NewEnergyNews-Butterfield Archive

WALL STREET JOURNAL'S Environmental Capital quotes NewEnergyNews:

  • 06/05/2007
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    WALL STREET JOURNAL selects NewEnergyNews as one of the "Blogs We Are Reading" --

  • 05/14/2007
  • 04/16/2007
  • 03/28/2007
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      Anne B. Butterfield of DAILY CAMERA, a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews


    • My Novels: OIL IN THEIR BLOOD, The American Decades & OIL IN THEIR BLOOD, The Story of Our Addiction
    • Review of OIL IN THEIR BLOOD, The American Decades by Mark S. Friedman
    • OIL IN THEIR BLOOD, The American Decades, the second volume of Herman K. Trabish’s retelling of oil’s history in fiction, picks up where the first book in the series, OIL IN THEIR BLOOD, The Story of Our Addiction, left off. The new book is an engrossing, informative and entertaining tale of the Roaring 20s, World War II and the Cold War. You don’t have to know anything about the first historical fiction’s adventures set between the Civil War, when oil became a major commodity, and World War I, when it became a vital commodity, to enjoy this new chronicle of the U.S. emergence as a world superpower and a world oil power.
    • As the new book opens, Lefash, a minor character in the first book, witnesses the role Big Oil played in designing the post-Great War world at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Unjustly implicated in a murder perpetrated by Big Oil agents, LeFash takes the name Livingstone and flees to the U.S. to clear himself. Livingstone’s quest leads him through Babe Ruth’s New York City and Al Capone’s Chicago into oil boom Oklahoma. Stymied by oil and circumstance, Livingstone marries, has a son and eventually, surprisingly, resolves his grievances with the murderer and with oil.
    • In the new novel’s second episode the oil-and-auto-industry dynasty from the first book re-emerges in the charismatic person of Victoria Wade Bridger, “the woman everybody loved.” Victoria meets Saudi dynasty founder Ibn Saud, spies for the State Department in the Vichy embassy in Washington, D.C., and – for profound and moving personal reasons – accepts a mission into the heart of Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe. Underlying all Victoria’s travels is the struggle between the allies and axis for control of the crucial oil resources that drove World War II.
    • As the Cold War begins, the novel’s third episode recounts the historic 1951 moment when Britain’s MI-6 handed off its operations in Iran to the CIA, marking the end to Britain’s dark manipulations and the beginning of the same work by the CIA. But in Trabish’s telling, the covert overthrow of Mossadeq in favor of the ill-fated Shah becomes a compelling romance and a melodramatic homage to the iconic “Casablanca” of Bogart and Bergman.
    • Monty Livingstone, veteran of an oil field youth, European WWII combat and a star-crossed post-war Berlin affair with a Russian female soldier, comes to 1951 Iran working for a U.S. oil company. He re-encounters his lost Russian love, now a Soviet agent helping prop up Mossadeq and extend Mother Russia’s Iranian oil ambitions. The reunited lovers are caught in a web of political, religious and Cold War forces until oil and power merge to restore the Shah to his future fate. The romance ends satisfyingly, America and the Soviet Union are the only forces left on the world stage and ambiguity is resolved with the answer so many of Trabish’s characters ultimately turn to: Oil.
    • Commenting on a recent National Petroleum Council report calling for government subsidies of the fossil fuels industries, a distinguished scholar said, “It appears that the whole report buys these dubious arguments that the consumer of energy is somehow stupid about energy…” Trabish’s great and important accomplishment is that you cannot read his emotionally engaging and informative tall tales and remain that stupid energy consumer. With our world rushing headlong toward Peak Oil and epic climate change, the OIL IN THEIR BLOOD series is a timely service as well as a consummate literary performance.
    • Oil history journal articles by Dr. Trabish: Oil Stories and Histories
    • Review of OIL IN THEIR BLOOD, The Story of Our Addiction by Mark S. Friedman
    • "...ours is a culture of energy illiterates." (Paul Roberts, THE END OF OIL)
    • OIL IN THEIR BLOOD, a superb new historical fiction by Herman K. Trabish, addresses our energy illiteracy by putting the development of our addiction into a story about real people, giving readers a chance to think about how our addiction happened. Trabish's style is fine, straightforward storytelling and he tells his stories through his characters.
    • The book is the answer an oil family's matriarch gives to an interviewer who asks her to pass judgment on the industry. Like history itself, it is easier to tell stories about the oil industry than to judge it. She and Trabish let readers come to their own conclusions.
    • She begins by telling the story of her parents in post-Civil War western Pennsylvania, when oil became big business. This part of the story is like a John Ford western and its characters are classic American melodramatic heroes, heroines and villains.
    • In Part II, the matriarch tells the tragic story of the second generation and reveals how she came to be part of the tales. We see oil become an international commodity, traded on Wall Street and sought from London to Baku to Mesopotamia to Borneo. A baseball subplot compares the growth of the oil business to the growth of baseball, a fascinating reflection of our current president's personal career.
    • There is an unforgettable image near the center of the story: International oil entrepreneurs talk on a Baku street. This is Trabish at his best, portraying good men doing bad and bad men doing good, all laying plans for wealth and power in the muddy, oily alley of a tiny ancient town in the middle of everywhere. Because Part I was about triumphant American heroes, the tragedy here is entirely unexpected, despite Trabish's repeated allusions to other stories (Casey At The Bat, Hamlet) that do not end well.
    • In the final section, World War I looms. Baseball takes a back seat to early auto racing and oil-fueled modernity explodes. Love struggles with lust. A cavalry troop collides with an army truck. Here, Trabish has more than tragedy in mind. His lonely, confused young protagonist moves through the horrible destruction of the Romanian oilfields only to suffer worse and worse horrors, until--unexpectedly--he finds something, something a reviewer cannot reveal. Finally, the question of oil must be settled, so the oil industry comes back into the story in a way that is beyond good and bad, beyond melodrama and tragedy.
    • Along the way, Trabish gives readers a greater awareness of oil and how we became addicted to it. Awareness, Paul Roberts said in THE END OF OIL, "...may be the first tentative step toward building a more sustainable energy economy. Or it may simply mean that when our energy system does begin to fail, and we begin to lose everything that energy once supplied, we won't be so surprised."
    • Oil history journal articles by Dr. Trabish: Oil Stories and Histories
    • My Photo
      Location: Agua Dulce, CA

