Zack Colman - 05/21/13 12:50 PM ET
The United States needs to move on natural-gas exports to take advantage of global demand as the number of international competitors grows by the day, experts told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.
Panelists warned during a forum convened by the Senate panel that the U.S. faces a "narrowing" window of opportunity to reap the economic benefit of exports.
“If we wait too long … we will lose the jobs,” said Octavio Simoes, senior vice president of Sempra International and president of Sempra LNG (liquefied natural gas), in a refrain heard often Tuesday.
The discussion on natural-gas exports comes after the Energy Department (DOE) last week green-lighted a second controversial project allowing exports to nations lacking a free-trade agreement with the U.S.
Those projects, of which 19 are pending, require more scrutiny from the DOE than deals to nations that have a free-trade pact with America.
Under federal law, the DOE must determine such proposals are in the public interest under federal law. That means exports must not significantly raise domestic energy prices or lower U.S. stockpiles too drastically.
The applications are the subject of Capitol Hill debate regarding the future of the sudden glut in domestic natural gas supplies.
Republicans, industry and some Democrats contend the benefits of shipping natural gas abroad — adding jobs, reducing the trade deficit and helping allies in need of energy — outweigh domestic price jumps, which analysts expect to be modest.
“We simply cannot afford to needlessly drag our feet on exports, or we’re going to let real economic development opportunities, and the chance to provide our allies access to an abundant, affordable and clean source of energy, slip through our fingers,” committee ranking member Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska
Shell CEO says it’s too early to speculate about oil-price probe
May 21, 2013 at 6:49 am by Bloomberg
Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser said it’s too early to speculate about the European oil-price fixing probe and the company is committed to the “highest standard of corporate behavior.”
Shell, BP Plc (BP/) and Statoil ASA (STL) are targets of a European Commission inquiry into whether prices of crude, refined oil products and biofuels were manipulated, potentially harming consumers. Platts, a price assessor owned by McGraw Hill Financial Inc. (MHFI), was also questioned as the probe was announced last week.
“Since the investigation has just commenced it would be inappropriate to speculate about the outcome,” Voser told shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting in The Hague today. Shell is committed “to achieve the highest standard of corporate behavior.”
The commission is trying to determine whether oil companies colluded to distort prices in the $3.4 trillion global crude market and in markets for fuel products. The probe has highlighted that some energy markets lack the transparency of stocks and bonds.
“It’s important to bear in mind at this stage it’s just an investigation into facts and evidence and no adverse finding has been made,” Voser said today. “All Shell companies have fully cooperated with the EU investigation and will continue to do so going forward.”
Platts’s North Sea Dated Brent benchmark sets the price of half the world’s crude, from Canada to Australia. Its kerosene assessments are used by the airline industry, where fuel accounts for about a third of operating costs. In the biofuels markets, the company assesses the price of ethanol and biodiesel as well as ethyl tert-butyl ether, an additive that’s used in gasoline production.
Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter
ClimateWire: Friday, May 17, 2013
Wall Street is betting a half-billion dollars that consumer demand will continue rising for rooftop solar panels that allow home and business owners to generate their own on-site power and possibly even sell a few unused kilowatt-hours back to their neighbors.
In the largest financing agreement of its type to date, Goldman Sachs said yesterday it would provide more than $500 million in lease financing to help build thousands of distributed solar projects under a partnership with SolarCity of San Mateo, Calif.
SolarCity is the nation's largest full-service provider of residential rooftop solar systems, with tens of thousands of panels installed in 14 states, mostly on the East and West coasts as well as Colorado and Texas.
The firm, listed among the nation's most innovative companies in 2012 by Fast Company magazine, has been riding a wave of rising consumer interest in renewable energy and on-site power generation while also reaping the benefit of technology improvements and falling costs for solar equipment.
With the new influx of cash from Goldman Sachs, SolarCity should be able to widen its market by helping more home and business owners install solar panels with no upfront costs. The arrangement will also help make solar power available to a variety of other users, including schools, churches, municipalities and nonprofits, the company said in a statement.
One key to SolarCity's success is its use of third-party financing, which allows home or business owners to install solar panels on their property at no cost under a lease or power purchase agreement (PPA) with the developer. SolarCity owns the equipment and sells power to the property owner at a competitive rate, offsetting his or her normal utility bill.
