A Rational Energy Policy Would Make Renewables a Priority

by Duane Nichols on December 12, 2017

Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas!

Natural Gas – Wrong Start for America

Essay by S. Tom Bond, Jane Lew, Lewis County, WV, December 8, 2017

When I got to I-79 this morning, a truck carrying one of the propellers for a wind electrical generator held me up. It has been a while since that happened last time. At one time they came through once a week or more. On the other hand, increased activity of the companies with designs on the Marcellus-Utica is quite apparent.

Wind power is, right now, the cheapest source of electrical power. Nebraska produces enough to supply its entire need, right now. Solar is making exponential gains with some 5500 schools, and you can find figures for many large corporations such as Walmart, 145 megawatts, Target, 147.5 MW, Apple, 93.9 MW and Prologis, 107.8 MW. These figures are a year old, now they doubtless generate more of their own power.

Natural gas was once advertised as a “transition fuel,” but it is clear its exponents don’t have that in mind any more. That is the reason for the big pipelines we hear so much about. That kind of investment means they expect to extract every bit of natural gas possible, and turn it into carbon dioxide, climate effects be damned. Confusion about climate science is not among serious investigators, but a subterfuge financed by the carbon dioxide generators. An honest “transition fuel” industry would be thinking about making the present infrastructure last to be superseded by what everyone knows must come. They wouldn’t be dumping in vast new investment.

The Saudi’s know what’s coming, they are industriously developing solar, which they have in abundance, in hopes of selling their oil elsewhere, even at very low prices. The Chinese know what’s coming, they are leading in the solar revolution. They don’t have the infrastructure to develop gas, and their dense population in the Eastern portions of the country inhibits it. We use solar in the U. S. for remote locations, even the gas companies use solar for some purposes to avoid batteries and buiding electrical lines. Dominion has one on my farm, and I use solar for part of my electric fence.

What allows this foolishness on the part of natural gas owners? It is a branch of the petroleum industry, and the U. S. was a leader in that development. Our oil was easy to get, and gas was a by-product. Eventually pipes were developed enough to move the gas, and it was convenient to use where it could be piped. It still is, of course. Oil was exported for decades generating huge profits. The geology is now well known, and conventional oil and gas, which lies in interconnected pores in rock is pretty well exhausted.

The unconventional gas lies in pores that are not interconnected. The Marcellus and Utica formations, for example, must be crushed to let the gas out. That is the origin of the name “fracking,’” for fracturing the rock. Yields are around 6-7% of the gas in the rock, just a small fraction of conventional yields. Recent yield increases reported for unconventional wells is due to lengthing the fractured well length, not to increased recovery to the gas in place.

The petroleum industry is mature, investment intense, and by now, low labor. Compare that to solar and wind, which are relatively labor intensive. When you buy solar, the money invested goes to people who install it, not to remote investors.

The petroleum industry is mature in still another sense. It has a vast reservoir of favorable legislation and government policy. It has influence on new law and current policy, including enforcement. In my youth, coal strippers met enforcement officers with a cigar with a one hundred dollar bill wrapped around it. (That would be about nine hundred twenty five dollars today.) Petroleum influence today is less conspicuous than that, but just as powerful.

In addition to the broad attack on science, some companies are trying to get around free speech provisions of the Constitution to attack protestors. Some use eminent domain for private profit, and some ignore laws about water contamination. All make surface unusable for some other use later. On of my favorites abuses is taking pipeline rights of way for very rewarding gains, but leaving the farmer to pay all land tax. He looses use of the land except for grazing, and the right of way never returns to the land. What is the company planning to do with it after the pipeline is no longer used? Speculate on it, of course!

This expansion of natural gas can only inhibit conversion to renewable energy. For the country, and the world as a whole, this may be the worst effect. We in the U. S. ought to be leaders in developing renewables. We have the science. However, China is gaining. It is reported they have 500,000 engineers in training. No doubt they have the ability to manufacture more cheaply, plus they have the rare earth elements current solar panels require. The U. S. must buy them from China.

Investment should be going into development for the future, not dragging the U. S. in to a position that makes the change more difficult. But that is what is going on with investment and with government at the present time.


Are Temporary Jobs an Adequate Justification for MVP or ACP?

by Duane Nichols on December 11, 2017

Thomas Hadwin, Former Gas Utility Executive

Expensive Pipelines Not Needed for Natural Gas Service in Virginia or North Carolina

From an Essay by Thomas Hadwin, Friends of the Central Shenandoah, December 8, 2017

For large construction jobs these days, often the supervisors and highly skilled positions are union members because of their skill and experience. The far more numerous lower skilled jobs are usually filled by non-union workers.

These jobs will last just 8-10 months according to the pipeline owners. The MVP says 10% of the workforce will be hired locally. The ACP says 50% will be local. You form your own opinion about which is more accurate. This will hardly rebuild the middle class in Virginia communities.

All of this attention on construction jobs continues to overlook the fundamental realities. Existing pipelines in our region are adding several times the capacity to their systems than are being provided by the ACP and MVP combined. Between 2007 and 2016 we added 121 Bcf/d to our nation’s pipeline capacity. For comparison, the EIA says natural gas use in the U.S. in 2016 averaged 75.11 Bcf/d, with a seasonal high use of 93.1 Bcf/d in January 2017.

