Thursday, January 31, 2013

Big Price Declines In 2013 Electric Vehicles: Price Cuts Put EVs On The Road

Substantial price cuts--as much as 18%--in the sticker price of electric vehicles are on the way. And these price declines are likely among the first of many more in the next 5 years.

Pricing, better range, and electricity charging infrastructure are the principal barriers of electric vehicles jumping from about one of every 250 vehicles sold in 2012 toward mass acceptance. Price cuts are one sure way to boost consumer acceptance of electric vehicles.  Add to price cuts better battery performance that is on the way to showrooms and the future for electric vehicles brightens considerably.

The success of electric vehicles would be a big, new market for all the fuels--gas, coal, nuclear, and renewables--that make electricity.  The success of EVs would create one loser--oil!

Walmart and BMW Lead Nation In On-Site Renewable Generation

A major strength of renewable energy is its ability to generate power at the site of customers, whether they be residential or commercial accounts.

Using biogas, wind, and solar on-site at their facilities, Walmart generates more than 174 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and ranks first in the nation for on-site, renewable energy generation.  Walmart also purchases another 574 million kilowatt-hours of electricity from renewable energy generators that are not located at their facilities.

Walmart's total renewable electricity usage is approximately 750 million kilowatt-hours or enough power for 75,000 homes.

Interestingly, BMW ranks second in the on-site use of renewable energy, with more than 70 million kilowatt-hours from biogas.  The rest of the top on-site renewable energy generators can be seen at the link.

Despite Low Prices, PA Gas Grows: Permitted Shale Wells Total More Than 11,000 & "Active" Wells 6,675

The collapse in gas prices led to a significant decline in gas drilling rigs in Pennsylvania, but gas production grows, as drilling new wells continues and more gas wells are connected to pipelines.  The good folks at ( report that there are now 11,494 Marcellus wells permitted and 6,675 shale wells that are drilled or producing.

Both the number of permitted gas wells and active (drilled and producing) wells in Pennsylvania have jumped in the last two years, despite an average gas price of $2.77 during 2012. Amazing.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Stunning Fact: Expensive Natural Gas Spurs 1.4 Million Megawatts Of Proposed Coal Plants Around World

While gas and renewables are dominating the new generation market in the USA, around the world it is new coal and renewables that are market leaders for new generation capacity. Indeed, more than 1.4 million megawatts of proposed coal plants are on the global drawing boards.

The proposed 1.4 million megawatts of new coal globally is more electric generation than of all types in the USA.  It is a huge number.

So why are new coal plants and coal use surging globally but struggling in the USA? The price of natural gas, the chief competitor for coal, tells the tale.

In the USA, natural gas yesterday closed at the Henry Hub at $3.19 for a thousand cubic feet, an incredibly low price for the middle of the US winter.  That low US natural gas price is a product of the shale revolution and only the shale revolution.

Meanwhile, in Europe and Asia, natural gas costs from $9 to $16 or as much as 5 times the US price.

Coal is booming nearly everywhere in the world for the simple reason that it is a cheaper way to make electricity in most nations, other than those in the Middle East and North America.

Surprise Fact: Shale Gas Wells Produce Less Wastewater Per Molecule Of Gas Produced Than Conventional Gas Wells

A new study of wastewater produced by shale and conventional gas wells in the Marcellus region surprisingly finds that the shale gas wells produce more total wastewater but much less wastewater per molecule of gas.  In fact, shale wells produce just 35% of the wastewater of conventional gas wells on a per molecule basis.  That is indeed a surprising conclusion made by university researchers.  See

As research moves forward on gas production, further findings may come forward that demonstrate shale production could have less impact in other ways than conventional gas wells.  For example, methane leakage rates vary in different gas fields and possibly between shale gas and conventional gas production.  Indeed leakage rates may be higher in conventional gas fields than in shale production areas.  Why could that be?

Shale gas fields are newer and have better quality equipment, including gathering lines, compared to typically older, leakier conventional gas fields. Green completions also are already approximately 70% at shale gas wells, a rate likely much higher than at lower-volume conventional gas wells.

Stunning Fact: Renewables Are 50% Of Global New Electricity Capacity

Falling costs and rising concern about climate change are fueling a global boom in renewable energy.

Renewables now account for approximately 50% of global new electricity capacity.  Wind, solar, hydro, and biomass are cumulatively providing more than 100,000 megawatts of new capacity per year.

While renewable energy is already a big business around the world, the best days for renewables are ahead.  Why?  Costs of renewables continue to decline and temperatures and seas continue to rise.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Stunning Fact: Solar Would Build More Than 31,000 Megawatts Even With No Subsidies

How competitive is solar? Competitive enough to build more than 31,000 megawatts, even if no subsidies were available!  That's what the solar parity map at the link shows.  Wow!

Given the current solar tax credits available, the solar parity map finds that customers would be economically rational to build more than 150,000 megawatts of solar.  Under current policies, massive amounts of solar would be builit in California, Texas, Florida, and New York.

Visiting the solar parity map is well worth doing!

Key Fact: Gas Royalty Checks Total $1.2 Billion In PA

Gas royalty checks in Pennsylvania added up to a cool $1.2 billion in 2012, according to the AP.

For some, the gas royalty check has been the difference between struggling to make it and stability or even the difference between losing the farm and keeping it.  At a minimum, it has been a huge shot in the arm for thousands of Pennsylvania landowners and the communities where gas drilling is concentrated.

While $1.2 billion in royalty checks is real money and a boost, the AP correctly notes that it is not enough to transform the Commonwealth's $500 billion annual economy.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Proving Shale Gas Is Not Killing Renewables, 2012 Saw Lowest Gas Prices In Decade But Record Wind & Solar Construction

Three extraordinary facts in 2012--lowest gas prices in a decade, record solar construction, and record wind installation--should end the oft-repeated, mistaken claim that shale gas is killing renewables.

As a result of massive shale gas production, 2012 saw the US natural gas price fall to below $2 for a brief period in April and natural gas for the year averaged $2.73, according to the Energy Information Administration.  The 2012 gas price collapse followed years of steadily declining gas prices since 2008 when the national shale boom started flooding the gas market with massive new amounts of supply.

Yet, while gas prices have been falling as a result of shale gas, America has had a wind and solar boom that has coincided with the shale gas boom.  Since 2008, the US has increased its solar capacity from 500 megawatts to about 7,000 megawatts or a 14-fold increase.  And when gas prices reached their lowest levels in 2012, the solar industry had its best year ever, building an astonishing 3,000 megawatts last year.

If shale gas is not killing solar, how about wind?

Since 2008 and the start of the shale gas boom, US wind capacity has skyrocketed from 25,000 to 60,000 megawatts.  Last year, when gas prices were at their lowest in more than a decade, the US wind industry, like solar, had its best year ever, building a record 13,200 megawatts of new capacity.

Do the facts that 2012 had low, low gas prices and new record amounts of solar and wind capacity mean that low gas prices help build wind and solar?  Of course not.

But the facts that wind and solar had record construction years in 2012, while gas averaged $2.73 for a thousand cubic feet, mean that wind and solar can prosper even when gas prices are low, low, low.  Wind and solar have sharply falling costs that are essential to their future as well as enjoy significant policy support at the federal and state levels.

Wind and solar are strong enough that they can prosper even when gas is below $3, as it was in 2012.
With gas prices now rising, the future of both is bright indeed!

Falling Costs Powering Wind Boom: Down Another 21% Since 2010

With more than 40,000 megawatts of wind installed around the world in 2011, and probably more in 2012, the US and global wind boom is driving down costs of wind power. Economies of scale and innovation are both making wind power more competitive with the passing of every year.

