The videotaped remarks about “crucifying” oil companies have led to a quick exit for EPA southwest administrator Al Armendariz. The former Southern Methodist professor left without ceremony as the Obama Administration tried to minimize the controversy. Conservative critics were determined not to let the issue go, however, as the Washington Examiner questioned how crucifixions played out as public policy and FuelFix wrote about “bureaucrats gone wild.”
The shakeup continued in the oil refinery industry as falling volume and rising oil prices continued to squeeze profits. ConocoPhillips has decided to solve the problem by spinning off its refining units under the old Phillips 66 brand. Shell suffered an 8 percent decline in volume but Delta Airlines indicated there may be a different business model for vertical integration. It bought ConocoPhillips’ Philadelphia refinery for $150 million in an effort to cut its fuel costs.
Can the power of ocean waves be tapped for electricity? Australia is ready to give it a try with the launching of a $31-million project using homegrown technology. The design involves installations anchored to the ocean floor that float just beneath the surface. If all goes well, it will contribute 2 megawatts to the grid by 2015. Cornwall, England has a similar offshore project underway and Pelamis Wave Power is hoping to launch its “sea snake” (above) soon. Another experimental effort by Ocean Sentinel is scheduled for the Oregon coast this summer.
Fuel cell technology took a big step forward as California’s Bloom Energy broke ground in Delaware to produce “Bloom Boxes,” the company’s patented fuel cell. Bloom’s biggest customer will be another California refugee, the new Apple Data Center in North Carolina. Microsoft also announced plans to run a fuel cell complex with natural gas from landfills and researchers at the University of Colorado say they have identified microbes that can produce electricity from the organic material in wastewater.
After a long, long descent, natural gas prices finally showed signs of life as futures rallied on the last day in April. Chesapeake Energy’s stock jumped on the news, combined with an upgrade from BMO Capital Markets, which said investors have overreacted to recent bad news. Energy Transfer Partners have demonstrated the muscle of the natural gas industry by swallowing the Sunoco oil company, however, and some analysts are promising that prices will eventually soar again.