Business & Technology


Transmission constraints derail solar project

Amid all the hope and hype about the nascent solar boom under way in California, there’s long been an elephant in the room — transmission. Billions and billions of dollars must be spent to build and upgrade transmission lines to connect dozens of proposed solar power plants to the grid. Now that elephant has rolled over and squashed one project’s use of innovative solar technology. Last year, California utility PG&E signed a deal with NRG Energy, a New Jersey-based electricity provider, to buy power from a 92-megawatt solar farm called the Alpine SunTower to be built near the desert town …

A Walk Through the Week's Climate News

The Climate Post: Nothing shaking on Barton’s ‘shakedown’ street

First things first: Congressional investigators have released material documenting troubles at the Deepwater Horizon site before it failed–and a culture of cost-cutting at BP that elevated catastrophic risk. Five days before the April 20 explosion, a BP engineer called it a “nightmare well which [sic] has everyone all over the place.” A detailed letter to BP chief executive Tony Hayward from two House Democrats details five missteps the company took when rushing to complete the Macondo well, including choosing a well design that has too few impediments to gas flow. Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) letter can …

Contains: hope (you'll need a microscope to find it)

Republican infighting overshadows the Tony Hayward show

CSPANBP America CEO Tony McGaffeypants Hayward made his first appearance before Congress today, facing questions from the House Energy and Commerce Committee. What did it accomplish? What new information did it unearth? Ha, ha. Maybe you haven’t seen a Congressional hearing before. Hayward had little to say beyond a chorus of “I don’t know”s in response to questions about drilling practices, the Deepwater Horizon explosion, and the company’s inept response to the Gulf leak. “I cannot recall … I am not prepared to draw conclusions about this accident,” he said. Hayward’s lack of candor ticked off committee chairman Henry Waxman …

Taking Stock of BP

As happens with stock charts, this one is likely to be out of date even before I get this post published.  But here’s Google Finance’s chart comparing the stock price of British Petroleum (in red), an energy-stock index fund (in blue) and an S&P 500 index fund (in yellow). Since the oil spill in the Gulf in late April, BP’s stock has tanked.  Meanwhile, the broader stock market has inched downward; and the energy mutual fund, dominated by big oil and gas companies, has done only a wee bit worse than the broader market. But remember, BP (in red) is …

Resource cursed

Oil spill underscores need for Gulf-area economies to diversify

In the best of times, the three states most directly affected by the Gulf oil disaster have pretty fragile economies. Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi all rank among the bottom ten U.S. states in per-capita income. Obviously, the ever-growing oil spill isn’t just wreaking ecological havoc. It also threatens severe economic damage. The commercial fishing and tourism industries, two linchpins of the regional economy, are obvious potential casualties. The third is the very industry that brought on the mess in the first place: deepwater oil drilling. If you live near the Gulf, you don’t have to be an oil-stained pol like …

BP: Belittling People

BP chairman ‘cares about the small people.’ WTF?

BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg must still be learning the finer points of crisis relations — here’s his explanation (before the White House press corps) of why President Obama is so frustrated with his company: [He's] frustrated because he cares about the small people. And we care about the small people. I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don’t care. But that is not the case indeed. We care about the small people.” Sir, you are an idiot. How out of touch does an executive have to be to let something like this slip out in …

EVs on aisle 4

Swiss supermarkets to offer Think electric cars

Think CityPhoto: Think“Honey, could you run down to the store and pick up some milk, tofu, and one of those new Think City electric cars?” That’s a request you could be hearing soon in Switzerland (in French, German, Italian, or Romansh, of course) now that Norwegian electric automaker Think has struck a deal with Swiss retailer Migros to market the City. Sort of a cooperatively owned Costco, Migros is Switzerland’s largest supermarket chain and operates more than 600 stores across the country. In a deal announced Wednesday, Migros will sell the battery-powered Think urban runabout through a new division called …

Mad (oyster farming) men

PR lessons from a 1960 oil trade group [VIDEO]

The oil drilling and oyster industries both extract things from coastal waters, so it’s no surprise they’ve been interacting for decades. Here’s a cheesy 1960 video from the American Petroleum Institute that gives a fun look into that relationship, and the industry-funded science that keeps it humming: I don’t know the full background, but Louisiana oyster harvesters claimed that offshore drilling was sickening oysters. The API responded with $2 million worth of research into oyster health — they pumped oil into a tank of oysters, poured in drilling mud, even measured the effect of dynamite charges on oysters. “Every possibility …

don't pray with fire

BP relief ship struck by lightning, bum luck

Photo: MReece via FlickrNot even the Big Guy can saviour BP’s luck.There have been many, many striking things about the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico: the carelessness of BP CEO Tony Hayward’s comments, the ridiculousness of BP’s spill-response plan, the scope and scale of the spill itself, the list of failed attempts to plug the leak whose names sound like they were made up by a seven year-old. And now, perhaps most striking (ahem) of all, comes news that the only functioning, albeit imperfect, solution for containing the runaway oil — the ship siphoning off about 15,000 barrels …

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