Wednesday, August 31, 2011

US Natural Gas Production Near Record Levels

The June EIA gas production numbers put US gas production at 69.47 billion cubic feet per day. See Production in 2010 was the highest since 1973, and the June 2011 production was the 4th month of increased production and from high previous levels.

What is causing the near record production?

Not high gas prices. Gas has declined from $13 in July 2008 to less than $4 per thousand cubic feet now.

Shale gas production is the answer and increasingly from the Marcellus which is now producing about 4 billion cubic feet per day or about 6% of total production. And this enormous shale gas production is happening at current low, low gas prices.

Marcellus Creates 23,500 Jobs In 2009

Another jobs study and another number for the jobs created by the gas industry in Pennsylvania. A new study done by professor Kelsey at Penn State University found 23,500 jobs created by the industry in 2009, a big number but about half of some other estimates. See gas/publications.

Professor Kelsey's jobs number includes direct and induced numbers. Professor Kelsey also found that 55% and 66% of lease and royalty payments respectively are saved in the first year. Other findings included that about half of the drilling plots are owned by people living in the county and half do not live in the county where the drilling takes place plus 23% of businesses in Washington county reported that the gas industry had boosted their revenues.

My bottom line on the controversy about the number of jobs generated by the industry is qualitative and not quantitative. A lot of direct and induced jobs are being created at a time when every job is especially precious. The industry is rightly proud of its important, positive economic impact. Yet, the gas industry is not a ticket to prosperity or a job for every Pennsylvanian.

We are a big state, with more than 12 million people, and we need about 6.6 million total
jobs. We must develop much more than the Marcellus to have a healthy economy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

USA Is Net Solar Exporter To China

The Solar Energy Industries Association has a report brimming with key facts about the exploding growth in the US solar business that now is about $6 billion per year and that now is a net exporter. See While the USA has a massive trade deficit with the world and especially with China, the US solar industry is running a trade surplus of $1.9 billion.

Remarkably, perhaps shockingly, the US solar industry had in 2010 at least a $247 million surplus with China. The USA exported $1.7 billion of solar product to China and imported $1.4 billion.

Total US solar exports to all nations were $5.6 billion and imports $3.7 billion in 2010, producing a $1.9 billion trade surplus. After China, the USA's second top solar export market was Germany at $865 million and then Japan at $609 million. The US imported $480 million of product, the second highest import total, from Mexico and a solar trade deficit with Mexico.

What is the USA exporting and importing? Principally polysillicon and machines to make photovoltaics. Exports of polysillicon in 2010 were $2.5 billion and of capital equipment were $1.4 billion. The US also exported $1.2 billion of PV modules but imported $2.4 billion of modules.

The US solar industry is strong and growing, but it is in intense global competition. It is a strategic industry for economic and environmental success in this century. Asian and European nations have targeted it.

Will we build on the success to date of the US solar industry or allow the world to capture solar power? Radically different answers to that question are provided by different elected leaders.

NYT Gas Reporter Blows USGS Story

The USGS increased its estimate of "undiscovered" Marcellus gas reserves by 42 times to 84 from 2 trillion cubic feet, but the NYT reports it as a major cut in the estimates of Marcellus shale gas. How?

The NYT gas reporter and his enabling editors did not realize that the USGS estimate was just of "undiscovered" reserves and did not include discovered or developed reserves, as the EIA much bigger estimate of 400 trillion cubic feet for the Marcellus does.

What is "undiscovered" reserves? It is untouched or not developed gas. See also the fourth comment to the Friday August 26th posting for greater detail on the categories and definitions.

And why did the NYT gas reporter make this fundamental error? He just could not resist spinning the USGS increase as an 80% decrease, since he is pushing the narrative that shale gas is a ponzi scheme.

NYT readers are just pawns in his fictional drama.

Biodiesel Production Tripling In 2011

Biodiesel production is projected to reach 1 billion gallons in 2011, tripling from 311 million gallons in 2010, according to data presented at the investment conference I am attending in California. That's about 24 million barrels or the equivalent of a bit more than 2 days of oil imports.

Biodiesel, solar, wind, energy efficiency, and shale gas are all booming. Biofuels, natural gas vehicles, electric vehicles, 54.5 miles per gallon fuel standard, and increasing domestic oil production offer a real path to ending the imports of all foreign oil within 15 years.

Monday, August 29, 2011

WSJ Publishes Today My Letter

Today's Wall Street Journal published my letter concerning the life cycle gas-coal studies. The letter discusses briefly the Howarth, CMU, and NETL studies plus notes that gas plants meet the proposed EPA Air Toxics rule, while 90% of the toxic pollution emitted from power plants comes from coal-fired plants.

There are other letters generally on topic also published today in the WSJ.

Marcellus Could Supply 25% of US Gas

The internationally respected Wood Mackenzie energy consulting firm projects that the Marcellus will be producing between 11 billion and 19 billion cubic feet per day by 2020 or about 15% to 25% of US gas supply.

By this year the Marcellus will produce 3.5 billion cubic feet per day, a rate equal to about 6% of US gas supply.

These extraordinary production numbers are real and not estimates from anyone, unlike the reserve calculations at the center of last week's confusion between the US Geologic Survey and EIA.

On Friday we all were told by the US Geologic Survey that its estimate was just a subset, the undiscovered reserves, of total reserves.

This head scratching and spinning reserve discussion is one more reason to pay close attention to the last 10 years of shale production data, and the fact that shale gas now accounts for 30% of us gas supply, rocketing up from 1% in 2000.

2014 Refrigerator Standard Cuts energy Usage 80%

Who says life does not get better? When the latest energy efficiency standard goes into effect for refridgerators in 2014, refrigerators will use 80% less energy than those 30 years ago, will be 20% larger, and cost 60% less. Savings on electricity bills will be up to $270 per year compared to a 1970s unit.

The US Department of Energy is moving forward with the third energy efficiency standard since 1987 when President Reagan authorized the first. Manufacturers of refrigerators support the 2014 standard that will reduce energy usage by another 25% compared to the current standard.

Good standards drive innovation and improvement and that is something Presidents Reagan and Obama used to make consumer, energy, and economic advances.

Friday, August 26, 2011

US Geologic Service Clarifies Its Estimate: Major Development

Brad Plumer of the Washington Post is reporting tonight that the US Geologic Service has clarified what its estimate is of and what its estimate is not of.  See

We have a major apples to oranges issue that now has caused massive confusion and misunderstanding. 

Apparently, according to Brenda Pierce who is the USGS Energy Program coordinator, the USGS estimate of 43 to 144 trillion cubic feet is of "undiscovered resources that can be recovered with current technology."

By contrast the Energy Information Administration estimate is of both "active" and "undeveloped" reserves together that put the Marcellus reserves at over 400 trillion cubic feet.

According to Pierce of USGS, the USGS estimate is "additive to what's already in production."  That is a hugely important interpretation of the USGS data.

The USGS and the EIA are reportedly "working together to reconcile their two studies, which could take a few weeks."

According to the Washington Post, the USGS estimate could be much less stark than those early media reports that chose to call the USGS estimate an 80% cut of the Marcellus reserve.

And which reporter of course presented the USGS estimate as an 80% cut of the Marcellus reserve, while others reported that the USGS had increased its estimate from 2 trillion cubic feet to 84 trillion cubic?  Yes indeed, the one and only NYT gas reporter.

Tonight he has more egg on his face, but he is beyond shame or supervision.

While folks figure out what various agencies are estimating, what is an apple, what is an orange,  huge amounts of gas are being produced in the Marcellus and shale gas now provides 30% of all US natural gas.  That is a fact.

Texas' Changed Climate, the Texas Drought & The Texas Grid

The state climatologist for Texas, John Nielsen-Gammon, is quoted in Greenwire as saying that Texas is 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than in the 1970s and "by the middle of the century it should be another 2 to 3 degrees warmer, give or take."

Lost in Governor Perry's recent climate comments was his acceptance that the climate has changed.  Instead all the focus went to the Governor's denial that human beings had caused the change and his charge that  many climate scientists were engaged in a massive fraud.

All the data confirm that Governor Perry is correct that the climate has changed, and it is hotter. 

The higher heat and record temperatures have increased air-conditioning loads and electricity demand peaks,  pushing the Texas grid almost beyond the breaking point this summer, with frequent power emergency declarations, and with power prices rocketing to an incredible $3 per kilowatt-hour or $3,000 per megawatt-hour.

But what about the record drought now threatening water supplies, including cooling water for power plants, in Texas?  Is the drought affected, caused, influenced by the already changed climate?

Again quoted in Greenwire, David Brown of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said:
"We can't say with certainty whether this particular drought is in and of itself a product of climate change."

Few things can be said with certainty.  But it can certainly be said that Texas's climate has changed and a changed climate impacts daily weather and seasonal trends and averages.

In fact, the Texas climatologist says about 80 per cent of the models run for the 2007 report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict declining precipitation for Texas.

Texas had better get a power system capable of dealing with higher temperatures and less water.  Right now it is not ready for its already changed climate.

