In the Pipeline: 2/18/11

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scandal — T. Boone ‘rent seeker’ Pickens wants to steal your money for the good of the country San Diego Tribune (2/17/11) reports: Q: How did you become a born-again alternative energy proponent? A: This is all about America. I somehow felt that the mission had been given to me because I understood the issue. It is a security issue; you are funding both sides of the war. The money you pay for oil, some part of that goes to the Taliban. Q: Critics claim that much of your alternative energy plan is self-serving, given that companies controlled by you — Mesa Power with its wind farm initiative and Seal Beach-based Clean Energy Fuels, a natural gas fueling station company — stand to benefit hugely from private contracts and government subsidies. A: I’ve invested in what I believe in. I’ve spent $82 million on trying to get an energy plan, and people know that is the case. If I’d set out to make money, probably the best thing I could do is not spend $82 million dollars.

Sierra Club’s Four Step Plan: Step 1: End Coal Step 2: End Natural Gas Step 3: Reduce Human Population Step 4: Rejoice Politico (2/16/11) reports: Whatever happened to the romance between the environmental lobby and natural gas…After years of basking in a green glow as the cleanest fossil fuel and a favorite short-term choice to replace cheap-but-dirty coal, gas now finds itself under attack from environmentalists, filmmakers and congressional Democrats — and even from some scientists who raise doubts about whether its total emissions are as climate-friendly as commonly believed…Case in point: the Sierra Club, whose former executive director, Carl Pope, has spoken warmly in recent years about gas as an alternative to coal in power plants. Now, the group is considering calling for natural gas to be phased out by 2050 — about 20 years after it wants coal eliminated…While the group said it hasn’t changed its mind about gas vs. coal, Deputy Executive Director Bruce Hamilton says he and other Sierra Club leaders are “trying to be clearer in our communication. … We want people to know that natural gas is not a clean fuel and it needs to be cleaned up before it can be an acceptable fuel.”

New Orleans judge put Obama Administration on notice; 30 days to make a decision on deep water drilling permits Wall Street Journal (2/17/11) reports: A federal judge in New Orleans ordered the Obama administration to decide within 30 days whether to grant a set of five permits for deep-water drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico, saying the administration’s inaction on the requests is “increasingly inexcusable.”…The action by Judge Martin Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana marks an extraordinary turn in the legal battle between the oil industry and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar over how quickly offshore drilling should be allowed to resume following last year’s oil spill involving BP PLC that killed 11 workers and which ranks as the worst such spill in U.S. history…The judge’s ruling comes as Republicans in Congress are ratcheting up pressure on the Obama administration to allow more drilling. It also comes just weeks after the same judge accused the Obama administration of “determined disregard” of his order last June overturning a ban on offshore oil and gas drilling that the administration imposed shortly after the BP spill…In his latest decision, issued Thursday, Judge Feldman ordered the Interior Department to decide within 30 days whether to approve five permit applications sought by London-based Ensco PLC and submitted to the department as long ago as last April.

No Joke: The latest idea to make EV’s cost competitive in the car market — take the battery out Reuters (2/17/11) reports: The report found that amidst the many technical, regulatory and market challenges that remain between today’s nascent industry and President Barack Obama’s call for 1 million electric cars on U.S. roads by 2015, the main barrier is cost of EVs — and not surprisingly it’s the batteries’ fault…“Until the cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) [of a battery] dramatically decreases (to reach approximately $300/kWh), consumer uptake is likely to be limited to a dedicated and niche consumer market segment,” the report states.  The problem is, most EV batteries nowadays cost at least $450 per kWh — and that’s after decades of researchers making significant efforts to lower the cost. The limits of today’s battery chemistries just might have mostly been reached…The solution, Accenture suggests, is “disaggregating” battery costs from the car, usually via leasing either the car or the battery itself. Not only would that bring down vehicle costs, but it would help deal with thorny warranty issues, given EV batteries will likely end up having a lifespan of 10 years or less.

California environmental math transcends space and time — and all other natural laws Reuters (2/17/11) reports: Under California’s new carbon trading system, big polluters will be paying through the nose for the privilege…And so will everyone else in the state…The basic premise is “no pain, no gain” — when the price starts to pinch, that will spur innovation and California will lead the world in green technology. Or at least that’s the plan…The Carbon Rush officially gets underway next year. Power plants, factories and other companies will have to obtain an “allowance” permit for every ton of carbon dioxide they produce. Allowances will be sold at state auctions and on an open market…Most of the financial sting is being backloaded. The program begins with a big giveaway, with the state handing out most permits free — a “soft start,” is how state officials term it…This new market will rapidly expand, beginning at just under $2 billion and rising to nearly $10 billion in 2016, according to estimates from Point Carbon, a Thomson Reuters company focusing on carbon markets.

Behind a rock and permit: If green tape is defunded, then no permits can be issued for work New York Times (2/17/11) reports: Building off an argument originally put forward by Republicans and industry groups in opposition to EPA’s climate regulations on stationary sources, Democrats yesterday claimed that defunding its regulations now would result in the halted construction projects and backlog of permits that opponents of the regulation feared…Pulling funding for the initiative, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) argued, would not overturn the requirement to net the permits. Instead, it would just halt “dozens of major [construction] projects” and cost thousands of jobs, he said…”Members have different views about how to reduce pollution, but we should all agree that a multi-state construction ban is a terrible idea,” Waxman said…Last month, federal climate regulations went into effect that require large stationary sources — including power plants, refineries and cement kilns — to seek special air permits before proceeding with new construction projects or modifications to existing facilities that would result in substantial greenhouse gas emissions. In order to net these permits, local air regulators or federal EPA must be persuaded that the project will use the “best available control technology” to limit the facilities’ emissions.




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