Energy News

Kassi Fitzgerald, Loving Mother, Loses Her Son (Obituary)

FILMMAKER’S NOTE: Kassi Fitzgerald appeared in the film “Haynesville” and immediately made a name for herself as a concerned citizen, conscientious environmentalist and, most importantly, a loving mom of two sons Matthew and Joseph. On Sunday, April 29, Kassi lost her son Joseph to a sudden illness. We are heartbroken that this has happened to such an amazing woman. Our thoughts and prayers go to her and her family. We have republished Joseph’s obituary below.

Joseph Caleb Fitzgerald , age 11, went home to be with Jesus on Sunday, April 29, 2012 at Willis-Knighton South ER after a sudden illness. Joseph was born in Shreveport, Louisiana and raised in Stonewall, Louisiana from age three. Joseph was a student at North Desoto Middle School where his favorite subject, his passion was art.

Joseph was a wonderful study in extremes. He could be quick to anger but also quick to hug. Joseph loved beautiful flowers and gardening we often talked about how bad people and bad experiences were like weeds in the garden, you just have to keep pulling them out and eventually you have more flowers than weeds. He loved to cook and had learned the different herbs in the garden and loved experimenting with them. Joseph loved jewels and jewelry making and art (his favorite art work was “Starry Night” by Van Gough. Music (his favorite songs were “Broken Wing” by Martina McBride and “Fire to The Rain” by Adele but he most related to Martina McBride’s song “Concrete Angel”. Joseph also enjoyed catching caterpillars, frogs and lizards and showing his Mom the differences between them. He was fascinated by bugs and reptiles and often spoke of being a gemologist or ichthyologist. Recently Joseph had begun to learn how to build things with his Mom and was excited to finally be getting the chance to use power tools.

Joseph loved the contemporary worship service at church and had an understanding of death and heaven beyond his years. He spoke of seeing his MauMau again someday and we know that now he is with her once again having conversations about bugs, jewelry, lizards, flowers and the many things that only she could relate to him about due to their similar early lives. Joseph will be missed my many. Our home will be quieter, our hearts will be sadder but we all will take comfort in knowing Joseph will never suffer again. He will never feel anger or pain or have nightmares again. Now he will only know joy and peace and the beauty of God’s love and for that we are grateful.

Joseph was preceded in death by his MauMau, M. Sue Harris and is survived by Grandparents, Ron and Shirley Kendrick and Jack and Thelma Fitzgerald; his Mom, Kassi Fitzgerald: Dad and Step Mom, Eddie and Elizabeth Fitzgerald; Brothers Clayton and Matthew Fitzgerald; biological Mom, Terri Jones; Mimi, Missi Dugas; biological sisters Breauna and Alia Jones and a host of loving Aunts and Uncles both biological and adopted by heart.

We would like to thank the North Desoto School System for their love and dedication to Joseph. We especially would like to thank Mrs. Angela Farmer, Mrs. Rocket, Mrs. Tara Falls, Couch Parker and Mrs. Shawnie Leach. We would also like to thank Dr. Clifton Vaughn and Counselor Lauren Finley for there steadfast dedication to Joseph.

Memorial services will be held Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 4:30 PM at the First Southern Methodist Church in Stonewall, LA
In lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be made to the North Desoto Middle School art department or special education department in honor of Joseph.

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Cali sets highest green power goal

California sets highest green power goal

By Wendy Koch, USA TODAY

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday that sets the nation’s toughest renewable energy mandate, requiring utilities to draw 33% of their power from solar panels, windmills and other sources by 2020.

“There are people who think we can drill our way to happiness and prosperity,” the Democratic governor said at SunPower Corp./Flextronics plant, which makes solar panels in Milpitas, Calif., according to the Associated Press. “Instead of just taking oil from thousands of miles away, we’re taking the sun and converting it.”

Previously, California required utilities to get 20% of their power from renewable sources. Colorado approved a bill last year requiring 30% of its power by 2020.

Supporters of the higher standard, which takes effect in about three months, said it will reduce air pollution and create green energy jobs. “Public officials have decided to create thousands more jobs for Californians,” said Denise Brode, CEO of America Wind Energy Association, a trade group, in a statement.

