WBEZ | natural gas http://www.wbez.org/tags/natural-gas Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Power struggle: Who’s your energy provider? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/power-struggle-who%E2%80%99s-your-energy-provider-108077 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Rig_wind_river_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Curious City producers and reporters are usually hard at work answering your <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/#!/archive/all">growing list of questions</a>. But every now and then, an answer or even a listener comment stops us dead in our tracks, and we&rsquo;ll say to one another: Why don&rsquo;t we ask more people about this?</p><p>That&rsquo;s what happened after we took on this question from Janice Thomson of Chicago&rsquo;s North Center neighborhood:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Now that Chicago has a new electricity supplier, how much of the city&rsquo;s energy would ultimately come from natural gas via fracking?</em></p><p>We&rsquo;re curious how Chicagoans and others take something that Janice told us after environment reporter <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932">Chris Bentley laid out an answer</a>. If you&#39;re already familiar with Janice&#39;s story and figure you&#39;re ready to weigh in, <a href="#Poll">our survey below awaits</a>. If you&#39;re still a little shaky on the details, though, we should first unpack her question just a bit. So, what is fracking (otherwise known as high-volume hydraulic fracturing)? Here&rsquo;s the skinny from Bentley:</p><blockquote><p>&nbsp;&ldquo;... drillers blast water, fine sand and chemicals to break up porous rock containing fossil fuels, and horizontal drilling, which allows a single rig to explore long, flat sedimentary rock formations thousands of feet underground without drilling straight down from the surface many times.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>As for that &ldquo;new electricity supplier&rdquo; bit? Well, Chicago switched energy providers late last year, and Integrys won the city&rsquo;s contract. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932">The gist</a>:</p><ul><li>Integrys&rsquo; portfolio is &ldquo;primarily&rdquo; natural gas.</li><li>In 2012, 40 percent of the nation&#39;s natural gas production came from shale formations, and that percentage is rising. A good deal of that new production is derived from fracking.</li><li>It&rsquo;s impossible to know exactly how much of Chicago&rsquo;s electricity is generated from natural gas derived via fracking, but some of it is, since the nation&rsquo;s gas supply is not divided by fracked and conventional sources.</li></ul><p>Just last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s office announced Chicago is <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city%E2%80%99s-power-deal-boosts-wind-energy-108003">increasing its supply of wind energy</a>. A month ago, Illinois lawmakers passed the most restrictive high-volume oil and gas drilling regulations in the country.</p><p>News about fracking in Illinois is still rolling in. Yet, Curious City&rsquo;s investigation is making Thomson rethink her energy options right now.</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;As a consumer, I do now plan to &ldquo;opt out&rdquo; of the default Integrys electricity supplier and sign up with a 100% renewable energy supplier. I initially wasn&rsquo;t too keen on the idea of renewable energy credits (which remind me of carbon offsets), but it sounds like that&rsquo;s the best I can do living in Chicago.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p></blockquote><p>Purchasing renewable energy credits from companies offering green energy plans is one option and perhaps the most economical one. Illinois&rsquo; Citizens Utility Board, a watchdog group that looks out for energy consumers&rsquo; interests, <a href="http://www.citizensutilityboard.org/ciElectric_cubfacts_alternativesuppliers.html">lists alternative electricity suppliers</a>. People can generate their own power, but that is often a pricey upfront investment, said David Kolata, CUB executive director. Still, conservation remains the easiest, most effective option, he said, adding that there are many steps people can take towards energy efficiency.</p><p>Below, we&#39;ve prepared a (very) short survey about whether you&#39;ve considered your own electricity supply options and whether you&#39;ve taken action about it. We invite you to give your two cents. When you&#39;re done, click the link that reads <a name="Poll"></a>&quot;See previous responses&quot; to see how others answered.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="450" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/179KmxKnNPIqDYyb8PyjeS9A0RqnvVI1QC93VhMrW5XA/viewform?embedded=true" width="620">Loading...</iframe></p><h2><strong>Selected poll responses</strong></h2><p><script type="text/javascript" src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/static/modules/gviz/1.0/chart.js"> {"dataSourceUrl":"//docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/tq?key=0Ai7E2pZ6aCZtdEJpb2RfMXpFWnRtS01lOFRpY0ROclE&transpose=0&headers=1&range=H1%3AH66&gid=0&pub=1","options":{"titleTextStyle":{"fontSize":16},"series":{"0":{"hasAnnotations":true},"1":{"hasAnnotations":true}},"showRowNumber":false,"animation":{"duration":0},"width":620,"hAxis":{"useFormatFromData":true,"title":"Horizontal axis title","minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},"vAxes":[{"useFormatFromData":true,"title":"Left vertical axis title","minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null}],"sortColumn":null,"title":"Chart title","booleanRole":"certainty","height":320,"page":"enable","legend":"right"},"state":{},"view":{},"isDefaultVisualization":true,"chartType":"Table","chartName":"Chart 1"} </script></p></p> Wed, 17 Jul 2013 02:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/power-struggle-who%E2%80%99s-your-energy-provider-108077 City’s power deal boosts wind energy http://www.wbez.org/news/city%E2%80%99s-power-deal-boosts-wind-energy-108003 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/2643266482_465ec09356_z_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Two downstate wind farms will provide five percent of Chicago&rsquo;s electricity, Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s office announced Tuesday, nearly doubling the share of wind power in the city&rsquo;s electricity supply.</p><p>Through its <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/progs/Electricity%20Aggregation/GeneralAggregationPresentation.pdf">municipal aggregation program</a>, the city negotiated with electricity supplier Integrys Energy Services to increase the amount of wind energy it sends to Chicago homes and small businesses.</p><p><a href="http://www.perfectpowerinstitute.org/sites/default/files/Chicago%20CCA%20Preliminary%20Report.pdf">A report released Tuesday</a> by the Illinois Institute of Technology&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.perfectpowerinstitute.org/">Perfect Power Institute</a> said Chicago&rsquo;s electricity aggregation deal, including the new provision for local wind power, &ldquo;achieve[s] substantial reductions&rdquo; in air pollution. According to the report, electricity aggregation led to a 16 percent reduction in carbon emissions, a 98 percent reduction in ozone depleting and acid rain causing nitrogen oxide emissions, and a water-use savings equivalent to the annual consumption of about 12,500 households.