Drumbeat: September 5, 2010
Posted by Leanan on September 5, 2010 - 10:07am
Wall St. firm behind slow solar pace on federal lands? - Goldman Sachs subsidiary bought lots of leases — but hasn't used them
ROACH DRY LAKE, Nev. — Not a light bulb's worth of solar electricity has been produced on the millions of acres of public desert set aside for it. Not one project to build glimmering solar farms has even broken ground.
Instead, five years after federal land managers opened up stretches of the Southwest to developers, vast tracts still sit idle.
An Associated Press examination of U.S. Bureau of Land Management records and interviews with agency officials shows that the BLM operated a first-come, first-served leasing system that quickly overwhelmed its small staff and enabled companies, regardless of solar industry experience, to squat on land without any real plans to develop it.
The fossil fuel industry often pretends to have the public's best interests in mind. The operative word is "pretends."
Fossil fuel executives get out of bed in the morning thinking about two things: 1) Making sure they can sell all their current in-ground inventory of fossil fuels at a profitable price and 2) finding more fossil fuels to replace those they've already taken out of the ground.
A new valve-stack system installed last night to replace the one that failed BP Plc’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico has removed the threat of oil flowing into the water, the U.S. government said.
BP used the Development Driller II to install the blowout preventer, National Incident Commander Thad Allen said in a conference call. The failed blowout preventer is near the surface of the Gulf and will be taken to a facility in New Orleans for testing, a U.S. federal judge ruled yesterday.
“The well doesn’t constitute a threat to the Gulf of Mexico at this point,” Allen said, in declaring a near end to the effort to kill the well.
On Thursday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar had a meeting with the only people outside the gulf region whose waters had been opened to offshore oil exploration. He was in Barrow, Alaska, the capital of the North Slope Borough, where people have the same conflicted feelings about the oil industry as residents of the gulf states do. The energy industry centered in Prudhoe Bay is the economic engine of the North Slope, helping preserve the Inupiat culture, but it also presents a potential threat to that culture.
NEW DELHI: Petrol pump dealers have threatened to go on an indefinite strike from September 20, if the commission they earn on sale of petrol and diesel is not increased.
The Federation of All India Petroleum Traders (FAIPT), which claims to represent all of the 38,700 petrol pumps in the country, said it has been, for the past two years, seeking a rise in dealers commission as the cost of maintaining retail stations has increased.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s largest oil producer, is in exclusive talks to sell its refining units in Sweden and Finland to St1, a Finnish energy company, as part of a plan to streamline operations.
Yemen plans to offer next month the rights to develop 15 offshore hydrocarbon blocks as the smallest producer on the Arabian Peninsula seeks to boost production, Oil Minister Amir al-Aidarous said.
“Expanding explorations is one of the priorities of the government,” al-Aidarous said in an interview in Sana’a on Sept. 1. Yemen will offer the blocks to international companies during a two-day conference in Sana’a in October, he said.
Take a look at any measure of the fundamental health of the planetary ecosystem on which we are dependent: topsoil loss, chemical contamination of soil and water, species extinction and reduction in biodiversity, the state of the world’s oceans, unmanageable toxic waste problems, and climate change. Take a look at the data, and the news is bad on every front.
And all of this is in the context of the dramatic decline coming in the highly concentrated energy available from oil and natural gas, and the increased climate disruption that will come if we keep burning the still-abundant coal reserves. There are no replacement fuels on the horizon that will allow a smooth transition. These ecological realities will play out in a world structured by a system of nation-states rooted in the grotesque inequality resulting from imperialism and capitalism, all of which is eroding what is left of our collective humanity. “Collapsing” seems like a reasonable description of the world.
That doesn’t mean there’s a cataclysmic end point coming soon, but this is an apocalyptic moment. The word “apocalypse” does not mean “end.” It comes from a Greek word that means “uncovering” or “lifting the veil.” This is an apocalyptic moment because we need to lift the veil and have the courage to look at the world honestly.
I don't ever write about Peak Oil, because, among my many odd jobs, (some odder than others), for over ten years I have been doing news aggregation for a major Spanish energy futures portal and have had to read hundreds and hundreds of articles about oil during those years. I also have friends who are real industry experts on the subject (I just know what I read in the papers) and up till now "received" opinion is that Peak Oil is tinfoil-hatsville, and so I stay away from it. But, these two articles in publications that I respect have made me realize that the subject is now being discussed at (gasp) the highest levels.
But this first wave prognosticated like they had comic book minds - or for a more up-to-date insult, like they had TV hourlong drama minds. Reading Peak Oil columns, and Kunstler's novel, World Made By Hand, one had the impression that the industrialized world was going to fall apart rather quickly - and homogenously - in a massive shock of oil depletion and unaffordable energy. But it hasn't. Not a one of them predicted that a global recession would reduce the demand for oil and keep the prices under $100/barrel.
Ok, I'm a serious guy trying to evaluate serious topics. I find the documentary medium to be just about useless.
They are all the same:
(a) A guy making broad-brushed, scary, unsubstantiated claims with no real, checkable evidence to back it up.
(b) Backed up by tingly, scary music.
(c) Whenever any evidence (numerical or graphical) is presented, the camera pans in and out without giving the viewer a chance to determine what the units are on the axes of the graph much less have enough time to consider its sources or what the graph is saying.
Was there ever a more appropriate time to discuss the opportunities for a local currency and for supporting the local economy? The discussion surrounding the arrival and expansion of Tesco in Shetland has been well documented recently; then there’s the national economy, still reeling after the “work” of greedy bankers; central government funding cuts; the threat of climate change; increasing fuel prices as we move towards peak oil. All are high on the agenda.
BEIJING — With great fanfare, an Arizona-based energy company signed a preliminary agreement with China last fall to build the world’s largest solar power plant in the Mongolian desert.
The deal was hailed as the first major example of the United States and China cooperating on a big-ticket energy project, and the largest move made by an American company into Asia’s fast-growing alternative energy market.
The agreement became a centerpiece achievement of President Obama’s visit to China last November.
But nearly a year later, the deal has not been completed and there is growing skepticism as to whether it will happen.
Nearly a month after the death of Matthew Simmons, board members and advocates of the Ocean Energy Institute are trying to figure out how to carry forward its founder's bold ambitions.
Simmons' death was a personal tragedy for those who knew him. In a wider sense, it was a loss for Maine and those who share Simmons' goal of making the state a global center of ocean energy research and development.
THE scientific rebel J. Craig Venter created headlines — and drew comparisons to Dr. Frankenstein — when he announced in May that his team had created what, with a bit of stretching, could be called the first synthetic living creature.
Two months later, only a smattering of reporters and local dignitaries bothered to show up at a news conference to hear Dr. Venter talk about a new greenhouse that his company, Synthetic Genomics, had built outside its headquarters here to conduct research.
The contrast in the fanfare reflects the enormous gap between Dr. Venter’s stunning scientific achievements and his business aspirations.
Police in Repentigny, Que., a suburb northeast of Montreal, are investigating a robbery at a Hydro-Québec transmission plant.
The thieves cut through a fence surrounding the plant and stole 150 meters of copper-coated electric wires.
"It is more expensive, but it does help in long-term affordability," says Wendy McDonald, executive director of Habitat's Bay-Waveland Area, named a "2009 Affiliate of the Year" by Habitat for Humanity International.
"You don't want people to choose between the utility bill and the mortgage," she says, noting the affiliate sells homes to people who cannot qualify for regular mortgages. She says the average mortgage and insurance for one of her Habitat homes is $550 a month.
N.J. Department of Environmental Protection officials say initial tests show no signs of toxic phytoplankton, like red tide, in the water, and they are still examining oxygen levels. Fisheries in Massachusetts alleged low oxygen from warm waters was the cause of the mass kill in Fairhaven, according to CNN.
Yu Qingtai, China’s lead negotiator in climate talks from 2007 through the tumultuous conference in Copenhagen last December, recently gave a blunt speech at the Bejing University School of International Studies on climate, diplomacy and the balance of national and global interests in limiting global warming.
Yu, who is now China’s ambassador to the Czech Republic, presented a tough — and appropriate — challenge to the world’s industrialized nations, which have largely built their wealth on a couple of centuries of burning fossil fuels.
In sum, he said that China’s national interests will always come first and, in any move toward binding steps for reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases, rich countries must go first.
As we head into the next round of interminable UN global negotiations to draft a successor to Kyoto in Cancun this November, let’s understand what’s really being debated.
Specifically, how much more are we willing to lower our standard of living — how much poorer are we prepared to make ourselves — to cut emissions?
I don't mean to disturb your holiday weekend just when you're trying to scrub that grease off the barbecue grill. But I thought now was a good time to remind you that in two months, you'll have an important choice to make about the air you breathe.
In November, you'll be asked whether California should continue on the path to becoming one of the world's environmental leaders. Or give up the good fight and pray that the global warming deniers are right.
The landscapes of Eastern and Western Kentucky have little in common, but the areas share at least two things: an abundance of coal and a pivotal role in the U.S. Senate race.
That means coal policies, such as the controversial "cap and trade" approach to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, are a key issue in the contest between Republican Rand Paul and Democrat Jack Conway.
The collapsing crusade for legislation to combat climate change raises a question: Has ever a political movement made so little of so many advantages? Its implosion has continued since "the Cluster of Copenhagen, when world leaders assembled for the single most unproductive and chaotic global gathering ever held." So says Walter Russell Mead, who has an explanation: Bambi became Godzilla.
That is, a small band of skeptics became the dogmatic establishment. In his Via Meadia blog, Mead, a professor of politics at Bard College and Yale, notes that "the greenest president in American history had the largest congressional majority of any president since Lyndon Johnson," but the environmentalists' legislation foundered because they got "on the wrong side of doubt."
Earlier this summer, a group of scientists spent two weeks in Indonesia atop a glacier called Puncak Jaya, one of the few remaining tropical glaciers in the world. They were taking samples of ice cores to study the impacts of climate change on the glacier.
Lonnie Thompson, a professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University, led the team and what he witnessed shocked him: The glacier was literally melting under their feet.
Newly detected rising sea levels in parts of the Indian Ocean have led Indian scientists to conclude that the Indian Ocean is rising faster than other oceans.
Dr Satheesh C. Shenoi, director, Indian National Centre for Ocean Infor-mation Services, speaking at a workshop on “Coasts, Coastal Populations and their Concerns” organised by the Centre for Science and Environment, warned that sea surface measurements and satellite observations confirm that an anthropogenic climate warming is amplifying regional sea rise changes in the Indian Ocean.
This would have far-reaching impacts on the climate of vulnerable nations, including the coastlines on the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea, Sri Lanka and parts of Indonesia as a result of human-induced increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases.
IT COULD be viewed as the opening exchanges of a new Cold War – this one taking place off the coast of Scotland – as Russia battles the West for control of the Arctic and the vast, untapped natural resources that lie underneath the melting ice caps.
The revelation last week that a Russian attack submarine had attempted to track one of the Trident nuclear fleet out of Faslane naval base on the Clyde signalled a worrying return to an era that many thought had been confined to history.