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CRS — Keystone XL Pipeline: Overview and Recent Developments (April 1, 2015)

April 21, 2015 Comments off

Keystone XL Pipeline: Overview and Recent Developments (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would transport oil sands crude from Canada and shale oil produced in North Dakota and Montana to a market hub in Nebraska for further delivery to Gulf Coast refineries. The pipeline would consist of 875 miles of 36-inch pipe with the capacity to transport 830,000 barrels per day. Because it would cross the Canadian-U.S. border, Keystone XL requires a Presidential Permit from the State Department based on a determination that the pipeline would “serve the national interest.” To make its national interest determination (NID), the department considers potential effects on energy security; environmental and cultural resources; the economy; foreign policy, and other factors. Effects on environmental and cultural resources are determined by preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The NID process also provides for public comment and requires the State Department to consult with specific federal agencies.

Quadrennial Energy Review

April 21, 2015 Comments off

Quadrennial Energy Review
Source: U.S. Department of Energy

On January 9, 2014, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the administration to conduct a Quadrennial Energy Review (QER). As described in the President’s Climate Action Plan,this first-ever review focuses on energy infrastructure and identifies the threats, risks, and opportunities for U.S. energy and climate security, enabling the federal government to translate policy goals into a set of integrated actions.

The United States has one of the most advanced energy systems in the world, supplying the reliable, affordable, and increasingly clean power and fuels that underpin every facet of the Nation’s economy and way of life. The energy transmission, storage, and distribution infrastructure — defined here as the infrastructure that links energy supplies, energy carriers, or energy by-products to intermediate and end users — is large, complex, and interdependent. It includes approximately 2.6 million miles of interstate and intrastate pipelines; 414 natural gas storage facilities; 330 ports handling crude petroleum and refined petroleum products; and more than 140,000 miles of railways that handle crude petroleum, refined petroleum products, LNG and coal. The electrical component of the Nation’s TS&D infrastructure links more than 19,000 individual generators with a capacity of a megawatt or more (sited at over 7,000 operational power plants), with over 642,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and 6.3 million miles of distribution lines

The first installment of the QER examines how to modernize our nation’s energy infrastructure to promote economic competitiveness, energy security and environmental responsibility, and is focused on energy transmission, storage, and distribution (TS&D), the networks of pipelines, wires, storage, waterways, railroads, and other facilities that form the backbone of our energy system. The QER seeks to identify vulnerabilities in the system and proposes major policy recommendations and investments to replace, expand, and modernize infrastructure where appropriate.

Natural Gas Infrastructure: Implications of Increased Demand from the Electric Power Sector

April 14, 2015 Comments off

Natural Gas Infrastructure: Implications of Increased Demand from the Electric Power Sector (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Energy

The natural gas sector in the United States has been fundamentally transformed by technological advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing that have enabled the economic extraction of natural gas from shale formations. This breakthrough has, in turn, unlocked new, geographically diverse natural gas resources that are unprecedented in size.

The availability of abundant, low-cost natural gas has increased demand for natural gas from multiple end-use sectors. In the electric power sector, which is currently the largest consumer of natural gas in the United States, the record-low natural gas prices during the month of April 2012 drove generation from natural gas to virtually match that of coal. While coal has regained some of its market share because of gradually rising natural gas prices, the combination of favorable economics and the lower conventional air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with natural gas relative to other fossil fuels is likely to contribute to expanded use of natural gas in the electric power sector in the future.

However, increased use of natural gas in the electric power sector also presents some potential challenges. Unlike other fossil fuels, natural gas cannot typically be stored on-site and must be delivered as it is consumed. Because adequate natural gas infrastructure is a key component of electric system reliability in many regions, it is important to understand the implications of greater natural gas demand for the infrastructure required to deliver natural gas to end users, including electric generators.

The purpose of this study is to understand the potential infrastructure needs of the U.S. interstate natural gas pipeline transmission system under several future natural gas demand scenarios.

