EU4C. 2015–2021 Field Trip to a Power Plant

cover for gss book Energy Use

Staying current for Chapter 4

Articles from 2015–2021

Stay current index page for chapter 4

{ Energy Use Contents }

2021-12-18. Is nuclear energy green? France and Germany lead opposing camps. By Rick Noack, The Washington Post. Excerpt: The French government wants to build reactors. The German government wants to shut them down. …“For the first time in decades,” Macron said in the televised speech, France “will relaunch the construction of nuclear reactors.” Fessenheim had just begun to come to terms with the closure of its nuclear plant last year, in what the government had said was a “first step” in a “rebalancing” of energy sources. But while Macron remains committed to increasing investments in wind and solar energy, and to putting an end to the burning of coal, his remarks in November confirmed that France isn’t giving up on nuclear technology, its primary source of energy. …The new German economy and climate minister, Green party member Robert Habeck, was among the politicians who signed a statement celebrating the closure of the Fessenheim plant. The German government has argued that nuclear plants are too risky, and too slow and costly to build, to be a solution to the climate crisis. Germany’s outlook is influenced by nuclear accidents, such as the 2011 Fukushima meltdown in Japan. And Berlin points to reports like one this past week, of cracks in the pipes at a French nuclear reactor, as evidence that plant safety remains a problem. …Germany emits about twice as much carbon dioxide per capita as France does. When it phases out its last nuclear power plants next year, it will be forced to rely on coal and other polluting energy sources to fill much of the gap for years — which helps explain why the country continues to raze villages to make way for coal mines. …Environmental activists in Germany acknowledge that continued reliance on coal is a problem even in the medium term. But they are optimistic about how quickly the country can ramp up alternative energy.… []

2021-11-10. Nuclear Is Hot, for the Moment. By Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic. Excerpt: The United States, Russia, and France now describe the once-neglected technology as a key part of their decarbonization plans.… []

2021-11-02. ‘A rather beautiful concept’: Plan aims to replace Asia’s coal plants with renewable energy. Dennis Normile, Science Magazine. Excerpt: …developing countries in Asia have been on a coal plant building spree. On Wednesday, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will unveil an initiative intended to reverse that trend. A new fund, to be launched at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, U.K., will help retire coal plants in the region and replace them with solar and wind power installations. …ADB is initially targeting Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. All three countries have increased reliance on coal-fired power in recent years and have additional plants in the pipeline. Indonesia, for example, commissioned 2.4 gigawatts of new coal-fired power in 2019 and 1.3 GW in 2020, and has another 22 GW of capacity in planning, according to an April report by the Global Energy Monitor. Replacing those coal plants with renewables sooner rather than later would not only be good for the environment, but economical as well, says Christoph Nedopil, a development economist at Fudan University. But one obstacle, he says, will be finding the capital to buy out coal plant operators and invest in solar and wind power capacity.… []

2021-10-28. China Hurries to Burn More Coal, Putting Climate Goals at Risk. By Keith Bradsher, The New York Times. Excerpt: Faced with electricity shortages, the country is racing to expand mining despite risks to the environment, miner safety and the economy.… []

2020-11-04. Several U.S. utilities back out of deal to build novel nuclear power plant. By Adrian Cho, Science Magazine. Excerpt: …Plans to build an innovative new nuclear power plant—and thus revitalize the struggling U.S. nuclear industry—have taken a hit as in recent weeks: Eight of the 36 public utilities that had signed on to help build the plant have backed out of the deal. The withdrawals come just months after the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), which intends to buy the plant containing 12 small modular reactors from NuScale Power, announced that completion of the project would be delayed by 3 years to 2030. It also estimates the cost would climb from $4.2 billion to $6.1 billion. …critics of the project say the developments underscore that the plant, which is designed by NuScale Power and would be built at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Idaho National Laboratory, will be untenably expensive…. [

2020-09-29. Can China, the world’s biggest coal consumer, become carbon neutral by 2060? By Dennis Normile, Science | AAAS. Excerpt: China’s surprise pledge last week to cut its net carbon emissions to zero within 40 years has reignited hopes of limiting global climate change to tolerable levels. The country is the world’s largest producer of carbon dioxide (CO2), accounting for 28% of global emissions, and its move may inspire other countries to follow suit. But observers warn that China faces daunting challenges in reaching its goals. Kicking its coal habit will be particularly hard. “We aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060,” Chinese President Xi Jinping told the United Nations General Assembly via a video link on 22 September. …the new targets “won’t likely let us to stop at 1.5° Celsius [of global warming],” the preferred target set in the 2015 Paris agreement. “But below 2° might still be consistent with [Xi’s] announcement.” China’s commitment also “ratchets up pressure on other major emitters” to set more ambitious targets “while further isolating the Trump administration in its climate myopia,” Vance Wagner of Energy Foundation China wrote in a piece published online by the nonprofit China Dialogue. …China has not yet revealed details of how it will do this. But a research group at Tsinghua University presented a $15 trillion, 30-year road map on 27 September that calls for ending the use of coal for electricity generation around 2050, dramatically increasing nuclear and renewable power generation, and relying on electricity for 80% of China’s energy consumption by 2060…. []  See also New York Times article How Coal-Loving Australia Became the Leader in Rooftop Solar.
2020-06-11. As Energy Prices Tumble, Developing Countries Trim Subsidies. By Clifford Krauss, The New York Times. Excerpt: The coronavirus pandemic has sent economies into recession and reduced government revenue, so some countries are taking a politically perilous path: removing restraints on electricity and petroleum prices. Nigeria and Tunisia have lowered fuel subsidies in recent weeks, and India has raised taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel. Sudanese officials plan to replace some subsidies with direct cash payments to the poor. Venezuela, where the economy was collapsing before the pandemic, has partly reversed decades of gasoline subsidies. And the state-owned electric utility in Dubai is seeking to raise rates for the first time in a generation. In contrast to the recent past, elected leaders are facing little political blowback for taking away subsidies and raising taxes. That’s because the prices of oil, natural gas and other fuels have collapsed in recent months. In addition, driving, flying and industrial activity have dropped off sharply…. []  

