Friday, March 29, 2013

Peak Oil Grieving

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

For Powering Cars, Solar-Electric Is 'Orders Of Magnitude' More Efficient Than Biofuels

Climate Progress recently reported on a study that found both economic and environmental benefits if homes in the northeastern United States upgraded older heating systems by moving from heating oil to switchgrass. However, one point to emphasize was the findings were specific to those circumstances - the region, the homes, and that particular use.

Switchgrass was not nearly as good an idea for electricity generation or transportation fuel. Further confirming the need for a diversity of renewable solutions to our energy needs, a recent study determined that electricity generated by solar beats out biofuels for powering cars under myriad scenarios.

The report, put together by a team from the University of California, Santa Barbara and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and published in Enviornmental Science and Technology, compared five different approaches to see what was the most efficient way to power a compact passenger vehicle for every 100 kilometers driven:

  1. Battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) run on electricity from solar power.
  2. Battery-electric vehicles run on electricity from switchgrass.
  3. Internal combustion vehicles (ICVs) run on switchgrass biofuel.
  4. Battery-electric vehicles run on electricity from corn.
  5. Internal combustion vehicles run on corn-based biofuel.

The analysis considered land-use, greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel use, and took into account the production and use life cycles of both the fuels themselves and the vehicles they power.

In terms of land-use, solar significantly out-performed all other options. It performed modestly better than switchgrass in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, and significantly better than corn-based biofuel. Solar was actually equal or slightly worse than switchgrass when it came to fossil fuel requirements over the totality of the life cycle, but it still out-performed corn-based internal combustion. (And, of course, gasoline.)

So all things considered, a pretty clear win for solar-powered electric battery vehicles:

A write up over at Green Car Congress has more details on the assumptions and variables in the study's modeling.

"PV is orders of magnitude more efficient than biofuels pathways in terms of land use - 30, 50, even 200 times more efficient - depending on the specific crop and local conditions," Roland Geyer, a UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science & Management Professor, told Science Daily. "You get the same amount of energy using much less land, and PV doesn't require farm land." The central bottleneck, as the report notes, is the low efficiency of photosynthesis:

Biofuels for ICVs and bioelectricity for BEVs use photosynthesis to convert solar radiation into transportation services, that is, they are sun-to-wheels transportation pathways. While photosynthesis has a theoretical maximum energy conversion efficiency of 33 percent, the overall conversion efficiency of sunlight into terrestrial biomass is typically below 1 percent, regardless of crop type and growing conditions.

"Today's thin-film PV is at least 10-percent efficient at converting sunlight to electricity," Geyer explained - hence solar's superior performance. In fact, the WWF's Solar PV Atlas found that as far as land-use goes, solar is so efficient that less than 1 percent of global land areas would be needed to supply all the world's electricity needs in 2050.

Traditional corn-based biofuels are problematic on all sorts of levels: Carbon emissions from agricultural production over their full life cycle largely wipe out any carbon benefits at the point of actual vehicle use. They compete with human food supplies and food cropland, driving up global prices and contributing to global poverty and instability. And new cropland sequesters less carbon from the atmosphere than the grassland or forest it typically displaces.

Switchgrass and other cellulosic biofuels, while they avoid disrupting food supplies, are not immune to these other flaws either. On top of that, their commercial viability at any time in the near future is far from certain.

For the clean car fleet of the future, electrical and hybrid vehicles relying on a grid powered by solar - and presumably wind, hydroelectric, and such - still appears to be the way to go.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"SuperTruck" Achieves 54% Fuel Efficiency Enhancement

peterbilt-supertruck-628A truck called the "SuperTruck" has achieved fuel efficiency 54% greater than that of average long-haul trucks. The SuperTruck achieved 9.9 MPG under real-world driving conditions, while typical long-haul trucks achieve 5.5 MPG to 6.5 MPG. Doesn't sound like much, but this improvement is actually huge.

The SuperTruck was created out of a partnership with Cummins and Peterbilt Motors. It was estimated that this fuel economy improvement would save drivers $25,000 annually based on today's average diesel prices, if they drive 120,000 miles per year. These vehicles also exhibited an even higher freight efficiency improvement of 61% compared to a baseline truck driving the same route. Both fuel efficiency increases exceeded the U.S Department of Energy's goal of 50%.

The efficiency improvements were achieved using a more efficient engine, a waste heat recovery system, electronics that choose the most efficient routes for drivers, low-rolling-resistance tires, weight reductions, and a more aerodynamic chassis. Sometimes people marginalize the inefficiency of large trucks such as trailers used to transport garbage, food, and other items in large quantities. But everytime gas costs go up, so does the cost of shipping products. These fuel economy improvements can keep shipping costs in check.

Source: Autoblog

The post "SuperTruck" Achieves 54% Fuel Efficiency Enhancement appeared first on Gas 2.


Why Are Gas Prices So High?

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March, 2013 | Lithium ion batteries | Energy storage ... - A123 Systems

Posts with March, 2013 on A123 Systems blog, discussing battery technology, electric transportation, grid energy storage, energy policy.


HyperSolar to Build Renewable Hydrogen Generator for Commercial Use

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--HyperSolar, Inc. (OTC:HYSR), the developer of a breakthrough technology to produce renewable hydrogen using sunlight and any source of water, today announced its plan to build renewable hydrogen generators for commercial use. Named the H2Generator, the company's first commercial product is expected to sell at a substantially lower price than other renewable hydrogen systems that rely on expensive and energy ...

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Biofuel From CO2: Too Good To Be True?

We currently have two main issues in our transport future. The first is cutting down on fossil fuel use, ensuring our finite supplies can be used for longer than our current consumption levels would account for. The second is reducing greenhouse gas emissions, helping prevent runaway climate change. If there was a way of solving both issues at...


Monday, March 25, 2013

Will NRG Energy be the next ten ton gorilla in solar leases?

NRG Energy, one of the most aggressive power companies to invest in solar projects, is considering getting into offering leases for solar panel roof systems for home owners and businesses. NRG Energy's CEO David Crane tells Bloomberg that it is something that they're "looking at in a very serious way," and NRG Solar's CEO Tom Doyle told me last month that the company has been inreasingly talking about financing options for solar roofs and in part ...


US DOI finalizes plan for oil shale and oil sands research, demonstration and development

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar last week announced the Department of the Interior's final plan for encouraging research, development and demonstration (RD&D) of oil shale and oil sands resources on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. (Earlier post.)

The Record of Decision (ROD) and plan amendments make some 700,000 acres in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming available for potential oil shale leasing and about 130,000 acres available for potential oil sands leasing in Utah. In November 2012, the BLM signed two additional leases for RD&D oil shale proposals to encourage industry to develop and test technologies aimed at developing oil shale resources on a commercial scale.

Under the Record of Decision, the BLM-managed lands will be available for RD&D leases of oil shale resources. Eligible companies could convert to a commercial lease after satisfying the conditions of the RD&D lease and meeting basic due diligence requirements and clean air and water requirements. The plan issued today will amend 10 of the BLM's land use plans.

