Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cellulosic Biofuels Begin To Flow

But In Lower Volumes Than Foreseen By Statutory Targets

Graph of select dark spreads, as explained in the article text

Several companies combined to produce about 20,000 gallons of fuels using cellulosic biomass (e.g., wood waste, sugarcane bagasse) from commercial-scale facilities in late 2012. EIA estimates this output could grow to more than 5 million gallons in 2013, as operations ramp up at several plants. Additionally, several more plants with proposed aggregate nameplate capacity of around 250 million gallons could begin production by 2015 (see map).

Although cellulosic biofuels volumes are expected to grow significantly relative to current levels, they will likely remain well below the targets envisioned in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. That law set a target level of 500 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels for 2012 and 1 billion gallons for 2013, growing to 16 billion gallons by 2022.

The projects identified on the map above were designed to produce ethanol or drop-in biofuels (i.e., fuels that are direct replacements for petroleum-based gasoline or distillate fuels) as well as steam. Using technology known as combined heat and power, this steam can both be consumed internally as a process-heat source and used to generate power. The power can also be used internally to operate pumps and other electrical equipment or sold to the electrical grid, giving these projects the potential to consume no fossil fuels.

A number of the projects shown on the map may also generate a solid co-product with the potential for use as a fertilizer. To the extent that feedstock for these processes are waste products and little-to-no fossil inputs are required for their conversion, greenhouse gas emissions could be as much as 80% to 90% below those of petroleum products on a life-cycle basis. (DOE-EIA)

Sequester Spending Cuts

The sequester is a package of across-the-board, indiscriminate spending cuts that total $85 billion for the current fiscal year and $1.2 trillion over the next decade. The cuts are split evenly between the defense budget and non-defense discretionary spending, which includes many federal grants to state and local agencies. Mandatory programs, including Social Security and Medicaid, are spared.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

White House Meets With Industry & Green Groups on Fracking

The White House review of delayed federal rules for oil-and-gas "fracking" is drawing plenty of interest from energy companies and green groups.  Representatives from the biggest oil-and-gas companies — including Exxon, Shell and BP — met Feb. 21 with aides from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to discuss the rules.

The newly listed record of the Feb. 21 meeting also shows participation from drilling services giant Halliburton, ConocoPhillips, Exxon, Shell, BP, big gas producer Devon Energy, American Petroleum Institute and others.

The White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which serves as the gatekeeper for regulations, held three meetings the second week of February on fracking with groups and companies including Anadarko Petroleum, the League of Conservation Voters, Apache Corp., America's Natural Gas Alliance, the Sierra Club, Environment America, Devon Energy, the Center for Effective Government and the Natural Resources Defense Council, among others.

Fracking forces millions of gallons of water, sand and chemical additives into deep layers of the earth to create cracks through which oil and gas can flow. Green groups say the fracking process risks heavy damage to the environment and the water supply, and are demanding stronger federal oversight. The industry promotes less federal regulation, arguing state-level oversight will be sufficient to protect public safety. (The Hill, 2/25/2013, The Hill, 2/13/2013)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Gasoline Prices Have Risen Since The Start of the Year

The average U.S. retail price for regular motor gasoline has risen 45 cents per gallon since the start of the year, reaching $3.75 per gallon on February 18. Between January 1 and February 19, the price of Brent crude, the waterborne light sweet crude grade that drives the wholesale price of gasoline sold in most U.S. regions, rose about $6 per barrel, or about 15 cents per gallon. A simple calculation, which modestly understates the role of higher crude prices to the extent that crude price increases during December 2012 were still not fully passed through in retail gasoline prices at the start of 2013, suggests that about two-thirds of the rise in gasoline prices since the start of the year reflects higher gasoline crack margins, the difference between the wholesale price of gasoline and the price of crude oil.

The major factors behind the increase in gasoline crack spreads are: planned and unplanned refinery maintenance; the low starting level for gasoline crack spreads going into 2013; preparation for seasonal fuel specification changes; and developments in global product demand that have affected domestic refinery utilization rates, maintenance needs, and product balances.

 Retail Price Graphs.

Throughout much of November and December 2012, gasoline crack spreads were very low, and in some cases negative (a barrel of gasoline worth LESS than a barrel of Brent crude). As a result, retail gasoline prices were lower than one would typically expect given prevailing crude oil prices, with the lowest price of 2012 reached in EIA's weekly survey on December 17. Since the beginning of 2013, reformulated gasoline blendstock for oxygenate blending (RBOB) crack spreads versus Brent have increased 12, 34, and 46 cents per gallon, respectively, in New York Harbor, the Gulf Coast, and Los Angeles.

Both planned and unplanned maintenance at several refineries have supported higher crack spreads. Many refineries schedule maintenance early in the year when gasoline demand is seasonally low.

Futures Price Graphs.

