Happy Earth Day

April 22, 2016

I can remember back on 1970

 

When they first proposed the idea of

 

Earth Day

 

 

Many thought…

 

 

Those damn hippies

 

 

Now they want

 

Their own day of recognition

 

 

Ever wondered how Earth Day started?

 

 

This observance arose from an interest

 

In gathering national support

 

For environmental issues.

 

 

Here it is 2016

 

There are still issues

 

That must be address

 

 

 

 

God blessed us with this gift

 

Called Earth

 

 

He made it our responsibility

 

To care for it

 

To share these fruits with others

 

 

This responsibility

 

Should not be taken lightly

 

 

We are only here for a short time

 

 

Everything we do

 

Should be mindful of this gift

 

 

Handle it with care

 

For it is a….

 

Present

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By ROLAND HWANG  | 8/22/12 4:30 AM EDT  As reported in Politico

With the darkest days of the recession behind us, Americans are looking to  better economic times. They also are looking forward to their politicians  working together to find solutions.

While there are many areas where different sides are far apart, there is a  very good news story expected from Washington this week. It’s an issue that  almost all Americans can get behind: higher fuel efficiency.

An agreement set to be finalized by the Obama Administration as  soon as this week promises that by 2025, new vehicles will get an average of  54.5 miles per gallon. This builds on standards already in place, which by 2016  will raise the average fuel efficiency of the new passenger vehicle fleet to  35.5 mpg.

The standards will be introduced incrementally. For consumers, this means  that in less than 15 years, everything from compact cars to pickup trucks will,  on average, burn about half as much gas as vehicles driven today. This saves  about $8,000 in costs over the life of a new vehicle.

This is Washington at its best, working to move America forward.

Republicans and Democrats, automakers and environmental groups supported the  stronger standard because it redirects hard-earned cash away from the gas pump  and back into your wallet. They also understood that the standard fortifies  national security and protects the environment.

And this agreement puts Americans back to work.

Thousands of new jobs are being created in the automotive industry, the  largest manufacturing employer in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor  Statistics, the auto industry has added more than 230,000 jobs since June 2009,  when the industry scraped bottom. Most of these jobs are in the manufacturing  sector, but U.S. auto dealerships are beefing up their payrolls as well.

Stronger standards give automakers a long-term roadmap to improve vehicle  efficiency.

By greening the Rust Belt, the U.S. can seize global leadership in  innovative, fuel-efficient technologies – a market historically dominated by  Europe and Asia.

The jobs that accompany this domestic expansion aren’t outsourced; they  remain at home.

In Saginaw, Mich., for example, a century-old auto supplier called Nexteer  Automotive recently added 650 employees to help manufacture electric power  steering components for pickup trucks. These components replace more  energy-intensive hydraulic systems. Electric power steering is a fast-growing  segment of Nexteer’s business, and automakers who want to squeeze more  efficiency from their fleet are driving the increased demand.

Outside the auto industry, job growth will expand even further – by more than  half a million jobs, many in discretionary sectors like services and retail – because money saved at the pump will be spent on things like tuition, new  clothes, or a vacation.

The benefits don’t stop there. Cutting energy use while driving also reduces  our dependence on oil. By 2030, the 54.5 mpg standard will slash oil imports by  one-third. This enhances national security and strengthens the economy by  investing money in the Midwest – not in the volatile Middle East.

Fuel efficiency standards also protect the environment by reducing carbon  pollution equal to taking 85 million cars off the road. This helps fight climate  change that leads to costly droughts and dangerous heat waves. Less pollution  also means a healthier populace and lower medical bills.

Washington responded to America’s demand for more fuel efficient cars. By  implementing a smart, tough standard, Washington showed that it is committed to  creating good jobs and continuing our economic recovery.

54.5 mpg is a standard that works for America.

Roland Hwang is the Transportation Program Director for the Natural  Resources Defense Council.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0812/79949.html#ixzz24J7UKPjn

The Heat Goes On

August 11, 2012

Last month, I read

 

 

That the first 6 months

 

 

Of this year…

 

 

Were the hottest first 6 month period

 

 

 

Since they began keeping records

 

 

Back in the 1860s

 

 

 

 

Last week…

 

 

Ole Hurricane Schwartz

 

 

He back now

 

After double bypass surgery

 

 

 

Said that we had just experienced

 

The hottest July ever

 

 

 

I think that makes 7 months in a row!!!

 

 

 

My garden is struggling….

