NewEnergyNews-Butterfield Archive

WALL STREET JOURNAL'S Environmental Capital quotes NewEnergyNews:

  • 06/05/2007
  • --------------------------- ---------------------------

    WALL STREET JOURNAL selects NewEnergyNews as one of the "Blogs We Are Reading" --

  • 05/14/2007
  • 04/16/2007
  • 03/28/2007
  • -------------------


      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.

    • -------------------
    • NewEnergyNews


      Paying the IOU: Boulder and its Expiring Xcel Franchise

      Anne Butterfield, June 25, 2010

      Since Boulder is now parsing its options on whether to renew its franchise with Xcel Energy, let's take a minute to review what it really means to pay out so much every month to an investor-owned utility, an IOU.

      Amusing and clear it is for me.

      Years ago I found some stocks that offered a great "yield" which is the cash dividend expressed in ratio to the current price. I'd found some doozies. They were utilities.

      In a line she remembers to this day, my stockbroker snorted, "Only blue haired ladies invest in utilities; they need the cash pay out - you're young, so get something that can grow in value for you!"

      Ever since, I've looked at utilities as the slow moving cash cows of the equities field - low on innovation, heavy in capital and regulation, glacially slow on market penetration, but grimly certain in revenues. A boring business model -- but now one increasingly vulnerable to erratic pricing of fossil fuels and climate based lawsuits due to their use of coal. As monopolies, big utilities are steered by cumbersome regulation and in turn steer regulatory staff and lawmakers with compelling force; their revenues fund lavish executive compensation, eye-catching PR and marketing, legal teams that are the envy of small countries, with plenty left over for shareholders.

      This is the business model that we in Boulder fund through our monthly utility bills to Xcel which last month announced its eighth straight year of increased dividends to shareholders, with company projections indicating even higher profits for the coming year. The Denver Business Journal just reported that Xcel's CEO Dick Kelly's pay doubled over the previous year, pocketing $11 million and change.

      Investor owned utilities are the most expensive way to get electricity, according to the American Public Power Association, with IOU electric residential rates being 17 percent above rates charged by publicly owned municipal utilities, or "muni's" (with commercial rates in an IOU also being 9 points higher than in "muni's").

      So, when or if we renew our franchise with Xcel this year, we shall pay higher costs and gain no energy sovereignty, as compared with being our own municipal utility. True, becoming a muni does incur special costs in the first years in buying down the local distribution system, but it's not clear if said costs would be much more than the premium we now pay for Xcel's IOU status.

      With Xcel, we pay Cadillac prices to cruise at the clean edge of the fossil fuel pack, but with a muni, we could be in a thrifty Prius zooming towards lots of wind and solar, shielded from coal's various costs.

      In Boulder's struggle to find new ways to do business with Xcel, first came the idea to form a Boulder/Xcel partnership to scale up rapid decarbonization, with hopes of using the wisdom of National Renewable Energy Labs and other labs to promote and track methods of integrating large amounts of renewable energy on the grid.

      This hope was panned by Xcel as being outside the scope of what a franchise or regulation would allow.

      There has been talk of Community Choice Energy Aggregation as a way for Boulder to select its own energy mix through power purchase agreements with wind or solar farms and other resources, and the distribution would be "rented." This option is sometimes called "muni'-lite". Though many communities in Colorado have passed CCEA status for themselves, the Legislature has not authorized it. California has put Community Choice on the map and is showing others how to follow.

      Another option proposed by Xcel is for Boulder to aggressively promote the use of Windsource, where the majority in Boulder do not subscribe (even in a city which voted to tax its carbon emissions). The program provides wind power for every kilowatt hour sought in that scheme (actually it's a mix of mostly wind and other clean fuels). But the program has no leverage on the overall carbon-intensity of Xcel's power generation -- and Windsource customers pay for that also in their rates. Some have shunned this option has being too many black electrons in green clothing.

      That leaves Boulder with many muddled options that deserve professional analysis. We could pass a CCEA and then work on the Legislature to authorize it; we could work to have more people use Windsource -- and still pay large premiums to Xcel for its IOU status as well as its brand new coal plant in Pueblo that provides excess power for the first few years; we could aim to become a muni which would incur both costs and savings and give us energy sovereignty.

      All of the options merit research and community education, and for this fall's election we need to see an item on the ballot that authorizes the city to collect a small tax in case the franchise falls out and lops off the franchise fee which Xcel now reimburses Boulder and reaches about $4 million per year. It's a collect-and-pay-back scheme that Boulder voters should be glad to replace as a way to explore options.

      An interesting twist: Boulder's choice is highlighted this month with the defeat of California's Proposition 16, in which the big utility PG&E proposed that in order for a municipality to take charge of sourcing its electricity (or even expand its range) it would have to get two-thirds vote of support by the citizens. Here we see, as if in Aesop's fables, how nakedly IOU's strive to protect their monopoly status. Fortunately, the grassroots opposition defeated PG&E and its $46 million effort with a budget of about $100,000, or less than a quarter of a percent as much money.

      People can stand up to a big utility and win -- even with a quarter penny in the pocket for every dollar of the big company. And whose $46 million was it that PG&E spent? The rate payers'? The shareholders'? Whichever -- file it under W for Waste. That's life when paying the IOU.

      As good as Xcel has been cleaning up its future energy portfolio here in Colorado, staying with this investor-owned utility and failing to leverage our values and technical passions could be Boulder's costliest choice.

      Versions of this have appeared at the Daily Camera and the Huffington Post.