NewEnergyNews-Butterfield Archive

WALL STREET JOURNAL'S Environmental Capital quotes NewEnergyNews:

  • 06/05/2007
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  • 05/14/2007
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  • 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


      Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation

      Anne B. Butterfield, June 7, 2011

      The city of Boulder, Colorado is on the way to creating a new, clean energy future in a process that may mean breaking away from Xcel Energy and creating its own municipal utility. Conversely, Boulder could consider partnership with Xcel in a plan created by the utility to help the city meet its energy goals. Those goals are to democratize, decentralize and decarbonize the energy supply for the city.

      However, it turns out that Xcel Energy may not provide a proposal to Boulder. In last week's City Council study session, City Manager Jane Brautigam said that there is no firm date for presentation of a proposal; indeed there is no assurance that there will be one. Xcel has already missed two deadlines this year after tangling with the city last year over Boulder's request for a partnership plan.

      And if Xcel punts, or gives a proposal that is heavily similar to "business as usual" with all of its exposure to fossil fuels and a rate hike of 33 percent in the next nine years, then the case for municipalization becomes starkly stronger.

      If Boulder creates a municipal utility, its energy system will rely on two major modes of generation. One will be natural gas-powered base load energy, provided most likely by one of the independent power producers cast off by Xcel (as it builds its own natural gas plants to replace a lot of old coal burning capacity). The second will be distributed and efficient generation of clean power around the city to push back against that use of gas.

      Some have pointed out some well-known environmental threats of natural gas. It's not so clean on a life cycle basis due to fugitive emissions of methane. Only loads of research could force people to see gas as being "worse than coal," as alleged, since after all coal outgasses methane every moment that it's exposed to air -- on top of being Pigpen when it comes to releasing CO2 and toxins upon combustion. Bottom line: no one should be shocked to learn that a large increase in the use of gas is merely a side-step toward greenhouse gas reduction.

      But here's why natural gas is still a necessary step:

      The quick ramping capability of natural gas power units enables renewable energy to supply the grid with little or no concerns for reliability. This is how grids are stabilized now anyway in the face of intermittent loads such as appliances going on randomly. Gas is therefore the "bridge fuel" for putting a bridge between coal's rigid base load power and the dodgy ways of everyday demand; in the same way, natural gas can lead to a world heavily powered by renewables.

      Therefore the picture clean energy advocates in Boulder are aiming for is one where the city gets its base load from natural gas and then the community pushes back on the gas with increasing inputs from wind and solar. Of particular interest, the cost of integrating that intermittent solar on the grid can be reduced by, get this, adding more solar! Research out of Lawrence Berkeley National Labs has shown that the cost of integrating solar power onto the grid drops rapidly as installations get dispersed, over say, a 25-mile spread. If a grid area is gifted with one solar plant, the cost of integration is four cents per kilowatt hour. If the system has five solar plants, integration costs one cent/kwhr. And with 25 plants, that cost drops to a quarter-cent per kilowatt hour.

      And solar costs are plummeting. There's been a 50 percent price decline in solar modules since 2008, and a 20 percent decline in the installed price in 2010 alone, according to Climate Progress.

      The recent, rapid price decline of solar is one reason that David Crane, CEO of the large utility NRG, has all but told Forbes' Todd Woody that NRG will jump into the residential solar business, the backbone of DG:

      "We think over the next three to five years the solar business will migrate heavily from a utility-sized solar business to a more of a distributed solar model driven by consumer demand not by government largesse," he said. "And we expect to be out in the forefront of that."

      When local generation is spread around a community of small providers, with generation placed close to loads and a bit of smart grid, what you get is distributed generation.

      And to save even more on energy and integration, add demand response, which means contracting with customers to shunt their energy use at critical times. Add to that combined heat and power (CHP) which is any well-designed use of excess heat off of combustion turbines and processing plants to give extra services like hot water for heating and cleaning.

      According to Sean Casten, CEO of Recycled Energy Development, Denmark gets 50 percent of its power from CHP, and the state of Maine gets 33 percent.

      These efficiency solutions are most suitable to the business model of a municipally owned utility which can be in the business of reducing customer demand. By contrast, an investor-owned utility cannot sharply cut that which pays its investors, which is the sale of more electrons.

      There are more known economic benefits of local power. Boulder's pals at National Renewable Energy Labs put out a study in 2009 showing a tendency for locally-owned wind power generation to proffer nearly three times as many jobs as absentee-owned resources, with a total economic boost up to three times better than absentee-owned.

      More on jobs: the installation of new solar PV yields up to 14 times more jobs for coal's and natural gas' one job produced on new projects, and wind offering up to four times as many jobs also. The renewables also yield better permanent jobs, too, as reported in 2009 study from UC Berkeley.

      If Xcel does not provide a plan for how Boulder can join the city in a new direction, Boulder's job is to plan out a safe transition to a natural gas-fired power provider who can keep the lights on and integrate increasing amounts of renewables and efficiencies at a price in line or less than what they'd be paying otherwise.

      On the pathway to owning its own power, Boulder will need to do lots of outreach and education about the energy options in a concise and accurate way. Leaders will also need to spell out for voters the nuances among of bond ratings and the bonding instruments that are especially attractive for municipalities. Reports of "unlimited bonding authority" have created a flap among doubters, when the subject matter is revenue bonds.

      But one thing is not in question, and that is whether our town can attract world class talent for a very exciting clean energy proposition.

      In its still-heavy reliance on fossil fuels, Xcel may find its situation getting more precarious. David Crane put it this way: "There is reason to assume that as a post-industrial society that might be getting more serious than it has about conservation and efficiency with widespread support for more renewables, if a company like ours were to find itself as the fossil fuel power generation company, we would be in a business that is in terminal decline." David Crane perfectly voices what so many in Boulder are suspecting, and that's what they want to get free of, with the help of their home-rule rights assured in Colorado's constitution.

      A version of this column ran in the Boulder Daily Camera.