September 21 News: Top Interior Official Leaves to Defend BP; Gas Rig Fire to Burn for Days; Kochs Attack EPA Internships

A round-up of the top climate and energy news. Please post links to other stories below.

Top Interior official heads to law firm representing BP on Gulf oil spill

The former chief of staff to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has taken a job with one of the law firms representing BP in legal proceedings stemming from the massive Gulf oil spill last year.

Tom Strickland joined the Interior Department as Salazar’s chief of staff and an assistant secretary in 2009. He worked there at time when the department ushered in reforms and new ethical rules to reduce conflicts of interest between offshore oil drilling’s regulator and drilling companies after a series of scandals at offices in Colorado and along the Gulf Coast.

Federal law and an executive order from President Barack Obama bar Strickland temporarily from dealing with his former colleagues in government on any issue he worked on at the agency.

Drill-Rig Fire Likely to Burn for Days

A rig drilling for natural gas in rural Oklahoma exploded late Monday night, prompting the evacuation of the sparsely populated area and causing a fire likely to burn for days.

No one was reported hurt or killed, but officials ordered the evacuation of the two homes within a mile of the fire, which is under control. The rig was near Watonga, about 70 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.

Blaine County Deputy Sheriff Gary Clyden said the danger of a wildfire in the drought-stricken area was low, but could increase if winds strengthen.

The well’s owner, Continental Resources Inc., which is based in Enid, Okla., said state and federal investigators were looking into the cause of the incident. The rig, which is owned by Petterson-UTI Energy Inc., must be removed before the fire can be put out, which could take several days, Continental said.

Alaska officials ramp up ANWR push

Alaska politicians will make a full-court press Wednesday for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R), via teleconference, will testify at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing about drilling in the area that environmentalists and their allies have long battled to keep off-limits.

In additional to Parnell, Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R) and Mark Begich (D) and Rep. Don Young (R) will testify.

The last serious attempt to open ANWR was in the middle of the last decade, when advocates fell just short in a pitched battle on Capitol Hill.

Forecast is sunny for solar industry

The congressional investigation into Solyndra has cast a shadow across the solar energy industry, but two new reports show continuing growth in the sector.

A report from the Solar Energy Industries Association finds that grid-connected photovoltaic installation in the U.S. grew 17 percent from the first to second quarter of 2011 and a whopping 69 percent from the second quarter of 2010.

Furthermore, prices continued to plummet as completed module prices dropped 12 percent in the second quarter.

And the initial findings of another report, from the nonprofit Solar Foundation, concludes that the solar industry added 6,735 U.S. jobs between August 2010 and August 2011.

GM, Chinese firm in pact to build electric cars

General Motors said yesterday that it would develop electric cars in China through a joint venture with a Chinese automaker, and would transfer battery and other electric car technology to the venture.

GM, which is already the largest foreign maker of conventional vehicles in China, is keen to help define the emerging generation of green-energy automobiles here. And the state-controlled Chinese auto industry is just as eager for expertise from GM, an acknowledged global leader in electric car technology.

Yesterday’s announcement was being made as the Chinese government was putting heavy pressure on foreign automakers to transfer electric car technology to joint ventures in China. But GM took pains to say that its joint-venture agreement was not connected to its plans to begin importing its new US-made Chevrolet Volt electric car to China this year.

Koch Brothers Now Attacking EPA Internships

Mike Pompeo is a Congressman from Kansas who represents a vast swath of Koch brothers’ offices, executives, lawyers, yes-men and employees. Could that alone explain Pompeo’s latest gambit?

It’s relevant background as he offered a quixotic bill targeting one of Charles and David Koch’s favorite punching bags: the EPA. The brothers are among the largest polluters in the U.S. and have a long track record of donating to politicians and think tanks that fight safety precautions.

But the target is not the EPA’s position on enforcing emission standards, ozone protections or anything else that might stop the planet’s destruction or help us breathe healthier air. Those are battles the Kochs already won.