The BLM will also begin soliciting public comments on proposed revisions to the commercial oil shale regulations. The proposed revisions are intended to ensure a fair return to the American taxpayer, encourage responsible development of federal oil shale resources, and evaluate necessary safeguards to protect scarce water resources and important wildlife habitat. The BLM is accepting public comments for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register, which is expected this week.

The proposed rule identifies several options for amending the royalty rates for commercial oil shale production. The BLM will consider whether to retain some flexibility to adjust royalty rates when more information is available about costs of production, energy inputs, and impacts associated with various extraction technologies.

The results of ongoing research and development activities combined with administrative flexibility in setting royalty rates will allow BLM to determine whether future applications to lease should include specified resource-protection plans and whether other aspects of the regulations need to be clarified.

Oil shale is a fine-grained sedimentary rock containing kerogen and is distinct from "shale oil." The largest known domestic oil shale deposits are in a 16,000-square mile area in the Green River formation in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Oil shale can be mined and heated to an extremely high temperature (retorting) in aboveground facilities, and the oil can then be separated from the resulting liquid. Oil shale also can be subjected to extreme heat and pressure while in underground formations (in situ retorting) and the resulting liquid pumped to the surface. The final oil shale plan examines surface mining with surface retort, underground mining with surface retort, and in situ retorting technologies.

Oil sands are sedimentary rocks containing a heavy hydrocarbon compound called bitumen, which can be refined into oil. Unlike the oil sands deposits in Canada, oil is not currently produced from oil sands on a commercial scale in the United States. US oil sands are hydrocarbon wet, whereas the Canadian oil sands are water wet, meaning that US oil sands would require different processing techniques. The final oil shale plan evaluates the potential impacts of various extraction methods for oil sands, including surface mining with surface retort, surface mining with solvent extraction, in situ steam injection, and in situ combustion technologies.



Saturday, March 23, 2013

California ARB considering regulations for alternative diesel fuels; focus on biodiesel

The staff of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) is holding a public meeting on 23 April in Sacramento to discuss regulatory concepts for establishing fuel requirements for alternative diesel fuels (ADF), including biodiesel, renewable diesel and other emerging diesel fuel substitutes.

ARB's goal is to conduct public meetings leading to the development of a regulatory proposal for consideration by the Board this fall. Staff anticipates the regulatory concepts would involve new alternative diesel fuel provisions, as well as amendments to the existing diesel fuel regulation to accommodate the new ADF requirements and to update outdated provisions. This effort is not directed at other existing transportation fuel programs, such as those for compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, hydrogen,or electricity.

At the April meeting, ARB staff will discuss its biodiesel literature search, completed and on-going emissions research studies, as well as preliminary regulatory concepts for ADFs. ARB staff posted a white paper describing its initial regulatory concepts for an ADF regulation.

With the advent of the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), fuel suppliers will now look to expand their product slates to include more renewable and low carbon replacements for conventional gasoline and diesel. While more innovation may be anticipated in ensuing years of lower carbon and higher renewable fuel standards, there are already notable innovations today. Biodiesel, with its unique chemistry, has the potential to replace conventional petroleum diesel and can be considered an ADF. Likewise, other innovative diesel fuel replacements are entirely hydrocarbon based and may be used as blendstocks to produce commercial CARB petroleum diesel. The latter innovations include renewable diesel, gas to liquid (GTL) diesel and other synthetic diesels.

Some of these diesel fuel substitutes legally exist in commerce today and are controlled through industry consensus standards. Such fuels-related industry consensus standards seek mainly to address both vehicle performance and fuel production quality issues. By contrast, the multimedia impacts from the substitute diesel fuels are generally addressed by state or federal government agencies.

The ARB's current diesel fuel regulations are geared toward providing a pathway for certifying hydrocarbon-based variations on petroleum diesel formulations, but they are ill-suited to providing a market pathway for newer, innovative alternative diesel fuels that are now coming into California in limited quantities. Over the past several years, California Air Resources Board (CARB) staff has endeavored to solicit stakeholder input via meetings and public workshops regarding the need for new regulations to address this gap. Likewise, staff has conducted essential research to understand the air quality impacts of biodiesel and various other diesel fuel substitutes. Much of this information had previously been presented at prior workshops. Based on stakeholder information and conclusions drawn from research, staff has developed regulatory concepts described below for establishing certainty for innovative fuels providers by setting forth a reasonable, multi-option process for getting their fuels approved for sale by ARB.

-"Draft Regulation Concepts"

For purposes of this proposed rulemaking, ARB will consider B5 (5% biodiesel) blends a legal California diesel fuel with no emissions mitigation required. ARB is working with the University of California at Riverside to develop data to determine whether there are significant adverse air-related impacts from the use of B5 blends sufficient to warrant mitigation in the future.

Further, CARB staff suggests that it would be appropriate to allow the use of compliant hydrocarbon-based renewable diesel and synthetic diesels either as neat fuels, or as blendstocks in the production of conventional petroleum CARB diesel fuel. A CARB biodiesel/renewable diesel study showed that renewable and synthetic diesels have comparable or better emission characteristics as compared to conventional petroleum-based CARB diesel.

While over time, ARB staff intends to develop regulations to establish a list of CARB recognized ADFs, biodiesel will be the first fuel to be formally recognized. ARB staff is this proposing a conceptual outline for fuel quality, blending, labeling and record-keeping, as well as enforceability.

Among the changes, staff proposes to amend California code to include the "B20-ready" diesel specifications; to update the diesel certification program (including updated certification engine); and other minor updates and changes. Staff also proposes to amend the certification program to include specific health and toxicity tests that were previously only required when additives were used. Additionally, staff proposes to add a cap limit of 28% by mass, aromatic hydrocarbon content.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Sugarcane Ethanol Exposed

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Update on Small Modular Reactor Development

The US Department of Energy has a $452 million program to share development and licensing costs for selected small modular reactor designs. The DOE's goal is to have an operating SMR by 2022.


New Jersey Passes 1GW Solar Energy Milestone

New Jersey's Board of Public Utilities announced this week it has joined a prestigious renewable energy club, becoming the third US state to pass the 1-gigawatt mark in total installed solar capacity.


Bosch to abandon solar energy business

(AP)-German engineering company Bosch said Friday that it is abandoning its solar energy business, because there is no way to make it economically viable amid overcapacity and huge price pressure in the industry.


Researchers develop high-rate, high-yield bacterial process to convert methane to methanol

Cartoon of the process. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Columbia University have developed a biological process utilizing autotrophic ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) for the conversion of methane (CH4) to methanol (CH3OH). A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

In fed-batch reactors using mixed nitrifying enrichment cultures from a continuous bioreactor, up to 59.89 ± 1.12 mg COD/L (COD = chemical oxygen demand, an indirect measurement of organic compounds in water) of CH3OH was produced within an incubation time of 7 h-approximately 10x the yield obtained previously using pure cultures of Nitrosomonas europaea. Themaximum specific rate of CH4 to CH3OH conversion obtained during this study was 0.82 mg CH3OH COD/mg AOB biomass COD-d-1.5x times the highest value reported with pure cultures.

