Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dow 13,005: Happy Stock Days Are Here Again

The Dow Jones Industrial average yesterday ended at 13,005, reaching its highest level since May 19 2008.  US stocks are up about 100% since the Dow ended its frightening collapse that gathered speed throughout 2008 and then hit a sickening bottom in March 2009 well below 7,000.

Indeed, the period from March 2009 to today has been one of the best periods in the history of the stock market.  Stock market gains also have been important to reviving growth of the US economy that now has grown every quarter since July 1, 2009.

In the world of stocks, happy days are here again.

Top Five Facts Why High Gasoline Prices Today Do Less Damage Than In 2008

Gasoline prices are up 40 cents per gallon since January, now average $3.70 per gallon, and may reach the record of $4.11 set in July 2008.  At that time, high gasoline costs were part of a perfect economic storm that nearly pushed the US already in a recession that started in 2007 into a depression.

Here are the top 5 facts why the economic impact this time of $4 gasoline will be much less, though still painful, as a 50 cent per gallon increase sustained for a year costs families $250 if they use 500 gallons annually or $500 more for 1,000 gallons.

5. New cars being sold today are more fuel efficient than in 2008.  In fact today's vehicles are 14% more fuel efficient than in 2008, and more than 30 million new cars have been sold since 2008. The gasoline price rising  from  $3.50 to $4 rise 14% and is offset almost completely by greater fuel efficiency that also averages 14% in new cars sold.  Of course, most motorists have not bought a new car since 2008, but they often do have two cars and start driving more frequently the higher mileage option.  Car pooling rates and public transit use also rises when gasoline reaches $4 as people find other strategies to save gasoline money.

4.  The USA has cut substantially its oil usage through efficiency and using substitutes for oil in vehicles, homes, and factories.  Ethanol and biodiesel consumption are up. Oil power plants such as those in Florida operated by FPL are converting to gas. Tens of thousands of homes across the Northeast are switching to natural gas from oil.  As a result, oil consumption is back to May, 1999 levels and gasoline back to September 2001 levels. The decreased oil consumption means that higher oil and gas prices in 2012 do less damage to the economy than in 2002.

3. Today electricity prices in many parts of the country like Pennsylvania are much lower than in 2008, and consumer savings in the electric bill approaching $500 per year for customers using 10,000 kilowatt-hours offset the household budget impact of $4 gasoline.  It should be remembered that electricity prices during the second quarter of 2008 in America's largest wholesale electricity market (the PJM power pool) reached the equivalent of 13 cents per kilowatt-hour just for generation.  High electric prices resulted from skyrocketing natural gas prices that were $13 for a thousand cubic feet in July 2008.

2. Today natural gas prices are $2.50 for a thousand cubic feet.  For the 51% of America's homes that heat with natural gas, the savings on the natural gas bill can be easily $400 to $1,000 and more than offset the price increases in gasoline. Again low natural gas prices have also shaved hundreds of dollars off annual electricity bills in many parts of America.  Combined natural gas and electricity bill savings of about $1,000 for many families exceed the $250 or $500 in new gasoline savings.  The key to the gas and electricity savings is the record gas production in 2011, driven substantially by shale gas wells.

1. The number one fact why $4 gasoline will do much less damage is that today our economy is growing and creating jobs and is not in a frightening fall, as it was in 2008. High oil prices shoved down an economy already plummeting. Remember that in 2008 our economy was already well into a recession that began in 2007; the stock market was falling; and the global financial system froze on September 15, 2008, when the federal government did not prevent the economic collapse that followed the disastrous Lehmann Brothers bankruptcy.  In the fall of 2008, monthly job loss immediately skyrocketed to 500,000 to 750,000. Truly scary.

In February 2012, our GDP has been growing every quarter since July 1, 2009.  Jobs have been added for 23 months.  And the stock market has roared back to 13,000 from below 7,000 in March 2009.

More fuel efficiency, less oil dependency, lower electricity bills, much lower natural gas prices, and a growing economy in 2012 all mean that America is today much better prepared to withstand $4 gasoline. Yet, to protect further our economic security, America needs to do even more to lessen its use of globally priced oil that is likely to go even higher in the coming years.

More natural gas, more biofuels, more electricity, and more energy efficiency is a recipe that works to innoculate Uncle Sam against high oil price illness.

PA DEP Must Remove Cloud Over Its Drinking Water Tests Are Sound

An Associated Press story about possible impacts of gas drilling on ten water wells in Butler county, Pennsylvania that ran in papers around the country on Friday, February 24, including in the Washington Post, creates a cloud over the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's water testing. The cloud must be removed, because doubt about the quality of DEP water testing would make impossible the already difficult task of handling water contamination complaints.

The AP story states: "DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday said on Friday that the low chemical concentrations were not a health risk, and he suggested that the contamination may have come from the agency's laboratory or from abandoned vehicles on or near the property. But Sunday didn't answer why the DEP failed to do follow-up tests if it suspected its own testing process was contaminated." See the following link:

The foregoing, quoted two sentences and specifically the statement that the DEP laboratory might have caused water contamination that have now appeared around Pennsylvania and the nation must be addressed by DEP.  Perhaps the story misrepresents what the DEP spokesperson said or the DEP spokesperson misspoke, an easy thing to do.   Or the AP story could accurately convey what Mr. Sunday said and he meant what he said.

In either case, to remove the doubt sowed about the quality of its vital water testing process, DEP should do another round of testing at the water wells in Butler county and address directly the Friday February 24 comments made about the quality of its earlier water tests and its laboratory's procedures.  Does DEP have reasons to think that its test was compromised? What were those reasons if they do?  Or were the comments inadvertent and mistaken?

At this point, to restore and protect public confidence, those questions need to be answered and combined with another round of DEP water testing at the Butler county sites that are now the focus of a major public controversy.  See following link for another story about the case:

Whenever a water contamination complaint is received DEP is on the regulatory hot spot. The Butler county case is certainly an example of the difficult issues that DEP must resolve. Its ability to credibly address these complaints is vital to public confidence, and that indispensable credibility rests on the quality of its water testing processes and DEP transparency.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Michigan On Track To Meet 10% Renewable Energy Standard

As America watches Michigan vote today in the GOP primary, now is a good time to bring attention to the latest report of the Michigan Public Service Commission, documenting that Michigan will have10% of its electricity coming from renewable energy sources by 2015.  See details at:

Michigan got 3.8% of its energy from renewables in 2011, but renewable energy will increase to 5% in 2012, and 8.4% by 2013 and 10% by 2015. Michigan is on track to meet its statutorily set Renewable Portfolio Standard on time and at bargain prices.