      *Doctor with my hands *Author of the "OIL IN THEIR BLOOD" series with my head *Student of New Energy with my heart






      Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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    • NewEnergyNews


      Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

      Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

      Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

      With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

      Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.


      Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.



      One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

      Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

      No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

      Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

      The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

      It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

      Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

      Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.


      Solar for Me But Not for Thee ~ Xcel's Plan to Undermine Rooftop Solar

      An eye-popping announcement came last week from Colorado's largest utility, Xcel Energy. It plans to install 170 megawatts of utility scale solar plus 450 MW of new wind power, and contract for 317MW of gas capacity to balance the renewables, plus the aim to retire one small coal fired unit. This announcement came with the comment by Xcel's CEO David Eves to the Denver Business Journal that utility-grade solar is cost-competitive with natural gas. This is without even taking into account carbon costs or compliance with the renewable energy standard. Solar makes the cut "strictly on an economic basis" he said.

      That solar cost is big news for utilities where sunlight is bright and these economic values can be felt. And it's very good that Xcel is stepping up more to clean up its generation. It's provoking then, that utilities like Xcel are also racing to scale back rooftop solar. Utilities allover have been taking steps to kill or scale back net metering policy that allows homeowners to enjoy much lower bills due to their energy produced and used behind the meter.

      This coiling back to strike at the advance of rooftop solar comes as investor owned utilities and one trade group in particular have discussed a "disruptive challenge" that rooftop can bring to their profits. The problem is that rooftop is not owned by the utilities and cuts into their most valuable product - power sold for air conditioning on sunny days. This presents a mortal threat, as told acerbically by David Crane, an energy executive. None more important than the Edison Electric Institute has written that distributed solar generation is a "game changer" to profit-driven utilities. (For excellent reviews of the EEI report, go here and here.)

