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By CLIFFORD KRAUSSSEPT. 20, 2016
An Exxon gas station in Manassas, Va. The S.E.C. requested information in August on the company’s policy of not writing down the value its oil reserves.
Karen Bleier/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
HOUSTON — The Securities and Exchange Commission has requested information from Exxon Mobil on the company’s longstanding policy of not writing down the value of oil reserves, as other energy companies have done in the recent past, Exxon Mobil confirmed on Tuesday.
The inquiry mirrors an investigation by the New York attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, into how the company has valued its assets in light of future climate change regulations that may force fossil fuel companies to keep oil, natural gas and coal in the ground.
The federal agency requested company documents and commentary in August. The request was reported on Tuesday by The Wall Street Journal. Exxon Mobil shares fell by 1.5 percent on the day.
“We are fully complying with the S.E.C. request for information and are confident our financial reporting meets all legal and accounting requirements,” said Alan T. Jeffers, an Exxon Mobil spokesman.
Most major oil and gas companies have been forced to lower their valuations, collectively amounting to more than $50 billion, since oil prices swooned to around $50 a barrel in recent weeks from over $100 a barrel two years ago. In February, the price fell below $30.
The S.E.C. would not comment on the investigation.
The company has defended itself, arguing that it already performs accounting tests on its assets and reports its findings publicly. It also denies allegations being investigated by Mr. Schneiderman and several other state attorneys general that it hid its own scientists’ climate research while publicly raising doubts about established climate science.Share This Post
by Sharon McNary September 20, 05:03 PM
Los Angeles city petroleum administrator Uduak-Joe Ntuk comes from the oil and gas industry but has a streak of environmentalism and democratic politics on his resume as well.
The first person in decades to hold the title of Los Angeles city petroleum administrator comes from the oil and gas industry but has a streak of environmentalism and democratic politics on his resume as well.
Uduak-Joe Ntuk started his career in petroleum engineering at Chevron and has worked in recent years at Long Beach city's Gas and Oil Department, an agency some local activists have issues with.
"We feel that the department is very non-transparent, in terms of who is it that you could call within the city around oil and gas," said Gisele Fong. She chairs Building Healthy Communities Long Beach Environmental Health Workgroup, a collaborative made up of local advocacy nonprofit groups.
Los Angeles city officials created the new petroleum position because they realized earlier this year that nobody at City Hall had expertise to advise them on new policies — such as a proposed ban on fracking.
The city had not had a full-time person in that position for decades. In the meantime, the city's oil and gas leases had been administered by an analyst working part-time. But that person had no specific expertise in oil and gas.
Environmentalists had pressed the city to hire someone with a public health background, while industry figures were urging Mayor Eric Garcetti to give the job to someone with oil and gas expertise.
Garcetti chose someone who, on paper, might appeal to both sides.Share This Post
Tim Miller, an electric-utility lineman, talks about what it’s like to be responsible for distributing his community’s power.
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
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In its early iterations in the 1800s, electricity was expensive and inconsistent. But fast-forward more than 150 years—as technology developed from Thomas Edison’s incandescent light to the energy-saving LED lights of today—and electric energy is indispensable in the day-to-day lives of most Americans. In 2014, the average American household spent about $114 on electricity per month.
But despite people’s reliance on it, the electric-utility industry performs dismally at times, especially in the wake of storms or natural disasters. For example, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy millions of residents reported outages, for days in some cases. In those cases, utility workers are essential in returning power to homes.
Tim Miller, a line mechanic supervisor for American Electric Power (AEP) in Indiana, has seen how blackouts can affect a community. I spoke with Miller about the safety risks of his job, the role he plays in getting power to the homes where he lives, and how the changes in environmental regulations have influenced his job. The interview that follows has been lightly edited for clarity.
Adrienne Green: What are your responsibilities as a lineman for AEP and what did you do on a day-to-day basis?