New construction or purchase of renewable generation by the state's two biggest electric utilities--Consumer Energy and Detroit Edison--is crucial to achieving the state requirement.  Consumer Energy will bring on line 397 megawatts of new renewables by 2012 and 547 megawatts by 2014. 

Detroit Edison will build even more--327 megawatts by 2012, 571 megawatts by 2013, and 841 megawatts by 2014.

The Michigan Public Service Commission notes that the costs of renewable energy is much lower than expected, is declining, and costs less than a new coal plant.

Michigan's success of meeting its 10% by 2015 RPS underlines again how modest the Pennsylvania 8% by 2021 renewable energy standard in fact is.  Not surprisingly, Pennsylvania is on schedule or ahead of schedule to meet its requirement.

Rick Santorum's Michigan Triumph

Win or lose tonight in Michigan, and late polling suggests a narrow Santorum win, Rick Santorum has already triumphed.  With the President and Governor Romney, Senator Santorum is today one of three people who could be the next President of the United States. Like no Pennsylvanian in living memory, Santorum has scaled the heights of national politics, as he plays David against Goliath, in the form of the "inevitable," well-financed Mitt Romney.

Perpetually underestimated, Santorum throughout his career superbly senses political opportunity and vulnerability, excepting his peculiar failure in 2006, when he should have not sought re-election.  Santorum displayed his normally sharp political instinct most recently by engineering his shocking triumphs in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, which he won, while Romney and Gingrich focused exclusively on Florida.  

Santorum, however, first demonstrated his political genius nearly 25 years ago, by ousting a veteran Democratic congressman, and then again by jumping into a weak primary field to take on Senator Wofford, in what proved to be a great year for GOP insurgents--1994. As the race for President formed in 2011, Santorum again saw opportunity created by a weak Republican field and at the time a weakened President.

In politics, Santorum makes his own good luck by being dogged and a political master.  His success rests on real fire in the belly fueled by a personal fanaticism that is both a huge strength and weakness. Santorum starts political campaigns when few would, continues long after most would have given up, and gathers admirers and real enemies as he goes.  But the secret to Santorum's success is not his hard work and right wing boldness or, many would say, extremism.

Instead, Santorum's political genius reflects his superior understanding--better than all his GOP Presidential competitors--of what drives and motivates Republican rank and file voters.  He has his finger on the pulse of what Santorum calls the Cracker Barrel Republican that says is the heart of the modern GOP. Santorum knows how to rile up this constituency and Santorum's personality works best when the Republican base is angry, as it was in1994, when he won the senate seat, and is today.  Santorum is not a man for all seasons but angry times.

Santorum's arrival at this moment, when he stands on the cusp of defeating Governor Romney in his home state, is a uniquely personal triumph for Rick Santorum. It is hard to think anyone else could have done it and of course nobody else did.

Win or lose tonight, Santorum has made himself a force in Republican national politics in 2012 and beyond. If he actually wins Michigan tonight, Santorum becomes the favorite for the Republican nomination.

Also, if Santorum ultimately defeats the Republican Goliath named Romney, smart Democrats will not underestimate him in the fall. To do so could be fatal. These are angry times, fueled by 8.3% unemployment and $3.70 gasoline, when Santorum excels and knows how to beat political giants like President Obama.

Interesting Fracking Fact: 70% of Fracking Done at Oil Wells

Hydraulic fracturing has been used for decades, but virtually nobody outside the oil and gas business ever heard of "fracking" until 2010. After fracking had hid in plain view for decades, why has nearly everyone said fracking in everyday conversation over the last two years, and the word is now firmly part of our vocabulary? Shale gas drilling reached the Northeast of the United States and a tsunami of media and public attention resulted.

As a result, fracking and gas drilling are tied together in the public mind.

Yet, the EPA stated during its webinar yesterday on hydraulic fracturing that 70% of hydraulic fracturing is currently at oil wells and just 30% at gas wells, reflecting a shift of rigs from gas drilling to oil drilling, as the price of oil jumps again, while the price of gas is at bargain levels. Much of the public, however, would be surprised to learn that fracking is being used right now much more to produce oil than gas.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Key Facts From Today's EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Webinar

The Marcellus and Pennsylvania is in a starring role in the congressionally mandated study of potential impacts on drinking water from hydraulic fracturing. The slides from the webinar will be available at Here are the factual highlights of today's EPA webinar about the study's status and scope:

1. The study is looking at potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water from water acquisition, to chemical mixing, to injection of fluids, to handling of flowback and produced water at surface, and to the treatment and disposal of drilling wastewater.

2. EPA randomly selected 9 drilling companies and asked for data from 394 gas wells drilled by the 9 companies from 2009 to 2010.  The 9 companies cumulatively drilled 25,000 wells in 590 counties across America.

3. There are 5 retrospective case studies looking at claims of water contamination.  Those studies are in North Dakota at a shale oil site; Texas in the Barnett Shale; Colorado at a coalbed methane field; Washington County, Pennsylvania; and Tioga & Susquehanna counties in Pennsylvania.

4. Water sampling was conducted from July to November 2011 at the above locations and will be repeated again from March to July 2012.

5. The EPA both through modeling and through actual data is looking at potential of discharges of drilling wastewater to streams from treatment plants to impact drinking water.  The EPA stated it was using data supplied by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Region 3 to perform this analysis.  EPA further stated that this analysis could focus on the Mon and Susquehanna rivers in Pennsylvania.

6. The next update will be in May-June.

7. The first report of the study's results will be sent to the EPA Science Advisory Board in December 2012 for peer review and for public comments.

New Coal Plants Now More Expensive Than New Renewables

 For years renewable energy has been more expensive than coal.  Not anymore. 

New renewable energy--wind, biomass, landfill gas, digesters, hydro--now costs less than a new coal plant.  Don't believe it?  That is the finding of the Michigan Public Service Commission that quietly released on February 15th its statutorily required report to the Michigan legislature about the cost of meeting Michigan's 10% Renewable Standard.  See the details at:

Looking at the actual prices bid to build new renewable energy plants, especially for its two biggest electricity utilities (Consumer Energy and Detroit Edison), the Michigan regulators found:

1. new wind plants from 2008-2011 on average cost 8.76 cents per kilowatt-hour;
2. new biomass cost 9.89 cents per kilowatt-hour;
3. new landfill gas cost 9.81 cents per kilowatt-hour;
4. new digester power cost 12.2 cents per kilowatt-hour. 

