Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

Green Energy Still Far Off

green-energyThe official version of reality is that we are running out of what we know as fossil fuels. So gas and coal are going to become more expensive so that it becomes worthwhile to get our energy from other sources, like wind and solar. So all one needs to do is stop investing in oil and start investing in alternative energy. In the case of automobiles, it is time to ramp up production electric cars or at least hybrids because someday gas will be unaffordable.

There is, however, a problem with this theory. How many times in our history has the government had the insight to produce a new product or service that transformed our lives? Did the government plan and produce the electric light bulb? Did they invent the automobile? Or the airplane?

No, in all these cases and many more, private individuals devoted time and energy and sacrificed in other ways for a vision of what the future could be.

So the government’s push to get us all to “go green” in how we drive our cars comes with no guarantee of success. And in fact, it seems the government’s guess about the future was nothing more than a guess. In this case it was wrong.

From MarketWatch: “Electric, hybrid cars stall as new-car sales surge.”

Auto makers’ efforts to put more electric vehicles on the road appears to be shorting out.

Despite a booming U.S. auto market, sales of electric and hybrid cars have stalled this year, capturing 3.6% of the market through August, slightly down from last year’s 3.7% share, says research firm

The leveling off comes as surprise. Many auto industry executives and analysts predicted that hybrid and electric car sales would continue to grow incrementally as car makers expanded new offerings and public awareness increased.

In 2011, the Obama administration put forth the lofty goal of putting one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. Last year, a total of 581,240 electric and hybrid cars were sold in the U.S., said

“As the summer months wind down, we’re approaching the time of the year when sales of these vehicles tend to be slower, so a late-year surge isn’t very likely,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst.

For many major car makers, sales volumes are declining as gas prices stabilize and more U.S. buyers return to buying large cars and sport-utility vehicles.

Even if “peak oil” is true, it is easy to make an investment decision prematurely. Right now, it is still more efficient to use the relatively cheap energy from oil than it is to try to use other forms of energy.

[See also, “Europe Learns that Green Energy is an Economic Drain.”]

The government is not God; it cannot predict the future.


Senate clears bill to implement drilling pact

Offshoreby Ben German
The Senate approved legislation Saturday to implement a U.S.-Mexico pact that would enable offshore drilling cooperation along a maritime boundary in the Gulf of Mexico.

The bill to implement the 2012 U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement quickly cleared the Senate by “unanimous consent,” avoiding a roll call vote.

The drilling pact – which backers say would provide legal certainty needed to enable development along the Gulf boundary – has bipartisan support. But the Senate legislation differs from a House-approved version of the implementing bill.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s top Republican, cheered the Senate bill’s passage.

“Today’s ratification of the transboundary agreement establishes important ground rules for developing the oil and gas reservoirs along our shared maritime border with Mexico. That in itself is an important step in improving our energy security,” Murkowski said in a statement Saturday.

“But in addition to opening up nearly 1.5 million acres of the outer continental shelf, it also ensures that any exploration along our maritime border adheres to the highest degree of safety and environmental standards. I consider that a win-win for both countries,” she said.

The House-approved bill gives companies operating under the U.S.-Mexico pact waivers from a Dodd-Frank law mandate to disclose payments to foreign governments, drawing White House criticism.

House leadership aides did not respond to an inquiry Saturday about whether they are prepared to accept the Senate plan.

But a powerful oil industry lobbying group said in early October that it backed passage of the Senate plan that lacks the Dodd-Frank carve-out.

The American Petroleum Institute has previously called for the Dodd-Frank exemption, but its support for advancement of the Senate plan could signal that advocates of the underlying drilling pact are willing to lay the House provision aside.
And the landscape has changed since the House approved its version of the bill last June.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is planning to re-write the Dodd-Frank regulation in question after a federal judge struck it down in July.

The underlying U.S.-Mexico pact would make 1.5 million acres available for development that had previously been off-limits, and more broadly make the entire transboundary area more attractive to companies by ending legal uncertainties, according the Interior Department.

In addition, enabling cooperation among U.S.-based companies and Mexican state oil giant PEMEX will “mitigate the safety and environmental risks that would result from unilateral exploration and development along the boundary,” a senior Interior official told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in early October.

