Energy News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on energy
Ranjana Bhandari and her husband knew the natural gas beneath their ranch-style home in Arlington, Texas, could be worth a lot - especially when they got offer after offer from Chesapeake Energy Corp. Their repeated refusals didn't stop Chesapeake, the second-largest natural gas producer in the United States. This June, after petitioning a Texas state agency for an exception to a 93-year-old statute, the company effectively secured the ability to drain the gas from beneath the Bhandari property anyway -- without having to pay the couple a penny. In fact, since January 2005, the Texas agency has rejected just five of Chesapeake's 1,628 requests for such exceptions. Chesapeake's use of the Texas law is among the latest examples of how the company executes what it calls a "land grab" -- an aggressive leasing strategy intended to lock up prospective drilling sites and lock out competitors. Chesapeake has become the principal player in the largest land boom in America since the California Gold Rush of the late 1840s and ‘50s, amassing drilling rights on more land than almost any U.S. energy company. After years of leasing tracts from New York to Wyoming, the company now controls the right to drill for oil and gas on about 15 million acres -- roughly the size of West Virginia.
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The U.S. Justice Department is ramping up its rhetoric against BP [formerly British Petroleum] for the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, describing in new court papers examples of what it calls "gross negligence and willful misconduct." The court filing is the sharpest position yet taken by the U.S. government as it seeks to hold the British oil giant largely responsible for the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Gross negligence is a central issue to the case, slated to go to trial in New Orleans in January 2013. A gross negligence finding could nearly quadruple the civil damages owed by BP under the Clean Water Act to $21 billion. The U.S. government and BP are engaged in talks to settle civil and potential criminal liability, though neither side will comment on the status of negotiations. Specifically, errors made by BP and Swiss-based Transocean Ltd, owner of the Deepwater Horizon platform, in deciphering a key pressure test of the Macondo well are a clear indication of gross negligence, the Justice Department said. "That such a simple, yet fundamental and safety-critical test could have been so stunningly, blindingly botched in so many ways, by so many people, demonstrates gross negligence," the government said in its 39-page filing.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on corporate corruption, click here.
A word of caution about the Model S, Tesla Motors' new electric sedan: The S stays smooth and silent, even when it's flying down the highway. Absent gears, engine noise or any vibration that doesn't originate with a pothole, it's absurdly easy for Model S drivers to shred speed limits without the slightest clue. Depending on the range of the battery pack and other options, Model S prices range all the way from $57,400 to $105,400 before state and federal incentives. The Model S functions much like a typical, automatic transmission sedan. But it's not quite the same. Put the car in drive and take your foot off the brake pedal, for example, and the S doesn't go anywhere. It just sits there until you touch the accelerator. Push the accelerator, and the car responds instantly. There's no sense of an engine laboring to pick up speed. Like other electric vehicles, the Model S uses regenerative braking. The brakes capture some of the moving car's kinetic energy, convert it to electricity and use it to recharge the battery while you drive. It's one of the ways a Model S with the most expensive battery pack option can drive more than 300 miles without plugging in. With the Model S, the regenerative braking starts the moment you ease off the accelerator pedal. The drop in speed is so pronounced that the car's brake lights will go on, even before you touch the brake pedal itself. It feels almost like having two separate braking systems working at the same time.
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For the past 10 years an unlikely coalition of geologists, oil drillers, bankers, military strategists and environmentalists has been warning that peak oil – the decline of global supplies – is just around the corner. We had some strong reasons for doing so: production had slowed, the price had risen sharply, depletion was widespread and appeared to be escalating. The first of the great resource crunches seemed about to strike. Some of us made vague predictions, others were more specific. In all cases we were wrong. Peak oil hasn't happened, and it's unlikely to happen for a very long time. ["Oil - The Next Revolution"] by the oil executive Leonardo Maugeri, published by Harvard University, provides compelling evidence that a new oil boom has begun. The constraints on oil supply over the past 10 years appear to have had more to do with money than geology. The low prices before 2003 had discouraged investors from developing difficult fields. The high prices of the past few years have changed that. Maugeri's analysis of projects in 23 countries suggests that global oil supplies are likely to rise by a net 17m barrels per day (to 110m) by 2020. This, he says, is "the largest potential addition to the world's oil supply capacity since the 1980s". The investments required to make this boom happen depend on a long-term price of $70 a barrel – the current cost of Brent crude is $95. Money is now flooding into new oil: a trillion dollars has been spent in the past two years; a record $600bn is lined up for 2012.