The average renewable energy cost was 9.19 cents per kilowatt-hour for the entire 3 year period and would be even lower if only 2012 prices were included.

By comparison, the cost of new advanced-supercritical coal-fired plant for a life cycle of 40 years is 13.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to the Michigan PSC. 

And where are renewable energy prices headed?  The Michigan PSC states "...that the average levelized costs of the [renewable energy] contract continue to decline" and that "contract prices have been much lower than expected."  Indeed, the renewable energy prices are lower in 2012 than in  2011, 2010, 2009, or 2008.  Consequently, the prices expressed in the Michigan PSC report overstate the price of renewable energy in 2012. 

Gas is certainly remaking the energy marketplace, but it is not alone in doing so.  Renewable energy and its sharp price drop is an equally profound change, making both gas and renewable energy the dominant fuel sources for the next 20 years.

Global Solar Installations Set New Record Amid Creative Destruction

Torrents of media accounts about solar bankruptcies or declining solar subsidies suggest the solar industry is collapsing.  Indeed, the Wall Street Journal editorial page has run columns for years predicting the industry's demise and is still doing so in 2012. As with the end of times, the end of the solar industry is often predicted.

But 2011 was another bad year for earthly and solar doomsayers.  World solar installations boomed once again, reaching an impressive 27,700 megawatts, up from 16,600 megawatts in 2010, according to the European Photovoltaic Industry Association's 2011 Market Report.  See

To understand how big the world annual solar build is, consider that the US typically builds 10,000 to 20,000 megawatts of new power plants of all types in a year.  In short, the global solar market is approaching twice the size of the total US new power plant market.

So what about the stories about solar company bankruptcies and declining solar subsidies in some European countries?  Both are real, but their real meaning is misunderstood.

The solar bankruptcies and declining solar subsidies are both parts of the enormous global solar growth.  As solar installations soar and prices of solar power plummet, not too surprisingly some European countries are decreasing solar feed in rates.  Why? Solar projects simply require less subsidy, because their costs are declining sharply and are already at grid parity in some utility service territories in the USA and around the world.

The competition to supply and build solar projects is intense, and there are losers in the intensely competitive solar market.  But the intense competition, at the very same time as it destroys some companies, expands the solar market, by creating declining solar prices that makes more private capital move into solar power.  What is going on in the solar industry is capitalism's process of creative destruction, with the twist that capitalism as practiced in most of the world features public-private partnerships.

The global capacity to produce solar modules has increased 12 times in 5 years and stands at approximately 38,000 megawatts per year.  Consequently, companies that cumulatively can manufacture 38,000 megawatts of solar power per year are chasing orders that are rising sharply but reached 27,700 megawatts in 2011.

The intensely competitive solar manufacturing market will be a fact of life for years to come and that means both solar manufacturing bankruptcies and still lower solar panel prices ahead.

Friday, February 24, 2012

EPA Administrator Jackson Supports Hydraulic Fracturing

Lisa Jackson waded further into the gas wars in an appearance in New Jersey, where she both supported state regulation of hydraulic fracturing and said: "I believe fracking as a technology is perfectly capable of being clean. But it requires people who are doing it and the innovators who create technology to make sure it be done right."  Her words stirred critical comments at the paper and challenge those who wish to ban the practice or federalize regulation.

Meanwhile, in Houston at the Winter NAPE conference, various speakers in the oil and gas industry turned the conference into a session of bashing President Obama.

Perhaps someone at NAPE thanked Lisa Jackson for her support of hydraulic fracturing, when it is the object of concerted attack. Or perhaps someone at NAPE thanked Lisa Jackson and the President for their support for both the Cross State Air Pollution and the Air Toxic Rule that will increase natural gas demand more than any other policy decision and that have been attacked rabidly by Congressional Republicans.

Right now, the biggest problem facing the gas industry is not production but demand for gas.  It is too low, given the huge supplies.  President Obama has done more to support using more gas than any other President ever.

While the President's administration is being attacked from both the Ban Fracking and Drill Baby Drill camps, even though US gas production is at record levels and oil production is rising, the President's poll ratings today are strong and getting stronger.  Possibly most Americans are in the middle of the road--not comfortable with loud extremes.

EPA Hosts Upcoming Webinar on Hydraulic Fracturing Study

The EPA will host on monday, February 27th from 3:00-4:00 a webinar on the progress of its Congressionally mandated hydraulic fracturing study. The EPA investigation at Pavillion, Wyoming is not part of this study, but the EPA hydraulic fracturing study remains the most important, single piece of on-going science work involving gas production.

If you are interested in the webinar and want to register, go to:

Coal Is King In China: Provides 70% Of Total Energy

Looking at the role of coal in China and the USA underlines how coal's position in national economies varies considerably around the world.

Once but no more king in the USA, coal reigns in China, where it provides 70% of China's total energy.  Uncle Sam gets 21% of his energy from coal and nearly all coal is burnt to make electricity.  Both oil and natural gas provide more of the USA's total energy, or coal is the USA's third biggest fuel.  Renewable energy in all forms, including large hydro and corn ethanol, ranks fourth an nuclear energy fifth in America.

Already high in China, coal demand is still rocketing up in China, jumping another 9.7% in 2011, while oil demand rose 2.7%, natural gas 12%, and electricity consumption 11.7%. See  China must import coal from around the world to meet its demand, including from the USA.  US coal exports rose 31% in 2011 to reach 100 million tons.

With its nearly unquenchable thirst for energy, China consumed 20.3% of the world's energy in 2010, making it the world's biggest energy consumer.  The US ranked second at 19%.

Despite the USA and China consuming similar amounts of the world's energy, China emits more approximately 50% more carbon pollution than the USA because China is much more dependent on carbon-intensive coal than the USA is.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Shale Gas Cuts Again Electric Rates At Big PA Electric Utility

While 586,000 customers have switched to competitive electricity suppliers and have saved even more money by doing so, my home town electricity utility--PPL Electric Utilities--is dropping its electricity generation rate yet again that it charges to customers who have not shopped for electricity.  Why? It is passing through to customers lower wholesale electricity prices produced by low natural gas prices and the shale gas boom.

