Happy birthday Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; 53 years

December 6, 2013

Icy day here in Dallas, we missed a lot of dates that should have been commemorated.

Let’s catch this one:  The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) was created 53 years ago today in the administration of Dwight Eisenhower, by Interior Secretary Fred A. Seaton.

Happy 53rd birthday to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge! @USFWSHQ @USFWSRefuges #Alaska pic.twitter.com/2popb7EAvz

Photo probably not taken this week:  From the US Department of Interior: Happy 53rd birthday to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge! @USFWSHQ @USFWSRefuges #Alaska pic.twitter.com/2popb7EAvz

ANWR finds itself the center of controversy, now, because of the possibility of oil underneath it, and the difficulty of getting that oil without destroying wildlife habitat, or the possibility of destructive oil spills.  For an understanding of the issues, visit ANWR’s website and the non-partisan discussion there.

Odd that land so severely beautiful, so far out of the way and so difficult to master, has its fate decided in marble halls in Washington, D.C., 3,172 miles distant. The United States is a big, sprawling nation.

Information on the ANWR:

History and Culture

Refuge Establishment: Legislation and Purposes

The Arctic Refuge was established in 1960 and expanded in 1980.


Refuge History

The Arctic Refuge has been providing for the physical and emotional well-being of humans for many thousands of years. It remains an important resource to help sustain local Eskimo and Indian cultures. The Refuge continues to be valued, even by those who never travel within it’s borders, as a symbol of America’s vast and remote wilderness – a place of inspiration and beauty – a promise for the future for all Americans.

Local Cultures

The lands of the Arctic Refuge continue to support the Inupiat Eskimo and Gwich’in Indian peoples who have lived here for centuries.

More:  

3,172 miles between the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Washington, D.C.

3,172 miles between the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Washington, D.C.


Selling wind energy leases off the coast of Virginia: Is this a good idea?

September 16, 2013

Contrary to the claims of President Obama’s critics, his administration is proceeding to develop energy resources in new areas.

Just a couple of weeks ago experimental wind energy sites off the coast of Virginia were auctioned off.

Wind power farm at sea; Clemson University image, of unidentified ocean-based wind farm.

Wind power farm at sea; Clemson University image, of unidentified ocean-based wind farm.

Can these tracts be developed responsibly?  I have not followed the issue, and I have not read the Environmental Impact Statement on this sale (surely there was one, since this is a “significant federal act” with great impact on these waters and the coast of Virginia).  Surely this is safer and cleaner than oil leases; enough cleaner?  Far enough away to avoid destructive effects on wildlife and other resources?

What do you think?

Here’s the press release from the Department of Interior:

Interior Holds Second Competitive Lease Sale for Renewable Energy in Federal Waters


Historic Sale for Wind Energy Development Offshore Virginia Advances President’s Climate Action Plan

09/04/2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to create American jobs, develop domestic clean energy sources and cut carbon pollution, the Interior Department today completed the nation’s second competitive lease sale for renewable energy in federal waters, garnering $1,600,000 in high bids for 112,799 acres on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore Virginia.

Virginia Electric and Power Company is the provisional winner of the sale, which auctioned a Wind Energy Area approximately 23.5 nautical miles off Virginia Beach that has the potential to support 2,000 megawatts of wind generation – enough energy to power more than 700,000 homes.

The sale follows a July 31 auction of 164,750 acres offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts for wind energy development that was provisionally won by Deepwater Wind New England, LLC, generating $3.8 million in high bids.

“This year’s second offshore wind lease sale is another major milestone in the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy and demonstrates continued momentum behind a robust renewable energy portfolio that will help to keep our nation competitive and expand domestic energy production while cutting carbon pollution,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “Today’s sale is the result of a great deal of collaboration and planning with the Commonwealth of Virginia, which has been a leader in advancing offshore renewable energy for the Atlantic coast and an enthusiastic partner in this effort.”

“Today’s renewable energy lease sale offshore Virginia is another significant step forward in the President’s call for action to address climate change and the Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy,” said Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy Beaudreau. “I congratulate Virginia Electric and Power Company and we look forward to overseeing their development of the Virginia wind energy area, which will create jobs, increase our energy security and provide abundant sources of clean renewable power.”