 

 

This year

 

 

Normally my cherry tomatoes

 

Are abundant

 

And they are……

 

 

 

Very juicy and sweet

 

 

 

Not this year….

 

 

 

All my cherry tomato plants…..

 

 

Died

 

 

 

From excessive heat

 

 

 

We probably got about

 

50 cherry tomatoes

 

 

Before they withered out on me

 

 

 

Our whole garden

 

Is weather beaten

 

 

 

Grant….

 

 

 

Did you water the garden

 

 

Yes Dad

 

 

 

How about the flowers

 

In the containers

 

 

Yes Dad

 

 

Well….

 

 

Maybe you should start

 

 

Talking to them

 

 

 

They don’t seem to be responding

 

 

 

 

Is this a phenomena?

 

 

 

Or can this be a result of…..

 

 

Global warming….

 

 

 

 

Hottest 7 months

 

 

Since they started keeping records…

 

 

 

 

Gives us something to think about

 

 

 

 

Until recently, Richard Muller,

 

 

Scientist and Director of the

 

Berkley Earth Surface Temperature Foundation

 

 

Was one of the world’s most dedicated skeptics.

 

 

 

 

However, his own research

 

Has finally caused Muller…

 

 

 

To change his position

 

Muller’s statement in a New York Times Op/Ed:

 

 

Call me a converted skeptic.

 

Three years ago

I identified problems in previous climate studies

 

that, in my mind,

 

threw doubt on the very existence of

 

global warming.

 

 

Last year,

 

following an intensive research effort

 

 involving a dozen scientists,

 

I concluded that global warming was real

 

And that the prior estimates

 

Of the rate of warming were correct.

 

 

I’m now going a step further:

 

                                                                                              

Humans are almost entirely the cause.

 

 

 

Wow!!!!

 

 

 

Pretty powerful statement

 

 

 

 

I know….

 

 

 

He’s only one person

 

 

 

Although….

 

 

He is considered to be

 

One of the world experts

 

In this field

 

 

And

 

 

He was always the one denying…..

 

 

 

The fact that Global warming existed

 

 

 

 

He changed his mind

 

 

 

Is the excessive heat

 

Over the last 7 months…..

 

 

 

A result of global warming?

 

 

 

I am not the expert in this field

 

 

But…..

 

 

I believe

 

 

This should begin to….

 

 

 

Raise the awareness on the topic.

 

 

 

Maybe we should all…

 

 

Start asking more questions?

 

 

 

What steps are being taken to

 

 

Insure the sustainability of our planet?

 

 

 

 

What is our contingency?

 

 

 

Do I hear a Plan B?

 

 

 

 

This is not a time to take sides

 

 

 

Are we going to continue

 

 

To Deny Global Warming

 

 

May be a possibility?

 

 

 

 

Are we willing to take

 

 

 

The appropriate steps

 

 

To insure

 

 

The Health and Welfare

 

 

Of future generations?

 

 

 

 

We were the generation

 

That sought to change the world

 

 

 

I don’t think

 

We had this sort of change..

 

 

In mind

 

 

 

This is our chance

 

 

To all work together

 

 

For the common good

 

 

 

Pay it forward

As reported by Zach Carter for Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — Two economists at the St. Louis Federal Reserve have published findings that indicate that Wall Street speculation is responsible for 15 percent of the increase in oil prices over the past decade, a finding with significant implications for the recent sharp rise in gas prices.

While politicians have little ability to alter the price swings of commodities like oil, regulators have both the authority and policy tools to do so. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is responsible for overseeing the financial market for oil. The 2010 Wall Street reform bill gave the CFTC new power to limit excessive speculation, but the rule will not go into effect until later this year.

According to St. Louis Fed economists Luciana Juvenal and Ivan Petrella, speculation in oil markets was the second-biggest factor behind the past decade’s price run-up, behind increased global demand for oil, which accounted for 40 percent of the increase.

“Speculation was the second-largest contributor to oil prices and accounted for about 15 percent of the rise,” the economists wrote. “The effect that speculation had on oil prices over this period coincides closely with the dramatic rise in commodity index trading — resulting in concerns voiced by policymakers.”

Commodity indexes allow speculators to bet on the price of several commodities at once, and have become very popular investment tools for both Wall Street investment companies and pension funds. Between 2004 and 2008, the total volume of trading activity in commodity indexes jumped from $13 billion to about $260 billion, according to research by Michael Masters, founder of Masters Capital Markets and the financial reform nonprofit Better Markets.