The U.S. average retail price of regular gasoline increased 14 cents to $3.75 per gallon, up 16 cents from last year at this time. The national average price has seen double digit increases two out of the last three weeks and is up 45 cents since the beginning of the year. The largest increase came in the Midwest, where the price increased 18 cents to $3.76 per gallon. The Gulf Coast price is $3.53 per gallon, an increase of 15 cents from last week. The Rocky Mountain price is up 14 cents to $3.41 per gallon. On the West Coast, the price increased 11 cents, but remains just shy of the $4 per gallon mark at $3.97 per gallon. Rounding out the regions, the East Coast price saw the smallest increase, 10 cents, rising to $3.75 per gallon.

Map of California snowpack, as explained in the article text

(DOE-EIA, Petroleum & Other Liquids, DOE-EIA)

Canada Issuing Rules on GHG Emissions From Oil Sands

Canada is unveiling long-delayed rules on greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands, a move that could help persuade U.S. skeptics that Ottawa is serious about curbing climate change.

Alberta’s existing policy includes a carbon fee of $15/ton on large-scale polluters that do not drive down their emissions “intensity” below certain thresholds.  The fee has raised $300 million for a fund that supports green energy projects.  Are American projects eligible under the fund?  If so, the Center needs $20 million to build a woodchip-to-electricity (Green Electric) in Claiborne County, Mississippi (More).

U.S. officials say a final decision on Keystone is unlikely before the middle of the year. The State Department is heading the federal review of the pipeline project. New Secretary of State John Kerry’s historical emphasis on mitigating climate change should make President Obama's decision on the Keystone XL pipeline interesting.
Canada says it will cut output of greenhouse gases by 17 percent of 2005 levels by 2020.

The United States is the world's second largest producer of greenhouse gases.

Canada is the biggest supplier of energy to the United States and sits on the world's third-largest reserves of crude oil.

Much of it is in the clay-like tar sands of Alberta and needs large amounts of energy to extract.

(Reuters, 2/14/2013, The Hill, 2/24/2013))

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Renewable Electric Catamarans

Hybrid-electric drive
The E motion system is true hybrid-electric drive. It can power the drive motors solely by electricity from the batteries - which can be charged from renewable energy sources - or from a DC diesel generator feeding through the battery pack.

E motion hybrids incorporate the latest in solid state electronics and permanent-magnet motor technology. One key to our system's efficiency is our motors' ability to turn larger, more efficient propellers than a comparable diesel engine can. A large prop turns more slowly and pushes more water in each revolution

Another is its ability to obtain energy for recharging the batteries from multiple inputs, especially renewable sources:

1- Regeneration from wind power - when the propeller turns in the wake under sail, the drive motor automatically becomes a generator and sends electricity back to the batteries.
When the sails go up in open water, you throttle the motor back so it's just ticking over. The motor turns the prop slowly while you sail. It corkscrews through the water and cancels most of the drag. When boat speed increases - from sliding down a wave or the wind picking up - the prop is forced to turn faster as the water rushes by. The motor then becomes a generator and sends electricity back to the batteries.

2- Solar cells and wind turbogenerators - If the boat has space available, twelve 12 volt solar panels can recharge the 144 VDC main battery pack, while a wind turbine tops up the house batteries.

3- Dockside plugin - standard AC power is fed into the battery pack through a battery charger.

4- Backup diesel generator - produces direct current at 144 volts to charge the batteries directly.



One 144 v battery packs connected in parallel. 
The E motion system provides power not just for propulsion, but for every system on the boat.The main battery pack is both the central storage bank for all electrical inputs and the source of electricity for all power consumers in the system.

The battery pack delivers 144 VDC to:
1 - the digitally controlled propulsion motors
2 - a DC-DC converter that provides 12 VDC or other low voltages to the house power system
3 - a DC-AC inverter that provides 110/220 VAC to AC appliances.

Diesel reductions

This central source of power results in substantial reductions in diesel fuel, noise, fumes, routine maintenance and repairs.

In a monohull, the single, silenced, easily accessible diesel genset replaces two internal combustion engines - the diesel propulsion engine and the diesel generator. In a catamaran, it replaces three -- the diesel generator and two propulsion diesels.
Lagoon 47
The testtbed for the E motion hybrid system is a Lagoon 47, one of the company's most popular early models.

The original 10 ton cat came with twin 27 hp diesel engines. These were replaced with two nine kw electric motors, which turn bigger props than the original diesels.

