Monday, December 31, 2012

Wind PTC Reportedly In Senate Fiscal Cliff Tax Bill

In his press conference, the President made reference to "tax credits for clean energy companies," when discussing what is in the emerging Senate "Fiscal Cliff" tax bill.  Others too are reporting on the wind PTC.

Though this tax deal is not baked yet even in the Senate, let alone in the leaderless House of Representatives, the wind industry is finding out that it is good to have the President of the United States and the Senate Majority leader really on your side.

Make no mistake about it, President Obama's tenacity for supporting wind specifically was strengthened by his personal campaign experience in Iowa and Colorado this fall.  In both states, the wind PTC and wind jobs issue helped the President and hurt Governor Romney.

The wind industry built 12,000 megawatts of new capacity in 2012, enough capacity to generate an amount of electricity equal to 6 nuclear plants the size of the still operating Three Mile Island nuclear unit.  What happens with wind and the wind PTC in the next few days or weeks will have major impacts on power markets in 2013.

More to follow soon on this key story.

Happy, Healthy 2013 To All

Happy, healthy 2013 to all my readers and to those who take the time to send comments.  This space attracts people with diverse experiences and views.  Thank you for clicking your way here.

Next week, I will look at what may be ahead in the world of energy in 2013.  And I would love to hear your thoughts on what the New Year will bring.

Counting Down Top 12 Energy Facts of 2012: 3, 2 & 1

On the last day of this year, the Top 3 Energy Facts of 2012, one of America's most important and best energy years in decades, are:

3. The low, low price of natural gas and the positive impacts that bargain-priced gas had on our economy and environment is the number 3 energy fact of the year.  The natural gas spot price is likely to average $2.73 for a thousand cubic feet in 2012, down from over $8 for the whole year of 2008 and a high of $13 in July, 2008. Simply astonishing.

The low natural gas price caused a substantial shift from coal-fired generation to natural gas power plants this year and slashed carbon emissions and toxic air pollution.  It boggles the mind why anyone who wants to reduce carbon emissions right now would oppose shale gas production.  Nothing has cut US emissions more than low natural gas prices made possible by the shale gas boom.

And the US has lead the world in cutting carbon emissions since 2006.  Indeed, in Europe and Asia, where there is still no shale gas production, natural gas prices are 3 to 5 times US levels, and coal consumption and carbon emissions are soaring.

The rest of the world so far has said no to shale gas and keeps saying yes to more and more coal. In fact, as the war against shale gas continues, the IEA now projects that coal will soon surge pass oil as the world's leading source of energy.

Back in America, by cutting consumer costs for heating and for electricity by about $1,000, and by generating tens of thousands of new jobs from New York to California, low natural gas prices helped to keep America out of recession in the spring of 2012, as our economy slowed down considerably as a result of high oil prices and fear created by the Euro crisis.

One thing that low natural gas prices did not do is hurt new wind or solar construction.  The wind and solar industries had record years for building new generation in 2012.

Another thing that the low natural gas prices did not do is cause substantial use of natural gas in transportation.  The glacial switch to gas for transportation continued in 2012, even using gas to run vehicles cost consistently $1.50 per gallon less than gasoline.

America remains addicted to more expensive, often foreign, and dirtier oil.  The market is broken and needs smart policies to accelerate greatly the shift to cleaner, cheaper, domestic fuels for transportation.  That is an important lesson of 2012.

2. The re-election of President Obama ranks as the number 2 energy fact of 2012.  President Obama and Governor Romney offered starkly different energy paths for the country, and energy was a prominent part of the Presidential campaign.  In a real way, embraced by President Obama and assailed by Romney, clean energy and green jobs were on the ballot.   Their energy differences, however, were broad and specific, including climate change, renewable energy, energy efficiency, government policies to use more natural gas, and the role of the government in energy markets.

Romney opposed the Natural Gas Act (the Pickens Plan), criticized federal rules for gas production like the EPA's 2012 gas drilling air rule, and opposed extending the wind production tax credit. Romney attacked solar, wind and "green jobs" in multiple ways, while supporting current tax breaks for oil and gas production, and promising to repeal the historic Obama auto fuel efficiency standards and repeal the EPA's Air Toxic rule that benefits gas, nuclear, renewable energy, and modern coal plants but requires old coal plants to clean up or close. In his GOP nomination acceptance speech, Romney also used the fact of rising sea levels to mock President Obama's concern about climate change, pandered to climate deniers, and made clear that climate change was not at all on his agenda.

By contrast, President Obama ran on an energy platform that differs from Governor Romney on everyone of the foregoing issues.  So what does the President's victory mean for energy in the next four years?

First, renewable energy will be supported by the federal government. That matters a great deal. Clean energy and green jobs were on the Presidential ballot in 2012 and they won.

Second, climate change will be a significant issue that will be addressed in a number of ways. Climate science was on the Presidential ballot, and it won.

Third, energy efficiency in autos, buildings, appliances, motors, generation will be a focus for policy-makers and markets. President Obama's policies are powerfully shaping energy consumption and the demand side of US energy markets.  Energy efficiency was on the Presidential ballot, and it won.

Fourth, the federal government will play a major role in regulating the environmental impacts of energy production.  Described recklessly by some as a "rogue" agency, the EPA and federal regulation of the environment was on the Presidential ballot, and it won.

Fifth, the domestic oil and gas boom, that began in 2008 and that gained strength in the President's first term, will grow bigger in the President's second term.  Oil imports will continue to decline as a result of more domestic production, rising fuel efficiency, and growing adoption of oil substitutes like biofuels, electricity, and natural gas.

Sixth, rising natural gas usage may be boosted by full adoption of the Natural Gas Act and the EPA Air Toxic rule.

1. Our top energy fact of 2012 is a an American triumph!

This year saw another stunning drop in US energy related carbon pollution, with emissions on track to fall nearly 4% from 2011 levels, down about 200 million tons this year, and nearly 12% lower than 2005 levels. The United States committed at the Copenhagen Conference to cut carbon emissions by 17% from 2005 levels and is well ahead of schedule. Indeed, no country in the world comes close to matching the US in reducing carbon emissions during the last 6 years.

America's carbon triumph stands on three legs: renewable energy, energy efficiency, and natural gas.  All three have boomed since 2008, and all three have displaced significant amounts of coal and oil that are much more carbon intensive.

Though more renewable energy has played a substantial role in cutting US emissions from 2005 levels, renewable energy power production did not reduce carbon emissions in 2012, since total renewable energy production will be lower in 2012 than in 2011, as a result of a big drop in hydro production this year.  Even as biofuels, wind and solar boom and bulk up, hydro remains the dominant renewable energy source in the US.

With total renewable production down this year, the nearly 4% drop in carbon emissions in 2012 is a result primarily of natural gas reducing the use of coal to make electricity and rising energy efficiency.  Low-priced natural gas in 2012 cut the electricity generation market share of coal from 43% in 2011 to about 37% this year.

It must be said that, had every state with shale gas resources followed New York's moratorium example, coal would not have seen much decline from its 2011 level, or even its 48% market share in 2008, and US carbon emissions would have been much higher in 2012. The shale gas revolution and bargain-priced gas, that surging shale gas production created, have been essential to slashing US carbon emissions.

Combining with natural gas to lower emissions was also energy efficiency in 2012.  For example, every new vehicle bought in 2012 was about 20% more fuel efficient than the one it replaced, and 2012 saw auto sales climb back over the 14 million mark for the first time since the near depression of 2008-2009.

Though some suggest otherwise, America's sharply reduced carbon emissions are not the product of a smaller economy.  The US GDP has been growing every quarter since July 1, 2009, and the US economy in 2012 will be bigger than it was in 2007 or 2005.  The economy is bigger but has cut its carbon emissions by about 12%.

The US economy more and more is running on cleaner energy--renewable energy and natural gas--and rising energy efficiency performance.  Indeed, in 2012, carbon emissions fell nearly 4%, and the unemployment rate fell significantly as well, reaching 7.7% in November, the lowest level in 4 years.

That is a true American triumph and the Top Energy Fact of 2012!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Counting Down 2012's Top 12 Energy Facts: 6, 5, 4

The 2012 Countdown continues at number 6 and with heat:

6. This year was a scorcher.  In fact, 2012 will be the hottest ever for the contiguous United States, breaking the record set in 1998, and doing so by about 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit.  That's smashing the record, like hitting 90 home runs in a season.

The heat impacted energy markets, especially the natural gas market, by destroying substantial heating demand. About 51% of US homes heat with natural gas and the record warmth cut gas throughput significantly in the space heating market.

Scientists also increasingly state that the climate has changed already--temperatures and seas are up and rising--and so weather events are changing too.  Events predicted by climate models like super droughts and storms dotted 2012, bringing human misery and more than a hundred billion dollars of economic damage.