It’s the internship program, and in Pompeo’s telling: “The [Environmental Justice Eco-Ambassadors program] program favors students who share President Obama’s “radical” views on the environment.”

23 Responses to September 21 News: Top Interior Official Leaves to Defend BP; Gas Rig Fire to Burn for Days; Kochs Attack EPA Internships

  1. George Ennis says:

    Just another example of why the choice between voting for a Democratic or Republican candidate is the same as choosing between twiddle dee dee and twiddle dee dum. Both parties including their staffers are stuffed with people who lack any real sense of ethics or principles beyond making a fast buck.

  2. Gregg Thomas says:

    That’s what you get when you put big shot attorney’s and former politicians in these positions. They are always looking to land the next big gig. Is anyone really surprised by this?

  3. John McCormick says:

    Garbage in, garbage out!

  4. Zander77 says:

    I can definitely see Obama green lighting ANWR drilling. He has been the right’s wet dream in advancing its long term goals, and ANWR is a big one. Coal exports are ramping up. Keystone XL will be green lit. And ANWR drilling falls squarely in line with voluminous commentary he has made regarding oil and energy independence. Wish it weren’t so!

    We are doomed.

  5. Anne van der Bom says:

    On dropping module prices: This German reporter claims to having received email offers for c-Si as low as 58 eurocents per watt. That is 82 dollarcents.

  6. Paul Magnus says:

    Sunday Times Predicts US As Top Oil Producer in 2017
    Posted by aeberman on September 15, 2011 – 4:15am
    Topic: Supply/Production
    Tags: goldman sachs, oil supply [list all tags]

  7. Paul Magnus says:
    Thoughts on a Sustainable Human Ecosystem
    Posted by Rembrandt on September 19, 2011 – 10:19am
    Topic: Environment/Sustainability
    Tags: economy, ecosystems, energy, modeling, resources, sustainability [list all tags]
    It is clear there are limits to the pollution a given ecosystem can absorb, the level of resources that can be depleted, and debt that can be incurred. Despite concerns of many about these limits we are far from tackling any of these problems on a meaningful scale. The question is why this is the case and if we (the Human Race) have the knowledge and capability to live within such limits on Planet Earth?

  8. Theodore says:

    Perhaps even “a Chinese automaker” should have a name.

  9. Paul Magnus says:

    who wants to live next to nukes?
    What are we going to do for Nukes on the coast with rising SL? A hellish future awaits us.

    Scottish nuclear fuel leak ‘will never be completely cleaned up’
    The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has abandoned its aim to remove all traces of contamination from the north coast seabed

  10. Paul Magnus says:

    Price of rice….
    Texas Rice Industry Could Be Devastated By Colorado River Change

  11. Colorado Bob says:

    Anderson’s research indicates that if the 2°C increase were to come to pass, 70-80% of the land surface will experience summertime temperature values that exceed observed historical extremes (equivalent to the top 5% of summertime temperatures experienced during the second half of the 20th century) in at least half of all years. In other words, even if an increase in the global mean temperature is limited to 2°C, current historical extreme values will still effectively become the norm for 70-80% of Earth’s land surface.

  12. Colorado Bob says:

    Seawater Greenhouses Produce Tomatoes in the Desert

    Seawater is pumped into pipes in the greenhouse and is trickled down over the first evaporator, a large spongy honeycomb-like surface. As air is drawn through the honeycomb and into the greenhouse by fans, it is cooled by the seawater and becomes more humid. The cool humid air creates favorable growing conditions for the greenhouse crops. At the back of the greenhouse, the cool air is drawn through a second evaporator containing seawater that has been heated by the sun in the ceiling pipes. The air then becomes hot and humid to the saturation point. When the hot humid air meets an array of vertical pipes containing cold seawater, fresh water condenses (just like hot steamy air in your shower condenses on the cooler mirror and tile surfaces). The fresh pure water is then piped to a storage container and used to irrigate the crops.

