Rio+20 (above) will convene this month, a climate change summit being held in the same city where the international effort began twenty years ago. Has anything changed? Has progress been made? No one is very optimistic. The UN has issued another dire warning that the global environment is at a “tipping point.” The Guardian notes that there have been lots of treaties but no implementation. Meanwhile, scientists exploring the Arctic have found monstrous algal blooms just below the surface of newly formed ice. It’s something they’ve never seen before. “The sea looks like pea soup,” they report. Whether this is good or bad for the planet remains to be seen.
Another meeting in Oklahoma City will convene today as Chesapeake Energy shareholders try to figure out what’s going on with their investments. Fireworks are expected. Investor Carl Icahn, who now owns 8 percent of the company, was critical of CEO Aubrey McClendon’s decision to invest in Oklahoma City shopping centers while gas prices remained low. He said that was outside the company’s “core competency.” McClendon is being hit for his “lavish, leveraged lifestyle” and has lawyered up for the occasion. Meanwhile, Chesapeake has just decided to sell $4 billion in gas pipeline assets to try to reduce its debt.
The move to allow renewable energy companies to take advantage of master limited partnerships (MLPs) is gaining momentum in the Senate. Freshman Senator Chris Coons of Delaware is spearheading the effort. MSPs function like Chapter-S corporations, allowing the partners to take out profits while the master entity does not have to pay corporate taxes. They’ve long been used in the construction of oil and gas pipelines but so far have not been legal for renewable projects. Wind and biofuel developers believe MLPs would attract billions in investment dollars into their projects.
China continues to make major moves across the energy chessboard as it seeks to provide for its billion-plus population. Acquisition of overseas resources has slowed but the government plans to lower fuel prices 6 percent in order to stimulate the economy. Meanwhile, the nation’s largest nuclear power developer is planning what could be the largest IPO in the country’s history - an indication that nuclear development is going to continue. Pakistan has asked China to help solve its energy shortages and indications are that China and Canada are becoming energy partners – in no small part because the US has spurned efforts to build the Keystone Pipeline.
Finally, nuclear energy continued its ups and downs as California’s San Onofre reactor will now be offline all summer. The San Diego plant, which provides 5 percent of the state’s electricity, has experienced difficulties with premature wear in its cooling pipes. The Missouri Public Service Commission will hold hearings on a proposal to build a small modular reactor at the Callaway site and Washington State is considering a plan to build another SMR at Hanford. Also, the Senate will hold hearings next week on appointing Allison MacFarlane and reappointing Christine Svinicki to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Meanwhile a group of states have petitioned the Senate to take action on nuclear waste and the House has passed a bill that would revive Yucca Mountain. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.