The speculator hunt was on as President Obama stood in the Rose Garden with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Attorney Eric Holder at his side (above) and promised to track down the “manipulators” who have been turning up the price at the pump. The President asked Congress for “more cops on the beat” and $10-million-a-day fines for those caught twisting the dial. Even MSNBC called the action “more politics than substance” and Bloomberg asked whether “scapegoating” was going to do anything to lower prices. But the President hasn't yet emulated Jimmy Carter and imposed price controls. And Argentine President Cristine Fernandez de Kirchner proved there’s still plenty of room to the President’s left by announcing her government would nationalize the country’s largest oil company.
Greenpeace showed it can out-green anybody by lambasting Apple, Amazon and Twitter for not being green enough in their cloud computing. The crime? Using too much coal and nuclear. Google, Yahoo and Facebook, on the other hand, got high marks. Apple issued a counterblast, saying its data centers are going to be clean. The San Francisco Chronicle was more perceptive in its analysis. The real problem, its Business Report noted, is that electricity in California has become extraordinarily expensive. These costs have driven data companies east, to North Carolina, Virginia and northeastern Illinois, all of which rely more on coal and nuclear. Those companies that have escaped Greenpeace’s condemnation are the ones that have moved north to take advantage of hydroelectric power in the Pacific Northwest. Is California’s eschewal of everything but windmills and solar collectors the real problem?
The natural gas industry’s surplus problems are so great that even the hurricane season has conspired to drive down the price. Bloomberg reports that a below-average Atlantic storm season has cut off yet another possible reason for burning more natural gas. The price is now below $2 and even Canada is experiencing surpluses, even though they haven’t done much fracking. Still, the boom has created all kinds of ancillary jobs in Pennsylvania. And approval of a new LNG export terminal in Louisiana – the first in the country in twenty years – promises a long-term outlet for burgeoning supplies.
Renewable energy development is facing a worldwide decline as governments begin to back away from expensive subsidy efforts. Congress has ended the production tax credit and European governments – faced with austerity – are pulling back. The Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program says that “business as usual” is over. What goes up must come down – unless it’s got wings of its own.
Finally, Canada – which has ambitions to become an “energy superpower” – has taken a significant step and decided to limit environmental reviews of major energy projects. Natural Resources Administrator Joe Oliver announced a new division of labor where Ottawa will review major projects and the provincial governments will handle smaller ones. The number of reviewing agencies will also be reduced from 40 to three. The aim is a “one project, one review” standard that limits the opportunity for interveners to shuttle back and forth between regulating agencies, creating endless delay. Former CBC producer Karl Nerenberg laments on rabble.ca that the reform constitutes “turning back the clock on environmental checks and balances.”