2020-06-04. Arctic fuel spill prompts Russia’s Putin to declare emergency and slam slow response. By Isabelle Khurshudyan, The Washington Post. Excerpt: MOSCOW — A major fuel spill in Siberia has prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to declare a state of emergency in an environmentally sensitive Arctic region after publicly scolding local authorities for what he said was a botched response. A fuel tank at a power plant ruptured Friday in Norilsk — above the Arctic Circle in north-central Russia — leaking at least 20,000 tons of diesel fuel into the nearby Ambarnaya River. Satellite images showed large swaths of the waterway contaminated from the spill…. [

2020-05-20. U.S. Department of Energy rushes to build advanced new nuclear reactors. By Adrian Cho, Science Magazine. Excerpt: In the latest effort to revive the United States’s flagging nuclear industry, the Department of Energy (DOE) aims to select and help build two new prototype nuclear reactors within 7 years, the agency announced last week []. The reactors would be the centerpiece of DOE’s new Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, which will receive $230 million this fiscal year. Each would be built as a 50-50 collaboration with an industrial partner and ultimately could receive up to $4 billion in funding from DOE. …But even some proponents of nuclear power doubt the program will spur construction of new commercial reactors as long as natural gas and renewable energy remain relatively cheap. “New builds can’t compete with renewables,” says Robert Rosner, a physicist at the University of Chicago. “Certainly not now.” Commercial nuclear reactors supply 20% of the United States’s electrical power and 50% of its carbon-free energy. However, the U.S. nuclear industry has struggled for decades. Its fleet now comprises 96 reactors, down from 113 in the early 1990s. More reactors are slated to close and the nuclear industry’s share of the electricity supply is expected to start to fall. In spite of that dreary picture, engineers have continued to develop designs for advance reactors they say would be safer and more efficient…. [

2020-05-13. In a First, Renewable Energy Is Poised to Eclipse Coal in U.S. By Brad Plumer, The New York Times. Excerpt: The United States is on track to produce more electricity this year from renewable power than from coal for the first time on record, new government projections show, a transformation partly driven by the coronavirus pandemic, with profound implications in the fight against climate change. It is a milestone that seemed all but unthinkable a decade ago, when coal was so dominant that it provided nearly half the nation’s electricity. …powerful economic forces that have led electric utilities to retire hundreds of aging coal plants since 2010 and run their remaining plants less frequently. The cost of building large wind farms has declined more than 40 percent in that time, while solar costs have dropped more than 80 percent. …As factories, retailers, restaurants and office buildings have shut down nationwide to slow the spread of the coronavirus, demand for electricity has fallen sharply. And, because coal plants often cost more to operate than gas plants or renewables, many utilities are cutting back on coal power first in response. …The decline of coal has major consequences for climate change. Coal is the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, and its decline has already helped drive down United States carbon dioxide emissions 15 percent since 2005. This year, the agency expects America’s emissions to fall by another 11 percent, the largest drop in at least 70 years. While the pandemic has made these projections uncertain, the decline is expected to come partly because Americans aren’t driving as much, but mainly because coal plants are running less often…. []

2020-03-21. Coming to a Country Near You: A Russian Nuclear Power Plant. By Ivan Nechepurenko and Andrew Higgins, The New York Times. Excerpt: the location of Belarus’s first nuclear power plant — an area of pristine farmland just 40 miles from the capital of neighboring Lithuania — points to calculations that go beyond just kilowatts. …..The facility’s two reactors, set to go into operation soon, will produce far more electricity than Belarus can consume and lie far away from industrial areas eager for cheap power on the other side of the country. …The plant was built by Rosatom, a state-owned Russian nuclear conglomerate, and financed with a $10 billion credit line from Moscow. …Russia’s success — it has sold more nuclear technology abroad since Mr. Putin came to power in 1999 than the United States, France, China, South Korea and Japan combined, according to a recent study — is in part commercial, generating lucrative contracts in Europe, Asia and even Africa to sustain Rosatom’s more than 250,000 engineers, researchers, salespeople and other employees…. [

2020-03-17. New Evidence Shows How COVID-19 Has Affected Global Air Pollution. By Jacinta Bowler, Science Alert. Excerpt: The COVID-19 pandemic is getting more overwhelming by the day, with increasing lockdowns, a death toll of more than 7,000 people across the world, and a direct hit to the global economy. But if there’s a sliver of good news, it’s about how the spread of the new coronavirus has been decreasing air pollution, and possibly even saving lives in the process. …”Given the huge amount of evidence that breathing dirty air contributes heavily to premature mortality, a natural – if admittedly strange – question is whether the lives saved from this reduction in pollution caused by economic disruption from COVID-19 exceeds the death toll from the virus itself,” Burke writes…. [

2019-11-04. E.P.A. Weakens Rules Governing Toxic Water Pollution From Coal Plants. By Lisa Friedman, The New York Times. [] Excerpt: WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Monday moved to weaken an Obama-era regulation aimed at limiting the seepage of toxic pollution into water supplies from the ash of coal burning power plants, a change that coal industry leaders say could keep plants open longer and which environmental groups fear will increase the risk of water contamination…. 

2019-10-17. Northeast ‘Bomb Cyclone’: Powerful Winds Knock Out Power to 500,000. By Ellen Barry, The New York Times. [] Excerpt: BOSTON — Utility poles snapped, cruise ships sought shelter, boats broke from their moorings, trees were uprooted, and more than 500,000 customers in New England were without power at times on Thursday as a storm packing winds gusting  to 90 miles an hour swept up the East Coast. Meteorologists described the storm as a “bomb cyclone,” sometimes known as a “winter hurricane,” which occurs when atmospheric pressure drops especially dramatically — by 24 millibars in 24 hours. A bomb cyclone can happen when a mass of warm air meets with a mass of cold air, and the air starts to move, with the rotation of the earth creating a cyclonic effect. …The highest winds, of 90 miles an hour, were recorded early Thursday in Provincetown, Mass., and gusts of 70 and 80 miles an hour buffeted parts of Cape Cod…. 

