Archive for April, 2011

Congress Moving Closer to Ending Oil Subsidies?

Posted By Lowell F. on April 30th, 2011

Is Congress moving closer to ending subsidies on oil companies, even as those companies make enormous, multi-billion-dollar profits? We’ve been urging that for a long time, and now it’s looking a bit more likely, based on the following two news items. First, here’s Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, agreeing that oil subsidies and “corporate welfare” should end.

Next, here’s a plan by Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus “to end billions of dollars in wasteful tax breaks for large, multinational oil and gas companies while investing in cleaner and cheaper domestic energy sources.”

Now, let’s just hope that Congress follows through in the near future.

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Five Energy Articles We’re Reading Today (4/29/11)

Posted By Lowell F. on April 29th, 2011

Here are five recommended reads for today (4/29/11).

  1. Desmog Blog writes about a new report from the American Lung Association which finds that “over 154 million people (yes, over half the nation) still suffer from pollution levels that can be dangerous to breathe.”  Among the major sources of this pollution is “particle pollution from power plants [which] kills an estimated 13,000 people per year, and the greatest contributor to this hazardous pollution is coal-fired power plants.”
  2. Reuters reports,French energy company Total SA offered to pay up to $1.37 billion for a majority stake in U.S. solar company SunPower Corp, one of the biggest moves ever by an oil and gas giant into the market for renewable energy.”
  3. According to MSNBC, “House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said on Thursday he supports cutting tax breaks for the oil industry as lawmakers search for ways to battle rising gasoline prices.”
  4. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that wind generation “was up 27.6 percent or 1,923 thousand megawatthours,” in 2010. Also, Renewable Energy World writes that “America’s wind power industry installed 1,100 MW of new capacity in the first quarter of 2011 alone and entered the second quarter with another 5,600 MW under construction.”
  5. According to Yale’s environment360 blog, “A new report forecasts that offshore wind capacity worldwide will increase by a factor of 17 over the next six years, rising from 4.1 gigawatts of installed capacity today to a projected 70.1 gigawatts in 2017. “
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Five Energy Articles We’re Reading Today (4/28/11)

Posted By Lowell F. on April 28th, 2011

Here are five recommended reads for today (4/28/11).

  1. MSNBC reports, “Exxon earned nearly $11 billion in the first quarter, a performance that will likely land it in the center of the national debate over high gasoline prices.”
  2. In a New York Times op-ed, Daniel C. Esty and Michael E. Porter argue that “we need to encourage clean energy innovation while letting the market decide which particular technologies prevail.” To accomplish that, the authors advocate imposing “an emissions charge of $5 per ton of greenhouse gases beginning in 2012, rising to $100 per ton by 2032. “
  3. According to The Hill, “The Energy Department’s statistical arm will not be able to fully analyze politically contentious issues like gas prices as a result of cuts in the fiscal year 2011 spending bill signed into law by President Obama.” According to EIA administrator Richard Newell, “The lower FY 2011 funding level will require significant cuts in EIA’s data, analysis, and forecasting activities.”
  4. Reuters reports that “Google has not given up on its goal of making renewable energy cheaper than coal for consumers but it is not predicting victory soon.”  According to the company’s director of green business operations, “Google is exploring more opportunities in renewables, including enhanced geothermal, where companies would tap into heat deep underground to produce power.”
  5. At Climate Progress, Richard Caperton of the Center for American Progress explains that electricity prices in the United States are actually low by world standards. Caperton argues, “Now, we need to build cleaner sources of power into that system.  Whereas the old mantra was ‘affordable and reliable,’ the new mantra has to be  ‘clean, affordable, and reliable.’”
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National Coal Expert: “Mining is a Loser” in Practically Every Way

Posted By mikec on April 27th, 2011

Originally posted at The Great Energy Challenge blog

Anytime coal’s cost to America is discussed, the coal industry reflexively talks about what an economic lifeline it is for the states in which it operates. Headwaters Economics, a Bozeman-based think tank focusing on natural resource issues, has a solid new study that’s getting national attention for undercutting those claims. For instance, the Headwaters study finds that “[f]ossil fuel production has not insulated energy-producing states from fiscal crisis,” that “[f]ossil fuel extraction has a limited influence at the state level on economic indicators such as GDP by state, personal income, and employment,” and that “[t]he volatility of fossil fuel markets poses obstacles to the stability and long-term security of economic growth in energy-producing regions.”

This is a problem for the coal industry, which spends heavily to construct a fantasy world in which it’s a “clean” industry to which we should feel grateful, a vital supplier of our power, and an economic lifeline to host communities.

But in the real world, coal’s case is even weaker than the Headwaters study shows. The work of Professor Michael Hendryx of West Virginia University goes even further. His work has looked at the costs of coal mining to the Appalachian communities that host it.

In light of the House of Representatives’ aggressive efforts to eliminate already-loose controls over the coal industry’s egregious practices – blowing the tops off mountains and violating the Clean Water Act – we interviewed Hendryx and found his views especially timely and powerful. The highlights: (more…)

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Five Energy Articles We’re Reading Today (4/27/11)

Posted By Lowell F. on April 27th, 2011

Here are five recommended reads for today (4/27/11).

  1. Talking Points Memo has a slideshow entitled, “Gas Prices, Fossil Fuels, Got You Blue? Try A Little Green Tech.” The photos include examples of  how “alternative, often renewable, energy sources are already being used in the U.S. and abroad.”
  2. According to the New York Times Green blog, “A sharp run-up in oil prices since January will produce a windfall for major oil companies, which are expected to report their biggest quarterly profits since 2008 this week, analysts said. Leading the pack is Exxon Mobil, whose profits are expected to approach $10 billion for the first three months of the year.”
  3. Media Matters debunks Fox Business host Stuart Varney’s fallacious charge that “subsidies for wind and solar power have resulted in ‘[v]irtually nothing.’” In fact, “According to data from the U.S. Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), ‘[w]ind power has been the fastest-growing source of new electric power generation for several years.’”
  4. On NPR, James Fallows of The Atlantic and Ellen Vancko of the Union of Concerned Scientists explain how “cheap energy” actually “carries many hidden costs,” such as “pollution, destruction of the land and all the problems associated with global warming.”
  5. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has released its latest, long-term energy outlook for the United States.  Among other things, the report projects that “Electricity generation from renewable sources grows by 72 percent in the Reference case, raising its share of total generation from 11 percent in 2009 to 14 percent in 2035.”
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