The US oil and gas industry's trade association is contemplating a push to lift a decades-old ban on US oil exports.
The 1970s era law is no longer relevant, critics of the ban say, since oil production in the United States is booming and demand is waning. Lifting the ban would spur job growth at home and create efficiencies in the global oil market, they say.
It will be a tough case to make to politicians and consumers who still see high prices at the gas pump, despite the hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil flowing each day out of shale rock formations in Texas, North Dakota, and elsewhere across the US. Why send those barrels overseas, they might ask, and open up the US to further dependency on foreign oil?
“Export issues are something we’re going to have to address,” John Felmy, the chief economist for the American Petroleum Institute (API), the oil and gas trade association, told Bloomberg Wednesday. “It’s a debate we have to have.” ( Continue… )
At one time it was thought that fuel cells had such promise, that they were going to be the power source of the future. George W. Bush, when president, even said that fuel cells would one day replace the internal combustion engine. However, the technology never lived up to the hype, and whilst other new energy technologies such as solar and wind grew in popularity, fuel cells were left by the wayside.
Now, it seems as though fuel cells are beginning to establish themselves in niches that show promise for the future, and that they might even be on their way to achieving grid parity, without the need of government subsidies. (Related article: The Cube – New Breakthrough Set to Alter the Energy Landscape Forever)
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Fuel cell technology is starting to play a bigger part in the world for several reasons: developments in the technology now allow it to work at 90% efficiency on a combined heat and power setting; low natural gas prices in the US offer an abundant source of cheap fuel; and the fuel cells can provide sources of electricity generation that have a low environmental footprint and need very little room, allowing them to be located close to the end consumer. ( Continue… )
Tuesday wasn't a great day for hydrocarbons.
Energy from fossil fuels isn't likely to disappear anytime soon, and supporters of the carbon-heavy fuels say curbs on emissions threaten to stymie economic growth. But election day 2013 served as a sort of referendum on Americans' attitude toward the country's changing energy mix, with bans on fracking, coal exports, and tar sands up on the ballot in a handful of states. In most cases, the results did not favor the status quo of US energy.
Environmental groups see election day 2013 as a microcosm of a broader public trend toward favoring clean energy as a way to mitigate the effects of climate change. In particular, they point to the defeat of pro-coal Ken Cuccinelli by pro-regulation Terry McAuliffe in the race for governor of Virginia, a state that has long profited from the region's coal industry. ( Continue… )
Tesla Motors (TSLA) sold a record 5,500 of its Model S electric cars in the third quarter of 2013. Investors sold the stock in droves, triggering a Nasdaq "circuit breaker" designed to slow sales of the stock.
Analysts have come to expect a lot out of the luxury electric carmaker, which has continually defied expectations in a tight automotive market. When sales numbers came in under most analysts' expectations late Tuesday, Tesla Motors' stock price took a big hit.
But Tesla's earnings report suggests the company's fundamentals remain strong, and Elon Musk, its chief executive, isn't one to think small. Investors can continue to expect a lot from the company in the coming months and years. Among other plans, Mr. Musk is contemplating building a factory to produce the lithium-ion batteries needed to power the company's electric cars.
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“This will be a giant facility. We are talking about something that is comparable to all of the lithium-ion battery production in the world — in one factory,” Musk said during a conference call with analysts late Tuesday, Forbes reported. “It’s big.” ( Continue… )
[Editor's note: This story was updated to include the voting results.]
By a narrow 47-to-46 percent margin, voters across Virginia elected Democrat Terry McAuliffe governor over Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II in a hotly contested race.
On coal, the two candidates offered starkly different paths forward for a state with a long history of extracting and exporting the carbon-heavy fossil fuel. Both candidates had the attention – and money – of interest groups on either side of the debate over America's energy future.
"The politics of energy and climate change have fundamentally shifted in Virginia," Navin Nayak, senior vice president of campaigns for the League of Conservation Voters, which backed Mr. McAuliffe, wrote in a memo Monday, ahead of election day. "This continues a national trend that started in 2012, and previews how energy issues will play in the 2014 electoral landscape."
"Virginia used to be a state where the coal industry shaped the political landscape," Mr. Nayak added. "That’s no longer the case"
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McAuliffe broke ranks with other coal-state Democrats to openly support new regulations on power plants from the Environmental Protection Agency. It was a bold move for a region where EPA is sometimes mockingly spelled out as "Employment Prevention Agency," and the Obama administration is seen as waging a "war on coal." His election deals a blow to coal on its own turf, further dimming the outlook for a source of energy already threatened by cheap, plentiful natural gas. ( Continue… )
Europe’s answer to saving energy by imposing blackouts on the streets may be avoided with the commercialization of smart street lights that sense when they are needed and dim when they are not.