Masters and others have noted that speculation can exaggerate price swings otherwise dictated by fundamental supply-and-demand dynamics, and can also force prices to move contrary to supply-and-demand predictions. During 2008, when oil prices soared to their highest level on record, they did so during a period in which global demand was low and global supply was high — what should have been a recipe for lower prices.

The most recent Fed study concludes that economic fundamentals are still the primary determinant, saying only that speculation can “exacerbate” price swings.

“Global demand remained the primary driver of oil prices from 2000 to 2009,” Juvenal and Petrella wrote. “That said, one cannot completely dismiss a role for speculation in the run-up of oil prices of the past decade. Speculative demand can and did exacerbate the boom-bust cycle in commodity prices. Ultimately, however, fundamentals continue to account for the long-run trend in oil prices.”

Fuel prices are currently at the highest level on record for the month of March, a phenomenon upon which presidential candidates are seizing to attack President Barack Obama on the issue at campaign stops. The financial reform bill Obama signed into law in 2010 allowed the CFTC to write its new rule, designed to curb price movements influenced by excessive speculation. The rule limits the size of the bets that individual traders can make on any given commodity.

Solar makes sense

May 31, 2011

As reported in Philadelphia Inquire May 30, 2011
With Pennsylvania
boasting the nation’s second largest number of solar-industry jobs, state
officials would be foolish to let the sun set on such a nascent but promising
industry. But that could happen due to a temporary mismatch between solar-energy
financing and market demand.

The construction of more than 4,000 solar projects has been a roaring
success, responsible for generating several thousand jobs at 600 solar
businesses. Growing that industry from scratch, with state and federal aid, also
boosted the use of nonpolluting and renewable energy. That will be particularly
helpful in meeting summer’s peak demand.

Yet, the boom in solar projects has outpaced the amount of solar energy
utilities are required to buy under the state’s alternative-energy rules. That
has depressed the value of solar-energy credits needed to provide a return on
photovoltaic solar systems, which have a steep, up-front price tag.

The best way for state officials to spur solar to new heights would be to
boost the modest solar-energy standard – now far lower than neighboring states,
at only 0.5 percent – by 2021. But last year, that idea ran into strong
opposition from Exelon and other utilities, coal producers, and business groups
– and a certain Republican candidate for governor.

Fortunately, a fellow Republican, State Rep. Chris Ross from Chester County,
unveiled a legislative proposal Tuesday that should be more to Gov. Corbett’s
liking. Ross would accelerate the amount of solar energy utilities are required
to purchase for the next few years, but leave the overall standard at just 0.5
percent. He would also follow other states by barring out-of-state solar
producers contributing to the solar glut in Pennsylvania.

The Ross proposal amounts to a tweak, but one that could be critical to
maintaining the state’s foothold in solar energy. Corbett and Republican
legislative leaders could fall back on tea-party ideological antagonism toward
so-called government mandates – or they could prove themselves progressive
enough to embrace a modest plan that makes sense for the state’s 21st-century
economy.

The California-based solar leasing firm Sungevity announced a deal on Monday with home improvement giant Lowe’s that could make obtaining a personalized estimate for installing solar panels a push-button affair at Lowe’s outlets.

The deal gives Lowe’s just under a 20 percent stake in Sungevity, according to a solar industry source, though neither company would discuss specific dollar figures.

Under the agreement, scheduled to launch in 30 Lowe’s stores in California in July, customers will be able to access kiosks equipped with Sugevity’s iQuote system, a Web-based application that allows homeowners to simply enter their address and receive a firm installation estimate within 24 hours, eliminating the expense of an on-site visit.

The system combines aerial and satellite image analysis with research by Sungevity engineers at the company’s Oakland headquarters to assess the geometry of a home’s rooftop, its disposition to the sun at different times of day and year and any potential occlusions presented by nearby vegetation or built objects.

In addition to an installation estimate, customers can also get a visual rendering of their home with solar panels installed. And if interested parties provide information on typical power usage, such as an account number or past electric bills, the iQuote system can estimate potential savings expected from using the equipment.

The iQuote system can already be used online, and the company’s founder, Danny Kennedy, estimated that roughly 25,000 users had taken it for a test drive, though only about 1,500 of those had been converted to sales.

The deal with Lowe’s, Kennedy said, could help Sungevity — a petite player in the solar leasing market compared to bigger players like SolarCity of San Mateo, Calif., or San Francisco-based SunRun, which raised $200 million in financing earlier this month — significantly expand its reach.

“This will help us to get in front of thousands more customers, in front of middle America,” Kennedy told The Huffington Post. “We’ll be taking it to the ‘burbs, as it were.”

