Energy News

"Haynesville", its Message and My Background

Friends of “Haynesville”,

Recently, someone wrote me and accused me of being a “shill for the natural gas companies” and a person with a financial interest in natural gas.

I want you all to know the deal about me, my film and its message:

I moved back to Shreveport, my home, town to work on a documentary project on people leaving their lives behind to take care of their parents (these were people who had left fantastic lives in NYC and California — pretty interesting stuff).  While I had some money saved, I had no health insurance for the family.  I asked my dad to help me with health insurance and a stipend.  He made me an employee of Caddo Management while I was working on the film — I helped with everything from vetting real estate to graphic design.  Caddo Management invests in lots of things.  They are invested in oil, gas, real estate, stocks and bonds and even a publishing company.  All in all, it’s a tiny company of five people.  My father has always had investment ADHD and a love for creative pursuits.  In fact, he left the company a few years back to get a degree at Columbia University (and spends a lot of time up there).  Among other things, he his a playwright (“The Tailor of East Kings Highway” and “Yellow Wallpaper”).

When I stopped working on the other project and started the “Haynesville” project, I stopped working for my dad.  This was as much to get more time to work on the film as to be independent of Caddo.  You see, my dad is incredibly liberal-minded and believes in the development of alternative fuels as well as innovative renewable sources (he pointed us towards the Tulane Environmental conference).  If you met my father, you’d also understand that he would never tell me to do one thing or the other.  He has always insisted in me finding my own way.  As you also must know, that almost everyone in this area is touched by oil and gas. ��Almost everyone I know inside and outside the city has been the beneficiary of job, a lease payment or a royalty.  That said, if you looked into the bank accounts of the investors, most likely, there is oil and gas (and timber) money in the film.  That said, there are no direct dollars from the gas companies.  And, if there were, I’m not sure how happy they would be with the final product.  In fact, the majority of the negative criticism of “Haynesville” has come directly from the gas companies who have viewed the film — mostly due to the depiction of gas drilling and the landman’s practices with Kassi.  Also, as I’ve mentioned in numerous screenings, we were offered a large amount of money from a gas company if we took out Kassi’s story.  As you know, we refused the offer.

I know there are people out (from the environmental and/or the gas industry side) there that will never come to a place where we can discuss this new energy source in a balanced way (in fact, when I asked, this person who sent me the message had never even seen the film). That said, I only ask that, before taking potshots at me, I would ask that you see the film. Beyond that, it’s really easy to get “revealing” information about: Just ask.

( read more )

Candidates Take Aim At Climate Bill To Win Votes –


Two years ago, both the presidential candidates were big supporters of “cap-and-trade” legislation designed to fight climate change across the economy, but ads and debates in this election season show how unpopular that idea has become.

Democrats are running commercials declaring they’re against it because it would raise energy prices and hurt their states’ economies. And Republican ads attack Democrats for supporting the bill, which passed the House but stalled in the Senate.

None of those commercials is quite as memorable as one being aired by West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, who is running for Senate. The Democrat is so determined to show the people in his state that he’s against the climate bill that in his ad he loads a rifle and points at a copy of the legislation.

“I’ll take dead aim,” Manchin says right before he pulls the trigger, “at the cap-and-trade bill, because it’s bad for West Virginia.”

Some Democrats are standing up for action on climate change and trying to expose their opponents as members of a flat earth society.

In a recent debate for a Rhode Island House seat, David Cicilline said the nation needs to come up with a solution for global warming.

“And we can’t have a real discussion about it if you don’t believe in it,” Cicilline said to Republican John Loughlin.

“It’s not something you believe in. It’s not like the Easter bunny,” Loughlin shot back.

“No. It’s science,” Cicilline said, referring to the fact that most scientists agree that man is contributing to global warming, especially by burning fossil fuels.

But Loughlin countered: “It’s science and the scientific consensus is not there.”

There is one place where shrinking global warming pollution remains popular: Polls predict voters in California will reject a ballot proposition that would have stalled the state’s version of cap and trade.

But overall the issue is playing negatively.

Listen to entire story.