German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity – equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity – through the midday hours of Friday and Saturday. Norbert Allnoch, director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry in Muenster, said the 22 gigawatts of solar power fed into the national grid on Saturday met nearly 50% of the nation's midday electricity needs. "Never before anywhere has a country produced as much photovoltaic electricity," Allnoch [said]. The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world's leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed. Government-mandated support for renewables has helped Germany became a world leader in renewable energy and the country gets about 20 percent of its overall annual electricity from those sources. Germany has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets about four percent of its overall annual electricity needs from the sun alone. It aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020. "This shows Germany is capable of meeting a large share of its electricity needs with solar power," Allnoch said. "It also shows Germany can do with fewer coal-burning power plants, gas-burning plants and nuclear plants."
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on developments in alternative energy technologies, click here.
An electricity revolution [is] sweeping through power markets and threatening traditional utilities' dominance of the world's supply. From the poorest parts of Africa and Asia to the most-developed regions in the United States and Europe, solar units ... and small-scale wind and biomass generators promise to extend access to power to more people than ever before. In the developing world, they're slashing costs in the process. Across India and Africa, startups and mobile phone companies are developing what are called called microgrids, in which stand-alone generators power clusters of homes and businesses in places where electric utilities have never operated. In Europe, cooperatives are building their own generators and selling power back to the national or regional grid. The revolution is just beginning, says Jeremy Rifkin, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and author of "The Third Industrial Revolution." Disruptive to the economic status quo, the transformation opens up huge opportunities to consumers who may find themselves trading power in the future much as they swap information over the Internet today, he says. "This is power to the people." Within a decade, installing photovoltaic panels may be cheaper for many families than buying power from national grids in much of the world, including the United States, Japan, Brazil and the United Kingdom, according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Note: For a treasure trove of major media articles showing dozens of amazing new energy technologies which could replace our dependence on fossil fuels, click here.
Public anger over high gasoline prices is turning to a familiar target - Wall Street. The role of speculative investors in this year's price spike has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks, nowhere more so than in Washington. Nearly 70 members of Congress wrote a stern letter Monday to a federal commission that regulates the country's main market for crude oil, demanding that the commission crack down on speculation. President Obama, his energy policies under attack from Republicans, ordered a fresh look at speculation's role in the market on Tuesday. "This is just another example, in my view, of Wall Street playing the casino," said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, who signed the letter to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. "Everyone should be outraged that every time they're filling up their tank, they're paying a premium because of speculation." How big is that premium? One of the trading commission's five members estimated last month that speculative investors were adding 56 cents to the price of each gallon of gas. As a result, Honda Civic drivers pay an additional $7.39 per fill-up, said Commissioner Bart Chilton. Owners of the Ford F150 pickup pay an extra $14.56. Speculative investors include hedge funds and investment banks that buy contracts for the future delivery of oil but never intend to take possession of the fuel itself. They buy and sell strictly as a financial investment, and their presence in the market has swelled.
Note: For lots more reliable information from the major media on energy manipulations, click here.
