Monday, April 20, 2015

EARTH DAY, Nuclear Power & America


By Norris McDonald

Earth Day is middle aged now.  Forty-five years old and counting.  We have organized and participated in numerous Earth Day activities for the past three decades.  From river and creek clean ups to National Mall activities to local events, Earth Day has been quite a tradition for us.  Yet, when it comes to the environmental community's most important issue(s), climate change and global warming, we believe nuclear power should be a central component in reducing emissions into the atmosphere.

FiereceEnergy published my views for Earth Day:

It's a little-known fact -- especially among the environmentalist community -- that America's nuclear plants are the workhorses of our clean air energy production. Each year, these plants produce 63 percent of all the carbon-free energy generated in the U.S. These plants helped us avoid 589 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2013. To put that in perspective, that equals the amount of carbon emissions emitted by 113 million passenger cars annually. Plus, nuclear energy's life-cycle emissions -- including any emissions from mining, fuel production, plant construction, operation, and decommissioning -- are among the lowest of all electricity sources. (More)

We simply cannot win our fight to mitigate global warming and climate change without utilizing nuclear power. 

Now for additional news.  I begin a cross country trek starting on Earth Day (April 22) across the Unites States of America.  I have never driven across this great land of ours, even though I have flown across it many times.  I want to see this great country.  So I will be driving from Washington, DC to Los Angeles, California.  I anticipate that it will take 5 to 6 days to complete this trip.  I am driving my 20 year old Toyota Camry.  It still gets pretty good mileage.  I will chronicle the trip on my Facebook page.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

EPA Publishes 20th Annual U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its 20th Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks today, showing a two percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions in 2013 from 2012 levels, but a nine percent drop in emissions since 2005.
Total U.S. greenhouse emissions were 6,673 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2013. By sector, power plants were the largest source of emissions, accounting for 31 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. The transportation sector was the second largest source, at 27 percentIndustry and manufacturing were the third largest source, at 21 percent. The increase in total national greenhouse gas emissions between 2012 and 2013 was due to increased energy consumption across all sectors in the U.S. economy and greater use of coal for electricity generation. 
This year, EPA is publishing key data in a new, online Greenhouse Gas Inventory Data Explorer tool, which allows users to view, graph and download data by sector, year and greenhouse gas. EPA will be holding an informational webinar on April 22 at 1 p.m. EST to demonstrate the Data Explorer tool and its features, and provide a tutorial on common searches.
Greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change, which threatens the health and well-being of Americans and future generations through decreased air quality; extremes in heat and other weather events; increased incidence of food-, water-, and insect-borne diseases; and other impacts. Comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions data are an essential tool to help understand the primary sources of emissions and identify cost-effective opportunities to reduce them.
Under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, EPA is taking steps to address carbon pollution from the power and transportation sectors, and to improve energy efficiency in homes, businesses and factories.  Current greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks and EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan will eliminate billions of tons of greenhouse gas pollution, save lives through air quality benefits and save Americans money at the pump. 
The agency prepares the inventory annually in collaboration with other federal agencies and submits the report to the Secretariat of the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change every year on April 15The inventory presents historical emissions since 1990 and covers seven key greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluorideIn addition to tracking U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the inventory also calculates carbon dioxide that is removed from the atmosphere through the uptake of carbon in forests and other vegetation. EPA has been publishing the inventory since 1994, but tracks back to 1990. 

Thursday, April 02, 2015

California's First Mandatory Water Restrictions

Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday ordered cities and towns across California to cut water use by 25% as part of a sweeping set of mandatory drought restrictions, the first in state history. The directive comes more than a year after Brown asked for a 20% voluntary cut in water use that most parts of the state have failed to attain, even as one of the most severe modern droughts drags into a fourth year.  It also came on the day that water officials measured the lowest April 1 snowpack in more than 60 years of record-keeping in the Sierra Nevada.

