In The Pipeline 7/18/11

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. launches “Not In My Backyard” campaign against…cape wind. As it turns out, wind is good enough for the Hicks in West Virginia, but not arugula eating Bostonians Wall Street Journal (7/18/11) reports:  Someone needs to tell the politicians in Boston and Washington that Cape Wind, the long-stalled plan to cover 25 square miles of pristine Nantucket Sound with 130 massive steel windmill-turbine towers, is a rip-off. That someone is most likely to be the newly enlightened electricity ratepayers—and voters—of Massachusetts….In the past few months it has become clearer than ever how much this giveaway of public property is going to cost them if Cape Wind is ever built. The numbers are staggering…Vermont wants to take its nuclear plant off line and replace it with clean, green power from HydroQuebec—power available to Massachusetts utilities—at a cost of six cents per kilowatt hour (kwh). Cape Wind electricity, by a conservative estimate and based on figures they filed with the state, comes in at 25 cents per kwh…In Massachusetts, the utility company NSTAR has fought off intense political pressure to commit to buying Cape Wind’s power when and if it becomes available. CEO Tom May has repeatedly said such a contract would impose far too large a burden on his ratepayers…Instead, and to meet the state’s requirements that utilities purchase 3.5% of their power from “green” sources, NSTAR has contracted with several far less expensive land-based wind-power providers…According to NSTAR’s own filings to certify compliance with the green-power requirement, these contracts come in at $111 million below market averages over the standard contract period of 15 years. The price of Cape Wind power comes in at well over $1 billion above market averages, according to Cape Wind’s own regulatory filings about its contract with National Grid, the utility company that has agreed to buy half its power…If the sea-based wind farm off Nantucket did begin operating, it is safe to deduce that National Grid customers would be getting fleeced compared to their NSTAR neighbors. The land-based wind alternatives that have sprouted up over the last decade have given utilities far cheaper alternatives to the unbuilt Cape Wind.

Plant Food: new study out that shows forests love carbon dioxide New York Times (7/18/11) reports: The world’s forests are magnificent palaces of biodiversity, teeming with wacky and wonderful creatures and plants that seem otherworldly. But they’re also something far more mundane although useful: they’re giant sponges, soaking up vast amounts of carbon dioxide…According to a study published online on Thursday by the journal Science, the world’s forests absorb 2.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year, or about one-third of the carbon dioxide released through the burning of fossil fuels…The lead author, Yude Pam, a research forester at the Forest Service, describes the study as the most comprehensive analysis of the global carbon budget to date. It shows that forests are a far more significant carbon sink than previously thought. At the same time, the report emphasizes the devastating effects of tropical deforestation and the need to protect trees that perform an enormous global service…Of the three different types of forests studied — boreal, temperate and tropical — the paper shows that tropical forests are the most dynamic in capturing carbon dioxide. During the 17-year study period, from 1990 to 2007, an international team of researchers found that established tropical forests alone captured about 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year, accounting for 55 percent of the total established carbon sink in forests…At the same time, however, deforestation in the developing world, most notably in Indonesia and Brazil, is releasing about three billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, the researchers write. While this is offset somewhat by forest regrowth, which annually absorbs about 1.6 billion tons of carbon, over all, shifts in tropical land use, like clearing land for agriculture, is still emitting 1.3 billion tons annually…In an interview, Richard Birdsey, program manager at the Forest Service and another lead author of the paper, emphasized that what happens in the tropical forests “can make or break the carbon budget.”

You want to really sell homes in this economy? Tell the buyer the home is powered with expensive energy, by which we mean green power Bloomberg (7/18/11) reports: In the 20 years Ron Betenbough’s company has been building homes in west Texas, he’s always been willing to compete on price. Now, in a market crowded with cheap properties, he’s also touting environmentally friendly construction and energy-saving features….Betenbough Homes has been promoting all its houses as “green” since November, after winning certification under an industry-run program, Betenbough said in a telephone interview. The company didn’t raise prices, absorbing added costs of less than $500 on each of its units, which list for as low as $110,000 in some subdivisions…“We chalked it up to marketing,” said Betenbough, 70, who founded the Lubbock, Texas-based company with his son, Rick…As the housing slump enters its sixth year, small companies such as Betenbough and giants such as PulteGroup Inc., the largest U.S. homebuilder by revenue, are using green marketing as a weapon in the battle for buyers who have their pick of low- priced existing properties, including foreclosures. Builders are touting a confusing array of potentially profit-pinching environmental standards that have yet to prove effective in swaying consumers…To label its homes green, Betenbough Homes added a few features, such as low-flow toilets, and paid for inspections, allowing it to get the “bronze” level of certification from the National Association of Home Builders, the lowest of the Washington-based group’s four green ratings. The company had previously adopted design elements including energy-efficient windows, to block out heat and dust, and prefabricated roof trusses, which save money and create less waste.

How do you like them apples, Mr. President? Speculators bet that the Obama Administration will maintain its campaign against affordable and reliable energy, compounding global demand Bloomberg (7/15/11) reports: Heating oil and gasoline gained on speculation that the economic recovery will accelerate and demand will improve if an agreement is reached to raise the U.S. debt ceiling…Heating oil futures rose as much as 1 percent as President Barack Obama pressed congressional leaders to give him options for a deficit-cutting deal that lawmakers could support as part of raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit by an Aug. 2 deadline…“Once we get past this debt-ceiling crisis, demand as we go into the fourth quarter, will provide some support for the oil markets and gasoline in particular,” Gene McGillian, an analyst and broker at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut…Heating oil for August delivery gained 2 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $3.1049 a gallon at 10:46 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures slipped as much as 0.9 percent earlier in electronic trading…The U.S. House of Representatives plans a vote next week on a measure that would raise the government’s debt limit by $2.4 trillion, cut spending, cap government expenditures and propose a balanced-budget constitutional amendment, Republican lawmakers Sean Duffy and Billy Long said…Gasoline for August delivery rose 1.21 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $3.1369 a gallon on the exchange.

Finally, instead of putting our best minds and money behind switch grass biofuel, MIT says they want to study how to get more oil out of the ground Houston Chronicle (7/18/11) reports: The University of Texas and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are seeking funding for a joint research center to study ways to produce oil and natural gas in challenging areas that may soon play a bigger role in the global energy mix…Representatives of the two schools met at MIT last week to hash out further details, but they have agreed on a broad framework for the proposed project, which they call the Research Center for Environmental Protection at Hydrocarbon Energy Production Frontiers, or REEF…The center, to be located at both UT’s campus in Austin and MIT’s in Cambridge, Mass., will tap experts from both schools in fields ranging from engineering and geosciences to law and public policy. The goal is to develop a series of guiding principles for responsible oil and gas exploration on frontiers such as ultradeep-water offshore areas, the Arctic and dense shale rock formations…”It builds on the undeniable and not-liked fact by some people that hydrocarbons are going to be with us for a long time, and to a large degree the increased supplies are going to come from risky environments,” said Chip Groat, director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin, who serves on a steering committee for the center…Once planning for the center is complete, the two schools will begin pitching oil companies and other potential sponsors, with the goal of having key portions of the center up and running by the end of the year, Groat said…The center, as it is envisioned, could require commitments of up to $100 million over five years, coming from multiple sponsors, he said…But its research would be independent…”We aren’t promising that everything we will find is exactly what they want to hear,” Groat said…The idea for the research center grew out of last year’s Gulf of Mexico disaster, which exposed risks of operating in the deep-water offshore areas. The blowout of BP’s Macondo well in mile-deep waters off Louisiana killed 11 workers and unleashed the nation’s worst oil spill.

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