Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (10/20/14)

October 20th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (10/20/14). The poll results graphic is from this Environmental and Energy Study Institute fact sheet and is well worth highlighting, even though the poll is from June 2014.

  1. Anastasia Pantsios writes at EcoWatch that the proposed Energy East Pipeline is “TransCanada’s Keyston XL on Steroids.”
  2. The BBC reports, “Cheap African solar energy could power UK homes in 2018.”
  3. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance: “China is the world’s largest wind market with more than 100GW of wind capacity, equivalent to about 65,000 turbines, and is currently adding more than 30 new turbines per day. Operating and maintaining these turbines costs $500m per year, but this will increase to $3bn per year by 2022…”
  4. DeSmogBlog reports, “Fossil fuel industries spent an estimated $213 million lobbying U.S. and European Union decision makers last year, according to a new report published by Oxfam International on Friday.”
  5. Greentech Media asks, “Is the EPA Too Conservative in Its Clean Energy Projections Under New Carbon Rules?”

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (10/17/14)

October 17th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (10/17/14).

  1. The Guardian reports: “Political inertia, financial short-termism and vested fossil fuel interests have formed a ‘toxic triangle’ that threatens to push up global temperatures, putting 400 million people at risk of hunger and drought by 2060, Oxfam said on Friday, a week before a European Union summit to finalise a new climate and energy policy framework.”
  2. According to Grist: The Energy East pipeline “will be 2,858-miles long, putting it right up there with some of the longest pipelines in the world. It would pump about a third more crude than Keystone XL was intended to. It’ll be bigger than the Druzhba pipeline, which carries oil 2,500 miles from Southeast Russia to the rest of Europe.”
  3. RenewEconomy reports, “The NSW government will have to write down the value of its electricity networks by nearly half if the soon-to-be privatized poles and wires business is to compete with rooftop solar and other distributed technologies such as battery storage.”
  4. DeSmogBlog “has obtained a copy of a sample hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) lease distributed to Ohio landowners by embattled former CEO and founder of Chesapeake EnergyAubrey McClendon, now CEO of American Energy Partners.”
  5. A resident of the Marshall Islands writes in The Guardian, “We won’t stand by while coal companies destroy our Marshall Islands homes.”

Oil Change International: Single Subsidy to Tar Sands Costs Taxpayers $610 Million per Year

October 16th, 2014

Oil Change International (OCI) has been doing superb work in recent months, detailing the damage done by taxpayer-funded subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. For instance, in Subsidy Spotlight: Paid to Pollute and Poison, OCI reports that “federal and state subsidies to the oil, gas, and coal industries result in a $21 billion windfall for carbon polluting companies every year,” and that “risky drilling projects like those undertaken by BP would most likely never occur without this type of corporate welfare.”

Another OCI report focuses on subsidized fracking, and how “this experiment of exposing people to toxics released by natural gas development would not occur without billions in subsidies from the federal and state governments.” Also see OCI’s “Cashing In On Carbon: How Taxpayer Dollars Greenwash Dirty Energy,” which argues that “[t]hrough grants, tax breaks, and loan guarantees, the public is paying the financial costs––while shouldering the consequences––of re-shaping the carbon cycle to justify the continued use of dirty fuels and dangerous methods under the auspices of mitigating climate change.” In short, taxpayer subsidies to the fossil fuel industry are harming the environment and people’s health, for absolutely no good reason whatsoever.

Now, OCI is out with yet another example of the tremendous cost of fossil fuel subsidies and the damage they do, with the article “Subsidy Spotlight: Paying the Price of Tar Sands Expansion.” The focus of this piece is the subsidies supporting upgrades to refineries, which allow them to more easily (and profitably) process tar sands, and also the adverse health impact that dirty tar sands byproducts like petroleum coke (“petcoke”) have on communities. Here’s a short excerpt, but we most definitely recommend that you read the entire article, as this is a terrific piece of journalism.

In December 2013, after six years of community pushback, court battles, Environmental Protection Agency citations, and ongoing construction in spite of it all, BP’s $4.2 billion retrofitted facility came fully online.

It was now a tar sands refinery, capable of refining 350,000 barrels of the world’s dirtiest oil per day. And it was paid for, in large part, by U.S. taxpayers.

A little-known tax break allows companies to write-off half of the cost of new equipment for refining tar sands and shale oil. According to a report by Oil Change International, this subsidy had a potential value to oil companies (and cost to taxpayers) of $610 million in 2013.