</p><p>That report also said a previously underused natural gas power plant in Pennsylvania would ramp up production to meet the 95 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s electricity demand not coming from Illinois wind. Chicago and <a href="http://www.nexteraenergyresources.com/content/where/portfolio/pdf/Marcus_Hook.pdf/">the Marcus Hook power plant</a>, located about 20 miles south of Philadelphia, are in the same region of the power grid overseen by PJM Interconnection, which stretches from New Jersey to North Carolina and also includes patches of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan.</p><p>In November voters let the city negotiate for cheaper energy on their behalf, approving electricity aggregation by 56 percent. The city agreed to buy electricity from Integrys, a sister company of Peoples Gas, at a fixed rate through May 2015.</p><p>Price was the defining feature of the deal. The city said replacing Exelon subsidiary Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) saved ratepayers an average of $150 per year on electricity bills, due to ComEd&rsquo;s long-term contracts with more expensive energy suppliers.</p><p>But the aggregation deal also pushed the city&rsquo;s power supply towards cleaner sources of energy. Chicago required its new energy supplier to rid the city&rsquo;s fuel mix of coal, which previously provided about 43 percent of the roughly 5 million megawatt-hours of electricity the city consumes each year.</p><p>Chicago commands some attention in the market, so the city&rsquo;s decision to specify the fuel mix could set a precedent.</p><p>&ldquo;Something that suppliers wouldn&rsquo;t necessarily put forth the effort to do for a smaller customer, they have done for Chicago,&rdquo; said Mark Pruitt, a consultant with the city on its aggregation deal. &ldquo;I think that the supply community, once they realize that this is desirable, will respond positively and they&rsquo;ll find a way to get it done for smaller volume communities.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932">Natural gas replaced the bulk of the power previously supplied by coal, irking some voters who viewed the November referendum as a vote for renewable energy</a>. Currently the city&rsquo;s deal requires Integrys to meet<a href="http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=IL04R"> the state Renewable Portfolio Standard</a> (RPS), which ramps up gradually to meet the state&rsquo;s goal of 25 percent by 2025. This year it rose to 7 percent. Integrys satisfies that requirement largely through the purchase of paper credits called Renewable Energy Certificates.</p><p>The 5 percent of electricity coming directly from downstate wind farms, the identity of which the Mayor&rsquo;s office would not reveal Tuesday, is in addition to the RPS.</p><p>Tuesday&rsquo;s announcement that the city would seek electricity produced by two Illinois wind farms came as welcome news to members of the Illinois Clean Power Coalition, who fought to close Chicago&rsquo;s Fisk and Crawford coal plants and promoted electricity aggregation as a means to renewable energy deployment.</p><p>&ldquo;Our goal is to green our grid,&rdquo; said Sarah Wochos of the Environmental Law &amp; Policy Center, &ldquo;not just to buy renewable energy certificates from faraway.&rdquo;</p><p>Essentially paper credits used to offset pollution from fossil fuel-fired energy, RECs can go toward a city&rsquo;s or energy supplier&rsquo;s renewable energy requirements without procuring any actual electricity. Texas&rsquo; booming wind industry has flooded the market with cheap RECs that provide so-called &ldquo;100 percent renewable&rdquo; electricity deals with a relatively inexpensive way to say their power supply is green.</p><p>In reality, the industry does not track the sources of individual electrons sent through the grid. Still, direct power purchases send a stronger market signal than do RECs, many analysts say, although RECs do provide supplemental income for renewable energy providers.</p><p>Renewable energy supporters are hopeful that municipal electricity aggregation could prove a useful vehicle to promote policies from distributed energy storage to local green jobs.</p><p>&ldquo;With municipal aggregation,&rdquo; said The Sierra Club&rsquo;s Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin, &ldquo;cities like Chicago and every city and suburb in Illinois has the power to ask those questions to their suppliers.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Chicago&#39;s inclusion of local wind energy in their power supply is an example for other aggregated communities to follow and build upon,&rdquo; he said in a statement.</p><p>About 600 cities and towns across the state have pursued aggregation deals.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter at<a href="http://twitter.com/cementley"> @Cementley</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 09 Jul 2013 17:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/city%E2%80%99s-power-deal-boosts-wind-energy-108003 With fracking bill on Quinn's desk, environmental groups hold out hope for revisions http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/fracking-bill-quinns-desk-environmental-groups-hold-out-hope-revisions <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fracking-wrigley.jpg" title="Outside Wrigley Field, members of The Illinois Coalition for a Moratorium on Fracking protest a regulatory bill that recently passed the state legislature. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div><p>Amid a warbling Lowery organ rendition of &ldquo;Build Me Up Buttercup&rdquo; blasting from pre-game Wrigley Field, environmental groups gathered outside Wrigley View Rooftop to make their voices heard on pending <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/fracking" target="_blank">fracking</a> regulations.</p><p>The targets of their signs and chants were state governors in town for the Democratic Governors Association, meeting this week in Chicago. In addition to Gov. Pat Quinn, whose signature is expected soon on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/bill-passage-illinois-fast-track-fracking-107488" target="_blank">a regulatory bill passed recently by the state legislature</a>, protestors watched for Maryland Gov. Martin O&rsquo;Malley and California Gov. Jerry Brown &mdash; two leaders similarly <a href="http://fuelfix.com/blog/2013/06/08/fracking-foes-push-california-governor-for-ban/" target="_blank">mulling over</a> whether to permit the controversial process for natural gas and oil extraction in their states.</p><p>While Quinn greeted news of the bill&rsquo;s passage by promising his signature, protestors pointed out the governor could veto certain provisions in the massive regulatory bill, sending it back to the General Assembly, even if he does not block its passage into law. Some environmental groups are still holding out hope for an outright ban on fracking in Illinois. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/madigan-mell-push-two-year-ban-fracking-106109" target="_blank">Politicians previously floated bills calling for a two-year moratorium on fracking in both the house and senate</a>.