2019-02-21. Smaller, safer, cheaper: One company aims to reinvent the nuclear reactor and save a warming planet. By Adrian Cho, Science Magazine. Excerpt: CORVALLIS, OREGON—To a world facing the existential threat of global warming, nuclear power would appear to be a lifeline. Advocates say nuclear reactors, compact and able to deliver steady, carbon-free power, are ideal replacements for fossil fuels and a way to slash greenhouse gas emissions. However, in most of the world, the nuclear industry is in retreat. The public continues to distrust it, especially after three reactors melted down in a 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. Nations also continue to dither over what to do with radioactive reactor waste. Most important, with new reactors costing $7 billion or more, the nuclear industry struggles to compete with cheaper forms of energy, such as natural gas….Globally, nuclear power supplies just 11% of electrical power, down from a high of 17.6% in 1996. Jose Reyes, a nuclear engineer and cofounder of NuScale Power, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, says he and his colleagues can revive nuclear by thinking small. Reyes and NuScale’s 350 employees have designed a small modular reactor (SMR) that would take up 1% of the space of a conventional reactor. Whereas a typical commercial reactor cranks out a gigawatt of power, each NuScale SMR would generate just 60 megawatts. For about $3 billion, NuScale would stack up to 12 SMRs side by side, like beer cans in a six-pack, to form a power plant. …To make their reactors safer, NuScale engineers have simplified them, eliminating pumps, valves, and other moving parts while adding safeguards in a design they say would be virtually impervious to meltdown. To make their reactors cheaper, the engineers plan to fabricate them whole in a factory instead of assembling them at a construction site, cutting costs enough to compete with other forms of energy….

2019-01-24. How Does Your State Make Electricity? By Nadja Popovich, The New York Times. [] Excerpt: America isn’t making electricity the way it did two decades ago: Natural gas has edged out coal as the country’s leading generation source …and renewables like wind and solar have made small yet speedy gains. But, each state has its own story. …Overall, fossil fuels still dominate electricity generation in the United States. But the shift from coal to natural gas has helped to lower carbon dioxide emissions and other pollution. Last year, coal was the main source of electricity generation for 18 states, down from 32 states in 2001….  [has diagrams of energy mix for each state]

2019-01-07. For Wales, Nuclear Plant Would Mean New Jobs. For the U.K., It May Mean More.By Stanley Reed, The New York Times. [] Excerpt: CEMAES, Wales — …a huge construction project is underway. …Archaeologists are sifting through dirt to document stony dwellings dating from 100 B.C. A technical school is welcoming apprentices eager to learn how to maneuver in high-tech control rooms and operate water-cooling systems. The activity is all tied to a plan by Horizon Nuclear Power to turn this rugged outpost into the home of a plant that could be critical not just to the company, but to the Welsh economy and Britain’s energy future. Horizon, a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Hitachi, is in private talks with the British government over how and when it might build a nuclear plant here at the northern tip of Wales. …Others in northern Wales herald the economic benefit the potentially enormous investment could have. They see the Horizon plant, which is expected to produce enough electricity for 5.5 million homes, as a vehicle for rebirth. The British government, eager for reliable, low-carbon energy to replace aging coal plants and nuclear reactors, has been encouraging….

2018-12-28. New E.P.A. Plan Could Free Coal Plants to Release More Mercury Into the Air. By Lisa Friedman, The New York Times. [] Excerpt: WASHINGTON — The Trump administration proposed on Friday major changes to the way the federal government calculates the benefits, in human health and safety, of restricting mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants. In the proposal, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a finding declaring that federal rules imposed on mercury by the Obama administration are too costly to justify. It drastically changed the formula the government uses in its required cost-benefit analysis of the regulation by taking into account only certain effects that can be measured in dollars, while ignoring or playing down other health benefits….

2018-11-24. The World Needs to Quit Coal. Why Is It So Hard? By Somini Sengupta, The New York Times. [] Excerpt: …Home to half the world’s population, Asia accounts for three-fourths of global coal consumption today. More important, it accounts for more than three-fourths of coal plants that are either under construction or in the planning stages — a whopping 1,200 of them, according to Urgewald, a German advocacy group that tracks coal development. Heffa Schücking, who heads Urgewald, called those plants “an assault on the Paris [agreement] goals.” Indonesia is digging more coal. Vietnam is clearing ground for new coal-fired power plants. Japan, reeling from 2011 nuclear plant disaster, has resurrected coal. The world’s juggernaut, though, is China. The country consumes half the world’s coal. More than 4.3 million Chinese are employed in the country’s coal mines. China has added 40 percent of the world’s coal capacity since 2002, a huge increase for just 16 years. …The economics, and the political calculus, are very different in the world’s biggest democracy: India, population 1.3 billion. Ajay Mishra, the career civil servant in charge of energy in the central Indian state of Telangana, knows firsthand. Five years ago, he said, daily power cuts cursed his state. …Telangana now has round-the-clock electricity. Its farmers get it free to pump water. It sweetens the re-election bid of Telangana’s top elected official, K. Chandrashekar Rao, in state polls later this year. “We have coal,” Mr. Mishra said. “We are producing more every year. For the next 100 years we have it.”…  

2018-08-26. The Nuclear Power Plant of the Future May Be Floating Near Russia. By Andrew E. Kramer, The New York Times. [] Excerpt: Offshore reactors could be cheaper, safer and more flexible, proponents say, making them a useful weapon against climate change. Critics are incredulous. …Along the shore of Kola Bay in the far northwest of Russia lie bases for the country’s nuclear submarines and icebreakers. …Here, Russia is conducting an experiment with nuclear power, one that backers say is a leading-edge feat of engineering but that critics call reckless. …Tied to a wharf in the city of Murmansk, the Akademik Lomonosov …facility, made of two miniature reactors of a type used previously on submarines, is for now the only one of its kind. …Moscow, while leading the trend, is far from alone in seeing potential in floating nuclear plants. …Proponents say they are cheaper, greener and, perhaps counterintuitively, safer. They envision a future when nuclear power stations bob off the coasts of major cities around the world. …smaller reactors effectively placed on floats can be assembled more quickly, be put in a wider range of locations and respond more nimbly to fluctuating supply on power grids that increasingly rely on wind and solar. ..China wants to build 20 floating nuclear plants, the first of which will start within two years. A French company has designed a reactor called Flexblue that would not float but rather be submerged on the ocean floor. But some environmental groups — even those open to a role for nuclear power as a substitute for traditional power plants — are skeptical. …Critics worry that during a tsunami, the 21,000-ton steel structure might not ride out the wave. In a worst-case scenario, they say, it would instead be torn from its moorings and sent barreling inland, plowing through buildings until it landed, steaming and dented and with two active reactors on board, well away from its source of coolant….

