Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Flaring In North Dakota Burns Oil And Gas Industry, State Regulators, As Well As Gas

While the companies flaring vast volumes of gas in North Dakota may think that they are just burning gas to make oil money, they are also burning the reputation of their industry and state regulation.

The drilling in North Dakota is for oil, much more valuable oil, and the gas released comes with the oil production.  Oil currently sells for about 30 times more than natural gas. Instead of producing the gas commercially, the drilling companies burn it off so that they can speed the oil from the well to market.  The gas being flared amounts to $100 million per month or more than a billion dollars a year.

Some in the oil and gas industry express bewilderment that it regularly scores public approval levels below lawyers and journalists and just a bit above Congress.  Yet, the flaring in North Dakota is just one example of behavior that is perfectly calculated to turn off many people across America and does more damage to the industry than its most demagogic or ill-informed critics.

The flaring puts into the air 4.5 million tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants too. The carbon released is a bit less than 0.1% of all of America's annual carbon emissions. Coming from just one source that could sharply reduce its emissions, that matters.

While too many people in the oil and gas industry just dismiss climate change, the vast majority of Americans, to say nothing of qualified scientists, rightly are increasingly concerned about the rising concentrations of heat trapping gas in our collective atmosphere. Indeed, the problem with the general attitude of so many in the oil and gas industry about climate is that they dismiss not only climate science but also their fellow Americans who want action to cut carbon emissions.

Again, it is not so much the pollution released in North Dakota that makes the flaring so disturbing.  What makes the flaring so disturbing is what it demonstrates about the attitude of the companies doing it.

As the Ceres report states, not all companies in North Dakota are engaging in this awful behavior.  A company called Continental recently cut its flaring in half and aims to get it to nearly zero within a year. Unfortunately, Continental appears to be an exception and not the rule in North Dakota.

Speaking of rules and regulators. North Dakota's rules enable its industry's flaring orgy. If North Dakota regulators will not sharply reduce this flaring, they are making a case for a federal rule to do so.

The North Dakota flaring is shameful.  One wonders if the participants are beyond shame.

Stunning Fact: Gas Production Jumps 100% In Southwest Pennsylvania And Marcellus Supplies 10% Of America's Gas

Gas production in Southwest Pennsylvania jumped 100% from July 2012 to July 2013. Production from that comparatively small area provided 1% of all of America's gas in 2012 and now 2%.  Amazing!

Booming production in the Southwest Pennsylvania, as well as other parts of the Marcellus, has made the region a natural gas powerhouse that supplies about 10% of America's natural gas. This booming production is also one reason why spot pricing of Marcellus gas is the lowest in the nation. Indeed, recently it has been around $3 for a thousand cubic feet or below that key price point.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fun Fact: Hanger Wins Keystone Politics Social Media Poll

Thank you to my great supporters who made me the winner of the Keystone Politics social media poll. Allyson Schwartz was second.

You can read the article about the poll results at or at this link:

More information about the campaign is available at or

Gas Plants Account For 53% Of New Generation Capacity And Threaten Old Coal Plants

Natural gas is dominating the new generation market in 2013 through the first half of the year. Gas plants accounted for 53% of all generation capacity that opened from January to June 2013.  And for gas, this year is better than last. New gas capacity is up 13% in the first half of 2013, compared to 2012.

An impressive 4,852 megawatts of new gas capacity began operating in the first 6 months, though it should be noted that the FERC data does not include the large amount of distributed solar generation that is now built every month.  The new gas plants are much more efficient than older coal-fired power plants and so threaten them in competitive markets.

If there is a war on coal, it is new, efficient gas plants that are fighting it!

Surprise Fact: Battery Only Electric Vehicles Outsell Plug-In Hybrids

The biggest strength of the electric vehicle industry is its diversity--lots of different models and manufacturers from which consumers can choose.  A basic choice for consumers is whether to buy a battery-only electric vehicle, like the Nissan Leaf or Tesla, or a plug-in hybrid such as the Chevy Volt and Prius.

In 2011 and 2012, the plug-in hybrids dominated electric vehicle sales, but no more.  In the first 6 months, of 2013, as total electric vehicle sales surged, battery only electric vehicles pulled a surprise and led the way.

See also:

Electric vehicles are both cheaper and fun to drive. Consumers want to drive on electricity and so plug-in hybrids are second-best options for most electric car consumers.  Once all-electric vehicles extend range and decrease cost, the plug-in hybrid will sharply lose market share.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Deluge Fact: Philadelphia Gets 8 Inches Of Rain In 4 Hours & Sets All-Time Record

Yesterday, the skies just opened over Philadelphia and 8 inches of rain fell in 4 hours.

The deluge set an all-time record in Philadelphia for rain in a day and broke the old record by more than 20%. That's smashing the old record or like cutting the 100 meter world record by a full second. It just does not happen.  But it did.

The old record was 6.6 inches set in 1999 as a hurricane moved through the area.  While the deluge poured forth in Philadelphia, just 100 miles away in Hershey, where I live, there was not a drop. Just amazing.

Sun Power: Utilities Notice Solar Is Destroying Their Distribution/Grid Monopoly

The solar revolution is at a tipping point, and some executives in electricity monopolies realize their business model is doomed.  This must read story discusses desperate attempts to keep the sun from rising:

“We did not get in front of this disruption,” Clark Gellings, a fellow at the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit arm of the [electricity]  industry, said during a panel discussion at the annual utility convention last month. “It may be too late.”

It is too late " get in front of this disruption."  And solar's disruption of the grid and electricity markets will be the biggest energy story during the next decade.

Stunning Fact: Regional Wholesale Electricity Prices Vary By 133%--From 3.1 To 7.1 Cents Per Kilowatt-hour

Though the costs of producing many commodities can vary significantly, depending on location, the price of most commodities do not vary substantially.  For example, from high to low, prices for gasoline, typically vary around America by about 25%, and spot market natural gas prices differ by approximately 15%.

While the range in pricing of a commodity is typically narrow, wholesale electricity prices differed across America by about 133% in the first half of 2013--a true Grand Canyon gap between high and low.

The lowest price of 3.1 cents per kilowatt-hour was in the hydro dominated market at the border of Washington and Oregon, while the highest price of 7.1 cents was in the natural gas dominated market of Massachusetts and New England. Indeed, the Pacific Northwest wholesale market has consistently had among the lowest prices in the US, in part because it is dominated by renewable energy (hydro and wind). Both hydro and wind have zero fuel costs and the lowest production or operating costs of all generation types.  Wholesale electricity markets should clear at the production cost of the last plant needed to supply demand.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Stunning Fact: Gas Generation Increases In New England To 52% From 15%

The 6 New England states have almost ended the use of coal generation by jumping with both feet to natural gas.  In just a dozen years, New England increased its natural gas generation from 15% of its electricity supply to 52% by 2012.

And now the regional grid operator is worrying about whether too many eggs are in the gas basket.

Stunning Fact: China Operates 1.5 Million Natural Gas Vehicles But US Just 250,000

China gets just 5% of its total energy from natural gas. The USA is the world's number 1 gas producer and gets 26% of its total energy from gas.

Yet, China already has 1.5 million vehicles operating on natural gas, while the US has a puny 250,000.

Uncle Sam is still guzzling oil for transportation--more expensive and dirtier oil!  At the national and state level, there is a total failure to get alternative transportation fuels displacing rapidly oil.  That failure will not be remedied, until state and federal governments accelerate the construction of alternative fueling stations for natural gas and electric vehicles.

I have a plan to deploy within 5 miles by 2023 of every Pennsylvanian both a natural gas and electric vehicle fueling facility.  The plan would save many Pennsylvanians $1,000 to $2,000 per year in gasoline costs. Let's get going.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Key Facts: Natural Gas Generation Plummets 13.4% & Coal Surges 11% In Latest EIA Data

What a difference a year makes! What a difference an increase in the natural gas price of about $1.50 per thousand cubic feet makes.

Natural gas-fired generation is down 13.4% in the first 5 months of 2013, compared to the same period in 2012.  Why? Coal generation is up 11% and is displacing gas. It's that simple.

Look no further than the above fact to understand why US carbon emissions are rising again after falling sharply from 2007 to 2012.  EIA projects that energy related carbon emissions will be up more than 2% in 2013 and then rise again in 2014.

