Posts Tagged ‘Natural Gas’
ROME — The seizure of a record 1.5 billion euros from a Sicilian businessman known as “Lord of the Wind” has put the spotlight on Mafia money-laundering through renewable energy ventures.
“The Mafia use clean energy to invest dirty money,” Sicilian journalist Lirio Abbate told AFP after police confiscated the assets from businessman Vito Nicastri on Tuesday.
The haul included no fewer than 43 wind and solar energy companies and around 100 properties including swank villas with swimming pools in Sicily’s western Trapani region, along with cars, a catamaran and bank accounts, the interior ministry said.
The infiltration of organised crime into the renewable energy sector is “a combination that is only now coming to light” in terms of legal action, said Abbate, a specialist in Mafia affairs who is under police protection.
“In the countryside it’s been apparent for longer because wind farms are springing up on land belonging to people with ties to the Mafia or obtained through violence,” he said.
Opposition Senator Giuseppe Lumia lamented: “The Cosa Nostra has managed to infiltrate the wind energy sector in the past few years by taking advantage of bad policies and bad bureaucracies.”
Nicastri, 54, is known nationally in the wind power sector, hence the nickname “Lord of the Wind”.
Anti-mafia investigators said Nicastri has links to Matteo Messina Denaro, considered the current supremo of the Sicilian Mafia, or Cosa Nostra.
Denaro has shifted from hypermarkets to wind energy, Abbate said.
“It’s obvious that these companies were tied to the Mafia because they have never been targeted, while construction sites in other sectors have been attacked,” he said.
This affair “confirms what we have been denouncing for a long time: infiltration in the new energy economy,” said the vice president of the national Anti-Mafia Commission, Fabio Granata.
Since Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi returned to power for a third time in 2008 elections, authorities have seized or sequestered some 16 billion euros (20 billion dollars) in assets belonging to suspected members of Italy’s crime syndicates.
The seizure of Nicastri’s assets “confims the interest that organised crime has in renewable energy, which several annual reports on environmental issues have already stressed,” said Beppe Ruggiero, an official with the anti-Mafia association Libera.
“It is very important for this sector to stay far from Mafia activities,” Ruggiero said, stressing the need for renewable energy to develop in Italy’s poorer south. “Investment in renewable energy should not be discouraged,” he said, adding that the nuclear alternative would be “a losing choice”.
The Berlusconi government in February began a process of restarting nuclear power, which was banned by a referendum held soon after the 1986 nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl, Ukraine, sent highly radioactive fallout over large areas of Europe.
Italy is ranked third in Europe, after Germany and Spain, for wind power, with a total power of nearly 5,000 megawatts at 294 farms as of the end of 2009, according to Gestore Servizi Energetici, a public company that manages incentive programmes for renewal energy.
Over the past decade, thanks to generous subsidies, wind farms have proliferated at a rate of 20 percent per year and the energy generated has risen by 34 percent per year, GSE said.
Most of that total — 98 percent — is generated in the south.
Last year wind power produced 6,543 gigawatt hours, 35 percent more than in 2008.
The Mafia interest in clean energy is explained by the fact that it is a “new sector where there is more public money and less control”, Ruggiero said.
“It allows the creation of new companies, and so the recycling of money. For organised crime, it’s a sector that was still unknown 15 years ago, but is becoming very important.
“They steal money from the state and in addition they sell them the energy they produce. They win twice,” Ruggiero said.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Five miles off the coast of Shanghai, the Chinese recently completed the country’s first offshore wind farm.
The project was completed before construction on the first American offshore wind farm has even begun.
The Shanghai project is not just another wind farm. It’s the next generation in wind power technology and the latest example of how China is jumping ahead of the United States.
Earlier this month, the accounting firm Ernst & Young named China the most attractive place to invest in renewables, knocking the United States out of the top position.
The study ranked countries on such things as regulatory risk, access to finance, grid connection and tax climate. It cited the lack of a clear policy promoting demand for renewables in the United States — a product of Congress’ failure to pass an energy bill — as one of the main factors for the dethroning.
China has already surpassed the United States in the amount of wind turbines and solar panels that it makes. China is also gaining on the United States when it comes to how much of their energy comes from renewable energy sources.
The country that leads in the renewable energy industry, is opening the door to more home-grown jobs.
Cash is pouring in: From an investment point of view, the trend is clear.