Critics said the standard will increase electricity costs at least 7%, despite language in the legislation to limit cost increases, reports the AP. “Industry in California already pays electricity rates about 50% higher than the rest of the country,” said Gino DiCaro, spokesman for the California Manufacturers and Technology Association.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who joined Brown at the bill signing ceremony, said the U.S. goal is to make solar energy cost-competitive with all other forms of energy by 2020. He announced a $1.2 billion conditional loan guarantee for a SunPower solar project in San Luis Obispo County that’s expected to power 60,000 homes and create 350 jobs.

Chu announced a $1.6 billion loan guarantee Monday for a BrightSource Inc. solar plant in the Mojave Desert that could create 1,000 jobs and power 85,000 homes.

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Can Geothermal Energy Be Harvested from NatGas Wells?

DALLAS (SMU) – During the summer of 2008, Southern Methodist University hosted a demonstration aimed at generating electricity from waste heat.  Popular Science was so impressed with the compact unit connected to a boiler in the University’s Central Plant that editors named ElectraTherm’s “Green Machine” one of the top technology innovations of 2008.

Fast-forward to summer 2011, and the Green Machine is producing fuel-free, emission-free power at a Mississippi oil field, generating geothermal energy from the hot wastewater that oil and gas producers consider a nuisance.  The Mississippi project, one of 13 Green Machine installations currently operating internationally, was under a spotlight as SMU’s Geothermal Laboratory mounted its fifth international symposium, June 14-15, aimed at spurring interest in geothermal energy from oil and gas producers.

“We are offsetting electric consumption on the site with power generated from hot water,” said Loy Sneary, CEO of Gulf Coast Energy, a Texas-based company that distributes the Green Machine for ElectraTherm, Inc.  ���It has been talked about for a long time, people have been researching it and there have been a lot of concepts tested – this is the first time it’s really been done with a modular solution, installed in 50 hours and with the entire system mounted to a tractor-trailer skid.���

Scientists in SMU’s Geothermal Laboratory in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences in Dedman College see a natural partnership in co-production of geothermal energy from oil and gas wells.  Large quantities of water are produced with the extraction of oil and gas, either because it was present in the reservoir before drilling, or because water was injected into the formation to force oil and gas to the surface.

Historically, geothermal production in the United States has been limited to tectonically active regions with extremely hot, naturally pressurized waters – like The Geysers Field in California.  But newly developed technology like the Green Machine allows for the generation of electricity from moderately hot water. Sneary sought advice from SMU’s Geothermal Laboratory in finding oil and gas production sites likely to have sufficient heat flows to support the Green Machine’s production and, as a result, contacted Denbury Resources. The Plano-based company is in the business of revitalizing old wells by injecting carbon dioxide into the reservoir, which increases reservoir pressure while reducing the oil’s viscosity. This process allows the recovery of oil that otherwise would not be produced.

The data that SMU provided Sneary made it clear that the water being produced at approximately 204 degrees Fahrenheit by Denbury wells near Laurel, Miss., likely had sufficient heat flow for the Green Machine. �� “We try and support valid research projects where possible,” said Gordon Moore, regional facility engineering manager at Denbury.  ���At that point, the unit at SMU was operational, and they invited us to come down to SMU and take a look at it.”

The Green Machine is designed for 30-65 kilowatts of power output, but the lower temperature and flow at the Laurel demonstration site generates a lower output, producing 19 kilowatts of power. According to Moore, this is enough to offset about 20 percent of the energy required to run the down-hole pump on the oil well it is paired with. The machine was installed in May, and SMU geothermal experts say this kind of co-generation can be particularly effective to reduce the energy costs for pumping hard to reach oil.

The Green Machine is a relatively small unit – about the size of a small garden shed. This allows for easy transport, with the entire system mounted on one trailer skid. The hot water is separated from the oil and gas that it is pumped out with, and the produced water then heats refrigerant in the Green Machine that expands into high-pressure vapor and, in turn, drives a generator.  Proponents of this type of unit say its portability is one of its biggest benefits.

