Category Archives: Economy

“Heads Must Be Exploding in the Board Rooms”

In an update posted on September 18, 2019, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) discusses low natural gas prices now and going forward. They say, “With the news from IHS Markit that natural gas prices in the United States will drop below $2 MMBtu in 2020 and remain low through at least 2024, if not longer, heads must be exploding in the board rooms of oil and gas producers throughout the U.S. and Canada. The profit picture is now imploding. The ramifications run deep, far and wide. The mantra that more pipelines will rationalize the market has been upended. This view from the oil and gas industry never made sense. As IHS Markit makes clear, new pipeline capacity contributes to an oversupply of natural gas forcing down prices and profits.”

The IEEFA update is based on a new forecast from IKS Markit, a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions for the major industries and markets that drive economies worldwide. The update notes that:

  • New pipeline capacity contributes to an oversupply of natural gas forcing down prices and profits.
  • Smaller exploration and production companies, already suffering, are likely to continue to fail.
  • The oil and gas equipment and supply sector will worsen.
  • The global market remains oversupplied, with limited profit potential on the export side. Increased exports from the U.S. will deepen the oversupply.

In a September 18 article, OilPrice says, “While gas has become the primary source of electricity production, technological advancements are about to make fossil fuels more expensive and therefore uneconomic compared to renewables. The tipping point could come much sooner than certain utilities and investors are expecting, which could hit current investment plans for gas-fired power plants.”

Read the IHS Markit press release here, read the IEEFA update here, and read the OilPrice article here.

Despite the continuing predictions of the decreasing demand for fossil fuels and the explosive increase in both demand and capacity for renewables, Dominion continues its efforts to build the unnecessary Atlantic Coast Pipeline. On September 25, 2019, Maplight and the Huffington Post discussed “The $109 Million Lobbying Effort To Run A Pipeline Through National Treasures.”

Maplight says, “A trio of utility giants building a natural gas pipeline that would cut across the Appalachian Trail has spent more than $109 million lobbying federal lawmakers and officials since the $7.8 billion project was unveiled five years ago, according to a MapLight analysis. The controversial 600-mile-long project, which is being compared to the Dakota Access Pipeline because of its stiff opposition from Native and local communities, would bisect the fabled trail, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway and a pair of national forests. Appeals courts have thrown out seven separate permits for the project, with sentiment running so high that one judge wrote an opinion using a quote from The Lorax to blast the U.S. Forest Service for its failure ‘to speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.’ Despite the setbacks, the utilities have continued to press their case, hoping the rulings can be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court or Congress.”

On other words, Dominion is pushing hard to build a pipeline that industry analysts say is well on its way to being both unneeded and outmoded.

Witnesses Tell SCC Dominion Has Sufficient Pipeline Capacity

From the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance ABRA Update 239, August 1, 2019:

Two witnesses appearing before a July 30 Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) hearing on the proposed fuel factor for Dominion Energy to use in calculating future customer rates testified that the company has sufficient pipeline capacity to meet future energy demands.

Greg Lander, an energy consultant representing Appalachian Voices (an ABRA member), testified that Dominion “has sufficient pipeline capacity to serve its existing generation fleet. Further, because of the frequency, magnitude, and duration of the non-power plant deliveries under its existing pipeline contracts, I conclude that the Company has ample pipeline capacity to serve additional power generation load should that be necessary.” Mr. Lander’s analysis was echoed by Bernadette Johnson, a consultant retained by the SCC staff.

Mr. Lander’s filed testimony is available here. Ms. Johnson’s filed testimony is available here and here.

The SCC is expected to decide about Dominon’s fuel factor proposal in 2-3 weeks.

Corporate Demands for Renewable Energy

In the past week there have been multiple news stories on the continuing demand by corporations for renewable energy and the ongoing unwillingness of utility companies, with Dominion singled out in particular, to provide it.  Meanwhile, Dominion continues to insist the ACP is necessary to meet energy demands.  Given the frequent insistence by utility companies that gas is needed to provide reliable and consistent energy supply, the statement in the first article below is particularly noteworthy:  businesses consider renewables more stable and reliable than fossil fuels.

