The New York Times on how electrical cars are making money Matthew L. Wald reports on how a University of Delaware professor is testing the use of electrical cars in regulating the electricity grid, thus turning a profit for their owners: "A line of Mini Coopers, each attached to the regional power grid by a thick cable plugged in where a gasoline filler pipe used to be, no longer just draws energy. The power now flows two ways between the cars and the electric grid, as the cars inject and suck power in tiny jolts, and get paid for it. ... The market that Professor Kempton is tapping into, known as frequency regulation, has become increasingly important as the mix of generators on the grid has changed. If electric cars become more popular, proponents say that a network of thousands of plug-in cars could help stabilize the grid."
Grist on the fear of carbon trading After discussing recent questions facing the European Union's carbon-emissions trading scheme — prices for carbon credits are dropping — David Roberts argues that prices aren't exactly the point of carbon-trading programs. "The idiotic and ill-informed debate over cap-and-trade in the U.S. in 2009-2010 distorted how many Americans see carbon trading," he writes. "And as many recent media reports illustrate, people everywhere still have trouble grasping how such programs are supposed to work. But carbon markets remain a powerful tool, popular among policymakers, and they are slowly creeping their way across the globe. We are, admittedly, a long way off from a global carbon market, but that once-fanciful goal is at least visible on the horizon. So let’s chill out a little."
The Wall Street Journal on the North Sea's natural gas Advanced mining technology — and the higher cost of fossil fuel — renewed interested in the North Sea's stores of natural gas, write Geraldine Amile, Selina Williams, and Kjetil Malkenes Hovland. "North Sea oil and gas production has dropped by more than half since its peak of around 4.6 million barrels a day in 1999 as aging fields have become depleted," the triumvirate report. Norway's similar-size peak came five years later, but production has dropped almost 15% since then. But now, new technology, assisted by higher oil prices and modest tax incentives, is forecast to reverse that decline." For example: "Advanced seismic sensors on the sea floor, providing a clearer image of geological structures than previously possible, will enable Chevron Corp. and its partners to drill more-efficiently targeted wells."
The New York Times on fraudulent discrimination payments for farmers Sharon LaFraniere investigates the history of payments — many of them illegitimate — delivered to farmers who claimed to have been discriminated against by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "The compensation effort sprang from a desire to redress what the government and a federal judge agreed was a painful legacy of bias against African-Americans by the Agriculture Department," she writes. "But an examination by The New York Times shows that it became a runaway train, driven by racial politics, pressure from influential members of Congress and law firms that stand to gain more than $130 million in fees. In the past five years, it has grown to encompass a second group of African-Americans as well as Hispanic, female and Native American farmers. In all, more than 90,000 people have filed claims. The total cost could top $4.4 billion."
The Irish Times on the economics of shale gas in the United Kingdom Will fresh reserves of shale gas lower commodity prices in the United Kingdom, as they have in the United States? Mark Hennessy, discussing a newly published government report, says that experts are skeptical: "It is too early to say whether domestic production of shale gas could result in cheaper gas prices in the UK. It is unlikely that the US experience will be directly replicated in the UK because of differences in geology, public attitudes, regulations and technological uncertainties. Some of the claims made about the size of shale reserves are being 'pushed largely by those who for ideological or financial reasons do not wish lower carbon energy technologies to become the norm', said [members of Parliament]."