“ElectraTherm deployed the Green Machine at Denbury to connect and generate electricity seamlessly, and we are excited with the results – 50 hours installation time is a great accomplishment for the first time,” said John Fox, CEO of ElectraTherm. “The ongoing operational lessons we learn from this demonstration will benefit future installations with higher performance capabilities.”

Read more about Geothermal Energy Utilization Associated With Oil & Gas Development.

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Solar Plane Showcases Indefinite Flight

PARIS — Keeping any airplane aloft requires a delicate balance of four forces: lift, drag, weight and thrust. André Borschberg’s requires a fifth factor to be in perfect equilibrium as well.

During the day, his slender, propeller-driven plane is powered in flight by the energy it collects from the sun through an array of solar cells

atop its 64-meter, or 208-foot, wingspan. For the plane to continue flying through the night, however, Mr. Borschberg must carefully ration that energy, which is stored in the aircraft’s 450 kilograms, or 990 pounds, of lithium-ion batteries. In this way, he said, the plane could theoretically fly indefinitely.

“It has become a game,” Mr. Borschberg, a former Swiss Air Force fighter pilot, said of his aircraft, the Solar Impulse. “It’s not a question of flying fast. It’s how do you manage to keep flying until the sun rises the following day.”
Taking wing from Brussels without burning fuel, emitting noise or trailing pollution, the experimental plane arrived at Le Bourget airport, north of Paris, last week — although it took nearly 16 hours for the craft, the guest of honor at Paris Air Show this year, set to open Monday.

The show is a global coming-out party for a project that has won admiration from many in the aviation world for its promotion of renewable energy.

“Presenting this technology to the public and showing that you can fly an aircraft with no fuel — that shows the progress this industry has made in its environmental consciousness,��� said Damien Lasou, a managing director and aerospace analyst at Accenture in Paris.
Nonetheless, some industry executives privately dismiss the plane as little more than a vanity project of Mr. Borschberg and his business partner, Dr. Bertrand Piccard, with scant commercial prospects, at least for the foreseeable future.

The Solar Impulse, which has been in development since 2005, attracted worldwide attention last July when it completed its first test flight of more than 24 hours, circling high above the Jura Mountains of northern Switzerland and relying on the power generated by the 11,628 solar cells across the upper surface of its wingspan, which is just a touch wider than that of a Boeing 747.

Read the rest of the article at the New York Times.

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New Taxis to Run on Natural Gas

A study released Thursday ranked Chicago as the most congested city. Now, a Chicago taxi company has announced its plan to run a dozen cabs on natural gas, instead of gasoline.

Taxi Medallion Management aims to drive down its total emissions by 25 percent, Crain’s Chicago Business reports.

The��Ford Transit Connect vans that the Yellow Cab Chicago affiliate purchased will help it reach that goal: natural gas emits fewer pollutants and fewer greenhouse gases.

The vans are also more fuel efficient — 23 miles per gallon, up 21 percent from a regular sedan cab, according to Crain’s.������The vans are set to arrive in March.


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Nuclear power roadblock: Natural gas (Marketplace)

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Click here to listen to the entire story…


KAI RYSSDAL: Three years ago, Marketplace’s Sarah Gardner did a story about American nuclear power, about how that industry was gearing up for a big comeback. There were new tax credits, building permits and regulatory changes in the air. Suffice it to say, a lot has changed.

SARAH GARDNER: It’s always instructive and humbling to go back to stories I’ve reported and see how things turned out. It’s like playing “Where Are They Now?” but with news events, not celebrities.

So I dug up that 2007 “nuclear renaissance” piece from the Marketplace archives. It opens with a sound bite from David Crane, the CEO of NRG Energy. His company had just filed the first petition to build a nuclear power plant in the U.S. in nearly 30 years.

DAVID CRANE: It’s important for all of us to recognize that that was then, and this is now. The nuclear industry today is not the nuclear industry of the 1970s.

When I interviewed Crane in 2007, he was jazzed about safety advances in nuclear technology and new federal loan guarantees. Other utility execs were too. By 2008, they’d drawn up plans to build at least two dozen new reactors here. Fast forward to 2011…

CRANE: All I would say is that the process has taken a very long time.

Crane still hasn’t gotten a desperately needed loan guarantee. And his company’s already shelled out half a billion on this nuclear venture, and they haven’t broken ground yet.