Financing a 'low-carbon energy future'
Excess power not directly consumed by the host home or business is routed back to
05/20/2013 by Kari Lydersen
Support in the Illinois legislature is slowly growing for a proposal that backers say will save ratepayers millions while freeing up state renewable energy funds currently sitting unspent.
But the proposed bill faces an uphill political battle because of opposition from ComEd’s parent company Exelon, whose nuclear fleet could face competition and depressed power prices with more wind power on the market.
Illinois energy experts have for months been calling for reforms to the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). The massive shift away from utilities to community aggregation and alternative electricity suppliers has exacerbated a quirk in the law that now means customers are paying millions of dollars into a fund for renewable energy that is languishing untapped.
Meanwhile, the state risks failing to meet mandatory benchmarks in the RPS; and even the renewable power that is being bought for Illinois customers is largely through short-term contracts for renewable energy credits that could come from wind farms in Texas or other states.
How the current law works
The Illinois utilities Ameren and ComEd and the alternative suppliers that now serve the majority of Illinois customers all channel a small fraction of customer payments toward renewable energy. These funds go into separate “buckets,” as energy experts describe it.
The Illinois Power Agency decides where ComEd and Ameren get their power and how they meet their obligations under the RPS, including through buying renewable credits.
Alternative suppliers purchase renewable energy credits and also pay into an Alternative Compliance Payment (ACP) fund to meet their RPS mandates. The fund currently has $15 million and is expected to mushroom to as much as $130 million in the next 18 months.
However, according to the language of existing law, that money
ExxonMobil’s Excellent Algae Biofuel Adventure…Or Not
May 20, 2013
EPA to publish draft low-sulfur gas rule
By Ben Goad - 05/20/13 10:26 AM ET
A proposed rule intended to cut pollution from automobiles is to be published Tuesday in the Federal Register, nearly two months after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) detailed the draft regulations.
Interested parties and members of the public have until June 13 to weigh in on the1572-page proposal to require lower sulfur content in fuel.
Firstannounced on March 29, the contentious proposal endeavors to reduce smog, soot and toxic pollution. Refiners would be forced to lower sulfur content of gasoline by more than 60 percent to 10 parts per million by 2017.
The requirements spelled out in the so-called “Tier 3” gasoline standards are intended to improve the performance of catalytic converters.
“Few other national strategies exist that would deliver the same magnitude of multi-pollutant reductions projected to result from the proposed Tier 3 standards,” the EPA contends in its proposal.
More than 158 million Americans currently experience unhealthy levels of air pollution linked to respiratory and cardiovascular problems, according to the agency.
Motor vehicles are seen as an important source of the pollution.
“More than 50 million people live, work, or go to school in close proximity to high-traffic roadways, and the average American spends more than one hour traveling along roads each day,” the EPA reasons.
While automakers have backed the rule, the powerful American Petroleum Industry opposes them, warning the regulations would lead to higher gas prices for consumers.
The EPA maintains the rule would increase pump prices by less than a penny per gallon.
This story was published at 10:26 a.m. and updated at 12:08 p.m. to correct the date the rule was initially proposed.
May 20, 2013 at 7:07 am by Bloomberg
Enron Corp.’s 2001 collapse revealed the extent of its manipulation of spot gas prices. Twelve years later, European Union regulators may discover energy traders never learned the lessons of the scandal.
BP Plc (BP/), Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) and Platts were visited by EU inspectors last week over allegations they “colluded in reporting distorted prices” to manipulate the published prices of oil and biofuel products, the European Commission in Brussels said after the raids.
Shell, London-based BP and Statoil ASA (STL), three of Europe’s biggest oil explorers, are under investigation for potential manipulation of prices in the $3.4 trillion-a-year global crude market. The involvement of McGraw Hill Financial Inc. (MHFI)’s Platts, which publishes pricing data, hearkens back to other pricing scandals including Enron, and more recently, Libor.
“We’re making exactly the same mistakes we did with Enron, just with a different commodity,” Robert McCullough, an energy consultant, said by telephone from Portland, Oregon. “The same manipulation we saw in electricity and gas pricing is what we’re seeing in oil.”
The Enron scandal started in 2001 as traders used trading strategies called “Fat Boy” and “Get Shorty” to create phantom congestion in the California energy markets. Electricity prices rose 10-fold on average and California consumers endured days of rolling blackouts.
