islamic State militants may force the country to review its plans to boost crude production this decade.

      “It may be necessary to revisit our ambitious plans for the next five years,” Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Rowsch Shaways said at a conference in London today, without specifying what measures the country might take. “But we are committed to progress in this vital economic field with regard to production and export capacities.”

      To read the entire article go to: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/12/17/militant-fighting-price-plunge-threaten-iraqs-oil-production-goal/

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      16Dec/14Off

      Even Before Long Winter Begins, Energy Bills Send Shivers in New England


      By KATHARINE Q. SEELYEDEC. 13, 2014

      SALEM, N.H. — John York, who owns a small printing business here, nearly fell out of his chair the other day when he opened his electric bill.

      For October, he had paid $376. For November, with virtually no change in his volume of work and without having turned up the thermostat in his two-room shop, his bill came to $788, a staggering increase of 110 percent. “This is insane,” he said, shaking his head. “We can’t go on like this.”

      For months, utility companies across New England have been warning customers to expect sharp price increases, for which the companies blame the continuing shortage of pipeline capacity to bring natural gas to the region.

      Now that the higher bills are starting to arrive, many stunned customers are finding the sticker shock much worse than they imagined. Mr. York said he would have to reduce his hours, avoid hiring any new employees, cut other expenses and ultimately pass the cost on to his customers.

      Like turning back the clocks and putting on snow tires, bracing for high energy bills has become an annual rite of the season in New England. Because the region’s six states — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont — have an integrated electrical grid, they all share the misery.

      These latest increases are salt in the wound. New England already pays the highest electricity rates of any region in the 48 contiguous states because it has no fossil fuels of its own and has to import all of its oil, gas and coal. In September, residential customers in New England paid an average retail price of 17.67 cents per kilowatt-hour; the national average was 12.94 cents.

      To read the entire article go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/14/us/even-before-long-winter-begins-energy-bills-send-shivers-in-new-england.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share&_r=0

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