How Not To Govern: Corbett Administration Won't Hold Hearing About Drilling Water Impoundment

The Corbett Administration continues to give the public who have questions and concerns about gas drilling the back of its hand.  The latest example comes from Cecil Township in Western Pennsylvania, and this is what the Observer-Reporter said in an editorial:

The idea that the state Department of Environmental Protection, under the Corbett administration, works primarily for the benefit of the people of Pennsylvania took another hit last week when it became clear that the DEP has no interest in hearing the questions and comments of those who live near the Worstell impoundment in Cecil Township.

This behavior from the Corbett Administration has been repeated too many times to count.  The result is a massive loss of public confidence in Pennsylvania's regulation of the gas industry.

Restoring public confidence in the Pennsylvania's oversight of the gas industry will require considerable work by a new Governor.  One step to doing so must be creating a Gas Drilling Complaint Office that will professionally and independently investigate complaints about gas drilling operations.

My plan for excellent gas drilling regulation and enforcement would also prohibit the use of impoundments or pits to store gas drilling waste water.  You can read my plan here:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

California Teaches Texas How To Keep The Lights On: National Geographic and I Explain

In 2000-2001, as Enron and others manipulated the California wholesale electricity market, Californians were price gouged and their lights flickered, as rolling blackouts rolled.  No matter the consequence, some market manipulators would literally withhold power in order to drive up prices or worse.

With the help of my friends Patrick Wood and Nora Brownell, who became members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in June 2001, California stopped the manipulation of the market and also got busy building massive amounts of new generation and transmission as well as driving forward energy efficiency and demand response.  For example, since 2000, California built 15,000 megawatts of new gas-fired electricity generation and a similar amount of new renewable energy generation, as it is on track to have more than 30% of its generation to come from renewable energy by 2020.  California leads the nation in the solar boom and solar provides 1% of the state's entire electricity and even more at peak hours.

All that new capacity, efficiency and demand response is California's new power system, and it was stress tested on July 5th, when temperatures soared to 110 degrees.

As National Geographic describes, California's power system passed with flying colors its stress test, thanks to the new natural gas plants, hydro that supplied up to 6,000 megawatts at the peak hour, other renewable energy that generated 4,400 to 4,800 megawatts at peak, as well as energy efficiency and demand response.  California's power system kept the lights on, despite having 2 massive nuclear plants that total more than 2,000 megawatts crippled by botched repairs and now never to resume operations.  Congratulations to California for getting a lot right in its reforms of its electric system.

Unlike California, Texas pays too little attention to solar, energy efficiency, and demand response. Solar could easily supply 10% of Texas' power needs during peak hours, and demand response could also easily provide another 10% cushion.  But neither do in Texas. Texas also often has placed coal over natural gas for new power plants, a decision that makes no sense for the country's biggest natural gas producer, and that has led to massive litigation and then cancellation of planned coal generation projects.

Lastly, California like every other state in the Union, with the notable exception of Texas, has robust interstate transmission that allows imports of electricity.  Any state going it alone electrically would be much more vulnerable to supply disruptions, and so none do but for the Lone Star state.

Though Governor Perry would never believe it, California teaches Texas critical lessons about operating a power system!

New Renewable Capacity Falls 50% In First 6 Months Of 2013 Compared To 2012

With the exception of solar, the renewable energy generation boom has hit a soft patch. New renewable capacity in the first 6 months of 2013 is down 50% compared to the same period in 2012.

From January to June 2013, FERC states that 2,134 megawatts of new renewable generation capacity began operating, but that number does not include large amounts of distributed solar.  That is down from 4,201 megawatts in the first 6 months of 2012.

The big drop is due to a sharp decline in new wind generation beginning operation so far this year. Through June,  959 megawatts of new wind capacity started delivering power to the grid, while 2,766 megawatts began operating from January to June 2012.

Last year wind had its best year ever, installing approximately 13,000 megawatts.  New wind this year will be much less and that will pull down the total new renewable energy capacity being added. New biomass and geothermal generation is also down.

To repeat, the FERC data does not include distributed solar generation but tracks only utility-scale generation.  This year solar will have a record year and may install close to 5,000 megawatts in all its forms.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Stunning Fact: Gas Industry Has Paid $500 Million To Repair Roads In PA

One of the biggest local impacts from gas drilling is large trucks in great numbers on country roads that were not built to withstand them.  Predictably, the roads don't do well, with some being reduced to mud trails.

Damage is real, and inconvenience is inescapable.  But the gas drilling industry pays for damage done.  To date, the gas industry paid $500 million to repair roads just in Pennsylvania.

When repairing roads, the industry will sometimes improve them so that they can withstand heavy use by trucks. Yet, damage and the repair bills keep coming due. According to State Impact PA, the gas industry is currently repairing 400 miles of roads in three counties in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Stunning Fact: Solar Provides Germany 50% Of Power At Peak Hour

Germany is the world's fourth biggest economy, a modern, industrial powerhouse.  And at 2pm on Sunday, July 7th, solar provided 50% of the entire country's electricity. Wow!

For all of Sunday, July 7, solar produced 20% of Germany's electricity consumption.  Also amazing!

While these peak solar production records in Germany are impressive, solar provides about 5% of Germany's total electricity consumption throughout the year.  One reason for the small annual contribution from solar in Germany is its poor solar resource--similar to Alaska's and much worse than Pennsylvania's or California's.  Another reason is that pesky problem of sunset and night. Despite these limits, solar is now an important part of powering Germany.

Given the natural limitations on solar in Germany, this can be said: If solar can make it in Germany, it can make it anywhere.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Key Fact: DOE Study Of Fracking In PA Finds Frack Fluids Did Not Return To Groundwater Or Surface

A year-long, United States Department of Energy study that put tracers in fracking fluids finds that frack fluids are not returning to the surface or groundwater zone but are staying thousands of feet lower.'t-spread-062725102.html.

The study is the first to use tracers and was conducted in Greene County, Pennsylvania.  The data is apparently rich, including documenting an 1,800 feet fracture, but has its limits.  It is a study of 1 gas drilling site for 1 year.

But this empirical information is consistent with a decades-long record that the threat to groundwater is not from fracking fluids returning from depth.  Instead the damage done by gas drilling to water involves spills at the surface, gas migration due to cementing and casing errors, and the disposal of drilling wastewater.

Drilling impacts to water are real and can be reduced by strong regulation and excellent operations.  While drilling impacts to water do exist and must be reduced, the harm gas drilling does to water ranks far below coal mining impacts, sewage overflows, oil leaks and spills, nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from land, pollution from impervious surfaces, sediment runoff, and thermal pollution to name a few.

Hooray: Prof. Mann's Defamation Suit Against National Review Online & CEI Wins Major Judicial Order

Winning a defamation suit is difficult, especially for anyone who is a "public figure."  The legal standard applied in such cases protects speech and not reputation. To win a defamation suit, if one is a public figure, the facts must establish by a preponderance of the evidence both false statement and "actual malice."

Despite the high hurdle, Professor Michael Mann just may be on the way to winning his defamation suit against National Review Online and Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).  The trial judge ruled against NRO and CEI's motion to dismiss Mann's lawsuit, and the language of the judge in her order should give the defendants real concern.

Think Progress highlighted a key section of the judge's decision:

There is sufficient evidence presented that is indicative of “actual malice. The CEI Defendants have consistently accused Plaintiff of fraud and inaccurate theories, despite Plaintiff’s work having been investigated several times and found to be proper. The CEI Defendants’ persistence despite the EPA and other investigative bodies’ conclusion that Plaintiff’s work is accurate (or that there is no evidence of data manipulation) is equal to a blatant disregard for the falsity of their statements. Thus, given the evidence presented the Court finds that Plaintiff could prove “actual malice.”

You can read the judge's full decision here:

Prof. Mann has been targeted for professional destruction by some of his critics and many attacks on his reputation have been false and reckless.  To me, some critics and attacks evidenced "actual malice" against Professor Mann.

Hooray for the judge denying the defendants' motion to dismiss Mann's defamation suit.  Good luck to him at trial.

Friday, July 19, 2013

EIA Says Coal Supplying 40% Of Power May Be The New Normal: Is EIA Right?

EIA yesterday said something that is worth repeating, because it has big implications if right:

"Coal has continued to fuel about 40% of total generation over the past five months. This is up from a low of 32% in April 2012, when natural gas prices were near 10-year lows. However, as recently as November 2008, coal accounted for 50% of total generation. The favorable supply and price picture for natural gas, and to some extent the increased penetration of renewable power, appears to have created a new, lower normal for the coal share of the power market."

