Pipelines Are Not Being Planned to Serve West Virginia

by S. Tom Bond on June 22, 2017


$-Living With Our Energy Choices Long Term-$

Letter to the Editor of the Weston Democrat, Weston, WV,  June 20, 2017

A recent talk to the local Rotary, by a spokesman for the gas industry, seriously needs a rebuttal. Fracking and pipelines are not a solution to West Virginia’s problems, but a continuation of the economic processes which have brought us to our present condition. Extraction industries have been the primary employer since the state was broken off from the Old Dominion – Virginia — in the Civil War. It has made a few millionaires and a vast number of paupers. Our state is losing population and we are now down to the point we are in danger of losing a Representative to the US Congress.

If pipelines are built, a guaranteed profit is locked in for big banks, because they will be paid for by the customers of cost plus utilities, regardless of how many or few there are. Once the pipes are in the ground, the good jobs will dwindle to a very few caretaker jobs. Laying the pipelines will require huge investments in equipment and provide jobs for highly skilled individuals, mostly men, who will move on. Permanent caretakers are less killed, far less numerous, and less well paid.

The fracking expected to follow will be similar. Each well pad provides good paying but hard and dangerous jobs for a few weeks, then it is run by far fewer and less well paid individuals for about 7 or 8 years, when the well is no longer economically viable. Only about 6 or 7 percent of the gas down there can be brought to the surface, and along with it comes vast quantities of liquid waste – chemicals sent down the well, and water and chemicals dissolved from the formation – which must be disposed of.

These are not your grandfather’s gas wells. You need to go to Doddridge County, or better, Wirt County, to see how it affects the surface i.e. the forest, the roads and the people. If the goals of the frackers comes to pass, the population will be so depleted several counties will have to be consolidated to support county governments.

At one time not so long ago, gas was called “The Bridge to the Future.” Now the song is that it IS the future. In fact there are competing technologies, collectively called “renewables” that are in a race.

Gas, along with oil and coal, have a serious problem. They are causing the earth surface to warm. When Glacier National park was established there were 150 glaciers, now there are only 25 and all are expected to be gone by or before 2030. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per person measured in tons in 2012 were: 16.4 for the US; 10.4 for Japan; 9.7 for Germany; 7.7 for the UK; 7.1 for China; and 1.6 for India, according to estimates made in 2013 by the European Commission. Total U. S. CO2 emission for 2014 was over 7.5 million tons.

Natural gas, compared to coal and oil, gives more heat for the carbon burned, because it contains a lot of hydrogen which burns, too. But the principle ingredient, methane is a much more powerful “green house gas” than carbon dioxide. It leaks in considerable quantity and makes gas about as bad as coal for global warming.

The real appeal of natural gas is that it is cheap, and doesn’t have many of the other elements in coal and oil that also are serious health hazards. Florists employ around the same number of people as coal mines now, about 70,000.

There are almost unlimited possibilities for renewables. Wind generated 5.5 percent of electricity in the U.S. in 2016 and is on track to supply 10 percent by 2020. Nebraska is almost self sufficient in wind power. The solar industry said it employed more than 260,000 as of 2016 and that roughly 1 in 50 new jobs nationwide last year were in that industry.

An article appearing in The Guardian for 25 October 2016 is titled “Renewables made up half of net electricity capacity added last year.” This is what is going on in the entire world. A graph shows greater growth each year in the U. S. as well as other countries.

One reason that gas is successful is because of subsidies. Presently these come largely in the form of tax breaks. The justification is that it keeps energy cost low. Renewables deserve subsidies, because they are clean, involve limitless supply of energy, and involve technologies that  are improving with research.

Another reason gas is successful is because of all the costs of the drilling and transport that are laid off on other people. They don’t pay for reduced value of land, such as forest production prevented by pipelines and well pads and access roads. Some slight value may be paid but not the value of the occupied land through time. They don’t pay for aquifers destroyed by production wells or injection of waste. They do not pay for health effects on people around fracking. Originally when oil and gas was removed no one thought about the value of such things in the long run. Today’s fracking is operating under the extension of the old laws to a new and very different technology and a much more dense population. At first the industry tried to confuse well stimulation in sand stone with fracking in shale, but that has gone by the way.

Third, the carbon dioxide is a cost to all of us, which is bitterly contested by the industry. People now and even more in the future are hurt by it. A negative subsidy in the form of a carbon tax is appropriate to make the cost of hydrocarbons compare correctly with renewables.

Dominion is the greatest political force in Virginia. It owns much of the political establishment – it is the largest corporate donor to state candidates. Its influence penetrates every level of government from the Department of Environmental Quality, through both sides of the aisle in the legislature, to the Governor’s Mansion.

The 2017 Utility Energy Scorecard places Dominion as the second most inefficient utility in the nation, only Alabama Power rates lower. The Scorecard is based on how the utility encourages customers to conserve energy. Duke Energy utilities and Southern Company (Alabama Power) are down there, too. What does this say about the owners of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline?

