Archive for the ‘Energy’ category

Dolan Media Pre-Christmas Rush

12-17-07

Before you break out your favorite Christmas movies, here’s a delectable selection of news morsels from around Dolan Media….

green-river-formation.jpgShell Oil Company wants to extract oil from the Green River Formation, which contains one of the largest oil shale deposits in the world. According to the Colorado Springs Business Journal’s Amy Gillentine, the government’s permitting process runs on a different track than Shell’s research on how to squeeze the goo from the rocks.

Shell submitted the application a year ago, but withdrew it when the company realized that research was going to lead in another direction, said Tracy Boyd, spokesman for the Mahogany Project, the name for the oil shale research work being conducted on 17 acres in the Colorado back country near Rifle.

“But that doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped anything,” he said. “It’s a delay, but other things are going on at the site. We’ve finished building the freeze wall test and it’s 100 percent online now. They’re working on heating tests elsewhere on the site.”

The next step, which requires combining both the freezing and heating elements into one big test to see if Shell can really wring oil from the rocks, is causing the delay.

“It takes about a year to process the application, and things in this research are changing so fast that knowing exactly what you want to do in a year is difficult,” Boyd said. “We’re learning a lot more all the time. We’ll resubmit the application a year or so down the road when we have better information to know exactly what kind of integrated test we want to do.”

Shell, which has secured 200 patents for oil-shale extraction technology, is the only oil firm working this problem on such a massive scale. As one might expect, the whole shale-oil enterprise has its critics and skeptics. (more…)

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Oklahoma on Ice — The Aftermath

12-12-07

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Things are looking up in frozen Oklahoma — if you’re in the tree removal and replacement business, according to Kirby Lee Davis in The Journal Record.

“If you’re in the tree removal business you’re going to have a bonanza,” added Gary Trennepohl, a professor of finance and the president of Oklahoma State University’s Tulsa campus. “In our campus I bet we’re going to lose 90 percent of our trees. To me that’s the most devastating financial impact.”

Those comments reflect the aesthetics of the storm, the most visible area of damage. And it points to a huge, often overlooked sector.

Trennepohl estimated just replacing the trees at the OSU-Tulsa campus will cost hundreds and thousands of dollars. Multiply that by the thousands of square miles seeing similar wreckage, from Yukon and Norman to Grove and Claremore, and economists might start shaking their heads at the enormity of the issue.

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Those businesses, however, might be affected by a labor shortage brought about by the state and federal crackdown on illegal immigrant labor.

Lee interviews University of Oklahoma economist Robert Dauffenbach and OSU-Tulsa’s President Gary Trennepohl (also a professor of business) on the broader economic effects of the still-ongoing blackout affecting hundreds of thousands of the state’s homes and businesses. (more…)

Oklahoma on Ice

12-11-07

t_labskd_tulsaice9rip.jpgNo, it’s not a new version of the old Broadway musical. It’s what’s happening right now as a major storm has frozen parts of Missouri, Kansas and especially Oklahoma under an inch-thick coating of ice, leading to power outages affecting millions of homes and businesses and transportation nightmares.

The Journal-Record’s Kirby Lee Davis today describes the scene in Tulsa.

(A) disquieting eeriness pervaded every shadow, which spread into an omnipresent foreboding as twilight drained to a cold, misty dark Stephen King would have loved.

That’s when a dense shroud of gloom crept into these hilly streets, mile after mile lit only by fog-dimmed headlights. Dusk transformed much of Tulsa into a bleak ghost town, one where the cold and hungry flocked like moths to most any flicker of electronic light – like the McDonald’s at 15th and Peoria, a beacon of civilization in the deserted blackness of a normally robust Cherry Street.

Amazingly, downtown Tulsa seemed graced with power – almost the exact opposite of two years ago, when a frozen water main flooded an underground Public Service Company of Oklahoma station and knocked out much of the high-rise district. But the prevailing void Monday night caught up with those who sought refuge at the Spaghetti Warehouse and other Brady District venues by 6:50 p.m., plunging them into darkness in the twinkling of an eye.

Ted Strueli blogs about the storm’s impact. (more…)

Monday Morning Dolan News Fix

12-03-07

Sorry to have been such a quiet poster the past few days…been under the weather.