The record heat and storms of 2012 also shifted moderately public opinion about global warming and the need to address it smartly.  The shift was biggest among the 33% of the public that is generally skeptical about science.   The combination of this shifting public opinion and President Obama's re-election means that the climate change issue is rising once more.

5. Once the leading climate skeptic and a highly credentialed physicist, Professor Richard Muller and the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project conducted a massive study of the world's temperatures records.  The results surprised Muller and converted him.  Muller concluded that the world warmed 2.5 degrees Celsius over the last 250 years and that "essentially all" of the added heat was due to human activity.  The work of Muller and his team enjoyed diverse funding, including from the Koch brothers, who have provided massive funding for climate denial activity.

The BEST study and Professor Muller's acceptance of climate science's basic findings about humans causing rising temperatures destroyed the last vestige of non-crank support for climate denial.  And so it is the 5th most important energy fact of 2012.

The BEST study plays a similar role to the MIT methane study.  Each study crushes false science claims made by ideologues of either the left or right.  The battle between ideologues and science will continue in 2013 but hope springs eternal that reason will prevail.

4.  Competition between coal and gas for electricity generation market share reached the most intense level ever in 2012.  As a result of increasing use of gas to make electricity, the market share of coal has declined from 48% in 2008 to 43% in 2011 and likely 37% in 2012.  Natural gas will capture approximately 30% of electric generation market share this year, sharply up from 12% in 1990 and 16% in 2000.

What about renewable energy's electricity generation market share in 2012? It actually declined a bit, as a result of a large drop in large hydro production from 2011.

Next year will likely see an increase from 2012 levels of both renewable energy's and coal's market share.  The huge 2012 wind build (12,000 megawatts) will operate for a full year in 2013, and wind alone will near 5% of America's electricity production.  In 2013, Coal will benefit from higher natural gas prices and so may approach the 40% market share level.  In turn, natural gas next year will see a lower market share--possibly 27%.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Counting Down The Top 12 Energy Facts Of 2012: Numbers 10, 9, 8, & 7

In a year of energy records, possibly the most painful for consumers was record high gasoline prices and that brings us to the 10th top energy fact of 2012.

10. Gasoline will average about $3.63 per gallon in 2012, the highest annual average ever. Many families spent $2,000 to $3,000 during the year to gas one car and that cut purchasing power for other products.

Consequently, high gasoline prices nearly tipped  the country back into recession, during the second quarter of this year, just as they had during the spring of 2011.  Consumers fought back by cutting miles traveled and buying more fuel efficient vehicles, while more than 50,000 jumped to electric vehicles.  Some fleet owners also began moving toward natural gas vehicles, but progress on using natural gas for transportation remains abysmally slow.

As for 2013, EIA projects gasoline to average about $3.40 for the year--another year of high, though not record, gasoline prices.  The persistence of high prices, despite substantially higher domestic oil production and falling US oil consumption, painfully reminds that oil is globally priced.

Persistent high oil prices further remind that the only way to cut the threat that oil poses to our economic and national security is to slash its use.  Uncle Sam has a lot of conserving and switching to other fuels to do, because oil remains America's top source of energy in 2012.  And so high oil prices in 2013 will be a drag on the US economy.

9. While the headlines from the US wind industry focused on layoffs caused by the Congressional delay in extending the wind production tax credit, the wind industry will install about 12,000 megawatts of new capacity in 2012.  That is a record, an astonishing number that will produce an amount of electricity in the course of a full year equal to about 6 nuclear plants the size of the Three Mile Island nuclear unit that continues to operate.

Ten years ago, only a few understood that wind power could add to the grid in a single year the equivalent of 6 nuclear units. This year turned that possibility into reality.

Wind's boom is creating political muscle and in key swing states. President Obama's superb campaign team says that the President's strong support of the wind industry helped him to carry by comfortable margins Colorado and Iowa, two states where wind produces as much as 20% of the electricity consumed and puts thousands to work.  Bashing wind is increasingly bad politics, because wind energy is important to ever more communities, investors, and workers.

The delay in extension of the production tax credit means that new wind capacity in 2013 will fall but still is likely to be 1,000 to 3,000 megawatts.  Wind energy in 2013 will come close to providing 5% of America's electricity.  That's stunning!

Declining costs that make it increasingly competitive and strong public support means wind energy is here to stay.

8. Given the seriousness of climate change, resisting false claims about climate science or impacts of various energy sources, no matter whom makes them, is vital.  Released in service of the anti-fracking campaign by Howarth, the false claim that shale gas production emits as much or more heat trapping pollution than coal has been debunked by 8 studies done by universities, environmental organizations, and the federal government's energy laboratories. Unfortunately, like some things climate deniers keep repeating regardless of the evidence, Howarth's false assertion that shale gas emits as much or more heat trapping pollution is repeated irresponsibly, misleadingly, and recently in a full page advertisement in the NYT signed by Yoko Ono and others.

Researchers from MIT did in 2012 the best study to date on methane leakage from shale gas wells that is at the heart of the claim that shale gas causes as much damage to the climate as coal.  The MIT study is the 8th most important energy fact of 2012, because it eviscerates the key assumption in the Howarth study.

The MIT researchers looked at methane emissions from 4,000 shale wells and found that Howarth had exaggerated emissions by 7 to 30 times. How did Howarth do so?

To start, Howarth used measurements of methane leakage from 5 wells and then just assumed that all shale gas wells vented fully methane during the important flowback period.  Looking at 4,000 shale gas wells, the MIT researchers found that 70% of shale gas wells actually use green completions to capture methane during the flowback period; 15% destroyed the methane by flaring; and only 15% vented.  The MIT researchers also compiled economic data that showed green completions in 95% of wells quickly paid for themselves.

The truth is that shale gas emits 50% or less of the heat trapping pollution as coal, when both are used to make electricity and that the shale gas boom has played a key role in substantially cutting US carbon emissions.  Those who want to stop fracking at all costs will continue to say gas and coal cause the same carbon loading of the atmosphere.  Those who want to stop climate change are duty bound to say that gas emits 50% of the carbon of coal and claims to the contrary are false.  That is a duty that some fighting climate change are failing badly.

7.  The solar genie is out of the bottle. And that is great news for our economy and environment. This year solar alone will install 3,200 megawatts of new electric generating capacity.

That new capacity will produce in 2013 an amount of electricity equal to 1 nuclear plant the size of Three Mile Island.

And during peak hours, the 3,200 megawatts of solar capacity built will provide the equivalent of 2 nuclear plants.

Even if the solar industry just added 3,200 megawatts of new capacity every year for the next ten, solar would matter a great deal to energy markets.  But solar's growth will continue. In 2013, the solar industry will add another approximately 4,000 megawatts of new capacity and still higher amounts over the next ten years.

Soon solar will be adding each year the equivalent of 4 to 6 nuclear plants during peak operating hours.  That amount of new generation will powerfully reshape power markets, cutting wholesale electricity market peak and annual pricing.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Counting Down The 12 Most Important Energy Facts Of 2012: Part 1

This year has been an extraordinary, largely good news energy year, but with a couple notable exceptions. Over the next 4 days, I will countdown my 12 top energy facts of 2012.

Energy matters to us all, because it shapes, for better or worse, our economy, environment, and national security. Let's get to it.

12. Nuclear pain in old and new plants in 2012 made it clear that nuclear power is not being reborn, but instead may be dying, in the US.  The most shocking development was Dominion's announcement that it was closing a nuclear plant that runs well in Wisconsin.  That was shocking news because most had assumed that a nuclear plant would run once built for 60 or more years, unless it had major mechanical problems.

Dominion's closure decision proved otherwise. In fact, the Dominion nuclear plant is losing money, despite operating well. It's operating costs of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour make it uneconomic in today's low-priced competitive wholesale electricity markets.

The Dominion decision to close a well-run nuclear plant raises a question: will other sound nuclear plants close early if low wholesale market prices persist?  That was not a question in any mind until 2012.

Adding to the nuclear pain is the bad news coming from Georgia, where Southern Company is using its monopoly to finance and build two, new nuclear reactors.  Not surprisingly to those with a passing familiarity with the challenges of safe nuclear construction, an official monitoring report filed with regulators in Georgia finds that the plants are already 2 to 4 years behind schedule.  Costs are ballooning.  But why worry?

Monopoly power means that consumers already have been forced to pay for a couple years for these two nukes that may operate in another 8 years or so.  That's right consumers will likely pay for these plants for 10 years before they get the first kilowatt-hour of electricity.  It's good to have a monopoly but painful to be served by one.

All this nuclear pain in 2012 is bad energy news, for an economically competitive nuclear industry would be a huge boost for our economy and environment.