Wind turbine performance is getting better and better, with machines harvesting more electricity from the wind.  Efficiency throughout the wind chain of production is rising. Consequently, Bloomberg reports that the levelized cost of energy from wind turbines has fallen by 21% since 2010.

The reduction in wind power costs means that wind power is competitive with natural gas when gas prices are about $5 per thousand cubic feet.  Everywhere in the world gas, except in the USA, well exceeds $5.

While the price of wind power will continue to decline, the price of gas in the USA has been rising since hitting an incredible bottom in April of 2012 of about $1.80. Since then gas prices have risen nearly 100%, and gas prices of $4 to $5 during the next 5 years would surprise nobody.

Given the continuing decline in wind power costs, and $5 natural gas pricing, the future of both wind and natural gas are bright. Over the next 20 years, America will increasingly shift toward gas, wind, as well as solar for electricity.

Friday, January 25, 2013

An Economic Tale Of Two Shale Booms: Pennsylvania Is Not North Dakota

Stories dot the media describing shale development as booms that have transformed the economies of North Dakota and Pennsylvania. That broad portrait gets badly wrong the impacts of shale development on the economies of the two states.

Simply put, Pennsylvania is not North Dakota.

North Dakota has a population of 699,628, while Pennsylvania's is 12,763,536 or about 18 times larger. and

North Dakota's civilian labor force 392,000, with just 12,700 unemployed.  Pennsylvania's labor force is
6,558,700, with 516,700 unemployed.

The gas boom has created about 100,000 jobs in Pennsylvania, if one counts "core," other direct, and indirect jobs created by shale gas production in Pennsylvania. Creating 100,000 jobs in Pennsylvania and North Dakota produce very different impacts on the two states.

In North Dakota, 100,000 new jobs would mean a job for 1 of every 7 North Dakotans and 1 out of every 4 people in North Dakota's labor force. That many new jobs in a small population changes the entire state's economy.

In Pennsylvania, 100,000 new jobs are much needed and very welcome, but they are not enough to create broad prosperity.  Here 100,000 new jobs means 1 out of every 127 Pennsylvanians has a job thanks to the gas industry.  Or 1 out of every 65 Pennsylvanians in the civilian labor force has a job as a result of gas production.  Those numbers are significant.  They even transform the economies of about 7 rural counties where gas drilling is concentrated.

But Pennsylvania is not North Dakota.  In North Dakota, its unemployment rate is about 4 full percentage points below the national unemployment rate.

In Pennsylvania, our unemployment rate for the last 4 months has been above the national unemployment rate and that is a change for the worse.  From 2003 to September 2011, Pennsylvania's unemployment rate had been consistently below the national unemployment rate.

There is one more way that the shale booms in North Dakota and Pennsylvania are not the same.  North Dakota has an oil boom, and Pennsylvania has a gas boom. Indeed, North Dakota horrendously allows massive flaring of enormous quantities of natural gas that is co-produced with the oil.

Oil is priced in a global market, but gas is priced regionally.  Today oil is about 27 times more expensive or valuable than natural gas.

Pennsylvania is not North Dakota.

Stunning Fact: US Wind Capacity Reaches 60,000 Megawatts Or The Equivalent Of 22 Three Mile Island Nuclear Units

An incredible surge of 13,200 megawatts of new wind capacity built just in 2012 means that the US now has 60,000 megawatts of wind operating. Wind is about 6% of total US capacity. Wow! Wow! Wow!

I live in the evacuation area of the Three Mile Island nuclear unit 1--an approximately 800 megawatt nuclear unit. TMI normally runs more than 90% of the time and produces a lot of electricity every year. And so do America's wind farms.

America's wind farms will produce in 2013 an amount of electricity equal to roughly 22 nuclear units.
Each megawatt of wind will provide enough power to supply approximately 300 homes or 18 million in total.  That's a lot of low-production cost power for consumers that puts significant downward pressure on power prices in wholesale electricity markets.

While low wholesale electricity prices are a bonanza for electricity consumers, they pressure the economic viability of the least efficient existing power plants.  In fact, Dominion announced in 2012 the closure of a nuclear plant in Wisconsin, because market prices were so low that the plant was no longer consistently profitable.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Whither FrackNation? Denying Gas Drilling Mistakes Can Cause Methane Pollution Of Water Wells Misleads Public

I have not seen FrackNation, and so I cannot definitively comment on its accuracy.  But the promotion of the movie and its YouTube clips have me concerned about its discussion of the real problem of methane migration that can happen as a result of gas drilling mistakes.

There are two ways methane can be in water wells. First, the methane can be natural, "biogenic" or there before any drilling takes place.  It is certainly true that some people living on water wells can have high levels of methane in their water, even levels high enough to make their faucet water catch fire, because of naturally occurring methane.  Making this point clearly is important and helpful.  And Gasland certainly did not do so.

The second way methane can be in some water wells is because of mistakes in gas drilling--typically in the cementing or casing of the gas well that is a distinct, different stage from hydraulic fracturing of the gas well.  These drilling stage mistakes can cause methane to contaminate water wells that did not have high or dangerous levels of methane prior to gas drilling.  Denying this fact is false and misleads the public.

In Dimock, Pennsylvania and some other places, mistakes in gas drilling did cause methane to migrate to water wells.  Actions were taken to repair gas wells and compensate homeowners of 18 water wells, where testing confirmed gas drilling caused the methane contamination of the water wells.  Now to be clear, it was methane that contaminated water wells due to gas drilling mistakes and not fracking fluids or chemicals.  No fracking fluids or chemicals came back from depth to contaminate any water well in Dimock.

I will be eager to see how FrackNation portrays the real issue of gas migration due to gas drilling mistakes. More to come once I see the movie.

Showing The Glacial Pace Of CNG Fueling, 4 CNG Stations In West Virginia Move Forward

Four gas fueling stations are being built on I-79 in West Virginia, and, unfortunately, that is very much news.

I say unfortunately it's news, because the pace of deploying gas fueling infrastructure across the nation is glacial. In the sixth year of a national shale gas boom, about 0.1% or one in a thousand vehicles on the road run on gas in the USA. Though we have the gas, CNG transportation in America remains well behind adoption in Italy and other countries. 

The fact is the US motoring public will not switch in significant numbers from expensive, dirty oil to cheaper, cleaner gas for transportation, unless and until a comprehensive alternative fueling infrastructure exists. Four more CNG stations in West Virginia is a baby step and comes when the nation should be taking giant leaps forward to roll out CNG fueling and electricity charging stations from Philadelphia to Los Angeles.

Indeed, Pennsylvania should be a leader in creating that alternative fueling infrastructure but it's not a leader at all in doing so. In fact, the Commonwealth is even falling behind West Virginia and other states.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Stunning Fact: Wind Sets New ERCOT Record At About 26% Of System Load

Wind production records are both reaching impressive levels and are being broken regularly.  That is especially true in Texas which leads the nation in total installed wind capacity.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) that serves most of Texas reports 8,638 megawatts of wind produced on Christmas Day afternoon.  That new production record provided nearly 26% of the power in ERCOT at that time.

As impressive as the new ERCOT wind record is, a new record will be set almost certainly in 2013, as more new wind farms begin operations in Texas and other states as well.  Wind is on track to provide 5% of America's power in about 2 years.

Great Fact: Mid-Atlantic's Toxic Air Pollution Falls 13.8% In One Year Thanks To Scrubbers, Gas, Renewables & Efficiency

Toxic air emissions are dropping rapidly, down nationally 8% in 2011 and 13.8% in the Mid-Atlantic States, including Pennsylvania.  The sharp drops are the result of more natural gas and renewable energy to make electricity, more scrubbers installed on coal-fired power plants, and more efficiency in electricity use.!OpenDocument.

