Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Must Read: Could Smog Shroud the Marcellus Shale Boom?


That is the headline of a must read Greenwire story picked up by the NY Times, dated May 27th.  See http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2011/05/27/27greenwire-could-smog-shroud-the-marcellus-shales-natural-3397.html

Controlling air emissions remains a top priority for developing the right way Marcellus shale gas.  The huge focus on water can cause a loss of focus on this essential issue.

$4 Gas Changes Cars Americans Buy--Big Time!

In 2006, just one out of 8 cars Americans bought was a sub-compact or compact.

$4 Gasoline in 2008 and rising prices in 2010 ended our love affair with the Hummer and SUVs.  In 2010 one out of 4 cars bought were compacts and sub-compacts.

The move to higher fuel efficient cars and away entirely from gasoline vehicles is gathering steam in 2011 as consumers experience another bout of $4 gasoline.  Households paid on average in April $369 to gas up.

One way to turn $4 gasoline into the equivalent of $2 per gallon is to double the miles per gallon that one's vehicle gets.  A vehicle that gets 17 mpg costs about 24 cents per mile to drive while a 34 mpg vehicle costs about 12 cents per mile.

Compact and sub-compacts provide a lot to love in the age of $4 gasoline.  Natural gas vehicles and electric cars are also looking ever more beautiful.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Global Heat Trapping Pollution Reaches Record

The International Energy Agency will be soon reporting that global heat trapping pollution reached record levels in 2010, according to the Guardian newspaper.

Globally 30.6 billion tons of carbon pollution was emitted to the atmosphere in 2010. 

US global warming emissions have declined from peak levels to about amounts emitted in 1995.

The implications of these numbers are that world temperatures will almost certainly increase by minimally on average 4 degrees fahrenheit, with 2 degress already having taken place.

The warming temperatures are increasing moisture content in the atmosphere.  Higher moisture content fuels bigger precipitation events.

The world is running an uncontrolled science experiment by loading its atmosphere with heat trapping pollution.

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority March and April Tests Show Water is Safe

In response to the New York Times February 27th story that suggested drinking water in Pennsylvania could be contaminated with radionuclides, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has been conducting monthly tests for radionuclides.

The March and April test results appear on its website and show that the drinking water and river water meets the Safe Drinking Water Act standards and is safe.

See http://www.pgh2o.com/docs/radiological_survey.pdf.

Thank you to the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority for conducting monthly tests of both drinking water and river water.

Its results are now part of a mountain of data indicating that there is NO radionuclide contamination of Pennsylvania's drinking water.

One vainly waits for the NYT to set the record straight.

Memorial Day

Today is a day of rememberance for those who died defending our nation.  Memorial Day used to be called Decoration day when the custom was to decorate the graves of the fallen.

Right now 150,000 members of our armed forces serve in war zones. Please keep them as well as all members of the military, veterans, and their families in your prayers and thoughts.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Right Wing Extremists Attack Pickens' Plan While Gasoline Prices Punish Families

$369--that is how much an average household spent on gasoline during April 2011, according to the AP.  In April 2009, when oil prices had collapsed due to the global near depression, households paid $201 for gasoline.  Now again our economy is buckling from the weight of high gasoline prices.

Yet, right wing extremists Grover Norquist and Club for Growth attack the Natural Gas Act promoted by Boone Pickens that would wean us off expensive, dirty, and foreign oil. These attacks caused 4 Republican Congressman, including Pennsylvania Congressman Thompson, to drop their sponsorship of the the Natural Gas Act.

Natural gas is available for the equivalent of $1.50 per gallon and is domestic.  Electricity is available for the equivalent of 3 cents per mile compared to 16 cents, assuming $4 gasoline and a 25 miles per gallon vehicle.

At $369 per month, households would spend $4,428 per year.  The median income for a Pennsylvania household is about $49,000 so gasoline would consume roughly 10% or more of a household's after tax income.
Despite the threat to our economy and national security, Norquist and the Club for Growth oppose the Natural Gas Act or any policy action to remedy the massive market failure that leaves us all addicted to expensive, dirty, dangerous oil.  Why? All in the name of sacred ideology.

Norquist's and the Club for Growth's ideology is good for the King of Saudi Arabia but too expensive and dangerous for American families. 

We must act to build natural gas and electric vehicle infrastructure...NOW.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

EPA Administrator: "Fracking" Caused No Water Contamination

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testified to Congress that EPA has not ONE confirmed case of fracking causing contamination or water pollution.  See http://www.newsok.com/epa-chief-lisa-jackson-says-natural-gas-production-is-a-good-thing/article/3571012.

The EPA Administrator is using "fracking" to refer to the injection of fluids underground to break open shale and release gas.  She is saying that no fluids have every come back to ground water and polluted it.  She is not suggesting that spills or leaks at the surface have not caused problems or gas has not migrated from poor gas drilling.

Lisa Jackson's statement is completely consistent with my experience at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The EPA favors strong regulation of the five stages of natural gas drilling to reduce impacts further.  Lisa Jackson also recognizes that coal mining and oil production plus the combustion of coal and oil cause much more damage to health and the environment than natural gas. 

As a result, Lisa Jackson herself said natural gas production is a good thing because it is already beginning to displace large amounts of coal and oil, thereby cutting total pollution to the environment.

Reason and facts have received support from Lisa Jackson and the EPA.

US Gasoline Demand Falls...to 2004, or 2002, or 2001 Levels

Some predicted in 2008 that US gasoline demand would never again exceed 2007 levels. How far US gasoline demand has fallen is not completely clear, with various measurements indicating that demand is back at 2004, 2002 or 2001 levels. 

The trend is most important, and it is clear: down. 

The cause of falling gasoline demand has been rising ethanol usage, increasing fuel efficiency in vehicles represented by the Prius boom, and demand destruction caused by high prices causing less driving, more car pooling, and public transit use.

US gasoline prices have rocketed up as demand falls and domestic oil production rises. 

Housing Prices Are Plain Scary

The continuing decline in home prices could mean that 50% of mortgages are under water by some point this year.  Deflation remains a much more serious threat to our economy than inflation.

The near depression the world experienced in September 2008 had its roots in the collapse of American housing prices that peaked sometime in 2006 or 2007, depending on the price index one uses.

The rescue of the US economy from collapse has been a remarkable success, but US housing prices, the root of the economic threat, continue downward. 

Falling house prices pose a real threat to economic recovery and argue strongly against the austerity, root canal economics in such vogue today.

The latest data come courtesy of the Federal Housing Finance Agency and show that prices fell another 2.5% in the first quarter of 2011.

FHFA's index has prices down nationally on average by 19.3%.  Other measurements put the national decline at 30%.

Pennsylvania's prices have fallen 7.9%, and our housing market has performed much better than the nation and most other states.  By contrast, Nevada's prices are down 54%, Florida's 45%, Arizona's 47%, and California's 42%. 

Collapsing house prices vaporized huge wealth and could still plunge the US into recession or worse if economic policy is strongly contractionary.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bad Regulating?

Using official regulatory power to settle a personal squabble would be a serious abuse of power.  And that is the charge lodged against Dr. Avila, Pennsylvania's Secretary of Health.

The Patriot News in a friday May 27th scathing editorial states that Dr. Avila got into a dispute about a food order with the owner of Roxy Restaurant, a provider of good, low-cost food in Harrisburg. The dispute about the food order is not the problem.  What came next would be a major problem if true.

See http://mobile.pennlive.com/advpenn/db_/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=5arQHrjo&fulll=true#display.

According to The Patriot News, Dr. Avila used his office to target Roxy for a health inspection in retaliation for the food order dispute.

There may be another side to this story. 

Whether or not there is, good regulation is vital to health, safety, and efficient markets.  Good regulation must be professional and independent.  It is hugely important to make sure regulation is both.

Pure Evil

Pure evil is a fact.  Ratko Mladic murdered on July 12, 1995 8,000 Muslin men and boys in Srebrenica.  Fifty years after the end of World War II, Mladic ordered his troops to conduct mass shootings in Europe.  They did so with murderous efficiency.  They also engaged in mass rape at Mladic's direction.

Memorial Day is the time for us all to remember and to thank our veterans and members of the armed forces for protecting our lives and liberty.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Patrick Murphy for Attorney General

I am proud to endorse Patrick Murphy for Attorney General of Pennsylvania.  Patrick is supremely well qualified to be Pennsylvania's greatest Attorney General.

Patrick served all of us in the Iraq War. He is a former JAG officer and a former federal prosecutor who will strongly enforce the law.  Patrick supports clean energy, will protect the environment, and be part of developing Marcellus gas the right way and not the wrong way.