There are intense efforts globally to develop biobased fuels, chemicals, and energy. While ethanol has been of primary focus in the past few years, it should be noted that other chemicals and biofuels such as methanol can be also attractive. In addition to being used in gasoline blends, methanol can be used in fuel cells, combined with long-chain fatty acids and lipids to form biodiesel, or chemically dimerized to dimethyl ether (DME, also a fuel). Methanol is also one of the most widely used chemicals for enhancing denitrification in wastewater treatment. Methanol is commonly produced from natural gas, by chemical catalysis. The chemical pathway first involves the oxidation of CH4 to CO2 and H2 and subsequent reduction of CO2 to CH3OH, and is quite economically and energy intensive and redundant.

Given that natural gas reserves are finite, it might be more sustainable to look toward alternate sources of CH4 to produce CH3OH, such as anaerobic digester gas, biogas, or landfill gas, which in addition contain moisture and CO2. However, the primary limitation to the more widespread use of such gas mixtures is the cost and energy required to purify the CH4 present and the challenges of handling a gaseous stream.

On the other hand, ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) can oxidize CH4 to CH3OH via the nonspecific action of the enzyme ammonia monooxygenase (AMO). The other benefit of using bacterial conversion of CH4 to CH3OH is that the contaminants such as moisture and CO2, which need to be removed from anaerobic digestion gas or biogas for chemical conversion to CH3OH, do not pose a limitation for biological conversion. In fact autotrophic AOB can also utilize the CO2 contained in gas mixtures for cell synthesis.

-Taher and Chandran

The rationale behind using AOB to oxide methane instead of using methane-oxidizing bacteria (MOB) is rather straightforward, the authors note in their paper: MOB oxidize methane completely to CO2, which cannot be used readily as a fuel. In other words, if MOB were to be used for methanol production, there would need to be some likely non-trivial engineering to selectively inhibit the metabolic pathways that further process CH3OH.

AOB only oxidize CH4 partially to CH3OH-and possibly to trace amounts of formaldehyde (HCHO), which is highly toxic to AOB. Feedback inhibits any further oxidation of CH3OH to HCHO.

AOB do not derive any energy or reducing equivalents from this process, and since AMO requires reducing power to function, continued CH4 oxidation can likely be limited unless reducing power is supplied externally. NH3 is not an ideal or direct source of reducing power, since it can competitively inhibit methane oxidation. The researchers posited that the use of an alternate reducing power source such as NH2OH could promote AOB-mediated CH4 oxidation to CH3OH. They also hypothesized that uncoupling NH3 and CH4 feeding strategies could promote CH4 oxidation to CH3OH by avoiding competition between these two substrates for AMO.

The results obtained highlight the metabolic versatility of AOB to convert CH4 to CH3OH and point to the possibility of developing engineered processes to promote the production and utilization of CH4 as a chemical needed for enhanced denitrification. Once optimized, the successful implementation of this process could potentially allow wastewater treatment plants to offset some of their CH3OH costs.

Consequently, the overall greenhouse footprint of wastewater treatment plants (by lowering CH4 release as well as recovering CH3OH) could be reduced. At the same time, through this microbially mediated approach, redundancies in currently followed chemical conversion of CH4 to CH3OH can be avoided. Further mechanistic and modeling studies are needed to understand the substrate and product fluxes during AOB mediated oxidation of CH4 to CH3OH oxidation and to maximize the kinetics and yield of CH3OH.

-Taher and Chandran


  • Edris Taher and Kartik Chandran (2013) High-Rate, High-Yield Production of Methanol by Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria. Environmental Science & Technology doi: 10.1021/es3042912


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

California's 50MW Grid Storage Requirement

While the headlines container cutaway no ACemphasized the "50MW Storage Requirement" of California's recent Long Term Procurement Process decision, the substance is more than skin deep. Like a director-annotated viewing of your favorite Oscar-nominated feature, the use of storage makes even more sense given an in-depth exploration of the Long Term Procurement Planning (LTPP) ruling.

The decision authorizes or requires (depending on your point of view) major utility company Southern California Edison (SCE) to procure between 1400MW and 1800MWs of new resources. Why the uncertainty? There are several, but I will address three reasons: first, no one is sure when existing generators may retire. Second, the actual demand, including demand response, is uncertain within the procurement time horizon. Third, the usefulness of new capacity is highly dependent on location.

The first question may be the most intuitive to grasp. The genesis of this LTPP decision was the anticipated retirement of existing generators accounting for 4900 MWs of capacity. A new rule known as Once-Through Cooling (OTC) restricts the amount of water that generators may use for cooling. Generators can either retrofit to comply with the new OTC rule, or close. The exact number of plants that choose to close is up for significant debate.

Similar to OTC retirement timing, the exact load, and in particular, the amount of demand response, has been debated in the rulemaking. Like the stock market, predicting the economic growth of any region (and by extension, its energy demand) can be a precarious task when done in advance. While the CPUC crafted a compromise position, individual stakeholders may have been happier with the final procurement target had their preferred assumptions been utilized. Suffice to say, disagreement over assumptions is an uncertainty that planners must incorporate.

The final question involves the non-energy production uses of a generator. In many cases, a generator located on the "downstream" end of a transmission interface is more useful than a generator located "upstream," since the former is located closer to the load. In select instances, the generator is needed not for energy, but to "prop up" the transmission line. A small generator, providing the proper support, can enable a transmission line to deliver power many times the size of the generator.

As an analogy, take a truck looking to increase its towing capacity. The engine can pull the heaver load, but its stock brakes are insufficient to stop safely. Building an "upstream" generator is like the truck upgrading its engine. Yes, a larger engine can help slow down the truck and load, but a more efficient solution would be to use larger brakes. Likewise, sub-optimally located generators could be replaced with upgraded transmission equipment, or smaller, better-located generators.

All of these uncertainty factors point to storage as an ideal solution, given its advantages in deployment speed and flexible operation. Even though some OTC plants may not retire until 2020, replacements are being considered today because new generation can take 7-9 years in the LA basin, and new transmission lines could take 7-10 years. Storage, on the other hand, can be manufactured and deployed in as little as two years. This shorter lead time can enable policymakers to bring in their planning horizons and plan with greater certainty. In addition, as opposed to a generator, the vast majority of a storage asset's value is manufactured in a factory. Storage assets can be moved where needed without significant sunk costs. In fact, some A123 Grid Storage System assets have already been moved - on flatbed trucks - from stagnant markets to areas with greater economic returns. If California's circumstances change in the next decade, some LTPP stakeholders are rightly concerned about the costs of potentially redundant capacity. By utilizing storage, California can move the assets where needed, and even sell them to other areas.

Storage also represents operational flexibility. Switching between frequency regulation, voltage support, energy arbitrage, and renewable ramp management applications is as simple as uploading new software. So even if local capacity requirements no longer require storage in a voltage support or energy arbitrage mode, the asset could find value in another usage.

In conclusion, the 50MW headline is indeed good news for storage, but the full story is even more compelling. California's power system will need to address many uncertainties - the rate of OTC retirements, the share of future renewables, even the rate of economic growth. Storage, with its flexibility and easy deployment, represents an ideal hedge against all of these uncertainties.


