Brian McGraw

Post image for Global Energy and Environment Update

China Continues to Sail Forward with Coal

As the U.S. government wages war on coal, China is moving ahead with a number of large coal-mining projects to provide cheap, reliable energy to meet their ever-growing demand. The latest, in the Xinjiang region, is a project with U.S. based Peabody Energy Co. It is expected to produce 50 million metric tons per year, about 2% of China’s 2010 production of 3.3 billion metric tons and 3 times the annual U.S. production of roughly 1 billion metric tons. As China’s energy needs continue to increase, their production and consumption of coal is projected to steadily rise well into the future.

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Post image for WSJ Hits Cellulosic Ethanol Hard

Following up on Marlo’s post yesterday concerning the difficulties of bringing cellulosic ethanol to market, the Wall Street Journal wrote an editorial about the (lack of) fuel, and EPA’s decision to require refiners to buy ‘credits’ — Cellulosic Ethanol and Unicorns:

The EPA set the 2011 standard at six million gallons. Reality hasn’t cooperated. Zero gallons have been produced in the last six months and the corner isn’t visible over the next six months either. The EPA has only approved a single plant to sell the stuff, operated by Range Fuels near Soperton, Georgia. The company used to be a press corps favorite and has been lauded by the last two Presidents, but it shut down its cellulosic operations earlier this year to work through technical snafus.

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Post image for When The Wind Blows Too Hard

For some reason, utility contracts in Scotland are written such that companies are paid for energy that the utility cannot use. In this case, The Telegraph estimates that the payments were worth up to 20 times the actual value of the electricity under normal conditions:

The payments, worth up to 20 times the value of the power they would have produced, raises serious concerns about such subsidies, which are paid for by the customer.

The six Scottish wind farms were asked to stop producing electricity on a particularly windy night last month as the National Grid was overloaded.

Their transition cables do not have the capacity to transfer the power to England and so they were switched off and the operators received compensation. One operator received £312,000, while another benefited by £263,000.

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T. Boone Pickens went on Bloomberg to discuss the Pickens Plan:

Pickens claims that Koch is working for himself, while the pure hearted T. Boone Pickens is working for America. Now yes, Koch Industries has a financial incentive to not support federally built infrastructure for a fuel that competes with a product that he sells, but it also clearly aligns with a free-market perspective of not providing federal support for any particular energy sources. Furthermore, if it wasn’t obvious, Pickens would stand to make tons of money from increasing the use of natural gas in America, so its beyond disingenuous to pretend that he is solely “doing good.” [click to continue…]

Post image for Ethanol ‘Compromise’ Reached

Well, what many predicted has come true, subsidies for ethanol aren’t actually going away:

Ethanol advocates Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), meanwhile, won multi-year extensions of tax credits for producing “cellulosic” ethanol — which isn’t made from corn — and installing ethanol blender pumps at gas stations.

The deal will steer $1.33 billion — two-thirds of the savings from ending the blenders’ subsidy — into deficit reduction, while the balance of $668 million would support the other incentives, according to the lawmakers.

Any rational proposal for the future of ethanol should aggravate industry trade groups, and they’re predictably cheer-leading about how they’re being fiscally responsible, fueling our freedom, and all that other nonsense. It seems as if they saw the light at the end of the tunnel was fading fast, and they hopped on a train that would funnel a remaining 600 million into the industry. [click to continue…]

Post image for Tech Writers Have High Hopes for New Lightbulbs

Farhad Manjoo of Slate is convinced that a new L.E.D light bulb being produced will look similar to incandescent lighting and still save consumers money over the life of the bulb, according to their predictions and his calculations:

