Thursday, August 31, 2006

Big hurdles remain for Calif's proposed greenhouse gas cuts

Even The Wall Street Journal acknowledged how potent is the move by California August 30 to reduce its overall greenhouse gas emissions about 25% to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Even with the support of Pacific Gas & Electric, one of the nation's largest utilities, several hurdles remain, not the least of which are expected challenges in court. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is how policymakers will apportion responsibility for the reductions. THAT is where the rubber is meeting the road on this issue, as outlined in this U.S. Senate Climate Change White Paper.

PG&E CEO Peter Darbee is saying California businesses shouldn't be concerned, although the companies PG&E competes against rely more on coal and thus are more exposed to coal's greenhouse gas burdens. PG&E emits about 40% of the carbon emissions of the average U.S. utility. Darbee denied on CNBC's Kudlow & Company Aug. 31 that this is a veiled bid to earn a permit to build a new nuclear power plant in California.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Enviros win round 1 against TXU's east-central Texas coal plant

Led by Environmental Defense and the Texas Chapter of Public Citizen, environmental activists have turned back, for now, an application to build the 1,720-megawatt, lignite/coal-fired power plant in Franklin, Texas. Their inputs played a role in two Administrative Law Judges ruling Aug. 24 that Dallas-based utility TXU failed to demonstrate that planned pollution controls would enable the plant to meet state-proposed emission rates for nitrogen oxides and mercury.

This plant, and several other coal-fired generating stations planned by TXU in the face of growing concerns about global warming, had been the subject of Wall Street Journal page one story earlier in the month. The case now goes before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for a final order, expected this fall.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Smart energy plans starting to make a difference at the polls

Governors Rod Blagojevich and George Pataki are the latest politicos to put some of their political weight behind an energy plans designed at least to get voters thinking about their energy creds. Blagojevich unveiled a plan August 22 to replace half of Illinois' energy supply with homegrown fuels by 2017. If the plan were to succeed, Illinois would be the first state to reach this level of energy 'independence.'

The Gov's plan relies on incentives to triple production of ethanol and other biofules and build as many as 10 new plants to gasifiy coal for diesel engines and electric generation. Carbon from the gasification process would be sequestered underground via an ambitious pipeline from central to southeastern Illinois.

The plan by Blagojevich, who is running for re-election, follows plans outlined by New York's Pataki August 7. He wants to allow companies to immediately expenses their captial investments in bio-refineries and other alternative fuel production facilities and provide energy companies with a federal tax credit for producing renewables fules and other alternatives to petroleum. He also wants to move all federal vehicles an offices to petroleum alternatives within 10 years. And he's proposing, among other things, a sliding scale of production tax credits for new vehicles.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

10,000 megawatts and counting

What industry is installing more capacity of its product annually now than the total cumulaive installed capacity for that product at year'end 2000? If you answered wind you're right. While it might not surprise energy policy junkies it should be noted that the wind industry eclipsed the 10,000 megawatt milestone this summer and will continue scoring gains due in part to renewable energy portfolio requirements and energy credits from people wishing to reduce their carbon 'footprints'. See the details at this American Wind Energy Association's web page.

Monday, August 14, 2006

'beyond petroleum' down the drain?

BP, already under attack by some enviros and regulators for the pipeline leak and corrosion in Alaska's North Slope, which followed a deadline refinary explosion in 2005 and allegations some of their traders cornered the propane market in 2005, is getting hit hard by coverage in The New York Times, including an op-ed today (Monday, August 14) by one of the creators of the company's 'beyond petroleum' campaign. Ad agency exec John Kenney laments what Sir John Browne's legacy might have been and what it is now destined to become. Just this past Saturday, columnist Joe Nocera slammed BP is nothing more than 'Old Oil.'

Knee-jerk reaction? Impact on end-users of their energy products? Too much company focus on flashy PR and not enough on critical infrastructure issues that threaten to undo the goodwill fostered by that PR? Would any company accept responsibility the manner in which US CEO is throughout the media?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Euro and Canadian energy companies dominate socially-responsible investment ranking

While socially-responsible investment rankings continue to lag behind the purer profit plays in the oil sector for most investors, the more sustainable energy company business models are gaining ground in part through more days in the sun publicity-wise, based on the most research report by Toronto-based Jantzi Research, released August 3.

In it's report, "Oil and Gas in a Bull Market: The Shifting Sands of Responsibility," Jantzi rates companies in four categories: 1) Environment, with a 30% weighting; Community and Society, 25%; Human Rights, 25%; and Health and Safety, 20%. No surprise who's at the top of the list: BP with a score of 6.8 out of a perfect 10. Rounding out the top five, respectively, are Suncor Energy, Nexen, Petro-Canada and Shell. The highest ranking U.S. company is Chevon in 12th place. ExxonMobil socred 3.7, good for 18th place.

BP's approach no doubt will test U.S. West Coast investors and consumers who may feel a tighter squeeze at the pump given the shutdown of the pipeline operated -- announced today -- by BP that transports crude oil in from Prudhoe Bay, the nation's largest oilfield. Big question that looms: how long will the shutdown last? Might we see oil selling for more than $80 per barrel soon? How about $100?