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


      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.