Voters in Boulder, Colo., narrowly backed the creation of a municipal power authority to replace Xcel Energy Inc., the biggest electricity provider in Colorado. The city can't cut all ties with Xcel right away. The shift to a municipal utility will take at least three years and could be derailed over issues such as how much Boulder will pay Xcel for its infrastructure. Supporters of the move argue that a public utility would allow Boulder, a liberal college town, to embrace renewable energy and sharply reduce carbon emissions. Xcel relies heavily on coal-fired plants. Xcel spent nearly $1 million to try to defeat the Boulder ballot measures, outspending supporters about 10 to 1. "People like a David-and-Goliath story, and that's absolutely what this is," said Ken Regelson, who led a community group supporting a public utility. Nationwide, 16 new public power authorities have been formed in the last decade, including 13 that have taken over from private utilities. Nearly all serve communities of less than 10,000, said Ursula Schryver, a vice president of the American Public Power Association, a trade group. Boulder's population is nearly 100,000. The last large-scale municipalization took place in 1998, on New York's Long Island.
Note: This is significant positive news as the largest city yet in the U.S. has voted to take control of their energy and make it greener. For a more optimistic and detailed description of this major victory, click here.
In 2008, voters approved a $10 billion bond to begin construction of a bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco that would make that trip in less than three hours. So who knew that by 2011 the general consensus would be that the project is an ill-conceived, mismanaged boondoggle? Former Amtrak spokesman and Reason Foundation writer Joseph Vranich knew. In 2008, before the state Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, he called the project "science fiction." He said the train won't travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than three hours because that exceeds the speed of all existing high-speed rail. But on French railway schedules, a TGV (Train Ŕ Grande Vitesse) takes two hours, 38 minutes to go from Paris to Avignon. That's 430 miles. The route for the L.A.-to-San Francisco line is 432. So what's going on here? It's simple. Vranich makes stuff up. The Reason Foundation is funded by Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, the American Petroleum Institute, Delta Airlines, the National Air Transportation Association and, of course, the Koch Family Foundation. They know what will happen once Americans, furious about gas prices and the way airlines treat them, experience electrically powered 200-mph trains.
Note: For lots more evidence that progress in the transportation sector is stymied by big money interests, click here.
Volkswagen's amazing 300mpg-plus XL1 two-seater diesel/electric hybrid is a supercar where mpg matters more than mph. Imagine a different sort of supercar; small, lightweight, with the ... most parsimonious engine. That’s VW’s 21st-century streamliner, the XL1, honed not for speed but to achieve an astonishing 313mpg. VW has been messing about with these cigar-thin eco cars since the 1980 ARVW concept. In 1999, it developed a Lupo capable of three litres per 100km (94mpg), but Ferdinand Piëch, VW’s chairman, was more ambitious and had already ordered his R&D team to build him a “one-litre” (282mpg) car. In normal operation, the car stays in electric drive until full throttle is used, speeds exceed 62mph or the battery charge is down to 20 per cent. In e-mode, the car remains on battery power until 10 per cent of its charge remains (about 22 miles), whereupon the motor starts to charge it and power the vehicle. The 2.2-gallon fuel tank gives a range of about 340 miles. As might be expected, the body style is all about wind cheating. With a frontal area of 16.15sq ft and a drag coefficient of 0.186, the XL1 will be the world’s most aerodynamic production car.
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Two Italian scientists claim to have successfully developed a cold fusion reactor that produces 12,400 watts of heat power per 400 watts of input. Not only that, but they’ll be commercially available in just three months. Cold fusion is a tricky business -- some say a theoretically implausible business. Hypothetically (and broadly) speaking, the process involves fusing two smaller atomic nuclei together into a larger nucleus, a process that releases massive amounts of energy. If harnessed, cold fusion could provide cheap and nearly limitless energy with no radioactive byproduct or massive carbon emissions. Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi claim [their reactor] fuses atomic nuclei of nickel and hydrogen using about 1,000 watts of electricity which, after a few minutes, is reduced to an input of just 400 watts. This reaction purportedly can turn 292 grams of 68 degree water into turbine-turning steam -- a process that would normally require 12,400 watts of electricity, netting them a power gain of about 12,000 watts. They say that commercially scaled, their process could generate eight units of output per unit of input and would cost roughly one penny per kilowatt-hour, drastically cheaper than your average coal plant.
