NEW YORK (Reuters) - Permits for the right to emit carbon dioxide from power plants in the U.S. Northeast sold for $3.07 per ton in the first U.S. greenhouse gas auction, states in the region said Monday.

Ten states from Maine to Massachusetts will begin regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in January. Under the agreement, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the states are taking action in the absence of guidance on how to regulate the gases from the Bush administration.

The auction price was lower than the $4.50 to $4.00 per ton that contracts on the permits had been fetching in recent weeks on futures markets. Still, all of the more than 12.5 million permits that had been offered sold. And RGGI said 59 participants from the energy, financial and environment sectors had bid to buy nearly 52 million permits.

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The growing U.S. market for carbon offsets -- vouchers that let companies and individuals project an environmentally friendly image by paying others to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions -- is so opaque and loosely regulated that it offers consumers "limited assurance of credibility," according to a federal audit.

The report, expected to be published on Friday, stops short of recommending new regulations. But it suggests members of Congress think carefully before letting companies use offsets as a means of complying with legislation to control carbon-dioxide emissions, which are not currently regulated by the U.S. government.

Estimates vary on the size of the U.S. offset market, with some analysts putting the value of U.S. carbon offsets traded in 2006 at $91.6 million, an amount expected to grow sharply as more companies and individuals seek to lighten their impact on the atmosphere, or at least appear to be trying. Some companies are also betting the offsets they buy now will count toward their obligations under a future mandatory U.S. emissions-reduction system.

As purchases of voluntary offsets have soared in recent years, so have questions about whether money being spent on them funds real emissions cuts. Such offsets, which are often bought by consumers from online sellers, are supposed to represent emissions avoided through projects such as installing wind turbines or planting trees. Skeptics -- including some members of Congress -- have questioned how consumers can know in the absence of federal regulation whether such cuts are actually being implemented, or would have happened anyway.

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Clean-tech bubble talk

Clean-, or green-tech, venture capitalists will tell you times have never been better if you judge by the number of business plan proposals crossing their desks and their ability to raise funds. Many an entrepreneur and investor sees energy and environment as a ripe area for technology innovation.

What worries me is whether the hundreds of newly formed energy tech companies will have enough capital to actually succeed--and change the world as they all set out to do.

Insiders have been fretting about the dreaded funding gap, or "Valley of Death," for years. It's the stage a company must cross to take its technology to commercial scale, such as building a manufacturing plant. In energy-related businesses, it usually take lots of money.

Now the financial crisis could actually make that gap tougher to bridge, given the difficulty in the public markets and the projected cost of an anticipated Wall Street bail-out plan.

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The New York Independent System Operator has a new wind-power forecasting system. The system was installed by AWS Truewind for NYISO, the nonprofit that operates the state's electric grid.

The system was supplied through Colonie, N.Y.-based AWS, a consulting firm that specializes in renewable energy and wind mapping. It relies on meteorological data and historical trends of existing wind projects to plan for future wind projects.

The system was installed this month. Wind power is variable in nature, which means adjustments must be made to the grid to accommodate its changing levels. The system will help the NYISO predict how much power each wind project will feed into the system.

"A primary issue in the industry has been with forecasting the availability and timing of wind-powered generation," said Steve Whitley, NYISO's president and CEO.

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Northeast CO2 on Auction Block

NEW YORK — Greenhouse gases went on sale Thursday as 10 Northeastern states, including Maine, held the nation’s first auction of pollution credits aimed at curbing global warming.

“It is time really to turn the tide on global warming,” said New York Gov. David Paterson, who opened the auction by ringing the ceremonial bell at the New York Mercantile Exchange. “And we hope that we’ve done this today.”

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, also known as RGGI, puts a price on carbon dioxide pollution, giving power plants a financial incentive to cut emissions.

Auction proceeds will go toward energy conservation and renewable energy programs in each of the 10 participating states.

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What is the connection between the bankrupt Lehman Brothers and the likelihood that in four years' time our electricity bills will jump another 25 per cent (on top of the rises likely from soaring coal and gas prices)?

The answer is that, before its collapse, Lehman was pitching to become the leader in the vast trade created by the new worldwide regulatory system to "fight climate change" by curbing emissions of carbon dioxide.

The biggest money-spinners will be the schemes whereby industry will pay for permits to emit CO2 at so much a ton, either directly to governments or by buying them on an international market.