Even bigger declines in toxic air emissions almost certainly took place in 2012, given the surging use of gas and renewables to make electricity and the installation of pollution controls on still more coal plants.  Burning gas emits no mercury, lead, arsenic, and only tiny amounts of soot.

Soot is a particularly serious public health threat, as it nationally causes 34,000 premature deaths per year and hundreds of thousands of illnesses.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Stunning Fact: Life Expectancy Of Whites Without High School Degree Is Falling Sharply

These facts truly stun me.  The life expectancy of white women and white men without a high school diploma have fallen by respectively 5 and 3 years.  Right here in America; not the old Soviet Union.

Stunning Fact: PA Unemployment Rate Rises During Last 12 Months Even As National Rate Declines

Pennsylvania is among the few states to have a higher unemployment rate in December 2012 than in December 2011. The facts are that Pennsylvania's unemployment rate was 7.9% in December 2012 and is up from 7.7% in December 2011.

Pennsylvania's economy is headed in the wrong direction, even as the national unemployment rate fell from 8.2% to 7.8%, and even as Pennsylvania becomes the third largest producer of natural gas in the country.  Indeed, after years of Pennsylvania's unemployment rate being well below the national unemployment rate, December 2009 marked the fourth month in a row, when Pennsylvania's unemployment rate is above or equal to the national average.

These are ugly facts that indict the economic development and budget policies of the Corbett Administration.  Corbett's failure is rooted in an assault on public education, including our state universities, that has destroyed at least 19,000 jobs.  His failure is also rooted in a mistaken belief that gas drilling and gas production alone can bring Pennsylvania a broad prosperity.

Pennsylvania requires approximately 6.5 million jobs to be at full employment.  Counting direct and indirect jobs created by gas drilling, gas drilling provides less than 2% of the jobs needed.  Of course, no single industry by itself can possibly generate all the jobs needed in the Commonwealth.  Until the Governor understands this fundamental point and reverses his war on public education, Pennsylvania's economy will remain a national laggard.

Switching From Diesel To Gas For Frack Jobs Accelerates In Marcellus: PGE Energy Cuts 750,000 Gallons Of Diesel

Let's count the ways that using diesel to run frack jobs causes problems. First, emissions diesel engines, especially from the many older ones in the field, can be a significant source of pollution. Second, about 40% of the oil used to make the diesel is imported or is foreign oil.  Third, the diesel is expensive, currently costing about $3.60 per gallon.

That's three strikes against using diesel, and diesel is increasingly striking out.  See Marc Levy's story that documents the switch to natural gas to reduce the amount of diesel used for fracking.

Levy focuses on PGE and Universal Well Services that are operating in Pennsylvania and reports that PGE will cut its annual diesel use by 750,000 gallons by switching to natural gas.  By my calculations, PGE will save about $2.25 million per year by doing so.

PGE's executives believe that the switch to natural gas for fracking will be quick and widespread in the industry.  That would be welcome, since the gas industry consumes huge amounts of diesel currently  to produce natural gas and some of that is running old, dirty engines.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Facts That Would Please & Worry Martin Luther King

What would Martin Luther King think today about the health of his dream and the American dream that are inseperable? One must answer that question humbly, cautiously, for King was an independent, critical thinker and a prophetic voice.

I suspect King would be pleased, but not surprised, that the American people elected and re-elected the first African American President. King had a dream that everyone would be judged based on the content of their character and not the color of their skin.  President Obama and his second inauguration proves that progress is being made on eradicating prejudice and discrimination, though more hearts must be freed from hate and more work done.

King would be also pleased to see African Americans and other minorities voting in large numbers and at higher rates. At the heart of the civil rights struggle for which King and others died was the franchise and so voting honors their sacrifice. Indeed, a surge of African American voting was decisive in Ohio, the most crucial of all states, during the 2012 election.

While King likely would celebrate the progress being made to expand liberty for all and push back intolerance, he would urge us to leave nobody behind. Almost certainly, King would find tragic and unacceptable that 20% of America's children live in poverty and challenge the nation to respond.

King saw poverty as immoral, evil, and would be crusading against it today.

King would be concerned  that the typical American male's income in 2011 was lower in real or inflation adjusted dollars than in 1968.

In the linked to article, Stiglitz states that an American male earned $33,800 in 1968 but only $32,986 in 2011.  That is stunning!  King would join with Stiglitz to make both a moral and economic case against the growing inequality in America that means children born here have less social mobility than those born in Canada, Sweden, United Kingdom and other nations.

Declining average incomes for male workers is one indicator that the American dream of being judged by the content of one's character and earning a good life in return for hard work is imperiled.

King would also be appalled that the life expectancy of white women and men without a high school diploma has fallen 5 years and 3 years respectively.  Those numbers are shocking.

King's dream and the American dream are, indeed, inseparable. The night before his death in his last public remarks he prophetically told a crowd that he had been to a mountain top and seen the promised land, that he might not reach that land, but they would.  He died for freedom and end to hate.  He preached Christian love in action.

He also died in Memphis, standing with sanitation workers seeking a better contract. While he would likely celebrate the fact of President Obama's second inaugural and the political participation of so many that made it possible, King would almost certainly be deeply worried about growing inequality that threatens the dreams of so many Americans.

Friday, January 18, 2013

New Gas Generation Capacity Constructed In 2012 Surprisingly Drops 20%

Natural gas generation at existing plants had a great year in 2012, with natural gas providing 30% of America's electricity, and even equaling coal generation at 34% for the month of April.  Though gas fired power plants were working harder in 2012, the amount of new gas-fired capacity built in 2012 saw a 20% drop.

Last year, 8,746 megawatts of new gas capacity started operation and that was down considerably from 11,020 in 2011.  This drop is surprising, since new coal plants surged in 2012, as did new wind and solar capacity.

2012 Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Sales Jump 73%

Many new models and record high gas prices caused sales of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles to surge  in 2012.  One analysis put the sale increase at 73% to 440,000 vehicles.  This year sales could exceed 535,000 vehicles or about one out of every 28 cars sold.

The future of hybrids, plug-ins, and electric vehicles looks bright because gas prices remain high; more attractive models enter the market; and the electric charging stations multiply.

Toyota Prius C Wins Greenest Car Award & CNG Honda Civic Falls Out Of Top 12

The competition for the greenest car got much more fierce in 2012.  In fact, the battle for the greenest car title was so fierce in 2012 that the 8-time winner, the CNG Honda Civic, did not make even the top 12.

The winner this year was the new Toyota Prius C.  Click on the link to see the many attractive, green car options now in showrooms.

Stunning Fact: Frost-Free Season Grows By 5 to 21 Days

Temperatures are up, and the frost-free seasons are longer all across America.  Frost-free seasons are 5 to 21 days longer than they were on average from 1900 to 1960, according to a major national study.  That change is already a fact, not a projection.  It's climate change that is here and now.  And more is ahead.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Uncle Sam To Become Number 1 Liquid Fuel Producer This Year

The USA keeps surging up the global energy powerhouse rankings.  This year, Uncle Sam will be the number 1 producer of liquid fuels--oil, biofuels, natural gas liquids--according to BP.  Amazing!

BP continues to project that the US will also be the number 1 oil producer by 2020.

America's 2012 Power Plant Construction Boom: New Generation Capacity Jumps 21%

America is building power plants.  Indeed, 2012 saw a power plant construction boom, with new generation capacity coming on line rising 21% over 2011 levels.  The boom is especially noteworthy, since wholesale generation prices dropped from 15% to 43% in 2012.

