Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Local opposition to LNG fading

Delay may be the best tactic to dissuade opponents of LNG terminals, as is being learned in Long Beach.

Despite opposition from state officials, the prospects have improved for a proposed $700-million liquefied natural gas terminal that would be built at the Port of Long Beach.

The Long Beach City Council has no immediate plans to take a stand on the project. And local opposition has dwindled in recent months.

Even so, state Public Utilities Commission officials oppose siting a terminal in the densely populated harbor area, warning that a terrorist attack, earthquake or accident could cause catastrophic damage. A nationally known expert hired by the commission recently concluded a fire could kill or burn people within three miles, an area that includes downtown Long Beach and 130,000 residents.

Oversight, communications troubles behind L.A. outages

An examination of recent outages at the L.A. Department of Water and Power point the finger at poor control and communications.

Poor communication and lax oversight between the Department of Water and Power and a contractor contributed to a massive September power outage that left nearly 2 million people in the dark for more than an hour, according to an independent review released Tuesday.

But the probe of the Sept. 12 blackout - the largest power outage in Los Angeles since the 1994 Northridge Earthquake - also raises issues that go beyond the initial explanation of a worker cutting the wrong wires, including the quality of an ongoing modernization project and training and safety standards.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who called for the review, said he expects the report's recommendations to produce tangible changes.

"The report ... has indicated several areas of concern, ranging from employee training to quality control to system design," he said in a statement. "I expect the Board of Water and Power Commissioners and the department to carefully review the results and to implement whatever steps are needed to ensure the safety and reliability of our electrical system."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Long Beach firm to capture landfill gas

A Long Beach firm has been awarded to contract to capture and convert landfill gas into CNG.

SCS Energy, an independent operating division of SCS Engineers, has been awarded a multi-year contract by Sonoma County, California, under which SCS will design, fabricate, install and operate a facility that will convert landfill gas (LFG) to compressed natural gas (CNG). The source of the LFG is the Central Landfill, which is operated by Sonoma County Integrated Waste Management Department. The CNG will be used to fuel buses operated by Sonoma County Transit. The project will be the second LFG to CNG project in the United States and the first LFG to CNG project which will fuel buses. The only other operating LFG to CNG project in the United States fuels mobile equipment at the Puente Hills Landfill in Los Angeles, California.

Ethanol growing stronger?

A press report today touts that ethanol is growing in much so it may no longer need to be subsidized by the government.

The ethanol business, once perceived as an industry kept alive mostly by government support, is becoming more viable amid worries of a global oil crunch, reported the Associated Press.

Innovation and investment are transforming the process of turning corn kernels into auto fuel, making it the leading near-term alternative to petroleum for the nation's 225 million cars and trucks, according to the report.

I guess that's what happens when you get the Government to legislate your competition out of business, eh?!?

Monday, November 28, 2005

City fees cast cloud over solar energy

While lip service is done to promoting renewable energy, local regulations are doing solar power a disservice.

How much you'll pay in city fees to put solar panels on your home depends on where you live -- and some fees around Silicon Valley are so high they are placing a cloud over renewable energy, according to a new study.

Saratoga, for example, charges $95 for a permit to install solar panels on a house. Yet in Los Gatos, two miles away, city planners will sock a homeowner with a $1,287 bill for a permit to install the same system.

The findings come from a survey of 40 cities in San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Benito counties by the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club.

``There's a huge gap in what various cities charge,'' said Carl Mills, a Milpitas technical writer who helped compile the survey. ``Something is very wrong.''

Urban Oil Wells back in Style

With the cost of oil rising faster than that of real estate in Southern California (I know it is hard to believe), the urban oil well is making a resurgence.

In recent months, "we've had companies putting 45-year-old wells back into production," said Rock Zierman, spokesman for the California Independent Petroleum Association.

Southern California has about 4,000 active oil wells, down from a peak of 33,000. About 3,000 wells are abandoned statewide but that number could drop to zero, predicted Iraj Ershagi, director of the petroleum engineering program at the University of Southern California.

Many of the wells were abandoned too soon, he said.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

LADWP deal bites back at City

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa may be regretting the sweet deal he gave workers at Water and Power.

Wearing black T-shirts that read "Will Strike if Provoked," more than 100 members of the Engineers and Architects Assn. packed the Los Angeles City Council chambers Tuesday to warn they are willing to walk off the job unless they get the same lucrative raises won by Department of Water and Power workers.

But Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa reiterated his contention that the city cannot afford to offer a similar contract. "We have a $248-million deficit," he said at Belmont High School, where he spoke at a rally encouraging students to stay in school.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

DG in the OC

Orange County appears to be experimenting in distributed generation.