      Aiming to protect profits for its shareholders, Xcel's compliance plan in July asked the Public Utilities Commission to categorize net metering credits as subsidies and downgrade the value of the power, even to the point of potentially charging solar producers for their energy savings. According to Vote Solar, Xcel's proposed multiplier for power produced at residences could roll back its value by roughly 60 percent, even when that power is used behind the meter without using utility infrastructure.

      Xcel has also produced a study on the value of rooftop solar to engage the PUC into a "transparent discussion" on the costs they see. Recall that four years ago Xcel attempted to get solar residences hit with a surcharge for transmission and distribution; the uproar was so bad Xcel withdrew the idea but proposed an independent study to assess costs and benefits of rooftop solar in the area. Since then, in a 22-month span to work (by PUC mandate) with a Technical Review Committee of solar stakeholders and tech experts, 15 months passed with no meetings with the TRC, and then Xcel filed the study by surprise. "There was and continues to be a lack of transparency and access to data for TRC members," commented Annie Lappe of Vote Solar.

      Vote Solar and Cross Border Energy reviewed Xcel's study and found a dozen solar benefits for the grid and ratepayers that are undervalued or wholly omitted, amounting up to $11 million in annual benefits to the system. For example, creating energy without water or toxic emissions were omitted, as was the value of delivering energy to neighbors and trimming demand on the grid during risky peak times.

      The long list of groups supporting Vote Solar have found that Xcel's report (which can be downloaded here) is loaded with unexamined platitudes, painfully small samples, and old data that don't hold up in an energy world moving fast. My own read of the study found pompous, unexamined assertions plus this laugh-out-loud line from the conclusion: "increasing the amount of distributed solar over and above the levels studied here are likely to result in lower net benefits given the law of diminishing returns".

      Diminishing returns is now a law, like gravity? Okay, whatever.

      Aside from reading like a college paper at some points, Xcel's report truly misleads on diminishing returns by sidestepping the giant returns at the center of the picture - their profit margins in Colorado. Xcel's profits on electricity sales in Colorado rose by twice in the past 10 years bringing an after-tax profit margin of nearly 14 percent, according to SEC filings as studied by city council candidate Sam Weaver among others with Empower Our Future in Boulder (see #5 here).

      Imagine earning fourteen percent with no competition - nice return if you can get it! In fact Xcel's profit margin on electricity in Colorado's is up to five times higher than what some other IOU's make. Xcel's privilege is Colorado's embarrassment. We are being used as a cash cow, and the utility intends to increase this exploitation by angling to "own it all" where solar is concerned. This situation must frame the discussion of Xcel's aim to curb net metering for rooftop solar that distributes ownership and savings to ratepayers, nourishes the grid, and reduces emissions and water use. The attack on net metering makes us confront the question: who should own solar generation when the monopoly model is losing favor, and when this monopoly in particular is protecting embarrassing profits?

      As for next steps for Vote Solar and its wide host of allies for clean energy and lower bills, the request to the PUC is for a complete review of the Xcel study to be done in "a workshop process run by the PUC" said Annie Lappe in a presentation with Clean Energy Action. "Our areas of disagreement with Xcel's study are small but they are intense" she said, noting that Xcel got many things right in their study. It would be good, then, after the faux collaboration Xcel has foisted in the process of creating this study, to see the solar stakeholders present and vocally involved.

      "We're here to protect the customer's right to do whatever they want behind the meter," said Lappe. Yes, there is a libertarian element here. The monopoly cannot own it ALL.



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      COLORADANS please call Gov. Hickenlooper (303) 866-2471 to ask him to SIGN Senate Bill 252 to increase the renewable energy mandate for rural electric providers and protect REA members from escalating coal costs. Note these amazing costs in Tri-State's coal basis:

      "A review of the Tri-State 2013 annual report reveals some alarming trends. Over the last 5 years ending 2012:

      *Prices to regional coops per unit of energy have risen 4% annually

      *Tri-State's power costs per unit of energy have risen at an annual rate of 6.7%

      *Net income of a percentage of revenues has declined from over 10% to 4%

      Also indicated in the report, Tri-State recently purchased complete ownership of the ColoWyo coal mine near Craig Generating Station. As a result, Tri-State's fuel costs in 2012 increased by $22 million.