Despite falling wholesale power prices, total new generation built in 2012 was 26,387 megawatts, a considerable jump from the 21,795 megawatts installed in 2011.  Moreover, any year,when new capacity coming on line exceeds 20,000 megawatts is a strong one, and so the last two years have been robust for those in the business of building power generation.

Wind and natural gas led the way in 2012, with wind adding more than 10,000 megawatts and gas more than 8,000 megawatts of new generation. The surge in new wind farms as well as a big increase in solar drove the 2012 increase in total new capacity. Indeed, renewable energy capacity accounted for 49% of the total new generation built.  Renewable energy is big business, indeed!

Interestingly, the new natural gas capacity constructed in 2012 actually declined in 2012 when compared to the 2011 total.  While new gas plant capacity saw a drop, new coal plants had a surprisingly strong showing, with more than 4,000 megawatts added.

Last year also marked the arrival of solar in a big way to the new generation business. The solar boom is underway and not going away. No longer can any discussion be had about the new electrical capacity being built in the US without looking at solar.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission data counts about 1,500 megawatts of solar added to the grid in 2012, an impressive number. But the FERC solar number importantly does not include large amounts of distributed or roof top generation constructed last year.  Indeed, if the distributed or behind-the-meter solar capacity is added, the total solar generation built in the US is about 3,000 megawatts--a stunning number.

All the substantial amounts of new capacity added to the grid in 2012 is much cleaner and more efficient than either the capacity that retired last year or the average power plant still operating. The new capacity also helps maintain reliability and keep power prices affordable.  All in all the 2012 new power plant capacity is good news for our economy and environment.

Stunning Fact: New Coal Generation Capacity In 2012 Up 135% Over 2011

New coal capacity built in 2012 rose 135%, jumping from 1,932 megawatts in 2011 to 4,510 in 2012.  While existing coal plants lost market share in 2012, coal had a relatively good year in the new generation market and accounted for about 17% of all new power plant capacity built in the USA last year.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

National Climate Assessment Full Of Key Facts About An Already Changed Climate

The draft of the latest National Climate Assessment was released on January 12th, and it is chock full of key facts about an already changed climate and projections that vary, depending on the amount of heat trapping gas that is pumped around the world into the atmosphere in the years ahead.  It is well worth reviewing.

The draft National Climate Assessment states that temperatures in the USA are already up 1.5 degrees from the average temperature during 1900 to 1960.  Sea levels are already up 8 inches since that time too.  The length of the frost free season has grown by up to 21 days, a remarkable change that those who tend crops and gardens know very well.  Those are just some of the striking facts about an already changed climate.

The projections of what lies ahead depend on how much heat trapping gas is pumped into the global atmosphere in the coming decades.  If current trends of increasing amounts of heat trapping gas going into the atmosphere continue, the National Climate Assessment projects a horror show.  More on this in subsequent posts.

Why PA Gas Industry Should Back Senator Leach's Doctors' Fracking Disclosure Bill

If anything caused more public mistrust of hydraulic fracturing than the initial, broad opposition by the gas industry to disclosure of chemicals used in fracking fluids, I do not know what it is.  Telling people to "trust us," as fluids containing non-disclosed chemicals were used to break shale rock, was a dog that was never going to hunt. Ever since that initial public relations debacle, states and some companies played catch-up by embracing disclosure requirements.

Yet, in Pennsylvania progress made on disclosure and restoring public confidence (I ordered in 2008 that chemicals used in fracking to be placed on the website of the Department of Environmental Protection) has been badly undermined by unclear language in Act 13.  A portion of Act 13  can be read to gag physicians, when they talk with their patients or other doctors about fracking chemicals, and has led to much concern.

The response of Governor Corbett's Administration (and by extension the gas industry in Pennsylvania) to these concerns is to put out statements saying that doctors are not gagged.  That dog is not going to hunt either.

Remember that it is the judicial branch of government that interprets statutes in court cases and not aides to any Governor. And doctors have plenty of experience of being sued and so rightly are jumpy when statutory language is not definitive and unambiguous.

What will hunt is an amendment to Act 13 that clearly states that doctors are not gagged by any confidentiality agreement that they sign from discussing freely with their patients and other treating physicians information about chemicals in fracking fluids that they obtain from companies. Into this latest disclosure mess comes Pennsylvania state Senator Daylin Leach, who will introduce a bill to do just that.

No matter where the Corbett Administration stands on the Leach bill, the public will be overwhelmingly on Leach's side.  The gas industry has the muscle to pass this bill if it wants to do so, and it should. It will be interesting to see if the gas industry has learned lessons and supports Senator Leach's bill or is an old dog unable to learn from mistakes of the recent past.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Stunning Fact: China's Smog Stops Flights & Is 36 Times Higher Than Safe Air

Flights cancelled. Hospital admissions skyrocketing. Air so polluted that it is a deadly fog.  Fact or fiction?

Fact.  China's air, during Sunday and Monday, had soot readings that were close to an incredible 900 ppm per cubic meter or 36 times safe levels.  

Simply put, Chinese air is an epidemic killer that shaves many years off life expectancy. Why is the air so deadly

China has burgeoning vehicle sales, is now the largest car market in the world, and has jumping oil consumption.  The country also gets 70% of its total energy from burning coal and often in plants without modern pollution controls.  Natural gas and renewables are growing but are a small part of China's total energy use.

Look no further than China to see what happens, even in an increasingly wealthy nation, in the absence of effective environmental rules.

Key Fact: New Homes Are 20% More Fuel Efficient

It's not just cars that are getting much more energy efficient.  New homes are too.

Indeed, homes built from 2000-2009 used 37.1 thousand Btus per square foot compared to 46.9 Btus for those constructed from 1970 to 1979, according to Energy Information Administration data.

The EIA Residential Energy Consumption Survey shows homes built from 2000 to 2009 are about 20% more efficient per square foot than homes that were built 30 years ago.  I, however, believe that homes built from 2000 to 2009 were bigger on average than those built 30 years ago.

The trend toward more energy efficiency throughout the economy is deep and structural.  Falling energy consumption or much slower growth rates for electricity are no fluke and makes competition between fuels intense for market share.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Stunning Fact: 2012 Wholesale Electricity Peak Prices Plummet 15%-43%

In 2012, the average wholesale price for spot market day ahead electricity fell from 15% to 43%.  Wow!  The 2012 plunge in spot wholesale electricity prices is heavily driven by a 31% decline in the 2012 spot price of natural gas, but low gas prices are not the only cause.

Other contributing factors in the power price plunge are large amounts of energy efficiency and demand response, coming into many wholesale electricity markets that softens electricity demand, including peak demand.  For example, the PJM power market now has more than 15,000 megawatts of demand response.

Large amounts of new wind and solar generation, including behind the meter solar systems, are still another factor pushing prices downward.  Wind and solar installed capacity added in 2012 will generate an amount of electricity equal to 7 Three Mile Island nuclear units.  That's a lot of new supply.

Also wind and solar have the lowest production costs of any generation in the power markets. They are pure price takers, meaning that they bid zero and take the market clearing price for their electricity production.  By doing so, wind and solar especially put downward pressure on market prices and save consumers substantial money.

In the coming year, natural gas prices are projected to increase about 30%.  That would suggest wholesale power prices may tick up in 2013 from 2012 bargain levels, though even more demand response, solar, and wind are entering the markets this year.  Their entry will limit whatever increases that may occur.

Philadelphia's Steam Loop Switches From Oil To Gas, Slashing Pollution, Saving Money, Cutting Oil Imports

Here are 4 remarkable energy facts and trends.  US oil consumption peaked in 2007 and is falling substantially; US energy related carbon emissions have plummeted to 1995 levels; air pollutants like mercury, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide are decreasing significantly; and oil imports are down to 1988 levels.