Importantly to me, Patrick has worked for everything he has accomplished. He knows what working families, middle class Pennyslvanians face. 

My full endorsement is here: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php?option=com_flexicontent&view=items&id=20295:former-pennsylvania-dep-secretary-endorses-patrick-murphy-for-state-attorney-general.

I will be actively campaigning for Patrick.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fukushima Fallout: 22 Reactors To Be Decommissioned in Europe

Chancellor Merkel reportedly was watching television at the time of the first hydrogen explosion at Fukushima and told her aides right then that nuclear power was done in Germany.  Now comes news that Switzerland will also end nuclear power.

Germany will retire all of its 17 reactors in 10 years and Switzerland has decided to decommission all 5 of its reactors by 2035.

In the case of Germany, the 17 reactors provide over 21,000 megawatts of electricity generation. Germany is the world's 4th largest economy.

 Chancellor Merkel has stated that Germany will turn to renewable generation for most of the replacement power.  Switzerland too intends to boost energy efficiency and renewables, including hydro, biomass, wind, and solar to take the place of its nuclear reactors

Chrysler Pays Uncle Sam $5.1 Billion & Romney Does A Romney

The success of forcing GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy court to slash their costs and of recapitalizing the companies with taxpayer funds once costs were slashed is now not contestable with both companies hiring, making money, and paying back taxpayer funds. Chrysler paid back $5.1 billion on tuesday.  The rescue saved about 1 million jobs in the companies, their suppliers, and businesses dependent on revenues from people working there.

Success has a thousand fathers and failure is an orphan. The newest father of the GM and Chrysler rescue is Governor Romney. 

Strange indeed, as he joined nearly every Republican in 2008 and 2009 in savaging President Obama for the auto rescue that President Bush began in the last days of his presidency. 

But yesterday Romney's spokesperson, Eric Fehrnstrom, told the New York Times: "Mitt Romney had the idea first. You have to acknowledge that. He was advocating for a course of action that eventually the Obama administration adopted."

So Romney supposedly was for the Auto Rescue Package, then he was against it when Obama became for it, and now he is again for it.

As former Michigan Governor Granholm said: "Mitt Romney is doing circus-like contortions to get out from under the damaging words he uttered in 2008." 

Romney is  good at circus-like contortions since he practices doing them so often.

Must See Video Of Incredible B-Ball Trick Shots

You will just LOVE watching these AMAZING basketball trick shots by Kyle Singler.

Go to http://www.dukeblueplanet.com/. See the video entitled Kyle Gets Buckets 2.0.

Two observations:

1. No way any player from Carolina is that good. 

2. Makes me wonder how Arizona smoked my Blue Devils in the Round of 16. The Wildcats shot better than this video.

Statement About Drilling's Impacts on Pennsylvania's Waters

So what is the impact at this point of gas drilling on Pennsylvania's water? Enormous media and public attention is focused on this question.  The public correctly demands no compromises with its drinking water supplies.

First the good news. 

In response to the NYT February 27th story, apparently eleven drinking water companies and providers have tested their drinking water for radionuclides and other contaminants and all eleven found no radionuclide pollution or other contamination from drilling or any other pollution source, according to statements made by DEP to the press. 

Pennsylvania American Water Company did an exhaustive battery of testing at 5 of its drinking water plants in the Pittsburgh region and the results were that the water is safe and meets all health standards. 

But unlike PAWC, the other companies that have tested don't seem to have released to the public their results.  I urge DEP to release the names of all companies that have tested and the test results for each.

Given the on-going regular testing of drinking water by public drinking water systems and the stringent oversight of such testing, I am confident that Pennsylvania's drinking water provided by public drinking water systems is safe.  And again recent extra testing that has confirmed drinking water is safe adds to my confidence.

If the water were not safe, the failure to test adequately or the failure to disclose such information immediately to the public could put in jail those responsible for not disclosing.  And that is the way it should be.

Apart from drinking water companies, DEP itself in November 2010 did in stream testing for radionuclides in 7 counties and the results were negative or safe.

May 19th: Much Less Drilling Wastewater Is Being Discharged But What Is The Exact Status of Legacy Plants?

Secretary Krancer asked up to 16 plants that were discharging drilling wastewater without treatment for TDS to stop doing so by May 19th. A major reason for the Secretary's request was to reduce bromide loading.

 A careful review of public statements and conversations with others indicates that up to 14 of the 16 plants complied with the Secretary's request by May 19th.  Plants that treat drilling wastewater for recycling and reusing or fully for TDS report that the Secretary's request increased their business as drilling companies brought new volumes of wastewater to them for treatment.

The volumes of wastewater being discharged without TDS treatment since Secretary Krancer's request have apparently decreased significantly.  But it is not clear exactly how many of the 16 plants that had been discharging stopped and how many did not by May 19th.  I urge DEP to provide full information to the public.

Bottom line is that more water is being recycled, injected in deep wells , or fully treated and less is being discharged without treatment.  Extra water testing has been performed to add to the normal intensive testing done by drinking water companies.  Results confirm that Pennsylvania's drinking water at public water systems has been safe and remains safe. 

Gas Migration And Private Water Wells

Gas migration from poorly constructed gas wells has caused the pollution with methane of probably about 30 to 50 private water wells in Pennsylvania.  This is a real issue.  The state of the art rules governing the construction of gas wells that were proposed in 2009 and became effective on February 5th, 2011 will reduce the incidence of gas migration if they are followed and enforced.

The gas that migrated from poorly constructed gas wells at least in the Dimock region was shallower  gas encountered on the way to the Marcellus gas.  Repairing or plugging gas wells can remove methane from a water well but can take considerable time to do so.

A renewed focus on stopping gas migration cases is needed.

No Frack Fluids Have Returned From Depth in Pennsylvania

No private water well or aquifer has been contaminated with frack fluids that have returned from depth to pollute ground water.  The Duke University testing of 60 water wells where methane in some cases was present confirmed that no chemicals or frack fluids were in the private water wells.  The Duke testing reached the same results as testing by the Department of Environmental Protection had reached.


The incredible focus on gas drilling and water is healthy as long as the discussion is factual, recognizes both the good news and the real remaining problems, and does not cause a collective ignoring of non-drilling threats to our waters that are in fact much greater.   

There is enormous daily damage done to our waters by acid mine pollution, sewer overflows, run-off of sediment and other pollution from various lands and surfaces, oil spills and leaks, and mercury falling into it from old-coal fired power plants to name a few of the major non-drilling threats.  We should also not forget the heat-trapping pollution that is increasing temperatures of waters and damaging whole ecosystems.

We must address all these long-standing, non-drilling threats to Pennsylvania's waters, while insuring that gas drilling is strongly regulated and that gas drilling does not cause even modest damage to our water.

Fukushima Update: Just Getting Worse

Readers of this blog know that I was alarmed about the real status of the Fukushima nuclear disaster within 24 hours of the 9.0 earthquake on March 11th.  The first hydrogen explosion ended any doubt about whether Fukushima was experiencing a catastrophic event. 

It was also obvious that both the Japanese Government and Tokyo Electric Power were both not fully aware of what was happening at the plants and were being less than forthright with the public about what they did know.

So just how bad were things at Fukushima? Worse than even I thought. 

It is now clear that 3 reactors have melted down, with fuel dropping to the floor. 

At least 2 containment vessels have breaches allowing massive radiation to contaminate the reactor buildings and reach the environment.

And it is also clear that the fuel damage and breaching of the containment vessels happened within hours of the earthquake. 

It will probably be the case that the earthquake delivered a fatal blow to the plants, even before the tsunami hit.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Key Number is 4 in NY 26

Just 4 Republican Congressman voted against the Ryan plan for Medicare.  Every Republican Congressman in Pennsylvania voted for it.

NY 26, a strong Republican seat, just elected the Democratic candidate in a special election.  Why?

Seniors are in rebellion over the Ryan plan.  They don't buy the notion that a voucher will enable them to purchase adequate health insurance at age 65 in the private market.

The Republican candidate outspent 2 to 1 the Democratic candidate. But no amount of money could rescue this seat because more than 75% of the public like Medicare and remember that before it was enacted about 33% of America's seniors lived in poverty.

The political pendulum swings.   Speaker Boehner and Republicans should hear the political tsunami sirens wailing.  The tsunami has formed.  Nancy Pelosi is smiling.

Ron Paul Second In New Hampshire: Will It Be Romney Versus Paul?

The latest University of New Hampshire poll of Republican Presidential candidates in the New Hampshire primary has Governor Romney with 32% and a commanding lead, since no other candidate reached 10%.

But Ron Paul led the chase pack with 9% support.  Next were Rep. Gingrich and Governor Palin with 6% each.

