Writing in the Washington Post on Friday, Daniel Yergin, author of The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power (which was adapted into a mini-series by PBS in 1992) explored the shift of oil’s epicenter from the Middle East to the Western Hemisphere, expressing his surprise that “what appeared to be irreversible is being reversed.” He explains:
The new energy axis runs from Alberta, Canada, down through North Dakota and South Texas, past a major new discovery off the coast of French Guyana to huge offshore deposits found off Brazil.
The transformation is happening not as part of some grand design or major policy effort, but almost accidentally. This shift was not planned — it is a product of a series of unrelated initiatives and technological breakthroughs that, together, are taking on a decidedly hemispheric cast.
The virtual explosion in oil extraction taking place in North Dakota is detailed here with records of oil production through the technology of fracking being set every month. The oil sands in Canada are so vast that the present production of 1.5 million barrels per day could double by the year 2020, making Canada the fifth largest producer of oil behind Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and China. And the “pre-salt” resources just discovered offshore in Brazil through advances in reading seismic signals indicate that Brazil’s potential oil reserves are so large that that country could be exporting 5 million barrels of oil daily by 2020.
As an investigation unfolds over a controversial U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee program, another "green" loan recipient lingers at the brink of financial collapse. Massachusetts energy firm Beacon Power Corporation, which develops "flywheel-based" energy storage systems, filed for bankruptcy Sunday after receiving a $43 million Energy Department loan guarantee in August 2010 — only months after taxpayers were put on the hook for a $535 million loan guarantee granted to the now-defunct solar energy company Solyndra.
Beacon Power’s bankruptcy filing arrived just two days after the White House ordered a 60-day "independent analysis" of the DOE’s loan program, where officials will evaluate and improve the monitoring process to "ensure" that government leaders are being "strong stewards of taxpayer dollars."
In August 2010, the Treasury Department’s Federal Financing Bank awarded Beacon Power the loan guarantee to finance a new energy storage plant in Stephentown, New York. But the company claims a run of bad fortune has burdened its financial standing, especially after it was delisted by the Nasdaq following an 80-percent plunge in its shares this year. "The current economic and political climate, the financing terms mandated by DOE, and Beacon’s recent delisting notice from Nasdaq have together severely restricted Beacon’s access to additional investments through the equity markets," CEO F. William Capp alleged in papers filed during Sunday’s bankruptcy proceedings.
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is probing a $730 million conditional loan commitment to Severstal, a Russian company operating mainly in the steel and mining industry. Writing to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, the California Congressman questioned whether Severstal North America, a subsidiary of the powerhouse Russian manufacturer, should benefit from public financing to improve and expand facilities in Dearborn, Michigan.
The North American division of the company has struggled to penetrate the U.S. steel market, and it sold three of its U.S. mills in March. Consequently, Severstal North America received a conditional loan approval from the U.S. Energy Department in July to help retool and expand its factory in Dearborn.
Severstal is owned and controlled by Alexei Mordashov, who is worth $18.5 billion and is one of the wealthiest people in the world, according to Forbes magazine. In Issa’s letter, he asked Secretary Chu why taxpayer money is needed when "announcements made by Severstal during the loan consideration process indicated that the company had ample means to carry out the project."
Researchers claim to have discovered vast untapped oceans of geothermal energy they say could replace coal and other so-called fossil fuels as primary U.S. energy sources.
With funding from Google's philanthropic division, Google.org, the Geothermal Laboratory at Southern Methodist University (SMU) recently completed a study on geothermal potential in the continental United States. The grant money enabled SMU to include "tens of thousands of new thermal data points" to construct the most accurate subterranean heat flow map to date. SMU scientists estimate U.S. potential at nearly three million megawatts of power, an amount more than adequate to supply current domestic electricity needs.
Unleashing geothermal energy requires drilling several miles beneath the Earth's surface to unlock heat trapped in the crust. Well operators inject water in a continuous loop into fractures formed by the drilling process. As the water heats up, it is piped back to the surface where the steam drives an electricity-generating turbine. Google.com quotes Secretary of Energy Steven Chu extolling the virtues of geothermal as a reliable form of energy because "the earth is going to be hot. You can bank on it, [so] you can consider the energy source effectively in unlimited supply."
Almost eight months after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and devastating tsunami struck Japan, killing or injuring more than 25,000, the death toll from radiation exposure at Japan's storm-ravaged Fukushima Daiiche nuclear power plant stands at zero. Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, admitted as much on Monday in Washington during a roundtable discussion entitled "Fukushima: Lessons Learned," an event sponsored by Georgetown University and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
When a reporter from CNSNews.com asked him about radiation exposure deaths, Jaczko first jokingly tried to pass the question off to another panel expert but then acknowledged, "There have been no fatalities that we're aware of that are directly related to radiation exposure." He went on to explain that some workers received abnormally high levels of radiation after the disaster both at the plant and through contact with contaminated water, but "nothing that is going to lead to an immediate loss of life."
These results prove what experts have predicted since the quake and tidal wave hit Japan's Pacific coast in March: No one would die from radiation as a result of the incident.
