Friday, June 28, 2013

White House Issues 50 Climate State Reports: PA Hit By 13 Storm Disaster Declarations In 10 Years

As a follow-up to President's Climate Plan, The White House has issued state climate reports.

The Pennsylvania White House climate report has several interesting facts.  For example, Pennsylvania has had 13 storm disaster declarations in the last 10 years. It's carbon emission from power plants and industrial sources were 150 million tons in 2011 or less than 3% of US emissions.

Pennsylvania's power plant emissions fell significantly in 2012, as gas displaced considerable amounts of coal generation.  As a result, the current number is certainly below the 150 million tons in this White House Climate Report 2011.

Speed Fact: Nissan's Electric Racing Car Goes 300 Kmh & Will Enter 2014 Le Mans

Nissan is aggressively pushing the electric car technical envelope and has an electric racing car.

The link has pictures of the car that is expected to have a top speed of 300 kmh or 185 mph and to compete in 2014. The car apparently will be a hybrid and not all electric.  It, nonetheless, is impressive and fun.  Take a look.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Stunning Facts: Renewable Energy Globally To Provide More Power Than Gas & Twice That Of Nukes By 2016

With the huge global hydro resource, renewable energy has always provided a significant portion of global electricity.  Indeed, hydro alone provides about 16% of the world's electricity.

Now with wind energy reaching 300,000 megawatts of capacity this year and solar taking off, renewable energy is growing rapidly around the world.  Renewable energy already has 1,693,000 megawatts of installed capacity and will exceed 2,000,000 megawatts by 2016.  By 2018, it will provide as much as one quarter of the world's electricity, and only coal will generate more, according to the International Energy Agency's 2013 Mid-Term Renewable Energy Market Report.

Here is what the IEA says about wind's competitiveness with coal and natural gas:

"In some markets with good resources, the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) for onshore wind is competitive or close to competitiveness versus new coal- and natural gas-fired power plants. In Brazil, onshore wind competes well with new gas-fired plants and other historically less expensive renewable sources, such as hydropower and bioenergy. In Australia, wind is competitive versus the generation costs of new coal- and gas-fired plants with carbon pricing, and the best wind sites can compete without carbon pricing. In Turkey and New Zealand, onshore wind has been competing well in the wholesale electricity market for several years. With long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs), onshore wind costs are approaching that of new coal-fired plants in South Africa. In Chile and Mexico, onshore wind competes – or is close to competing – with new gas-fired plants. In the United States, although onshore wind remains more expensive than new gas-fired generation, long-term PPAs for wind power can provide cost-effective hedges against rising fuel prices over the long term, even without federal tax incentives."

Wind is a bit ahead of solar in reaching economic parity with coal and gas.  Make no mistake, renewable energy's explosive global growth is rooted in its increasingly competitive economics.

The International Energy Agency projects that renewable energy will provide globally two times as much electricity as nuclear power and more power than natural gas by 2016.  Impressive!

Big Wind Advance: GE Brilliant Wind Turbine Achieves 52% Capacity Factor In Modest Wind Locations!

GE is claiming that its new wind turbine can achieve a 52% capacity factor in areas with modest wind resources, Class 3 locations.  Assuming the claim pans out, this turbine is a game changer!

Here is what GE is saying about its new Brilliant wind turbine:

Three of GE’s 1.5-megawatt, 80-meter-tall brilliant turbines with 120-meter rotors will be installed byInvenergy at a Texas wind project by the end of this year. The new height, rotor length and data analytics will allow the turbine to achieve a 52 percent capacity factor in moderate, Class 3 winds of speeds of 7.5 meters per second, according to GE Wind Product General Manager Keith Longtin.

Large areas of Pennsylvania and many other places in the USA have Class 3 wind resources, where achieving about a 30% capacity factor was a reasonable expectation.  A turbine that can achieve a 52% capacity factor in areas with a modest wind resource makes wind power even more competitive and lower cost in more areas than it already is. Indeed, a turbine that can achieve a 52% capacity factor will be producing some power for the grid probably  about 90% of the time during a year.  

Among many breakthroughs made both by wind and solar are the leaps in efficiency of converting wind and sunlight into electricity.  These efficiency jumps are a major reason why the cost of wind and solar power have fallen significantly already and will continue to fall lower still.

Congratulations to GE for its tremendous engineering success in bringing to market its new Brilliant turbine. And thank you to Alan Nogee who brought the GE breakthrough to my attention.

Who says America no longer manufactures big things?  I just love this!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Corbett Nonsensically Calls Obama's Climate Plan "A War On Jobs" After PA Produces Less Jobs Than Delaware!

Give Governor Corbett an A for nerve. After creating less jobs than tiny Delaware over the last 12 months, Corbett calls President's climate plan "a war on jobs." Remember that the national economy created 2 million jobs during the last year, but Corbett's policies made sure that Pennsylvania generated just 4,700.

Corbett's "War On Jobs" sound bite is no more than a reflexive, unthinking ideological response. It is also nonsense, since both cutting carbon pollution and creating jobs can be done in many, specific ways.

You can read for yourself the President's climate plan that is 21 pages and is practical and workable:

The President's climate plan will benefit natural gas, renewable energy, nuclear power, and energy efficiency.   Currently, Pennsylvania can create at least 100,000 jobs in those areas, if we had a Governor who understood energy.

My Jobs Plan creates 382,500 jobs, and many of them are by expanding industries that cut carbon pollution.  I chaired the Committee that wrote in 2009 Pennsylvania's Climate Action Plant that would cut Pennsylvania's carbon emissions by more than one-third and create 65,000 jobs. Implementing the ready-to-go Climate Action Plan is a key part of my Jobs Plan.

Other big jobs creators that also cut carbon are doubling renewable energy, doubling investment in energy efficiency, and expanding rapidly alternative fueling stations so that motorists need not just pay gasoline or diesel vehicles.

