Lead Stories

Behind the $100 Billion Commodity Empire That Few Know
Andy Hoffman and Chanyaporn Chanjaroen – BloombergBusinessweek
In less than a decade, Marco Dunand and Daniel Jaeggi have turned a 10-person company supplying oil to a pair of Polish refineries into the world’s fourth-largest commodity trader with revenue topping $100 billion last year.
Now Dunand, 52, and Jaeggi, 53, are executing a plan to propel Geneva-based Mercuria Energy Group Ltd. nearer to the top independent traders, Glencore Xstrata Plc, Trafigura Beheer BV and Vitol Group.
**JK – Interesting story.

An Energy Weapon vs. Russia?
Michael Levi – Council on Foreign Relations
As the standoff between Russia and Ukraine drags on, there are increasing calls to use U.S. oil and gas exports to weaken Vladimir Putin’s hand. There’s something to this, but it’s likely to be a lot less powerful than most pundits seem to think.
**JK – Nice analysis of how the real world works, compared to the political ferryland.

White House downplays role of natural gas policy in Ukraine crisis
The White House on Friday appeared to downplay the possibility of changing U.S. policy on exporting natural gas to address the situation in Ukraine.

Goldman Sachs Slams Coal in Downgrade
Jon C. Ogg – 24/7 Wall St.
Coal investors are getting coal put in their stockings early in 2014. Alpha Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: ANR) is having a very rough end to its week as a result. The culprit: Goldman Sachs hit the company with a nasty downgrade that took the wind out of its sails on Friday. The firm’s already cautious Neutral rating was taken down to a dubious Sell rating. Its price target was slashed to $4 from $6 in the call.

Ross Garnaut slams Abbott government’s direct action policy as like a ‘Martian beauty contest’
Peter Hannam, Jonathan Swan – The Sydney Morning Herald
Abolishing carbon pricing could cost the federal budget at least $4 billion a year within five years, if the Abbott government wants to reduce emissions in line with Australia’s international commitments, says economist Ross Garnaut.

Company pulls plug on gasification plant in NLV
Conor Shine – Las Vegas Sun
The company behind a proposed gasification plant that would turn waste into electricity in North Las Vegas has withdrawn its application from the city due to concerns from residents who live near the proposed site.
**JB: NIMBYs are alive and well it seems.


“Estimating the Costs and Benefits of Regulations: Lessons Learned”
Richard D. Morgenstern, Ph.D. Resources for the Future (RFF)
March 14, 2014
12:00 Noon, PDT (WEBCAST) Byron Sher Auditorium, 2nd Floor, Cal/EPA Building 1001 I Street, Sacramento, California

Navigating the American Carbon World (NACW) 2014
March 26-28, 2014
San Francisco, California

GLOBE 2014
13th Biennial Conference and Trade Fair on Business and Sustainability
March 26-28, 2014
Vancouver, British Columbia


Carbon-taxed companies cut emissions by 7% in past year, investor group says
Lenore Taylor – The Guardian
Greenhouse emissions from Australian companies paying the carbon tax have fallen by 7% over the past year “in large part” due to the carbon price impost, the Investor Group on Climate Change has said.

Focus on low carbon technology, says former UN climate chief
Fiona Harvey – The Guardian
Efforts to tackle climate change must urgently focus on implementing low carbon technologies such as wind and solar power rather than discussions of the science and quarrels over policy, the former United Nations climate chief has said.

CO2 Allowances Sold at $4.00 at 23rd RGGI Auction
Press Release
The nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the nation’s first market-based cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, today announced the results of their 23rd auction of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances.
23,491,350 CO2 allowances were sold at the auction at a clearing price of $4.00.  Allowances sold include the 18,491,350 allowances offered for sale by the nine states and all of the 5,000,000 allocation year 2014 cost containment reserve (CCR) allowances. Bids for the CO2 allowances ranged from $2.00 to $11.85 per allowance.
http://jlne.ws/MUos2Z (PDF)

RGGI Carbon Prices Jump in First Event With Fewer Permits
Justin Doom – Bloomberg
The cost to emit carbon dioxide in the U.S. Northeast rose by a third after the region’s cap-and-trade program revised its rules to cut the supply of permits.
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Inc. auctioned 23.4 million allowances for $4 each at its March 5 event, up from $3 in December, according to a statement posted today on the New York-based nonprofit group’s website. This was the first event under new rules that were announced in February 2013 and took effect this year.

