The District of Columbia Court of Appeals reached a landmark decision yesterday by rejecting the challenge by a consortium of states to the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases. The three-judge panel said the EPA was “unambiguously correct” in showing concern about the effects of emissions on climate change, even though the science might not be completely settled. It was a big victory for the Obama Administration, although Republicans in Congress are mulling some kind of challenge and Texas said it might appeal.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar opened portions of the North Slope and Beauford Sea to oil and gas drilling. Shell is expected to secure the first permits as early as next month. At the same time, President Obama granted another permit for the Texas portion of the Keystone Pipeline, although the administration has not yet given TransCanada permission to cross the border. Roustabouts in the Gulf of Mexico were being redeployed as the turmoil of Hurricane Debbie subsided. The Fraser Institute of Canada has ranked Oklahoma the #1 gas and oil producing region in the world.
The heat in Texas produced record electricity consumption for the second straight day but so far the grid is holding up. ERCOT has issued a smartphone app to warn customers when use is approaching peak levels. Wholesale electricity prices rose briefly to $3000 per megawatt-hour regulatory price cap in late afternoon but the Public Utilities Commission may raise the limit to $4000 to encourage more production.
The Duke-Progress merger appeared headed for the final rounds with only environmental groups still raising opposition. The nonprofit NC WARN cross-examined witnesses at the Public Utilities Commission hearing, arguing that the merger would raise prices. The incident showed the usual environmental straddle, where such organization say they want energy conservation but argue for lower prices at the same time. A final decision by the PUC is expected soon.
Finally, electric cars received a boost as analysts cheered the arrival of the new Tesla Model S. The company claims it already has reservations for 11,000 of its 20,000 production run. The roadster is priced between $50,000 and $90,000. A Chinese-Japanese consortium aimed at developing electric vehicles has bought the bankrupt Saab Motors. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has said he hopes EVs can hit a target price of $23,000 over the next few years and Global Information says electric cars and taxis are poised for substantial growth. Meanwhile, researchers at Stanford say they have taken Thomas Edison’s original nickel-iron rechargeable battery and improved charge-discharge times by a factor of 1000. The old-fashioned batteries have been regarded as slower but more durable than the new lithium-ion variety, but this may now change.