The boat is equipped with 12 rooftop 12 volt solar panels, which directly recharge the main 144 VDC battery pack.
LOA16.9 m46'3"
LWL15.32 m42'8"
Beam9.20 m24'11"
Draft1.2 m3'11"
Disp 14 T19,842 lb
Mainsail area105 m2710 ft2
Solent jib40 m2291 ft2
Spinnaker180 m21292 ft2
Genset15 kw
Motor 9 kw (2)
Prop18x14 3 blade (2)
144V battery pack AGM 4D
12V house batteriesAGM 4D
Airpax 3500D

The main components of the E motion system are the motors, batteries, DC-DC converter (or cross-charger), generator and inverter. The generator and other electrical sources - regeneration, plug-in dockside power or144 V solar panels - feed into the battery pack. The battery pack then provides 144 VDC power to the motors and inverter. (See Technology for additional system description.)



DC-DC Converter

(Emotion Hybrids)

Friday, February 22, 2013

EPA Letter Responding To Senator Mikulski on Sequestration

EPA responded to a letter from Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski that requested information on how budgetary 'sequestration' would affect the agency.  EPA responded that:
"Sequestration will force us to make cuts we believe will directly undercut our Congressionally-mandated mission of assuring Americans have clean air, clean water and clean land.  I am enclosing our preliminary assessment of some of the impacts of sequestration, should it be implemented.  Our assessment highlights a number of immediate impacts to programs, people and services."

New Offset Protocols for California GHG Cap & Trade Program

Notice of Public Workshop on Addition of New Offset Protocols to the California Greenhouse Gas Cap-and-Trade Program‏
ARB will hold a public workshop on new offset protocol development.

Staff from the Air Resources Board (ARB) invites you to participate in a workshop as part of amendments of the California greenhouse gas (GHG) Cap-and-Trade Program. This workshop will
focus on evaluating the technical details of adding protocols for Coal Mine Methane Projects and Rice Cultivation Projects to the Cap-and-Trade Regulation. At the workshop, ARB staff will
provide an overview of the proposed protocols including project eligibility, proposed quantification methodologies, and recognition of early action offset credits. We welcome and encourage your participation in this event.

Workshop Time and Location

Date: Thursday, March 28, 2013
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Location: Byron Sher Auditorium
Second Floor, Cal/EPA Headquarters,
1001 “I” Street
Sacramento, CA 95812


The California Cap on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Market-Based
Compliance Mechanisms Regulation went into effect on January 1,
2012. The Cap-and-Trade Regulation contains provisions for the
use of a limited number of ARB offset credits generated under
approved Compliance Offset Protocols to meet an entities
compliance obligation. Currently the Regulation recognizes four
Compliance Offset Protocols: Ozone Depleting Substances Projects,
Livestock Projects, Urban Forest Projects, and U.S. Forest
 ARB has identified
two new protocols, Rice Cultivation Projects and Coal Mine
Methane Projects, as potentially meeting the requirements
specified in the Regulation for approval as Compliance Offset

The protocol for Coal Mine Methane Projects quantifies reductions
in methane emissions from mining operations. Underground and
surface coal mining can release methane to the atmosphere before,
during and after the mining process. There are two key sources
of methane from active coal mining: ventilation and
degasification. During ventilation dilute methane is vented
through mine ventilation shafts. For degasification vertical or
horizontal wells remove methane from the underground mine before,
during, or after mining. To reduce methane emissions, methane
can be captured and used for energy production or flared. The
protocol would include methodologies to identify eligible project
types, and to identify and quantify of eligible methane sources.

The protocol for Rice Cultivation Projects quantifies reductions
in methane emissions from flooded rice fields. Flooding results
in anaerobic decomposition of organic matter. The organic matter
can originate from soil amendments, plant residues or root
exudates. The amount of methane produced is affected by the
duration of flooding, the rice variety and the availability of
crop residues and organic matter.

The protocol would use the DeNitrification-DeComposition (DNDC)
biogeochemical process model to quantify soil carbon dynamics,
N2O and CH4 emissions. At this time projects would be limited to
California and the Mid-South Region (list states) for which the
DNDC model has been calibrated with empirical data. And the
protocol would be limited to three specific project activities:
(1) replacing wet seeding with dry seeding, (2) early drainage,
and (3) baling of rice straw.

Workshop Materials and Written Comments

The workshop materials will be posted prior to the workshop at At
this website, you may join our electronic mailing list to receive
notices of ARB activities and public meetings. This website may
also be used to submit written comments on the workshop. Please
submit written comments by April 19, 2013.

Video/Audio Webcast

A live video/audio webcast will be available for the workshop at
the following link:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Summary of Hydraulic Fracturing Study November 2012 Technical Roundtables‏

EPA rececently posted a summary of the five technical roundtables held in November 2012 to help inform EPA's Hydraulic Fracturing Study. Each roundtable focused on a different stage of the hydraulic fracturing water cycle:
  • Water acquisition
  • Chemical mixing
  • Well injection
  • Flowback and produced water
  • Wastewater treatment and waste disposal
Technical roundtables are an important component of EPA’s Study of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources. The roundtables allow for external subject-matter experts from a variety of stakeholder groups to discuss the work underway to answer the key research questions of the study, and to identify possible topics for technical workshops.

