FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Barry Ritholtz for Bloomberg View:I never cease to be amazed how people with an agenda massage facts, or omit them, in order to support their cause.It comes up in the investing world, where these agendas often lead to money-losing decisions. Being able to detect this sort of nonsense is good over the long run for your investment portfolio.I was reminded of this recently when I read a report from the American Action Forum. The report says that just five year ago the market value of the four biggest coal companies was more than $35 billion. Since then, that has plunged 99 percent and some of the biggest producers have filed for bankruptcy.What is to blame for this stunning loss? The report sums it up in word: Regulation. The “War on Coal,” the report says, has imposed “$312 billion in costs and more than 30 million paperwork burden hours” on the industry.Such a nice, neat explanation. But there’s more to it than regulation designed mainly to limit how much pollution the industry spews into the air. Let’s take a closer look at what factors might be behind the demise of the coal companies:Cheap natural gas: Coal-fired plants have been the workhorses of U.S. electrical generation for the better part of a century. But many utilities are switching from coal to natural gas as an energy source. It isn’t only greener, it’s cheaper, partly because it costs less to move gas through a pipeline than it costs to transport coal by ship, rail or truck. Also helping to lower prices is the boom in fracking, which opened up vast new sources of natural gas.It now appears that natural gas overtook coal as the top U.S. power source last year. That trend is likely to accelerate: as of 2015, about 20 percent of the country’s coal-fired power plants were facing retirement. Expect those to be replaced or retrofitted to burn natural gas. This matters because the electric-power generation used 92.8 percent of the total U.S. coal supply as of 2014. Coal accounts for 29 percent of electrical generation.It obviously isn’t good for your business when your largest customers are abandoning your product for something cheaper.Debt: Peabody Coal, the nation’s largest coal producer with 19 percent of the market, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization earlier this year. The bankruptcy affects about $8.4 billion in loan and bond debt. It didn’t help that Peabody spent $5.1 billion for Australia’s MacArthur Coal in 2012 as coal prices plunged.Arch Coal, the No. 2 U.S. coal producer with 13.6 percent of the market, also filed for Chapter 11. The company had $4.5 billion in debt, most of which it ran up amid a series of ill-timed acquisitions in 2011, just before the price of coal collapsed.Other top coal producers that filed for bankruptcy include Patriot Coal, Alpha Coal, Walter Energy and James River Coal.Clean Energy: Coal is a dirty energy source. It fouls the air and leaves behind abandoned mines that double as hazardous waste sites that need to be cleaned up, often at taxpayer expense. These are what economists call externalities, meaning someone other than the coal companies bears the cost of the pollution they cause.So while much of the political rhetoric is aimed at White House plans for renewable energy, you may have missed where the action is: at the state level, where regulators are requiring the utilities they oversee to cut coal use.As Slate’s Dan Gross notes, 29 states have so-called renewable portfolio standards. These mandate a rising percentage of clean-energy use, and that usually means something other than coal. New state air-quality standards also rule out coal as an energy source for new or refurbished electrical-generation plants. Furthermore, nine states on the East Coast have started a regional greenhouse gas initiative to limit emissions. That means more natural gas and green energy, less coal.The decline of the American coal industry has been driven by many forces. Yes, the regulatory burden has increased, but it is hardly the main factor — and it’s well justified, based on the harm coal does to the environment and human health. The reality is that coal is the victim of competition from cheaper natural gas, from green-energy sources like solar and wind, and too much debt taken on to pay for costly and ill-timed acquisitions.Having an agenda only gets in the way of understanding this.Full item: Coal Isn’t Dying Because There’s a War on It On the Blogs: ‘Coal Isn’t Dying Because There’s a War on It’