Maryland Governor Poised To Sign Bill Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley

By Howard Marano and Michael Conathan

For the moment at least, the U.S. offshore wind industry has a new capital: Annapolis. By an 88 to 48 vote, the Maryland House of delegates handed Governor Martin O'Malley one of his most desired legislative victories - enactment of a bill that would earmark $1.7 billion for development of a wind farm in federal waters off Maryland's coast, with the funding coming from up to a $1.50 monthly surcharge on consumers' electricity bills. The bill, which passed the Senate earlier this month now heads to the Governor's desk for signature into law.

The Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 has been one of O'Malley's top goals for years, as he's sought to take advantage of Maryland's expanse of shallow water, its "outstanding" wind resources, and its existing industrial infrastructure - all of which make Maryland an ideal place for offshore wind.

Despite these prime features, development of offshore wind in Maryland, as in the rest of the country, has been a long time coming. In two previous legislative sessions O'Malley attempted unsuccessfully to shepherd his bill though the legislature, demonstrating the political hurdles standing in the way of development even in an environmentally friendly state. At first, opponents were able to torpedo the bill due to its cost. Then when proponents lowered the price cap to $1.50 in 2012, political wrangling sunk the bill as the clock expired on the legislative session.

Since O'Malley's bill was first introduced in Maryland, the American onshore wind industry has seen tremendous growth. In fact, with the installation of 13,000 megawatts of new capacity, 2012 was a banner year for wind in the U.S. In contrast, not a single wind turbine has been installed off America's coasts in that time. While the offshore wind industry in the U.S. has struggled to overcome financial, political, and bureaucratic hurdles, offshore wind in Europe and Asia has continued to expand. Maryland's Offshore Wind Energy Act is meant to help reverse that trend.

Like its predecessors, the current bill would require that, within Maryland's renewable energy portfolio standard program, a certain percentage of electricity be supplied by offshore wind starting in 2017. In order to protect consumers from excessive rate increases resulting from the higher costs of wind energy production, the bill creates a "window of maximum rate impacts for both residential and nonresidential electric customers." Currently, this would amount to $1.50 per month for a household and a monthly surcharge of 1.5 percent for businesses. The new law is the first of its kind requiring direct subsidies from ratepayers, and was made politically palatable by a 2013 poll showing 72 percent of Maryland residents would be willing to pay $2 more per month for their electricity bills to develop an offshore wind industry.

The benefits of offshore wind in Maryland would still be substantial. The Governor's office estimates the project would create 850 construction jobs and 160 supply and operation and maintenance jobs. According to an analysis completed by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, a 200 megawatt project would create $1.3 billion in economic activity over a five year period, generating $5.6 million in state tax revenue. And data from the National Academy of Sciences suggests Maryland stands to gain $17 million in annual public health benefits as a result of reduced fossil fuel use for electricity production.

The return on investment from any first-in-class offshore wind project will be just the tip of the iceberg. The Center for American Progress released a report in February detailing the overall benefits of developing a commercial scale offshore wind industry in the U.S. The report found that the investment required to develop an offshore wind industry would be far less than the federal government has spent on subsidizing fossil fuel industries, and that the cost to ratepayers could be as low as $0.25 per month.

While passage of the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act represents a victory for advocates of offshore wind, substantial obstacles still remain. Concessions made to secure the bill's passage have caused industry analysts to warn that any project will be reliant on additional tax incentives to become profitable. Even Governor O'Malley has recognized this concern at a press conference, saying "I don't believe any one state can do this by itself."

Fortunately, Maryland won't have to act on its own. Under President Obama, the Department of Energy has prioritized offshore wind, pursuing its "Smart from the Start" program that has already identified wind energy areas off the coasts of several northeast and mid-Atlantic states. And just last week, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced the latest step in granting the Commonwealth of Virgina a research lease for a wind energy area off its coast. Even Congress has gotten into the act, passing a one-year extension of key tax credits that move the industry a step closer to offshore wind production.

From Denmark to China, other countries have already realized the benefits of generating electricity from strong, consistent offshore winds and revitalizing sagging coastal economies. O'Malley's legislation is an excellent step forward on both counts for his state and for the country.

Howard Marano is an intern with the Ocean Program and Michael Conathan is Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress.


Obama Administration Energy Blueprint: paying companies to drill

Amy Mall, Senior Policy Analyst, Washington, D.C.
Last week the Obama Administration issued a new Energy Blueprint. There are some excellent elements in the White House proposal, including doubling renewable electricity generation by 2020, cutting energy waste, and supporting energy efficiency.
But there are also dirty and depressing energy proposals in the plan. Among them: "monetary incentives to get oil and gas leases into production." We haven't seen details on this yet, and need to learn more, but the oil and gas industry doesn't need more giveaways from the taxpayers.
In FY 2012, the BLM leased more than 1.75 million acres of federal oil and gas resources. That is in one year alone. So far in FY 2013, it has already has seven more lease sales across the country. This administration is already moving full speed ahead with dirty oil and gas leasing.
As I recently blogged, the BLM's own internal investigation found that the agency is unable to properly inspect oil and gas activities or enforce its own rules on the current leased areas. This investigation found a lack of enforcement, inadequate inspections, and overall low-quality environmental review as office struggle to keep up with exploration and production activity.
And as my colleagues have blogged, while BLM is going to be proposing new rules for fracking under federal leases, the rules may be much too weak to protect America's drinking water. As the largest manager of oil and gas resources in the U.S., the BLM needs to do better.
A new energy plan is needed, but the focus should be on efficiency and renewables so we can have a clean energy future, with clean air and clean water. America doesn't want the oil and gas industry's dirty energy future. The administration plan also includes an electronic, streamlined oil and gas permitting system; modernization is welcome, but any streamlining of permitting should not shortcut the necessary environmental review.
If you'd like to know where all this new oil and gas leasing is taking place, our intern Cathy Lu made a great map to show how many acres were leased in each state in FY 2012 alone:
BLM 2012 leasing.jpg


A Chinese solar giant goes bankrupt, and why that's a good thing

Once the world's largest solar panel maker, Suntech Power, has finally been forced into bankruptcy. The company has been running out of cash for months, defaulted on a loan payment recently, and has now become the biggest casualty yet of the coming consolidation of the global solar industry.

This week eight Chinese banks asked a court to find Suntech subsidiary Wuxi Suntech insolvent and to allow it to begin restructuring. Suntech responded to the court and said it would not object. The New York Times reported that the bankruptcy is "expected to lead to a takeover of the Wuxi operations by Wuxi Guolian, a financial conglomerate controlled by the city government of Wuxi."

The solar market has seen an oversupply of solar panels and plummeting prices for those panels for over two years now. Two thirds of solar cells are made in China, where the Chinese government has given Chinese solar makers access to large low cost loans. The oversupply and drop in prices has led to huge solar manufacturers like Q-Cells to startups like Solyndra and Abound Solar to file for bankruptcy.

It's an American right to have solar

Suntech solar panels

Suntech may be the largest to date, but it won't be the last solar maker to crash. As MIT Tech Review put it earlier this week: "hundreds of solar companies need to fail to help bring the supply of solar panels back in line with demand."