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Another Obama Success -Energy Department loses $42M on clean-energy loan to Mich. van company

By Douglas Ernst -The Washington Timesvan
The Energy Department conceded Friday that the federal government will lose $42 million on a loan to a shuttered Michigan van manufacturer — part of the same program that provided a $529 million loan to an electric car maker that also has gone under.
Vehicle Production Group (VPG), which made vans for the disabled, ceased operations in February and laid off 100 workers, two years after receiving a $50 million federal loan under the same clean-energy program that provided a $529 million loan to electric car maker Fisker Automotive Inc., according to the Associated Press.
SEE ALSO: House panel to hold hearing on financially troubled Fisker Automotive
VPG had paid back $5 million of the $50 million federal loan this spring, and the remainder of its debt was sold at auction this week to Humvee manufacturer AM General, which paid $3 million to buy the loan.
In an email to AP, an Energy Department spokesman said sale of the VPG loan was the “best possible recovery for the taxpayer.”
Fisker had received $192 million before federal officials froze the loan in 2011. The company has since laid off 75 percent of its workers, though the government has recovered only about $28 million of the money.
The losses come after federal government’s failed risked on solar panel maker Solyndra, which went under in 2011 despite receiving more than $500 million from the Energy Department.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of a House Oversight subcommittee on economic growth and regulation, called the loan program “one of the most disastrously mismanaged and corrupt programs in U.S. history,” AP reported.

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Estimated Oil in the Bakken Region spanning parts of Montana and the Dakotas

Posted by David Biederman north-dakota-bakken-shale

American energy producers keep finding and developing more usable oil and natural gas.

Recently the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) increased its estimate of the recoverable oil in the Williston Basin spanning parts of Montana and the Dakotas—the region famous for Bakken shale. The USGS’s new estimate of 7.34 billion barrels is twice that of its 2008 estimate. And its 2008 figure was 25 times higher than that of 1995!

What about natural gas? From 2008 to now, the USGS expanded its estimate of recoverable natural gas from 1.85 to 6.72 trillion cubic feet. As for “natural gas liquids,” the USGS bumped its figures from 148 to 527 million barrels.

Energy producers have achieved these astounding advances by using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to drill more than 4,000 new wells in the Williston Basin since 2008. And they increased their technological know-how as they went. For example, rock and fluid specialists applied new information about subsurface geology to develop additional layers of shale beneath the Bakken—shale previously deemed useless.

Kudos to these producers for discovering new ways to draw oil and natural gas from previously useless rocks buried deep underground—thereby offering for sale life-serving forms of energy.

Companies line up to drill after survey shows Dakota oil, gas fields far bigger than believed

As U.S. Cleans Its Energy Mix, It Ships Coal Problems Abroad

The port of Norfolk, Virginia, seen here in 1970, is the largest U.S. facility for exporting coal. It saw a surge of activity last year as U.S. coal exports increased 17 percent to set a new record.
Thomas K. Grose For National Geographic News
Published March 15, 2013

Ready for some good news about the environment? Emissions of carbon dioxide in the United States are declining. But don’t celebrate just yet. A major side effect of that cleaner air in the U.S. has been the further darkening of skies over Europe and Asia.

The United States essentially is exporting a share of its greenhouse gas emissions in the form of coal, data show. If the trend continues, the dramatic changes in energy use in the United States—in particular, the switch from coal to newly abundant natural gas for generating electricity—will have only a modest impact on global warming, observers warn. The Earth’s atmosphere will continue to absorb heat-trapping CO2, with a similar contribution from U.S. coal. It will simply be burned overseas instead of at home.

“Switching from coal to gas only saves carbon if the coal stays in the ground,” said John Broderick, lead author of a study on the issue by the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research at England’s Manchester University. (Related Quiz: “What You Don’t Know About Electricity”)

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released data this week showing that United States coal exports hit a record 126 million short tons in 2012, a 17 percent increase over the previous year. Overseas shipments surpassed the previous high mark set in 1981 by 12 percent. The United States clearly is using less coal: Domestic consumption fell by about 114 million tons, or 11 percent, largely due to a decline in the use of coal for electricity. But U.S. coal production fell just 7 percent. The United States, with the world’s largest coal reserves, continued to churn out the most carbon-intensive fuel, producing 1 billion tons of coal from its mines in 2012.

Emissions Sink

The EIA estimates that due largely to the drop in coal-fired electricity, U.S. carbon emissions from burning fossil fuel declined 3.4 percent in 2012. If the numbers hold up, it will extend the downward trend that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) outlined last month in its annual greenhouse gas inventory, which found greenhouse gas emissions in 2011 had fallen 8 percent from their 2007 peak to 6,703 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent (a number that includes sources other than energy, like methane emissions from agriculture). In fact, if you don’t count the recession year of 2009, U.S. emissions in 2011 dropped to their lowest level since 1995.