California Governor Jerry Brown

Brown announced the executive order in a Sierra Nevada meadow that provided a dramatic illustration of the state's parched conditions. Emphasizing that the drought could persist, Brown said Californians must change their water habits. The order focused on urban life even though agriculture accounts for roughly three quarters of Californians' water usage:

  • Cities have to stop watering the median strips that run down the middle of roads.
  • The state will partner with local agencies to remove 50 million square feet of grass — the equivalent of about 1,150 football fields — and replace it with drought-tolerant landscaping. 
  • State agencies will create a temporary rebate program to encourage homeowners to replace water-guzzling appliances with high-efficiency ones.
  • Golf courses, campuses and cemeteries must cut their water use.
  • New developments will have to install drip or microspray systems if they irrigate with drinking water. 
  • Water agencies will discourage water waste with higher rates and fees.

The order aims to reduce the amount of water used statewide in urban areas in 2013 by 25%.  The State Water Resources Control Board will release draft regulations in mid-April to implement the order. It plans to approve the regulations in early May. Local agencies will receive targets for cutting water use based on how well they've done so far.

Most of the burden of enforcement will fall on local agencies. If they don't follow the governor's order, the state can fine them as much as $10,000 a day.  (L.A. Times, 4/1/2015)

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

CO2 Allowances Sold for $5.41 in 27th RGGI Auction

Total Proceeds for Reinvestment Now Exceed $2 Billion
The nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the nation’s first market-based regulatory program to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution, today announced the results of their 27th auction of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances. The March 11th auction was the first auction of 2015.

15,272,670 CO2 allowances were sold at the auction at a clearing price of $5.41. Allowances sold represent 100 percent of the CO2 allowances offered for sale by the nine states. Bids for the CO2 allowances ranged from $2.05 to $12.50 per allowance. Additional details are available in the Market Monitor Report for Auction 27.
10 million cost containment reserve (CCR) allowances were also available for sale. None of the CCR allowances were sold. The CCR is a fixed additional supply of allowances that are only available for sale if CO2 allowance prices exceed certain price levels ($6 in 2015, $8 in 2016, $10 in 2017, and rising by 2.5 percent each year thereafter to account for inflation). The 10 million CCR allowances remain available for sale in 2015.
The auction generated more than $82 million for reinvestment in strategic energy and consumer benefit programs, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, direct bill assistance, and GHG abatement programs. Cumulative proceeds from all RGGI CO2 allowance auctions now exceed $2 billion dollars.
To receive announcements relating to future auctions and other RGGI news, please join the RGGI, Inc. mailing list at http://www.rggi.org/news/mailing_list.
Auction 27 Results At-A-Glance
Auction DateMarch 11, 2015
Allowances Offered for Sale15,272,670
Allowances Sold15,272,670
Ratio of Bids to Initial Supply2.8
Clearing Price$5.41
Reserve Price$2.05
Proceeds from Auction 27$82,625,144.70
Total Cumulative Proceeds (All Auctions)$2,017,671,088.75
Number of Bidders in Auction 2745
Percent of Allowances Purchased by Compliance Entities & their Corporate Affiliates in Auction 27100%
Percent of Allowances Purchased by Compliance Entities & their Corporate Affiliates in Auctions 1-2778%
More data is also available at: http://www.rggi.org/market/co2_auctions/results.

Monthly Data Track Crude Oil Movements by Rail

map of crude-by-rail movements, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration based on data from the Surface Transportation Board and other information
Note: Crude-by-rail movements greater than 1,000 barrels per day are represented on the map; short-distance movements between rail yards within a region are excluded. PADD denotes Petroleum Administration for Defense District.

For the first time, EIA is providing monthly data on rail movements of crude oil, which have significantly increased over the past five years. The new data on crude-by-rail (CBR) movements are integrated with EIA's existing monthly petroleum supply statistics, which already include movements by pipeline, tanker, and barge. The new monthly time series of crude oil rail movements includes shipments to and from Canada and dramatically reduces the absolute level of unaccounted for volumes in EIA's monthly balances for each region.
EIA is initiating the new series with monthly data from January 2010 through the current reporting month, January 2015. Total CBR movements in the United States and between the United States and Canada were more than 1 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2014, up from 55,000 bbl/d in 2010. The regional distribution of these movements has also changed over this period.
The maps below provide general flows of CBR movements annually from 2010 through 2014.
map of crude-by-rail movements, as described in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration based on data from the Surface Transportation Board and other information
Note: Crude-by-rail movements greater than 1,000 barrels per day are represented on the map; short-distance movements between rail yards within a region are excluded.