The weeding-out process will help slow the fall in solar panel prices and allow demand to rise back up again. Down the road the re-balancing will enable these companies to continue to invest in more efficient cells and new innovations, which will bring down the cost of solar through technology even more. Another 180 solar panel makers could reportedly disappear by 2015 due to consolidation.

At the same time, Suntech's woes partly come from a financial scandal. The company got in trouble with a fund it controlled that financed solar power plant development in Europe.

Of course, it's not all positive that Suntech has declared bankruptcy. As Ucilia Wang wrote for us last week:

The drama presents an ugly turn for a company that was solid and took technology and market risks to grow. . . Chinese companies in general had been known more as mass producers rather than innovators. . . Suntech's decline also leaves a depressing note in the efforts by the federal and local governments to expand solar manufacturing in the U.S.

Related research and analysis from GigaOM Pro:
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Clean Energy Trends: The Future Is All About Deployment

By Ron Pernick

2012 proved to be an unsettling and difficult year for clean energy. High-profile bankruptcies and layoffs plagued many clean-tech companies, overall venture investments retreated in the face of increasingly elusive returns, and the industry was begrudgingly transformed into a partisan wedge issue during the U.S. presidential campaign.

But as we highlight in our just-released Clean Energy Trends 2013 report, the fundamental global market drivers for clean technology remain largely intact. Intensifying resource constraints loom large. Unprecedented climate disruption in the U.S. and abroad is putting resiliency and adaptation front and center. And President Obama has signaled a strong commitment to expanding clean energy and energy efficiency in his second term, calling for another doubling of renewable power by 2020. Similar commitments exist in China, Japan, and the European Union.

The report found that lower prices for many clean-tech goods and services, combined with a renewed focus on scalable projects, resulted once again in record annual solar, wind, and biofuels deployment. Against this continued expansion, however, combined global revenue for solar PV, wind power, and biofuels expanded just one percent, from $246.1 billion in 2011 to $248.7 billion in 2012. This marginal growth was one of the many consequences of rapidly declining solar PV prices.

Some of the report's key findings include:

  • Biofuels (global production and wholesale pricing of ethanol and biodiesel) reached $95 billion in 2012, up from $83 billion the previous year. From 2011 to 2012, global biofuels production expanded from 27.9 billion gallons to 31.4 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel.
  • Wind power (new installation capital costs) expanded to $73.7 billion in 2012, up from $71.5 billion the previous year. Global wind capacity additions totaled 44.7 GW (gigawatts) in 2012, a record year led by more than 13 GW added in both China and the U.S., and an additional 12.4 GW of new capacity in Europe.
  • Solar photovoltaics (including modules, system components, and installation) decreased from a record $91.6 billion in 2011 to $79.7 billion in 2012 as continued growth in annual capacity additions was not enough to offset falling PV prices. While total market revenues fell 19 percent - the first PV market contraction in Clean Energy Trends' 12-year history - global installations expanded to a record of 30.9 GW in 2012, up from 29.6 GW the prior year.
  • Together, we project these three sectors will continue to grow over the next decade, nearly doubling from $248.7 billion in 2012 to $426.1 billion in 2022.


In many ways the shift to cleaner sources couldn't be clearer. Renewables and natural gas made up more than 80 percent of new electricity capacity additions in the U.S. in 2012, with renewables coming in at 49 percent and natural gas at 33 percent. For the European Union, the renewables number is even higher, with solar in the driver's seat. In 2012, newly installed solar PV accounted for 37 percent of all added capacity, followed by wind with a 26.5 percent share, and gas at 23 percent. In total, renewable sources represented more than 31 GW of the 44.6 GW of new generation capacity in the EU, roughly 70 percent of all new capacity for the second consecutive year.

Generating capacity is, of course, not the same as actual generation. But even in this regard, clean energy sources have moved past their days as rounding errors and are playing a significant role in meeting electricity demand in a number of global markets. Wind energy in Denmark blew past a 30 percent share of national electricity use in 2012, and an official target is in place to generate half of the nation's power from wind by 2020. In Germany, clean energy already accounts for 25 percent of energy production - led by wind (9.2 percent), biomass (5.7 percent), and solar (5.3 percent) - and the country is aiming for 35 percent from renewables by 2020.

Clean energy continues to expand as a major economic force, with an increasing focus on deployment of readily available technologies.

In early 2013, for example, Warren Buffett's MidAmerican Energy Holdings expanded its solar portfolio with a whopping $2 billion acquisition of the Antelope Valley Solar Projects in Southern California, one of the largest utility-scale solar developments in the world. (Buffett's investment in the Antelope projects came with long-term purchase agreements already lined up with Southern California Edison.) Google's recent $200 million equity investment in a Texas wind farm pushed the tech giant's ownership in solar and wind projects to a combined 2 GW, making it one of the largest renewable energy asset owners. And in January, car rental giant Avis Budget Group announced its plan to buy car-sharing pioneer ZipCar for $500 million, a promising reminder that new ways of thinking can be just as disruptive as new technologies.

What all this seems to point to is something we've talked about for years: the scale-up of clean-tech deployment. And it's not just the big investors shifting their focus toward deployment. Mosaic, which we highlight in this year's Trends report, is bringing solar deployment investment opportunities to small investors via a crowdfunding platform, offering annual yields of around 4 to 5 percent. And don't forget the state-level Green Banks established in Connecticut and announced in places like New York and Hawaii or the prospects for new project deployment tools like real estate investment trusts (REITs) or master limited partnerships (MLPs).

Indeed, the near- to mid-term will be all about getting assets in the ground. That is where the action will be. It will take many shapes and sizes, from large corporate investments to crowdfunding and will span the globe from the U.S. to Japan.

This new focus on deployable and proven technologies reflects the maturation of an industry that was a mere blip on the economic radar just a decade ago, but today represents the largest slice of new electricity capacity additions in the U.S. and European Union. Even in pro-nuclear China, wind overtook the atom as a generator of electricity in that nation's power mix in 2012. To ensure that clean energy keeps up its momentum, however, we'll need new models and a leveling of the playing field - and that will take hard work, creativity, and, in the face of entrenched interests, a great deal of steadfast commitment and endurance.

Ron Pernick is founder and managing director of research and advisory firm Clean Edge and the coauthor of two books on clean-tech business trends and innovation, Clean Tech Nation (HarperCollins, 2012) and The Clean Tech Revolution (HarperCollins, 2007).


Celebrating a Huge Offshore Wind Victory in Maryland

MDOffshoreVictory-01The winds of change brought some great progress to Maryland this week when the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 passed through both houses of the legislature. The offshore wind bill has been championed from the start by Governor Martin O'Malley, who stands ready to sign the bill into law.

This is a huge victory that is nationally significant for two reasons. First, it could well be the tipping point that allows us to finally tap the massive offshore wind potential off the East Coast. Second, it will ensure that historically underrepresented minority groups and small businesses will benefit from the jobs and investment dollars that offshore wind projects generate.

The bill will help develop a 200-megawatt wind project off the coast of Ocean City by requiring electricity suppliers to buy offshore renewable energy credits.