Dominion is all about making money for a few, not about serving the public. The pipelines are the wrong way to go, if one is thinking about the public and the course of technology.

>>> S. Thomas Bond is a retired chemist and resident farmer in Lewis County, WV

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The Guardian June 22, 2017 at 5:00 pm

Renewables made up half of net electricity capacity added last year

Experts hail rapid transformation that will see clean energy outgrow fossil fuels in the next five years – but warn UK is failing to exploit huge potential

From an Article by Adam Vaughan, The Guardian, October 25, 2016

Green energy accounted for more than half of net electricity generation capacity added around the world last year for the first time.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) said the milestone was evidence of a rapid transformation in energy taking place, and predicted capacity from renewable sources will grow faster than oil, gas, coal or nuclear power in the next five years.

But the analysts said the outlook in the UK has deteriorated since the Conservative government took power last year and cut support for wind and solar power. The agency’s chief said Britain had huge renewable energy potential and ministers needed to design stronger policies to exploit it.

“What I see is we are witnessing the transformation of energy system markets led by renewables and this is happening very quickly,” said Dr Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA. “This transformation and the growth of renewables is led by the emerging countries in the years to come, rather than the industrialised countries.”

China will lead the world for growth in renewable power, followed by the US and Europe, a new report by the agency found. The IEA said the EU was relinquishing its position as a renewable energy pioneer due to weak electricity demand and policy uncertainty, which Birol warned could see European renewable energy manufacturers lose out to international rivals.

“If you think of running a marathon, Europe started with a big advance, more than half of the marathon they are leading by far. They are now getting a bit tired, and some others are overtaking Europe slowly but surely,” he told the Guardian.

The IEA said Asia will be the “engine of growth”, led by China and India. “China is a completely separate chapter,” said Birol. “China alone is responsible for about 40% of growth in the next five years. When people talk about China, they think about coal, but it is changing.”

A total of 153GW of net renewable electricity capacity was installed globally in 2015, a record high, equivalent to Canada’s capacity and up 15% on the year before. Net capacity is new capacity minus retired capacity, such as old hydro being taken offline. China is expected to add a further 305GW over the next five years, followed by India with 76GW.

Onshore windfarms and solar power led the charge last year, with 63GW and 49GW of new global capacity respectively. The two technologies are also forecast to take the lion’s share of growth, with electricity generation from solar tripling and wind doubling.

Their costs are expected to continue the dramatic and unprecedented reductions in recent years, with onshore wind coming down a further 15% and big solar 25% by 2021.

“The cost of wind dropped by about one third in the last five to six years, and that of solar dropped by 80%,” said Birol, adding that while the cost of gas had also fallen recently, it was not at the same speed that green energy had become cheaper. “The decline in renewables [cost] was very sharp and in a very short period of time. This is unprecedented.”

While renewables now account for more than 50% of net capacity additions and are expected by the IEA to reach around 60% by 2021, they still provide a relatively small share of the world’s electricity. Green sources are only expected to provide 28% of electricity generation by 2021, up from 23% in 2015, and much of that will be from existing hydropower dams.

Renewable energy is seen by scores of countries as a key way to meet climate targets that they pledged under the Paris agreement, which comes into force in November.

But even with the huge growth expected in coming years, the IEA said it will not be sufficient to meet the Paris deal’s target of keeping temperatures below 2C, the threshold for dangerous warming. “No, it’s by far not enough [the trajectory of growth],” said Birol.

The agency painted a gloomy picture of solar and onshore wind’s prospects in the UK, echoing recent warnings from other respected energy authorities. “The policy landscape for renewables has become more challenging since the 2015 general election,” the report said.

Since coming to power, the Conservatives have drastically cut or ended subsidies for wind and solar power, begun the privatisation of the green bank which supports clean energy, and enthusiastically backed fracking for shale gas and new nuclear. “While government support for new gas and nuclear capacity is evident, recent policy changes indicate that the role envisioned for renewables is uncertain,” the IEA said.

“There is need in the UK to invest in stronger renewable policies,” said Birol. “The potential is huge compared to what we are expecting.”

The agency’s chief said that contrary to what renewable energy critics argued, the biggest threat to the technologies was not their intermittent nature but the intermittency of governments’ support.

“The issue is not the predictability of solar and wind, it is the predictability of government policies because investors need to see what their prospects are. This is the main challenge I see in the renewable energy sector.”

Imke Lübbeke, head of climate and energy at WWF’s European policy office, said: “The IEA report clearly shows that president [Jean-Claude] Juncker’s promise to make the EU ‘the world leader in renewables’ remains empty rhetoric. Instead, the European Union is losing its leadership role to the US and China.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/25/renewables-made-up-half-of-net-electricity-capacity-added-last-year


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