Large-volume, rapid-fire trades between Enron and a Reliant Energy Inc. unit’s gas trader through an Enron-run electronic platform triggered price moves that all traders could see without knowing the cause, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found in a 2003 report. The transactions made through EnronOnline influenced daily price indexes used in physical gas contracts and for settling financial derivatives such as swaps.
...refinery inputs averaged about 15.3 million barrels per
day during the week ending May 10, 2013, 73 thousand barrels per day
above the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 88.0 percent
of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production increased
May 20, 2013 at 6:48 am by Bloomberg
The average price for regular gasoline at U.S. pumps rose 11.19 cents a gallon in the past two weeks to $3.6566 a gallon, according to Lundberg Survey Inc.
The survey covers the period ended May 17 and is based on information obtained at about 2,500 filling stations by the Camarillo, California-based company.
The average, which reached a year-to-date peak of $3.795 in the period ended Feb. 22, is 12.67 cents below the year-earlier price of $3.7833 a gallon.
The recent increase is “one of the exceptions to the rule that most likely crude oil will be the mover and shaker for change in the direction of gasoline prices at retail,” Trilby Lundberg, president of Lundberg Survey, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “It was driven by infrastructure problems downstream at the refinery level.”
Wholesale price increases related to refinery issues haven’t been passed fully along to consumers, and some retailers’ profit margins have been squeezed, Lundberg said. Drivers in the U.S. West and Midwest have been among the most affected by higher prices so far, she said. U.S. prices may rise 4 cents to 7 cents in coming days, Lundberg said, and increases may pause before the Memorial Day holiday next week.
Gasoline futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 8.15 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $2.0969 a gallon in the two weeks ended May 17. It was the highest settlement since April 9.
U.S. gasoline stockpiles rose 2.59 million barrels in the week ended May 10 to 217.7 million, the first increase in five weeks, according to data from the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Energy Department.
West Texas Intermediate oil on the Nymex rose 41 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $96.02 a barrel in the two weeks to May 17. Prices have advanced 11 percent since April 17, when they reached $86.68, the lowest settlement of the year.
My girlfriend, Jennifer Lawrence loves diamonds! View her reaction at 1:45 of this video...
How Adding An Electric Car Cut Solar Payback Time In Half
May 18 2013 Nicholas Brown
Do you think that buying an electric vehicle could reduce the payback time of a solar power system by 50%? Let us explore that.
This is the story of a family in Pennsylvania who installed a 9.43 kW solar panel array to offset their electricity usage. They found themselves saving considerably more money than they originally would have.
The solar power system was installed in October 2011. It consists of 41 panels. Each of the panels can generate 230 watts DC.
The quoted cost of the solar system was $5.50 per watt of its generation capacity, which translates to $51,865. Yes, it is a very large system!
Their electric bill was $2,500 per year, and the financial payback time of the solar system after state and federal government incentives was estimated to be 11.7 years.
A year later, they replaced their 2007 Acura RDX with a 2013 Chevy Volt. They used the surplus electricity they generated to power the Chevy Volt, so they were able to eliminate their Acura RDX gasoline bill without incurring any new electricity costs, and now they have a solar-powered car!
They said this cut the payback time of the solar system in half, down to 5.96 years, but the purchase price of the Chevy Volt does not appear to have been factored in.
The Volt’s gas bill is up to $50 per month, while the RDX gas bill was $250 per month. The 2007 Acura RDX crossover achieves 19 MPG combined.
I should note that the gas bills for both vehicles are a bit high. The writer of the story said they added 7,228 miles to the Chevrolet Volt in “only” six months (they drive an average of 1,250 miles per month), and that they “racked up a lot of miles.”
5,255 of the 7,228 miles accumulated on the Volt were on electricity alone (72% of pure electric driving).
The writer of the story said that they fill the Volt’s 9 gal
Florida Governor Urged to Veto Anti-Ethanol Bill
Posted on 13 May 2013 by Andy Eubank
In the wake of a bill passed by the Florida Legislation to repeal a law calling for the use of 10% ethanol blends in the state, automotive technician and talk show host Bobby Likis had an op-ed in the Pensacola News Journal over the weekend calling on the governor to veto the bill.“What could be more devastating than ditching 35 years of progress? If the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is repealed, we will haplessly relinquish the fast track to the future while fellow states and countries worldwide embrace strategic biofuels production and use,” wrote Likis.