In 2009, nearly $35 billion in private money flowed into Chinese renewable energy projects, including factories that make wind turbines and solar panels, according to the research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The United States attracted under $19 billion.
“Within the past 18 months, China has become the undisputed global leader in attracting new investment dollars,” Ethan Zindler, head of policy analysis at New Energy Finance, recently told a congressional committee.
Zindler said the money came from not only the Chinese government and banks, but also Western private equity funds and individual investors buying publicly-traded Chinese stocks.
Jobs growth, for China: The result of all this investment money is jobs.
In wind power, China-based companies are on track to make 39% of the turbines sold worldwide in 2010, according to New Energy Finance. U.S.-based companies will make just 12%.
In solar, China-based firms will make 43% of the panels. U.S. firms will make 9%.
In Binghamton, New York on Wednesday, hundreds of locals filled the Broome County Theater to speak their minds, two minutes a time, to four members of the Environmental Protection Agency. They voiced opinions about a controversial process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to tap into huge reserves of shale gas thousands of feet below ground. New York sits on one of the largest known reserves of natural gas, which many people, including President Obama, have called a new, crucial resource for the country.
But residents in places where fracking occurs have raised concerns that the process isn’t regulated enough — that it leaches dangerous chemicals into groundwater and contaminates it with methane gas. Proponents believe that natural gas development can be a huge boon for the area, and drilling needs to happen as soon as possible.
Fracking, which is state regulated, isn’t legal in New York yet, and there was enough of an uproar about these issues that locals called for the EPA to step in and study the process. (Fracking involves injecting fluids into cracks in rock thousands of feet underground to increase the volume of gas collected. It’s long been legal in New York to do this along a vertical well column. But the more controversial horizontal fracking, which creates fractures on either side of a well drilled horizontally through a layer of gas-rich rock, remains illegal in New York for now.)
People on all sides are clamoring for the study, which is expected to be completed by 2012. The pro-fracking camp believes that good science will exonerate the practice. Anti-frackers want to know the process is safe before companies start drilling for shale. The EPA is under pressure.
After the hearing, Fortune spoke with Fred Hauchman, the Director of Science Policy about the task ahead of him. He offered insight about how to get good scientific results in a short timeframe, the EPA’s communication challenge and the benefit of getting face time with the people.
Why did the EPA agree to study this?
Natural gas is important to the country, but at the same time a lot of concerns have been expressed. And the public deserves to have answers to their questions.
How do you design a study that’s going to yield answers in just two years?
Unquestionably it will take resources and it will take a lot of focus and energy. I don’t think any of us have any illusions that we’ll have all the answers in two years. But we’re convinced that we can do research over this period of time that will be very informative.
What’s going to be the main focus?
We were directed by Congress to focus our efforts on drinking water. But people have said, several times, take a comprehensive look at hydraulic fracturing — you can’t just look at one part of it. We see a challenge there — obviously, we can only do so much with the resources we have and the time we have. But we need to consider those comments.
How long will it take?
We have this two-year timeframe, during which we expect to get good results, which we would characterize as preliminary. We know that there are going to continue to be questions. Any researcher will tell you we have to keep studying this. This is a big task we’ve taken on, and we anticipate that research will have to go on beyond that two-year period.
How many people in the EPA will work on this?
We’ve not fully resourced it. Right now we just know it’s going to take a sizeable effort.
It’s been identified as one of the top priorities for our Office of Research and Development. That came right out of the assistant administrator’s mouth.
Do you have an idea of the plan of attack?
We’re going to propose to the Science Advisory Board that some part of the study look at operations before they begin, in addition to testing sites during development and after drilling has started. We’re also looking retrospectively because the states have information through their regulatory activities. We’re looking at existing data that we have in hand that can help us, but we’re also looking at doing studies alongside fracturing operations.
People on both sides are so passionate about this. Is drilling for natural gas getting more scrutiny than methods of producing other kinds of fuels?
Everybody’s looking at this study. I think it’s fair to say that this administration has come in and told us from the get go that transparency is the hallmark of everything we do. I think this is a great example of that. It’s to our benefit. Venues like this with input from the public are very, very helpful.
Do you consider it the EPA’s responsibility to keep educating people once the results come out?
Sure, we’re going to need to go to great lengths to help with the interpretation of what’s likely to be a very complex study in the end. There are a lot of technical issues, and unless you’re an expert in that area, it’s difficult to get your head around it. We’re going to need to go the extra mile to translate and respond to questions.
