Half of California’s Nuclear Generating Capacity Shut Down
I’m still digesting last week’s announcement by Southern California Edison that the utility’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) in Southern California will close permanently, nine years prior to the expiration of the facility’s operating license. The plant’s two nuclear reactors were shut down for repairs in early 2012, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) still hadn’t approved the company’s plan to restart them, despite a protracted review. Although this event is quite different from the 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan, its ripples are likely to extend beyond California, where both the state’s electricity market and its greenhouse gas emissions will be adversely affected.
California’s Emissions Could Increase by 6 Million Tons per Year
Before considering how the San Onofre closures will affect the nation’s nuclear industry and generating mix, let’s focus on California. While accounting for only 3% of the state’s 2011 generating capacity from all sources, the SONGS reactors typically contributed around 8% of the state’s annual electricity generation, due to their high utilization rates. That’s a large slice of low-emission power to remove from the energy mix in a state that iscommitted to reduce its emissions below 1990 levels. ( Continue… )
General Motors has decided to offer potential buyers of the Chevrolet Volt as much as $5,000 to incentivise them into making a purchase. Demand for electric vehicles is low, and falling lower, and manufacturers such as GM and Nissan are desperate to try anything to try and increase sales.
GM has already reduced the price of the Volt so some doubt that performing the same trick again will help to boost sales, although Nissan experienced some success when it cut the price of the Leaf battery electric vehicle earlier in the year.
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When first released onto the market nearly three years ago, expectations were high for the Volt and Leaf, but they have consistently failed to meet their sales targets, in fact only a few battery electric vehicles have actually come close to achieving their targets, the Tesla Model S being the obvious example. (Related article: Mercedes SLS Electric Drive Laps Nürburgring in Under 8 Minutes) ( Continue… )
The Westminster explosion that rattled a suburban Denver neighborhood Thursday is being blamed on a natural gas leak.
The blast leveled one house, shattered nearby windows, and scattered shingles, insulation, and other debris across front lawns. Several nearby homes were damaged in the Westminster explosion, but no major injuries were reported.
In the wake of the late-morning blast, authorities were unable to locate three people living in the destroyed home, but by Thursday afternoon, the three residents were safe and accounted for.
Bosch has just entered the EV charging market with its simple 240 volt Power Max charging station for $499.00. Considering that dishwashers, clothes dryers, and hot water heaters can cost less than that, you can bet that the price for this small, relatively simple device will eventually be a lot lower. The Ecotality Blink charging station in my garage cost about $1,200. Neither is actually a charger. They are devices that interface with the charger carried inside the car. How fast you can charge with 240 volts is ultimately limited by the charger that came with the car. The difference is that the Blink station interfaces with the internet, allowing the DOE to study my charging habits, which is fine by me becausethey paid for it.
The Ecotality Business Model
Ecotality is also installing Level 2 (240 volt) charging stations in business parking lots. For now, charging is free but eventually you will be charged for your, ah, charge. I don’t see this business model having a long-term future. An analogy might be a company that designed a hitching post tailored for Henry Ford’s first car design (that looked a lot like a buggy) which might have seemed like a great idea by car and saloon owners until they realized you don’t need a hitching post for a car.
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A Level 2 charging station will provide about 6 miles of range for the 2011-2012 Leafs, and about 12 miles for the 2013 and newer models in the 30 minutes you’re shopping, worth maybe 25-50 cents or so depending, while it is still free. But how many EV owners will bother to drive a few extra miles to a store with a charger, especially when it isn’t even free? ( Continue… )
Oil production from OPEC-member Libya, a leading African oil producer, hasn't recovered from civil war. The state oil company said it wasn't able to return to its pre-war glory because of ongoing protests that forced the closure of two export terminals and an entire oil field. OPEC said in its monthly report for June that oil demand should continue to grow this year as global economies slowly start to recover. China is leading in terms of oil demand growth and it's North America, not the Middle East, that's leading the way in oil production. With demand and production centers shifting away from the Middle East and North Africa, Libya may find itself in a long-term state of disrepair.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said it expected world oil demand would increase by 800,000 barrels per day in 2013. China is expected to lead in terms of oil demand with 400,000 bpd, the cartel said. On the supply side, OPEC projected growth from outside the cartel at 1 million bpd for 2013, a figure supported by "strong anticipated growth" from the United States. (Related article: Libya Wants to Sell Oil. Is Anyone Listening?)
The U.S. Energy Department's short-term market report paints a similar picture, with U.S. tight oil and Canadian oil sands expected to drive production growth for non-OPEC members. The United States is expected to produce 8.1 million bpd by 2014, a 24 percent increase from 2012 levels. That means the world's leading economy is importing less foreign oil from places like Libya. In February, the United States didn't import any oil at all from Libya. ( Continue… )
By the end of the year, newly appointed Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will tackle one of America's most pressing energy issues: How much liquefied natural gas (LNG) the United States will export to other nations.