This market, soon to be worth trillions of pounds, was where Lehman hoped to be "the prime brokerage for emissions permits", as it set out in two hefty reports on "The Business of Climate Change".

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The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund will help sort through these complex issues this fall by hosting the first in a series of policy forums "Greening the Empire State." Together with NYU's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and its Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems, NYLCVEF will be hosting three events that lay out the facts about solar, wind and nuclear energy in the context of New York State. We'll hear from policymakers, regulators, industry insiders and financial experts who will discuss the pros and cons of each technology.

Powering the Future: Solar

The sun is an abundant and free source of power that annually bathes our planet in an enormous amount of energy. The sun powers everything from hot water heaters to calculators and futuristic cars.

But can this vast resource be cheaply harnessed to meet the growing energy needs of New York State? Can solar energy make the leap and become a cornerstone of a clean energy future?

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State regulators reviewing a controversial $2.1 billion high-voltage power line project have been ordered to stage public meetings in each upstate New York county along the proposed 190-mile route.

The state Public Service Commission had scheduled two public hearings on New York Regional Interconnect's proposed transmission line and was planning a third, PSC spokesman Jim Denn said Monday.

He said the agency was seeking comment from interested parties to determine if more hearings were needed, but administrative law judges Michelle Phillips and Jeffrey Stockholm decided the PSC should hold a total 14 hearings as part of a Sept. 17 ruling addressing procedural matters.

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today approved incentive rates for the New York Regional Interconnect (NYRI) on condition that the New York State Public Service Commission determines the 190-mile transmission line either ensures reliability or reduces congestion, and approves siting for the project.

“FERC recognizes the need for and promotes greater investment in energy infrastructure to strengthen and improve reliability of the transmission grid,” FERC Chairman Joseph T. Kelliher said. “We will only approve incentive rate proposals that satisfy the requirements of the Federal Power Act and our regulations.”

Today’s action involves rates for the project. NYRI has not made any requests of FERC for federal siting approval. “That issue properly lies before the New York State Commission, and our approval today rests on the New York State Commission’s approval of the proposed project,” Kelliher said.

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Iberdrola completes Energy East buy

REGION Iberdrola said Wednesday it completed its acquisition of Energy East, parent of New York State Electric & Gas.

The companies said the transaction is valued at about $4.56 billion in cash plus another $4.06 billion in debt, for a total of about $8.6 billion (based on the currency exchange rate Sept. 15).

With the acquisition, the largest industrial transaction ever carried out by a Spanish company in the United States, Iberdrola enhances its presence in the U.S. market, where it is already the second largest in wind power through its renewable energy subsidiary with nearly 2000 megawatts in operating capacity.

Two Central New York electric utilities were cited Wednesday for their service-quality failures by the state Public Service Commission.

National Grid has paid a $14.2 million rebate to customers to atone for failing two service-quality measures during 2007. And New York State Electric & Gas, although it paid no financial penalty, has been ordered to conduct a rigorous self-assessment after recording its "worst performance . . in the past 20 years," according to PSC officials.

In both cases, regulators attributed the high number of power failures mainly to aging equipment and contact between power lines and trees. In National Grid's case, PSC officials said they think the trend is getting better. In the case of NYSEG, matters appear to be getting worse, they said.

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After decades of declining US natural-gas production, an advanced drilling system so powerful it fractures rock with high-pressure fluid is opening up vast shale-gas deposits.

Instead of falling, US gas production is rising, with up to 118 years’ worth of “unconventional” natural gas reserves in 21 huge shale basins, an industry study in July reported. Such reserves could make the nation more energy self-sufficient and provide more of a cleaner “bridge fuel” to help meet carbon-reduction goals urged by environmentalists.

Shale gas reserves have a powerful economic lure. Companies, states, and landowners could all reap a windfall in the tens of billions. Some also predict lower heating costs for residential gas users as production increases.

Now, scores of natural gas companies are fanning out from Fort Worth, Texas, where hydraulic fracturing of shale has been done for at least five years, to lease shale lands in 19 states, including Pennsylvania and New York.

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New York State Electric & Gas missed residential customer service satisfaction targets last year, which will result in a lowering of earnings or revenue adjustment of $1.67 million, the state Public Service Commission said Wednesday.