[…] On average, an incandescent bulb lasts about 1,000 hours—that’s about a year, if you keep it on for about three hours a day. Electricity in America also costs about 11 cents per kilowatt hour (that’s the average; it varies widely by region). In other words, a 50-cent, 60-watt incandescent bulb will use about $6.60 in electricity every year. Switch’s 60-watt-equivalent LED, meanwhile, uses only 13 watts of power, so it will cost only $1.43 per year. The Switch bulb also has an average lifespan of 20,000 hours—20 years. If you count the price of replacing the incandescent bulb every year, the Switch bulb will have saved you money by its fourth year. Over 20 years, you’ll have spent a total of about $142 for the incandescent bulbs (for electricity and replacement bulbs) and less than $50 for Switch’s 60-watt bulb. (I made a spreadsheet showing my calculations.) [click to continue…]

Post image for ‘Renewables’ Surpass Nuclear Electricity Production

This is the new claim being thrown around by renewable energy proponents with supporting data by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Check the link here:

During the first quarter of 2011, renewable energy sources (biomass/biofuels, geothermal, solar, water, wind) provided 2.245 quadrillion Btus of energy or 11.73 percent of U.S. energy production. More significantly, energy production from renewable energy sources in 2011 was 5.65 percent more than that from nuclear power, which provided 2.125 quadrillion Btus and has remained largely unchanged in recent years. Energy from renewable sources is now 77.15 percent of that from domestic crude oil production, with the gap closing rapidly.

Looking at all energy sectors (e.g., electricity, transportation, thermal), production of renewable energy, including hydropower, has increased by 15.07 percent compared to the first quarter of 2010, and by 25.07 percent when compared to the first quarter of 2009. Among the renewable energy sources, biomass/biofuels accounted for 48.06 percent, hydropower for 35.41 percent, wind for 12.87 percent, geothermal for 2.45 percent, and solar for 1.16 percent. [click to continue…]

Alaska To Drain ANWR

by Brian McGraw on July 2, 2011

in Blog

Post image for Alaska To Drain ANWR

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell this week announced in Washington, DC plans to hold auctions in October to lease 15 million acres of state land for oil and gas exploration.  The lease tracts include areas within state waters in the Beaufort Sea off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and onshore areas that are adjacent to ANWR.

In a written statement, Governor Parnell and Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan did not try to conceal that part of the plan is to drain oil reserves under ANWR that have been locked up by Congress since 1980 and under the National Petroleum Reserve.  “By drilling on state land and waters adjacent to NPR-A and ANWR, developers may end up drawing untapped oil that lies beneath these federal lands.”

Post image for Lawsuit Filed Against New York’s Participation in RGGI

The Competitive Enterprise Institute announced today that it is acting as co-counsel in a recently filed lawsuit in the state of New York against the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (a state cap and trade program). The lawsuit has been filed on behalf of small business owners in New York State who have faced increased electricity costs, and can be read here (.pdf). The American Spectator has a short write up here. The basis for the suit relies on the fact that elected officials in New York enrolled in the RGGI without approval by the state legislature. New York is the only state involved with RGGI who entered the initiative without approval from its legislature. As RGGI has forced electricity generators to purchase annual carbon allowances, it has raised the price of electricity for New York residents, effectively acting as a tax on electricity producers (those who produce more than 25 megawatts annually) in New York. [click to continue…]

Post image for Ethanol Policy Updates: E15 and Tax Credits

The EPA has finalized label requirements for E15, backing down a bit from initial proposal which included the word ‘caution.’ The new label, as you can see, is a slightly less alarmist ‘attention.’ I will note that the new label does not point out in any form that ethanol will provide fewer miles per gallon for your vehicle. Adjusted for energy content, ethanol is more expensive than gasoline. However, if you do not adjust for energy content, ethanol costs less than gasoline. Being that the label doesn’t point this out, it seems that consumers might fill up with E15 as it will be slightly cheaper than E10, as few are aware that they will be reducing their fuel economy when moving from E10 to E15. I suspect that the government would be taking action if a private company were to do this.

The Corn Grower’s Association has weighed in, and they are unsurprisingly less than thrilled despite the fact that the EPA kowtowed to their demands:

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