Who among us foolishly says, “We don’t care about what ‘they’ are doing. We care about Florida?” Well, we’d better care. Because of “them,” more efficient, better-mpg engines, cleaner air, national security and lots of dollars — in Florida — are at stake.
So whose agenda is behind repealing the RFS anyway? Can’t be those who have the economics of the state at heart or interest in lower emissions, lower gas prices and optimized engine performance. All these are attributes of the renewable fuel, ethanol.
And yet, the Florida Legislature would put all of this in our rear view mirror.
Governor Scott, now is the time for one good man to come to the aid of his state—by vetoing HB4001/SB320.
Florida’s Renewable Fuel Standard Act, which requires that all gasoline sold in Florida contain 9-10 percent ethanol, or other alternative fuel, by volume has been in effect for five years. The legislature passed a bill to repeal the act last month but it has not yet been signed by the governor.
BEIJING Wed May 15, 2013 5:47am EDT
(Reuters) - China's environment ministry has given the go-ahead for the construction of what will become the country's tallest hydroelectric dam despite acknowledging it will have an impact on plants and rare fish.
The dam, with a height of 314 meters (1,030 feet), will serve the Shuangjiangkou hydropower project on the Dadu River in southwestern Sichuan province.
To be built over 10 years by a subsidiary of state power firm Guodian Group, it is expected to cost 24.68 billion yuan ($4.02 billion) in investment.
The ministry, in a statement issued late on Tuesday, said an environmental impact assessment had acknowledged that the project would have a negative impact on rare fish and flora and affect protected local nature reserves.
Developers, it said, had pledged to take "counter-measures" to mitigate the effects. The project still requires the formal go-ahead from the State Council, China's cabinet.
China aims to raise the share of non-fossil fuels in its energy mix to 15 percent by 2020, up from 9.4 percent in 2011. Hydropower is expected to make the biggest contribution.
It has vowed to speed up construction of dams in the 2011-2015 period after slowing it down following the completion of the controversial Three Gorges project in 2005.
The Three Gorges Dam, which serves the world's biggest hydropower station on the Yangtze river, measures 185 meters.
The 300-m Nurek dam in Tajikistan in Central Asia is the world's highest, though other taller dams are now under construction. China's tallest dam now, at 292 meters, is the Xiaowan Dam on the Lancang River, also known as the Mekong.
On completion, the Sichuan project will have a total installed capacity of 20 gigawatts (GW), with annual power generation to exceed 7 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh).
The government said this year that hydropower capacity was expected to reach 290 GW by 2015
By Michael Shepherd mainetoday
AUGUSTA — The Maine Senate rejected a bill that could eventually ban the use of ethanol in motor fuel in the state in an initial vote Wednesday.
The bill, L.D. 115, would ban the use of ethanol in motor fuel in Maine, but only if two other New England states also prohibit the additive.
The 21-14 Senate vote against the bill is in conflict with a 109-32 vote in support of the bill in the House of Representatives last week. More votes are pending in order to reconcile the difference between the legislative chambers.
Rep. Jeffrey Timberlake, R-Turner, the bill’s sponsor, has made reducing the use of ethanol, a corn-based additive that many say is harmful to small engines and older car engines, a main priority of his this legislative session.
Another of his bills, L.D. 105, also was passed initially by the House last week. It would allow the sale of gasoline containing only 5 percent ethanol instead of the current 10 percent.
On the House floor last week, supporters of the bill also argued that using corn-based ethanol is essentially putting food in fuel tanks. Opponents said barring the sale of fuel with 10 percent ethanol fuel would put the state at odds with the federal Clean Air Act.
Arguments in the Senate on Wednesday followed that track.
“I don’t know how many stories I’ve heard about people having engines that were ruined” because of ethanol, said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. “Personally, I would pay a couple cents more (to buy fuel without it), but I don’t believe that’s going to be the case.”
