Domestic crude oil production has increased rapidly over the past five years, reversing half a century of declines.
At the same time, there has been increasing discussion about the country’s renewable energy potential.
“Our US of Energy map is intended to be a conversation starter — an opportunity to begin telling the awesome, positive story of America’s domestic energy revival,” Blake Jackson, vice president of digital at Saxum, said on the company’s blog.
A Saxum team spent five weeks researching and crafting the design before putting everything together.
“What began as a simple graphic showcasing America’s energy riches quickly grew into a two-sided, folded map concept displaying thousands of individual data points,” Jackson said.
Oklahoma State University held its 7th Annual Energy Conference on Tuesday in Oklahoma City, and our man Jay F. Marks (@okenergybeat) was a tweeting machine. You can read his dispatches below and check out Energy Editor Adam Wilmoth’s recap of the conference here. For the speaker presentations, go here.
Up to 353 coal-fired power plants in 31 states should be shuttered, the Union of Concerned Scientists said Tuesday.
The environmental group detailed its plan in a report, “Ripe for Retirement: The Case for Closing America’s Costliest Coal Plants.”
The group said the country’s older, less-efficient coal plants should be closed because it will cost more to install scrubbers than to use natural gas- or wind-powered generators instead.
The targeted coal plants produce about 6 percent of the country’s electricity and represent about 59 gigawatts of power generation capacity — or more than 48 times the amount of power needed to travel through time.
Oklahoma’s coal-fired plants were not on the list, even though Tulsa-based Public Service Co. of Oklahoma announced in April that it will close its last two coal units by 2016 and 2026.
A new documentary on energy, “Switch,” is getting good reviews from both environmentalists and those in the energy industry.
I had the chance to see it last night at a screening in Oklahoma City. (It continues tonight and Thursday.)
I’ve seen the controversial fracking film “Gasland” and the energy industry’s response, “Truthland,” so my tolerance for talking points on both sides of the debate was fairly low. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and measured tone of “Switch.”
The movie, which was made with the help of the American Geosciences Institute foundation, follows geologist and University of Texas professor Scott Tinker around the world as he explores where and how our energy is harvested. It includes some spectacular shots of massive coal mines in Wyoming, hydro projects in the fjords of Norway and wind farms in Texas.
“Switch” also features a short interview with Chesapeake Energy Corp. CEO Aubrey McClendon and follows a Chesapeake “fracking” crew out in the field. The documentary doesn’t shy away from discussing the public concerns about hydraulic fracturing and has interviews with environmentalists, policy makers and industry officials.
But “Switch” is more than just fracking. It takes a comprehensive look at the world’s energy needs, with a particular emphasis on the rapidly growing demand for energy in China, India and other developing countries. The takeaway? Those countries will be using coal and oil to meet their future energy needs, and there’s little the developing world can do about it.
It doesn’t take long for serious discussions about energy to get complicated, but “Switch” boils down all the talk of megawatts and BTUs to a simple unit: the amount of energy an average person uses in a year. (If you’re curious, Tinker defines it as about 20 million watt-hours of energy.) From an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico to a concentrated solar plant in Spain, the movie defines the energy produced in terms of how many people it would power.
For all the technology improvements in energy, “Switch” makes it clear that it comes down to scale. A technology advancement or discovery might be great, but if you can’t scale it up to serve large numbers of people, then it will remain a niche solution. Through a combination of renewables and nuclear power, the film estimates the world will reach a “switch” point in 2064. That’s when the use of renewables and nuclear will match the use of “foundational” fuels coal and oil.
The last part of “Switch” focuses on energy efficiency and what individuals can do at home to save money–and energy. The efficiency side of the equation is often forgotten about in the political fights over energy policy, but the film makes it clear that the energy we waste is just as important as the energy we
If you can’t make it to the remaining screenings in Oklahoma City, check out the “Switch” website, which has short videos and some highlights from the documentary.
Chesapeake Energy Corp. may be getting closer to finding a buyer for its holdings in west Texas’ Permian Basin.
The cash-strapped oil and natural gas company has agreed to sell part of its Permian acreage to Houston-based EnerVest Ltd., but two larger pieces remain available.
