Sunday, April 12, 2020

Russia continues to influence America’s energy sources

America has known for years that Vladimir Putin of Russia has been influencing the source of America’s energy consumption through his efforts to halt fracking in America. Now, with the price of oil tanking, a price war led by Saudi Arabia and Russia is crushing the price per barrel just as the CoronaVirus is hurting demand, putting further financial pressures on the fracking industry that has elevated America to be a net oil exporter.

To control America’s oil production, Russia has been very supportive of environmentalist groups and wealthy individual’s efforts to slow or stop crude oil. As well as natural gas exploration and production within the U.S. and European borders.

As reported by the Washington Examiner in 2018 a Russian funded environmental group gave millions to anti-fracking groups. This to stop, curtail or severely weaken US fracking of crude oil and natural gas in states like Texas, North Dakota, Colorado, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Pennsylvania.

Again, in 2018 the United States House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology issued a 21-page report on Russian Attempts to Influence U.S. Domestic Energy Markets by Exploiting Social Media:  2018 report by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

From their own report, our elected officials in Washington have known, that Vladimir Putin of Russia has been adamantly against fracking in America. Fracking’s success has upended global geopolitics and oil markets since the U.S. fracking boom began under the former U.S. administration. America has gone from being a net oil importer to a net oil exporter.

The U.S. as a net exporter is no longer dependent on oil from foreign countries and insulted from the periodic eruptions in the Middle East that threatened America’s energy security for decades.

The low oil prices, that will most likely go lower before they recover, are a major financial hit to the U.S. fracking industry. They are financially more impactful than the anti-fracking movements. Plummeting oil prices could force a reckoning for the American fracking boom. Russia may be able to live with $30-per-barrel oil for an extended period, but America’s oil patch will endure financial pain for a while.

Starting a price war during a global pandemic is in Russia’s best interest to thwart American dominance in the energy sector to put an end to the growth of the American shale production and at the same time to balance Russia’s budget.

Putin is a historian of World Wars I & II and believes the country that controls oil and natural gas, controls the world. Putin knows that was Allied ingenuity and taking control of the ability to run their ships, planes and land vehicles were significant factors in winning WWII.

The world is now accustomed to post WWII prosperity from American fracking. To stabilize his budget, constrain U.S. shale growth, and extend his influence from Venezuela to the Middle East then the U.S. oil and natural gas industry needs to be brought to its knees. This oil war between Russia, Saudi Arabia, and OPEC+ is just the vehicle to accomplish his geopolitical aims.

Under his leadership, Russia has pushed the power dynamic toward controlling crude oil. This because it is well aware that electricity alone, especially intermittent electricity from industrial wind and industrial solar, are unable to support the energy demands of the military. We can add the  airlines, cruise ships, supertankers, container shipping, trucking infrastructures, and almost every other faction of the global economy. More importantly, Russia is ramping up coal production to meet domestic electrical needs, and its growing military commitments from Syria to Crimea.

The world, inclusive of Russia, can easily see the published March 2019 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) that shows the USA’s Primary Energy Consumption by Source for the recent years of 2017 thru 2018. Energy consumption rose over that 2-year period with most of the increase coming from fossil fuels, to the amazement of Russia and the world.

The EIA data shows America’s Primary Energy Consumption by Source:

Total Renewables INCREASED slightly from 11.2% to 11.4% even though most cities have implemented plans to go green, with no impact on fossil fuel energy consumption.

Total Nuclear REMAINED THE SAME at 8.4%.

Total Fossil Fuels INCREASED from 77.9% to 81.2% to meet society’s’ demands for the products from petroleum derivatives and the numerous energy consuming infrastructures.

Over 6,000 petroleum products are so intertwined with our everyday lifestyles, controlling them and their availability would control us. Putin understands the unintended consequences of getting off fossil fuels and is willing to put his rubles behind efforts to curtail fracking’s successes. He remains supportive of the deception of intermittent electricity from industrial wind and solar being the way to save the world from itself.


Coronavirus: Renewable Energy Advocates Decry Lack of Help in Stimulus Bill

The $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill passed by the U.S. Senate on March 25 should provide some economic relief to the nation’s households and businesses, but the renewable energy industry is disappointed the bill does not extend investment tax credits and other incentives to keep wind, solar, and other projects moving forward.

Clean-energy industry groups said the bill does not contain extensions of the federal wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) and solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). The group wanted those included in the stimulus, which is the largest aid package in U.S. history, to alleviate concerns about the loss of the tax credits and the impact on their industries. The groups also were looking to Congress for alternative ways to financially support their projects.

The bill approved in a 96-0 vote by the Senate late Wednesday is expected to be supported by the U.S. House of Representatives, perhaps as soon as Friday, and signed by President Trump. Key elements of the proposal are $500 billion in loans to distressed companies, $250 billion for direct payments to individuals and families, $350 billion in small business loans, and $250 billion in unemployment insurance benefits.  It also provides about $130 billion to the nation’s hospitals, and $150 billion for state and local governments hit hard by the coronavirus.

The legislation would provide single Americans a one-time payment of $1,200. Married couples would get $2,400, and parents would see $500 for each child under age 17. The payments start to phase out for individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $75,000, and those individuals making more than $99,000 would not qualify. The thresholds are doubled, to $150,000 (based on adjusted gross income) for couples.