For more information on technical roundtables and workshops, please visit the 2012 - 2013 Technical Roundtables and Workshops webpage

Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors (LFTR)


Work done at Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) back in the 1950s and 60s demonstrated the feasibility of breeding U-233 from Thorium-232 as well as 'burning' U-233 in Molten Salts (ionic compounds). These molten salts  (lithium fluoride and beryllium fluoride) serve as a carrier fluid for both Thorium (Thorium tetraflouride) [Blanket] and Uranium (Uranium tetraflouride) [Core]. The resulting design has been coined the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor or LFTR (See diagram above). Below is a simplified LFTR diagram. 

In a LFTR, fission takes place in a liquid core. Fission generates heat that ultimately finds use to do some useful work (e.g. drive a turbine to make electricity). Surrounding the core is a blanket of liquid carrying Thorium. Neutrons from fission pass from the core to the blanket for absorption by the Thorium. This transforms the Thorium to Uranium-233. After chemical removal of the Uranium-233 from the blanket, it goes into the core as new fuel. Next is the chemical removal of the fission products from the core. The process is self-sustaining, requiring only Thorium as input.

A LFTR was never built at ORNL. However, they did build and operate the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MRSE) for four years from 1965 through 1969. This reactor generated 7.5 Megawatts, allowing the scientists to determine the design parameters and work through system issues to arrive at a design that allows for the burning nuclear fuel in molten salts. The MSRE worked out nearly all key issues needed to build a LFTR.

The MSRE demonstrated:
  1. The burning of both U-235 as well as U-233 in a carrier salt of LiF-BeF2-ZrF4-UF4
  2. Operation at high temperature (650°C) at full power for more than one year
  3. Operation at atmospheric pressure
  4. That carrier salts were impervious to radiation damage
  5. The carrier salt chemistry and metals metallurgy to eliminate corrosion
  6. An efficient method of on-line refueling
  7. Largely validated predictions
The MSRE did not:
  1. Have a blanket to breed U-233 from Thorium (therefore, it was not a complete LFTR)
  2. Have the size of a utility class power plant, (this was the next step before funding ceased)
  3. Have a power conversion system to generate electricity
Conventional Nuclear Power suffers from two key issues: spent nuclear fuel or nuclear waste and costs of plant construction. Significant mitigation of both of these issues is accomplished with a LFTR.

LFTRs have some significant advantages compare to today’s nuclear power. The most significant of these stem from the liquid core running at atmospheric pressure.

These advantages are:

  1. No water under pressure, therefore no pressure vessel, reducing cost
  2. No large reinforced concrete containment building is required, reducing cost
  3. Can be built in a factory, reducing costs
  4. Because the core can be drained, LFTRs exhibit an enormous level of passive safety
  5. Can be refueled without shut down
  6. Exhibit 100% fuel burn up and generates almost no long lived radioactive waste
  7. Configurations of LFTRs can consume the long lived radioactive elements in our present stockpiles of nuclear waste
  8. Allow for the extraction of molybdenum-99 for medical purposes. Eliminating a supply shortage issue (
  9. Allows for the extraction (in large quantities) of other radioactive isotopes for medical purposes
  10. Can operate at high temperature, allowing the use of waste heat to desalinate seawater; higher temperatures can make for economical generation of synthetic fuels, (could use CO2 from the atmosphere, thus making synthetic fuels carbon neutral)
(Energy From Thorium)

BP Oil Spill Fines

BP has won an agreement from the Justice Department that there will be no penalties on the barrels of crude oil the company was able to recapture during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill, effectively cutting the company’s potential Clean Water Act fines by as much as $900 million, or even up to $3.5 billion.

BP has contended that the amount spilled was “at least 20 percent” less than that. Moreover, it has argued that whatever the size of the spill, it kept 810,000 barrels out of the water by capturing the oil with its containers and vessels. That would mean that civil penalties would apply only to 3.1 million barrels of oil. Even using the government’s higher estimate, the agreement to exclude the 810,000 barrels would reduce BP’s Clean Water Act fines by 16.5 percent.

Under the Clean Water Act, the federal government can impose fines of as much as $1,100 a barrel or, if BP is found to be grossly negligent, as much as $4,300 a barrel. BP is going to trial in a New Orleans federal court Monday to defend itself against charges of gross negligence. The size of the spill will be the subject of the second phase of the trial, beginning in September. (Wash Post, 2/20/2013)

Why Are Gasoline Prices Increasing?

The 44-cent jump in gasoline prices over the past four weeks was the largest in well over three years, according to AAA.  Average nationwide prices were $3.75 per gallon Tuesday, the highest on record for the calendar day. 