The Public Service Department, the staff arm of the PSC, assessed electric service reliability and customer service performance by NYSEG and other utilities in New York.

Overall, the state's electric and gas utilities met or exceeded customer service performance standards in most cases. But some performance deficits occurred in four utility service territories, including NYSEG's, that will result in utility revenue or earnings adjustments.

The Public Service Department also recommended as part of its assessment on electric service reliability performance that NYSEG analyze its existing tree-trimming program, procedures and expenditures, and identify improvements that can help reduce the effect of tree contact interruptions on system reliability.

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ALBANY, N.Y. - New York utility regulators are shining a light on the reliability of the state's electricity suppliers.

Staff analysts at the Public Service Commission are scheduled to brief the agency's decision-making board Wednesday on how utilities from New York City to Buffalo met state-mandated service standards in 2007.

When power outages and service interruptions exceed certain levels, electricity suppliers have to set aside money that otherwise would have gone to their shareholders and return it to customers who were affected.

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Iberdrola closes Energy East deal

Iberdrola SA officially closed on its $4.5 billion acquisition of Energy East Corp. Tuesday, giving the Spanish utility 1.7 million gas and electric accounts in upstate New York.

Lawyers for Iberdrola filed a one-page letter with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission notifying the agency that the deal had been completed.

Energy East, based in Maine, owns New York State Electric & Gas and Rochester Gas & Electric, two Rochester-based utilities. NYSEG has customers in the Capital Region.

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Growing concern about tactics from gas prospectors has led to new warnings to Southern Tier residents from the state attorney general.

The Binghamton office is investigating dozens of complaints about practices of landmen seeking property owners' signatures on mineral lease contracts, said Mike Danaher, assistant state attorney general in the local office.

Some residents are claiming landmen -- representatives of energy companies seeking to tap gas reserves below private property -- have used misleading or deceptive practices to get people to sign deals they later regret.

The complaints, and the large number of property owners with a stake in negotiations, have led to a public educational forum tonight at Broome Community College.

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Sep. 15--PLATTSBURGH -- U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer will meet with the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission about a problem he says has cost state communities millions.

"We must get to the bottom of this greedy scheme," Schumer said in a statement.

Between January and July of this year, energy-market traders were using deceptive trading practices, the senator said, which slammed consumers with millions of dollars in unnecessary, additional fees and put the state at risk for blackouts.

"New Yorkers may have been cheated out of hundreds of millions of dollars because of a rogue energy-trading scheme, and there are a mess of questions left unanswered."

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The renewable energy sector will see a 21 billion euro ($29.43 billion) shortfall in debt finance by 2020, following the credit crisis and a brake on lending, a senior banker said on Monday.

Investors at a renewable energy finance conference in London tried to digest the implications of a banking hiatus following Lehman Brothers' filing for bankruptcy and Bank of America's acquisition of Merrill Lynch.

The European Union has set a target of getting one-fifth of its energy from renewable sources, including wind, sun and biomass, by 2020.

European wind and solar power projects drew 18 billion euros investment in 2007 and needed about 85 billion euros annually by 2020 to meet the EU's target, said Tanja Cuppen, a renewable investing executive at Rabobank.

However, the pace in growth of the sector, coupled with less appetite for long-term lending, would contribute to a 21 billion euros debt finance shortfall, she told conference delegates.

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After taking a crash course in Fort Worth, Texas, Broome County officials are working to develop a set of ground rules that will pre-empt problems associated with the natural gas rush locally.

The rules will address noise, road damage and legal rights associated with seismic testing, while nurturing the economic prospects of the Marcellus Shale, a multibillion-dollar natural gas reserve under the Southern Tier.

Broome County Attorney Joe Sluzar, who is coordinating the effort, has been taught by those in the know. He recently visited Fort Worth, where residents have lived through five years of the natural gas phenomenon.

Now, Sluzar is passing those lessons on to other local government officials searching for ways to manage legions of prospectors and drilling companies advancing up the Appalachian Basin to tap the huge Marcellus.

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N.Y. soul sold to wind power giant

I believe your call for Iberdrola to start building its wind farms and infrastructure is hypocritical on your part (Sept. 5 editorial, "The right call"). You often laud the beauty of the Finger Lakes region, express pride in this local treasure and encourage tourism. How on earth can wind towers and power lines add to or even maintain this beauty? You admire patriotism and sometimes review historic events from this area, too. What will your take be on those who resist the takeover of their land through eminent domain by a foreign company? How would you tell a Seneca from Ganondagan, a soldier from Valley Forge, a sailor on the Cuban blockade, that it is OK if foreigners take land away from New York citizens? Would you say that things are inevitable, and to think of a common good, or a bottom line?