Tim Miller, an electric utility lineman in Indiana
(American Electric Power)
Tim Miller: I was just recently promoted to line-crew supervisor, so now I supervise a crew of mechanics that do the job that I used to do. Line work is more like a brotherhood of men that get together every day and evaluate the safety hazards of setting wooden poles. It could be steel or aluminum wire for the day. You’re trying to keep public safety in your mind as well when you're laying out the job and you're setting up trucks. It could be pretty overwhelming depending on the size of the job. On a typical day we would be show up at 7 a.m. for a pre-job brief with your crew to discuss the job is for the day. Then we load material for that job, get an address, and we would meet there to go over the safety spots, and then proceed with the safest, most efficient idea amongst the group.
Green: You work for an electricity provider. What is your role in actually getting people the power that they need?
Miller: We trouble shoot and then we make repairs when equipment malfunctions or it fails, it depends on what the issue is. It depends on what the job scope is. The process includes generation, transmission, and then distribution. My role is on the distribution side, where we deal with the delivery of the power to the customer. We're the last line that feeds from line to the houses and the businesses where the meters are.
“The way I leave my front porch in the morning is exactly how my wife wants me to return home at night.”
Green: You've been a line mechanic for eight years, how have you seen your job change?Share This Post
$12.4 million for projects in Maine, Nova Scotia and Toronto that will merge distributed energy from both sides of the meter
by Jeff St. John
September 20, 2016
Canada is building a microgrid of microgrids. On Tuesday, Sustainable Development Technology Canada announced a $16.4 million Canadian ($12.4 million) project to link three widely dispersed microgrids in Toronto, Nova Scotia, and upstate Maine into a “transactive energy” framework.
Utility partners Nova Scotia Power, Emera Maine, and Toronto Hydro will contribute most of the funding, with CAD $5.4 million ($4.1 million) coming from the Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), a public-private group that’s invested billions of dollars in Canadian green technology efforts.
Leading the technology portion of the project is Opus One Solutions, an Ontario, Canada-based startup that’s built a “GridOS” technology platform for real-time monitoring, analyzing and managing of distributed energy resources down to the feeder level. It’s going to be in charge of the front-of-the-meter portion of the project, connecting various distributed energy resources to grid sensors and other utility equipment.
The consortium also includes Advanced Microgrid Solutions, the San Francisco-based startup with some 80 megawatts and counting in battery-backed, demand-response-enabled microgrids, and Smarter Grid Solutions, a Scottish startup with technology managing some 120 megawatts of grid-responsive generation and load in the U.K.
The overall goal of the project is to “demonstrate the use of technical and economic signals to manage the exchange of electricity,” a term that has been dubbed “transactive energy” by its proponents. In a perfect world, a transactive energy system would have thousands of independent energy actors, from central power plants to dispersed solar panels, batteries, smart thermostats and other grid edge assets, all telling each other what their energy needs are and what they’re willing to pay for them.Share This Post
In Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, drivers are finding it hard to find gasoline following a pipeline rupture in Alabama.
David Goldman / AP
DURHAM, N.C.—The ’70s are back in the Southeast.
No, it’s not a Republican candidate for president promising law and order. It’s not the latest bellbottom revival. It’s not even the North Carolina-centered movement of Grateful Dead-inspired musicians.
Instead, drivers across the region are lining up at gas stations, hoping to fill up their cars. A gas shortage began September 9, when a mining inspector noticed a gasoline odor in Shelby County, Alabama. Colonial Pipeline discovered that there was a leak in a line that runs from Houston up to New Jersey. More than 300,000 gallons leaked from the line. Somewhat miraculously, the spill seems to have avoided the worst ecological damage, because much of the gas ended up in a retaining pond.