PAUL PATTERSON: I think the reality caught up with the hype, so to speak.

Energy analyst Paul Patterson says it’s not just NRG’s nuclear power dreams that are on hold. In fact, most of a few dozen proposed reactors are in limbo. Congress never did pass a cap on greenhouse gases emitted by coal burning power plants, which would have made fossil fuels more expensive and nuclear power more competitive. And federal subsidies never reached the levels nuclear lobbyists hoped for. But the biggest, baddest enemy of that “nuclear revival”? Cheap natural gas.

Again, CEO David Crane.

DAVID CRANE: It was absolutely not predicted by anybody, expert or soothsayer.

A glut of natural gas has driven down prices and now makes nuclear look wildly expensive. Natural gas is a fossil fuel, but emits half the greenhouse gases of coal. Energy companies have discovered and tapped into huge reserves of shale gas in the U.S.

Bernard Weinstein is associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute in Dallas.

BERNARD WEINSTEIN: We’ve got at least a 200-year supply of natural gas in the United States. So if you’re a utility executive and you’re scratching your head, maybe I don’t want to commit to a nuclear plant right now.

Peter Bradford, a former nuclear regulator, says nuclear power’s always been a hard sell. Its history of cost overruns and plant cancellations means Wall Street won’t touch it. And the feds are cautious too. Last fall, Constellation Energy walked away from a promising nuclear project in Maryland.

Bradford said the Department of Energy demanded what Constellation called a “shockingly high” fee for a government loan guarantee.

PETER BRADFORD: And the nuclear industry’s position now is “We can’t go forward in the face of a fee like that. We need something that’s more like a gift.”

And right now, any gifts from the feds are unlikely. So, what happens another three years from now? Well, if the experts are right this time, the industry will be lucky to have a few nuclear reactors under construction. Of course, as this story’s taught me, things can change.

I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

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Shale Gas: Uncle Sam's Saviour (Reuter's Breaking Views)

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Natural gas may be Uncle Sam’s most ignored blessing. With resources now equivalent to Iran’s oil reserves, domestic shale gas offers a chance to meaningfully reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil, cut the deficit and even reduce greenhouse emissions.

Every modern president since Richard Nixon has paid lip service to the quest for energy independence. Similarly, the bloated trade deficit and climate change have become political obsessions over the past decade. Yet precious little has been done to deploy America’s growing gas endowment to solve these problems.

To be fair, U.S. politicians have had little time to react. Just a few years ago it looked like falling domestic gas production would force the United States to rely increasingly on imports. Instead new drilling technologies — hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling ��������� have enabled energy firms to tap massive quantities of gas trapped in rock.

Just last month, the Department of Energy more than doubled estimates of recoverable shale reserves to 827 trillion cubic feet — the energy equivalent of roughly 140 billion barrels of oil. That’s slightly greater than the proven oil reserves of Iran, the world’s third-largest repository of crude.

As gas reserves have ballooned, so has the potential to help solve decades-old policy conundrums, starting with America’s addiction to foreign oil. Last year the tab for the 12 million barrels of oil the U.S. imports daily came to around US$270-billion — accounting for roughly half the total trade deficit.
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US Company Moves Solar Panel Operations to China (New York Times)

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BEIJING — Aided by at least $43 million in assistance from the government of Massachusetts and an innovative solar energytechnology, Evergreen Solar emerged in the last three years as the third-largest maker of solar panels in the United States.

But now the company is closing its main American factory, laying off the 800 workers by the end of March and shifting production to a joint venture with a Chinese company in central China. Evergreen cited the much higher government support available in China.

The factory closing in Devens, Mass., which Evergreen announced earlier this week, has set off political recriminations and finger-pointing in Massachusetts. And it comes just as President Hu Jintao of China is scheduled for a state visit next week to Washington, where the agenda is likely to include tensions between the United States and China over trade and energy policy.

The Obama administration has been investigating whether China has violated the free trade rules of the World Trade Organization with its extensive subsidies to the manufacturers of solar panels and other clean energy products.

While a few types of government subsidies are permitted under international trade agreements, they are not supposed to give special advantages to exports — something that China’s critics accuse it of doing. The Chinese government has strongly denied that any of its clean energy policies have violated W.T.O. rules.

