On the Blog

Duke Energy’s Clean Coal Plant Coughed, Wheezed in February

Somewhat Reasonable - May 02, 2014, 11:15 AM

After the global warming-battling Edwardsport coal gasification power plant used more power than it generated during the September-to-November time-frame, earlier this month information filed with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission showed the Duke Energy facility operated at less than 1 percent of capacity in February.

As Duke wants to recover $1.5 million in costs related to the plant, the state office that advocates for its customers – the Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor – wants IURC to more closely scrutinize why Edwardsport’s operation has been such a miserable failure. The much-delayed and fought-over plant had a $1.4 billion cost overrun and as a result is adding an average 16 percent increase to Hoosier State customers’ electric bills.

“The ratepayers of Duke Energy should not be mandated to bear the risks and most of the costs of this boondoggle,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of Citizens Action Coalition, to the Indianapolis Star. Olson’s organization has been a longtime critic of Duke Energy and the Edwardsport project specifically.

Duke has argued that it would need 15 months for the plant to become fully operational. According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, after the three-month blunder late last year, power production “slowed to a crawl” in January due to mechanical problems. The company claimed it moved up planned routine maintenance to February, which extended its period of diminished activity.

“It’s a large, complex project, and it has taken time to work out technical issues,” said Duke spokeswoman Angeline Protogere to the IBJ.

For the customers there is a huge difference between attaching the cost of Edwardsport’s “issues” to its initial construction costs vs. charging for ongoing maintenance. A settlement limited the costs of the build-up of the plant for customers to $2.6 billion, while Duke’s shareholders are responsible for $900 million. But now that Edwardsport is officially “online,” critics fear that repairs and maintenance that should be charged against the original design of the plant, will instead be added as new costs for customers under ongoing upkeep.

Those representing the grassroots of Indiana don’t appear to want to cut Duke any slack. Olson has been unrelenting, and in early 2012 the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor sharply criticized the utility as “a company that, through arrogance or incompetence, has unnecessarily cost ratepayers millions of dollars and has set back the public’s trust in our regulatory process.” An OUCC official testified, “There appears to be a lack of responsibility or accountability on the part of those causing these multimillion-dollar cost overruns.”

Another ugly aspect of Edwardsport/Indiana appears to be drawing to an end. As the saga played out over who would be responsible for cost overruns, David Hardy – the chairman of the IUCC appointed by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels – was revealed to have been meeting with Duke secretly to discuss problems at the power plant. Daniels fired Hardy after it was also disclosed that he knew that an IURC administrative lawyer was discussing a job with Duke while he participated in cases regarding Edwardsport. Hardy was indicted in 2011, but last year a judge ruled his actions no longer amounted to a crime, and yesterday the state Court of Appeals confirmed his decision despite the fact that they applied a law to Hardy’s situation that wasn’t passed until a year after his actions,according to the Star.

The track record for holding Duke Energy and government officials accountable for carelessness, ethics breaches and outright performance failures is not inspiring – especially in Indiana. The same Court of Appeals dumped the bulk of the Edwardsport costs also on its blameless customers. Meanwhile government know-nothings and former Duke CEOJames Rogers pushed for an ill-conceived project all for the purpose of reducing life-giving carbon dioxide, which is blamed for global warming.

Undoubtedly such folly would not have happened – or at least have been tolerated – in a truly competitive free market. Instead we have a monopolistic industry that thrives as much on crony favoritism from government as it does from the actual sales of its product.

 

[Originally published at National Legal and Policy Center]

Categories: On the Blog

Renewable Energy in Decline, Less than 1% of Global Energy

Somewhat Reasonable - May 02, 2014, 10:24 AM

The global energy outlook has changed radically in just six years. President Obama was elected in 2008 by voters who believed we were running out of oil and gas, that climate change needed to be halted, and that renewables were the energy source of the near future.

But an unexpected transformation of energy markets and politics may instead make 2014 the year of peak renewables.