California has enacted the nation’s first cap-and-trade program, designed to provide financial incentives to companies to help curb greenhouse-gas emissions. After an exhausting eight-hour meeting last Thursday with union leaders, industry representatives, and various supporters and opponents of the plan, the California Air Resources Board voted unanimously to implement the first state-administered system that would stick a price tag on carbon emissions and permit the state’s industries to trade carbon credits. The plan is an integral component of the state’s ambitious 2006 global-warming law, signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, which looks to slash emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
The new air regulations will commence in 2013, and then only for the state’s largest carbon emission entities, typically electrical utility companies and large industrial plants; the program will expand in 2015 to include 85 percent of "pollution" emitters. The plan will first institute a cap on emissions, and then allow businesses that are under their carbon limit to sell their excesses to companies that have exceeded their carbon allowance. Businesses will have an initial requirement to pay 10 percent of their credits, and they will be able to purchase carbon offsets, which will comprise emission containment projects such as investments in forestry, to comply with eight percent of their annual emission obligations.
State officials expect other state and federal officials to observe the California model, hoping that similar programs — or, as they would prefer, a national program — will be employed throughout the country. "When Washington considers how to address climate change, as I think it will, California’s climate plan will serve as a role model for the national program," asserted Stanley Young, the board’s spokesman.
At a news conference in Washington yesterday, a group of U.S. solar panel makers accused China of dumping Chinese-made solar panels on the U.S. market and asked the government for protection by raising tariffs on the offenders. Executives from SolarWorld, which makes its panels in Oregon, were at the conference along with both Oregon Senators.
Said SolarWorld President Gordon Brinser, his company “can compete with anyone in the world [but] illegal subsidies in China [are allowing] the Chinese solar industry to come in and gut and own the U.S. solar industry.” Because the alleged dumping has caused prices to decline, it has put several panel makers into financial difficulty, and was a proximate cause of the disintegration of Solyndra. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) claimed that because of the dumping of panels at below-market prices, “the American solar industry has been collapsing.” Part of the reason is that the Chinese government has been extending low-interest loans to Chinese panel makers, which Wyden called “cheating,” thus allowing them to offer panels for sale below the production costs of U.S. makers.
The group wants the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission to impose a duty on all panels imported from China sufficient to bring the price back up to where the U.S. makers can be competitive, and profitable, again.
In a display of disregard for public opinion, leaders of the ruling Australian Labor Party (ALP) pushed through legislation in the lower house of parliament that will burden their nation with a whole new form of taxation: a carbon tax. Following the razor thin legislative ‘victory’ — a vote of 74 to 72 — opposition leader Tony Abbott of the Liberal Party (LP) gave a “pledge in blood” that his party would dismantle the new tax as soon as his party regains power.
According to an article for the Sydney Morning Herald, the massive legislation was pushed through the Australian parliament with an untimely rapidity reminiscent of President Obama’s effort to nationalize the American health care system. In the words of The Sydney Morning Herald:
Against last-minute efforts by the opposition to delay the passage of the bills and 11th-hour pleas for amendments by some business groups, the government passed its 18 pieces of legislation by a vote of 74 to 72 just before 10am. …
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has vowed to repeal the legislation if he becomes prime minister, though the government has insisted he will not be able to manage that.
The bills were passed with help from crossbench MPs Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Andrew Wilkie, as well as Greens MP Adam Bandt.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and ActionAid USA decided to mark World Food Day on Sunday, October 16, by submitting (three days earlier) a formal complaint against Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The organizations blame EPA's ethanol and biofuel programs for driving up global food prices by diverting important grains from food supplies, thereby exacerbating hunger and starvation worldwide.
CEI and ActionAid filed their complaint under the federal Data Quality Act, claiming that EPA glossed over the negative human and economic impacts of its recent biofuel regulations. In fact, the complaint points out that EPA's published analysis of its ethanol mandates does not even mention resulting hunger and starvation. Moreover, the claimants attest the analysis erroneously minimizes the mandates' economic impacts.
For example, EPA predicted a decrease in world food consumption of only 0.04 percent and "a relatively modest increase in annual household food costs associated with the higher prices commanded by corn and soybeans." Yet the complaint cites a peer-reviewed study published earlier this year that found EPA's biofuel mandates have severely aggravated chronic hunger and poverty in poor areas.
A Colorado landowner ignites his cigarette lighter and holds it close to tap water running from a faucet in his home. A few seconds pass, and the single flame bursts into a ball of fire that sends the man reeling backward.
This shocking scene appears in the 2010 documentary Gasland, produced and directed by filmmaker Josh Fox, which he touts as an exposé on the evils of a particular method of drilling for natural gas called hydraulic fracturing or “fracing,” pronounced “fracking.” Fox claims that nearby drilling contaminated area groundwater, causing the fireball to burst from that Colorado tap.
What Fox ignores is the fact that the landowner, Mike Markham, lodged a complaint with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) in May of 2008, and while investigators did find methane in Markham’s well water, they determined it to be strictly from natural sources. “There are no indications of oil and gas related impacts to [the] water well,” reads the report, and the regulatory agency declared the issue resolved in September of the same year.