2018-05-22. Closing coal, oil power plants leads to healthier babies. By Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley News. Excerpt: Shuttering coal- and oil-fired power plants lowers the rate of preterm births in neighboring communities and improves fertility, according to two new University of California, Berkeley, studies. The researchers compared preterm births and fertility before and after eight power plants in California closed between 2001 and 2011, including San Francisco’s Hunters Point plant in 2006. Overall, the percentage of preterm births – babies born before 37 weeks of gestation – dropped from 7 percent in a year-long period before plant closure to 5.1 percent for the year after shutdown. Rates for non-Hispanic African-American and Asian women dropped even more: from 14.4 percent to 11.3 percent. …The 20-25 percent drop in preterm birthrates is larger than expected, but consistent with other studies linking birth problems to air pollution around power plants, said UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow Joan Casey, the lead author of a study to be published May 22 in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Another paper published May 2 in the journal Environmental Health used similar data and found that fertility – the number of live births per 1,000 women – increased around coal and oil power plants after closure….

2018-04-26. Second-largest earthquake in modern South Korean history tied to geothermal plant. By Paul Voosen, Science. Excerpt: There’s a lot to like about geothermal power. Even in regions devoid of natural hot spots, engineers can harvest energy by injecting high-pressure water deep into Earth, where it’s heated by hot granite crust before being pumped back up to heat homes or generate power. That was the goal in Pohang, South Korea, where a $38 million pilot plant sought to bring the carbon-free power source to the country. But that plant, it now appears, brought something else: a large, damaging earthquake. The magnitude-5.5 Pohang earthquake, the second largest in the country’s modern history, struck the densely populated region on 15 November 2017, injuring 90 people and causing $52 million in damage. It crumbled walls, cracked roads, and collapsed old buildings. And, according to two studies published today in Science, it is likely the largest earthquake ever to be triggered by enhanced geothermal power….

2018-04-13. Diablo Canyon’s dismantling. By David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: A nuclear power plant doesn’t just shut down. It gets taken apart piece by piece, until almost nothing remains. The process requires billions of dollars, hundreds of workers and more than a decade to complete. It’s a fate Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is now planning for California’s last nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon, set to close in 2025. Every step must be carefully scripted. Fuel rods full of uranium pellets are pulled from the reactor, cooled in pools of water laced with boric acid, then transferred to giant concrete casks. Deep in the heart of the plant, metal components made radioactive by decades of use must be disassembled or carved into chunks — often by remote-controlled tools. The hazardous scrap gets hauled to four specially designed landfills scattered across the country, with some machinery buried in concrete sarcophagi. …It’s a process likely to be repeated often in the coming years as more nuclear plant operators decide to shut down their facilities, which have been undercut by cheap electricity from natural gas plants….

2018-01-15. Huge Oil Spill Spreads in East China Sea, Stirring Environmental Fears. By Gerry Mullany, The New York Times. Excerpt: HONG KONG — An oil spill from an Iranian tanker that sank in the East China Sea is rapidly spreading, officials said Tuesday, alarming environmentalists about the threat to sea and bird life in the waterway. The tanker, the Sanchi, was carrying 136,000 tons of highly flammable fuel oil when it crashed into a freighter on Jan. 6. On Sunday, the Sanchi sank after a huge blast sent up a great plume of black smoke and set the surface of the water on fire, China Central Television said. …The oil slicks from the sunken tanker were growing in size, China’s State Oceanic Administration said Tuesday. There are now two huge slicks covering 52 square miles, compared with just four square miles the previous day. Strong winds were pushing the spill toward Japan, away from China, and it was now less than 200 miles from Naha, Japan….

2017-12-21. Georgia, Facing ‘Difficult Dilemma,’ Keeps Nuclear Project Alive. By Brad Plumer, The New York Times. Excerpt: Utility regulators in Georgia unanimously approved plans on Thursday to continue building the only two nuclear reactors still under construction in the United States, despite years of delays and multibillion-dollar cost overruns that have plagued the project….

2017-07-01. As Beijing Joins Climate Fight, Chinese Companies Build Coal Plants. By Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times. Excerpt: When China halted plans for more than 100 new coal-fired power plants this year, even as President Trump vowed to “bring back coal” in America, the contrast seemed to confirm Beijing’s new role as a leader in the fight against climate change. But new data on the world’s biggest developers of coal-fired power plants paints a very different picture: China’s energy companies will make up nearly half of the new coal generation expected to go online in the next decade. These Chinese corporations are building or planning to build more than 700 new coal plants at home and around the world, some in countries that today burn little or no coal, according to tallies compiled by Urgewald, an environmental group based in Berlin. Many of the plants are in China, but by capacity, roughly a fifth of these new coal power stations are in other countries….

2017-05-26. Coal Country’s Power Plants Are Turning Away From Coal. By Diane Cardwell and Clifford Krauss, The New York Times. Excerpt: Coal is on the defensive in the nation’s power industry. Even in coal country. The pressure to shift more of the country’s electric supply to renewable sources is not just a rallying cry for environmentalists. Some of the power industry’s biggest customers, like General Motors and Microsoft, have made a commitment to clean energy. And to help them meet it — and keep them from taking their business elsewhere — utilities are changing their ways. West Virginia, where coal is king, is no exception. Appalachian Power, the leading utility there, is quickly shifting toward natural gas and renewable sources like wind and solar, even as President Trump calls for a coal renaissance. Appalachian Power still burns plenty of coal, but in recent years it has closed three coal-fired plants and converted two others to gas, reducing its dependence on coal to 61 percent last year, down from 74 percent in 2012. …It’s the same story in Virginia, where Dominion, a leading utility based in Richmond — near where commercial coal mining got its start — designed a special rate to make it easier for Amazon Web Services and similar customers to buy renewable energy. …And in Wyoming, the nation’s leading coal producer by far, Black Hills Energy worked with Microsoft to create a complex arrangement for the technology giant to get enough wind energy to fulfill current and future needs at Microsoft’s data center in Cheyenne. “I’ve not spoken to a single utility that’s truly holding on to a future of more coal,” said Brian Janous, who directs energy strategy at Microsoft. “They’re looking to attract, as in the Appalachian case, new customers, and those customers aren’t attracted by coal.”…

2017-05-17. The fight to rethink (and reinvent) nuclear power. By Vox and the Climate Lab of the University of California. Video #5 in a series: New nuclear energy technology has come a long way – but can we get over our fears?….