The Williston Basin in North Dakota (PADD 2) was the primary origin of 55,000 bbl/d of CBR shipments in 2010, with most shipments remaining in the Midwest region. Rail tank cars were used mainly to move Bakken crude oil to the Cushing, Oklahoma, storage and pipeline hub. The remaining volumes of Bakken CBR shipments went to Gulf Coast and East Coast refineries (PADDs 3 and 1, respectively). (DOE-EIA)

U.S. Oil Production Growth in 2014 was Largest in More Than 100 Years

graph of annual change in U.S. field production of crude oil, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Petroleum Supply Monthly

U.S. crude oil production (including lease condensate) increased during 2014 by 1.2 million barrels per day (bbl/d) to 8.7 million bbl/d, the largest volume increase since record keeping began in 1900. On a percentage basis, output in 2014 increased by 16.2%, the highest growth rate since 1940. Most of the increase during 2014 came from tight oil plays in North Dakota, Texas, and New Mexico where hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling were used to produce oil from shale formations.
In percentage terms, the 2014 increase is the largest in more than six decades. Annual increases in crude oil production regularly surpassed 15% in the first half of the 20th century, but those changes were relatively less in absolute terms because production levels were much lower than they are now. Crude oil production in the United States has increased in each of the previous six years. This trend follows a period from 1985 to 2008 in which crude oil production fell in every year (except one).
graph of annual change in U.S. field production of crude oil, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Petroleum Supply Monthly

Although oil production is expected to rise in 2015 and again in 2016, the growth is not expected to be as strong as in 2014. Since mid-2014, the price of crude oil has fallen about 50%, which has slowed production in marginal drilling areas and focused investment in the more developed areas of tight oil plays. Annual crude oil production is expected to grow at a slower rate, 8.1% this year and 1.5% next year.  (DOE-EIA)

Monday, March 30, 2015

U.S. Support for Nuclear Energy at 51%

A slim majority of Americans (51%) now favor the use of nuclear energy for electricity in the U.S., while 43% oppose it. This level of support is similar to what Gallup found when it last measured these attitudes two years ago, but it is down from the peak of 62% five years ago. Current support is on the low end of what Gallup has found in the past 20 years, with the 46% reading in 2001 the only time that it sank lower.

Trend: Slight Majority in U.S. Favors Nuclear Energy

The high point in support for the use of nuclear power, in 2010, was recorded shortly after President Barack Obama announced that the federal government would provide loan guarantees for the construction of two nuclear reactors, the first to be built in the U.S. in three decades.
Support has generally dropped since then. However, between 2011 and 2012, support was stable, with 57% favoring nuclear energy. This is notable given that Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster took place shortly after polling in 2011.
The latest result comes from Gallup's annual Environment poll, conducted March 5-8. (Gallup, 3/30/2015)

Constitution Pipeline

Williams, a leading energy infrastructure company, has partnered with Cabot Oil & Gas,Piedmont Natural Gas, and WGL  Holdings to develop a major transmission pipeline project to connect abundant Appalachian natural gas supplies in northern Pennsylvania with major northeastern markets.  The name of the project is Constitution Pipeline.
The approximately 124-mile Constitution Pipeline has been designed with a capacity to transport 650,000 dekatherms of natural gas per day (enough natural gas to serve approximately 3 million homes). Buried underground, the 30-inch pipeline will extend from Susquehanna County, Pa., to the Iroquois Gas Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline systems in Schoharie County, N.Y. The pipeline route stretches from Susquehanna County, Pa., into Broome County, N.Y., Chenango County, N.Y., Delaware County, N.Y., and terminates in Schoharie County, N.Y.
The Center generally supports such important American energy infrastructure projects.
Natural Gas Production
The Constitution Pipeline has been designed to transport natural gas that has already been produced in Pennsylvania. The pipeline is not dependent upon nor does it require the development of new natural gas wells along the project’s proposed path. The pipeline is already fully contracted with long-term commitments from established natural gas producers currently operating in Pennsylvania.
Permitting Process
On Dec. 2, 2014, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an Order granting a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the Constitution Pipeline project (docket number CP13-499). To view the Order, click here. FERC issued this document to signify that approval has been granted to build and operate the pipeline. The certificate details the conditions of the approval, including the final route FERC has authorized, and construction and mitigation measures that must be followed.
Constitution Pipeline Company initiated a pre-filing environmental review of the proposed pipeline route in April 2012. The FERC pre-filing process solicits early input from citizens, governmental entities and other interested parties to identify and address issues with potential facility locations. The company hosted a series of public open houses during the summer of 2012 in the affected areas to formally introduce the proposal to the public and solicit feedback.
The FERC  issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement on the project on Oct. 24, 2014, concluding that environmental impacts would be reduced to “less than significant levels” with the implementation of proposed mitigation measures by the company and FERC.
Local Natural Gas Service
Constitution Pipeline would be considered an “open access pipeline,” meaning that local municipalities or public utilities could potentially tap the line in the future to provide residential, commercial and industrial natural gas service.  One such provider Constitution is working with is Leatherstocking Gas Company, LLC. In March 2014 Constitution Pipeline and Leatherstocking announced an agreement to install four delivery interconnects along