11. While nuclear power in the US recedes, sales of electricity vehicles (EV) in the US tripled in 2012, reaching more than 50,000 cars.  Rising electric vehicles sales were rooted in new all electric and plug-in models reaching the market and gasoline costing more than ever.

By the end of 2013, the number of electric vehicles on US roads may well exceed the number of CNG vehicles, as progress remains glacial in getting more CNG vehicles operating.

The future of electric vehicles is bright, as long as EV manufacturers keep improving range and driving down costs over the next decade.  Indeed, electric vehicles may well be the biggest change in energy markets during the next 10 years.  The success of EVs would be bad news for oil but good news for all the fuels that make electricity, power generators, and electricity utilities that deliver the juice.  In the energy world, EVs are a chance for renewables, natural gas, nuclear, and coal together to take on oil and grab market share.

Stunning Fact: Natural Gas Ranks Third In US Energy Exports & Petroleum Ranks First

The shale gas revolution and the backlash to it has made controversial every action and policy involving natural gas, no matter the facts.  The debate underway about exporting natural gas is one example.

Yet, a look at America's energy exports shows that natural gas exports have been taking place for many years but total much less than US petroleum and coal exports. Indeed, natural gas accounts for only 15% of US energy exports.

In fact, petroleum products account for 57% of US energy exports; coal 27%; and natural gas far behind in third place.   While the US exports little crude oil, the strength of US refineries makes the US a petroleum product powerhouse.

As for oil imports to the US that are declining due to growing domestic oil production and declining oil consumption, Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Nigeria rank 1 through 5 in top sources.  No matter, whether the oil is imported from a friend or foe, the price is globally set.  Ouch!

Pricing of natural gas exports to Asia and Europe will reflect those regional market prices that currently are 3 to 4 times US gas prices.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, & Healthy 2013

It is nearly the magical night before Christmas.  Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a healthy 2013 to all!!

I also wish you affordable, cleaner energy in 2013!

Nuclear Plants In Georgia Face Escalating Delays & Cost Overruns

This is not good news but not surprising.  The official monitor for Georgia regulators of the two nuclear plants under construction filed a report warning that the $14 billion Vogtle plants are now 2 to 4 years behind schedule.
Such delays will balloon costs that are already $900 million over budget.

Of course, the Georgia plants are being built where consumers are captive and pay everything that the regulated monopolist can convince its state regulators to put into an electricity bill.  Indeed, electricity customers in Georgia have been paying for a couple years for the nuclear plants that are now not likely to start operation before a 2018 to 2020 window.

To state the obvious, it is impossible to finance and build nuclear plants in a competitive generation market like Pennsylvania's where customers can choose their electricity supplier.

And the nasty, expensive surprises are just beginning.  The truth is that building a safe nuclear plant pushes the limits of human engineering and management.

Friday, December 21, 2012

EPA Releases Interim Fracking Report & Schedules Webinar

The EPA released today an interim report on its study of Possible Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing On Drinking Water.  The EPA also scheduled webinars for January 3 and 4 to discuss the interim report.

The EPA was mandated by Congress to conduct this study, and the study will not be completed until 2014.  The interim report amounts to a status report on the study but reaches no conclusions.

Stunning Facts: 33% Doubt Science But Science Doubters Shift On Global Warming

A new poll on global warming has fascinating, important tidbits on public opinion about global warming.  The AP finds that one-third of the population has little or no belief in science, and this large group has been among the most resistant to climate change science.  But something is causing this group to rethink.

Among the science doubting group, acceptance that climate change is real jumped from 47% in 2009 to 61% today.  That's an important change among a key section of the public.

Overall, 78% of the public agrees that the climate is warming.  As always, a hard core of about 20% is impervious to all evidence and science. Among deniers, every piece of new evidence and science supporting unfolding climate change is a trigger for deepening denial.

PA Ranks Second In Shale Gas Jobs: 103,000 Total According To New Study

IHS Global Insight finds that shale gas development has created 103,000 jobs in Pennsylvania.  The Commonwealth ranks second in shale gas jobs, behind Texas, according to the IHS new report that was funded in part by the oil and gas industry.

There is continuing controversy about the number of jobs created by shale gas development in Pennsylvania, with estimates ranging from less than 20,000 to as much as 240,000.  I will be curious to see how the IHS analysis weathers likely critiques.

While the precise number of jobs created by shale gas in Pennsylvania is a matter of controversy, shale gas has certainly provided a significant boost to the Pennsylvania economy and at a time when every new job is especially needed.  Indeed, in counties where drilling is concentrated, unemployment has fallen substantially.

Yet, across Pennsylvania, for the first time in 6 years, the unemployment rate is above the national average and has actually gone up since May 2012, even as the national rate falls.  Since January 2011, Pennsylvania has the worse job performance of any state with a major oil and gas boom.

The gas industry alone is never going to be big enough to bring prosperity to all of the Commonwealth.  Pennsylvania needs more than 6 million jobs to be at full employment, and so, if the IHS report is near the mark, the gas industry is providing less than 2% of the jobs Pennsylvania needs.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Why Is the Public Oft Cynical About Regulation? Governor Corbett Taking Free Vacation From Major Donor Might Explain It

Taxpayers pay Tom Corbett $174,914 to serve them as Governor. That's certainly enough for the Governor to pay for personal travel and recreation.

But State Impact PA reports that a major donor to the Governor, who provides services to the gas industry, paid $1,422 in transportation and hotel bills for a "long weekend" for the Govenor and his wife in Rhode Island.  Incredibly, after the trip, the Governor made that mess even worse.

After the free vacation and other free transportation from the donor, the Governor appointed the donor and his wife to a combined three positions involving state government.  I wish this was fiction, but it's very much a fact of the day.

I am sometimes asked why the public is oft cynical about the Governor and especially his oversight of the gas industry. The Governor here shows why.  While in office, he is taking major perks from people who do business with him and the state.  He then also uses his powers as Governor to appoint the person and his wife from whom he takes free trips to not one, not two, but three positions.

How could the public not be cynical? Pennsylvania must do better, and that is why I am running for Governor. Please visit: and

Renewable Standards Require 93,000 Megawatts By 2035

Twenty-nine states have adopted renewable energy standards and another 7 states have established goals for renewable generation that require 93,000 megawatts of new electric generation to be built by 2035, according to a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Of this total, 33,000 Mw are built.

The remaining 60,000 megawatts that must be built to comply with state laws over 23 years require on average only about 2,500 megawatts per year.  That requirement is vastly lower than the 15,000 megawatts of new renewable generation that will be built across America in 2012 alone.

Indeed, new renewable generation will rarely fall below 5,000 megawatts per year going forward and will normally be one-third or more of America's annual new generation capacity.  In short, America's renewable energy generation industry easily builds every year much more new capacity than is required by the current renewable energy standards.  And building renewable energy capacity will be one of America's biggest power businesses in the next two decades.

PA Ranks First In Competitive Electricity Suppliers Competing For Residential Customers

On Tuesday, I posted about Public Service of New Hampshire using its monopoly status to raise rates to now about 30% above market prices and to force its captive customers to pay for inefficient, old, and dirty fossil fuel plants. Indeed, the competitive market would have closed the PSNH plants and made room for new, efficient, natural gas or renewable energy facilities.

Unlike New Hampshire, Pennsylvania has intense retail electricity competition that gives customers the power to choose from whom they will buy their electricity.  This power of choice protects customers from abusive monopoly pricing among other things.

In fact, forty-seven companies are competing to supply electricity to residential customers in Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania is number 1 in that category.  That's the conclusion of the Annual Baseline Assessment of Choice in Canada and the United States--or the horribly named ABACCUS report.  Overall, the report ranks Pennsylvania third in competitive retail markets, behind Texas and Alberta.

Pennsylvania is nearing 2 million electric customers that have switched to a competitive supplier or 34% of all customers and 59% of all electricity supplied in Pennsylvania.

Shopping for electricity is most vigorous in PPL, PECO, and Duquesne Light service territories, where respectively 518,000, 419,000, and 227,000 customers have switched.  Customers can save money, buy long-term power contracts, and purchase renewable energy in the competitive market.

To shop for power, go to and

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

From Natural Gas To Coal To Renewable Energy, 2012 Is A Year Of Notable US Energy Records

Our soon ended 2012 is leaving its mark in the energy record books and has been anything but ordinary.  Here are 6 notable energy records that were set this year.

US coal exports set a new record at 124 million tons, even as domestic coal production and coal generation fell substantially. Where did US coal go? Mostly to Europe and Asia, where coal had a very good year.

The renewable energy industry produced 3 new notable records.  Biodiesel production reached record levels and the solar industry will install a record 3,200 megawatts of new capacity or the equivalent of one nuclear plant.