Another opportunity for innovation that can cut carbon and create jobs is a real push to develop carbon capture and storage technology. Indeed, developing the commercial ability to stop carbon from entering the atmosphere with pollution control equipment may be indispensable to stabilizing temperatures, since coal is increasing its global market share.  Last year, coal had its best year since 1970, with its highest market share of total energy used in the world.  Only carbon capture and storage technology can prevent carbon being released in huge amounts when coal is burned.

The climate has already changed in measurable ways. Now the climate policy train is leaving the station. Good energy policy will both cut carbon and create jobs.

My full Jobs Plan is available at  The real and proven jobs killer in Pennsylvania is none other than Tom Corbett.

Stunning Stanford Study Concludes PA's Charter Schools Are Second Worst In Nation & Significantly Worse Than Public Schools

Pennsylvania's charter schools are a disaster on average, a very expensive experiment gone badly wrong.  In fact, Pennsylvania's charter schools are the second worse in the nation, only surpassed in failure by those in Nevada. That is the stunning conclusion of Stanford University's 2013 study.

Get this. Standford University finds that, on average, children attending charter schools in Pennsylvania are getting a much worse education than those in traditional public schools.

At page 52-53 of the study, Stanford finds that children in Pennsylvania's charter schools on average lose the equivalent of 50 school days in math and 29 school days in reading, when their performance is compared to those attending traditional public schools.  Those are devastating numbers for our children and our taxpayers.

Pennsylvania's local and state taxpayers are paying about $1 billion per year to educate students in charter schools.  They are spending an incredible $366 million for 16 cyber charter schools and 100% of them do not meet the federal student performance standards of Adequate Yearly Progress.

Why are Pennsylvania's charter schools on average so bad? Huge amounts of money have been given to start up schools without transparency or accountability. Starting any business is tough. Starting a school is especially demanding.

To make matters worse, some charter school operators have stolen the money. Still others have made large profits that is their real primary objective.

Given how bad most charter schools are in Pennsylvania, it is important to note that some charter schools do an excellent job educating children. They are important successes and have earned financial support. Unfortunately, just 29% of charter schools meet federal student performance standards.

At this point, Pennsylvania's mad rush to charter schools is doing more harm than good.  It violates the first principle of good medicine--first do not harm! For example, 30,000 students have left parochial schools to attend charter schools and the averages indicate that many are now getting a worse education.

Pennsylvania must immediately stopped funding the 71% of its charter schools that are not meeting Adequate Yearly Progress.  That will save about $700 million per year that should be used at public schools and good performing charter schools to fund 3 reforms that raise student performance.

Our school year must be extended to 200 days and 1 hour added to our school day.  Early childhood education must be expanded in every school district. And intensive teacher training to improve teaching must be the norm in every school.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jobs Disaster: PA Creates Less Jobs Than Tiny Delaware Over Last 12 Months

The last 12 months have been a jobs disaster for Pennsylvania.  While the nation created approximately 2 million jobs from May 2012 to May 2013, Pennsylvania created just 4,700 jobs.

Had Pennsylvania kept pace with national job creation, Pennsylvania would have created between 60,000 to 80,000 jobs from May 2012 to May 2013.  But the Pennsylvania jobs story gets worse, when it is compared to other states like even tiny Delaware.

In fact, Pennsylvania has created even less jobs than tiny Delaware.  Before you see the comparative jobs numbers, remember that Pennsylvania's population is 18 times bigger than Delaware's.

Tiny Delaware created 6,800 jobs or 44% more jobs than Pennsylvania's puny 4,700 total.  Governor Corbett is making it tough for even his apologists to come up with an explanation for Pennsylvania's horrendous economic performance.

It is not enough to criticize Corbett's failure, and I have a full Jobs Plan at

Hot Fracking Facts: New Duke Drilling Study Is Big National News

The Duke University gas drilling study became big national news within hours of its release.  It was featured on major news websites and reached large, diverse audiences around the country.

"Fracking" remains a hot topic. My initial thoughts about the Duke study are in the previous post.

Monday, June 24, 2013

New Duke University Study Finds Evidence That Gas Drilling In PA Has Caused Methane Pollution Of Water Wells

Professor Rob Jackson and his colleague have published a new study looking carefully at methane levels and characteristics in 141 water wells in 6 counties in Northeast Pennsylvania.  The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Importantly, the study was funded by Duke University and two donors to Duke University, but neither by industry nor foundations funding its opponents.  Since Duke University has funded this research done by its professors, its appropriate to say this is a "Duke" study.

The study finds significant evidence that mistakes in gas drilling--either in casing or cementing--have caused stray thermogenic methane gas to contaminate some water wells.  In this respect, this study's results are consistent with the findings in 2010 of the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection that gas drilling mistakes had caused methane to contaminate 18 water wells in Dimock, Pennsylvania.

Much of the evidence for Jackson's conclusion that stray gas from mistakes in gas drilling have caused pollution of water wells stems from analysis of the methane found in water wells and high concentrations of ethane and propane, both of which are not associated with microbes or biogenic natural gas.  Jackson also finds a statistically significant correlation between the distance of a water well from gas drilling and concentrations of methane in the 141 water wells.

Here is the Associated Press report on the Duke University study that also mentions a USGS study that found many water wells in areas where no gas drilling takes place have methane of various levels in them.

Professor Jackson also states in the AP story that Duke University continues to find no evidence of fracking fluids in water wells.  That too has been the finding of testing done by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in 2010 and the Environmental Protection Agency in 2012.

So what to make of the Duke University and USGS studies?

First, gas drilling mistakes in cementing or casing can and have caused stray methane to migrate and contaminate some water wells. I have been saying that now repeatedly for four years! Denying this problem attacks the truth and is a disservice especially to those whose water has indeed been contaminated with methane.

Second, many water wells do have methane in them as a result of its natural presence in varying levels in some waters.  In fact, naturally occurring methane in water is relatively common in some areas, but that does not mean that mistakes in gas drilling cannot cause methane to pollute water wells. Such drilling mistakes can and do.

Third, fracking fluids are not returning from depth and contaminating water wells.