Surprise! Even A Crazy-High Carbon Tax Would Help California Businesses
Jeff Spross – ThinkProgress
According to a new study out of California, taxing carbon emissions at a whopping $200 per ton would create more jobs in the state than business-as-usual.
The report was commissioned by Citizens Climate Lobby and carried out by Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI). The latter used a model of the California economy they’ve developed and combined it with the Carbon Tax Analysis Model — an open-source, Microsoft Excel-based model of carbon emissions and tax revenues at the state level, built off data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Leaders promote using carbon dioxide in oil output
Jeff Amy – Associated Press (via Hattiesburg American)
Gov, Phil Bryant and others are extolling Mississippi as a national leader in using carbon dioxide to extract more oil from old oil fields.
A conference hosted Thursday in Jackson by Rice University and Mississippi State University discussed expanding what’s called enhanced oil recovery. Proponents say it could be a way to increase oil production while at the same time storing carbon dioxide underground, mitigating global warming.

Low carbon innovation deal signed by China and UK
A £20m partnership to develop novel low-carbon technologies has been signed by the UK and China.
The three-year programme will support research into low-carbon manufacturing processes and technologies, low-carbon cities and offshore renewables after officials from both countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in London.

Natural Gas/Coal

If Russia tightens Ukraine’s natural gas tap, will Europeans shiver?
Public Radio International
This week, Russia’s state-run natural gas company announced it would no longer discount the price of natural gas to Ukraine. So today, US officials announced they’re considering using American natural gas to ease Europe’s vulnerability, at least in the future.

Coal’s Comeback Year Runs into Trouble
The Motley Fool
The U.S. coal industry is expected to have a comeback year in 2014, regaining some of the ground it lost in the electric power industry over the last three years or so. Low-cost natural gas shoved aside the coal industry, which has been plagued by rising costs and increasingly stringent environmental regulations. But the run up in natural gas prices since 2012 – especially since the beginning of 2014 – provides an economic lifeline for struggling coal businesses. Coal can compete once again, at least for the time being.

Natural Gas Will Not Save the U.S. Economy
Lew Daly and Sean McElwee – New Republic
Economist Kenneth Boulding famously said, “Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.” But it’s not just economists who believe that anymore. Such ideas are still widely accepted by thought leaders, journalists, and politicians who, together, form a strong consensus that the U.S. recovery should be bolstered by natural gas exploration and production.

India misses coal target again, will depend more on imports
The Economic Times
India’s dependence on imported coal will continue to rise as output will fall short of targets. The coal ministry will scale down it its production target of 795 million tones in 2016-17 as it expects problems in environment clearances and rail connectivity.

India Billionaires Face Fresh Hurdles to Mine Coal at Mahan
Abhishek Shanker – Bloomberg
Hindalco Industries Ltd. (HNDL) and Essar Energy Plc (ESSR)’s plan to mine local coal to feed their $3.8 billion Mahan aluminum smelter and power plants has stalled after local authorities said they will seek permission from villagers again.


Nuclear power in Japan
The Economist
JUST three years on from the catastrophic meltdown in March 2011 of three reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, Japan is taking steps to revive its nuclear dream. A rush to restart some of the country’s 48 mothballed commercial nuclear reactors is well under way. Hundreds of technicians from utility firms are camped out in downmarket Tokyo hotels, working at the beck and call of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), the country’s new nuclear watchdog, in hopes of meeting new safety requirements.

Report Shows US Solar Energy Had Record Year Of Growth In 2013
International Business Times
A report by Greentech Media (GTM) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) shows that solar energy in the United States had a record year in 2013, with a market growth of 41 percent.
Solar made up 29 percent of new energy-generating capacities in the U.S. in 2013. By the end of the year, there were more than 440,000 operational solar systems in the U.S. that generated 12.1 gigawatts of photovoltaics and 918 megawatts of concentrated solar power (CSP).

