Published: Thursday 6 December 2012
ExxonMobil’s bill has done exactly what it set out to do: business as usual for the oil and gas industry.

 

Last year, a hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") chemical fluid disclosure "model bill" was passed by both the Council of State Governments (CSG) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It proceeded to pass in multiple states across the country soon thereafter, but asBloomberg recently reported, the bill has been an abject failure with regards to "disclosure."

That was by design, thanks to the bill's ...

Published: Sunday 18 November 2012
“The Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), an oil and gas industry front group, CEA Counsel John Northington said he believes a ‘Keystone XL North’ rubber stamp is in the works by the Obama Administration.”

The Tar Sands Blockade of TransCanada Corporation's "Keystone XL South" continues in Texas, but former members of the Clinton and George W. Bush cabinets believe the northern half will soon be green-lighted by President Barack Obama. 

In a Nov. 13 conference call led by the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), an oil and gas industry front group, CEA Counsel John Northington said he believes a "Keystone XL North" rubber stamp is in the works by the Obama Administration. 

“I think the Keystone will be approved in fairly short order by the administration,” Northington said on the call.

Northington has worn many hats during his long career:

[He] served in the Clinton Administration at the Department of the Interior as Senior Advisor to the Director of the Bureau of Land Management. Mr. Northington also served as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management with energy policy responsibility for the former Minerals Management Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Mr. Northington began his government service at the Department of Energy, ...

Published: Saturday 17 November 2012
“The least likely scenario of de-escalation, which would require U.S. unilateral steps showing it was willing to make concessions to resolve the standoff, would result in an estimated global economic benefit of 60 billion dollars.”

 

The world economy would bear substantial costs if the United States took steps to significantly escalate the conflict with Iran over its controversial nuclear program, according to the findings of a Federation of American Scientists’ (FAS) special report released here Friday.

Based on consultations with a group of nine bipartisan economic and national security experts, the findings showed the effects of U.S. escalatory action against Iran could range from 64 billion to 1.7 trillion dollars in losses for the world economy over the initial three-month term.

The least likely scenario of de-escalation, which would require U.S. unilateral steps showing it was willing to make concessions to resolve the standoff, would result in an estimated global economic benefit of 60 billion dollars.

“The study’s findings suggest that there are potential costs to any number of U.S.-led actions and, in general, the more severe the action, the greater the possible costs,” Mark Jansson, FAS’s special projects director, told IPS.

“That being said, even among experts, there is tremendous uncertainty about what might happen at the higher end of the escalation ladder,” added Jansson, the second author of the report after Charles P. Blair, an FAS senior fellow on state and non-state threats.

The six plausible scenarios of U.S.-led actions against Iran included isolation and a Gulf blockade, which would include U.S. moves to “curtail any exports of refined oil products, natural gas, energy equipment and services”, the banning of the Iranian energy sector worldwide (incurring an estimated global economic cost of 325 billion dollars), and a comprehensive bombing campaign that would also target Iran’s ability to retaliate (incurring an estimated global ...

Published: Monday 12 November 2012
“The dangers of coal ash are well documented. And the decision to allow this sludge to remain in the Kingston River, which is the result of poor decision-making during past environmental catastrophes, shows why it is of utmost importance to prevent future spills.”

Four years after a coal processing plant operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) accidentally released tons of toxic coal ash into waterways in Kingston, the cleanup has finally come to an end. 

But just because cleanup efforts have ceased, that does not mean that the pollution problem is gone.

In fact, quite the opposite is true.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached a deal with the TVA to allow the company to stop their cleanup efforts and allow “natural river processes” to dispose of the remaining toxic sludge.

Reports say that as much as 500,000 cubic yards of coal ash sludge remain in the Kingston River, a result of the 2008 dam rupture that released the coal ash from the processing plant.  According to the EPA and TVA, it's perfectly fine to allow those contaminants to remain in the river.  As the EPA puts it, dredging up the remaining coal ash would actually release even more pollutants into the water – including contaminants left over from previous industrial accidents and Department of Energy projects. 

To put it more succinctly:  The “leave it lie” mindset occurred in the past, making it impossible to clean up current spills without disturbing previous contaminants that weren’t cleaned.  Pollution ...

Published: Friday 2 November 2012
Contract officers and supervisors of the force at the Y-12 plant outside Knoxville, Tennessee, shared advance copies of test materials with patrolmen, said inspector general Gregory H. Friedman, rendering their responses unreliable.

A culture of cheating pervades the guard force at America’s premier processing and storage site for nuclear weapons-grade uranium, according to a new report this week by the Energy Department’s inspector general.