( read more )

Rare-Earth Prices Soar as China Quotas Hit Manufacturers Abroad

October 20, 2010, 7:48 PM EDT
By Mark Drajem and Gopal Ratnam

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) — Rare-earth prices have jumped as Chinese export quotas crimped worldwide supplies for the elements used in the manufacture of disk drives, wind turbines and smart bombs.

Prices have climbed sevenfold in the last six months for cerium oxide, which is used for polishing semiconductors, and other elements have more than doubled, according to Metal-Pages Ltd. in London, which tracks rare-earth prices.

Actions by China, which produces more than 90 percent of the world’s rare earths, have drawn criticism from U.S. lawmakers and officials in Japan and Germany. China reduced its second-half export quota for the minerals by 72 percent in July. It is now further restricting exports, according to industry participants.

“Materials are still being held up in customs and shipments are delayed,” Jeff Green, president of J.A. Green & Company LLC in Washington, who represents miners and users of the elements, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “Many believe rare-earth quotas for the second half of 2010 are exhausted, leaving materials unavailable for sale.”

President Barack Obama’s spokesman said the National Security Council staff is looking into reports that China is blocking shipments.“They’ve seen the reports,” press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters traveling with Obama on a West Coast campaign trip.“They’re looking into them but don’t have anything they could confirm about those reports.”

China’s Comments

China said the quota reduction was needed in order to shut polluting mines and still be able to meet domestic demand. It will “continue to supply rare earth to the world” while maintaining restrictions “to protect exhaustible resources and ensure sustainable development,” the Commerce Ministry said in a statement yesterday.

Contributing to the rise in prices is an expectation of further restrictions. China will probably tighten export controls on rare earths next year, Shigeo Nakamura, president of Advanced Material Japan Corp., said at a conference in China yesterday.

Rare earths are a group of 17 chemically similar metallic elements, such as lanthanum, cerium, neodymium and europium. The elements are used in radar, high-powered magnets, mini-hard drives in laptop computers, catalytic converters for vehicles, electric-car batteries and wind turbines.

“It’s pretty frightening that there may be a gap where U.S. industry pays an extraordinary price,” U.S. Representative Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican, said in an interview. He said U.S. rare-earth mining isn’t likely to resume until at least late 2012 at a mine in Mountain Pass, California.

‘Unified Front’

“The administration needs to join with other countries and have a unified front to tell China this is not appropriate,” he said.

China’s control of the $1.2 billion market for rare-earth elements gives it “market power” over the U.S., the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said in a report in April. China restricts exports of the elements through quotas and export taxes, the GAO said.

China has begun to use that market power recently, according to Japanese officials. They said supplies of the elements to Japan were cut after a Chinese fishing trawler collided with two Coast Guard boats in the East China Sea near islands claimed by both countries.

This week, Chinese customs officials began stopping shipments to the rest of the world, according to two people involved in the industry who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of concern about Chinese reaction. Chinese customs officials are delaying shipments by requiring shippers to open containers of the elements for chemical analysis, one of the people said.

Situation Fluid

What’s not clear is whether China has imposed new restrictions or exporters have simply filled the quotas that China imposed in July, the people said.

“Right now it’s very difficult to find prices because the situation is so fluid,” Ed Richardson, vice president at Thomas & Skinner Inc. in Indianapolis, a maker of magnets for the military who has sought U.S. funding to use rare earths. “China is not talking, but this does fall in line with the quotas they laid out in July.”

Prices for cerium oxide rose to $36 a kilogram Oct. 19 from about $4.70 a kilogram on April 20, according to Metal-Pages. Neodymium, used in magnets, rose to $92 a kilogram from about $41 in April and $46.50 in July, the company said.

Hybrid Vehicles

About 37 percent of worldwide rare-earth sales in 2008 were for magnets used in products such as hard-disk drives, hybrid- electric vehicles and guided missiles, according to Industrial Minerals Co. of Australia. An additional 31 percent went into phosphors, used in making energy-efficient lights.

China set a production cap of 89,200 metric tons this year, while reducing its export quota to 22,300 tons, according to estimates by Guosen Securities Co. It announced that quota in July, and prices have climbed since then.

Companies and government officials have already begun to react to the threat of a shortage of the elements.

The U.S. rare-earth mine in Mountain Pass, California, shut down most operations in 2002. Molycorp Inc., which owns the mine, plans to reopen it, and Chief Executive Officer Mark Smith said this week that it may double the planned capacity to 40,000 metric tons.