As of March 1, 2011, residential customers buying electricity from PPL will see their electricity rate fall from the current 7.769 cents per kilowatt-hour to 6.935 cents.  The reduction will save a typical customer $8.30 per month.

This PPL generation rate decrease is just the latest of many.  As of January 1, 2010, residential customers buying electric generation from PPL (again those customers who had not shopped or switched to a competitive electricity generation supplier) were paying 10.4 cents per kilowatt-hour. Just since January 2010, the PPL electric generation rate has fallen 3.465 cents per kilowatt-hour.  Annual savings for a consumer using 10,000 kilowatt-hours per year are $346.  Not bad at all.

Customers that have shopped have received even higher savings or have purchased products that meet their needs or preferences like green power.  I have switched to a company that provides 100% wind power.  Take a look at

Study Finds Drilling Boom Does Not Increase Crime In Communities

Does a gas drilling boom in a community mean higher crime rates, as some have claimed? No, at least not so far, according to a study done by the Justice Center for Research at Penn State University.  See the details at:

The study states: "...there were no consistent increases in Pennsylvania State Police incidents/calls for service or Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) arrest statistics in the top Marcellus-active counties."  The study looked at crime rates in the 7 counties where drilling is most active: Bradford, Fayette, Greene, Lycoming, Susquehanna, Tioga, and Washington.  It compares data for the pre-drilling period of 2006-2007 to 2008-2010 when drilling boomed.

The researchers note that the study period is short and should be extended in order to make firmer conclusions about trends.  They also report that crime rates decreased in rural communities with no gas drilling in the study periods.  Additionally 75% of the municipalities in the drilling areas of the study do not have their own police forces and rely on the Pennsylvania State Police for coverage.

Gas drilling brings economic growth to communities, and all the benefits and costs associated with a boom.  It means jobs for young people and others who need them.  It  lowers unemployment rates and few things make communities stronger than jobs and lower unemployment rates. It means higher rents that benefit those who have properties to rent and hurts those who must rent.  It means more people in restaurants, hotels, and in towns.  More people causes more money circulating, more activities, and more services needed.  It brings more vehicles to roads, road damage, and road repairs that have built better roads than ever in some places.

There are both opportunities and challenges caused by gas-drilling fueled economic growth for communities.  It is not all good or all bad. Yet some descriptions of community impacts of gas drilling are only negative. Perhaps we should all ask the mayors of Reading, Pennsylvania or the Mon Valley whether they would prefer to be dealing with the challenges of economic growth or economic decline.

California Crosses 5% Wind Power Threshold: Renewables & Gas Powering Golden State

While California trails Iowa and South Dakota that generate 20% of their electricity from wind, and Texas where wind generates about 8% of its electricity, California crossed the 5% wind power threshold in 2011.  See  California now has 3,927 megawatts of wind operating, ranking it third in total wind capacity.

California and Texas, the nation's two most populated states, are striking examples of the growth of wind energy.  But the on-going debate about extending the wind production tax credit is already reducing new wind construction in 2013 and putting thousands of jobs at risk.

Apart from wind, California generates 42% of its electricty from natural gas, with large hydro and nuclear power significant sources too.  California is also home to some of the nation's largest geothermal power plants. Two of California's largest electricity utilities now get 20% of their electricity from renewable energy resources.

How about solar?  As of 2010, solar produced 0.3% of the Golden state's power.  Massive solar farms that are under construction will boost significantly solar's California market share over the next 3 years.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

PA Joins 1 Trillion Cubic Feet Club

In 2011, Pennsylvania produces 1.042 trillion cubic feet of gas, making the Commonwealth one of the nation's biggest and most important gas producing states. Pennsylvania gas production has increased more than five-fold since 2006.

In the last 6 months of 2011, Pennsylvania produced 607 billion cubic feet of gas, a significant increase over the 435 billion cubic feet of gas produced in the first 6 months of 2011.

Production in 2012 will likely increase again, despite a slow down in drilling of new wells in dry gas areas, because more wells already drilled will be connected to pipelines and more gas will flow to market.  But the reduction of gas rigs in Pennsylvania by companies like Chesapeake Energy and Talisman will have an impact this year. The 2012 production will be lower than it would have been had gas prices remained at $4 or higher for a thousand cubic feet.

How long can gas prices remain below $4? Since few people even 12 months ago forecast gas prices falling to $2.50, answering that question requires humility and heads into the unknown.  External factors like weather and possible shocks to the US economy from a war with Iran or a deep European recession impact gas prices.  I would only say prices are going to rise and not in the distant future.
More clear is that Pennsylvania production gains are a major reason that gas prices have crashed, and why gas and electricity consumers around the country have seen substantial savings in the last 24 months.

Past Time To Regulate Water Well Construction In PA

Only Alaska and Pennsylvania do not regulate the design, materials, equipment, and construction of a water well. In Pennsylvania, the result of no regulation or a "buyer beware" approach has been hundreds of thousands of poorly constructed water wells with substantial water pollution problems.

Across the Commonwealth, approximately 3.5 million people drink water from more than 1 million water wells and about 20,000 new wells are drilled each year.  As many as one-quarter of those wells has one or more contaminants that endanger health.

It is time to regulate water well construction in Pennsylvania.  This is not a situation of fixing a problem that is not broken.  We have hundreds of thousands of water wells that are broken, that threaten the health of those who drink from them.

Legislation to regulate water well construction has been introduced by Rep. Ron Miller.  See

Marcellus drilling is shining a light on water wells and water quality.  Passing regulation of water well construction would be a great benefit, derived from the public attention created by gas drilling.  Pass it!

Yellow Flags On NOAA/Colorado Methane Leakage Paper

Michael Levi's blog post about the details of the methane leakage data gathered by NOAA scientists in Colorado is interesting. Levi gets into the weeds of some of the calculations used in the paper. See

No matter the details, my bottom line remains that methane leakage rates can and should be cut.  Doing so is crucial to maximizing the benefits of natural gas and protecting the natural gas "brand."  Both industry and environmentalists should have common purpose on cutting methane leakage.  The EPA July 2011 proposed rule that is now expected to be made final in April will be a major milestone on this important issue.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

CBS News Releases 5 Minutes Of My Dimock Interview

CBS released a 5 minute excerpt of my 30 plus minute Dimock interview. See;lst;2

This interview is certainly better than the 5 seconds or less that appeared in the original CBS story about Dimock.  It, of course, is still highly edited and so only begins to address the basic point that pollution at Dimock was methane migrating but was not fracking fluids returning from depth.  CBS includes a portion where I emphasize that drilling and hydraulic fracking are separate phases of developing a well and where I say the problem involved gas migrating.

