In the Pipeline: 3/28/11

Do you believe in magic? Professor Folbre commands wind and solar to be cost competitive with fossil fuels and to displace nuclear energy New York Times (3/28/11) reports: More important is the rate of change in the cost and utilization of these technologies, particularly those that rely on wind, water or solar power and will not contribute to global warming…The cost per kilowatt hour of generating electricity from wind and solar power has declined steadily in recent years and is projected to decline further. Energy Secretary Steven Chu predicted that they would be no more expensive than oil and gas by the end of the decade…The cost of nuclear power, by contrast, has increased, even without factoring in the huge social costs imposed by accidents. These costs include the disruptive effects of major evacuations such as those under way in the vicinity of Fukushima Daiichi, as well as ominous — and difficult to measure — health risks…In “Nuclear Power: Climate Fix or Folly,” Amory Lovins, a physicist with the Rocky Mountain Institute, and two colleagues argued that expanded nuclear power does not represent a cost-effective solution to global warming and that investors would shun it were it not for generous government subsidies lubricated by intensive lobbying effort.

In this case, you can call it a comeback because Statoil was set to drill before the moratorium, but that doesn’t stop the BOMRE from celebrating Fuel Fix (3/28/11) reports: The federal government today granted a permit to Statoil that allows the company to launch work on an offshore well halted by last year’s ban on deep-water exploration…The Norwegian company now will be able to begin drilling a well in its Cobra prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, about 216 miles off the Texas coastline, south of Texas City. According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which issued the permit, Statoil will drill the well in 7,134 feet of water in Alaminos Canyon Block 810…Statoil made news in 2007 by bidding $37.6 million for the tract — the highest bid in the western Gulf of Mexico lease sale where it was up for grabs…Statoil was close to drilling the well last year — and had a key permit in hand and a rig under contract for the work — but those plans were halted by the oil spill and the administration’s subsequent ban on deep-water exploration.

Employment Prevention Agency rules and regulation is like creating a tax without the revenue Wall Street Journal (3/28/11) reports: But a vote for the McConnell amendment, which would permanently bar the EPA from regulating carbon unless Congress passed new legislation, is justified on democratic prerogatives alone. Whatever one’s views of Massachusetts v. EPA or climate science, no elected representative has ever voted on an EPA plan that has often involved the unilateral redrafting of plain-letter law…A vote to overrule the EPA is also needed to remove the regulatory uncertainty hanging over the economy. This harm is already apparent in energy, where the EPA is trying to drive coal-fired power out of existence. The core electricity generation that the country needs to meet future demand is not being built, and it won’t be until the EPA is bridled. This same dynamic is also chilling the natural gas boom in the Northeast, and it is making U.S. energy-intensive industries less competitive world-wide…As the EPA screws tighten, the costs will be passed along to consumers, with the same damage as a tax increase but none of the revenues. Eventually, the EPA plan will appreciably lower the U.S. standard of living. Hardest hit will be the middle-American regions that rely on coal or heavy industry, though the EPA bulldozer will run over small businesses too. The Clean Air Act, once the carbon doomsday machine has been activated, won’t merely apply to “major” sources of emissions like power plants or factories. Its reach will include schools, farms, hospitals, restaurants, basically any large building.

Death by a thousand barrels — the gradual decrease in oil flow through TAPS is causing mechanical issues and leadership in Congress doesn’t seem to notice Anchorage Daily News (3/26/11) reports: And on March 18 Barrett was back in Juneau talking to the House Finance Committee, reiterating his concerns about declining oil flow through the line and saying that the pipeline is already at a point where cooling of the slowly flowing oil as it travels from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez could lead to a major disruption in pipeline operations…”A lot of people have asked me at what point will the declining flow of crude oil become a problem for TAPS, for Alyeska,” Barrett said. “And the response is simple — the problem exists out there now. This is not something facing us down the road; it’s not theoretical; it’s an issue we confront at TAPS daily, today. And without increased throughput in the line, our challenges of operating the line safely will increase over time.” The problem is that the 48-inch pipeline was designed to carry much more oil than the 630,000 barrels per day that currently flow into the line from Pump Station 1. As a consequence, the length of time that it takes each barrel of oil to travel from the North Slope to Valdez has increased from four-and-a-half days during peak throughput in the late 1980s to about 15 days now. The increasing travel time causes the oil to cool as it flows south during the cold of the winter, thus raising the risk of water that is carried with the oil freezing, and increasing the potential for wax and sediments to drop out of the oil and clog the line.

Industrial Windpower Cometh, Once Supportive Locals “Lawyer Up” Human Events (3/24/11) reports: Wind energy took another blow—this time in Massachusetts…Wind One is the 400-foot-tall wind turbine owned by the town of Falmouth, on the southwestern tip of Cape Cod.  The residents of Falmouth initially welcomed Wind One as a symbol of green energy and a handy way to keep local taxes down.  Electricity generated by the turbine would be used to power the municipality’s infrastructure, thus shaving about $400,000 a year off its utility costs…Installed in the spring of 2010 at a cost of $5.1 million (with some $3 million derived through grants, government kickbacks, and credits), the huge turbine cranks out 1.65 megawatts of electricity during optimum conditions…The topography of Falmouth is stunningly beautiful.  Small ponds, creeks, pines, and oaks rest adjacent to the rocky beachfront.  What’s totally out of place is a monstrous pillar of white steel rising from the countryside, topped with its whirling three-bladed rotor.  However, proving that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, one local told a Public Radio reporter the turbine is “quite majestic.”


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