“Obama Floats Offering First-Ever Drilling Lease in Atlantic” – AP, 27 January 2015

President Obama has introduced a plan that would allow drilling in parts of the Atlantic Coast, while simultaneously putting an end to any drilling in certain areas in Alaska.

The administration’s proposal concentrates on Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, and will sell areas 50 miles off the states’ coasts to oil companies beginning in 2021. Oil companies have been denied access to these areas in the Atlantic Ocean for years, particularly since drilling in those areas was banned in 2008. Additionally, the proposal includes leases for regions in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska coast. Leases will be sold between 2017 and 2022.

Many politicians cited the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as a reason not to move forward with the proposal, which remains the biggest oil spill of its kind in the US. Since then, regulations on offshore drilling have not improved; Congress has yet to adopt new laws that would make drilling safer. Many believe that drilling in these regions is a misguided way of developing energy — and acquiring energy independence — in the US.

However, politicians in the Southeastern states are backing Obama’s plan, asserting that the new venture will boost the economy by creating jobs and encouraging investments. Currently, the US is experiencing a flood in oil, which has caused oil and gas prices to significantly drop.

Areas chosen to be leased and sold are subject to change. Oil generation from offshore drilling supplies 16 percent of the US’s oil. In order to find oil and gas deposits under the ocean, firms will have to run seismic imaging surveys; a process that can take years, the firms attach seismic air guns to their boats that they will drag for miles on the ocean surface. The guns then radiate air and sound, which assists in mapping 2D and 3D images of the ocean floor.

(From Associated Press)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 28, 2015

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“Alcoa Maintains Aerospace Push With Opening Of New Aluminum-Lithium Alloy Manufacturing Facility” – Forbes, 8 October 2014

Alcoa has now firmly established itself as a manufacturer of not only aluminum, but various lightweight metals as well.

After opening a nickel-based alloy engine part manufacturing facility in Indiana; investing in a Virginia facility that will generate nickel-based alloy jet engine blades; and recently signing a deal with jet engine parts manufacturer Firth Rixson to produce parts that use nickel, titanium, and aluminum-lithium alloys, Alcoa has now opened another Indiana-based facility that will manufacture aluminum-lithium alloy parts for the aerospace industry.

Alcoa chose to shift its focus because it doesn’t want to solely rely upon aluminum, since the aluminum market has been struggling with weak demand and overcapacity. While it looks like the aluminum market is picking up again, China’s growing aluminum production and growing exports of semi-manufactured products is now stunting the market. Alcoa has chosen to diversify by concentrating on alloys, which are cheaper, improve fuel efficiency, and curb maintenance fees. Overall, a better option for the aerospace industry, instead of titanium and composites.

Alcoa is ramping up its investments in lightweight metals and alloys: the company has contracted $100 million in aluminum-lithium manufacturing for 2017. For 2014, Alcoa has predicted an eight to nine percent growth in its aerospace sector. Alcoa is banking on the aerospace industry continuing to grow, and indeed it is. The demand for regional jets will increase by 13.2 percent in 2014, while the large commercial jet sector will increase by 12.1 percent in 2014.

Moving into the aerospace industry is a smart step for the aluminum mogul. In 2014, the company made a $4 billion profit from the industry, or 17 percent of Alcoa’s entire revenue for that year. Now that aerospace is set to grow, Alcoa is set to grow with it.

More about Alcoa:
After 125 years, Alcoa looks beyond aluminum
Alcoa, Novelis face new competition as aluminum gains in auto segment
Alcoa & Boeing Form Aluminum Recycling Program
Alcoa Posts a Jump in Net Profit

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

October 8, 2014

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The “War Of Words On Coal” Continues

Yesterday, the EPA presented new rules for power plants emissions, called the Clean Power Plan proposal. These rules are a small part of Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which he is pursuing through executive action. The four building blocks of the EPA’s proposal are:

    • Cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels;
    • Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
    • Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days-providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and
    • Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.

(via EPA)

According to the EPA, carbon dioxide emissions from US power plants have decreased by 13 percent since 2005. While different states will be given different emissions quotas, 30 percent is the US’s nationwide goal. States have up to three years to draft plans to meet their goals. Initial compliance plans are due June 30, 2016, but some states will be allotted a one-year extension. States that form multi-state plans will be allotted a two-year extension. If a state decides not to formulate a plan, then the EPA will write one for the state.

The EPA will present a number of options that will help the states meet target goals, such as helping power plants to become more efficient and spending more on sources of renewable energy. Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Virginia, and West Virginia have already passed laws that permit their environmental agencies to create unique carbon-emission plans. Louisiana and Ohio are also following suit.

Conservatives have been battling Obama’s climate regulations for months. As the 2014 midterm elections loom right around the corner, conservatives and their industry allies will do anything they can to stir the political pot and anger voters. Voters in states like Kentucky and West Virginia are the determining factor in whether or not the Democrats retain the Senate majority. Many Democrats who are openly against the new rules represent coal-producing states, such as West Virginia Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall—96 percent of his state’s power comes from coal.

The coal industry contends that the new rules will have negative repercussions on the economy, including major damage to coal and manufacturing jobs, increased household electricity costs, and a rising number of brown-outs during extreme heat or cold. The US Chamber of Commerce—opponents of the new regulations—contend that the Clean Power Plan proposal will result in a loss of almost a quarter-million jobs through 2030, will force power plants across the US to shut down, and will inflict $50 billion in yearly costs.

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The US depends on coal for 40 percent of its electricity; however, 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions originate from electricity, and within that percentage, coal-fired power plants make up 80% of those emissions. Overall, coal-fired power plants expel 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

While conservatives, and some liberals, see the proposed regulations as an attack on the coal industry, Obama sees it as way to not only clean up our environment, but also as a way to avert a national health crisis. Current climate law is dictated by the decades-old Clean Air Act, which regulates pollutants like soot, mercury, lead, arsenic, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides, but not carbon pollution.

The EPA will permit comment on the Clean Power Plan proposal for 120 days after it is published in the Federal Register, and will also conduct public hearings in Denver, Atlanta, Washington DC, and Pittsburgh during the week of July 28. The EPA’s proposed rules won’t be finalized until next year.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

June 2, 2014

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“Former coal miner testifies in favor of EPA carbon regs” – Politico, 6 February 2014

We never thought we’d hear a former coal miner publicly speak out in favor of EPA carbon regulations, but last week, Virginian and fourth-generation former underground coal miner Nick Mullins, did.

President Obama and the EPA have introduced the Climate Action Plan, which aims to tackle climate change. One element of the plan is to establish carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants. On February 6, the EPA held a public hearing, which allowed for an open and transparent public comment process on the proposal to limit power plants’ carbon pollution.

Not only did Mullins state that the coal industry exploits its workers and reinforces the cyclical poverty often found in coal states, but that coal mining is also dirtying our water and clean air for current and future generations. The EPA’s carbon pollution limitations would promote energy efficiency, while permitting us to efficiently save our stores of coal, oil and natural gas.

There are many sides of every story. In our highly polarized and political world—where “vocal minority” voices, though often fought, are always heard—it is always refreshing to witness the “silent majority” speak quietly, yet effectively.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

February 10, 2014

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