Contract officers and supervisors of the force at the Y-12 plant outside Knoxville, Tennessee, shared advance copies of test materials with patrolmen, said inspector general Gregory H. Friedman, rendering their responses unreliable. But he put the blame squarely on the Energy Department for mismanaging the facility’s operations.

The abuses he cited are not new. Eight years ago, Friedman blew the whistle on even worse cheating by the Y-12 guard force, disclosing that for years they obtained advance word of mock assaults meant to test their capabilities, and carefully redeployed their forces to produce impressive but faked results.

But this time, Friedman suggested the problem was not isolated. A contract official who works both at Y-12 and another “high-security DOE” site told Friedman’s staff that the official “had taken similar actions” to share written test materials in advance with the managers of that site’s guard force, his report stated.

Friedman’s report did not name the second site, but two government officials confirmed it is the sensitive facility known as Pantex, in Amarillo, Tex., the government’s principal factory for assembling, taking apart, and storing plutonium triggers for its nuclear arsenal. As a result, the reliability of the protective force for key components of that ...

Published: Friday 12 October 2012
“Even the Israeli President has effusively praised President Obama’s leadership on getting American and international sanctions on Iran, which have significantly slowed Iran’s progress.”

1) “It took the president two weeks to acknowledge that [the Libya attack] was a terrorist attack.” Obama used the word “terrorism” to describe the killing of Americans the very next day at the Rose Garden. “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for,” Obama said in a Rose Garden statement on September 12.

2) “The administration was blocking us every step of the way. Only because we had strong bipartisan support for these tough [Iran] sanctions were we able to overrule their objections and put them in spite of the administration.” Even the Israeli President has effusively praised President Obama’s leadership on getting American and international sanctions on Iran, which have significantly slowed Iran’s progress.

3) “Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt. These are indisputable facts.” [T]he possibility ...

Published: Wednesday 15 August 2012
“Each year, the industry attracts $20 billion in private capital to the U.S., and most importantly, nearly 70 percent of all equipment used for wind farms comes from domestic manufacturers, according to the Department of Energy.”

 

How important is the wind industry to the U.S. economy? Since 2009, the wind industry has doubled its capacity, installing enough projects nationwide to power 12 million homes and supporting 75,000 jobs. Each year, the industry attracts $20 billion in private capital to the U.S. And most importantly, nearly 70 percent of all equipment used for wind farms comes from domestic manufacturers, according to the Department of Energy.

Mitt Romney has made his position clear on the campaign trail: He wants to increase taxes on the wind industry by eliminating a key federal credit — potentially threatening 37,000 jobs — and maintain nearly $40 billion dollars in tax credits for the mature oil and gas industry. Romney’s campaign admits this. And this stance has made a lot of Midwestern Republicans upset.

“The whole issue here is about fairness and equity. The older, carbon-based forms of generation have enjoyed benefits and tax subsidies within the tax code for 90 years,” says Harold Prior, Director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association. “While wind and solar and a lot of other renewables depend on highly visible, short-term tax subsidies that face expiration…and it really does not create a very predictable situation for the industry’s growth.”

So what’s at stake in the Midwest? Business leaders in Iowa — a swing state that gets 20 percent of its electricity from wind — explain why the tax credit is so important to ...

Published: Friday 3 August 2012
“Solyndra, a California-based renewable energy firm and favorite of the Obama White House, received the administration’s first loan guarantee in 2009 and was held out as an example of the ‘promise of clean energy’ by the president.”

 

The Department of Energy knew its $535 million loan guarantee to solar-panel maker Solyndra Inc. was “a bad bet from the beginning” but was “determined to make Solyndra a stimulus success story at any cost,” the Republican-led House Energy and Commerce Committee concluded in a report released Thursday.

Solyndra failed last year. The committee’s 154-page report follows its approval Wednesday of the No More Solyndras Act, which would disband the DOE loan guarantee program. The bill would also bar any guarantees for applications received after 2011 and require additional reviews by the Treasury Department and Congress for pending and existing loans.

Solyndra, a California-based renewable energy firm and favorite of the Obama White House, received the administration's first loan guarantee in 2009 and was held out as an example of the “promise of clean energy” by the president. Within two years, the company had filed for bankruptcy, firing 1,100 employees in the process.

The Center for Public Integrity and ABC News first reported on the Solyndra loan guarantee in May 2011, revealing that the DOE had rushed to back the firm without fully vetting its economic prospects. The investigation also noted that billionaire George Kaiser, one of Obama’s principal backers in the 2008 elections, was a major Solyndra shareholder.

