In The Pipeline 6/29/11

I hope Bryson gets caught with his hand in the taxpayer cookie jar! Go get ‘em, Eric Thorson! Bloomberg (6/29/11) reports: Government investigators are auditing some of President Barack Obama’s more than $7 billion in renewable energy grants to determine whether the money was awarded properly and the recipients were eligible…Examiners are reviewing 14 of the 2,600 projects that received tax dollars under the initiative to promote wind and solar power created in the 2009 stimulus bill, according to Richard Delmar, counsel to the Treasury Department’s inspector general. Under the program run by the Treasury, developers receive as much as 30 percent of the cost of a project…The audits by Eric Thorson, the Treasury’s inspector general, aim to determine whether the department has “established (and followed) appropriate procedures for awarding the grants,” and whether developers meet eligibility requirements, Delmar said in an e-mail…He declined to identify projects under review. The office expects to issue reports on five of the audits by the end of September, and the remaining nine reports in 2012, he said… The audits, which began in February 2010, involve visits to the headquarters of companies that received grants and to project sites, Delmar said. The last site visit was in February of this year.

Goodbye minivans, goodbye pickup trucks, goodbye SUV’s, goodbye sedans….goodbye Chevy Volt! — the Obama administration is trying to impose a fleet-wide 56 mpg mandate CNBC (6/28/11) reports: With the White House and regulators informing automakers that they intend to push for fuel economy standards in the US to rise to an average of 56.2 MPG by 2025 you can count on an industry to push back and say “slow down.”…The automakers (and not just the Big 3) are looking for a more measured increased in the CAFE standards, which currently average 30.2 MPG for new vehicles and will rise to 34.1 MPG by 2016…From the auto industry’s stand point, increasing fuel economy 5% annually between 2016 and 2025 will be too costly for automakers and for consumers. From the perspective of regulators in Washington, the cost incurred by consumers will be recouped fairly quickly with the money people save on gas…Both sides have valid arguments. But unlike 2009 when the Obama administration pushed for, and secured higher fuel economy standards, the auto industry is in a position where it can and will push back. This is one of several reasons why many believe the next CAFE standards will wind up being lower than 56.2 MPG. I can already hear people on both sides howling that anything under 50 MPG will be too little or too much.

And Goodbye to Senator Levin who didn’t realize 56.2 mpg was the plan all along! E&E News Reports: Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) expressed frustration yesterday that the Obama administration had not been forthcoming about its plan to discuss a 56.2 mpg fuel economy target with automakers…Levin said he had spoken to administration officials, including White House regulatory czar Cass Sunstein, as recently as the day before the White House began talking to automakers about the proposed target. Reports of the 56.2 mpg target, which would represent an annual 5 percent increase in fuel economy, were first reported in The Detroit News…”The day before that was proposed, we were told that there had been no decision made and we, of course, were stunned to find out the next morning that they had decided to at least propose something,” Levin said. “We all took umbrage at the failure of the White House to tell us truthfully they had already made a decision to begin at that number.”

Now it’s our turn, New York Times — a collection of a few humbling facts and opinions to put the natural gas debate in perspective Energy In Depth (6/28/11) reports: Say this about The New York Times and its ongoing attack series targeting natural gas: These guys sure know how to elicit a reaction. In his latest piece, Times reporter Ian Urbina turns the page over to well-known opponents of the industry, who argue that shale is too expensive to produce and will therefore disappoint investors. Urbina targets the Barnett, Haynesville, and Fayeteville shales in particular – but forgets to mention that natural gas production from each continue to defy even the most optimistic expectations, even with fewer rigs in service and historically low natural gas prices…The first reactions to The Times’ story started rolling in about 18 seconds after it was posted. EID’s rebuttal was sent around the next day. Thirty-six hours after first contact, here’s just a brief sampling of what folks are saying about the piece: Government U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA): Agency’s Perspective on Shale Gas “Differs Significantly” from NYT report. From the EIA press release: “EIA was contacted by a Times reporter in advance of the story, and provided a response that described the agency’s approach to developing its shale gas projections. Those interested in EIA’s views on shale gas, which differ in significant respects from those outlined in the June 27 article, may want to review the EIA response to the inquiry from the Times, the Issues in Focus discussion of shale gas included in the Annual Energy Outlook 2011, and a recent presentation on domestic and international shale gas.

Greenies are down to wishing for genie…let’s show some charity and not count that wish as part of their three New York Times (6/29/11) reports: For a moment, re-imagine Aladdin as an engineer. He finds his magic lamp in an industrial park in Silicon Valley or Boston or the Research Triangle in Raleigh-Durham, and the genie who emerges offers him three technological wishes. What should Aladdin wish for? Could any of his wishes go wrong?…On Tuesday morning, Google released a study of the potential impacts of “aggressive hypothetical cost breakthroughs” in clean energy technologies, from electricity generation and storage to electric vehicles to natural gas. The genie was not offering any energy efficiency wishes this time around, although Google acknowledges that those are crucial and says it has taken major steps to improve energy efficiency in its operations…Google used a computer model developed by McKinsey & Company to explore how energy innovations could create jobs in manufacturing and construction and how cheaper clean energy might improve the overall economy…So what should Aladdin, P.E., ask for?..At the top of Google’s list was better electric cars and gas-electric hybrids because they could create large savings by 2030. While big advances in clean energy generation could yield big benefits by 2050, in 2030 these would not show major financial benefits when compared with electricity from coal and natural gas, the study predicted.

Eat your heart out peak oilers — new government report claims the Cook Inlet still has more to give after 50 years of development Reuters (6/29/11) reports: Alaska’s Cook Inlet basin still has potential for abundant natural gas and oil discoveries even after five decades of production, according to a federal report issued on Tuesday, signaling potential revenue for the state and more interest from developers…In the first resource assessment issued since 1995, the U.S. Geological Survey said the inlet area likely holds 19 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas — nearly nine times the last estimate — and 600 million barrels of recoverable crude oil…The new report is much more optimistic about remaining natural gas in the inlet than the assessment issued 16 years ago, a difference the USGS attributed to improved data, new geologic information and better technology for recovering the oil and gas…In 1995, the USGS estimated that Cook Inlet likely had 2.14 trillion cubic feet of gas remaining to be discovered…The new report includes the first-ever estimates for unconventional natural gas in Cook Inlet, most of which is coal gas and which accounts for a quarter of total estimated undiscovered natural gas resources. That was not included in the 1995 report as it was not then considered recoverable…The Cook Inlet basin, in production since the 1950s, is older than the more prolific North Slope. Since 1958 the Cook Inlet basin has produced 1.3 billion barrels of oil and 7.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the USGS. Oil has been mostly refined for regional markets, while natural gas has fueled regional utilities and been liquefied for export to Japan and other countries.

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