This victory comes after three years of hard work by thousands of activists who know that Maryland can be a national clean energy leader.

"We started this campaign with our allies in 2010 with a town hall meeting in Ocean City, out of which the Maryland Offshore Wind Coalition formed," said Sierra Club Maryland Conservation Organizer Christine Hill.

"Since then, we've kept up a steady campaign of rallies, more town hall meetings, door-knocking, phone-banking, mailings, letters-to-the-editor, and lobbying members of the legislature -- positioning ourselves to win."

What makes this offshore wind bill even more monumental is that it will bring more jobs to historically underrepresented groups. It includes a $10 million development fund targeted to small and minority businesses to assist them in preparing to participate in the offshore wind supply chain and sets up a task force to study the feasibility of incorporating degree programs into Maryland's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

The legislation was championed by various organizations because of this focus on providing key provisions for minority groups. The Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland was a major champion of the task force. We held a rally where over 100 students came out to rally their legislators to incorporate offshore wind degree programs at HBCUs. The NAACP's Maryland Conference also named offshore wind as one of its top priorities this year.

As Christine put it, "It's so great to see our state committed to replacing dirty, outdated fossil fuels that contribute to climate disruption with clean, renewable offshore energy that will create more jobs and safeguard our children's future."

This new clean energy can't come soon enough, as dirty and outdated coal plants are harming Marylanders' health. For example, the Charles P. Crane and Herbert A. Wagner plants in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties threaten the region with dangerous sulfur dioxide pollution at levels more than four times what the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed safe.

Sulfur dioxide is known to cause respiratory problems, including breathing difficulty, asthma attacks, and diminished lung function. It can be especially dangerous for kids, the elderly, and those suffering from respiratory disease.

Offshore wind is a solid economic choice for the state. Based on a report from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a major 200-megawatt offshore wind project would create almost 850 manufacturing and construction jobs for five years and an additional 160 ongoing supply and operations and maintenance jobs thereafter.

We hope this will inspire many other Atlantic coast states to move forward with offshore wind as well. Clean energy boosts the economy, creates jobs, and doesn't harm public health. Congratulations to everyone in Maryland who worked so tirelessly on this bill.

TAKE ACTION: Thank Governor O'Malley for being a champion of offshore wind.

-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal Campaign Director


America's Most Obvious Tax Reform Idea: Kill the Oil and Gas Subsidies

In a world where $100-a-barrel oil is here to stay, there's no need to pad the industry's bottom line.


When Saudi Arabia's longtime oil minister, Ali Al-Naimi, opens his mouth, the world listens. Yesterday, during a speech in Hong Kong, he delivered a message that U.S. policy makers in particular would do well to take note of. The days of $100-a-barrel crude, he told the crowd, are here "for the foreseeable future."

If he's right, one thing that shouldn't be around for the foreseeable future are the outdated tax credits that protect oil and gas companies, which will be plenty profitable in a world of $100-a-barrel oil. If Democrats and Republicans are looking for safe ground to set up camp for the budget negotiations, let's start with these $7 billion-a-year subsidies.

To keep reading, click here.


China's Wind Power Production Increased More Than Coal Power Did For First Time Ever In 2012

By Li Shuo

Amid all the news about coal and pollution problems in China you might have missed this one: According to new statistics from the China Electricity Council, China's wind power production actually increased more than coal power production for the first time ever in 2012.

Thermal power use, which is predominantly coal, grew by only about 0.3 percent in China during 2012, an addition of roughly 12 terawatt hours (TWh) more electricity. In contrast, wind power production expanded by about 26 TWh. This rapid expansion brings the total amount of wind power production in China to 100 TWh, surpassing China's 98 TWh of nuclear power. The biggest increase, however, occurred in hydro power, where output grew by 196 TWh, bringing total hydro production to 864 TWh, due favorable conditions for hydro last year and increased hydro capacity. In addition, the growth of power consumption slowed down - in Chinese terms a modest increase of 5.5 percent - influenced by slower economic growth, and possibly the energy use targets for provinces set by the Chinese central government.

Coal still accounts for 79 percent of electricity production in China, but fortunately that dominance is increasingly challenged by competition from cleaner energy, as well as government policies and public concerns about air pollution. The Chinese government's 12th five year energy plan (2011-2015) aims for coal to be reduced from 70 percent to 65 percent of energy production by 2015. In contrast, the Chinese government has ambitious targets for wind, solar, and hydro, and plans to increase the share of non-fossil fuels to 30 percent of installed electricity generating capacity by the end of 2015.

Expansion of the coal industry does not have many friends in China anymore. Major increases of coal power in recent years have created not only record climate emissions, but an unprecedented problem of air pollution and water overuse, triggering increased concern among the Chinese urban population and the central government. The record air pollution in January this year has changed the discussion about coal, and now prominent policymakers and opinion leaders, even vice-ministers, call for capping coal use, especially in the eastern populated and industrial areas of China. The air quality targets the government set for 2016 will require cutting coal pollution. Already last year the government set new strict standards for coal power emissions, requiring costly investments in filters. This year the government set new water use targets for provinces, which do not give much room for increased use of water for coal use in key provinces. Now the discussion is around controlling the total consumption of coal, in addition to emissions trading and resource taxes. The coal industry is surrounded by challenges.

There is another, very sobering side to the story, though: additions to coal power capacity, even if they have been slowing down in recent years, still stood at 50 GW last year, even more than investments in wind. So it seems that some of the total coal capacity was not used last year, due to higher coal and transport costs, and increased costs of environmental protection. The economic slowdown, and slowing growth of electricity use, has forced coal to compete with cheaper hydro and even wind. Companies will push to use that new coal capacity this year, so coal power could see some more growth this year than in 2012, unless there are strong mechanisms to cap the growth.

So while some of the conditions that helped new wind power production pass coal may not repeat this year, it is also clear that the coal industry will continue to be challenged and undermined by clean energy and by China's new policy priorities to address the air pollution crisis.

Li Shuo is a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace East Asia, Beijing.


A milestone for new carbon-dioxide capture/clean coal technology

An innovative new process that releases the energy in coal without burning-while capturing carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas-has passed a milestone on the route to possible commercial use, scientists are reporting. Their study in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels describes results of a successful 200-hour test on a sub-pilot scale version of the technology using two inexpensive but highly polluting forms of coal.


Materials scientists make solar energy chip 100 times more efficient

( -Scientists working at the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences (SIMES) have improved an innovative solar-energy device to be about 100 times more efficient than its previous design in converting the sun's light and heat into electricity.