We don’t have a shortage of pipeline capacity, especially since forecasts of traditional natural gas use and electricity use are relatively flat. Florida, one of the states with the fastest growth in population and economic activity, experienced total natural gas use that is 4% lower this year than last year. Florida Power & Light expects this downward trend to continue in the 10-year plan they submitted to state regulators. Yet, like elsewhere, they are continuing to overbuild gas-fired power plants and the pipelines they think will be necessary to serve them.

The major point that is overlooked in all of this cheer-leading is that these new pipelines will cost us billions of dollars. Over the 20-year contracts signed by the utilities controlled by the owners of the ACP, the ratepayers of those utilities will pay about $3 billion more in Virginia and over $6 billion more in North Carolina than they would if they were served by connections to existing pipelines.

Why are we so eager to trade a few months of temporary work for a thousand, when millions of families and businesses in Virginia and North Carolina will pay billions extra because of the ACP?

The MVP has no customers. About a third of its capacity is spoken for by utilities. But they are located in Florida, D.C., and New York. The New York Public Service Commission is opening an inquiry into why New York City ratepayers would be better off getting gas via the MVP than they would if they were served directly from northeastern Pennsylvania as they are today. ConEd failed to notify the PSC that they were part-owners of the MVP.

All of the utilities that are shippers on the MVP could receive gas far more cheaply from existing pipelines than they could from the MVP. Only Roanoke Gas is connected to the MVP, taking only 0.5% of its capacity. But even Roanoke Gas could likely receive gas cheaper by connecting to nearby existing pipelines than they could from the MVP.

Nearly two-thirds of the capacity of the MVP is reserved by EQT, the largest gas producer in the Appalachian Basin. It has no customers, but will owe the MVP over $9 billion for its 20-year contract. In recent financial filings, EQT admitted it did not have sufficient capital to complete construction of the project.

By overlooking this information, regulators, political, business, and labor leaders are trading an extremely short-term gain for long-term pain for everybody else. By this short-sighted action they are harming their own long-term interests along with everyone else’s. There is a better way.


See Video: True Costs of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline ACP

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Legal Challenge Filed on 401 Certification for MVP in Virginia

December 10, 2017

Wild Virginia Sues Virginia State Water Control Board Over Approval of MVP Permit Press Release from David Sligh, Wild Virginia, December 8, 2017 Today, Wild Virginia has joined allies in filing suit to challenge the legality of the State Water Control Board’s decision to issue a water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The [...]

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ACP Falls Behind Schedule in North Carolina for Both Water & Air Quality Permits

December 9, 2017

North Carolina Pipeline Blows Another Deadline From an Article by John Murawski, News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), December 7, 2017 RALEIGH, N.C. — The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, already more than a year behind schedule, missed another deadline Wednesday when North Carolina regulators said they would not issue an environmental permit by December 15th as [...]

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VA Water Control Board Approves the MVP Voting 5 – 2

December 8, 2017

Virginia Water Control Board ignores citizen concerns, expert comments and approves controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline CONTACTS: Cat McCue, Appalachian Voices, cat@appvoices.org, and Roberta Bondurant, Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights, bondurantlaw@aol.com FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 7, 2017 Today the Virginia Water Control Board approved the permit for the proposed fracked-gas Mountain Valley Pipeline that would [...]

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Pipelines Here, Pipelines There, Pipelines Everywhere!

December 7, 2017

Public Hearings on MXP and ACP Pipeline Stormwater Permits From Autumn Crowe, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, December 4, 2017 This month WVDEP is holding public hearings on two major natural gas pipelines, the Mountain XPress Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Each public hearing focuses on stormwater and sediment control permits, which regulate runoff from [...]

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Clean Power Plan Hearings: Environment, jobs not an either-or question for West Virginia

December 6, 2017

Sierra Club Holds Clean Power Plan Hearing: WeAreWVProud From an Article by Jessica Schueler, WVNS-TV News 59, November 29, 2017 CHARLESTON, WV — While the U.S. EPA hosted a public hearing in the Capitol Complex, the Sierra Club was also holding a hearing to discuss the potential repeal of the Clean Power Plan. The environmental [...]

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VA State Water Control Board has Strong Ties to Dominion Energy

December 5, 2017

Can the Virginia State Water Control Board Really Be Trusted? From an Article by Stacy Lovelace, Blue Virginia, November 29,  2017 While the hotly contested Atlantic Coast (ACP) and Mountain Valley (MVP) pipelines have put a considerable amount of focus on Dominion Energy, primary stakeholder in the ACP, the Virginia State Water Control Board (SWCB) [...]

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Churches Protest Mariner East 2 Pipeline in Southeast Pennsylvania

December 4, 2017

Demonstrators march in prayer walk to protest Mariner East 2 pipeline From an Article by Bill Rettew Jr., Daily Local News, West Chester, PA, December 2, 2017 WEST GOSHEN, PA — Three dozen peaceful protesters marched Saturday for a half-mile along the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline right-of-way. Many of the participants in the pipeline [...]

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Well Pads are Dangerous: Vents, Leaks, Fires, and Pollution

December 3, 2017

Well pad fire in Somerset County PA prompts evacuation of nearby residents From an Article by Reid Frazier, NPR StateImpact PA, December 1, 2017 Some Somerset County residents were evacuated Thursday morning after firefighters responded to a fire on a natural gas well pad. There were no injuries. Flames and odors of gas were first [...]

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