All are great news but why are they happening?  Switching from oil to gas at the Philadelphia steam loop helps to answer that question.

Maykuth's article documents that this switch from oil to gas will cut carbon emissions by another 70,000 tons per year and reduce the steam loop's sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by 93% and 70%.  All that environmental improvement also saves money, because cheap gas is displacing expensive, dirtier oil. And the best news of all is that the steam loop is far from alone in moving to natural gas or to other cleaner energy.

The substantial movement to gas in our economy is a major reason why America's air is getting healthier to breathe, as natural gas emits no mercury, lead, arsenic, soot, and much less sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.  The move to gas is one key to America's falling carbon emissions, though higher gas prices in 2013, may also bring a bump up in carbon emissions this year, as higher prices may mean less gas used at power plants. Finally, using more gas in the economy is one reason why oil consumption is falling in the USA and oil imports are back to 1988 levels.

Is  gas better for the environment, economy, and national security than oil.  Absolutely!

Friday, January 11, 2013

PA's Largest Wind Farm Begins Operation: BP's Meehoopany Wind Farm

One of the pleasures of working on energy in Pennsylvania for 28 years is involvement in many great projects.  As Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, I pushed hard to get wind farms built and encouraged repeatedly BP to bring investment to Pennsylvania to build the Meehoopany wind farm.

The 144 megawatt Meehoopany wind farm is now operational and is Pennsylvania's biggest.  The wind farm was a $250 million project, putting the cost per watt at well below $2.  It required 400 construction workers and will need 10-15 permanent employees.

The wind farm will generate substantial amounts of zero pollution electricity, enough to supply 40,000 homes.  All that power will help to clean the air and keep power prices affordable.  Cleaner, cheaper power, and jobs makes the Meehoopany wind farm a great project for Pennsylvania's future.

Oil Imports Plummet To 1987 Levels But Oil Purchases Consume About 1.5% of GDP And Threaten Economy

Oil imports are falling substantially and may fall back to 1987 levels, as a result of increased domestic production, more fuel efficient vehicles, and oil displacement by biofuels, electricity, and natural gas. While good news for national security, importing less oil does not remove oil's continuing threat to our economy.

Please take a look at the great chart by Michael Levi in the linked to article or go to Michael's piece here:

Levi's data shows three fascinating things.  First, oil purchases have risen above 2.5% of GDP twice--in 1979 and 2008--and both times the nation's economy was damaged very badly.  Second, during the economic boom from 1984 to 2000, the nation spent 1% or less of its GDP to purchase oil.  Third, currently, the US is spending 1.5% of its GDP on oil.

Spending 1.5% of our GDP on oil is consistent with the slow economic growth that we see today.  Indeed the difference between spending more than 2.5% of GDP on oil and less than 1% is about $250 billion per year.

The price of oil alone does not make or break the US economy, but it can create great economic stress or opportunity. In terms of our economic security, two oil variables are critical--the price of oil and the amount of oil consumed, whether imported or not.

To protect our economy from globally-priced oil, the only measure that works is to reduce the consumption of oil by using it more efficiently and by displacing more oil with natural gas, electricity, and biofuels.  For our economic security, America and Pennsylvania continues to do far too little to roll out alternative energy fueling stations, the single most important thing that can be done to break the oil threat to our economy!

Solar City Stock Price Doubles Since 2012 IPO & Could Be The Walmart Of Solar

As a result of intense global competition, solar manufacturing stocks have generally been a disaster. But the falling prices for solar components have created opportunity in the solar installing business.

Solar City (SCTY) completed an initial public offering at the end of 2012, and its stock has virtually doubled.  The offering price was $8 per share, and yesterday Solar City closed at $15.76 on the NASDAQ.  Solar City certainly is no Facebook, whose share price at one point fell below 50% of the IPO price, though it has partially rebounded.

Solar City will benefit from continued falling solar prices and global competition to manufacture components and may become the Walmart of the solar installation business. If so, it will become one of America's biggest, most important companies. And it is good to see that investors can make money in solar companies, without shorting them.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hear NPR Marketplace Interview With Me About Energy & Promise Land

I did an interview with NPR's Marketplace about energy choices and Promise Land.  Here is the link:

Good Fact: USGS Finds No Impacts On Water From Fracking In Fayettville Shale

The United States Geological Survey has published a study of fracking and possible water impacts in the Fayetteville Shale in Arkansas.  USGS sampled 127 water wells and found no impact whether the water well was located within 2 miles of gas drilling or more than 2 miles from gas drilling.  About 4,000 gas wells are in the general area where gas drilling was done.

The USGS study is noteworthy, because the USGS was able to compare water quality today to water samples taken from the area in 1951 and 1983.  The USGS also tested both for frack fluids coming back from depth and methane migrating from gas wells.  Again, it found no impacts.

While this study is limited in geography and is at a single point in time, it is good news and makes the study a good fact for the day.

Stunning Fact: Switching To Natural Gas For Fracking Cuts Fuel Costs 40% to 70%

Apache Corp is breaking the natural gas industry's addiction to oil for fuel to power hydraulic fracturing jobs. It is reportedly going to be the first company to do a complete frack job with engines running on natural gas.

Frack jobs can each consume around 36,000 gallons of diesel and 700 million gallons per year. Diesel costs about $3.90 per gallon, making it much more expensive than natural gas. And using diesel is much dirtier than natural gas.

Using diesel for fracking is another example of our addiction to more expensive, dirtier oil.  And we import about 40% of our oil needs to cap off the damage done by our oil addiction.

The Fuel Fix article above says Apache will cut its fuel bill by 40% in its natural gas-powered frack job and the industry as a whole could save 70% of its fuel cost by using field gas.  The total estimated savings are put at $1.67 billion.

Wind Power To Provide 5% Of America's Electricity By 2015

As part of their anti-wind industry barrage, the Wall Street Journal editorial writers ask, what has America got to show for the wind production tax credit?  It's a fair question.

A fair answer would begin with the fact that America got about 3.3% of its electricity in the first 9-months of 2012 from wind power.   After a record year in 2012 for building new wind generation (12,000 megawatts), wind will likely generate in 2013 close to 4.3% of America's power. And then reach the 5% milestone around the end of 2014 or 2015, thanks to the extension of the PTC that will enable another approximately 15,000 megawatts of new wind power to be built during 2013 to 2014.

What does 5% percent of America's power mean? It's enough power for about 22.5 million homes. It is the equivalent of about 26 nuclear power plants.  And 5% of each day is 1 hour and 12 minutes.

As impressive as wind reaching the 5% mark is, the national number conceals regional differences.  Wind power will provide minute levels of power in the Southeast but 10% or more of the electricity in ever more states.

Nearly 10 states right now would not be open for business without wind power.  California, Texas, Iowa, South Dakota, Oregon are just a few states where wind generated electricity is already vital to keeping the lights on, power prices affordable, and reducing air pollution.

I can remember the snickers and eye-rolling in many forums, when the George W. Bush Administration established that it was the policy of the United States to get 20% of its electric power from wind.  Around 2014-15 America will be one-quarter of the way to that goal!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2012 "Bolts" Past Lower 48 States Heat Record By Full Degree

Records are made to be broken but should be done naturally and without doping and steroids. The 2012 heat record for the lower-48 states smashed the warmest year record for the contiguous USA by a full degree Fahrenheit.

What happened with the 2012 heat record would be like Bolt shaving a full second of the 100 meters sprint record. And that would not be natural.

Here is another data point driving home just how hot 2012 was. Last year was 3.2 degrees warmer than the 20th century average, again according to NOAA.