This posting does not have me saying, as I did, that the pollution at Dimock was not frack fluids returning from depth. That would have contradicted the original story's narrative.

AP Reports: No Radiation In Pennsylvania Drinking Water

As the first anniversary approaches of the NYT Sunday, February 27, 2011 front page article warning that Pennsylvania's drinking waters were being contaminated by radiation from drilling wastewater, the Associated Press reported that Pennsylvania's drinking waters are not glowing.

The AP writes: "Additional water testing over the last year also appears to have put to rest concerns that radioactivity from the drilling waste could contaminate drinking water...States said his agency [Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority] 'looked real hard' at the radioactivity issue, but didn't find a problem in western Pennsylvania rivers...Sunday, the DEP spokesman, said the state's water quality monitoring network shows normal, background levels of radioactivity. 'Monitoring at the public water supply intakes across the state showed non-detectable levels of radiation; in the two cases that detected any level, the levels were at background', he added."

The NYT story was dramatic and false.  The AP story is factual and true. Which one will have the bigger impact?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Must Read AP Story About Drilling Wastewater Disposal

The volumes of drilling wastewater from shale wells nearly quadrupled in the first 6 months of 2011, when compared to the first 6 months of 2010.  Of the 10.1 million barrels of wastewater produced in the first 6 months of 2011, about 97% was recycled or deep well injected, according to the Associated Press.  See  It's not clear what happened to the remaining 3%.  In the first 6 moths of 2010, Pennsylvania's Marcellus wells generated 2.8 million barrels of wastewater or about a quarter of the 2011 amount for the same period.

The AP also finds that the traditional shallow gas wells--non-Marcellus wells--are still taking their drilling wastewater to plants that may be discharging to rivers, without full treatment for Total Dissolved Solids. The AP calculates that 1.86 million barrels from these wells were produced in the first half of 2011.

Pennsylvania's regulations include a watershed requirement that TDS levels be kept below 75% of the Safe Drinking Water Act level.  Monitoring of bromide levels are continued to be monitored and sources of bromide other than drilling wastewater are being examined.

Comparing UT Report & NYT Article On PA Gas Oversight

The New York Times February 27th, 2011 article created a false narrative that Pennsylvania was an "extreme case" of "lax regulation" and "lax oversight" where "gas producers are generally left to police themselves," with the result that its rivers that supplied drinking waters were being heavily polluted by radiation pollution that threatened human health.

Massive testing of drinking water at the tap and in stream totally debunk the main radiation narrative of the New York Times article, with one example being the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority that is still doing monthly test and posting the results on its website  Pennsylvania American Water Company also tested drinking water at 5 of its treatment plants.  Fourteen other drinking water suppliers did the same. All tests prove the drinking water drawn from rivers and streams for public water systems has radiation at natural or background levels, is safe to drink, and has not been at risk.

Of course, the NYT has refused to inform accurately or fully its readers about the results of these tests, since they destroy the article's fundamental narrative.

The paper can be counted on to also not report that the University of Texas, after reviewing enforcement of oil and gas laws in 15 states, concluded that Pennsylvania had issued the largest number of violations of any state.  See;postID=1360814019445320030

Pennsylvania issued 1200 violations to the industry in 2010 and 1100 in 2011. When it completes its work, UT may document that Pennsylvania issued approximately two times the number of violations compared to the second ranking state and that the number of violations issued in Pennsylvania was typically 5 to 10 times greater than in most other states.  Still other reporting found that Pennsylvania leads the nation in imposing fines and sanctions for violations of oil and gas laws.

Don't expect to see any of those facts in the NYT, because they destroy the other major narrative of the article that Pennsylvania was an extreme case of lax oversight and lax regulation. The Public Editor of the New York Times that has twice spanked the gas reporter and editors that have fed cleverly constructed misleading and false accounts on the papers' readers should consider a third public spanking.

Iowa Poll Chills Obama & Finds Paul Is Strongest Opponent

Driven to irrational exuberance by good political news in the last 2 months, giddy Democrats need a cold shower, and yesterday's Des Moines Register poll is just that.  It finds that Paul, Santorum, and Romney all lead President Obama in Iowa, with Paul up 49-42; Santorum 48-44; and Romney 48-46.  The President only beats Speaker Gingrich, whipping him 51-37, confirming the enormous damage done by millions of dollars of negative adds, fired at Newt, in Iowa by Team Romney and Congressman Paul.

Ron Paul is the President's toughest Republican opponent, beating him by 7 points.  Paul is the most electable in the general election but remains certain not to be the nominee. Yet, at least in Iowa, Santorum and Romney also narrowly lead the President in February 2012.

President Obama carried Iowa by 10 points in 2008, and Iowa's unemployment rate is substantially below the national average, as the Iowa farm economy has done comparatively well. But by 46 to 48, the poll found that Iowans disapproved of the President's job performance.

The poll confirms that the President remains vulnerable whenever his approval rating falls below 50%. The poll  challenges the conventional wisdom that the Republican primaries have become necessarily bad for the Republicans' general election prospects. Most of the many months of the Iowa caucus featured all Republican candidates attacking the President, with negative attacks directed at Gingrich in only December 2011. Finally the poll is a reminder that the 2012 election could still be close, a cold shower for giddy Democrats.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Texas Coal Gassification & Carbon Capture Plant At Crucial Juncture

The global rise in carbon pollution seems near unstoppable.  If not unstoppable, it will be very difficult to stablize global concentrations of carbon pollution below 450 or even 500 parts per million, levels that will insure significant temperature increases, but prevent the most dangerous possible outcomes.

Given the enormous carbon pollution from China and soon India, a key to stabilizing carbon concentration levels could be carbon capture and storage technology that turns coal and natural gas plants into zero carbon polluters. The technology exists to do so, but the costs are high and must come down for widespread adoption. 

The United States Department of Energy's Clean Coal Power Initiative is attempting to partner with private industry to develop a commercial power plant that would demonstrate the technology and begin a process of lowering its costs. As a result, DOE has provided $450 million to Summit Power Group in Texas is attempting to develop a 400 megawatt plant that will gassify coal at a cost of $2 billion or a capital cost of $5 per watt plus fuel and other production costs.  See  The plant would capture 2.5 million tons of carbon per year and sell the gas for enhanced oil recovery, an important piece of the plant's business plan.