You’ve sat through four four-hour sessions within the past two days. You must be exhausted.
Actually it’s good. It’s important for us to hear real concerns. What a great opportunity for science to really inform some very important decisions.
New York, New York – We often wonder when the next Google of clean energy will materialize. When will the lone inventor finally emerge from his garage to change the world and solve our energy problems? What stealth company will bring the establishment to its knees? Our recent experience with IT makes these questions seem relevant. But some analysts say they ignore the realities of energy.
“It’s a dangerous distraction,” says Mark Bünger, a research director with Lux Research. “There’s such a long distance between invention and implementation in these really physical technologies.”
It’s convenient to compare solar cell manufacturing to chip manufacturing or smart meters to personal computers. But a variety of factors make these sectors very different, says Bünger.
Firstly, the regulatory barriers in energy mean that projects often take a long time to develop. This will make the transition to renewables less like the IT Revolution and more of an evolution. Secondly, while information technologies were being deployed within an entirely new framework, energy technologies are competing against well-established incumbents. And thirdly, the capital needed to roll out renewable energies is orders of magnitude greater than in IT.
There’s basically zero variable cost associated with information technologies. And that’s exactly the opposite of most renewable energy technologies,” Bünger says.
The path to commercial adoption in energy is littered with all kinds of financial, political and regulatory barriers. These make it difficult for entrepreneurs and start-up companies to bring technologies to market.
This brings us to the “Valley of Death,” the gap between venture capital and project finance. The Valley of Death is where a technology is too capital intensive for a venture capital firm to continue investing, but too risky for a bank or private equity firm to bring it to scale. This gap is particularly wide in renewable energy where many technologies are still unproven and up-front capital needs are much higher.
If a framework for financing next-generation renewables is not established, say experts, new game-changing technologies will get stuck in this lonely Valley and wither away before they reach their potential.
That’s what this week’s podcast is all about: How to cross the Valley of Death.
A Letter to Our Friends at the Angelika screening in Dallas,
Thanks for being so enthusiastic about “Haynesville” and for all your notes of encouragement.
We are working to get back to your fair city and to spread the “Haynesville” message about a clean energy future.
For those who were shut out from getting in, thanks for being so patient. We owe you one.
Keep checking in for updates on further screenings.
I would like to address a portion of Paul CometX NYC’s entry (“the “Haynesville” movie, which is nothing more than pro-drilling propaganda masquerading as a film”). To start, I have to ask the question:
Have you seen “Haynesville”? If not, that’s okay. I would ask that you and everyone else please watch the film before discussing it.
If you had seen “Haynesville”, you would know that the film is a balanced look at energy, it’s human impact and what a path to a clean energy future could look like (spoiler alert: taking coal out of energy diet and using natural gas and conservation to get us to a renewable-based clean energy future). The film has been called “fair and smart” and a “humane take on a complicated subject”. In fact, it has been suggested many times that “Haynesville” and “Gasland” should run together as complementary pieces (not sure what HBO has to say about that, but it is what it is).
As anyone who has seen the film would also know, the centerpiece of the film is woman named Kassi Fitzgerald. Her entire mission is to preserve environmental protections for her rural community’s land and water supply.
Upon seeing “Haynesville”, you would’ve noted that Kassi’s environmental fight is focused on surface spills of any (and all) chemicals from the drilling process. Asking most people involved with regulation and/or studying ill effects of drilling, this is a major concern. Even Josh Fox would probably concur.
Surely, you would have at least seen that the film postulates that the path to a clean energy future (as presented by Bill McKibben — founder of 350.org and not exactly a “gas industry” guy) is a balanced approach of conservation, using natural gas to replace coal and a ramping up of a renewable-based power sources. In fact, in “Haynesville”, Michael Tidwell (environmentalist and author of “The Ravaging Tide”) says that we also need to be prepared to get off natural gas in the future. You’d have to admit this is not a “pro-drilling” stance.
My issue with your post is that it sounds as uninformed as what I read from the Glenn Beck loving, Drill-Baby-Drill folks.
The fact is that there is a place for “Haynesville”, “Gasland” and any other project that opens the conversation on energy and the energy future. The hope is that these films (articles, books, etc.) bring people to the table to discuss the issues, their challenges and, ultimately, figure out the solution. The problem is that both far sides of the energy discussion won’t meet in the middle. Instead, you hide on your cloistered side of the issue and lob insults at the other. From my perspective, this is a pretty crappy way to solve a problem.