Despite tough economic times and often uncertain economic incentives, a number of analyses predict a boom year for solar power in 2011.

A report published in December by IDC Energy Insights, a market research firm based in Framingham, Mass., estimated following a healthy 2010, the solar market in North America could well see two gigawatts of solar power installations this year.

Jay Holman, the report’s lead analyst, told The Huffington Post that those numbers had been revised somewhat, but that 2011 was still expected to bring in 1.6 gigawatts of new solar installations, roughly double the 2010 total.

Part of the reason for America’s interest in solar energy may be a decline in the robust incentives the once drew a deluge of equipment and installations to the European market, particularly countries like Germany, the Czech Republic and Italy, Holman said. Those countries have begun to scale back their subsidies, forcing companies to look to other markets.

Meanwhile, federal tax incentives, including a 30 percent tax cash grant extended through the end of 2011, have helped keep solar alive. Several states have healthy incentives in place as well, including the eight states where the Sungevity/Lowes deal will eventually be rolled out: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

Holman also said solar leasing companies like Sungevity, SunRun and Solar City, which retain ownership of the equipment while reducing or, in many cases, eliminating the up-front installation costs, also help drive the expansion of solar power.

“Obviously, we’re obsessed with being customer-focused,” said Kennedy. “We hope that this deal will make going solar as easy as shopping for light bulbs.”

As reported by Bipartisan Policy Center

March 22, 2011

Media Contact:

Paul Bledsoe
Bipartisan Policy Center
(202) 637‐0400
pbledsoe@bipartisanpolicy.org

Washington, DC – A national producer—consumer Task Force convened by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) and the American Clean Skies Foundation (ACSF) issued a report today finding that the growth of shale gas production “reduce[s] the susceptibility of [natural] gas markets to price instability and provide[s] an opportunity to expand the efficient use of natural gas in the United States.”

The Task Force’s 70-page report, the result of a yearlong review, calls on governments to “encourage the development of domestic natural gas resources, subject to appropriate environmental safeguards” given that the efficient use of gas has the potential to reduce harmful air emissions, enhance energy security and improve the prospects of U.S.-based energy-intensive manufacturers.

With a more stable price horizon for natural gas, the report also urges state public utility regulators and industry to consider making greater use of longer term supply contracts. “Rules that unnecessarily restrict the use of or raise the cost of long-term contract and hedging tools for managing supply risk should be avoided,” the Task Force said.

“We have a good problem,” said Task Force co-Chair, Norm Szydlowski, Bipartisan Policy Center and President and CEO of SemGroup Corporation. “Finding more natural gas provides an opportunity that is as much unparalleled as it was unexpected. Fundamental changes that have taken shape in the domestic supply and demand balance for natural gas, including an unprecedented level of available storage and import capacity, should allow markets to function more efficiently and fluidly in the future,” said Szydlowski.

“The extensive work of this diverse, expert panel identifies a small number of practical regulatory and policy measures that can provide the necessary confidence to support new investment in efficient applications of natural gas,” said Ralph Cavanagh, Senior Attorney and Co-Director of the Energy Program at Natural Resources Defense Council. “If the industry can meet high standards of environmental performance for extracting and delivering the fuel, we are looking here at very good news for America’s economy and industrial competitiveness, the environment, and our nation’s energy security.”

“The Task Force findings and recommendations reflect optimism that the robust supply horizon for natural gas presents fresh opportunities—not only to move beyond prior price volatility concerns shared by both consumers and producers, but to develop new tools for managing price uncertainty,” said Marianne Kah, Chief Economist, Planning and Strategy of ConocoPhillips. “With sound policies, the nation can capitalize on this abundant natural gas supply and convert it into intelligent energy progress.”

“With U.S. natural gas now one-fourth the price of oil on an energy equivalent basis, it is further welcome news to consumers that, with the right policies, U.S. natural gas appears poised to enter into an era of greater price stability,” said Paula Gant, Senior Vice President for Policy and Planning of the American Gas Association.

“The fact that a diverse Task Force like this could reach a consensus on these particular findings and recommendations was unexpected,” said Task Force co-Chair Gregory C. Staple, CEO of ACSF. “This consensus suggests that, although we may have a stalemate on many other energy issues, there is at least one important area – natural gas – where progress is within reach,” Staple added.

Background

Interest has grown recently in natural gas as a cleaner, low-carbon, low-cost alternative to other fossil fuels in the electric power and industrial sectors. For example, in his State of the Union address, President Obama called for a federal clean energy standard for generating electricity that could be partly satisfied by using more domestic natural gas.