The climate is on steroids. It has changed already. Seas and temperatures are already up and going up further, as more heat trapping gas is pumped into the atmosphere.

Stunning Facts: Gas & Coal 2012 Generation Market Share Were 30.3% & 37.6% Respectively

The gas versus coal competition in the power markets was never more intense than in 2012. The result of the intense competition is substantial changes in the generation market shares of both fuels that meant gas had its highest market share and coal its lowest market share in decades.

Gas generated 30.3% of America's electricity, a sharp increase compared to the 12% in 1990 or 16% in 2000.  Coal provided 37.6% of the nation's power, sharp declines from more than 50% 15 years ago, 48% in 2008, and 43% in 2011. Last year was an extraordinary one, indeed.

The competition between gas and coal continues, with 2013 likely to see coal reclaiming some of its lost market share, because coal prices are down and natural gas prices are rising from their incredibly low 2012 level.

Wind PTC Extension Means The Equivalent Of 6 Nuclear Plants Will Be Built In 2013-2014

Now that the wind PTC has been extended in a manner that allows projects that begin construction in 2013 to qualify, how much new wind capacity will be built in 2013 and 2014?  

Estimates of the amount of new wind that will become operational in 2013 are uncertain but are typically in the range of 3,000 to 5,000 megawatts.  That would be a sharp drop from the 2012 record of 12,000.

But the wind PTC extension will also boost significantly the number of wind farms that begin construction in 2013 but become operational in 2014. Moreover, wholesale power prices will likely increase a bit, given that spot natural gas prices in 2013 and 2014 are likely to be about 30% higher than they were in 2012.
Based on the PTC extension, firming power prices, and the last 4 years of wind development, I would expect around 15,000 megawatts of new wind generation to be built during the next two years.  The wind industry just built 12,000 megawatts in one year and can build 8,000 megawatts per year easily.  It has increased national wind generation capacity from about 25,000 megawatts in 2008 to 58,000 megawatts now. For the last 4-years it has averaged 8,000 megawatts per year.  

An estimate of 15,000 megawatts over the next two years is not aggressive, when compared to recent development. It reflects that the delay in extending the PTC negatively impacts the amount of new wind capacity that will become operational in 2013.

And 15,000 megawatts more of wind will produce an amount of electricity equivalent to about 6 nuclear units the size of Three Mile Island or enough power to supply 4.5 million homes.  It is a big deal.

The wind PTC extension also means it is highly likely that the United States will have over 70,000 megawatts of wind generation by the end of 2014, an extraordinary number.  By that point, wind generation will provide nearly 5% of America's electricity and 10% and more of the electricity generated in many states.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Great Polling Numbers For Hanger On The PA Governor's Race: Virtual Statistical Tie With Corbett

Public Policy Polling is out with the first independent poll numbers on the Pennsylvania Governor's race.  I am virtually in a statistical tie with Governor Corbett, and that is a great place for me to be at this point in the race.  The numbers are Corbett 41% and Hanger 37%, with a 3.8% margin of error.

Among the possible Democratic candidates that are most mentioned as possibilities, the poll finds that Mayor  Nutter and I are the strongest candidates against the Governor.  Sestak, McCord, Schwartz, and Wolf trail the Governor by 6 to 12 points.

More encouraging data is that PPP states that the undecided voters lean Democratic.  Moreover the fact that Corbett is well below 50% and barely over 40% underlines the political weakness of the Governor.

PPP found that Governor Rendell would beat Governor Corbett 46-40, and Attorney General-Elect Kathleen Kane would be tied with Corbett. Both Rendell and Kane have said that they will not be candidates for Governor in 2014.

Please make a donation to my campaign at Checks should be made out to "Hanger For Governor" and sent to PO Box 4068, Harrisburg, PA 17111.

Hopeful Fact: Bill Gates Invests To Take Carbon Out Of The Air

The Sunday New York Times Business Section had a fascinating article about a Canadian Company called Carbon Engineering that was founded in 2009 with $3.5 million from investors, including Bill Gates.

Carbon Engineering is attempting to develop a commercial scale plant that would remove 100,000 tons of carbon per year from the air, about the carbon emissions of 20,000 cars each year in the US.  To put that 100,000 tons further in perspective, annual energy related carbon emissions in the USA are now about 5.3 billion tons and world emissions are above 30 billion tons.

The article suggests that Carbon Engineering is making progress toward its goal of a commercial plant.  The hurdles that must be cleared to reach success, however, are large, with the principal one being the cost per ton of carbon removed from the air.  The NYT states the cost of removing from the air is uncertain and to underline that point states that estimates range from $20 to $2,000 per ton.

It, nonetheless, impressive that this company has secured investment from Bill Gates, and Carbon Engineering's concept has one huge advantage over capturing carbon at power plants or other sources.  Capturing the carbon at a power plant is just the beginning and the easiest part.

Once captured, the carbon must be transported by pipelines to a place of storage.  Often power plants are impossibly far from viable storage places, making carbon capture and storage impossible.  And building pipelines is never easy or cheap, no matter how long or short the line may be.

A plant designed to take carbon out of the air, of course, can be built near or on top of places where excellent storage exists.  As such, Carbon Engineering's approach solves what now is often a fatal barrier to carbon capture and storage projects.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Stunning Fact: Coal Electricity Surges Up To 50% in Europe As Coal Enjoys Its Golden Age Outside USA

Coal consumption is surging in not just China and India but also in Europe to the surprise of many. "The amount of electricity generated from coal is rising at annualised rates of as much as 50% in some European countries" writes the Economist. Moreover,  substantial numbers of new coal plants are being built in Germany and some other European nations.

Why is coal surging in Europe but declining in the United States? It's not President Obama, as some would have it. Instead the answer is the price of natural gas, coal's main competitor, in Europe and the USA.

As the Economist writes: "Compared with the rock-bottom price of gas in America, coal is not all that cheap. But it is a bargain compared with the price of gas in Europe...So coal is cheaper than gas in Europe and is likely to remain so..."

The Economist goes on to say about European power trends: "In response, companies are switching from gas to coal as fast as they can..."

And what about renewables in Europe? They are growing substantially. Germany is likely to reach 30% or 35% of its electricity coming from renewables in 10 to 15 years.  Even once it is achieved, that goal, of course, will leave 65% of electricity to come from other sources.  And as the Economist points out,   renewables in Europe are " fact displacing gas but not coal."

In the USA the shale gas boom exists, natural gas pricing is low, and gas is displacing coal.

In Europe, the shale gas boom does not exist, with France banning fracking. Natural gas prices, therefore, are high, and coal-fired generation increases. It's economics 101.

With one amendment, The Economist provides the fact of the day: "While coal production and use plummet in America, in Europe 'we have some kind of golden age of coal,' says Anne-Sophie Corbeau of the International Energy Agency."  The amendment is that coal has reached its highest share of global energy in the last 45 years. It is enjoying a golden age around the world, with the important exception of the USA, where natural gas has displaced large amounts of coal, as a result of the shale gas revolution.

Promised Land Bombing At Box Office

Promised Land is not a gusher at the box office.

It opened nationwide on Friday, when it was showing in 1,676 theaters, but earned a paltry $4.3 million for the weekend. Box Office Mojo states: "While Matt Damon is obviously a star, audiences aren't going to show up for anything he does...the movie should disappear quickly from theaters."

Though $4 million in box office is a bomb, it still means about 500,000 people saw the movie over the weekend.  Lots of people watch box office bombs.

What movie had the best opening night on Friday, January 4th? Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D. It opened in 2,654 theaters, made $10.2 million on Friday, and is expected to make $21-24 million for the weekend.