The Energy and Commerce Committee report reflects an 18-month investigation into the DOE-Solyndra affair, presenting what it calls “a complete picture of the facts and circumstances” surrounding the White House, DOE, Solyndra, and investors like Kaiser.

“Solyndra will be ...

Published: Sunday 8 July 2012
“There are two main regulations related to coal-fired power plants that the EPA has instituted in the last year: Power Plant Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and New Source Performance Standards (CO2 Limits).”

If you've watched any cable news show in the last year, chances are you've probably seen one or a thousand ads from the fossil fuel industry attacking regulations and/or trying to paint their products as necessary for prosperity. If nothing else, the sheer volume of primetime advertisements makes one thing strikingly apparent: the fossil fuel industry has a LOT of money.

Recently, I saw yet another one of these ads--this one from a coal industry front group called "America's Power"--and another thing struck me: They really think that with enough money, with enough serious looking actors, and enough repetition, they can make Americans believe (or forget) anything. My fear is that they may be right.

This short 30-second spot is a great example of the dirty energy industry's strategy of deceit. Let's take a look and then deconstruct it point by point:

Transcript:

We're hearing a lot about fairness from this administration.

But is it fair for their EPA to increase what Americans pay for electricity, by imposing expensive new regulations on coal?

With all the pain at the pump, now is the time to act before those who can least afford it feel even greater pain, at the plug.

Coal: It's affordable, abundant, and ours. Learn what you can do at AmericasPower.org.

[Clean Coal. Now is the time.]

"We're hearing a lot about fairness from this administration."

The sinister voice tells us that we're hearing a lot about fairness from the administration, but we can tell from the sinister voice that we aren't supposed to believe the administration really cares about fairness. No, it is much more, sinister than that. But just ...

Published: Sunday 3 June 2012
An inspector general did not look into the investment in Solyndra and conclude that the administration had steered money to friends and family.

 

Mitt Romney's remarks at Solyndra were full of falsehoods that went unchecked by many major media outlets. The media also largely failed to point out that as governor of Massachusetts, Romney invested in several companies that subsequently went bankrupt or defaulted on state loans.

Media Perpetuate Falsehoods From Romney Speech

MEDIA FAIL TO NOTE THAT THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OF WRONGDOING IN SOLYNDRA LOAN

Media Uncritically Forward Romney's Claim That Obama Gave Loans To "Friends." The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN and Fox News uncritically repeated Romney's claim that Solyndra is an example of "crony capitalism" and Obama "giving [taxpayer money] freely to his friends."[Los Angeles Times, 5/31/12] [Wall Street Journal, 5/31/12] [CNN, Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien, 6/1/12, via Nexis] [CNN, John King USA, 5/31/12, via Nexis] [CNN, The Situation Room, 5/31/12, via Nexis] [Fox News, Special Report, 5/31/12, via Nexis] [FoxNews.com, 6/1/12]

But After Long Investigation, There Is No Evidence Of Wrongdoing. Bloomberg Businessweek's Joshua Green reported:

A White House source passed along some information that gives a sense of just how much time, money, ...

Published: Saturday 2 June 2012
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged last month that government hackers had attacked Al Qaeda propaganda sites in Yemen, changing information in ads that talked about killing Americans to show how many Yemenis had died in Al Qaeda attacks.

 

This morning, The New York Times published a report detailing how the Bush and Obama administrations created the cyber weapon known as Stuxnet and used it to disrupt Iran’s uranium enrichment program.

Much has been written about Stuxnet, which, as ProPublica recently reported, remains a threat beyond Iran. But the Times account, based on interviews with unnamed U.S. and Israeli officials, is the most extensive account to date of U.S. cyberwarfare capabilities. Here’s our cheat sheet on what’s new and the fallout:

·       Because of Stuxnet’s complexity, cybersecurity analysts have long suspected it was a U.S.-Israeli effort. The Times story confirms this for the first time, disclosing that the project was code-named “Olympic Games.”

·       Olympic Games began under the Bush administration, and during development, it was known as “the bug.”

·       President Obama has repeatedly expressed concern that if the U.S. acknowledges it is behind Stuxnet, it would give terrorists and enemy states a justification for their own attacks.

·       Stuxnet was introduced into Iran's enrichment facility at Natanz by an unwitting Iranian. “It turns out there is always an idiot around who doesn’t think much about the thumb drive in their hand," a source told the Times.

·       To test the bug in secret Department of Energy labs, the U.S. used aging centrifuges handed over in 2003 by Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, making them into ...

Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012
“The Nearly $1 Trillion National Security Budget.”