What will you call those who take a stand? It is bound to happen now that our government has decided a $3 a month saving in our electric bills is worth our soul.




New York State Senator Frank Padavan (Queens) and Assemblyman James F. Brennan (D-Brooklyn) have announced their intention to reintroduce legislation in next year's session that would prevent the immediate drilling of oil and gas wells in upstate New York. The New York City watershed extends into this area in the Catskill mountains.

The amended Padavan/Brennan bill will permanently prohibit drilling for gas or oil in the New York City watershed to protect water and air quality, and human health. That includes parts of eight counties including Delaware, Greene, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster counties where numerous companies have been signing up landowners to allow for drilling on their land. In addition the bill would halt issuance of any permits for well drilling in the state until a complete environmental review is done by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

This summer, while approving legislation to change the required well spacing, the governor directed the State DEC to update its Environmental Impact Statement on gas drilling to reflect concerns that might arise from horizontal drilling as a method of extraction -- the method that has recently become more economical and preferred by the companies now coming to New York State. The bill would ensure that all environmental concerns are thoroughly assessed prior to any new well permits being issued.

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Southern Tier residents looking to cash in on natural gas under their land received promising signs from Pennsylvania this week.

Five out-of-state companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp., bid between $1,151 and $5,837 per acre for the right to take gas from under state land in northern Pennsylvania. The bids on 74,000 acres will produce $190 million in revenue with the potential of hundreds of millions more in royalties.

The companies are interested in tapping the Marcellus Shale, the same gas-rich geological formation that extends under the Southern Tier. Residents see it as further evidence of the economic potential of the gas industry being developed in the heart of the Appalachian basin and working its way northward.

"It's pretty encouraging," said Marchie Diffendorf, who heads a coalition of Kirkwood residents drafting terms to deal with gas companies. The coalition, working with attorney Chris Denton, is tailoring leases for about 350 people who own between 10,000 and 11,000 acres combined.

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New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is using his office to caution consumers against what he feels are strong-arm tactics by oil and gas exploration companies.

Cuomo on Wednesday announced guidelines for consumers to follow and will be taking part in the Landowners' Rights Forum Tuesday in Binghamton. He's also planning future similar forums around the state.

"If done properly, including implementing the adequate environmental safeguards, increased natural gas production can be mutually beneficial to the landowners, the economy, and all New Yorkers," Cuomo said.

"However, in the event New York landowners are approached and asked to sign a lease by a gas exploration company or their agents, they should proceed cautiously, as the process can be rife with potential peril. Consumers must be aware so they do not fall victim to any abusive or misleading tactics."

Cuomo said he investigating a significant number of complaints from landowners who believe companies are misleading them.

Landowners lease their land to a business that wishes to extract oil and natural gas. Cuomo says those landowners should review each term and condition of the lease with an attorney.

Among other things, he also says to obtain all promises in writing, negotiate for better terms and obtain copies of the lease after it is signed.

According to, the third-highest verdict of 2007 came from a dispute between West Virginia landowners and gas companies. The plaintiffs claimed Chesapeake Energy and NiSource took deductions from royalties and did not reflect it on the royalty statements.

The plaintiffs were awarded $404 million. The state's Supreme Court decided not to hear the appeal, and Chesapeake Energy scrapped its plans to build a $35 million regional headquarters in Charleston.

Sept. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Lawyers for Enron Corp. investors will get a record $688 million in legal fees for recovering more than $7.2 billion from the failed energy trader's lenders, auditors and directors, a judge ruled yesterday.

The fee is the largest ever in a U.S. securities-fraud case, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon found the payments was justified in light of the record-setting amount the lawyers recovered for Enron investors, who sued for more than $40 billion in losses.

The court ``finds no windfall'' in fees awarded to Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins, ``but a reasonable fee earned by an extraordinary group of attorneys who achieved the largest settlement fund ever despite the great odds against them,'' the Houston-based Harmon wrote in her decision.