Over 61,000 U.S. Bridges Need Structural Repair, New Analysis of U.S. Department of Transportation Data Finds

April 2, 2015 Comments off

Over 61,000 U.S. Bridges Need Structural Repair, New Analysis of U.S. Department of Transportation Data Finds
Source: American Road & Transportation Builders Association

An analysis of the recently-released 2014 U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) National Bridge Inventory database finds good news and bad news when it comes to the most heavily traveled U.S. bridges. The good news is that there are over 2,000 fewer structurally deficient structures than there were in 2013. The bad news is that it means more than 61,000 structurally deficient bridges are still in need of significant repair. And it is a problem that hits close to home.

The analysis of the federal government data, conducted by American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black, shows cars, trucks and school buses cross the nation’s 61,064 structurally compromised bridges 215 million times every day. Not surprisingly, the most heavily traveled are on the Interstate Highway System, which carries the bulk of truck traffic and passenger vehicles.

The bridge problem could get a whole lot worse soon, Black warns. The federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is the source of 52 percent of highway and bridge capital investments made annually by state governments. The HTF has suffered five revenue shortfalls between 2008 and 2014, and has been bailed out with nearly $65 billion in revenues from the General Fund just to preserve existing investment levels. The latest extension of federal highway and transit funding through the HTF expires on May 31, absent congressional action. Nearly a dozen states so far have canceled or delayed road and bridge projects because of the continued uncertainty over the trust fund situation. ARTBA expects that number to increase as the deadline nears.

New TomTom data reveals rush hour traffic doubles journey times for commuters

April 1, 2015 Comments off

New TomTom data reveals rush hour traffic doubles journey times for commuters
Source: TomTom

TomTom (TOM2) today releases its annual Traffic Index highlighting the impact of traffic congestion in over 200 cities around the world. TomTom data reveals that traffic congestion nearly doubles journey times during the evening rush hour. In 2014, the average commuter spent an extra 100 hours a year travelling during the evening rush hour alone.

According to TomTom Traffic data, the evening rush hour is the most congested time of day. Nearly every city with the highest overall levels of congestion can expect to double their congestion level during the evening rush hour.

Commuters in Istanbul experience the worst traffic congestion overall, the evening rush hour is no exception. The average 30 minute drive in the city will take over an hour during evening rush hour, leading to an extra 125 hours wasted stuck in traffic every year. In Los Angeles, a 30 minute commute in the evening will take 54 minutes due to congestion, an extra 92 hours annually.

Developing Robust Strategies for Climate Change and Other Risks: A Water Utility Framework

March 30, 2015 Comments off

Developing Robust Strategies for Climate Change and Other Risks: A Water Utility Framework
Source: RAND Corporation

RAND researchers and collaborators present a comprehensive approach for water utilities to assess climate risks to their systems and evaluate adaptation strategies. The approach, based on Robust Decision Making, is demonstrated through pilot studies with two water utilities: Colorado Springs Utilities and New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

Safer Streets, Stronger Economies

March 30, 2015 Comments off

Safer Streets, Stronger Economies
Source: Smart Growth America

What do communities get for their investments in Complete Streets? In this study of 37 projects, Smart Growth America found that Complete Streets projects tended to improve safety for everyone, increased biking and walking, and showed a mix of increases and decreases in automobile traffic, depending in part on the project goal. Compared to conventional transportation projects, these projects were remarkably affordable, and were an inexpensive way to achieve transportation goals. In terms of economic returns, the limited data available suggests Complete Streets projects were related to broader economic gains like increased employment and higher property values.

These findings are based on data collected directly by local transportation and economic development agencies as reported to Smart Growth America’s National Complete Streets Coalition. The Coalition surveyed Complete Streets projects from across the country, and found 37 with transportation and/or economic data available from both before and after the project.

Safer Streets, Stronger Economies analyzes that data and explores the outcomes communities get for their investments in Complete Streets. In this tight budget climate, transportation staff and elected leaders want to get the most out of every dollar. This research shows Complete Streets projects can help them do just that.

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