In the Pipeline: 3/21/11

Captain CAAAAAVEMAAAAAAANNNN. Chu seeks to rescue us from high gas prices by returning to the stone age. How ’bout we just drill instead Fox News (3/20/11) reports: Reduced demand in Japan combined with uncertainty in Libya has caused short-term instability in the price of gasoline globally, but it’s nearly impossible to mitigate the long-term effects without changes in energy policy, President Obama’s point-man on the topic said Sunday….Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who in 2008 called for ramping up gas prices to those comparable to Europe in order to coax Americans toward green energy, said that as head of his department, he’s working on “developing methods to take the pain out of high gas prices.”…”The recent spike in gasoline prices following that huge spike in 2007, 2008 is a reminder to Americans that the price of gasoline over the long haul should be expected to go up just because of supply and demand issues. And so we see this in the buying habits of Americans as they make choices for the next car they buy,” Chu told “Fox News Sunday.”He said part of the Obama administration approach is to increase mileage standards and support the development of electric vehicles that could have batteries that last 200 to 300 miles on a single charge.

North to the Future: Having mastered the art of revoking permits they have already issued, EPA now sets it sights on killing projects before a permit is even filed E & E (3/18/11) reports: A large mining project proposed for southwest Alaska has sparked a lobbying battle between some area residents who say it would help the region’s economy and others who fear environmental degradation to nearby Bristol Bay and its major salmon run…The Pebble Project, located about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, is believed to contain large quantities of gold, copper and molybdenum, an element used as an alloying agent in cast iron and steel…The Pebble Partnership, an alliance between London-based Anglo American and Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., is still in the advanced exploration phase for the mine and no permit applications have yet been submitted…This week representatives from Alaska Native Corporations were in Washington meeting with Obama administration officials and lawmakers, urging them to give full consideration to the project when an application is filed. They are trying to counter efforts from environmentalists who want to kill the mine. Project opponents will be in Washington later this month for lobbying of their own…”We believe in due process,” said Trefon Angasan, chairman of Alaska Peninsula Corp., which includes several villages in the state. He’s also a consultant for the Pebble Partnership on regional and Native issues.

Michael “The Fish” Bromwich wets our beak with third Gulf permit; wants $500 million to finish the job.  Pay up Congress or the gas tank gets it National Journal (3/21/11) reports: The Interior Department on Friday issued a deepwater drilling permit to ATP Oil & Gas, the third permit approved since the BP oil spill…The first two permits were issued to Noble Energy and BHP Billiton in the past several weeks. The ATP well is located about 90 miles south of Venice, La., and is already at a depth of 4,000 feet because of drilling activities in 2008 and ’09. The company was about to install a production facility at the well when the Obama administration banned all deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after the massive BP spill…Michael Bromwich, who directs the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, said after a House hearing on Thursday that additional deepwater permits were imminent, although he wouldn’t say when they might be issued…Reports throughout the week speculated that as many as four additional permits could be issued, and Bromwich has said to expect more. He also said on Thursday that a lack of resources and additional inspectors will hinder his agency’s ability to issue permits in a timely manner.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.  Big Wind forced to defend itself — in Hollywood of all places Washington Post (3/18/11) reports: Faucets don’t spit fire in “Windfall,” making its local premiere Saturday at the Environmental Film Festival. But incendiary water may be the only side effect not associated with wind power in Laura Israel’s absorbing, sobering documentary about the lures and perils of green technology…With the Oscar-nominated “Gasland” (and its flame-throwing plumbing) enlightening viewers on the environmental and public health implications of natural gas drilling, and with nuclear power’s reputation in meltdown as a global community turns an anxious gaze toward Japan, some hardy souls may see hope in wind power. After seeing “Windfall,” those optimists will probably emerge with their faith, if not shaken, at least blown strongly off course…“Windfall” takes place in Meredith, N.Y., a once-thriving dairy-farming community of fewer than 2,000 tucked into a bucolic Catskills valley that is teetering between post-agricultural poverty and hip gentrification. When Irish energy company Airtricity offers leases to build windmills on some residents’ properties, the deals initially seem like a win-win. A little extra money in the pockets of struggling farmers, an environmentally sound technology, those graceful white wings languorously slicing the afternoon sky — what’s not to like?

Bill Withers solar energy subsidies remix: Ain’t no sunshine when the money is gone. It’s not warm when the money is away Green Tech Solar (3/18/11) reports: The Garden State, New Jersey, is the sixth-largest solar market in the world. If solar capacity were to be calculated on a per-square-mile basis, New Jersey would lead the nation…And it’s not because of ample solar resources, but rather because of political will and an informed renewable energy policy. In New Jersey’s case, it’s an SREC program as opposed to a feed-in tariff or California Solar Initiative-type rebate…As detailed by Shayle Kann, Managing Director of GTM Solar Research in his recent U.S. Utility PV Report, “New Jersey has long been the country’s second-largest state market behind California, but has only recently begun to develop a utility market. With a large RPS solar requirement that ramps up increasingly in later years the state is poised to lead the East Coast utility market…Growth in New Jersey solar is due to a number of factors, including state and federal incentives, the extension of the 1603 tax grant program, and the 100 percent bonus depreciation provision in the 2010 Tax Relief Act. The bonus depreciation allows companies to claim an immediate deduction of 100 percent of the eligible costs of a solar facility in the first year, instead of depreciating it over five years.

Even the NYT admits there’s no way around nuclear energy New York Times (3/20/11) reports: The three-pronged disaster in Japan — earthquake, tsunami and radiation leakage — has stirred a global outpouring of sympathy and good will. But the nuclear catastrophe is what really has the world on edge…People as far afield as Texas, fearing that a noxious plume will come their way, are raiding drugstores for potassium iodide to protect against radiation, despite experts’ assurances that the plumes will disperse over the Pacific Ocean. In Japan, some people are fleeing Tokyo, and there is grave concern for the workers heroically trying to bring the plant under control…Big nuclear accidents are rare, but their psychological effect is immense in terms of sowing fear in a broad population. “Radiation is something you can’t see, can’t smell, can’t taste,” said Dale Klein, a former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who is now associate director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.

We repeat: For Germany, there’s no way around nuclear energy Der Spiegel (3/18/11) reports: German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke before the Bundestag, the lower house of the federal parliament, on Thursday, to explain why she had issued an official decree earlier in the week temporarily shutting down seven older nuclear power plants and subjecting all of Germany’s 17 plants to strict safety reviews…”We will use the moratorium period, which we set to be short and ambitious, to drive the change in energy policy and accelerate it wherever possible, because we want to reach the age of renewable energy as quickly as possible,” Merkel said…The controversial move comes as a response to worries that Germany could one day experience something similar to what is happening in Japan. It is also being viewed, at least temporarily, as backtracking from a law her government — a coalition made up of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) — passed last autumn that extends the lifespans of nuclear power plants in Germany by an average of 12 years. The law amended legislation passed in 2002 that mandated a nuclear phase-out in Germany by 2021…In her speech, Merkel stressed that “German nuclear power plants are among the safest in the world” and said that what Germany really needed was a withdrawal from nuclear power “with a sense of proportion.

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