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New From the GAO

December 17, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Hanford Cleanup: Condition of Tanks May Further Limit DOE’s Ability to Respond to Leaks and Intrusions. GAO-15-40, November 25.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-40
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667191.pdf

2. Nuclear Regulatory Commission: NRC Needs to Improve Its Cost Estimates by Incorporating More Best Practices. GAO-15-98, December 12.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-98
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667500.pdf

3. Defense Infrastructure: Risk Assessment Needed to Identify If Foreign Encroachment Threatens Test and Training Ranges. GAO-15-149, December 16.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-149
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667551.pdf

4. Higher Education: State Funding Trends and Policies on Affordability. GAO-15-151, December 16.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-151
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667558.pdf
Podcast – http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/667387

5. Tax Filing Season: 2014 Performance Highlights the Need to Better Manage Taxpayer Service and Future Risks. GAO-15-163, December 16.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-163
Highlights –  http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667562.pdf

Utilities Face Significant Revenue Losses from Growth of Solar, Storage and Energy Efficiency, Accenture Research Shows

December 11, 2014 Comments off

Utilities Face Significant Revenue Losses from Growth of Solar, Storage and Energy Efficiency, Accenture Research Shows
Source: Accenture

Continued growth of distributed energy resources and energy efficiency measures could cause significant demand disruption and drive down utilities’ revenues by up to $48 billion a year in the United States and €61 billion a year in Europe by 2025, according to Accenture’s Digitally Enabled Grid research.

Accenture performed extensive modelling under three scenarios to assess how technologies, such as solar photovoltaics (PV), electricity storage, electrification of heating and transport, energy efficiency, energy conservation and demand response, would impact the grid network and utilities’ business models.

Additionally, as part of the research, Accenture conducted its second annual survey of global utilities executives and found that perceptions of the impact of these energy demand-disrupting technologies have shifted considerably in the last year. Utilities executives are notably more concerned about the impact of these technologies on future revenue streams, with 61 percent saying that they expect significant or moderate revenue reductions as a result of distributed generation, such as solar PV, compared to 43 percent last year.

EPA Delays Decision on 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard to 2015, CRS Insights (December 1, 2014)

December 11, 2014 Comments off

EPA Delays Decision on 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard to 2015, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in November 2014 that it will delay issuing a long-awaited final 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) until 2015. The RFS sets the annual minimum use requirements for biofuels in the nation’s transportation fuel supply. EPA is required by statute to announce the RFS for various categories of biofuels by November 30 of the preceding year, which for 2014 would have been November 30, 2013. The agency has missed such deadlines before, but not by such a wide margin (Table 1). In announcing the delay, the agency cited “significant comment and controversy” over its proposal for a reduction in biofuel use mandates for 2014.

At this date, EPA has also missed the November 30, 2014, deadline for issuing the 2015 RFS.

CBO — The Economic and Budgetary Effects of Producing Oil and Natural Gas From Shale

December 10, 2014 Comments off

The Economic and Budgetary Effects of Producing Oil and Natural Gas From Shale
Source: Congressional Budget Office

Recent advances in combining two drilling techniques, hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, have allowed access to large deposits of shale resources—that is, crude oil and natural gas trapped in shale and certain other dense rock formations. As a result, the cost of that “tight oil” and “shale gas” has become competitive with the cost of oil and gas extracted from other sources. Virtually nonexistent a decade ago, the development of shale resources has boomed in the United States, producing about 3.5 million barrels of tight oil per day and about 9.5 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of shale gas per year. Those amounts equal about 30 percent of U.S. production of liquid fuels (which include crude oil, biofuels, and natural gas liquids) and 40 percent of U.S. production of natural gas. Shale development has also affected the federal budget, chiefly by increasing tax revenues.

The production of tight oil and shale gas will continue to grow over the next 10 years—by about 30 percent and about 60 percent, respectively, according to a recent projection by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Another EIA estimate shows that the amount of tight oil and shale gas in the United States that could be extracted with today’s technology would satisfy domestic oil consumption at current rates for approximately 8 years and domestic gas consumption for 25.

Effect of Increased Levels of Liquefied Natural Gas Exports on U.S. Energy Markets

December 9, 2014 Comments off

Effect of Increased Levels of Liquefied Natural Gas Exports on U.S. Energy Markets (PDF)
Source: Energy Information Administration

This report responds to a May 29, 2014 request from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy (DOE/FE) for an update of the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) January 2012 study of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export scenarios. This updated study, like the prior one, is intended to serve as an input to be considered in the evaluation of applications to export LNG from the United States under Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act, which requires DOE to grant a permit to export domestically produced natural gas unless it finds that such action is not consistent with the public interest. Appendix A provides a copy of the DOE/FE request letter.

Do Gasoline Prices Affect Residential Property Values?

December 8, 2014 Comments off

Do Gasoline Prices Affect Residential Property Values?
Source: Brookings Institution

This paper estimates the effect of gasoline prices on home values and explores the degree to which the relationship varies across a city. Using data from 930,702 home sales in Clark County, Nevada, from 1976 through 2010, we find that gasoline prices have significantly different effects on the sales price of homes in different neighborhoods. A ten percent increase in gasoline prices is associated with changes in location-specific average home values that span a range of over $13,000. This suggests that energy policies may affect household housing wealth via gasoline prices, a heretofore unrecognized distributional outcome.

Canada — Wind Turbine Noise and Health Study

December 8, 2014 Comments off

Wind Turbine Noise and Health Study
Source: Health Canada

Health Canada, in collaboration with Statistics Canada and other external experts launched a multi-year research study in July 2012 to explore the relationship between exposure to sound levels produced from wind turbines and the extent of health effects reported by, and objectively measured in, those living near wind turbines.

The research design for the study was posted for a 60-day comment period to allow for public review and input. Feedback obtained through the consultation, as well as the responses provided by Health Canada officials, was compiled and posted on the Department’s website in alignment with transparent business practices.

Health Canada has released a summary of the results of the study. Results should only be considered final following peer review and publication in the scientific literature. The results of this study contribute to the body of peer-reviewed scientific research on wind turbine noise, but do not provide definitive answers on their own.

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