Constitution’s proposed pipeline route for the purpose of facilitating potential local natural gas service. Leatherstocking’s plan is to develop local natural gas distribution systems within Broome, Chenango, Delaware, and Madison Counties in New York State and Susquehanna County in Pennsylvania in locations currently without natural gas service. (Constitution Pipeline)

Aerial Tracking of VOC & Methane Emissions

Sensitive instruments to track methane, VOCs and other airborne toxins from New Mexico to North Dakota
The Four Corners area (red) is the major U.S. hot spot for methane emissions in this map showing how much emissions varied from average background concentrations from 2003-2009 (dark colors are lower than average; lighter colors are higher). Image Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan.
The Four Corners area (red) is the major U.S. hot spot for methane emissions in this map showing how much emissions varied from average background concentrations from 2003-2009 (dark colors are lower than average; lighter colors are higher). Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan.
A recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) study of satellite data showing a hotspot of potent heat-trapping methane pollution  is adding to the study what escapes to the air—and how it is transformed in the atmosphere and affects air quality and climate.
Scientists hope to learn much more about the massive quantities of pollution escaping from fossil fuel development areas in the next few months as they launch this year’s  Shale Oil and Natural Gas Nexus (SONGNEX 2015) field campaign, using airborne instruments to measure greenhouse gases and other toxic emissions.
CIRES and NOAA research has shown that many different volatile organic compounds are emitted in the production fields, and that the amount emitted depends greatly on the equipment and production practices in use.  The VOCs are key starting ingredients that lead to the production of ozone, a lower-atmosphere pollutant regulated because of its health effects.
Other chemical reactions transform the emissions and gases in the air into airborne fine particles, which are also an air quality issue.
Methane emissions are a particular focus because, molecule-for-molecule, it is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Methane’s lower overall abundance in the atmosphere (compared to CO2) leads to its ranking as the second most important greenhouse gas emitted by human activities. Previous NOAA and CIRES work has shown that production activities in some basins emit far more methane than others.
The scientists hope their spring flights will provide a detailed and nuanced picture of emissions from industrial fossil fuel development zones. The missions will focus on basins that represent a mixture of oil and gas production regions at various stages of development.
More than a dozen instruments will fly aboard the Lockheed NOAA WP-3D Orion research aircraft to sample the air above fields in the Four Corners area to Texas, to Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and North Dakota.  Flights will be based out of Colorado and Texas beginning in late March and extending throughout the month of April.  (Summit County Citizen Voice, 3/28/2015)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Crude Oil Storage at Cushing, but not Storage Capacity Utilization Rate, at Record Level

graph of weekly crude oil inventory and storage capacities at Cushing, Oklahoma, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Weekly Petroleum Status Report and Working and Net Available Shell Storage Capacity

After increasing for 15 consecutive weeks, crude oil storage at Cushing, Oklahoma, reached 54.4 million barrels on March 13, according to EIA's Weekly Petroleum Status Report. This volume is the highest on record, but not the highest percent of storage utilization, as working storage capacity at Cushing has also increased over time.
Storage levels at Cushing are significant, because Cushing serves as the delivery point for the United Statescrude oil benchmark, West Texas Intermediate. Sited in central Oklahoma, Cushing is home to both a network of crude oil pipelines and storage capacity. The 70.8 million barrels of storage capacity in Cushing represent more than 60% of all crude oil working storage capacity in the Midwest (as defined by Petroleum Administration for Defense District 2) and about 19% of all commercial crude oil storage in the United States.
Although inventory levels at Cushing are at their record high, storage utilization (inventories as a percent of working storage capacity) are not at record levels. Capacity utilization at Cushing is now 77%, a large increase from a recent low of 27% in October 2014. However, utilization reached 91% in March 2011, soon after EIA begansurveying storage capacity twice a year, starting in September 2010.  (DOE-EIA)