But while the pipeline is being repaired, there are gas shortages in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. In Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam declared a state of emergency on Friday. The governors of Georgia and North Carolina loosened rules on truckers’ hours to try to make it easier to move gasoline in. The major effect hasn’t been so much on prices, though those are up. In Tennessee, per-gallon prices were going up around 5 cents to 15 cents, though in some cases as much as 30 cents. Prices jumped 31 cents on average in Atlanta. In North Carolina, prices also surged, but the state’s anti-gouging law is holding down the increase, as it did in Georgia. What’s striking is that even with the spikes, many prices are still below $2.50—the magical, and at the time unthinkable, number below which Newt Gingrich promised to bring prices, when he was running for president in 2012.
The more visible effect has been on availability: As if it were 1973, many gas stations simply don’t have gas to pump, at any price.
“People are freaking out,” a gas-station employee in Asheville, North Carolina, told the Citizen-Times.Share This Post
SEPTEMBER 20, 2016 10:25 PM
A train carrying 98 tankers of crude oil passes through midtown Sacramento. Jake Miille
BY TONY BIZJAK
The Benicia City Council on Tuesday unanimously rejected a controversial plan by the Valero Refining Co. to ship crude oil trains through Sacramento and other Northern California cities to its bayside refinery.
The 5-0 vote, taken after four years of bitter debate, represents a victory for environmentalists and offers relief to Sacramento-area leaders who said the oil trains would put local residents and habitat at risk of a catastrophic oil spill and fire.
The Valero proposal, if approved, would have sent up to two 50-car crude oil trains rolling daily through Roseville, downtown Sacramento, Davis and other rail cities, as well as along mountainsides in the Feather River Canyon.
“I’m over the moon,” Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor said Tuesday night. “The community of Benicia, in the crosshairs of history, made one of those decisions that will make a difference for the country. They stood up and said the safety of our communities matters.”
Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna said he believed letters and legal briefs from local leaders, as well as lobbying by Sacramento-area activists, played a role in persuading the Benicia council to say no to that city’s biggest employer. “I’m very pleased,” he said.
A coalition of environmental groups, including Benicia-area residents, Stand.earth, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, issued a statement Tuesday night calling the decision “a victory for the right of communities to say no to refineries’ dangerous oil train projects.”Share This Post
By CORAL DAVENPORT SEPT. 20, 2016
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, is expected to announce on Wednesday that he has secured enough commitments from world leaders to ensure that the 2015 Paris climate accord will enter into legal force this year, binding the next American president, whoever it is.
The milestone is in reach in large part because Mr. Ban, who sees the climate deal as a centerpiece of his legacy, began a sustained push to win the formal approval of 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions — the threshold needed to put the accord into force. He pressed the issue personally with dozens of world leaders and with legislative bodies, including those in Russia and his native South Korea.
“We are absolutely certain that we will have the Paris agreement entering into force by the end of 2016,” said David Nabarro, a special adviser to Mr. Ban.
Complex and controversial international accords usually take several years to enter into legal force. But the haste on the Paris accord was driven at least in part by the looming American election. Donald J. Trump, the Republican candidate, has vowed to pull the United States out of the accord if he is elected. If the deal comes into legal force before the presidential inauguration, it will take four years under the accord’s rules for the United States to legally withdraw. That would keep the country bound to the measure through the first term of the next administration.
“We have no time,” Mr. Ban said, addressing the General Assembly on Tuesday. “I urge you to bring the Paris agreement into force this year.”Share This Post
By HENRY M. PAULSON Jr.SEPT. 20, 2016
SAVING our planet from the worst effects of climate change won’t be cheap. A new report from the United Nations says that the world will need to mobilize $90 trillion in public and private capital over the next 15 years.
As a point of comparison, global gross domestic product in 2015 was $73 trillion. But there is no question that the world needs to ramp up its transition to a low-carbon, environmentally sustainable and resilient economy, and to do so rapidly. The question is, how do we pay for it, given the limited availability of government funding, particularly in developing countries?
The answer: private financing. The good news is that there is a global abundance of private capital. To unlock these riches, governments must create conditions that encourage private investment in clean technologies and sustainable development. With smart, well-designed and coordinated policies, financing models and instruments like bonds and incentive programs, countries have the potential to solve some of the planet’s most pressing environmental challenges while still maintaining economic growth.
