NewEnergyNews: ENERGY BILL: FUELED BUT BLOCKED

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-HOTTEST SEPTEMBER EVER; WORLD’S HOTTEST MONTHS STREAK AT SIX
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-EU WIND BEATS FOSSIL, NUKE ENERGY PRICES
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-DESERTEC SUCCUMBS TO MIDEAST TURMOIL
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-JAPAN UPS PUSH FOR GEOTHERMAL
  • THE DAY BEFORE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Oct. 16:

  • TTTA Thursday-THE MILITARY FALLS FOR THE HOAX
  • TTTA Thursday-FORTUNE 100 BUSINESSES BOOST SUN
  • TTTA Thursday-IOWA UTILITY BUYS WIND TO CUT COSTS
  • TTTA Thursday-GETTING ENERGY EFFICIENCY FROM THE CLOUD
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    GET THE DAILY HEADLINES EMAIL: CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: NEW ENERGY BECOMES PRICE COMPETITIVE
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 15: NEW NUMBERS SHOW BIG OCEAN WIND POWER; SOLAR TURNS IN A NEW DIRECTION; FUEL CELL MARKETS TO VARY, GROW
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: WORLD WIND COMES ON
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 14: THE UTILITY-SOLAR DEBATE OVER WHO PAYS; TECHNICIANS WANTED – APPLY TO WIND; MAKING MULTIFAMILY BLDGS MORE EFFICIENT
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: A LOOK AT THE FUTURE OF CONCENTRATING SOLAR POWER PLANTS
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 13: NUCLEAR FADING, NEW ENERGY COMING ON; THE ONE BIG ADVANTAGE OF SOLAR; HALF OF GLOBAL HEAT MAY BE HIDING IN THE OCEANS
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • Weekend Video: Mother Nature Talks Back
  • Weekend Video: What Big Coal Is Thinking
  • Weekend Video: The War On New Energy
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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  • ---------------
  • Tuesday, December 04, 2007

    ENERGY BILL: FUELED BUT BLOCKED

    Auto industry leaders are doing the old “Woe is me!” spin, pleading that if they have to meet the (relatively modest) new CAFÉ standards for vehicle fleet mileage, at least California and other states should drop their lawsuits demanding lower vehicle emissions.

    It’s almost laughable to see Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Executive Chairman Bill Ford mock-courageously declare they “…have to do it…” “…no matter what the size…” of the new CAFÉ standards (agreed to November 30 by House and Senate leaders).

    It's not like it would be impossible to do a little better. (click to enlarge)

    Still, it will be delicious to see the big coal-burning, greenhouse gas-emitting utilities like Southern Company doing the same act when congressional leaders someday finally get around to facing their duty and passing a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) requiring utilities to obtain a significant percentage of their electricity from renewable sources.

    If the American Wind Energy Association can do anything about it
    (see WIND ENERGY ASKS PUBLIC TO PUSH CONGRESS ON BILL below) the RES will be part of the 2007 legislation. Back the effort at: POWER OF WIND

    But the plight of the RES is only one element in a scenario reminiscent of the poker night sequences in Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple.” Here are the players: The Bush White House is represented by Al Hubbard, director, National Economic Council; Democratic leadership is represented by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). The auto industry is represented at the table by Congressman John Dingell (D-Mich) and Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich). The utility industry is represented by many southeastern conservatives, here by Senator Pete Domenici (R.-NM) and Congressman Joe Barton, (R-TX).

    Hubbard sits in, deals and announces President Bush wants lower mileage standards but bigger ethanol and biofuels requirements or he will veto.

    Dingell and Levin study their hands and mention that actually the auto industry can live with the mileage standards, “…though it will be tough,” they grimace melodramatically and then ask for potato chips and beer.

    Pelosi smiles about the cards she is holding and says she can give a little on the mileage standards but has to have an RES, then confidently predicts she can push it through the House. She offers to let Domenici count efficiency measures as part of his renewable electricity.

    Domenici looks up from his cards, asks Pelosi why Reid hasn’t arrived at the game and says the RES is a deal breaker. "But maybe I can live with incentives for renewables if I can get guarantees for nuclear energy loans."

