Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (7/23/14)

July 23rd, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (7/23/14).

  1. Climate Progress explains “How The South Portland City Council Foiled Big Oil’s Plan To Sneak Tar Sands Out Of Canada.”
  2. According to Green Car Reports, “If you own an electric car today though, the price you’re paying for electricity is equivalent to about 75 cents per gallon.”
  3. The Conversation makes the case that “Affordable batteries for green energy are closer than we think.”
  4. According to RenewEconomy, “A new Australian start-up solar company believes that the Australian market for rooftop solar leasing for the residential and commercial sectors could reach $100 billion in the next decade.”
  5. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports, “The high cost of production in Central Appalachia, which also includes West Virginia, rules out a big rebound in the coal industry, no matter who is in power in Washington and even if scientists figure out how to burn coal without compromising the climate or environment.”

InsideClimate News: Koch Brothers Built Their Fortune on Super-Dirty Tar Sands Oil

July 22nd, 2014

In light of the attacks on Tom Steyer from sources linked to the Koch Brothers, InsideClimate News posted a story the other day providing a detailed account of how the Koch brothers made their money. To put it mildly, it’s not a pretty picture.

Steyer’s turnaround took moral courage, they argued, and asked: What about the Koch brothers? What is their history with global warming emissions?

It turns out the Koch brothers built their first fortune on the particularly dirty form of oil mined in Alberta’s tar sands, where they have been major players for 50 years, and remain deeply invested.

The key moment came in 1969, when Charles Koch secured full ownership of a heavy oil refinery in Minnesota that his father had a stake in.

In his 2007 book Charles Koch called that acquisition “one of the most significant events in the evolution of our company.” The refinery was a doorway that permitted Koch Industries “to enter chemicals and, more recently, fibers and polymers,” he said.

If you want to know more about the Koch brothers and how they built their fortune, InsideClimate News has a helpful timeline with detailed information. It’s well worth checking out, just so we all know exactly what we’re up against with these folks.

In a Time of Severe Drought, It Shouldn’t Come Down to “One Man” to Protect Our Water from Fracking Waste

July 22nd, 2014

Let’s get this straight: currently, 25% of the country is under severe, extreme or exceptional drought, with 18% of normal snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Clearly, it’s time to be conserving and protecting precious water resources in this country. Which is why stories like this one are so jarring.

Deputy Sheriff Hector Zertuche parked his pickup across the road from a gas and oil waste dump and watched through binoculars as a container truck unloaded a mountain of black sludge.

Zertuche, the environmental crimes officer for Jim Wells County, is the law here when it comes to oil and gas waste. The job has fallen to him, he said, because the state’s environmental agencies don’t effectively police the disposal of the industry’s waste. It typically contains benzene and other chemicals found in hydraulic fracturing, along with heavy metals and other contaminants from deep within the earth.

Zertuche draws his authority from the Texas Oil and Gas Waste Haulers Act, which is part of the state Water Code and is rooted in laws enacted almost a century ago during an earlier oil boom. It allows him to issue citations for everything from spilling waste along highways to not having the proper disposal permits.

So, while this is great work by Deputy Sheriff Zertuche, the question is simple: why is the job of policing the dumping of toxic materials from oil and gas drilling into our drinking water supplies being left to the initiative of one man? Where are the state authorities?  Given that in Texas, 63% of the state is currently experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions, shouldn’t it be a top priority for the state to protect precious water supplies from being contaminated by the oil and gas industries? If that’s not the case, why isn’t it?

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (7/22/14)

July 22nd, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (7/22/14).

  1. Greentech Media asks, “Third-Party Financing Was Solar’s Catalyst. Can Energy Efficiency Find the Same Model?”
  2. According to USA Today, “Most Americans oppose a carbon tax, considered by many economists a cost-effective way to fight climate change, but they are willing to support it if the money is returned to them or used to fund renewable energy, a poll Monday finds.”
  3. DeSmogBlog reports, “Portland, Maine, has become the latest battleground in the fight against tar sands oil, with local residents facing off against energy industry forces in an attempt to ban tar sands oil from the city’s port.”
  4. According to Climate Progress: ’While the politics of fracking has taken hold of election-year energy discussions in Colorado, the wind power industry is quietly surging. On Friday Vesta Wind Systems announced it was hiring 800 new workers, part of plans to fill 1,500 jobs this year in Colorado, after receiving orders for 370 turbines over the last few weeks. The jobs will be full-time, high-skilled jobs primarily in the manufacturing of blades and towers.”
  5. Renewable Energy World reports, “According to the latest ‘Energy Infrastructure Update’ report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower provided 55.7 percent of new installed U.S. electrical generating capacity during the first half of 2014 (1,965 MW of the 3,529 MW total installed).”

New Report: U.S. Ranks 13th out of 16 Largest Economies in Energy Efficiency

July 21st, 2014

Based on this story, it looks like the U.S. has a lot of work to do when it comes to energy efficiency.

The U.S. ranks 13th out of the 16 largest economies in energy efficiency, according to areport released today from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, an environmental nonprofit advocacy group.

The U.S. scored poorly for a number of reasons, including relatively low use of and investment in public transit, a high number of miles traveled in inefficient vehicles as well as high energy usage in both commercial and residential sectors.  A lack of energy savings targets and efficiency standards also played a role, the report’s authors said.

This poor ranking is unfortunate for a number of reasons. For one, as Tigercomm’s Bridgette Borst reported in late June, a Johnson Controls energy efficiency forum concluded that not only is “energy efficiency is a great way to save money, reduce carbon emissions [and] put lots of people to work in good-paying, local jobs,” it is also “one of the key four building blocks that states will be able to comply with the part 111-D Rule” (the EPA’s recently-announced proposal for reductions of carbon pollution from existing fossil fuel power plants).

Second, Americans overwhelmingly support energy efficiency improvements, so this is a political “no brainer.”

Third, as an International Energy Agency report in late 2013 found that energy efficiency is a “huge opportunity going unrealised,” with “investments in energy efficiency…still less than two‐thirds of the level of fossil fuel subsidies.”

Finally, with regard to the enormous potential of energy efficiency, see Institute for Building Efficiency’s Jennifer Layke: Insights on Communicating the Enormous Potential of Energy Efficiency and Is energy efficiency condemned to be the “eat your peas” technology?, in which we note that Rocky Mountain Institute Chairman and Chief Scientist Amory Lovins has found that“adopting efficiency technologies aggressively yet cost-effectively, yield[s] at least a 12% annual real rate of return.”

Given the points listed above, there’s really no excuse for the U.S. to rank 13th out of the 16 largest economies in terms of energy efficiency. To the contrary, we should be pushing hard to move towards the top of those rankings, and to do so as quickly as possible.