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How oil and gas firms gained influence and transformed North Dakota

July 23, 2014 Comments off

How oil and gas firms gained influence and transformed North Dakota
Source: Center for Public Integrity

Oil development has transformed this state to the point where it’s hard to find a place or person that hasn’t been touched by the boom. Energy companies have drilled more than 8,000 wells into western North Dakota’s rugged prairie since the beginning of 2010, quadrupling the state’s oil production. From July 2011 through June 2013, the state collected $4 billion in oil taxes, and is expecting a $1 billion surplus for the current biennium, not including an oil-funded sovereign wealth fund that will approach a balance of $3 billion. North Dakota is in the uncommon position of facing a labor shortage, spurring a state-run campaign to attract workers, paid for in part by Hess Corp.

In addition to the tax revenue they’ve brought, the oil companies have showered the state with additional money — new millions for universities, museums, hospitals and other charitable causes. They’ve also given hundreds of thousands to politicians, making the sector the largest single source of those contributions. The oil industry is the top contributor to Gov. Jack Dalrymple, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, and gave money in all but 10 of the 75 legislative races held in 2012.

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State of the World’s Forests 2014

July 23, 2014 Comments off

State of the World’s Forests 2014
Source: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations

Across the world, forests, trees on farms, and agroforestry systems play a crucial role in the livelihoods of rural people by providing employment, energy, nutritious foods and a wide range of other goods and ecosystem services. They have tremendous potential to contribute to sustainable development and to a greener economy. Yet, clear evidence of this has been lacking. This evidence is critical to inform policies on forest management and use, and to ensure that the benefits from forests are recognized in the post-2015 development agenda, not only with respect to the environment, but also for their contributions to broader social issues. This edition of State of the World’s Forests addresses this knowledge gap by systematically gathering and analysing available data on forests’ contributions to people’s livelihoods, food, health, shelter and energy needs. Crucially, the report also suggests how information might be improved and policies adjusted, so that the socioeconomic benefits from forests can be enhanced in the future.

Marine mammals trace anthropogenic structures at sea

July 22, 2014 Comments off

Marine mammals trace anthropogenic structures at sea
Source: Current Biology

On land, species from all trophic levels have adapted to fill vacant niches in environments heavily modified by humans (e.g. [1] ). In the marine environment, ocean infrastructure has led to artificial reefs, resulting in localized increases in fish and crustacean density [2] . Whether marine apex predators exhibit behavioural adaptations to utilise such a scattered potential resource is unknown. Using high resolution GPS data we show how infrastructure, including wind turbines and pipelines, shapes the movements of individuals from two seal species (Phoca vitulina and Halichoerus grypus). Using state-space models, we infer that these animals are using structures to forage. We highlight the ecological consequences of such behaviour, at a time of unprecedented developments in marine infrastructure.

See: Seals Are Drawn to Offshore Wind Farms (The Atlantic)

New From the GAO

July 15, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office

Report

1. Medicaid Payment: Comparisons of Selected Services under Fee-for-Service, Managed Care, and Private Insurance. GAO-14-533, July 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-533
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664783.pdf

Testimonies

1. VA Disability Claims Processing: Preliminary Observations on Accuracy Rates and Quality Assurance Activities, by Daniel Bertoni, director, education, workforce and income security issues, before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. GAO-14-731T, July 14.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-731T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664762.pdf

2. Helium Program: BLM’s Implementation of the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013, by Anne-Marie Fennell, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, House Committee on Natural Resources. GAO-14-751T, July 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-751T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664778.pdf

3. Federal Workforce: Human Capital Management Challenges and the Path to Reform, by Robert Goldenkoff, director, strategic issues, before the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and the Census, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-14-723T, July 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-723T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664773.pdf

New From the GAO

July 11, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office

Report

1. Security Force Assistance: The Army and Marine Corps Have Ongoing Efforts to Identify and Track Advisors, but the Army Needs a Plan to Capture Advising Experience. GAO-14-482, July 11.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-482
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664733.pdf

Testimony

1. Fusion Energy: Observations on DOE’s Cost and Schedule Estimates for U.S. Contributions to an International Experimental Reactor, by Frank Rusco, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Energy, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. GAO-14-750T, July 11.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-750T

EU spending on renewable energy needs improvements to enhance its contribution to policy goals, say EU Auditors

July 10, 2014 Comments off

EU spending on renewable energy needs improvements to enhance its contribution to policy goals, say EU Auditors
Source: European Court of Auditors

EU spending on renewable energy needs improvements to enhance its contribution to policy goals, say EU Auditors.