In December of 2007, former Vice President Al Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize for work on man-made climate change, leading an international crusade to halt global warming. In June, 2008 after securing a majority of primary delegates, candidate Barack Obama stated, “…this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal…” Climate activists looked to the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference as the next major step to control greenhouse gas emissions.

The price of crude oil hit $145 per barrel in June, 2008. The International Energy Agency and other organizations declared that we were at peak oil, forecasting a decline in global production. Many claimed that the world was running out of hydrocarbon energy.

Driven by the twin demons of global warming and peak oil, world governments clamored to support renewables. Twenty years of subsidies, tax-breaks, feed-in tariffs, and mandates resulted in an explosion of renewable energy installations. The Renewable Energy Index (RENIXX) of the world’s 30 top renewable energy companies soared to over 1,800.

Tens of thousands of wind turbine towers were installed, totaling more than 200,000 windmills worldwide by the end of 2012. Germany led the world with more than one million rooftop solar installations. Forty percent of the US corn crop was converted to ethanol vehicle fuel.

But at the same time, an unexpected energy revolution was underway. Using good old Yankee ingenuity, the US oil and gas industry discovered how to produce oil and natural gas from shale. With hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, vast quantities of hydrocarbon resources became available from shale fields in Texas, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania.

From 2008 to 2013, US petroleum production soared 50 percent. US natural gas production rose 34 percent from a 2005 low. Russia, China, Ukraine, Turkey, and more than ten nations in Europe began issuing permits for hydraulic fracturing. The dragon of peak oil and gas was slain.

In 2009, the ideology of Climatism, the belief that humans were causing dangerous global warming, came under serious attack. In November, emails were released from top climate scientists at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, an incident christened Climategate. The communications showed bias, manipulation of data, avoidance of freedom of information requests, and efforts to subvert the peer-review process, all to further the cause of man-made climate change.

One month later, the Copenhagen Climate Conference failed to agree on a successor climate treaty to the Kyoto Protocol. Failures at United Nations conferences at Cancun (2010), Durban (2011), Doha (2012), and Warsaw (2013) followed. Canada, Japan, Russia, and the United States announced that they would not participate in an extension of the Kyoto Protocol.

Major climate legislation faltered across the world. Cap and trade failed in Congress in 2009, with growing opposition from the Republican Party. The price of carbon permits in the European Emissions Trading System crashed in April 2013 when the European Union voted not to support the permit price. Australia elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the fall of 2013 on a platform of scrapping the nation’s carbon tax.

Europeans discovered that subsidy support for renewables was unsustainable. Subsidy obligations soared in Germany to over $140 billion and in Spain to over $34 billion by 2013. Renewable subsidies produced the world’s highest electricity rates in Denmark and Germany. Electricity and natural gas prices in Europe rose to double those of the United States.

Worried about bloated budgets, declining industrial competitiveness, and citizen backlash, European nations have been retreating from green energy for the last four years. Spain slashed solar subsidies in 2009 and photovoltaic sales fell 80 percent in a single year. Germany cut subsidies in 2011 and 2012 and the number of jobs in the German solar industry dropped by 50 percent. Renewable subsidy cuts in the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom added to the cascade. The RENIXX Renewable Energy Index fell below 200 in 2012, down 90 percent from the 2008 peak.

Once a climate change leader, Germany turned to coal after the 2012 decision to close nuclear power plants. Coal now provides more than 50 percent of Germany’s electricity and 23 new coal-fired power plants are planned. Global energy from coal has grown by 4.4 percent per year over the last ten years.

Spending on renewables is in decline. From a record $318 billion in 2011, world renewable energy spending fell to $280 billion in 2012 and then fell again to $254 billion in 2013, according to Bloomberg. The biggest drop occurred in Europe, where investment plummeted 41 percent last year. The 2013 expiration of the US Production Tax Credit for wind energy will continue the downward momentum.

Today, wind and solar provide less than one percent of global energy. While these sources will continue to grow, it’s likely they will deliver only a tiny amount of the world’s energy for decades to come. Renewable energy output may have peaked, at least as a percentage of global energy production.