Some politicians attribute the price rise to increased global competition for oil supplies and political tensions in the Middle East are contributing to high gas prices as uncertainty swells over future supplies.

AAA believs this year’s earlier-than-usual rise in prices is related in part to refinery maintenance.  (The Hill, 2/20/2013)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

President Obama Golfed During Historic Climate Rally

Jim Crane
Milton Carroll
On the same weekend that thousands gathered on The National Mall to protest construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama was golfing at the Floridian Yacht and Golf Club with electricity, oil, natural gas and pipeline players Jim Crane and Milton Carroll.  Crane owns the club, which is located on the Treasure Coast in Palm City, Florida. 

The Center has partnered with a Houston-based pipeline company, S.L. Sibert Management and Construction Company, and is looking for business.

Crane is chairman and chief executive of Crane Capital Group and he is also the owner and chairman of the Major League Baseball team Houston Astros.  Private equity firm Crane Capital, based in Houston, bought Champion Energy Services from Lehman Brothers in July 2008 for an undisclosed sum. Crane Capital chief Jim Crane, the majority shareholder in Champion, then merged the company with Ambridge, a small wholesale electric company he founded. Currently, Champion serves the equivalent of 350,000 residential customers, with a peak load of 1,000 megawatts.

Carroll is the chairman of CenterPoint Energy, a public utility company based in Houston, Texas. CenterPoint Energy is composed of an electric transmission and distribution utility serving the Houston metropolitan area, local natural gas distribution businesses in six states, a competitive natural gas sales and service business serving customers in the eastern half of the U.S., interstate pipeline operations with two natural gas pipelines in the mid-continent region, and a field services business with natural gas gathering operations, also in the mid-continent region.

Both Carroll and Crane are directors at Western Gas Holdings, the managing partner of Western Gas Partners, a midstream energy provider created by Anadarko Petroleum, one of the largest publicly traded oil and gas companies. Western Gas Partners' main investment is in the booming field of natural gas exploration, transportation and manufacture in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Wyoming. (The Huffington Post, 2/20/2013, Wiki, Houston Business Journal, 11/29/2009

Milton Carroll

Instrument Products, Inc. Founder, President and CEO (1977-)
Texas State Official Commissioner, Port of Houston Authority
Member of the Board of CenterPoint Energy (1992-, as Chairman, 2002-)
Member of the Board of Devon Energy
Member of the Board of Eagle Global Logistics, Inc.
Member of the Board of Halliburton (2006-)
Member of the Board of Health Care Service Corporation (as Chairman)
Member of the Board of Instrument Products, Inc. (as Chairman)
Member of the Board of Ocean Energy, Inc.
Member of the Board of PanEnergy
Member of the Board of Reliant Energy
Member of the Board of TEPPCO Partners


EPA Finalizes 'Boiler MACT' Rules

EPA Finalizes Hazardous Air Emission Rules for Boilers and Process Heaters Affecting 90,000 Facilities

EPA’s standards for hazardous air emissions from boilers and process heaters, commonly referred to as “Boiler MACT,” were formally published on January 31, 2013. Boilers and heaters that were constructed after June 4, 2010 must meet the new requirements immediately; older units must come into compliance over the next three years, unless continued litigation derails this rule once again.
Boilers and process heaters are common components of a wide variety of industrial facilities – refineries, pulp and lumber mills, food processors, chemical manufacturers, smelters, glass makers, and other factories – as well as large institutional facilities like universities and hospitals. EPA estimates that under its new rules about 200,000 boilers and heaters at about 90,000 facilities will be subject to new work practice standards. About 14,500 existing boilers and heaters located at about 1,700 existing facilities also will be subject to new emission limits. (Marten Law, By Svend Brandt-Erichsen)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Plug-In Hybrids & All-Electric Cars Can Get the Job Done

Most plug-in cars today are plug-in hybrids, whose drivers have no range limitations at all. If you want one car to do it all, a plug-in hybrid like the Chevy Volt, Toyota Plug-in Prius, Honda Accord Plug-in, Ford Fusion Energi, or Ford C-Max Energi, is a great option. For daily driving needs, you can drive on electricity at a price that’s equivalent to driving on buck-a-gallon gasoline, and after you’ve gone beyond the all-electric range, the car operates as an efficient gasoline hybrid.

Most all-electrics, such as the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus EV, Mitsubishi-i, BMW Active-E, Fiat 500 EV, Coda, Chevy Spark EV, or Honda Fit EV, have ranges between 60 and 100 miles. Most households in America have multiple vehicles. An all-electric is perfect for the daily commuter, providing significant savings relative to gasoline and the convenience of refueling at home.


The all-electric Telsa Model S (above),  comes in packages that offer EPA certified ranges between 208 and 265 miles.

The chart below contrasts the historical and forecasted prices of U.S. gasoline and residential electricity in dollars per gallon equivalent, adjusted for inflation.

