August 12, 2010

"Changingthe Color of the Getaway Car": WH Denies It’s Trying to End Gulf Drilling -While At Same Time Instructing Its Interior Dept. to Withhold Permits for NewActivity. FOXNews (8/11) reports, "With the Obama administration returning to federalcourt to defend its six-month suspension of oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico,industry executives and analysts claimed the ban was more stringent thanoriginally believed, and exerting a greater impact on the lives and livelihoodsof Gulf Coast residents. "They’re painting the getaway car a different color,"said Dan V. Kish, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research in Washington.  Kish said the original moratoriumapplied only to drilling rigs operating in 500 feet of water or deeper, butthat the July 12 order by Salazar applies to all floating rigs in the Gulf.What’s more, Kish said there are effectively two moratoria in place: the formalone, targeting deepwater drilling, and an informal one targeting shallow-waterdrilling operations.  "About halfof the rigs in the shallow waters of the Gulf are not operating," said Kish, "becausethey can’t get permits from the government agency that is supposed to give thempermits.  So, in essence, what’shappening is that much of the fleet of deep- and shallow-water rigs in the Gulfof Mexico, which supplies a third of our domestic oil, are being laid up, putin cold storage, awaiting the government to make a decision one way or theother."

Don’tMess: Republic of Texas Jumps Foursquare Into Offshore Ban Debate; Files Suitin Federal Court Demanding This Monstrosity Be Lifted – For Real. HoustonChronicle (8/11) reports, "The state of Texas has filed suit against thefederal ban on offshore drilling, saying the move violates a law requiringofficials to consult with the states on such matters first. The law, the OuterContinental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), requires the Interior Secretary tocoordinate with states that might be affected by drilling decisions beforetaking any actions and to weigh the economic impact of actions such as the banbefore imposing them.  TheDepartment of the Interior imposed the ban earlier this year, in reaction tothe massive oil spill that followed a blowout of a BP oil well in the Gulf ofMexico. The administration withdrew it when a federal judge in New Orleansblocked the effort and a number of companies filed suit. But on July 12 the DOIre-imposed the ban with some changes. "The federal government ignored theState of Texas and failed to comply with the law when the Secretary of theInterior unilaterally imposed the Administration’s offshore drilling ban,"Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement. "Under federal law,affected states are guaranteed the right to participate in offshoredrilling-related policy decisions, but the Obama Administration did not botherto communicate, coordinate or cooperate with Texas." An economicimpact analysis done by Louisiana State University says Texas will suffer a$622 million decrease in Gross State Product due to the six-month moratorium,meaning the state meets the statutory definition of an "affectedstate" under the OCSLA and should be consulted, the filing says.

FollowUs on This: Enviros Want BP to Pay $20 Billion (and More) to All Who Ask – ButDon’t Want BP to Produce the Energy Needed to Generate those Funds. TheHill (8/11) reports, "Environmentalists are attacking potential White Houseplans to use money from BP’s future Gulf of Mexico production as collateral forthe $20 billion oil spill claims fund, fearing it would make the government acheerleader for wider drilling. "We haveserious concerns. We think it would incentivize new drilling by BP in the Gulf,"said Beth Lowell, federal policy director for Oceana. "It is outlandishthat we would encourage them to do the same thing that got them into this messin the first place." "Under the latest negotiations, BP would use productionpayments from its producing Gulf wells as collateral for the fund and wouldprovide quarterly production updates to the government. The collateralrequirements would be reduced as BP pays money into the fund," the Journalreported, citing an administration official who called it an "option." TheNatural Resources Defense Council is also criticizing the idea. "We do need BPto remain solvent to fund the escrow account, but what the Journal reports is abad idea which will, if implemented, cast a shadow on the legitimacy of futureregulatory activity in the Gulf by the Bureau of Ocean Energy (formerly theMinerals Management Service), NOAA, and every other federal agency charged withwatching over BP’s Gulf operations," said NRDC’s David Pettit in a blog postTuesday.