That is why it is essential for world leaders meeting in New York this week for Climate Week to stay focused on building an international consensus around “green finance.”Share This Post
On Monday, the tech giant joined the RE100 campaign, a renewable energy initiative that includes some of the world's biggest companies. How robust is Apple's commitment to clean energy?
|By Ellen Powell, Staff SEPTEMBER 20, 2016||Save for later|
- Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
Coming soon to a store near you: the clean-energy iPhone. Apple committed on Monday to powering its operations entirely on renewable energy and helping its suppliers do the same.
As part of Climate Week NYC 2016, Apple – along with Bank of America, Amalgamated Bank, and other corporate leaders – joined the RE100 campaign, a global partnership of businesses committed to the renewable energy transition. Apple also announced the completion of its 50-megawatt solar farm in Arizona, which will power Apple's Mesa, Ariz., data center.
For advocates, companies' commitment to renewable energy provides an impetus for renewable power generation, since suppliers are assured of a buyer for their power. They say that the private sector, which constitutes half of global electricity consumption, will be instrumental in the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Climate Week NYC has been sharing companies' commitments and other Climate Week events on social media:
Apple already powers its operations largely on renewable energy. According to the company's website, renewable power represented 93 percent of Apple's global operations in 2015. In other words, getting to 100 percent may not be that much of a stretch.
At present, many businesses are meeting their RE100 pledges through power purchase agreements (PPAs). Apple, along with other tech firms, including Adobe, Google, and Microsoft, uses these agreements to buy renewable energy from a power company to meet their energy needs. They "lock in" a fixed rate for purchasing renewable electricity, and receive a certificate to prove that their share of power generation came from renewable sources.
Similar schemes in a number of states allow private individuals to switch over their power consumption. In theory, having corporations do the same should bring benefits on a larger scale.
But not everyone agrees with this assessment. Critics are concerned that PPAs demonstrate a lack of ambition on the part of corporations. They say that the ability to change over to renewable power may discourage companies from trying to use less energy or building their own power generation on-site.Share This Post
Posted by Bloomberg
Date: September 20, 2016
Two companies offered to build the cheapest solar power plant on record in Abu Dhabi, reflecting declining costs for photovoltaic cells and cheaper financing for clean-energy projects.
Government-owned Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority received a record-low bid of 2.42 cents a kilowatt-hour for power from a planned facility in the Persian Gulf sheikhdom, state-run Emirates News Agency said. The utility on Monday opened six bids to build a solar plant capable of generating at least 350 megawatts, the agency said. JinkoSolar Holding Co. of China and Japan’s Marubeni Corp. made the lowest joint offer, according to an official from the Middle East Solar Energy Industry Association, who asked not to be identified citing policy.
The bid marks another record for solar technology prices, which have fallen almost 70 percent in the past five years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Competition among Chinese solar manufacturers including Jinko has brought down the cost of delivering panels while more investors have become comfortable with backing the technology, reducing borrowing costs.Share This Post
Stuff that matters
Big Coal is placing its final bets in these U.S. communities. Despite the political and market forces arrayed against it, coal is still clinging to life, pushing forward massive new mines, export terminals, railway lines, and power plants.
In a special report this week, Grist examines the struggling industry’s long game, including one company’s efforts to build a $700 million project on the Chuitna River in south-central Alaska. Here are seven other places where the American coal industry is trying to resuscitate itself at the expense of, well, the rest of us:
- Millennium Bulk Coal Terminal Longview, Washington
Even after major backer Arch Coal declared bankruptcy and dropped its stake in 2016, the $640 million export terminal won’t die.
- Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal Oakland, California
The city council and Gov. Jerry Brown oppose the $1.2 billion proposal, but developers are threatening legal action.
- Wishbone Hill Coal Mine Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska
The project had cleared most of its regulatory hurdles when members of the the nearby Chickaloon tribe filed a lawsuit.