History and Forecast.jpg

*Equivalent price for a 27 mile-per-gallon conventional vehicle and a plug-in electric vehicle with 0.34 kilowatt-hour-per-mile efficiency. Data source: Energy Information Administration.

Petro Share of Electricity.jpg

(NRDC Switchboard, 2/16/2013, 12/21/2012)

February 17th Anti Keystone XL Pipeline Rally & March


By Norris McDonald

About 35,000 people rallied on The National Mall to support climate change mitigation and to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline.  Opposing the pipeline has become the new litmus test for environmentalism, replacing the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR).  Yet hundreds of thousands of miles of hydrocarbon carrying pipelines already crisscross the United States to support the American way of life. 

It appears that President Obama will approve the international agreement for the northern shortcut as he already has for the southern extension of the pipeline.  President Obama also provided lofty rhethoric on energy and climate change during his State of the Union.

The Center has partnered with a pipeline company and is seeking construction and ownership opportunities.

Congress appears to be punting on climate change legislation for the first half of this year.  According to The Hill, House and Senate climate change mitigation advocates have introduced legislation, but are not trying to rush a vote:
Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) rolled out a major plan (Climate Protection Act of 2013) that would impose carbon emissions fees. Boxer wants the bill to come to the floor by summer, but she has not discussed that prospect yet with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). A Reid spokesman said it is too soon to talk about specific climate measures.
The legislation would impose a fee on carbon emissions that would fund investments in energy efficiency and sustainable energy technologies such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. The proposal also would provide rebates to consumers to offset any efforts by oil, coal or gas companies to raise prices..

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, on February 4th released her energy blueprintEnergy 20/20: A Vision for American’s Energy Future.

A new congressional global warming caucus, The Safe Climate Caucus, has been formed in the House of Representatives and is chaired by Energy & Commerce Committee ranking minority member Henry Waxman. The new Safe Climate Caucus follows Waxman’s creation several weeks ago of a new bicameral climate task force with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

The Center supports Cap & Trade but evidently it is permanently politically dead.  And it has been years since either chamber debated major climate legislation. A cap-and-trade bill died in the Senate in 2008, while a sweeping energy and emissions-capping bill Waxman co-authored narrowly cleared the House in 2009, when Democrats had the majority. But a version of the plan that now-former Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) crafted in 2010 never reached the floor. (The Hill)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

President Obama State of the Union 2013: Energy & Climate



“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.”

“But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods — all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science and act before it’s too late.”

Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy. After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years.  We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar -- with tens of thousands of good American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before -- and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

“I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan market-based solution to climate change like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.”

“But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct–I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take now and in the future to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”

"I’m also issuing a new goal for America: Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years.  We'll work with the states to do it. Those states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen."

"America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire -- a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and Internet; high-tech schools, self-healing power grids."

"Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. And we’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year -- let’s drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all in on clean energy, so must we."

“Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. That’s got to be part of an all-of-the-above plan.   But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and our water.”

"In fact, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long."

"America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair."

Wind Industry Installs 5,300 MW of Capacity in December

Graph of select spark spreads, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration,
Annual Electric Generator Report (Form EIA-860)
 and U.S. Energy Information Administration,
Monthly Update to the Annual Electric Generator Report
 (Form EIA-860M). Note: Data are preliminary

Approximately 40% of the total 2012 wind capacity additions (12,620 MW) came online in December, just before the scheduled expiration of the wind production tax credit (PTC). During December 2012, 59 new wind projects totaling 5,253 MW began commercial operation, the largest-ever single-month capacity increase for U.S. wind energy. About 50% of the total December wind capacity additions were installed in three states: Texas (1,120MW), Oklahoma (794 MW), and California (730 MW).

Wind plant developers reported throughout 2012 increasing amounts of new capacity scheduled to enter commercial operation before the end of the year. To qualify for the PTC last year, wind projects had to begin commercial operation by December 31.

On New Year's Day, Congress enacted a one-year extension of the PTC and also relaxed the rules. Under this extension, projects that begin construction before the end of 2013 are eligible to receive a 2.2 ¢/kWh PTC for generation over a 10-year period.

Graph of efficiency versus heat rate, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration,
Annual Electric Generator Report (Form EIA-860)
and U.S. Energy Information Administration,
 Monthly Update to the Annual Electric Generator Report
 (Form EIA-860M). Note: Data are preliminary

For 2012 as a whole, the four leading states for wind capacity installations were California (1,789 MW), Kansas (1,447 MW), Texas (1,504 MW), and Oklahoma (1,382 MW). Wind turbines installed during 2012 were concentrated in the midwestern and southern Great Plains regions. These are regions with high-potential wind resources, low population density (thus reducing problems related to siting and permitting), and existing and planned transmission lines to carry wind power to where the electricity is needed.