PreviouslyContent to Spend Millions Attacking Job-Creators Along Coasts, Hard CoreEnviros Turn Their Attention to Coal Producers in Intermountain West. DowJones/Wall Street Journal (8/11) reports, "Western U.S. coal producers areincreasingly coming under fire by environmental groups that see a chance tofight climate change by curbing output from the nation’s largest coal basin.For years environmentalists have lobbied for tougher limits on the emissions ofheat-trapping gases blamed for climate change from power plants, vehicles andother direct sources. But the collapse of federal climate-change legislation inrecent weeks and growth of coal exports to Asia is leading some groups to lookpast the smoke stacks and aim to quash emissions by stymieing production offuel. Environmental groups have found some success curbing eastern coalproduction, particularly from mountaintop-removal mining in Appalachia. WesternU.S. coal production has largely stayed out of the spotlight, but this ischanging as environment advocates begin to zero in on the new leases andgrowing exports of Powder River Basin coal to Asia from the U.S. West Coast.Exports are a particular concern because the sale of U.S. coal overseasundercuts domestic effort to reduce emissions and weakens internationalcooperation on climate change, environmental groups say.  "That is a very serious line inthe sand," said Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond CoalCampaign, of efforts by Western U.S. miners to grown Asian exports.

HowPerverse Is Their Obsession to Destroy Coal? Enviros Actively Oppose Efforts toCapture and Store Carbon Emitted by Coal – Makes for a Better Fundraising Letter. ClimateWire (8/11,subs. req’d) reports, "George Peridas, who has been pushing California’sinterest in decarbonization efforts for the Natural Resources Defense Council,explained at the symposium that the state’s powerful environmental groups aresplit on the issue of CCS. Some worry that the technology will detract fromfurther efforts to promote renewable energy; others are mainly focused on fighting the coal industry. He agreeswith Benson that if California is going to succeed in taking most of the carbonout of its energy system, CCS technology will be needed. "Pioneer projectslike HECA are very important," he said in an interview. "Althoughthis isn’t one of our favorite climate solutions, it is one of those that isneeded. It helps move the ball forward in getting CCS deployed." Peridasis concerned that while California is leading the nation by imposing a cap oncarbon emissions, it has fallen behind other states and the federal governmentsin drafting regulations for carbon capture and storage. In theory, a plant suchas HECA should get benefits under a cap-and-trade system, if it has loweremissions than a natural gas-fired power plant. "They might get excesscredits to sell, but the framework for this has yet to be worked out."Mark Brownstein, deputy director of energy programs for the EnvironmentalDefense Fund, agreed. He said the "simple fact is that it [coal] is goingto be with us for quite a while. Phasing out of coal may take 50 to 100 yearsto do."

Stopthe Presses: New Report Finds EPA Not Capable of Brining In the Best People toDo The Jobs They Need – Like Destroying Our Economy. E&E News (8/11,subs. req’d) reports, "U.S. EPA suffers from a hiring process that fails toplace the right candidates in the right positions, a recent report from theagency’s inspector general found. The 37-page report analyzed the consolidationof EPA’s hiring services into three centers in North Carolina, Ohio and Nevada.Without sufficient technology investments or staffing plans, the servicecenters have failed to meet expectations, the report found. "Servicecenters did not consistently provide program managers with the best candidates,and data quality and recruitment action processes need improvement," IGinvestigators wrote. "As a result, the appointment process is notproviding program offices with the right people, in the right place, at theright time, thus impacting EPA’s ability to effectively perform itsmission." EPA now takes an average of 141 days to fill vacant positions –far above the Office of Personnel Management’s government-wide goal of 80 days.And because the agency has not implemented a complete electronic work flowsystem, employees are filling positions using a mixture of electronic and paperforms. The report describes one instance where a missing page in an applicationled to 27 days of e-mails to resolve the problem. IG officials also found thatemployees at the service centers are not as experienced "asexpected," leading to further delays and increased training.

