energy

publicdomainpictures.net

The solar eclipse has long been a research opportunity for astronomers and physicists. Now, energy researchers are taking part, too.

That's because the eclipse will disrupt U.S. solar energy production. It won't be a big disruption because solar still takes up a relatively small amount of the energy grid, but it'll happen when energy use is at its peak, and it’ll do so in a very predictable way across a huge area.

A male Sage Grouse (also known as the Greater Sage Grouse) in the USA
Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from Sacramento, US

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans to make fundamental changes to a sage grouse conservation plan adopted under the Obama administration. They could make it easier for ranchers and energy companies to move into sagebrush habitat that’s now off limits. 

Cooper McKim

At the center of the dusty Pinedale-Anticline field looking over the Wind River Range, Erika Tokarz stands on Ultra Petroleum’s  Riverside 9-2 pad which is home to several wellheads. Across the road, workers in hard-hats and sunglasses crisscross the plot of land with a massive tower at its center, working to drill a hole for natural gas. 

 

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

A changing climate may be bad PR for fossil fuels, but it could help their bottom line.

Two major coal companies released earnings reports in late July stating how higher temperatures mean coal stockpiles are being eaten up. Both Arch Coal and Cloud Peak Energy are hoping for a long, hot summer so that trend continues.

The High Plains wind farm, near McFadden, Wyoming.
Leigh Paterson

Wind energy projects are being built all over the U.S. and a new report shows just how fast they're cropping up. 

The American Wind Energy Association found that, since last year, the amount of wind energy under construction or nearly under construction increased 40 percent. That increase is enough to power more than 1.6 million homes on average.

Now, not all of the wind energy planned last year has come online this year, but more than half of it has.

Energy Information Administraion

The fracking boom is propelling shale-rich states to the top of the nation’s list of energy suppliers, but a new report shows Wyoming still takes the lead despite a struggling coal industry.

Wyoming has been spreading more energy around the nation than any other state since the 80s. But its supply of energy to other states has been sliding since 2008, mirroring a decline in coal production.

A new report from the Energy Information Administration shows that as Wyoming slides downward, other states have ramped up oil and gas production.

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

Millions of gallons of salty wastewater are produced each day wherever there’s oil and gas production. Most states inject wastewater deep underground.  In Wyoming, above-ground wastewater ponds are still used.

They aren’t what people would expect, though — especially the fountains. A little larger and they’d be perfect to put in front of Las Vegas casino, fanning out in all directions.

The fountains aren’t just for looks, though. They help evaporate the water and hold off bacteria, keeping the smell down.

Part of the land where the proposed Brook Mine may be dug
Cooper McKim

On a clear, sunny day, Jeff Barron drives over a copper-colored hill in the Powder River Basin near Sheridan. He parks, hops out of his car and walks to the edge of a large open field. Cows are grazing in the distance.

 

He says a new coal operation would start right here.

 

"It will mine out coal some 2,000 feet that way and 2,000 feet that way,” Barron says.

 

By USFWS Mountain-Prairie (Mule Deer on Winter Range in SW Wyoming) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A Wyoming researcher recently discovered that mule deer continue to avoid areas developed by oil and gas companies, after more than fifteen years.

Biologist Hall Sawyer has been studying a herd near Pinedale since 2000, just as more oil and gas wells were starting to appear on the landscape. Because the deer have steered clear of development, Sawyer says they have had a smaller winter range. The herd’s population started declining in just two years, and by now it has shrunk by 40%.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR

Wyoming legislators killed a proposal June 29 that could have given a tax break to the state’s uranium industry. The vote wasn’t close.

Eleven of 12 present lawmakers voted no to a tax break during a meeting by the Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Interim Committee.

The Wyoming Mining Association was hoping to secure a tax break for uranium companies. The industry has been struggling, seeing layoffs and an 85 percent price drop since 2007.

The High Plains wind farm, near McFadden, Wyoming.
Leigh Paterson

One of the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturers is hosting meetings in Wyoming next month to encourage people to join its free wind turbine technician training.

Goldwind is a Chinese company with an interest in expanding U.S. wind operations. It made an agreement late last year to provide and maintain wind turbines for a Viridis Eolia Corp., which is constructing a wind farm near Medicine Bow, Wyo. 

Now, Goldwind hopes to train locals to become wind turbine technicians.

Oil prices have shot up in the U.S. after Russia and Saudi Arabia announced they would continue limiting supply of petroleum to the global market. They’re the two largest oil exporting nations.

Higher oil prices should increase production temporarily in Wyoming. Right now, production in the state is down 14% compared to last year. 

Fatal Home Explosion In Colorado Reignites Setback Debate

May 12, 2017
YouTube channel Cataclysmic

On the afternoon of April 17th, 10-year-old Gillian Chapman and her little sister Kailey were on their front porch. Gillian had on her roller blades; Kailey had her scooter. They had just gotten permission to go visit their friend Jaelynn, across the street and two doors down.

Then, Jaelynn’s house exploded.

“The house just split open,” Gillian said. “You could see the upstairs.”

Jaelynn Martinez was not in her home at the time, but her father Mark and uncle Joey Irwin were in the basement and were killed in the blast. Her mother, Erin Martinez was injured.

Oil production continues to fall in Wyoming. The first records of the state’s production in 2017 show it’s down about 14% from the same time last year. 

Oil and gas commissioner Tom Fitzsimmons said that decline is likely to continue. To stop it, prices would need to stabilize first around $55 per barrel while they have recently been between $46 and $48 per barrel.