Note: For a balanced and informative article on this, see the Technology News article available here. Sadly, the only other media report on this fascinating news was a Washington Times article available here. For lots more useful information and videos on this exciting discovery, click here.
The White House is going solar after all - a home improvement that carries modest energy benefits but much larger symbolic importance. It isn't the first time the White House has used solar energy. President Jimmy Carter put 32 solar panels on the roof in the late 1970s, but President Ronald Reagan removed them in 1986. Two grass-roots campaigns have recently been lobbying President Obama to restore them as a sign of his commitment to renewable energy. The roof of the White House residence will get solar panels and a solar water heater, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and the White House Council on Environmental Quality's chair, Nancy Sutley. A campaign launched by Oakland, Calif.-based Sungevity called Solar on the White House and another by 350.org founder Bill McKibben tried to get Obama to reinstall solar panels. "The White House did the right thing, and for the right reasons: They listened to the Americans who asked for solar on their roof, and they listened to the scientists and engineers who told them this is the path to the future," McKibben said in a statement. "If it has anything like the effect of the White House garden, it could be a trigger for a wave of solar installations across the country and around the world," he said.
Cars and trucks averaging 62 miles per gallon? Seems extraordinary now, but ... automakers could be required to build lineups like that by 2025, making today's high-mileage hybrids seem conventional and turning gas guzzlers into mere relics. By a decade and a half from now, in 2025, a carmaker's fleet of new vehicles may need to meet a standard somewhere from 47 mpg to 62 mpg, the Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency said. Those mileage gains that would be the equivalent of an annual decrease in carbon dioxide emissions per mile of 3 to 6 percent. The government envisions gas-electric hybrids making up about half the lineup of new vehicles under the most aggressive standards, while electrics and plug-ins would comprise about 10 percent of the fleet. After little progress during the past three decades, rules adopted earlier this year will lift the new vehicle fleet average to 35.5 mpg by 2016, an increase of more than 40 percent over current standards.Fuel efficiency standards are designed to improve gas mileage across each automaker's lineup and across the nation's entire fleet of new vehicles. Vehicles must meet differing standards based on their dimensions. Compact cars must get better mileage than sport utility vehicles, for example, but requirements for all types of vehicles will go up.
Note: Despite rampant government claims of wanting independence from foreign oil, fuel efficiency has almost always been largely determined by congressional mandates which the oil companies have consistently fought against. For more on this, click here. For lots more on new energy technologies, click here.
When I meet [Edward] Moses [at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory], the 60-year-old scientist ... shows me a tiny pellet ... and swears it will provide an endless supply of safe, clean energy. The pellet Moses holds is a model, but the real version will contain a few milligrams of deuterium and tritium, isotopes of hydrogen that can be extracted from water. If you blast the pellet with a powerful laser, you can create a reaction like the one that takes place at the center of the sun. Harness that reaction, and you've created a star on earth, and with the heat from that star you can generate electricity without creating any pollution. Forget about nuke plants, coal, oil, or wind and solar. "This is the real solar power," says Moses. What Moses is talking about is controlled nuclear fusion. Instead of splitting the nucleus of an atom, you're trying to force a deuterium nucleus to merge, or fuse, with a tritium nucleus. When that happens, you produce helium and throw off energy. Scientists have been trying to produce energy with fusion for decades. So far, they keep failing. The joke is that fusion energy is only 40 years away, and will always be only 40 years away. Moses believes, however, that his lab, which is called the National Ignition Facility, or NIF, has cracked the problem. The big challenge fusion has faced is lack of power. NIF's laser ... can produce 60 times more energy than any other laser ever built. Right now it's still being tested. But next year Moses and his scientists will fire it up with a full load of deuterium-tritium fuel, and Moses feels confident it will achieve "ignition," meaning a controlled burn in which you get out more energy than you put in.