Gov Christie Plays Politics With Fracking

"It's a joke," said Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club about Governor Christy's conditional veto of the bill that would have permanently prohibited fracking, while imposing a 1-year moratorium.  Other environmental leaders correctly called it "pure politics," a "public relations stunt," and had expected at least a 5-year moratorium.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition nailed Governor Christie's action, saying it was "deeply disappointed."  Interestingly ANGA was much more conciliatory, writing that it "commended" the Governor's conditional veto and would work with his administration in the next year.

Since New Jersey has no gas that anyone is even considering drilling for years and perhaps ever,  why all the hot words and why does anyone even care? 

In truth this dust up about fracking in NJ, where it is not going to happen for a long, long time, shows that the fight itself too often becomes everything.

The combatants argue Governor Christie's decision carries great "symbolic" impact.  Really?  Did Governor Patterson's similar veto and executive order imposing a moratorium in NY have a great impact even in NY?

So what's next?  The bill that Governor Christie vetoed passed 33-1 in the Senate and 51-11 in the Assembly.  Will the Republican legislators vote to uphold the conditional veto and 1-year moratorium?

The political games will continue.  And Governor Christie himself is playing big-time politics--Presidential politics.

I have predicted that Governor Christie will not run for re-election in 2013, but will begin a campaign for the Presidency in 2014, as long as President Obama is re-elected.  If Governor Perry is elected (yes I am predicting he will be the nominee), then Christie might be a VP candidate or he may decide he must run for re-election in 2013. 

A re-election race for Christie will be a gauntlet that he may well not survive.

Christie's conditional veto, with a 1-year moratorium, is "pure politics" designed to keep his national or possibly state re-election options open.  He was able to get praise from ANGA and can say to NJ independents that he imposed a moratorium on fracking.

Beyond the political jockeying that is fascinating, there is not much substance in the NJ fracking fight.

Keystone's Dream Ends 2-0 To California

The Keystone team couldn't solve California's dominant pitching, falling 2-0 on the scoreboard, but winning the hearts of Pennsylvania.  Winning on the scoreboard is not everything. 

Thank you to the Keystone boys, coaches, and families for the thrills, fun, and for representing Pennsylvania so well on a world stage in Williamsport.

California now plays Montana for the US Championship, while Mexico and Japan are the finalists in the international bracket.

Hurricane Irene may pose a weather problem for the final weekend.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Key Quotations From IHS CERA Debunking of Howarth

Here are key quotations from the IHS CERA Report Debunking Howarth and sharply challenging the EPA 2010 upward revision estimate of methane leakage.

1. At page 9, IHS CERA state: "IHS data for the Haynesville Shale was misused and severely distorted in the Howarth paper.  The analysis included wells that were not in the flowback phase at all; double-counted a particularly prolific well; and in the single case of a well tested during the flowback process, assumed the methane was emitted when in fact it was captured for sale, as clearly stated in the IHS report.  Appendix 1 contains a letter sent to the editor of Climatic Change Letters [the journal that published Howarth] in response to the misuse of IHS data."

2. "Compounding this error [referring to another issue in preceding paragraph] is the assumption that all flowback methane is vented, when industry practice is to capture and market as much as possible, flaring much of the rest.  Vented emissions of the magnitudes estimated by Howarth would be extremely dangerous and subject to ignition.  The simple fact that fires are rare in all gas-producing areas suggests that this analysis grossly overestimates the quantities of methane that are leaking uncontrolled into the atmosphere at the well site."

The whole Report is a must read.

Top Energy Consultancy Critiques Howarth Study & EPA Methane Data

As commenter Mike Knapp noted on the blog, IHS-CERA published yesterday a report that heavily critiques the Howarth study.  It also argues that the EPA 2010 revision of methane leakage data overstates significantly the rate of methane leakage.  The EPA revised upward significantly its estimated rate of methane leakage. 

But then Professor Horwath constructed an estimate of a methane leakage rate for his study that was even much greater than the upwardly revised EPA numbers.

IHS-CERA is one of America's top energy consulting firms and argues the leakage rates in the Howarth study would create fires and explosions were they in fact true. See

Bit by bit the Howarth study is being consigned to the junk heap.

Scary Fact: 15 Category 7 Or Higher Earthquakes Each Year

As friends up and down the East coast recount seeing walls vibrate, homes sway, ground undulate, pictures and TVs fall as a result of the 5.8 earth quake, 15 plus 7 earthquakes on average occur each year around the world.

A 7.0 earthquake would be more than 10 times stronger than a 5.8 earthquake.

The devestating Japanese earthquake was 9.5 or more than 1000 times stronger than the East coast earthquake.  Tuesday's earthquake was the strongest on the East Coast since 1897.

PA Plays Calif. Tonight For US Final Spot

An extra inning lead off homer in the 7th by a boy from Montana who probably had few winks of sleep last night means Pennsylvania plays California tonight for a spot in the US final against Montana.

The crowd in Williamsport will be big, perhaps pushing the record of 41,000 plus set when Pennsylvania played its first game this year against Kentucky. California has great pitching and looked dominant before running into an inspired, gutsy performance from Billings Montana.

Good luck to the Keystone team.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Junk Science Strikes Again: US Geologic Service Raises Hugely Marcellus Gas Estimates

It's a big junk science conspiracy and getting bigger.  First, as Governor Perry confidently states, a world wide conspiracy by scientists to perpetrate a climate science hoax is underway.  And now the continuing shale gas Ponzi scheme to defraud simple investors like Exxon in which again the US government is part and parcel.

The scientists at the US Geologic service are joining the shale gas conspiracy  by raising its estimate of  Marcellus recoverable reserves 42 times to 84 trillion cubic feet. How could that be? 

Read all about it in the NYT.

Ok the foregoing is snarky and as about as ridiculous as the Ponzi scheme nonsense broadly thrown at the gas industry. 

But what is sad, even dangerous, is that both climate science denial and the shale gas Ponzi scheme conspiracies are taken seriously by far too many people, though they tend to be different groups.

The US Geologic service is a highly reputable, cautious organization that had estimated the Marcellus recoverable gas reserves in 2002 at 2 trillion cubic feet.  The odds are not small that the 84 trillion cubic feet estimate will prove low.

Perry Surging; Bachmann Stalling; Romney Collapsing

Public Policy Polling will have a poll today that has Governor Perry with a double digit lead in the Republican Race.  He has surged by Governor Romney who is unable to get beyond about 25% and is no longer the front runner.

Governor Perry also seems to have achieved his first crucial strategic goal and that was to stall Congresswoman Bachmann and gradually consolidate the dominant conservatives within the GOP around his candidacy.

PPP published an Iowa poll yesterday that had Perry leading in Iowa which is a must win state for Bachmann.  Romney was third in Iowa, with Paul a close 4th.

Looking to the general election Gallup had the President and Governor Perry tied.

PA Little Leaguers Keep Rolling

Congratulations to the boys of the Keystone team for the 7-5 win over Georgia last night.  It was do or die, with both teams having 1 loss in the double elimination contest.

The pressure rose for Pennsylvania after the top of the first when Georgia put up 3 runs.  But Pennsylvania kept its cool and replied with 6 in the bottom of the first.

Three teams remain in the US side of the draw.  Next up for Keystone is the loser of the California and Montana game, two undefeated teams.  Game played on thursday at 8pm and televised on ESPN 2.

There was another huge crowd in Williamsport last night to watch Keystone play.  The boys and coaches are showing a lot of class under a microscope and pressure.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pennsylvania Little League Rolls: Good Luck Tonight

The Pennsylvania Little League team from Clinton County rolled to a 10-0 win over Louisiana last night and plays Georgia tonight at 8pm.  The boys from Clinton County are pitching great, playing excellent defense, and had hot bats last night. 

The game will be nationally broadcast by ESPN 2.  If you have not seen a game and cannot get to Williamsport tuning in for Georgia game tonight is recommended.

Record crowds have attended games of the Pennsylvania team, with more than 103,000 seeing the 3 games Pennsylvania has played.

Little League World Series in Williamsport, one more thing that makes Pennsylvania a special place.

Monday, August 22, 2011

DEP Funding For Flood Control Must Be Restored

The flash flood in Pittsburgh that drowned four people, including two children, when a road on which they were driving became a nine-feet deep torrent of water, is a tragic reminder that Pennsyvlania and the nation is investing too little in basic infrastructure on which all our safety rests. It also vividly underlines the importance of storm water regulations that some attack in the name of development and professional land use planning and zoning.

Once a pattern of development puts human beings and property at risk of flooding, one response is to design flood control projects to reduce risks. The Pennsyvlania Department of Environmental Protection had a flood control program that designed and planned flood control projects, but its entire $3.48 million funding was eliminated in the state budget that began on July 1, 2011.

Eliminating this program did not cause the tragedy in Pittsburgh, but it removes a resource that perhaps could have been used to fix the death trap that Washington Boulevard became or other dangerous situations. Eliminating the funding also guarantees some flood control projects that would have happened will not be built or will be delayed.

In the future, that means a flood will cause the avoidable loss of property and life. Eliminating the DEP flood control funding raises risks to public safety all across Pennsylvania. The funding should be restored, because there are many flood control efforts that must be undertaken.

Given the huge need, $3.4 million per year is too little, but it is much better than nothing. Please restore the funding.