2017-04-05. Coal Is on the Way Out at Electric Utilities, No Matter What Trump Says. By Coral Davenport, The New York Times. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — In Page, Ariz., the operators of the Navajo Generating Station… have announced plans to close it by 2019. The electric utility Dayton Power & Light will shut two coal plants in southern Ohio by next year. Across the country, at least six other coal-fired power plants have shut since November, and nearly 40 more are to close in the next four years. President Trump campaigned on a pledge to restore the limping American coal industry, vowing to bring jobs and production back to a sector that has been on a steady decline for over a decade. But to do that, he would have to revive demand for coal by electric utilities, which for decades have been the largest consumer of the heavily polluting fuel. Nearly all the coal mined in the United States generates electricity. On March 28, Mr. Trump headed to the Environmental Protection Agency, where, flanked by coal miners and coal company executives, he signed an executive order directing the agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, to begin rolling back a set of regulations on coal-fired power plant pollution that made up the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate change legacy. …“For us, it really doesn’t change anything,” said Jeff Burleson, vice president of system planning at Southern Company, an Atlanta-based utility that provides electricity to 44 million people across the Southeast, of the prospective rollback of the Clean Power Plan. “Whatever happens in the near term in the current administration doesn’t affect our long-term planning for future generation,” he said. As do most electric utilities, Southern Company plans its investment on a 50-year horizon, the expected life span of a new power plant. Its planners do not see coal as economically viable in that time frame. With or without the Clean Power Plan, power companies say, coal is simply no longer the fuel of choice for keeping the lights on in America — and they do not expect it to make a comeback. Cheaper natural gas and renewable sources like wind and solar power have replaced it….

2017-03-09. Radioactive Boars in Fukushima Thwart Residents’ Plans to Return Home. By Kimiko de Freitas-Tamura, The New York Times.  Excerpt: …Hundreds of toxic wild boars have been roaming across northern Japan, where the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant six years ago forced thousands of residents to desert their homes, pets and livestock. …As Japan prepares to lift some evacuation orders on four towns within the more than 12-mile exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant later this month, officials are struggling to clear out the contaminated boars. Wild boar meat is a delicacy in northern Japan, but animals slaughtered since the disaster are too contaminated to eat. According to tests conducted by the Japanese government, some of the boars have shown levels of radioactive element cesium-137 that are 300 times higher than safety standards. …And in a government survey last year, more than half of Fukushima’s former residents said they wouldn’t return, citing fears over radiation and the safety of the nuclear plant, which will take 40 years to dismantle…. See also Struggling With Japan’s Nuclear Waste, Six Years After Disaster by Motoko Rich.

2017-02-07. Offshore Wind Moves Into Energy’s Mainstream. By Stanley Reed, The New York Times. Excerpt: LIVERPOOL, England …Off this venerable British port city, a Danish company, Dong Energy, is installing 32 turbines that stretch 600 feet high. …It is precisely the size, both of the projects and the profits they can bring, that has grabbed the attention of financial institutions, money managers and private equity funds, …. As the technology has improved and demand for renewable energy has risen, costs have fallen. …Offshore wind has several advantages over land-based renewable energy, whether wind or solar. Turbines can be deployed at sea with fewer complaints than on land, where they are often condemned as eyesores. But the technology had been expensive and heavily dependent on government subsidies, leaving investors wary. That is now changing. Turbines today are bigger, produce much more electricity and are deployed on much larger sites than in the past. The result is more clean power and extra revenue. The number of major players has also expanded, creating more competition. A joint venture of Vestas, the Danish turbine maker, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan, is now competing with Siemens, which had long dominated the market for building offshore turbines. Others, like the American giant General Electric and Chinese manufacturers, are also jumping into the game….

2017-01-21. Off Long Island, Wind Power Tests the Waters. By Diane Cardwell, The New York Times. Excerpt: Only a few years ago, the long-held dream of harnessing the strong, steady gusts off the Atlantic coast to make electricity seemed destined to remain just that. …Now the industry is poised to take off, just as the American political landscape and energy policy itself face perhaps the greatest uncertainty in a generation. Last fall, five turbines in the waters of Rhode Island — the country’s first offshore farm — began delivering power to the grid. …Last year in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, signed into law a mandate that is pushing development forward. And in New York, after years of stymied progress, the Long Island Power Authority has reached an agreement with Deepwater Wind, which built the Rhode Island turbine array, to drop a much larger farm — 15 turbines capable of running 50,000 average homes — into the ocean about 35 miles from Montauk. If approved by the utility board on Wednesday, the $1 billion installation could become the first of several in a 256-square-mile parcel, with room for as many as 200 turbines, that Deepwater is leasing from the federal government….

2017-01-17. On Climate Change, Even States in Forefront Are Falling Short. By Eduardo Porter, The New York Times. Excerpt: …for all the pluck of the Golden State’s politicians, California is far from providing the leadership needed in the battle against climate change. Distracted by the competing objective of shuttering nuclear plants that still produce over a fifth of its zero-carbon power, the state risks failing the main environmental challenge of our time. …even a state like New York still has work to do. An analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers argued that to ensure that the global temperature does not rise more than 3.6 degrees above its preindustrial average, which world leaders have agreed is the tolerable limit, the carbon intensity of the global economy must decline 6.3 percent per year between now and 2030. The United States must decarbonize at an annual rate of 4.3 percent under that timetable. But over the last decade and a half, only North Dakota and the District of Columbia have achieved this pace. New York is decarbonizing at about 3 percent per year, California at barely above 2 percent. …Nuclear energy cannot compete with natural gas at current prices, of course. But its woes aren’t just about economics. Incorporating the climate costs imposed by fossil fuels would sharply increase the cost of gas generation. But rather than level the playing field, policy makers mostly squeeze nuclear generation further. There’s a reason for that: Alarmed by the prospect of nuclear meltdowns and the potential damage to ecosystems and human health, voters remain decidedly against nuclear reactors. Still, if combating climate change is an imperative, nuclear power and its risks must get a more careful assessment. Climate change will be hard to stop without it….