Summit Power Group announced this week that it had entered into $2 billion of engineering, procurement, and construction projects that are conditioned on a successful financial closing. The economics of this plant have been challenged by the decline in gas prices, but its location in Texas, where power prices have actually gone up, as a result of a generation capacity shortage that has caused blackouts, means that this plant just might get the needed private financing.  See

Stay tuned for more on the fate of this plant.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Southern Company Spends $14 Billion On Two New Nukes Without Carbon Price

How does it make economic sense to spend at least $14 billion to build 2 nuclear reactors, without a substantial price on carbon pollution? New nuclear plants emit no heat trapping pollution but make no economic sense in the USA, if the external costs of dumping heat trapping pollution into the atmosphere are not included in the price of energy. Yet, Southern Company has generally opposed significant carbon regulation but just got licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build two nuclear reactors that are projected to cost $14 billion by the time that they are scheduled to begin operation in 2016 and 2017.

Monopoly power over generation sources in Georgia and lobbying success in Washington DC to obtain $8 billion plus of federal loan guarantees that move risk from Southern's shareholders to taxpayers answer the question, how does it makes sense to spend $14 billion to build 2 nuclear plants and oppose significant carbon regulation?

Having successfully kept its retail generation monopoly and fended off proponents of electricity competition, Southern is principally using its captured, monopoly electricity customers and federal taxpayers to finance the needed $14 billion, including federal loan guarantees to Southern that are about 15 times greater than the size of the Solyndra loan guarantee.  In fact, current customers of Southern are already paying for the nuclear reactors in their electricity bills, even though they are not getting any service from them and won't for another 5-years.  A monopoly has its benefits.

In the absence of  a substantial price on carbon, no company without a monopoly that can "rate base" nuclear investments and massive federal support would consider spending $14 billion to build 2,200 megawatts of electricity generation capacity.  Such massive costs are not supportable in the competitive electricity generation marketplace, where the same amount of natural gas electricity capacity could be built for approximately $1.6 billion, or at least 85% less than the nuclear capacity.

With ratepayers already paying to finance the plants and the federal loan guarantees banked, building the 2 nuclear power plants makes sense for Southern and its shareholders who will receive substantial returns, with  little risk.  But the impacts on consumers of Southern will be much less happy.  Even if the 2 nuclear plants are built successfully on time and on budget, a shaky assumption indeed, the high costs of these nuclear power plants will make Georgia less competitive for business and industry.

While likely bad for consumers who pay electricity bills in the Southern territory, the nuclear plants will avoid large amounts of carbon pollution, but that is worth absolutely nothing in today's energy marketplace, and so the nuclear plants are being built on the strength of monopoly power or the absence of a competitive generation market in Georgia and lobbying strength for subsidies.

And here is more of the story.  House Republicans in Washington DC support federal taxpayers underwriting 100 more new nuclear plants at a cost of $1 trillion and also totally oppose a carbon price and often deny global warming exists.  Well, no one can say that they don't have an energy policy.

Honda Civic CNG Dethroned As Greenest Car

For 8 years, the Honda Civic CNG has topped ACEEE's rankings of the greenest vehicles.  See But this year it fell to a tie for second with the Nissan Leaf in ACEEE's 14th annual rankings.  After a long reign, the Honda Civic CNG is no longer the greenest car, but it remains incredibly clean, when compared to all alternatives.  It also costs about $2 less per gallon to operate than the gasoline Honda Civic, since CNG is typically selling for between $1.25 and $2.00 per gallon.

What did ACEEE rank as the greenest car? The Mistubishi i-MIEV battery electric vehicle. The Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, and the Smart ForTwo were 4th, 5th, and 6th in the rankings.

To be ranked, a car must have more than 1,000 sales. As with all rankings, criteria and assumptions play a role.  The Chevy Volt was hurt by an assumption that it was driven 65% of miles traveled on electricity, with the remainder on gasoline.  A further assumption for electric cars was that electricity was generated by a national average mix of power plant resources.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

NOAA Data Underline Need To Cut Methane Leakage

A team of NOAA scientists measuring air quality in a portion of Colorado estimates that 4% of the produced gas at a gas field is leaking into the atmosphere.  See  That leakage rate is high and would be about 43% greater than current EPA national estimates.

Yet still other data about the leakage rate being developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology indicate that the leakage rate is below the current EPA estimate, according to Sergey Paltsev of MIT.

No matter which estimate is right, the leakage rate of methane can be cut and must be cut. Indeed, the EPA proposed July 2011 rules would do the job, even according to Professor Howarth.

Professor Howarth said of the rules in his most recent paper: "Can shale-gas methane emissions be reduced. Clearly yes, and proposed EPA regulations to require capture of gas at the time of well completions are an important step."

The gas industry should for its own good take methane leakage seriously, as nothing more fundamentally risks damaging the brand of gas as a cleaner burning fuel than this issue.  Unfortunately, global warming science can lead to major arguments with some in gas industry circles, and not all companies are members of the EPA Gas Star program. As a result, not all  are genuinely committed to excellent practices for limiting methane leakage.

Even if the methane leakage rate was 4%, and again MIT thinks it is not, coal would emit substantially more carbon than gas when coal is used for electricity, and nearly all coal is used for that purpose in the USA.  But there is no need for the methane leakage rate to be 4%. Cutting methane leakage rates should be something that unites and not divides.

Low-gas Price Triggers Price War For Electricity Customers: Great Time To Buy Longterm & Green

The close relationship between the price of natural gas and the amount of your electricity bill is on display once more.  This time in the form of a price war for electricity customers that has been triggered by the low-price of gas.  See the Andy Maykuth piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer at

I would urge electricity consumers to consider doing two things at this point, the best time to shop for electricity in the last 12 years.  Look for longterm contracts and buy some green power.

You can get information about how to purchase local wind power at  Any purchase of Pennsylvania wind will help to build more wind farms in Pennsylvania that produce zero air and water pollution, that employ Pennsylvanians, and that produce electricity that helps to keep power prices reasonable.