Forbes writer Christopher Helman believes Chinese giant Sinopec could be the company to buy those properties.
The proposed deal, detailed Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal, would involve capturing carbon dioxide emissions for coal-fired power plants then using them to bolster oil production in older fields.
Helman notes the Permian Basin, where Chesapeake holds about 1.5 million net acres, is home to more enhanced oil recovery operations than anywhere else in the world.
“A thought: wouldn’t it make just too much sense for Sinopec to be looking for ways to secure a long-term carbon dioxide supply before it announced a deal for Chesapeake’s Permian assets? Just speculation, but it fits.”
Chesapeake has said its Permian assets have drawn plenty of interest from prospective buyers, but officials have been coy about providing any details.
The company has been looking to raise cash to offset anticipated shortfalls in its operations budget.
Chesapeake has completed deals worth about $4.7 billion this year, including the sale of its stake in its former midstream subsidiary, which has been renamed Access Midstream Partners. The company hopes to raise an additional $7 billion this quarter, CEO Aubrey McClendon said in Chesapeake’s Aug. 7 earnings call.
For the first time in decades, the country’s utilities used as much natural gas-generated electricity as power from coal-fired plants, according to preliminary numbers released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Friday.
Each fuel represented 32 percent of the country’s total electric generation in April at about 96 million megawatt hours each.
The EIA pointed out that overall demand for electricity was low in April because of mild spring temperatures and that natural gas was selling at a 10-year low.
The former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator who made headlines for promising to “crucify” a few oil and natural gas companies has joined the Sierra Club’s fight against coal, the environmental group announced Friday.
Al Armendariz resigned in April as administrator for the EPA region that includes Oklahoma and Texas after his comments at a 2010 public hearing were brought to light by U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa.
Armendariz told a questioner that the EPA would “crucify” a couple of oil and gas companies as an example of how the agency’s environmental regulations would be enforced. He apologized for those remarks before he resigned.
Sierra Club officials welcomed Armendariz to their fight against coal.
“This is an exciting day for clean energy and public health supporters in Texas,” said Bruce Niles, a top Sierra Club official. “Al has worked closely with the Sierra Club for many years, as an environmental scientist and professor. He understands the critical importance of developing clean energy to create jobs, protect people and protect air and water.”
Armendariz spent eight years as a professor in civil and environmental engineering at Southern Methodist University in Dallas before joining the EPA.
“As a third generation Texan, I’m proud to be taking on this new role to help protect Texas,” Armendariz said. “As a father and a scientist, I know how important it is to transition to cleaner sources of energy that don’t pollute the air that our children breathe, and I’m proud to be working on a campaign with a proven track record for success.”
Starting next month, Armendariz will be senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. He will be based in Austin.
A settlement could be near in a long-running rate case for Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co.
The parties were scheduled to have a settlement conference this morning at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. During a three-hour hearing Tuesday afternoon, commissioners asked several times about the possibility of a settlement in the case, which started last July.
Commissioner Bob Anthony asked if appointing a settlement judge or mediator could be helpful at this point in the rate case.
“Commissioner, I have to tell you that I think the realm of a potential settlement is relatively small, the moving parts are relatively small, so I frankly think bringing a third party up to speed might actually not be productive,” said OG&E attorney Bill Bullard. “The others may have a different view.”
Chairwoman Dana Murphy said she didn’t support a mediator at this point.
“I would not be in favor of that. I think the parties have really worked hard on it,” Murphy said of a potential settlement.
Attorneys for the parties were mum on a settlement after the hearing. They will tell you settlements are always a possibility in rate cases, although nobody talks on the record about the details. OG&E settled its last rate case in 2009 with a $48 million increase. That was offset by an unrelated fuel-cost reduction for customers. OG&E had asked for a $110.3 million rate increase in the 2009 case.
Tuesday’s hearing centered on responses to a May 30 administrative law judge report that recommended OG&E be given what amounts to a $19.2 million rate increase. Much of the testimony was technical in nature, but it boiled down to how much the electric utility should be granted on its “return on equity.” OG&E asked for an 11 percent return on equity, which would amount to a rate increase of $73.25 million. The administrative law judge, Jacqueline T. Miller, recommended a return on equity of 10.75 percent, or a rate hike of $19.2 million.