So could Ron Paul be the candidate that will take on Mitt Romney?  Live Free or Die New Hampshire would be a near ideal state for Ron Paul to breakthrough if he is going to go from fringe candidate to a contender for the nomination.

The mood of the Republican Party has certainly moved toward Ron Paul who was Tea Party before there was a Tea Party.

But can Ron Paul grow from his 9% support to 35%?  Odds are no, even in the perfect setting that New Hampshire is for Paul.  But it is not impossible.

If Ron Paul does not emerge as the candidate that will fight Romney for the nomination, who will?
Smart money says Governor Pawlenty.  Too easy and not fun so let us keep going.

Don't rule out two-term US Senator Rick Santorum.  Senator Santorum has been often discounted in his political career only to win races. 

Daniels, Trump, Huckabee, Barbour leaving the race and the near implosion of Gingrich all create a real opportunity for Santorum who is running hard right on social issues and thrilling neocons with his Bush Doctrine foreign policy.

Really pay attention to Santorum if Palin does not get into the race as Palin and Santorum have almost identical issue profiles.  Santorum needs Palin to not run.  And he needs to prove he can raise money at the Presidential level.

Michelle Bachmann can raise money, is a Tea Party darling but she too needs Palin not to run. 

Ultimately this nomination will be won in the South as now all the strong contenders are outside the region, unless Gingrich recovers from near fatal, self-inflicted wounds.

Paul has regional ties, but the South has previously not been fertile soil for his libertarian philosophy.

This time around the Presidential track, Rep. Paul quickly said that he would have voted against the historic 1964 Civil Rights Act that ended racial disrimination in public accomodations and other racist practices throughout the South and elsewhere. 

If Paul cannot rally the South and I am guessing he cannot, the Northerner--Romney, Santorum, Pawlenty, Palin, Bachmann-- who whistles Dixie best may well win the Republican nomination.

Four Drilling Tax Bills Now In Play

Senator Scarnati, Senator Yudichak (SB 905), Rep. Harper (HB 204), and Rep. Vitali (HB 33) have all proposed fees or taxes that by 2015 would produce from $172 million to $552 million per year.

The good folks at the Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center have done great analysis on the bills.  See http://www.pennbpc.org/comparison-legislative-proposals-marcellus-shale-drilling-tax.

Senator Scarnatti has moved forward with an impact fee proposal and so it is three drilling tax bills are in play if semantics instead of dollars matter most.  But to most what counts is revenues paid and received and not whether the source is a "fee" or tax.

By 2015, Senator Scarnati produces $172 million per year; Rep. Harper's bill yields $204 million per year; Senator Yudichak's 318 million; and Rep.Vitali's $552 million.

The bills also differ in the uses to which funds raised would be put. 

Governor Corbett stands nearly alone in opposing a severance tax within Pennsylvania and around the country.  Governor Perry, Governor Jindal, Former Governor Palin are just a few of the many Republican Governors supporting and levying drilling taxes right now.

At some point, Pennsylvania will join all major gas producing states that have had for years a severance tax.  The only question is becoming how much pain and damage will be inflicted to legislators, schools, environmental programs like Growing Geener II, the gas industry itself before that day arrives.

National Energy Technology Lab Finds Gas 55% Cleaner Than Coal On Global Warming Pollution

Funded by taxpayers to do objective energy research, the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is located near Pittsburgh and is a great institution of science, research, and scholarship.

NETL issued a presentation on May 12th finding that gas is 55% cleaner than coal on global warming pollution.  It is 100% cleaner on mercury, arsenic, lead and toxic pollution.

The NETL presentation was made at Cornell University in the Cornell University Lecture series.

For the link to the presentation see the prior post.

Monday, May 23, 2011

National Energy Technology Lab Latest to Debunk Cornell Prof's Gas Study

Timothy Skone of the National Energy Technology Lab traveled to Ithaca, NY on May 12 to deliver a presentation at the Cornell University Lecture Series that debunked Professor Horwath's fabulously publicized and fabulously false study purporting to show that gas was dirtier than coal on a carbon life cycle basis.  See http://cce.cornell.edu/EnergyClimateChange/NaturalGasDev/Documents/PDFs/SKONE_NG_LC_GHG_Profile_Cornell_12MAY11_Final.PDF

And what did NETL conclude?  Coal is much dirtier than gas in terms of its global warming pollution or emissions. 

How much dirtier? About 50% to 55% worse for the climate (See pages 34 and 35 of the presentation).

But in this media climate don't expect to see much or any reporting of the NETL presentation on Professor Horwath's home turf.  Don't expect to see rational consideration of facts. 

Reason is so out and not cool.  Some believed the manipulations of a religious talk show personality that May 21st was the Rapture, and too many are ready to believe any fable damning gas, even to the extent of giving coal a pass.

Meanwhile study after study (with more on the way) is debunking Professor Horwath and confirming that coal emits about 50% more global warming pollution on a life cycle basis. 

Coal is also responsible for 90% of toxic pollution from the electric industry and 17,000 people per year die prematurely from the current level of toxic pollution from power plants.  And gas emits no mercury, arsenic, lead and so on.

But for some, such facts are inconvenient and to be damned in pursuit of nailing natural gas.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Three Good Points FOR Governor Huntsman

Daniels, Huckabee, and Huntsman were the three possible GOP candidates that would have carried for sure their home state.  With Daniels and Huckabee out, the GOP is down to one--Governor Huntsman.

But Governor Huntsman has three strikes against him in the Republican primaries.

Strike one: He was nominated by and served President Obama as Ambassador to China.

Strike two: He favors civil union rights for gays and lesbians.

Strike three: He accepts climate science and believes global warming due to pollution is real.

Within the modern GOP, I am not sure which of those three strikes is worse.  But Governor Romney, Governor Pawlenty, and Speaker Gingrich have all walked way back and flipped and flopped on global warming, as to be a Republican in good standing requires aligning with Senator Inhofe that global warming is a hoax.

The Home State Barometer predicts that any presidential candidate that would lose his or her home state or struggle to hold it loses the Presidency.  It has strong predictive strength.

If the Republican Party wants its strongest candidate, it should nominate Governor Hunstman without requiring him to pander.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Which State Ranks 50th in Job Creation?

Governor Christie's popularity is cratering in New Jersey.  Possibly his jobs record could have something to do with it.

As the nation generates more jobs, only 4 states have managed to create less jobs over the last 12 months.  And New Jersey ranks at the bottom, with 0.2% less jobs in April 2011 than in April 2010.

Austerity economics is President Hoover economics.  Somebody should tell Governor Christie.

PA Sunshine Program Huge Success; Waiting List By July

The PA Sunshine Program has already built more than 50 megawatts of solar projects and will build about 90 megawatts by the time its initial funding of $100 million is exhausted.  And that time is fast approaching, with DEP likely creating a waiting list this July for PA Sunshine Applications due to funds reaching an end.

The PA sunshine program was created by Act 1 that provided $650 million for alternative energy investments. 

The program has used the $100 million to leverage another approximately $450 million of private investement to build ultimately 90 megawatts of solar capacity.  More than 700 PA businesses were approved by DEP to provide PA Sunshine solar systems.  The program created thousands of jobs.

PA sunshine commenced in 2009, providing matching support for both small commercial and residential solar projects.  At first $2.25 per watt was paid for residential installations and these amounts were reduced in stages.

By the last stage the subsidy for small commercial projects was cut to 25 to 75 cents per watt.  Despite very low subsidies the solar projects kept coming in the PA Sunshine door.

Now the initial money will run out by July.  PA Sunshine is a program that works and that should be renewed with another $25 million of funding.

Friday, May 20, 2011

It Is May 20th: Do We Know How Many Plants Stopped Discharging Drilling Wastewater?

When Secretary Krancer requested in April that all plants discharging drilling wastewater untreated for TDS to streams to stop by May 19th, there were no more than 16 plants and probably less doing so.

How many stopped?  My estimate is at least 10 of the 16 and possibly 14.  What do others know?

Hart Resource Technologies, a company that served the shallow drilling industry well before the first Marcellus well, continues to discharge but as reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review at lower volumes than prior to May 19th.  No details were immediately available.

The Johnstown Redevelopment Authority stated to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review that it was continuing to discharge but would stop in a few weeks.

Again, I am very interested in getting the details about how many plants stopped by May 19th, how many continue to discharge, and what are the volumes being discharged. 

Comments welcome.

Black Swan Earthquake?

The March 11th Japanese earthquake was 9.0 on the Richter scale and the strongest to hit Japan in the approximately 130 years of modern seismic records.  It ranks the 4th strongest anywhere in the world in those records.