The wind industry will set a new record for new capacity installed in a single year at approximately 12,000 megawatts, enough capacity to produce as much electricity as 6 nuclear plants the size of the still operating Three Mile Island nuclear unit. All that new wind supply, combined especially with another approximately 46,000 megawatts of wind built prior to 2012, significantly pushes downward wholesale power prices and has caused competitors of wind to attack the production tax credit for wind.

Indeed, the wind and solar industry together will build an incredible 15,000 megawatts or more of capacity in 2012.  Renewable energy is likely to provide about two-thirds of all new generating capacity built this year in the USA.  Simply amazing!

Despite about a 50% decline in rigs drilling for natural gas, the US natural gas industry will likely set a new record for production in 2012, breaking the record just set in 2011.  That feat reflects increased productivity of drilling rigs, substantial associated gas production from oil wells, and wells previously drilled being connected to pipelines.

US gasoline prices will set a new record in 2012, averaging $3.63 per gallon for the year.  That's the sixth and most painful energy record of the year.

Stunning Fact: World Solar Manufacturing Capacity Reaches 70,000 Megawatts Per Year

Global solar manufacturing capacity continues to surge, despite bankruptcies, reaching an incredible 70,000 megawatts per year.  That 70,000 megawatts of capacity is chasing a 31,000 megawatt market.

US solar installations next year will set yet another record of 4,000 megawatts and account for about 14% of the global market and less than 6% of global manufacturing capacity.

The global solar manufacturing capacity that is more than two-times greater than the global solar market insures intense, darwinian competition in the solar supply chain.  This competition is spurring continuing large cost declines as well as increasing solar efficiency and innovation.  All that adds up to solar quickly getting more and more competitive in places around the USA and world.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

New Hampshire Electricity Monopoly Gouges Captive Customers: A Reminder Why Power Competition Benefits The Public

The electric generation industry across America is neither fish nor fowl.  It is neither fully competitive nor monopolist.  In different parts of the country like Pennsylvania, it is competitive or "deregulated."

But the biggest electricity generation company in New Hampshire retains monopoly power.  And the results for its customers are ugly.

Public Service of New Hampshire is raising substantially electricity generation prices, even though they are already about 30% or more above market rates.  PSNH is using its state-granted monopoly power to pay for inefficient, old fossil fuel plants that the competitive market would close.

While the plants are dirty and expensive to consumers, monopoly power makes them cash cows for PSNH, which earns a near guaranteed 10% return every year on investment made in those plants, no matter how little they operate.

This New Hampshire electricity horror tale also reminds how the old monopoly system pours huge subsidies into many fossil fuel and nuclear plants, while providing much less capital for new renewable energy or cleaner modern natural gas plants.  Pennsylvania got it right when it ended electric generation monopolies in 1996!

Key Facts: 2012 Electric Car Sales Triple & Set 4 Consecutive Monthly Records

A funny thing happened on the way to the death of the electric car.  Sales of electric vehicles keep rising.

Electric car sales in 2012 will reach 56,000 vehicles or triple the 17,500 sold in 2011.  Monthly sales of electric vehicles have set records each of the last 4 months through November.  During 2012, a bit less than 1 of every 200 new cars bought in the US will be an electric vehicle.  It's possible in 2013 that electric vehicles will near 1 in every 100 new cars sold.

The surge in electric vehicle sales is rooted in high gasoline prices,  more electric vehicle choices reaching the market, and improving electric vehicle technology.  In November, the Ford C Max Energi entered with great reviews and solid sales. Soon the Volt and plug-in Prius will be just two of 40 electric vehicle models available to consumers and more choices are already adding up to more sales.

Going forward, three factors will shape the pace of sales of electric vehicles...the price and electric range of EVs; deployment of public charging stations; and the price of gasoline.  During the next decade, odds are good that all three factors will sharply boost the attractiveness and competitiveness of electric vehicles.

Still higher sales will follow.

Gasoline Prices Set Record High In 2012, Despite Recent Price Declines

Be not fooled by the current fall in gasoline prices.

Neither booming domestic oil production nor much greater fuel efficiency that is causing US oil consumption to fall produced lower gasoline prices this year.  Indeed, during the spring, soaring prices at the pumps hammered consumer demand and threatened recession.

For the whole of 2012, gasoline prices will set a new record high, breaking the record set just last year.  Gasoline will average during 2012 $3.63 per gallon.  The 2012 price is up from the 2011 average of $3.53.

The record high prices in 2012 are being packaged in a soothing, addictive end of year price drop.  National average gas prices fell to $3.25.  CNBC also reports that gasoline currently averages $2.95 in Missouri, the lowest state average.

The current price drop is enjoyable but not likely sustainable.  The EIA projects that gasoline will average $3.43 per gallon in 2013.  That would not be still another record but, nonetheless, a year of high prices.

High oil and gasoline prices remain a major threat to our economy.  Their persistence, despite booming domestic oil production and falling consumption, reminds that oil is priced globally and that shifting from oil to substitutes is the only way to end oil's continuing threat to US economic growth.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Stunning Fact: 2012 Natural Gas Price Averages $2.78--Down From $8.86 In 2008

It has been a brutal three days.

Ready for some good news?  Or at least good news for consumers, our economy, and the environment, though not for gas producers.

Natural gas in 2012 has averaged a low, low $2.78 for a thousand cubic feet at the Henry Hub, according to the EIA.  An amazing bargain that is driven home by remembering 2008, pre-shale gas boom prices

In 2008, prior to the shale gas boom unleashing trillions of cubic feet of new supply, the price of natural gas averaged $8.86 at the Henry Hub.

Shale gas supplies have cut $6 off the price of natural gas.  A typical Pennsylvania family using natural gas to heat their home uses about 90 mcf per year and so has saved $540 in 2012.

And cheap gas has meant lower carbon emissions, lower toxic air emissions, and lower soot pollution, as natural gas displaces coal and oil at homes, factories, and power plants.  Natural gas-fired generation this year will provide more than 30% of US electricity, while coal-fired generation fell to about 37% of all electricity supplied.  By comparison, in 2000, coal-fired generation provided more than 50% of US electricity and still provided 48% in 2008.

And while gas prices have been low, wind, solar, and energy efficiency have boomed too from 2008 to 2012.  Next year will bring more big gains for solar and efficiency, but new wind generation will fall, as a result of the delayed wind PTC extension.

Cheap gas has combined with renewable energy and energy efficiency to benefit mightily consumers, our economy, and our environment.

The Dumbest Tweet Of 2012 Belongs To Donald Trump

The competition has been fierce. But the dumbest tweet of 2012 has been sent, even though two weeks remain on the calendar. Our winner wins the title going away, like Secretariat at the Belmont!

"He lost the popular vote by a lot and still won the election. We should have a revolution," so tweeted Donald Trump.

Where to begin with describing how dumb this tweet is? 

First, President Obama won the election by nearly 5 million votes.  History will state the President got 51% and Romney 47% of the vote.

Second, this tweet indicates that Trump gets his political news from Fox News, the same source that told its viewers that Romney would win, possibly by a landslide, and then highlighted how Romney had a lead in the popular vote, during the earliest hours of returns.  

Lots of people, including me, watch Fox News. Yet, Trump thinks Fox News is something other than high-profit, right-wing entertainment.  Dumb.  

Third, before calling for revolution and overturning the lawfully elected government of the United States, and before doing so repeatedly on the night of the election, just perhaps even the "Donald" might want to base the revolution on a FACT, and not fevered fiction.

Fourth, where was the Donald and his revolution in 2000? Al Gore, who won by more than 500,000 votes, and who then was on the short end of a 5-4 US Supreme Court order to the state of Florida to stop counting its votes, can give the Donald a lesson in true patriotism.

Fifth, the tweet was so dumb that Trump himself realized it and deleted the above tweet and several others on the same theme (see the link).  

Finally, it is stunning that Governor Romney never told Donald Trump to get lost but instead hugged him time and again in 2012.  Treating Donald Trump as respectable is the wrong thing to do and also really dumb.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Wind Industry Proposes Phase Out Of Wind PTC

It's not every day an industry proposes ending its tax advantages.  But that's what the wind industry is doing.

Signaling both the maturity of the wind industry and the challenging fiscal circumstances of the country,
the American Wind Energy Association endorses a 6-year phase out of the wind production tax credit.

Under AWEA's plan, the PTC would remain the same in 2013, then decline by 10% per year, until it reaches 60% of the current PTC in year 5 and 6, and then expire after year 6.

One wonders whether wind's example will be followed by every other energy industry.  Actually, I don't wonder about that for more than a split second.

Stunning Fact: Solar Industry Building The Equivalent Of 1 Nuclear Plant Per Year

If the US nuclear industry was building 1 nuclear plant per year, rest assured that there would be endless, breathless stories about the renaissance of nuclear power. Indeed, a nuclear industry building one new plant per year would be reborn.