"[W]e will expeditiously work through the remaining applications [to build LNG export terminals], reviewing each one on a case-by-case basis to ensure that all approvals are in the public interest," Mr. Moniz said Thursday in prepared remarks for his first congressional testimony as head of the Department of Energy.
When a member of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee asked the secretary whether he would make decisions on export applications this year, he responded: "Yes, absolutely," but declined to be more specific.
It's a sensitive subject, because the US shale boom has created a glut of natural gas. Energy companies are eager to further open up that shale gas production to world markets and push depressed gas prices back up. But those prices have benefitted residential and industrial consumers. More exports could mean an end to cheap electricity from the natural gas oversupply. ( Continue… )
Oil also gained elsewhere in the world, pushing global production up 2.2 percent in 2012, according to BP's annual report on global energy, released Wednesday. Demand for energy, meanwhile, grew at a more moderate pace than it did in 2011.
“The data show there is ample energy available," Bob Dudley, BP group chief executive, said in a statement. "Our challenge as an industry is to make the best choices about where to invest."
The surge in US production is largely due to new drilling techniques that recover oil from shale rock formations across North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and other parts of the country. The hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling of shale also unlocks previously trapped troves of natural gas. US production of natural gas jumped 4.9 percent in 2012, according to BP. ( Continue… )
U.S. Power Producers Offer Insight for Investors and Policymakers Worldwide
As the number two carbon emitter on the globe, behind only China, U.S. power generation’s impact on carbon emissions can shed light on our progress. U.S. data can also inform other countries as they make choices regarding their energy portfolio mixes, particularly in power generation fuel source decisions. It would seem easier to start cleaner than to become cleaner.
Carbon emissions, a chief culprit in the warming of the planet, crossed a new threshold with uncertain consequences in May to 400 parts per million (ppm). The last time concentrations were this high was 3 to 5 million years ago — featuring an earth with higher sea levels and forests extending to the Arctic Ocean, according to an atmospheric scientist. It was a reminder to those concerned about the effects of climate change and others supportive of a lower carbon economy that considerable heavylifting lies ahead. A goal of 450 ppm is considered a threshold to ward off temperature rises higher than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 Fahrenheit.
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The financial community and shareholders appear to be the influential tail stirring the wind around the emissions mega-dog. It is worth noting that publicly-traded firms are supposed to disclose “material” effects of climate-related risks on business operations. Ratings agencies such as Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s have looked at the credit impacts of climate change in the power sector. In ten year’s time, institutional investors of the Investor Network on Climate Risk, numbering 100 with $10 trillion in assets, are influencing firms to disclose risks and opportunities associated with climate change and the shift toward a lower carbon economy. In a study by the U.S. SIF Foundation, 11% of professionally-managed U.S. investments — $ 3.74 trillion — were selected based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria. ( Continue… )
As we have built more fuel efficient transportation vehicles over the years, we have been able to curtail our consumption of motor gasoline and distillates – diesel. However even with more fuel efficient vehicles, our gasoline consumption as measured by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) of total product supplied has been fairly stable since the 1980’s as more vehicles have come onto the road to offset greater fuel efficiency. Then in 2008, the Great Recession hit brought on by the financial crisis and the trend accelerated dramatically downward. By 2008 fuel consumption began to slide downward, by 2012 gasoline consumption literally fell off the cliff.
The primary catalyst for the dramatic decline in motor gasoline demand has been weak economic growth in the U.S. that has been exacerbated by stubbornly high retail fuel prices pegged to relatively high crude prices, despite a deepening global recession.
Not only has gasoline demand been weak since 2009, it has been successfully lower roughly each year to year the date in 2013. Within the last month gasoline retail sales have moved upward, whether we see this 2013 trend pass above 2012 remains to be seen. For now, clearly demand in 2013 remains below previous years.
Retail fuel consumption may or may not recover to post 2008 levels, but what is clear is that we are living in a world of multi headwinds for energy consumption, relatively high crude prices, and slow global economic growth.
If oil pipelines had personalities, the proposed Keystone XL would be a Hollywood starlet. It's always elbowing into the spotlight.
Never mind that the Canada-Texas line would create only about 35 permanent jobs. Or that the tar sands (or oil sands) bitumen flowing through the pipeline would create, by one estimate, a significant but not enormous 17 percent more greenhouse gases on a life-cycle basis than the average barrel of oil. As a political symbol, Keystone XL is hugely important for environmentalists and the energy industry.
Those living in the path of the proposed pipeline certainly have reason to care about Keystone XL. For the energy industry, the proposed 1,179-mile oil pipeline represents an opportunity to create jobs and supply the United States with oil from a friendly neighbor. For environmentalists, it's a litmus test for the administration's and America's resolve to cut greenhouse gas emissions.