In the end, we have a huge problem in the form of our current energy consumption habits and our current primary energy sources. We need to solve this problem by creating a more environmentally conscious approach to energy, its attainment and its use. If we can’t come together and start the conversation, and if we continue to tolerate the petty snipes from the far right and the far left of the energy issue, then we will get what we deserve when the energy future and all its impending ugliness is decided for us.
- Gregory Kallenberg
Director of “Haynesville”
FORGET coal, it’s too dirty. Forget nuclear power, it’s too expensive and controversial. Forget renewables, they’re too unpredictable. To meet our energy needs and cut carbon emissions we need an abundant source of clean, cheap energy, available night and day and in all weathers.
We may be in luck. Natural gas is such a fuel, and it’s sitting right under our noses in abundance. Predominantly methane, it’s the cleanest-burning of all fossil fuels (see chart), so using gas rather than coal to generate electricity could halve greenhouse gas emissions from traditional coal-fired power plants.
But hang on a minute: aren’t natural gas reserves depleting just as quickly as oil? And aren’t most reserves found in countries that might not want to share their riches with the rest of the world? Back in 2006, a political spat in Europe led Russia to temporarily cut off its supply of gas to Ukraine. All of a sudden, gas seemed to have just as many problems as other fossil fuels.
While that may have been the case four years ago, things are changing fast. New technology to extract natural gas from what’s euphemistically called “unconventional” deposits means previously gas-poor countries in the Americas, Asia and western Europe could have enough cheap gas to last for another 100 years at present rates of consumption (see diagram).
Unconventional gas tends to be trapped in impermeable hard rock or sandstone, contained within coal seams, or – most promisingly for gas producers – in shale deposits. For Vello Kuuskraa, president of Advanced Resources International, an energy industry consultancy based in Washington DC, unconventional gas “has the potential for changing the long-term outlook for natural gas in a very dramatic way”.
The world consumes around 3 trillion cubic metres of natural gas each year, and the European Union says reserves from proven and conventional sources will run out in 2068. Unconventional reserves could buy us at least an extra 60 years at current rates of consumption. According to research in the late 1990s by Hans-Holger Rogner at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, there could be 900 trillion cubic metres of unconventional gas worldwide, half of which is shale gas. Of this, the International Energy Agency estimates 180 trillion cubic metres will be recoverable.
The oil spill has left the central Gulf of Mexico awash in goo and the nervously watching American public buried in a blizzard of numbers: 20,000 barrels per day gushing into Gulf waters; 20,000 workers striving around the clock to plug the spill; nearly 1,400 vessels mobilized for the effort; millions of feet of boom to corral the oil; a million or so gallons of dispersant to break it up. And much more of everything in prospect as the effort continues to plug the runaway well and stop the mess from widening.
We’ll offer one number that hasn’t received the attention it deserves: 20 million. That’s roughly the number of barrels of oil consumed each day by this country’s cars, trucks, heavy equipment — everything.
It’s a big number. To put things in perspective, if the BP spill is flowing at 20,000 barrels per day, that makes for an environmental catastrophe, but it amounts to a statistical rounding error when compared with daily U.S. oil consumption. It’s roughly one-tenth of 1 percent of what we use daily.
We bring this up to call attention to the obvious: If this country is serious about reducing our oil dependency and, by inference, the amount of drilling at great depths offshore, we’ll have to make some major inroads on the demand side. Short of that, shutting down drilling and production for any length of time in the Gulf of Mexico is a nonstarter. Gulf production provides us with 30 percent of the oil we produce domestically. Take it away without cutting consumption and you get only one thing: increased dependency on foreign oil, much of it controlled by countries that don’t like us.
The Gulf spill has turned into a vexation for the Obama administration, framed curtly by the president’s frustration-filled plea to White House aides to “plug the damn hole.”
We share Obama’s pain. But that plug may not come for a while yet. Let’s make the best use of the interim, Mr. President: Put it to use marshaling public opinion in the cause of cutting the nation’s demand.
Here’s another number that might help: 700 billion barrels of oil equivalent. That’s a rough estimate of how much natural gas this country has, mostly trapped in shale formations from Texas to Colorado and in the West Virginia-Pennsylvania-New York region. It’s accessible without drilling through deep waters and the product is twice as clean as coal.
Maybe now is the time, Mr. President, to have a look at the energy independence plan put forward by the wildcatter T. Boone Pickens — especially his proposal to convert our nation’s fleet of 8 million 18-wheeler trucks from imported diesel to domestically produced natural gas.