</p><p>The groups, who are organized under The Illinois Coalition for a Moratorium on Fracking, cite relatively lax standards regarding setbacks, or how far from certain areas drillers are allowed to dig wells. Setbacks from rivers and lakes are only 300 feet in the regulatory bill, while environmental groups <a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=2&amp;ved=0CDYQFjAB&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dontfractureillinois.net%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2013%2F05%2FLobby-Day-Prof-bill-Rau-breaks-the-regulatory-bill-down-May21st.odt&amp;ei=RcO4UZ6sMcO9yQG2loGgCw&amp;usg=AFQjCNECR6_Hh092OBfhq16slDgUjXRBiA&amp;sig2=UqA_0xRoAbe6MgQIaanCsA&amp;bvm=bv.47810305,d.aWc" target="_blank">have called for a buffer zone 11 times wider</a>. They also challenge statements that fracking will bring significant revenue and jobs to Illinois, pointing out that <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-04-19/news/ct-biz-0331-fracking-state--20130331_1_severance-tax-tax-rate-tax-holiday" target="_blank">tax rates are low compared to other states and a relatively small portion of taxes collected go to drilling counties</a>.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cubs-sign.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 305px; float: left;" title="(WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" />&ldquo;There are serious holes in this bill,&rdquo; said Lora Chamberlain, a member of the moratorium coalition.</p><p>In the bill&rsquo;s year-long march towards becoming law, major environmental groups including the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council were given unusual access to a process typically maligned for ignoring such advocacy and consumer groups. Supporters of the bill say scrupulous collaboration with green groups resulted in the nation&rsquo;s toughest regulatory bill. Many of those groups support a moratorium publicly, but offered their guidance during the drafting of the bill rather than be shut out.</p><p>With Quinn on record&nbsp;&ldquo;look[ing] forward to signing the legislation,&rdquo; the groups looking for revisions or an outright ban have an uphill fight. Still, Chamberlain said, it&rsquo;s worth trying.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re doing everything we can,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>As the assembled governors watched the Cincinnati Reds wallop the Cubs Tuesday, activists with <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/risingtide_chi/9022932362/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_blank">Rising Tide Chicago unfurled a banner in Wrigley</a> that read &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t Frack [Illinois].&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/risingtide_chi/9022932362/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rising%20tide%20chicago.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 610px;" title="(Rising Tide Chicago)" /></a></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="http://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></div></p> Wed, 12 Jun 2013 14:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/fracking-bill-quinns-desk-environmental-groups-hold-out-hope-revisions More on methane: EPA reexamines potency of greenhouse gas http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/more-methane-epa-reexamines-potency-greenhouse-gas-107148 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/naturewise/1519064598/in/photostream/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/methane.jpg" style="height: 458px; width: 610px;" title="A pipe carries methane in the United Kingdom. (Flickr/London Permaculture)" /></a></p><p>In the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/epa-rolls-back-methane-emissions-natural-gas-106891" target="_blank">debate surrounding the United States&#39; natural gas resources</a>, it is often noted that methane, the primary component of natural gas, is 21 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. There are two main issues with that statement, although that <a href="http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/ch4.html" target="_blank">is the figure used</a> by the Environmental Protection Agency.</p><p>Carbon dioxide, whose concentration recently reached a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/11/science/earth/carbon-dioxide-level-passes-long-feared-milestone.html?pagewanted=all#commentsContainer" target="_blank">long-feared milestone</a>, remains the most important&nbsp;<a href="http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/01/much-ado-about-methane/" target="_blank">greenhouse gas trapping heat in the atmosphere</a>. But as we open&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/04/23/the-oil-and-gas-boom-has-had-a-surprisingly-small-impact-on-the-u-s-economy/" target="_blank">more oil and gas wells</a>, even small amounts of methane leakage could tilt the balance of greenhouse gas emissions from new fossil fuel resources.</p><p>The ratio of a molecule&rsquo;s ability to trap heat, and thus cause global warming, relative to one molecule of carbon dioxide is called its <a href="http://unfccc.int/ghg_data/items/3825.php" target="_blank">global warming potential</a>. The EPA <a href="http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-04-02/pdf/2013-06093.pdf" target="_blank">recently proposed raising</a>&nbsp;raising methane&#39;s global warming potential to 25. Amending the number to 25 would be a 19 percent increase &mdash; significant, but only keeping pace with revisions codified more than six year ago in the fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The 21 figure used by EPA was first put forth in the 1990s. IPCC upped it to 23 in 2001. Its fifth report is expected later this year.</p><p>The other issue is that methane is especially short-lived. Unlike carbon dioxide, which persists in the atmosphere for 500 years, methane only lasts about 12 years in the atmosphere before chemical reactions break it down. EPA typically estimates global warming potentials based on 100-year timescales, but estimated over a 20-year time scale methane could be more than 50 times more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>Why does that matter? In the short-term, methane and other short-lived gases could exacerbate near-term climate impacts, just as the world&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate1869.html" target="_blank">struggles</a> to get the real driver (CO<sub>2</sub>) under control. One California congressman <a href="http://grist.org/climate-energy/a-modest-practical-plan-for-immediate-climate-action/">recently proposed</a>&nbsp;a bill targeting those short-lived pollutants to mitigate near-term climate change.</p><p>Researchers at <a href="http://www.nature.com/news/methane-leaks-erode-green-credentials-of-natural-gas-1.12123#/b1" target="_blank">NOAA and the University of Texas at Austin</a> are working on a review of greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas. An EPA revision <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/epa-rolls-back-methane-emissions-natural-gas-106891" target="_blank">recently rolled back</a>&nbsp;its estimate of emissions from one part of the fracking process but simultaneously upped its most recent figure for emissions from fracking itself.</p><p>Those revisions came on the heels of EPA&rsquo;s separate announcement that it could raise methane&rsquo;s global warming potential to 25. In the words of Anthony Ingraffea, a Cornell professor of civil and environmental engineering and <a href="http://www.acfan.org/2013/dr-anthony-ingraffea-methane-leakage-makes-fracking-the-dirtiest-fossil-fuel-worse-than-coal-for-climate-change/" target="_blank">noted critic of shale gas production on climate change grounds</a>, &nbsp;&ldquo;sometimes the EPA giveth, sometimes it taketh away.