- Coal Hollow Mine Kane County, Utah
A company with a history of cleanup violations wants an expansion that would double the mine’s annual output.
- Kayenta Mine Navajo County, Arizona
Located on reservation lands on Arizona’s Black Mesa, the Peabody-owned mine opened in 1973 but faces new opposition.
- Dos Republicas Mine Eagle Pass, Texas
Opened for business in November 2015, the mine on the U.S.-Mexico border threatens archaeological sites and burial grounds.
- Kemper County Energy Facility Kemper County, Mississippi
By Melissa Cronin on Sep 20, 2016 5:00 am
Squeezing into a wobbly four-seater propeller plane is the only way to reach the tiny tribe of Tyonek, tucked deep in the roadless Alaskan wilderness. Gliding above the long mudflats and the serpentine curves of streams, I spot the fat white backs of beluga whales surfacing at the mouth of a river and an island covered by sunning sea lions.
As the plane gets closer, the mudflats give way to swamps, which give way to dense evergreens. A towering mountain range materializes from the clouds, and, nestled in an inlet, the gently meandering lines of the Chuitna River come into focus.
This is the place where a coal company backed by a wealthy Texas family — one whose fabled legacy of gambling on energy markets extends back to a game of cards with an oil rig at stake — wants to sink a 300-foot-deep coal mine over 30 square miles of wetlands and forest. The $700 million project, commonly called the Chuitna mine, currently masquerades under the guise of a tiny Alaskan coal company called PacRim. If the project goes forward, it would all but obliterate Tyonek tribe’s fishing and hunting grounds.
The coastal village of Tyonek lies on Cook Inlet, about 45 miles west of Anchorage, just a few miles downriver from the proposed mine site. For the tribe, which numbers fewer than 200 people, the mine represents an existential threat. “We will go to war if someone comes down here and starts plowing over us,” tribal president Art Standifer tells me. “We’ll go to battle.”
With the locals deeply opposed, the controversy over the Chuitna mine raises another, deeper question: Why, in 2016, is anyone willing to go to such lengths for a dirty and dying industry?
Sunset over the Chuitna river. Balance Media
The signs of coal’s demise are everywhere, from Wall Street to the campaign trail. “The U.S. coal industry is in worse economic straits than it has been since the rise of the industry,” says Robert N. Stavins, director of Harvard University’s Environmental Economics Program.
The facts are stark: Coal prices in most major U.S. producing regions have fallen about 50 percent over the past five years. In the beginning of 2016, U.S. coal production declined by 29 percent over 10 weeks compared to the same period the previous year. Exports from the U.S. plummeted by nearly a quarter last year.
From the outside, it looks like the end is nigh. Three of America’s four largest coal companies — Peabody Energy Corp., Arch Coal Inc., and Alpha Natural Resources — have declared bankruptcy in the past year. Coal plants, which are the country’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions, are hemorrhaging employees. And natural gas is fast outpacing coal as the most popular fuel for U.S. electricity generation.
But what about Asia — isn’t the continent still coal crazy as it industrializes and increases its energy needs? For many years, coal companies were counting on Asia to be their savior, but even there, projections for endless growth in coal imports have fizzled. India’s coal imports have tanked amid calls by the country’s energy minister to cut them off completely, while China’s coal consumption is slowing as the economy turns toward cleaner fuel. Japan may have brought in record-high coal imports last year, but its consumption is minuscule compared to China.
“Projections are flattening as we move forward,” says Diane Kearney, an analyst who studies coal for the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The bigger geopolitical picture doesn’t help, either: The December signing of the landmark Paris climate agreement spells bad news for coal expansion in developing countries. This, coupled with the emissions restrictions coming from the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, has created a tough environment for the coal industry.Share This Post
SEPTEMBER 19, 2016 11:57 AM
Gov. Jerry Brown, signing Senate Bill 1383 on Monday Sept. 19, 2016 to reduce emissions of fluorinated gases, black carbon and methane, likened efforts to reduce climate change to the construction of Noah’s Ark. David Siders firstname.lastname@example.org
BY DAVID SIDERS email@example.com
Gov. Jerry Brown, likening efforts to reduce climate change to the construction of Noah’s Ark, pressed forward Monday with an expansion of the state’s increasingly stringent state climate program, signing legislation requiring California to reduce emissions of fluorinated gases, black carbon and methane.