Recent months have seen a flurry of headlines about cuts (often called “threats”) to the U.S. defense budget. Last week, lawmakers in the House of Representatives even passed a bill that was meant to spare national security spending from future cuts by reducing school-lunch funding and other social programs.  

Here, then, is a simple question that, for some curious reason, no one bothers to ask, no less answer: How much are we spending on national security these days? With major wars winding down, has Washington already cut such spending so close to the bone that further reductions would be perilous to our safety?

In fact, with projected cuts added in, the national security budget in fiscal 2013 will be nearly $1 trillion -- a staggering enough sum that it’s worth taking a walk through the maze of the national security budget to see just where that money’s lodged.

If you’ve heard a number for how much the U.S. spends on the military, it’s probably in the neighborhood of $530 billion. That’s the Pentagon’s base budget for fiscal 2013, and represents a 2.5% cut from 2012. But that $530 billion is merely the beginning of what the U.S. ...

Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012
Lobbyists have raised $3 million for Romney’s presidential campaign.

The federal energy loan program that has created headaches for President Barack Obama has a Mitt Romney connection.

Cathy Tripodi of FaegreBD Consulting lobbies on behalf of Abound Solar, a company that was awarded a $400 million loan guarantee through the same Department of Energy program that aided Solyndra, the now-bankrupt California company that included an Obama bundler as an investor.

Tripodi is a bundler for Romney. She raised $27,000 for the presumptive Republican nominee in April, according to documents filed by his campaign with the Federal Election Commission Sunday.

After receiving a federal loan guarantee, Solyndra ultimately went bankrupt, sticking taxpayers with a $535 million bill and providing fodder for Republican attacks against the president and his green energy initiatives.

Many pundits and politicos began uttering Abound’s name in the same sentence as Solyndra this spring, after Abound announced plans to lay off 280 workers from a Colorado plant and delay the opening of a factory in Indiana. Earlier this month, the Government Reform Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives brought in Abound’s president to ...

Published: Saturday 5 May 2012
According to a new report from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Office of Inspector General, more than 1,500 boxes of classified documents have gone missing at the site, located in Suitland, Maryland.

 

The Justice Department has been increasingly eager to prosecute officials for leaks of classified information, charging six individuals with disclosures that violate the Espionage Act just since the start of 2009. But at the same time, the government itself has lost track of hundreds of boxes filled with classified documents at its main records storage site, the Washington National Records Center.

According to a new report from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Office of Inspector General, more than 1,500 boxes of classified documents have gone missing at the site, located in Suitland, Maryland. While some are “still occasionally being located,” the Archives’s office of records services has stopped its internal searching, the report said, and the affected agencies have been notified.

Among the missing records are 81 boxes with documents labeled Top Secret, Secret, and Restricted Data, among the highest classification categories. They were from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Navy, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, the Energy Department, and other agencies. Restricted Data is a special category for data pertinent to nuclear weapons. Each box contains between 2,000 and 2,500 pieces of paper, states the IG’s report, which was first disclosed by The Washington Times.

These records weren’t stolen in an act of espionage. The IG places the blame for the loss of the boxes squarely on mismanagement by the records center, which is controlled by the Archives, an issue described in the report as “systemic.”

That conclusion seems beyond dispute. The new report, which is itself labeled “Official Use Only,” discloses that in two previous inventories there, in 1998 and 2004, ...

Published: Friday 30 March 2012
Coal today accounts for about 40 percent of electric power generation, down from 45 percent in 2010.

The Obama administration's proposal this week to put the first limits on greenhouse gases from new power plants probably will mean that no new coal-fired U.S. plants will be built after this year, but that won't slash coal use anytime soon.

The rules require future power plants to keep their emissions of heat-trapping gases under a limit. Most natural gas plants would meet the standard easily, but coal-fired plants would have to reduce emissions by about half. The equipment to capture and store those emissions underground isn't commercially viable.

"This is not a sudden death for the coal industry by any means," said David Pumphrey of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a center-right research center. "I think there are a lot of people out there who are going to make sure it doesn't work that way. But it says the future of coal is limited and probably isn't going to grow more than it is now."

Coal today accounts for about 40 percent of electric power generation, down from 45 percent in 2010. The Energy Department's latest forecast figures that it will remain roughly the same through 2035. Part of that forecast saw new coal use increasing slowly after 2015. But that calculation was made before the Environmental Protection Agency announced the proposal for new plants Tuesday.

Kevin Book, the managing director for research at Clear View Energy Partners, said coal probably would retain its place as the biggest source of electricity in 2035, but barely. It remains to be seen whether natural gas surpasses coal or state laws continue to support an increase in renewable energy, he said.