Glencore International AG, the world’s biggest commodities trader, also said this week that it would try to restart the Pea Ridge rare-earth mine in Missouri.

National-Security Risks

The U.S. Defense Department is studying the national- security risks of dependence on China, and Congress is considering legislation to boost U.S. mining and production.

Gamesa Corp. Tecnologica SA, Spain’s biggest wind-turbine maker, said countries such as the U.S., Canada and Australia hold unexploited deposits of rare earths. While most of the minerals are currently obtained from China, “there is no scarcity of rare-earth minerals in the medium to long term,” a Gamesa spokeswoman said by e-mail, declining to be identified in line with company policy.

In Germany, the government yesterday adopted a strategy to secure supply of raw materials including rare earths. Chancellor Angela Merkel said last week that it’s “urgently necessary” to boost European investment in eastern Europe and Central Asia to counter expanding Chinese interest in rare minerals.

Companies Reduced

China has cut the number of rare-earth companies this year, said Li Zhong, deputy general manager of Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare-Earth Hi-Tech Co. By 2015, the government wants to reduce the number of rare-earth oxide producers to 20 from 90, he said.

Traders are now waiting to learn what quotas China may impose on exports for 2011, Green said.

“China might raise the production cap and export quota slightly next year,” said Wang Caifeng, who until last week was deputy director at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology who oversaw the sector, saying that was her personal opinion. She is now in charge of setting up the ministry- affiliated China Rare Earth Industry Association.

–With assistance from Feiwen Rong, Xiao Yu and Yidi Zhao in Beijing, Peter Robison in Seattle and Julianna Goldman in Washington. Editors: Terry Atlas, Larry Liebert

( read more )

Film showcases local issue, importance of energy conservation

Director Gregory Kallenberg and producer Mark Bullard’s film “Haynesville: A Nation’s Hunt for Energy,” a Haynesville Shale documentary, premiered at Tech Oct. 6 in Wyly Tower of Learning Auditorium.

Kallenberg and Bullard were the first speakers of the School of Architecture Lecture Series.

“Haynesville” centers around the discovery of Haynesville Shale, a 170-trillion cubic foot natural gas reserve located in northwestern Louisiana.

“I set out to make a film of people’s personal stories in this energy boom,” Kallenberg said. “We had to add context after the size of the energy reserve was apparent.”

In his film, Kallenberg shares the stories of three individuals directly affected by Haynesville Shale.

These stories show both sides of the energy boom in northwestern Louisiana.

He also spoke with environmentalists, scholars and oil and gas industry experts about the impact of this discovery and its possibilities as an answer to today’s energy crisis.

“The film shows people the costs and benefits of clean energy,” Kallenberg said. “Also, it focuses on the importance of natural gas and energy conservation.”

Amy Day, a junior architecture major, said the film put Haynesville Shale into a new perspective beyond what is shown in the news.

“The movie showed the affects of Haynesville Shale from all angles,” Day said. “It showed what was going on both worldwide and here in Louisiana.”

She also said the film shed light on people not typically seen but greatly affected in these situations.

“The people in the movie were people everyone could relate to,” Day said. “They had struggles like everyone else and are the kind of people you want to hear about.”

Chris Kepner, a senior architecture major, said he liked the film’s emphasis on the community in northwestern Louisiana.

“Haynesville Shale has had a huge impact on this region,” Kepner said. “It’s cool that people from all over are getting to see what’s been going on in our backyard.”

The film has been shown in festivals worldwide including World Climate Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark and South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

The film has also had screenings in New York, Washington, D.C. and New Orleans.

However, Kallenberg said he enjoys showing his film on college campuses the most because of the students he meets.

“Students are an important part of the solution,” he said. “They will be the future of coming up with alternatives and solutions to these energy problems.”

He said he felt the next generation will utilize the energy well but must remember to be responsible with its use.

“I’m excited about the prospect of the reserve,” Kallenberg said. “But we must remember to be vigilant and environmentally responsible if we want to do this right.”