      Finally, according to Fitch ratings. Inc, 'Tri-State's coal fired resources still account for 67% of it energy mix.' " ~ R. Tazelaar, Coop Member, Winter Park CO



      NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session

      Out with the old and in with a new. Gone are the five feet of snow from April and May - and in with this sudden summer heat. The feeder and fountain in view from this keyboard are graced with migratory birds such as Evening Grosbeak, Spotted Towhee and one Ruby-Throated hummingbird that loved on that sugar water when all fragrant things were cloaked by heavy snow.

      And in Denver, flown from the coop are all our state legislators from their tightly compressed legislative session. What have they gotten done?

      “This has been an extraordinary legislature,” said a seasoned Democratic fundraiser in Denver, Sallyanne Ofner by Facebook message. The range of work was wide:

      For civil unions came a meaningful redress of the wrong-headed vote of 2006 to limit marriage to one man and one woman. Now LGBT couples can commit for life and legally reap respect and due benefits.

      Firearm safety has been enhanced with popular universal background checks on purchases plus size limits on high capacity magazines.

      On behalf of rape victims, parental rights of attackers over the children they spawn have been severed, and sexual assault victims have access to a payment program for their medical needs.

      One gripping disappointment was the failure to repeal the costly and conspicuously racist death penalty in Colorado.

      Also disheartening: the failure to pass seven out of nine bills to regulate hydraulic fracturing. A notable failure was minimum fines for serious spills -- needed apparently because spills now don’t invoke the maximum fines allowed. The 30-hour spill that erupted in mid-February near Fort Collins still has not been fined, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. The Governor has ordered a formal review of how fines are imposed.

      Also targeted was a ban on energy industry employees from serving on the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to regulate their own companies - failed. Lawmakers also failed to require more frequent inspections at Colorado’s tens of thousands of wells, though they did secure budgeting for 11 more inspectors and a lower spill amount threshold at which companies must report. More health and water testing around fracking areas? Also failed.

      Visiting The Camera this week, representatives from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association lamented the session as being polarized, and that legislators with no knowledge of industry surprised them with a slew of bills that COGA hadn’t seen much less collaborated on. This came off poorly as they and their 23 lobbyists certainly know that the session is compressed and filled with the slew of matters just mentioned.

      Coming this fall is still more action on fracking, in a rule making session by the Air Quality Control Commission. Judging by the Governor’s oft-stated goal to see “zero” fugitive emissions from natural gas infrastructure, let’s hope the AQCC can screw some new regulations to the sticking point.

      On the bright side for clean energy, Boulder’s own Will Toor is uniquely proud of a suite of successful bills for electric vehicles that led his agency, South West Energy Efficient Project, to launch Colorado to a leading grade of A- among six western states for EV’s. New bills included extended rebates for private purchases of EV’s and conversions of hybrids. For state and local governments to purchase EV’s, life cycle costs may now be considered as well as contracting through energy service companies to have EV’s paid for through fuel savings. PACE financing for commercial buildings and parking lots was expanded to cover charging stations. Also, apartment buildings and HOA’s will have to allow charging stations. And to address an old sore spot, a decal program will have EV owners pay a $50 tax per year for road maintenance and the construction of more public charging stations.

      We will see more charging stations – this comes with nice timing as Consumer Reports just named the Tesla Model S the best car. And as Colorado’s electric power sector cleans its emissions, the use of EV’s will leverage reductions in emissions from transportation.

      But that electric sector still has serious business leftover. Colorado has until June 7th to persuade the Governor to act on the gloriously debated SB 252 that would require rural electric providers to get 20 percent of their power from renewables. Since coal costs have about doubled over 10 years and Tri-States’ coal-rich power expenses have risen four times faster than sales, SB252 needs to pass for pocketbooks and to deal with that horrific new 400 ppm of CO2 in our atmosphere.