It's also likely that some older coal plants will be kept around longer than originally intended, Book said. "If you can't build more, you'll love the ones you have a lot longer."

"I think the intent in the rule is to make the future of coal extremely ...

Published: Friday 30 March 2012
“Solyndra filed for bankruptcy Sept.6, 2011. Two days later, it faced a raid by agents from the FBI and the Energy Department inspector general.”

The Department of Energy was fully aware of the risks in backing Solyndra Inc., a start-up company that pocketed a half-billion dollar DOE loan but never turned a penny in profit before shutting its doors, concludes a former FBI agent hired to examine the company’s books.

The expert’s report, filed this week in Solyndra’s voluminous bankruptcy case in California, could embolden critics who say the government ignored financial red flags in supporting the solar panel maker with President Obama’s maiden green energy loan in 2009.

The $535 million loan, which bankrolled a vast new manufacturing plant in Fremont, Calif., was part of a broad government mission to kick-start the clean energy movement: Solyndra’s unique solar panels would cover commercial rooftops across the country, aiding the environment and boosting the economy.

Yet the company collapsed under a sea of debt and a business plan that, amid dramatic shifts in the global solar market, caused it to sell far fewer panels at far higher costs than envisioned. From 2009-11, it cost Solyndra $3.92 more per watt to make its panels than to sell them, the bankruptcy report shows.

Solyndra filed for bankruptcy Sept.6, 2011. Two days later, it faced a raid by agents from the FBI and the Energy Department inspector general. With those clouds looming, the company’s board hired R. Todd Neilson — the former federal agent and veteran trustee in bankruptcy cases — as chief restructuring officer.

Solyndra’s board wanted a CRO to not only manage its bankruptcy case, but to explore whether the company committed misdeeds on its road to collapse. “In light of the Federal criminal investigation and ongoing Congressional investigation … the Subcommittee agreed that the CRO would act in an independent capacity in determining if any improprieties had occurred with respect to the Debtors’ finances,” Neilson’s ...

Published: Wednesday 28 March 2012
The nation’s utilities have been moving toward natural gas to fuel new plants anyway, since the use of hydraulic fracturing has greatly expanded the nation’s gas supply and prices are down.

The Environmental Protection Agency took a historic step on Tuesday in the fight against climate change, proposing the first limits of greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants.

The new rule likely would make new coal-fired power plants too expensive after this year. It wouldn't apply to some 15 power plants that are expected to break ground in the next 12 months. After that, however, coal-fired plants would have to capture and store some of their carbon dioxide emissions, a practice that's currently so costly that it isn't in commercial use anywhere.

Natural gas plants belch only about half the emissions of coal plants and would not need any additional equipment to meet the new standard. The nation's utilities have been moving toward natural gas to fuel new plants anyway, since the use of hydraulic fracturing has greatly expanded the nation's gas supply and prices are down.

This is the first time that the United States has ever proposed any limits on greenhouse gases from industrial sources. Republicans in Congress and their business allies vowed to fight the EPA rule as hostile to abundant coal and too costly. Environmentalists and health groups cheered it.

Scientists have amassed a huge body of evidence and documented research showing that these gases in the atmosphere, mostly from ...

Published: Saturday 10 March 2012
“One of the strangest phenomena of modern-day politics is the right-wing antagonism toward American clean-energy manufacturing, a consequence of the fossil-fuel industry’s stranglehold on our nation’s conservatives.”

A slanted Washington Post story by Peter Whoriskey attacked the innovative $50 light bulb that won the Department of Energy’s $10 million L Prize for lighting innovation as being “costly,” “exorbitant,” and “too pricey” in comparison to a $1 incandescent bulb — based on faulty math. The Philips LED bulb, which is assembled in Wisconsin with computer chips made in California, is a technical breakthrough, with high-efficiency natural-color light. At no point does the article — which appeared online with the tendentious headline “Government-subsidized green light bulb carries costly price tag” — compare the lifetime cost of the super-efficient (10-watt), long-lasting (30-year) bulb with that of traditional 60-watt light bulbs. An accompanying infographic prepared by Patterson Clark and Bonnie Berkowitz compared costs, asserting that the lifetime cost of the $50 bulb plus electricity would end up being $5 more than traditional bulbs:

Published: Friday 9 March 2012
“Engineers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, known as the PNNL, in Richland, Wash., are conducting research that could go a long way toward making the cars more affordable - not necessarily to buy, but to operate.”

As part of his plan to get 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015, President Barack Obama wants Congress to give buyers a tax credit of up to $10,000 next year.