Tokyo Electric Power built  the Fukushima nuclear plant to withstand at most an 8.0 and recent information indicates that major damage was done to nuclear facility, including the ability of the plants to cool reactors, by the earthquake itself, even before the tsunami hit.

So was the March 11th earthquake a black swan?  Would it have been unreasonable to build for a 9.0? 

Answering those questions now seems obvious.

 It is also becoming clear that relying on the historical earthquake records is not sufficient to identify an earthquake Black Swan. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

LED Lighting Facts

LED lighting now can be purchased for homes and not just commercial uses.  See the excellent piece by Jeff Gelles in today's Philadelphia Inquirer at http://www.phillynews.com/

Should you buy LED ? 

Environmentally the answer is yes.  Reducing energy consumption is a powerful way to avoid using fossil fuels, clean our air, protect our water.  The typical home causes twice as much pollution as the family car.  Lighting is a significant portion of home energy use.

Economically the answer is perhaps.

Consider these numbers.  LED lighting reduces electricity consumption compared to an incandescent light bulb by about 80%.  Deployment of LED lighting across the economy would reduce appreciably increases in electricity consumption.

They last 50 times longer than an incandescent light bulb or the rest of your life even if you are quite young.

But, and there is still a but, they cost $37. 

Bottom line is that if you have a fixture that is on a great many hours every day, then LED lighting will pay back its up front cost in a reasonable period.

Sales Figures For Leaf & Volt

Production for both the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt is slowly ramping up, with the number of cars produced unable to meet the orders for them.

As of April, 1703 Volts and 1,025 Leafs had been delivered to their owners.  Nissan says it has 20,000 back orders for the Leaf and Chevy reports a 10,000 Volt waiting list.

Chevy announced today that it is increasing Volt production from the current 16,000 cars per year to 60,000 in 2012.  The Volt can be bought now in 9 states but will be available nationwide at the end of this year.

Volt and Leaf owners are spending about 3 cents per mile to fuel with electricity compared to about 16 cents per mile, assuming $4 gasoline and a 25 miles per gallon vehicle.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

American Rivers Mistakenly Designates Susquehanna Most Endangered River

American Rivers does important work but its designation of the Susquehanna as the most endangered river in the nation due to gas drilling is mistaken.

The Susquehanna does face pollution challenges like many rivers, but those are mainly pollution run-off from agricultural lands, sewer plant discharges, run-off from urban areas, and fertilized lawns.

All of these real threats to the Susquehanna are stable or declining. For example, in the case of sewer discharges, over a 150 municipal sewer plants discharging to the Susquehanna or tributaries have installed improved pollution controls since 2008 or will be doing so shortly.  The amount of poorly treated sewage going into the Susquehanna is declining.

Progress is being made on reducing pollution running off land.  Thousands of miles of new riparian buffers have been installed.  Huge amounts of cover crops are now planted in the Susquehanna River Basin area.

The riparian buffers and the cover crops are just two of many practices required by the Total Maximum Daily Load Limit or pollution limit that has been in place since December 2010 for the entire Chesapeake Watershed that includes centrally the Susquehanna River.  EPA and the federal courts are enforcing the TMDL. So with the TMDL in place, the Susquehanna has never been better protected by law than today.

So if the major, existing threats to the Susquehanna are stable or declining, what about gas drilling?  American Rivers points to two factors that concern it about gas drilling: water withdrawals and discharges of drilling waste water to the river.

Water withdrawals for drilling from the Susquehanna and all of Pennsylvania's streams have been tightly regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission since the fall of 2008.  Since then, when drillers apply for a drilling permit, they  must file a water plan specifying from where water for fracking is coming and how much will be used.  The withdrawal is only approved if it would not harm a stream in a drought condition.  A drought is assumed to be an all the time condition.

Total withdrawals of water from streams for Marcellus drilling is about 2 million gallons per day.  Sounds like a lot.  But 9.48 BILLION gallons are withdrawn every day for all purposes in Pennsylvania.  Marcellus drilling accounts for less than 0.2% of all water withdrawn each day.

Water withdrawals for drilling are not threatening at all the Susquehanna River.

But what about disposal of frack fluids without treatment for Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) to the Susquehanna river? Is not that a threat?

The one plant that was discharging frack fluids not treated for TDS to the Susquehanna stopped doing so on May 1st.  And the August 2010 new, strong TDS rule that drinking water companies and environmental groups all fought successfully to get passed will stop any new treatment plants from disposing frack fluids without completely treating for TDS to the Safe Drinking Water Act standard at the pipe to the river. All new plants must comply.  Eureka is one such company that treats frack fluids completely to the Safe Drinking Water Standard and operates daily in Williamsport.

Moreover the August 2010 rule puts in place a watershed, cumulative standard requiring DEP to prevent the waters of the Susquehanna and all other watersheds from reaching the 500 mg/liter Safe Drinking Water Standard.

American Rivers should also know that at least 70% of frack fluids are treated by recycling plants and then reused in gas wells.  The recylcing water technology did not exist in 2008 but is now widely deployed.
Frack fluid recycling reduces water withdrawals and manages safely frack fluids.

In addition frack water that is not being recycled or treated is being injected into deep underground caverns that are thousands of feet away from ground water and that are regulated by the EPA. 

Frack water is not being discharged into the Susquehanna River and won't be.

In fact, tomorrow May 19th could be the day when Pennsylvania nearly reaches or does achieve an important milestone.  That milestone would be reducing frack fluid discharges into our streams below the levels that existed prior to the first Marcellus well being drilled in 2005. 

DEP has asked the few, old plants anywhere in the Commonwealth that have been discharging drilling fluids without TDS treatment to stop doing so.  If they do so or DEP makes them do so, less frack fluids will be going into our streams than in decades.

All this is good news and means the Number 2 river on the American Rivers list is actually America's most threatened.

America Will Install 10,000 Megawatts of Solar Just in 2015

In fact, the odds are good that America will install even more than 10,000 megawatts of solar electric generation in 2015 or enough power to supply about 1.5 million homes.  The US solar market will be at least $30 billion per year.  The solar revolution is picking up speed and is unstoppable.

Don't believe it?  Or want to be part of this enormous business opportunity?  Either way, consider these incredible numbers.

In 2,000 just 3 megawatts of solar electricity was installed in the USA.  For 10 years the solar market grew by 67% per year, reaching 435 megawatts installed in 2009.

Then 2010, the best solar year in history of the USA and world, saw the market grow 102%, with solar PV reaching 878 MW and total solar electric reaching 956 MW, with the opening of 3 concentrated solar plants.

Solar installation in 2011 in the USA will be somewhere between 1500-2000 MW.

Assuming a conservative growth rate of 67%, USA solar installs in 2015 will exceed 10,000 MW.  By that year total installed solar electricity will be about 30,000 MW.

What is driving solar power forward?  Dramatically declining costs and policy. 

Solar, wind, and gas will dominate new generation in the USA over the next 10 years.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What Water Systems Have Tested Water In Response to NYT Story?

Pennsylvania American Water Company announced on May 16th the test results from its extraordinary battery of tests. 

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection stated that 10 other systems had tested their water and found their water is safe too.

Does anyone have the names of the 10 other companies?  When did they release their results?

Pennsylvania's Forests And Drilling

Pennsylvania is still 60% Penn's Woods and 70% of the 17 million acres that are forested are in private hands.  Private landowners are the stewards of about 12 million acres and will continue to decide how their land is used.  Timbering, maple syrup, conservancies, and gas drilling are just a few of the many uses of forests in private hands. 

What are the forms of regulation of drilling on private lands?  Fundamentally there are two. First, zoning can impact whether drilling can occur at a given place. Second, state and federal regulations must be followed that apply to the whole drilling process from clearing land, to drilling the gas well, to fracking the well, to producing the gas.

In addition to the private forests, Pennsylvania  has about 5 million acres of forests that are owned by the public: federal government, state agencies like the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Game Commission, and others. How much drilling, whether drilling should take place, the use of funds from drilling are just some of the questions that the public and their elected representatives must decide for the public forests.

In the state forest system itself that DCNR oversees there are about 2.2 million acres with about 1.5 million above the Marcellus.  Approximately 700,000 acres of state forests over decades has been drilled to date.  Marcellus wells are now producing on state forest land.

The professional staff at DCNR in 2010 concluded that any further drilling would cause major ecological damage to sensitive, valuable parts of the forest.  A moratorium was recommended and Governor Rendell issued one through an Executive Order.  The moratorium remains in place for the state forests.

One major reason for the moratorium was the conclusion that the state forests certification for sustainability would be lost if more drilling took place.  The loss of that certification would destroy thousands of lumber industry jobs that rely on the certification in order to provide certified wood to their markets.  Indeed the Pennsylvania lumber industry supports 60,000 jobs.