Is coal providing 40% of electricity generation the new normal?  And what does that mean if EIA is right?

My sense is that coal will provide around 40% of America's power for the next two years. New renewable capacity is enough to meet annual incremental load growth but not enough to displace coal. Nuclear generation will not increase significantly in the next two years and will not displace coal. Only natural gas is a threat to existing coal generation market share and the price of natural gas is unlikely to fall below $3.50, the price point at which gas would begin to push coal below 40%.

So EIA is likely right to call coal providing 40% of electricity supply the new normal--at least for the next two years.  And one result is that US carbon emissions will probably climb in 2013 and 2014, compared to 2012 total emissions of 5.29 billion tons.

But will coal still provide 40% of US electricity generation from 2015 to 2023? Almost certainly not would be the answer.

Coal-fired power plants will do well to keep producing at their 2014 level, starting in 2015 and through 2023.  Yet, if they maintain their electricity production at 2014 levels, coal generation's total market share will fall to about 35%, simply because the electricity consumption is expected to increase on average 1% per year over the next decade. That decline in market share, however, would not lower total carbon emissions, because it would result from expanding total electricity consumption and not decreasing total coal-fired electricity.

To produce a decline in carbon emissions, coal-fired electricity generation itself will have to fall, and its market share would have to be lower than 35% by 2023, assuming electricity consumption averages a 1% per year increase over the next 10 years.  Will that happen?  The answer is far from clear and will hinge heavily on the price of natural gas, whether electricity sales do average a 1% increase per year, and policy developments.

To sum up, coal providing 40% of total electricity production is likely to be the new normal for the next 2 years but not from 2015 to 2023.  Coal, however, can lose market share without decreasing total coal-fired generation, simply because the size of the electricity market or electricity sales probably will increase 1% per year.  Coal generation will decline from current levels from 2015 to 2023 only if natural gas displaces it. Whether natural gas will do that depends both on the price of gas and policy developments.

DOJ Wins Consent Settlement With Exxon's XTO For Violating Clean Water Act In PA

This might surprise some who wrongly think that the gas drilling industry is exempt from the Clean Water Act.

Yesterday, the United States Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency won a consent decree with Exxon's XTO gas drilling affiliate for allowing drilling wastewater spill from tanks and reach a tributary of the Susquehanna River.   The spill of pollutants that reached the stream and that violated the Clean Water Act.

Here is the EPA release:  

The case began in November 2010, when an inspector of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, was inspecting an XTO facility, where it stored drilling wastewater.  The state DEP inspector saw open valves on tanks that allowed drilling wastewater to pour out.

The terms of the consent settlement are model best practices and should be made regulatory requirements by federal and state agencies.  You can read the terms of the consent decree here:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

New Wind & Solar Can Supply 100% Of Annual Electricity Load Growth & That's A Big Deal

The United States consumes 4 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity.  That's enough electricity to supply 400 million homes, assuming a home uses 10,000 kilowatt-hours.

To understate, America uses a lot of electricity right now, but our appetite for electricity grows.

Electricity consumption is projected to increase about 1% per year during the next 10 years or by about 40 billion kilowatt-hours per year.  And that 1% rate of increase is substantially lower than the historic rate of electricity load growth.  Just the annual increase in electricity consumption is equal to adding 4 million homes each year.

So can new wind and solar power supply the annual electricity load growth of the USA?

During the last 5 years, wind has often increased its production by 20 billion kilowatt-hours annually and will increase its production by 30 billion kilowatt-hours this year, as a result of the record building boom of more than 12,000 megawatts of new wind capacity in 2012.  As for solar, solar production in 2013 will increase approximately 7 billion kilowatt-hours in 2013, reaching more than 11 billion kilowatt-hours.

The combined increase in solar and wind generation during 2013 will be 35-40 billion kilowatt-hours or essentially equal to a 1% increase in electricity generation nationwide.  Wind and solar, indeed, can meet the annual 1% increase in electricity consumption expected in the USA over the next 10 years.  But it will not be easy.

Wind is not likely to boost its production every year by 30 billion kilowatt-hours. A more reasonable expectation would be around 20-25 billion kilowatt-hours each year for new wind production.

The annual ramp up in solar production, however, is in its early stages.  By 2016, it is reasonable to expect that solar will boost production by 15 billion kilowatt-hours per year and even more thereafter.

Wind and solar together can indeed meet the 1% annual load growth of electricity consumption in the USA and that is a very big deal.  One result is that the electricity sector's carbon emissions will not increase during the next 10 years. On the other hand, wind and solar increased production is not likely to be big enough to cut the existing carbon emissions from the electricity sector.

Like it or not, cuts in the existing carbon emissions from the electricity sector will happen or not, during the next 5 to 10 years, depending on the market shares of coal and gas generation.

Solar Prices Vary By More Than 100%: Comparison Shopping Is A Must

Average solar prices continue to fall and dramatically so.  But average prices do not reflect the large range in pricing in the solar project market.

Prices in the residential and commercial markets range from a low of about $2.50 or $3.00 per watt to a high of $8 per watt.  Wow!  Some state markets have more competition and lower average prices than others, but prices vary substantially in just about all markets..

For the details, see page 11 of The US Solar Market Insight Report, a great resource:

As with most major purchases, it pays to shop around when building solar. I recommend getting at least three price quotations from installers who have a real track record of successful projects. Price alone is not the only factor to which consumers must pay attention.  The quality of the solar equipment and installation matter too!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Did US Carbon Emissions Bottom In 2012 Or Will They Fall 20% By 2020?

For decades US carbon emissions rose steadily almost year after year. The growing economy and population powered the carbon climb. Then, stunningly, from 2007 to 2012 the carbon climb turned into the carbon plunge.

US energy related carbon emissions plummeted from approximately 6.02 billion tons in 2007 to 5.29 billion tons in 2012.  The big drop was driven primarily by a sharp decline in coal generation that had provided 48% of power in 2007 but just 37% in 2012, as a result of cheap natural gas displacing coal.  Other contributing factors were efficiency that cut oil consumption and more renewable energy.

Importantly, the economic collapse of 2008-2009 does not explain the approximately 700 million ton carbon emission decline from 2007-2012.  The US economy, as measured by Gross Domestic Product, was bigger in 2012 than in 2007, as was the population of America. America changed its energy mix between 2007 and 2012 in ways that cut carbon, despite a bigger economy and population.

The sharp declines of carbon emissions during the 2007-2012 period, however, have come to at least a temporary end. Rising emissions have resumed.  Carbon emissions will increase 2.4% in 2013 and then another 0.4% in 2014 or by about a 150 million tons per year, according to the latest data from the EIA.

The questions become, did US energy related carbon emissions bottom in 2012?  Have carbon emissions resumed a steady climb again? Or will carbon emissions fall 20% by 2020 from their peak?

The available data are flashing warning signs.  The US currently uses about 4 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, and the rate of increase in electricity consumption has slowed.  But it has not gone to zero.

Most projections expect the US to see electricity consumption rise about 1% per year and that rate of increase is much slower than historic rates.  But to just meet the annual 1% increase in electricity consumption, the US will have to generate each year an additional 40 billion kilowatt-hours.  And from where is that additional electricity going to come?

New wind and solar capacity will be stretched simply to meet this annual 1% increase in electricity consumption, as wind and solar in combination have never yet increased their production by 40 billion kilowatt-hours in one year. But it is reasonable to expect that they will, and they perhaps could soon get to a combined annual increase of 50 billion kilowatt-hours.

Or to put it another way, new renewable power production will likely meet the annual increase in electricity consumption, as long as the rate of growth is kept to 1%, but will not displace hardly any of the existing coal and natural gas electricity generation production.

If carbon emissions are to decline in the electricity sector in the next 5 or 10 years, there is just one way for that to happen, without a sharp and immediate change in current trends.  That one way is a repeat of what happened from 2007 to 2012.  Natural gas would have to displace coal generation.

If gas generation cuts coal generation from 40% to 30% of all electricity generated, the net carbon savings would be approximately 25 million tons per market share point or about 250 million tons.  Whether reductions that size from gas displacing coal happen will depend significantly on the price of natural gas and policy.  Right now, the trend is in the reverse direction, with coal displacing gas and increasing market share from 37% in 2012 to 40% in the first 4 months of 2013.