Orange County officials have come up with an unusual plan to get cheap electricity for the offices at the Santa Ana Civic Center — make it themselves and save the county government $4 million to $5 million a year.

The project would serve the county Hall of Administration, the Superior Court, the federal office building and other government buildings.

Lockyer files new suits against Sempra

California Attorney General Bill Locker has filed new lawsuits against Sempra.

In another case stemming from the energy crisis, the state sued Sempra Energy again Monday, this time accusing the San Diego company of misleading regulators regarding a natural gas deal in Mexico.

The lawsuit says Sempra wound up temporarily curtailing service to big industrial customers in Southern California, including some gas-fired power plants, to ensure deliveries to Mexico. The Southern California plants had to switch temporarily to oil, resulting in more expensive electricity and dirtier air, the suit says.

Maybe Bill wants an entire UC Campus named after him!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Bustamante, Gas Companies come to friendly terms

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and defendants in his case over energy price gouging have come to terms...very close terms.

Natural gas companies seeking to settle a lawsuit filed by Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante in the wake of the energy crisis have offered to sweeten the deal by paying $200,000 to endow a university professorship in his name.

Bustamante's lawyers have agreed in principal to the deal, saying they would accept a settlement of $20 million — though that is a fraction of the money, perhaps $1 billion or more, Bustamante hoped to recover when he filed the case on behalf of overcharged California consumers.

Bustamante's chief lawyer, Raymond Boucher of Beverly Hills, said it was he who suggested to gas company attorneys that the firms pay for the University of California professorship.

Friday, November 18, 2005

CPUC approves plan to ease natural gas price shock

With inadequate supplies of natural gas, utilities are scrambling to find ways to help their customers pay this winter.

Southern California Gas Co. (The Gas Company) today received approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) of a project that will provide an additional benefit this winter for the utility's low-income customers enrolled in the California Alternate Rates For Energy (CARE) program.

The utility has developed a plan to re-drill some natural gas wells in two of its underground storage fields that will enable it to withdraw natural gas stored many years ago at a very low cost. By withdrawing low-cost natural gas this winter to serve customers, The Gas Company can avoid buying an equivalent amount of natural gas at high prices. The result of this project can help CARE customers to avoid nearly $48 million in natural gas costs over this winter, based on the projection of winter gas prices at the time of the utility's CPUC filing.

The Gas Company is working to help natural gas customers manage their bills in what may be record-high prices this winter, caused by a very tight supply-demand balance in the national market.

The PUC could also help by finding ways to get more supplies into the State!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

LB LNG EIR is Explosive!

The Environmental Impact Report for the proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in the heart of Long Beach is stirring emotions.

Opponents of a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in Long Beach lambasted a newly released environmental review at a public hearing Monday, calling the project too dangerous to build near the center of the region's second-largest city.

But union representatives and other project supporters contended that such safety concerns are exaggerated. And others called the plant a source of cleaner-burning fuel that would help combat air pollution.

More than 150 people attended the first of four public hearings on the project's draft federal and state environmental impact report. A total of 36 people spoke, divided almost evenly between supporters and critics.

The $450-million liquefied natural gas terminal has been proposed by a Mitsubishi Corp. subsidiary and ConocoPhillips for a pier at the Port of Long Beach, less than two miles west of the city's newly gentrified downtown and tourist attractions such as the Queen Mary.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Oil profits questioned

Apparently the only good companies in America are those which do not make money.

Under sometimes hostile questioning, the chief executives of five of the nation's biggest oil companies denied Wednesday that their industry was earning windfall profits and argued price gouging was not responsible for record earnings in the wake of Gulf Coast hurricanes.

But even as the executives of Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP America and Shell Oil U.S.A. testified they were investing roughly the same amount as they earned in production facilities, senators from California suggested the companies were manipulating supplies to drive up gasoline prices even further.

California Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein questioned whether the oil companies were deliberately trying to boost gasoline prices in their state by not building new refineries or expanding existing ones.

I bet Roland Arnall can sympathize with Congress' distate for companies doing exactly what they're supposed to!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Energy Regulation Measure fails big

On a day where California voters uniformly rejected eight ballot measures, they saved their greatest smack-down for a measure to roll back the clock on electricity regulation.

Proposition 80 would have changed energy policy by spelling out market rules for how utilities buy power, barring most consumers from contracting directly with energy providers and encouraging nonpolluting energy sources like wind and solar.

The measure trailed by nearly 30 percentage points all evening and was opposed by voters in every county in the state except San Francisco.

