March 5 News: Two Years After BP Disaster, Deepwater Drilling Regains Momentum

Other stories below: Controversial anti-renewable energy report branded as “shoddy nonsense”; Japan solar demand may be on the rise

Deepwater Oil Drilling Picks Up Again as BP Disaster Fades

Nearly two years after an explosion on an oil platform killed 11 workers and sent millions of gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, deepwater drilling has regained momentum in the gulf and is spreading around the world.

The announcement of an agreement late Friday by BP and lawyers representing individuals and businesses hurt by the disaster represented something of a turning of the page, though BP and its drilling partners continue to face legal challenges.

After a yearlong drilling moratorium, BP and other oil companies are intensifying their exploration and production in the gulf, which will soon surpass the levels attained before the accident. Drilling in the area is about to be expanded in Mexican and Cuban waters, beyond most American controls, even though any accident would almost inevitably affect the United States shoreline. Oil companies are also moving into new areas off the coast of East Africa and the eastern Mediterranean.

Controversial renewable energy report branded ‘shoddy nonsense’

The government and renewable energy businesses have slammed the findings of a controversial report that claimed 2020 carbon reduction targets could be achieved more cost effectively by building nuclear and gas-fired power stations instead of wind farms.

The report, Powerful Targets, launched yesterday by independent consultancy AF Consult, was based on a study originally developed with consultancy KPMG last year, which formed the basis of a number of media reports attacking the cost of renewable energy.

As revealed by BusinessGreen, KPMG subsequently refused to release the full findings over concerns they were “ripe for misinterpretation”, after the methodology was attacked by green groups, including trade body RenewableUK.

What’s ailing the Chevy Volt?

On Friday, GM announced it was halting production of the Chevrolet Volt until April, so as to maintain “proper inventory levels.” Sales of the electric vehicle have been disappointing, with the company missing its target of 10,000 Volts sold last year. Why hasn’t the car caught on?

GM executives have said the recent frenzy over a Volt battery fire in crash tests has hurt sales. On the merits, the fires weren’t a huge concern — the Volts only caught fire days or weeks after extreme lab testing, and according to a government investigation they’re no more likely to catch fire than gas-powered automobiles. Still, panicky headlines ensued. Conservatives started denouncing the company (Rush Limbaugh called GM “a corporation that’s trying to kill its customers”). And GM needed to retrofit new vehicles. Add that up, and GM sold only 603 Volts in January, down from 1,520 in December.

Army seeking ‘net zero’ energy use at bases

The Army is preparing to collect proposals for a contract vehicle worth up to $7 billion over as many as 30 years meant to help it manage energy resources at Army bases around the country.

The contract vehicle is expected to be one element of a larger Army program known as Net Zero and intended to help the service reach a goal of net zero — or producing as much energy as it uses — when it comes to multiple resources.

A draft solicitation for one of the first contract vehicles went out late last month and will likely be awarded early next year, said Catherine Thomas, a research analyst at Herndon-based Deltek, which analyzes the government contracting market.

Drill Baby Drill, Redux

It’s campaign season and the pandering about gas prices is in full swing. Hardly a day goes by that a Republican politician does not throw facts to the wind and claim that rising costs at the pump are the result of President Obama’s decisions to block the Keystone XL pipeline and impose sensible environmental regulations and modest restrictions on offshore drilling.

Next, of course, comes the familiar incantation of “drill, baby, drill.” Mr. Obama has rightly derided this as a “bumper sticker,” not a strategy. Last week, he agreed that high gas prices were a real burden, but said the only sensible response was a balanced mix of production, conservation and innovation in alternative fuels.

There are lots of reasons for the rise in gas prices, but the lack of American production is not one of them.

Climate change could ice outdoor rinks

Canada’s favourite pastime is on its way to being an indoor-only sport in some areas of the country, a new study warns.

The study, released today by United Kingdom-based IOP Publishing, says outdoor ice hockey in Canada is being threatened by climate change.

Lawrence Mysak, co-author of the report and a professor at McGill University in Montreal, said warmer winter temperatures caused by climate change is restricting the operation of ice rinks.