Protecting the state forest has lots of value.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Stunning Fact: 60% of Pennsylvania is Forest

Forests cover 17 million acres of Pennsylvania or 60%, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

This unappreciated fact and others were in an informative article by Diane McCormick in the May 16th edition of the The Patriot-News.  See www.pennlive.com.

The lumber industry in Pennsylvania supports 60,000 jobs and accounts for up to $10 billion.

Pennsylvania is beautiful beyond words because of its topography, waters, and wonderful woods--Penn's Woods.

PAWC Releases Tests Proving Water is Safe

The Pennsylvania American Water Company's drinking water is safe.  That is the conclusion from PAWC that released today its extensive testing of water in the Pittsburgh area, including for radionuclides.  The testing was done in response to the NY Times February 27th article.

See the Pennsylvania American Water statement at http://www.amwater.com/alerts/alert15474.html.  There were no detecable levels found for all radiological contaminants tested.  Six were tested.  None.

There were no detecable levels for a long string of VOCs that were also tested.  None.

The test results showed levels within compliance standards for 32 other substances tested like arsenic, barium, mercury, and so on.

This extraordinary battery of testing is in addition to PAWC's normal, routine stringent testing for more than 90 substances.

I am sure the NY Times will put these test results above its fold tomorrow.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Colorado Meets 30% Renewable Standard 8 Years Early

Some change is head turning.  And so I had to read and read again the news that Xcel, Colorado's largest electric utility, will meet that state's 30% renewables by 2020 requirement 8 years ahead of schedule.  Or by 2012.  The 30% requirement was passed by Colorado in 2010.  

Colorado had 1252 megawatts of wind power operating in 2010, with Xcel using nearly all of it.  Furthermore Xcel will purchase all the power from 2 big new wind farms under construction now that will begin operations this year.  Each wind farm is 250 megawatts and will boost Colorado wind capacity to over 1750 megawatts.

Xcel also has 75.9 megawatts of small, rooftop solar systems operating and 27.2 megawatts of utility scale solar running right now.  By 2012 Xcel will buy the output from two more big solar farms, each providing 30 MW.

And how much has this 2,000 megawatts of new, zero air pollution, zero fuel cost electric capacity cost Xcel ratepayers?  It is all paid for by a 2% monthly surcharge. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Green Power Storms PJM Capacity Auction

PJM, the largest wholesale electric marketplace in the entire world and the regional transmission organization that must keep the lights on, announced on friday the results of its latest RPM or capacity auction.  RPM resources are commitments to provide service--supply or demand reduction--to keep the system reliable 3 years hence.

When the "envelopes" were opened, demand response, renewable energy, and energy efficiency represented 68% of the new capacity offered and over 10% of all resources clearing the auction.  See newsroom at www.pjm.com.

The RPM auction cleared 149,974 megawatts of resources of which 14,118 MW were demand response, 822 MW energy efficiency, 695 MW of wind, 45.6 MW of solar.  Green Power not only is clean but also saves consumers hundreds of millions of dollars by lowering the capacity charges consumers pay.  How, you may ask?

Had the more than 15,500 megawatts of demand response, energy efficiency, wind, and solar not bid into the PJM auction RPM prices paid by consumers would have much higher.  These resources also lead to much lower market wind energy prices.  To say the least Green Power is a friend to consumers, big and small, as well as the environment.

Since wind and solar are intermittent, a fraction of their total power is counted toward reliability requirements.  For reliability standards, 12% of total wind is counted and 38% of total solar.  The total wind power represented in the auction was an impressive 5,349 MW and total solar equaled 120 MW.

Most small solar systems did not participate in the PJM RPM auction, but represent a great deal of total solar power within PJM.  Aggregating these systems so that they could bid into the auction is another Green Power growth and business opportunity.

Updated: Ranking Republican Presidential Candidates: Would They Win Their Home State?

Below is a table ranking possible Republican Presidential Candidates ability to win in 2012 by using one measuring stick: Would they definitely carry today their home state against President Obama?

The table has been updated to remove Governor Huckabee who announced last night he would not run (predicted correctly here yesterday).

Surprisingly, I concluded that only two of 11 possible Republican Presidential candidates would clearly today beat President Obama in their home states.

Those are Governor/Ambassador Huntsman and Governor Daniels.

The rest are sure losers in their home states or no better than a toss up back home.

Here is the ranking, going from least likely to win their home state to most likely.

1. Trump (assuming New York)
2. Romney (Massachusetts)
3. Bachmann
4. Pawlenty (Minnesota)
5. Santorum (Pennsylvania)
6. Cain (Georgia)
7. Paul (Texas)--Toss Up
8. Gingrich (Georgia)--Toss Up
9. Palin (Alaska)--Toss Up
10. Daniels (Indiana)
11. Huntsman (Utah)

How predictive is home state strength for national Presidential success?  Pretty good.

Vice President Gore proves that one can get the most popular votes, lose your home state, and lose the Presidency.  George McGovern and Walter Mondale show that losing your home state or struggling to win it means you may well lose 49 states.  McGovern lost South Dakota, his home state, and won just Massachusetts.  Vice President Mondale barely carried Minnesota, his home state, against President Reagan and lost 49 other states.

The Home State Barometer says President Obama should want any opponent other than Huntsman or Daniels.

Political Pendulum Swings: Speaker Pelosi One More Time?

This week a key political data point tipped for the first time in 16 months.  In November 2009, the Talkingpointsmemo composite poll of  generic Congressional preferences showed more voters wanted Republican control of Congress than Democratic.

But for the first time since November 2009, the Democratic Party took a small lead over the Republican party in Congressional polls, according to the Talkingpointsmemo composite poll tracker.

The latest results show 42.4% of voters would vote for a Democratic candidate for Congress, while 42.2% prefer a Republican candidate.  The Republican advantage had recently been consistently around plus 6%.

As is normally the case in national elections, about 15% of voters in the middle will decide whether Minority Leader Pelosi becomes Speaker Pelosi one more time in January 2013.

Governor Huckabee Announces Tonight

Governor Huckabee often leads polls of Republican voters about their Presidential preferences with roughly 20% of the vote.  Of all the possible Republican candidates, he also does best against President Obama in many of the match up polls.

So tonight is a big political moment.  Governor Huckabee will announce on his Fox News show whether he will run for President or not.

If the Governor takes the political plunge, he will have to walk away from his TV show and syndicated radio show.

Governor Huckabee is a self-made man who has not had the comfort of a wealthy family name like Bush, Romney, or Kennedy. Taking the political plunge for Governor Huckabee remains a much higher risk for his family and him than for others.

I respect what he has done with his life and his service in Arkansas, though I have significant differences.  He is a conservative populist that can speak to the frustrations of the middle class that have seen their incomes stagnate for 30 years.  He would indeed be a formidable Presidential candidate.

My gut says that he will not pursue the Presidency.

Political Pendulum Swings: Gov. Christie Numbers Crater

The once riding high Governor Christie now owns a 56% disapproval rating in New Jersey, according to SurveyUSA poll released this week.  The poll found that 38% approved of his performance.

Governor Christie has been in office just 16 months so why the cratering numbers?  Two reasons in my not so humble political judgment.

First, New Jersey has a miserable job creation record since Governor Christie took office.  New Jersey ranks 50th or close to it. By contrast Pennsylvania was a national job leader in 2010 and the first quarter of 2011. Voters want results.  So far they have gotten no jobs in the Garden State.

But if the poor performance of the New Jersey economy was the whole story for the Governor's political struggles, then President Obama should have bad poll numbers too in New Jersey.  But he is still riding high there, with a 54% to 40% approval rating in NJ.

The bigger problem for Christie is a combination of his policies and especially his leadership style, often called bullying.  Governor Christie has had his town hall sessions filmed by aides to capture his explosive put down of a hapless teacher, or union member, or local government official or plain citizen.  Then these clips go up on YouTube.

As Governor Rendell told me this week, bullying voters has a short shelf life.  It is shocking and may even work for a limited time but becomes unproductive quickly.  In the case of Governor Christie that period was less than 16 months.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The State of Alternative Energy In Pennsylvania: You Are Invited

That will be the topic that I will be addressing on May 18th at the Hilton in Harrisburg.  We will also be discussing using agricultural waste to make energy and natural gas for transportation.  The program begins at 3pm at the Hilton.  There will be a cocktail reception at 5:30pm.

If you would like to attend, please rsvp to Lynn Brinjac at lbrinjac@eckertseamans.com.  I hope to see you. 

Comments Explanation

My apologies to several of you who have sent comments and not seen them published...until now.  I just noticed that 12 comments were caught in the spam filter.  I should have noticed much earlier.  If you had sent a comment and not seen it published, it may now be on the blog.