The Task Force was jointly convened by the BPC and ACSF in March 2010 to examine historic causes of instability in natural gas markets and to explore potential remedies. Task Force members, listed below, represent natural gas producers and distributors, consumer groups and large industrial users, as well as independent experts, state regulatory commissions and environmental groups.

Key Task Force Findings and Recommendations:

1. Recent developments allowing for the economic extraction of natural gas from shale formations reduce the susceptibility of gas markets to price instability and provide an opportunity to expand the efficient use of natural gas in the United States.

2. Government policy at the federal, state and municipal level should encourage and facilitate the development of domestic natural gas resources, subject to appropriate environmental safeguards. Balanced fiscal and regulatory policies will enable an increased supply of natural gas to be brought to market at more stable prices. Conversely, policies that discourage the development of domestic natural gas resources, that discourage demand, or that drive or mandate inelastic demand will disrupt the supply-demand balance, with adverse effects on the stability of natural gas prices and investment decisions by energy-intensive manufacturers.

3. The efficient use of natural gas has the potential to reduce harmful air emissions, improve energy security, and increase operating rates and levels of capital investment in energy intensive industries.

4. Public and private policy makers should remove barriers to using a diverse portfolio of natural gas contracting structures and hedging options. Long-term contracts and hedging programs are valuable tools to manage natural gas price risk. Policies, including tax measures and accounting rules, that unnecessarily restrict the use or raise the costs of these risk management tools should be avoided.

5. The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) should consider the merits of diversified natural gas portfolios, including hedging and longer-term natural gas contracts, building on its 2005 resolution. Specifically, NARUC should examine:

  • Whether the current focus on shorter-term contracts, first-of-the-month pricing provisions and spot market prices supports the goal of enhancing price stability for end users,
  • The pros and cons of long-term contracts for regulators, regulated utilities and their customers,
  • The regulatory risk issues associated with long-term contracts and the issues of utility commission pre-approval of long-term contracts and the look-back risk for regulated entities, and
  • State practices that limit or encourage long-term contracting.

6. As the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) implements financial reform legislation, including specifically Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Pub. L. 111-203), the CFTC should preserve the ability of natural gas end users to cost effectively utilize the derivatives markets to manage their commercial risk exposure. In addition, the CFTC should consider the potential impact of any new rulemaking on liquidity in the natural gas derivatives market, as reduced liquidity could have an adverse affect on natural gas price stability.

7. Policy makers should recognize the important role of natural gas pipeline and storage infrastructure and existing import infrastructure in promoting stable gas prices. Policies to support the development of a fully functional and safe gas transmission and storage infrastructure both now and in the future, including streamlined regulatory approval and options for market-based rates for new storage in the United States, should be continued.

Complete copies of the Task Force report along with a library of original commissioned research can be found here and here.

Sponsoring Task Force Members:

Gregory C. Staple
Task Force Co-Chair
Chief Executive Officer
American Clean Skies Foundation

Norm Szydlowski
Task Force Co-Chair
Bipartisan Policy Center;
President & CEO
SemGroup Corporation

Ken Bromfield
U.S. Commercial Director, Energy Business
The Dow Chemical Company

Carlton Buford
Lead Economist
The Williams Companies

Peter Sheffield
Vice President, Energy Policy and Government Affairs
Spectra Energy Corporation

Ralph Cavanagh
Senior Attorney and Co-Director, Energy Program
Natural Resources Defense Council

Paula Gant
Senior Vice President for Policy and Planning
American Gas Association and on behalf of the American Gas Foundation

Carl Haga
Director, Gas Services
Southern Company

Byron Harris
Director
West Virginia Consumer Advocate Division

Marianne Kah
Chief Economist, Planning and Strategy
ConocoPhillips

Todd Strauss
Senior Director, Energy Policy, Planning and Analysis
Pacific Gas & Electric Company

Additional Task Force Members:

Colette Honorable
Chairman
Arkansas Public Service Commission

Sharon Nelson
Former Chair, Board of Directors
Consumers Union

Sue Tierney
Managing Principal
Analysis Group, Inc.;
Former Assistant Secretary of Energy

Bill Wince
Vice President, Transportation and Business Development
Chesapeake Energy Marketing

Marty Zimmerman
Professor
Ross School of Business, University of Michigan;
Former Group Vice President, Corporate Affairs,
Ford Motor Company

About the American Clean Skies Foundation

The American Clean Skies Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit, supports energy independence and a clean, low-carbon environment through expanded use of natural gas, renewables and efficiency. For more information, visit www.cleanskies.org.