Yet, very recent softening of gas prices, the unexpected July announcement that 2,000 megawatts of coal capacity will close in the PJM power pool, after the capacity did not win a crucial competitive auction, and the 2015 implementation date of the Air Toxic rule are factors that suggest coal's market share resurgence will soon stop and that gas may resume displacing coal.  Indeed, and this fact is crucially important, it is only natural gas that has and can rapidly displace large amounts of coal and oil and produce big carbon cuts in the next 5 years.

Aside from electricity generation, if the recent carbon increases are to stop and to reverse, further cuts in carbon emissions will likely come from displacing oil and from reducing transportation emissions.  Emissions from oil have declined from 2.6 billion tons in 2005 to about 2.3 billion tons in 2012 or by about 300 million tons.  Some of that decrease in oil carbon emissions was offset by increasing gas carbon emissions from the combustion of gas that displaced oil in electric generation, heating buildings, and industrial processes.

Over the next 5 years, efficiency and oil substitutes that include gas, biofuels, and electricity could be expected to reduce carbon emissions from oil.  But another 300 million net decrease in oil carbon emissions will be far from easy. Indeed, to reach that number, it will take significant market penetration of natural gas and electricity powered vehicles and continued displacement of oil by gas in buildings and in industrial processes.

The resumption of economic growth since July 1, 2009 and the addition of 2 to 3 million people every year to the US population also challenge carbon reduction goals. More people mean more cars, appliances, and building space. If the incremental growth in the economy and population is supplied by zero-carbon fuel sources like efficiency or most renewable energy sources, the total carbon emissions do not grow. But they do not fall either.

The data are all pointing to 3 facts of energy life for the next 5 to 10 years.  First, renewable energy and efficiency will do well to supply annual economic and population growth and to prevent energy related carbon emissions from rising beyond 5.5 billion tons.  Second, the nation will be stressed to cut its energy related carbon emissions by approximately 650 million tons, from where it is today, to achieve an annual total of 4.8 billion tons by 2020.  Third, natural gas displacing coal and oil will be essential, if US carbon emissions are to stop the recent rises, resume declining, and are to reach 4.8 billion tons or 20% below the 2005 levels.

Again, while the big increases in renewable energy can meet the incremental growth in energy demand with zero carbon emissions, only natural gas can displace large amounts of coal and oil and produce big declines in carbon emissions over the next 3 to 7 years.

To sum up, energy related carbon emissions declined 700 million tons from 2007 to 2012 but are likely to increase by 150 million tons in 2013-2014.  In order to achieve a 20% reduction from peak levels, the US will have to cut emissions by an additional 500 million to 650 million tons.  Natural gas is essential to doing so.

Wind Power Targeted For Taxpayer Funded Public Health Study

A bill is in the Massachusetts legislature that would appropriate taxpayer funds for a study of alleged public health impacts of wind turbines.  And the Governor expressed support for the study.  No joke.

I am sure the libertarian Koch brothers will attack this bill as a waste of taxpayer funds. Just joking.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hanger Marijuana Reform Plan Released Today

Today, I am releasing a 3-step Marijuana Reform Plan. First, allow medical marijuana to be prescribed to sick patients that need cannabis. Second, decriminalize in 2015 possession of small amounts of marijuana. Third, regulate and tax marijuana in 2017 if decriminalization goes well. Here is the link:

It is time to stop denying people who need cannabis for medicine. It is time to stop ruining people's lives over a joint.  It is also a fact that African Americans are arrested for possession 5 times more frequently than whites, though usage is almost identical.

It is also time to stop spending $325 million per year of taxpayer money to arrest, prosecute, and jail about 25,000 Pennsylvanians for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Shocking Fact: California Geothermal Power Plant Triggers 1 Earthquake Every 11 Days

It's not just deep well injection of fluids or coal mining that can trigger earthquakes.  It is geothermal power production too.

Published in Science, a new study of geothermal generation 12 miles from a major California fault finds that the operation of the plant causes 1 earthquake every 11 days and that the number of earthquakes increases or decreases with the amount of power production.  That's an ugly energy fact.,0,4232017.story.

Geothermal power production has many strong environmental benefits.  No air pollution. No water pollution.  But this study is a reminder that all forms of energy production have environmental impacts.

Rising Coal & Falling Gas Generation Jump US Carbon Emissions In 2013 And 2014 By 280 Million Tons

When coal's generation market share rises, carbon emissions go up.  When natural gas's generation market share goes down, carbon emissions go up.  And US carbon emissions are going back up.

After declining 3.9% in 2012, US carbon emissions are going up 2.4% in 2013 and 0.6% in 2014, according to the most recent report of the Energy Information Administration.

Why the rising carbon emissions?  At page 9 of the Report, the EIA states:

"The increase in emissions over the forecast period primarily reflects the projected increase in coal use for electricity generation, especially in 2013 as it rebounds from the 2012 decline."  That's to the point!

Carbon emissions declined 3.9% in 2012, in large part because natural gas displaced big amounts of coal generation.  Indeed, coal's electricity generation market share fell to 37% in 2012 and is now back to 40%, as higher natural gas prices has meant that coal this year is displacing gas in power markets.

The 2.4% increase this year in carbon emissions means about 125 million more tons of carbon dioxide will be emitted than in 2012.  Then in 2014 carbon emissions will be about 155 million tons more than in 2012.
Over the two years, the additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will be about 280 million tons or a little less than 1% of annual global emissions.  Simply put, it is a lot.

That extra 280 million tons of carbon dioxide will remain in the atmosphere for more than 100 years trapping heat. The only silver linings in this dark cloud is that US carbon emissions in 2014 may still be lower than they were in 2011, even after increases in both 2013 and 2014.

But the question becomes, did US carbon emissions bottom in 2012 and have they begun a sustained climb once again?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Red State Goes Solar As 525 Megawatts Of Solar Marches Through Georgia

Despite an attack on a solar proposal by Koch brothers' organizations, the Georgia Public Service Commission voted 4-1 to require construction of 525 megawatts of solar by 2016.

Georgia remains a full monopoly, state regulated electric industry state.  No competition is allowed with Southern Company in retail markets. Yet, conservative discomfort with the state-sanctioned monopoly as well as falling solar costs fueled this big solar victory in Georgia.  The solar proposal was seen as a means of giving customers a choice--buy grid power from Southern or install solar.

Georgia Southern also conceded that the 525 megawatt solar requirement would have not raise its electric rates, unlike its on-going construction of 2 nuclear plants, for which consumers have already been paying for years a monthly surcharge.  The 525 megawatts of solar is about 20% of the nuclear capacity under construction currently and will produce enough power for about 100,000 households.

While the solar requirement is about 20% of the nuclear plants being built, the 525 megawatts of solar will generate about 4% of the electricity that the new nuclear plants will produce, because they will not operate during night time and have reduced output during cloudy days.  The solar panels, however, will operate maximally at just the right times--when the sun is searing, temperatures are soaring, and the electricity supplies are stretched to the breaking point by summer peak demands.

This solar victory is surprising in Red State Georgia but get used to it, because solar's march through Georgia is built on its falling costs and rising competitiveness. The Georgia solar story shows how disruptive economically and politically solar is even today.

Gasland 2 & The PA Regulatory Story Not Told: Five New Regulations; Doubling Oversight Staff; 1200 Violations Issued In 2010

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is headquartered in the Rachel Carson building in Harrisburg, and I walked , as the Secretary of DEP, for the first time through the doors of the Rachel Carson on September 3rd, 2008.  Shortly after arriving at DEP, I put the agency on a forced march to modernize and strengthen its drilling regulations.  That forced march included disclosing by 2009 on the DEP website the drilling chemicals that were being used in the fracking process.

In order for regulation to be strong, the rules must be clear and effective.  Enforcement staff must be adequate to enforce the rules.  And political appointees must have the will to enforce the rules against regulated industries.

By the time I left Rachel Carson for the last time as Secretary in January 2011, when Governor Corbett took office, Pennsylvania had imposed a moratorium that I wrote on further gas drilling in state forests.  Moreover, DEP had enacted 5 new gas drilling regulations, more than doubled the gas drilling staff from 88 to 210, and issued 1200 violations just in 2010 to the gas industry.  During my leadership, the Pennsylvania DEP issued twice as many violations to the gas industry as the second most aggressive state in the country.