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享KVUE (Austin):“Acknowledge. You don’t have to give it a political label. Science doesn’t care if you believe in it or not,” retired four-star Air Force general Ronald Keys said.Keys is now with a group called CNA that advises the United States military about energy and climate threats to homeland security. “If we are in fact going to start having more frequent and stronger storms, are we going to be caught up in this to the point that it starts to affect our military mission?” Keys told 9NEWS before delivering the keynote speech to the Farm Bureau in Colorado. Keys is on the CNA advisory board, made up of retired three-star and four-star generals and admirals. He said they are a non-profit group meant to be a middle man between policy makers and the military. CNA is no longer an acronym. It used to stand for the Center of Naval Analysis, but they dropped that acronym when they expanded their services.Keys says there is now enough convincing research, along with the recent rise in natural disasters across the country, to seriously consider the climate as a threat to national security.“That’s the danger that you have,” Keys said. “If you have mother nature, and something is happening, and then you have one of your adversaries over here going okay, now they’re busy, and they’re having some problems. We can make their problems worse.” “If I was really upset with the U.S. that would be a great time to do something,” Keys said. “If I were them, that would be the time, ‘I’d go okay, kick them in the shins now.’”Keys said that the government turns to the military to respond to natural disasters because it is a readymade force of manpower, that is trained and ready to respond quickly. Keys’ advice to the military is to restructure and retrain to prepare for the impact of more intense storms in the future. Keys has also voiced his concerns to the military about threats to America’s power grid. He says that having huge regional grids makes us vulnerable to natural disasters, as well as physical and cyber attacks from terrorists.“The fact that our grid is built in three parts, it’s east, west, and Texas,” he said. “They are connected at about nine critical points, and if you knew where they were at a classified level, and you could attack those, you could take down at least one, if not more of the regional grids. That’s a lot of people in the dark.” His solution is to expand renewable energy. He says that way, more of our power would be generated locally, instead of coming from big generation facilities down range.More: Why a military adviser says climate change is threat to homeland security The U.S. Military Case for Regional Renewable-Energy Grids
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Hill:The Supreme Court Monday declined to hear a [Murray Energy] appeal arguing that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must regularly report on the impact to coal jobs from its regulations.The rejection means that the previous ruling stands, in which the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that the EPA does not have to regularly produce the jobs reports.Murray Energy is headed by Bob Murray, an outspoken coal mogul and frequent litigant against the Obama EPA and others he has perceived as anti-coal, as well as a strong supporter of President Trump. The case started years ago, under the Obama administration, amid industry and Republican accusations that the administration was killing thousands of jobs with its environmental rules. Murray argued that the Clean Air Act gives the EPA a concrete, non-negotiable duty to frequently report on the estimated and actual impact its regulations have on employment in affected industries, like coal mining and utilities.Both the Obama and Trump administrations said Murray’s reading of the law was too inflexible and that the EPA’s existing analyses written as part of the regulatory process was sufficient. The Richmond-based Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit agreed and overturned [a lower court’s] ruling in 2017.More: http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/367898-supreme-court-rejects-case-over-epa-coal-jobs-reports Supreme Court Kills Murray Energy Suit Against EPA
FirstEnergy to close Bruce Mansfield coal plant two years early FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:The owner of the Bruce Mansfield coal-fired power plant in Beaver County, the largest in the state, said the facility will shutter in November, nearly two years ahead of an already truncated schedule.Bankrupt FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. blamed a “lack of economic viability in current market conditions” for the decision to close the remaining unit still operating at the plant. Two other units have been offline for a year and a half, following a January 2018 fire that damaged pollution control and other equipment.Last month, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 272 that represents 230 workers at Bruce Mansfield scored a victory against the company in federal court that could yield about $5.5 million in back wages. The union alleged that after contract negotiations resulted in an impasse, FirstEnergy Solutions unilaterally imposed working conditions.A spokesman for the company said last month that FirstEnergy Solutions would review the decision and that any payments would ultimately get hashed out in bankruptcy court. The company’s reorganization plan is slated to be heard by a bankruptcy judge this month, four months after the same judge called FirstEnergy’s earlier disclosures about the plan “patently unconfirmable.”“Deactivation activities” at Bruce Mansfield should be done by May 2020, FirstEnergy Solutions said in a press release Friday. “In all cases, the company will comply with its collective bargaining agreement, including severance as applicable, and have already initiated discussions with union leadership.”More: Bruce Mansfield to close in November, FirstEnergy Solutions says.