The US solar industry is now building every year an amount of generating capacity--3,200 to 4,000 megawatts--that will generate an amount of electricity approximately equivalent to a nuclear plant like Three Mile Island (the unit that is still operating).

To put it simply, the solar industry is building the equivalent of 1 new nuclear plant per year.  Despite this incredible success, taking place exactly when the media has been full of Solyndra and other negative solar stories, the media will take its sweet time to shed the negative narrative about solar and catch up to the real solar story.

In fact, the solar industry may well be installing an amount of capacity each year equal to two nuclear plants, before the media and anti-solar politicians come to grips with the sweeping change solar is already unleashing.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Stunning Fact: Solar Will Provide 20% Or More Of New Generating Capacity Starting Next Year

Heads will explode! Solar will provide this year close to 15% of the total new electric generation capacity built in the USA.

In 2013, solar's share of new electric generation capacity will climb again and reach at least 20% and possibly 25% of the market total.

And in the decades to come, solar will likely never provide less than 25% of the new electric generation capacity built every year in the USA.

The sun is on its way to becoming America's leading source of new electricity generation capacity. And yes I know that capacity is but one measure.  Solar plants produce considerably less actual electricity per megawatt of capacity than, for example, a typical nuclear plant that runs nearly every hour of the year.

But still capacity is a key metric and solar plants run best during peak hours and periods, with their actual power production in those critical periods reaching their highest levels.

If you don't believe that solar will regularly provide 20% or more of new electric generation capacity built in the USA, consider these numbers.

About 3,200 megawatts of new solar capacity will be built in the USA during 2012 and 4,000 megawatts in 2013.

Since 1940, the USA has built just 4 times more than 40,000 megawatts of new generation in any one year.  Normally, the USA builds 20,000 megawatts or less of new generation in any single year. and see

US solar annual build will soon exceed 5,000 megawatts and routinely provide 25% or more every year of America's new electricity generation capacity.

Heads are exploding!

While bickering about Solyndra dominated public discussion, the solar revolution arrived!  And it is going to just become bigger and brighter.

National Labs Publish Key Solar Pricing Report: Stunning Data Is Must Read!

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory collaborated to provide the most comprehensive, accurate data on solar pricing in the USA.  The data are stunning!

A highlight includes that, for systems quoted to consumers in the fourth quarter of 2011 and installed in 2012, residential systems cost $4.39/watt, commercial rooftop systems $3.43/watt, and utility scale systems $2.79 per watt.  Those are amazing prices and are the single, biggest reason why the USA will install 3,200 megawatts of solar during 2012.

Only a few years ago, the panel costs alone would have been $4 per watt.  Now full systems are installed for less.

Moreover, prices continue to fall, making this critically important report out-of-date as soon as it was published.  That's how quickly the solar revolution is moving.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Comparing Seismic Risks From Various Energy Activities Puts Fracking At The Bottom

"The risk of man-made earthquakes has been known for decades, and fracking poses far less risk than other technologies..." writes John Kemp about the various causes of induced earthquakes.  The piece is thorough and well worth reading in full.

Kemp reminds that it has been understood and confirmed for decades that the injection of water under pressure can cause seismic events.  He further states that geothermal energy has been associated with 25 low level earthquakes, hydroelectric reservoirs with 44, conventional oil and gas development with 38, and waste water injection with 11.

By comparison, Kemp asserts that fracking itself has caused at most 2  low level earthquakes--one near Blackpool, England and possibly in Oklahoma.  My understanding is that the Blackpool earthquake is well documented as being caused by fracking itself but the Oklahoma event is not.  On this basis, Kemp concludes that the act of fracking a well has the lowest level of seismic risk when compared to many other energy extraction or waste disposal activities.

Induced seismicity or man-caused earthquakes is another long-standing reality of the modern world that drew next to no attention, until fracking captivated public attention.  And paying attention to the various causes of induced earthquakes is a good thing, as these risks exist and can be lowered by better planning and siting.

And reducing the risks of induced seismic activity should be required no matter whether the activity involves shale gas production or not.

US Solar Industry Torches Record In Q3 & Set To Install 1,300 Megawatts In Q4

Now that the Presidential campaign is over, perhaps the real solar story can become the dominant narrative.  Perhaps now, media and public discussion can move beyond Solyndra or the inevitable bankruptcies in a big global, highly competitive business.  All that creates the mistaken impression that solar is imploding.

In fact, America is at the start of a solar revolution that will shake the energy world as much as shale gas, and that's not just talk. The most recent installation numbers for the US solar industry are blindingly bright.

The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that 684 megawatts of solar were installed in the third quarter, up 44% from third quarter 2011, and a record for third quarter installations.  SEIA further reports that the country has operating 6.4 megawatts of solar PV and CSP.  Extraordinary!

The third quarter saw an all-time residential solar installations--118 megawatts.  Another 257 megawatts were installed during the quarter in the commercial market.

The top five states for installations during the third quarter were California, Arizona, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Nevada or two regional clusters in the Southwest and Northeast.

And here is the best news of all.  SEIA predicts that 1,300 megawatts of solar will be installed in the 4th quarter, torching yet again the solar record book, and that 3,200 megawatts will be installed during 2012.
Those numbers are the real solar story, and it is an amazing one indeed!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2008-2012: The Historic Era of Simultaneous Gas & Renewable Energy Booms That Rewrote The Record Books

Had the historic USA gas and renewable energy booms from 2008 to 2012 taken place in China, the Chinese government would be celebrating a successful 5-year plan.

In the USA, the simultaneous extraordinary booms in natural gas and especially wind and solar are the product of a mix of public incentives and private entrepreneurship that never was planned.

As 2012 comes to a close, the US this year will install record amounts of new solar, new wind, and produce another record amount of natural gas.  This year's record gas production breaks the record just set last year and is especially remarkable given the supply glut collapsed the price of natural gas.

Over the five-year period, gas has gone from shortage and the rush to build LNG import facilities to glut and a push to export LNG.

Over the five-year period, solar has grown from a total of less than 500 megawatts installed in the entire country to installing 3,000 megawatts of new capacity just this year.  At the end of 2012, America will have about 7,000 megawatts of solar generation installed, a 14-fold increase in the 5 years.

Over the five-year period, wind capacity has more than doubled, going from 25,000 megawatts to more than 55,000 megawatts, with 2009 and 2012 being especially good years for new wind farms.

The historic gas-renewable energy boom era of 2008 to 2012 rewrote the record books.  The era also proves that gas and renewable energy can boom at the same time.

Shale gas success need not mean renewable energy failure or the reverse.  Claims that shale gas would destroy renewable energy have not been true in this five year period and need not be in the next five years.

And just consider the huge benefits produced by the gas and renewable energy booms and the compelling reasons to fuel them further.

The booms have brought to market declining costs and prices for gas and renewable energy and yielded a bonanza of affordable energy for consumers.  Heating costs are down.  Electricity prices are stable or down, compared to 2008.

The booms have created directly and indirectly hundreds of thousands of construction and permanent jobs.

And the gas-renewable energy booms have slashed toxic air pollution like mercury, lead, arsenic, decreased soot that sickens tens of thousands, and amazingly rolled back US carbon emissions to 1992 levels.  America has cut climate pollution more than any nation in the world since 2006, thanks largely to the gas and renewable energy booms and a big increase in energy efficiency.

To maintain and grow this gas and renewable energy recipe for economic and environmental success going forward, all it takes is a bit of wise policy like passing an extension of the wind production tax credit and The Natural Gas Act, both of which have stalled in Congress due to Republican opposition.

Blessed with federal policy stability, and support in 29 states, as well as decreasing total costs, solar will set a new record in 2013 by installing 4,000 megawatts.  Cursed by policy uncertainty, wind generation will stall next year, and natural gas transportation will make glacial progress.

The recipe for keeping both the gas and renewable energy booms going is clear.  The benefits to the nation of doing so are enormous.

US New Solar Market To Exceed 4,000 Megawatts In 2013

Here is another example of the shale gas boom killing renewables.

New US solar generation that was below 500 megawatts per year in 2008, reached a bit less than 1,000 megawatts in 2010, then 2,000 megawatts in 2011, 3,000 megawatts in 2012, and is projected to hit a rather incredible 4,000 megawatts plus next year.  Solar is likely to be about 25% of all new US capacity built in 2013.  Wow!

Monday, December 10, 2012

After Years of Moratorium, New Yorkers Narrowly Favor Fracking

New Yorkers not only use a lot of natural gas but also narrowly favor producing a lot of gas.  The latest Siena University poll shows support for "fracking" in New York at 42-36.  The small margin in favor of fracking and implicitly lifting the moratorium has been steady.

Of course, the poll also would indicate that 22% of New Yorkers don't care one way or another.