Efforts to spur responsible development of offshore wind energy are part of a series of Obama Administration actions to increase renewable energy both offshore and onshore by improving coordination with state, local and federal partners. The Virginia Renewable Energy Task Force has been a leading agent in intergovernmental collaboration for wind energy development offshore Virginia.

Since 2009, Interior has approved 47 wind, solar and geothermal utility-scale projects on public lands, including associated transmission corridors and infrastructure to connect to established power grids. When built, these projects could provide more than 13,300 megawatts – enough energy to power more than 4.6 million homes and support more than 19,000 construction and operations jobs.

As part of the President’s comprehensive Climate Action Plan, he has challenged Interior to re-double efforts on its renewable energy program by approving an additional 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy production on public lands and waters by 2020.

At the same time, under the Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, domestic oil and gas production has grown each year President Obama has been in office, with domestic oil production currently higher than at any time in two decades; natural gas production at its highest level ever; and renewable electricity generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources having doubled. Combined with recent declines in oil consumption, net oil imports in 2012 fell to the lowest level in 20 years.”

BOEM auctioned the Wind Energy Area offshore Virginia as a single lease, containing 19 whole Outer Continental Shelf blocks and 13 sub-blocks. For a map of the Wind Energy Area, click here.

The auction lasted 1 day, consisting of 6 rounds before determining the provisional winner. In addition to Virginia Electric and Power Company the following company participated in the auction: Apex Virginia Offshore Wind, LLC. Following the auction, the Attorney General, in consultation with the Federal Trade Commission, will have 30 days in which to complete an antitrust review of the auction.

The lease will have a preliminary term of six months in which to submit a Site Assessment Plan to BOEM for approval. A Site Assessment Plan describes the activities (e.g., installation of meteorological towers and buoys) the lessee plans to perform for the assessment of the wind resources and ocean conditions of its commercial lease.

After a Site Assessment Plan is approved, the lessee will have up to four and a half years in which to submit a Construction and Operations Plan (COP) for approval, which provides a detailed outline for the construction and operation of a wind energy project on the lease. If the COP is approved, the lessee will have an operations term of 33 years.

BOEM is expected to announce additional auctions for Wind Energy Areas offshore Maryland, New Jersey, and Massachusetts later this year and in 2014.

For more information on what’s going on offshore Virginia, visit BOEM’s website.

23 miles puts it far enough out that it’s generally out of sight from shore.  Out of sight, out of mind?  Out of danger?  Out of disaster potential?

Does a coal-power company’s winning these leases suggest a scheme to keep wind power from being developed, to improve the case for coal?

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Electricity in the air, times 2

September 1, 2013

Spectacular photo of Glen Canyon Dam, in the early morning, with a thunderstorm to the north.  This photo was taken close to the spot where Norman Rockwell painted the dam about 40 years ago.

 Electricity is in the air at Glen Canyon! Although the Glen Canyon Dam produces hydroelectric power around the clock, an early morning thunderstorm really cranked up the voltage earlier this month. Use caution when planning your upcoming outdoor activities as intense thunderstorms are common this time of year. (Photo Credit: David Bailey)

Electricity is in the air at Glen Canyon! Although the Glen Canyon Dam produces hydroelectric power around the clock, an early morning thunderstorm really cranked up the voltage earlier this month. Use caution when planning your upcoming outdoor activities as intense thunderstorms are common this time of year. (Bureau of Reclamation/Interior Facebook entry; photo Credit: David Bailey)

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Norman Rockwell's tribute to the Glen Canyon Dam.  Bureau of Reclamation image

Norman Rockwell’s tribute to the Glen Canyon Dam. Bureau of Reclamation image


Jim Morin at the Miami Herald demonstrates why gasoline prices rise

May 6, 2012

Jim Morin of the Miami Herald, via the National Journal.  Here’s  a near-real-time demonstration of why gasoline prices rise so dramatically.

Jim Morin at the Miami Herald demonstrates why …, posted with vodpod

Robert Redford, for NRDC, on the Keystone Pipeline fight

February 24, 2012

My old sometime nemesis and rescuer Robert Redford keeps chugging along — getting sharper, politically, as he ages, I think.