Although solar energy still accounts for only a tiny fraction of American power production, declining prices and concerns about global warming give solar power a prominent place in United States plans for a clean energy future — even if critics say the federal government is still not doing enough to foster its adoption.

Beyond the issues of trade and jobs, solar power experts see broader implications. They say that after many years of relying on unstable governments in the Middle East for oil, the United States now looks likely to rely on China to tap energy from the sun.

Evergreen, in announcing its move to China, was unusually candid about its motives. Michael El-Hillow, the chief executive, said in a statement that his company had decided to close the Massachusetts factory in response to plunging prices for solar panels. World prices have fallen as much as two-thirds in the last three years — including a drop of 10 percent during last year’s fourth quarter alone.

Chinese manufacturers, Mr. El-Hillow said in the statement, have been able to push prices down sharply because they receive considerable help from the Chinese government and state-owned banks, and because manufacturing costs are generally lower in China.

“While the United States and other Western industrial economies are beneficiaries of rapidly declining installation costs of solar energy, we expect the United States will continue to be at a disadvantage from a manufacturing standpoint,” he said.

Even though Evergreen opened its Devens plant, with all new equipment, only in 2008, it began talks with Chinese companies in early 2009. In September 2010, the company opened its factory in Wuhan, China, and will now rely on that operation.

An Evergreen spokesman said Mr. El-Hillow was not available to comment for this article.

Other solar panel manufacturers are also struggling in the United States. Solyndra, a Silicon Valley business, received a visit from President Obama in May and a $535 million federal loan guarantee, only to say in November that it was shutting one of its two American plants and would delay expansion of the other.

First Solar, an American company, is one of the world’s largest solar power vendors. But most of its products are made overseas.

Chinese solar panel manufacturers accounted for slightly over half the world’s production last year. Their share of the American market has grown nearly sixfold in the last two years, to 23 percent in 2010 and is still rising fast, according to GTM Research, a renewable energy market analysis firm in Cambridge, Mass.

In addition to solar energy, China just passed the United States as the world’s largest builder and installer of wind turbines.

The closing of the Evergreen factory has prompted finger-pointing in Massachusetts.

Ian A. Bowles, the former energy and environment chief for Gov. Deval L. Patrick, a Democrat who pushed for the solar panel factory to be located in Massachusetts, said the federal government had not helped the American industry enough or done enough to challenge Chinese government subsidies for its industry. Evergreen has received no federal money.

“The federal government has brought a knife to a gun fight,��� Mr. Bowles said. “Its support is completely out of proportion to the support displayed by China ��� and even to that in Europe.”

Stephanie Mueller, the Energy Department press secretary, said the department was committed to supporting renewable energy. “Through our Loan Program Office we have offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees to 16 clean energy projects totaling nearly $16.5 billion,” she said. �����We have finalized and closed half of those loan guarantees, and the program has ramped up significantly over the last year to move projects through the process quickly and efficiently while protecting taxpayer interests.”

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African Huts Far From the Grid Glow With Renewable Power –

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KIPTUSURI, Kenya — For Sara Ruto, the desperate yearning for electricity began last year with the purchase of her first cellphone, a lifeline for receiving small money transfers, contacting relatives in the city or checking chicken prices at the nearest market.

Charging the phone was no simple matter in this farming village far fromKenya’s electric grid.

Every week, Ms. Ruto walked two miles to hire a motorcycle taxi for the three-hour ride to Mogotio, the nearest town with electricity. There, she dropped off her cellphone at a store that recharges phones for 30 cents. Yet the service was in such demand that she had to leave it behind for three full days before returning.

That wearying routine ended in February when the family sold some animals to buy a small Chinese-made solar power system for about $80. Now balanced precariously atop their tin roof, a lone solar panel provides enough electricity to charge the phone and run four bright overhead lights with switches.

“My main motivation was the phone, but this has changed so many other things,��� Ms. Ruto said on a recent evening as she relaxed on a bench in the mud-walled shack she shares with her husband and six children.