If you believed all the talk from Chrysler about how our tax dollars would help finance its fast-track electric-vehicle future, you're in for a big disappointment. Chrysler has disbanded the engineering team that was trying to bring three electric models to market as a rush job. Chrysler [had] cited its devotion to electric vehicles as one of the key reasons why the Obama administration and Congress needed to give it $12.5 billion in bailout money. The change of heart on electric vehicles has come under Fiat. At a marathon presentation of Chrysler's five-year strategy, CEO Sergio Marchionne talked about just about everything on Chrysler's plate ... except its earlier electric-car plans. With the group's disbanding, Chrysler's electric plans will be melded into Fiat's. Marchionne is apparently no fan of electric power. He says electrics will only make up 1% or 2% of Fiat sales by 2014 and that he doesn't put a lot of faith in the technology until battery developments are pushed forward. As a result, Chrysler won't have an electric car on sale as soon as next year, such as the Dodge Circuit sports car concept it had unveiled. The change has come so fast that Chrysler's website has been still featuring pictures of the electric vehicles. As late as August, Chrysler took $70 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a test fleet of 220 hybrid pickup trucks and minivans, vehicles now scrapped in the sweeping turnaround plan for Chrysler.
Note: For reports from reliable sources on promising new developments in electric automobile technologies, click here.
Advances in technology for extracting [natural] gas from shale and methane beds have quickened dramatically, altering the global balance of energy faster than almost anybody expected. Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive, said proven natural gas reserves around the world have risen to 1.2 trillion barrels of oil equivalent, enough for 60 years' supply – and rising fast. "There has been a revolution in the gas fields of North America. Reserve estimates are rising sharply as technology unlocks unconventional resources," he said. The breakthrough has been to combine 3-D seismic imaging with new technologies to free "tight gas" by smashing rocks, known as hydro-fracturing or "fracking" in the trade. The US is leading the charge. Texas A&M University said US methods could increase global gas reserves by nine times to 16,000 TCF (trillion cubic feet). Shale gas is undoubtedly messy. Millions of gallons of water mixed with sand, hydrochloric acid and toxic chemicals are blasted at rocks. This is supposed to happen below the water basins but accidents have been common. Pennsylvania's [environmental authorities] have shut down a Cabot Oil & Gas operation after 8,000 gallons of chemicals spilled into a stream. The claims of BP ... are so extraordinary that we may need to rewrite the geo-strategy textbooks for the next half century.
Applied Materials is one of the most important U.S. companies you’ve probably never heard of. It makes the machines that make the microchips that go inside your computer. The chip business, though, is volatile, so in 2004 Mike Splinter, Applied Materials’s C.E.O., decided to add a new business line to take advantage of the company’s nanotechnology capabilities — making the machines that make solar panels. The other day, Splinter gave me a tour of the company’s Silicon Valley facility, culminating with a visit to its “war room,” where Applied maintains a real-time global interaction with all 14 solar panel factories it’s built around the world in the last two years. Not a single one is in America. Let’s see: five are in Germany, four are in China, one is in Spain, one is in India, one is in Italy, one is in Taiwan and one is even in Abu Dhabi. The reason that all these other countries are building solar-panel industries today is because most of their governments have put in place the three prerequisites for growing a renewable energy industry: 1) any business or homeowner can generate solar energy; 2) if they decide to do so, the power utility has to connect them to the grid; and 3) the utility has to buy the power for a predictable period at a price that is a no-brainer good deal for the family or business putting the solar panels on their rooftop. Regulatory, price and connectivity certainty, that is what Germany put in place, and that explains why Germany now generates almost half the solar power in the world today and, as a byproduct, is making itself the world-center for solar research, engineering, manufacturing and installation. With more than 50,000 new jobs, the renewable energy industry in Germany is now second only to its auto industry.