  • 7-20-19 Clean Technica. Speakers At DCD-San Francisco Ask, “Why Won’t Utility Companies Give Us The Renewable Energy We Want?” “At this year’s Data Center Dynamics conference in San Francisco, speaker after speaker took to the stage to lament how utility companies refuse to provide even the largest corporations with the renewable energy they want. Utility companies are accustomed to having things pretty much their own way. Their attitude is ‘It’s our electricity, damn it. We will decide how it is made, how it is distributed, and how much you will pay for it!’ The tech industry and its data centers want renewable energy for two reasons. First, there will be no need of data if a warming planet leads to the extinction of humans. Second, businesses crave predictability. Renewable energy power purchase agreements mean stable long term electricity costs with no fluctuations if a hurricane shuts down refineries in Houston (as happened last week) or Iran seizes a tanker in the Straits of Hormuz (as happened yesterday). …. The DCD – San Francisco panelists agreed that changes are coming — albeit slowly — in the utility business. But there’s one utility company — Dominion in Virginia — that has been particularly stubborn. The company is a strong proponent of the highly controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, which has drawn the ire of residents and businesses along its proposed route.”
  • 7-22-19 Virginia Mercury. Dominion Energy’s new programs are really about limiting choices. “[H]ere in Virginia, Dominion Energy expects to reduce carbon emissions less in the future than in the past, and it has no plan to produce 100% of its electricity from clean, renewable sources by 2050. For all the talk here of solar, Virginia still had one-seventh the amount of solar installed as North Carolina at the end of 2018 and no wind energy. Dominion has developed a few solar projects and new tariffs to serve tech companies and other large customers, but ordinary residents still lack meaningful choices. So this spring, Dominion decided to do something about that. The wrong thing, of course.”
  • 7-23-19 GreenTechMedia. The Battle for Virginia’s Corporate Renewables Market Heats Up.  ” Tensions are escalating in Virginia between Dominion Energy, rival electricity suppliers and the state’s growing list of big corporations demanding renewable power. Direct Energy and Calpine, two competitive service providers (CSPs) working in utility Dominion’s Virginia territory, alleged in separate motions filed Monday that Dominion has stopped processing their 100 percent renewable electricity enrollment requests for large customers in recent months. The two companies asked state regulators to swiftly intervene to restart enrollment. Virginia allows competitive service providers to offer 100 percent renewables to large customers as long as the regulated utility does not provide that option itself, which Dominion currently does not.”
  • 7-25-19. Bacon’s Rebellion. New Front In Dominion’s War Against Competition. “So to review the three fronts: 1) Dominion has cut off transfers of its customers to two competitive suppliers offering a renewable product and asserts to the SCC they are operating illegally, 2) continues to contest efforts by medium size retail customers to aggregate enough load to depart the monopoly, and 3) is working hard to offer a lower-priced alternative to those customer who already have enough load to leave. One question common to all of the cases is whether customers who choose to remain with Dominion, or who have no choice under the law, end up hit with additional costs because the others have left or because the large users will have this new, lower-cost rate alternative. That is the reason the SCC has cited for denying most petitions by retailers for aggregation of their load.”

Subsidies: More on Fossil Fuel than on Education

A June 15, 2019 article in Forbes discusses a new International Monetary Fund study showing that USD$5.2 trillion was spent globally on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017, an increase of a half-trillion dollars over 2015. The increase is despite nations worldwide committing to a reduction in carbon emissions and implementing renewable energy through the Paris Agreement, and despite renewable energy production becoming cheaper.

“The study includes the negative externalities caused by fossil fuels that society has to pay for, not reflected in their actual costs. In addition to direct transfers of government money to fossil fuel companies, this includes the indirect costs of pollution, such as healthcare costs and climate change adaptation. By including these numbers, the true cost of fossil fuel use to society is reflected.”

The article notes that “analysis of the inefficiency of fossil fuel subsidies is illustrated best by the United States’ own expenditure: the $649 billion the US spent on these subsidies in 2015 is more than the country’s defense budget and 10 times the federal spending for education. When read in conjunction with a recent study showing that up to 80% of the United States could in principle be powered by renewables, the amount spent on fossil fuel subsidies seems even more indefensible.”

Read the full article here.

Fracking Endgame

Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution, and Climate Chaos is a new report from Food and Water Watch. It focuses on three key industries that are both benefiting from and helping to drive the fracking boom in the US: “the petrochemical and plastics industries that use natural gas liquids as a key feedstock for their manufacturing; gas exporters building liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals to ship gas overseas; and natural gas-fired power plants.” The report discusses the expanding and “symbiotically profitable business alliance with the fracking industry”:

  • Proliferation of plastics plants to capitalize on fracking
  • Pushing natural gas exports to raise domestic prices
  • Wave of new fracked gas-fired power plants

The report’s covering letter from Food and Water Watch’s Executive Director, Wenonah Hauter, notes, “But perhaps most alarming was the mounting evidence of fracking’s impact on our climate. Natural gas, touted as a ‘bridge fuel’ to a clean energy future, was actually helping to tip the scales of climate stability past the point of no return. Fracked gas was found to be a climate killer.”

Gas Is Not A Bridge Fuel


A new report released by Oil Change International makes the case that gas is not a ‘bridge fuel’ to a safe climate. As the global climate crisis intensifies and gas production and consumption soars, it is clearer than ever that gas is not a climate solution. Leaking methane along the gas supply chain has been at the center of the debate around the climate impact of gas, but it’s far from the only issue at stake. There are five additional reasons why gas cannot form a bridge to a clean energy future, even if methane leakage is addressed.

Five key points from the report:

  • Gas Breaks the Carbon Budget
  • Coal-to-Gas Switching Doesn’t Cut It
  • Low-Cost Renewables Can Displace Coal and Gas
  • Gas Is Not Essential for Grid Reliability
  • New Gas Infrastructure Locks In Emissions

Read the announcement here.
Download the full report.
Download the 2-page summary.
Download key figures.

A recent article makes some of the same points:  5-30-19 Vox. More natural gas isn’t a “middle ground” — it’s a climate disaster.

And an article in Forbes emphasizes the increasingly high costs of fossil fuels compared to renewables:  5-28-19 Forbes. Renewable Energy Costs Take Another Tumble, Making Fossil Fuels Look More Expensive Than Ever.