( read more )

Google Teams up with NY Firm for $5 billion Offshire Wind Project

WASHINGTON — Google and a New York financial firm have each agreed to invest heavily in a proposed $5 billion transmission backbone for future offshore wind farms along the Atlantic Seaboard that could ultimately transform the region’s electrical map.

The 350-mile underwater spine, which could remove some critical obstacles to wind power development, has stirred excitement among investors, government officials and environmentalists who have been briefed on it.

Google and Good Energies, an investment firm specializing in renewable energy, have each agreed to take 37.5 percent of the equity portion of the project. They are likely to bring in additional investors, which would reduce their stakes.

If they hold on to their stakes, that would come to an initial investment of about $200 million apiece in the first phase of construction alone, said Robert L. Mitchell, the chief executive of Trans-Elect, the Maryland-based transmission-line company that proposed the venture.

Marubeni, a Japanese trading company, has taken a 15 percent stake. Trans-Elect said it hoped to begin construction in 2013.

Several government officials praised the idea underlying the project as ingenious, while cautioning that they could not prejudge the specifics.

“Conceptually it looks to me to be one of the most interesting transmission projects that I’ve ever seen walk through the door,” said Jon Wellinghoff, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate electricity transmission. “It provides a gathering point for offshore wind for multiple projects up and down the coast.”

Industry experts called the plan promising, but warned that as a first-of-a-kind effort, it was bound to face bureaucratic delays and could run into unforeseen challenges, from technology problems to cost overruns. While several undersea electrical cables exist off the Atlantic Coast already, none has ever picked up power from generators along the way.

The system’s backbone cable, with a capacity of 6,000 megawatts, equal to the output of five large nuclear reactors, would run in shallow trenches on the seabed in federal waters 15 to 20 miles offshore, from northern New Jersey to Norfolk, Va. The notion would be to harvest energy from turbines in an area where the wind is strong but the hulking towers would barely be visible.

Trans-Elect estimated that construction would cost $5 billion, plus financing and permit fees. The $1.8 billion first phase, a 150-mile stretch from northern New Jersey to Rehoboth Beach, Del., could go into service by early 2016, it said. The rest would not be completed until 2021 at the earliest.

Richard L. Needham, the director of Google’s green business operations group, called the plan “innovative and audacious.”

“It is an opportunity to kick-start this industry and, long term, provide a way for the mid-Atlantic states to meet their renewable energy goals,” he said.

Yet even before any wind farms were built, the cable would channel existing supplies of electricity from southern Virginia, where it is cheap, to northern New Jersey, where it is costly, bypassing one of the most congested parts of the North American electric grid while lowering energy costs for northern customers.

Generating electricity from offshore wind is far more expensive than relying on coal, natural gas or even onshore wind. But energy experts anticipate a growing demand for the offshore turbines to meet state requirements for greater reliance on local renewable energy as a clean alternative to fossil fuels.

Four connection points — in southern Virginia, Delaware, southern New Jersey and northern New Jersey — would simplify the job of bringing the energy onshore, involving fewer permit hurdles. In contrast to transmission lines on land, where a builder may have to deal with hundreds of property owners, this project would have to deal with a maximum of just four, and fewer than that in its first phase.

Ultimately the system, known as the Atlantic Wind Connection, could make building a wind farm offshore far simpler and cheaper than it looks today, experts said.

Environmentalists who have been briefed on the plan were enthusiastic. Melinda Pierce, the deputy director for national campaigns at the Sierra Club, said she had campaigned against proposed transmission lines that would carry coal-fired energy around the country, but would favor this one, with its promise of tapping the potential of offshore wind.

“These kinds of audacious ideas might just be what we need to break through the wretched logjam,” she said.

Projects like Cape Wind, proposed for shallow waters just off Cape Cod in Massachusetts, met with fierce objections from residents who felt it would mar the ocean vista. But sponsors of the Trans-Elect project insist that the mid-Atlantic turbines would have less of a visual impact.

The hurdles facing the project have more to do with administrative procedures than with engineering problems or its economic merit, several experts said.

By the time the Interior Department could issue permits for such a line, for example, the federal subsidy program for wind will have expired in 2012, said Willett M. Kempton, a professor at the School of Marine Science and Policy at the University of Delaware and the author of several papers on offshore wind.