Here are a few stories from Dolan Media I wanted to get out of bed for.

The state-run Healthcare Group Arizona was supposed to be a self-sufficient health insurance plan for small businesses. Instead, “it’s in financial meltdown,” according to a state rep quoted in Arizona Capitol Times.

And the Department of Insurance seems to agree with(Rep. Kirk) Adams’ assessment. Preliminary results from a report that will be finalized in February show Healthcare Group does not collect the data needed to predict health care trends and adjust its premiums accordingly, said Director Christina Urias.

If Healthcare Group was a private insurer, she told the panel Nov. 27, her department would have shut it down.

“In my view, this is a situation…very, very similar to an insolvent insurer operation because it’s relying on subsidies from the Legislature to keep itself going,” Urias said.

Even Kevin Nolan, deputy director of Healthcare Group, told the committee the program may be entering the beginning stages of what is known in the insurance world as a “death spiral,” in which recently increased premium costs drive healthy people from the system, leaving only those with serious illnesses.

Another state Rep. thinks the situation is salvageable — that restrictions on eligibility and on marketing the service could get the program “back on good footing.” The full story is available to subscribers….

If you’re on top of the global warming issue, you’ve doubtless heard the litany of environmentally-friendly sustainable sources of energy: Solar power, wind energy, geothermal…and now “wave parks.” The Daily Journal of Commerce in Portland surveys the seascape, and reports that Oregon’s bid to be the world’s leader in commercializing the technology faces a surge in competition from Nova Scotia, British Columbia and neighboring Washington state.

Oregon… is working to expand Oregon State University’s wave research to a national in-water wave energy research center where companies around the world can bring their technologies for testing. And the state already has two test devices in the water – Canada-based Finavera Renewables’ Aquabuoy and OSU’s wave energy buoy – with six more permit applications on file at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Finavera suffered a setback last month, however, when the Aquabuoy off the coast of Newport began leaking and sank to the ocean floor. And public perception of wave energy parks as threats to ocean life and fishers could set back the state, energy consultant Justin Klure said.

“Oregon needs to accelerate our efforts for community outreach and education,” Klure said, “so wave energy projects are seen as positive instead of a threat.”

Also on the water… If you’re in Baltimore today or tomorrow, you can catch a glimpse of a very cool-looking high-speed Navy ship, on display in the Inner Harbor as part of the Army-Navy game festivities.  Go to On the Record to see it….

Slow home sales in New Orleans have some owners resorting to auctions, writes Deon Roberts in New Orleans City Business. But it seems like the auctions are serving to illustrate that sellers and buyers remain far apart on what they think properties are worth.

(David) Gilmore, president of Sperry Van Ness/Gilmore Auction, said New Orleans-area home auctions are attracting fewer buyers than for commercial properties or lots. Also, many sellers have not been satisfied with residential auction bids, he said.

“There are still buyers in the market,” Gilmore said. “We had bidders at every one of our auctions for 12 different sales three weeks ago. But I’ll tell you, on the residential homes, there was a price differential between which the sellers were wiling to accept and the buyers are willing to give, and that tells you we have market issues.”

Of the 12 properties Gilmore’s firm featured three weeks ago, three homes did not sell because the sellers rejected the offers, he said. There was a 30 percent average difference in what the sellers wanted and the buyers offered.

What one word comes to mind when you think of New York? Did you say “politeness?”  Me too!  But apparently the Long Island Railroad has concerns about its passengers hogging seats with their bags and gabbing on the cell phone, so they’ve launched an anti-rudeness campaign, according to LI BizBlog….

Three thousand gallons of chicken fat from a Perdue poultry plant. An unlatched tanker. Twenty miles of Virginia highway. Yuk.  And a few auto accidents, according to the VLW Blog…. Talk about rude….

Biofuel Displacing Food in Starving Nations

11-07-07

The biofuel kick, prompted by concern for global warming, is driving up the cost of food in developing nations to the point where the trade has become “a crime against humanity,” according to a UN official quoted in this story from the UK Guardian. Writer George Monbiot begins with a painful allusion to Jonathan Swift:

It doesn’t get madder than this. Swaziland is in the grip of a famine and receiving emergency food aid. Forty per cent of its people are facing acute food shortages. So what has the government decided to export? Biofuel made from one of its staple crops, cassava. The government has allocated several thousand hectares of farmland to ethanol production in the district of Lavumisa, which happens to be the place worst hit by drought. It would surely be quicker and more humane to refine the Swazi people and put them in our tanks. Doubtless a team of development consultants is already doing the sums.

