America to Reduce Oil Imports

Under the weight of pressure to curb mounting gasoline prices, President Barack Obama is calling for the U.S. to reduce oil imports by one third before 2025.

Obama’s modus operandi is a slow boosting of domestic energy production, increasing the use of natural gas and bio-fuels; making cars and trucks more fuel-efficient.

In a speech in New York City last Tuesday, Obama said:

“We’ve still got a lot of work to do on energy…The last time gas prices were this high was 2008 when I was running. The other side kept talking about `drill, baby, drill.’ That was the slogan…What we were talking about was breaking the pattern of being shocked by high prices…”

Even if oil consumption drops, it will not have much impact on gasoline prices, since oil is priced globally and increased demand from China continues to put a spike in prices.

The Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Wednesday:

“The problem isn’t that we need to look elsewhere for our energy. The problem is that Democrats don’t want us to use the energy we have. It’s enough to make you wonder whether anybody in the White House has driven by a gas station lately.”

To meet the goal of cutting oil imports by one third, Obama will be calling for new incentives for companies to speed up gas and oil production on current and future leases. An Interior Department report said on Tuesday more than two-thirds of offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico are idle, neither producing gas and oil nor being explored by the companies who hold the leases. These leases could potentially hold more than 11 billion barrels of oil and 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Plugging the Seep

It is always nice when the federal government raises revenue and protects the environment while increasing private business profits. This is the reason a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on waste from the energy production processes is exciting.

Whenever such energy companies as BP and Shell drill for oil, some of the gas bubbles to the surface or seeps out through the leaky pipes. The companies then burn off some of these gas bubbles. This is known as “flaring.” The rest of the gas escapes into the air. This is known as “venting”.

The firms, then, are supposed to report the amount of gas which they vent and flare. According to the GAO, however, these companies under report their amounts. From 2006 to 2008, companies reported venting or flaring about 0.14 percent of natural gas produced. The actual amount, however, 30 times higher at approximately 4.3 percent of production; that’s about enough gas to heat 1.8 million homes for one entire year.

The GAO blames this on a lack of sophisticated technology, outdated regulations and the structure of the energy industry, it seems however that the main issue is ignorance. Up until recently, producers assumed that losses were minimal. According to the GAO, however, advances in infrared-camera technology “Have helped reveal that losses from storage tanks and fugitive emissions were much higher than they originally thought.” But the private sector hasn’t acted alone. Government has also been painfully slow to adapt. It hasn’t updated its venting and flaring regulations since 1980, before the new technologies existed.

Stricter regulation would benefit everybody. The government is missing out on tens of millions of dollars annually worth of potential royalties; what we call natural gas is technically known as methane – a greenhouse gas at least 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Limiting the amount regularly seeping into the atmosphere assists the war on climate change and is profitable.

Governor Paterson of New York is not Fracking Around Anymore

Gov. David Paterson Environmental groups celebrated when Governor David Paterson directed a seven-month moratorium on natural gas drilling sites in New York; however, environmentalists feel that this still isn’t good enough.

The outgoing governor, a Democrat, vetoed a bill last week which, if passed, would have suspended all new natural-gas drilling permits until the date of May 15 or later. Instead, he issued an executive order prohibiting high-volume hydraulic fracturing of horizontally drilled wells.

Also known as fracking, high-volume hydraulic fracturing consists of the blasting of millions of gallons of chemical-laced water, found thousands of feet under the ground, to shatter shale and release natural gas trapped inside.

Medium Fracking oilIn vetoing the Legislature’s oil and gas-drilling moratorium, Paterson said it would have been applied to all low-volume, conventional, vertically drilled wells, and effectually pulling the plug on an industry which has operated safely for decades.

Low-volume fracking on vertical wells uses thousands of gallons of water per well, as opposed to 8 million gallons per horizontal well used in high-volume fracturing.

Governor Paterson’s budget office estimated that this broad a ban would end up with the loss of thousands of industry jobs, cease landowner payments and reduce state and local revenues from permit fees and taxes significantly.

According to the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, the Legislature’s moratorium would have threatened the viability of more than 300 producing companies and about 5,000 jobs.

The oil and gas association said the Legislature’s bill would have severed the number of months drilling could take place next year by half, resulting in a net loss of up to $800,000 in real property taxes and $1.4 million in royalty payments.