“We were able to see that in general, the rinks were being opened later and later over the last . . . 50 years, and secondly that the length of the season has also shortened by . . . one or two, sometimes three weeks,” said Mysak from his office in Montreal last week.

New Tariff, Nuclear Halt May Fuel Japan Solar Demand

Japan may become a bright spot for the solar industry due to regulatory changes and its nuclear power crisis, which equipment makers from home and abroad hope will help offset a profit outlook clouded by oversupply, falling prices and shrinking demand elsewhere.A new feed-in tariff designed to boost industrial use of renewable energy will come into force this summer, with the government likely to recommend Tuesday rates that utilities should pay for renewable energy-sourced electricity and periods during which they should buy it.

Around the same time, the last of the country’s fleet of 54 reactors will be shut pending government decisions on Japan’s nuclear future.

The new feed-in tariff and the vacuum left by idled nuclear capacity are contributing factors to a European Photovoltaic Industry Association forecast of a 50% rise in Japanese solar panel demand in 2012, to 1.5 gigawatts.

8 Responses to March 5 News: Two Years After BP Disaster, Deepwater Drilling Regains Momentum

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    Drilling in the Gulf is bad enough, but Obama is moving forward to drill in the Arctic, too. Other countries, mostly Canada and Russia, are joining in this atrocity.

    If the world’s nations are serious about global warming and protecting the oceans, they must get together and say no. It’s a dream now, but events will push it toward reality sooner than we think.

  2. Sasparilla says:

    GM and Chrysler announcing pickups powered by CNG.

    On Tuesday, Chrysler Group LLC plans to disclose it will build the first production-line pickup truck powered by natural gas. The auto maker is promising to build at least 2,000 heavy-duty Ram bi-fuel trucks that run on a combination of compressed natural gas and gasoline starting in June.

    General Motors Co. on Monday plans to disclose it will offer bi-fuel Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 pickups in the fourth quarter.

    A little bit of a worrisome trend from a climate change perspective – with very little effort (and money) from the automakers you’ve got vehicles with ~ $2 gasoline equivalent prices (and the automakers still get oil changes and engine and transmission work $$$ – which they won’t get with EV’s).

    If done actively and quickly (CNG fueling infrastructure which would be expensive and oil would not want it happening) it would set back or kill the plug-in vehicle technology that is just starting (whose prices won’t reach equivalency till the end of the decade). There’s lots of talk (i.e. money is circling here) in the financial world about this. This bears watching….

  3. Paul Magnus says:

    Spill from Hell: Diluted Bitumen
    Poisoned air. Sunken gunk. A clean-up nightmare. What we’re learning from the oil sands ‘DilBit’ dump into the Kalamazoo River.

  4. fj says:

    The simple secret to net zero mobility is to scale vehicles small and light enough to be easily powered by human power.

    Re: Army seeking ‘net zero’ energy use at bases

  5. Sasparilla says:

    This is for fun:

    Who said it Mitt Romney or Mr. Burns?

  6. Paul Magnus says:

    Natural Disasters In 2011 Made For Costliest Year Ever
    UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The economic cost of disasters in 2011 was the highest in history — costing at least $380 billion, mainly due to earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, a U.N. envoy said Monday. Margareta Wahlstrom, the secretary-general’s special representative for disaster risk re..

    the economics of disasters is becoming a major threat to a number of countries,” Wahlstrom said.

  7. Paul Magnus says:

    Obama seems to warming up… reaching a tipping point…. getting the rhetoric right….

    We have to keep investing in the technology and manufacturing that helps us lead the world, but we’ve also got to protect the places that define who we are, that help shape our character and soul as a nation. Places that help attract visitors and create jobs, but that also give something to our kids that is irreplaceable. And all of us have a role to play.

    The bottom line is this: there will always be people in this country who say we’ve gotta choose between clean air and clean water and a growing economy. Between doing right by our environment and putting people back to work. And I’m here to tell you that is a false choice.

  8. Paul Magnus says:

    2020 looks like its going to be an up hill slog for many countries to get there intact.