The lawyers spent more than 280,000 hours preparing for trial and negotiating out-of-court-settlements with Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Arthur Andersen LP, Kirkland & Ellis, Enron's former outside directors, and others, according to Harmon's ruling.

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The State Public Service Commission is taking the next step in its long process of deciding whether to allow a massive power line to be built right through Central New York.

A meeting got underway Monday morning at Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica.

The state has approved the application from the company that wants to build the power line.

Now it has one year to rule on whether to allow it to be built.

State officials are beginning that decision process at MVCC in Utica.

The State Public Service Commission is holding a pre-hearing conference to establish a schedule to address litigation and to address any other issues that come up during the meeting.

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The spokesman confirmed a report by Spanish state news agency EFE, in which Sanchez Galan was quoted as saying the conditions "seem reasonable in principle, but an investment of this type requires conscientious study and we've got to look at the small print."

New York state's public service commission voted to back Iberdrola's proposed $4.5 billion purchase of Energy East but imposed conditions including $275 million in tariff reductions or adjustments and for Energy East to divest fossil fuel generation and maintain capital investment levels.

The regulator released on Tuesday an expanded version of their original ruling and said that Iberdrola and Energy East must accept the terms by September 15 if the deal is to go ahead.

A new battle is developing in the quest for natural gas in the Southern Tier.

This controversy doesn't involve drilling, pipelines or lease negotiations. It's about information and who has the right to collect it from under private property.

Gas companies are patrolling rural routes across the Southern Tier, using high-tech trucks that shoot seismic waves into the surrounding ground to discover geologic secrets under homes, farms and fields. The waves rebound off subterranean features and are captured by mobile electronic equipment that maps the riches of the Marcellus Shale Formation, one of the largest natural gas resources in the country, running under the Southern Tier and Pennsylvania.

Angry landowners say the gas companies are trespassing, and they're asking them to leave. They say gas companies have no right to use seismic waves to peek under their property.

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The Finger Lakes Guardian is a new alternative monthy news/feature publication for the Central New York & Finger Lakes region. We've made it our mission to engage the community with a more responsible form of media. This means we will not accept advertising from businesses whose practices are potentially harmful to the environment.

Our goal is to increase demand for earth-friendly business and lighten demand for products and services which may be detrimental to our environment. You won't find Walmart's weekly sale specials or any finance plans for a new Hummer H2. You will find local cafes, performance centers, book stores, and various earth-friendly services.

We recognize our readers as a group of driven and conscientious people. They care about their health, their environment, and their community.

In addition to our hard news coverage and sassy features, we'll carry sections such as regional events, art, food, the outdoors, home&energy, humor, classifieds, opinion letters, among many other locally engaging sections and topics.

After more than two years of additional study, the application for the controversial power line is complete. On August 27, the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) sent a letter to New York Regional Interconnect, Inc. (NYRI) informing the company that their application to build a 190-power line in the state was now considered complete.

The application was first deemed incomplete in June 2006. The PSC determined that NYRI had not provided enough information about various issues, including possible alternative routes, and information about the proposed line’s environmental impacts and impacts on viewsheds.

In a statement, Chris Thompson, president of NYRI, called the development a “significant turning point.” He said, “We are very pleased by the PSC’s decision and were optimistic all along that we would be judged fairly by the merits of our project.”

Members of opposition groups said they expected that the application would be complete at some point and that they are hopeful that they can defeat the proposal in the PSC permitting process.

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MONTOUR FALLS -- U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is looking into federal funding to provide experts who can advise Southern Tier landowners about contracts for natural gas exploration and drilling rights.

"It does happen that people get taken advantage of," Schumer, D-N.Y., said when the issue came up Wednesday during a town hall meeting at the Schuyler County Human Services Complex. About 50 people attended, including many local government officials.

"We want to make sure that people are not taken advantage of, and one of the things that comes out of this town hall meeting here is maybe we can get some federal help for a couple of professionals.

"Anyone who is approached by a gas company could call up, and they would make sure the contract is good," he said.

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NYRI hearing to be held in Oneonta

The state Public Service Commission has deemed NYRI’s application complete and scheduled public hearings, including one in Oneonta in October, on the proposed 400,000-watt power line.

Introduced about 21/2 years ago by New York Regional Interconnect Inc., the proposed direct-current line would run about 190 miles, from Marcy in Oneida County to New Windsor in Orange County.

