December 13, 2010

Ain’t Easy Being Green:Obama White House Buffeted by Special Interest Enviros Apoplectic over EPA’sReversal on Boiler MACT Rule – Frank O’Donnell’s Out for Blood.Politico (12/11) reports, “Greens and public health advocates fear theWhite House is losing its backbone when it comes to defending its environmentalpolicies — at the worst possible time. EPA this week delayed two majorclean air regulations aimed at curbing ozone and toxic air pollution fromindustrial boilers. The Obama administration denies that politics are in play,but that appearance is hard to avoid as House Republicans prepare to use theirmajority to try and rollback EPA standards. The delays have garnered nationalattention, including a front page story of Friday’s New York Times — andsent shockwaves through the environmental and public health communities. Now,activists who heralded Obama’s aggressive environmental policies are preparingto circle their wagons around other rules they say may be vulnerable. “Giventhe events of this week, environmental regulators are on high alert for signsof future attempts to delay or interfere with the roll-out of importantregulatory health protections,” said Bill Becker, of the National Associationof Clean Air Agencies. Next up are measures to slash soot, smog and mercuryfrom power plants and a national air-quality standard for fine particlepollution. The delayed air rules “should be a clarion call to arms that we’re goingto need to step up or we’re just going to get rolled," said FrankO’Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch.



Mean Streaks of Paterson:NY Gov Takes One Step Forward By Vetoing Ridiculous Moratorium on HF –Then Signs Exec. Order Basically Instituting the Same Damn Thing. NY Times (12/11) reports, “Industry representatives complained thatsuch a sweeping moratorium would outlaw virtually all drilling in New York,including in its portion of the Marcellus shale, a vast and deep deposit ofnatural gas stretching under several states. Mr. Paterson’s veto, and thesubsequent executive order, appeared aimed at distinguishing between verticalwells and newer “horizontal drilling” techniques, in which gas drillers plumbthe underground shale seams laterally. The governor’s order restricts permitsfor “high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing.” Most modern wells that use frackingare, in fact, horizontal wells, but the industry welcomed the governor’s vetoas staking out middle ground. “We are very pleased that the governor saw thebill for what it was – a flawed piece of legislation replete withunintended and dire consequences for the people and businesses in our industry.” said Brad Gill, the executive director of the Independent Oil & GasAssociation of New York, in a statement. “Our members are aware of theconsiderable pressure put upon lawmakers and the governor to approve thisbill,” he added. “We’re hopeful that the governor’s veto today will set thestage for a more reasoned and rational public discussion about these issuesgoing forward.”



Like Oil at $90 a Barrel?Good: OPEC Says It’ll Stay There for a While — And, Owing to OffshorePermitorium in the Gulf, US No Longer in a Position to Do Anything About It.Houston Chronicle (12/11) reports, “OPEC ministers decidedSaturday to keep oil output at current levels, citing ample inventories amidpersisting global economic uncertainty and a price of just under $90 a barrel.The 12-member cartel said after an unusually short meeting that it based itsdecision on projections showing demand for crude would grow more slowly in 2011than this year. It’s statement also cited the "challenging risks to thefragile global economic recovery" including "fears of a secondbanking crisis in Europe." The world’s major industrialized nationscontinue to face "lower industrial output, lagging private consumption aswell as persistently high unemployment," the ministers added. "Themarket is in balance and is stable," Oil minister Ali Naimi of SaudiArabia, OPEC’s biggest producer, told reporters. "The fundamentals aregood." Suffering a cold, he left quickly after the closed-door meeting,which lasted less than two hours. OPEC’s next scheduled gathering is June 2 inVienna, its home. "OPEC is always ready to meet when there is importantchange in the market," he said. There was much discussion about whetheroil would soon broach the psychological price barrier of $100 — or evenclimb nearer its 2008 historic peak of $147 a barrel. Venezuela’s minister,Rafael Ramirez, said he thought such a price was "proper" consideringhow much producers invest in removing crude from the ground.