A report published today by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) reveals that improvements are needed if EU funding is to make the maximum possible contribution to achieving the 2020 renewable energy target. The EU auditors examined whether funds in that period had been allocated to well prioritised, cost-effective and mature renewable energy generation projects with rational objectives and to what extent these funds had achieved good results in contributing to the EU 2020 target for energy from renewable sources.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Interest in Connected-Home and Alternative Energy Solutions to Increase Six Fold, Accenture Research Shows

July 9, 2014 Comments off

Interest in Connected-Home and Alternative Energy Solutions to Increase Six Fold, Accenture Research Shows
Source: Accenture

More than half of global energy consumers would consider installing connected-home solutions or solar panels in the next five years, or purchasing an electric vehicle in the next 10 years, according to a new survey by Accenture (NYSE: ACN).

Interest in connected-home products and services such as energy management and other monitoring and control solutions is projected to rise from seven percent to 57 percent in the next five years, due to the expectation that they will help reduce energy bills, increase comfort and convenience, and enable remote control of home devices.

Customer interest in solar panel installations is expected to increase six fold in the next five years, driven predominantly by a desire for energy independence, but also by the availability of subsidies and the ability to reduce environmental footprint.

New From the GAO

July 8, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Littoral Combat Ship: Deployment of USS Freedom Revealed Risks in Implementing Operational Concepts and Uncertain Costs. GAO-14-447, July 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-447
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664669.pdf

2. Bulk Fuel Pricing: DOD Needs to Reevaluate Its Approach to Better Manage the Effect of Market Fluctuations. GAO-14-595, July 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-595
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664651.pdf

3. Electronic Health Records: Fiscal Year 2013 Expenditure Plan Lacks Key Information Needed to Inform Future Funding Decisions. GAO-14-609, July 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-609
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664646.pdf

4. Software Licenses: DOD’s Plan to Collect Inventory Data Meets Statutory Requirements. GAO-14-625, July 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-625
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664664.pdf

5. Afghanistan: Kabul Embassy Construction Costs Have Increased and Schedules Have Been Extended. GAO-14-661R, July 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-661R

Country Analysis Brief: India

July 4, 2014 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief:  India
Source: Energy Information Administration

India was the fourth-largest energy consumer in the world after China, the United States, and Russia in 2011, and its need for energy supply continues to climb as a result of the country’s dynamic economic growth and modernization over the past several years. India’s economy has grown at an average annual rate of approximately 7% since 2000, and it proved relatively resilient following the 2008 global financial crisis.

The latest slowdown in growth of emerging market countries and higher inflation levels, combined with domestic supply and infrastructure constraints, have reduced India’s annual inflation-adjusted gross domestic product (GDP) growth from a high of 10.3% in 2010 to 4.4% in 2013, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). India was the third-largest economy in the world in 2013, as measured on a purchasing power parity basis. Risks to economic growth in India include high debt levels, infrastructure deficiencies, delays in structural reforms, and political polarization between the country’s two largest political parties, the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Energy markets are reshaping the global geopolitical landscape and increasing interdependencies among nations, according to Deloitte report

July 2, 2014 Comments off

Energy markets are reshaping the global geopolitical landscape and increasing interdependencies among nations, according to Deloitte report
Source: Deloitte

The ripple effects of the North American energy boom from major importer to soon-to-be exporter are being felt across the Middle East, Russia, and China. This trend will result in new sources of supply, increase competition, reshape the global geopolitical landscape, and create greater interdependencies among nations, according to the Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL) 2014 Oil and Gas Reality Check report.

The report focuses on expansion and contraction on a number of fronts: the waxing and waning of dominance among suppliers; the progression into globalization from regionalization in energy markets; the growing shares of some fuels and the declining roles of others in the global energy mix; and, the opening and closing of borders in response to geopolitical concerns.

New From the GAO

July 2, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Climate Change Adaptation: DOD Can Improve Infrastructure Planning and Processes to Better Account for Potential Impacts. GAO-14-446, May 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-446
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663733.pdf

2. Prescription Drugs: Comparison of DOD, Medicaid, and Medicare Part D Retail Reimbursement Prices. GAO-14-578, June 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-578
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664522.pdf

3. Nuclear Security: NNSA Should Establish a Clear Vision and Path Forward for Its Security Program. GAO-14-208,May 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-208
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663746.pdf

A Realistic View of CNG Vehicles in the U.S.

