Hydropower, a renewable energy source often overshadowed by excitement about wind and solar power, is enjoying something of a global resurgence.
Huge, controversial dam projects have recently made headlines in Brazil, Chile and Laos. Many developing countries, hungry for energy to supply their growing economies over the long term, are determined to keep building more modest-sized dams too.
Record amounts of hydropower capacity came online in 2008 and 2009, the most recent years for which data are available, according to Richard Taylor, executive director of the International Hydropower Association in London.
“There has been, over the last decade, a dramatic increase in the deployment of new hydropower capacity,” Mr. Taylor said.
The private sector, he added, has become more willing to provide financing for projects, which include not only the construction of new dams but also the modernizing of existing ones in places like Europe and the United States. The biggest new dams can cost billions of dollars.
But the renewed attention to hydropower, which accounts for about 16 percent of the global electricity mix, comes with environmental red flags. More attention than ever focuses on people who face displacement, as well as the effects of new dams on land and fish.
Rising floodwaters continued to snarl crude-oil and gasoline deliveries in the Southeast, forcing refiners near the swollen Mississippi River to find other ways to make shipments.
Heavy rains and snow melt have caused parts of the Mississippi River to reach as high as 13 feet above flood stage, snarling barge and tanker traffic along the river and in some cases forcing pipeline closures. The congestion has caused traders to worry about disruptions of fuel delivery and helped boost wholesale gasoline prices.
Exxon Mobil Corp. said Friday it shut down two crude-pipeline segments in its North Line System, north of Baton Rouge, La., and one pipeline in its Southwest Line west of Anchorage, La., until water levels subside, said Patty Errico, public and government affairs manager at Exxon Pipeline Co.
“We are purging oil from these systems and backfilling with fresh water in areas that may be affected by high water,” Ms. Errico said.
Where Exxon is seeing pain, Enterprise Products Partners LP is gaining, however. Volumes of gasoline, diesel and other finished fuels have increased for its Enterprise TE Products pipeline system, company spokesman Rick Rainey said. The system originates near Beaumont, Texas, and snakes through the Gulf Coast, Midwest and Northeast.
“We have seen a spike in deliveries of refined products over the past week, particularly into the Little Rock market,” Mr. Rainey said.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) predicted Friday that a Democratic plan to strip billions of dollars in tax breaks for the largest oil companies will fail in the Senate next week.
Democratic leaders are planning a test vote on their plan to end incentives for Exxon, Shell, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips that are worth an estimated $21 billion over 10 years. But Bingaman said the plan – which would steer the savings into deficit reduction – does not have enough votes.
“I don’t believe it does, and I think the Republicans will come up with some alternative they are going to offer that does not have the votes either,” he told C-SPAN.
It’s not clear if the bill has Bingaman’s support. “Frankly I haven’t decided how to vote. I certainly support paring back some of these tax breaks,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday that Republicans won’t discuss nixing tax breaks for major oil companies as part of fiscal reform talks with Vice President Joe Biden.
“That’s not the kind of thing we’re going to be dealing with here in connection with the serious talks that are going on with the Vice President’s group,” McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Biden and a bipartisan group of Capitol Hill lawmakers are in talks aimed at striking a deal on deficit reduction. The discussions come ahead of a looming deadline this summer for an agreement between the Obama administration and Congress to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
McConnell’s comments come as Democrats are pressing to repeal of billions of dollars worth of industry tax breaks and apply the savings to deficit reduction.
Freshman Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) is waging an uphill battle against energy subsidies supported by his colleagues in Congress.
In a Friday news conference, Pompeo introduced a resolution cosponsored by another freshman, Rep. Raul Labrador, and California Rep. Tom McClintock, opposing a bill meant to “promote a switchover from petroleum-based fuels to natural gas for transportation,” by providing $5 billion in subsidies “to trucking companies, vehicle owners, vehicle manufacturers and fueling stations” over five years.
Shareholders of Transocean Ltd. approved a $1 billion dividend on Friday and rejected a company-backed plan to discharge directors and executives for liability stemming from last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The company also said former chairman and CEO J. Michael Talbert was elected chairman.
Transocean owned the Deepwater Horizon rig that BP PLC was leasing and operating when an explosion killed 11 workers and created the massive oil spill. Both companies face lawsuits.
Transocean board members proposed to discharge themselves and company executives from liability for any actions in 2010, saying the practice is customary for companies in Switzerland, where Transocean is now based.
Shareholders who voted for the proposal would have effectively dropped their right to take part in shareholder lawsuits over the rig explosion.
Lawsuits have charged that the company made misleading statements about safety risks and the ability to prevent blowouts.
Should BP shoulder the entire burden of liability for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which the British company puts at about $41 billion?
BP doesn’t think so.
The company has filed suits against Cameron, the Houston oil services company that made the failed blowout preventer, Transocean, the Swiss owner of the leased rig, and Houston-based Halliburton, the oil services company that laid the well’s cement, to recover actual and punitive damages.
The web of suits and countersuits surrounding the disaster — with companies suing other companies, partners suing partners — is so byzantine, it’s hard to follow.
What isn’t so hard to understand is the brutal reality of April 20, 2010.