This Week in Energy is a weekly round-up of news making headlines in the world of energy. Many of these stories are posted throughout the week to our Energy Ticker page.
The purpose is to stimulate discussion on energy issues. Community members should feel free to turn these into open thread energy discussions. Suggestions and news tips are welcome. I (Sam) can be reached at editor [at] consumerenergyreport [dot] com.
Note: Robert Rapier is currently in Washington, D.C. and will be presenting at the ASPO-USA conference over the next few days. If you’re attending the conference or in the area be sure to hit him up.
Range Fuels Saga Coming to a Close?
Regular readers of this blog are familiar with the Range Fuels story. Robert Rapier was the first columnist to investigate the company and point out what was wrong, back in February 2010, when he wrote the popular essay: Broken Promises From Range Fuels. The gist of it was “that their progress does not remotely align with their early promises.” Range Fuels later responded to this, and Robert became known as Range Fuels’ Number One Critic. Once the company began to run out of money, the media jumped on the bandwagon and began to pen their criticism. Robert covered the media’s belated coverage early this year: The Media’s Role in the Range Fuels Fiasco.
Now, reports are coming in that Range Fuels is about to declare bankruptcy. How soon? The only thing we know is that OPIS quoted a source familiar with the situation as saying that they “will likely file for bankruptcy in the near future.” The company’s website is offline, so that’s definitely an ominous sign.
Long-Term $100 Oil, DoE Loans, Jatropha Hype Continues to Unravel
- The U.K.’s Observer weekly newspaper carried a piece about the dismal effect the collapse of Sun Biofuels has had on rural villages in Tanzania. The Sun Biofuels plantation grew jatropha for processing into biodiesel, and when the company went bust the livelihood and hopes of many villagers went with it. Robert Rapier wrote about the potential of Jatropha in the past, but warned of the unwarranted hype of energy wonder crops. In related news, the U.N. warned that increased demand for biofuels is placing additional strains on agriculture systems normally used for food.
- According to a Reuters analysis, major oil companies are beginning to see $100 oil as the new norm. BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley told Reuters that “I think you’ll find more and more people in the industry using numbers of $90 to $100 a barrel going forward.”
- Two more ‘green energy’ companies receiving federal loan guarantees and grants are facing financial turmoil. One is a geothermal company, whose auditor reported that he has “significant doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.” The other is Beacon Power, a flywheel energy storage company that has gone bankrupt just one year after receiving a $43 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy.
- In the wake of the Solyndra bankruptcy, the White House this week ordered an outside review of all DOE loans made to clean energy companies. The review — due in 60 days — will be conducted by Herb Allison, who has served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, and will be released to the public. According to USA Today, the energy loan review may rope in electric-car makers.
- The Energy Department’s inspector general, Gregory Friedman, has launched more than 100 criminal investigations related to 2009 economic stimulus spending. He also told a congressional panel that the goal of the stimulus law was unrealistic.
Investigation of Oil’s Monopoly, Nukes and Belgium, Cold Fusion
- Although lagging far behind in the polls, Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman made headlines this week in New Hampshire where he unveiled his energy plan. He noted that 10 of the last 11 recessions were preceded by sharp spikes in the cost of oil, and discussed his cure for getting rid of America’s “heroin-like addiction to foreign oil.” Huntsman also spoke of the need to “break oil’s monopoly” by promoting alternative fuels and called for a federal investigation of the “monopoly of the oil industry.”
- As Belgium plans to switch off nuclear power, an electricity operator is warning of high costs, environmental fallout, blackouts and increased dependency on foreign suppliers. Already a net importer of electricity, seven nuclear reactors in Belgium provide 55 percent of the country’s energy needs.
- A physicist in Italy claims to have demonstrated a new type of power plant that provides safe, cheap and virtually unlimited nuclear power to the world, without fossil fuels or radiation concerns. The only hitch: Scientists say the method — cold fusion — is patently impossible. They say it defies the laws of physics.
- Governments in Asia are facing a rocky road in securing energy needs, as they struggle to secure supplies amidst rising oil prices.
- A group of retired U.S. military officers released a report calling for “immediate, swift and aggressive action” over the next decade to reduce U.S. oil consumption by 30 percent in order to avert a future catastrophe. The report can be viewed here.
- The wind-power industry is holding its breath over the future of a federal subsidy which awarded 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour to companies for new wind capacity for the first 10 years it’s online. The production tax credit — set to expire at the end of next year — has been around for nearly two decades.