Wind generators provided the largest share of additions to total U.S. electric generation capacity in 2012, just as it did in 2008 and 2009. The 2012 addition of 12,620 MW is the highest annual wind capacity installment ever reported to EIA. Wind capacity additions accounted for more than 45% of total 2012 capacity additions and exceeded capacity additions from any other fuel source, including natural gas (which led capacity additions in 2000-07, 2010, and 2011).

Of all existing capacity at the end of 2012, wind made up 5.4%. However, wind provided only 3.4% of total electricity generation between January and November 2012 (the latest available data), reflecting a capacity utilization rate that is limited by the intermittent nature of the wind resource.

Graph of efficiency versus heat rate, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration,
Annual Electric Generator Report (Form EIA-860)
and U.S. Energy Information Administration,
Monthly Update to the Annual Electric Generator Report
(Form EIA-860M). Note: The 2006-11 data are final; 2012 data are preliminary


Friday, February 15, 2013

EPA Invites Communities to Apply for Smart Growth Assistance

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is inviting applications from communities interested in exploring barriers to smart growth and testing innovative strategies that can create healthier, more sustainable places to live, work, and play.

EPA’s Smart Growth Implementation Assistance (SGIA) program provides technical assistance to help communities grow in ways that improve the local economy, the environment, and people’s health. The program aims to help applicants develop solutions to local challenges, such as managing stormwater, increasing transit-oriented development, and adapting to climate change, and to share those solutions with other communities.

EPA will be accepting applications from tribal, local, regional, and state governments and nonprofit organizations that have partnered with a governmental entity for their request for assistance. Applications will be accepted until March 1, 2013. EPA will provide assistance to three to four communities selected from this round of applications.

EPA is seeking applications in the following four categories:

Community Resilience to Disasters and Climate Change – Projects should aim to develop planning principles and building design guidelines that ensure future development provides communities with better protection against storms, floods, and other natural disasters.

Redevelopment for Job Creation – Projects should aim to support growing industries that provide quality jobs for existing residents using land use policies that direct development to existing neighborhoods, are pedestrian-friendly, allow for transit connections, and are close to businesses and public services.

Manufactured and Modular Homes in Sustainable Neighborhood Design – Projects should help communities that are using manufactured and modular homes to address sudden population and economic growth. These communities should provide a mix of uses and maximize existing streets and other infrastructure investments, community gathering spaces, and water and energy efficiency.

Medical and Social Service Facilities Siting – Projects should aim to explore planning for high-quality community service facilities, including health care centers and social services centers, in ways that support neighborhood economic development and healthy communities.

Since 2005, the SGIA program has helped an array of communities from across the country on issues such as stormwater management, code revision, transit-oriented development, affordable housing, infill development, corridor planning, green building, and climate change. (EPA)

More information on the SGIA program and applications

More information on the Partnership for Sustainable Communities

Transocean To Pay $400 Million in Criminal Penalties

Transocean Pleads Guilty, Is Sentenced to Pay $400 Million in Criminal Penalties for Criminal Conduct Leading to Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Second Corporate Guilty Plea Obtained by Deepwater Horizon Task Force, Second-largest Criminal Clean Water Act Fines and Penalties in U.S. History

Transocean Deepwater Inc. pleaded guilty today to a violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) for its illegal conduct leading to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, and was sentenced to pay $400 million in criminal fines and penalties, Attorney General Holder announced today. In total, the amount of fines and other criminal penalties imposed on Transocean are the second-largest environmental crime recovery in U.S. history – following the historic $4 billion criminal sentence imposed on BP Exploration and Production Inc. in connection with the same disaster.

Eleven men died, and the Gulf’s waters, shorelines, communities and economies suffered enormous damage. With today’s guilty plea, BP and Transocean have now both been held criminally accountable for their roles in this disaster.

Transocean’s guilty plea was accepted, and the sentence was imposed, by U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo of the Eastern District of Louisiana. During the guilty plea and sentencing proceeding, Judge Milazzo found, among other things, that the sentence appropriately reflects Transocean’s role in the offense conduct, and that the criminal payments directed to the National Academy of Sciences and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation are appropriately designed to help remedy the harm to the Gulf of Mexico caused by Transocean’s actions. The judge also noted that the fines and five year probationary period provide just punishment and adequate deterrence. (EPA)

Read Full Release:

Energy 20/20: A Vision for America’s Energy Future

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, on February 4th released her energy blueprint – Energy 20/20: A Vision for American’s Energy Future.

Energy 20/20: A Vision for America’s Energy Future
Senator Lisa Murkowski
February 2013


• America’s energy and natural resources policy must be re-imagined. The year 2020 is a sensible horizon for implementation.

• As we move ahead to 2020, Congress should enact discrete bills and conduct targeted oversight that proceeds from an understanding of the facts.

