President Obama has convened a meeting of the “Three Amigos” – himself, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon – to discuss the slow economic recovery with energy at the top of the list. The sore point between the US and Canada is the President’s rejection of the Keystone Pipeline, designed to bring Canadian tar sand oil across the border. The President is now blaming Republicans, saying they rushed him into a decision before a route through Nebraska could be determined. The Nebraska Legislature is moving toward approving an alternative route that would avoid the unique Sand Hills, however, so another decision point may come soon.
Meanwhile, the Administration was striking back at Republicans over gas prices by saying that the likely Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, is in cahoots with Big Oil. An ad campaign broadcasting in eight key states says the oil industry is trying to put Romney in office so it can preserve its special tax breaks and profits. The ad is sponsored by Priorities America, one of the Super PACS that is able to raise unlimited amounts of money from donors. A Republican Super PAC called American Energy Alliance has been blaming the President for not building the Keystone Pipeline.
Natural gas continued to lure investors, even as production reaches record highs and the glut continues to threaten a price collapse. Natural gas storage facilities are full around the country and the mild winter has led to only a small draw-down. As production continues to climb there may not be anyplace left to put the stuff. Elliot Gue on Seeking Alpha reports that the market for transporting gas in liquefied form across the oceans is rapidly heating up, however.
It looks like the wind energy production tax credit isn’t going to be renewed by Congress. This presents big challenges to the industry. The cutback occurs just as Europe is beginning to scale down its subsidies for renewable energy as well. Projects are still moving ahead, however, as Michigan joined the five-state pact to put offshore facilities on the Great Lakes and Maryland and Virginia moved ahead with Atlantic Ocean projects. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that engineers are trying to improve the operating and maintenance of existing turbines. The most original idea, however, comes out of MIT where researches have designed a helium-filled device (above) that will carry a turbine aloft and harvest wind energy from the upper atmosphere. Altaeros Energies, a spin-off from MIT, is trying to commercialize the invention.
Finally, the mysteries of the Dark Energy may be unfolding as the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) in France begins to show its first results. The Dark Energy is the mysterious force – Einstein’s “cosmological constant” – that appears to be accelerating the expansion of the universe, making it move apart faster than would be anticipated from the impetus of the original Big Bang. After two years' work, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III) has measured the precise distances of over a quarter of a million galaxies. This has allowed astronomers to measure how fast the universe was expanding six billion years ago – when it was only half its current age – to an accuracy of 2 percent. Mapping the universe’s rate of expansion may help put the pieces of the puzzle together and rewrite the laws of physics, if that becomes necessary. It’s a long way from gas prices but much more interesting.