August 25, 2010

BadNews for Markey: National Science Lab in Berkeley – the One that Secretary ChuHeaded Up – Says Undersea Plume of Oil Has Been Completely Eliminated. Greenwire (8/24, subs.req’d) reports, "The Gulf of Mexico’s undersea oil plume is no more. For nearlya month, scientists sampling the site of a deepwater plume stretching southwestfrom BP PLC’s failed well in the Gulf have been foiled. Their sensors have gonesilent. Where once a vibrant — if diffuse — cloud of oil stretched for miles,3,600 feet below the surface, there is now only ocean, and what seems to be thedebris of a bacterial feeding frenzy. "For the last three weeks, wehaven’t been able to detect the deepwater plume at all," said Terry Hazen,a microbiologist and oil spill expert at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratorywho has had a clutch of researchers monitoring the Gulf since late May. Thedisappearance is backed up by government sampling data. The plume is simplygone. And Hazen knows why. "This all fits with the fact that the bugs havedegraded the oil," he said. Despite press accounts to the contrary, thedisappearance of this deepwater oil plume, whose midsummer existence wasdetailed last week by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, is far from ashock, at least to scientists. Undersea bacteria — the single-cell janitors ofthe marine world — along with currents and diffusion likely combined todegrade or isolate the dispersed oil to undetectable levels, Hazen said.

BromwichWants Offshore Moratorium Pulled Early, and He Very Well May Get It  – But Will Lifting the Ban ActuallyMake Things Normal Again? Maybe Not. Bloomberg(8/25) reports, "President Barack Obama’s administration may agree to an earlyend for its moratorium on deep-water oil and gas drilling while backing newregulations that may keep rigs idle for months afterward. Obama is likely tolift the drilling ban in October, ahead of its scheduled Nov. 30 expiration,said Michael McKenna, president of MWR Strategies, an oil industry consultingfirm in Washington. Heightened scrutiny of drilling’s risks may delay theresumption of operations by companies such as BP Plc and Apache Corp. untilmid-2011, McKenna said. The administration halted drilling in waters deeperthan 500 feet after BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico blew out April 20.Government officials from Gulf Coast states say the moratorium is ravaging aregional economy already hit hard by the spill, putting the White House underpolitical pressure to end the ban early, McKenna said.  "Lifting the moratorium is almostunimportant," McKenna said in an interview. "It’s how different the regulatoryregime is going to be after. The end game here is to make it a very, verydifficult and time-consuming regulatory process."

Don’tMess: Major Rallies in Support of Offshore Energy Planned for September 1 in 3Cities in Texas – Not a Place You’ll Want to Be if Your Name is Kenneth L.Salazar. HoustonChronicle (8/25) reports, "Details of the previously announced ralliesagainst the deep-water drilling ban are emerging, with Texas events happeningon Wednesday, Sept. 1. According to the RallyForJobs website:  "More energy equals more jobs,higher incomes and greater economic growth. We must come together to tell Washingtonthat our livelihoods depend on the oil and natural gas industry and consumerswho rely on access to affordable energy will not be overlooked." Houston’sevent will be emcee’d by former TV news anchor Minerva Perez, the co-host ofLatina Voices on PBS. The speakers include Carroll G. Robinson of the HoustonCitizens Chamber of Commerce; Sherman Lewis III of The Lewis Group and BrandyJones of Energy People Connect. Entertainment will be by Bruce Robison . (Incidentally, his new song is"Heartache to Houston.") The events will take place in Houston,Corpus Christi, and Port Arthur.

EPATries to Play Both Sides of Debate Over Shale Gas, Hydraulic Fracturing – Butthe State Dept? They Love the Stuff, and Want to Spread the TechnologyEverywhere. TheHill (8/24) reports, "A senior State Department official said Tuesday thatthe U.S. boom in producing natural gas from shale rock formations could pave theway for other countries to expand development that allows displacement ofcarbon-heavy coal. David Goldwyn, the coordinator for international energyaffairs, was bullish about global shale-gas potential in remarks with reportersduring a State Department conference in Washington, D.C., devoted tointernational coordination on the resource. "The U.S. shale-gas phenomenon hastransformed global energy markets. Because we have discovered and we have thetechnology to develop efficiently large quantities of gas from shale, globalprices of liquefied natural gas have decreased. Gas has become cheaper. Gas isnow competitive with coal on a BTU basis, which means that countries that mightuse coal can now not make an economic choice, but on a competitive basis choosegas for their next level of power generation," he said. He said plentifulshale-gas supplies can help increase energy security, giving nations -including China and India – the ability to diversify and expand energy sources,and slow greenhouse gas emissions (burning natural gas emits fewer greenhousegases than coal or oil).

