Thursday, April 08, 2010

Rust Belt Energy Report

Brian O'Neill (Post-Gazette) looks at Pittsburgh's rise as an energy hub. I didn't intend to blog about his article, but it fits in nicely with a few pieces of news that should interest Rust Belt folks. Both items come from the Houston Chronicle. The first concerns chatter about switching from coal to natural gas. That talk is heating up after the mining tragedy in West Virginia. Penn State Professor Frank Clemente offered up a few words of caution:

Recent calls to close highly productive coal power plants blithely ignore the problems associated with increasing our dependence on natural gas for power generation. With conventional natural gas production projected to decline more than 33 percent in the next decade, shale gas is the only significant viable source of new domestic gas production in the United States.

The size of the risky bet we would be making on highly questionable sources is staggering.

Clemente highlights the uncertainty clouding the future of the Marcellus Play. However, I found the analysis of the globalization of the natural gas market to be a silver lining. Global pricing for the commodity is expected to be linked to oil and on the rise. Demand will eventually eat up the supply glut and the natural gas option won't look so cheap. Which brings us back to coal ...

Of course, there are other alternatives to King Coal. Wind is one example and some surprising leaders in the industry are emerging:

The stats also confirm that Texas remains the nation's leader in wind power, with a total of more than 9,000 megawatts installed capacity -- though the Lone Star State is seeing new competition from Iowa, Indiana and other parts of the Midwest. In Iowa, 14.2 percent of the state-generated electricity is derived from wind. And Indiana added 905 megawatts of capacity last year -- a bigger 2009 addition than any other state except Texas (which installed 2,292 megawatts).

"Indiana is probably not the go-to state you think of (when it comes to wind power)," acknowledged Elizabeth Salerno, the director of analysis for AWEA. After all, the state had "almost no wind installations in the ground" two years ago. "They went from zero to 100 almost overnight," Salerno said.

I want to learn more about wind energy in Indiana from the perspective of workforce development. How did the state get up to speed so quickly?

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