There also seem to be some comments about which I have received email notification but do not appear at the blog site in any part of it.  A few great comments this week fall into that category.  Google had an issue with its Blogger service for a day or two and that may explain what happened to them.  I would ask those who sent a comment this week that has not been published to try again.

I genuinely appreciate all the readers of the blog.  I especially find virtually all comments sent here to be advancing thinking and reasoning and have published about 95% of them.

Former DEP Expert Confirms Gas in Dimock That Migrated Was Above Marcellus

Fred Baldassare who is a nationally recognized expert on gas migration and formerly employed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has published here a must read comment concerning the source of the gas that migrated due to drilling problems in the Dimock area of Susquehanna county.

See Fred's comment to the monday, May 9th posting about the Duke University gas migration study.

Fred did the testing of the gas in the 19 water wells around Dimock that DEP found had been contaminated with methane as a result of gas drilling.  But what was the source of the gas?  Was it Marcellus gas that was the target of the drilling that migrated?

Fred confirms that the gas in the 19 water wells around Dimock was not naturally occurring (biogenic gas) and that it was not Marcellus gas.  Instead the gas was shallower gas that was encountered in the drilling operation as drilled to get to the Marcellus gas.  To be clear the gas did migrate due to drilling. 

The Duke study, however, was not clear about the precise source of the gas that did migrate.  Again please read Fred's comment.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Roof Caving In On Horwath/Cornell Study

The Scottish energy research firm, Wood Mackenzie (http://www.woodmacresearch.com/) became the latest expert to release an analysis of Professor Horwath's claim that gas is dirtier or as dirty as coal on carbon emissions that leaves it in tatters.

Horwath overestimated the average amount of gas vented during gas well completion and flowback stages by 60-65% and the impact from emissions during well completions by up to 90%, according to Wood Mackenzie.

Wood Mackenzie found that Horwath ignored in his analysis practices like reduced emission completions that are common in mature shale plays.  Reduced emission completions are not an act of idealism.  They capture gas that of course increases production.

Wood Mackenzie also points out that Horwath absurdly assumes all gas is vented and none is flared.  Venting is banned in some states and flaring is common.

Generally Wood Mackenzie found that Horwath uses a very limited, "obsolete, and erroneous data" set and then used that faulty foundation to produce a false indusrty average.

Hopefully the fall of the Horwath study will receive the same attention as its rise.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Appearing On Fox Business Channel Thursday at 10pm

I got to NY from Chicago in time to do the John Stossel Show.  It is being taped tonight.  It airs thursday, May 12th at 10pm.

Sorry for the incorrect information in an earlier, deleted post.

Fred Baldassare Submits Must Read Gas Migration Comment

Fred Baldassare is a gas migration expert who worked for DEP during the Dimock investigation of gas migration.

He has submitted a must read comment to the Duke Study post of monday May 9th.

Read the comment that confirms the gas that migrated in Dimock was shallow gas above the Marcellus to which the driller was drilling.  That fact does not minimize the problem posed by gas migration.

No matter the source of gas, gas migrating is a problem that must reduced.

78% of Commutes Are Less Than 40 Miles: So what?

The typical commuter has a trip that is perfect for plug-in hybrids or full electric cars: 40 miles or less.  Such a commuter with a Volt for example who never use gasoline to go to work and back home.

And electricity costs the equivalent of 3 cents per mile compared to about 16 cents per mile for gasoline.

Electric Cars Charging Forward...In Paris

Paris is installing 5,000 electric charging stations and will have 3,000 electric cars that can be rented through a shared car program.  Read that again.  The world is changing rapidly.

Paris, the home of the shared bicycle program, is planning to become late this year or in 2012 the first city in the world where electric cars will be a practical, everyday transportation option.

The city government has signed a contract with Autolib to provide the charging stations and electric cars.

Pennsylvania should be doing the same with both electric cars and natural gas vehicles

Gas Migration, Not Frack fluids, Is The Real Issue For Water Wells

The Duke study could help Pennsylvania to focus on a real problem--gas migration--and to have further reassurance that frack fluids are not coming back from depth and polluting water wells and ground water.

Frack fluids have not returned from depth anywhere in Pennsylvania and polluted one, single water well.  That is a fact. 

Frack fluids have been spilled at the surface and have caused minor impacts that have been cleaned up and paid for by the companies responsible.

But gas migrating from poorly designed or constructed gas wells is a real problem.  It is a problem that existed prior to the first Marcellus well.  And it is a problem with some Marcellus wells.

The problem is concentrated in Bradford, Tioga, and Susquehanna counties where the geology is challenging.  The new gas drilling rules that were proposed in 2009 and became effective on February 5th, 2011 enable DEP to move forward with additional measures to prevent gas migration in "areas of concern."  DEP began doing so in September 2010, even before the regulations became final and should keep doing so.

Hopefully the partisans who insist that gas drilling is polluting all water sources or who insist it is causing no problems could look at the Duke study again or other data that confirm we don't have a problem with frack fluids returning from depth to pollute water but do have a problem with gas migrating and contaminating water wells.

We must pay attention to the real problems and issues.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Updated: Comments on Duke University Study Regarding Methane Contamination of Water Wells

Duke University released today a study of methane contamination of water wells, finding that gas drilling has contaminated some water wells with methane.  The study also concludes that frack fluids have not contaminated water wells.   See http://today.duke.edu/2011/05/hydrofracking?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Tweet&utm_campaign=Duke+Today

The Duke findings are consistent with DEP findings that gas had migrated from some drilling sites to water wells, but that no case of frack fluids returning from depth to contaminate water wells had happened in Pennsylvania.

The Duke University study looks at 68 water wells in 5 counties, with Bradford and Susquehanna counties in Pennsylvania a main area of inquiry. Samples of the water wells were taken in July and September 2010.

The study concludes that methane contamination of a water well is 17 times more likely if the water well is within 1 kilometer of gas drilling.

When I served as Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, DEP documented cases of gas migration from Marcellus wells around Dimock in Susquehanna county and in Bradford county.

Duke also finds that the gas migrating is thermogenic and is not biogenic gas or gas that is encountered when a water well itself is sunk. This too is consistent with DEP conclusions. 

DEP furthermore found that the gas that was migrating in the Dimock area was Devonian gas located at about 1,000 to 3,000 feet.  Devonian gas is above Marcellus gas.  DEP concluded that the Devonian gas had not been isolated as a result of poor drilling practices.

Bradford and Susquehanna counties have had many more gas migration problems than counties in Southwest Pennsylvania.  Had Duke University done this study in Washington, Greene, and counties in the Southwest it would have reached different conclusions.  The reasons for the geographic difference in the incidence or rate of gas migration include geological differences in the counties, quality of gas drilling in the respective areas, or some of both.

In the case of 19 water wells contaminated by methane from drilling around Dimock, 14 of the 19 had methane removed by December 2010.   DEP required the drilling company to plug and repair gas wells that reduced the gas migration. At some water wells there were measurable declines in methane contamination shortly after gas wells were repaired or plugged.

Furthermore a settlement in December 2010 between DEP and the drilling company required payments to the families near Dimock where gas had contaminated their water wells that averaged $200,000.

DEP also proposed new gas drilling rules in 2009 that became final in February 2011.  The new rules raise standards for the design, construction, and operation of gas wells to reduce gas migration pollution.

Gas migration has been a problem in Pennsylvania for decades, well before the first Marcellus well was drilled in 2005. The new, strong rules and the attention to this problem make this the time to reduce it sharply.

Real Estate Prices Do The Impossible: Fall for 57 Straight Months

Since July 2006 prices nationally for homes have just gone down.  They have declined for 57 straight months, a streak once thought impossible.

The whole mortgage business and real estate industry was based on the premise that nobody was making more land and so homes across the country would not lose value.  Responsible bankers thought a downpayment of 20% was ample security for a loan because prices would not go down.

By 2006 the idea of demanding a 20% downpayment was quaint.  Prices had skyrocketed and would keep going straight up and so the liars and crooks flooded the mortgage market with-nothing-down-no-proof-of anything-loans.  Then these toxic mortgages were resold by sharks on Wall Street, with some companies betting against the mortgages that they sold to clients.

And where were the regulators?  Alan Greenspan, an acolyte of Rand, shrugged.  Regulators were picked to regulate primarily on the basis that they did not believe in regulation of the financial sector and so they did not regulate.

The bubble inflated and then popped 57 months ago.

Now the impossible is a monthly reality.

China Doubles Down On Solar: 50,000 Megawatts

China now gets 70% of its electricity from coal, is building an incredible 27 nuclear plants, drilled its first horizontal shale well in April, and will build 50,000 megawatts of solar by 2020.  China just doubled its previous goal of 25,000 megawatts of solar by 2020. Totally amazing.