Green Groweth the Holly

Prince Charles

As 2010 is drawing to a close, one lesson I learned about achieving green dreams is the merit of ingenuity as opposed to trying to make the ancient family car start by repeatedly kicking it.

How did I come so far outside of the box? Well, because the industry did. In the UK that is! I think that I can safely say they are this year’s winner of the Most Creative in the Quest for Alternative Energy Award.

A personal favorite that I recently wrote about is Adnams Bio Energy anaerobic digestion plan – working in partnership with National Grid – which uses brewery and local food waste to produce renewable gas to be used as liquid fuel.

There are also firms that flex unpredictable muscles of imagination such as EDF energy, REA (Renewable Energy Association), Segen Microgeneration, PPL Training and British Eco to name a few.

Here are some more surprises:

At Didcot sewage works in Oxfordshire, England, Centrica will be producing renewable gas from sewage for the use of households.

Here’s how it works:

Sewage arrives at the plant, is stored for 18 days, and is turned to sludge – then the solid part of the waste is further treated in anaerobic digestion – similar to Adnams’ green beer gag (plus other companies have come up with similar ideas) – so that bacteria breaks down the biodegradable material and behold: you’ve got enough gas to power about 200 homes!

Of course the gas is cleaned before it is fed into the grid. This process takes around 20 days from lavatory flush to the re-piping into homes.

This is the first time in the history of turning sewage into gas through anaerobic digestion that the bio-gas has been pumped directly into the grid for home use.

The project is a joint venture between Thames Water, British Gas and Scotia Gas Networks and costs about $4.3m.

It is held by those who know that 15% of all gas consumed could come from human waste, sewage and food thrown away by supermarkets and households.

Meanwhile, Centrica plc, the parent company of British Gas, today announced that its British Gas division has acquired a 15.96% stake in AlertMe, a UK based company providing home energy management services, for $9m cash. British Gas, following the transaction, will also hold a seat on AlertMe’s Board.

As part of the investment, the increasingly eco-minded British Gas signed a commercial agreement, potentially worth over $32m, to deploy AlertMe products and services to UK customers and help them to save energy and providing smarter ways to take control of their energy use.

Prince Charles

OK OK – and here’s the Really Big UK Green News – I mean Royal!

One Prince Charles, heir to the throne of Wales is supping up his Gloucestershire estate with ground and air source heat pumps to reduce carbon emissions and cut electricity bills!

The Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall say that the nations have less than 100 months to save the planet from irreversible damage due to climate change.

Who’s doing the job? Why, it’s one Ecovision Systems

He’s working quick to reduce his “fossil fuel footprint” also at his Highgrove digs and his Georgian home.

The Prince, whose annual report last year revealed that his household had generated 18% less C02 emissions than the previous year, declares himself “carbon neutral” because he “offsets” his emissions through an outside agency.

At Highgrove he has installed solar panels and woodchip boilers; rainwater is collected and used to irrigate land and flush bathrooms! The estate’s insulation is eco-friendly thanks to a double-glazing and reed-bed sewage processing system.

All of which is installed by Ecovision Systems, a firm that has also installed equipment at historic English houses such as Castle Howard in North Yorkshire and Harrow School in north-west London.

Cheers to the UK! The world of green energy apparently has a lot to live up to!

Big Problems for Big Coal USA

Every day that the chances for a Climate Change Bill drift further from the shore, the coal lobby becomes increasingly optimistic.

Friends of Big Coal on Capitol Hill, however, are insisting that they put the partying on pause. The Fat Lady has not yet sung the song for the coal industry — and she probably won’t.

Coal in the United States will soon go from the most popular and cheapest source of electricity to among the most expensive.

A New clean air and water regulations act will kick in next year – that is, combined with a boost in new natural-gas supply and a projected nuclear-power renaissance will do its damage to Big Coal and that is a Big Bonus for the environment.

The only policy that could possibly protect coal is the price on carbon which they are now fighting.

For many decades now, coal has been the nation’s foremost source of power, supplying roughly half of the nation’s electricity, while natural gas and nuclear energy generated about 20% of the national supply each, respectively – renewable made up the rest.

