BP Dumps Solar Panel Business

A rooftop solar installation like this one could power a house or a small business sustainably, relieving stress on the power grid, reducing the burning of fossil fuels and encouraging energy independence. Not interested, says America’s (formerly) largest solar panel manufacturer. (Photo courtesy Wayne Natrional Forest)

British Petroleum — the folks who tried for a while to convince us that their initials stood for “Beyond Petroleum” until it became clear that they really meant “below par”– have done it again. Having shown us how not to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and how not to maintain the Alaska Pipeline, they have now demonstrated how not to use solar power to make a stronger, more sustainable America.  According to Reuters, their BP Solar subsidiary is closing its huge solar-panel manufacturing plant in Frederick, Maryland. Completely. What are they going to do instead? Solar project development. Continue reading

Lights Out All Over the World

The industrial model of the power grid -- massive generating stations, massive distribution lines, is failing all over the world. An option, largely untried: make your energy where you live and work. (Photo by underclassrising.net/flickr)

Much of the world is slowly losing the struggle to supply its people with the electricity required to maintain the industrial lifestyle. Heat waves and droughts — made worse by industry’s profligate burning of fossil fuels — are at the same time increasing demand for air conditioning and reducing the supply of hydro power. Other sources of electricity — fossil-fuel burning and nuclear fission — are afflicted by rising prices and more frequent disasters. Continue reading

Biodiesel: Not Sustainable if it’s Industrial

Converting a Hummer to bio-diesel, as this one has been, is like having a diet drink after gorging at McPiggy’s. As it turns out, converting an industry to bio-diesel makes about as much sense. (Photo by Paul Keller/Flickr)

In 2003, the European Union threw all its weight behind bio-diesel — a fuel manufactured mostly from plant seeds — as the sustainable replacement for fossil fuel. The members created the world’s largest bio-diesel industry, and now to their sorrow are discovering the truth in what has been a mantra of the Daily Impact: renewables aren’t sustainable if they’re industrial. The realization may destroy the $13 billion industry. Continue reading

New York Times Explodes Natural-Gas Bubble

The thing about a gas bubble is, it's flammable. (Photo by Andrew Kuznetsov/Flickr)

Once in a great while a newspaper (“The few. The frail. The fading.”) reminds us why we need newspapers, and why we are going to miss them. There are no other institutions left whose purpose (speaking here of the practitioners, not the investors) is to seek the facts and tell the truth. On Friday, the New York Times published the results of an exhaustive review of America’s natural-gas industry, which has been energized by the discovery of a new way to unlock gas from shale, and has pronounced it to be — to paraphrase — a fraud. Continue reading

OPEC Insists Oil’s Well, Despite Evidence

Mohammed "Don't-worry-be-happy" Aliabadi, Iran's acting oil minister and former Olympics Committee chair, says there is plenty of cheap oil for everybody, forever.

To hear its members tell it, the issue before the meeting of the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries beginning today in Vienna is whether or not it will choose to increase oil supplies for an increasingly needy world. What concerns the 12 member countries, they say, is merely fine-tuning a system that is working wonderfully, to make sure everyone remains as content as they are now. The current price of oil, around $100 a barrel, is about right, they say, and in the words of the current OPEC president, Iran’s caretaker oil minister Mohammad Aliabadi, “very much due to OPEC’s efforts, the world remains well supplied with oil, with ample spare capacity and adequate stock levels.” Wow. How much better could things get? Continue reading

Fracking Natural Gas: Unreality TV

Marchers in Pittsburg protest fracking in November, 2010. (Photo by Marcellus Protest/Flickr)

The thing about pathological liars is that they also lie to themselves. Their lies get them into ever deeper trouble, which they attempt to handle by mumbling lies to themselves, which don’t help, which causes them to double down on lies until gravity reasserts itself and the world falls on them. Keep this in mind as we watch the end state of the oil and gas industry. Continue reading

Natural Gas, or Drinkable Water? Choose One

In a scene from the Academy-Award nominated documentary GasLand, a Pennsylvania resident ignites the water flowing from his kitchen tap, a trick he could not perform before natural-gas fracking came to a field near his.

A new study published by the National Academy of Sciences belies industry assurances that they can retrieve natural gas by hydraulic fracturing without affecting adjacent water supplies. The report provides more evidence that what industry ads portray as a safe source of abundant energy via new technology may in fact be an unacceptable tradeoff between the fossil fuel we want and the water we need. Continue reading

Are You Fracking (and) Kidding Me?

That's a natural gas fracking well. You'd be well advised not to drink the water. (Photo by Daniel Foster/Flickr)

Pennsylvania’s largest practitioner of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, Chesapeake Energy, has suspended operations in the state — not because of any government action, but voluntarily, after a string of violations, accidents and blowouts. In the most recent and one of the most serious, Chesapeake lost control of a well for more than 12 hours after a blowout on April 20. Thousands of gallons of toxic drilling fluids spilled onto farm fields and into streams, and seven families were subjected to sudden, middle-of-the-night evacuations. Continue reading

Saudi Oil Dreaming: “We Have a Lot of Capacity”

With prices spiking and riots erupting, the Saudis say: Don't worry, be happy.

The three biggest lies current in the world today: 1) “The check is in the mail” (still a favorite, after all these years). 2) “Lower taxes for the rich means more jobs for the poor” (well into its fourth decade as a popular inversion of reality). And 3), the newest and in some ways the biggest; “Don’t worry, Saudi Arabia will increase oil production to keep prices from going too high, OR to compensate for the loss of Libya’s/Iraq’s/Egypt’s production, OR to reassure the re-election of American politicians if their name is Bush, OR whatever.” Continue reading

Nuclear and Oil: Too Big Not to Fail

This is now a nuclear reactor (Fukushima #2) looks after an event that "no one could have predicted." (Photo by daveeza/Flickr)

Our national subservience to large companies and rich people — our touching (in the sense of pathetic) faith that might makes right — persists in the face of accumulating, dramatic evidence to the contrary, especially with regard to the two worst industrial accidents of the past year, which are among the worst in history. We are like a wife who catches her husband in flagrante delecto and thinks he has a good point when he denies being unfaithful and says, “Who you gonna believe? Me or your lying eyes?” Continue reading