      Lies, damned lies and politicians

      Lies, damned lies and politicians

      Anne B. Butterfield, October 7, 2012 (Boulder Daily Camera)

      From the sparring at the first presidential debate, it's pretty sure that energy has become a divisive as well as a competitive issue. Both President Obama and Governor Romney want to be the triumphal producer of energy.

      However Romney likes to smear climate change concerns and clean energy investments, as if all of them go like Solyndra, where a half a billion in loan guarantees went down with the company, as he crowed that 50 percent of clean energy investments supported by the stimulus bill had gone belly up. This was dubbed the "lie of the night" by Michael Grunwald, author of a book about the stimulus bill, citing that maybe one percent of government backed clean energy ventures failed.

      Try getting that rate of safety in your investing. According to a new poll by Hart for the solar industry, voters seem to know that loan guarantees are a steadfast service of government and highly safe, as the Solyndra debacle was deemed unimportant by respondents. Ninety-two percent of registered voters found it important that solar be more widespread, with 70 percent believing that the federal government should be doing more to promote it with incentives (with 71 percent of swing voters feeling this way).

      And, sigh, with tens of thousands of wind power jobs on the chopping block already, Mitt Romney opposes the renewal of the Production Tax Credit. This, even as red states need it renewed, putting him in the dog house with GOP politicians such as Senator Chuck Grassely of Iowa whose state produces 20 percent of its power from wind, and Governor Brownback of Kansas who has made vigorous pleas for the extension of the credit, due to expire this at the end of this year.

      Didn't Romney get the memo? Republican governors are making hay with clean energy such as Haley Barbour and Chris Christie. To Mississippi, Barbour brought four solar sector firms to Mississippi along with two in biofuels plus a clean tech car venture with China. Christie made New Jersey a leading solar market in the nation, this year contending with California for first place.

      But Romney and other high priests of the GOP act as though the only real energy is the type that can be burned, and somehow, Obama has nibbled at this hemlock by constantly touting his success with fracking and his openness to the XL pipeline.

      A truly strange specter is that pipeline; it lets our heartland be used as a byway for tar sands products (which sink rather than float when spilled), so they can go straight to international markets. We get the downsides and none of the upsides -- even as the pipeline could increase gasoline prices in the Midwest, which would lose its existing access to tar sands products.

      One plausible upside of the pipeline being routed through the United States (where it might be built quickly, as would not happen in the alternative route through western Canada) is that it could strengthen the hand of President Obama in his suite of sanctions against Iran, including a worldwide boycott of Iranian oil. Our recent frack-mania allows our nation to resume oil production levels not seen for 15 years and thus strengthens our hand. Three weeks ago Iran admitted having problems selling oil due to U.S. and European sanctions; now the nation's currency is in free fall.

      One certainly hopes that tar sands will thrive mightily as a "psy-ops" against Iran and not as a chemical weapon against our climate, as Dr. James Hansen has sternly warned.

      Never bounded by his prior convictions about the climate, Romney crows that he would authorize the pipeline on day one and build it himself if need be (as if he in his wingtips could "John Wayne" his way around an oil field). It's all such a sham he-man rodeo.

      And no one mentioned the climate -- in spite of hundreds of thousands of petition signatures demanding the topic. Neither candidate pushed clean energy as the vote winner that poll after poll have shown it to be. Authors for DBL Investors in their study of green energy exclaim, "We all need to understand that green jobs are not the idle dreaming of a small group of partisan activists and insiders, but a source of livelihood for millions, literally in all parts of the country." The light shines in the darkness but the darkness of our politics has not understood it.

      Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking

      Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking Anne B. Butterfield, April 19, 2012 (Huffington Post)

      Eventually those local moratoriums against fracking will expire in Boulder, Longmont and Erie. And residents will worry anew about toxic fracking operations inching up on schools and neighborhoods in pursuit of a product that goes "poof" the instant it's used. Nice value ~ not.

      And it's timely that the University of Colorado at Denver School of Public Health just announced a study which finds that air pollution within a half mile of frack-ops have toxic emissions five times over federal safety standards, causing elevated life time cancer risks and respiratory and neurological effects for nearby residents. Rep. Diana DeGette is now urging the Environmental Protection Agency to consider Colorado's study as they finalize air standards for fracking.