Renewables Provide 14.5% of Electricity Thru May

The combination of pouring rain and a sustained wind farm construction boom from 2008 to this year has made 2011 thru May the year of renewable energy. All renewables produced 14.5% of America's power in the first 5 months of 2011, with hydro accounting for 9% and the other renewables 5.5%.

The market share of renewables will likely fall during the remainder of 2011 as wind production and hydro production decline in summer, while total power production increases. Yet, renewable electricity is becoming a big part of powering America.

Hydro & Wind Power Boom In May

Electricity production nationally from hydro facilities surged by 31.6% and from wind farms by 33.5% in May 2011 compared to May 2010.

What led to the booming production? The wettest spring on record in the Pacific Northwest and a large snowpack combined to create near torrents of water, the fuel for hydro facilities.

In the case of booming wind production, substantial new wind generation capacity--more wind farms--is harvesting more wind and generating rising amounts of electricity.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sad Fact: Apes Not Rising

Twenty five million years ago, and Governor Huntsman is right that Earth existed 25 million years ago, 40 species of apes roamed, according to a column in today's NYT.

Now just 5 species of apes remain: Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Orangutans, Bononbos, and Gibbons. Habitat destruction, hunting, and disease threaten extinction for all.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

PA Unemployment Rate Rises Again

The Pennsylvania unemployment rate rose to 7.8% in July, up from 7.6% in June and 7.4% in May. Pennsylvania was one of 10 states with a statistically significant increase in unemployment in July.

The Pennsylvania economy was doing much better than the national economy from January 2010 to April 2011 but is performing worse than the national economy since May. We were a leader in creating jobs. Our economy is now in reverse.

Austerity Economics at the state and national level is a recipe for rising unemployment and killing economic growth.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sierra Club Financed CMU Life Cycle Gas Study

The genesis of the CMU life cycle gas study remains mysterious, and the study itself has yet to get much attention, though that is changing a bit.

But the Sierra Club to its great credit provided some financial support for the study.  See the acknowledgements section of the study, where the researchers thank the Sierra Club for financing it and also make very clear that the findings, opinions, conclusions, recommendations in the study are those of the 6 CMU researchers and not the Sierra Club.  I too am making that distinction clear.

You can link to the study at

If you want to read the best article available so far on the CMU study, go to The reporter of the piece is Joel Kirkland.

World Has 1 Billion Vehicles: How Are We Going To Fuel Them?

The world passed the 1 billion vehicles--cars, light and heavy trucks, buses-- mark probably some time in 2010, according to a great article at  The number does not include off-road or construction vehicles.

Other key data are that the world had 250 million vehicles in 1970 and 500 million in 1986.  China is now the largest car market in the world with approximately 15 to 17 million sales and surpassed the USA in 2010.  The Chinese will likely buy 40 million vehicles per year within 5 years.  The US car market prior to the near depression in 2008 to 2009 was 16 million but has been struggling to return to a 12 million volume.

The USA has 3 vehicles for every 4 people; China one vehicle for every 16 people; and India one vehicle for every 53 people.  The world will soon have 7 billion people and is adding vehicles at the rate of close to 30 million per year.

When China reaches the number of vehicles per population that the USA has, China will have by itself 1 billion vehicles on the road.

These extraordinary numbers explain why world oil prices have increased from $20 per barrel to consistently over $100 per barrel in the last 10 years. 

The demand for oil is exploding and world production cannot keep pace, in the absence of a global recession or depression (see the prior posting about Congresswoman Bachmann's promise to bring back cheap gasoline).

Burning increasing amounts of oil in transportation is also a major reason that the global amounts of heat trapping pollution emitted are climbing every year and soon will pass the 400 ppm concentration level.

Unless the USA gets off foreign oil our national security, our environmental security, and our economic security will be damaged, endangered, destroyed.  Absent a global economic contraction, gasoline will likely soon reach $5 or $6 per gallon in the USA.  Our economy cannot withstand such oil pricing.

We must move to electricity, natural gas, biofuels--all of which are cheaper and cleaner than oil for transportation.  This should be a national and state imperative.  We laready are in fact out of time.

Bachmann Promises $2 Gasoline & She Would Keep That Promise

Congresswoman Bachmann attacked President Obama for expensive gasoline yesterday, noting that when the President took office in January 2009 gasoline cost $1.79 per gallon.  Playing to the understandable wishes of nearly everyone, she promised that she would return gasoline to less than $2 per gallon. 

Though Bachmann provided no details about how she would bring back the happy days of cheap gasoline, I believe her. Here is how she would keep her promise and the rest of the story.

The price of oil is priced in world oil markets and in July 2008 it had reached $147 per barrel with gasoline over $4 in the USA.  I am sure at the time Congresswoman Bachmann was railing against President Bush for causing the high gas prices, but President Bush and his Administration quickly solved the problem.  You got to give him his due.

By December 2008 oil prices had collapsed to about $30 per barrel and gas prices plummeted to less than $2.  I think President Bush can take credit for a low price of about $1.60 just before he left office.  How did the former President deliver cheap gasoline?

His Administration produced a near Great Depression following the bankruptcy of Lehmann Brothers on September 15, 2008 that caused a global collapse in consumer demand. 

You might remember those scary days when GDP collapsed by 8% in the 4th quarter of 2008,  when the nation lost over 500,000 jobs per month from October to December 2008, then 750,000 jobs in January 2009, and when the Stock Market fell by over 50%.  And when the US car market fell from 16 million to 9 million cars per year, when USX went from producing at 100% of capacity to 40% of capacity by December 2008, and when oil collapsed from $147 per barrel in July to $30 by December 2008.

In the modern world, with rising Chinese and Indian oil demand, the only way to create below $2 gasoline is to create a global depression.

Looking at the Austerity Economic policies championed by Congresswoman Bachmann, including a promise to never again raise the debt ceiling, I am totally confident that Congresswoman Bachmann would create a global depression and keep her promise to give us all once more cheap gasoline.

But will she get the chance to keep her promise?

This week PPP issued a poll of Wisconsin that had Bachmann taking the lead there, Perry second, and Romney collapsing to third.  Bachmann could be the Republican nominee, and she could beat President Obama.

Be careful for what you wish and of what you think cannot happen.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Media, The CMU Study, & The Marcellus

In reaction to my posting yesterday about the CMU life cycle gas study hiding in plain sight since August 5th, when it was published, Andy Leahy says in the Comment section:

"Nice scoop, John. Remarkable to me, the delayed, low-key rollout on the CMU paper, compared to the media tsunami which carried the Cornell paper.  Are the anti-drillers more polished in the PR department?"

This is a meaty, great comment in a few words.

The Howarth/Cornell study did get a media tsunami response, and Cornell said at one point no study in the history of that great university had ever generated more media coverage.

Why?  Impressive credentials go a long way.  And even more important is the message. Professor Howarth had credentials and had a shocking message, a bad news message, a message that built on the narrative constructed by the NYT gas reporter and Gasland that shale drilling or "fracking" is the vey worst environmental threat.  Howarth said that gas is as dirty or possibly dirtier than coal (he was talking about just one pollutant--carbon--but that got lost too). 

Bad, shocking, outrageous sells.  Good news rarely does.  Why? Readers and listeners respond to the outrageous.  No matter if it is false or wrong.  Smears work. It is the marketplace in which reporters work.

Add the reality of some real bias against the gas industry in a few reporters (the NYT gas reporter is the most prominent example) to Howarth's impressive credentials and the shocking but false message that gas is dirtier than coal creates the media tsunami that Andy mentions.

Howarth is a member of the academy from a great university. One had to be an expert in the field to say that this struting academic emperor wore no clothes and most of the coverage had little to warn the reader that the study was junk.  And the body of the piece is never as powerful as the headline or the lead and the lead was some version of gas is as dirty as coal. 

Many in the media also treated  Howarth as an objective researcher doing disinterested scientific research.  He is an anti-fracking activist who wears anti-fracking pins and so on. He wants in particular to keep drilling out of his home area and all that is perfectly fine but his agenda was not made clear.   He is doing work and using the credibility of his employer to create weapons for his cause which is to ban shale gas hydraulic fracturing.

And then there is the careful work of the 6 CMU researchers that hides in plain view for 12 days before I did a posting.  Why?

In part, the message confirmed that coal is much dirtier than gas. Not an outrageous, shocking conclusion.  The researchers were not adding another allegation to the indictment against gas drilling so the NYT gas reporter and the narrative he has constructed was not served by this piece. 

Unlike the Duke University researchers that did a major roll out of the Duke gas migration study, CMU and the researchers apparently did little of the normal press work needed to gain media attention.  You cannot blame the media for not covering something if there is no reason for them to know about it.

But to answer the question posed by Andy Leahy, part of the explanation is also that those fighting gas drilling are more effective than the industry in messaging. 

My concern is not to score the fight like a boxing match but to try and make sure the discussion focuses on the real issues like a reasonable tax, gas migration and air emissions, while not falling prey to nonsense like the Howarth study

Thank you to the 6 researchers at CMU.  Hopefully as many people will learn about their careful research as heard about Howarth's junk. Reporting is a tough, vital job. Great reporters are invaluable members of society. Truth depends on them and their work.