Finally, I am pleased that Duke University (I graduated from it in 1979) used its own resources to fund this study.  This is an example that other wealthy universities should follow!

Natural Gas Used To Generate Electricity Drops 10% In 2013 & 12% in 2014

Natural gas consumption by the nation's power plants has dropped substantially, a full 10%, in 2013.

EIA projects that natural gas consumption will be down 12% in 2014 too.  As natural gas prices have risen above $3 and $3.50 for a thousand cubic feet, the nation's electricity production is switching from gas back to coal.

The reality remains that in the marketplace the daily choice is primarily between gas or coal, not between gas or nuclear or gas and renewable energy sources. Denying this reality guarantees poor policy outcomes for the environment and economy.

Despite the decline in gas used in electricity production, total gas demand is remaining essentially flat with 2012 levels, as gains in other sectors offset the declines at power plants.

Stunning Fact: PA Creates Just 4,700 Jobs In Last Year, While Blue States NY, CA, & IL Create 386,000

Pennsylvania's jobs record is now a disaster.  The Commonwealth's job creation has fallen nearly to nothing--just 4,700 jobs over the last 12 months. And to make matters worse for the political and ideological apologists for Governor Corbett, jobs are being created in large numbers both in the national economy and the Big Blue states of New York, California, and Illinois.

Nationally, the country has created about 2 million jobs in the last year, while Pennsylvania could not even reach the 5,000 jobs threshold.  Moreover, California, Illinois, and New York--three states that the right wing loves to hate--created 12 to 53 times more jobs than Pennsylvania did.

Those of us in Pennsylvania can read the Bureau of Labor Statistics data and weep.  From May 2012 to May 2013, California created 252,100 jobs; New York 95,400 jobs; and Illinois 49,100 jobs.

By comparison, to remind one more time, Pennsylvania came forth with a puny 4, 700 jobs, despite a gas boom.  So what has and is going wrong in the Commonwealth?

With Pennsylvania ranking 7th in job creation in 2010, Governor Corbett swept into office in January 2011 and busily went to work slashing budgets for education, refusing to raise taxes to pay for transportation, cutting taxes for favored businesses, and turning down $4 billion from the federal government that would go to our hospitals.  For good measure, he refused to implement a real gas drilling tax and proudly reminded all that he had signed the jobs killing Grover Norquist Tax Pledge.

Governor Corbett faithfully follows the budget and tax policies recommended by the Tea Party and austerity economics.  The jobs results, however, are ugly and get worse the longer Tom Corbett and his policies govern.

Criticizing Governor Corbett is easy work but not good enough. And so I have a Jobs Plan that would create 382,500 jobs. It's available at

Friday, June 21, 2013

The EPA Shockingly Retreats From Its Pavillion Fracking Investigation: Critics Will Now Pound EPA

The Washington Post reports that the EPA has thrown in the towel in its Pavillion investigation.

The Washington Post report is based on a press release from Wyoming Governor Mead:

In the release, the Acting EPA Administrator says:

“In light of this announcement, we believe that EPA’s focus going forward should be on using our resources to support Wyoming’s efforts, which will build on EPA’s monitoring results,” said EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe.  “We applaud the leadership of Wyoming in conducting further investigation and assuring safe water and look forward to partnering with the State as it conducts its investigation.”

I am frankly amazed that the EPA has reached this point. Conducting investigations competently is a requirement of sound regulation. That is especially true when issues and causation are controversial and complex, as they are in most groundwater pollution inquiries.

The EPA has just put a "kick me" sign on it. Its critics from all quarters will now oblige.

Bargain Fact: Electricity Costs 30% Less Today Than In 1984

Nostalgia plays games with the mind.  Not everything was better or even cheaper 30 years ago. Take electricity, for example. Electricity prices in the USA are down 30% in real terms compared to 1984.  See page 6 of the link.

EIA further calculates that electricity prices in real terms are no higher than they were in 1998.  Though it costs less than 30 years ago or the same as 15 years ago, the grid today pollutes much less and is a much better value.  Why?

Many coal-plants have installed pollution control equipment or have been replaced by modern natural gas or even nuclear plants over the last 30 years.  Moreover, the grid has added 8,000 megawatts of solar and 70,000 megawatts of wind power that did not exist and did so all in the last 5 to 15 years.

Electricity is an example of a commodity getting both cheaper and better with the passage of time!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Blockbuster Power Plant Month: Huge Amount Of New Generation Capacity Added In May & 72% Is Natural Gas

America typically adds 15,000 to 20,000 megawatts of new generation every year or about 1,500 megawatts on average per month.  Though America has added as much as 70,000 megawatts of new generation in a single year, any year in which more than 30,000 megawatts is added is unusual.

During May, America added 3,488 megawatts of new generation capacity added across America, making it a blockbuster month. Gas-fired generation accounted for 72% or 2,529 megawatts of that massive total.  See page 3.

From January to May in 2013, 4,097 megawatts of new gas-fired generation has been added. That represents about a 25% increase over the same period in 2012.

The rest of May's new generation came mainly from a single coal plant coming on line. The plant is the only new coal plant to begin operations in 2013, but it is big, having a capacity of 925 megawatts.

So will 2013 be one of those rare years when new electricity generation exceeds 30,000 megawatts? No.

From January to May, a total of 7,102 megawatts of new generation was built, and the country is on course to install this year between 15,000 to 20,000 megawatts, the normal annual range. All the new generation that has begun operations in 2013 is either gas or renewable energy, with the exception of the single coal plant that started operating in May.

The present and future of new power plants in America remain almost completely gas and renewable energy plants! That makes America totally different from China, India, and many parts of the world, where coal continues to gain ground.

Making America More Competitive: US Energy Consumption Drops 2.8% Even As Global Consumption Rises

The US economy created about 2 million jobs in 2012, and our population rose. Despite a bigger economy, our total energy use dropped a significant 2.8%, even as the world's energy consumption increased 1.8%.