About the Bipartisan Policy Center

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is a non-profit organization that was established in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell to develop and promote solutions that can attract public support and political momentum in order to achieve real progress. The BPC acts as an incubator for policy efforts that engage top political figures, advocates, academics and business leaders in the art of principled compromise. For more information, please visit our website.

Economic View

 

 

BY the time President Obama gave his State of the Union address last year, the speech felt like an old friend. It had been part of my life — from the brainstorming sessions in late November 2009 to the last minute fact-checking. I knew when all of my favorite lines were coming. That led to an awkward moment during the address when I sprang to my feet, applauding the president’s tacit endorsement of the free-trade agreement with South Korea, before noticing that the only other person cheering seemed to be Ron Kirk, the special trade representative.

David G. Klein

 

This year, instead of being on the floor of Congress with the rest of the cabinet, I will be watching on television with the rest of the country. Instead of knowing what is coming, I can write about what I hope the president will say. My hope is that the centerpiece of the speech will be a comprehensive plan for dealing with the long-run budget deficit.

I am not talking about two paragraphs lamenting the problem and vowing to fix it. I am looking for pages and pages of concrete proposals that the administration is ready to fight for. The recommendations of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform that the president created are a very good place to start.

The need for such a bold plan is urgent — both politically and economically. Voters made it clear last November that they were fed up with red ink. President Obama should embrace the reality that his re-election may depend on facing up to the budget problem.

The economic need is also pressing. The extreme deficits of the last few years are largely a consequence of the terrible state of the economy and the actions needed to stem the downturn. But even with a strong recovery, under current policy the deficit is projected to be more than 6 percent of gross domestic product in 2020. By 2035, if the twin tsunami of rising health care costs and the retirement of the baby boomers hits with full force, we will be looking at deficits of at least 15 percent of G.D.P.

Such deficits are not sustainable. At some point — likely well before 2035 — investors would revolt and the United States would be unable to borrow. We would become the Argentina of the 21st century.

So what should the president say and do? First, he should make clear that the issue is spending and taxes over the coming decades, not spending in 2011. Republicans in Congress have pledged to cut nonmilitary, non-entitlement spending in 2011 by $100 billion (less if recent reports are correct). Such a step would do nothing to address the fundamental drivers of the budget problem, and would weaken the economy when we are only beginning to recover.

Instead, the president should outline major cuts in spending that would go into effect over the next few decades, and that he wants to sign into law in 2011.

Respected analysts across the ideological spectrum agree that rising health care spending is the biggest source of the frightening long-run deficit projections. That is why the president made cost control central to health reform legislation. He should vow not just to veto a repeal of the legislation, but to fight to strengthen its cost-containment mechanisms.

One important provision of the law was the creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which must propose reforms if Medicare spending exceeds the target rate of growth. But the legislation exempted some providers and much government health spending from the board’s purview. The president should work to give the board a broader mandate for cost control.

The fiscal commission recommended that military spending — which has risen by more than 50 percent in real terms since 2001 — grow much more slowly in the future. It also proposed thoughtful ways to slow the growth of Social Security spending while protecting the disabled and the poor. And it recommended caps on nonmilitary, non-entitlement spending.

President Obama needs to explain that while these cuts will be painful, there is no way to solve our budget problem without shared sacrifice. At the same time, he should give a ringing endorsement of government investment in infrastructure, research and education, which increases productivity and thus improves both our standard of living and the budget situation over time. And, following the fiscal commission, he should ensure that spending cuts not fall on the disadvantaged.

Finally, the president has to be frank about the need for more tax revenue. Even with bold spending cuts, there will still be a large deficit. The only realistic way to close the gap is by raising revenue. Some of it can and should come from higher taxes on the rich. But because there are far more middle-class families than wealthy ones, much of the additional money will have to come from ordinary people. Since any agreement will have to be bipartisan, Congressional Republicans will have to come to terms with this fact as well.

AGAIN, the fiscal commission has made sensible proposals. It recommended broad tax reform that lowers marginal tax rates and cuts tax expenditures — deductions and exemptions for mortgage interest, employer-provided benefits, charitable giving, and so on. Such tax reform cannot be revenue-neutral — it needs to increase tax receipts. But it can make the system simpler, fairer and more efficient while doing so.

Limiting the exemption of employer-provided health benefits would have the further advantage of making companies and workers more cost-conscious about health care.