Blog Makes News With CMU Life Cycle Study Debunking Cornell Study

The Carnegie Mellon University life cycle is being properly treated by some in the media that kindly follow this blog as news, with Andy Leahy describing yesterday's posting as a "scoop."

Don Gilliland of the Harrisburg Patriot News for example covered the CMU study.  See  Gilliland is a careful reporter who has professionally, fairly covered the Marcellus story, providing all sides, and real light so I am not surprised that he wrote a story about the CMU study because he and many, many other reporters covered the Howarth study. 

To be clear, while the Howarth study is junk, I do understand why so many reporters covered it.  Andy Leahy in the Comment section to yesterday's posting describes the coverage of the Howarth study as a "tsunami."

I  will track how many stories are written about the CMU study that is a careful effort and obviously done by researchers more interested in good science than gaining publicity.  Please send me any stories about the CMU study that you see.  Anyone want to bet that the CMU study will get as much coverage or more than the Howarth junk?  I hope so but I would not take that bet.

I do hope that the CMU media operation would let the world know about the existence of this important study done by 6 CMU researchers.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Carnegie Mellon Life Cycle Gas Study Debunks Howarth Claims

Drawing virtually no press attention, 6 researchers at Carnegie Mellon University published on August 5th a detailed study of life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of Marcellus Shale gas.

The study concluded that Marcellus shale gas is much 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 study was also reviewed prior to publication by the Sierra Club.

It is a careful piece of work that lays out the data used, the assumptions made, and conclusions reached.

The Carnegie Mellon researchers find: "Natural gas from the Marcellus shale has generally lower life cycle GHG emissions than coal for production of electricity in the absence of any effective carbon capture and storage processes, by 20-50% depending upon plant efficiencies and natural gas emissions variability."

The researchers found that there was virtually no difference between greenhouse emissions from Marcellus shale gas and conventional gas production.

This careful study debunks and decimates professor Howarth's hit piece study that the NYT gas reporter and other media gave so much attention. By contrast, the CMU study has received very little press attention so the result remains that many people think Howarth is the final word on this important matter.

The lead researcher of the CMU paper is Mohan Jiang of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. W Michael Griffin, Chris Hendrickson, Paulina Jaramillo, Jeanne VanBriesen, and Aranya Venkatesh also authored the study. The Tepper School of Business and the Department of Engineering and Public Policy also participated in the study.

The paper was published in Environmental Research Letters. Go to    The study is a must read if you are interested in science and truth and should get much more publicity and recognition.

Statement on Governor Perry & Bernanke

Governor Perry is now the national leader in the GOP race for the Presidency with 28% of the vote, according to a Rasmussen poll.  He has rocketed by Governor Romney with 18% and Congresswoman Bachmann with 13%.   Congressman Paul had 9%, Herman Cain 6%, Speaker Gingrich 5%, Governor Hunstman 1%, and Senator Santorum 1%.

Governor Perry's despicable charge of treason and a not-funny threat of harm aimed at Fed Chairman Bernanke is a pander to the anti-Fed sentiment motivating many of the supporters of Bachmann, Paul, and Cain. 

Now for a word of support for Bernanke.  Bernanke was appointed by President Bush and reappointed by President Obama, though he is a Republican.  But Bernanke is not drinking the Kool Aid of Austerity Economics that is destroying jobs and contracting GDP, though Greenspan and he can be fairly criticized for enabling too-big-to-fail and not properly regulating subprime lending.

Yet Bernanke is a scholar of the Great Depression.  Once the crisis hit in 2008, he got more right than wrong.  He knows that deflation and falling consumer demand are immediate threats that if not remedied worsen the long-term debt problems of the USA.

Bernanke is a patriot working to save this nation's economy, in the face of destructive action around the debt ceiling and now threats from a Presidential candidate.

Perry lost one race in his career and vowed not to allow ever again anyone to get to his right.  It is hard to not allow Bachmann to get to your right.  But coddling secessionists and hurling charges of treason at the Fed Chairman is one way to get to the right of Bachmann.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Updated Marcellus To Produce 12% Of US Gas

Marcellus gas production numbers are skyrocketing and are likely to reach an incredible 7 to 8 billion cubic feet per day within 4 years, according to projections made by the energy consultancy Benetek.  At that level, the Marcellus will be producing between 2.5 trillion and 2.9 trillion cubic feet per year or about 12% of total US gas production.

That amount of gas will be equal to 3% to 4% of the total energy consumed--from all sources--in the USA and close to 1% of all energy consumed in the world.  These are phenomenal numbers.

These numbers make two things crazy:  First, the Ponzi scheme smear advanced by a few and wished to be true by others; and second the absence of a drilling tax in Pennsylvania, though West Virginia has had a drilling or severance tax on gas production in place successfully for several years now.

Production is currently about 3 billion cubic feet per day in Pennsylvania and The Marcellus Shale Coalition projects it will reach 3.5 billion cubic feet per day in 2011 or 1.2 trillion cubic feet per year.

This humongous gas production means there is no reason left to operate old, coal-fired power plants without pollution controls or to not move aggressively to replace foreign oil with domestic natural gas in trasportation. 

Natural Gas Doubles Electricity Market Share: Why?

This year natural gas power plants will provide 24.5% of all electricity generated, a doubling of their 12% market share in 1990, according to Energy Information Administration data.  EIA projects gas reaches 25% in 2012 and is likely to keep rising.

From 1990 to 2003, the electricity market share of gas rose from 12% to 16.7% or by about 40%.  From 2003 to 2011, natural gas jumped from 16.7% to 24.5% or about 45%.  Natural gas gains seem steady, unstoppable.

Why is natural gas like a Pac Man eating electricity generation market share?  The capital costs of natural gas power plants are lower--much lower--than any of the main alternatives--coal, nuclear, wind.  They are cheaper to build than anything else.  This is the main competitive advantage of gas, but there are more.

Natural gas power plants face lower development risks and are easier to build than certainly coal or nuclear plants, because they generally face much less local or national opposition in the siting and permitting processes.  They do so, because natural gas power plants emit little pollution--no mercury, arsenic, lead.  Natural gas power plants meet the proposed EPA Air Toxic Rule for example.

Natural gas power plants--the air cooled models especially--require much less water than a coal or nuclear plant.  In many parts of the country, water is becoming a scarce resource, as a result of population pressures and a changed climate and so the fact that natural gas power plants sip and do not guzzle water is a major advantage.

Natural gas power plants do not have a dangerous, expensive waste stream to manage, as nuclear plants do.  Yet coal plants also have a waste problem, producing large amounts of coal ash that must be safely stored, but sometimes is not, with dire results for water quality and human safety.

Natural gas plants also are flexible and can be designed to run as baseload, intermediate, or peaking plants.  Natural gas plants can quickly power up or down, making them ideal to provide back up power and to match with wind.  Coal and nuclear plants cannot perform this function.

Natural gas power plants also use fuel efficiently and can be very efficient if they capture and use waste heat.  In competitive power markets, where plants do not recover from captive, monopoly ratepayers fuel costs, the fuel efficiency of a plant is a key factor.

The key weakness of natural gas power plants has been both the volatility of natural gas pricing and periods of high natural gas prices that made them uneconomic to run in competitive electricity markets, during many hours of the year, when electricity market prices were low or average.

The shale gas boom that began in 2000 and took off in 2007 has driven natural gas prices below $5, while coal prices have increased.  Shale gas means that natural gas is now often lower cost than coal, and plants that can run on either coal or gas burn gas.

All these strengths will drive up further the market share of natural gas power plants.  It almost certainly will reach 33% within a decade and likely go higher, much higher, over time.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Stunning Fact: USA Has 25% of World's Prisoners

The USA has 5% of the world's population but 25% of its prisoners.  Locking up a quarter of the world's prisoners is a costly undertaking, consuming $50 billion per year.

Tight budgets and the high cost of incarceration are forcing some states to look at whom they lock up in an effort to target jail cells at the violent and to use lower-cost options like compulsory treatment for drug offenders; at home detention; and probation with tracking systems.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

DEP Shuts Down Lazer Pipeline Project

Following spills on July 29, August 2nd, and August 8th, DEP has shutdown the Lazer Northeast Gathering Company's pipeline project until at least monday, according to Laura Legere of the Scranton Times.  For DEP, three spills in 10 days is at least one too many.

Apparently Secretary Krancer will be meeting on monday with the company to discuss its operations.  Laura Legere quotes DEP officials as saying the shutdown will continue to "at least monday" and that the idling of 25 rigs involved in the project is costing Laser $600,000 per day.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Everpower Dedicates $170 Million PA Wind Farm

Yesterday Jim Spencer the Chief Executive off Everpower which is headquartered in Pittsburgh put on a great show to formally break ground on a 75 megawatt, $170 million wind farm in the Cambria County.  The site in Summerhill and Adams townships is big and bustles with more than  construction workers, bulldozers, cranes, heavy trucks.

When the wind farm begins operations in November, 32 Nordex turbines made in the USA will generate enough electricity to supply 32,000 homes.  Each turbine supplies 1,000 homes.

The Highland North wind warm is Pennsylvania's 17th and will boost Pennsylvania's total wind power capacity by another 10% to about 825 megawatts.

