In the Pipeline: 8/29/11

At the end of the day, it comes to down to whether you want the Canadians as allies, or would you rather have them snuggle up to the Chinese.  Even for the most hopeless Administration since James Earl Carter, that’s an easy decisionNew York Times (8/29/11) reports: The State Department gave a crucial green light on Friday to a proposed 1,711-mile pipeline that would carry heavy oil from oil sands in Canada across the Great Plains to terminals in Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast…The project, which would be the longest oil pipeline outside of Russia and China, has become a potent symbol in a growing fight that pits energy security against environmental risk, a struggle highlighted by last year’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico…By concluding that the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline would have minimal effect on the environment, President Obama would risk alienating environmental activists, who gave him important support in the 2008 election and were already upset by his recent decisions to expand domestic oil drilling and delay clean air rules. Pipeline opponents have protested in front of the White House for a week, resulting in nearly 400 arrests…At the same time, rising concerns about the weak economy and high gas prices have made it difficult for the administration to oppose a project that would greatly expand the nation’s access to oil from a friendly neighbor and create tens of thousands of jobs…The project still must clear several hurdles, including endorsement by other federal agencies, additional studies, public hearings and consultation with the states through which the pipeline will pass. But all signs point to the Obama administration approving the project by the end of the year, perhaps with modifications.

Japan PM doubles as Kamikaze Pilot — blows up economy on way out the door with renewable feed-in tariff.  Sayonara affordable energy Bloomberg (8/28/11) reports: Japan approved a bill today to subsidize electricity from renewable sources, joining European nations in shifting away from nuclear power after the Fukushima reactor meltdowns in March…The renewable-energy bill was passed by the upper house following approval by the lower chamber on Aug. 23 and was one of the last acts of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, whose support sagged over his handling of Japan’s worst postwar disaster. He said today he’s resigning after parliament passed the legislation…The bill allows for incentives that guarantee above-market rates for wind, solar and geothermal energy. The so-called feed- in tariff created a race to install solar panels when implemented in Germany and Spain. In Japan, it may help Chinese companies such as Suntech Power Holdings Co. and Canadian Solar Inc. to gain a foothold…Japan gets about 9 percent of its electricity from low- carbon sources. Kan has called for that level to increase and for the country to phase out atomic energy after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima nuclear complex. Before the crisis, atomic plants supplied about 30 percent of the country’s electricity…Solar panels had capacity to produce about 3.68 gigawatts of power at the end of last year in Japan, and the government is targeting 28 gigawatts by 2020. Installations may total 1.4 gigawatts to 1.6 gigawatts this year, according to London-based researcher Bloomberg New Energy Finance. A new nuclear plant can typically generate more than 1 gigawatt.

Better yet, make all agencies write regulations with nontoxic invisible ink Wall Street Journal (8/28/11) reports: Since everyone has a suggestion or three about what President Obama can do to get the economy cooking again, here’s one of ours: Immediately suspend the Environmental Protection Agency’s bid to reorganize the U.S. electricity industry, and impose a moratorium on EPA rules at least until hiring and investment rebound for an extended period…The EPA is currently pushing an unprecedented rewrite of air-pollution rules in an attempt to shut down a large portion of the coal-fired power fleet. Though these regulations are among the most expensive in the agency’s history, none were demanded by the late Pelosi Congress. They’re all the result of purely bureaucratic discretion under the Clean Air Act, last revised in 1990…As it happens, those 1990 amendments contain an overlooked proviso that would let Mr. Obama overrule EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s agenda. With an executive order, he could exempt all power plants “from compliance with any standard or limitation” for two years, or even longer using rolling two-year periods. All he has to declare is “that the technology to implement such standard is not available and that it is in the national security interests of the United States to do so.”…Both criteria are easily met. Most important, the EPA’s regulatory cascade is a clear and present danger to the reliability and stability of the U.S. power system and grid. The spree affects plants that provide 40% of U.S. baseload capacity in the U.S., and almost half of U.S. net generation. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, which is charged with ensuring the integrity of the power supply, reported this month in a letter to the Senate that 81 gigawatts of generating capacity is “very likely” or “likely” to be subtracted by 2018 amid coal plant retirements and downgrades…That’s about 8% of all U.S. generating capacity. Merely losing 56 gigawatts—a midrange scenario in line with FERC and industry estimates—is the equivalent of wiping out all power generation for Florida and Mississippi.

Krupp-tion of the facts: EDF gets its comeuppance. (but we told you that) Wall Street Journal(8/29/11) reports: Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp’s “The Smart Path for the Shale Gas Revolution” (op-ed, Aug. 18) makes a vague reference to studies that raise questions about whether natural gas emits, on a life-cycle basis, less heat-trapping pollution or carbon than does coal. When making this point, Mr. Krupp may have been thinking of a controversial study authored by Robert W. Howarth and others that has been heavily criticize…A recent peer-reviewed study from Carnegie Mellon University that was financed in part by the Sierra Club concluded that Marcellus Shale gas is 20% to 50% cleaner than coal when greenhouse-gas pollution is used to compare the environmental impact of gas and coal. The study specifically analyzed the carbon footprint of Marcellus gas and not other shale reservoirs. The National Energy Technology Laboratory has also issued a study that arrives at the conclusion that gas is about 50% cleaner than coal on a life cycle carbon basis. The Aug. 5 CMU study further found that there was no statistical difference between the carbon emissions from a Marcellus Shale well and a conventional gas well…Finally, gas power plants emit no toxic air pollution—mercury, arsenic, lead—and already meet the EPA’s proposed Air Toxic Rule, while 90% of the toxic air pollution that comes from power plants is emitted by coal-burning plants.

Does this mean KP is giving up on drilling taxpayers for their green energy pay-off? Wall Street Journal (8/29/11) reports: Venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers led the late-1990s dot-com frenzy with investments in Netscape Communications Corp., Inc. and, later, Google Inc…But after spreading its bets to clean technology—and missing out on early-stage investments in some of the hottest new Internet companies—the firm is scrambling to grab a leadership role in the latest Web boom…That was evident at a June event in San Francisco, where the firm hosted a packed room of entrepreneurs. At the front of the room, Kleiner venture capitalist Bing Gordon spent an hour onstage espousing his theory of “gamification”—that is, how start-ups can benefit from using online gaming techniques—to the gathering…”We used to do these events internally,” said Mr. Gordon, as he mingled with the crowd near an open bar. But our marketing people “said we should do a public event this time.”…That a firm with Kleiner’s track record sees it necessary to market itself is a testament to the fever sweeping Silicon Valley. It is also an indication of how eager the firm is to rev up its profile in Internet investing…Last year, the firm created an “sFund” to invest in social Web start-ups and hired famed Morgan Stanley Internet analyst Mary Meeker. Kleiner also raised a Digital Growth Fund of about $1 billion to invest in “late stage” Web companies and has since snagged stakes in Twitter Inc., Groupon Inc. and others.

They don’t call them bird blenders for nothing…Washington Post (8/29/11) reports: Six birds found dead recently in Southern California’s Tehachapi Mountains were majestic golden eagles. But some bird watchers say that in an area where dozens of wind turbines slice the air they were also sitting ducks…The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating to determine what killed the big raptors, and declined to divulge the conditions of the remains. But the likely cause of death is no mystery to wildlife biologists who say they were probably clipped by the blades of some of the 80 wind turbines at the three-year-old Pine Tree Wind Farm Project, operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

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