Movies that bomb at the box office on opening weekend have short runs, as Box Office notes.  If you want to see Promised Land in a theater, don't delay.

Friday, January 4, 2013

An American Triumph: US Carbon Emissions In 2012 Fall 4% & 12% From Peak Level In 2007

Uncle Sam is showing the world that carbon emissions can be cut sharply and cheaply.  Just consider these facts.

US energy related carbon emissions in 2012 will fall below 5,300 million tons or down about 12%, compared to the peak emissions of 6,023 million tons in 2007.  Through this September, carbon emissions have been down every month in 2012, when compared to each of the first 9 months of 2011 and 2010. No other country matches that record.

It is a true American triumph that energy related carbon emissions will be down in 2012 another 4% from 2011 levels and will be back to approximately 1995 levels.  The carbon clock has rolled back 17 years, and 2012 emissions will be even less than in the near-depression year of 2009.

US GDP has grown every quarter since July 1, 2009, and today our economy is bigger than it was in 2007, the peak carbon emission year.  Yet, even with an economy in 2012 that is bigger than in 2007, our carbon emissions will be 12% lower than they were in 2007.

The recipe for US carbon success includes more natural gas, renewable energy, energy efficiency.  But central and unique to the US success is massive shale gas production and the resulting low gas prices causing a substantial shift to electricity generated from lower carbon gas and away from coal and oil.

Many other countries like China are investing heavily in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and such investments are essential. Notwithstanding impressive investments in clean energy, China and other nations have rising coal use and carbon emissions.  Around the world, renewables and energy efficiency help but have not been enough by themselves to even stabilize carbon emissions, let alone reduce them.

Only the USA has had a shale gas boom and only the USA has cut substantially its carbon emissions since 2006.  When combined with rising amounts of renewable energy and energy efficiency, the shale gas boom substantially decreased US carbon emissions.  Moreover, US electricity prices in 2012 have barely increased and natural gas prices have plummeted.

Cleaner and cheaper energy is a real American triumph and my Top Energy Fact of 2012!

Stunning Fact: Annual New Gas Well Starts In PA Were Higher Before Marcellus Shale Boom

Most would be surprised to learn that the number of gas wells drilled in Pennsylvania was higher in the years immediately before the shale gas boom started in Pennsylvania.  Or to say it another way, the number of gas wells drilled in Pennsylvania has fallen, is down, since the Marcellus boom began  But those are facts.

The statistic is a reminder that gas wells--lots of them--were being drilled in Pennsylvania before the shale gas revolution.  Indeed, in 2006 and 2007, the years immediately before the start of the shale gas boom in 2008, more gas wells were started than were in 2010 and 2011, once the Marcellus boom took off. Stunning!

Though the number of gas wells drilled was higher prior to shale gas, the gas wells were vertical, smaller, and produced much less gas. Annual production was around 500 million cubic feet per day or enough to heat 6,000 homes in one day for a year and about 2.1 million homes per year

Though the well count declined when shale gas production began, the wells are horizontal, deeper to the Marcellus shale, and much more productive.  By 2011, gas production had jumped to 3.5 billion cubic feet per day or enough to supply 42,000 homes in one day for a year and nearly 15 million homes per year.  Gas production in Pennsylvania will have increased even further during 2012.

It is ironic that, prior to shale gas, that gas drilling was largely out of sight and mind for the media and public in Pennsylvania and many places, even though the number of gas wells drilled was higher in the pre-shale era.    Gas drilling, however, now is producing much more gas, creating more wealth and jobs, and requiring more trucks, water, pipelines, compressor stations, and other infrastructure to move the gas to market.  It also reaches places that never before had gas drilling or production.  And much more attention has followed.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Full Top 12 Energy Facts Of 2012

Starting in postings on December 26th, I began the 2012 Countdown of the Top 12 Energy Facts.  The Countdown continued on December 27-28 and completed on December 31.

A full discussion of each selected fact can be found in the postings on the foregoing dates, and here are the Top 12 Energy Facts of 2012.

12. Nuclear pain in existing and new US nuclear plants threaten even constructed plants, something that few thought possible before 2012. (See December 26th post).

11. Electricity vehicle sales tripled in 2012, moving over 50,000, showing that EVs are far from dead.

10. Gasoline prices set record high for a full year in 2012, proving that booming domestic oil production, and falling US oil consumption will not substantially shape prices from global oil markets. (See December 27th post).

9. The wind industry installed over 12,000 megawatts of new capacity in 2012, an astonishing number, that will generate an amount of electricity equal to about 6 nuclear units the size of Three Mile Island's still operating unit.

8. MIT published a study that documented methane leakage rates from 4,000 shale gas wells during the flowback period and concluded that Professor Howarth's infamous study had overstated leakage by 7 to 30 times.

7. The solar industry set a record for new capacity by building about 3,200 megawatts of new solar, an amount that will generate an amount of electricity equal to 1 nuclear plant.  The solar genie is well out of the bottle.

6. Temperatures in the contiguous 48 states set new record highs on average for a full year in 2012.  Rising temperatures and seas are ahead and will impact profoundly the energy world. (See December 28th post).

5. The nation's leading climate skeptic, Professor Richard Muller, completed an exhaustive study of temperature records at the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperatures project in 2012 and said that he now agreed that human beings were causing climate change.

4. Coal and gas competition intensified to historic levels in 2012, as cheap gas caused a sharp increase in gas-fired generation and drop in coal-fired electricity.

3. Natural gas price plummeted to the bargain level of $2.73 per thousand cubic feet on average in 2012 and low gas prices slashed carbon and toxic pollution and fended off a double dip recession. (See December 31st post).

2. In a Presidential race where energy was a leading topic and an area of sharp disagreement, President Obama's victory has 6 big energy implications.

1.  An American Triumph: US carbon emissions fall another approximately 4% in 2012 and are down 12% from 2005 levels, thanks to natural gas, energy efficiency, and renewable energy

The President & Senator Reid Deliver For Wind Power: Wind Has Friends In High Places

Elections have consequences.  And for wind and clean energy the consequences of the 2012 election are good indeed, as I pointed out in the Top 12 Energy Facts (see number 2).

The Wind Production Tax Credit was extended, because boosting wind specifically and clean energy are top priorities of the President of the United States and Senator Reid, the Majority Leader of the United States Senate. For sure the ever bigger, stronger wind industry, clean energy advocates like myself, and environmental groups advocated strongly for this extension.  For sure that work built support to push back against the Koch brothers empire, the Wall Street Journal, and Exelon, all of whom battled to kill the wind PTC.

But when it came time to cut the scaled-back Fiscal Cliff deal and to decide what few things were in it and what many things were not, President Obama and Senator Reid had the muscle and the will to use it on behalf of wind power.   The two made it happen.  Wind has friends in high places.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Promised Land Fracks Or Blows It: My Review

Promised Land had an opportunity to be a great movie but blows it.

Promised Land blows it, because it could have challenged and prodded all to think about what they know for sure that just isn't so. It could have caused  those who are either for, against, or unsure about "fracking" to reflect and reach out.

Instead of making everyone in the audience question some part of their beliefs or knowledge, Promised Land takes the easy path and will polarize. It is a simple tale of bad and good guys competing for the affections of a beautiful lady. Yet, "fracking"--its tensions, contradictions, especially the good people involved on all sides--offers dramatic, powerful material and requires better.

Surprising probably nobody, the gas industry is the baddest bad guy, followed closely by corrupt elected officials whom the industry bribes, and then landowners who sign drilling leases.  This movie sends the horribly unfair, false message that those who sign drilling leases typically are greedy, stupid, and waste their gains on conspicuous consumption like sports cars.  And so Promised Land becomes grating, arrogant, elitist especially since this bad sermon is coming from the fabulously wealthy Matt Damon and his Persian Gulf investors.