      It has also just come out that fracking is inching up on agriculture to compete for Colorado's water. Taking only .08 of a percent per year, it's a smidge for sure, but that water gets so polluted it must be disposed in a way that removes it from the hydrologic cycle. And that's not pretty when we're looking down the craw of a new drought kicked off with an historic climate change induced heat wave plus a horrifying wildfire this season.

      Permanently voiding precious Colorado water out of the hydrologic cycle feels even worse in view the fact such water can be lost for naught when the depletion rate on fracking wells is 63-85 percent in the first year, according to Dave Hughes of the Geological Survey of Canada. This can mean fruitless water waste when drilling down the slippery slope of diminishing marginal returns.

      But Colorado will need all the more gas, as the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act requires Xcel Eenrgy in Colorado to soon retire 900 megawatts of coal burning capacity. The act also requires that the natural gas used for recouping that coal-fired capacity comes from in state (see page 18 here). That puts upward pressure on fracking all over the state. This means more tangles between fracking and populated areas, and more permanent loss of precious Colorado water. It seems like Colorado may have backed itself into a box canyon, where residents are cornered with fracking risks to land, air, water and health.

      But there's an elegant pathway to reducing Colorado's need for natural gas -- by using the sun in a familiar technology that is at least two times more efficient than solar photovoltaics. It's good old fashioned solar thermal - those rooftop panels that heat water.

      Colorado could amend the CACJA to promote solar thermal as a jobs intensive domestic energy supply that works with natural gas to heat homes, buildings, water and industrial processes. This could free drilling companies to sell excess Colorado gas out of state for much higher prices (see page 8 here), possibly gaining crucial industry support for this intrusion of renewables into their market. Higher profitability, less contentious drilling and more renewable energy jobs is the hope.

      In all of North American, Colorado is "ground zero" for the best conditions for producing huge benefits from solar thermal. It's the sunshine, cold ground water, high heating loads, renewables-savvy population and existing industry that can, if the state takes on robust targets, lead the nation in an industry that swaps jobs and skills in place of burning money. And burning money is what we do when we burn costly fuels that go poof the instant they're used.

      A robust Colorado plan for solar thermal could put the clean air and clean jobs back into the so-called, gas-friendly Clean Air Clean Jobs Act.

      And in case anyone has forgotten ~ there are huge economic risks with shale gas, a.k.a. the fracking boom, as the resource is almost certainly not as profitable, resourceful or as clean as hyped by industry. On deeper review, it's promising to be an economic bubble.

      Fracking is supposedly going to make our nation 100 years of cheap gas, as, amnesiac members of Congress and the President are wont to say. But various geological experts such as the Potential Gas Committe have poured cold water all over that flaming hype, detailing how the supply could be as little as 21 or even 11 years. And Arthur Berman, a widely regarded petro-geologist has commented that the industry reminds him of the sub prime mortgage mess and wrote, "U.S. shale plays share many characteristics with the gold rushes.... Both phenomena result from extreme promotion. Anyone can join. Every participant believes that they will get rich. Great amounts of capital are destroyed as entrants try to get a position. The bonanza is exhausted sooner than most expected and few profit in the end."

      So if you are one of the thousands of Coloradans who are waking up to the nightmare of fracking in your community - go online and read the Colorado Solar Thermal Roadmap. Then find every political leader you can to talk about it. Colorado would be wise to use its natural solar resources to hedge against an over-reliance on gas, one that shall expand as the CACJA requires. And coal with its rising prices is on the wane nationwide as well, which means the demand for gas will be a pressure cooker loaded with risk for our energy security, economy, and environment.


      Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble

      Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble
      Anne Butterfield, March 16, 2012 (Huffngton Post via NewEnergyNews)

      Fracking for natural gas is on Coloradans' minds. From landholders to policy makers, it's a pig pile of attention on the environmental effects, which are bad enough when real -- roads ruined by heavy trucks carting waste water, and waste water voided from the hydrologic cycle when stored in disposal wells, seeps from faulty linings of containment pits, methane leaks that make shale gas as climate intensive as coal, and air quality such as Erie's becomes more tainted with hydrocarbons than Houston and Los Angeles, to name just a few.

