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Lisa Finaldi is the former National Campaigns Director for Greenpeace US.

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Estimates for how much natural gas is available in shale deposits in the US continue to spiral downward.  The US Energy Information Administration recently downsized its projections – in 2011 it estimated 827 trillion cubic feet but now says it’s more like 482 trillion cubic feet – more than a 40% drop.

Specifically for the Marcellus shale, covering parts of NY, Ohio and much of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, estimates have dropped from 410 trillion cubic feet to 141 trillion cubic feet – a whopping 66% lower (six years of supply rather than the 17 years originally touted). Meanwhile the US Geological Survey put the estimate at 84 trillion cubic feet in August. In other words, no one really has a solid handle on the situation.

So when the NC Geological Survey estimates that natural gas in shale deposits in our state could supply all our needs for 40 years or more – I suggest we remain skeptical and ask for a lot more data.

If you want to keep up with the latest news on fracking in NC, check out the NC Sierra Club’s new site, the Daily Frack.

 

 

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On national MLK day, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) launched a 5-state, $6 million TV and social media campaign aimed at the President in the run up to this year’s election. AFP says it will focus its efforts in North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin, spending $1 million in our state. ABC’s Jake Tapper reported that the Koch Brothers (David Koch is the AFP founder) are among the campaign donors and don’t forget that conservative, deep pockets Art Pope, president of Variety Wholesalers based in Henderson, is a board of Director for the national AFP.

For those unfamiliar with AFP, it describes itself as a grassroots organization advocating for public policies that “champion the principles of entrepreneurship and fiscal and regulatory restraint.” For example, they are responsible for the attack on then President Obama’s green jobs czar Van Jones, creating Tea Party rallies against global warming policies with funding from big oil and supporting activities in Wisconsin to deny collective-bargaining rights to public-sector workers (where Koch Industries was among the largest contributors to Governor Scott Walker’s campaign). Does this sound like grassroots to you?

ABC’s Tapper fact checked the Anti-Obama ad and provides a critique. While I cannot deny that the Solyndra loan had its problems, AFP is using it to continue its attack on clean energy and government subsidies. Yet AFP is fine with big oil, gas, coal and nuclear subsidies from the feds – subsidies that continue our fossil fuel addiction and in the case of nuclear are very high risk guaranteed loans.

 

 

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This week the NC Justice Center, NC WARN and the NC Housing Coalition challenged the proposed Duke Energy rate hike settlement that the NC Utilities Commission Public Staff is supporting. The organizations are highlighting how unfair the proposal for a 7.21% rate increase is to residential and most business customers, because the rate allocation method is biased to accommodate energy hogging industries.

Energy Hog

These energy hogs – such as Facebook and Google data centers – are already being subsidized by various tax breaks and incentives offered by the state, creating few jobs and benefiting from Duke’s biased rate allocation method.

The organizations also raised concerns about discriminatory practices regarding residential late payment charges and shut off notices, noting how these practices disproportionately impact low-income customers.

The NC Utilities Commission needs to require Duke Energy to develop a rate allocation method that reflects the new demand brought on by the energy hogs, reflecting the need for peak, intermediate and base load capacity through the year. This issue will also become important to Progress Energy customers if the Duke-Progress merger is approved because Progress uses a different, more fair rate allocation, and how the two will be resolved remains to be seen.

 

 

 

 

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According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2011 set a record for the number of billion dollar disasters in a single year in the US – 12 – topping nine events in 2009. Two of those were in our state – Hurricane Irene and the April tornadoes, placing NC fourth for 2011. The 12 events, which included extreme drought, wildfires, floods, heat waves, winter storms, tornadoes and hurricanes, caused more than 1,000 deaths and 8,000 injuries.

In a recent online video, National Weather Service Director Jack Hayes said, “In my weather career spanning four decades, I’ve never seen a year quite like 2011… Extreme weather and associated societal impacts have increased in recent years with our changing climate and the nation must be prepared for more frequent extreme weather in the future.”

While every natural disaster cannot be linked to global warming, a warming climate provides more fuel for extreme events. Yet even in the face of 2011’s extreme weather, Republicans and Democrats alike drag their feet to create policies to curb global warming.

Here are some policy and regulatory debates to watch this year. Together these will have short and long term impacts on global warming and the nation’s energy policy. The only question is whether our elected officials will help or hinder our need to move to a clean energy economy. Read More

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On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported its investigation of how Chesapeake Energy has been feverishly working in West Virginia to maximize its ability to drill for natural gas in shale deposits, using business methods that can only be labelled greedy with total disregard for the communities in which the company is operating. Read More