Stunning Fact: Gas versus Coal Competition Is So Intense That 2012 Increases In Gas Generation Match Exactly Decreases In Coal Generation

How intense is the gas versus coal competition? It is so intense that the increase in gas generation matches almost to the megawatt-hour the decreases in coal generation, according to EIA data for 2012 through September.

Electricity generation from gas-fired power plants in the US is up 201 billion kilowatt-hours through September 2012, when compared to the same period in 2011.  Electricity generation from coal-fired power plants is down 200 billion kilowatt-hours in 2012. and

The competition between coal and gas for power sales is intense, daily and hinges on the price of each.  Moreover, this data debunks claims that the rise of shale gas and the corresponding jump in gas-fired generation has not led directly to a decline in coal generation and US carbon emissions.

Stunning Fact: US Gas-Fired Electricity Production Up 26% In 2012 But Projected To Fall In 2013

2012 will be another record year for producing natural gas within the USA, despite low natural gas prices.  And because of low-natural gas prices, gas-fired electricity generation is up a stunning 26% through September 2012, when compared to the same period in 2011.  Gas power plants generated 974.7 billion kilowatt-hours in the first 9 months of this year, compared to 773.3 billion kilowatt-hours in 2011.

Made possible by the shale gas boom that lowered natural gas prices, making gas competitive with coal, the spike in natural gas electricity in 2012 has cut significantly 2012 carbon emissions--lowering them to 1992 levels.  The gas-fired electricity generation boom will also slash toxic air pollution in 2012 like mercury, lead and arsenic, as using natural gas to make electricity produces zero toxic air pollutants.

In 2012, the shale gas revolution is producing cleaner and cheaper electricity all across America. Great news!

But since the market bottom of $1.80 for a thousand cubic feet in April, natural gas prices have been rising and have been consistently above $3.25 for a thousand cubic feet of late.  Though $3.25 is still bargain-priced gas, the price competition between coal and gas is so intense that gas fired generation is likely to lose market share to coal generation in 2013 if gas prices remain at $3.25 or higher.

Indeed, for 2013, EIA is projecting that coal generation recaptures some lost market share and gas sees a falling market share.  If so, 2013 will be the first time since 2008 that gas will lose ground to coal-fired power.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Stunning Fact: PA Gas-Fired Power Production Up 31.8% In 2012

Pennsylvania is now producing a lot of gas--about 2 trillion cubic feet per year--and is starting to use more gas for power production.

Gas consumption rose 31.8% at Pennsylvania's power plants, in 2012 through September, when compared to the same period in 2011.  Gas-fired power plants in Pennsylvania produced 41 billion kilowatt-hours in the first 9 months of 2012, compared to 31 billion through September 2011.

While gas consumption to make electricity is rising sharply in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania still trails New York in using gas to make electricity.  Through September 2012, New York generated 46.4 billion kilowatt-hours with natural gas or about 5 billion more kilowatt-hours than in Pennsylvania.

As Moratorium Continues, New York Uses 19.9% More Gas For Power In 2012

I am in New York today on campaign business and will be staying through Sunday.  My comfortable stay in New York is made possible substantially by New York's rising use of natural gas, even as its fracking moratorium continues. Indeed, during 2012, New York consumes more and more gas to warm water, heat buildings, and to keep the lights on and, by doing so, is cutting substantially air pollution for its residents and visitors.

New York's gas use for power is sharply up--19.9%--in 2012 through September, compared to 2011.  Moreover, New York imports most of the vast quantities of gas it consumes, and lots of it is fracked shale gas.

In fact, New York's rising gas demand is increasingly supplied by Marcellus shale gas production in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Driving 13,729 Miles On 35 Gallons: My Sister's Volt's Incredible Performance

My sister just finished 1 year driving her Volt that she purchased in November 2011.  Her miles, mileage, fuel numbers are incredible.  Here they are:

The Volt went 13,729 miles. She used 35 gallons of gasoline, filled her gas tank 5 times, and currently has a full tank.

Her miles per gallon averaged a stunning 392! That is a revolution in transportation.

PA Power Prices 7% Below National Average In September: PA's Electricity Competition Success

In 1996, Pennsylvania's average electricity price was about 15% above the national average. And that was the good news then.

Residential rates in the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia metropolitan areas were often among the ten highest in the country, about 50% above the national average at the time, killing jobs and punishing families struggling to pay the bills.

Sixteen years later, times have changed for the better.  In September, 2012, Pennsylvania's average electricity price was 9.76 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to 10.58 cents nationally, or 7% below the national average.

Looking at the prices for the first 9 months of 2012, Pennsylvania's average price exactly matched the national average of 9.93 cents per kilowatt-hour.  No matter how the data is sliced, power prices are down, and often by as much as 40% or more in real terms.  So what explains Pennsylvania's much improved competitive position on electricity costs?

Some credit goes to the particular price advantages offered by the Marcellus shale, but cheap gas is a national reality and has put downward pressure on electricity prices nationally.

Pennsylvania's electricity reforms that began with the 1996 passage of the Electricity Generation Customer Choice and Competition Act, and the 14-year transition plan to competitive markets that was completed at the end of 2010, are largely responsible for lower power prices.  The competitive markets are working to drive efficiency and innovation. Power plants run more, break down less, and use fuel more efficiently, reducing costs that then make lower prices possible.

Opening the grid to competitors has attracted billions in new investment that shareholders finance, fully responsible for the risks and rewards, and captive ratepayers no longer bail them out, when power plants go wrong. New natural gas capacity and renewable energy capacity in the thousands of megawatts have connected to the grid and boosted supply.

Then booming demand response capacity and energy efficiency have made the demand side of the market really capable of limiting the pricing power of generators.

Rising supply, stable overall demand, and demand that responds to price all adds up to lower electricity prices. Then competition delivers those prices to customers in two ways.  Competitive electricity suppliers deliver competitive power to retail customers who shop for power and default power products pass through competitive prices provided to customers that do not shop.

Indeed, Pennsylvania's successful competitive electricity market reforms have conservatively saved consumers 20 billion dollars since 1996 and provided them with new options, like long-term, fixed priced, green power, and free power day products. Competition is a horn of plentiful, bargain priced power.

For Pennsylvanians, now is the time to choose a competitive electricity supplier and product that fits your needs and desires. When shopping, please take a look at  My choice is a 100% local wind power product.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

National Electricity Prices Are Down Slightly, Defying Claims That Renewable Energy Boom Would Spike Power Prices

Critics of renewable energy have been saying for a long time that the renewable energy boom would cause power prices to rise sharply.  So far the critics are not as accurate as a broken clock that is right twice a day.

Indeed, renewable energy has boomed, with wind leading the way, more than doubling capacity between 2008 and 2012.  Billions of dollars of private investment this year will build close to 15,000 megawatts of new renewable energy generation capacity in just this year.

But the huge new investment in renewable energy is not creating an electricity price spike.  It has instead generated billions of kilowatt-hours of new electricity supply.  And all that new supply has actually put downward pressure on power prices, and substantially so, in some state and regional markets.

Moreover, the massive boom in renewable energy capacity has often crashed the price of renewable energy credits in markets that states have established to price them and that too creates more savings for consumers.

In September 2012, the average national electricity price was 9.93, slightly down from 9.97 in September 2011.  Of course, many factors impact the price of electricity from the costs of storm repairs, to the price of coal, uranium, oil, and natural gas, the cost of capital, electricity demand, and the amount of new electricity generation capacity or supply.  Renewable energy is but one factor among many, and right now a factor pushing prices down.

2012 Will Be A Record Year For New, Non-Hydro Renewable Energy Capacity

The official numbers will take a few more months to gather. Yet, as 2012 draws to a close, America will soon set a record this year for installing new, non-hydro generating capacity.

Just the wind industry will likely install about 10,000 megawatts, while solar will build approximately 3,000 megawatts.  During 2012, a total of 13,000 to 15,000 megawatts of new, non-hydro renewable energy will be built.

That is an extraordinary number and compares to the country recently building from all generation sources about 15,000 megawatts per year.  Also, this record year for the construction of new, non-hydro renewable energy capacity demonstrates once more that the shale gas revolution is not killing renewable energy.

Indeed, simultaneously booming gas and non-hydro, renewable energy production has been a reality, a fact, since 2008.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Game Changing Fact: Deloitte Finds That Declining or Stagnant Electricity Demand Possible Through 2020!

A key trend in US energy markets are booms on both the supply and demand side of many markets.

Oil consumption is declining, as domestic production jumps.  The rate of growth in electricity consumption has fallen significantly, but it has still been growing.  But will it keep doing so?

Recently, Deloitte in its report, "The Math Does Not Lie," states the potential exists for electricity sales to be "slow, stagnant, or even declining..." Stagnant or declining would be game changing.