DEP also went to regulatory war against Cabot in the Dimock gas migration case, when mistakes in gas drilling caused 18 water wells to be contaminated with methane. See Gasland 2 And The Real Story Of The Dimock Water Line at:

The 5 new drilling regulations passed from 2008 to 2011 covered a full range of issues presented by shale gas drilling.  The first of the 5 regulated the withdrawal of water for gas drilling.  Gas drilling companies were required to file a water plan that stated the sources and the volumes of water that would be used in the fracking.  The plan was only approved if the water withdrawal would not damage a river or stream, even in a drought.

The second rule regulated, essentially for the first time, the discharge of drilling waste water that had been dumped in rivers or streams for decades with little or no treatment.  The rule regulated discharges that also came from coal mining and other industrial sources and was opposed by the gas drilling industry, the coal mining industry, and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.  Despite massive opposition and thanks to support from Pennsylvania's environmental organizations and its drinking water companies, the new regulation passed in August 2010 and prevented new or expanded discharges of drilling wastewater and required that all discharges stop if a stream's total dissolved solids (TDS) reading reached 75% of the Safe Drinking Water allowable standard.  This rule stopped Pennsylvania's terrible practice of just allowing drilling and other wastewater to be dumped without treatment into rivers and streams.

The third rule established the strongest buffer protections in the nation for Pennsylvania's more than 20,000 miles of streams that are classified as High Quality.  High Quality streams have excellent water quality and are jewels of the environment.  The new rule required that no development of any type could take place within 150 feet of them and was adopted in November 2010, only after overcoming major opposition from many different business organizations.

The fourth rule strengthened across the board the design, casing, cementing and other requirements for constructing a gas well in Pennsylvania.  This rule also included mandatory disclosure of chemicals.

The fifth new rule was enacted in 2009 and raised the ridiculous $100 fee charged to drilling companies for applying for a permit.  The $100 fee had been established more than 20 years earlier and had never been increased.  The new permit fee skyrocketed to an average of $3,000 for shale gas applications.  All the money raised was used to double the gas drilling oversight staff.

In addition to these 5 new gas drilling regulations, I wrote with Secretary Quigley the moratorium on further gas drilling of the state forests.  Governor Rendell issued that moratorium in October 2010, and it continues today, something that Gasland 2 also got wrong.

By the time I left DEP in January 2011, a lot of progress had been made in modernizing and strengthening Pennsylvania's oversight of the gas drilling industry.  To state the obvious, Gasland 2 makes no mention of any of this considerable record.

Much more, however, needs to be done to strengthen regulation as well as taxation of the gas industry.  For example, flaring should be regulated more strongly; outdoor storage pits for drilling wastewater should be banned; and compressor stations should be required to install pollution controls that reduce by 90% air emissions.

Furthermore the DEP gas drilling oversight staff must be increased immediately by at least 50% and a Citizens Complaint office opened to investigate professionally and independently gas drilling complaints.  And  whenever a drilling company contaminates a water well, the drilling company must pay twice the property value of where the water well is located, even if the water well is cleaned and restored.  The payment must both compensate and punish.

Coal, oil, gas, and nuclear energy production all have substantial risks, and all must be strongly regulated to minimize their impacts. Risk and impacts can never go to zero, but strong regulation can reduce them considerably.  And vigorous enforcement can make sure that when mistakes are made, gas drilling companies and other energy producers pay to clean up and more than compensate all of those who are affected.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fatal Energy Fact: Soot From Coal & Diesel Combustion Kills Globally 2 Million People Per Year

Burning coal and diesel kills 2 million people around the world every year, according to a new study.  The study done by an international team was published today in the Journal of Environmental Research Letters.  See:

Wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal, and hydro create no soot. And neither does natural gas.  Switching from coal or diesel to natural gas, most renewable energy, or nuclear removes soot that sickens and causes 2 million deaths per year around the world and 34,000 per year in the United States.

That's a fact that everyone thinking about our energy choices must face.

Seismic Facts: Earthquake Rate Jumps From 21 To 188 Per Year Since 2001

Science magazine yesterday published an important paper that documents that the rate of earthquakes greater than 3.0 jumped sharply since 2001.  From 1967 to 2001, earthquakes of 3.0 or greater averaged 21 per year. But since 2001, such earthquakes rose sharply to 188 per year.

Why the sharp increase?

The authors state: "It has long been known that impoundment of reservoirs, surface and underground mining, withdrawal of fluids and gas from the subsurface, and injection of fluids into underground formations are capable of inducing earthquakes."

There is definitive evidence that deep well injection of fluids, including gas drilling wastewater, can cause an earthquake. It did cause a 4.0 earthquake that was felt at the surface in Youngstown, Ohio.  

Stunning Fact: PA Jobs Gap Hits 140,000

What is a state's "jobs gap?" Its the number of jobs by which a state's job creation rate varies from the national jobs creation rate.  A state can create jobs at a higher or lower rate than the national economy so the jobs gap number can be positive or negative.

In the case of Pennsylvania, it is negative, very, very negative.

Pennsylvania has created a stunning 140,000 less jobs since Governor Corbett took office in January 2011 than it would have had it created jobs at the same rate as the national economy.  The excellent linked to analysis walks you through the Pennsylvania jobs gap number and includes a graph:

As the graph shows, the Pennsylvania jobs gap is getting worse each month, because Pennsylvania's rate of job creation has fallen dramatically during the last 12 months. From May, 2012 to May 2013, Pennsylvania created just about no jobs--less than 5,000.

And that means the Pennsylvania jobs gap is growing bigger and bigger each month.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stunning Fact: PA Residential Gas Utility Bill Is $735.36 Per Year Lower Than In 2008

It's not true that everything goes up in price.

UGI is a major natural gas utility that serves substantial portions of Pennsylvania, including my home, and its average natural gas bill has plummeted since 2008, as a result of enormous shale gas supplies.

In June 2008, the average residential bill was $157.95 per month.  Five years later, the average bill was $96.67 per month. Amazing.

Annual savings are $735.36.  Savings of that size matter substantially to a great many families but are vital to poor households.

Money Fact: Private Sector Invests $300 Billion In Renewable Energy, With Policies Effectively Leveraging Private Investment

All energy sources benefit from a dizzying array of government incentives, but those going to renewable energy leverage massive private investment.  A study finds that $300 billion of private investment has been made in renewable energy just since 2004 and that state portfolio standards triggered $100 billion.$100-Billion-in-Private-Investment-For-Clean-Energy.

Twenty-nine states have renewable energy portfolio standards, and those standards leveraged $100 billion of private investment without taxpayer funds.  Political battles broke out during 2013 over the RPS policies, as ALEC and Koch brothers targeted them for repeal.  But those attacks on the state standards were political losers in all states and even in North Carolina and Kansas that are totally controlled by Republicans.

Moreover proponents of state renewable standards did not just play defense.  In several Blue states, like Colorado, New York, and Massachusetts, state renewable standards were expanded and strengthened.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sun Power: US Becomes 4th Nation To Exceed 10,000 Megawatts Of Solar Capacity & Solar Begins To Reshape Power Markets

Germany was first over the 10,000 megawatts of solar capacity milestone. And now the United States is the fourth nation to have more than 10,000 megwatts installed, joining Italy and China.

As is reported in the link to story, US solar capacity increased at a 50% annual growth rate in the last 6 years. Wow!  And Uncle Sam's solar capacity will exceed 17,000 megawatts by the end of 2014.

10,000 megawatts of solar generation running for a year will produce about 12.5 billion kilowatt-hours, assuming each kilowatt generates on average 1,250 kilowatt-hours.  That's enough power to supply 1.25 million homes.

So what do those numbers mean? Solar matters. It plays an increasing role in keeping the lights on during the hottest hours of each day and of each year. No doubt, the enormous amount of new solar is already pushing down wholesale power prices by dispatching extra power into grids. And, of course, solar generates only during the higher priced, on peak generating hours of everyday, thereby delivering strong consumer benefits.
The combination of solar, wind, and natural gas makes the economics of coal and nuclear plants more and more difficult.

Solar matter also in terms of jobs creation. Last year, the solar industry employed even then more than 110,000 people.  With this continued strong growth, those jobs number will rise still again during 2013.

Importantly, the solar boom in the US is not just a California story. Solar is booming in many states in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast but not all.  While demand for new solar is bullish in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Maryland, it is sluggish in Pennsylvania. But that too will change, because the price of solar continues to fall rapidly.

Sun power is now rooted in the fertile soil of competitive solar pricing for new generation in more and more parts of the America and the world!