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One of the newest energy lobbyists claims he has the answer to climate change: spaceships. The government has in its possession "extraterrestrial vehicles," lobbyist Stephen Bassett said. As in flying saucers. Imagine the power source, he said, behind a 30-foot wide saucer that weighs the same as a tractor-trailer yet hurtles through galaxies at 20,000 miles per hour. "What is the energy system operating that craft?" Bassett said. "They're not burning kerosene." Bassett ... is working for free as a lobbyist, representing the Hawaii-based Exopolitics Institute, an educational organization which describes itself as "dedicated to studying the key actors, institutions and political processes associated with extraterrestrial life." Bassett said he is less lobbyist and more political activist. "The UFO phenomenon is real," Bassett said. "The E.T. extraterrestrial presence is real." Bassett's been lobbying about seven months, targeting the science and technology, and defense and aviation angles. He added energy to his portfolio in a Senate filing last week. He has spoken to lawmakers in the past, Bassett said, but he's writing off lobbying Congress for now, calling the extraterrestrial issue "the third rail" of politics. Besides, he and other believers have a bigger name on their list. "Knowing that Congress could not act," Bassett said, "what we did was focus on the executive branch, the White House." Those who believe the truth is out there have been waiting for someone like President Obama to come clean about the government hiding information on extraterrestrials, Bassett said.
Note: What's highly unusual about this article is that there is not a note of ridicule. This may be a first for a UFO article in the New York Times. For lots more eye-opening, reliable information on this topic, including a Times article in which a former CIA chief describes a UFO cover-up, click here and here.
A U.S. Navy researcher announced today that her lab has produced “significant” new results that indicate cold fusion-like reactions. If the work by analytical chemist Pamela Mosier-Boss and her colleagues is confirmed, it could open the door to a cheap, near-limitless reservoir of energy. Devising a fusion-based source of energy on Earth has long been a “clean-energy” holy grail of physicists. A small group of scientists has [tried] to produce fusion reactions at low temperatures. If such experiments did produce fusion reactions, they would generate highly energetic neutrons as a byproduct. These are what Mosier-Boss says her San Diego-based group has found. “If you have fusion going on, then you have to have neutrons,” she said. “But we do not know if fusion is actually occurring. It could be some other nuclear reaction.” Today’s announcement is based partly on research published by Mosier-Boss’ group last year in the journal Naturwissenschaften. The announcement may turn heads, given its stage at the American Chemical Society’s big meeting and the fact that the organization promoted it to science journalists in advance. “It’s big,” said Steven Krivit, founder of the New Energy Times publication, which has tracked cold fusion developments for two decades. “What we’re talking about may be more than anybody actually expected,” he said. “We’re talking about a new field of science that’s a hybrid between chemistry and physics.”
Note: For a powerful documentary showing a major cover-up around cold fusion, click here. Many highly esteemed scientists have repeatedly demonstrated the reality of cold fusion, only to have their research sometimes ruthlessly shut down. For many hopeful reports from reliable sources on the array of new energy developments currently underway, click here.
Supertankers that once raced around the world to satisfy an unquenchable thirst for oil are now parked offshore, fully loaded, anchors down, their crews killing time. In the United States, vast storage farms for oil are almost out of room. As demand for crude has plummeted, the world suddenly finds itself awash in oil that has nowhere to go. It’s been less than a year since oil prices hit record highs. But now producers and traders are struggling with the new reality: The world wants less oil, not more. And turning off the spigot is about as easy as turning around one of those tankers. So oil companies and investors are stashing crude, waiting for demand to rise and the bear market to end so they can turn a profit later. Meanwhile, oil-producing countries such as Iran have pumped millions of barrels of their own crude into idle tankers, effectively taking crude off the market to halt declining prices that are devastating their economies. Traders have always played a game of store and sell, bringing oil to market when it can fetch the best price. They say this time is different because of how fast the bottom fell out of the oil market. “Nobody expected this,” said Antoine Halff, an analyst with Newedge. “The majority of people out there thought the market would keep rising to $200, even $250, a barrel. They were tripping over each other to pick a higher forecast.” Now the strategy is storage. Anyone who can buy cheap oil and store it might be able to sell it at a premium later, when the global economy ramps up again.
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