The story goes on to explain how biofuel offers countries that have publicly committed to reducing carbon emissions “a means of avoiding hard political choices.” (more…)

Electrifying News from Dolan’s Pubs

11-06-07

Here are a few interesting stories our reporters have picked up the past day or two….

Portland’s one of those towns with some tasty microbrews. In fact, its unofficial nickname is “beertopia.” Today we learn from the DJC’s Libby Tucker that three local breweries are investing–a lot–in energy conservation schemes, including recovery of the intense heat from the brewing process and using biodiesel instead of natural gas to run the boilers. Breweries are “big, dirty behemoths,” one brewmaster is quoted as saying…..

If you’re in Idaho, here’s a name to start remembering: Gateway West. That’s what Rocky Mountain Power and Idaho Power Co. call a 650-mile power line project they announced Monday, according to IBR. Conservation groups are worried, and ratepayers won’t like the effect on electricity bills. But utility officials say the rolling blackouts Idaho almost experienced last summer could loom again unless this new capacity comes on line….

FedEx was confused by the EEOC’s allegedly inconsistent way of notifying the company whether an employee has charged discrimination or not. So they filed suit. Today the case was argued before the Supreme Court, and from DC Dicta’s report, it sounds like the justices were not just confused, but annoyed….

This can’t be good. The Daily Record’s Jackie Sauter was out on the streets of Baltimore with a photographer and came upon a smattering of snow-like particles. Thanks to some construction workers, a building is shedding white foam, and the breeze is distributing it on the city’s west side. Some of the stuff attached itself to Jackie’s clothes. Where else is it going?

novint-falcon.jpgAnd can you guess what this is?→→→→

Go to LI Biz Blog to find out. A company in Port Washington, N.Y. firm makes markets them, and pretty soon, everyone will want one…..

Windmills, Dams, Poker and Ghosts: Tuesday Evening Dolan Wrap

10-23-07

“Global warming is here.”  That’s how Richard Kessel, until a few weeks ago the chief of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), greets Long Island BizBlog’s David Reich-Hale and Henry Powderly II when they meet at Kessel’s favorite breakfast spotMary Bill Diner in Merrick, N.Y.  It’s mostly a chat about his personal plans, but Kessel did speak out on behalf of an offshore wind energy project that the new LIPA CEO opposes:

He shared concerns about the costs, but he asked “find me a project that is renewable, and it’s cheaper.” Unfortunately, there is no place to put these windmills on land on Long Island.

All alternative energy projects will cost a lot up front and pay off over time, that’s the problem. Bills would rise to cover the up-front costs, he said. And as for the windmills, Kessel swore there is no cheaper way. “In the end the wind project is going to look pretty good when oil hits $100.”

As for solar power on the per-house level, it takes a lot of time to install solar panels and if you spend the same money on them as the wind farm would have cost, you’d generate less electricity.

The bottom line is, alternative energy costs more. If we don’t want to pay, then “stick with oil and see what happens.”

There are wind-energy battles going on all over the country, the most notorious in Massachussets.  NIMBYism and environmentalism are on a collision course and, so far, NIMBYism is getting the better of it….

For those who don’t recognize the NIMBY acronym, it means Not in My Backyard.  Planners love these kinds of acronyms to describe foes of controversial projects.  This one seems perfect for Long Island:  GOAH.  It stands for Gedoudaheah….

The largest dam to be demolished in the Pacific Northwest in 40 years started coming down today, and DJC’s Libby Tucker was there to watch.  It was demolished by the same general contractor, Natt McDougall, who built it 18 years ago….

DJC links to a video here….

The IRS has noticed the poker tournament fad, and wants its cut, reports DC Dicta….

Halloween in New Orleans?  Why, it’s a “mini-Mardi Gras,” according to New Orleans City Business.

“When you enjoy the reputation as one of the nation’s most haunted cities, naturally Halloween is a big draw for people who want to make Halloween a destination,” said Mary Beth Romig, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Hotel Monteleone bills itself as “most haunted,” a distinction not every hotel wants….