Heroic Fact: 110 Hotshot Fire Teams Serve America & Now Fight Bigger Fires

Firefighters are among the bravest. Our collective debt to these brave men and women is enormous, as the two mass casualty fires in Texas and Arizona during 2013 remind us once again.

Today America is served by 110 Hotshot Fire Teams who head into all kinds of terrain to fight wildfires that are becoming more frequent and bigger. One such team suffered 19 fatalities out of 20 person unit in Arizona. Please take 10 minutes to read this account of that team's final day and minutes serving us.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Gasland 2 And The Dimock Water Line: The Real Story

Airing last night on HBO, Gasland 2 focuses considerably on pollution of 18 water wells in Dimock, Pennsylvania by methane and the proposed extension of a water line to the families whose water was contaminated by Cabot Oil and Gas. Josh Fox and I agree that mistakes in gas drilling by Cabot caused methane to pollute the water wells of 18 families, but you won't see the real story of the proposed water line to serve those 18 families in Gasland 2 or what DEP did from 2008 to 2011.  See also:

Here is what really happened in the fight with Cabot to clean up the groundwater and to build a proposed water line from Montrose to Dimock.

To recap, Cabot made mistakes in gas drilling that caused methane  to pollute 18 water wells in Dimock, Pennsylvania. That conclusion was established by an extensive investigation done by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection under my leadership.

 Methane in water is not toxic but can be explosive once concentrations reach high enough levels.  In short, it can be dangerous, even deadly. Indeed, one of the 18 water wells did explode in January 2009. To repeat the problem in Dimock was methane, not fracking fluids, and methane in water at high concentrations is a serious problem that can be dangerous and certainly can make a home worthless.

To make a long story shorter, by the Spring of 2010, I was completely unsatisfied with Cabot's response to the pollution of 18 water wells and its efforts to remedy the problem for the affected families. As a result, I concluded a Consent Order with Cabot that had many provisions.  For example, the Consent Order included not issuing for a period any new drilling permits to Cabot statewide; stopping Cabot from drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the Dimock area; requiring Cabot to plug or repair gas wells to stop the source of the methane migration; install machines at each of the 18 water wells to get methane out of the water; to provide water deliveries to the 18 families impacted; and substantial fines that eventually added up to more than $1 million.  The order cumulatively would cost Cabot many millions of dollars in fines, lost investment, and lost revenues of gas that would not be produced.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection also was testing regularly the affected families water, and methane levels were still too high in most of the 18 water wells by the summer of 2010. I was determined to do everything that I could to clean the groundwater and to restore good water to the 18 families.  As a result, knowing that in a few past cases of industrial pollution of groundwater, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the state had extended water lines to affected families, I put on the table doing the same for the 18 affected families in Dimock.

Cabot, however, refused to agree to pay for the extension of the water line from Montrose to the Dimock area that would cost $12 million. After discussing the water line, Cabot's opposition to it, Pennsylvania paying up front for the water line, and then suing Cabot to recover the money with Governor Rendell and his Chief of Staff, Steven Crawford, I was authorized to move ahead with building the water line, even though there was no guarantee that the state would prevail in litigation to recover from Cabot the $12 million needed to build the water line.  This was a bold, strong but difficult attempt to remedy the impact on the 18 families.

Without Cabot agreeing to pay and without a court order for it to pay for the water line, the initial financing would come from a separate state agency called Pennvest that had its own board on which I served as Vice-Chairman.  Importantly, the Pennvest board was not unanimous in support of the project, with powerful Republican state senators on it opposed to building the water line and other board members conditionally supportive.  Pennsylvania American Water Company that provided public water in Montrose, however, agreed to build the water line from Montrose to the affected families, if financing was made available.

By September 2010,  I announced in a public meeting in Dimock that the water line would be built.  Soon after that announcement, massive local opposition to the water line erupted and was partly the result of Cabot encouraging the opposition.  For example, one evening to reach the home of one of the 18 families whose water had been polluted by Cabot, I walked through a protest of more than 100 people outside the home who were opposing the extension of the water line and who were supporting Cabot. That was quite a night for another reason:  It ended after midnight with a deer totaling my car, as I drove 3 hours back to my home in Hershey.

When the sun came up the next morning, I knew that the local opposition itself could well stop the water line.  Another threat to the water line was Republican legislative and local opposition to it and the looming election for Governor.

In November 2010, Republican Tom Corbett won the Governor's seat, and he had run openly as an unequivocal proponent of gas drilling and as friend of the gas industry.  The combination of strong local opposition, Republican legislative opposition, and the election of Tom Corbett meant that the water line was not going to be built. Elections have consequences.

The water line would be dead as soon as Governor Rendell and I left office, and Tom Corbett took office in January 2011. Also though the change in the Governor's chair sealed the water line's fate, a further blow to the water line came after the November 2010 election in the form of good news.

The plugging and repairing of gas wells was working to lower methane levels in the groundwater in the area. Fourteen of the 18 water wells had methane levels reduced below the "action level" in testing that came back after the election.  This was good news for which a lot of people had worked hard to make happen. But it also meant that only 4 families had a water supply with too much methane in it and that further weakened the case for building a water line from Montrose.

After the November 2010 election, I had a choice to make about the 18 families and Cabot's pollution of their water.  I could do nothing more and leave.  Taking that option would likely have kept me out of Gasland 2 and that would likely have pleased by mother. Yet, throwing in the towel would have meant stopping fighting for the 18 families who had been harmed and would have meant Cabot paid no compensation to them.

After the November election, instead of throwing in the towel, I could try Plan B.

Plan B was an attempt to hold Cabot financially responsible by winning a payment from Cabot that would go to the 18 families, in addition to requiring Cabot to keep working to get the methane out of the groundwater that supplied all 18 families. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection concluded in December 2010 a new consent order with Cabot that required continued work to remove methane from gas wells that leaked into groundwater in Dimock, that prohibited Cabot from restarting gas drilling or fracking in the Dimock area, pay more fines, and pay a total of $4.1 million into 18 separate escrow accounts for the impacted families.

The escrow payments averaged $201,000 and were calculated to be twice the property value of the home affected. Escrow payments would be required even for the 14 properties where testing showed methane had been reduced to safe levels. Importantly, the Consent Order stated that payments would be made without requiring any family to drop other litigation or sign a confidentiality agreement.  This order bound only Cabot and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and did not bind the families who again were free to continuing litigating and speaking.

It was important to establish that a drilling company who pollutes a water well must pay twice the property value of the home, even if subsequent clean up efforts of the water succeed. Two times the property value served both the needs to compensate and punish. The principle of paying twice the property value, even if pollution is removed, is important and should become statutory law.

One of the tragedies in Dimock is the discord within the community over gas drilling.  That discord extended to the 18 families which divided into two groups--11 families retained private counsel and sued Cabot, but 7 families did not sue. In my book, they had all suffered contamination as a result of mistakes made by Cabot and had experienced tremendous stress. After I left office in January 2011, I was told  that 7 of the families who had not sued Cabot did take money from the individual escrow accounts but the 11 who did sue Cabot did not.

Gasland 2, however, wrongly states that none of the 18 families took the escrow money.  Some of the families certainly did and wrote and called to thank me.  Gasland 2 also does not mention the number $4.1 million that was placed into escrow accounts.

Those payments and the principle that gas drilling companies who pollute water wells pay twice the property value, even if clean up works, are the strongest financial remedies ever won by a regulatory agency for shale gas pollution.  They come on top of requiring Cabot to plug gas wells to clean up and that destroyed millions of dollars of its investments and prevented receipt of millions more in revenues from selling the gas.  They come on top of requiring Cabot to pay $1.3 million in fines, install machines to remove methane, and to deliver water to impacted families.

I am proud of the investigation that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection did that established methane from mistakes in gas drilling contaminated 18 water wells. I regret greatly that some in the gas industry continue to say nothing happened at Dimock. That is completely false.

I am also proud of the fight that I led to get the methane out of the water in the Dimock area. Methane was reduced to safe levels at 14 of the 18 water wells by December 2010.  I am also proud of the fight I led against Cabot to try and build a water line even though that failed.  I am also proud of the fight that I led to make Cabot pay twice the property value and to compensate families whose water was polluted.

Finally, for all the reasons stated above, the fight to build a water line became impossible by the time of the election of Tom Corbett in November 2010. That is the real story of the proposed water line in Dimock.