No matter what electricity you buy, this is a great time to lock in favorable pricing.  You can save more right now by sticking with short duration contracts, but prices are likely to rise from these levels sooner rather than later.  My advice would be to think multi-year or longterm contract.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

US Ranks Second in Big World Wind Market

An incredible 41,000 megawatts of wind was installed around the world last year.  China led the world by installing 18,000 megawatts of wind, a mind-blowing number for one year.  The US ranked second and installed 6,800 megawatts, while India came in third with 3,000 megawatts deployed.  Other highlights include a record year in Canada for wind development--1,500 megawatts in 2011 in Maple Leaf country--and the Brazilian market jumping 50%.  See

Let's put in perspective the 41,000 megawatts of wind energy built around the globe in 2011.  The world now has 238,000 megawatts of wind capacity or the 2011 wind installations increased the total by more than 20%.

The US has a total of 47,000 megawatts and is a world leader in total wind power installation so as much wind was built around the world in one-year as nearly has been installed ever in the US.  Last year's global wind power deployment is more than twice the new generation capacity built in the US from all technologies. 

Assuming that each megawatt of wind is equal to about $2 million of investment, the wind industry was about an $82 billion global market in 2011.  It is big business.

And 2011 was not a fluke.  The 41,000 megawatts installed in 2011 was a 6% increase over the 2010 wind installation total.

2012 Vehicles 13% More Fuel Efficient Than 2008 Models

Why are US fossil fuel carbon emissions falling?  Why are US oil imports falling? Why is US gasoline demand back to September 2001 and oil consumption at May 1999 levels? Rapidly rising fuel efficiency in new vehicles is one major reason for all the foregoing.  Consider these numbers from a University of Michigan study:

New light duty vechicles (cars, pickup trucks, minivans, vans, and SUVs) on sale in 2012 average 21.5 mpg, compared to 21.2 mpg in 2011; 20.7 mpg in 2010; and 19 mpg in 2009.  In short the fuel efficiency of vehicles on sale has improved by about 13% since 2008.

The vehicles actually bought by consumers were more fuel efficient than the average vehicle available for sale in every year since 2008, as consumers bought more higher fuel efficient vehicles.  For example, vehicles bought in 2011 averaged 22.5 mpg; 22.1 in 2010; and 21.3 mpg in 2009; and 20.8 mpg in 2008.

Rising fuel efficiency in vehicles is cutting gasoline demand, pollution, and imports of foreign oil.  It is one reason that even US carbon emissions have been declining.

The increasing fuel efficieny will certainly continue as federal law requires a fleet average of 34.1 mpg by 2016 and a proposed regulation would raise that further to 54.5 mpg by 2025.

Fuel efficiency and rising production of domestic oil and oil substitutes like biofuels, natural gas, and electricity are moving Uncle Sam to energy independence.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Meet The Most Electable Republican: Congressman Ron Paul

While some Ron Paul supporters always have said that their man is the most electable Republican, virtually nobody else thought so, including me. But as Romney struggles, Gingrich falls again, and Santorum surges to a 38% to 23% national lead in the latest Public Policy Polling poll, Ron Paul is the most electable Republican.  He also is the most intriguing figure in politics.

A national poll taken from February 1-3 finds both that Ron Paul is the most electable Republican, trailing the President 44 to 40 and that 20% of Republicans are leaning toward re-electing the President.  By contrast to the close race with Congressman Paul, President Obama leads Governor Romney 48-41 and crushes Senator Santorum 49-34 in the World Net Daily/Wenzell Poll.

Still another poll--the Fox News poll published on February 10th also--finds that Paul runs better against Obama than either Gingrich or Santorum, though not as well as Romney.

According to the Wenzell poll, part of Congressman Paul's strength is that he loses just 19% of Republican voters, while the other candidates lose 20% or more, numbers that are a huge warning to the GOP.

The vitriolic attacks by Gingrich and Romney on each other and soon by Romney on Santorum are mutually assured political destruction (MAD).  The attacks by each on the other are making toxic the reputations of all engaged in MAD, even to the 20% of Republican voters who are considering voting for the President or possibly not voting at all.

The sustained, intensifying negative Republican attacks on each other and the strengthening economy add up to continued good news for President Obama, who in the Rasmussen February 10th poll opened a 10- point lead on Romney and whose approval rating hit 51%.  The only recent bad news for the President is that the election was not last week but is still more than 8 months away, an eternity in even a normal political year.

Much can yet change between now and election day.  The improving economy could stall.  War with Iran is possible. The only certainty is that certainly the President's rising political prospects of the last 2 months could reverse and still fall enough for him to lose the election. Yet, the President's good news includes that the Republicans remain certain not to nominate the man who has amazingly become their most electable candidate--Ron Paul.

Paul's status as the most electable Republican reflects the growing weaknesses of the other Republican candidates, as well as Paul's uniquely authentic profile and his issue mix that constitutes a political wild card, in a year when a standard Republican campaign may be doomed by an improving economy.

Paul would attack the President from both the left and right simultaneously, with his strong opposition to a war with Iran and the bailout of Wall Street and with his support for drug legalization, a massive government downsizing, abolishing the Federal Reserve and basing the dollar on gold. This issue mix and his record of attacking both parties enables Paul to rally supporters of theTea Party and Occupy Wall Street. 

Paul actually does something very difficult to do to any political opponent.  He eats into a portion of  his opponent's base or in the case of President Obama--college educated, mainly white voters under 35.  Paul joins in this respect President Reagan, the last Republican who had the ability to peel away a significant portion of the Democratic base, the famous Reagan Democrats.

Paul also so far has been bruised but not destroyed by the MAD nature of the Republican primary. Most of the tens of millions of dollars of negative attacks have been fired at someone other than Paul so he may be able to hold as much or more of the Republican base as Romney, Gingrich, or Santorum, while peeling off some Obama voters.

All that adds up to Ron Paul being the most electable Republican candidate, even though he has no chance of being elected, since he will not be the GOP nominee. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Thank You!

Thank you to all of the many people who have sent condolences and supportive messages.  I appreciate it very much.

I wish I could pretend otherwise, but this time is difficult. My mind at times thinks that the last two weeks are not real, but they are.  The loss of Matthew is searing, and made more so, because my love for him cannot bring him back to this world.

The path forward is not always easy for any of us.  But we do move forward, a step at a time. 

Thank you again for helping me to do so.  Tomorrow I will resume posting, and I look forward to our continuing dialogue.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

In Loving Memory Of Matthew Sean Hanger, My Son

Luanne and I have lost our son, Matthew Sean Hanger.  He was a business analyst for Capital One Financial in  Richmond, Virginia, his first position, after graduating with honors from Duke University in 2011.  Matthew earned a major in economics and psychology.