President Barack Obama counted the trend among his environmental accomplishments in his State of the Union address last month: “Over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.”

The reason is clear: Coal, which in 2005 generated 50 percent of U.S. electricity, saw its share erode to 37.4 percent in 2012, according to EIA’s new short-term energy outlook. An increase in U.S. renewable energy certainly played a role; renewables climbed in those seven years from 8.7 percent to 13 percent of the energy mix, about half of it hydropower. But the big gain came from natural gas, which climbed from 19 percent to 30.4 percent of U.S. electricity during that time frame, primarily because of abundant supply and low prices made possible by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. (Related: “Natural Gas Stirs Hope and Fear in Pennsylvania” and interactive, “Breaking Fuel From the Rock”)

The trend appears on track to continue, with U.S. coal-fired plants being retired at a record pace.

But U.S. coal producers haven’t been standing still as their domestic market has evaporated. They’ve been shipping their fuel to energy-hungry markets overseas, from the ports of Norfolk, Baltimore, and New Orleans. Although demand is growing rapidly in Asia—U.S. coal exports to China were on track to double last year—Europe was the biggest customer, importing more U.S. coal last year than all other countries combined. The Netherlands, with Europe’s largest port, Rotterdam, accepted the most shipments, on pace for a 24 jump in U.S. coal imports in 2012. The United Kingdom, the second largest customer, saw its U.S. coal imports jump more than 70 percent. (Related: “Natural Gas A Weak Weapon Against Climate Change, Study Says”)

The hike in European coal consumption would appear to run counter to big government initiatives across the Continent to cut CO2 emissions. But in the European Union, where fracking has made only its initial forays and natural gas is still expensive, American coal is, well, dirt cheap. (Related: “U.K. Dash for Gas a Test for Global Fracking”)

European utilities are now finding that generating power from coal is a profitable gambit. In the power industry, the profit margin for generating electricity from coal is called the “clean dark spread”; at the end of December in Great Britain, it was going for about $39 per megawatt-hour, according to Argus. By contrast, the profit margin for gas-fired plants—the “clean spark spread”—was about $3. Tomas Wyns, director of the Center for Clean Air Policy-Europe, a nonprofit organization in Brussels, Belgium, said those kinds of spreads are typical across Europe right now.

The EU has a cap-and-trade carbon market, the $148 billion, eight-year-old Emissions Trading System (ETS). But it’s in the doldrums because of a huge oversupply of permits. That’s caused the price of carbon to fall to about 4 euros ($5.23). A plan called “backloading” that would temporarily extract allowances from the market to shore up the price has faltered so far in the European Parliament. “A better carbon price could make a difference” and even out the coal and gas spreads, Wyns said. He estimates a price of between 20 and 40 euros would do the trick. “But a structural change to the Emissions Trading System is not something that will happen very quickly. A solution is years off.”

The Tyndall Center study estimates that the burning of all that exported coal could erase fully half the gains the United States has made in reducing carbon emissions. For huge reserves of shale gas to help cut CO2 emissions, “displaced fuels must be reduced globally and remain suppressed indefinitely,” the report said. (Related Quiz: “What You Don’t Know About Natural Gas”)

Future Emissions

It is not clear that the surge in U.S. coal exports will continue. One reason for the uptick in coal-fired generation in Europe has been the looming deadline for the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive, which will require older coal plants to meet lower emission levels by the end of 2015 or be mothballed. Before that phaseout begins, Wyns says, “there is a bit of a binge going on.”

Also, economic factors are at work. Tyndall’s Broderick said American coal companies have been essentially selling surplus fuel overseas at low profit margins, so there is a likelihood that U.S. coal production will decrease further. The U.S. government forecasters at EIA expect that U.S. coal exports will fall back to about 110 million tons per year over the next two years, due to economic weakness in Europe, falling international prices, and competition from other coal-exporting countries. The Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) calls Europe’s “coal renaissance” a temporary phenomenon; it forecasts an increasing use of renewables, shuttering of coal plants, and a better balance between gas and coal prices in the coming years.

But IEA does not expect that the global appetite for coal will slacken appreciably. The agency projects that, by 2017, coal will rival oil as the world’s primary energy source, mainly because of skyrocketing demand in Asia. (Related: “Pictures: A Rare Look Inside China’s Energy Machine”)

U.S. coal producers have made clear that they aim to tap into that growing market.