But the battery-operated vehicles have one major disadvantage: They can be costly to heat.

Currently, the maximum tax credit is $7,500. Some Republicans scoff at the credit, calling it a subsidy for the wealthy, noting that the average yearly income of a Chevy Volt electric car owner is $170,000. But engineers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, known as the PNNL, in Richland, Wash., are conducting research that could go a long way toward making the cars more affordable _ not necessarily to buy, but to operate. And that could make the cars more popular with the public and help achieve the president’s target.

While internal combustion engines generate a lot of heat, making it easy to heat the passenger cabin in winter, electric vehicles produce very little excess heat. As a result, providing electricity for the same amount of heat to warm the passenger cabin can reduce their driving range by up to 40 percent.

The researchers want to create a new, 5-pound molecular heat pump, the size of a 2-liter bottle, that would handle both heating and cooling and allow the cars to travel longer distances before they’d need to be plugged in again.

READ FULL POST 7 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 31 December 2011
Meanwhile, U.S. drivers paid an average of about $3.50 a gallon for gasoline during the year, also the highest ever.

U.S. refineries exported a record amount of refined fuels in 2011 to markets in South America, Central America and Europe. It was one reason why Americans spent a record amount on gasoline this year: Supplies that might have helped lower prices here had been shipped abroad.

In 2007, U.S. exports of all kinds of fuel held steady throughout the year at 1.24 million to 1.25 million barrels a day, according to Energy Department statistics.

But by 2011, exports of diesel, gasoline and other products surged. In November and December, U.S. fuel exports averaged between 2.77 million barrels a day and 2.89 million barrels a day, the highest ever.

Meanwhile, U.S. drivers paid an average of about $3.50 a gallon for gasoline during the year, also the highest ever.

Nationally, the average cost for a gallon of regular Friday was $3.269, or 19.8 cents a gallon more than ever on a Dec. 30, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.

The trend was predicted as early as last January, when two analysts with the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration delivered a presentation to the 2011 Argus Americas Crude ...

Published: Thursday 24 November 2011
“And before the day was over, the crowd retreated to a nearby Quaker meeting house, where nonviolent direct action trainings began–assuring that this movement, if the time has come to call it that, is not about to let any amount of success go to its head.”

Environmental victories are so rare that apparently even environmentalists don’t quite know how to kick back and rejoice. At a rally in Trenton, New Jersey on Monday, discussion veered between joyous celebration of Friday’s announcement by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to indefinitely postpone a vote that would have paved the way for 20,000 natural gas wells in the region and serious preparation to one day block their construction through nonviolent direct action.

These activists can be excused, however, for mixing business with pleasure because even more rare than an environmental victory is one that’s complete and total. Much like the recent announcement by the Obama administration to delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport tar sands oil from Canada to Texas, the DRBC vote delay was hardly an indictment of extreme carbon-based extraction that poisons water and the atmosphere. If anything, it’s a temporary roadblock to something government seems all too happy to allow.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have already promised to vote “yes” for drilling in the Delaware River Basin–a region that provides drinking water to 15 million people. Corbett is no surprise because drilling–or fracking as it’s more commonly called–is already a common practice in Pennsylvania. New Jersey, on the other hand, does not have any natural gas ...

Published: Thursday 17 November 2011
“Solyndra did shut its doors this year, and now those investors, including a bundler to President Obama, stand first in line in bankruptcy proceedings.”

As solar panel maker Solyndra sunk deeper into debt last year, a top Department of Energy official pulled the company’s chief investor aside with a last-ditch pitch: If investors raised $75 million to help Solyndra stay afloat, they would be first to collect if the fledgling firm went bankrupt.

Solyndra did shut its doors this year, and now those investors, including a bundler to President Obama, stand first in line in bankruptcy proceedings. The Energy Department, which supported Solyndra with a $535 million loan guarantee even as auditors, analysts and government bureaucrats raised bright red flags about the company’s prospects, placed U.S. taxpayers second in line.

The roots of that arrangement are spelled out in a Dec. 7, 2010 email from Steve Mitchell, the managing director of Argonaut Private Equity, Solyndra’s top financial investor, and addressed to “George.” Argonaut’s founder is George Kaiser, an Oklahoma oil billionaire who bundled campaign contributions for Obama’s 2008 election.

With Solyndra buried in a cash flow crisis late last year, the company and its chief investors met with Energy Department officials in a search for solutions. Solyndra and its investors wanted more money from DOE, which had already bankrolled it with the low interest half billion dollar loan issued by the Federal Financing Bank.