The revolution on the demand side of US energy markets is truly stunning and is making America more globally competitive.  Indeed, the US is using less energy that is often cheap in global comparative terms. For example, natural gas is priced around $10 for a thousand cubic feet in Europe and even more in Asia.  Electricity also costs typically much more per kilowatt-hour in Europe and Japan, and consequently electricity is used even more efficiently in Japan and many European countries than it is typically in the USA.

By itself, using less units of energy to get a job done improves competitiveness.  Using less units of energy that are priced low is a sure recipe for decreased energy costs and so improved competitiveness. America is increasingly following that energy recipe.

And that's one reason why some manufacturing is moving back to the USA.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

BMW's Electric Car Stirs Strong Interest: 100,000 Test Drive Reservations & Deposits

Big expectations exist for the soon to be available first electricity powered BMW.

Pricing is likely to be in the $40,000 range for the the BMW i3.  BMW is getting into the electric car business at a time that the Tesla S is outselling comparable gasoline powered BMW, Mercedes, and Audi models.

The electric car revolution is growing rapidly as consumers get more and better electric vehicle choices.

Mercury and Diesel Particles May Double Autism Risk: What Can Natural Gas Do To Help Or Hurt?

Another study adds to the growing data indicating a link between autism and mercury, diesel particulates, and lead. The latest study comes from Harvard University's School of Public Health. It finds that children exposed to high levels of air pollutants are twice to have autism than those living in low pollution areas.

Unless modern pollution controls are used, burning coal releases large amounts of mercury and soot as well as other toxic metals like arsenic and lead. Burning oil or diesel without top pollution controls also releases a variety of air pollutants, including soot or particles.

Unlike coal or oil, natural gas releases no toxic metals into the air and virtually no soot.  This is a substantial public health and environmental advantage of gas over both coal and oil. And the displacement of coal and oil/diesel by natural gas is helping to lower the amounts of mercury and diesel particulates in most but not all communities.

Though gas itself is clean burning and does not emit the pollutants that are increasingly linked to autism and to  other illnesses and causes of premature death, the production of gas often involves burning large amounts of diesel. The result can be significant new sources of diesel particulates in communities that previously had little.

Most gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing rigs run on diesel. Most trucking involved in the industry runs on diesel. Most compressor stations run on diesel.  But they need not.

Natural gas or electricity can be used to power drilling rigs, hydraulic fracturing pumps, trucks, and drilling stations. The gas industry should dump diesel and switch to gas or electricity in all parts of the production process.  If diesel is still used, regulations must require the use of modern pollution controls that can slash by as much as 90% emissions from compressor stations and drilling rigs.

Truly Climate Game Over Fact: China Uses More Than Half Of World's Coal In 2012

For the first time, China used in 2012 more than half of the world's coal or 50.2% to be precise.

Chinese coal consumption rose 6.1% in 2012 and outstripped strong Chinese coal production.  China produced 3.5% more coal in 2012 and 47.5% of the world's coal.  Chinese production and consumption of coal powered coal to its highest share of global energy--29.9%--since 1970.

By comparison, coal production dropped 7.5% and coal consumption fell 11.9% but declining coal use in 2012 was uniquely an American energy fact.  Despite the US declines in 2012, America produced 13.4% and consumed 11.7% of the world's coal during 2012.

But the dominant global energy fact of 2012 was Chinese coal consumption that powered coal to its best year in the last 43. In terms of climate, already enormous and still rapidly growing Chinese coal consumption remains the true "Game Over" fact..

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Coal's Great 2012 Means It Could Displace Oil To Become The World's Number 1 Source Of Energy

Oil remains the world's leading source of energy, providing 33.1% in 2012, but its share has fallen to its lowest level since at least 1965 and now could be displaced as the world's top energy source by coal.

As oil loses market share, coal gains market share and provided 29.9% of the world's global energy in 2012, its highest market share since 1970. The two most carbon intensive fuels--oil and coal--are the world's biggest sources of energy and together supply 63% of the globe's energy. One need look no further than those facts to understand why the world continues to increase the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and why many are pessimistic about the world's ability to avoid enormous warming in the next 80 years.

Other than coal and oil, what does the world use for the rest of its energy? Natural gas provides 23.9%; hydro power 6.7%; nuclear power 4.5; and non-hydro renewable energy 2.4%.  Those fuels are zero carbon or lower carbon than coal or oil.

But in 2012, the world used more coal and oil than ever before, and coal moved toward displacing oil as the world's leading fuel.

Shocking Fact: Tesla Outsells BMW, Mercedes, and Audi In Luxury Sedan Market

At least, in the luxury sedan market, Tesla and its electric technology are top sellers.  In fact, Tesla more than doubled the sales of the BMW 7 Series and beat by 50% the sales of the Mercedes S-Class.

tesla model s sales chart

Monday, June 17, 2013

Stunning Fact: Coal Reaches Highest Market Share Of Global Energy At 29.9% Since 1970

These are tough times for coal in the USA, but the USA is a global exception. Globally 2012 was coal's greatest year since 1970.  Coal provided the world 29.9% of all its energy, its highest market since 1970.

Here are more highlights from the BP 2013 Statistical Energy Review showing that happy days are here for coal around the world. While global energy consumption rose 1.8%, coal consumption rose more quickly at 2.5%.  Global coal production also increased 2%.

That adds up to 2012 being an exceptionally good year for coal around the world, with the notable exception of the USA

Among leading coal countries, coal consumption and production declined only in the USA, where consumption and production dropped 11.9% and 7.5% respectively. With coal consumption and production dropping in the USA, coal needed a great year in China and got it. Chinese coal consumption and production dwarfs that of every other nation.

On top of enormous Chinese demand for coal, increases in India, Germany, United Kingdom, and other less likely nations in Europe served as icing on the cake for coal in 2012.

Jobs Fact: PA Extraction Industries Positions Down 4% Since 2012

Tim Puko had a good article over the weekend about gas industry jobs. Puko reports that official PA data for mining, drilling and logging jobs shows a drop of 4% in April compared to a year ago.