June 30, 2014 Comments off

A Realistic View of CNG Vehicles in the U.S.
Source: Boston Consulting Group

As U.S. natural-gas prices have fallen and supplies have increased in recent years, compressed-natural-gas (CNG) vehicles are garnering renewed attention. Major automakers, such as Ford and General Motors, have announced plans for a half-dozen different vehicle models powered by CNG. Cummins Westport is introducing a full range of medium- and heavy-duty engines that run on either compressed or liquefied natural gas. Clean Energy Fuels, backed by longtime natural-gas proponent T. Boone Pickens, has opened almost 500 CNG truck-refueling stations as part of its America’s Natural Gas Highway network. Companies that operate large vehicle fleets have also embraced CNG. Waste Management, for example, has said it plans to convert most of its refuse trucks to run on CNG.

Many of the benefits of CNG, however, have not lived up to the publicity. While the market is growing, CNG vehicles are not the revolutionary transportation solution that they often are portrayed to be. Instead, they are likely to emerge as an important and growing niche market that addresses specific needs of particular industries.

From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean

June 30, 2014 Comments off

From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean (PDF)
Source: Global Ocean Commission
From Report Summary (PDF):

The compelling evidence of ocean decline, in the high seas and as a result of high seas resource extraction, has fired our conscience and concern. The Commission was determined to identify solutions that will directly and effectively put us on track to shifting from a vicious cycle of decline to a virtuous cycle of high seas recovery. Our drive to turn things round – our imagination and our commitment – has been fired by good and sometimes inspiring examples of sustainable and even rejuvenating practice. We are confident about and encouraged by the availability of viable solutions stemming from the huge advances in marine science and understanding; the growing awareness and engagement of global citizens in ocean issues; and the new focus on the ocean within the global climate change and UN post-2015 global development debates. We believe that the opportunity and time to address the threats facing the global ocean is now.

In the following pages we set out our proposals for reversing the cycle of decline. The eight proposals provide a carefully targeted rescue package for the high seas. The proposals form a coherent whole. They specifically address the weaknesses in governance, the lack of equity and sustainability regarding the use of high seas resources, and the new and emerging pressures that need to be pre-empted before undue harm is caused. In each case, we have seen what works and have been inspired by it.

There are clear economic incentives for both the public and private sectors to take their responsibilities in the high seas more seriously. Without stronger governance and regulation, uncertainty will continue to pervade ocean-related industries and reduce profits. Without globally agreed standards and guidelines in the emerging sectors such as offshore oil and gas and deep sea mineral extraction, the risks and liabilities will be hard to assess and control. Most of all, without urgent global action to prevent climate change, and efforts to build resilience against its impacts, the cost to the global economy will rise exponentially. We can continue to lay cables and ship containers across a dead ocean, but without paying attention to sustaining the life within it, we put our own lives and those of every living thing in peril.

CBO — The Renewable Fuel Standard: Issues for 2014 and Beyond

June 30, 2014 Comments off

The Renewable Fuel Standard: Issues for 2014 and Beyond
Source: Congressional Budget Office

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) establishes minimum volumes of various types of renewable fuels that must be included in the United States’ supply of fuel for transportation. Those volumes—as defined by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA)—are intended to grow each year through 2022 (see the figure below). In recent years, the requirements of the RFS have been met largely by blending gasoline with ethanol made from cornstarch. In the future, EISA requires the use of increasingly large amounts of “advanced biofuels,” which include diesel made from biomass (such as soybean oil or animal fat), ethanol made from sugarcane, and cellulosic biofuels (made from converting the cellulose in plant materials into fuel).

In this analysis, CBO evaluates how much the supply of various types of renewable fuels would have to increase over the next several years to comply with the RFS. CBO also examines how food prices, fuel prices, and emissions would vary in an illustrative year, 2017, under three scenarios for the Renewable Fuel Standard…

The Energy Boom and Manufacturing in the United States

June 30, 2014 Comments off

The Energy Boom and Manufacturing in the United States
Source: Federal Reserve Board

This paper examines the response of U.S. manufacturers to changes in competitiveness brought about by movements in the price of natural gas. I estimate the response of various measures of manufacturing activity using panel regression methods across roughly 80 industries that allow each industry’s response to vary with its energy intensity. These estimates suggest that the fall in the price of natural gas since 2006 is associated with a 2 to 3 percent increase in activity for the entire manufacturing sector, with much larger effects of 30 percent or more for the most energy intensive industries.