&rdquo;</p><p>EPA will <a href="http://www.regulations.gov" target="_blank">accept comments</a> on <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2013-06093.pdf" target="_blank">the proposed rule</a> until May 17. Comments should reference docket No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2012-0934.</p></p> Mon, 13 May 2013 17:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/more-methane-epa-reexamines-potency-greenhouse-gas-107148 Breaking OPEC, and maybe the climate, with wood alcohol http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/breaking-opec-and-maybe-climate-wood-alcohol-106915 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/metrolibraryarchive/5494221123/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/methanol%20buses.jpg" style="height: 477px; width: 610px;" title="A fleet of Los Angeles buses, circa 1992, capable of burning methanol and ethanol. A substitute for gasoline, methanol can be produced from natural gas, which has recently become cheap enough to spark new interest in the alternative fuel. (Courtesy Metro Transportation Library and Archive) " /></a></p><p>America has become the &ldquo;Saudi Arabia of natural gas,&rdquo; <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/24/opinion/methanol-as-an-alternative-to-gasoline.html?_r=0">according to&nbsp;President Obama</a>, and one former director of the Central Intelligence Agency would like to use that fossil fuel war chest to break our ties with imported oil, an addiction that <a href="http://www.merkley.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Senator%20Merkley%20-%20America%20Over%20a%20Barrel%200614101.pdf">costs the nation $1 billion per day</a>.</p><p>R. James Woolsey, former CIA director and self-proclaimed energy hawk, would like another option at the gas pump: methanol.</p><p>He said last week at the Chicago Club that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has so tight a grip on global gasoline prices that the U.S. will never drill or conserve its way out of funding Middle East petro-states. But with natural gas at a fraction of the price of oil, it may have another way out.</p><p>Woolsey, who has solar panels on his farmhouse and owns two electric cars, said methanol, also known as wood alcohol, could replace gasoline with relative ease. Oil processing facilities take in crude oil and break it down into gasoline that can be burned in cars. But it&rsquo;s also possible to synthesize methanol and other fuels from less valuable components. Until fracking helped plunge the price of natural gas to less than a third of the price of oil, that method was too costly to be worth it.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now we have a mandate from OPEC and the car companies that we only use oil-based fuels,&rdquo; Woolsey said.&nbsp;</p><p>A <a href="http://mitei.mit.edu/publications/reports-studies/future-natural-gas">2011 report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology</a>&nbsp;found producing methanol to be an attractive end-use for natural gas. The report also said it would cost auto manufacturers less than $90 per car to retrofit vehicles so they can burn methanol.</p><p>Woolsey said that&#39;s less than the cost of a seatbelt.</p><p>Add that to estimates of how much it would cost to build or retrofit refineries and fueling stations that would be capable of supporting a system like the one Woolsey envisions, and the MIT study says methanol would cost roughly $2 per gallon of gasoline equivalent.</p><p>Ernest Moniz, who chaired that study, is awaiting confirmation as President Obama&rsquo;s next secretary of energy. He has <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-21/obama-energy-nominee-s-mit-gas-study-faulted-over-industry-ties.html">taken heat for failing to disclose that some of the study&#39;s researchers had already accepted positions with gas companies</a> when they offered the report, which was bullish on the future of U.S. natural gas production.</p><p>Coming from the CIA, Woolsey&rsquo;s main interest in methanol was as a means to defund dictatorships who use oil revenue to placate and suppress their people. Methanol <a href="http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2012/ph240/spearrin2/">can also be made from</a> coal, biomass or even CO<sub>2</sub>.</p><p>As a way to tackle climate change, however, methanol may not be so attractive. Moniz&rsquo;s MIT study estimated natural gas could be converted to methanol with about two-thirds efficiency, which leaves it with a greenhouse gas footprint close to gasoline.</p><p>The climate impact of natural gas production has already been called out for <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/energyexchange/2013/01/04/measuring-fugitive-methane-emissions/">methane leakage problems</a>, a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/epa-rolls-back-methane-emissions-natural-gas-106891">scientific debate that roars on</a> even as the U.S. drills tens of thousands of new wells each year, and states like Illinois move to open more.</p><p>There&rsquo;s another scarce resource in play: time. Retrofitting all the infrastructure it would take to produce and pump methanol into a new fleet of American cars would take years. President Obama has seized on figures that the U.S. may have 100 years of natural gas, but <a href="http://www.theenergyreport.com/pub/na/14705">declining production</a> in some areas <a href="http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/reports/us-energy-insecurity/">has called that claim into question</a>. Even if cheap gas lasts only 20 years &mdash; though it might not be long enough to overhaul transportation infrastructure &mdash; it could be long enough to <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/11/30/is-there-still-time-left-to-stop-global-warming-yes-but-only-barely/">put us over a climate threshold</a>&nbsp;for &quot;dangerous&quot; climate change. Many environmentalists would rather see that time spent deploying renewable energy.</p></p> Tue, 30 Apr 2013 19:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/breaking-opec-and-maybe-climate-wood-alcohol-106915 EPA rolls back methane emissions from natural gas http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/epa-rolls-back-methane-emissions-natural-gas-106891 <p><p>In a revision to <a href="http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources.html">its sweeping inventory of the nation&rsquo;s greenhouse gas emissions</a>, the Environmental Protection Agency <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=179638846">scaled back its estimate</a> for natural gas, stoking supporters&rsquo; claims that the fossil fuel could be a viable carbon reduction strategy in the short-term.</p><p>But those pushing for a ban of the controversial technique of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, say the data are still unclear and that EPA&rsquo;s revision doesn&rsquo;t change the big picture.</p><p>The Illinois legislature is&nbsp;<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-03-17/business/ct-biz-0317-fracking-illinois-20130317_1_oil-boom-illinois-counties-oil-and-gas">at a crossroads on fracking</a> as members prepare to vote on bills that would either regulate the process or ban it entirely for at least two years.