Local officials attended the ceremony and were excited for good reason.  The wind farm will pay $1.8 million in local property taxes and $2.7 million in payments to landowners for leases.

Both Public Utility Commission Chairman Powelson and State Senator Wozniak spoke eloquently during the ceremonies, lauding the wind farm as a major boost to the local economy and a supplier of substantial zero pollution electricity.  PUC Commissioner Coleman who is from Cambria county also attended.

Mike Kinski, the Operational Managing Director of Terra Ferma, the major investor in Everpower, also spoke about wind power and Terra Ferma's desire to make more investments in Pennsylvania.  Terra Ferman is headquartered in London with investments in renewable energy in Italy and the UK as well as movie theatres in Europe, utilities in Ireland, housing in Japan, cattle ranching in Australia.  The battle for renewable energy investment is intense and global.

Yesterday was a great day for Pennsylvania's economy and environment.  Building wind farms requires large investments and consumers can make a difference.  If you want more wind farms in Pennsylvania, please make sure that you have switched your electricity account to an electricity supplier that is buying its energy from Pennsylvania wind farms.

Gallup Poll Has Dems Retaking the House

Speaker Boehner has had a disastrous run since January and must be thankful that the next Congressional election is not next week.  For if it were, Nancy Pelosi would become Speaker once more.

That is the conclusion drawn from yesterday's Gallup poll that had voters favoring Democratic candidates over Republicans by a 51 to 44 margin.  Earlier in the week Public Policy Polling released a poll that had voters favoring Democrats 47 to 40.

Republican Presidential Nomination Down To 3

Don't be fooled by the full stage of podiums and candidates at the Republican Presidential debates or the ballot for the Iowa Straw Poll that has many names.  The Republican Presidential nomination is down to three.

Perry, Bachmann, and Romney will fight it out for the Republican Presidential nomination.  The rest of the field are wasting money and time.

Perry's main opponent is Bachmann, not Romney.  Romney can only win the nomination if Perry and Bachmann battle to a standstill, exhausting themselves, and splitting the 60% of the Republican primary voters who want no compromises and a candidate voicing pure right wing ideology.

Romney has proven time and again that he will say anything to become Governor of Massachusetts for just one term.  He will then say anything, including flipping on abortion, climate, health care and more.  At times he cannot keep straight or remember what he said last.

The true believers of the right are not buying Romney.  I too would not if I were them.  Is there anything that Romney can do?

Romney is down to hoping that Bachmann can turn the fight with Perry for the dominant right wing purists into a political death match.  Or hoping that Sarah Palin actually leaves the cushy seats watching the combatants and gets into the arena and splits the right wing vote three ways.  Neither possibility seems strong.

Perry's odds of first defeating Bachmann and then finishing Romney are high.  Bachmann is formidable, but the right wing now is presented with a choice: Bachmann who probably loses to Obama or Perry who makes the 2012 election close, close, close.  I am betting that there is enough pragmatism in the ideologues to go with a champion of their views that could win.

Perry can raise money, can mobilize the Christian right, can sweep the South, and can win the support of the business establishment.  That is a winning recipe for the Republican nomination and possibly for the general election.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Everpower Dedicates Newest PA Wind Farm

I will be attending this morning the dedication of Everpower's 70 megawatt Highland North wind farm in Cambria County, Pennsylvania.

This will be Pennsylvania's 17th wind generation site and push Pennsylvania's wind capacity over 800 megawatts.

Wind power is not perfect but it emits no air pollutants, uses no water, and discharges no water pollution. Landowners are paid nicely for each turbine sited on their property. Wind farms are major construction projects. Wind turbines are 60% on average made in the USA. And modern wind turbines produce a lot of electricity, at a very low production cost because the fuel is free.

That is an excellent package of benefits. More later on Pennsylvania's newest wind farm.

Code Orange Alerts & Gas

Yesterday two Reports--one from the DOE Shale Gas Commission and the other from NRDC--move the related issues of air quality and natural gas production to center stage. NRDC states that 2012 Code Orange unhealthy air alerts have been issued across America so far in 2011 (see the prior posting).

And yesterday, to the surprise of some, the DOE Shale Gas Commission's Report gave more prominence to air pollutant emissions from gas production than to gas drilling's impact on water.

The issues of America's still too often unhealthy air and natural gas are tightly linked.

Using more natural gas to replace old-coal plants with limited pollution controls will substantially cut toxic air pollutants, soot, acid rain, and smog precursors at the power plants that generate electricity. And the generation of electricity plus transportation are the two sectors that cause most air pollution so reducing air pollutants from electricity generation is a key to eliminating Code Orange health alerts.

Natural gas, therefore, is part of the solution to local, regional, and national air quality problems as long as the air emissions from producing the gas are controlled by using the best technologies and practices. But if the gas industry uses the dirty production options, natural gas production itself can create dirty air. In Wyoming that has happened in counties where gas production is concentrated.

Natural gas must remain a solution to and not become a cause of air quality problems. Hence the most important section of the Report of the DOE Shale Gas Commission is the air quality discussion.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

2012 Code Orange Unhealthy Air Alerts

According to an NRDC analysis of 2011 EPA air data, 2012 Code Orange unhealthy air alerts have been issued across America from January to August 2011. California had the top 11 communities with the most Code Orange alerts. Atlanta with 28 Code Orange warnings had the 12th highest number.

Charlotte, Washington DC, Saint Louis, Houston, Baltimore were among the communities with 20 or more warnings of unhealthy air.

How has been the air quality in Pennsylvania? Not among the most polluted, but Philadelhia has had 17 Code Orange days, the Susquehanna Valley 13, Pittsburgh 9, Lehigh Valley 6, and Liberty /clairton 4.

You might think that dirty air is an urban problem. Wrong. You will not find clean air in many national parks. Code Orange alerts have been issued in 9 national parks so far in 2011.

During a Code Orange alert people with cardiac and respiratory conditions, children, and elderly are advised to stay indoors.

Go to for more details on the report.

Statement About DOE Shale Gas Advisory Report

The Report of Shale Gas Advisory Board to the Secretary of Energy provides a detailed roadmap for producing responsibly and with the least possible environmental impact America's enormous shale gas reserves. The Report poses a challenge to both the gas industry and to environmental organizations, because it identifies the real issues of concern and solutions to those concerns. This Report does not duck or dodge.

Now it will be interesting to see which companies and organizations rise to the constructive challenges contained in this Report.

The Report zeroes in on the Air Quality challenge posed by large scale production and recommends that existing best practices and technologies be used to reduce air pollutants, ozone precursors, and methane leakage. It specifically endorses the July 28th proposed EPA and Wyoming air regulations as good starting points but urges further steps. The Report urges greater measurement of air emissions and calls for a subset of producers to step forward to begin comprehensive measurement and data collection.

I would also have liked to see the Report describe the significant air quality benefits natural gas could provide by using natural gas to replace old, coal-fired power plants and diesel in large transportation fleets. But the Report is 41 pages and had to be surgical, not encyclopedic, if it were to be effective.

The Report wades into the lifecycle carbon controversy by referencing some of the studies done to date and then calling for a major, definitive federally funded research effort. The Report also calls for the near ban of venting methane at gas wells. If the Report's air recommendations are followed the carbon footprint of shale gas will be cut sharply.

In addition to Air issues, the Report has a section on water issues calling for the measurement and reporting of the composition and flow of flowback and produced water; the manifesting of water transfers; and significant measures to insure the integrity of well completion to prevent especially gas migration to private water wells.

The Report properly identifies gas migration caused by poorly designed or constructed gas wells to be a real issue that the industry and regulators must address strongly. Pressure testing of cemented casing and state-of-the-art bond logs to confirm gas formation isolation are recommended, as are microseismic surveys to assure hydraulic fracture growth is limited.

The Report calls for federal funding for STRONGER and the Ground Water Protection Council at $5 million each starting in FY 2012. The Report gently chides states for not using sufficiently STRONGER'S services to review state regulatory programs. The Pennsylvania gas oversight program was reviewed by STRONGER in 2010.

A vital part of the report is the discussion of best practices and the formation of a new national organization that would be governed by a diverse board of directors to drive forward best practice development and adoption. The Report specifically recommends that the board of this organization be not only gas industry companies but instead include non-governmental organizations, academics, as well as companies within the gas industry. This recommendation is crucial and will challenge each company in the industry.

The Report further calls for banning of diesel in hydraulic fracturing and for full disclosure of chemicals used in the process.

As the Report notes, shale gas is now providing 30% of all US natural gas supply; has made the US self sufficient in natural gas, when as recently as 2007 most thought the US would be importing large quantities of LNG; and will provide at least 45% of US gas supply by 2035. The incredible boom in shale gas has created nationally 200,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs.

All forms of natural gas provides 25% of total US energy. Shale gas and natural gas are vital to the US economy and environment.

This Report provides a detailed map for how America can maximize the benefits of shale gas and minimize its impacts. It will powerfully impact public expectations for what constitutes responsible regulation and operation of shale gas. It constructively challenges us all.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Interest Rate Hits Record Low For US Treasury Bonds

Investors are almost begging to own US Treasury bonds, with rates hitting the record low of 2.14 percent for the 10 year bond today.