    Barton asks Hubbard to bring him a baloney sandwich and says renewables aren’t energy at all, not even ethanol and biofuels. "I cannot allow my oil and gas incentives to get spread around in some Democrat 'no energy' plan."

    Pelosi demands incentives for New Energy or she will put through an RES and dare the Senate to reject it and dare Bush to veto it.

    Hubbard smiles and says Bush will.

    Reid arrives (in the role of Felix Unger), makes strange sounds from his nose because of allergies, and moans that Bush won’t have to veto because the fillibuster-proof 60 Senate votes necessary to beat the fossil fuel lobby aren't there. "Half the Senate Democrats are too busy campaigning for President to vote," he says. "And the other half are at the climate change summit in Bali with Al Gore." Suddenly, Reid realizes Pelosi has made a side deal with Dingell and Levin on mileage standards and left to pass the RES in the House.

    "I can't live with this!" Reid exclaims and, threatening to jump, goes to the window - but throws out his back trying to open it. The remaining players cash in their chips and disperse while Reid carefully lays down on the floor and starts discussing global warming with Hubbard, who yawns.

    Funny enough, but hanging in the balance are 3 crucial matters: (1) The first improvement in auto mileage requirements in 32 years; (2) Incentives for New Energy that could spur growth just where America needs it the most; and (3) Demands that the fossil fuel industries give up some of American taxpayers’ underwriting of the problem (greenhouse gas emissions, toxic pollution and war funding) so taxpayers can begin underwriting the solution (New Energy).


    25 states have a Renewable Electricity Standard, or RES (formerly called a Renewable Portfolio Standard, RPS) but a national standard would bring the other half of the country along and create a single set of rules for New Energy providers to work with, streamlining the boom. (click to enlarge)

    Roadblocks Remain to Energy Bill; Fuel-Economy Deal Aside, Sticking Points Could Sink Comprehensive Measure
    John J. Fialka and Greg Hitt, December 3, 2007 (Wall Street Journal)
    and
    Rocky road ahead for enrgy bill in U.S. Congress
    Chris Baltimore, December 3, 2007 (Reuters)
    and
    Bush threatens to veto energy bill
    Justin Hyde, December 3, 2007 (Detroit Free Press)
    and
    CEO: Ford Can Handle Tougher Fuel Rules
    December 3, 2007 (AP via NY Times)

    WHO
    Al Hubbard, director, White House National Economic Council; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Congressman John Dingell (D-Mich), Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich), Senator Pete Domenici (R.-NM), Congressman Joe Barton, (R-TX)

    WHAT
    As with so many crucial legislative matters, there may be no way out of the multifaceted stalemate between congressional leaders and the Republican minority backed by the Bush Whitehouse.

    WHEN
    The best rumors are that Congress will act this week, the House first and then the Senate. Pelosi has promised action by Christmas. Some say to expect no action.

    WHERE
    If the players cannot craft an energy bill compromise, say insiders, the CAFÉ standards may end up standing alone. Other measures could be attached to the farm bill or other spending legislation.

    We will know soon. (click to enlarge)

    WHY
    - Hubbard’s October letter stated White House expectations: ENERGY BILL: WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE WANTS. But in a democracy the other side gets to have a say, too.
    - Democrats in the Senate have fought many years for this new CAFÉ standard.
    - There seems to be a huge chasm between the majority of Americans’ demand for New Energy incentives (see POLL: 62% WANT NEW ENERGY and conservative fossil fuel industry opposition to it.
    - Perhaps most sadly of all is that the opposition to New Energy is based on its supposed economic drawbacks while many reports like the Capturing the Energy Opportunity leave little doubt that developing New Energy would do for the US in the 21st Century what the digital revolution did for it in the 90s.

    QUOTES
    - Hubbard, for the White House: “Based on the limited information we have received, it seems the provisions under discussion would not satisfy [Whitehouse] criteria…In fact, it appears Congress may intend to produce a bill the president cannot sign.”
    - Senate Majority Leader Reid: “I think yes, we do have the votes…But time will tell.”
    - Dana Perino, White House press secretary: "We'd like to get to an agreement with the Hill, but until we see details we're skeptical…"

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