</p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/silverfuture/7769021050/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/frack.jpg" style="height: 229px; width: 305px; float: left;" title="File: Activists rally against fracking outside the Thompson Center in July 2012. (Flickr/silverfuture) " /></a>Natural gas is mostly methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide, according to EPA standards. Mining and distributing the gas involves some leakage, but the amount that escapes is a point of contention. Supporters contend if methane leakage is contained, the fossil fuel burns about twice as clean as coal. Some say it could serve as a bridge to an electricity grid dominated by renewable energy.</p><p>Using <a href="http://www.epa.gov/gasstar/">new data largely reported by oil and gas industry groups</a>, EPA&rsquo;s report lowered its estimate of methane emissions from natural gas between 1990 and 2010 by about 20 percent.</p><p><a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/155101-report-gas-from-fracking-worse-than-coal-on-climate">Previous studies</a>, however, have <a href="http://theenergycollective.com/david-lewis/48209/epa-confirms-high-natural-gas-leakage-rates">calculated figures that appear to torpedo its viability as a comparatively low-carbon fuel</a>. The EPA&rsquo;s latest inventory comes ahead of <a href="http://www.nature.com/news/methane-leaks-erode-green-credentials-of-natural-gas-1.12123#/b1">work from NOAA scientists and the University of Texas at Austin</a> studying natural gas emissions on a national scale. Their results are expected within a year.</p><p>Most of the data currently used to estimate methane leakage don&rsquo;t come from field tests done at real wells, which has led some to question their worth. Hugh MacMillan, a senior researcher with Food and Water Watch, says EPA raised its estimate of 2010 emissions from fracking itself at the same time that it drastically lowered emissions from another part of the process.</p><p>&quot;EPA is making large changes in how it&rsquo;s arriving at these estimates, and that means there remain large uncertainties,&quot; MacMillan said.</p><p>Food and Water Watch, like many environmental groups, supports an outright ban on fracking.</p><p>A&nbsp;2011 study&nbsp;by the Center for Atmospheric Research <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/09/09/315845/natural-gas-switching-from-coal-to-gas-increases-warming-for-decades/">found methane leakage would have to be below 2 percent to beat coal</a> when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Using EPA&rsquo;s 2013 and 2012 data to calculate methane leakage, <a href="http://www.wri.org/publication/clearing-the-air">a new report from the World Resources Institute</a> found the recently revised numbers produced a leakage rate roughly one third lower than the agency&rsquo;s previous estimate &mdash; a figure below that 2 percent threshold.</p><p>Even if the lower methane figures prove true, MacMillan is against fracking.</p><p>&quot;&#39;Better than coal&#39; is not an acceptable measure,&quot; he said. &quot;We need to do more to fight climate change.&quot;</p><p>System failures can have effects beyond accelerating global warming. Cement well casings cracked in Dimock, Penn., where methane contaminated some nearby wells, according to the state government.</p><p>And while aquifers are separated from gas wells by thousands of feet of rock, environmentalists worry small fissures in the cement could over time cause failures and foul drinking water. During fracking, large volumes of water flow back to the surface along with the freed oil or gas, and they are laced with naturally radioactive minerals and proprietary chemicals.</p><p>Industry experts counter that wasted gas is wasted product, and that new technology will continue to tamp down leakage.</p><p>In March, Illinois legislators moved toward a vote on a regulatory bill called the <a href="http://ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=2615&amp;GAID=12&amp;GA=98&amp;DocTypeID=HB&amp;LegID=74421&amp;SessionID=85">Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation Act</a>. It would set up regulations and permitting for fracking.</p><p>Negotiations over the regulatory bill hit a snag when oil and gas companies objected to natural resource extraction fees and a surprise <a href="http://ilga.gov/legislation/98/HB/09800HB2615ham003.htm">amendment</a> that would create a licensing board. It would require energy companies to hire a state-licensed water well driller in order to be licensed for high-volume fracking in Illinois.</p><p>Lawmakers could also back moratorium bills in the state house and senate, which call for a two-year ban on fracking so scientists and regulators have more time to study and prepare for the industry explosion that&rsquo;s likely to take place.</p><p>Fracking and horizontal drilling in general are old technologies, but recent advances have allowed them to be used together and on large scales. There are already about 500,000 acres leased mainly in Wayne, Hamilton and Saline counties in southeastern Illinois. The right conditions could go as far north as Jasper and Effingham counties. Fracking grew in the U.S. by at least 48 percent per year in the last five years, according to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.eia.gov/naturalgas/">Energy Information Administration</a>.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 29 Apr 2013 21:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/epa-rolls-back-methane-emissions-natural-gas-106891 Does electricity aggregation do enough for renewable energy? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/does-electricity-aggregation-do-enough-renewable-energy-106760 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/photos_by_laurence/5130848556/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/%28Courtesy-Laurence-Pearlman-via-Flickr%29.jpg" title="Transmission lines in Des Plaines, Ill. (Courtesy-Laurence-Pearlman-via-Flickr)" /></a></p><p>When Chicagoans <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/municipal-electricity-aggregation-explained-103585">voted for electricity aggregation in 2012</a>, becoming the largest city in the U.S. to do so, they gave the city power to negotiate a new price for electricity on their behalf.</p><p>Pooling customers saves money, but it also gives them a unified voice that they can use to demand renewable energy.</p><p>Somewhat ironically, however, state requirements meant to encourage renewable energy development in Illinois could dampen aggregation&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/referendum-could-mean-more-renewable-energy-chicago-102911">potential to do just that</a>.</p><p>The state&rsquo;s Renewable Portfolio Standard requires Illinois energy suppliers purchase 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025. But they can meet half of that requirement by buying renewable energy credits (RECs) from out-of-state producers. <a href="http://www.midwestenergynews.com/2012/08/10/experts-chicago-aggregation-could-hurt-renewable-energy-unless-the-rps-is-fixed/">A quirk in the law</a> could actually <a href="http://grist.org/climate-energy/how-to-make-illinois-into-a-clean-energy-leader/">prevent money collected through aggregation for the purpose of funding renewable energy</a> from spurring any new renewable development.</p><p>Jack Darin of the Sierra Club hopes the state will fix that glitch. Even if it does, cities buying renewable energy are actually buying credits&mdash;&nbsp;not renewably generated electricity itself.</p><p>&ldquo;RECs are renewable energy derivatives, essentially,&rdquo; said Kevin Borgia, policy manager for Wind on the Wires.</p><p>A wind farm in Texas, where there is no state requirement for renewable energy, could build up RECs that would find their way to Illinois towns looking to meet the standards they set forth in an aggregation deal.