China today has less than 1,000 megawatts of solar operating, considerably less than the USA total of more than 2,000 megawatts.  China's interim milestone, however, is 10,000 megawatts by 2015.  The USA will also have about 10,000 megawatts of solar by 2015.

By 2015, total installed solar costs will be likely at $2 per watt, and China will engage in a massive national solar construction boom to reach 50,000 megawatts.

China sees solar as a strategic industry that can supply clean energy to lessen its horrendous air and water pollution plus provide millions of jobs.  Employment and development remain the top priorities of the government in order to insure social stability.

Supplying 50,000 megawatts of solar within China and probably more than that around the world will employ millions and be a transformative energy revolution.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Must Read: DCNR Quigley Writes About Yellow Journalism and Gas Drilling

My former colleague, John Quigley wrote a must read piece about gas drilling and reporting about it.  See http://pennfuture.blogspot.com/2011/05/boy-trapped-in-refrigerator-eats-own.html.

We all have a huge stake in good, accurate information no matter what judgments we ultimately make.  Secretary Quigley's piece is a plea that should be heard.

Teachers Make $67,000 After 25 Years

Loud, angry voices say teachers are paid well, indeed too well. Really?
Teachers in America make on average $67,000 after 25 years.  Yet, graduates going to Wall Street can make $75,000 or more right out of school.  First year law graduates can also make more than a teacher after 25 years.

At age 53, one thing that I have learned is that teachers are more important to our society and its future than lawyers and finance majors.  But the pay scales say I am wrong.

Restoring teaching to a place of honor in our culture must happen for America to compete in the world.  It will not happen if teachers after 25 years average less pay than a finance major fresh out of college going to Wall Street.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority Test Results for Radionuclides May Be Released Soon

I am hearing that the results of testing for radionuclides done by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority are in and that they show the drinking water is safe or no contamination by radionuclides from drilling wastewater or any other source.  The testing was done in response to the NYT February 27th, 2011 story.

I am also told that the Authority did testing for bromide levels and has data that is consistent with the Carnegie Mellon University study, though I do not yet have any details.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Key Natural Gas Vehicle Facts For The Road Ahead

Moving this decade substantially from gasoline to natural gas, electricity and biodiesel to power vehicles should be the top national and state priority.  The national security, economic, environmental, and health benefits of doing so are enormous.

So where does America begin with natural gas vehicles? 

There are 110,000 natural gas vehicles in the US and 12 million in the world. One billion vehicles approximately operate world-wide.

So about 1% of the vechicles in the world run on natural gas, an obviously low number.  But natural gas vehicles in the USA have a even much lower market share, well below 0.1% of all vehicles.

In the USA, there are about 1,000 natural gas fueling stations, with just 500 open to the public.

In the USA, just one passenger car can be bought ready to run on natural gas: the Honda Civic.  Outside the USA Fiat and other car makers offer natural gas passenger vehicles.

In the USA, nearly all the natural gas vehicles on the road are buses, trash trucks, medium duty vehicles like airport shuttles.  11,000 transit buses, 4,000 trash trucks, 3,000 school buses are running on natural gas.  Another 30,000 light duty vehicles in federal and state government and private fleets use natural gas.

In the transit bus market, natural gas has made major gains.  Twenty-six per cent of all new transit buses in 2009 were natural gas and 18% of the total use natural gas to operate.

In the USA the use of natural gas for vehicles doubled from 2003 to 2009.  But it remains at just 44 billion cubic feet of gas powering vehicles in 2010.  Less than 0.2% of all natural gas is used for transportation.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

SunRun May Be America's First National Solar Installer: Would You Buy It?

Installation cost is about half the cost of solar systems and there are now tens of thousands of companies that install solar across America.  Most of these companies are installing residential and small commercial solar systems.

At some point, economies of scale will come to residential solar installation, as Walmart brought such efficiencies to retailing.

Which company will be the first to be a national, residential solar installer, the Walmart of the solar installation business?

Right now SunRun is as likely as any company in the solar installation business.  The company has a leasing business model that has created more sales volume than any other residential solar installer.

SunRun is now doing about $1 million per day in residential solar installations and is growing quickly.  See http://www.sunrunhome.com/.  It recently obtained another $200 million of financing to do solar installations from U.S.Bancorp.

Solar panel prices are coming down rapidly and reducing the costs of installation through scale will bring total solar costs lower still.  The company or companies that achieve first such large scale residential solar installations should have a major profit-making opportunity.  SunRun has a chance to be that company and so is an attractive company for a much bigger fish to acquire.

Two Big Alternatives to $4 Gasoline

While regular gasoline is now over $4 in 13 states plus Washington DC, 110,000 vehicles in the USA today will pay around $1.40 per gallon to fill up--with compressed natural gas.  Most of these vehicles doing so are buses, trash trucks, air port shuttles, and a few cars like the Honda Civic CNG.

There are 1,000 natural gas fueling stations open but just 500 serve the public.  The others fuel fleets like transit buses.  Twenty-six per cent of buses bought now are CNG.

So today about 250 million cars today are running on gasoline and diesel and paying dearly to do so, while just 110,000 vehicles are operating on natural gas and paying 50% to 75% less.  What a car wreck!

For those operating a Volt, Leaf, or plug in hybrid, the cost of electricity is about the equivalent of $1 per gallon.

To top off this expensive, infuriating topic, burning oil to run vehicles also causes more pollution than using natural gas or electricity.

Our addiction to oil is a huge market failure that government policy must correct.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

No Pandering: Auto Facts in China Drive $4 Gas in USA

Trying to manage the real pain to millions of American inflicted by high gas prices nearly all politicians are pandering to their supporters and offering convenient scapegoats.  Liberals point to oil companies and conservatives to environmentalists.  Both partisans are ignoring the real cause: steadily escalating global oil demand.

Just consider only these auto facts for China.  China had 5 million cars in 1990.  Today about 80 million. China in 2009 became the largest car market in the world when 13 million cars were sold in China at a time the US car market collapsed to about 10 million.

For many years from 2009 China will have the largest car market.  In 2011, approximately 17 million cars will be sold in China and in 2012 still more and so on.

The growth in the Chinese car market is still in the early stage with 1 car for every 17 Chinese, while there are 8 cars for every 10 Americans.

 If the penetrations of cars in China reach American levels, China alone will have 1.1 billion cars.  Currently the globe has 1 billion vehicles, with 25% of them in the USA.

Moreover the Indian car market is at an earlier stage than the Chinese but is also growing rapidly.

Industrialization and modernization in China, India, and other emerging countries is the fundamental cause of $4 gasoline.  Attacking our respective favorite scapegoats--whether they be oil companies or environmentalists--is pandering and ignoring the facts.

The USA cannot drill or conserve its way out of $4 gasoline.  Changing US supply and demand cannot impact global supply and demand enough to change substantially global oil prices.

The only escape is to ditch oil by moving to natural gas vehicles, electric cars, and biodiesel.

$4 Gasoline Is New Normal That Neither Drilling Nor Conserving Can Prevent

The return to $4 gasoline last experienced in the spring and summer of 2008 is the new normal, with further increases to $5 gasoline probable in the next few years. Neither "Drill Baby Drill" nor "Conserve Baby Conserve" can change the fact that $4 gasoline is here and will be part of our immediate future. 

Neither US oil production nor consumption can be changed enough to impact materially the global pricing of oil.  The only way to escape costly oil is to really kick the oil habit and move to substitutes like natural gas, electricity, and biodiesel.

The calamitous economic collapse in the fall of 2008 that nearly became a global depression created a temporary respite, a false price signal that $4 gasoline was an aberration.  In July of 2008 oil reached $147 per barrel and then dove to $33 by December 2008 as a result of the near depression that enveloped the world following the September 15th, 2008 bankruptcy of the investment bank, Lehman Brothers. 

The only way to get cheap oil at this point is economic disaster that collapses demand.  So far the world has avoided another decade-long Great Depression.  Since the third quarter of 2009, the USA economy and the world's leading economies have being recovering, with positive economic growth resuming.

China's economy is maintaining near 10% growth rates, is already the second biggest in the world, and China's thirst for oil grows every month.  India is also now one of the world's ten biggest economies and its thirst for oil grows every month. 

China and India represent about one out of three people on the planet and they are industrializing and modernizing.

Part of that modernization is buying, driving, fueling cars and vehicles.  More on that in the next post.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Stunning Fact: PA 2010-11 Budget To End With $500 Million Surplus

That's right a $500 million surplus will be the bottom line on the fiscal year that began on July 1, 2010 and ends June 30, 2011.  How could that be possible?