The latest available data showed a total of 36,400 jobs in the official classifications within the extraction industries.  The official mining, drilling and timbering data, however, does not include some jobs like title work that is featured in Puko's story that exist or don't exist, depending on whether the gas industry is expanding or contracting.

While jobs directly or indirectly created by gas production will ebb and flow, a constant in good and bad times will be that the gas industry alone will never be able to bring prosperity to all of Pennsylvania.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sometimes Facts Are Not Enough: This Is How You Answer Racist Morons

As a 12 year old boy, I got off a plane from Ireland in 1970 and became a proud American.  This 11-year old born in San Antonio shows why America is the greatest nation on earth and how to answer racist morons.

Confronting hate and bigotry with reason and facts alone is not enough.  Thank you to Sebastien De La Cruz for powerfully showing why America is world's best hope for learning to respect all and to live in peace.

Key Fact: Growing Amounts of Solar and Wind Are Operating During Summer Peak Demand Hours

You have undoubtedly heard repeatedly that wind and solar are "intermittent" resources and so supposedly do not contribute to meeting the annual peak electricity demands of the nation.

Unfortunately, for those clinging to the view that solar and wind cannot help meet peak power demands, the North American Electricity Reliability Corporation or NERC data shows otherwise.  In its 2013 Summer Reliability Report, NERC says at page 3: "solar and wind on peak capacity projections for this year are expected to be 2,298 megawatts and 11,753 megawatts respectively."

Moreover, the NERC generation data does not include now the thousands of megawatts of non-utility scale solar generation that is at homes and businesses.  This small scale generation will be operating during peak hours and will help to maintain grid reliability.

No doubt the rise of renewable energy and demand response programs makes the job of operating a grid more complex.  The grid today is more fuel diverse and has many more power sources and demand response programs than it did just 10 years ago.  But that diversity improves reliability!

Stunning Fact: Solar On Pace To Install 9,000 Megawatts Per Year By 2016

Solar just had its best first quarter ever, installing 723 megawatts or nearly half of all capacity installed in the USA in the period.  Today, solar capacity is nearing 9,000 megawatts and is on its way to another record year, during which 4,000 to 5,000 megawatts will be installed.  All that new solar capacity will produce electricity the equivalent to about 1 new 800 megawatt nuclear plant. A big deal indeed!

But the best is ahead. As Forbes reports, by 2016, solar will install in one year approximately 9,000 megawatts.  That will produce an amount of electricity equal to about 2 new 800 megawatt nukes.

Solar is scaling rapidly and from an already significant base.  The solar revolution is now unstoppable.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Governor Corbett Fires DCNR Secretary Allan: Why?

Governor Corbett's administration is crumbling faster than Pennsylvania'a roads and bridges that are the worse in the nation.  Today brought the shocking news that the Governor fired Secretary Allan of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.  Secretary Allan's departure brings the total of cabinet secretaries leaving Corbett's side to a big five.

Speculation about the reasons for the firing are rampant, and some are suggesting Allan's departure is connected to the controversy about drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest.  Really?

Secretary Allan has loyally followed the mistaken environmental, conservation, and drilling policies of Governor Corbett.  If the Governor fired him over the Loyalsock State Forest case, the Governor fired Allan for following his orders.

Political panic is sweeping through the Corbett Administration, as more and more Pennsylvanians realize that Governor Corbett just is not up to the tough job he has.  And so perhaps Secretary Allan is being made to walk the plank for political reasons.  But my gut tells me not so.

The Governor owes the people of Pennsylvania an explanation right now about why he fired Secretary Allan.  No matter what the Governor may say about the latest cabinet secretary departing, his administration is imploding, as a result of incompetence right at the top.

Important Facts: Shale Gas Royalties Total At Least $731 Million In PA But PA Job Creation Lags Anyway

The Allegheny Institute calculates royalties paid to Pennsylvanians with drilling leases at $731 million in 2012. That's a considerable sum but is 0.13% of all personal income in PA, a fact the paper notes too.

The paper assumes that the royalty percentage is 12.5%, and that might be a tad low for the average payment.  As such, the calculation of $731 million is not likely to be exaggerated.

The infusion of royalty income is concentrated in a few counties like Susquehanna, Bradford, and Washington, where royalty income skyrocketed and became an important part of the local economies.  While those local economies benefitted from this income boost, Pennsylvania's statewide job creation performance has not. 

Indeed, Pennsylvania has fallen from number 7 among the 50 states in job creation in 2010 to now the bottom 10 during the last year or so, even as total royalty income has surged.  Over the last 15 months, Pennsylvania has created very few jobs and is not even getting its share of the 2 million jobs per year that the national economy is creating now like clockwork.

A series of policy blunders by Governor Corbett in education, transportation, health care, and energy are more than enough to negate the positive impacts of national job creation and rising gas royalty income.

Stunning Fact: Running Cars On Electricity Costs $1.14 Per Gasoline Gallon Equivalent

Just imagine. What would the US economy look like if every person now spending $3.65 per gallon for gasoline paid $1.14 per gallon? 

That saving of $2.51 per gallon would increase disposable income for many families by $1,250 to $1,875 and cumulatively turbocharge consumption and investment throughout the US.  And those savings are being already realized by those owners of the more than 100,000 electric vehicles already on US roads.

Now the US Department of Energy has calculated that the national average fuel cost of running an electric vehicle, in fact, is $1.14.  The DOE has launched eGallon, a tool that allows everyone to compare the costs of running a vehicle on gasoline or electricity in every state.  Go to this link:

The failure to move rapidly from oil to alternative transportation fuels remains a massive market and policy blunder.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Closure Of Two California Nukes Is The Equivalent of Shutting Down All Solar Systems In The US

Solar panels are becoming common sights in many parts of the USA, and even more capacity is on roofs out of sight and mind.  After 5 years of explosive growth, solar capacity exceeds now 8,000 megawatts or about enough power for 1.3 to 1.6 million homes.