Tar sands are petroleum deposits made up of bitumen mixed in with sand, water and clay. Their production is extremely destructive at every stage: from strip mining indigenous lands in Canada, to disastrous accidents along transportation routes, to dangerous emission levels produced by refining the heavy crude, to the hazards imposed on communities saddled with tar sands byproducts like petroleum coke (“petcoke”), and finally to the greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere when the end product is used for fuel.

Despite all the reasons to keep tar sands in the ground, the refining equipment tax credit has helped put tar sands development in the U.S. on the rise, accelerating climate change at the expense––in every sense of the word––of American taxpayers.

Last but not least, if you’re interested in helping “put an end to fossil fuel subsidies and extreme energy extraction,” please click here.

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (10/16/14)

October 16th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (10/16/14).

  1. Climate Progress reports: Renewable energy will make up almost half of sub-Saharan Africa’s power generation growth by 2040, according to a report by the International Energy Agency. The report, which is the IEA’s first major analysis of sub-Saharan Africa, looked at the region’s potential to supply energy to the approximately 620 million people who still lack access to electricity.
  2. According to EcoWatch, “The argument that fracking can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is misguided, according to an international scientific study, because the amount of extra fossil fuel it will produce will cancel out the benefits of its lower pollution content.”
  3. Greentech Media reports: “After a second round of bidding from developers seeking to build hundreds of megawatts’ worth of solar plants in the state, Georgia Power reported that the average price of electricity came in at 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s 2 cents cheaper than last year’s bids.”
  4. The Sydney Morning Herald writes, “Global coal industry still in denial over prices, regulation.”
  5. The New York Times reports, “The movement to end investments in fossil fuel companies began with universities, but religious institutions are joining as well.”

Is Your State Benefiting From, or Missing Out on, the U.S. Solar Power Boom?

October 15th, 2014

Is your state benefiting from, or missing out on, the national solar power boom that’s well underway (note: click on the map to enlarge). That question is at least partly answered by the new Solar Means Business Report, released this morning by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Among other things, the report finds that the “average price of a completed commercial [solar] PV project in Q2 2014 has dropped by 14 percent year over year and by more than 45 percent since 2012.” That’s great news, of course, and a continuation of the long-term trend which has seen solar power costs fall by 99% since 1977 – a trend that’s continuing.

Here are a few more factoids from the SEIA report:

  • “Since 2010, U.S. businesses have installed solar systems at their facilities more than 32,000 times.”
  • “For the second straight year, U.S. businesses, non-profits and government organizations added more than 1,000 MW of new PV solar installations. As of mid-2014, there were 4,531 MW of commercial solar PV installed on 41,803 business, non-profit and government locations throughout the U.S.”
  • “American businesses are turning to solar because it’s good for their bottom line. For many companies, electricity costs represent a significant operating expense, and solar provides the means to reduce costs and hedge against electricity price increases.”
  • “While retailers have installed the most capacity, auto manufacturers, pharmaceuticals and food servicers, as well as companies in many other industries, have all looked to solar to lower operating costs.”
  • “The rest of the U.S. is catching up to the likes of California and New Jersey, the first and second largest state markets for commercial solar. Leaders in those states and others like them have put in place smart, effective policies that have enabled businesses to invest in solar.” Has your state put into place “smart, effective policies that have enabled businesses to invest in solar?”
  • “In total, 129 million people in 33 states and Puerto Rico live within 20 miles of at least one of the 1,110 commercial solar installations that were analyzed in this report.”

If that’s not enough to make you wonder why your state has not seized this tremendous opportunity, see an article which just came out this morning, Georgia Is the Latest State to Procure Dirt-Cheap Solar Power, by Greentech Media.  According to this article: “After a second round of bidding from developers seeking to build hundreds of megawatts’ worth of solar plants in the state, Georgia Power reported that the average price of electricity came in at 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s 2 cents cheaper than last year’s bids.

How cheap is 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour? To put it in perspective, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that the Average Retail Price of Electricity to U.S. residential users as of July 2014 was 13.05 cents per kilowatt-hour, while the average cost to all U.S. power users was 11.01 cents per kilowatt-hour. Again, the new solar power bidding in Georgia came in at 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour — far lower than the national average retail price of electricity.  So, if your state isn’t going solar big-time, you probably should ask your state legislators and utilities why that’s the case. The answer, or lack thereof, could be a real eye opener.