The S&P downgrade of US debt has caused a stampede to buy US debt and not a rush to sell it. Interest rates fall and not rise on fears of a global recession.

S&P looks ridiculous in the markets. The firm that was a main reason for the financial meltdown as it gave a AAA rating to subprime mortgage pools that were toxic waste deserves all the ridicule heaped on it.

Meanwhile its action and the disastrous debt limit debacle have raised the risks of a double dip recession in the land of 2.14 per cent 10 year government notes.

Bernanke Fights Tea Party & Austerity Economics

Appointed by President Bush, reappointed by President Obama, and a scholar of the Great Depression, Ben Bernanke has been a blessing to the nation, and yesterday he effectively said "Enough of the Madness."  The Federal Reserve took the extraordinary, unprecedented step of saying that it would maintain interest rates at "extremely low levels" through the middle of 2013.

Bernanke's interest rate announcement effectively rebukes the Tea Party and boosters of Austerity Economics.  He is telling the world that Austerity Economics, as exemplified by the Debt Limit Debacle, will cause major contraction of the economy.  Bernanke's action shows that he is more than talk and that he will push as hard as he can against the raging conservatives' poorly timed and designed economic policies.

Bernanke knows that this nation narrowly escaped a second Great Depression in the fall of 2008 and first half of 2009.  He can be fairly criticized for not seeing the economic storm clouds gathering in 2006 and 2007, but when the storm hit in 2008, he made many more right than wrong decisions.

He knows that consumer demand has been hammered again in the last month, that a second, major economic contraction is now possible.  He is doing what he can to stop it. 

Who is right in the fight between Tea Party conservatives and Bernanke?  The market sides with Bernanke, rallying by over 400 points, after collapsing for the last month as Austerity Economics took control of fiscal policy.

GOP Storm Warning 3: GOP Approval Plummets

Voters are saying to the GOP, "can you hear us?"  The Debt Limit Debacle has moved polls strongly against the GOP. 

The CNN poll put approval of the Republican Party at the lowest levels in the 30 year history of the question.  Just 33% approve and 59% disapprove of the Republican Party.

The July poll found 41% approval for the GOP and 55% disapproval, showing substantial decline at a time when Congresswoman Bachmann and Tea Party Republicans were saying that they would never vote to lift the debt limit and that even a default was not a bad thing.

Such behavior is reckless, even crazy, and damaging to employers and employees. Bad policy is bad politics, in this case. General Election voters don't like the debt limit militancy of the Tea Party that has had a negative impact on the economy, though Republican primary voters may well.

And what about public opinion of the Democratic Party?  CNN found 47% approving and 47% disapproving.  In these sour times, those are strong numbers.

Smart Republicans know this morning that they have political opportunities and major, self-inflicted wounds.

GOP Storm Warning 2: GOP Loses Special Election In NH

The Democratic candidate won a special election yesterday for a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, flipping a formerly Republican seat to the Democratic column.  This Democratic victory follows another special election win for Democrats in the New Hampshire House. Two more special elections in the New Hampshire House are upcoming. 

In 2010 Republicans swept out Democratic majorities in the New Hampshire House and Senate, but so far the special elections are indicating that volatile voters are moving again and trending away from the GOP in New Hampshire where a Democratic Governor battles energized, conservative GOP majorities.

GOP Storm Warning 1: Lose 2 But Hold Wisconsin Senate

Two Wisconsin Republican Senators were recalled last night, shrinking the GOP senate majority in Wisconsin from 19-14 to 17-16.  Only 13 state legislators in the history of the country have been recalled so having two recalled in one night is a remarkable event and signals major disappointment in traditionally Republican areas. 

What are they disappointed about?  Ideological extremism plus poor economic performance. 

Smart Republicans will spin Wisconsin in public as a win by pointing to the fact of its continuing one seat majority, but privately know they have been chastised and move to the center.  But the problem for the GOP is that its Tea Party base has shown that it will beat in primaries centrists and moderates, making any move to the center difficult, even if desired for any number of reasons.

Readers of this blog know that $8 million was spent on one state senate race. The Republican incumbent did hold her $8 million state senate seat in a close race.

Two more Wisconsin recall elections are left where 2 Democratic state senators face recalls, with one in a swing seat.  Expect a lot more money to flood into the swing seat recall race.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stunning Fact: $30 Million Spent On Wisconsin Recalls

An incredible $30 million dollars will be spent in total in the 9 Wisconsin recall elections, according to an article in Monday's Wall Street Journal. Nearly $8 million will be spent in just one of the races.

Voters today have their say in 6 seats now held by Republican incumbents. President Obama carried just one of the 6 seats when he easily won Wisconsin in 2008. Democrats must win 3 of the 6 seats to gain a majority in the state senate that at this moment has a 19 to 14 Republican majority.

It is not just Republicans on the recall hotseat. Prior to today's election, a Democratic incumbent survived easily his recall election, and two more Democratic state senators face a recall vote after today.

The stakes are big enough for $30 million to be spent, making sellers of political advertising winners no matter how the voting turns out.

Preview of DOE Shale/Fracking Report This Thursday

I am hearing that the so-called Shale Gas Commission convened by United States Department of Energy Secretary Chu to provide advice on improving the environmental performance of shale gas and hydraulic fracturing will release its report this thursday.

The Commission entered the maelstrom of shale gas policy and some of its members have been attacked by some opponents of hydraulic fracturing and shale gas.  Will the Report recommend stopping shale gas development? No.  That alone will draw condemnation of the Report from those wishing to shutdown the industry.

Since the Report will not recommend shutting down the industry, what should we be looking for in the Report?  Take a look at what specific issues the Report discusses. How many?  Are they narrowly focused on hydraulic fracturing itself?  Or do they reach other issues such as gas migration that are associated with the drilling phase of gas well development? See how specific any recommendations are that it makes about the issues it discusses.

Another interesting area will be the issue of industry oversight.  The Report will almost certainly address this topic.  Will it recommend new oversight institutions?  Will it stick with industry led and controlled best practice initiatives and organizations as being fully adequate and sufficient?  Or will it recognize that credible oversight must involve non-industry stakeholders in positions of responsibility and not in merely advisory roles?

It will be an interesting read this thursday.

Monday, August 8, 2011

US Wind Power Doubles From 2009 to 2011: An Energy Revolution

While the nation's economy fought off a depression but contracted in 2009 and then resumed slow growth in 2010 that barely continued in the first half of 2011, wind power in the USA has been in an historic boom.

Moving from the fringe, a joke to some, wind power will basically grow from 25,000 megawatts in 2009 to 50,000 megawatts by 2011 or at the latest March, 2012.

This extraordinary success, a true energy revolution, comes at at time of low power prices as well as a poor economy, making the success of wind power more remarkable. 

Wind power is now reaching substantial percentages of total power production in some states.  According to Energy Information Administration data, wind power provided Texas 5% of its power in 2009 and 14% of Iowa's.  In the first quarter of 2011, wind provided Iowa 20% of its power and 8% of Texas's. 

Nationally in the first quarter of 2011, wind generation provided 2.5% of all our electricity.  Wind energy will provide more than 3% of US power in 2012.

The American Wind Energy Association also reported that the domestic content of wind turbines installed in 2011 was 60%.  Wind energy is creating tens of thousands of American jobs, providing landowners with lease checks, and paying significant taxes to local communities.

Wind energy's success is the result of much lower cost, more productive turbines as well as policy support from President Bush and President Obama and his Administration during the economic collapse and Renewable Portfolio Standards in states like Texas and Iowa.

What does the future hold for wind power?  The low-hanging fruit or easiest wind farms to develop have now been built.  In Texas, more major wind development will require significant new transmission  that Texas seems committed to building. 

Policy support will remain important. How important?

That depends to some extent on power prices.  If power prices increase from current lows to about $75 per megawatt-hour, many wind power projects will be financially viable.

Renewables Provide 3 States More Than 50% of Electricity

According to the Energy Information Administration, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon in 2009 generated respectively 86%, 75%, and 66% of their electricity from renewables.  Most of their power comes from conventional hydro power plants, with hydro providing Idaho 80% of its power; Washington 70%; and Oregon 58%.  Wind and wood/wood waste provided nearly all the remainder.

In 2009 through first half of 2011, Washington and Oregon have had large wind power development.  As ar result, it is likely that the proportion of electricity coming from renewable energy in 2011 will be even a bit higher in both Washington and Oregon.

Maine at 49.8% renewable energy was nearly a fourth state to get 50% of its power from renewables.  Maine got 26% of its total power from hydro and 20.6% from wood/wood waste.

The lights stay on in these states, and power costs are very low in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon as nothing is cheaper than fully depreciated large hydro power plants.

Hydro also provides zero air pollution power--no mercury, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, mercury, arsenic, soot, lead.  No heat trapping pollution.  Hydro is good for human health and climate.

But, of course, the environmental impact of massive dam systems across great rivers is substantial.

Fun Fact: Shark Attacks Off California Up 5 Times

According to the hugely successful Shark Week on Discovery Channel, there were 108 shark attacks off California in the 20th century.