Los Angeles will be off coal by 2025 at the latest

Kristin Eberhard, Legal Director, Western Energy and Climate Projects, Santa Monica
Today the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) Board unanimously approved its plan to get off of coal by 2025 and replace it with cleaner energy. This is the culmination of years of work and negotiation, and sets the stage for the largest municipal utility in the country to be coal free by 2025 at the latest, but possibly sooner.
LADWP currently has two sources of coal power: Navajo Generating Station in Nevada where LADWP is a 21% owner, and Intermountain Power Project (IPP) in Utah where LADWP purchases approximately 2/3 of the power. California law requires LADWP to stop getting power from these plants when the current contracts end: in 2019 for Navajo, and in 2027 for IPP. LADWP has long planned to get out of Navajo four years early - by 2015. They plan to sell their share in the plant to one of the other co-owners, who will then continue to operate the plant, thus acheiving pollution reductions for LADWP, but not necessarily achieving any pollution reductions from that facility.
Now, the utility has a definitive plan for getting off of coal at IPP early - by 2025 at the latest. This move will achieve significant pollution reductions, as it will shut down the coal plant permanently. Today the board took an important step along that path by voting to approve amending the existing contract with IPP to allow purchase of natural gas power, rather than just coal power, before the contract ends in 2027.
Pending approval by the other 35 smaller utilities (5 in Southern California, and 30 in Utah) who purchase power from IPP, this clears the way for decommissioning the coal plant and building a smaller natural gas plant on the site beginning around 2020.
LADWP plans for a smaller plant because they will first prioritize cleaner resources - energy efficiency and renewables - and build the natural gas plant only as large as necessary to meet power needs and to maintain power on the 500 mile long Direct Current (DC) transmission line that connects the IPP site to Los Angeles. The smaller plant will free up capacity on the transmission line to bring more renewable power into Los Angeles. The line has a capacity of 2,400 MW and currently carries 400 MW of renewable into LA.
Even with conservative assumptions about energy efficiency, the change from coal to natural gas will reduce LADWP's GHG emissions nearly 60% below 1990 levels in 2025.
LADWP's Projected GHG Emissions
LADWP Projected GHG Emissions.png Source: LADWP presentation on LA's Clean Energy Future
Of course the definitive date for exit from coal is big news. But a date certain that locks us in to further pollution would not be a win, so the flexibility around timing and sizing are really important components that make this plan a good one.
Flexibility around timing means that LADWP is locked in to getting out of IPP two years earlier than required, but could get out even sooner. The bonds on IPP will not be paid off until 2023, so it is currently unlikely that LADWP and the other utilities would agree to get out before those are paid off. However, the cost of coal compared to natural gas, renewables and efficiency is in flux, and as that information changes over the next few years, the financial calculation could shift towards it being desirable to get out of the plant sooner.
Flexibility around sizing means that LADWP is locked in to reducing the plant size by 1/3, but could choose to reduce it even more before construction starts. The current IPP coal plant produces 1,800 MW of power, and LADWP purchases about 1,200 MW of that power. The new natural gas plant on the site would produce 1,200 MW with LADWP taking about 600 MW of that power. It plans to replace LADWP and the other utilities will make the final analysis of how big the plant should be in 2018. This gives LADWP the opportunity to continue pushing the bounds on their newly-reinvigorated energy efficiency programs, as well as to continue making progress towards the state requirement to get 33% of their power from renewable by 2020. If those two efforts are going well, it is possible that they will decide to make the natural gas plant even smaller.
Now that the Board has approved amending the existing power sales contract, the next steps are:
  • Get the other 35 utilities to also approve the amendment (summer 2013)
  • Write a new power sales contract from 2027-2077 and get all purchasers to sign (by end of 2013)
  • Analyze power system needs and decide on necessary size of plant (2018)
  • Get proposals for building a natural gas plant with most recent and efficient technology (2019)
  • Get approval for the new plant from the California Energy Commission (2020)
  • Begin construction on the new plant (2020)
  • New plant comes on-line (2025)
Dr. Pickel, the Los Angeles Ratepayer Advocate also gave a presention on the costs of getting out of coal and agreed that "climate change is a key world problem" and that LADWP and California play a n important role in showing that we can achieve GHG emissions reductions in a cost-effective manner.


Kansas Legislators Continue to Stand Up for the Renewable Portfolio Standard

Kimi Narita, MAP Energy Fellow , Chicago
Yesterday was another good day for Kansas and the Renewable Portfolio Standard. The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) ensures that Kansans receive a certain percentage of renewable energy like wind and solar in their electricity mix, culminating in 20 percent renewable energy by 2020. Upon a second review, the House Energy and Environment Committee voted 10-9 to table House Bill 2241, which would have completely repealed the 20 percent target of the RPS.
The attack on Kansas's RPS had been two-pronged. There had been a Senate Bill that would have delayed RPS targets by two to four years. This was rejected by the Senate 23-17 in late February. On the same day, the House voted 63-59 to send House Bill 2241 back down to committee for further review. Both the Senate and the House have a supermajority of Republicans, showing that the RPS truly is a bipartisan issue.
After being sent and withdrawn from several committees, Houses Bill 2241 wound up back where it had been introduced - in the Committee on Energy and Environment. Yesterday was the reconsideration hearing on the bill, which I attended.
Despite a standing-room-only crowd in the hearing room, with what I estimate to be about 90 members of the public present, no one was allowed to testify at this hearing. Instead, interested parties were allowed to submit written comments. NRDC, along with over twenty other parties, submitted comments opposing HB 2241.
As I read through the testimony, I was touched by how the RPS has positively affected people in every corner of Kansas. There was testimony from faith-based groups, environmental groups, clean energy groups, economic development groups, steelworkers, wind developers, farmers, county commissioners, and several chambers of commerce. All of these people took the time to explain to the Committee how the RPS and wind energy was making a positive difference in their lives and their communities, and many of them attended yesterday's hearing.
During the hearing, Representative Moxley, a Republican and rancher by trade, said it best when he noted that there is an entire industry built up on the RPS, meaning hundreds of millions of dollars, and that changing this would be devastating to Kansas's economy. The RPS truly is a bipartisan issue that is bringing jobs and prosperity to the state. The number of wind farms that came online from 2011 to 2012, after the passage of the RPS, nearly doubled Kansas's installed wind capacity. And the 19 wind farms operating in Kansas have created more than 12,300 jobs, $13.7 million in payments to landowners annually, and $10.4 million in contributions to communities each year. These are real benefits, experienced by real Kansans.
There were also two proposed amendments to House Bill 2241 - one would have frozen the standard at 15 percent, the other would have weakened the standard from 20 percent by 2020 to 17.5 percent by 2030. The Committee rejected both amendments.
Then, Representative Jennings, a Republican from Western Kansas, moved to table the bill, which means that a vote on the bill is adjourned until a later time. This is what passed 10-9. Some news outlets are reporting this as "a possible death sentence late in the session" for House Bill 2241, especially when the Senate has already made it clear that it is not interested in weakening the RPS. I am cautiously optimistic that this is in fact the last we'll see of efforts to roll back the RPS in Kansas this year.
If the RPS prevails in Kansas, it would deal a huge blow to the nation-wide efforts to roll back state RPS policies led by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-a coalition of conservative state legislators and corporations - and other fossil fuel-funded groups, including the Heartland Institute, the American Tradition Institute, and Americans for Prosperity. The Beacon Hill Institute, a fossil-fuel funded think tank, has released very poorly researched and highly inaccurate studies in several states, including Kansas, concluding that the Renewable Portfolio Standard would lead to increases in electricity prices and the loss of thousands of jobs. NRDC has created factsheets and reports to counter these bogus claims. As evidenced by the amount of time and money these fossil fuel-funded interests have put into trying to repeal the RPS in Kansas, we can assume they will also put up similar fights in other states like Missouri, Ohio, and North Carolina.
But we all can learn from Kansans. They signed thousands of online petitions supporting the RPS, wrote dozens of letters to the editor in the local newspapers, and drove hundreds of miles to attend hearings. And their voices were heard loud and clear: the Renewable Portfolio Standard is working. I continue to thank the legislators for getting that message, and I hope they continue to defend the RPS in Kansas for years to come.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Peak Oil News: 3/19/13

Website: This is Peak Oil News. I'm your host, MrEnergyCzar. We're covering Peak Oil, Renewable Energy, Electric Cars and everything ...

