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


      Occupy, Xcel, And the Mother of All Cliffs
      Anne B. Butterfield, October 27, 2011 (Huffington Post)

      While the nation salivates -- or trembles -- at the thought of how the Occupy Wall Street movement will affect elections for years to come (and bankers on Wall Street are already furious that Democratic politicians have murmured sweet support for the Occupy movement), an Occupy-style ballot initiative is being voted on as I type. It will be decided on November 1, up in Boulder.

      It's all about transferring the keys to a centrally controlled function in our economy from the hands of a distant, multi-state, investor-owned monopoly that makes money mostly by burning coal, and putting those keys into the hands of locally elected people who can be approached from city hall to the hardware store, in a non-profit business model that lowers overhead costs, maximizes rate payer value and aims for local, distributed generation of clean energy.

      2B and 2C call on the voters to allow the city to pursue, with teeth, the question of pulling away from Xcel Energy. If a favorable financial picture emerges through the inquiry, then forming a local and transparent municipal utility based on clean energy is permitted though not required, so this election is often termed a "next step" not a final step. "Munis," as they are called, give affordable, reliable service in thousands of communities in the nation, but Boulder's muni would bear the brand of clean energy as lived out by the city's many hundreds of clean energy entrepreneurs and experts. (The campaign site is here and the city's issue guide is here.)

      But underneath the flair roils the same fundamental concerns felt by the so-called "99%" of Occupy Wall Street. Concerns like whether it's tolerable that decisions made by monopolies are made chiefly for shareholder profit when deadly costs are being externalized. Or whether it's tolerable that decisions made repetitively by "too big to fail" organizations are made with complacent blindness to risks that are obvious to outsiders. And, whether it's tolerable that the risky investments that do go bad are paid off by the masses while the few proceed to profit.

      These worries are at the core of the Occupy movement, which Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz has called "socialized losses and privatized gains." And it turns out that the silent, hulking company behind folks' power oulet has often proven to be an agent of huge social risk and and private gain.

      Big utilities are the "too big to fail" entities at the end of your power cord, being monopolies that are insulated from the risks of their undertakings, be they the chanciness of a big nuclear plant investment (think of the Fort St. Vrain Nuclear Plant that ran briefly and badly and was still paid off by rate payers), or the systemic risk of spewing fossil-fuel emissions for over a century resulting in the recent uptick in unprecedented deadly storms, or the straight-up investment risk of relying on coal supplies that are nowhere near as stout as proclaimed.

      Actually, our nation's coal reliance is proving to be a ticking time bomb of risk, says leading Boulder energy advocate Leslie Glustrom, whose research revealing the work of the United States Geological Survey has shown that the U.S. has maybe 20 more years of affordable coal. And the subject has been getting attention for a few years (for example here or here). Think about that -- 20 more years of the "cheap" coal that runs about 45 percent our nation's grid.

      “..Our time frame for moving beyond coal is much closer to 20 years than the 200 years we've been told so often.
      Once again our government has gotten it just plain wrong -- we might realize the government has just plain gotten it wrong in a number of areas (laughing) lately, and in this case the Energy Information Administration has been telling people we have 250 years of coal, but they have never analyzed that assessment for how much is actually accessible in any sort of economic or reasonable fashion.
      When you look at the geologic studies that have been done by the United States Geological Survey you realize that way under 20 percent of this nation's coal is going to be economic accessible (3:48)...

      (4:20) And then [if you] actually look at the coal mines, you realize that whether you look at the state level or mine specific level in Wyoming, where 40% of our country's coal comes from, you realize these coal mines are facing unbelievably serious constraints. Those are already incredibly apparent to anybody who is looking, but the problem is that no one is looking because everyone assumes we have over 200 years of coal. But if you start looking you realize the costs of coal are mounting quickly, you realize coal is not showing up at coal plants even though the coal plant has contracts; you realize like my utility in Colorado that the price they expect to pay for coal (next year) in 2010 is the price that last year they predicted they'd be paying in 2042.

      So the folks who are in charge are just completely using the wrong frame for looking at coal because my utility is off by three decades. And when we asked them about their long term coal supply you get the answer back repeatedly in writing in these very legal formats, "We've no analysis of long term coal supply; we have no such thing." And so it's very important that our country come to understand that because if we drive over that cliff the way we've driven over the cliff with investment banking and the real estate industry and the big three and on and on, this is a cliff [that] is the mother of them all. Because our country doesn't understand how to function without electricity. (5:46)”
      From nextagenda via YouTube

      The "my utility" she's referring to is Xcel, the same one Boulder is voting to separate from, the same utility that decided to complete construction of a 750 megawatt coal plant in Pueblo, after the U.S. Supreme Court decided that carbon dioxide was a hazard to human health -- also after Ms. Glustrom had been pelting the utility with questions about long term coal supplies to which they had no answers (for example, see the document called Total Amount of Coal Under Contract by Xcel 2008-2015: here).

      Now we know, thanks to Glustrom, that Xcel's modeling assumed that coal costs will rise less than 2 percent a year even though between 2004 and 2009 Xcel's coal costs went up about 10 percent a year. On that she concluded, "With a [Colorado] system that's 60 percent coal, give or take, the cost of coal has an impact."

      click to enlarge

      Though coal constraints are felt here in Colorado, they are no small bore regional issue, being felt nationally and globally. This summer utilities of China faced $2 billion in losses due to coal price spikes, and India is facing weather-related coal shortages to 85 gigawatts of installed coal-burning capacity. Xcel in Colorado and all coal-reliant utilities in the U.S. are playing with a deck stacked against them as they increasingly buy from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, the motherlode coal supply of the U.S., which is headed into a brick wall -- or the cliff that's mother of them all (see pages 48-58 here).

      And thus Boulder's quest was formed in leery concern about coal costs as well as for the need to sharply reduce planet-heating emissions, in a gesture that will serve as a warning to all coal based utilities and display an attractive business model to other cities for keeping more energy revenues at home. As affluent as Boulder is, it can feel the injustice of being bullied into continuing to let $114 million of its annual economic activity be owned by a multi-state corporation operating in an inherently destructive paradigm.

      click to enlarge

      Xcel just this month moved to have Glustrom ousted from her traditional standing as a citizen intervenor in a docket at the Public Utilities Commission, where her presence gives a patina of public involvement at the regulatory body. Xcel also just threatened to cut off Boulder's access to clean energy programs if 2B and 2C pass, a threat that appears to be a sham. It was done on the logic that rate payers of Colorado should not foot the bill for Boulder's use of program monies while it is seceding, though earlier, Xcel sought repayment from Colorado ratepayers for its excess expenses on Boulder's Smart Grid City. This gambit is not about logic to benefit ratepayers, it's about hardball to benefit shareholders.

      These examples show one utility acting in a nasty way during an election season, since as we know power never gives up without a fight. But the larger point is that big, centrally powerful utilities are risk factories on par with the big banks that gambled with our economy at tax payers' expense. But the utilities are gambling with our energy supply as well as our planet. And Boulder is doing something about it.

      This column was written in honor of Boulder activist Dan Friedlander.