Several other parties in the rate case, including AARP, commission staff, the attorney general’s office and groups representing industrial users, want OG&E to lower its electric rates. They suggested cuts between $4 million and $57 million.
Because of the length of the rate case, OG&E tried to implement higher interim rates earlier this month. But commissioners rejected those interim rates and held OG&E’s attorneys to an earlier statement on the record in January that the company would not implement interim rates.
Chesapeake Energy Corp. is done with the Sierra Club.
CEO Aubrey McClendon was questioned by the president of the National Center for Public Policy Research about the company’s past donations totaling $26 million to the environmental group at Friday’s annual meeting.
Center President David Ridenour said he was concerned the Sierra Club would use those funds in its new “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign.
McClendon said he has no regrets about working with the Sierra Club to go after the coal industry.
“We’re in a market share struggle with coal,” McClendon said. “As a result of that campaign, 150 new coal plants were not built. That demand will go to natural gas.”
The Sierra Club distanced itself from Chesapeake earlier this year after new executive director Michael Brune rewrote the group’s gift acceptance policy and began to campaign for tougher regulation of the natural gas industry.
On Friday, McClendon said Chesapeake is no longer associated with the Sierra Club.
“Our relationship with them is a little different today than it was a few years ago,” he said.
Ridenour said he was not satisfied to McClendon’s response to his question at Friday’s meeting.
“Mr. McClendon largely ignored my question, ‘By funding Beyond Coal, did you not unnecessarily pick a fight with another fossil fuel industry that now will have every incentive to fund Beyond Natural Gas? It would be darkly amusing if the coal industry did turn out to be funding Beyond Natural Gas, and did have a stipulation in its grant contract limiting the use of the gift to fighting Mr. McClendon’s industry.”
“Since the Sierra Club has been used as a corporate tool in the past, there is no reason to believe that it isn’t being used as one now, so we call upon it to fully disclose who is underwriting Beyond Natural Gas. If the Sierra Club won’t say who is funding its anti-natural gas campaign, we probably can assume there is a conflict of interest in there somewhere.”
“As a representative of a Chesapeake shareholder and an employee of another shareholder, I’m not thrilled that Mr. McClendon gave money to an activist group dedicated to the company’s destruction, but I’m even less happy as an American. Energy independence is important to national security, and low-cost energy is important to American jobs and prosperity. We shouldn’t be fighting things that are good for us.”
Ridenour said he still hopes to find out where Chesapeake’s donations to the Sierra Club went, while letting such groups know that people are watching those types of charitable contributions.
While awaiting a ruling on its request for a rate increase, Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. is rolling out an interim increase and seeking to adjust its fuel costs.
The moves are expected to leave most OG&E customers paying less for their electricity.
“We believe that this is an equitable, short-term solution,” said OG&E spokesman Brian Alford. “We are able to cover our costs by implementing new rates, which are subject to refund should the (Oklahoma Corporation) Commission’s order ultimately provide for a lower increase. And, we can provide assurance to our customers that their summer bills will not go up as a result of our rate request. We understand our customers’ concern over high bills during the summer months.”
The utility company, which serves nearly 800,000 customers in Oklahoma and western Arkansas, asked the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to approve a $73 million rate increase last year to cover the cost of nearly $500 million in new investments over the previous two years.
Consumer advocates, including the Oklahoma attorney general’s office, countered by calling for a rate decrease ahead of a hearing before an administrative law judge at the corporation commission in December and January.
The judge has not issued a recommendation to the elected commissioners who will decide the rate case, so OG&E is moving forward with an interim increase.
The $24 million increase will be offset by a $50 million reduction in fuel costs due to lower-than-expected natural gas costs.
“During the past several years, we have invested well over $500 million in electric system improvements,” Alford said. “With significant additional investment on the horizon, we must keep our credit card balance in check, so to speak, so that we’re able to meet future investment needs.”
The interim rate increase will be refunded to customers if it is eventually rejected by regulators.
OG&E is allowed to enact the increase since it has been more than six months since the company filed its rate case.