Diesel-PoweredGreenpeace Vessel Attempts to Disrupt Major Natural Gas Find Off the Coast ofGreenland – Danish Warship Puts an End to That Right Quick. WallStreet Journal (8/25) reports, "Cairn Energy PLC said it found natural gasoff Greenland’s western coast, bolstering hopes that the area could become oneof the world’s last significant untapped hydrocarbon provinces."We’reencouraged because we’ve established there are hydrocarbons in a basin thatnobody has ever drilled before that’s the size of the North Sea," he saidin an interview. Some of the world’s largest energy companies have gravitatedto Greenland’s iceberg-strewn waters in recent years, lured by estimates of itsenormous resource potential. The U.S. Geological Survey says the area couldhold around 50 billion barrels of oil and gas, more than the total provenreserves of Libya. A Greenpeace protest ship arrived at Cairn’s oil rig thisweek to highlight the perceived dangers in the company’s exploration program,but a Danish warship prevented the protest vessel from entering an exclusionzone around the rig. Denmark has sovereignty over Greenland. Cairn announcedTuesday that the first of the two exploration wells it is drilling in BaffinBay, between Canada and Greenland, had found natural gas, indicating thepresence "of an active hydrocarbon system." The Edinburgh-basedcompany said the gas could be associated with oil, though it is too early tosay for sure.

OrwellSmiles: VP Biden Doubles Down on Patently Ridiculous Assertion that Green JobsBoondoggle Is Working Exactly As Planned – How Scary Would it Be If He’s Right?TheHill (8/24) reports, "A White House report unveiled Tuesday says tens ofbillions of dollars in stimulus energy funding is helping to greatly expanddeployment of technologies such as solar power, "smart" electrical meters andadvanced batteries. The Obama administration is touting the projects asRepublicans are increasingly charging that the big 2009 stimulus package wasineffective and continuing attacks on the White House economic team. Recentreports by the Energy Department’s inspector general also cited problems withdistribution and use of the stimulus dollars, including "prevalent andwidespread" spending delays. The White House report (found here) forecaststhe effects of the law that provided $30 billion for renewable energy andefficiency programs, $6 billion for advanced vehicles and biofuels programs andbillions of dollars in other energy spending. "Thanks to investments madepossible by the Recovery Act, we are unleashing the American innovation machineto change the way we use and produce energy in this country," said EnergySecretary Steven Chu in a prepared statement. "Just as importantly, thesebreakthroughs are helping create tens of thousands of new jobs, allowing theU.S. to continue as a leader in the global economy and helping to provide abetter future for generations to come."

Meanwhile,Endless Subsidies Not Quite Enough to Allow First Solar to Turn a Profit in USA- So They Decide to Set Up Shop in Communist China Instead.  Bloomberg(8/24) reports, "First Solar Inc., the U.S. company planning the world’s biggestsolar-power plant in China, is "reasonably confident" China’s government willset electricity prices high enough to make the project viable, a spokesmansaid. The company, which announced the project in September and missed itsplanned start of construction in June, is still negotiating the "economicconditions" of the power plant with China, said Brandon Mitchener, aBrussels-based spokesman for the Tempe, Arizona-based solar-equipmentmanufacturer. The talks involve setting guaranteed above-market rates orsimilar instruments that support renewable energy projects, he said. Chinadelayed approving premium prices known as feed-in tariffs for solar power thatthe company said are essential for the viability its project in Ordos, InnerMongolia, in northern China, First Solar President Bruce Sohn said in May.First Solar, the world’s largest maker of thin-film solar power modules, rose11 percent in U.S. trading on Sept. 8 when it announced it would build the2,000-megawatt plant, set to be the world’s largest array of panels thatconvert sunlight directly into power. Construction on the first phase was tobegin June 1, 2010, with the last stage to be completed in 2019. Two thousandmegawatts can supply the equivalent of about 1.6 million U.S. homes when theplant runs at full capacity.

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