Tuesday, August 19, 2014

New "Fast-track" LNG Export Rules - It Ain't About U.S.

First off, keep in mind that Exxon's total US income tax bill - federal, state and local for 2009 was ($46,000,000) That's right, Exxon ended up 2009 with essentially a tax refund of $46 million for income taxes.  It all is explained in this CNN article.  Left of center publication, Mother Jones, has its own take on Exxon's tax position. 
 
And we learn here that Exxon is AGAIN a big winner with these new LNG export rules as described below.  

Excerpt:
"....Houston-based Cheniere Energy and Exxon are two big winners under the new rules.
Cheniere will add liquefaction capacity to its Sabine Pass terminal that is now being built in Louisiana.
The expansion proposal already received the required Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permits. The proposal was facing up to a two year wait for its Energy Department review, Fuel Fix said.
The new regulations mean that the project is now ready for final action by the Energy Department.
Exxon Mobil’s Golden Pass project in southeast Texas is also on the fast track for approval. The project was far into its FERC review but behind other projects in the Energy Department’s line....."

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s plan for shaking up the way it vets proposals to export natural gas had the curious effect of winning praise from both a fierce critic and a fan of those foreign sales.
The Energy Department was able to unite export foe Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and advocate Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., by devising a new approach that appears to accelerate the review process overall, even though it extends the time benefits to just a few well-heeled players.  Read more.

Foreign Interests Fueling the Attack on Kentucky Property Rights

In this article from the US Energy Information Administration, we find data on how our country's natural gas serves a small, but growing, portion of China’s total energy demand. 

Why is this relevant to those of us fighting pipelines through Kentucky?  It simply shows how foreign demand is adding to the push for natural gas development in the US.  And why we have our work cut-out for us in this "crossroads" state, Kentucky.  This is problematic for a number of reasons:

1.  Increased demand abroad actually weakens US energy independence.
2.  The influx of foreign dollars could easily increase the lobbying budgets of gas companies.
3.  Increased lobbying increases the likelihood that some of "our" government officials --yes, the ones we support through our taxes and votes--may support legislation making it easier for fossil fuel industries seize your property rights through eminent domain abuse.


Excerpt::

"....In 2013, China imported nearly 1.8 Tcf of LNG (trillion cubic feet) and pipeline gas to fill the growing gap between supply and demand. Imported natural gas met 32% of China's demand in 2013, up from 2% in 2006. China is swiftly developing its LNG import capacity in the urban coastal areas and currently has 10 major regasification terminals with 1.7 Tcf/y of capacity. In 2012, China rose to become the third-largest LNG importer in the world, after Japan and South Korea, and in 2013, the country imported 870 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of LNG. Estimates for the first half of 2014 show LNG imports growing at faster levels than in previous years....."

This growing international demand is another reason why it appears that we are stuck with the dangers of fracking for awhile.  Unless, of course, courageous political leaders step forward and appropriately regulate the industry. 
As an aside, here is one thing that I think needs to be addressed in our national discussion about energy options.  Excerpt from the linked article above:

"...China relies heavily on domestic coal (and to a lesser extent oil) to meet rising energy consumption. To reduce air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions, the Chinese government is attempting to replace some of the country's coal and oil use with natural gas...."

Is replacing coal and oil with natural gas as an energy source really the panacea that some claim?  Here is a headline and article from the Guardian from last year that makes this issue less clear than the USEIA implies:

Methane leaks could negate climate benefits of US natural gas boom: report

Reduction in carbon emissions triggered by America's shift from coal to gas is being offset by a sharp rise in methane
So, what IS the answer?  Two words: conservation and renewables.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

From the "What Are They Thinking?" Files...

Cheryl LaFleur appointed head of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

The president's first choice, a renewable energy advocate, withdrew his name from consideration because of stalled confirmation. The second choice, a gas and electric industry insider, had NO trouble getting confirmed. Read on....

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Guarded Optimism Surrounds the Quiet Demise of the Bluegrass Pipeline

Guarded optimism surrounds a July 30, 2014 BusinessWire press release from the Williams Company that classifies the Bluegrass Pipeline as "abandoned." 


But like a dormant volcano, the fracking industry and its infrastructure support are not likely to go away anytime soon; especially with the government using our tax dollars and public resources to promote the all-powerful financial behemoth that controls much of our country's decision-making.

The Williams Company's press release comes on the heels of a recent announcement from the White House of a new "opportunity" in the form of private funding and investment in so-called "rural-infrastructure."

"WASHINGTON - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and CoBank CEO Robert Engel are announcing $10 billion in private funding to invest in rural infrastructure projects across the country.

The announcement is a part of a two-day "Rural Opportunity Investment Conference" that began Wednesday in Washington, D.C., which aims to bring together investment firms, government officials, and business leaders to promote investment in rural communities. Vilsack said the $10 billion fund will not only provide jobs to rural areas, but it will also be a catalyst for further private investments in infrastructure projects nation-wide."  Read more from CBS news.

As we are aware, the devil is often in the details, and on such details, the CBS article is largely silent. Now would be a very good time for farmers to get on board with the decision-making in this process to ensure that whatever infrastructure is supported is sustainable, both economically and environmentally and that it promotes long-term benefits for citizens.