• There is a consensus that it is in our national interest to make energy abundant, affordable, clean, diverse, and secure. Our challenge is to align federal law and policy with that consensus.

Energy 20/20 includes ideas under seven categories: producing more, consuming less, clean energy technology, energy delivery infrastructure, effective government, environmental responsibility and "an energy policy that pays for itself."


• Dramatic changes have taken place in global and national economic conditions. There is a heightened awareness of energy production and consumption which moves us toward greater environmental responsibility. America’s energy infrastructure has aged, the price of oil is high, and the need for reliable and secure energy supplies has never been greater.

• The future is bright. New technologies are making more energy production possible, and output has risen dramatically on state and private lands in recent years.

• Clean energy sources – defined in this report as having less environmental impact than their next most likely alternative – are increasingly attractive.

• We are using energy more efficiently, and we are witnessing gains in biofuels, electricity, and natural gas as transportation fuels. o Modernized federal energy policies can help spur these trends, in part by removing roadblocks erected by the government itself.

• A prudent balancing of energy goals with the proper standards for environmental regulation is more pressing than ever.

o Our nation is too often hamstrung by regulatory overreach, permitting delays, and litigation seeking to apply environmental laws well beyond their original intent.

o Too often, necessary and worthwhile energy and resource projects are rendered uneconomic by attrition, and endless rounds of administrative disputes and lawsuits.

o These never-ending cycles stand in the way of timely, efficient, and urgently-needed investments in energy supply and conservation.


Energy 20/20 is an effort to begin a conversation about the direction energy and resource policy should take over the next few years. This report is a blueprint for discussion, not an energy plan in itself.

• Through the ‘all of the above’ policies outlined in this report, the United States can achieve full independence from OPEC oil imports by the year 2020.

• We must also continue to fund scientific research critical to continued progress. Basic and applied research combined with demonstrations of advanced technologies will produce the dramatic breakthroughs we need to reach a future in which ‘clean energy’ and ‘energy independence’ are more than just slogans.

Representative Policy Ideas From

Energy 20/20

• Increase domestic oil and natural gas production and partner with Canada and Mexico to ensure their oil exports are brought to our country. This should begin immediately with the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline project.

• Reform permitting processes and review decisions for energy, natural resources, and infrastructure projects to reduce uncertainty, delay, and excessive litigation, while still meeting environmental standards; fast track projects of national importance; and defer to state agencies when possible.

• Redefine clean energy as "less intensive in global lifecycle impacts on human health and the environment than its likeliest alternative." Implement this definition across all programs and policies.

• Use the increased revenues that result from measures advocated in Energy 20/20 to create an Advanced Energy Trust Fund for clean energy research and to pay down the national debt.

• Define hydropower as a renewable resource across all federal programs and initiatives.

• Eliminate dependency on traditional government subsidies, supporting instead clean energy finance mechanisms that are technology-neutral, cost-effective, and conducive to private investment.

• Upgrade energy delivery infrastructure, including pipelines and transmission lines.

• Develop more of our offshore resources and provide revenue sharing for coastal producing states.

• Open the coastal plain of ANWR, as authorized by law, to oil and gas development and ensure the federal government promotes the maximum responsible production in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

• Address climate change by funding basic research, lowering the cost of financing for especially promising technologies, providing prudent and temporary subsidies that are fully offset, and reducing regulatory burdens for deployment.

• Diversify coal use, facilitate exports, and reform regulations that inhibit improvements in the environmental performance of power plants.

• Encourage and accelerate efforts to make oil shale and methane hydrates commercially viable.

• Make solar and wind power more cost-effective by increasing R&D of energy storage technologies.

• Expand nuclear power and support for new technologies, including Small Modular Reactors, and resolve the pressing back-end issues of the fuel cycle.

• Promote a comprehensive energy efficiency approach by making financing accessible for efficiency retrofits, both in the federal space and private markets, and pursuing integrated efficiency systems, without creating any mandates, all while pursuing efficiency per unit of GDP rather than less energy production.

• Reform the Vehicle Technologies Program to focus on a technology-neutral suite of pre-commercial research, and eliminate the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program.

• Reform the Renewable Fuels Standard and the Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program.

• Focus federal research and development on basic and applied research with demonstrations of advanced technologies, and continue to fund ARPA-E.

Energy 20/20

Does NOT Advocate:

• New mandates or regulatory regimes.
• Any policy that would increase the price of energy or limit consumer choice.
• Any new spending that is not fully offset via reductions in other areas or increased revenue.
• Higher taxes.

To read the full document

To view the fact sheet

To read her speech from the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) Winter Committee Meetings.

To watch an excerpt of her NARUC speech

To watch her full speech at NARUC

To watch her press conference on Energy 20/20

To watch her interview with Andrea Mitchell

(Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee)