Thursday, May 26, 2005

Expert declares LNG Safe

Writing in the Ventura County Star, the International Liquefied Natural Gas Association's David Sweet expounds upon the energy source's excellent safety racord:

With decades of use throughout the world, LNG has proved to be a safe, reliable and affordable energy source. LNG is nontoxic, nonexplosive and only flammable within a narrow range of concentrations with air. In the continental United States, there are four onshore LNG receiving terminals and more than 100 LNG facilities are used for temporary storage of natural gas. The LNG industry has also had a remarkable safety record, with no cargo-related explosions, deaths or personal injuries for more than 40 years.

Since international commercial shipping began in 1959, there have been more than 80,000 LNG carrier voyages without a serious accident at sea or in port. In more than 100 million miles of shipping, no significant cargo has ever been lost and there has never been a transport incident involving explosion or fire.

Nonetheless, misinformation has been spread in the United States about phantom LNG-related dangers. This propaganda campaign, combined with an understandable lack of awareness about LNG, has slowed the development of an LNG infrastructure.

While there is no such thing as a completely risk-free energy resource, LNG has demonstrated an enviable safety record. Moreover, any new LNG facilities will be closely evaluated by numerous government agencies as part of the permitting process.

Far more dangerous than the risks of liquefied natural gas is what will happen if California fails to plan for its energy future.


Georgia First US State to promote off-shore wind energy

The South will rise as a power in alternative energy if Georgis succeeds in its efforts to promote wind-energy.

Southern Company and the Georgia Institute of Technology announced today that they will collaborate on the Southeast's first offshore wind power project off the coast of Savannah, Georgia.

In their press release the Southern Company have stated that the goal of the project is to determine if offshore wind power is a feasible and efficient renewable energy option for power generation. The project concept is expected to include three to five wind turbines that could generate 10 megawatts of power, enough to power about 2,500 homes.

"We remain interested in finding viable renewable energy options that can play a part in meeting the growing demands of our customers," said David Ratcliffe, president, chairman and CEO of Southern Company. "Our partnership with Georgia Tech presents us a unique opportunity to assess offshore wind power as a cost-effective option for generating power in our region."

The first step of the project, a design and conceptual engineering phase, will start in July using technical expertise from both Georgia Tech and Southern Company. The first phase of the project will evaluate various technology options for wind turbines, platforms/foundations, submarine cabling and grid interconnection. Detailed analyses of a site location and environmental regulations and jurisdictions, including permitting requirements, will also be determined.

California, on the other hand, will have to rely on more conventional means to get energy, such as solar or LNG, as the nature of its coastline would make an offshore wind farm much more difficult.

Cats kill more birds than Wind Energy

Reporting from Virginia, Nuclear notes covers a discussion on alternative energy and its effects on the environment:

Mike began working the room immediately and recognized a fellow from the local Sierra Club that he had met at the state fair. This local environmental leader is NOT against nuclear power. In fact, he supports it as a means to combat pollution and global warming in the near-term. I shared a couple of quotes from James Lovelock. His feeling appears to be that the need is so urgent that we must use "less than perfect" technologies to save the environment...

They quoted American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) numbers that said building wind farms is cost-effective. A couple of times, the issue of bird and bat kills came up. I found one point they made rather interesting. They said that if 50% of US electricity was generated by wind the number of birds killed from the turbines would still be less than those killed by household cats...and global warming will kill even more birds than windmills anyway. Imagine if the nuclear industry tried to employ a similar argument...

Then Dudley Rochester from the American Lung Association gave a presentation on the health effects of air pollution, particularly pollution from power plants. Some of his numbers:

Annual mortality from Power plant pollution nationwide: 11 per 100,000
From tobacco: 153 per 100,000
From all air pollution: 60 per 100,000
From alcohol, guns, and cars: 55 per 100,000

Of course, in California, our motto is that the Perfect should be the enemy of the Good.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Long Beach postpones LNG Decision

Those hoping for a quick resolution to whether a liquefied natural gas regasification facility will go in the Long Beach Harbor will have to wait:

The Long Beach City Council abruptly postponed a vote Tuesday night on a $450-million liquefied natural gas terminal at the city-owned port, frustrating residents who had showed up to urge the lawmakers to oppose the project.

The delay comes the same week that Congress is considering legislation to give the federal government the final say in the siting of onshore LNG terminals, an issue raised by the Long Beach dispute. Some residents said Tuesday that the council's inaction would hurt lobbying efforts in Washington to retain some state and local control. The council was poised to vote on whether to continue or stop talks with Mitsubishi Corp., which has proposed the import terminal at the Port of Long Beach, about two miles from the city's downtown.

But Mayor Beverly O'Neill stunned a standing-room-only crowd 90 minutes into the meeting when she announced that some council members still had questions about the project and that the measure would be delayed until June 21.

The announcement surprised and angered about 170 people, most of whom wore anti-LNG T-shirts or carried signs opposing the LNG plant. Some residents have accused the council of caving in to energy interests. Others have voiced fears that gas could leak from the terminal and ignite, either by accident or because of a terrorist attack.

Electric Cars become BetaMax of Automotive World

A good idea whose time has come and gone, electric cars have gone the way of the BetaMax and 8-Track as newer, better technologies have come along:

Nearly 15 years ago, electric cars were all the road rage with bureaucrats and environmentalists who thought the nonpolluting vehicles would eventually take over California's freeways.

But the growing popularity of hybrid cars and an upcoming state "Hydrogen Highway" proposal highlight how other cheaper, more convenient or politically expedient technologies have leapfrogged the vehicles powered by rechargeable batteries.

The electric car is wheezing its last breath. Fewer than 1,000 of them remain on the road in California, and automakers have turned their backs on the technology.

"The big problem with electric vehicles is that the automakers have thumped their heads on getting battery technology up to snuff," said James Bell, publisher of Campbell-based IntelliChoice, which tracks trends in the automotive industry. "They've never been able to solve the range and recharge problems to make electric cars competitive."

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


The Los Angeles Times does a Q&A on Liquefied Natural Gas in advance of a hearing this evening in Long Beach:

Natural gas is an attractive fuel because it can be applied to many tasks — from lighting a kitchen stove to turning the turbines of an electrical power plant — all without the breath-choking pollution created by its fossil-fuel cousins, oil and coal.

As world oil prices soar, natural gas has become a more cost-effective fuel to import from wells around the globe. But it can only be shipped overseas in a liquefied form known as LNG — a tricky proposition because the substance is highly combustible.

Now, state and federal authorities are dueling over who should have the ultimate say on whether onshore terminals such as that proposed for Long Beach should be built.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger weighed in last week with a letter to federal officials, and the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is expected to take up the issue this week.

Lost amid the furor are some of the basic facts about liquefied natural gas, the science behind its transportation and why so many people disagree over its safety.

But the Times, as usual, makes several misstatements of facts--instead just repeating myths put forth by opponents of LNG. If you read Patterico, this comes as no surprise.

For example, they say that LNG is explosive because it is so concentrated, but that natural gas can only burn when it is 5-15% concentration. So therefore, the high concentration of LNG makes it unflammable and non-explosive.

The Times mentions a 1944 incident where an LNG storage facility exploded without mentioning that there are already 100 LNG storage facilities across the United States or that LNG is currently fueling hundreds of busses that crisscross L.A.'s city streets each day!

The Times also cites a "new report" by assistant National Security Advisor Richard Clarke, who has not held that position for years.

Finally, the Times mentions that FERC is trying to take control of LNG siting under the new Energy Bill, but it does not mention that in all but one case in California, the regulatory process would remain the same under the proposed changes, since it only affects onshore projects.

The Times also cites an explosion at an LNG facility in Algeria, but fails to mention that it was a boiler that exploded causing the fire--not the LNG itself--which means that the accident could have happened wherever there is a boiler.

LA DWP to speed Alternate Energy programs

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, seeing a tight market in the fossil fuels used to generate electricity, is committing itself to a major push for green power:

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will expand its use of solar, wind and other renewable power sources from 3% of its electricity portfolio to 20% by 2017, its governing board agreed Monday, although environmentalists said the goal should be met earlier.

The board, which was appointed by Mayor James K. Hahn, approved the policy a little more than a month before Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa becomes mayor. Villaraigosa has said that he wants the department to reach the 20% mark by 2010.

Environmental activists prefer Villaraigosa's tougher standard, although they said Monday that the board's action was a good start in getting the DWP to trade some coal and gas power for solar, geothermal and wind power, as well as for power from small hydroelectric dams.

DWP Commissioner Dominick Rubalcava has said that fluctuations in natural gas prices are among the Department's greatest challenges, and along with waiting for LNG terminals to be built, this is one of the few ways to generate power left to the agency.

Saudis to pump more oil

For the State with the nation's highest gas prices, the thought of price stability in oil markets comes as good news:

Saudi Arabia has boosted the amount of oil it pumps and will produce more to meet surging world demand, the kingdom's petroleum minister said in a speech in San Francisco on Monday.

Ali Naimi said his government remains committed to seeking stable oil prices. But in response to questions, he declined to say where prices will level off.

Crude oil prices have slid 14 percent since peaking at $57.27 on April 1, but remain far above historic norms.

"The kingdom has long played a stabilizing role in oil markets," Naimi told a lunch gathering in the Carnelian Room, high above San Francisco's Financial District. "We have been there in times of disruption and shortage to provide additional supplies to the market."

He said current high prices are the direct result of years when oil flooded the market during the late 1980s and 1990s. The resulting low prices discouraged new production and helped raise demand, he said.

"Past experience teaches us that very low prices and very high prices are not sustainable," he said.

Monday, May 23, 2005

State seeks to sink offshore drilling

California, ever protective of its coastline (even somtimes to its own chagrin) is launching lobbying efforts in Washington to head off moves towards offshore drilling:

California officials, fearful that opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling could become the start of a trend, have launched a full-scale lobbying effort to make certain the Comprehensive Energy Bill now under consideration in Congress does not also open the door for renewed drilling off the California coast.

They were handed a partial victory late last week. The House voted down a proposal to exempt drilling for natural gas from an offshore-drilling moratorium that applies to most coastal areas in the United States, including California.

"We should all take a collective sigh of relief," said Controller Steve Westly. "However, it is important to note that the real fight is still ahead of us."

Westly sits on the three-member State Lands Commission, which oversees management of coastal areas up to three miles offshore. He organized a campaign along with seven statewide environmental groups to urge every California elected official to "stand up and speak out against any energy measure in Congress that threatens to allow drilling off our coast."

In asking state elected officials to speak out, Sierra Club regional director Carl Zichella called the Energy Bill "the greatest threat to California's precious coast since the Santa Barbara oil spill."

Canadian tribe blocks Natural Gas pipeline

California's supplies of natural gas are so fragile that what happens in the Great White North will impact out heating and electric bills in the future:

This town on a bend in the Mackenzie River has a general store and little else besides endless forests and distant blue mountains. Not an oil derrick is to be seen. But its angry Native tribe is standing in the way of what could be the biggest energy boom in North America's history.

The tribe, the Deh Cho First Nation, is blocking an 800-mile pipeline that would pass through its lands carrying natural gas from the Arctic Ocean to the booming oil-sands mines of Alberta. The tribe says the money and development brought by the pipeline could destroy its culture while leaving little lasting economic benefit.

"We have lived in these lands since time immemorial," said the Deh Cho grand chief, Herb Norwegian. "We are the rightful owners, and this pipeline should not be pushed in against our will."

The Deh Cho anti-pipeline stance is spreading through Native tribes in northwest Canada, putting at risk the development of Arctic natural gas in both Canada and Alaska as well as expansion of Canada's oil sands, which are widely considered the most promising source of foreign oil for the United States in the coming decades.

The oil sands need natural gas to help steam-heat oil out of the sands. With natural gas reserves and production shrinking elsewhere in Alberta and North America, a new supply from the Mackenzie River is needed to fill the gap and keep the oil sands pumping ever-increasing amounts of petroleum south to the United States
Should serve as a reminder not to put all our energy eggs in one natural-gas basket.

Hybrid's Future Debated

Future Pundit offers an interesting debate into the future of hybrid vehicles, whether they will dominate the market and what can be done to move the transportation economy away from oil. Meanwhile, Californians are preparing for the transition to allowing hybrids to drive in diamond lanes...causing some consternation.

If the demand for hybrids is market-driven, however, the price of gas may be less of a factor. According to the LA Times, it's down yet again.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Weekly responds to criticism over LNG article

The Los Angeles Weekly writer who ranted over liquefied natural gas a week ago is responding to his critics:

Bill Kelly sent along a friendly e-mail documenting his "confidential" source for his statement about the extensive costs for marine and air security escort, underwater scuba diver inspections, and port shutdowns while transporting Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) through the Boston Harbor. Kelly states that the "confidential" report was done at the request of the Governor of Maine for a proposed LNG terminal in his state. He also relates that he interviewed an MIT scuba club president for a previous story.

Given the public's growing cynicism about journalism in the wake of the Newsweek scandal, kudos go to Kelly's responsible follow through in supplying his sources. Kelly points out that a 1500 word limit for his column precluded providing his sources.

Kelly's email continues to assert his concern about LNG gaining "monopoly power" in California. If by "monopoly power" Kelly means that LNG will be lower in price and thus "blow out" the competition, wouldn't that be just called the workings of a market? Kelly may be right that LNG will monopolize the market, but it may do so with lower prices. That would mean trading a high-priced monopoly for a lower-priced monopoly to the potential benefit of the public. The apparent problem not disclosed in the media is that labor unions and their political backers will be the losers in this market shift to LNG. The reality is that California can no longer continue to afford its high-priced power as long as it is compelled to open up its barricaded energy market.

Game. Set. Match. Wayne Lusvardi.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Natural Gas lowers' school district costs

Schools hoping to put more money in the classroom should consider the low cost fuel alternative: Natural gas.

With 136 diesel and 26 compressed natural gas buses, Elk Grove Unified is seeking other ways to trim fleet costs.

Starting in the fall, the district will begin charging many of its students to ride the bus - one of the last districts in the Sacramento region to do so. Officials already altered school start times to allow bus drivers to handle more than one route. And since 1992 Elk Grove Unified has purchased only buses that run on natural gas.

"We've tried to keep current with having the most fuel-efficient buses and cost-effective buses," board member Priscilla Cox said. "But there's a lot of areas in transportation where there isn't any way of saving."

The natural gas vehicles save money in several ways. They cost more to buy - about $135,000 per bus vs. the roughly $110,000 for a diesel-run vehicle - but the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Control District offsets the cost with grant money for natural gas equipment.

Other districts also have benefited from clean air grants. Roseville Joint Union High recently qualified for a Clean Air for Kids grant that will enable a retrofit of 17 buses with particulate traps.

Then there's the price of fueling up. Diesel was $1.97 a gallon this week. Natural gas sells for $1.11 a gallon.

Of course, to keep those prices low, California needs to build a few LNG terminals to make sure we have a way to get the fuel to our State!

AG Lockyer sues two power firms

Sending the ripples from the State's 5-year-old energy crisis further, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer is suing two energy firms:

The state sued two power companies Wednesday over their conduct during the energy crisis, accusing them of teaming up to cheat California out of more than $1 billion by using one of Enron Corp.'s notorious trading schemes.

The lawsuit filed by Attorney General Bill Lockyer in Sacramento Superior Court says Canada's Powerex Corp. and Public Service Co. of New Mexico used a ploy known as "megawatt laundering" to get around state-mandated price caps. The strategy was invented by now-disgraced energy trader Enron, which nicknamed it "Ricochet."

The suit represents California's latest attempt to recoup money from wholesale power generators, traders and other electricity providers over the 2000-01 energy crisis, when prices soared amid rolling blackouts. The state has obtained refunds and tentative refunds totaling roughly half of the $9 billion it says it was overcharged.

In various lawsuits and refund proceedings, California has said energy providers cheated the state in three main ways: by simply withholding power until the price was right, by engaging in "Ricochet" and other exotic trading schemes conceived by Enron, or both. Powerex, an arm of the government of British Columbia, has already been sued twice by the state in the past six months.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Governor Backs LNG to support Energy Needs

Governor Schwarzenegger, while urging local control over siting liquefird natural gas facilities in California endorsed the development of LNG as an energy resource for the State:

In his letter, Schwarzenegger also reiterated his opposition to giving federal regulators, rather than states, the final say over the location of LNG terminals. Three such terminals are now proposed in California, one in Long Beach and two a few miles off the coast of Oxnard.

The governor wrote that he sees imported natural gas as important to the state's future energy needs. But, as he has indicated before, Schwarzenegger said he believes the safety and environmental concerns about the terminals, where the highly flammable gas would be unloaded, warrant state review of their location as well as state permits for how they operate, whether on shore or in state waters.

If you read blogs, then you know not to believe everything you read in the LA Times--LNG is not flammable.

PUC urged to deny San Onofre Permit

Activists are urging the California Public Utilties Commission to put the kibosh on plans to update the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant in Southern California:

Environmentalists and others concerned about California's energy future urged state regulators on Tuesday to reject a $680-million plan to replace deteriorating steam generators at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

During a public hearing in Oceanside, the majority of speakers told representatives of the California Public Utilities Commission that the massive undertaking should be scrapped in favor of conservation programs and development of alternative sources of energy, such as wind and solar power.

"I can't see how it's ethical to replace the steam generators," said Steve Beckham, a Lutheran minister from Riverside. "If we go to renewable sources, we will be buying our own future. If we don't, we will be buying our own demise."

Southern California Edison, which operates San Onofre in northern San Diego County, plans to replace four steam generators that serve two reactors. In another proposal pending before the PUC, Pacific Gas & Electric has asked permission to install eight new steam generators at Diablo Canyon, north of San Luis Obispo, for an estimated $706 million.

The PUC, a five-member panel, must determine whether the projects are beneficial to the utilities and their customers. Its decision, expected this year, could determine the fate of nuclear power in California.

Mexico May Limit LNG Exports

Experts have warned California not to rely on siting all of its liquefied natural gas terminals in Mexico, for fears that someday, the government may limit the amount of natural gas which could be passed-through to the State. Someday, according to the Wall Street Journal, is sooner than many thought:

Mexican Energy Minister Fernando Elizondo said Monday the
country is considering restricting the amount of liquefied natural gas
that can be received in Mexico for the benefit of U.S. consumers.

"We don't want to be just a port of entry and transit that leaves us
with the disadvantages and none of the advantages," Elizondo told a
small group of reporters at a Latin American energy conference in La
Jolla, Calif., organized by the Institute of the Americas.

Mexico is contemplating the incorporation of as many as nine natural gas
receiving terminals on its Gulf and Pacific coasts in the coming years.
The first facility is expected to start receiving the fuel by the end of

Elizondo said that government officials are discussing the possibility
of establishing a minimum percentage of liquefied natural gas imports
that must go to local populations.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Schwarzenegger opposes FERC control of LNG Siting

In an exhaustive comment on the Federal Energy Bill, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has come out in favor of keeping a State control over the siting of liquefied natural gas terminals in California:

Acquiring adequate natural gas supplies is a high priority for California and the west. One of the sources important to our future is imported natural gas in the form of LNG. Yet the unresolved issue of state vs. federal jurisdiction for LNG siting is delaying the provision of LNG. I oppose federal preemption of State siting jurisdiction of LNG terminals, and urge Congress to preserve a strong role for States in siting both onshore and offshore LNG facilities.

I urge you to adopt two specific recommendations:

- Maintain the existing State authority under the Costal Zone Management Act for siting of LNG terminals.
- Retain the State permit review of siting, construction, expansion, or operation of facilities located onshore or in State waters.

Will stalls stall Hybrid growth?

When introducing a new technology into the automotive marketplace, any bad news can torpedo your project...which should be why the latest news from Toyota ought to concern those who advocate hybrid vehicles:

"...a software problem could be causing some Toyota Prius cars to stall at highway speeds. A Toyota spokesman said the company has sent a service notice to Prius owners, recommending they come in for a software upgrade."

In other Hybrid-related news, Tree Hugger asks, "How Green is your Hybrid?"

Monday, May 16, 2005

Why does California pay so much more for gas?!?

The question that has perplexed Califonrians for decases finally gets an answer from the Contra Costa Times:

California boasts the biggest population of any state, the largest manufacturing base and agricultural harvest, and the highest waterfall and lowest valley. But the Golden State has recently laid claim to a less illustrious distinction: home of the nation's highest-priced gasoline.

During this spring's gasoline price run-up, California inherited the title from Hawaii, the island state that relies almost entirely on expensive imported fuel. Even after recent declines, last week's state average of $2.57 outpaced Hawaii by 6 cents and the national average by 39 cents, according to the AAA of Northern California.


There are three major reasons that Californians pay more at the pump: far stricter environmental standards, a larger proportion of imported fuel, and higher taxes than most states. Though the oil industry vigorously denies it, some experts also believe consolidation and market manipulation play a role.

"There are very substantial barriers to entry that protect a very tight oligopoly," said Mark Cooper, director of research for the Consumer Federation of America. "When you get so few producers in an individual market, it's easy to raise prices even without colluding."

Transmission lines will help generators skirt clean air laws in California

You would never be able to build a new coal-fired power plant in California--but you just might be able to in the state next door, and a new transmission line project makes the prospect more plausible.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has committed California to an interstate power project that environmentalists warn could help usher in a new era of electricity generation that will dirty the air and spoil the water for the next 50 years.

Schwarzenegger and the governors of three other states -- Wyoming, Utah and Nevada -- last month pledged support for a proposed 1,300-mile electricity transmission line imagined as a new highway for megawatts in a region starved for more power.

Schwarzenegger's top energy advisers tout the so-called Frontier Line as a way to lessen sky-high electricity bills, create a more reliable Western energy grid to protect against blackouts, and encourage the use of sources like the wind and earth to produce eco-friendly power. The line is conceived as an incentive for new power generation in the three interior states that would be built mainly to feed California's revving economy.

But the Frontier Line plan comes as energy companies have proposed more than two dozen power plants across the West that would be fueled by coal -- a high-polluting fossil fuel that clean-air advocates contend is a major contributor to global warming.

They worry that the line could encourage the coal projects -- none of which are proposed in California -- and allow this state to, in essence, import power while exporting pollution.

Financial Issues Vex Solar Rebate Bill

Phil Yost writes in the San Jose Mercury News that Sacramento's love affair with solar power may be tripped up in the details. It's all about the money.

The goal is ambitious in one sense -- 3,000 megawatts is 30 times the current amount of solar generation in California. But the effect will be modest -- 3,000 megawatts is only 5 percent of the present statewide peak demand. Those million solar roofs would displace five power plants the size of Calpine's Metcalf plant in South San Jose.

And as usual, there are a couple of vexing details, particularly about distributing the cost.

Solar owners can ``sell back'' to the system any power they generate that exceeds what they use. That is as it should be. But determining a fair ``sell back'' price isn't easy.

The retail price of electricity includes both the cost of generation and of wires to carry power to customers. Solar generators still need those wires, and they should pay for them. On the other hand, solar is most effective on hot sunny days when electricity is most in demand and the cost of providing it is the greatest. The sell-back price should reflect that reality as well.

The consumer group TURN notes that customers who use only a modest amount of electricity -- often lower-income households or renters -- have been protected from rate increases. SB 1 does not exempt them from the solar surcharge. But they are unlikely to benefit from the solar subsidy.

Those financial issues can be resolved if legislators don't get swept up in solar-mania. California ought to get warmed up to solar power, as long as it doesn't get overheated.

Reaction to reactors becoming less nuclear

In terms of air quality impacts, nuclear energy is by far the cleanest options. As risks have been mitigated, the heat is coming off of nuclear power:

But as mounting scientific evidence points to a direct connection between increasing carbon emissions and climate change, Mr. Brand and others have come to see conventional fuels like oil and coal as a greater threat.

In his article, Mr. Brand argued, "Everything must be done to increase energy efficiency and decarbonize energy production." He ran down a list of alternative technologies, like solar and wind energy, that emit no heat-trapping gases. "But add them all up," he wrote, "and it's just a fraction of enough." His conclusion: "The only technology ready to fill the gap and stop the carbon-dioxide loading is nuclear power."

In recent statements, three top environmental experts - Fred Krupp, the executive director of Environmental Defense, and Jonathan Lash, the president of the World Resources Institute and James Gustave Speth, the dean of Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies - have stopped well short of embracing nuclear power, but they have emphasized that it is worth trying to find solutions to the economic, safety and security, waste storage and proliferation issues rather than rejecting the whole technology.

These efforts to edge away from the established orthodoxy coincide with moves by Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, to offer significant financial incentives for the development of three new nuclear technologies -each with its own corporate backer - as part of a bill he and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, are sponsoring to regulate emissions of heat-trapping gases.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Berkeley, Oakland to get Clean Energy Fund

Living up to their commitment to the environment, the Cities of Berkeley and Oakland are taking proactive steps to fund clean energy in their communities:

Berkeley and Oakland are poised to become the first cities in the nation to help create an innovative fund that would allow small businesses and public agencies to install solar and other clean-energy systems.

The fund would act like a community development bank by advancing money to install energy-efficient electricity generation and conservation equipment that local businesses would lease and could ultimately buy.

If hired by the cities, a Berkeley firm called Power Factors would create an action plan for raising $50 million to $100 million through sales of insurance-backed public bonds and from private investors.

A $50 million investment would produce about 10 megawatts of clean energy generation and five megawatts of decreased energy consumption, according to a city estimate. One megawatt is enough to power about 750 homes.

Berkeley's City Council on Tuesday approved paying Power Factors $52,500 to identify potential commercial customers and vendors this year. The Oakland City Council has agreed to pay $97,500 but has not approved a contract with the firm.

Movie implies widespread complicity in Energy Crisis

If reports that Gray Davis felt vindicated after watching Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room are true, then he must not have seen the same movie as Boston Globe Reviewer Ty Burr. In his movie review, Burr notes:

Who do you blame for Enron? Start with Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and Andy Fastow, of course, respectively, the fallen energy behemoth's founder, president, and chief financial officer/insane greedhead/designated scapegoat.

But what about the state and federal regulators who consistently gave the company a free pass, in part thanks to Lay's friendship with both George Bushes?

What about the accountants at Arthur Andersen who signed off on Enron's three-card-monte approach to bookkeeping?

What about the banks that funded the company, the analysts who pushed the stock, the journalists who sold Enron as a bastion of innovation and integrity?

What about anyone who bought the stock without caring that the numbers didn't add up?

The strength of Alex Gibney's entertaining and enraging "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" isn't just that it simplifies the best-selling book by Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind so that mere mortals can understand what happened.

The new documentary says that everyone on the bandwagon was complicit; it implies, moreover, that the timbers of the bandwagon itself were rotten with go-go avarice.

"Go-Go Avarice" sounds like the perfect term to describe the former-Governor's fundraising prowess.

Winery works to reduce energy costs

Part of one of California's most famous industries is seeking to overcome one of the State's greatest obstacles to profitability--energy costs:

California wineries now have an easy-to-use, computer-based tool and a handbook to help them reduce energy and water costs, thanks to researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Fetzer Vineyards, with whom the lab worked to develop the tool.

California grapes yield about 500 million gallons of wine per year. California is home to more than 1,000 wineries which contribute some $33 billion to the state’s annual economy.

“BEST (Benchmarking and Energy and Water Savings Tool) Winery” compares the performance of a target winery to a similar reference winery. The reference winery is very efficient, using state-of-the-art commercially available energy and water control technologies.

After evaluating how the target winery compares to the reference winery, the user can view the tool’s inventory of available efficient practices and technologies to select those that will save money, energy and water. BEST Winery is available as an Excel spreadsheet that can be run on any PC operating Windows 2000 or higher.

The Public Interest Energy Research Program of the California Energy Commission supported development of the tool, which is geared toward small-to-medium-scale wineries. It is available for free to all California wineries.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Australian company confident in LNG decision by the end of the year

It may not come as soon as July, but Australian Energy giant BHP Billiton believes it can have a decision on its plans to build a liquefied natural gas receiving terminal off the Ventura County coast by the end of the year:

Repeated delays have ended the Australian Federal Government's hopes California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger would approve BHP-Billiton's $US4 billion ($A5.18 billion) gas terminal by July.

Australia's industry minister, Ian Macfarlane, said he was still hopeful Schwarzenegger would make a final decision by the end of 2005, but admitted the ambitious target of July was now likely out of reach.

"I think that's unlikely now," Macfarlane told AAP.

"We're still hopeful of a decision this year."

BHP Billiton has proposed to build a liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal 23km off the coast of Los Angeles. The project would allow BHP Billiton to ship the gas to the terminal and pipe it from the terminal to Los Angeles.

Energy re-regulation may head to November Ballot

Seeking to deny blame for any future energy crises, the Democrats in Sacramento are considering putting an energy re-regulation ballot measure before the voters in a special election in November 2005:

The union-backed group opposing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed special election said Tuesday that it had submitted signatures for its own competing measures on the potential ballot, one to reduce prescription drug costs and another to restore energy regulation.

The measures were partly intended as bargaining chips the group, Alliance for a Better California, hoped to use to dissuade Schwarzenegger from calling for special election. But in recent days, the governor has submitted signatures for his own proposals to alter teacher tenure and legislative district boundaries.

The energy reregulation measure essentially restores the structure of California's energy to its state prior to California's experiment with power market deregulation. It blocks customers from leaving utilities to buy power from other providers and restores utilities' legal obligation to serve end- user customers, a move intended to stabilize the market and help utilities plan for future demand.

Like others, I am almost inclined to trust the voters more than the legislature.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Governator moves to consolidate Energy Agencies

Seeking to streamline the energy bureaucracy in hopes of making sense of the State's energy infrastructure, Governor Schwarzenegger has announced a plan to re-organize the State's energy-related agencies:

Schwarzenegger, in a move his aides said Monday is designed to consolidate the energy bureaucracy, will propose a new Department of Energy this week that would have many of the same powers that the state's Energy Commission currently has.

The overhaul would not save money or eliminate state jobs, and it would end only one agency -- the obscure Electricity Oversight Board. But administration officials said it would add clarity and accountability to an often-confusing bureaucracy.

Hearing sorts out roots of rising gas prices

While gas prices drift lower, Congress is holding hearings to determine what's behind it...and find the usual suspects:

At a congressional hearing in Long Beach, U.S. Rep. Diane E. Watson (D-Los Angeles) issued a staff report suggesting that if prices remained at current levels, California drivers could spend $5.5 billion more on gasoline during the peak April-to-September driving season than they did in 2003 — with about one-third of that borne by motorists in the Los Angeles area.

"Commuting is a necessity here in Southern California, and record gasoline prices are taking their toll on my constituents," Watson said at the hearing conducted by Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the energy and resources subcommittee of the House Committee on Government Reform.

Much of this year's rise in gasoline prices can be attributed to the soaring cost of crude oil, which accounts for about half of the final pump price, an industry representative and three government officials testified. With the price of crude oil lingering above $50 for much of this year, retail gasoline prices have set record highs nationwide and in California.

In addition, soaring world demand, fueled by booming economies in China and India, and a shortage of domestic refining capacity also have pumped up prices.

SUV's and traffic add up to rising costs for drivers

The Energy-guzzling SUVs on California's roads have not been taged with a monetary impact for what they cost us in extra gas each year as we wait in traffic. LAVoice breaks it down:

The Texas Traffic Institute's 2005 Urban Mobility Study says that with the population for greater L.A./Santa Ana/Long Beach pegged at 12.5 million, we're each wasting 93 hours a year stuck in traffic (nearly twice the national average), according 2003 figures.

What's interesting is that this is less than the average delay of 98 hours seen in 2002 and 113 hours seen in 1993 - a fact essentially glossed over by the L.A. Times article. I'm not sure what was gained by omitting that fact, but it's encouraging to see that carpooling, new roads and staggered office shifts appear to be having some effect ...

On the other hand, the cost-of-wasted-fuel numbers are pretty ugly: The study says that rush-hour drivers blew 407 million gallons of gas out their tailpipes in 2003 - an average of $1,598 per peak traveler - compared with 356 million gallons and $1,452 per peak traveler in 1993.

Do you drive an SUV or light truck solo just to get your fat rump to the office? Do you have no more than two kids but still cruise around in a Hummer as though it were your own private living room? Do you use your unsmoggable, V8-powered pre-1972 classic as a daily driver?

Monday, May 09, 2005

Offshore LNG not affected by Energy Bill

Despite cries from LNG opponents, legislation going through Congress would not grant FERC authority over off-shore siting decisions:

Congressional aides involved in drafting the House legislation and a similar bill still under consideration in the Senate say offshore facilities would not be affected by either proposal.

Offshore terminals in federal waters fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Coast Guard and the federal Maritime Administration. LNG facilities built on land are under the control of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Both bills would give FERC the final say on onshore facilities but would not affect the Coast Guard's or the Maritime Administration's authority over offshore terminals, supporters say.

Diesel vs. Hybrid vs. Gas

While the French simply label the stuff that fuels our cars, "bynzine", we Americans are being tortured trying to figure out the most cost-effective and environmentall-friendly way to get around. MSN Auto's Ann Job breaks down the economics and aesthetics of each of the options, pointing out, along the way, "buyers of the Hybrid would need to travel 144,000 miles—about 9.5 years at the 15,000-mile-a-year national average rate—to recoup the approximately $2,000 price difference in these cars..."

SUVs fall out of favor with rising energy costs

As gas costs hit consumers in the pocket, SUV dealers are starting to feel the pinch:

Salvador Sotello, for example, recently paid F.H. Dailey Chevrolet in San Leandro $41,000 for a new Chevy Tahoe LT (yes, with leather) SUV that had a sticker price of $58,000. The sale was an anomaly in what is otherwise a pretty dismal selling season. "It's been pretty quiet," saleswoman Crystal Gonzalez said the other day. "Been pretty slow."

At Broadway Ford in Oakland, the grilles of the Mustangs, SUVs and the lone Thunderbird smile at the passing traffic, but the showroom is empty, it appears, of customers; several salesmen are in sight. Up at Albany Ford-Subaru, salesman Myers Howard, sitting a few feet away from a big Ford pickup truck, says things on the Ford side of the showroom "are slow." That might be the understatement of the day.

Just this past week, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. underwent the humiliation of seeing their credit ratings reduced by Standard & Poor's Ratings Services to the status of junk. The reasons are becoming clear -- the two big companies can't sell much of what they produce.

The figures compiled by the auto industry research organizations are pointing this year at what is quickly becoming the white elephant of the industry -- that erstwhile favorite of the California shopping mall, the gas- sucking SUV, a highly profitable vehicle that was the darling of the 1990s but has now become the prime victim of $3-a-gallon gasoline.

Meanwhile, BMW is working on fuel-saving vehicles and, starting in a few years, a hydrogen-powered car. Perhaps there are too many X3s sitting on their lots?

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Truth about LNG: Unspinning the LA Weekly Coverage

Wayne Lusvardi at ChronWatch sorts the truth from the mistruths in LA Week's recent article on liquefied natural gas:

Spin - Kelly quotes U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich) that “if you love Enron, you’ll love” the newly passed energy policy legislation passed last month which allows the Federal government to override some California obstructions for siting of LNG terminals off the coast of California. Unspin – Since LNG terminals will compete against Enron’s Transwestern Pipeline, how could it be that Enron would welcome competition from LNG terminals? The infamous name “Enron” is linked with “LNG” in the article only to demonize LNG in the mind of the reader.
Spin - LNG will stymie such technology as wind and solar. Unspin – Redundant conventional power plants are necessary to solar and wind energy farms because of the unpredictability of the weather. It would take 300 square miles of a wind farm to generate the same 1,000 megawatts as a conventional gas-fired power plant which takes up only about one-half square mile. Imagine one mile squares of wind farms lined up in a row extending from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
Spin – State energy regulators fear that LNG providers will gain an excessively large share of the energy market and exercise undue “market power” resulting in another 2001-style energy crisis unless regulators can impose “anti-hoarding” price regulations on them. Unspin – During the energy crisis of 2001, gas prices spiked not so much because of price gouging but because of the lack of cheap hydropower from the Pacific Northwest and the lack of additional capacity in inter-state gas pipelines. Anyone with a rudimentary background in economics should be able to realize that the more the supply of natural gas and the greater number of providers, such as LNG, the greater the likelihood of lower gas prices.
Spin – A report issued by the Energy Ventures Group is concerned that: (a) LNG importers will become “pivotal suppliers” similar to the power generators that caused the state’s energy crisis; and (b) that LNG will add to the U.S. trade deficit. Unspin – Merchant energy companies did not “cause” the California electricity crisis of 2001; while the Los Angeles DWP and its contractor Reliant Energy were involved in a price ratcheting and arbitraging scheme of much greater proportions than Enron’s puny 4% share of the California energy market. The crisis was caused by energy regulators who erected barriers from buying cheap electricity from out of state during the crisis and slapped on price controls and a “competitive transition” surcharge. The Energy Ventures Group concern about a trade deficit and price gouging is contradicted by a December 18, 2002 news release on their website “The Coming Natural Gas Crisis” which curiously predicts that there will be a shortage of natural gas for the next 5 to 7 years.
Spin - The LA Weekly article states that Sempra Energy has already begun building an LNG terminal in Mexico this year and that the PUC wants to “protect Californian’s safety and pocketbooks.” Unspin – What writer Kelly omits is that if Sound Energy and BHP Billiton are not allowed to build competitive terminals in California, then Sempra will have a monopoly since it already curiously has been given the go-ahead to build a terminal. Why isn’t Kelly equally worried about price gouging by Sempra?
Spin – LNG has been endorsed by the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District and Omnitrans (San Bernardino) as well as businesses and other public agencies. Unspin – No mention is made that Honda is coming out with a natural gas fueled car and that it is not only public transit agencies that would benefit from LNG, but consumers.

Sounds familiar...

Nissan to lease hydro-SUV to US Businesses

American businesses may soon be on the cutting-edge of alternative vehicle fuels:

Nissan will import some fuel-cell powered X-Trail SUVs as part of a leasing program for US companies. The program, which Nissan executives say could begin as early as 2007, is reportedly similar to one the company launched in Japan in 2004, that provides a small number of hydrogen fueled X-Trail SUVs to businesses.

Perhaps a first-step to wider release?!?

Businesses urged to conserve energy

As Southern California approaches another summer with tight power supplies, Businesses are being asked to cut back:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's pick for new chairman of the California Energy Commission met with about 300 representatives of San Diego area businesses Wednesday morning to encourage them to get on board the governor's program to ensure adequate electricity this summer.

Noting that state officials were surprised last September to see peak demand for electricity hit levels that had not been expected before 2006, Assistant Secretary of Resources for Energy Joe Desmond pitched energy conservation measures as the best bet for making sure that electric supply is adequate to meet demand this summer.

The event, staged at Qualcomm's Design Center auditorium, was billed as an "energy summit to ask San Diego business leaders for a summer energy-saving pledge," and in fact a pledge form was handed out for signatures.

"What's important to remember is that customers have a lot to contribute in keeping demand down," Desmond said.

At the same time, he said that rolling blackouts triggered by excessive peak demand for electricity are "not likely, even in hot weather ---- if customers conserve."

CalPine brings SoCal power plant online

Part of meeting California's energy needs and preventing future energy crises involves the need to build more power plants. Calpine delivers for Southern California and yesterday brought its 250MW Pastoria Power Plant online:

Calpine Corporation's (NYSE: CPN)Pastoria Energy Center has begun operation and is now supporting the energy-scarce Southern California market with 250 megawatts of electricity. Next month, Phase II will be completed, bringing a combined total of 750 megawatts to Southern California in time for peak summer power demand.

Thirty miles south of Bakersfield, Pastoria is located on property leased from the Tejon Ranch Corporation and interconnects to the Southern California Edison transmission system. The facility is fueled with natural gas and will produce power equivalent to the demand of almost 600,000 California households.

"California energy officials expect record power use again this summer and the Pastoria Energy Center is coming online just in time," said Calpine's Vice President of Marketing & Sales David Lewis. "Demand for electricity in California is growing by almost four percent annually, and the location of the Pastoria power plant will provide megawatts where they are needed most."

The plant runs on natural gas--a commodity which is becoming scarcer in California--which should remind us of California's energy interdependence.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Is villification of LNG missing something?

In today's L.A. Weekly, writer William J. Kelley compares the importation of liquefied natural gas to the Next Enron:

A report last month by the Energy Ventures Group in Washington, D.C., bolstered that concern by concluding that LNG importers will become “pivotal suppliers,” similar to the power generators that caused the state’s energy crisis. To head off the potential for high prices, the report urged policymakers to consider alternatives to LNG, which it said could add up to $4 trillion to the U.S. trade deficit by 2025. Companies already bring LNG to five U.S. terminals, and some 40 are proposed nationwide.

Meanwhile, exporting nations want more money for their resources. Last month saw the fifth annual meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum in Trinidad and Tobago, which provides a place for gas-rich nations — like Russia, Indonesia, and others expected to supply California — to discuss their interests.

In California, the prospect of LNG is particularly troubling, said Morris, because Southern California Gas Co. is terminating contracts for some gas now imported through pipelines from the interior Southwest. Moreover, the company plans to make incoming pipelines bi-directional so gas can flow from California to points east.

What Kelly and other critics fail to note about the market-power issue is that if Sound Energy or BHP Billiton do not build terminals for LNG in California, then Sempra will have complete market power, since it is getting the go-ahead to build a terminal in Mexico. Having these other suppliers with just a sliver of the market share would force Sempra (the parent company of So Cal Gas) to be more honest with its pricing.

Sierra Club opposes Long Beach LNG

In the Southern Sierran, writer Bry Myown outlines the group's opposition to building a liquefied natural gas terminal in Long Beach:

Geological risks.
The project would store almost 85 million gallons of liquefied natural gas within five miles of three earthquake faults. One of them, the Newport-Inglewood fault, last shook Long Beach in 1933 with a devastating earthquake. There are 27 known, significant faults within 100 miles.

The site would support 316 million pounds of LNG, plus the weight of concrete and steel tanks, all on a small footprint.

The facility will be built in a liquefaction zone on man-made landfill that is where the mouth of the Los Angeles River used to be before it was diverted. It is now a FEMA flood zone. The site is in the middle of a subsidence zone caused by oil extraction. Subsidence is up to 27' in the area and is 18' on the proposed site. The subsidence split the underlying land into man-made “fault blocks.” The site sits on one of these blocks that is barely wider than the site.The subsidence zone is supported by constant, pressurized water injection.

The site is subject to tsunamis. A nearby fault can produce a major tsunami with virtually no warning. Pacific Rim quakes can also bring large tsunamis to the area.

Dense population.

The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles employ approximately 25,000 ILWU longshore workers. Residential population within two miles of the project would be almost 20,000 by the time the project opens, and an additional 27,000 employees work within that distance of the site every day. Some census tracts near the project or along the proposed pipeline routes approach densities of 50,000 persons per square mile.

Hazardous surroundings.

Half of all Port of Long Beach imports and exports (on a tonnage basis) are crude oil and petroleum products. The POLB/POLA complex has 16 liquid bulk petroleum berths, extensive oil pipelines and an in-ports storage capacity of almost 11M barrels, and more petroleum projects are planned.

Prime terrorist target.
The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles move approximately 35% of the nation's waterborne and 42% of the nation's container cargo, with an annual declared Customs value in excess of $220B and a GDP contribution of $1 trillion and growing. The ports trade places as the nation’s first and second busiest ports. Combined they are the world’s third busiest.

Because San Pedro Bay offers the lowest rail rates, most container handling infrastructure and most "supership" berths, its goods movement could not be absorbed elsewhere, and even temporary port closure could cause national economic meltdown. Both bridges to the I-710, Alameda Corridor/rail loading facilities and significant oil pipelines terminate within 2 miles of the proposed project site.

Reduced contractual oversight.
LNG importers have historically operated under long-term contracts—but Mitsubishi wants to purchase up to 10% of California's gas on a spot market. That would be economically risky and increase exposure to piracy, crew infiltration and human error.

Hostility from new sources.
West Coast LNG terminals will import from new fossil fuel exporting nations. Likely sources include Indonesia, with its Banda Aceh province separatist movement, Sakhalin (Russia), where indigenous rights groups and non-governmental organizations are currently protesting LNG exports, and South America, where planned LNG export operations have already led to protesters' deaths and the forced resignation of Bolivia's president. Other U.S. LNG sources are in the Middle East or sub-Saharan Africa, already declared to be of "strategic military importance" to the U.S. Two-thirds of the world's LNG is shipped through the Malaccan Straits, where Commander Fargo of the Pacific Fleet has already suggested the U.S. should deploy Marines.

Oddly enough, the article makes the case for the Cabrillo Port project off of Oxnard. Since it is a floating structure it will not face tsunami risks. Because it is offshore, there is not only not dense populations nearby, but none. it is far-removed from terrorist targets, being 14-miles off the coastline. And since it will import gas from Australia, it will not face the same geopolitical risks as other projects.

Metrolink Ridership Rises with Fues prices

Southern Californians with the longest commutes--from the Inland Empire to Downtown Los Angeles--are finding Metrolink is now an affordable alternative:

Most Metrolink passengers Tuesday said that they reached their ceiling at $2.70 a gallon for gas.

As more cars are abandoned each day, Metrolink is slowly becoming a way of life, providing riders with relaxing prep time before work or a social hour with friends.

PG&E Profits Drop Dramatically; Prospects Rise

Exiting bankruptcy did not do any good for the profits of Northern California Investor Owned Utility Pacific Gas and Electric, but the company's prospect still are looking up:

PG&E Corp. reported a dramatic 92 percent drop in first-quarter earnings Wednesday but attributed most of the decrease to a $2.95 billion, non- cash boost that the company recorded last year.

Without that boost, which was tied to the company's emerging from bankruptcy, the San Francisco company's operating earnings actually grew 29 percent, easily topping Wall Street's expectations.

PG&E, whose Pacific Gas and Electric Co. utility supplies power to most of Northern California, made a $226 million profit from ongoing operations in this year's first quarter. That profit, which translates to 56 cents per share, beat last year's net income of $175 million (41 cents per share) in the same quarter.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

More energy posts filled by Governor

Governor Schwarzenegger is acting swiftly to see that his people are in charge of the State's energy-related bureaucracy:

Amidst warnings of electricity shortages this summer and the need for expanded power supplies by the end of the decade, on Monday Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tapped a Pleasanton man to oversee approval of power plant plans and moved to fill a vacancy on a top regulatory panel.

Joseph Desmond, deputy secretary of the state Natural Resources Agency, will become chairman of the California Energy Commission, a five-member panel that studies energy issues and gives the go-ahead to power plant developers. Desmond, 41, who already commutes from Pleasanton to Sacramento to serve as Schwarzenegger's energy czar, said he would "continue to advise the governor on energy matters" in his new job. "I'm not so sure that there will be a big difference" in his role, he added.

Uncertainty about the state's energy future lingers nearly five years after an attempt to introduce competition into its regulated electricity industry disintegrated into an economically devastating spasm of rolling blackouts and soaring power costs. Today, monopoly utilities that deregulation advocates hoped to see shunted to supporting roles instead remain central actors, operating a still-untested procurement system in which they themselves compete against nonutility investors for power contracts.

In that uncertain environment, Desmond's expanded role could be helpful, said Severin Borenstein, executive director of the University of California Energy Institute. "Good communication between the governor's office and the California Energy Commission would be a very valuable thing as we think about how to organize -- notice I didn't say reorganize -- the electricity market going forward," he said.

Schwarzenegger also moved to fill a vacancy on the state Public Utilities Commission with John Bohn, a 67-year-old venture capitalist from San Francisco with a resume that includes stints as head of a leading credit rating firm and of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Bohn is now chief executive of GlobalNet Venture Partners, and co-founded an Internet-based trading site for commodity chemicals.

Romero Report gets broad coverage

Opponents of Liquefied Natuiral Gas have complained about the public relatins efforts of the energy source's supporters...but you have to admit groups like Cal-CASE are doing a good job getting their message out far and wide. The latest coverage comes from the Long Beach Press Telegram:

State economic benefits from LNG-induced lower gas prices would include an increase in gross state product of $1 billion to $4 billion, 11,000 to 55,000 new jobs and $64 million to $306 million in additional tax revenue, the report said.

"That's equivalent to one to three months of economic growth in the state," said the author, Philip Romero, a professor at the University of Oregon. "This is not chump change."

Romero, who said he had no pre-conceived notions about LNG and acknowledged not being a natural gas expert, was hired by Sacramento-based Californians for Clean Affordable Safe Energy to compile the report.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

John Bohn nominated to CPUC

After then-Public Utilities Commission nominee Steve Poizner decided to run for Insurance Commissioner, Governor Schwarzenegger has decided to name John Bohn in his stead:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger named another businessman to the California Public Utilities Commission, after his original nominee in December had to withdraw from consideration because of a potential conflict of interest.

John Bohn, who has served as chairman of the global financial advising and consulting firm GlobalNet Venture Partners since 2001, will fill the vacancy on the state's powerful regulatory commission, which sets electricity rates and oversees the telecommunications industry. Bohn's term will expire in 2011.

Bohn, 67, was previously the co-founder and executive chairman of Chematch -- now Chemconnect -- an Internet-based petrochemical trading exchange, from 1997 to 2000. He also served for seven years as president and chief executive officer of Moody's Investors Service, where his tenure began in 1989.

In 1981, he was appointed special assistant to U.S. Treasury Secretary Don Regan and subsequently named U.S. ambassador and executive director of the Asian Development Bank.

State to get Colorado River water, power

A rainy winter is reaping benefits for Californians, as water from Lake Powell will be released this summer--keeping up generating capacity at Hoover Dam:

Saying winter storms had eased drought conditions somewhat in the Colorado River basin, Interior Secretary Gale Norton on Monday ordered federal dam managers to continue making normal water releases from Lake Powell, one of the West's biggest reservoirs.

Norton's decision settles for now a dispute between the upper and lower basin states over levels in Lake Powell, which collects water from Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and northern New Mexico, and its downriver sibling, Lake Mead.

Led by Colorado, the upper basin states wanted the Interior Department to reduce releases from Lake Powell for the first time to slow a dramatic drop in the reservoir's levels. The lower basin states were concerned that if the releases were trimmed and Lake Powell's level increased, it would be at the expense of Lake Mead, which supplies water to Nevada, Arizona and Southern California.

After more than five years of severe drought along the Colorado, Lake Powell is only a third full — the lowest it has been since it was filled after the 1963 construction of Glen Canyon Dam. Lake Mead, by contrast, is 62% full and has been rising after a series of winter storms doused parts of the Southwest.

The upper basin doesn't use water from Lake Powell. Rather, the reservoir operates as a huge holding tank for Lake Mead, ensuring that the upper basin has enough reserves to meet its legal obligation to send a certain amount of water to the lower basin.

As Lake Powell's level has dropped, those reserves have dwindled, threatening hydropower production, hurting recreation businesses and raising the possibility that if the drought continues, Colorado and other states might be forced to make cuts in their water usage in order to give the lower basin its share.

Good news for California energy markets which were already predicted to be tight this summer.

WSJ: Unnatural Natural Gas Prices

The Wall Street Journal editorializes about soaring natural gas prices:

The main political bottleneck is that the professional green lobby has turned hostile to natural gas. The Sierra Club and the Nader retinue have successfully pushed moratoriums for most new offshore drilling of the fuel, have fought to keep the most gas-rich federal lands off-limits to exploration, and have used lawsuits to tie up those pieces that are accessible. According to the American Public Gas Association, some 213 trillion cubic feet of natural gas is basically off-limits to production. That's a 10-year supply at current demand.

The enviros are also blocking an even quicker path to lower prices: importing more liquefied natural gas. Currently, less than 1% of gas consumed by the U.S. is LNG, in part because the U.S. has only four port facilities equipped to take it ashore. But many countries are eager to export LNG, and at prices significantly lower than those domestically.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has moved quickly to authorize new LNG ports, as the Natural Gas Act of 1978 allows it to do. But greens are trying to block many of the 32 proposed facilities by hyping safety risks, arguing that LNG barges and ports could be blown up by terrorists. No energy source is risk-free, but LNG is no more dangerous than many existing chemical or gas plants. It is carried in ships with double hulls and stored in double-walled, insulated tanks at monitored facilities. LNG isn't explosive in its liquid state, and as a gas it is only flammable in a narrow range of concentrations in the air.

Nonetheless, prodded by these fears and by environmentalists, the California Public Utility Commission has sued over FERC's right to authorize a proposed LNG terminal in the Port of Long Beach. The Sierra Club staged protests last month in New Orleans condemning proposed terminals on the Gulf Coast, and it has also fought LNG facilities in Maine and northern California. The energy bill that recently passed the House addresses some of the legal questions, more clearly spelling out FERC's power to authorize terminals.

The larger political problem here is that the public hasn't been told about the connection between high prices and political opposition to energy production. President Bush used his press conference again last week to push the "energy independence" argument, which does well in opinion polls but is a pipe dream in the real world. Short of a breakthrough in hydrogen technology, we are fated to import large amounts of energy. The real issue is whether we maintain enough energy production, and import capacity, to allow adequate supplies and reasonable prices.

Someone also has to call out environmentalists on their hostility to all fossil fuels, or for that matter all energy production that isn't still a technological fantasy. They once wanted natural gas to replace coal, but now they want wind power to replace natural gas, or at least until the windmills start killing birds and bats and mar the view off Nantucket. And don't even mention nuclear power, which remains taboo though it doesn't emit the CO2 that enviros insist is ruining the planet.

All Americans are paying for this anti-energy nonsense, in higher heating bills and fewer jobs. The U.S. has the means to extract or import fuels in environmentally sound and cost-efficient ways. Someone in public life should start telling Americans who is raising their prices.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Competition from LNG will boost economy

ChronWatch goes in-depth and explains how building LNG will help California escape the monopoly on Enron's Transwestern Pipeline:

The U.S. East Coast already has four LNG terminals, but none are on the West Coast. Terminals that can receive liquefied natural gas, convert it back into a gas, and transport it through existing pipelines to end-users are currently under regulatory review by both Federal and State regulatory bodies along the Southern California coastline and Baja, California. They would provide competition to domestic natural gas providers and gas line companies such as Enron’s 2,600-mile Transwestern Pipeline and El Paso Gas Pipeline’s 2,500-mile pipeline, both from West Texas to California; the Kern River Gas Pipeline and Paiute Pipeline which ship gas from the Rocky Mountains; and the PG&E Pipeline which provides gas from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin

Alternative Energy use continues steady climb

Over the past five years, more and more people are buying into new enregy sources as an alternative to rising gas prices:

The amount of biodiesel sold in the U.S. has grown from 500,000 gallons in 1999 to roughly 30 million gallons in 2004, said Jenna Higgins, a spokeswoman for the National Biodiesel Board. By comparison, the U.S. burns more than 100 billion gallons of gasoline each year and 4 billion gallons of ethanol, a fuel additive derived from corn. The Solar Energy Industry Association estimates there are enough photovoltaic panels installed in the U.S. to power about 286,000 homes, up from 60,000 homes in 2000. A considerably smaller group of enthusiasts - perhaps 20,000 homeowners nationwide - have erected wind turbines on their property, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Wider acceptance of alternative energy by consumers will require a significant expansion of what is now only a limited patchwork of government refunds and tax incentives.

"If the government subsidized renewable energy the way it does oil and gas, it would be mainstream in no time," said Mark Prebilic, of Poolesville, Md. He received a $2,000 refund from the state government and a $2,000 tax credit from the federal government when he installed solar panels in 2001 that now provide about a third of his home's power needs. Prebilic expects to make back the $13,000 investment he made in a little more than 20 years.

Rising Gas Prices = Economic Freeze

Gas prices were down six cents since the last time I filled up my car, which hopefully means the negative impacts of energy prices on the economy will begin to abate. Nonetheless, having sufficient supplies to meet demand is critical to a thriving economy:

Rising gas prices. Rising inflation. Rising interest rates. Slowing economy. It's a combination not seen since the late 1970s, when Americans endured an era of ``stagflation.'' And it represents a tricky balancing act for Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Greenspan appears most worried about tamping down modestly increasing inflation, even if the rate boost will also trim economic growth. But many experts say the additional drag created by higher gas prices has made it difficult to know best how to steer the economy while avoiding a crash landing.

``It really is a puzzling problem for policy-makers,'' said Scott Anderson, senior economist at Wells Fargo. ``It's the worst of both worlds. And policy-makers will have to choose which evil they want to fight.''

Everything old is new again in Energy Conservation

When motorists lines up to purchase gasoline in the 1970's the government stepped in with it idea for conservation--make people drive slower by lowering the speed limit. The New York Times asks why the idea has not resurfaced:

President Bush made it clear last week that he sees no quick fixes to the nation's energy woes. The problem has been long in coming, the argument goes, and so will the solutions. But if history is any guide, there is one thing he could do immediately: bring back the 55 miles-per-hour speed limit.

It has been done before. Along with record oil and gasoline prices, improvements in fuel efficiency and a lasting economic recession, speed limits helped curb fuel consumption for the first time in American postwar history between 1974 and 1984.

Of course, energy eventually became cheap again, the economy expanded and Americans became complacent and unwilling to make more sacrifices.

Instead of opting for small fuel-efficient cars, people switched to large sport utility vehicles and larger pickups. As drivers groaned and states fought for their right to speed, the limit was raised.

While oil consumption in most industrialized nations has either leveled off or declined, in the United States, oil demand has soared 38 percent since the first oil shock of 1973.

The Bush administration's focus over the last four years has been to increase the supply of oil and natural gas, which are also priorities for the energy industry, instead of finding ways to cut back on energy demand, which until very recently has been left out of the picture.