NYRI first suggested running the 10-story-tall line through Chenango and Delaware counties, following rights-of-way owned by NYSEG and the New York Susquehanna & Western Railway for much of the route. Last year, at the PSC’s request, the firm studied other routes, including some that would cut through parts of Otsego County.

David Kalson, a NYRI spokesman, said if the project is approved, the final route will be determined by the PSC.

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All the horse expletives being tossed around, it brings to mind the potential of biomass conversion and capturing of methane for energy instead of continuing to have it contribute to greenhouse gases. As for wind turbines, I live in the midst of one of the many vast new 'wind farms' that produce profits for investors due to myriad of consumer and tax payer funded subsidies and tax breaks and NOT because they produce significant quantities of electricity, power when it is needed, or have ever been shown to reduce demand for fossil fuel or the size of our carbon footprint. Off-shore, on-shore, the problem is that the current industrial wind technology is immature. Production Tax Credit extension or not, unless and until we bring accountability into the process we will continue to avoid dealing effectively with reducing global warming, greenhouse gases, fossil fuel consumption, acid rain, and the tradition of corporate greed trumping real solutions to our problems. While there are promising technologies on the drawing board, wishing and hoping don't make it so. Some of these technologies begin to address the most glaring of off-shore wind's problems, such as what to do about hurricanes.

So, on the question of oil drilling or wind turbines, I vote for support for small scale wind, solar, geothermal support so farmers, homeowners, small businesses can afford to install effective and efficient systems that will reduce demand upon the grid: a grid that, as your article points out, can't handle wheeling of the decentralized production that wind farms, like those in my area (Northern NY) will destabilize.

But the WSJ does us all a disservice but not examining the complexities of the issues surrounding the industrial wind juggernaut. The NY Times has recently begun to examine, in a front page story, the corruption involved in the newest scam being run by the robber barons. They have scratched the surface on the investigation of two wind developers launched by NY AG Cuomo. One of those companies, Noble Environmental, is in the process of launching an IPO with all the promise of the boom/bust tech offerings of the '90's. This JPMorgan offshoot seems to be representative of this dirty 'clean energy' business and honors the sentiment once expressed by Mr. Morgan himself: "I owe the public nothing."

Spanish utility Iberdrola SA will be allowed to purchase Energy East Corp., the New York State Public Service Commission determined today.

The 4-0 vote by the PSC’s board ended a year-long process involving Iberdrola’s $4.5 billion proposal to take over Energy East (NYS: EAS).

“The approval requires Iberdrola to pay $275 million in customer benefits to offset future rate hikes. Iberdrola must invest $200 million in new wind energy projects. Initially, Iberdrola said it would invest $100 million. If Iberdrola does not invest the additional $100 million it faces a penalty.

“This isn’t a perfect deal,” said Commissioner Maureen Harris. “It may not even be a great deal. But in my opinion it’s a good deal. I’m not comfortable gambling that the company might walk away.” She said it was in the best interest of consumers to approve the deal. Any stricter provisions could have deterred Iberdrola from moving forward with the merger.

(Click to read the entire report)

State officials are signing over mineral rights of public land to energy companies for a fixed minimum. Not surprisingly, perhaps, that has given rise to questions about whose interest is being served: The public’s? Or the industry’s?

Under long-standing policy, New York’s share of royalties from natural gas wells on state-owned land is fixed at 12.5 percent — the minimum allowable by law. By contrast, royalties are seen as a vital part of the deal-making process for private landowners, who have been negotiating rates up to 18 percent.

Revenues from natural gas drilling and who’s getting them has taken on added significance this year as energy companies gear up to tap the Marcellus Shale. It’s thought by some geologists to be the largest untapped natural gas resource in the country, and it runs under the Southern Tier and throughout Pennsylvania.

Soaring energy prices and growing emphasis on domestic production have pushed the stakes even higher. As production and prices climb, a change in royalty payments by a percentage point or two can quickly add up to significant sums.

(Click to read entire article)

Amid a national debate over offshore oil drilling, the federal government is preparing to unleash development of another offshore energy source: wind.

The Interior Department, the agency that handles oil-and-gas leases in U.S. waters, is preparing to lease swaths of the outer continental shelf to companies that want to erect massive wind turbines. With the public-comment period for the proposal scheduled to end Monday, competition is heating up to develop wind projects on the shelf, the same underwater formation largely covered by an oil-drilling ban that has become a contentious issue in the presidential race.