Fracking skeptics finally get their moment FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:It was just a year ago that Tom Loughrey tried pitching a fund to bet against shale producers.“I was basically kicked out of every office in New York City,” Loughrey said.In the months since, an exchange-traded fund that tracks oil drillers has lost half its value, shale production growth has slowed, funding has gotten scarce and more than two dozen companies have collapsed into bankruptcy.Things have changed for Loughrey, too. The 43-year-old former hedge fund manager no longer looks to invest the money himself. He ditched the fund and teamed with Michael Friezo, an ex-Credit Suisse Group investment banker who once gave him a job. They formed Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based Friezo Loughrey Oil Well Partners LLC, or FLOW, to advise others.Loughrey’s sweet spot is the gap between expectation and reality when it comes to drillers’ projections of what their wells will actually produce. He uses data number-crunched from state records and applies assumptions he says are more realistic than those offered by companies in investor presentations.As the shale boom decelerates, other data shops are selling similar services. They include Enverus, formerly known as Drillinginfo Inc., RS Energy and Rystad Energy.“Independent, unbiased analysis can shed a light of truth on management projections,” said Nick Volkmer, RS Energy’s vice president of intelligence. “It’s well-known that management teams are often compensated for production and reserves growth, incentivizing optimism and a rosy view of the future.”The warning that drillers routinely cram single-spaced on the first slide of a company presentation to investors is considered by the SEC sufficient enough that the next hour of line graphs and bullet points is essentially wishful thinking.Allowing producers to advertise oil and gas reserves that aren’t proved is meant “to enable companies to provide investors with more insight,” the SEC said in 2008.Companies are required by law to report well results to state regulators, but often that data is difficult to find and hard to aggregate. As Loughrey puts it: “It’s like a bunch of dusty old phone books.”That gives Loughrey an edge when it comes to analyzing oil producers.“They’re losing money every year,” Loughrey said. “There’s something wrong with this.”More: Shale Doubters Finally Get Their Moment as Revolution Falters
Eos Energy, Hecate sign deal for 1,000MWh of battery storage across Southwest U.S. FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):Eos Energy Storage LLC will supply more than 1,000 MWh of zinc-based energy storage systems over the next two years for installations in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, after it signed a preliminary agreement with developer Hecate Energy.The planned projects, including stand-alone battery systems and solar-plus-storage arrays, would expand Eos’ development pipeline to 3,000 MWh, pending anticipated purchase orders in the next six to nine months, according to a Nov. 4 announcement.Eos is working to complete a proposed merger with a special-purpose acquisition company backed by B. Riley Financial Inc. that would take it public on the Nasdaq and inject cash into the new company to facilitate its growth.For the last 18 months, Eos has been focused on scaling up operations and bringing its “low-cost, nontoxic, nonflammable” energy storage systems to the marketplace, CEO Joe Mastrangelo said in a statement, highlighting the inherent safety advantages of the company’s battery chemistry compared with lithium-ion batteries.With manufacturing outside of Pittsburgh, Pa., Eos has sought to reduce the cost and improve the power density of its aqueous zinc batteries while demonstrating their long-duration storage capabilities in the field. One recently funded project at Camp Pendleton, a U.S. Marine Corps base in San Diego County, Calif., is designed as a minimum 10-hour storage system, more than double the duration of most lithium-ion battery projects.Hecate, a private developer from Nashville, Tenn., did not disclose which projects may use Eos batteries. The company has more than 2,700 MW of planned solar and energy storage projects in the U.S., according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data.[Garrett Hering]More ($): Eos Energy Storage strikes deal to deploy zinc-based batteries across Southwest
Smoke Stack and the Foothill Fury Smokestack & The Foothill Fury, given name Jarod Yerkes, is a vagabond minstrel, a one-man band, traveling the country with his self-styled punk-country-blues. He summons in equal parts the spirits of Son House and Joe Strummer, belting his raspy baritone over a furious slide guitar and a snare/bass drum rhythm section that he plays with his feet. His debut is a 15-track, 45-minute blues explosion that is absolutely, unapologetically balls to the wall—sonic bursts of backwoods bravado.