Country Analysis Brief: Venezuela

June 25, 2014 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Venezuela
Source: Energy Information Administration

Venezuela is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of crude oil. It has consistently been one of the largest exporters of crude oil in the Americas. As a founding member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Venezuela is an important player in the global oil market. While production has been declining, Venezuela exports of crude oil to the United States have been among the top. In recent years, through significant upfront investment, an increasing share of Venezuela’s exports have been delivered to China and India.

Take Care in the Kitchen: Avoiding Cooking-Related Pollutants

June 25, 2014 Comments off

Take Care in the Kitchen: Avoiding Cooking-Related Pollutants
Source: Environmental Health Perspectives

Carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and particulate matter (PM) are harmful air pollutants that pose significant short- and long-term health risks. Emitted from coal-fired power plants, vehicle exhaust pipes, and other combustion sources, they’re among six primary pollutants monitored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the Clean Air Act. These same pollutants are also some of the most common contributors to unhealthy air inside U.S. homes, due in part to a ubiquitous and possibly surprising activity: cooking.

Researchers now understand that the process of cooking food and even simply operating stoves—particularly gas appliances—can emit a cocktail of potentially hazardous chemicals and compounds. Within our homes, these pollutants are less diluted than they are outdoors, and in the absence of proper ventilation, they often are trapped inside. The World Health Organization has established general guidelines for indoor air quality and is currently developing specific limits related to burning solid fuels for cooking and heating. However, indoor air in nonindustrial buildings is not regulated by the EPA or any other U.S. agency.

New From the GAO

June 23, 2014 Comments off

New From the GAO
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. DOD Financial Management: The Defense Finance and Accounting Service Needs to Fully Implement Financial Improvements for Contract Pay. GAO-14-10, June 23.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-10
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664319.pdf

2. Telecommunications: USDA Should Evaluate the Performance of the Rural Broadband Loan Program. GAO-14-471,May 22.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-471
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663577.pdf

3. Medicaid: Financial Characteristics of Approved Applicants and Methods Used to Reduce Assets to Qualify for Nursing Home Coverage. GAO-14-473, May 22.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-473
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663416.pdf

4. Advanced Reactor Research: DOE Supports Multiple Technologies, but Actions Needed to Ensure a Prototype Is Built. GAO-14-545, June 23.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-545
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664297.pdf

5. VA Spina Bifida Program: Outreach to Key Stakeholders and Written Guidance for Claims Audit Follow-up Activities Needed. GAO-14-564, June 23.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-564
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664304.pdf

6. Debt Management: Floating Rate Notes Can Help Treasury Meet Borrowing Goals, but Additional Actions Are Needed to Help Manage Risk. GAO-14-535, June 16.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-535
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664107.pdf

Related Product

Debt Management: Survey of Investors in Treasury Securities (GAO-14-562SP, June 16, 2014), an E-supplement to GAO-14-535. GAO-14-562SP, June 16.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-562SP

International Development of Unconventional Resources: If, Where and How Fast?

June 19, 2014 Comments off

International Development of Unconventional Resources: If, Where and How Fast?
Source: Accenture

Unconventional resources—specifically shale gas, tight gas, shale oil and tight oil—have revolutionized the energy landscape in the United States, using new technologies such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to access previously unavailable reserves. America’s success with unconventional resources has prompted many to consider whether other countries that show similar promise will also be successful in developing their unconventional resources—and if so, where and how fast.

2012 Economic Census Industry Series Reports – Pipeline Transportation

June 19, 2014 Comments off

2012 Economic Census Industry Series Reports – Pipeline Transportation
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Today the U.S. Census Bureau released additional data from the 2012 Economic Census Industry Series reports, including new data for the transportation sector on pipeline transportation.

This data series publishes national statistics for detailed industries as well as information on the product lines sold by or services provided by businesses. The economic census is conducted every five years and provides a comprehensive and detailed profile of the U.S. economy, covering millions of businesses representing more than 1,000 industries and providing unique portraits of American industries and local communities.

These new data showed that:

  • The pipeline transportation of crude oil industry had an almost 70 percent increase in employment from 2007 to 2012, going from more than 6,500 employees to more than 11,100 employees.
  • The pipeline transportation of refined petroleum products industry had more than a 28 percent increase in average annual payroll per employee from 2007 to 2012, going from $79,000 per employee to more than $100,000 per employee.
  • Pipeline transportation of crude oil makes up 23 percent of total pipeline employment versus 65 percent for natural gas and 12 percent for other refined products.
  • Pipeline transportation of crude oil makes up 18 percent of total pipeline revenue versus 63 percent for natural gas and 19 percent for other refined products.
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