Another revenue measure should be a tax on polluting energy. Basic economics says that something that has widespread adverse effects should be taxed. A gradual increase in the gasoline tax would raise revenue and encourage the development of cleaner energy sources. A broader carbon tax would be even better.

None of these changes should be immediate. With unemployment at 9.4 percent and the economy constrained by lack of demand, it would be heartless and counterproductive to move to fiscal austerity in 2011. Indeed, the additional fiscal stimulus passed in the lame-duck session — particularly the payroll tax cut and the unemployment insurance extension — is the right policy for now. But legislation that gradually and persistently trims the deficit would not harm the economy today. Indeed, it could increase demand by raising confidence and certainty.

The president has a monumental task. It’s extremely hard to build consensus around a deficit reduction plan that will be painful and unpopular with powerful interest groups. The only way to do so is to marshal the good sense and patriotism of the American people. That process should start with the State of the Union.

Christina D. Romer is an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and was the chairwoman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.

As reported by Energy Information Administration (EIA) Logo - Need Help? 202-586-8800

Shale gas refers to natural gas that is trapped within shale formations. Shales are fine-grained sedimentary rocks that can be rich sources of petroleum and natural gas. Over the past decade, the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has allowed access to large volumes of shale gas that were previously uneconomical to produce. The production of natural gas from shale formations has rejuvenated the natural gas industry in the United States.

Did You Know?

Sedimentary rocks are rocks formed by the accumulation of sediments at the Earth’s surface and within bodies of water. Common sedimentary rocks include sandstone, limestone, and shale.

U.S. Natural Gas Supply, 1990-2035
Chart showing U.S. natural gas supply, 1990-2035. Source, EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2010

Did You Know?

Shale gas in 2009 made up 14% of total U.S. natural gas supply. Production of shale gas is expected to continue to increase, and constitute 45% of U.S. total natural gas supply in 2035, as projected in the EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2011.

Does the U.S. Have Abundant Shale Gas Resources?

Of the natural gas consumed in the United States in 2009, 87% was produced domestically; thus, the supply of natural gas is not as dependent on foreign producers as is the supply of crude oil, and the delivery system is less subject to interruption. The availability of large quantities of shale gas will further allow the United States to consume a predominantly domestic supply of gas.

According to the EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2011, the United States possesses 2,552 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of potential natural gas resources. Natural gas from shale resources, considered uneconomical just a few years ago, accounts for 827 Tcf of this resource estimate, more than double the estimate published last year. At the 2009 rate of U.S. consumption (about 22.8 Tcf per year), 2,552 Tcf of natural gas is enough to supply approximately 110 years of use. Shale gas resource and production estimates increased significantly between the 2010 and 2011 Outlook reports and are likely to increase further in the future.

Where is Shale Gas Found?

Shale gas is found in shale “plays,” which are shale formations containing significant accumulations of natural gas and which share similar geologic and geographic properties. A decade of production has come from the Barnett Shale play in Texas. Experience and information gained from developing the Barnett Shale have improved the efficiency of shale gas development around the country. Another important play is the Marcellus Shale in the eastern United States. Surveyors and geologists identify suitable well locations in areas with potential for economical gas production by using both surface-level observation techniques and computer-generated maps of the subsurface.

Map of Shale Gas Plays for the Lower 48 States
Source: U.S. Shale Plays Map, http://www.eia.doe.gov/oil_gas/rpd/shale_gas.pdf

How is Shale Gas Produced?

Two major drilling techniques are used to produce shale gas. Horizontal drilling is used to provide greater access to the gas trapped deep in the producing formation. First, a vertical well is drilled to the targeted rock formation. At the desired depth, the drill bit is turned to bore a well that stretches through the reservoir horizontally, exposing the well to more of the producing shale.

Hydraulic fracturing (commonly called “fracking” or “hydrofracking”) is a technique in which water, chemicals, and sand are pumped into the well to unlock the hydrocarbons trapped in shale formations by opening cracks (fractures) in the rock and allowing natural gas to flow from the shale into the well. When used in conjunction with horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing enables gas producers to extract shale gas at reasonable cost. Without these techniques, natural gas does not flow to the well rapidly, and commercial quantities cannot be produced from shale.

Schematic Geology of Natural Gas Resources

Graphic showing the schematic geology of natural gas resources
Source: modified from U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 0113-01.

How is Shale Gas Production Different from Conventional Gas Production?