The law’s enactment, affecting emissions ranging from diesel trucks and air conditioning units to landfills and dairies, marked the third time in two weeks that Brown has staged a bill-signing ceremony to rally support for his environmental causes.
The fourth-term Democrat, without naming Donald Trump, criticized “people running for president who say there’s no such thing ... even though he’s standing a few hundred feet away from the rising sea of Miami, Florida.”Share This Post
September 19, 2016 Updated: September 19, 2016 7:07pm
SACRAMENTO — By targeting so-called super pollutants, California set an ambitious new course Monday in its fight against climate change that will have far-reaching impacts on some of the state’s bedrock industries, from freight shipping to dairy farming.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law what he called the nation’s strictest plan to cut emissions of methane, black carbon and other short-lived pollutants that can trap far more heat than carbon dioxide.
Scientists said if the policies California adopted were implemented worldwide, they would slash projected global warming by 50 percent. But the state’s effort won’t be easy, experts said.
Under Senate Bill 1383, California set targets to reduce methane, tropospheric ozone, hydrofluorocarbons and black carbon emissions, giving the state Air Resources Board until Jan. 1, 2018, to determine how those goals will be met.
The board’s draft strategy calls for a number of initiatives, among them boosting statewide composting programs and capping the amount of emissions from cow manure.
The board wants to continue a steady shift away from residential wood-burning stoves by offering financial incentives, while phasing out the use of hydrofluorocarbons, the synthetic gases used in refrigeration, air conditioning and aerosol products.Share This Post
Governor Edmund Brown made an appearance in Long Beach to sign SB1383 which establishes restrictions on “super pollutants” Monday, September 19, 2016, Long Beach, CA. Scientists believe that cutting super pollutants world wide will aid in an immediate slowing of global warming. The bill was introduced by Senator Ricardo Lara, left. Also pictured are Assemblymember Susan Eggman, center, Senator Isadore Hall, right. Photo by Steve McCrank, Daily Breeze/SCNG
|By Courtney Tompkins, LA Daily News
POSTED: 09/19/16, 8:32 PM PDT
Gov. Jerry Brown Monday signed into law a bill imposing what he called the nation’s toughest restrictions on “super pollutants” such as black carbon, fluorinated gases and methane. If followed worldwide, these acts would help cut the projected rate of global warming in half by 2050.
“Cutting black carbon and other super pollutants is the critical next step in our program to combat climate change,” Brown said at the event, held near a Long Beach playground in the shadow of an oil refinery. “This bill curbs dangerous pollutants and thereby protects public health and slows climate change.”
SB 1383, authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, mandates a 50 percent reduction in black carbon, and 40 percent reduction in methane and hydrofluorocarbon from 2013 levels by 2030. The pollutants are generated by sources including waste-disposal, petroleum-based fuel, agriculture and synthetic gases used in refrigeration, air conditioning and aerosol products.
Professor Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a scientist at Scripps Institute of Oceanography who has been studying climate change for 43 years, said California has “thrown a lifeline” to its people and to the rest of the planet through this legislation.
“Cutting down one ton of diesel black carbon emissions will have the same cooling effect as cutting down 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide,” he said on Monday.
After describing the pollutants as “powerful climate forcers that have a profound effect on climate change and global warming,” Lara explained his motivation for crafting the law, one tied more closely to home.
“It’s a region identified by federal air quality standards as one of the worst in the entire nation,” Lara said. “This bill represents a unique opportunity to balance our global vision for the future with a much more local and immediate perspective.”