READ FULL POST 6 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 12 November 2011
The latest debate among Republicans was a tame one, but still needed factual corrections.

The latest debate among Republican candidates for president was a tame affair that produced few factual claims needing correction. Candidates stuck mostly to promises and expressions of their conservative faith in free markets, and their disdain for government.

The debate was held Nov. 9 at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., and included eight candidates: Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

We won’t go into the audience booing when Cain was asked about the sexual-harassment issue that has dogged him for the past week, or Perry experiencing a brain freeze when trying to remember the third federal agency he intended to eliminate upon becoming president. (He later remembered that it was the Department of Energy, which is responsible for the nation’s nuclear arsenal, among other things.) Our job is to look for false or misleading factual claims. And this time we found only minor quibbles. Here’s the sort of thing we mean:

Cain: $430 Billion Compliance Costs

Cain said Americans ...

Published: Saturday 29 October 2011
The GOP’s threats of a subpoena over the Solyndra debate may become more than just threats.

The fallout from the government’s failed $535 million bet in solar panel maker Solyndra expanded on Friday, with the Obama administration seeking an independent audit of Energy Department loans even as the Republican-led House Energy committee threatened a subpoena of the president.

White House officials said the audit would focus on the health of existing loans in the Energy Department’s multi-billion dollar portfolio of investments in clean tech firms.

Solyndra, the first recipient of Energy Department backing, collapsed in bankruptcy and is now the subject of multiple investigations. The Energy Department and White House backed the half billion dollar investment in Solyndra, government emails show, even as budget and Treasury officials were raising red flags.

“Today we are directing that an independent analysis be conducted of the current state of the Department of Energy loan portfolio, focusing on future loan monitoring and management,” White House chief of staff Bill Daley told the Associated Press. “While we continue to take steps to make sure the United States remains competitive in the 21 st century energy economy, we must also ensure that we are strong stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

READ FULL POST 8 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 18 October 2011
GOP presidential hopeful’s statement on EPA as a jobs-killer holds no water.

Rick Perry said he would “create another 250,000 jobs by getting the EPA out of the way” of natural gas drilling. But the EPA isn’t currently in the way: The very study on which Perry relies assumes that all of those jobs will result if current regulations are not changed.

In a speech  at a steel plant in Pittsburgh on Oct. 14, the Texas governor outlined a sweeping plan to create over a million jobs by increasing American energy production. The plan involves opening up numerous areas currently off-limits to oil and gas exploration, and repealing regulations he said are hampering domestic production of fossil fuels.

The full potential for American energy production can only be realized, he said, “if environmental bureaucrats are told to stand down.”

Calling natural gas a “game-changer” in U.S. energy production, Perry cited regulation of hydraulic fracturing as an example of government overreach. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is the process of extracting natural gas from underground shale formations. Spurred by technological advancements, the Department of Energy  projects shale gas will comprise over 20 percent of the total U.S. gas supply by 2020.

With the Marcellus Shale deposits in the northeast U.S. poised to be the largest producing gas field in the U.S., they have come under intense national focus. Gas companies see huge potential for production and profits and ...

Published: Tuesday 11 October 2011
Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace suggests Rep. Issa may have advocated for a Solyndra-like green company.

Rep. Darrell Issa, who has accused the administration of “political interference” to benefit a solar energy company, has falsely claimed that a letter he wrote to the Energy Department on behalf of a California car maker merely requested a decision — “yes or no” — on the company’s loan application. In fact, the California Republican wrote to “express support” for the company’s loan to develop an electric car. He wrote that approval of the loan would “greatly assist a leading developer of electric vehicles in my district” and “promote domestic job creation throughout California as well as in other states.”

Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is leading the congressional investigation of the Department of Energy’s decision to provide a $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra, a now-defunct California solar company. We wrote about Solyndra last week. Issa appeared Oct. 9 on “ Fox News Sunday ,” telling host Chris Wallace that “Solyndra is a story of political interference.” Wallace asked about letters Issa wrote to the Energy Department on behalf of companies seeking government loans — specifically one on behalf of  Aptera Motors Inc. , which is within  

Published: Saturday 17 September 2011
Current law allows oil and gas companies not to report toxic emissions and hazardous waste released by all but their largest facilities, excluding hundreds of thousands of wells and small plants.

On a summer evening in June 2005, Susan Wallace-Babb went out into a neighbor's field near her ranch in Western Colorado to close an irrigation ditch. She parked down the rutted double-track, stepped out of her truck into the low-slung sun, took a deep breath, and collapsed, unconscious.