The economic recovery is real, with more people working and buying, boosting revenues to the state above the 3% revenue growth that was assumed in the current budget year.  Revenues for the year appear to be on course to be up more than 5%.

The result is a $500 million plus surplus when we close the financial books this year on June 30th.

In fact, the surplus might be even bigger, as the April revenues were $273.2 million higher than the current budget estimated.  Or revenues were 9% higher than projected.  A strong performance indeed.

But this good news is apparently possibly causing a fight between Governor Corbett, Majority Leader Pileggi, and Senate and House Democrats. 

Senator Pileggi has signaled that the higher than projected revenues should make it possible to reduce the 2011-12 budget cuts to education and other vital services that Governor Corbett had proposed. 

Governor Corbett, however, is opposing using the increased revenues generated by economic growth to increase the total 2011-12 revenues appropriated to meet expenses.  He threatens a veto.  His position would require still massive cuts to education or other services, despite the 2010-11 surplus that could be used to reduce those cuts.

Cuts that slashed our state colleges and forced the ending of full day kindergarten were harmful and should have been avoided, even before the April revenue figures confirmed a $500 million plus surplus will be available to carry forward to 2011-2012.  Now such budget choices really are hard to fathom.

Perhaps this budget will not be done by Memorial Day as some thought a month ago.

Must Read: Post Gazette Confirms Governor Corbett Restores DEP Inspectors' Authority

Don Hopey of the Post Gazette has a front page story in which a DEP spokesperson confirms that Governor Corbett has restored DEP Inspectors' authority to issue notices of violation without preclearance from officials in Harrisburg.  See http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11123/1143606-503-0.stm?cmpid=newspanel4.  Good news, indeed.

The restoration comes 5 weeks after the directive was issued requiring DEP inspectors to first get approval before issuing a notice of violation.  The directive broke with the practices of 3 Governors and 5 previous DEP secrtaries and caused statewide alarm and opposition.

The news of the reversal emerged from a letter that Governor Corbett sent responding to more than 40 environmental and civic organizations that expressed their opposition to the original directive and asking the Governor to reverse the directive.  The Governor now has done so.

I don't fully understand why DEP or the Governor did not a formal press release to the public generally about the restoration of the DEP inspectors' authority.  But the substance of the decision is more important than how the decision is communicated.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Air Quality Awareness Week & Natural Gas/Renewables

This week is Air Quality Awareness Week, and none too soon as a great deal of education is needed about our current air quality and how different power plants and transportation systems affect the air we breathe.

Go to http://www.epa.gov/airnow/airaware/index.html

EPA has created an Air Quality Index and scales for 5 pollutants--ground level ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.  The scales come with color codes for air quality ranging from green for healthy to dark purple for hazardous

You can see local air quality forecasts everyday by going to http://www.airnow.gov/.   See what the air is like right now in Pennsylvania for example.

Cleaning up, refueling with gas, or closing 40 plus year old power plants and replacing black smoke belching diesel buses and trucks with natural gas powered vehicles are among the best things that can be done to finish the job of cleaning our air. 

As the natural gas industry builds its production infrastructure in Pennsylvania, it is vital that the cleanest engine options be installed so that the mistakes in Wyoming are not repeated.

Other things that help substantially are conserving energy, building renewable energy projects, and buying clean electricity products that are now available in every electric service territory in Pennsylvania.

Sunbury Stops Drilling Wastewater Discharges as Pa Moves Toward Important Milestone

The Sunbury facility stopped discharging on May 1st drilling wastewater to rivers untreated for Total Dissolved Solids.  Sunbury had been one of 15 remaining facilities taking drilling wastewater and discharging it to rivers without treatment of drilling wastewater for TDS.

The decision of the Sunbury facility moves Pennsylvania and the natural gas industry toward an important achievement.  By May 19th,  less drilling wastewater untreated for TDS may be discharged to Pennsylvania's rivers and streams than was the case prior to the Marcellus development.  If this milestone is achieved, it is a triumph for all involved.

In addition those associated with the Sunbury plant are opening a new drilling wastewater recycling plant this month in Blossburg Pennsylvania.  Hydro Recovery is the name of the company that will be opening the new drilling wastewater treatment plant that will treat drilling wastewater so that it can be reused, though not discharged.  I had the privilege of cutting the ribbon at the groundbreaking for this facility. 

Go to http://www.hydrorecoverylp.com/ for details about the company, its plant, and services.

Governor Corbett Apparently Restores DEP Inspectors' Authority

In a letter last week from Governor Corbett responding to more than 40 environmental groups which had expressed opposition to the 3 month pilot project during which inspectors were not to issue notices of violation without prior approval, Governor Corbett has apparently acted to make it clear that DEP inspectors do not have to get clearance from the Secretary office's in Harrisburg to issue a notice of violation.

Don Hopey is writing a story for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette right now reporting the above.

I hope this is accurate and commend the restoration of the DEP inspectors authority to make the initial decision on the spot without preclearance.

Presidential Leadership Delivers JUSTICE!

The United States Armed Forces delivered justice by killing in combat Osama Bin Laden as he hid in a compound in Pakistan.  Nearly ten years after September 11th and after the US invasion of Afghanistan to capture or kill those responsible for the worst attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor, this day of justice has arrived thanks to the bravery and skill of our military and the cool, steely determination of the Commander-in-Chief, President Obama.

President Obama correctly knew and said two things about the US strategic posture following September 11th.  The war in Iraq was a horrendous error, in part because it diverted our wealth, resources, and military from the job of killing or capturing Bin Laden and his murderous allies located originally in Afghanistan and then increasingly in Pakistan. President Obama stated the obvious that the military operations in Afghanistan after the invasion of Iraq had been starved of troops and mishandled.

The President made it clear in the 2008 Presidential campaign that he would withdraw from Iraq and refocus on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the epicenters of the terrorists who perpetrated September 11th. He also made it clear that he would pursue Bin Laden in Pakistan, with or without the permission of the compromised Pakistani government. On April 29th, President Obama issued the orders that delivered justice today almost certainly without the permission of the Pakistani government.

 Despite inheriting the worse economy since the Great Depression and having more than 8 million jobs destroyed, President Obama made the tough decision one year ago to increase troop levels and resources in Afghanistan.  Today is the fruit of historic Presidential leadership.

Now we must continue to attack the terrorists wherever they cower, and we must plan our exit from Afghanistan.  The damage of the last decade is being undone.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Doubting The Solar Boom? Now an Oil Giant Buys Into Solar Boom

As previous posts discussed, GE is buying into the solar boom, showing it thinks the solar industry is going Big Time. And the latest big player to spend big bucks getting into the solar boom comes from Big Oil. 

Total, the French oil giant, spent $1.3 billion to buy SunPower, an American solar manufacturer. Total will make more capital available to SunPower that will now be able to accelerate the deployment of its already high efficiency solar panels and push forward innovation to increase efficiency still further.

World class capital, world class corporate organization, world class R&D are all converging in the solar industry.  Synergies are just beginning.  Solar installed prices are falling at the rate of 1% per month.

If solar prices continue to decline at that rate, by 2015, solar prices will be below $2 per watt and then solar panels will be like Kudzu vines: Ubiquitous and Unstoppable.

National Debt Facts: How $2.3 Trillion Surplus Became $10.4 Trillion Debt

The Congressional Budget Office in 2001 projected that the USA would pay off by 2008 its $3.4 billion national debt and that the nation would have a $2.3 trillion surplus by 2011.  That is what would have happened had the 2000 policies been maintained.

Instead the national debt in 2011 stands at $10.4 trillion.  What changes led to $2.3 trillion surplus becoming a $10.4 trillion debt?

A must read article in the Washington Post lays out the facts.  Go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/from-surplus-to-debt/2011/04/30/AFeYNfNF_graphic.html.

Short summary is:

1. the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts created $1.7 trillion of debt;

2. new domestic spending $1.4 trillion;

3. IRAQ and Afghanistan wars that were not paid for added $1.3 trillion in debt;

4. Medicare Prescription Drug addition in 2006 also not paid for created $273 billion;

5. New defense spending (not the wars) added $663 billion;

6.  2009 Recovery Act  added $719 billion;

7. December 2010 extension of 2001 and 2003 tax cuts added $391 billion;

8. Other tax cuts since 2000 added $678 billion.

9. Additional borrowing cost due to rising national debt added $1.4 trillion.

10. Tarp added just $16 billion;

11. Lost revenues due to recession and other technical changes added about $3 trillion.

All those tax cuts, military expenditures, additional domestic spending created debt but America has no more jobs than it had in 2000.   America, however, does have close to 20 million more people to employ than in 2000.