2016-12-14. America’s First Offshore Wind Farm Spins to Life. By Tatiana Schlossberg, The New York Times. Excerpt: Until this week, all of the wind power generated in the United States was on land. But in a first for America, the ocean breeze is now generating clean, renewable power offshore — electricity that will supply a small island community off the coast of Rhode Island. Renewable energy, including from offshore wind, is crucial to the effort to avoid some of the worst effects of climate change, according to environmentalists and some elected officials. …Though the Block Island Wind Farm is small — made up of five turbines, which were built by a division of General Electric, and capable of powering about 17,000 homes — it is the first successful offshore wind development in the United States, and it sets up the possibility for offshore wind projects elsewhere along the coast. According to a spokeswoman for Deepwater Wind, about 90 percent of the island’s needs will be met by the wind-generated power, and more will go back to the grid. Current estimates are that the wind farm will supply 1 percent of the state’s electricity, the spokeswoman said….

2016-11-07. When Bats Look for Meals Near Wind Power, Bats Die. By John Schwartz, The New York Times. Excerpt: A new study of wind turbines in Britain found that each turbine killed one to two bats each month on average, with some killing more than 60. …There are more than 300,000 wind turbines around the world. The risks to birds of the blades of wind turbines are becoming well understood, but the risk to bats, while known, has been poorly defined until now, said Fiona Mathews, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of mammalian biology at the University of Exeter in England. Bats, she said, might be attracted to turbines, whether because of the noise the machines make or the bugs that are trapped in the air movement: “It’s a ready food supply.” …Using specially trained bat-sniffing dogs, the researchers found the hard-to-spot bat corpses at the bases of turbines at 46 wind farms around England. …Dr. Mathews…said that the research in no way suggested that renewable power was a bad thing, but argued that wind power companies should take action to minimize the damage to bats, which pollinate plants and consume pests like mosquitoes. The risk is higher at times of low wind, in part because bats are less likely to take to the air during a hard blow; because turbines are not generating much power anyway during those times of relative calm, stilling the blades or shifting their pitch to limit motion could save many bats, as could curtailing operation during peak bat periods of the year….

2016-09-11. Utility puts Alabama nuclear plant up for sale. By Associated Press. Excerpt: HOLLYWOOD, Ala. — After spending more than 40 years and $5 billion on an unfinished nuclear power plant in northeastern Alabama, the nation’s largest federal utility is preparing to sell the property at a fraction of its cost. The Tennessee Valley Authority has set a minimum bid of $36.4 million for its Bellefonte Nuclear Plant and the 1,600 surrounding acres of waterfront property on the Tennessee River. The buyer gets two unfinished nuclear reactors, transmission lines, office and warehouse buildings, 8 miles of roads, a 1,000-space parking lot and more. Initial bids are due Monday, and at least one company has expressed interest in the site with plans to use it for alternative energy production. But TVA says it isn’t particular about what the purchaser does — using the site for power production, industrial manufacturing, recreation or even residences would all be fine with the agency, said spokesman Scott Fiedler. “It’s all about jobs and investment, and that’s our primary goal for selling this property,” said Fielder. TVA hopes to close the deal in October….

2016-08-17. Coal Burning Causes the Most Air Pollution Deaths in China, Study Finds. By Edward Wong, The New York Times. Excerpt: BEIJING — Burning coal has the worst health impact of any source of air pollution in China and caused 366,000 premature deaths in 2013, Chinese and American researchers said on Thursday. Coal is responsible for about 40 percent of the deadly fine particulate matter known as PM 2.5 in China’s atmosphere, according to a study the researchers released in Beijing. …The study attributed 155,000 deaths in 2013 related to ambient PM 2.5 to industrial coal burning, and 86,500 deaths to coal burning at power plants. Fuel combustion of both coal and biomass in households was another major cause of disease that year, resulting in 177,000 deaths, the study concluded. The researchers also found that transportation was a major cause of mortality related to PM 2.5, with 137,000 deaths attributed to it in 2013. In recent years, Chinese scientists have said that motor vehicle emissions are a leading source of air pollution in cities, although not as great as coal burning. Vehicle ownership is rising fast in China, and officials, carmakers, and oil and gas companies have quarreled over setting emissions standards. China consumes almost as much coal annually as all other countries combined, and coal burning in the country is the biggest source of both air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, the leading cause of climate change….

2016-07-11. Closing Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Will Save Money And Carbon. By Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute. Excerpt: A widespread claim—that dozens of nuclear plants, too costly to run profitably, now merit new subsidies to protect the earth’s climate—just collided with market reality. …Unlike previous nuclear shutdowns, some of which were too abrupt for immediate replacement with carbon-free resources, PG&E’s nuclear output will be phased out over 8–9 years, replaced timely and cost-effectively by efficiency and renewables. That means no more fossil fuel burned nor carbon emitted, all at less cost to ratepayers. How much less? Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says at least $1 billion (net present value to 2044). …The big economic lesson here is that nuclear power’s ability to displace fossil-fueled generation is not simply about tons of carbon dioxide saved. Nuclear power also incurs an operating cost that for many reactors, including Diablo Canyon, has become very high. …

2016-07-05. Short Answers to Hard Questions About Clean Coal Technology. By Ian Urbina, The New York Times. Excerpt: Technology holds the promise of enabling coal power plants, which produce much of the world’s electricity, to run more cleanly, emitting far less of the pollution that causes climate change. But these projects have been difficult to make a reality because they are complicated and expensive. Here is a quick primer…. 0

2016-07-02. Diablo Canyon closure shows California’s power grid is changing fast. By David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: When Diablo opened in 1985, big plants produced large amounts of electricity and fed it to a grid where power basically flowed one way, from generator to customer. Think of water pouring through a network of pipes to numerous taps: Utilities controlled the whole flow, from source to sink. Now, many businesses and homeowners produce their own energy. A solar array is installed in PG&E’s territory every six minutes. Many generate more electricity than they need during the day, feeding the excess back onto the grid. Huge amounts of solar power flood the grid at midday, falling off sharply in late afternoon. Wind power surges at night. Power flows fluctuate with the weather. …Nuclear plants of Diablo’s generation were designed to ramp up to full throttle and stay there day and night, providing “baseload” power for the grid. But that, increasingly, is not what California needs. “We’re transitioning, clearly, to a distributed system where you rely less and less on those big resources and more on distributed resources,” said Stephen Berberich, CEO of the California Independent System Operator, which manages the grid. …community choice also gives Californians a new option for buying power….