      Unincorporated Boulder County has just entered a moratorium on fracking, plus Erie and the city of Longmont as well. Aurora is crafting its own regulations. It's a patchwork of regulations in the making, amounting to one big "Whoa, Nellie!" to the industry.

      And as one driller told me, "involvement by local government is an expeditious way to curtail drilling." It's a big enough impediment to drilling that Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil hit the publicity trail last week to weigh in against layers of local regulation.

      However, something else that's supportive of the idea to just slow down is an economic backdrop not discussed enough -- the mythical quality of the claim of 100 years of gas, a claim oft-stated by President Obama. On this fossil fuel gold rush we are in the midst of a new bubble, say many researchers and experts.

      Imagine the nation creating another large economic bubble after all we've been through.

      And that's just what fossil energy researchers such as Dave Hughes of Canada have been claiming about shale gas plays and fracking, pointing out in a 2011 report, "conventional gas wells decline by 25-40 percent in their first year of production, whereas shale gas wells decline at rates such as 63-85 percent."

      Due to the costly inputs of capital, energy and water involved in fracking, shale gas is economic only in the most bountiful zones. And if capital was attracted to projects based on extrapolations from the best zones and early production rates, and if companies get caught up in land grabs hoping to profit (which has happened), then companies may need to "carpet bomb" areas with drill rigs to try to keep up production.

      This is another kind of pig pile, also known in Hughes' exemplary vernacular as the exploration "treadmill" and "an exercise in creating greater complexity with lower and lower returns." (For a truly deep dive into energy return on energy invested check this out and feel your investor heart go ack!!.)

      The Potential Gas Committee (an all-volunteer industry research group related to Colorado School of Mines) has assessments for gas indicating that while "resources" could suffice for 80 years of use, "reserves" may suffice for only about 23. Reserves are areas proven to have gas that can come up in economically and operationally effective ways. It's a difference of a bird in the pen versus several in the wind. It might be nice to have more than 23 firm years of gas now that coal plants are being retired all over the nation due to aging plants, depleting supplies of cheap coal and utilities gunning for supposedly cheap gas.

      Ian Urbina of the New York Times has been drilling down through gas industry emails and documents to find an unexpectedly low level of confidence in the gas boom, saying, "There is undoubtedly a vast amount of gas in the formations. The question remains how affordably it can be extracted." His reporting refers to possibly deliberate overstatement of reserves by speculators and of federal and state lawmakers considering drastically increasing subsidies for drilling in the hopes of low-cost energy.

      With this going on, any Colorado voter might ask with squinty-eyed suspicion what the heck Governor Hickenlooper was up to when he created and then defended radio ads for gas extraction paid for by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. It's a pie in the sky endorsement that should not come from one elected to represent the whole state who also happens to be a geologist who should know better. Environmental groups have erupted with push back stating that his proclamations of no leaks from fracking is not remotely accurate.

      Meanwhile, let's recall that it's called "oil and gas" for a reason. In some formations oil brought up with gas can subsidize and prolong drilling and fatten state coffers. We like the state making revenues in these forlorn TABOR days, but pumping up financial bubbles has a tendency to blow up in everyones' faces -- with Colorado's land, water, climate and energy future in the balance. And as the bubble grows it depletes a resource so precious as a feedstock for chemicals that insiders compare it to gold.

      We need to save that gas and slow down this pressure to frack it and burn it, so, let's push right back against the governor and Rex Tillerson and go for local control of fracking. Also, let's blunt our demand for gas by supporting solar thermal technology for heating buildings (see a video about Colorado becoming a global leader in solar thermal development).

      Perhaps Colorado should launch a new renewable energy standard for solar thermal to loosen our enslavement to fossil fuels for heating. Lastly, we need to support a renewed push for property assessed clean energy financing (PACE) for retrofitting homes for efficient and clean energy, in a bill created to support the program now happening in Congress (see HR 2599) and by putting in comments with home mortgage regulators who shut down the PACE program.

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