In the next two years though, the Environmental Protection Agency will introduce tough new regulations on coal pollutants such as the terrible acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

Well, also hitting the streets are brand new Clean Water Act regulations on coal, as well as myriad mining safety regulations.

All of the above will add to the price of coal thereby diminishing its novelty.

Well, in the meantime, utilities are rejoicing over the discovery of abundant domestic supplies of natural gas and anticipating new nuclear power plants in the coming years.

All of this is despite the likely fact of failure for any climate change legislation to happen this year.

Coal is a chemically complex fuel. Whenever and wherever it is burned, gases are given off and particles of ash — “fly ash” — get released. The sulfur in coal combines with oxygen to form sulfur
dioxide; this can be a major source of air pollution if emitted in large enough quantities.

Natural Gas Gold

While all of the world leaders will be gathering in Copenhagen this week for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, to come up with new and creative ways to reduce climate-altering emissions and make plans for a low-carbon energy future; a simple solution is right in front of our noses: natural gas.

natural gas terminalGasoline prices this year are 33% lower than they were last year and the industry is producing way more gas, now that they have uncovered large supplies of natural gas.

The USA has three times more natural gas than it thought it had in 1966 – and 40% more than thought just a few years ago. Actually more than 2,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas is the estimated available amount – this is enough to hold for the next 519 years.

More than 20% of U.S. electricity is generated by natural gas, and it is an important feedstock in chemical and fertilizer production. Natural gas serves to eliminate soot, for cleaner diesel fuel, and is used as a raw material in lightweight cars, wind-power blades and solar panels.

It seems like a no-brainer. Natural gas is produced in accordance with the strictest environmental standards and is one of the cleanest fuels in existence. Its use addresses a myriad of environmental concerns: smog, acid rain, greenhouse gas emissions. So why not embrace natural gas as the key to a low-carbon energy future – as it is the scientist’s best friend in developing solar energy and wind power technology.

Bottled Gas A Cheaper & Cleaner Fuel Option

It’s much less expensive than regular refined gasoline, and they won’t let your car into a below ground shopping mall parking lot if you have this installation, but at least half a million cars and trucks in the USA have already been converted to run on liquefied propane gas, otherwise known as LPG. From an environmental standpoint, using bottled LPG gas in your car is also much cleaner, with virtually no emissions, as compared to even unleaded gasoline.

hyundaiSo what’s involved with doing this and, how much does it cost? It appears that If you are a backyard mechanic, you can have your car converted to run ion LP gas for a little as $150, including storage tank or bottle. Or, if not, you can take your wheels to any number of repair garages that specialize in this sort of thing, and get it done for a bit more One garage owner said that a person “can bring his car in early in the morning and pick it up afterwards in the late afternoon. For newer cars (1995 and upwards) a special kit is available that has high pressure hoses and gauges that send the liquefied bottled gas into the engine from a bottle or “balloon” located under the rear baggage compartment of the car (where most spare tires are today).

From a cost standpoint LP gas and LNG (liquefied natural gas) is about 40% cheaper than diesel fuel – and 20% cleaner.

Automobile manufacturers are beginning to jump on the LP gas “bandwagon” and Volkswagen already has a 1.6 liter “Bi-fuel” Golf model that will run either o f LP gas or gasoline. And Hyundai is coming out with a LP gas hybrid model this month that features both a 1.6L Liquefied Petroleum Injected (LPI) four cylinder engine assisted by a 15KW electric motor with a continuously variable transmission.

With auto manufacturers becoming more interested in offering LP gas options in their alternative fuel vehicle marketing “mix” it appears that more and more people are beginning to realize the benefits of the saying: “go cheaper (and cleaner) with gas”.

Huge Gas Reservoir Found Off the Coast of Israel

Israel’s energy grid relays mostly on coal burning. Several years ago, a large gas reservoir had been found off the coast of Ashkelon, and related construction is still under way to utilize it.

However, today it was announced that a natural gas reservoir, three times bigger than that off the coast of Ashkelon, has been found off the coast of Haifa. The reservoir is apparently 90 Kilometers west of the coast, and extracting it wouldn’t be an easy task.

Nevertheless, this is a huge discovery for the people of Israel, and it could help the tiny country become much less dependent on foreign oil.