But from 2000 to 2010 shark attacks, there were 54 and mostly from Great Whites. 

Why the increase?  Great Whites have been protected off California since 1992.  Gill netting has been banned.  Surfing equipment is better with people going out further and staying in the water longer.

Hot spots for Great Whites are Malibu and Santa Monica.  As many as a dozen juvenile Great Whites will be about 100 yards off Santa Monica beach at any one time.

Why there?  Great food source...lots of fish.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Perry Rising...Bachmann Stalling...Romney Praying

Governor Perry had a spectacular week that featured national polls putting him in second place in the Republican race and 30,000 attending his Christian prayer rally. The Governor delivered a 13 minute sermon and led the assembled in prayer, including for President Obama.

I am sure the President will take all the help he can get, but Governor Perry is after his job and is building a campaign starting with the evangelical voter that is the base of the Republican party in the South, Iowa, and other key states. Perry understands that Bachmann's current strength is with evangelical voters, and he must win a majority of their support.

In the South Perry will be the candidate of evangelical voters and already leads in Virginia, according to a Public Policy Poll this week. He will have a tougher time winning their affection from the formidable Representative Bachmann outside the South, especially in crucial Iowa where Bachmann was born. Perry will also struggle against Romney in New Hampshire and in the Northeast.

Perry's virtual entry has already stalled the Bachmann surge. In Florida, a true swing state, Perry has jumped into second behind Romney, while Bachmann has faded to fifth.

Romney partisans may be praying that Perry and Bachmann split the 60% of Republican voters who do not want him to be the party's nominee. Such a prolonged battle among the most conservative Republicans could happen and is the only road leading to a Romney nomination.

But this week signals that Perry could consolidate sufficient strength among evangelical voters and then use his establishment business credentials to eat into support for Romney to win the nomination.

Friday, August 5, 2011

US Wind Power Booming in 2011

The US wind industry added another 2,151 megawatts of new generation in the first half of 2011, a 72% increase over 2010, as reported by the American Wind Energy Association ( AWEA states that another 7,354 megawatts of new wind is under construction around America.

Among other things, these numbers destroy the fashionable, false argument that the natural gas boom killed new renewable energy projects. Gas and wind are both booming, because they have key economic strengths, are cleaner, and so are much easier to build than coal or nuclear plants. In fact since 2007 more than twice as much wind has been built as the combined amount of new coal and nuclear plants.

Currently in the US, 42,432 megawatts of wind is operating, and the 50,000 megawatt milestone will be passed within 12 months. Wind accounts for 35% of all new generation capacity built in the USA since 2007.

Awea reports that Iowa got 20% of its total electricity from wind from January through March. Texas now gets 8% of it's total electricity from wind, and it needs more.

The top states for wind energy are Texas, Iowa, California, Minnesota, Illinois, Washington, and Oregon. Next week Everpower will do the ribbon cutting on Pennsylvania's newest wind farm, as wind power is becoming an important part of US electricity production.

Key Facts About CNG Honda Civic

This week I had the chance to look at a natural gas powered Honda Civic. It is the only passenger car built in the US to run on natural gas.

The manufacturer's suggested retail price was $18,155. Its fuel rating was 36 highway and 24 city for a combined 28.

The EPA sticker assumed an annual cost of $1,366 to run based on 15,000 miles traveled and a high $2.55 per gallon CNG cost. Price has been frequently below $2.

60% of parts are US or Canadian made. Honda is boosting US production to keep up with rising demand.

The gas powered Honda Civic: cheaper to run and cleaner.

500 points & $5/Barrel

The victory of Austerity Economics in DC continues to wreck havoc in the stock and oil markets. The markets understand one thing: the US economy is weak and slashing demand by massive spending cuts right now will cause GDP to contract. That GDP decline will then make worse the long-term debt problem.

Just in case the message was lost on ideologues, the markets yesterday melted down after 10 days of warning.

Smashing demand is one way to get cheap oil. In December 2008 as the world hurtled to Depression, oil plummeted to $33. US GDP contracted about 8% in the 4th quarter of 2008.

Do we want to repeat?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Statement on the EWG/NYT 1982 West Virginia Fracking Case

As I read the EWG/NYT report yesterday about events at a well drilled and fractured in 1982 in Jackson county West Virginia, one thing I knew for sure from my years of experience as a lawyer, Public Utility Commissioner adjudicating cases, and as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection was not to jump to conclusions.  See the June 9th posting entitled the Regulatory Hot Seat for more on this fundamental point.  I knew that there would be at least 2 versions of events.  That was especially so, because the event about which we are now learning took place 29 years ago.

As I read the NYT piece that was obviously written in close coordination with EWG, another thing that I knew was the NYT gas reporter--the twice censured NYT gas reporter and censured by the NYT's own Public Editor--would not provide a full accounting of the events about which he wrote.  He would leave out key information.  He would slant other information.  He would not accurately or fully describe key characters.

Energy In Depth does an excellent job in insuring that facts important to the gas industry are part of the public record.   Yesterday it issued a must read response to the EWG/NYT Report.  Go to and follow the links.  We have 2 sides to the story, and I am waiting for still more to emerge.

EID has correspondence from the West Virginia State Agency at the time of this 1982 event.  Reading that state agency information is important to trying to recreate what happened. 

The information developed by EID seems to suggest that fracturing may have been done in the Pittsburg sandstone, a shallow formation, prior to subsequent mapping by the West Virginia authorities to remove it from areas where fracturing was permitted, because it was learned that the Pittsburg sandstone contained potable water supplies.  The EID information seems to suggest that fracturing at depth, thousands of feet below the water table did not cause the water contamination at the water well in Jackson County.

Jumping to conclusions  one way or another about what happened in 1982 in Jackson County West Virginia this morning would be as silly as yesterday.  Indeed the passage of time may well mean that figuring this out definitively may not be possible.

A few things, howerver, are certain this morning.  As opposed to a rush to judgment, a full, fair discussion of this case is a good thing and not a bad thing, though again we must all be cautious in our expectations of what can be determined nearly 30 years later. 

This case does remind us all that fracking has been going on for decades, a very long time, in many places around the country.  If fracking is a major threat to water, as things like run-off, mining discharges, oil spills are, it is quite amazing that few or any cases have been confirmed of fracking fluids returning from depth to cause water contamination after decades and decades.  Frack fluids would be as obvious in water supplies as a fireworks display in the sky.

I can say definitively that in Pennsylvania fracking has been done for decades, and high volume hydraulic fracturing at great depths for shale gas has been done in Pennsylvania in significant numbers since 2007.  I can say that I personally ordered testing of water wells to determine if fracking was polluting water wells in Pennsylvania.  All results came back negative.  Duke University has also tested a significant number of water wells in Pennsylvania, and Duke University has found no contamination from fracking fluids or chemicals returning from depth.

I can also say that the on-going EPA study of fracking is a good thing and that I am pleased that 3 of the EPA case studies will be in Pennsylvania.

The 1982 events in Jackson County, West Virginia are legitimate grist for investigation but, whatever really happened then, those now inevitably murky events are less probative than the large body of much more recent experience with fracking.

Finally when will similar focus be placed on pollution that we know is causing massive damage to water resources--acid mine run-off that has destroyed 5,000 miles of streams in Pennsylvania, run-off of nitrogen and phosphorus that has sickened the Chesapeake Bay, leaking oil and other chemicals into ground water from industrial activities?  No need to do a year long investigation of events back in 1982 on any of these actual water pollution events happening this morning to know that they are a major problem. We are in danger of losing track of what are the most real and most serious water quality issues that must be addressed.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Initial Statement on EWG Report and Today's NYT Article

Both the Environmental Working Group and today's NYT published information today about a 1987 EPA report of a water well contaminated by fracking fluids in West Virginia. See

Apparently this report concluded fracking fluids had returned from depth to a water well and has been hiding in plain sight, concealed by the passing of 24 years. The case is also a reminder that fracking is not new and has been used in America for decades and decades.

Scrutiny of this report and case is a good thing. I am glad to see a full discussion about it, though I am not able to make any judgments at this point about the case at the heart of today's reports.

I can say that I directed testing for frack fluids and chemicals in water wells when I served as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Testing always proved no contamination from frack fluids, but did confirm in some cases that gas drilling had contaminated with methane some water wells.

Duke University's study of water wells in Pennsylvania also found no contamination of water wells with fracking fluids or chemicals, but it too confirmed some cases of methane contamination of water wells as result of drilling.

I have also been fully supportive of the Congressionally-mandated EPA study of fracking. The study is moving ahead and will include 3 locations in Pennsylvania. That study will be an important contribution.

Gov. Ridge & MSC Go Separate Ways

The Marcellus Shale Coalition and Governor Ridge will call it quits after one year. And the last year was one of tremendous growth for shale gas production in Pennsylvania and one full of communications, regulatory, operational, legislative, and policy challenges for the shale gas industry and the MSC.

Governor Ridge's job was not an easy one, and he did not take the path of least resistance. To his credit he delivered some tough love messages to the industry, including on the drilling tax and the need for genuine operational and environmental excellence.