No Shame: Justice Dept.Clears Fmr. Interior Secretary of Any Wrongdoing in Oil Shale Case – ButNot Even the Facts Prevent Nick Rahall from Taking One Last Shot on His WayOut. Politico (12/10) reports, “The Justice Department has declined to filecharges against former Interior Secretary Gale Norton in connection with oilshale bids by Royal Dutch Shell. At issue are valuable oil shale leases thatShell won from Interior after Norton left the George W. Bush administration inMarch 2006 but before she took a job as a lawyer with the oil giant thatDecember. Kendall referred to the report to the Justice Department, whichdeclined to file charges. “We found that Norton was very interested in the[Research, Development and Demonstration] program during her tenure assecretary, but we did not find evidence to conclusively determine that Nortonviolated conflict-of-interest laws, either pre- or post-employment, withShell,” Acting Interior Department Inspector General Mary Kendall wrote in aletter accompanying a report obtained by POLITICO. But despite the lack offederal charges, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall(D-W.Va.) delivered a scathing verdict. “It sounds like Secretary Norton wasearning her salary from Shell even before they put her on the payroll,” Rahallsaid in a statement.



Green Is Universal: GeneralElectric, Owner of NBC and Windmills (Which Is Why You See Lots About theLatter on the Former) Makes Major New Play on Offshore Oil and Gas.Reuters (12/13) reports, “General Electric Co has agreed to buyBritish oil drilling pipe-maker Wellstream Holdings Plc for 800 million pounds($1.3 billion), as GE continues its push into the offshore oil servicesindustry. The deal is the latest in a series of GE buys in the oil servicessector in recent years and shows that, despite the BP oil spill in the Gulf ofMexico this summer, the industry expects deep water drilling to continue apace.The acquisition would also give GE a strong footing in Brazil, where Wellstreamhas a manufacturing facility. Brazil has made a series of multi-billion barrelsoil discoveries in recent years in very deep water — traditionally high costfor oil producers and high opportunity for equipment makers — and Brasiliaencourages the use of locally produced materials. GE and Wellstream said in ajoint statement on Monday that GE would pay Wellstream investors 780 pence incash plus a special dividend of 6p, per Wellstream share, up from a bid of 750 pence/sharetabled in September that Wellstream rebuffed. Wellstream is one of only threemain manufacturers of flexibles "riser" pipes, which connect drillingrigs to well-heads on the sea floor.



Live Free or Walk: Folks Upin New Hampshire Not Exactly Sold on Electric Cars – For Starters:Because the Only Ones that Seem to Work Actually Run on Gasoline. David Brooks writes (12/13) in the Nashua (N.H.) Telegraph, “The “chicken and egg” issue of cars andcharging stations is one of the big obstacles facing the electric-vehicleindustry – since few people will buy battery-powered cars if there’snowhere except home to plug them in, and few companies will pay to installcharging stations if no one has an electric car. But it will never be tackledif no one plunges in. Wheego is an unusual car company. The body and chassisare made by Shuanghuan, a Chinese firm that bases it on a gas-powered model.Enxing hopes to have several Wheego dealerships throughout New Englandeventually, so perhaps we’ll see him again. The lack of electricity “gasstations” explains why GM put a gasoline-powered engine in the Volt. It canrecharge the motor and extend the car’s range beyond the inherent limits ofbatteries, which hover over the Leaf and Wheego. The Volt internal combustionengine is not connected to the drivetrain, which is entirely powered by theelectric motor. In theory, you could drive a Volt all year and never put a dropof gas in it, as long as you recharge it often enough, and it’s not reallycorrect to call the Volt a “plug-in hybrid.” But it does mean that the Voltisn’t a true “electric-only” car like the Leaf or Wheego. You can’t entirelythumb your nose at OPEC in it.



I Need a Job: OutgoingIdaho Democrat Says He REALLY Wishes He Had Voted for Cap-and-Raid, SinceClimate Change Represents “Greatest Ecological Threat” Ever.E&E News(12/13, subs. req’d) reports, “Despite a roller coaster two years, Rep. WaltMinnick (D-Idaho) says being in the 111th Congress was a better experience thanthe last time he worked in Washington, serving in President Nixon’sWatergate-besieged White House. Though serving in the 111th Congress wasbetter, that is not to say Minnick does not draw parallels between Watergateand this Democratic Congress, especially when it comes to energy andenvironmental policy. "Very little went well in energy and theenvironment," the 68-year-old representative said in an interview lastweek. "That was an area where we had a particularly tin ear and where thesolution to the biggest issue — global warming — proposed by the party …got transformed by its opposition from cap and trade to cap and tax and becamepolitically toxic almost every place in the country."Minnick calls thepolitical misjudgments that led to House passage of the "American CleanEnergy and Security Act of 2009" and the inability to then message thebill or have a fallback position "equally disastrous" to the way theNixon administration tried to message Watergate. The way the former timbercompany CEO sees it, the bill actually sent the country’s energy policybackward. "Not only did we fail to move the ball forward, the globalcommitment to doing something about what is the greatest ecological threat tohumanity since the emergence


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