It has been an unchallenged assumption that the US will us more electricity year after year and that the growth rate would be above 1% and around 2%.  Times have changed.

Deloitte notes that the EIA is projecting a slow growth rate of electricity sales from 2012 to 2020 of 0.73% and is projecting that 2012 sales will not quite reach the 2007 level.

The most interesting part of the Deloitte study is at pages 7 to 8, where Deloitte consumer survey data is discussed. Deloitte walks through electricity consumption behavior changes among residential, business, and government consumers.  For example, 90% of US business have set goals to reduce electricity consumption and the average goal is a 23% reduction.  Or 83% of electricity consumers said they have taken steps to reduce electricity consumption, a significant increase over the 68% in 2011.

Another factor already impacting electric utility distribution sales is on-site, distributed generation like solar, fuel cells, microturbines, and combined heat power systems.  Adding distributed generation to rising energy efficiency may end the business world, where sales running through electric meters rose like clockwork.

Are there other factors that could raise electric sales? Yes. Electric vehicles could take off and become a major new market for power generators.  National GDP growth rates that have been around 2% could increase to 3%.

Yet, the Deloitte paper lays out why the electricity industry may face stagnant or even declining sales in the coming years and why that forces smart electricity companies to consider now business model changes.

Texas' Secret Job Creation Sauce: $19 Billion/Year In Subsidies

Does Texas have a secret job creation sauce? It certainly leads the nation in job creation, and $19 billion per year of state and local subsidies for jobs partly explains why.  Texas alone accounts for 25% of the $80 billion total of state and local subsidies paid each year around the country in battles for jobs. &

While Texas has bought a lot of jobs with its enormous subsidies, Texas also has the 11th highest poverty rate, 25% of its population without medical insurance, and public schools that are shattering.

One wonders what would happen to the Texas job creation machine, if it went cold turkey on subsidies, and stopped paying incredible sums for jobs.  Don't count on finding out anytime soon!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Stunning Fact: Oil, Gas, Mining Rank Third In State, County, Local Subsidies

Each year, state, county, and local governments, competing for investment, grant a startling $80 billion of subsidies.  Manufacturing, agriculture, and then oil, gas, and mining rank as the top 3 recipients of these huge subsidies.  I, for one, had no idea that oil, gas, and mining were near the top.

Competing for investment among states is a reality that is not going to vanish.  A state that drops out of the competition is either brave, foolish, or both.

Yet, much greater accountability to increase the odds that taxpayers recover the costs of their payments to attract new jobs must become the norm too.

Water Pollution Horrors In California Remind That Fracking Is Far Down The List Of Major Causes of Bad Water

In the Central Valley of California, 20% of small public water systems in Tulare county don't have safe drinking water.  The extent and the severity of the pollution is shocking.  See  And fracking had nothing to do with it.

This  New York Times story details water pollution horrors that impact the economy and health of entire communities in Tulare county.  The article reminds that protecting our water is vital.

It also reminds that the leading causes of water pollution across the USA do not include hydraulic fracturing.  And strongly regulating gas drilling is needed to keep it that way.

Yet, the huge focus on gas drilling creates the mistaken impression for many people that gas drilling is the major cause of water pollution in the USA. It's not.

And not even close to being so.

State Renewable Portfolio Standards Add 6,000 MW/Year To Grid Or Up To 40% Of New Capacity

When the first renewable energy standards were adopted by states about a decade ago, many thought the renewable energy industry would not be able to supply the capacity needed to meet them. Lots of talk ensued about the probability that the force majeure provisions of the standards would be triggered and that the standards would not be met.  In fact, the opposite has happened, with the industry more capacity required.

Though about 30 states have adopted a version of a renewable energy portfolio standard, and the cumulative capacity needed to meet them is about 6,000 megawatts (MW) per year, the renewable energy industry now can build easily at least 13,000 MW per year. Indeed, the wind industry alone can install 10,000 MW.  New renewable energy capacity has often amounted to 30% to 40% of all generation capacity built in America during recent years.

Two results of the scaling up of the renewable energy industry have been both good for consumers.  The substantial new capacity and electricity supply put downward pressure on electricity prices in wholesale power markets.  Slow growth in electricity demand, much lower natural gas prices, and renewable energy additions add up to power price bargains.

Another consequence of the scaling up of the renewable energy industry is that the price of renewable energy credits has collapsed in many markets.  That has been the case in Pennsylvania, where credits have sold for as little as 0.1 cents/kilowatt-hour.  Low credit prices reflect the fact that the renewable energy industry is building much more capacity than required by most state standards.

Indeed, a strength of renewable energy standards is that they create a market and let loose innovation and competition to meet the standard.  The private sector competes to build the projects.

The renewable energy industry has attracted huge private investment, creating hundreds of thousands of construction and other jobs, billions of kilowatt-hours of clean electricity every year, on top of low power prices.  That's what all the people working and investing in renewable energy have built so far.  And they have just started.

Friday, November 30, 2012

MIT Blockbuster Study Finds Shale Gas Methane Emissions Greatly Exaggerated: Shale Gas Is Cleaner Than Even EPA Number

Yesterday researchers from MIT published a peer reviewed, blockbuster study that finds that Prof. Howarth of Cornell University greatly exaggerated the methane emissions coming from shale gas wells. Indeed, the MIT data indicate that Howarth's now infamous study overstated methane emissions to the atmosphere by a range of 7 to 30 times the actual release from the nearly 4,000 shale gas wells that the MIT study analyzed. And this is the MIT study:

The MIT paper notes that Prof. Howarth looked at a handful of shale gas wells; then overstated the potential release of gas from that handful of wells; and further totally falsely assumed that all shale gas wells vented 100% of the full gas potential release.  In other words, Howarth miscalculated how much each gas well could release, even if all gas was vented during the flowback period.  And then Howarth falsely assumed that no shale gas well is green completed or flared but all gas is vented.

The MIT researchers politely said of Howarth's assumption that it is "unreasonable."  Of course, the venting assumption was far from the only "unreasonable" assumption in the Howarth paper.

By contrast, MIT looked at 4,000 shale gas wells, and not just a handful, to get a more accurate estimate of what each gas well could potentially release to the atmosphere, were it vented. MIT then looked at actual industry practices for venting, flaring, and green completions at shale wells.  Francis O'Sullivan and Sergey Paltsev, the two MIT researchers conducting the study, calculated that 70% of shale gas wells are green completed; 15% are flared; and 15% are vented.

The bottom line of the MIT researchers paper is that the "carbon footprint" of a shale gas well has been greatly exaggerated and is even lower than the EPA 2011 estimate.

The MIT study also looks at the cost of green completing a Barnett shale gas well and compares those costs to the revenues gained by paying for a green completion.  The paper finds that 95% of the time the green completions paid for themselves and would still pay for themselves 83% of the time if the costs of completion were doubled.  This cost data indicates that companies in most cases would be losing money by not green completing a shale gas well.

Climate change is an enormous challenge that demands honest, disciplined science. Even the passions stirred by the fracking debates should not allow the real science and facts of methane emissions from shale gas wells to be manipulated and demagogued. The facts are and science shows that shale gas has reduced substantially US carbon emissions and could be doing the same globally because it is cleaner than coal or oil.  Telling good people the opposite is irresponsible!

Ford's Largest Sale of Plug In Hybrids: GE Buys 2000 Ford C-Max Energi

Early adopters give life and opportunity to any new technology.  These are the folks that are willing to overcome inertia and obstacles to change how lives are led and business is done.  And major purchases of any new technology are particularly important to its ultimate success.

GE's purchase of 2,000 Ford C-Max Energi, a plug-in hybrid vehicle, is Ford's largest sale of plug-in hybrids to date.  What is good for Ford is also good for GE that gets 2,000 great vehicles and helps to build a market for its alternative fueling technology.

Accelerating the deployment of alternative fueling technology and the greater utilization of electric, natural gas, and biofuel vehicles remains vital to America's economic and national security.  Congratulations to both GE and Ford for putting substantial private investment into advancing these vital national goals.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Stunning Fact: IEA Forecasts USA Oil Consumption To Fall 33% in Next 23 Years

Far too little attention is paid to the demand side of all energy markets.  For sure, production has sizzle, but consumption is king.  No demand means no production.

And so I was delighted to read Floyd Norris' must read piece in the NYT that does a great job of collecting in one piece many of the most important facts about the demand side of the global oil market.

I will pull out from Norris' piece just one fact, among many important ones, to highlight here.

The IEA in its 2012 World Energy Outlook projects that US oil consumption will decline by one-third by 2035.  Or to put it another way, US oil consumption will decline on average by about 1% per year for the next 23 years. That is an astonishing fact.