Threats to Renewables

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has said the coronavirus pandemic and associated impacts threaten up to $43 billion in investments in wind energy. Wind projects must be completed by the end of 2020 to be eligible for the full PTC. Due to issues with supply chains and labor shortages caused by COVID-19, analysts say several projects are at risk of missing that deadline.

“While we’re disappointed clean energy sector relief did not make it into the phase three stimulus package, we will continue working with Congress and other renewable energy leaders to find solutions to the specific challenges COVID-19 is causing our members,” AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan said in a statement Wednesday.

Solar companies face a mid-April deadline to take delivery of key equipment for some projects, in order to make sure those projects comply with the 5% safe-harbor provisions of the ITC, which would allow them to receive the full 30% credit. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has warned that the industry faces a “crisis,” and the potential to lose thousands of jobs, due to disruptions from the pandemic. Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the SEIA, in a blog post Wednesday said cancellation rates for residential solar systems already are approaching “50% in some sectors,” with companies “reporting 90- to 130-day delays for products.”

Greg Smith, founder of Dayton, Ohio-based Energy Optimizers USA, on Wednesday said in an emailed statement to POWER, “We have terminated the employment of approximately 25 percent of our personnel. We have had over $10 million of projects halt moving forward.” Smith said that impacts the jobs of at least 150 workers.

Not everyone thinks support for renewable energy should be part of the stimulus package. Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, a group that supports the fossil fuel industry, said in a statement Wednesday: “Three full days of dithering for a Green New Deal unnecessarily delayed the financial relief that American families and businesses so desperately need as we fight the coronavirus.”

‘Repowering America’s Economy’

Bob Keefe, executive director of the national business group E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), in a statement sent to POWER said, “Congress threw a critical lifeline to America’s workers that will help struggling families pay their bills and make badly needed loans available for businesses to stay afloat and protect jobs. Now attention must turn to repowering America’s economy. And if federal and state lawmakers want to get America back to work, one of the most proven ways is with policies that expand America’s fastest-growing job sector—clean energy—and support the nearly 3.4 million workers employed in every state and county across the country.”

E2 has published a paper, COVID-19 and the Clean Energy Economy, and sent a letter on March 20 to congressional leadership.

Absent measures in the stimulus bill to prop up renewable energy, trade groups for the sector are looking at alternatives, including asking the U.S. Treasury Department to extend the tax credit deadlines, or make a statement to help alleviate investors’ concerns about the industry.


Climate change: Green energy plant threat to wilderness areas

Wind, solar and hydro power installations pose a growing threat to key conservation areas, say researchers.

Researchers found that over 2,200 green energy plants have been built within the boundaries of the Earth's remaining wilderness. They say that around 17% of renewable facilities globally are located in protected regions.

A further 900 plants are now being developed in key areas of biodiversity.

The amount of renewable energy facilities in use around the world has essentially tripled over the last 20 years.

Green energy facilities are often much larger than fossil fuel power plants, with wind and solar needing areas of land up to 10 times greater than coal or gas to produce the same amount of energy.

Now researchers say that often these solar, wind and hydro schemes have been built in areas of environmental significance and pose a threat to key natural habitats.

The team mapped the locations of around 12,500 of these installations. They found that more than 2,200 were built in wilderness, protected regions and key biodiversity areas.

Some 169 were found in strictly managed protected areas where no development activity at all should occur.

"Energy facilities and the infrastructure around them, such as roads and increased human activity, can be incredibly damaging to the natural environment," said lead author Jose Rehbein, from the University of Queensland, Australia.

"These developments are not compatible with biodiversity conservation efforts."

The researchers say that energy projects like solar farms often necessitate new roads, and the people who come in to service these installations sometimes build settlements near them.

Western European countries are the worst offenders at the moment, with Germany having 258 facilities in key conservation areas. Spain has similar numbers of installations, while China has 142.

One big concern from the researchers is the likely expansion of the demand for renewables particularly in Africa and Asia.

The researchers say the number of active renewable energy facilities within important conservation lands could increase by 42% over the next eight years.

In countries like India and Nepal, for example, hydropower is seeing a real boom. Nepal has over 100 facilities within protected areas, while India has 74 under development in important conservation zones.

"In most cases it's just weak planning," said Dr James Allan from the University of Amsterdam, a senior author on the paper.

"So in the Selous world heritage site in Tanzania, the government has just given the go ahead for a massive dam, a huge hydropower project which will really destroy a large area of that national park."

Over the past 18 months, there has been a growing concern about the extinction crisis being seen around the world and much research has been published linking it to climate change.

But while many developing countries are doing their best to tackle rising carbon emissions through switching to renewable energy, the irony is that they are increasing the threat to species when these facilities are installed in protected areas.

The authors of the report say that greater care must be taken when planning and permitting renewable facilities.

"If we let these developments go ahead, the biodiversity will be gone long before climate change starts affecting it," said Dr Allan. "We acknowledge that there is a risk that we will arm some sceptics, but anyone who reads the work will understand that we are not saying that renewables are bad, we just need to put them in the right places."

The study has been published in the journal, Global Change Biology.



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