Consumer advocates and labor unions put the measure on the ballot, arguing that it would spur power plant development and increase the electricity supply, preventing future blackouts.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Environmentalists Oppose Prop 80

Claiming that Proposition 80 will take Environmental gains in electric conservations back to, say, the 1980's, environmentalists have come out against the measure.

On Thursday, leading opponent V. John White of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technology griped that Proposition 80's "well-intentioned" backers want to lock the state into an energy procurement system that unfairly favors big utilities like Edison International's Southern California Edison Co. and could inadvertently hamper drives to increase power generation from renewable sources.

"At a time when we are not making good enough progress on buying and investing in the energy we need, enacting a confusing and duplicative initiative will add to the uncertainty and risk when we don't need it," White said.

Proposition 80 does nothing to push the state's three investor-owned utilities — Edison, PG&E Corp.'s Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Sempra Energy's San Diego Gas & Electric Co. — into signing more long-term contracts to guarantee they will have enough power to meet peak summer demand, White said.

Governor opposes Pombo on Offshore Drilling

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is taking on a memeber of his own party's congressional caucus over offshore drilling:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urged on Thursday a fellow California Republican, Rep. Richard Pombo of Tracy, to back off his aggressive efforts to change the federal moratorium protecting California's coastline from offshore drilling.

Pombo, the powerful chairman of the House Resources Committee, has been pushing legislation that would allow states to opt out of the federal moratorium and allow oil and gas drilling off their shores.

In a letter to Pombo, Schwarzenegger said changing the current offshore drilling moratorium -- which is approved annually by Congress and bans drilling off California and a dozen other states -- could weaken protections for the state's coastline.

"This moratorium has been in place for 24 years and enjoys widespread support from the people of California, including bipartisan support from elected leaders," the Republican governor wrote.

Schwarzenegger noted that he had campaigned for governor pledging to prevent any further drilling and said that he supported the current moratorium as the best way to maintain that stance.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

San Jose Paper: State needs LNG

It seems the trend of newspaper endorsements for building a liquefied natural gas terminal in California is headed South (literally, not figuratively).

California runs on gas, natural gas.

Half the electricity used in the state is generated by burning it. Millions of people heat their houses and and cook their meals with it.

Consumption of natural gas is up 20 percent since 1980. The California Energy Commission figures usage will grow 12 percent more in the next decade. Growing demand and limited supply create higher prices. Prices have doubled since 2002. They're expected to rise 50 percent this winter.

California has to find a way to import more natural gas. Nowhere near enough gas -- only 13 percent of what we use -- is found naturally here. The state has to import not just from other states and Canada, but from overseas.

The way to import natural gas is to supercool it to liquid, put it on ships and unload it at terminals in California, where it would be returned to a gaseous state and put into pipelines.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is transported to many places around the world, but not to California. If California is going to keep burning natural gas, the state needs at least one LNG terminal. A single terminal could supply 15 percent of the state's demand.

Well said.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

SacBee: We need LNG

The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board goes ga-ga over liquefied natural gas...and justifiably so.

For residents with heaters fueled by natural gas, this winter's bills will teach a painful lesson about supply problems with this energy source.

Pacific Gas and Electric is bracing customers for prices that are 50 percent higher than last year. Part of the problem is hurricane-related, with production in the Gulf of Mexico running at about half of pre-hurricane levels. But part of the problem has nothing to do with hurricanes and everything to do with a lack of capacity in California to import natural gas.

...These terminals are essential to improving the reliability of supplies and preventing the same price gyrations that plague oil and gasoline. While high natural gas prices can raise the home heating bill, they can affect the electricity bill as well. The state is increasingly dependent on a new generation of efficient, low-pollution power plants that are fueled by natural gas. So long as natural gas is the cornerstone of the state's electricity policy, an adequate supply of natural gas is essential. Some of this supply will come in the belly of large ships, and must be transferred to shore with the utmost care.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Sempra Exec denies role in State Energy Crisis

A Sempra executive is denying any role in the State's 2000-01 energy crisis:

The top executive of Sempra Energy told a jury Monday that a steep increase in natural gas prices had little effect on the wild price increases in electricity that struck California in 2000.

"I don't want to say it was trivial, but it was quite small," Sempra Chairman and Chief Executive Stephen Baum said during his second day of testimony in a civil lawsuit being heard in San Diego County Superior Court.

Baum's remark under questioning by a Sempra attorney appeared aimed at undercutting the premise of a massive class-action lawsuit against Sempra and its two utilities — Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

The lawsuit claims that the California utilities conspired to limit supplies of natural gas, which is used to run power plants.

Apparently, Dick Cheney had no involvement with Scooter Libby, either.