The federal program signals the start of a broad push to develop offshore wind energy in the U.S. The country often is dubbed by renewable-energy experts as "the Saudi Arabia of wind" because of its vast, windy expanses, particularly in the Western plains. Now, rising interest in renewable energy is spurring exploration of the ocean, where the winds typically are heavier but the technological hurdles to tapping it are higher. That shift mirrors the oil industry's move to offshore wells decades ago.

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A Big Future for Tiny Wind Turbines?

They look a bit like attachments for a gigantic hand-held mixer. But at five meters (16 feet) tall and with a diameter of close to three meters, they are certainly too big for a kitchen cabinet. They would, however, definitely fit in backyards and city parks and on the roofs of houses and office buildings.

And if the German power company RWE (RWEG.DE) has its way, there will soon be thousands of the funny-looking rotors installed in the coming months and years—in Germany, in Europe and even in the US.

It is not, as one might be tempted to believe, a vast, futuristic art project. Rather, the odd-looking, twisting contraptions are the newest generation of high-tech wind turbines. In contrast to their cousins, these windmills are virtually silent, do not require long blades to catch the wind, and spin no matter which direction the wind is blowing. Even better, their modest size and weight mean they can easily be installed on rooftops—and they can generate up to 10,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, enough to supply two low-energy homes, or a 20 person office, with power.

(Click to read entire article)

Another No-Dam Hydropower Method to be Tested

An intriguing third hydropower option is being developed in the town of Vandergrift, Pennsylvania in the Kiskiminetas River which the town hopes will generate 20-40% of its electricity. Our colleagues over at Discovery News have the complete story, but here’s that requisite bit to lure you in:

The sustainable power [Vandergrift is developing] will most likely come from a grid of undulating strips made of polyvinylidene fluoride or PVDF, a material that generates a slight electrical current when it is moved, in this case, by the currents and eddies in the Kiskiminetas River. Such materials are described as piezoelectric, and the resulting electrical current would pass to small substations along the river's edge before charging a group of batteries.

The exact details about how dense the grid would be, how long the PVDF strips will be, or even when the grid would be laid down, are still being worked out. But whatever the final plans are, the researchers claim they will maintain the health and appearance of the Kiski, which is used for fishing, canoe trips and other recreational activities.

ALBANY — Natural gas production from New York wells totaled 54.9 billion cubic feet for 2007, just below the all-time high of 55.2 bcf in 2006.

State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis says the 2007 production, driven by prolific wells in the Finger Lakes region, was enough to heat nearly 800,000 homes for a year.

Statewide, 12,994 oil and gas wells were in production in 2007. That could rise in the coming years if exploration in the Marcellus Shale region of the Southern Tier yields anticipated results.

A recent study by researchers at Pennsylvania State University and Fredonia State College estimated that the Marcellus Shale could contain as much as 50 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, although other estimates are much lower.

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UNIVERSITY PARK - Reminiscent of Pennsylvania's halcyon days of oil production and coal mining early in the last century, the current boom in natural-gas well drilling is a concern for the state's streams and groundwater, according to an expert in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

"Decades ago, we weren't careful with coal mining. As a result, we are still paying huge sums to clean up acid mine drainage from that period, and we will be for a long time," said Bryan Swistock, water resources specialist with Penn State Cooperative Extension. "We need to be careful and vigilant or we could see lasting damage to our water resources from so many deep gas wells being drilled across Pennsylvania."

This latest wave of gas-well drilling is unlike other previous exploration because the wells are so deep, tapping the Marcellus shale formation, which is a mile or more below the surface of much of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and New York. Scientists have known for years the gas was there, but it wasn't until new drilling technology was developed that it could be extracted. This method uses hydraulic pressure to fracture the shale layer so trapped gas can escape.

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The US Treasury Department has selected William A. Pizer, a former economic advisor to the White House, to head up its newly formed Office for Environment and Energy.

The office has been set up to manage the multi-billion dollar Clean Energy Fund, established earlier this summer, as well as other financial programmes. Its main remit will be to develop and carry out the Treasury’s energy and environmental policies, as well as accelerate the development of low-carbon technologies in developing coutries.

Pizer currently works for research organisation Resources for the Future, but has served as an economic advisor to the White House and on the National Commission on Energy Policy.

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