2016-06-21. PG&E to close Diablo Canyon. By David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced Tuesday it will close California’s last nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon, in 2025, ending atomic energy’s more than a half-century history in the state. The move will shutter a plant whose construction on a seaside cliff surrounded by earthquake faults helped create the antinuclear movement. And yet, some conservationists have fought to keep Diablo Canyon open, arguing California needed its output of greenhouse gas-free electricity to not exacerbate global warming. … PG&E CEO Tony Earley told The Chronicle that as the company looked into California’s energy needs for the coming decades, it didn’t see a place for Diablo Canyon. …competition from power plants burning cheap natural gas has driven several older nuclear plants out of business. …PG&E’s Earley, …the former chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute lobbying group, he is a longtime believer in nuclear power. But he says PG&E can find enough affordable renewable power and energy storage solutions to replace Diablo Canyon without significantly raising rates. … Newsom …“The idea that the economics — from PG&E’s perspective — work for renewables is a pretty profound moment in energy policy,” [Lt. Gov. Gavin] Newsom said. “We’ve been asserting it for decades. And here you have a major utility acknowledging a low-carbon, green future.”…

2016-06-10. Underground injections turn carbon dioxide to stone. By Eli Kintisch, Science. Excerpt: Researchers working in Iceland say they have discovered a new way to trap the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) deep underground: by changing it into rock. Results published this week in Science show that injecting CO2 into volcanic rocks triggers a reaction that rapidly forms new carbonate minerals—potentially locking up the gas forever. The technique has to clear some high hurdles to become commercially viable. …unlike sandstone, the basalt contains metals that react with CO2, forming carbonate minerals such as calcite—a process known as carbonation. But they thought the process might take many years. To find out, they launched the CarbFix experiment 25 kilometers east of Reykjavik, intending to dose Iceland’s abundant underground basalt with CO2 that bubbles from cooling magma underground and is collected at a nearby geothermal power plant. In 2012, the researchers injected 220 tons of CO2—spiked with heavy carbon for monitoring—into layers of basalt between 400 and 800 meters below the surface. …What happened next startled the team. After about a year and a half, the pump inside a monitoring well kept breaking down. Frustrated, engineers hauled up the pump and found that it was coated with white and green scale. Tests identified it as calcite, bearing the heavy carbon tracer that marked it as a product of carbonation. Measurements of dissolved carbon in the groundwater suggested that more than 95% of the injected carbon had already been converted into calcite and other minerals. …

2016-05-31. Does Geothermal Exploitation Trigger Earthquakes in Tuscany? By Thomas Braun, EoS-Earth & Space News, AGU. Excerpt: After nearly a century of generating geothermal power, energy extraction in Tuscany might be entering a new phase. For the past 25 years, production has been accompanied by a small but steady increase in seismicity near geothermal wells. Tuscan communities are beginning to wonder: Does generating power trigger this seismicity? A new project seeks answers. …Because hot areas are so close to the surface, communities dating back to Roman times harnessed the hot springs as therapeutic baths. In 1904, gentleman scientist Prince Piero Ginori Conti tested the world’s first geothermal power generator—successfully lighting five light bulbs—in Tuscany’s Larderello district. In 1911, Larderello became home to the world’s first commercial geothermal power plant. …until 1958, Tuscany was the only area in the world producing geothermal energy. More plants were built in volcanic areas of Tuscany and Latium in the 1960s, including several near Mount Amiata and Latera, and production across the Tuscan geothermal fields has continuously increased ever since. Today, geothermal energy from Tuscany accounts for 1.5% and 23.5% of energy produced in Italy and Tuscany, respectively, and 8% of geothermal energy produced around the world….

2016-05-31. Nuclear Plants, Despite Safety Concerns, Gain Support as Clean Energy Sources. By Diane Cardwell, The New York Times. Excerpt: Just a few years ago, the United States seemed poised to say farewell to nuclear energy. No company had completed a new plant in decades, and the disaster in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011 intensified public disenchantment with the technology, both here and abroad. But as the Paris agreement on climate change has put pressure on the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, some state and federal officials have deemed nuclear energy part of the solution. They are now scrambling to save existing plants that can no longer compete economically in a market flooded with cheap natural gas. …Nuclear power remains mired in longstanding questions over waste disposal, its safety record after the catastrophes at places like Fukushima and Chernobyl, and the potential for its plants to be converted into weapon-making factories….