( read more )

Obama team lifts Gulf Coast oil drilling moratorium

The moratorium on deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has been lifted because new safety standards will make a disastrous oil spill much less likely, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today.

Drillers must meet “the higher bar we have set” in order to get new permits, Salazar said, including written certifications by oil company executives that they have met all the safety rules. Companies must also have specific plans for dealing with any spill.

It will take awhile for companies to resume actual drilling, though Salazar said “it will happen soon.” Michael Bromwich, director of the agency that oversees offshore drilling, said it would take “at least a couple of weeks” for specific permits to be approved.

President Obama put the moratorium in place while inspectors reviewed the safety of other Gulf Coast rigs in the wake of the massive BP oil spill.

The six-month moratorium was supposed to end on Nov. 30.

Gulf Coast businesses and lawmakers protested the moratorium as unnecessary and harmful to their economy. A federal report said the moratorium probably caused the temporary loss of 8,000 to 12,000 jobs in the Gulf region.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., responded by putting a Senate hold on the nomination of a new Obama budget director, Jack Lew.

Salazar said many observers will be displeased by the decision; some will find the new regulations “too onerous,” while others will say the moratorium is being lifted too soon because deep water drilling remains too risk.

But the U.S. still needs oil and gas from the Gulf Coast, Salazar said, even as the nation transitions to a clean energy economy.

“The truth is there will always be risks associated with deep water drilling,” Salazar said. “But we can and we will make the drilling … safer than it has ever been.”

David Guest, attorney for an environmental organization called Earthjustice, said deep water drilling “is intrinsically dangerous, as demonstrated by the BP spill, and it’s surprising the federal government thinks it has so quickly resolved all the problems that contributed to the spill.”

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Cal., ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, called the lifting of the moratorium “good news for the thousands of workers that had been displaced by an Administration policy that compounded the economic damaged caused by the oil spill.”

Moving forward,” Issa added, “the Administration should do everything it can to expedite and streamline the regulatory process to ensure the highest possible standard of safety while avoiding a de-facto moratorium-by-regulatory-delay and bureaucratic bottle neck that would be just as damaging to the Gulf economy as a blanket moratorium.”

( read more )

State sues Feds in Mountaintop Removal Limits – More mountaintop removal?

West Virginia says it is filing a lawsuit against two federal agencies that seeks to reverse the stricter controls on mountain-top coal mining adopted in 2009 by the Obama administration.

Announcing the action on Wednesday against the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, Gov. Joe Manchin III said that the regulations were unlawful, usurped state rights, were based in inadequate science and harmed the state by preventing new mining projects.

He condemned what he called the administration’s “attempts to destroy our coal industry and way of life in West Virginia.”

Mr. Manchin, a conservative Democrat, is a popular governor but is in an unexpectedly close race for the Senate seat left open by the death of Robert C. Byrd. His Republican opponent, John Raese, has accused him of wavering in his dedication to the coal industry, a mainstay of the state’s economy.

Mr. Manchin has fiercely denied the charge, and the announcement on Wednesday, made with the coal association chief at his side, was an opportunity to highlight his support for coal and also distance himself from President Obama, who is unpopular with many voters in the state.

Responding to the move, the E.P.A. said that its policies on mountaintop mining were legally and scientifically sound. It added that in negotiations over the last year and a half, “state officials have not engaged in a meaningful discussion of sustainable mining practices that will create jobs while protecting the waters that Appalachian communities depend on for drinking, swimming and fishing.”

The agency’s environmental concerns were affirmed by an independent advisory panel, it added.

Mountaintop removal, in which hundreds of feet are blasted off hills to gain access to coal seams, has become a major mining method in West Virginia, Kentucky and nearby states, but also a source of bitter conflict. Producers say it saves money, but critics say it is destroying the landscape as the removed dirt and rocks are dumped in valleys and toxic chemicals are released.

Federal permits for such mining operations had been granted comparatively easily in the past. But in 2009, the E.P.A., citing evidence of environmental harm as well as a growing public outcry, began requiring more stringent environmental reviews of new proposals and taking stronger action to protect streams under the Clean Water Act.

In announcing the suit, Mr. Manchin said that of 23 mining permits that were pending in 2009, only two had so far been approved to go forward.

