Big news at Chesapeake Energy as the board of directors voted to remove Aubrey McClendon (above) from his role as chairman. The controversial executive will keep his post as CEO, however. A special Reuters investigation has revealed that McClendon ran a secret $200 million hedge fund out of the front office, trading in the same commodities that Chesapeake produces. Investors interpreted McClendon’s removal as good news and bumped the stock up 6 percent yesterday. But the shareholder rights firm of Johnson & Weaver LLP is prowling the premises, looking for possible securities fraud.
A joint report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Council has blamed “human error” for the Southwestern blackout last September that left 9 million people without power for almost 24 hours. Incredibly, the whole incident began when a worker at Arizona Public Service skipped a critical step in doing a maintenance check on the Hassayampa-North Gila transmission line across the Arizona border. The line failed, sending a cascade across the system that within minutes had knocked out the San Onofre Nuclear Station, which services a million customers. The report said no new technology is needed to avoid a similar incident – just better operation and planning.
Although the end of wind energy’s production tax credit seems to have been settled, in fact the real battle may have just begun. Facing huge layoffs, the American Wind Energy Association has appealed to none other than Republican strategist Karl Rove in an effort to break the roadblock set up by House Republicans, inviting him to be a featured speaker at AWEA’s June convention in Atlanta. There he will share the podium with former President Obama speechwriter Robert Gibbs. Industry officials are hoping the two can work out some kind of compromise. Meanwhile, layoffs in the wind industry are accelerating and Vesta, the world’s leading manufacturer, said it is postponing the development of a 7 megawatt turbine because of falling revenues.
Nuclear energy is having a string of very bad days as costs and postponements continue to mount on major projects. Florida’s Progress Energy announced its twin reactors at the Levy site will not open until 2024 instead of 2021 and cost estimates have risen from $22 to $24 billion. Areva’s MOX plant at the Savannah River Site is also experiencing run-ups as estimated annual operating costs have ballooned from $156 to $499 million in just the last two years. The Senate Appropriations Committee is investigating. Union workers at Massachusetts’ Pilgrim reactor are taking a strike vote on Friday and South Carolina and Washington are asking a federal court to force the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s hand on whether or not to close Yucca Mountain.
Finally, despite high prices, electric vehicle sales fell in April. Industry analysts are wondering whether Ford is delaying introduction of its new Focus EV but the company says it will be in showrooms soon. Efacec, a California company, is having success installing ultrafast EV chargers at “filling stations” in Illinois and Plugless Power will be demonstrating a wireless charging system at the EVS26 convention in Los Angeles next week. A two-year British study has found that EV owners’ confidence in their vehicles grows as the months roll by but Asia seems to be shortcutting the whole process by going to electric bicycles. Pike Research predicts that 382 million will be sold on the Pacific Rim by 2018.