</p><p>&ldquo;They don&rsquo;t move growth in renewables the way purchasing actual electricity would,&quot; Borgia said. &quot;The use of RECs in general is somewhat a missed opportunity.&rdquo;</p><p>Since the state allowed aggregation in 2009, <a href="http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=a4f51b5b-3000-44e5-95ee-1f666723990b">more than 200 Illinois communities</a> have approved their own deals. Elgin&rsquo;s contract with Direct Energy costs 4.915 cents per kilowatt-hour and is 100 percent renewable. Oak Forest pays an extra eight-tenths of a penny per kWh to purchase enough renewable energy credits to cover 100 percent of the town&rsquo;s power. Evanston and Oak Park have also pursued 100 percent renewable power. But that doesn&rsquo;t mean every light bulb in those cities is channeling wind energy.</p><p>The Illinois house <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=2623&amp;GAID=12&amp;GA=98&amp;DocTypeID=HB&amp;LegID=74429&amp;SessionID=85">this week passed legislation</a> that spelled out ratepayers&rsquo; right to know the source of their power. Chicago is large enough to command the market&rsquo;s attention, but small towns don&rsquo;t have energy experts advising them. Darin of the Sierra Club said the new state law might inspire other aggregated communities to push for more green energy.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s all a matter of how communities use their aggregation buying power,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I think we&rsquo;re going to see more creativity and more exciting things as cities realize what they can do.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/virtualphotographers/4978307600/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pontiac%20wind%20farm%20%28courtesy%20virtualphotographers%20via%20Flickr%29.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 305px; float: right;" title="A wind farm in Pontiac, Ill. (courtesy virtualphotographers via Flickr)" /></a></div><p><a href="http://www.sustainable-chicago.com/2012/06/21/power-to-the-people-electrical-aggregation/">According to the Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Collaborative</a>, 40 percent of their municipal clients that opt for a renewable energy rate hike go for full renewable coverage.</p><p>Chicago struck a two-year contract with Integrys Energy Services, replacing Exelon subsidiary Commonwealth Edison and reportedly saving households $150 on average per year by 2015. Energy prices change daily, and low prices are not guaranteed forever, but the contract requires Integrys to provide electricity cheaper than ComEd, and gives the city an option to switch after May 2014. It also banned coal, which provides roughly 40 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s power, from the city&rsquo;s fuel mix. A spokeswoman from Integrys said the majority of that displaced power would come from natural gas.</p><p>Compare that to San Francisco. The city&rsquo;s CleanPowerSF program is focused on providing consumers with more renewable energy. It offers 100 percent green power, mainly from wind, with an opt-out choice for customers who do not want to pay more for renewable energy. It&rsquo;s also rolled out gradually, with only 90,000 customers enrolled this year and the rest over the next two years. And it has the option of direct purchasing, so ratepayers buy renewable energy instead of credits.</p><p>In Chicago aggregation was an easy sell &mdash; prices fell immediately. In contrast with Chicago&rsquo;s Emanuel-driven 50-0 vote, three of San Francisco&rsquo;s 11 City Council members were against the proposal, and so was the mayor.</p><p>The two deals, though similar in size, come from a different set of circumstances. California&rsquo;s Renewable Portfolio Standard is more demanding than <a href="http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=IL04R">Illinois&#39;</a> (33 percent by 2020 vs. Illinois&rsquo; 25 percent by 2025). But researchers at Yale and George Mason universities found <a href="http://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/blog/2012/11/renewable-energy-yale-survey.html?page=all">88 percent of Americans say the U.S. should make an effort to reduce global warming, even if it has economic costs</a>. If ratepayers demand it, renewable energy (not just credits) could make up a greater share of the fuel mix in communities that have approved aggregation.</p><p>And if the two-year deal works out, analysts like Borgia hope Chicago will look at longer contracts. A new wind farm won&rsquo;t likely turn a profit in just two years, so a longer contract could spur wind and solar farm construction and bring in-state jobs, while providing a hedge against future fluctuations in the price of fossil fuels like natural gas.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not just about feel-good renewables,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;This is about economic sense.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about environmental issues. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Sun, 21 Apr 2013 16:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/does-electricity-aggregation-do-enough-renewable-energy-106760 Daily Rehearsal: Jason Segel drops by Second City http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-01-09/daily-rehearsal-jason-segel-drops-second-city-95390 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-January/2012-01-09/6548271851_b4a8b6c969.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-09/6548271851_b4a8b6c969.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 206px;" title="Segel promoting 'The Muppets' in Australia (Flickr/Eva Rinaldi)"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>1. Jason Segel was all over town this weekend</strong></span></span>; he <a href="http://chicagoist.com/2012/01/09/wrigleyville_girls_youtube_video_sc.php">took Wrigleyville resident Chelsea Gill</a> out on a date after her video requesting it went viral, and <a href="http://chicagoist.com/2012/01/07/jason_segel_teases_improv_performan.php">performed at Second City</a>. Segel was in town to receive&nbsp;the Commedia Extraordinaire Award from the&nbsp;Chicago Film Critics Association. "I did pretty well but I was an amateur compared to the cast of Second City who are truly great," Segel tweeted after the performance. "I am so grateful how welcoming they were."&nbsp;Were you there? Was it good?</p><p><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>2. <em><a href="http://www.annoyanceproductions.com/messingwithafriend/">Messing with a Friend</a></em></strong></span></span> has a great line-up at the Annoyance this month: This Thursday, Tracy Letts; in the coming weeks, Kate James and Michael Patrick Thornton.</p><p><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>3.&nbsp;Speaking of Michael Patrick Thornton</strong></span></span>, he'll be performing in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.victorygardens.org/onstage/natural-gas.php"><em>Natural Gas</em></a>&nbsp;with Crip Slam in an improv night at Victory Gardens on January 29. There will be much audience participation, even before the show;&nbsp;<a href="mailto:mervin@victorygardens.org">email&nbsp;Mike Ervin</a>&nbsp;"a regular day-in-the-life story from your own life. These literary gems will be tossed into the hat and, that night, Michael and Natural Gas will choose one story as the basis for an improv."