Here’s his succinct summary of the Keystone Pipeline issue so far — with a plea for funds for the NRDC tacked on.  Any factual errors?

189,888

Daily-floggings-will-continue Dept.: Alaska Rep. Don Young melts down, takes it out on famous historian Douglas Brinkley

December 1, 2011

Dr. Douglas Brinkley writes history, and teaches.   In the last decade he’s been one of our premiere historians of conservation and wilderness preservation, especially as started by Theodore Roosevelt.

The issue at the hearing was the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

One may get a whiff of “skeptic” desperation at the hearing — Brinkley’s written a book on wilderness protection.  That’s why he was called to testify.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Eli Rabett.  He’s right — it’s tough to improve on the straight dope, the unexpurgated version.  So most of this post is borrowed from the Bunny’s Spartan, laconic post of this same material.

And the Big Bunny is correct that MSNBC’s interview of Brinkley following the hearing is good to see and hear.

More, Resources: 


Obama unchained oil and gas exploration in the U.S.?

November 22, 2011

Anyone who votes Democrat regularly gets the “told you so” e-mails from Republicans making claims about how bad things are under President Obama.

One favorite, hoax meme is the claim that Obama hurt energy exploration in the U.S.  One friend e-mails me at least once a month with a claim that Obama has done something to frustrate drilling for oil in the U.S., usually accompanied with a political pitch that all we need to do is drill the hell out of Alaska, kill the caribou, and allow pollution of the Gulf of Mexico, and we’ll be independent of Middle Eastern oil forever.

Here’s the ugly secret they don’t want to tell you — heck, they probably don’t know:  Total oil rig count is way up under Obama from when he took office, increasing at a rate about double that of the previous Bush administration.

Under President Obama, oil and gas exploration in the U.S. is greatly increased.

Here’s the most recent rig count report from WTRG Economics, highlighting added:

North American Rotary Rig Counts

The U.S. rotary rig count was down 15 rigs at 2,001 for the week of November 18, 2011. It is 324 rigs (19.6%) higher than last year. 

The number of rotary rigs drilling for oil decreased 8 to 1,125. There are 394 more rigs targeting oil than last year. Rigs drilling for oil represent 56.2% percent of all drilling activity. 

Rigs directed toward natural gas were down 6 at 871. The number of rigs currently drilling for gas is 65 lower than last year’s level of 936.

Year-over-year oil exploration in the U.S. is up 53.9 percent. Gas exploration is down 6.9 percent. The weekly average of crude oil spot prices is 20.8 percent higher than last year and natural gas spot prices are 16.8 percent lower.

Tuesday a week ago I joined the high school economics teachers dining at the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, the annual “Night at the Fed” event.  The bank brought in Keith Phillips, a Senior Economist and Advisor from the San Antonio Branch to talk about “Where Will Your Students Find Jobs?”

One of his charts showed drill rig counts since 2000, on a slide, “Drilling Rig Count has Surged to High Levels.”  Among other things, that partly explains why Texas was not so severely hit with the recession as the rest of the nation (though jobless counts in the past couple of months suggest Texas may catch up).

Sitting at the front table I could not help but be impressed with the rig count line.  In 2000, when Bush came to office, there were about 300 active drilling rigs in the country, in oil and gas.  Over seven years that count rose to about 1,000, then plunged in Bush’s last year in the economic downturn.

Obama came into office with a drill rig count just slightly higher than Bush had two terms previously.  In three years, drill rig counts have climbed to near the height of the Bush administration’s best year, just under 1,000 (if I’m reading the chart correctly — and the piece above suggests I am).

Here’s the chart from Baker-Hughes — showing about the same rig count Dr. Phillips showed:

Baker-Hughes Drill Rig Count, November 2011 (back to 2000)

Baker-Hughes Drill Rig Count, November 2011 (back to 2000) - click the image to go to WTRG Economics site and current chart

Here’s a more colorful, more clear version from EnergyDigger.com:

Drill Rig Count history from Energy Digger.com, November 18, 2011

Drill Rig Count history from Energy Digger.com, November 18, 2011

In other words, drill rigs have increased in the three years of the Obama administration at about double the rate of increase of the Bush administration.

When does Obama get credit for the increase in oil and gas exploration in the U.S. in his administration?

More, Resources: 


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