    The sustainable system is clean, efficient, and elegant in its design. The greenhouse control system, pumps and fans are powered by electricity produced completely by solar power. The honeycomb evaporator filters out pollen and pests that are killed by the saline water so the greenhouse doesn’t need much pesticide. Nutrients harvested from the brine are pumped back into the irrigation system to fertilize the crops, and the rest of the salt is made into gourmet salt crystals that Seawater Greenhouse Ltd. sells.

    Because the greenhouse produces its own fresh water, and uses no fossil fuels or pesticides, its operating costs are 10 to 25 percent less than those of a traditional greenhouse. Its fixed costs are 10 to 15 percent less because it doesn’t need to purchase cooling, heating, or desalination equipment, and because it is usually built on cheap land where little can grow.

  13. Paul Magnus says:

    How can our leaders, who probably have back room advice, not see that democracy needs to be suspended and immediate action taken?

    How can they think that we can cope with an additional 1C+?

    Why isn’t the military stepping in and advising on this sort of action? Surely we will start to see nations collapsing with the onslaught of extreme weather events.

  14. Paul Magnus says:

    Koalas, people and climate change: not a good mix

    Think back to the summer of 2008-2009. Surprised residents found wild koalas appearing in their gardens displaying abnormal behaviour. Koalas were trying to climb into swimming pools, they were drinking from dogs’ water bowls and they were lying at the bottom of trees, no longer able to climb.

  15. Colorado Bob says:

    Climate change ‘blowing in’ stronger winds, CSIRO finds

    WIND speeds in Australia have increased by about 14 per cent over the past two decades, but you may not have noticed because the speed of the air just above the ground has actually slowed down.

    Alberto Troccoli, head of the CSIRO’s Weather and Energy Research Unit, said the difference between the measure at 2m and 10m was due to the lower stations being shielded by obstacles such as trees and buildings, and that the higher station provided the more accurate measure.
    “We think the overall increase is caused by the widening of the tropical belt, due to climate change,” he said.

    He said the findings were important because international studies had found wind speeds generally decreasing overall in other parts of the world.

    “The way in which the large-scale patterns change in the atmosphere is such that we have losers and winners,” he said.

  16. Colorado Bob says:

    For the first time, scientists have documented bowhead whales traveling from opposite sides of the Canadian High Arctic and mingling in the Northwest Passage, a usually ice-clogged route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

  17. Sasparilla says:

    Interesting article, there was alot of fudging to get this claim though.

    Huge amounts of Natural Gas Liquids and Liquid Refinery Gasses were included as crude (which they are not – you can’t turn Natural Gas Liquids into Diesel or gasoline).

    Ethanol (another large production) was included as crude as well, which its obviously not.

    All that said, crude production will go up substantially, reducing the US trade deficit (we’ll still be importing oil) and providing alot of jobs for all the shale oil wells (that have become viable over the last two years) that will be built – but we won’t be producing more oil than the Saudi’s unfortunately.

  18. Colorado Bob says:

    The NCDC charts for this summer show the order of magnitude showing up, that is “off-the-charts”.
    Texas Temps 1895-2011
    June,July, & August –

    The evaporation chart since 1900 –

    The precep. chart for October thru August 1895-2001 –

  19. Colorado Bob says:

    CHENGDU, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) — The highest flood peak in the history of the Qujiang River passed through southwest China’s Sichuan Province on Wednesday, leaving 25 people dead and 14 others missing, according to local authorities.

    Torrential rains have pounded the province since Sept. 16, bringing water levels on the Qujiang River to 267.8 meters on Monday morning at the Sanhui monitoring station, nearly seven meters higher than the flood warning level, according to the Sichuan Water Resources Department.

  20. Colorado Bob says:

    Records for this station go back to 1847.

  21. Paul magnus says:

    Do economists all favour a carbon tax?
    Sep 19th 2011, 18:58 by R.A. | WASHINGTON

    LAST week, a Twitter conversation broke out among a few economists concerning whether any serious economists opposed a carbon tax. No, concluded the tweeters, but Tyler Cowen begged to differ. Mr Cowen writes that he personally favours a carbon tax but can imagine a number of principled reasons other economists might not.