Power Fact: Wind & Solar Will Need 75 Years To Produce 100% Of The Electricity America Uses In 2013

Some think that America could switch to solar and wind power in 20 years.  Put aside storage and transmission issues.

Just focus on this fact: America uses a bit more than 4 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity every year.  That's a lot of power, so much power that its scale is hard to grasp.

Wind and solar will provide about 4.5% of America's electricity this year or about 180 billion kilowatt-hours.  And solar and wind electricity generation can barely now increase their combined year-over-year generation by 40 billion kilowatt-hours or enough for 4 million homes.  In fact, they in combination have never done that but might come close this year.

If solar and wind were to increase their total production every year by 40 billion kilowatt-hours, it would take 95 years for wind and solar to generate 4 trillion kilowatt-hours or about what America will consume in 2013.

As readers of this blog know I am an advocate for solar and wind.  I make these points not to minimize the growth of wind and solar or its importance. Again, they will together provide this year about 180 billion kilowatt-hours of power, 4.5% of America's total electricity, enough for 18 million homes.  Those numbers matter and have grown enormously since 2003 when together wind and solar produced just about 11 billion kilowatt-hours.

I make these points not to minimize wind and solar but to drive home just how long it will take for them to provide the enormous amount of electricity that America now consumes.

Here are some more details.

This year wind will generate about 170 billion kilowatt-hours and solar 11 billion.

Moreover, wind will post its biggest ever annual increase--an additional 30 billion kilowatt-hours-- in production during 2013 to reach 170 billion kilowatt-hours from 140 billion in 2012.  Since 2007, wind has several times boosted production by 20 billion kilowatt-hours year over year but never before by the 30 billion that is likely this year.

Solar is likely to increase its power production from 4 billion to 11 billion this year, a very strong gain and will almost certainly at some point regularly increase its electricity production by 20 billion kilowatt-hours per year.

Even if wind and solar increase their combined annual production by 50 billion kilowatt-hours per year, it would take 75 years for wind and solar to generate 4 trillion kilowatt-hours.

Remember this analysis also does not take into account that electricity consumption is projected to increase 1% per year of by 40 billion kilowatt-hours or more.  Indeed, solar and wind will be doing incredibly well to produce each year enough additional power to supply 100% of the nation's increased yearly power needs.  By doing so, wind and solar would provide approximately half of the power America consumes 72 years from today.

Claims that America can move rapidly to 100% wind and solar run straight into daunting math and often reflect a lack of understanding about the enormous amount of electricity that America consumes today.

The Hottest Decade Bar Graphed From World Meterological Organization

The World Meteorological Organization released data of land and ocean temperatures that documents 2001-2010 decade is the warmest since modern temperature records began in 1850 and that warming continues to increase.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Great Decade: Wind Increases Production 15-Fold Since 2003 & Provides 4% Of America's Power

Looking at where wind power stood in 2003 and where it stands in 2013 drives home its astonishing climb to become today a major industry.

During 2003, wind generated 11.1 billion kilowatt-hours in the USA or enough for approximately 1.1 million homes, assuming a household consumption of 10,000 kilowatt-hours per year.

Wind generated 140 billion kilowatt-hours in 2012 and is on course to produce 170 billion kilowatt-hours or enough for 17 million homes.  Wind generation has had a phenomenal decade, increasing production by more than 15 times since 2003.

Total electricity produced in the USA exceeds 4 trillion kilowatt-hours and wind will account for a bit more than 4% of the total this year.  Wind continues grow and will reach the 5% milestone by 2015.
That's big business and mighty wind.

Sub $2 Natural Gas Returned Last Week--Marcellus Northeast America's Cheapest Gas

Natural gas priced below $2 for a thousand cubic feet returned to America on July 3 and July 5 at the Marcellus Northeast trading hub.  That's about $1.50 less than gas traded at the Henry Hub in Louisiana, making the Marcellus gas a tremendous bargain.

Gas priced below $3.50 knocks out substantial coal-fired electric generation.  Gas priced below $2 sets off an avalanche of switching from coal to gas for electricity.

The recent price decline of gas from above $4 will slow the market share gains coal made at the expense of gas from November 2012 through April 2013.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Sad Fact: 65% Of Congressional Republicans Deny Climate Science

So why is President Obama addressing climate change through the executive branch? One reason is that the Supreme Court not only held that the Clean Air Act regulates carbon dioxide but also ruled that the EPA must promulgate regulations addressing it.  In fact, the President had no choice.

A second reason why the President had no choice to move forward with regulations is Congress won't pass legislation. The reason that Congress won't act is because an incredible 65% of Congressional Republicans outright deny climate science. That's more than enough to paralyze Congress.

More than a few of the deniers declare climate science a hoax or fraud.  Others deny temperatures are rising.  The "squishes" in the denier caucus concede that temperatures are up, seas are rising, moisture content in the air is increasing but reject that humans releasing large amounts of heat trapping gas into the atmosphere have anything to do with these facts.

Some wiser, "cooler" heads in the Republican party know that its climate position is irresponsible on the merits and is another reason why the GOP is struggling with those younger than 35 and moderate voters.  But these cooler heads fear that only decisive election losses will make once again the GOP a responsible policy partner about what to do about our warming world.

Pro Publica Uses Both Legs To Kick EPA After It Goofs Pavillion Drilling Investigation

The EPA put the "kick me" sign on itself by goofing its important fracking investigation in Pavillion, Wyoming.  Going beyond the Pavillion mess, Pro Publica kicks the EPA, with gusto, in this story:

Of course, Pro Publica is not alone in kicking the EPA.  With ill-concealed glee, some in the gas industry pound the EPA for supposedly being too zealous in Pavillion and elsewhere.

Regulators occupy the hot seat. The only way to manage the heat is to embrace professionalism and independence.  By doing so, good regulators deliver findings that will annoy everyone over time. EPA simply must do much better, when conducting complex investigations, especially in the fracking wars where one side or perhaps both sides will be out to trash its conclusions.

Another consequence of EPA's problems in Pavillion is too little attention paid to important facts established there.  For example, ground storage pits did leak drilling wastewater and did contaminate groundwater in the Pavillion area.  The gas industry does not contest this significant environmental impact.  It is time to ban the storage of drilling wastewater in outdoor pits.

In addition, the fracking done in Pavillion was in some instances too close to groundwater to be responsible, whether or not it caused contamination.  It also should be noted that the gas developed in Pavillion was not shale gas and drilling and fracking there had been taking place for decades.

Contrary to the impression left in the Pro Publica story, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in 2010 did test water wells in Dimock for both methane and fracking fluids.  The tests proved both that 18 water wells had been contaminated by gas migrating from gas wells drilled by Cabot and that no fracking fluids had returned from depth.

Methane polluting water wells, from mistakes in cementing or casing gas wells, is bad enough to warrant major concern and action. It hugely impacts families who live in affected properties, even without fracking fluids returning from depth.  It can make homes worthless and causes severe emotional and psychological distress.

As a result of its investigation, DEP ordered some Cabot gas wells to be plugged and others repaired. This cost Cabot millions of dollars and also affected royalty payments to landowners. DEP also suspended issuing drilling permits to Cabot statewide for a period and prohibited Cabot from drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the affected Dimock area at least through January, 2011 when I left office.

In 2010, DEP also imposed fines on Cabot totalling more than $1 million, and required escrow accounts totaling $4.1 million be funded by Cabot for 18 families whose water it had contaminated. The escrow accounts were a "Plan B," made necessary by the election of Governor Corbett who made it clear that he would regulate the gas drilling industry in a very different manner than I had.

Began by me, a separate attempt to build a $12 million water line to serve the 18 families was made impossible by Governor Corbett's election victory in November, 2010.  Elections have consequences.

By December 2010, DEP regular testing showed that the efforts to stop the methane migrating from Cabot gas wells had reduced methane levels below action levels in 14 of 18 water wells.

Subsequent extensive water testing by EPA in 2011 to 2012 also found that no fracking fluids were returning from depth to contaminate water wells in Dimock, though the EPA did not do the extensive testing DEP did of methane found in water wells. The DEP investigation of methane included isotopic testing as well as inspections of gas wells and their performance.

Hot Fact: 2001-2010 Is Hottest Decade Ever

The World Meteorological Organization reports that 2001-2010 was the hottest decade since the start of modern temperature measurements in 1850.  Is that a hoax too?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fact Checking: Corbett's First Campaign Ad Is Out And George Orwell Would Be Proud

Governor Corbett's first campaign is out and copies President Reagan's famous Morning In America commercial.  The ad claims Corbett is putting Pennsylvania back to work and explicitly states that Corbett created 116,000 "private sector" jobs, since January 2011.