But the communications environment for the industry is always intense, with enormous interest and focus on what it is doing, but not always factual or fair. The sheer volume of reporting on the industry is creating a distortion, because the comparative impacts of coal and oil are being lost. At some level no industry could look good or perhaps even survive the examination directed at natural gas.

Yet life is not always fair. When the margin for error is slim, as it is now for the gas industry, the need to be excellent in operations and communications is high. At times some in the industry have made things worse rather than better.

For example some in the industry successfully opposed in 2010 a drilling tax, and the loss of good will for the gas industry among the public as result of no drilling tax being in place is enormous. No spokesperson can prevent or undo the damage inflicted on the industry because of that issue alone over the last year.

I wish Governor Ridge all the best in his many other endeavors.

Heat Records Smashed In July

The National Weather Service reports that heat records were broken or tied 2,676 times during July in the US, a rate two times greater than for July 2010, a hot month itself.

The records included eye-popping numbers like 108 degrees in Newark, NJ, an all-time record, and 102 degrees in Portland, Maine.

Temperatures are rising. Concentrations of heat trapping gas in the atmosphere are rising. Facts are ugly.

School Cheating Scandal Stalks Pennsylvania

As a result of great reporting by The Notebook (www.the, Pennsylvania state government now has strong statistical evidence that implicates 89 schools in a testing cheating scandal. The evidence involves the pattern of erasures on tests taken by students, and at 89 schools the odds that the erasures were not the product of test tampering approaches 1 in 100 trillion, according to published reports.

What will the Pennsylvania Department of Education do now ignorance as bliss is not an option?

The question is sharp in part because one implicated school is Chester Community Charter School that enrolls 2,700 students that has been showcased by Governor Coebett as a model for using taxpayer funds to finance private schools. In fact Chester Community Charter was among the scoops most frequently identified for suspicious erasures, according to a story in Monday's NYT by Michael Winerip.

To make matters more awkward, Vahan Gureghian operates the school and gave the Governor's campaign its single largest individual donation--$300,000.

There are 3,300 schools in Pennsylvania so less than 3% are implicated, but rooting out test cheating by schools wherever it happens is a duty that cannot be shirked.

Debt Deal Kills 1.8 Million Jobs In 2012

Just after the ink dried on the "Debt Deal," the Economic Policy Institute estimates that it will decrease 2012 GDP by 0.3% and destroy 1.8 million jobs ( The CEO of PIMCO, a leading bond investment firm, also said the deal will decrease demand, lower growth, and raise unemployment.

No wonder that the stock market lost more than 200 points and West Texas oil fell to $94.

Markets Shudder As Austerity Economics Rules DC

After 30 years of fiscal recklessness, with the Clinton Presidency period of responsibility, no doubt exists that the USA has a long- term debt problem. That problem becomes devastating without economic growth. paying down the debt in a stagnant or shrinking economy will not happen.

And to make matters worse since 2007, we have had a job crisis, with falling or weak demand. The job crisis is real and now.

Oil and stock markets gave a big thumbs down to the debt deal, reading it as a sign that austerity now ruled and economic growth and stimulating demand were secondary priorities.

Yesterday the markets signaled that the US may well tip into recession. That will make all problems worse, including the deficit and debt.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Green Power Consumers Exceed 1.1 Million

Electricity customers buying renewable energy were 1,123,778 in 2009, up 6% from 2008, according to the Energy Information Administration.  There were 680 sellers of renewable electricity in 2009 that include electric utilities, competitive electricity suppliers, renewable energy credit companies.

Texas with 316, 585 renewable energy customers led the nation. Oregon with 127,290 and California with 85,000 were second and third. 

In 2009 Pennsylvania was 8th with 35,335.  Today Pennsylvania is probably second, as substantial shopping for electricity has taken place in Pennsylvania in 2010 and the first half of 2011.  Green power products are available in all markets.

I am purchasing a 100% wind product from Washington Gas for my home in the PPL electric service territory.  I chose the product, because the wind is generated in Pennsylvania and Maryland.  Purchasing wind from your state or local area will benefit your local economy and your local air quality, while buying Texas wind when in Pennsylvania will export many of the benefits of your purchase.

Buying green power for your home or business is the single biggest step one can take in most cases to reduce your personal environmental footprint.  The family home is responsible for twice the pollution than the family car.  I strongly recommend buying green power and local or home-state green power.

Net Metering Booms; Jumps 38%

Homes and businesses that generate their own electricity and sell back to the grid excess production that they do not use are "net metered" accounts, and their number grew by 38% in 2009, according to the Energy Information Administration.

In 2009, 96,506 electricity accounts were net metering in America, up from 70,009 in 2008.  These homes and businesses are at the heart of distributed generation.

A total of 540 electric utilities in 2009 allowed for net metering.  The terms and conditions of net metering programs vary widely.

I would be willing to bet that the number today of net metered homes and businesses is around 200,000, as there has been explosive growth in net metering around the nation in the last 18 months driven by a roaring solar market.  Not all solar installations are net metered but many are.
But back to the 2009 data that show 55% of the net metered accounts were in California, with Colorado second at 7,804 accounts, New Jersey third, Arizona fourth, New York fifth.  Pennsylvania was 16th in 2009, with 650 net metered accounts, of which 552 were residential and 98 commercial.  Again there has been massive growth since 2009, and I know that today Pennsylvania has several thousand net metered accounts.

As the grid grows smarter and generation becomes more distributed, net metering will go from about 0.1% of all accounts in 2009 to a significant share of the electricity market.  And go quickly.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fascinating Gallup Poll Confirms Nation Tilts Center-Right

The Gallup Poll  each year asks Americans to self-identify their political philosophy.  The 2011 results are available (, with 41% self-identifying as conservative, 36% moderate, and 21% liberal.  These results confirm that the nation tilts center-right but can easily move center-left.

These numbers also show why Republican and Democratic parties get into electoral trouble when they cater to their ideological base and make moderates uncomfortable.

There are also interesting differences among the political philosophies of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

The Republican party is 72% conservative, 24% moderate, and 4% liberal.  The Rockefeller wing has just about died out, with now moderates often  derisively called Republicans In Name Only or RINO by the ascendant conservatives that control the Republican party.

The Democratic Party's biggest block is moderate voters at 39%, with liberals at 38%, and conservatives at a far from inconsequential 22%.  The Democratic Party is much more ideologically diverse or fractious than the much more cohesive Republican Party.

The fastest growing category of voter is Independent.  The biggest block of Independent voters are moderate voters at 44%, with conservatives next at 35%, and liberals at 20%.

No matter ones political philosophy, I would urge that citizens put facts at the center of understanding what works and what makes sense.  Doing so requires more effort, even work, as fact-centered thinking contradicts the ideological shortcut to knowing what is "right."   Moderates embrace fact-centered thinking more readily than highly ideological voters of the right and left.  But fact-centered thinking is good for all political persuasions.

US Begins Sound National Energy Policy With 54.5 MPG Standard

Last week's agreement between the federal government and automakers to raise for the second time since 2009 the CAFE standard is a keystone to a national energy policy that ends oil imports, protects the US economy from oil price shocks, and slashes heat trapping pollution that has already raised average temperatures by 2 degrees.

Fuel efficiency plus substituting natural gas, electricity, biodiesel for oil is the road to ending our sickening, dangerous oil addiction.

Raising the fuel efficiency standard to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 will decrease US carbon emissions by about 650 million tons per year or 10% of the total. Pennsylvania emits about 320 miLlion tons of carbon each year from all sources--power plants, homes, factories, transportation--so this CAFE increase reduces carbon pollution by twice what Pennsylvania emits.Cars and trucks account for about 20% of total carbon emissions.

The 54.5 mpg CAFE standard will save car owners $3,000 in gasoline costs, and also cushion our economy from oil price shocks likemtha experienced this year when gasoline jumped to $4. At that price median income families spent about 10% of their disposable income on filling the
tank, leaving less for other purchases, thereby slowing the economy further.

This agreement is the second time President Obama has negotiated a major increase in the CAFE standard, and it alone is a major piece of a real energy policy that works for the USA.

A Big Weekend On The NYT Gas Beat

The weekend was a rollercoaster for the NYT gas reporter and his gas beat.  On saturday, he had a story in which he crowed that his June 26th story painting the shale gas industry as a Ponzi scheme filled with Enrons had triggered an SEC investigation of one or more unnamed gas companies.

Then Sunday bought a deep, stomach-churning drop when the Public Editor of the NYT for an incredible second time chastised the NYT gas reporter for manipulations that mislead readers. 

The June 27th story charging the Energy Information Administration with cooking the shale gas data books was this time the object of the Public Editor's Sunday, July 31st chastisement.  The Public Editor on July 17th had heavily criticized the NYT gas reporter and his June 26th story. 

That is an extraordinary two strikes from the NYT Public Editor.  Both pieces focus on techniques--huge use of anonymous sources, misleading descriptors of sources to inflate their credibility with readers, leaving out key information contradicting the narrative told--that the NYT gas reporter uses consistently in his gas reporting.

The two broadsides from the NYT Public Editor are warnings to readers interested in the truth and to guardians of journalistic integrity. Yet, who are those guardians at the NYT?

To catch up and stay current on the saga of the NYT Gas Reporter, please see the Statements posted on Saturday and Sunday.