The expanding use of ethanol in U.S. oil production, prompted by government mandates that require the use of biofuel in gasoline, is escalating the price of corn while plaguing poor countries with rising food prices. Critics worldwide are now questioning the federal government’s ethanol mandates, as the use of American-produced corn for biofuel has added more than $6.5 billion to the food import bills of developing countries, particularly in North Africa and Central America.
A financially strapped Massachusetts-based firm that manufactures batteries for electric cars, which reaped some $240 million in federal stimulus money, is being rescued by a Chinese manufacturing behemoth, owned by renowned Chinese billionaire Lu Guanqiu. A123 Systems, which was awarded a $241.1-million grant from the Obama administration and more than $125 million in state of Michigan tax credits, was once touted for its purported commitment to create thousands of jobs, while helping curb the use of conventional gas-powered vehicles and transitioning to a more “green” energy environment.
But according to a company press release, the lithium battery maker is handing its operational reins over to Wanxiang Group Corporation, China’s largest automotive components manufacturer and one of the country’s largest non-government-owned firms.
Gasoline prices in California have escalated to record highs, spiking 50 cents a gallon in a week and prompting Governor Jerry Brown to advocate laxer smog rules so oil refineries can boost supplies of less expensive fuel blends. Regular gasoline in the state has soared to an average of $4.67 a gallon, a staggering 22 percent higher than the national average, according to AAA’s nationwide fuel price survey.
The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011 continue to claim lives more than a year and a half later, not from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant, but from forced evacuations in areas that received insignificant amounts of radiation.
Shareholders of Canadian oil firm Nexen voted Thursday to favor a $15.1-billion takeover that would place the company into the hands of the Chinese state-owned CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corporation), although the merger still requires approval by the Canadian government. In a 99-percent assenting vote, shareholders approved the $27.50 per-share offer, bestowing China with its largest overseas energy acquisition ever.
Rory Reid, the eldest son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), is the chief representative for a Chinese energy firm planning to build a $5-billion solar plant on public land in Laughlin, Nevada. ENN Energy Group, a clean-energy firm that manufactures a range of renewable energy solutions, is seeking to construct its solar panel facility on a 9,000-acre stretch of land on a Clark County desert plot.
The controversy stems from the fact that Clark County officials voted to sell ENN the public land for $4.5 million, even though it was appraised at $38.6 million. Conveniently, Sen. Reid has been one of ENN’s most prominent supporters, having helped mobilize the firm during a 2011 trip to China.
Hundreds of activists showed up at a hearing about so-called “smart meters” held by the Texas Public Utility Commission this week, with most of them seeking a way to opt-out from receiving one of the controversial electricity meters that critics link to serious privacy and health concerns. A Republican member of the state legislature even promised that if the PUC refused to allow consumers a choice, he would introduce legislation to force its hand.
The federally backed meters have long been a source of controversy and criticism in Texas, which has rolled out millions of the devices in recent years and is reportedly almost 90 percent finished with its state-wide installation scheme. Hundreds of outraged citizens sent comments to authorities before the hearing demanding that their concerns be addressed. Most wanted the option to refuse a smart meter at the very least, with some seeking an “opt-in” system instead.
A new proposal by the Obama administration to expand drilling to half of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A) has attracted criticism from the oil industry, as the plan still leaves a broad area off limits to new oil development. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said new development will be permitted in an 11.8 million-acre geographical area, which purportedly holds about 549 million barrels of oil, while coastal regions such as Kasegaluk Lagoon and Peard Bay — where there is a higher concentration of seals and polar bears — will receive “special protection.”
Reports coming out this August show that our nation has plenty of oil and gas and that we ought to be a major exporter of coal to foreign markets. The economic benefits of an aggressive hydrocarbon energy production policy are vast.
As congressional Republicans continue their assault on President Obama’s seemingly failed “green” agenda, the White House announced August 7 it will expedite seven federal wind and solar projects across four western states. The programs, which will be grounded in Nevada, Arizona, California, and Wyoming, will generate enough power to run 1.5 million homes, the White House said in a press release.
As the international effort to deploy so-called “smart meters” to monitor electricity usage marches on, resistance to the controversial devices is increasing around the world as well. Proponents claim the schemes could save money and reduce energy use. Opponents from across the political spectrum, however, worry that the smart meters might not be just a stupid idea and a waste of money — they could actually be dangerous in more ways than one.