The revolution in solar is real but still in its earliest days, as is brought home by the fact that all the solar systems today in the US produce less power than the two closed California nuclear plants at San Onofre.  The 2 California nukes total 2,254 megawatts but produce considerably more power than the 8,000 megawatts of solar across the USA. Why?

Nuclear plants operate typically around the clock and at more than 90% capacity factors for an entire year.

A general rule of thumb is that 1 megawatt of nuclear produces as much electricity as 5 to 6 megawatts of solar.  As a result, solar capacity in the USA will have to reach at least 11,270 megawatts before it will produce as much power as the 2 closed nuclear units at the San Onofre plant.  US solar capacity, however, will do that by the end of this year.

After recently announced nuclear closures, the US will still have about 100 nuclear units operating in the USA.  And by the end of this year, US solar capacity will produce annually power equal to about 2 of the nuclear fleet's big units or 4 small nukes.  Just to build enough solar to replace the equivalent of the US nuclear fleet will take decades.

These facts should be kept in mind when judging claims that solar or wind can replace nuclear or coal or gas power plants by certain dates.  By 2050, just about anything is possible.

But by 2020, California will be leading the nation in getting to 30% renewable energy for electric power production, while 70% will be still coming from mainly natural gas.  And to reach even 30% renewable energy power production by 2020, California will rely on massive amounts of electricity to be generated by big hydro, biomass, and geothermal power plants, in addition to solar and wind.

National Electric Grid Reliability Regulator Says EPA Rules Have Little To No Impact On Summer 2013 Operations

Do you remember all the hue and cry about how supposedly EPA's power plant regulations would cause a "train wreck" or even the lights to go out?  Here is what the North American Electricity Reliability Corporation says about that political hot air at page 5 of its 2013 Summer Reliability Report:

"Assessment areas across the United States report that federal environmental regulations have minimum to no impact on operations and planning for this assessment period. The impacts of recent retirements of fossil‐fired generation are reflected in this assessment, and environmental control retrofits are not expected to impact generator outages for the summer peak."

When some of the usual suspects were hyper-ventilating last year, EPA and many others pointed out that America had massive excess generation to meet summer peaks. It still does.

In addition to the 2013 cushy cushion, new generation coming on-line plus growing demand response programs and energy efficiency will roughly equal or even exceed yearly amounts of generation retiring.

Those attacking EPA rules as a train wreck were crying wolf and, of course, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and most Republicans in Congress were only too willing to play along.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

NERC Says Don't Be Like Texas Where The Lights May Go Out This Summer

Another summer is coming, and Texas is a lonely star.  Texas stands alone as the only place in the country where the electricity generation reserve margin is below reliability requirements.  See page 7:

To make matters worse, Texas has chronically had too little generation to insure its families and business that their lights will stay on.  Those of you in Texas that might be getting a little tired of having the lights go out are welcome in Pennsylvania!

The North American Electricity Reliability Corporation (NERC) reports that PJM, of which Pennsylvania is part, has a 29% reserve margin this year, when the requirement is 15%.  We know how to build power plants here and operate demand response programs too.  Just saying.

Electricity Generation Scoreboard: Gas Down 8%; Coal Up 8%; Nuclear Down 2.5%; Wind Up 10% & Solar Up 228%

Total electricity production in the USA barely changed, climbing just 1%, the first two months of 2013, compared to the same period in 2012.  But the stability in total power production conceals tremendous changes in the fortunes of the industries that generate electricity.

Coal generation is up 8%, while gas generation is down 8%.  That alone is big change.

Though coal and natural gas remain the heavyweights of electricity generation locked in near mortal combat, solar power is now on the scoreboard.  To be sure it is but a tadpole today. Yet, it is growing at a stupendous rate.

Solar production is up 228% in 2013, compared to 2012.  Amazing.

If that growth rate continues, solar will be providing 1% of America's electricity generation within 2 years.  In the electricity generation battles, solar is becoming a contender!

Already a contender, wind power production is up so far a solid 10% in 2013 and continues to close on hydro power, the long-reigning, renewable energy electricity generation champion.  In 2013, wind will produce about 60% of the power generated by hydro.

As for nuclear, America's third leading source of electricity generation, 2013 has seen a 2.5% drop so far in power production.

How electricity is generated in the USA is undergoing enormous change that is being driven by the comparative prices of coal and natural gas and the gathering renewable energy revolution.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sobering Fact: California Closure Of 2 Nukes Means More Gas Power & Carbon Emissions Rise By Equivalent of 1.6 Million Cars

A regular theme of this blog is that closing or stopping one energy source means that more of something else immediately will take its place.  Today, we are finding out what is the answer in California to the question: If not nukes, then what?

The owners of two nuclear stations in California threw in the towel last week and announced that they would close more than 2,000 megawatts of nuclear generation that supplied about 10% of the power of California.  The plants have been crippled by massive repair problems on which already $700 million have been lost in a vain effort to fix.

Putting aside the economics, the environmental consequences of this decision--at least for carbon emissions and the climate--are not going to be pretty.  The nukes are being replaced by mainly new natural gas plants and some renewable energy capacity.  This trade puts another 8 million tons annually of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, an amount equal to adding 1.6 million cars to the road.

While the above is bad enough, the full story is actually even worse. Most likely the annual increase in carbon emissions of 8 million tons, as a result of closing the 2 nukes, will last for 20 years. And so the nuclear closure will raise carbon emissions by a massive 160 million tons over the next 20 years, compared to what would have happened had the plants remained open.  That's an environmental disaster!

While wind and solar are growing rapidly and can be accelerated further, the plain truth is that, even in California, where renewable energy will supply 30% of all energy by 2020, they cannot replace fully or even mostly the loss of big plants that operate around the clock.

If not nukes, then what?  If not gas, then what? Today, the answer to those questions don't have great environmental answers.

America Is Awash In Excess Generating Capacity: Reserve Margins Typically Are 40% to 100% Above Reliability Requirements

Though the US economy is now bigger than in 2007 and our population is larger than ever, the US electric system is awash with excess generating capacity for the summer of 2013.  The North American Electricity Reliability Corporation's 2013 Summer Report shows that reserve margins that normally must be 15% are typically 22% to 30%.