Currently, U.S. exports to Asia are somewhat constrained because there is little port capacity for big coal ships on the U.S. West Coast, and because metallurgical coal, the high-heat content rock that is used for steelmaking, is mined exclusively on the U.S. East Coast. Nevertheless, demand for U.S. “met” coal is so great in Asia that the shipments make a round-the-world journey from Appalachia. They are sent by train to the port of Baltimore, where they steam to sea through the Chesapeake Bay, then south across the Atlantic Ocean and around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope to reach Asian ports.

Whether U.S. exports to Asia expand will depend largely on the fate of controversial proposals to expand port capacity in Bellingham and Longview, Washington, and Corpus Christi, Texas. (Related: “Seeking a Pacific Northwest Gateway for U.S. Coal” ) Those new ports would allow easier transport of the abundant coal of the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana, which is especially well suited for generating electricity. Powder River Basin coal is prized because it is low in sulfur and can cut acid rain emissions, but as with all coal, carbon dioxide emissions remain a major problem.

John Eaves, chief executive officer of St. Louis, Missouri-based Arch Coal, which saw the bulk of its exports last year go to South Korea, told investors last month that the company would be proactive in working to gain greater port capacity. Despite the low price currently fetched for coal overseas, Eaves said the company expects the international market to improve even as domestic demand for coal recedes. “As we look to the U.S. over the next three to five years, let’s face it, demand’s going to be pretty flat,” he said. “We see exports as a long-term development opportunity.” (Related Interactive: “World Electricity Mix”)

This story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visit The Great Energy Challenge.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New America

In December of 1914 in the first bitter winter of a long bitter war the solders of the German Empire and the soldiers of the British Empire defied the orders of their officers.  They abandoned their hastily dug entrenchments that would soon grow into an elaborate maze of trenches stretching from Switzerland to the English Channel to meet each other in no man’s land. They sang hymns and exchanged gifts in a spontaneous outpouring of the feelings of peace, fellowship, and forgiveness which were then the staples of a Christ centered Christmas season.

If you drench yourself in the torrent of Christmas movies that bombard us from Thanksgiving till December 25th you see that the spirit of Christmas in emotional America isn’t about the Christ child who came into a lost world to die as a payment for sin and to rise again to bring new life in harmony with God.  It is instead about the sentimental ideal of love and the boy gets the girl or is it the girl gets the boy?  Who knows sometimes they throw in a curve that really builds the suspense.  There are movies about Santa Clause, his sons, his daughters; his elves and wingless angels all of whom help people learn the true meaning of Christmas which is never about Christ and always about family and friends and being nice people.

In commercial America Christmas is about Black Friday and discounts so deep they remind me of the street vendor in Mexico who follows you shouting “I’ll give you 110% off if you buy two!”  The Chia Pets come out along with snuggies, pet rocks, and every other doodad imaginable to buy for people who already have too much.

The mountains of presents which obscenely bury Christmas trees in so many American homes are ripped apart by sugar-high children. Children who get into a frenzy of getting so intense they never have time to appreciate what they get. All they want is to get something else.  The beautiful wrapping paper, the miles of ribbon, and the forests of bows are stuffed unceremoniously into big green garbage bags on their way to landfills.

So this is Christmas, and what have we done?  Another year over, and a new one just begun.

In the still sweet morning of December 26 people start preparing for the next blast of holiday cheer, Happy New Year!!!

What will 2013 bring?

Whether we plunge over the so-called fiscal cliff or not it will bring us a New America.  An America cast in the image of our newly re-elected Community-Organizer-in-Chief.  This representative of the Saul Alinsky wing of the Progressive movement, this made man from the Chicago political Outfit has won a second term.  Whether it was through the voter fraud no one seems willing to mention or through the actual votes of those who bought into the Uncle Sugar myth and vote for Santa Clause, the man from Hawaii who says he’s from Chicago and who won’t tell us much of anything else, is poised to create the Age of Obama, or America in his own image.

In the New America more people qualify for disability than get jobs, more people get food stamps than start businesses, and more people forget that America was founded to provide individual liberty, personal freedom and economic opportunity and embrace America as a cradle-to-grave welfare state.  People forget that when you limit failure you also limit success.  They don’t understand that when you create a safety net so complete it becomes a hammock many people figure why work when you can play.

Incentive is stifled by entitlements, and innovation is strangled by regulation.