</p><p><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>4. <a href="http://www.theatreinchicago.com/newswire.php?newsID=649">RIVERDANCE</a></strong></span></span>. For the last time! Tickets on sale Friday. You know what to do. If they move their arms even a little bit, report back.</p><p><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>5.&nbsp;Larry Bommer writes <a href="http://www.footlights.com/chicago/blog/a/article/now-you-see-itnow-you-dont-2602.html">about theater etiquette</a></strong></span></span>, a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-29/squeezing-whats-etiquette-88502">topic </a>we <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-08/nicky-margolis-texting-theater-turns-us-teenagers-94718">never </a>tire of. This time, the issue at hand is seeing over a tall person in front of you. He writes that&nbsp;"there’s one theater on Southport Avenue (the Athenaeum is aware of the problem) whose rows must have been designed by a misanthropic dwarf."</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Mon, 09 Jan 2012 17:03:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-01-09/daily-rehearsal-jason-segel-drops-second-city-95390 Gas drilling could take air out of offshore wind http://www.wbez.org/content/gas-drilling-could-take-air-out-offshore-wind <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-08/Wind_Farm_D36.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>I understand the power of Lake Erie wind as soon we’re out past the breakwaters of Cleveland Harbor. The waves make our 74-foot tugboat bob like a rubber toy in my preschooler’s bath tub.</p><p>Before long, I’m sweating and looking for a place to heave.</p><p>Right next to me, Bill Mason seems to be enjoying the ride. In fact, he wants to show me a spot where the wind is even stronger. “Where we’re headed is to an anemometer,” Mason says, mispronouncing the instrument’s name. “It’s been measuring the wind speeds since, I think, 2007. So I know we have good wind.”</p><p>Mason doesn’t know all the particulars about wind energy. But, as the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, he knows a lot about Northeast Ohio. Since taking office in 1999, Mason has seen about a 100,000 manufacturing jobs disappear from the area.</p><p>Installing a handful of wind turbines offshore could spark a revival, Mason says, changing Cleveland’s image from a deindustrialized ghost town to “a green city on the blue lake.”</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-09/RS4522_Wind_Farm_A28-scr.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 184px; margin-left: 0px; margin-right: 18px; float: left;" title="Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason says putting turbines in Lake Erie could revive the city. (Front and Center/Bridget Caswell)">Mason has been promoting the wind-farm idea for seven years. In 2009, he helped form a quasi-public group, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, to turn the idea into reality. Representing Cleveland and four counties along the lake, LEEDCo has held dozens of community meetings. It has secured an option for nine square miles of the lake. It has studied possible impacts on wildlife. And it has begun work on designs and permits.</p><p>Mason tells me Cleveland could help build offshore wind farms throughout the Great Lakes. He points to the city’s proximity to rail lines, deep-water port facilities and manufacturers. He says companies in the area could retool to make parts and supplies ranging from transmission cables to ice-resistant blade coating. The wind-farm supporters commissioned a study that says their project could lead to 15,000 new Ohio jobs within two decades.</p><p>The supply chain could include Lincoln Electric, which makes welding equipment in Euclid, a suburb northeast of Cleveland. Lincoln Electric is already getting a taste of wind-energy generation since installing a 443-foot-tall turbine this year to help power the company’s main plant.</p><p>Driving up the lakeshore, I can see the three rotor blades spinning from miles away. On a windy day, the tips go 160 miles an hour, the company tells me. But I can’t hear any sound from the turbine until I’m within a stone’s throw. Looking straight up at the blades, I notice a subtle swoosh as each one passes.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-09/RS4525_Wind_Farm_D36-scr.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 183px; float: right; margin-left: 15px; margin-right: 4px;" title="Lincoln Electric’s Seth Mason says his company’s new turbine provides a case study for the offshore project. (Front and Center/Bridget Caswell)">The turbine has given a lot of local people—from regulators to engineers to truck drivers—their first contact with a wind project. Lincoln Electric energy manager Seth Mason (no relation to the prosecutor) says this experience could help with the offshore installation, which would be just a few miles away.</p><p>“You basically have the same wind regime [and] you’re basically going to have the same amount of migratory birds at this longitude,” Mason says. “So I think it provides a case study for the next machine.”</p><p>It’s not just local boosters who think a Lake Erie wind farm could revive Northeast Ohio. Christopher Hart, the U.S. Department of Energy’s offshore wind chief, sees it that way too. “If a place like Cleveland is able to establish the demonstration project and then is able to leverage that demonstration project into a larger position in the industry, this could really, really have an impact on the local economy.”</p><p>Hart tells me Cleveland has the best shot at installing the first Great Lakes wind farm. But he points to a huge barrier: “Given the current technology, given the current regulatory structure, offshore wind doesn’t make economic sense.”</p><p>DOE calculations suggest it’s more than twice as expensive to generate electricity from offshore wind as from coal, natural gas or nuclear fission. The New York Power Authority pointed to costs this fall when it pulled the plug on some proposed Great Lakes turbines.</p><p> <style type="text/css"> div .inline { width: 290px; float: left; margin-right: 19px; margin-left: 3px; clear: left; font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-position: 0pt 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }div .inlineContent { border-top: 1px dotted rgb(170, 33, 29); margin-bottom: 5px; margin-top: 2px; }ul { margin-left: 15px; }li { font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-position: 0pt 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }</style> </p><div class="inline"><div class="inlineContent"><a href="/frontandcenter"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-06/FC-logo-sm_0.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 38px;" title=""></a><ul><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/plant-entrepreneurs-turn-waste-jobs-93782"><span style="color: rgb(255, 0, 0);">ViDEO:</span></a> <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/plant-entrepreneurs-turn-waste-jobs-93782">Plant turns waste into jobs</a></strong></li><li><a href="http://www.wbez.org/imadeajob"><strong><span style="color: rgb(255, 0, 0);">INTERACT: </span>Made a Job? Tell us about it.</strong></a></li><li><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/can-milwaukee-become-silicon-valley-water-93835"><strong>The Silicon Valley of water</strong>:<strong> Milwaukee?</strong></a></li></ul></div><div class="inlineContent">&nbsp;</div></div><p>That frustrates Chris Wisseman, who leads a consortium called Freshwater Wind that LEEDCo chose last year to develop Cleveland’s offshore wind farm. “All we’re talking about here is a new technology that looks like it’s got the ability to be very cost-effective inside of a decade,” he says.