Most gas available in the United States contains 10 percent ethanol, but the federal Environmental Protection Agency has declared a 15-percent blend safe for engines and allowed its sale. Last week, both chambers of the Maine Legislature unanimously passed a resolution imploring the
Maine Gov. signs bill to ban ethanol gas
May 17, 2013
Legislation (LD 453) that prohibits a person from selling or offering for sale gasoline that contains corn-based ethanol as an additive at a level greater than 10% by volume has been signed into law by Maine Gov. Paul LePage.
According to the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Action Network (SAN), the law would not take effect until at least two other New England states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) have enacted laws that prohibit the sale of gasoline that contains corn-based ethanol at a level greater than 10% by volume.
Separate legislation (LD 115) to prohibit the sale and distribution of corn-based ethanol if at least two other New England states pass a similar prohibition failed in the Maine Senate by a 21-14 vote. However, the bill remains alive as senators reconsider the initial vote.
LD 115 recognizes that ethanol increases water formation which can then corrode metals, plastics and rubber, especially over a period of time when the vehicle is not used. Current high-performance specialty parts along with pre-model year 2001 cars and parts may be most susceptible to corrosion.
LD 115 recognizes that the life span of vehicles and equipment can be dramatically reduced with the wrong fuel and that owners could be confronted with breakdowns. Anti-corrosion additives are available for each purchase of gasoline but can become expensive, burdensome and require consumer education.
For more information visit the SAN website.
For more on ethanol bans, see Florida bill to end ethanol gas sent to governor.
Refinery woes pushing Midwestern gas prices to all-time highs
Obama Tweets Study Of 97% Scientific Consensus On Manmade Warming, WashPost Confused On What That Means
By Joe Romm on May 18, 2013 at 10:51 am
The story seems simple enough.
First, on Wednesday a study came out that found 97% consensus on human-caused global warming in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. It was by our friends at Skeptical Science, John Cook and Dana Nuccitelli.
Then on Thursday, President Obama tweeted the study to his 31,000,000 (!) followers:
So how does the ever-shrinking Washington Post report the story? With the headline, “Obama tweet gets Australian researcher 31.5 million followers on Twitter.” #FAIL
And just to be clear that the WashPost is in fact as confused and innumerate as their headline suggests, the story asserts:
That tweet, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, led 31,541,507 people to decide to follow Australian climate change researcher John Cook on Twitter.
The Herald didn’t, however, make such a transparently silly claim. Their headline read, “Obama gives Aussie researcher 31,541,507 reasons to celebrate.”
Ten seconds on the interwebs will reveal that Cook has 6,560 followers. But then we’ve suspected for a while that the Washington Post doesn’t employ any fact checkers. Nor does it have a single editor who understood enough about social media to realize instantly that the headline — and hence the story — must be wrong.
No wonder the MSM is collapsing in the face of the new media onslaught. Note: As of Saturday morning, the story is still uncorrected.
SATELLITE GOES Composite - Central U.S. Imagery - Rainbow Loop
12.2 GW of New Solar Approved Until February in Japan
May 17 2013 Published by Karl-Friedrich Lenz
The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Industry, and Trade just published figures for renewable energy under the new feed-in tariff law in force since last July. Thanks to this tweet by Hiro Matsubara for the link.
To state the result in very short terms, wind is struggling even with the very high tariffs in place, and solar is headed for the “rocket start” former Prime Minister Noda called for last October.
The Japanese figures come in two flavors. One set is for installations that have started producing electricity, and the other one is for installations that have received approval from the Ministry. The latter one is the higher one, it includes capacity that will come online shortly, but is not yet commissioned.
Using those latter figures, solar recorded 12.2 GW until February. That’s not bad, considering that Japan had only about 5.3 GW of solar installed at the end of 2011. Adjusting for the larger population of Japan this is comparable to the German records of the last couple of years. Not bad at all.
On the other hand, the rocket for wind energy is still firmly planted on the ground. The Ministry reports a measly anemic 0.6 GW of approved capacity. The problem with wind is, you need much more time from starting a project to getting it to the approval stage. Anyway, it will take some time for wind to get up to speed in Japan. The numbers are still very disappointing.
The new solar capacity is spread rather evenly all over the country. The interesting thing is that the biggest chunk is located in Hokkaido, the most northern island. It certainly does not have the best solar resources. But I assume it is easier to find the land for megasolar projects there. Hokkaido has about 1.13 GW, with 0.97 of that coming from projects with over 1 MW capacity.