A couple of months ago I wrote about a short hike in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in southwestern North Carolina. The area has so many good places to visit that I want to make sure you know about few more.A Soaring Observation DeckFrom the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest parking area, drive back to the first four-way intersection, turn left onto NC 1127, and ascend five miles to the Maple Springs Observation Area. A handicapped accessible platform juts into space, with a 180-degree vista of the Snowbird, Unicoi, Cheoah, and Great Smoky Mountains rising high above Santeetlah Lake shimmering in the foreground. Come here in early June for an explosion of pink and white mountain laurel blossoms.Camping, Fishing, Swimming, BoatingSanteetlah Lake is lined by 76 miles of mostly forested shoreline, with more than 50 primitive campsites and access for anglers to cast for smallmouth and largemouth bass, crappie, bream, and lake trout. A white sand beach is located at Cheoah Point Recreation as a protected place for the kids to swim, while several marinas rent boats of various shapes and sizes.A Mini Blue Ridge ParkwayThe Cherohala Skyway rises to more than 5,000 feet as it wiggles for 51 miles across the Unicoi Mountains from Robbinsville, North Carolina to Tellico Plains, Tennessee. Like the parkway, it has overlook pullouts to enjoy mountain crests and narrow valleys, and short trails to get on more intimate terms with the landscape. Two of my favorites are the 0.5-mile Wright Creek Trail along its namesake stream and the Hooper Bald Trail (less than one mile roundtrip) to an open summit punctuated by swaying Turk’s-cap lily plants. This is a great driving, motorcycling, and biking route. Just remember, there are no commercial establishments, so fill up with fuel, food, and water before heading out.Adjacent to the parkway are the many miles of the proposed Snowbird Wilderness, with the main route, the Big Snowbird Trail, providing access to several waterfalls.
Car camp on the New River Gorge National RiverDepending on your age, late August can be a time of joyful celebration, moderate melancholy, or abject terror. Parents rejoice, older kids resign to the fact they have to get back in the classroom, and younger kids – especially those entering a new school – are frightened to death of having an agenda each day and facing their peers following a summer where anything could have, and probably did, happen. But the dying days of summer also mean waking up to cool temperatures and not sizzling from noon to four everyday. Take advantage of these last fleeting moments by going on an adventure, albeit a mild one: car camping.If you are lucky enough to have not started school yet, now is the time to take your kids’ mind off the coming nine months of math, science, and social studies by exploring the great outdoors in style. Camping by car allows you to bring everything you could possibly need –and then some – without having to carry it all. Choose the right plot in the right location and you can spend the entire weekend hiking, biking, and swimming to your heart’s content. Think of it as a last ditch effort at summer camp for the whole family. If you have already started school, think of it as brief pause to absorb that first week’s worth of new knowledge. Either way, everybody wins.Head for the New River Gorge National River. This skinny piece of public land follows the New River in West Virginia from Bluestone Lake in the South to just past Fayetteville in the North. Pitch a tent on the river at Glade Creek Campground and fish for brook trout on Glade or smallmouth bass on the New. Bring your bike to explore the new Arrowhead Trail system just to the north or trek the more than 80 miles of hiking trails in the area. The Endless Wall trail parallels the some of the best climbing walls in West Virginia and is not to be missed.View Larger Map
On behalf of BRO… from Blue Ridge Outdoors on Vimeo.The newest member of the Blue Ridge Outdoors team, Travel Editor Jess Daddio, had a rough introduction to her new job: she traveled to Trail Days in Damascus to represent the magazine as part of the BRO Roadshow. A recent graduate of Emory and Henry College and a southwest Virginia native, she is intimately familiar with the region, so Saturday’s tragic accident during the Hikers Parade was especially heart-wrenching for her and for us. We are pulling for the victims involved and hope for a speedy recovery for all in what appears to be purely a combination of bad timing and bad luck. One thing we know for sure is that this supremely unfortunate accident will not stop Trail Days and will not stop anyone from attempting to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. The trail hiking community will rally around the victims, those involved, and those first responders who reacted quickly and bravely to ensure the damage to life was limited. Thank you to all who lent a hand.Below are some photos from the event both pre- and post- parade Jess sent from the field.