The oil market continues to respond to the run-up in prices even as President Obama attempts to hunt down the speculators supposedly responsible for it. While even Iowa is experiencing $4 gas, Aztec announced it will drill 100 new wells this year and the entire industry is expected to step up drilling in 2012. At the same time, BullionVault actually has the nerve to praise speculators.
As the end of production tax credits looms over Washington, the whole issue of government subsidies of different forms of energy has come to the fore. The Breakthrough Institute, the Brookings Institute, and the World Resources Institute and published a joint report recommending a complete overhaul of the energy subsidy program. They suggest replacing the current DOE loan guarantee with a more “flexible, independent, and sophisticated” financial tools designed to draw private investment into cleantech projects. The objective would be to avoid the boom-and-bust cycle that has characterized the current effort. The Washington Times questions whether subsidies accomplish anything at all, calling it “60 years of failure.”
Not terribly interested in reforming the system, however, the American Wind Energy Association is making a second run at Congress hoping to renew the production tax credit as it stands. AWEA claims 37,000 jobs are at stake and in fact layoffs have already begun in the industry. Still, resistance in Congress is strong and the renewal does not seem to be gaining much traction despite support from both sides of the aisle.
Greenpeace knows how to get itself on the front pages – take on the biggest name around. The $100-mllion international organization has decided to promote its brand by attacking Apple for the crime of . . . . . . using electricity. Activists invaded Apple Stores in San Francisco (above), New York and London, releasing black balloons and claiming Apple is causing carbon dioxide emissions by using power from coal and nuclear plants. Apple, anxious not to lose favor with its high-tech customers, was uncharacteristically quick to respond, claiming its data centers in Oregon and North Carolina run largely on renewable energy.
Finally, solar took a small step forward as NRG, MidAmerican and First Solar launched a 100-MW solar station in Arizona, said to be North America’s largest photovoltaic plant. The Department of Energy announced a $25 million program to create “plug-and-play” solar designed to make residential solar as easy as installing a home computer. DOE will also put $9 million into better solar and wind forecasting. India is emerging as a strong market for solar products but Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced last month that China would scale back on “blind expansion in our capacity to manufacture solar energy and wind power equipment." Analysts are debating whether this was said in anticipation of increased US tariffs or whether it means China is souring on solar and wind energy.