OMAHA, Nebraska—TransCanada Corp has offered a $100 million performance bond and other oil spill protection measures to Nebraska legislators in an attempt to reduce opposition to the company's proposed $7 billion Keystone XL oil pipeline.
State lawmakers want TransCanada to move the pipeline route from Nebraska's Sandhills region, which sits atop a massive aquifer from which a large portion of the agriculture-heavy central United States gets its water.
In a letter to the speaker of the legislature on Tuesday, TransCanada executive Alex Pourbaix said the company cannot make changes to the right-of-way so late in the review process, but is prepared to offer a host of other protections for the environmentally sensitive area.
TransCanada would put up a $100 million performance bond it would make available to the state if the company does not clean up a spill in the Sandhills area.
Among other measures, it would build a concrete containment structure at a pump station to stop any oil from mixing with surface water in the event of a spill, as well as install a pipe coating made of concrete or other materials in areas where the water table is close to the surface.
The controversial proposed path of the TransCanada Keystone XL oil pipeline across Nebraska is unlikely to change, company officials said Tuesday.
Alex Pourbaix, TransCanada's president of energy and oil pipelines, and Robert Jones, a TransCanada vice president who would be in charge of constructing the pipeline, met in Norfolk, Nebraska with four Nebraska state senators.
"We understand that the best solution from your perspective is to move the route. We don't believe that is an option for us," Pourbaix said.
"But there are things we can do together to improve the situation and add to your comfort level."
The project would cut across a corner of Nebraska's environmentally fragile Sandhills and the water-rich Ogallala Aquifer. Opposition to the route has swelled in recent months. Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman asked the U.S. State Department last week whether the state can pass and enforce its own pipeline siting law.
AUCKLAND, New Zealand—Fears that New Zealand could face a large-scale environmental crisis have escalated as the oil leaking from the container ship Rena into the sea off the Tauranga coast increased by as much as ten-fold.
The news came as the vessel's remaining crew were evacuated following a mayday alarm amid heavy swells.
The New Zealand environment minister, Nick Smith, said the fresh release of oil into the sea meant the Rena spill was the country's most serious ever maritime environmental disaster.
Speaking at a media conference on Tuesday afternoon, he said the consequences had been "inevitable" since the ship ploughed into the Astrolabe reef in calm waters in the North Island Bay of Plenty last Wednesday morning.
A new rupture to one of the ship's main fuel tanks released between 130 and 350 tons of heavy oil into the water, according to officials who conducted a flyover of the freighter. More than 1,600 tons of fuel remain aboard. The fresh damage was caused after the ship's hull dragged in heavy winds and swells of up to four meters.
The continuing movement of the hull has raised fears that the 47,000-ton vessel could break up, triggering an environmental and ecological catastrophe. The mayday alarm and evacuation by helicopter of the remaining crew early on Wednesday added to speculation that the vessel might be close to fracture.
If the weather report says it's supposed to be sunny and breezy tomorrow, do you trust that forecast enough to plan a picnic or hike?
But what if instead of a soggy lunch or wet boots, the efficiency and reliability of the region's electricity grid was at risk?
Those are the stakes that grid operators face around the clock as they incorporate wind power into the system.
Wind is a variable energy source, which means, unlike coal or gas plants, grid operators never know precisely how much power wind farms will generate at a given time. They depend on weather forecasts to estimate how much power turbines will produce in the hours and days ahead.
Those forecasts are critical for getting the most value—economic and environmental—out of wind energy. A grid operator needs to trust a forecast before it will shut down or reduce generation at more expensive and polluting fossil fuel plants.
"If grid operators have more confidence in our weather forecasts, they'll be able to avoid burning excessive fossil fuels," says Melinda Marquis, a renewable energy program manager with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
That's why NOAA recently partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy on a study called the Wind Forecast Improvement Project, which will attempt to measure the economic value of improved forecasting to the energy industry.
Green groups sued the U.S. government on Wednesday to stop the clearing of grasslands and other work on a pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands crude to Texas, opposed by environmentalists for the petroleum's high greenhouse gas emissions.
The Center for Biological Diversity, the Western Nebraska Resources Council and Friends of the Earth sued the U.S. State Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stop work they called "illegal construction" on the 1,700 mile pipeline.
Backers of the $7 billion TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline say it will provide jobs and reduce U.S. dependence on oil from countries that are unfriendly to Washington.
Environmentalists oppose the line, however, because crude produced from oil sands releases large volumes of gases blamed for warming the planet and because it would cross the Ogallala Aquifer, a massive source of water in the heartland of the country. There have been several small leaks on an existing Keystone pipeline in recent months and environmentalists say a larger leak could damage the aquifer.
The suit, the first of many legal and regulatory hurdles the pipeline could face, was filed in the U.S. District Court in Nebraska. The complaint can be seen here: link.reuters.com/gad34s.