Reducing US oil consumption and surging domestic oil consumption are putting the US on a path toward becoming oil independent and even a net exporter. Indeed, falling consumption and rising production are both equally strong factors in ending the decades of the US importing foreign oil.

But the only way for the USA to free itself from the global pricing of oil and oil price shocks to our economy is to use less oil.  And so the reduction in US oil consumption is especially important and great news indeed!

Ernst Young Rank CA, Colorado & TX Top 3 For Renewable Energy Investment: PA Falls Out Of Top 10

Renewable energy continues to boom around the USA and the world.  Competition for billions of private investment to produce renewable energy is fierce.  And so the Ernst Young ranking of states for their attractiveness for renewable energy brought good news to California, Colorado and Texas$FILE/United_States_renewable_energy_attractiveness_indices.pdf.

The EY rankings put California, Colorado, and Texas in the top 3 spots.  They remain hotspots for investment, projects, jobs.

By contrast, Pennsylvania has now fallen out of the top 10, falling from 7 to 12.  And unfortunately the Commonwealth is likely to fall further, as renewable energy investors steer clear.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Today I Announce My Candidacy For Governor of Pennsylvania

I announce today my candidacy for Governor of Pennsylvania and will be doing press conferences in Philadelphia and Harrisburg.  Tomorrow, I will be in Pittsburgh for a press conference there.

Pennsylvania is an energy powerhouse and soon will produce the third most energy among the states.  Pennsylvania will trail only Texas and Wyoming--two states with no state income tax--in total energy production.

Despite the Marcellus gas boom and falling national unemployment, Pennsylvania's economy is struggling.  For the first time in years, Pennsylvania's unemployment rate was higher than the national unemployment rate in both September and October. Pennsylvania's rate of job creation that was among the highest in the nation in 2010 has fallen to among the lowest.

Our struggles are rooted in a mismanagement of Pennsylvania's tremendous energy resources, failed economic development policies that rely almost exclusively on the natural gas industry, and disastrous education policies.  Pennsylvania's  schools since 2011 have lost 19,000 jobs, and school taxes have increased in many communities, after a $1 billion cut in state funding in the 2011-2012 budget.

Those budget cuts to public schools, universities, and colleges were choices made and not unavoidable. For example, the 2011-12 state budget included hundreds of millions of dollars for the Rainy Day Fund, hundreds of millions of dollars for corporate tax cuts, and about $250 million to 14 cyber charter schools, even though 13 have reading and math scores below the average of a traditional public school.

Not surprisingly, with fewer teachers, higher class sizes, lost tutoring programs and courses, Pennsylvania's school test scores declined.  Those Pennsylvanians who are also paying higher school taxes, as a result of the 2011-12 budget cuts, are paying more for education and getting less value.

In the coming campaign, I look forward to listening to Pennsylvanians and proposing solutions to our problems.  I also invite you to visit and to support my campaign.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Green Completions Cut Gas Drilling Pollution, Produce Revenue, And Are Becoming Common: EQT Leading The Way

Like all major energy sources, natural gas production is industrial activity that cannot be done with no impact on the environment.  But again like all energy sources, natural gas's impacts vary depending on the practices and technology used to produce it.

A big step in reducing the impact of gas production and making gas cleaner are green completions.  Indeed, progress in green completions is among the most important advances within the gas industry, and so it was good to see EQT and its embrace of green completions featured in the linked to story by Andy Maykuth.

Green completions matter, because they reduce air pollutants, including methane leaking into the atmosphere.  Indeed, green completions cut substantially the amount of methane that leaks throughout the full gas production cycle, thereby increasing the climate advantages of gas, when compared to coal and oil.

Green completions also increase gas volumes and revenues for gas companies and so come close to paying for themselves.  They are another example of good business and good environmental practice being the same.

Probably more than half of all gas wells in the USA are already green completed but that number will jump higher by 2015, when an EPA rule requiring broad use of the technology is scheduled to take effect.  The EPA rule, however, is being challenged in court by industry that thinks the rule goes too far and environmentalists that think the rule does not go far enough.

Given the reality of those legal challenges to the EPA air rule and the uncertainty that they create, steps taken today by EQT and others to use more green completions are especially important.

Stunning Fact: Drought Lowers US 2012 GDP By Up To 1% As It Ravages 60% Of America

The worst drought since at least 1952 is ravaging 60% of America.  The drought first is an environmental disaster but it is also hammering our national economy.  America's 2012 GDP will be cut by up to 1% as a result of drought costs of $75 billion to $150 billion.  Amazing numbers!

Indeed, though already high, the economic cost of the drought is mounting higher.  For example, the drought has caused barge traffic on the Mississippi river to lighten loads substantially and may even close a 200 mile section of the Mississippi River in the coming months.

Drought costs could well be more than three times the huge $50 billion hit caused by Sandy.  Sandy and the epic drought are quite a one-two punch to economic growth.

None of this damaging, expensive weather surprises the climate models  Those models years ago predicted rising sea levels, super storms as well as droughts in much of the area where the current drought is severest.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Debunking Latest Attacks On Shale Gas As Bubble/Ponzi Scheme & Systemic Threat To Economy

Shale gas production for nearly a dozen years. A massive shale gas boom for now 5 years or since 2008. Record US natural gas production that crashed prices to below $2 for a thousand cubic feet.

Nothing stops the vampire like quality of attacks portraying the shale gas resource as soon to run out, as a bubble ready to pop, or a ponzi scheme.  Here is the link to one of the latest:  Indeed, Bill Powers is promoting a book to be published in May, 2013 theorizing that the shale gas resource will last just 5 to 7 years more.  Mind you such forecasts of impending shale gas supply doom are already about 3 years old, and soon US shale gas production will enter its 13th year.

Powers and Art Berman, who has done more than anyone to assert that the shale gas resource will soon collapse, also state that the economy faces cataclysm, like the financial catastrophe of 2008, when the shale gas resource is soon exhausted.  This comparison of the shale gas industry to the US financial system is, however, absurd.

The industry has no too big to fail problem.  Indeed, with about 60 different companies holding drilling permits in just Pennsylvania, the gas industry features a lack of concentration and has traits opposite of too big to fail.

Moreover, the gas industry is not the equivalent of a basic, economic infrastructure, unlike the banking system that is.  Economic life goes on through gas booms and busts, while a financial collapse brings all commerce crashing down.

By pointing to the 2008 financial collapse and suggesting that shale gas is another round of such disaster, Berman and Powers engage in fear mongering and attention seeking behavior.

Tellingly, the recent pull back in dry gas production in the US, of course, results from the opposite of an emerging gas supply shortage.  Instead, a very real gas supply glut crashed the price and caused rigs to redeploy to oil and wet gas.

But as some rigs went to more profitable opportunities, the gas in the ground stayed put, where it will be, when the gas rigs return.  And return they will, once gas prices move to $4 to $6 per thousand cubic feet range.   And there is conservatively 20 years of shale gas to be produced within that price range.

Moreover, were the US price to go above $6--hardly a high price, when today Europe and Asia pay $10 to $16 for natural gas-- the available shale gas supply certainly totals many decades more.

Continuing Vote Count in 37 States Reveals Major Romney Strategic Blunder--Foregoing Full Campaign In Pennsylvania

Amazingly, 20 days after the election, 37 states are still counting votes, according to Nate Silver.  And as the votes get counted, President Obama's lead grows, reaching now 3.3%, while Governor Romney's share falls to about 47.5%.  Silver writes that currently 127 million votes have been counted in 2012 or 4 million less than the 131 million final vote tally in 2012.

As the votes come in, Pennsylvania is what Silver calls the "tipping point state," the state that supplied the President with the 270th electoral vote, when states are ranked from most Democratic to least Democratic.
Indeed, the President's margin in Colorado, that was the tipping point state at one point in the vote count, has now reached 5.5% or higher than his margin in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is accustomed to being near the center of the political universe, a state that attracts an all out effort by both major political parties to carry it in the Presidential race.  But that was not the case in 2012.  Romney made a last gasp grab for Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes, but the Romney campaign and his allied Super Pacs gave up on the state for most of the fall campaign, to the frustration of state Republican leaders.

Yet, Silver's analysis and the current vote count confirm Pennsylvania's GOP leaders really did know better. The Romney decision to forego a full campaign in Pennsylvania, and instead pour resources into the supposedly greener and more important political pastures of Colorado, Iowa, and Wisconsin, was a major strategic blunder.

To be clear, the mistake did not cost Governor Romney the election, and he may not have won Pennsylvania had he focused on it.  Yet, Romney needed Pennsylvania more than any other state--that is what tipping point status means--and not to compete fully here was a blunder indeed.

Finally, for Pennsylvania's Democrats, Romney's blunder was most welcome, for it probably did decisively benefit Democratic candidates in some statewide, state senate, and state house races throughout the Commonwealth.