The E.P.A. has also said it may withdraw or drastically alter a permit that the Bush administration had approved for a large proposed mine in West Virginia known as Spruce 1. A final decision on that project will not be announced until late this year.

( read more )

Green, but Still Feeling Guilty

JOSH DORFMAN, author of “The Lazy Environmentalist: Your Guide to Easy, Stylish, Green Living,” could not be accused of failing to live green.

He and his partner, Stephanie Holzen, a former stuntwoman, and their 5-month-old son, Shep, recently moved to a rental in a Victorian house in Crested Butte, Colo., where, he happily notes, the renovated stairway is made from reclaimed barn wood. Their furniture is also made from recycled wood and steel; in fact, the coffee table is wood that was reclaimed twice, having been salvaged from reclaimed wood that was being made into flooring.

Mr. Dorfman, 38, and Ms. Holzen, 35, use natural cleaning products, and are “constantly” drinking out of their Brita pitcher, so there is no need for disposable water bottles. All their personal-care products are organic, and Mr. Dorfman’s clothes are made from organic cotton and recycled materials — including his Nau blazer, which, he said, is made from recycled soda bottles.

But they have one great greenie flaw: they are addicted to disposable diapers.

“We tried cloth and think it’s totally unrealistic,” Mr. Dorfman said. Like the rest of America, he said, they have gravitated toward disposable diapers “and that’s really environmentally sinful. It’s plastic derived from petroleum. You use them once and then they get tossed in a landfill. It’s a terribly inefficient use of natural resources.

“Not only do I feel guilt, I feel hypocritical. But it’s the most functional diapers we’ve found. They keep my son dry. They don’t irritate his skin. They don’t clump up and get really heavy. They happen to work the best, and that’s annoying.”

The couple have found a way to lessen their pain — though it may be tricky for those without the lightning reflexes of a stuntwoman-turned-mom.

“Because we feel guilty about using disposable diapers, we’ve begun practicing ‘elimination communication,’ ” Mr. Dorfman explained in an e-mail. “What this means is that we pay close attention to Shep to determine when he’s about to pee or poop and then race to the shower so that he doesn’t soil his diaper so we can use it longer. We’ve actually gotten pretty good at reading the signs.”

Living in an environmentally responsible way, for the truly observant greenie, can be difficult. Certainly it is sensible to take the position, as do Mr. Dorfman and several others interviewed, that guilt is neither healthy, nor a motivation for long-term change. But when one is acutely concerned about doing the right thing, it can be difficult not to feel guilty on occasion.

Those who skim the surface of the earth’s crust in their needlessly huge fossil-fuel vehicles, tossing their foam coffee cups out the window, may never give such matters a second thought, focused as they are on getting to the mini-mart and saying to the clerk, “A six-pack of your finest spring water, my good fellow. And would you mind triple bagging it?” But for those who are concerned about green, life is fraught.

Finally, a Use for Our Outdated

Baby Seal Shrug

It is one of the ironies of being a professional environmentalist that your business often requires you to embrace what you prefer to shun. Such is the case with Danny Seo, 33, who likes to tell people he was born on Earth Day, has written seven books on eco-living “from an aesthetic point of view” and frequently organizes magazine shoots about green living. He is writing a book, “Upcycling,” about reusing objects that might otherwise be thrown away.

Might he give us an example?

“A Patagonia jacket you might have worn out and you figure out a way to zipper them together,” Mr. Seo said. “It makes the chicest, most gorgeous Gore-Tex shower curtain. It will never mold or mildew. If you bought a Gore-Tex shower curtain, it would retail at $600.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Seo’s business has built-in conflicts with Mother Earth: From a carbon footprint point of view, one should live in the smallest house possible, but he has two houses in Bucks County, Pa., 20 minutes apart, although one is used solely for photo shoots — and, of course, he powers it down completely when it is not in use. He redecorates all the time, and probably it would be greenest to leave things as they are, but he is a decorator and likes things to look a certain way. And when he is in Los Angeles, he rents an S.U.V. to haul around rugs and props.

That doesn’t sound so bad — he needs to haul stuff.

Read the entire article on

( read more )

The Mafia is Getting Into Green Energy? –


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.

( read more )

China Leads World in Renewables? –


NEW YORK ( — 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%.

Read entire article.

( read more )