WSJDetails How Iran’s Once Buoyant Plans to Develop OPEC-Style Cartel for NaturalGas Have Fallen By Wayside – Shale Gas, We’re Looking At You.  WallStreet Journal (8/12) reports, "Iran’s LNG plans have been key to Tehran’slong-term goal of diversifying away from its aging oil fields as a source ofexport revenue. In interviews with the Iranian oil ministry website, Shana,published Saturday and Monday, top Iranian oil officials said they wouldsuspend the Persian LNG and Pars LNG projects. Both were being developed to takeadvantage of gas from one of the world’s largest gas fields, which Iran callsSouth Pars and shares with Qatar in the Persian Gulf. In the Saturdayinterview, Ahmed Ghalebani, managing director of the National Iranian Oil Co.,didn’t cite sanctions as a reason for the suspension. He said the nationalenergy company was scrapping some LNG projects because they were too costly andcomplex. Iran would instead build more pipelines, he said.  Iran’s decision-making could have beeninfluenced in part by the current cyclical glut in the LNG market, which hasdepressed prices in various parts of the world. But one Iranian gas officialfamiliar with the projects said the most recent round of sanctions enacted bythe EU, some of which target Iran’s energy sector, played a role. Mr. Ghalebanisaid the country wouldn’t abandon LNG projects altogether. Another largeproject, Iran LNG, is nearing completion and is expected to go online in 2012.

NowWe See: With Passing of Peak Oilers’ Top Exponent, How Will the ConspiracyTheory Fare in a World of Near-Daily (Massive) Energy Discoveries? WallStreet Journal (8/9) reports, "But Simmons helped to being the peak oiltheory to the mass media, after traveling to Saudi Arabia in 2003 to researchthat nation’s secretive data on oil reserves, or the amount of oil able to bepumped out of the ground. His book became an instant classic among conspiracytheorists. Simmons was back in the limelight this spring when BP oil’s rig inthe Gulf of Mexico exploded. He went out on a limb (his critics say too farout) by predicting in June that the spill would cause BP to go bankrupt andthat "if a hurricane comes and blows this to shore, it could paint the GulfCoast black." In recent weeks, BP has capped the leak and independentscientists have found that environment damage from the spill has been less thaninitially feared. (Simmons supported offshore oil drilling in 2008, but saidAmericans need to change their energy-consumption habits because even offshoresources wouldn’t produce enough oil to sustain world demand.)  Peak oil remains hotly contested andthe information about reserves from less than forthcoming from such oil-richnations as Saudi Arabia and Nigeria is incomplete, to say the least.Regardless, peak oil has lost one of its most eloquent adherents.

GoodNews, Everyone (Who Lives in Georgetown): New Fancy Light Bulbs Mandated byCongress Now Only Cost $20 a Piece, Down from $30 Last Year. NYTimes (8/11) reports, "This week, Home Depot fired a new marketing salvo inwhat is expected to be a broader national effort to get home customers to adoptLED lighting. A 40-watt-equivalent bulb sold online at Home Depot. The retailgiant began selling one of the light bulbs in its highly energy-efficientlineup at a surprisingly affordable price of just under $20 online.Bricks-and-mortar stores will follow in September. While $20 hardly sounds likea deal at first blush, such bulbs are expected to last as long as 30 years. Notlong ago, such bulbs were not expected by most experts to cost less than $30until 2012. That’s the year, of course, when a federal law takes effectrequiring that all bulbs sold in the United States be 30 percent more efficientthan current incandescent bulbs. Even with improvements, incandescent bulbs arenot expected to meet those standards, so many manufacturers are working onpushing their LED bulbs. Unlike compact florescent bulbs, which have beenunpopular with consumers because of the pallid light they cast, some newer LEDbulbs are closer to the warmth and brightness of the regular incandescent. HomeDepot says it is actively encouraging consumers to compare.

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