Only a year ago, Russia’s Gazprom seemed to have the world by the tail, with a near-monopoly on supplying gas to both Eastern and Western Europe. Now the question arises whether Gazprom is rising or reeling? Exports to Europe have fallen 5% this year. The Ukraine is trying to get out from under contracts with Russia by buying gas from the European Union. A legal fight is looming. Bulgaria has an eerily similar contract and is trying to reduce its Russian dependency as well. Now Novatek, Russia’s other gas company, is applying for an export license that would put it in direct competition with Gazprom’s export monopoly. Competition in Russia? What a novel concept. In any case, the Russians still expect to export 15 million tons of gas to new markets on the Pacific Rim.
Competition, or lack of it, is also the subject of a new crusade by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC is charging various companies with manipulating prices on California’s wholesale electrical market. Gila River, operators of a small Arizona plant, was fined $2.5 million yesterday and last week JP Morgan – which only trades in the California market – was banned for six months. FERC is also going after Barclays, another trader, for $435 million. The premise is that all this oligopolistic price fixing represents a repeat of California’s great Electrical Shortage of a decade ago – although that was clearly caused by the state’s failure to build power plants. But Loren Steffy of FuelFix asks whether California’s new cap-and-trade system will become just another easy target for price manipulations?
Japan and the EU have successfully sued Ontario in the World Trade Organization over its green energy feed-in tariff program. The problem wasn’t the tariff but the incidental amendment that all windmills contain 25% domestic parts and solar collectors 40%. The effort, of course, has been duplicated around the world as every country fancies itself the center of the renewable energy revolution. The Green Energy Act has prompted a spate of wind farms all over the province but Jason Langrish, writing in the Toronto Star, says it can easily be fixed.
The victims of the Black Elk offshore oil platform explosion off the coast of Louisiana have been identified. The fire is out and the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board is examining the damage. Frustrated in Canada and the US, China continues to gobble up resources abroad as Sinopec paid $4.5 billion for offshore Nigerian oil developed by France’s Total. Halliburton has signed a deal with the Dialog Group to help develop Malaysia’s Bayan field and Virginia’s Secretary of Natural Resources is seeking ways to circumvent President Obama’s ban on drilling offshore in the Atlantic.
Finally, wind development continues to achieve milestones as Texas reached 8,000 megawatts of capacity and GE sold its 20,000th turbine. A rump faction of Republican Congressmen is opposing the GOP leadership’s efforts to end the wind production tax credit. The Green Optimist notes that the industry is moving to replace oil-based resins with something more biodegradable in the production of windmill blades. But CleanTechnica speculates that wind will provide 20 percent of the world’s electrical power by 2030.