The intelligent streetlight system, designed by Dutch Delft University of Technology, using motion sensing technology that automatically dims streetlights to 20% power when no pedestrians or vehicles are in the vicinity—and the idea is ready to go commercial.
Europe pays over $13 billion a year powering streetlights, and this massive sum accounts for more than 40% of government energy bills. From another perspective, we’re talking about 40 million tons of CO2 emissions annually, equal to that of 20 million cars. (Related article: IKEA Tries to Simplify Solar)
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For now, European cities are contemplating the imposition of blackouts on the streets after midnight in rural and residential areas. But the new smart lighting technology could avoid this. ( Continue… )
Talk about range anxiety.
India launched its first spacecraft to Mars Tuesday on a trip that will last over 300 days at a cost of $72 million. The 3,000-pound orbiter named Mangalyaan – or "Mars orbiter" in Hindi – faces the unenviable task of traveling 485 million miles through space to visit the dusty, lonesome Red Planet.
It will take a lot of fuel, but perhaps not as much as you might think. In nearly half a century of flights to Mars, engineers have developed techniques for cutting down on fuel and harnessing the natural celestial movements of Earth and its neighbors to propel crafts through space.
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To say it's a complicated journey is an understatement. You can't just aim a rocket at Mars and fire away. The Red Planet is a moving target, and so is the pad from which you launch. Instead, scientists must aim for where Mars will be once the orbiter has finished its journey. ( Continue… )
The thermostat of today is going the way of the rotary phone.
Taking a page from Silicon Valley's playbook, utilities and energy companies are designing "home energy management systems" (HEMS) to cut down on energy waste and make heating and cooling your home easier. At the core of the movement is a new generation of "smart" thermostats that leverage cheap sensors, data analytics, and other bells and whistles of the IT world to take the guesswork out of programming your thermostat.
It's an emerging field, expected to continue to grow as users come to expect of all devices the same intuitive design they get from their smartphones.
"[T]he combined factors of increased energy awareness, interest in home automation and security tools, and more user-friendly solutions have led to an uptick in shipments for residential smart thermostats during the past year and have revived a sense of optimism and excitement among vendors and stakeholders,” Bob Lockhart, research director with Navigant Research, said in a statement upon the release of the Colorado-based consultancy's October report on smart thermostats. ( Continue… )
A British government report said it's unlikely that hydraulic fracturing in shale natural gas sites will lead to groundwater contamination. While the British shale story is in its infancy, the government's report said policymakers may want to monitor everything from radioactive elements to noise pollution when mulling their shale future. Spills above ground may pose a risk but the report said that threat stems from operational failures or poor regulation, not so much the drilling practice itself. Critics have long challenged the practice, dubbed fracking. With science moving ahead of the debate, however, those opponents may be forced to change their tune.
Frack Off, a grassroots group in the United Kingdom, said threats from shale gas extraction include methane leaks, groundwater contamination and radioactive contamination. A report published last week by Public Health England, an agency within the Department of Health, said "potential risks to public health from exposure to the emissions associated with shale gas extraction are low if the operations are properly run and regulated". (Related article: When will the Shale Bubble Burst?)
The success of shale natural gas in the United States has pushed the country to a leadership position in terms of overall production. Last month, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Energy Department,said the United States is on pace to pass Russia as the world's leading natural gas producer thanks in part to shale extraction. The British government estimates the Bowland shale play, near Lancashire, may contain enough natural gas to last the country for decades to come. So far, however, there are no commercial shale gas operations in the United Kingdom. ( Continue… )
Coloradans in four communities will vote Tuesday on whether to prohibit a controversial drilling technique that has been central to a boom in US energy production.
The oil and gas wells in and around the towns represent a fraction of the state's total production, and an even smaller slice of the total US oil and gas output. But the debate is highly symbolic, and it comes just months after massive floods spilled tens of thousands of gallons of oil and gas condensate in northwest Colorado. What happens in Colorado may serve as a litmus test for the oil and gas industry, as fracking continues to spread across the US.
“If we are successful in the campaign, we expect to pivot and move to a more statewide effort,” Russell Mendell, an organizer for Frack Free Colorado, an advocacy group, told The Wall Street Journal. ( Continue… )