That would take time, and it wouldn’t be cheap. A new infrastructure would have to be put in place. But it would make better use of a fuel that this country has in abundance, and which is more accessible than deepwater oil.
Focusing on future options (including nuclear power) beats the alternative of simply wringing your hands and wagging fingers at the oil companies, Mr. President. There’ll be time enough for blaming after the Deepwater Horizon well is plugged and the Gulf’s cleanup is under way.
Now is the time to point the way forward with cleaner alternatives that help build that bridge to a sustainable energy future we all want.
We believe the American people are primed for a mission that makes us more secure and creates good jobs while cleaning up the environment. It’s your moment to lead, Mr. President. Take full advantage of it.
With anger building over the BP oil spill, environmentalists are wondering if President Obama will stand up to Big Energy and get to work on climate change. Melissa Block talks to Bill McKibben, one such person waiting for a more forceful message from the White House. He wrote an op-ed in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, in which he writes: “Obama’s barely broken a sweat on climate change … We need someone to stand up and tell it the way it is, and in language so compelling and dramatic it sets us on a new path.”
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
As anger builds over the BP spill, environmentalists are hoping to hear more forceful message from President Obama on climate change. They say this could provide the transformative moment for the country to commit to clean energy.
Bill McKibben has been writing along these lines. His most recent book is “Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.”
Bill McKibben, welcome to the program.
Mr. BILL McKIBBEN (Author, “Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet”): Good to be with you, Melissa.
BLOCK: You have written that President Obama has barely broken a sweat on climate change. And I’m wondering what it is exactly you have been waiting to hear him say.
Mr. McKIBBEN: We’ve been waiting for him, I think, to go stand there with his back against the Gulf and say: Look, as ugly as that is – that black mess that BP has left us in the Gulf – even if that oil had gotten safely ashore and been refined and put in the gas tanks of your cars and burned, it would have been an environmental disaster then too. It would have driven the even larger problem that we’re facing, this runaway global warming that’s really the largest challenge that he or any other president has ever come up against.
BLOCK: And on these three trips that he’s made now to the Gulf, you’re hearing something falling short of that.
Mr. McKIBBEN: Well, he’s beginning to make some noises about working towards clean energy transition and things, and that’s good. But if there was ever an opportunity to take this debate and change it once and for all, to do what John Kennedy did when he got us going to the moon, you know, this is that moment.
BLOCK: You use that example of President Kennedy’s 10-year timetable to land a man on the moon. But there’s a huge difference here, and that is that there are very powerful, entrenched interests that have huge economic stakes in this…
Mr. McKIBBEN: That’s right.
June 4 (Bloomberg) — A Pennsylvania natural-gas well operated by EOG Resources Inc. had a “blowout” last night, sending natural gas and drilling fluids onto the ground and 75 feet (23 meters) into the air, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection said.
EOG said in a separate statement the well had a “control issue” at about 8 p.m. New York time yesterday and was secured by 12:15 p.m. today. No injuries were reported, the company said.
A “blowout,” the industry’s term for a surge of pressurized oil or gas that causes an eruption at a well, is what caused an explosion and fire at BP Plc’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico April 20, resulting in the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.
Environmentalists were quick to compare the two blowouts and call for tighter regulation of the growing use of hydraulic fracturing to extract gas from shale formations. Drillers using the process inject a mixture of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to crack open shale and unlock gas deposits.
“We see a lot of parallels,” said Amy Mall, senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York- based advocacy group. “This is a very complex process with a lot of risks and involves a lot of complicated technology. The strongest standards need to be in place.”
There is a need for federal regulation of drilling in shale formations so there is a “minimum standard”, Mall said. Pennsylvania is in the processing of revising its rules on fracturing, “but not every state is,” Mall said.
Regulation to Rise?
ClearView Energy Partners LLC, a Washington-based policy analysis firm, said it expects members of Congress who are critical of hydraulic fracturing to use the EOG accident as grounds for greater regulation.
“Odds for explicit regulation have now increased,” Kevin Book, managing director at ClearView Energy wrote today in a research note.
The well is located in the Marcellus Shale gas formation in Clearfield County, about 11 miles from Penfield, Pennsylvania, EOG said. Buffalo, New York-based National Fuel Gas Co. said today one of its subsidiaries is an equal partner with EOG in the well.