LNG, Pipelines & The Northeast

Kinder Morgan Inc., a Houston company, has proposed a $4 billion pipeline that would stretch across Western Massachusetts and into southern New Hampshire, before dipping back into Massachusetts in Dracut.

Spectra Energy Corp., another Texas company, has teamed with local utilities Eversource Energy (formerly Nstar and Northeast Utilities) and National Grid to expand the existing Algonquin gas pipeline system in the region. Known as Access Northeast, that project also includes expanding the capacity of the Maritimes & Northeast line, which carries liquefied natural gas from ships anchored off Eastern Canada. The project could cost up to $3 billion. (Customers would pay the costs of pipeline projects through higher rates.)

Officials at Kinder Morgan, Spectra, Eversource, and National Grid said new pipelines are needed to meet the region’s growing appetite for natural gas and keep down its electric prices, among the highest in the nation.  (The Boston Globe, 3/23/2015)

Nuclear Matters & Center Support For Nuclear Power Plants

Nuclear Matters announced today that 15 organizations have joined the campaign as Partners, coalescing in their support for existing nuclear energy plants and the need to ensure they are preserved. The diverse cross-section of voices includes environmental, consumer and academic groups, among others. They will work alongside Nuclear Matters’ Leadership Council to raise awareness around the value of the existing nuclear fleet for their benefits in terms of reliability, carbon-free generation, and economic impact.
“In my role as co-chair of Nuclear Matters, I’ve heard first-hand from a range of organizations and individuals who are in strong support of our existing nuclear fleet,” said former Senator Evan Bayh. “The fact that many of these organizations have joined Nuclear Matters as Partners is representative of the serious and growing desire that exists across the country to do everything we can to ensure that these plants are preserved.”
“As an organization whose mission it is to apply practical environmental solutions to ensure a cleaner energy future, our partnership with Nuclear Matters is well-suited,” said Norris McDonald, President of the African American Environmentalist Association. “Given that our existing nuclear energy fleet provides 63 percent of the nation’s carbon-free energy, it plays a key role in helping to address environmental challenges, including meeting proposed rules laid out by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce carbon emissions.”
Below is a complete list of the organizations that have partnered with Nuclear Matters and will join the campaign in various events and initiatives across the country:
  • African American Environmentalist Association
  • Carolinas Nuclear Cluster (CNC)
  • Center for Environment, Commerce and Energy
  • Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness
  • Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA)
  • Energy for Carolinas (E4C)
  • Energy Information Center
  • Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy - USA
  • Go Nuclear
  • Illinois Clean Energy Coalition
  • National Museum of Nuclear Science and History
  • North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN)
  • Nuclear Advocacy Network
  • Nuclear Fuels Reprocessing Coalition
  • U.S. Women in Nuclear
About Nuclear Matters
The mission of Nuclear Matters is to inform the public about the clear benefits that nuclear energy provides to our nation, to raise awareness of the economic challenges to nuclear energy that threaten those benefits, and to work with stakeholders to explore possible policy solutions that properly value nuclear energy as a reliable, affordable and carbon-free electricity resource that is essential to America’s energy future.
Supporters of Nuclear Matters include a range of companies and organizations in the energy industry, including Ameren Missouri, American Nuclear Insurers, Arizona Public Service Company, AREVA, Black & Veatch, POWER Burns and Roe, Centrus Energy Corp. Dominion, Duke Energy, Energy Future Holdings Corporation, Energy Northwest, Entergy Corporation, Exelon Corporation, FirstEnergy Corporation, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Lightbridge Corporation, Nebraska Public Power District, NextEra Energy Inc., Omaha Public Power District, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company, Southern Company, Tennessee Valley Authority, and Westinghouse Electric Corporation.
Media Contacts
For Nuclear Matters:
Alexandra Meredith
(212) 446-1887
Joe Germani
(212) 446-1899