Credit: mrenergyczar


KLM To Offer Weekly Cooking Oil-Fueled Flights

klmThe Dutch airline company KLM has started powering planes with a fuel mixture that is 25% used cooking oil, and 75% jet fuel (or at least, at least it was made from cooking oil). These regular flights represent a big step forward in alternative fuel flight.

The cooking oil used is obtained from restaurants in the U.S state of Louisiana. The oil was formerly used to fry catfish, cracklins, and other treats. After being used to prepare your food, it is refined at a plant near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, then carried to New York for use in the passenger jets. I'm sure it would feel good to eat at a restaurant that donates its oil to help reduce emissions.

Some believe that it smells like fast food, but, it is claimed to be totally safe for the jets, and reduce emissions by up to 80%. Using it is just like using jet fuel, and it is unnoticeable to pilots. These advantages are wonderful.

As usual, there is a downside, as most new technologies require work to get off the ground: The cooking oil-based fuel is cost-prohibitive. It may be difficult to expand this to struggling airlines that can hardly afford basic, normal operation. But if the costs come down, this could be a very reasonable response to ever-increasing oil prices.

"A lot still has to happen before biofuel will be available on a large scale and for it to be economically competitive in relation to fossil-fuel kerosene," KLM said in a statement. "We cannot achieve this alone. We absolutely need the commitment and support of all the relevant parties: business, government and society.".

The jets used are of the Boeing 777 type, and they will undergo 25 transatlantic test flights, as other jets have done.

Source: BBC

The post KLM To Offer Weekly Cooking Oil-Fueled Flights appeared first on Gas 2.


Long-Term Costs Of Fracking Are Staggering

By Jane Dale Owen via

All the hype by the fossil fuel industry about energy independence from fracking (hydraulic fracturing) in tight gas reservoirs like the Barnett Shale has left out the costs in energy, water and other essential natural resources.

Furthermore, a recent report from the Post Carbon Institute finds that projections for an energy boom from non-conventional fossil fuel sources is not all it's cracked up to be.

The report cites a study by David Hughes, Canadian geologist, who says the low quality of hydrocarbons from bitumen - shale oil and shale gas - do not provide the same energy returns as conventional hydrocarbons due to the energy needed to extract or upgrade them. Hughes also notes that the "new age of energy abundance" forecast by the industry will soon run dry because shale gas and shale oil wells deplete quickly. In fact, the "best fields have already been tapped."

"Unconventional fossil fuels all share a host of cruel and limiting traits," says Hughes. "They offer dramatically fewer energy returns; they consume extreme and endless flows of capital; they provide difficult or volatile rates of supply over time and have large environmental impacts in their extraction."

We must ask, is it worth the cost when it takes from 3 million to 9 million gallons of water per fracture to extract this fuel? The withdrawal of large quantities of surface water can substantially impact the availability of water downstream and damage the aquatic life in the water bodies, says Wilma Subra, scientist and national consultant on the community and environmental impact of fracking. When groundwater resources are used, aquifers can be drawn down and cause wells in the area to go dry.

"Once water is used for fracking, it is lost to the water cycle forever," Subra says.

Texas' official state water plan calls for the expenditure of $400 million on projects to support the mining sector over the next 50 years, with fracking projected to account for 42 percent of mining water use by 2020. Can we really afford this when the state is already struggling with water resources that will be needed for population growth and the likelihood of future droughts?

Is this expensive, water consuming high-tech, low-energy-return extraction of fossil fuel from shale worth the loss of farm land, forests and wildlife habitat? "Fracking converts rural and natural areas into industrial zones, replacing forests and farm land with well pads, roads, pipelines and other infrastructure, and damaging precious natural resources," according to a 2012 report by Environment Texas titled "The Cost of Fracking: The Price Tag of Dirty Drilling's Environmental Damage." Do we want to pay for the infrastructure damage that the building of these wells will cause? According to the Environment Texas report, "the truck traffic needed to deliver water to a single fracking well causes as much damage to local roads as nearly 3.5 million car trips. The state of Texas has approved $40 million in funding for road repairs in the Barnett Shale region."

The list of costs not included in the industry's energy independence hype goes on, and it's likely that taxpayers will bear the burden.

If we do not get involved, the hype will continue to drown out reason. We must stay informed about permitting of wells and other aspects of fracking as they come up in city and county government and at the state level with theRailroad Commission and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Let your official representatives know that you expect them to make the protection of your community's health and environment a priority over an energy boom bubble that will soon burst.

Jane Dale Owen is granddaughter of Robert Lee Blaffer, one of the founders of Humble Oil and Refining Company, the parent company of Exxon Mobil. She is president and founder of Citizens League for Environmental Action Now (CLEAN), an organization that for more than a decade has been working to inform and educate the public about solutions to environmental issues. Reprinted from Houston Chronicle with permission of the author.


Japan's Methane Hydrates and the Future of Global Energy

Countries including the U.S., Canada, Norway, and China are also interested in using hydrate deposits as an additional source of energy, since methane is a main component.


Monday, March 18, 2013

KiOR ships first cellulosic diesel

KiOR, Inc., developer of a catalytic pyrolysis process to produce renewable rude oil from biomass (earlier post), has begun initial shipments of cellulosic diesel from its plant in Columbus, Mississippi. The facility is designed as an initial scale commercial facility, processing 500 bone dry tons of sustainably harvested woody biomass per day for an annual capacity of more than 13 million gallons of gasoline, diesel, and fuel oil blendstocks.

KiOR's facility uses pine wood chips previously feeding a shut down paper mill at Columbus to produce the renewable oil, which is processed into gasoline and diesel blendstocks. KiOR's renewable gasoline is the first renewable cellulosic gasoline registered by the Environmental Protection Agency for sale in the US. (Earlier post.)

With first production at Columbus, KiOR hastechnology with the potential to resurrect each and every shut downpaper mill in the country and to replace imported oil on a costeffective basis while creating American jobs. This facilitydemonstrates the efficacy of KiOR's proprietary catalyticbiomass-to-fuel process with the potential to deliver cellulosicgasoline and diesel to the US.

-Fred Cannon, KiOR's President and CEO

Studies show that KiOR fuels will have a significant reduction in lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions when compared to fossil-based fuels. KiOR fuels in today's engines can provide a carbon emissions profile comparable to or better than electric cars run off the US electric grid, KiOR says.