NewEnergyNews: QUICK NEWS, January 7: THE SHIFT TO NEW ENERGY GOES ON; A HISTORY OF NAT GAS SUBSIDIES; LOOKING FOR THE BEST USE FOR FUEL CELLS

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

THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Sept. 18:

  • TTTA Thursday-THE WORLD HAS 15 YEARS TO DO THE RIGHT THINGS
  • TTTA Thursday-WIND MAKES THE GRID MORE RELIABLE
  • TTTA Thursday-SOLAR OIL DRILLING
  • TTTA Thursday-A SPORTS CAR THAT RUNS ON SALT-WATER
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE GREEN TRANSITION – MONEY KEEPS COMING TO NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 17: THE NEWEST NUMBERS ON BIRDS AND WIND; BIG SOLAR COMES TO THE SOUTHEAST; WHERE THE EV CUTS EMISSIONS MOST
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE BENEFITS OF PUMPED HYDRO STORAGE CALCULATED
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 16: THE ENERGY TRANSITION TAKES SHAPE; A LABOR-ENVIRO CALL FOR NEW ENERGY, NEW WIRES; ADVANCES IN WATER POWER
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: RENEWABLES IN THE COMING ARAB WORLD
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 15: SOLAR SUCCEEDING ON PRICE; EVEN MORE WIND THAT HONDA EXPECTED; THE HUGE UNRECOGNIZED BENEFITS OF EFFICIENCY
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: Climate Change For The Birds
  • Weekend Video: The Evidence Mounts
  • Weekend Video: Colbert On Birds And Climate Change
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NOW CO2 TOO HIGH FOR PLANTS AND OCEANS TO ABSORB
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NEW ENERGY IS THE WORLD’S BEST OPTION
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-SWEDEN WINNING SCANDINAVIAN WIND RACE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-INDIA DISPLAYS SOLAR'S VERSATILITY
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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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  • Monday, January 07, 2013

    QUICK NEWS, January 7: THE SHIFT TO NEW ENERGY GOES ON; A HISTORY OF NAT GAS SUBSIDIES; LOOKING FOR THE BEST USE FOR FUEL CELLS

    THE SHIFT TO NEW ENERGY GOES ON Renewables are Winning, Nukes are Dead and Coal is Crashing

    Kathleen Rogers and Danny Kennedy, December 14, 2013 (EcoWatch)

    “…[A] n enormous shift has begun in the ways in which the U.S. and the world will power itself with clean energy…All new electricity capacity built in the U.S. in September was renewable…[T]here was no new fossil fuel capacity added to our grid in September 2012, and 443 megawatts of wind and solar were installed…

    “…Clean tech companies are growing faster than the fossil fuel industries as employers…More people are now getting work in clean energy and related clean technology business than oil, gas and coal…[The solar industry] is 119,000 strong in 5,600 companies in all 50 states…[U.S. coal mining employs] about 80,000 and [is] declining. The solar industry grew at a rate of about 13 percent for the last year, while reducing costs 19 percent and growing…The broader economy barely grew in the same period in terms of new job creation…”

    “…Nuclear power post-Fukushima is all but dead, and coal is crashing. U.S. coal supply declined by 100 million tons in 2012. In terms of coal fired electricity, it was 52 percent of the mix in 2000; last year, it was 42 percent—and this year, some reports have it at less than 33 percent…That is a sea change.

    “…[The] new, cheap gas that the frackers are creating…won’t last because, regardless of the hype, a finite fuel under increasing demand will go up in price. So, gas is creating the space and understanding that we don’t need to be dependent on coal, that we can shift the mix and keep the lights on. And in time, the “no-fuel” solutions will come to dominate…Nine out of 10 Americans want more solar in the mix…[and, because more clean energy jobs are in red states than blue, elected] officials will follow…”

    A HISTORY OF NAT GAS SUBSIDIES Where the Shale Gas Revolution Came From: Government’s Role in the Development of Hydraulic Fracturing in Shale

    Alex Trembath, Jesse Jenkins, Ted Nordhaus, and Michael Shellenberger, May 2012 (Breakthrough Institute)

    “…In summary, federal investments and involvement in the development of shale gas extraction technologies spanned three decades and were comprised of:

    “• The Eastern Gas Shales Project, a series of public-private shale drilling demonstration projects in the 1970s…• Collaboration with the Gas Research Institute (GRI), an industry research consortia that received partial funding and R&D oversight from the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC)…”

    “• Early shale fracturing and directional drilling technologies developed by the Energy Research & Development Administration (later the Department of Energy), the Bureau of Mines, and the Morgantown Energy Research Center (later the National Energy Technology Laboratory)…• The Section 29 production tax credit for unconventional gas, in effect from 1980-2002…

    “• Public subsidization and cost-sharing for demonstration projects, including the first successful multifracture horizontal drilling play in Wayne County, West Virginia in 1986, and Mitchell Energy’s first horizontal well in the Texas Barnett shale in 1991…• Three-dimensional microseismic imaging, a geologic mapping technology developed for applications in coal mines by Sandia National Laboratories…”

    THE BEST USES FOR FUEL CELLS Stationary Fuel Cells; Fuel Cells for Combined Heat and Power, Prime Power, and Backup Power/UPS Applications: Global Market Analysis and Forecasts

    4Q 2012 (Pike Research/Navigant)

    “The stationary fuel cell industry is growing in terms of megawatts and systems shipped. At the same time, it is going through a deep restructuring, with a number of companies exiting the space and a handful of new entrants appearing…

    “The most notable shift from 2011 to 2012 has been a meaningful set of developments in government policy that will directly influence the future of the fuel cell industry.”

    “The uninterruptible power supply (UPS) application segment is marked by collaboration, limited market expansion, and new fuel options. In the combined heat and power (CHP) segment, the key development has been a comprehensive, and painful, restructuring, while for prime power it has been the demand for systems with islanding capability…

    “…Pike Research estimates that these trends, along with external factors such as concern about power grid stability in the wake of natural disasters, will drive a significant uptick in the rate of fuel cell adoption that could reach 4.5 gigawatts (GW) by 2017…”

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