Also, probably surprising nobody, the good guys in this movie are those who won't lease their land for gas drilling and who campaign successfully to ban drilling in their town.  The three best of the good guys are a sage teacher and landowner, who is convinced gas drilling is unsafe and leads his community to oppose it; a struggling farmer who had a relative killed in Iraq and who explains why foreign oil is no reason to drill here; and a gas industry employee who repents his evil ways.

Damon plays the repentant landsman, who goes from taking pride in selling drilling leases for well below market value to making a public statement that insures the defeat of gas drilling in Promised Land. For doing so, he is fired by the evil gas company but wins the beautiful, spunky lady.

In interviews, Damon disingenuously insists that the film is even handed and that the film not showing the result of the community vote on gas drilling proves it is so.  Really? Damon must think that his viewers are fools and perhaps making movies is "just a job," the dismissive phrase employed more than a few times to deride or excuse earning a living in the gas industry.

Rest assured, nobody will leave Promised Land wondering whether or not the town voted down gas drilling.

Those who hate natural gas production will find Promised Land safe, comfortable but not deep. Also, the movie's Abu Dhabi financiers will be pleased, as the movie contains a vignette dismissing the idea that US gas could decrease oil imports and generally assails fracking.

Unconventional oil and gas production threatens the power of oil dictators in the Middle East and Putin's Russia that has a near monopoly on supplying gas to Europe.  These oil and gas oligarchs, therefore, use their bulging purses to assault shale gas production that could mean new gas production in many countries and a lessening of their geopolitical power.  And so during my time as Secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection, it was no surprise that I was interviewed by a Russian TV station touring the US to highlight the accidents and spills of shale gas production.

Though the Abu Dhabi investors get their money's worth, Promised Land insults the many millions who work in or with the US gas industry, lease their land, or receive royalty checks.

In Promised Land, everything is a clear choice between good or bad.  There are no shades of grey.  I wish only that our real energy choices were so simple and perfect.

In Promised Land, gas drilling only destroys farms and never fends off a farm foreclosure. There are no moms, dads, sons, daughters who move from unemployment to $50,00 a year drilling jobs.  And no gas industry workers who are honest, work hard to be safe, and are proud to provide low-cost, domestic energy that emits less carbon, mercury, soot, and arsenic than coal and oil do.

In Promised Land, there are no troubling facts like 51% of America's homes heat with natural gas or millions of poor struggling this winter to pay their heating bills and some being shut-off and in the cold.  Heat is a necessity of life and producing more gas means more affordable bills, while producing less insures higher gas and electricity bills.  Who are the good or bad guys? Those who produce more gas or those who want to slash gas production to stop development impacts?

In Promised Land, there are no old coal-fired power plants that emit soot and other toxic pollution that substantially cause hundreds of thousands of illnesses and 34,000 premature deaths every year.  Is someone doing the right or wrong thing, if his or her decisions cause local environmental impacts but make possible  more electricity to be produced by natural gas power plants that emit no soot, mercury, and other toxic air pollution, as well as half of the carbon emissions of a coal plant?

Is someone doing right or wrong, if his or her leasing or work means land disturbance, inevitably some spills and accidents, but lots of cheap gas that displaces coal and oil, as has been happening in America, with coal-fired generation dropping from 48% in 2008 to 37% in 2012.

In Promised Land, there is no recognition that 34% of America's total energy comes from oil, 19% from coal, 26% from natural gas, 10% from nuclear power, 11% from all types of renewable energy, including large hydro and corn ethanol.  There is no recognition that solar and wind provide 3%, though both are growing rapidly. There is no understanding that water pollution from corn ethanol or the damage done to river systems by big hydro dwarfs the harm done to water resources by gas production.

In Promised Land, ignorance is bliss.

Promised Land blew it, not because gas drilling has zero impacts or risk.  It has impact and risks that can be higher or lower but never zero. Poor gas drilling did cause methane to migrate in Dimock, Pennsylvania to 18 private water wells.  There are spills, accidents, flaring.  Gas drilling is industrial activity, with impacts on the environment, that must be strongly regulated.

And even when it is strongly regulated, gas drilling will damage some lives. That's one reason why gas companies, if they won't do it themselves, must be made to compensate families fully when problems do occur.  It's also a reason why gas production must be reasonably taxed to provide revenue that can make communities better for all.

But the brutal truth today is that all our energy choices have strengths and weaknesses.  Our real energy choices are far from all good or all bad.

Using more natural gas has slashed US carbon emissions and toxic air pollution--lead, mercury, arsenic, soot--in the nation's air by displacing large amounts of coal and oil. That cleaner air saves thousands of lives every year. And no nation in the world has cut its carbon emissions more than the US since 2006.  Indeed, thanks in substantial part to shale gas, US carbon emissions are back to 1995 levels and fell about another 4% in 2012.

Is gas production safer or riskier than nuclear power? Most of the time one could say nuclear power is safer and cleaner, even though there is still no place to dispose of safely and permanently the most toxic industrial waste ever created.

Yet, I live in the Three Mile Island evacuation area and have one perspective. People living within 50 miles of Fukushima have still another perspective, and how could they not wish they had in their community a gas plant, a coal plant, anything other than the 6 nuclear units that were there, when the earthquake and tsunami hit in 2011?

At my home, I buy 100% wind power for its electricity (please go to, heat with a high efficiency gas furnace, and drive a high-mileage, gasoline-hybrid vehicle.  In my public advocacy, I strongly support more renewable energy and energy efficiency. I also support regulated strongly and reasonably taxed gas production.

Though I strive to limit the health and environmental impacts of my energy use, my energy choices and behavior have negative environmental and health impacts.   With the possible exception of my wonderful sister and her family, who have installed solar panels on her home and drive a Volt, when it comes to energy, nobody is really righteous.

Promised Land blew it by not educating the public about our real energy choices and the difficult, even wrenching decisions they create for every American.  It blew it by not recognizing that good people are on all sides of the fracking wars.

No matter where they stand on fracking, good people are struggling to know and to do the right thing for their families, communities, and America.

Despite blowing it, Promised Land does have two, positive qualities.  It serves as one more powerful reminder not to sign drilling leases or other important legal documents without good advice.

Promised Land also is not a documentary and does not pretend to be.  It's just a movie, made by people just doing a job, entertainment that bashes gas drilling and those involved.

NPR Asks Me To Review Promised Land

Last week, Scott Tong of National Public Radio asked me to watch Promised Land with him, and we did so in Philadelphia on December 28th.  Promised Land opens nationwide on Friday, January 4th.

My next post is my review, explaining how and why Promised Land blows an opportunity to be a great movie.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Senate Wind Extension Shows How Much America Is Changing: PTC Is Big News In Colorado

The Fox News affiliate in Denver, Colorado gave prominence to the inclusion of the wind PTC in its reporting of  the Senate's Fiscal Cliff bill and therein lies a window into how fast America changes.

KDVR reported that the Fiscal Cliff bill extended the wind PTC and said doing so was "an important piece for Colorado's new energy economy."  President Obama spent a lot of time in Colorado and Iowa in 2013 and saw how important wind power is to keeping the lights on and employing people in those states.  He saw first hand "Colorado's new energy economy."

The President also quickly understood that supporting wind energy helped him politically in the key swing state of Colorado and that Governor Romney's opposition to the wind PTC hurt him.  America changes quickly, and wind power more than doubled in the President's first term to become a very big business with support and clout in many communities across our land.

In 2013, don't mess with wind in Colorado, Iowa, and many more places.