CALGARY, Alberta—Canada's energy regulator said on Wednesday it is looking into a complaint that TransCanada Corp's permit to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline within its own borders has expired, adding the prospect of more delays to a project environmentalists hope to block.
The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, which opposes the $7 billion oil pipeline to Texas from Alberta, contends TransCanada had not begun construction of the project by March 11, 2011, as spelled out in the permit the National Energy Board granted in March 2010.
Start-up of Keystone XL has been delayed by about a year by an extended review by the U.S. State Department amid a growing political debate in the United States on the pipeline's merits. The State Department is not expected to release its decision until the end of 2011.
The NEB has requested that TransCanada respond by October 14. The union—the largest for Canadian energy workers—will then have until October 21 to react.
"Essentially the board is looking at it, asking for comments from TransCanada and CEP. Once they have that in front of them they will look at it and decide the next steps," board spokeswoman Tara O'Donovan said.
The CEP contends the pipeline, which would ship up to 700,000 barrels of oil sands-derived crude to Texas from Alberta, will prevent the creation of jobs that would come with building oil sands processing facilities within Canada.
It is also critical of the impact of tar sands development on the environment and aboriginal communities, its president, Dave Coles, said.
Minnesota wind developer Dan Juhl has seen the scenario before.
The wind production tax credit—seen as a key incentive to bringing new wind energy projects online—nears its expiration date, expires without legislative action and then comes barreling back, reviving the industry after a period of stagnation.
It's a sequence of events that has played out three times in the last decade, most recently in 2003, and is unfolding again today. The current tax credit, which provides developers with 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity produced from utility-scale wind turbines, is set to expire at the end of 2012.
Industry officials have called for a long-term extension, but so far no action has been taken. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., recently said he was "not confident" it would pass given the mood in Washington, and wind energy proponents said they would not hazard to guess at its fate.
You would think that Juhl, the chairman and chief executive at Juhl Wind Inc., would be carefully tracking the issue. His company is behind four of the 15 new wind energy projects expected to come online before 2012, and has longer-term ambitions.
But Juhl said he no longer relies on the whims of Congress when thinking about the future. The need for alternative energy, he said, is simply too strong to be tempered by tax policy, he said. And besides, the tax credit has always returned.
The financial crisis and fading government support for climate action have seriously eroded global plans to capture and store carbon, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned last week.
Sequestration—the depositing of greenhouse gases underground rather than into the atmosphere—was supposed to account for a fifth of the world's emissions reductions under the agency's roadmap for keeping global temperature rise within 2 degrees Celsius (4 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.
But delegates including the U.S. energy secretary, Steven Chu, heard at a meeting, held in Beijing, that the global temperature is on course to rise by 3.5 degrees Celsius, due to poor progress both on carbon capture and storage, and on acceptance of a carbon price and other carbon-cutting efforts.
IEA deputy executive director, Richard Jones, told the meeting, hosted by the Washington-based Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, that this would wreak havoc on human well-being. He added that time was running out to avoid this scenario because of slow progress on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).
"Every year that passes makes it more difficult," Jones said. "With current policies, CCS will have a hard time [being] deployed ... There is less of a global push for climate action, and tighter government finances."
HOUSTON, Texas—Fracking, the latest craze in the quest to produce oil and gas, has been blamed for environmental problems ranging from flammable tap water to minor earthquakes. Now a new risk is emerging: sand mining.
To squeeze hydrocarbons out of shale through hydraulic fracturing of the rock—the process known as fracking—producers need to pump an enormous amount of sand and other materials into the ground.
Obtaining the sand for this requires removing the top layer of earth over a sandstone deposit and using heavy equipment and large amounts of water to produce the fine grains.
According to some environmentalists and residents of affected areas, sand mining poses a threat to air and water quality.
Facing a shortage of the sand needed in fracking, oil and gas producer EOG Resources Inc got into this mining business to secure scare supplies and bring down costs.
But the company is facing big opposition to an operation planned in North Texas.
More Americans than last year believe the world is warming and the change is likely influenced by the Republican presidential debates, a Reuters/Ipsos poll said on Thursday.
The percentage of Americans who believe the Earth has been warming rose to 83 percent from 75 percent last year in the poll conducted Sept 8-12.
Republican presidential candidates, aside from Jon Huntsman, have mostly blasted the idea that emissions from burning fossil fuels and other human actions are warming the planet.
The current front-runner, Texas Governor Rick Perry, has accused scientists of manipulating climate data while Michele Bachmann has said climate change is a hoax.
As Americans watch Republicans debate the issue, they are forced to mull over what they think about global warming, said Jon Krosnick, a political science professor at Stanford University.
And what they think is also influenced by reports this year that global temperatures in 2010 were tied with 2005 to be the warmest year since the 1880s.
"That is exactly the kind of situation that will provoke the public to think about the issue in a way that they haven't before," Krosnick said about news reports on the Republicans denying climate change science.