In our New America:

  • Taxes will go up and up as spending goes up even faster.
  • Regulations will pour out of the bureaucracy to fill in all the blanks in thousand page laws no one ever reads.
  • Our President will continue to bow before despots and our foreign policy will continue to support radical Islam in the Mideast.
  • No one will ever be held accountable for Fast and Furious, Benghazi, or any of the other scandals which will erupt from the pustule of corruption that is Inside the Beltway.
  • The burgeoning energy industry that has the potential to lift America out of its economic tailspin will be throttled as the coal industry, the fracking boom, and oil shale are all regulated to death.
  • We will pour billions down the green energy rat hole building industries that cannot produce enough energy to exist without government support.
  • Obamacare will destroy the insurance industry and eventually a single payer system will consign the rest of us to standing in lines in converted gymnasiums for impersonal care while our leaders take limousines and private jets to the Mayo Clinic all on our dime.
  • Industry will continue to flow out as foreign made goods flow in as more imbalanced trade agreements are called free.
  • We will be monitored by drones, wire taps, and computers as Big Brother extends his grasp till freedom becomes just another name for nothing left to lose.

This may be the New America that awaits us in 2013.  Our families, friends, and neighbors have voted for it, and we all get to live in it: oh happy days are here again.  The second coming of FDR has put food stamps in every pot and a Volt in every garage.

In our New America Christ has been purged from Christmas and sappy sentimentality has replaced the joy of being born again in a relationship with God our loving Father.  So as you prepare to celebrate the New Year be sure and thank any of the millions of Obamazombies who get their opinions from the Corporations Once Known as the Mainstream Media, and who actually believe the economy is recovering and glory in America being knocked off its high horse for the New America we are all unwrapping under the Xmas Tree this year.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion.  He is the Historian of the Future @ © 2012 Robert R. Owens  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens





Coal took another serious hit Wednesday — in the heart of coal country.

American Electric Power, or A.E.P., the nation’s biggest consumer of coal, announced that it would shut its coal-burning boilers at the Big Sandy electric power plant near Louisa, Ky., a 1,100-megawatt facility that since the early 1960s has been burning coal that was mined locally.

Big Sandy this year became a symbol of the plight of the coal industry nationwide. Strict new environmental regulations are forcing large utilities to spend billions of dollars to retrofit old coal-burning plants or shut them down, replacing them in most cases with equipment that uses cleaner-burning natural gas.

A.E.P., which is based in Ohio, has repeatedly changed its mind over what to do with Big Sandy, a big employer in eastern Kentucky, both at the 120-employee plant itself and in the Appalachian-area coal mines that feed it 2.5 million tons of coal each year.

In May, the power company withdrew a plan to spent $1 billion to retrofit Big Sandy so that it could continue to operate. But that would have required a 31 percent increase in electricity rates for eastern Kentucky residents.

On Wednesday, A.E.P. announced that it would close both of the coal-burning furnaces at Big Sandy in 2015, but left open the possibility that one of the units would be retrofitted to use natural gas. Area residents, if the Kentucky Public Service Commission approves the plan, would see an 8 percent increase in their electricity rates — to replace Big Sandy’s production with electricity from West Virginia — much less than the earlier plan.

But the decision still hurts, said State Representative Rocky Adkins, a Democrat who represents the area.

“It’s kind of like we have had our heart and soul taken from us,” said Mr. Adkins, who also is the majority floor leader of the Kentucky House. “The impact on the economy here is just going to be devastating.”

This has been a bad year for the coal industry.

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Obama admin locks up 1.6M acres from oil development

This is only the beginning. Obama will strangle the energy sector like never before. You reap what you sew. Progressives simply don’t realize how Obama’s policies are going to impact their wallets, as well.
Mother Nature created houseflies, cockroaches, maggots, mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, slugs, leeches and intestinal parasites.
Then she lowered her standards to a breathtaking new depth of depravity and created… Barack Obama.

The Obama administration announced Friday it will put a large swath of western lands –1.6 million acres — off limits to oil shale and oil sands leases that hold the potential to develop more than a trillion barrels of oil.

The plan still allows for the development of nearly 700,000 acres in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, but one key House Republican criticized the plan for limiting exploration that would further lead to energy independence.

“Allowing safe and responsible energy development on federal lands is a critical step toward reducing our dependence on Middle East oil, but rather than embrace our country’s resources, the president is designating even more federal areas as off-limits,” said Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on energy and power.

“This is after we saw oil production on federal lands decline by an average of 275,000 barrels per day in fiscal year 2011. While other countries like Canada are busy growing their economy by developing their own resources, this administration is busy promoting policies that embargo our own oil from ourselves,” Whitfield said.

Helen Hankins, director of the Colorado Bureau of Land Management, said the government is committed to encouraging research and development, but that “technological and economic conditions have not combined to support a sustained commercial oil shale industry.”

“This plan lays a strong foundation to explore oil shale’s potential,” Hankins said.


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