As small-scale renewable energy becomes cheaper, more reliable and more efficient, it is providing the first drops of modern power to people who live far from slow-growing electricity grids and fuel pipelines in developing countries. Although dwarfed by the big renewable energy projects that many industrialized countries are embracing to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, these tiny systems are playing an epic, transformative role.

Since Ms. Ruto hooked up the system, her teenagers’ grades have improved because they have light for studying. The toddlers no longer risk burns from the smoky kerosene lamp. And each month, she saves $15 in kerosene and battery costs — and the $20 she used to spend on travel.

In fact, neighbors now pay her 20 cents to charge their phones, although that business may soon evaporate: 63 families in Kiptusuri have recently installed their own solar power systems.

“You leapfrog over the need for fixed lines,” said Adam Kendall, head of the sub-Saharan Africa power practice for McKinsey & Company, the global consulting firm. “Renewable energy becomes more and more important in less and less developed markets.”

The United Nations estimates that 1.5 billion people across the globe still live without electricity, including 85 percent of Kenyans, and that three billion still cook and heat with primitive fuels like wood or charcoal.

There is no reliable data on the spread of off-grid renewable energy on a small scale, in part because the projects are often installed by individuals or tiny nongovernmental organizations.

But Dana Younger, senior renewable energy adviser at the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank Group’s private lending arm, said there was no question that the trend was accelerating. “It’s a phenomenon that’s sweeping the world; a huge number of these systems are being installed,” Mr. Younger said.

With the advent of cheap solar panels and high-efficiency LED lights, which can light a room with just 4 watts of power instead of 60, these small solar systems now deliver useful electricity at a price that even the poor can afford, he noted. “You’re seeing herders in Inner Mongolia with solar cells on top of their yurts,” Mr. Younger said.

In Africa, nascent markets for the systems have sprung up in Ethiopia, Uganda, Malawi and Ghana as well as in Kenya, said Francis Hillman, an energy entrepreneur who recently shifted his Eritrea-based business, Phaesun Asmara, from large solar projects financed by nongovernmental organizations to a greater emphasis on tiny rooftop systems.

In addition to these small solar projects, renewable energy technologies designed for the poor include simple subterranean biogas chambers that make fuel and electricity from the manure of a few cows, and “mini” hydroelectric dams that can harness the power of a local river for an entire village.

Yet while these off-grid systems have proved their worth, the lack of an effective distribution network or a reliable way of financing the start-up costs has prevented them from becoming more widespread.

���The big problem for us now is there is no business model yet,” said John Maina, executive coordinator of Sustainable Community Development Services, or Scode, a nongovernmental organization based in Nakuru, Kenya, that is devoted to bringing power to rural areas.

Just a few years ago, Mr. Maina said, “solar lights” were merely basic lanterns, dim and unreliable.

�����Finally, these products exist, people are asking for them and are willing to pay,” he said. “But we can’t get supply.” He said small African organizations like his do not have the purchasing power or connections to place bulk orders themselves from distant manufacturers, forcing them to scramble for items each time a shipment happens to come into the country.

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New Zealand Coal Mine Explosion Traps Dozens –


Three Britons among the missing as New Zealand pit blast leaves 29 miners feared trapped half a mile underground

A powerful explosion in a New Zealand coal mine has trapped more than two dozen miners underground.
“There has been an explosion,” New Zealand’s Grey District mayor Tony Kikshoom said. “They don’t even know at what depth of the mine it is. It’s too early to make any calls, but it’s not good news at the moment.”

Some 27 miners are believed to be alive somewhere in the mine, and rescuers are currently assessing the best way to get to them.

“Power went out at the Pike River coal mine,” Barbara Dunn, the communications manager for the Tasman
District of New Zealand told ABC News. “An electrician initially went in to see what had happened and he discovered a loader driver had been blown off his machine from an explosion.”

That loader driver was reportedly hundreds of feet away from the explosion — an apparent sign of the blast’s strength.

Two miners who were working in a different part of the mine have stumbled out of the mine’s entrance and said three more could be behind them, a police report said.

A special rescue team, known as the West Coast Mine Rescue Team, has assembled at the mine “to assess what the requirements might be to go into the mine and effect a rescue,” New Zealand Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee said.

“So at this stage we’re trying to stay out of their way. They are the experts,” he said.

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