Conventional gas reservoirs are created when natural gas migrates toward the Earth’s surface from an organic-rich source formation into highly permeable reservoir rock, where it is trapped by an overlying layer of impermeable rock. In contrast, shale gas resources form within the organic-rich shale source rock. The low permeability of the shale greatly inhibits the gas from migrating to more permeable reservoir rocks. Without horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, shale gas production would not be economically feasible because the natural gas would not flow from the formation at high enough rates to justify the cost of drilling.

Diagram of a Typical Hydraulic Fracturing Operation

Diagram of a Typical Hydraulic Fracturing Operation
Source: ProPublica, http://www.propublica.org/special/hydraulic-fracturing-national

What Are the Environmental Issues Associated with Shale Gas?

Natural gas is cleaner-burning than coal or oil. The combustion of natural gas emits significantly lower levels of key pollutants, including carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide, than does the combustion of coal or oil. When used in efficient combined-cycle power plants, natural gas combustion can emit less than half as much CO2 as coal combustion, per unit of energy released.

However, there are some potential environmental issues that are also associated with the production of shale gas. Shale gas drilling has significant water supply issues. The drilling and fracturing of wells requires large amounts of water. In some areas of the country, significant use of water for shale gas production may affect the availability of water for other uses, and can affect aquatic habitats.

Drilling and fracturing also produce large amounts of wastewater, which may contain dissolved chemicals and other contaminants that require treatment before disposal or reuse. Because of the quantities of water used, and the complexities inherent in treating some of the chemicals used, wastewater treatment and disposal is an important and challenging issue. If mismanaged, the hydraulic fracturing fluid can be released by spills, leaks, or various other exposure pathways. The use of potentially hazardous chemicals in the fracturing fluid means that any release of this fluid can result in the contamination of surrounding areas, including sources of drinking water, and can negatively impact natural habitats.

Solar Impulse, piloted by André Borschberg, flew for 26 hours and reached a height of 28,543 feet, setting a record for the longest and highest flight ever made by a solar plane.
By ALAN COWELL
Published: July 8, 2010

PARIS — Slender as a stick insect, a solar-powered experimental airplane with a huge wingspan completed its first test flight of more than 24 hours on Thursday, powered overnight by energy collected from the sun during a day aloft over Switzerland.

The organizers said the flight was the longest and highest by a piloted solar-powered craft, reaching an altitude of just over 28,000 feet above sea level at an average speed of 23 knots, or about 26 miles per hour.

The plane, Solar Impulse, landed where it had taken off 26 hours and 9 minutes earlier, at Payerne, 30 miles southwest of the capital, Bern, after gliding and looping over the Jura Mountains, its 12,000 solar panels absorbing energy to keep its batteries charged when the sun went down.

The pilot, André Borschberg, 57, a former Swiss Air Force fighter pilot, flew the plane from a cramped, single-seat cockpit, buffeted by low-level turbulence after takeoff and chilled by low temperatures overnight.

“I’ve been a pilot for 40 years now, but this flight has been the most incredible one of my flying career,” Mr. Borschberg said as he landed, according to a statement from the organizers of the project. “Just sitting there and watching the battery charge level rise and rise, thanks to the sun.” He added that he had flown the entire trip without using any fuel or causing pollution. The project’s co-founder, Dr. Bertrand Piccard, who achieved fame by completing the first nonstop, round-the-world flight by hot air balloon in 1999, embraced the pilot after he landed the plane to the cheers of hundreds of supporters.

“When you took off, it was another era,” The Associated Press quoted Dr. Piccard as saying. “You land in a new era where people understand that with renewable energy you can do impossible things.”

The project’s designers had set out to prove that — theoretically at least — the plane, with its airliner-size, 208-foot wingspan, could stay aloft indefinitely, recharging batteries during the day and using the stored power overnight. “We are on the verge of the perpetual flight,” Dr. Piccard said.

The project’s founders say their ambition is for one of their craft to fly around the world using solar power. The propeller-driven Solar Impulse, made of carbon fiber, is powered by four small electric motors and weighs around 3,500 pounds. During its 26-hour flight, the plane reached a maximum speed of 68 knots, or 78 miles per hour, the organizers said.

The seven-year-old project is not intended to replace jet transportation — or its comforts.

Just 17 hours after takeoff, a blog on the project’s Web site reported, “André says he’s feeling great up there.”

It continued: “His only complaints involve little things like a slightly sore back as well as a 10-hour period during which it was minus 20 degrees Celsius in the cockpit.”

That made his drinking water system freeze, the post said and, worst of all, caused his iPod batteries to die.