Let the sun shine: The future is bright for solar power, even as subsidies are withdrawn
The Economist
FORTY-FIVE minutes west of Las Vegas, dejected sinners may encounter a sight to lift their sunken hearts: a sea of 347,000 mirrors, reflecting the rays of the desert sun on to boilers mounted on three 460-foot towers. The Ivanpah solar-thermal plant (pictured), which opened in mid-February, is the largest of its kind in the world.

U.S. DOE Examines What Motivates Solar Adoption To Sustain Growth
Michael Puttre – Solar Industry Mag
The 2013 U.S. solar market insight report produced by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) in partnership with GTM Research, points to the continuing “explosive” growth of the solar sector. The report points out that the U.S. installed 4,751 MW of solar PV in 2013, up 41% over 2012 and nearly 15 times the amount installed in 2008.

American wind power reaches major power generation milestones in 2013
Wind Power Engineering & Development
American wind power topped 4% of the U.S. power grid for the first time last year and has delivered 30% of all new generating capacity for the last five years. In Iowa and South Dakota, wind power now exceeds 25% of total electricity production. In nine states it provided more than 12% and in 17 states, more than 5%.

Vestas secures 30MW Turkish order
Wind Power Monthly
TURKEY: Vestas has agreed to supply turbines with a capacity of 29.7MW as part of a framework agreement with EnBW for the installation of turbines with a capacity of 207MW across five projects in Turkey.

Vestas to install 99MW in Finland
Wind Power Monthly
FINLAND: Vestas has won a 99MW order from TuuliWatti Oy to supply turbines with a capacity of 99MW for two projects in Finland.

Proposals for giant wind farms are shelved
Paul Melia – Independent.ie
PLANS to erect thousands of wind turbines across the midlands to export power to the UK have been shelved, the Irish Independent has learnt.
An agreement between the Irish and British governments, which would allow power to be traded between both countries, is unlikely to go ahead, meaning at least 40 wind farms planned across five counties will be mothballed.


Can Water Under the Mojave Desert Help Quench California?
Peter Waldman – BloombergBusinessweek
California is parched. The state’s worst drought in decades has left its reservoirs half-naked, if not skeletal. Officials say 17 communities could run out of drinking water this summer; some are considering mandatory rationing; and 500,000 acres in the state may be left fallow. For the first time in its 54-year history, the California State Water Project—the world’s biggest plumbing network and the way millions of state residents get hundreds of billions of gallons of water—is essentially shutting down.

China’s desperate need for water is forcing the relocation of hundreds of thousands of people
Lily Kuo – Quartz
Once a collection of agrarian villages, Danjiangkou, about 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) south of Beijing, is now a small but bustling town. At night, groups dance on a promenade by the river. Inside the town’s only bar, just opened last summer, young men and women eat popcorn and watch a woman in a black leather tank top and mini-skirt sing “Umbrella” by Rihanna.

Super-snowy winter will boost Great Lakes water levels
Keith Matheny – Detroit Free Press (via USA Today)
The Great Lakes are making a comeback.
Record-breaking snow, ice cover and cold temperatures this winter will mean rising Great Lakes water levels over the next six months — but don’t expect too dramatic a recovery.


Perovskites: the future of solar power?
Bernie Bulkin – The Guardian
The daily input of solar energy to the earth’s surface is enough to fulfil our energy needs many times over, but cheap and efficient ways of converting it, especially to electricity, have remained elusive. Yes, there is a lot of photovoltaic material installed around the world today – more than 100 gigawatts – but the efficiency of conversion to kilowatt hours is relatively poor, usually 15% or less. More than 85% of the photovoltaics (PV) used today are made from crystalline silicon, but scientific research continues into new materials that could do the job better.

Smells like fracking! Fake cologne ad targets Gov. Brown
David R. Baker – SFGate
The fight over fracking has an amazing way of turning allies against each other, particularly in California.
To see just how personal that sniping can get, check out the new online ad for “Frack Water, a fragrance by Jerry Brown.”

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