How fast things change. One day after Congressional Repubicans were putting forth their bluprint for producing more oil and gas, Daniel Yergin was telling a House panel that new supplies are flowing so fast that Washington can't keep pace. “Now instead of talking about dwindling domestic energy resources and scrambling to find new import sources, policymakers and energy companies are faced with more supply than they know what to do with,” says US News & World Report. The tight oil revolution now appears to be of the same dimensions as the shale gas revolution and the big question will be whether to export and what to do with the surpluses. But the big question that hasn’t been settled is whether states such as Illinois and California will join the prosperity already being enjoyed by Ohio and North Dakota. And the Canadians are starting to worry that the glut may serve as an excuse to reject the Keystone Pipeline and Canada's tar sands oil.
Duke Energy finally bit the bullet and said it will close its troubled Crystal River Nuclear Reactor (above) in Citrus County, Florida. The reactor has been down since 2009 when attempts to cut a hole in the containment structure to install a new turbine resulted in permanent cracks. The damage has since spread and Duke finally decided it wasn’t worth the effort. Four coal plants at the site will continue to operate. The reactor’s future was reportedly the big issue that deposed William Johnson after only 30 hours as CEO of the new Duke-Progress merged company. Johnson didn’t want to give up on the reactor. The big problem now will be who pays the bill and what will happen in Citrus County. Duke wants to tap ratepayers for $1.65 billion over the next 20 years as compensation for its lost capital. (It is guaranteed a profit, remember.) And Citrus County will be losing ¼ of its general fund when Crystal River stops paying property taxes. That’s one of the big problems with nuclear. The tax benefits are usually concentrated in one small region willing to host the plant, generating lots of local support but indifference everywhere else.
Departing Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has submitted a 3,781-word farewell letter that Bill Sweet of IEEE Spectrum says is “roughly the length of a college term paper.” In it he reiterated his dedication to “science-based policy” and asserted that “success requires failure” – a probable reference to Solyndra and a couple of other rare but highly publicize incidents. Chu is winning kudos from both the renewable and nuclear industries for advancing their technology and even had a few good words to say about hydrogen.
Finally, the technology of energy storage is moving forward. Power-One, the world’s second-largest maker of solar inverters, is teaming with Panasonic and its lithium-ion batteries to create a home system for storing solar energy. Solar produces direct current, which must be converted to AC for home use. Power-One is already reporting strong inverter sales for 2012 and Sustainable Energy, the Canadian company, is just shipping its first inverters to the US and Germany. As Zach Pollock says on GreenTechGrid, energy storage may be about the “cross the chasm to commercialization.”