In other words, the 2013 summer anticipated reserve margins are 40% to 100% higher than required. That is the case in the massive PJM area, where the anticipated reserve margin this summer is 29%. at page 7.

Of course, Texas remains determined to be different.  Only Texas faces an anticipated 2013 reserve margin below required levels.  America's energy capital is once more  and uniquely short of electricity.

Friday, June 7, 2013

In Two States, 80% Of Drilling Companies File Frac Focus Reports On Time But 20% File Late: What's The Right Response?

Many states have made reporting to Frac Focus part of their chemical disclosure requirements, and a new analysis finds that 20% of the required reports were late in Pennsylvania and Colorado.

So what's the right response from regulators, when 80% of the industry complies with an important regulatory rule, but 20% fail to do so? Is it effectively to treat the same those companies who comply and those who do not? 

Regulators in Pennsylvania and Colorado imposed no penalties against those companies reporting late.  By taking no action, regulators do send a message to those who did comply and those who did not. 

It is a message, however, that undermines excellence in operations and public confidence.

Stunning Fact: Shale Gas Now 40% Of US Natural Gas Supply, According To Yergin

A decade ago shale gas accounted for 2% of US gas supply, and now it is 40%.  Amazing.

With all that gas coming from shale drilled mostly on private lands, the gas industry could exercise self-restraint about drilling in sensitive places like the Loyalsock State Forest.

Astonishing Facts: Global Coal Consumption Booms Nearly 60% & China Consumes 47% Of Total

While the USA has been dashing to natural gas and renewable energy since 2000, China has been consuming growing and huge amounts of coal.  Chinese coal demand has been so strong that the world's consumption of coal has jumped from 5.3 billion tons in 2000 to 8.1 billion tons in 2011.  Again nearly all of that growth is a result of exploding Chinese coal demand.  See table below from linked to story.


Measured anyway China's reliance on coal is astonishing. While the USA largely runs on oil and natural gas that together provide about 60% of our total energy, China is powered by coal.  Coal alone provides approximately 70% of China's total energy but just 19% of US energy.

Indeed, Chinese coal consumption is an astonishing 47% of the entire world's consumption.
By comparison, US coal consumption is approximately 11% of the world's 8.1 billion tons.
On a per capita basis, Americans and Chinese use roughly equal amounts of coal, but China's coal usage continues to climb, while America's has been falling.

Shale gas is a fundamental reason why coal consumption in the US has been falling but skyrocketing in China, more than doubling in 10 years.  Shale gas has boomed in the USA but not to date in China.  And I am skeptical that China's hunger for coal will diminish without natural gas to take its place.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

New Study Finds Natural Gas Can Help To Cut Carbon Emissions But Raises Cautions: I highly Recommend Study

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions gets two thumbs up for its report entitled "Leveraging Natural Gas To Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions.  It is an objective analysis from start to finish.

The report has a careful, accurate discussion of the methane leakage rate issue at page 3.  The report notes that new EPA regulations will cut substantially methane leakage in the gas production phase, and 37% of all methane leakage in the lifecycle of gas takes place in the gas production phase.  Continuing to cut methane leakage remains an important activity for regulators and companies.

The report further points out that gas cuts carbon emissions, when it displaces coal, or oil but does not do so were it to displace nuclear or renewables. And gas has been displacing coal and oil in the USA from 2000 to 2012, while wind and solar have boomed and are now significant energy sources in the USA and around the world.

The main purpose of the report is to recommend ways to maximize the carbon reducing opportunities presented by gas, while avoiding the displacement of renewables or nuclear by gas.  In the USA, currently gas and renewables are growing at the expense of coal and oil, though the most recent few months have seen coal actually regain from gas some lost generation market share.

To its credit, the report also states that natural gas alone is not a sufficient answer to our climate challenge. It can help, especially in the next 20 years, if used smartly but is far from a complete answer.  Moreover, maximizing the benefits of gas requires adding carbon capture and storage to at least gas-fired power plants in the decades ahead.

Hopefully, the passions over climate, fracking, and renewables won't crowd out reason and objective analysis. At any rate, this report is great factual analysis and devoid of polemics.  I strongly recommend it.

My former colleague, John Quigley, also likes this report and writes about it at his blog:

Stunning Fact: 100% Of New Generation Capacity In California Will Be Solar in Last 6 Months Of 2013

Not gas. Not biomass. Not wind. Not hydro. But solar.

A stunning 100% of the new generation in California in the second half of 2013 will be solar.

That's simply amazing and unthinkable even just 5 years ago.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Drilling In Loyalsock State Forest Is Another Reason Why PA Support For Gas Drilling Drops Below 50%

How does support for gas production in Pennsylvania decline to a plurality of 49% approving and 40% disapproving, as measured by the recent poll done by the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College? 

 In addition to no drilling tax and too many accidents and spills, driving down support is the belief that no place is off limits to gas drilling, not parks, not even the Loyalsock State Forest, a spectacular, wild place.

The fate of the Loyalsock State Forest is becoming a test of whether there are limits on gas drilling that regulation or the gas industry itself voluntarily would impose.  People from many walks of life and with divergent political opinions are all rallying to stop gas drilling in the Loyalsock.

More than 250 Pennsylvanians took their time to attend a public hearing in Williamsport, Lycoming County, where gas drilling on private lands is also widely practiced and has considerable support.  But not one of those attending testified at a public hearing in support of gas drilling in the Loyalsock. The contrast is stark between opinion about drilling in one of Pennsylvania's most special state forests and the desire of waiting private landowners who are eager for gas drilling to be done on their properties. 

The gas industry must respect public opinion, whether it likes that opinion or not, if it is to maintain the slim support it now has.  Indeed, it cannot afford to win battles like the Loyalsock, if it wishes to avoid losing the public opinion war.

Japan Becomes World's Largest Solar Market To Replace Nukes

For most of the last 10 years, the biggest national solar market was in Europe.  But this year the world's largest solar market will be in Asia, with either China or Japan likely to install the most solar.