</p><p>The construction will run about $130 million, Wisseman tells me. The financing will be tricky because few utilities are eager to buy electricity that is so expensive. The only purchaser on board so far is municipally owned Cleveland Public Power, which has agreed to buy a quarter of the wind-farm output.</p><p>So LEEDCo is pushing for Ohio to <em>compel</em> utilities to buy the electricity and pass along the cost to customers—a process known as rate recovery. If the plan covered just northern Ohio, Wisseman says, business and residential customers would each pay an extra $0.40 a month.</p><p>The area’s big utility, Akron-based First Energy, says it won’t take a stand on that rate recovery until it sees a proposal. The Ohio Association of Manufacturers tells me it will probably go along with the plan if it doesn’t hit electricity-intensive companies hard.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-08/Kasich.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 268px; margin-top: 5px; margin-left: 0px; margin-right: 18px; float: left;" title="Ohio Gov. John Kasich isn’t saying whether he’ll support rate recovery for the offshore wind project. (AP/File)">But rate recovery won’t get far without support from Gov. John Kasich. He appoints the members of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, which regulates the state’s electricity rates. And his Republican Party controls both houses of the state legislature.</p><p>At an energy forum Kasich’s office organized this fall, the governor didn’t leave any doubt that his energy focus would be an Appalachian rock layer called Utica Shale. In Ohio, that shale holds a lot of natural gas. To free up the fuel, companies such as Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. want to drill thousands of horizontal wells and inject pressurized fluids—a process known as fracking.</p><p>An industry-funded study says the fracking could create more than 200,000 jobs in Ohio over the next four years. The potential boom is keeping Kasich’s staff busy. “We have had 129 separate meetings—5 regional meetings, 78 with business associations, 46 meetings with oil-and-gas division experts—all across Ohio,” the governor said at the forum.</p><p>At the same time, contaminated groundwater in nearby Pennsylvania is giving fracking a bad name. Kasich promises environmental safeguards for Ohio.</p><p>The governor says he’ll also promote renewable energy efforts. So, when I catch up with him, I ask whether those will include Cleveland’s offshore wind project.</p><p>“There is a place for renewables,” Kasich replies. “But we have to be very clear: They’re very expensive. That doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities in the state. It doesn’t mean that over time they [won’t] become less expensive. But specific projects have to be looked at very, very carefully.”</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-09/RS4524_Wind_Farm_C26-scr.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 184px; margin-left: 15px; margin-right: 2px; margin-top: 5px; float: right;" title="A tugboat captain who knows about Lake Erie wind recalls cleaning a seasick crewmate with a hose. (Front and Center/Bridget Caswell)">I press Kasich, asking whether he will support the rate recovery proposed for the offshore project. He declines to answer.</p><p>Another Ohio Republican is talking about that rate recovery. State Sen. Kris Jordan, who represents suburbs north of Columbus, tells me it’s a bad idea. “I just don’t believe—when we have more affordable, more ready energy sources—that government should be subsidizing" an offshore wind farm.</p><p>Back on the Lake Erie tugboat, the vessel’s captain notices my pale color. He says he once had to clean off a seasick crewmate with a hose.</p><p>Bill Mason, the prosecutor behind the proposed wind farm, agrees I’ve seen enough of the lake. On the way back to port, he shakes his head at the thought of a natural-gas boom tripping up his project.</p><p>“We don’t know how much energy is going to be produced from this fracking,” Mason says. “We don’t know the environmental damage that possibly could happen from it. And we don’t know what it’s going to cost, if there is damage, for that recovery. If we take that step down that road, won’t it be nice to know that we have other alternatives such as the wind industry out here on the Great Lakes?”</p><p>And wouldn’t it be nice, Mason adds, if the center of that industry were Cleveland?</p><p>&nbsp;</p><h2>Great Lakes wind projects struggle for footing</h2><p>Offshore wind-energy advocates face tall hurdles in the Great Lakes, but some projects are advancing. WBEZ’s Maham Khan brings us these snapshots.</p><script type="text/javascript" src="http://public.tableausoftware.com/javascripts/api/viz_v1.js"></script><div class="tableauPlaceholder" style="width: 554px; height: 769px;"><noscript><a href="#"><img alt="Offshore wind " src="http:&#47;&#47;public.tableausoftware.com&#47;static&#47;images&#47;Gr&#47;GreatLakesoffshorewindfarmproposalsandstudies&#47;Offshorewind&#47;1_rss.png" style="height: 100%; width: 100%; border: none" /></a></noscript><object class="tableauViz" style="display: none;" width="554" height="769"><param name="host_url" value="http%3A%2F%2Fpublic.tableausoftware.com%2F"><param name="name" value="GreatLakesoffshorewindfarmproposalsandstudies/Offshorewind"><param name="tabs" value="no"><param name="toolbar" value="yes"><param name="static_image" value="http://public.tableausoftware.com/static/images/Gr/GreatLakesoffshorewindfarmproposalsandstudies/Offshorewind/1.png"><param name="animate_transition" value="yes"><param name="display_static_image" value="yes"><param name="display_spinner" value="yes"><param name="display_overlay" value="yes"></object></div><div style="width: 554px; height: 22px; padding: 0px 10px 0px 0px; color: black; font: 8pt verdana,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;"><div style="float: right; padding-right: 8px;">&nbsp;</div></div></p> Wed, 09 Nov 2011 11:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/content/gas-drilling-could-take-air-out-offshore-wind Electricity shortages in Lebanon spark offshore natural gas exploration http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-04/electricity-shortages-lebanon-spark-offshore-natural-gas-exploration-928 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-04/lebanon1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In Lebanon, most people have learned to cope with unreliable electricity. But a long term solution to Lebanon’s power problem may lie offshore.</p><p>Recently, neighboring Israel discovered an enormous natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea just south of Lebanon. Energy experts say there’s enough gas there to satisfy Israel’s needs for the next hundred years. Lebanon believes there may be significant natural gas reserves off its coast as well. Don Duncan from the <em>World Vision Report</em> looks into what this could mean for the people of Lebanon.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>This story originally aired on the <a href="http://www.worldvisionreport.org/" target="_blank">World Vision Report</a>.</em> <em>We got it from the Public Radio Exchange.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 04 Oct 2011 16:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-04/electricity-shortages-lebanon-spark-offshore-natural-gas-exploration-928