Fact checking this ad reveals that George Orwell may be alive and well.  To begin, apparently public school teachers, police, firefighters, gas drilling inspectors, mine inspectors, and many more public employees literally don't have jobs in Corbett's math.  That is convenient for him, since his attacks on education alone have destroyed 19,000 education jobs. 

If you are a teacher, police officer, firefighter or public employee, your job does not count in Corbett math. If you feel insulted, your best reply is voting in 2014.

Instead of using Corbett math, let's look at all jobs and official BLS data to see what is going on with job creation in Pennsylvania.  Doing so reveals that Pennsylvania has just 74,000 more jobs since January 2011 or in 29 months, even as the nation created about 5 million during that period.

Even more troubling is the truth that the longer Tom Corbett governs the worse Pennsylvania's jobs performance gets. Pennsylvania has lost jobs so far in 2013!  We actually had less jobs in May 2013 than in January 2013, despite the nation adding 175,000 jobs per month on average.

Indeed, Pennsylvania has created less than 5,000 jobs in the last 12 months.  Read and weep.

The facts show that Corbett's ad is false across the board.  In fact, under Corbett, Pennsylvania job creation has fallen from 7th in the nation during 2010 to now 46th at best over the last 12 months.

During the last 12 months, Pennsylvania has created less than a pathetic 5,000 jobs.  New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio, Illinois, California, and even tiny Delaware have created more.  New York generated 95,000 jobs and California 260,000 jobs just from May 2012 to May 2013.

America is now creating 2 million jobs per year, or about 5 million total since Corbett became governor, but virtually none of them are in Corbett's economy.  Had Pennsylvania just gotten its share of the 5 million jobs created nationally since Corbett became governor, Pennsylvania would have added approximately 200,000 more jobs from January 2011 to today!

In summary, Pennsylvania had 5,666,000 jobs in January 2011, according to  revised BLS numbers. 

As of May, 2013, Pennsylvania had 5,740,000 jobs or just 5,000 more than a year ago.

Since Tom Corbett became Governor, Pennsylvania has among the poorest job creation records in the nation.  To make that ugly fact worse, the longer Tom Corbett governs, the worse Pennsylvania's jobs performance gets.  That is what happens when a Governor misses three transportation construction seasons, attacks education, blows an energy boom, and damages hospitals by refusing Medicaid expansion.

Despite Massive PA Gas Production, PA's Coal-Fired Generation Jumps 20% And Gas Electricity Falls 11%

Pennsylvania produces a lot of coal and natural gas, ranking fourth and third respectively among states.  But King Coal is whipping gas once again in Pennsylvania power plants.

Coal-fired generation came roaring back in Pennsylvania during the first 4 months of 2013, with a 20% jump in production. One thing made for good times for coal generation--higher gas prices.

While good times returned to Pennsylvania's coal plants, natural gas plants struggled in Pennsylvania, as their production fell 11%.  One thing made for bad times at gas plants--higher gas prices.

Pennsylvania also relies heavily on nuclear power for electricity generation.  In fact, nuclear power ranks second only behind coal in generating electricity in the Commonwealth.  Pennsylvania's nuclear plants are off to a good start in 2013, with their production up 4.2%  compared to the same period in 2012.  Nationally, nuclear power generation is still trending lower, with production down 0.3%.

Stunning Fact: Flights Cancelled In Phoenix Because Temperatures Too High

US Airways actually cancelled "more than a dozen" flights in Phoenix because temperatures reached 119 degrees and pilots could not calculate safe distance needed to take off at temperatures above 118.

Just amazing!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

These States Wage War On Coal: Two Have Zero Coal Generation And 7 More Near Zero

Coal remains the nation's top source of electricity generation, providing 40% of America's power, but some states are moving to zero. So far just 2 states--Rhode Island and Vermont--are at zero coal-fired electricity.

But another 7 states already get very little electricity from coal and may join the no-coal-electricity group in the coming years.  Those states include the nation's biggest--California--plus Connecticut, Delaware, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, and Maine.  If they end coal use, most of these states will depend primarily on gas and renewables, with Connecticut also being supplied by nuclear plants.

In the first 4 months of 2013, California had the biggest percentage reduction in coal generation--a big 37%--compared to 2012. But California already gets little power from generation so that the total decrease in coal-fired electricity there was small.

The biggest total reduction in coal-fired generation came in Georgia during the first 4 months of 2013.  Georgia saw a decrease of more than 1 billion kilowatt-hours this year compared to 2012.

Though Georgia will likely generate electricity from coal for many years to come, 9 states are on course to ending the use of coal for electricity sooner rather than later.  That is a noteworthy emerging trend in America.

Good Fact: Biodiesel Production Nears Record Production

America's thirst for oil is falling for many reasons like more efficiency, natural gas, and biodiesel. In April, biodiesel production hit 106 million gallons, the second highest monthly production total ever.

The April total nearly surpassed the all-time monthly record of 109 million gallons set in December 2011. That record will be broken sooner rather than later.  Moreover, biodiesel production in 2013 will probably set a new annual record.

Reducing oil consumption remains the single most important thing that can be done for our economy, environment, and national security. Using biodiesel displaces oil and so is one of the best purchases any consumer can make for America!

Monday, July 1, 2013

New York Uses 106% More Coal-Fired Electricity In 2013

While New York is blessed with large hydro resources, the Empire State and Big Apple still rely substantially on natural gas and on some coal to keep its lights burning bright.

New York doubled the amount of coal it used to generate electricity in the first 4 months of 2013, compared to the same period in 2012, but ranks 36th among the 50 states in total coal generation.

New York's reliance on gas to keep the lights on fell slightly--down about 1%--but New York remains the fourth biggest consumer of gas-fired electricity generation in the nation.

New York continues to debate closing the Indian Point nuclear plant. If Indian Point closes, New York's gas consumption for electricity generation will inevitably increase.

In 2013 Coal is Winning The War On Coal: Coal Generation Jumps 13% As Natural Gas Power Falls 10%

The so-called war on coal remains hard to find in the 2013 power production numbers. The first 4 months of 2013 were good times for coal-fired powered plants, with a 13.6% national jump compared to 2012

A major fact of electricity generation markets is that coal and gas are battling it out for market share. And until November of 2012, when gas prices moved substantially above $3 for a thousand cubic feet, gas was winning most of its battles with coal.  Indeed, coal's generation market share fell to 37% in 2012, because it lost so much ground to natural gas whose electricity generation market share went above 30%.

But the higher gas prices that took hold from November 2012 to April 2013 allowed coal to come roaring back at the expense of natural gas power plants. In the first 4 months of 2013, higher gas prices that pushed beyond $4 for a thousand cubic feet led to a sharp fall in gas generation and more coal electricity. Denying that coal displaces gas in power markets, when gas prices rise, is to deny a key reality of today's power markets. Indeed, through April, 2013, natural gas-fired electricity generation is down 10% across America.

Today the biggest choice in power markets is coal or natural gas.  These two fuels provide more than 65% of America's electricity each and every day, but the share between the two can vary considerably.

America's Cheapest Natural Gas Is Marcellus: Price Falls To $2.89 & Is Bad News For Coal

Marcellus gas closed on Friday at $2.89 or about 23% cheaper than the $3.56 price Henry Hub gas.  Whenever gas anywhere falls below $3 for a thousand cubic feet, that is a major energy market event and a coal killer.

Marcellus gas is substantially cheaper not only compared to gas at Henry Hub but also to gas traded at Panhandle East, the second lowest spot price on Friday, and Haynesville gas in Louisiana.  Panhandle East gas closed at $3.36 or about 17% higher than Marcellus gas.

Across the board, spot natural gas prices have fallen approximately 50 cents per thousand cubic feet after going above $4.  Prices below $3.50 make natural gas much more competitive with coal, while gas priced below $3 displaces large amounts of coal generation.

Gas prices above $3.50 rebounded coal from a low of 32% market share in April 2012 to now about 40%, while sinking gas from a high market share of 32% in April 2012 to about 26% currently. If gas prices settle below $3.50 for the next 6 months, gas will regain some market share lost to coal between November 2012 and April 2013.

Gas and coal duel daily for generation market share, and low natural gas prices remain the real war on coal.