In the Pipeline: 4/15/11

Well, there’s a first time for everything Houston Chronicle (4/14/11) The top U.S. officials in charge of offshore oil and gas exploration on Wednesday got a close-up look at the first deep-water drilling project approved since last year’s oil spill…Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and his chief offshore regulator, Michael Bromwich, spent two hours examining new safety systems – including one spurred by the spill – on the Ensco 8501 rig that is about to begin drilling a bypass well for Noble Energy in the Gulf of Mexico..They touched drilling fluids hauled from pits on the semisubmersible rig, interviewed workers about their jobs and studied the systems used as a last line of defense against surging oil and gas…Afterward, Salazar said he was impressed that “testing capabilities have been significantly enhanced since a year ago.”

Are you sure wind is stochastic?  Because Denise Bode keeps telling me that it is reliable Seeking Alpha (4/14/11) reports: Everybody knows that wind power is variable, which can be troublesome for a society that needs reliable power all day, every day. When inquiring minds ask whether wind power can ever be a reliable energy source for the U.S., we’re soothed by calm assurances that better transmission networks and wider geographic dispersion can overcome the variability with no fuss, muss or bother. Occasionally, however, the facts are too glaring to ignore and somebody needs to insist on a reality check. Today is one of those days for me…The Bonneville Power Administration, or BPA, operates in the Pacific Northwest. It has a geographic footprint of 300,000 square miles, it manages electric power generation and distribution in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Western Montana, and it exports more than half of its power production. In The All True April Fool’s Edition of the Department of Energy’s Blog, the following graph tracked the BPA’s regional load and power production for a period of seven days. Wind power, a quintessential favorite of renewable energy advocates everywhere, is the green line at the bottom of the graph…

It’s the biofuels, stupid CNN Money (4/14/11) reports: As global food prices rise near record highs, the World Bank warned Thursday that further spikes could push millions more people deeper into poverty…The organization that loans money to developing nations said its global food price index was up 36% in March from levels a year earlier. The increase was driven by sharp boosts in prices for corn, wheat, soybeans and other staples… Despite a modest drop versus the month before, the index remains near its 2008 peak…The surge in global food prices has already driven 44 million people below the “extreme poverty line,” which the World Bank defines as living on just $1.25 a day…An additional 10% increase in food prices would cause another 10 million people to fall below the poverty line, while a 30% spike would lead to 34 million more poor, according to the World Bank.

What is the green’s answer to high oil prices? Force Americans to buy more expensive, smaller, less capable, less powerful, but more fuel-efficient cars. Never mind that Europe has already done this and only 80% of the distance traveled is still by car–but in small cars Los Angeles Times (4/14/11) reports: There is no magic wand that will bring down the price of gasoline, which has once again crossed the $4 mark in California. But there is a long-term solution that will inoculate us from higher costs in the future…The Obama administration can’t do much to lower the price of a gallon of gas, but it is on the cusp of a crucial decision that could help consumers come out ahead because they would need less gas…Officials are quietly working on just how steeply to require the auto industry to cut emissions and increase mileage in the next generation of cars, SUVs and pickups. Their decision, coming as early as May, could require dramatically cleaner vehicles that would cut carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 6% a year and average 62 miles per gallon. The new rules would be phased in from 2017 to 2025…Obviously, using less gas is good for the environment. It means less carbon dioxide pollution and smog. It also boosts our energy security — a big deal, given the uncertainty of oil supplies from troubled regions and often unsavory players — and saves us money at the pump. That beats sending our dollars overseas.

Talk about earning your pay; Rep. Doc Hastings pushes through three new bills that would help expand American energy New York Times (4/14/11) reports: In a grueling nine-hour markup, the House Natural Resources Committee approved a trio of bills yesterday aimed at increasing production of domestic oil and gas off the nation’s coasts… he advance of bills by Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) to accelerate and expand offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as well as the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans is an early victory in the House GOP’s “American Energy Initiative.” The proposals could receive House votes as early as next month …Democrats loaded the docket with more than two dozen amendments in hopes of making the markup uncomfortable for Republicans, whom they blamed for turning a blind eye to unanswered questions from the BP PLC oil spill last year in the Gulf…But the bills emerged mostly unchanged with the notable exception of a provision by Texas Republican Bill Flores to extend lease terms for operators whose permitting was delayed in the wake of the BP spill.

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