After installing 1,500 megawatts in the first quarter, Japan is on course to take the top spot in 2013

Japan's rush to solar is driven by its love and now hate relationship with nuclear power, following the Fukushima disaster.  Unlike nuclear that requires about 10 years from beginning to end to build a new nuclear plant, solar can be built quickly.

And Japan will install an amount of solar this year that is greater than one new nuclear reactor.  And that is just the start of Japan's solar push.  Don't be surprised if Japan builds an amount of solar in the next 10 years that are equal to 20 or more nuclear plants! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

US Ends Using Oil To Make Electricity: Is Transportation Next?

Addictions of any sort are hard to break, and President George W. Bush famously described the US as addicted to oil.  Well, it is time to give Uncle Sam real credit for breaking his oil addiction, at least for using oil to make electricity.

As recently as 1973, the US used large amounts of oil to make electricity, but Uncle Sam has cut by 94% his consumption of oil to keep our national lights on.  Consumption fell from 3,515 to 218 trillion BTU.

How did Uncle Sam break his addiction to oil for making power? He found better substitutes.

From 1973 to 1993, coal and nuclear power was largely responsible for replacing oil to make electricity.  Starting around 1990, natural gas also began to reduce the use of oil to make electricity, and the substitution of gas for oil picked up pace with the shale gas revolution around 2006.  In recent years, growing renewable energy generation has contributed as well.

America's experience in getting off oil for making electricity shows the oil addiction can be beat.  And what has already happened with the use of oil to make power has started in transportation.

Oil consumption for transportation peaked in 2007 at 28,335 trillion BTU.  By 2012, oil usage in transportation had fallen to 25,800 trillion BTU or a decline of nearly 10%.  The decline is a function of better fuel efficiency in vehicles, a decline in miles traveled, and growing oil substitutes for transportation like natural gas, electricity, and biofuels.

It took 40 years for America to break its oil addiction for making electricity, and it will take at least that long to do the same in transportation.  But the data show the addiction to oil for moving around is already weakening.

Electric Vehicle Sales In May Are On Pace For 80,000 Per Year

America has a little more than 100,000 electric vehicles currently on the road, but more are coming every month. May sales look to be between 6,500 to 7,000, according to Green Car Reports

Given the May sales numbers, electric vehicles are now selling at a rate of approximately 80,000 cars per year.  The next EV milestones will be an annual sales rate of 100,000 vehicles and 200,000 cars on the road.  Both will happen in the next 15 months.

The road ahead for electric vehicles looks straight and open to the horizon.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Cabot Fuels Dimock PA War With Another Study

Cabot Oil & Gas is out with another study designed to convince that its mistakes in gas drilling had nothing to do with high levels of methane in 18 water wells in Dimock, Pennsylvania.  Indeed, methane levels became so dangerous at some properties that one water well exploded.  Here is a link to the Cabot study:

This particular Cabot study finds that large numbers of water wells in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania have methane gas in them, a finding that is not news and why the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spent large amounts of resources to determine whether gas in water wells was "natural" or a result of gas drilling.  The study's implication is that Cabot's gas drilling did not cause methane to reach anyone's water well in Susquehanna County, though the study does not explicitly say that.

Look no further than Cabot's continuing Moby-Dick-like obsession to shift responsibility for mistakes it made in Dimock to understand why so many people lose confidence about the industry's commitment to operational excellence.

To recap, following an explosion of a water well in Dimock, Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection did an extensive investigation of 60 water wells in the Dimock area, starting in 2009.  The investigation used repeated water testing and comprehensive isotopic testing of methane in water wells to determine what water wells, if any, had been contaminated by gas drilling and whether or not methane found was "natural."  That testing found that 18 of 60 water wells had gas that was not "natural" or pre-existing, but was a result of gas drilling errors in the area.

The investigation also found that several Cabot gas wells showed clear signs of poor cementing, design, or other failures.  Indeed, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection strengthened the statewide gas well design, casing, and cementing regulations, in part due to its findings in Dimock.

Pennsylvania law also required that water well impacts within 1,000 feet of gas drilling (now 2,500 feet) are to be presumed to be caused by gas drilling, if no testing of the water well was done by the gas company prior to gas drilling.  Cabot did no testing of the 18 water wells DEP found Cabot had contaminated with methane, before it drilled near them.

DEP ordered Cabot to plug and repair gas wells in the area to stop the methane migration, and repeated testing of the 18 water wells showed methane had been reduced to safe levels in 14 of them by December 2010.

The DEP investigation and repeated testing and subsequently still more testing by the Environmental Protection Agency also found that hydraulic fracturing itself had not contaminated the water wells. No chemicals or drilling wastewater had returned from depth to contaminate the water wells.  The methane contamination in the 18 water wells was a result of casing and cementing errors in the gas drilling phase of Cabot's operations in the area.

Those are the real facts in Dimock, and the continuing efforts to obfuscate them only adds to public suspicion.

A Dispatch From The War On Oil: Biodiesel Production Jumps 43% & Sets Record

The war on oil continues.  Oil substitutes--natural gas, electricity, and biofuels--are slowly displacing more and more expensive, dirty oil and are a major reason why US oil consumption is back to 1999 to 2000 levels.

While biodiesel is a small competitor to oil, the biodiesel David is growing, as it battles the oil Goliath that remains our top energy source.  Biodiesel production jumped 43% in March, compared to February.

Even more impressively, March 2013 production set an all-time record for biodiesel produced in the month of March. Moreover, March 2013 production of 98 million gallons was the fifth highest amount produced in any single month.

Biodiesel is a wonderful energy product, normally made from soy beans or restaurant grease. It has a vastly superior energy balance to either gasoline or corn ethanol, making it one of the cleanest transportation fuels available.

The all-time monthly record still stands at 109 million gallons in December 2011.  Last year the monthly high was 100 million gallons in May.  Chances of a new monthly record being set in 2013 are looking up.