[Originally published at Communities Digital News]

Categories: On the Blog

Major Arctic Sea Ice Story Lurking, But Is Anyone Watching?

Somewhat Reasonable - May 02, 2014, 12:01 AM

There is a huge event being forecasted this year by the CFSV2, and I don’t know if anyone else is mentioning this. For the first time in over a decade, the Arctic sea ice anomaly in the summer is forecast to be near or above normal.

While it has approached the normals at the end of the winter season a couple of times because of new ice growth, this signals something completely different. That multiyear growth means business – and it shows the theory on the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) is likely to be on target.

Once it flips, this red herring of climate panic will be gone. Global and Southern Hemisphere anomalies are already unmentionable since the former is well above normal and the latter is routinely busting daily records.

The biggest minimum anomalies are in the summer since this flipped, and the only peaks came very close to the height of winters once this melting was underway.

Now look at what the CFSV2 forecasted for 2012.

The brief positive anomaly hit early, but for the summer it’s well below normal. In 2013, it’s the same, though not as far.

But this year it’s forecast to be around normal in August!

This is only with a yearly AMO back off. I don’t think this is the real deal of the flip yet. But it makes the point that one can correlate the ice in the Arctic with the Atlantic cycle.

If we look at the cold AMO years we can plainly see why this is going on.

The Jamstec model is forecasting water temps this summer to be much colder in the north Atlantic than the map above. but still not cold enough to say this is the permanent flip. It is, however, a sign of what is to come.

It should be obvious as to who is the boss here, and with the warm AMO in its waning years, the Arctic sea ice hysteria will wind up where so many agenda driven items do – on the ash heap of history.

This, if correct, is going to be a huge story. It would be the first summer where Arctic sea ice returned to near normal, indicative of the increase in multiyear ice and what a turn to the colder AMO in the future means! Let’s see if anyone else picks up on it.

By the way, this same kind of evolution through the fall and into the winter would lead to another harsh U.S. winter.

Categories: On the Blog

Stop the Waste of Tax Dollars by the EPA

Somewhat Reasonable - May 01, 2014, 8:37 PM

The Environmental Protection Agency sent out this news release April 30 asking for public comment supporting their efforts to promote renewable energy solar and wind as replacements for fossil fuels in electricity production. (The release is also pasted below.) This is in support of EPA programs to stop fossil fuels use by declaring carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels as a catastrophic air pollutant.

I can assure you this news release was sent to assigned representatives of the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, etc. which will generate possibly hundreds of thousands of comments to support this program. EPA used this approach to obtain one million letters of support for its ruling to stop use of coal for generating electricity in future power plants.

The EPA was charged with seeing the nation had clean water and air back in 1970. It is not an agency to promote energy policy. Give them a dose of their own medicine by submitting comments denouncing their actions to cleanenergy@epa.gov. Share this blog post with friends who have similar thoughts.

————

CONTACT:
Enesta Jones (News Media Only)
jones.enesta@epa.gov
202-564-7873
202-564-4355

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2014

EPA Solicits Public Comments on Action Plan for RE-Powering America’s Land

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking public comments on the draft action plan for its RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative. The plan guides EPA’s efforts over the next two years to encourage renewable energy development on current and formerly contaminated lands, landfills and mine sites when such development is aligned with the community’s vision for the site. The cleanup of contaminated land and the production of renewable energy will provide long-term improvements to air quality in communities, while protecting public health.

In 2010, the RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative published its first management plan to provide a useful framework to engage stakeholders on the potential to site renewable energy on contaminated lands and track progress. This second action plan, Action Plan 2.0, identifies activities planned for the next two years.

The agency will solicit comments for 30 days. Comments on the proposed plan are due by Friday, May 30.To submit a comment, please send to cleanenergy@epa.gov

A copy of the draft Action Plan 2.0: http://www.epa.gov/oswercpa/action_plan.htm

Categories: On the Blog
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