The State University of New York at Albany threw a monkey wrench into the windmill juggernaut with a report that wind farms may actually warm local temperatures by disrupting wind patterns and preventing warm air from rising into the atmosphere. The researchers used satellite maps to measure ground temperatures around several large wind farms in Texas (above). They found ground temperatures were elevated by 0.72 degrees Centigrade. The world’s average temperatures have only warmed 0.8 degrees since 1900. Of course it’s only a local effect and does not influence the earth’s total energy budget as occurs with greenhouse gases. Still, the new study is bound to add to the controversy over windmill construction.
Another study by the Institute for Public Policy Research has set off a controversy in Great Britain by charging that British customers are overcharged by 2 billion pounds by their gas and electric utilities. The study said lack of competition among the “Big Six” public utilities allowed them to pad prices. The brouhaha raised the possibility of ever more regulation for the already highly regulated energy companies.
In company news, Energy Transfer Partners will pay $5.3 billion to take over the Sunoco Oil Company. Energy Transfer is a gas pipeline company now flush with cash. Sunoco has been down on its luck, recently closing two Philadelphia refineries that were eating up all the company’s profits. Sunoco’s main asset is its pipelines and gas stations. SK, the South Korean national oil company, has announced plans for a refinery at Incheon that will mainly serve China. Iceland is exploring an undersea cable that would carry its geothermal electricity to the UK and China and Russia are exploring an expansion of their energy dealings. In the US, analysts are wondering how high Cheniere Energy Partners can fly after the stock hit a 52-week peak. Cheniere just received permission to build a natural gas export terminal at Sabine Pass, Louisiana.
Nuclear continued its ups and downs as Japan took its last operating reactor offline and the Japanese government took a majority stake in TEPCO. Russia announced plans to build two more reactors in China and China itself is exploring taking over Germany’s role in building reactors in the United Kingdom. An Arizona state senator proposed storing America’s nuclear waste in his state and a swarm of jellyfish have temporarily closed the Diablo Canyon reactor in California.
Finally, the EPA continued to expand its reach by claiming the right to review a proposed coal export facility at Port Morrow, Oregon. The EPA also named 28 sites where coal ash is pollution water supplies. Paiute Indians (above) marched in Nevada to protest construction of a railroad line to carry coal to the Reid Gardner plant near Las Vegas. And Nathan Slaughter of Street Authority wonders whether all this means a death knell for coal stocks.