A natural gas well and a pair of fuel storage tanks sat less than a half-mile away. Later, after Wallace-Babb came to and sought answers, a sheriff's deputy told her that a tank full of gas condensate -- liquid hydrocarbons gathered from the production process -- had overflowed into another tank. The fumes must have drifted toward the field where she was working, he suggested.

READ FULL POST 9 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 17 September 2011
Now Right-Wing media are at it again, this time trying to turn the unfortunate bankruptcy of a solar-power company named Solyndra into an all-out, anti-Obama and anti-government attack.

Oil-backed conservatives have been absolutely ecstatic over the collapse of American solar-power company Solyndra and the rise of China as the dominant country in green energy, because they think they can turn this into a story that makes President Obama and government look bad. It also gives them a bonus opportunity to attack alternatives to coal and oil.

So is there really a "scandal" behind what happened to Solyndra? Or is this just one more conservative smear, made up from whole cloth and spread around conservative outlets, talk radio and FOX News, hoping the "mainstream media" will be tricked into propelling the propaganda out to the public?

The Smear Machine

When Bill Clinton was president, conservatives developed and refined a "smear machine" technique of making up accusation after accusation after accusation (after accusation after accusation), repeating them endlessly and hysterically in conservative-funded outlets, and working to get major media outlets to pick up and repeat them. Unfortunately they were often successful at driving phony smears into the public arena. Even though the stories were invariably refuted after investigation, by the time each smear was refuted many, many more were circulating. After a while people began to believe "where there's smoke there's fire."

One such story that major outlets repeated involved the supposed "sale" of an Arlington cemetery plot for campaign contributions. When it was proven to be nothing more than a false smear, the ...

Published: Saturday 17 September 2011
Senior Energy Department officials publicly described the decision in January to restructure the loan to Solyndra as a hiccup, and said the extra infusion of cash was normal for start-up ventures.

White House budget analysts warned in January that a controversial decision to restructure a $535 million government loan to a struggling solar power company “could easily be portrayed as bad judgment or worse,” just-released emails now show.

The latest emails are part of an emerging portrait of the troubled government loan —a half-billion-dollar federal investment that went from being touted as a model of President Obama’s “green jobs” initiative to being criticized by Republicans as an ill-advised boondoggle.

Beginning in March, the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News , in partnership with ABC News, was first to report on simmering questions about the role political influence may have played in Solyndra Inc.’s selection as the Obama administration’s first loan guarantee recipient. The loan had been shelved by the Bush administration but was fast-tracked just days after President Obama took office, and one of the major investors in the company is an Obama fundraiser who has visited the White House 16 times, including four meetings with such senior aides as Valerie Jarrett, Austan Goolsbee and Pete Rouse in the months prior to the loan’s approval.

Senior Energy Department officials publicly described the decision in January to restructure the loan to Solyndra as a hiccup, and said the extra infusion of cash was normal for start-up ventures. “I have never seen a company go straight up without a bump along the way,” Energy Loan chief Jonathan Silver told iWatch News and ABC News in May. “I have no doubt they will continue to hire more people.”

But internally, the restructuring decision was the source of intense debate and disagreement, emails released by the House ...

Published: Wednesday 14 September 2011
Conservative are accusing the Obama administration of corruption in choosing Solyndra to receive a government loan guarantee.

Well here's a surprise: conservatives and oil interests are pushing deceptive and destructive stories about President Obama and clean energy. Imagine that! Their intent (as always) is to turn people against President Obama, clean energy, national energy policy, stimulus to help the economy, and government in general. It's what they do. Here is some information to help you push back on the latest whipped-up, anti-green, anti-government, anti-Obama "scandal."

Solyndra

Solyndra was a startup solar-power equipment manufacturer based in Fremont, California that went bankrupt at the end of August. The company's solar collectors used a special tubular internal design that let it collect light from all directions, and were made with a copper-indium-gallium-diselenide (CIGS) thin film that avoided using then-expensive silicon. It was one of several companies that received assistance from the government, in an attempt to push back on China's strategic targeting of green-energy manufacturing.

The company, partly  READ FULL POST 25 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 12 August 2011
“In sharp contrast with gas industry portrayals, the draft report released yesterday by a federal panel on shale gas drilling explicitly acknowledges that current regulations may be insufficient to protect the environment and public health.”

 

In sharp contrast with gas industry portrayals, the draft report released yesterday by a federal panel on shale gas drilling explicitly acknowledges that current regulations may be insufficient to protect the environment and public health.

For years, the gas industry has said that drilling with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, into deep shale formations is safe. The federal government has been caught in an awkward position, limited from regulating the industry by exemptions written into federal environmental laws, ...

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