2016-05-20. Unplugging the Colorado River. By Abrahm Lustgarten, The New York Times. Excerpt: When Glen Canyon Dam was built in the middle of the last century, giant dam projects promised to elevate the American West above its greatest handicap — a perennial shortage of water. These monolithic wonders of engineering would bring wild rivers to heel, produce cheap, clean power and stockpile water necessary to grow a thriving economy in the desert. …Climate change is fundamentally altering the environment, making the West hotter and drier. There is less water to store, and few remaining good sites for new dams. Many of the West’s big dams, meanwhile, have proved far less efficient and effective than their champions had hoped. They have altered ecosystems and disrupted fisheries. They have left taxpayers saddled with debt. And in what is perhaps the most egregious failure for a system intended to conserve water, many of the reservoirs created by these dams lose hundreds of billions of gallons of precious water each year to evaporation and, sometimes, to leakage underground. …it is not just the reservoir’s overuse that is causing it to shrink. More than 160 billion gallons of water evaporate off Lake Powell’s surface every year, enough to lower the reservoir by four inches each month. Another 120 billion gallons are believed to leak out of the bottom of the canyon each year into fissures in the earth — a loss that if tallied up over the life of the dam amounts to more than a year’s flow of the entire Colorado River. …Glen Canyon is not the only dam to fall out of favor. Other major projects are also being decommissioned or re-evaluated. The Hoover Dam’s Lake Mead, which on Wednesday fell to its lowest level ever, some 145 feet below capacity, also loses hundreds of billions of gallons to evaporation and is now 37 percent full. The lake behind Arizona’s Coolidge Dam, one of the state’s largest reservoirs, is virtually empty. …Six Western dams were deconstructed in 2015 alone. Just last month California and Oregon agreed to dismantle four more power-generating dams on the Klamath River, having realized that the facilities were crippling native salmon fisheries, which also have enormous economic value….

2016-04-26. 30 Years After Chernobyl Disaster, Shelter Nears Completion. By Henry Fountain.  Excerpt: On the night of April 26, 1986, engineers at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in what was then Soviet Ukraine performed a safety test at the plant’s No. 4 reactor. …In a matter of seconds, power inside the uranium-and-graphite core of the reactor surged out of control, setting off a steam explosion that was followed by a fire that spewed radioactive particles into the atmosphere. …several dozen plant workers and firefighters died in the immediate aftermath. Thousands more were sickened by radiation, over the short and long term. The surrounding countryside, contaminated by radioactive fallout, was declared off limits to anyone without a pass to get through security checkpoints. On the 30th anniversary of the accident, access within the 18-mile exclusion zone, …is still restricted. …An arched shelter designed to enclose the radioactive remains of the destroyed reactor is nearing completion …being built — at a cost of at least $1.7 billion — to last 100 years. Inside, the radioactivity levels will be so high that normal maintenance, like painting, will not be possible. …Inside the arch will be a heavy duty crane and other remote-operated equipment to be used to start removing the crumbling radioactive fuel that remains in Unit 4. …There is a lot of fuel — 195 tons, by one estimate — along with tons of lead, sand and other materials that were dropped on the reactor by helicopter in a desperate effort to extinguish the fire. It all melted together into a lethal lava-like substance that poured through pipes and holes in the structure and solidified….

2016-04-11. Controversial Pacts Aim for Dam Removals on Western U.S. River. By Randy Showstack, EoS Earth & Space Science News (AGU). Excerpt: Two landmark agreements support removal of four dams on California’s and Oregon’s Klamath River to restore fish runs and water quality while also protecting local water users, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced at a 6 April signing ceremony on a bank of the river. …Although a broad range of local tribes, water users, and other stakeholders support the new agreements, some officials and residents oppose the dam removal plan, saying that the dams provide power for the region and that their removal would pollute the river….

2016-04-04. Does Nuclear Power Have a Future in America? By Brian Palmer, OnEarth NRDC. Excerpt: …growing concerns about climate change began beckoning a few wary environmentalists into the carbon-free nuclear camp, with such notables as Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand and renowned climatologist James Hansen endorsing a nuclear expansion. …the first new reactor of the 21st century, Watts Bar Unit 2 had finally received its operating license ( …Nuclear’s heyday came in the 1970s. Utilities broke ground on dozens of reactors around the country, including two units at Tennessee’s Watts Bar facility in 1973. …In the early 1970s, a utility could build a reactor for only $170 million. …By the early 1980s, the average price for building a reactor had risen to $1.7 billion—a tenfold increase in a decade. …financial analysts … recognized that the industry could be viable only if (1) the country instituted a carbon tax to increase the cost of fossil fuels, and (2) prices for coal and natural gas stayed high. Neither condition panned out. …the Watts Bar project hit its own speed bumps. Initially slated to open in 2014, the project is now two years behind schedule. TVA has also admitted the project would cost at least $1.5 billion more than anticipated—a 60 percent overrun on its $2.5 billion budget. And that doesn’t include the $1.7 billion the company spent in the 1970s and ’80s. …“Energy efficiency gains, wind, and solar are now proven to be smarter, cheaper, faster ways to address climate change without the burdens of nuclear waste, the risk of severe nuclear accidents, or the nuclear weapons proliferation problem,” notes [Matthew] McKinzie [, director of NRDC’s nuclear program]….

2015-08-03. Fact Sheet: President Obama to Announce Historic Carbon Pollution Standards for Power Plants. The White House. Excerpt:  Today at the White House, President Obama and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy will release the final Clean Power Plan, a historic step in the Obama Administration’s fight against climate change. We have a moral obligation to leave our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged. The effects of climate change are already being felt across the nation [National Climate Assessment]. …The Clean Power Plan establishes the first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants. We already set limits that protect public health by reducing soot and other toxic emissions, but until now, existing power plants, the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States, could release as much carbon pollution as they wanted….

2015-03-11. New material captures carbon at half the energy cost. By Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley News Center. Excerpt: UC Berkeley chemists have made a major leap forward in carbon-capture technology with a material that can efficiently remove carbon from the ambient air of a submarine as readily as from the polluted emissions of a coal-fired power plant. The material then releases the carbon dioxide at lower temperatures than current carbon-capture materials, potentially cutting by half or more the energy currently consumed in the process. The released CO2 can then be injected underground, a technique called sequestering, or, in the case of a submarine, expelled into the sea….

2015-01-15. BP faces largest oil pollution penalty in U.S. history as final phase of trial begins. Jennifer Larino, The New York Times. Excerpt: Dozens of lawyers will return to a New Orleans federal courtroom Tuesday (Jan. 20) to begin the final leg of arguments over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill — its cause, its impact, and, ultimately, its price tag in pollution fines. …BP faces the largest oil pollution penalty in U.S. history, resulting from one of the most complex cases the federal court system has seen. …The civil trial over the oil spill will come to a close nearly five years after the April 20, 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 men and set off an 87-day oil gusher into the Gulf. …Together, the rulings expose BP to up to $13.7 billion in fines, the maximum penalty under federal law….