Fitzsimmons said prices are driven up if there's less supply, though that supply keeps on coming. He pointed to the state’s network of ducts

spglobal.com

S & P global ratings downgraded Wyoming’s credit rating from Triple-A to a Double-A-Plus. That means the next time Wyoming tries to borrow money, it will likely see a higher interest rate.

It’s like applying for a mortgage — if you have a high credit rating, you’ll pay lower interest rates. As Wyoming faces a downgrade in its credit rating, the same idea applies.

This is because there’s less money coming into the government’s coffers due to and low contributions to retirement funds.

Peabody Energy announced a huge increase in revenue for its first quarter of 2017. Many see this as a victory for the struggling energy industry, while some don’t believe it will last.

 

Peabody Energy is the largest coal mining firm in the world. They went bankrupt the first quarter of last year. At their Wyoming complex, the company laid off 15% of their workforce. 

ecoflight.org

Jonah Energy, a Colorado-based oil and gas company, will soon own nearly 100 percent of natural gas reserves in western Wyoming — the eighth largest natural gas field in the country. The investment is a vote of confidence in an industry that’s seen declining prices in recent years.

Wikimedia Commons

At a presentation at the University of Wyoming’s Energy Innovation Center, an energy economist argued that the coal industry will likely never recover to previous levels. That’s despite a small rebound in the first quarter of this year because of a cold winter.

The Modern West 22: Climate Change In A Fossil-Fuel State

Apr 20, 2017
Ken Koschnitzki

Wyoming’s economy revolves around energy production. But climate change raises questions about what role fossil fuels will play in the state’s future.

Stephanie Joyce

Last week, President Trump lifted a short-lived moratorium on new coal leases imposed during the last months of the Obama administration. But the reason for that ban wasn’t just environmental.

Rob Godby is the director at the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming. He said President Obama halted new coal leases primarily to evaluate whether, as owners of federal lands, the American public is getting a fair market value from coal companies.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

A lot happened in the world of coal mining in the last week or so. The biggest coal company is the United States—Peabody Energy—emerged from bankruptcy, and the Interior Secretary lifted an Obama-era ban on new coal leases.

But what does it all mean for Wyoming’s coal future? To figure it out, Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards sat down with Rob Godby, director at the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming.

Filling In The Natural Gas Gaps

Apr 7, 2017
Amy Sisk/Inside Energy

  

With the fracking boom ushering in cheap natural gas prices nationwide, nearly 40 states have adopted or are considering new legislation to expand gas service.

Big gaps exist in rural America where natural gas does not reach. These areas rely heavily on propane, with 12 million homes that use it for heating.

One North Dakota town is looking to make the switch, pushing the Legislature for flexibility to craft its own plan to bring in natural gas service.

Nearly a year after filing, Peabody Coal has emerged from bankruptcy by reducing its debt by$5 billion and by providing third party bonding for mine restoration. That’s according to a company press release this week.

Rob Godby, director at the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy, said the key was a reduction in the company's costs in Australia. According to Godby, Peabody sank a lot of debt into expanding its market there, but that was only one reason they went bankrupt.

Photo by Arundathi Nair

With the fossil fuel industry in a decline, policy makers, industry executives, and environmental activists are faced with some hard questions about Wyoming's energy future. The topic captured the attention of Arundathi Nair, a 9th grader at Laramie High School. She recently won C-Span's StudentCam 2017 competition for her film "Fossil Fuels to Renewables," which promotes seeking solutions through discussion rather than debate.

Nair's film can be viewed here.

 

K Bacon

Last week, President Trump signed an executive order to begin the process of eliminating a 2015 Clean Water Act rule known as the Waters of the United States that gave extra protections to smaller streams and wetlands.

www.daveshowalter.com

A new map commissioned by the Western Organization of Resource Councils allows people in Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and Colorado to see how close they live to oil and gas waste water spills and disposal facilities.

Citizens Climate Lobby

A group of conservative thinkers who are concerned about climate change are proposing an approach that they hope will encourage companies to look to reduce carbon pollution. The proposal would also attempt to encourage average people to use cleaner energy. It’s a market based solution called a climate fee and dividend.

It charges a fee on industry for the amount of carbon burned and gives a dividend to consumers to help them pay for rising energy costs associated with the plan, which means the fee would eventually get returned to the companies.

A Youth Radio Investigation Of Wyoming's Role In Climate Change

Feb 24, 2017
Melodie Edwards

Now that Wyoming’s Science Standards are encouraging kids to make up their own minds about climate change, a group of Laramie middle schoolers tackled the issue of the environmental impacts of energy development in Wyoming. We handed off the microphone to young reporters Zeren Homer and Sam Alexander.

 

Micah Lott

As one of his first actions in office, President Trump signed an executive order granting his approval for the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Then, on January 31, the Army Corp of Engineers announced they’d grant the final permit.

The next day, about 100 protesters clashed with Morton County Police. 23-year-old Northern Arapaho member Micah Lott from Wyoming was among them. Over the phone from North Dakota where he continues to protest the pipeline, Micah told Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards the story of his arrest.

Stephanie Joyce

This week Congress unleashed an assault on Obama-era regulations, and Wyoming lawmakers played a big role in the effort and the new effort is angering the environmental community.

 

Ever heard of the Congressional Review Act? Me neither, that is until Wyoming’s senior Senator Mike Enzi gave me a tutorial on it.

“It’s the ability for Congress to pass a claw back on any regulation that’s pass within 45 days after the time that’s it’s published provided there are enough signatures from the House and the Senate.”

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