Matthew loved Hershey, Pennsylvania, his home, and where he graduated from Hershey High School.  He loved and excelled at tennis, playing the number 1 court for the Varsity team from his freshman to senior year, when he was the team's captain.  As a youth player, he also was ranked in the top 25 by the United States Tennis Association for the Middle States Region and top 500 nationally.

Matthew was a master of trivia who used his storehouse of knowledge to captain the Hershey High School Quiz Bowl team that qualified in 2005 and 2006 for the National Academic Championships, the first times in team's history.  He was also a member of the Mathematics team.

Matthew gave Luanne and me great joy and taught us so much.  For example, he had a great way with children. We are thankful for and proud of him.

Nothing is more precious to parents than their children.  We love Matthew beyond what words can convey and are devastated by his loss.

We are having a family only funeral service, followed by a memorial service for Matthew that is open to friends.  The memorial service will be February 18th at 11:00am at the First United Methodist Church in Hershey.  For those who may wish to send flowers, please instead make a donation to the Trojan Foundation that supports the Hershey public schools.  Its address is PO Box 898, Hershey PA 17033.

I am suspending further posting to the blog until February 13, 2012.

Friday, February 3, 2012

EPA to Promote Efficiency, Gas to Reduce GHGs

EPA is soon planning to release its draft rule requiring greenhouse gas reductions from newly built or modified power plants, and they are expected to promote efficiency, natural gas and carbon capture and storage as ways to comply with the rule. 

EPA has already finalized rules requiring large GHG emitters to annually report their emissions and under another rule (PSD tailoring rule) is on the books requiring some large polluters, independent of their industry, to reduce emissions.

This new proposed rule under the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) program would be specific to new or modified power plants and would require modern technologies to be employed to limit emissions.  The rule is expected to promote energy efficiency, natural gas and carbon capture and sequestration as fuel-neutral technology options for achieving required emissions standards.  It is not clear whether co-firing with biomass will be a recommended technology option.

EPA’s NSPS rules for GHG are the result of a court order.  On a related note, EPA is also required by the courts to issue GHG limits for refineries.

Biodiesel Breaks One Billion Gallons

EPA data indicates that the U.S. biodiesel industry produced more than one billion gallons of fuel in 2011.
Total production of 1.1 billion gallons, made mostly from soybean oil, recycled cooking oil and animal fats, far exceeds the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) 2011 requirement of 800 million gallons and also dwarfs the previous record of 690 million gallons produced in 2008.   The biodiesel industry credits the success to a combination of a 1-year reauthorization (through 2011) of the biodiesel tax credit and the RFS requirements.

The biodiesel tax credit mentioned above expired at the end of 2011.  In addition, EPA is considering lowering the 2013 RFS biodiesel requirement from 1.28 billion gallons to 1 billion gallons, a move that the biodiesel industry believes will devastate the industry.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

American Municipal Power Goes Hydro

American Municipal Power (AMP), an Ohio-based wholesale supplier of power to municipal electric systems loves hydropower and a Pennsylvania company is reaping some of the benefits.

AMP is building four hydropower projects on the Ohio River, totaling 300 MW of installed capacity, that it plans to sell to customers in seven different states.  Although hydro’s share of the U.S. power market has been in general decline, AMP likes hydro because of its output reliability with capacity factors of 55-60%.

In 1997, conventional hydropower provided about 10% of net U.S. electricity generation.  By the end of 2011, the percentage of hydro dropped to under 8% of net generation, as total net generation rose by 7%.   In Pennsylvania, conventional hydropower generation increased by about 29% between 2010 and 2011, owing perhaps to last year’s record rainfalls in parts of the state.

Environmental impacts of these projects have been minimized because they will be cited on existing Army Corps of Engineers dams, avoiding the need to build new dams that can wreak havoc on local marine and land ecosystems.

AMP signed a $300 million contract with the York, PA based Voith Hydro to manufacturer the turbines and generators for the four projects.

The four projects, which have been in the works since 2006, are expected to be complete between 2014 and 2015:
  • Cannelton (84 MW) near Hawesville, KY
  • Meldahl (105 MW) near Foster, KY
  • Smithland (72 MW) near Smithland, KY
  • Willow Island (35 MW) near Pleasants County W. Va

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

More Than Just Marcellus

The Alternative Energy Investment Act of 2008 just made possible significant investments into six new clean energy initiatives across Pennsylvania.  

The Act established programs and appropriated funding to the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA), $13.8 million of which was recently invested into projects in Adams, Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Franklin and Somerset counties.  These state investments will leverage more than $238.8 million in private sector funding, will install 141 megawatts of capacity and will generate enough electricity to power more than 44,000 homes.

Some of these initiatives include:
  • Ground-mounted solar for Liberty Interactive Corp (QVC studios) in Chester
  •  Outdoor solar inverter research and development in Allegheny
  • Solar thermal for Chambersburg YMCA in Franklin
  • Everpower’s Twin Ridges wind farm in Somerset
  • High performance building project at the Borough of Chalfont in Bucks
  • Renewable Energy Division (RED) expansion for McClarin Plastics in Adams

Currently boasting 912 MW of wind capacity, 730 MW of hydro capacity, 123 MW of solar capacity and 207 MW of landfill gas to electricity capacity, Pennsylvania is more than just Marcellus.

Homeowners betting on natural gas

Homeowners are increasingly betting on low priced natural gas for the long term.

On Sunday, the Patriot News reported a steady trend of local homeowners increasingly switching from oil-based heat to natural gas heat.  They cite many factors for this switch, but most important is the expectation that local supplies of Marcellus Shale natural gas will continue to deliver low-cost natural gas over the lifetime of their new heating system investment (typical cost is $3,500 to $9,000). 

UGI claims that the average family can save 50-55% or $1,000 to $1,500 per year by switching from oil to gas.  UGI saw record residential switching from oil to gas conversion in 2011 and is expecting to surpass those records in 2012.  Demand is so high that customers wanting to convert are experiencing longer than usual waiting periods for UGI to perform the work.

Cheap, plentiful supplies of natural gas are looking even more attractive than oil as Iran scoffs at EU sanctions and repeats threats to block the Straits of Hormuz, a major oil chokepoint that ushers about 17 million barrels per day of oil through its waters.